Calvary

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Director: John Michael McDonagh
Actors:  Brendan GleesonChris O’DowdKelly Reilly 
Runtime: 100 minutes
Release Date: 3rd July, 2014

Reviewed by Mo

When I first saw the trailer for Calvary, I quietly passed. Priests… and it didn’t look anywhere near as funny as The Guard. I was partly wrong. Priests (played by Brendan Gleeson anyway) can be funny and about 1/3 of Calvary is just as funny as The Guard.

You can understand why it’s only a 1/3 when you’re tackling subject matter such as domestic violence, suicide and pedophilia. The film follows Father James Lavelle who has a week to “put his house in order,” after being told by an unseen man during confessional, that he’s going to kill him. The man plans to murder a good priest, in a twisted form of revenge and in order to shock. Father Lavelle takes it reasonable well.  

Gleeson is exception as the intelligent, no bullshit priest, who has a habit of saying just enough and then having the patience to let people come to their own conclusions. The patience of a saint, oh, ha ha. He needs it too: a suicidal daughter, dealing with a parish grappling with an array of problems and a death sentence over his own head. In seven short days he’s a priest pushed to the brink of his faith.  

Calvary is a hard film to describe and convey its humour and it certainly doesn’t end as funnily as it starts. But it reminds you that sometimes life is brutal and it’s tough to have faith in a God or even people and if you lose that faith, forgiving is the best way to start afresh. In that vein I apologise to Aidan Gillen for thinking he had a crap accent on Game of Thrones, now I realise that’s just what he sounds like. It also reminded me how much I miss Dylan Moran.

MOLES:

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22 Jump Street

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Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Actors: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube
Runtime: 112 minutes
Release Date: 19th June, 2014

Reviewed by Mo

I never watched 21 Jump Street [the show] and it took me ages to watch the reboot but when I did, I was surprisingly impressed. You know when you just chuck something on randomly, for some background noise, then before you know it, you haven’t moved from the couch and the movie’s over. So you can probably understand that when I saw the trailer for 22 Jump Street, I was genuinely excited. Whoever thought of putting Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill together in a movie [twice] deserves a cocktail, maybe a whole round of them because these two just work. It’s like the qualities of the perfect man: handsome, can move (would definitely be able to pick you up - the man does Parkour), smart and funny…but just split over two men. And together they have fantastic chemistry.

In 22 Jump Street we join Schmidt and Jenko, again. They’re got a new case [that’s exactly the same as the old case] but this time in college. Queue the college clichés: keggers, frat parties, football, and a little spring break. This whole film works because it doesn’t take itself too seriously and neither do Tatum and Hill. They both play to their strengths and pay out each others weaknesses. Hill pushes the boundaries of annoying and Tatum is just so endearingly, stupid (and attractive, LETS NOT FORGET ATTRACTIVE).  

These two are partners for life; they’re a power couple (like Rihanna and Chris Brown) and this whole film is bromance at it’s finest and funniest. There’s a faux break up scene, relationship counselling, as well as Schmidt doing the walk of shame, several times. Throughout the entire film they poke fun at the fact that they’re doing it all again (and it’s a continual battle, proving that it’s not). It’s funny but it gets a little tiresome. It’s also a tad long but the credits are really worth sitting through.

MOLES:

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Yves Saint Laurent

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Director: Jalil Lespert
Actors: Pierre Niney, Guillaume Gallienne, Charlotte Le Bon
Runtime: 106 minutes
Release Date: 26th June, 2014

Reviewed by Mo

I live on the fringes of fashion, my work clothes are a weird mix of high street and corporate. My civilian clothes are mostly vintage. I read a few fashion blogs, sometimes YouTube style.com and if someone offered me a Hermès Birkin, I would not refuse. My knowledge of fashion history is mostly just the big hitters: Christian Dior: the “new look.” Coco Chanel: the LBD and Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking Jacket.

As you can imagine, I came to this film not as a gushing fan-shion girl (although I do own a vintage rip-off of the YSL Mondrian dress and even though it does absolutely nothing for me, I can’t bear to part with it), but with a mild interest, exaggerated by one sexily, dramatic trailer (below).

Pierre Niney is absolutely, phenomenal as Laurent. He captures his whole range (too much?): the timid youth, uncertain of his sexuality (a point in which he certainly makes up for in his later life), his shyness, spiteful bitterness and the mood swings from tormented genius to spoilt child in the blink of a bejewelled and mascaraed eye. As the film plods along, I found myself liking Laurent less and less. This dislike then turned into pity and the man overshadowed everything great in the film: the inspirations, the creative process, even the relationship between Laurent and his lover / business partner, Pierre Berge felt tainted.

As entertaining as Yves Saint Laurent was, it fell into the trap of a lot of bio pics: trying to capture too much of a person’s life (I know that sounds like an oxymoron - but stay with me here). It’s interesting for fans but it can get a little tedious, there’s just so much to digest. The pacing of the film was slightly off, it felt like decades flew by and some of the moments chosen, just seemed odd. At times I felt I was spending too much time with the man, not enough with the fashion and at other times, vice versa.

If this is the “approved” version, I’m intrigued for this unauthorised one that’s supposed to be coming out soon. Although, I think now everyone is really just holding out for a Lagerfeld bio-pic. I feel that somehow, he will surpass death.

MO:

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LE:

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Jersey Boys

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Director: Clint Eastwood
Actors: John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Christopher Walken
Runtime: 134 minutes
Release Date: 26th June 2014


Reviewed by LE

There was something funny about this film, right from the start. I heard about it and was appropriately excited (having enjoyed the stage show immensely), then I heard almost nothing about it until right before it was about to be released. As if someone was trying to sweep it under a rug. Clint Eastwood as choice for director I felt was also a touch odd, however, I did read that it was originally supposed to be Jon Favreau. I wonder what that would have been like?

I don’t know whether there was some kind of confusion with the switch of directors, or whether the project suffered from a series of stop/starts, but I didn’t think it translated well to the screen. The story was there, and the execution was very similar to that of the show, however, it just didn’t feel as though it worked on screen. The magic of the discovery of the songs seemed a bit lacklustre, and the cheesiness that would have worked on stage didn’t quite work on film. I would have liked a different adaptation, whereas with this it just felt like I was watching a taped version of the stage show, with a few extreme close ups added in. My Mole counterpart and I were discussing why we felt so disappointed and this ended up becoming quite a lengthy chat about musicals that have successfully been adapted for film, and then it evolved into a rave about Chicago.

The subject of Clint Eastwood was also bandied about - I have to admit, I very often give him the benefit of doubt when it comes to films, and rightly so, for he has made some fine ones. However, this is not one of them. Is the tale of the Four Seasons too difficult to adapt? Perhaps if a different screenplay was in the mix, and some more star power brought to the group (think Catherine Zeta Jones in Chicago), then it would have resulted in something flashier, and more impressive than the stage show. At the very least, it would have felt like some effort was being made. I would recommend if you’ve seen the stage show, to leave it at that.

MOLES: 
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Edge of Tomorrow

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Director: Doug Liman
Actors: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson
Runtime: 113 minutes
Release Date: 5th June 2014

Reviewed by LE

You know those times when you go to watch a film and you have zero expectations, and then you end up having the best time ever? Well, for me, Edge of Tomorrow definitely counts as one of those times! It’s pure entertainment from start to finish - I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun in a movie theatre. 

I am aware of what the general public opinion of Tom Cruise is, but whatever your thoughts are, you cannot deny that the guy has got charisma. Cast him in the leading action man role, and you can guarantee that he will nail it. He’s not too schmarmy in this role as Major William Cage, who finds himself stuck in a sci-fi/action version of Groundhog Day. I enjoy that he has been taking grittier roles of late, and as Cage he is desperately heroic.

However, as good as Tom Cruise is in this role, it is still second fiddle to Emily Blunt. Her Joan-of-Ark-esque Sergeant Rita Vrataski is tough, elegant and so ripped! I wanted to embark on a hardcore pushup regime immediately after leaving the cinema. It was so refreshing to see a woman in such a meaty role - and she was perfectly cast. First Looper and now this; I am loving Blunt’s choices of late. She is this Mole’s girl crush #1 right now…

As for the story, it was gripping, smart and well paced. The action sequences were sharp, and the SFX were great - MO actually commented on how much she liked the aliens, and I did too (they reminded me of the sentinels from The Matrix). And there’s also bonus Bill Paxton with a moustache!

Long story short: I can’t wait to watch this film again. Four and a half choc tops for a super entertaining, popcorn munching time.

LE:
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MO:

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The Skeleton Twins - Sydney Film Festival 2014

Director: Craig Johnson  
Actors: Kristin Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell   
Runtime: 93 minutes
Release Date: Sydney Film Festival 2014

Reviewed by LE

Perhaps I would have loved this film regardless of what it was like because of the presence of two of my favourite actors. Then again, perhaps my expectations could have been too high because of the presence of two of my favourite actors. Well, we can put aside this nonsense, because the film is fantastic.

At its heart, The Skeleton Twins is a moving tale of depression, and the importance of family. The film opens with estranged siblings Milo and Maggie, who are both at similar stages in their dysfunctional, self sabotaging lives. They’re brought together after Milo’s attempted suicide, after which Maggie invites Milo to come live with her and her husband. What ensues is a re-connection between the two, which is beautiful to watch, and so believable. There is such an easy, relaxed chemistry between Wiig and Hader (understandably so, thanks to their many years of working together) - the mutual affection between the two is evident. Their rendition of Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now is one of my favourite things that has ever happened on screen.

The history as to why Maggie and Milo are estranged is slowly drawn out, quite cleverly alongside the tale of their growing closeness. This is in addition to the stories of both characters as individuals - where Wiig and Hader both shine; they’re delightfully deadpan in their delivery. Luke Wilson also plays a great supporting role: his comic timing and subtlety has been greatly missed.

Even if you’re not a fan of SNL, or Hader, or Wiig, I highly recommend this film. It’s a beautiful story that has been done every justice in every way.

MOLES:

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Particle Fever - Sydney Film Festival 2014

Director: Mark Levinson  
Actors: Martin Aleksa, Nima Arkani-Hamed, Savas Dimopoulos
Runtime: 99 minutes
Release Date: Sydney Film Festival 2014

Reviewed by LE

I had to convince MO to watch this documentary as part of our SFF 2014 selection, and it was only by the grace of Billington that I was successful. I mean, a documentary about science? Who could blame her hesitation?

The one thing I appreciated the most about this particular film was how accessible it was. A subject matter that would really only interest scientists (and science aficionados) is brought to everyone’s level through simple, down-to-earth explanations (with bonus exciting graphics!) Images of the machine itself, overlaid with narration of its history, successfully display the sheer magnitude of the project, and its importance to mankind. You get the feeling that the scientists chosen to feature in the documentary were specifically selected due to their approachability: not only are they extremely intelligent, but very likeable also (in a special, nerdy way). Their rockstar existence (think long hair and entourages) is more than enough to light the bunsen burner beneath any aspiring scientist.

It’s no wonder that after being taken on this journey, I found myself quite emotionally invested in the success of the Large Hadron Collider, not only because of what the results would mean to the world, but what they would mean to this group of characters I had been introduced to. I even had tears in my eyes during the scene depicting the formal announcement of the Higgs boson particle (tears over SCIENCE). Overall, a cleverly constructed and enlightening film, even for science dunces such as myself.

LE:

MO:

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Two Days, One Night - Sydney Film Festival 2014

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Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne  
Actors: Marion Cotillard, Olivier Gourmet, Catherine Salée, Fabrizio Rongione
Runtime: 95 minutes
Release Date: Sydney Film Festival 2014

Reviewed by Mo

Winner of the 2014 Sydney Film Festival; Two Days, One Night (Deux jours, une nuit) is a humanist drama, about selfishness and self-worth. As the title suggests: the film follows Sandra for one weekend as she seeks out her work colleagues and tries to persuade them to forgo their bonuses so that she may keep her job.

Cotillard is painfully, believable as Sandra, she embodies this fragility without ever verging into straight up pity. You watch her inner struggles throughout the film and it’s inspiring. I don’t suffer from depression but I can’t even fathom the guts it would take to visit my co-workers, at their homes and make them face you and make such a choice. To have almost the entire spectrum of human reactions and emotions thrust upon you, as they justify their decisions to both you and themselves.

The whole set up of the film, explores people and relationships on the brink. Sandra is appealing to these people, not just to keep her job but her autonomy, to not just be on the dole. This intriguing (and somewhat sadistic) story allows us to see the different slices of humanity, how each person in turn acts so differently: some want to know how the others are voting, others don’t hesitate and support Sandra regardless of the outcome. I think it also highlighted how misunderstood depression still is.

This was my first Dardenne film and I think my experience was slightly altered because I went in expecting to see the absolute worst of human nature (and you do see a bit) but it’s actually quite an empowering film.

MO:

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What We Do in the Shadows - Sydney Film Festival 2014

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Director: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi  
Actors: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer     
Runtime: 86 minutes
Release Date: Sydney Film Festival 2014

Reviewed by Mo

Don’t be confused, What We Do in the Shadows isn’t a feature film, it’s a documentary. It’s like the real vampire flatmates of Wellington. Just imagine the drama of being in a share house, indefinitely and with the undead. Everything gets exaggerated: not doing the dishes in over 5 years, the need to put newspaper down before you kill someone, getting in beefs in the streets with some werewolves, the difficulties of getting dressed without mirrors, this is SUPERNATURAL DRAMA!

It doesn’t stop there, what about the dilemmas of being an actual vampire: waiting to be invited into a club, maintaining a familiar, hitting the main artery and having human friends and like, not eating them. Maybe all these “movies” and “shows” about vampires have got it all wrong. Vampires aren’t these brooding nordic gods but kind of dorks. Maybe they can’t assimilate with the present day and are stuck, always trying to fit in, clinging to their old lives.      

Ok, so What We Do in the Shadows is a farcical mockumentary that looks really slick. The costumes, the sets and even the graphics, the attention to detail is crazy. I enjoyed this SO much more than I expected and it was hilarious. Australians are considered laid back but maybe New Zealanders are even more so and that’s why their comedy is so great, because they don’t need to try too hard.

If you’ve got the time, join me in crushing on Taika Waititi.

MOLES:

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Life Itself - Sydney Film Festival 2014

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Director: Steve James    
Actors: Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel
Runtime: 118 minutes
Release Date: Sydney Film Festival 2014

Reviewed by LE

It has just struck me how odd this is, writing a review of a documentary film about a man who was famous for writing reviews of films. I feel as though I’m not worthy to the task. But then I thought: why not? This is probably how Steve James felt when attempting to create this documentary in the first place. And he has done a wonderful job of bringing Roger Ebert’s story to life.

I must admit, it did help that there was quite a beautiful and heartfelt introduction from David Stratton prior to the screening. Ebert was such an interesting man, and this is such an intimate glimpse of his final days, you feel nothing but privileged to be given the chance. It was heartbreaking to see him in his altered state, yet he managed to remain so positive (despite being understandably frustrated at times without the benefit of speech). His relationship with his wife, Chaz, was absolutely lovely - I would actually have liked to have been privy to a deeper dive into this, however, I think when you are already putting so much on the table, it’s important to keep some precious things to yourself.

I have to admit that I don’t think this was the most well constructed documentary - there was some clunkiness with the editing and presentation; however, you get the feeling that it was a film made with more heart than technique, so this is easy to overlook. The additional historical footage of Ebert and Siskel was hilarious, and I was almost moved to tears by the audience thumbs up during the posthumous screening. Overall, a beautiful and fitting homage to a great man.  

MOLES:
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