Review of THE DUFF

by Simon on April 1, 2015 · 0 comments

Adapted from a novel written by 17-year-old Kody Keplinger, this teen prom-com is a variation on the mean girls story, ugly duckling Bianca keen to shed the Designated Ugly Fat Friend label she’s given by a well-meaning pal. There are some clever moments of comedy as the film simulates the devastating effects of social media on teens, but it’s mostly a predictable journey for our heroine as she transforms herself and learns how to deal with boys, girls and own image. [click to continue…]


by Simon on March 31, 2015 · 0 comments

Infinitely more chipper and sparkly than his directorial debut The Winter Guest 17 years ago, Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos is a sweet confection of historically-set invention around that most beloved Canberran topic, gardening. Kate Winslet plays landscape gardener Sabine de Barra, awarded the choice job of designing gardens for the new Versailles palace of Sun King Louis XIV (Alan Rickman). [click to continue…]


by Simon on March 24, 2015 · 1 comment

I had the delight of watching this new version of the classic fairytale at the Berlin Film Festival after a week of rather dour fare. And the attraction wasn’t the stars (including Cate Blanchett, Kenneth Branagh, Lily James and Helen Bonham-Carter) who glittered on the stage after the screening, but the film itself – a charming live action version of the fantasy romance, crafted with mastery by director Branagh, from a fresh screenplay by Chris Weitz (who also adapted The Golden Compass). [click to continue…]

Review of ’71

by Simon on March 18, 2015 · 0 comments

An atmospheric thriller set in Northern Ireland in the year that the first British soldier was killed in The Troubles, this is a story of a soldier stuck behind enemy lines, unsure which way is home and who to trust. It’s a superb debut feature from director Yann Demange, who expertly captures the mood of ragged violence and the naivety of British forces arriving in the midst of a deeply complex political conflict. [click to continue…]

Review of BIG EYES

by Simon on March 17, 2015 · 0 comments

Even if you don’t know the painter Margaret Keane, you’ve surely seen the wide-eyed waifs she created, her work becoming a phenomenon of popular kitsch in the 1960s. But what you may not be aware of is Keane’s amazing story – her talent hidden by her husband and business partner Walter who took the credit for all her work. And though this is not an entirely successful change of pace for director Tim Burton, there’s enough in the story to make his version of events very watchable. [click to continue…]


by Simon on March 15, 2015 · 0 comments

This preposterously funny hippie-noir sees a highly watchable Joaquin Phoenix playing a permanently stoned private investigator on a rambling, trippy search for his ex-girlfriend and a real estate millionaire who are mixed up with dentists, drug smugglers, Nazi bikers and the FBI. It’s a warm, back-to-the-‘70’s journey of paranoia and intrigue – a treat that director Paul Thomas Anderson has adapted from the 2009 Thomas Pynchon novel. It’s long (149 minutes), but highly entertaining, and best watched as a series of brilliantly conceived and directed scenes that may just add up to something you understand, a kind of fin de siecle of the Californian ‘60s.
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by Simon on March 10, 2015 · 0 comments

In an early scene from this contemporary love story, you can see a poster of the romantic French film A Man and a Woman on the wall of a bedroom. It’s no accident of production design: in that 1966 film the two lovers are haunted by the ghosts of their dead partners, whilst here in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby the lovers are troubled by past versions of themselves. It’s a nostalgic, moving and tender story of love, change and loss, made beautiful by the mesmerising performance of Jessica Chastain.  [click to continue…]


by Simon on March 5, 2015 · 0 comments

Elsewhere on these pages, one of my colleagues will be making pronouncements on the adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey that opens this week and, no doubt, mention the impossibly high expectations of its fan base hanging like Damocles’ sword over the heads of the filmmakers. What weight, therefore, hangs over Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen’s comedy The Interview, the film that momentarily looked like it might bring all-out war between North Korea and the free world? [click to continue…]


by Simon on February 17, 2015 · 0 comments

Get out the ginger pills and those little wrist bracelets with the magnets in them, for this is one of those nausea-inducing ‘found-footage’ genre films shot with a hand-held camera that moves around so much it kicks in vestibular disorder of the inner ear. Like the dozens of low-budget Blair Witch Project inspired films before it, the premise is that the film one is watching has been shot by a single camcorder that has captured the narrative that unfolds, often depicting a group of people whose ultimate fate is guessed at with the implication that the footage has been left behind in some way. [click to continue…]


by Simon on February 1, 2015 · 0 comments

Now here’s a film that took me completely by surprise: mention Steve Carell and wrestling and you might think you’re in for slapstick comedy. Nothing could be further from the truth with Foxcatcher not only one of the most spellbinding tragedies of the past year, but a demonstration of supremely controlled directing (along with four other Academy Award nominations, it’s up for Best Director). Based on the true story of Olympic wrestling brothers Mark and Dave Schultz and their relationship with billionaire John DuPont, it helps if you know nothing of real events – watching this story unfold is like a mesmerising immersion in the failure of human empathy. I swear I didn’t move for two hours as the tension slowly, painstakingly built to the dramatic conclusion. [click to continue…]