Wednesday, 25 January 2017
dir Shawn Seet
scr Kym Goldsworthy
with Noah Taylor, Yael Stone, Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, Craig McLachlan, Danielle Cormack, Ben Oxenbould
16/Aus SBS 3h40 ***.
This four-part Australian TV series may feel somewhat melodramatic, but it taps into some darkly relevant themes. When a Muslim man is found murdered in his flat overlooking Bondi Beach, detective Tori (Orange Is the New Black's Yael Stone) and her partner Nick (Noah Taylor) begin to discover inexplicable links to a series of unsolved murders from the late 1980s. But these were hate crimes involving gay victims, and the officials simply turned a blind eye at the time. The show is assembled with a soapy emotional flair that kind of ignores authenticity in lieu of flashy plot points, hot potato themes and shifty suspects. This makes it feel like a rather standard television procedural, complete with far too many characters to keep straight and lots of shocking revelations. But the underlying issues are solidly engaging, touching on things in society that perhaps haven't improved as much as we'd like to think they have in the past 25 years. And it's strikingly well shot, with engaging performances from the skilled cast.
This coming week we have screenings of another rather thin, offbeat collection of movies, including the British boxing drama Jawbone, Cristian Mungiu's award-winning Graduation and the doc All This Panic.
Monday, 23 January 2017
Thursday, 19 January 2017
We also got to see John Waters' "lost" 1970 black comedy Multiple Maniacs in a restored digital projection. It looks fantastic, and is jaw-droppingly unmissable - outrageous even after all these years. And I also caught up with a timely HBO documentary...
dir Alexis Bloom, Fisher Stevens; with Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher 16/US ****
Warm and intimate, this documentary traces the close relationship between mother and daughter Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. Anchored largely by Fisher's wry ongoing commentary, the film traces the careers of both actresses, as well as their private lives. It reveals that these two were tight friends who supported each other through the ups and downs of their lives with earthy humour and a fascinating balance of realism and optimism. It's a beautiful portrait of both women, and it also offers a bracing look at the life of Hollywood royalty over the past half century or so. From Carrie's astonishing singing talent to Debbie's unrequited passion to protect Hollywood's legacy, there's plenty in this movie that makes it an important document. But it's also emotionally moving, especially poignant following their deaths. Notably, the film was completed more than six months earlier. A must see for fans of Hollywood's golden age, from Singin' in the Rain to Star Wars.
This weekend I have been consumed with my role as chair of the 37th London Critics' Circle Film Awards, the fifth year I've organised the event. The star-studded ceremony is on Sunday at The May Fair Hotel and I'll have a full report with photos here as soon as possible. I also have screenings this coming week of Mindhorn, Spaceship, The Odyssey and Who's Gonna Love Me Now. I know nothing about any of them.
Thursday, 12 January 2017
Outside the mainstream, Bitter Harvest, a chronicle of the horrific Stalin-forced famine in the Ukraine in 1932-33, starring Max Irons, Samantha Barks and Terence Stamp. And Anna Biller's The Love Witch is a hilariously lurid 1960s-style pastiche of magic, romance and murder. Both films are clearly passion projects, and both feel rather overlong due to their choppy editing and in-your-face messages.
This coming week we have the 20-years-later sequel T2 Trainspotting, Woody Harrelson's real-time adventure Lost in London Live, the resurrected franchise XXX: Return of Xander Cage, the British/Indian drama Viceroy's House, the football icon doc Best and John Waters' long-lost Multiple Maniacs.
Wednesday, 4 January 2017
My Scientology Movie
dir John Dower; with Louis Theroux, Marty Rathbun, Marc Headley, Andrew Perez, Rob Alter 16/UK ***.
British journalist Louis Theroux seems to fall into the Twilight Zone as he tries to make a balanced and open-minded, sympathetic documentary about Scientology. Despite never setting out to be combative, he keeps running into bizarre roadblocks, inexplicable reactions and aggressive resistance. Even the ex-members he talks to seem to be less than forthcoming. Some elements of this film don't work very well (such as all of the repetitive driving around or hiring actors to play prominent church members like Tom Cruise), but the film paints an intriguing portrait of an organisation that doesn't want any scrutiny at all - friendly or otherwise. And while Theroux goes out of his way to find the positive aspects of their beliefs and practices, Scientology's rather comically intimidating, incessant meddling ultimately makes it impossible for the audience to remain objective. Which of course ends up being the point.
Before the Flood
dir Fisher Stevens; scr Mark Monroe; with Leonardo DiCaprio, Barack Obama, Ban Ki-Moon, Pope Francis, Elon Musk, Alejandro Inarritu 16/US ****
This documentary may be rather pushy, but then it's about what should be the most important issue facing humanity at the moment: climate change. The film follows DiCaprio as he travels around the world for two years as a United Nations messenger of peace, asking questions, talking with leaders and experts, exploring the situation from devastated boreal forests to melting ice caps to burnt-out jungles to the flooded streets of Miami. Scientists have almost never so wholeheartedly agreed on any issue, including what needs to be done to slow the changes and avert catastrophe. And yet idiots (most of whom are paid off by oil company lobbyists) continue to deny that this is taking place, unforgivably jeopardising future generations. This isn't about ignorance, it's about evil. And there's plenty we can do if we can muster up the will. This clear-eyed, beautifully assembled documentary is a bit gimmicky, but it carefully highlights the issue for anyone who wants to know the truth.
Screenings start up again on Monday, and I have the James McAvoy thriller Split in the diary. There's also Ben Affleck's mobster drama Live by Night, the 60s-style thriller The Love Witch and a German drama called Jonathan.