‘Magic Mike’ sequel christened ‘Magic Mike XXL’

Magic Mike

The Playlist has unzipped some major details regarding the next Magic Mike film, namely… it’s name!

Magic Mike XXL is what the strippertastic sequel shall be christened.

Since Steven Soderbergh won’t return to direct – on account of his “retirement” – his right-hand man and frequent first AD Greg Jacobs will take the helm.

Channing Tatum has co-written the script with his producer Reid Carolin, and has previously been said to be something of a road movie.

It is expected much of the original cast will return for the flick, but nothing is set in stone (besides everyone’s abs).

Here’s Scarlett Johansson as another superhero in ‘Lucy’

Lucy

Entertainment Weekly offers up the first official picture of Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s Lucy.

In the flick, Johansson plays the title character, a drug mule who accidentally absorbs her cargo and develops superhero-esque powers.

Hopefully those powers are slightly more impressive than those belonging to Johansson’s Marvel hero, Black Widow, which largely comprises of owning two guns.

Morgan Freeman and Choi Min-sik (Oldboy) also star in the picture, set for release this August.

Peter Dinklage to play games with Adam Sandler in ‘Pixels’

Peter Dinklage

Emmy and Golden Globe winner Peter Dinklage is in final negotiations to join Adam Sandler’s upcoming sci-fi comedy Pixels, The Wrap reports.

The Game of Thrones star, to be seen next as the villain in X-Men: Days of Future Past, will appear alongside Sandler, Kevin James and Josh Gad in the flick.

Pixels is based on Patrick Jean’s short film of the same name, which saw, well, pixels attacking New York City.

The feature film, helmed by Chris Columbus, concerns a similar attack, with those aforementioned actors playing video game experts called in to end the alien threat.

Though any Sandler/James collaboration inspires nervous feelings, the unique premise and involvement of the always entertaining Dinklage should make this a slightly more promising venture.

Long is good – Nymphomaniac Vol. 2 review

Nymphomaniac Vol 2

By Simon Miraudo
March 28, 2014

As I concluded my review of Nymphomaniac‘s first volume, I wondered if director Lars von Trier would surprise us with a happy ending in its follow-up. For him, that would truly be shocking. Turns out it was a misjudged prediction. I also said the following: “Lars von Trier may have well and truly proven his freaky-deakie credentials over the years, but Nymphomaniac may prove him to be a softie too.” Boy, was that flat out wrong. Having now seen Volume 2 – not so much the ascension of our sex-loving protagonist, Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), as it is a continuation of her descent – the full shape and meaning of his opus has emerged from the fog. Ultimately, I thought it was great. However, thinking it was going to end sweetly was just dumb.

Where last we left our hero: Joe (Stacy Martin as a young woman) had lost all feeling in her nether-regions after finally going to bed with the object of her affections, Jerome (Shia LaBeouf). The way Vol. 1 uses this as a – pun definitely intended, and I shan’t be judged for using it – climax, we’re led to believe this sought-after combination of sex and love was no richer than all those empty experiences she’d had with countless strangers. As Vol. 2 opens, her cries of “I can’t feel anything” mid-coitus are revealed to be totally literal, and, frankly, a damning condemnation of LaBeouf’s manhood. An older Joe (now played by Gainsbourg) takes extreme measures to reclaim sensation: firstly by recruiting two African brothers for a logistically-nightmarish threesome, and then by employing the brutal K (Jamie Bell) to slap, whip, and emotionally torture her. That latter approach seems to work, though Joe’s increasing obsession with the crueller side of sexuality endangers her relationship with Jerome, the safety of their child, and even her own life, as we’re finally given an explanation for Seligman’s (Stellan Skarsgård) discovery of her bloodied, unconscious body in that alley from Vol. 1.

Nymphomaniac Vol 2

Vol. 2 is significantly more metatextual than the first flick, blatantly recreating a sequence from von Trier’s own Antichrist and giving a shout-out to its spiritual cousin, Michael Haneke‘s The Piano Teacher. It also lays on thick the Christian allegory that had been simmering under the surface for the previous two hours. Joe is positioned as something of a Christ-like figure here, enduring first a Transfiguration, followed by several Satanic-seeming curses, and, eventually, punishments familiar to those who’ve glanced at the Stations of the Cross. Our bold director makes no secret of these allusions, literally having our characters explain and dissect them from the safety of Seligman’s apartment. They did something similar in Vol. 1, comparing Joe’s life to that of a fly-fisherman and orchestra-conductor and, erm, a pastry.

What’s different, this time around, is the reveal of a new dynamic between the two. If Joe is a stand-in for the director (“someone who slyly delights in tales of depravity and degradation, but acknowledges the kind of terrible person they might be because of it”), so too is Seligman, albeit subtly. In this instalment, his virginal nature is revealed, positioning him as a supposedly innocent, empty canvas for Joe to bounce practical encounters off of, and who can offer theoretical explanations in return. As the picture progresses, their dialogue feels like a conversation between von Trier and himself about the best way to tell this story. “I think this was one of your weakest digressions,” Joe casually informs Seligman after he tries to compare her desires to something especially banal (as he is wont to do). Later she’ll decry the “sentimentality” of a particularly emotional memory, calling it “a lie.” Even the usually-all-ears Seligman offers up a criticism, making fun of a youthful, transcendent incident of Joe’s, calling it “a blasphemous joke spiced up with a biblical light emanating from nothingness, [followed by] a spontaneous orgasm.” Seems like von Trier is trying to beat his critics to the punch. Polite society is also prematurely chided for the scorn they’ll soon turn towards his movie; they’re accused of being stupid and ignorant and then some. Sorry audience: Lars von Trier likes to engage in a dialogue with himself, and only himself.

Nymphomaniac Vol 2

That doesn’t mean we can’t engage with his art. Politically correct tut-tutters be damned: there is a lot of interesting meat to chew on in both features. In a world where von Trier no longer talks to press for fear of being misrepresented, he gives us two characters to demonstrate his squabbling inner monologue; the perfect depiction of the conflicting emotions we – and clearly he – feel from his work. Nymphomaniac Vol. 2 does not exist merely in von Trier’s mind, or in the realm of the theoretical. Just as the first one did, it delivers plenty of harrowing, complicated, near-unwatchable moments, punctuated occasionally by honest-to-goodness LOL lines. Chapter VI offers an incredible explanation for its subtitle ‘The Silent Duck’, which is countered by Seligman’s query about a ‘Quacking Duck’, and it’s even funnier. (Okay… maybe you had to be there.)

The final two chapters are perhaps the best of the lot, featuring Willem Dafoe and Mia Goth in key, spoilery roles. Chapter VII, ‘The Mirror’, is a delicate, haunting, weirdly funny and deeply sad vignette about Joe’s attempts to shun sexuality for good (leading her to remove all potentially arousing distractions from her home, resulting in her painting over anything that casts a reflection and adding cotton padding to any inanimate objects with an edge to grind against). Joe’s so eager to get to her explosive final chapter, ‘The Gun’, that she literally interrupts an earlier tale to start telling it. Its theme song is Talking Heads’ ‘Burning Down the House’, an interesting echo of Vol. 1‘s propulsive, anarchic anthem, Rammstein’s ‘Führe Mich’. Both songs book-end the narrative, powering the film past the 241-minute mark.

Nymphomaniac Vol 2

It all builds to a fascinating moral observation by Seligman: the hypocrisy of those judging Joe for the same tendencies that would be lauded in a man. Those thinking that to be nonsense, you need only look to the diabolical Dane Cook comedy Good Luck Chuck - which plays for laughs a sex-montage not dissimilar to one Joe enjoyed in Vol. 1 – for evidence supporting Seligman’s theory. Nymphomaniac, like so many von Trier joints before it, is ultimately about the viciousness of men (emotionally, physically, and psychologically) towards women. Lars von Trier is no misogynist. Anti-humanist, definitely. But not specifically a misogynist.

Nymphomaniac Vols. 1 & 2 run four hours, total. I’d like to see the five-and-a-half hour cut. More of the fearless and brilliant Gainsbourg could never be a bad thing, after all. As was proven by the satisfying, scintillating, often-distressing and uncommonly-moving second entry of Nymphomaniac: the longer it is, the better it gets.

4/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

Review – Nymphomaniac Vol. 1

Nymphomaniac Vol.1 Vol.2 will screen back-to-back in Australian cinemas from March 27, 2014.

Float on – Noah review

Noah

By Simon Miraudo
March 28, 2014

If anyone could rival the fire-and-brimstone-spewing judgement of the Old Testament’s God, it’d be the modern movie-watcher. Though they can’t incite a world-ending deluge, they can – and will – let their disappointment be known by flooding Twitter with their rulings, or, even more devastatingly, by staying away from a film entirely, dooming its creator to… try working in television or something. How audiences will take to Darren Aronofsky’s nutso Noah, a grim, bizarre retelling of the familiar Bible parable, is anyone’s guess. Maybe Aronofsky should start prepping his getaway ark just in case.

Russell Crowe brings his gravelly presence to the part of Noah, a descendant of Adam and Eve’s not-evil surviving son, Seth. He lives a simple life with his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connolly) and sons Ham (Logan Lerman) & Shem (Douglas Booth), until a ghastly premonition informs him of an impending downpour that will send the sinners of the world to a watery grave. Those sinners, led by the barking Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), are born of Adam and Eve’s murderous offspring, Cain. Hey, everyone has a side of the family they’re not super proud of. Tasked by God and encouraged by grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), Noah gets to work on a giant ark to protect the innocent animals that should be spared extinction. Much of the building is actually done by The Watchers, a fleet of fallen angels, cursed with misshapen rock bodies and, in one instance, burdened further with the voice of Nick Nolte. Emma Watson also helps out as Ila, an orphan girl picked up on Noah’s travels as a wife for Shem. Ham, as you would imagine, is pretty peeved that his dad didn’t pull the same ‘wingman’ move for him.

Noah

A long-time dream project of Aronofsky’s, he penned it with his producer Ari Handel, only convincing Paramount Pictures to pony up the massive budget after the breakout success of his psychosexual indie Oscar-winner Black Swan. The prospect of Aronofsky ever being entrusted with this much money seemed unlikely in the wake of his 2006 flop The Fountain (which, it should be noted, cost four times less than Noah). And yet, here we are. In many ways, his latest feels like a covert remake of The Fountain. Both features use folklore, science fiction and the supernatural to explore humanity’s struggle with mortality, as well as the prospect of our species’ total annihilation (either by our own hand, that of some God-like being, or the random chaos of nature herself). Many laughed at The Fountain’s earnest hokum. By dressing the same subject matter up in the clothes of a Christian allegory, will people now flock to it, or be further repulsed?

It’s a question that can’t be answered by this review, but will handily be answered by Noah’s opening weekend at the box office. Instead, let’s try and figure out if the thing is any good. In a universe where high-profile frolics like this are either dismissed as gargantuan, hubristic follies or celebrated as ingenious masterpieces, it’s difficult to convey the reality that Noah sits somewhere in between; neither a decisive failure nor an absolute success. These projects don’t allow for comfortable fence-sitting, particularly when they so happily invite the disdain of the evangelical and the militantly-atheistic alike, not to mention the general filmgoing populace, who are always hungry for the year’s first massive flop. (You can imagine the Russell Crowe shaped Wicker Man that will be inevitably erected.) I’ll say this, at least: the fable of Noah’s Ark is one of humanity’s most enduring, and regardless of one’s personal beliefs, it inspires a fascinating debate about what it means to be a zealot, sceptic, sinner, and human being. Don’t dismiss it on religious (or anti-religious) grounds. Frankly, if anyone should be offended by it, it’s the carnivore community. This is as pro-vegan a flick you’ll see that also stars Ray Winstone.

Noah

Noah is, surprisingly, not all that concerned with all those animals; traditionally the most fixated-upon element of the saga. Rather, Aronofsky explores Noah’s mighty emotional load, the result of him having to actively fight people off his vessel when the rains finally come, and later having to hear their dying screams through the ark’s wooden walls. Those darker shades of the story are especially affecting, and find the humanity within the sillier aspects of the legend, which go largely unquestioned and are sometimes flat-out ignored. Notice how no-one brings up the inevitable incest that’s required to repopulate the recently cleansed planet. Sounds like it would make for one memorable family meeting.

Contrary to popular panic, Aronofsky’s idiosyncratic directorial fingerprints haven’t been washed clean from the final print. Noah is innately Aronofskian. The man behind such experimental fare as Pi and Requiem for a Dream, as well as the melancholy masterpiece The Wrestler, seems like an odd fit for this Biblical narrative, however, he unquestionably makes it his own. Their marriage may benefit the myth – timeless tales like these can always use a new pair of eyes – yet I can’t help but think Aronofsky should be working on something different. Far be it from me to say the Bible is beneath him… it’s just that it was a lot more fun and fascinating when he was making movies about obsession, bodily degradation and deviant sex, and there’s only a little bit of each of those things in Noah.

Noah

The special effects are remarkable, chiefly the charmingly-clunky Watchers, Clint Mansell’s score is booming, as you’d expect, and cinematographer Matthew Libatique captures some stunning moments on some truly unusual vistas (the colour palette of the landscapes is entirely alien). Still, for all its nuttiness, this is a po-faced telling of the tale, often guilty of sliding back into the comfortable sandals of your typical old-fashioned epics when it should be forging fresh, freaky ground. Noah is admirable and watchable, sometimes very interesting and also incredibly cruel and strange. I have conflicting feelings towards the picture, which is perhaps as muted a reaction someone can have to it. This adaptation wasn’t quite a transformative experience, but it was weird as hell, just not frequently enough. I will offer Darren Aronofsky this one unqualified compliment: at times, Noah is unlike anything that’s been done before.

3.5/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

Noah is now showing in Australian cinemas.

Bradley Cooper probably won’t be taking over the Indiana Jones franchise

Indiana Jones

Reports of Indy’s recasting have been greatly exaggerated.

The internet had a conniption yesterday when Latino Review suggested Bradley Cooper was being eyed for an Indiana Jones reboot, suggesting the saga would be taking a ‘James Bond’ route.

Slash Film has since heard from a high-placing source that the rumour is not true.

Producer Frank Marshall also Tweeted the following:

“Due to the ridiculous rumors that keep popping up, like agents pipe dreams, I will stop commenting on our projects until I have real news.”

Until we hear anything further, let’s believe Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are still mulling the idea of a fifth Indy movie with Harrison Ford in the lead.

Fact is, however, Ford can’t work forever, and the way Hollywood likes to operate, it’s silly to think there won’t be another Indy instalment made after he’s retired.

Chris Pratt and Anna Faris will “play” a married couple in ‘Vacation Friends’

Pratt Faris

Married funny people Chris Pratt and Anna Faris will star as married funny people in Vacation Friends, Deadline reports.

Fox paid seven figures for Tom & Tim Mullen’s spec script, which will see Pratt and Faris play a wild couple who befriend a straight-laced couple on holidays, and are surprised to discover the straight-laced couple don’t want to continue the friendship back in reality.

Steve Pink (Hot Tub Time Machine) will direct.

Anna Faris is a wonderful comic actress who hasn’t been given much of a chance to shine of late. With Pratt’s star rising (albeit, in largely dramatic movies and action blockbusters), it’s nice to see the duo use their combined pulling power to set up a comedy together.

Love overcomes all!

Chris Evans wants to quit acting (once he’s finished all those Marvel movies)

Captain_America

It ain’t easy being Captain America. Chris Evans tells Variety he wants to quit acting as soon as his Marvel contract is up.

“If I’m acting at all, it’s going to be under Marvel contract, or I’m going to be directing,” he said, his publicist probably nervously-laughing by his side.

“I can’t see myself pursuing acting strictly outside of what I’m contractually obligated to do.”

Evans spilled the beans while promoting Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the second entry in a trilogy he is “contractually obligated to do.”

He must also appear in two more Marvel movies, one of which will be 2015′s Avengers sequel Age of Ultron.

So, start saying your goodbyes.

Meanwhile, John Krasinski, start hitting that gym. The role you were once passed over for might soon be back in your grasp.

Meryl Streep to play a rock star for Diablo Cody and Jonathan Demme

Streep

Oscar-statuette inscribers, take note: Meryl Streep might star in a new Jonathan Demme movie scripted by Diablo Cody called Ricky and the Flash. That’s ‘Streep’ with two e’s.

According to The Wrap, Streep would play “a woman who abandoned her family when she was younger to find fame and fortune in California.”

Variety added this flourish to Streep’s character: she’s apparently a rock star.

Firstly, the marriage of Cody – who won the Academy Award for Juno - and Demme – of The Silence of the Lambs fame and most recently Rachel Getting Married - is a fascinating one.

Secondly, Meryl Streep is great and should be in everything.

No studio is attached at this time, though Universal and Fox 2000 have both expressed interest, because they are not insane.

Can you smell what the ‘Hercules’ trailer is cooking?

hercules

The answer is cheese. The Hercules trailer is cooking lots and lots of cheese.

Dwayne Johnson plays the Grecian idol in this Brett Ratner-directed joint, though we don’t get to see what kind of flavour he’ll bring to the role until the very end of this teaser, in which he screams a lot.

You may not even know another Hercules movie came out earlier this year, starring Kellan Lutz, who, we can agree, is no Dwayne Johnson. It grossed $44 million off a $70 million budget.

With a July release date, Ratner’s Hercules should fare better at the box office.

Patriot games – Captain America: The Winter Soldier review

Captain America The Winter Soldier

By Simon Miraudo
March 26, 2014

We’re three films deep into Marvel’s Phase Two, which is the collective name they’re using for the standalone superhero efforts bridging billion-dollar team-up feature The Avengers and its upcoming, probably-googol-grossing sequel. First two entries Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World were really just marking time until Captain America: The Winter Soldier came along to put Phase Two’s plot into play. A follow-up to my – and no one else’s – favourite Marvel movie, it sees Chris Evans return as Steve Rogers, the peppy, titular supersoldier, transplanted from the simple, Nazi-littered 1940s to the terrifying, One Direction-worshipping world of the present day. He’s handily compiling a list of recommended pop-cultural catchups, though the absence of both Mad Men and Scandal makes me worry about the kind of company he’s keeping in 2014.

Director Joe Johnston, sadly, isn’t back with the Cap, perhaps left frozen by the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Rogers’ downed warplane from film one. As the adage goes, when one director falls, two take his place, and these two are brothers: Joe and Anthony Russo, famously of TV shows Community and Arrested Development, and infamously of the godawful You, Me and Dupree. A total stylistic departure from its predecessor – closer in tone and look to the crazy-for-canted-camera-angles Avengers – their sequel puts the patriotic Rogers in the middle of a political conspiracy, the likes of which could rock secret government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. to its core. The casting of Robert Redford as one of Rogers’ bosses is no coincidence, bringing to mind All the President’s Men, Three Days of the Condor and, if you’ve only ever seen bad Robert Redford movies, maybe Spy Game. The screen legend is a welcome presence. Not scene-stealing. Not show-stopping. Simply ‘welcome’.

Captain America The Winter Soldier

Old friends Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) aid Rogers in his quest to uncover the rats in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s ranks, and they too fall into the ‘welcome’ category. The inclusion of invaluable supporting player and someday-star Anthony Mackie as a fellow war veteran isn’t enough, however, to make up for the cavernous absence of Hayley Atwell, who, as Agent Carter in the first Captain America, damn near stole the whole Marvelverse out from under its bulky heroes.

Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have admirably approached the inherent problem of a Captain America tale set in the 21st century; most smartly by having him confront the prospect of an America that instils fear in its enemies with the use of drone strikes and ill-gotten private information. For once though, it seems an intelligent action flick has been undone by its big ideas; or, at least, the ideas here outshine the action. Little besides the scary ethical questions raised is all that memorable. The performances, explosive set pieces, and even the “big” reveal of its sub-titular villain’s identity (a ‘Jared Leto meets Mortal Kombat’s Sub Zero’-looking mother******) can probably be filed under ‘welcome’ too, but never ‘essential’.

Captain America The Winter Soldier

Marvel has previously proven that the grave consequences of their universe aren’t so grave after all, bringing beloved Agent Phil Coulson back from the dead and cursing him to the existential limbo of broadcast television. So, when characters say their farewells in The Winter Soldier – whether it’s them passing away or simply pledging to go on a solo mission of self-discovery – why should we feel anything? Death is just a way station between sequels, and for all their big goodbyes, most of these people will be back before us in less than twelve months, suited up for the next Marvel outing.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is frequently unboring, often expensive-looking, and expert at making promises later instalments have to deliver. (As always, you have to sit through the credits for one really exciting bonus scene and one very-dumb one.) This conveyer-belt approach to moviemaking has taken all the superness out of these superhero stories. Everything is now so expected, and not especially special. As such, The Winter Soldier (admittedly, the best of a recent batch) feels thoroughly unremarkable. That’s what happens when you get too much of a just-okay thing.

3.5/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier arrives in Australian cinemas April 3, 2014.

Play It Again – Elizabeth

Elizabeth

By Jess Lomas
March 26, 2014

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line. Hey, whatever. It fits!

One should not look to Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth for an accurate history lesson, nor expect to find a faultless cinematic masterpiece. Rather, expect a delectable costume drama with superior performances.

Following the death of King Henry VIII in 1547, the crown of England is passed to Edward VI, who perishes shortly afterwards. Henry’s eldest daughter Mary then ascends the throne; a childless Catholic, she runs her country into the ground, depleting its treasury and burning Protestants to death in her pursuit for national religious purity.

Mary’s Protestant sister Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett), the bastard child of King Henry and Anne Boleyn, is next in the line of succession to the throne. Despite being advised to try Elizabeth for treason, Mary cannot sentence her sister to death, and so, after Mary’s own death, it is Elizabeth who becomes the new Queen of England.

Elizabeth

The feature, written by Michael Hirst (The Tudors), follows the four years between the passing of Queen Mary and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, a period in which multiple attempts were made on Elizabeth’s life, where she was continually advised to marry and stabilise her nation’s security, and her personal love affair with Robert, Earl of Leicester (Joseph Fiennes) took a back seat to her attempts to create harmony between warring religions. As a feminist tale, Elizabeth is inspirational in its message of a woman’s dedication to duty and country, and it is Blanchett’s delivery of this that impresses most. As a historical representation, it colours outside the lines.

By all accounts Elizabeth is an exquisite picture; it’s dark and moody, impeccably lit with inspirational costumes and art direction, and has fine supporting performances from Geoffrey Rush as Elizabeth’s trusted advisor Sir Francis Walsingham, Christopher Eccleston as the Duke of Norfolk, and Richard Attenborough as Sir William Cecil.

The trouble with a movie that garners considerable awards attention, and watching said movie some fifteen years after its release, is that viewer expectations are unusually high, making them exceptionally hard to meet. Despite the positive notes the film hits, Elizabeth leaves a quiet impression rather than thrilling on initial viewing.

3.5/5

Elizabeth is available on Quickflix.

Talk Hard – Gareth Evans, The Raid 2, Blackfish

“Where would I least like to get hit with a hammer?” The Raid 2 director Gareth Evans reveals his creative process to Quickflix critic Simon Miraudo. The interview is followed by a review, as well as a look at doco Blackfish (now on Quickflix).

The Raid 2


Show Notes:

The Raid 2 opens in AU/NZ cinemas March 28.

Thanks for listening! Apologies for the audio quality. Bad phone line from Jakarta, sadly.

Yes, we said we were going on a fortnight break. What can we say? We like to surprise!

Please tell your friends to subscribe to us on iTunes and feel free to leave a review. Or, follow our RSS feed.

Remember to send all thoughts, comments, feedback, and general well-wishes to talkhard@quickflix.com.au

You can contact me directly on Twitter: @simonmiraudo.

Thanks to Blue Ducks for our theme, “Four, Floss, Five, Six.” You can find more of their work at www.recordsonribs.com

A special thanks to RTRFM for their recording facilities.

Hammer time – The Raid 2: Berandal review

The Raid 2By Simon Miraudo
March 25, 2014

The world of cinema is full of many wonders, chief among them in 2014, writer-director Gareth Evans‘ unending well of inventive ways to kill people on screen. Berandalthe sequel to his murder-a-minute action spectacular The Raid - showcases perhaps the best martial artistry ever committed to celluloid, as well as a slew of the most incredible gasp-and-groan-and-guffaw-inducing deaths. Its format has been altered significantly from its predecessor’s, dropping the single-location setting and instead sprawling out across the streets of Indonesia, as well as spilling into its prisons. The passage of time is also greater: whereas Part One took place over a day, Part Two spans half a decade. Evans’ desire to make the Indonesian Godfather - evidenced by the bloated 150-minute length – keeps The Raid 2 from surpassing its leaner, meaner parent. Still, it delivers some of the finest, rawest fight sequences ever filmed. Surely that’s what we’re paying to see.

Iko Uwais reprises his role as Rama, Indonesia’s last good cop, and one of the few survivors of the first flick’s suicide mission. Having been rescued by the chief of Jakarta’s anti-corruption task-force, Rama is sent to prison under the name Yuda, tasked with a new mission: to befriend the well-coiffed Keiichi (Ryuhei Matsuda), son of mob kingpin Goto (Kenichi Endō). If Rama can get in close with the family and discover which cops and politicians are in on the take, the task-force can bring down corruption for good (err…) and get our hero safely back to his family. Only problem is, ingratiating oneself with Keiichi is not necessarily as simple as sparing him from the occasional shiv. To gain his attention, Rama has to fend off an army of assailants. For access into his inner circle… well, Rama practically has to break the neck of every inmate and guard during a muddy, prison-yard riot. That last sequence is just one of Berandal‘s many impossible-seeming shots; a prolonged single take of unbridled, bone shattering devastation. (Evans surely cheated by working a few cuts in, but no one watching the thing could possibly care.)

The Raid 2

I’ve barely covered the opening act in the above synopsis. Oh, how I wish I could explain concisely the way in which bloodthirsty-siblings ‘Hammer Girl’ (Julie Estelle) and ‘Baseball Bat Man’ (Very Tri Yulisman) factor into the climax, though I’d have to break down the rest of the tortuous plot (a feat I’m not sure I’d be able to accomplish if I tried). Of the criticisms that might be levelled against The Raid by someone uncharmed by its non-stop butchery, “convolution” isn’t one of them. Evans might have bitten off more than he could chew in this follow-up, producing no less than two rival gangs for the Gotos to conspire against, as well as a series of back-stabbings and betrayals that, frankly, lose potency as the picture becomes more distended. Eastern Promises got the same job done in 90 minutes (and David Cronenberg managed to squeeze in a naked, gory fight scene too).

What Evans is unsurpassed at, however, is crafting memorable set pieces, and he’s aided superbly by fight choreographers Uwais and Yayan Ruhian. (Ruhian’s ‘Mad Dog’ was handily dispatched in The Raid, yet he’s back once again playing a much nicer, equally effective assassin here.) Each battle is punctuated with comic beats and builds to a wrenching climax; as they layer upon one another, the film reaches an absurd crescendo of carnage. Fearless cinematographers Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono are right there amongst the action, miraculously not getting themselves killed even when it looks like they’re doing more dangerous stuff than the stuntmen themselves. At one point the camera jumps through a window in hot pursuit of a fleeing criminal; later, the camera exits a moving car only to find its way into another moving car. Yes, it’s probably all a fakery; movie magic at its most magical. The Raid 2: Berandal is so astounding you’ll eagerly believe it’s happening for real. Never before has the bloody slaughter of dozens provided such delights.

4/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

The Raid 2: Berandal arrives in Australian cinemas March 28, 2014.

Television Revision: True Detective – Season 1

True Detective S1

By Andrew Williams
March 25, 2014

Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and the rest).

Now, this is a story all about how… Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) are two grizzled detectives on the trail of a serial killer in 1995 – while in 2012 the same men are being interviewed after that same serial killer appears to have struck again .

True Detective S1

Happy days? A compelling jumble of philosophy, imagery, murder and wigs, True Detective is unquestionably the first great new show of 2014 and a welcome addition to the television landscape. It’s a relatively simple story of two detectives seeking a serial killer made exceptional by virtue of the voices doing the telling: director Cary Fukunaga, writer Nic Pizzolato and leads Matthew McConaughey & Woody Harrelson are all doing exemplary work, combining to make an atmospheric, thrilling drama that will grab you by the antlers and won’t let go.

It’s not without its problems: True Detective has two compelling characters and only two compelling characters; the lack of anyone bar Cohle and Hart to hold our interest robs the season of an added dimension that could see it through the flat spots. But that’s one of only a few minor complaints compared with everything this show does so well. McConaughey and Harrelson are both in career-best form, Pizzolato has given us some quotes for the ages (and if time is indeed a flat circle, hopefully he’ll repeat the dose next year) and Fukunaga creates some of the most arresting visuals I’ve ever seen on a TV screen.

Perhaps most exciting of all is what True Detective represents for the future of television. The success of the anthology format (represented by this show and American Horror Story) might free studios up from the traditional series model, where shows hang on to cast members longer than they should and eventually peter out of storytelling gas just so they can reach their goal of syndication. This format, where a series can tell multiple stories with different casts under the same brand, pushes the creative team to the forefront and frees actors from signing up for exhaustive schedules and oppressively long-term deals. It’s a welcoming broadening of television’s horizons.

The final frontier: Compelling performances and superb execution make True Detective one of the shows of 2014.

True Detective S1

Top three episodes: 5) The Secret Fate of All Life. Inventive, compelling and shocking, this showcase of top-notch storytelling has already booked a place on my Top Ten episodes of 2014 list. 4) Who Goes There. A breathtakingly audacious final sequence launched True Detective into the stratosphere and indicated this show would most certainly deliver on its immense promise. 8) Form and Void. The finale does plenty of pleasurably unexpected things, none of which I’ll spoil here.

Worst episode: 2) Seeing Things. For a show that so rarely descended into pure cliché, the disappointing use of the immensely talented Michelle Monaghan in the ‘disapproving wife’ role is most egregious here. Fortunately, True Detective mostly pivots away to give her slightly more interesting things to do as the series progresses – but only slightly.

Season MVP: It has to be McConaughey. Harrelson is terrific in the part of Marty Hart, however McConaughey as Rust Cohle is a performance that entered the pop cultural lexicon immediately after it was released into the world, and for good reason: he’s spellbinding. I don’t know who’ll be cast in True Detective Season 2. They have their work cut out for them traipsing the scorched earth of the McConnaissance.

4/5

True Detective is now available on Quickflix.

James Rebhorn, invaluable supporting player, dead at 65

James Rebhorn

James Rebhorn, the reliable and esteemed character actor with more than 100 credits to his name, has died from melanoma. He was 65 years old.

Rebhorn’s agent Dianne Busch confirmed his passing to The Hollywood Reporter.

He was first diagnosed with melanoma in 1992, surviving a further 22-years before succumbing in his New Jersey home on Friday.

Over the course of his career, spanning five decades, he established himself as a reliable supporting actor in films such as Regarding Henry, My Cousin Vinny, Basic Instinct, Scent of a Woman, Independence Day, The Game, and The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Rebhorn proved himself to be an invaluable utility player on the small screen too, appearing in Seinfeld, Law and Order, 30 Rock, and, most recently, Enlightened, White Collar. and Homeland.

He is survived by his wife Rebecca and daughters Hannah and Emma.

‘Fantastic Four’ reboot sequel already in the works

Kate Mara

Fox has put a lot of faith in their upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, specifically by announcing a sequel to the darn thing already.

Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four - starring Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller and Jamie Bell – will hit cinemas June 2015.

It’s follow-up (of course, always dependant on the first’s box office performance) will land in July of 2017.

With another X-Men sequel set for 2016, a new Wolverine spin-off coming in 2017, and a mystery Marvel project arriving in 2018, Fox are keen to stack their release calendar with some reliable tentpoles.

Whether or not they can build a saga-spinning machine like the one over at Marvel HQ remains to be seen.

New ‘Wolverine’ movie opening in 2017

wolverine

Though Hugh Jackman recently cautioned the world about his decaying, mortal body, he will indeed reprise the role of Logan in at least one more solo Wolverine movie. It will be his eighth effort as the character.

Fox has announced a March 2017 release date for his next adventure, with screenwriter David James Kelly busy at work building from the outline developed by The Wolverine‘s director James Mangold.

There are two X-Men movies to come before then, however. X-Men: Days of Future Past hits cinemas in just a few months, while its sequel,  Apocalypse, arrives in 2016.

Fox also dated a mystery Marvel project for 2018.

Considering the X-Men franchise is pretty much their only Marvel asset, expect it to come from this same family of features.

New sensation – Nymphomaniac Vol.1 review

Nymphomaniac Vol 1

By Simon Miraudo
March 24, 2014

Overheard after the screening of Nymphomaniac Vol.1: “It certainly had a lot of… ideas.” No kidding. I can’t believe how some of those ‘ideas’ got past the censors. And did you see the size of that one dude’s ‘idea’? The first entry in Lars von Trier‘s two-part odyssey of strange is indeed jam-packed with psychosexual metaphors and existential malaise, although that’s not what’s being promoted on the posters. (The marketing materials, inventively, show the esteemed cast revealing their most expressive ‘O’ faces). The Danish director, a ceaseless provocateur, has shot some of the most explicit sex scenes this side of French television, even hiring porn stars to seamlessly stand-in for the actors more, erm, penetrative sequences. Nonetheless, an opening title card insists this version is watered down from the auteur’s original vision, which ran almost six hours and was significantly more graphic. What we’re seeing was released with his “permission but without his involvement otherwise.” Yikes. You crazy for this one, Lars!

We first find our hero Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) battered and bloodied in an lonely alley. Clues suggest this is occurring in present day London, but von Trier’s movies don’t really remain tied to any specific time or place. She’s taken in by Seligman (the comforting Stellan Skarsgård), a good Samaritan eager to hear all about how she wound up in such a state. The self-loathing Joe, now in fresh pyjamas and rejuvenated by tea, breaks down for him her entire sexual history, starting at age two, when she first felt those funny, new sensations after discovering her “****.” Bristling already? Dear reader, we are just getting started.

Nymphomaniac Vol 1

As a young woman, Joe is played by Stacy Martin, a talented young model whom von Trier asks the most of, giving her instant entry to his Tortured Hall of Fame. In ‘The Compleat Angler’, the first chapter of Vol. 1 (there are five in all), teenage Joe stalks the train with a friend competing to accumulate conquests, allowing Seligman to excitedly compare the experience to fly-fishing. (The two of them seem to have an endless supply of banal things to contrast with coitus.) Chapter 2, ‘Jerome’, is all about Joe’s increasing infatuation with her first partner, played by an English-accented Shia LaBeouf. The voice work is…. interesting. He at least gets points for fully committing to the most seemingly-unsimulated sex scenes with Martin. The picture’s highlight comes in Chapter 3, which is built around the intrusion of Uma Thurman‘s spurned, show-stopping, passive-aggressive wife of a husband who wants to run away with Joe, not understanding he’s one of dozens being juggled by her simply as means of dulling her horniness. The woman, Mrs. H, brings her three children along to Joe’s apartment and asks if they can see “the Whoring Bed.” Does that come in a Posturepedic?

The first hour, narrated by Gainsbourg (still wildly compelling despite being constrained to a bed for the entirety of Vol. 1), is simply a cycle of cruel stories the kind an unfeeling sort would relay with relish. I suppose that’s how many would describe von Trier. Maybe he would too. Joe similarly considers herself a sinner. It makes her, in a way, a stand-in for the director; someone who slyly delights in tales of depravity and degradation, but acknowledges the kind of terrible person they might be because of it. Martin, carrying the burden of having to perform all that depravity and degradation, wanders through the chapters with deadened eyes, barely registering pleasure during the sex acts. As Vol. 1 comes to a close, however, we’re given two context-shifting vignettes. A black-and-white fourth chapter concerns the decay of a close family member’s body through illness, and a fifth chapter morphs three simultaneous sequences of fornication until they reach a literal, musical crescendo. Through each, Joe – and Martin – unpeels further and further, and her unquenchable feelings of arousal are revealed to be tangled up with her fear of mortality, those complicated emotions directed towards her one true soul mate, dad (an also-weirdly-English-accented Christian Slater), and a deep sense of longing for sex’s secret ingredient: love. Lars von Trier may have well and truly proven his freaky-deakie credentials over the years, but Nymphomaniac may prove him to be a softie too.

Nymphomaniac Vol 1

The man who co-founded the reductive Dogme movement has, with his recent efforts, moved away from that stark realism and oddly evolved into a striking visual stylist, whose eye for indelible, standalone images has improved exponentially, and who has smartly recruited cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro once again. Each chapter has its own feel and flourishes. The only constant – besides the extreme close-ups of genitalia, so get ready for that – is the sparseness of the set decoration, with Seligman and Joe’s apartments as dreary and bare as hospital rooms. What few dressings there are to be found in Seligman’s home exist purely to invite direct comparisons to Joe’s nymphomania-induced adventures. Guess Lars isn’t so removed from the man who made Dogville and everything before it.

Whether or not Joe’s thirst for completeness will be sated, I can’t say until witnessing Vol 2. I’m left to judge the half-film before me, which raises a lot of fascinating questions about the right and wrong of wanting sex, the ‘sinful’ nature of being a hormonal human, and the sacrifices and hurt one is willing to cause in the pursuit of orgasm. But then there’s “the Whoring Bed,” all that talk of fly-fishing, as well as LaBeouf’s awful accent (and hiring in general). His sympathy for Joe aside, all signs point to von Trier f***ing with us here. He has a sharp, often misunderstood sense of humour, on celluloid as it is in life. He no doubt took great pleasure in packaging all this tongue-wagging material within a drab, depressing, despairing black comedy. I feel confident in describing Joe as a sort of sex-mad analogue of her creator. That reading works for me. Nonetheless, peering too deep into Lars’ pieces can sometimes be a fool’s errand, ignoring the reality that he just loves to confront us with button-pushing material for the fun of it.

Nymphomaniac Vol 1

He calls Nymphomaniac the third part of his ‘Depression Trilogy’ following on from Antichrist (starring Gainsbourg as a woman driven insane by a cruel, controlling husband) and Melancholia (featuring Kirsten Dunst as a manic depressive awaiting the apocalypse). In the second-halves of those flicks, our protagonists resigned themselves to their mental illnesses and welcomed total oblivion. Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 ends on a bleak note too, and I’m certainly expecting Vol. 2 to be as nihilistic as those last features. Or, perhaps von Trier will surprise us. Though they didn’t exactly find happy endings, the protagonists of Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark did retain goodness in the face of overwhelming, oppressive bleakness.

Though Volumes 1 & 2 will screen back-to-back in Australian cinemas, they’ll be released as separate instalments on DVD, download, and the like. Hence, you’re getting two incomplete reviews for one incomplete story about a very incomplete woman. So far, it seems like Nymphomaniac is a last-ditch attempt at saving an ultimately good soul who simply “demanded more of the sunset” and is seeking something that will make a banal life that little bit richer. I feel empathy and even slight kinship with Joe. I acknowledge the director’s desire for provocation, and yet am looking past it and identifying a desire in him to find meaning and pleasure in a world that’s often cruel. Maybe it’s more than just a joke on the audience. Maybe I’m just watching too many Lars von Trier movies.

4/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

Nymphomaniac Vol.1 & Vol.2 will screen back-to-back in Australian cinemas from March 27, 2014.

The write stuff – Adult World review

Adult World

By Glenn Dunks
March 20, 2014

Finally, pornography peddling poets get a film all their own in Scott Coffey’s frisky comedy, Adult World. Amy (Emma Roberts) is a wannabe poet superstar, the kind who thinks she’s the next great artiste and who wouldn’t commit suicide by sticking her head in the oven because that would be plagiarism. After getting a job at a low-rent porn store when her parents stop paying her way through college, she then moves in with a hard-talking transgender hairdresser, befriends the cute, shaggy-haired co-worker Alex (Evan Peters) and embarks on a masochistic protégé relationship with a famed, down on his luck poet named Rat Billings (John Cusack).

It all sounds utterly silly, but most of the picture’s strength comes from winking at this adults-only style of poetic justice. This is obviously far from the romanticised portrayals of poetry of period flicks Bright Star and Sylvia, and it was always going to be a tricky field of navigate balancing cynicism and sincerity for an artform that lacks pop culture cache like this. Adult World succeeds thanks to Coffey’s down-to-Earth direction, Andy Cochrane’s screenplay (with its succession of gigglesome one-liners and biting commentary on contemporary art), plus the watchability of its actors. It is genuinely funny and surprisingly touching by the end, which is more than can be said for most of Hollywood’s efforts of late.

Adult World

Roberts’ eager and unhinged electricity hasn’t been put to as good use since Scream 4, and Peters makes a cute romantic foil for her excessively bubbly personality. Cusack, too, is in increasingly rare form with a deliciously downbeat performance full of dry sarcasm as a man who uses gruff take-downs to mask his own insecurities. The role feels tailor-made for Cusack given his own career trajectory, which helps imbue the role with a larger sense of pathos.

It ends rather abruptly just as it’s kicking into a higher gear, though that isn’t enough to distract terribly from the light-hearted material and energetic performances. And if that weren’t enough, having Cloris Leachman on hand to tell a blue joke or two instantly makes any movie better. That’s just a fact.

4/5

Adult World will be available from Quickflix on March 19, 2014.

Guts and bolts – I, Frankenstein review

I Frankenstein

By Glenn Dunks
March 20, 2014

In what can only be described as a mess from start to finish, Stuart Beattie‘s I, Frankenstein takes the famed Mary Shelley story and adapts it into an ugly catastrophe. Devoid of any appeal that isn’t concentrated around star Aaron Eckhart’s impeccably-sculpted muscles, this effects-laden lump of cinematic coal is as nonsensical and ill-conceived as it is boring. It’s little surprise this third-rate Underworld knockoff elicits more snores than applause.

Opening in 1795, Frankenstein’s Monster is forged out of corpses into the surprisingly hunky form of Eckhart. After killing the doctor’s wife, the monster escapes, only to be attacked by demons and then rescued by gargoyles. The Gargoyle Queen (Miranda Otto) and her henchman (Jai Courtney) proceed to explain the centuries-old war between the species, but audiences will likely still be baffled. The monster – renamed Adam for dumbed-down convenience – leaves and wages a personal battle across the years until the modern day when demon prince Naberius (Bill Nighy) threatens the world’s existence.

I Frankenstein

It’s all entirely preposterous, however, Beattie’s biggest problem is that he doesn’t do anything to enliven the material. His screenplay is cluttered with clunky ideas and convoluted exposition, as if he didn’t trust audiences to understand the basic themes that have made Frankenstein legendary for nearly 200 years. The sympathy audiences may have had for Boris Karloff’s take on the monster in James Whale’s 1931 classic is nonexistent here.

Beattie’s film appears more interested in having us ogle the chaotic visual assault rather than anything rooted in emotions. Shot in ghastly blues and greys, and with action sequences populated by murky 3D CGI, I’d be tempted to call it cheap if I wasn’t aware it cost $65 million to make. While it’s nice to see a plethora of Australian actors amongst the ensemble, the likes of Otto and Courtney, as well as Yvonne Strahovski and Caitlin Stasey deserve better than this. Without an ounce of fun to be had, I, Frankenstein is a miserable, generically gothic effort. Melburnians may get a kick out of seeing transformed landmarks. There’s little else in this locally-made effort to intrigue or excite.

1/5

I, Frankenstein arrives in Australian cinemas March 20, 2014.

Disney Pixar announce ‘The Incredibles 2′ and ‘Cars 3′

incredibles

Disney has made it official: there are many more Pixar sequels in the works.

At an investor’s meeting, the studio revealed plans for The Incredibles 2 and Cars 3.

Though director Brad Bird has been living in the world of live-action recently, he’ll return to write and likely direct the long-awaited superhero sequel.

Anticipation for a third Cars film is less palpable, but hey, kids like ‘em.

Pixar’s next release will be Finding Dory, a – you guessed it – sequel to Finding Nemo. It’s set for release in 2015.

That same year, they’ll drop their first original feature since 2012′s Brave: Inside Out.

‘The Maze Runner’ trailer promises a true contender for the YA throne

The Maze Runner

Having trouble keeping all those YA franchises straight in your head? Let The Maze Runner complicate things further.

The trailer for 20th Century Fox’s great YA hope has dropped, looking eerily reminiscent of both The Hunger Games and The Host.

But here’s the thing: it seems pretty good.

Based on the novel by James Dashner, it tells of a teeanger (Dylan O’Brien) who wakes up in a mysterious, all-boy holding pen called ‘The Glade’, to escape from which one must pass through a deadly maze.

The Wes Ball-directed feature also has supporting performances from Will Poulter and Kaya Scodelario going for it.

Though it’s doubtful The Maze Runner will make a bigger mark than Divergent and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, the trailer at least promises a thrilling, dread-inspiring drama.

It arrives in cinemas later this year.

‘Taken’ spoof titled ‘Tooken’ in the works

taken 2

There once was a time when spoof movies - not made by the Wayans brothers or harbingers of doom Friedberg/Seltzer – frequently populated cinemas.

That era looks to return with Tooken, a ‘Naked Gun-style’ spoof of Taken.

According to Deadline, production will start on the flick in the coming months.

Cameron Van Hoy and John Asher penned the screenplay. Asher will also direct.

Whether or not Key and/or Peele – the brilliant comedians who originally coined the phrase ‘Tooken’ - will be involved is unknown. But they almost definitely won’t.

Same goes for Liam Neeson.

Alison Brie joins Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart for ‘Get Hard’

Brie

Community and Mad Men‘s Alison Brie will play Will Ferrell’s fiancée in the upcoming comedy Get Hard, Deadline reports.

Though the actress is already 15 years Ferrell’s junior, the fact she plays a fairly-recent high school graduate on Community makes the pairing even ickier.

The flick concerns an investment banker (Ferrell) who turns to his car-washer (Kevin Hart) for a crash-course in ‘getting hard’ for an impending prison sentence.

Etan Cohen will direct the flick, being produced by Ferrell’s production banner Gary Sanchez.

Ah, so he’s a producer too. That explains the Brie casting.

Talk Hard – Stuart Beattie, The Counselor, What Richard Did

The latest episode of Talk Hard is live. It’s live! Quickflix critic Simon Miraudo chats to I, Frankenstein director Stuart Beattie (ahead of the film’s cinema release on March 20) and then reviews new DVDs The Counselor and What Richard Did.

Stuart Beattie


Show Notes:

Thanks for tuning in! We’ll be back with another episode in two weeks time!

Please tell your friends to subscribe to us on iTunes and feel free to leave a review. Or, follow our RSS feed.

Remember to send all thoughts, comments, feedback, and general well-wishes to talkhard@quickflix.com.au

You can contact me directly on Twitter: @simonmiraudo.

Thanks to Blue Ducks for our theme, “Four, Floss, Five, Six.” You can find more of their work at www.recordsonribs.com

A special thanks to RTRFM for their recording facilities.

The travel bug – Magic Magic review

Magic Magic

By Richard Haridy
March 18, 2014

Magic Magic is a bold, subversive and conclusively sadistic piece of work that implants a knot into its audience’s stomach before kicking them out to the curb with a brutal ending that withholds any sense of conventional catharsis.

Juno Temple stars as Alicia, a meek young girl who, travelling away from home for the first time, is in Chile visiting her cousin Sarah (Emily Browning). When Sarah is urgently called back to the city, Alicia is stranded at a remote cabin with Sarah’s boyfriend, his sister, and the annoyingly flamboyant Brink (Michael Cera).

For much of its running time, Magic Magic is excitingly inscrutable. Writer/director Sebastián Silva toys with several genre trappings but never plays his hand, leaving the viewer unsure of exactly what type of film they are watching. The first half presents itself as a magnificently tense thriller, while Alicia’s paranoia generated by the strangers around her grows increasingly suffocating.

Magic Magic

As the picture progresses, Silva brilliantly pivots his narrative into Polanski territory, revealing an internal psychodrama that is infinitely more frightening than any potential external supernatural menace. Cera is a revelation playing the fidgety and irritating Brink, perfectly encapsulating a creepy socially-aggressive character familiar to us all. Temple, too, is extraordinary, evoking great empathy as Alicia slowly loses grip on reality.

It will prove a difficult experience for many. Silva is an expert manipulator but he is determined to offer his viewers little release. Much of the movie engenders a torturous anxiety in the pit of your stomach. A feeling that something terrible is just about to happen hovers constantly at the fringes and when that horrible thing eventually occurs it is more shocking and depressing than you could imagine. The climax jarringly cuts to black before one gets a chance to process it. It’s gut-wrenching stuff – genuinely horrific in a startlingly unsatisfying way.

Magic Magic is intricately designed to make its audience feel wholly uncomfortable, from cinematographer Christopher Doyle’s beautifully off-centre photography to the subtly disconcerting sound design. If you’re like me and enjoy horror films that make you feel odd, unsettled and generally unpleasant, then this is one of the best feel-bad experiences you could have.

4.5/5

Magic Magic will be available from Quickflix on March 19, 2014.

Clays of our lives – The Missing Picture review

The Missing Picture

By Jess Lomas
March 18, 2014

Documentaries chronicling war tend not to involve clay figurines and miniaturised recreations, yet, in The Missing Picture, director Rithy Panh’s memoir of his childhood under the thumb of the Khmer Rouge, archival footage and diorama-style visuals are impressively blended.

When the Khmer Rouge forcibly removes the population of Phnom Penh in 1975, 13-year-old Rithy Panh’s life is forever changed. He is moved, along with his family, to re-education centres promoting the new communist Cambodia. Over the next four years, twenty-five per cent of Cambodia’s population is reportedly wiped out; they’re either killed as enemies of the state or die of starvation or disease from poor conditions in the centres. Manual labour is enforced, personal possessions are surrendered, and Panh witnesses those around him perish in a nightmare he cannot wake from.

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, this Cambodian-French collaboration was unfairly overshadowed by the crowd-favourite The Great Beauty. The Missing Picture is a haunting and sobering documentary that not only mesmerises with its narrative but also impresses with its collage of techniques that merge seamlessly to give us something truly unique on screen.

The Missing Picture

Panh’s story is written for the screen by Christophe Bataille and narrated by Randal Douc, whose dulcet tones combine with composer Marc Marder’s magnetic score to hypnotise. The poetic recitation has a numbing affect though one could not imagine this film conveyed any other way; its delivery is eloquent despite its brutal message.

The use of figurines is perhaps enforced to distance the audience from the horror of Panh’s reality, although at no time does he play up the atrocities of his experiences for drama or show, even admitting throughout that we do not need to see certain things. What surprises most about Panh’s figurine tactic is how quickly you move past the distraction and become invested in these mottled-faces, each beginning to blend into the next yet with some mark of individuality.

The “missing picture” of the film’s name is suggested to have several interpretations. Panh meditates on his own lost picture, that of his childhood, family and innocence, questions Pol Pot’s control of media and whether the picture of a nation dying escaped Cambodia’s borders, and finally prompts the audience to continually seek the missing picture in our world today. For its refreshing style and technique, and for its poignant message, The Missing Picture is an exciting documentary.

4.5/5

The Missing Picture arrives in Australian cinemas March 20, 2014.

Punny games – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 review

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

By Simon Miraudo
March 18, 2014

Man cannot survive on puns alone, but it seems kids will happily eat them up. The Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs franchise is one of the more unlikely success stories of recent years, coming from low-rent cartoon factory Sony Pictures Animation (home of Surf’s Up!) and earning some rare acclaim to compliment its boo-koo bucks. Directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn take over for Phil Lord and Chris Miller on this sequel (written by Jon Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, and Erica Rivinoja)which, smartly, doesn’t alter the formula one iota.

Sure, the first one involved amateur inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) creating a machine that induced food-related weather and this one introduces food-mutated animals into the mix. Nonetheless, its source of humour has not changed: that words for food can be easily – and hilariously – slotted into the place of other words. This is what has powered the series to more than $450 million at the box office.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

Still, even I – of the pun-obsessed review headlines – was slightly worn out by all the wordplay. Much of the movie is spent with characters screaming the names of foodimals in awe or terror. “Tacodile!” “Shrimpanzee!” “Watermelophant!” (That last one draws a long bow.) I nonetheless consider myself a fan of this saga, thanks to its dynamic, outrageous animation style (separating itself from the slightly more “realistic” world of Pixar), and the fantastic vocal talents of ingenious SNL graduate Hader, as well as the enthusiastic Anna Faris, playing Flint’s meteorologist girlfriend Sam Sparks.

The adventure begins when Flint is hand-picked by the Steve Jobsian Chester V (Will Forte) to join his cult-like enclave of inspiring thinkers, and then asked to return to his home of Swallow Falls so he may examine the newly-created wildlife that resulted from his original invention. Although danger lies ahead, Sam and friends pledge to venture back, once more unto the breach with him. Those friends include big baby Brent (Andy Samberg), Steve the Monkey (Neil Patrick Harris), police officer Earl (Terry Crews), Sam’s camera-operator Manny (Benjamin Bratt), and Flint’s pop, Tim (James Caan). That ensemble is undeniably appealing.

Much madness ensues, resulting in an unusually dark and violent (yet still very cartoonish, so don’t panic, parents) ending. Nonetheless, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 is just a sideways step from its predecessor. That’s great news for adults who want a guaranteed good time for their tiddlywinks, but maybe a little bit tiresome for those who aren’t exactly keen on being endlessly introduced to such groan-inducing creations as the Sasquatch, Mosquitoast, Bananostrich… the list is, almost literally, endless.

3.5/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 will be available on Quickflix from March 20, 2014. 

Talk Hard – True Detective Season 1

Grab a can of Lone Star and listen in to Quickflix critics Simon Miraudo and Andrew Williams as they unravel Season 1 of True Detective (as well as pick some potential actors for Season 2). Time is a flat circle… so you may as well start listening now! True Detective S1 is now streaming on Quickflix.

True Detective


Show Notes:

Thanks for tuning in! Don’t worry: there is a clear spoiler warning when we start talking about the show’s ending.

Please tell your friends to subscribe to us on iTunes and feel free to leave a review. Or, follow our RSS feed.

Let us know which shows you’d like us to cover in the future by sending an email to talkhard@quickflix.com.au

You can contact Andrew on Twitter here: @DrewWilliams9

Find me here: @simonmiraudo.

Thanks to Blue Ducks for our theme, “Four, Floss, Five, Six.” You can find more of their work at www.recordsonribs.com

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