Friday, August 29, 2014

Sydney Underground Film Festival 2014

Without a doubt, the Sydney Underground Film Festival is one of the most, if not the most daring film festival on the festival calendar. Each year the film festival aims shocks their audiences in as many ways as possible with it's ambitious yet often disturbing program and 2014 is guaranteed to do no different. The Sydney Underground Film Festival aims to go where other film festivals won't dare and showcase the quirky and bizarre, but also the highly original and brilliant.

This year's festival at the Factory Theatre will kick off on the 4th of September with a screening of the New Zealand horror-comedy, Housebound and performance by Renny Kodgers. After four days and over 100 films, the festival will close on the Sunday night with the controversial and much talked about German feature, Wetlands.

Sydney Underground Film Festival director, Stefan Popescu took the time out of his busy preparation for the festival to have a chat to us about what to expect at this year's festival and what are the films to see.

So Stefan, how are you feeling with the Sydney Underground Film Festival just around the corner now?

Oh it is always just a little bit of a stressful time, but also very exciting. The adrenalin is pumping!

How do you feel the 2014 festival has broken new ground?

With the short films actually strangely. We're playing some really, really risky short films...if they even get through. I mean there is a really big chance the Office of Film and Literature Classification will ban some of the shorts. Hopefully they don't, they are looking at them right now. I think the shorts are really, really pushing a lot of boundaries.

In terms of the features, the one thing I can say is I don't know if it is the economic climate but there is a bit of a return to a more independent style of filmmaking. So it's interesting, even to the point of The Green Inferno where they are pulling it from distribution in the US and how they are handling it. I think Eli Roth had a big hand in not letting distributors getting their hands on it there. It is an interesting climate for filmmaking. There are more documentaries which is another sign of independent filmmaking. I think because of the accessibility with technology now.

So there are some films in the shorts program which are being looked at in terms of whether they are appropriate to be shown at the festival?

Yes, the Office of Film and Literature Classification are really scrutinizing the shorts particularly from The Best of the Fetisch Film Festival part of the program, but there are also a few from the Love/Sick part of the program which they are also looking at. I think they are really concerned when it comes to sex and/or violence. In particular, there is one called I Am Monster which they are really scrutinizing. I mean The Best of the Fetisch Film Festival is really graphic at the best of times and I Am Monster is really twisted. It's about a woman and necrophilia, but strangely that one is actually quite comedic.

What has the process for selecting the films which are part of this year's festival been like?

Well, it's been pretty similar to what it is like every year. We start from basically what's been submitted to us, so we never really have a major preconception and that's also why our program is always released a bit late. We actually go through all the films, have a look and see what we respond to, then take those and then start to see the themes that form. So we develop this early on so that we can keep the program really fresh and up to the time, rather than have preconceptions from what other film festivals and it's also a way of distinguishing our program too which is curated from production. Initially you see themes that form and things like that. So this year it seems to be a strange combo of horror/comedy and intimate pieces with interpersonal relationships. A lot more profound that what it usually is. Along with horror we do have that theme of the end of the world, like we have a documentary about living forever and then we have all these apocalyptic short films. You always seem to get two or three themes that stick out.

Can you tell us a bit about the "Dead Oscar"?

Oh yes! That was from the beginning a local artist, Mark Wotherspoon, who developed these trophies for us made out of recycled TV screens. Basically we thought that we don't really like the idea of prizes, so we thought that having the Dead Oscars would be a good idea!

Absolutely! So what type of film could win the Dead Oscar?

Oh whatever the jurors deem fit to win it! We still have jurors and they usually go through it and create their own awards. I guess it's about what resonates more with them. Then they sort of commend a whole bunch of films. This year's jurors are Nicholas Hope, Lauren Carroll Harris and Neil Foley. We sort of try and get a mix usually of artists. We like actors because actors normally know their art quite well. We do have an Audience Choice Award, so we have a couple of Dead Oscars to give away. The jurors do pick their favourites, so there is the best of the festival kind of award, but the audience gets to do the same.

The Opening and Closing Night films are both films with big personalities. Why did you choose Housebound to be the Opening Night film and Wetlands to be the Closing Night film?

Well, because they do have big personalities! It's really funny because technically Wetlands is my favourite film of the festival, but I love Housebound as well. We sort of try and think "How do we want the film festival to kick off and what taste do we want to leave in our audience's mouth?" Bad choice of words for that film but (laughs)! Housebound because it is quite a fun film and it kicks off the energy right and Wetlands will leave you talking for a week. So we always think about what we want our audience to experience on our opening and closing night.

Now I just want to ask you a few questions about what films certain types of people should see. If someone liked to be scared and considers themselves a horror buff, what should they see?

Definitely The Green Inferno or Housebound, but I would say The Green Inferno.

If someone is easily grossed out, what shouldn't they see?

Well, there is a couple! Wetlands and The Immoral.

If someone wants a laugh, what should they see?

Definitely Trailer Park Boys or Suburban Gothic.

What should a music buff see?

Oh, definitely Breadcrumb Trail and Super Duper Alice Cooper.

If someone wants to see a feel good film, what should they see?

Nope, we don't have those! Oh...I Believe In Unicorns is not bad. I mean, it is still a little dark though. The other thing is My Name is Jonah, that is a bit of a feel good film.

If someone are after seeing a film which make them feel like they have taken some sort of wacky drug, what should they see?

Definitely the shorts, either the WTF Shorts or LSD Factory.

We've already touched on some of the most shocking films in the festival, but what would you consider to be the most shocking in the program?

Well, we covered the shorts, but The Green Inferno is shocking in it's own way. I mean, cannibalism is always going to get a rise out of people. I think also a lot of people have a tendency to overlook Why Don't You Play In Hell?, and that is strangely quite a comedic but very gory film. In terms of documentary, because documentary is always more shocking to me than anything else as the truth is always stranger than fiction. Love Child, I was shocked when I saw that. But we have so many shocking films!

You said before that your favourite film of the program is Wetlands, do you have any other favourite films?

Yeah, I won't mention Housebound again, but I am a big fan of Trailer Park Boys. I've watched the series and I've watched the other two features. I do like quirky, so something like My Name is Jonah about this quirky guy who no one knows.

What part of the festival are you most looking forward to?

I always like the Closing Night because it's over and you can have a drink! But Opening and Closing Night is always what you look forward to because you can relax on Closing Night. It's not that you don't enjoy the rest of it, but you are on duty the whole time. It does take it's toll. Yet in the following weeks after you finish it there is this strange sense of loss. It's a bit like Stockholm Syndrome! Yet within a week after it we open up entries for the next year so then it begins again!

For more information and ticket purchases, please see the official Sydney Underground Film Festival website

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"Sharon Tate: Recollection" book review and Interview with Author and Tate sister, Debra Tate

Author: Debra Tate
Publication Year: 2014
Pages: 271
Publisher: Running Press
To purchase "Sharon Tate: Recollection", please visit NewSouth Books if in Australian and Running Press if in the USA.

Sharon Tate was an exceptionally rare brand of star. Not only did her image radiate with beauty and glamour, but she could light up any room she stepped into. Those who she met were instantly in awe of her grace, sensitivity and the overwhelming kindness and respect she gave everyone around her. "Sharon Tate: Recollection" by her younger sister, Debra Tate, is the book every Sharon Tate fan has been waiting for. Through many exquisite photographs and loving words by her sister and many of the people who knew her in her short life, the legacy of Sharon Tate as the star, friend and sister is perfectly preserved.

A sister's tribute to a woman who was loved by many, 'Sharon Tate: Recollection" is a coffee table book and illustrated biography. Sharon Marie Tate was born on the 24th January 1943 in Texas  and with her stunning features and natural talent, rose to film stardom and captured the hearts of many. Among her many achievements was being nominated for Most Promising Newcomer at the Golden Globe Awards in 1968. This tribute to Tate contains many never before seen photographs from her family's collection, as well as stills from both her films such as Eye of the Devil, The Fearless Vampire Killers and Valley of the Dolls, and her modelling days. These photos are accompanied throughout the book by memories many have shared about Tate, including recollections by husband, Roman Polanski (who also penned the Forward), Patty Duke, Barbara Parkins, Mia Farrow, Jane Fonda, Yul Brynner and Kirk Douglas.

"Sharon Tate: Recollection" is completely dedicated to the loving memory of Tate. Too often Sharon Tate is remembered just in association with the way she passed away. It is wonderfully refreshing in the way that this book avoids mentioning any of these details and remembers Tate for who she was in life and not the grisly details of her death.  She completed a large body of work in such a short period of time and her drive and talent made her destined for even bigger things. Tate was indeed a beautiful woman, but the book allows the reader to recognise that her beauty was by no means only skin deep. With the combination of the incredible variation of beautiful photographs and the words of praise from those who knew her, the reader gains a clear understanding of who Tate was and indeed starts to feel as though they knew her personally. While there is no mention specifically of Tate's death, there are some saddening recollections which subtly hint at what may have been and the feeling of loss many still feel with her gone. Debra's final recollection of her sister is particularly so, but also sweet and peaceful.

The choices of photographs used in the book (which were also co-edited by Debra's daughter and Sharon's niece, Arieana Tate Mussenden) are wonderful. They not only represent Tate's personality and versatility, but also just how much of a fashion icon she was and still is. Her look is as modern now as it was in the 1960's and the photographs chosen enlighten the reader to this fact. Film lovers will also enjoy stories and candid shots from behind the scenes of Tate's films.

While "Sharon Tate: Recollection" is not a traditional biography in the sense, it allows for the reader to walk alongside Tate as she grows up, finds stardom and marries the man of her dreams. It is an incredibly intimate journey which fans of Sharon Tate will be eternally grateful to Debra Tate for letting them be part of. Like Sharon, "Sharon Tate: Recollection" is eternally exquisite and mesmerising.

Photo by Roman Polanski

We at Movie Critical are extremely grateful and honoured to have been able to talk to author of "Sharon Tate: Recollection" and sister, Debra Tate. Debra currently lives in California and  continues to be an advocate for victim's rights, a cause which her mother, Doris was extremely active in during her lifetime.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions, Debra! Congratulations on such a beautiful book!

Well, thank you. I really appreciate that. I hope to come visit Australia soon.

Was putting together a book for your sister something you had always thought about doing?

Absolutely. I had always wanted to write a book about Sharon, for many reasons. Primarily, I felt it was my obligation to help preserve her considerable photographic legacy, but also to try and redefine how Sharon was remembered.

For many years she had been in the public’s consciousness because of a specific event.....and then I noticed a change. New generations began to appreciate Sharon for who she was. Fan websites started appearing, fashion blogs regularly featured her as a sixties fashion icon, and major celebrities even referenced Sharon as the style inspiration for their magazine editorials and red carpet appearances. Today she is everywhere.

The idea for the book was not to present a traditional biography, but to carefully assemble photographs and pair them with recollections from myself, Sharon's friends, co-stars and work associates, and even Sharon herself. 

There are some incredibly beautiful photos of Sharon in RECOLLECTION. Did all of the photos come from your personal collection?
No, not at all. Of course the younger photos of Sharon came from our family album, but most of the later images came from the photographers themselves. What amazed me on researching for this book was her extraordinary productivity. The immense and diverse body of work in such a relatively brief time. Sharon was photographed by some of the greats of the 20th century,  Richard Avedon, Bert Stern, David Bailey, Milton Greene, Terry O’Neill, Philippe Halsman, Shahrokh Hatami.

I think people today love Sharon for many reasons, her beauty, her sweetness, her style. There was a light about Sharon, almost a 4th dimension if you will, that transcended the limitations of photography. It is almost as if you can see into her soul and know who she was just by looking at her picture. She really captured the essence of the sixties.

Do you have a personal favourite photo you used for the book? If so, why is it your favourite?
I love so many of them, but there is a photo of Sharon laughing on page 247 that I adore. She’s at the premiere of Rosemary’s Baby at the Cannes Film Festival in 1968. I believe Mia Farrow is just off camera. Someone has obviously said or done something that really amused her and every time I look at that photo I can hear her laughter. It’s such a genuine candid moment.
The forward for RECOLLECTION is by your former brother-in-law, Roman Polanski. He must've love the idea of you putting together such a loving tribute to Sharon. What was his reaction when you first told him about the book?
When I first approached Roman about the book, he was a little reserved and asked to see a final version before committing. After I sent him the initial layouts, he saw how unique and positive the book was. A true celebration of Sharon’s life. He was very pleased and promptly sent back his beautiful foreword.
As well as Roman, many of Sharon's friends from her Hollywood days have contributed to RECOLLECTION. Was it a lengthy process in speaking to all these people or did you find everybody very willing to speak about Sharon?

Everyone was so eager to contribute.Jane Fonda, Michelle Phillips, Patty Duke, Bert Stern, Joan Collins, etc. etc. It was wonderful. A few people preferred to keep their memories of Sharon private, and of course you have to respect that.

The photos of you at Cielo Drive in the book are great! In one of them you are wearing one of Sharon's dresses. All little sisters love dressing in their older sister's clothes, but was that one of the perks of having an actress as an older sister that you got to try on some of her extremely fashionable clothes?
You know I was a total tomboy in those days. Still am to a certain degree. I loved dressing up in some of Sharon’s crazy Paco Rabanne and Rudi Gernreich outfits, but I saw them more as Halloween costumes back then (laughs). Today I’m much more appreciative. I actually still have a lot of her vintage couture.
You were only a teenager when Sharon made her way into the spotlight. Was it both exciting and surreal at the same time?

Yes and no. I was much younger than Sharon, so I could never really remember a time when everyone wasn’t making a big fuss about the way she looked. She always seemed destined for stardom – greatness if you will. She worked extraordinarily hard and had a strong work ethic, but her face certainly opened many doors. By the time she became a star it just seemed … right. 
Sharon's most popular film VALLEY OF THE DOLLS wasn't really a film for younger viewers. Did your mum let you watch many of Sharon's films when they were released?
Oh sure. I actually got to watch a little of Valley of the Dolls being filmed at the time at Fox. Truth be told, I was more interested in Planet of the Apes, which was in production at the sound stage next door. I seem to remember the first time I saw Dolls was with Sharon – at a preview screening. She looked so amazing in that film. I will say, if there was one “Sharon Tate” look that most fans seem to adore, it’s her high fashion appearance in Valley of the Dolls – the gowns, the false eyelashes, the hairpieces, the camp. That film seems to become more popular with each passing year. I loved going back to 20th Century Fox, so many years later, to explore their photo archive for the book.

Have you ever seen a film and watched the actress in it play a particular role and thought to yourself that Sharon could have played that role?

Great question ! I remember once watching A Patch of Blue, about the blind girl, and thinking Sharon would have been wonderful in that role. I always felt one of her strongest attributes as an actress was being able to elicit sympathy from an audience, not unlike Marilyn Monroe. As far as fairly recent films, years ago I saw the comedy Overboard with Goldie Hawn on late night television and it reminded me so much of Sharon. I think because she could have played both the aristocratic pampered beauty, as well as the country bumpkin. Sharon proved how great she could be in screwball comedy when she did The Wrecking Crew with Dean Martin.

From what I have read about Sharon in the past and in your book, it seems like she was extremely well liked and such a beautiful soul. She also seems like she always wanted to help other people and was extremely maternal. Are this some of the things you saw in Sharon through your eyes?

There were times when I was a little girl that I almost saw Sharon as a mother figure because of our age difference. By the time I was in my mid-teens our relationship was certainly more sisterly. She was a very maternal person, but in many ways I always felt protective of her. Despite her stardom she remained a vulnerable person, and I was very mindful of making sure she was never hurt.

In RECOLLECTION, you mention how you see Sharon everyday in your daughter, Arieana. That must be a comfort to you and make you proud as a mother and sister to see!

I am very proud of Arieana. She has a strong work ethic and a very defined sense of self. Every now and then I will see Sharon peeking out of Arieana, even in the most subtle of mannerisms. It’s sweet. Today, Arieana is a designer and we are actually collaborating on a Sharon-inspired clothing line. More to come.

You are doing such a wonderful job of carrying on the Tate legacy and following in your mother's footsteps for victims family rights. What can fans of Sharon's and of your book do to help out?

Thank you. Fans can always visit where I keep the world informed about Manson family parole hearings, at which times I need letters of opposition. On a more general note, look after those around you – it has a positive domino effect.

What has been the best part of your journey with RECOLLECTION so far?
Without a doubt meeting Sharon’s fans. I can’t tell you the love and warmth I feel when I meet people at book signings. It’s wonderful.


Movie Critical would like to thank Debra Tate for her time and NewSouth Books and Mouth Public Relations for their help.

Photo courtesy of Photofest

Monday, August 25, 2014

Locke (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 85 minutes
Director: Steven Knight
Writer: Steven Knight
Cast: Tom Hardy, Ruth Wilson (voice), Olivia Colman (voice)

Locke is the perfect example of how a film can do so much while doing so little. Writer and director Steven Knight shows in his one man, minimalist film that tension can be built purely by conversational dialogue and needs very little added noise to achieve a high level of suspense. Tom Hardy gives an exceptional performance of a man who's eventful car trip contains several personal underlying themes and internal struggles which are familiar to many. Locke is an intriguing and mesmerising piece of raw, suspenseful and, unlike the lead character's situation, uncomplicated cinema.

When Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) leaves his construction site, he is aware that there is one part of his life that is definitely about to change. However, he does not realise how much this car trip will impact other areas of his life which were seemingly idyllic before he turned the key in the ignition. During his hour and a half travel time, Locke has to deal with a number of challenging situations simultaneously which do not give him the luxury of knowing what life is going to be like once he reaches his destination.

Locke is incredibly intriguing for both its production and execution. It is primarily a one scene film, as the entire film takes place in Ivan Locke's BMW (aside from the opening moments of the film when Locke actually gets in his car) and the only character who is physically present in the film is Locke himself with all the other characters being just a voice on the phone. Locke is an ambitious piece of work because of these features, but Knight proves that he doesn't need more than what he has to create something clever, original and unpredictable. The film is incredibly tense and while there it does have subtle help from the musical score, it is all in the dialogue that makes it so. The screenplay is very well written in the way it intertwines three major storylines at once as well as incorporating the grudge Locke holds with his father which is continually at the back of his mind. Locke does not create suspense the way an action film would, but it does so in it's unpredictability.

While Locke's situation is not one that everyone will encounter during their lives, there are underlying themes in his situation which are extremely relatable. The theme that resonates the most is the idea that one action which seems harmless at the time can set in place a chain reaction where it changes the course of your life. This is ultimately what happens to Locke in the film and it is something which often plays on people's minds. The notion of "What if?" is such a common question asked in life and in Locke one has to wonder what would happen had he made different choices in his time leading up to this car trip, just as they would ask the same thing of themselves. Another idea in the film which some will be able to relate to is how Locke is trying so hard no to be like his father, that he is ultimately becoming like him. In life, sometimes people are so terrified about becoming a certain way that you start to morph into what they feared. In Locke, he obviously still is bitter towards his father for neglecting his family and wants to prove that he will not do the same thing. Yet, in his moment of weakness, he makes a decision that brings him closer to the way his father was than he ever believed he could be. This is perhaps not as common a notion as the first theme explained here, but one which does haunt many people psychologically.

The way in which Locke is filmed is wonderful. While the film has only one scene, the way this scene is filmed is varied so there is no reason for feeling like you are looking at the same shot over and over. The camera allows the viewer to see what Locke is seeing from several different angles and also allows Locke to be seen from varied angles which in turn let's the filmmakers use different lighting on him. The film takes place entirely at night so it is quite a skill to use the lighting from other cars and streetlights as an opportunity for a different perspective on Locke. The rain outside the car also gives a beautiful touch to the film and adds a sense of dread to enhance the seriousness of Locke's situations.

Tom Hardy gives a wonderfully controlled performance as Locke. His character is a particularly complex one who is not only facing the challenges of his situation, but also the challenge of trying to hold himself together during his time on the road. One may argue that they would like to see Hardy get angrier, but the reality of his situation is that he is on the road and he can't go crazy or he will never reach his destination. You can see within him that he is on the verge of going slightly crazy and even though does have a weak moment here and there, he is for the most part controlled. The side of his character that Hardy shows when he is talking to his father is also very interesting and makes the viewer uneasy.

Even though Locke is a film which may feel like it is restricted in it's surroundings, it is a film that does so much with what it is given. A wonderful, suspenseful and original piece of cinema.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Top 10 Films by a Two Year Old Future Film Buff

Please meet Movie Critical's guest contributor for two year old son, Jackson!

When I was pregnant, one of the things people took delight in telling me was how when I had a child my movie watching days were over. Like many things people warn you about when you are expecting, this was a slight exaggeration. When you are passionate about something, your passion doesn't automatically leave you when you start a family, but it goes without saying that it does take a backseat compared to the love you feel for your child. My son is my world, but what I have learnt as a mother is that you can't neglect the things that make you who you are. Finding that balance in life is incredibly important because a happy mother means a happy child, and anyone who knows my son will confirm that he is indeed a very happy little boy. I understand that different people's passions can be hard to maintain when a child is present, but I am lucky enough to have one I can bring to my child.

My movie watching hasn't come to an end since having a child. Very far from it in fact. Even though little Jackson is only two, I try to get him involved with my love of film as much as I can. He had his first official trip to the cinemas when he was only two months old when I took him to one of Event Cinema's Bring Your Baby sessions and took him to many afterwards. The lucky thing has also been to the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood to see The Muppets Most Wanted while on our family holiday in the USA. Of course he doesn't accompany me to most of the films I go to in order to review, but he is growing up familiar with cinema and one can only hope that he will find the same love for cinema that I have. I'm very proud of the fact that he recognises Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp and exclaims "Charlie!" when he see's his picture.

At home, it is a common misconception that having a child means that it is just a constant marathon of Dora The Explorer, In The Night Garden, Sesame Street and Peppa Pig. I'm not going to lie, these television shows do get air time in my household and I don't find them anywhere near as entertaining or enjoyable as Jackson does. However, his preferred entertainment extends past these television shows and funnily enough, he does tend to dwell near our collection of DVD's where he chooses his favourites and brings them over to my husband or I to put on.

Here is the good news for every parent. Having a child doesn't mean you need to sacrifice your enjoyment of film. The type of films you watch change (until the younger members of the household go to sleep anyway), but watching movies with young children doesn't have to be a mindless and monotonous activity. There are a great deal of films out there which can be enjoyed as much by adults as children for different reasons. Unless you have a severe distaste for animation, finding something for both you and your child to enjoy is not as trivial as it is made out to be. Children at a toddler age tend to like films which have colourful images and characters, music and singing, and children their age or older so they feel like they can relate to them. When you think of film viewing with children in terms of these ideals, there is a great deal of choice for mothers and fathers at family movie time.

So with Jackson's help, I have put together a list of the top ten films which can be enjoyed by both adults and children alike. With each film listed, there are the reasons Jackson and other children will enjoy it and the reasons why adults will also enjoy it.

Finding Nemo (2003)

Why children will enjoy this.....Finding Nemo is a great film for children of any age. Younger children will be particularly taken by this film because of the bright colours which are used in order to create the world of clownfish, Marlin and his son, Nemo. As the fish are underwater for 98% of the film, the gorgeous bright blue water of the world below the surface expands takes over the screen and has almost a hypnotising quality for children. They are also entertained by the cute and enjoyable characters, particularly Nemo, Squirt and Dory. Jackson finds Dory speaking in whale quite hilarious.

Why adults will enjoy this.....Finding Nemo really is a film for everyone. It is both simple and comical, yet quite emotional as it is ultimately the story of a father being separated from his only son and doing anything he can to get him back. Some of the funniest moments in the film are perhaps greater understood by adults than children such as Bruce and the other sharks at the fish eating support group. Ellen DeGeneres gives life to Dory and the seagulls steal the show with their "Mine, mine, mine" throughout the film. One cannot help but admire Finding Nemo also for the same reasons that the little ones love it too. It is such an attractive film to watch with an incredible use of colour throughout and wonderful visuals of ocean life.

The Muppets (2011)

Why children will enjoy this.....There are a number of Muppets movies and three seasons of "The Muppet Show" available on DVD, but the 2011 film has a particular charm for children. The Muppets are indeed colourful characters in themselves, both in appearance and in personality which make them excitable for children to watch. The Muppets is simplistic and has a generally fun atmosphere with several toe-tapping song and dance numbers. "Life's A Happy Song" is a sure favourite of any child with it's upbeat tempo and dance routine in the first scenes of the film.

Why adults will enjoy this.... The Muppets have been continuously in pop culture since the 1970's and there are not many people out there who do not enjoy watching Kermit and his friends. Jason Segel's screenplay provided the basis for the best Muppets film in decades with great comedic moments and the perfect amount of Muppets corniness. Again, there are elements of this film which are greater understood by older audiences such as hilarious cameos by celebrities such as Dave Grohl and Jim Parsons, and also references to the older films. While "Life's A Happy Song" is a favourite for younger audiences, "Man or Muppet" will be a favourite with older audiences and long time Muppet fans will love the inclusion of "The Rainbow Connection" and "Mahna Mahna".

Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone (2001)

Why children will enjoy this.... The first two Harry Potter films are favourites with young children because they relate to seeing the students at Hogwarts at a young age. Even though J.K. Rowling's books are read by people of all ages, they were first and foremost children's books, as are the case with the films. There are some moments in Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone which can be quite scary for small children, but the film is entertaining and enjoyable for children watching Harry, Ron and Hermione at eleven years old. They have a particular fondness for Harry's owl, Hedwig and playing spectator to a game of Quidditch.

Why adults will enjoy this....There is no denying it, the world of Harry Potter is a whole lot of fun. There is no wonder the books were and still are such a phenomenon as the world Rowling created is so original and imaginative. The characters are well constructed and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry an enviable place to complete your education. The films, like the books, are also quite addictive as you become attached to the characters and have a thirst to know what happens to them as the years go by.

Despicable Me (2010)

Why children will enjoy this.... A film about a villain sounds like a tough sell for young audiences, but Despicable Me is actually quite a hit with young children. While the animation is undoubtedly well done and extremely colourful, it is certain characters which draw children into the world of Gru. Firstly, Agnes is the youngest of Gru's girls and the human character children love to watch the most as she is still a little girl. She has a great love for her toy unicorn and has a wild and entertaining imagination that comes with her naivety. Secondly, the infamous minions. The minions are hilarious to watch and hear speak in their gibberish, which is an extremely humorous quality that children love. Their bright yellow colouring is also particularly eye catching.

Why adults will enjoy this..... Adults will also enjoy the hilarity of the minions, but the humour doesn't stop with the minions. The film is very funny throughout and has a wonderful screenplay. Gru is an exceptionally well constructed character and there is a real pleasure in watching him go from being a hostile, unlikable villain, to a caring and protective father figure. The voice performances are also wonderful in Despicable Me with the voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews and Kristen Wiig being almost unrecognisable.

Frozen (2013)

Why children will enjoy this.... Although still relatively new, Frozen is an absolute winner with children. Little girls adore princesses Anna and Elsa and it is not an unusual sight on any given day to see a little girl at the shops wearing one of their princess dresses. Yet Frozen is by no means just a girls film. Little boys enjoy Sven the reindeer and the antics of Olaf the snowman. The white winter wonderland has the same hypnotic qualities which underwater animation does as it is tinged with a shimmering light blue shade which is visually very pleasing.

Why adults will enjoy this.....Frozen is a wonderful Disney princess movie which is unlike many past movies of the same calibre as it contains modern themes and has deep underlying themes. People appreciate a fairy tale which scoffs at the idea of love at first sight and chooses to focus more on the undying love of family. Visually gorgeous and the comedic talents of Kristen Bell are a treasure. Love it or hate it, there is absolutely no way to get "Let It Go" off your mind after you hear Idina Menzel hit her high notes.

How To Train Your Dragon (2010)

Why children will enjoy this.... Little boys in general tend to be drawn towards dragons, dinosaurs or anything that roars, so How To Train Your Dragon is such a wonderful film for them. However, the animation of the main dragon, Toothless makes him very much like a pet and has many of the same characteristics that a cute puppy would have, so this makes him also attractive to little girls. Children are also quite taken by the flying sequences in which Hiccup and Toothless soar through the sky overlooking the sea and their island. The fast pace of these scenes leave children mesmerised and highly entertained.

Why adults will enjoy this..... Adults will no doubt enjoy How To Train Your Dragon for the same reasons as children will, as Toothless is really quite endearing to behold. The film is highly entertaining and can be quite an adrenalin rush at times. Jay Baruchel breathes life into Hiccup and adds to this character who feels like he is a real disappointment to his father, a notion which will ring true to many watching this film.

The Princess and The Frog (2009)

Why children will enjoy this.... Again, as The Princess and The Frog is a Disney princess movie, it can be seen as more of a girl's film than a boy's. However, the majority of this film takes place while it's two main characters are frogs rather than their true human selves. If there is one thing that children love in animation films, it is talking animals. Tiana and Naveen spend much of the film trying to become human again, so watching these bright green frogs bicker, laugh and sing with each other is highly entertaining for children. Not to mention there is also a trumpet playing alligator and a romantic firefly for them to also be entertained by.

Why adults will enjoy this..... The Princess and The Frog is based on E.D. Baker's novel, "The Frog Princess" and is a highly enjoyable adaptation with interesting characters and extremely catchy songs. What will surprise people about this film is how atmospheric it is. Set in the Jazz era in New Orleans, the sights, sounds and music are quite nostalgic and the fact that it is an animation does not take away from the feeling of being in Louisiana in this glorious time.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Why children will enjoy this....The Wizard of Oz is an absolute family classic. Admittedly, much of this film can be too scary for children, such as the Wicked Witch of the West and her monkeys. However, children love The Munchkins and their songs. In their mind, they are watching children like themselves because of their size. The Lollipop Guild are particularly popular with this age group. Another favourite part for children is when Dorothy opens the door in order to reveal a world of colour, as this is when the movie suddenly becomes a whole lot more interesting for young children. They love colour and black and white doesn't provide much stimulation for them, so when Dorothy opens the door they feel as though the film has just started for them.

Why adults will enjoy this..... Watching The Wizard of Oz as an adult is a completely different experience to watching it as a child. To watch The Wizard of Oz is to be filled with awe, as it was a film which was completely ahead of it's time and a masterpiece for the year of 1939. The scenes which you found scary as a child no longer seem as scary, but still evoke a feeling of dread and tension. The songs are just as enjoyable and catchy as they were when you first heard them as a child. There is a reason that The Wizard of Oz is a timeless classic, as it never gets old no matter how many times you watch it.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Why children will enjoy this..... In December, watching a Christmas film is the perfect way to get in a festive mood. Miracle on 34th Street is another classic film which has stood the test of time and is a family favourite. As little children start to realise what Christmas is about, they develop a love for Santa Claus, a very prominent figure in this 1947 film. It isn't just Santa Claus they are watching, but little Natalie Wood. Again, children love seeing children in films and Wood was nine years old here. A favourite scene of many is when Edmund Gwenn's Santa Claus and Wood's Susan are playing make believe and pretending to be monkeys.

Why adults will enjoy this..... Miracle on 34th Street says a lot for the Christmas spirit. It is the faith of a child that drives the belief of Santa Claus and it is a belief that brings happiness and love. To not believe and be a sceptic doesn't guarantee happiness. Miracle on 34th Street is the perfect family Christmas movie as it brings happiness and optimism and reminds us all to have faith. Edmund Gwenn gives an Oscar winning performance that is just divine and Natalie Wood is just adorable.

Curious George (2006)

Why children will enjoy this..... Curious George is Jackson's favourite movie at the moment. His main reason for loving it is Curious George the monkey. This monkey really is a thrill to watch for children as he is full of life, very cute and often very funny. The fact that this cute monkey is smiling all the time makes children so happy and laugh uncontrollably. The animation is relatively simple compared to other films, but there is still a great use of colour which stimulates children. Curious George is a very happy, but simple film and this and the entertaining monkey works for children.

Why adults will enjoy this......  Yes, George is very cute and he will probably make you want a pet monkey yourself. The film is also what it is due to the talents of Will Ferrell, who gives his voice to George's human friend, Ted. There is no mistaking it is Ferrell behind the voice, but this is not a bad thing as his humour is perfect for the part and perfect for an adults enjoyment of the film. Curious George's Jack Johnson soundtrack is also something of a treat, which brings more happiness and fun to the film.

Thankyou to my beautiful son, Jackson for contributing by helping me choose the films to feature here!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

2014 Melbourne International Film Festival Round Up

The 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival has just wrapped up another exciting and entertaining 18 days of film. This year saw the audience numbers rise to make 2014 the most successful year for the festival in it's 62 year history. Opening Night was held on the 31st July and featured the upcoming release Predestination as it's film, while closing night on the 16th of August was the Australian premiere of Felony attended by the cast and crew of the film.

We at Movie Critical were in Melbourne to experience the festival first hand and watch some of the best of what it's program had to offer. Our film diary consists of 25 films, which included 18 feature films and 6 documentaries from Australia, the United States, New Zealand, France, Belgium, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Austria, Denmark, Iran and China. We have put together a one paragraph review of each of the films we saw and our top 5 films of the festival to follow.  Please note that the films which will be receiving a theatrical release in Australia will also receive a full review closer to their release date.

Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 8th and 17th of August.
Directed by Diao Yinan
The winner of the Golden Bear at this year's Berlinale, Black Coal, Thin Ice is an extremely atmospheric thriller set in contemporary northern China. Police officer Zhang Zili (Liao Fan) is injured on the job during an investigation into a grisly murder and retires to live a quieter, but more self-destructive life. When murders start happening which are very much like the one which he was working on all those years ago, he is propelled back into the world he has tried so hard to escape. Although there are elements of Black Coal, Thin Ice which are similar to many other films of it's genre, it presents it's audience with a fresh take on these elements. There is a period towards the middle of the film which is really quite slow, but even in this lapse the film is still captivating due to the power of it's visuals.The film is beautifully shot in the snow and the cinematography exquisite.
The Case Against 8 (2013)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 15th and 17th August.
Directed by Ben Cotner, Ryan White
When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008, there was reason for many to celebrate. Yet when Proposition 8 was passed in California, there was devastation for many in the gay and lesbian community who were planning to get married or were already married and were then informed that their marriage was in fact invalid in the eyes of the law. The Case Against 8 follows the court case against Proposition 8 and in particular focuses on the two couples, Kris and Sandy and Paul and Jeff who are propelled into the spotlight as part of the case. Although the documentary starts off slow and does give the impression that it is being staged rather than being filmed as actual events are happening, it soon kicks into gear and becomes a captivating and often suspenseful journey. It is also a beautiful story of two couples who are deeply in love which each other and the film is a great deal more personal and emotional than what a typical political courtroom documentary can be.
Epic of Everest (1925)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 3rd and 13th August.
Directed by Captain John Noel
Epic of Everest is the glorious restoration of the archival footage from the first expedition to concur the summit of Mount Everest. The 1925 silent film footage is completely mesmerising with its breathtaking visuals of the beautiful, but harsh conditions George Mallory, Andrew Irvine and their men had to endure. The camera work is truly incredible for the time in which it was filmed, especially the long shots in which they were able to shoot footage of the men from miles away. While the expedition was seen to be a triumph, it is saddening to see footage of the men who lost their lives on the mountain beforehand filled with hope and optimism.
(As this was a restored classic, it has not been included in our top 5 of the festival)
Felony (2013)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival Closing Night on the 16th August.
Directed by Matthew Saville
Felony is a wonderful showcase of the filmmaking talent that is presently in Australia. Malcolm (Joel Edgerton), a drug cop who is currently being hailed a hero for his latest arrest, is involved in a terrible twist of fate which threatens not only to tear he and his young family apart, but also threatens to reveal extremely damaging secrets of the police force. He tries his best to cover up his lies and guilt, but is always under the watchful eye of rookie officer, Jim (Jai Courtney). Felony can sometimes feel like deja vu as much of it you may have seen in past films, but for the greater part is unpredictable and greatly entertaining. It is extremely tense and made more so by a wonderful musical score and sound mixing. Joel Edgerton, who also wrote Felony, gives an incredible performance of a strong man falling apart and encourages the audience to ponder what they would in the same situation.
The Good Life (La belle vie) (2013)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 5th and 14th of August.
Directed by Jean Denizot
The Good Life is an absolutely charming coming of age story with a difference which looks at that time when you approach an age where you can go your own way in life, but choose what to take with you from your parents. Based on an incredible true story, Yves (Nicholas Bouchaud) is a father who eleven years ago went to desperate measures not to lose custody of his sons and has been living on the run with them ever since. After another close call means another change of location, the eldest boy, Pierre (Jules Pelissier) decides it is time to take his life into his own hands and sets off leaving his father and brother, Sylvain (Zacharie Chasseriaud) behind. Sylvain feels the unease of his nomadic lifestyle and after meeting Gilda (Solene Rigot) he starts to ponder what life would be like without it's secrecy. The Good Life is very atmospheric and quite beautiful to look at with it's beautiful photography of the French countryside. Zacharie Chasseriaud is extremely likable and it is incredible to watch how his happiness with life changes gradually into frustration, but he is always driven by his loyalty to his father.
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 7th, 9th and 17th of August.
Directed by Johannes Holzhausen
The Great Museum is a documentary about the world inside the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. It explores how items are chosen to put on exhibit, how they are put on exhibit and how they are maintained, as well as how the museum operates day to day. This documentary is an absolute must for any art history fan and is made in a rather unique fashion. There are no curators who speak directly to the camera, but rather the viewer finds out what they need to know about the museum by playing witness to conversations between museum workers and also by watching them go about their work. The museum is an absolutely beautiful institute in itself, but the cinematography enhances it's beauty and does the Kunsthistorisches complete justice.
Jauja (2014)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 10th and 13th of August.
Directed by Lisandro Alonso
Jauja is a surrealistic adventure of a man who would go to the end of the world for his daughter. Captain Dinesen (Viggo Mortensen) is tempted by the promised wonders of the land of Jauja, but his attentions take a dramatic turn when his daughter runs away with a young soldier. He sets off to find her and encounters the dangers of the land and unforseen moral dilemmas. Jauja is a film that should be seen with an open mind, as it is quite surrealistic and doesn't abide by common storytelling techniques. Yet there are some extremely interesting camera shots used and glorious scenery assisted by an incredible use of camera. It's two hour running time does seem a great deal longer due to the slow pace of the story, but can be forgiven as there is so much beauty to play witness to during this time.
Jimi: All Is By My Side (2013)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 8th and 16th of August.
Directed by John Ridley
Jimi: All Is By My Side is John Ridley's tribute to legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix. The film chronicles Hendrix's (Andre Benjamin) life from when he was discovered by Keith Richards' girlfriend, Linda Keith (Imogen Poots) through to the beginning of his worldwide fame. Andre Benjamin does well as Hendrix, as does Poots as Keith and Hayley Atwell as his girlfriend, Kathy, and the soundtrack is also memorable. However, the film tries to do a little too much and believes it is amazing, and it is never a good thing when you can tell that this. There are too many elements of a documentary thrown into this biopic, such as captions informing the audience who is who and real photos thrown in when the character is talking about a particular event. Many of the creative choices of this film bring a film that could have been so much more down.
Jodorowsky's Dune (2013)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 7th and 11th of August.
Directed by Frank Pavich
Jodorowsky's Dune is a documentary about the film that never was. Back in the 1970's, eccentric filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky started work on the extremely ambitious adaption of Frank Herbert's "Dune'. The film was to have an impressive cast including Orson Welles and Salvador Dali and had some wonderfully talented designers behind the scenes. However, it was never to be and became legend. This documentary is absolutely brilliant. Jodorowsky is such a passionate man and so full of energy that his love for the film radiates off the screen. After seeing Jodorowsky's Dune, you really do feel as though you did see Jodorowsky's Dune, even though it was a film which was never made. The depth of information of the pre-production of the lost film in this film is perfect and the whole documentary has the atmosphere of a science fiction film, just like it's subject matter. After watching the film, you are devastated that Jodorowsky's Dune never got off the ground, but still in high spirits after experiencing something so fun and passionate.
The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq (2014)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 4th and 11th of August.
Directed by Guillaume Nicloux
In 2011, the author Michele Houellebecq did not turn up for his book tour and seemingly disappeared. His disappearance made a lot of people speculate as to where he could be, and this film is a fantasied answer to those questions which people have had. Houellebecq (who plays himself in this film) has experienced a kidnapping like no other where his every needs are attended to and he befriends his captors. The Kidnapping of Michele Houellebecq is an odd film with no real direction to it. It is quite funny at times and there is an interesting underlying theme of celebrity obsession, as Houellebecq's kidnappers are clearly impressed by his star status. However, the film doesn't seem to make a huge amount of sense and is not overly interesting for those who are not familiar with Houellebecq.
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 2nd, 7th and 14th of August.
Directed by David Zellner
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter is a retelling by the Zellner brothers of the Fargo legend. Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) is a painfully shy, Japanese girl who travels from Tokyo to Minnesota in the belief that the Coen brothers film, Fargo is real and that there really is a treasure buried in the snow there. It is a wonderful retelling of the myth with some glorious images, particularly those in the Minnesota winter. There are some brilliant underlying themes of cinema obsession and the need for adventure and self-importance. Rinko Kikuchi does wonderfully to portray a character which is completely introverted, but there is a thirst to know why Kumiko is the way she is which isn't fulfilled.
Please see out exclusive interview with director, David Zellner here
Life After Beth (2014)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 12th and 14th of August.
Directed by Jeff Baena
Life After Beth is a hilarious insight into what happens when family and friends are still in the grieving stage when the deceased shows up on the front door...showing all the vital signs that they are in the process of becoming a zombie. Zac (Dane DeHaan) is absolutely devastated when his girlfriend, Beth (Aubrey Plaza) receives a fatal snake bite. Not even a week later, she arrives back at her parents house with no recollection of what happened to her and Zac and her parents are overjoyed. However, it isn't long before everyone starts to realise that Beth is not the person she used to be. Life After Beth is truly funny and a wonderful directorial debut for Jeff Baena. There are several  missing pieces of information and holes within the story, but they are forgiven as the film is completely enjoyable and contains some wonderful performances by Dane DeHaan and Aubrey Plaza.
Locke (2013)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 1st and 4th of August.
Directed by Steven Knight
Locke is a film like no other. For the film's entirety, the lead character, Ivan Locke (Tom Handy) is in his car by himself and is faced with a number of challenges during his car trip. There is no physical appearance of any other characters, yet we hear them all during Ivan's phone calls. Locke is a minimalist film, but it demonstrates how much you can do with so little. The cinematography is quite beautiful and the way the lighting is used brings so much to the film. The story is unpredictable and the way which Ivan is trying so hard not to be the way someone was to him, that he becomes like that person in the areas of his life that he has taken the focus off. It is a theme which many can relate to. Tom Hardy gives an intriguing and wonderful performance as a man who is trying to hold it together in the most stressful of situations.
Queen and Country (2014)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 9th and 15th of August.
Directed by John Boorman
The long awaited follow up to 1987's Hope and Glory, Queen and Country is a surprisingly hilarious and very entertaining film. Lifelong best friends, Bill (Callum Turner) and Percy (Caleb Landry Jones) are excited to finally be given the chance to join the army in the shadow of the Korean War. Instead of being sent to fight, they are to be based in England preparing soldiers for their work in Korea and this is where the two boys are able to get into mischief, but also have their first adventures in romance. Queen and Country, despite it's autobiographical roots, is a wonderful addition to a small group of British war comedies and is incredibly funny. The story does suffer at times under the comedy aspect of the film and unfortunately feels a little flimsy as a result. Tamsin Egerton is a particular standout as Bill's love interest, Ophelia.
Trespassing Bergman (2013)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 4th and 14th of August.
Directed by Hynek Pallas and Jane Magnusson
Trespassing Bergman is an ode to legendary Swedish filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman. Until his death, the whereabouts of Bergman's home on the Swedish island of Faro remained a heavily guarded secret. In Trespassing Bergman, filmmakers including Michael Haneke, Claire Denis, Alejandro González Iñárritu and John Landis are allowed into his personal abode to explore to world of one of the most studied figures in film history. In addition, directors such as Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson and Woody Allen also put forward their thoughts and experiences with Bergman's films. It is a film lovers delight to see all these admired filmmakers speak of their love for Bergman and also hear more about Bergman's life and see his past home. Yet, there is not a great deal more to this film than this and it does not evoke a sense of desire to hear more about Bergman nor is the film as mesmerising and awe inspiring as one would hope it would be.
Two Days, One Night (2014)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 2nd of August.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Winner of the Sydney Film Festival, Two Days, One Night is a small film, but an incredibly effective one. Sandra (Marion Cotillard) receives a call informing her that she will lose her job, unless she can convince her co-workers to give up on their bonus for the year. Over the weekend, Sandra visits each of her co-workers individually and asks them if they will consider saving her by giving up their bonus. Two Days, One Night is suspenseful in an extremely subtle and unusual fashion, as it is unclear what is going to happen at the end and how Sandra, who is already a fragile person, will react to either situation. It is really quite an emotional film, and Marion Cotillard does brilliantly in a role which makes the audience feel a great deal of sympathy and care for her.
We Are The Best! (2013)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 3rd and 7th of August.
Directed by Lukas Moodysson
Swedish film, We Are The Best! is an ode to growing up and the time when adult ideas first start to enter the mind of a child. Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) are two 13 year old girls who decide to start a punk rock band without any musical experience of their own. It is when they convince Hedvig (Liv Lemoyne) to join the band, that they finally find their feet as a band. We Are The Best! is a fun and sweet film about a group of girls who start to see the world differently than they did as a child, and believe there is more to this world than what the other girls who are their age believe. Yet, it is still wonderful to see these girls at an age where they are starting to see things differently, but still hang on to the fun parts of their childhood such a running around laughing and throwing food at each other.
What We Do In The Shadows (2014)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 2nd of August.
Directed by Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
The hilarious What We Do In The Shadows was the perfect end to the festival. This vampire mockumentary follows four vampire flatmates in Wellington as they explain how they live in a modern world and the obstacles they face being an immortal beast, including their werewolf rivals and how they seek out victims and clean up after them. What We Do In The Shadows is universally funny and extremely creative. It is a new take on vampires living in the modern world and does well at interlacing history (both fact and fiction) into the film. All of the actors, especially Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement and Jonathan Brugh do wonderfully well as their undead characters.
Wish I Was Here (2014)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 12th and 17th of August.
Directed by Zach Braff
Zach Braff fans have been waiting a long time for his directorial follow up to Garden State, and he does not disappoint with Wish I Was Here. Braff stars as Aidan, a family man who cannot give up his dream of being an actor while his wife, Sarah (Kate Hudson) works in a mundane office job. When Aidan's father, Gabe (Mandy Patinkin) falls ill, he can no longer pay for his grandchildren's tuition at their Jewish school and Aidan decides to home-school his son and daughter. Wish I Was Here is an incredibly sweet and funny film, which feels more like Scrubs than Garden State. It can fall into the trap of being oversentimental at times, but it is a welcome oversentimental in a harsh world. The soundtrack is enjoyable and there are some wonderful acting performances, particularly by Joey King and Josh Gad.
The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (2013)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 3rd and 17th of August.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet is a charming film told by the unique and magical storytelling of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. 10 year old child genius, T.S (Kyle Catlett) lives in an unhappy world where he feels like he is a constant disappointment to his family, despite his incredible achievements. He decides to leave behind his home on the prairie and travel to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, which is where his genius is recognised and exploited. This film is a sweet and often surrealistic film which can sometimes leave you pondering what is actually really happening and what is not. The cinematography and production design is exquisite and so intriguing to see on the screen. The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet is a rather emotional and often heartbreaking journey.
Movie Critical's Top 5 of the Melbourne International Film Festival
5. I Origins (2014)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 5th and 15th of August.
Directed by Mike Cahill
I Origins is an extremely intelligent film which explores the balance in life between science and spirituality. Biologist, Ian Grey (Michael Pitt) falls in love with the free-spirited Sofi ( Astrid Berges-Frisbey) and find that amid their passionate romance are also issues which cannot easily be overcome due to their conflicting views on life and the universe. Years after their relationship ends, Ian discovers that there is a possibility that Sofi maybe finding her way back to him in a way which contradicts all he has ever believed. I Origins screenplay is a brilliant piece of work. It is carefully constructed so that the most minute details all play a part in the bigger picture and no stone is left unturned. Even though there are still some questionable and slightly predictable moments in the film, the way it stays true in every way to and honours in such an original way it's theme of the science vs spirituality debate is extremely admirable.
4. Fish & Cat (2013)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 3rd and 15th of August.
Directed by Shahram Mokri
Fish & Cat is a truly remarkable film. What it does with the art form of film is spectacular. Shahram Mokri's film is a single shot film and what it does with one single shot is pure brilliance. Set on a lake in rural Iran, a group of university students are camping out while taking part in a night of kite flying. Little do they know that there are two very dangerous men nearby who have something else on their mind. Fish & Cat may not be to everyone's liking as it is very quirky and unless you are 100% committed to the film, it can be very confusing. However, the ways which the film avoids continuity problems that would arise from it being a single shot film is incredible and so well done. It truly challenges the rules of film making and is highly entertaining and atmospheric while doing it.

3. Dinosaur 13 (2014)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 2nd and 13th of August.
Directed by Todd Douglas Miller
Dinosaur 13 does exactly what a documentary should do. It informs, entertains, inspires and rises emotions of the viewer. In 1990, the most complete and largest Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil was found and was moved by palaeontologist Peter Larson and his crew to Black Hills, a small town where they wanted to keep and display the dinosaur known as Sue. The FBI and National Guard turned up soon after and seized the dinosaur skeleton and a court case followed with an outcome which no one believed would have even happened one that happy day when Sue was first discovered. The amount of emotion which this film provokes is surprising considering one would not believe this subject matter would be so. Yet, it makes you happy, sad and angry. The way the people saw Sue was not as though she was just a group of bones, but as though she was still a living breathing dinosaur and it is a beautiful love the palaeontologists and the town of Black Hills had for her. It is an incredibly interesting subject and ultimately is a story of love against money.

2. Boyhood (2014)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 2nd, 6th and 17th of August.
Directed by Richard Linklater
Richard Linklater's Boyhood is a beautiful and ground-breaking piece of cinema that's power lies in the subtlety of life's most meaningful moments. Twelve years in the making, Linklater's masterpiece is the true definition of a coming of age film and is revolutionary in it's production. Boyhood is made with a huge amount of love for life and for the process of growing up without any use of exaggeration. Mason is more than a character in a film, he is a boy you form an attachment to and cherish the opportunity to watch grow up.
1. The Immigrant (2013)
Screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on the 3rd and 17th of August.
Directed by James Gray
The Immigrant is an incredibly beautiful and emotional piece of work which is strengthened by it's powerhouse performances by Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix and exquisite direction by James Gray. The year is 1921 and Ewa Cybulski (Cotillard) and her sister, Magda have arrived in New York to escape to horrors they have seen in war torn Poland. Upon arrival, Magda is detained on Ellis Island as she is seen as being too unwell to enter the United States and is separated from her sister. Ewa finds help in the charismatic Bruno Weiss (Phoenix) and he takes Ewa under his wing, but she soon finds herself mixed up in the world of prostitution at the hands of her saviour. Visually gorgeous and very nostalgic, The Immigrant is a masterpiece. The themes of social class and immigration are worked into the story with great care and emotion and the screenplay in unpredictable and captivating. Cotillard is wonderful as the fragile woman who fights to remain strong and hold onto her dignity despite her situation and Phoenix is an incredible presence in the film who is a far more intriguing character than he first appears to be. Jeremy Renner, who plays Bruno's cousin Emil/Orlando is also incredibly likable.