Director: Jeff Baena
Starring: Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Kate Micucci, Dave Franco, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Fred Armison, Nick Offerman
Incongruity has always been one of comedy’s key tools and things don’t get much more incongruous than an American sex farce set in a 14th century Italian convent. Say hello to Jeff Baena’s The Little Hours.
A loose adaptation of Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th century work The Decameron, The Little Hours tells the story of three young nuns – Alessandra (Brie), Generva (Micucci) and Fernanda (Plaza) – living in a convent in provincial Italy in 1347. Under the watchful eye of Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly) and Sister Marea (Molly Shannon) the sisters go about their daily duties washing clothes, caring for the livestock, making handicrafts for sale at the market, and studying the scriptures. On a trip to the market, Father Tommasso comes across Massetto (Dave Franco), a young servant who has fled his former home having been caught in an affair with his master’s wife. Continue reading
Director: Warwick Thornton
Starring: Warwick Thornton
In 2010, riding high on the success of his debut feature Samson & Delilah, Aboriginal filmmaker Warwick Thornton found himself in hot water when he suggested that the Southern Cross was fast becoming Australia’s equivalent to the swastika. His new documentary, We Don’t Need a Map, which opened this year’s Sydney Film Festival, is his effort to explain those remarks by delving into the historical meaning of the Southern Cross. We Don’t Need a Map is one of four films funded by NITV (National Indigenous Television) as part of the ‘Moment in History’ initiative to mark fifty years since the 1967 referendum which saw Aboriginal people officially recognised as part of Australia’s population. Continue reading
Director: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, David Thewlis
Since first appearing back in 1941, Diana, princess of the Amazons, also known as Wonder Woman, has been one of the most iconic members of DC Comics’ stable of characters. Yet for some reason (can anyone hazard a guess?), while there have been eight Batman movies, and seven Superman movies, Wonder Woman has never been given her own feature film adaptation. Until now. As well as being the character’s first movie, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is also the first film in either the DC or Marvel cinematic universes to have a female protagonist, and is both the first superhero movie and first blockbuster with a budget of over $100 million to be helmed by a female director. All of this means that Wonder Woman will be unfairly saddled with the burden of representation, with many people ready to make sweeping generalisations about the commercial viability of female centric and female directed blockbusters based on its performance. Luckily then, Jenkins’ film is not only good, it is exactly the shot in the arm that the much maligned DC Extended Universe needed. Continue reading
Director: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, LilRel Howery
You have to go back to The Blair Witch Project to find a horror film that has caused as much of a critical stir as Get Out. The debut feature from writer-director Jordan Peele, best known as one half of the sketch comedy duo Key and Peele, has become the surprise hit of the year, having already grossed $215 million worldwide off a budget of only $4.5 million, and has been almost universally praised as one of the year’s sharpest movies.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) have been dating for five months. The time has come for Rose to take Chris upstate to meet her parents, but the prospect has him wary. You see, Chris is black, and Rose, who is white, hasn’t thought to mention this to her family. Even though it has been fifty years since Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and Rose assures him that both her parents voted for Obama, Chris still thinks it could be an awkward surprise. Continue reading
Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Kurt Russell, Elizabeth Debicki, Sylvester Stallone
Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the most pleasant surprises to come out of Hollywood in years. James Gunn’s space opera brought some much needed freshness and joy to not only the comic book movie genre, but the blockbuster form more generally. It also benefited from the fact that no one saw it coming. Expectations were not high. This same is not a luxury that is enjoyed by the sequel. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has a lot to live up to.
Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamorah (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) are on the run from a race of ethereal, golden beings known as the Sovereign after Rocket stole some of the precious batteries that they had paid the Guardians to protect. Despite having been together for some time now, the team doesn’t seem to get along any better and there are clear tensions and rivalries on display. Continue reading
Director: F. Gary Gray
Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Ludaris, Nathalie Emmanuel, Scott Eastwood, Kurt Russell, Helen Mirren
Hollywood’s most unlikely mega-franchise returns with the awkwardly titled The Fate of the Furious. Not having skipped a beat since the tragic death of Paul Walker, this eighth instalment in the Fast and Furious series has retooled with a new director and the addition of not one but two Academy Award winning actresses to the cast.
While honeymooning in Havana with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom (Vin Diesel) is approached by the cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron) with a proposition. When Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) calls in Dom and his team to help recover a stolen EMP device in Berlin, the unthinkable happens as Dom betrays them, stealing the weapon and driving off. With the team determined to discover what could lead Dom to turn his back on his family, and the government determined to work out Cipher’s endgame, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) insists that their best chance of catching up with Dom is for Hobbs and the gang to join forces with their once sworn enemy Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). Continue reading
Director: Bill Condon
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gadd, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald
In 1991, New York Times theatre critic Frank Rich declared that the best Broadway musical score of the year actually belonged to a movie. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was a sensation. It became the first animated feature film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, spawned a long-running Broadway show, and arguably represents the high watermark for Disney’s animated musicals. All of which means that the latest in Disney’s run of live-action remakes of their animation back catalogue probably has the highest stakes.
The opening prologue, which is here dramatised rather than simply narrated, transports us back to provincial France where an arrogant prince (Dan Stevens) is transformed into a hideous beast, and all his staff into crockery and furniture, as punishment for his cruelty, and doomed to stay that way unless he can learn to love and earn someone’s love in return. That someone is Belle (Emma Watson), a bookish but courageous girl from a nearby town who becomes prisoner in the beast’s palace before working her way into the hearts of the staff and, ultimately, their master (leading some to cynically refer to the film as ‘Stockholm Syndrome: The Musical’). Continue reading