Now showing: Melbourne film listings

New releases

THE ANGELS' SHARE
(101 min) MA
★★★

DEFYING his reputation for dourness, Ken Loach proves he can handle feel-good entertainment with aplomb in this funny and suspenseful story of a young Glasgow hoodlum (Paul Brannigan) who redeems himself thanks to the love of a good woman (Siobhan Reilly) and an interest in whisky encouraged by his new mentor (John Henshaw). If you can swallow the fanciful premise, it's smoothly and satisfyingly done; Loach being Loach, there are political implications, although these are more teasing than definitive. JW

Selected release

DEAD EUROPE
(84 min) MA
★★

A GREEK-Australian photographer in his 30s (Ewen Leslie) journeys to his ancestral homeland, where he engages in awkward cross-cultural dialogue, pursues anonymous gay sex and finds himself haunted by a mysterious, possibly ghostly youth (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Leslie gives a funny, fresh performance, and Smit-McPhee's unearthly beauty is deployed to creepy effect, but Tony Krawitz's over-literary adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas' most arresting novel might have felt truer to its source if it were either pulpier or more avant-garde. JW

Selected release

THE FIRST FAGIN
(87 min) MA

THERE's promising movie material in the life of Isaac ''Ikey'' Solomon, the Jewish ''fence'' who was transported to Australia and may have inspired Dickens to create Fagin in Oliver Twist. But this bizarre ''dramatised documentary'' has little to offer beyond a few moments of unintentional humour, springing from soft-focus vignettes so awkward and wooden they suggest crime re-enactments on current-affairs shows, or comedy sketches without punchlines. Sounding like an ideal Play School storyteller, Miriam Margolyes supplies the dulcet narration. JW

Selected release

GOD BLESS AMERICA
(105 min) MA
★☆

THE most strained provocation of the year, this gory, unfunny satire from stand-up comic turned indie director Bobcat Goldthwait centres on a middle-aged drone (Joel Murray) who starts gunning down reality-TV stars and other symbols of cultural decline, assisted by a bloodthirsty teenager (Tara Lynne Barr). The thin plot is little more than an excuse for tirades that Goldthwait might equally have delivered on stage, as one more blowhard confusing free-floating anger with a point of view. JW

Cinema Nova

ROBOT & FRANK
(89 min) M
★★★

FRANK (Frank Langella) is an irascible retired cat burglar who receives a helper robot as a gift from his son (James Marsden), giving him an opportunity to get back in the crime game. This is the kind of charming small film that used to be called a ''sleeper'': the actors ensure that the fanciful plot stays grounded in recognisable emotions, while Langella and Susan Sarandon (as the local librarian) have more romantic chemistry than most screen couples at any age. JW

Selected release

TWO LITTLE BOYS
(101 min) M
★★

THE boys in this Kiwi farce are actually a couple of dopey adults: best pals Nige and Deano, played by Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords and Australia's own Hamish Blake, respectively. When Nige, the dimmer of the two, accidentally kills a backpacker, Deano, the ideas man, has all sorts of helpful hints about how to avoid the law. This is a weak film but an endearing one, a would-be black comedy undermined by the amiability of all concerned. JW

Selected release

Now showing

ARBITRAGE
(100 min) MA
★★★

RICHARD Gere stars as a billionaire hedge-fund manager and twinkling paterfamilias whose personal and professional misdeeds threaten to catch up with him in this uneven but generally effective corporate thriller, one of the more interesting American films to come out of the global financial crisis. First-time writer-director Nicholas Jarecki is unusually willing to make Gere's character seem despicable and sympathetic at the same time. There's also a strong supporting cast, led by Susan Sarandon as the protagonist's wife. JW

General release

ARGO
(120 minutes) M
★★☆

SET during the Iranian revolution of 1979, Ben Affleck's third feature as director tells how a CIA operative (played by Affleck) hits on an audacious plan to rescue a group of stranded Americans by posing as a movie producer. It could be a great set-up for a screwball farce, but Chris Terrio's workmanlike screenplay leaves such possibilities untouched, while Affleck's unimaginative visual choices seem meant to signify both ''realism'' and a received idea of 1970s cinema. JW

General release

BACHELORETTE
(84 min) MA
★★★★

AN IMPENDING wedding puts three discontented bridesmaids (Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan and Isla Fisher) under pressure, in a long, dark night of catastrophe, sex and self-analysis. Leslye Headland (who wrote the play on which the film is based) keeps thing raucous, dark and hilarious, with moments of sharp, revealing candour. PH

Selected release

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
(164 min) M
★★★★

CHRISTOPHER Nolan's concluding film in the Batman trilogy is grand, grim and occasionally gruelling, but is also a powerful, cleverly constructed work that brings together elements of the previous movies in an engrossing fashion. There are some intriguing political dimensions that reclusive Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has to face as he seeks to save Gotham City. PH

General release

DREDD 3D
(95 min) MA
★★☆

PETE Travis' movie comes with art-house-cum-blockbuster credentials: it's based on the exploits of a well-known British comic-book character, a guardian of the law in a bleak future world. Writer Alex Garland sets up a scenario with a slight resemblance to The Raid, an exuberant Indonesian martial arts-action movie that follows a botched police mission up and down an apartment block. Dredd contains some artfully nasty moments and looks fabulous, but it's also oddly dour. PH

Selected release

END OF WATCH
(108 min) MA
★★★

WRITER-director David Ayer (Training Day) goes hand-held crazy in this episodic, visually raw tale of a couple of Los Angeles hero cops (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena) who are close buddies and zealous enforcers of the law, perhaps too much so for their own good. An edgy style disguises a fairly conservative vision, but the two leads are strong and appealing. PH

General release

FRANKENWEENIE
(87 minutes) PG
★★★☆

A SCIENTIFIC genius and something of a misfit, young Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) refuses to accept the death of his only friend and, through no fault of his own, his experiments in corpse revival lead to horrific consequences. Tim Burton's black-and-white stop-motion cartoon might not be far from his usual artistic beat, but it's still his most assured achievement since Sweeney Todd in 2007, allowing him to prove that his trademark mock-gothic images are perfectly suited to 3D. JW

General release

HAIL
(104 min) R
★★★★

AUSTRALIAN filmmaker Amiel Courtin-Wilson, who has made his name with documentaries, brings a strongly realistic, quasi-documentary element to this feature, but alongside the confronting intimacy of a relationship observed in extreme close-up, there's also a heightened, soaring, sometimes hallucinatory intensity. Daniel P. Jones, as a man battling his demons, and Leanne Letch, as the woman he loves, bring an unsettling naturalism to their roles, even as the film explores markedly different ways of storytelling. PH

Selected release

HOUSOS VS AUTHORITY
(103 min) MA
★★☆

THE Australian director, writer and star of Housos vs Authority, Paul Fenech, takes the denizens of fictional housing commission enclave Sunnyvale to the big screen, with results that are both gross and surprisingly good-natured. The plot involves a pilgrimage to the north, and Fenech takes the chance to have a go at every conceivable special-interest group. PH

Selected release

THE INTOUCHABLES
(112 minutes) M
★★

A HUGE international hit, this cartoonish comedy-drama revolves around a classic odd couple: a rich, cultured white man (Francois Cluzet) paralysed from the neck down, and the wisecracking black layabout (Omar Sy) who becomes his carer. The chemistry between the leads keeps things fun for a while, but the humour tends to be obnoxious, and directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano don't do much beyond providing a clean, well-lit setting for the contrasting performances. JW

Selected release

LOOPER
(118 min) MA
★★★☆

A STYLISH, sharply conceived time-travel movie, written and directed by Rian Johnson. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a man living in 2042, an assassin with a twist, who meets his future self (Bruce Willis) in circumstances that pit them against each other. There's a lot about the plot that seems underdone, but there's a confidence and emotional weight that carry the day, particularly whenever Emily Blunt is onscreen. PH

Selected release

THE MASTER
(137 minutes) MA
★★★★

LOOSELY inspired by the early days of Scientology, Paul Thomas Anderson's latest focuses on the strange bond between a blustering prophet (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a dangerously unstable World War II veteran (Joaquin Phoenix). Anderson remains an intensely dramatic filmmaker: every scene portrays some kind of power struggle, every aspect of his style is designed to keep us on edge. What he finds most sympathetic in Scientology is the understanding of people as malfunctioning mechanisms, repeating the same destructive patterns over and over. JW

General release

PAUL KELLY: STORIES OF ME
(95 min) M
★★☆

AT THE risk of sounding like a bad Melburnian, I have to admit I've never felt much enthusiasm for Paul Kelly, but if you're a fan, Ian Darling's documentary should leave you satisfied. We hear most of the hits, there's plenty of archival footage, and the dual-timeline structure avoids the tedium of a blow-by-blow account of Kelly's career. With his mixture of cheek and self-importance, the man himself is always a magnetic screen presence, though not inclined to let his guard down. JW

Selected release

TO ROME WITH LOVE
(112 min) M
★★★☆

WOODY Allen spins four tall tales set in the Eternal City of ruins, paparazzi and voluble traffic cops, involving a neurotic retiree (Allen), a glamorous hooker (Penelope Cruz), an emotionally confused student (Jesse Eisenberg) and a humble office worker (Roberto Benigni). It's a relaxed, funny showcase for its maker's obsessions and quirks; if anything links the segments beyond their setting, it's an absurdist viewpoint in which the arbitrary and the miraculous are seen as two sides of the same coin. JW

Selected release

SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED
(85 min) M
★★★☆

COLIN Trevorrow's ingenious tale of a search for lost time stars Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) as a gloomy magazine intern given the task of researching a story about a man (Mark Duplass) who advertises for partners in a time-travel project. The nature of the putative journey remains an important strand of the plot, but the strength of the film is in the depiction of the relationship between the two central characters - there's danger and unpredictable charm in every exchange. PH

Selected release

SAVAGES
(129 min) MA
★★☆

OLIVER Stone tells the tale of a pair of carefree Californian marijuana entrepreneurs (Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson), their girl (Blake Lively) and the threat to their way of life that comes with a takeover bid from a Mexican drug kingpin (Salma Hayek), based on the novel of the same name by Don Winslow. It's a laid-back yet violent film that coasts to a dodgy conclusion, but there's a certain airy confidence about the way Stone lets it play out. PH

Selected release

SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN
(86 min) M
★★★

THE 1970s singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez disappeared swiftly into obscurity in the US, but in South Africa he became an icon for a generation of progressive middle-class whites. The whole story is told in Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul's documentary, which concentrates on a group of South African music lovers and their efforts to track down their hero, showing how any cultural phenomenon is created by audiences as well as artists. JW

Selected release

THE SESSIONS
(95 min) MA
★★★☆

AFFLICTED by polio since childhood, a thirtysomething journalist and poet (John Hawkes) sets out to lose his virginity to a professional ''surrogate'' (Helen Hunt) with the blessing of his liberal-minded priest (William H. Macy). Writer-director Ben Lewin treats this unusual subject in a gently humorous but earnest manner that sometimes recalls an old-fashioned telemovie, but he doesn't shy away from the realities of sex, nor from the paradoxes of the intimate yet impersonal relationship at the film's centre. JW

Selected release

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS
(106 minutes) MA
★★★

THE Irish playwright-turned-moviemaker Martin McDonagh pays tribute to the heyday of Tarantino and the Coen brothers with this gory yet affectionate self-referential farce, starring Colin Farrell as a drunken writer soaking up the Californian sun while he tinkers with his latest screenplay. As in his stage writing, McDonagh indulges his boyish taste for sadistic fantasy, but while the film occasionally pretends to have something serious to say about violence as entertainment, it's mainly an opportunity for horsing around. JW

Selected release

TAKEN 2
(92 min) M
★★☆

THE original Taken was a sleazy action-thriller from writer-producer Luc Besson, about a retired CIA operative (Liam Neeson) who embarks on a rampage through Paris to save his daughter (Maggie Grace) from a fate worse than death. This follow-up, set in Istanbul, lacks the brutal exploitation edge of the original, but it's a more entertaining film, at least when the chases and shootouts give the director, Olivier Megaton, an excuse to fragment space and time. JW

General release

WHEN A WOLF FALLS IN LOVE WITH A SHEEP
(85 min) PG
★★★

ON A quest to find his lost love, the young hero (Kai Ko ) of this quirky Taiwanese comedy befriends a petite girl with a pixie cut (Jian Man Shu) who draws cartoons of sheep and believes that the best way to find lost things is by counting to 100. It works better than you might expect: beneath all the whimsy the situations are relatively banal, true to the mixture of excitement and boredom that defines most young lives. JW

Cinema Nova

YOU WILL BE MY SON
(97 min) M
★★★

FRENCH writer-director Gilles Legrand presides over a handsomely shot story of fathers and sons, vintages and vindictiveness, set in a Saint-Emilion vineyard. Niels Arestrup plays a high-profile winemaker who sets about establishing a successor, in a potentially destructive fashion. PH

Selected release

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