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Cinema: The Lavazza Italian Film Festival 2014: Melbourne

Reviewed by Pat Reid

The Lavazza Italian Film Festival 2014 is about to open across the country, beginning in Melbourne on September 17 and ending on October 12. Featuring the best of Italian cinema, the festival is showcasing 34 films, including drama, comedy, and a family film for the bambini. From the festival’s Drammatico Italiano category, South Is Nothing, the feature debut of director Fabio Mollo (director of the award-winning short Giants), is a melancholy drama that deals with a young girl trying to come to grips with a family tragedy while on a voyage of self discovery. 

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Cinema: Felony

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

The new Australian thriller Felony has been in cinemas for a week now. Neatly constructed, beautifully acted, and intelligently directed by Mathew Saville, who gave us the chilling thriller Noise back in 2007, it is the sort of film that is lucky to last very long in cinemas. It deserves to. The story about a cop who, driving home one night after five too many, runs into disaster, may not sound like much but that’s where Saville's instinctive approach comes in. Working from a screenplay by Joel Edgerton, he maps it out carefully as he guides us into the distorted loyalty programme of the police force one step at a time. Curiously, it’s not a story that leaves you angry. Corruption and dishonesty in the police force is one of the most common headlines so Saville avoids the bullying scenario and directs us elsewhere. Conscience is his concern.

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Cinema: What We Do in The Shadows

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

The question in What We Do in The Shadows, the new mockumentary about four vampires sharing a house, is of course, what do they do? Well, they smirk, they seduce, they levitate, they scold, and they attend a yearly ball for fellow vampires and zombies. Whittled down from 120 hours of improvisation this often funny, clever movie written and directed by its stars Taika Waititi, who wrote and directed the 2010 hit Boy, and Jemaine Clement from Flight of The Conchords, is destined for cult status. Stemming from a short film made in 2005, you’ll either find it funny, irreverent, and immature, or just plain immature. The comedy is built out of double takes and satire so for example, if you’re well versed on Gary Oldman’s seduction of Winona Ryder in Bram Stoker's Dracula (“See me, see me now…”) you’ll get this. Much like the breakout hit Team America World Police, this is a movie we didn't know we were waiting for.

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Cinema: Into the Storm

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

If you really feel the need to see Into the Storm, see it in an Imax cinema. Wild and deafening, this monster movie directed with zero personality by Steven Quale that might do for meteorological phenomena what Jaws did for the ocean had the floor vibrating. The movie collapses when Quale makes any attempt at human interest, fathers and sons clashing, first loves, yokels cackling as they film “epic fails”, and storm chasers fiercely determined to put their name in history books, but when the spinning tops start up, when the hail pelts, and when the 50 foot wide whirling dervish composed of dirt, trees, and cars flattens the town, Into the Storm turns into an exciting ride. It might have wound up a cult classic but for the cast who, with the exception of Matt Walsh (who co stars on Veep), are a generic bunch.

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Cinema: Boyhood

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Richard Linklater is notorious for his celluloid experiments. Waking Life, Fast Food Nation, A Scanner Darkly, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight, and his neat doco-drama Bernie (notable for finally drawing a memorable performance out of Jack Black) all make up a filmography built out of exploring the riskier corners of the medium. They required chutzpah. Now we have Boyhood, another experiment, and his most extensive exploration, and one that must be considered his most successful. Clocking in at 165 minutes, it is an epic achievement. Over the course of 11 years, Linklater returned to film intermittently with his dedicated cast and crew as he traced the development of the Evans family with son Mason the focal point. We watch them learn, fight, laugh, and love, but most of all grow. It's simple, effective, and intimate. 

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Cinema: Predestination

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Predestination might just do your head in. Directed and adapted (and broadened) from Robert Heinlein’s 1958 short story All You Zombies by Michael and Peter Spierig, this complex, paradoxical thriller is one you’ll want to talk about long into the night. In fact, you may just want to sit through it again immediately to reassure yourself that it all comes together as much as it seems to. Only a heartless critic would blow the labyrinthine plot so bear with me.

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Cinema: Magic in the Moonlight

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Hmph! It must be August because Woody Allen's back. Every year he turns out a new film and whether they're brilliant (Radio Days, Husbands and Wives), middling (A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, Small Time Crooks), or downright dreadful (To Rome With Love, You Will Meet A Handsome Stranger) they are cause for concern. His latest, Magic in the Moonlight, sadly falls somewhere between the last two. Everyone here is too aware they’re being directed by a master, delighted though they may be to be present and decked out in roaring 20s garb, and they’re all ecstatic to be spouting his dialogue. What a shame with all this that there's so little going on. There’s plenty of foundation but little else. Standing in for the director, who would’ve played the role himself a few decades back, Colin Firth’s magician, who is also a renowned authority at exposing the supposedly psychically gifted, jumps from a scolding, arrogant father figure to a lovesick puppy in a few short steps. It’s a great idea and fodder for big laughs and swooning romance but it plays like a rough draft and features the first truly annoying performance of the Oscar-winning actor’s impressive career.

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The Long Green Shore

 

 

Reviewed by Donald Lawie

Written shortly post- Second World War by John Hepworth, a man who wrote of his experiences, The Long Green Shore was rejected by the publisher to whom it was offered – “there are too many war books”. The manuscript lay neglected until it was published in 1995 without any revision, shortly after the author’s death. The Long Green Shore follows a unit of Australian A.I.F. soldiers about to go into battle with the Japanese occupying the north-east coast of the New Guinea mainland – the long green shore of the title. These diggers are no raw recruits – they are sixth Division men, the first to enlist in 1939. They have seen action in the deserts of Egypt and Libya, and then had their introduction to jungle warfare against “the Jap” in the desperate days of the Kokoda Trail campaign. Jungle wise and war weary, they face yet another campaign with dogged resignation, and the reader travels with them until the war is ended with the detonation of the first atomic bombs.

 

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No Safe Place

 

Reviewed by SEB

Elly Cartwright leads an ordinary life. She is a disaffected middle-aged widow working as a freelance IT programmer, a job she is good at and it pays the bills, a job she tolerates rather than embraces. Ellie works in Melbourne but has inherited a house in isolated Canton Creek in the Victorian Gold Fields where she spent her childhood and where she dreams of escape. Elly’s relationship with her daughter Miranda, a trainee teacher, is rocky and Elly thinks it is time Miranda grew up. With a dull job, few prospects for change, and a dead-end life enduring endless Melbourne winters Elly arrives home one afternoon to be greeted by her elderly neighbour who falls dead at her feet. Next her strange, hermit-like work friend Carlos is murdered and Elly’s life turns inside out. ‘Somewhere in the shadows a killer is waiting’, and there is No Safe Place

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Sketches of Spain

 

Reviewed by Hazel Menehira

Spain’s Federico Garcia Lorca is established as an icon amongst global writers of the twentieth century. Literary students of the classics, lovers of Lorca’s poetry, enthusiastic thespians and audiences whose souls have been moved by his dramas like  Blood Wedding and The House of Bernarda Alba will rejoice to see this book - Sketches of Spain on their book shelves. 

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