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Cinema: The Skeleton Twins

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

The first time I saw Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader share the screen was in a now notorious Saturday Night Live skit where Wiig plays a woman called Sue who gets over-excited at the thought of a surprise party. She owned the scene and the screen. It was as if someone had plugged her in and couldn’t find the off switch. Hader is laidback in the scene, looking furtive, and he all but disappears. In the new film, The Skeleton Twins, the two play estranged siblings whose Halloween loving father committed suicide and it looks as if the tendency might run in the family. Here, you can’t take your eyes off Hader. His performance is an exercise in studied restraint.

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Cinema: The Immigrant

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

It takes a truly fine actress to tackle a role like Ewa Cybulska, the heroine of James Gray’s somber, exquisitely acted new film The Immigrant. As the Catholic Polish immigrant, who upon arriving in New York in 1921 is instantly separated from her tuberculosis-afflicted sister and then plunged head first into the life of burlesque theatre, Marion Cotillard could easily have made Ewa a martyr such are her trials and tribulations but oh, that face! That technique! Even when the film meanders in the middle third and looks ready to collapse, Gray mines her authentic style and uses it to relieve the film of its depressing nature. She is astounding here.

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DVD: Joe

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

With any luck, Nicolas Cage’s new film Joe, directed by David Gordon Green, will see his career once again balance out. Seen in too many nutty, forgettable films in recent years like Ghost Rider, Stolen, Trespass, Season of The Witch, Drive Angry, and the abominable remake of The Wicker Man, Joe, where Cage plays a volcanic ex-con who becomes an unlikely role model for an eager 15 year-old boy, should see him reaffirm his status as a fine actor who knows what to do with fine material. Green sets up the depressing tale of decent people born with the odds stacked against them like an artist and he allows his leading man a stark, dusty canvas to storm through.

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DVD: Child's Pose

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

There are few limits a mother won’t go to in order to protect her children and in the tough Romanian drama Child’s Pose, directed by Calin Peter Netzer, Cornelia, a woman of means, intends to go all the way. Played like a force of nature by Luminita Gheorghiu, her performance belongs in the gallery of memorable screen mothers. She's tough, unbridled, and always moving with a purpose.

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DVD/Blu Ray: The Double

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Be it in cinemas or on DVD and Blu Ray, noir is currently getting a shot in the arm with the Sin City sequel opening this week, the much anticipated David Fincher thriller Gone Girl just around the corner and Nicole Kidman’s Before I Go To Sleep a little further away, but for now Richard Ayoade’s murky thriller The Double is on the shelves. It’s the second doppelganger adventure to hit home entertainment in as many months. Denis Villeneuve’s superb neo noir adaptation of Jose Saramago’s The Double, re-titled Enemy to avoid confusion, arrived not so long ago. All the two films really have in common aside from their contention is they skipped cinemas. The Double, an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s 1846 novella by Ayoade and Avi Korine, has its moments and Ayoade exploits Jesse Eisenberg’s dark eyes and shifty persona to fine effect but the film isn’t a good match for his performance. It just muddles along, unsure of itself. There’s a distinct mood to it and occasional tingles but its too wayward, too slight.

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Cinema: Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

When Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller unleashed Sin City back in 2005, audiences were caught unawares. In the richest black and white with lurid splashes of colour and a dazzling array of characters all doubling for film noir heroes, heroines and deadly villains, its heart of darkness, the arsenal of noir, was the stuff of nightmares. Opening with the most romantic murder in film history and followed by flowing trench coats, a cannibal, the twisted Yellow Bastard, and a blazing Benicio Del Toro, exhilarating seemed too small a word. A sequel seemed predetermined and over time, the patient have slowly turned rabid but after a nine-year tease, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For has finally arrived. Now, anticlimactic is too small a word.

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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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