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Cinema: It Follows

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

So the day after I saw It Follows, I ran into a fellow film critic and asked him if he’d seen it yet. Rolling his eyes he said no. Of course, it’s from the genre few critics ever pay much heed to but those critics would do well to look past their dusty old attitudes and scoot along. Creepy, thrilling, and deliciously tense, and even with the derivative elements that sit comfortably on the fringes (fans of John Carpenter’s Halloween will spot an uncanny resemblance), director and writer David Robert Mitchell declares this terrain his own. I can’t remember any other horror film in recent years that drew me so far in. Fans of gore and dismembered limbs will be sniffing dismissively because aside from the aftermath of a murder (a beautiful shot it must be said), It Follows is designed for sleepless nights, not upset stomachs.

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Cinema: Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

If Joss Whedon’s aim was to top the 2012 smash hit The Avengers, he’s succeeded admirably though its hardly a grand feat. Entertaining as it was, that movie was quietly relegated to the superhero annals beside the unnecessary remix of the Spiderman franchise that starred Andrew Garfield and the, admittedly well-cast, workaday Superman adventure, Man of Steel. This latest spin, Avengers: Age of Ultron, is a blockbuster in every sense of the word and likely to make you realise how Barbie the last one was. The set pieces are bigger and the stakes are higher with Ultron scheming to wreck Earth and rebuild it as a metal landscape. It’s hardly an original idea but Whedon, a master at throwing parties like this, gives it plenty of oomph. As usual, giving the pyrotechnics and scientific mumbo jumbo a charge is the fast talking Robert Downey Jr. who can crow the lousiest one-liners like nobody’s business. His exit lines leave everyone speechless and its hard to imagine the movie without him.

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Cinema: Testament of Youth

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

As far as movies set during the First World War go, James Kent’s Testament of Youth will stand as one of the most beautiful if not the most compelling. Based on the hefty memoir by Vera Brittain who is played here by Swedish beauty Alicia Vikander, it follows the adventures of a young and headstrong English girl, a burgeoning writer, who winds up working in the hospitals in London, Malta, and France that were overflowing with wounded, permanently disabled, and dying soldiers. The scenery and setups are perfect, complete with a heartbreaking farewell from the window of a train, but that in itself may be the problem. It too often feels like a tribute to the genre, rather than to a woman’s achievements.

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Mimi

 

 

Reviewed by Leigh Coyle

Mimi by UK based, US born Lucy Ellmann is a paradox.  On one hand, it is a ridiculous story, hedonistic and somewhat silly, featuring narrator, New York plastic surgeon, Harrison Hanafan, as a kind of Woody Allenesque character, who fills his privileged, puerile days with relentless introspective analysis.  Yet, if you allow yourself to settle into the style of the book, Lucy Ellmann’s ability to use parody, slapstick and a touch of the ribald as mechanisms for spotlighting what lies beneath modern-life absurdities, is an original and indeed, rather admirable effort to demonstrate power shifts between the sexes in the guise of a love tale. 

  

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Headmaster Not Eaten

 

Reviewed by Ian Lipke

James Farrell explains that his book is about destinations. His destinations are to be revealed through unforeseen amusements, ironies, surprises, vexations and absurdities encountered by the author. He intends to merely report “the surprising social and linguistic behaviours of people in many countries” (book jacket). The purpose of the book, we are told, is to bring the reader behaviour where serious intent comes across to the author as hilarious or maddening.

 

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Cinema: Mommy

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

I first became acquainted with director Xavier Dolan at a festival a few years back where I bore witness to his stunning epic, Laurence Anyways. Starring Melvil Poupaud and Suzanne Clement, it chronicled the relationship between a man and a woman after he reveals his deep desire to live his life as a woman. It journeyed everywhere you expected it to go but upon arrival, Dolan, with his gallery of sophisticates, invariably surprised us with a sleight of hand. At well over 2 ½ hours, it was a feat of a film, brilliantly acted and cinematically rich. Once seen, never forgotten. His follow up, Tom at The Farm, I’m yet to see but his latest film Mommy, in its way, revisits similar territory. Certainly not in subject, but in approach. Once again he digs deep with detail and magically eases popular standards (Lana Del Rey, Celine Dion, and Oasis among others) into the action (his use of Visage’s Fade To Grey in Laurence Anyways was stellar). With most directors, such a device is a cheat, used to prop up the weaker moments but not with Dolan. They enhance his scenes. They earn it.

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Cinema: The Longest Ride

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

No The Longest Ride isn’t a porn film, although considering the provocative title, the appalling dialogue, its preoccupation with bucking bulls, and the number of shots of the leading man’s biceps, you could be excused for thinking so. This zero hankie, cliché-suffocating turkey (gobble! gobble!) starring Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, and Alan Alda, tells the usual Nicholas Sparks story. Boy meets girl, boy has drama with girl, boy can’t be part of the girl’s world, boy and girl have a shower together, boy and girl save an old man from a burning car, girl finds a box of his letters and nosily reads them, girl visits old man and reads them to him, boy insults girl’s transsexual boss, boy and girl clash again, boy rides another bull (complete with icky shots of the animal’s saliva), boy and girl reunite at an art auction, and end up millionaires.

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DVD: Force Majeure

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Force Majeure, Sweden’s bid for the Foreign Language category at the Academy Awards (but criminally pipped at the post), was one of the masterpieces of 2014. It is one of those films where everything comes together. It clicks into place like so many jigsaw pieces and yet director Ruben Ostlund lets it stagger and spin as the characters try to make sense of their disillusion. Its nowhere as neat and tidy as the ski slopes that are plowed daily in the resort where its set. Rather, Ostlund deftly uses those slopes as a contrast to the high drama.

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Blu Ray/DVD: Nightcrawler

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Together with Force Majeure, Under The Skin, Still Life, and Predestination, Nightcrawler, the brilliant new film by Dan Gilroy, can stand tall as one of the best films of 2014. Shot through a noir lens, this sleazy underbelly of LA is sweaty, grubby, and lethal. The story is brilliantly told and Gilroy, making his directorial debut here, together with his leading man Jake Gyllenhaal, who delivers the performance of his career, takes it all the way to the edge, and then over. 

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Unearthed

 

 

Reviewed by Hazel Menehira

It is refreshing to find a volume of elegiac writing that provides an uplifting and joyous reading experience. Tracy Ryan’s full-length collection Unearthed published by Fremantle Press is an outstanding achievement which marks her maturity as a noted Australian poet. The very earliest elegies written in disciplined metre were dedicated tributes allied to war and love. Today, any poem regardless of form or meter to commemorate the dead is regarded as an elegy and most reflect gentle melancholy rather than passionate grief. 

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