Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Best and Worst Films of 2015

There have been some fantastic films released in Australia this year. While I saw more than 100 new releases, there were hundreds more that I missed. Whenever I create these lists, I always consider which films I will happily watch a dozen times and never get bored. They are not always the most artistically exceptional, but they are all enjoyable in their own way. 

20 best films of 2015:

20) Holding The Man
19) Foxcatcher
18) The Man from UNCLE
17) Legend
16) Crimson Peak
15) Black Mass
14) The Visit
13) Ex Machina
12) Kingsman: The Secret Service
11) Southpaw
10) The Gift
9) The Dressmaker
8) Love and Mercy
7) Straight Outta Compton
6) The Theory of Everything
5) Birdman
4) Jurassic World
3) Avengers: Age of Ultron
2) Mad Max: Fury Road
1) Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Five worst films of 2015:

5) We Are Your Friends
4) The Wedding Ringer
3) Jupiter Ascending
2) A Little Chaos
1) Aloha

What are your best and worst films of 2015?

Thursday, 3 December 2015

The Danish Girl

WRITTEN BY: Lucinda Coxon 
STARRING: Eddie Redmaybe, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts
RATING: 4 stars

Set in Copenhagen in 1926, landscape painter Einer Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) is happily married to Gerda (Alicia Vikander), who is struggling to gain popularity for her portrait paintings. One day, Gerda asks Einar to stand in for their ballerina friend Ulla (Amber Heard) as a model. But when he dons the stockings and slippers, Einer finds himself enjoying the experience more than he expected. Oblivious to the changes in her husband, Gerda starts using Einer as her muse and her paintings become a success. The couple seem to be unstoppable in art circles until Einer realises he is transgender and wants to undergo an operation to become Lili Elbe.

Adapted from David Ebershoff's novel, which is loosely based on Einer/Lili's life, The Danish Girl is an interesting story that has been twisted and abridged a little too much. The tale becomes a soap opera at times and it is not factually accurate. However, the performances by Redmayne and Vikander are so mesmerising that they elevate the film's quality tenfold and should both be Oscar contenders. Matthias Schoenaerts is also impressive as Einar's boyhood friend and early crush, who later becomes a wealthy art dealer. The Danish Girl simplifies the feelings and experiences of transgendered people, but the film is a great introduction for mainstream audiences to begin understanding transgender issues.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

In The Heart of The Sea

WRITTEN BY: Charles Leavitt 
DIRECTED BY: Ron Howard 
STARRING: Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Tom Hollard
RATING: 3 stars

Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) wants to write a novel about the sinking of the Essex ship during a whaling expedition in 1820. Only one crewman, Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), is still alive to tell the tale but needs persuading to talk about the tragedy. As he shares his story, we learn Captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) was born into the whaling business but first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) is far more experienced and has the respect of the crew, including Matthew Joy (Cillian Murphy). The crew sets off to hunt whales for their oil, but soon a giant and aggressive whale begins stalking them.

Based on the true story that inspired Melville's classic Moby Dick, this film is visually spectacular with the tempestuous ocean as much of an antagonist as the whale. Without pressing the point, director Ron Howard also seems to touch on the barbarity of slaughtering whales, even though it was common practice at the time, and is still happening in some parts of the world today. Hemsworth's dramatic acting is fine and the fact that he lost so much weight is especially impressive given how huge he is when he plays Thor. But his accent is inconsistent and very distracting. It is unbelievable no one noticed during filming. In The Heart of the Sea is a decent blockbuster, but it is perhaps only truly gratifying for die-hard maritime fans.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The Night Before

WRITTEN BY: Jonathan Levine, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Evan Goldberg
DIRECTED BY: Jonathan Levine 
STARRING: Seth Rogen, Jospeh Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie
RATING: 3.5 stars

Isaac (Seth Rogen), Chris (Anthony Mackie) and Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are best friends. Ever since Ethan was orphaned as a teenager, they have celebrated the festive season together, but their lives are changing with age. Chris is now a famous football player and Isaac is about to become a father. Meanwhile, Ethan is struggling through life again after his girlfriend (Lizzie Caplan) dumps him. Things start to look up for Ethan when he stumbles upon three tickets to an annual mysterious Christmas party he has always wanted to attend. The trio use the opportunity to have one final amazing Christmas together.

What makes The Night Before so enjoyable is that it has all the heart-warming themes of Christmas including love, family and faith, while also being full of the kind of humour we have come to know from Rogen and his buddies, including drug references, toilet humour and other dirty jokes. Rogen, Mackie and Gordon-Levitt might not seem like a typical trio of friends, but they clearly had a lot of fun making this film. Michael Shannon is also worth noting for his minor but pivotal role as a whimsical drug dealer. There are also some hilarious cameos and clever references to other Christmas tales including A Christmas Carol, Die Hard and many more. The Night Before is not a film for young families, but for those who have a household of teenagers and adults, it could very well become a new Christmas film tradition.