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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, April 24, 2014 - Edition No 894 

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TOP 20 FILMS IN RELEASE AT A GLANCE

TOP 20 FILMS IN RELEASE AT A GLANCE
Short and sweet (or not) opinions on the most popular current releases. An easy reference for choosing which movie to see tonight ... or tomorrow ... or right now! (Occasionally we also slip in a few of the editors’ favourites if they don’t make the top 20...) This list does not necessarily include new releases this week; for this week’s new releases, please see our FRONT PAGE or the REVIEWS menu.

THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN: RISE OF ELECTRO
(US, 2014) Dir: Marc Webb (really). Stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field. “As a comic book visual spectacle, this sequel excels (but)…so intent are the filmmakers to dazzle with the extraordinary stunts and visuals that (beyond its excessive length) the film fails on one major score – the emotional. It’s not for lack of trying … The young male target audience won’t mind, but you know what they say about too much of a good thing,” says Louise. “The fact that he’s indestructible works against the normal dramatic tension of the hero’s journey. Whether consciously or not, the screenplay compensates for this by putting the hero at risk of something else: a broken heart,” says Andrew.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
(US, 2014) Dir: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo. Stars Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Cobie Smulders, Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper. “High energy martial arts choreography and humour by way of slick one-liners are in plentiful supply too, and as expected, the film is non-stop dizzying action designed to propel teenage boys into comic-book heaven,” says Louise.

CHINESE PUZZLE
(France, 2013) Dir: Cédric Klapisch. Stars Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Cécile de France, Kelly Reilly. “Klapisch develops some good ideas, like the German philosopher’s description of life being like embroidery: the first half is pretty like the front, while the second half shows how the threads fit together. The gimmicks are effective too,” says Louise. “The screenplay tackles a purposeful complexity as its thematic rock, propelling the drama with the wings of comedy,” says Andrew.

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
(M) Dir: Jean-Marc Vallée. Stars Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Denis O’Hare. “Two stand-out performances and the claustrophobic depiction of a death-infested reality are the significant elements of Dallas Buyers Club. It’s a tough film, based on a true story,” says Louise. “ .. how a reprobate womaniser, boozer, snorter and hustler made a difference to hundreds if not millions of lives …and how an actor called Matthew McConaughey resurrected the remarkable spirit of Ron Woodroof, in a performance that swallows the actor – body and all,” says Andrew.

DIVERGENT
(US, 2014) Dir: Neil Burger. Stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney. “Totalitarianism versus the individual is the basic concept of Divergent, a thrilling sci-fi adventure that is every bit as good as The Hunger Games with a dash of The Matrix added for good measure,” says Louise.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
(US, 2014) Dir: Wes Anderson. Stars Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Matthieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum. “Brilliantly conceived and executed … dry, droll and delightful. It’s a treasure trove of wonders – visually and emotionally – with its stylised, colourful production design,” says Louise. “Every single frame … is mesmerising, fascinating, surprising, fabulous, a stunning construct of colours and textures, the surreal and the visceral,” says Andrew.

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN
(UK, 2013) Dir: Ralph Fiennes. Stars Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Amanda Hale, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Scanlan. “Exquisitely directed by Fiennes, who also delivers convincingly in his portrayal of Dickens, there is a poetic quality about the film with its dreamy cinematography, ethereal music and wonderful sense of time and place,” says Louise. “The passion that forged this relationship has to be imagined: it’s not shown,” says Andrew.

THE LEGO MOVIE
(US, 2014) Dir: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller. Voices of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, Jonah Hill. “…a healthy dose of off-the-wall humour as the action speed-skates into overdrive, challenging and surprising us constantly as ideas veer left of centre. Coupled with Animal Logic’s extraordinary designs and special effects,” says Louise. “Teaming with life, the lifeless, virtually immovable figurines come alive and appear to move with all the dynamics of people, albeit smaller and cuter. Or uglier. The animation and the voices – along with sound and music - combine to completely convince us of their three dimensional reality,” says Andrew.

LIKE FATHER LIKE SON
(Japan, 2013) Dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda. Stars Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, Riri Furanki, Keita Nonomya. “Sensitively performed and directed, Like Father, Like Son is a series of acutely observed insights into its themes and its social setting, as well as a close study of human nature faced with some complex issues,” says Andrew. “ .. heartfelt drama in which bloodlines and nurturing come head to head when two babies are switched at birth,” says Louise.

THE MONUMENTS MEN
(US, 2014) Dir: George Clooney. Stars George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Baliban. “It’s a story with scale, texture and layers and whatever it lacks in grit and tension (required for a story based on fact) is compensated by chutzpah,” says Louise. “Sometimes perfunctory, often hitting false notes, the film lacks the punch of its story,” says Andrew.

MR PEABODY & SHERMAN
(US, 2014) Dir: Rob Minkoff. Voices of Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Stephen Colbert, Lauri Fraser, Guillaume Aretos. “Father and son relationships, time travel and being a dog have never been so much fun as in this witty, hilarious 3D animation adventure that will have the whole family barking happy,” says Louise. “Full of clever, sweet and invention, Mr Peabody & Sherman is proof of the old adage (in reverse) that every dog should have a boy,” says Andrew.

MUPPETS MOST WANTED
(US, 2014) Dir: James Bobin. Stars Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tom Hiddleston, Christoph Waltz, Salma Hayek. “Tina Fey as a Siberian Gulag prison guard is one of the highlights of this happy Muppet sequel in which Kermit is replaced by a look-alike criminal frog and Ricky Gervais plays a crooked entrepreneur,” says Louise.

NOAH
(US, 2014) Dir: Darren Aronofsky. Stars Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ray Winstone. “Above the expectation of the biblical epic disaster movie, it is Darren Aronofsky’s top layer of morality that allows Noah safe passage, with Russell Crowe delivering his truest performance for some time - although it’s not smooth sailing all the time with an overblown script that occasionally goes off course,” says Louise. “Trying to tell the Noah story as a biblical epic for 21st century audiences seems ambitious at best, which is perhaps why it hasn’t been done before,” says Andrew.

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
(US, 2013) Dir: Jim Jarmusch. Stars Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, John Hurt, Jeffrey Wright. “As fascinating as it is bizarre and tedious, Jim Jarmusch’s eclectic reality in which two vampires bound to each other through eternity, is a powerful magnet,” says Louise. “For all the playful elements, Jarmusch forgets to keep a dramatic tension in place and some of the material is plain silly, internally inconsistent (they’ve been together centuries, yet they don’t seem to know everything about each other), or contrived,” says Andrew.

THE OTHER WOMAN
(US, 2014) Dir: Nick Cassavetes. Stars Cameron Diaz, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Kate Upton, Leslie Mann, Taylor Kinney, Nicki Minaj. “Disarmingly funny in a raucous, slapstick kind of way, this Blonde Power revenge comedy is a laugh a minute, thanks to a bitingly funny script and knock out performances,” says Louise. “ ... the cast are so darned good they turn dross into watchable escapism, as long as you’re not too demanding,” says Andrew.

WADJDA
(Saudi Arabia/Germany, 2012) Dir: Haifaa Al Mansour. Stars Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Abdullrahman Al Gohani, Sultan al Assaf, Ahd. “This charming and deceptively simple film about a rebellious young Saudi girl with a dream that defies the culture in which she lives, is a breath of fresh air; the insight into lifestyle and culture fascinating,” says Louise. “The film disguises its liberal editorial message with a superbly veiled screenplay; we’re just looking … but of course, we’re also seeing, a much more invasive activity,” says Andrew.



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Updated April 24, 2014

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