Keanu Reeves returns as semi-retired hitman John Wick, in director Chad Stahelski’s third instalment. Stahelski doesn’t fail to disappoint, delivering another brilliant entry into the John Wick universe.
John Wick 3 picks up directly from the end of the second film, throwing the audience headfirst into a chaotic opening scene. After being excommunicated at the end of the second film, we see John rushing through the busy streets of New York, weaponless and with a $14mil bounty on his head. Everyone on the street seems to be an assassin, making for an incredibly tense few minutes as John ducks and weaves his way through the crowds.
Keanu Reeves’ portrayal of the stoic titular character takes another turn as we find out more of the character’s backstory throughout the film. Reeves plays Wick with his trademark silent treatment, delivering one liners at choice times. The character almost seems an extension of Reeves himself; effortlessly cool and calculating.
Returning to the screen is Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne in their respective roles of the New York Continental manager Winston, and the Bowery King. Supported by Halle Berry, Anjelica Huston, and Game of Thrones’ Jerome Flynn, the audience is treated to a new range of characters - some that we hope will be revisited.
What deserves a massive applause in the film series is the choreography. The action scenes (gun fights, hand-to-hand combat - you name it) have always been a highlight of the John Wick films, but the third film easily takes it up a notch. Ever seen someone in a film killed with a book? Or a fight scene in an antique weapon shop? Prepare to find yourself on the edge of your seat.
Bordering on ridiculous at the best of times, John Wick 3 is flat out the most hard-hitting entry into the series. With the right balance of twists, action and dark humour, the film has it all for new and old fans of the series. Thankfully the film’s ending leaves it open enough for a sequel - we know we’d happily watch another three John Wicks.
Long Shot is brought to you by the team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, made popular from comedy hits including Bad Neighbours and This Is The End. In this comedy epic, we see one of the most influential women in the world reconnecting with the boy she used to babysit in what seems like the world’s most incredible mismatch - an unexpected rom com that pushes the boundaries of what can and can’t be said in a film centred around the US presidency.
Who better to play the lead roles than powerhouse Charlize Theron and lovable stoner Seth Rogen. Long Shot wastes no time in introducing the audience to the preposterous shenanigans of Fred Flarsky (Rogen). From the opening scene which shows Flarsky fling himself out of a building in the name of journalism, his life truly takes a turn when he has a chance encounter with his old babysitter Charlotte Field (Theron) at a function featuring Boyz 2 Men. The accomplished diplomat who is running through the motions at another function seeks to reconnect with Flarsky and as one thing leads to another, invites him to be her writer for her upcoming presidential campaign tour.
In what would initially seem like the world’s most unlikely pairing, the chemistry between Theron and Rogen is undeniable, fueled by nostalgia, admiration and intimacy from understanding one another. The rom com delivers a constant barrel of laughs as the pair manage to get wrapped up in a series of unexpected and dangerous events. What we take away is the importance of truly understanding someone, as the pair manage to bring out the best in each other - Flarksy learning to take accountability for his actions and beginning to think about his future, and Field learning that it’s not just about the numbers.
We highly recommend this film to anyone looking for an intellectual comedy, or for anyone who wants to see Bob Odenkirk perform the role of a US president, TV star elected to the oval office, who wants to throw it all away to start his career in the film industry.
If there’s one film you’re going to see at this year’s French Film Festival, make sure it’s Gilles Lellouche’s Sink or Swim. A laugh from start to finish, you’ll find yourself walking out of the cinema with a massive smile on your face.
Sink or Swim follows a group of 40-something year old men, all on the verge of mid-life crises, and aspiring to compete in a men’s synchronised swimming competition. If only reading that makes you giggle, then you’re in for a treat.
Led by Mathieu Amalric and Guillaume Canet (one facing a deep depression, the other in the middle of a broken family), the characters all have their own problems. We see these throughout the film, which contrast with each moment of hilarity. The audience finds themselves really caring for each character - to the point of a few audience members even cheering out at the climax of the film.
Lellouche’s film is reminiscent of The Full Monty - but who needs this comparison? Sink or Swim is a fun, touching film; one that we’re glad we had the pleasure of seeing. Check the French Film Festival website for screening info - this is one you can’t miss!
Showing at this year’s French Film Festival is Dumped, Eloïse Lang’s mother-daughter comedy, which is perfect for a night out. While Dumped is Lang’s first feature film release, it packs a punch, leaving you wanting more.
After her husband leaves her for a younger woman, Françoise is taken on holiday for her 60th birthday to the tropical island of Réunion by her two daughters - with their goal being to “save mom” and prevent her from spiralling further into depression. What ensues is a gut-splitting rivalry between the two sisters, and antics that include a one-night-stand, and hotel staff being paid to romance their mother.
The legendary Miou-Miou takes on the role of Francoise; the no-nonsense mother subjected to her daughters’ plan. Camille Cottin and Camille Chamoux play daughters Rose and Alice, who are the polar opposites of each other. The on-screen chemistry between the three leads is undeniable, lead by Cottin’s undeniable charisma, Miou-Miou’s quick-fire wit, and Chamoux’s hysterical. control-freak facade.
With the success of director Lang and Cottin’s previous work together (Connasse and Harry Me!), Dumped once again showcases a director/actor collaboration that we would love to see more of. Throw in touching mother-daughter moments, and inflections into love lost and gained, and you’ve got a film with something for everyone. Check out where Dumped is next playing at the French FIlm Festival’s website. Get in quick - this entry into the festival is sure to sell out quickly.
Who You Think I Am is a cyber-thriller, that takes you on a journey into the life of literature professor and mother-of-two Claire, who seeks a human connection after her recent divorce. Claire, played by the one and only Juliette Binoche, brings the audience into her world as she seeks to make up for lost time. Through social media, her unintentional yearning to be desired soon leads to her unintentionally catfishing a younger man, as she is swept into a romance like never before.
Writer and director Safy Nebbou takes the 2016 novel written by Camille Laurens and amps up the importance of human connection; painting a realistic picture of the realities men and women deal with, both in their youth and their aging. The plot line, continued through Claire’s repeat visits with fill-in psychologist (played by Nicole Garcia), directs the film through heavy topics surrounding aging, identify, and what constitutes as the self.
As the film progresses, the audience sees Claire going further and further down the rabbit hole, as her actions become increasingly self destructive. Claire’s story and actions are humanised, as we see catfishing from the other point of view. In this day and age, our online profiles are (to some people) more important than how we present ourselves in public. It is how this is represented in the film that is so jarring, so truthful, and so frightening.
Claire is used throughout the film as an unreliable narrator, as we learn more about her declining mental health. At one point in the film, her reality is so distorted from guilt and shame, that the audience is practically begging for another outcome. One of our reviewers even found themselves whispering ‘no, no, no’ repeatedly under their breath.
The film is beautifully shot, and accompanied by a barely-there soundtrack by jazz musician Ibrahim Maalouf. The lack of sound throughout only intensifies the film’s revelations when they come to light. Nebbou throws in a few computer-illiterate jokes here and there, which resonate with older audiences. Claire adjusting her text language to appear younger also warrants a few laughs. All up, Who You Think I Am is a strong entry into this year’s French Film Festival, and a strong argument for this year being the year of Juliette Binoche. A must-see for those who want a bit of excitement in their lives.
In a total of 110 sexually-charged minutes, Claire Denis’ High Life flips the sci-fi genre on its head. Filled with plenty of shock scenes and touching moments, the French director’s entry into the genre is one that most audiences will find unforgettable.
High Life follows a group of death row criminals on an unending space mission, all in the name of science. During their trip, the convicts are subjected to the onboard doctor’s reproductive experiments, resulting in the birth of prisoner Monte’s daughter. After being left as the last survivors on the ship, Monte and his daughter Willow must prepare themselves for the black hole their ship is headed straight for.
Denis’ film follows Monte and Willow’s relationship carefully; from the painstaking moments of being a desperate parent, to the tenderness of caring for one another. Their relationship, interjected with the film’s shock scenes of sexual violence and isolation is jarring and frightening at times, but only amplifies each contrasting moment more.
Lead by Robert Pattinson as Monte, and Juliette Binoche as the ship’s doctor Dibs, the cast is rounded out with familiar faces Mia Goth and André Benjamin. Space itself plays a big role here (of course, given this is a sci-fi film) - one that has definitely played on our minds.
Needless to say, High Life was a roller coaster from start to finish. We 100% recommend seeing it while it’s screening during the French Film Festival - just don’t watch it with your mum.
Impossible to look away .
The Alliance Francaise French Film Festival launched this week with 54 films by the best French cinema has to offer, crowds begging for more with the opening night masterpiece The Trouble With You. This goofy comedy directed by Pierre Salvadori (Wild Target, Après Vous, Priceless) balances ridiculous adventures with true to life emotions, creating a movie with heart and a deeply human experience that stays with you after the credits have finished rolling.
The Trouble with You follows detective Yvonne, played by Adèle Haenel, a French Riviera police officer who discovers that her late husband, and chief of police, isn’t the man she thought he was. In an attempt to atone for her husband’s mistakes, Yvonne decides to do everything she can to help Antoine, an innocent man who her husband sent to jail. Drawn to one another based on their shared experience, the film shows Antoine spiraling out of control, learning who he has become after 8 years in prison, while Yvonne is discovering who she wants to be, knowing her old life was a lie.
The film is filled with memorable moments and even more memorable characters that will have to whole cinema in stitches. The mixture of the absurd and Pierre Salvadori’s awkwardly dark sense of humor manages to bring even the toughest of critics to tears and have you laughing at things that would make your grandma blush. There is never a dull moment on screen as you’re never sure what will happen next or how the situation could get any worse. It would be best to leave the children at home for this film to avoid any awkward conversations during the drive home.
One of the funniest films we’ve seen in French cinema, this one is not to be missed.
Why diamonds are a criminal's best friend.
Based on a true story, King of Thieves, depicts widower Brian Reader (Michael Caine) at the ripe old age of 77, uniting a band of former misfit criminals to plot a diamond heist at the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit. Finding the most experienced men possible, in credentials and age, the current and former criminals aged in their 60's and 70's bar one, seek to pull off what is likely to be their last big job of their careers/lives on a casual Easter weekend.
Directed by Academy Award winner James Marsh (Man on Wire, Theory of Everything), the film chooses to take on a different approach to most heist films, choosing to glance over the job itself to instead focus on the aftermath - how to divide the stolen goods fairly and remain friends with your fellow criminals. As loyalties are tested, each character brings to the film personality and a clear motivation of why they are part of the heist and what they are hoping to gain from the experience. With a stellar performance from all involved, the all star cast (Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Charlie Cox, Paul Whitehouse, Michael Gambon, Ray Winstone) bring life to the characters and to the film, highlighting true personalities in each of the people who took part in the efforts.
King of Thieves feels nostalgic, and takes your emotions on a rollercoaster ride where you want everything to work out, you just don't know for who exactly. When all of the characters appear to possess flaws, it's hard to spot a hero among them as these men grasp at straws to find their place in the world. The film did a fantastic job of highlighting the incredible feat that these men achieved in successfully robbing the jewellery store, and an even better job at identifying where it all fell apart, leading to their demise.
Overall, we highly recommend seeing King of Thieves if you enjoy a good heist and an even better comedy drama.
Revenge is best served cold.
Director Hans Petter Moland makes his Hollywood debut with Cold Pursuit; a classic revenge film, with quirky dark comedy lying under the surface. The film is a remake of Moland’s own film In Order of Disappearance (2014), featuring Stellan Skarsgård in the lead role. Every great revenge film needs a strong lead, and Cold Pursuit managed to book the one and only Liam Neeson - starring in what seems to be his typical role (a la Taken) in this icy thriller.
Neeson plays the lead role, Nels Coxman, a local snowplow driver in Kehoe - a resort town in the Rocky Mountains. After Coxman’s son dies of a suspect heroin overdose, Nels becomes obsessed with the details of his son’s passing and begins to realise something is amiss. As he begins to explore the drug market in Kehoe and its surrounding areas, Coxman stumbles into who he believes to be responsible and takes it upon himself to exact revenge on the local drug dealers and their lackeys. Wrapped up in a turf war and constant miscommunications between a spoilt and bratty young dealer and a Native-American mob boss, Coxman relies on his knowledge of crime from reading thriller novels to get what he came for.
Remaking your own film, as Moland has done, is a gutsy move that proves worthwhile. Moving the setting from Norway to the Rocky Mountains in the States translates perfectly, in a beautiful film about tragic loss. The audience experiences the isolation felt in the film through the setting - vast landscapes of unending snow. The pristine, crisp snow is almost a character in itself, providing the film with not only a setting, but a soundtrack, and a masking device. Add a snowplow to the mix, and you’ve got intense feelings of claustrophobia as the raging machine pushes itself through the towering walls of snow.
Neeson’s delivery of his character is a perfect fit for the film’s humour; his calm demeanour and overall cool quietly dishing out throwaway lines. The humour is very Coen-esque, especially through the use of repetition and deadpan deliveries. Neeson’s humour is mirrored by Tom Bateman, who plays the sociopathic drug dealer Viking. Bateman plays the character with an energy and craziness that is unhinged and entertaining to watch. Rounding out the cast is Laura Dern, starring as Coxman’s wife Grace, and Emmy Rossum and John Doman, as the two cops hot on the trail of the turf wars.
While Neeson’s foray into action films over the last few years was a welcome change, it was great to see another side of the revenge genre. Moland’s film has Coxman bring a sense of realism to the table; we see an inexperienced, older man struggle to beat up a drug dealer, struggle to deal with the death of his child, and most importantly, struggle with the consequences of his actions. This sense of realism only adds to the film’s dark humour - it was good to see a character awkwardly work his way through a hit list.
Overall, Cold Pursuit was a great take on the typical revenge film. We went in not exactly knowing what to expect, and left laughing - reminiscing on the film’s well-timed lines and quirky characters. Full of action, deadpan humour and just the right amount of badassery, Cold Pursuit has a little something for everyone.
The Astor Theatre has run their fair share of movie marathons; catering to all of Melbourne’s cinephiles, and offering a place to spend your weekend as you embark on a journey, day and night, to watch films as they were intended. Whether it be attending the Halloween ‘Spooktacular’, the Tarantino festival, the Sci-Fi marathon for MIFF, or full screenings of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises, the Astor delivers to a niche audience of dedicated film lovers who are willing to go the distance to gain the full experience.
When the Astor announced that they planned to run a 48-hour marathon dedicated to airing Marvel Studios’ ‘First Ten Years’, we knew this was going to be something truly special. Ambitious? Yes. Crazy? Of course! MARVEL-lous? Naturally.
Day one’s screening started off at 11am with the first two Iron Man films, closely followed by Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. If there’s one thing Marvel mastered early on, it was how to successfully set up a franchise. Even as die-hard comic fans, we totally forgot how interconnected everything in the first few films were - from every post-credit scene, down to vague mentions of locations and characters. Joss Whedon’s The Avengers followed after - seamlessly linking together Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
After The Avengers finished, day two began with Iron Man 3. At this point, we had to call it a day and get some sleep! This meant we missed Thor: The Dark World (no big loss), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (sadly), and fan-favourite, Guardians of the Galaxy. We returned to the Astor to catch Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, leading into Phase Three of the MCU; Captain America: Civil War (AKA the real third Avengers film), and Doctor Strange. Capping off the night’s screening was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, bringing a close to the marathon’s second day.
Those that stuck out the whole weekend (and had the Monday off!) were in for a treat; the third day was kicked off with Thor: Ragnarok, and followed up with Black Panther - arguably two of Marvel’s best films. Avengers: Infinity War followed; the event that the MCU had been building up to for years. Closing the two, very long days was Ant-Man and the Wasp, the last released Marvel film.
When the marathon wrapped, our brains and hearts had turned to dust, and it was 11am on the Monday morning - time to return back to reality. Not to the Marvel universe, but to our own. As we emerged into the real world, we looked back on the weekend with the Astor Theatre and thought about the real heroes - the heroes who worked the entire weekend to make this possible. Be they superheroes, gods, or simply people who really, really love cinema, we send a big thank you to the team and look forward to returning again soon.
For one magical night only.
Jim Hosking’s second offering to cinema brings to the screen a tale of a love triangle and a magical night. Lulu Danger finds herself escaping a dead end town and husband (Emile Hirsch as Shane Danger), to see the mysterious Beverly Luff Linn (Craig Robinson), live for one magical night only.
The film’s over-the-top characters and dialogue is awkward humour at its finest, reminiscent of The Lobster. Aubrey Plaza’s familiar deadpan delivery is once again present in her portrayal of main character Lulu Danger, while Jemaine Clement’s Colin is hopeless and socially inept , albeit a lovable dork. While both actors feature in roles typical to what they’ve played in the past (Plaza’s April Ludgate, and Clement in Flight of the Conchords), the typecast characters play off each other perfectly.
The film’s absurdity is only amplified by the synth soundtrack and costumes - think tartan three-piece suits and striped one piece swimmers. Complete with Matt Berry playing the jealous partner and Emile Hirsch as Lulu’s loser husband, An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is both a cringe fest and side splitter from start to finish.
MEL Live saw the film at the Lido’s rooftop cinema, as part of the Paracinema Festival. Screened before the film was The Elderly MacDonald, local director Ben Volchok’s short film. A French New Wave take on the Old MacDonald nursery rhyme, the short film is a ‘restoration’, and packs in lots of laughs. For more on the the Lido Cinema, click here.
I’m not crying, you’re crying.
The fourth remake of A Star Is Born is Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut; breathing new life into a familiar story. Stuck in development hell for years, Cooper seizes the opportunity to bring in a new perspective and stronger character development than the previous films - telling the story of a depressed musician and a songwriter destined for stardom.
The chemistry between Cooper in the role of Jackson, a musician struggling to cope in the second half of his career, and Lady Gaga as Ally, a down-and-out songwriter who has almost given up, has the critics raving. The film paints a realistic picture of the ugly, vulnerable side of fame, as well as each characters’ motivations to maintain it. The film takes us on a journey into what love can do for someone - whether it be a rejuvenated perspective on life, or sacrificing everything to be with the one you love.
The film’s soundtrack has rightly been at the top of the charts since before the film’s release, only adding to the film being heralded as Oscar-bait. From our perspective, this film is a must-see, and will have you feeling you’re on tour with front row seats.
A slightly less fantastic entry into the wizarding world.
It’s a popular opinion that sequels are never better than the originals (unless we’re talking about Terminator 2). Unfortunately, the second Fantastic Beasts film falls under that opinion, despite its extraordinary cinematography.
While full of new, amazing creatures and characters, the film misses the mark and doesn’t quite capture the whimsy and awe audiences remember from the original Harry Potter films. The motives of certain characters were too confusing to comprehend, and given the number of subplots, the film’s narrative was just a mess of plot holes.
Our praise to the casting crew for the actors chosen to play Newt’s brother, as well as his younger self in a flashback; we even had to IMDB the actors to see if they were related. Despite this, Jude Law’s Dumbledore, and the brilliant Eddie Redmayne, we tried and tried to love the film, but walked out feeling uncertain about the future sequels.
The Astor learnt something from last year’s Potterfest; that a crazy amount of people would happily sit through all (or as many as possible) of the Harry Potter films.
Starting at 11am and consisting of all eight HP films, plus Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the marathon brought in massive crowds.
Marathoners lugged in their pillows, blankets, and as many stacks as possible, and knuckled down for a solid 20-something hours of binging.
The cinema’s atmosphere is contagious - with the audience cheering out, clapping along and booing at all the right moments.
There’s a good chance the Astor will be continuing Potterfest in 2020, so keep your eyes peeled, and don’t miss out on the next one!
Possibly our favourite Scottish-zombie-comedy-Christmas-musical.
A cross between Shaun of the Dead and High School Musical, Anna and the Apocalypse was screened as part of this year’s British Film Festival program.
Think catchy songs (including ballads, of course) played over footage of zombies being slain with a giant candy cane. The film has its touching moments, but that’s not what you’re paying to watch.
Anna and the Apocalypse is a gorey, silly, over the top film - but god it’s a fun one.
The Astor’s Halloween marathon has been around for a few years now, but this year’s marked a special occasion; John Carpenter’s Halloween being released 40 years ago.
To celebrate the movie’s birthday, as well as the new film’s release, we attempted the full marathon - spanning a total of eight films. Not counting Rob Zombie’s reboot and sequel, in this case.
Four movies in (12 hours!) and we had to call it quits - leaving at 3am and hanging our heads in defeat. We definitely walked away with a newfound appreciation for the classic series, as well as its legendary soundtrack.
Movie trivia in between each film and audience participation once again made our experience at the Astor much more than just your typical trip to the cinema.
Be sure to keep your eyes out for next year’s Halloween marathon!