MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

(miff.com.au) Continues until Sunday, August 17

The 63rd Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) gets into its cinematic stride this week, so here are two more differing options for your schedule: PING PONG SUMMER (Today and Monday, August 11): A sweet, nostalgically entertaining entry from the Next Gen program, this story of a teenage American boy (Marcello Conte) whose 1980s summer holidays involve a girl, a best friend, a bully and epic ping pong match – it’s The Karate Kid without the violence – is openhearted to the point of trumping predictability. Great production design, and a winning turn from Susan Sarandon as an unlikely ping pong mentor, help considerably. WHEN EVENING FALLS ON BUCHAREST OR METABOLISM (Wednesday 6 and Saturday, August 16): A bleakly comic take on Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night, the new feature from Romanian auteur Corneliu Poromboiu (12.08 East of Bucharest) depicts a film set where the director (Bogdan Dumitrache) unexpectedly schedules a nude scene for the supporting actress (Diana Avramut) he’s having an affair with, unsettling the production’s insular dynamic. A weary love letter to celluloid and of course self-referential, the movie unfolds with palpable intent even as the dialogue leaps furiously from one subject to the next. CM

 

SOME VELVET MORNING

2 stars

MA, 85 minutes. Now playing, Cinema Nova

Nominally, Neil LaBute’s two-hander about a man (Stanley Tucci) arriving upon the doorstep of a woman (Alice Eve) he was once involved with, is a return to the playwright turned filmmaker’s early works such as Your Friends & Neighbours: bitter dialogue, and personal point taking are to the fore. But LaBute’s underlying theme, which is relationships are games where we give the performances that suit us, is played out literally, and despite the efforts of the two actors the movie is more scabrous than searing. LaBute’s workmanlike direction in the sole Brooklyn townhouse location doesn’t help matters. CM

 

HERCULES

3 stars

M, 97 minutes, now playing.

A well-chosen assortment of British character romp through the ancient world with Dwayne Johnson (the Rock), who’s acquired even more muscle for his role as Hercules, the demi-god. The giddy pace of Brett Ratner’s direction and the scale of the special effects is upstaged by Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell and Joseph Fiennes. SH

A MOST WANTED MAN

4 stars

M 122 minutes, now playing.

An impression of moral ambivalence is the thing when you’re adapting a John le Carre novel, and director Anton Corbijnhas clearly taken to heart. His lead is Philip Seymour Hoffman, who could set a railway timetable humming with serious ethical implications, in his last completed role before his untimely death and it’s a great final curtain. SH

SNOWPIERCER

4 stars

MA, 126 minutes. Now playing, Cinema Nova.

Now this is a comic book movie: a dystopic action film both exciting and philosophical, Bong Joon-ho’s excellent Snowpiercer reduces the world to a vast train circling the globe, where the institutional inequality leads to a revolution by the poor, led by Curtis (Chris Evans), that is thrillingly directed and politically astute. CM