A wannabe musician joins an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank, who wears a papier mache bubble head at all times.PT1M59S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-371i2 620 349 April 22, 2014
Frank (M, 95 mins; ★★★★) Read Philippa Hawker’s full review
Actors can sometimes be described as "almost unrecognisable" in roles that require some kind of physical transformation – but in Frank, these words are particularly applicable to Michael Fassbender. He plays the title character, the creative centre of an unknown avant-garde band called Soronprfbs, a man who has chosen to wear a large, bulbous artificial head at all times. He sleeps in it, he showers in it, he has devised a way of eating that does not require him to remove it. There are comic elements to this character, it hardly needs saying; but there are also some unexpectedly poignant aspects.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 (PG, 102 mins; ★★☆) Read Jake Wilson’s full review
Once upon a time animation used to stand apart from mainstream cinema, but digital cartoons have never been more central to Hollywood's idea of itself. They've also never been less cartoony. Little, in form and content, distinguishes a young-adult fantasy like How To Train Your Dragon 2 from its "live-action" equivalents such as the Harry Potter or Spider-Man films, which in turn rely heavily on digital effects. Written and directed by Dean DeBlois – who collaborated on the first film with Chris Sanders – this sequel unfolds on a wider canvas and adopts a more earnest tone. The most distinctive thing about the series is its strictly rational, even prosaic, handling of fantasy themes.
Rising From Ashes (M, 82 mins; ★★★★) Read Paul Byrnes’ full review
For 100 days in 1994, says the voice of narrator and executive producer Forest Whitaker, owning a bicycle in Rwanda could mean the difference between life and death. A bike gave some chance to escape the genocide in which 1 million people died in the conflict between Hutus and Tutsis. Ten years later, Tom Ritchey, an American cyclist and one of the inventors of the mountain bike, established Project Rwanda, to help deliver bicycles and expertise. In 2006, he convinced Jock Boyer, the first American to ride the Tour de France, to join him in running the first annual Rwandan Wooden Bike Classic, held in Karongi. A year later Boyer came back to see if he could find enough good riders to create a Rwandan cycling team. That team is what this engaging and moving documentary is about.
Galore (MA15+, 103 mins; ★★★☆) Read Philippa Hawker’s full review
What’s distinctive about Rhys Graham’s debut feature is its evocation of the tactile immediacy and intense tunnel vision of adolescence. It’s a story about a passionate, intimate friendship between two teenage girls, Billie (Ashleigh Cummings) and Laura (Lily Sullivan), an attraction of opposites that has flourished since childhood. Both Cummings and Sullivan give strong, confident performances. Galore is set in Canberra in 2003, when deadly bushfires came close to the capital. Yet the threat of natural disaster remains deliberately on the periphery of the film’s vision, just as it does for its protagonists.
The Two Faces of January (M, 96 mins; ★★★) Read Jake Wilson’s full review
This is the first film directed by Hossein Amini, who has had a long career as a screenwriter, specialising in literary adaptations such as Drive and The Wings of the Dove. Here his source is a 1964 novel by Patricia Highsmith, most famous as the author of The Talented Mr Ripley. In true Highsmith fashion, the plot develops from an ambiguous encounter between two men. On the run in Athens, shonky wheeler-dealer Chester MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen) crosses paths with the much younger Rydal (Oscar Isaac), an unpublished writer and petty swindler. Soon the pair are locked in a power struggle, with Chester's wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst) as the prize. In terms of storytelling craft, this is a very tricky project indeed: a three-hander where no character is wholly sympathetic or trustworthy, where we're constantly shuttled between perspectives, and where many vital things go unsaid.
The Last Impresario (M, 87 mins, ★★★) Read Philippa Hawker’s full review
There’s an intriguing echo of The Last Emperor in the title of Gracie Otto’s portrait of English film and theatre producer Michael White: it’s a documentary homage to a creative entrepreneur and the productions and the plays, films and artists he supported in the 1960s and ’70s and beyond, before things went awry. It’s also the depiction of a man who has managed to sustain himself, somehow, when things started to fall apart. Otto, a young Australian actress and filmmaker, opens by explaining how she met White at a function at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. Almost immediately he was giving her his phone number, inviting her to parties: at the same time, she learned of his history as a producer, and asked him if anyone had tried to make a documentary about him. Before she knew it, the project was underway. But if White helped initiate the film, he often seems to feel ambivalent about it, too. Greta Scacchi – one of several Australian connections – calls him ‘‘the most famous person you never heard of’’. His first wife describes him as ‘‘the most hidden man you’ll ever meet’’. According to Kate Moss, he was the only person who could keep up with her during her wild days.
Ernest & Celestine (PG, 80 mins; ★★★☆) Read Philippa Hawker’s full review
From its opening credits, the Belgian-French animation Ernest & Celestine proclaims its hand-drawn, delicate, watercolour aesthetic. But it’s not all sweetness and light: there’s a dark strand of humour and some sly visual gags in this clever tale of opposites. It’s a film of two worlds, above and below ground, and the stories that the inhabitants of these worlds tell about each other. Mice, who live underground, are told that they are nothing more than menu items to fierce, greedy bears. Above the surface, bears hear tales of fairy mice who bring coins to children in exchange for their lost teeth, but the creatures themselves are shunned. Yet when an individual mouse and bear actually meet – the curious, resourceful Celestine and the shambling, solitary Ernest – friendship grows.
May We Chat (MA15+, 99 mins; ★★★☆) Read Jake Wilson’s full review
Some film ideas are so clever yet so obvious you can only wonder why they haven't been done before. That's the case with Philip Yung's May We Chat, in which a group of Hong Kong girls get to know each other through a social networking platform, the real-life mobile app WeChat. When Wai-wai (Heidi Lee) and Yee-gee (Rainky Wai) hear one of their WeChat friends has disappeared, they meet in the flesh to track her down. The opening scenes seemingly belong to a bright and breezy teen flick, geared to the fast pace of a society where most people are used to the feeling of inhabiting multiple spaces at once. But the film isn't all superficial fun: it's soon made clear that if the heroines use WeChat as an escape that's because they have plenty to escape from.