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Big Screen Highlights - Hotel Mumbai and a deluge from France

Screenhub Hivemind

Hotel Mumbai is one of the most promising films on the Australian slate, as a well crafted commercial film with heart and ideas. The annual Alliance Francaise fest is up and running.
Big Screen Highlights - Hotel Mumbai and a deluge from France

Image: Tilda Cobham-Hervey in Hotel Mumbai, picture by Kerry Monteen.

Screenhub has changed its reviews policy, taking advantage of the editorial and cultural skills of Rochelle Siemienowicz, who is really well connected in the critical space and excellent at shaping those insights towards industry concerns. 

We are on fire at the moment. Here is what we have covered recently.

Film Review: Clint Eastwood, A Late Rebloomer

Adrian Martin ponders Eastwood's latest film, The Mule, in the context of a long and varied career.

Film Review: Hotel Mumbai - Anthony Morris.

An unforgettable movie that brings terrorism to shockingly vivid life, but needs more story-shaping.

Film Review: Pimped - Mel Campbell

A muddled Australian thriller promising female empowerment but inviting a misogynist conclusion.

Film Review: Reflections in the Dust - Sarah Ward

Without an an ounce of amusement, this bleak and confronting Australian film commands the audience to watch — or walk out.

Film Review: Vox Lux - A Disquieting Vibe - Adrian Martin

Natalie Portman sings Sia's songs in this boldly stylised and intellectually ambitious film about pop music.

Film Review: High Life - Adrian Martin

Auteur Claire Denis' first foray into English language cinema is a cool, calm sci-fi movie almost bereft of gadgets, with no aliens in sight.

TV Review: Tidelands is a rewarding trash-watch - Mel Campbell

The new Australian Netflix series is committed to the pursuit of visual pleasure. Mel Campbell surrenders to its siren song.

Film Review: Greta is a brisk psycho-stalker - Anthony Morris

In the age of Netflix bloat, Neil Jordan's latest is a refreshing breath of fresh air, with just enough surprise mixed with cliche.

TV Review: Secret City - Under the Eagle - Chris Boyd

Powerful and believable, Foxtel's Australian spy thriller is even stronger in its second season, writes Chris Boyd in this spoiler-free Five Star review.

TV Review: Stan's Bloom deserves a mass audience - Chris Boyd

A flagship series for Stan in the feverish battle for local market share, Bloom is a sophisticated and superbly acted supernatural mystery.

Film Review: Alita Battle Angel - Anthony Morris

Decay, rebirth or both? Alita has a healthy audience, a certain youthful innocence and the contradictory energy of James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez.

TV Review: Soderbergh's High Flying Bird has skin in the game - Adrian Martin

This Netflix feature shot on iPhone and set in the world of American basketball may baffle or intrigue.

New Releases

Headline of the week: Hotel Mumbai has finally been released. 

A gripping true story of humanity and heroism, HOTEL MUMBAI vividly recounts the 2008 siege of the famed Taj Hotel by a group of terrorists in Mumbai, India. Refusing to leave their guests, the renowned chef Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher) and a waiter (Academy Award-Nominee Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire) choose to risk their lives to keep everyone safe.  As the world watches on, a desperate couple (Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name and Nazanin Boniadi, “Homeland") is forced to make unthinkable sacrifices to protect their newborn child. 

Written by popular film expert John Collee and Anthony Maras, it was directed by Maras as his debut feature. Dev Patel grabs his opportunity with both hands, the picture moves insistently from the palatial hotel to the killers and out to Patel's waiting family.

Shooting in the hotel with its identical corridors and blank white atrium was a challenge to visual ingenuity and we slip into easy tropes about courage and loyalty, but it is a true story and does well to celebrate the best of human nature. It is streets ahead of most action adventure films that work between Western and post-colonial societies, and a wild ride to boot. 

This is a substantial Australian film, expected to do well, with a cinema release in the US in a week's time. It has good critical responses based on its festival screenings, starting internationally in Toronto, slowed by its early association with Weinstein. 

The Guardian, for instance, manages a few reservations to decide it is 'an excellent, white-knuckle thriller – and an unlikely crowd-pleaser.'.

Other than Hotel Mumbai, exhibitors are content to harvest Captain Marvel and few distributors want to face it.  

Small Australian film Pimped, directed by David Barker, produced by him and Annie Kinnane, written by him and Lou Mentor, shot in Sydney, takes the risk of claiming screens on a limited release. 

Already running

Captain Marvel, A Dog's Way Home and Green Book are being solidly promoted and are what they say on the tin. The hivemind took to Green Book though the emphasis on the White rather than the Black character is duly noted. 

The other mainstream pictures which have a good reputation which are not well noticed are Stan and Ollie, about the comedians at the end of their lives, What Men Want, smart and funny and driven by a great Black woman character and On the Basis of Sex, about the younger career of Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Clint Eastwood's The Mule is fun, Everybody Knows is  Asghar Farhadi's Spanish crime thriller and at least a fun curiosity. 

Free Solo is a climbing documentary which is poison if you can't handle heights and a thrill if you can. Best doco Oscar for 2019. 

Festivals

The Melbourne Queer Film Festival opens tonight and runs until March 25. The opening night film at the Jam Factory is Papi Chulo by John Butler. As the program director Spiro Economopoulos wrote on the website

'We continue to showcase and celebrate the best in LGBTIQ cinema from around the world and it’s really heartening to be featuring two Australian feature debuts with So Long and The Five Provocations. These will be playing alongside headliners such as Disobedience, BPM (Beats per minute), Signature Move, After Louie, The Feels and Love, Simon (our centrepiece presentation), just to name a few.'

The Alliance Francaise Film Festival has been running around Australia from March 6 at Palace cinemas. Very few French films run outside this event so all the chocolate is in one box. According to the website 

'... the Festival boasts a superlative line-up of 54 features and documentaries – the biggest in its proud history. The festival will show case the latest releases to come out of France, highlighting the talent and uniqueness of cinéma français. Featuring the likes of Yann Gonzalez, Mikhaël Hers, Coralie Fargeat, Jeanne Herry... alongside those who inspired them, Claire Denis, Jean-Luc Godard, Olivier Assayas, Jacques Audiard and more. This year’s dynamic selection also delivers a broad and diverse vision of contemporary issues, such as social justice, gender equality or ecology......'

About the author

Mostly David Tiley and Rochelle Siemienowicz, with contributions from friends, fans and Artshub staff. Between us, we flinch at nothing.