Thursday, 5 March 2015


Written, directed by, and starring Chris Rock, “TOP FIVE” tells the story of New York City comedian-turned-film star Andre Allen, whose unexpected encounter with a journalist (Rosario Dawson) forces him to confront the comedy career — and the past— that he's left behind. Starring Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Hart, Tracy Morgan, Cedric The Entertainer, J.B. Smoove, Sherri Shepherd, Anders Holm, Romany Malco, Leslie Jones, Michael Che, and Jay Pharoah. The film is produced by Scott Rudin and Eli Bush. The Co-Producers are Shawn “Jay Z” Carter and Kanye West; the Executive Music Producer is Questlove. Barry Diller and Scott Rudin’s IACF financed the film.

To celebrate the release of Top Five we're giving you the chance to win one of five double passes to the film.

Keep an eye on our Twitter feed (@TheLennoXFiles) for your chance to win. Note: Movie tickets are valid only in Australia.



©2015 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

Watch the trailer here:

Wednesday, 4 March 2015


Roadshow Films

It's around this time of year, in the post-awards season lull and those seemingly quiet months before US summer blockbusters flood the local multiplexes, that we often see a 'con' movie arrive: movies that trade in deception, twists and double dealings and all manner of misdirections.

In 2009 it was Tony Gilroy's Duplicity, with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, and in 2013, Danny Boyle's Trance, with an amnesiac James McAvoy, which gave our grey matter a workout -- or a light jog, depending on your powers of deduction.

This year it's Focus, directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, and which more closely resembles Duplicity, with its attractive leads, sexy chemistry and ongoing tit-for-tat one-upmanship. Those attractive leads are Will Smith and Margot Robbie, who play Nicky and Jess, respectively; teacher and student in the art of the con.

We're not sure why master conman Nicky would want to take the novice Jessy under his wing (other than the obvious aesthetic reasons) but she soon blossoms under his tutelage and inevitable affections. But just as soon as the two seem to be falling in love -- the greatest con of all? -- he abandons her, heartbroken, in New Orleans following a well-executed Super Bowl sting involving a Chinese high roller (an energizing cameo by B.D. Wong).

Three years later and the pair's paths cross again, this time in Buenos Aires where Nicky is employed by a Formula-1 team owner, Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro), to dupe his competitors into thinking they've scored the formula for his super-fast fuel. Or some such. The details aren't as important as the interplay between Nicky and Jess; the latter realising that he may have made a mistake in letting Jess get away. But just what is she doing in Buenos Aires, and in the company of Garriga?

There's definite chemistry between Smith and Robbie, and it's the Australian, fresh off her Hollywood breakout role in Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, who shines here; making the most of what threatens to be a merely decorative role being by turns funny, smart and, yes, sexy.

Intentional or not, it's these romantic distractions which make Focus an enjoyable diversion as you wait for the inevitable other shoe to drop. It's a con movie, after all, so you suspect that at any or all times Smith's Nicky, and the directors (who also wrote the screenplay) may just be pulling the wool over our eyes.

That said, they don't always have faith in the audience's intelligence: explaining each con in elaborate detail afterwards to make sure we're paying attention, or simply paying attention to how clever they are.

No matter. Focus is a shiny, shimmery diversion which occupies your mind for enough of the time that it takes to lift 100-odd minutes of your life. You won't win big but you'll have at least been entertained by Focus, and at this time of year at the movies that's an impressive trick in itself.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015


20th Century Fox Films

If you enjoyed your first stay at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, then there is no reason why you shouldn't check-in for a second time. The same guests from the 2012 hit are back -- Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy -- and Richard Gere has also booked what passes for a suite in this refurbished Indian hotel for those in their twilight of years (though not the twilight of these old pros' careers).

But as with many a sequel, lightning fails to strike twice. Not that Marigold 2 is a bad film, more a pale imitation of its predecessor. Like returning to a vacation spot filled with wonderful memories, everything is more or less the same but that sense of magic is no longer there.

There's also the spectre of death hanging over John Madden's film which is not to be unexpected in story populated by post-retirement ex-pats in Jaipur, India. What is a little more unexpected -- perhaps more so for younger viewers tagging along with the parentals or grandparents -- is the saltiness of the conversations and the amount of geriatric sex (all off-screen, of course). Fifty shades of grey, indeed.

So while ambitious local hotelier, Sonny (Dev Patel), and his fiance, Sunaina (Tina Desai), try to keep their cool and their heads in the lead-up to their wedding -- complicated somewhat by Sonny's trying to impress whom he believes to be a hotel inspector, Guy Chambers (Gere), sent by a possible American investor -- the residents of the Marigold are dealing with matters of the heart. And the bedroom.

Evelyn (Dench) and Douglas (Nighy) are obviously meant to be together but her new job as a procurer of textiles for a garment operation, and his general nervous-nelly ways have failed to see their seemingly inevitable relationship consummated. Even Douglas's wife Jean (Penelope Wilton), who returns to Jaipur seeking a divorce, is a little surprised she can't invoke adultery as legitimate grounds.

Meanwhile, the randy ladies man, Norman (Ronald Pickup), seems to have found love with Carol (Diana Hardcastle) but can't decide if monogamy is a blessing or a curse, while his business partner at the Viceroy Club, the equally-randy Madge (Celia Imrie), is torn between two wealthy local suitors.

And then there's Maggie Smith's Muriel, who may not have any interest in romantic shenanigans but who reminds everyone that when it comes to brutal honesty, she's the grandmother of them all. A redeemed bigot in the first film, Marigold 2 finds Muriel overseeing the hotel's operations but planning for a time when she may no longer be around.

Regardless of the strength of the material (Ol Parker once again fulfills script duties), it's a delight to see an old pro like Smith reveling in it all and with seemingly little effort. The same goes for the rest of the veteran cast who make the film an amiable delight, even if The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel does linger a little too long beyond an appropriate check-out time.

Monday, 23 February 2015


Roadshow Films

The district attorney in A Most Violent Year informs us that 1980 saw the highest rate of murders and rapes in New York City -- ever. But in early 1981, where J.C. Chandor's drama unfolds amid post-Christmas snow, things are just heating up and the most dangerous game in town is the heating oil business.

Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) has just purchased a river front property that will take his Standard Heating Oil company into the big leagues -- and the big leaguers aren't happy. Even as the ink is drying on the contract, one of Abel driver's, Julian (Elyes Gabel), is pistol-whipped and left on the highway as his truck and cargo are stolen.

The competitive world of heating oil may not sound like the basis of a good thriller but Chandor slowly turns up the heat -- the 30 days Abel and his wife and business partner, Anna (Jessica Chastain), have to come up with the rest of the money to secure the land deal serves as a ticking clock device -- in a film which recalls those of the 1970s, and not just aesthetically: character is more important than action and everything is revealed in what is and, more importantly, what isn't said.

As well as securing finance and battling their competitors, Abel must also deal with that pesky D.A. (David Oyelowo), who is investigating the corrupt heating oil industry and is determined to bring charges against Standard Heating Oil; charges which Anna and business partner, Andrew (Albert Brooks), may know more about then they're letting on.

Like the film, Isaac's magnetic performance is quietly on the boil. There are parallels between Isaac's Abel and Llewyn Davis; both men struggling to make a go of their chosen professions. But where Llewyn was his own worst enemy, Abel strives to be as honorable as his situation allows: he chooses to take 'the most right path'; wanting to succeed in a corrupt industry without stooping to the level which is seemingly required.

Chastain's Anna on the other hand is prepared to roll up her sleeves and get dirty, and beneath her Krystle Carrington hair and Armani wardrobe, Anna is a lioness. (There's the suggestion that Anna's family, who Abel does not want involved in his business affairs, may belong to "the family".) It's just a shame that Chastain isn't given enough screen time to fully unleash the Lady Macbeth within.

That's a minor quibble, for Chandor has written and directed a solid and engaging drama which is first and foremost about its people. After the GFC-centred talk-fest Margin Call (2011), and the one-man survival tale All Is Lost (2013), Chandor has made arguably his best film yet; aided greatly by Bradford Young's cinematography, and production and costume design which, while period-perfect, doesn't call attention to itself (nor does the soundtrack; thankfully absent of late '70s-early '80s chart hits).

Don't be misled by the title or the heating oil subject matter; A Most Violent Year is a gripping human drama.