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Five Must See Films for Cinema Buffs

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by Kiesten McCauley (subscribe)
My early career was in teaching, writing, producing and directing for theatre, comedy and impro shows. Now I'm a professional creative person. Mostly high-end branding, strategy, writing, editing and digital content creation.
Published December 23rd 2014
Hot Holiday Choices for Movie Lovers
These holidays, film buffs are spoiled for choice when it comes to quality productions. I've recently been lucky enough to catch some preview screenings of the best of the best (and some films that won't be getting a mention) at Palace Cinemas. Here's my list of the five 'must-see' movies for lovers of good film this Christmas and New Year break.
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St. Vincent image courtesy of Palace Cinema

St. Vincent
Touching, quirky, and funny, St. Vincent makes the list for its superb storytelling, clever cinematography and a fine cast. It's refreshing to see Melissa McCarthy cast as something other than a one dimensional 'funny fat friend', she does a lovely job of handling the gravitas and honesty her character demands.

Naomi Watts surprises with an hilarious Russian 'lady of the night' and Chris O'Dowd makes an impact with his small but vital role as the teacher of Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), the son of Maggie (McCarthy), a recently single mother doing the best she can to keep her head above water. But of course this is Murray's vehicle, and despite his wandering accent, he shines as the eponymous Vincent. Murray's command of comedy and tragedy is well used in this film that explores what it's like to be an outcast, the human need to belong and connect with others, the importance of rebellion and risk taking, generosity and loyalty.

See it if: you like your drama with a dash of dark comedy.

Playing at Palace: from Boxing Day.

It's a clever film that can have you rooting for an anti-hero, and the suspenseful Nightcrawler achieves just that. Nightcrawler is a gripping story of a motivated young man who seeks to end his poverty and joblessness. He manages to make his own way in the world of capturing graphic news footage to sell to Los Angeles stations. As the film progresses, Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) reveals himself as a man unhinged, a psychopath ambivalent to the suffering of others. He blackmails, breaks the law and invades crime scenes in order to reach his goals.

The film is a scathing indictment of how America treats its citizens most in need, the corporate culture of winning at any cost and the news industry's insatiable appetite for whipping up fear. It's one of those 'edge of your seat' films. The tension is built beautifully and you're not patronised by obvious exposition. Instead, you gradually discover little details that make you realise, to your own horror that psychopaths do rather well in a 'dog eat dog' culture.

See it if: you love Hitchcock movies.

Playing at Palace: now.

What We Did on Our Holiday
You know what's lovely about comedies from the UK? They don't explain the jokes to you like you're a moron who can't work it out for yourself. The humour in What We Did On Our Holiday feels real and relatable - not at all forced. This movie does come down a bit hard on the message of 'when is it okay to lie' but it's enjoyable none the less.

The adult actors (Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, Billy Connolly, Ben Miller and Amelia Bullmore) all do a fine job in this family centric dramatic comedy, but special mention really has to go to the children, (Emilia Jones, Bobby Smalldridge and Harriet Turnbull) who steal the show and the audience's hearts. What We Did on Our Holiday also explores the important themes of what's important in life and how wasteful it is to spend all your time fighting with those you love – a message that's timely given how our loved ones can sometimes push our buttons at this time of year.

See it if: you liked Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Playing at Palace: now.

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The Imitation Game image courtesy of Palace Cinema

The Imitation Game
There's been a lot of buzz, award nominations and wins around The Imitation Game. Sometimes films struggle to live up to that kind of hype (Mr. Turner, I'm looking at you!) but The Imitation Game is serious Oscar bait for good reason. Benedict Cumberbatch gives the performance of his career to date in this biopic of Alan Turing's illustrious and eventually tragic life. Don't read the word tragic and expect to cry your eyes out in this film.

Instead, it's glorious, triumphant, suspenseful, inspirational and even funny – yes, a film about a mathematician breaking the Enigma Code in WWII can be funny! There were several laugh out loud moments that in no way detracted from the serious elements of the movie. Keira Knightley acted her way out of my 'bad books' in this film too, giving a great performance as Turing's fiancé and colleague Joan Clarke. If The Imitation Game doesn't win a boatload of Oscars, my money is on the awards going to my next recommendation…

See it if: you like smart people, perfect sets and costumes, and brilliant acting.

Playing at Palace: from January 1st.

Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Michael Keaton owns the screen in Birdman, just as he has in so many films before. His focus is unparalleled, equating to a commitment to character that most actors never achieve. Keaton brings to life Riggan Thomas, an actor whose star has faded, seeking to turn his life and career around. The film is raw and surreal, with inspired cinematography. There's comedy to be found in the dark moments, as Riggan struggles to get his 'comeback' play through harsh criticism and the loss of its leading man.

While it's Keaton's vehicle, special mention goes to Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Ed Norton, and Amy Ryan, who all deliver engrossing performances of nuanced, flawed characters. Like all of the films on my list, Birdman is intelligent and assumes its audience has a modicum of intelligence too. Birdman flies between heartbreaking and hilarious with ease and deserves the acclaim it's already receiving from critics far and wide.

See it if: you like your comedies dark and your characters flawed.

Playing at Palace: from January 15th, though you can catch a special preview screening on New Year's Eve at Palace Centro.

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When: Summertime
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Your Comment
I am curious as to your negative comment about Mr Turner. Sure he is a flawed character (no-one would dispute that, I think). Of course it is likely that we have different tastes in films. You mentioned St Vincent - I found it a bit manipulative and mushy and a disappointing vehicle for Bill Murray who shines in Wes Anderson films. I am surprised that some of the really excellent movies recently shown in the US and elsewhere have not had a run here at Palace (eg David Cronenbourg's Maps to the Stars or Winter Sleep.(Both ran interstate at Palace). Was so pleased to see Imitation Game sold out nearly everywhere yesterday. Excellent portrayals. Looking forward to Birdman. Saw The Interview - (avoid at all costs as danger to your brain matter). Keep the reviews coming - Regards Pauline
by pauli (score: 0|2) 1656 days ago
Good insight into the movies. Entertaining reviews as usually I don't read reviews through as they are boring.zzzzzzzzz!
by cazza (score: 1|22) 1661 days ago
Thanks for posting, will definitely be seeing some of these
by charb (score: 1|59) 1661 days ago
Thanks for the reviews, always great to have suggestions, looking forward to seeing these ones
by trish (score: 0|2) 1657 days ago
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