The Sapphires

discs strike back2

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Strike Back: The Complete Second Season Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) and Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) weren’t always best of friends, and while they still argue on occasion they’ve also learned that they can trust each other when the bullets start flying. Their latest adventure finds the duo along with their new commander (Rhona Mitra) running and gunning their way across Africa in search of stolen nuclear triggers. Technically the series’ third season, this is Cinemax’s second as the producing entity, and they continue to show why no one even talks about that initial UK season any more. They also continue to show that a TV show can actually best many a lesser action movie in nearly every aspect. The acting and cast here are solid, the cinematography is theater-worthy, and the action sequences are impossibly great for a television series. They also impress with their awareness of both weaponry and tactics that add to the feeling of legitimacy. Hell, Cinemax even ensures the show maintains their high (or low?) standards when it comes to T&A. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries]

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review sapphires

Editor’s Note: Allison’s review originally ran during the film’s premiere at last year’s AFI Film Fest, but we’re re-running it as the movie opens in limited release this week. The music industry is a brutal landscape scattered with broken dreams and unrecognized talent, but when you take this landscape and add to it racism and war, the stakes are set even higher. Based on a true story (and adapted from the stage play of the same name), The Sapphires is not simply another tale about a girl group trying to make it, it is about a family fighting for a better life for themselves while at the same time coming to terms with their painful past. In 1950s, the Aboriginal population of Australia was considered “not human” and ignored by society until the government began raiding these small communities and stealing their fair-skinned children to pass them off as white. Known as the “stolen generation,” these children were ripped away from their families and traditions to instead be taught “white ways” in an attempt to make them “acceptable” to society.

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The Sapphires

Everyone likes music, and everyone in their right mind thinks that Chris O’Dowd is hilarious, so the new film from Australian director Wayne Blair, The Sapphires, should be a real crowd pleaser. Heck, it’s fun enough that our own Simon Gallagher gave it a kind review after seeing it at Cannes last year, a review in which he called it “the point where Dreamgirls and Cool Runnings meet.” I don’t know about you, but where I come from, to invoke Cool Runnings is high praise indeed. Now that The Weinstein Company has picked up the film and set it for a North American release on March 22, they’ve put out a new trailer to sell it to American audiences, and as you can see, it does indeed seem like a really good time. It’s got humor, a charming period setting, tons of soul music, and even a little action and drama once it goes to the Vietnam freaking War. What more could a movie offer up in an attempt to warm the cockles of your icy heart and make you decide to give it a chance? Come on, just try to watch this trailer and not beam at O’Dowd’s cuteness with the twinkle of a crush gleaming in your eye. Try not to get sucked in by these vivacious young ladies‘ enthusiasm to chew up the world and spit it out. Dare you.

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Kicking off this week with its Opening Night Gala for Hitchcock, Hollywood’s own AFI FEST effectively wraps up the year’s film festival-going season (a season that lasts approximately eleven months). Such calendar placement means that AFI FEST comes late enough in the year to serve as a last hurrah for titles that have been playing the festival circuit as far back as January (at Sundance) or as far away as France, Berlin, and Venice, and is the perfect opportunity for Southern California-based film geeks (or those willing to put some miles on their passport) to catch up on films they’ve been anticipating for months. Of course, of the 136 films playing at this year’s festival, we’ve managed to catch nearly a fifth of them at other fests, and we’re quite pleased to use this opportunity to remind you as such. Confused over what to see at the festival? Be confused no more! After the break, jog your memories of our always-extensive festival coverage with reviews for twenty-eight films set to play at this week’s AFI FEST that we’ve already seen (and, you know, reviewed). It’s like getting your festival coverage whole days early!

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This year’s AFI FEST is certainly bringing festival-goers some of the year’s biggest titles, with world premieres of Hitchcock and Lincoln, not to mention favorites from this year’s festivals like Silver Linings Playbook and Amour, and yet, when I finally sat down to begin putting together my festival schedule, it seemed to be the smaller films that caught my eye and ended up on my personal must-see list. Certainly, films I have heard about from colleagues who have caught screenings of them at other festivals are accounted for here, but my tendency to gravitate toward lesser-known titles has led me to discover some amazing little gems such as films from director Ava DuVernay (I caught her film I Will Follow at AFI FEST back in 2010 and enjoyed her latest Middle of Nowhere during the LA Film Festival this year) and, of course, my love for music-focused stories always cause those films to get top billing from me. Check out the five films I am most looking forward to seeing during this year’s AFI FEST and let me know if you are also looking forward to any these films or if hearing about them here has piqued your interest enough to add them to your own most anticipated lists!

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Austin Film Festival 2012

As the leaves begin to turn (not really) and the temperature begins to cool (again, not actually happening), it’s clear that fall is upon us here in Central Texas. But even more so than the slightly reduced electric bills due to being able to turn your AC off for one day, there’s no better sign that fall is here than to see the Austin Film Festival and Conference roll into town. It’s the third of the major festivals on Austin’s yearly film calendar, and like its brethren SXSW and Fantastic Fest, has a unique appeal. It is first and foremost a conference for industry folk, namely screenwriters, that often brings the likes of Mitch Hurwitz, Shane Black and this year, Sopranos creator and Not Fade Away director David Chase in to talk to crowds of industry hopefuls. They also do show a number of films, which is ultimately what has our interest. Sure, there may be a lot to learn in the “Improving Your Logline” panel, but we’re not sure that too many of you would want to read the resulting article. So we’ll stick to the films, as we’ve done since 2006 when AFF became the first festival we ever covered as a site. As we look down the line-up of AFF 2012, it’s hard not to think that we’re seeing the festival equivalent of a rebuilding year. The entire line-up of films is undoubtedly lean, with only a few hot titles. What once was a refuge for Toronto Film Festival hold-overs has become a mish-mash of […]

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Silver Linings Playbook

While most of Austin, Texas is currently busy gearing up for Fantastic Fest (including our own Fantastic Fest Death Squad), we’d be remiss to not mention that another one of ATX’s homegrown film festivals, the concisely-named Austin Film Festival, has just released their lineup. And it’s a real beauty! The festival, kicking off in just under a month, will open with David Chase’s Not Fade Away and will also include screenings of such buzzed-about titles as Flight, Silver Linings Playbook, The Sessions, Quartet, and The Sapphires. The festival has yet to announce their Closing Night Film, but with such an already-strong lineup, it should be a doozy. After the break, take a look at the current feature-length lineup for the 2012 Austin Film Festival and Conference, including listings for their comedy and documentary sections.

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Noah Baumbach

As is tradition (and a pretty fun one at that), the Telluride Film Festival has announced their lineup just one day before the festival kicks off in Telluride, CO. The 39th Telluride Film Festival will include twenty-five narrative and documentary films in its Main Program, with a total of “nearly 100 feature films, short films and revivals representing over thirty countries, along with Tribute programs, Conversations, Panels and Education Programs.” This year’s slate includes a number of anticipated films and many that are already gathering momentum on the festival circuit, including Michael Haneke‘s Amour, Ramin Bahrani‘s At Any Price, Michael Winterbottom‘s Everyday, Sally Potter‘s Ginger and Rosa, Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, Thomas Vinterberg‘s The Hunt, Roger Michell‘s Hyde Park on Hudson, Jacques Audiard‘s Rust & Bone, Sarah Polley‘s Stories We Tell, and Wayne Blair‘s The Sapphires. In addition to these solid picks, Telluride will also unveil some surprise “Sneak Previews” over the weekend. Past sneaks have included 127 Hours, Black Swan, and Up in the Air. Additionally, Marion Cotillard, Roger Corman, and Mads Mikkelsen will all be honored. After the break, check out the complete listing of Telluride’s just-announced festival slate.

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The Sapphires Movie

“The simplest way to sell Wayne Blair‘s film debut The Sapphires is to say it is like the point where Dreamgirls and Cool Runnings meet, only with a more explicit socio-cultural message, and played out against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. And all in all it’s a largely undemanding, entertaining affair.” Sweet and easy, that’s how Simon described the new film about an all-Aboriginal singing group who deal with drama from outside and within when he saw it at Cannes. He liked it, and now that there’s a trailer out, it’s easy to see why. Check it out for yourself:

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When we Rejects get let out of the cage (and it’s a literal cage, a big one under Dear Leader Miller’s desk, with a hamster wheel and everything) to journey to festivals far and wide, we tend to turn in some pretty comprehensive coverage. Along the way, we often cover some films that pop up along the festival circuit for months on end, titles that show up at Sundance and then journey west to SXSW, that premiere at Cannes before going American at LAFF, and those that parlay good buzz at one fest into showings across the globe. We’ve already drooled over today’s announcement of the Toronto International Film Festival‘s first wave of programming, but buried within those 62 just-announced films are five we’ve already checked out at other festivals (including Sundance and Cannes). Want to get a taste of what TIFF will offer (hint: tastes like poutine and makes your mouth water just as much)? Hit the break to get reacquainted with 5 TIFF-bound films that we’ve already seen (and, in many cases, already loved).

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The Paperboy John Cusack

Last year’s Cannes Film Festival featured this year’s Oscar winning Best Actor performance thanks to the inclusion of the wonderful The Artist in competition, and though the films seem to have been chosen for their artistry and provocative subtexts more than any really commercial pointers (as always happens the year after the festival is deemed “too commercial”), there have been some seriously fine performances this year as well. There wasn’t an Uggy this year, but there was a murdered pooch in Moonrise Kingdom, a bitey Killer Whale in Rust & Bone, and a striking performance from an armadillo in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Me and You, so we’ll have to wait and see who emerges with the best animal performance. Probably won’t come from Madagascar 3 though…so for the time being, let’s stick to the humans.

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The simplest way to sell Wayne Blair‘s film debut The Sapphires is to say it is like the point where Dreamgirls and Cool Runnings meet, only with a more explicit socio-cultural message, and played out against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. And all in all it’s a largely undemanding, entertaining affair. The title refers to an all-Aboriginal vocal group – Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy), Kay (Shari Sebbens), and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) – who leave the discriminant community their families live on the edge of and travel to Vietnam to entertain the American troops, under the guidance of their self-styled “Soul Man” manager (played by the excellent Chris O’Dowd in a role that bears resemblance to John Candy‘s in Cool Runnings). Along the way The Sapphires explores similar issues to Dreamgirls: the group are initially torn by personal frictions and haunted by underlying racial tensions both within their own group and in the wider world, and have their heads turned by the new opportunities of fame.

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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