Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)

Brett Morgen, the director of documentary Cobain: Montage of Heck, possesses two advantages few documentarians have. The first is that his subject – Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain – has become such a cultural icon that there’s no need for him to rehash the broad details of his life story. The second is his unprecedented…

Ex Machina (2015)

Alex Garland’s work as a novelist (The Beach, Coma) and screenwriter (28 Days Later, Sunshine) is, at its best, defined by a careful command of tone balanced with obvious intelligence. It should not come as a surprise that Ex Machina, Garland’s first time behind the director’s chair, demonstrates these qualities in abundance. This sparse sci-fi…

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014)

The Zellner brothers’ latest feature owes a considerable debt to the Coen brothers’ Fargo. That film primarily serves as narrative impetus; discovered (somewhat improbably) as a waterlogged VHS relic, it stirs the fantasist impulses of Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) and sends her on a journey in search of ‘hidden treasure’ – the cash-laden suitcase buried by…

Wild Tales (2014)

The opening scene of the Oscar-nominated Argentinian anthology film Wild Tales – in which a pilot deliberately crashes a plane occupied with all those who wronged him – plays decidedly uncomfortably in the wake of the Germanwings plane crash. But while that scene might make audiences uncomfortably shift in their seats, that sort of discomfort…

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

There are two Pitch Perfects in Pitch Perfect 2. The first Pitch Perfect is pretty much the Pitch Perfect you’d expect – the first one all over again. This Pitch Perfect takes the Ghostbusters approach to sequels, by repeating all the same beats and bits note for note. All female a capella group the Barden…

The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013)

Studio Ghibli’s Isao Takahata’s adaptation of the ancient folk tale “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” is rendered in gorgeous hand-drawn animation that recalls both a children’s picture book and Japanese woodcuttings. This aesthetic and the title suggest the film’s shift in focus – rather than telling the story of the bamboo cutter who finds…

Log Horizon – Season 1

There are very few nerdy activities I haven’t partaken in at some point. I’ve played Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve beaten the Queensland State Champion at Scrabble. I’ve assembled and painted two Warhammer 40,000 armies. I’ve written Neon Genesis Evangelion fan fiction. I’ve played pretty much every prominent collectible card game you can name – Pokémon,…

Shrew’s Nest (2014)

The nation-centric film festivals that flit their way through Australian capitals tend to offer the same sort of fare, for better or worse: a mix of arthouse indies, accessible comedies and the occasional crime drama. As a horror/thriller film, Shrew’s Nest is an outlier in the 2015 Spanish Film Festival lineup. Directors Juanfer Andrés and…