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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Movie News: Australian Box Office Figures In 2011


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Top 10 highest grossing films of 2011 in Australia

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - $52.5 million
2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon - $37.3 million
3. The Hangover Part II - $32.6 million
4. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 - $28.5 million
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - $27.2 million
6. Bridesmaids - $27.1 million
7. Fast & Furious 5 - $25.2 million
8. Tangled - $22.2 million
9. Red Dog - $21.4 million
10. Cars 2 - $20.1 million

Runner Ups

The Smurfs ($19.8 million)
Kung Fu Panda 2 ($19.4 million
Thor ($18.9 million)

References: Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Village Roadshow, Legendary Pictures, Walt Disney, Universal Pictures, Roadshow Film Distributors, Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar, Google News, IMDB, Box Office Mojo, News Limited, Fairfax Media

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Release Movie Reviews: Now Showing - 29th December 2011 - Fairfax Media


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This week's box office summary

Tintin takes top spot

The massively hyped Steven Spielberg film The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn slipped into the No.1 berth on Boxing Day, taking $1.488 million. (There will be a full Boxing Day box office report as soon as all figures are available.)

★★★1/2 (87 min) G
In what is probably their most enjoyable outing yet, the Alvin troupe get stuck on a remote island after a mishap on a cruise liner involving a hand glider. The central tension at the core of this typically joke-crammed adventure involves a neatly packaged coming-of-age theme; their father/manager Dave (Jason Lee) is way over-protective of the chipmunks, especially with Alvin who, despite his mischievousness, is eager to demonstrate some adult-like responsibility. Once again the slimy-but-likeable David Cross is aboard as the resident sort-of bad guy. There’s also a pleasantly crazy person (Jenny Slate, from TV’s Bored to Death) marooned on the island, along with a cache of hidden treasure and a boiling volcano, which we constantly cut to so as to keep the pace from flagging. As well as being difficult to fault as pure-grain kids entertainment, Alvin 3 is, by any fair measure, a far better animated film than Tintin. Yeah, you read that right. General.

(103 min; PG) ★★
HERE's the mildly anticipated sequel to the 2006 animated smash about penguins who sing and dance and worry about the damage being inflicted on their fragile habitat by evil man and his global-warming ways. This time around the hero penguin is Erik (voiced by Ava Acres), son of the first film’s hero Mumble (Elijah Wood). He returns from an opening-reel adventure to find that his entire colony literally stuck down a depression in the ice caused by global warming. With George Miller at the helm (he co-directed the first one with Warren Coleman and Judy Morris), one would have expected a lot more movement, tension and excitement given his Mad Max legacy. Yet the film feels tired and stagnant, with too little sense of threat and too many same-same song and dance numbers. Oddly, a ripper B-story involving two rogue krill — voiced by Matt Damon and Brad Pitt — plays like a fun Finding Nemo knock-off and proves more imaginative and lively than anything else going on. It’s easy to see why HF2 hasn’t clicked at the American box office.

General release

(107 min; PG) ★★
Steven Spielberg’s monstrously over-hyped attempt to bring the mischievous, adventure-loving cartoon character created by Belgian artist Herge to life is a major misfire. The problem is that Tintin's not really much of a character. With no back-story, no humour, no real emotion, he’s basically an exposition-spouting cypher designed to push the plot forward. There’s no real engagement with Tintin, his accomplices or enemies. You don’t even care much for his dog. As for the motion-capture animation, it merely replicates the soulless look we saw in The Polar Express (2004).

General release

(146 min; M) ★★★
Never mind Tintin. Far more worthy of note is Steven Spielberg’s other post-Christmas offering, a stirring, elegant World War I tale following the journey of a horse from the farm where it was raised, to its service on both sides, to being lost on the corpse-soaked battlefields of the Somme. Despite expectations he would imbue the story with the hard-edged we saw in Schindler’s List (1993), Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Munich (2005), Spielberg is very much in 1980s mode here; emotions are heightened; melodrama is dialled up; the images have a rich, pastel lustre; the tone is unfailingly humanist. And while he powerfully conveys the battlefield slaughter of men being mowed down, he refrains from the extremes we saw in Ryan’s opening reel. Some might find that a tad disappointing but it fits with the style of this most affecting film.
General release

(105 min; M) ★★1/2
While everyone is buzzing about Meryl Streep’s admittedly impressive performance as bullish British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in this biopic, nobody seems overly concerned about what a rather average film it is. Streep looks, sounds, moves like the Thatcher we know from decades of news footage — and kudos to that Oscar-destined hair and make-up team — but she ultimately delivers an impersonation rather than a character. The film is too choppy, episodic and often incoherent, cramming too much life into too little space as the film skates through the highlights of her career like a hastily cobbled documentary. Director Phyllida Lloyd also directed Streep in the featherweight musical romp Mamma Mia! (2008); how that qualified her to do a political character study is one for the ages.
General release

(109 min; M) ★★★1/2
While Meryl Streep is receiving a heap of pre-Oscar love for her turn in The Iron Lady, Glenn Close provides an infinitely more textured and engaging performance in this unusual, deftly handled period drama. Set in 1800s Ireland, Close plays a timid woman who must masquerade as a man to maintain her low-paying job as a hotel butler. With terrific support from the under-appreciated Janet McTeer (Tumbleweeds; Songcatcher) and another impressive turn from Mia Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right; Alice in Wonderland), Nobbs is a moving, well-etched, humour-peppered film about survival and one small person’s dream of liberation.
Selected release

(120 min; MA) ★★1/2
Identity issues of the deepest, darkest hue are examined with scant regard for taste as veteran Spanish weird-meister Pedro Almodovar takes us on a singularly perverse journey. His long-time collaborator Antonio Banderas (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!) plays a doctor whose adventures in plastic surgery are first driven by science, then by something much more disturbing. While Almodovar has become more sedate and thoughtful with his latter work, the extremes here require the transgressive snap of his earlier, younger self.
Banderas puts in a beguiling central performance but the whole ends up as less than the sum of its parts.
Selected release

(124 min; PG) ★★★
Those with discerning children who love animals are in for an uplifting blast with this tender-hearted Disneyesque dramedy in which Matt Damon ups his family-movie cred as a widowed dad who quits journalism to run a run-down zoo. As pleasant as it is predictable, Damon is winning as the dad, Scarlett Johansson is winsome as the dedicated zookeeper and it’s refreshing to once again see movie animals that do not require any digital assist. As a crowd-pleaser, We Bought a Zoo hits all the right buttons.

General release

(104 min; M) ★★
For action, excitement, laughter and a killer payoff, Brett Ratner’s new movie should have popped; Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy lead the staff at a plush hotel to get even with the high-rolling shyster (Alan Alda) who defrauded them of their life savings. But what starts out as a solid, character-driven caper movie downshifts into a disposable lark the second Murphy turns up as an ex-con doing a latter-day version of his 48 Hours shtick. A wasted opportunity. If one Summer film screams ‘‘Wait for DVD’’, it has to be this.

General release

★★★ (121 min) MA
ENJOYABLE, rambling Italian romantic comedy in which a triptych of stories play with the theme of infidelity over the different stages of life. Robert De Niro puts in a funny turn as an aging scholar who is attracted to his best friend's deceitful, very sexy mature-aged daughter, played very ably by Monica Bellucci.
Selected release

★★★ (97 min) M
THE soul-crushing emotional fallout from a horrendous car accident impels the conscience-stricken perpetrator (Brit Marling) to assess at close quarters the devastation she has inflicted on her victim (William Mapother). This quiet, contemplative psychological drama about guilt and identity is framed by a cleverly embroidered sci-fi conceit involving the discovery of a twin Earth. Marling co-wrote the screenplay with director Mike Cahill. A quality arthouse film.
Selected release

★★★ (97 min) G
IN THIS winning, Pixar-style animated adventure Santa's nerdy son Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) goes rogue to deliver a gift to the one kid in the world who fell off the delivery list. Fabulous design work renders Santa's one-night operation as a high-tech answer to the age-old kiddie query about how every kid can be visited in one night. At times the pacing is so fast it's hard to keep track of all the sub-stories, but the central point about preserving the real meaning of Christmas in a distraction-clogged world is pleasantly and repeatedly punched.
General release

★★ 1/2 (88 min) MA
VICIOUS aliens descend upon a housing block but find their plans thwarted by a gang of thugs who go from mugging women to defending their neighbours. Well-made on a low budget, writer-director Joe Cornish (who also co-wrote the upcoming Steven Spielberg confection The Adventures of Tintin) squeezes in a bit of sociology 101 amid the low-rent cartoon violence and gore. Nick Frost puts in good support as a weed dealer whose fortified apartment comes in handy.
Selected release

★★★ (109 min) M
LOVING, longform documentary by Lynn-Maree Milburn and Richard Lowenstein about the rocky, inventive, drug-addled musical journey of the late Rowland S Howard, the Melbourne muso at the heart of the Birthday Party, the Boys Next Door, Crime and the City Solution and These Immortal Souls. The film blends contemporary interviews - including Nick Cave, Howard, various collaborators and girlfriends - with archival footage in what is essentially a barbed valentine to a near-genius talent whose potential was hobbled by the wrong sort of indulgences. Cave's revelation about how he felt singing Shivers, Howard's classic doomed-love ode, is but one of many highlights. Fans will love it; non-fans will get a strong taste of the hedonistic alt.universe these people inhabited.
Selected release

★★★1/2 (87 min) PG
WHILE many make spurious claims to being urban eccentrics, veteran New York photographer Bill Cunningham has a credential that defies question. Despite being one of the most sought after fashion and society people in the city, Cunningham has long refused to accept money for work that could have earned him millions. He lives in a small apartment at Carnegie Hall, pedals from job to job on an old bike, enjoys the love and respect of everyone he works with and credits his enviable level of happiness and contentment to a lifestyle free of the tyranny of money. Director Richard Press interviews many New York notables - Vogue editor Anna Wintour; author Tom Wolfe - and while his roving camera captures Cunningham's natural effervescence he does manage one remarkable moment that hints at one of the reasons for Cunningham's appreciation of life. It's as moving as it is unexpected.
Selected release

★★★1/2 (117 min) MA
EASY as it would be to leap upon the Twilight-bashing bandwagon, this latest film in the phenomenally successful teen-pleasing vampires-vs-werewolves romantic saga is the most engaging, incident-packed, dramatically satisfying yarn yet. The mood is darker, the stakes are higher and - lo! - the acting from the young cast is actually convincing. There’s less action, admittedly, but that’s only because the gnarled love triangle between pasty-faced vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson), ab-ripped werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and sourpuss mortal Bella (Kristen Stewart) has become more twisted than ever. Having finally tied the knot, Edward and Bella honeymoon in Rio. After a bed-smashing session of sex - the film’s first half is thankfully peppered with humour - Bella discovers she's got a little vampire gestating inside her. It’s a first for the vampires, and very bad news; not only could the mini-Drac kill Bella, the werewolves decide to void their truce with the vamps and kill her. This puts Jacob in a sticky spot, having to choose between his tribe and the woman he loves. The film has been hit by some pretty nasty reviews from Variety (‘‘ unconsummated opportunity’’), Screen International (‘‘dramatically leaden tale’’), The Guardian (‘‘boring’’) and The Hollywood Reporter (‘‘You can practically hear every second ticking by’’). These are unfair for what none mention, and what deserves high praise, is that the film is perfectly consistent in tone, style and emotional pitch as the first three. Director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters; Dreamgirls) clearly knew better than to mess with the formula. And the film certainly can’t be faulted for not catering to fan expectations. Within the opening 60 seconds Lautner rips off his shirt and bears that cobblestone torso. Now that’s respecting your audience.
General release

★★★★1/2 (109 min) MA
THE anger, depression, denial and surprising sense of renewal that are roused in the wake of personal tragedy are perfectly captured by director Jonathan Teplitzky (Better Than Sex; Gettin' Square) in this outstanding, touching, funny/sad, deeply human drama. British actor Matthew Goode is exceptional as Tom, a Sydney cook with more chips on his shoulder than in his deep fryer who believes grief entitles him to take advantage of other people's tolerances. The film's first reel is an intricately arranged jumble of images and conflicting emotions that slowly start to make sense as the story solidifies. As Tom's fiery, sexy partner Sarah, Melbourne actress Bojana Novakovic is a revelation in a demanding role that traverses a huge range of emotions. Up until now Snowtown had the running as the year's best Australian film. It now has serious competition.
General release

★★★★1/2 (90 min) G
PROLIFIC, eccentric, intermittently brilliant German director Werner Herzog (Fitzcaraldo; Rescue Dawn; Lessons of Darkness) hits cinematic pay dirt here as he explores the recently discovered Chauvet cave complex of Southern France, bringing its extraordinary array of prehistoric paintings to vivid life through the splendid deployment of digital 3D photography. Herzog narrates in his usual dour, semi-poetic style, though the film’s tone is more upbeat and life-affirming than the nihilism we saw in the semi-doc fantasy The Wild Blue Yonder (‘‘We aliens suck!’’) and his brilliant Grizzly Man. As with the extraordinary Wim Wenders film Pina, Cave showcases just how effectively the 3D process can be used to enhance the artistry, themes and feeling of a beautifully crafted documentary. Both films actually make good on the oft-spouted rhetoric about the immersive quality 3D can give a film’s narrative. Seems these Germans are on to something.
Selected release

★ (106 min) M
A MAJOR-league bore. A virus takes hold, spreads, slowly kills people. There’s a race for a vaccine, an unkempt blogger claiming to tell the truth, low-level civil unrest as panic takes hold. Despite an all-star cast - Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Elliott Gould - the film is a two-act drudge directed with a plodding sense of self-importance by Steven Soderbergh (Traffic; The Girlfriend Experience). Think of Wolfgang Petersen’s magnificently entertaining 1995 virus-on-the-rampage adventure Outbreak, take out the drama, excitement and involving characters, and that’s Contagion in a nutshell.
General release

★★★1/2 (114 min) MA
IN THIS absolute ripper political thriller by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love; Killshot), three Mossad agents - Rachel (Jessica Chastain) Stephan (Marton Csokas) and David (Sam Worthington) - attempt to kidnap Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen) from behind the Iron Curtain in 1966. Fuelled by righteous fervour and the lust for revenge they are faced with a morally crippling dilemma when their meticulous, ingenious plan goes askew. Thirty years later, the consequences of a mission they thought long buried revisit them. (The older characters are played by Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds respectively) After showing promise as an action man in the under-seen Killshot, Madden proves himself a terrific director of tension, while Christensen (Mr White from the last two Bond films) delivers one of the most unapologetic Nazi creeps in film history. Strong themes about truth, justice and political expediency underpin a double-jointed, deeply satisfying film.
General release

★★★ (102 min) M
LOOK, if we really have to pull our heads out of the comforting sand and take stock of just how self-indulgent, soul-crushing and morally corrupt modern Western society has become then we might as well have Pria Viswalingam as our guide. An SBS veteran, Viswalingam applies the droll commentary and dry wit that have long been his signature to a sobering walk-through of those things that account for the present state of things. Underscoring his interviews and pop analysis is the sense that the degeneration is part of a historical cycle wherein the success and ingenuity that accounts for the rise of a civilisation inevitably ferments into laziness and cultural self-obsession.
Cinema Nova

★★★1/2 (113 min) PG
WHEN failing school kid Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) happens upon an injured dolphin trapped by evil fishing nets, we know his time at summer school is not going to go as planned. He forms a bond with the creature as it is cared for at the nearby, soon-to-be-shut aquarium. When its tail is amputated, he rallies the support of his single mother (Ashley Judd), who teams up with the facility’s single manager (Harry Connick jnr) to help save the place. Extremely well-directed by Charles Martin Smith(star of the acclaimed 1983 Disney film Never Cry Wolf), Dolphin Tale is an upbeat, factually inspired tweenage film with an eco-friendly message involving community action and the value of life-changing prosthetics. It’s also smart enough to incorporate a comic-relief pelican, some enjoyably cheesy 3D sequences and a Methuselah-like Kris Kristofferson, who chimes in nicely to punch some points about family togetherness.
General release

★ (100 min) MA

ULTRA-violent, ultra-tedious, bargain-basement rip-off of the classic 1978 Walter Hill film The Driver. Ryan Gosling plays a robotic, monosyllabic stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver. He's something of a control freak. People get shot, blood spurts everywhere, he slowly loses control. Yawn. Comedian Albert Brooks (Lost in America; Broadcast News; the lead voice in Finding Nemo) puts in a cringeworthy, unintentionally funny turn as one of moviedom's least scariest villains. Directed without much of a clue by Nicolas Winding Refn (Pusher 1,2,3; Bronson).
General release

★★★1/2 (103 min) M
AFTER the Kenyan government announces free primary education for all, 84 year old Maruge (Oliver Litondo) presents himself at the local school gate demanding that teacher Jane Obinchu (Naomie Harris) teaches him how to read. While the far-from-pleasant consequences of his admission play out in the public arena - he becomes an instant celebrity whose appeal quickly sours - Maruge's horrific personal story begins to surface, detailing the tyrannical colonial rule of the British during the 1950s. Director Justin Chadwick (Spooks; The Other Boleyn Girl) does a proficient job at overcoming the dark themes of this true-life story by infusing the tale with a life-affirming, positive energy about the power of education.
Selected release

★★★ (91 min) M
Fans of New York artist Miranda July who enjoyed her wistful, wit-laden 2005 art film You, Me and Everyone We Know will eat up her latest, left-field offering. She plays Sophie, a dance teacher whose life with laconic, long-term boyfriend Jason (Hamish Linklater) begins bending out of shape thanks to such gloriously random elements as job dissatisfaction, global warming, YouTube envy, infidelity, time-freezing and a talking cat named Paw Paw (voiced by July). There's no conventional narrative here, just plenty of mind food for the open-minded.
Selected release

★★★★ (209 min) M
OUTSTANDING, comprehensive, compelling longform bio-doc by Martin Scorsese of George Harrison who, despite his tag as "the quiet Beatle", had quite a temper. Archival material blends seamlessly with contemporary interviews; as great as Harrison's Beatles days were, the film - actually a two-part TV special - comes into its own when detailing Harrison's remarkable post-break up life as a musician, sage and film producer.
Cinema Nova

★★★★ (101 min) M
THERE have been a lot of great films about politics and the ugly art of compromise. This is one of them. Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Meyers, a morally driven campaign worker determined to get his man, Democrat Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney), one step closer to the White House. Dedication is no compensation for naivety in a world of industrial-grade throat cutters, however; high-level manipulation swirls around him while his personal and professional plight is complicated by his involvement with intern Molly (Evan Rachel Wood). Clooney, who co-wrote with Grant Heslov, directs with cool-eyed focus on performance. Gosling is terrific, but the killer moments are delivered by vets Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman. A strong Oscar frontrunner, and solid proof that Clooney's superlative work on Good Night, and Good Luck (2005, which Heslov also co-wrote) was no fluke.
General release

★★ (111 min) MA
LARGELY boring, hyper-stylised sword-and-sandals digital epic in which the only saving grace are the glorious bursts of 300-style violence; blood splashes and spurts from severed limbs and decapitated heads with an almost balletic beauty. Fans of Mickey Rourke will delight in how his acting style has now evolved to the point where he is almost impossible to understand. Directed by Tarsem Singh (The Cell).
General release

★★1/2 (97 min) MA
BOUNCING off the popular TV series, this raucous, coarse, mildly amusing American Pie-wannabe comedy follows a quartet of randy high school chums as they go on holiday looking to score. Passable fun for undemanding fans who can't wait for the DVD.
General release

★ (109 min) M
EMINENTLY silly sci-fi clunker about a near-future dystopia where nobody physically ages over 25 but have to earn, win or steal the privilege to live longer. Poor people, like working schlub Will Salas (Justin Timberlake), literally live day-by-day in constant fear of dropping dead should the green day-glo counters on their forearms hits zero; rich, powerful people, such as Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried) have the luxury of accruing hundreds, even thousands, of years. Naturally the two hook up and are chased by bad guys hoping to catch them before the horrible truth about how the world works is exposed. Writer/director Andrew Niccol, best known for Gattaca (1997) and for writing the execrable The Truman Show (1998), takes a great premise and totally trashes it with limp storytelling and astonishingly bad filmmaking; the narrative is ridden with fatal holes, the continuity totally reeks - either that or Sylvia has a cache of high heels stashed in her purse - and the film easily beats Steven Spielberg's Minority Report (2002) for having the most half-assed futuristic concepts in film history.
General release

★★★ (91 min) PG
IN THIS comedy from Adam Sandler, a commercial director (Sandler) grits his teeth for the arrival of his annoying twin sister (Sandler). Nobody other than Sandler fans will have any interest in seeing him do drag in his over-the-top style but they shall not be disappointed. The killer sell here is the comic contribution by Al Pacino who appears more than happy to mock his formidable film legacy — The Godfather, Scarface, etc — for the sake of rousing some very funny off-colour gags.
General release

★ (136min) M
AFTER an awkward wedding between a daffy bride (a perfectly cast Kirsten Dunst) and a tolerant groom (Alexander Skarsgard), it transpires that the Earth is about to be swallowed whole by another planet. It’ll mean the end of everything. And do we care? Let’s just say that never in the history of films about an impending apocalypse has such a motley collection of mind-grindingly dull characters made you wish for the destruction of all life on the planet to come as quickly as possible. Lars von Trier has proven himself a provocative, intermittently brilliant director with films such as Dogville, AntiChrist and Zentropa, but with this slice of tripe one suspects his playful attitude to audience expectations has prompted him to produce a deliberately bad, visually ugly work designed to test our tolerance for his indulgences. No sale, Lars. If only the film had a shred of the lyricism we witness in the film’s haunting introductory montage.
Selected release

★★1/2 (94 min) PG
IN THIS souffle-light Woody Allen confection, a frustrated screenwriter (Owen Wilson) yearns to be taken seriously as a novelist. While in Paris with his wife-to-be (Rachel McAdams) he finds he can time travel back to the 1920s and mix with artistic greats such as Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Picasso and Salvador Dali. He, of course, falls for his guide (Marion Cotillard) and starts to doubt his happiness with his present-day betrothed. It’s passable Woody waffle designed strictly for fans; the great cast, which also includes Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates and Adrien Brody, shine in their too-small roles, with Wilson working his amiable persona for all it’s worth. A nice time-killer, but far from Woody Allen’s A-list films, such as Match Point (2005), Bullets Over Broadway (1994) and Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008).
Selected release

★★★★ (133 min) M
AFTER the mediocrity of M:I3, it was not going to be hard for the Tom Cruise high-concept action franchise to cook up something that, frankly, didn’t suck. The great news is the new adventure is a thrilling, stunt-packed ride that delivers on every level; the stakes are higher as Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his rag-tag crew (Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton) are forced to go rogue after being accused of a bombing. As tech expert, Pegg (Shaun of the Dead; Hot Fuzz) graces the film with a distinctly British lacing of humour while director Brad Bird (The Incredibles; Ratatouille) proves he is more than capable of handling big-scale action numbers, such as when Hunt scales the pointy end of the world’s tallest skyscraper. Patton (so good as the teacher from Precious) acquits herself admirably as she cracks wise and kicks ass, while Renner (The Hurt Locker; The Town) is terrific as a desk jockey who suddenly finds himself in the middle of all the shooting. An unmissable Mission, a top-notch serving of popcorn entertainment.
General release

★★★★ (133 min) M
THE key reason American cinema rules when it comes to sport movies is because they often have less to do with sport and more to do with rich metaphors about life, society, religion and all-consuming passion. The superb, sedate, Oscar-bound Moneyball is merely the latest example, offering a prime cut of fact-based sports drama about a struggling baseball team that creates a hot new line up by using bold statistical analysis. In one of his best performances to date, Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, the manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team who up-ends the organisation's modus operandi by poaching Peter Brand (Jonah Hill, in a career highlight) a pudgy number cruncher. He explains the formula that will allow Beane to buy under-valued players at bargain prices. This, of course, means letting go of existing members, a task Brand is forced to learn as part of his initiation into the brutal baseball world where trades and wins count more than loyalty. What makes this downbeat, beautifully shot drama so immersive is how the movie's universe is defined almost totally in baseball terms, where the game means everything. Based on the best-seller Michael Lewis and directed by Bennett Miller (Capote), the screenplay is by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network; The West Wing) and Steve Zaillian (Schindler's List; American Gangster). The painterly cinematography by Wally Pfister (Inception; The Dark Knight) uses the natural lighting techniques pioneered by Gordon Willis (The Godfather), making each frame glow.
General release

★★ (118 min) M
THERE'S simply way too much going on in Garry Marshall's omnibus rom-com, a follow-up of sorts to his similarly styled Valentine's Day. A dozen or so stories are thrown at you in a blizzard of cross-cutting, producing an episodic, over-long jumble of half-baked ideas, semi-formed characters and scenes of forced emotion. Zac Efron and Michelle Pfeiffer chime in with the best story about a courier who tries to make a middle-aged officer worker's New Year's Eve special, and Sarah Jessica Parker does a good mother-daughter act with a rapidly growing Abigail Breslin, and Halle Berry provides a sizable surprise. But the rest of the try-hard cast -- including Hilary Swank, Jessica Biel, Katherine Heigl and Jon Bon Jovi -- draw blanks in what is essentially the cinematic equivalent of worn carbon paper. For undemanding romantics only.
General release

★★★1/2 (90 min) PG
WE ALL had very good reason to be suspicious but, thankfully, this sub-franchise of the Shrek series feels fresh, brandishing a distinctive comic snap as well as a beautifully rendered, high-key fairy-tale world that looks very different from its parent. Riffing on the myth-mash premise of Shrek, Latino adventurer Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas again providing the voice) hooks up with sexy female foil Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) to climb the beanstalk of legend and retrieve the goose that lays the golden eggs. Amidst all the colour and movement, director Chris Miller (co-director on Shrek the Third) somehow shoehorns in a strong sub-story about betrayal and the resilient nature of friendship. Wisely, he has also spared us the cascade of pop references that define the Shrek films, something for which we will be forever grateful.
General release

★1/2 (91 min) M
IN THAT weird arthouse movie netherworld where teenagers have all the time in the world to indulge their whims and work through their issues, a death-obsessed Enoch (Henry Hopper, son of Dennis) visits funerals of people he doesn’t know. While trying to understand his own loss he befriends the similarly eccentric Annabel (Mia Wasikowska) whose own situation casts a fresh light on Enoch’s closed world. While it clearly sounds good on paper, it’s just more stylistic posturing from director Gus Van Sant (Paranoid Park), whose minimalist musings are here garnished by the unnecessary presence of the spirit of a Japanese kamikaze pilot. Largely dull, emotionally inert, imminently forgettable.
Selected release

★★ (112 min) M
STEVE Wiseau's unfairly trashed romantic drama might have terrible acting, dialogue and direction, but pay attention - the story actually holds together. Not as bad a film as legend makes out. Cries to be remade.
Cinema Nova

★★★1/2 (104 min) MA
BOILING with rage over the death of his mate, Iraq war veteran Fergus (Mark Womack) mounts an ad-hoc investigation into how he died, a morally bumpy journey triggered by the contents of a borrowed mobile phone. Social realist maestro Ken Loach, again working from a screenplay by long-time collaborator Paul Laverty (Looking for Eric, It's a Free World, Ae Fond Kiss) delves into the murky world of the highly paid war-zone security contractor with this absorbing, superbly acted drama. Typically jagged in its emotions, the film mounts a head-on collision between moral righteousness and what is right. And be warned: the film contains a genuinely startling torture sequence that speaks volumes about the true value of "enhanced coercive interrogation techniques". Loach is now 75 and, as with most directors of his vintage, just gets better with age.
Cinema Nova

★★★ (77 min) G
IN THIS fun, ultra-light French-Australian movie a Sydney orphan named Nicholas is tapped to replace the current Santa as he approaches mandatory retirement age. Given that Santa's job involves flying and walking about on rooftops, Nicholas, of course, suffers from a fear of heights that he must overcome. The sprightly traditional animation offers some ocular relief from all that highly detailed CGI we've become a tad too used to. Voice talents include Shane Jacobson and Delta Goodrem; directed by Luc Vinciguerra, who made SantApprentice, the 2006 French TV series upon which this is based.
General release

★★★ (79 min) M
A VERY good, though far from even-handed argument-starter about the death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee who died in a police station 45 minutes after being taken in for swearing at long-serving Queensland police office Christopher Hurley. The police side of things is covered comprehensively and a fair account is given of Hurley's commitment to helping indigenous people, but the film treads too lightly through the issue of Queensland's police culture and too obviously takes sides. But whether that's permissible in a well-made, inflammatory documentary such as this is another rich debating topic.
Selected release

★★★1/2 (106 min)
AFTER Mad Bastards, here's another confronting, insightful film about male aboriginal culture that is likely to find almost no audience. Set in a remote Aboriginal community, this disturbing, documentary-style drama by writer/director Ivan Sen (Beneath Clouds) tracks the influence of poor male role models on a neglected young boy. Not an "up" film by any means, but very worthwhile. Likely to disappear very quickly, so catch it while you can.
Selected release

★★★ (43 min)
TERRIFIC, occasionally chilling IMAX documentary about crazy/brave scientists who collect valauble, life-saving data from the heart of the tornado-producing storms that annually torment an axis of states in America's farmbelt. It's when the chase music and the fruity narration by Bill Paxton (star of the 1996 tornado thriller Twister) goes quiet that things really take off as director Sean Casey and his crew venture into the heart of tornadoes. The home-made armoured vehicle Casey uses looks like a joke at the film's beginning but by the end you respect it as clearly being the only thing that could survive the ferocity this film so vividly captures.

★★ (140 min) M
HERE'S a theory about how this bland, fight-themed cardboard drama came about: a couple of studio suits paid a visit to Hollywood's fabled Autowrite computer, which specialises in spitting out screenplays according to a supplied formula. They showed it Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler and David O Russell's The Fighter, then said to Autowrite: "Do us one of these, but about mixed martial arts". Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton play warring brothers from a broken family who are forced together when their bedraggled ex-alcoholic dad (Nick Nolte - who else?) tries getting back into their lives. Grainy, hand-held cinematography can't lend authenticity to the forced emotion. The film is being plugged as being from "The director of Miracle". Miracle was a fine film, but Gavin O'Connor also directed the terrible cop drama Pride and Glory (2008), which provides a much more accurate measure of the mediocrity of Warrior. Even the brutal fight scenes are a mess. If you have no idea what mixed martial arts is going into this film, you'll emerge none the wiser.
General release

★★★ (99 min) M
WITH noble intentions, artist Vik Muniz descends into the garbage dump of Rio de Janeiro — the world’s largest — with a project designed to humanise the ‘‘pickers’’ who sort through the trash for recyclable material. Contrary to what he expected, Muniz discovers a collective of co-workers who are proud and ambitious. As he involves a few in his portraits, he wonders whether exposing them to a new life is ethical. A very good film about the power art has to change the people it graces.
Selected release

★★ (102 min) M
AS THE faithful jostle with the world’s media at the Vatican, a cluster of cardinals elect a new pope. Trouble begins when the winner, Cardinal Melville (Michel Piccoli), has second thoughts about the gig and escapes, while officials try to hide the truth. It’s a high-energy comic idea hobbled by low-energy treatment from director Nanni Moretti (The Son’s Room). Still, it’s ornate and looks great, which will be a plus for those into papal pomposity.
Selected release

★★★★ (112min) MA
AS SUBURBAN middle-American mum Eva, Tilda Swinton is a piercing study of parental frustration as her devious, manipulative teenage son Kevin (Ezra Miller) confounds her every attempt to connect with him. Whether he is inherently bad or picked it up from her is just one of the tornado of questions swirling through her increasingly confused mind; when Kevin buddies up with his dad (John C Reilly), he seems to be doing it only to annoy her. Directed with unsettling quiet by Lynne Ramsay (Morvern Callar; she also co-wrote the screenplay with Rory Kinnear, from the book by Lionel Shriver), We Need to Talk About Kevin joins Ben Coccio's jaw-dropping video verite Zero Day and Gus Van Sant's artful Elephant (both 2003) to complete an informal, disturbing trilogy of post-Columbine American films about the tortured psychology behind high school killing sprees.
Selected release

★★★ (102 min) PG
THE well-off rarely score an even break in French cinema, and in this pleasant, slight social satire, director Philippe Le Guay adheres to tradition by using the rich to reflect the dignity of the working class. Set in a lushly appointed apartment building in 1962 Paris, Jean-Louise Joubert (Fabrice Luchini) is a typical stuffed shirt who becomes infatuated with the Spanish maids who reside on the sixth floor. At first his affections are for Maria (Natalia Verbeke), but he soon takes on the staff’s cause to be treated decently. There are dabs of social commentary, but Le Guay strenuously keeps the story from straying into more prickly territory. With this film, The Help and the upcoming comedy Tower Heist, it seems 2011 is the unofficial year of servants who push back on their masters.
Selected release

★★★ (86 min) MA
TWO Kings Cross hookers hook up for a night of running, screaming and ultra-violence. Veteran call girl Holly (Viva Bianca) recruits fresh-off-the-bus Shay (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) for a lucrative threesome. It's Holly's last night on the job, Shay's first and when they witness a client's murder the chasing doesn't stop. Sydney filmmaker and low-budget specialist Jon Hewitt (Redball; Acolytes) captures the seedy allure of the Cross well and keeps the pace brisk, though the convenient cliche of the corrupt cop is getting tired. Fans of his work won't be disappointed.
Selected release

★★★1/2 (157 min) R
GAMBLING addicted Korean cab driver (Jung-woo Ha) can't get a break; he's hopeless at the gaming table, there's no sign of the wife who deserted him and the gentlemen to whom he is in debt are now making very personal house calls to see how those payments are coming along. An offer to clear his ledger in exchange for one small crime takes him to the titular region between Russia, North Korea and China where a chance to find his wife is bundled in with a fabulously gritty, pacy, often gory adventure. Written and directed by Na Hong-jin (2008's The Chaser), the film is an extremely well-mounted, tense, ultra violent slice of Asian action cinema, graced with little dialogue, some great fights and a sensational Bourne-style car chase.
Cinema Nova

★★★ (95 min) PG
PUNCHY 2008 documentary about punchy Kiran Bedi, the Indian Police Service's first female recruit whose loud-mouthed, head-strong, barrier-shattering personality proved the pea in the bed of the institution's change-averse bureaucracy. Director Megan Doneman neatly frames Bedi's ball-busting style with open acknowledgment from family and officials about the Jovian size of her publicity-addicted ego. But it's all purpose-driven. She courageously rails against the corruption she discovers in the please-quit postings foisted upon her and her can-do attitude is often stirring. Sadly, she recognises how she is more an anomaly than a trail blazer in a system dedicated to suppressing reform.
Cinema Nova

(Credit: Fairfax Media)

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Robert De Niro welcomes baby girl; Best 5 Gangster Movies Of All Time


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Actor Robert De Niro and his wife Grace Hightower became the proud parents of a baby girl born via a surrogate on Friday 24th the actor's spokesman confirmed.

The child is the second for De Niro, 68, and Hightower, 56, and has been named Helen Grace Hightower De Niro.

The Meet the Parents and The Godfather Part II star married actress Hightower in 1997, and the couple have a son, Elliot, born in 1998.

De Niro also has a son and adopted daughter with ex-wife Diahnne Abbott and two twin sons with former girlfriend Toukie Smith.

The actor can currently be seen in the star-studded, feel-good film New Year's Eve.

In 2001 De Niro stared in Killer Elite with Australian actor Firass Dirani.

De Niro is acknowledged as one of the greatest actors of all time.

Best 5 Gangster Movies Of All Time...

Gangster movies are as cool as ever. In Australia we have to settle for Underbelly, Underbelly Razor (now in an Uncut DVD set), and then there was Dirty Deeds (collecting money from pokie dens et al) from a few years back. Gangster movies serve as history, entertainment and commentary. With a combination of violence, betrayal, power and family, it is no surprise gangster movies are so popular. Here's our Top 5 Gangster Movies of all time.

5. Scarface

Oliver Stone wrote the screenplay and Brian De Palma directed this movie that reflected the violent chaos that cocaine brought to Miami in the late 70s and early 80s. Al Pacino gave an epic performance as Cuban immigrant turned drug lord, Tony Montana. Lots of violence, done in a way that makes the movie even better.

4. Casino

“Casino” was written by Nicholas Pileggi and directed by Martin Scorcese. It is based on the real life story of Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, but the protagonist’s name was changed to Sam "Ace" Rothstein. Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone give excellent performances and Robbie Robertson did an excellent job providing the music for the movie. You don't have to be a fan of gambling to appreciate this classic movie.

3. The Godfather

Directed Francis Ford Coppola and written by Coppola and Mario Puzo, “The Godfather” is an epic tale of the fictitious Corleone mafia crime family and their struggles. Marlon Brando gives the performance of a lifetime and Al Pacino is amazing in his break out role.

2. Goodfellas

Nicholas Pillegi wrote and Martin Scorcese directed this real life story of mafia affiliate, Henry Hill. With its raw depiction of criminal life, “Goodfellas” takes away whatever romance and glamour that other movies have attributed to mob life.

1. The Godfather II

Again written by Mario Puzo and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, “Godfather II” expands on the original by both going forward and backward, covering the origins of the original Godfather, Vito Corleone. The epic tale shows how crime took down Cuba and features great performances by Pacino and DeNiro as well as Lee Srassberg who played the Meyer Lansky based character, Hyman Roth.


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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Casino To Be Built On Fiji's Denarau Island; American Multimillionaire Wins Development Contract, by Greg Tingle


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An American multimillionaire has won the development contract to build a massive land based casino on Fiji's Denarau Island, one of the nations prime tourist destinations for New Zealanders.

Military ruler Voreqe Bainimarama has over-ruled long standing chiefly and church objections to announce that Larry Claunch, who describes himself as an investor, will get an exclusive license to build a casino on the island that will be home to at least 500 slot machines and 54 tables, and they home - lots of happy punters and entertainment lovers.

The well-to-do entrepreneur will also be permitted to construct a smaller casino in Suva.

The regime advertised internationally for expressions of interest earlier this year. New Zealand's well known casino group, SkyCity, was in the mix of those interested.

The license will be held by Claunch's One Hundred Sands Ltd, which will operate the casino with the Snoqualmie Tribe from Washington state and Seventh Generation LLC, a Native American company.

The impressive deal includes a US$290 million ($378 million) five star, 190-room resort on the manmade Denarau Island, which already has several hotels on it and timeshares.

Bainimarama said they would protect the rights and interests of Fijian people. A casino "provides a malleable fusion between the Western ideals of casino gaming with the strong cultural virtues of tribal and community life", he said.

He also pointed out that the casino would provide 800 jobs.

"Fiji does not wish to imitate Las Vegas in the Pacific. Fiji already has a unique brand, one defined by its uniquely pristine environment, tranquillity and world class hospitality."

Claunch advised the casino was "a union of both economic and cultural endeavours".

He also owns Nukudrau, a 19 hectare island in Savusavu Bay.

Claunch is confident he will be able to continue to ride his wave of success into Fiji, despite the casino industry hitting a number of ripples in recent years - a flow on effect from the global economic downturn. Just don't tell Claunch it won't work - he's a winner, and needless to say- his house always wins. Might see you in Fiji.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

WWE RAW World Tour 2012 - Sydney, Australia


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Presented by: Dainty Group

WWE's unique brand of action packed entertainment is returning to Australia with WWE RAW. Fans will be able to see all their favourite WWE Superstars including John Cena®, Alberto Del Rio®, CM Punk®, The Miz® and many more*.

*Card subject to change

WHEN: In Brisbane from 19.30, Thursday, August 30th
In Sydney from 19.30, Friday, August 31st
In Melbourne from 19.30, Saturday September 1st


Live from the Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Live from the Sydney AllPhones Arena
Live from the Melbourne Rod Laver Arena

Tickets go on sale on Thursday, December 8th at 9am and can be purchased at:
Charge by Phone: 132 849

* Card subject to change

Thu 30 Aug - Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Fri 31 Aug - Allphones Arena, Sydney
Sat 1 Sep - Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne


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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Crown Casino And Crown Limited News Update


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Australian land based casinos continue their entertainment push, with big name celebrities and more expensive casino re-vamps in the works. The massive casino image make-over may have started in 'Sin City' Sydney and spread to Melbourne, but now Perth is centre stage, but not without the usual hassles that are known to hit casinos. As they say, high risk, high rewards, and sometimes even the house doesn't win, which is good news for punters.

Crown emergency as toddler almost drowns - 12th December 2011...

A three-year-old boy who almost drowned in a pool at the Crown casino complex had been signed into the area by an adult.

Staff members found the boy floating face down in the pool just after 5pm yesterday.

Crown spokesman Gary O'Neill said a trained pool attendant responded to a call for help.

The boy was pulled unconscious from the water, he was treated at the scene and emergency services alerted, Mr O’Neill said.

It is understood family members were close by.

Mr O’Neill said, as was policy in the area, the child had been signed into the pool complex by an adult.

Intensive care paramedic Alan Eade said the boy was unconscious when he was pulled from the water.

"Staff put the boy on his side and tilted his head back, which helped open his airway [to] ensure he was breathing," Mr Eade said.

The Metropolitan Fire Brigade continued providing the boy with oxygen until paramedics arrived.
The boy was discharged from the Royal Children's Hospital.

Crown casino car fire sets off sprinklers - 13th December 2011...

A car on fire in the underground Crown casino carpark has sent plumes of smoke through one of its levels.

MFB fire crews were called to the scene about 4pm after the engine caught alight, setting off the basement's sprinklers.

Five fire crews were unable to drive trucks into the carpark and were forced to hook up to hydrants set up inside the basement.

The cause of the fire, which destroyed the car, is unknown.

An MFB spokesman said smoke extraction fans were being used to clear the smoke, which was billowing out the basement doors.

Burswood Entertainment Complex To Become Crown Perth...

James Packer has confirmed the Burswood Entertainment Complex will be renamed Crown Perth and "new and exciting" projects were coming up for the entertainment and gaming hotspot.

The new branding would place Burswood in a better position to compete with world-class integrated resorts popping up throughout Asia, and reinforced his belief in the complex and its future, Mr Packer said.

Speaking at the Burswood Convention Centre, the Crown Ltd boss said Australia was falling behind Asian nations such as Singapore, Macau and the Philippines in the increasingly lucrative but also competitive international tourism market.

One hundred million Chinese were expected to travel overseas by 2020, spending $800 billion per year.

Asian governments were playing a more active role in boosting their tourism sectors, funding multi-million dollar tourism infrastructure projects and heavily promoting their new integrated resorts in state tourism campaigns, Mr Packer said.

Macau, for example, had overtaken Las Vegas as the number one destination for gaming tourists. Singapore was projected to do so next year, while the Philippines had stated its aim to become number two in the market.

In return for the public investment, Singapore reaped its largest ever growth in global domestic product, 14.5 per cent.

Mr Packer said Australia was missing out and governments had to be more proactive in improving the country's international tourism appeal or the potential would slip away.

In particular, he called on the federal government to relax its policy on direct flights to Asia, improve the ease of access to Australian visas and make airports more efficient.

"We must listen to the customer and increase investment in tourism infrastructure and related services and activities," he said.

Crown Perth To Power Ahead

Burswood is half-way through a $750 million refurbishment instigated after Crown purchased the 26-year-old site in 2004.

It is due to be completed by the end of 2012, at which time it will become Crown Perth.
"I'm determined that this property will be at least as good as Crown Melbourne or Crown Macau," Mr Packer said.

"[The rebranding also would help] create two of the best integrated tourism resorts in our region and assist Australia to become a more attractive tourism destination for the critical Chinese tourism market.

"We don't think we're there yet in terms of this facility (Burswood). Putting the Crown brand on it is a statement that we are going to get there."

Mr Packer admitted his company would benefit financially from the state government's planned sports stadium at the site but said he had not been approached to pitch in for costs and nor would he have if he was asked.

"If asked, our response would have been we're not in the stadium business, they're not a good business," he said.

"Now that the Premier has decided to put it there, we're very grateful.

"It's going to fundamentally change the Burswood Peninsula."

Mr Packer all but confirmed the present golf course would have to go to make room for the stadium but said he would like to see it rebuilt at a later date.

"It's highly likely that we will, in time, develop new and exciting projects that aren't included in the $750 million capital expenditure," he said.

"Things like golf are part of trying to build a tourism destination that is truly world class.
"We want to do much more here. We believe in this city, we believe in this state, we think as a company we are lucky to be here."

The Perth waterfront redevelopment

Mr Packer said the state government's massive waterfront redevelopment would do wonders for the city's tourism appeal.

"This city has an almost unique opportunity to take some of the waterfront that is still available and to fantastic things," he said.

"One of the things that always excites me is to see that there's so much land available and so many great things that could be done with it."

Mr Packer said many of his customers would eventually engage more with Perth if their experience was good.

They would potentially send their children to education here or for medical services.

Crown Casino 'Aussie Millions' Poker Tournament In January; PartyPoker Offering Qualifiers...

Poker players have an opportunity to win a seat to the world famous Crown Casino 'Aussie Millions' Poker Championship coming in January 2012. Head on over to Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment's for more information. Good luck on the tables.

Punter's, remember, if you visit a casino you are taking a gamble - a bigger one than that you first bargained for. Little wonder for the rise in popularity of online casino games like the ones offered by Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment which now even has competitions where online poker players can win qualifiers to see them seated at Crown Casino 'Aussie Millions Poker Tournament' this coming January. Casino game players may also like to check out the vast selection of games such as slots, blackjack, roulette and craps at New players can get up to $3000 sign up bonus. Good luck.

*The writer owns shares in Crown Limited


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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Marvel Studios Considering ‘Game of Thrones’ Vets Alan Taylor and Daniel Minahan to Direct ‘Thor 2′; Will Also Hire a New Writer Marvel website website


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Marvel’s search for a Thor 2 director isn’t going as originally planned. Patty Jenkins was on tap to direct the sequel to the summer blockbuster, but left the project citing the generic “creative differences” bit as the reason why she is departing from directing Thor 2. The latest events have left Marvel scrambling to find someone to direct the movie before its November 15, 2013 release date.

According to THR, Marvel head to familiar ground but is coming back with some very unfamiliar names. The trade reports that Game of Thrones’ helmers Alan Taylor and Daniel Minahan are in the running to direct Thor 2. Marvel’s first choice for director was Brian Kirk, who also has Game of Thrones experience.

Some of Taylor’s credits include 1996’s Palookaville, but he has become a huge cable TV helmer, directing episodes of HBO’s Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos (Credit: IMDB)

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MARVEL, and all related characters and the distinctive likeness thereof are trademarks of Marvel Entertainment, Inc. and its subsidiaries, and are used with permission. Copyright © 2009 Marvel Entertainment, Inc. and its subsidiaries. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. All right reserved.

As Marvel living legend Stan Lee would say, Excelsior!

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Marvel Entertainment News: Kenneth Branagh 'Wouldn't Rule Out' Another Marvel Film; 'The Avengers' Official Character Descriptions Marvel website website


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Kenneth Branagh was always a fantastic choice as the director for "Thor." Even when Marvel first announced his involvement, the industry got excited, more so that usual when a director gets named.

When the film hit in theaters, critics generally praised Branagh for adding Shakespeare flavour to Thor.

Thor was a much higher quality Marvel flick than what superhero movie fans are a custom.

Branagh spoke to Variety about 'Thor'.

"Of all the American comics, 'Thor' was the only one I was really familiar with from my childhood, and it intrigued me, maybe because it was a bit more European, with those Viking helmets and its basis in Norse myth," Branagh said. "The scale was exciting, and I did love the character and the story. It had depth and gravity in addition to being an entertaining ride."

According to the Variety story, Branagh considered the entire project "a joy," and that his decision to turn down the sequel was not out of any bad feelings, but because of timing. "Monster" director, Patty Jenkins, will take over for "Thor 2."

Branagh is open to working with Marvel again, going on record with "I certainly wouldn't rule out a return to Marvel; we had an excellent collaboration."

Marvel is planning more projects after "The Avengers" this May. We're mainly looking forward to Spider-Man, Hulk and Thor themes. How about you superheroes?

'The Avengers' Official Character Descriptions...

Walt Disney Studios and Marvel Studios have provided us with official character descriptions for their upcoming release, The Avengers, in theaters on May 4, 2012. In Marvel’s The Avengers, it’s the Super Hero team up of a lifetime, featuring iconic Marvel Super Heroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, Director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Spanning the globe, a daring recruitment effort begins.

After a top secret Super-Soldier program transformed frail Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) into the powerful and heroic Captain America, his amazing WWII exploits made him a living legend. Steve saved New York City and turned the tide of the war, but crashed into the Arctic during his final mission. Awakening in the modern day, Steve learned that he had spent decades frozen in the icy tundra. Now, Steve Rogers finds himself alone in a modern world that he hardly recognizes. When Nick Fury, director of the international peacekeeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D., calls on Rogers to help save the world again, he quickly suits up as Captain America, taking up his iconic shield and bringing his strength, leadership and no-nonsense attitude to The Avengers.

IRON MAN (Tony Stark)
On top of being an eccentric genius, a billionaire, a playboy and a philanthropist, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is also the armored super hero known as Iron Man. Fresh off of defeating enemies the world over, Stark reluctantly agreed to serve as a consultant to Nick Fury’s top-secret peacekeeping and intelligence agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D. Now, with a global crisis on the horizon and the fate of the world in the balance, Stark must again power up his Iron Man armor to save the world, and become a full-fledged member of The Avengers.

THOR (The God of Thunder)
An arrogant prince from the distant land of Asgard, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) was banished to Earth after his irresponsible behavior threatened his homeland. While in exile on Earth, Thor learned humility and helped to save his new friends from a destructive threat sent by his brother Loki. In the process, Thor redeemed himself in the eyes of his father, Odin, the King of Asgard. After being welcomed back to Asgard as a hero, Thor must now return to Earth once again to prevent a cosmic-level catastrophe. With Mjolnir in his hand, a legendary hammer with immense power, the mighty warrior soon finds himself drawn into an unlikely alliance with Nick Fury’s secret initiative, The Avengers, lending his power to their cause against his wayward brother, Loki.

THE HULK (Bruce Banner)
After a gamma radiation experiment went awry, mild-mannered scientist Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) found himself with a peculiar condition. When angered or provoked, he would transform into the uncontrollable, green-skinned monster known as the Hulk. Now, fearful of the damage that the Hulk could inflict, Dr. Banner chooses to live a discreet life in remote parts of the world, working to cure the sick and help the poor while trying to elude those who would take advantage of his ability to change into the enormous, green menace. When a mounting threat calls for Banner’s specialized scientific expertise, S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury recruits him, knowing full well that the incredible strength of Banner’s alter ego, the Hulk, would be an asset to The Avengers.

HAWKEYE (Clint Barton)
One of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s most elite agents, Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), code-named Hawkeye, is the greatest living marksman on Earth. Armed with his weapon of choice, the recurve bow, Hawkeye fires his arsenal of custom augmented arrows, specialized for any number of specific situations, with perfect precision. With the potential for global catastrophe on the horizon, he employs his amazing combat skills to fight along side The Avengers.

BLACK WIDOW (Natasha Romanoff)
S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), is one of the world’s greatest spies and quite possibly the world’s most skilled assassin. Armed with an extensive arsenal of specialized weapons like widow stings and cluster bombs, as well as a vast repertoire of martial arts skills, Romanoff’s unique talents make her one of director Fury’s top agents and an integral part in assembling The Avengers.

After his bid to overthrow the throne of Asgard was thwarted by his brother Thor, the evil Loki (Tom Hiddleston) retreated to lands unknown to plot his revenge. Not just against his brother, but against Earth, whose inhabitants Thor now protects. Loki, now returns with a nefarious plot to conquer Earth and will stop at nothing to see his vision realized. When his misuse of power threatens the entire planet, it may take more than The Avengers to stop him.

NICK FURY (Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
As the legendary Director of the international peacekeeping organization, S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is humanity’s first line of defense against the world’s biggest threats. When S.H.I.E.L.D. becomes aware of an evil that threatens global safety, Fury assembles the planet’s most powerful beings and forms The Avengers.

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MARVEL, and all related characters and the distinctive likeness thereof are trademarks of Marvel Entertainment, Inc. and its subsidiaries, and are used with permission. Copyright © 2009 Marvel Entertainment, Inc. and its subsidiaries. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. All right reserved.

As Marvel living legend Stan Lee would say, Excelsior!

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire told to ease off high stakes poker, by Greg Tingle


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Now we know another reason that movie stars Leo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire have enjoyed quite a bit of their time in 'Sin City' Sydney, Australia - they like a punt, and are fans of Australian land based casinos, with The Star being at the top of their list for the meantime. It's not known for certain if the twosome have played poker or gambled on Australian soil, but take a wild guess.

Many Hollywood (and AussieWood) stars love to gamble, and high-stakes poker is one of their favourite games. Privacy is high on their priorities and it's known that some forms of gambling don't sit well with the law in some parts of the world, including in the United States.

It's understood that Tobey Maguire and mates Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck are long time high stakes poker fans and may have participated in quite a few private games played mainly in Los Angeles and New York.

The word is that the FBI is probing into alleged Russian mob connections to those big dollar games.

A few months ago there was a lawsuit filed against Maguire claiming a big Wall Street investment guy paid his gambling debts with funds inappropriately acquired from his firm’s investors.

A longtime associate of both DiCaprio and Maguire is understood to have said "As much as those boys love to gamble, they don’t need this kind of hassle...It seems clear that a number of very unsavory people have used their own huge wealth to weasel their way into those games.

"No one needs a Frank Sinatra problem these days," added the leak, referring to the Mafia connections that followed Ol’ Blue Eyes most of his life.

DiCaprio and Maguire are currently enjoying a working holiday of Australia and both gents have been spotted at The Star (entertainment complex and casino - ex Star City Casino) more than once.

'Our Leo' is staring in The Great Gatsby. Maguire is not working Spider-Man, but has a number of exciting projects in the works. May the best player, er, actor Win.

All of this while online gaming companies such as Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment, which owns the World Poker Tour, attempts to get the green light from the US government to offer Americans totally legal online poker games.

Media Man is following up the story, and understands that McGuire is close to coming to terms with prosecutors on the Hollywood Poker investigation.


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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Kerry Packer Dead Media And Gambling King Star of Channel Nine For 2012 Slot; Gyngell 'Best Ever' Year, by Greg Tingle - 24th November 2011


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Kerry Packer in the grave still gives Channel 9 boss David Gyngell "sweaty palms."

Next year the Nine Network will be counting on on a TV mini-series about the late media and gambling mogul's life to deliver the massive ratings it needs to snatch back its former glory.

Unveiling its biggest investment in new television programming in the station's rich history, Gyngell championed Howzat: The Kerry Packer Story as a sure hit for Nine in a year he predicts will be its "best ever".

Staring down the gun barrel at an 18-month deadline to recapitalise company debt...and shake-up a rough-ish 2011 ratings performance - the Nine top brass gave his word his network would "deliver across the board" next year.

Confirming $120 million in new programming and business ventures at a sales lunch yesterday, a fired up Gyngell delivered: "On my watch you will not see anything go backwards in the Nine group.

"I've been part of this company my whole life and for the last 10 years we have been trying to build this company into something great. That will continue, I give you that solemn promise."

The magazine arm of the Nine entertainment business announced it will launch two new titles: Womens' Health and Elle.

Of the KP project, Gyngell told news media hounds that he's taken a hands-on approach to the TV biography, from the makers of hit ABC drama Paper Giants - to air after Nine's coverage of the London Olympics in August.

"This is obviously so close to me and we just have to get it right. It's the show I think will be our biggest hit and a story that has everything Australians love: the colour, the characters, cricket," Gyngell said.

His best mate James Packer is said to be "excited" about the production, starring Rob Carlton as his father, with shooting to begin within months.

Local content dominates Nine's lot for the new year, with another mini-series Beaconsfield reliving the rescue of Tasmanian miners Todd Russell (to be played by Lachy Hulme) and Shane Jacobsen as Brant Webb.

Smash hit reality TV series The Block and The Celebrity Apprentice return, along with singer search show, The Voice, and weight-loss challenge, Excess Baggage, which will be hosted by Kate Ceberano.

A new local drama Tricky Business, starring Shane Bourne and Debbie Byrne, will go to battle with Seven's Packed To The Rafters.

Bourne described the show at launch as a family show with a procedural element. The cast also includes Gigi Edgley, Debra Byrne and Lincoln Lewis.

"The show has a very warm heart but we're also debt collectors," he said.

Australia's most famous gold heist will also make it to the small screen with Nine's The Great Mint Swindle, starring Grant Bowler, Todd Lasance and Josh Quong Tart.

Nine is also bringing back the former Ten hit Big Brother with Sonia Kruger as host.

Hamish and Andy will be back with a series set in London in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympic Games which will also screen on Nine.

Make no mistake, the Kerry Packer mini series is the Main Event for Nine in 2012, and we tip it to be both a massive money maker, and well as act as quite a makeover for Nine, which will help them reclaim the undisputed spot as 'The One'. Knock em for six.

The late, great, Kerry Packer would be proud.


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Monday, November 21, 2011

Casinos Of The World: Land Based And Online; Media Man And Casino News Media Awards, by Greg Tingle

Online Casino Of The Month: 2nd PKR Casino 3rd Virgin Casino

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Punters, here's 10 of the world's top land based casinos for you to mark down in your travel plans.

Monte Carlo, Monaco: Perched above the Mediterranean and bounded by the French
and Italian coastlines on either side, Monaco provides a spectacular and luxurious setting for the wealthy and the wannabees. Home to the Monaco Grand Prix and the legendary Casino de Monte Carlo, this isn't the place for those on a tight budget. The magnificent Casino hosts the annual European Poker Tour and was also the scene of several James Bond Films, including the original "Casino Royale" and "Golden Eye".

Paradise Island, Bahamas: Located just off the shore of the city of Nassau, Paradise
Island is best known for its sprawling 'Vegas-by-the-sea' resort, Atlantis. The resort spans seven acres along a lagoon, where guests can soak up the Caribbean sun and choose from a variety of outdoor gaming areas. When in need of a break from the tables, guests can enjoy the private beach or one of the resorts 20 sunlit pools.

Melbourne, Australia: As Australia's sporting and entertainment capital, Melbourne
offers the perfect option for high rollers looking for a local break. Aussies need look no further than Crown Casino on the southern bank of the Yarra River, which is one of the largest casino complexes in the southern hemisphere. The main gambling floor stretches more than half a kilometre and the casino was the first to introduce the new game Rapid Roulette, which allows players to place bets on a personal electronic touch screen connected to a central roulette wheel.

Macau, China: Known as the 'Monte Carlo of the Orient,' and the gambling capital of Asia, Macau now rivals Monaco and Las Vegas as one of the premier gambling destinations in the world. With no less than 33 casinos, in addition to local horse and greyhound racing venues, Macau is perfect for the betting junkie. The Wynn Macau casino is a standout, highlighted by 24-carat gold 'Tree of Prosperity' at the entrance, extravagant water displays and Moon Jellyfish Aquarium at reception.

Baden-Baden, Germany: Situated on the western foothills of the Black Forest and on the banks of the Oos River, Baden-Baden is not your typical casino town. However, in addition to its hot springs and picturesque countryside, the town is also known for its 200-year-old 'Spielbank' casino - the oldest of its type in Germany. With French chateau-style salons rooms named after historical figures such as Madame Pompadour and Louis XV's mistress, the quirky casino provides visitors with a very unique gaming experience.

Las Vegas, United States: With over 1700 licensed casinos in operation, Las Vegas offers the ultimate package for travellers who fancy a flutter. A visit to the famous 'Strip' is a must for any player, whether they're looking for a spin on the roulette table or a game of blackjack - this city has it all. The iconic Caesar's Palace hotel and casino offers 129,000 square feet of casino space plus an endless smorgasbord of entertainment, shopping and fine dining options, including Cleopatra's barge, a floating lounge perfect for a relaxing drink after a jam-packed night on the casino floor.

Manila, The Philippines: With a favourable exchange rate, Manila provides great value for Aussies wanting to live the high-life overseas. The city offers a range of shopping and entertainment options, along with a world-class casino at the Hyatt Hotel. Spread across three levels, the sparkling casino offers the newest in gaming facilities for both hotel guests and visitors, and is just a short distance from Manila's tourist hub.

Sun City, South Africa: Known as 'Africa's Kingdom of Pleasure,' this luxury resort and casino complex, just two hours from Johannesburg, boasts two large casinos, two 18-hole golf courses and a wildlife reserve. At the extravagant yet picturesque Palace of the Lost City, guests are treated to stunning valley views from the guestrooms, along with exclusive access to the Grand Pool. The nearby Sun City Casino is the entertainment Mecca of the resort, featuring a myriad of gaming options as well as an indoor jungle of native foliage and water fountains.

Atlantic City, United States: Regarded as the US's 'Las Vegas of the East', Atlantic City in New Jersey is renowned for its gambling, shopping and fine dining. Towering above the banks of the Atlantic Ocean, the Trump Taj Mahal casino is an icon of the city, with an on-site shopping district and an abundance of restaurants and bars. The 157,000 square-foot casino is also hard to miss, with 3,500 slot machines and 200 table games. Unveiled in 1990 by a number of celebrities, including the late Michael Jackson, the casino is the second-largest in Atlantic City and well worth a visit.

Genting Highlands, Malaysia: Nestled on the Titiwangsa mountain range, just an hour's drive from Kuala Lumpur and 6,000 feet above sea level, the Resorts World Genting offers 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. This spectacular resort has first-class accommodation, dining and entertainment, while avoiding the hustle and bustle of a capital city. The on-site casino, which covers 200,000 square feet, is Malaysia's sole gaming venue and is divided into separate themed areas, such as Hollywood and Monte Carlo, for the ultimate gambling experience.

Online Casinos: : The world's leading online casino brand and part of Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment. Play for free or play for money at New players get up to $3000 sign up bonus via Media Man. : Virgin Casino is part of Virgin Games. The parent company is Virgin Enterprises Limited, the creation of the world's most famous and celebrated entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson. Unfortunately the casino does not accept players from many countries due to what is known in legal circles as "grey areas". Most European players can play, but no Americans, Canadians, Australians or New Zealanders.

Captain Cooks Casino : Was once a very popular online casino with Australians and New Zealanders, however we understand these days they can only accept players from a few regions such as Europe, South Africa, Canada and South America.

PKR : Once only a 2D online poker room, they are now more 3D and offer online poker and a good range of online casino games, including classics, Marvel slots and table games.

Media Man's top online casino choice: PartyCasino is a multi-time Media Man 'Online Casino Of The Month' winner and have also won awards from EGR. Earlier this year PartyGaming merged with Bwin to create the worlds leading igaming company, Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment.


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