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.)

NEW RELEASES
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED
★★★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.



HAPPY FEET TWO
(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

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN
(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

WAR HORSE
(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


THE IRON LADY
(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


ALBERT NOBBS
(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


THE SKIN I LIVE IN
(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


WE BOUGHT A ZOO
(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

TOWER HEIST
(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

NOW SHOWING
AGES OF LOVE
★★★ (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

ANOTHER EARTH
★★★ (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

ARTHUR CHRISTMAS
★★★ (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

ATTACK THE BLOCK
★★ 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

AUTOLUMINESCENT: ROWLAND S. HOWARD
★★★ (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

BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK
★★★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

BREAKING DAWN - Part 1. THE TWILIGHT SAGA
★★★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 (‘‘disappointing...an 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

BURNING MAN
★★★★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

CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS
★★★★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

CONTAGION
★ (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

THE DEBT
★★★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

DECADENCE: DECLINE OF THE WESTERN WORLD
★★★ (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

DOLPHIN TALE 3D
★★★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

DRIVE
★ (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

THE FIRST GRADER
★★★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

THE FUTURE
★★★ (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

GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD
★★★★ (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

THE IDES OF MARCH
★★★★ (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

IMMORTALS 3D
★★ (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

THE INBETWEENERS
★★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

IN TIME
★ (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

JACK AND JILL
★★★ (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

MELANCHOLIA
★ (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

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
★★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

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — GHOST PROTOCOL
★★★★ (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

MONEYBALL
★★★★ (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

NEW YEAR'S EVE
★★ (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

PUSS IN BOOTS
★★★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

RESTLESS
★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

THE ROOM
★★ (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

ROUTE IRISH
★★★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

SANTA'S APPRENTICE
★★★ (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

THE TALL MAN
★★★ (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

TOOMELAH
★★★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

TORNADO ALLEY 3D
★★★ (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.
IMAX

WARRIOR
★★ (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

WASTE LAND
★★★ (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

WE HAVE A POPE
★★ (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

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
★★★★ (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

THE WOMEN ON THE 6TH FLOOR
★★★ (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

X
★★★ (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

THE YELLOW SEA
★★★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

YES MADAM, SIR
★★★ (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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Marvel Studios 2014 Films; Marvel Entertainment News; Thor II Director Announced

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Marvel Studios changes the release date schedule for their unannounced 2014 mystery movies. Are they planning a third movie? Come let's explore the world of the Marvel Universe, with a focus on Marvel Studios. Oh, it's comics legend Stan Lee's birthday today True Believers.




Marvel Studios has had a tough time keeping to their plan of two theatrical releases per year. Delays with Thor and The Avengers had Iron Man 2 release by itself in 2010 and next year, The Avengers is without a partner since Runaways was indefinitely postponed. For 2013 and 2014 however, it’s back to two films/year or more.

News in from Disney that Marvel would be releasing The Avengers in 3D (post-converted). Marvel Studios also is claiming another release date in 2014 to release one of their films earlier.

Up until now, the official slate of upcoming films from Marvel Studios was scheduled as follows:

2012

The Avengers (May 4)
Runaways (canned)

2013

Iron Man 3 (May 3)
Thor 2 (July 26 pushed back to November 15)

2014

Unknown (May 16)
Unknown (June 27)

The 2014 schedule has changed the June 27 project will now be releasing on April 4th, nearly three months earlier. No information has been provided on the 2014 releases but know The Avengers will get a sequel eventually and that there’s talk of a follow-up for Captain America’s solo outing as well. Reports from two months ago also indicated that Marvel Studios would be working on Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Inhumans after Iron Man 3 and Thor 2.

So, will these 2014 movies simply be sequels to what we already know? Is Edgar Wright’s latest Ant-Man script finally going to be pushed into production? Is Marvel preparing to finally introduce some other characters in solo films? Or, as reported in recent months, is the studio going to take the risk by bringing fans deeper into the Marvel cosmic universe post-Avengers?

Two years might be pushing it for The Avengers 2 so it’s more likely that’ll be a 2015 release, depending on the success of its predecessor at the box office next summer. That would open up the 2014 dates to be used for films launching from characters and storylines introduced in The Avengers. Chris Evans went on record stating that the next time we’d see him suit up as the star-spangled Avenger would be in 2014 at the earliest. Ant-Man has been in development for a very long time and writer/director Edgar Wright told the press at Comic-Con this summer that his latest script was being submitted days later and that they already have concept art.

The Possibilities...

Marvel will add a third release date, either in the summer (maybe making use of that June 27 date) or in the fall, something they’re testing in 2013 with Thor 2. This would allow them to play with interconnected films and/or do more to setup for The Avengers 2 the following year.
Dropping a summer (U.S) date for a spring (U.S) date means one of two things. This mystery project is not a big-budget tentpole or it directly ties into whatever the second movie is in May and needs to come before it. The May date is the most important and has to stay there.

The April release is very likely Ant-Man finally getting his post-Avengers introduction in time for The Avengers 2 or it could be Runaways, the lower-budget film Peter Sollett was going to direct off of Drew Pearce’s script, a script that Marvel apparently really likes, and one that Pearce says could still be adapted after The Avengers. As for the May date, that’s going to be a major project. Expect a Captain America sequel.

Guardians of the Galaxy and The Inhumans are actively in development and are possibilities as well, but Marvel will not talk about those until we’ve very close to The Avengers (or afterwards) to avoid fans digging into how those play off and tie-in to what happens in The Avengers. Marvel knows what these films are so there’s very deliberate reasons for not announcing them – it’s because they’re launching off of The Avengers.

Other potential projects include Black Panther, Dr. Stange, Heroes for Hire and a S.H.I.E.L.D. movie.

What would you like to see Marvel Studios do in 2014? Ant-Man and Captain America or a few cosmic movies?

The Avengers stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, Tom Hiddleston and Stellan Skarsgard. It is of course written and directed by Joss Whedon, opening in theaters on May 4, 2012.


Game of Thrones veteran to direct Thor 2...

The search for a director for Thor 2 has reportedly ended, with Marvel selecting veteran television director Alan Taylor to helm the sequel.

Taylor's most recent efforts have been for HBO, where he has directed episodes of the period fantasy series Game of Thrones.

Taylor has also directed episodes of the cable series Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men and The Sopranos.

He steps in for Monster director Patty Jenkins, who dropped out of Thor 2 citing creative differences with Marvel, movie news website Deadline revealed.

The sequel, which is due to start filming next spring for a November 2013 release, brings back 28-year-old Australian actor Chris Hemsworth as the hammer-wielding superhero.

Australian Chris Hemsworth reprise his role as the Norse god cast out to live among humans.

In the meantime, fans will be able to see Hemsworth team up with other Marvel stars in The Avengers.

Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner also star in Avengers, which is due out next year.


Chris Hemsworth profile...

Chris Hemsworth (born 11 August 1983) is an Australian actor most notable for portraying Thor in the Marvel Studios film Thor. Hemsworth is set to reprise his role as Thor in the upcoming films The Avengers in 2012 and Thor 2 in 2013. He also starred as Kim Hyde in the Australian soap opera Home and Away. He is the older brother of Liam and the younger brother of Luke Hemsworth.

Mini Biography
Though born in Melbourne, Australia, Hemsworth saw quite a bit of the country in his youth when his family moved first to the Northern Territory before finally settling on Phillip Island top the south of Melbourne.

In 2004, he unsuccessfully auditioned for the role of Robbie Hunter in the Australian soap "Home and Away" (1988) but was recalled for the role of Kim Hyde which he played until 2007. In 2006, he entered the Australian version of "Dancing with the Stars" (2004) and his popularity in the soap enabled him to hang on until show 7 ("Dancing with the Stars: Episode #5.7" (2006) when he became the fifth contestant to be eliminated.

His first Hollywood appearance was in Star Trek (2009) but it was his titular role in Thor (2011) which propelled him to prominence worldwide.

His US representative, the management company ROAR, also manages Elsa Pataky and it was through them that the couple met, marrying in 2010. (Credit: IMDB).


Happy Birthday Stan Lee; Marvel Comics Living Legend...

Happy 89th birthday to one of Marvel’s founding fathers, “The Man” himself, Stan Lee! Without Stan, the Marvel Universe as we know it would not exist.

"There is no bigger star in all of comics," Marc Nathan of Baltimore Comic-Con — where Stan was the featured guest last summer — tells Comic Riffs.

The path to stardom was many decades in the making. Stanley “Stan Lee” Lieber broke into the business as a teenager in the late-’30s, hired by ”Captain America” co-creator Joe Simon as an office assistant. As Simon told Comic Riffs, Stanley was soon writing the filler prose that Timely Comics (Marvel’s precursor) needed to secure better mailing rates. (Simon, the first editor at Timely Comics, died earlier this month at age 98.)

By the early ‘60s, Stan seriously contemplated quitting Timely/Marvel, which had been launched by his relative Martin Goodman. But at the advice of his longtime wife, Joanie, Stan says he took a shot at writing superheroes the way he wanted to - relatable and with many human aspects.

Working with such fellow legends as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, of course, Lee and his “Marvel method” would launch the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Hulk, Daredevil, Iron Man and X-Men. (Other talents in that famed stable included Gene Colan — who died this year at age 84 — as well as Stan’s own brother, Larry Lieber, who first scripted Thor.)

“There’s no question that Stan and the innovations he came up with saved the comic book and the superhero,” Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, has told Comic Riffs — noting that Lee and the artists he worked with “made me want to do this professionally.”

“By crafting characters with feet of clay and personal problems — and not writing down to an audience that was perceived to be primarily 8-year-olds — Stan opened the doorway for more sophisticated and interesting treatments of any subject matter in comics,” Brevoort says. “He made comics interesting and rel­evant and fun again.”

Stan Lee quotes...

“I’d just like a Cabinet position [in the current White House]. For comic books. I’d be secretary of comics — something simple.”

“Being associated with Disney is the dream of a lifetime. The things Disney did just knocked me out [when I was young] — Mickey Mouse to Bambi and Pinocchio and Snow White. And then there were the nature movies and now movies like ’Pirates of the Caribbean.’ I think they’re wonderful movie marketers — they’re the best marketers you can find anyhwere. And to combine them with Marvel — the two companies I’m in love with the most.”

"I’m very lucky to still being doing this. I seem to get a good reception [when I pitch entertainment ideas]. I hope I can sell a lot more movies. And it would be nice to win an Oscar one day."

That's a wrap True Believers (References: Marvel Entertainment, Disney, IMDB, Google News, Wikipedia, POW! Entertainment, Dark Horizons, Comic Book Movies, Box Office Mojo and Paramount Pictures).

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St. George Openair Cinema Celebrates Its Opening Night With The Sydney Premiere Of My Week With Marilyn

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Sydney will get a bit of the Hollywood glam treatments when the premiere screening of 'My Week With Marilyn' opens the 2012 season of St. George OpenAir Cinema on 11 January.

The Oscar® buzz has continued on Michelle Williams' due to her impressive portrayal of Marilyn Monroe.

The flick covers matters such as her charm, sexiness, daring, challenges and Monroe's trip to England for 'The Prince and the Showgirl' with Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh).

Movie Summary...

Colin Clark, an employee of Sir Laurence Olivier's, documents the tense interaction between Olivier and Marilyn Monroe during production of The Prince and the Showgirl.

St George Openair Cinema...

Also announced as features of the 2012 season are preview screenings of THE ARTIST, a gorgeous homage to silent films that proved a sensation at Cannes earlier this year where it was awarded best actor, J. EDGAR directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the FBI’s infamous boss, and GOODBYE, FIRST LOVE a poignant French film which explores our lasting attachment to first love.

The 2012 OpenAir program will also include blockbusters such as MONEYBALL, which stars Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, and the hilarious comedy THE INBETWEENERS MOVIE, which follows on from the edgy UK TV series about the over-imagined sexual ambitions of a group of young males.

The 2012 St.George OpenAir Cinema program will feature fourteen premiere or preview screenings, all the major summer releases, and a selection of the year's best indie films.

The full program will be announced on Friday 9 December with tickets on sale from 9am on 15 December. Last year more than 30,000 tickets and over a dozen screenings were sold out in the first half hour alone, so be quick.

The full 2012 program will be available on online from Saturday 10 December, visit www.stgeorge.com.au/openair

Where:
Mrs Macquaries Point, Sydney - adjacent to Royal Botanic Gardens

When:
January 11 to February 18 2012
Gates, bar and restaurant open from 6.15pm
Films commence shortly after nightfall (approx. 8.30-8.45pm)

Tickets:
Tickets on sale from Thursday 15 December via the event website www.stgeorge.com.au/openair
Advance Bookings*: General $30 / concession $28 + booking fee Door Sales*: General $35 / concession $32 *additional costs may apply for special presentations.

My Week With Marilyn: The Cast...

Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe
Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier
Eddie Redmayne as Colin Clark
Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike
Emma Watson as Lucy
Dougray Scott as Arthur Miller
Dominic Cooper as Milton H. Greene
Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh
Derek Jacobi as Sir Owen Morshead
Zoƫ Wanamaker as Paula Strasberg
Richard Clifford as Richard Wattis
Philip Jackson as Roger Smith
Simon Russell Beale as Admiral Cotes-Preedy

Studios: The Weinstein Company, BBC Films, Lipsync Productions

Directed by Simon Curtis
Produced by David Parfitt and Harvey Weinstein

Box Office to date: $11,106,287

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

'Mission: Impossible' Energizes Holiday Box Office With Robust $46.2M

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It's Mission Accomplished for "Mission: Impossible."

The Tom Cruise action movie ruled the multiplex throughout the holiday weekend -- and helped boost overall box office numbers to 8 percent above the same four-day period last year.

"M:I:4" is looking at $46.2 million for the four-day weekend.

Christmas Day was especially strong. On Sunday alone, "Mission: Impossible" grossed an estimated $13.6 million, No. 2 "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" grossed $9.6 million, No. 3 "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" grossed $4.5 million and No. 4 "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" grossed $5.6 million.

The strong Christmas weekend was welcome, particularly after a miserable few weeks at the box office.

Several high-budget, high-profile movies debuted in the days leading up to Christmas.

Among them: Sony's "Dragon Tattoo," a two-hour 40-minute hard-R film that opened Tuesday evening and missed expectations for the four days, and Steven Spielberg's PG-rated motion-capture animation "The Adventures of Tintin." That movie opened Wednesday and is in fifth place for the long weekend.

Most of the numbers matched expectations for Christmas Day, but there was a surprise: Steven Spielberg's PG-13 World War I epic "War Horse" opened to a particularly robust $7.5 million on Sunday. The DreamWorks picture is expected to gross another $7.5 million on Monday.

Considering that Disney, which distributes for DreamWorks, figured the movie would pull in $6 million over both days, the number is especially impressive.

Sunday's other new movie, Summit/New Regency's PG-13 sci-fi thriller "The Darkest Hour," opened to $3 million -- in line with studio projections. That movie, which the audience polling company Cinemascore gave a harsh "C-plus" grade, is expected to gross $5.5 million through Monday.

And opening in limited release, Warner Bros.' "Extremely Loud an Incredibly Close" debuted at six locations in three cities Sunday, grossing $71,861 -- a per-location average of about $12,000.

With no new major movies opening Friday, Hollywood expects this weekend's solid numbers to grow larger.

"There's a lot of good cheer going on around the industry -- at least for this weekend," Rory Bruer, Sony's distribution chief, told TheWrap Monday morning. "Certainly, leading up to it hasn't been that great, but it feels very good right now."

His studio's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" -- one of the most anticipated movies of the year -- was in fourth place for the four day period, taking in $12.75 million over three days and $19.4 million over four. That's just below expectations.

The movie, directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, has grossed a total of $27.7 million and had a budget estimated at about $100 million.

Sony had figured the movie would take about $13 million over the three days and in the low-to-mid $20 million range for the four days.

Still, Bruer said the film "is off to a good start and it's just going to get better with every day through the rest of the holiday season and well into the new year."

But the weekend belonged to "M:I:4."

"Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol," which cost an estimated $145 million to make, grossed $29.5 million over the three days from Friday to Sunday and $46.2 million from Friday to Monday. That gives the Paramount/Skydance movie a domestic total of $78.64 million and an international gross of more than $150 million.

The PG-13 movie is on track to beat the 2006 "Mission: Impossible III," which grossed $134 million domestically and nearly $264 million abroad. It also looks like Tom Cruise's biggest hit since 2000's "Mission: Impossible II," which took in $215.4 million domestically and nearly $331 million internationally.

"M:I:4," directed by Brad Bird, is playing at 3,448 domestic locations in its second week of release.

The No. 2 movie of the weekend was "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," which took $20.2 million over three days and $31.8 million over four. It played at 3,703 locations and has a total of $90.56 million.

That movie, directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, cost about $125 million to make. It opened to $39.6 million on Dec. 16.

The film opened in first place on Dec. 16. Warners notes that "Sherlock" is now the highest-grossing domestic film of December.

In third place for the four days, Fox's "Alvin and the Chipmunks took $20 million -- $12.65 for the three days.

The studio's "We Bought a Zoo," which opened on Friday, meanwhile, was in seventh place for the four days, grossing $15.6 million.

Cameron Crowe wrote and directed the movie, which stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson. It is about a father who -- as the name implies -- who buys a struggling zoo in the countryside and, with his family, tries to renovate and reopen it.

Chris Aronson, Fox's head of domestic distribution, told TheWrap that 41 percent of the movie's audience was younger than 25, while 59 percent was older.

Younger audiences loved the movie, he said, giving it a Cinemascore of "A-plus." Its overall score was an A.

"Now people are available to go, and they're going to start discovering how wonderful this movie is," Aronson said. "There are a lot of satisfying movies in the marketplace, and now people have time to go see them."

Disney is expecting the same out of "War Horse."

Like "Dragon Tattoo," it is long -- nearly 2 1/2 hours -- which means fewer screenings per day than shorter films.

Despite the length and subject matter -- it's about a horse during World War I -- it did well across the country.

Disney's Hollis noted that the movie's top location was the Arclight in Sherman Oaks -- and its second-best location was the Warren 14 in Moore, OK.

"It's not often that you get to say that Moore, Oklahoma is your second-biggest grossing theater," Hollis said. "It feels like we're going to be the family choice for the week, which will again set us up for a great five, 10 more days of business."

"War Horse" is the second Spielberg movie now in release.

The first is "The Adventures of Tintin," based on the Belgian comic books.

Paramount's movie, which had a budget of $135 million has grossed more than $240 million internationally, and received a Cinemascore of "A-minus."

In its opening weekend domestically, it skewed slightly male: 55 percent of the audience was male and 45 was female. It also skewed slightly younger, with 51 percent of moviegoers younger than 25.

3D made up 74 percent of the movie's gross.

Last year's 4-day weekend also included Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In 2010, "Little Fockers" grossed $39 million over four days and ultimately took $150 million. "True Grit" grossed $32 million over four days and grossed a total of $171 million.

Here are the top 10 movies of the four days:

"Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" ($46.2m)

"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" ($31.8m)

"Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" ($20m)

"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" ($19.4m)

"The Adventures of Tintin" ($16.1m)

"We Bought a Zoo" ($15.6m)

"War Horse" ($15m)

"The Darkest Hour" ($5.5m)

"New Year's Eve" ($5m)

"The Muppets" ($3.35m)

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day Movie Releases In Sydney, Australia - 26th December 2011

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Welcome to Boxing Day at the movies. We review blockbusters War Horse, The Iron Lady, Albert Nobbs and more.

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN

Action/adventure; rated PG; opening December 26

Iconic filmmakers / producer / directors Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson bring Herge's beloved books to life in this 3D animated film. Made using performance capture, it follows Tintin (Jamie Bell), his dog Snowy, and Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) on an adventure to uncover the mystery surrounding a model ship - the Unicorn. Also starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Daniel Craig (from James Bond and Casino Royale fame).

HAPPY FEET TWO

Animated; rated PG; opening December 26

Tap-dancing penguin Mumble (Elijah Wood), has a problem - his tiny son Erik is choreo-phobic. Even worse, the world is shaken by powerful forces and Mumble has has to bring all creatures in the Antarctic together to put things right. Also featuring the voices of stars such as Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Robin Williams and Pink.

THE IRON LADY

Drama; rated M; opening December 26

Meryl Streep gives a brilliant performance as Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first female prime minister, who overcame gender and class barriers to be heard in a male-dominated world. When in her 80s, she decides to clear out the clothes of her late husband (Jim Broadbent), triggering memories of the key moments in her life and looking at the price she paid for power.

WAR HORSE

War/drama; rated M; opening December 26

Directed by Steven Spielberg, this follows the story of a young man in England named Albert and his horse, Joey, who are separated when Joey is sold to the British army and sent to the trenches of World War I. This follows the horse's journey through the war as he changes the lives of all those he meets, from the British cavalry, to a French farmer, to a German soldier.

WE BOUGHT A ZOO

Comedy/drama; rated PG; opening December 26

Writer/director Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) makes a return to feature films after six years with this true story of a widowed father (Matt Damon) who moves to a home in the middle of a zoo with his two children. With the help of its devoted head zookeeper (Scarlett Johansson) and the local community, they try to return it to its once-glorious state.

TOWER HEIST

Action/comedy/crime; rated M; opening December 26

Ben Stiller stars as Josh Kovaks, the manager of a luxurious New York City condominium, who along with his co-workers had their retirement fund stolen by one of the billionaire residents (Alan Alda). To get revenge, they team up with petty crook Slide (Eddie Murphy) and plot the ultimate heist to reclaim what was taken from them.

ALBERT NOBBS

Drama; rated M; opening December 26

A period drama about the staff working at Dublin's most luxurious hotel, one of whom is Albert (Glenn Close), a butler with a secret - he is actually a woman, who has been acting as a man 'his' entire life to make money and survive. When a handsome painter arrives at the hotel, he inspires Albert to escape this false life. Also starring Aussie Mia Wasikowska.

THE SKIN I LIVE IN

Thriller; rated MA15+; opening December 26

In the latest film from renowned director Pedro Almodovar, Antonio Banderas stars as Dr Robert Ledgard, a plastic surgeon interested in creating a new skin that could have saved his wife, who burned in a car crash. On top of years of study, he needed: no scruples, an accomplice and a human guinea pig. The first two requirements were easy, but as for the third...

THE SALT OF LIFE

Comedy; rated PG; opening December 22

Gianni di Gregorio wrote, directed and stars in this melancholy comedy as Gianni, a man pushing 60 who lives with his busy wife, student daughter and eccentric mother, and spends his days walking the streets of Rome alone. An old friend suggests he find a lover to spice up his life and he begins dreaming of potential affairs.

DON 2

Action; rating to be classified; opening December 23

This sequel to the 2006 blockbuster Don: The Chase Begins Again, is directed by Farhan Akhtar and stars Shahrukh Khan as Don, who having conquered the Asian underworld, now has his sights set on European domination. Also starring Priyanka Chopra and Lara Dutta.

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Robert De Niro welcomes baby girl - 24th December 2011

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

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 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.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Daniel Craig may star in five more James Bond movies

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Daniel Craig's licence to kill is going to continue for some time yet, if the powers that be get their way.

Numerous press sources globally are now reporting that Bond producer Michael G Wilson wishes Craig, currently shooting the latest 007 flick, Skyfall, to star in at least five more Bond movies.

Craig, 43, has previously starred as 007 in 2006's Casino Royale, and the less popular Quantum of Solace - 2008.

Wilson is set to discuss a "multi-million pound deal to become the longest serving 007 of all time" with Craig once filming is completed on Skyfall.

Roger Moore is currently the actor who has starred in the majority of Bond films. He played the 007 role in seven of the super spy flicks between 1973 and 1985. Sean Connery has also played Bond seven times, however the Thunderball remake Never Say Never Again was made by an independent production company, not by Bond foundation Eon Productions.

"Daniel's been a terrific Bond, a superb actor and a terrific man. The fans love him and I don't think there's a better actor to play the part," Wilson, who co-produces the franchise with stepsister Barbara Broccoli, told the media.

"Filming has gone very well so far and I'd love Daniel to surpass Roger's record and do eight pictures," he said.

"Daniel's been an absolute pleasure to be around because he takes the role so seriously. There's really no one more passionate about making these films work than him - he's a filmmaker's dream."

He elaborated: "A lot of people have said Daniel's been their favourite Bond since Sean Connery and I can't argue with them. He's doing a great job."

Wilson also advised that the next Bond outing will take us back to the Connery era.

He said: "The director Sam Mendes and Daniel are taking it back to a 60s feel - more Sean.

"I think that's what the fans wanted," he added.

"There's a magical Goldfinger feel surrounding it all. It's all very exciting. I can't wait for people to see the movie because I think we're making a very special Bond."

We're also learned that "big plans" are on the way to mark the Bond films' 50th anniversary in 2012, including "an extravaganza" featuring former Bonds: Connery, George Lazenby, Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Craig.

Wilson teased: "We'd really like to get all six together. We're trying to find a way for fans to celebrate with us ­because they've been the reason the Bond films have been the success they have."

Craig was directly involved in getting Mendes on board as director.

"He's English, he's Cambridge-educated, he's smart," Craig told the magazine. "He's lived with Bond all his life, he grew up with Bond the way I did."

"I said to him, 'We have to do this together, we have exactly the same reference points, we both like the same Bond movies and we both like the same bits in the same Bond movies we like."

Craig added: "We sat down and we just rabbited for hours about Live and Let Die or From Russia with Love, and talked about little scenes that we knew from them.

"That's how we started talking about it. That's what we tried to instil in the script. He's been working his arse off to tie all these things together so they make sense - in a Bond way."

Skyfall is due for release in late 2012.

See you at the movies.

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Marvel Entertainment News: Thor 2 director Patty Jenkins Fired; Natalie Portman furious

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From Sydney, Australia to Tokyo, Japan, to Hollywood, California in the U.S, most of the world loves superheros, and Disney's Marvel Entertainment are widely regarded as the leaders of the pack, followed by DC Comics, with Frank Miller of 'Sin City' fame and a bush tucker bag of others following.

One of the things a studio always tries to do with big name actors who are starring in their big budget films is to keep them happy. But it looks like Marvel Studios will be working overtime in that department as Natalie Portman is reportedly furious at the studio over the firing of Patty Jenkins.

Last week, it was reported that Patty Jenkins was no longer directing ‘Thor 2’ due to “creative differences.” It seemed like it was an amicable split as it was suggested that Jenkins would probably have another chance to direct a superhero film for Marvel, it just wouldn’t be ‘Thor 2.’ Now a report from THR is indicating that Jenkins was actually fired without any warning and Natalie Portman is none too happy about it.

Portman was said to be instrumental in the hiring of Jenkins in the first place and strongly urged Marvel to employ her. Prior to this happening, she was considering taking a hiatus from acting to raise her baby boy who was just born last June. Portman decided to return in the role of Jane Foster for ‘Thor 2’ once she heard of Jenkins’ involvement. That and the idea of being part of a project that involved having the first female director at the helm of a big budget superhero movie appealed to her. So it was no wonder that Portman was livid at the studio when the firing occurred. Even though Portman is contractually obligated to film the movie, Marvel is said to be trying to smooth things over with the actress by including her in the discussions to find a replacement director.

What’s interesting to note, however, is the behind the scene details that THR was able to obtain as to why Jenkins was fired. According to a source near to the production, Marvel felt that Jenkins wasn’t moving assertively enough and didn’t think she could complete the film in time for its November 2013 release date. They felt that she displayed “a lack of overall clarity in her choices” which led them to believe that the filming process would be “difficult.” Keep in mind, however, that although Don Payne had written a script before Jenkins came onboard, Marvel wanted a rewrite so there was no official script in place for Jenkins to be decisive about.

This seems to coincide with what an insider from Jenkins’ side says. This person, however, blames the “lack of overall clarity” issue on Marvel’s part. Although initially excited about hiring Jenkins, mainly based on Portman’s enthusiasm, when the studio started to interview writers for a script rewrite, it was then that they began to second guess their decision and have misgivings about hiring Jenkins. “Marvel had certain things they needed to achieve,” says another source. “There were constraints on what she could do creatively.” Jenkins official statement of the situation is as follows: “I have had a great time working at Marvel. We parted on very good terms, and I look forward to working with them again.”

Rumor has it that Marvel is now considering hiring either Daniel Minahan (who has directed on ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘True Blood) or Alan Taylor (who has directed on ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Mad Men). Once a decision is made, we’ll let you know. But one thing is for certain, whatever the decision, it will still have to get the approval of Natalie Portman.


The Avengers full superhero line up revealed...

Marvel Studios have just released the first set of international posters for the highly anticipated superhero flick, The Avengers.
Although The Avengers isn't due until May 2012, its publicity campaign has already began.

Featuring an all star cast including Scarlett Johansson (as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow), Robert Downey Jr (Tony Stark / Iron Man), Chris Evans (Steven Rogers / Captain America) and Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner)

The film also stars Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton / Hawkeye), Tom Hiddleston (Loki - Thor's brother), Samuel L Jackson (Nick Fury) and Stellan Skarsgard (Professor Erik Slevig). The Avengers, a superhero team that join forces to defeat an unexpected enemy that is threatening global safety and security.


Chris Hemsworth Sad To See ‘Thor’ Director Kenneth Brannagh Not Returning For 'Thor 2'...

In a recent L.A. Times interview actor Chris Hemsworth talked about ‘Thor 2′ and director Kenneth Brannagh’s exit from the film.

Regarding Brannagh not directing ‘Thor 2′ Hemsworth said, “I’m really disappointed. Ken built that character, and everything I know about the Thor world I learned while shoulder-to-shoulder with Ken. I learned so much from him. As long as he’s happy that’s the thing.

I learned so much from Ken while we built [Thor] so at least I had that time with someone like that. The start of anything creative is the most important period in a way. That’s when the most can go wrong and Ken made sure we got it right.”

By all accounts, Marvel was very happy with the results of ‘Thor’ at the box office. It has grossed $447 million worldwide. ‘Thor 2′ was immediately greenlit and given a July 2013 release date. So, it seems the acclaimed director was not ready to jump right back in with a visual effects heavy sequel. He is instead getting back to acting on the British television series ‘Wallander’.

As Marvel works on the script for ‘Thor 2′ as well as finding a director, Hemsworth is in New Mexico filming Marvel and director Joss Whedon’s ‘The Avengers’. The big ensemble film brings together many of Marvel’s biggest superheroes. ‘Avengers’ is set for a May 4, 2012 release date.


'Avengers' Movie Prelude Coming To Comics...

Marvel Studios has done a fantastic job building up to "The Avengers" with efforts like "Iron Man," "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger" on the big-screen. And if you thought the House of Ideas would neglect a non-movie approach to what's surely their all-time biggest cinematic endeavor, think again.

Over at Marvel.com comes news that an official "Avengers" movie prelude is on its way in comic book form, courtesy of writers Chris Yost and Eric Pearson and artists Luke Ross, Daniel HDR and Geral Parel. Keep on reading for more details on the comic from the good folks at Marvel.

Marvel Studios presents in association with Paramount Pictures “Marvel’s The Avengers”--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.

Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson, and directed by Joss Whedon from a screenplay by Joss Whedon, “Marvel’s The Avengers” is based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series “The Avengers,” first published in 1963 and a comics institution ever since. Prepare yourself for an exciting event movie, packed with action and spectacular special effects, when “Marvel’s The Avengers” assemble in summer 2012. The film is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

In addition to "Marvel's The Avengers," Marvel Studios will release a slate of films based on the Marvel characters including "Iron Man 3" on May 3, 2013; and “Thor 2” on November 15, 2013.

"Marvel's The Avengers Prelude" #1 and #2, which kicks off a four-issue limited series, launches in March 2012. Keep an eye out, true believers.


Joe Simon dies at 98; co-creator of Captain America...

Joe Simon and fellow comic book industry pioneer Jack Kirby created Captain America in 1941 and went on to become 'the first superstar creators of comics.'

Joe Simon, a comic book industry pioneer whose defining career moment came in the dark days of March 1941 when he delivered a star-spangled superhero named Captain America, has died. He was 98.

Simon died Wednesday night in New York City after a brief illness, according to a statement from his family, and his death adds a solemn final note to the 70th anniversary of his greatest creation, Captain America, who leaped across the big screen this summer with the Marvel Studios film "Captain America: The First Avenger." The film took $369 million in worldwide box office and earned strong reviews despite early skepticism about the 21st century pop culture potential of a Roosevelt-era character who looks like a walking American flag.

Simon created Captain America with Jack Kirby, a key figure in American comics, and they would work together for various publishers as comic books went from quirky confections to American mythology.

The American superhero concept began in 1938 with Superman, the creation of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, but Simon and Kirby brought a different contribution to the genre, not unlike the way songwriter Chuck Berry would later add more ambition to the lyrics of the young form of rock 'n' roll. Mark Evanier, author of the 2008 Kirby biography "Kirby, King of Comics," said the signature duo became more of a brand than the masked men they put on the covers of their comics.

"Joe Simon and Jack Kirby were the first superstar creators of comics," Evanier said Thursday. "Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were hailed because of Superman, but Simon and Kirby were hailed because of Simon and Kirby. They didn't just have one or two great ideas. They were the go-to guys for the next thing in comics."

The pair had memorable creations such as the Newsboy Legion, the Fighting American, Blue Bolt, the Boy Commandos and the Challengers of the Unknown, but it was Captain America — a shield-carrying super-soldier created in a lab by American technology but defined by the country's earnest patriotism and integrity — that would resonate most.

"I was 24 when I first started creating Captain America, " Simon told the Philadelphia Daily News in 2005. "It's been a guardian angel hanging over me my whole life. Everywhere I went — in the service or wherever — I wasn't Joe Simon; I was Captain America. It was like a cloud hanging over me, but a good cloud. I loved it."

He was born Hymie Simon in Rochester, N.Y., in 1913, and as a youngster he was drawn to journalism. Instead, he ended up in the scruffy, deadline-driven comic book business that popped up in New York City in the 1930s. His first collaboration with Kirby came in 1940 with a hero called Blue Bolt, but they struck gold with Captain America — who was punching Adolf Hitler on newsstands months before Pearl Harbor. It turned out to be a quick hit for Timely Comics, which would later become Marvel Comics.

Simon, who was both a writer and artist, came up with the concept of the red, white and blue character, but it was Kirby — by most appraisals the most important comics artist ever — who created the dynamic artwork in the early issues.

After the success of "Captain America," Simon and Kirby followed opportunity over to DC Comics, the publisher of Superman and Batman, where they worked on titles such as "Boy Commandos" and "Sandman."

Both went into the military in 1943. On their return. they ended up at Harvey Comics and toiled on titles including "Boy Explorers" and "Stuntman." In 1954, the pair launched the creator-owned "Fighting American," a clear conceptual descendant of their most noted character — a hero with a shield and a costume Betsy Ross would love.

In the 1960s, Kirby began working with a new partner, Stan Lee, and they created the Fantastic Four, Thor, Hulk, the X-Men, Iron Man and others.

Simon founded and edited Sick magazine, a publication that took the model of MAD magazine and ran from 1960 to 1980. He also packaged educational and political comics for various agencies, mostly in New York, and occasionally dipped back into the comics world, with oddball efforts like 1968's hippie hero "Brother Power, the Geek" and 1974's "Prez," about a teenager who becomes president.

Those comics were strange, politically informed and commercial fizzles, but they were fascinating to readers such as Neil Gaiman, the Newbury Medal-winning author of "The Graveyard Book" and the writer behind the DC Comics epic "The Sandman."

"What attracted me to Simon's stories was how unlike anyone else's they were, how full of life," Gaiman wrote in 2010 in a foreword to "The Simon & Kirby Superheroes" collection from Titan Books. "He created strange villains, part cartoon, part caricature, part embodiment of whatever he wished to talk about. While the trends in comics were toward realism in writing, Joe Simon marched in the other direction, creating his own reality.... The oddness of Joe Simon's work is where it gets its power."

Earlier this year, Simon attended the premiere of the Captain America film and in the surge of media attention he spoke often about Kirby, who died in 1994. For a younger generation of creators — such as Ed Brubaker, who has been the award-winning writer for Captain America for the last seven years — Simon and Kirby are titan figures.

"Joe and Jack Kirby created Captain America at a time when the U.S. was not in World War II yet and had to contend with pro-fascist Americans giving them death threats," Brubaker said Thursday. "I always think about that when I work on the book, the origins of both the character and the comic. Those were two brave guys creating what would be a classic character, who has definitely stood the test of time while other 'flag-wearing' heroes haven't."

Simon is survived by two sons, three daughters and eight grandchildren.

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