Thursday, 19 April 2018

THE PARTY

Various individuals think they’re coming together for a party in a private home, but a series of revelations results in a huge crisis that throws their belief systems – and their values – into total disarray.

A tightly written chamber piece that unfolds with unexpected revelations with an old-fashioned feel about it. The cast obviously enjoyed making this but the whole thing comes across like a stage production and felt a bit artificial. Scathingly satirical commentary on the middle class traversing a wide range of topics but, overall, doesn’t rise above average.


Sunday, 15 April 2018

CATCH-UP RATINGS

Every so often, I get a bit behind in reviewing movies I’ve seen. So, here are my star ratings for a few recent movies.

THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE - A poker-playing restaurateur and former traveling salesman befriends a group of refugees newly arrived to Finland. ***½

PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING - Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, reunites with Mako Mori to lead a new generation of Jaeger pilots, including rival Lambert and 15-year-old hacker Amara, against a new Kaiju threat. **½

THE DEATH OF STALIN - Follows the Soviet dictator's last days and depicts the chaos of the regime after his death. ***½

EARLY MAN - Set at the dawn of time, when prehistoric creatures and woolly mammoths roamed the earth, Early Man tells the story of Dug, along with sidekick Hognob as they unite his tribe against a mighty enemy Lord Nooth and his Bronze Age City to save their home. ***½

PETER RABBIT - Feature adaptation of Beatrix Potter's classic tale of a rebellious rabbit trying to sneak into a farmer's vegetable garden. ***½

See you at the movies!

Movie descriptions are from IMDB or TMDB unless otherwise stated.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

BLOCKERS

When three parents discover their daughters’ pact to lose their virginity at prom, they launch a covert one-night operation to stop the teens from sealing the deal.

It’s fun. One of the better teen-oriented comedies around. And the message that women can make decisions about sex themselves without being over-parented, and can be empowered to do so, is a good one. Acting is strong and the script is funny. Be prepared for a few gross bodily fluid jokes, though. All in all, an enjoyable romp.


Sunday, 8 April 2018

PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST

Risking his life, Luke ventures to Rome to visit Paul -- the apostle who's bound in chains and held captive in Nero's darkest and bleakest prison cell. Haunted by the shadows of his past misdeeds, Paul wonders if he's been forgotten as he awaits his grisly execution. Before Paul's death, Luke resolves to write another book that details the birth of what will come to be known as the church.

Better than a lot of other Christian movies, but it doesn’t have enough dramatic tension given the circumstances in which it is set. It’s very dialogue driven and plods along at a slow pace. A lot of the dialogue is direct quotation from the Pauline letters in the New Testament so sounds a bit artificial at times. The cinematography is quite beautiful and the acting is reasonably good in quality. As I said, it’s better than the terribly bad movies like the recent God’s Not Dead. One positive is that it is honest about the way in which religious belief is constantly tested by reality. It just needs an injection of truly dramatic suspense to make it more interesting. As others have noticed, it doesn’t live up to its source material!


Wednesday, 4 April 2018

READY PLAYER ONE

When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune.


A fast-paced action, adventure, sci-fi from Steven Spielberg. The action is stunning and the story has some interesting things to say about our modern obsession with online living as compensation for the reality of life which is not always pleasant. The self-conscious references to 80’s pop culture is a bit annoying at times and some of the dialogue gets pretty cheesy. But, overall, a captivating movie that is full of energy, although it could have been a bit shorter. Possibly the best Spielberg entertainment we’ve seen for a while. Worth seeing in 3D if you have the opportunity.


Monday, 2 April 2018

A QUIET PLACE

A family live an isolated existence in utter silence, for fear of an unknown threat that follows and attacks at any sound.


Suspenseful. Emily Blunt is excellent as usual as is the rest of the cast. There’s no history or context that tells us how the world where the family lives came to be; we just find them living in complete silence trying to avoid being killed by some very nasty creatures that are blind and respond to sound. There is a small amount of music in the movie but a large proportion of it occurs, of course, in complete silence. Directed skillfully. I wasn’t scared but there is some well-orchestrated suspense and there are no cheap tricks. Most of the dread is conveyed through the physical action of the characters. And I loved the ending! If you like a good on-the-edge-of-the-seat thrill, check it out. Original and very cleverly made. In cinemas April 5.


Friday, 23 March 2018

MARY MAGDALENE

Set in the Holy Land in the first century C.E., a young woman leaves her small fishing village and traditional family behind to join a radical new social movement. At its head is a charismatic leader, Jesus of Nazareth, who promises that the world is changing. Mary is searching for a new way of living, and an authenticity that is denied her by the rigid hierarchies of the day. As the notoriety of the group spread and more are drawn to follow Jesus’ inspirational message, Mary’s spiritual journey places her at the heart of a story that will lead to the capital city of Jerusalem, where she must confront the reality of Jesus’ destiny and her own place within it.

MARY MAGDALENE was better than I thought it would be and not as good as I thought it would be.

What I liked about it: The story is told through the eyes of Mary Magdalene. She is the main character in the story, which is excellent given that the New Testament (NT) gospels are written from a male perspective (we don’t know who wrote the NT gospels, but the view is obviously male). Mary is portrayed as challenging the religious and cultural patriarchy of the first century CE. And she, unlike the male disciples of Jesus, is the only one who “gets” what Jesus mission is about.

I also appreciated that the supernatural elements of the NT gospels are underplayed and, while they are present, they play a minimal role in the narrative. MARY MAGDALENE is a provocative retelling of the traditional story and, the director is apparently not bound by tradition. MARY MAGDALENE is a fresh take on the story. We know that the NT gospels are not historical fact — they were written by anonymous authors decades after Jesus lived who constructed them to make Jesus look as though he had fulfilled Old Testament narrative patterns and to make theological points for the readers of the first century. The director of MARY MAGDALENE follows in that tradition, telling a story that critiques contemporary assumptions about gender, belief, doubt, and faith. Joaquin Phoenix does a gentle but powerful version of Jesus. The cinematography is beautiful.

What I didn’t like: I think Mara Rooney was miscast as Mary Magdalene. She’s never quite authentic and seems a little uncomfortable with the role. The script is a bit dull at times and drags a bit. A bit more passion would have been welcomed.

Christians who read the gospel texts insisting that they are literal history probably won’t like MARY MAGDALENE. For others, there is a lot to think about in this of contemporary significance. The more a person knows the traditional telling of the story of Jesus, the more they will appreciate the variations in this movie. A worthy, if uneven, film that takes a middle road between preachiness and sensationalism.