Tuesday, 20 February 2018

FIFTY SHADES FREED

Believing they have left behind shadowy figures from their past, newlyweds Christian and Ana fully embrace an inextricable connection and shared life of luxury. But just as she steps into her role as Mrs. Grey and he relaxes into an unfamiliar stability, new threats could jeopardise their happy ending before it even begins.

Oh dear… FIFTY SHADES FREED is the worst of the trilogy. It is cheesy, poorly scripted, and makes excessive use of nudity at times that have no relevance to the story. As far as acting goes, Dakota Johnson is eminently watchable and carries the movie, making the best of a completely uninteresting plot. And Jamie Dorman offers a lifeless, shallow performance. The threats to their happy life are not maximised for suspense — at least they are more thrilling than the rest of the movie — although using the word thrilling is an enormous exaggeration. The best actor in the movie is the Audi which is an obvious product placement. The climax of the series advertised on the posters never arrived. What a relief when it was over. The most exciting moment came when the credits rolled and the lights came on. Unless you really want to finish off seeing all three of the series, don’t bother.


Monday, 19 February 2018

BLACK PANTHER

T'Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.

It must be hard to make a superhero movie that stands out from the rest. BLACK PANTHER stands out in a number of ways. All of the cast, except one, are black actors. There are a number of references to race relations issues. And it is visually stunning. But BLACK PANTHER is ultimately just another superhero that follows the same narrative template as all the others.


Monday, 12 February 2018

LADY BIRD

A California high school student plans to escape from her family and small town by going to college in New York.

A fresh take on the coming age genre. Saoirse Ronan does an excellent job in the titular role. I’m not convinced this is as good a movie as some are saying. I found it enjoyable with moments of poignant humour. There’s witty dialogue and some interesting characters. But it isn’t a standout for me. I’m a bit surprised it has been nominated for best picture at the Oscars. It’s ok.


Sunday, 11 February 2018

THE 15:17 TO PARIS

In August 2015, an ISIS terrorist boarded train #9364 from Brussels to Paris. Armed with an AK-47 and enough ammo to kill more than 500 people, the terrorist might have succeeded except for three American friends who refused to give in to fear. Stone was a martial arts enthusiast and airman first class in the U.S. Air Force, Skarlatos was a member of the Oregon National Guard, and all three pals proved fearless as they charged and ultimately overpowered the gunman after he emerged from a bathroom armed and ready to kill.

Coming from director Clint Eastwood, this movie is very disappointing. It’s probably the worst thing he has done. The story of the heroism of these three men is to be celebrated. But the movie is boring and superficial. It doesn’t honour what these men did. The three men play themselves, and they put in a reasonable job, but they are not actors, and it does show. This movie is one time we needed some real acting. The script is the real problem — it has zero depth. And there’s no suspense. It’s a relief when the short running time comes to an end. Give it a miss.


Monday, 29 January 2018

SWEET COUNTRY

Australian western set on the Northern Territory frontier in the 1920s, where justice itself is put on trial when an aged Aboriginal farmhand shoots a white man in self-defence and goes on the run as a posse gathers to hunt him down.

A very slow burn movie but riveting. Amazing that it was shot in just 21 days. Without being preachy or moralising, it forces us to think about the deep roots of racism and the oppression of the First Australians which effects last to this day. One of the characters in the film says, at one point, something to the effect of, ‘What hope is there for this country?”. It’s a profound question that modern Australian society needs to grapple with. The acting in SWEET COUNTRY is good all round. But it’s the Indigenous actors who are stunning. Many of them are not professional actors. The story unfolds with slow inevitability. There is no soundtrack at all apart from an apt Johnny Cash song as the titles roll at the close of the movie. Having no music in the film is a perfect choice. The cinematography is stunning and symbolically conveys the desperate survival challenge of all characters as they navigate their inner struggles as well as the physical challenges. Warwick Thornton’s directing is incisive and the editing is brilliant. Patience is required to watch SWEET COUNTRY. But it brings great rewards and provokes some deep and necessary thinking. Don’t miss it on the big screen.


Saturday, 27 January 2018

THE SHAPE OF WATER

At a top secret research facility in the 1950s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.

A beautiful, strange story that is rich with emotion. Sally Hawkins, who plays the mute janitor, is excellent and high on my list of possible Oscar winners for her role. The supporting cast are also great. Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) brings his unique visual style to the direction with respectful nods to monster movies and Cold War paranoia. But THE SHAPE OF WATER has a contemporary feel with deep emotional resonance. The story is a mixture of realism and fantasy and ‘the asset’, the amphibian kept in captivity, is entirely believable. A good contender for the best picture Oscar, it’s definitely worth the time to see it.


Wednesday, 24 January 2018

I, TONYA

Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.

Margot Robbie transforms herself for her role as Tonya Harding in this quirky telling of a true story. She's not always convincing but mostly pulls it off. Allison Janney, who plays Tonya's mother, is another standout performance -- perhaps the best in the movie. The story draws on real interviews with the people involved. And it's just as well because the story is bizarre. It's also a tragic story. The script navigates its way between black comedy and tragedy which, for me, detracted from the gravity of the story, particularly the abuse that Tonya experienced from her mother and husband. The movie feels way too cartoonish. There's nothing very funny about what happened to Tonya, and I wonder at the motives of the filmmakers trying to wring comedy from the story. I also disliked the way some of the characters break the fourth wall and talk directly to the audience which completely ruins the tone of the movie. It felt like the director was trying to be smart, but it didn't work for me. It's all a bit of a chaotic mess and comes across as a condescending judgment of people who are caught in tragic circumstances.