Saturday, 31 December 2016

RED DOG: TRUE BLUE

An iconic Australian story of family, friendship and adventure, between a young boy and a scrappy one-of-a-kind dog that would grow up to become an Australian legend. —IMDB

Not as good as the first movie, but still entertaining. It's a simple story aimed primarily at children, this time. Bryan Brown is excellent as the grandfather. Unfortunately, Levi Miller, who plays Michael (Blue's owner), has an English accent when he's supposed to be Australian. Other than that, he does a good job. The flashback structure of the story is unnecessary. It interrupts the atmosphere and flow of the narrative. The cinematography of the Australian landscape is gorgeous. The movie moves along at a good pace with some great humor. A sweet, wholesome family movie - with a great music soundtrack. Just don't expect it to be as memorable as the first one.



Thursday, 29 December 2016

PATERSON

A quiet observation of the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details. —IMDB

For those of us who are addicted to fast-paced action in our movies, PATERSON will probably be painful to watch. It is very slow. It consists of a week of the main character, called Paterson (played by Adam Driver) getting out of bed at the same time every morning, eating the same breakfast, walking to work past the same landmarks, and driving the same bus route called Paterson. Each day is repetitive except that, each day, slight variations occur, or small things of beauty are observed, or different people get on the bus, or slightly varied conversations occur at the local pub each night. But each of these small, daily variations, the little signs of beauty bursting unexpectedly from the mundane — all of these little things, Paterson records in his poetry that he writes in a secret notebook.

Yes, PATERSON feels slow and tedious, but that is just the point. Most of us lead lives that are mundane, repetitive, and, at times, tedious. The question is: do we notice the beauty that  is hiding amongst the mundane? Do we affirm the creativity of our office workers that we interact with each day? Do we find the poetry in the simple things? Do we realise that, beneath our habits and rituals, is a world of simple beauty that brings meaning into our lives? If you can slow down, relax, and reflectively watch PATERSON without yearning for the sensational, then you will enjoy this movie. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of days now. It’s made me notice the magpies singing on my walks in the morning; the freshly mown grass of the council worker riding his motorised lawn mower; the  diversity of dogs and their owners as they wander through the park; the twittering of birds in the trees; the creativity of my children; the richness of knowing my colleagues at work.

While PATERSON is slow and feels long — if you reflect on it and are mindful of what it is showing you, despite its flaws — the flaws we all share — you will notice its poetic beauty and, hopefully, start seeing those same things in your own life.


Wednesday, 28 December 2016

MY TOP MOVIES FOR 2016

Here is my list of the best movies of 2016. If you didn’t manage to catch them at the cinema, make sure you watch them on DVD or streaming services when they arrive!

Hacksaw Ridge ****
Arrival *****
Snowden *****
10 Cloverfield Lane *****
Hell or High Water ****1/2
Hunt for the Wilderpeople ****1/2
Nocturnal Animals ****1/2
A Monster Calks ****1/2
Deepwater Horizon ****1/2
Don't Breathe ****1/2
Midnight Special ****1/2
Goldstone ****1/2

What is your favourite movie of 2016? Let us know by commenting below...

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

MOANA

In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain's daughter's island, she answers the Ocean's call to seek out the demigod to set things right. —IMDB

Disney at the top of their game. This is going to be an instant classic. The animation is wonderfully vivid, the music and songs absolutely perfect, the characters are rich, the cultural stories it draws on are interesting and have depth, the humour is clever, and the story is warm and inspirational. This is one that will be watched again and again. Even at 1 hr 47 mins, there is not one moment that is boring or seems long. The kids in the audience were rapt and it was great to hear their laughter. The idiotic chicken is a delight! Try and catch this one at the cinema if you can. An absolute must for the family.


Monday, 26 December 2016

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother. —IMDB

Didn't quite live up to my expectations. But it's still a very good coming-of-age story -- one of the best I've seen for a while. The acting from the young cast is very good. Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Nadine, is outstanding and Woody Harrelson is excellent as the teacher. There are some great lines in the movie and, overall, the script is wickedly funny. You can feel the complexity of a teenager trying to make sense of their life when they feel so different to everybody else around them.


Monday, 19 December 2016

LA LA LAND

A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. —IMDB

Upfront, I’m declaring my bias: I’m not really into musicals. Most of them I find boring. There’s been a couple I’ve liked — Moulin Rougue and Chicago (2002). So you might want to take my comments here with that in mind. LA LA LAND was better than I expected. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are very good as the romantic couple. The music is enjoyable, especially the piano jazz played by Gosling.  The plot is pretty basic and seems primarily aiming to reference old style musicals but wrapped in a modern context. The performances of the two stars are compelling and worth seeing the movie for - and the chemistry between them is great. If you really love musicals, you will probably love this.

 (pretty high for me for a musical!)

Friday, 16 December 2016

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS MOVIE

The Rebellion makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow. —IMDB

A thoroughly satisfying, enjoyable, well-paced, space adventure that happens just before the original Star Wars movie. The special effects are great. It’s the second Star Wars movie with a female lead, Felicity Jones, and she does a good job of playing the daughter forcefully separated from her parents who later joins the Rebellion. Australian Ben Mendelsohn is great as a baddie and there’s lots of action. The humour is excellent and there are a wonderfully diverse cast of characters. And the locations - wow! It runs over 2 hours 13 minutes — so take a toilet stop before it starts! For fans of Star Wars, I think you are going to like this one. Go see it!


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

THE LEGEND OF BEN HALL

Ben Hall is drawn back into bushranging by the reappearance of his old friend John Gilbert. Reforming the gang, they soon become the most wanted men in Australian history. —IMDB

Felt long, but very well made, scripted, acted and photographed. The nice thing about this movie is that the character of Ben Hall is not caricatured or simplistically drawn. It’s a very engaging story about one of Australia’s most notorious bushrangers. If you like Westerns, you’d probably like THE LEGEND OF BEN HALL. I was pleasantly surprised.


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

THE QUEEN OF KATWE

A Ugandan girl sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess. —IMDB

There was nothing much new in the story’s plot line. Disadvantaged kid that shows incredible skill at chess. Her chess club teacher arranges for her to play competition chess, which she does, and it changes her life. Apart from the story, what is interesting is the presentation of the culture and lifestyle of families in Uganda. The photography is beautiful even as the environment is polluted and people are living in incredible poverty. The spirit of the people as they struggle for survival is amazing. The cast does a great job. The cultural elements and the actors are what make this movie worth seeing.


Friday, 9 December 2016

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY

When his uptight CEO sister threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager throws an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand... —IMDB

Do NOT waste your time or money seeing this movie! It is poorly acted, poorly scripted, cliched and boring. Don’t be seduced by well known names of comedy — Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, T J Miller — why they chose to put their names to this is a mystery. Give it a miss. See something else, whatever you do!


Thursday, 8 December 2016

THE FOUNDER

The story of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc. —IMDB

Interesting but average. Interesting to see the origins of McDonalds but average in the sense that it seemed to be pretty much the same tone all the way through. Ray Kroc wasn’t a very nice man — he’d do anything to make money and ruthlessly trod on people as he did so. Michael Keaton is good as Kroc but, overall, a bland movie.


Wednesday, 7 December 2016

BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK

19-year-old Billy Lynn is brought home for a victory tour after a harrowing Iraq battle. Through flashbacks the film shows what really happened to his squad - contrasting the realities of war with America's perceptions. —IMDB

Had potential but didn’t quite make it. The attempt to show the paradoxical nature of America’s relationship to their soldiers, they want to celebrate their heroism but treat them badly, is a refreshing theme in a Hollywood movie. But it seems a bit too contrived. Joe Alwyn is excellent as Billy and the supporting cast is reasonably strong. Kristen Stewart, who plays Billy’s sister, is very good. Steve Martin seems to be trying hard to act well but didn’t come across as very authentic to me. And Vin Diesel didn’t do it for me, either. The story is told with flashbacks and, apart from one or two scenes, don’t have the power necessary to convey the nature of war in Iraq (judging by other movies that seem more realistic). There are also times when the writing seems to trivialise the subject matter. The whole thing seems like an attempt to be really theatrical, but that distracts from the authenticity of the story and performances.


Sunday, 4 December 2016

3D UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS

Vampire death dealer, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) fights to end the eternal war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her. —IMDB

Kate Beckinsale is in her usual form as Selene. There is lots of violence and rivers of blood. Action is what you would expect and special effects are good. If you’ve seen previous instalments, you’ll know what to expect -- although there is more fights and less narrative in this one. This franchise has been going since 2003, so it is getting pretty repetitive. If you are a fan, you will want to check it out. Not necessary to see it in 3D.


Monday, 28 November 2016

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS

A lighthouse keeper and his wife living off the coast of Western Australia raise a baby they rescue from a drifting rowing boat. —IMDB

Highly contrived, lushly photographed, melodrama relying on lots of coincidences. But Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, with acting that is restrained, along with a good Australian cast, do a reasonable job of making us go along with the story. It’s an old-style piece of slow storytelling. There’s a powerful message in this movie about forgiveness and resentment and the way they play out during adult emotional crises.   If you can overlook the flaws, this is an enjoyable movie — particularly if you like a story that pulls at the heartstrings. Some of us will need to take tissues.


Monday, 21 November 2016

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York's secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school. —IMDB

Overall, this dark, scary spin-off from the Harry Potter stories is a disappointment. Acting is stilted and the story, while developing some interesting mythology, is fairly superficial. There are some subtle critical cultural references, but they are not developed sufficiently. Special effects are excellent with some cute creatures/beasties. The rather unique suitcase carried around by Newt is great! I saw this one in 3D which was so poor in quality that it was constantly distracting. And it is way, way too long. If you go to see it, forget the 3D and just see it on a normal big screen — or wait for the DVD. I’d recommend for 12 years and up — this is a lot more adult than the Harry Potter franchise.


Saturday, 19 November 2016

I, DANIEL BLAKE

A middle aged carpenter who requires state welfare after injuring himself, is joined by a single mother in a similar scenario. —IMDB

A harrowing (but sometimes humorous), moving story of how people are battered down by bureaucratic stupidity when dealing with people they are supposed to help. The acting is superb and natural. Dave Johns (Daniel Blake) is just right for this role and Haley Squires (Katie) gives a genuine, achingly good performance as a single mother desperate to survive and care for her daughter. Watch out for a heart-rending food bank scene. If you know anything about government services for the unemployed, you will watch this with a deep sense of recognition. It’s a simple, but very powerful movie.


Tuesday, 15 November 2016

THE ACCOUNTANT

As a math savant uncooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities and the body count starts to rise. —IMDB

Surprisingly good. Wasn’t expecting much given the mixed reviews from critics. Ben Affleck does a nuanced job of his role and the premise of the movie was intriguing — seeing autism presented in a positive light is refreshing. Sometimes ludicrous but it makes for some enjoyable entertainment. There’s some pretty intense violence — so be warned. If you don’t mind that, give it a go.


Sunday, 13 November 2016

ARRIVAL

A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications. —IMDB

Brilliant! There have been a lot of aliens-making-contact-with-humans movies, so it is pretty difficult, I imagine, to come up with something that breaks away from cliches. But ARRIVAL is just that! I was riveted by this movie. Amy Adams is excellent as the linguist and the exploration of language is very intriguing. And the sound track - wow! Eerie and powerful. Reminded me a bit of a didgeridoo — maybe that was the inspiration — very ethereal. The aliens are superbly crafted and presented. While the plot is more important in this movie than special effects, it is still a must see on the big screen. This is an intelligent, thinking person’s sci-fi. Loved it!


Saturday, 5 November 2016

AGE OF SHADOWS

Set in the late 1920s, The Age of Shadows follows the cat-and-mouse game that unfolds between a group of resistance fighters trying to bring in explosives from Shanghai to destroy key Japanese facilities in Seoul, and Japanese agents trying to stop them. A talented Korean-born Japanese police officer, who was previously in the independence movement himself, is thrown into a dilemma between the demands of his reality and the instinct to support a greater cause.
- Written by Anthony Mumford (IMDB)

A very looooong movie (2 hours 20 minutes!), but very goooood. It’s a South Korean movie made in collaboration with Warner Bros which gives it a bit of a Hollywood feel — but definitely maintains the feel of a South Korean movie. It’s a complex story filled with lots of twists and turns. The cinematography is beautiful and the whole movie is well executed. There’s quite a it of violence — so be warned. But it’s a breathtaking, epic story.


Friday, 4 November 2016

THE NEON DEMON

When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has. —IMDB

I’ll say, right up front, this is not going to be a movie for everyone. It’s slow and very “arty”. I found it riveting. It’s a powerful critique of the fashion industry and the way that women sell their souls for fleeting success. Elle Fanning is excellent as Jesse, the beautiful, innocent novice model who is a threat to those who rely on their artificial beauty. The movie is quite bizarre in places with some scenes shocking and gross — and others sensually seductive. The cinematography is visually stunning and the soundtrack is pulsating, vibrant, and disturbing. The objectivisation of women and the discarding of those who don’t measure up, or the lengths that some go to construct artificial beauty in the meat market of fashion, is compellingly portrayed. It was hard, sometimes, to keep looking at the screen. It is possible that Nicolas Winding Refn (the writer and director) has gone too far in some places and, maybe, even, inadvertently sensationalised and glorified what, I assume, he set out to critique. But, overall, a telling criticism of a world that looks good on the surface but is corrupt and soul-destroying underneath.


Thursday, 3 November 2016

HACKSAW RIDGE

WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people and becomes the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor. —IMDB

Forget Marvel superhero movies. Go and see a real life hero in this incredible, deeply moving true story. This is possibly the best movie of the year. A truly inspiring man who stood for his convictions against incredible pressure to compromise. Mel Gibson has directed this story superbly. The way the character of Desmond Doss is developed, including a warts and all look at his family, is straightforward and compelling. The slightly cheesy first half can be completely forgiven. The battle scenes are uncompromising and shocking. The tragedy of war is trenchantly portrayed and magnifies the astounding heroism of a humble man. The cast, led by Andrew Garfield (Spiderman) who is brilliant as Desmond Doss, is excellent, putting in great supporting performances. What a movie! Everything about it is first-rate. Do everything you can to see this one — and see it at the cinema. It will stay with you long after you leave.


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

NERVE

A high school senior finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare, where her every move starts to become manipulated by an anonymous community of "watchers." —IMDB

A very significant message that every user of online social media should watch. A surprisingly good story well executed. Very contemporary, swinging from serious to ridiculous, fast-paced and consistently entertaining. Made for teens but I think would be enjoyable by adults, too (well… I liked it!).


Tuesday, 1 November 2016

HELL OR HIGH WATER

A divorced father and his ex-con older brother resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family's ranch in West Texas. —IMDB

Wonderfully atmospheric. Superb cinematography. A slow burner that focuses on the brothers’ relationship and the relationship between the two cops who are investigating the crimes. The cast are excellent; the sound track fits the mood perfectly; the humour is intelligent and genuinely funny; and there are some tense moments that punctuate the plot. This movie focuses more on character than action — but is totally engaging.  Don’t miss it.


Sunday, 30 October 2016

DOCTOR STRANGE

A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts. —IMDB

Full of new age mumbo jumbo and speculative science — but very, very entertaining! Cumberbatch is excellent and the special effects are very clever. I was privileged to watch this movie in IMAX and 3D right up close to the screen and it was wonderfully immersive. Doesn’t take itself too seriously so the humour is good. The whole package is engaging and very enjoyable and the finale is great. Definitely worth watching in the cinema; and definitely worth watching in 3D.


Monday, 24 October 2016

DEEPWATER HORIZON

A dramatization of the April 2010 disaster when the offshore drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded and created the worst oil spill in U.S. history. —IMDB

A gripping drama action thriller that slowly builds in the first half to an incredibly choreographed explosion of the rig in the second half and the way that staff on it had to fight for their lives. What’s so good about this movie is that the director (Peter Berg) never loses sight of the fact that he is telling a story about people — people whose irresponsible actions caused the disaster and the people who suffered permanent consequences. The performances of the cast are excellent, including Mark Wahlberg who plays the lead role. The events are portrayed very realistically and the movie seems to respectfully approach the story given that many of the people involved are still living. Try to see this one on the biggest screen with the best sound system you can find. Not to be missed.


Sunday, 23 October 2016

JOE CINQUE’S CONSOLATION

On 26 October 1997, Australian National University student Anu Singh killed her boyfriend, Joe Cinque, by lacing his coffee with Rohypnol and injecting him with heroin at a dinner party where some of the guests had heard about the plan to murder Cinque. Despite this, none of them warned him. —IMDB

This is an incredibly bizarre true crime story — and very disturbing. Maggie Naouri is brilliant at conveying the emerging mental health issues suffered by Anu Singh that leads to her boyfriend’s murder. Sacha Joseph, who plays the complicit and enabling friend, is also very good. This was a riveting story that leaves many questions unanswered — perhaps the main failing of the movie. It is very compelling and proves, once again, that truth is often a lot stranger than fiction.