Wednesday, 24 May 2017

DON’T TELL (2017)

Based on true events that changed the law. This is the story of a survivor, Lyndal, a young woman sexually abused as an 11 year old while attending a prestigious school. Her courage to fight for justice is entrusted to a local lawyer determined to build a case and give Lyndal peace from her torment. With the help of his aspiring young associate and an enigmatic barrister, the lawyer and Lyndal find their way together.

This movie is a must see. It focuses on Lyndal, the main character, and the longterm effects of her abuse, rather than sensationalising the abuse itself or the pedophile who perpetrated the abuse. The story is told with sensitivity and compassion. Sara West, who plays Lyndal, is brilliant in what would have been a demanding role. Aden Young is good as Lyndal’s lawyer and Jack Thompson does a reasonable job as the barrister. I found this movie to be deeply moving and we all need to celebrate the courage that people, like Lyndal, demonstrate in surviving the incredible evil that is child abuse. I really encourage you to see this move.


Sunday, 21 May 2017

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

John Wick is forced out of retirement by a former associate looking to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild. Bound by a blood oath to aid him, Wick travels to Rome and does battle against some of the world’s most dangerous killers.

Very, very violent but with a better story than the first one —even if it is totally over the top! If you enjoyed the first John Wick movie, you’ll like this one even more. Keanu Reeves is excellent as John Wick. The action scenes are superbly choreographed and Reeves has clearly done some martial arts training - I believe he does all his own fight scenes and car stunts. Great escapist entertainment for those who like lots of action. It’s a good sequel.


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

CATCH-UP RATINGS

PERSONAL SHOPPER - A personal shopper in Paris refuses to leave the city until she makes contact with her twin brother who previously died there. Her life becomes more complicated when a mysterious person contacts her via text message. ****

THE INNOCENTS - In 1945 Poland, a young French Red Cross doctor who is sent to assist the survivors of the German camps discovers several nuns in advanced states of pregnancy during a visit to a nearby convent. ***1/2

GET OUT - Chris and his girlfriend Rose go upstate to visit her parents for the weekend. At first, Chris reads the family's overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter's interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined. *****

THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE - The Zookeeper's Wife tells the account of keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, Antonina and Jan Zabinski, who helped save hundreds of people and animals during the German invasion. *****

ALIEN: COVENANT - The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape. ***1/2

A DOG’S PURPOSE - A dog looks to discover his purpose in life over the course of several lifetimes and owners. ***

See you at the movies!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

THE CASE FOR CHRIST

Based on the true story of an award-winning investigative journalist -- and avowed atheist -- who applies his well-honed journalistic and legal skills to disprove the newfound Christian faith of his wife... with unexpected, life-altering results.

This movie will be emotionally reassuring to fundamentalist evangelical Christian believers. But for anyone who thinks critically, they won’t be persuaded. There are some moving moments in the movie — mostly to do with the relationship between Strobel and his wife. Much is made of Strobel’s ‘well-honed journalistic and legal skills’. But during his investigation of the resurrection of Christ, he didn’t use them very well. The story has him interviewing experts (mostly Christian) on the resurrection who affirm its historicity. There are a couple of atheist or agnostic scholars who are portrayed as amazed at the evidence for the resurrection. But Strobel never thinks deeply or critically about what he is being told and the scholars are cherry-picked so there is no doubt what the conclusion will be. And Strobel, the famous investigative journalist, just accepts the experts’ opinions! The whole purpose of the movie is to make a lot of an atheist’s “unwilling” conversion to Christianity because the evidence for the resurrection is so compelling. Strobel is now a Christian apologist and, like so many movies from an evangelical Christian perspective, it presents a very one-sided view of evidence and scholarship. There’s a lot of circular and fallacious reasoning going on in this movie with lots of straw man arguments. There are cliches like Strobel scribbling all over a whiteboard as he tries to make sense of the evidence to convince us that he is thinking deeply and rationally. I’m sure this movie will make a lot of money with fundamentalist evangelicals flocking to see it. For me, it was a movie that wants to convince the viewer that the resurrection must have happened because an atheist journalist and lawyer just had to believe in the face of overwhelming evidence. But it really ends up mostly preaching to the choir — and, hopefully, the choir will be thinking critically enough to be disappointed, too.


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

BAD GIRL (2016)

Bad girl Amy, 17, is given one last chance by her adoptive parents, who think Amy's friendship with local girl Chloe is a step in the right direction. But when Amy discovers Chloe's secret she finds herself fighting for her life, and for the future of the family she herself tried to destroy.

This Australian thriller is excellent considering it was made on a budget of around $1.5 million — a very low budget for a movie. While the plot is not really new, the acting is excellent (especially by the two lead girls) and the production values top notch. Direction is tight and it’s well paced with some good suspense. Good entertainment.


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

THE SALESMAN (Persian, English subtitles)

Forced out of their apartment due to dangerous works on a neighbouring building, Emad and Rana move into a new flat in the centre of Tehran. An incident linked to the previous tenant will dramatically change the young couple’s life.

A very intriguing movie. Subtle and yet riveting. The acting is superb. The ending of this movie is brilliant and totally surprising. Looking into another culture which deals with issues quite differently to one’s own was fascinating and educative. If you saw the director’s previous movie, A SEPARATION, and liked it, don’t miss this one. A fascinating look at some very deep themes.


3D GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill's true parentage.

I didn’t enjoy this as much as the first one. Too long — could have been about 30 minutes shorter. I don’t mind long movies, but they shouldn’t feel long. There’s some good humour throughout the movie and the characters are enjoyable, particularly Rocket who is my favourite! Story is pretty thin. Some good action sequences, of course. Overall, an average movie that has lost some of the freshness of the original.


Monday, 24 April 2017

FRANTZ (French/German with English subtitles)

In the aftermath of WWI, a young German who grieves the death of her fiancé in France meets a mysterious Frenchman who visits the fiancé's grave to lay flowers.

This is an intriguing story that unfolds in surprising ways. I’ve heard a few people try to guess what happens from the trailers they have seen. None of them have been correct. Filmed almost entirely in black and white with sensuous cinematography.  The acting, particularly of the woman who plays Anna (Paula Beer), is excellent. This movie is very satisfying. An intelligent, beautifully structured story. Don’t miss it.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

RAW (French, English subtitles)

In Justine’s family everyone is a vet and a vegetarian. At 16, she’s a gifted teen ready to take on her first year in vet school, where her older sister also studies. There, she gets no time to settle: hazing starts right away. Justine is forced to eat raw meat for the first time in her life. Unexpected consequences emerge as her true self begins to form.

A difficult movie to watch at times. Cannibalism seems so unnatural and unethical and some of the scenes in this story are very confronting, especially those with lurid violence and sexuality. The acting was very good and the story developed in a logical manner. The music was too heavy and, at times, dominated the watching experience too much. If you plan to see this, be warned: there’s aberrant behaviour, bloody and grisly images, strong sexuality, nudity, language and drug use/partying. Some critics have suggested there is a deep symbolism in RAW. But I didn’t find much edification in this one and it became more and more uninteresting as it developed. Not my cup of tea (so to speak).


Friday, 14 April 2017

CATCH-UP ONE-LINER REVIEWS

DENIAL ***** - brilliant true story about a historian, Deborah Lipstadt, who is taken to court by the Holocaust-denier, David Irving, who sues her for libel. A must see.

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE * - walked out on this. Extremely lame, totally boring. First one of these wasn’t too bad — but got my money back on this one.

THE BOSS BABY *** — better than I expected. Good fun.

See you at the movies!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS

When a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of terrorism and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trials that will test them as never before.

What great fun this movie is! The 2 hr 16m fly by — every minute is filled with stunning over-the-top action sequences in the context of a James Bond type plot that is pretty good for the genre. And the submarine scene you’ve watched in the trailer? Wait until you see the whole set piece in the film — amazing. Charlize Theron is excellent as the ice-cold baddy and even Helen Mirren puts in an uncredited cameo performance that was obviously a lot of fun. Vin Diesel does what he does best with the usual “family” of supporting cast. An exciting, fun, furious ride. Yes, it’s pulp. But it’s done with such elegance. Thoroughly enjoyable. If you are looking for pure escapism then this one is definitely for you. A great addition to the Fast and Furious canon. See it on the big screen!


A SILENT VOICE (Japanese, English subtitles)

Ishida Shouya bullies a deaf girl, Nishimiya Shouko, to the point that she transfers to another school. As a result, he is ostracised and bullied himself with no friends to speak of and no plans for the future. This is the story of his path to redemption.

Beautiful hand-drawn anime but the movie belabours its important themes about bullying to such a degree that it becomes boring and way too long. There is little subtlety in the script and seems very disjointed. A marathon to watch and left me feeling dissatisfied.


Sunday, 9 April 2017

LAND OF MINE (German, Danish, English with subtitles)

In the days following the surrender of Germany in May 1945, a group of young German prisoners of war were handed over to the Danish authorities and subsequently sent out to the West Coast, where they were ordered to remove the more than two million mines that the Germans had placed in the sand along the coast. With their bare hands, crawling around in the sand, the boys were forced to perform the dangerous work under the leadership of the Danish sergeant, Carl Leopold Rasmussen.

A moving story I had never heard before. These young boys were certainly courageous in tackling what they were forced to do. The acting is very good and the story is told with sensitivity. This movie could have been made in a very sensational way. To the director’s credit, the tension is naturally embedded in the situation and the whole thing is very believable. It was nominated for best foreign film at the Oscars. An important movie about war and forgiveness.


Tuesday, 4 April 2017

A MAN CALLED OVE (Swedish with English subtitles)

59 year-old Ove is the block’s grumpy man. Several years ago he was deposed as president of the condominium association, but he could not give a damn about being deposed and therefore keeps looking over the neighborhood with an iron fist. Just when he's decided to give up on life, pregnant Parvaneh and her family move into the terraced house opposite Ove and accidentally backs into Ove’s mailbox setting off the beginning of an unexpected change in his life.

This movie is only in limited release in my city, which is surprising. It's a drama with some very black humour. But it is, overall, a feel good movie. In fact, it is so feel good that that the director seems to have felt compelled to provide a cheesy, "Hollywood" ending that, for me, detracted from the film's quality. The story is, however, quite fresh and there are some great performances from the cast. If you want a good laugh with a serious message about what it means to live a happy life, check it out.


Saturday, 1 April 2017

CATCH-UP ONE-LINER REVIEWS

MISS SLOANE ****1/2 - Brilliant story with an outstanding performance from Jessica Chastain.

T2 TRAINSPOTTING ***1/2 — Entertaining sequel. Make sure you see the original Trainspotting before you see this one.

JASPER JONES *** — Adequate drama, mystery, thriller with some pretty dark themes. Not for little kids.

A STREET CAT NAMED BOB ***1/2 — A heartwarming story of how a cat changes the life of a man living at rock bottom. Good family movie.

LOVING ***1/2 — Good performances from the leads make this an enjoyable true story of love in the face of racism.

See you at the movies!

DANCE ACADEMY: THE MOVIE

This 2017 movie follows the original dance academy TV show and tracks where the characters are in their lives now.

If you go to see this movie when it opens on April 6, keep your expectations low. It’s overcrowded with bad things happening to so many people it comes across as contrived and overwrought. The acting is very average and the last third of the movie descends into cheesy resolution and predictability — actually, the whole movie is pretty predictable. There is little dancing and, what there is, seems amateurish. There were a few people applauding at the end of the movie but I couldn’t tell whether they were applauding the movie or the fact it was over (I suspect the former). Don’t bother to pay for a cinema ticket for this one. Check it out on VDO when it turns up — if you must.


Monday, 27 March 2017

3D BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017)

A live-action adaptation of Disney's version of the classic 'Beauty and the Beast' tale of a cursed prince and a beautiful young woman who helps him break the spell.

Disney can’t seem to put a foot wrong at the moment. This year’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST adaptation keeps that momentum going. Perfectly cast, with excellent performances from everyone, good music, cheeky humour, good CGI (if occasionally imperfect), a fresh script while keeping everything we already love about the story, some new songs and dancing, some scary moments — it’s made to order for the romantics amongst us. Emma Watson’s performance is spot on — and she can sing! I predict that BEAUTY AND THE BEAST will be a hit and become yet another Disney classic. Head to the cinema and feast your eyes and ears — and take the kids with you (suitable for 8+). An infectious retelling of an enduring fable.


Saturday, 25 March 2017

SABAN’S POWER RANGERS

Saban's Power Rangers follows five ordinary teens who must become something extraordinary when they learn that their small town of Angel Grove — and the world — is on the verge of being obliterated by an alien threat. Chosen by destiny, our heroes quickly discover they are the only ones who can save the planet. But to do so, they will have to overcome their real-life issues and before it’s too late, band together as the Power Rangers.

Given the target audience, POWER RANGERS is ok. Good themes for teens about bullying, friendship, living on the edge of groups, and so on. The effects are good and the acting is competent. All of this makes up for the predictable, cliched, saving the world plot line. One of the worst aspects of this movie is the blatant product placement of a brand of donuts — completely jarring and unethical. Young fans of the Power Ranger franchise will probably enjoy this movie. Suitable for 12+


Friday, 24 March 2017

LIFE

The six-member crew of the International Space Station is tasked with studying a sample from Mars that may be the first proof of extra-terrestrial life, which proves more intelligent than ever expected.

A solid thriller that is clearly influenced by Ridley Scott’s Alien movie. It’s occasionally a touch cheesy but, overall, is a fast-paced, thrilling, well-acted space sci-fi set in the present day. The characters are all different and the alien makes a welcome change to some we’ve seen already - it’s a nasty little critter that isn’t evil — just trying to survive. So, if you are after a bit of tension, check it out on the biggest screen you can find!


Thursday, 23 March 2017

A CURE FOR WELLNESS

An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company's CEO from an idyllic but mysterious "wellness center" at a remote location in the Swiss Alps but soon suspects that the spa's miraculous treatments are not what they seem.

The only way I can describe this is to call it a contemporary gothic horror. It’s a long movie at around 2hr 26m. It’s superbly photographed with an eerie story that becomes more bizarre as it progresses. Acting is very good. There are some very dark themes and disturbing themes so it’s not for the fainthearted. At the heart of the story is a criticism of how we, in the 21st century, are working ourselves to death, looking for wellness at the same time as we are denying the very thing that is making us “sick”. It’s a good message, although it is overtaken by the horror. There is so much packed into this movie that it needs to be watched without distraction. This is the sort of movie you need to just sit back and go for the ride.


Sunday, 19 March 2017

BEFORE I FALL

Samantha Kingston has everything. Then, everything changes. After one fateful night, she wakes up with no future at all. Trapped into reliving the same day over and over, she begins to question just how perfect her life really was.

Even though the message of this movie is cliched (live in the present and live the best life you can now) I really liked the way it is presented. It’s a “serious” Groundhog Day aimed squarely at the teen market. Zoey Deutch (Why Him?) is excellent as Samantha Kingston — she puts in the best acting with her very expressive face. But the whole cast of young actors come across as very believable. There are some cheesy moments, but they are forgivable. A thought-provoking movie.


Sunday, 12 March 2017

ALONE IN BERLIN

Berlin in June of 1940. While Nazi propaganda celebrates the regime’s victory over France, a kitchen-cum-living room in Prenzlauer Berg is filled with grief. Anna and Otto Quangel’s son has been killed at the front. This working class couple had long believed in the ‘Führer’ and followed him willingly, but now they realise that his promises are nothing but lies and deceit. They begin writing postcards as a form of resistance and in a bid to raise awareness: Stop the war machine! Kill Hitler! Putting their lives at risk, they distribute these cards in the entrances of tenement buildings and in stairwells. But the SS and the Gestapo are soon onto them, and even their neighbours pose a threat. (tMDB)

Emma Thompson and Bendan Gleeson do a good job of playing Anna and Otto Quangel in this suspenseful drama. And Daniel Brühl (Inglorious Bastards) puts in a nuanced, compelling performance as the police detective. I liked ALONE IN BERLIN because it focuses on two ordinary German civilians who carry out such a simple subversive activity. We see so many stories of dramatic heroism — but this one is about people just doing what they can to protest. The story is told in a straightforward way with no sensationalism and very little action — and yet, it communicates the constant anxiety that people must have felt during the Nazi regime when you couldn’t trust anyone — even your closest friends.


KONG: SKULL ISLAND (3D)

A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden.

A thoroughly enjoyable revisioning of the King Kong myth. The action sequences are AMAZING — especially at the beginning of the movie when the helicopters are flying into the unchartered island! Kong is awesome as are all the other “monsters”. And the personality of Kong is nuanced. Acting is good and, if you watch this in 3D, you’re in for a real treat! The social commentary made by this movie (about war, the environment) is good, too, although it could have been developed more. The relationship between Kong and the humans, including that between Kong and Mason Weaver, the photographer is beautifully understated. This is a very entertaining, well executed, fast-paced story with some great humour. Don't miss it on the big screen!

 

Saturday, 4 March 2017

LOGAN

In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan's attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.

As far as superhero movies go, LOGAN is pretty reasonable. It’s tone is very different to the previous X-Men and Wolverine stories. This one is very dark, very raw, and very violent. It has an MA15+ rating here in Australia (R in the US) and this looks like the direction these movies will head in the future. Hugh Jackman is, of course, very good as Logan and this will be his last movie playing Wolverine — you’ll see why when you watch the movie. And Dafne Keen puts in a great performance as Laura (X-23). It is quite disturbing, though, to see a young kid perpetrating such intense violence. LOGAN is not a great movie (and it is a little long with a less than satisfying last half hour) but it is worth seeing if you’ve been following the franchise. It is certainly a different sort of superhero movie than we’ve been used to.


Monday, 27 February 2017

TONI ERDMAN

Without a warning a father comes to visit his daughter abroad. He believes that she lost her humor and therefore surprises her with a rampage of jokes.

This German comedy drama had a lot of potential. It starts out well but its greatest failing is it’s length — 2 hrs 42 mins! The tone of the movie doesn’t vary much throughout the entire time and so it becomes difficult to sustain interest. Overall, I did like the sentiments of the movie. But it never gets beyond “ok”. Definitely not a mainstream movie and requires considerable patience.


Friday, 17 February 2017

CATCH-UP ONE-LINER REVIEWS

MIDDLE SCHOOL **1/2 - Lots of pranks you hope your kids don’t copy at school.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA ***1/2 - a moving, well acted drama about grief.

RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER ***1/2 - a satisfying conclusion to this franchise.

GOLD **1/2 - rags to riches story that doesn’t succeed.

xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE ** - an unintelligent gluttony of over-the-top action.

See you at the movies!

SILENCE

Two Jesuit priests, Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francis Garrpe (Adam Driver), travel to seventeenth century Japan which has, under the Tokugawa shogunate, banned Catholicism and almost all foreign contact.

SILENCE refers to the experience of committed believers praying to their god and getting no answer. This is the fundamental core of this profound movie that explores colonialism, culture, spirituality, faith, doubt and human nature from Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street), one of the world’s great directors. It’s for thoughtful viewers who don’t mind a slow movie, if it’s a good movie. It’s a demanding and provocative story with powerful performances and evocative cinematography. It has some confronting torture scenes, so be warned. A stunning achievement.


Thursday, 16 February 2017

THE GREAT WALL

European mercenaries searching for black powder become embroiled in the defense of the Great Wall of China against a horde of monstrous creatures.

Well done escapist nonsense. Basically an ancient Chinese version of Godzilla. The cinematography and CGI is impressive; the story is flawed but who cares; the monsters are suitably nasty; there’s lots of action; the sound is big; and the humour is actually amusing. If you go for this sort of thing, see it on a big screen — and don’t think too much about the plot holes — jump over them and go for the ride.


Sunday, 12 February 2017

FENCES

In 1950s Pittsburgh, a frustrated African-American father struggles with the constraints of poverty, racism, and his own inner demons as he tries to raise a family. -- TMDb

FENCES is based on a stage play and the movie suffers from feeling exactly like that. The acting and dialogue sounded like it was done on a stage and it detracted from the feeling of authenticity for me. This is a very dialogue-driven movie — it’s all about the dialogue. And at 2 hours 19 minutes, it’s incredibly long to just be listening to talking — even if it is between a number of interesting characters. There are a few powerful, emotional moments but, overall, doesn’t have the power it should.