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Monday, 29 January 2018


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.

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Saturday, 27 January 2018


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.

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Wednesday, 24 January 2018


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.

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Tuesday, 23 January 2018


1975: A 200-ton blue whale gets washed up on a local beach, and the kids think it’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened in Australia. Behind closed doors, the Mums and Dads of a quiet suburban street are going to celebrate in their own special way, by joining the sexual revolution and throwing a wife-swapping key party. And like the rotting whale, it’s all about to go spectacularly wrong.

If you didn’t grow up during the ‘70s in Australia, this movie would probably be a complete waste of time. If you did, then it will bring back memories of a lot of cultural and social goings-on that you may want to forget or, in some cases, celebrate. It’s by no means a great movie, but it is fun, and there are quite a few laughs to be had. According to the director, it’s quite autobiographical. Some big names are acting in the movie: Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, Radha Mitchell, Julian McMahon, and Asher Kiddie. They let their hair down and give it their best shot — you’ll see some of them in a new type of role! The story is pretty thin, but the whole point is to survey what was going on in the ‘70s — at least, for these families! The soundtrack is, of course, the ‘70s. It is what it is. It’s a mixed bag. See at your own peril!

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Monday, 22 January 2018


Thomas leads his group of escaped Gladers on their final and most dangerous mission yet. To save their friends, they must break into the legendary Last City, a WCKD-controlled labyrinth that may turn out to be the deadliest maze of all. Anyone who makes it out alive will get answers to the questions the Gladers have been asking since they first arrived in the maze.

The best of the series. A pretty predictable story but tons of action — and it’s fast-paced and well choreographed. The opening sequence sets the tone for the rest of the movie and it never lets up. I think the actors do a bit better, too; I guess they’re older and more experienced now. This is an enjoyable movie if you are willing to suspend disbelief and just go with it. Grab your popcorn, put your feet up, and go for the ride.

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Friday, 19 January 2018


A businessman on his daily commute home gets unwittingly caught up in a criminal conspiracy that threatens not only his life but the lives of those around him.

Full of plot holes but entertaining during the hot days of summer holidays when there’s not much else on other than kids animation. Liam Neeson plays Liam Neeson even though his character is called Michael MacCauley. And if you’ve seen other Liam Neeson movies, you pretty much know what to expect. The premise is interesting. Lots of talking with strangers, plenty of action, some suspenseful moments, and none of it to be taken seriously. If you’re looking for some B movie escapism, you will enjoy it. Ridiculous and over the top — but fun.

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Monday, 15 January 2018


A social satire in which a man realises he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself to five inches tall, allowing him to live in wealth and splendour.

Not a perfect movie, but has some interesting things to say about the environment and consumerism. And if you watch carefully, there are even some philosophical ideas that have been around for centuries but are put into a modern context. So there is an intelligent scriptwriter behind it all. Matt Damon is good, as usual. There are some excellent visual tricks and the writing is very witty at times. Unfortunately, by the end of the movie, it becomes overly pretentious. Interesting but ultimately not quite as satisfying as it could have been.

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Sunday, 14 January 2018


A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country's first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government. Inspired by true events.

When read, the plot sounds pretty exciting and adding Steven Spielberg in as director, who knows how to tell a good story, you’d think this would be an on-the-edge-of-the-seat thriller. Unfortunately, the opposite is the case. It’s nearly two hours of complete boredom. I couldn’t believe how bad the script was. Most of it is just endless dialogue amongst the characters about whether they will publish the secret papers or not. The actual person (Daniel Ellsberg) who took the risks to steal the papers and leak them is marginalised in the movie with little time given to his story. We are never even told what happened to him! There is almost zero suspense and it’s pretty obvious how this one ends — even if you don’t know it from a knowledge of the history. Speaking of history, there is almost no context provided for the events in the story. Unless a viewer had some idea of the Vietnam War, it would be hard to see the point of all this dialogue that goes on. We’re not really told what is in the secret papers that are so significant. And, to cap it all off, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks don’t seem to put much into their roles. The whole thing is bland and uncompelling. A dismal failure of a movie.

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Saturday, 13 January 2018


A thrilling and inspiring true story begins on the eve of World War II as, within days of becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill must face one of his most turbulent and defining trials: exploring a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or standing firm to fight for the ideals, liberty and freedom of a nation. As the unstoppable Nazi forces roll across Western Europe and the threat of invasion is imminent, and with an unprepared public, a skeptical King, and his own party plotting against him, Churchill must withstand his darkest hour, rally a nation, and attempt to change the course of world history.

Gary Oldman is brilliant as Winston Churchill, but overall, the movie is pretty average. It seemed to plod along without any real highs and lows that built significant tension. There are some excellent moments — the “fight on the beaches” speech, of course, was one of them. About the only time there seemed to be any real emotional engagement was during a scene on a train when Churchill seeks the views of the common people about whether his government should negotiate with Hitler or fight on.  The problem is that it never happened and the style of the scene is out of sync with the rest of the movie. For me, the movie was educational — at least, the parts I assume were true. I liked the movie CHURCHILL (starring Brian Cox) better than this one because it gave a richer picture of who Churchill was. If you are interested in Churchill or the period, worth a look. Otherwise, I suspect you might find it a pretty boring experience. I do think Oldman may win an Oscar along with the makeup man!

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Wednesday, 10 January 2018


After the highs of winning the world championships, the Bellas find themselves split apart and discovering there aren't job prospects for making music with your mouth. But when they get the chance to reunite for an overseas USO tour, this group of awesome nerds will come together to make some music, and some questionable decisions, one last time.

The first Pitch Perfect movie was excellent. Since then, the have declined in quality with this final installment, PITCH PERFECT 3, the worst so far. The music is ok, but there is nothing that hasn’t been done before. The actors play the same roles, of course, with Rebel Wilson the standout who has the funniest lines. There is a very thin plot which merely allows movement from one musical performance to the next. The final act is quite uplifting, but overall, there is very little that is worth spending time on in this movie.

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Tuesday, 9 January 2018

JUST TO BE SURE (Ôtez-moi d'un doute)

When 45-year-old widower Erwan discovers by accident that the man who raised him isn't his real dad, he begins a search for his biological father. He soon locates the mischievous, 70 something Joseph, whom his mother knew briefly. Erwan falls not only for his charm but that of the impetuous Anna, who has ties to them both. The conflicting familial loyalties soon become compounded by the pregnancy of his own daughter Juliette, who defiantly refuses to name the father.

A pleasant French romance but the main stars don’t really seem to have much chemistry. And the plot is pretty contrived. It’s supposed to be a comedy but I didn’t do much laughing. Pretty clichéd and very little subtlety.

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Friday, 5 January 2018


After seven months have passed without a culprit in her daughter's murder case, Mildred Hayes makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at Bill Willoughby, the town's revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Jason Dixon, an immature mother's boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing's law enforcement is only exacerbated.

THREE BILLBOARDS is an excellent movie that is deeper and richer than I expected. At first, I thought it was going to be a typical “David and Goliath” story with David winning over Goliath. But, while there are indeed elements of that, this is not the heart of the story. What makes this such an engaging piece of cinema is the nature of the characters and the relationships between characters. In fact, this is a primarily character-driven movie and it is all the better for it. The cast is brilliant. Frances McDormand, as Mildred Hayes, is scorching as she works through her grief as it is manifested in her behaviour towards the police chief (Woody Harrelson) and, in particular, in her interactions with Jim Dixon (Sam Rockwell). It’s an entirely unpredictable story shot through with black humour. But, even though we are laughing at the humour, we suddenly find ourselves in the middle of searing melodrama. A masterpiece of storytelling with a bold ending.

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The story of the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother to convince his billionaire grandfather Jean Paul Getty to pay the ransom.

Based on true events but mostly boring apart from one or two moments. Christopher Plummer and Michelle Williams are excellent and, without their outstanding performances, the story would have been totally mechanical and without heart. Mark Wahlberg is miscast and should stay with the genres he’s good at. The cinematography is good. The movie does have something to say about the addiction to money and the skewed values of Jean Paul Getty — a man who valued a painting of a child over his own grandchild. This could have been a much more interesting movie.

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Wednesday, 3 January 2018


Set over one summer, the film follows precocious six-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Disney World.

This is a remarkable movie. It has the feel of being very realistic and that is, to a large degree, due to the acting of the two main kid characters who, I believe, have not had acting experience before. Their shades of innocence and innocence-lost are, at the same time, inspiring and heart-rending. It’s sad to see the way some people are forced to survive, living right at the margins of so much wealth, and navigating incredible challenges. Despite what is happening to the adults, the children seem oblivious and make their own fun and enjoyment as they are able. Daniel Defoe’s character is interesting as he watches from the sidelines, caught in the dilemma of compassion and rules that prevent him from doing what he wants to help the struggling family. The only problem with this movie is that it is way too long and feels, at times, to drag, losing the natural momentum of the story. But overall, challenging but rewarding viewing.

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