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.