Friday, 10 November 2017

BRAD’S STATUS

A father takes his son to tour colleges on the East Coast and meets up with an old friend who makes him feel inferior about his life's choices.

Supposed to be a comedy drama but there is very little to laugh at. BRAD’S STATUS is a very serious meditation on the demoralising effect of comparing our lives with those we often define as “successful”. Ben Stiller, who plays the father, is having an existential crisis because he feels his life has been a waste when compared to a number of his old school mates who have made it big. There’s a very important message in this movie about valuing the simple lives that most of us lead rather than pursuing status, money, and power. It’s good to see Ben Stiller (Zoolander) in something substantial. His performance is good, as is Austin Abrams (Paper Towns) who plays the son and is on screen with Stiller most of the time. It lags a bit at times and could have been more daring. I felt very depressed at the end of this one — but with a needed nudge to reflect on what things I truly value in life. An insightful movie — especially for those living in the so-called “first world”.


Sunday, 5 November 2017

THREE SUMMERS

The new ensemble romantic comedy written and directed by Ben Elton.

Set over three summers at The Westival, a fictional West Australian rural folk festival redoubtable local radio personality ‘Queenie' describes as "Australia in a tent". Two young musicians fall in love against a wider collection of tales dealing with a microcosm of contemporary discussion points, including Indigenous, immigration and refugee issues.

THREE SUMMERS comes across as if an immature screenwriter has tried to include as many Australian social observations and issues as possible in 1 hr 42 mins without worrying too much about how they fit together. Despite that, there are moments that are touching, funny, and incisive. It’s like watching a series of disjointed comedic gags that have no real plot line, although the romance between two of the characters does provide a bit of a backbone to the movie. It’s fun and, although a short movie, seems longer than it needs to be.


Saturday, 4 November 2017

THE MIDWIFE (Sage Femme)

Claire is a midwife and has devoted her life to others. At a moment when she is preoccupied by the imminent closure of the maternity clinic where she works, her life is further turned upside down when Béatrice, her father's former mistress, turns up on the scene. Béatrice is a capricious and selfish woman, Claire's exact opposite.

A gentle, human relationship drama that I enjoyed. I’m not a midwife, but the birth scenes in the movie seemed very real and authentic. The plot is somewhat contrived but the performances of the two lead actors make this movie worth watching.


Wednesday, 1 November 2017

CATCH-UP RATINGS

Every so often, I get a bit behind in reviewing movies I’ve seen. So, here are my star ratings for a few recent movies.

THE DANCER - Nothing in her background destined Loïe Fuller from the American Midwest to become a Belle Epoque icon, even less a dancer at the Paris Opera. Even at the risk of destroying her back and burning her eyes with the stage lights, she will never falter in the quest to perfect her dance. But her encounter with Isadora Duncan, a prodigious young dancer hungry for fame and glory, will precipitate the fall of this icon at the beginning of the twentieth century. ****

THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK - When a young man learns that his overbearing father is having an affair, he tries to stop it, only to be seduced by the older woman as well. ****

THE FOREIGNER - Quan is a humble London businessman whose long-buried past erupts in a revenge-fueled vendetta when the only person left for him to love -- his teenage daughter -- dies in a senseless act of politically motivated terrorism. His relentless search to find the terrorists leads to a cat-and-mouse conflict with a British government official whose own past may hold the clues to the identities of the elusive killers. ****

INGRID GOES WEST - Ingrid becomes obsessed with a social network star named Taylor Sloane who seemingly has a perfect life. But when Ingrid decides to drop everything and move west to be Taylor's friend, her behaviour turns unsettling and dangerous. ***

BRIGSBY BEAR - Brigsby Bear Adventures is a children's TV show produced for an audience of one: James. When the show abruptly ends, James's life changes forever, and he sets out to finish the story himself. (Brigsby Bear Productions) ****

See you at the movies!

Movie descriptions are from IMDB or TMDB unless otherwise stated.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

THOR: RAGNAROK

Imprisoned, the mighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk, his former ally. Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilisation.

The humour in this movie is what makes it worth seeing. It has all the usual elements of a superhero movie, but New Zealand director Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) has made this possibly the funniest Marvel movie ever made. And it seems to suit the actors — Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, and Cate Blanchett look like they are having great fun. And Waititi, himself, puts in a wonderful performance as Korg. Check it out if for no other reason than to have a good laugh along with its wonderful characters.


Wednesday, 25 October 2017

GOOD TIME

After a heist goes awry, a bank robber tries to free his brother from Rikers Island, all in one night.

This a heist movie with a difference — it’s more about the aftermath than the heist itself. Robert Pattinson plays yet another  complex character, Connie, who robs a bank with his brother, Nick (played by Ben Saftie, one of the directors), who is mentally challenged. Things don’t go as they should and the story becomes a suspenseful, deeply moving journey where Nick tries to free his brother from jail. The relationship between Connie and Nick is what makes this movie so special and it transcends the genre with freshness, insight, and depth. Pattinson continues to surprise showing he has truly left behind his Twilight days. The soundtrack is excellent and expresses the confusion and chaos internally experienced by the protagonists as they struggle to survive. Don’t miss it.


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US

Stranded after a tragic plane crash, two strangers must forge a connection to survive the extreme elements of a remote snow covered mountain. When they realise help is not coming, they embark on a perilous journey across the wilderness.

Idris Alba and Kate Winslett are pleasant together, but the movie is just not suspenseful enough. It’s more romance than adventure and the romance is very predictable (actually, the whole thing is predictable), the story is farfetched, and it all descends into cheesiness by the finish. The two main characters would look a lot worse than they do if they’d really survived what they did. Wait for it on DVD if you must see it.


Sunday, 15 October 2017

HAPPY DEATH DAY

A college student relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer's identity.

Movies about people reliving the same day over and over again are pretty common. But HAPPY DEATH DAY is an intriguing take and I enjoyed the journey as Tree Gelbman (played by an excellent Jessica Rothe) relives the same day, in which she ends up being murdered, over and over again, until she is able to solve the mystery of what is going on. There is some great humour, some moments of pretty good tension, and some genuine surprises. There’s also a pretty clichéd moral behind the whole thing, but it isn’t preachy. The title might imply yet another slasher movie — but it isn’t. An engaging, darkly humorous, diversion that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Suitable for 13+ years.


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

FINAL PORTRAIT

The story of Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti.

Geoffrey Rush is very good as Giacometti. But the movie is slow, boring, and repetitive. I get that creativity may be a long and slow process, but do I have to sit for 1½ hours in a long and slow movie to be told that? I don’t think so. A pointless exercise.


Friday, 6 October 2017

BLADE RUNNER 2049

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what's left of society into chaos. K's discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard, a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

I was very excited to see this sequel to the 1982 original Blade Runner movie and my expectations were satisfied. BLADE RUNNER 2049 follows on with a new story that is true to the original. The soundtrack is stunning as is the cinematography and special effects. Ryan Gosling does the best acting in the movie but the supporting cast are adequate. Impressive. Don’t pay extra for 3D — it adds nothing significant to the movie. But make sure you do get to see BLADE RUNNER 2049 on a big screen!


Tuesday, 3 October 2017

BATTLE OF THE SEXES

The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs.

Another piece of history I knew nothing about until I saw this movie. And what an entertaining piece of storytelling it is. Emma Stone and Steve Carell are both great in the leading roles. The story of the match is made more interesting because it explores both Billie Jean King’s fight for women’s rights as well as her own sexuality, both of which are still contemporary issues making BATTLE OF THE SEXES very relevant for today. While the issues are serious, they are explored with a great sense of humour. The story moves along at a great pace and, even though the outcome is already known because it’s a true story, the suspense in getting there is very well directed. BATTLE OF THE SEXES is a real crowd pleaser and should have wide appeal.


Tuesday, 26 September 2017

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, the Kingsman's journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US. These two elite secret organizations must band together to defeat a common enemy.

A major disappointment! The first Kingsman movie was so good. This second instalment is equally bad. The dialogue is weak, it’s humourless, and the action sequences are pretty much a repetition of the same stuff we saw in the first movie. It’s stale and excessively long. Don’t waste your time and don’t spoil the first one by seeing this one!


Monday, 18 September 2017

IT (2017)

In a small town in Maine, seven children known as The Losers Club come face to face with life problems, bullies and a monster that takes the shape of a clown called Pennywise.

The horror is so over the top in this movie I didn’t find it scary — although there were plenty of people in the cinema who did! The children are excellent in their roles all putting in solid performances, especially Sophia Lillis, who plays Beverley Marsh. She has one of the most demanding roles given the dark subject matter of her fear. The best parts of this movie are those where the children are not actually involved in the scary stuff. Entertaining with a good message about facing fears with the support of friends.


Saturday, 16 September 2017

MOTHER!

A couple's relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

The movie description above is a complete understatement! MOTHER! will divide viewers with -- you will either love it or hate it. I’m down toward the love end of the continuum. But how to describe it? I've never seen anything like it before. At the end of the movie I breathed WTF?! and sat with so many thoughts going through my head. The story is essentially about the way women often live in the shadow of “great” men and the way women have the life sucked out of them by the male’s egocentrism. The way this idea is portrayed is creepy, mind blowing, shocking, dazzling, dramatic, thrilling, comedic, complex, serious, mysterious and has to be experienced to be believed. Jennifer Lawrence is brilliant, as is the rest of the cast. Michelle Pfeiffer is excellent as her and Lawrence's character (no one in the film is ever named) experience spiralling tension. This is one hell of a movie and definitely lived up to whatever ambiguous expectations I had from the trailers. It is not perfect, however. The director, Darren Aranofsky, is unrestrained and the last third of the movie goes completely over the top without the subtlety of the first two-thirds — to the detriment of the overall package. If it hadn’t been for this, it would have been a five star movie, for me. It is, by no means perfect, but it is provocative and controversial. If you see it, you will have to decide for yourself whether it is a good movie or not!


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

THE KING’S CHOICE

On 9 April 1940, German soldiers arrive in the city of Oslo. The King of Norway faces a choice that will change his country forever. The King's Choice is a story about the three most dramatic days in Norway's history, the royal family's escape and King Haakon's difficult choice after Nazi Germany's invasion of Norway.

A fascinating story that I knew nothing about until seeing this movie. I found it riveting even though it was a little slow. It’s genuinely suspenseful, very well acted, and intelligent script, an impeccably directed. If you are looking for a different sort of movie about WWII, check it out.


GIRLS TRIP

When four lifelong friends travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, sisterhoods are rekindled, wild sides are rediscovered, and there's enough dancing, drinking, brawling, and romancing to make the Big Easy blush.

Unbearably bad movie. Yet another movie about people behaving badly. It’s crude and gross and designed to shock (and, rarely, amuse). While there is a message about the importance of friends, there’s got to be a less formulaic way of communicating it.


Friday, 8 September 2017

GIFTED

Frank, a single man raising his child prodigy niece Mary, is drawn into a custody battle with his mother.

The standout actor in this pleasantly entertaining drama is McKenna Grace - she makes this one worth seeing. The movie, generally, does not come up to the qualities she brings to her part. But it’s a pleasant, if formulaic, story that is made to increase the feel-good factor for audiences. Predictable but charming crowd pleaser.


Thursday, 7 September 2017

47 METRES DOWN

Two sisters vacationing in Mexico are trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean. With less than an hour of oxygen left and great white sharks circling nearby, they must fight to survive.

This was a tense movie. Like a lot of shark attack movies, the setup for the central action is pretty contrived. But once the two women are on the bottom of the ocean I spent most of the movie on the edge of my seat. Mandy Moore and Claire Holt do an excellent job of acting terrified and the direction of the action is spot on. Everything looks very real! It’s smart and you will have very few fingernails left when it’s over.


Wednesday, 30 August 2017

THE LOST CITY OF Z

At the dawn of the 20th century, British explorer Percy Fawcett journeys into the Amazon, where he discovers evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilisation that may have once inhabited the region. Despite being ridiculed by the scientific establishment, which views indigenous populations as savages, the determined Fawcett, supported by his devoted wife, son, and aide-de-camp, returns to his beloved jungle in an attempt to prove his case.

An interesting story about an interesting man who sacrificed everything for his obsession. The cinematography and acting are good and the indigenous people are excellent. But it is way too long. Rather than feeling exciting and engaging, it feels more like a plodding telling of the facts. It could have been a lot better than it is.


Friday, 25 August 2017

AMERICAN MADE

The true story of pilot Barry Seal, who transported contraband for the CIA and the Medellin cartel in the 1980s.

The fact that this movie is based on a true story makes it intriguing and worth watching even if it might not be completely true to the facts (I’ve no way of telling). Tom Cruise does a very watchable job of the main character, Barry Seal, and there are some pretty incredible moments of high tension. It felt a bit long and there was perhaps a bit too much of Seal flying his plane back and forth. Worth seeing, though.


MADAME

Adding a little spice to a waning marriage, Anne and Bob, a wealthy and well-connected American couple, move into a manor house in romantic Paris. While preparing a particularly luxurious dinner for sophisticated international friends, our hostess discovers there are 13 guests. Panic-stricken, Anne insists her loyal maid Maria disguise herself as a mysterious Spanish noble woman to even out the numbers. But a little too much wine and some playful chat lead Maria to accidentally endear herself to a dandy British art broker. Their budding romance will have Anne chasing her maid around Paris and finally plotting to destroy this most unexpected and joyous love affair.

Enjoyed the first half of this movie — it’s witty and fun. But about two thirds in, it loses its way and is ultimately unsatisfying. Acting is good and the cinematography of Paris is excellent. It is a shame the great script writing of the first half of the movie isn’t sustained all the way through. Overall, it’s ok — but that’s all.


Wednesday, 23 August 2017

THE DARK TOWER

The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O'Dim, also known as the Man in Black, determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.

I didn’t mind this action fantasy based on a series of books by Stephen King (which I haven’t read but understand are much better than this movie). Matthew McConaughey, Idris Alba (who is very cool), and Tom Taylor all put in reasonable performances. There’s some great visual effects but there’s little emotion or substantial character development. It’s pretty clichéd stuff but ok for a bit of escapism.


Monday, 21 August 2017

LOGAN LUCKY

Trying to reverse a family curse, brothers Jimmy and Clyde Logan set out to execute an elaborate robbery during the legendary Coca-Cola 600 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Dry humour and a plodding script. I was pretty bored with this until, at the end, I looked back to see how clever the plot actually was. It was hard work getting there, though.


Saturday, 19 August 2017

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

In the 28th century, Valerian and Laureline are special operatives charged with keeping order throughout the human territories. On assignment from the Minister of Defence, the two undertake a mission to Alpha, an ever-expanding metropolis where species from across the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence, and cultures. At the centre of Alpha is a mysterious dark force which threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

Entertaining enough with plenty of spectacular special effects, extraordinary creatures, and exciting set pieces. Unfortunately,  the plot is pretty thin and it is tonally much the same all the way through. The chemistry between the two leads isn’t there. Cara Delevingne (who plays Laureline) puts in a slightly better performance than Dane DeHaan (who plays Valerian). Overall, beautiful but not completely satisfying.


Sunday, 13 August 2017

WIND RIVER

An FBI agent teams with a town's veteran game tracker to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation.

I really enjoyed this intelligent, crime mystery. Renner and Olsen make a good partnership as they try to solve the mystery of a young Native American girl who has gone missing, trying to deal with the people living in an isolated, dead end community and the inhospitable landscape. If you like Scandinavian-style crime, you’ll like this one. Chilling.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

THE BIG SICK

Pakistan-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and grad student Emily Gordon fall in love but struggle as their cultures clash. When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail finds himself forced to face her feisty parents, his family's expectations, and his true feelings.

One of the better romantic comedies to hit our screens in recent times. Wasn’t has hard-edged as I think it could have been, but it shows that there’s some life left in this genre. Kumail Nanjiani plays himself and Zoe Kazan, who plays Emily Gordon, the love interest, are both great as they navigate their cross-cultural relationship that causes ripples of tension throughout Kumail’s family. Ray Romano brings his brilliant comedic sensibilities as the father of Emily and he and Kumail work well off of each other. This is a charming movie that will have wide appeal and, the fact that it a true story, makes it even more appealing. A much better take on a “meet the parents moment” than that “other” one.