Film Review – Ticket to Paradise

Posted in Uncategorized on September 15, 2022 by Reel Review Roundup

Ticket to Paradise (M)

Directed by: Ol Parker

Starring: Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Kaitlyn Dever

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Hollywood megastars Julia Roberts and George Clooney remind us that charm and chemistry are a winning combo that can light up a screen in their reunion rom-com Ticket To Paradise.

Bickering divorcees Georgia (Julia Roberts) and David (George Clooney) have managed to mostly avoid each other for several years, until they are seated side-by-side at their daughter Lily’s (Kaitlyn Dever) college graduation ceremony.

Thirty-seven days later, they find themselves on the same flight to Bali where Lily is to marry a seaweed farmer Gede (Maxime Boutier) in a whirlwind but traditional ceremony.

The only thing Georgia and David have in common, other than the constant verbal jabs at each other, is their desire to break up the happy couple and end the wedding plans to encourage Lily to get back on track to her career as a lawyer.

Revisiting the winning rom-com formula of the 1990s, with one of the stars that made the sub-genre the worldwide phenomenon that it is, is a refreshing trip down memory lane and an excuse to bask in the warm glow of Roberts and Clooney.

These two ooze personality and their banter as this feuding ex-couple is deliciously entertaining.

There is even a hint of My Best Friend’s Wedding, as we side with lead characters that are not exactly the purest people.

The script is typically lightweight, and could have had a couple of minutes shaved for a snappier run time, but this is a fun, gentle ride with dreamy scenery and a couple of bright guides.

Film Review – Bodies Bodies Bodies

Posted in Uncategorized on September 15, 2022 by Reel Review Roundup

Bodies Bodies Bodies (MA)

Directed by: Halina Reijn

Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Rachel Sennott

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

A bunch of rich brats get more than they bargained for when a fun drunken game turns deadly in this Gen Z slasher.

After a stint in rehab, Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) re-joins her group of friends, with new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova) in tow, for a hurricane party, where they drink, get high and play a murder/mystery game in one of their parents mansions while a hurricane barrels down on them.

But when one of the party-goers turns up dead and they cannot leave the remote property, they suddenly have more to face than social injustice, mental health issues and being seen and heard.

As much as it is fun to witness a group of “woke” brats get offed in an assortment of gory ways, the script is decidedly lacking in the wit department.

While they often speak in Twitter buzz words and phrases (“you are so toxic”), the script fails to go any further to poke fun at this generation – kind of like Clueless but without the sharp, affectionate take-downs.

And being that the characters are not particularly likable, or even fleshed out (most of them are interchangeable), any chance for genuine suspense is limited, save for a couple of creeping around in the dark alone moments.

The story and body counts builds and builds until the final reveal that, while slightly amusing, is hardly the shock “gotchya” moment the film thinks it is.

Film Review – Orphan: First Kill

Posted in Uncategorized on September 1, 2022 by Reel Review Roundup

Orphan: First Kill (MA)

Directed by: William Brent Bell

Starring: Isabelle Fuhrman, Julia Stiles, Rossif Sutherland

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

With Esther, the psychotic 33 year old Estonian with a thirst for blood and daddies and rare hormone disorder that makes her look like a child dead at the end of Orphan (2009), the only option was to look backwards with a prequel – so now we are treated to her attempt to wreak havoc on her first adoptive family.

Two years before Esther was adopted by an unsuspecting family that she did her best to completely destroy, the 31 year old was locked up in the Saarne Institute.

Here, she escapes, dons the identity of a missing American girl who she bears a vague physical resemblance to, turns herself in and is shipped to America to the wealthy Albright family – mum Tricia (Julia Stiles), father Allen (Rossif Sutherland) and son Gunnar (Matthew Finlan).

While Esther fits in and adapts to her new life, the detective on the missing child case Detective Donnan (Hiro Kanagawa) becomes suspicious, and so a more bonkers twist than the original Orphan film is revealed.

Orphan (2009) put a wild twist on the “Bad Seed” trope, and David Coggeshall, David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Alex Mace, credited for the story and screenplay, have taken on the burden of having to one-up the original in terms of shock and surprise.

What begins as almost a re-tread of the original, with a slight The Imposter influence thrown in, is soon spun on its head with a left-field twist that does more than just shock for the sake of shock value.

This absurdly fun twist challenges our expectations, shows our lead character in a new light and gives her a whole new emotional journey. It also creates some deliciously dark and funny interaction between Esther and her new family.

The only minor let down is that the film doesn’t quite go far enough – there could have been a couple more scenes of power play between the characters. but this is a minor quibble for a film that is more fun than it has the right to be.

Another minor distraction is the way each scene looks like it was filmed after a fog machine has been left on before the cameras roll – surely an attempt to mask the fact that Fuhrman is now 12 years older, playing an even younger version of her character.

But under the reins of the aforementioned script team and director William Brent Bell, Orphan: First Kill is a sensationally satisfying piece of pulpy horror entertainment done just right.

It is just a shame that this character has been painted into a corner which would prevent further adventures – this real life Chucky offers a wild ride!

Film Review – Beast

Posted in Uncategorized on August 24, 2022 by Reel Review Roundup

Beast (M)

Directed by: Baltasar Kormakur

Starring: Idris Elba, Sharlto Copley

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Big screen hunk Idris Elba is the everyday man out of his comfort zine in this man vs beast thriller that plays out a bit more like the satisfyingly silly Crawl than the terrifying creep-fest Cujo.

After his wife dies, Dr Nate Samuels (Idris Elba) takes his two daughters Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Jeffries) to her home country South Africa to visit where she grew up and also visit old family friend Martin (Sharlto Copley).

While exploring the Savanna, the group discover slain villagers and their vehicle is soon attacked by a territorial and particularly savage male lion.

With their guide Martin severely injured, their vehicle trapped and no radio signal to call for help, the vacationing trio must find a way to survive the relentless beast.

This is a classic case of a cheesy B-grade film given the A-grade treatment – and sometimes that is all you need from cinema.

The schlocky elements are apparent with the prologue slaughter setting up the danger and plot points hammered home in repeated, obvious exposition dialogue for those who have either completely switched off or are half looking at their phones.

Director Kormakur elevates the script somewhat, bringing a clear vision to his film, utilising the illusion of long single takes to tell the story.

His camera follows the characters as they move around and interact, often swirling around them. Though Kormakur uses this technique consistently, it is only effective some of the time: when establishing benign locations (their accommodation) it is distracting, but when the threat is near, it is incredibly effective in building tension.

The cast are serviceable- Elba plays ordinary man effectively and the young women are appropriately terrified, but this isn’t exactly the project that allows for much of an arc.

While Beast doesn’t quite deliver the catharsis you might crave from these outings, it is nevertheless and entertaining distraction that offers a few effective jump scares and built almost exclusively out of moments that have you yelling at the screen. And in a group setting, that is half the fun.

Film Review – Nope

Posted in Uncategorized on August 11, 2022 by Reel Review Roundup

Nope (M)

Directed by: Jordan Peele

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Modern horror master Jordan Peele gives us a new reason to look to the skies, or rather, not look with his latest film Nope.

When his ranch owner father dies in mysterious circumstances, grieving OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) struggles to keep the family Hollywood horse training business alive.

The situation worsens when he is fired off a commercial set after one of his horses reacts violently and OJ is forced to sell horses to his Western theme park owning neighbour Jupe (Steven Yuen) just to keep money coming in.

OJ’s fame seeking sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) arrives on the scene and the two realise that something unusual is happening in the clouds above their ranch and around the nearby hills and they devise a way to capture the phenomenon on film.

With Nope, Peele shifts gear slightly, offering a fresh twist on the UFO formula and delivering a fun and frightening blend of Spielberg, Shyamalan and Tarantino inspired adventure.

While his latest film might not quite leave the visceral and emotional impact that Get Out or Us did, Peele continues to explore fascinating themes, this time taking the opportunity to look into the role Black people have in the film industry and their significant contributions that are often overlooked and/or forgotten.

Just as his characters live in the shadow of those who have made their mark and attempt to carve their own legacy, Peele does so with his own art.

And he doesn’t mind having a lot of fun while doing it.

Kaluuya is typically solid, with his brooding performance and little dialogue giving Palmer the space to shine – and she emerges the star, holding her own next to her Academy Award nominated co-star.

Peele’s blend of socially conscious themes and spectacle just makes one hungry for more films from this modern movie-making genius.

There is a lot of creativity swirling around in that head of his and his next projects cannot come soon enough.

Film Review – Jurassic World Dominion

Posted in Uncategorized on June 8, 2022 by Reel Review Roundup

Jurassic World Dominion (M)

Directed by: Colin Trevorrow

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

The second trilogy in the Jurassic Park series comes to a deeply unsatisfying close despite plenty of promise and the return and reunion of favourite legacy characters.

Humans and dinosaurs have been living side by side for four years since the events of Fallen Kingdom, but swarms of genetically modified locusts threaten to destroy the ecological balance even faster than the once extinct creatures.

Turns out evil conglomerate Biosyn, headed by Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) is behind the locusts and have kidnapped human clone Maisie (Isabela Sermon), who has been living in hiding with former dino trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) and dino theme park boss Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard).

Meanwhile, Elle Sattler (Laura Dern) and Alan Grant (Sam Neill) head to Biosyn HQ, where Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) now lectures, for proof of the locust tampering.

Remember when Jurassic Park was just about deadly dinos escaping their compounds and terrorising a handful of humans on an island, with some food for thought about the ethics surrounding cloning and several white knuckle encounters?

Six films later we are promised what was only flirted with in The Lost World: Jurassic Park during its climactic final third – what would happen if dinos ran amok on the mainland?

And what a compelling concept!

Alas, despite that being the natural evolutionary direction of this series, all Dominion does is frustratingly dangle the carrot then continue to repeat what we have seen in every other entry.

In fact, Dominion spends its two and a half hours exploring the least interesting possible scenarios that could come out of the idea of dinos existing in 2022.

Dominion does give its legacy characters plenty of screen time but it turns out to be quantity over quality as they slowly lurch through each scene trapped in a dull sub-plot before throwing them into the thick of the action, but having them basically repeat their Jurassic Park sequences.

Nostalgia has a lot of answer for here – so does the ongoing spectacle of impressively rendered dinos on the big screen.

For all its talk of evolution, this series is seemingly stuck in the Jurassic era, resulting in a frustratingly familiar (anti) climax.

Film Review – Top Gun: Maverick

Posted in Uncategorized on May 25, 2022 by Reel Review Roundup

Top Gun: Maverick (M)

Directed by: Joseph Kosinski

Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

The wait is finally over – a sequel 34 years in the making and then an additional two years added due to COVID-19 related release delays – Tom Cruise is back in the pilot’s seat for the sequel to Top Gun (1986).

After more than 30 years as a Navy aviator, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is still a Captain, having avoided advancement through the ranks.

When a unique and dangerous mission arises, he is recruited to train an elite group of cocky graduates, including Lt Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller) the son of Maverick’s best friend Goose who died when Rooster was a child.

Tension between the two adds pressure to the already high stakes mission, with all these graduates live’s in his hands.

Meanwhile, heart-breaker Maverick rekindles a flame with former lover Penny (Jennifer Connelly), now a bar owner and mother who lives a low-key life and does not want to get attached and be abandoned again.

Top Gun: Maverick offers the right amount of humour, action and nostalgia, building on the original story and character relationships while introducing new ones.

Although some decisions remain baffling – eliminating the Kelly McGillis character altogether and only showing brief footage of Meg Ryan’s character, but resurrecting Penny, who was only mentioned previously and never seen.

Regardless, the development between Maverick and the newly introduced characters carries enough dramatic weight for the audience to be engaged and entertained enough between action sequences.

And those action sequences are a thrill and a half.

Director Joseph Kosinksi builds plenty of excitement with the training montages, then dials it up with some of the most exhilarating aerial acrobats and fighter plane action on the big screen, made even more breath taking with how practical it all appears.

Despite having hit gold with the Mission: Impossible franchise, Cruise still has strong hold on Top Gun, seemingly unwilling to pass the baton to the next generation – this is very much about Maverick and his journey.

But that Cruise charm still has wings.

Film Review – How To Please A Woman

Posted in Uncategorized on May 18, 2022 by Reel Review Roundup

How To Please A Woman (M)

Directed by: Renee Webster

Starring: Sally Phillips, Alexander England, Erik Thomson

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Hollywood would have you believe otherwise, but middle aged women are actually vibrant, sexual creatures who deserve as many orgasms as men – and thank goodness that How To Please A Woman is here to shout it from the rooftops.

When 50-something office worker in a sexless marriage Gina (Sally Phillips) is let go from her job, she takes the opportunity to put her underappreciated business skills to use and tap into an untapped market – male house-cleaners/strippers/escorts for women.

A huge hit with her swimming club friends, word soon gets out and her client list continues to grow, but as it does, Gina realises that while she is putting everyone else’s sexual needs first, she is neglecting her own.

This fresh and hilarious comedy is as enjoyably fluffy as Calendar Girls but also as surprisingly candid about female sexuality as Sex in the City, as it delves into what gets women hot and bothered, from a full on flesh sesh or even just a chiseled guy doing your house work half naked.

How To Please…gives women with all kinds of preferences and fantasies a voice and the cherry on top is that this is also incredibly sexy and at times downright erotic.

Full of wit, insight and uncomfortable truths (mostly for men), How To Please… is an absolute joy and unabashed celebration of women of all shapes, ages, experiences and backgrounds.

Film Review – The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson

Posted in Uncategorized on May 12, 2022 by Reel Review Roundup

The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson (MA)

Directed by: Leah Purcell

Starring: Leah Purcell, Rob Collins, Sam Reid

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

An Australian western with a spin, The Drover’s Wife tells the story, set in 1893 Snowy Mountains, of one strong woman against a number of harsh elements – the Australian outback and society.

While her husband is away driving cattle, heavily pregnant Molly Johnson (Leah Purcell) raises their four young children and protects their property in the middle of the sprawling, baron outback.

When Aboriginal man Yadaka (Rob Collins), who is on the run from the law, arrives to seek shelter, deep secrets are revealed and revelations are made about Molly’s dark past, sparking a chain of events that show the lengths Molly will go to protect her children.

There are many surprises and gut punch moments throughout this often riveting and harrowing story of one woman fiercely protecting her children and her fight to survive, however the slow pacing at times betrays the suspense and emotional impact of the story.

There is no denying that Purcell is a powerhouse having taken on so many roles in the making of this film – writer, producer, director and actor – having adapted her own acclaimed play.

This is clearly a deeply personal film for her and one that she has so delicately brought to the screen. there is an apparent care about how this has been put together.

An added bonus is the incredible composition and breathtaking scenery, captured beautifully in the widescreen format.

Film Review – The Northman

Posted in Uncategorized on April 22, 2022 by Reel Review Roundup

The Northman (MA)

Directed by: Robert Eggers

Starring: Alexander Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

A ferocious, barbaric Vikings story on an acid trip with an all star cats proves to be a curious concoction in the hands of fascinating film maker Robert Eggers.

When young Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak) witnesses his uncle Fjolnir the Brotherless (Claes Bang) kill his father King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke), claim his mother Queen Gudrun (Nicole Kidman) and terrorise their village, he escapes and vows vengeance.

Years later, after being raised by Vikings, adult Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard) finds his chance to kill his uncle, but he must pass as a slave to get close to him – which is how he meets and falls in love with Olga of the Birch Forest (Anya Taylor-Joy).

This bloody, gory and brutal drama has Eggers’ fingerprints all over it – his surreal, loopy elements sure to baffle mainstream audiences.It is a little cheeky of him to lure a wider audience with this cast and promise of such such savagery then hit them with the hallucinogenic sequences and other various tricks up his sleeve that are more at home in an art house cinema.

But it is this interesting mix of flavours that keeps one intrigued even when the pacing occasionally feels sluggish and the development of the lead character barely goes beyond “angry, determined” and “in love”.

Some characters with little dialogue can leave a mark when in the right hands – Skarsgard doesn’t quite have the gravitas here to take focus from his impressive abs.

Visually, this is a draw dropping film, with stunning scenery often framing the graphic and bloodthirsty action that is part of the exploration of the animal savagery of humans – Eggers finds the beauty among the ugly for some welcome balance.