Film Review – The Goddess Of Fortune

Posted in Uncategorized on September 24, 2020 by Reel Review Roundup

The Goddess Of Fortune (M)

Directed by: Ferzan Ozpetek

Starring: Stefano Accorsi, Edoardo Leo, Jasmine Trinca

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

The open relationship between Arturo (Stefano Accorsi) and Alessandro (Edoardo Leo) has been an intimacy free zone for quite some time but it is finally creating tension between the pair.

Just as Arturo’s jealousy comes to the surface, the couple’s longtime friend Annamaria (Jasmine Trinca) asks them to look after her two young children while she spends time in the hospital.

The child-free couple’s lifestyle is upended as they welcome the new guests, tackle for the first time child rearing and adjust to new morning routines.

The situation puts an even greater strain on the relationship and it may not be the healthiest environment for the two youngsters, so they seek out their rich but estranged Grandmother to take over – but that could prove to be an even more toxic environment for the children.

True feelings are revealed and deep, dark secrets finally come to light that test the relationship and family dynamic.

This bittersweet Italian delight explores the idea of what makes a family – whether it is family we choose or family we are stuck with – with a fresh, queer lens.

It openly and frankly discusses open gay relationships, normalising it in a way that so few mainstream or queer films have done in the past, and yet for every progressive step forward, there is one slight step backwards.

The two male lead performances, while both solid and endearing, lack any queer characteristics. They are alarmingly straight presenting. If we weren’t constantly reminded that they are gay, there would be no way to pick it.

Regardless, The Goddess Of Fortune is a joyful and heartbreaking journey to go on as these two men learn more about themselves and each other.

The Goddess Of Fortune screens as part of the St Ali. Italian Film Festival 2020 which runs in Perth from October 1 – October 14.

For more information, click here.

Film Review – The High Note

Posted in Uncategorized on September 22, 2020 by Reel Review Roundup

The High Note (M)

Directed by: Nisha Ganatra

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kelvin Harrison Jr

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Aspiring music producer Maggie Sherwoode is paying her dues as the overworked assistant to singing superstar Grace Davis, who is successfully touring but hasn’t released new music in a decade.

Grace’s next career move is up in the air – her long-time manager Jack (Ice Cube) and record label executives urge her to settle with a cushy Las Vegas residency, but she wants to release a new album.

Meanwhile, Grace meets talented but unsigned musician David Cliff (Kelvin Harrison Jr), fibs about her credentials to convince him to let her produce his first album and the two spark a relationship.

Dakota is reliably cute, Ellis Ross is commanding and June Diane Raphael almost steals it as Grace’s ditsy staffer Gail, but The High Note’s script is more interested in trotting out taking a rom-com tropes than exploring an under-told story.

This could have been a juicy, relevant and timely exploration of the plight of a relevant black middle aged music star who’s career and creativity is being stifled by younger white male studio executives.

The High Note merely hints at it with a heartbreaking monologue from Grace (sensationally delivered by Ellis Ross) where she lays it all out for Maggie, Cliff’s Notes style.

But instead of spending more time fleshing this out, we get a meet-cute between Maggie and David and a love story that is perfectly serviceable, but by far the least interesting avenue this film could have taken.

Props where they’re due – there is a knockout twist towards the end that you won’t see coming and the songs are top class efforts (something you don’t often get in films about pop music).

Film Review – The Broken Hearts Gallery

Posted in Uncategorized on September 17, 2020 by Reel Review Roundup

The Broken Hearts Gallery (M)

Directed by: Natalie Krinsky

Starring: Geraldine Viswanathan, Dacre Montgomery

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

After each relationship break-up, New York art gallery assistant Lucy Gulliver (Geraldine Viswanathan) keeps a memento of her ex, whether it be a tie, shoelace or trinket.

Her sassy best friends/room-mates Amanda (Molly Gordon) and Nadine (Phillipa Soo) call it hoarding, but Lucy insists its honouring the relationship.

After Lucy is dumped and has an emotional breakdown in front of important guests at a work event, she is fired and in her fragile state mistakes Nick’s (Dacre Montgomery) car for a ride share.

The two hit it off and become business partners – Nick’s opening a trendy new hotel that will feature a broken hearts gallery curated by Lucy – relationship mementos donated by broken hearted New Yorkers.

Lucy and Nick become inseparable and the gallery idea is a social media smash, but in true rom-com fashion, it is not an easy road to love or success.

Just when you think there are no more fresh rom-com ideas, The Broken Hearts Gallery breathes new life into the genre.

It ticks all the cliche boxes: fun and bubbly unlucky in love lead, handsome love interest, eccentric sidekick gal pals and a quirky idea. But this time, the quirky idea actually has a lot of resonance, relatability and pathos.

There are some genuinely lovely ideas swirling around in this story – that all items (no matter how small or junky) have a story, finding good and artistic merit in everything, hanging on to precious memories but also learning when to let go of painful ones.

Sure it leads to an almost two hour experience, which makes this feel a little long as it sticks to the riskless rom-com routine and has an occasionally sluggish pace, but it never feels forced and is a joy to experience.

The reveal of why Lucy began holding onto items from people in her life is such an affecting moment and shows this film is just as much about creating realistic and well-rounded characters as it is committing to rom-com tropes.

Writer/director Natalie Krinsky shows she has a firm grasp on the genre and how to keep it fresh with some seemingly Mindy Kaling inspired lead character dialogue and quips.

Throw in a fun and frisky cast and you have a heartwarming winner.

Film Review – Tenet

Posted in Uncategorized on August 23, 2020 by Reel Review Roundup

Tenet (M)

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Starring: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

It is no wonder that so much pressure has been placed on Christopher Nolan’s summer tentpole film Tenet to single-handedly save the cinema industry during a pandemic – it is a film that requires multiple viewings.

Much like Nolan’s chronologically challenged Memento and multi-level dreamiverse Inception, just once is not enough to capture all the intricacies of Tenet. But be warned: if those other films gave you a headache, you are in for a splitting migraine this time.

A nameless Protagonist (John David Washington) discovers that technology invented in the future that causes items to reverse their trajectory, has somehow made its way to the present.

A startling discovery on its own, but he then must team up with a group, including new buddy Neil (Robert Pattinson) to try and stop Russian villain Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) from ending the world with this ability to move back and forth in time.

In order to get close to Andrei, Protagonist has to use his suffering wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki), who is trapped in the abusive marriage.

If you want a spoiler-free review, you are in luck. Tenet is the kind of film that is almost impossible to spoil because, to be honest, it is hard to keep up with it. What has been mentioned is about all you will come away with the first time around.

A lot of things are said, time travel and movement theories expounded, but not a lot of time is allowed for it to sink in. We are even let off the hook early on when a woman in lab coat says “Don’t try to understand it”. What it does allow for is some startling action sequences in which some elements play out in reverse.

Having said that, Tenet is the most entertained I have been without knowing what is even going on half the time. Every 20 minutes you catch nuggets of information that gives you a general gist before cars suddenly start reversing on a freeway and you are back at square one again.

Sure the appropriate amount of spectacle is there – enough to please any movie starved cinema-goer, but it is the underwritten characters and lack of stakes that disappoint more than the confusion.

If you enjoy the mental gymnastics of Inception, Donnie Darko, Mulholland Drive and The Matrix trilogy, you will have a field day with Tenet. Expect to be trying make heads or tails out of it for hours after.

Film Review – Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Posted in Uncategorized on July 16, 2020 by Reel Review Roundup

Where’d You Go, Bernadette (M)

Directed by: Richard Linlater

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Kristen Wiig

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

One could suspect that something may have been lost in translation in adapting Maria Semple’s novel, as the film slowly loses touch with reality as it’s lead character sets out to rediscover her creativity.

Bernadette (Cate Blanchett) is a celebrated architect who stepped away from her thriving career when she got married and had a family.

Years later she, her husband Elgie (Billy Crudup) and teenage daughter Bee (Emma Neslon) live in a dilapidated renovators dream house in the Seattle ‘burbs where the icy, busy housewife finds herself in constant dispute with neighbor and annoying PTA mum Audrey (Kristen Wiig).

But with Bernadett’s increasingly erratic behaviour, it becomes clear that she has become “lost”.

Exploring the importance of expressing one’s creativity and the consequences for one’s mental well-being when they no longer have a creative outlet is intriguing and makes for some juicy food for thought.

However, this adaptation seems to lose its way. It is about the mid-point in which Elgie calls in a shrink (Judy Greer) for an intervention that the film screeches to halt to explain Bernadette’s psychological state via a slew of exposition.

From there it takes a strange turn when Bernadette just up and leaves to Antarctica, and that’s not the strangest thing that happens in a coincidence filled final third that is difficult to be on board with as an audience member.

It is around these turns that one could there was a breakdown in the adaptation of the novel. This story grounded in reality slowly begins to lose touch with it.

Blanchett is a powerhouse of flustered energy, pitching her performance perfectly so that when all about Bernadette’s past is finally revealed, her behaviour all makes sense. If it weren’t for the film’s structural missteps, this would be one to go back and watch again immediately to marvel at the intricacies of Blanchett’s performance.

Film Review – The King Of Staten Island

Posted in Uncategorized on July 16, 2020 by Reel Review Roundup

The King Of Staten Island (MA)

Directed by: Judd Apatow

Starring: Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Having spent the last five years focusing on television and documentaries, writer/director Judd Apatow returns to the big screen with his signature lengthy dramedy about a complex and lovable loser.

Since his firefighter Dad died many years ago, 20-something bum Scott Carlin (Pete Davidson, giving a terrific performance) has had zero direction in life.

Still stuck in a state of grief, the jobless tattooed stoner still lives with his Mum Margie (Marisa Tomei) and spends his days and nights with his equally directionless mates, smoking weed and talking crap.

Scott does have one pie in the sky ambition: to open a tattoo parlour-slash- restaurant.

When Margie finally starts dating for the first time after 17 years, Scott’s life is shaken up and he is forced to wake up to himself, take on some adult responsibility and put his life on track.

Apatow enjoys exploring the journeys and arcs of characters that appear to have low-key, directionless lives, making his cinematic mark with a 40-year-old virgin and a stoner knocking up a one-night stand.

The King Of Staten Island has surface level similarities, but once again, Apatow finds pathos and nuance in his lovable loser and fresh dynamics with his supporting characters. While Scott may seems like a bit of a waste of space at first, his harmless demeanor and amusing banter with his mates makes him relatable.

Later, in true Apatow fashion, just when Scott thinks he has hit rock bottom, he finds another level of bottom before he can pull his life back together.

It is this structure that results in a generous 135 minute running time, but also allows the character and scenes to breathe, and for us to process and absorb Scott’s developments and growth as he does.

Film Review – Waves

Posted in Uncategorized on July 8, 2020 by Reel Review Roundup

Waves (MA)

Directed by: Trey Edward Shults

Starring: Kelvin Harrison Jr, Taylor Russell

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Life is going well for Floridian high schooler Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr) until a painful arm injury threatens to end his wrestling career before it even begins.

Everything he has trained for, under the pressure of his well-meaning but overbearing father Ronald (Stirling K. Brown) who is a fan of the tough love method, and his future is suddenly jeopardised.

Tyler doesn’t have the appropriate tools to deal with the emotional turmoil of suddenly facing newly broken dreams and an uncertain future (his once loving relationship with his girlfriend also breaks down which just exacerbates the situation) and he begins to spiral on a path of self destruction, which results in an irrevocable tragedy, that he and his affluent family must deal with.

Waves is sensitively and intelligently told by writer/director Trey Edward Shults in a linear fashion, but he has put a lot of thought into the structure, with the beginning and ending mirroring each other despite switching character focus at the mid-point.

This moody film opens with hope and promise (the camera spinning around Tyler’s busy life of training and good times with his girlfriend and mates) before building almost unbearable tension until the second act tragedy, then it shifts focus to his shy younger sister Emily (Taylor Russell) where it and eases back into a sense of hope as she and her parents put their lives back together.

Shults also uses aspect ratio changes throughout his film which acts as an additional indicator of the characters’ psyche at key moments in the story.

It is an emotional and affecting journey as we watch Tyler’s spiral helplessly from the comfort of the cinema. You just want to jump in and help him.

We see his talent and potential but he (and the audience) is all too aware that he could very well one day end up like the young black man surrounded by cops outside a shop that Tyler spots out the window as he cruises past.

Co-leads Harrison Jr and Russell are exceptional as they carry their respective halves of Waves. The pair tackle the heavy and complex material with such understanding and talent and are a pleasure to experience on screen.

Film Review – Edmond

Posted in Uncategorized on March 10, 2020 by Reel Review Roundup

Edmond (M)

Directed by: Alexis Michalik

Starring: Thomas Soliveres, Olivier Gourmet, Mathilde Seigner

Four stars

Review by Julian Wright

Struggling but gifted poet Edmond Rostand (Thomas Soliveres), whose work has so far in the late 19th century gone largely unrecognised, is persuaded to pen the next hit play for stage legend Constant Coquelin (Olivier Gourmet) within three weeks.

Despite every step of the way indicating that this could be a career killing disaster for all involved, everyone on and behind the stage persists with the production.

Meanwhile, Edmond gets caught up in a love triangle with his actor friend Leo (Tom Leeb), a dreamy but inarticulate fellow, and costume designer Jeanne d’Alcie (Loucie Boujenah) – but the situation could be his greatest source of inspiration yet.

This fun, witty and fast paced comedy has many laugh out loud moments and memorable characters.

edmond

It all starts with the clever script, that gives all the characters (and there are a few of them) their own motivations and moments to shine – and the terrific cast brings it all so splendidly to life.

All the pieces are beautifully juggled by director Alexis Michalik, making his feature film debut, and kept rollicking along at a brisk pace ensuring that there is never an opportunity to be bored.

Gags are terrifically set up and hilariously paid off with such speed and precision that if you blink, you may miss a couple.

Despite the surface appearance that this is simply a frothy French farce, there are some fascinating themes explored amid the fun, in particular how inspiration can come from the most unlikely places and the line between inspiration and love.

And the sumptuously designed sets and costumes are an added bonus.

 

Edmond screens as part of the 2020 Alliance Franciase French Film Festival. 

Film Review: The Invisible Man

Posted in Uncategorized on February 26, 2020 by Reel Review Roundup

The Invisible Man (MA)

Directed by: Leigh Whannell

Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Harriet Dyer, Aldis Hodge

Four and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright
Saw co-creator Leigh Whannell has taken the tropes of two disparate sub-genres (domestic drama and sci-fi thriller), weaved them together and created one of the most intense, intriguing, smartly scripted re-imaginings of a classic story.

Having proven his scripting skills with the surprising and twisty Saw, then most recently his stylistic flair with a camera with his directorial effort Upgraded, Whannell has solidified himself as an exciting film maker to watch.

From the opening moments, Whannell puts us on edge with his updated version of The Invisible Man, as Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) slips from the grip of her controlling and abusive boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) in the middle of the night to escape from him and his fortress-like beach-side mansion.

Soon after, his lawyer Tom (Michael Dorman) informs her that Adrian has committed suicide and as per his will, she inherits $5 million on the condition that she does not commit a crime or deemed mentally unstable.

But Cecilia is not convinced Adrian is dead, with spooky things happening around her new home that indicate he has faked his own death, discovered a way of becoming invisible and is driving her batty with his new abilities.

With everyone around her concerned for her mental state, Cecilia must prove her theory, which becomes an increasingly difficult task when her theory sounds so crazy and Adrian systematically driving a wedge between her and her family and friends.

TIM

Whannell’s commitment to suspense, tension building and a palpable sense of dread right from the get-go, puts him up there alongside horror greats John Carpenter and Stanley Kubrick.

And he doesn’t let up for a second. This is two hours of sweat-inducing, deeply unsettling thrills.

His intelligent script doesn’t waste a second with superfluous scenes or dialogue, most of the key scenes playing out in seemingly real time, the camera often lingering, forcing our eyes to every corner of the frame searching for proof of Adrian’s presence, to achieve maximum tension. But Whannell also commits to some shockingly brazen moments, jolting the audience at just the right moments.

In addition to the technical achievements, this is first and foremost a character driven story, with the science taking a backseat. Moss is gifted a multi-dimensional character that has a vast range, and she meets the challenge, putting her alongside recent breakout horror performances such as Toni Collette (Hereditary), Lupita Nyong’O (Us) and Florence Pugh (Midsommar).

But the scariest thing is how deeply layered Adrian’s actions, motivations and manipulations are. He is more than a controlling nutcase with a chip on his shoulder. His intricate plan is terrifyingly multi-layered, and for a character that is given so little screen time, his constant oppressive presence is astounding.

At times the relentless stalking and mental and emotional torture of Cecilia is difficult to endure, and yet it scarily successfully (perhaps among the most successful in recent attempts since the #MeToo era) taps into what survivors of abuse go through – it’s not just the physical bruises, but the psychological impacts that are felt deepest.

In fact, it is a timely reminder that sometimes what you can’t see can be the most terrifying. You can, however, see The Invisible Man and it is a film you will want to see more than once.

Film Review – Black Christmas

Posted in Uncategorized on December 13, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Black Christmas (M)

Directed by: Sofia Takal

Starring: Imogen Poots, Cary Elwes, Lily Donoghue

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

 

The classic, and often overlooked, original teen stalk and slash horror film Black Christmas (1974) gets a redux for a woke audience in the “Me Too” era after the disastrously messy 2006 remake.

It is just days until Christmas and the Hawthorne College campus population is thinning with most of the faculty and students leaving to be with their families for the holidays.

The timing seems perfect for a blood-thirsty stalker to start bumping off vulnerable sorority girls without anyone noticing their absence.

Except timid but intuitive and protective Riley (Imogen Poots) does notice; a couple of her BFF’s who were supposed to leave for vacation have not reached their destinations, and Riley becomes deeply suspicious and worried for their safety.

Is she being overly sensitive, or are the college frat boys playing a cruel prank as an act of revenge after Riley’s allegations that one of the jocks date raped her?

The authorities are no help with her newfound concern and are treating her with the same dismissive attitude they did when she made the rape allegations, so Riley and a handful of her remaining friends must band together and fight to survive.

Film Title: Black Christmas

This modern horror film makes no secret that it is for the “Me Too” era and Has Something To Say with a very potent Message.

At times the metaphors are forced (one character likens the sisterhood to ants – then later proceeds to spell out why) and the Me Too discourse overly obvious (“Did you just ‘not all men’ me?!”) – it certainly side-steps subtlety and could very well be dated much sooner than it should.

However, this “hot topic” is otherwise cleverly woven into the slasher setting, elevating familiar horror genre material and adding meat to the bones of a well-worn scenario.

This version looks at why it is always women in peril in these films, and in life, suggesting that toxic masculinity is consciously and deliberately passed down through generations of men who are trained to maintain dominance over women.

The set up also allows more depth for our “final girl” – Riley is not motivated by simply intuition or a gut feeling; she has experienced directly the violence men can do to women and has reason to be wary when her friends don’t answer their phone.

The twist, heavily suggested in the spoiler heavy trailer, is hokey, but an interesting metaphor for how toxic masculinity and the hunger for power is passed on through generations of men, and it also gives a deeper meaning to the title.

It is easy to nit-pick the occasional sledgehammer deliver of a Message via clunky dialogue, but Black Christmas’ biggest flaw is the lack of violence shown.

It is understood this was filmed to be a gory slasher, but edited down at the last minute to remove the blood and guts to reach a wider audience. However the impact of a film exploring the violence that men do to women is severely dulled when we don’t even see the physical impacts.

Not only that, the chills are drastically reduced – a shame when much effort has been made to create a suspenseful experience. there is just no pay-off.

For its faults and missteps, Black Christmas is thought provoking and takes a decent stab at tackling some really tough issues, and for the most part, does it in as realistic fashion as possible.