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.

Film Review – The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Posted in Uncategorized on April 20, 2022 by Reel Review Roundup

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (MA)

Directed by: Tom Gormican

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Tiffany Haddish

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Nicolas Cage is in on the joke for this clever, meta and funny tribute to the actor, his career and dig at Hollywood.

Hollywood actor Nick Cage’s (Nicolas Cage) star is all but extinguished.

Roles for the once celebrated actor have dried up – even meetings with film makers are becoming few and far between.

On top of that, his obsession over his own career has already put the final nail in the coffin in his marriage to Olivia (Sharon Horgan) and put a strain on his relationship with his daughter Addy (Lily Mo Sheen).

In a moment of desperation, Nick accepts $1 million to appear at the birthday party of Italian billionaire and nervous super fan Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal).

As the two men become unlikely pals, Nick is recruited by CIA agents Vivian (Tiffany Haddish) and Martin (Ike Barinholtz) to get intel on Javi, who they suspect is a notorious arms dealer who is holding a woman hostage.

This bromance with a few twists up its sleeve is a great mix of comedy, satire and pathos.

The chemistry between Cage and Pascal is delightful as the two engage in some lovely banter and a few hilarious sequences guided by a clever script that balances just the right amount of silliness with heart and emotion – the meta-ness of it all is just icing on the cake for film fans.

Cage is able to be involved in this tribute to himself and his career without coming off conceited, bravely acknowledging some of the less than stellar aspects of his career.

It is just such a shame that Haddish and Barinholtz are left with almost no material to play with, their severely underwritten roles hardly worthy of their involvement.

Cage never really went anywhere, his string of straight to video movies were fairly consistent, but he is currently riding an upward trajectory after Mandy and Pig recently.

This bullseye will ensure that trajectory continues.

Film Review – Everything Everywhere All At Once

Posted in Uncategorized on April 20, 2022 by Reel Review Roundup

Everything Everywhere All At Once (MA)

Directed by: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert

Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ke Huy Quan

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Middle aged Chinese-American woman Evelyn Wang’s life is in a bit of turmoil.

Her marriage to Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) is failing, their laundromat business is struggling, their daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) has just introduced her new girlfriend and they are being audited by Deirdre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis) from the IRS.

At this moment, Evelyn is suddenly thrust into a wild adventure of alternate Evelyns in parallel universes – but the multiverse is under threat and Evelyn must save it.

This highly inventive, gloriously imaginative and wildly entertaining adrenaline shot is a miracle of a film.

First it sets up the modest and humble life of this ordinary family, then once it kicks into gear, it is breathlessly paced as complex exposition is shot out at breakneck speed among the action.

But what grounds this fantasy sci-fi is the incomparable Yeoh.

We always knew she was a stunt legend but after almost 40 years, Yeoh is finally given the opportunity to play a thoughtfully rounded character (and multiples versions of it) that is built on actual emotions.

Not only does she get to showcase her fighting talents, that we always knew were there, but she gets to flex her emotional range and display her comedic chops – and she turns in a career best performance.

You can tell that she is cherishing this opportunity and she absolutely flourishes.

It is also a delight to see Quan back in film after a decades long break and Curtis is frothing her chance to let loose and play in this world – she also shines here.

One of the many beauties of this film is that the Daniels, as the filmmakers are collectively known, have given such unique opportunities to actors who have otherwise been pigeonholed.

Everything Everywhere is high energy and hectic, yet the Daniels have such a firm hold on what they have created – how they manage to maintain their grasp is admirable.

Under all the flashy and inventive camera work, action scenes and storytelling techniques (hot dog fingers!) is some incredibly moving and thought provoking moments. This is not just 130 minutes of action eye candy and buffet of random imagery.

This is a richly satisfying experience and one that demands to be seen again and again.

Film Review – Ambulance

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

Ambulance (MA)

Directed by: Michael Bay

Starring: Jake Gyllenahaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eliza Gonzalez

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Only Michael Bay could take a thriller set in a confined space and make it an epic action blockbuster that rivals his own destruction filled Transformer films. And that isn’t even a criticism.

Two LA based brothers who have lead different paths – Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen) is a returned war veteran and family man with money woes while Dannny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a career criminal like their Dad – come back together for a $32 million bank heist.

When the heist goes awry and a cop is injured, the brothers hijack an ambulance, take hostage its feisty EMT Cam Thompson (Eliza Gonzalez) and her patient and are chased through the streets, alleys and the concreted LA River by the cops and FBI.

As if that isn’t enough drama to deal with, some criminal kingpins are also folded into the mix.

Based on the 2005 80 minute Denmark thriller, scriptwriter Chris Fedak and director Michael Bay have presumably added several characters, subplots and extended action sequences to blow this remake out to a whopping 136 minutes – and every choice they have made was the right one.

This is a breathless thriller that sets up a morally iffy scenario for maximum drama, populates it with likable characters and actors, and with Bay once again let off his leash, kinetic action in which the camera spins, whips and soars up, down and around almost every object in the frame.

Bay has always been gleeful with his over the top camerawork and this time it is like he has discovered the drone for the first time – almost as if he has found a second wind for film making.

Sure this wild ride gets more unnecessarily complicated and ridiculous as it goes along (this is Bay’s signature!) but if you were expecting logic, you have bought a ticket to the wrong film.

To some, this could be an exhausting and nauseating approach, however, with the right amount of humour and heart, this comes out a white knuckle winner.

Film Review – The Batman

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

The Batman (M)

Directed by: Matt Reeves

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

The perfect antidote to Marvel’s bright, shiny, one-liner filled franchise, Christopher Nolan took DC’s Batman into gloomier territory with his Dark Knight trilogy, opting for pathos over punchlines.

Just when you thought Batman couldn’t get more serious, Matt Reeves has taken it a step further and given it a twist.

It has been two years since reclusive billionaire Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) began donning the batsuit to haunt Gotham City’s unsavory sort from the shadows while simultaneously working with Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright).

Batman is drawn into the investigation of the Mayor’s murder, committed by the Riddler (Paul Dano), when a riddle addressed to him is left at the crime scene.

Following the clues leads Batman to a nightclub owned by Oswald Cobblepot, AKA The Penguin (Colin Farrell) and one of his employees Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), who also enjoys dressing up as an animal to seek vengeance and justice.

The characters are familiar and have been explored in various other iterations of the franchise, but director Matt Reeves chooses a new tack – this is Batman as a deliberately slower paced, moody, detective/film noir as we follow the clues in series of murders that uncover Gotham’s deep seeded corruption.

With its grimy production design, gloomy atmosphere and series of grisly murders, this is the closest we are likely to ever get to a David Fincher Batman film.

And Reeves allows Pattinson to lay the brooding on thick, with the goth-boy hair cut, minimal dialogue and extensive eye acting. And Pattinson nails it.

He is also surrounded by a delectable cast with the slinky but tough Kravitz, terrifying Dano and Farrrell who brings the much needed camp value – as the mobster, he actually pronounces murder as “moider”.

Clocking in at almost three hours, The Batman is incredibly ballsy as it sits and soaks in its own atmosphere, allowing the story to unfold at a controlled pace and offering only short bursts of action.

It is refreshing to finally see such a strong vision and film making conviction in a blockbuster movie.