Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Film Review – Renfield

Posted in Uncategorized on May 30, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

Renfield (MA)

Directed by: Chris McKay

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Nicholas Cage, Awkwafina

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

It’s not easy being Dracula’s (Nicholas Cage) henchman.

After 90 years of collecting the blood of innocent victims to feed his master, Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) finally wants to cut ties and shake all those icky responsibilities he has been burdened with.

He joins a group for people stuck in unhealthy, codependent relationships but gets caught up in a conflict between a group of criminals and a mob family, Tedward Lobo (Ben Schwartz) and his mother Bellafrancesca Lobo (Shohreh Aghdashloo), and the cop who battling a corrupt department to take them down, Rebecca (Awkwafina).

When Dracula finds out that Renfield has been leading a double life, he does not take the news well.

With a fresh, comedic take on vampire lore from a re-imagined Renfield’s point of view and a dash of modern psychotherapy, this is a fun romp with plenty of laughs and a game cast.

Cage gives his usual, enthusiastic best, giving it just the right amount of nutty, while Hoult is the perfect nervy antithesis.

Renfield has a surprising amount of gore to balance the laughs, though it is the glaringly last minute CGI blood (fountains spew from severed limbs but never land on any surface, instead somehow dissipating) that often distracts during the action sequences.

Film Review – Fast X

Posted in Uncategorized on May 21, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

Fast X (M)

Directed by: Louis Leterrier

Starring: Vin Diesel, Jason Momoa, Michelle Rodriguez

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Leaning way into the serial format, Fast X swerves into cinemas with more retcons, callbacks and fake outs than a season of Melrose Place – but with plenty more cars and explosions.

Five films ago (the one where they dragged a giant bank safe full of cash through the streets of Rio de Janiero), Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his gang took on, and defeated, drug kingpin Herman Reyes.

Ten years later, Reyes’ hitherto unknown son Dante (Jason Momoa) is still deeply mad about it and seeks revenge on Dom, his family and extended family by any means.

The Fast and the Furious series hardly resembles its humble beginnings – it is less about cars and more about how the filmmakers can defy logic.

And while it has been a head-scratching but thrilling experience to witness the series become the overblown, over-the-top soap opera that it has, it seems, under the direction of series newcomer Louis Leterrier, it has finally plateaued.

Yes, there is a giant round bomb heading for the Vatican and two flaming helicopters are simultaneously dragged and pinballed around a highway – but this feels like part six or seven spectacle.

Though once your mechanically gifted street racing heroes are propelled into space to save the world, where else is there to go?

About the only thing left for this series to explore is time travel, and at this point, I would not be even the slightest bit surprised if it did.

As someone who unashamedly enjoys this loopy franchise more with each unhinged entry (the fact that it continues to attract Academy Award wining actors just adds to the batshit craziness), this one lost some of its rev.

The major sparks are Momoa as the flamboyant, nail-painted and pig-tail wearing villain and the genuinely surprising cliffhanger ending. Oh yes, there is definitely more Fast and Furious planned.

I look forward to the resurrected dead, invented family members, destruction of more cities and possible time travel.

Film Review – John Farnham: Finding The Voice

Posted in Uncategorized on May 21, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

John Farnham: Finding The Voice (M)

Director: Poppy Stockell

Starring: Jimmy Barnes, Daryl Braithwaite

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Documentary filmmaker Poppy Stockell tracks the illustrious career of Australian singer John Farnham, from his teen heart-throb days to icon and legend.

Speaking to his closest family, friends, colleagues and peers, Stockell paints a vivid picture of Farnham’s career highs and lows.

Valuable archive footage shows us the Beatles-like mania he caused with his debut hit Sadie The Cleaning Lady, a fluffy piece of pop that had teens frothing but gained him little industry respect.

From there he struggled to be taken seriously, briefly dabbling as the replacement lead singer in a rock band, before going solo once again and trying to find his voice, before creating the monster hit and culture defining album Whispering Jack.

While this documentary is a one-sided and favourable look at the singer’s career and characteristics, from the perspective of those closest to him, it is a career that is nevertheless fascinating.

If you are a Farnham aficionado hoping for long buried skeletons to come tumbling out of the closet, you will not get what you came for.

Regardless, it is hard not to be moved by Farnham’s generosity and tenacity, and to have a newfound respect for such an immensely talented man.

Film Review – Evil Dead Rise

Posted in Uncategorized on April 20, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

Evil Dead Ride (R)

Directed by: Lee Cronin

Starring: Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

What happens when the woods-dwelling Evil Dead demons relocate from a dingy cabin to an urban apartment building? Well, pretty much the same gleefully grotesque freak show of horror effects.

But despite being the fifth film to bear the name, these deviants still have creative ways of creating terror.

When roadie Beth (Lily Sullivan) discovers she is pregnant, she goes to stay with her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three young kids for support and guidance.

Trouble is, Ellie is in a bit of a pickle herself. Her husband just split and their run-down apartment building was recently condemned – and they have just weeks to move.

An earthquake swiftly helps the demolition process along, and the kids Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and Kassie (Nell Fisher) discover the Book of the Dead and some records in a long forgotten bank vault under the parking garage.

Guess what happens next.

Despite giving us a fresh setting for the mayhem, fans of the series will be please to know it opens with some brief but impactful cabin action before rewinding 24 hours to explore the main story.

More than the previous films, this one focuses strongly on character and relationships, so that when the inevitable carnage commences, we have developed a connection with them all.

It is probably the first time we have actually care about the people who are possessed and tearing their mates apart with various sharp objects.

Beware the cheese grater!

Director Lee Cronin maintains the Evil Dead look and feel as much as possible despite the modern, glossy digital sheen a stark betrayal of the original’s gloriously grimey, home-made looking appearance.

Still, he relies on practical effects over CGI and the spectacle is worth admission alone (for those who can stomach it – this is after all rated R18+).

Film Review – Dungeons & Dragons: Honour among thieves

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves (M)

Directed by: John Francis Daley, Johnathan Goldstein

Starring: Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez,

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Never played the game? Doesn’t matter. Dungeons & Dragons does not discriminate.

When thief Edgin (Chris Pine) and his accomplice/best friend Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) are released from prison, they seek to regain custody of Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman), who has been in the care of Forge (Hugh Grant).

This all sounds fairly wholesome and straightforward, but there are quests, sidekicks, a shifting maze, creatures, magic, shape-shifting and even talking corpses.

It is all gleefully fantastical, with a charmingly goofy sense of humour that is far better than it deserves to be.

Kudos to Dale and Goldstein who have imbued their film with a sense of fun, not only for fans but cinema-goers in general.

There are some key sequences that are so hilarious and fresh that it has secured itself as one of the biggest pleasant surprises of the year.

The most impressive thing about D&D is that one suspects it is full of Easter Eggs for die-hard fans of the game, and yet those unfamiliar are still able to follow the story, enjoy the gags and be part of the fun.

Pine and Grant are lapping up the opportunity to let loose and have fun (Grant is on a roll with this and the recent Operation Fortune), while Rodriguez also gets to dabble in comedy.

While the competition so far is pretty grim, this is one of the better game-to-screen adaptations.

Film Review – Champions

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

Champions (M)

Directed by: Bobby Farrelly

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Kaitlin Olson, Cheech Marin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Bobby “There’s Something About Mary” Farrelly has come a long way from his bombastic, gross-out comedy days, but it is unclear if his new path is a wise one.

After a physical altercation with a colleague, bachelor and basketball coach Marcus (Woody Harrelson) is court ordered to to manage a team of young players with intellectual disabilities for 90 days.

We don’t even need to drop another line of the plot because we all know how this is going to turn out.

There are certainly no surprises, plot-wise, Champions coasts solely on the charm of its performers.

Harrelson is still a playful presence who bonds nicely with this cats mates, but it is Olson, as his love interest, and Madison Tevlin, as the only female on the team, who stand out as sassy, modern, independent women among men.

Going into this unaware that it is a remake of the Spanish film Campeones, there is already a heavy sense of deja vu about the proceedings.

While it is lovely to see people with intellectual disabilities portrayed in such a positive light, Farrelly is so afraid to offend or ruffle any feathers, that this “comedy” tends to forget to make any gags, making it one of his safest film to date.

Film Review – Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

Shazam! Fury of the Gods (MA)

Directed by: David F. Sandberg

Starring: Zachery Levi, Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

A group of teens/foster siblings who can turn into their superhero alter egos battle vengeful Gods in this long and uninspired sequel to the hit DC film.

While dealing with the usual teenage awkward, angsty situations, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) aka Shazam tries to keep his superhero family on the same track, while concealing their identities from their parents.

They are suddenly faced with the daughters of Atlas, Hespera (Helen Mirren), Kalypso (Lucy Liu) and Anthea (Rachel Ziegler), who regain control of and mend a broken staff that holds vast powers.

A mighty, city leveling battle ensues between the two camps.

While the first Shazam was a fun, funny and cheeky addition to the seemingly endless superhero sub-genre (or is it its own genre now?), this follow up is a dreary, stale and overblown headache.

The cast playing the superheroes get to have some fun, but the films greatest sin is casting Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu as vengeful sister Gods, and having them deliver boring, one-note performances.

Liu hardly registers any inflections in her dialogue delivery, and Mirren is surprisingly wooden.

Heck, even the Fast and Furious let Mirren ham it up.

This film even has a dragon and it is still dull.

Film Review – Magic Mike’s Last Dance

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

Magic Mike’s Last Dance (MA)

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Starring: Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Magic Mike is back, begrudgingly, for one last sexy dance across a stage for the entertainment of others.

Former stripper Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) is now 40 and bartender events after his furniture business went kaput during the pandemic.

On his latest job, he is approached by married but sexually frustrated rich woman Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek) for a tension relieving lap dance.

Sparks fly, she sees an abundance of talent in him and draws him out of retirement to direct a new version of a stuffy old play at a London theatre she co-owns with her husband to give a female audience something they have never seen before.

Soderbergh spoils us early on with one of the steamiest choreographed, performed and filmed strip-teases put to film (between Tatum and Hayek), then keeps Tatum off the stage for the rest of the film.

Magic Mike’s Last Dance is all about the tease, so much so that one wonders if the pay off at the end is worth enduring it?

While this is an admirable and entertaining third chapter in the stunningly sexy series, putting a middle aged woman at the centre to explore her sexuality, creativity and urgency, there is a certain spark lacking as it bypasses any kind of backstory or camaraderie between the new dancers.

Getting to know the other dancers and their dynamics was part of the fun of the previous two, and made their dances just that touch more more titillating because we had an idea of who they are as people.

Magic Mike’s Last Dance does leave you wanting just a little bit more – or maybe that is Soderbergh’s plan?

Film Review – The Son

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

The Son (M)

Directed by: Florian Zeller

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Zen McGrath

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Hugh Jackman digs deep in this emotional and dramatic character study, but can’t help but chuck in a small dance sequence.

Workaholic Peter (Hugh Jackman) is approached by his ex-wife Kate (Laura Dern) to help step in when she discovers their teenage son Nicholas (Zen McGrath) has not been to school in a month.

In addition to this, something is driving a wedge between mother and son – could it be normal teenage hormones creating behavioral changes, or something deeper?

Peter is happy to step up, and Nicholas even moves in with him, but this causes strain between Peter and his new wife Beth (Vanessa Kirby), who has just given birth to their own child.

The Son explores the difficulties and distance created between child and parent when that child is going through depression.

It delicately and brilliantly captures a young person’s inability to explain what they are feeling and why, and another person’s inability to relate – the scenes in which Peter and Nicholas cannot find a common ground or understanding of their own situation are heartbreaking.

On top of this, the film explores parental guilt: did the divorce cause this, was it not enough quality time spent together?

The cast is terrific, with Jackman delivering a rare fully fledged dramatic performance with a rounded character that he rarely has the opportunity to sink his teeth into.

If only it had re-thought the scene in which he dances like a daggy dad – a glaring reminder of this theatrical background which we have already seen displayed in Les Miserables and The Greatest Showman.

Film Review – Spoiler Alert

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

Spoiler Alert (M)

Directed by: Michael Showalter

Starring: Jim Parsons, Ben Aldridge, Sally Field

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Grab a box of tissues, because once Spoiler Alert, based on Michael Ausiello’s memoir titled Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies, gets past the rom-com cliches, it will have you bawling.

TV Guide journalist and Smurf nerd Michael Ausiello (Jim Parsons) is single a gay man living in New York during the early 2000s.

While out at club one weeknight, he meets dreamy jock Kit Cowan (Ben Aldridge) and the two opposites form an unlikely relationship.

We follow as Michael and Kit endure high and lows in their long-term relations, from moving in together, coming out to parents, fights, therapy and even living separately.

But it is when Kit’s health begins to decline that the two realise how much they meant to each other and how not everything lasts forever.

Spoiler Alert sets the scene with some heavy handed dialogue and scenarios early on, with almost every gay cliche crammed into the establishing sequences.

The overly familiar meet-cute could have easily been lifted from a number of any other “straight” rom-coms in the past 30 years.

What at first seems like simple sexuality flip, soon becomes an affecting love story that will have even the toughest film goers shedding a tear or two.

This mainly comes down the two leads actors, Parsons and Aldridge, who, despite being in rom-com fantasy land, ground the story with their natural performances and chemisty.

Parsons proves to have the endearing qualities and charisma to carry a feature film with his relatable presence.

Alluding to how this is going to all end in the title means this is less about the ending and more about the journey to get there – but it doesn’t make the final moments any less emotionally devastating.