Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Film Review – Last Christmas

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Last Christmas (M)

Directed by: Peter Feig

Starring: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Kate (Emilia Clarke) is a bit of a mess. She is in her mid-20’s, couch surfs, has no direction, lets all her friends down and has a prickly relationship with her family.

While (barely) working as an elf in a year ‘round Christmas store run by her sassy boss Santa (Michelle Yeoh), she meets the super charming, very put together, but a little mysterious Tom (Henry Golding).

They hang out a few times, there is a bit of banter and opposites begin to attract as the pair get romantically involved, but Tom has a secret straight out of a Nicholas Sparks novel.

Last Christmas follows the festive holiday season rom-com routine fairly closely, with a script co-written by Emma Thompson and with Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy helmer Paul Feig behind it, this is a fun, frothy, and briskly paced charmer.

LC

The irresistible cast elevates it, with Clarke an absolute charmer to rival Julia Roberts and Golding the handsome, sensitive eye-candy is her perfect match. But Yeoh and Emma Thompson (as Kate’s Yugoslavian mum) almost steal it from the central stars with their bright performances and terrific comedic timing.

The cheesy twist is treated like a ground-breaking shocker, but anyone paying close enough attention could probably pick it up fairly early on. The hints aren’t all that subtle.

Setting it all to George Michael’s music is a nice touch, but still a bit of a head scratching move. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s there and it’s fine.

Last Christmas is a worthy addition to the list of films that get dusted off once a year for another spin during the festive season.

Film Review – Doctor Sleep

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Doctor Sleep (MA)

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran

Directed by: Mike Flanagan

Four and a half stars

Review by Julian Wright

Forty years after his terrifying experience at the Overlook Hotel, psychically gifted Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is a vagrant alcoholic, getting into bar fights and having messy nights fairly frequently.

He has suppressed his abilities, having learnt at an early age how to lock up in his mind the malevolent spectres that continued to haunt him even after he and his mother Wendy (Alex Essoe) moved to Florida.

While finally turning over a new leaf, Danny is drawn into battle with a group of people, the True Knot lead by sexy, hippie styled Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), who prey and feed on the fear of people who share his gift (shining) – especially young kids.

When the group sets its psychic sights on particularly gifted Abra (Kyliegh Curran), who Danny has bonded with over their shared abilities, he must get back in touch with his shining and face his own demons while protecting his young friend.

Adapted from the belated Stephen King novel, directed and edited by Mike Flanagan (the 2010s answer to John Carpenter and Wes Craven with an impressive body of thrillers to his name) Doctor Sleep is a worthy follow up to classic The Shining.

Flanagan creates a follow-up that recreates the same atmosphere of dread as its predecessor and most importantly feels like it exists in the same universe, despite the time jump, new cast, characters and deeper exploration of the shining.

DS

Much of what we see (much action takes place in the minds of the gifted characters) must have been tricky to translate to the screen and could have devolved into hilarious hokeyness, but Flanagan handles the expanded concepts with confidence and visual restraint and precision.

He offers nods to Stanley Kubrick’s style in his work, with echoes of music and camera movement from The Shining, but Flanagan has entirely different material to bring to life, so it never feels like a cheap rip-off.

While he has already proven his skills in frightening audiences’ multiple times already, the multi-talented director tackles his meatiest film yet, balancing a range of themes while still tightening the screws.

This is a lengthy film at 2.5 hours, but Flanagan’s ability to sustain a sense of dread, unease and danger throughout, and building to a satisfying climax, is impressive.

It also incredibly well acted – McGregor terrific as usual and Ferguson flexes new acting muscles, but Curran is particularly strong as the confident, world-weary young kid who has seen some horrific things.

There is plenty of meat on the bones of this creepy exploration of addiction, responsibility, mortality and redemption. Doctor Sleep is a horror film you can really take a shine to.

Film Review – Ready Or Not

Posted in Uncategorized on October 24, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Ready Or Not (MA)

Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Andie MacDowell

Four stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Buckle in for the wildest game of hide and seek you are likely going to witness.

On the day of her wedding, Grace (Samara Weaving) who bumped around between foster homes growing up, is just thrilled to tie the knot to her loving fiance Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien) and finally become part of a real family – even if they are a bit eccentric.

The Le Domas’ clan are filthy rich, having made their wealth generations ago, and have since grown it, in the boardgame industry.

After the ceremony, a Le Domas family tradition is sprung on Grace: a game. The newest member of the family draws a card and they all play – no ifs, buts or exceptions.

ready

But Grace draws the one card that hasn’t been drawn in 30 years: hide and seek. And the sinister rule is that one of the Le Domas’ has to kill her by dawn or they lose their fortune (I won’t spoil why – it’s wild!).

Grace is drawn into a life and death cat and mouse game in which most of the Le Domas’, armed with old school weapons like a crossbow, are hell bent on keeping tradition alive and their bank account healthy.

This cheeky, dark and twisted comedy/horror will appeal to anyone with a wicked sense of humour and a hankering for the occasional splatter of gore. There are clumsy accidental killings, deadpan one-liners, unpredictable revelations. And a young child gets sucker punched! This is a wild ride.

Additionally there is some biting social commentary aimed at the wealthy and how they maintain their riches woven into the tightly written script. This is not simply a gorefest with laughs.

Despite the set-up and violence, Ready Or Not is not a scary film per se, though anyone who was already iffy about in-laws may lose a night’s sleep after this one, but there are moments that will make your squirm, shriek and guffaw with laughter.

 

Film Review – Blinded By The Light

Posted in Uncategorized on October 24, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Blinded By The Light (M)

Directed by: Gurinder Chadha

Starring: Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Kulvinder Ghir

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

 

Sidestepping the traditional biopic treatment, Bruce Springsteen gets his big screen homage in the way ABBA did with Mamma Mia! and The Beatles did with Yesterday, but this time, with a story that is inspired by the life of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor.

In a small working class town in England during 1987, gifted poet and lyricist teenager Javed (Viveik Kalra) lives with his traditional Pakistani family, facing racism from people in his neighbourhood and hoping to escape out of the dead end town.

Javed discovers and finds himself drawn to and inspired by the songs of blue collar rock legend Bruce Springsteen, pressing ahead with his own writing with the encouragement from his teacher Ms Clay (Hayley Atwell).

But Javed’s passion and actions clash with his financially struggling parents and their plans for him.

Blinded by the Light - Still 1

Strip The Boss’ music away and you have a fairly standard narrative – in fact we saw a character deal with an east/west culture clash/ torn between two worlds struggle earlier this month with Bangla.

All the plot points are familiar, but it is the themes are offer something fresh to digest. It is so nice to explore the far reaches and impact that art can have – a lovely sentiment that we can all relate to.

And it is all delivered with such heart and enthusiasm that it is impossible not to like it. And relative newcomer Kalra in the lead role certainly is charming to watch.

Anyone who is a fan of musical theatre or Bruce Springsteen is going to get an extra kick out Blinded By The Light.

 

 

 

Film Review -Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil

Posted in Uncategorized on October 17, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil (PG)

Directed by: Joachim Ronning

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Angelina Jolie reprises her already iconic role as the icy, downtrodden fairy with a chip on her shoulder in an ambitious big budget sequel with a message or two.

Five years after the last film ended, Aurora (Elle Fanning) is leading a contented life after being crowned Queen of the Moors and overseeing the mischievous inhabitants while courting her boyfriend Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson).

When Prince Philip proposes, she immediately accepts but is met with instant disapproval from her fairy mother Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), who is still bitter about the way she has been treated by humans in the past.

With tensions raging, an attempt to bring Maleficent and Philip’s parents King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) together for a peaceful meeting ends in disaster, the fiery fairy forbids the nuptials.

When King John dies during the disastrous altercation, Maleficent is blamed and Queen Ingrith launches an attack, and her true intentions surface: she plans to spark a war between humans and fairies.

maleficent

Meanwhile, Maleficent discovers there are more fairies like her and they are just as dark on humans as she is.

There are some interesting, surface level themes going on in this sequel, with some harsh truths about the dark side of human behaviour not so subtly laid out, and Aurora and Philip’s desire to create a safe space for creatures of every kind a nice counter balance to the current climate created by Trump.

While it may sail over the heads of very young children, and adults may find the sledgehammer approach a bit much, this sequel aims higher than most.

The main draw-card here, though, is the face-off between cinematic ice-queens Jolie and Pfeiffer, who almost cause a blizzard in their first shared scene together in a showstopping family dinner sequence that is meticulously handled for maximum tension.

A distinct chill emanates through the cinema when these two come together.

Despite plenty of fast paced action and spectacle taking place later in the film with cute, sympathetic woodland creatures placed in peril to tug on the heartstrings, the battle sequences fail to match the level of tension achieved in the dinner sequence.

Had it done so, this could have led to a cracking finale. Instead, what we get is simply satisfactory.

Film Review – Hustlers

Posted in Uncategorized on October 10, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Hustlers (M)

Directed by: Lorene Scafaria

Starring: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez

Four and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Strap on those Stilettos for a wild ride of girl power and rags to riches and back again for a gaggle of determined, tough nut strippers who get revenge on their Wall Street clients who leave them high and dry after the financial crisis.

In 2007, struggling stripper Dorothy (Constance Wu) commutes into New York City every night for long hours of grinding on drunk, sleazy clients for minimal cash (her boss takes a considerable cut of her tips) just to get by and financially assist her grandmother (Wai Ching Ho).

Dorothy is taken under the wing of experienced stripper and new bestie Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), who teaches her tricks of the trade, impressive pole dancing moves and helps her build her client base of wealthy Wall Street men to increase her cash flow.

While riding a wave of financial stability and newfound sisterhood, the Wall Street crisis of 2008 hits, sending everyone into a state of financial woe.

Bitter about the Wall Street clients that helped cause the crash – the same ones that would spend up big in the strip club but are now sparse – Ramona hatches a plan with Dorothy to get them back and at the same time a sizable share of their money.

Hustlers

Inspired by a New York Magazine article, Hustlers is a sterling example of the importance of female storytellers. Writer/director Lorene Scafaria establishes the sleazy club environment without exploiting the bodies of her female cast, creates characters who are not catty, jealous or competitive, and is non-judgmental when their morality becomes questionable.

What an absolute fist pumping joy to watch a story about women who lift each other up with unconditional support without a hidden agenda, but still maintain drama, conflict and an edginess. This is by no means a Disney story.

Any other (male created) version of this story would have had an older insecure stripper threatened by the young newcomer. But not this version; J.Lo’s mumma bear literally takes the newcomer under her big warm furry coat, no questions asked.

As the matriarch of the stripper family, Lopez commands the screen with such impressive and undeniable swagger (years of music videos must have been a great training ground for this demeanor), both when swimming in expensive and elaborate furs but also when in her skimpy but tasteful work costumes.

Her confidence and strut is something to marvel.

It is a display of unwavering confidence and conviction that we have not seen her convey in such a long time (dare I say since Out of Sight way back in 1998?) and rivals that of Sharon Stone’s commanding performance in Basic Instinct (albeit with much more clothes).

Wu’s more innocent, Bambi-like Dorothy is a stark contrast to Lopez’s Ramona, but her performance is equally praise worthy as she tackles a role with more layers, vulnerability and arc and pulls it off beautifully.

To top it all off, this film is just gorgeous to look at; the costumes and colours pop and the dance sequences, while only a handful, are thrillingly choreographed (when J. Lo claps her heels on the stage floor during her routine – WOW!).

Film Review – The King

Posted in Uncategorized on October 10, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

The King (MA)

Directed by: David Michod

Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Robert Pattinson

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

With their political views clashing, tyrannical and war-happy King Henry IV (Ben Mendelsohn) and his oldest son, and heir to the English throne Prince Hal (Timothee Chalamet), have become estranged.

Peacekeeper Hal has turned his back on his royal life to live a modest existence of booze and no responsibility among the people, but when his father dies, the Prince is reluctantly crowned King Henry V.

Thrust into a world he does not wish to be in, he attempts to rule without war and violence while still keeping everyone’s respect and loyalty, but finds himself unknowingly manipulated into a battle with France, something he wanted to avoid, to claim land.

With a slow, but deliberately paced approach, co-writer/director David Michod’s (who adapted William Shakespeare’s Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 and Henry V with Joel Edgerton) understated storytelling technique allows this to unfold delicately and it often feels like we are watching a play shot in widescreen.

In fact, Michod’s style is so low-key that it could test audience’s patience; those with short attention spans watching this on Netflix on a Saturday night may not last 20 minutes, but it would be in their best interest to stick with it.

The King

The first half is a gradual build, for sure, as it develops its characters, their relationships and dynamics and establishes the groundwork for later twists that are to come, but when the pieces start coming together, it is compelling viewing.

The centerpiece battle sequence is strikingly filmed. A brutal reminder that for all the talking about war and tactic cannot prepare for its realities – a weight that Hal must carry on his shoulders.

Chalamet is the highlight of this handsome production; he is perfect as the reluctant King. The talented 20-something embodies the lazy, unimposing peacekeeping type (his slight frame makes him look like a tween), but then rises to the occasion and utterly convinces as a King who needs to inspire an army of men to charge into battle.

He is matched late in the story by Robert Pattinson in a smaller and flashier role as The Dauphin of France; his campy performance bringing some levity to this super serious historical drama.

 

The King screens in WA exclusively at The Backlot on October 11, 12, 13 and 16 before launching on Netflix on November 1.

For times and tickets, click HERE.