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Film Review – John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Posted in Uncategorized on May 23, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (MA)

Directed by:

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry

Four stars

Review by: Julian Wright

It’s raining bullets, blood and a high body count. John Wick is still slicing and dicing his way to freedom in Chapter 3.

Hunted by assassins around the world with a $14 million bounty on his head, John Wick is now on the run, given a one hour head start to prepare for the fight of his life.

His quest to meet with a high ranking High Table member, to ask that his bounty be waived, takes him to Casablanca where he seeks help from former colleague Sofia (Halle Berry), who is not so pleased to see him.

Meanwhile, an adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) punishes everyone who helps Wick along the way.

Keeping with Hollywood tradition when it comes to franchise third installments, Parabellum leans more on the laughs, with not only the script including more quips (Wick’s fanboy opponent is comic gold), but much of the impressive and intricate fight choreography designed to elicit as many guffaws as gasps.

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The violence is also more graphic and intense, and while one gets swept up in the hypnotic ballet of bullets and hand-to-hand combat, with some choice objects used as weapons (the humble library book never looked so lethal), there seems to be a hint of a nasty streak that runs throughout this one.

Yes, Wick is fighting for his life against hundreds of the most highly trained killers, but almost emptying gun clips into opponents heads and countless vicious dog attacks to the genitalia drains a touch of the fun.

Reeves is his usual cool-as-a-cucumber self as the man of very few words. His actions speak as loud as his carefully chosen words, but there is one particularly important and well-timed scene brimming with pathos in which Wick explains why he keeps going.

Berry is impressive as Wick’s momentary and reluctant sidekick, thriving in a kick-butt role that the X-Men series failed to provide her. She leaves such a lasting mark on this film that it would be great to see her return later down the track.

There is still plenty of freshness left in this action franchise, because instead of rehashing territory it has covered previously, it continues to expand on the world it has created. And like a blood drenched soap opera, this one leaves things open for a fourth outing – another chapter that will surely be waited for with bated breath.

 

Film Review – Top End Wedding

Posted in Uncategorized on May 2, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Top End Wedding (PG)

Staring: Miranda Tapsell, Gwilym Lee, Kerry Fox

Directed by: Wayne Blair

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Australia’s latest big screen offering is a fun and moving dramedy that rivals 90s classic Muriel’s Wedding as the best wedding themed film this country has to offer.

Cute Adelaide couple Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) and Ned (Gwilym Lee) are madly in love and have just become engaged. Their engagement period is short though, with Lauren’s icy cold boss (Kerry Fox) allowing her only 10 days off for the ceremony.

The about-to-be newlyweds haul ass up to Darwin where Lauren grew up so she can have her dream traditional Aboriginal wedding surrounded by her beloved family. But there is a hitch: her Mum (Ursula Yovich) has disappeared and her Dad (Huw Higginson) is in a depressive state.

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Lauren and Ned play Nancy Drew and embark on a road trip to track down her missing Mum in time for the wedding.

The set up and delivery of this story is fairly routine (you can tell how it will all end), but the exploration of the bond between mother and daughter and the connection Aboriginal people have to their culture and land offers thought provoking substance.

Miranda Tapsell (whose idea this story was) is an absolute gem and is Julia Roberts level radiant. Her endless and appealing energy beams off the screen and her immense watch-ability carries Top End Wedding a long way.

Fun, silly and laugh-out-loud at several points along the journey, Top End Wedding is a winning recipe and surefire crowd-pleaser.

 

Film Review – Long Shot

Posted in Uncategorized on May 2, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Long Shot (MA)

Starring: Jonathan Levine

Director: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, June Diane Raphael

Four stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Another rom-com in which the goofy, off-beat looking male lead scores the affections of the drop-dead gorgeous female lead? The collective groans are audible already.

Yes, the pairing of slobby stoner Seth Rogen with the seriously stunning Charlize Theoron is a gag-inducing contrivance, but hear me out – there is more to Long Shot than appearances. (No really!).

When a multi-millionaire buys the publication he works for, passionate journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) quits his job on principle. While at an event, he is reunited with his former babysitter Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) and his crush is reignited.

Field has come a long way since her babysitting days – she is now the USA Secretary of State and Presidential candidate.

Field hires Flarsky to touch up her speeches and the two become romantically linked, much to the chagrin of her key staffer Maggie (June Diane Raphael), who sees the coupling as a PR nightmare.

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While Long Shot treads the rom-com line with loyalty (it does not aim to reinvent the wheel), the political context of the story, sharply written satire and winning performances of the two leads (and supporting cast, to be honest) gives this a fresh boost.

Having this cheesy story play out with characters who have real jobs goes a long way. How many rom-coms have we seen in which the characters have quirky jobs like “dog walker” and can also afford a New York studio apartment with Central Park views? The political context gives weight to the story.

Theron and Rogen prove to be the perfect on-screen couple with their undeniable chemistry. Rarely do you feel so invested in the outcome of such an odd-ball coupling. There is such a genuine connection between these two characters over values, politics and the environment that you kind of forget he is a bit of schlub. It helps that Field is not always the Princess she appears to be.

Theron in particular further cements herself as one of the best actresses working today. She has in the past proven to be comfortable and convincing as the anti-hero (Monster, Young Adult) and in Long Shot she reveals another layer of talent as an intelligent bogan Princess with a bit of an edge. She is uproariously hilarious when negotiating terrorist over the phone while high.

While it appears on the surface to be another male wish-fulfillment rom-com, Long Shot rises above with its wit and grounded backdrop.

 

Film Review – Dumbo

Posted in Uncategorized on April 12, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Dumbo (G)

Directed by: Tim Burton

Starring: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Eva Green

Two and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Disney brings its beloved tale of a flying elephant back to the big screen with a live action film, plenty of special effects and star power in front of and behind the camera.

In 1919, equestrian performer Holt Harrier (Colin Farrell) returns from the war to find the circus he works for financially struggling, his wife dead and their two children full of resentment.

With the horses sold off, Holt is left to look after the circus elephant, who births an offspring with oversized ears.

At first the newborn is deemed an unappealing freak of nature that will do the circus no favours, but it is soon discovered the baby elephant can fly.

Dumbo 2019 certainly looks great: the visual effects are amazing, it is a slick production and Dumbo is appropriately adorable. But visual effects that all the money can buy cannot conjure heart and soul, which this remake lacks.

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In creating a live version of its own property, Disney is uninterested in taking any risks, sticking to what is safe and likely to rack up the most box office receipts. There is a sense of simply playing up to nostalgia here.

As Tim Burton has delivered box office gold in recent years, it is clear why he was hired to direct, and yet he seems to be stifled creatively here.

His distinct signature style leans towards the dark, edgy and loopy (Batman, Beetlejuice), but Dumbo 2019 is so vanilla that it feels like it could have been made by any up and comer that is happy to work under creative restraints.

Every decision feels so incredibly safe that it is hard to imagine anyone becoming emotionally involved in the story or getting choked up like they would have during the original animated classic.

 

Film Review – Destroyer

Posted in Uncategorized on April 12, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Destroyer (MA)

Directed by: Karyn Kusama

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany

Four and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Always one to take risks, choose projects outside the box and not repeat herself, chameleon Nicole Kidman shows yet another side of her acting talents with this gritty LA drama.

Haggard, worn, limping LA Detective Erin Bell arrives on the scene of a homicide and based on the evidence left on the body, she knows who is responsible, indicating that her checkered past is coming back to haunt her.

Several years ago, while undercover with her former partner Chris (Sebastian Stan), she became involved with a crime gang led by the volatile and dangerous Silas (Toby Kebbell) and a bank robbery that went horribly wrong.

Convinced that Silas has resurfaced after all these years, she makes her way through his acquaintances to track him down before he gets to her.

Meanwhile, Erin deals with her delinquent daughter Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn) and while she was never much of a role model for the teenager, tries to put her on the straight and narrow before she gets too deeply involved with her shady and much older boyfriend.

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While Kidman’s talents are immense and diverse, her performance in Destroyer is completely unlike anything else she has committed to screen. She has the ability to tackle well-rounded and emotionally complex characters, and yet to this point has still retained a softness and delicacy.

Here, she is not only physically unrecognisable as the guilt ridden detective, her face worn by the harsh LA sun and lack of self care, but she is tough and hardened, her delicate demeanor completely eradicated as she limps and pistol whips her way through this investigation.

Kidman plays this character as carrying such heavy emotional weight that it almost drags her down physically – a downright incredible example of acting and character building that went criminally undervalued this year, save for a Golden Globe nomination.

Those behind the camera are also at the top of their game: director Karyn Kusama putting in her best work since her breakout film Girlfight and cinematographer Julie Kirkwood capturing the action and LA in an enthralling way.

This is not just simply a vehicle for Kidman’s astounding performance, but a tight script that, while it does cover some familiar procedural territory, is committed to character development and has a genuinely surprising twist at the end.

An all-round winner.

Film Review – Captain Marvel

Posted in Uncategorized on April 12, 2019 by Reel Review Roundup

Captain Marvel (M)

Directed by: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn

3.5 stars

Review by: Julian Wright

The last Marvel Avenger gets her introduction, just in time for the ultimate showdown between Thanos, who is keen on world domination, and the remaining superheroes (catch Avengers: Infinity War for a recap).

On the planet of Hala, Starforce member Vers (Brie Larson) is in training to control her super powers while war wages against the alien shape-shifting Skrulls. Skulls leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) captures her to extract memories hidden deep in her mind that lead them to Earth.

Once she crash lands into a Blockbuster store in 1995, Vers teams up with S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) to discover her forgotten past and what information Talos was after.

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After getting off to a shaky, exposition heavy 20 minutes (you really want to pay particularly close attention here), Captain Marvel finds its rhythm and scoots along with a sense of fun and adventure and a nice 90s nostalgia kick.

Larson brings some girl power and sass to the Avenger universe, and her fun rapport with Jackson is certainly a highlight, not only of the film, but in the ongoing saga that has been unfolding for the past several years.

The twist in the familiar origin routine is a welcome addition (Captain Marvel already has her superpowers here, it is her past and identity she must discover), particularly this late in the game where so many origins have been set up beforehand.

Ultimately, the film does little other than set up a justification for Captain Marvel to swoop in and join the team in Avengers: End Game (out soon), but it is still a fun diversion and there is not much more you can ask for than that.

 

Film Review – The Grinch

Posted in Uncategorized on November 30, 2018 by Reel Review Roundup

The Grinch (G)

Directed by: Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones

Three stars

Review by Julian Wright

Proving every week, and leaving us all in disbelieve, that Hollywood has not yet run out of things to remake, here is yet another story re-told.

Despite recent versions of popular property still fresh in our minds, the high rollers keep churning them out for a third, fourth and fifth version.

At least it has been almost 20 years since Jim Carrey donned the green make-up as the Christmas-time grump for Ron Howard in How The Grinch Stole Christmas; it was only eight years ago we saw Russell Crowe work on his aim as Robin Hood.

While the chirpy residents of Whoville prepare for the most wonderful time of the year – Christmas – The Grinch, perched up on his isolated mountain-top house, begins plotting to ruin it.

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Despite a compact run time, this is often times a plodding film. Assuming no one has ever seen any of the other versions previously made, it seems to take its sweet time setting up the Grinch’s plan.

Despite the mid-section lulls and activities on screen that mostly revolve around a group of cutely charactersised young children which would only appeal to the same age group, there is still some juice left.

Visually, it is a kaleidoscope of gorgeously rendered colours, making it one of the more dazzling animations to look at. And you simply can’t go past the perfectly timed message of unconditional happiness and love when the world right now is so bleak. It really is infectious.

With a final 20 minutes that would surely melt the heart of even the coldest grinch film-goer, this has the potential to be played on high rotation in family homes during the festive season.

Watch the trailer here.