Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Film Review – Knock at the Cabin

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

Knock at the Cabin (MA)

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

The titan of twists, M. Night Shyamalan, ratchets up the tension with a terrifying “what would you do?” scenario in his latest offering.

While couple Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and their young adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui) are vacationing in an isolated cabin in the woods, they are approached by four strangers.

Leonard (Dave Batista), Redmond (Rupert Grint), Ardiane (Abby Quinn) and Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), armed with a range of seemingly home-made weapons, claim they are there to save the world from an apocalypse, by compelling the family to sacrifice one of their own.

Are they bigoted nutcases targeting a same-sex family, or are the couple blinded by years of mistreatment to trust they are genuine?

Shyamalan maintains a high level of tensions from the get-go with uncomfortable close-ups and a a nerve rattling, measured technique.

Character development of Eric and Andrew is only delivered via flashbacks in a clever story-telling choice that gradually reveals their resistance to comply – though, who in their position would?

While this ranks as one of Shyamalan’s better films (in a very uneven filmography), the final moments don’t deliver the dramatic punch that the tension-filled build-up promises, nor does it measure up to many of his other iconic wrap-ups.

But this is about the moral dilemma journey, and that alone is definitely satisfying.

Film Review – The Whale

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

The Whale (M)

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Hong Chau, Sadie Sink

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Funny-man Brendan Fraser sinks his teeth into a devastatingly dramatic role in one of the greatest acting comebacks in years.

Morbidly obese English teacher Charlie (Brendan Fraser) is house-bound, alone, teaches classes via Zoom with his camera off and is on the verge of death.

His only friend and regular visitor is Liz (Hong Chau).

As Charlie’s deteriorating health indicates that he has merely days left to live, he tries to reconnect with his bitter teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) and make amends with his ex-wife Mary (Samantha Morton).

This claustrophobic character study borders on depressing, but Fraser is such a pure and wonderful presence that he is able to radiate humanity through the layers of makeup and fat suit.

In one of his very rare dramatic roles, Fraser is able to emotionally wreck an unsuspecting audience

Try as he might with dramatic lighting (you almost need a torch to see anything on screen) and camera movement, director Darren Aronofsky cannot mask the fact that this is based on a play.

It is only in the final moments of a powerhouse climax that will have you sobbing uncontrollably that Aronofsky takes the dramatics a little too far and slips into melodrama.

Film Review – The Fabelmans

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

The Fabelmans (M)

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Gabriele LaBelle

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Directing legend Steven Spielberg finally tells his own life story – a bitter-sweet and heartbreaking story of love for film and parental betrayal.

Young Sammy discovers a love/obsession for film when his parents Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and Burt (Paul Dano) take him to the cinema.

Throughout the years, as the family acquire filming equipment, Sammy’s (Gabriel LaBelle) passion and skill grows as he films his family and friends.

But one day, while editing holiday footage, he uncovers a special relationship between his mum and family friend Benny (Seth Rogen), which brings his picture perfect world crashing down.

Told with precision and delicacy, The Fabelmans is a beautifully realised story about family, film and the power of the moving image.

Spielberg continues to cement himself as one of the best as he uses his camera imaginatively, yet subtly, to capture his impeccable cast, of which Dano and Williams are stand outs.

Film Review – Babylon

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

Babylon (MA)

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Starring: Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

We delve had-first into a period of transition in Hollywood in the roaring 20’s, seen through the eyes of a couple of ambitious industry newbies and a bonafide big screen star.

In 1926, Mexican immigrant Manny (Diego Calva) crosses paths with undiscovered but self-declared star Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie), who is bursting with raw talent and intent on being the next silent film superstar, at a debaucherous Hollywood party.

Their friendship develops and deepens throughout the years, as Nellie’s star rises and falls, and Manny works his way up through the ranks to big-time producer.

Their careers develop during Hollywood’s transition from silent films to talkies, which comes with a raft of problems and possibilities.

Meanwhile, heartthrob actor Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt) grapples with his own relevance and place in the industry.

Writer/director Damien Chazelle creates a hectic world of excess, from cocaine to character acting styles and personalities, that some may find overwhelming.

But this is one ride you want to strap in for.

There are career defining sequences for Chazelle – Nellie’s first time filming with sound is a masterclass of editing and comic timing, as it explores the technical nightmares that the new technology brought for cat and crew.

Robbie delivers a dynamic tour-de-force performance, maintaining a level of energy and enthusiasm that is almost exhausting to experience but deserves kudos.

This is a breathless, wild, manic and frantic three hour love letter to Hollywood, films and film making that stuns and impresses on every level.

Film Review – M3gan

Posted in Uncategorized on January 16, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

M3gan (M)

Directed by: Gerard Johnstone

Starring: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Ronny Chieng

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Killer dolls and self-aware AIs are not exactly groundbreaking story ideas by this point, but M3gan proves there is still life in them by leaning into the silly and camp factor.

When young Cady’s (Violet McGraw) parents are killed in a car accident, she is left in the care of her estranged, single, childless, workaholic Aunt Gemma (Allison Williams).

Gemma is currently knee deep her latest project at work – a Model 3 Generative Android (M3Gan) – a life size doll that is designed to be a life-like friend to the child it is assigned to.

Perfect for the grieving and lonely Cady, who warms to her new friend immediately.

But this M3gan prototype may have been brought out of the lab a little too early – as her over-protectiveness of Cady grows, so does the body count.

James Wan is on a roll at the moment with his wild style of horror storytelling. Recently he had us in hysterics with jaw dropping twist in Malignant, and now he has concocted the hilarious M3gan.

Writer Akela Cooper and director Gerard Johnstone take Wan’s story idea and crank it to 12 on the ridiculous scale.

Instead of bending over backwards trying to make a lifelike doll terrify us (Annabelle has the market cornered at the moment), they play up the laughs and absurdity first.

The much meme’d and gif’d trailer is just the beginning of some of the left field antics M3gan gets up to (the bizarre dance is only a fraction) and it is best to go in unspoiled for maximum enjoyment.

Just note that you do need to tune into the same nutty wavelength as this film to fully appreciate it.

And yet one of the biggest surprises of this film is just how unexpectedly rounded and well-performed the characters are. there was enough effort put into grounding this wild ride as there was ensuring that it was indeed a wild ride.

Wan and his team are unafraid to go batty and for that we are immensely grateful; a killer doll with a nasty streak and the sas and wit of a precocious 12-year-old? Sign us up for 10 more!

Film Review – Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre

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

Operation Fortune: Rude de guerre (M)

Directed by: Guy Ritchie

Starring: Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Cary Elwes

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

When valuable and powerful new technology is stolen, Special Agent Orson Fortune (Jason Statham) must assemble a team to track it down before it falls into the wrong hands.

Couple of hitches though – he stuck with cheeky newbie Sarah (Aubrey Plaza) because his former tech whiz Mike (Peter Ferdinando) just bailed, and they have to recruit civilian and Hollywood action star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett) to get close to super-fan billionaire Greg (Hugh Grant), who is involved in the sale of the technology.

Co-writer and director Guy Ritchie remains firm in his interest in delivering a super-cool action film laced with humour.

His editing choices give this film a nice little boost – going against expectation to occasionally mix up the chronology ever so slightly to add a few surprises here and there.

The story might be underwhelming but darn it if this isn’t just a whole lot of fun.

Ritchie embraces Plaza’s deadpan style of comedy, in fact, it fits so perfectly with the British humour that one wonders how she hasn’t been snapped up earlier for other British films.

And while she gets to display her usual comedic chops, she is afforded the opportunity to portray a character that she has not before – a sexy, cheeky, tech savvy lass who remains cool under immense pressure.

Hartnett on the other hand loosens up and has a ball as the nervy and not always sharpest tool in the shed, who gets roped into the mission. Though it is a shame that he gets put on the back burner in the second half of the film.

Then there is Grant, almost unrecognisable as he sheds his trademark bumbling persona completely – here his demeanor changes as he relishes the opportunity to portray the overly spray tanned billionaire Hollywood star fangirl.

And with such exciting chemistry between the entire cast, this is a film that you wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel to just to spend a bit more time with them.

There isn’t a lot of substance here, not that its core audience was really demanding any, just a cast and crew enjoying the chance to play, and for that it is worth your time and money.

Film Review – Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody

Posted in Uncategorized on January 2, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody (M)

Directed by: Kasi Lemmons

Starring: Naomi Ackie, Stanley Tucci

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Super talented singer, the late Whitney Houston’s tumultuous life gets the bloated big screen bio treatment hot on the heels of box office gold Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman.

In the early 1980s, Whitney Houston (Naomi Ackie) was a church choir singer disciplined by her strict singer mother Cissy (Tamara Tunie).

Houston is eventually “discovered” by record producer Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci) who helps showcase her powerful voice to everyone around the world.

Whitney’s rise to fame is huge and almost instantaneous, becoming one of the most successful singers ever, but she struggles with multiple issue behind the scenes – accused by the Black community of selling out, bumpy marriage to Bobby Brown and her drug addiction that will eventually be her downfall.

While the highs and lows of Houston’s life are certainly ripe for storytelling, I Wanna Dance With Somebody suffers from many of the same issues that most other bio films cannot seem to break free from.

Writer Anthony McCarten and director Kasi Lemmons show us the significant milestones of Houston’s life (her first hit song, performing at the Superbowl, marriage etc) but fail to thematically tie them together to create a coherent narrative or motivation.

Yes, it is interesting to see her milestones recreated, but how do they impact her or inform her decision making?

The film makers are so afraid to suggest or theorise, and too careful to not offend Houston’s memory, her estate or fans, that we may as well just give her albums another spin to appreciate her talent.

The cast is fine, Tucci a lovely presence as usual and Ackie perfectly serviceable and talented lip syncer but this never rises above made for TV simplicity, despite the apparent larger budget.

It is undeniable that Houston was a massive talent, whose voice goes unrivaled, and it is a tragedy that she is no longer with us, but a tribute with a bit more teeth would have been more worth the effort.

Film Review – Triangle of Sadness

Posted in Uncategorized on January 2, 2023 by Reel Review Roundup

Triangle of Sadness (MA)

Directed by: Ruben Ostlund

Starring: Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Woody Harrelson

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Swedish film maker Ruben Ostlund takes sharp aim at the rich and privileged in his biting satire Triangle of Sadness.

When model Carl (Harris Dickinson) accompanies his social media influencer girlfriend YaYa (Charlbi Dean) on a luxury superyacht with an array of wealthy multi-millionaires, the couple witness how the “other half” live and behave.

When the cruise encounters a storm, they get to see another side of these well-to-do passengers, and when a selection of them become stranded on an island with yacht staff Abigail (Dolly De Leon), the tables are turned and their true skills (or lack thereof) come to light.

Ostlund drags the wealthy through the mud in this delightfully delicious dig that pulls no punches on the one per cent.

There are some draw dropping sequences (the dinner scene is an all-timer) and the character interactions and dynamics will have you giggling with glee.

Ostlund reminds us there are few things that thrill and entertain more than witnessing the downfall of hoity-toity rich folks on film.

Woody Harrelson as the alcoholic captain is suitably nutty, but it is De Leon that steals the show out from under the eclectic cast in the second half as the smart and resourceful cleaner.

Triangle of Sadness is screening as part of Perth Festival Lotterywest Films.

Film Review – Blueback

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2022 by Reel Review Roundup

Blueback (M)

Directed by: Robert Connolly

Starring: Radha Mitchell, Mia Wasikowska, Eric Bana

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

The beautiful Western Australian coastline and some of Australia’s top acting talent is showcased in this lovely tale of an unlikely bond between a fish and a young woman based on Tim Winton’s 1997 novel.

Abby (Mia Wasikowska) is called back to her small, quiet, seaside town when her mother Dora (Liz Alexander) has a stroke and needs care.

The trip home brings memories of Abby’s childhood flooding back in which her environmentalist Mum (Radha Mitchell) raised her to appreciate and protect the small bay that the live alongside.

During their numerous diving explorations throughout the years, Abby (Ariel Donoghue and Ilsa Fogg) encounters and bonds with a Blueback fish, one that, along with the rest other various marine life, is threatened by developers who are keen to carve up the land for an estate.

Blueback makes no bones about its environmental and conservationist message, it’s prime focus is to drive home a positive message about the importance of preserving our precious marine life.

And there is no better way to do it than to film on WA’s picturesque coastline and utilise some top tier screen stars to engage an audience.

Wasikowska is understated, while Mitchell relishes the opportunity to play a mother who is fiercely protective of her environment and Bana offers identifiable and likable larrikinism that radiates off the screen.

It is heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure, but the general tone is surprisingly low-key, and while it is admiral that director Robert Connolly has avoided broad theatrical dramatics to impact his audience, it often feels like he has dialed it down a little too far.

Blueback is a lovely exploration of the connection between people and their environment and nature versus nurture that could have benefited from a stronger Indigenous perspective.

Blueback is screening from November 21 to 27 as part of Perth Festival Lotterywest Films at UWA Somerville Auditorum.

Film Review – Bros

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2022 by Reel Review Roundup

Bros (MA)

Directed by: Nicholas Stoller

Starring: Billy Eichner, Luke Macfarlane

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Hyped as being the first gay rom-com from a major film studio, Bros was labelled a cinematic milestone before anyone had seen it. But does first necessarily mean good? Milestone or not, in this case, it is better than good.

Career focused gay podcaster and perpetually single 40-something Bobby (Billy Eichner) is proud to be unattached, a little cynical of the dating pool.

When he meets Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), a straight presenting, gym bunny looks like he was chiseled from marble, it is a classic case of opposites attract.

The two navigate a bumpy friendship/hookup/relationship while Bobby curates the first National LGBTQ+ History Museum in Manhattan.

The rom-com tropes are there but having gay characters lead the story is more than just a surface level twist.

Eichner’s script is sharp, witty, relatable and, most importantly, hilarious, with dialogue that snaps.

Usually rom-coms open big with laughs then the humour settles once the romance part starts to dominate the story, but this is one of the most consistently funny films in a long time, never afraid to have us laughing while we get caught up in the emotional beats of the story.

While some of Eichner’s monologues get a little out of hand and preachy, as a film maker, he has some spot-on observations and satirical jabs at straight and LGBTQ+ culture, dating and life in the 40s.

Bros may be the the first gay rom-com from a major film studio, but it is also one of the best films of 2022.