Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Film Review – Smallfoot

Posted in Uncategorized on September 28, 2018 by Reel Review Roundup

Smallfoot (G)

Directed by: Karey Kirkpatrick, Jason Reisig

Starring: Channing Tatum, Zandaya, Danny DeVito

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

 

There are many life lessons and themes for the ankle-biters to digest these school holidays with Smallfoot.

With a little inspiration from Pixar, the story gives a cute twist to the legend of the Yeti, in which the creatures are actually real and the humans are the mythical beings whose existence has not been proven.

Pulling back the curtain on life as a Yeti (what do they get up to when people are not looking – along the lines of the toys in Toy Story, the monsters in Monsters Inc. etc), we get to see a village of the furry folks go about their daily routine high on a Himalayan mountain above the clouds.

Everyone has a role in the village and a strict routine must be adhered to to maintain harmony (their heritage and rules etched in rocks), but when Migo (Channing Tatum) encounters a human, a pilot who has crash landed, he begins to question everything he has been taught by his elders.

Joined by a group of outcast conspiracy theorists. including Meechee (Zendaya), Migo seeks to find the truth about the human and Yeti existence.

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What starts out as a fun, fluffy adventure for youngsters, with a couple of musical numbers to get toes tapping, eventually becomes quite complicated and complex.

Much detail is given about the Yeti village and how it operates, which is paid off later in the film when a twist is revealed, but the mechanics, logistics and reasons behind them may prove too complex to follow for the under fives.

The story plays out as a metaphor for overcoming racism and segregation, but once the themes and messages become quite apparent in the later stages of the film, with a lengthy monologue, it segues into some darker territory.

When it starts to hint at genocide, it may fly over many of the littlest heads in the audience.

Of course, these are relevant and topical themes to explore and they do give the adults something to ponder as the kids enjoy the slapstick and songs.

Watch the trailer here.

Film Review – A Simple Favour

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 19, 2018 by Reel Review Roundup

A Simple Favour (M)

Directed by: Paul Feig

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding

Four and a half stars

Review by Julian Wright

 

Anyone that has done a favour for a mate knows there is no such thing as a simple one – but Anna Kendrick finds out the hard way in A Simple Favour.

Sweet-as-pie single mum and vlogger Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) befriends rich PR manager and day drinker Emily Nelson (Blake Lively) during pick up time at their kids’ school.

They are polar opposites, but throughout the subsequent couple weeks, the two women hang out in Emily’s lavish home, drink, gossip, share secrets and quickly become best friends.

One day, Emily asks Stephanie to pick up her child from school because she has to work late – not an unusual ask, she has done it before, but this time Emily never comes to pick him up.

While Stephanie tries to track down her best friend, she discovers Emily harbored more secrets than she let on.

A Simple Favour is a genre defying throwback to erotic thriller potboilers from the 1990s (you know the ones, they offered some cheap thrills and usually served as a vehicle for a rising star actress) but elevated by its satirical edge that gives it a touch of class and wit.

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The twist is that this film heavily focuses on laughs over thrills and chills; it sets up an intriguing mystery, and you can never tell where it is heading, but all the while, making the audience laugh with one-liners, visual gags and self awareness.

It is a breathtaking handling of tonal shifts by director Paul Feig, who explores darker territory without losing his sense of humour and oozing style.

Feig is clearly having a ball here, playing with so many delicious details – the umbrella rolling across the frame in a storm like a tumbleweed when the two leads meet is gold.

Kendrick plays to type – goofy, awkward but super likeable, but Lively is against type as the mysterious ice-queen (though still equally likeable) and together they are a match made in fashion heaven, their costumes as jaw-droppingly classy as their performances.

Do yourself a huge favour and see one of the year’s nicest surprises A Simple Favour.

Watch the trailer here.

Film Review – Beast

Posted in Uncategorized on September 19, 2018 by Reel Review Roundup

Beast (M)

Directed by: Michael Pearce

Starring: Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Geraldine James

Four stars

Review by Julian Wright

 

Are we all just vicious, violent animals, but some of us are better at suppressing it than others?

Beast asks this thought provoking question as it explores the relationship between two people who have dark similarities.

Despite being a functioning adult in her mid-20s and working full time as a tour guide on her island home of Jersey in the English Channel, Moll (Jessie Buckley) still lives with her parents and under her mother Hilary’s (Geraldine James) heavy thumb.

The isolation of her low-key location and her mother’s strict rules makes Moll yearn for some adventure, so when her sister announces her engagement at Moll’s birthday party, the birthday girl bolts to a local pub.

Moll meets the unkempt and mysterious but charming Pascal (Johnny Flynn) when he saves her from a drunk, handsy bloke she met at the pub.

The two immediately strike up a passionate relationship, one that Hilary tries unsuccessfully to put a stop to.

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Meanwhile, young women are going missing on the island and the shady looking Pascal, who has a criminal record, shoots straight to the top of the suspect list.

Moll eventually divulges one secret from her past that suggests the two love birds have more in common than they first thought and their violent tendencies could be the tie that binds them as soul mates.

On a surface level, Beast unfolds slowly but deliberately as a tension filled whodunnit thriller, with a sense of dread that rivals the recent Hereditary, as Moll goes back and forth about whether her new boyfriend can be trusted.

But it delves into some fascinating territory about the violent tendencies in human nature – how far is too far when expressing anger, and is it ok when violence is used to right a wrong?

Buckley heads a top notch cast, her performance one of much depth as she balances the several facets of the character: sweet, rebellious, shy, secretive and a lot of the time, a liar, all while harboring a secret.

The clever script by director Michael Pearce wades into psychological territory many of us are hesitant to face head on about ourselves, too afraid to acknowledge our own temperament, adding fascinating levels to an already sturdy thriller.

Watch the trailer here.

 

Film Review – The Merger

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 14, 2018 by Reel Review Roundup

The Merger (M)

Directed by: Mark Grentell

Starring: Damian Callinan, Kate Mulvany, John Howard

Four stars

Review by Julian Wright

 

It is almost an involuntary reaction these days to cringe at the thought of a new Australian comedy.

While we tend to delve into the deprived and nail the dark, edgy dramas with aplomb – Animal Kingdom, Hounds of Love etc – it is our sense of humour that is apparently hard to pin point and capture for the big screen.

For every Australian cinema culture defining film such as Muriel’s Wedding, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and The Castle there are a string of cringe-worthy forgettable attempts such as Spin Out, Goddess, UnIndian and Mental.

It seems since Crocodile Dundee put us on the map with its rampant outback clichés, which seemed to delight everyone around the world in the 1980s, we have been stuck in a rut, torn between what we want to show and what we think people want to see.

The Merger takes a risky leap for a comedy, telling a story that mixes one of the country’s most popular and iconic sports with one of its most complex and controversial social and political issues, with the aim to still make us laugh.

Times are tough in the small rural town of Bodgy Creek with an ongoing drought, the closure of the mill putting many locals out of a job and the footy club on the verge of folding.

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To keep the Roosters playing in the local competition rather than merge with another club, former AFL player Troy Carrington (Damian Callinan), now dubbed “Town Killer”, is brought in to coach the team and get the club back on track.

But Troy’s presence is not welcome by many of the locals – his protests led to the mill closure – and his idea to recruit local refugees onto the ragtag team of footy players proves very unpopular with the narrow-minded residents.

On the surface this appears to be yet another underdog story with a predictable outcome that wraps up with a cute bow at the end when everyone learns a valuable life lesson like in one of those cheesy after-school specials.

And, look, it certainly has those elements, but what gives this film depth and invigorates the tropes, is the political aspect.

There is a lot going on thematically in this film; it is about much more than just footy and racism as it explores the idea of community, diversity, acceptance and having and maintaining a cultural identity.

The Merger has an undeniable charm and a heart the size of a football oval, which makes this potentially preachy story accessible and worthy of The Castle status.

Watch the trailer here.

 

Worst Films of 2015

Posted in Uncategorized on December 30, 2015 by Reel Review Roundup

With the good comes the bad. While it has been a pleasure and joy to sit through the many great films on my “best of” list, there has been another side to the coin of film-going. The films in the following list either tried and failed miserably or appeared to not try at all. Despite society moving slowly towards acceptance and equality, it was disheartening to see films with such cavemen attitudes towards women such as 50 Shades of Grey and other races such as American Sniper.

Here’s hoping for a more enlightened 2016.

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1 – American Sniper: Deplorable, racist drama about an army sniper dubbed and American hero for his skills, yet his Middle Eastern counterpart (as equally skilled) is the evil bad guy. Modest “hero” never accepts the term, but this film doesn’t care and hails his as one anyway. Also: way too much flag waving.

2 – We Are Your Friends: Interesting idea: the life of a DJ and the skill involved in the job. However, this is boringly routine and predictable. Zac Efron’s charm cannot carry this dull film.

3 – The Gallows: Another found footage film with zero imagination or even motivation for its characters to keep filming. Low on character count, but they are all insufferable, annoying jerks that you want to see snatched up by the spooks in the gallows.

4 – Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension: This series goes from ludicrous to even more ludicrous. More ghosties spook another average family in a suburban mansion. The 3D is strictly for gimmick purposes, endless exposition is delivered gratingly and in the most ham-fisted, unnatural way. A chore to watch.

5 – 50 Shades of Grey: Anti-feminist, largely tame, insultingly bad would-be sizzling sexy film has characters that defy logic and basic decency. Based on the mega selling books, this maddeningly female unfriendly piece

6 – Run All Night: The kind of film that is so average in every department that you can barely remember anything about it months after seeing it. Liam Neeson continues his action hero schtick that he was great at in Taken, but needs to try something else.

7 – The Longest Ride: More of the same Nicholas Sparks weepiness. Don;t bring tissues, bring a book, or a deck of cards. Or just don’t bother.

8 – The Theory of Everything: A movie about a man with a brilliant mind and life that fails to go beneath the surface just makes for a deeply unsatisfying experience. You would get more insight from Stephen Hawking’s Wikipedia page than this film. Eddie Redmayne nails the physicality of the role, but is left zero substance.

9 – Seventh Son: An excellent cast (Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges and more) leave us wondering “What were they thinking?”by appearing in this hokey fantasy action film.

10 – Far From the Madding Crowd: 1800s female farmer rejects advancements from respectable, hard-working men, to fall for the guy who cuts her hair in a hilarious display of masculinity and grabs her crotch in a cringe-worthy scene. Literary classic given daytime soap opera treatment in this drawn-out, tiresome story that manages to turn a strong and interesting female character into an unrelatable mess.

 

Dishonourable mentions

StalkHer, Youth, The Wedding Ringer, Terminator Genisys, Macbeth, Entourage, Blinky Bill, The Intern, UnIndian, Aloha, By The Sea, Clouds of Sils Maria.

Best Films of 2015

Posted in Uncategorized on December 30, 2015 by Reel Review Roundup

Having scaled back my film watching this year (no interstate festivals and only seeing a handful of films at local ones) I thought it was going to be tough to scrape together a decent list for my “best of” list.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the only trouble I had was having too many great films to choose from.

It was not until I looked back over the year and what I had watched that I realised 2015 was a damn solid year for films. Having skipped a lot of content from film festivals, I know there must be a wealth of incredible independent and unreleased films that probably deserve a spot on this list. I cannot wait to play catch up in the new year to discover such gems.

However, I am extremely happy with this, albeit largely mainstream, list.

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The Lobster

1 – The Lobster: Colin Farrell delivers an overdue excellent performance in this quirky satire about the pros and cons of being single versus being in a relationship. The slow pace build is worth it with so many amazingly hilarious moments to reward.

2 – Holding The Man: Honest, raw, heart wrenching and moving story that charts the relationship between two men from high school through to the bitter end. The occasional plot clichés are off-set by the tremendous cast, particularly the two leads, who bring realism.

3 – Inside Out: Pixar outdoes itself with this fun, imaginative and emotional story that takes place inside the mind of a little girl as she struggles with some family related stresses. Story may go over heads of toddlers as it deals with emotions, memory, loss and depression, but the beauty is it lends itself to multiple viewings.

4 – Mad Max: Fury Road: Pure cinematic thrill-ride with a kick-ass lead female character. Deliriously exciting and inspiring awe that has not been done at the cinema for quite some time. A feminist piece dressed as a macho rev-head action film.

5 – Mommy: Young filmmaker Xavier Dolan continued his winning streak with this amazing film about the relationship between a troubled young man and his single mother told with confidence and conviction. Different aspect ratios are cleverly used to help tell the story.

6 – The Revenant: Revenge intertwined with racism, greed and survival. Leonardo DiCaprio gets put through the ringer as a man seeking revenge in harsh climactic conditions for the murder of his half native American son in the 1820s. Spellbinding and brutally thrilling.

7 – Carol: Gorgeously photographed and impeccably performed, this love story about two women from different generations and backgrounds embraces the idea that love knows no boundaries. They are two women and yet this beautiful film refuses to use labels.

8 – Girlhood: A poor Parisian girl who struggles academically falls in with a group of “cool kids.” Sounds like a standard teen film about fitting in, but made with heart and insight and features one of the best scenes of the year.

9 – Foxcatcher: Three powerhouse performances drive this fascinating, dramatic and exceptionally creepy story of an Olympic wrestler and his unusual relationship with his coach.

10 – Force Majeure: Hilarious and spot-on satire about the roles we play in relationships and what is or is not expected of us.

Honourable mentions

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Magic Mike XXL, Joy, Selma, It Follows, The Martian, The Walk, Brooklyn, The Gift, She’s Funny That Way, Irrational Man, The Visit, Sicario, Man Up, Cooties, The Big Short, The Hunting Ground.

 

Film Review – Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

Posted in Uncategorized on October 23, 2015 by Reel Review Roundup

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (M)

Directed by: Gregory Plotkin

Starring: Chris J. Murray, Brit ShawIve George

One star

Review by: Julian Wright

The beauty of the Paranormal Activity original lay in its simplicity. Two people, one house, one camera and a few things that go bump in the night. Those bumps turn out to be the doing of a particularly nasty demon. After a run of overly gory horror films, the original’s less-is-more-approach was a nice change of pace and neat spin on the found footage set-up, which was quickly becoming tiresome.

Alas, the box office hit spawned sequels, a prequel a spin-off and now, a 3D gimmick. So late to the party with the 3D approach (people have been leaving this party for years, there are only a few annoying guests left that just wont leave), this franchise is starting to look desperate. This is also reflected in just how convoluted this particular entry gets.

A young couple Ryan (Chris J. Murray) and Emily (Brit Shaw) notice a few strange goings on all of a sudden in their enormous house. Once again, the mansions that the characters in this franchise live in is never explained. The rumblings, and their daughter Leila (Ivy George) acting a little strange, coincide with the discovery of a souped up old video recorder in the house.

The camera, which uses VHS (nostalgia!) picks up an apparition named Toby, the same Toby who Leila has been making friends with. But what no one can see with the naked eye is that Toby is up to no good. There is also some old family home videos that reference the past films and a bizarre inter-dimensional slash time travel thing going on.

Save for a handful of reasonably effective jump scares (the most important thing that these films, no matter the quality, seem to get right), this entry suffers from kitchen sink syndrome. Too much is thrown in and it is all delivered with such gratingly expositional dialogue that is recited in the most ham-fisted, unnatural way, that this quickly becomes a chore to endure. It also repeats several things from the others films (little girl talking to a ghost, annoying man of the house with a camera permanently attached to his hand etc).

Director Gregory Plotkin is less interested in suspense, forgoing the usual long, silent takes this franchise is known for. Characters wander in the dark (why does no-one ever turn on a light?!) only briefly before the scare is delivered. The 3D is only apparent when the creepy old video camera is in use, so even that gimmick is more of a rip-off than usual.

If this franchise continues to limp forward with more entries (surprise, the ending suggests more is to come), at least from this point it can only get better. Maybe.