Film Review – Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Posted in Uncategorized on December 10, 2021 by Reel Review Roundup

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (MA)

Directed by: Andy Serkis

Starring: Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

The bickering duo, Eddie Brock and the alien entity attached to him Venom, are back to squeeze some more mileage out of their odd couple pairing for another brisk Marvel outing.

The tension deepens between meek journalist Eddie and the bombastic alien Venom, who is hungry for human flesh – the two barely co-exist in a small apartment, but their clashing ideals and values become too much and they bicker more frequently.

Havoc ensues when Eddie is summoned to interview deeply troubled serial killer on death row Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), who bites Eddie during their meeting and inherits a portion of Venom, creating Carnage, and goes on a rampage.

This is a short, sharp and entertaining time passer, with Hardy and the CGI Venom the leading force as the hero and anti-hero.

Their bickery banter takes this thinly plotted story a long way, particularly when the script also has little interest in character development. It is Hardy that continues to impress, performing well against the inky, sharp toothed ratbag.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is designed simply as a fun ride, and as that it delivers.

However, with so many other films on the market that offer similar things, it hardly stands out from the crowd.

Film Review – Dune

Posted in Uncategorized on December 10, 2021 by Reel Review Roundup

Dune (M)

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Issac

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Frank Herbert’s book gets megabucks thrown behind it for a brand new big screen adaptation in the hands of highly acclaimed director Denis Villeneauve.

There is a lot to take in in this epic, two and a half hour journey that is one of two parts, but the basic set up is that Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamat) is the heir of House Atreides that has become ruler of Arrakis, a desert planet that has a precious and highly powerful resource: spice.

While the tone and pace is 100 per cent Villeneuve (see the long, slow, tension filled build of Prisoners, Sicario and Arrival), Dune somehow does not reach the great heights of his past efforts.

The long stretches feel longer and sometime border on tedium, and the understated performances from an appealing cast feel less engaging.

But he sure knows how to create an epic landscape, build astonishing worlds and keep us in awe with his imaginative visual.

This really is a film made for the big screen and one should do their best to catch it at a cinema before Part Two arrives next year.

Perhaps take a shot of espresso beforehand to get you through the quieter moments.

Film Review – The Worst Person in the World

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2021 by Reel Review Roundup

The Worst Person in the World (MA)

Directed by: Joachim Trier

Starring: Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, Herbert Nordrum

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

To describe The Worst Person in the World as 12 chapters in the life of a millennial sounds like a warning. But do not be dissuaded – this is definitely not a cookie cutter film about an indecisive 20-something whining about their first world problems.

Medical student pursuing psychology Julie (Renate Reinsve) is shacked up with settled older man and writer Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), who, being in his 40s, would like to start having children soon.

Julie is not ready for kids just yet and, while on a retreat with Aksel and his parent friends, is starting to feel a little pressured and also like she doesn’t quite fit in. She also doesn’t really know what she wants to do with herself in the way of a career- Aksel is focused, but Julie flits from course to course, dabbles in photography and works part-time in a book store.

She meets coffee barista Elvind (Herbert Nordrum) – who seems more of a fit for Julie – and even though they do not sleep together, sparks fly.

There is an honesty, accuracy and electricity to this brilliant film that manages to capture and depict the many feelings and emotions (often confusing and contradictory) swirling around in the mind of someone in their late 20s to early 30s. That sense of pressure to be something, finding your place in the world, the what-ifs, and the constant pursuit of happiness is encapsulated in a sharp script, brilliant direction and a splendid cast.

There is also a beauty and elegance to this film – uplifting and heartbreaking moments seem to play out in real time, allowing the characters to have space to be, exist and breathe. The sequence in which Julie and Elvind meet is a stunner. The way they interact, aware of the attraction and indulging in flirty behaviour, but consciously avoiding exchanges that would be considered cheating is the most fun and erotic meet-cute put to film.

The Worst Person in the World is a beautifully relatable experience and naturally performed with Reinsve imbuing her character with empathy – this is a must-see.

The Worst Person in the World screens as part of the Perth Festival Lotterywest Films, which runs from November 22 – April 3.

Film review – Last Night in Soho

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2021 by Reel Review Roundup

Last Night in Soho (MA)

Directed by: Edgar Wright

Starring: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Edgar Wright turns his attention to nostalgia, mystery and murder with the nightmarish Last Night in Soho.

Eloise “Ellie” Turner (Thomasin McKenzie), who is obsessed with sixties fashion and music, leaves her small, quiet town and heads to big city London to study fashion design – her passion and future career.

Her excitement and enthusiasm soon fades when she is bunked in cramped student accommodation with mean girl Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen) and is made to feel like an outsider by her peers.

Unable to fit in, Ellie finds a small flat to call her own, rented to her by landlord Ms Collins (Diana Rigg) who has some firm rules for her new tenant.

Ellie begins to dream about young woman from the sixties Sandie (Aya Taylor-Joy), who pursues her dream of being a dancer, but falls in with the wrong manager Jack (Matt Smith), who forces her into an exploitative trade.

But Ellie is convinced Sandie was a real person, and when the visions show Sandie’s murder, Ellie suspects the murderer is still alive, and is possibly one of the elderly customers at the bar she works.

Past and present, dreams and reality are beautifully blended and blurred in this thriller/horror with co-writer/director Edgar Wright’s dash of signature humour. His use of mirrors and in-camera tricks are incredibly clever and exciting to watch.

Last Night in Soho is a visually sumptuous film, with Wright employing Chung-hoon Chung as cinematographer to lens what is now one of the most gorgeously looking horror films this year. But it is more than just aesthetics for Wright.

While Wright tends to get a little heavy handed with the delivery of his “message” in the later stages of the film, this post “Me Too” thriller provides substance with its scares and is more than just a visual feast with an adoration for the sixites.

Film Review – Titane

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2021 by Reel Review Roundup

Titane (R)

Directed by: Julia Ducournau

Starring: Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Are you ready to take this journey? Already notorious for apparent screening audience pass outs and walkouts, Titane comes shrouded in mystery and hype that suggests that only the most hardened cinema-goers can handle it.

Young Alexia (Adele Guigue) survives a car crash at a young age, but must now live with a metal plate in her head – and develops a strange affinity with motor vehicles.

Years later as an adult, she (now played by Agathe Rousselle) is a hyper sexualised dancer at a motor show, goes on a violent killing spree and has sex with car. Still with us?

On the run from the police, Alexia changes her appearance and passes herself as the grown up version of a missing boy, and is “reunited” with the father Vincent (Vincent Lindon), a fireman with his own set of deep seeded issues.

There is much more to the story and the development of the relationship between Alexia and Vincent, but seeing Titane with as little information as possible is the best way to view it.

It is a strange and strangely hypnotic experience that at times makes complete sense and then at others, challenges and baffles you.

Themes begin to emerge, but then plot elements seem to betray your hypothesis. Or perhaps this is supposed be about more than just one thing. I am hesitant to even list my own theories so as not to persuade the reading of others.

And yet, none of this feels like sloppy storytelling, because writer/director Julia Ducournau has such a firm grip on her ambitious story. She knows exactly what she is doing and saying – it is up to us to get on her level. This isa level of confidence in film making that is so rare, and it is thrilling to witness.

Titane begs to be watched more than once. Not only to confirm our theories are solid, or to be open to the possibility that we missed something on the the first viewing, but even just to make sure this is a real film that exists and not just a bizarre dream.

Ducournau’s follow up to her brilliant Raw is a provocative, bewildering and possibly for some, downright frustrating experience. But even if you cannot get on this film’s wavelength, one thing is absolutely certain: you have never seen anything like this. And for that it is a horrifyingly refreshing experience.

Film Review – A Boy Called Christmas

Posted in Uncategorized on November 20, 2021 by Reel Review Roundup

A Boy Called Christmas (PG)

Directed by: Gil Kenan

Starring: Henry Lawfull, Maggie Smith, Toby Jones

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Father Christmas gets a cute and magical backstory at the cinema just in time for the festive season in this adaptation of a book of the same name written by Matt Haig.

Once upon a time in Finland, a King (Jim Broadbent) seeks a group of volunteers to go in search of a village of magical Elves called Elfhelm in hopes of restoring hope to the villagers.

Lumberjack and widowed father Joel (Michiel Huisman) volunteers, leaving his 12-year-old son Nikolas (Henry Lawfull) with his crabby Aunt Carlotta (Kristen Wiig), who torments the young chap and eventually turfs him out of his own cottage.

Nikolas goes in search of his father and discovers Elfhelm, but not all the Elves are welcoming. The person who objects most to his presence is Mother Something (Sally Hawkins), still jaded and distrustful after past interactions with humans that were not so pleasant.

This Christmas film tackles some darker themes while capturing the magic and spirit of Christmas. While these darker moments are brief, presumably to not traumatise the youngest members of the audience, it does offer a point of difference from the other treacly festive films we get.

Hope is still a pleasant and very strong theme running throughout, and the story comes together quite nicely as the more traditional elements of Christmas we now recognise begin to fall into place.

Director Gil Kenan is able to capture a delightful and playful tone with his vision and colourful cast, though he is unable to maintain is for the entire running time, with the spark occasionally dimming ever so slightly.

Time will tell if this becomes a go-to Christmas classic like Home Alone but for now it is a light and lovely film for the whole family.

Film Review – No Time To Die

Posted in Uncategorized on November 12, 2021 by Reel Review Roundup

No Time To Die (M)

Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Starring: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Rami Malek

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

The hype has been real for Daniel Craig’s final appearance as British spy James Bond, perpetuated even further with numerous COVID related delays. As if fans weren’t clambering hard enough for his fifth and final turn as the iconic, super smooth and philandering character (and the 25th appearance of the character in the series – big milestones here), we had to wait a gruelling 19 months! So, the biggest question that inevitably built up over the last almost two years is, is it worth the wait?

James Bond (Daniel Craig) is enjoying a blissful getaway with his lover Madeleine (Lea Seydoux) in Italy, when he is attacked at the site of former love of his life Vespa’s grave. Convinced Madeliene tipped off Spectre as to his whereabouts, the pair split up and Bond goes into hiding.

Five years later he is drawn out of retirement and back into espionage when an MI6 scientist Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik) is taken by force with a highly classified bio weapon that targets particular DNA – developed under M’s guidance (Ralph Fiennes).

This brings Bond face to face once again with Madeleine, opening old wounds, his replacement Nomi (Lashana Lynch) and the diabolical Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), who has a history with Madeleine.

Craig era Bond had taken the series into grittier territory, going light on the cheese factor and with an emphasis on striking imagery (they are some of the best looking in the series). No Time To Die does not stray from the new look and feel that was established with 2006’s Casino Royale, when Craig first stepped into the role, but it delivers a consistently thrilling and satisfying conclusion to the era.

Those are die-hard fans of the series, and those who have only just picked it up since 2006, may even find themselves moved to a tear or two by the film’s conclusions – and at two and a half hours, it does take its time getting there.

But not only does the character sink his last signature martini for a while, he does so with additional layers and vulnerabilities revealed that the series has never dared to show up until now.

Familiar characters pop up without getting their own closure and new characters range from fun (Ana de Armas as a wide eyed newbie spy is fabulous but all too fleeting) to perfunctory (Lynch gets no room to move or develop).

Ultimately, despite it sticking fairly close to a formula, No Time To Die was worth the wait, and a great excuse to head back to the cinema.

Film Review – The Many Saints Of Newark

Posted in Uncategorized on November 5, 2021 by Reel Review Roundup

The Many Saints of Newark (MA)

Directed by: Alan Taylor

Starring: Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr, Vera Farmiga

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

HBO’s The Sopranos New Jersey mob boss anti-hero Tony Soprano (James Gandalfini) gets a backstory for the big screen in The Many Saints of Newark.

With his own thug father Johnny Soprano (Jo Bernthal) mostly in jail and out of the picture and his naggy mother Livia (Vera Farmiga) showing little affection, young Tony looks up to his charismatic mafia member uncle Dickie (Alessandro Nivola) as his mentor.

Dickie has a firm handle on the family business and shows young Tony the affection and attention a growing lad needs, but he has his own demons – particularly his inability to control his temper.

Deepening riffs in the family, Dickie shacks up with his young Italian step-mother Guiseppina (Michela De Rossi) which leads to a devastating fate for his father ‘Hollywood Dick’ Moltisanti (Ray Liotta).

Creating professional tensions in his life, Dickie’s former employee Harold (Leslie Odom Jr) breaks off to create his own rival black-led operation.

The Many Saints of Newark allows us to see the early influencing factors in Tony Soprano’s life from childhood through to his teenage years, and it is a good concept for fans of the show who may have wanted more after it ended.

But while what develops and unfolds here is supposed to be seen through the eyes of a young Tony Soprano, he is missing from quite a lot of the action.

Uncle Dickie is the main focus here with Tony barely registering as a cameo character and the link between what goes on in the family and what he actually witnesses and experiences is weak at best.

That aside, the 1960s and 70s setting, characters and dynamics set up are intriguing enough to hold your attention – even for those who have not seen the series.

Vera Farmiga steals the entire show right from under her male counterparts as the annoying mob boss wife, bringing a special spark to a role that has been an after-thought character for decades in mafia stories.

Film Review – Coming Home In The Dark

Posted in Uncategorized on September 7, 2021 by Reel Review Roundup

Coming Home In The Dark (MA)

Directed by: James Ashcroft

Starring: Daniel Gillies, Erik Thomson, Miriama McDowell

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

A family outing turns into a living nightmare in this shocking and thought-provoking exercise in suspense with substance.

High school teacher Alan Hoaganraad (Erik Thomson) his wife Jill (Miriama McDowell) and their teenage twin sons Maika (Billy Paratene) and Jordan (Frankie Paratene) are enjoying a pleasant, scenic road trip along the coast of New Zealand, for a brief break from their lives back home.

But when they stop in a picnic area chosen for its isolation, they are confronted by a pair of sinister drifters, the gun carrying Mandrake (Daniel Gillies) and his hulking, mostly silent mate Tubs (Matthias Luafutu).

At first it seems the thugs are just keen to rob and intimidate, but the longer the group spend together, the clearer it becomes that this encounter may not be as random as it first appeared.

Eli Kent and James Ashcroft have adapted Owen Marshall’s short story into a tense, bleak and devastating feature film.

It suggests at first that it may be heading into Wolf Creek/The Hills Have Eyes territory, with the rural setting and a jolting moment of shocking and brutal violence, but the film slowly segues into more Hard Candy territory as deeply buried truths are dragged to the surface.

Kent and Ashcroft, who also directed, eventually reveal that they are interested in exploring something deeper, rather than just exposing disturbing acts of violence for cheap thrills. This is about unresolved trauma, and the ease at which some can move on from and deny a violent act while others who are impacted cannot and are scarred for life.

What does happen to those who are left to fester in their pain and rage?

The cast is impeccable, with Gillies and Luafutu simply chilling with their scruffy appearance but calm demeanor, and their complete emotional control even during their violent acts. But it is McDowell, who is given as much depth as her male counterparts, who delivers an astonishingly emotional and believable performance.

Coming Home In The Dark is more than just nightmare fuel for thrill seekers, but something that will haunt you long after its devastating revelations and conclusion.

Film Review – Respect

Posted in Uncategorized on August 19, 2021 by Reel Review Roundup

Respect (M)

Directed by: Liesl Tommy

Starring: Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

Iconic singer Aretha Franklin’s life gets the big screen biopic treatment, but instead of a rousing tribute, this feels more like a middling Netflix production that would easily and immediately get lost in the algorithm.

Aretha Franklin had a noticeable vocal talent from an early age, singing in the choir for her father C. L. Franklin, who nurtured and exploited those talents.

She grows up to be a recording artist, but with nine albums and not a single hit, her career didnt go very far until she marries her husband slash manager Ted White (Marlon Wayans), whose connections and thug-like behaviour helped open doors.

Aretha eventually becomes a worldwide superstar dubbed the Queen of Soul.

It seems like a no-brainer of a cracking story – how a singer under the thumb of her preacher father and abusive husband and manager came to release an empowering hit like Respect, and yet the arc feels under developed.

Like most biopics, Respect likes to show us milestones and life highs and lows but fails to connect them. One minute Aretha wants to march with family friend Martin Luther King for civil rights, the next she just wants to “make hit records”. How her motivations and focus change remain a mystery.

And choosing to keep this a very audience friendly and respectful affair, we don’t even see how the abuse at the hands of a party guest resulting her giving birth at 12 years old shapes her. Such a significant moment in her life (albeit unpleasant) goes largely unexplored.

Jennifer Hudson has the vocal cords to pull off the singing however her performance feels stuck, which seems largely due to the script problems mentioned. How does one create a full character when so much is glossed over or omitted?

It is a handsome film to watch, but painfully long given that it ultimately treads similar paths of other musician biopics – abuse, alcohol, rags to riches etc. Points for depicting Franklin at one point as an alcoholic hitting rock bottom, turning nasty towards her family and later seeking redemption – but it is a long road to get to that point.

The most powerful moment comes during the credits with a clip of the real Aretha singing (You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman at 73 years old just three yeas before her death, as she peels off her over sized fur coat on stage as she belts out her classic just highlights that this film spent over two hours trying to capture her star power and failed.