Review – First Man (2018)

Director: Damien Chazelle

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Patrick Fugit, Christopher Abbott, Ciaran Hinds, Olivia Hamilton

First Man

Adapted from James R. Hansen’s biography of Neil Armstrong, Damien Chazelle’s First Man is faced with two distinct challenges. Firstly, how to build suspense and tension when the audience already knows of the successful outcome of the Apollo mission, and secondly, how to make a contemporary audience appreciate just how audacious and inconceivable an undertaking that mission was back in 1969. By taking a more personal approach to this story, and reinventing the cinematic representation of space travel, it manages to achieve both to great effect. Continue reading

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Review – A Star is Born (2018)

Director: Bradley Cooper

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos, Dave Chappelle

Star is Born

Some stories seem to compel us to reimagine and reinvent them. A classic showbiz saga, A Star is Born, starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, is a remake of the 1976 film of the same title starring Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, which was itself a remake of the 1954 film of the same title starring Judy Garland and James Mason, which was, again, a remake of a 1937 film starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March which was called, you guessed it, A Star is Born. Each new telling of this story of two careers, one on the way up, the other on the way down, offers a slightly different perspective, a new insight. This newest telling offers reinvention in more ways than one, though, as its two stars reinvent themselves: pop music superstar Lady Gaga as actress and multiple Academy Award nominated actor Bradley Cooper as director. Continue reading

Review – Venom (2018)

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, Reid Scott, Scott Haze

Venom

The tagline that adorns the marketing materials for Ruben Fleischer’s Venom reads: “The world has enough superheroes.” This is because Sony’s latest comic book blockbuster is built around… a villain (gasp). Venom has been a fan-favourite since the mid-1980s when he was introduced into the Spider-Man comics (making him one of the collection of Marvel characters that Sony retains the screen rights to thanks to their Spider-Man deal). However, by telling the story of a villain without their corresponding hero, Venom has little narrative choice but to try and transform this villain into a hero, albeit one of the anti- variety. Continue reading

Review – Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Director: Jon M. Chiu

Starring: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Harry Shum Jr., Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Cheng, Remy Hii, Nico Santos, Jing Lusi

Crazy Rich Asians

John M. Chu’s romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, adapted from the bestselling novel by Kevin Kwan, starts with a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte: “Let China sleep, for when she wakes she will shake the world.” If the incredible box office reception of the film is anything to go by it would appear that finally targeting the Asian diaspora – as the first Hollywood film to boast an all-Asian cast and director since Wayne Wang’s The Joy Luck Club in 1993 – has the potential to shake Hollywood.  Continue reading

Review – Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Starring: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin, Vanessa Kirby, Angela Bassett, Michelle Monaghan

MI Fallout

There was a time when the Mission: Impossible franchise appeared to be running a clear third behind James Bond and the Bourne films when it came to big budget, spy action-thrillers. But not anymore. With its sixth instalment, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the franchise thumbs its nose at both the law of diminishing returns and questions about how long Tom Cruise can keep doing this to produce a rollicking picture which continues its upwards trajectory and easily trumps the most recent instalments in those other franchises. Continue reading

Review – BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Director: Spike Lee

Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Ryan Eggold, Jasper Pääkkönen, Topher Grace, Paul Walter Hauser, Corey Hawkins, Harry Belafonte, Alec Baldwin

Blackkklansman

It has been almost thirty years since Spike Lee burst into the public consciousness with Do the Right Thing. In a year when the Academy gave Best Picture to Driving Miss Daisy’s comparatively trite take on race, Do the Right Thing was a cinematic primal scream, offering an uncompromising and profound look at the African American experience. Since then, Lee has somewhat unfairly born the burden of being considered the cinematic spokesperson of the African American community, with this political lens often overshadowing the aesthetic appreciation of his work. He hasn’t enjoyed the standing of some of his contemporaries in recent years and his work has varied in quality. But when faced with the madness of Trump’s America, the bat signal went up in the sky and Lee responded, returning to his sparkling best with BlacKkKlansman. Continue reading

Review – The Breaker Upperers (2018)

Directors: Madeleine Sami & Jackie van Beek

Starring: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek, James Rolleston, Celia Pacquola, Ana Scotney, Rima Te Wiata

Breaker Upperers

There must be something in the water in New Zealand. Over the last decade, this small nation has provided the world with some of the big and small screen’s most inventive and interesting comedic voices. There is a sincerity and a self-effacing quality that belies a true sharpness which has been distinctive in the work comedians like Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords, Rhys Darby (Short Poppies) and, of course, writer director Taika Waititi (Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok), which has seen all of them leave their mark. You can now add to that group Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek, the writers, directors and stars of The Breaker Upperers. Continue reading