Review – Moonlight (2016)

Director: Barry Jenkins

Starring: Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Jharrel Jerome, Andre Holland

moonlight_ver2

Queer cinema has for a long time existed on the peripheries of the mainstream, in the independent and arthouse sectors, catering to what was seen as a niche audience. In recent times we have started to see this change and Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight is an important stepping stone in that process. While Jenkins is not himself gay, his film, which is based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unproduced short play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, has a sense of authenticity to it. It feels true to itself and its protagonist, and this year became the first LGBTQI themed film to be awarded Best Picture by the Academy. Attempting to describe Moonlight requires lots of in- words. It is intimate. It is internal. It is introspective. It is introverted. It is also extraordinary. Continue reading

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Review – Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Director: Taika Waititi

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, Karl Urban, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Taika Waititi, Anthony Hopkins

Thor Ragnorok

After nine years, sixteen films, and over US$12.5 billion in box office takings, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is undoubtedly one of the most successful blockbuster franchises in history. However, despite this popular and critical success, the Thor films have remained a clear weak point of the MCU. While Chris Hemsworth is relatively charismatic in the titular role, and the series has produced the MCU’s best villain in Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, it is fair to say that neither of the Norse god of thunder’s two solo outings have hit the nail on the head. With Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel Studios have thrown caution to the wind, attempting to remedy this situation with a bold change in direction by handing the reins to celebrated Kiwi director, and 2017 New Zealander of the Year, Taika Waititi. Continue reading

Review – Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto

Blade Runner 2049

The last few years have seen a number of sequels to long dormant film series: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Creed, Jurassic World. Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 is something quite different. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, was not a franchise movie. It was not even a box office success. Blade Runner is a cult classic which earned more mainstream recognition over a period of decades, thanks to various re-cuts and re-releases in the ancillary market (specifically the 1992 Director’s Cut and the 2004 Final Cut). While the film had a very cool neo-noir aesthetic and unique sound thanks to Vangelis’ score, the appeal of Blade Runner is largely the ideas it explores. All of this makes returning to the property 35 years down the track a far more interesting challenge than simply rebooting or reviving a proven franchise. Continue reading

Review – John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Director: Chad Stahelski

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Claudia Gerini

John Wick 2

John Wick was a surprise hit. What seemed on paper to be a relatively routine revenge thriller for a star in real need of a career bump somehow became the most unlikely of critical hits, lauded for its strong sense of design and lively fight choreography. With David Leitch having taken his directorial talents to Atomic Blonde, original co-director and former Keanu Reeves stunt double Chad Stahelski takes the reins solo for John Wick: Chapter 2. As a sequel, it is appropriately titled. Without taking us off in any new directions, it gives us more of the same without feeling like it is simply rehashing.

In the world of assassins, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is the boogeyman. To frighten each other, assassins tell stories of John Wick, and as one character points out, if anything these myths and tall tales have been toned down to make them believable. Continue reading

Review – mother! (2017)

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson

Mother

After watching Darren Aronofsky’s mother! you are left with a question: ‘Was that a good film?’ But answering that question requires you to first consider a bigger question: ‘What makes a good film?’ Ever the provocateur, Aronofsky has crafted a film that will frustrate and disgust you, making you equal parts uncomfortable and angry. But if, in order to make their point, it was the filmmaker’s intention to draw these negative reactions from the audience, does successfully doing so make it a good film? mother! is the very epitome of ‘not for everyone,’ and the way you answer that last question goes a long way to determining whether this polarising film is for you or not.

An unnamed married couple live alone in a large house in the middle of a circular meadow in the woods. He (Javier Bardem) is a highly regarded poet who has been struggling to write anything for some time. She (Jennifer Lawrence) has been working to painstakingly restore the grand old house, his old family home which had been destroyed in a fire. Continue reading

Review – The Big Sick (2017)

Director: Michael Showalter

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano

Big Sick

The romantic comedy is one of the cornerstones of Hollywood cinema. It is comfortable. It is entertaining. It is delightful. But it is rarely insightful. It is rarely revelatory. It is rarely personal. First-time screenwriters and married couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon have drawn on their own incredible story of a most unconventional courtship to create just such a film in The Big Sick.

Low level Chicago stand up comedian and occasional Uber driver Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) meets psychology student Emily (Zoe Kazan) at one of his shows and they instantly hit it off. Over the next few months their romance blossoms, but Kumail, a Pakistani-America, keeps it secret from his family knowing his parents would never approve of his dating a non-Pakistani girl. Continue reading

Review – Dunkirk (2017)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Glynn-Carney, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles, Barry Keoghan, James D’Arcy

Dunkirk

In May of 1940, the British Expeditionary Force, along with the French army, had been driven back to the Northern coast of France by the Nazis. 400,000 British troops were trapped on the beach at Dunkirk, sitting ducks to aerial attacks. While only 26 miles from home, so close you can practically see it, the shallow waters made it impossible for large vessels to get in and collect them. So the British Navy implemented ‘Operation Dynamo,’ requisitioning all available small civilian vessels – fishing boats, yachts and tugs – to cross the channel and retrieve them. The ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ is a treasured piece of British history. When their boys couldn’t get home, home came to get their boys. Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Dunkirk, takes this tale and transforms it into immersive cinematic spectacle in a way that only he can.

Dunkirk brings us the story from three perspectives: the mole (as in a pier), the sea and the air. Continue reading