Category: Reviews

Review – Detroit (2017)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Starring: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Ben O’Toole, Jack Reynor, Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever, Jason Mitchell, Anthony Mackie, John Krasinski

Detroit

Fifty years on from the Detroit riots, and with the issue of police brutality to African Americans very much still alive, Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow brings the horrific story of the Algiers Motel Incident, in which a dozen black men were tortured by police with three ending up dead, to the big screen. Bigelow, collaborating for the third time with screenwriter Mark Boal, has shown herself to have a special talent for examining human stories against the backdrop of violent conflict. We saw it in The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty and we see it again, albeit in a different way, in Detroit.

In the Fox Theatre Larry Reed (Algee Smith) and his group The Dramatics are waiting to go on stage for a gig they hope will be their big break only to have the show suddenly cancelled when police demands that everyone be sent home due the growing disquiet in the streets outside. Feeling sorry for himself, Larry and his friend Fred (Jacob Latimore) head to the Algiers Motel to stay off the streets until the trouble blows over. Continue reading

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Review – The Beguiled (2017)

Director: Sofia Coppola

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Reicke, Emma Howard

beguiled

Thomas P Cullinan’s 1966 novel The Beguiled was first adapted for the screen by Don Siegel in 1971 with Clint Eastwood in the lead (immediately preceding their collaboration on Dirty Harry) in a film which played up the story’s horror elements. Writer-director Sofia Coppola’s adaptation, for which she won best director at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is a different film. While also a trimmed down, streamlined version of Cullinan’s story, Coppola gives it a distinctively feminist perspective, aligning our point of view with the female characters.

1864, Virginia. It is three years into the American Civil War, the result of which is becoming clearer by the day. A young girl, Amy (Oona Laurence), finds a wounded Yankee soldier, Corp. John McBurney (Colin Farrell) in the woods and offers to take him back to Ms Farnsworth’s Seminary for Young Ladies for treatment. Continue reading

Review – Justice League (2017)

Director: Zack Snyder

Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Mamoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Amber Heard, David Thewlis

Justice League

While it had all sorts of problems and received a pasting from critics around the world, one thing you have to hand to Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is that it swung for the fences. It had an idea and committed to it. It just didn’t end up being an idea which connected with audiences. Justice League, the latest film from Warner Brothers’ much maligned DC Extended Universe, is a significantly less ambitious movie. A gun shy film which shows more evidence of being chastened by the reaction to Batman vs Superman than emboldened by the success of Wonder Woman, it plays it safe and, as a result, ends up being entirely bland and largely forgettable.

Chronologically, Justice League is a sequel to Batman vs Superman rather than Wonder Woman. We find the world still mourning the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), and his passing has left it vulnerable.  Winged Parademons who feed on fear have started showing up at Gotham and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is convinced that they herald something much worse on its way. Continue reading

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

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