Category: Reviews

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

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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

Review – Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Director: Peyton Reed

Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Abby Ryder Forsten, Michael Pena, Walton Goggins, Tip ’T.I.’ Harris, David Dastmalchian, Hannah John-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Pfeiffer, Randall Park, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale

Ant-Man and the Wasp

If Marvel Studios are going to release franchise instalments at the frequency they do – twenty superhero movies in ten years, five in the last 18 months – they can’t stick to the traditional blockbuster strategy of trying to outdo themselves with each film, of constantly striving to raise the bar with bigger stories and more extreme spectacles. Such an approach would be unsustainable, not to mention exhausting for fans. Instead, they opt for variety and modulation. Of scale, of tone, of stakes. The Ant-Man series is, fittingly, the smallest scale of the various strands of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it is some canny forethought from Kevin Feige’s team to offer up Ant-Man and the Wasp as a modest, low-stakes breather for superhero movie fans after the epic Avengers: Infinity War. Continue reading

Review – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Director: Juan Antonio Bayona

Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Rafe Spall, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Isabella Sermon, Ted Levine, James Cromwell, Geraldine Chapman, Toby Jones, BD Wong, Jeff Goldblum

Jurassic World

“Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur?” The question, posed by Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth instalment in the Jurassic Park franchise, seems to be addressed as much to the audience as it is to her returning co-protagonist Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). For many, it takes our mind back twenty-five years, to that beautifully constructed moment in Jurassic Park. The camera tracking in on the stunned face of Alan Grant (Sam Neill) in the back seat of the jeep. He stands up, taking off his glasses, reaching down to turn the head of Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) so that she can see what he is seeing. Her mouth drops open. And then, as John Williams’ iconic score swells, we see it: a giant brachiosaur walking up the hill beside them, rising up on its hind legs to eat some leaves from the top of a tree. It was a cinematic moment that was as breathtakingly awe-inspiring for those sitting in the theatres watching as it was or the characters living it on screen. We had never seen anything like it before. The diminishing returns for the Jurassic Park franchise since that first film has been in large part due to the inability to recapture that moment and to replicate that audience experience. Continue reading

Review – Incredibles 2 (2018)

Director: Brad Bird

Starring: Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Sowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Eli Fucile, Bob Odenkirk, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabella Rossellini, Sophia Bush, Jonathan Banks, Brad Bird

Incredibles 2

In contemporary Hollywood, fourteen years is an eternity to wait for a sequel. We are used to the sequel being in the works often before the first film is even released. While there had always been audience desire for a sequel to The Incredibles – a high point even by Pixar’s lofty standards – the animation studio and writer-director Brad Bird made us wait for another adventure from the Parr family. But fans can rest assured that it has been worth the wait.

Rather than reflecting the fourteen years that have passed between films in the story world, Incredibles 2 picks up immediately where the first one left off, with the Parr family suiting up to tackle the Underminer (Pixar talisman John Ratzenberger). But when things don’t quite go to plan ‘supers’ once again find themselves out of favour with a government that sees them as more trouble than they are worth. Continue reading

Review – Ocean’s Eight (2018)

Director: Gary Ross

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Richard Armitage, James Corden

Oceans Eight

In the final moments before her crew sets out to execute their heist in the reboot-sequel Ocean’s Eight, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) tells them: “You’re not doing this for me. You’re not doing this for you. Somewhere out there is an eight year old girl dreaming of being a criminal. You’re doing it for her.” This is the self-aware dialogue of a film which knows it has a greater purpose. Ocean’s Eight, like the gender-flipping strategy in general, is about allowing female viewers to break free of Hollywood’s limiting portrayals of women as passive objects and identify with the type of active character historically reserved for men. Could there be anything more emblematic of a female character with agency, with control of their own destiny, than a criminal? Continue reading