Starring: Sam Neill, Michael Caton, Miranda Richardson, Asher Keddie, Wayne Blair, Leon Ford
Who would have thought that a remake of a quirky Icelandic film about shepherds could end up being the film to best encapsulate the experience of 2020 in Australia? With Rams, a remake of Grimur Hakonarson’s 2015 film Hrútar (which is Icelandic for ‘Rams’), screenwriter Jules Duncan and director Jeremy Sims have managed to not only make the story feel organically of this place, but also very much of this time.
Starring: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Himesh Patel
Christopher Nolan has been the biggest name in blockbuster filmmaking for about a decade now. As arguably the only director in the world able to mount big budget blockbusters that aren’t based on comic books or best selling young adult novels, he is no stranger to a bold and high stakes release.However, his latest film, the temporal thriller Tenet, is seemingly the most important film of his career. Not for what it means to his trajectory but for what it means for the industry as a whole at this precarious moment in history. The Hollywood studios are caught between a rock and a hard place. Cinemas have reopened in many markets but not in others. Even where they are open, it is not known whether audiences are yet comfortable with the idea of returning to them en mass. As such we have seen studios caught in a holding pattern, sitting on their big releases unsure of the viability of releasing them into the present market. Someone had to be first to take the plunge and that was Warner Brothers. Tenet is the first legitimate blockbuster to be released into the Covid era theatrical market and will serve as a test case for whether theatrical distribution is an economically viable option for Hollywood in the immediate future. It’s an absurd weight to place on any film, particularly one as complex as Tenet. Continue reading →
Starring: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Mel Rodriguez
After a recent emphasis on sequels, with Toy Story 4, Incredibles 2, Cars 3 and Finding Doryall coming out in the last four years, Pixar is returning to original storytelling with Onward. Co-written and directed by Dan Scanlon, who previously helmed Monsters University (another Pixar sequel), Onward fittingly offers escapism and adventure at a time when everyone is housebound and in dire need of distraction.
Transferring high fantasy to the present day, Onward transports us to a magical world which has lost its magic. A brief prologue describes how long ago this world had been full of wonder, adventure and, most important of all, magic. But magic was hard to master so as time passed the world turned its back on it in exchange for the convenience of science. Thus, we find the town of New Mushroomton, a sprawling suburbia much like our own, except that it is inhabited by elves, centaurs, cyclopses and pixies, and has somewhat of a feral unicorn problem. Continue reading →
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda, Golshifteh Farahani, Priyanshu Painyuli, David Harbour
With the exception of prestige productions like Romaand The Irishman, original movies from streaming companies have tended to be viewed as the contemporary equivalent of the old straight-to-video release. But with the world’s cinemas forced the close their doors by Covid-19 and Hollywood holding back their big budget releases in the hope of being able to recoup some of their investment down the track, Netflix, Amazon and the like find themselves the only show in town. The result is that a film like Extraction, a generic actioner which sees former Marvel stunt coordinator and second unit director Sam Hargrave making his directorial debut, ends up with more eyes on it than it might have otherwise anticipated. Continue reading →
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlan, Timothee Chalament, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper
Before she made Lady Bird, the coming-of-age drama that put her on the map, Greta Gerwig had already written her adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Despite there already being six film adaptations of the novel, not to mention numerous television movies and mini-series, and the knowledge that no one would back an unproven director to make it, Gerwig felt that was still something vital in the story of the Marsh sisters and a 21st century audience warranted its own telling of the tale. With Lady Bird’s Oscar-nominated success giving her the chance to prove it,on both counts it appears she was correct. Continue reading →
Starring: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ella Jay Basco, Ewan McGregor, Chris Messina, Ali Wong
Despite being almost universally panned, the one element of 2016’s Suicide Squadwhich was consistently singled out for praise was Margot Robbie’s performance as Harley Quinn and it didn’t take long before plans for a spinoff for her character began. That film has arrived in the form of Cathy Yan’s Birds of Pray: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. Riding the first wave of female-led superhero blockbusters, this surprisingly violent and profanity-laden film offers a counter to the high ideals of Wonder Womanand Captain Marvel, instead peddling empowerment through fun and irresponsibility.Continue reading →
Starring: Matthew Rhys, Tom Hanks, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Cooper, Maryann Plunkett, Enrico Colantoni
Growing up in Australia, we didn’t get Mr. Rogers. We got Sesame Street and a plethora of other American children’s television shows, but any awareness of Mr. Rogers was picked up secondhand, through mentions and references in other things we saw. In America, however, Mr. Rogers was an institution. For 912 episodes from 1968 to 2001, Fred Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, would don one of his iconic cardigans and host the children’s television program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Looking straight down the barrel of the camera, in a gentle but never condescending voice, he would speak directly to the millions of children who tuned in everyday in a manner that made it feel like a one on one conversation. Never shying away from life’s difficult topics, his aim was to provide children with positive ways of dealing with their emotions. Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, based on Ton Junod’s 1998 magazine feature “Can you say ‘Hero’?”, examines the power of Rogers’ worldview even on a hardened adult. Skilfully constructed around a brilliant performance from Tom Hanks, even those with no pre-existing investment in Mr. Rogers will find this tale uplifting. Continue reading →
Starring: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Claire Duburcq, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden
While war has provided fertile ground for filmmakers for a long time, historically there has been a much greater focus on the Second World War than the First. World War II occurred during the height of the Hollywood studio system while World War I occurred during the early years of industrial filmmaking, before even the advent of sound. From a storytelling perspective, World War II was a neater war, possessing a clarity of good and evil which the murkiness of World War I lacked. The recent centenary of the Great War, however, has seen more attention being given to that conflict. As its title suggests, Sam Mendes’ 1917 is a First World War film. However, it is not really about the War. While set on the Western Front, it does not give any indication of why the conflict is being fought or of the immediate context of the events. 1917 isn’t about history. It is about an experience, and it is a masterclass of immersive storytelling. Continue reading →
Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant, Archie Yates
There is a degree to which the life of the commercial film director is a process of building up and cashing in credits. After three critically celebrated independent films (Boy, What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople) and a distinctive blockbuster hit (Thor: Ragnarok), New Zealand’s comedy auteur Taika Waititi was finally in the position to get backing for a project which had been in his desk drawer for a number of years. Based on Christine Leunens’ novel Caging Skies and filtered through Waititi’s distinctive comedic sensibility, Jojo Rabbit is an ‘anti-hate satire,’ presenting that standard story of a child coming into an understanding of how the world actually is. Except in this instance, that child is a Nazi.Continue reading →
Starring: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Ian McDiarmid, Carrie Fisher, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Domnhall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Mark Hammill
Twenty-nineteen was a big year for pop culture climaxes. In April, Avengers: Endgamedrew Marvel’s 22 film ‘Infinity Saga,’ if not the the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, to a close. May saw the culmination of Game of Thrones’ eight season run. Popular consensus suggests that one stuck the landing better than the other. Neither, however, carried quite the same level of pressure as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the ninth and, we are told, final film in the central series which we are apparently now calling ‘the Skywalker Saga.’ Since its debut in 1977, Star Wars has in many ways defined contemporary blockbuster filmmaking as both a narrative and a franchise. Unfortunately, while a perfectly adequate piece of blockbuster filmmaking, watching The Rise of Skywalker confirms what has been suggested by the previous two instalments: that this has been a trilogy without a clear, overarching plan. Continue reading →
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