Review – Rough Night (2017)

Director: Lucia Aniello

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Kate McKinnon, Zoe Kravitz, Ilana Glazer

Rough NightLucia Aniello’s Rough Night takes a comedy sub-genre that is usually male dominated, the massive party/night out that goes terribly wrong, and flips the genders. The thing is though, that aside from a few notable exemptions the majority of films in this particular sub-genre are terrible. So, true to form, Rough Night is too. Borrowing its central premise – a party derailed by the accidental death of a stripper – from Peter Berg’s 1998 film Very Bad Things, Rough Night is a derivative mashing together of The Hangover, Bridesmaids and Weekend at Bernie’s.

A group of old college friends whose lives have taken them in different directions are reunited after almost a decade for a bachelorette weekend blowout in Miami. The bride to be, Jess (Scarlett Johansson), is in the midst of running for state senate in South Carolina, so isn’t exactly in the mood for a party weekend, but her possessive best friend, now school teacher, Alice (Jillian Bell) is insistent. Continue reading

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Review – I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

Director: Raoul Peck

Starring: James Baldwin, Samuel L. Jackson

I Am Not Your Negro

In 1979, author, intellectual and activist James Baldwin wrote a thirty page treatment for a book to be called ‘Remember this House.’ It was going to be his personal account, describing his experience of the murders of his three friends and fellow civil rights champions, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. However Baldwin ultimately couldn’t bring himself to write the book and he passed away in 1987 having never returned to it. Using Baldwin’s own words, Raoul Peck’s Oscar nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro sets about trying to bring this unrealised work to life.

While Baldwin is the film’s principal character, I Am Not Your Negro is not a biography. Peck does not concern himself with delivering names, dates, milestones and achievements. If you come into this film without a great knowledge of who Baldwin was and what he did (and as a thirty-something Australian I confess to being far from an expert), you are not going to come out of the film with all of those questions answered. But you will come out with the desire to learn more, because what the film does emphatically show you of Baldwin was that he was a towering mind, a great thinker and powerful debater. Continue reading

Review – The Little Hours (2017)

Director: Jeff Baena

Starring: Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Kate Micucci, Dave Franco, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Fred Armison, Nick Offerman

Little Hours

Incongruity has always been one of comedy’s key tools and things don’t get much more incongruous than an American sex farce set in a 14th century Italian convent. Say hello to Jeff Baena’s The Little Hours.

A loose adaptation of Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th century work The Decameron, The Little Hours tells the story of three young nuns – Alessandra (Brie), Generva (Micucci) and Fernanda (Plaza) – living in a convent in provincial Italy in 1347. Under the watchful eye of Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly) and Sister Marea (Molly Shannon) the sisters go about their daily duties washing clothes, caring for the livestock, making handicrafts for sale at the market, and studying the scriptures. On a trip to the market, Father Tommasso comes across Massetto (Dave Franco), a young servant who has fled his former home having been caught in an affair with his master’s wife. Continue reading

Review – We Don’t Need a Map (2017)

Director: Warwick Thornton

Starring: Warwick Thornton

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In 2010, riding high on the success of his debut feature Samson & Delilah, Aboriginal filmmaker Warwick Thornton found himself in hot water when he suggested that the Southern Cross was fast becoming Australia’s equivalent to the swastika. His new documentary, We Don’t Need a Map, which opened this year’s Sydney Film Festival, is his effort to explain those remarks by delving into the historical meaning of the Southern Cross. We Don’t Need a Map is one of four films funded by NITV (National Indigenous Television) as part of the ‘Moment in History’ initiative to mark fifty years since the 1967 referendum which saw Aboriginal people officially recognised as part of Australia’s population. Continue reading

Review – Wonder Woman (2017)

Director: Patty Jenkins

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, David Thewlis
Wonder Woman

Since first appearing back in 1941, Diana, princess of the Amazons, also known as Wonder Woman, has been one of the most iconic members of DC Comics’ stable of characters. Yet for some reason (can anyone hazard a guess?), while there have been eight Batman movies, and seven Superman movies, Wonder Woman has never been given her own feature film adaptation. Until now. As well as being the character’s first movie, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is also the first film in either the DC or Marvel cinematic universes to have a female protagonist, and is both the first superhero movie and first blockbuster with a budget of over $100 million to be helmed by a female director. All of this means that Wonder Woman will be unfairly saddled with the burden of representation, with many people ready to make sweeping generalisations about the commercial viability of female centric and female directed blockbusters based on its performance. Luckily then, Jenkins’ film is not only good, it is exactly the shot in the arm that the much maligned DC Extended Universe needed. Continue reading

Review – Get Out (2017)

Director: Jordan Peele

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, LilRel Howery

Get Out

You have to go back to The Blair Witch Project to find a horror film that has caused as much of a critical stir as Get Out. The debut feature from writer-director Jordan Peele, best known as one half of the sketch comedy duo Key and Peele, has become the surprise hit of the year, having already grossed $215 million worldwide off a budget of only $4.5 million, and has been almost universally praised as one of the year’s sharpest movies.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) have been dating for five months. The time has come for Rose to take Chris upstate to meet her parents, but the prospect has him wary. You see, Chris is black, and Rose, who is white, hasn’t thought to mention this to her family. Even though it has been fifty years since Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and Rose assures him that both her parents voted for Obama, Chris still thinks it could be an awkward surprise. Continue reading

Review – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Director: James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Kurt Russell, Elizabeth Debicki, Sylvester Stallone

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the most pleasant surprises to come out of Hollywood in years. James Gunn’s space opera brought some much needed freshness and joy to not only the comic book movie genre, but the blockbuster form more generally. It also benefited from the fact that no one saw it coming. Expectations were not high. This same is not a luxury that is enjoyed by the sequel. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has a lot to live up to.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamorah (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) are on the run from a race of ethereal, golden beings known as the Sovereign after Rocket stole some of the precious batteries that they had paid the Guardians to protect. Despite having been together for some time now, the team doesn’t seem to get along any better and there are clear tensions and rivalries on display. Continue reading