Doctor of Movies’ Top Ten of 2018

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Review – Creed II (2018)

Director: Steven Caple Jr.

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Sylvester Stallone, Florian Munteanu, Dolph Lungdren, Phylicia Rashad, Russell Hornsby, Wood Harris

Creed II

Amongst a sea of reboots and revivals, 2015’s Creed set the high water mark, pleasantly surprising audiences and critics alike by bringing a new relevance to a beloved but diminished franchise. Ryan Coogler’s film effectively functioned as both sequel and remake, continuing the story of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) into his older years, while also presenting a new hero for a new generation in Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan). With Creed II, Steven Caple Jr, who has taken the reins from Coogler, is attempting a similar balancing of the old and the new, crafting a film that serves simultaneously as a sequel to Creed and to Rocky IV. 

After starting out his career as a curiosity, as Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis Creed has earned legitimacy and claimed the world heavyweight crown. He is engaged to Bianca (Tessa Thompson), whose music career is going strong, and they have a child on the way. In short, life is pretty good for Donnie. But again, the shadow of his father proves inescapable. Continue reading

Review – Terror Nullius (2018)

Director: Soda_Jerk

Starring: Anyone and everyone from the history of Australian cinema and politics

Terror Nullius

In the 1920s, Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov conducted a series of experiments in which the same image of a neutral male face was screened alongside different images. A bowl of soup. A child in a coffin. A reclining woman. In each instance the audience interpreted the neutral expression in a different way. The man was hungry. He was sad. He was lustful. From these experiments came one of the foundational principles of cinematic language: the meaning of shots was not static, but changed based on how those shots were arranged. This principle of meaning creation, and in particular recreation, through juxtaposition is used to startling effect in the explosive mashup piece Terror Nullius. Continue reading

Review – Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Director: Brian Singer

Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Tom Hollander, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech

Triumphant and celebratory, Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody – Singer retains his director’s credit despite being replaced during production by Dexter Fletcher – is an authorised biopic charting the rise of beloved British rock band Queen. Seemingly a very ‘authorised’ biopic. Rather than taking us behind closed doors to give us personal insight into the experience of that meteoric rise, you get the impression that the goal of surviving band members Brian May and Roger Taylor in serving as producers of the film was to protect a legacy and control a history.

Guitarist May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Taylor (Ben Hardy) from the pub band Smile are contemplating giving up on their rock dreams after their lead singer quits the band, when they encounter Farrokh Bulsara (Rami Malek), a peculiar, young Zanzabari immigrant with an incredible vocal range, who offers his services. Continue reading

Review – The Other Side of the Wind (2018)

Director: Orson Welles

Starring: John Huston, Oja Kodar, Peter Bogdanovich, Susan Strasberg, Norman Foster, Robert Random, Lilli Palmer, Edmond O’Brien, Mercedes McCambridge, Cameron Mitchell, Paul Stewart

Other Side of the Wind

Hardcore cinephiles have a complicated relationship with Netflix. Netflix, and streaming services like it, arguably pose a bigger threat to the sustainability of the theatrical experience than the rise of television did in the mid-20th century. For where television threatened to steal audiences away from the cinema, Netflix is stealing both audiences and filmmakers. In the last couple of years, the money and apparent creative freedom being thrown at filmmakers by streaming services has seen high profile filmmakers like Ava DuVernay, the Coen brothers, Alfonso Cuaron, and even Martin Scorsese making feature length works for release on Netflix rather than in cinemas. And yet,  every now and then Netflix throws the cinephiles a bone with something like The Other Side of the Wind. Continue reading

Review – First Man (2018)

Director: Damien Chazelle

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Patrick Fugit, Christopher Abbott, Ciaran Hinds, Olivia Hamilton

First Man

Adapted from James R. Hansen’s biography of Neil Armstrong, Damien Chazelle’s First Man is faced with two distinct challenges. Firstly, how to build suspense and tension when the audience already knows of the successful outcome of the Apollo mission, and secondly, how to make a contemporary audience appreciate just how audacious and inconceivable an undertaking that mission was back in 1969. By taking a more personal approach to this story, and reinventing the cinematic representation of space travel, it manages to achieve both to great effect. Continue reading

Review – A Star is Born (2018)

Director: Bradley Cooper

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos, Dave Chappelle

Star is Born

Some stories seem to compel us to reimagine and reinvent them. A classic showbiz saga, A Star is Born, starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, is a remake of the 1976 film of the same title starring Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, which was itself a remake of the 1954 film of the same title starring Judy Garland and James Mason, which was, again, a remake of a 1937 film starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March which was called, you guessed it, A Star is Born. Each new telling of this story of two careers, one on the way up, the other on the way down, offers a slightly different perspective, a new insight. This newest telling offers reinvention in more ways than one, though, as its two stars reinvent themselves: pop music superstar Lady Gaga as actress and multiple Academy Award nominated actor Bradley Cooper as director. Continue reading