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
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
Director: Raoul Peck
Starring: James Baldwin, Samuel L. Jackson
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
Director: Jeff Baena
Starring: Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Kate Micucci, Dave Franco, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Fred Armison, Nick Offerman
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
Director: Warwick Thornton
Starring: Warwick Thornton
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
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Pena, Theo James, Tessa Thompson, Paul Reiser
With his third film, War on Everyone, writer-director John Michael McDonagh steps away from his customary Irish setting, and from his burgeoning collaboration with veteran actor Brendan Gleeson, to offer us a dark and violent satire which gives an outsider’s view of American police justice.
Terry Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) and Bob Bolano (Michael Pena) are ethically questionable detectives. Scratch that. They are entirely unethical detectives. Terry became a cop because “you get to shoot people for no reason.” Bob is returning from suspension after assaulting a fellow police officer. Both use blackmail and violence to make sure no criminal in their jurisdiction gets away without giving them a kickback. The duo get word of a planned racetrack heist, and are keen to get in on the action. But when the heist ends in a bloodbath, it becomes apparent that the man behind it is not their usual caliber of perp. As their investigation proceeds to uncover a child pornography ring, the question becomes how much can this bad cop-bad cop pair be confronted with before their latent morality supersedes their self-interest? Continue reading
Director: John Carney
Starring: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Mark McKenna, Ben Carolan, Ian Kenny, Aiden Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy
Every year I seem to come across one little movie which compels me to proselytise, a little gem of a film that makes me want to tell the world, because it is a film that deserves to be seen more than it will be. In 2015 it was Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. In 2014 it was Calvary. This year it looks like that film is John Carney’s nostalgic musical Sing Street.
Carney takes us back to Dublin in 1985. Fifteen-year-old Conor Lawler’s (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) parents have been forced to pull him out of the expensive Jesuit School he has been attending and enroll him in the working class Christian Brothers boys school, Synge Street. One day Conor meets Raphina, a young model who lives in the girls’ home across the road from the school, and, in a moment of improvisation, asks her to star in a music video for his band. Expect he doesn’t have a band. So now he needs one. Conor takes a crash course in rock and roll from his older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor), and with the help of schoolyard entrepreneur Darren (Ben Carolan) and musical prodigy Eamon (Mark McKenna), starts a band, which they call Sing Street. Continue reading
Director: Pan Nalin
Starring: Sarah-Jane Dias, Amrit Maghera, Anushka Manchanda, Sandhya Mridul, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Rajshri Deshpande, Pavleen Gujral
Promoted as the Indian Bridesmaids or Sex and the City, Pan Nalin’s Angry Indian Goddesses is India’s first female buddy movie, but it uses its light and fun premise to make some biting observations about life as a woman in India.
Photographer Frieda (Sarah-Jane Dias) invites her six closest friends to stay with her for the weekend in her house in Goa and surprises them with the news that she is getting married. These friends come from all walks of life: Madhureeta (Anushka Manchanda) is a singer, Pamela (Pavleen Gujral) is a housewife, Joanna (Amrit Maghera) an aspiring Bollywood actress, Suranjana (Sandhya Mridul) is a powerful corporate executive, Lakshmi (Rajshri Deshpande) is a maid, and Nargis (Tannishtha Chatterjee) an activist. Everyone brings their own issues and experiences to the house, and as they talk, laugh, celebrate and help Frieda prepare for her big day different truths come out. But through all of this one question remains: who is the groom? Continue reading