Friday, August 10, 2018

The Big Take (2018) film review


Year: 2018
Running Time: 83 minutes
Writer/Director: Justin Daly
Cast: James McCaffrey, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Zoe Bell, Bill Sage, Dan Hedaya, Robert Foster, Oksada Lada

The Big Take has a limited theatrical run at Cinema Village in New York City from September 7-13. Available on DVD and Digital on September 4.

Justin Daly's The Big Take is an intriguing, thrilling and original piece of cinema that is mesmerisingly atmospheric and an exceptional debut film from a filmmaker who is not afraid to take courageous creative chances.

At the centre of an elaborate plan by Vic (Slate Holmgren) to get money to fund a film by screenwriter, Max (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) is Hollywood actor, Douglas Brown (James MacCaffrey). Brown is under the impression that he is being blackmailed in order for a damaging video of himself not to be shown in public, but he is really part of a crazy scheme by Vic to fund a film and make himself a producer. However, Brown has access to people who can easily discover who Vic and Max are and when a visit by private investigator, Frank Maniscalpo (Dan Hedaya) to Max and his wife, Oxana (Oksana Lada) goes horribly wrong, things start to turn nasty for everyone involved. 

The Big Take  is a highly impressive directorial debut by Justin Daly. It is evident that he has a strong sense of who he is as a filmmaker and is uncompromising in the execution of his first film. Daly's style of direction is not unlike that of a younger Quentin Tarantino as The Big Take has an atmosphere reminiscent of that of Pulp Fiction. However, the screenplay (also written by Daly) cannot be compared to the 1994 film as it is a highly original piece of work. 


It's creativity in the darkly comical narrative allows for a heightened sense of suspense and unpredictability which is supported by a soundtrack that not just enhances the atmosphere, but excites and intrigues. The reason it is so intriguing is that types of music are matched with landscapes that it would not usually be associated with in film (such as reggae accompanying the image of a motorcycle on the streets of Los Angeles), but unexpectedly works so well.

It's flowing dialog is superbly written for the screen and delivered with ease by the impeccable cast. Ebon Moss-Bachrach as the unassuming Max who is the star of the film. James MacCaffrey's Douglas Brown is the Hollywood stereotype which people love to hate right from the word go, but Max is the underdog who could be the real hero of the film that everyone barracks for. He is the relatable writer trying to make his way in the tough world that is Hollywood and trying to get people to take notice, so when trouble in the form of attention comes his way he doesn't question it. Zoe Bell is also a standout as the girl who is way scarier than she initially seems, Edie.

The Big Take explores the side of Hollywood where people will do absolutely anything and question nothing to finally get their big break. Justin Daly breaks into the filmmaking scene with incredible power and is without a doubt one to watch in the future.

8/10


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Oceans 8 (2018) film review

Year: 2018
Running Time: 110 minutes
Director: Gary Ross
Writers: Gary Ross and Olivia Milch
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina, Richard Armitage, Dakota Fanning
Oceans 8 opens in Australia on June 7, 2018 and is distributed by Roadshow Films. Opening June 8, 2018 in the United States and distributed by Warner Bros.

Review by Nicki Newton-Plater

Oceans 8 is here to remind us that the female reboot is not just alive and well, but it is striving in it's  perfect health.

With the male dominated Oceans trilogy having lost it's legs and tiring out over a decade ago, Gary Ross along with co-writer Olivia Milch have revived the franchise with the same thrills we found with the original, but with a little more designer chic. 

Oceans 8 is joyous to watch as eight of entertainment's powerful female voices portray eight strong women who are even more interesting to watch than their male counterparts and far better dressed. The ladies team together to take on the impossible task of stealing one of the most expensive pieces of jewellery in the world during the glitz and glamour of the world famous Met Gala. The outcome of the heist may be extremely predictable and therefore not as suspenseful as it should be, but the organisation of the perfect crime is incredibly entertaining in it's fun and intelligent execution. 


While Sandra Bullock's Debbie Ocean, Cate Blanchett's Lou, Anne Hathaway's Daphne Kluger and Helena Bonham Carter's Rose Weil are the characters that are the most fleshed out, each lady has their own set of unique and distinct character traits and each is celebrated. The film speaks volumes about how there isn't one right way to be a strong woman and that being strong and independent doesn't mean belittling men nor does it mean said woman has to be physically powerful. The cast is diverse and embraces the beauty in minority groups, with specific focus on those in New York City. 

However much of a pun it may be, for some Oceans 8 may tend to flow a little too well with it not being overly intense or emotional. However, others may embrace this. The film is incredibly entertaining, easy to watch and enjoyable, especially with Blanchett's witty and well-timed dialogue and Hathaway's hilarious return to her comedic roots as a spoilt, pretentious socialite. It is a feast for the eyes with the outstanding costume design by Sarah Edwards of the ladies enviable wardrobes and Met Gala attire and exquisite production design by Alex DiGerlando. The recreation of the world of the prestigious Met Gala is aesthetically pleasing in every way with it's glamorous ambience, high-end fashion and overflow of A-list celebrities.

Oceans 8 is a whole load of fun and the type of reboot we crave where the filmmakers use the original as inspiration and not a chance to rehash a worn out story. 

8/10


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Black Panther (2018) film review


Year: 2018
Running Time: 134 minutes
Director: Ryan Coogler
Writer: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (based on the Marvel comics by), Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole (written by)
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis

Review by Debbie Zhou

The Marvel Universe has often plodded through a predictable chain of movies, but in comes the newest addition, Black Panther – a triumphant wake-up call to the primarily white-casting of the superhero genre. It marks a step in the right direction for Marvel, right off their more playful and thoughtful efforts with ambitious filmmakers, such as Taika Waititi in 2017's Thor: Ragnorok. This time, there's a more serious approach at play, and director Ryan Coogler confidently takes the reins with a wholehearted embrace of African cultures and experiences, and empowers his protagonists with agency and a unique story.

Black Panther places T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) as the newly-appointed King of the African nation, Wakanda, following his father's death. As King, T'Challa is given the powers of Black Panther, deriving from the alien metal vibranium. This special metal is engineered into the entire country, providing them with ultra-modern advanced technologies which enables the population to power their cities – that not even “progressive” Western first-world countries could imagine.

This is a vision of Afro-futurism in its sheer beauty. The scale of Coogler's invention onto the Marvel stage derives not only from the epic landscape and technological wonder of Wakanda, but his meticulous attention to detail. He focuses on the smallest elements which evoke a sense of identity to the Wakandan people – down to the intricacies of African dress, rituals and music (the heavily-percussive and vocal score by composer Kendrick Lemar stands out); it ultimately fuels a prideful connection to a culture that we are rarely gifted the chance of seeing on our screen in such magnitudes.

And there are some fantastically crafted sequences that come from this total encompassing image of diversity, crafted by Rachel Morrison (she is the first female Oscar-nominated cinematographer). The action sequences are shot with rapid intensity, and in particular – a casino scene stands out in its fluidity, through its use of tracking shots. Here, the female protagonists, Nikia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Okoye (Danai Gurira) , are empowered through their fierce movements – the framing and focus of the story becoming integral to fully owning their characters as T’Challa’s true allies and warriors. Shuri (Letitita Wright), T’Challa’s younger sister, is also a nice addition to his circle – whose innovation and intelligence powers the use of vibranium in astonishingly new ways.

The story's antagonist is Erik Killmonger (played by the always reliable Michael B. Jordan), although Klaw (Andy Serkis) sets the stones for the brooding villain to step his feet into Wakanda. But in this Marvel story, T’Challa’s sole dilemma is made more complex: it doesn’t derive purely from a need to defeat a villain, he also faces the challenge of living up to his Father’s legacy and questioning whether change is necessary.

Killmonger is one of the more interesting villains Marvel has created, and Coogler actively attempts to reflect the underlying social and racial problems of America through his character. By incorporating the African-American experience, there's a bitter anger that dictates Killmonger’s actions; the exclusivity of vibranium means that those marginalised in other societies cannot access it. But while the contextual settings hands him over the perfect justification for his acts, Killmonger is quickly tossed to the side as a one-note villain (a Marvel trope) in the third act – where his actions become tyrannical, and his unreasonable abuse of power makes his personality lose nuance and authenticity.

Still, with Black Panther – Coogler has presented us with a section of the Marvel universe that reduces its white characters into supporting roles and instead, elevates its black protagonists on a platform which enables them to fight for their beliefs and their cultures. And for that ground-breaking act, it is most likely the best Marvel film yet.


7/10