Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 10 Films of 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, it is once again time to have a look back at the year in film that was.

Every year we experience the highs and lows of film and film making and 2015 has been no exception. In order to have the good, we must have the bad and vice versa. One thing to always remember when watching an incredible amount of films per year like we here at Movie Critical do, is that you tend to embrace the mediocre films as much as the brilliant films as they make you appreciate the latter even more.

This year we watched 72 films which were part of the 2015 Australia cinema release schedule and the following are our top ten films from those that we viewed. Please note that some of the films which are included in this list were not necessarily made in 2015, but were released in Australia in the calendar year.

Stay tuned at the end of the list for our bottom five films of 2015! We would also love to hear your feedback or what films were your favourite for 2015.

Happy New Year!

10. Trainwreck
Release Date: 6 August 2015

http://www.moviecritical.net/2015/07/trainwreck-2015-film-review.html
 
Amy Schumer's semi-autobiographical Trainwreck has been hailed by many as the comedy of the year with it's incredibly witty, hilarious and highly 2015 relevant screenplay. The Judd Apatow directed film catapulted Schumer to superstardom and made her a household name, and it is clear to anyone who has seen the film why. She is the perfect leading lady for the times and shows her versatility with not just a hilarious performance, but one that is also raw, emotional and real. Bill Hader is also incredibly convincing as her leading man and the cameos are a great deal of fun.

9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Release Date: 17th December 2015

http://www.moviecritical.net/2015/12/star-wars-episode-vii-force-awakens.html

The most anticipated film of the year which is currently breaking every box office record it possibly can is also one of the best films of the year. Star Wars: The Force Awakens excels as a standalone film and not just as a franchise film. While it is an absolute treat for all those loyal Star Wars fans, it can be enjoyed by those who are not typically sci-fi film fans for it's incredible action sequences supported by impressive special effects and interesting and well-rounded characters. The Force Awakens also takes full advantage of having a strong female lead in Rey (Daisy Ridley) which is what movie goers have been calling for and Star Wars has answered.

8. The Martian
Release Date: 30 September 2015


The Martian is an incredibly intelligent film which is also a whole lot of fun at the same time. Unlike many other smart sci-fi films, it explains itself so well that the audience understands the how and why of everything that occurs during Mark Watney's (Matt Damon) desertion on Mars. Based on the novel by Andy Weir, the screenplay written by Drew Goddard is surprisingly witty and comical which gives an overall feeling of fun as well as intrigue. Matt Damon also gives a brilliant one man performance.

7. Inside Out
Release Date: 18 June 2015

http://www.moviecritical.net/2015/06/inside-out-2015-film-review.html
 
Only Disney Pixar could make a film about emotions as lead characters and have it be not just the best animated film of the year, but be right up there with the best films of the year. Inside Out had many grown men openly admitting that they sobbed at the end. The pure emotion extracted in the closing scenes of the film struck a chord with many and there is so much beauty in how pure and innocent it is. With a wonderful screenplay with beautiful and creative visuals, one has to believe that Inside Out must be the front runner for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards this coming February.
 
 
Release Date: 6 June 2015 (Sydney Film Festival)
 
http://www.moviecritical.net/2015/07/going-clear-scientology-and-prison-of.html
 
2015 was a massive year for documentary and this will be one of the most interesting categories at this year's Academy Awards. Documentary mastermind, Alex Gibney's Going Clear: Scientology and The Prison of Belief is an incredible piece of non-fiction film making. It takes you on an intriguing ride through the world of Scientology where the viewer is firstly informed as to the origins and doctrine of the cult and then they are challenged by a wave of emotions that leaves them feeling utterly shocked and terrified. Going Clear is incredibly well researched and compiled on film which also informs as well as challenges.
 
 
5. Selma
Release Date: 19 February 2015
 



Ava DuVernay's Selma is an incredibly powerful piece of cinema that chronicles Martin Luther King's historical march from Selma to Montgomery in the name of equal voting rights. Shocking, but at the same time rather beautiful, Selma is a triumph with it's stunning cinematography and stellar performances, especially by David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King.

4. Macbeth
Release Date: 1 October 2015


Justin Kurzel's adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth is a hypnotic, beautiful cinematic triumph that does something exquisite and creative which the much told tale of the king gone mad. Visually, the 2015 Macbeth is nothing short of absolutely stunning with stellar cinematography, amazing costume design by Jacqueline Durran and beautiful period set design. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are absolute perfection as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth with both giving emotional performances and delivering the Shakespearean dialogue with ease and beauty.
 
 
Release Date: 6 June 2015
 
http://www.moviecritical.net/2015/06/sydney-film-festival-listen-to-me.html
 
Listen To Me Marlon is a documentary like no other. With the discovery of a number of personal tapes in which Marlon Brando recorded himself talking about his life and movies, we are given the incredible opportunity to learn about one of cinema's greatest and most complex figures straight from the source as though he has risen from the grave. One comes to understand Brando in a way never thought possible with the aid of his own personal recounts accompanied by archive news and film footage. A must for any classic film or Brando fan.
 
 
Release Date: 1 January 2015
 
http://www.moviecritical.net/2015/01/the-imitation-game-2014-film-review.html
 
Morten Tyldum's The Imitation Game is an incredibly entertaining and enjoyable film which serves as a biopic of the mathematician Alan Turing which focuses primarily on his little known role in World War II. The screenplay by Graham Moore, which took away the Oscar for Best Screenplay last year, is extremely tight and strong with brilliant dialogue and moments of both emotion and hilarity that gave it's stars the opportunity to turn in spectacular performances. Benedict Cumberbatch  shines as Turing and is supported by an incredibly strong cast which compliment each other perfectly.
 
Release Date: 15 January 2015
 
http://www.moviecritical.net/2015/01/birdman-or-unexpected-virtue-of.html
 
Our favourite film of the year is also the film that earlier this year took away the big one at the Academy Awards. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) has it's share of lovers and haters and many will probably disagree with our choice to have this as Movie Critical's best film of 2015, but we see Birdman as being an all-round brilliant piece of cinema. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's direction is exquisite, the editing is brilliant and acting by all involved superb. The film indeed relishes in it's quirkiness as it knows what it is and what it is doing and it is this creative quirkiness that gives it it's intrigue and makes for an incredibly entertaining cinematic experience.
 
 
Movie Critical's Worst Films of 2015
5. Jupiter Ascending
4. Aloha
3. Fifty Shades of Grey
2. Penguins of Madagascar
1. Seventh Son




Monday, December 28, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 135 minutes
Director: J.J. Abrams
Writers: George Lucas (characters), Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt (screenplay)
Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie, Lupita Nyong'o, Anthony Daniel, Max von Sydow, Peter Mayhew

Could Star Wars: The Force Awakens have been anything but a success both critically and at the box office? With any other film the answer would have been that failure is always possible, but failure was never an option as far as The Force Awakens was concerned. With the incredibly high expectations placed on the new film and after a set of prequels which divided opinions, it was hard to imagine that the film makers wouldn't do absolutely everything in their power to make Episode VII the best film it could possibly be. While breaking box office records all around the world, The Force Awakens is an extremely solid and impressive addition to the Star Wars universe that fans will rejoice in as it gives further excitement to the upcoming films in the saga and remains respectable to it's predecessors.

Three decades after Darth Vader and his empire were destroyed in Return of The Jedi, there is a new threat to the galaxy by the name of the First Order who are trying to wipe the existence of the Jedis. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has disappeared and his sister, Leia (Carrie Fisher) is desperate to find him. The missing piece of the map to where he can be found is hidden by the Resistance fighter, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) in the droid, BB-8 just as the Resistance comes under attack by the First Order and the formidable Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). BB-8 comes across scavenger, Rey (Daisy Ridley) who together with the help of renegade stormtrooper, Finn (John Boyega) seek to escape those looking to harm them. The three find themselves caught up in a war with a family they have only heard rumours about, but find themselves involved in ways they could have never imagined.


In the best possible way, The Force Awakens is hugely glorified Star Wars fan fiction on the big screen and this is in no way an insult. J. J. Abrams has made no secret of his love for the franchise and has commented in the past on the way the first films shaped his film making. While there was early talk about how Abrams was too obvious a choice for director of Episode VII due to past projects, he was and still is the perfect choice due to his admitted inner passion for Star Wars which gives him invaluable knowledge about what is desired by the ever loyal fans and what is seen as respectful towards the past films. Yet, those who have not seen the previous six films are not ostracised by the story. However in saying this, it does help if one has seen at least one or two of the Star Wars films as there are references to the George Lucas told stories and of course to the characters themselves, especially Han Solo, Leia, Luke Skywalker and brief mentions of Darth Vader. There is also a feeling a deja vu of past Star Wars films (particularly A New Hope), which may be an annoyance for some.

The Force Awakens brings the intrigue back to the franchise with much discussion to be had afterwards that will continue till Episode VIII is released in 2017. Like Episodes IV and V, there are many questions left unanswered which is all tactical rather than careless. Unlike many other franchise films, Star Wars is not based on official existing literature where fans can read what will happen in the future films. So one can translate certain aspects of the film in numerous ways, but all will not be revealed until later films and therefore increases the intrigue of the film. The Force Awakens carries this intrigue throughout the whole film without any lulls or scenes which slow down the action or story. The value placed on every moment of the film and the anticipation of information this brings increases it;s suspense and unpredictability.

As is to be expected, The Force Awakens takes full advantage of what is available to films with spectacular budgets in 2015. The film launches straight into high intensity action and establishes itself early as a visually extravagant piece of work that admirers will be easily besotted by. The action sequences are extremely impressive with the combination of incredible CGI, powerful sound and expert cinematography. John Williams returns to provide the soundtrack once again for Episode VII and although his work is as strong as it consistently is, it doesn't have the same iconic feeling as his previous Star Wars work (yet).



The casting decisions made for The Force Awakens are seemingly safe choices as they cover all bases to make sure that they cannot be criticised for any reason. Yet here safety pays off with some stunning performances by all involved. They may not be Oscar winning performances, but each actor portrays their character to the very best of their ability and pulls everything from the role that they can. Daisy Ridley emerges from being a relative unknown to giving a wonderful and strong performance as Rey. The film itself had a tremendous opportunity with Rey, as movie lovers this year have been calling for more strong female characters in film and they have absolutely made the most of this opportunity. Rey is a young woman who does not rely on anybody else for anything (regardless of whether they are male or female) and has no hesitation fighting for what she wants. However, she is not a forced character in that she is not the typical action woman associated with strong females in film, particularly those in such a genre as Star Wars is in. Rey does possess the same strong will as Leia did in the previous films, but perhaps in a more physical sense than Carrie Fisher's Leia. However, while there is much love for the female power of Rey, it is a shame that Gwendoline Christie's Captain Phasma doesn't have the right amount of screen time to have the same sense of power in the film and is rather a wasted opportunity.

As for the male side of the Star Wars casting, there are solid performances all around. John Boyega makes his entrance into the Star Wars universe and feels particularly 2015 while doing so with a modern sense of humour and use of language. He works well with Ridley and Harrison Ford and easily liked among audiences. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren has a tremendous presence about him and Domhnall Gleeson also shines as General Hux, although one would love to see more of the formidable character during Episode VII. Harrison Ford is also as heroic as is remembered and his presence is adored.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a success in every way and not just in figures at the box office. It remains extremely respectful to it's older relatives and an absolute treat for those loyal fanatics, yet has the potential to attract new loyalists to the fandom.

8.5/10




Thursday, December 10, 2015

In The Heart of The Sea (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 122 minutes
Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Nathaniel Philbrick (book "In The Heart of The Sea: The Tragedy of The Whaleship Essex"), Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (story), Charles Leavitt (story and screenplay)
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, Benjamin Walker, Tom Holland, Michelle Fairley, Paul Anderson, Frank Dillane

In The Heart of The Sea is now showing in Australian cinemas and is distributed by Roadshow Films. Opening in the United States December 11 and the United Kingdom December 26.

Ron Howard's ambitious tale of survival, In The Heart of The Sea is a visually stunning film that gives only momentary suspense, intrigue and emotion and when it does, it is more at the hands of the majestic sea creatures featured rather than their human counterparts.

Based on the incredible true story which inspired Herman Melville's classic novel "Moby Dick", In The Heart of the Sea is the recount of the disaster of the whaling ship, the Essex in 1820 as told by survivor, Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) to Melville (Ben Whishaw) many years after the event took place. Nickerson was just a young cabin boy when he was aboard the doomed ship that was captained by George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) who clashed with the First Mate being the more experienced shipman, Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth). The Essex, which set out to retrieve whale oil, hears of a recently discovered whale hunting ground where they were sure to obtain more oil, but ignore the warnings of a monstrous, dangerous whale who is not intimidated at all by humans. The crew's voyage takes a disastrous turn upon meeting this mammal and then turns into a struggle for survival.

In The Heart of The Sea is a glorious film visually with wonderful special effects and breathtaking marine panoramas. The concept of bringing the story of the ill-fated Essex to the screen is an extremely ambitious project which could not have been achieved in a believable fashion until the right cinematic techniques were made available. The creation of the world beneath the surface is spectacular and brought to life with clean cut cinematography. It is the giants of the sea that are the true stars and highlight of the film. Despite being a product of CGI, one is entranced by the majestic nature of the beasts and feels greatly for them, including the "devil". This can make watching the characters participate in the act of whaling during the film rather distressing. The film itself does not glorify whaling, but rather presents it as an activity that was accepted as normal in order to obtain oil. Yet, this act does draw more emotion for the whales than for the crew of the Essex as they battle for survival.



The emotion felt for the humans of the story is rather weak in comparison to the whales. Their survival techniques are indeed tragic, but they are not felt on an emotional level and are merely just acknowledged by the viewer. The suspense in the film is rather sporadic and are reserved, once again, just for the scenes involving the whales. It is true that the ending of the film is known right from the start as Melville is interviewing a survivor, but this is not an adequate reason to lose it's sense of tension as many films with a known conclusion are able to hold tension for the majority of it's run time. The lapses in tension are also lapses in intrigue and this leads to the film feeling rather slow, especially during the opening scenes which make the film appear slow to get going.

It would seem that with In The Heart of The Sea, Howard directs the natural world better than he does his actors for the large part. Brendan Gleeson is the stand out as his character of the older Tom Nickerson evolves from being hostile and extremely guarded to opening up to Melville and believably releasin years of inner torment. While Chris Hemsworth is top billed, his performance can be described as just fine. He is solid, but it is not anything we haven't already seen from Hemsworth in previous films and does not break any ground for him as an actor. However, Hemsworth remains likable and a fine leading man. Cillian Murphy is very good, but does not have as much screen time as he should to make a proper impact in the film.

In The Heart of The Sea is a film that could have been made years ago had it not been for it's need for the specialised CGI and special effects that are present today. However, these features are truly the best things about the film and it's spectacular scenes with the whales will be what it s remembered for.

6/10


Monday, November 30, 2015

"Double Down" (2015) book review


Author: Victoria Pratt
Publication Year: 2015
Genre: Crime/ Thriller/ Romance
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC

Double Down is available now from Amazon in Kindle and paperback format.

"Double Down" is the strong, impressive debut novel from actress turned author, Victoria Pratt that is riveting, unpredictable and at times downright hilarious. Cassidy Jones has never been one to back down from a challenge and for this reason she loves her job as a cop, even if she doesn't always get the respect she deserves from her male counterparts. However, her new mission places her in a situation she never thought she would find herself in...going undercover as a stripper at one of the city's most exclusive clubs. Her duty is to find out a much as she can about a mobster who is murdered on the premises and who's killer is still at large, but she wasn't counting on actually falling for the deceased's brother, Lorenzo who is a likely suspect in the case. Cassidy is set on being professional and putting her work ahead of her love life, but a girl can still have a bit of fun in the face of danger, right?

In what is expected to be the first in the series of books centred around undercover policewoman, Cassidy Jones, one finds a protagonist who is personable and relatable, but also entertaining, witty and likable. The hilarity and wonderful sense of humour of Pratt's Cassidy Jones will draw comparisons to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum, but Cassidy is a greater force to be reckoned with with her tough but sexy edge. She is an extremely well written strong female character which is what is so often needed, but not granted in crime/ thriller novels. Pratt has a great ability through her use of language to bring the characters and places featured in "Double Down" to life so that they truly seem real and believable.

It is astonishing that this is Victoria Pratt's debut novel as it is slick and professionally written without the pitfalls most first time authors display. Despite it's comical edge and the conversational style employed by Pratt throughout the book, "Double Down" does not come across as too colloquial or laid back and so does not lose it's compelling and thrilling edge. It also doesn't lose any of it's suspense and strength while it manages to also be comical. Humour has it's own place in the book and doesn't interfere with the severity of the events featured. The finale is also truly unpredictable, which is again something thrillers are becoming less so these days. Yet, Pratt's creativity and ability to subtly avoid the stereotypical ensures that one is kept guessing right until the very end and there is no cause for disappointment.

"Double Down" is a powerhouse start to a new series by Victoria Pratt that is expected to be just as entertaining and exciting. It leaves one impatiently craving more Cassidy Jones and a sense of anticipation as to what is coming next.

9/10

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Spectre (2015) film review


Year: 2015
Running Time: 148 minutes
Director: Sam Mendes
Writers: Ian Fleming (characters), John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade (story and screenplay), Jez Butterworth (screenplay)
Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Monica Bellucci, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen

Spectre is now showing everywhere and is distributed in Australia by Sony Pictures.

With 24 films now making up the 007 catalogue, James Bond fans have been spoilt over the years with the variation of quality films to be featured within the realm. However, the variation of films has meant that many fans prefer a particular type of Bond film over another and Spectre is the type of Bond film that will appeal to some of his faithful more than others. As a stand alone film it is particularly well made, but unlike many of the past Bond film does require a pinch of knowledge of the past films with an unexpected link between films.

After James Bond (Daniel Craig) receives a message from beyond the grave following his last mission, he starts to believe that there may be a connection to a higher organisation, despite reservations from M (Ralph Fiennes) who is preoccupied and fighting the agency's own war in London. His suspicions turn out to be justified when he tracks down the underground organisation, but he never suspected the head of their organisation would be a direct link to his past and someone who still very much holds a grudge against him. To stop his long lost enemy, he must track him down before his followers find him and protect Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) who he swore to protect.

Spectre is a Bond film that will delight some and infuriate others. In the past four Bond films where Daniel Craig has played the special agent, we have seen a James Bond that is more humanized than he has been in the past when portrayed by such favourites as Sean Connery and Roger Moore. Rather than be the mysterious, enigmatic Bond with a past that isn't discussed, Craig's Bond has been the one that has opened a chapter on finding out who really is the man behind the mystery. In Casino Royale, audiences were treated to an understanding of why he never could quite settle or calm down with women as the one true love of his life in Vesper Lynd was cruelly taken from him. In Spectre, the subject of his upbringing and his family is approached as never before. Therefore, Craig's Bond becomes more relatable and more human...which won't sit well with fans of the past James Bond. Missing from Spectre is also the abundance of fun gadgets and gizmos which Bond films had become known for. In Sam Mendes' film, there is the obvious inclusion of Q's (Ben Whishaw) improved Aston Martin and a watch which is really a secret weapon.


So it is these members of the fandom who appreciate the older Bond who will feel that Spectre has not paid a proper tribute to their beloved spy hero. Yet, there are also fans who have found that in the past decade, this Bond played by Craig has been the one they greater admire. Something that fans of the last four films will appreciate more than others is the way that Spectre answers questions regarding Bond's past and links up with Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. With it's well-written screenplay, the film offers it's audience a sense of intrigue as to what really did happen in Bond's past as it is a personal journey for Bond. Although even this inclusion of learning more about Bond's family may be problematic to some, as these revelations almost appear out of nowhere when his family and past have only had miniscule mentions over the past fifty years of Bond. Yet, it is refreshing knowing more about 007.

However, Spectre is undeniably a very well made film. The opening scene, which takes place on the Day of the Dead in Mexico City, is incredibly impressive with a great air of intrigue and danger, exquisite travelling camera shots and wonderful costumes and music. One thing that no Bond fan will be disappointed with is the quality and quantity of action sequences. The special effects used in the highly intense scenes which involve combat or explosions are incredible and wonderfully designed. The production, set and art design is brilliant and costume design by Jany Temime perfect. "Writing's On The Wall", as sung by Sam Smith, is another great Bond theme song which fits the feeling of the film as the opening credits play.

Daniel Craig gives another solid performance as James Bond. It is perhaps not his most emotional of performances as the man and considering the subject of his family and childhood, should have gave a bit more. However, this would again be out of character for James Bond if he had become too emotional. Ralph Fiennes as the new M is very good and gives the character the strength and presence it deserves. Ben Whishaw is always quirky and intriguing as Q and Lea Seydoux gives an incredibly strong performance in her turn as a Bong girl. However, Christoph Waltz as a Bond villain does not hit the mark quite as powerfully as what he should. There is no denying that Waltz is very charismatic on screen, but the role does not seem so far removed from his previous villainous roles and does not come across as overly intimidating.

Spectre is a Bond film that will have it's admirers and critics depending on what type of Bond fan one is. A stunning film, but hard to judge it as a stand alone film when it has obvious links to previous Bond films.

7.5/10


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

June (2015) film review

 
Year: 2015
Running Time: 84 minutes
Director: L. Gustavo Cooper
Writers: Sharon Y. Cobb and L. Gustavo Cooper
Cast: Kennedy Brice, Victoria Pratt, Casper Van Dien, Eddie Jemison, Lance E. Nichols, Juliette Beavan, Addy Miller

June is now available on DVD and VOD in the United States and Australia.

June takes the somewhat tired horror cinema concept of evil spirit possession and breathes unexpected new life into it. With a young title character who is both sympathetic and terrifying simultaneously, L. Gustavo Cooper exquisite film making enables the creation of a horror film that is suspenseful with a welcomed emotional edge that sets it apart from other films of it's genre.

As a baby, June's (Kennedy Brice) parents offered her as a sacrifice in a cult ritual that went horribly wrong and the result was the supernatural being, Aer entering June and using her body as a vessel. At nine years old, June is being moved from home to home as a result of the strange and dangerous happenings that occur when she is around and her extreme introvert nature which immediately makes her an outsider. When she is fostered by Lily (Victoria Pratt) and Dave Anderson (Casper Van Dien), it seems as though she has finally found the perfect home with a loving and understanding family. However, June's past is about to catch up with her and the terror is only just beginning.

On first glance, June may draw comparisons to a number of other films of the horror genre including Firestarter, The Exorcist and Carrie, but it has it's own sense of identity and originality. June is continuously fighting the spirit, Aer within her and struggling to find which parts of herself are actually her and which are Aer. June is a story about finding out who you really are and fighting against your inner demons to overcome the obstacles that are preventing you from being yourself. However, this does not prevent the film from being extremely suspenseful and terrifying at times. The empathy that one has for June and her situation only makes the suspense greater as nobody wants to see someone so young who has had so much sadness in her life be the subject of these dreaded supernatural occurrences.



Cooper's film making style shows hints of Alfred Hitchcock, especially in regards to his use of montage in the opening sequence and range of camera shots throughout the film. June is really a beautifully shot film with some exquisite shots of nature and intriguing camera angles. The beauty of the nature shots forms an extreme contrast to the mayhem of the rage scenes in the film, symbolising the opposites of June and Aer. The original musical score by Sean and Juliette Beavan (who also plays the Priestess in the film) adds to the atmosphere of the film and it's versatility supports the two sides of June.

Kennedy Brice is perfectly cast in the lead role of June. June is an extremely complex character as her possession by Aer is not all-encompassing of who she is and is something she fears and dreads as much as anyone else, which is unique in a horror film about possession. From early on, June is established as a poor little girl who is aware that she is not only different, but also dangerous and keeps her distance from people for fear of hurting them. June is a particularly relatable character for this reason, as many people have a part of them that they are afraid will lead to someone being hurt if they expose them to it, whether it be something from their past or a condition they have. It is an unique thing to find such a character in a horror genre film that can be so relatable. One understands how Lily can form such an attachment to her as there is an immediate sympathy felt for this poor little girl who wants so badly to be loved, but is afraid to. Brice evokes this sympathy from the audience superbly and manages to be sweet and lovable, yet terrifying.

Lily and Dave Anderson, who are portrayed by Victoria Pratt and Casper Van Dien, are the perfect parents for a troubled child like June. Pratt's performance is incredibly emotional and heartfelt and she provides a maternal and nurturing side to Lily that makes her extremely likable. Van Dien's Dave is a character that one also feels sympathy for as he really has done nothing wrong and seems completely reasonable, but feels the wrath of Aer who he believes is June.

June has greater depth and character than many of the other films it is pooled with and compared to in the horror genre. Well made and tightly written to encompass emotion and suspense, June pleasantly surprises and pleases.

8/10


Monday, October 26, 2015

Crimson Peak (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 119 minutes
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writers: Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam

Crimson Peak is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed in Australia by Universal Pictures.

Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak has an incredibly creative and beautiful sense of self visually with it's atmospheric gothic recreation of nineteenth century New York and England.  However, with no narrative sense of individuality or unpredictability, the film that would seem to be perfection at the hands of fantasy/horror master del Toro is an unfortunate mash up of past films and is so much so that it loses its identity as a story.

Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) has been confronted by the harsh reality of death in life since she was a young girl and has been haunted by the restless from beyond the grave since the death of her mother. She is quite taken by an English stranger, Thomas Sharpe ( Tom Hiddleston) who stirs up life in the New York home she shares with her father (Jim Beaver). A tragic turn of events leads Edith to accept Thomas' marriage proposal and move to his family home of Allerdale Hall in rural England which he shares with his hostile sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Upon her arrival, Edith is greeted by many of the ghosts which haunt her new home and their presence opens a terrifying past that involves her new family.

Gothic horror is often craved by cinema goers who want to experience the old-fashioned atmospheric mode of the genre that used to be so terrifying in the early days of cinema. Unfortunately this sub-genre has not seen much success in the past decade due to the observation that while the production design has got progressively better, the screenplays have lacked intrigue and creativity. The majority of successful and remotely original and unpredictable horror films seen in recent times have been those set in the present and reasonably low budget. Crimson Peak comes at a time when audiences are thirsty for a scary film with a historical backbone to it and with a stellar cast and Guillermo del Toro at the reins, was anticipated to fill the void.



So there is a great deal of disappointment when Crimson Peak is incredible to look at, but predictable and does not hold suspense well right from the beginning. The film has a wonderful sense of identity through it's visuals. which does in fact make it a memorable experience. The production design by Thomas E. Sanders is absolutely exquisite, particularly of Allerdale Hall and it's interiors. Every room within the great house is visually intriguing with it's period appropriate features and perfect symmetry which make them delightful to behold on screen. The costume design by Kate Hawley is also most attractive. The design aspects of the film work incredibly well to give a superb nostalgic atmosphere and make it an aesthetic treat.

The incredible design does seem a waste in a film that really isn't sure what it is. Like the book which Edith is writing, the film makers claim that Crimson Peak is not a horror film even though it has ghosts in it, but a gothic romance. If this is so, it is an example of a romance with minimal romantic chemistry or tension and very little reference to love between husband and wife, but more so between brother and sister. Crimson Peak could perhaps be classified more as a mystery with the inclusion of some terrifying images during it. The screenplay pulls inspiration from a number of horror films from the past and this leads even more so to it's lack of creativity and identity. The majority of comparisons story wise seem to be being made between Crimson Peak and the 1940 Academy Award winner, Rebecca. However, the comparison between the two is only fragmented after one gets past the idea that they are both set in big houses which a woman's new husband has inherited and the slight similarities of their pasts. With some aspects of Rebecca, Crimson Peak becomes a story with the influences of other films such as The Haunting, The Woman in Black (or more likely from the novel the film is based on) and 1995's Haunted. Del Toro and Matthew Robbins screenplay feels more like a collection of pieces of other horror films thrown together and although it avoids feeling messy, does not feel creative or unpredictable in the slightest. The film relies more upon it's visuals of supernatural beings to create tension and suspense rather than it's story, which leads to moments of suspense being sporadic.

While the screenplay brings the film down, the talented cast do the very best with what they are presented with. Mia Wasikowska does very well in her role as Edith Cushing with a real emotional edge to her performance and ability to grasp the inner terror felt by her character. Jessica Chastain embraces the cold and hostile nature of her character, Lucille Sharp and does not falter for a moment during the film out of her terrifying nature, while Tom Hiddleston is awfully charismatic as Thomas Sharp.

Crimson Peak is incredibly intriguing and memorable from a production and design point of view, but lacks screenplay strength and originality. It's release time is perfectly scheduled to coincide with Halloween as if all else fails, it does provide some pretty terrifying ghostly images.

5/10


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Bridge of Spies (2015) film review


Year: 2015
Running Time: 142 minutes
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Matt Charman, Joel and Ethan Coen
Cast: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Billy Magnussen, Austin Stowell, Will Rogers, Sebastian Koch

Bridge of Spies opens in Australian cinemas on October 22 and is distributed by 20th Century Fox. Opening in the United States on October 16 and the United Kingdom on November 26.

The intrigue and suspense provoked by Bridge of Spies reconfirms Steven Spielberg's status as one of the greatest cinematic storytellers of our time. The Academy Award winning filmmaker's ability to take on a screenplay based on a well known true story and conjure up a strong sense of suspense and intensity all while ensuring that the piece of work is visually fascinating is extraordinary and exhibited wonderfully in his latest film.

Spielberg works with the screenplay written by Matt Charman and Joel and Ethan Coen in a way that makes you overlook the small inconsistences and deem them forgivable. While the screenplay is not air tight and there may be forgivable reasons for this, it is still extremely intelligent, entertaining and contains the witty edge that one can expect from a Coen brothers creation.

Set during the Cold War in the 1950's, James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), an insurance lawyer who is very much out of practise with criminal law, is assigned by the CIA to defend alleged Russian spy, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). Although Abel is tried and convicted of espionage, Jim is able to convince the judge that his client is worth more to America alive than dead and saves Abel from the electric chair. His intuition pays off as an American spy plane pilot, Francis Powers (Austin Stowell) is shot down in enemy territory and convicted, unable to return to America. Jim is once again called upon to travel to East Berlin to negotiate an exchange between Abel and Powers, but he also makes the decision to try and exchange Abel for both Powers and Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers) an American Economics student who was captured being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This decision is not a popular one with anyone, but Jim stands strong behind his decision and risks it all.

Bridge of Spies is undeniably packed with intrigue and suspense that is so often lost in a cinematic retelling of a true story. The film is largely accurate despite some expected over-dramatization to move the pace of the story along quicker (such as the speeding up of time lapses between events) and to create a greater sense of suspense and tension. Spielberg's direction is absolutely superb in that he knows how to bring out the most in every situation through mise en scene. Everything and everyone in the film is perfectly placed so that Bridge of Spies resembles a work of art and is truly exquisite to behold. The entire film is so beautifully polished and neat that one is transfixed by the story and visuals, which is what gives one a true sense of captivation for the entire length of the film.



As previously touched upon, the screenplay is not completely air tight with certain subplots being left unfulfilled, such as the romance between Jim's daughter, Carol (Eve Hewson) and his assistant, Doug (Billy Magnussen). One can make the assumption that at 142 minutes, there may have had to have been some editing and scenes removed to stop the film becoming unnecessarily long. Yet, the screenplay contains incredibly entertaining and intelligent dialogue with a surprisingly witty edge to it in moments most unsuspected. Despite the film also being one about a man who became a hero because of his negotiation skills, there is very little hero worship and patriotism. There are moments where there could have been room for extreme sentimental value, but they are thankfully left as is. This is particularly true of the pivotal bridge scene, which has a beautiful moment without fanfare that could have so easily been ruined by it. Donovan is also played out in the film as an everyday hero. He does not possess super human qualities, not does he present himself in the film as someone who feels he is on the road to doing something grand and important. This works perfectly as that is the hero people prefer to see in a film as he doesn't make people believe he is definitely going to have everything work out the way he wants, hence the sense of suspense.

Another critique one may give regarding Bridge of Spies is that there is a lack of character depth and development. The lead character of Jim Donovan is without a doubt the most well rounded and established character and this is to be expected as much of what occurs in the film involves him. One comes to know him as the family man, the persistent lawyer and talented negotiator, but still the everyday man during the film. Hanks does well to portray the man many would consider a national hero and gives a solid and strong performance, but it is not a performance that is particularly challenging nor calls for any great emotional strain. However, it is perfect casting as Hanks is truly the ideal individual to be playing Jim Donovan.

It is true that no other receives as great attention as Jim Donovan does in regards to the building of character, but this is actually a positive for the complex character of Rudolf Abel. One believes they feel confidant in knowing the intentions of the convicted Russian spy, but as Abel never speaks of his crimes against the United States, he remains a mystery and this works exceptionally well for his character. The lack of knowledge regarding Rudolf Abel and who he really is adds to his charisma and makes him absolutely intriguing. Although he is labelled as an enemy of the United States, he has a likable quality in his introvert nature that is supported by his clever dialogue. Mark Rylance gives an absolutely superb performance as the stoic and mysterious Abel and works very well on screen with Hanks.

Bridge of Spies may not be completely without it's flaws, but they are all forgivable as a result of the wonderful things it achieves. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks once again prove they are an unbeatable force in film.

8/10


Monday, October 12, 2015

Death Valley (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 88 minutes
Director: T.J. Scott
Writers: Brad MacPherson and T.J. Scott
Cast: Katrina Law, Lochlyn Munro, Victoria Pratt, Nick E. Tarabay, Juliette Beavan, Jeremy Ratchford, Kelly Hu

Death Valley will be available in the United States on October 20 on DVD and VOD.

Death Valley is a clever psychological thrill ride that surprises and outsmarts right till the end and mesmerises with it's stunning visuals of the rugged landscape. After a wild night which results in a an impulsive dash to Las Vegas for a shotgun wedding, the joyous road trip takes an awful turn when they hit a woman alone in the middle of the road with a gun pointed straight at them. When it is realised that they have killed the woman instantly and their car is no longer drivable, opinions are divided regarding what they should do between Hollywood heavy-weight Billy Rich (Lochlyn Munro) and his little muse Annie (Katrina Law), and married couple Jamie (Victoria Pratt) and Roy (Nick E. Tarabay). As the heat starts to mix with the alcohol and other chemicals the four have ingested, personalities start to clash, paranoia sets in and cracks start to show in relationships leading to the conclusion that there is more than one way to die in Death Valley.

Tense and unpredictable, Death Valley is wonderfully thought provoking and intelligent. It teases it's audience by allowing them to believe that they are aware of all the characters flaws and motives before slowly revealing itself just as the characters are showing their true colours. The film's haunting nature leaves a lasting impression with it's air of dread and danger which is a result of both the remote location and the tricks it can play and the underlying themes. The actual Death Valley is, as it's name suggests, not the safest place on Earth to be stranded and with the assistance of drugs and alcohol heightens the stress and emotion of the experience. For some it means not taking the situation seriously and others not being able to handle the stress of the situation, but for everyone it means the experience is one of high emotions and it becomes not just the heat that is the danger, but each other.

The evil lurking underneath picture perfect Hollywood is also exposed in Death Valley. On the surface, the Hollywood lifestyle is what everyone wants with it's money, success and parties, but underneath it can sometimes not be as attractive as it seems. Once away from their lives which exist in Los Angeles, the characters realities are exposed and nothing and nobody is what they seem. This leads one also to contemplate how well we know the people we are with, as in Death Valley it seems as though each of the four believe they have the others figured out, but they are far from the truth.


T. J. Scott's direction is exquisite and he works with the elements to perfection. The extreme heat and aridity of the desert radiate off the screen using the appropriate cinematography for the location. Yet despite the pain and suffering that is attached to Death Valley, the film also captures it's beauty with some incredible shots of the rugged landscape. The soundtrack by Sean and Juliette Beavan (who also plays the doomed Holly Fields) is extremely enigmatic and fitting for the film.

The character development of the individuals in the film who are part of the unfortunate journey in Death Valley is strong and extremely well done. Each of the characters change and open up to who they really are during their trek across the desert and their pasts and true selves are revealed. When we first meet Lochlyn Munro's Billy Rich, he is arrogant and rather unlikable, but little by little he reveals his insecurities and becomes more endearing as the film progresses. Katrina Law's Annie is much the same, as she starts off making everyone believe she is a ditzy Hollywood starlet, but she is so much more than that. Law has the wonderful ability to play a number of different roles within one character. Victoria Pratt gives an incredibly emotional performance and is incredibly strong in her role as Jamie, as is Nick E. Tarabay who has so many facets to his performance that he appears to be terrifying in himself.

Death Valley comes to symbolise the relationship between dangers of the land and the intensifying of dynamics between individuals. It is a terrifying in the best of ways and unpredictable till the very end.

8.5/10


Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Intern (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 121 minutes
Director: Nancy Meyers
Writer: Nancy Meyers
Cast: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Adam DeVine, Anders Holm, Zack Pearlman

The Intern is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed in Australia by Roadshow Films.

Nancy Meyers' The Intern attempts to put on celluloid a snapshot of the changing face of the workplace in the 2010's in an endearing and comical fashion which is perhaps a little too light handed.

The film seeks to destroy the harsh and outdated belief that career driven women equal hardhearted individuals who are icy mothers, as well as demonstrate that older members of the work force can view retirement as a choice. With these good intentions as the backbone of the film, it is a shame to see a screenplay built around it that is rather ill-balanced and weak despite it's witty, amusing dialogue. The Intern is indeed an incredibly light watch even though it deals with complex emotions and situations, which is refreshing but at the same time frustrating to see particular issues taken so lightly.

The Intern has dual protagonists, but unlike most screenplays with such, it does not attempt to focus on the two characters simultaneously. Retiree Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) finds his new lifestyle not being in the workforce isn't as enjoyable as he thought it would be. He answers an ad for and earns a position as a Senior Intern position at About The Fit, a highly successful online clothes business run by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). Ben is assigned to Jules to be her personal intern, a decision that does not sit well with Jules to begin with as she is very much accustomed to and satisfied with running the business and working by herself. Little by little, she opens up to Ben as she discovers what she needs more than anything else is a friend she can share her inner most thoughts and her concerns about work and life with.

As previously stated, The Intern is a look at the changing work place and specifically how people are working for longer and women can be loving wives and mothers at the same time as hard working career women. It is through the two main characters that these two ideas are expressed and they take place one after the other rather than at the same time in the screenplay, which can feel as though the film has changed direction halfway through. The Intern is almost primarily a character study of Ben in the first half of the film as it explores his personality and lifestyle as both a retiree and widower. He represents the notion that many older members of the work force do not stay in a job purely for financial reasons, but because they find that the retired life is not what they expected it to be and this is especially prevalent in those who have lost a loved one or are single. Many people do not feel fulfilled by the retired life and even feel a loss of purpose when they are without a job, such is the case of the Ben. He accepts that he is not at the top of the food chain anymore in the world, but is comfortable working for people younger than him rather than be out of the work force and bored in life.



There is then the more evident example of Jules as the hard working young woman who has both a young daughter and husband at home, who has given up his career so that Jules can flourish in hers. What Nancy Meyers is doing here is seeking to shatter the common perception that working mothers lose focus of their families and are unapproachable to friends and family. Jules is quite a likable character who's sole focus is really her family and everything she does in her business is for her family. Yet, Meyers makes sure that while she is trying to change this perception of working mothers, she also makes it clear that in society it is still not 100% accepted nor is it an easy perception to be rid of for both outsiders and those affected directly.

With the film starting off being more about Ben and then ending being more about Jules, the screenplay feels rather uneven. The script also suffers by having a lack of strength in the conflict, particularly towards the end. The film spends so much time looking at the characters and what they represent that the conflict and resolution lose impact and are addressed far too close to the end to get a clear and comfortable idea of what is going to happen to these characters. However, it is admirable that The Intern does manage to represent something that is so embedded in our current workplace culture and make it enjoyable and entertaining. The screenplay may not be perfect, but the film is rather a fun and particularly easy to watch. There are some very funny scenes and the dialogue is very well written, intriguing and witty.

The casting of Robert De Niro as Ben and Anne Hathaway as Jules is another reason as to why The Intern makes for an enjoyable viewing experience. De Niro's Ben Whittaker is incredibly likable and empathetic. He is the man everyone would want as their friend and everyone feels for him after what he has been through. Hathaway's Jules is also extremely relatable and even more so as the film progresses. One comes to know her much better as the film goes on, and as it does her performance becomes more emotional and convincing. De Niro and Hathaway work very well on screen together and their chemistry is believable and enviable.

The Intern has every good intention, but is let down by it's somewhat messy screenplay. Yet, it is completely watchable and still enjoyable thanks to it's moments of hilarity and crisp, likable performances.

6.5/10


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Diary of A Teenage Girl (2015) film review

 
Year: 2015
Running Time: 102 minutes
Director: Marielle Heller
Writers: Phoebe Gloeckner (novel), Marielle Heller (screenplay)
Cast: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgard, Kristen Wiig, Abby Wait, Christopher Meloni, Madeline Waters

The Diary of A Teenage Girl is now showing in limited release in Australia and is distributed by Sony Pictures.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a confronting expose of one adolescent's sexual awakening and swift transition into adulthood that is both powerful and frightening. However, it captures the mindset well of a young woman who believes she is worldly, but is still na├»ve about the distinction between love and sex, while also embracing the concept of how children subconsciously imitate their parents behaviour. Marielle Heller's film based on the novel by Phoebe Gloeckner is an exaggerated coming of age story set against the backdrop of 1970's San Francisco which will strike terror into the hearts of all those who are parents of teenage girls.

Upon meeting fifteen year old Minnie (Bel Powley), her adolescent logic regarding her sexual curiosity and then her first sexual encounter is endearingly comical. The way in which her psych approaches and then questions her new experience is fairly typical of her age and how she questions her appearance and body type in relation to how she believes the opposite sex perceives her is something every female will feel they can relate to how they felt at her age. However her days of innocently thinking about sex come to an end when she begins a heated affair with her mother's (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard). As their affair continues and becomes more and more intense, Minnie becomes entrenched in a dangerous world which could set her on a destructive path for both herself and her family.

While The Diary of a Teenage Girl has a surprisingly tame moral and it's underlying themes are relatable to any young woman, the film is extremely confrontational as it is largely built around the sexual act and is visually rather graphic. It is frightening to see someone so young (although Bel Powley at time of filming was seven years older than the character she played) involved in these situations and watching as she gradually becomes more and more self destructive in the process. It is a particularly frightening film for anyone who has a daughter as through her voice-recorded diary (a technique that could not be pulled off had it been set in after 2000), her character is humanized as her inner thoughts are fairly typical of a fifteen year old girl and these musings could be that of any girl. Minnie gets confused differentiating between love and sex and see's Monroe's rejection of her as an weight related insult, which is hilarious as it is such a stereotypical conclusion for a teenage girl to make.



Yet, there are reasons Minnie's curiosity takes a disastrous turn and this along with the "free love" atmosphere of 1970's San Francisco can set parents minds at ease after watching The Diary of A Teenage Girl. Much of Minnie's behaviour is a product of watching and unknowingly imitating her mother's behaviour and also not having a strong and stable male presence in her life. She is seen many times throughout the movie to be watching in the background as her mother enjoys a good time with men, alcohol and various substances. Minnie is also affected by the lack of physical contact from her mother and is therefore craving a feeling of closeness from anyone in any form. As Monroe is the only stable male figure in her life, she is inevitably drawn towards him even though he is less than a appropriate or responsible figure to have in ones life. The extreme turn her normal teenage sexual curiosity takes is a product of her environment rather than a representation of what is expected in an average teenage girl.

The time period in which the film is set brings a certain acceptability to the graphic and open sexual nature of the film. San Francisco was the epicentre of the hippy lifestyle in California during the 1970's and it was a time in which people were learning not to be afraid of sex and to embrace their sexuality. This vibe is felt loud and clear in The Diary of A Teenage Girl and the 70's replicated in wonderful fashion. The artistry and animated graphics featured throughout the film not only support the psychedelic nature of the time period, but also supply a youthful, playful feeling that should be associated with these teenage years.

Bel Powley proves her star power with her powerful and extremely brave performance as Minnie. As previously mentioned, Powley is well out of her adolescent years, but is extremely convincing as her fifteen year old character who she embodies perfectly. She completely nails Minnie's awkward teenage mannerisms and her emotional ups and downs. Kristen Wiig also does very well as Minnie's mother, Charlotte and is a rather empathetic character that the audience feels for.

The Diary of A Teenage Girl has it's heart in the right place and wants to make an example of how one's environment can send them down the wrong path, but it's powerful and confrontational edge do not make it an easy nor enjoyable watch. This is not to say that the film isn't entertaining, but it's graphic representation of a teenage girl in a sexual relationship with an older man and such a young girl becoming so promiscuous result in a tense and uncomfortable film experience.

6.5/10


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pan (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 111 minutes
Director: Joe Wright
Writers: J.M. Barrie (characters), Jason Fuchs
Cast: Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Adeel Akhtar, Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Burke, Jimmy Vee, Cara Delevingne

Pan open in Australian cinemas on September 24 and is distributed by Roadshow Films. To be released in the United States on October 9 and the United Kingdom on October 16.

Pan comes in with the tidal wave of prequels and sequels to much loved family classics gracing our screens this year. J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan" has already met it's sequel in 1991's Hook, but the idea of a prequel does spark interest as there are questions that need answering from the original. How did Peter Pan come to be the beloved warrior and leader of the Lost Boys? How does Peter Pan fly? Was he born in Neverland? What did become of his family?

There is a great deal of potential there for a strong origins story about the boy who never grows up, all it needed was a good screenplay that answered these questions. The questions are absolutely answered, but the screenplay encompassing the story is incredibly weak and bitterly disappointing. Joe Wright's direction of all things intriguing and beautiful does little to enhance the flat dialogue he is faced with and what results is a film that knows the story it is trying to tell, but isn't sure how to tell it.

During World War II, many children in London were orphaned and among them a rather mischievous small boy named Peter (Levi Miller), who was left on the step of an orphanage by his mother when he was a baby. He starts to notice that other boys have been disappearing at night and it is only a matter of time before he is one of the chosen ones who is shipped off to Neverland to serve the formidable pirate, Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Peter is one of the lucky ones who makes it out of Blackbeard's clutches alive and sets out on a journey across Neverland, as he is convinced that this is where the mother he has been searching for so long is living and waiting for him. What awaits for him is adventure like he never imagined and the realisation of how important he really is.


The original story of "Peter Pan" was a tale for all ages and over the years has inspired many remakes and variations. Pan will inevitably draw comparisons to several of these films and while the production design and special effects are particularly stunning and superior to the large majority of predecessors, what it lacks in comparison is being a film for families as a whole. It is true, the screenplay is extremely basic in both dialogue and story so it is easy for children to follow. However, the film is also quite dark and can also be quite intimidating for little children on the big screen. Despite beautiful production design, the film lacks a great deal of well deserved colour, which is something the film is screaming for. The only scene which does impress with it's colour through lovely costume design is with the tribes, but this is not an appropriate scene for children as it is quite violent.

On the other hand, Pan does come across as too basic for adults to fall in love with. The film is not an emotional experience nor are there any underlying themes to bring further meaning to it. There's also the especially strange inclusion of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana and "Hey Ho, Let's Go" by The Ramones which are sure to raise a few eyebrows due to their bizarre appearance in the film. Pan also presents one with frustrating unanswered questions in its final moments and inconsistencies between the film and the original story. No sequel for this film is on the cards, so one cannot help but feel cheated when a gap in story is left between Pan and when he meets Wendy, Michael and John in "Peter Pan". Another strange decision by writer, Jason Fuchs is to include hints of flirting between Hook (Garrett Hedlund) and Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), which seems a lame attempt purely to include some romance in the film.

The characters themselves are also problematic. While Levi Miller is fine as Peter Pan and rather enjoyable, Blackbeard and Hook are badly constructed characters and Hook in particular is given some strange characteristics. Hugh Jackman's Blackbeard is not given much of a background story as to who he really is and how he came to be the evil man with no consideration for human life. Although Blackbeard does have some of the best lines in the film and it is Jackman's comedic timing that provides a source of entertainment. Garrett Hedlund's James Hook is incredibly exaggerated. Physically and vocally he resembles Indiana Jones more than the traditional idea of the man he is yet to become.

Pan is a disappointment to it's film relatives. It acts as an adolescent who is still not quite sure who they are, but is attempting to be everything to everyone...which ultimately never works when you are trying too hard.

4.5/10


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Blinky Bill the Movie (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 90 minutes
Director: Deane Taylor, Noel Cleary (co-director), Alexs Stadermann (co-director) and Alex Weight (co-director)
Cast: (voices) Ryan Kwanten, Deborah Mailman, Barry Otto, Rufus Sewell, Robin McLeavy, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham, Toni Collette, Barry Humphries

Blinky Bill the Movie is now showing in Australian cinemas and is distributed by Studiocanal.

Blinky Bill the Movie follows the trend we are currently seeing with children's stories being adapted to film. The excitement the cuddly, mischievous koala will create by once again being on the big screen will be infectious with those who grew up reading the "Blinky Bill" books by Dorothy Wall which were first published in the 1930's and watching the animated television series in the early 1990's. However, it is these loyal fans who will feel the greatest blow by Blinky Bill the Movie. The newest tale of Blinky Bill and his friends is aimed wholly at the younger generation, which is wonderful for introducing them to this Australian animated icon. Yet it is a let down for those who have grown up with him and are seeking to embrace his return to the screen.

In this updated version of Blinky Bill, our cute and cuddly hero (voiced by Ryan Kwanten) is the naughtiest little koala in his home of Green Patch in the Australian bush. His father, the great adventurer Bill Koala (Richard Roxburgh) was last seen embarking on a trip into the Outback and has not been seen for months and is assumed to be dead by everyone, except Blinky. Against his mother's wishes, he sets out to find his beloved father and bring him home. He soon finds that the Outback is an unforgiving place and that there are those out there who are not friends of koalas, including feral cat (Rufus Sewell) has a score to settle with koalas and will stop at nothing to take his revenge.

Visually, Blinky Bill the Movie is a solid animation effort. The character of Blinky Bill as we know him has been given a makeover and thanks to the advancements of CGI, his world is a great deal more colourful than what is has been in the past. Blinky himself is still a cute little critter in this new form of animation, though perhaps not as endearing as he once was.



Blinky Bill the Movie leaves a lot to be desired for it's older audience, though it will still prove to be a hit with the younger audiences this school holidays. The story is very basic without a great deal of emotion and promotes the popular concepts that appear in family films of belief in oneself and the importance of family. Blinky Bill the Movie is a prologue film of sorts as it introduces Blinky for the first time and explains how he came to be an adventurer and meet his friends, including the character of Nutsy who is featured in earlier "Blinky Bill" works. This concept of a prologue film is another trend in children's films at the present time and while it may give an original telling of the concept, it can still not be an original story on a grand scale. 

Like the story itself, the dialogue and humour is exceptionally basic. Even though the script tries harder to give the little ones laughs, there are still some moments which will delight older viewers. The character of Jacko, the wacky lizard voiced by David Wenham has some comical moments, as does Wombo the wombat (voiced by Barry Humphries), who seems to have had a little too much sun. Many adults will find that the highlight of the film occurs in the opening scene where a game of bush cricket is taking place and Billy Birmingham of The 12th Man fame makes a hilarious voice cameo. Blinky Bill the Movie is very much a proud Australian film and many of the jokes and references will be lost on those who are not living in or have lived in Australia, including the ones made during this game of bush cricket, which will also be lost on anyone who isn't a cricket fan.

There is no denying that Blinky Bill the Movie is an easy school holiday movie that the younger ones will enjoy for it's simplicity and talking animals. However, despite a few humorous moments, the loyal Blinky Bill fans who have stuck by him for decades will be disappointed at the lack of substance and respect they are given in the film.

5.5/10


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Everest (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 121 minutes
Director: Baltasar Kormakur
Writers: Simon Beaufoy and William Nicholson
Cast: Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson, John Hawkes, Michael Kelly, Robin Wright, Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Debicki, Martin Henderson

Everest opens in Australian cinemas on September 17 and is distributed by Universal Pictures. Opens in the United States on September 24 and the United Kingdom September 18.

Everest is an incredibly tense and brutally honest film based on horrifying true events that took place at one of the world's most dangerous and beautiful locations, which does not disappoint on any level. The world's highest peak, Mount Everest has always been the source of fascination and wonder for mankind and to many it has also symbolised achievement. The chance for adventure seekers all around the world to summit Everest has grown to be a highly marketable business and in May 1996, the mountain's base camp was at capacity with five teams set to summit on the 10th. The mountain proved too much for many of the climbers to make it to the top, but just after many of the participants did summit a dangerous blizzard hit the area. What resulted was the darkest day in Everest's history to date.

Based on the memoirs and accounts of the survivors of the tragedy, Everest has a magnificent way of telling a story whilst building and maintaining tension. Films based on true events tend to have a challenge developing a level of suspense when their audience is aware of the incident and it's outcome. Everest avoids this stigma as the events which took place in May 1996 occurred in one of the world's most dangerous places and allow the dramatic story to have an action/adventure edge to it which heightens the opportunity for suspense. Much of the tension also comes from the fact that this film is based on true events so taps into people's worst fears.

Everest does not attempt to sugar coat the experience of climbing the world's highest mountain. The attempt to summit does not only involve a physical strain on the body due to the climbing itself, but also the hazards involved with the body at high altitudes. There are some rather confronting scenes which involve how the body was not meant to withstand the altitude at which Mount Everest stands. The screenplay gives one the understanding of why people choose to climb the mountain, but also why others would never attempt it. The majority of the screenplay is aligned with fact and stays true to the accounts of those involved who survived. However, there are several scenes involving those who didn't survive which are obviously fictionalized and imagined for dramatic effect as there is no way one could know exactly how these certain instances took place.



While Everest is considered one of the most dangerous places on Earth, it is also one of the most stunning which is a major reason why it is a another major draw for adventure seekers. The mountain and it's section of the Himalayas in Nepal is captured to perfection on camera in Everest. The aesthetics of the film allow one to feel as though they are on the mountain themselves feeling the extreme cold, but also marvelling at it's beauty. The cinematography by Salvatore Totino is exquisite and the editing by Mick Audsley fantastic.

The multi-protagonist nature of the film allows for well-rounded characters to be developed and wonderful performances to be created. It is with the attention paid to each of the characters and their motives that allow one the understand the fascination of Mount Everest before judging people for putting their lives in danger. Jason Clarke give a solid and convincing performance as Rob Hall, the leader of the Adventure Consultants expedition team. While Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays the quirky guide for the Mountain Madness crew Scott Fischer, is fine, but it feels as though his character wasn't given a great deal to work with. Josh Brolin gives perhaps the strongest performance of the climbers on the mountain as Beck Weathers. His character develops throughout the film from a cocky adrenalin seeker to being vulnerable under the power of the mountain. As Rob Hall's wife, Jan, Keira Knightley is also very good and makes the most of her limited screen time as her character waits at home for her beloved husband to return.

Everest is a particularly strong hybrid of drama and adventure that avoids the general pitfalls of films based on real life events. It's suspenseful and terrifying nature is met with breathtakingly beautiful images and allows for an experience that is devastating, but intriguing.

8/10