Thursday, 27 October 2016

Doctor Strange

By Jackie Raphael 

This film does not live up to the others in the Marvel franchise, however it is still enjoyable. The story centres around arrogant surgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who has a car accident that affects his hands, so he seeks help from the universe of mystic arts. The film has a strong cast and great use of humour throughout. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Mordo) and Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One) were particularly strong, while Mads Mikkelsen (Kaecilius) was a convincing villain. However, Rachel McAdams is underused in her role as Dr Strange's love interest. The plot was not as well developed as it could have been, with many convenient moments and a few nonsensical scenes. However, Doctor Strange is well-paced and has some Inception-like special effects. It is also worth seeing for how it ties in with the forthcoming Thor film. Stick around until all the credits are over because there are two fascinating clips to watch.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Keeping Up With The Joneses

By Angie Raphael

There are a few funny moments in this espionage comedy but screenwriter Michael LeSieur seems to run out of ideas midway through the plot, leaving a predictable and barely memorable film. Jeff Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis) and his wife Karen (Isla Fisher) live in a quiet cul-de-sac in the suburbs until one day, spunky undercover spies Tim (Jon Hamm) and Natalie Jones (Gal Gadot) move in next door. The talented cast elevate the film somewhat, especially Fisher who is always a scene stealer. There is also some good action sequences including car chases, explosions and physical fights. Keeping Up With The Joneses is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours but it is really just a B-grade version of Mr and Mrs Smith.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Cafe Society

By Angie Raphael

The chic fashion and glorious 1930s set design are the best aspects of this latest Woody Allen film. Cafe Society is about Bronx man Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg), who moves to Hollywood and falls in love with Vonnie (Kirsten Stewart). She is the secretary of his uncle Phil Stern (Steve Carrell), who is a prominent agent, but their relationship is a bumpy one. Later, Bobby returns to New York where he runs a nightclub with his thug brother Ben (Corey Stoll), which they tailor to high society customers. While there are a few good laughs, the film lacks the level of wit typically expected from an Allen film. The protagonists are also unlikeable, so it is difficult to feel much sympathy for them. Cafe Society is visually lovely but will not go down as one of Allen's best.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Hell or High Water

By Jackie Raphael 

Writer Taylor Sheridan was widely praised for his debut feature film Sicario and has followed it up with another clever and detailed script, while director David Mackenzie has used it to craft a modern Western buddy film. Set in Texas, brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) are on a mission to rob several banks to save their family farm. What makes this film unique is that there are two buddy relationships explored. The first is between the close brothers and the second is between the officers chasing them down – Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham). The character development is strong and the banter brings some welcomed humour throughout the drama. While it is far from the likes of Thelma and Louise or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Hell of High Water still does the genre justice. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Deepwater Horizon

Jackie Raphael

This film from director Peter Berg boasts an impressive cast including Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson, Gina Rodriguez and Dylan O'Brien. Deepwater Horizon is based on the true events of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. This tragic story is told well through the perspective of the people working on the offshore drilling rig. The film is filled with action, which looks fantastic, but also simplifies the technical aspects of the story so it is understandable for all audiences. While there is one scene that acknowledges the impact the oil spill had on the animals in the area, it would have been good to explore this more in-depth and create a stronger message about environmental issues that resulted from the spill. The film ends with a beautiful tribute to those who lost their lives in the tragedy and leaves audiences with plenty to think about. 

Monday, 26 September 2016

The Magnificent Seven

By Angie Raphael

This remake is basically a straight-up western of yesteryear with modern cinematography. The film centres around seven gunmen who are gradually assembled by ringleader Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) to help a poor town against the villainous Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). The team of unlikely heroes includes card trickster Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), Mexican tough guy Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), former Civil War shooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Asian knife-throwing expert Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) and exiled Comanche Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). The film by director Antoine Fuqua is fairly good, but probably unnecessary. I cannot accept remaking a film for modern audiences who refuse to watch the classics. Besides, John Sturges' well-known 1960 film is already an adaptation of The Seven Samurai from 1954. What works in The Magnificent Seven's favour is the talented and multicultural cast. It is also the final film for composer James Horner, who wrote seven pieces before his death. But overall, The Magnificent Seven is drawn-out and predictable. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2016


By Angie Raphael

If you never paid much attention to Edward Snowden in the media and you missed the documentary Citizenfour, the film Snowden is a good dramatisation of his story with the basic information covered. Told through a series of flashbacks but rooted in June 2013, the protagonist (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is staying in a Hong Kong hotel where he shares thousands of classified NSA documents with journalists Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo), Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson). Director and co-writer Oliver Stone portrays Snowden as a little too noble and good to be true. It is still a work of fiction based on a true story, so it does not have to be objective, but some balance would have made Snowden a fuller film. Gordon-Levitt gives an understated performance, while the supporting cast is very good including Rhys Ifans, Timothy Olyphant and Nicolas Cage. Unfortunately, Gordon-Levitt's chemistry with Shailene Woodley, who plays Snowden's girlfriend, feels forced. The real Snowden's appearance at the end shows his endorsement, but the film is a little too long with a running time of about two hours and 15 minutes. Nonetheless, if people are not freaked out enough about personal security, Snowden serves as a stark reminder. 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Spin Out

By Angie Raphael

While films like The Castle epitomise many of the things we love about Australia, Spin Out seems to focus on aspects of our binge-drinking, bogan culture that many of us would perhaps rather ignore and the results are somewhat embarrassing. Spin Out centres around the annual Bachelors and Spinsters party in a country town and how the various young people interact with each other. Some of the sub-plots are mildly entertaining, including the main romantic storyline involving Billy (Xavier Samuel) and Lucy (Morgan Griffin) who are best friends unable to express their true feelings for each other. But the film, written by Edwina Exton and Tim Ferguson, and directed by Ferguson with Marc Gracie, has a predictable plot and very few laughs for a comedy. It relies heavily on stereotypes, has too many cringeworthy moments and some eye-rolling dialogue. I want to encourage people to see Australian films, but unfortunately this is not one worth recommending. 

Thursday, 8 September 2016


By Angie Raphael

Most people will remember the day in 2009 when a bird strike forced a plane to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River in New York. It was amazing none of the 155 people onboard died, and the captain was hailed a hero by the passengers and media. But he still had to face a gruelling investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board amid claims he should have returned the plane safely to LaGuardia Airport. It is that issue, which Sully explores in an adaptation of the captain's autobiography. Tom Hanks plays Chesley Sullenberger convincingly and Aaron Eckhart is also very good as his co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles. However, writer Todd Komarnicki produced a messy narrative structure and it affected the momentum. Just when the action picks up, the film suddenly goes to a flashback. An experienced director like Clint Eastwood should know better about keeping the flow going. There are also a couple of insensitive moments when Sully has nightmares and visions of a plane crashing into buildings. The September 11 terrorist attacks may have been 15 years ago, but it hardly seems necessary to include scenes like this just to make the point that Sully is haunted by what happened on the Hudson River. Nonetheless, it is great to see a film depict a victorious story about a plane's emergency landing and the power of community spirit.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Bridget Jones's Baby

By Dr Jackie Raphael

The much-loved Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) returns to our lives with the third instalment in the franchise. This time, she is pregnant but is unsure who the father is after a week of debauchery. While Bridget Jones's Baby has several nods to the previous films, it still brings an original plot and fresh laughs. Of course, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) is by her side and a wonderful new addition is brought to the story - Jack, who is played by the charming Patrick Dempsey. No matter how much you may love Darcy, Jack makes a formidable romantic opponent, as they battle for Bridget's affection. The film also works Hugh Grant's rakish Daniel into the story in a clever way. The chemistry between the cast members is fantastic. Fans of the original film will certainly enjoy seeing Bridget onscreen again.