Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Sing

By Jackie Raphael

Cute animated animals singing classic hits is always a great idea. Mixing that with a lot of heart and some solid character development, Sing is a fun film for any age. The film follows the journey of a koala named Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), who creates a singing competition to save his crumbling theatre. Each finalist has a unique story as to why they want to win the competition, adding depth to the plot. The impressive cast includes Reese Witherspoon (Rosita), Seth MacFarlane (Mike), Scarlett Johansson (Ash), John C. Reilly (Eddie), Taron Egerton (Johnny) and Nick Offerman (Norman). Their wonderful performances brought the characters to life, especially in Johnny's storyline. While there is an element of repetition towards the end of the film, it is relatively well-paced. The soundtrack will have you bopping in your seat – one young girl at my screening was even dancing in the aisle.


Thursday, 1 December 2016

Allied

By Jackie Raphael

This espionage film is essentially a dramatic version of Mr and Mrs Smith with a splash of Casablanca. Set during World War II, Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) is a Canadian intelligence officer who meets French resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) in Casablanca. The pair pretend to be married for a shared mission but eventually a real romance blossoms. The plot is not particularly original and there are some unnecessary Hollywood moments, however Allied also has some suspenseful and action-packed scenes, and wonderful costumes. Pitt and Cotillard have great chemistry too. Overall, it was an enjoyable film, which thanks to the tight writing of Steven Knight and expert direction of Robert Zemeckis, never lags during its entire two hours.


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Up For Love

By Angie Raphael

The definition of “charisma” in the dictionary should be accompanied by a picture of Jean Dujardin. In Up For Love, the dashing Frenchman lays the charm on so thickly that it is easy to get swept up in the 95-minute film without realising until afterwards that it lacks much substance. This remake of Corazon de Leon, by Argentinian writer-director Marcos Carnevale, has a simple premise. Successful lawyer Diane (Virginie Efira) gets a call from wealthy architect Alexandre (Dujardin), who has found her mobile phone, and after a flirtatious conversation they decide to meet for a drink, but Diane is shocked to learn Alexandre is only half her height. As they embark on an unexpected romance, the couple must endure criticism from friends, family, colleagues and strangers. Some of the jokes are a bit gimmicky, like the running gag about Alexandre's son's dog, but others are more successful. While the film is supposed to be a light comedy, it would have been more effective to have a poignant message about the central issue.


Thursday, 24 November 2016

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

By Jackie Raphael

This film provides an interesting perspective on war and the after-effects on the people involved, whether they are on the frontline or left worrying at home. It tells the story of teenager Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) who returns home from Iraq with his squad for a victory tour after heroic video footage of him in action spreads in the media. Lynn struggles with wanting to stay at home with his sister (Kristen Stewart) and a cheerleader (Makenzie Leigh) versus returning to battle with his team, led by Dime (Garret Hedlund). 

Alwyn and Hedlund were definitely the stand-out performers in a cast that also included Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel and Steve Martin. Alwyn certainly gave a heartfelt performance, while Hedlund provided many of the surprising laughs. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is still considered a drama but it includes action and comedic relief throughout. Unfortunately, there are some lame moments and questionable body doubles for an extended scene involving Destiny's Child. But overall, the film leaves the audience reflecting on brotherhood and the ethics of war.



Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Trolls

By Jackie Raphael

The colourful and cute animation is obviously targeted at children but Trolls is enjoyable for all ages. This fun and inspiring film is about a village of peaceful trolls who are invaded by bergens, who believe they need to eat trolls to be happy. When several trolls are kidnapped, Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and the reluctant Branch (Justin Timberlake) go on a journey to save their friends from the evil Chef (Christine Baranski). The all-star cast also includes James Corden (Biggie), Zoey Deschanel (Bridget), Russell Brand (Creek), Gwen Stafani (DJ Suki), John Cleese (King Gristle Sr) and Jeffrey Tambor (King Peppy). The whole cast did a wonderful job at bringing their characters to life and singing many classics such as Hello and True Colours, plus the original hit Can't Stop The Feeling by Timberlake. Unfortunately, there were too many false resolutions but the final solution was a nice ending. The film leaves you wanting to sing, dance and find your inner happiness.


Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Founder

By Angie Raphael

I was worried The Founder was going to be a giant advertisement for McDonald's, but in some ways it is actually the opposite and the film remains compelling for its entire two hours. This dramatisation of the true story, written by Robert D. Siegel and directed by John Lee Hancock, shows how travelling salesman Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) schemed his way into gaining control of the McDonald's brand from innovative brothers, Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch), in the 1950s to create the global empire we know today. The film has an inconsistent tone, at times being a somewhat critical expose of how Kroc took advantage of the brothers and exploited other people, but at other times celebrates the fast food chain. Keaton has a lot of fun with the lead role, especially as Krok becomes more sinister. Offerman and Lynch are also very good in their sympathetic roles, while B.J. Novak is appropriately sly as the man who sends Kroc down his truly nasty path. Unfortunately, the female characters, played by Laura Dern and Linda Cardellini, had very little to do. With the film passing some degree of judgment on Kroc but not really against McDonald's, some viewers might walk out of the cinema deterred from eating at the chain again, while others might head straight for a drive-through on the way home.


Thursday, 17 November 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

By Angie Raphael

I should preface this review by mentioning I have never seen a Harry Potter film, nor have I ever read any of the books. Perhaps if I were more familiar with the franchise I would have enjoyed Fantastic Beast and Where To Find Them a little more, but as it is, I still found some enjoyment in J. K. Rowling's world, as created by director David Yates. Set in New York in the 1920s, this spin-off centres on writer Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who must battle an evil force that threatens to expose the wizard community to the rest of the world. Redmayne grounds the film well and he is well supported, especially by Dan Fogler as Newt's sidekick, a wannabe baker named Jacob Kowalski. The film drags on towards the end, as if Yates did not quite know how to wrap everything up, but there are some cute and spooky characters, some surprisingly thrilling action sequences and a story that young audiences can get swept up in. Now, maybe I should give the Harry Potter films a chance.


Tuesday, 15 November 2016

I, Daniel Blake

By Angie Raphael

Sometimes you watch a film to escape the world for a couple of hours but sometimes a film holds a mirror up to its audience, shining a light on the harsh realities of life. I, Daniel Blake is probably the most heartbreaking film of the year, but its message is very important. Middle-aged carpenter Daniel (Dave Johns) needs state welfare until his doctor gives him the go-ahead to return to work, but runs into difficulty dealing with bureaucrats. Along the way, he meets single mother Katie (Hayley Squires) who is also struggling with the complicated benefits system. The sympathetic characters provide a window into the difficult lives of people who depend on government support to make ends meet and the hurdles decent people often face. Johns is compelling but it is Squires who has some of the most emotionally devastating moments. To balance out all the heavy drama, writer Paul Laverty has thrown in some beautiful family moments and some humour throughout. Director Ken Loach also keeps the pace steady and it is no wonder the film won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Bring tissues and an open heart for I, Daniel Blake. You may even feel the urge to start giving back to your local community afterwards.

* Luna Palace Cinemas is providing Foodbank WA bins at Cinema Paradiso and Luna on SX during opening weekend for people to make donations.


Thursday, 3 November 2016

The Light Between Oceans

By Angie Raphael 

This is a bittersweet and thought-provoking story that poses an interesting question about the rights of parents. The story, based on the novel by M. L. Stedman, is about lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) and his wife Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander), who are living off the coast of Western Australia when a row boat washes up to shore with a dead man and a crying baby inside. They make the difficult decision to raise the child as their own, not realising the heartache they are causing the girl's biological mother Hannah Roennfeldt (Rachel Weisz). The performances are fantastic, especially from Fassbender, Vikander and Weisz, who each have some powerfully emotional scenes. The child actors were also a joy to watch. However, while I understand the Aussie accent would have been somewhat different in the 1920s, there was an odd mix of accents throughout the film, even within the same family. It was quite distracting at times. It is also a shame that no one in the cast was able to properly pronounce the name of the town, Albany. Like director Derek Cianfrance's other films, such as Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond The Pines, The Light Between Oceans is slow to start and the pace never really picks up, but it is a sweeping drama that explores heartfelt themes of love, loss and family. 


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The Accountant

By Angie Raphael

Ben Affleck's autistic anti-hero may not be at the level of his good friend Matt Damon's Jason Bourne, but The Accountant is entertaining enough. The layered plot centres around Christopher Wolff (Affleck) who works for some shady people when he is enlisted to investigate a robotics company, which is where he meets fellow accountant Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) who first noticed something not quite right about the books. Meanwhile, treasury crime director Raymond King (J.K. Simmons) and analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) work to identify and locate the accountant. The character development of the protagonist elevates the film and the series of flashbacks in which the audience learns about his upbringing and form of autism are some of the most fascinating scenes in the entire film. There are also a few good laughs and a couple of good twists along the way, but the final one is a little too convenient and almost ruins the film.