Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Split

By Angie Raphael

4.5 stars

Suspenseful and twisted, Split will keep audiences on the edge of their seats for almost two hours. The story centres on a deeply disturbed man named Kevin (James McAvoy), who abducts three teenage girls named Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy). He locks them up in a basement and each time he visits, the girls never know who they will get because Kevin has a split personality disorder with dozens of personae, including a nine-year-old boy and a middle-aged woman. So the girls try to play each persona off the other to save themselves. McAvoy gives a chilling performance and shows his amazing range as an actor, including being both menacing and vulnerable. Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan expertly crafts the film and is fully aware that the success of Split hinges on Kevin remaining a somewhat sympathetic character. Split is truly terrifying, thrilling and layered.


Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Moonlight

By Angie Raphael

4 stars

Unique films can be difficult to come by these days, but Moonlight offers a new perspective into the lives of drug addicts and criminals, and youths trying to break free from the vicious cycle. The bittersweet story is explored relatively well by writer/director Barry Jenkins – although there are some unanswered questions – and most importantly, it is all handled sensitively. Moonlight is told in three parts, chronicling the life of gay black male Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) from childhood to adulthood in Miami. Unfortunately, the camera work was terrible, including too many close-ups and hand-held vision. No doubt the cinematography was carefully planned out, but it just did not work. The three leads, on the other hand, are wonderful and look similar too. The supporting cast are also solid. Moonlight's most powerful aspect is its story and it is an important one worth depicting on film. 


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Collateral Beauty

By Jackie Raphael

2 stars

This film is very disappointing for such an all-star cast. It is based on a man (Will Smith) who is struggling through life after a tragedy and writes three letters to Love, Time and Death. These three themes become the core of the plot. His colleagues are played by Kate Winslet, Edward Norton and Michael Pena, and together the characters try to help him and save the company. In doing so, we learn about their own individual issues. The film tries too hard to link all the sub-plots and is filled with coincidences. It felt like a cross between 7th Heaven and Touched by an Angel. There are also many lame moments throughout. However, with a strong cast there are some enjoyable scenes. Helen Mirren was particularly funny in her role as an actress who takes part in the scheme. But no matter how much you might like the actors, do not bother wasting your time and money seeing this film at the cinema.  


Monday, 2 January 2017

A Man Called Ove

By Angie Raphael 

4 stars

Everyone probably knows a cranky older person and has wondered about their past, and that is what makes A Man Called Ove so relatable. Based on the 2012 novel by Swedish writer Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove is about a quintessential grumpy old man (Rolf Lassgard) who has nothing better to do than bother his neighbours and visit his wife's grave every day, promising to join her. But his suicide attempts are comical failures and things start to change for Ove when he spends time with his new neighbours, especially the pregnant Parvaneh (Bahar Pars). Writer/director Hannes Holm slowly peels back the layers of Ove's heavily guarded personality as the audience learns about his past and sweet love story with his wife, Sonja (Ida Engvoll) through a series of flashbacks. This foreign film is sentimental, bittersweet and worth watching. 


Sunday, 1 January 2017

Passengers

By Angie Raphael

3 stars 

The concept for this science fiction romance is intriguing, and for the most part, Passengers works well – until it fails dismally at the end. There were far better options open to writer Jon Spaihts and director Mortem Tyldum. The story is set some unspecified time in the future when a spacecraft that is en route to a colony planet with thousands of people onboard has a malfunction in its sleep chambers, which leaves two passengers, mechanic Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and writer Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), awake 90 years too early. Without giving away important details of the plot, I will say the film deals with some interesting moral dilemmas and that is where the film is at its best. There is also some amazing set design and details in the spaceship's technology. The romance between the two lonely people is believable and the chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence is strong. Each character is also complex and well layered, especially Jim who is heavily flawed. Passengers is a mostly enjoyable film, but unfortunately there are some plot holes and I cannot get past the appalling final act to ever probably consider watching this film again. 


Thursday, 29 December 2016

Best and Worst Films of 2016

In a year that was great for independent cinema and biopics, but not so much for comedies and sequels, here are our top 10 best films and five worst films of 2016.

ANGIE'S LIST:


BEST FILMS


1) Spotlight –  an important true story about child abuse that also emphasises the value of investigative journalism.

2) Captain Fantastic – striking the right balance between drama and comedy, this film about an unconventional family is thought-provoking, has beautiful cinematography and a strong cast. 

3) Hacksaw Ridge – a gripping and graphic depiction of World War II, telling the true story of a soldier who wanted to be a medic but refused to carry a weapon.

4) Mustang – a brutally honest, shocking, educational and culturally aware coming of age story about five sisters in Turkey who are forced to be married off one by one.

5) Room –  based on a novel, this suspenseful film about a young woman held captive in a shed for several years with her five-year-old son will make you cry and laugh.



6) Me Before You – based on the best-selling novel, which was inspired by a true story, this film will leave you in tears and has been one of the most tragic, heartfelt and controversial films of the year, exploring the life of a quadriplegic man. 

7) Trumbo – this biopic telling the story of famed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted by studios during a time when Communism was feared, shines a light on an artist who was forced into the darkness for a long time.

8) Deadpool – there have been a few good superhero films this year but this one was particularly refreshing in its originality and has consistent obscene humour, graphic fight scenes and a fantastic soundtrack.

9) Art of The Prank – flawed, but hilarious and interesting, this documentary chronicles the adventures of notorious artist and activist Joey Skaggs and shows how frighteningly malleable the media can be.

10) Zootopia – a creative and insightful film with endearing characters, stunning animation and layered with important messages about equality and racial issues.


Honourable mentions:
The Jungle Book
Love and Friendship
I, Daniel Blake
Star Wars: Rogue One 
The Revenant
Trolls


WORST FILMS


1) Angry Birds Movie
2) My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
3) Zoolander 2
4) Spin Out
5) The Legend of Tarzan 


JACKIE'S LIST:


BEST FILMS


1) Room – a disturbing plot that stays with you and fantastic performances.

2) Me Before You – a thought-provoking and touching story.

3) Trumbo – an interesting reflection on history with great performances.

4) Spotlight – an unbelievable true story with amazing performances.

5) Bridget Jones's Baby – a wonderful addition that brought laughter and joy to 2016.

6) The Light Between Oceans – a film that leaves you reflecting on ethics.

7) Star Wars: Rogue One – never enough Star Wars and it has an unexpected ending.

8) La La Land – a beautiful contemporary film that pays homage to the past.

9) The Jungle Book – visually stunning and worth the update.

10) Deadpool – an original and funny approach to the superhero genre.



Honourable mentions:
Hell or High Water
Sing
The Revenant 
Eddie The Eagle
Captain American: Civil War



WORST FILMS


1) Angry Birds
2) Zoolander 2
3) The Legend of Tarzan 
4) High-Rise
5) Underworld: Blood Wars




Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Lion

By Angie Raphael

I am calling it extremely early, but Lion will certainly be one of the best films of 2017. This bittersweet and emotional roller-coaster will have you gripped from the outset and will probably leave you in tears by the end. It is such an important film too, raising awareness about the plight of lost children in India, as well as encouraging further discussions about adoption in Australia. Adapted by screenwriter Luke Davies from Saroo Brierley's autobiographical account, Lion opens with five-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) who gets lost in India thousands of kilometres from home. He faces many scary obstacles before being adopted by Australian couple Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John Brierley (David Wenham). Decades later, Saroo (Dev Patel) searches for his Indian family.

Adorable young Pawar has never acted before but he carries almost the first half of the film and gives one of the most engrossing performances ever by a child. Kidman, who has two adopted children of her own, has spoken publicly about her connection to the story and it shows on screen. Meanwhile, Patel's Aussie accent is almost as good as Kate Winslet's turn in The Dressmaker. Director Garth Davis has also done a wonderful job of capturing India's vast terrain and bustling city life, in stark contrast to Tasmania's coastal beauty. Lion runs for about two hours but the time flies by and this amazing true story will remain in your thoughts long after the film is finished.


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Jackie

By Angie Raphael

This film provides a snippet into the life of Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) in the days after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson), in November 1963. It explores how the first lady dealt with her grief and trauma while trying to comfort her young children and shape her husband's legacy. Although Portman does not look much like Kennedy, she is captivating to watch and no doubt deserves an Oscar nomination if not the win. Peter Sarsgaard is also very good as Bobby Kennedy and the depiction of their relationship is interesting. The costumes and set designs are also exquisite, especially the recreation of the White House and Lyndon B. Johnson's swearing in as the new president onboard Air Force One. Director Pablo Larrain is meticulous with every scene. Unfortunately, given its subject matter, Jackie is such a depressing film and teaches us nothing particularly new about the Kennedy family. Nonetheless, it is worth seeing for Portman's performance alone. 


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

A United Kingdom

By Angie Raphael

Based on a true story, A United Kingdom is about Prince Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) from Botswana, who causes an international political commotion in the late 1940s when he marries Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white woman from London. If you are unfamiliar with the history, it is really quite shocking to see the lengths taken to stop Khama from becoming the king and to keep the deeply in love couple apart. There were a lot of issues going on at the time, particularly South Africa introducing apartheid. Writer Guy Hibbert carefully explains the political ramifications of each decision made by the protagonists and antagonists so it is never too overwhelming or difficult to follow. Director Amma Asante, who created the equally moving Belle a few years ago, also keeps the intensity consistent throughout. Olyelowo delivers some moving speeches and Pike is also very good in her staunch role, but at times their chemistry was lacking, which is disappointing given the entire story hinges on the powerful love between their characters. A United Kingdom did grow on me the more I thought about it and it really is an important story worth adapting to film.


Monday, 12 December 2016

Red Dog: True Blue

By Angie Raphael

With so many action-packed blockbusters filling cinemas these days, it is great to unwind with an innocent and simple film from time to time, and Red Dog: True Blue is about as heartfelt as they come. This prequel to the beloved Red Dog explores the relationship between the puppy and his first owner, Mick, played by the very talented Levi Miller in the younger years and Jason Isaacs as an adult. Writer Daniel Taplitz produced a tight script exploring themes of love, family, friendship and Aboriginal culture. Director Kriv Stenders also beautifully captured Western Australia's expansive north and the film looks just as good as any Hollywood production. It probably was not necessary to make this prequel and it may not be quite as emotional as the original, but Red Dog: True Blue is a feel-good film for the whole family.