Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Nerve

By Angie Raphael

At the very least, everyone between the age of 13 and 25 should probably see this thrilling and provocative film, which serves as a cautionary tale about teenagers seeking instant fame. Nerve holds a mirror up to young viewers to depict a frightening truth about the excessive use of social media and phone apps. It may be completely fictitious, but it makes some important points about the direction youth culture is headed. Based on Jeanne Ryan's novel, Nerve is about introverted high school senior Vee (Emma Roberts) who, in an attempt to come out of her shell and have some fun, starts playing an online game of dares, and meets Ian (Dave Franco) along the way. But as the dares escalate in intensity, Vee soon starts being manipulated by an anonymous community of “watchers” and it all becomes far too dangerous. Franco and Roberts knew each other before making this film and their comfort with each other boosts their chemistry. Aspects of the story are definitely far-fetched and the ending is a bit of a mess, but directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman keep the film tight at about 95 minutes. Most importantly, Nerve is surprisingly entertaining and shows how out of control peer pressure can become, especially with technology at everyone's fingerprints. 


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Sunset Song

By Angie Raphael

Modern film fans might feel like Sunset Song lacks relevance and originality in 2016, but the epic novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, from which it has been adapted, was quite powerful in 1932. Set in rural Scotland before the start of World War One, Sunset Song is about Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn), who lives on a farm and must battle a tyrannical and violent father, and societal pressures to be free and happy. Gibbon's book somehow managed to be an empowering coming-of-age story while blending heartache, tragedy, war, sexuality and complex familial relationships. What Chris is forced to endure is really quite remarkable and it was always going to be tough to do the novel justice on-screen. Director Terence Davies has used lighting and music to great effect throughout the film to set the changing mood and Deyn gives a wonderful performance. Sunset Song is more than two hours long and the second half does feel laborious in parts. Nonetheless, it is becoming rare to see stories like this on-screen, so Sunset Song should be appreciated for doing that. 


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Carer

By Angie Raphael

It would be easy to dismiss The Carer as a film for “old” people, but there is some substance to the tale and it is perhaps equally appealing to fans of acting, theatre and Shakespeare. Sir Michael Gifford (Brian Cox) is a famed actor living his final years as a recluse in the English countryside while battling Parkinson's. Aspiring Hungarian actress Dorottya (Coco Konig in her film debut) is hired to care for Sir Michael and soon the pair begin to form a strong bond, despite the disapproval of Sir Michael's daughter (Emilia Fox) and housekeeper (Anna Chancellor). Like Sir Michael, Cox is widely revered and gives a very impressive performance, especially in his final scene. He and Konig also share some enjoyable banter throughout the film. Unfortunately, while The Carer is sweet, its story is neither original or as engaging and emotional as similar films like Intouchables.  


Monday, 22 August 2016

Captain Fantastic

By Angie Raphael

Striking the right balance between drama and comedy, Captain Fantastic is a thought-provoking tale with beautiful cinematography and a strong cast. Written and directed by Matt Ross, Captain Fantastic is about Ben (Viggo Mortensen) and his family of six children who have retreated from modern society and capitalism to live in the wilderness. They hunt for food, go rock climbing, read a lot, play music together like the von Trapp family and celebrate Noam Chomsky Day instead of Christmas. But then their mother, who has been in hospital for a few months, dies and the family is banned by her father from attending the funeral. Knowing his wife was a Buddhist who would rather be cremated and have her remains flushed down a toilet, Ben and the children embark on a family road trip to fulfil her wishes. 

Mortensen is captivating and carries the two-hour film almost perfectly. The young cast members around him are also talented and each is given adequate screen time. Some may view Ben as a cult leader, but it can also be argued his influence over his children is not drastically different to any other parent. His children are educated, although not with conventional schooling, and they have important life skills that other youths do not have. Concurrently though, they are deprived of a childhood in some ways because they are treated more like soldiers and are not shielded from the harsh realities of life. Ultimately, Captain Fantastic is an engrossing film that raises a lot of questions worth debating.


Tuesday, 16 August 2016

High-Rise

Based on J.G. Ballard's novel, High-Rise is about Dr Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) who moves into a luxurious apartment skyscraper and starts spending time with the eccentric tenants, including single mother Charlotte (Sienna Miller), documentary filmmaker Richard Wilder (Luke Evans) and his pregnant wife Helen (Elisabeth Moss), and enigmatic architect of the building Mr Royal (Jeremy Irons). But soon the tenants find themselves caught up in a class power struggle within the confines of the building and everything starts to take a twisted turn. Working in the film's favour is the set design and use of music, especially a reworked version of ABBA's SOS, which is rather haunting. Hiddleston, Evans and Irons give the strongest performances, but Miller is as forgettable as ever. Overall, Ben Wheatley's two-hour film has a strong message about capitalism and the ugly side of human behaviour, but the story is bizarre, boring and too pretentious to be truly engaging.


Friday, 12 August 2016

Sausage Party

Taking the Toy Story concept to the extreme, words like “lewd”, “crude” and “politically incorrect” only begin to describe Sausage Party. But what else did you expect from the team that brought us This Is The End and Pineapple Express? Frank (Seth Rogen) is a sausage in a supermarket dreaming about the day he will be purchased by a human, believed to be a god, so he can finally go to “the great beyond” and consummate his relationship with his bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig). But when Frank realises what actually happens to food, he makes it his mission to enlighten the other food in the supermarket. 

Surprisingly, there is actually a good moral to the story. The film tackles issues including race, religion and gender in quite a clever way. The cast is also a collection of talented comedians, including Nick Kroll as the villainous Douche, as well as Bill Hader, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, Michael Cera and Jonah Hill. Even Salma Hayek gets a great role as a sexy lesbian taco, while Edward Norton's voice is almost unrecognisable as a neurotic Woody Allen-like bagel and James Franco is a stoner in one of the few human roles. Unfortunately, the film lacks enough really big laughs unless your preferred sense of humour involves toilet jokes. Nonetheless, you have to admire the originality of Sausage Party. 


Thursday, 11 August 2016

Bad Moms

While Bad Moms may lack an original plot, it has plenty of unique and memorable laughs thanks to co-writers/co-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who also penned The Hangover. But most importantly, the film has a positive message for all parents. Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) is struggling to juggle her career with motherhood and the task seems all the more daunting when she is constantly being judged by several stuck-up mums, led by PTA president Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), until Amy decides to ditch her responsibilities and have some fun. Kunis is sweet and surely relatable to so many mothers, while Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell are hilarious as Amy's only friends at the school. There are only a few men in the film but Jay Hernandez definitely fulfils the all-important eye candy quota for this chick flick, playing a widower raising a child alone. Bad Moms is hardly an exceptional piece of filmmaking, especially with an ending that is all far too convenient, but it is an entertaining way to spend 100 minutes with fellow mums, grandmothers and aunties when you need a break from your own children.  


Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Suicide Squad

It may be funnier than Batman vs Superman and the soundtrack is entertaining, but Suicide Squad struggles with its narrative as writer/director David Ayer tries to cram in too many new characters, leaving several of them as unappreciated sidekicks. Suicide Squad is still a good film, but it is not the superhero blockbuster it promised to be and may be a victim of its own hype. Picking up shortly after the events of Batman vs Superman, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis being wonderfully wicked) gathers a team of imprisoned super villains to fight a greater evil. For all the attention given to the Joker (Jared Leto), he only had a few scenes, although they were pivotal moments. Leto is very good in the manic role but Heath Ledger's legacy as the Joker remains intact. The Joker's girlfriend, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), is such a difficult character because she is essentially a victim of domestic violence with serious mental health issues, but is expected to carry most of the laughs in the film. Robbie does her best at being cutesy, which she is very good at, but some of her comedic timing is off and her American accent remains a problem. Deadshot (Will Smith) is probably the most in-depth character and he is very good in the role. I am not suggesting you skip Suicide Squad, I am just warning you to lower your expectations.  


Monday, 1 August 2016

As It Is In Heaven 2: Heaven On Earth

More than a decade after the Oscar-nominated As It Is In Heaven became an international success, the sequel picks up where the first film ended. Swedish soprano singer Lena (Frida Hallgren) is pregnant with the child of world renowned conductor, Daniel Dareus, and tries to continue his legacy following his death despite the hurdles she faces in her community. As It Is In Heaven 2: Heaven On Earth tries to capture that same heartfelt emotion as the original film but falters along the way with a weak plot that drags on for more than two hours. There are a few quirky characters who spark some interest and Hallgren is a good lead, but the film fails to truly tug at the heartstrings in the way director/co-writer Kay Pollack probably hoped and expected.