Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Transformers: The Last Knight

By Angie Raphael

1 star

Has a blockbuster ever had such a convoluted and incomprehensible plot? Probably not. Aside from the original film in this franchise, the others have been woeful, but this latest instalment takes it to an even lower level of ridiculousness. This time the screenwriters have decided the Transformers back story should include Merlin, the Knights of the Round Table and Nazis. I spent half the time concentrating to try to follow the nonsensical and overly ambitious narrative, and the other half laughing at the terrible dialogue and one-liners. Transformers: The Last Knight introduces audiences to Sir Edmond Burton (Anthony Hopkins), who is desperately searching for a mystical talisman that ends up in the possession of Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), who is hiding in a junk yard with the Autobots, minus Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), who has disappeared. Joining Yeager on his transformer adventure is 14-year-old orphan Izabella (Isabel Moner) and stereotypically stuck-up Oxford professor Viviane (Laura Haddock). There are some good action sequences but the film is excruciatingly long at about two-and-a-half hours, and I actually left early. Director Michael Bay has what should be another flop on his hands, but it remains to be seen whether fans will heed reviewer warnings or make up their own minds.


Monday, 19 June 2017

Dave Made A Maze

By Angie Raphael

4.5 stars

Seemingly inspired by 1980s adventure films, Dave Made A Maze will probably go down as the most wonderfully weird film of the year. This existential comedy is about a man named Dave (Nick Thune) who builds a fort in his living room only to become trapped in his own booby-trapped filled creation. His girlfriend Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) leads Dave's friends on a rescue mission, but they soon realise the labyrinth is deadly and constantly growing as Dave's imagination takes over. Writer Steven Sears and director/co-writer Bill Watterson have created a wacky and hilarious film including puppetry, animation and other clever camera work. The entire cast clearly had a lot of fun making this film. Dave Made A Maze is unique and absolutely worth seeing.


Sunday, 18 June 2017

Cars 3

By Angie Raphael

3 stars

Nostalgic and mostly pedestrian, Cars 3 never pushes any boundaries but is certainly entertaining for younger audiences. Struggling with the new and improved car models like Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) sets out to prove he is still the best race car in the world and enlists the help of trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). The film mirrors the original to some extent with its central theme and peels back some emotional layers, including further exploring McQueen's relationship with Doc Hudson (the late Paul Newman). It was bittersweet to hear Newman's voice again in this third instalment. Other familiar voices include Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Kerry Washington and Tony Shalhoub. In his directorial debut, Brian Fee, who was a storyboard artist on the first two films, offers a sweet story with a solid message about mentors and feminism. There is also some cute animation, but the film overall is nothing remarkable and even a little long. It feels like this Pixar franchise has run its course.


Friday, 16 June 2017

Rough Night

By Angie Raphael

2.5 stars

This comedy about what is essentially the worst thing that could happen to a group of women on a night out had me eye-rolling more than giggling. To some extent, Rough Night is a female version of The Hangover, but it also rips off other successful comedies like Weekend At Birnie's. Unfortunately, it repeatedly fails to hit the mark. The story centres on a group of college friends who are reuniting for the first time in three years to celebrate the bachelorette party of Jess (Scarlett Johansson) in Miami, but things take a criminal turn when they accidentally kill a stripper at their holiday home.

It is a very different role for Johansson, whose character is a bit of a stick in the mud, while the always funny Kate McKinnon has such a terrible Australian accent, it remains unclear if it was intended to draw laughs or not. Jillian Bell has a few good moments but is mostly irritating, while Zoe Kravitz and Ilana Glazer are slightly more likeable but we also get less information about their characters. Paul W. Downs, who also co-wrote the script, plays Jess' fiance and spends half the time in a gender role reversal, drinking wine with his friends and wondering what his partner is up to, and the other half bizarrely wearing a diaper for a ridiculous reason. Director and co-writer Lucia Aniello has gone for a low-brow approach in her first feature but this raunchy comedy feels like a series of sketches strung together by a loose and silly plot. I wish I could celebrate the feminism of having a female director leading a predominantly female cast, but Rough Night is a dismal mess.



Thursday, 15 June 2017

All Eyez On Me

By Angie Raphael

2.5 stars

In a similar way that iconic actor James Dean was immortalised following his untimely death at the age of 24 in 1955, so too was Tupac Shakur when the 25-year-old rapper was killed in a mysterious drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996. With the massive success of biopic Straight Outta Compton, perhaps expectations were too high for All Eyez On Me, which fails to capture the essence of a complicated and fascinating artist. Tupac had a tumultuous life but the film glosses over many important details, leaves some vital moments out completely, and assumes audiences already know about a lot of his troubles and influences. If this is supposed to be a film for fans, they will be disappointed, and if it is meant to inspire new fans, it only scrapes the surface of Shakur's relevance. The truth is Tupac was a great poet and social commentator, who was also prone to violence and criminal activity, but the film mistakenly canonises him, and that oversimplifies his legacy. In many ways, Benny Boom's film feels more like a made-for-television production.

All Eyez On Me begins with Tupac's youth when he was raised by single mother Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira), a member of the Black Panther Party, who taught Tupac the value of an education. Tupac (Demetrius Shipp Jr) was exposed to racism and police brutality early and he had a chequered history with the law, but the truly pivotal moment came when he was jailed for a sex crime in 1995, which led to him working with the menacing Death Row Records boss Suge Knight (Dominic L. Santana). The film also shows Tupac's friendship with rapper Christopher “Biggie” Wallace (Jamal Woolard), which when it soured, escalated the deadly rivalry between the rapper factions. Shipp Jr makes his debut in the lead role and is convincing throughout most of the film, while Gurira is also good in an intense and passionate role. But many of the other supporting cast members are weak and look little like the real people they portray. There is no doubt that fans will flock to see All Eyez On Me, but that does not mean they should.


Friday, 9 June 2017

Whitney: Can I Be Me?

By Jackie Raphael

3.5 stars

There is no denying that Whitney Houston is an icon with a voice like no other. A documentary about her life was inevitable. Stylistically, Whitney: Can I Be Me? offers a good mix of modern interviews, older interviews and backstage footage, providing a fresh look at her life. While this unauthorised film does share aspects of her story in detail, it would have been good to hear more about her career and not just focus on her drugs. The documentary celebrates Houston's career to some extent, but centres heavily on her fall from grace. This has been a common approach from writer/director Nick Broomfield, who created a similarly skewed documentary about Kurt Cobain. Broomfield has looked at Houston's struggles in life and essentially framed the death of her career as being the end of her 1999 tour. 

The documentary also narrowed on the questions around Houston’s sexuality and her close relationship with Robyn Crawford. Without any evidence, the film suggests they were more than friends. It is mentioned at the end that Crawford is officially gay, leaving the suggestion that Houston was either bi-sexual or homosexual. It was also suggested by centering on the tension between Crawford and Houston’s husband Bobby Brown. It feels tacky and disrespectful to suggest Houston was publicly untrue about her sexuality given she cannot clarify anything now. The film implies a heterosexual person cannot be friends with a homosexual person, which I also find offensive. Had they provided some form of evidence then it could have been more accepting. 


Obviously, Houston's tragic story ends with her untimely death in 2012 at the age of 48. Broomfield suggests it was due to her heartbreak over her father suing her before he died and Brown dating after their divorce. While Houston had been taking drugs since she was young, it unfortunately consumed her life. In contrast, to the recent Heath Ledger documentary that left audiences inspired, this film left me feeling sad. Still, it is worth seeing for Houston fans. Apparently, Kevin Macdonald will be releasing an authorised film in the future, which will be interesting to see and compare. 


Thursday, 8 June 2017

The Mummy

By Angie Raphael

2.5 stars

The Dark Universe franchise could be in danger of collapsing into a pile of dust if the other films are anything like The Mummy. This disappointing film appears on the surface to be an action-packed horror, but when examined closer, it has a raft of plot holes and does absolutely nothing for feminism, which is made all the more painfully obvious when compared to Wonder Woman's recent success. Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) is an army sergeant who loots antiques from Iraq war zones with his friend Chris Vail (Jake Johnson). They are looking for their latest treasure using a map stolen from archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) when they uncover an Egyptian sarcophagus with the body of the villainous Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), whose wrath they accidentally unleash. 

The Mummy herself is terrifying, not because she is a strong badass, but because she is terrifyingly one-dimensional. Boutella, who was great in The Kingsman: The Secret Service, could have done so much more with the character if she had been given the opportunity. Meanwhile, Jenny is a boring damsel in distress who is constantly following Nick around like a lost puppy. Again, Wallis deserved better. Speaking of Cruise, he looks completely out of place. Not only is he much older than the women, he is too old to play such a spirited and charming rogue. Russell Crowe is a rare highlight playing Dr Jekyll, who we all know has a Mr Hyde side he is trying to keep under wraps. In some ways, with his split personality he has the potential to be a more compelling villain or anti-hero. 

The Mummy is quite scary in parts and there is the level of suspenseful action we have come to expect from a Cruise film, including the memorable zero gravity scene. However, the laughs peppered throughout felt jarring rather than offering relief from the thrills. The film also feels longer than it is and I found myself looking at my watch too often during the third act. The Mummy may be a blockbuster but it is not worth your money at the cinema. 


Sunday, 4 June 2017

A Quiet Passion

By Angie Raphael

2.5 stars

Long and boring, this biopic fails to honour the great American poet, Emily Dickinson, despite the best intentions of writer/director Terence Davies. A Quiet Passion explores Dickinson's early life as a schoolgirl, through to her creative successes and later years as a recluse. Cynthia Nixon is very good in the complex lead role and Jennifer Ehle is also charming as Dickinson's sister. Their scenes together are by far the strongest. But most of the remaining cast appear uncomfortable, as if they do not understand the words they are speaking. Perhaps Davies relied too much on dialogue, but every moment of forced laughter from the actors whenever someone made a witty remark was jarring to watch. There are some positives to take away, such as Dickinson's powerful feminist voice and the beautiful costumes, but overall the film is too ambitious. 


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Wonder Woman

By Angie Raphael

4.5 stars

Believe the hype. Wonder Woman is almost everything I hoped it would be. It is funny, emotional and action-packed. Plus, it has a strong message about war, diversity and feminism. In this origin story, Diana (Gal Gadot) is raised on a secret island by women until WWI spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes his plane and ruins their peaceful existence. Steve, who is in possession of a book by the villainous German scientist Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya), wants to use it in his quest to save lives during the war, but Diana has an even more ambitious plan to kill the god of war, who she believes is responsible for humanity's destruction. Armed with her shield, sword and Lasso of Truth, Diana travels with Steve to London and then onto the centre of the war zone.

Gadot is a near-perfect Wonder Woman. What sets Diana apart from the male superheroes we have seen on screen in recent years is that she is not arrogant or full of angst. Rather, her motivations are steered by love and kindness, but it never feels sappy. Like Superman, Diana is pure goodness and wants to believe in the best of humanity, but is constantly let down. She is superior to humankind but desperately wants to make the world a better place. In this film she is naive and innocent, which is very different to her portrayal in Batman v Superman where she is far more experienced.  Meanwhile, Steve is a loveable rogue and also grounds the film in many ways. The chemistry between two of the world's most beautiful people sizzles on screen. The supporting cast are also good, including David Thewlis as a British politician, Danny Houston as a German general intent on using chemical weapons, and Said Taghmaoui as a Moroccan undercover operative.

Screenwriter Allan Heinberg ties the plot in to WWI history surprisingly well and the story is framed by the modern era with a reference to Bruce Wayne. In the capable hands of director Patty Jenkins, the film makes its point about feminism and gender roles often in a comical way, without being politically pushy. It is especially well presented in the London shopping scene with Steve’s secretary Etta, played by the very funny Lucy Davis. However, the film is a little slow to start and has an unnecessary running time of more than two hours. Nonetheless, Wonder Woman is a refreshing and exciting superhero film.



Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Baywatch

By Jackie Raphael

3.5 stars

This is a fun and nostalgic film that maintains a lot of the same elements of the television show. Baywatch focuses on a group of lifeguards who try to uncover a crime. It takes a similar approach to the 21 Jump Street film by parodying components of the original show. For example, making jokes about women appearing to move in slow-motion. However, it is not quite as clever or successful as 21 Jump Street. The comedy was consistent throughout but, director Seth Gordon could have crunched it down by 15 minutes as some of the plot lagged. There is a good balance of objectifying both men and women in a hilarious way and there are several romantic story-lines. 


The cast did a wonderful job, with Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron certainly standing out. Johnson plays Mitch and has many great one-liners, mainly his various nicknames for Efron's character. Efron looks even more muscular than usual and provides many of the laughs playing fallen Olympic champion Matt Brody. There are also cameos from some of the original cast, which fans will enjoy. As someone who grew up watching Baywatch, I certainly appreciated the reminiscing.


Friday, 19 May 2017

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

By Angie Raphael

3.5 stars

Charlie Hunnam, who is perhaps best known for his work on the television show Sons of Anarchy as well as the films Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak, has been waiting patiently to be recognised as a Hollywood leading man. It is a shame King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was such a flop in the United States because it is actually a decent film with plenty of action, drama and humour. The story centres on Arthur (Hunnam), who is robbed of his royal birthright by his villainous uncle Vortigern (Jude Law), and is raised in a brothel until he is forced to face his legacy and role as the true king. Hunnam definitely looks the part and is convincing in the lead, while Law is also very good and never veers into over-acting as so many actors do in similar roles. The supporting cast, including Djimon Hounsou, Astrid Berges-Frisbey and Aidan Gillen, are also solid, while Eric Bana has a small but pivotal role as Arthur's father. 

Director/co-writer Guy Ritchie provides his signature style of film-making, including his showy effects and sense of humour in the storytelling, but it is not to the extent of some of his other work, so if you are not a fan of his approach you should not be put off by King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The CGI is also incorporated well in the film and the soundtrack is complementary. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a little self-indulgent with a running time of about two hours, but it is set up nicely for a sequel. Whether that will happen is unclear, but I would certainly like to see it.




Tuesday, 16 May 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2

By Jackie Raphael

3.5 stars

This film carries on from where the first one finished. Wick (Keanu Reeves) is trying to stay out of the "business" but keeps being pulled in by his past. John Wick: Chapter 2 has amazing fight sequences and is an action-filled film. There is of course some heart behind the story, as in the first film, with many of Wick's decisions being based on the death of his wife. While you do not need to have seen the first film, I do recommend it. 

Reeves looks the same as he did 20 years ago and is convincing in his role as "the boogeyman". Ian McShane returns as Winston, the owner of the Continental hotel in New York. Riccardo Scamarcio joins the cast as the villain Santina D'Antonio. Also joining the franchise are Common and Laurence Fishburne in pivotal roles. Common's performance was strong and managed to build a character that the audience cared about, while Fishburne overacted in his role. 


While it could have been 30 minutes shorter, it is a fun action film with some memorable moments. You definitely will not be able to forget the pencil scene. The film ends hinting at a third instalment, which I am sure will have Wick killing many more people. 


Sunday, 14 May 2017

Wilson

By Angie Raphael

3.5 stars

Written by indie cartoonist Daniel Clowes and directed by Craig Johnson, Wilson is a quirky, funny and sentimental film. Wilson (Woody Harrelson) is a slightly condescending misanthrope, but when his father dies, he decides to reconnect with the only woman he ever really loved, drug addict Pippi (Laura Dern). Wilson always believed Pippi had an abortion after they broke up but when she confesses she gave the baby up for adoption instead, he tracks down their child Claire (Isabella Amara), who is now a chubby and miserable teenager with an outlook on life similar to her father. Wilson is a great protagonist because while he is totally neurotic and some of his actions are rather twisted, he is also innocent and has kind intentions every time he gives unsolicited advice to people he meets. This film is a layered and interesting character study with a story that is never too predictable.


Friday, 12 May 2017

Snatched

By Angie Raphael

3 stars

I have never been much of a fan of Amy Schumer's sense of humour, mostly because I find her annoying rather than funny, but I did actually laugh a fair bit during this road trip comedy. Perhaps pairing her with the lovable and hilarious Goldie Hawn helped tone down some of Schumer's usually crass behaviour. She definitely still has a lot of stereotypical moments though, including some unnecessary nudity and crude one-liners. Snatched is about Emily Middleton (Schumer), who gets dumped by her musician boyfriend and is left with two non-refundable tickets to Ecuador, so she forces her boring mother Linda (Hawn) to come along for an adventure. But things take a disastrous turn when they are kidnapped and their captors demand a ransom for their release from Emily's weird homebody brother Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz). Director Jonathan Levine kept the running time tight and the momentum was good throughout, but writer Katie Dippold failed to provide a particularly fresh story. It seemed at times like she just strung a series of gags together. The disgusting and unfunny tapeworm sequence definitely should have been dropped. Snatched is entertaining enough but Hawn deserves better. 


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Alien: Covenant

By Jackie Raphael

3.5 stars

It is hard to imagine any film in the Alien franchise ever being able to reach the excellence of the first sequel, Aliens in 1986, but this latest installment is better than 2012's Prometheus. Alien: Covenant, directed by Ridley Scott, is certainly more reflective of the earlier films in the franchise. It tells the story of a crew on a colony ship heading to a planet to start a new life when their journey takes a detour to another planet with an unexpected threat.

While the film is quite predictable, it has an interesting message about the creation of life. It is also visually strong and has some good performances. Michael Fassbender, who plays the robot David/Walter, improved his performance since Prometheus, while Danny McBride has a more serious role than we are used to seeing him in. Katherine Waterson plays a convincing strong heroine and Billy Curdup was a good choice as the uncertain leader who puts a lot of weight on his faith. However, there was still not enough character development to make the audience really care about the characters. This is something that Aliens did particularly well through banter, which is why it remains my favourite in the series.


Overall, Alien: Covenant helps to create an interesting backstory about how these aliens came to exist. While it is a bit too long, it keeps you entertained with some amazing gross scenes.


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

I Am Heath Ledger

By Jackie Raphael

4.5 stars

A beautiful tribute to the amazing work and life of Heath Ledger, the film I Am Heath Ledger shares footage filmed by the Perth actor and interviews with many of those closest to him. Directors Adrian Buitenhuis and Derik Murray spoke to Ledger’s family and friends, who shared stories about his personality and creativity. He is depicted as a man who invited everyone into his home and stayed true to his Australian upbringing by maintaining friendships with people he knew since he was a young child. The film also conveys his natural talents for acting, art, photography and directing. The film does not dwell on his death, rather it celebrates his life and career. It would have been good to see interviews with people like Michelle Williams and Jake Gyllenhaal, but it is understandable why they may not have taken part. There are interviews with other big stars, such as Naomi Watts, Ben Mendelsohn and Ben Harper, who share tales of his generosity and dedication.


Ledger died on January 22, 2008 in New York. I personally still remember waking up and hearing the news. I could not believe he was gone. As a Perth local, I was particularly proud of him, but my love of his charm and talents began when I first saw him in 1997's Roar. The documentary touches on the series and chronicles his journey to fame from there. While not all the films he made are mentioned, there is insight into some of his greatest roles, including The Patriot (2000), Brokeback Mountain (2005) and of course The Dark Knight (2008). As expected, I shed a few tears, but I left the cinema feeling both sad and inspired. Ledger achieved so much in his short life and his early death should remind us to live life to the fullest.


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

The Zookeeper's Wife

By Angie Raphael

4 stars

Based on a true story and adapted from Diane Ackerman's book, The Zookeeper's Wife offers a different take on the WWII stories we often see of brave people who helped protect their Jewish friends from persecution by the Nazis. Antonina (Jessica Chastain) and Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh) were the keepers at Warsaw Zoo, who risked everything to help save hundreds of people and animals during the German invasion of Poland. The film is an essentially accurate portrayal of what happened, although some important and interesting details are glossed over, while other fictional sub-plots are added in unnecessarily, to the point that the two-hour film at times veers into melodrama. Writer Angela Workman and director Niki Caro seemingly chose to focus on the Zabinskis' domestic issues, rather than the specifics of how Jews were treated in Warsaw, other than to leave hints such as a scene in which children unknowingly board a train to a concentration camp. 

Chastain portrays Antonina as a tender yet strong-willed heroine, while Heldenbergh is also convincing as the courageous and intelligent mastermind behind the dangerous plan, although he should have been given more screen time to really show what Jan achieved. Daniel Bruhl, who plays a Nazi infatuated with Antonina, is good but seems to be falling into a type-casting trap following his recently similar performance in Alone In Berlin and other villainous roles. The way in which Antonina and Jan used their zoo to essentially hide their activities in plain sight is miraculous and a film about their heroism is the least that can be done to honour them, even if it does oversimplify their accomplishments. 


Monday, 17 April 2017

Bad Girl

By Angie Raphael

3.5 stars

Part family drama and part psychological thriller, Bad Girl, which was shot in the Swan Valley, Kalamunda and Serpentine areas of Western Australia, is the debut feature film from director/writer Fin Edquist. It tells the story of troubled teenager Amy Anderson (Sara West), who was abandoned at birth before finally being adopted by Michelle (Felicity Price) and Peter (Ben Winspear), but their relationship is fractious. Amy plans to run away, but when her friends fail to show up, she tries to kill herself and is saved by Chloe (Samara Weaving). The pair then form an intense and complicated relationship. I cannot say more without spoiling the plot, suffice to say there are a few twists and some suspenseful moments. West and Weaving are both good, although there is a little bit of over-acting in some scenes. Edquist keeps the pace steady and has captured the isolated landscape of some areas in Perth's fringes quite well. Bad Girl is gripping and explores some interesting themes about family.




Saturday, 15 April 2017

Fury of a Patient Man

By Angie Raphael

3.5 stars

Director/co-writer Raúl Arévalo makes his debut in this award-winning Spanish film that is dark, gritty and layered with emotion. It is about Curro (Luis Callejo) who has finally been released from prison for robbing a jewellery store eight years earlier and is hoping to restart his life with girlfriend Ana (Ruth Diaz) and their son. But everything has changed since his imprisonment and he soon begins spending time with the very quiet Jose (Antonio de la Torre), who is determined to get vengeance for what happened in the past. The performances are excellent, especially in the second half of the film during an odd road trip involving the leading men. Fury of a Patient Man is a compelling revenge thriller and never feels predictable.

* Fury of a Patient Man is part of the Spanish Film Festival.


Friday, 14 April 2017

The Tip of the Iceberg

By Angie Raphael

3 stars

Eerily relevant to today's fast-paced world, this Spanish film explores workplace culture and the toll taken on people when they are forced to perform under tough conditions. The story begins with three employees at a multinational company committing suicide. Executive Sofia Cuevas (Maribel Verdú) is sent to investigate what happened and prepare a report to assist her superiors in dealing with the negative publicity, but soon learns her loyalty may be in the wrong place. Verdú carries the film well as the impassioned investigator and director David Canvas keeps the revelations coming as Sofia uncovers more about the mysterious iceberg project the dead employees were working on. The Tip of the Iceberg is a thriller but also sends a message to the corporate world.

* The Tip of the Iceberg is part of the Spanish Film Festival.



Thursday, 13 April 2017

Best Easter Films

By Angie and Jackie Raphael

Why are there so many Christmas films but not many with an Easter theme? In our family, we have an annual tradition of watching Rebel Without a Cause on Good Friday. We have been doing this for almost 15 years, and while we have been mocked by some friends, other people online have also listed it as an Easter film. James Dean himself says “Happy Easter” in the movie. It is a brilliant film that should be watched any time, so why not make it an Easter event?

To help you celebrate Easter this year, here is our list of the five best Easter films:

1) Rebel Without a Cause
The film that cemented James Dean's iconic image as a rebel and showcased his unparalleled acting ability, this film tells the story of a troubled teenager trying to fit in at a new school, which is made all the more difficult after a tragedy. Some wonderful cinematography and directing by Nicholas Ray.

2) Easter Parade
A nightclub performer hires a chorus girl to make his former dance partner jealous. Judy Garland and Fred Astaire are a joy to watch together in this fun, romantic musical.

3) Hop
Voiced by Russell Brand, E. B. dreams of becoming a drummer instead of being the next Easter Bunny, so he goes to Hollywood in pursuit of his goal. But when Fred, played by James Marsden, accidentally hits the bunny with his car, they form an unlikely friendship. It is a sweet family film and has some good laughs. The cast also includes Kaley Cuoco, Hank Azaria, David Hasselhoff and Hugh Laurie.

4) The Passion of the Christ
Directed by Mel Gibson and starring Jim Caviezel, this film chronicles the final 12 hours in the life of Jesus before he was crucified. This is not just a film for religious people.

5) Rise of the Guardians
When an evil spirit attacks, the Immortal Guardians team up to protect the innocence of children. The film stars Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Alec Baldwin and Jude Law. Not a big box office hit, but a good family film.


What is your favourite Easter film?



Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Fate of the Furious

By Jackie Raphael

3.5 stars 

If you are a fan of the Fast and Furious franchise, you will probably enjoy the latest instalment, The Fate of the Furious. While Paul Walker is certainly missed, there are several small tributes throughout the film and some welcome new additions to the line up. Charlize Theron joins the cast as the new villain (Cipher), and Scott Eastwood and Kurt Russell play the new agents named Little Nobody and Mr Nobody respectively. There are also a couple of special appearances, which I do not want to spoil, but they certainly add to the excitement of the film. 

The usual crew are back with Michelle Rodriguez (Letty), Tyrese Gibson (Roman), Chris "Ludacris" Bridges (Tej Parker), Nathalie Emmanuel (Ramsey), Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs) and of course Vin Diesel (Dom). As with the previous films, this instalment has a lot of fast cars, undercover work and further explores the importance of family. The plot centres around Dom, who is blackmailed by Cipher to work for her, but he does not tell his team, so they are left feeling betrayed and confused. Along with Deckard (Jason Statham), the team is recruited by Mr Nobody to stop Dom and Cipher. 

Theron often over-acts when she plays a villain and unfortunately this is no exception. Statham was the stand-out performer with a hilarious fight sequence and his usual loveable charm. Johnson, Gibson and Eastwood also provided a lot of laughs. Director F. Gary Gray created some great action scenes, however he could have shortened the film a bit, as it begins to drag on.

As usual, there were some ridiculous moments, in particular a scene where the team drive their cars to surround someone to protect them from a massive blast. However, it is something we have come to accept and kind of love about these films. I am still surprised at how successful this franchise has been since the original was basically a rip-off of the brilliant film Point Break. I was also amazed that they managed to keep it going without Walker. I would say this eighth film probably sits in the top four in the series, so if you are a fan it is worth seeing. 




Here are some photos from the film premier in Perth, Event Cinemas, Innaloo. Gorgeous car collection! 





Thursday, 6 April 2017

Get Out

By Jackie Raphael

4 stars 


I felt uneasy throughout this entire film, but in a good way. You know from the beginning what you are getting yourself into when you hear Get Out is produced by the same people who brought us The Visit and The Gift. While it is not as strong as those, director and writer Jordan Peele has still created a unique, gripping and surprisingly funny film. The story is about Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), who is introducing her African American boyfriend Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) to her Caucasian family, including her father Dean (Bradley Whitford) and mother Missy (Catherine Keener). While things begin relatively normal, it soon takes a very strange twist. The plot obviously explores racial issues but in an unexpected and interesting way. All the actors do a wonderful job of portraying their peculiar characters. The setting is beautiful too and really adds to the tone of the film. There is also a great juxtaposition of happy music with disturbing scenes in a couple of pivotal moments. While the ending could have been stronger, Get Out is definitely memorable. Be prepared to jump in your seats. 


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Chips

By Angie Raphael

3.5 stars

Based on the 1970s television series, Chips is a surprisingly funny buddy film, although it is the silly and lewd kind of humour. Rookie policeman Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) is teamed with senior California Highway Patrol officer Frank Poncherello (Michael Pena), but soon learns his partner is actually an undercover FBI agent investigating a heist involving crooked cops. Shepard is also the writer and director of this comedy, and has assembled a capable cast, including his wife Kristen Bell, Vincent D'Onofrio and Adam Brody. Chips is 100 minutes of ridiculous moments, car chases, explosions and dirty jokes. It certainly has a specific audience, but if you like the genre, you will surely laugh out loud a lot.


Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Save the Drive-in Cinemas!

By Jackie Raphael

I went to a drive-in cinema for the first time in my life and it was one of the best cinematic experiences I have ever had. The old-school nostalgia reminiscent of Grease, the stars in the sky and the fresh air create the perfect setting to view a film.

Unlike regular outdoor cinemas you do not have to be bothered by mosquitos, flies and cold winds, and unlike indoor cinemas you are not annoyed by people chatting, loud crunching or dirty cup holders. Drive-ins give you personal space, extra leg-room, you can bring as much food as you like (and you do not have to carry it anywhere), and it is a lot cheaper.

At Perth's Galaxy Drive-in it costs only $10 per person to view two films. That is approximately a quarter of the price of normal tickets. The design of the space was also clever with humps in the concrete, which allow you to angle your car so that it is tilted upwards towards the extra large screen. Many people who came in large groups brought tables and extra chairs to sit outside their car, but my friend and I enjoyed the comforts of my Beetle. 

If you are the sort of person who likes to make small remarks during the film you can do that without being judged by others, unless of course the company in your car does not like it. The sound is also great and you have total volume control like you do at home. If you are concerned about your car battery, which is generally fine, you can always get a portable radio to tune in. 

My only advice is to get there early for a central spot and make sure you clean your windscreen beforehand. I highly recommend you give it a go if your city has one and help keep them around. For those living in Perth, I recommend going to see Beauty and the Beast and Moana while they are still screening, otherwise Split will be coming soon, which is an amazing film. 


Thursday, 30 March 2017

Ghost in the Shell

By Angie Raphael

3 stars 

Based on a Japanese manga, Ghost in the Shell is stylistically stunning and its psychologically intense concept also draws audiences in. But it is difficult to ignore the whitewashing, despite the half-hearted attempt to justify it in the plot. The film is set in the future where Major (Scarlett Johansson) is a cyber-enhanced human created to be a perfect soldier until she is forced to confront a horrific truth about her past. Johansson and the rest of the cast are all fine, but there are no stand-out performances. Director Rupert Sanders has kept the film relatively tight and there is not too much time spent on explaining the futuristic world, which is good. I have not seen the 1995 anime so I cannot comment on whether fans will be disappointed with this adaptation, although given its huge popularity there are bound to be some problems with it for the die hard fans.


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Lego Batman Movie

By Angie Raphael

2 stars 

I almost fell asleep during this animation, but to be fair, I was already tired. Lego Batman Movie is not a total waste of time. There are some good laughs and many nods to previous Batman films and the broader comic book universe. There are also other characters thrown in, such as the Gremlins and King Kong. But the plot was not complicated enough to warrant such a lengthy running time. Brooding vigilante Batman (Will Arnett) faces off against The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and many of Gotham's most infamous villains, while also romancing Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) and caring for his adopted son Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) with the help of Alfred (Ralph Fiennes). The self-mocking and light tone of the film is fun, as is keeping an ear out for the cast of recognisable voices. Unfortunately, director Chris McKay and the five writers credited with the screenplay focused too much on referencing past versions of Batman and not enough time developing their own story. The Lego Batman Movie had potential to be so much better.



Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Boss Baby

By Angie Raphael

3 stars 

Cute and funny, but sometimes annoyingly illogical, The Boss Baby is a decent animation that at least young children will love. Adults might be a little less forgiving of the obvious plot holes, but there is a lovely sentiment at the film's heart about the importance of family and sibling love. Based on Marla Frazee's children's book, The Boss Baby is about seven-year-old Tim (Miles Bakshi), who has a wild imagination and is immediately suspicious of his new baby brother (Alec Baldwin). He soon learns the suit-wearing and briefcase-carrying baby is a spy on an undercover mission. There are some funny moments, including the Baby Corp delivery sequence and the Elvis impersonators on their way to Las Vegas. The film also delves into Tim's imagination in a clever and adorable way. Tim's parents are voiced by Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel, while Tobey Maguire is the narrator. They are all good, but Baldwin steals the film with some great lines. With the Easter school holidays coming up, I am sure there will be a lot of children keen to see this film.



Sunday, 19 March 2017

Loving


By Jackie Raphael

3 stars 

A true story about an interracial couple that changed history, Loving shares the details of how American’s Mildred (Ruth Negga) and Richard (Joel Edgerton) struggled with the legal system and society after getting married in 1958. It is certainly a narrative worth telling, as it shows the racist views held at the time and how this couple broke the barriers because their love was so strong. They are certainly an inspiration, however the film could have done a better job of telling the plot. Loving is too slow-paced and lacks some important details. Edgerton gives an understated performance, playing an awkward and reserved character, yet Negga could have put more into her role to evoke an emotive response from viewers. It is surprising she got an Oscar nomination. Many of the supporting cast also underplayed the pain their characters must have gone through. Nonetheless, this film is still worth seeing, as it celebrates the 50 years since the heroic couple’s plight led to the US Supreme Court’s decision to remove the Virginia law and end the ban of interracial marriages in other states. 


Thursday, 9 March 2017

Kong: Skull Island

By Jackie Raphael

3.5 stars


A new take on an old tale, Kong: Skull Island is a fun action film with some surprisingly poignant messages about humanity. The unique aspect of this version is the other large and strange creatures on the island. All of the animals, but especially Kong, were beautifully crafted using CGI. The sets were also well done with some scenes shot in Australia, Vietnam and Hawaii, showing the gorgeous landscapes. The film tells the story of a group of scientists led by Bill Randa (John Goodman), a team of soldiers under the charge of Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson in a borderline villainous role), an "anti-war" photographer Mason Weaver (the lovely Brie Larson) and British tracker James Conrad (the charming Tom Hiddleston), who go on a mission to explore an uncharted island where they meet Kong, as well as other unexpected life forms. The standout performance was the hilarious John C. Reilly, who plays a man stranded on the island for decades. While this film had many positives, it was let down by far too many lame moments throughout. In particular, a ridiculous scene towards the end. 


Monday, 6 March 2017

Beauty and the Beast

By Angie Raphael

4 stars 

Enchanting and visually stunning, this live action and CGI remake of Disney's 1991 animation is what many fans of Beauty and the Beast were hoping for. To those few uninitiated with the plot, Beauty and the Beast is about independent, free-thinking, bookworm Belle (Emma Watson), who is bored with her mundane life and horrified at the prospect of marrying the self-centred and obnoxious Gaston (Luke Evans in a hilarious performance). One day, Belle's father stumbles upon a castle where he is taken prisoner by the cursed Beast (Dan Stevens), but Belle soon arrives to take his place, and so begins an unlikely romance. 

Director Bill Condon takes his time to flesh out the entire story in more detail, including a sub-plot about the heroine's mother that allows Belle and her father (Kevin Kline) to share some sweet moments. In fact, the film boasts an exceptional cast, including the castle staff such as Lumiere (Ewan McGregor with a sexy French accent), Cogsworth (the reliable Ian McKellen) and Mrs Potts (the always charming Emma Thompson). LeFou (Josh Gad) is also developed to be so much more than Gaston's goofy sidekick, becoming Disney's first gay character. Much has been said in the media about this decision, but it seems to be overblown into a controversy. LeFou is a subtly gay character and that gently shows young children that homosexuality is normal, even if they do not fully understand the significance of what they are seeing, while teenagers and adults can appreciate the social progress being made. The film's biggest problem is its running time of about two hours because younger audiences might struggle to sit still. Nonetheless, at its heart, this whimsical tale portrays one of Disney's strongest and bravest heroines, and that should be celebrated. 


Friday, 3 March 2017

The Coming War On China

By Angie Raphael

4 stars 

This documentary from writer/director John Pilger covers some interesting history and looks ahead at a major political situation developing that everyone should be weary of – especially since the election of US President Donald Trump. The Coming War On China is quite an eye-opener and is sure to generate a lot of debate. The film begins by looking at how the US used innocent people on the Marshall Islands as guinea pigs for nuclear testing, which frankly could have been a heartbreaking documentary entirely of its own. Pilger then shifts to exploring the supposed fear the US government has of China, which has become such a huge economic power, and how America is preparing its military for a seemingly inevitable war in Asia. Go in with an open mind for this documentary because it definitely raises some important questions, but should also not be taken as gospel. The Coming War On China is emotional, at times making its audience feel sad and angry, but also hopeful.



Thursday, 2 March 2017

Jasper Jones

By Angie Raphael

4.5 stars 

Craig Silvey’s award-winning novel delved into some complex themes, so it was always going to be tough to adapt, but the film manages to capture the essence of the dark coming-of-age story while staying relatively true to the book. Set in the fictional West Australian town of Corrigan in the 1960s, the film tells the story of Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller) who wakes up one night to the sound of Jasper Jones (Aaron McGrath) knocking on his bedroom window, pleading for his help after the Aboriginal boy finds a dead girl and is worried about being blamed. There are several twists to the story and some great character development. Miller is compelling to watch, while McGrath is vulnerable and Angourie Rice is also excellent as the victim's sister and Charlie's crush. Meanwhile, Kevin Long provides some much-needed laughs as Charlie's best friend and also has an interesting sub-plot involving racism during the Vietnam War. The children are entirely capable of carrying the film on their own, but they are wonderfully supported by Australian favourites such as Toni Collette and Hugo Weaving, who are also given plenty of substance to work with. Jasper Jones may be an Australian film, but it looks like any bigger budget Hollywood production. See Jasper Jones at the cinema – it is definitely worth your money.



Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Alone In Berlin

By Angie Raphael

2.5 stars 

Director/co-writer Vincent Perez could have provided a unique perspective into life in Germany during World War Two with his adaptation of Hans Fallada’s novel, which is based on a true story. But instead, Alone In Berlin was mostly boring and devoid of tension or suspense. The story is about Otto (Brendan Gleeson) and Anna Quangel (Emma Thompson), who learn their only son has been killed on the battlefield and decide to defy the Nazi regime by leaving anonymous postcards in public places. But as they become more daring with their resistance, Gestapo inspector Escherich (Daniel Bruhl) starts hunting them down. Thompson, Gleeson and Bruhl are so talented but are given little to work with and cannot save this film. Alone In Berlin is not terrible, it is just nothing particularly new or memorable. 


Monday, 27 February 2017

Logan

By Angie Raphael

4 stars

Comic book superheroes have been around for a long time, but arguably none have more perfectly embraced and portrayed individuality and multiculturalism than the X-Men series. While the films have been inconsistent in their success, the character of Wolverine has always been beloved – and is my personal favourite superhero. In Logan, Hugh Jackman portrays the tortured anti-hero for the last time and gives a memorable performance. Logan is set in the future with a weaker and more vulnerable Wolverine and elderly Professor X (Patrick Stewart) living quietly in isolation until one day they meet a mysterious young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), who is on the run and needs their help. Laura is so animalistic and Keen wonderfully complements Jackman with her raw performance.

Director/co-writer James Mangold has made this film brutal and graphic in its violence, which is finally an appropriate depiction of Wolverine's rage and savagery. Logan also has a western feel to it and even references the 1953 classic, Shane, which shares a few similarities in its themes. The film also humorously mentions the comics and it actually ties in well with the plot. Although it is set in the future, Logan does not look particularly futuristic. There are some technological advancements, but not enough. The film is also a little long at more than two hours, but it is gripping enough and emotional. If you have never liked this genre, Logan will not necessarily change your mind. But if you are a fan of Wolverine, you will probably agree Logan is a fitting end to the franchise of films spearheaded by Jackman.


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Patriots Day

Jackie Raphael

3.5 stars


Based on the true events that occurred in April 2013, Patriot's Day tells the story of the bombs that went off during the popular Boston Marathon and the impact it had on the city. Real footage is beautifully edited into the film and there are interviews with the victims at the end, which really adds to the emotional story. However, the film is a little too long and tries too hard in parts. For example, there is a love story for each character to create sympathy from the audience. Nonetheless, Patriots Day was definitely worth making, focusing on the strength of humankind rather than the brutality of terrorism. The casting was great, with some actors matching the appearances of the real-life victims quite well. Mark Wahlberg was particularly strong in his role as a police officer who witnessed the bombing, and Kevin Bacon was great, as always, playing Special Agent Richard DesLauriers. Patriots Day captures a piece of history and shares it with audiences through a positive message of hope and love. 


Monday, 30 January 2017

Manchester By The Sea

By Angie Raphael

4 stars

Witnessing pain and despair in a film can be draining on an audience. But when it is done right, as it is in Manchester By The Sea, that kind of raw emotion can be compelling viewing. Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan has created a family drama about grief without being drearily melodramatic. It is a simple premise, but provides a lot of insight and complex character development. Lee (Casey Affleck) is working as a janitor and handyman when his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies, leaving Lee to plan the funeral and take care of Joe’s 16-year old son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). There is some mystery about why Lee is so despondent, which is slowly revealed in a series of flashbacks. It is not a massive twist but it is a sad one and there is a particularly moving scene between Affleck and Michelle Williams, who plays his ex-wife. Like most of Lonergan's films, Manchester By The Sea is a little too long, but it is such an in-depth journey of personal struggles.


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.