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.