BLACK PANTHER

Director
Ryan Coogler
(CREED, FRUITVALE STATION)

Starring
Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira.

What a long way we’ve come in terms of Superhero movies. Long gone are the days of George Clooney’s rubber nipples in Batman and Robin, or the complete abomination that was Halle Berry’s Catwoman. In the past 12 months we’ve been treated to two very special and incredibly important films; the first of which was Wonder Woman, and now, Black Panther.  The key theme to both of these films is that previously under represented ‘side heroes’ are now equalling (if not eclipsing) their white-male counterparts.  What Wonder Woman did for women in 2017, Black Panther is undoubtedly doing for persons of colour in 2018. The best thing about Black Panther isn’t just that we finally have a strong, uncompromised, black hero that children all over the world will look up to, but that in this film, he was almost entirely supported by other fiercely magnificent black men and women, with everyone from Lupita Nyong’o to Forest Whitaker’s lazy eye.

Related image

In this latest film offering from the Marvel Comics universe, we see the story of T’Challa‘s (Chadwick Boseman; 42 and Marshall) rise as the newest ‘Black Panther’ (first introduced to us in Captain America: Civil War). Following the explosion that killed his father (the previous Black Panther) in Civil War, T’Challa must earn his position on the throne of the fictional nation of Wakanda by defeating any challengers from the five tribes that are privy to the regions power and wealth, a secret hidden from the rest of the world.

Boseman was an inspired choice as the titular hero; his juxtaposition of strength and almost sweet vulnerability was both refreshing and convincing.  The relationship between he and Nyong’o’s character, Nakia, was a nice change of dynamic where there was no ‘masculine savior’ story arc, instead the two were very much equals.  A favourable feature of this film is that even the villain of the piece (played magnificently by Michael B. Jordan…aka Nick Cannon’s beefed up doppelganger) is not over the top (a usual pitfall of any superhero film). He’s a regular guy, driven by a feeling of abandonment and a desire to empower the oppressed, which in itself is a far reach from any motivation we’ve seen from a ‘bad guy’ in the past. The way he seeks to achieve this is what defines him as the villain, but these character layers that are revealed throughout the film, prevent it from being your typical ‘good vs evil’ fare.

Image result for black panther michael b jordan

Whilst the film isn’t perfect in every aspect (the dialogue lacked punch at times), its strengths outweigh any negligible weaknesses. It’s an exciting film not just for the action packed sequences,  cool gadgets or special effects; it’s exciting for what it stands for. It’s a film that raises questions about race, poverty and oppression and it’s not subtle about it either. At its best the movie symbolises a shift in the narrative that we’ve all become conditioned to expect; perhaps best demonstrated when the first character death shown WASN’T a black man *cheers*.   The challenge now for all of Hollywood is to make movies like this with such regularity that these themes aren’t even noticeable.

Black Panther is definitely one of the must see films of 2018. Even if superhero flicks aren’t your cup of tea, some of the visuals along with the above mentioned themes, are enough to make the trip to the cinema worthwhile.


4 stars


Trailer
BLACK PANTHER

FOLLOW MOVIE MAVEN ON TWITTER

 

Advertisements

LADY BIRD

Writer & Director
Greta Gerwig
(NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS)

Stars
Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalfe, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein, Timothée Chalamet, Odeya Rush and Jordan Rodrigues

The solo feature film directional debut of actress Greta Gerwig (FRANCES HA, MISTRESS AMERICA), LADY BIRD made headlines late last year by breaking a record on Rotten Tomatoes to become the best reviewed film of all time, maintaining a perfect score of 100% from 185 reviews. Now at 99% with five Oscar nominations and two Golden Globe wins, including the award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy to its name, LADY BIRD chronicles a fractured relationship between a mother and her daughter

Featuring several young and talented personalities led by American-born, Irish-raised star Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” MacPherson, this coming-of-age comedy-drama is set firmly in the heart of Sacramento, California (the birthplace of Gerwig). First beginning in the year 2002, Lady Bird (as she prefers to be called) is a student at a Catholic high school who has an interest in the field of dramatic arts and auditions for the school’s next performance. It is here she also gains a new interest; fellow pupil, Danny (Lucas Hedges). As Lady Bird continues to grow into the young woman she’s becoming and begins to build a future for herself, the further away she is drifting from meeting the higher standards that her perfectionist mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalfe), expects of her.

The magnificent Saoirse Ronan, who at just twenty-three years of age already boasts an impressive acting resume that has earned her three Oscar Nominations (including a Golden Globe win for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for this film), soars in LADY BIRD. And the film is pretty darn good itself.

Despite having some parallels to her own life, Gerwig has stated that while there is a “core of truth” to this film, none of the events depicted here actually took place in her life. Nevertheless, the sharp wit and piercing honesty that drive the discourse of Greta Gerwig’s Oscar-nominated screenplay are among some of the true highlights of LADY BIRD. There is a fair amount of emphasis on the faults of each character (and there are several of them), yet the goodness extracted from their hearts constantly outweighs their numerous imperfections. This is critical to the overall feeling you will walk away with from watching LADY BIRD. Had the writing and potently defined characterisation not been as studiously precise as they are, then your invited cynicism would likely result in a gross disconnection to the characters and a complete misunderstanding of the film. Adding to the healthy pulse of the film’s humour is its engagingly whimsical tone and some very blunt dialogue. On the flip side, the latter stretches of Lady Bird’s relationship with her mother and Laurie Metcalfe’s excellent Oscar-nominated performance is bound to tug onto a few heart strings. A generally bittersweet film, LADY BIRD beautifully realises the various ways in which people never stop learning and growing.

As director, Greta Gerwig has employed a steady pacing that is deceptively fast-moving, courtesy of its briefly captured scenes paired with the prompt editing work. This is a highly original and rather impressive first shot at directing solo from Gerwig that has not just earned her a well-deserved Academy Award nomination but will keep her audience attentive and entertained. Job well done!

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion
M (Mature themes, coarse language and a sex scene)

Trailer
LADY BIRD

Moviedoc thanks Universal Pictures for the invite to the screening of this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©

 

The Open House

Director/s
Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote

Stars
Dylan Minnette, Piercey Dalton

One thing is certain after watching The Open House; Netflix still has a way to go if it’s to become the behemoth it seems destined to be in terms of film production.

This recent Netflix original offering had all the potential to be something great; an up and coming star, a great story idea and a picturesque setting, but boy did it fail to deliver.

The story revolves around Naomi (Piercey Dalton) and Logan (Dylan Minnette; 13 Reasons Why, Goosebumps), as a mother and her teenage son who, through tragic family circumstance, are forced to move into Naomi’s sisters secluded mountain holiday house. This premise alone creates more questions than answers about the motivations of our lead characters. It’s never fully explained why said tragedy means that Naomi and Logan cannot stay in their home, or why they couldn’t stay with other friends or family closer to home so Logan could finish high school. Instead we’re meant to believe that the best option is to move to the middle of nowhere, into a house that also happens to be on the market.

Anyway, let’s assume for a minute that this decision makes sense; we’re now thrust into the mountains, complete with creepy neighbours that appear from nowhere, and into a house that neither of the characters have ever been to, despite being owned by Naomi’s sister. Nothing weird about that. As mentioned, this house is also on the market and apparently has a recurring ‘open house’ every Sunday that requires Naomi and Logan to vacate the premises for about 8 hours. Seems plausible. Now this is where things should be getting interesting, however the Writer/Directors (relative newcomers Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote) start to play on all the familiar archetypes of this genre of film, but without doing any of it particularly well. Things are being moved around the house by some strange presence, the water heater is always turning off with Naomi in the shower (which apparently renders all of the water in the house immediately freezing), and creepy neighbours are doing their creeping…you get the gist. What starts to become clear is that this film is wasting the time of its actors. Dylan Minnette in particular, is solid throughout, but neither actor has the script to make their performance really meaningful.

There’s laziness to this film which really disappoints. It almost feels like two friends got together over a bottle or 6 of wine, had what they thought was a brilliant idea for a movie, got half way through and realized that no good decisions are made under the influence. The last 20 minutes of the film should have been what redeemed it, but instead it became the final nail in its cheap, pine casket. The ending felt rushed, like when you’re writing an essay in an exam and realize you’ve got 5 minutes left to try and make your point, and only after you’ve left the exam do you remember that you forgot to add the most important part.

The Open House “coulda been a contender”, but instead will be forgotten as an absolute pretender.

1 ½ stars

TRAILER

FIFTY SHADES FREED

Director
James Foley
(FIFTY SHADES DARKER)

Stars
Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan and Eric Johnson

Shot back-to-back in 2016 with the very unappealing FIFTY SHADES DARKER, FIFTY SHADES FREED is the third, final and moderately improved film of the franchise.

Picking up the events from after the finale of its predecessor, Anastasia and Christian wed and are enjoying themselves on their postcard perfect honeymoon in Paris until their idyllic and romantic vacation is abruptly truncated. An incident has occurred at Christian’s office back home in Seattle and there’s reason to believe that Ana’s scornful ex-boss, Jack Hyde is somehow involved and will stop at nothing to destroy their relationship. Meanwhile, the newlyweds go through the trials and tribulations of learning to adjust living together.

Image result for FIFTY SHADES FREED ANASTASIA AND CHRISTIAN IN PARIS MOVIE STILLS

What have we learnt to this point after watching just over four hours of FIFTY SHADES?
That it’s just like watching an R-rated (or MA15+ here in Australia) version of a daytime TV soap opera. Most of its issues and concerns are trivial and of little care. It’s often cheesy and lame. And if you’re able to view this latest film just that way, then the next 105 minutes (the shortest of the three movies) isn’t so hard to mind and is certainly easier to sit through than FIFTY SHADES DARKER.

FIFTY SHADES FREED might be more endurable, but that still doesn’t mean it’s a good film. The plot line has become increasingly mundane over time and that well and truly takes over almost all proceedings here. I mean who really cares that Christian cracks it because Ana hasn’t yet changed her surname on her work emails? Or that Ana isn’t obeying orders to head straight home from work while Christian is away. You go girl! As for its villain plot and thrilling climax, they don’t get lamer or more roughly executed than this. Speaking of rough, let’s move across to the bedroom now! Or should I say the playroom? It must be said that FIFTY SHADES is a bit of a one-minute wonder in this department. Some curiously striking psychological themes that could be grasped from the original film have been put to bed and left under the covers. The sexual component of Ana and Christian’s relationship, which is an utterly important aspect for the couple, does possess its fair share of flair and dare. However, the directing and editing chooses to remain far too conventional and polite considering the sexual origin and emphasis of this story.

Thankfully though, this franchise stars Dakota Johnson, who has a certain manner that makes Anastasia such an easily accessible character that requires zero effort to like. For those of you that care to find something of value to take away from the entire franchise, it has a fair point to state regarding the listening, understanding and the compromises that need to be done for relationships to stand the test of time. This is no dismissive example that when the love is real, it can conquer just about any challenge.

2 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion
MA15+ (Strong sex scenes)

Trailer
FIFTY SHADES FREED

Now that the FIFTY SHADES trilogy is over, grab yourself a copy of the underrated 2009 film SPREAD, starring Ashton Kutcher and Anne Heche! Recommended 3 ½ stars viewing by Moviedoc!

Moviedoc thanks Universal Pictures for the invite to the screening of this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©

 

THE WOUND (INXEBA)

Director
John Trengove
(HOPEVILLE)

Stars
Nakhane Tourè, Niza Jay Ncoyini and Bongile Mantsai

The most internationally awarded film in South African history has been subject to plenty of controversy in the lead up to its cinematic release. Several screenings of THE WOUND have been forcibly cancelled in its homeland, due to threats of violence and damage to property. So what’s the cause for its controversy? 

In a double-whammy for protesters of this film, THE WOUND is exhibiting to the world the very private and traditional Xhosa initiation into manhood as it deals with the theme of sexuality led by gay male characters. 

Celebrated singer, songwriter and novelist, Nakhane Touré, makes his screen acting debut as Xolani, a factory worker living in Queenstown who is sent to the rural Eastern Cape to be the caregiver for a new initiate named Kwanda (Niza Jay Ncoyini). The initiate’s father has a private word with Xolani, requesting him to be tough on his son, who he feels is becoming a softie due to the gentle treatment given by his mother. Throughout the course of the lengthy initiation process, Xolani struggles to mask his sexual identity from his observant initiate.

 Almost the entire hour and a half duration of THE WOUND is set throughout the several phases that consist of this traditional induction into manhood. As such and as very much intended, viewers will feel equally uncomfortable, fascinated and disturbed by the honest insights that have been bravely derived from the screenplay. Most of this footage is filmed with the use of handheld and effectively-controlled cinematography that truly captures a feeling of isolation within its confines its lead characters undoubtedly feel. What is also equally effective are the genuine performances from the main members of the cast, most of whom are first-time actors that had direct experiences of this initiation!

This incredibly courageous film not only accumulated a record-breaking nineteen award wins from worldwide film festivals it screened at, it was also shortlisted as one of nine films to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2018 Academy Awards. Though it was cut from the final list of nominees, THE WOUND has loudly, clearly and successfully utilised the power of cinema by giving a triumphant voice to a minority who are not only silenced but completely denounced. Until now.

4 stars 

See THE WOUND if you liked MOONLIGHT

Viewer Discretion
MA15+ (Strong themes and sex scenes)

Trailer
THE WOUND (INXEBA)

Moviedoc thanks In Character/Off Topic Entertainment for the invite to the screening of this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©

SWEET COUNTRY

Director
Warwick Thornton
(SAMSON AND DELILAH)

Stars
Ewen Leslie, Sam Neill, Hamilton Morris, Bryan Brown, Matt Day, Gibson John, Tremayne Doolan, Trevon Doolan, Natassia Gorey-Furber and Thomas M. Wright

This acclaimed Australian film from director Warwick Thornton, a Camera d’Or Award Winner at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival for his debut feature film SAMSON AND DELILAH, has and continues to gain strong recognition at home and abroad. Its most significant award wins from late last year include the Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Film, the Platform Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival and it was also the Special Jury Prize Winner at the Venice Film Festival.

Inspired by a true story that was told to Thornton by the grandfather of co-writer David Tranter, SWEET COUNTRY is filmed and set in the Australian outback during the 1920s. Local landowner and Christian preacher, Fred Smith (Sam Neill) lends his indigenous farmhand, Sam (Hamilton Morris) to ex-war veteran and cattle station owner, Harry March (Ewen Leslie), for a couple of days to help him finish works on his land. As Harry’s behaviour turns increasingly threatening and soon becomes violent towards his helper, Sam fatally wounds his aggressor in an act of self-defence. Knowing all too well that he is in major trouble for killing a white man, Sam and his wife Lizzie (Natassia Gorey-Furber) go on the run. Seeking justice for the death of Harry is Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown), who scours the dry and dangerous landscape in scorching conditions in pursuit of the wanted man.

Lo and behold, what we have here in SWEET COUNTRY is a masterful work of striking authenticity and raw storytelling. Our country has home-grown a healthy number of films that boast these characteristics, but rarely at the consistently high standard so prevalent in this ‘meat-pie’ Western.

Filmed in the Macdonnell Ranges near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, director and cinematographer Warwick Thornton stunningly photographs the breathtaking locations, making them just as prominent as the films’ characters. Of particular note, the entire sequence that depicts Sergeant Fletcher‘s pursuit of the wanted man is abundant with images beautiful enough to hang on your lounge-room wall. As far as cinematic productions go, they don’t get much better than SWEET COUNTRY. This exceptional work of dramatic art is one that all Australians can and ought to take pride in, even though its story isn’t one anyone can be proud to tell.

Moving across now to its narrative, viewers should be aware that SWEET COUNTRY is told at a relatively gradual pace and features a high number of more drawn-out scenes. Once accustomed to its slower tempo and as major incidents occur, an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the fine storytelling and top-notch quality of movie-making on display sets in and stays. A highly commendable attribute of the writing involves the multi-dimensional characterisation of the film, which removes all instant labelling away from its protagonists and antagonists. At the same time, the themes of this movie are never sacrificed or lost, proving SWEET COUNTRY to be an all-round stand-out motion picture our country has produced in recent years.

4 ½ stars

Sweet Country

Viewer Discretion
MA15+ (Strong violence)

Trailer
SWEET COUNTRY

Moviedoc thanks Transmission Films for the invite to the screening of this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©

 

THE POST

Director
Steven Spielberg

(THE BFG, LINCOLN, JURASSIC PARK)

Stars
Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Matthew Rhys and Bruce Greenwood

If the engrossing biographical story being chronicled in Steven Spielberg’s THE POST isn’t enough to warrant your purchase of a ticket to this film, then the pairing of Hollywood greats Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, together for the first time in a feature film, is guaranteed to broaden its appeal should it be needed. They certainly do not let down.

Written for the screen by SPOTLIGHT writer Josh Singer, this political drama is a true account of the race against time faced by The Washington Post to expose a governmental cover-up that lasted for three decades and spanned four U.S. Presidents. As the newspaper’s first female publisher, Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) is thrust into a compromising position when secret documents pertaining to the cover-up are handed into her office. With rapid competition coming from The New York Times, Kay and her hard-working editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) must make several agonising decisions that place the careers of its employees on the line and will ultimately make or break Kay’s newspaper business.

THE POST
Before THE POST begins its examination of the pages that reveal the shocking government secrets, there is plenty of background the script wishes to cover that details the current position of the newspaper and its main shot-callers. Though it is necessary to have this understanding prior to the big news story being outed, the narrative is overloaded with dialogue (and not all of it is of a need-to-know basis) and results in the film becoming quite weighty and tougher to fully absorb. Appreciation for the film is not lost throughout this first half and once the central plot, along with the lead performances from Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks become the focus herein, THE POST is immediately more engrossing to watch.

This is Steven Spielberg’s fifth feature film with Tom Hanks and first with Meryl Streep. Personally, I had hoped for more from this promising film collaboration and storyline. The experienced director isn’t able to iron out some of the clunky creases in the film’s script. Nonetheless, THE POST is not to be missed by ardent fans of the genre and/or by those who possess a strong interest in this topic.

3 ½ stars

ThePost_Pic#06
Viewer Discretion
(Coarse language)

Trailer
THE POST

Moviedoc thanks entertainment One for the invite to the screening of this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©