Month: October 2016

HELL OR HIGH WATER

102 minutes, Crime Drama

The phrase “come hell or high water” typically means “do whatever needs to be done, no matter the circumstances”. When referring that phrase to this film, a double-meaning unfolds. There is a “hell or high water” clause that usually applies to a leasing contract which stipulates that payments to a payee must continue, no matter any difficulties the payer may encounter.

This absorbing and gritty drama is written by Taylor Sheridan, writer of last year’s excellent crime thriller SICARIO and stars Ben Foster, Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges. Tanner (Foster) and Toby (Pine) are brothers and criminals, committing armed robberies out of sheer desperation in order to make enough cash for a debt to be paid off. Hot on their trail is Marcus Hamilton (Bridges), an intuitive and experienced, though lonely Texas Ranger who is close to retirement.

 


HELL OR HIGH WATER (originally titled Comancheria) effectively combines its setting and several sub-plots derived from its key storyline that builds strongly, albeit gradually. Shot in New Mexico posing as Texas, some of the themes extracted from the central characters and the trajectory of the script are rather subtle in tone yet rich in substance. Further establishing the tone of the film is its soundtrack, which features several songs by Australian musician & singer-songwriter Nick Cave, complimenting the steady pacing and atmosphere. HELL OR HIGH WATER is arguably at its best when building towards and staging a tense climax, and when the acting is of high quality. Chris Pine is good, Ben Foster is great and this is close to the best we’ve seen from Jeff Bridges since 2010’s TRUE GRIT. Recommended.

4 out of 5 

HELL OR HIGH WATER

Viewer Discretion 
MA 15+ – Strong Violence

Moviedoc wishes to thank Sophie from Madman, Madman and the Cinema NOVA for the invitation to the media screening of HELL OR HIGH WATER. 

Review by Moviedoc 
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JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK

118 minutes, Action/Thriller 

When weighing up the physical capabilities and the charisma of Jack Reacher (played by Tom Cruise) against similar types of characters in other action films, such as Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne or Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills in TAKEN, Jack Reacher falls just as short as the man playing him. When assessing the output of JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK and comparing it to the quality of other action film sequels, it suffers the same movie sequel syndrome as the TAKEN franchise. In NEVER GO BACK, Jack Reacher is on the run from authorities as he attempts to uncover the truth behind a government secret with the assistance of Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders). Meanwhile, a personal secret from Jack Reacher’s past threatens to collide with his mission.


There’s rarely a moment of excitement and zero originality in this very stale sequel, that’s not exactly a direct sequel either. The plot for NEVER GO BACK is extracted from author Lee Child’s eighteenth book in the series while the first JACK REACHER movie is the source of the ninth novel. Fans of that first film will be disappointed by the hackneyed effort of the plot trajectory, some thoughtless inconsistencies and the absence of thrills in a very standard exercise in action filmmaking. The lack of star power on board to support Tom Cruise is also evident, whose trusty yet tiring shoulders are given a bigger work out than what they can sometimes handle, despite the best efforts of a passable lead female performance from “How I Met Your Mother” star Cobie Smulders. JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK isn’t a bad movie by any means, but rather a less than memorable, moderately entertaining and very mediocre one.

2 out of 5 

JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK

Viewer Discretion 
M – Violence 

Moviedoc Melbourne wishes to thank Paramount Pictures and Village Cinemas Jam Factory for the invitation to the Melbourne Preview Screening of JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK. 

Review by Moviedoc 
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THE NEON DEMON

118 minutes, Drama/Horror

Welcome to the ugly side of beauty.
To a film you will either intensely dislike or undoubtedly love. 
A film that is director Nicolas Winding Refn’s second in a row to receive both booing and a standing ovation following its premier at the Cannes Film Festival. 
One guarantee can be made – see it, and you will never forget. 

Welcome to THE NEON DEMON, a provocative, unashamedly superficial and sickly twisted tale about a group of young women who will stop at nothing to achieve their dreams. Shot in chronological order with an ending improvised on set, THE NEON DEMON begins with 16 year-old Jesse (Elle Fanning), a naive and shy girl who moves to Los Angeles all on her own in an attempt to begin a modelling career. As she slowly gains work and fame in this ultra-competitive world, fellow competing models Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Australia’s Abbey Lee) find themselves becoming equally curious by and envious of Jesse and her natural beauty.

 

The Neon Demon Poster


Right from the opening frame, as Jesse takes her very first steps onto a catwalk filled with derange and danger, a couple of observations are instantly made. One, Jesse’s personality does not belong in this industry, though her appearance and adaptable style certainly do. Two, from a cinematic perspective, you are experiencing a masterpiece. Noted for his stunning use of colour, our colour-blind film director has produced a transfixing, hypnotic and edgy drama/horror that is visually stunning and sensationally scored. This work of high art doesn’t just possess good-looks though, making its inside count too.

The narrative works as a two-fold, with Jesse’s journey and her gradual transition being fascinating, yet ominous, to watch. Then there is the darkly humourous and often ridiculing treatment of the beauty industry which form a winning combo of wicked entertainment. Though THE NEON DEMON’S scripting won’t seduce as many viewers as it will from a sensory standing, the utterly brave and universally outstanding showcase of acting from Elle Fanning is indisputable. This is one of the standout performances of 2016. 

Therefore, it is somewhat of a shame that only two thirds of the film (roughly) has been scripted! Once the scripted section of the film has seemingly concluded, THE NEON DEMON loses a fair amount of its stranglehold so potently cast. The audience are whisked away towards a decidedly arty psychological horror finale that is seriously f***ed up! This extraordinary film tends to feel as though it’s deviating from its earlier originality in some aspects and it does leave you to guess some of its more abstract elements. While watching, you may feel left in limbo for too long. However, if you’ve come this far and loved what you’ve been experiencing the past couple of hours, I assure you of this – you may leave THE NEON DEMON behind as you exit the cinema, but THE NEON DEMON will be staying right with you. 

4.5 out of 5

THE NEON DEMON

Viewer Discretion
R18+ High Impact Sexual Themes
THE NEON DEMON contains disturbing violent content, bloody images, language, graphic nudity and a scene of aberrant sexuality. 

Moviedoc wishes to thank Sophie from Madman, Madman and Cinema NOVA for the invitation to the screening of THE NEON DEMON. 

Review by Moviedoc 
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CAFE SOCIETY

96 minutes, Romantic Comedy/Drama

There is an air of sadness over the production of Woody Allen’s newest movie CAFE SOCIETY, with the knowledge that his co-executive producer of over 45 years, Jack Rollins passed away last year, at age 100. Woody writes, directs and narrates a light-hearted affair set in Hollywood during the 1930’s. Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) moves from his family home in New York to work for his Uncle Phil (Steve Carell, replacing a fired Bruce Willis), a popular talent agent dealing with some of the biggest film stars of that time. It is here that Bobby falls in love his Uncle’s assistant, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart).

 

Café Society Poster


As those who are fond of Woody Allen movies will know, it is all about his philosophical narrative and layered characterisation work that form several plot points which are often executed with sophistication and meaning. A rewarding movie experience is guaranteed for those who appreciate film with extra psychological depth. While these elements are all dining in at CAFE SOCIETY, they will be found under the sides section of the menu only. The main course on offer here is purely entertaining fun to be derived from a screenplay that affectionately and playfully re-creates a bygone era in Hollywood & seamlessly integrating a fictional first-love story. As a result, CAFE SOCIETY is insignificant by Woody Allen’s lofty standards, yet perfectly fine at being perfectly good. In the first role in which she has had to audition for since TWILIGHT, Kristen Stewart is miscast and never really emotes what her character needed in order to really convince and engage. Woody himself doesn’t exactly help, providing the film with unnecessary narration throughout. During the latter stages of the film, an ever-improving Blake Lively makes a…. lively, yet all too brief appearance, giving CAFE SOCIETY a spark it was in need of. Once the credits have rolled on by, you’re left pondering just why and how on Earth she wasn’t cast in Stewart’s role to begin with. 

3 out of 5

CAFE SOCIETY

Viewer Discretion
M – Mature Themes and Violence 

Moviedoc wishes to thank Claire from Entertainment One, Entertainment One and The Backlot Studios for the invitation to the Screening of CAFE SOCIETY.

Review by Moviedoc 
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THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

112 minutes, Mystery Drama/Thriller

By now, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN will have generated plenty of anticipation pending its release for more than likely one of two reasons, if not both. It looks so fine, is one. Two, it is based on “the thriller that shocked the world” which debuted at number one on The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2015 list where it remained in top spot for 15 weeks in total, selling over 3 million copies in the U.S. alone. A relocation from London in the novel to New York on the screen, that girl on the train is Rachel (Emily Blunt), a divorcee who is struggling to cope with her failed marriage to Tom (Justin Theroux), who has well and truly moved on, now married with a baby to Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). As Rachel makes her daily commute to work, she passes a home where an attractive young couple live an idyllic-looking lifestyle. When the young lady of that relationship, Megan (Haley Bennett) disappears, Rachel finds herself becoming involved in the missing person’s case led by Detective Riley (Allison Janney).

The Girl on the Train Poster

Expectations are bound to be high for THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, and fairly so for the book has been referred to as “the next GONE GIRL”. Perhaps it lives on that way in the book, for the film can be likened to a feeling of completing a trip on the world’s fastest train that never hits the speed it’s capable of.

As it opens, a multi-character psychological mystery establishes itself quite effortlessly. Directed by Tate Taylor (THE HELP, GET ON UP) these stories are told by jumping back and forth in time as the channel is switched from one main character to the next. Throughout its set-up and first half, the film is intriguing, but rarely to the same high degree as Emily Blunt’s superb performance. The overall tone of the film is rather mellow, especially when considering its more gripping content. It’s no spoiler or surprise to reveal that a twist to the tale is on the way, it’s just a matter of what twist and when (which of course I won’t reveal!). From the moment this game-changing revelation is made, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN instantaneously becomes the most compelling it’s been yet. All of a sudden, there is hope that this mystery drama may just sneak its way to becoming 2016’s GONE GIRL or reaching for the brilliance achieved in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. As it turns out and true to earlier form, any such signs are fleeting only.

For a film based on a book that “shocked the world”, the story has little left to offer that actually registers a shock or satisfies to the extent required once its secret is out. Disappointingly, once it is over, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN settles itself into the same category as another release from last year – SECRET IN THEIR EYES, which also featured so many strong elements that promised so much more than what is actually delivered. 

3 out of 5

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

Viewer Discretion
MA15+ – Strong Themes and Violence 
Some viewers may wish to know that there is coarse language, sexual content and nudity in this film. Perhaps not to a strong enough extent to register a mention on the MA classification handed, but is there. 

Moviedoc wishes to thank Claire from Entertainment One, Entertainment One and Hoyts Melbourne Central for the invitation to the Media Screening of THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

Review by Moviedoc 
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ZERO DAYS

116 minutes, Documentary 

At first glance at the content covered in ZERO DAYS – a dangerous computer virus given the name Stuxnet that was seemingly developed as a governmental attack on an Iranian nuclear facility – it is content that may appear inconsequential to many of us. What ostensibly begins as a film merely documenting a malicious computer superbug emphatically ends as one powerful cautionary tale. A tale that is alarmingly realistic, educating while it applies all the relevance required to our everyday lives of a global imminent threat much closer to home than many are bound to be aware. How so? If you commute anywhere via public transport, stop at a red light or go at a green light in your mode of transportation, use some form of household appliance and/or technology, then the content studied and discoursed in ZERO DAYS has absolutely everything to do with you and your loved ones.

 

Zero Days Poster


Writer/Director Alex Gibney (GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF) consistently presents his documentary feature films with a strong sense of clarity and purpose that is empowering to watch. ZERO DAYS, even though utterly technologically complex, is no exception. A wholly measured and well-reasoned account, ZERO DAYS opens by delving into Stuxnet’s discovery, purpose and unofficial yet undeniably obvious manufacturers. Next, Gibney takes his audience into a different direction, highlighting some important political standings several years earlier which might seem off-track at the time, but this connection very shortly becomes clear. From here, an extremely eye-opening case of both technological and political concern is dissected using fact-based material and several knowledgeable interviewees. One of which remains anonymous and worked as closely as anyone on the creation and deployment of Stuxnet! As is always the case in Gibney’s works, there are no taking sides or open activism. Actions speak louder than words and it is the actions taken that do all the talking in this excellent film that isn’t just a documentary, ZERO DAYS is an awakening. Like the recent CITIZENFOUR (the Edward Snowden documentary), this is simply a must watch.

4 out of 5

Zero Days screens alongside three other films as part of the Lies and Secrets program commencing 13th of October at ACMI cinemas, Melbourne. See more info here – Secrets and Lies Program at ACMI Cinema

Viewer Discretion 
M – Coarse Language
Moviedoc wishes to thank Madman Cinema, Frances from Asha Holmes Publicity, Sophie from Madman and ACMI Cinemas for the invite to the Media Screening of ZERO DAYS.
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DEEPWATER HORIZON

107 minutes, Drama/Action

On the night of April 20, 2010, the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history occurred, taking the lives of 11 workers and injuring 17 others. The Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig, located about 40 miles (60km) of the Louisiana Coast, exploded and subsequently caused a massive fire. It further led to what is considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the world. This retelling of the dramatic events which unfolded, directed by Peter Berg (LONE SURVIVOR, HANCOCK), stars Mark Wahlberg as Chief Electronics Technician Mike Williams, leaving his family home (Wife, played by Kate Hudson and daughter Sydney, Stella Allen) for a few weeks stint on the rig. Also making up another of the 126 crew stationed on Deepwater Horizon is Installation Manager Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) and other crew members Caleb (Dylan O’Brien), Andrea (Gina Rodriguez) and Jason (Ethan Suplee), among others.

 

Deepwater Horizon Poster


Thankfully, DEEPWATER HORIZON is deserving of the merit currently circulating early into its release. A fine job has been accomplished in paying respects to most who were affected by and to all who were a casualty of this horrifying ordeal. I’ll elaborate on that most comment shortly!

Other than staying more true to the real-life events than expected, DEEPWATER HORIZON is to be credited for doing enough in the characterisation and comradeship departments, keeping the horrible experience for its characters (and in honour for its real-life victims) an involving one, as it ought to be. Especially during the latter stages of the film. The fast pacing also works favourably in this respect, although the editing often overlaps dialogue spoken by different characters and along with heavy background sounds, makes this films narrative difficult to understand throughout.

Perhaps one fact behind DEEPWATER HORIZON that surprises is the disaster sequence which is reportedly not so exaggerated (as we’ve come to expect from Hollywood!). A massive $156 million budget which partly went towards building the largest set-piece ever made sets the scene for a disaster sequence that is very powerfully staged. Now, where human error and tragedy has occurred, we all know that someone will subsequently take the fall. While there are certainly people and organisations responsible for the fatal incident that took place, this movie’s script (based on an article published in The New York Times), is overly concerned by the unnecessary need to create a villain in opposition to the hero of this story. A villain that isn’t truthful to this real-life tragedy either. That’s the only real disappointment in DEEPWATER HORIZON, especially considering that a reasonably compelling (and factual) storyline involving the leasing of the rig to BP by owner Transocean, and what actions really led to the disaster, is submerged by this.

3 out of 5

DEEPWATER HORIZON

Viewer Discretion 
M – Mature Themes and Coarse Language
Please also be advised that DEEPWATER HORIZON features disturbing images related to the tragedy and the disaster sequence is prolonged, so may distress some viewers.

Moviedoc wishes to thank Alex from Roadshow Films, Roadshow Films and Village Cinemas Jam Factory for the invitation to the Preview Screening of DEEPWATER HORIZON. 

Review by Moviedoc 
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