Month: November 2016

THE FOUNDER

115 minutes, Biography Drama

It may very well be the one thing in life we all have in common. That is, we’ve all tried an item off the McDonalds menu at least one time in our lives. There is a reassurance and a comfort that comes with the familiarity of being served a McDonalds meal, no matter where in the world you may be. The opportunity to fulfil curiosity and to learn exactly where and how the ever-popular fast food chain’s story first began is comfortably and satisfyingly rendered in John Lee Hancock’s (THE BLIND SIDE, SAVINGS MR BANKS) THE FOUNDER.

In a role that was turned down by Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton (who coincidentally turned down Hanks’s Oscar-winning role in PHILADELPHIA!) truly anchors this real-life story with a creative and masterful portrayal of Ray Croc; a man with a car, a supportive yet neglected wife (played by Laura Dern) and a milkshake maker, which he spends all of his time trying to sell. A phone call from a prospective buyer who wishes to purchase several of these milkshake makers for his busy shop turns out to be the unexpected business opportunity that Ray has been seeking.

 


It will be interesting to learn by just how much McDonalds’ sales will spike with the release of THE FOUNDER! I admit it – I fittingly bought a cheeseburger for the first time in a long time right after watching this informative and insightful true story! This screenplay is of far too high public interest to ever become dusty sitting on the shelves of the 2014 Blacklist; “most liked” unmade scripts, where it was plucked from.

In fact, what the screenplay written by Robert D. Siegel (best known for writing 2008’s THE WRESTLER) conveys to its audience so transparently is what gives Ray the drive and determination he possesses to score the success that this ever-popular fast-food chain has undoubtedly now long-achieved. This is the story of how one man recognised and seized upon an opportunity that promised so much more than what was being delivered, letting nothing get in his way and with little regard for whatever the cost for success may be. In all honesty, Ray Croc is very much both the hero and the villain of this story. That is what fascinates most in THE FOUNDER.

3 out of 5

Trailer
THE FOUNDER

Viewer Discretion
M – Coarse Language 

Moviedoc wishes to thank Jesse from Roadshow Films and Roadshow Films for the in-season pass to view & review THE FOUNDER.

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BAD SANTA 2

92 minutes, Comedy

On paper, the stats don’t look good for BAD SANTA 2. Rewind back 13 years to the first film which had reputable names attached to it including Joel & Ethan Coen (TRUE GRIT, THE BIG LEBOWSKI), Harvey & Bob Weinstein (PULP FICTION), Glenn Ficarra & John Requa (FOCUS) and GHOSTWORLD director Terry Zwigoff. All of whom have no contribution to this sequel. Gilmore Girls star Lauren Graham could not reprise her role due to the show’s revival commitments either. Furthermore, the BAD SANTA 2 premise is exactly the same, except we substitute department stores for a Christmas Eve charity event as the targeted location for a theft that Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and Marcus (Tony Cox) have planned. The only significant alteration in proceedings sits solely with the unexpected appearance of Willie’s Mum, Sunny (Kathy Bates).

On paper, there is no denying that the 2003 original is a better movie. Simply for having a more devised plot and decidedly risqué writing. 2016, for some unasked-for reason, has been the year for long-distanced sequels/remakes/prequels (BLAIR WITCH, BRIDGET JONES’S BABY, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE ,MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 and GHOSTBUSTERS). Almost all will fall among the year’s worst films (Not you Bridget or Dory, you’re safe!). BAD SANTA 2 isn’t quite as poor as most of those aforementioned films, as it lazily re-formats and repeats most of what worked well for it 13 years ago.

Despite the original being better on paper, BAD SANTA 2 isn’t completely without its moments of joy. Having personally found the 2003 film overrated, boring and pretty unfunny, it must be said that this sequel is far less annoying to watch and its characters are slightly more tolerable. Without a doubt, the presence of Kathy Bates and the grotesque character she plays sharpens this blunt sequel in almost every scene she is in. So whilst BAD SANTA 2 arguably never had much to improve on, it’s certainly an easier one to dismissively enjoy.

2 out of 5 

Trailer 
BAD SANTA 2

Viewer Discretion
MA15+ – Strong crude sexual humour, sex scenes and coarse language
Viewers should also be warned that BAD SANTA 2 also contains some graphic nudity which is not mentioned in the film classification. 

Moviedoc wishes to thank Sophie from Madman, Madman Cinema and Village Cinemas Southland for the invitation to the screening of BAD SANTA 2. 

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THE FENCER/MIEKKAILIJA

99 minutes, Estonian/Armenian/Russian True Story Drama with English Subtitles

Set shortly after World War II, this is the true story of Endel Nelis (Märt Avandi), a professional fencer who is fleeing from the Russian secret police. Relocating to his country of origin – Estonia, he keeps a low profile working as a physical education teacher at a local school. But after some time, Endel is faced with a difficult decision as his past catches up with him.

The circumstances that motivated Endel’s escape remain in the background throughout the first half of THE FENCER. In actual fact, a large part of the plot is more focused on tracing Endel’s adaptation to his new lifestyle and in particular, to his teaching duties. Some aspects of his daily life matter less than others. His love interest involving a fellow colleague is hardly developed enough for it to have the eventual impact intended and never feels essential to the core of this story. With little screen time attributed, it also lacks the subtlety needed. Rather, it is this teacher’s interactions with his pupils and the actions of a disapproving school Principal that are the key in keeping THE FENCER an absorbing film all throughout. A couple of performances from the child actors playing these pupils really stand out too. Especially that from Liisa Koppel as Marta, a very observant and rather outspoken young girl. 

Filmed entirely in Estonia, this Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Language Film never portrays or travels far into the more upsetting themes that the synopsis may suggest it goes. It’s a little like THE BOOK THIEF in this aspect. Only a moderate degree of tension is mounted throughout some of the last half as Endel’s past sporadically becomes the foreground of the picture. By the end, THE FENCER isn’t a necessarily a movie destined to evoke intense feelings or emotions, but rather a film to view and appreciate for its lead character and his true story.

3 out of 5 

Trailer 
THE FENCER

Viewer Discretion
PG – Mild Themes 

Moviedoc wishes to thank Paige from Palace Films and Palace Films for the advanced screening pass to view & review THE FENCER.

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I, DANIEL BLAKE

100 minutes, Drama 

The famous proverb “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes” is honestly and realistically exemplified in this new film from director Ken Loach, recipient of a 15 minute standing ovation at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. This Palme d’Or winner is shot and set at Newcastle upon Tyne in Northern England and chronicles the aftermath of a workplace incident sustained by Daniel Blake (Dave Johns, in his feature film debut), a 59 year-old carpenter. Deemed medically unfit to work for an indefinite amount of time and struggling to keep up with ongoing finances, Daniel is forced to turn to welfare support for the first time in his life. Finding very little help, he meets a young single Mother during his application process, who is in a similar predicament.


Frequent collaborators Ken Loach and screenplay writer Paul Laverty have worked on thirteen films prior to I, DANIEL BLAKE including THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY and JIMMY’S HALL. This may very well be their most successful and best contribution together yet. As perfectly intended, this is one of those films that is so genuine and true to life, you forget you’re watching a scripted movie. So true to life it is, you’ll be well aware that in reality, the only made-up part of I, DANIEL BLAKE are the characters on screen. There are quite a number of individual issues that are raised throughout the plot which will strike a chord with viewers. The researched insight afforded to these specifics and the carefully selected minor details highlight the conviction of the writing and also gorgeously extract some bittersweet humour from the scenarios depicted.

Shot in chronological order, this is an accurately studied account which chronicles the lead up to a growing crisis that most metropolitan people observe on a daily basis, and of just what can become of a person when they’re driven by desperation and pushed to breaking point. This is a truly involving and utterly valuable film. Highly recommended.

4 out of 5

Trailer
I, DANIEL BLAKE

Viewer Discretion
MA 15+ – Strong Coarse Language

Moviedoc wishes to thank Transmission Films for the in-season pass to view & review I, DANIEL BLAKE.

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FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

133 minutes, Fantasy/Adventure 

For the lesser minority who may not already know, FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM is no prequel, nor is it a sequel to the ever-popular Harry Potter franchise. Although keen Potter aficionados will testify that Harry did possess a textbook titled as such, this spin-off film follows the adventures of the author of this text book, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who has traveled from London to New York in 1926. Written, of course, by the same author – J.K. Rowling, the events within FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM takes place seventy years prior to those from the Potter Universe and marks her first foray into screenplay writing. Something which she will be doing for all of the five movies planned for the franchise!

Directed by David Yates, filmmaker behind the last four Harry Potter films, it’s almost impossible to imagine that any genuine fan of this genre, and in particular of the Harry Potter films, could leave the cinema in any way unsatisfied by what they’ll be seeing throughout FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM. This is a truly entertaining and visually captivating fantasy fable that boasts a plot which summons an opportunity for endless visual creativity, in which it flourishes, and features several first-class filmmaking attributes.

Completely filmed in the United Kingdom, the production design, visual effects and special effects combined succeed brilliantly in transporting the audience to this world of wonder. The cause for much of the enchantment being experienced is also arguably the most outstanding quality of FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM – the creation, design and execution of this magical world and its inhabitants. While these aspects of the film could very well leave you in awe, the storyline trajectory won’t be wowing as many people. Nor will Eddie Redmayne’s occasional mumbling of his lines, but that isn’t how you’re going to be remembering your FANTASTIC BEASTS experience. And it shouldn’t be, for this fantasy/adventure movie which is guaranteed to entertain its all-ages audience, is positively deserving of your ticket purchase at as large a cinema screen as you can find!

3.5 out of 5 

Trailer
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Viewer Discretion
M – Fantasy Themes and Violence 

Moviedoc wishes to thank Jesse from Roadshow Films, Roadshow Films and Hoyts Chadstone for the invitation to the Australian Premiere of FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM.

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ARRIVAL

116 minutes, Science Fiction/Drama 

The mostly tired and often repetitive alien-invasion genre experiences an invasion of its own in ARRIVAL. An invasion of originality and innovation, rarely seen in this variety of film, from sublime filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, who directed one of last year’s best in SICARIO as well as PRISONERS and INCENDIES. Amy Adams (in her second feature film to be released the same day, along with NOCTURNAL ANIMALS) plays Dr Louise Banks, an expert linguist who is hired by the American military for a dangerous mission to attempt to communicate with the extra-terrestrial forces that have landed their spacecraft across several locations throughout the world.


ARRIVAL, unlike so many others before it, does not solely rely on a formulaic us-against-them plot trajectory, nor is it filled with mindless fighting sequences. Rather, this is a great movie that envelops its audience with unfailing mystery thanks to being so intricately conceived and studiously written. Based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, there is no shortage of suspense as Dr Banks and the military try to interact with these alien species in order to understand what their intentions might be. The gradual and fairly restrained approach adopted in ARRIVAL builds anticipation levels that are about to be surpassed as further progress into the story is made. The territory in which this intelligent sci-fi treads to is enough for it to be considered an esteemed, fine piece of work on its own, yet isn’t limited to. The creature & visual effects are
quite visionary and raise the heights of tension throughout. Jóhann Jóhannsson’s music score is as strongly put together as Villeneuve’s directing work is, who’s currently filming the new Blade Runner project. ARRIVAL, like fellow excellent films of a similar breed – 2010’s MONSTERS and 2005’s WAR OF THE WORLDS, succeeds greatly in its creative depiction of a departure from a familiar scenario.

4 out of 5 

Trailer 
ARRIVAL

Viewer Discretion
M – Mature Themes and Coarse Language

Moviedoc wishes to thank Jesse from Roadshow Films and Roadshow Films for the in-season pass to view & review ARRIVAL.

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NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

117 minutes, Mystery Drama/Thriller

This story is taken from the 1993 novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright, which didn’t become popular until its UK publication in 2010. As fashion designer and writer/director Tom Ford so beautifully illustrated in his 2009 debut feature A SINGLE MAN, creating a work of arresting and artistic visual beauty is evidently second nature to him and again so finely demonstrated in just his second feature film, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS. Amy Adams stars as Susan, an art gallery owner that receives a novel as a gift from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal), whom she has been long divorced from.  As she reads the graphic and violent book that he has written and dedicated to her, Susan begins to perceive the events as an indirect and personal threat. 

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS casts an irresistible and undeniably hypnotic stranglehold over its audience as its layered plot further develops stories that are separate yet somehow relevant to each other. Mystique and intrigue are summoned to the fullest extent as Tom Ford’s screenplay chronicles the opening storyline told in the present, plays out events in the book and takes us back to the days man and wife were once in love. Several elements of the movie are intended to puzzle to the same high degree they will spellbind the viewer. And certainly heightening this attractive production is both the sound design and the cinematography, along with several immaculate acting performances from a varied and appealing cast. The only facet of this Venice Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner that could (and in most cases will) soften the overall impact and impression of the film is the conclusion, which is bound to be either too elusive or unfulfilling.

3.5 out of 5 

Trailer
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

Viewer Discretion 
MA15+ – Strong Themes and Nudity 
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS also contains violence, menace, coarse language and the nudity is very graphic. 

Moviedoc wishes to thank Linda from Universal Pictures, Universal Pictures and The Backlot Studios for the invitation to the Preview Screening of NOCTURNAL ANIMALS. 

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THE AGE OF SHADOWS/MIL-JEONG

140 minutes, Korean & Japanese & Mandarin language Drama/Action film with English Subtitles

The very first Korean-language film that Warner Bros. have financed and distributed is also South Korea’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2017 Oscars. THE AGE OF SHADOWS, previously titled SECRET AGENT, which topped the South Korean box office for three consecutive weeks making $52 million USD, is based on real incidents and people.

Korea in the 1920’s is under Japanese occupation. A Korean-born police captain (played by Kang-ho Song, seen in SNOWPIERCER and THE HOST) in the Japanese police force is caught in the middle of a dangerous mission involving an armed resistance who are fighting for Korean independence.

The opening section of this masterful production may catch you off guard. Several associated characters are quickly ushered into a rather manic set-up for the parts they’re playing in a storyline that becomes more apparent once the structure has fully-formed. So hang in there, for THE AGE OF SHADOWS just gets better and better, right through to its stunning finale. 

The skilfully handled screenplay and direction from Jee-woon Kim effectively combine for a captivating game of cat-and-mouse, beginning with the resistance group who travel to Shanghai in order to obtain and bring back explosives to Seoul, where they intend to bomb a Japanese Headquarters.   

Featuring a handful of well-staged and impressive action sequences, an outstanding music score, some lavish cinematography and a few truly fine performances, THE AGE OF SHADOWS marks another very fine piece of cinema from South Korea, after the recent release of TRAIN TO BUSAN (which also stars lead actor here Yoo Gong). Well worth seeing on the big screen. 

3.5 out of 5 

Trailer 
THE AGE OF SHADOWS

Viewer Discretion 
MA15+ – Strong Themes and Violence 

Moviedoc wishes to thank Ben from Madman Entertainment and Madman for the in-season pass to view & review THE AGE OF SHADOWS. 

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THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS

133 minutes, Drama/Romance

The Australian book publication by M. L. Stedman, THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is internationally co-produced for its adaptation to film. Her debut novel from 2012 is set off the coast of Western Australia during the aftermath of World War I and stars Michael Fassbender as Tom, a lighthouse keeper who has recently accepted a more solitary employment offer after fighting in Europe. It is here that Tom meets and falls in love with local girl Isabel (Alicia Vikander), whom he soon marries. One day during a routine shift, an adrift row boat washes up on their shores. Inside that row boat lies a newborn baby, which Tom & Isabel decide to keep and raise.

Despite attracting an international writer/director in Derek Cianfrance (THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, BLUE VALENTINE) and leading cast, the entire setting and even some of the shoot has remained in Australia, having been filmed in Tasmania and throughout parts of New Zealand. After a flat opening act that merely ticks jobs off its to-do list, as mentioned in the above synopsis, THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS almost instantaneously picks up and finds a place in the heart from the moment that baby is discovered, and in anticipation of the moral dilemmas you may feel are coming the way of Tom & Isabel. Suddenly, albeit finally, the screenplay develops into a multi-faceted and thought-challenging thematic exercise that reaches deep into viewers’ empathy and is compulsive to watch. Performances are very good in this wholly absorbing film, locations are certainly picturesque and this story which is ultimately about love and morality, the decisions we make for it and the consequences & sacrifices we suffer at the hands of it, will not be forgotten. 


3.5 out of 5

Trailer 
THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS

Viewer Discretion 
M- Mature Themes and a Sex Scene 

Moviedoc wishes to thank Claire from Entertainment One, Entertainment One and Cinema NOVA to the Screening invite of THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS. 

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HACKSAW RIDGE

131 minutes, Drama/War

From weakness, strength is born.
From defeat, comes the desire to win.
Where there is a loss, there is also a gain.
Where there is a negative, a positive is always near.

From the ashes of war, emerges a story that shines, as exemplified in this gripping war drama from director Mel Gibson (APOCALYPTO, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST).

Filmed throughout various locations in New South Wales, Australia and starring an almost entirely Australian cast is the true story of American soldier Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield from THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN films). A pacifist and a deeply religious man, Desmond served as a medic during World War II at the Battle of Okinawa, in the Japanese Ryukyu Islands. Despite working on the front lines, Desmond never used a gun, saving many lives in the process and becoming the first conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.

 


The recent nomination of 13 AACTA Awards and the 10 minute standing ovation that HACKSAW RIDGE was the recipient of at the Venice Film Festival give no false impressions – this is one of the greatest war films of the 21st Century.
Though there is almost incessant violence from the moment enemy territory is entered, it is the true account of one man who is unwilling to commit a single act of violence that sets HACKSAW RIDGE apart from all other war films, truly defining it as the anti-war film that it is. But before Desmond stepped foot into the war zone, he became a man with unyielding virtues and a devotion to his Seventh-day Adventist beliefs that are chronicled throughout a completely absorbing first half. These events, covering a timeline spanning from childhood to young adult, are integral to understanding and accepting how they do not desert him under the most extreme and desperate of circumstances.Once a tough training regime is complete, led by Army Sergeant Howell (a brilliant Vince Vaughn, quite unlike anything we’ve seen from him), war becomes a confronting and devastating reality with any mention of the word now buried in the past. Despite being surrounded by relentless bloodshed that is so powerfully choreographed and remarkably filmed, Mel Gibson ensures that sight is never lost of why we’re here – to witness an entirely different breed of bravery and a willing to sacrifice. Every moment spent on these battle grounds is captured with an intense realism that together with the true story witnessed, is extremely impacting on the viewer.

And it’s not just Gibson’s superior direction, along with several technical aspects (such as editing, sound mixing and production design just to name a few) that I’m tipping will have Oscar nominations aplenty coming its way. It’s unlikely we’ll see Teresa Palmer in contention, but this is the best she has ever been, portraying Desmond’s love interest. HACKSAW RIDGE unearths a career-best display of professional acting by a perfectly cast and outstanding Andrew Garfield, who will be a surefire contender.

It may have taken a 14 year path to production for its 2016 release, but HACKSAW RIDGE is absolutely one of the year’s best films. A must see!

4.5 out of 5 

Trailer 
HACKSAW RIDGE

Viewer Discretion 
MA15+ – Strong Battle Violence, Blood and Gore 
HACKSAW RIDGE contains intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images. Not one for the faint of heart!

Moviedoc wishes to thank Annette Smith and Lido Cinemas, Hawthorn for the invitation to the word-of-mouth preview of HACKSAW RIDGE.

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