Month: January 2017

MOONLIGHT

Writer & Director / Barry Jenkins (MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY)
Stars / Alex R. Hibbert, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe, Naomie Harris, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes

In the darkness of MOONLIGHT, comes the story of a boy searching for light early into his life. If there is just one piece of awareness that young Chiron already possesses (Hibbert), it is knowing that he is somehow different to others that surround him. Preferring to avoid acts of violence being committed all around, Chiron is also learning that different doesn’t make it in these rough hoods. Perhaps Juan (Ali, from TV Series “House of Cards”), a stranger that crosses paths with Chiron, could be that light leading to a brighter future.

You’ve previously seen movies set in these types of less fortunate and socially-neglected crime-laden areas. But until you see MOONLIGHT, you have never seen a story transpire in these “neck of the hoods”, quite like the one involving Chiron. Told in three separate stages of Chiron’s life and based on an unproduced play titled “In Moonlight, Black Boys Look Blue” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, there is strong word-of-mouth currently in circulation for this picture, which has just been nominated for eight Academy Awards.

You can immediately discern that MOONLIGHT is a film close to the heart of the filmmakers, with both the playwright and writer/director having grown up in the same Miami neighbourhood that most of this drama is shot. A deep connection to its characters is evident.

One of this Golden Globe Best Picture Winner’s greatest strengths is the insight afforded to the world Chiron is raised in. MOONLIGHT makes it as clear as day to fathom how the environment a person is living influences every thought and action, and how hopelessness and desperation can present a life of violence and crime as a solution, as an escape and even as hope.

The storytelling and character depiction really are outstanding, especially throughout the opening act. The next two chapters to follow, depicting Chiron’s life as a young adolescent (Sanders) and then as a young adult (Rhodes) further develop events established in the opening act. Part of MOONLIGHT’S conclusion did leave me unsure of how to feel. Its screenplay will steer some cinemagoers in a direction that won’t always be comfortable viewing, yet the value to be gained from watching this film renders it a very worthy one to see.

4 stars

Viewer Discretion / M (Drug Use, Coarse Language, Sex and Violence)

Trailer / MOONLIGHT

Moviedoc thanks Village Roadshow and Village Cinemas Jam Factory Gold Class for the screening invite to this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc 

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SPLIT

Writer & Director / M. Night Shyamalan (THE VISIT, UNBREAKABLE, THE SIXTH SENSE)
Stars / James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula and Betty Buckley

The 2015 release of writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s last film, THE VISIT, wasn’t just a thoroughly enjoyable meshing of comedy and suspense horror that put the filmmaker back on the public radar, it led to indications that THE VISIT could become a more permanent transition in the filmmakers genre movie making. SPLIT baptises that notion, and is Shyamalan’s most psychologically driven and deranged yet.

Yes, it is time to accept that the work we associate the Shyamalan name to, has well and truly evolved. Love or loathe this new path he has taken, you cannot deny his efforts and endeavour to create something original and reinvent himself.

This unclassifiable, genre-mashing (multiple) mood piece is about a man who has 23 distinct personalities, played marvellously by McAvoy, in a demanding role. When one of those identities kidnaps three beautiful young women, Casey (A terrific Anya Taylor-Joy, recently seen in THE WITCH and MORGAN), Claire (THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN star, Haley Lu Richardson), and Marcia (Sula), the girls must work together to find one of those identities willing to help them escape, before the 24th is unleashed.

This ambitiously written, yet unevenly directed psychological thriller/horror sure as heck entertains, has its thrills, occasionally chills and is often prone to triggering laughter from most uncomfortable places in which laughter is not usually derived. 

Shyamalan’s lengthiest and personally most challenging film to date even adds extra dimensions of psychology to its themes by way of its discourse and development into the limitless potential the human mind is capable of. Admittedly, it may very well be this factor alone that splits the difference in opinion of SPLIT. 

Greatness is certainly within reach in SPLIT, however it is often stalled when integrating flashback scenarios of a certain characters past and when crossing over to Kevin’s (McAvoy) therapy sessions with Dr. Fletcher (Buckley). These sequences do belong, no doubt about that, but there is too many of them and they offset the tension brewing within the key plot. 

Regardless of whether it is a hit or a miss for you, one guarantee can be made – SPLIT won’t be slipping your mind any time soon! 

3 stars 

Viewer Discretion/ (mature themes, violence and coarse language. There is also disturbing thematic content and behaviour)

Trailer / SPLIT

Moviedoc thanks Universal Pictures and Village Cinemas Jam Factory for the screening invite to this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc 

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LION


Director/ Garth Davis (Feature film debut)

Stars/ Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham and Rooney Mara


The biggest film production to ever take place in Hobart, Australia, is also a story that many Tasmanian’s would be quite familiar with. And perhaps several others too. Adapted from the autobiography ‘A Long Way Home’ by Saroo Brierley, Saroo’s story once aired on the free to air TV program “60 minutes”. A cinematic retelling was always necessary for such an inspiring and emotional journey.

One afternoon, as a child in his homeland of Khandwa, India, 5 year old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) was lost after becoming separated from his family. After a few weeks of unsuccessful attempts at finding his Mother, Saroo is placed into an orphanage. Shortly after, Sue & John Brierley (Kidman & Wenham), a married couple who reside in Tasmania, adopt Saroo.

25 years later, Saroo (now played by Patel), using the assistance of Google, goes in search of his birth Mother.


Before you see LION, it doesn’t hurt to know that the first half of this picture chronicles some involving and important insights pertaining to Saroo’s early childhood in India. Australian-born director Garth Davis opts to detail these events, including the dangers of living on the streets Saroo encountered, rather than relying on flashbacks. Having spent this amount of time on these events, the second half of LION zips straight through other (some equally) important events that occur in Saroo’s childhood transition into Australia. As such, a number of relationships of significance to the story, all of which involve the lead character, are under-developed and reduce some of the emotional impact LION is very capable of. This is especially noticed during Saroo’s young adult days. Nonetheless, once the core of the story we’re all here to witness comes to the fore, LION is relentlessly powerful and extraordinarily moving.

 In his most challenging and important role since his breakthrough in SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, Dev Patel (who spent 8 months preparing for this part) pours his heart and soul portraying the character that has deservedly earned him a Golden Globe nomination. And he absolutely nails the Aussie accent too!

3 ½ stars

 

Viewer Discretion/ PG (mild themes)

Trailer / LION

Moviedoc thanks Transmission Films and the Cinema Nova for the screening invite to this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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JACKIE

Director/ Pablo Larrain (NERUDA, NO)
Stars/ Natalie Portman, Billy Crudup, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig

If there is just one reason to watch JACKIE, it is to witness the Portman performance. Ever since her 2010 Oscar win in BLACK SWAN, a quality film or (at least) a challenging character to portray in a film, has strangely eluded the Hollywood star. Well, her intense efforts in JACKIE, which have earned her a Golden Globe nomination, is nothing short of being brilliantly captivating. She teams up with Chile’s greatest director, Pablo Larrain to portray former First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.

The JACKIE screenplay, which was on the 2010 Blacklist and is written by Noah Oppenheim (ALLEGIANT and THE MAZE RUNNER), chronicles the days following the 1963 assassination of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy.

 


As you can easily imagine and understand, the aftermath of the assassination that shook the world, would have been unfathomably difficult for the real-life Jacqueline Kennedy to deal with. Therefore, your very own acceptance of the script’s study of its subject and the level of devotion to the central character, will be the most decisive or the most divisive factors governing your accessibility to this film.

In JACKIE, a journalist (played by Billy Crudup) is interviewing the former First Lady at her residence, four days after the tragic event. The script, courtesy of flashbacks, digs deep into the overwhelming range of emotions Jackie battles as she simultaneously grapples with certain political and social responsibilities that the entire world awaits from her.

Larrain’s first film to be partially filmed in the United States (this is also shot in France) is more artistically memorable and stylishly shot than it is wholly captivating as a character study. Certain aspects of Jackie’s personal dilemmas don’t successfully mirror the importance they must have had in real life. At times, when Larrain’s vision, Oppenheim’s writing and Portman’s riveting acting join forces and hit their peak, JACKIE is of high class. However, moments like these are too intermittent in a film that inconsistently engages.

3 stars

 

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (scenes of injury detail, also contains brief strong violence and some language)

Trailer / JACKIE

Moviedoc thanks Entertainment One and The Backlot Studios for the screening invite to this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc 

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THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

Director / Kelly Fremon Craig (Feature Film Debut)
Stars / Hailee Steinfeld, Blake Jenner, Woody Harrelson, Haley Lu Richardson

 

There are quite a number of growing pains that come with being a teenager. Fortunately, THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, a bittersweet comedy/drama about some of those growing pains for one particular 17 year old, is anything but painful to watch.

The film begins with Nadine (Steinfeld) bursting into a classroom and advising a school teacher of what she plans to do next. Let’s just say these plans are not to be taken lightly. So what it is that has led to this decisive moment for Nadine?

Nadine isn’t exactly popular at school. The only popularity she knows, is that of being victim to exclusion and bullying. With the exception of her best friend, Krista (Richardson), whom she has built a meaningful friendship with over the years. But their friendship faces the ultimate test when Krista announces to Nadine that she fancies her hunky brother, Darian (Jenner).

As though the pages of this script were taken right from the personal diary of your ordinary adolescent, THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN is a film that every person who has passed or reached that challenging age will no doubt relate to, one way or another. Whether it be blatantly obvious mistakes made, painfully embarrassing scenarios that will never be forgot or just saying the terribly awkward that can never be unsaid, THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN captures them all with stark realism.

What truly reels in the affection for this very solid debut film from writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig is the characterisation and the soulfulness & humour of her writing. All of the characters are beautifully imperfect, making them genuine creations that are easy to feel empathy for while also wanting the best possible outcome for each of them. A couple of stand-outs go to Nadine’s rather unconventional interactions and exchanges of dialogue with her history teacher (played by a well-utilised Woody Harrelson) and the diverse & hugely engaging acting work from the super talented Hailee Steinfeld. This Golden-Globe nominated performance is high above the norm you tend to see in this type of film.

4 stars

 

Viewer Discretion / M (Sexual References and Coarse Language, also contains sexual content and some drinking – all involving teens)

Trailer / THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

Moviedoc thanks Village Roadshow for the preview screening pass to view & review this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc 

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PASSENGERS

Director / Morten Tyldum (THE IMITATION GAME, HEADHUNTERS)
Stars / Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen

Before it even begins, PASSENGERS is healthy in supplies to suggest a superior and original science-fiction filmmaking voyage is ready for take-off. Exciting and versatile Norwegian filmmaker Morten Tyldum directs, who previously made my personal best film released in 2015 – THE IMITATION GAME and 2011’s ripper thriller HEADHUNTERS. Writer John Spaihts (screenplay writer behind DOCTOR STRANGE & PROMETHEUS) has penned this screenplay, which was featured in the 2007 Blacklist of “most liked” unmade scripts. Add to that, a quite original premise that has an open door to innovation, a $120 million dollar budget to support that innovation and the two headlining stars, who are both hot property right now.

Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt (who replaced Keanu Reeves) play those titular PASSENGERS, who awaken 90 years before they’re due to arrive at their destination – a distant colony planet – after a spacecraft malfunction occurs.

The release of PASSENGERS in Australia, just one day into the New Year, may be remembered at years end as the one of the most disappointing films that has potential for so much more than what it settles for.

The opening is pretty much perfect and immediately takes audiences on an unexpected voyage that provokes some big questions. Especially worthy of praise is the script’s deliciously satirical attitude toward the advancements of computerised technology and its governance over human ways. Look out for this throughout the opening act of the film if you watch PASSENGERS!

Aside from one compelling theme which won’t be mentioned here, any further plot developments that travel to uncharted, yet accessible storytelling dimensions are fleeting at most. Instead, PASSENGERS merely mellows out and makes the error of judgement in believing that its digestible, yet unfulfilling themes pertaining to human connection are satisfying enough on their own. The script also avoids providing explanations to some obvious and logical questions that arise throughout. By the end, only a minuscule mark in cinematic scale is left by PASSENGERS, after it set itself up to be a game-changer for the science-fiction genre, similar to the recent and more superior ARRIVAL.

3 stars

 

Viewer Discretion / M (Mature Themes, also contains some action/peril, sexuality and nudity)


Trailer / PASSENGERS

 Moviedoc thanks Village Roadshow and Village Cinemas Jam Factory Gold Class for the screening invite to this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc 

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