Month: February 2017

THE FAMILY

Writer & Director / Rosie Jones (THE TRIANGLE WARS)


Laughter in disbelief is often derived as rumour passes and gossip is shared of the outlandish beliefs and activities that surround certain religious and cult groups. Those familiar with Australia’s most notorious cult, known as The Family, will know there is no laughter to be found in the wake of their destruction.

In 1987, The Family cult leader, Anne Hamilton-Byrne, along with husband William, fled Australia upon the opening of Operation Forest, a police investigation into the shattering events that took place from the 1960s.

Over a timeline spanning approximately 20 years, The Family opened and managed a private psychiatric hospital known as Newhaven, located in Kew, Victoria, where most of its patients were treated with the hallucinogenic drug, LSD. Then, from 1968 to 1975, Anne illegally acquired several infants and children whom she secluded inside Kai Lama, a rural property at Lake Eildon, Victoria, convincing them that she is the living reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

This compelling Australian documentary covers a broad spectrum of events. Using a combination of real footage, factual documentation and interviews, THE FAMILY is understandably overloaded with information spanning over several decades it needs to divulge. With the final cut sitting at just over an hour and a half in duration, conveying that information in a cohesive manner, isn’t often achieved.

Nevertheless, this should not be a deterrent for viewers that are curious to delve deeper into the under layers of this cult. Director Rosie Jones, who genuinely cares for her subjects, allows the former cult victims (the adults taken as children and infants), and members of the police who were investigating the case, ample time to talk through their experiences and how they’ve each adjusted to living in the real world. These interviews are powerful, eye-opening and sometimes quite moving.

Though the facts told in this documentary are occasionally interfered with, due to some unnecessary over-dramatisation, there is no doubt you will leave the cinema in disbelief. Disbelief by just how people can be so evil and the power over others they can absorb. Disbelief in a law which inexcusably let shocking crimes go without barely any conviction and no real justice for those who deserve it most. However, rising above that disbelief, is the unmistakable bravery of its victims, who re-live their unspeakable experiences.

Finally, the fact that all of this occurred right on our doorstep, make this documentary all the more haunting.

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (mature themes)

Trailer / THE FAMILY

Moviedoc thanks Annette Smith for the screening invite to this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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Moviedoc Special – The 2017 Academy Awards!

Here is an overview of the main Oscar nominations at the 2017 Academy Awards and which are Moviedoc’s personal favourites to win

BEST PICTURE NOMINEES

ARRIVAL 
FENCES
HACKSAW RIDGE
HELL OR HIGH WATER
HIDDEN FIGURES
LA LA LAND
LION
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA 
MOONLIGHT

WHICH FILM IS THE FAVOURITE TO WIN?

LA LA LAND

MOVIEDOC’S PERSONAL CHOICE TO WIN

HACKSAW RIDGE

I’ve seen them all, except for HIDDEN FIGURES, and the field is competitive this year. Only MANCHESTER BY THE SEA gets close to HACKSAW RIDGE for me, but not close enough. This is a complete movie experience that is hugely impacting, brilliantly made and hands down one of the greatest war films of the 21st century. It needs to be rewarded as such.

Moviedoc’s Full Review – HACKSAW RIDGE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE NOMINATIONS

CASEY AFFLECK – MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
 ANDREW GARFIELD – HACKSAW RIDGE
RYAN GOSLING – LA LA LAND
VIGGO MORTENSEN – CAPTAIN FANTASTIC
DENZEL WASHINGTON – FENCES

WHICH ACTOR IS THE FAVOURITE TO WIN?

CASEY AFFLECK – MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

MOVIEDOC’S PERSONAL CHOICE TO WIN

ANDREW GARFIELD – HACKSAW RIDGE

“HACKSAW RIDGE unearths a career-best display of professional acting by a perfectly cast and outstanding Andrew Garfield, who will be a surefire contender for an Oscar nomination.” – These were my comments from my HACKSAW RIDGE review from November 2, 2016. Right I was and I stand by these comments. (On a side note, I’m so happy that Viggo received this level of recognition for CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, even though he doesn’t stand a chance to win. If Garfield is not holding a statuette on Oscar’s night, then it better be in the hands of Denzel Washington.)

Moviedoc’s Full Review – HACKSAW RIDGE


BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE NOMINATIONS

ISABELLE HUPPERT – ELLE
 RUTH NEGGA – LOVING
NATALIE PORTMAN – JACKIE
EMMA STONE – LA LA LAND
MERYL STREEP – FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS

WHICH ACTRESS IS THE FAVOURITE TO WIN?

EMMA STONE – LA LA LAND

MOVIEDOC’S PERSONAL CHOICE TO WIN

NATALIE PORTMAN – JACKIE

Admittedly, I am yet to see ELLE or LOVING. Natalie Portman is the sole reason JACKIE is worth watching. Her performance completely outdoes the less than captivating film JACKIE turned out to be. I would be equally happy to see Emma Stone win, even though Portman just nudges Stone.

Moviedoc’s full review – JACKIE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE NOMINATIONS

MAHERSHALA ALI – MOONLIGHT
 JEFF BRIDGES – HELL OR HIGH WATER
LUCAS HEDGES – MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
DEV PATEL – LION
MICHAEL SHANNON – NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

WHICH ACTOR IS THE FAVOURITE TO WIN?

MAHERSHALA ALI – MOONLIGHT

MOVIEDOC’S PERSONAL CHOICE TO WIN

DEV PATEL – LION

Honestly, he wins for nailing the Australian accent alone. It’s better than my own! But in all seriousness, Dev’s emotion-charged performance is one of the stand-outs of cinema this year for sure. Jeff Bridges is just quietly sitting in second place though, with his best performance in years in the excellent HELL OR HIGH WATER. An upset is very much possible in this category.

Moviedoc’s full review – LION

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE NOMINATIONS

VIOLA DAVIS – FENCES
NAOMIE HARRIS – MOONLIGHT
NICOLE KIDMAN – LION
OCTAVIA SPENCER – HIDDEN FIGURES
MICHELLE WILLIAMS – MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

WHICH ACTRESS IS THE FAVOURITE TO WIN?

VIOLA DAVIS – FENCES

MOVIEDOC’S PERSONAL CHOICE TO WIN

VIOLA DAVIS – FENCES

Personally, this is the toughest category to choose a winner, along with Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. This is especially made tough, for Viola really should be listed under Best Actress in a Leading Role, not supporting. Nonetheless, she just must win for such a stellar performance. A shame, for Naomie Harris and Michelle Williams truly deserve success on Awards night too. 

Moviedoc’s full review – FENCES

BEST DIRECTOR NOMINATIONS

DENIS VILLENEUVE – ARRIVAL
MEL GIBSON – HACKSAW RIDGE
DAMIEN CHAZELLE – LA LA LAND
KENNETH LONERGAN – MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
BARRY JENKINS – MOONLIGHT

WHICH DIRECTOR IS THE FAVOURITE TO WIN?

DAMIEN CHAZELLE – LA LA LAND

MOVIEDOC’S PERSONAL CHOICE TO WIN

DAMIEN CHAZELLE – LA LA LAND

I’m selecting Chazelle over Gibson, just. I really liked LA LA LAND, but I didn’t love it. Much of what I admired of the sweeping musical is due to Damien Chazelle’s superb direction. And it was no fluke, with WHIPLASH putting the young filmmaker’s name as one to take serious note of. This man is a true talent and does deserve to at least win Best Director. Sorry Mel, sorry.

Moviedoc’s full review – LA LA LAND


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM NOMINATIONS

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS
MOANA
MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI
THE RED TURTLE
ZOOTOPIA

WHICH ANIMATED FEATURE FILM IS THE FAVOURITE TO WIN?

ZOOTOPIA

MOVIEDOC’S PERSONAL CHOICE TO WIN

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS

I’ve been a little slack with my animated films over the past 12-18 months and as such, have only seen my personal favourite to win and THE RED TURTLE, a very close second. Regardless, the inventive and unique KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS would eventuate as a more than worthy winner if it causes an upset. But I doubt it will. I’ve heard great comments for ZOOTOPIA and very much look forward to renting it soon.

Sorry, Moviedoc did not review this film 😦



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THE GREAT WALL


Director /
Yimou Zhang (HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS)

Stars / Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe and Andy Lau

There are truths and there are myths behind the construction of the Great Wall, according to the opening text of this blockbuster film. The most expensive Chinese film ever made, with an estimated budget of $150 million, THE GREAT WALL is of course delving into one of those myths.

Two European mercenaries, William (Damon, maintaining his American accent!) and Tovar (Pascal, who you may recognise from GOT) are in China during the Song dynasty searching for Black Powder. They become embroiled in the defence of the Great Wall, however, when they encounter the Chinese inhabitants who are protecting their land and people from an attack by Taoties, which are monstrous creatures.

 

THE GREAT WALL is so bland, you’re bound to hit a wall yourself during its 103 minute duration. The good news, if there is any, is that THE GREAT WALL is so sub-standard from the beginning, it doesn’t get any worse. Therefore, growing accustomed to this fantasy/action fluff ball rather than becoming truly entertained by it, is achievable.

Take that imposing wall out of the equation, and we have ourselves a plot that could very much take place anywhere, anytime. Or technically, three walls, which is how many were constructed for the set, with the filmmakers unable to shoot at the iconic Chinese landmark. Although money may have been well spent in that department, it doesn’t have the balls to match its budget in several other areas. For instance, a number of set-piece sequences actually appear cheaply CGI’d. Creature design and effects especially needed stronger investment. Rather than seizing an opportunity to imaginatively separate itself from other fantasy movies, THE GREAT WALL seems to have copied and pasted creature creations previously used in other action films. The end result leaves us with monsters that possess dinosaur-like antics, but have the appearance of Shrek, just with more teeth and high on crack! These gluttonous ogres (a literal meaning) even warn you they’re coming by making a sound that is akin to a vehicle taking a nearby corner far too quickly.

Overall, THE GREAT WALL isn’t exactly terrible, but isn’t ever good either.

2 stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (fantasy themes and violence)

Trailer / THE GREAT WALL

Moviedoc thanks Universal Pictures and IMAX Melbourne for the screening invite to this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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SILENCE

Director / Martin Scorsese (THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST)
Stars / Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Yôsuke Kubozuka, Tadanobu Asano and Liam Neeson

There are certain moments in life when silence is deafening. When silence simply speaks for what words cannot convey. Then, there are times when silence is present where a voice is needed.

 

The immersive story to be told in SILENCE, although based on actual historical facts, is derived from the 1966 novel, by the same name, from Japanese author Shūsaku Endō. An author that writes from the rare perspective of a Japanese Roman Catholic, Endō was said to be inspired by Federico Fellini’s LA STRADA (1954) when conceiving the story and certain characters. This also happens to be the second film produced that is based on this novel, the first being a 1971 Japanese film.

This passion project from veteran filmmaker Martin Scorsese, is also the first cinematic feature film he’s written a screenplay for (along with writer Jay Cocks) since 1995’s CASINO. Set in the 17th century, it tells the story of two young Jesuit Priests, Sebastião Rodrigues (Garfield) and Francisco Garupe (Driver), who travel from Portugal to Japan on a mission to locate their mentor, who has gone missing, and to evangelise Christian Catholicism.

 


Some of you may feel that the near three hour run time of SILENCE sounds as inviting as an over-extended service of Sunday mass. While it does occasionally make the bum a little numb, SILENCE is a quiet work of mass proportion that is a near masterpiece from Scorsese.
 

An immeasurably superb job has been completed in the development and execution of the films critical points. However, where SILENCE is destined to gain utmost admiration and satisfaction is by its studious intentions to challenge. Rodrigues and Garupe arrived in Japan as strongly-trained men in their faith with a clear and definite mission. The unforeseeable and sometimes unspeakable experiences that await their quest will undoubtedly re-shape every lesson that has been learned in their lives. Yes, SILENCE, a meticulously crafted, strikingly insightful and wholly fascinating film not only challenges its lead characters but simultaneously succeeds at mounting another toward your own personal beliefs and forces you to question your dedication to them. This is such bravely written work, expertly penned toward the most religiously devout.

 

It feels like foreign territory for a Scorsese picture, but final accolades go to the Taiwanese locations SILENCE is filmed at, the Oscar-nominated Cinematography and another gutsy Andrew Garfield performance.

 

4 ½ stars


Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (strong violence, some of which viewers may find disturbing)

Trailer / SILENCE

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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FENCES


Director /
Denzel Washington (ANTWONE FISHER, THE GREAT DEBATERS)
Stars / Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby and Mykelti Williamson

Bringing the character to screen that he performed on Broadway 114 times, FENCES star Denzel Washington directs this domesticated drama. Based on a play by the late August Wilson, FENCES is the sixth in a ten-part cycle which won the 1987 Tony Award for Best Play, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. During its revival in 2010, FENCES again found award success, collecting Best Revival of a Play at the Tony Awards, along with acting award wins for stage & film stars Denzel Washington & Viola Davis.

Looking to replicate some of that on-stage success at this year’s Academy Awards, FENCES is up for four nominations, including best picture and adapted screenplay. This drama is about a working-class, African-American family set during the 1950s and the husband & father (played by Washington) of that family with past transgressions that he is yet to confront.

 


There is one crucial detail pertaining to the presentation of FENCES that you must be privy to prior to watching – much of this film is shot and presented as though it were still performed on a stage. A dialogue-driven, aurally & verbally demanding opening hour, which is very rich in specific characterisation, but with little plot development, may overwhelm viewers that do not arrive with the immediate attentiveness required. Hang in there though, for this testing yet critical passage is paramount to the next two riveting acts that are forthcoming. 

Anchoring the entire first half alone are the stellar performances from the five core cast members, and most notably from Oscar-nominees Denzel Washington & Viola Davis. The two leads share a few scenes beyond the one hour point that not only become eligible for this year’s stand-out in acting, but also transcend FENCES in terms of quality, storyline and production. Some critics and audiences may feel that Washington hasn’t entirely succeeded with the first-ever transition from stage to screen of FENCES. There are a number of sequences that deviate from a theatrical tone and certainly pan out in a more cinematic fashion. Regardless of the upcoming views, Denzel’s intentions are always evident and his execution often skillful.

Cinema audiences will be captivated and involved by what they experience in this excellent film, so long as that aforementioned prior knowledge is in hand with their admission ticket.

4 stars 

 

Viewer Discretion/ PG (mild themes, sexual references and coarse language)

Trailer / FENCES

Moviedoc thanks Paramount Pictures and the Cinema Nova for the screening invite to this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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MANCHESTER BY THE SEA


Writer & Director /
Kenneth Lonergan (MARGARET, YOU CAN COUNT ON ME)

Stars / Casey Affleck, CJ. Wilson, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams

One of the front runners in 2017’s race to the Oscars, with 6 nominations including Best Picture, is this low-key, hard-hitting drama MANCHESTER BY THE SEA. Initially set to be directed by and star Matt Damon, and featured in 2014’s Blacklist of “most liked” unmade scripts, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is the story of a man faced with great responsibility that, for reasons which will become evident, he may not be ready to accept.

Lee Chandler (Affleck), a quiet and reticent handyman, is compelled to return to Manchester-by-the-sea, a town he grew up in, after the sudden passing of his brother. During his revisit, Lee learns that he has been assigned as guardian of his teenage nephew, Patrick (Hedges).


MANCHESTER BY THE SEA quietly achieves A-grade status by way of its storytelling structure and its well-studied account of key themes.

Covering two separate timelines in Lee’s life, writer/director Kenneth Lonergan has integrated these timelines all throughout to tell this story in his third feature film. Early into this plus two-hour drama, there is one very notable observation made. The character of Lee that you acquaint with from the beginning of the picture is markedly different in temperament and of lifestyle to the man depicted in that other timeline gradually unfolding. Why is that? That of course will not be discoursed here. Instead, what will be revealed is just how mighty fine a film MANCHESTER BY THE SEA truly becomes as the question-provoking premise and arrival into thematic territory establish themselves.

Where this terrific film hits greater heights in quality is in the honesty of its writing and character depiction & the execution of a handful of scenarios. Many of the arrangements that go down in MANCHESTER BY THE SEA are rather awkward and uncomfortable for its characters. Each of these exchanges exude a fascinating realism that make their presence so profound. Furthermore, certain pivotal events to occur in this film are stunningly captured – often with dialogue spoken being muted, in slightly slowed-motion and supported by a mostly operatic and/or piano score.

These are the unforgettable moments of MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, finishing off its fine achievements with accomplished acting work from Oscar-nominated stars, Michelle Williams and Casey Affleck.

4 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (strong coarse language, also contains some sexual content)

Trailer / MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Moviedoc thanks Universal Pictures and the Cinema Nova for the screening invite to this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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