Month: March 2017

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE

Director / Chris McKay (2 WKS, 1 YR)
Stars/ The voices of Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Zach Galifianakis and Ralph Fiennes

Ever since his creation in the American comic book series Detective Comics (DC) #27 from 1939, the character Batman has undergone several interpretations in many television and cinematic appearances. The Batman in THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is an over-confident, excessively egotistical superhero who speaks in a gravely tone and lacks anything remotely super or heroic. Yet somehow, he’s more fun to be in the company of than any previous rendition of Batman there has been! That’s right, even the great Morgan Freeman who appeared in THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy has stated that this is his favourite Batman incarnation, and I totally concur!

This 3D computer-animated family action/comedy is a spin-off to 2014s THE LEGO MOVIE, with events in this film taking place three years later. Batman (perfectly voiced by Arnett) protects the city of Gotham from all villains and danger. All on his own. Or so he likes to think. When nemesis, The Joker (Galifiniakis) devises a destructive new plan, Batman is forced to confront his fears and work together with police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Dawson) and his mentor Alfred Pennyworth (Fiennes) in order to save Gotham City and its inhabitants.

Whatever you do, please don’t judge this comic book concoction by a trailer that misses the mark or by its generic synopsis, for this hugely funny and entertaining family film continually surpasses expectations, and well and truly keeps punching above its weight.

First off, the more Batman series and movies you have seen, the more fun and appreciation is in store, thanks to the crafty and creative writing collaboration. Filled with hilarious lines of dialogue, rich with pop-culture references that even go to the effort of sourcing much older Batman works and a cleverly worked sub-plot, there is plenty of hearty laughter to be gleaned from even repeated viewings of THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE. That sub-plot, which introduces a new character into Batman’s life and is the source of his fears, along with our lead character himself combine to be a winning formula that families will thoroughly enjoy. In fact, this is (arguably) where and how THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE betters the original!

Continuing to impress with its design, colour and detail of The Lego Universe, this spin-off feels slightly less hectic and overcrowded than its predecessor. Never at the expense of fresh inventiveness either. In charge of his first-ever theatrical release, director Chris McKay can give himself a firm pat on the back for the on-song execution and pacing of this awesome movie.

4 stars 


Viewer Discretion/ PG (mild themes and animated violence)

Trailer / THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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A MAN CALLED OVE (EN MAN SOM HETER OVE)


Director /
Hannes Holm (BEHIND BLUE SKIES)
Stars / Rolf Lassgård, Bahar Pars, Filip Berg and Ida Engvoll

When dealing with curmudgeonly older men who live alone and prefer to be left alone, especially by their neighbours, Ove can be compared to Bill Murray’s Vincent in the film ST VINCENT, only less vulgar. Or even with Walt Kowalski (played by Clint Eastwood) in GRAN TORINO, minus the spitting!

This 59 year old Swedish grouch, played by Rolf Lassgård, of course has his perfectly understandable reasons for being perfectly angry at the world and everyone in it. Ove is evidently uninterested in living a life without his dear wife, who passed away 6 months ago. Regular visits to the cemetery, the reinforcing of strict, self-imposed regulations over the community he resides in and an unwillingness to help anyone who dares ask for it, fill Ove’s empty days.

However, Ove’s life takes a few surprising turns when a friendly new family with young children, who don’t take no for an answer, move into the neighbourhood.

This Swedish comedy/drama based on a book written by Fredric Backman was recently nominated for 2 Academy Awards including Best Foreign Language Picture. Proving to be quite the box office success across the globe, the tenderness of the storytelling and an irresistibly heart-warming feel coursing throughout A MAN CALLED OVE will be key to its impending popularity here within Australian shores.

Though there is no denying A MAN CALLED OVE makes no attempts to shake its clichéd roots, the familiar trajectory of the plot never ceases in its ability to entertainingly tell its story. The screenplay picks a suitable time to begin seamlessly transitioning viewers back to when Ove was just a boy, and also a young man. These engaging and touching passages, which occupy close to half of the film’s two hour length, give audiences a better understanding of Ove’s present-state temperament and enable a feeling of empathy toward him. The rest of the film, set in present day, is often delightful to watch. Especially bringing plenty of joy to the film is a charming character portrayed by Bahar Pars and her kids, who are those aforementioned new neighbours.

This funny and heartfelt film is an ideal foreign one to watch, especially for those who are yet to see one or usually prefer to avoid subtitled films, for it is easy to follow and not overly reliant on dialogue. Even though some of the plotting is rather contrived, audiences are likely to laugh and cry, and experience similar levels of satisfaction watching this as they did the 2011 French comedy/drama THE INTOUCHABLES.

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (Mature themes and coarse language)

Trailer / A MAN CALLED OVE

Moviedoc thanks Rialto Distribution and The Backlot Studios for the screening invite to this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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THEIR FINEST

Director / Lone Scherfig (AN EDUCATION, ONE DAY, ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS)
Stars / Gemma Arterton, Bill Nighy, Sam Claflin, Jack Huston and Jake Lacy

 

When a film opens with visual dialogue to advise that its story takes place during the early 1940s, enjoyment and escapism are quickly wiped from your viewing radar. But that is not going to be the case in THEIR FINEST, a highly enjoyable and darn good comedic drama about escapism during the war.

In London, the beginning of the war is understandably dampening the moods of the Brits and deep concerns escalate as the violence surges closer to home. Very much aware of this and in need of extra income during times of financial decline, Catrin Cole (Arterton) accepts a writing job with a film crew. The crew, once they are fully formed, aim to produce a feature length movie for cinemas aimed to give its audiences something to cheer about. But several complications ensure that all will not go according to plan.

 

On common ground to the Oscar-winning film ARGO and the underrated Coen Brothers crime/comedy HAIL, CAESAR!, THEIR FINEST renders its scenario of a film being produced within a film in very entertaining fashion.

THEIR FINEST, which was previously titled THEIR FINEST HOUR AND A HALF after the Lissa Evans novel it is based on, does make a clumsy start. A cluttered opening that attempts to pitch its premise while introducing the main characters has its weight easily shaken off from the moment its core story becomes visible. From here onwards, this UK production unveils a deliciously written script and quality acting performances that inject an irrefutably feel-good vibe all throughout. A wonderful ensemble cast each make a worthy contribution to the picture, no matter how major or minor a role they may have. To handpick a few – the single American actor to have a speaking part in THEIR FINEST is rising star Jake Lacy (who has minor roles in MISS SLOANE and CAROL) and he completely nails a tricky role. Gemma Arterton, who displayed good form in the English/French romantic comedy GEMMA BOVERY, submits her best work to date and shares convincing chemistry with some important co-stars. However, where THEIR FINEST is indeed at its finest is when a scene-stealing Bill Nighy is present. Playing a narcissistic aging actor, Nighy is given the films wittiest dialogue and he doesn’t waste a single one of them.

Recommended to those of you who appreciate refined British comedy with story and a touch of romance.

3 ½ stars


Viewer Discretion/ M (mature themes, sex scene and coarse language)

Trailer / THEIR FINEST

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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LAND OF MINE

Director / Martin Zandvliet (A FUNNY MAN)
Stars / Roland Møller, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman, Emil Belton and Oskar Belton

Denmark, 1945. Five years of German occupation and six years of war have finally come to an end. Shot at historically authentic locations, this excellent Danish/German production was nominated for Best Foreign Language Picture at the most recent Academy Awards.

At the conclusion of WWII, an estimated 2,600 German POWs were sent to remove over two million land mines that are buried under the sand along the west coast of Denmark. Almost half of these men died or were severely injured. Many of whom were just young boys.

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Telling just one of these several untold true stories of its kind, LAND OF MINE distinctly articulates its premise and summons palpable tension right from the opening frame.

As you could imagine, watching these frightened and innocent youths learning to defuse a land mine before completing the assignment on-site is a harrowing experience. Knowing the fate that awaits if just one wrong move or lapse in concentration occurs is beyond unsettling. But before LAND OF MINE begins to sound like unbearable viewing, the value to be gained from this devastating true story is beautifully depicted, as humanity and friendship are formed from some of the most unexpected places soon after its opening. While there is fear, it is met with bravery. Solitary is comforted by support. LAND OF MINE eloquently demonstrates why these adolescent men became the victims and faced unfathomable punishment for actions they were powerless to sway.

LAND OF MINE is quite a landmark achievement that boasts a precisely written narrative that resoundingly resonates with society of today. Its music score heightens anxiety levels and deepens emotional connections just as intended. Lastly, the venerable and affecting acting performances from each member of its cast contributes greatly to its powerfully conveyed universal themes. Highly recommended.


4 stars
 

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Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (strong themes and violence)

Trailer / LAND OF MINE

Moviedoc thanks Palace Films for the invite to this film screening.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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LOVING

Director / Jeff Nichols (MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, MUD)
Stars / Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Martin Csokas and Nick Kroll

THE LOVING STORY, a documentary from 2011 which follows Richard & Mildred Loving and chronicles their landmark case has been heavily relied upon to accurately capture and tell many private details in this tenderly rendered, yet drawn-out cinema adaptation.

It is the late 1950’s in Virginia. Richard Loving (Australia’s Joel Edgerton), a white construction worker, has fallen in love with and decides to marry local woman Mildred Jeter (Oscar-Nominee Ruth Negga). Although they wed in Washington D.C, they are arrested shortly after returning to Virginia, in breach of its anti-miscegenation laws.

This obstruction of civil rights commences a lengthy legal battle for the Loving’s that will ultimately go all the way to the US Supreme Court.

The ability for LOVING to truly engage your senses and involve you in the drama that these real-life characters were forced to endure will depend quite heavily on your reaction to the nuanced approach adopted by writer/director Jeff Nichols and the restricted detail he has written to tell their story.

As LOVING commences, Richard & Mildred are already at quite an advanced stage in their relationship together. The fact that no further background detail is divulged, regarding them as individuals and the foundations of their love, doesn’t enable viewers a genuine understanding of how the Loving’s will stand firm when the going gets tough. Another questionable decision belongs to the unexpectedly distant approach taken in the discourse of all legal proceedings from start to end. Rather than involving audiences among the detail, Nichols has assigned particular characters to act as messengers for most courtroom matters which we seldom see. This take may have worked if it weren’t for the sparing dialogue and lack of anticipation in outcomes of court hearings.

These errors of judgement from Jeff Nichols, who is an experienced and promising writer/director, underplay a story that is seismic in scale. The significance of what has been achieved isn’t given the justice it deserves and the emotional toll it undoubtedly would have had on the two lead characters has also been filtered out. This is a disappointing effort that fails to register the impact it should have easily achieved.

2 stars


Viewer Discretion/ PG (mild themes and coarse language)

Trailer / LOVING

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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KONG: SKULL ISLAND

Director / Jordan Vogt-Roberts (THE KINGS OF SUMMER)
Stars / Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly and Corey Hawkins

In 2005, a one-hour wait into the three-hour epic film KING KONG was required until the titular character was unleashed. Some lost their patience during times others knew that the best was yet to come from an already superb movie. That masterful remake by LORD OF THE RINGS filmmaker Peter Jackson is one of the rare films to score a perfect five star rating from Moviedoc! In this 2017 reboot, barely a minute has passed before Kong of Skull Island makes his first appearance.

An origin story of sorts for King Kong, the story behind this action/adventure movie is set in the year 1973. Skull Island, a remote destination somewhere in the Pacific is almost impossible to enter. A powerful storm cell surrounds the island, clearly acting as a force field of sorts for any who dares to enter it. Those that do dare to enter are a group of explorers and military personnel who are in search of its secrets, and to find proof of the mythical Kong that inhabits this land. Unknown to them, Skull Island is also home to huge monsters.

The second instalment of Legendary’s MonsterVerse, following the passable 2014 release of GODZILLA, KONG: SKULL ISLAND is a hopelessly lame and unashamedly ridiculous monster movie that doesn’t hit the pass mark. Having said that, those of you with an ability to embrace its intentional and unapologetic nonsense will have some fun with this. 

Finding various forms of silliness on screen in KONG: SKULL ISLAND is about as challenging as finding food at a buffet restaurant. There is a smorgasbord of illogical developments and genuine disappointments that should have been left on the cutting room floor and pile up, respectively. As for the comedic character played by John C. Reilly, well, he takes the cake. The explanation behind his current existence on the island and several other details pertaining to this character, who resides with an island tribe, may not be intended to be taken too seriously, yet are seriously stupid.

Moving along now to those other monsters. When they’re given their turn to play on the big screen, this $190 million blockbuster movie is at its best, which is mildly cool. This is when KONG: SKULL ISLAND is showing a sign of the creativity that it beholds. However, its eagerness to unveil all of its secrets in the first half of the film is partly to blame for its undoing. With any chances of excitement quickly being extinguished by several failed attempts at being forcibly funny, the lack of imagination and a complete absence of characterisation out-muscles even the fantastic beast that rules this film. Ultimately, what this film has not seized upon is where it lets down the most.

Last but not least, KONG: SKULL ISLAND completely wastes a talented ensemble cast. A perfect example is that of last year’s Oscar winner Brie Larson, playing an anti-war photographer that spends almost the entire film taking photos and running.

2 stars



Viewer Discretion/ M 
(sustained threat, action violence and coarse language)

Trailer / KONG: SKULL ISLAND

Moviedoc thanks Village Roadshow and Village Cinemas, Crown Casino for the invite to this event and film screening.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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LA DANSEUSE (THE DANCER)

Director / Stéphanie Di Giusto (Feature Film Debut)
Stars / Soko, Gaspard Ulliel, Mélanie Thierry and Lily-Rose Depp

A pioneer of performance arts who improvised her own dance technique. The golden girl of the iconic Folies Bergère during the height of its popularity. The revolutionary dancer who gained the respect and friendship of several French artists.

These are some important glimpses of the life and professional career of American-born dancer, Loïe Fuller (Soko) that are covered in the English & French spoken drama, LA DANSEUSE (THE DANCER).

Based on the novel “Loïe Fuller, Danseuse de la Belle Epoque” by Giovanni Lister, THE DANCER chronicles Loïe’s path to discovering and developing her true calling, and the relationships that had a significant impact throughout her life at the turn of the 20th Century.

One purely breathtaking performance and a most captivating collection of the struggles and the strides in Loïe’s steps to stardom compensate for what is an overall incomplete and uneven biographical film that is only sporadically spellbinding. 
 
LA DANSEUSE picks up Loïe’s journey from the not so ripe age of 25, where she is residing in America. Perhaps this is also the case in Giovanni Lister’s book as it would explain why such interesting facts to have occurred in Loïe’s life prior to this age, and a great deal more until her death in 1928, are swept aside here. Should you choose to watch this, a read-up on Loïe’s life is highly recommended after the film. Thankfully and importantly though, witnessing the evolution of Loïe’s incredible talent, the suffering she willingly succumbs to it and the ever-growing vision & innovation she gallantly possesses are afforded the unrestrained attention that they deserve.
 

Some relationships to Loïe, as depicted here, matter more than others. A particularly significant one is somewhat truncated in its development. A shame, for it’s the best work to date from Johnny Depp & Vanessa Paradis’s real-life daughter, Lily-Rose Depp. And a seemingly (or surely) fabricated relationship in Loïe’s life, a character played by Gaspard Ulliel, is a sheer waste of space. Ironing out any character creases though is the star-making, spectacular lead performance from Soko, worth the price of admission alone for admirers of high quality acting.

3 stars

 

Viewer Discretion/ M (mature themes, sex and nudity)

Trailer / LA DANSEUSE (THE DANCER)

Tickets & Information for the French Film Festival/ FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL

Moviedoc thanks Annette Smith and Palace Cinema Como for the invite to this event and film screening.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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