Month: April 2017

VICEROY’S HOUSE

Director / Gurinder Chadha (BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM, BRIDE & PREJUDICE, ANGUS THONGS & PERFECT SNOGGING)
Stars/ Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi and Michael Gambon

For three hundred years, Viceroy’s House in Delhi has been home to British rulers in India. But in 1947, that ruling is officially coming to its end. The historical events depicted in VICEROY’S HOUSE are close to the heart of its director Gurinder Chadha, who is also one of several writers and producers of this film. Chadha’s own family were caught up in the tragedy that unfolded.

Tasked with overseeing India’s transition to independence is Lord Mountbatten (Bonneville), great-grandson of Queen Victoria. Moving into Viceroy’s House for six months with his wife Edwina (Anderson) and daughter, violence begins to erupt between the Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs as plans to divide the country become public. Caught up in the conflict is Jeet Kumar (Dayal) a young Hindu and manservant to Mountbatten who has fallen in love with a young Muslim working at Viceroy’s House, Aalia (Qureshi).

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VICEROY’S HOUSE provides viewers with an insightful examination of the conversations that took place behind closed doors at the grand abode and an all-round understanding of the complications that followed. These sweeping and monumental changes, which led to the partition of India, had a devastating impact on its people. All of which will be told throughout this motion picture. With so much political conversation on its agenda to cover, the aforementioned fictional sub-plot has been scripted to humanise the film and to extend the dramatic impact that these changes had.

Jeet and Aalia’s romance is an acceptable and relevant addition to the films factual premise, despite its not always convincing development and taking too much of the spotlight toward the end of the film. As an entire movie, VICEROY’S HOUSE doesn’t captivate the emotions quite like it is very much capable of. It is a film to be watched rather than one to become involved in. Although it does not fulfill its own potential, VICEROY’S HOUSE is kept from any further disappointment thanks to a handful of facets that earn the film appreciation.

There is some subtext and dialogue that has been thoughtfully incorporated into the script, which is of complete relevance and serves as a message to the rapidly changing landscape of today’s world politics. The music score from Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) and some variety in visual filmmaking from Gurinder Chadha both serve the film very well indeed. And lastly, acting performances are mixed throughout VICEROY’S HOUSE, however the two strongest contributions from TV Series The X Files star Gillian Anderson and Manish Dayal (THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY) leave a lasting impression.

3 stars 

Viewer Discretion/ TBC (PG – Mild themes)

Trailer / VICEROY’S HOUSE

Moviedoc thanks Transmission Films for the invite to the screening of this film.

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THINGS TO COME (L’AVENIR)

Writer & Director / Mia Hanson-Løve (GOODBYE FIRST LOVE, EDEN, FATHER OF MY CHILDREN)
Stars/ Isabelle Huppert, André Marcon, Edith Scob and Roman Kolinka

If you are a person who is in some way involved with philosophy, then the name Laurence Hanson-Løve may be familiar to you. Mia Hanson-Løve, who is the daughter of Laurence, a philosophy professor and the writer of Philosophy A to Z, writes and directs THINGS TO COME, which is based on her mother’s life.

Changing her mother’s real-life name to Nathalie for the film, the role has been written specifically for recent Oscar-nominee Isabelle Huppert (ELLE). Nathalie, a philosophy teacher, lives in Paris with her husband and two grown-up children. She loves her job and encourages her students to question everything, despite the protests currently taking place on school grounds. Outside of work, much of her time is consumed by her sick yet possessive mother (Edith Scob). Nathalie is soon forced to confront significant change in her life, however, after an unexpected announcement.

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Not a great deal comes of THINGS TO COME, a French drama that is obliquely philosophical, which only sporadically and momentarily interests.

Mia Hansen-Løve’s screenplay consists of several episodic dialogues of a philosophical nature that are shared between Nathalie’s students, sometimes involving Nathalie too, though she does her best to avoid becoming too collaborative. As THINGS TO COME progresses, the more evident it is that these stilted discourses are forming the foundation of this story. Should you find yourself in the right mindset or be enraptured by these topical discussions, then THINGS TO COME will absorb your attention like a sponge does liquid. For all others, these dialogues are bound to come off as meaningless rambling, making it difficult to sight any possible theme to extract from them. Thankfully though, the film does have a saving grace in the form of its lead actress. Isabelle Huppert completely anchors THINGS TO COME. Ultimately, her tireless acting work, the life-altering events that come the way of her character and her responses and reactions to these is what compels the viewer to remain invested until the end.

2 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (coarse language and drug use)

Trailer / THINGS TO COME

Moviedoc thanks Palace Films for the distributor pass to view and review this film.

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CERTAIN WOMEN

Writer & Director / Kelly Reichardt (WENDY AND LUCY, NIGHT MOVES, OLD JOY)
Stars/ Laura Dern, Jared Harris, Michelle Williams, James Le Gros, Lily Gladstone and Kristen Stewart

The third collaboration between Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams and award-winning filmmaker Kelly Reichardt is based on three short stories by Maile Meloy, which intersect. Two of these stories, Tome and Native Sandstone are from her Half In Love collection while the other story Travis, B. is from Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It. 

The first of three short stories to commence CERTAIN WOMEN stars Laura Dern (WILD, JURASSIC PARK) as a lawyer that is having difficulties with a client who is not satisfied with his workers compensation settlement. The next tale revolves around Gina (Michelle Williams) as she tries to acquire sandstone for a home she wishes to build while managing frustrations with her husband and tensions with her teenage daughter. The final chapter of this film centres on a ranch hand named Jamie (newcomer Lily Gladstone) who has taken an interest in attending school law classes held by a young lawyer named Beth (Kristen Stewart). 

One unmistakable connection shared by each of the three stories is location. Filmed and set entirely in Montana, USA, writer/director Kelly Reichardt relies heavily upon the authenticity of the stark and leaden scenery to bring her audience closer with each character, achieving this in a manner that is reminiscent of the Turkish masterpiece WINTER SLEEP. This alone is enough to keep CERTAIN WOMEN an absorbing film, though the first two thirds are more prone to causing tedium. The two short stories that are told during this time are ultimately too shallow and mundane. In particular, the first fable let’s down due to an unconvincing development which is crucial to its trajectory. A minor improvement is made once CERTAIN WOMEN moves across to its second story. This does register a little more interest, mostly thanks to a piece of detail that connects it to the previous story. These two stories combined are incomparable to the excellent execution of a tenderly rendered final tale, which has much more depth and is bound to strike the strongest reaction of them all from its audience. This last chapter also unveils a beautifully nuanced and precise performance from promising new talent Lily Gladstone, who has won 9 of the 13 awards collected by this film so far.

This American drama, which is the very first film from directed by Kelly Reichardt to gross $1 million at the box office, does build a reasonable level of anticipation by way of its forthcoming character connections and potential outcomes to be revealed. However, almost all hopes are proven to be false in a film that doesn’t quite manage to work as a whole.

 

2 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (coarse language)

Trailer / CERTAIN WOMEN

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BERLIN SYNDROME

Director / Cate Shortland (LORE, SOMERSAULT)
Stars/ Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt

The prestigious Australian film BERLIN SYNDROME casts an atmosphere of constant and escalating trepidation that is riveting to experience. Melbourne-born author Melanie Joosten, who was named as one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Novelists in 2012, visited Berlin herself as she backpacked through Europe at 22 years of age. This film is based on her debut novel that won the Kathleen Mitchell Award for Young Writers.

Teresa Palmer stars as Clare, a young Australian photographer who spends her first night of a backpacking expedition in the German capital. The intrepid and curious Clare, who is traveling alone, soon meets a handsome and charming local, Andi (Max Riemelt). He invites Clare back to his apartment and the two of them engage in a passionate night of romance. Shortly after Andi leaves for work, Clare discovers that she has been locked inside his apartment. And he has no intention of letting her go.


This is what many Australian films strive to be, but often fall short in their attempts. Steadily paced, yet never too drawn-out, BERLIN SYNDROME is a transfixing film that has the authenticity and compelling storytelling to match its powerful sensory presence.

Adapted for the screen by writer Shaun Grant (writer of JASPER JONES), BERLIN SYNDROME becomes unsettling yet utterly intriguing as the two lead characters engage in a battle of psychological warfare and welfare. A battle in which Andi may have a propensity for violence. He is a puzzling and complex character. A school teacher by day, Andi has a rather gentle facade and seems to possess a genuine kind of love for the imprisoned foreigner. As the script fascinatingly delves deeper into his personal life, it doesn’t neglect a helpless Clare who is becoming more aware that the longer she remains in his possession, the sooner an inevitable fate awaits.

Acclaimed filmmaker Cate Shortland, who was nominated for the dramatic world cinema Grand Jury Prize Award at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, is guaranteed to win several awards at home and around the world at upcoming festivals for this excellent film. Shot on location in Berlin before production moved to Melbourne, BERLIN SYNDROME is a stunningly photographed film that features a stand-out and spine-chilling score. Max Riemelt and HACKSAW RIDGE star Teresa Palmer give measured and magnificent performances in a film that Palmer has described her participation in as one of the most transformational experiences of her life as well as the most liberating film experience of her career. See it, and you’ll understand exactly why.

4 stars

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (strong themes, violence and sex scenes. Also contains nudity and some language.)

Trailer / BERLIN SYNDROME

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

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GOING IN STYLE

Director / Zach Braff (WISH I WAS HERE, GARDEN STATE)
Stars/ Morgan Freeman, Sir Michael Caine and Alan Arkin

246 years make up the total age of the three wonderful lead actors headlining GOING IN STYLE, a remake of the 1979 movie by the same name which starred George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg.

This crime comedy, directed by Zach Braff (star of TV Series Scrubs), begins as Joe (Caine) is condescendingly advised that he could face losing his home, which his daughter and granddaughter also reside in, if he isn’t able to get back on top of his mortgage payments. Joe, Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin) are then made redundant by the company that they work for. When they are told that their pensions are being cancelled, the trio of lifelong friends hit rock bottom and hatch a plan to rob the bank that is taking everything away from them.


The robbery of a bank is not the only crime committed in GOING IN STYLE. After a bright opening, audiences are robbed of the hearty laughter this film’s premise and its trio of stars look set to deliver.

This marks the sixth occasion that Sir Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman have worked in the same film. It won’t be remembered as one of their better pairings. Due to no fault of the three leading actors, GOING IN STYLE is quite content to settle for the mediocre groove it gets going. The original story penned by Edward Cannon has been re-written by HIDDEN FIGURES writer & director Theodore Melfi, who hasn’t been able to extract the lead characters’ bitterness and transition that into a clever crime caper filled with wit and endearing humour. Instead, Melfi’s script quite simplistically gives each character backstory they probably don’t need as much of and devises a couple of scenarios that are too immature for its target audience to appreciate. One of these features 1960s sex symbol Ann-Margret. GOING IN STYLE does marginally improve once it gathers some momentum towards its climax yet remains as routine as a pensioner on pay day.

2 ½ stars 

Viewer Discretion/ M (coarse language. Also contains drug content and some suggestive material.)

Trailer / GOING IN STYLE

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

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THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS

Director / F. Gary Gray (STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, THE ITALIAN JOB)
Stars/ Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham and Charlize Theron

Let’s reverse this FAST & FURIOUS vehicle back to where it all began in 2001 with the release of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. The first of now eight feature length films in this franchise (with at least two more on the way!) was produced off a budget of $38 million and went on to gross over $200 million worldwide. Now, the newest movie in Universal Pictures biggest franchise of all time has been handed a whopping budget of $250 million, courtesy of its (just shy of) $4 billion worldwide box office gross. Breathe a sigh of relief though for THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS is the best of them all!

Anyone who has seen a previous FAST & FURIOUS movie (Or even a trailer, for that matter) will know that story is of little importance. The writers unapologetically make no attempt to conceal this fact either. It’s all about devising a contrived trigger that will post its many main characters to the specific, often exotic, locations around the world for the films action sequences to take place. In THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is on honeymoon with his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) in Cuba. Select members of his team happen to be tagging along for the romantic vacation too! When Dom is approached by a mysterious and beautiful woman (played by Charlize Theron) who has seemingly seduced him, Dominic’s team set out to discover the truth behind his betrayal.


FAST & FURIOUS 8 is running less on Diesel and is turbocharged by a dynamic display from the awesome Charlize Theron in the driver’s seat, accelerating above its predecessors as a result.

Now do not fear, Diesel fans. This woeful lead actor still owns the rights to claiming the franchise’s most significant role and there remains plenty to be seen of him in FAST 8.  In fact, at 136 minutes in length, there is plenty of time for each of the many characters that now occupy a FAST & FURIOUS movie to be handed their own separate and significant sequence. This blockbuster action movie certainly keeps those lengthy minutes ticking along at a pace matching the speedometer of its fast cars. By now, diehard fans of FAST & FURIOUS films should expect to leave the cinema blown right out of their seats. An epic, extended set-piece sequence that unfolds during the finale will confidently leave those who are thirsty for big action stunts in awe. Viewers are likely to be satisfied and thoroughly enjoy a handful of other action scenes that take place throughout the film, however they are often too noticeably computerised to be regarded as stand-outs. The resourceful use of its popular locations, which include Cuba (a Hollywood first), New York City (a FAST & FURIOUS first) and Berlin, serve as a good distraction from the CGI when needed though. But again, the setting for the final set-piece sequence, which I will not reveal here, overtakes all others by a mile.

When it doesn’t waste our time or its own with its mawkishness, this is actually good stuff! Well, for a FAST & FURIOUS movie at least. Dwayne Johnson compliments the macho action with his reliably charming display of humour and the addition of Charlize Theron as the main antagonist is the wisest decision anyone who has ever worked on a FAST & FURIOUS movie has ever made.

3 stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (action violence and coarse language)

Trailer / THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS

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

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COLOSSAL

Director / Nacho Vigalondo (TIMECRIMES, OPEN WINDOWS)
Stars/ Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens and Austin Stowell

An original concept created by Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo, COLOSSAL poses an outlandish quest for its lead character – how is the sudden appearance of a giant monster somehow connected to the mental meltdown she is having!?

Succumbing to the hands of financial hardship after being kicked out of her boyfriend’s New York apartment, Gloria (Hathaway) reluctantly returns to the town that she grew up in. Soon after, she reacquaints with an old friend from elementary school, Oscar (Sudeikis) who provides Gloria with some much needed emotional and financial support. As the days pass by, Gloria must discover how her psychological state is linked to the actions of a Kaiju that is demolishing the city of Seoul, South Korea.

 

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COLOSSAL is a playfully original film that for the first two thirds stages its odd premise and develops its characters and plot in very amusing style. In the final act of the film, a noticeably darker tone is adopted as the film’s key points are illustrated.

This science-fiction faux comedy deliberately draws in plenty of curiosity and sets an early climax that provokes questions to be answered with great anticipation: What is this connection exactly? How will it be explained? The far-fetched fantasy is captured with as much realism as it can reach, making for a winsome movie experience that often evokes laughter before it reveals its honest nature. And although there is limited monster action for those who may be craving it, this monster is used more in a metaphorical sense.

Once the tonal shift of COLOSSAL is made, its transition and sharpness could test the endurance of some viewers who were previously enjoying what they were seeing. This is one example of a few points of execution that this movie just doesn’t quite nail. Another is the satisfaction level gained from the script’s explanation to support its connections and actions. Just how firmly COLOSSAL will hold up against your expectations, which the movie itself sets up, will depend largely on these aspects explored in the latter half. Refreshing and original without being revolutionary, it is the best of what COLOSSAL has to offer that far outweighs all else.

3 ½ stars

Colossal

 

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

Trailer / COLOSSAL

Moviedoc thanks Transmission Films and The Backlot Studios for the invite to this film screening.

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PERSONAL SHOPPER

Writer & Director / Olivier Assayas (CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA, SUMMER HOURS)
Stars / Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger and Nora von Waldstätten

To most critics, the emergence of Kristen Stewart (THE TWILIGHT SAGA) as a star in far less mainstream movies has been somewhat of a revelation. Take Olivier Assayas’s previous film CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA as a prime example which co-starred Stewart, who won a number of worldwide film festival awards. Now fulfilling the lead role in PERSONAL SHOPPER, it certainly appears as though K-Stew’s emotionally reserved style has responded to a calling in both of Assayas’s films, which are quite restrained in their storytelling approach.

This Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or nominee which won Olivier Assayas the Best Director award follows Maureen Cartwright (Stewart), an American who is temporarily yet indefinitely living in Paris. A psychological drama/thriller that is part ghost story, PERSONAL SHOPPER is set in the fashion industry as Maureen relies on the income of a job she doesn’t fancy in order to pursue a personal matter that won’t disappear.

Until now, Kristen Stewart has been completely unconvincing and totally out of place in every film of hers I’ve seen since her TWILIGHT years. Of complete opposite opinion to most others, Stewart actually suited the character of Bella Swan and has truly struggled to break away from the habitual acting techniques (the shake of the head, that blinking, the stuttering) picked up playing that character. This companion piece to CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA does result in Stewart being as far removed from that style as she’s been, in a brave role that results in her best and most convincing work to date.

The film itself, which stars four of the same actors from its companion piece, drew mixed audience reactions from passionate critics after its screening at Cannes. It is easy to understand why. PERSONAL SHOPPER indeed does have its spellbinding moments and sporadically registers deep intrigue. However, a plot which consists of separate stories that each have their turn to become the focal point as they gradually reveal the layers underneath, lack significance and are too delayed in their development. A section in the middle of the picture that features the exchanging of mildly threatening text messages from an unknown source is the epitome of just that. Then, when a couple of plot holes surface, PERSONAL SHOPPER loses its ability to sustain genuine regard. As was the case in CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA, Olivier Assayas lets a promising premise slowly evaporate. The end result is another underwhelming movie.

2 ½ stars


Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (Strong scene of blood detail. Also contains language, sexuality and nudity.)

Trailer / PERSONAL SHOPPER

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

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DENIAL

Director / Mick Jackson (THE BODYGUARD, VOLCANO)
Stars/ Rachel Weisz, Timothy Spall, Tom Wilkinson and Andrew Scott

The first theatrically released film (in the US) since 2002 to be directed by Mick Jackson, who has been concentrating more heavily on episodes of TV Series and a couple of TV Movies, is DENIAL. Adapted from the acclaimed book “History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier” by Deborah E. Lipstadt, this Outstanding British Film of the Year BAFTA Nominee is a dramatisation of the Irving v Penguin Books Ltd case.

Written for the screen by two-time Oscar nominee David Hare (THE READER and THE HOURS), this case was first filed in 1996 and did not go to trial until early 2000. Deborah E. Lipstadt (Weisz) is sued for libel by self-proclaimed historian and renowned denier David Irving (Spall), after referring to him as a Holocaust denier in a book she wrote and published. Deborah, an acclaimed writer and historian who is employed as a Holocaust scholar, must work with a legal team to collect evidence and prove in a court of law that the Holocaust really did occur.

As far as biographical dramas are concerned, you can file DENIAL as a competently handled film that tells its true story genuinely. As a means to testify for its authenticity, all of the dialogue in the courtroom scenes is taken verbatim from the real-life trial records. These scenes are guaranteed to fulfil the appetite of viewers who value credible and significant legally sourced drama. Outside of the court case being detailed, there is less work invested into character background and storylines of a more personal nature. This works just fine for DENIAL, which isn’t without characterisation. A headstrong and passionate Deborah E. Lipstadt clearly being the most defined of them.

While DENIAL doesn’t possess cinematic production qualities and has a narrative that sometimes lacks a natural flow, it does often remain engrossing to watch and is informative viewing. It is quite good in all areas it needs to be and features uniformly solid performances. Definitely worth adding this film to your watch list.

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (occasional coarse language)

Trailer / DENIAL

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

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FRANTZ

Director / François Ozon (SWIMMING POOL, 8 WOMEN, THE NEW GIRLFRIEND)
Stars/ Paula Beer, Pierre Niney, Ernst Stötzner and Marie Gruber

This French/German co-production, which was nominated for 11 César Awards, is based on the 1932 film BROKEN LULLABY by Ernst Lubitsch and starred Lionel Barrymore.

Taking place during the aftermath of the First World War, Anna (Paula Beer, pictured below) is mourning the death of her German fiancé Frantz, who was killed defending his country in France. Residing at the home of Frantz’s parents Hans and Magda Hoffmeister (Ernst Stötzner and Marie Gruber), she finds some comfort in paying visits to the grave of her beloved. One day during a routine visit, she witnesses a stranger placing flowers on Frantz’s grave. Raising suspicion and wanting to discover how this man knew her fiancé, Anna decides to meet with him.

 



Acclaimed French filmmaker François Ozon’s rendition of this tale is a compelling piece of cinema that is handsomely photographed in black and white and boasts exquisite acting work, yet ultimately does underwhelm.

During the first half of this French/German language drama, Anna begins to interact with the mysterious Frenchman who is visibly troubled by something unspoken. The screenplay loosely alludes to a few potential reasons that have brought Adrien (Pierre Niney) to Germany and keep its keenly observing audience finely attuned by doing so. To this point, a number of scenes that take place inside the Hoffmeister family home is what truly stands out. Each actor during these scenarios carefully and flawlessly nurse the emotion felt deep inside to the visible eye. FRANTZ also incorporates various forms of art including music and painting to add extra dimension to a story that evolves into a somewhat more psychologically complex tale in its second half.

There is a particular fascination to the trajectory of later proceedings in FRANTZ, which remains a beautiful film to the senses. The finale is digestible, however, certain unmistakable subtexts detected earlier in the film have been left abandoned by Ozon and linger with the viewer.

3 ½ stars


Viewer Discretion/ PG (mild themes and violence)

Trailer / FRANTZ

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

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