Month: May 2017

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING

Director / Ritesh Batra (THE LUNCHBOX)
Stars/ Jim Broadbent, Billy Howle, Freya Mavor, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery and Charlotte Rampling

The deal being brokered by THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is that it does not want you to gain too much of a sense of its own ending until the final scenes. So until then, it occasionally musters a feeling of mild anticipation, which is often replaced by growing impatience.

Based on the novel of the same name by Julian Barnes, THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is about an elderly man who curiously revisits his past after receiving an unexpected letter in the mail. Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) is divorced, a bit of a curmudgeon and runs his own shop in London, selling old cameras. Quite set in his ways and yet to adapt to the modernistic way of life, Tony is given an opportunity to pursue a truth that remains unknown, which challenges his characteristics in the process, after reading the letter.


In 2016, there was another film that compelled its lead character to delve deeply into the past, triggered by the arrival of an unexpected, yet more shocking letter. That film, which is a personal favourite of mine from last year is 45 YEARS and also starred Charlotte Rampling, who received a well-deserved Oscar-nomination for her breathtaking performance. Unfortunately for THE SENSE OF AN ENDING, 45 YEARS is far superior to this far too slow and regularly boring film.

Tony has a story to tell. The kind of story that you wish would just eliminate some detail and cut to the chase. The very patient person that is tasked with listening is his ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter from TV series The Crown), told in present day. Each time the recollection of his memories are vocalised, this movie takes audiences back many years to Tony’s youth, as a teenager in high school (played by Billy Howle). Something in that letter has triggered thoughts of the first relationship Tony began to form, with a flirty fellow classmate named Veronica (TV Series Skins star, Freya Mavor). THE SENSE OF AN ENDING does boast strong characterisation and it does also have its reasons for delaying the revelation of secrets it is harbouring. Once all is said and done, this film is less than satisfying. Mostly because it struggles to really convince, attributed in part to its clunky arrangement and untidy writing, which become too visible to disregard.

If this challenging wait does end up being worthwhile for you, you can thank the sterling performance from Jim Broadbent and the heavily delayed appearance of Charlotte Rampling.

2 ½ stars

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

Trailer / THE SENSE OF AN ENDING

Moviedoc thanks Roadshow Films for the in-season pass to see and review this film.

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20TH CENTURY WOMEN

Writer & Director / Mike Mills (BEGINNERS, THUMBSUCKER)
Stars/ Annette Bening, Lucas Jade Zumann, Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning and Billy Crudup

There is a coming of age and a going of age story happening simultaneously in 20TH CENTURY WOMEN, a semi-autobiographical comedic drama from writer/director Mike Mills.

It’s 1979 in Santa Barbara, California. Chain-smoking single mum Dorothea (Four-time Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening, who was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her work here), is doing her best at raising her 15 year-old son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) in a boarding house with several other tenants. Also living in the share-house is William (Billy Crudup), a car mechanic and a young photographer who once attended art school in New York, Abbie (Greta Gerwig). As Dorothea struggles to connect with her rapidly maturing teenage son, she asks Abbie and Julie (Elle Fanning), Jamie’s best friend, to help her raise him.

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It’s only fitting that this rather unusual request from Dorothea, which acts as the plot of this film, is presented in quite an offbeat tune. In actual fact, Mike Mills has taken inspiration from his adolescence, having been raised by his mother and sisters, in telling this fictionalised story. This quirky dramedy is easily able to form a connection with audiences, thanks largely to the quality of its Oscar-nominated screenplay and the rich performances from the ensemble cast.

A fine example to give of just how well-proportioned the writing is sits with structure of the storyline. All throughout 20TH CENTURY WOMEN, audiences swing back and forth from present day to the past of each of its main characters, one at a time. The necessary introductions not only add another dimension to the colorful characterisation work, they also provide a clearer understanding of what contribution each will make in raising Jamie. There’s no doubt that this modus operandi fills the gaps of a plot with less trajectory in its sight. To further illustrate the excellence of Mills’ script, the honesty of the writing and its characters gorgeously extracts shades of humour from places it does not normally reside. And finally, the music department really ground 20TH CENTURY WOMEN in its timeline with an irresistible soundtrack featuring songs from the likes of Talking Heads and The Clash.

20TH CENTURY WOMEN deserves to and will hopefully find itself a healthy 21st century crowd.

3 ½ stars

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Viewer Discretion/ M (sexual references, coarse language, drug use and nudity)

Trailer / 20TH CENTURY WOMEN

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

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HANDSOME DEVIL

Writer & Director / John Butler (THE BACHELOR WEEKEND)
Stars/ Fionn O’Shea, Nicholas Galitzine, Andrew Scott, Moe Dunford and Michael McElhatton

The surprise screening at this year’s Melbourne Queer Film Festival was this Irish comedy/drama about an unlikely friendship that develops between two young men who are polar opposites. Ned (O’Shea) has just arrived at his new boarding school outside of Dublin and is instantly singled out and bullied for his lack of interest in rugby. Soon after his arrival, Ned is introduced to his new roommate Conor (Galitzine), who is a star rugby player and left his previous school for getting into fights with other students. At first, there is instant dismissal of one another. But as the two guys begin to realise that they share more in common than first thought, the genuine friendship they’re beginning to form is challenged when it is discovered by certain members of the school hierarchy.


Better the devil you know, they say. However, when assessing HANDSOME DEVIL, it turns out to be a case of better the devil you don’t know.

Rather than casually strolling down the clichéd path paved its way, this rather quirky comedy/drama takes a few purposeful strides into a direction that is different than earlier predicted. As such, HANDSOME DEVIL is a better and more meaningful movie for doing so. The themes that it raises from here do help the movie to recover from its sporadic awkward execution and some wooden acting from lesser known members of the cast. Narrating the story in past-tense, Fionn O’Shea (from TV Series Roy) along with his co-star Nicholas Galitzine (HIGH STRUNG) display moments of genuinely good acting, though their level is inconsistent throughout. Bolstering the film is the presence of a couple of actors with more experience in Andrew Scott (DENIAL), as a teacher to the pupils and Michael McElhatton (TV Series Game of Thrones), the boarding school headmaster.

HANDSOME DEVIL will resonate in parts with most of its audience.

3 stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (coarse language and violence)

Trailer / HANDSOME DEVIL

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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BAYWATCH

Director / Seth Gordon (IDENTITY THIEF, HORRIBLE BOSSES, THE KING OF KONG)
Stars/ Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Jon Bass, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach and Priyanka Chopra

My expectations of BAYWATCH were extremely grounded before entering the cinema – just hope that the next two hours would provide some silly, lame but fun and guilty-pleasure viewing. The opening act of BAYWATCH plays out just this way and reassures everyone that it isn’t meant to be taken seriously at all. Until it all becomes seriously bad!

The 1989-2001 TV Series that BAYWATCH is of course taken from became one of the most watched television shows in the world, after initially being cancelled at the end of its first season. Playfully making fun of and grossly exaggerating cases from the original series, BAYWATCH stars Dwayne Johnson and Kelly Rohrbach as Mitch Buchannon and CJ Parker, characters who were first made famous by series stars David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. The plot in this cinematic adaptation sees Mitch face off against a hot new recruit, Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a medal-winning Olympic swimmer who joins the team of passionate lifeguards. When evidence of a local crime washes up on the bay they patrol, Mitch and Matt are forced to combine efforts as they work to solve the crime, struggling to put aside their competitiveness and egos in the process.

 


No one, not even the charismatic Dwayne Johnson, can save BAYWATCH from drowning in its own dump. Once the terribly lacklustre plot begins to surf a wave of thoughtlessly written dialogue and overplayed scenarios, the film finds itself caught in a strong current of worthlessness that it just cannot swim out of.

The basis of the storyline penned for BAYWATCH is really the beginning of its demise. It is so thinly written, basic and lazily conceived that it never stood a chance to hold up for (almost) two hours. As a result, several scenes that exemplify the awkward and over-the-top flirtations shared by our lifeguards and a witless battle staged between macho man and pretty boy is what dominates far more screen time than acceptable. These scenarios do provide some mild laughter to begin with, but lose their mojo very quickly. What may have been a funny idea on paper turns out to be as fun to watch as swimming at a beach that is filled with seaweed! As BAYWATCH continues its decline, the poor quality starts to surface in front of the lens too. Dwayne Johnson (probably the best asset of this movie) and Alexandra Daddario (who barely looks interested) did previously work together in SAN ANDREAS and fare much better in that film than they do here. This is not only a poor choice from Zac Efron, who is building a pretty unconvincing resume, but is perhaps the poorest form we’ve seen from him. Though he is not as inept and ineffective as Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra, as the films villain. And finally, two insensitive and unforgivable jokes – one aimed at Stephen Hawking and the other at our very own Steve Irwin, place BAYWATCH beyond resuscitation.

Fans of the series may find a little more joy to come than I could from the teasing nature of the film. But in very similar style to CHIPS, another film based on a TV series released earlier this year, BAYWATCH self-destructs and is one of the worst releases of 2017.

1 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (strong comedic nudity and coarse language)

Trailer / BAYWATCH

Moviedoc thanks Paramount Pictures and Hoyts Cinema, Melbourne Central for the invite to the screening of this film.

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KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD

Director / Guy Ritchie (SNATCH, SHERLOCK HOLMES, THE MAN FROM UNCLE)
Stars/ Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou and Aiden Gillen

What we have here in KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD is an extremely plain story that bathes in a pool of CGI, applies heavy cosmetics in post-production before making its entrance onto the big screen, carrying some excess baggage with it.

Like the 2004 KING ARTHUR film starring Clive Owen, this rendition is also based on Arthurian legends, albeit loosely here. Elements of the fantasy genre are incorporated and heavily relied upon in the story of a young boy who is denied his birthright to the throne at the hands of his evil uncle. When his father is killed, Arthur flees his home and is raised by prostitutes in Londinium. As the years go by, Arthur (now played by Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam) learns street fighting and must prepare to face his uncle, Vortigen (Jude Law) in order to fulfill his legacy and return to the throne.


The release of KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD marks the first instalment of a planned six film series. A plan that is looking less likely now after its box office disaster in the US where it has grossed just $18.4 million in its opening week, from a $175 million budget. While it does have a highly impacting cinematic presence, which is as noticeable as a person operating a chainsaw inside a library, it becomes obvious from early that this film is attempting to superficially entertain its audience. Entertainment that only occasionally masquerades its very bland plot.

Guy Ritchie applies his usual flair and frenzied style to the story of King Arthur, which at times compliments but most other times confounds his film. Fantasy elements added to the Excalibur myth do give this repetitive genre another dimension, but are nonsensical in scripting and execution. The very simple story has its narrative shuffled and scrambled so much that it forces viewers to seek refuge more than they should in the visual pizzazz of the picture. Even frequent jabs at the funny bone can’t spur the laughter intended from its audience. The acting department is also a mixed result. Charlie Hunnam does an okay job as the titular character. Jude Law, in his third collaboration with Guy Ritchie, comes off best. But Spanish-born actress Astrid Bergès-Frisbey (featured in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES) in one of her very few English-speaking roles to date, falls embarrassingly short of being satisfactory and often delivers her lines in an uncomfortable and unusually robotic manner.

KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD might undergo a heck of a facelift, yet it remains a mess. A randomly entertaining and artificially attractive one, at least.

2 ½ stars


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

Trailer / KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD

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

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NERUDA

Director / Pablo Larraín (JACKIE, NO)
Stars/ Luis Gnecco, Gael García Bernal, Alfredo Castro and Mercedes Morán

The Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Language Film is a fascinating pursuit story set in Chile during the 1948 Cold War that is narrated via poetically written dialogue.

The President of Chile, Gabriel González Videla (Castro) has just outlawed communism, which has forced famous poet, Pablo Neruda (Gnecco) and his wife Delia (Morán) to go into hiding. Using the situation to inspire further writing, Pablo becomes a wanted fugitive in his own country when President Videla assigns police inspector Óscar Peluchonneau (Bernal) to arrest him.

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In rather similar fashion to his previous work JACKIE, Pablo Larraín’s film renders a captivating story with a spotlight cast upon a real-life and famous personality that has a strong political connection to their position. Only here, the screenplay by Guillermo Caulderón is restrictive in its comprehension and therefore suited to more of an acquired taste.

Although much of the dialogue spoken in this film is heavily poetic in style, the plot developments made as Óscar Peluchonneau goes in search of the elusive Pablo Neruda remain clearly visible. In fact, the script gets extremely wordy at times during its narration. So as a tip, if you are struggling to keep up with the heavy reading of subtitles or deciphering the poetic wording, then keep your focus more on the visual storytelling. This aspect of the film is really beautiful to watch and features terrific acting from Luis Gnecco and Gael García Bernal. NERUDA really hits its peak during the final chapter as Peluchonneau seems to be closing in on his fugitive, but Neruda might just be writing another story that Peluchonneau is the subject of. These scenes also feature a stunning location to shoot, which the cinematography profoundly caresses.

NERUDA is quite an esteemed picture and a fitting retelling of a critical time in the life of the Nobel Prize winning Chilean poet and political icon.

3 ½ stars

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Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (strong sex scenes and nudity)

Trailer / NERUDA

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

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JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

Director / Chad Stahelski (JOHN WICK)
Stars/ Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Riccardo Scamarcio, Common and Ruby Rose

To the hardcore fans of JOHN WICK – Congratulations and well done! You have successfully contested the decision to release this sequel straight to the home entertainment market here in Australia! An initial decision that has been overturned and now results in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 making its way into Aussie cinemas this autumn.

Chad Stahelski, who is a stunt man from THE MATRIX TRILOGY, follows up his solid 2014 directional debut in JOHN WICK with this hard-edged second installment of what will be a trilogy. Oh, and a JOHN WICK TV Series that he is currently writing! Resuming four days after the final events from the previous film, former assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is cornered out of retirement when approached by an Italian crime-lord, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) who has an assignment he needs John Wick to complete.

 

JOHN WICK makes one hell of a return to the big screen throughout a high-octane first half that remains just as physically ferocious in its second half, despite becoming repetitive.

Keanu Reeves can be excused for the terribly wooden delivery of his dialogue courtesy of the unrelenting effort and commitment that he thrusts into this tough-as-nails lead character. Having spent three months training in Judo and Jujitsu, as well as driving and with guns, Reeves performs almost all of the fight scenes in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 himself. Fisticuffs, knife fights and shoot-outs are aplenty all throughout this sequel. The best of these that will get your juices flowing all happen within the opening hour. An early sequence that begins with a car chase, followed by the devastating impact after the use of a grenade launcher and later on, the set-up and delivery of John’s assignment in Rome, are each superbly staged and executed set-piece sequences. These exciting scenes, which earn the film its cinematic release, do eventually reduce as action scenes contain less variation and the plot begins to thin out from this point onward. Despite the entertainment value not reaching as high a level as before, the locations and production sets used for filming in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 are put to great use. There is no doubt that these, along with the impressively choreographed fight sequences and its rousing score, enhance the oomph factor this brawny and bloodthirsty movie clearly has.

Well then, the time has come for you devout John Wickians to put your money where your mouth is and go grab yourself a ticket to CHAPTER 2. You will not be disappointed.

3 stars

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (Strong action violence)

Trailer / JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

Moviedoc thanks Studiocanal and Lido Cinemas for the invite to this film screening.

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