Month: June 2017

CHOCOLAT

Director / Roschdy Zem (OMAR KILLED ME/OMAR M’A TUER)
Stars/ Omar Sy, James Thierrée, Clotilde Hesme, Frédéric Pierrot and Noémie Lvovsky

In the late 1800’s, former Afro-Cuban slave turned circus performer Rafael Padilla, aka Chocolat (Omar Sy), entertains moderate sized audiences in the Northern parts of France. He earns his living playing a cannibal on stage, much to the amusement of a crowd who have never seen a man of colour before! During one of his routine yet lively performances, Chocolat is discovered by a reputable circus artist named Georges Footit (real-life circus performer and grandson of Charlie Chaplin, James Thierrée), who sees potential for success by forming a duo act to perform during the Belle Époque period in Paris.

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There is both a triumph and a tragedy to be shared in this biographical film that chronicles the life story of the first-ever successful black circus artist in France. The true story of a man who broke a barrier that needed to be broken for generations to follow, even if it had to be at his own expense.

As an entertainer and a man of colour, Chocolat’s success always had its limitations. Given the time and place he is situated, the willingness to play the submissive half of a duo slapstick routine intended to be of comedic nature to its audience was the only option he had at making ends meet. Unfortunately, this shameful and derogatory treatment was not restricted to the stage alone. When not in character, Rafael’s vulnerabilities would subject him to manipulation by colleagues and employers. What must be emphasised to this point regarding this French drama is the fact it is not depressing to watch at all. Actually, it is often delightful viewing and the story is consistently engaging. This is largely due to the superb performance from Omar Sy and the characterisation of who he portrays. Chocolat, quite admirably, never truly succumbs to playing the victim. He adds value to his choice of employment that rewards him and even enjoys life by pursuing some romance. Therefore, witnessing Chocolat’s growth as a performer and as a person does bring a sense of joy, as does Omar Sy’s best role and performance since 2011’s THE INTOUCHABLES.

3 ½ stars


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

Trailer / CHOCOLAT

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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LADY MACBETH

Director / William Oldroyd (Feature film debut)
Stars/ Florence Pugh, Paul Hilton, Cosmo Jarvis, Naomi Ackie and Christopher Fairbank

Make no mistake, LADY MACBETH bears no resemblance to any work associated to William Shakespeare. Based on the 1865 Russian novella, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov, the only reference from this film that could be made to the namesake character created by Shakespeare is of a purely symbolic nature.

Set in rural England in 1865, the film opens as 17 year old Katherine (Florence Pugh) is forced into marriage with the older Alexander (Paul Hilton). Katherine, who loves the outdoors, doesn’t so easily accept her husband’s wishes to be his subordinate, after he orders her to remain locked indoors at all times. When Alexander leaves his estate for several weeks to attend to a business emergency, the rebellious and free-spirited Katherine begins a dangerous affair with a young man working at the estate, Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis).

Courtesy of its remarkable and transformative lead female character, LADY MACBETH turns the period drama genre on its head in near flawless fashion.

Lady Katherine isn’t just the stand-out character in this sublime film, it is one of the most conceivably written, daring and exciting transitions of any character we’ve seen in recent years. Immediately upon moving into her new residence with her husband, Katherine recognises the misogynist she has married and the submissive life that she’s contractually obliged to fulfil. Rather than succumbing to her dreadful fate, Katherine fights back. Almost every command ordered at her is answered in return with wilful disobedience. Any expectations that existed prior to her arrival are now met with contemptuous disregard and are dead and buried. With each bout of resistance she sends forth, Katherine is brimming in confidence. Anyone who dares to throw a conventional line her way will become her bait! As delicious as this is to witness, audiences are very much aware that Katherine’s recklessness is going to have its consequences.

This is an outstanding feature-film directional debut from William Oldroyd, who has collected seven of the eleven award wins LADY MACBETH has so far received. He unearths a scintillating performance from his star, Florence Pugh (who has won the remaining four awards), in what truly is a breakout performance in every sense of the word. It is a display of acting that will not be forgotten in a film that produces fierce, fearless and electrifying drama. Make no mistake, LADY MACBETH is an unmissable film.

4 ½ stars



Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (strong sex scenes and coarse language)

Trailer / LADY MACBETH

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT

Director / Michael Bay (Every TRANSFORMERS feature film on the planet and THE ISLAND)
Stars/ Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel, Isabela Moner and the voices of Peter Cullen, Gemma Chan, Erik Aadahl and Frank Welker

As TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT begins, you can be forgiven for thinking that you’ve entered the wrong cinema. Set thousands of years ago and featuring mythical characters who usually reside in completely separate movies, it becomes evident from early that we are being treated (or burdened, pending your feelings) to a double feature for the price of one, over the next two and a half hours.

This fifth film in the franchise is set to be the final TRANSFORMERS film for series director Michael Bay. But it is far from being the final TRANSFORMERS film! In fact, rumour has it that this franchise will be getting inducted into its own cinematic universe! So while there is clearly an endless supply of CGI and budget ($260 million alone for this instalment, making it the most expensive film of the series so far!) allocated to TRANSFORMERS, it looks set to stomp into a new direction, as indicated by THE LAST KNIGHT. To back that statement up, there are no writers from previous TRANSFORMERS films contributing to the screenplay or the story conjured up in this fifth chapter.

Finally, to the plot. And yes, there indeed is one! In fact, there are many! It goes something like this – Transformers are no longer living among us. Optimus Prime (still voiced by Peter Cullen) has returned home to Cybertron, which has been destroyed and is in need of repair. If he can obtain a certain artefact from Earth (also known as Unicron) and bring it to Cybertron, then he will save his planet and further empower its leader, Quintessa (voiced by Gemma Chan). If successful, humans and Earth will be destroyed. To save our world will require the combined efforts of a few familiar faces including Cade Yeager (Wahlberg), an inventor, and William Lennox (Duhamel), who now works for the newly assembled TRF (Transformers Reaction Force). They will eventually meet and partner with new additions to the franchise, which include astronomer and historian Sir Edmund Burton (Hopkins), a 14 year-old orphaned girl, Izabella (Moner) and an English professor, Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock who you know as Meredith Quill from the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY films).


A decade has already elapsed since TRANSFORMERS first premiered on the big screen. Since then, the next three films in the franchise – REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, DARK OF THE MOON and AGE OF EX-STINKS-ION (see what I did there!) – have been just okay, at best. For its truest fans, TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT could very well be the most divisive movie of the lot. It is also marginally better than the three films before it!

But first, in order to grasp such feelings towards THE LAST KNIGHT, audiences must surrender to the unapologetic ridiculousness of it all. Should you understandably choose to be resistant to its ridiculousness, you will struggle to enjoy a single minute of the next 149 ahead of you. One counteractive mechanism employed by the script in order to quash any upheld resistance are its regular humourous interjections. Though less of a majority of them will actually strike a chuckle, they do continually remind us that above all else, THE LAST KNIGHT is never trying to be anything beyond purely lame fun. If the going is better than expected for you, there’s a strong chance that the utterly incredulous plotting has something to do with that. Unlike the very recent release THE MUMMYTRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT doesn’t take itself seriously at all, nor does it over-complicate its several plot strands. Furthermore, considering its lengthiness, which doesn’t really hit until the two hour mark has arrived, the individual plot trajectories keep the film moving at a reasonable pace. Even the action sequences feel a little less repetitive than what we’ve seen previously from this franchise and contribute slightly towards the mediocre entertainment on offer.

Admittedly, some things never change. TRANSFORMERS is still overlong and self-indulgent. Probably more so in THE LAST KNIGHT than ever before – The hyper-extended last half hour being the epitome of just that and having you wish that Michael Bay would get it over with already. But much to my surprise, there is more amusement and mild entertainment made available than expected.

2 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (action violence and coarse language)

Trailer / TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT

Moviedoc thanks Paramount Pictures for the invite to the screening of this film..

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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UNA

Director / Benedict Andrews (NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE: A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE)
Stars/ Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed and Ruby Stokes

UNA is based on a play written in 2005 by Scottish playwright David Harrower, titled Blackbird. It won the Laurence Olivier Award in 2007 for Best New Play and is partly inspired by a real-life event from 2003.

A number of years ago, something happened to the 28 year-old Una (Rooney Mara – CAROL, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) that has left her scarred and unable to move on with her life since. The only person that may be able to help her is Ray (Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn from ANIMAL KINGDOM and TV Series Bloodline), who is a warehouse manager that once knew Una. Their pasts collide with the present when Una surprises Ray at his workplace, confronting him with unanswered questions that have burdened her for long.

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Having also written the film screenplay, David Harrower’s play seamlessly transitions from the stage to the screen in UNA, a tense drama featuring a strong performance from Rooney Mara. 

As it begins, the script only alludes to that past issue that is triggering the current actions of Una. It has no intention to keep this detail privy from viewers for very long at all though. Shortly after our lead characters conversation heats up, most of the existing questions that were asked are now answered. However, there are no intentions for UNA to depart from its setting any time soon. As it becomes evident that there is plenty of deep-digging emotional wreckage to unpack at Ray’s workplace, the focus swiftly shifts to the complex and sometimes puzzling objective being pursued by Una. As for Ray, it is in his best interests to keep this information in the past.

This is such a confidently and maturely written work that is always grounded and fairly-reasoned. That is no easy feat, for UNA is willingly exploring a theme that is sensitive in nature and also raises some highly debatable topics subject to controversy, without hesitancy. Even though specific details will understandably differ with varying perceptions and opinions, the open-minded and sensible approach that is adopted here invites thought from viewers and is worthy of respect. A final compliment goes to a handful of tense passages that ignite this drama, which ends on just that note courtesy of its thrilling conclusion.

3 ½ stars

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

Trailer / UNA

Moviedoc thanks Madman for the invite to the screening of this film..

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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THE PROMISE

Director / Terry George (HOTEL RWANDA, RESERVATION ROAD)
Stars/ Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, Christian Bale and Shohreh Aghdashloo

One promise that is made and will be kept by THE PROMISE is its goodwill. This historical drama has been produced for a single purpose – to educate its audience of one of the greatest and least known catastrophes of the 20th century. Any doubt surrounding its genuine intentions can be erased by the confirmed news that all proceeds from its theatrical run will be handed straight to not for profit human rights and humanitarian organisations.

THE PROMISE weaves a fictional love-story set during the harrowing true events that happened during the early days of World War I. In Constantinople, during the last years of the Ottoman Empire, 1.5 million Armenians were systematically exterminated by the Turkish military. An event that to this day is still denied by many in Turkey, where it is illegal to discuss the Armenian Genocide! Caught among the conflict is Mikael (Oscar Isaac), who leaves his ancestral village in what is now Southern Turkey to study medicine in Constantinople. It is there that he meets Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), an Armenian artist who is romantically attached to Chris (Christian Bale), an American journalist.

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THE PROMISE shares a few commonalities to the recent release VICEROY’S HOUSE. Adding a fictitious love story to tragic real-life events for similar reasons is certainly one of them. Though the on-screen romance depicted in THE PROMISE never truly ignites, it certainly fares better here than in Gurinder Chadha’s film. To be truthful, at 133 minutes in length, this production is quite laborious and considering the extremely upsetting scale of its content, is a little emotionally bland. Various aspects of its quality do equal that of a midday movie on television. Nevertheless, much of the deserved respect coming the way of THE PROMISE will be earned by the factual details it discloses and the awareness it raises. Many Hollywood celebrities including George Clooney, Sylvester Stallone and Leonardo DiCaprio have loudly and proudly boasted their praise for this film too!

A special mention must be made to Kirk Kerkorian, who is of Armenian descent and is the former owner of film production company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). THE PROMISE was shot in 72 days across 20 locations, including Spain and New York. It cost almost $100 million to produce, all of which was fully financed by Kirk who sadly passed away during the beginning of its production. This film would not have been made without him.

3 stars

THE PROMISE

Viewer Discretion/ M (Mature themes and violence)

Trailer / THE PROMISE

Moviedoc thanks Entertainment One for the invite to the screening of this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME

Directors / Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal

To the public, the tragic passing of Whitney Houston is yet another example of a drug problem being a contributing factor towards taking the life of a supremely talented and worldwide famous artist. It just happens all too often. This new documentary, WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME examines the possible, and often probable reasons that led to Whitney’s drug taking, drug addiction, demise and eventual death, at just 48 years of age.


Several claims, opinions and perhaps even facts are discoursed by a number of sources who were close in various ways to this iconic singer. Not everything you hear in these interviews will be agreeable, and that is absolutely fine for the greatest voice of all belongs to Whitney Houston herself.

For so many years, we’ve grown accustomed to those perfect vocal chords being the outlet for her powerful voice to be heard. Sure enough, WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME is a reminder (if we needed one) of just how beautifully she could sing, as footage from her live performances used in this documentary exemplify. But as shown in this film, it is the stuff that is happening backstage and out of sight of the public eye to Whitney that communicates equally as powerful. Previously unseen footage taken from Whitney’s childhood and beyond grant this film’s viewers a number of moments to observe and perceive the physical and emotional toll everything combined was taking.

Though the structure and presentation of WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME is not of the same outstanding quality as AMY, a similar portrait focusing on British singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse, it incorporates various outlets of insight and provokes reasonable questioning to be of appeal beyond fans only. 

3 stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (mature themes and coarse language)

Trailer / WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME

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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DESPICABLE ME 3

Directors/ Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin, Eric Guillon
Starring the voices of/ Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Jenny Slate, Julie Andrews, Steve Coogan, Trey Parker, Russell Brand, Pierre Coffin and Miranda Cosgrove

The most recent get-together with everyone’s favourite DESPICABLE ME characters, the minions, didn’t quite manage to get the best out of the little yellow henchmen in their very first feature film. As expected, the novelty of MINIONS placing the minions in a starring role quickly wore off. They get another shot at it in 2020. Until then, they return to their original support role in the third DESPICABLE ME movie.

In DESPICABLE ME 3, Gru (Steve Carell) learns that he has a twin brother whom he never knew existed, named Dru (also voiced by Steve Carell). After finding, then meeting Dru for the very first time, the twin siblings catch up with all they’ve missed out on over the years. When Dru reveals a plan to steal a diamond in the possession of Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a former child star who resents Hollywood for axing his show, it tempts Gru into returning to past ways.


Take one look at the choice of films currently being screened at cinemas that rely on mainstream movies, and you’ll quickly notice an abundance of sequels, remakes and films based on or spinning off previous works in dominant force. Although this third addition to the animated comedy series doesn’t offer an ounce of originality, it does just enough to keep the attention of younger ones mildly diverted.

Throughout the consistently paced central plot involving Gru and Dru, there are the usual cutaways that give the minions valuable screen time to give the movie a burst of energy and a good laugh when needed. They get up to their usual antics in DESPICABLE ME 3, which features a number of scenarios that will bring moments of joy to adults and kids alike. Perhaps the favourite of them all will be the time that the minions accidentally find themselves standing centre stage on the set of a reality TV program. We can be thankful that the minions find good form again in DESPICABLE ME 3, for the main plot of this movie lacks the creativeness in writing needed. Separately, an annoying feature that may only be noticed by select members of the audience is the needlessly over-the-top animation and vocal work attributed to some of its characters.

DESPICABLE ME 3 isn’t as good as the two previous films, yet is an improvement on MINIONS and should provide a reasonable level of entertainment to families who remain devoted fans of the DESPICABLE ME franchise.

2 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ PG (mild themes and animated violence)

Trailer / DESPICABLE ME 3

Moviedoc thanks Universal Pictures for the invite to the screening of this film..

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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