Month: August 2017

ALI’S WEDDING

Director / Jeffrey Walker (DANCE ACADEMY: THE MOVIE)
Stars/ Osamah Sami, Helana Sawires, Don Hany, Rodney Afif, Frances Duca and Ryan Corr

It has been over 20 years since Australia has produced a universally appealing wedding-themed film worth remembering. That movie, MURIEL’S WEDDING, not only made a star of Toni Collette, it even has its own stage adaptation currently showing in Sydney! Now in 2017, we have ALI’S WEDDING, which could not have picked a better time to walk down the aisle.

Similar to current cinema release, THE BIG SICK, this story is based very strongly on the life of its star – Australian actor, writer, director, poet and stand-up comedian Osamah Sami. Born in Iran to Iraqi parents, Sami plays himself under the character name Ali, who immigrates to Australia with his father, Mehdi (Don Hany), a Muslim cleric, mother Zahra (Frances Duca) and siblings. Nearing the end of high school, Ali is facing a mountain of pressure from his family and the Muslim community. He is expected to achieve extremely high grades in order to study medicine and become a doctor as well comply with his arranged marriage, even though Ali is madly in love with an Australian-born Lebanese girl, Dianne (Helana Sawires).

AW_SC30_TIMONY_0185
First and foremost, a special toast to ALI’S WEDDING for bringing something new to the big screen – our very first Muslim Romantic Comedy/Drama. Coming in at number two on the 2017 MIFF Audience Award winners list, there is much to admire by the endeavour shown in this film, even if it rains a little on its own parade.

The screenplay, co-written by Sami himself, importantly incorporates the significant influences in Ali’s life during the time depicted. Aside from his studies and romantic dilemmas, there is also his involvement in his father’s plays, his passion for the Essendon Football Club (great choice!), his job at a petrol station and the daily pressures from the community to be a good Muslim. Depending on your level of interest and insight gained, the amount of time devoted to each of these may exceed your threshold. With the exception of Essendon’s involvement, of course! ALI’S WEDDING doesn’t quite have the polished execution needed in order to seamlessly integrate all of its separate strands as a whole film. There are times that the comedic deliveries and the acting from some of the cast is noticeably off. The two feature film debutant actresses, Frances Duca and Helana Sawires, tend to struggle the most. During the first half of ALI’S WEDDING, Sawires isn’t able to nail the balance needed from her character. And if you’re partially interested in seeing this due to the appearance of Ryan Corr, don’t bother. His very minor and thankless role as Ali’s bogan mate, Wazza, is a complete waste of Corr’s great talents.

Those imperfections aside, ALI’S WEDDING casts a joyful, crowd-pleasing vibe from early and rarely lets it go. Especially during an improved second half, which shifts more of a focus towards the marriage conundrum Ali has got himself into.

3 stars

AW_SC78_TIMONY_0189

Viewer Discretion/ M (Mature themes and coarse language)

Trailer / ALI’S WEDDING

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©

 

Advertisements

GIRLS TRIP

Director / Malcolm D. Lee (THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY, SCARY MOVIE 5)
Stars/ Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah

White men can’t jump the raised bar of witty dialogue and acidic retorts being projected from the four lead female stars of this fiery new comedy. GIRLS TRIP is in fact the first film to be entirely produced, written and directed by as well as starring African-Americans to gross more than $100 million at the U.S box office.

Ryan (Hall), Dina (Haddish), Lisa (Pinkett Smith) and Sasha (Latifah) share a lifelong friendship, referring to themselves as the flossy posse, which has gradually become a little distant over the years to now. With the annual Essence Music Festival, which celebrates the Essence magazine that is aimed primarily towards African-American women, soon to be held in New Orleans, the girls decide to reunite for the event. It will be a weekend of wild partying and mayhem as the recently separated Lisa, loose-cannon Dina, workaholic Sasha and Ryan, whose husband is not being faithful to her, rekindle their sisterhood.


This absolutely awesome foursome ensure that GIRLS TRIP is indeed a trip worth taking.

Funnily enough, many of the experiences had by the lead female characters of this comedy are in fact based on the real-life encounters that writers Kenya Barris (TV series Black-ish), Tracy Oliver and story writer Erica Rivinoja (TROLLS) had with their female friends. That realness has been seamlessly conveyed to screen, courtesy of the genuine rapport these ladies share and the sharp writing. The script is laden with ripping one-liners, crude vocabulary that is bluntly delivered and a handful of scenarios that you won’t be forgetting in a hurry. These scenarios are aimed at being the highlights of GIRLS TRIP, yet compared to the brilliant execution of the writing, they do arguably produce a few more low-light moments instead. Speaking of highlights, however, a stand-out performance from Tiffany Haddish (KEANU) must be noted. Her uncouth character is hand-fed the script’s most vulgar language and Haddish hilariously hits the right tone and delivery on a frequent basis.

A very basic plot outline that has a single direction – to arrive at the festival and get the partying started – turns somewhat sentimental in its final quarter. Despite the ratio of laughter being evoked dropping off, it is the valuable meaning derived from this and the unbreakable bond that is convincingly depicted by the lead cast, whom work together extremely well, that end this comedy on a high note.

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (Strong crude sexual humour and coarse language) 

Trailer / GIRLS TRIP

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©

 

AMERICAN MADE

Director / Doug Liman (THE WALL, EDGE OF TOMORROW, THE BOURNE IDENTITY)
Stars/ Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright and Caleb Landry Jones

After a performance in this year’s remake of THE MUMMY that can only be described as being scarier than Scientology itself, Tom Cruise does earn back a healthy percentage of respect with this fine showing in the unbelievable true story, AMERICAN MADE.

We all experience some highs and lows throughout the longevity of our professional careers. For Barry Seal (Cruise), who is a pilot that is recruited into the CIA by agent Monty Schafer (Gleeson), not even the sky is a limitation to the highs that will be achieved in the course of his employment. But as they say, what goes up must come down. AMERICAN MADE exposes the details behind Barry Seal’s covert assignments, which are all connected to the political landscape of the United States during the late 70’s and early 80’s.

Image result for american made film stills
The majority of you are probably well aware of the secret dealings and the scandal that rocked The White House during President Reagan’s reign. Even if there are no new revelations in this area of the story for you, AMERICAN MADE is entirely fascinating to watch courtesy of its lead character’s mind blowing involvement and the outrageous trajectory his life and career take. Seriously, the manner in which this man is pinballed around by several reputable agencies simply needs to be seen in order to be believed!

Director Doug Liman, who previously collaborated with Cruise in EDGE OF TOMORROW, has skilfully produced AMERICAN MADE to be a slick and amusing affair. Considering that the situations Barry Seal faces warrant a tense viewing experience, the fact that Liman has rightly identified an opportunity to apply levity to Seal’s precarious journey is credibility to his vision and execution as director. The screenplay by Gary Spinelli, which was featured on the 2014 Black List of most liked unproduced film scripts, articulates all of its remarkable detail with real precision and clarity. Complementing the writing work is the perfectly pitched pacing, several impressively filmed flight sequences and the locations used for filming (in Colombia and the U.S). 

AMERICAN MADE is the more chilled-out and less action-packed cousin of WAR DOGS.

3 ½ stars


On a side note, a small mention should go to a couple of crew members who tragically lost their lives on the last day of filming in a plane crash. Rest in peace, stunt pilot Alan D. Purwin and co-pilot Carlos Berl.

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (Strong coarse language) 

Trailer / AMERICAN MADE

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©

 

MAUDIE

Director / Aisling Walsh (SONG FOR A RAGGY BOY)
Stars/ Sally Hawkins, Ethan Hawke, Kari Matchett and Gabrielle Rose

MAUDIE paints an intimate portrait of a 1930’s Nova Scotia woman who was born with a severe form of arthritis that increasingly limits her physical abilities. Residing with an over-protective Aunt (Gabrielle Rose), Maudie (portrayed by Sally Hawkins from BLUE JASMINE and HAPPY GO-LUCKY) is determined to move out and live an independent life. An opportunity to do so arrives in the form of a reclusive and gruff man named Everett (Ethan Hawke), who needs a housekeeper. As Everett reluctantly hires Maudie, he finds himself developing feelings for her while Maudie discovers her love of and talent for painting, which begins to catapult her to fame within the small community.


There really is only one actress who was ever truly destined to portray Maudie Lewis as genuinely and affectionately as this. That is of course Sally Hawkins, who gives an Oscar-worthy and utterly brilliant performance. Director Aisling Walsh, who previously worked with Hawkins in 2005 TV Mini-Series Fingersmith, clearly knows this too, having confirmed that Sally Hawkins was the first name that she had penned for the lead role. She is indeed the bee’s knees of this Irish/Canadian co-production.

This gently paced and tenderly rendered biography film dedicates virtually all of its duration to the journey and the battles experienced by its titular character. Maudie is an admirable woman who is content in appreciating life’s most simple necessities, with an adorable sense of humour and a warm smile always in tact. As such, the ability for audiences to grow affection for her requires zero effort. It is here though it should be mentioned that the same cannot be applied to any other character in this film. Everett isn’t a character that will win many people over. He isn’t just rude and nasty, he’s also a chauvinist. The script does clarify why Maudie cares to be with him, however it doesn’t fully form Ethan Hawke’s character enough to justify his (sometimes extreme) temperament and behaviour. Furthermore, several other supporting characters are too one-dimensionally conceived and woodenly acted. Even a few sub-plots don’t entirely convince as a result of the screenplay’s tendency to avoid certain details that are essential to know.

Picturesquely filmed in Newfoundland and Labrador, MAUDIE remains absolutely worth watching for Sally Hawkins’ performance alone. She committed to several weeks of physically and mentally tiring training in order to transform herself. A sure bet to be an Oscar-nominee in February 2018!

3 stars

Viewer Discretion/ PG (Mild themes and sexual references) 

Trailer / MAUDIE

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©

 

LOGAN LUCKY

Director / Stephen Soderbergh (THE OCEANS TRILOGY, MAGIC MIKE, ERIN BROCKOVICH)
Stars/ Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Brian Gleeson, Jack Quaid, Katie Holmes, Seth MacFarlane, Sebastian Stan, Farrah Mackenzie, Katherine Waterston and Hilary Swank

The movie that reversed filmmaker Stephen Soderbergh’s decision to retire is this rather offbeat ensemble crime comedy, LOGAN LUCKY.

In North Carolina, the annual Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race is soon beginning. The down-on-their-luck Logan siblings Jimmy (Channing Tatum), Clyde (Adam Driver) and Mellie (Riley Keough) recognise an opportunity to pull off a heist during the race. The elaborately planned robbery, which involves imprisoned thug Joe Bang (Daniel Craig – hilariously sporting a southern U.S accent and bleached blonde hair), doesn’t all go according to plan.


LOGAN LUCKY is a movie that can quite literally thank its lucky stars! The performances from the wonderfully arranged ensemble cast combines with the script’s irresistibly playful mimicry of its characters and dialogue to bring an immensely enjoyable heist film. Now, just how much fun you have watching LOGAN LUCKY is going to partially depend on the handle you have over its more particular details involving the heist and the connections of its many, many characters. Without intention, this overly crammed and overcrowded screenplay has a tendency to make viewers work overtime in conveying some very muddled specific information. Make the mistake of persisting with unraveling it all and LOGAN LUCKY will probably match entertainment with confusion for you. Rather it is best to accept the fact that perhaps not every stroke of luck LOGAN LUCKY is reaching for will be fathomed or even feasible and instead to surrender to its constantly jocular and jovial character.

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (Coarse language) 

Trailer / LOGAN LUCKY

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©

 

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

Writer & Director / Luc Besson (LUCY, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, LÉON: THE PROFESSIONAL)
Stars/ Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Sam Spruell, Ethan Hawke and Rihanna

Costing as much as €197.47 million (U.S $210 million) to produce, most of which was personally funded by director Luc Besson, VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is easily the most expensive film ever to be made in France.

Based on the French Science-Fiction Comic Book Series “Valerian and Laureline” written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières, the plot for VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is loosely based on the sixth album in the series.

It is the 28th century in Alpha, a space station where millions of species, including humans, from a thousand planets all peacefully coexist. Special agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), who belong to the human division, are assigned a new task by Commander Filitt (Clive Owen), who has identified a dangerous and dark presence within the space station. Valerian and Laureline must travel to this section of the station and stop the unknown force from spreading before it threatens to cause harm to Alpha’s entire population.

Valerian_Pic#11
Truth be told, VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS isn’t at all difficult to like.

Its intentionally broadly accessible plot and structure will understandably be labelled as unoriginal. And sure, this aspect of the film is surprise-free. Visually however, there can be no arguing that Besson’s film is attention-diverting at the least and unique at its best. How could it not be? In total, there are 2,734 special effects shots and 200 alien species! Luc Besson was inspired by what was achieved by James Cameron in AVATAR. Although this science-fiction action-adventure movie is never really magical to witness as Cameron’s epic film was for many, there are other means to credible entertainment constantly on offer. Take the film’s temperament for instance, which is often light-hearted and incorporates a sufficient supply of sometimes lame, albeit funnier moments. Legendary music composer Alexandre Desplat’s score for the film is customarily brilliant and DeHaan & Delevingne, who share solid chemistry, work surprisingly well together.

This entry-level sci-fi/fantasy flick finds the right balance for a varied audience. The straightforward storytelling and mainstream characterisation won’t make any newcomers to the genre feel too out of this world. As for genre aficionados, although these aspects of the movie certainly won’t blow them out of this world, the more specific details and the cosmic aura of the film is likely to compensate for any lack of imagination in storytelling that is detected.

3 stars

Valerian_Pic#08

Viewer Discretion/ M (Science-fiction violence) 

Trailer / VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©

 

ANNABELLE: CREATION

Director / David F. Sandberg (LIGHTS OUT)
Stars/ Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto, Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson

A prequel to both THE CONJURING films and 2014’s ANNABELLE, ANNABELLE: CREATION marks the fourth addition to THE CONJURING film universe. 

Aussie duo Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto play Samuel and Esther Mullins, who invite Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and several orphaned girls to live with them at their residence. Despite the generous offer, the Mullins’ are quite reserved people, after a personal tragedy shattered their existence several years earlier. Samuel, a doll maker, isn’t particularly hospitable towards the girls while Esther mysteriously never emerges from her bedroom. As the girls slowly settle into their new place, Janice (Telitha Bateman) comes across Annabelle while curiously exploring her new surrounds and unwittingly brings the creepy doll, who has sinister plans, to life.


A passable horror flick, ANNABELLE: CREATION does yield to symptoms of horror movie syndrome, yet in doing so it offers audiences momentary frights and plenty of fun, which are frequently distributed all throughout.

Of course, your prospects of being drawn into these many mildly suspenseful passages will largely depend on your ability to foresee the imminent jump coming. As a horror aficionado myself, almost all of these sequences do happen as expected. Although its likely predictability does limit the film’s chances to genuinely scare, ANNABELLE: CREATION continues to entertain, courtesy of some aptly timed tongue-in-cheek humour and a serviceable plot that holds some mystery. Patience is certainly tested as the not-so-surprising revelations hiding beneath its mystery are delayed for too long. Further proceedings even become repetitive as the plot attempts to involve each of the orphaned girls making a frightening discovery to realise that their new abode isn’t so humble. Thankfully, those self-opening doors and creaky floors are soon nailed shut as ANNABELLE: CREATION lifts its game in a decidedly more horrifying finale. 

This prequel should satisfy fans of mainstream horror until further instalments in THE CONJURING film series, THE NUN (2018) and THE CROOKED MAN (TBA) haunt our screens.

3 stars

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ Restricted (Strong horror themes and violence) 

Trailer / ANNABELLE: CREATION

Read up also on Moviedoc’s review of THE CONJURING 2

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©