Month: September 2017


Stars/ Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Michael Gambon, Tim Pigott-Smith and Eddie Izzard

It took over one hundred years from its occurrence for this true story to be publicly told. Based on the 2010 novel of the same name by Shrabani Basu, VICTORIA & ABDUL is a comedic drama about an unlikely friendship that came to fruition.

Reprising the role she previously played in the 1997 biographical drama MRS BROWN, Judi Dench again reigns supreme as Queen Victoria during the late 1800s. Bored and disinterested in her daily affairs, her Royal Majesty takes an instant liking to a tall, dark and handsome servant named Abdul (played by Ali Fazal), who broke the number one rule to not make eye contact with his Queen. Over several years, Abdul, who is a Muslim Indian, and Queen Victoria, begin to form a close bond, which causes quite a stir among her family members and close associates. 

The honest story of a genuinely remarkable and beautiful friendship is tarnished by the intrusion of an unnecessarily high supply of seemingly fabricated and overplayed farce.

Right from her opening scenes, where her Royal Majesty is having a royal snore before sloppily dining a meal fit for a king, VICTORIA & ABDUL deliberately enforces an undeniably featherweight tone. These frequently occurring, yet infrequently funny scenes go too strong on the slapstick, diminishing much of the inherent class and worthiness befitting of the film. Its misguided attempts to be too comedic become less of a problem as the developing friendship gains the traction it deserves. The screenplay’s realisation and revelation of the value that Abdul is bringing to his Queen’s life, who is having her mind opened just as much as her heart, and Judi Dench’s excellent performance do keep VICTORIA & ABDUL as close to the film experience it ought to be, even if sometimes the trajectory of their friendship is a little unclear, and even rather uncomfortable. As they grow closer, the nature of this film transitions to become a more poignant one, yet without much of the effect intended.

Though undoubtedly let down by its screenplay written by Lee Hall (writer of BILLY ELLIOT and WAR HORSE), VICTORIA & ABDUL is also a major disappointment from an experienced director who has previously handled a regally depicted movie with sophistication and class in the past.

2 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ PG (mild themes and coarse language)


Moviedoc thanks Universal Pictures for the pass to watch and review this film.

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Directors / Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan (Feature Film Debuts)
Stars/ The voices of Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Michael Peña, Kumail Nanjiani, Olivia Munn, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods and Fred Armisen

The Lego film world raises its third spawn with the release of THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE, which is the first theatrical Lego movie to be based on an original Lego property.

Diverting from the original TV series, the plot follows Lloyd Garmadon (voiced by Dave Franco), who by day is struggling with the daily pressures of high school and by night is secretly protecting Ninjago with five other classmates. Each of these teenagers, with the exception of Lloyd, possesses a special power. Kai (voiced by Michael Peña) is the red ninja of fire, his sister Nya (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) is fittingly the ninja of water and her love interest Jay (voiced by THE BIG SICK star Kumail Nanjiani) the ninja of lightning. Then there’s also the ninja of ice, Zane (voice of Zach Woods) and the ninja of Earth, Cole (voiced by Fred Armisen). Lloyd is understandably frustrated that he is seemingly the only participant of his group not gifted with his own special power. To make matters worse, his distant father, Lord Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux) has plans to take over and rule the city of Ninjago.

The second spin-off in the growing Lego film series features many of the same materials that were used in constructing exceptionally solid entertainment in previous Lego worlds, yet have produced a feebler finished product in THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE.

In total, nine story and screenplay writers (some of which are from the previous Lego movies) have gathered to create THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE, which is the highest number of contributors in this filmmaking department in any Lego movie so far. Somehow, their combined efforts aren’t enough to make what is a distinctly familiar plot on paper, to be written with a maintained level of creativity that both previous Lego films were so abundant with. For instance, this animated family film is equipped with the same variety of comedy that worked a treat previously, albeit at a much less frequent occurrence in Ninjago. Instead, the less than exciting computer generated action sequences are licensed to fulfil greater screen time, which result in a rapidly tiring ability for THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE to entertain an all-ages crowd. There are moments throughout this animated action-comedy where it displays the wittiness in writing, storytelling and characterisation we’ve now learnt to expect from a Lego movie. Though this time around, those moments are fleeting only.

2 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ PG (mild animated violence)


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

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Director / Jennifer Peedom (SHERPA)
Narrator/ Willem Dafoe

“You never feel so alive knowing at any minute… You could die”

For anyone who has stood at the top of a mountain’s edge, those words will resonate completely. This Australian produced documentary is an exploration of how our initial trepidation of mountains has evolved over time for these popular attractions to now be home of various activities. It was just three centuries ago when entertaining the idea of ever climbing a mountain was thought to be madness. Nonetheless, a physical and a spiritual calling was awakening inside of us.

From a visual standpoint, MOUNTAIN ends as it had started. In between though, this mildly educational film and overall mighty experience is guaranteed to significantly alter perceptions of the very subject it is documenting.

This meditating observation of the serene beauty and the raw wildness that mountains possess has been poetically scripted for the guiding narration work of actor Willem Dafoe to perform. Amalgamating its minimal narrative with the constant presence of music performed for the film by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, MOUNTAIN is a majestic cinematic experience unlike many others. The devastating scenery and mesmerising expedition chronicling the birth, development and dare of mountainous adventure has been exquisitely photographed for the big screen. In fact, the outstanding cinematography truly comes to the fore during a genuinely jaw-dropping segment that captures the successes and the failures of crazy stunts that are beyond your wildest imaginations, all performed and recorded by thrill-seeking adrenalin junkies. The aerial shots, angles and the camerawork during these stunning sequences especially are of equal magnificence to the production as a whole.

A breathtaking 70 minute worship of mountains. Highly recommended.

4 stars

(c) renan ozturk 2

Viewer Discretion/ E 

Trailer / MOUNTAIN

Moviedoc thanks Madman for the screening invite to this film.

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Writer & Director / Darren Aronofsky (NOAH, BLACK SWAN, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM)
Stars/ Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris

Right now, mother! is the mother of decidedly mixed reactions. A movie that is at first completely unfathomable before it can ultimately be considered a work of pure genius. It’s an incredibly mysterious drama masquerading as psychological horror that was the recipient of booing and standing ovations at the Venice Film Festival. And it is one of the rare films to be handed an “F” cinemascore from moviegoers in the U.S, which is the worst possible score a film can receive. Some critics have even labelled mother! the worst film of the century! Though it is kind of awful to watch, there is no need to get carried away!

All you need to know regarding the synopsis is the following (just in case you’re one of many who must give in to your curiosity): in a very large home, a couple peacefully reside (played by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem). One day, totally out of the blue, their tranquil existence is quickly shattered upon the unexpected arrival of two uninvited guests (played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer). 

Once all is said and done, there remains two key reasons as to how mother! has missed its opportunity to be a masterpiece. This enigmatic film, which at first rarely allows your gaze to move far from the screen until it becomes borderline unwatchable, is so much challenge for so little reward. Also, for a film that is ultimately not open to interpretation, it studiously leaves itself exposed to an excess of just that.

Now, don’t be conned into believing that you’ll be leaving the cinema with any real answers. The final few scenes of mother! may provide some closure to you for one of several understandings to be gleaned, at best. It isn’t until any post-viewing research is conducted (if you care enough by then) that you’ll need to wait to uncover this movie’s cunningly crafted secret. Even still, several of its ambiguities have been purposely left unanswered and up to your imagination to decipher.

Where the creator of mother! deserves recognition is in his highly original and innovative thinking. Although not a lot makes a great deal of sense at the time it occurs, mother! successfully summons immediate intrigue that takes a considerable amount of time to burn off. There is no doubt in my mind that a courageous performance in a mightily challenging role for Jennifer Lawrence keeps viewers deeply invested much longer than the film deserves. The poor darling is put through hell and deserves a sympathy card from each of you who risk seeing this!

On a final note, it is well within the intellectual capacity of writer/director Darren Aronofsky to creatively incorporate its truth in a less arrogant manner than is opted for in mother! Though a feeling of appreciation for his idea later arrives, that appreciation remains heavily burdened and restricted. 

2 stars

Hint – If you have seen mother! and remain completely puzzled, go onto the IMDB website and take note of the original title of this film. Still unsure? Let me know!

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (Strong themes, violence and coarse language)

Trailer / mother!

Moviedoc thanks Paramount Pictures for the pass to watch and review this film.

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Director / Andy Muschietti (MAMA)
Stars/ Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Bill Skarsgård, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Wyatt Oleff, Nicholas Hamilton, Jack Dylan Grazer and Chosen Jacobs

Even Stephen King himself has endorsed this first chapter of a planned two-part feature film retelling of IT, stating that a “wonderful job” has been done. The fact that this cinematic adaptation is much closer to King’s 1986 novel than what the mini-series produced four years later was, will no doubt be a significant contributor towards his positive feelings.

It is late 1980’s in the town of Derry, Maine. A number of individual kids – the stuttering student Bill (Lieberher), the granny-glasses wearing Richie (Wolfhard), Beverly (Lillis), who lives with an oppressive family member, the overweight library visitor Ben (Taylor), as well as Stanley (Oleff), Mike (Jacobs) and Eddie (Grazer) – are experiencing some form of bullying. United by their bullying encounters, as well as separate horrifying confrontations with beings that represent their worst fears, the newly formed group search for a frightening, shape-shifting entity who adopts the appearance of a clown, named Pennywise (Skarsgård).

An alluring visual design, innovative horror sequences and a largely unknown, yet talented ensemble cast do indeed ensure that IT consistently floats its viewer’s boat.

For starters, the tone is darker. Much darker, which is made clear by a menacing and superior opening sequence partially seen in the record-breaking film trailer. Heed that as both a warning and a recommendation! It’s a tone that easily settles itself into and all throughout this horror film. Even so, IT is quite a thrill to watch as it teases and taunts viewers in equal measure. A frequent supply of creatively conceived and ominously designed visual scenarios together with the camaraderie of its characters and its production give this film both a freshness and taste of nostalgia that is easy to embrace. These slickly executed scenes and the amalgamation of its narrative display the real skill and vision that director Andy Muschietti possesses. IT also impresses by way of a strongly written script that truly seizes upon its full potential and is more than capable of engaging its audience. A sub-plot revolving around the history of the kids’ hometown and the film’s themes (some of which are very heavy), are genuinely compelling. On a lighter note, the jocular banter that is exchanged among the younger cast members is highly amusing and even breaks a cinema convention or two along the way. The support and the strength that they lend one another has real substance too.

This old clown is up to new tricks that are guaranteed to feed you a fright or five.

3 ½ stars

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

Trailer / IT

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

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Writer & Director / Francis Lee (Feature film debut)
Stars/ Josh O’Connor, Alec Secareanu, Gemma Jones and Ian Hart

Writer and director Francis Lee’s first-ever feature-length film, GOD’S OWN COUNTRY, tells of a personal story that is partly based on his own life.

On a remote Yorkshire farm, Johnny (Josh O’Connor – CINDERELLA, FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS), is compelled to live and work at the family estate with his father, Martin (Ian Hart) and his Grandmother, Deidre (Gemma Jones – the BRIDGET JONES trilogy) after a stroke leaves Martin with partial paralysis. Feeling extreme frustration by being stuck at a landscape and surrounded by local folk that don’t meet his needs, Johnny encounters an opportunity to change his ways when a handsome migrant worker from Romania named Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) is employed to help Johnny manage the farming demands.

Winner of seven awards including best feature at the Berlin, Edinburgh and San Francisco Film Festivals, GOD’S OWN COUNTRY boasts authentic imagery and performances, yet is unfortunately a dull film to watch. 

A mistaken rather than a poorer film, Francis Lee has produced GOD’S OWN COUNTRY with the belief that the stark landscape, its central characters silent tension and their plight will communicate more strongly than words. Despite the best efforts of his two lead actor’s very good performances, Lee’s writing is far too one-dimensional and scarce of dialogue to maintain long-term investment in his picture. This void is especially defined in earlier characterisation work of Johnny as well as the notable omission of much-needed sub-plotting to support the central plot. Another acknowledgement to its authenticity involves the filming of farming animals, all of which are indeed real and were mostly shot at the farm of Francis Lee’s father. Though commendable of his commitment as director, the minutes of screen time these several scenes occupy are more befitting for a documentary on the subject. It is here, as well as the all too foreseeable plot trajectory that also induce an overwhelming feeling of tedium upon this promising UK production.

2 stars

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


Moviedoc thanks Rialto Distribution and Annette Smith for the screener link provided to this film.

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