Month: July 2018

WHITNEY

Writer & Director
Kevin Macdonald
(THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, MARLEY, STATE OF PLAY)

Scottish-born, Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald has interchangeably worked as director on several feature films and documentaries throughout his career, with one of his last cinematic releases being an in-depth look at the life of Bob Marley. Now, he turns his attention to the late and great Whitney Houston. Using never-before-seen archival footage and interviews with several members of her family, closest acquaintances and business associates, WHITNEY observes the singer’s early years, illustrates her rise to stardom, and delves heavily into the details of her personal life, including her relationship with Bobby Brown (who is also interviewed) and the infamous drug problem. This documentary feature also incorporates exclusive demo recordings, audio archives and rare performance footage that enables viewers to get to know the real Whitney Houston (“Nippy”) and truly understand all of the potential contributors that led to the tragic truncation of her life at the age 48.

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Last year, I reviewed, and you may have seen another feature documentary about the life, career and tragic loss of “The Voice”, titled WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME. Viewing both will result in some repetition, however there is no disputing the fact that Kevin Macdonald‘s film is prepared to probe into darker territory and ask the confronting questions that WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME left on the cutting room floor. As such, WHITNEY is often more compelling to watch and reveals some very controversial allegations.

Her life is presented in chronological order throughout this two-hour documentary, which becomes an important part of its presentation as the various sources of insight and information being given are rather cluttered. Many individual interviewees understandably have a lot to offload, so sometimes the context of their discourses isn’t always clear. What is always made clear, however, is the damage that’s been done by the various people in her life and the film & music industry, especially by those whom she trusted and depended on the most. Her own father, for instance, suing her for what he believes is his fair share of Whitney’s success, attempting to milk money from his own daughter as though she were a cow with an endless supply of milk. You need only to hear a few sentences stated by ex-husband Bobby Brown to grasp the intensity of his jealousy towards his successful and popular wife, which he dealt with by retaliating. Even just a snippet of a horribly insensitive episode of animated TV series “Family Guy” that makes a joke of Whitney’s sadly decaying state (yes, it was insensitive even before she passed away) proves itself to be just another piece of ammunition that eventually shot her down.

What haunts the most is a recurring dream Whitney has had since her childhood. A dream that involves her running from the demons that are chasing. Demons that she could no longer hide from or outrun in the end.

3 ½ stars

 

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Viewer Discretion
M
 (Mature themes and coarse language)

Trailer
WHITNEY

Moviedoc thanks Transmission Films and Miranda Brown Publicity for the invite to the screening of this film

Review by Leigh for Moviedoc
Follow on Twitter – Moviedoc / LIKE on Facebook – @moviedoc13

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MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN

Director
Ol Parker

(NOW IS GOOD, IMAGINE ME & YOU)

Stars
Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Jeremy Irvine, Pierce Brosnan, Josh Dylan, Stellan Skarsgård, Hugh Skinner, Colin Firth, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters

And here we go again, we know the start, we know the end.
We’ve done it all before and now we’re back to get some more.

Those lyrics from one of the many famous and catchy songs sung by ABBA are indeed in tune to this sequel (and prequel) to the smash-hit musical romantic comedy MAMMA MIA. My my, can you believe it’s already been ten years since its release? Well then, now is our chance to show these ensemble of characters “just how much we’ve missed them”.

MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN begins with Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) completing the final preparations for a party to celebrate the impending opening of her hotel on the Island of Kalokairi, which is her mother’s lifelong dream. This milestone event leads Sophie to learning more about Donna’s youth, shown via extended flashback sequences set back to 1979. During these scenes, a younger and carefree Donna (now played by Lily James) has separate encounters with the men, Sam, Bill and Harry (Jeremy Irvine, Josh Dylan and Hugh Skinner, respectively) who are all potential candidates of being Sophie’s father, whom Donna meets during her travels to the idyllic Greek Island that becomes her home. 

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The feel-good fever being spread from the screen in MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN is totally infectious and will be embraced by many, yet I seem to be one of very few who were more immune to its outbreak of joy and fun, and could only feel minor symptoms.

Make no mistake, you will be having the time of your life throughout this musical film. Even if like myself, you find the dancing choreography rather standard and its songs to sing performed quite reasonably only, there is still much more to become fond of. The beginning of this sequel takes place five years on from where the 2008 film left off. Not long after we are whisked back to 1979, the screenplay makes smart use of its locations and commonalities in its narrative to connect the two timelines and its female protagonists. It’s a move that is not only creatively and nicely presented but also adds further laughter and some poignancy to the picture. The highly anticipated appearance of Cher (who turned down the role occupied by Christine Baranski in the first MAMMA MIA!) more than meets expectations. It will have her fans in a state of jubilation and is well worth the wait. Speaking of Christine Baranski, she absolutely steals every scene her character makes a remark in! It might be expected, but it never ages or tires. But don’t be holding your breath for the very brief visit of another favourite. Unlike before, Meryl Streep plays an extremely minor role in MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN and is only cast in just a few scenes. Nevertheless, she’s bound to gain her 22nd Oscar Nomination at the next Academy Awards!

So, even though MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN may not be able to make the magical music of ABBA flourish, as the original could, this shouldn’t be a preventative from enjoying and liking the sequel. Either way, your money money money will be well spent and MAMMA MIA: HERE WE GO AGAIN will be the winner that takes it all!

3 stars

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Viewer Discretion
PG
(Mild sexual references)

Trailer
MAMMA MIA: HERE WE GO AGAIN

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

Review by Leigh for Moviedoc
Follow on Twitter – Moviedoc / LIKE on Facebook – @moviedoc13

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SKYSCRAPER

Writer & Director
Rawson Marshall Thurber

(DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY, WE’RE THE MILLERS, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE)

Stars
Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Roland Møller, Chin Han and Noah Taylor

Right now, there is arguably no male action movie star that is in greater demand (see end of review!) or in hotter form than the cool and charismatic Dwayne Johnson. No matter how extreme or challenging the obstacle ahead may be, Johnson continually surmounts them while keeping his audience fully engaged along the way. Only recently, he’s had to deal with an over-sized and very angry gorilla in RAMPAGE, survive the dangers of the jungle in the JUMANJI sequel, and even rescue his family from the earthquakes in 2015’s SAN ANDREAS. In fact, only the tidal waves of stupidity in the BAYWATCH movie succeeded at sinking the ever-reliable efforts of this mighty leading man.

In SKYSCRAPER, Johnson (who also produces the film) plays Will Sawyer, a former FBI agent who has relocated himself and his family, wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and their two children, to Hong Kong after a work incident ended his career. Together, they reside in the world’s tallest skyscraper, known as The Pearl, where Will also works as an assessor of the building’s security system before its residential upper-levels can be officially opened. While he is offsite, a group of ruthless criminals set fire to one of the floors of the building, instantly placing the lives of Will’s family in jeopardy. When Will discovers The Pearl ablaze, he races against time and is forced to go to extreme lengths to break inside the burning building and rescue his loved ones.

5 Reasons Why ‘SKYSCRAPER’ Will Be This Year’s Biggest Action Movie

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock (and not the actor variety spoken of here!), you will know SKYSCRAPER courtesy of a particular set-piece sequence (pictured above) in which the resulting trajectory of the film’s hero during this outrageous stunt has been playfully debated, firmly discredited, and proven to be physically doubtful. This scene happens to be one of several edge-of-your-seat set-piece thrills that occupy this pure guilt-pleasure, popcorn entertainment blockbuster movie that is so much fun to watch, no one will care about physics!

SKYSCRAPER delivers exactly what it should — a consistent output of exciting action sequences, occasional doses of appropriately-timed self-parody, entertainment that is sky-high and a satisfactory climax, all at a rapid pace. Writer and director Rawson Marshall Thurber (who previously worked with Dwayne Johnson in CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE) has done a really neat job in combining a serviceable plot that attracts formidable villains with Will’s selfless and admirable mission, which leads to most of the physical combat scenes we see. Full utilisation has also been made from the hair-raising heights that the world’s tallest construction provides, so do be warned if elevated views make you a little wobbly at the knees!

A job well done indeed. So it should be, with a budget of approximately $125M! We only have to wait two years until Rawson Marshall Thurber and Dwayne Johnson reunite again for action film RED NOTICE. In the meantime, there’s a towering inferno of movies to come from Johnson that include spin-offs of THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS and SHAZAM! titled HOBBS AND SHAW and BLACK ADAM, respectively, sequels to JUMANJI, SUICIDE SQUAD, and SAN ANDREAS, his own DOC SAVAGE film and biographical comedy/drama FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY all on the go!

3 ½ stars

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Viewer Discretion

M (Action violence and coarse language)

Trailer
SKYSCRAPER

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

Review by Leigh for Moviedoc
Follow on Twitter – Moviedoc / LIKE on Facebook – @moviedoc13

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WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY? (HVA VIL FOLK SI)

Writer & Director
Iram Haq
(I AM YOURS)

Stars
Maria Mozhdah, Adil Hussain, Ekavali Khanna and Sheeba Chaddha

Writer and director Iram Haq‘s semi-autobiographical drama WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY? is about a sixteen year-old girl named Nisha (feature film debut of lead actor Maria Mozhdah, pictured below) who is forced to live a double life. At her family home in Norway, she reluctantly honours the traditional values of her Pakistani emigrant parents, father Mirza (Adil Hussain from LIFE OF PI) and mother, Najma (VEERE DI WEDDING actress Ekavali Khanna). Socially, Nisha is herself, a regular Norwegian teen who enjoys the contemporary westernised lifestyle and the company of her friends, one of whom is showing an interest of a more intimate nature towards her. Nisha welcomes the advances of the young man, with the mutual flirtation soon leading to the chance of their first physical encounter. When Nisha’s father sees them together, his instant disapproval and exaggerated assumptions lead to drastic actions that will tragically change Nisha’s life forever.

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A co-production of Norway, Sweden and Germany and spoken in Norwegian and Urdu, WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY? has something itself to powerfully say about people who forcibly trap and aim to control the actions of others, and the person they want them to be, yet will never become. And it’s not subtle in its representation of just that happening either! Taking into account the fact that this is a very personal film for writer & director Iram Haq to make, there is undoubtedly an inspirational story behind the heavy and heartbreaking one we see in WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY? that ultimately could have led to this good film being a great one. Nonetheless, many who do watch this movie will have their own connecting personal experience and be immediately drawn into this mightily absorbing story and profoundly resonate with its lead character.

Before Nisha’s two worlds collide, the film importantly establishes the foundations of both lives, granting us an understanding of their stark contrasts so that we also know who the real Nisha is. Once Mirza has become aware of his daughter’s secret life, things are sadly about to go from bad to much worse for our female protagonist. This scene, and the several minutes that follow are absolutely gripping to watch. Now, heed the following as necessary viewing preparation, as this is not intended to deter your interest to this film. Without revealing any specific plot details, the remainder of WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY? is harrowing to watch. All of the emphasis is continuously placed onto the horribly oppressive actions of the films perpetrators and the consequential suffering of the victims. Though it is absolutely warranted, there must be a source of strength, discernible resilience and some form of hope present to encourage Nisha’s survival and to also enable viewers those same hopes. Other than the occasional distraction from the hardship endured and the sheer hopelessness that is cast, Iram Haq doesn’t make any of these pivotal characteristics evident. Furthermore, her young protagonist has had significant alterations made to her existence that surely would have a greater psychological affect than what the script contains. More depth and development in these areas could only have strengthened an already powerful story.

Again, without mentioning specifics and to give you necessary advanced awareness, the ending arrives quite abruptly and could definitely have added even just a few additional scenes to leave viewers feeling more assured and lift some of the anger, pity and sadness felt for much of its length. Nevertheless, this is one foreign film with universal themes that ought to appeal to the masses worldwide, and whose story is so convincingly acted and always remains utterly absorbing.

3 stars

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Viewer Discretion
TBA 

Trailer
WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY? (HVA VIL FOLK SI)

Moviedoc thanks Palace, the Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival and Asha Holmes Publicity for the invite to the screening of this film

Review by Leigh for Moviedoc
Follow on Twitter – Moviedoc / LIKE on Facebook – @moviedoc13

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