Month: September 2018

NIGHT SCHOOL

Director
Malcolm D. Lee
(GIRLS TRIP, BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT, THE BEST MAN)

Stars
Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Taran Killam, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Al Madrigal and Rob Riggle

For comedies that return an adult to any form of adolescent education, it hasn’t been a great year thus far. In LIFE OF THE PARTY, star Melissa McCarthy tried hard and was the most likable part in what was otherwise an average movie directed by her real-life husband. By the time audiences are dismissed from an overlong two-hour class in NIGHT SCHOOL, a below-average grading awaits.

Life is pretty sweet for Teddy (Kevin Hart), a high-school drop-out who enjoys his job as a salesman at a BBQ store, which he is very successful at, and is planning to propose to his beautiful girlfriend, Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke). Life looks set to become even sweeter for Teddy when a new employment opportunity that promises a higher salary arises. But first, he must attend night school in order to pass an exam that he walked out of decades ago. Standing in Teddy’s way of accomplishing this is his no-nonsense teacher, Carrie (Tiffany Haddish), a troublesome fellow classmate (Al Madrigal) and the school principal (Taran Killam).

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NIGHT SCHOOL’s premise and the attractive pairing of its two leads do make for an appealing comedy, but several mistakes are made and there is a lot left to learn itself.

There are two particular errs of judgement committed here. Firstly, and most noticeably, the script writers (and boy, there’s a lot of them!) haven’t thought up enough ideas for scenarios or penned the dialogue in a way that’ll generate consistent laughter. What we see in NIGHT SCHOOL is uninventive, only musters the occasional chuckle and is then lazily rinsed and repeated. Secondly, and as a result of the aforementioned, a lot of these exchanges of dialogue and action is shared among cast members playing supporting characters. These characters attract far less interest than those who ought to be our leads and the actors portraying them just don’t have the necessary star-power to entertain and engage in their overly generous contributions. Again, the lack of quality in material they’re given to act and the repetitious nature of the comedy doesn’t do them any favours either. I mean how many times do we need to witness just how clueless Mackenzie (Rob Riggle) is or hear the complaints of motherhood (but how blessed she really is) from the socially-awkward Theresa (Mary Lynn Rajskub) until the writers gel that it was hardly funny the first time, let alone the fifth?

You can hall pass on NIGHT SCHOOL. Or wait for at-home release at best.

2 stars

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Viewer Discretion
M (Crude sexual humour and coarse language)

Trailer
NIGHT SCHOOL

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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DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT

Director
Gus Van Sant
(MILK, ELEPHANT, MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO)

Stars
Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill and Rooney Mara

Originally, Gus Van Sant planned to make this comedic drama that is based on the memoir by John Callahan in the 1990s with Robin Williams to star as John. There is no doubt that the late and great Williams would have been the perfect choice to play this troubled but talented character. Nevertheless, this is material that is right up the alley of its experienced star Joaquin Phoenix.

It’s the 1970s and John is an alcoholic is in his early twenties. During a night of hard drinking and partying, he makes a spontaneous decision to get inside a car that is being driven by an equally intoxicated random, Dexter (a minor role played by Jack Black), which has lifelong consequences. Dexter nods off at the wheel while doing about 100 miles per hour and crashes into a pole. When he awakes from his coma, John discovers he is paraplegic. His life as he knew it is over. As time passes and an even greater volume of alcohol consumption fills John’s empty days, he is given a chance at a second life via an Alcoholics Anonymous support group led by Donnie (Jonah Hill), a love interest, Annu (Joaquin’s real-life partner Rooney Mara), and his controversial and irreverent off-colour newspaper cartoon drawings.

DON'T WORRY, HE WON'T GET FAR ON FOOT

Joaquin Phoenix stars as John Callahan in DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT.


John might not get so far on foot, but there’s a darn good chance that John’s story will nestle itself a cosy little place in your heart.

Despite the fact we all know that John has only himself to blame for the foolish decision he made that has resulted in his current state, this movie succeeds at enabling viewers to still feel empathy for him. As you’d expect, he is angry and sorrowful. But don’t think for a moment that DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT is about to dwell in the past or mourn over the present. No, this movie has an agenda that is of much more value and meaning. This is not the tragic story of a man who made a terrible decision that ruined his life. Rather, it’s the true story of a man who learned he needed to make peace with past issues that led to his alcoholism (and that aforementioned fateful decision), and found a much-needed outlet for his emotions. A surprising outlet that became an integral part of his healing process where he discovered a talent that was arguably his true calling in life. The screenplay’s ambition and willingness to address addiction frankly, and to draw honest answers from the toughest of questions is admirable, to say the least.

Themes and story aside, DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT depicts a number of different timelines in John’s life shuffled all throughout the film. Thankfully, the editing and directing are not messily arranged so that the film remains relatively easy to piece together. Much like the artistic nature of John’s drawings, the tone of humour is a bit more of an acquired taste and therefore laughter and amusement is more selective. Having said that, a particular drawing that very controversially depicts an extremely well-known religious icon pictured with a popular acronym is one of the most hilarious things I’ve seen in any movie this year! I now want to purchase a t-shirt with this image! A tenderly rendered music score adds real intimacy to this story and also maintains some poignancy felt throughout. For me, the stand-out belongs to Jonah Hill’s performance. Looking quite a lot like a mainstream version of Jesus, it took me a while to recognise him. Though his terrific work here is bound to be overlooked by that of his co-star Joaquin Phoenix, I thought so highly of Hill’s acting, I’m betting it will earn him a Best Supporting Actor – Musical or Comedy nomination at the 2019 Golden Globes.

3 ½ stars

DON'T WORRY, HE WON'T GET FAR ON FOOT
Viewer Discretion
M (Mature themes, sex scenes, coarse language and nudity)

Trailer
DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT

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

Review by Leigh for Moviedoc
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JIRGA

Writer and Director
Benjamin Gilmour
(SON OF A LION)

Stars
Sam Smith, Sher Alam Miskeen Ustad, Amir Shah Talash and Basheer Safi

The title of this film denotes the word used for a tribal council in Afghanistan, where this entire Australian production is set and shot. Members who form a part of this Jirga will decide the fate of a former Australian soldier seeking redemption by the end of this 78 minute fictional drama.

It’s been three years since the war when Mike (Sam Smith) returns to Afghanistan. He doesn’t speak their language, isn’t carrying much baggage and possesses a large sum of Afghan Afghani currency. However, Mike is carrying plenty of emotional baggage, having killed an innocent civilian in front of his wife and children during the war. Troubled by his own personal convictions, Mike pays some of the locals to help escort him to where that fateful incident occurred, which is south of Kabul and territory that is heavily occupied by members of the Taliban.

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The themes and certain points captured in this story is what makes JIRGA exactly the type of film that we both need more of in our world and ought to see. Other than its more clear characteristics of redemption and forgiveness, JIRGA is also a meaningful and meditating reminder of the death and destruction of similar non-fictional wars that innocent civilians are invariably forced to live with in these parts of the world. Regardless of how different we might be to one another, the irreplaceable worth of a single human life that is a loved one to you is something that we all share in common. So too is the shock and grief felt for long to come by their sudden and unnecessary death. This is what JIRGA conveys in such an authentic and raw manner.

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Writer and director Benjamin Gilmour, who recently won the CinefestOZ $100,000 prize for best Australian film, is also the director of photography for this film and cinematographer of previous movie, SON OF A LION, filmed entirely in Pakistan. His endeavour to exhibit the humanity that exists, but is overlooked in regions of the world that continue to be headlines for violent and inhumane acts, and the dangerous extremities he chooses to keep his productions as genuine as they can be, deserve every ounce of credit. If you’re seeking further proof of that fact beyond the rare opportunity to see a mostly English spoken film actually shot in Afghanistan, then look no further than the casting, which features some ex-Taliban members!

4 stars

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Viewer Discretion
M (Mature themes)

Trailer
JIRGA

Moviedoc thanks Felix Media 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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THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS

Director
Eli Roth

Stars
Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Kyle MacLachlan and Owen Vaccaro
Looking for a little cinematic adventure this school holidays? Look no further than The House With A Clock In Its Walls.

Set in Michigan in 1955, this is the story of Lewis Barnavelt; a recently orphaned boy sent to live with his estranged, eccentric Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black). Arriving at Jonathan’s spooky, if not ostentatious, home, Lewis soon learns that there are more to his Uncle’s eccentricities than meets the eye. After being introduced to Jonathan’s best friend Mrs. Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), Lewis discovers that Jonathan is a Warlock and Mrs. Zimmerman a Witch and both are working tirelessly to unlock the enchanted secrets within the house. What transpires next is a joining of these three misfits in a quest to save the world from a villainous zombie.  Does all of this sound a little crazy? Of course it does, but that’s the point and it’s what makes this little tale fun for the whole family.

Jack Black is in unsurprisingly in his element in this film, and Cate Blanchett is proving more and more frequently that she’s not afraid to show her lighter side. Owen Vaccarro is wonderful as young Lewis and really holds his own alongside these seasoned veterans. The trio work superbly together and the banter between Black and Blanchett could be a film on its own.

There were plenty of ‘laugh out loud’ moments throughout The House With A Clock In Its Walls, and I’m not ashamed to say that you’re never too old to laugh at a giant topiary lion, pooping leaves onto unsuspecting guests.  There are also elements of the film that were definitely a bit creepy and could get the hairs on the back of your neck standing up; not surprising given the Director (Eli Roth) is responsible for films that include Cabin Fever and Hostel. Given this fact, it’s a film that might not suit real littlies, but it will be a real hoot for the older kids and tweens…and who am I kidding, parents will love it too.

I went into this movie not knowing what to expect, hoping it would be somewhere around the mark of one of Jack Black’s other recent outings in this genre (Goosebumps), but I was pleasantly surprised when it exceeded that benchmark. This is a quirky film with a lot of charm, and one that should be on the ‘must see’ list for families this school holidays.

4 stars

Trailer
THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS

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

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THE NUN

Director
Corin Hardy

Stars
Demián Bichir, Taissa Famiga, Jonas Bloquet and Bonnie Aarons

Whoever said that ‘less is more’ should have had a chat with the studio heads that greenlit the idea of turning a sub-plot from The Conjuring 2 into a feature film. The idea might have been good in theory, but after two attempts to come up with a winning screenplay, it should have been obvious that there just wasn’t enough meat on this bone.

Created as a prequel to The Conjuring series, this is a re-emergence of the demonic nun, Valak, who had made per presence known to Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) in The Conjuring 2. Unfortunately, the character that was quite effectively scary in the previous film becomes almost comical in its stand-alone feature.

An origin story (of sorts), The Nun takes us to 1952, where an American Nun and a Mexican Priest (with an Irish name) are sent by the Vatican to Romania to meet up with a French-Canadian villager (Frenchie) and investigate the suicide of a nun at a secluded Abbey…which used to be a medieval Duke’s castle. Seems legit so far. Frenchie takes our Vatican mates out to the Abbey, where he had come across the body of the recently deceased nun. When they get there they are told by an old ninja….aka the Mother Superior…that they cannot talk to any of the nuns until the morning as they were about to complete evening vespers, followed by a vow of silence until sunrise. Obvs that means that they would have to stay the night in a place that makes Castle Grayskull look positively cosy (how convenient). Naturally our old French-Canadian mate gives a bit of ‘yeah, nah, think I’ll head back to the village and pick you guys up in a couple of days’. I think it goes without saying that our Priest and Nun didn’t receive a turn-down service, great night’s sleep and a continental breakfast in the morning. There was a little bit of demonic stalking, some hallucinations, a lot of panto vibes…”it’s behind you”, and my absolute favourite; a killer soundtrack that let you know every time Valak was lurking by playing the same ominous, chant-like riff….essentially the demonic-nun version of the “duuuun-duuun” from Jaws. Scary? Not so much. Hilarious after a while? Most definitely!

Through the unintentional comedy, there were a few moments that got you jumping, even if the frights were entirely predictable. Unfortunately the film felt like a wasted exercise. Whether it was through lazy writing, directing, or both, the movie felt like it had been phoned in. There were so many plot holes and details skimmed over that it was hard to really know what we were supposed to be investing in.  As an origin story, it was definitely lacking in ‘origin’.  The story of the basis of this demonic possession was about a 45 second detail in the film, which didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense (pardon the pun). The carelessness of it is disappointing as it shouldn’t have been difficult to have raised this to the levels of some of its predecessors. Unlike The Conjuring which has a rich story to intensify the terror that was unfolding, the story of The Nun is weak, and it’s that story weakness that lets it down in all other areas.

With the creepy setting and the launching pad from The Conjuring 2, this should have been a smash. But what was a nice little addition to the franchise in its smaller dose, became a lethal injection in this iteration.  As the saying goes, less is definitely more, and in this case, Nun would have been better! (sorry, not sorry)

2 stars

Trailer
THE NUN

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

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