Month: May 2019

ROCKETMAN

Director
Dexter Fletcher
(EDDIE THE EAGLE)

Starring
Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden and Bryce Dallas Howard

It’s hard to know what to make of this toe-tapping Elton John biopic (if you can call it that). It’s certainly a fun ride for fans of the showman’s legendary tunes, but it’s not the movie to go to if you’re expecting an unflinching account of the man behind the sequins.

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Going into Rocketman I was hoping to come out of the experience knowing more about Sir Elton and what makes him tick than what I did before, sadly this wasn’t to be the case. That’s not to say that the journey the audience is taken on isn’t an enjoyable experience, it’s just lacks the depth to make it remarkable.

The story begins with Elton entering rehab in the 1980’s and through a series of flashbacks and musical numbers we are told of his journey from early childhood to the events that lead him to this critical juncture in his life. The main difference between Rocketman and other musical biopics (most notably the recently successful Bohemian Rhapsody) is the way it uses the artists music to paint the picture. This is more akin to a stage musical than a traditional biographical film in the way that song and dance numbers and injected into the storytelling, but the downside to that is, these songs aren’t the story of John’s life, they’re the imagination and experiences of longtime musical partner and lyricist, Bernie Taupin. The songs are also not used even remotely chronologically, so it’s hard to pick up on the essence of their relevance. This leads to an inauthentic experience when you really want to scratch the surface of Elton’s larger than life personality.

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A main issue that was always going to be prevalent when the subject is a living figure who had a great deal of control of the storytelling process, is that there are obvious factual gaps. Often Elton is portrayed as a sympathetic figure, one that’s not been loved enough or treated well by those around him. The characters here are all so incredibly black and white, which is such a contrast to the colourful world of Elton John. Everyone depicted here is either good or bad, there is very little in between, which is rarely the case of real people. From all accounts, Elton John has just as much ‘bitch’ in him as the next person, although you wouldn’t know it from this film. There are also places he clearly doesn’t want us to go, such as his 4 year marriage to musical engineer Renate Blauel. Given such a big focus of the film is his struggle with his sexuality and his homosexual relationships, you’d think his marriage to a woman would be more than just a ‘yeah, so this happened’ moment of the film.

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The cast were consistently good throughout the film, without really having to get out of second gear. Taron Egerton as John was believable enough, but lacked a little of the je ne sais quoi that’s needed to pull off such a larger than life persona. Bryce Dallas Howard was an unusual choice to play Elton’s mother, but she did a fine enough job with what she was given to work with.

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Upon leaving the film, I can’t help but feel that this should have just been a stage musical, it feels like it was made for that purpose. In that format, it would likely have been a remarkable hit and would undoubtedly have left a more memorable legacy. As it is, Rocketman feels much more like a publicity tool to drum up album sales as John heads into retirement. Unlike other biopics, you leave this film knowing little more about the subject than when you entered the cinema. The main lasting impression of this film is the reminder of just how many incredible hits this legendary virtuoso has had, which I dare say is enviable in itself.

3 stars

Trailer
ROCKETMAN

 

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


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PETERLOO

Director
Mike Leigh
(Another Year, Mr. Turner)

Starring
Rory Kinnear, Maxine Peake and Neil Bell
Have you ever wished that there was a two and a half hour movie version of live parliament Question Time? Well then Peterloo is the film for you! If however you are in the other 99.99999999999% of the population, then you might want to give a miss to this aurally draining snooze fest.

Peterloo sells itself on being the story of the 1819 Peterloo massacre in Manchester, where 18 people were killed and hundreds were injured at a peaceful protest regarding parliamentary representation reform. The reality of the film however is that the titular event itself was a minimal part of the film, which is astounding given the 154 minute running time. The rest of the film was taken up with verbal d*ck measuring and very little else.

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To his credit, director Mike Leigh has produced a film that is impressively accurate to the linguistic stylings of its period, but what that translates to is a tediously wordy film that takes an age to make its point, which is also often hard to decipher. The attention to detail is something that should be the films strength, but in this case is actually its undoing. It’s the kind of film that will only really appeal to the most die-hard of historians, and will alienate most of the general public.

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The film could have been saved with a more even balance of historical context and action, but there was just too much build up with no legitimate climax, leaving the audience with a cinematic version of blue-balls.

The mostly unknown cast did a tremendous job with the challenging script they were presented. The authenticity of the dialogue and delivery was commendable and probably the one redeeming feature of Peterloo.

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Overall Peterloo is like a work of art that is praised for its technical achievement, but isn’t one you’d want to display in your home.

1.5 stars
Trailer
PETERLOO

Moviedoc thanks Miranda Brown Publicity for the invite to the screening of this film.


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25 KM/H

Director
Markus Goller
(MY BROTHER SIMPLE)

Stars
Lars Eidinger and Bjarne Mädel

A few years ago, I unearthed what remains a hidden gem of a film. The story of Microbe and Gasoline (MICROBE ET GASOIL) revolves around two teenage friends who construct a makeshift motorhome for their random road trip throughout France. This German adventure comedy reminded me of Michel Gondry’s film and its plot isn’t too dissimilar either, albeit in Germany, on mopeds, and with more mature characters.

Christian and Georg (played by Lars Eidinger and Bjarne Mädel, respectively) are brothers who reunite after a decades-long hiatus in communication following the death of their father for his funeral. A few too many drinks later, the brothers begin to reminisce about their childhood and youth, and discover a map they once put together that details the route of a road trip they once promised to do together someday. Sensing that this is their carpe diem moment, Christian and Georg dust the rust off their trusty old bikes and hit the road in search of whatever may come their way.

Bjarne Mädel and Lars Eidinger in 25 km/h (2018)

It isn’t often you’ll see such lower speed limits functioning on the fast roads of Germany, so do yourself a favour and sit back, relax, and enjoy this comfy and cruisy excursion. Its rather infectious ‘anything goes’ vibe and the instant chemistry that is established and maintained by the two leads of 25 KM/H anchor the viewer to the film. All throughout, Christian and Georg are subject to a series of unplanned encounters with various strangers, including a potential hook-up with two flirty and fun-loving ladies (minor appearances played by Franka Potente and Alexandra Maria Lara), that regularly compliment the film’s vibe and evoke merriment. Enriching the overall pleasant experience is the beautiful scenery captured by the camera, which includes quaint towns, lush open fields and the Black Forest.

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On a slightly more poignant note, there are moments in 25 KM/H that the two brothers must address the elephant in the room. There are obviously reasons why they haven’t seen or spoken to one another in so long and these issues are yet to be addressed. Understandably, there are some tough choice of words spoken and reactions provoked that could change the mood of their (and our) journey. Fortunately, these merely forge the brothers’ tight bond and don’t contain the depth to evoke sentimental feelings. Also, you may find there are times that the lack of direction in story allows 25 KM/H to meander, however, another unplanned encounter to arise later in the film certainly changes that. While I wouldn’t necessarily label this movie ‘a hidden gem’, it is pretty darn fine and the performances from Lars Eidinger and Bjarne Mädel really are wunderbar.

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion
TBA

Trailer
25 KM/H

Moviedoc thanks Asha Holmes Publicity, Palace Cinemas and the German Film Festival for the invite to the screening of this film.

Review by Leigh for Moviedoc
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JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM

Director
Chad Stahelski

(JOHN WICK, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2)

Stars
Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Asia Kate Dillon and Lance Reddick

This third and most likely final chapter in the John Wick film series is a strong addition to the franchise that might be its best and ensures the action trilogy remains consistent, but does also wind up being the most uneven of the three instalments.

Picking up just one hour after the finale of JOHN WICK: CHAPTER TWO, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is minutes away from being declared “excommunicado” and having a $14 Million bounty placed on him by a secretive global association of crime organizations that enforces the assassins’ code, known as “The High Table”. As he tries to flee New York City, John is viciously targeted by several hit men and women who are more lethal than any he has faced before.

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In similar vein to what has been showcased to date in the John Wick films, a healthy percentage of the fight sequences in chapter 3 are creatively conceived, impressively choreographed and both thrill and enthuse audiences exactly as intended. During these scenes, of which most occur in the first half of the film, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM is a slick and brilliantly executed neo-noir action thriller. A few stand-outs for me include an early fight sequence situated inside the New York State Library, the first of a few knife fights and the contributions from Sofia (played by Halle Berry), an assassin from John’s past, along with her very well-trained killer canines.

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However, also in similar vein to previous chapters, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM isn’t an overall success. When its high-octane action isn’t at the forefront, there is a drop in momentum that is not due to the action temporarily residing, but because of a bloated running time and one or two less credible plot developments. That momentum drop can also be attributed to most action scenes throughout the second half just not quite having the same creative flare present in so many earlier sequences. Nevertheless, they do remain entertaining to watch.

One intriguing inclusion to this third chapter arrives from the time a new character known as The Adjudicator (played by Asia Kate Dillon from TV Series Billions and Orange Is The New Black) is introduced. This intimidating representative of The High Table makes a promising entrance and has real presence throughout, but is rather fizzled out by the end with the writing restricting her from walking any of her threatening talk.

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All throughout, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM seamlessly arouses amusement during its action sequences, which is largely derived from these scenes being so graphic and squeamish in nature. Not to mention gaining appreciation by doing so too. As the last third of the film approaches and the finale to this series nears, the tone intensifies somewhat. But rather than fulfilling its climax by now bringing John Wick’s greatest adversary to the fore, it bizarrely gives its particular antagonist some comical material to physically and verbally perform that might delight some, but felt far too on the contrary in tone for me. A teasing finish, in more ways than one.

3 ½ stars

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Viewer Discretion
MA15+ (Strong action violence)

Trailer
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM

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

Opens nationally on May 16

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

THE HUSTLE

Director
Chris Addison

(Feature film debut)

Stars
Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp and Tim Blake Nelson

In 1964, a comedy starring David Niven, Marlon Brando and Shirley Jones called BEDTIME STORY was released. Then, in 1988 it was remade with a change of title to DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, which starred Michael Caine, Steve Martin and Glenne Headly. Now, we have this remake of a remake, whose sole motivation is seemingly to handover roles previously occupied by male actors to a leading female cast.

Before they meet, Penny (Rebel Wilson) and Josephine (Anne Hathaway) are serial scam artists whose prey are easy, sleazy and superficial men. After spontaneously sharing a train carriage together, Penny finds Josephine and requests to be recruited by her. Impressed, but less than convinced by what she has witnessed of Penny’s work so far, Josephine agrees to trial Penny with outcomes that threaten to unmask her true profession and tarnish her sophisticated reputation in the public eye.

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Perhaps the only time that THE HUSTLE is just passable, yet still very ordinary at best, is right at the beginning when the synopsis I’ve described above is unfolding. From there, I’m afraid the chuckles start to wither and the quality in all aspects goes on a downwards slither.

Though I’m sure that many fingers of blame will be pointing towards the actresses, we must first acknowledge the abysmal writing they’re given to work with here. The plot of this film makes several truly preposterous moves, the script is filled with mostly woeful dialogue and features scenarios and gags that are horribly outdated. Some of those scenarios and gags do provoke occasional laughter, but a considerable portion of these are noticeably shoddily executed. With its reliance on the desperately thoughtless material failing to meet expectations and standards, greater dependency is consequently thrust onto the shoulders of its on-screen star power. Unfortunately, the extra emphasis given to Rebel Wilson’s narrower comedic talents does overwhelm her performance far sooner than co-star Anne Hathaway’s. In fact, THE HUSTLE has proven something to me. It has solidified my opinion that Rebel Wilson contributes to part of an ensemble cast quite nicely (BRIDESMAIDS, PITCH PERFECT), but lacks the broadness in comedic style and isn’t able to consistently execute what she does at the level required for a lead role such as this. As one of the producers of this comedy, she must simply claim more responsibility for its shortcomings.

Should THE HUSTLE garner a more lukewarm reception from you, it will mostly be due to Anne Hathaway’s precision. Well, at least until she has to do something she should never again attempt – a German accent!

1 ½ stars 

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Viewer Discretion
M (Crude sexual humour and coarse language)

Trailer
THE HUSTLE

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

Opens nationally on May 9

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

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LONG SHOT

Director
Jonathan Levine
(THE NIGHT BEFORE, WARM BODIES, 50/50, THE WACKNESS)

Stars
Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, June Diane Raphael, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Alexander Skarsgård, Bob Odenkirk and Andy Serkis

What a breath of fresh air LONG SHOT is to the romantic comedy genre. It not only tickles every taste bud you’d hope for from a rom-com, but is also one whose flavours can cater to many palettes.

In modern day politics, one of the most powerful women in the world – the U.S Secretary of State, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) – encounters an opportunity to make a run for the Presidency that she seizes. As she begins her global campaign, Charlotte is the recipient of glowing public recognition and rousing media attention, with the latter courtesy of rumours that she and the Canadian Prime Minister, James Steward (Alexander Skarsgård), have a thing. Meanwhile, disillusioned journalist Fred Flarsky’s (Seth Rogen) career is taking a nosedive after the company he works for announces that a much larger conglomerate will be taking over. When Charlotte and Fred cross paths, their careers are reaching polar opposite trajectories. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop Fred from charming his way into Charlotte’s life after she offers to employ him as her speechwriter. However, he must not only compete with the Canadian PM for her affection but also convince Charlotte’s loyal, but judgemental assistant Maggie Millikin (June Diane Raphael), that he is worthy.

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Right now, LONG SHOT obliterates all other candidates and gains my vote to claiming victory as the best romantic comedy of 2019 by the year’s end.

One of the many great accomplishments you will find it serves during its term is the writing. The central plot is heavily focused on the career trajectory and aspirations of LONG SHOT’s strong-willed and sophisticated lead female character. A lot of the film’s cleverly conceived humour is derived from this set-up and its subject matters also happen to be engaging as well as bearing a certain amount of significance. You may get the sense there’s a ring of truth, albeit of a mocking nature, to some of the discussions and actions going on here, which will resonate. Furthermore, the dialogue is sharp and seizes its opportunities to realistically depict and ridicule all things politics and certain members of its personnel. LONG SHOT exudes and perfectly executes a distasteful brand of comedy within an environment and behind the scenes of where the complete opposite behaviour is a prerequisite.

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To further support why LONG SHOT is a front runner in the rom-com field, you only need to look as far as the refreshing role reversal of its protagonists. To elaborate beyond that would require me to reveal some details I’d rather you discovered for yourselves.
What I will reveal though is just how welcoming and pleasing it is to hear a male character verbalising certain insecurities rarely seen in this genre of film.

I felt affection for and was heart-warmed by everything that eventuates in LONG SHOT, thanks largely to the perfectly pitched performances and organic chemistry of Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen. Any sparks that ignite between their characters feels so genuine and is never contrived or corny. This is a truly smart and very funny romantic comedy that returns this genre very close to the peak of its irresistible powers.

Highly recommended.

4 stars

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Viewer Discretion
M
 (Coarse language, sex and drug use)

Trailer
LONG SHOT

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

Opens nationally on May 2

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

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