Author: moviedocmelbourne

Leigh Farrugia, also known as 'Moviedoc', writes reviews that you can read before watching a film! You never need to worry about finding out what happens during a film, for Moviedoc believes that less is more! Furthermore, you can rely on Moviedoc's reviews to help guide you when deciding which films to see and where, and which to avoid, all tailored purely to your taste! For over five years, Moviedoc has been reviewing movies, most of which are seen by invitation from film distributors to attend their pre-release media screenings. Future aspirations include, but are not limited to, continuing to build a strong fan base, growing movie knowledge and enhancing creative writing skills to enter the world of online newspaper sources. Please feel free to leave feedback, comments and you can follow all posts and reviews by liking Moviedoc on Facebook as well as following this blog site.

THE MIDWIFE/SAGE FEMME

Writer & Director / Martin Provost (SERAPHINE, VIOLETTE)
Stars/ Catherine Deneuve, Catherine Frot, Olivier Gourmet and Quentin Dolmaire

Two great Catherine’s of French cinema, Catherine Deneuve and Catherine Frot, headline the absorbing drama, THE MIDWIFE.

Midwife Claire (Frot), a late forties single mother of adult son Simon (Dolmaire), returns home from work one night to a surprise voicemail left by her father’s former lover, Béatrice (Deneuve). Quite keen to keep the unwanted reunion a short-lived one, Claire discovers that letting go of Béatrice isn’t as straightforward as she may have hoped, after receiving some unexpected news.

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Boasting suitably splendid performances from its leading ladies and featuring excellent characterisation, THE MIDWIFE adds another healthy arrival to the French cinema world.

Before the revelation of that aforementioned unexpected news, THE MIDWIFE introduces the small number of activities and people that form the essential parts of Claire’s life. For a short time from Béatrice’s appearance, some mystery surrounding their connection in the past and the cause for their long separation is upheld. This segment of the film draws in enough curiosity to help maintain further investment once it is no longer concealing past secrets of its core characters. As it continues, the focus from writer/director Martin Provost shifts to the meaningful development and trajectory of the two women’s interactions. For viewers who may appreciate a little more, THE MIDWIFE has some extra depth in identifying the role that Claire and Béatrice are playing in one another’s lives. This is especially pivotal to comprehend when evaluating the concessions made by the sometimes inexplicably kind-hearted Claire.

Not every facet of their shared time together will be of equal interest to everyone, however, the most important moments are the ones that occupy the majority of screen time in this French drama that delivers the goods.

3 ½ stars

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Viewer Discretion/ PG (Mild themes and coarse language)

Trailer / THE MIDWIFE/SAGE FEMME

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

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HOME AGAIN

Writer & Director / Hallie Meyers-Shyer (Feature film debut)
Stars/ Reese Witherspoon, Pico Alexander, Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky, Michael Sheen, Candice Bergen and Lake Bell

The daughter of film writer, producer and director Nancy Meyers (THE INTERN, THE HOLIDAY, SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE), Hallie Meyers-Shyer, makes her writing and directing feature film debut with the romantic comedy/drama HOME AGAINAs is the case for the maker of this movie, the lead character here also happens to be the daughter of a talented and successful film director.

Alice (Reese Witherspoon) leaves her musician husband, Austen (Michael Sheen), in New York to return to her father’s home in Los Angeles with their two daughters and attempts to start up her own interior design business. Struggling to cope with the recent separation, a chance encounter with three young men who are trying to break into the movie business, aspiring director Harry (Alexander), writer George (Rudnitsky) and lead actor Teddy (Wolff), brings the change needed in Alice’s uneventful life.

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A so-so date with the movies, HOME AGAIN is as routine as the leaves of a tree in autumn yet is just as warm and comfortable to be in the presence of as sitting by the heater during a cold winter morning.

Being an easier film to watch rather than being a particularly good one, its prime audience is bound to let HOME AGAIN get away with being completely foreseeable and average in every way possible. Perhaps one challenge to this being accomplished though are the reactions from a few of the characters to certain scenarios that do make them and this movie less likable. Even the casting is quite hit and miss itself, as too are the acting performances. Reese Witherspoon certainly does hold her own in the lead role and her co-star Michael Sheen brings a needed whiff of fresh air inside HOME AGAIN when he later appears, however they’re not the right mix together in portraying the separated and possibly rekindling couple. Lake Bell, who sporadically appears as a pompous client of Alice’s, is filling a role that is ultimately rendered useless. As for the trio of guys, Nat Wolff (who you know from PAPER TOWNS) isn’t given enough to do with his character, Jon Rudnitsky (best known for SNL) always looks uncomfortable and the handsome looking Pico Alexander can’t quite give a performance that’s equally as cool as his name. The overplayed suaveness that is displayed too often from him makes his character less charming and more cloying.

Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s risk-free entry into the movie-making business is as textbook yet mildly pleasurable as seeing flowers bloom in the spring time.

2 ½ stars

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Viewer Discretion/ M (Coarse language)

Trailer / HOME AGAIN

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

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GOOD TIME

Directors / Benny and Josh Safdie (HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT)
Stars/ Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Necro, Taliah Webster, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Barkhad Abdi

At the conclusion of its final credits during a screening at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, GOOD TIME was the recipient of a six minute standing ovation where it was also selected to compete for the prestigious Palme d’Or.

In New York, two brothers, Connie and Nick Nikas, attempt to rob a bank that does not go according to plan and results in Nick (co-director and co-editor Benny Safdie) being taken to a Riker’s Island holding cell. Desperate to free his mentally challenged brother, Connie (Robert Pattinson) turns to extreme measures, including his older girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and a bored teenage girl, Crystal (Taliah Webster), to obtain the bail bond required for his brother’s release.

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An outstanding score, a career-best performance from Robert Pattinson and extremely well thought-out writing ensure that GOOD TIME is more than worth your dime.

An independent American crime drama, GOOD TIME admirably allocates ample time to its lesser details and characters, enriching them on its way to becoming a cut above its mainstream counterparts. Aside from the Nikas brothers, all other characters are only briefly seen. However, with all small part players being written with characterisation that’s as colourful as the film’s neon design, they won’t be only briefly remembered. We see many movies belonging to this genre that either omit, skip or conveniently contrive connecting points to pull off their heist and reach the finish line. Not GOOD TIME. This film earns further positive recognition in just that area. A heist scene that is as riddled with tension as any other you’ll see, a timely twist and a more than satisfying conclusion are all ideal examples to give of the astute writing and execution of this immersive film.  Audiences are constantly left in the dark as to what the next turn in this tale could be and where this will lead to.

GOOD TIME is necessary to see in cinemas, purely to gain the full experience of the award-winning electronic score by Daniel Lopatin, best known under the recording alias Oneohtrix Point Never. It truly is a stand-out.

3 ½ stars

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Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (Strong violence, coarse language, drug use and sex scene)

Trailer / GOOD TIME

Moviedoc thanks Potential Films for the link to watch and review this film.

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HAPPY DEATH DAY

Director / Christopher Landon (SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES)
Stars/ Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews and Charles Aitken

The new horror flick HAPPY DEATH DAY marked its birth on the big screen just in the nick of time for Friday the 13th and will be hanging around over Halloween too. In what can be described as the slasher cousin movie of earlier dramatic release BEFORE I FALL, HAPPY DEATH DAY unwraps a few neat twists to its rewinding premise.

Every morning, college student Tree (played by unknown actress Jessica Rothe who appeared in LA LA LAND) wakes up and relives the same day. That fateful day always ends the same way – with her death at the hands of a mask-wearing, knife-wielding antagonist. Tree soon learns that the only way she will ever discover the hidden identity of her murderer is to change the course of her actions leading to her final moments.


Poor young Tree, not only is she being terrorised over and over again, but it ironically all happens to be occurring on her birthday too. The often unexpected actions of this exceptional lead character as the final day in her life is replayed detours the film from being as repetitive as its destined structure suggests. As such, the ability for viewers to predict the exact timing of forthcoming thrills is teasingly hindered. There are noticeable flaws sighted in its screenplay all throughout, yet they rarely matter or interfere with the very intentional fun to be had from watching HAPPY DEATH DAY. This is a bloody (figuratively, more so than literally) entertaining movie to watch! Strong contributors to this output also includes the score, which playfully taunts its audience to the same degree as the script. Directing from Christopher Landon is sharp, who has extracted strong performances from his largely unknown cast. Each of these young actors’ timing and varying tone is right on song just as needed. But none more so than a stand-out solo performance from lead actress Jessica Rothe. She plays it bitchy, she plays it kind, she plays it feisty and she plays it frightened, all with a fierce confidence that is utterly contagious.

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (Horror themes, violence, sexual references and coarse language)

Trailer / HAPPY DEATH DAY

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

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THE BELKO EXPERIMENT

Director / Greg McLean (WOLF CREEK, ROGUE)
Stars/ John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona and Melonie Diaz

In the year 2000, a dystopian Japanese action film was a box office hit in its home country and received audience and critical acclaim across the globe. That film, BATTLE ROYALE (BATORU ROWAIARU), was also slapped with the rare Japanese film classification of R-15 and caused its fair share of controversy, resulting in a ban to show in several other countries.

A plot that draws heavily from that film, THE BELKO EXPERIMENT pitches a premise that involves 80 employees who are working at not-for-profit organisation Belko, located (and shot on location) in the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia. Shortly after each employee has arrived at work one morning, an unknown voice over the intercom sternly advises that they are to kill three of their co-workers, or six others will instead be killed.


Sure enough, this premise does have the propensity to intrigue. However, as the twisted idea unfolds, it soon becomes evident that this experiment is left begging for a dose of originality and bright ideas it is bereft of.

As the initial reactions to the disconcerting announcement are seen, THE BELKO EXPERIMENT does immediately summon an undeniably ominous curiosity. Even though zero effort has been put into the characterisation department, the deadly scenario does demand the full attention of its viewers. Any stranglehold that THE BELKO EXPERIMENT may have cast to this point gradually erodes once the actions of its mostly annoying and unlikeable characters and its plot trajectory become far too foreseeable. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY writer and director James Gunn, who writes this screenplay, was also set to direct this film until a last minute change of heart due to personal reasons. Unfortunately for Gunn, Australian filmmaker Greg McLean’s direction is just as uneven as the script itself is. It unsuccessfully attempts to combine a Tarantino-like concoction of excessive and bloody violence with macabre humour, yet doesn’t want to be taken lightly as a work of horror-like thriller either. Adding to the unevenness of this picture are a handful of music-driven, slow-mo’d slaying scenes that never quite fit. Had the finale unveiled a badly needed unforeseen twist, then there may have been warrant to recommend THE BELKO EXPERIMENT. Rather, another obvious development will leave you feeling as though this is something you could have scripted yourself!

Instead, get onto Netflix and watch an episode of the similar yet superior series, Black Mirror. 

2 stars

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

Trailer / THE BELKO EXPERIMENT

Moviedoc thanks Rialto Distribution for the screening invite to this film.

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FINAL PORTRAIT

Writer & Director / Stanley Tucci (BIG NIGHT, THE IMPOSTORS)
Stars/ Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Sylvie Testud, Clémence Poésy and Tony Shalhoub

FINAL PORTRAIT is an enlightening retelling of Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti’s (Geoffrey Rush) numerous attempts to complete his portrait of young American writer and art admirer James Lord (Armie Hammer). It is 1964 in Paris when Alberto makes the flattering offer to draw his friend James, who is spending a few days traveling the French capital. Told from James’s perspective, FINAL PORTRAIT follows the trials and tribulations of both men as the neurotic artist battles both artistic and personal problems in this biographical comedic drama.

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From even his childhood years during the early 1900’s, Alberto Giacometti showed a keen interest in art. The life events of this post-impressionist artist that occurred from then to the timeline depicted here have surprisingly never been told in a feature length picture. However, they certainly deserve to be (and hopefully will be) someday.

Better known for his on-screen work, writer/director Stanley Tucci focuses on several days in the latter part of Giacometti’s life, in this moderate yet finely made film. Content with regularly and casually observing rather deeply exploring any of its themes and characterisations, FINAL PORTRAIT is an undeniably lightweight film that has tendencies to sometimes meander and linger in repetitiveness. Nevertheless, those who fancy this edited snapshot will take a liking to Tucci’s piece of work courtesy of the director’s firm handling of a basic story and peculiar characters, the reasonable pace over a short duration that has been applied and a terrific performance from Geoffrey Rush (who knew he could speak French!?). These aspects of the film keep this UK production a serviceable one.

3 stars 

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Viewer Discretion/ M (Mature themes, coarse language and nudity)

Trailer / FINAL PORTRAIT

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

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VICTORIA & ABDUL

Director/ Stephen Frears (FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS, PHILOMENA, THE QUEEN)
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)

Trailer / VICTORIA & ABDUL

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

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