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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.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE

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)

Trailer / THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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AMERICAN MADE

Director / Doug Liman (THE WALL, EDGE OF TOMORROW, THE BOURNE IDENTITY)
Stars/ Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright and Caleb Landry Jones

After a performance in this year’s remake of THE MUMMY that can only be described as being scarier than Scientology itself, Tom Cruise does earn back a healthy percentage of respect with this fine showing in the unbelievable true story, AMERICAN MADE.

We all experience some highs and lows throughout the longevity of our professional careers. For Barry Seal (Cruise), who is a pilot that is recruited into the CIA by agent Monty Schafer (Gleeson), not even the sky is a limitation to the highs that will be achieved in the course of his employment. But as they say, what goes up must come down. AMERICAN MADE exposes the details behind Barry Seal’s covert assignments, which are all connected to the political landscape of the United States during the late 70’s and early 80’s.

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The majority of you are probably well aware of the secret dealings and the scandal that rocked The White House during President Reagan’s reign. Even if there are no new revelations in this area of the story for you, AMERICAN MADE is entirely fascinating to watch courtesy of its lead character’s mind blowing involvement and the outrageous trajectory his life and career take. Seriously, the manner in which this man is pinballed around by several reputable agencies simply needs to be seen in order to be believed!

Director Doug Liman, who previously collaborated with Cruise in EDGE OF TOMORROW, has skilfully produced AMERICAN MADE to be a slick and amusing affair. Considering that the situations Barry Seal faces warrant a tense viewing experience, the fact that Liman has rightly identified an opportunity to apply levity to Seal’s precarious journey is credibility to his vision and execution as director. The screenplay by Gary Spinelli, which was featured on the 2014 Black List of most liked unproduced film scripts, articulates all of its remarkable detail with real precision and clarity. Complementing the writing work is the perfectly pitched pacing, several impressively filmed flight sequences and the locations used for filming (in Colombia and the U.S). 

AMERICAN MADE is the more chilled-out and less action-packed cousin of WAR DOGS.

3 ½ stars


On a side note, a small mention should go to a couple of crew members who tragically lost their lives on the last day of filming in a plane crash. Rest in peace, stunt pilot Alan D. Purwin and co-pilot Carlos Berl.

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (Strong coarse language) 

Trailer / AMERICAN MADE

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

Writer & Director / Luc Besson (LUCY, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, LÉON: THE PROFESSIONAL)
Stars/ Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Sam Spruell, Ethan Hawke and Rihanna

Costing as much as €197.47 million (U.S $210 million) to produce, most of which was personally funded by director Luc Besson, VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is easily the most expensive film ever to be made in France.

Based on the French Science-Fiction Comic Book Series “Valerian and Laureline” written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières, the plot for VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is loosely based on the sixth album in the series.

It is the 28th century in Alpha, a space station where millions of species, including humans, from a thousand planets all peacefully coexist. Special agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), who belong to the human division, are assigned a new task by Commander Filitt (Clive Owen), who has identified a dangerous and dark presence within the space station. Valerian and Laureline must travel to this section of the station and stop the unknown force from spreading before it threatens to cause harm to Alpha’s entire population.

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Truth be told, VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS isn’t at all difficult to like.

Its intentionally broadly accessible plot and structure will understandably be labelled as unoriginal. And sure, this aspect of the film is surprise-free. Visually however, there can be no arguing that Besson’s film is attention-diverting at the least and unique at its best. How could it not be? In total, there are 2,734 special effects shots and 200 alien species! Luc Besson was inspired by what was achieved by James Cameron in AVATAR. Although this science-fiction action-adventure movie is never really magical to witness as Cameron’s epic film was for many, there are other means to credible entertainment constantly on offer. Take the film’s temperament for instance, which is often light-hearted and incorporates a sufficient supply of sometimes lame, albeit funnier moments. Legendary music composer Alexandre Desplat’s score for the film is customarily brilliant and DeHaan & Delevingne, who share solid chemistry, work surprisingly well together.

This entry-level sci-fi/fantasy flick finds the right balance for a varied audience. The straightforward storytelling and mainstream characterisation won’t make any newcomers to the genre feel too out of this world. As for genre aficionados, although these aspects of the movie certainly won’t blow them out of this world, the more specific details and the cosmic aura of the film is likely to compensate for any lack of imagination in storytelling that is detected.

3 stars

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Viewer Discretion/ M (Science-fiction violence) 

Trailer / VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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ATOMIC BLONDE

Director / David Leitch (Feature film debut)
Stars/ Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Toby Jones, John Goodman, Eddie Marsan and Sofia Boutella

In preparation for her newest role, ATOMIC BLONDE star Charlize Theron not only worked with eight personal trainers but also trained with Keanu Reeves as he prepared for his action movie, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2. In fact, there is a lot of JOHN WICK in ATOMIC BLONDE, including the feature debut of uncredited JOHN WICK co-director David Leitch.

Based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City written by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Sam Hart, Charlize Theron stars as undercover MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton, who is sent to Berlin in the late 80’s during the fall of the wall. There, she is tasked with two key assignments by her boss, Eric Gray (Toby Jones). She must investigate the murder of a fellow MI6 agent, whom she was close to, and recover a list containing the names of several double agents, which was in the possession of her colleague.


A couple of possessions that are no secret in this spy movie is its very stylish visual design and dynamic music score. These post-production cosmetic enhancements certainly give the film a facelift, though ATOMIC BLONDE can’t always keep up with the coolness constantly being exuded by the one and only Charlize Theron. 

In much the same scintillating high level of form here as she was in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, Charlize is reason enough to buy your ticket for admission to ATOMIC BLONDE. Atmospherically, this is a spy action movie that is easily absorbed. The glitzy and glamourous use of fluoro colour, its heavily used soundtrack and a sharp and slightly darkened sense of humour is undeniably fun to watch. From this arc, it’s a little bit like last year’s SUICIDE SQUAD. Though let me tell you, unlike that film, ATOMIC BLONDE does not hold back on the violence. Or the sexier stuff either! Fortunately, and again much like the JOHN WICK movies, ATOMIC BLONDE showcases a number of impressively choreographed fight sequences and action stunts, all of which are led from the front by an extremely hard-working Charlize Theron. I know, I just won’t shut up about her! Unfortunately, where ATOMIC BLONDE does let its guard down to an extent that is felt, is in its pacing and narrative department. It’s during these times that the reliance on its most notable features are just too heavy. 

Don’t be surprised if in five to ten years from now, John Wick and Lorraine Broughton appear in the same film, or film universe at least! If this and Wick’s last chapter are anything to go by, that might not be such a bad idea at all!

3 stars

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

Trailer / ATOMIC BLONDE

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT

Director / Michael Bay (Every TRANSFORMERS feature film on the planet and THE ISLAND)
Stars/ Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel, Isabela Moner and the voices of Peter Cullen, Gemma Chan, Erik Aadahl and Frank Welker

As TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT begins, you can be forgiven for thinking that you’ve entered the wrong cinema. Set thousands of years ago and featuring mythical characters who usually reside in completely separate movies, it becomes evident from early that we are being treated (or burdened, pending your feelings) to a double feature for the price of one, over the next two and a half hours.

This fifth film in the franchise is set to be the final TRANSFORMERS film for series director Michael Bay. But it is far from being the final TRANSFORMERS film! In fact, rumour has it that this franchise will be getting inducted into its own cinematic universe! So while there is clearly an endless supply of CGI and budget ($260 million alone for this instalment, making it the most expensive film of the series so far!) allocated to TRANSFORMERS, it looks set to stomp into a new direction, as indicated by THE LAST KNIGHT. To back that statement up, there are no writers from previous TRANSFORMERS films contributing to the screenplay or the story conjured up in this fifth chapter.

Finally, to the plot. And yes, there indeed is one! In fact, there are many! It goes something like this – Transformers are no longer living among us. Optimus Prime (still voiced by Peter Cullen) has returned home to Cybertron, which has been destroyed and is in need of repair. If he can obtain a certain artefact from Earth (also known as Unicron) and bring it to Cybertron, then he will save his planet and further empower its leader, Quintessa (voiced by Gemma Chan). If successful, humans and Earth will be destroyed. To save our world will require the combined efforts of a few familiar faces including Cade Yeager (Wahlberg), an inventor, and William Lennox (Duhamel), who now works for the newly assembled TRF (Transformers Reaction Force). They will eventually meet and partner with new additions to the franchise, which include astronomer and historian Sir Edmund Burton (Hopkins), a 14 year-old orphaned girl, Izabella (Moner) and an English professor, Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock who you know as Meredith Quill from the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY films).


A decade has already elapsed since TRANSFORMERS first premiered on the big screen. Since then, the next three films in the franchise – REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, DARK OF THE MOON and AGE OF EX-STINKS-ION (see what I did there!) – have been just okay, at best. For its truest fans, TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT could very well be the most divisive movie of the lot. It is also marginally better than the three films before it!

But first, in order to grasp such feelings towards THE LAST KNIGHT, audiences must surrender to the unapologetic ridiculousness of it all. Should you understandably choose to be resistant to its ridiculousness, you will struggle to enjoy a single minute of the next 149 ahead of you. One counteractive mechanism employed by the script in order to quash any upheld resistance are its regular humourous interjections. Though less of a majority of them will actually strike a chuckle, they do continually remind us that above all else, THE LAST KNIGHT is never trying to be anything beyond purely lame fun. If the going is better than expected for you, there’s a strong chance that the utterly incredulous plotting has something to do with that. Unlike the very recent release THE MUMMYTRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT doesn’t take itself seriously at all, nor does it over-complicate its several plot strands. Furthermore, considering its lengthiness, which doesn’t really hit until the two hour mark has arrived, the individual plot trajectories keep the film moving at a reasonable pace. Even the action sequences feel a little less repetitive than what we’ve seen previously from this franchise and contribute slightly towards the mediocre entertainment on offer.

Admittedly, some things never change. TRANSFORMERS is still overlong and self-indulgent. Probably more so in THE LAST KNIGHT than ever before – The hyper-extended last half hour being the epitome of just that and having you wish that Michael Bay would get it over with already. But much to my surprise, there is more amusement and mild entertainment made available than expected.

2 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (action violence and coarse language)

Trailer / TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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DESPICABLE ME 3

Directors/ Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin, Eric Guillon
Starring the voices of/ Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Jenny Slate, Julie Andrews, Steve Coogan, Trey Parker, Russell Brand, Pierre Coffin and Miranda Cosgrove

The most recent get-together with everyone’s favourite DESPICABLE ME characters, the minions, didn’t quite manage to get the best out of the little yellow henchmen in their very first feature film. As expected, the novelty of MINIONS placing the minions in a starring role quickly wore off. They get another shot at it in 2020. Until then, they return to their original support role in the third DESPICABLE ME movie.

In DESPICABLE ME 3, Gru (Steve Carell) learns that he has a twin brother whom he never knew existed, named Dru (also voiced by Steve Carell). After finding, then meeting Dru for the very first time, the twin siblings catch up with all they’ve missed out on over the years. When Dru reveals a plan to steal a diamond in the possession of Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a former child star who resents Hollywood for axing his show, it tempts Gru into returning to past ways.


Take one look at the choice of films currently being screened at cinemas that rely on mainstream movies, and you’ll quickly notice an abundance of sequels, remakes and films based on or spinning off previous works in dominant force. Although this third addition to the animated comedy series doesn’t offer an ounce of originality, it does just enough to keep the attention of younger ones mildly diverted.

Throughout the consistently paced central plot involving Gru and Dru, there are the usual cutaways that give the minions valuable screen time to give the movie a burst of energy and a good laugh when needed. They get up to their usual antics in DESPICABLE ME 3, which features a number of scenarios that will bring moments of joy to adults and kids alike. Perhaps the favourite of them all will be the time that the minions accidentally find themselves standing centre stage on the set of a reality TV program. We can be thankful that the minions find good form again in DESPICABLE ME 3, for the main plot of this movie lacks the creativeness in writing needed. Separately, an annoying feature that may only be noticed by select members of the audience is the needlessly over-the-top animation and vocal work attributed to some of its characters.

DESPICABLE ME 3 isn’t as good as the two previous films, yet is an improvement on MINIONS and should provide a reasonable level of entertainment to families who remain devoted fans of the DESPICABLE ME franchise.

2 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ PG (mild themes and animated violence)

Trailer / DESPICABLE ME 3

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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