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.


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


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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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)


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

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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.

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 


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


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

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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)


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

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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)


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

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Director / Jeffrey Walker (DANCE ACADEMY: THE MOVIE)
Stars/ Osamah Sami, Helana Sawires, Don Hany, Rodney Afif, Frances Duca and Ryan Corr

It has been over 20 years since Australia has produced a universally appealing wedding-themed film worth remembering. That movie, MURIEL’S WEDDING, not only made a star of Toni Collette, it even has its own stage adaptation currently showing in Sydney! Now in 2017, we have ALI’S WEDDING, which could not have picked a better time to walk down the aisle.

Similar to current cinema release, THE BIG SICK, this story is based very strongly on the life of its star – Australian actor, writer, director, poet and stand-up comedian Osamah Sami. Born in Iran to Iraqi parents, Sami plays himself under the character name Ali, who immigrates to Australia with his father, Mehdi (Don Hany), a Muslim cleric, mother Zahra (Frances Duca) and siblings. Nearing the end of high school, Ali is facing a mountain of pressure from his family and the Muslim community. He is expected to achieve extremely high grades in order to study medicine and become a doctor as well comply with his arranged marriage, even though Ali is madly in love with an Australian-born Lebanese girl, Dianne (Helana Sawires).

First and foremost, a special toast to ALI’S WEDDING for bringing something new to the big screen – our very first Muslim Romantic Comedy/Drama. Coming in at number two on the 2017 MIFF Audience Award winners list, there is much to admire by the endeavour shown in this film, even if it rains a little on its own parade.

The screenplay, co-written by Sami himself, importantly incorporates the significant influences in Ali’s life during the time depicted. Aside from his studies and romantic dilemmas, there is also his involvement in his father’s plays, his passion for the Essendon Football Club (great choice!), his job at a petrol station and the daily pressures from the community to be a good Muslim. Depending on your level of interest and insight gained, the amount of time devoted to each of these may exceed your threshold. With the exception of Essendon’s involvement, of course! ALI’S WEDDING doesn’t quite have the polished execution needed in order to seamlessly integrate all of its separate strands as a whole film. There are times that the comedic deliveries and the acting from some of the cast is noticeably off. The two feature film debutant actresses, Frances Duca and Helana Sawires, tend to struggle the most. During the first half of ALI’S WEDDING, Sawires isn’t able to nail the balance needed from her character. And if you’re partially interested in seeing this due to the appearance of Ryan Corr, don’t bother. His very minor and thankless role as Ali’s bogan mate, Wazza, is a complete waste of Corr’s great talents.

Those imperfections aside, ALI’S WEDDING casts a joyful, crowd-pleasing vibe from early and rarely lets it go. Especially during an improved second half, which shifts more of a focus towards the marriage conundrum Ali has got himself into.

3 stars


Viewer Discretion/ M (Mature themes and coarse language)


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

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Director / Malcolm D. Lee (THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY, SCARY MOVIE 5)
Stars/ Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah

White men can’t jump the raised bar of witty dialogue and acidic retorts being projected from the four lead female stars of this fiery new comedy. GIRLS TRIP is in fact the first film to be entirely produced, written and directed by as well as starring African-Americans to gross more than $100 million at the U.S box office.

Ryan (Hall), Dina (Haddish), Lisa (Pinkett Smith) and Sasha (Latifah) share a lifelong friendship, referring to themselves as the flossy posse, which has gradually become a little distant over the years to now. With the annual Essence Music Festival, which celebrates the Essence magazine that is aimed primarily towards African-American women, soon to be held in New Orleans, the girls decide to reunite for the event. It will be a weekend of wild partying and mayhem as the recently separated Lisa, loose-cannon Dina, workaholic Sasha and Ryan, whose husband is not being faithful to her, rekindle their sisterhood.

This absolutely awesome foursome ensure that GIRLS TRIP is indeed a trip worth taking.

Funnily enough, many of the experiences had by the lead female characters of this comedy are in fact based on the real-life encounters that writers Kenya Barris (TV series Black-ish), Tracy Oliver and story writer Erica Rivinoja (TROLLS) had with their female friends. That realness has been seamlessly conveyed to screen, courtesy of the genuine rapport these ladies share and the sharp writing. The script is laden with ripping one-liners, crude vocabulary that is bluntly delivered and a handful of scenarios that you won’t be forgetting in a hurry. These scenarios are aimed at being the highlights of GIRLS TRIP, yet compared to the brilliant execution of the writing, they do arguably produce a few more low-light moments instead. Speaking of highlights, however, a stand-out performance from Tiffany Haddish (KEANU) must be noted. Her uncouth character is hand-fed the script’s most vulgar language and Haddish hilariously hits the right tone and delivery on a frequent basis.

A very basic plot outline that has a single direction – to arrive at the festival and get the partying started – turns somewhat sentimental in its final quarter. Despite the ratio of laughter being evoked dropping off, it is the valuable meaning derived from this and the unbreakable bond that is convincingly depicted by the lead cast, whom work together extremely well, that end this comedy on a high note.

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (Strong crude sexual humour and coarse language) 

Trailer / GIRLS TRIP

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc