crime

KNIVES OUT

Writer & Director
Rian Johnson
(STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII – THE LAST JEDI, LOOPER, BRICK)

Starring
Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Edi Patterson and LaKeith Stanfield

I’ll start by getting straight to the point – KNIVES OUT is an instant classic addition to the mystery movie family. 

On the night of his 85th birthday, the family of well-known and highly-regarded crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) gathers at his luxury residence to celebrate the milestone occasion. The very next morning, Harlan is found dead by his housekeeper (Edi Patterson). Many members of Harlan’s dysfunctional and greedy family quite easily accept his unfortunate passing to be self-inflicted, but not Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), who is certain there is much more to this case than they care for him to know! Adding further mystery to this case, Detective Blanc doesn’t know the identity of the person who hired him to investigate the death of Harlan Thrombey, which further supports his suspicions of foul play having occurred. Treating each family member and acquaintance as a prime suspect, Detective Blanc uncovers their every secret and untangles the layers of lies concealing the truth behind Harlan’s demise.

MORNING BELL

How KNIVES OUT broadens its scope for clues, culprits and causes surrounding its whodunnit mystery is a work of genius that simply needs to be seen in order to be fully comprehended. These intelligently conceived and impeccably executed facets of the film are major players in it being one of the best and most enjoyable films of 2019. Take for instance the editing during the initial stages of the investigation, which cleverly cuts from one character to another and could very well be utilised for upcoming twists. Then there are several flashback scenarios that toyed around with my trust in solving this mystery as often as they appeared. Throughout all of this, almost every character is given a clear motive for the possible murder of Harlan Thrombey, making the process of elimination impossible to achieve! By provoking me to question everything and everyone, KNIVES OUT even forced me to consider characters without an obvious motive to the same extent as those with one. See what I mean? Genius!

MORNING BELL

In a way, you could say that KNIVES OUT is a good old-fashioned murder mystery. But rest assured, aside from providing the same (if not higher) level of enjoyment as some of your favourite mystery classics, there is nothing old-fashioned about this very modern film. In particular, I loved how writer and director Rian Johnson has shrewdly incorporated and ridiculed certain observational facts and themes into his very complete script. This bona fide mystery movie is driven by its plotting and characters much more so than set-piece sequences and thrills. As a result, KNIVES OUT is inherently funny and hugely engrossing, whose very appealing ensemble cast each make memorable contributions that do not disappoint. Do not miss this one!

4 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion
M (Mature themes and coarse language)

Trailer
KNIVES OUT

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

KNIVES OUT is released in cinemas throughout Australia from 28th of November, 2019.

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

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WATCH THE SUNSET

Directors
Tristan Barr and Michael Gosden
(Feature film debut together)

Stars
Tristan Barr, Chelsea Zeller, Annabelle Williamson and Aaron Walton

There is something very unique about WATCH THE SUNSET. This is Australia’s first full-length feature film that has been brave enough to tell its story by being shot in a single take! Well, crikey mate, this crime drama is dead set impressive!

Rehearsed over a five week period prior to its shoot date, the final cut seen here was accomplished on the fourth attempt and day of filming. Taking place in real time during one arvo (afternoon for those of you outside Australia!) in the regional Victorian town of Kerang, Danny (played by producer, editor, writer and director Tristan Barr) is a man in a desperate situation trying to outrun a crime-laden past that could be catching up with him quicker than he knows. Before it’s too late, Danny aims to right his wrongs with some folk who were once close to him, including Sally (Chelsea Zeller) and Joey (Annabelle Williamson). But the safety of every person that Danny comes into contact with is immediately placed in jeopardy.

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Upon reflection of this mightily ambitious production, I certainly believe that the true rewards for viewing this film are received without knowing any of its specifics prior to watching and is given by simply allowing the measured movement of the camerawork to gradually reveal one piece of detail at a time. I found myself completely immersed from the get-go because of this, but also owing to the smooth and inventive filming, tense score and the tension summoned by a script that continually provokes questions surrounding every current and upcoming move and motive of Danny’s. That is despite there being scarce dialogue spoken throughout the first act of the film.

Quite miraculously and intentionally, WATCH THE SUNSET generates equally as much anticipation as to how it will capture the next action of a character and that particular scene or scenario they’ll be in. I cannot remember the last time that I was this irresistibly curious and completely invested by this aspect of cinematography in any film! The use of and execution in timing and choreography in particular scenes is critical to ensure that what transpires continues to keep everything looking and feeling real. Even though these latter components of the film, and some of the acting, aren’t as polished or consistent as the rest of the production, they remain a minor imperfection only.

A deserving round of applause goes out to all of the filmmakers on board. In particular, to the duo of directors Tristan Barr and Michael Gosden, who could easily have opted for a more traditional and far less challenging method to convey this story. Yet, it is their innovative approach and commitment to their craft that both demands and derives the best out of them and their project.

3 ½ stars

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Viewer Discretion
MA15+
 (Strong themes, violence, coarse language and drug use)

Trailer
WATCH THE SUNSET

Moviedoc thanks Fighting Chance Films and Cathy Gallagher for the preview link to watch and review this film.

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

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CRIME WAVE (OLA DE CRIMENES)

Director
Gracia Querejeta
(SIETE MESAS DE BILLAR FRANCÉS, HÉCTOR)

Stars
Maribel Verdú, Paula Echevarría, Asier Rikarte, Miguel Bernardeau, Antonio Resines, Raúl Peña, Juana Acosta, Raúl Arévalo, Luis Tosar, Montse Pla, Nora Navas and Javier Cámara

For the second consecutive year, the film I am reviewing for the Moro Spanish Film Festival (accompanied by the Cine Latino Film Festival this year) is a dark comedy whose premise unlocks the door for an overflow of outrageous humour to come. Though it may not become as ridiculous and macabre as last year’s film festival release ABRACADABRA, CRIME WAVE is further indication Spanish comedies really are an acquired taste that have barely tickled my taste buds to date.

Maribel Verdú (from ABRACADABRA) stars as Leyre, a divorced single mother who goes to desperate lengths to cover for her son, Asier (played by Asier Rikarte) after he kills her ex-husband and his father, Cosme (Luis Tosar). A conundrum whose secrecy only increases in difficulty to maintain when Cosme’s current wife, Vanesa (Paula Echevarría) and her lawyer, Susana (Juana Acosta) become suspicious of his disappearance. Soon enough and one way or another, several others become embroiled in the crime, including Asier’s best friend, Julen (Miguel Bernardeau), a taxi driver and wannabe actor (played by Raúl Arévalo), Leyre’s mother and her carer (Montse Pla and Nora Navas, respectively), two policemen (Antonio Resines and Raúl Peña) and a nonchalant Priest (Javier Cámara), whom Leyre confesses to as the film begins.

Maribel Verdú in Ola de crímenes (2018)

To put it straightforwardly, CRIME WAVE is not particularly a good film. Even after placing my own feelings towards it aside. At best, it is capable of moderately entertaining and its conclusion is less foreseeable courtesy of the individual involvements from so many supporting characters. But far too often throughout, the execution in comic timing and even in general filmmaking is noticeably quite poor and certainly not at a cinematic standard. As a result, a greater dependency is placed onto the script and the film’s brand of comedy to source enjoyment from. Unfortunately, the blacker areas of humour never really blend seamlessly with the rest of the picture. Furthermore, the plot developments become too farcical and contrived for me to appreciate and for a movie that has so many characters in it, such minor contributions have been derived from them. For instance, Leyre’s mother makes an impressionable first appearance, but is then virtually made redundant by having the same stale lines recycled over and over again. This missed opportunity to give these characters plenty more perk, which in turn would have surely sharpened this film’s premise and its unflattering conclusion, is where CRIME WAVE could have been a festival highlight rather than a festival blight.

2 stars

Viewer Discretion
TBA

Trailer
CRIME WAVE

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

Review by Leigh for Moviedoc
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EVERYBODY KNOWS (TODOS LO SABEN)

Writer & Director
Asghar Farhadi

(A SEPARATION, ABOUT ELLY, THE SALESMAN, THE PAST)

Stars
Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Carla Campra, Ricardo Darin, Inma Cuesta, Bárbara Lennie and Eduard Fernández

This eighth feature film to be directed by acclaimed Iranian-born filmmaker Asghar Farhadi isn’t his strongest, but has plenty of appeal and is the most accessible piece of foreign cinema he’s produced to a worldwide audience yet. The second movie directed by Farhadi that is set outside of his country of birth, EVERYBODY KNOWS stars Penelope Cruz as Laura, a married Spanish woman living in Buenos Aires with her husband, Alejandro (Ricardo Darin) and their two children, Irene (Carla Campra), a flirtatious teenager and young son Diego (Iván Chavero). Laura and the two children are travelling to her hometown near Madrid, Spain to attend the wedding of Laura’s sister, Ana (Inma Cuesta). As one night of celebrations unfolds, several years worth of family secrets are forced out into the open after Laura makes an unsettling discovery.

Image result for penelope cruz everybody knows film stills

On paper, this premise sounds tantalising. Especially when you consider the high standard of storytelling demonstrated in previous bodies of work by the Oscar-nominated writer and director of this Spanish language drama. Though no disaster by any stretch of the means, EVERYBODY KNOWS is never quite the gripping mystery it was destined to be and is rather stretched itself at 133 minutes in length.

Thankfully, the best of what EVERYBODY KNOWS has to offer is maintained throughout much of its duration. That all begins after the joyous wedding celebrations, which introduces every important family member in entertaining fashion, are abruptly brought to an end. During this period of time, EVERYBODY KNOWS studiously forms into an alluring and intelligently deceptive mystery film that constantly shifts the spotlight on who might be a suspect, and why. Many clues as to who the true antagonist(s) of this film could be are eliminated as quickly as they’re given. Even Laura is harbouring some damaging secrets, one of which involves Paco (played by real-life husband, Javier Bardem) that will provoke viewers to question the true nature of her character.

Unfortunately for this 2018 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or nominee, its greatest let down is sourced from its greatest asset. The revelations behind the mystery summoned over the past two hours deserved better explanation and execution than what Asghar Farhadi has accomplished. Nevertheless, this somewhat underwhelming and less convincing outcome isn’t major enough to undo the dramatic core of this film, let alone the film as a whole. A core that is anchored by the most exemplary performance Penelope Cruz has given in many years.

3 ½ stars

Image result for penelope cruz and javier bardem everybody knows film stills

Viewer Discretion
M (Coarse Language)

Trailer
EVERYBODY KNOWS

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

Opens nationally on March 7

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

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THE GUILTY

Director
Gustav Möller
(Feature film debut)

Stars
Jakob Cedergren

An American remake of this new release from Denmark is already in development and will star Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role. This prompt decision is easily comprehended once witnessing the fairly unique and craftily executed set-up here, and when considering its 27 (and counting) award wins Worldwide, including the Audience Award for World Cinema – Dramatic at Sundance last year.

In THE GUILTY, the camera remains fixed entirely inside a single location with our protagonist as we eavesdrop on his numerous conversations regarding a situation that is happening beyond the four walls of the emergency contact centre he is working at. For reasons that become apparent later into the film, police officer Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren, who is in every scene) has been assigned desk and telephony duties. Shortly into his evening shift, Asger answers a call from a distressed woman named Iben, who has been abducted. Reduced to verbal communication as his only weapon, Asger faces a race against time, as well as some of his own personal demons, in his best efforts to locate and rescue Iben.

Image result for the guilty 2018 film stills

What transpires from this tantalising premise is suffice on its own to satisfy the film as a whole. However, THE GUILTY is more than satisfactory and adds greater intrigue to its story by ensuring that everything being thought, said and done in front of the camera is just as pertinent and significant to all that unfolds over the phone and externally. The cleverly written screenplay and structure of this movie has Asger learning several alarming facts about the situation he’s in the middle of simultaneously as viewers become aware of certain concerning issues that are present in his own personal life right now. The background work added to this primary character, his deteriorating conduct and how his temperament may affect both the outcome of the abduction and another impending event in his life greatly heightens the drama and raises tension levels. Furthermore, THE GUILTY never feels burdened by the weight of verbally illustrating what almost every other similar type of film visually depicts. In fact, it unlocks our imaginations in a true example of where less can certainly mean more.

(A strong) 3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion
(Mature themes and coarse language)

Trailer
THE GUILTY

Moviedoc thanks Rialto Distribution for the link to watch and review this film.

Opens in selected cinemas on Feb 28

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

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COLD PURSUIT

Director
Hans Petter Moland

(IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE, DEPARTMENT Q: A CONSPIRACY OF FAITH and A SOMEWHAT GENTLE MAN)

Stars
Liam Neeson, Tom Bateman, Laura Dern, Tom Jackson and Emmy Rossum

It isn’t often I find myself watching an American remake of a foreign film I’m yet to see. Yet, I somehow missed the release of recent Norwegian crime film KRAFTIDIOTEN (IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE), both of which (the original and the remake) have been directed by Hans Petter Moland. In COLD PURSUIT, Liam Neeson stars as Nels Coxman, a snowplow driver working at a resort town in the Rocky Mountains. A quiet man, who other than living with his wife (played by Laura Dern) and son (Micheál Richardson), mostly keeps to himself. When Nels’ son is murdered, he takes matters into his own hands and hunts down each person that he believes played a part in his son’s death.

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On paper, COLD PURSUIT sounds very much like a repeat of a routine Liam Neeson action movie. Throughout the first act, most proceedings unfold just that way. Only this time around, an irreverent brand of comedy has been regularly applied to this episodically violent revenge thriller. Soon after Nels has found the first person on his hit list, the film broadens its narrative to also be from the perspectives of other newly introduced characters. Those who consume greater screen time assume a more antagonistic role in the film while occasional appearances are made from the perspective of a police officer (played by Emmy Rossum) who can smell smoke where there is fire. 

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The development of the plot and the climax of this film are enough on their own to gain, then maintain, the investment it seeks from its viewers. But one of the greatest conundrums I had with COLD PURSUIT was feeling comfortable with the levity applied to this crime drama and in harmony with the overall mood being generated. That aforementioned irreverent humour felt more forced and awkwardly out of place than it managed to seamlessly fit in. Holistically, the film is just so uneven. Should COLD PURSUIT’s unevenness not be a bother to you, then the noticeably misjudged performance of Tom Bateman, who is imperfectly trying to perfect his villainous character, ought to. Nonetheless, COLD PURSUIT just scrapes in…

3 stars

Viewer Discretion
MA15+ (Strong themes and violence)

Trailer
COLD PURSUIT

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

Opens nationally on Feb 7

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

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Leigh’s Best Films of 2018, Plus Much More!

Hello everyone

Firstly, thank you for every review you have read, liked, shared, commented on and even chatted to me about in person. Thanks to your support and the help from my wonderful co-writer Jell, I was able to experience another very productive year of film watching and reviewing.

In total, I personally watched 161 films officially released in Australia in 2018 alone, which is 20 more than I what I was able to see last year! And that isn’t even including movies that I’ve seen more than once (A STAR IS BORN, for instance) or releases from previous years!

It was a strong year. Thirty-four films received a minimum of 4 stars from me and just one was given 1 star or less. Therefore, I’ve now extended the top end competition to a ‘Best 22 of 2018’ list and simply named my worst movie of the year.

As I write this post from the cold, grey-skied but beautiful country Germany, I trust that you will thoroughly enjoy the read below. I also hope that after reading through, you will add a few movies to your watch list to view over the Christmas break very soon. As always, feel free to drop a comment once you do.

Jell and I have BIG plans for Moviedoc in 2019. We look forward to these coming to fruition soon and throughout the year, and thank each of you for your continued support in 2019!

My Best 22 of 2018

Each of the following films received 4 stars from me.

Let’s begin with a film that is surely a heavy favourite for many of you this year! At number 22 (yes, 22, that is how strong the world of cinema is in 2018!) is…

22

Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

There is just no valid reason as to why BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY wouldn’t feature somewhere in everyone’s best-of list in 2018. It achieves exactly as intended more potently than most other movies, is exhilarating to watch and what about that outbreak of acting from Rami Malek!? WOW!!!

21

John Cho in Searching (2018)

Why is SEARCHING in my top 20? SEARCHING deserves to be here due to the inventive and often innovative use of technology, screen imagery and social media to present and tell its utterly captivating and mystery-filled missing person story. Demands greater effort of its viewers than similar types of movies that is absolutely worth its while.

20

Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet in Beautiful Boy (2018)

Drug addiction and death from drug overdose continues to worsen in numbers in the U.S, as well as in other parts of the world. This story, based on a pair of memoirs, is a tender, truthful and confronting journey through a young man’s battle with drug addiction and his father’s best endeavours to save him. BEAUTIFUL BOY is as heartbreaking as it is crucial and the performances from Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet are outstanding.

19

Human Flow (2017)
The first of a small handful of documentary feature films to make my best 21. In HUMAN FLOW, Ai Weiwei demonstrates that you just do not know what life is like in someone else’s shoes, until you wear them. This film literally adopts a ground-zero approach to document the stories of displaced refugees in twenty-three countries around the world. If you don’t feel an ounce of empathy for what they are forced to endure during Ai Weiwei’s unforgettable film, then I’m afraid you are devoid of this essential human characteristic.

18

Elisabeth Moss, Claes Bang, and Terry Notary in The Square (2017)
You have never seen a man’s professional and personal life come undone in quite as bizarre and uniquely hilarious fashion as this. THE SQUARE is indisputably thinking outside of the square in its clear efforts to stun, enthral and unnerve its customers. A true arthouse great!

17

Niza Jay in Inxeba (2017)
This is the most courageous film to be released in 2018. The most internationally awarded film in South African history, THE WOUND (INXEBA) tackles two very sensitive subject matters – the extremely private and traditional Xhosa initiation into manhood and the awakening of its gay male character‘s sexuality. If you admired Oscar-winning film MOONLIGHT, then you will appreciate THE WOUND (INXEBA).

16

American Animals (2018)
When a movie is unique, brings something new to the genre and is excellent, you can expect that movie to always make my ‘best of’ final cut. This true story is no exception. A heist film quite unlike any other, AMERICAN ANIMALS is a seamless blend of feature film and documentary that is perfectly balanced, well thought-out and a cleverly executed film. It’s also a seriously entertaining one. Recommended viewing!

15

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born (2018)
The second movie in my best 21 that will be a favourite of many this year and may also get some Oscar-love in February. The classic story of the simultaneous fall of one star as another rises is so engaging and involving and boasts beautiful performances from director Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, who share an immediately absorbing chemistry on screen. Here is Jell’s full review of A STAR IS BORN.

14

Diane Kruger in Aus dem Nichts (2017)
This gripping German dramatic thriller is inspired by actual events that tells of a fictional story about a woman who is seeking justice after losing her husband and young son in a targeted bomb attack. Diane Kruger gives a tour de force lead performance and IN THE FADE (AUS DEM NICHTS) is hugely accessible to
a worldwide audience.

13

David Kellman, Robert Shafran, and Eddy Galland in Three Identical Strangers (2018)
Regardless of exactly how much you know about the three subjects of this documentary and their story, you will experience a rollercoaster of emotions watching THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS. 

12

Laurence Fishburne, Steve Carell, and Bryan Cranston in Last Flag Flying (2017)

One of the greatest surprises and most underrated movies of 2018, LAST FLAG FLYING is one of those movies that will be liked immensely by almost every person who sees it. Yet somehow, you probably haven’t heard of it let alone watched it! The three lead actors work brilliantly together as former marines – Reverend Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) and alcoholic bar owner Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) who accompany Larry ‘Doc’ Shepherd (Steve Carell) as he prepares to bury his son who’s been killed in the Iraq War. This is not a heavy film, as it may sound, in the slightest. In fact, one of its great surprises is just how much hearty laughter is derived from the affectionately crafted script that makes every word and action matter. I could go on, but just see it for yourself already!

11

Matvey Novikov in Nelyubov (2017)

From Russia, without love. Director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s follow-up to the excellent 2014 drama LEVIATHAN could only be produced in Russia with international financial support after the Russian government disapproved of that film. In LOVELESS (NELYUBOV), the son of a bickering married couple who are finalising their divorce while selling their large apartment goes missing. As gripping to watch as it is a driven film. Not far from being of the highest quality of a very similar French film lodged within my top 4. Highly recommended!

10

De sidste mænd i Aleppo (2017)
Ok, this isn’t easy to watch. But for those of us who care enough to witness real footage featuring a group of volunteers known as ‘The White Helmets’ saving hundreds of lives in their city during the Syrian Civil War, it is essential viewing. A confronting, harrowing but utterly inspiring documentary that should be watched prior to Australian documentary CHASING ASYLUM.

9

Isle of Dogs (2018)
The stand-alone stand-out in the animation genre for 2018. Wes Anderson’s near-masterpiece, ISLE OF DOGS features family-friendly animation work that is breathtakingly detailed, an intelligently conceived and written story and an outstanding score. All of which provide first class entertainment and are complimented by the iconic movie-making style of Wes Anderson. You will never, ever regret watching ISLE OF DOGS.

Each of the following films received 4 ½ stars from me.

8

Marina de Tavira, Marco Graf, Yalitza Aparicio, Daniela Demesa, Diego Cortina Autrey, and Carlos Peralta in Roma (2018)
Named after the neighbourhood in Mexico City it is set, ROMA is a semi-biographical journey into the upbringing of writer and director Alfonso Cuarón (GRAVITY). Patience is required as ROMA does take time to form a discernible narrative and is visually drawn-out. However, no other film released this year overwhelmed me with utmost appreciation post-credits quite like this one. Set in the early 1970s, filmed in black and white and available now on Netflix, allow yourself to fall under the irresistibly immersive spell cast by Cuarón. But please, do so in the right mood!

7

Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, and Olivia Colman in The Favourite (2018)
It’s not new news that Yorgos Lanthimos’s (THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER) period comedy/drama THE FAVOURITE boasts three outstanding performances from three outstanding actresses. Jell’s review also supports this. But what also elevates this ripping movie from being great to reigning supreme is its piercing writing, flawless character development and innovative score. THE FAVOURITE is just as fresh and jaw-dropping to the period drama genre as last year’s LADY MACBETH.

6

Sam Neill, Bryan Brown, and Hamilton Morris in Sweet Country (2017)

Released very early this year, award-winning indigenous filmmaker Warwick Thornton’s (SAMSON AND DELILAH) SWEET COUNTRY is a masterful work of striking authenticity and raw storytelling. Our country has home-grown a healthy number of films that boast these characteristics, but rarely at the consistently high standard so prevalent in this ‘meat-pie’ Western. 

5

Tom Cruise, Angela Bassett, Henry Cavill, Rebecca Ferguson, and Simon Pegg in Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)

Well, well, well! Perhaps some of you expected MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT
to be as spectacular a movie, not just a spectacular action movie, as what it is. Credit to you if so. But for me, this, along with AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (which narrowly missed my best 21) were some of the most pleasing surprises of 2018. The secret to its success? Tom Cruise has sprinted a little over 24,000 feet on screen throughout his 37 years in the movies. In summary, the more Tom Cruise runs, the better his movies are. In summary, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT races towards the finish line a victorious movie in every possible way, with Cruise in first place. The best action film since MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.

The top 4 is so incredibly tight, you could just about consider each of these films equal for claiming best film of the year. I had to be VERY picky to not award 5 stars to these movies below.

4

Léa Drucker, Denis Ménochet, and Thomas Gioria in Jusqu'à la garde (2017)

I had knots in my stomach from beginning to end in this searing and utterly realistic fictional French drama about a mother and father’s bitter dispute over custody of their young son. The opening act, which is intentionally ambiguous in deciphering which parent is genuine, is immediately engrossing. Once this piece of detail has become completely clear, CUSTODY (JUSQU’À LA GARDE) casts an ominous tone and a stranglehold upon the viewer that leads to finale more heart-stopping than any other you will see on the screen this year. Riveting. Gut-wrenching. Unmissable French cinema at its finest.

3

Christine Choueiri, Adel Karam, Kamel El Basha, Diamand Bou Abboud, Camille Salameh, and Rita Hayek in L'insulte (2017)

In this Lebanese drama, two men – a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee – have a heated exchange that lands them both in court in a case that gets national attention. THE INSULT (L’INSULTE) conveys its story and messages so precisely and powerfully. This outstanding movie is a prime example of how to take an issue that is more personal and specific to the country it hails from and extract essential key themes to make the film pertinent and hugely involving to people belonging to every race, religion and ethnicity.

For those of you who don’t (ordinarily) watch subtitled films, I guarantee you that the stories told in THE INSULT, CUSTODY, LOVELESS and IN THE FADE are far from being foreign and will immediately arouse your interest. Give them each a go, at the very least. You’ll thank me later!

2

Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce in The Wife (2017)

From scenes very early in this film, it is obvious that Joan Castleman’s (Glenn Close) calm exterior is harbouring tension that is gradually rising. Tensions triggered by long-time husband, Joe (Jonathan Pryce) that rise furthermore during a business trip to Stockholm. The build-up and revelations to follow are sublimely structured and written in this riveting and outstanding drama that features impeccable acting performances from Pryce and Close. I left the cinema in such awe of what I just saw and was moved emotionally for days after. Do not miss THE WIFE, which I believe is Glenn Close’s greatest opportunity yet to win her a very first Academy Award.

THE BEST MOVIE OF 2018

Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps in Phantom Thread (2017)

I’ve selected PHANTOM THREAD my best movie of 2018, partially on the basis of being bias. It is the epitome of the exact type of character-driven drama that is right up my alley. This film maintained a certain unparalleled connection with me that was last achieved by 2012 Danish drama, THE HUNT. A story set in 1950s London featuring multi-layered and psychologically complex characters at its fore, PHANTOM THREAD is about a male dressmaker (played by Daniel Day Lewis in his typically finest form) whose very particular habits and structured living of life undergoes drastic and unpredictable change when he meets a younger woman and romantic interest (played by an electrifying Vicky Krieps). This outstanding film’s production is as flawless as its narrative. Production design, cinematography and the score are of the highest possible quality, just to name a few. A treasure to every sense for cinema aficionado’s and fans of this genre especially.

Some films that I am yet to see that are/will be released in 2018, which may occupy a place in my best of list are:

THE WILD PEAR TREE

As they say, what goes up must come down. Now, let’s get right to the bottom of my list. Here is…. 

THE WORST MOVIE OF 2018

Suspiria (2018)

How did one of my most anticipated films of the year result in easily being the worst? How is it even possible that director Luca Guadagnino hits rock bottom with this SUSPIRIA “remake” after his five-star masterpiece still sitting at the top of my “Best Films of 2017 List”, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME? This intentionally grotesque and absurd film is the most divisive and the most pretentious movie of 2018. The fleeting moments of impressive imagery and whispers of a comprehensible plot never make so many of the dreadful scenes you must endure and cannot unsee over a painstaking two and a half hours worth their while. On a positive note, at least the poster for the film isn’t misleading – SUSPIRIA really is as big a mess as it suggests! Read (or re-read) Jell’s hilarious review of SUSPIRIA and watch the Italian original from 1977 instead.

Now, we move along to plenty of additional stand-outs, highlights and low-lights in cinema throughout 2018…

THE BEST 3 FILMS OF 2018 AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX

ROMA (4 ½ stars)
ON MY SKIN (SULLA MIA PELLA)
(4 stars)
THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS
(4 stars)

The acting stand-outs

*OF refers to being my Oscar favourite
*OW refers to being Oscar worthy

Best Actress and/or Supporting Actress Performances

Glenn Close – THE WIFE (OF)
Sonia Kruger – IN THE FADE (AUS DEM NICHTS)
Lady Gaga – A STAR IS BORN (OW)
Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone – THE FAVOURITE (All OW)
Emma Thompson – THE CHILDREN ACT (OW)
Daniela Vega – A FANTASTIC WOMAN (UNA MUJER FANTÁSTICA)
Millicent Simmonds – for her debut performance in WONDERSTRUCK
Joanna Kulig – COLD WAR (ZIMNA WOJNA)
Thomasin McKenzie – LEAVE NO TRACE
Keira Knightley – COLETTE (OW)
Saoirse Ronan – ON CHESIL BEACH, THE SEAGULL and LADY BIRD
Amy Adams – VICE (OW)

Best Actor and/or Supporting Actor Performances

Rami Malek – BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (OF)
Jonathan Pryce – THE WIFE (OW)
Denis Menochet – CUSTODY (JUSQU’À LA GARDE)
Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carell – LAST FLAG FLYING
Bradley Cooper – A STAR IS BORN (OW)
Nick Robinson – LOVE, SIMON
Timothée Chalamet – BEAUTIFUL BOY (OW)
Jonah Hill – DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT
Charlie Plummer – LEAN ON PETE
Tim Blake Nelson – THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS
Christian Bale and Sam Rockwell – VICE (OW)

These movies might have missed out on a spot in my best 22, but they are each very good, deserve a mention and you might like to check these out further…

WONDERSTRUCK (4 stars)
A QUIET PLACE
(A very strong 3 ½ stars)
LADY BIRD
(A very strong 3 ½ stars)
LADIES IN BLACK
(3 ½ stars and perfect to watch this Christmas!)
UPGRADE
(3 ½ stars)
THE CHILDREN ACT
(3 ½ stars)
WHAT WOULD PEOPLE SAY? (HVA VIL FOLK SI)
 (A very strong 3 stars)
TWO IS A FAMILY (DEMAIN TOUT COMMENCE)
(A very strong 3 stars)

These films also missed my best 22, but were much better than I had expected…

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (4 stars)
DEN OF THIEVES (4 stars)
BLOCKERS (3 ½ stars)
GRINGO (3 ½ stars)
GAME NIGHT (3 ½ stars)

And these movies ended up being some of the biggest let downs and/or are the most overrated films of 2018…

SUSPIRIA (1 star and I just had to mention it once more!)
THE BREAKER UPPERERS (1 ½ stars)
MY FRIEND DAHMER (1 ½ stars)
THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST(2 stars)
THE 15:17 TO PARIS (2 stars)
RED SPARROW (2 ½ stars)
BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE(2  ½ stars)
A SIMPLE FAVOUR (3 stars)
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (3 stars)
HEREDITARY (3 stars)

Without spoilers, here are just some of the most memorable and/or greatest moments and highlights in cinema in 2018…

A couple of heated verbal exchanges inside the hotel room in THE WIFE
The finale of
CUSTODY
The set-piece sequences, chase and fight scenes in
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT
Two harrowing sequences involving the main protagonist that I cannot describe without including spoilers in
ROMA (but you will know of which ones I speak of once you’ve seen the film!)
The conversation and laughter shared by the three lead actors of
LAST FLAG FLYING during a loss of virginity discussion
The utterly bizarre sexual encounter and the performance artist “entertainment” sequence in
THE SQUARE
The breaking of new ground in mainstream cinema by
LOVE, SIMON
The depiction of drug addiction, the diner scene and the final scene in
BEAUTIFUL BOY
The final performance sequence at Wembley in
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
The mathematical whiz chicken from the “Meal Ticket” story & the imagery, location and music scored for the “All Gold Canyon” story in the film
THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS
The more frequent appearance of black & white cinematography used to perfection in
ROMA, COLD WAR and WONDERSTRUCK
The depiction of motherhood in
TULLY
The appearance of Cher in
MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN
The brothel sequence filmed via security cameras in
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE

And some low-lights of cinema that I’d like back please…

143 of the 152 minutes of SUSPIRIA
Anne Heche’s horrible attempt at acting in MY FRIEND DAHMER
The bodily sensations and dispensing of bodily fluids from Muppets in THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS
All of the excruciating and lame performances in IN LIKE FLYNN
All of the awkward and poor acting on display in
The nun in THE NUN
The lack of promised genuine scares and the laughable ending of HEREDITARY

For some fun to compare opinions, here are five films that I nominate Jell to watch and rate sometime in 2019…

CUSTODY
ISLE OF DOGS
IN THE FADE (AUS DEM NICHTS)
WONDERSTR
UCK
THE ARTIST

Highest grossing film – Worldwide

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ($2,048,815,482)

Highest grossing film – In Australia

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ($46,825,158)

Compiled by Leigh for Moviedoc
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