Romance

FIFTY SHADES FREED

Director
James Foley
(FIFTY SHADES DARKER)

Stars
Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan and Eric Johnson

Shot back-to-back in 2016 with the very unappealing FIFTY SHADES DARKER, FIFTY SHADES FREED is the third, final and moderately improved film of the franchise.

Picking up the events from after the finale of its predecessor, Anastasia and Christian wed and are enjoying themselves on their postcard perfect honeymoon in Paris until their idyllic and romantic vacation is abruptly truncated. An incident has occurred at Christian’s office back home in Seattle and there’s reason to believe that Ana’s scornful ex-boss, Jack Hyde is somehow involved and will stop at nothing to destroy their relationship. Meanwhile, the newlyweds go through the trials and tribulations of learning to adjust living together.

Image result for FIFTY SHADES FREED ANASTASIA AND CHRISTIAN IN PARIS MOVIE STILLS

What have we learnt to this point after watching just over four hours of FIFTY SHADES?
That it’s just like watching an R-rated (or MA15+ here in Australia) version of a daytime TV soap opera. Most of its issues and concerns are trivial and of little care. It’s often cheesy and lame. And if you’re able to view this latest film just that way, then the next 105 minutes (the shortest of the three movies) isn’t so hard to mind and is certainly easier to sit through than FIFTY SHADES DARKER.

FIFTY SHADES FREED might be more endurable, but that still doesn’t mean it’s a good film. The plot line has become increasingly mundane over time and that well and truly takes over almost all proceedings here. I mean who really cares that Christian cracks it because Ana hasn’t yet changed her surname on her work emails? Or that Ana isn’t obeying orders to head straight home from work while Christian is away. You go girl! As for its villain plot and thrilling climax, they don’t get lamer or more roughly executed than this. Speaking of rough, let’s move across to the bedroom now! Or should I say the playroom? It must be said that FIFTY SHADES is a bit of a one-minute wonder in this department. Some curiously striking psychological themes that could be grasped from the original film have been put to bed and left under the covers. The sexual component of Ana and Christian’s relationship, which is an utterly important aspect for the couple, does possess its fair share of flair and dare. However, the directing and editing chooses to remain far too conventional and polite considering the sexual origin and emphasis of this story.

Thankfully though, this franchise stars Dakota Johnson, who has a certain manner that makes Anastasia such an easily accessible character that requires zero effort to like. For those of you that care to find something of value to take away from the entire franchise, it has a fair point to state regarding the listening, understanding and the compromises that need to be done for relationships to stand the test of time. This is no dismissive example that when the love is real, it can conquer just about any challenge.

2 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion
MA15+ (Strong sex scenes)

Trailer
FIFTY SHADES FREED

Now that the FIFTY SHADES trilogy is over, grab yourself a copy of the underrated 2009 film SPREAD, starring Ashton Kutcher and Anne Heche! Recommended 3 ½ stars viewing by Moviedoc!

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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BEST & WORST MOVIES OF 2017 including the highlights and some low-lights

Hello everyone

Firstly, a huge thank you for every review you have read, liked, shared, commented on and even chatted to me about in person. Thanks to you and your incredible support, I had a very productive year of film watching and reviewing!

In total, I got to see and review 141 films officially released in 2017 alone, which is 15 more than I was able to see at this same time in 2016! Of these, more than 25 movies received a 4 star rating from me, so I have compiled a ‘Best 25’ list this year as well as a ‘Worst 5’.

I hope you thoroughly enjoy reading this post. I also hope you take away a handful of films to see that you’ve never previously heard of or watched!
As always, please get in touch to share your views and best & worst movies.

I look forward to your continued support and interaction in what will be an even bigger and busier year of film watching & reviewing in 2018, where I hope to review a monthly classic and bring a review or two fresh from my attendance at film festivals!

Moviedoc 🙂

Moviedoc’s Best 25 Movies of 2017

25
WONDER
4 stars

A beautiful and meaningful story featuring a great cast that will make you cry a little but feel plenty of joy

24
PADDINGTON 2
4 stars

As sweet as marmalade itself and a sequel that’s every bit as good, if not better, than the first film. Paddington is no one-trick teddy bear!

23
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE
4 stars

Arguably and in my opinion, this is the best rendition of Batman, ever! Utterly hilarious at times and scores Moviedoc’s #1 spot (just!) for best family film of 2017!

22
INGRID GOES WEST 
4 stars

All at once, this is an uncomfortably funny, dreadfully saddening and downright frightening exposé of just how far a social media addiction and obsession can take a person. Highly recommended!

21
GIFTED
4 stars

A splendid drama! One of the most underrated films of 2017! If you haven’t already, it is time to unwrap this true gift of a film.

20
THE BIG SICK
4 stars

A broadly appealing and wholly accessible romantic comedy-drama that’s not only based on a true story but even stars one of the real-life subjects; stand-up comedian, actor and writer, Kumail Nanjiani

19
BABY DRIVER
4 stars

It’s been a solid year for heist movies and this is the best of them. Flawless car chase sequences and an outstanding music score drive this slick and unique heist film. Hopefully BABY DRIVER won’t lose popularity due to co-starring Kevin Spacey, for it absolutely deserves to be seen.

18
MISS SLOANE
4 stars

Enthralling! I’ve been told those who are into TV Series “House of Cards” will want to see this. Sorry for making another connection to Kevin Spacey!

17
FENCES

4 stars

Can be a challenge to watch, especially during the first half. However, Denzel Washington’s Oscar-nominated performance playing a character he’s portrayed on Broadway 114 times before and Viola Davis’s Oscar-winning acting are so stellar in a movie that becomes absolutely riveting

16
THE BEGUILED
4 stars

Beautifully filmed and impeccably acted by one of the stand-out ensemble casts of the year. An excellent film from director Sofia Coppola.

15
MOONLIGHT
4 stars

You haven’t seen a story quite like the one told in MOONLIGHT before. This is the Best Picture Winner at the 2017 Academy Awards earlier this year. Brave and heartfelt storytelling.

14
MOUNTAIN
4 stars

A majestic and breathtaking cinematic experience. The Australian-made MOUNTAIN is 2017’s best documentary feature.

13
THE SALESMAN
4 stars

This is acclaimed Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s (THE PAST, A SEPARATION) latest feature film. An immaculately devised and strongly executed domestic drama with a gripping finale.

12
DUNKIRK
4 stars

A minimalist war film that draws maximum anxiety and exacts a claustrophobic stranglehold over its viewers from start to end thanks largely to the ever-present score by Oscar-winning film composer, Hans Zimmer

11
HOUNDS OF LOVE
4 stars

A similar breed of film to 2011’s SNOWTOWN, HOUNDS OF LOVE is an unnerving and tense dramatic thriller that showcases an outstanding music score, cinematography and acting. The best Australian film of 2017.

10
LAND OF MINE
4 stars

An Oscar-nominated foreign film taking place after WWII, which depicts a group of very young German POWs sent to Denmark to clear thousands of hidden land mines. Stomach-turning tension is guaranteed.

9
LOVING VINCENT
4½ stars

The first-ever oil painted feature film about Vincent van Gogh is never solely limited to its visual capabilities. A sublime film.

8
SILENCE
4½ stars

Martin Scorsese’s passion project and three-hour epic is a bravely written piece that is expertly penned toward the most religiously devout. A near-masterpiece.

7
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
4½ stars

The PLANET OF THE APES film series is now officially one of my favourites, if not my absolute favourite film franchise. Combines mesmerising CGI and cinematography with a powerful and relevant story that has a strong message for humankind. I just love it!

6
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
4½ stars

The storytelling structure, its well-studied account of key themes and the honesty of its writing and character depiction achieves MANCHESTER BY THE SEA A-grade status.

5
PERFECT STRANGERS
4½ stars

What happens when a close-knit group of friends meet for dinner and share every text message, email and phone call received with one another? You will want to find out! Italian comedy PERFECT STRANGERS features one of the most cleverly conceived and carefully-considered screenplay’s of the year.

4
GET OUT
4½ stars

Movies as genius as this are few and far between. Masterfully and studiously crafted, intelligently written and flawlessly executed, GET OUT is a broadly appealing and accessible horror film at heart that functions as a menacing mystery invite to all. If you haven’t already, please accept your invitation, pronto! You will not regret it.

3
LADY MACBETH
4½ stars

Witness one of the most conceivably written, daring and exciting character transitions seen in recent years. This fierce, fearless and electrifying film turns the period drama genre on its head in near flawless fashion and is the breakout film for its star, Florence Pugh, who is scintillating. Unmissable!

2
DOWNSIZING
5 stars

The last film to receive 5 stars from me was THE HUNT in 2013! Well, it had to take something very special to break that lengthy drought. Simply put, you have never seen a film quite like DOWNSIZING before. It is extraordinary. I admired its continual refusal to yield to any form of mainstream cinema convention, despite being a mainstream-friendly release. It also unearths one of the truest & most beautifully conceived and written characters I’ve seen in any film. Hong Chau (from acclaimed TV Series Big Little Lies) is just superb as Ngoc Lan Tran, in what is one of this year’s acting highlights. Absolutely amazing in every way imaginable.

THE BEST MOVIE OF 2017

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME 
5 Stars

It took me until February, 2018 to see this sensual and picturesque masterpiece. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME not only met my high expectations, it by far exceeded them. This slow-building drama set in northern Italy during a hot summer in 1983 is so precise and honest yet powerfully subtle in its articulation of the complex emotions and sensitive scenarios involving its characters. It takes some time for the forthcoming relationship to develop, yet does so organically and in complete avoidance of all stereotypes. By the time its extraordinarily moving and meaningful finale arrives, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME simply overwhelms. The ultimate meaning and key themes of this beautifully produced film earn an equal amount of appreciation as the stunning production, stand-out score and immaculate performances achieve.

Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet in Call Me by Your Name (2017)

Moviedoc’s Worst 5 Movies of 2017

5
BAYWATCH
1 ½ stars

Not even the charismatic Dwayne Johnson can save BAYWATCH from drowning in its own dump.


4
CHIPS
1 ½ stars

Unfunny. Sexist. Nasty. Avoid!


3
JIGSAW
1 star

Jigsaw may do a Jesus by way of his resurrection, however he is certainly no saviour to the eternal damnation sentenced upon the viewer in this dreadful reboot. Now, please stay dead.

2
SNATCHED
1 star

Goldie Hawn should have remained in her fifteen-year movie hibernation. Terrible movie.

THE WORST MOVIE OF 2017

T H E  M U M M Y
1 star

An unacceptable first instalment in Universal’s rather forced Dark Universe film series that seemingly exists purely to rival Marvel and the like. Yet sadly, THE MUMMY still grossed $409.1 million worldwide, which means there’ll probably be more to come. A score of just 5.5 on IMDB and 16% on Rotten Tomatoes more than justifies why this utterly dreadful reboot is the worst of the 141 movies released this year I have seen.

Still with me? Good! Now we go to some highlights and low-lights of 2017

The acting stand-outs of 2017

Timothée Chalamet in CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Hong Chau – DOWNSIZING
Florence Pugh – LADY MACBETH
Emma Booth and Stephen Curry – HOUNDS OF LOVE
Naomie Harris – MOONLIGHT
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis – FENCES
Aubrey Plaza – INGRID GOES WEST
Teresa Palmer – BERLIN SYNDROME
Barry Keoghan – THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
Sonia Braga – AQUARIUS
Oscar Isaac – SUBURBICON
Hugh Grant – PADDINGTON 2
John Lithgow and Salma Hayek – BEATRIZ AT DINNER
Nicole Kidman – THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER & THE BEGUILED
Dev Patel and Sunny Pawar – LION
Pierre Niney and Paula Beer – FRANTZ
Brian Cox – CHURCHILL
Jessica Rothe – HAPPY DEATH DAY
Tiffany Haddish – GIRLS TRIP
Sally Hawkins – MAUDIE
Hugo Weaving – JASPER JONES

Films to add to your watch list not in my Best 25 from 2017

PATRIOT’S DAY
LIFE
BATTLE OF THE SEXES
THEIR FINEST
A MONSTER CALLS
COLOSSAL
LION
COLLATERAL BEAUTY
SUBURBICON
THE BOSS BABY
BERLIN SYNDROME
LOGAN

Most over-rated and/or most disappointing films from 2017

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
JACKIE
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS
VICTORIA & ABDUL
THINGS TO COME
THE SNOWMAN
A CURE FOR WELLNESS
GOD’S OWN COUNTRY
LOVING
A SILENT VOICE
ALONE IN BERLIN
TRESPASS AGAINST US
GOLD

The highlights in films from 2017

Hong Chau’s character in DOWNSIZING
The uniquely hand-painted visual experience in LOVING VINCENT
The extreme slo-mo’s in HOUNDS OF LOVE
The development of the relationship and the first intimate scene between Elio and Oliver in CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
The atmosphere and the battle sequences staged in DUNKIRK
The real footage of a tightrope walk between two mountain peaks in MOUNTAIN
The final dinner table scene in THE BEGUILED
The car chase sequences and the music score in BABY DRIVER
A reaction from a particular water monster in THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE
The birthday party sequence & guest arrivals in TONI ERDMANN
The visual and aural experience in GHOST IN THE SHELL
The dialogue and its delivery from Tiffany Haddish in GIRLS TRIP
The final action sequence on the ice in Iceland in THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS

Best horror film

GET OUT
(A clear stand-out, however if that’s not scary enough for you, then try out IT COMES AT NIGHT, HAPPY DEATH DAY and IT. None of these films managed to scare me though!)

Best crying film
A MONSTER CALLS
(Even though its title suggests this belongs in the above category! Not the first time director J.A. Bayona has claimed this spot at the end of the year. THE IMPOSSIBLE was his previous movie)

Best lol film

PERFECT STRANGERS
(However, if you want something more mainstream, then try GIRLS TRIP)

Best love story or romantic film

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Most unique/strange films

THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
MOTHER!

Highest Grossing Film – Worldwide

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
($1.26 Billion)

Highest Grossing Film – In Australia

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 
($36.3 Million)

Compiled by Moviedoc
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THREE SUMMERS

Writer & Director / Ben Elton (MAYBE BABY)
Stars/ Rebecca Breeds, Robert Sheehan, John Waters, Kelton Pell, Magda Szubanski, Michael Caton, Kate Box and Deborah Mailman

Like fellow Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) release ALI’S WEDDING, THREE SUMMERS also has some important social issues it wishes to address during its comedic reception. Internationally known writer and director Ben Elton’s first Australian movie is definitely aiming to attract the same crowd that flocked to see the Aussie-made Muslim Rom-Com. Unlike ALI’S WEDDING, however, those social issues are integrated in a much less subtle manner, bound to be either loved or loathed.

Based on the real-life Fairbridge Music Festival in Western Australia, the Westival attracts several amateur and international artists as well as boasting much-loved local talents annually each summer. When one of those locals, a 26 year-old folk-music singer, tap-dancing violinist (played by Home and Away’s Rebecca Breeds) meets an Irish folk-music hating theremin player (Robert Sheehan from GEOSTORM, THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES), a heated and often awkward romance bonded by music begins to form.


The undeniable chemistry shared by THREE SUMMERS’ two lead actors and one movie-star making performance from Rebecca Breeds is enough to keep this scattered comedy in season, despite lacking polish and not quite fully blooming.

They are the core of a story in an ensemble film that features quite a number of side acts and sporadic contributors, all performed by a vast array of home-grown stars. Though THREE SUMMERS never amalgamates its various performers seamlessly into one movie, with execution in timing and uneven editing mostly the cause for this, most of its juggling acts do work as intended. One of the characters audiences will more strongly embrace is the grandfather played by Michael Caton. His character’s purpose is mightily foreseeable, but his interactions with an outspoken indigenous performer (Kelton Pell) and his granddaughter (feature film debutant Nichola Balestri, who can slightly resemble American actress Elle Fanning) builds a solid sub-plot. Another character that will give THREE SUMMERS’ viewers occasional hearty laughter is Kate Box’s (TV series Rake) over-zealous security guard. Especially when she faces off against Jacqueline McKenzie’s snobby, snooty character. But don’t expect to see much of McKenzie, who has just a few scenes despite her name appearing on the movie poster. My personal favourite belongs to the wannabe girl rock band and what transpires from the first summer shown to the last. It’s a hoot! Deborah Mailman and John Waters add separate and minor stories via their characters that are usually less humourous and predictably meet-up while Magda Szubanski’s community radio host is sassy yet falls victim to the sloppy editing a few too many times. And the character that audiences will be most divided upon is the one portrayed by well-known (in WA) stage actress Adriane Daff. Her alternate (and indisputably truthful) renditions of some classic Australian songs is too blunt for the mainstream in an otherwise cheerful film. But wait, where’s Bryan Brown!? You can’t make an ensemble Aussie movie without him! C’mon!

3 stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (Coarse language)

Trailer / THREE SUMMERS

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

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BREATHE

Director / Andy Serkis (Feature film debut)
Stars/ Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Tom Hollander and Hugh Bonneville

The name Andy Serkis is most recognised for portraying on-screen characters Caesar and Gollum in the fantasy adventure franchises PLANET OF THE APES and LORD OF THE RINGS, respectively. Now, Serkis makes his first foray into the business of movie directing with UK romance drama BREATHE

Based on a true story, it is 1958 when Robin Cavendish (Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield) is managing his tea-broking business in Kenya and is suddenly paralysed from the neck down after being diagnosed with polio. Advised that he has just three months left to live, which he’ll need to do within the confines of a hospital bed with wife Diana (Claire Foy) and newborn son Jonathan by his side, Robin defies all medical odds by exceeding his given life expectancy and becoming a pioneer for the disabled in the process.

Once its obligatory background formalities are ticked off its checklist in a hurried first act, the screenplay by William Nicholson (writer of GLADIATOR, LES MISÉRABLES and EVEREST) hones in on the period of Robin’s ailment that most mentally and physically challenges him. Quite pleasingly, audiences never become too burdened or bogged down by the suffering being endured daily by Robin. Instead, more emphasis is devoted to the friendly banter shared among Robin and Diana’s close family and friends. Although it might be somewhat of a relief that BREATHE is not the heavy film it could have been, it is still a disappointingly laborious one that will take much longer to find your sympathy than you would like. In all honesty, its touches of levity can be quite a bore to sit through. Moreover, the true worth of Robin and Diana’s story is being unnecessarily delayed. While Andy Serkis shows good intent in his aspirations to bring a more cheerful ring to the saddening elements of Robin’s story, he does struggle with the meandering writing and getting their combined execution right.

Thankfully, at roughly the mid-way mark of this two-hour movie, the real inspiration to be told in this story finally surfaces. Once at the fore, BREATHE makes a significant improvement that you will hopefully be willing to hold your breath for.

3 stars

On a special side note, the real-life Jonathan Cavendish is one of several producers working on BREATHE.

Viewer Discretion/ M (Mature themes)

Trailer / BREATHE

Moviedoc thanks Asha Holmes Publicity 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.

HOME_AGAIN_113016_11195.RAF

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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GOD’S OWN COUNTRY

Writer & Director / Francis Lee (Feature film debut)
Stars/ Josh O’Connor, Alec Secareanu, Gemma Jones and Ian Hart

Writer and director Francis Lee’s first-ever feature-length film, GOD’S OWN COUNTRY, tells of a personal story that is partly based on his own life.

On a remote Yorkshire farm, Johnny (Josh O’Connor – CINDERELLA, FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS), is compelled to live and work at the family estate with his father, Martin (Ian Hart) and his Grandmother, Deidre (Gemma Jones – the BRIDGET JONES trilogy) after a stroke leaves Martin with partial paralysis. Feeling extreme frustration by being stuck at a landscape and surrounded by local folk that don’t meet his needs, Johnny encounters an opportunity to change his ways when a handsome migrant worker from Romania named Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) is employed to help Johnny manage the farming demands.


Winner of seven awards including best feature at the Berlin, Edinburgh and San Francisco Film Festivals, GOD’S OWN COUNTRY boasts authentic imagery and performances, yet is unfortunately a dull film to watch. 

A mistaken rather than a poorer film, Francis Lee has produced GOD’S OWN COUNTRY with the belief that the stark landscape, its central characters silent tension and their plight will communicate more strongly than words. Despite the best efforts of his two lead actor’s very good performances, Lee’s writing is far too one-dimensional and scarce of dialogue to maintain long-term investment in his picture. This void is especially defined in earlier characterisation work of Johnny as well as the notable omission of much-needed sub-plotting to support the central plot. Another acknowledgement to its authenticity involves the filming of farming animals, all of which are indeed real and were mostly shot at the farm of Francis Lee’s father. Though commendable of his commitment as director, the minutes of screen time these several scenes occupy are more befitting for a documentary on the subject. It is here, as well as the all too foreseeable plot trajectory that also induce an overwhelming feeling of tedium upon this promising UK production.

2 stars

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (Strong sex scenes and nudity)

Trailer / GOD’S OWN COUNTRY

Moviedoc thanks Rialto Distribution and Annette Smith for the screener link provided to this film.

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ALI’S WEDDING

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).

AW_SC30_TIMONY_0185
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

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Viewer Discretion/ M (Mature themes and coarse language)

Trailer / ALI’S WEDDING

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

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