Romance

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.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©

 

Advertisements

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.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©

 

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

HOME_AGAIN_113016_11317.RAF

Viewer Discretion/ M (Coarse language)

Trailer / HOME AGAIN

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©

 

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.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©

 

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

AW_SC78_TIMONY_0189

Viewer Discretion/ M (Mature themes and coarse language)

Trailer / ALI’S WEDDING

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©

 

THE BIG SICK

Director / Michael Showalter (HELLO MY NAME IS DORIS, THE BAXTER)
Stars/ Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Ray Romano, Holly Hunter, Aidy Bryant and Kurt Braunohler

Boy meets girls. Girl meets boy. You have seen it many times before. Though new comedy THE BIG SICK has a few big slick and unexpected developments in its story that cure it of all symptoms of being a clichéd affair.

The boy in the picture is Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani), a Pakistan native living in the U.S who is a struggling stand-up comedian that politely rejects potential brides for his arranged marriage, as organised by his mother. The girl in the picture is Emily (Zoe Kazan, who was Ruby Sparks in RUBY SPARKS!), a white American who is working towards becoming a masters-level therapist and falls for the charms of Kumail during one of his stand-up routines.

As you may have cottoned on or already heard, THE BIG SICK is based on the real life story of how Emily V. Gordon (co-writer of this film) and her real-life husband Kumail Nanjiani (co-writer and star) meet and fall in love.


It is certainly refreshing and even reassuring to be in the presence of a genuine comedy that triggers laughter in such an unforced manner. Rather than concocting forced scenarios to base the remainder of the film around, THE BIG SICK derives much of its humour from the conception of its characters and the awkwardness of a developing romance. By doing so, THE BIG SICK rapidly becomes a broadly appealing and wholly accessible comedy that features wonderful acting performances and sharp writing that work together harmoniously.

With laughter occurring frequently and so naturally throughout, the husband/wife writing team behind THE BIG SICK are evidently aware that they never need to try harder than they do to generate tasteful humour. This is exemplified by the way they showcase the cultural differences that both lead characters are faced with. Earning further respectability are a few bravely, yet again tastefully written interjections of dialogue that centre on Kumail Nanjiani’s probable faith and extremism. Given Nanjiani’s origin and the world we live in today, our writers are clearly conscious of the elephant in the room and they address this with daring humour and honesty. Hats off! 

The latter half of the film introduces co-stars Ray Romano (TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond) and Oscar-winner Holly Hunter (THE PIANO), as Terry and Beth, the parents of Emily. The importance of their contributions cannot be underestimated as a minor bump in the plot earlier in the picture later becomes an essential development. Though it must be said that this significant segment of the story is somewhat solemn in nature, much of this film’s excellence comes to the fore here as it impressively never loses touch with its comedic roots. THE BIG SICK just keeps delivering humour that is truly meaningful and memorable.

An exceptional comedy. Definitely recommended!

4 stars


Viewer Discretion/ M (Coarse language and sexual references) 

Trailer / THE BIG SICK

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

©

PASSENGERS

Director / Morten Tyldum (THE IMITATION GAME, HEADHUNTERS)
Stars / Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen

Before it even begins, PASSENGERS is healthy in supplies to suggest a superior and original science-fiction filmmaking voyage is ready for take-off. Exciting and versatile Norwegian filmmaker Morten Tyldum directs, who previously made my personal best film released in 2015 – THE IMITATION GAME and 2011’s ripper thriller HEADHUNTERS. Writer John Spaihts (screenplay writer behind DOCTOR STRANGE & PROMETHEUS) has penned this screenplay, which was featured in the 2007 Blacklist of “most liked” unmade scripts. Add to that, a quite original premise that has an open door to innovation, a $120 million dollar budget to support that innovation and the two headlining stars, who are both hot property right now.

Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt (who replaced Keanu Reeves) play those titular PASSENGERS, who awaken 90 years before they’re due to arrive at their destination – a distant colony planet – after a spacecraft malfunction occurs.

The release of PASSENGERS in Australia, just one day into the New Year, may be remembered at years end as the one of the most disappointing films that has potential for so much more than what it settles for.

The opening is pretty much perfect and immediately takes audiences on an unexpected voyage that provokes some big questions. Especially worthy of praise is the script’s deliciously satirical attitude toward the advancements of computerised technology and its governance over human ways. Look out for this throughout the opening act of the film if you watch PASSENGERS!

Aside from one compelling theme which won’t be mentioned here, any further plot developments that travel to uncharted, yet accessible storytelling dimensions are fleeting at most. Instead, PASSENGERS merely mellows out and makes the error of judgement in believing that its digestible, yet unfulfilling themes pertaining to human connection are satisfying enough on their own. The script also avoids providing explanations to some obvious and logical questions that arise throughout. By the end, only a minuscule mark in cinematic scale is left by PASSENGERS, after it set itself up to be a game-changer for the science-fiction genre, similar to the recent and more superior ARRIVAL.

3 stars

 

Viewer Discretion / M (Mature Themes, also contains some action/peril, sexuality and nudity)


Trailer / PASSENGERS

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc 

©