Sci-Fi

AD ASTRA

Director
James Gray

(THE IMMIGRANT, THE LOST CITY OF Z, WE OWN THE NIGHT)

Starring
Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Liv Tyler, Ruth Negga and Donald Sutherland

Filmmaker James Gray has said that AD ASTRA will feature “the most realistic depiction of space travel that’s been put in a movie”. Largely due to the fact that I have never seen several space movies, some of which are considered to be classics, I simply do not consider myself to be the most suitable candidate to validate this claim. However, does AD ASTRA feature the most realistic depiction of space travel that’s been put in a movie that I have seen? 100% yes it does!

Before we further explore that trajectory of the film, let’s venture back to planet Earth for a moment, which is where our central character, Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) and his wife Eve (Liv Tyler) reside. Immediately after Roy returns from space, it is evident that distance, and not necessarily in the physical sense, is of growing concern in their relationship. With his marriage now on the rocks, Roy must accept a highly classified and dangerous new mission that if successful, will save many lives, but has deeply personal connections to him and his past. Can the answers to Roy’s worldly issues be discovered in space and if so, will he return home safely to save what’s most important to him?

Image result for ad astra film stills
So back to where I confirmed that AD ASTRA does feature the most realistic depiction of space travel that I’ve seen in a movie, don’t be surprised if in 20 or 30 years from now, what transpires here is based on a true story. Honestly, this completely immersive film eloquently conveys a very human story and conceivably exhibits a world beyond what we know of now with startling and innovative imagery and sound combined.

When weighing up the two components, yes AD ASTRA (which means ‘to the stars’ in Latin) will be better remembered for the visual experience it captivates with more so than the story of closure and reconciliation it tenderly renders. Having said that, Roy’s emotional expedition is one essential part of the catalyst for his dedication to the mission and is just as excellently written as the spatial story itself. This aspect of the film could very easily have become convoluted or even esoteric. Instead, the writing boasts clarity and the pacing is perfectly matched, which results with an adventurous science-fiction drama that is broadly accessible and hugely engaging.

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Something more that I admire about AD ASTRA is its originality and sturdy directing, especially throughout the middle stages of the film. Opportunities to sway more heavily one way or another and opt for a more familiar outlet do appear, but this film never loses sight of its ultimate destination or its themes.

Pending the release of some upcoming films, I’m currently tipping AD ASTRA to be nominated for a plethora of Academy Awards at the next Oscars. Namely, in film production categories such as cinematography, visual effects and sound mixing, but possibly also for James Gray in directing and Brad Pitt, who is uniformly excellent in the lead role. Guys, this really is one of the best films of the year. Don’t miss seeing AD ASTRA at the cinema and definitely do not be late, or else you will miss the stunning opening sequence, which is one of 2019’s cinematic highlights!

4 ½ stars

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Viewer Discretion
M
 (Science fiction themes, violence and coarse language)

Trailer
AD ASTRA

Moviedoc thanks Twentieth Century Fox for the invite to the screening of this film.

AD ASTRA is released in cinemas throughout Australia from September 19th, 2019.

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

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SHAZAM

Director
David F. Sandberg
(ANNABELLE: CREATION, LIGHTS OUT)

Stars
Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Faithe Herman, Ian Chen, Grace Fulton, Zachary Levi, Mark Strong and Djimon Hounsou

Based on the DC character of the same name, SHAZAM is the seventh instalment in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and is the first live-action film version of the character since the 1941 serial Adventures of Captain Marvel (the characters original name). On that note and for those of you who may not know (but care to), DC’s Captain Marvel is actually the original Captain Marvel, which first hit comic book stands in 1939. DC renamed their rebirth version of “Captain Marvel” to “Shazam” in 2012, due in part to Marvel holding the trademark on the name. Despite this and on a side note, DC still produces versions named Captain Marvel in print and animation.

Back now to the film, SHAZAM is about a boy named Billy Batson (played by Asher Angel from TV series Andi Mack) who gains the ability to transform into a fully costumed and adult superhero named Shazam (Zachary Levi) while remaining in the same location and present day. Billy’s ordinary adolescent existence begins to change after first meeting the Wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) and the instant transition to becoming Shazam and returning as Billy happens each time that name is said out loud. When a nemesis named Thaddeus Sivana (played by Mark Strong) learns of his existence and powers, the safety of Billy and his family is placed into jeopardy.

Image result for shazam film stills

With its winning formula of consistent humour and an abundance of endearing character’s always at the forefront, SHAZAM is definitely one of DC’s better movies where the storytelling truly entertains.

The opening scenes of SHAZAM introduce its villainous character at a young age and sets the precedent for how chosen ones come to meet the Wizard Shazam while also validating the motivations for Thaddeus Sivana’s villainy to follow years later. Soon after, the tone is lightened significantly and will remain that way for much of the feature as the timeline shifts to depicting Billy’s life before his turn to meet the Wizard Shazam arrives. Even from these earlier scenes, it is clear that SHAZAM possesses an ideal measure of virtue versus villainy and humour to sync with its action. These characteristics truly come to the fore from the moment that audiences meet members of Billy’s foster family and witness the novice superhero Shazam getting acquainted with, testing and utlising his newfound weapons. The conception and writing work that’s been completed behind these scenes is noticeably creative, is visually well-executed and generates a lot of laughter. Many of the contributions made by supporting cast members, such as Faithe Herman as Billy’s sister Darla and Jack Dylan Grazer as his brother Freddy, are scene-stealing and totally crowd-pleasing. Speaking of cast, do not be put off seeing SHAZAM at the cinema by the absence of a single big name Hollywood star. Another ingredient in its winning formula is the freshness and energy that this lesser known (to a big screen) cast brings to this production.

3 ½ stars

A note to viewers: There is a scene both during and also after the final credits that is worth remaining seated for!

Viewer Discretion
M
 (Mature themes and action violence)

Trailer
SHAZAM

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

Opens nationally on April 4

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
Follow on Twitter –Moviedoc / LIKE on Facebook – @moviedoc13

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JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM

Director
J.A. Bayona
(A MONSTER CALLS, THE IMPOSSIBLE, THE ORPHANAGE)

Stars
Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Rafe Spall and Isabella Sermon

The arrival of JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, the second film of the Jurassic World trilogy, coincides with the 25th anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s JURASSIC PARK. Can anyone believe it’s been that long already!?

Taking place three years after the events in JURASSIC WORLD and with Spielberg now serving as executive producer, this action/adventure begins on Isla Nublar, once a wonderland dinosaur theme park that is now abandoned and home to an active volcano that is ready to erupt. The dinosaur population that remains there is in immediate danger of extinction. Their only hope of survival resides with a couple of the park’s former employees, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who now works as a dinosaur-rights activist for a company she founded, and Owen (Chris Pratt) who’s living a quiet life in his roadside home. They are helped by some new characters including a feisty young doctor, Zia (Daniella Pineda) and geeky IT guru, Franklin (Justice Smith).

Image result for chris pratt and bryce dallas howard jurassic park: fallen kingdom film stills

There are more dinosaurs in this film than in any previous JURASSIC PARK/WORLD movie and volcanic action aplenty in JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, but does this instantly equate to a (dino)soaring film experience you’ll have a hell-lava time with!? I do apologise for my very lame (yet somewhat creative) statement there. But if you intend to have fun in this stomping ground, then allow my flippancy to humour you for there is plenty of far-fetched action and frivolous behaviour going on here.

As over-the-top as it may be, the behind-the-scenes work (a combination of Animatronics and CGI) that’s been invested to create the dinosaur imagery and the film’s set-piece sequences we see never fail to impress. Which is important, because that’s why we’re here, right!? As for JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM’s (arguably) lesser important movie making ingredient of storytelling, the writers disappointingly do not bring anything new to this genre, or even the franchise for that matter. That being said, the film’s theme of human greed and the foul human beings that practice that trait makes for a completely acceptable plot which has some darker moments and plenty of fun times. Especially when it’s the dinosaurs’ turns to bite some bad folk right back! On that note, while parents should heed the M classification for much younger audience members, JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM does ensure that (almost) every attack scene (some of which are rather brutal) and potential scare is made very obvious before it occurs.

Replacing JURASSIC WORLD director Colin Trevorrow (set to return for directing duties in JURASSIC WORLD 3) for this second chapter in the trilogy, Spanish-born filmmaker J.A. Bayona is faithful to the rule book but keeps the pace and entertainment both flowing consistently. And if you’re really keen, remain seated until the very end for a post credits scene.

3 stars

Image result for jurassic park: fallen kingdom film stills

Viewer Discretion
(Action violence)

Trailer
JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM

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

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

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Image result for jurassic park: fallen kingdom film stills

 

UPGRADE

Writer & Director
Leigh Whannell

(INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3)

Stars
Logan Marshall-Green, Melanie Vallejo, Harrison Gilbertson, Betty Gabriel, Benedict Hardie, Linda Cropper and Simon Maiden

If you’ve never seen a film belonging to the body horror genre before, then now is the time and UPGRADE is the perfect film to first experience it. A sub-genre of horror, body horror movies intentionally show graphic or psychologically disturbing violations of the human body. Though at first that may not sound like highly appealing viewing, there are several reasons why this darkly comical Australian made film that’s set in the near-future will be an absolute hit with its target crowd, is addictive viewing for a broader audience and ought to be added to your watch list now!

Set in a dark world in which technology is an even more prominent aspect of our everyday lives than it is now, Leigh Whannell’s UPGRADE stars Logan Marshall-Green (PROMETHEUS) as Grey Trace, an old-school mechanic who hasn’t quite conformed to the reliance on modern technology as his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo from Aussie TV series, Winners & Losers) has, who’s employed by tech giant, Cobolt. A simple man, Grey prefers his vintage, self-driven automobile over the driver-less computer-driven cars mostly on the roads nowadays. When a tragic incident occurs that changes Grey’s life in an instant, his only hope of gaining some of that life back lies in the hands of STEM, an experimental and unreleased piece of technology to be implanted into his body, made by tech engineer Eron (NEED FOR SPEED’s Harrison Gilbertson).

Image result for logan marshall-green upgrade 2018 film stills

From production studio Blumhouse, who created fellow low-budget features GET OUT, WHIPLASH and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, and impressively filmed entirely in Melbourne, Australia, UPGRADE is a late-night special that’s a sure bet to gain a cult following. To give you an even clearer understanding of what to expect, this science-fiction crime thriller with bold strokes of humour can be likened to and isn’t too dissimilar to watching an (extended) episode of Netflix series Black Mirror on the big screen! 

After a super cool intro (don’t be running late!) and a run of the mill opening act that ticks the formalities boxes off, UPGRADE gets an infectious and unyielding energy into gear that becomes a driving and unstoppable force. The film exudes a profound sense of belonging that’s largely manufactured by its pumping music score, slick visual design, stylised action choreography, and the effective use of lighting and colour throughout. This is done in similar fashion to THE NEON DEMON and SIN CITY, only not quite to the same level of absolute all-round brilliance. Visually and aurally, UPGRADE is a self-assured film that knows exactly what it wants to be and what to deliver to its primary audience. 

While indisputably excellent in those aforementioned areas of filmmaking, the begging question must be asked: does the narrative hold up just as strongly? The reception to this from audiences is bound to be mixed. While watching in real-time, an unspecified number of loose ends become visible that lessen the credibility of the plot. Though most of these holes in the script are later patched up, UPGRADE still leaves some uncertainty in the air that will irk those who possess a higher attention to detail.

Even if the narrative component of UPGRADE isn’t able to elevate the film to a level of complete excellence, the mighty atmosphere concocted and its interest-arousing plot still give it plenty of uptick.

3 ½ stars

Image result for logan marshall-green in upgrade 2018 film stills
Viewer Discretion
MA15+ (Strong science fiction themes and violence)

Trailer
UPGRADE

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

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

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NETFLIX FILM REVIEW – ANNIHILATION

Writer & Director
Alex Garland

(EX MACHINA)

Stars
Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny and Oscar Isaac

Behind the production of ANNIHILATION are some facts pertaining to its development that do raise a few serious talking points. 1) ANNIHILATION is based on the award-winning first novel in “The Southern Reach” trilogy written by author Jeff VanderMeer. 2) Writer & director Alex Garland’s script had already been completed before the second book in the trilogy was published. 3) Prior to its release, ANNIHILATION drew some criticism for its casting, as certain characters are of a completely different ethnicity to as described in the second novel.

In response to that criticism, Alex Garland explained that that none of the five female characters’ ethnicity is revealed in the first book, in addition to the above second point. Furthermore, he did not wish to read the trilogy while making this movie, in order to not be influenced by them and to maintain his own direction of adapting the first novel into something that’s “like a dream of the book”.

And so beg the questions – Do you consider these decisions to be dismissive towards the original material this vision is sourced and its creator? If so, is this fair to everyone, including many readers and viewers? Does the final casting call take an employment and potentially career-defining opportunity away from someone it is originally written with and intended for? And just how far will your answers to these questions sway your overall opinion of the much-hyped and highly-anticipated Netflix release of ANNIHILATION?

Finally, let’s look at the plot, which centres on a biologist named Lena (Natalie Portman), who is recruited by Dr Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to join her and three other women on a dangerous research expedition into “The Shimmer”, an accessible yet foreign area situated on our planet where our laws of nature do not apply. It is also where Lena’s husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac), journeyed to twelve months ago… and never returned.

Image result for ANNIHILATION FILM STILLS
The fascinating ideas raised in this science-fiction adventure film from its core material has indeed made a successful transition to the screen. Right from the opening scene, ANNIHILATION draws mystery that deepens and greatly intrigues. Many early questions relating to “The Shimmer” are provoked and these alone are sufficient to maintain investment to the film. But so ambitious is the concept and writing, several additional points of interest arise courtesy of the main characters.

Visually, it must be said that ANNIHILATION’s unusual design is at first unspectacular, but does eventually grow on the viewer. More so once we’ve trekked further into “The Shimmer” and have adjusted to its beauty, secrets and dangers, which exude a strong sense of wonder and trepidation. Similarly, the first couple of key momentous scenes don’t quite live up to their potent build-up and do underwhelm. Nonetheless, once the visual design begins to impact the film more positively during further proceedings, ANNIHILATION achieves its own original style that is very alluring.

However, it is fundamentally flawed. Without mentioning these specifically, there is more than one crucial detail during its conclusion that remains unexplained. A couple of lazy or clumsy patches in the writing are easily observed throughout too. Make no mistake though, this is still a very good movie. But when taking into account certain facts surrounding its development into film, one cannot help but believe we may have had an instant sci-fi classic in our hands, had due care, some loyalty and better collaboration been given when and where needed.

It’s not often you’ll award a film this rating out of five and still remember it as a missed opportunity.

3 ½ stars

Image result for ANNIHILATION FILM STILLS

Viewer Discretion
MA15+ (Strong violence, strong blood and gore, strong horror themes)

Trailer
ANNIHILATION

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

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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
Danielle MacDonald – PATTI CAKE$
James Franco – THE DISASTER ARTIST
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
THE DISASTER ARTIST (But watch clips from YouTube of THE ROOM first, if you haven’t already seen it!)

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 FLORIDA PROJECT

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 THE DISASTER ARTIST and 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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