Sci-Fi

PROXIMA

Director
Alice Winocour

Starring
Eva Green, Zélie Boulant, Matt Dillon, Aleksey Fateev, Lars Eidinger and Sandra Hüller

Former Bond girl and French actress and model Eva Green (Casino Royale, TV series Penny Dreadful) has appeared in 19 films to date in her career. She has (arguably) never been better than this!

Speaking an impressive total of four languages throughout Proxima, a wholly immersive science-fiction drama, Eva Green is Sarah, an excellent engineer and Astronaut who prepares for a mission to the International Space Station. Throughout her preparations, Sarah must undergo rigorous training protocols and various tests that will officially prove she has the physical capacity to fulfil her dream of going to space. As intended, these endurance-sapping formalities sometimes test her limits and push her boundaries, but Sarah’s real challenge is leaving behind her young daughter, Stella (Zélie Boulant).

Proxima (2019) - Whats After The Credits? | The Definitive After ...

There may be a film or films out there, but I cannot recall any movie I’ve seen that chronicles an Astronauts entire preparations for going to space, particularly in the captivating detail shown here. Even if such a film does exist, I highly doubt its protagonist is a female and a mother. These components alone supply Proxima with an abundance of striking originality that had a gravitational pull over my attention. Sarah isn’t traveling to the ISS solo, however, and will be accompanied by two colleagues – an American, Mike (Matt Dillon) and a Russian, Anton (Aleksey Fateev). As her job is situated in a male-dominated world, Sarah is occasionally subjected to sexist criticisms by her American counterpart, which undoubtedly represents real-life experiences. This is a film inspired by and devoted to female Astronauts and the great sacrifices they face, led by an outstanding Eva Green.

Eva Green | borg
Now, I really don’t want to end my review of Proxima on a less desirable note because it honestly does deserve to be seen, so I’ll mention this now. A critical development late into the film heavily bruises an aspect of the film’s plausibility. Why am I mentioning this? Ordinarily, I wouldn’t stick with the rating I stubbornly refuse to move from for this film. Also, because I’d like you to arrive with the fair-mindedness to allow Proxima’s many pros to outweigh its single con.

Finally, a sizeable volume of the films narrative consists of email correspondence written by Sarah to her daughter. These readings invest intimacy into the picture and together with the story’s originality and Eva Green’s career-best work, produce a very human science-fiction drama I felt connected to.

4 stars

Eva Green and Zélie Boulant in Proxima (2019)

Viewer Discretion
M (Coarse language and nudity)

Trailer
Proxima

Moviedoc thanks Madman for providing the screener link to watch and review this film.

Proxima is available digitally from June 3 and DVD from June 8.

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

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The Socially Remote Antidote

Hello Readers,

Like myself, you’re probably frustrated and tired of being stuck at home so much. Having said that, the social distancing measures applied here in Australia have given me the opportunity to catch up on many previously unseen films. Though I’ve enjoyed seeing so many movies, I certainly do miss going out to the cinema and long for the day they safely re-open again. I, for one, will certainly never take for granted the simple pleasure of experiencing a movie on the big screen again! Until then, here’s a summary of the films I’ve watched since COVID-19 has kept us indoors so much, along with my rating of each.

I shall keep adding to this post on a weekly basis until cinemas re-open again. Enjoy 🙂

Let’s start with….

The Classics

Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – 4 ½ stars
This is how you do horror! Mystery that’s almost too much to bear and a riveting finish. A genuine classic.
Gone With The Wind (1939) – 3 stars
Am I the only person on this planet that was so underwhelmed from watching what I expected to be a timeless and sweeping FOUR HOUR epic? 

The Sound of Music (1965) – 5 stars
I am terribly ashamed to admit I hadn’t watched The Sound of Music in its entirety, until recently! Well, I’m glad that’s changed (thank you to my co-writer, Jell)! Here’s a movie that definitely did not let down! An instant classic that (I think) is now officially my favourite musical feature film of all time! 

The Maltese Falcon (1941) – 3 stars
Good, but rather odd. I’m glad I ate pastizzis (no, not paparazzi’s, auto-correct) while watching it 🙂

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – 3 ½ stars
So, so different to what I expected. Not much plot driving the film, but it somehow really grounded me in the present and I liked it for what it was.

Now that I have that shocking confession regarding The Sound of Music out in the open, let’s check out what I’ve recently seen that’s…

For the Families

Missing Link – A very strong 3 ½ stars
This underrated Golden Globe Winner for Best Animated Picture was up against Toy Story 4 for the Oscar in the same category, and lost. In my opinion, Missing Link deserved to win the major award for its originality and story that is rich in humor and hugely entertaining.
Aladdin 3 ½ stars
Much like The Lion King (2019), Aladdin was the recipient of undue harsh critique from the critics. I thoroughly enjoyed this live-action rendition of the much-loved tale. It was what it needed to be and very unlike a typical Guy Ritchie film, which is a good thing in this case!
Toy Story 4 – 3 ½ stars
Easily holds its own and was a pleasure to reunite with several cherished characters, but doesn’t have ‘that magic’ the very first Toy Story film did or of some of Pixar’s finest works (Wall-e, Up etc).
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil 3 stars
Ok, maybe this sequel isn’t so family-friendly, given its M classification. For most part, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and especially the performances from its stellar female cast. Although, a few rushed and untidy developments in its latter half can’t go unnoticed.
Frozen II – 3 stars
I’m probably the last person left on Earth to see this by now! Credit goes to Frozen II for inventing a new and worthwhile story to that of the first part, but like Frozen, I find my ability to be engaged by these movies always very limited. Easy to do, but limited.
Wreck-It Ralph – 4 stars
Ingenious ideas intelligently conceived and crafted that offer an abundance of fun for the whole family. Can’t wait to check out its sequel, Ralph Wrecks the Internet.
Ralph Breaks the Internet – 4 stars
And just like that, the very next evening, I watched the sequel! Very pleased to say that this sequel is equally as intelligent, creative and funny as its predecessor. There is so much to admire and be amused by in the ‘Ralph’ films, but arguably nothing more so than certain very special appearances and the voice cast behind them in this sequel! If you haven’t seen Wreck-It Ralph and Ralph Breaks the Internet, then I strongly suggest you change that now!
Onward – 3 ½ stars
On paper and visually, Onward’s appeal started on a downward trajectory for me. However, once its protagonist’s journey becomes the heart of the film, its sentimentality resonates and produces some truly beautiful moments.
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon3 stars
There are plenty of cleverly thought-out sci-fi references laden throughout, but overall the humour is less broadly appealing than Shaun the Sheep’s first excellent movie outing. This is a likeable sequel, though it’s noticeably targeted far less for adults compared to the predecessor.

Now for some…

Drama

After the Wedding – 3 ½ stars
This underrated drama harbours several big secrets in its plot that have a big impact. Not much can go wrong either with the marvelous Julianne Moore leading the way.
Ford v Ferrari – 4 stars
An excellent all-round film that will more than satisfy motor enthusiasts and anyone else not so into cars, equally. There is plenty of appealing story and characterisation that fuel Ford v Ferrari to make it last the distance. Highly recommended!

Just Mercy – 4 ½ stars
Incites every bit of anger and heartbreak its harrowing true story ought to. This powerful film boasts a truly empathetic screenplay and outstanding performances from Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx. A must watch.
All Is Lost – 4 ½ stars
All of what we witness in All Is Lost rests on the shoulders of a single actor – 77 year old Robert Redford. Arguably one of his finest and definitely most stoic performances in a film that is inescapably absorbing before it is terrifically gripping.
The Way Back – 3 ½ stars
Very solid sports drama that features a reliably very fine performance from Ben Affleck. The story and plot developments aren’t breaking any new ground, but it’s definitely worth watching.
Richard Jewell – 4 stars
In what is looking likely to be his final film as writer and director, Clint Eastwood’s biopic is his best movie in a decade and features a breakthrough performance from a most unlikely actor in Paul Walter Hauser. I’m impressed!
Sorry We Missed You – 4 ½ stars
The working collaboration between writer Paul Laverty and director Ken Loach started in 1996 and remains one of the most truest, earnest and powerful in cinema to this day. Sorry We Missed You is among the most pertinent and prominent yet, giving a voice to hard-working, yet vulnerable families subject to modern day labour exploitation in the United Kingdom. Has the exact immediate and lasting impact intended and it ought to have.
Beats – 3 ½ stars
There were two films with this title released in 2019, so as to not confuse the two, this Beats is the 2019 Scottish film about two young men who plan to attend a rave party just as the British government put a ban on them across the entire U.K. What emerges from a straightforward story is a deceptively beautiful friendship and an infectious attitude rebelling against social class and authority. Fans of dance/trance/tech music will be extra fond of Beats.
Red Joan – 3 stars
It’s flashback heavy, which results in the wonderful Judi Dench not being given much to do over shortened screen time. Although Red Joan is a rather dull film to watch consistently throughout, it never lasted long enough at once to completely erase my interest level in what is quite an incredible story.
1985 – 4 ½ stars
The trajectory of this story involving a closeted man returning to his religious parents home for Christmas after a three year absence begins to look like a foreseeable one. Right at that moment, writer and director Yen Tan adopts a much more subtle and tender approach to the secrets his central character is harbouring, resulting in a powerful and achingly beautiful film shot entirely in black and white. Reaches number 11 on my 2019 best film list!
The King – 3 ½ stars
If you can accept the questionable casting choices (especially Robert Pattinson, who plays the son of a French King!) and not be too distracted by his rendition of a French accent, director David Michõd’s (Animal Kingdom) historical drama is actually a really solid film. I felt intrigued by its story and enjoyed the very well written dialogue in particular. Available on Netflix.

Now add tension to that drama…

Dramatic Thriller

The Endless Trench – 4 stars
I have no right to ever complain about any self-isolation measures undertaken during COVID-19 after witnessing the forced hidden existence The Endless Trench’s lead character must endure to merely survive, beginning during the Spanish Civil War. This is one of the top, and certainly most tense, Netflix productions I’ve seen to date!

Antonio de la Torre and Belén Cuesta in La trinchera infinita (2019)

The Spy Gone North –
4 stars
An extraordinary story that is inspired by extraordinary real-life events. What starts out as a spy operation fascinatingly evolves into something far more complex, dangerous and compelling. It is a layered story full of depth and relies on this over any action it may contain. The Spy Gone North is an excellent and exciting dramatic thriller that notches up another high quality production from South Korea.

Some good ones above! But let’s see what’s on offer in the genre of…

Comedy/Horror with Zombies!!!

Little Monsters – 2 ½ stars
I was so excited to see Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o in an Australian film… with zombies!! At first, she is easily the best thing about this very hit-and-miss comedy. As it turns out by the end, she’s the only thing to like about Little Monsters. Hmm.

Zombieland: Double Tap – 3 stars
Starts off just as sharp and cleverly funny as 2009’s Zombieland, before it suddenly runs out of adventurous ideas! A strong cast who deliver some big laughs save it from becoming a waste of time.

Time for some…

Romance

The Keeper – 3 stars
A corny and predictable, but nonetheless likable biopic about German-born Manchester goal keeper Bert Trautmann.
Last Christmas – 3 stars
The chemistry between Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding is immediate and palpable, however, I can’t help but feel cheated by the unexpected developments that await us in Last Christmas. Throw on an extra half star to that rating if watching at Christmas time.
Sense and Sensibility 4 stars
Director Ang Lee’s first English-speaking film boasts a stellar cast who all give fine performances and an involving story that is wonderfully written by lead actress Emma Thompson. An utter pleasure to watch.

Or perhaps, time for some…

Action

Terminator: Dark Fate – 2 stars
Worth watching if appalling acting finds your funny bone. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton provide an abundance of it!
Angel Has Fallen – 3 stars
By now, you ought to know why and when to turn to the ‘Fallen’ films. Pick your need and timing for mindless action fluff just right, and Angel Has Fallen shall perfectly fulfill each and every one of them.
Birds of Prey: The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn – 3 ½ stars
So much cool and so much sass in this stylish and hugely entertaining action film that features outstanding action choreography and stunt work. 
Bad Boys – 2 stars
I finally caught up with Bad Boys, largely before I watch the third installment released this year. I won’t even bother with the two and a half hour sequel after seeing this! Far too (vocally) noisy, boysy and to be frank… just plain sexist in its dialogue and depiction of women for me to be entertained by or appreciate.
The Gentlemen – 3 ½ stars
There’s plenty on offer to have fun with here; the vibe of the film, the characterisation of its very appealing ensemble cast, its playful and metaphorical manner of speech, and even its premise. I certainly enjoyed all of these aspects in The Gentlemen, but do understand its heavy use of strong coarse language and other offensive remarks made throughout has diminished or reduced that enjoyment.

A different form of escapism in…

Documentaries

The Edge of Democracy – 3 ½ stars
A very captivating and insightful Oscar-nominated Netflix production that is part personal memoir meets political documentary, which delves into the downfall of two Brazilian presidents. 
The Biggest Little Farm – 4 ½ stars
The biggest little surprise so far in 2020. On paper, it might sound like something you don’t need to see or would easily give a miss. But take my word for it – you do not want to miss this utterly engaging, involving and beautiful experience. To further compliment the film, it also boasts stunning cinematographic work and imagery that is just visually stunning. A hidden gem. 
Meeting Gorbachev – 3 stars
Offers just enough insight behind the upbringing and rise of former Soviet Union President, Mikhail Gorbachev, but surprisingly fell short of my expectations. Also, the filming and presentation of Werner Herzog’s interviews are of made-for-television quality.
I Am Not Your Negro – 3 stars
A subject and content that is and sadly remains of undoubtedly high importance is unfortunately largely and broadly inaccessible. An incredibly intellectual narrative that’s mostly impenetrable and chaotic directing are its key undoings. 3 stars is being generous.
Becoming – 3 stars
Becoming isn’t in depth in any way. Rather, former First Lady Michelle Obama shares several insightful perspectives during the release of her autobiography, with honesty and great clarity. Her down to earth nature truly shines through. By the end of Becoming, I was left to wonder how on Earth the U.S, a seemingly progressive nation at the time, has gone so steeply and rapidly backwards since.

In case zombies weren’t enough…

Thriller/Horror

El Hoyo/The Platform – 3 stars
Another Netflix production. Has an intriguing concept that kept me guessing and interested throughout, but all seemed rather pointless once the finale had arrived.

Misery – 4 stars
I wouldn’t have minded an extra few layers of psychological depth added to the mercurial and menacing lead character, but its genuinely thrilling scenes and the uniqueness given to that lead character in an Oscar-winning performance from Kathy Bates still uphold Misery’s might as a bonafide thriller 30 years on.

Or, for something completely different…

Arthouse

Birds of Passage – 4 stars
The authenticity of Birds of Passage and the time committed to its setting, and lifestyle and practices of its characters is what sometimes makes it challenging to watch, but sets it apart from others before then elevating it above so many films that share an otherwise familiar story.

High Life – 2 stars
Maybe I misunderstood something and needed to be high to appreciate this? Unfortunately for French writer and director Claire Denis, her first English-language film is more memorable for the atrocities committed and its bizarre encounters throughout than it is for any themes or meaning meant to be derived from it all. 

The Last Black Man in San Francisco – 3 ½ stars
A somewhat (and seemingly) meandering narrative that takes considerable time to establish a discernible plot does initially make this drama a difficult one to penetrate. However, the originality of this semi-true tale and the bold and impressive directing debut of Joe Talbot garner the film a greater level of appreciation once the story does eventually come together.

The Lighthouse 2½ stars
Robert Pattinson and the arthouse film genre should just stay away from each other! If your film fetish gets a kick out of questions above and without answers, and being in a constant state of confusion by what transpires, all done intentionally, then The Lighthouse is a black and white masterpiece waiting for you. But it’s not without intriguing elements and a superb Willem Dafoe performance. 

Compiled by Leigh for Moviedoc

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VIVARIUM

Director
Lorcan Finnegan
(WITHOUT NAME)

Starring
Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris, Senan Jennings and Eanna Hardwicke

Before you consider taking a wander into Yonder, there are some observations I’ve made during my stay you ought to be aware of prior to point of entry! But first, what is Yonder I hear you ask? Well, to mimic the welcoming words of the strangely behaving real estate agent, Martin (Jonathan Aris), who leads young couple Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) there, it is a wonderful development that has all you need and all you want! It also boasts an obvious artificial appearance, has no street signage and the exterior of each home is identical in appearance. Shortly after their guided open house tour, Gemma and Tom discover that getting into Yonder is much easier than getting out!

Vivarium_0194 Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) Estate Agent office (ext) - Martin Maguire

At first, I wondered if now is really the best time to release a film whose two lead characters are forcibly social distancing from the rest of society! You know, we’re living in a time of COVID-19, city lock downs and self-isolation, so VIVARIUM doesn’t exactly sound like the most ideal form of escapism right now. Well then, upon its arrival and availability to watch on screens at home, my advice is to socially distance yourself from VIVARIUM, which should be sent straight to quarantine!

You see, my rationale for such stringent decision making is based upon what more VIVARIUM could have achieved from its premise and early establishments as opposed to what actually transpires and how it concludes. I cannot recall the last time I watched a movie that led itself to boundless opportunities and various avenues to explore that are ostensibly unsighted. If your imagination doesn’t venture far beyond where those behind the conception and development of VIVARIUM are willing to go, then your capacity to remain intrigued could survive longer than my own. Its initial mystery is worth a look and there are some bright ideas present, but it soon becomes apparent these are too few in volume to sustain what it has in store for us. I lost a great deal of interest in this project when the plot got stagnant and the actions of its characters grew repetitive. An avoidance of explanation to grant plausibility towards its cheaply designed setting and questions that follow after its conclusion irked me further.

2 stars

Imogen Poots in Vivarium (2019)

Viewer Discretion
M
(Mature themes, sex scenes and coarse language)

Trailer
VIVARIUM

Moviedoc thanks Umbrella Entertainment and Annette Smith: Ned & Co for providing the screener link to watch and review this film.

VIVARIUM is available on Video on Demand via Google Play, iTunes, Fetch, Telstra & Umbrella Entertainment from April 16 and on Foxtel on Demand from May 6

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

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THE INVISIBLE MAN

Writer & Director
Leigh Whannell
(UPGRADE, INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3)

Starring
Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Michael Dorman and Harriet Dyer

To date, it’s fair to say that the Dark Universe franchise has experienced more darker days itself than anticipated. The first film, DRACULA UNTOLD wasn’t exactly a box office success and received mixed critical reception. THE MUMMY was a downright disaster in every possible way. This then led to THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN being pulled from release and Dark Universe’s lead producers leaving both the franchise and Universal Pictures. Early last year, Universal announced that all future movies in the universe would focus on standalone stories rather than inter-connectivity. Hence, we now have THE INVISIBLE MAN, a modern reimagining of both the novel of the same name by H. G. Wells and the 1933 film adaptation.

The Invisible Man (1933)

Things get off to a really good start in THE INVISIBLE MAN during a very tense opening as Cecilia (played by The Handmaid Tale’s Elisabeth Moss) attempts to execute a carefully thought-out plan to leave her controlling and abusive partner, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). This entire sequence is easily the best we’ve seen from the Dark Universe franchise so far. Within a few weeks, Cecilia is living with a lifelong friend and cop, James (Aldis Hodge) and his teenage daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid), as she grapples with new forms of fear and paranoia. Soon, Cecilia’s sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) shares breaking news with her – Adrian has taken his own life and left her with his fortune. But just as Cecilia begins to finally feel safe again and embraces her new life of freedom, haunting signs of Adrian’s presence start to surface.

Image result for the invisible man 2020 film stills
Not only is the opening sequence the best we’ve seen from the Dark Universe franchise so far, it also turns out to be the best of what THE INVISIBLE MAN has to show full stop. Disappointingly, the downward trend happens as the screenplay attempts to toy around with audiences as to what’s really going with Adrian’s possible existence and inside Cecilia’s head. At first, the film starts showing too many worrying signs of becoming a very familiar and outdated affair. Next, the characterisation of our protagonist gets irritatingly one-dimensional. Then finally, the movie just gets downright ridiculous. At the very least, Leigh Whannell could and should have written his central female character with even some self-awareness and smarts. This would have marginally improved his film and made the anchoring performance of Elisabeth Moss more worthwhile for her efforts. Regardless, the finale is what will cause the most damage. This needed to be conceived, developed and executed much more dutifully than it evidently has been. In the end, without its score and Elisabeth Moss, both of which the film is too heavily reliant on, THE INVISIBLE MAN is virtually invisible itself.

2 stars

Viewer Discretion
MA15+ (strong themes and violence)

Trailer
THE INVISIBLE MAN

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

THE INVISIBLE MAN is released in cinemas throughout Australia from the 27th of February, 2020.

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

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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.

Image result for ad astra film stills
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

Image result for ad astra movie stills

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
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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

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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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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).

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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

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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.

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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

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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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