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

©

 

Advertisements

DISOBEDIENCE

Director
Sebastián Lelio
(A FANTASTIC WOMAN)

Stars
Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams and Alessandro Nivola

Full confession; Disobedience was one of my most anticipated movies this year, based solely on the fact that I heard it was about two Orthodox Jewish lesbians played by Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz, who engage in a forbidden romance. I guess you could say, ‘it had me at shalom’. Yes, I’m that shallow. I’m the person who falls for queer baiting on television…like that time I watched an entire season of The O.C. because I read that Marissa was going to ‘lez out’. But one thing I found with my Disobedience experience is that it was so much more than just a chance to see two of my favourite actresses get it on.

Disobedience tells the story of Ronit (Weisz), a New York based photographer who returns to her home in London following the passing of her estranged father, a renowned and well respected Orthodox Rabbi. Without divulging the reasons why, it’s made clear early that Ronit was not entirely welcome back in the community she had seemingly abandoned some time ago. Whilst childhood friend Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) is hesitantly welcoming, there is discernible tension when she arrives at his house following her fathers’ burial.  This is also where we are introduced to Etsi (McAdams) and it becomes evident that the three of them had been close friends at one point. Ronit is noticeably surprised to learn that Dovid and Etsi are now married.

One of the weaknesses of this film is the amount of heavy lifting that’s left to the audience when it comes to filling in the blanks. A lot of the backstory of the characters is left to assumption or vague snippets of information. There is obviously a depth to the history of these characters, but the writers aren’t going to let you in on their secrets.

Image result for disobedience

If you were to watch this film with no prior knowledge of it or the novel it’s based on, the relationship development between Ronit and Etsi would seem a little clunky and perhaps surprising, due to the rapid ascension of tension between them.  As it turns out, the two women have an intimate history with one another, which when discovered originally, led to the estrangement between Ronit and her father, and the encouragement from the late Rabbi for Etsi to marry Dovid (his most dedicated disciple and heir apparent).

What transpires over the next few days is an exploration of self from both women; for Ronit it’s a time to reflect on what she left behind, both with Etsi and her father, and for Etsi it is the struggle to reconcile who she is when parts of herself seem to vehemently contradict her religious ideals.

Image result for disobedience

What Disobedience does well, it does very well. It is an intriguing look into Orthodox Jewish lifestyle, and perhaps one of the most accurate portrayals in mainstream cinema. It also conjures genuine chemistry between the two leads, and depicts an incredibly sensual and authentic encounter between the two. The performances are convincing and encourage sympathy for the three main characters. Conversely, what it does poorly, it does very poorly and that detracts from the strong performances from its actors (particularly that of McAdams). The film, and the novel it’s based on, both have Ronit as the main focal point, however Etsi and Dovid seem far more interesting as characters. I don’t think either character is explored to their full potential.

Disobedience isn’t easy work for the most part. It’s heavy and laborious, with an atmospheric thickness to it. It will seem both slow and rushed all at the same time, and for many, the rewards might not befit the effort.  But if, like me, you’re interested in empowering queer stories with added layers of cultural exploration, then it might just be worth the hard work.

3 stars

Trailer
DISOBEDIENCE

Moviedoc thanks Roadshow Films for the opportunity to view this film.

 

Reviewed by Jell for Moviedoc

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

 

HEREDITARY

Director
Ari Aster

(Feature film debut)

Stars
Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro and Ann Dowd

Yes, my fellow horror film enthusiasts, HEREDITARY is finally here. The film whose trailer was inadvertently shown to horrified PETER RABBIT audience members in Innaloo, Western Australia. The horror movie that has been the subject of much hype right from its Sundance premier in January to this very day where, one way or another, many critics have labelled it as one of the greatest and scariest horror flicks in recent years.

Time now to shred that hype and set the record straight! HEREDITARY is the master of deception more than it is the masterpiece many are making it out to be. As for being scary, I’ve been more frightened by what my bathroom mirror reflection has shown me first thing in the morning than anything experienced in this! Though guaranteed to rip you off in the scares department, one area that HEREDITARY certainly offers value for money is in its story. In fact, should you be seeing this rather lengthy, mysterious and supernatural domestic drama, it is best to attend with that exact mindset.

All happenings of the supernatural phenomena can be traced back to the recently deceased and very secretive mother of Annie Graham (Toni Collette). Though Annie’s mother is gone, she isn’t really and she’s left behind several signs and artefacts that will both guide and terrorise Annie, her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), son Peter (Alex Wolff) and daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) to her legacy. 

Image result for HEREDITARY FILM STILLS

Loosely inspired by writer & director Ari Aster’s own family’s experiences with particular themes explored in his movie, HEREDITARY is an ambitious film that falls under the weight of its own lofty expectations and epitomises the phrase “what goes up, must come down.”

Making this eventual outcome even more disappointing is the fact that earlier on, HEREDITARY superbly executes and effortlessly achieves exactly what it intends to. Possible clues behind its growing mysteriousness appear to be strategically arranged and an endless number of questions are studiously provoked from the viewer. The intrinsically formed creative intellect and originality used to construct the tantalising (and comically unnerving) mystery at play in HEREDITARY are all reminiscent of last year’s ingenious mystery/thriller, GET OUT, only with the promise of an even more terrifying climax and unpredictable revelations soon to follow. Instead and by the end, HEREDITARY more resembles and sparks reactions similar to those experienced in Darren Aronovsky’s MOTHER!

Image result for HEREDITARY FILM STILLS

Ari Aster’s screenplay is abundant with ideas and his film does have some high quality fittings, but HEREDITARY’s separate parts don’t amalgamate into the coherent and consistent whole that we deserve it to be. Too often it has succumbed to committing a fright tactic that is less convincing and there are some noticeable inconsistencies that lessen its credibility. As patience is tested and frustrations mount at varying times during the disarraying and decaying second half of HEREDITARY, it is features such as the exquisite camerawork, its highly effective music score and an impressive job of the sound mixing that will all play a large part in keeping viewers as engrossed as possible. But maybe not to the same significant extent as the gripping and very brave performance from the terrific Toni Collette and the outstanding feature film acting debut from her young co-star, Milly Shapiro (pictured below).

Despite a decent three star rating from me, HEREDITARY is (so far) the greatest let down of 2018.

3 stars

Image result for HEREDITARY FILM STILLS
Viewer Discretion
MA15+ (Strong horror themes)

Trailer
HEREDITARY

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

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

©

 

TEA WITH THE DAMES

Director
Roger Michell
(NOTTING HILL, MY COUSIN RACHEL, MORNING GLORY)

Stars
Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright

A pot of tea, immeasurable volumes of hearty laughter, and a pinch of age-old wisdom that is shared by our divine dames form the recipe of this utterly pleasant documentary.

The personal friendships of actresses Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright span for more than half a century. These remarkable actresses grant filmmaker Roger Michell exclusive access to stories and experiences from both their professional careers and personal lives, with the use of real-life footage and stills dating back from as early as their childhoods right through to contemporary times.

TWTD_Gallery Image

Most documentaries importantly contain content that either or both intend to educate and bring to awareness specific matters that are often heavier (yet essential) to digest. Therefore, to watch TEA WITH THE DAMES can quite fittingly be likened to sipping a mug of freshly brewed hot tea – it warms the soul and is refreshing to ingest.

To add to that, it is no exaggeration to state that these ladies, and in particular the magnificent Maggie Smith, are so downright and naturally hilarious, they could offer a formidable rivalry to Hollywood’s present day comedy stars! The audience I shared this screening with laughed so loudly at times, it was impossible to hear what was being said on-screen! Even when the laughter momentarily subsides, the joy felt from watching this very special occasion always stays. It truly is our honour to get to know the extraordinary women behind the performances we’ve come to love them from. On that note, the more knowledge of their respective careers as well as all forms of performing arts from roughly the sixties right through to the eighties that you as a viewer possess, the more inclusive the various discourses of the dames will be. The only less pleasing factor of this documentary is the unnecessary need to be rather intrusive and even insensitive by way of some deeply personal questions that are noticeably unexpected and uninvited. Though they do undoubtedly draw curiosity, I think everyone would have been happier if this footage had been left on the cutting room floor.

So, now that we’ve had the pleasure of attending TEA WITH THE DAMES, what invitation would you like to receive next? How does a Dégustation with the divas sound? Or perhaps a Moët with Meryl!?

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion
(coarse language)

Trailer
TEA WITH THE DAMES

Moviedoc thanks Transmission Films and Miranda Brown Publicity for the invite to the screening of this film

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

©

 

OCEAN’S 8

Director
Gary Ross
(THE HUNGER GAMES)

Stars
Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling and Rihanna

It was with excitement and trepidation that I entered the cinema to watch the new incarnation of the ‘Ocean’s’ franchise. The excitement to see one of the finest ensembles of women actors in Hollywood, strut their stuff in the familiar Ocean’s heist formula, but trepidation that it might not live up to the hype, and the inevitable misogynistic sledging that would no doubt follow if deemed a failure (think Ghostbusters of the 2016 variety). Thankfully by the end of the film, I was confident that it had done enough to hold its own and could potentially lead to more films, continuing the legacy of the franchise…but that’s not to say it didn’t have its failings too.

Image result for Ocean's 8 movie stills

In a sensible move by the film makers, this movie isn’t a female re-imagining of the previous Ocean’s 11 through 13. In Ocean’s 8 we meet Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), the sister of the legendary Danny Ocean (played by George Clooney in the previous films). Recently paroled and having had plenty of time to mastermind the perfect heist, Debbie sets her sights on lining her pockets and settling some scores along the way. She begins to assemble a team of talented criminals, played by the likes of Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna and Mindy Kaling, just to name a few, and her master plan to extract a $150,000,000 diamond necklace from Cartier is put into motion.

Anyone familiar with the previous Clooney or Frank Sinatra led Ocean’s movies will know how the gig usually plays out, and this doesn’t deviate too greatly from that. But it is refreshing to see this version held together by such a tremendous cast of female talent. There is one line in the film that I particularly appreciated (apologies if not verbatim); “We don’t want a ‘him’. Men draw attention and are noticed and women are invisible, and this is a time when it’s good to be invisible”. I thought this was an apt little dig at not only the status of women in society, but particularly in the Hollywood industry. In just the 8 titular actors in this film we have; 4 Academy Awards, 6 Golden Globes and countless nominations for both, but I dare say that collectively these women would not have earned anywhere close to what the top 3 billed actors in Ocean’s 11 would earn today. There is an astonishing dearth of female centric stories in Hollywood, and the sparsity of roles for women over a certain age is appalling. That’s what makes this movie so important; not only is it driven by women, but the lead actress (Bullock) is soon to turn 54, which is a number in Hollywood that usually deems women ‘invisible’.

The main thing that holds back this film is the lack of character depth. At 110 minutes I feel like they could have added 20 minutes to really give us a better look at the 8. By the end of the film I still know very little about any of the characters and their motivations. This really makes me hope that there are more movies to follow, which could invest in better character exploration. Many of the cast were also under-utilised, this was particularly noticeable in Mindy Kaling’s character. When you have actors with a strong comedic sense, which is certainly the case with Kaling and Bullock, it was disappointing that the comedy aspect of the film wasn’t better explored. It did have a couple of amusing moments, but definitely nothing more than that. Whilst I’m aware that it’s an action/crime/comedy and not just a comedy, I do think the writers missed an opportunity to make this movie better than good.

Overall though, the film worked; you got what you came for, nothing more, and nothing less. Now I will sit back and hope that it does achieve success at the box office, because I want nothing more than to see a plethora of movies featuring strong, savvy women getting stuff done.

3.5 stars

Trailer
OCEAN’S 8

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

Reviewed by Jell for Moviedoc

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

IN TIMES OF FADING LIGHT

Director
Matti Geschonneck

Stars
Bruno Ganz, Hildegard Schmahl

Set in Berlin in the months preceding the fall of the Berlin Wall, this German language drama tells the story of an East-German Communist family gathering for the 90th birthday of the families patriarch. Adapted from Eugen Ruge’s semi-autobiographical 2011 best-seller, In Times of Fading Light is a slow moving character piece which explores the domestic side of Communism and the impact on those who chose the wrong side of history.

Image result for in times of fading light

Bruno Ganz (Downfall) plays Wilhelm Powileit, a former high ranking Communist celebrating his birthday. As an endless parade of family, friends and former colleagues make their way to his party, we see family secrets revealed and a man coming to the realisation that the world he once knew would never be the same again.

In Times of Fading Light is an interesting movie that seems confused by what it wants to be. The moments that are most focused are dull and uninspiring, and the parts that pique your interest don’t seem to mesh with the rest of the story that’s being told. The last 10 minutes of the film feel rushed and unfinished, and leave more questions than answers about the 90 minutes that came before it. Ganz and Hildegard Schmahl are strong in their performances, but the journey that’s being taken lets them down.

Perhaps a good film for those who enjoy a heavy dose of artistic pretention in their movie going experiences, but overall not a film that will appeal to the masses.  In Times of Fading Light can be seen at the German Film Festival until the 10th of June, or alternatively it’s available to be streamed via SBS on Demand.

1.5 stars

Moviedoc thanks Asha Holmes Publicity for the invite to the screening of this film

Reviewed by Jell for Moviedoc

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

 

THE BOOKSHOP

Director
Isabel Coixet

(MY LIFE WITHOUT ME, ELEGY, LA VIDA SECRETA DE LAS PALABRAS/THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS)

Stars
Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson, James Lance, Honor Kneafsey and Julie Christie

THE BOOKSHOP is the story of middle-aged widow Florence Green (Emily Mortimer), who starts her own business by opening the first-ever book store in the small seaside town of Hardborough, England in 1959. As word of the new shop begins to circulate among the locals, Florence is faced with a number of challenges. None more so than one by the name of Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson), who firmly and instantly disapproves of Florence’s plans to inhabit and convert a historic building into a bookshop, for she has ambitions to turn it into an art centre.

Emily Mortimer-TBS-0656
A mild-mannered and small-scale drama, THE BOOKSHOP ultimately satisfies and does boast an excellent finish, even though it could do without a few extra chapters that prolong its story along the way.

Spanish-born filmmaker Isabel Coixet’s award-winning screenplay, which is based on Penelope Fitzgerald‘s novel of the same name, is quite content to devote several of the film’s 113 minutes to many of its minor characters. The majority of this generously-allocated time is certainly time well spent. For instance, Florence‘s enthusiastic young employee, Christine (Honor Kneafey) and fellow book-lover who’s also her number one customer, local recluse Edmund Brundish (Bill Nighy), both forge a genuine rapport with the lead character and significantly contribute towards the central story, in their separate ways. Strangely though, this light drama only includes an equally (if not more) important character in shorter scenes that are mostly dispersed throughout the film. THE BOOKSHOP would certainly benefit from widening its open doors to its wonderful actress Patricia Clarkson’s portrayal of Violet Gamart and closing them to certain others instead. Even if it is the same way in the novel, this character feels under-developed here and the skills of Clarkson are certainly under-utilised. 

Thankfully, the tender and tremendous lead performance from Emily Mortimer, an easily digestible central story and its aforementioned very fine finish do ensure that THE BOOKSHOP is worth borrowing someday.

3 stars

Clarkson Patricia_Lisbeth Salas14

Viewer Discretion
PG (mild themes)

Trailer
THE BOOKSHOP

Moviedoc thanks Miranda Brown Publicity for the invite to the screening of this film

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

©

Mortimer Emily_Lisbeth Salas5