THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE

Directors / Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan (Feature Film Debuts)
Stars/ The voices of Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Michael Peña, Kumail Nanjiani, Olivia Munn, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods and Fred Armisen

The Lego film world raises its third spawn with the release of THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE, which is the first theatrical Lego movie to be based on an original Lego property.

Diverting from the original TV series, the plot follows Lloyd Garmadon (voiced by Dave Franco), who by day is struggling with the daily pressures of high school and by night is secretly protecting Ninjago with five other classmates. Each of these teenagers, with the exception of Lloyd, possesses a special power. Kai (voiced by Michael Peña) is the red ninja of fire, his sister Nya (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) is fittingly the ninja of water and her love interest Jay (voiced by THE BIG SICK star Kumail Nanjiani) the ninja of lightning. Then there’s also the ninja of ice, Zane (voice of Zach Woods) and the ninja of Earth, Cole (voiced by Fred Armisen). Lloyd is understandably frustrated that he is seemingly the only participant of his group not gifted with his own special power. To make matters worse, his distant father, Lord Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux) has plans to take over and rule the city of Ninjago.


The second spin-off in the growing Lego film series features many of the same materials that were used in constructing exceptionally solid entertainment in previous Lego worlds, yet have produced a feebler finished product in THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE.

In total, nine story and screenplay writers (some of which are from the previous Lego movies) have gathered to create THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE, which is the highest number of contributors in this filmmaking department in any Lego movie so far. Somehow, their combined efforts aren’t enough to make what is a distinctly familiar plot on paper, to be written with a maintained level of creativity that both previous Lego films were so abundant with. For instance, this animated family film is equipped with the same variety of comedy that worked a treat previously, albeit at a much less frequent occurrence in Ninjago. Instead, the less than exciting computer generated action sequences are licensed to fulfil greater screen time, which result in a rapidly tiring ability for THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE to entertain an all-ages crowd. There are moments throughout this animated action-comedy where it displays the wittiness in writing, storytelling and characterisation we’ve now learnt to expect from a Lego movie. Though this time around, those moments are fleeting only.

2 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ PG (mild animated violence)

Trailer / THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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MOUNTAIN

Director / Jennifer Peedom (SHERPA)
Narrator/ Willem Dafoe

“You never feel so alive knowing at any minute… You could die”

For anyone who has stood at the top of a mountain’s edge, those words will resonate completely. This Australian produced documentary is an exploration of how our initial trepidation of mountains has evolved over time for these popular attractions to now be home of various activities. It was just three centuries ago when entertaining the idea of ever climbing a mountain was thought to be madness. Nonetheless, a physical and a spiritual calling was awakening inside of us.

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From a visual standpoint, MOUNTAIN ends as it had started. In between though, this mildly educational film and overall mighty experience is guaranteed to significantly alter perceptions of the very subject it is documenting.

This meditating observation of the serene beauty and the raw wildness that mountains possess has been poetically scripted for the guiding narration work of actor Willem Dafoe to perform. Amalgamating its minimal narrative with the constant presence of music performed for the film by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, MOUNTAIN is a majestic cinematic experience unlike many others. The devastating scenery and mesmerising expedition chronicling the birth, development and dare of mountainous adventure has been exquisitely photographed for the big screen. In fact, the outstanding cinematography truly comes to the fore during a genuinely jaw-dropping segment that captures the successes and the failures of crazy stunts that are beyond your wildest imaginations, all performed and recorded by thrill-seeking adrenalin junkies. The aerial shots, angles and the camerawork during these stunning sequences especially are of equal magnificence to the production as a whole.

A breathtaking 70 minute worship of mountains. Highly recommended.

4 stars

(c) renan ozturk 2

Viewer Discretion/ E 

Trailer / MOUNTAIN

Moviedoc thanks Madman for the screening invite to this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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mother!

Writer & Director / Darren Aronofsky (NOAH, BLACK SWAN, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM)
Stars/ Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris

Right now, mother! is the mother of decidedly mixed reactions. A movie that is at first completely unfathomable before it can ultimately be considered a work of pure genius. It’s an incredibly mysterious drama masquerading as psychological horror that was the recipient of booing and standing ovations at the Venice Film Festival. And it is one of the rare films to be handed an “F” cinemascore from moviegoers in the U.S, which is the worst possible score a film can receive. Some critics have even labelled mother! the worst film of the century! Though it is kind of awful to watch, there is no need to get carried away!

All you need to know regarding the synopsis is the following (just in case you’re one of many who must give in to your curiosity): in a very large home, a couple peacefully reside (played by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem). One day, totally out of the blue, their tranquil existence is quickly shattered upon the unexpected arrival of two uninvited guests (played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer). 


Once all is said and done, there remains two key reasons as to how mother! has missed its opportunity to be a masterpiece. This enigmatic film, which at first rarely allows your gaze to move far from the screen until it becomes borderline unwatchable, is so much challenge for so little reward. Also, for a film that is ultimately not open to interpretation, it studiously leaves itself exposed to an excess of just that.

Now, don’t be conned into believing that you’ll be leaving the cinema with any real answers. The final few scenes of mother! may provide some closure to you for one of several understandings to be gleaned, at best. It isn’t until any post-viewing research is conducted (if you care enough by then) that you’ll need to wait to uncover this movie’s cunningly crafted secret. Even still, several of its ambiguities have been purposely left unanswered and up to your imagination to decipher.

Where the creator of mother! deserves recognition is in his highly original and innovative thinking. Although not a lot makes a great deal of sense at the time it occurs, mother! successfully summons immediate intrigue that takes a considerable amount of time to burn off. There is no doubt in my mind that a courageous performance in a mightily challenging role for Jennifer Lawrence keeps viewers deeply invested much longer than the film deserves. The poor darling is put through hell and deserves a sympathy card from each of you who risk seeing this!

On a final note, it is well within the intellectual capacity of writer/director Darren Aronofsky to creatively incorporate its truth in a less arrogant manner than is opted for in mother! Though a feeling of appreciation for his idea later arrives, that appreciation remains heavily burdened and restricted. 

2 stars

Hint – If you have seen mother! and remain completely puzzled, go onto the IMDB website and take note of the original title of this film. Still unsure? Let me know!

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (Strong themes, violence and coarse language)

Trailer / mother!

Moviedoc thanks Paramount Pictures for the pass to watch and review this film.

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IT

Director / Andy Muschietti (MAMA)
Stars/ Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Bill Skarsgård, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Wyatt Oleff, Nicholas Hamilton, Jack Dylan Grazer and Chosen Jacobs

Even Stephen King himself has endorsed this first chapter of a planned two-part feature film retelling of IT, stating that a “wonderful job” has been done. The fact that this cinematic adaptation is much closer to King’s 1986 novel than what the mini-series produced four years later was, will no doubt be a significant contributor towards his positive feelings.

It is late 1980’s in the town of Derry, Maine. A number of individual kids – the stuttering student Bill (Lieberher), the granny-glasses wearing Richie (Wolfhard), Beverly (Lillis), who lives with an oppressive family member, the overweight library visitor Ben (Taylor), as well as Stanley (Oleff), Mike (Jacobs) and Eddie (Grazer) – are experiencing some form of bullying. United by their bullying encounters, as well as separate horrifying confrontations with beings that represent their worst fears, the newly formed group search for a frightening, shape-shifting entity who adopts the appearance of a clown, named Pennywise (Skarsgård).

An alluring visual design, innovative horror sequences and a largely unknown, yet talented ensemble cast do indeed ensure that IT consistently floats its viewer’s boat.

For starters, the tone is darker. Much darker, which is made clear by a menacing and superior opening sequence partially seen in the record-breaking film trailer. Heed that as both a warning and a recommendation! It’s a tone that easily settles itself into and all throughout this horror film. Even so, IT is quite a thrill to watch as it teases and taunts viewers in equal measure. A frequent supply of creatively conceived and ominously designed visual scenarios together with the camaraderie of its characters and its production give this film both a freshness and taste of nostalgia that is easy to embrace. These slickly executed scenes and the amalgamation of its narrative display the real skill and vision that director Andy Muschietti possesses. IT also impresses by way of a strongly written script that truly seizes upon its full potential and is more than capable of engaging its audience. A sub-plot revolving around the history of the kids’ hometown and the film’s themes (some of which are very heavy), are genuinely compelling. On a lighter note, the jocular banter that is exchanged among the younger cast members is highly amusing and even breaks a cinema convention or two along the way. The support and the strength that they lend one another has real substance too.

This old clown is up to new tricks that are guaranteed to feed you a fright or five.

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (Strong horror themes and violence)

Trailer / IT

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

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GOD’S OWN COUNTRY

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

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

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


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

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

2 stars

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

Trailer / GOD’S OWN COUNTRY

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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ALI’S WEDDING

Director / Jeffrey Walker (DANCE ACADEMY: THE MOVIE)
Stars/ Osamah Sami, Helana Sawires, Don Hany, Rodney Afif, Frances Duca and Ryan Corr

It has been over 20 years since Australia has produced a universally appealing wedding-themed film worth remembering. That movie, MURIEL’S WEDDING, not only made a star of Toni Collette, it even has its own stage adaptation currently showing in Sydney! Now in 2017, we have ALI’S WEDDING, which could not have picked a better time to walk down the aisle.

Similar to current cinema release, THE BIG SICK, this story is based very strongly on the life of its star – Australian actor, writer, director, poet and stand-up comedian Osamah Sami. Born in Iran to Iraqi parents, Sami plays himself under the character name Ali, who immigrates to Australia with his father, Mehdi (Don Hany), a Muslim cleric, mother Zahra (Frances Duca) and siblings. Nearing the end of high school, Ali is facing a mountain of pressure from his family and the Muslim community. He is expected to achieve extremely high grades in order to study medicine and become a doctor as well comply with his arranged marriage, even though Ali is madly in love with an Australian-born Lebanese girl, Dianne (Helana Sawires).

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First and foremost, a special toast to ALI’S WEDDING for bringing something new to the big screen – our very first Muslim Romantic Comedy/Drama. Coming in at number two on the 2017 MIFF Audience Award winners list, there is much to admire by the endeavour shown in this film, even if it rains a little on its own parade.

The screenplay, co-written by Sami himself, importantly incorporates the significant influences in Ali’s life during the time depicted. Aside from his studies and romantic dilemmas, there is also his involvement in his father’s plays, his passion for the Essendon Football Club (great choice!), his job at a petrol station and the daily pressures from the community to be a good Muslim. Depending on your level of interest and insight gained, the amount of time devoted to each of these may exceed your threshold. With the exception of Essendon’s involvement, of course! ALI’S WEDDING doesn’t quite have the polished execution needed in order to seamlessly integrate all of its separate strands as a whole film. There are times that the comedic deliveries and the acting from some of the cast is noticeably off. The two feature film debutant actresses, Frances Duca and Helana Sawires, tend to struggle the most. During the first half of ALI’S WEDDING, Sawires isn’t able to nail the balance needed from her character. And if you’re partially interested in seeing this due to the appearance of Ryan Corr, don’t bother. His very minor and thankless role as Ali’s bogan mate, Wazza, is a complete waste of Corr’s great talents.

Those imperfections aside, ALI’S WEDDING casts a joyful, crowd-pleasing vibe from early and rarely lets it go. Especially during an improved second half, which shifts more of a focus towards the marriage conundrum Ali has got himself into.

3 stars

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Viewer Discretion/ M (Mature themes and coarse language)

Trailer / ALI’S WEDDING

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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GIRLS TRIP

Director / Malcolm D. Lee (THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY, SCARY MOVIE 5)
Stars/ Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah

White men can’t jump the raised bar of witty dialogue and acidic retorts being projected from the four lead female stars of this fiery new comedy. GIRLS TRIP is in fact the first film to be entirely produced, written and directed by as well as starring African-Americans to gross more than $100 million at the U.S box office.

Ryan (Hall), Dina (Haddish), Lisa (Pinkett Smith) and Sasha (Latifah) share a lifelong friendship, referring to themselves as the flossy posse, which has gradually become a little distant over the years to now. With the annual Essence Music Festival, which celebrates the Essence magazine that is aimed primarily towards African-American women, soon to be held in New Orleans, the girls decide to reunite for the event. It will be a weekend of wild partying and mayhem as the recently separated Lisa, loose-cannon Dina, workaholic Sasha and Ryan, whose husband is not being faithful to her, rekindle their sisterhood.


This absolutely awesome foursome ensure that GIRLS TRIP is indeed a trip worth taking.

Funnily enough, many of the experiences had by the lead female characters of this comedy are in fact based on the real-life encounters that writers Kenya Barris (TV series Black-ish), Tracy Oliver and story writer Erica Rivinoja (TROLLS) had with their female friends. That realness has been seamlessly conveyed to screen, courtesy of the genuine rapport these ladies share and the sharp writing. The script is laden with ripping one-liners, crude vocabulary that is bluntly delivered and a handful of scenarios that you won’t be forgetting in a hurry. These scenarios are aimed at being the highlights of GIRLS TRIP, yet compared to the brilliant execution of the writing, they do arguably produce a few more low-light moments instead. Speaking of highlights, however, a stand-out performance from Tiffany Haddish (KEANU) must be noted. Her uncouth character is hand-fed the script’s most vulgar language and Haddish hilariously hits the right tone and delivery on a frequent basis.

A very basic plot outline that has a single direction – to arrive at the festival and get the partying started – turns somewhat sentimental in its final quarter. Despite the ratio of laughter being evoked dropping off, it is the valuable meaning derived from this and the unbreakable bond that is convincingly depicted by the lead cast, whom work together extremely well, that end this comedy on a high note.

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (Strong crude sexual humour and coarse language) 

Trailer / GIRLS TRIP

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

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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