FRED Watch Reviews
Scroll through our quickie, non-spoiler FRED Watch reviews below alphabetically or search through the archives by CLICKING HERE.
BLACK PANTHER (2018)
—Kendall Richardson reviewing film.
T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to the isolated and technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to take his place as King.
However, when an old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s fortitude as King and superhero Black Panther is tested when he is drawn into a conflict that puts the entire fate of Wakanda and the world at risk…
Nothing gets me more hyped for the trip to the cinema than the prospect of the latest Marvel Studios production. I’m an avid fan and follower of all things Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), so when the time comes around to go and see their latest release for the first time, I am literally jumping up and down with excitement. As it was with Black Panther, the eighteenth film on the MCU’s roster, and the first release of its tenth anniversary year, needless to say, I had a blast.
Marvel has the superhero origin story film down to a fine art now, as they should, but it is with Black Panther that they have done one of the best things yet—show diversity. Whilst they are sadly lagging in the female lead superhero game, Marvel have proven to the public that they can tell a story with a cast that is 98% black and have it be beyond the success they dreamed of. (Earning over $200 million in it’s opening weekend, the film is the second highest debut of the MCU behind 2012’s The Avengers.) They have made a movie where the hero is a proud African warrior and king, who is supported by the strongest women—nay African women—I have ever seen on screen, and opposed by an incredible African-American villain that some are saying could give Loki a run for his money. It is just so beautiful to see these characters displayed before our eyes, and in roles young kids can look up to and admire, particularly those who share the colour of their skin with the Black Panther himself. And this film could really not have come at a better time. With the Black Lives Matter movement still prominent across the globe, race is still one of the biggest issues out there. Hopefully Black Panther can serve not only as a vehicle to entertain, but to inspire and teach as well.
As for the film itself, it is sad to say that it is a little slow to start, until the momentum of the plot and its action fully kick in, but that isn’t to say it’s not enjoyable, because it is. We get a beautiful rendition of the history of Wakanda and the Black Panther, as well as wonderful introductions to each of the characters that make up that beautiful nation. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home after the death of his father King T’Chaka (John Kani), which occurred in Captain America: Civil War (2016), to assume the throne, but it’s not that simple, and I love it. There is so much tradition alongside the beauty of the Wakandan people, as T’Challa must fight any man that challenges him for the throne and for the powers of the Black Panther. Meanwhile, Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), whom we last saw losing an arm in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), is on the prowl for more vibranium, and with a new robotic arm to boot. Here is where we meet the real villain of the piece, Erik Killmonger, played with uncompromising intimidation by Michael B. Jordan. The two may have teamed up for this heist, but it soon becomes clear that Killmonger has an agenda all his own.
Boseman is definitely more than capable of leading this film; he is wonderful as T’Challa, and it was great to see what he could do outside of Civil War. Serkis takes the eccentric up a notch with this version of Klaue, and it is sinister and hysterical. Fellow Middle-Earthling Martin Freeman surprised me with his return as CIA agent Everett Ross, who was also last seen in Civil War, but this time around there is more for him to do. And whilst we don’t get too much of his character fleshed out, how his involvement becomes crucial to the film’s plot is awesome. I’m always here for more Freeman, even if he is putting on that American accent.
But my favourite thing about this film is the ladies! As a lady myself, I may be a tad biased but they really are the best thing here. First you have Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa’s sixteen-year-old technology and science genius sister, who is responsible for most (if not all) of Wakanda’s current tech, and the Black Panther’s suit and gadgets. Then there is Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). And while she may be T’Challa’s ex, for now, she is also an awesome fighter and spy. I hope her and Black Widow get to have spy training reminiscing/bonding time at some point. And thirdly, there is the badass general and leader of the Dora Milaje, Okoye (Danai Gurira). She loves her country more than anything and will smack a bitch down the second it is called for. She is the sass queen in this film and I love her. All three of these actors are so strong and incredible in their performances as great Wakandan women, I cannot wait to see more of them down the track.
Director/co-writer Ryan Coogler has given us a fantastic film, which beautifully shows off the fictional nation of Wakanda and its people. With the MCU tending to expand further into space, it is great to see that there is some wonderful unexplored territory for them to showcase at home. Wakanda forever! 4 / 5
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis.
Director: Ryan Coogler | Producer: Kevin Feige | Writers: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole (based on Black Panther by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) | Music: Ludwig Göransson | Cinematographer: Rachel Morrison | Editor: Michael P. Shawver, Claudia Castello
THE BOOK OF MORMON (2017-2018 Melbourne Season)
—Wayne Stellini reviewing theatre.
Two Mormon missionaries, the ambitious Elder Price (Ryan Bondy) and socially awkward Elder Cunningham (Nyk Bielak), attempt to share their scriptures with the inhabitants of a remote Ugandan village, where their fellow missionaries have failed to baptise anyone.
The young men are challenged by the lack of interest of the locals, who are more concerned with such issues as AIDS, famine, female genital mutilation, and their warlord…
When accepting that a musical about Mormon missionaries comes from the the collective imaginations behind the animated television series South Park and the theatrical Sesame Street parody Avenue Q, you feel as though you know what sort of show you’re about to experience.
And while there are common trademarks of South Park‘s Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q‘s Robert Lopez throughout The Book of Mormon, an audience has no right to express offense at the material. Also, those who are familiar with the creative minds behind the show will be pleased to know that this production stands on its own.
Parker and Stone frequently poke fun of and critique religious institutions (most notably, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Scientologists), however the easily-targeted Latter Day Saints seems to be their favourite subject matter. (The 1997 sex comedy Orgazmo was an early indication of this trajectory.) That is not to say, however, that The Book of Mormon does not have a lot to say on a broad range of matters; it is an effective critique on fundamentalism and traditional patriarchal customs, among other topics. Additionally, it is a sweet story of friendship and the importance of community.
Like all good musical comedies, the songs are catchy and humorous, with opening number Hello! setting the tone perfectly. The show is ideally paced and maintains a solid momentum throughout, with the cast’s incredibly infectious energy and enthusiasm adding to the atmosphere. The cast is always in fine form, particularly the stunning Zahra Newman as Nabulungi and audience favourite Rowan Witt as closeted queer stereotype Elder McKinley. As our protagonists, Bielak has the ideal geeky adorable qualities the role of Elder Cunningham dictates, but make no mistake about it, The Book of Mormon belongs to Bondy. Oozing more charm and enthusiasm that you would think is humanly possible, it is difficult to take your eyes off him; his portrayal of Elder Price is quite easily the production’s strongest component. In the realm of contemporary musical theatre, Ryan Bondy is perfection personified.
The almost sold-out matinee audience I sat with was hooked from the get-go, buzzing during the interval, and laughing throughout. And this is where The Book of Mormon succeeds. It works on a number of levels, coming together so swimmingly, that it would be difficult for the production not to have broad appeal, particularly in a city such as Melbourne. This is not to say that the show is completely flawless: when the writing is so clever, are gags about feces and blood really necessary? Also, there is so much movement and noise during some songs that not every lyric will be heard clearly by each audience member, particularly those in the nose-bleeds. But with a production that is so engaging and entertaining, these are minor quips.
Do not be mistaken, it is impossible for The Book of Mormon to live up to the hype—it is not the greatest musical of the century, though it may come close! 4½ / 5
Starring: Ryan Bondy, Nyk Bielak, Zahra Newman, Bert LaBonté, Rowan Witt, Andrew Broadbent, Augustin Aziz Tchantcho.
Book, Music, Lyrics: Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone | Directors: Casey Nicholaw, Trey Parker | Choreographer: Casey Nicholaw | Musical Supervisor, Vocal Arrangements: Stepher Nremus | Music Director: Kellie Dickerson | Associate Producers: Laura Manning, Ben Prudhoe
DON’T EVER WIPE TEARS WITHOUT GLOVES (TORKA ALDRIG TÅRAR UTAN HANDSKAR) (2012)
—Wayne Stellini reviewing television.
In 1982, practicing Jehovah’s Witness Benjamin (Adam Lundgren) meets Rasmus (Adam Pålsson), a university graduate who has just moved to Stockholm from his rural home.
Embraced by a new group of gay friends, Benjamin and Rasmus fall in love while going through the process of self-exploration and discovery. And then a lethal disease impacts their tight-knit community…
It is best to brace yourself when approaching a story about the devastating consequences of the HIV/AIDS virus that is set during a time when the recipients of the disease’s wrath were primarily young gay men. Productions about the early days of the AIDS epidemic are plentiful, and they tend to be either deeply impactful or manipulative fodder. Thankfully, Simon Kaijser helms Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves with skilful restraint and care, keeping the material in a believable world and away from the all-too-easy realms of melodrama. Stylistically, Stefan Kullänger’s cinematography, as well as Agneta Scherman and Kaijser’s editing, make this an aesthetically affective production.
Best-selling author Jonas Gardell’s screenplay, which coincided with the release of three novels (2012-2013), is a beautifully woven tale in which present, past, and multiple stories are linked seamlessly. Do not be mistaken, all the usual character and narrative tropes are there, but it works in the the story’s favour. There are an abundance of characters to get to know and understand; such shorthands make them easily accessible, but nonetheless complex, interesting, and relatable.
Our protagonist Benjamin is played with stunning purity by Adam Lundgren (a quality that Björn Kjellman carries through as the character in the present time scenes), whose inner conflict with his religion and the interpersonal tensions with his parents (solid work from Marie Richardson and Gerhard Hoberstorfer) demonstrate the actor’s phenomenal range. For example, just watch Lundgren in an emotional scene in which Benjamin fights for public acknowledgement against the wishes of Rasmus’s parents, played by the incredible Stefan Sauk and Annika Olsson. Such a moment brings to the forefront the underlying loneliness to Benjamin, insofar that he apparently cannot truly fit in with the religious customs with which he has grown, nor can he genuinely be himself among his fellow social outcasts.
As Rasmus, Adam Pålsson possesses all the fearlessness that come with youth and beauty; this makes his trajectory even more heartbreaking, and Pålsson holds his own alongside the aforementioned talent. More open to sexual exploration than Benjamin, Rasmus serves as a complementary and contrasting figure to his partner. Pushing this further is Simon J. Berger, whose portrayal of unapologetic, flamboyant queen Paul is a refreshing consistent throughout the series. In spite of it all, Paul refuses to be anything but fabulous with a touch of kitsch charm.
All these characters, plus others, are drawn together in a world afraid of an unknown, ruthless disease; a world in which contemporary history’s most discriminated against people become even more vilified. So, one must ask: At a time when the progressive world continues to move towards greater equality for its queer community, is a series such as Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves really necessary? The answer is a resounding yes. And allowing yourself to be taken into this three-hour experience is heartbreaking, rewarding, and humbling all at once.
Please watch it. 5 / 5
Starring: Adam Lundgren, Adam Pålsson, Simon J. Berger, Emil Almén, Michael Jonsson, Christoffer Svensson, Kristoffer Berglund, Annika Olsson, Stefan Sauk, Marie Richardson, Gerhard Hoberstorfer, Ulf Friberg, Björn Kjellman, Jonathan Eriksson, Claes Hartelius, Belle Weiths, Gorm Rembe-Nylander, Alexi Carpentieri, Lisa Linnertorp, Maria Langhammer, Sanna Sundqvist, Jennie Silfverhjelm, Julia Sporre.
Director: Simon Kaijser | Producer: Maria Nordenberg | Writer: Jonas Gardell | Theme Music Composer: Andreas Mattsson | Cinematographer: Stefan Kullänger | Editors: Agneta Scherman, Simon Kaijser
—Kendall Richardson reviewing film.
In the near future, financially burdened couple Paul and Audrey Safranek (Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig) are tempted to partake in “downsizing”, an irreversible process that involves shrinking humans to a height of five inches.
Paul and Audrey consider downsizing which, it is sold to them, is both environmentally and financially advantageous…
One of the main issues with movie trailers these days is either one of two things: Too much of the film’s plot and story can be revealed, leaving no surprises for the audience upon the first viewing, or the film that the trailer has been put out to promote is the furthest thing from what the trailer says it is. In the case of Downsizing, the trailer is definitely depicting what takes place in the story. Sort of. I can’t figure out if it was intentional or not, but we have been misled into thinking, going in to the cinema, that we know what kind of movie we’re in for.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that Downsizing is a bad movie—it’s not—it is just so far from what I expected. The trailer essentially shows you the first half an hour of the film, but the majority of the story takes place after that. The trailer is just the set-up for what sets the plot in motion. This funnily enough can also be a metaphor for the story of Downsizing’s lead character Paul Safranek, played vulnerably well by Matt Damon. There is a quote in the film that goes something along the lines of, ‘Nothing ever works out the way Paul expects.’ This really should have been a disclaimer for the viewer going in.
That aside, Downsizing is certainly nothing like we’ve ever seen—it contains an original story and original characters that pull you in directions you don’t expect. Apart from Damon’s excellent performance, the only other two characters that really stand out are Christoph Waltz’s Dusan, a hysterical party animal taking full advantage of the downsizing procedure for solely his own benefit, and Hong Chau’s Ngoc Lan Tran, who was downsized as a punishment and illegally immigrated to the U.S. via a TV box. Yes you read that correctly. Her performance was one of my favourite things about this movie; from the way she hobbled around on her fake leg (a result of the TV box incident) to the eccentric broken English she speaks, she emotes so fluently that I can see why she garnered a Golden Globe nomination.
I also really enjoyed the depiction of the whole history and process of downsizing. It was done in such a way that made it almost seem real: The film takes place in modern times; the procedure is created and presented in a no-nonsense scientific manner; and applicants can enquire about it all as if they were being sold at an expo, filled with public speakers, display homes, and salespeople talking you through it and answering any and all questions.
Whilst Downsizing is not the best movie of recent times, I applaud it for its ambition and total originality. In a world filled with reboots, remakes, and sequels, at least writer/director Alexander Payne is giving us something new. Also the visual effects are highly impressive. Keep an open mind when going into this one, and set your expectations… small. 3 / 5
Starring: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Maribeth Monroe, Udo Kier, Rolf Lassgård, Ingjerd Egeberg, Søren Pilmark, Margo Martindale, James Van Der Beek, Niecy Nash, Donna Lynne Champlin, Don Lake, Neil Patrick Harris, Laura Dern, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Joaquim de Almeida, Eric Burns.
Director: Alexander Payne | Producers: Mark Johnson, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor | Writers: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor | Music: Rolfe Kent | Cinematographer: Phedon Papamichael | Editor: Kevin Tent
INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE: THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES (1994)
—Wayne Stellini reviewing film.
In present-day San Francisco, reporter Daniel Molloy (Christian Slater) interviews Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt), who recounts the circumstances of his transformation into a vampire after he is bitten by Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise) in 1791 Louisiana, as well as their adoption of a little girl (Kirsten Dunst) and her impact on their relationship…
Interview With the Vampire was met with anticipation, discussion, and controversy leading up to its release. But the true merit of any film is how well it holds up when the dust has settled and it is simply one of many in its genre.
Adapting her own 1976 novel, Anne Rice’s screenplay is a mixture of musings and madness that enhance the mythology of vampires. Bringing her central characters to life are Tom Cruise (a casting choice Rice was vocally disapproving of until she saw the final product) and Brad Pitt, whose rapport is essential to their bantering dynamics. At first, Cruise feels miscast as Lestat, though once you accept that Neil Jordan’s vision of Rice’s homoerotic literature requires the subtlety of a daytime soap opera, it is easy to have fun with the unfolding story. And while the set design, costuming, and cinematography make this production quite handsome, Pitt is in stunning form as Louis and is undeniably one of the most beautiful vampires to ever grace the screen.
Kirsten Dunst, who delivers the film’s signature line and received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance of Claudia, fits right into the domestic dynamics of Cruise and Pitt. She is absolutely captivating, going from a ten- to thirty-year-old mentality as time moves on and she remains ageless physically. Strong supporting turns also from Christian Slater, Antonio Banderas, and Stephen Rea round out a hard-working cast.
Interview With the Vampire holds up relatively well, on the condition that you allow yourself to get lost in the world presented here, and doesn’t feature as much blood or gore as you would expect. The personal struggles of the characters—particularly Louis—give them depth and the action is handled with confidence. It is not a film that takes itself too seriously, so there’s plenty of fun to sustain its two-hour duration. 4 / 5
Starring: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Christian Slater, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, Stephen Rea, Domiziana Giordano, Thandie Newton, George Kelly, Marcel Iureş, Sara Stockbridge.
Director: Neil Jordan | Producers: David Geffen, Stephen Woolley | Writer: Anne Rice (based on Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice) | Music: Elliot Goldenthal | Cinematographer: Philippe Rousselot | Editor: Mick Audsley
—Wayne Stellini reviewing film.
Chiron, a painfully shy and heavily bullied boy, comes of age in the low socioeconomic Liberty City, Miami. He finds parental figures with drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe), much to the suspicious disapproval of Paula (Naomie Harris), Chiron’s drug-addicted mother.
The dynamics and tensions among Chiron’s biological and surrogate families, his friends, and classmates set him on a path of emotional neglect and want.
Barry Jenkins’s beautifully photographed story pays homage to its unproduced stageplay roots, presented in three distinctive acts in which our protagonist Chiron goes from boy (played by Alex Hibbert) to adolescent (Ashton Sanders) to man (Trevante Rhodes). Because of this segmentation, Moonlight leaves plenty of information on the cutting room floor. What happens in the many years between the moments captured of Chiron’s troubled life are up to the audience to piece together or imagine.
The risk in such a narrative tool is that the audience is kept at bay, but Jenkins is a talented storyteller, drawing fine performances from Hibbert, Sanders, and Rhodes that their harmonious portrayals of Chiron keep us invested. Through Chiron, Jenkins presents a touching exploration of masculinity that shines like a full moon in a sky of tropes movie lovers are all too familiar with.
As Chiron’s surrogate parents, Ali and Monáe are stunning, suggesting that Moonlight could very well have been completely devoted to their complex relationship with the little boy lost and his mother. The importance of these early scenes is evident in the final act, in which Chiron reunites with childhood friend Kevin (André Holland). Here, Rhodes and Holland are heartbreaking, bringing to the surface the pain and loneliness we have been watching Chiron go through, when the narrative comes full circle.
Moonlight may have been a groundbreaking winner at the 2017 Academy Awards, but fanfare and accolades aside, it stands on its own as a beautiful portrait of masculinity. 4 / 5
Starring: Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali, Alex Hibbert
Director: Barry Jenkins | Producers: Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner | Writer: Barry Jenkins; Story: Tarell Alvin McCraney (Based on In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney) | Music: Nicholas Britell | Cinematographer: James Laxton | Editors: Nat Sanders, Joi McMillon
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017)
—Wayne Stellini reviewing film.
Famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) acquires a spot on the Orient Express, a three-day train ride that is destined for London. On board, he is approached for protection by Samuel Ratchett (Johnny Depp), an unlikeable American businessman who has been receiving threatening messages.
Poirot declines the offer and that evening, hears noises coming from Ratchett’s compartment and sees a woman in a red kimono running down the hallway. Not long later, an avalanche derails the train and Ratchett is found murdered.
With an assortment of suspects, Poirot and Orient Express director Bouc (Tom Bateman) begin to investigate…
Actor/director Kenneth Branagh brings Agatha Christie’s famous detective to an audience, who may not be familiar with the book series or their numerous adaptations, in a polished production that has all the aesthetic charm of Hollywood’s golden era.
Indeed, contemporary cinema’s cream of the crop portray an assortment of suspects whose complexities are perhaps too constrained by the film’s timeframe to be anything more than archetypes; not all are fleshed out and most leave you wanting to know more about them. But that does not seem to matter as Branagh commands such attention with a charismatic and humorous portrayal of Poirot. His interactions with the top-notch ensemble keep this old fashioned mystery running at a steady pace.
Beautifully framed and photographed with a stunning colour pallet, Murder on the Orient Express is a refreshing offering in an era of studio films chasing the dollar with big budget comic book adaptations. 4 / 5
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Tom Bateman, Olivia Colman, Lucy Boynton, Marwan Kenzari, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Sergei Polunin, Miranda Raison.
Director: Kenneth Branagh | Producers: Ridley Scott, Mark Gordon, Simon Kinberg, Kenneth Branagh, Judy Hofflund, Michael Schaefer | Writer: Michael Green (Based on Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie) | Music: Patrick Doyle | Cinematographer: Haris Zambarloukos | Editor: Mick Audsley
—Wayne Stellini reviewing film.
In the business of capturing marine animals for a local aquarium, Captain Nolan (Richard Harris) harpoons a pregnant orca who miscarries and subsequently dies.
Overcome by grief and anger, her mate goes on a rampage against Nolan, his crew, and associates… stopping at nothing until the captain himself has paid for the loss of the orca’s family.
The first in a slew of major productions to rip off Steve Spielberg’s Jaws (1975), Orca falls short in every department. As its own production and without comparison to history-making masterpieces, however, Michael Anderson’s creature feature is a generally entertaining affair.
The film is quick to get straight into the action. And while the continuity of the footage used (natural stock versus artificial “movie magic”) is questionable thanks to the differing colour of the water, some nifty camera work and editing make the opening sequences relatively compelling. The first act climaxes with our titular mammal’s motivation; the unsettling miscarriage and disposal of his child, followed by the suicide of his mate.
In order to keep things as believable as possible, the story involves scientists and experts providing plenty of information relating to killer whales and therefore predicting and justifying the very concept of the film. However, it does not all quite come together. The main reason is that, even in creature features, it is the people that matter most. Richard Harris’s Captain Nolan is too unlikeable to be accessible; his aggressiveness is too prominent, too early on in the piece that the eventual revelation of his empathy for the avenging orca is diluted. Additionally, Orca’s story structure may begin with an effective hook, but fails to maintain it with two-dimensional archetypes, an inconsistent pace, and Carol Connors’s atrocious ballad ‘My Love, We Are One’ to round it all off.
But do not be overwhelmed by the film’s shortcomings. Even though Orca tries hard and fails to achieve what it sets out to, what it does offer still has some value. Taken in the right spirit, the film can be either fun or tragic. The action works incredibly well and the whale is believable enough to keep the audience invested in its plight. It is also the most likeable and fascinating character here.
Upon initial release, this cult classic was torn to pieces by the critics and saw modest box office returns. Admittedly, Orca is perhaps best enjoyed with a cold beer in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other. 3 / 5
Starring: Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling, Will Sampson, Bo Derek, Keenan Wynn, Robert Carradine, Peter Hooten, Scott Walker, Don “Red” Barry, Yaka, Nepo.
Director: Michael Anderson | Producers: Dino De Laurentiis, Luciano Vincenzoni | Writers: Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Donati, Robert Towne (uncredited) | Music: Ennio Morricone | Cinematographers: J. Barry Herron, Ted Moore | Editors: John Bloom, Marion Rothman, Ralph E. Winters
PAPER PLANES (2015)
—Wayne Stellini reviewing film.
Upon discovering that he has a talent for making paper aeroplanes, Dylan Webber (Ed Oxenbould) works towards competing in the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan, if only to reconnect with his grieving father (Sam Worthington).
Paper Planes’s premise is simple and there aren’t any surprises lurking within Robert Connolly and Steve Worland’s sometimes corny screenplay. But, when you have a film that is abundant in positive messages and innocent charm, who cares?
The hero of the piece, upon whose shoulders the success of the film rests, is Oxenbould, who is one of the most likeable young actors cinema has offered in a long time. His rapport with other male cast members allows for an interesting depiction of masculinities, and offers some lovely scenes between Dylan and his father, portrayed by an underused but nonetheless solid Worthington, and grandfather, a charismatic Terry Norris. There are only two noteworthy speaking roles for women here, played by Ena Imai and Deborah Mailman; the latter isn’t given much to do, but Mailman is such strong screen presence, she makes the most with very little.
Beautifully photographed by Tristan Milani, Connolly’s pint-sized underdog story will not only appeal to its young target audience, but will find favour with accompanying adults. You would have to be an absolute cynic not to get caught up in Dylan’s quest to be a winner. 3½ / 5
Starring: Sam Worthington, Ed Oxenbould, Ena Imai, Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke, Julian Dennison, David Wenham, Deborah Mailman, Peter Rowsthorn, Terry Norris.
Director: Robert Connolly | Producers: Robert Connolly, Liz Kearney, Maggie Miles | Writers: Robert Connolly, Steve Worland | Music: Nigel Westlake | Cinematographer: Tristan Milani | Editor: Nick Meyers
PITCH PERFECT 3 (2017)
—Kendall Richardson reviewing film.
Three years after winning the World Finals championship in Copenhagen, a cappella singing group the Bellas have graduated college and gone their separate ways.
Now in unfulfilling jobs and desperate to see each other again to sing once more, Beca (Anna Kendrick), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), Chloe (Brittany Snow), Aubrey (Anna Camp), Lilly (Hanna Mae Lee), Cynthia (Ester Dean), Florencia (Chrissie Fit), Jessica (Kelley Jakle), Ashley (Shelley Regner), and Stacie (Alexis Knapp) reunite to compete once more…
It’s the final curtain call for the aca-amazing Bellas! I’m happy to report that Pitch Perfect 3 escapes the pitfalls that can befall any third installment in a franchise: the magic that crafted the success of the first film tends to wane, the jokes made are almost always the same causing the shtick to get old fast, and the storylines can head into shark-jumping territory. This film escapes them by the skin of its teeth, but escapes them nonetheless.
This time around the Bellas reunite to perform at USO shows across Europe, and find themselves competing with the other acts for a chance to open for DJ Khaled. Anna Kendrick is a joy to watch as always as the talented music producer Beca Mitchell, reaffirming effortlessly to her audience why she is the lead of this wonderful ensemble cast. Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy is back and still hilarious! Whilst her comedy isn’t as memorable this time around, she does well with what she’s given, leaving the viewer in stitches. Also enjoyable are Brittany Snow’s Chloe and Anna Camp’s Aubrey; the former getting herself a love interest, and the latter showing us how much she’s grown since the first film as we learn about her military father.
Speaking of fathers, John Lithgow shows up as a different than Daddy’s Home 2 Dad, giving the Aussie accent a half-decent crack as Fat Amy’s criminal and estranged papa. That’s where the shark-jumping pitfall is approached, but thankfully the slightly outlandish storyline works due to Wilson going full Black Widow on her dad’s goons and the Bellas scintillating take on Toxic (It’s Britney, Pitch!). The only disappointing thing for me was the lack of screen time given to the other USO acts. One of the best parts about the previous two movies has been the rivalry between the Bellas and their enemy teams, and unfortunately they only seem to touch on it briefly throughout the film. Although the riff-off scene when they first meet is very entertaining.
Without spoiling too much about the ending, I will say that it is a perfect (pun intended) and emotional conclusion to the trilogy, as it really highlights the bond shared between the Bellas, whilst simultaneously launching Beca into the career she truly deserves. 3½ / 5
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hailee Steinfeld, Hana Mae Lee, Ester Dean, Chrissie Fit, Kelley Jakle, Shelley Regner, Alexis Knapp, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks, John Lithgow, Matt Lanter, Guy Burnett, DJ Khaled, Ruby Rose, Andy Allo, Venzella Joy Williams, Hannah Fairlight, Whiskey Shivers, Trinidad James, D.J. Looney, Troy Ian Hall, Jessica Chaffin, Moises Arias, Michael Rose.
Director: Trish Sie | Producers: Elizabeth Banks, Paul Brooks, Max Handelman | Writers: Kay Cannon, Mike White (Story by Kay Cannon) | Music: Christopher Lennertz | Cinematographer: Matthew Clark Labiano | Editors: Craig Alpert, Colin Patton
THREE BILLBOARD OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017)
—Kendall Richardson reviewing film.
Grieving the rape and murder of her teenage daughter seven months prior, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) rents three billboards to call attention to the unsolved crime as well as question Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) why this is so.
However, the billboards upset the townspeople, including the terminally ill Willoughby and his officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell)…
The title of this film alone suggests its Oscar worthiness, and so does the roster of talented actors that make up the cast. Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell are names always associated with great performances, and in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, they don’t deliver anything less.
This film presents a snapshot into a dark and depressing tale that began long before the opening scene and continues way past the screen’s fade to black. But it approaches the heavy subject matter in such an honest, vulnerable, and at times hysterical manner, that you not only feel the weight of the events that have taken place, but you also feel a part of the small community that makes up Ebbing, Missouri.
McDormand gives a tour de force performance as Mildred Hayes, the mother of Angela Hayes (Kathryn Newton) who was brutally raped and murdered, and whose killer has not yet been brought to justice. The movie opens with her immediate decision to rent out three billboards, and call out the Ebbing Police Department for their failure in solving her daughter’s case. The billboards, a blood-red background with bold black writing on them read thusly: Raped while dying; And still no arrests?; How come, Chief Willoughby?
The Chief Willoughby in question is portrayed by Woody Harrelson; he’s a respected citizen of Ebbing, a husband to an Australian wife, played by Abbie Cornish, and father of two little girls. He’s also dying of cancer. He feels terrible about the Angela Hayes case, and despite the billboards singling him out, assures Mildred they have done and are doing everything they can to catch whoever is responsible.
And then there is Sam Rockwell’s Officer Jason Dixon. A man that is as despicable as he is dimwitted. Dixon is truly a character that provides most of the film’s shock and laughter almost simultaneously, and only could Rockwell portray that so efficiently. He is also given the most interesting character arc of this movie. Just when you think you’ve got him made, he does something or says something that truly surprises you.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is not only superbly acted, but also wonderfully shot and directed. The non-Missouri backdrop of North Carolina is simply stunning on the screen, filled with lush mountains and trees, gorgeous colours, and a lovely little town full of character, offsetting the dark nature of the story’s subject matter brilliantly. This film is a wonderfully crude and confronting piece, filled with humorous charm that will have you won over by the time the credits begin to roll. 4½ / 5
Starring: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, Caleb Landry Jones, Lucas Hedges, Abbie Cornish, Kerry Condon, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Željko Ivanek, Amanda Warren, Kathryn Newton, Samara Weaving, Clarke Peters, Sandy Martin, Brendan Sexton III.
Director: Martin McDonagh | Producers: Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin, Martin McDonagh | Writer: Martin McDonagh | Music: Carter Burwell | Cinematographer: Ben Davis | Editor: Jon Gregory
VOLDEMORT: ORIGINS OF THE HEIR (2018)
—Fulya Kantarmaci reviewing film.
This fan-made prequel to the Harry Potter film series follows Tom Riddle (Stefano Rossi), later known as Voldemort, a powerful wizard and chief antagonist in the Harry Potter franchise.
Sitting at over 11.5 million views as of this writing, Voldemort: Origins of the Heir runs at 53 minutes and goes through the backstories of each Hogwarts House heirs: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin.
The film begins with a wizard packing a suitcase of a few well-known items, followed by the showing of what turns out to be Tom Marvolo Riddle’s diary.
Cutting to an epic battle, Heir of Godric Gryffindor Grisha McLaggen (Maddalena Orcali) fights against Russian wizards, only to be captured after being hit with an unexpected spell. This allows for the set up of the film’s narrative structure: Grisha is strapped to a chair and questioned by General Makarov (Alessio Dalla Costa). With veritaserum flowing through her veins, she has no choice but to answer Makarov’s questions truthfully, and so unfolds the story of all four heirs.
Voldemort: Origins of the Heir’s cinematography is beautiful! I absolutely loved each shot’s framing and the film has also been cut together well. For a fan-made piece, the manner in which some of these scenes are so skilfully constructed is pleasantly surprising.
This film was generally amazing with a couple of exceptions. Unfortunately, all the actors were dubbed over. This made it difficult for me to concentrate on the story because their mouths were not in sync with the voice actors’ dubbing. Also, a bit of the story dragged on for a little too long.
Voldemort: Origins of the Heir is a well-made production by the fans of the magical world of Hogwarts. 3½ / 5
Starring: Stefano Rossi, Maddalena Orcali, Andrea Deanisi, Andrea Bonfanti, Gelsomina Bassetti, Alessio Dalla Costa, Davide Ellena, Aurora Moroni, Andrea Baglio.
Director: Gianmaria Pezzato | Producer: Stefano Prestia | Writer: Gianmaria Pezzato (based on characters and the book Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling) | Music: Matthew Steed, Stefano Prestia | Cinematographer: Michele Purin | Editor: Gianmaria Pezzato
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