9 Films To Look Out For This Oscar Season


Rhys Graeme-Drury 

Ah, awards season – the time of year when everyone becomes an expert on red carpet dresses and pretends to know the difference between sound mixing and sound design.

All kidding aside, the latter quarter of 2016 and early 2017 promise to enthral us with some particularly juicy cinematic gems, and to help demonstrate I’ve picked nine movies that you should keep your eyes peeled for over the next few months.

Hackshaw Ridge
Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving
Genre: Drama
Release: November 2016

Mel Gibson
’s 2016 renaissance continues with his return to the director’s chair in Hacksaw Ridge. A gritty WWII drama that recalls the extraordinary true story of an American field medic (Andrew Garfield) who saved 75 men during the Battle of Okinawa without firing a single shot, Hacksaw Ridge is Gibson’s first directorial effort in over a decade and could signal his return to the elusive awards season winners circle.

Filmed right here in Australia, Gibson’s film received a standing ovation at its premiere at the Venice Film Festival and is filled with a host of talented Aussies like Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer, Rachel Griffiths and Sam Worthington. Buoyed by positive reviews, could Hacksaw Ridge follow in the footsteps of award-winning war films like Saving Private Ryan and Flags of Our Fathers to scoop a handful of Oscar nominations?

Director: Denis Villeneuve 
Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker 
 November 2016

Making its debut at the Venice Film Festival to rave reviews, this acclaimed sci-fi is set to send French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve stratospheric. The movie follows Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguist who is drafted by the US military following the arrival of a fleet of monolithic alien spaceships.

Villeneuve has been overlooked by the Academy thus far (2015’s Sicario being a notable snub) but Arrival has been generating a lot of buzz on the film festival circuit, particularly concerning Adams’ central performance and Villeneuve’s work behind the camera. Expect this one to pop up in a lot of the technical categories.

La La Land
Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, J.K. Simmons
Release: December 2016

Pop quiz – what’s the one thing that Hollywood loves more than sequels and ringing cash tills? If you guessed ‘prestige pictures about the film industry’, you’re right!

Hollywood goes loopy for films about films; I mean, just look at recent Best Picture winners like The Artist, Argo and Birdman. It should come as no surprise then that Damien Chazelle‘s new movie La La Land is getting rave reviews from all corners of the web and is hotly tipped to scoop up all sorts of statuettes come Oscar night.

La La Land sees Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone partner up once more for a smooth, sweeping romance set against the backdrop of studio-era Hollywood. Stone has already won the Best Actress Award at Venice and the film scooped the People’s Choice Award in Toronto. This one could have the legs to go all the way to a Best Picture win.

Director: Jeff Nichols 
Joel Edgerton, Ruth Neggs, Will Dalton 
January 2017


Jeff Nichols already blew our minds earlier in the year with soaring sci-fi road movie Midnight Special; now he returns with an all-together more heartfelt and personal love story in Loving.

Starring Australia’s Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, the film follows Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who’re sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence in 1950’s Virginia following their outlawed marriage to each other.

However, rather than following the Supreme Court case in minute detail, writer-director Nichols has endeavoured to showcase a more imitate side of the story by focusing on how discrimination and prosecution affected the day-to-day lives of Richard and Mildred. Reviews have thrown around superlatives such as ‘gentle’, ‘stirring’ and ‘understated’, making this something of a quiet underdog in an already chock-a-block awards season.

The Birth of a Nation
Director: Nate Parker 
Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller 
Genre: Drama
Release: February 2017

One of the most talked about films this awards season is The Birth of a Nation – and not for all the right reasons either. After emerging as the talk of the town at Sundance, this drama about a 19th Century slave revolt, which is co-written, co-produced, directed by and starring Nate Parker, has since been overshadowed by rape allegations from 1999 against Parker.

The subsequent handling of said allegations hasn’t done the film any favours, but if we attempt to separate the art from the artist, The Birth of a Nation can be considered a timely and poignant examination of America’s past that could still factor into awards season this year. Whether Oscar voters see it that way is another story entirely…

Director: Martin Scorsese 
Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver 
February 2017

Set in 17th Century Japan, Silence follows two Portuguese priests facing persecution and violence whilst searching for their mentor and propagating Christianity. If that sounds like a drag, consider this – it stars Liam Neeson, Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield. Still not convinced? What if I told you that Martin Scorsese directed it?

Okay, now you’re listening. Truth is, we don’t know much else about Silence. Aside from being a passion project of Scorsese’s for the last 20 years, the whole production has been kind of quiet (pun intended), and even though it’s slated for release in February next year, we still haven’t seen a trailer! Plus, the film hasn’t been touring the festival circuit.

Nevertheless, I’ve included it on this list because, y’know – Scorsese. Hopefully we’ll learn a little bit more about the movie in the coming weeks.

Director: Pablo Larraín  
 Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Greta Gerwig
Genre: Biopic
Release: TBA


After stepping away from the limelight for a few years, Natalie Portman is now eyeing up her second Best Actress statuette with her starring role in Pablo Larraín’s heartrending biopic about Jackie Kennedy.

The Academy sure does love a good biopic (The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything and The King’s Speech are recent examples that spring to mind), so Jackie shouldn’t face a lot of opposition when it comes to racking up those sweet, sweet nominations. Not only that – Jackie Kennedy is a tragic icon of American history and by all accounts Portman brings her to life with aplomb, cutting a strikingly forlorn figure on the screen. The supporting cast pulls in the likes of John Hurt, Greta Gerwig, Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup, John Carroll Lynch and Richard E. Grant.

Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Trevante Rhodes, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris
Genre: Drama
Release: TBA


Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight is an ambitious film that follows an African-American man who is struggling with staying true to himself, as well as the challenges of coming out to his family, across three periods of his life.

Starring the likes of Trevante Rhodes (who plays adult Chiron), André Holland, Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali, Moonlight has been garnering praise as it tours the northern autumn festival circuit, screening at Telluride, Toronto, New York and London.

Billed as “a timeless story of human connection and self-discovery” this could be one indie gem that has enough momentum to chug all the way to the centre stage of the Dolby Theatre. Although it doesn’t currently have an Australian release date, the first quarter of 2017 would be a safe bet.

Director: Denzel Washington 
Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson
Genre: Drama
Release: TBA

Denzel Washington has made the move back behind the camera for his third directorial effort in Fences. Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, the film follows a retired baseball player (also played by Washington) who now works as a garbage man and is struggling to provide for his family.

Adapted from an acclaimed stage production, the film focuses heavily on race relations and the evolving African-American experience in 50’s America. Both Washington and co-star Viola Davis starred in a 2010 revival of the play, making their familiarity with the material an encouraging sign. Davis even took home a Tony Award for her work on the project. Put all this together and you’ve got an early lock on both Best Actor and Best Actress nominations, possibly even a shot at the Best Director category for Washington.

Images courtesy of Icon Film Distribution, Roadshow Films, eOne Films, 20th Century Fox, Transmission Films, A24, 

Movie Review – Elle


Paul Verhoeven and Isabelle Huppert examine the complexities of rape and ignite French cinema with their troubling findings.

Zachary Cruz-Tan

Isabelle Huppert once again plays a hardened woman faced with unthinkable circumstances. At 63, her role in Paul Verhoeven’s chilling Elle demonstrates her complete confidence in herself. She plays Michèle Leblanc, an esteemed businesswoman suddenly engaged in psychological warfare with a hungry rapist. But the repercussions are unprecedented, and Huppert convinces me once and for all that there is no mountain she cannot summit.

This role, in this film, can be played by no other actress. Hollywood stars would seek a desperation from within to try and balance the shock of rape with vindication. The effect would fall flat. Huppert is ideal because her Michèle is past all that. She transforms the character into a conflicted realist. Observe the almost routine way she deals with the aftermath of her assault. No panic. No overt anger. She sweetly disposes of the shattered kitchenware and neatens up. Hollywood Michèle would’ve laid on the floor weeping in self-pity till the movie decided to switch scenes.

But Michèle is not flippant. Rape has affected her deeply, only she’s not entirely sure what that means. And neither are we. The film seems to play fast and loose with expectations on how to deal with such trauma, but the characters in Elle are built from different stock. They don’t play the game the way we’d like them to.

I wouldn’t dream of revealing the identity of the attacker, but his presence is a powerful reminder that danger lives in plain sight. Both he and Michèle know the rules of their game – of which Michèle unwillingly becomes a participant – and plan their moves and countermoves like stoic grandmasters locked in a sudden-death showdown. Their resulting “relationship” might seem odd to some viewers, but it is the logical outcome for such confident opponents.

The movie is about sex, both consensual and forced, between friends and lovers, committed and adulterous, but not in the way you might think. This isn’t a vulgar film. Michèle’s life is surrounded by temptation; indeed, she seems to draw in every male around her simply by looking at him. What’s her play here? Huppert excels in exhibiting raw sexual energy almost on instinct. Michèle’s mistake is thinking she’s the only one in control.

All this is superbly handled by Verhoeven, who proved with RoboCop (1987) and Total Recall (1990) that bludgeoning violence is the new frontier. Elle is undoubtedly his most sensual film. Dark, weighty, ominous. There’s less violence and more dialogue. It uses peripheral characters and subplots to thicken the soup without altering the taste. It speaks about rape as an individual’s hardship, not as a mass idea open to widespread discussion. It affirms the notion that no response to rape can be uncomplicated. Michèle is strong and mature enough to understand what has happened to her. It is therefore her choice to proceed as she sees fit, except no one, not even herself, would’ve predicted what she’d do.

Elle is available in Australian cinemas from October 27

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

To Infinity & Beyond – Films Set In Space


From A Trip to the Moon to The Martian, science-fiction has powered the minds and hearts of this technological world for over a century.

Zachary Cruz-Tan

Movies set in space have been around almost as long as the movies themselves, yet seem to be making a renaissance in this new decade. They began as litmus tests in the early 1900s, probing the boundaries of the imagination. Now, with new cinematic techniques and technological advancements, space films have become more serious, more astute, and dare I say it, more grounded.

Yes, Hollywood is still churning out your Star Wars and Star Treks, overflowing with monsters and creatures from beyond, but ever since the unprecedented success of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity in 2013 (still in my top 3 films of the decade so far), there has been at least one sombre, melodramatic sci-fi movie every year featuring hardworking human beings on a quest to better themselves. And they always seem to be aiming straight for one of those naked gold statuettes.

We’ve had hard-hitting space movies before. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is a fine example. Most of it took place in the far reaches of the cosmos. Looking back at it now, if you can wrap your head around it, it certainly feels like Oscar-bait material. Then of course we were zapped by Star Wars in 1977 – certainly Oscar-bait material – snatching one of the few Best Picture nominations for what many at the time considered science-fiction mumbo jumbo. It literally blasted open the doorway to the modern Hollywood blockbuster and informed studio execs all over the States that it was cool and lucrative to send clueless people into space to do battle with hideous monsters.

So effective was this business model that within five years, Ridley Scott threw Sigourney Weaver at a drooling Xenomorph; Gene Roddenberry sanctioned the first ever Star Trek feature film; Spielberg’s alien phoned home; and both MGM and Paramount released space-themed sequels, one to James Bond, the other to Flying High! (1980), neither successful. The studios cashed in on George Lucas’ triumph without fully understanding what their money was buying; by the turn of the century they had burnt themselves out and the sci-fi engine was powered almost exclusively by the loyalty of placated Trekkies.

What Gravity did in 2013 was re-humanise the science-fiction collective by slapping all the Warp Drives and lightsabres out of its system and replacing them with human beings and… other human beings. No evil red-eyed computers. No swishing and swooshing of laser swords. No distant solar systems inhabited by Romulans. It stripped the genre down and retrofitted it with state-of-the-art CGI, minimalist storytelling, and an empathetic human story about survival. And it worked, at least for the first couple of waves. After that everyone who loved the film overhyped it for their friends and stifled its popularity.

That, however, didn’t stop it from being nominated for ten Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and winning seven. Finally, a full-blooded sci-fi film racking up the trophies on awards night. And what did this success do? Inspire others, of course. That same year, Tom Cruise starred in Oblivion, about mankind’s last hope on a beleaguered Earth. That was followed swiftly by Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, also about survival, set in deep space. It borrowed audio decisions almost directly from Gravity and enjoyed several Oscar nominations. Then The Martian swooped by in 2015, a film about Matt Damon once again requiring rescue services from the US government. It was nominated for Best Picture and, like Interstellar, shared some of Gravity’s dramatic flair. And now, this year, Denis Villeneuve directs Arrival, not exactly a space movie, but science-fiction nonetheless. Who knows – Arrival might usher in yet another phase of sci-fi progression, leading this well-worn but perpetually creative genre on for a brand new generation of stargazing dreamers. And if they ever get bored of astronauts spiralling untethered in space, they can always switch one channel up and enjoy Star Wars Episode XIV: The Never-Ending Disney Story.

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 

Movie Review – Cafe Society


There’s a lot to love in Woody Allen’s rose-tinted love letter to Hollywood’s Golden Era.

⭐⭐⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) is the youngest son of a Jewish family living in New York City. Overshadowed by his older siblings, Bobby decides to pack his bags and fly west to work at the movie studio where his Uncle Phil (Steve Carell) calls the shots.

It isn’t long until Bobby is smitten with Phil’s secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), an unpretentious young woman who doesn’t care for the glamour of Hollywood. After a crush turns into romance, Bobby and Vonnie’s lives begin to pull them in different directions and they’re forced to confront the idea that this relationship might become ‘the one that got away’.

 A frivolous and effervescent affair that fizzes merrily like a crystal flute of fine champagne, Café Society is a potent mixer of wry irreverence and wistful poignancy that views the good old days and the gorgeous paraphernalia that comes with it through thick rose-tinted lenses. Allen’s screenplay and work behind the camera reveals him to be someone who dreamily reminisces about the past, even if that means sacrificing accuracy for agreeability and predictability. He envisions 1930’s Hollywood as an idyllic and unending cocktail party in a narrative so slight that it might’ve been scribbled onto a napkin.

That being said, I found a lot to love in Café Society; sure, it doesn’t broach any of its adult themes (adultery, murder) with anything sharper than misty-eyed whimsy, but the likeable cast do a fantastic job of balancing this with jovial charm and the occasional shred of sincerity.

Eisenberg slots back into his gawky indie niche with ease; away from the suffocating clutches of blockbusters like Batman v Superman, he excels as the young upstart who falls head over heels for Stewart’s ‘too cool for school’ attitude. Now in their third collaboration together, Eisenberg and Stewart’s chemistry is what gives this film life, even when they’re not sharing a scene – you feel the connection between their characters because the two actors just click so well.

Blake Lively, Corey Stoll, Anna Camp and Parker Posey flesh out a supporting cast that doesn’t have a weak link. Lively is particularly arresting as Veronica, a sultry siren who glides into Bobby’s life whilst Stoll’s slimy gangster is pitched as the comic relief – not that the movie really needed another joker in the pack.

When considering its place in Allen’s erratic late-period filmography, Café Society definitely sits closer to gems like Blue Jasmine and Midnight in Paris than misfires like Magic in the Moonlight. Carefree during most of the weirdly paced middle third, it all comes good in the end with a heartening crescendo that feels moving without being maudlin. Noteworthy for delivering another excellent performance from Stewart, this is one easy, breezy time at the movies that is worth checking out.

Cafe Society is available in Australian cinemas from October 13

Image courtesy of eOne Films

Movie Review – Inferno


It’s been seven years since Ron Howard and Tom Hanks adapted a Dan Brown novel – question is, should you still care?

⭐⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Inferno opens with an arresting premise. Our hero, Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), is writhing in pain and suffering from vivid hallucinations in a crummy Italian hospital. He doesn’t remember how he got here or how a gunshot grazed the side of his head; he just has to trust the word of Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), the doctor standing by his bedside trying to fill in the blanks.

From here the film dives into a breakneck game of cat-and-mouse through winding Florentine alleyways and ornate Venetian basilicas. Langdon and Brooks have gotten themselves caught in a breathless race against time that sees the duo zigzag from one cryptic clue to another in order to unravel the mysteries of a looming apocalypse plotted by an ostentatious billionaire (Ben Foster).

Unfortunately, Inferno is a movie of two distinct halves; the first is seriously good stuff, as Howard bursts out of the gate with a kinetic energy usually reserved for hyped-up preteens who’ve consumed too many Skittles. It’s batshit insane at times, but it keeps you guessing and barely pausing to draw breath.

The sluggish second half is another story. A sudden twist slams on the brakes and sees the absorbing plot grind to a halt. The fault doesn’t lie with Howard’s direction, which is as smooth and punchy as ever. It’s more down to David Koepp’s uneven screenplay and how poorly it handles this narrative whiplash. Also, there are a lot of baddies in this film, and it’s never crystal clear who is working for who and why. We just know that they’re shooting at Tom Hanks and that must mean they’re bad.

Hanks can’t really be faulted for his performance, but I can’t help but feel like his natural charm is sort of wasted here. Langdon isn’t a character who leaps out of the screen; if asked to summarise him in two words, I’d struggle to come up with anything more imaginative than “nice suit”.

Similarly, Jones doesn’t get a lot to work with aside from being Langdon’s doe-eyed, know-it-all assistant. The film pulls plenty of other respected actors in for supporting roles – Irrfan Khan offers some quick quips and Omar Sy is a cold hitman – but the convoluted claptrap that Koepp calls a plot drowns them out.

It’s not the worst film in the series (strangely that honour is still held by the first movie), but Inferno could and probably should have been so much more than just okay. As an adequate action adventure to pass the time, Inferno hits the mark, but as a showcase of the best Hanks and Howard can achieve, it leaves something to be desired.

Inferno is available in Australian cinemas from October 13

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

Tom Cruise – The Last Action Hero


I have to get something off my chest concerning Tom Cruise and the haters ain’t gonna like it!

Rhys Graeme-Drury

Few movie stars divide opinion like Tom Cruise; I’m struggling to think of another A-list actor who elicits such a myriad of reactions. Case in point: a merry trip to the cinema to see Sully with a group of friends last month was brought to a screening halt when we came face-to-face with the shiny poster for the new Jack Reacher movie, Never Go Back.

“Ugh, Tom Cruise just needs to stop”, was the prevailing opinion. As the ardent Cruise fan that I am, I protested and stuck up for my boy Tom – but it was a futile attempt. The tribe had spoken; Cruise was an aging star whose onscreen persona was overshadowed by a divisive and highly publicised, couch jumping personal life. Take a hike Tom, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

However, this got me thinking. For all his faults, isn’t Cruise still the closest we get to the concept of a ‘movie star’ nowadays? The kind of bankable actor who sells a film on name recognition alone, like Will Smith, Bruce Willis and Jim Carrey did in the late 90’s? Setting aside the weird personal stuff, Cruise has all the ingredients we ask for in an A-list action hero – and sometimes we need to be reminded of how unique that is in 2016.

Across the last thirty years, Cruise has curated a successful acting career through an escalating game of one-upmanship against himself. Once upon a time he was the dashing, baby-faced fighter pilot in an oily homoerotic relationship with Val Kilmer in Top Gun; now Cruise is best known as the rogue superspy Ethan Hunt from the Mission Impossible series, a gig that has spanned 20 years and five movies.

Alongside a rotating door of directors like Brian de Palma, John Woo and JJ Abrams, Cruise has nurtured the series from its humble beginnings as an adaptation of a long-forgotten 60’s TV serial to a kickass platform for some of the most exciting action cinema seen this century. Each entry is defined by a stunt (or series of stunts) bigger than the last.

As both lead actor and producer, Cruise’s involvement with the series outlines his total commitment to crafting quality action. In 2011, Rolling Stone’s review of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol stated that “If someone asks you what a true movie star is, point to Cruise. He has it all”. It’s a quote that encapsulates Cruise’s mandate with the Mission Impossible series; to craft and serve up iconic, lasting cinematic magic. There isn’t another actor working today who does what Tom Cruise does.

Of course, in this day and age dominated by superhero sagas and existing properties, the star power of Cruise (and almost every A-lister) is on the wane. Headlining a film just isn’t enough anymore; look no further than Robert Downey Jnr’s 2014 effort The Judge or the lacklustre return that 90’s powerhouse Arnold Schwarzenegger enjoyed with Sabotage or Escape Plan. Actors like Adam Sandler, George Clooney or Brad Pitt used to sell films just because their mug was on the poster – nowadays you need an existing property like Jurassic World or Suicide Squad to prop up a film lead by a Chris Pratt or a Will Smith.

Cruise himself has seen more than his fair share of knocks in recent years; 2012’s Jack Reacher, 2013’s Oblivion and 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow all dipped below expectations at the box office, irrespective of the fact that they range from decent (Oblivion) to straight-up instant classic (Edge of Tomorrow) in terms of quality. But you can’t fault the guy for trying; saying that Cruise gives 100% on each and every project he works on is like saying water is wet. Like, duh.

Simply put, no-one else in the business conducts themselves with as much genuine eagerness and excitement as Cruise. Following the release of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation in 2015, Paramount President Megan Colligan acknowledged the significant contribution Cruise had on the whole film, from start to finish: “He was a producer and the star of the movie, he was involved in the writing, the shooting, the set pieces, the postproduction work, calling in to check the tracking, everything”.

Like, damn son – leave some work for the rest of the crew why don’t cha? All kidding aside, Cruise remains a dedicated, hardworking consummate professional. In 2016, I struggle to think of another actor who routinely conducts himself with as much discipline and enthusiasm as Cruise, and it’s a damn shame that his legacy and work is continually overshadowed by the negative public perception of his personal life and beliefs. I’m not saying I agree with them – I’m just saying we shouldn’t let them distract from the work he does on set.

At age 53, we can’t expect Cruise to hang off of planes and skyscrapers forever – whose to say that the next Mission Impossible movie, due in 2018, won’t be Cruise’s last? It’s hard to imagine the series existing without him, and even if it could, who would replace him? Furthermore, who will fill the void left by Cruise when he eventually steps back from blockbusters entirely? Right now the closest thing we have is Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, but even he is prone to moments of uncharacteristic antagonism. Vin Diesel, maybe – but he can’t carry a film that isn’t called Fast and Furious.

Continue to hate on Cruise if you like; I’m not here to try and change your mind on the bloke. That really would be an impossible mission. Just know that too few actors apply themselves with the same vigour as he does, and even if you don’t like the guy off-screen, his feats of daring and presence onscreen should be commended and appreciated whilst they are still a thing.

Images courtesy of Paramount Pictures, United International Pictures and Roadshow Films

Movie Review – Joe Cinque’s Consolation


Two pretty people, their disturbed relationship and a baffling true story.

Tom Munday 

Based on Helen Garner’s 2004 book, Joe Cinque’s Consolation: A True Story of Death, Grief and the Law, this docudrama proves truth is stranger than fiction. Set in 1994, the movie follows law student Anu Singh (Maggie Naouri) and nice-guy Joe Cinque’s (Jerome Meyer) relationship. Over several years, Singh’s studies are frayed by her steadily collapsing mind. Her mental incapacity clouds her judgment, leading to her killing Cinque with a heavy cocktail of rohypnol and heroin. Singh and her accomplice Madhavi Rao (Sacha Joseph) were later charged with his murder.

Director Sotiris Dounoukos’ script depicts a steadily degrading situation from all sides. Multiple points of view are presented, with Cinque, Singh, their friends and family members getting equal development. The relationship-drama aspects are frighteningly accurate. Donoukos captures every important expression, emotion and mannerism valuable to human interaction. The story, however, is difficult to keep up with. Singh’s illness is brushed over or explained away. It’s hard to tell whether she’s wacky, irrational, super-villainous or all of the above.

The movie flips between true crime and melodrama sensibilities. Obsessed with the story, Dounoukos promises to stick to the essential facts. However, his characters are unlikeable and unrealistic. According to this version, Singh’s friends are 100% content with her oncoming suicide attempt. In addition, none of them bat an eye when her intentions turn more sinister.

This uneven and strange crime-drama evokes many familiar elements. Dounoukos’ direction aims for the heavily stylised visuals of recent crime thrillers (Gone Girl). He delivers several over-the-top flourishes with the movie’s emotionless aura stretching across every hazy, colourless frame. More so, its Phillip Glass-esque score builds its cloying atmosphere and crushing sense of dread.

The lead performers turn potentially pretentious and misguided material into a conversation starter. Naouri is a revelation; her cool girl meets wackjob performance deserves award consideration. Meyer’s portrayal of Cinque is heartbreaking. This doomed protagonist, standing by Singh at every unexpected turn, is a flawed yet loveable guy trapped in a tough situation.

Joe Cinque’s Consolation is a thought-provoking debut feature. Dounoukos grasps onto key details, however, in switching between drama flick and true crime constantly, his reach exceeds his grasp.

 Joe Cinque’s Consolation is available in Australian cinemas from October 13

Image courtesy of Consolation Pictures

Movie Review – The Handmaiden


With a demented streak of originality and an astonishing level of beauty to behold, Hollywood should really take a pointer or two from Park Chan-wook’s latest Korean effort. And that doesn’t mean they should remake it…

Corey Hogan

It’s the 1930’s in Korea, and Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee) is in need of a new handmaiden to live in her secluded countryside mansion and serve under her. A young girl named Sook-Hee (Kim Tae-ri) is hired, unbeknownst to the Lady that she is in fact a pick-pocket recruited by the cunning Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) as part of an elaborate plot to help seduce her into marrying him, so he may rob her of her wealth and have her imprisoned in a mental asylum. This becomes severely complicated however, as Sook-Hee and Lady Hideko develop an unexpected attraction towards each other.

Unlike the vast majority of films released this year, it can honestly be said that Park Chan-wook’s (Oldboy, Stoker) latest film The Handmaiden is quite unlike anything you’ve seen before. Sure, there is the essence of a traditional tale of revenge flavouring the story, but the way it is presented, the characters it depicts and the unpredictable paths it leads us down make this a truly unique experience. Most surprisingly, Chan-wook’s most effective trick is defying our expectations of him as a filmmaker, upending his usual matters of violence and nihilism by entangling more upbeat motifs of love, eroticism and even humour amidst the cold betrayals, oppression and shocking revelations.

At least one thing expected is proven true – visually, this is a truly sumptuous affair. Lady Hideko’s mansion is an incredibly beautiful environment that begs to be visited, but also spouts an aura of danger that seems to warn that it is best admired from a distance. It’s truly breathtaking, poetically painted like a fairy tale by cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung.

At the centre of a fantastical creation is a strikingly raw love story; a driven connection between Sook-hee and Lady Hideko. Chan-wook defended the graphic sex scenes between the pair as a necessity for the film, and they are where the film feels most real. It’s the moments of intimacy that earn this outrageous yarn its impact and immersion.

It’s all quite a strange mix, but it works wonders. Chan-wook’s ambition consistently pays off, but here he’s combined that with extraordinary restraint in scenes that could have easily been gratuitous and pushed to their excess, and it’s resulted in enough intrigue to fill several movies.

Best seen with as little knowledge of its contents as possible, this is extremely entertaining and original cinema, and a terrific antidote to the reheated and recycled dreck usually clogging up theatres.

The Handmaiden is available in Australian cinemas from October 13

Image courtesy of Dreamwest Pictures

Movie Review – The Girl On The Train


The Girl On The Train has a cast worth catching a ride for, but its frustrating filmmaking is better left at the station.

Corey Hogan 

From the window of the train she catches to and from New York every day, Rachel (Emily Blunt) – a bitter, self-destructive alcoholic – avoids looking at her visible old home, where her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) still lives happily with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their newborn child. Instead she focuses her attention on their neighbours Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans), an attractive young couple she fantasises about and projects the perfect marriage she desperately wishes she still had. One day everything changes when Rachel witnesses Megan having an affair, not long before Megan is reported missing. An entangled web connecting everyone is uncovered, and Rachel begins to question her own involvement in the disappearance.

Let’s get one thing out of the way, since everyone has been so premature to make the comparison –Gone Girl this is not. Similar themes of infidelity, betrayal and violence within marital ties drew The Girl on the Train an immediate relation to David Fincher’s 2014 hit murder mystery; a success story the producers were no doubt hoping to recreate when the rights to adapt Paula Hawkins’ debut novel were acquired. It all seemed rather promising, but disappointingly Tate Taylor’s (The Help, Get on Up) flat thriller packs a few too many problems on board that not only prevent it from touching GG’s irreverent finesse, but threaten to derail it completely.

First and foremost, it becomes clear early on that the diary-entry format of Hawkins’ book simply does not translate well to the silver screen; at least not without some artistic liberties that Taylor and co. have failed to capitalise on. On page there’s plenty of room to breathe and time to get to know these women and the men in their lives, but here we’re introduced to all six major players in a short space of time, challenging non-readers to keep up with the multitude of connections between each. There’s a bit too much content for too little a running time, forcing it to wind up very talky and expository, and intermittent flashbacks only further confuse an already convoluted story. This at least means there’s no opportunity for boredom – close attention is necessary to a near-exhausting level.

After an overstuffed setup, The Girl on the Train settles more comfortably into its middle stretch and becomes intriguing, as red herrings are thrown about and the mystery becomes a true curiosity. Tragically though, the answer becomes disappointingly obvious before the big twist is revealed, and it can’t help but feel unsatisfying and a little too convenient.

Thankfully, a quality cast keep this train on the tracks, even if they aren’t really given the characterisation they deserve. Emily Blunt is the obvious standout; even if she is perhaps a bit too pretty to play the detrimental Rachel, she’s sympathetic and gutsy enough to root for, for the most part. But the rest match her in their well suited roles; especially recent breakouts Rebecca Ferguson, the scornful new wife, and Haley Bennett, whose interesting backstory and fate is sadly undercut by the lack of impact her big moments need.

It all sounds rather negative, but truth be told The Girl on the Train is not terrible. Though frustrating and easy to pick apart upon reflection, the film is a trashy good time that does genuinely keep you hooked until its reveal.

The Girl On The Train is available in Australian cinemas from October 6

Image courtesy of EntertainmentOne Films

Movie Review – Deepwater Horizon


Deepwater Horizon is a visceral depiction of a disastrous nightmare that will leave you wanting a shower, some ice cream and a few band-aids.

⭐⭐⭐ ½
Cody Fullbrook

Mark Wahlberg stars as Mike Williams, a crew member on the oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, based in the Gulf of Mexico.  An ill-fated test causes the entire platform to tear itself apart, leaving the battered crew to try and find a way out of the greasy inferno.

Williams is but one of several staff that share a somewhat equal amount of screen time, including the stern boss, Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) and greedy corporate suit, Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich).  There are no heroes in this story.  Only victims.  All actors are comfortable in their roles and we spend enough time with these characters to get a sense of natural comradery amongst the crew.  These genuine human moments are the high points of Deepwater Horizon, especially between Williams’ and his distraught wife (Kate Hudson) during and after the catastrophe.  However, much is lost in the crew’s technical jargon leavened throughout the film’s first half.

There’s a lot of build up to one long, hellish climax, but unless this movie is shown as a horrifying safety video at an oil rig convention, the viewer isn’t going to pick up on a lot of the mechanical details.  The character’s arrival to Deepwater Horizon is followed by lengthy chatter about the machine’s inner workings, and with a poorly explained Negative Pressure Test, violently shaking pipes do nothing to explain what’s actually happening.  This is made worse by the fact that we’re barely shown the overall layout of the platform, so rooms feel unnecessarily compartmentalized, resulting in confusing scenes.

Nonetheless, Deepwater Horizon’s apex is, of course, the titular rig’s disaster and its explosive results are easily worth the price of admission.  What starts as a brutal burst of oil, builds into blistering fires and explosions.  You feel every eruption as crew are thrown head first into solid walls and steel equipment, only out-done by two scenes involving a glass shard and a dislodged bone, both providing empathetic groans from the audience. The movie then quickly ends after the event.  It makes me wonder why this wasn’t just made into a documentary instead of a Hollywood re-enactment of a true tragedy.

Deepwater Horizon isn’t anything special, but is still a gruesome reminder of how lucky we all are.  You’ll get a few chuckles from the crew’s banter but as soon as the test begins, there’ll be nothing but tears and groans – in a good way.  If you’re willing to get through a rather average build up, the ensuing chaos is well worth the wait.

Deepwater Horizon is available in Australian cinemas from Thursday October 6th 

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films