Movie Review – Birds of Prey

Cathy Yan’s sparkly superhero blockbuster works to entertain, but something about it isn’t quite right.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

I am going to plead the First Amendment of the United States constitution by proxy, because I foresee indignation and furrowed brows at what I’m about to say. Birds of Prey is a fun, buoyant action movie, with lots of colours, vulgarities and impressive stunts. But in its efforts to uplift the role of women in blockbuster entertainment, it somehow feels it necessary to prop them on the backs, shoulders, faces, groins and mangled corpses of men. This is essentially a movie where a posse of spunky chicks beat up on dudes for two hours.

I know I’m wading in dangerous waters here, but let’s face it – there is healthy feminism and toxic feminism, and I doubt true gender equality crusaders would watch a movie like Birds of Prey and feel vindicated. If they do, well, good on them. There is a scene where Harley Quinn storms through a police station to rescue a young girl, and every single cop who tries to stop her is male. Come on. She tears through them like tissue paper. Later, she fights off criminals, bounty hunters and a small army, and I challenge you to count the women.

There is not a single personable, honest man in the entire story. They’re either sleazy douchebags who try to humiliate and take advantage of girls, corrupt police captains who exploit their female officers by stealing their promotions, or they’re the villain, whose sole character trait seems to be flagrant misogyny. There is one good man I can recall. An elderly Chinese restaurant owner. But even he… oh, never mind.

Anyway, the plot. Harley (Margot Robbie) is finally free of her paramour, the Joker, and is trying to go straight. We meet nightclub owner Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), who is after a 30-carat diamond said to be engraved with the passcodes to Gotham’s biggest fortune.

Through developments too complicated to explain, the diamond ends up in the intestinal tract of Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), the young girl from the police station. This sets up a situation where every main character wants Cassandra disembowelled. Her pursuers include Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Roman’s prized lounge act; Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), Roman’s enforcer; Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a lanky badass with a crossbow; and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), a disgraced detective determined to bring Harley down.

It’s a wacky plot that ticks all the necessary boxes and supplies our average daily intake of mindless action. Robbie, in the central role, is cute and quirky and looks to be having a good time, mainly because she has to. The real surprise is McGregor, who slips into Roman’s slimy shoes with a kind of gleeful malice the screenplay doesn’t provide, ironically stealing the show.

Look, Birds of Prey has an agenda and is unafraid to say so. If you want feisty, skilful women doing things in action movies previously reserved for macho men, you’d love this. Personally, I preferred Wonder Woman (2017). She was thrust into a world dominated by men and proved she could be powerful and independent without having to belittle them. She understood the strength of mutual respect.

Birds of Prey is available in Australian cinemas from 6 February 2020

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

The Oscars – Who Will Win Vs. Who Should Win

The 92nd Academy Awards are due to start in just over 12 hours! All the action will be happening on Monday morning here in Australia, so before the weekend ends, we thought we’d put in our tips for who is likely to take out some of the top prizes. 

*Winners updated below*

Best Director
And the nominees are…
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Todd Phillips, Joker
Sam Mendes, 1917
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Bong Joon Ho, Parasite


 With the exception of Todd Phillips, this is a really strong category. It’s a shame that some of brilliant female filmmakers who put out films last year – like Greta Gerwig and Lulu Wang – didn’t get nominated. I think a win for Sam Mendes is a foregone conclusion after he won the BAFTA, but if I had to choose I would opt for Quentin Tarantino. He’s overdue a win for directing.

WINNER – Bong Joon Ho, Parasite 

Best Actor
And the nominees are…
Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes


This is another really strong field of nominees. Joaquin Phoenix will win, but I think Adam Driver is more deserving.

WINNER – Joaquin Phoenix 

Best Actress
And the nominees are…
Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Renée Zellweger, Judy


Renee Zellweger has this one under lock and key. Credit where it’s due, her performance in Judy is transformative.

WINNER – Renee Zellweger 

Best Supporting Actor
And the nominees are…
Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
Al Pacino, The Irishman
Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Now this is a strong bunch of nominees. All five would be worthy winners, but only Brad Pitt has yet to win for acting – and after scoring wins at the SAG Awards, Golden Globes and BAFTAs, I think he has this one in the bag.

WINNER – Brad Pitt 

Best Supporting Actress
And the nominees are…
Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
Florence Pugh, Little Women
Margot Robbie, Bombshell

Laura Dern is the favourite here, which is kind of weird – her performance in Marriage Story is good, but nothing special. Florence Pugh was great in Little Women, but I’d like to see ScarJo notch up a win here.

WINNER – Laura Dern 

Best Original Screenplay
And the nominees are…
Knives Out
Marriage Story
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood


Talk about a tough call. I’m going to go out on a limb and tip Parasite for the win, but Rian Johnson’s wickedly clever writing on Knives Out and Quentin Tarantino’s typically compelling work on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood would be worthy winners also.

WINNER – Parasite 

Best Adapted Screenplay
And the nominees are…
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Little Women
The Two Popes


I’m not sure Joker deserves to be here; what is it adapting, exactly? I think Jojo Rabbit will win, but Greta Gerwig’s smart rework of Little Women is more deserving.

WINNER – Jojo Rabbit

Best Editing
And the nominees are…
Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit

Little Women deserves to be in this category (and it should win too). But, seeing as that won’t happen, I’ll tip the frenetic editing work on James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari in this category.

WINNER – Ford v Ferrari 

Best Cinematography
And the nominees are…
The Irishman
The Lighthouse
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Another really competitive category. Another win for Roger Deakins (for 1917) is probably on the cards, but I think The Lighthouse would be a very worthy winner also.

WINNER – 1917

Best Picture
And the nominees are…
Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Little Women
Marriage Story
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood


Joker aside, all the nominees this year are great films in their own right. If Mendes wins director and Deakins wins cinematography, I think 1917 will be the safe, solid winner. That said, it isn’t a very exciting choice. Parasite, on the other hand, would be a landmark moment for film, as the first foreign language film to win Best Picture.

WINNER – Parasite

By Rhys Pascoe 

Images courtesy of Madman Entertainment, Walt Disney Motion Pictures Studios, StudioCanal, Universal Pictures, Roadshow Films, Sony Pictures & PxHere 

Movie Review – The Peanut Butter Falcon

Premiering at South by Southwest last year, indie sleeper hit The Peanut Butter Falcon makes its way into Australian cinemas this month.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Pascoe

Written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, The Peanut Butter Falcon centres on Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a 22-year-old with Down Syndrome, who lives in a retirement home in North Carolina. An avid fan of wrestling, Zak is known as a ‘flight risk’ to staff. When he finally flees the facility in the dead of night to seek out his wrestling hero the Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church), it’s up to his carer Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) to track him down.

After spending his first night on the run sleeping under a tarp on a fishing boat, Zak crosses paths with thief and fisherman Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), who is on the run himself after upsetting two fellow crabbers. Together, the two outsiders head out in the sticks in search of somewhere to hide, and along the way forge a special friendship.

While Nilson and Schwartz’s twee script isn’t going to win any awards for originality, The Peanut Butter Falcon does win you over through sheer charm and sincerity. Zak and Tyler’s escapades in the woods are wholesome AF. They eat watermelons (and wear them as helmets), use bottles as target practice and work on their secret handshake.

Between this and the recent Honey Boy, LaBeouf continues to take his career in new and interesting directions. Johnson has deftly moved on from the Fifty Shades saga with some equally varied choices, this film included. However, it’s Gottsagen who (rightly) shines brightest. His pure onscreen presence pairs beautifully with LaBeouf’s abrasive runaway, until all the rough edges and animosity have melted away between the two.

On paper, the film sounds like it was cooked up using a ‘my first indie film’ starter kit, but by the end of its trim 97-minute run time, the heartfelt ‘friends are the family you choose’ narrative warms the cockles of your heart, even if you cynically think you have seen this kind of movie before (you definitely have). When all is said and done, The Peanut Butter Falcon sells us this idea that we should be out there living life, not sitting around pushing papers and – you know what – it’s hard to argue with that.

The Peanut Butter Falcon is available in Australian cinemas from January 30

Image courtesy of Rialto Distribution

Movie Review – A Hidden Life

Terrence Malick weighs the cost of personal beliefs in a lengthy historical drama.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

Terrence Malick‘s A Hidden Life is a long, painful pilgrimage towards sainthood. It tells the story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who refused to fight for Hitler in a war that required him to slaughter innocent civilians. He was a staunch Catholic, but it wasn’t just his faith that guided him; he was a fundamentally good man. He was executed by the state in 1943 and, in 2007, was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI.

The early scenes of A Hidden Life work hard to establish Franz’s goodness. We are given a tour of his life in a small Upper Austrian village, amidst scenery so breath-taking a blindfolded photographer could point a camera in any direction and would capture the perfect shot. His daily routine consists primarily of harvesting crop, raking hay, feeding livestock, playing with his children and making out with his wife (Valerie Pachner). One day, the drone of military planes echoes overhead. Before long Nazi officers are stomping through the village.

Franz is played by August Diehl, who will spend a great many minutes of the movie in quiet, tortured contemplation, first as a soldier-in-training, then as an outcast in his own village, then in fear of being called upon to fight, then finally as a prisoner for refusing to fight. The movie runs for almost three hours, and in that time Franz’s resolve never falters, not even when death looms and the fate of his family hangs in the balance.

But as I sat watching A Hidden Life, while Franz was being tortured and humiliated in prison, I asked myself if he was being selfish. Would a man condemn his wife to continue living without a husband, and his children to grow up without a father, simply to affirm his beliefs? At what point must a person sacrifice ethics for the sake of others?

The truth is there are no easy answers, and A Hidden Life is not an easy movie. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful I’ve recently seen, with all the scenes in the village striking the right visual and emotional tones. There are no green screens, no CGI backdrops. The vistas are real, and they are truly awesome. But the film does feel long, especially when you stop to consider that not very much happens in it.

And I needed more from Franz. We get a lot from his wife – her fears, her support, her surrender. She’s an open book. Franz, on the other hand, is a sealed clam. How does he really feel about leaving behind the life he knew? How does he feel about death? We hear his voice a lot, as he communicates with his wife and God through voiceover narrations, but they’re all philosophical and lofty declarations. I needed to know how he felt at every step of his journey, because there must’ve been a million thoughts tearing through his mind. A Hidden Life is temperate and visually arresting, but the one character we need to grasp chooses to remain just out of reach.

A Hidden Life is available in Australian cinemas from 30 January 2020

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures 

Movie Review – Like a Boss

Like a Boss should have delivered a fabulous, female-led comedy. Instead, we get a brainless, borderline boring ride that squanders the potential of its talented cast.

⭐ ⭐
Cherie Wheeler

Best friends and business partners Mia (Tiffany Haddish) and Mel (Rose Byrne) find themselves confronted with a big decision when beauty industry juggernaut Claire Luna (Salma Hayek) offers to invest in their cosmetics company. While Mia is determined to stay independent and true to their brand, Mel is forced to divulge that the business is almost $500,000 in debt – a minor detail she has failed to mention to Mia, until now. So, without much choice, the gal pals opt to go into business with the eccentrically psychotic Luna, putting their friendship to the ultimate test.

If there’s one good thing I can say here, it’s that Like a Boss starts strong. Haddish and Byrne open with a bang, trading sassy, outrageous quips as they demonstrate the depth of the bond between their characters. But right off the bat, the filmmakers make it abundantly clear that they are not interested in telling a story that is even remotely concerned with logic.

The very first scene involves the two ladies having a morning phone chat in bed. Moments later it’s revealed their bedrooms are only separated by their shared bathroom. Um… who picks up the phone and calls their roommate when they could literally take two steps and be in the same room?

From here, the film continues to unravel, becoming increasingly worse as Hayek’s character edges her way further and further into the narrative. Why is Luna so hellbent on taking over Mel and Mia’s business and destroying their friendship? Well, we learn she once had a best friend in business that she trampled over on her way to the top… but is that really enough for her to behave like a raving lunatic, waging psychological warfare on these two women?

And why does she carry a golf club around with her everywhere she goes? She claims it’s just a habit of hers – some people chew on toothpicks, she carries a golf club, despite having zero interest in the sport. Right…

More perplexing is the ups and downs of Mel and Mia’s relationship. When arguing over whether or not to go into business with Hayek, the conversation quite literally plays out like this –

Mel: Let’s do it.
Mia: No.
Mel: Let’s do it.
Mia: No.
*Start singing karaoke in a bar*
Mel: Let’s do it.
Mia: OK, you talked me into it!

In a split-second, Mia goes from adamantly refusing to have anything to do with Luna, to happily agreeing to the partnership. Huh?

I won’t keep going into all the bizarre moments that make up this film as I’m sure by now you get the idea. There are a few genuinely funny moments peppered in amongst the barrage of stupidity, but not nearly enough to save this film before it climaxes with a karaoke version of Tina Turner’s Proud Mary. Because one karaoke scene just wasn’t enough…

Like a Boss is best consumed with copious amounts of alcohol, while scrolling through social media and talking to your cat, as by dedicating a mere fraction of your brain to what’s happening on screen, you may find it somewhat watchable.

It’s very disappointing and a little embarrassing to see Byrne, Haddish and Hayek strutting about in such a poorly made film. All three can do so much better. I hope they each choose their next project more carefully.

Like a Boss is available in Australian cinemas from 23 January 2020

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures



Movie Review – Seberg

Kristen Stewart shines in Benedict Andrew’s unstable biographical thriller.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

I think the real Jean Seberg would’ve deserved better than this. She was a gifted young actor whose later years were marred by controversy and scandal, as the FBI suspected her of funding the radical Black Panther Party. She grew highly paranoid and was found dead in her car in 1979, aged 40, presumed to have taken her own life. Seberg, the new movie based on those tumultuous years, is assured and sympathetic, but it plays too much like a conventional thriller.

According to the plot, Seberg (Kristen Stewart) first met Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie) on a flight from France to the United States. Jamal, a cousin to Malcolm X, was a prominent activist in the Black Power movement and way up there on the FBI’s list of suspicious persons. Both Seberg and Jamal were married, but they bonded easily over their shared passion for justice so later thought it’d be a good idea to bond in several other ways.

Her involvement with Jamal flung her squarely into the crosshairs of the FBI, which, under the authoritarian fist of J. Edgar Hoover, was permitted to turn a person’s life upside-down, inside-out, usually with the most illegal practices available.

In Seberg, the FBI is represented by two men, neither of whom I am sure really existed. One is Carl Kowalski (Vince Vaughn), who is married to the job. The other is Jack Solomon (Jack O’Connell), an eager young agent whose sole purpose in the story is to begrudgingly follow Seberg, bug her house, snap unsolicited photographs and then curl up in guilt as he realises his actions have driven the poor girl insane.

Alas, none of the FBI stuff is particularly engrossing, nor does any of it ring true. If Jack is truly a fictional creation by the writers, his presence only muddles the moral complexity of Seberg’s characters and unacceptably exonerates the FBI. I don’t doubt that many agents under Hoover questioned his shady methods, but I do wonder if any of them would have done what Jack does in this movie, especially towards the end in a scene in Paris that is quite implausible.

No matter. The movie is called Seberg, and Kristen Stewart proves once again that Bella Swan was an anomaly. She is a gifted actress, turning in a performance that deserves a more finely tuned movie. Her rendition of Seberg is warm and intelligent, and she always seems to be aware of the power her beauty and sexuality exert on the men around her.

So why do I not feel like I know what the real Jean Seberg was like? Perhaps it’s because director Benedict Andrews relies too heavily on thriller clichés and not enough on human exploration. Seberg’s Wikipedia page describes it as a political thriller, which it is, and it’s a good one. What I want to know is, when does it stop being about the FBI and start being about Jean?

Seberg is available in Australian cinemas from 30 January 2020

Image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution

Movie Review – Dolittle

Robert Downey Jr. follows up his quality turn as Tony Stark with a lifeless rendition of a beloved children’s character.

Zachary Cruz-Tan

Dolittle is a sad excuse for a family adventure. It stars Robert Downey Jr. as Doctor John Dolittle, an eccentric physician in Victorian England who can converse with animals. Dolittle’s been played in the past by Rex Harrison and Eddie Murphy, both of whom attacked the role with great energy. This time, Downey Jr. seems curiously detached, as if he’d rather be somewhere else. I don’t blame him.

The movie is one gigantic CGI extravaganza. I wouldn’t be surprised if an artificial intelligence created the screenplay as well, since the dialogue is wildly anachronistic, and the plot sets off on cruise control right from the start to a climax so ridiculous I had to slap myself to believe it. And I still don’t.

John Dolittle, having lost the love of his life to a violent storm at sea, has locked himself away inside his vast animal sanctuary filled with all sorts of creatures. One day, a young girl (Carmel Laniado) arrives with news of Queen Victoria’s imminent demise at the hands of a fateful illness and demands Dolittle’s consultation. He determines the queen’s been poisoned, so sets sail on a perilous voyage to find the fabled Eden Tree, whose magical fruit is the only thing in the world that can save her.

So far so good, right? Wrong. This should’ve been a bright, challenging adventure for children, for whom the original books by Hugh Lofting were written and this movie was made. There is nothing pleasing, delightful or educational about this Dolittle. If kids like it at all it’d be because Stephen Gaghan directs it like a breakfast commercial, chopped into bite-sized pieces in the editing room. It’s brisk and full of energy, which kids will inhale without question. But once their parents begin to wonder if anyone from Victorian England ever really used the phrase “Snitches be gettin’ stitches, bro”, they’ll want their money back.

The more I reflect upon Dolittle the more problematic it becomes. I get that John can speak to animals, but how do the animals speak to each other? Do they all share in his power? As the story by Thomas Shepherd was finalised, did no one think his proposed climax was too outlandish to be included? And how is it possible that in this day and age we are still treated to unimpressive CGI not even rendered in the correct frame rate?

The answer to the last question is easy, and it presents Dolittle‘s greatest sin of all. To voice such a large collection of animated animals requires the most expensive cast one can assemble, including Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez and Marion Cotillard, all of whom are egregiously squandered of course, since their faces cannot be seen and their voices aren’t distinctive enough to be properly appreciated. It’s no wonder the film had no money left for anything else.

Dolittle is available in Australian cinemas from January 16 2020

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2020

Worst Films of 2019

We’ve celebrated the greatest films of 2019. Now it’s time to remember the cringe-worthy catastrophes that had the audacity to take up cinema space and charge admission. Here’s our picks for the worst films of 2019.

8. Aladdin
Guy Ritchie
Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott


This new Aladdin is an awkward and perplexing exercise in Disney recycling. A remake that leaks brief moments of wonder and then spends the rest of its life tied to a post. It’s also proof that humans don’t look good in CGI blue.

7. Dumbo
Tim Burton
Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito

Dumbo March 2019

Couldn’t Tim Burton have thought of anything more original for these characters to do? Everyone is a marionette, hoisted by strings, controlled by the devices of the plot, yanked this way and that. Everything they do is a mechanical step toward a robotic conclusion.

6. After
Director: Jenny Gage
Josephine Langford, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Khadijha Red Thunder


After is as melodramatic as it sounds. There are many similarities that can be drawn between it and the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise. For starters, neither is any good. If you could take every romantic cliché in existence and put it into a single film, you’ll end up with something that resembles After.

5. Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw
Director: David Leitch
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba


Not even a Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham team-up is strong enough to save Hobbs & Shaw from crumbling under the weight of its own stupidity. Worst of all, it revels in emphasising just how stupid and artless it is. I didn’t think this was possible, but watching Hobbs & Shaw actually made me miss Vin.

4. The Dead Don’t Die
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny


Rather than indulging in gleeful gore, The Dead Don’t Die is a sluggish shuffle that lacks a pulse. Jarmusch is an ill fit for the genre, draining it of energy and supplanting it with a slow lament about environmental decay, political inaction a sense of doom

3. The Lion King
Director: Jon Favreau
Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen


There is a reason why animals shouldn’t speak in the movies. They don’t express emotion the way humans do. I felt like I was staring into empty eyes. The animals looked convincing. Their mouths moved. I heard their voices, but no one was home. This Lion King is a grave miscalculation.

2. Cats
Tom Hooper
Jennifer Hudson, Judi Dench, Taylor Swift


Tom Hooper’s queasy visuals and artistic oversight undo one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s more charming musicals. If you can look through the strangeness, you’d have a good time. Unfortunately, the strangeness is stubbornly impenetrable.

1. X-Men: Dark Phoenix
Director: Simon Kinberg
James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence


This is quite plainly a bad movie, meek in ambition, clumsy in storytelling, lacking in character and emotional depth. At the end of the day, I struggle to think of who would, could and should enjoy Dark Phoenix. I am certainly not among them.

Images courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures & Roadshow Films

Best Films Of 2019

Following this week’s Golden Globes, we decided to look back at 2019 and acknowledge the best films of the year. Here’s our top 8!

8. Ford v Ferrari
Director: James Mangold
Stars: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Caitriona Balfe


Ford v Ferrari is absolutely thrilling. This is a rip-roaring, heart-pounding adrenaline rush when it’s done right. The movie is directed by James Mangold and boy does he know how to shoot racing scenes.

Golden Globe Nomination
Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture, Drama – Christian Bale

7. The House That Jack Built
Director: Lars Von Trier
Stars: Matt Dillon, Bruno Ganz, Uma Thurman

The House That Jack Built March 2019

Both Jack and Lars have descended to an irredeemable depth of hell to bring us their artwork, and they invite the brave of us among the outraged and disgusted to accept and take the plunge with them.

No Nominations

6. The Irishman
Martin Scorsese
Stars: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci


Thematically, The Irishman feels like the emotional culmination of Scorsese’s career to date. It’s a deep and meaningful reflection on the nature of violence. Mixing an old school cast with cutting-edge tech, it shows age is no barrier to ambition for both its stars and its director.

Golden Globe Nominations
Best Motion Picture, Drama
Best Director, Motion Picture – Martin Scorsese
Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role – Al Pacino
Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role – Joe Pesci
Best Screenplay, Motion Picture – Steven Zaillian

5. The Guilty
Director: Gustav Möller
Stars: Jakob Cedergren, Jessica Dinnage, Omar Shargawi

The Guilty February 2019

Most thrillers, even the good ones, live for the suspense. This one is infinitely more generous, more rewarding and one of the best movies of the year. Through its many twists and unexpected revelations, The Guilty hit me in a place very few movies have.

No nominations

4. Knives Out
Director: Rian Johnson
Stars: Daniel Craig, Ana De Armas, Chris Evans


Rian Johnson crafts a tightly wound, endlessly entertaining modernisation of a classic mystery formula. It’s really quite extraordinary. This is undoubtedly one of the year’s best.

Golden Globe Nominations
Best Motion Picture, Musical Or Comedy
Best Performance By An Actress In A Motion Picture, Musical Or Comedy – Ana De Armas
Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture, Musical Or Comedy – Daniel Craig

3. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie


Outrageous and frequently bonkers, Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film is a solid and sentimental throwback to a bygone era. It’s a loving tribute to Sharon Tate, and to the westerns that surrounded Hollywood for years.

Golden Globe Awards
Best Motion Picture, Musical Or Comedy
Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role – Brad Pitt
Best Screenplay, Motion Picture – Quentin Tarantino

Golden Globe Nominations
Best Director, Motion Picture – Quentin Tarantino
Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture, Musical Or Comedy – Leonardo Dicaprio

2. Marriage Story
Director: Noah Baumbach
Stars: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern


Baumbach has delivered perhaps the ultimate movie about divorce and boy does it make us feel all the massive emotions of one. Messy, infuriating, funny, sad and distressing, Marriage Story cuts, very, very deep.

Golden Globe Awards
Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role – Laura Dern

Golden Globe Nominations
Best Motion Picture, Drama
Best Performance By An Actress In a Motion Picture, Drama – Scarlett Johansson
Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture, Drama – Adam Driver
Best Screenplay, Motion Picture – Noah Baumbach
Best Original Score, Motion Picture – Randy Newman

1. Parasite
Bong Joon Ho
Stars: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong


Biting, observant, outrageous; Bong Joon-ho continues his political rampage with a modern classic. There’s no denying he has crafted here a movie of artistic, thematic and visual superiority. It’s insanely funny but also heart-breaking.

Golden Globe Awards
Best Motion Picture, Foreign Language

Golden Globe Nominations
Best Director, Motion Picture – Bong Joon Ho
Best Screenplay, Motion Picture – Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won

*Note – Best Motion Picture, Drama winner 1917 is a 2020 release in Australia.

Special Mentions
Acute Misfortune
Ad Astra
Avengers Endgame
Hotel Mumbai
If Beale Street Could Talk
It Chapter Two
John Wick 3
Jojo Rabbit
Mary Poppins Returns
Ready Or Not
The Farewell
The Truth
Wild Rose

Images courtesy of Madman Entertainment, Netflix Australia, Sony Pictures, StudioCanal, Rialto Distribution, Umbrella Entertainment & Twentieth Century Fox

Movie Review – 1917

As war movies grow and evolve, Sam Mendes delivers one simultaneously intimate and grand, assembled with technical superiority.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

How is a movie like this made? As I sat watching 1917, I started to marvel at the sheer impossibility of it all. The story travels great distances, weaves through trenches and around dozens of extras, glides over open waters and into confined spaces. It hops onto trucks, moves from day into night, involves hundreds more extras and is consistently peppered with gunshots and explosions. All the while the camera watches, mostly unbroken, and we wonder how long it must’ve taken to choreograph and rehearse the damn thing. This is an impressive movie.

It’s a year before the end of World War I. The Germans have curiously retreated, severing English communications and prompting a nearby English division to charge into an ambush. We meet Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) on the other side of No Man’s Land, who have been ordered to reach the division on foot to deliver a desperate ceasefire letter.

The movie, which adopts the structure of a one-shot picture but is cleverly broken up by hidden cuts, is a parable of urgency and determination in the face of self-preservation, drawn up in excellent visual effects and captured in camera movements so enormously intricate I’m convinced equipment had to be digitally removed in post.

The long continuous take is just the method, not the result. Most other one-shot movies would be content to get the camera from A to B in one piece in as few takes as possible. 1917 not only makes it to the end, but delivers some truly breath-taking imagery along the way. The kind photographers with tripods struggle to achieve. Roger Deakins, with his camera in perpetual motion, somehow manages to frame exactly what he wants when he wants it, without compromise. I’ve not witnessed anything quite like it.

1917 is directed by Sam Mendes, whose movies have been difficult to pin down. He doesn’t seem to toy with any particular theme except maybe the loss of innocence, as in American Beauty (1999), Road to Perdition (2002) and Revolutionary Road (2008). 1917 is the epitome of lost innocence; the joys of youth flung into the teeth of war.

Yet the strength of 1917 is also its curse. Because the camera refuses to cut, there are long periods where characters do nothing but walk from here to there, as they must. There’s a lot of downtime. The screenplay by Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns tries to fill the silence with anecdotes and thin exposition, but it doesn’t change the fact that people do lots and lots of walking while we have to watch like good sports.

It’s not so much a plot as a premise. It’s dialogue that merely services the action. But 1917, like Gravity (2013), is thunderous entertainment because it uses all the crafts of filmmaking in ways we hadn’t imagined, to enhance the simplest of human instincts into gripping drama. We follow Blake and Schofield on their horrendous journey, step by step, gunshot by gunshot, and we are filled with dread and apprehension in the best possible way. This is a movie that transforms itself into an experience.

1917 is available in Australian cinemas from 9 January 2020

Image © Universal Pictures