Movie Review – Steve Jobs

Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin bring us a fascinating and unconventional tale of an enigmatic douche that changed the world whilst wearing a black turtleneck. No, I’m not talking about Sterling Archer – I mean Steve Jobs.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Steve Jobs isn’t your conventional biopic. Rather than plodding through its subject’s entire life story, director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin have crafted a poetic film where three important moments from Steve Jobs’ (Michael Fassbender) career have been captured like indelible Polaroids.

Each segment captures Jobs’ personal relationships, career path and legacy at each important milestone, whether its his own technological advancements or the tenuous relationships he shares with everyone around him – from his aide Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) or the mother of his child Chrisann (Katherine Waterson).

Given that Sorkin pens this film, you can expect some clever wordplay throughout. At times, the rat-a-tat sparring the characters exchange can feel a little dizzying as vicious barbs and snarky wit fly back and forth at breakneck speed. The swift verbal jousting keeps the film trotting along at a decent pace though, for both better and worse.

At just a smidge over two hours, the film feels a little rushed as Sorkin attempts to cram everything we need to know about Jobs into his distinct three-act structure. Everything is essential and nothing is wasted, but the film (and its characters) could’ve benefitted from being given extra room to breathe. Regardless, it’s practically criminal that Sorkin didn’t pick up an Oscar nomination for his stellar work on the sharp screenplay.

Punctuated with soaring highs and crushing lows, the film looks to cover the entire spectrum of Jobs’ tenacious and uncompromising persona. It’s here that the full extent of Fassbender’s performance comes to light; he’s rude, fierce, frustrating and fascinating all at the same time. The film doesn’t make Jobs out to be a complete monster or an untouchable saint, and Fassbender works this captivating ambiguity into every line of dialogue and movement.

Despite not being the third, fourth or even fifth choice for the role during pre-production (Christian Bale, Ben Affleck and Leonardo DiCaprio amongst many others were all considered at one point or another), Fassbender totally owns every second of screen-time in this film. It’s a very wordy role that showcases a very different range of talents to more physical and introspective Oscar performances from DiCaprio and Eddie Redmayne. That being said, he’s no Ashton Kutcher (kidding).

Winslet is a little hit-and-miss as she struggles to wrap her mouth around a tricky Polish accent; Rogen showcases a more sincere side as the underappreciated co-founder; and rising Aussie star Sarah Snook lands a few decent laughs with her limited screen time.

Boyle does a serviceable job behind the camera, but had his name not been plastered across the stark white one-sheets, you’d be hard pushed to connect this film with anything he’s worked on previously. When I think Danny Boyle, I think lurid colours (Trance), grimy urban jungles (Trainspotting) and rapid flash cuts that make you jump (28 Days Later). Steve Jobs feels very clean and procedural by comparison, with only a few of Boyle’s distinctive fingerprints left behind on the sleek brushed-steel surface. It’s solid, but nothing spectacular.

Boyle and Sorkin delve into the mind of Steve Jobs and present us with a complex lead that you love to hate; snappy dialogue, a dense plot and some terrific acting make this a worthwhile biopic that avoids some common pratfalls. The direction lacks flair and the pacing doesn’t let up, but on the whole, this is one biopic that can be enjoyed by Apple nerds and intrigued newcomers alike.

Steve Jobs is available in Australian cinemas from February 4th

Images courtesy of Universal Pictures 

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Movie Review – Dirty Grandpa

All the might of the once-great Robert De Niro has finally shrivelled up into a worthless, demeaning portrayal of a sex-crazed old man, given free roam in Dan Mazer’s comedy.

½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

Dirty Grandpa is an American comedy, directed by Dan Mazer, starring Robert De Niro and Zac Efron, and it is an absolute train wreck. A horrifying, uncomfortable, sickening experience; one that pulls off the unthinkable by deftly offending blacks, gays, lesbians, men, women, deaf people, people with speech impediments, teenagers, adults, the elderly, the deceased, the sick, caregivers, police officers, and just about every person on this good planet. Heck, it even offends drug dealers. To tell you to avoid this mess like the plague would be an insult to plagues, and if Dirty Grandpa isn’t the worst film of the next ten years, we’re in for a decade of some serious cinematic torture.

Zac Efron plays Jason Kelly, a lawyer about to wed the beautiful, but irritating Meredith (Julianne Hough), who’s made, no doubt, of the same itchy material that covers your old sofa. After the death of Jason’s grandma, he is forced by his grandpa to drive him down to Florida, where… something truly pointless is meant to happen.

The grandpa, Richard, is played by Robert De Niro, in a performance so bewildering it almost erases my memory of him ever being an actor of admirable stock (this is a man who once starred in American treasures like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Casino). Richard is such a vile human being; an offspring of a civilisation that believes in no ethics and sees no point in curating a moral compass. Some of the words that leave this man’s mouth – good heavens – are enough to warrant him psychiatric therapy from a Tourette’s patient.

Richard wants only one thing: To have sex with the lithe seductress, Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), until his jingly jangles fall off. This coming a day after his wife’s surrender to cancer. What a stand-up guy. Lenore is one-third of a sex machine trio, comprised of herself, the pretty Shadia (Zoey Deutch), and the over-the-top Bradley (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman), a black homosexual young man who’s so unrealistically effeminate I kept expecting him to turn up in a gown.

All our main characters spend the weekend (or the week, or whatever) in each other’s company on Daytona Beach, where we’re treated to a plethora of boobie and butt shots exposed to the glaring Florida sun. But do we need to see Robert De Niro masturbating to porn? Or Zac Efron prancing about to “Macarena” wearing nothing but a fuzzy bumble bee soft toy strapped to his crotch, which later gets “stroked” by a young boy on the beach? Do we need wave after wave of inexcusably eloquent genitalia jokes that are about as funny as sticking your hand into a blender? I get that this movie’s called Dirty Grandpa, but surely no one could’ve seen this coming.

I kept waiting for respite, for something sweet and calming to come along and remind me that not all is lost, that De Niro is maybe gearing up for the big joke, that he’s not really invested in such low-down, pathetic drivel. No luck. This movie doesn’t relent. It keeps going and going till someone with half a brain decided to pull the plug and run the end credits, because I’m sure that if Dan Mazer had his way, he’d be filming Robert De Niro barfing verbal excrement till he died. This is really one of the most terrible experiences I’ve ever had at the movies.

Dirty Grandpa is available in Australian cinemas from January 28th

Images courtesy of Entertainment One Films Australia

 

Movie Review – Spotlight

While the world turned a blind eye to the Church’s wrong-doings, one news group forgave no sins and delivered us from evil. The exposé of their exposé could be this year’s most intensely interesting Oscar frontrunner.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

Based on the infamous, year-long journalist investigation, Spotlight commences in 2001, as the prestigious Boston Globe newspaper hires a new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber). Baron’s interest is immediately sparked by a small column that reveals a local priest to be a paedophile, and that the Archbishop of Boston was aware, but did nothing to stop him. Alarmed that such a scandalous case has gone mostly unnoticed, Baron requests that the Globe’s “Spotlight” team (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James) – known for their in-depth probing and analysis of sensitive subjects – abandon their current story to investigate. As they delve deeper down the rabbit-hole, the group discovers the horrifying and enormous amount of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church around the world that has been covered-up for decades by lawyers, the government and high-ranking religious officials themselves.

How director Tom McCarthy has managed to jump from one of last year’s worst films (Adam Sandler disaster The Cobbler) to one of this year’s best, is anyone’s guess, but it would seem he’s a rare example of a filmmaker using criticism to discipline himself. Spotlight is an exercise in enormous restraint – there are no flashy visuals on display, no ravenous editing flair, no showy lighting or elegant cinematography; aesthetically, it has all the grandeur of a sitcom. It’s a wise choice, and appropriate given the difficult subject matter. This is a very raw experience, where typical big budget constructs are ignored entirely in favour of a dialogue heavy script and an excellent cast that is given the freedom to bounce off one another at a rapid-fire pace.

The term ‘ensemble piece’ is often thrown around without much thought behind it, but Spotlight is the real deal. Each actor is a cog turning inside a machine that adds up to something greater from the sum of its parts. It’s a very real team dynamic, where each member is utilised equally and brings their own personal skills to the table in the exposé. Perhaps rightfully so, it’s Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo who have been singled out for the Oscar nods; particularly Ruffalo, whose character is gifted with the chance to vent his anxiety and frustration at the many setbacks the investigation faces. But there’s meat aplenty to chew on in every role, even in the supporting ones filled out by Stanley Tucci, John Slattery and Billy Crudup; it really is a serious actor’s wet dream.

The details are in the drama in Spotlight; it’s all about intrigue and the shock of discovery, rather than the revelation and aftermath that rocked the world. Films of such grave nature are always destined to divide audiences and cause controversy – no doubt this already has again with the Catholic Church, who can only be displeased at the topic resurfacing to wide awareness – but these are merely the cold, hard facts presented as they should be. We’re left with the terrifying reminder that even a community that embraces morality and virtues; that has been trusted by people for centuries, has its own evil underbelly. Who can we turn to when our faith is shaken in anything perceived as good? The only rightful answer to the purveyors of big questions like these is the twinkle of Oscar gold.

Spotlight is available in Australian cinemas from January 28th

Images courtesy of Entertainment One Films Australia

Movie Review – The Danish Girl

The King’s Speech, Les Miserables and now, The Danish Girl; director Tom Hooper has done it again with another astounding period drama that seems destined for Academy Award glory.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Based on the 2000 novel of the same name, The Danish Girl recounts the real-life story of Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne), a famous 20th Century painter who became the first recorded person to undergo sex reassignment surgery in 1931. Also starring Alicia Vikander and Matthias Schoenaerts, this is an affecting tale that is jam-packed with emotional performances, gorgeous camerawork and a captivating script.

Visually astounding from the very first frame, Hooper handles the camera with extra care when framing Redmayne’s pale visage, pausing to drink in every minute lash flutter, half-smile and lip quiver. His performance is graceful and respectful, laden with the utmost care for his subject; it may veer slightly too close to sentimentality at times, but you can’t fault Redmanye’s utter commitment to the role in a physical sense. This is so much more than just slapping on a wig and talking slightly quieter; Redmayne completely changes how his character moves through every scene, starting as a relaxed and talented painter before retreating inward to become this timid and introverted young woman unsure of her own place in the world.

Whilst the film is undoubtedly about Redmayne and his gradual transformation from Einar to Lili, an equally eye-catching performance from Vikander should not go unheralded. Filled with questions, and lost within a society with zero answers, Vikander is astounding as Einar’s loving wife, and later, Lili’s loyal friend. Her relationship with her husband becomes increasingly warped as time goes on, and Vikander’s heart-breaking performance carries emotional heft every step of the way. It’s great to see that the Academy has remembered to recongise her as well as Redmayne in their recent round of nominations – even if her role being downgraded to supporting is a political move that leaves a slightly bitter taste in the mouth.

Cinematographer Danny Cohen is clearly in his element with this film; the achingly gorgeous landscape shots are expertly composed and framed, not unlike the detailed works of art that the lead duo paint. Whether it’s the frosty fish markets of Copenhagen or the jumbled rooftops of Paris, Hooper and Cohen’s combined efforts behind the camera make The Danish Girl a sumptuous visual affair that is soaked in the opulent architecture, intricate costuming and rich interior sets that befit the period setting.

My only real issue with the film is how wary it is of the subject at hand. Hooper tiptoes around the central message with the delicateness of a feather, not wanting to push the envelope too far for fear of shocking or offending people. Both Redmayne and Vikander aren’t afraid of bearing all on more than one occasion in this film, but the third act pulls back from really showing us anything confronting. For a film about the first recorded transgender person, The Danish Girl plays a little too safe and apolitical when it matters most.

In some ways, this shouldn’t really matter; Hooper’s film isn’t about transgender rights in the same way that Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette is barracking heavily for women’s rights and using historical context as its emotional anchor. It’s more of a simple character study, trading heavy themes of gender and sexuality for a more inoffensive romantic tale of human bravery and companionship. Whether this affects the lasting impact the film has on audiences is another matter, but it shouldn’t detract from the stunning camerawork, visual design and acting on display from all those involved.

The Danish Girl is available in Australian cinemas from 21st January

Images courtesy of Universal Pictures 

Movie Review – The Big Short

The Big Short’s stacked cast and energetic direction saves an otherwise alienating and infuriating financial-thriller.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Tom Munday

The Big Short effectively tackles one of the 21st Century’s biggest man-made disasters – The Global Financial Crisis. The film, like many financial dramas, is a fascinating insight into a worldwide riches-to-rags story.

Coasting through 2007 and 2008, the story chronicles three intertwining plot-strands to paint a terrifying picture of our era. The central thread chronicles the pursuits of Michael Burry (Christian Bale), who defies the rules and risks billions to aggravate his superiors. Meanwhile, Mark Baum (Steve Carell), an independent hedge fund manager convinced Wall Street is the next superpower, teams with Deutsche Bank trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) to alert and alarm the big banks. Cornwall Capital founders Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock), seeking veteran stockbroker Ben Rickert’s (Brad Pitt) advice, turn a $110, 000 hedge fund into $120 million by turning against the world economy.

Based on Michael Lewis’ controversial book of the same name, The Big Short sticks to the truth. Director Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights) diverts from the norm to discuss the topic he is most passionate about. McKay and co. aptly approach, break down, comment on, and lambaste every aspect of the 2008 crash.

McKay’s direction pushes The Big Short along at a cracking pace. Aware of financial jargon complexities, McKay’s flourishes are welcome bursts of energy. The narration and breaking-the-fourth-wall moments pull the audience into this ensuing madness. Barry Ackroyd’s frenetic cinematography adds to the effect, depicting each character’s distorted and steadily unravelling point of view.

Occasionally, McKay and co. fail to connect to the average filmgoer. Blinded by his liberal, anti-authoritarian agenda, McKay occasionally preaches rather than informs. Despite the fun cast and direction, he and Charles Randolph’s mile-a-minute script includes its fair share of convoluted lingo and exposition. Extended chatter about sub-prime mortgages, varying types of loans, and stock may be jarring for the majority of viewers.

The film’s star-studded cast succeeds in charging through the dialogue, the emotional moments, and also the laugh-out-loud moments. Bale provides his most heartfelt performance yet as the Asperger’s suffering, glass eye wielding lead. Fusing his tragic backstory and peculiar behaviour, Bale imbues depth into an over-the-top role. Carell, one of many actors sporting a heinous haircut, is charming as the film’s heart and soul. Gosling is a comic delight as the reliable narrator/enthusiasm machine.

The Big Short is almost a great, bang-for-your-buck Oscar contender. Indeed, the cast and director deserve praise for putting a new spin on the issue, however, the jarring dialogue and convoluted plot keep it from Wolf of Wall Street-level dizzying heights.

The Big Short is available in Australian cinemas from January 14th 

Images courtesy of Paramount Pictures 

Movie Review – Carol

With two outstanding central performances, and a complex human story at its core, Carol is the cherry on top of a stellar past year for queer cinema – next stop, the Academy Awards.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Queer cinema has enjoyed a rich purple patch over the last 12 months, from showcasing embattled lovers in Freeheld to highly-acclaimed home-grown memoir Holding the Man – but none are as deeply affecting or as gorgeously crafted as Todd Haynes’ period masterpiece, Carol.

Based on the novel, The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, Carol is the story of a young shop assistant, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) who meets an enchanting married woman, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) whilst working in an upmarket Manhattan department store. When Carol later invites Therese to lunch outside of work, the two begin to foster a charming companionship that starts to get tongues wagging among their friends, family and peers. As Carol’s marriage to neglectful husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) turns sour, her friendship with Therese advances into romance – and the two embark on a fateful Christmas road trip to escape the prying eyes of the city.

Fronted by two astounding performances from Mara and Blanchett, Carol is a delicate character drama that takes the time to paint an ornate portrait of two star-crossed lovers. Both have landed nominations for a Best Actress Golden Globe, and it’s easy to see why. On the one hand you have Mara, an introverted and intelligent aspiring photographer who is discovering an entirely new side to herself; on the other you have Blanchett, a confident and elegant housewife who carries herself with an air of confidence designed to disguise an underlying vulnerability.

Even though it starts out in the simplest of ways, Carol and Therese’s relationship grows to become a lot more complex and treacherous, allowing both actresses to showcase the very best of their talents. Blanchett oozes presence in every scene, but for me it was Mara who stood out; we see the story from her perspective, so we witness her delicate and heart-wrenching character arc firsthand. Carol remains something of an enigma, whilst Therese feels authentic and more emotionally resonant.

Penned by Phyllis Nagy, the screenplay keeps proceedings tightly focused on the lead duo, often at the expense of supporting characters; Richard (Jake Lacy), a long-term boyfriend of Therese is swiftly discarded in the second act without a backward glance, whilst Chandler draws the shortest straw of all; his role is reduced to a two-dimensional caricature of an emotionally-distant husband, when his messy divorce to Carol could’ve been afforded much more depth.

We are thrown a few curveballs that keep the divorce subplot ticking along in the background, but Carol and Therese’s burgeoning romance takes centre stage fairly early on. Thankfully, it never feels exploitative or needlessly raunchy.

A delicate score from Carter Burwell blends classic orchestral strings to perfectly compliment tracks from artists like The Clovers, Jo Stafford and Billie Holiday. Edward Lachman’s gorgeous cinematography also lends this film a soft, classic romance look. Along with Haynes, the two play around with focus and depth of field to create some particularly striking frames.

So much more than your typical doomed love tale, Carol pairs two of the finest actresses working today with a script and director that know exactly what they want and how to get it. Flawless craftsmanship and stirring performances make Carol a powerful experience that deserves go the distance come Oscar night.

Carol is available in Australian cinemas from January 14th 

Images courtesy of Transmission Films 

Movie Review – Sisters

What do you get when Leslie Knope and Liz Lemon throw the party to end all parties? Utter madness, as proven by Jason Moore’s Sisters.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury 

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are one of Hollywood’s funniest and most popular double acts, so it might come as a surprise that the duo have never shared the limelight on a film before now. They struck gold when hosting the Golden Globes, and are known the world over as the leading ladies on 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation respectively, but the chance to join forces on a major comedy film hasn’t come around – until now.

Said film is called Sisters, and it sees Fey and Poehler, who first met whilst working on the hugely popular US sketch show Saturday Night Live, convert their dynamite off-screen rapport into an infectious on-screen chemistry that you simply can’t manufacture. The BBF’s play Kate (Fey) and Maura (Poehler) Ellis, two siblings who are horrified to discover that their parents (played by James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) are selling the house they grew up in. Tasked with journeying down to Miami and removing their childhood trinkets, Kate and Maura decide to bid farewell to the family home by throwing one last major rager that’ll metaphorically, and literally, bring the house down.

With free-flowing dialogue and a script that draws life from improvisation, Sisters is a riotous film that bounces around and doesn’t withhold anything; Kate and Maura’s party soon escalates from swapping colonoscopy stories to unchecked, drug-fuelled mayhem. The snappy wordplay between the two sisters is the real highlight as Poehler and Fey exchange barbs and gags with one another as if no one is watching.

Like most parties, some of the more fervent guests overstay their welcome; Bobby Moynihan (another SNL cast member) plays Alex, a dorky classmate who mistakenly snorts something extremely potent and blunders about the house incoherently screaming about feeling his hair grow. The gag – and the party sequence as a whole – is funny at first, but as layer upon layer of madness is slathered on like a wobbly and unpredictable trifle, it does start to get a touch tiresome. At 118 minutes, Sisters does prolong the fun longer than most hit-it-and-quit-it comedies; some trimming here and there might’ve kept the action feeling punchy and concise.

Amongst the mayhem, director Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect) attempts to thread an emotional narrative involving Kate’s daughter Haley (Madison Davenport), but it sadly gets lost and largely ignored in favour of sillier, more superficial storytelling. The film does attempt to convey some kind of central moral, but you’d be forgiven for missing it.

Sisters is fundamentally just one big excuse for Poehler and Fey to let loose and toss everything they have into one huge melting pot of suburban stupidity; they throw a lot of stuff at walls and, for the most part, it sticks. An elongated length and muddled messaging are the only drawbacks on an otherwise unruly comedy from the two Hollywood heavyweights.

Sisters is available in Australian cinemas from January 7

Images courtesy of Universal Pictures 

Movie Review – The Revenant

Presenting cinema’s most terrifying bear attack scene – it’s worth the price of admission alone. Stay for a gob-smacking survival revenge epic, and perhaps the biggest blast you’ll have at the movies this year.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan

Did Alejandro González Iñárritu just become the most exciting filmmaker of today? Not that he’s ever produced anything short of outstanding, of course, but with the one-two punch of Best Picture winner Birdman, and now the equally worthy The Revenant, he’s achieved something fellow directors can only envy. He’s secured his spot among the great innovators of film, with only six features under his belt – everyone in Hollywood is bound to be lining up for a chance to work with him now. It’s just a shame that the Academy is unlikely to honour the same victor twice in a row, but otherwise he could very easily sweep every award ceremony again. At the very least, it seems highly likely that one man involved could (finally) walk away with that little golden statue.

It’s 1823, and much of the American wilderness still remains uncharted, begging to be explored. Based on an actual expedition-gone-horribly-wrong in these parts, The Revenant finds frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team of explorers just as hell descends upon them, in the form of a vicious Native American tribe. Attacking and scattering the clan, Glass’ remaining hunting team seeks to return to their base camp; complicated further by a chance encounter with a grizzly bear, leaving Glass horrifically and near-fatally mauled. Now little more than a tattered corpse, Glass must navigate the deadly natural terrain against the odds of survival back to camp, with one motive – vengeance against his fellow crew member John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) who has destroyed something of great value to him.

An entire world away from the madcap Hollywood satire of Birdman, The Revenant nonetheless shares a penchant for extreme long takes (no single take this time, though you’ll be too immersed to notice the cuts) and swooping of the camera to places we’d never dream of, allowing once again introspective new means of revealing the madness and desperation in its cardinal character. The film’s main stretch supersedes recent visionary one-man survival ordeals Gravity and All Is Lost, and arguably surpasses them through sheer relentless brutality and an epic grandeur – elements of thrillers, adventure parables and Westerns are all here.

Iñárritu reportedly went full Kubrick on his actors and crew while filming, running outrageously over schedule and over budget and firing staff not meeting his standards. He created a literal hell for his team, and every ounce of anguish comes across on screen. Perhaps we finally have a man worthy of Kubrick’s crown.

It’s a bold claim to make so early, especially without awareness of other contenders, but this looks dead set to be Leo’s year for the Best Actor Oscar. It almost seemed as though he’d enter history as one of the all-time greats never recognised by the Academy – he, like many, is far too good for them anyway – but even in a role in which he barely speaks for most of the runtime, he puts most other actors to shame. Every excruciating second of pain Glass endures bleeds through DiCaprio’s performance as a good man in a nightmare – you’ll feel every second of it, though perhaps not so much as the heartbreaking emotional turmoil Fitzgerald inflicts upon Glass. The supporting cast is routinely excellent – Hardy, Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson in particular – but Leo’s raw agony practically forces them off the screen.

One last mention – Emmanuel Lubezki, the unparalleled cinematographer to sink all others; his breathtaking photography of the chilly wilderness will have you wondering at times if you’ve stumbled into a BBC documentary. He, DiCaprio and Iñárritu gift us the visceral, metaphysical, poetic… hell, quite possibly the film of 2015.

The Revenant is available in Australian cinemas from January 7

Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Movie Review – Point Break

The Point Break remake… you know you’re in trouble when your dumb action-thriller makes the original look like Citizen Kane.

⭐ ½
Tom Munday

Based on the 1991, Kathryn Bigelow-directed action-thriller of the same name, Point Break is a cacophony of dated studio decisions, derivative flourishes, and atrocious performances. It’s plot, such as it is, follows the FBI/extreme ploy-athlete exploits of Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey).

After quitting his YouTube/extreme sports career, Utah is assigned by Hall (Delroy Lindo) and Pappas (Ray Winstone) to track down the suspects of major worldwide crimes. The criminals, utilising base jumping/motorcross/snowboarding skills, are Robin Hood figures attempting the Osaki Eight – extreme tests honouring nature.

The original cult classic was simple and effective – Patrick Swayze surfing in the morning and robbing banks in the afternoon, and Keanu Reeves taking him down. The convoluted Osaki Eight angle overthrows the charm of the original narrative. Director/cinematographer Ericson Core fuses a generic heist-adventure with extreme sports showreel and Entourage-style bro-fest.

The story is full of more backflips than any given action scene. Although the band of criminals, led by Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez), are Earth conscious and despise commercialism, they are more than happy partying in palatial bachelor pads and yachts.

The remake diverts largely from the source material and sticks to a familiar vision. Whole sequences, including the trademark Utah firing-into-the-air moment, are recreated to zero effect. Meanwhile, unlike the original, the key romance between Utah and love interest (Teresa Palmer) is underdone.

The action/stunt sequences are indeed exhilarating, edge-of-your-seat moments. Although extended to cover up the lack of narrative or character, these scenes are expertly shot and edited. Each set-piece, unlike many similar flicks, blurs the lines between actor and stunt double.

However, the performances leave much to be desired. Bracey is a stump of soggy wood, making Reeves come across like Kenneth Branagh. Mumbling each line, this charisma free zone brings talents like Lindo, Winstone, and Palmer down with him. Thankfully, Ramirez, also seen in docudrama Joy, is a charismatic force as the slick, spiritual anti-hero.

Point Break is the very definition of a pointless remake – lacking the charm, style, and tenacity of the original whilst failing to stand on its own.

Point Break is available in Australian cinemas from January 1

Images courtesy of Roadshow Films 

Movie Review – The Peanuts Movie

Filled with good vibes for the kids, and waves of nostalgia for their Snoopy-loving parents, The Peanuts Movie is a splendid animation that will certainly not taste bitter going down.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

I am regrettably not a loyal student of the famous Peanuts comic strip, created in 1950 by Charles M. Schulz, but I am an appreciator of movies that understand precisely what they are meant to do, and then do it well. Here we have The Peanuts Movie, based directly on Schulz’s stories, and it is the most charming, uplifting and – dare I say it – mature children’s movie to cross my path in quite some time.

The plot is formulaic in the way it charts the bumbling Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) as he tries desperately to earn the adoration and, more importantly, acceptance of his peers, but the method of storytelling is ideal in that it carefully blends the 2D line work of Schulz, with our more modern 3D capabilities, to produce an aesthetic that is at once familiar and new. Recognisable faces like Peppermint Patty (Venus Schultheis), Linus (Alex Garfin), and Schroeder (Noah Johnston) pop with simple lines and distinct traits, and the animators have found a neat balance between minimalism and detail that propels not just our attention across the story, but also our eyes across the screen.

This is a movie that is wonderfully snug for kids below 12. There are important themes here about self-respect and individualism, along with sentimental narrative choices, like the endearing relationship between Charlie and his younger sister Sally (Mariel Sheets). It also strives for adventure, with Snoopy (Bill Melendez) visualising an airborne rescue mission on the platform of his imagination.

I was somewhat surprised to learn that all the primary human characters in The Peanuts Movie were voiced by unknown child actors, a decision that lends a gentle authenticity to the animation. If you seek a movie for your children that’s not as dumb as Minions, not quite as sophisticated as Inside Out, and purely delightful, this one’s for you.

The Peanuts Movie is available in Australian cinemas from January 1st 

Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox