Movie Review – Equity

Females rejoice! Equity is a movie about women who love making money, made by women who love making films. If only the passion behind the movie was translated onto the screen.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic

Equity
shares the story of women competing for greed on Wall Street in what we all know to be a predominantly male dominated environment. Anna Gunn leads the cast as senior investment banker Naomi Bishop who is determined to claw her way to the top of her investment firm. That is until she becomes entrapped by a corruption scandal that seeks to destroy everything she has worked for.

Equity offers a new take on the successful Wall Street series, but unfortunately doesn’t reach quite the same heights. Initially I was worried the film would overtly push the ‘girl power’ agenda throughout, but to the film’s credit, it stands on its own as a film about crime and exploitation. Specific scenes are used to promote Naomi’s views on female empowerment, however, these moments do not distract from the overall film. Anyone can enjoy this as a film exploring the hidden dealings of Wall Street.

Having said that, I only wish these dealings were more engaging. Don’t get me wrong, Equity still presents a smart and creative plot, but it doesn’t go above and beyond. It’s fairly predictable and does nothing shocking or surprising. Anna Gunn’s performance is fine, but it’s difficult to care for her character when you can see exactly what is going to happen to her. Supporting characters lack substance and are mere tools to move the plot along.

As it stands, Equity is a passable economic thriller, but one that remains just passable. I recommend waiting for it to come out on DVD.

Equity is available in Australian cinemas from September 29

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

Movie Review – The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven delivers good feelings and professional entertainment value, but does little to distinguish itself from its formidable forebears.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

The worst scene in The Magnificent Seven comes right at the end; undoing what the rest of the movie worked so hard to achieve. The point of this story – first envisioned in Kurosawa’s sprawling masterpiece, Seven Samurai (1954), later reimagined in countless other tributes and remakes (including Pixar’s A Bug’s Life) – is selflessness in the line of honour. The samurai were honourable warriors, bound by bushido. Cowboys were bound by their egos. What they shared in common was the rejection of self-gain. The 1960 Magnificent Seven understood this. This new Hollywood remake, directed by Antoine Fuqua, tacks on a closing scene that converts its guns-for-hire into immortalised heroes, effectively gut-punching itself.

And what a pity that is, because the rest of it feels like a solid Western. It’s not limp or dated. Its production values are convincing. It comes meaty, ready for a fight. In an age where filmmakers favour CGI shortcuts, Fuqua has made the right decision to root his film in solid ground. The town of Rose Creek is actually there, built with wood and nails. Explosions are rigged and timed. Stuntmen tumble off rooftops and plough through windows. Physical action gives the movie weight and visual depth, a leisure that’s no longer easy to come by.

Denzel Washington plays Sam Chisolm, the Yul Brynner character from the original remake, and doesn’t so much chew up the scenery as stand back and admire it. Washington is always reliable, but here he seems too passive to be the leader of a troupe of gun-slinging, macho monkeys. I can’t remember a single impressive thing he does in the entire film.

Elsewhere, the cast tries to be as diverse as politically and financially possible. It introduces a Korean knife-thrower (Lee Byung-Hun); a Mexican outlaw (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) in full cabrón mode; and throws in a Comanche archer (Martin Sensmeier) for good measure. The problem is, by the time the big old gunfight thunders its way around the corner, none of these “interesting” characters do anything worth noting. And the gunfight, as impressive as it is, resembles a chaos party hosted by anarchy. It’s hard to tell what’s happening, and to whom. There are so many bad guys for our heroes to gun down that you might begin to suspect they’re growing out of the soil like potatoes.

But for what it’s worth, this Magnificent Seven is a good, harmless time. The interplay between the characters is often electric and the way the screenplay whittles down the ensemble cast shows restraint and diplomacy. It is, however, still a movie that need not have been made. But it has, and we’re neither better or worse off for it. I just wish the final scene had been omitted. It reeks of studio interference. I don’t want to have to wait for a home release to catch an alternate ending.

The Magnificent Seven is available in Australian cinemas from September 29

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures 

Movie Review – The Confirmation

Amidst the modern multiplex madness, it’s refreshing to find a humble little film about quaint father and son bonding.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

As his mother and her new husband prepare for a weekend away at a Catholic retreat, eight-year-old Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher) reluctantly readies himself for spending time with his father Walt (Clive Owen), a deadbeat, down-on-his-luck alcoholic carpenter. Walt lands a potential job, but his prospects are complicated when his prized tool kit is stolen and he’s locked out of his house by his landlord. Anthony and Walt set about finding the culprit who nabbed the tools, and begin to form an unexpected bond along the way.

There’s quite a modest and old-timey feeling that courses through The Confirmation, the directorial debut of 60-year-old Bob Nelson (writer of Alexander Payne’s Nebraska). It’s a small film that’s intimate in scope and humbly unambitious, but it certainly has its heart in the right place. Like last year’s Grandma, it’s an unanticipated curveball situation thrusted upon two estranged generations, forcing them together through spontaneous hijinks and incubating a relationship in the process.

A true rarity for entertainment in this day and age, Nelson’s characters are (at least partially) defined by their religious beliefs, be it Anthony’s purity and lack of sin as a result of frequent churchgoing, or Walt’s abandonment of his former moral ways left behind with his ex-wife. Religion serves as a backdrop for the film, but there’s a sense that a lot more could have been made of this now seldom-seen motif; it’s simply there to point out Anthony’s morality. This is huge potential left tragically untapped.

Overall, it’s all a bit too straight-faced, to the point that it occasionally feels like the actors are reading directly from a script page. Then there are the odd, out of place moments of threat and violence that completely rattle the realism at play. This might have worked for a more satirical film, but it’s simply distracting in this unambiguous and clear-cut coming-of-age story.

What Nelson does nail is the father-and-son relationship between Walt and Anthony; it organically forms as the film progresses and we genuinely feel the pair pulling closer together. Clive Owen’s big screen appearances are few and far between these days, and Walt is a far cry from his typical action hero. It’s a restrained performance that shows the subtle gravitas of a man under such pressure that the cracks begin to show on the surface. It’s surprising how much chemistry he shares with young Lieberher (St. Vincent, Midnight Special) who displays a terrific innocence and wisdom beyond his years.

Ultimately it’s a simple series of misadventures between a boy and his pop, but their rewarding magnetism makes this low-key journey worth embarking upon.

The Confirmation is available in Australian cinemas from September 22

Image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution 

Movie Review – Snowden

Oliver Stone’s portrait of a 21st Century whistle-blower is an overlong affair with brief flashes of brilliance throughout.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Hero, patriot, traitor, terrorist… wherever you fall on the spectrum of opinions regarding Edward Snowden, it’s hard to argue that his actions haven’t irreversibly changed contemporary discourse on politics, counterterrorism, warfare and surveillance.

 Curiously, Oliver Stone’s heavily dramatised film is both a biopic of Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and a ‘making-of’ for 2014’s Best Documentary Feature winner, Citizenfour. The film follows Snowden’s entire career from 2003 to present, jumping forward on multiple occasions to a stuffy Hong Kong hotel room in June 2013 where the former NSA contractor is feverishly working with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo) and a duo of journalists (Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson) to leak key top security documents to the press. Flashbacks fill in the blanks as Stone follows the disillusioned former soldier through a string of events that will lead him to make a world-changing decision that could cost him his life and the love of his long-term partner Lindsay (Shailene Woodley).

Stone frames his subject as a remarkable man, but surrounds him with a rather unremarkable film. It’s not the subject matter that fails to enthrall, but rather its execution. You’ll still drive home with your head swirling at the significance of Snowden’s actions, but on reflection it feels like the director doesn’t deliver that final powerhouse blow that this story so clearly needs (and deserves).

You see, Snowden builds toward a shattering finale that we know is coming. It’s never a question of if he succeeds, but which pivotal moments inspire him to make the decision to blow the whistle on his own government. In that regard, the film doesn’t wholly succeed. By following Snowden’s entire career, Stone loses himself in the detail, meandering through assignment after assignment as his titular character ambles from Geneva to Japan and onto Maryland and Hawaii. The pace is achingly slow as the years wind on and JGL becomes visibly more beleaguered by the crushing secrets he uncovers.

That’s not a slight on Gordon-Levitt though; he totally disappears into the role of Snowden, lowering his voice an octave or two and absolutely nailing the mannerisms of the man he’s embodying. Similarly, Woodley has never been better as the dedicated, perplexed girlfriend Lindsay who finds herself caught in the crossfire. The relationship between Edward and Lindsay is thrust to the forefront for most of the elongated second act, and it’s the convincing chemistry between the two leads that keeps this film above water.

Snowden isn’t a towering tour de force that hits you over the head, but rather an understated character study that examines what it would take for an everyman like Edward Snowden to snap and ‘betray’ his country. It’s an infrequently intense piece padded with meandering sections of mediocrity in between.

Snowden is available in Australian cinemas from September 22

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Italian Film Festival 2016

Ciao, bella! The Italian Film Festival is upon us once again. Here’s a brief selection of just some of the films that are on offer.

The Space Between
Director:
Ruth Borgobello
Starring: Flavio Parenti, Maeve Dermody & Marco Leonardi

Bellissimo! What a beautiful way to headline the Lavazza Italian Film Festival with the very first Italian-Australian co-production feature film.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic 

09-september-italianff-space-between
The Space Between highlights a strong debut for Australian director Ruth Borgobello and sets the scene for falling in love in luscious Italian landscapes.

Returning to his hometown in Northern Italy, Marco (Flavio Parenti) takes care of his aging father and tries to overcome the loss of his mother. In spite of being a talented chef, he now works in a dispirited job as a factory worker and is comfortable being uncomfortable. Marco soon encounters a young Australian in Olivia (Maeve Dermody), who’s youthful exuberance wistfully begins to stir life in him once more. Slowly but surely, a deeper friendship grows and both begin to realise what it takes to bridge the gap between loss and love.

Whilst being a somewhat simple story, The Space Between still managed to shock and surprise me. It’s a film best experienced without as little prior knowledge as possible. The process of learning how to deal with loss and to move on to achieving our dreams is an issue at the heart of many, films but one that is dealt a fresh setting in The Space Between. Borgobello cleverly uses the Italian location to relay a subtle cultural commentary, drawing parallels between how the Italian people are suffering similarly to Marco and this is what elevates the film above a cliché.

As a love story, it’s not as witty or captivating as Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy, for example, however it still remains charming enough to watch. Flavio and Maeve bounce off each other nicely, with particular praises going to Borgobello once more for her hand in the dialogue. It’s one of the more authentic love stories I’ve seen recently and one I wanted to know more about by the time the credits began to roll.

A simple but beautiful story that echoes in the fine cinematography of the Italian landscapes by Katie Milwright, The Space Between is a perfect start to your Italian film festival watch list.


The Confessions
Director: 
Roberto Andò
Starring: Toni 
Servillo, Daniel Auteuil, Pierfrancesco Favino

Murder, silence and paranoia are at play in Roberto Andò’s lacklustre thriller.

⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

09-september-italianff-confessions
The Confessions has a whiff of complex allegory. As I sat watching, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I was missing the point of it all; that the characters, both important and redundant, were concealing truths and ideas that the almost poetic dialogue only hinted at. I was afraid I was letting the film pass me by.

But now that I’ve had some time to digest it, I am certain it is merely a movie designed to bore and confuse. What starts as a murder mystery slowly unravels as a suspense thriller without the suspense or the thrill, and by the end, I had either forgotten half of what everyone had said or I just didn’t care. There is an entire scene involving Lambert Wilson that could’ve ended up on the cutting room floor without anyone noticing.

Toni Servillo plays Father Salus, a priest invited to an idyllic hotel that shall act as the setting for an important economic summit. Also in attendance is Claire (Connie Nielsen), a famed children’s author whose presence at the summit is dubious at best, for she does little except swim and snoop. One of the economists is found dead, and now the others are afraid his dying confession to Padre Salus will lead their devious plot to ruin. What their devious plot is I’m sure I don’t know, but every character treats it with the utmost respect.

The Confessions spends a lot of time with Salus, whose vow of silence is the code the economists can’t crack. I couldn’t crack the movie, which is populated with more characters than it knows what to do with and fails to punch through with a mystery worth our time.


Perfect Strangers
Director:
Paolo Genovese 
Starring:
Giuseppe Battiston, Anna Foglietta, Marco Giallini

Paolo Genovese’s Perfect Strangers is the film equivalent of a rich Italian lasagne with multiple layers of character-driven drama.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

09-september-italianff-perfect-strangers

This hilarious comedy sees three married couples and a bachelor, all long-time friends, get together for a sumptuous dinner party. As the night winds on, one of them suggests that they play a game to test their trust in one another. Each person is required to place their smartphone in front of them on the dinner table. For the entire night, any phone calls and text messages that arrive must be shared publicly with the group. Of course, not everyone sitting at the table is squeaky clean and it soon becomes clear that the seven friends didn’t know each other quite as well as they originally thought.

Perfect Strangers’ strongest element is undoubtedly its award-winning screenplay; perfectly paced and overflowing with razor-sharp dialogue, we’re gently introduced to each character before being teased with secrets that they may or may not be harbouring.

After this slow-burn first half, the surprises land hard and fast, like a chain of dominoes that speed around the dinner table. It’s an impressive build towards a series of twists that subvert expectations without feeling implausible. Most impressive is Genovese’s ability to traverse both earnest sentiment and crushing pathos in this tricky second half; he certainly doesn’t skimp on the gut-wrenching emotion, but underneath it all is a unifying message of friendship, acceptance and understanding in a thought-provoking final scene that ties everything together.


One Kiss
Director: 
Ivan Cotroneo
Starring: Rimau Ritzberger Grillo, Valentina Romani, Leonardo Pazzagli

A realistic depiction of teenage life doesn’t stop One Kiss from being an unfocused amalgamation of similar movies.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Cody Fullbrook

09-september-italianff-kiss

Lorenzo (Rimau Ritzberger Grillo), a foster child, moves to a new town and forms a friendly trio of outcasts, consisting of himself, Blu (Valentina Romani) and Antonio (Leonardo Pazzagli), but as they get closer, tensions rise that begin tearing them apart.

Lorenzo and Blu become the first members of the group and the first 30 minutes of One Kiss is solely dedicated to them mucking around together.  Their rebellious antics almost become the film’s entire plot until Antonio is dragged in just because Lorenzo thinks he’s cute.  The connection between the two boys quickly overshadows Blu as a character, and after an unwarranted sexual action, a conflict finally forms with Lorenzo and Antonio.  This occurs well over an hour in, leaving Blu to mope in the sidelines with her own unrelated issues.

It’s clear that One Kiss should have been about a stern sportsman attempting to resist the advances of another boy in school.  The ensuing awkwardness between them feels sincere and could have easily carried the film, and since the title is based on a later encounter with them, that appears to have been the movie’s intention.  It’s a shame the viewer has to wade through so much of Blu and Lorenzo’s shenanigans to get to the meat of the story, and even after enduring that, its melodramatic climax is completely uncalled for.

One Kiss displays great chemistry between the three friends, especially with their concerned parents, but its fuzzy story and egocentric main characters remind me too much of high school.


The Italian Film Festival screens at Cinema Paradiso in Perth from September 22 to October 12

Images courtesy of Palace Films

Movie Review -The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years

Ron Howard’s clear affection for the greatest band in history shines through in Eight Days a Week, an obedient documentary that does precisely what it’s told.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

“We’re bigger than Jesus” were John Lennon’s famous words, and judging by the sheer scale of his fame with The Beatles, he might as well have walked on water. Having grown up with my ears pressed to The Beatles’ catalogue, I’ve gawked at the terrors of Beatlemania at arm’s length, but The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years gathers all the hysteria of the Fab Four’s early years and puts it into horrifying perspective. These weren’t superheroes saving the world. They were a bunch of clueless musicians, barely out of their teens, making the best music of our time. The world simply consumed them for it.

This is a taut and just documentary, honouring its title. There are bits and bobs about the years preceding and succeeding The Beatles’ touring years, but it works firmly within its parameters. If you’re looking for a biographical recitation, you’ve come to the wrong place. Eight Days a Week functions like a compression chamber; it batters you over the head with Beatlemania until it’s about all you can handle, then sneakily reminds you it’s just a film. John, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr are the ones who had to live it.

Their unified career as The Beatles lasted less than ten years. They recorded over three-hundred songs and produced fourteen albums (that’s somewhere in the region of two albums per year). “It wasn’t about the volume”, we are told. “Anyone can write 300 songs. It was the sheer number of great songs they wrote”. Indeed, The Beatles made more than a hundred recognisable tunes, a feat the film compares to the likes of Mozart. It is remarkable to sit through Eight Days and identify deeply with each new song the soundtrack introduces. The entire Beatles collection behaves like a greatest hits compilation.

This is a documentary that’s not concerned with teaching. We don’t discover the influences that fuelled the Lennon-McCartney bloom, nor are we taken on a tour of their Abbey Road sessions. We are told to observe as wave after wave of crying, fainting, writhing teenage girls clamber over each other to get a glimpse of their mop-top heroes.

Basically, it was all mayhem. And The Beatles, weary and exhausted, stopped touring altogether in 1966. They retreated to the sanctity of their writing and, in the years between 1965 and 1969, produced some of the greatest albums in music history. Eight Days doesn’t delve into that, but none of it has been lost to memory. The movie’s more about the feeling of claustrophobia and panic, and of the height of superstardom, reached in the shortest time possible. And all the while the genius of these four uniformed, brilliant young men made its way across the universe.

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years is available in Australian cinemas from September 15

Image courtesy of Studiocanal 

Movie Review – Blair Witch

Just when you thought found footage was dead, we’ve come full circle back to where it all started – and it might actually make you shit your pants this time.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan

Two decades after his sister Heather went missing while shooting a documentary about a local legend known as the Blair Witch, James Donahue (James Allen McCune) discovers a YouTube video that appears to be new footage of her experiences in the woods. His curiosity finally getting the better of him, James convinces his friends Lisa (Callie Hernandez), Peter (Brandon Scott) and Ashley (Corbin Reid) to meet the uploader of the video and venture into the forest to investigate. Shooting a documentary of their own, they soon begin to regret their inquisitiveness as unsettling occurrences reveal the legend of the Blair Witch to be lamentably true.

Love it or loathe it, The Blair Witch Project has had an astounding impact since it took the world by storm back in 1999. Made on a shoestring budget and marketed as the product of a real event, not fiction, it broke the box office worldwide, popularised the found footage subgenre, and built fear by showing us as little as possible; leaving it up to our imaginations to conjure up the monster lurking in the darkness.

Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett’s (You’re Next, The Guest) surprise sequel Blair Witch is, save for the same story beats, almost entirely the opposite. Aware that the original’s guerrilla style, unglamorous techniques and slow pacing just isn’t going to cut it with modern horror audiences, they’ve glossed it up with an abundance of technology and made the scares considerably more frequent and in-your-face. Wingard and Barrett aren’t the least bit concerned with authenticity, or reinventing the wheel, or much of anything really; they’re simply here to do one thing – scare the pants off you.

Our team of amateur filmmakers assembles itself, learns of some of the sinister tales and legends of the Witch, then bravely journeys into the woods. It mirrors the setup of the first, only this time there’s twice as many teens to expend, and thus half the character development. Sadly, these bland kids are copied and pasted directly from the contemporary horror template, and none are given enough time to form any kind of characterisation; they’re simply there to articulate exposition. The familial link to the first film is flimsy and far-fetched, and begs the question of why James would be stupid enough to follow in the footsteps of his sister.

When things first start to go bump in the night, there’s a disheartening amount of cheap jump scares, but soon the threat becomes real and a supreme dread sets in. There’s been sixteen years of evolution in horror since the original and it’s all unleashed here. The sound department must be applauded for their design; this is the most impressively unnerving earful copped from a horror in years.

It’s frustratingly light on explanation, lacks the subtle smarts of its archetype and is a huge deal of substance short of achieving greatness, but it’s hard to complain too much when Blair Witch is what so many of its peers can only pretend to be – genuinely scary.

Blair Witch is available in Australian cinemas from September 15

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

Movie Review – Pete’s Dragon

A tolerable but predictably standard family film wrapped in a big, green, furry, flying blanket.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Cody Fullbrook

A remake of the surprisingly charming 1977 original, Pete’s Dragon centres on the titular young boy, Pete (Oakes Fegley)  after his family tragically dies. He is “adopted” by a friendly dragon, later dubbed Elliot, and they form an inseparable bond…before getting separated.

Pete’s integration into human society is essentially the main plot. Even considering his perfect teeth and ability to speak English, despite his only companion being a dragon that can’t talk, it’s all handled very realistically.

After getting captured by concerned adults, Pete jabs curiously at sandwiches, sleeps on the floor and even attempts to run back to woods at least twice. A simple scene of him howling in sorrow while being surrounded by curious citizens sums up Pete as being nothing but a scared child. Fegley brilliantly displays terror and bewildered naivety, at least when compared to the other actors (Bryce Dallas HowardRobert Redford) who seem to spend most of their time staring off into the distance like a butterfly just flew behind the camera.

The basic cinematography and acting are joined by a cookie cutter story that hits every mawkish mark possible, including dead parents, a misunderstood animal, a caring parental figure and a tree chopping antagonist with dollar signs in his eyes. They all do their jobs as narrative elements, but still raise the question as to why this movie was even made at all when I could Photoshop green fur on the robot from The Iron Giant and get the same experience.

The dragon itself is appropriately cute, if only because it acts, and looks, more like a puppy than a majestic reptile. The animation is decent and Elliot’s capture and eventual outburst are respectively heartbreaking and fiery – literally – but the audience’s reaction isn’t anything that can’t be matched by watching someone mistreat a defenceless animal.

Pete’s Dragon is a clichéd but suitably wholesome family flick. Even with a sappy ending that screams “Please don’t be sad, kids!” it ticks all the necessary boxes for a mildly satisfactory film for parents and children. It’s always great to see dragons on the big screen since they are often used as mascots for political and social trends, whether it’s Smaug’s hoarding coinciding with the great depression, Puff’s carefree life happening during the 60’s or Draco from Dragonheart signalling Sean Connery’s collapsing career.  Now that there’s the dopey Elliot in Pete’s Dragon, it’s hard not to feel a little insulted.

Pete’s Dragon is available in Australian cinemas from September 15 

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Movie Review – Blood Father

Mad Max meets retirement.

⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic

Holy shit, Mel Gibson still makes films? Blood Father sees Gibson return to (somewhat) fine form, as a vengeful father determined to protect his daughter at all costs. However, while Gibson’s character shines on screen, the rest of the plot fizzles out in the background, ultimately making Blood Father a forgettable action piece.

John (Gibson) is an ex-convict, living on parole in a middle of nowhere trailer park. Whilst making a living as a tattoo artist for its residents, he receives a call from his daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty), who is terrified and desperate for help. After being missing for 14 years, Lydia has wandered into the dangerous world of drug cartels, and a recent botched operation sees her on the run for her life. It’s up to John and his vast number of associates to determine how to avoid returning to prison and also safeguard his daughter from those destined to kill her.

Even at only 88 minutes, this film felt like it ran for a lifetime. This stems from the fact that although set as an action film, we don’t witness anywhere near as much as action as you would want. Instead of receiving Mel Gibson tearing people apart left, right and centre, what we get is a lackluster look at the relationship between him and his daughter, as well as his forgettable interactions with his numerous associates. This could work if it weren’t for the fact that this is so uninteresting to watch. Erin Moriarty (The Watch, Captain Fantastic) is fantastically terrible in one of the most unconvincing and laughable performances of 2016. If there was a category for worst performance that I’ve seen this year, it unfortunately goes to her.

Where the film thankfully excels is in the charm and charisma of Mel Gibson. I genuinely loved his every appearance in the film, which only goes to show once again why he has become a household name. He can bring a threatening sense of grittiness one second, then make you laugh the next. Sadly, these moments are few and far between. The story wants us to appreciate the relationship he develops with his daughter, which would be admirable if not for the annoyance of Moriarty popping up throughout. If this had been Mad Max coming out of retirement and going commando style like Schwarzenegger famously set out, this film would have been great.

If there’s one thing to take away from seeing Blood Father, it’s an appreciation for how much Mel Gibson can bring to the table of any film. Had it not been for him, I doubt I would have rated this film as highly as I did. Director Jean-François Richet has some way to go. Hopefully Gibson returns soon to a sharpened action film he so much deserves.

Blood Father is available in Australian cinemas from September 1st 

Image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution 

Movie Review – Sully

Assume crash positions and brace for impact – Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks have dropped out of the sky with one spectacular cinematic flight emergency simulator.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

On January 15 2009, a US Airways plane departs Queens in New York for North Carolina, but mere minutes after take-off is hit by a flock of passing birds, causing both jet engines to immediately lose power. Beginning to plummet and spell certain death for his 155 passengers and crew, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) has precious few seconds to decide what to do. Incredibly, Sully lands the airliner in the icy waters of the Hudson River below them and is dubbed a hero by the press, but soon an investigation shows that the engines were simply idling, not disabled, and that there was enough time to reach an airport; threatening Sully’s reputation and career.

Sully is a film of incredible feats. There’s of course the death-defying against-all-odds act of bravery pulled off by its main man; recreated with an outstanding eye for detail to make us feel the full intensity of the stomach-dropping situation. There’s the record of being the first feature film to be shot entirely using IMAX cameras; planting us squarely and inescapably amidst the action and panic with its staggeringly larger-than-life magnitude. And there’s Clint Eastwood, who – despite having turned 86 this year – not only still manages to make some of Hollywood’s most intelligent and exhilarating films on a regular basis, but continues to subvert expectations in his ground-breaking approaches to filmmaking itself.

Sully is a new achievement for Eastwood; it’s easily his best since Gran Torino and one of his finest as a director. There is an immediate surface comparison to 2012’s Robert Zemeckis-Denzel Washington vehicle Flight, but Eastwood’s film is a different beast altogether – humble yet hugely innovative, not unlike its protagonist.

We jump back and forth from isolated parts of the incident to its immediate aftermath in the days following with the traumatic effects on its shaken pilot and the outrageous allegations against him. Then, once Eastwood feels as though we know Sully well enough, he plays out the whole event in real-time to great effect. It’s the most horrifyingly realistic cinematic plane ride since United 93, and we’re worked through it a number of times from different perspectives as the Safety Board’s investigation takes place.

For Tom Hanks, Sullenberger isn’t exactly a far cry from the “everyman hurled into danger” we’ve seen him in everything from Apollo 13 to Captain Phillips, but that’s hardly a gripe – perhaps he simply is the perfect man for this type of role. It’s again a nuanced, modest and soft-spoken performance that works harmoniously with the material.

At a remarkably terse 96 minutes, Eastwood wastes not a single second with his completely focused and concise vision, and the result is utter immersion in the spectacle with zero let-up. This dutiful scope causes the only real snag; outside of Sully, there isn’t much chance for characterisation, and some characters feel quite one-note – particularly the Safety Board, who are (supposedly inaccurately) presented as closed-minded and antagonistic to Sully purely for the sake of providing conflict. You’ll likely be gripping the seat too hard to linger on this for long though – see it on the biggest screen you can.

Sully is available in Australian cinemas from September 8

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films