Movie Review – Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2 is back and bigger than ever with his very own sequel. But this time, the stakes are greater, as is the body count and the number of gags about how much the X-Men suck.

⭐ ⭐  ½
Josip Knezevic

Coming off a high from the original, Deadpool 2 unfortunately misses the mark in terms of comedy. Poorly made on a technical front (a gripe that carries over the first movie), blighted by horrendous direction and with just enough story to elevate it above complete failure, the brightest crayon in Deadpool 2’s box is that of some interesting new characters.

By far the most disappointing aspect of Deadpool 2 is how desperately unfunny it is. With only a handful of moments that elicit more than a smile, most of the gags that populate its 119-minute runtime are safe and boring, with little of the wit or meta-like charm of the original carrying over from the original. Strangely, the writing talent is the same, with the only additional writer being the star of the show himself, Ryan Reynolds.

The direction, this time in the hands of David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde), is nothing to write home about; a collection of close-ups and shot-reverse-shots that lack variety and smack of inattention. In a series that is all about defying convention, why not show us something inventive or dynamic? Alas, very little of these two qualities can be found in Deadpool 2. The action scenes aren’t much better, with jumbled editing and harried cuts softening the impact of the fisticuffs.

That’s not to say Deadpool 2 is without redeeming qualities; the introduction of Domino (Zazie Beetz), a hero in possession of boundless amount of luck, is executed with aplomb and makes for some of the film’s more entertaining action beats.

Though it doesn’t boast great dialogue, the plot does at least wriggle around and twist itself into something unexpected. The villain isn’t who you would expect and is cast against type, which adds an element of originality to proceedings. That said, that’s all she wrote. Deadpool 2 wasn’t the fulfillment of the film it needed to be and sadly doesn’t live up to the high bar set by its predecessor. Reynolds is great, and as always has impeccable comedic timing, but a mere one or two breakout performances don’t make for a particularly great ensemble action film. Temper those expectations and maybe you’ll garner something greater from this mess than I did.

Deadpool 2 is available in Australian cinemas from May 17 

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

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Movie Review – Secret Scripture

Vanessa Redgrave and Rooney Mara deliver two very strong performances of one woman at two very different times in her life, and the horrific events that were designed to break her.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Elle Cahill

The Secret Scripture, based on the novel of the same name by Sebastian Barry, focuses on the story of Rose McNulty (Vanessa Redgrave and Rooney Mara), a woman who has been institutionalised for over fifty years. When the institution she’s at has to relocate her, Dr Stephen Grene (Eric Bana) is requested to go and conduct a psych evaluation of her. As he proceeds to evaluate her, Dr Grene is drawn to her story and begins to realise she may not be the mentally deranged old lady that everyone makes her out to be.

The Secret Scripture is a beautifully shot film with a theme that seems highly relevant to the going-on’s of today. Cinematographer Mikhail Krichman captures the beauty and severity of the Irish landscape with the same perceptive lens as he did in the 2014 Russian drama Leviathan. The wide shots of the Irish landscape are both beautiful but harsh, with a dangerous undertone, not unlike the town Sligo, where the film is set.

The situation Rose finds herself in is not too dissimilar to what a lot of females are currently speaking out against, making this film both extremely relevant, and, I fear, just as likely to be excluded from the awards season due to the current controversy plaguing Hollywood.

Redgrave plays the elderly Rose very well, convincing you at the beginning that she is genuinely mad, but its her gradual insistence about telling her story to Dr Grene that shows the strong resilience Rose has to just give up and give in to the situation she’s been put in. Mara plays the younger Rose, and is ethereal as always, with the younger Rose wearing her resilience and quick-wit as a shield to the unwanted attention she receives from the small, gossipy Irish village people. Her fall from a headstrong, confident young woman into the emotionally battered shell that she ends up becoming is heart breaking to watch, particularly as she doesn’t give up easily.

Another standout was Theo James, who has come a long way since his Divergent days, giving a convincing performance as Father Gaunt. He manages to charm the audience before revealing his darker intentions later in the piece. Bana also gets a honourable mention for playing Dr Grene with a certain delicacy, but his character’s story was really secondary to Rose’s so he didn’t get enough screen time to really make an impact.

The only let down in this whole film for me was the ending. The film moved at a pace which was steady, carefully breaking down and detailing the events that lead to Rose being committed. However, it then proceeded to wrap up the entire film in 15 minutes, which just wasn’t enough time to properly analyse the crucial points which led to the big reveal at the end. The clunky ending gave the feeling that director Jim Sheridan was cautious of time, but I would have much preferred for the film to go on that little bit longer so the pace was maintained and the ending felt much more rounded and complete.

Overall Sheridan has done another great job at exploring a character that is positioned on the fringe of society, and the destructive nature in which human beings deal with those who are slightly different or unwilling to conform. There are some stellar performances from the cast, and the story is one that gives hope, even if it means simply waiting for the right time.

Secret Scripture is available in Australian Cinemas December 7

Image courtesy of Transmission Films.

 

 

 

 

 

Movie Review – The Man Who Invented Christmas

A stocking stuffed with quite a lot of wrapping paper, The Man Who Invented Christmas struggles to get through its own excess.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Michael Philp

The thing about The Man Who Invented Christmas (TMWIC) is that you’ve seen most of it before. A respectable chunk of the film is a straight adaptation of A Christmas Carol – the same story you’ve been hearing since you were a child. It’s nice, it’s heart-warming, it’s a classic, and it’s been adapted dozens of times, sometimes with more panache than on this occasion (A Muppet Christmas Carol remains a personal favourite). So the first knock against TMWIC is simply that its version of A Christmas Carol isn’t all that special. The second knock is that the other story it’s telling – how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) came to write A Christmas Carol – is both overstuffed and dull. Not exactly a winning combination.

TMWIC opens to Dickens coming off the high of a tour of America. Cut to a year and two flops later: Dickens is broke and needs a hit to get through Christmas. His publishers laugh at him when he suggests a Christmas story. “It’s October, you haven’t written anything yet, and nobody cares about Christmas!” They say, being the savvy business people they are. Dickens stubbornly ignores them and decides to risk everything to self-publish the novel. In the process, characters such as Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) come alive through Dickens’ thoughts and begin tormenting him. To triumph, Dickens is forced to wrestle not only with his characters, but also the inner demons they represent.

Dan Stevens does solid work here. His Dickens is energetic and conflicted – pushed and pulled by both outer and inner forces, he is perpetually bouncing between problems – and Stevens does admirable work keeping everything centred. Likewise, Plummer is a reliable source of amusement and is devilishly delicious as Scrooge. Avoiding the temptation of passivity, Plummer keeps his Scrooge engaged in the act of torturing his creator. Plummer’s dynamic with Stevens is perhaps the film’s saving grace and is certainly its most well-developed aspect. If only the filmmakers had focused in on that, we might’ve had something recommendable.

Instead, we get an abundance of subplots that dull the film, like running a knife across a rock. Some of them – like William Makepeace Thackeray – just need snappier editing to liven things up. Others – like Dickens’ nephew, the inspiration for Tiny Tim – should be jokes instead of entire scenes. These would be minor quibbles if there weren’t so damn many of them. There are at least three different subplots that desperately need trimming, and one that needs to be deleted entirely. Those stories come at the expense of the main one, killing its momentum and making you wish the film would go back to the mediocre version of A Christmas Carol.

You can praise TMWIC’s production design (it’s quite lavish), and performances (universally solid), but you’ll find it hard to praise the film they’re in service of. Quite simply it doesn’t serve them back. Charles Dickens’ life should make for an entertaining film, but unfortunately, this Christmas story isn’t it.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is available in Australian Cinemas November 30

Image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution.

Movie Review – The Disaster Artist

One of the most anticipated comedies of the year; three Hooked on Film reviewers previewed James Franco’s new film The Disaster Artist, and this is what they thought.

 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐  ½
Michael Philp

 The Disaster Artist is the true story behind the best worst movie known to man – The Room. Dubbed the “all-conquering cult leader of bad movies,” by our own Rhys Graeme-Drury, The Room is a film that has to be seen to be believed. Hilarious, insane, and awe-inspiring, you will think it can’t get crazier, immediately before it tops itself for the tenth time. Astonishingly, the story of its creation is even weirder.

The centrepiece of The Disaster Artist is undoubtedly Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) – the director of The Room and the world’s greatest source of unintentional comedy. A living, breathing rejected Men in Black design, Wiseau is a comedic gift from the heavens. If it weren’t for the pre-show interview, you’d swear he couldn’t be real. Franco is phenomenal in his dedication to the role, mining comedy from even the simplest of interactions. His brother, Dave Franco – playing straight-man Greg Sestero – is equally good, but is overshadowed by the sheer comedic force of Wiseau’s visage.

The Disaster Artist wrings comedy gold from Wiseau’s very existence. James Franco’s performance is a hysterical character study of a man who remains one of the greatest mysteries of our era. When a simple football kick can raise the house, you know you’re watching something special. The perfect follow up to a perfectly imperfect film, The Disaster Artist is easily one of the best comedies of the year.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐  ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

The best thing about The Disaster Artist, I found, wasn’t that it is hilarious and ingeniously referential, which of course it is – it’s that the film melds elements of parody perfectly with shades of sincerity, in the process forming a well-rounded package that is captivating, strange, emotional and uplifting, sometimes all in the same scene.

 This isn’t just James Franco, his brother and some of their mates (Seth Rogen plays a script editor, Zac Efron makes an appearance) pointing and laughing at Wiseau and his abominable cult classic. No, there is authentic affection and earnestness ingrained in Franco’s film; a wholesome genuineness about it.

The prologue, which sees a host of famous faces including Kristen Bell, Adam Scott and J.J. Abrams, take time out of their schedule to gush about The Room, sets the scene perfectly; this isn’t mean-spirited or heckling Wiseau, it’s a sonnet overflowing with affection for everything from terrible cult cinema to those who chase their dreams and fall through the cracks. The screenplay, penned by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, preserves Wiseau’s eccentricities, keeps the narrative tight and ensures the focus remains firmly on his relationship with Sestero and their shared dream of making it big.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic

As the age-old expression goes, what else is there left to say that hasn’t been said already? The Disaster Artist is everything a great comedy does and everything that a sincerely heartfelt film can be. However, more importantly, it’s a film that ultimately acts as a tale and tool for inspiration.

Whilst you can laugh (as almost everyone has done so) at Wiseau’s foolish antics and absurd aspirations for his life, we are given a chance to respect his endless pursuit for his dreams amongst the numerous obstacles in his way. It can be as simple as making a pact, or rather a pinky promise, between a friend, and never failing to protect that asseveration.

It’s about following the path of enduring the pain, where everything around you is telling you you’re wrong and the courage to continue to following it. This is why Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sistero are beacons of hope. Life will not always turn out the way you planned it, but if you want it strongly enough, it will be exactly how you need it. So, fail spectacularly and become a global sensation: that is the story of The Disaster Artist

The Disaster Artist is available at Luna Cinemas from November 30, Australia wide December 7.

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 2017.

Movie review – Wonder

Refreshingly detailed, Wonder is a joy for both adults and pre-teens alike.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Michael Philp

It would be reasonable to be wary of Wonder. The trailers have sold it as two hours of Jacob Tremblay teaching the world to be nice – pure schmaltz, in other words. That’s a shame because the film goes out of its way to not be that. Admittedly, a large portion of it is still overly sweet, but it counterbalances that with a thoughtful approach to character and world-building. The world does not revolve around Tremblay’s August “Auggie” Pullman, and thankfully neither does Wonder.

Auggie is a ten-year-old boy living in New York with his family: his mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts), his father, Nate (Owen Wilson), and his sister, Olivia (Izabela Vidovic). Auggie suffers from Treacher-Collins Syndrome, which has left him with significant facial deformities. He is the kid you can’t look away from, and he knows it. When the film begins, Auggie is preparing for his first year of elementary school, having been home-schooled for most of his life. Wonder follows him through most of that year and all of the challenges it presents, like new friends, enemies and science lessons.

But, and this is key to the success of the whole thing, Wonder also follows Olivia through that year, giving her a fully realised character arc that’s probably as detailed as Auggie’s. From her perspective, Auggie is a sun that everyone else revolves around – an attention vacuum that threatens to swallow their family whole.

If you want to get meta, Auggie is the low-hanging fruit that these kinds of films get fixated on – easily marketable, designed from the ground up for emotional manipulation – at the expense of their other characters. Wonder is better than that. Rather than blind itself staring at Auggie, the film wisely decides to spend long stretches away from him and his problems. Wonder dedicates substantial screen-time to exploring the planets orbiting Auggie, and it has crafted every single one of them thoughtfully enough to make them worth that time.

At its core, Wonder is about perspective. Auggie’s favourite holiday is Halloween because it allows him complete control over how people see him – it is the one day of the year where he can be Boba Fett instead of “the plague,” as the bullies insist on labelling him. You’ll find these details both textually and sub-textually, and they exemplify the humanity at the centre of Wonder. Adults, keep an eye out for some of the more subtle ones; the film rewards you for doing so.

Not everything works though. Wonder’s quality noticeably dips with an unnecessary school trip to a nature reserve. The trip is an attempt to bring the bullies into the light, but by the time it arrives the film is already pushing its runtime. Worse still, there’s a concussion scare that instantly fizzles out, leaving a weird shadow over a scene that’s supposed to be positive.

You can’t call Wonder sugary – that implies an emptiness that the film works hard to avoid. Yes, it’s a sweet film, and it is a little on the nose sometimes, but it has a strong foundation. It cares about people and giving them the time they deserve. Because of that, the film is probably better suited to children of Olivia’s age rather than Auggie’s. They are the ones that will appreciate the depth of thought put into the characters, while younger ones might struggle with the run-time. Still, Wonder’s message of empathy will resonate with all ages, and for that, it deserves to be seen.

Wonder is available in Australian cinemas from November 30

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 2017.

Movie Review – Lucky

A fitting send-off for a fine veteran actor.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic

 

2017 has been an unfortunate reminder of how time slowly comes for us all, even for those actors whom we so dearly love to watch on screen that that to imagine a world without them would simply be too disheartening. Harry Dean Stanton was one of those deaths that came all too soon, and at the ripe old age of 91, his final film Lucky, serves as a fitting end and no doubt a grim personal reflection for the actor.

The film follows the life of Lucky, a 90-year-old atheist who struggles with the idea of his imminent death amongst those who appear more joyful and content at their old age. Immediately, such a storyline resonates with its lead actor in Stanton but whilst it appears to be a heavy hearted affair, Stanton manages to add enough humour to make it pleasant to watch. He’s even joined by life friend and longtime collaborator David Lynch, who plays his best friend and the chemistry the two share is worth a watch to say the least.

What Lucky does well is telling its message raw and upfront. There are moments where Stanton delivers a lamenting monologue with such unflinching delivery that it stands out as both a highlight of the film and him as an actor. He’s a stubborn, cynical old man who knows he’s going to depart soon and is afraid of what lies ahead. He’s scared shitless, as he says, and this is what makes him human. You sympathise for his plea instead of turning away from what could have been delivered as an arrogant atheist. It makes you appreciate the life you want to live out for yourself and in turn gain the respect to the elderly that you might have forgotten to hold.

Whilst these ideas are great and tell an important outlook on life, they’re not exactly very original. There are plenty of other movies that deal with the same subject but do so far better. Synecdoche, New York and Mary and Max ring a bell and unfortunately Lucky simply can’t compete with the best. Overall, it works simply as a nice slow burn of a movie with a deep-hearted message. Instances between Lynch and Stanton are great, and Lucky himself has a few witty moments and remarks that make you smile but aside from that, it’s not much else.

You know essentially what you’re getting yourself into when you come to watch the trailer, but this doesn’t have to detract from the experience. Lucky is still a well-made film. It’s acted to a tee, it’s executed with aplomb from a technical standpoint and it ultimately holds an important message. If only it’s storyline could have been more interesting with more going on, but perhaps that’s the point director John Carroll Lynch wants to show.

Lucky is available in Australian cinemas from November 16 (Perth- November 23).

Image courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment.

Movie Review – Tulip Fever

Tulip Fever burns slower than it takes for a tulip to grow and bloom.


Elle Cahill

It’s 17th Century Amsterdam and a wealthy Dutchman, Cornelis Sandvoort and his wife, Sophia, are having trouble conceiving. Despite the young wife’s fears that her much older husband will soon divorce her, he pays for up-and-coming artist Jan van Loos to paint their portrait. As he paints the couple, van Loos quickly falls in love with the young Sophia and they start a passionate affair.

There is a lot going on in Tulip Fever, and for the most part it’s hard to keep up with all the different storylines. For almost every character that is introduced in the film, we are given a sliver of their story without any real development, both from a story and character perspective. I counted a total of seven storylines, which is too big a number to fit into a 105-minute film, particularly when the film is also trying to set up the historical backdrop of the tulip mania that took over Amsterdam in the 17th Century, and plays a large part in the overall story.

Tulip Fever has a phenomenal cast including Judi Dench, Christoph Waltz, Alicia Vikander, Tom Hollander, Jack O’Connell, and many more, but director Justin Chadwick fails to utilise their full potential. Dench effortlessly steals every scene she’s in as the head nun of a local parish in charge of growing the tulips for auction, as does Waltz in his portrayal of husband Cornelis Sandvoort, who genuinely loves Sophia (Vikander) and wants to do right by her but is desperate for her to deliver an heir. Hollander also get’s an honourable mention as the sleazy doctor who brings moments of comic relief to an otherwise contrived plot. But this is far from being their best work and feels like a huge waste of talent.

The most interesting part of the film is its attempt at exploring the tulip mania. While it fails to truly show the significance of the mania, it helps establish the film’s setting, and also give a basic insight to the craze that overtook Amsterdam. Unfortunately, like the rest of the film, it gets muddled up with all the concurrent character arcs and fails to bring anything other than tulips to the story.

There is some beautiful cinematography by Eigil Bryld, particularly when Sophia’s on the beach at various points in the film, but most of the time these scenes feel overly indulgent.

Tulip Fever is a real slow-burner that has a lot going on across the various storylines without any proper development taking place. Its failure to pick a central character leaves you feeling confused at the end, as you’re not invested in any of them. I also can’t tell you who or what the antagonist is in this film because it’s never properly identified. This film should serve as a warning as to what happens when indulgence trumps quality.

Tulip Fever is available in Australian cinemas from November 23.

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 2017.

 

Movie Review – Justice League

DC takes two steps forward and one step back on its bumper team-up tentpole, Justice League.

⭐ ⭐  ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

After fours years, just as many films and a hype train large enough to tow a small planet, DC and Warner Brothers hastily arrive at their Avengers moment in Justice League, a crossover event that sees established superheroes like Ben Affleck’s Batman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman team up with fresh faces such as The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher).

Their mission is to stop Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), an ancient interdimensional demon from uniting three ‘mother boxes’, shiny Rubix Cubes with the power to destroy all life on Earth when joined as one.

Having undergone a troubled production, the expectation going in is that Justice League would be a mess, visually, tonally and narratively. Unfortunately, those fears appear to have been well-founded for the most part; Snyder’s third swing of the bat isn’t a miss on the scale of 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it’s hardly the home run many fans were hoping for either.

Narratively, cowriters Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon (the latter of whom also directed a few reshoots after Snyder departed following a family tragedy) cobble together a passable plot that is markedly more straightforward than its bloated predecessor.

This streamlining is a good thing; rather than getting bogged down by mythology, Justice League (with Whedon offering some of his trademark quips) affords its central five heroes time to interact. Batman and Wonder Woman don’t see eye to eye; Cyborg isn’t a fan of Flash’s silliness. It endears us to their cause, making the abysmal CGI throwdown in the third act at least tolerable.

Visually, Justice League isn’t great. The VFX lacks polish and an overreliance on green screen is abundantly clear once the heroes jet off to face their ultimate foe in the final act. The reshoots and last minute tinkering hasn’t done much to help in this department.

The cast is a mixed bag as well; Affleck swings between suave and narcoleptic; Gadot is equal parts a radiant beam of sunlight and a thrilling whirlwind of ferocity; Miller is a jittery and sarcastic millennial who can’t sit still; Fisher is stoic and only afforded a hint of depth; and Momoa’s Aquaman is an insufferable X Games bro with milky white contacts and a penchant for surf lingo – it comes as a surprise that he doesn’t throw a single shaka.

Even the score is a hodgepodge of intersecting leitmotifs, as Danny Elfman throws everything but the kitchen sink into the mix; Hans Zimmer’s uplifting Man of Steel theme and Junkie XL’s thunderous Wonder Woman cues overlap with John Williams’ original Superman theme and Elfman’s own 1989 Batman score. The result is clunky and disjointed – a summation that extends to most of Justice League, to be brutally honest.

And so, we arrive at the end. Things are more hopeful, the status quo has shifted once again and better things to come are teased. But it does beg the question, how long can audiences go before the crippling mediocrity (save for Wonder Woman) lastingly cripples DC’s efforts to ape Marvel? Justice League sees the former lean into the latter’s formula heavily, and it signals a shift in the right direction, albeit a slow one. Once again I find myself whispering under the breath – “maybe the next one will be better…”

Justice League is available in Australian cinemas from November 16.

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 2017.

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