Jasper Jones

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MJasper Jones

Director: Rachel Perkins

Producers: Craig Deeker, David Jowsey, Anita Sheehan

Written By: Shaun Grant, Craig Silvey (story)

Based on: the novel ‘Jasper Jones’ by Craig Silvey (2009)

Starring: Angourie Rice, Hugo Weaving, Toni Collette, Dan Wyllie, Levi Miller, Aaron L. McGrath

The purpose of a good film is to resonate with its audience and to change our perspective: Jasper Jones did just that for me and stuck around long after I left the theatre behind.

The story of Charlie’s coming of age is about the choices we make based on what we think we know and how sometimes misinformation gets confused with facts.

We tell ourselves our life story everyday, shaping our sense of identity, our purpose. To the point that only a catalyst event can set things straight.

The night Jasper Jones finds Laura’s body, he knows that would be the end of him. As a mixed race outcast, the town he calls home would find him guilty in the blink of an eye.

And so he reaches out to young Charlie, asking for help in the middle of the night. It is a move made out of desperation, as he fears for his life.

As the plot advances, we submerge into a time and place where gossip is the common currency and nothing is what it seems behind closed doors. Where Jasper, Charlie and Eliza embark on a courageous adventure to solve a mystery, while most of their community chooses to look away.

As director Rachel Perkins stated: ‘Stories, in the words of our writer Craig Silvey, exist to promote empathy, to test preconceptions and to transform opinions. The audience will ultimately be the judge if we have succeeded in that quest.’

Jasper Jones is a best-selling Australian novel by Craig Silvey. 
The novel has received broad critical acclaim and commercial success including being shortlisted for the prestigious IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2011 and shortlisted for the Australian Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2010.

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Fifty Shades Darker

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA15+Fifty Shades Darker

Director: James Foley

Producers: Michael De Luca, E L James, Dana Brunetti

Based on the novel by: E L James

Screenplay by: Niall Leonard

Soundtrack score: Danny Elfman

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Kim Basinger, Marcia Gay Harden, Eric Johnson, Bella Heathcote, Rita Ora

The second film in the Fifty Shades series, based on the novel Fifty Shades Darker by E L James, is lame, tame and generally depressing, especially when compared with Fifty Shades of Grey, which had some lighter moments associated with the excitement of first love.

The second film was like watching a Mills & Boon telemovie with a wanna-be feisty heroine, brooding hero, and situations where the characters are forced to admit How Much They Mean to Each Other, set amidst a backdrop of obscene wealth (why are the heroes never accountants?).

Originally an e-novel loosely inspired by the Twilight saga, Fifty Shades of Grey ended with heroine Anastasia Steele (perky breasted Dakota Johnson) breaking up with gloomy yet ripped businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) because she couldn’t be the “submissive” he needed.

In Fifty Shades Darker she now claims “things are different”, deliberately teasing Christian and trying to seduce him in the Red Room, totally negating the strong stand she took earlier.

The Fifty Shades books and films have been criticised for glamorising domestic violence and abusive relationships. The books certainly depicted Christian as being oppressive, sexually deviant and overbearingly bossy, whereas the films portray him more as a once-victimised and still vulnerable person who has to be in control, and who probably just needs a good woman’s love to redeem him.

I don’t find the criticisms about emotional/physical abuse valid because Ana returns here of her own free will, makes conditions and often instigates the sexual interludes with Christian, who says that although he desires the kinky stuff, he needs her more. She seems compelled to test his resolve by deliberately encouraging him in sexual activities that are like awkwardly shot soft porn but curiously lack any arousing power, and which interrupt the actual story, such as it is.

Christian’s work life barely gets screen time (how does he make all that money?), while we’re supposed to believe Ana is a gifted business woman because she pitches one idea breathily at a board meeting to publish “new” writers instead of just established ones, which is received as though no-one had ever thought of it before.

Fifty Shades Darker has quality production values, beautiful cinematography (by John Schwartzman) of mountains and rain-slicked city streets, and a bopping soundtrack. There are established actors in minor roles, including Christian’s adoptive mother (a dignified Marcia Gay Harden), and his former Dominant, Elena (a well preserved but wasted Kim Basinger), but other characters from the first film barely register.

A former Submissive (Bella Heathcote) stalks Ana and appears to pose a threat that is resolved too quickly. The villain here is Ana’s former boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), who in one hilarious scene produces a printed photo of one he took earlier on his phone, just so he can evilly burn a hole through Christian’s face as a sign of future revenge in the third film.

Subtlety, credibility and entertainment are not hallmarks of this film, although there are some unintentional laughs. For sexual titillation watch the Sylvia Kristel version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1981), while for brooding romance you can’t beat Jane Eyre (Orson Welles version, 1943).

SPLIT

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MSPLIT

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Writer: M. Night Shyamalan

Producer: M. Night Shyamalan, Jason Blum, Marc Bienstock

Executive Producer: Steven Schneider, Ashwin Rajan, Kevin Frakes

Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula

Director and writer M. Night Shyamalan (Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), The Visit (2015)) is back with his unique, sometimes tongue-in-cheek style of horror thriller, this time featuring Kevin (James McAvoy): a man suffering (or is he suffering?) from DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder).

After the kidnapping of three young girls, the audience is given a taste of the 23 different personalities inhabiting Kevin’s body.

Shyamalan together with clever camera angles (from cinematographer Mike Gioulakis) use the change in personality to amp up the horror the kidnapped girls experience when they realise their captor is using completely different voices to have a conversation, with himself.

It’s Kevin’s psychiatrist, Dr. Karen Feltcher (Betty Buckley) who speculates whether DID caused through trauma is a weakness or a strength.  And whether the Split is a way of tapping into the plasticity of the brain, creating pathways into parts unknown.

An interesting premise and the main thrust of the film.

 

Shyamalan really takes the idea of tapping into the power of the mind as far as he can. The result being a thought-provoking horror with a bit of dark humour thrown in the mix.

Thankfully, the few snorts of laughter I had were meant to be provoked, but jeez, there’s a real push of that suspension of belief, the suspension achieved through the believable and truly phenomenal performance of James McAvoy as all those differing personalities.

McAvoy’s great at those parts that require equal measures of
nice guy versus evil.  I kept thinking back to the character from the film: Trance (2013), another thriller that delves into the mind.

And Anya Taylor-Joy was well-cast as the, well, out-cast, Casey Cook.  Anya looks different here, compared to her unforgettable performance in, The Witch (2015), but you can’t miss those sanpaku eyes…

I think people will either swallow the story and enjoy the film, or they won’t.  There’s certainly a unique flavour here.

I liked the exploration into the realm of neuroscience, the idea that thought and belief can change the organic.  To make imagination into reality.  And I enjoyed the interaction between the personalities of Kevin and Dr. Karen Feltcher, the sessions giving much needed authenticity through the grounding dialogue.

However, I found myself wanting to get sucked in then jolted out of the film with that weird sense of humour that’s all Shyamalan.

SPLIT is something different to watch, that reaches for those edges. And if you don’t mind a bit of weird you’ll be rewarded with a unique story well executed.

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Toni Erdmann

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MToni Erdmann

Director: Maren Ade

Producers: Maren Ade, Janine Jackowski

Written By: Maren Ade

Starring: Sandra Hüller, Peter Simonischek, Michael Wittenborn

Family is one of the few things we do not choose in life.

We can change jobs, we can move to another country. But family is the one thing we cannot get rid off. No matter how hard we try.

The talented Maren Ade masterfully delivers an emotional story while criticising the corporate world in Europe and the ruthless German approach to ‘assist’ countries much less favoured economically, such as Romania.

But I am not into politics myself. As a European, I’ve had enough of that.

Watching Toni Erdmann took me back to a few months ago when my father came to stay with us. To me, he was relentless, embarrassing and short-sighted.

I could see myself in Ines. I could feel her struggle as she deals with her father.

The constant façade that she builds to prove that she can do better.

Her father’s transformation, an invasion of privacy at first, slowly becomes a fierce fight to recover his daughter by taking over a new persona. Toni and Ines’ story is a plea for coming clean, to reconnect with our family despite our differences.

Toni Erdmann is much more than a film made for entertainment sake.

I laughed, I cried and it made me think. And that is as much as you can ask for.

Maren Ade is a resourceful writer, director and producer. She founded the production company Komplizen Film with producer Janine Jackowski.

In 2015, Komplizen Film was honoured with the Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in German Film by the DEFA Foundation.

Patriots Day

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MPatriots Day

Director: Peter Berg

Producers: Scott Stuber, Dylan Clark, Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson, Hutch Parker, Dorothy Aufiero and Michael Radutzky

Screenplay by: Peter Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer

Based on the book: ‘Boston Strong’ by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge

Soundtrack: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J. K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan

Based on true events surrounding the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Patriots Day details the hours leading up to, during and immediately following the attack which killed three people and seriously injured over 270 bystanders, sixteen of whom lost limbs.

Director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg previously collaborated on the disaster flick Deepwater Horizon (2016), and their combined talents have enabled them to effectively recreate the Boston Marathon bombings with gritty realism.

Shot in a semi-documentary style, using hand-held cameras to capture the raw immediacy of events, the film effectively incorporates archival footage from the 2013 marathon. I think of this style as “shaky cam” and by the three-quarter mark of this 133-minute feature I was feeling very queasy, so if you prefer smoother camera work it might be best to sit far back from the screen. The synthesizer soundtrack music became repetitive and intrusive at times and a bit distancing, where silence might have worked better.

The actual bombing sequence wasn’t a surprise because most people know it happened, so the first half of the film focussed on establishing who would be directly affected by the bombings and allowed the audience to become attached to these people. The explosions were effectively staged and edited, and quite graphic without dwelling too much on the gruesome severed limbs.

After a slow patch the tension increased during the second half when the police and FBI manhunt turned to identifying and tracking down the perpetrators of the bombings.

Star Mark Wahlberg portrayed a fictional police officer, an amalgamation of several actual officers, and I felt he was the weakest link because he wasn’t based on a real person and his backstory was largely irrelevant. The sequence where the FBI call on his extensive knowledge of Boston streets to retrace the two bombers’ steps with technicians who then scroll through CCTV footage to find the culprits, really challenged credibility. Surely there would be effective IT software to achieve this without relying on the memory of one sleep-deprived man!

The home-grown terrorists (brothers) were not given much obvious motivation for their actions, aside from a short conversation with the owner of a hijacked car. The first shoot-out with the two terrorists when one of them was critically injured and captured seemed quite over the top with extensive gun fire, home-made bombs exploding and general mayhem ensuing, but a check of the facts indicates it really happened this way.

Boston and its people came across as the real heroes of this inspiring film, with the term “Boston Strong” becoming a rallying cry of hope and love in the face of horror.

What really got to me, however, was not the capture of the remaining terrorist but the photos of the three victims who had died at the scene, particularly the eight-year-old boy, whose sheet-covered body had to be left in situ until all crime-scene forensics had been completed.

That heart-rending photo of innocence really brought home the sheer waste and tragedy of this horrific event.