Ali’s Wedding

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MAli's Wedding

Produced by: Sheila Jayadev, Helen Panckhurst

Directed by: Jeffrey Walker

Written by: Andrew Knight, Osamah Sami

Starring: Osamah Sami, Don Hany, Frances Duca, Helana Sawires.

Ali’s Wedding is a comedy about an Iraqi Muslim, Ali (Osamah Sami) who doesn’t want to get married – not to the girl his parents want him to marry, anyway.

What he wants is to make his father proud.  Even if it means lying to the Muslim community about his Entrance Score, pretending to study medicine, and becoming engaged to one girl while being in love with another.  It’s a tangled web of lies and deceit sprung from the idea that if he doesn’t live up to expectations he will make it up as he goes along.

Based on a true story (‘Unfortunately’, states Osamah who wrote the screenplay based on his own life), Ali’s Wedding is about a Muslim community living in Melbourne, Australia.

Melbourne is an incredibly multi-cultural city with many religions and traditions floating around.  But it’s rare to be given insight into the Muslim traditions here and to realise how strict it remains.

The women are segregated from the men in the mosque, watching the proceedings broadcast to their separate room via a TV, the girls are looked down upon if they go to Uni and going out with a guy is strictly forbidden unless they’re married (if only temporarily).Ali's Wedding

I hate that girls are still so caught up in these traditions, that their intelligence can’t be celebrated, yet the men are put on pedestals.

I know, I know, a comedy.  But, how is this still possible in Australia?!  And how is it that dirty old men can have many wives?  Is this not polygamy?  And therefore illegal?  It’s legal to have multiple de facto relationships, but does this not go against Islamic religion because it’s not marriage?

Aside from this sticky issue (meaning I have an issue with polygamy not the film itself. And that I promise my rant is over, well temporarily, like these supposed marriages), I can say this film is about how Ali attempts to keep up the traditions while also living in a country so very different to where his parents grew up.  Ali's Wedding

There’s an adorable idiocy to Ali, with his genuine need to make people happy at the cost of being himself.  There’s a sincerity with a turning of prejudice into humour.  And an honest exploration of what it means to be a Muslim in Australia.

There’s been real effort to give the film authenticity, such as bringing extras in from the community and writer, Osama Sami as himself, AKA, Ali.

Don Hany as Sheikh Mahdi, Ali’s father, conveys a wise and warm-hearted man.  Who loves his family with a godly patience.  And I found some of what was said by the father both amusing and thought-provoking.

So, some of the humour hit the mark; some, for me – not so much.

A debut feature film for director, Jeffrey Walker (previous experience including the JACK IRISH TV movies starring Guy Pearce), Ali’s Wedding is full of heart.  And although I question some of the humour, this is something new – a film about the Australian Muslim community told from the perspective of a Muslim that’s managed to be funny while also providing insight.

 

Girls Trip

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA 15+Girls Trip

Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee

Produced by: Will Packer, Malcolm D. Lee

Screenplay by: Kenya Barris, Tracy Oliver

Story by: Erica Rivinoja, Kenya Barris, Tracy Oliver

Starring: Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Larenz Tate, Mike Colter, Kate Walsh, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah.

After 5-years apart, four lifelong female friends reunite for a wild weekend in New Orleans, unleashing their Class of 95 sisterhood, ‘the Flossy Posse’, older and wiser, little do they suspect just how wild and unwise unleashing their former selves will be.

Before the posse join the reveling hundreds of thousands, the throbbing mass of the Essence Festival crowd – where every temptation is overripe for the plucking – they are led into prayer – before their sins begin – by the provocative insanity that is Dina (Tiffany Haddish) a shameless, man crazy, hothead with anger management issues.

  ‘Dear God, my heart is so full of joy for these women right here. Lord please make sure that Lisa don’t get an STD and nobody has kidney failure because we plan to get messed up. And let me get pregnant by somebody rich. Amen’.Girls Trip

Sweet divorcee Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) doesn’t get an STD, but does get a man endowed with an appendage the size of a third arm. How she overcomes the colossal feat of fellatio with grapefruit requires audience tissues, not for crying but for snort out loud laughter that is wet and uncontrollable in a cinema full of strangers.

At the movie’s heart is the tale of Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall) A svelte, successful, self-help author, selling her soul to uphold a marriage now stripped of love but needed to maintain celebrity image and fortune.

And Sasha (Queen Latifah) towers as the Judas character, a celebrity gossip blogger tempted by the fortune she could make by exposing her friend’s marriage to the world before the weekends over.

With an insanely relatable quartet of women, Packer dramatizes his characters alive not with the traditional single-woman qualities of cute man-pleasing sexiness but with women aware of their beauty, outrageous in their partying, their crowd surfing pantyless libidos and their criminal if convicted brawling. And he throws in just a few explosive public golden urine showers over innocent revelers to keep them dangerously unforgettable.Girls Trip

Dina is by far the most outrageous and controversial and in some scenes her motives teeter dangerously between pure funny wrong and pure wrong.

In one scene, she threatens to glass Ryan’s unfaithful husband with the broken neck of a wine bottle and in another she spikes the ‘posse’s’ cocktails with a heavy pour of 200-year-old absinthe – their night turns out hilarious and hallucinogenic but the concept of spiking one’s girlfriend’s kind of breaks that momentum of sisterhood.

In just over two hours, the movie edit could be tighter, but its outrageous moments will propel the word of mouth success of, Girls Trip.

In America, the film grossed over $85 million dollars making Packer 43 one of the world’s most prominent African American filmmakers with 26 movies grossing over $1 billion.

Packer has an innate sense of what his market audience wants and he delivers just that.

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Gifted

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MGifted

Directed by: Marc Webb

Written by: Tom Flynn

Produced by: Karen Lunder, Andy Cohen

Starring: Chris Evans, McKenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate and Octavia Spencer.

Not usually one for tear-jerkers, I came into Gifted expecting a family drama.  What I didn’t expect was to become so absorbed into the story of this caring uncle, Frank Adler (Chris Evans) and his brilliant young niece, Mary (McKenna Grace) who’s a mathematics genius.

Written by Tom Flynn, who was inspired by his own brilliant sister, the script explores family relationships where mothers can’t see the needs of her child, only the gifts to be given to humanity, where uncles are forced into a position to look after a young child without really knowing how to go about it, yet taking the responsibility of creating a family.  Not a usual family, but one of a young brilliant girl, an uncle who probably drinks too much but is all heart, the ever-loving landlady, Roberta (Octavia Spencer) who’s really young Mary’s best friend and Fred, the one-eyed ginger cat.

Movies where a child is the centre and focus can create a gravitational pull towards the precocious.  And there was play around this with young Mary.  However, it was quickly made clear that Frank was going to have none of it.  And seeing the interaction between the two, at how comfortable the young girl was, lying all over this uncle of hers, quickly melted away any pretension.Gifted

This was a beautiful and sweet film.

The addition of high-level mathematics such as The Navier Stokes Equations added to the story without being the true weight.  Gifted is more about the burden that being a genius has on Mary and those around her; of how to let a girl just be a little girl while also nurturing brilliance.

Dr Jordan Ellenberg was brought on board as a Technical Advisor to make sure the mathematics was correct and he states, ‘Genius is a thing that happens, not a kind of person’.  And the film shows Mary as an ordinary little girl who just happens to be brilliant at maths.Gifted

All the cast were believable from the overbearing mother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) to the sweet and love interest, Bonnie (Jenny Slate) as Mary’s teacher.  But certainly, the stand-out was Chris Evans as Frank the uncle.  There is a beauty and depth in the man.  And it was such a pleasure to see him in a role, not as a superhero (think, Captain America), but as an ordinary man.  Well, still behaving like a hero.

I hate letting tears fall with a big lump in my throat in the cinema, but this one was worth it.

There’s so much more to life than money and achievement – there’s also the love between a young girl and a one-eyed ginger cat.

As director, Marc Webb (The Amazing Spiderman 2 (2014), (500) Days of Summer (2009)) described the script, the film’s simple, warm and uncynical.

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA15+The Hitman's Bodyguard

Directed by: Patrick Hughes

Written by: Tom O’Connor

Produced by: John Thompson, Matt O’Toole, Les Weldon, Mark Gill

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, and Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung, Joaquim De Almeida, Kirsty Mitchell, with Richard E. Grant.

Darius Kincaid: Well, when life gives you shit, you make Kool-Aid.
Michael Bryce: Life doesn’t usually give you shit and then turn into a beverage.

When Triple A rated executive protection agent, Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) loses or should I say, watches in disbelief as his client is shot by a seemingly impossible bullet in front of him, his life falls from living the dream, like, right up there, to right down there: escorting coked-up stock brokers.

It’s a wasted talent.

So, when super-hitman, Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) is put under witness protection so he can testify against, Vladslav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), an Eastern European fallen dictator for crimes against humanity, it’s up to Bryce to get him to court alive.

If only Kincaid hadn’t tried to kill Bryce 28 times and wasn’t a complete pain in the arse.

The Hitman's Bodyguard

The Hitman’s Bodyguard uses that old-school formula of two guys who annoy the crap out of each other, leading to funny one-liners in between the explosive action of car, boat and motorbike chases to jumping from buildings gracefully or being ejected through a car windscreen.

There’s loads of action here and plenty of gun fights and bloody bits – a surprising amount of blood and swearing.

But the bromance/comedy/action formula is a classic one and works well if you’ve got the right cast, such as Ryan Reynolds versus Samuel L. Jackson.

It was interesting between Jackson and Reynolds because they’re both strong leads. Yet, they worked well with two very different characters bouncing off the other – Bryce (Reynolds) completely unfazed by the intensity that was Samuel L. Jackson as Kincaid which added to the comedy.

Ryan Reynold’s deadpan facial expressions of disbelief and perfectly timed deliveries were what really made the film for me.
The Hitman's Bodyguard

I can understand why the script written by Tom O’Connor was immediately sold as it’s a lot of fun, particularly with so many cars getting blown up (being more of an action entertainer then a thought provoker) but there’s enough development of the characters to create a satisfying emotional tone, so it’s not all just superficial explosions, there’s also a roundness to Kincaid and Bryce that develops as the relationship progresses.  And thankfully not sappy try-hard, but believable, funny and a bit cute with hard-arse Kincaid giving Bryce love advice.

Director, Patrick Hughes, who’s becoming an experienced hand at superstar casted action flicks (think The Expendables 3 (2014)) has put together a well-balanced and entertaining film.  And I was happy to leave the cinema with a grin.

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All For One

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Produced by: Nick Batzias – Virginia Whitwell.All For One

Director: Dan Jones – Marcus Cobbledick

Writers: Marcus Cobbledick – Dan Jones

ALL FOR ONE follows the first five years of the GREENEDGE cycling journey.

A pack of men united by a spirit to excel and a shared aussie larrikinism– think lycra and rock and roll montages – who succeed spurred on by unquestionable matemanship in their quest to exceed as a team at the Tour de France.

This film doco is a must see as you are swept into their world descending the French Alps as adrenaline junkies on some of the world’s steepest roads.

We are swept in for one hell of ride, super charged with scenes giving us front row seats to impossibly steep and impossibly fast and fearless downhill descents. Unlike downhill skiers who perhaps have the imagery of landing in powder snow there are no such illusions for cyclists as they speed down tracks of metal, rock and tar.

The team’s joy and comradery on tour is infectious with the rousing musical songs of ACDC, Jet and Prodigy in the background. But unlike a rock and roll tour bus there is no excess on a cycling tour just marathon stretches of training, rehydrating and cycling.

In my favourite scene, the cyclists – armed with gladiator strength – face the infamous Paris Roubaix Cycling race.

The race ‘everybody hates to ride and everybody wants to win’, the race where spectators the world over line up to see firsthand the human sacrifice.

The Paris Roubaix is mythical and ancient – Napoleon is said to have advanced his troops over the patchwork track of cobblestones – cyclists carry names such as Spartacus and spectators line the edges thrilled by the prospect of blood sport.

The carnage is real – cyclists ride on with broken collar bones, blood streaming from face plants, bikes and bones litter the race track and the cyclists push on, their determination to finish and succeed is primal.

Of the 200 cyclists that enter the Paris Roubaix only 50 to 100 are expected to finish.All For One

This movie excels through the lens of documentary by revealing the intimacy of real people in their own real stories. Character biographies of cyclists such as Esteban Chaves, Mathew Hayman, Neil Stephens and Simon Gerrans unearth the message of the movie and the secret of their individual success.

The secret they each share is a willingness to get up each day regardless of their fears and circumstances and believing that each step they take in pursuing their dream will only bring that dream closer.

The message will reverberate with you as you depart the cinema. For 100 minutes, you have been swept into the raw pulse of hearts burning on fire with sheer adrenalin and unedited pure joy.

The effect is intoxicating and as a spectator sitting in a blacked-out cinema you soar vicariously through the pumping music rhythms and sinew of muscles and sheer will determined to not give up and win!

I left the cinema breathless, my heart racing, my spirit filled with adrenaline. Inspired by the driving spirit of humanity to overcome incredible odds in pursuit of our passions, I felt that spirit whisper, ‘yes you can, you know you can do this’.

American Made

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA 15+American Made

Directed by: Doug Liman

Writer: Gary Spinelli

Produced by: Brian Grazer, Brian Oliver, TylerThompson, Doug Davison, Kim Roth

Executive Producer: Ray Angelic

Starring:  Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, Roger Mitchell, Jesse Plemons, Lola Kirke, Alejandro Edda, Benito Martinez, Caleb Landry Jones, Jayma Mays.

When a film is promoted as ‘based on a true story’, I’m always curious to know which parts are factual and which take more creative options.

This was the question lingering at the back of my mind as I watched American Made, the story of Barry Seal, a TWA pilot, recruited by the CIA to fly reconnaissance over the camps of communist rebels in South America in the 1970s. In Universal Pictures’ American Made, Tom Cruise reunites with his Edge of Tomorrow director, Doug Liman.

Barry, played by Tom Cruise, establishes his ‘devil-may-care’ attitude in the movie’s opening scene when he tries to liven up his own TWA flights occasionally by turning off the auto-pilot and giving the passengers a quick bouncy thrill.

Barry’s entrepreneurial skills also include picking up black market cigars on his South American stopovers and soon CIA agent Monty Schafer (played by Domhnall Gleeson) makes an offer that Barry just can’t refuse.

Very quickly Barry’s taking more than holiday snaps as he flies low over Communist guerrilla camps in Nicaragua. He’s a natural adventurer and next he comes onto the radar of the Medellin drugs cartel, an organized network of drug suppliers and smugglers originating in the city of Medellin, Colombia.American Made

Barry’s task is to pick up drugs in Colombia and drop them off to contacts in America so when he is eventually nabbed by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), he does a deal that sees him further recruited to deliver arms to the Contra rebels who are fighting for the overthrow of the Sandinista left-wing government in 1979 in Nicaragua.

Yes this sure is a bumpy ride and viewers need to hold onto their seats lest they get lost in the dramatic twists and turns of Barry’s story.

There’s not a lot of acting required here.

Cruise as Barry, whose moniker became ‘the gringo who just gets things done’,  roller-coasters through the action despite a slightly puzzled look on his face.

Sarah Wright as Lucy, his wife, plays the role of a pregnant, frazzled mother one minute and next the good-time party girl when the dollars start rolling in.

Domhnall Gleeson, as the CIA agent, is really just the stereotypical, emotionless cog in a well-oiled machine.American Made

However, the surprise for me was Caleb Landry Jones, playing ‘Bubba’, Seal’s brother-in-law. He was outstandingly creepy in the recent excellent thriller, Get Out. Here his character displays a truly believable feeling of pathos, with albeit, just a little bit of creepiness too.

This movie is billed as comedy and plays for laughs and even occasionally morphs into Keystone Cop routines, choosing to pay no attention to the hidden but real human casualties of the drugs cartel and of the arms Contra deal. The USA-supported Contras were later accused of widespread kidnapping, torture, murder and rape of civilians.

However, in the end it’s difficult not to be swept along, as Barry obviously was, by the movie’s excitement and adrenalin rush and to leave these more serious questions for another time.

The 1970s – 80s look of the film is totally convincing in music, costume and style – there’s a sort of brown and orange haze that reminded me of an Australian 1970s beach house.

And despite his tragic end, Barry obviously made the most of it all so why, I suppose, shouldn’t we?

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Logan Lucky

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MLogan Lucky

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Written by: Rebecca Blunt

Produced by: Gregory Jacobs, Mark Johnson, Channing Tatum, Reid Carolin

Starring: Farrah Mackenzie, Channing Tatum, Jim O’Heir, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Boden Johnston, Sutton Johnston, David Denman, Charles Halford, Adam Driver, Seth MacFarlane, Mark McCullough, Daniel Craig and Jack Quaid.

Logan Lucky is about the not-so-lucky Logan Brothers who put together a heist to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race – one brother, Clyde Logan (Adam Driver), with one arm, I mean, one hand missing after being blown off on the way to the airport in Iraq, about to come home after fighting in the war.  And the other brother, Jimmy (Channing Tatum) with a limp, just fired from his truck driving job because of said limp – not that the limp would’ve affected his driving.

The Logan brothers enlist the help of demolition expert, Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) (ha, ha, Joe Bang), currently incarcerated; sister and hairdresser, Mellie (Riley Keough) and Joe Bang’s younger brothers, Fish (Jack Quaid) and Sam (Brian Gleeson).  Add these characters together and you’ve got a motley crew of robbers attempting a complicated job: the release of a prisoner, accessing the cash at the raceway, extracting and removing the cash from the site and the re-insertion of an escaped convict.Logan Lucky

After the introduction of these slow talking, seemingly thick-headed hillbillies, the film just kinda fumbled its way through the motion of the heist while expressing all those white trash clichés like child beauty pageants, John Deer trucker caps, long painted nails, big hair, NASCAR and energy drinks.  Well, the energy drinks were a bit different, as was the poodle-haired, race-car owner, Max Chilblain (Seth MacFarland) who owned the stuff and was forever trying to promote the drink by forcing it down his driver’s throat.

So, you can see there’s a parody here, of the backward North Carolina culture – but there’s also a paradox with smarts here too, like a tasteful martini made with one hand; a bomb made from bleach and gummy bears on the other…

I admit the dry humour eventually got me tickled and once tickled it was easier to laugh.  But the humour didn’t always hit the mark.

The stand-out for me was the one-armed Adam Driver as Clyde Logan.  Maybe I find amputee humour ticklish?  But, yes, his quiet take on the world was the highlight for me.Logan Lucky

There were some sweet moments, particularly between Jimmy Logan and his daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) – passing the flat-head screwdriver or the wrench or singing a heart-felt country and western song.  And there was a coming around and twist here and there with the story but I was too far gone on the hillbilly nature of the characters.

I got bored with the clichéd and any twists in the story felt cheap, like an Ocean’s Eleven (2001) (of which Soderbergh also directed) re-make, but starring hillbillies… without action…

So, it was a weird mix of: intelligent plan with backward characters.

The film outsmarted itself by building the hillbilly nature of the characters at the loss of story, so Logan Lucky ended up being kinda funny and kinda smart.

I wanted to like the film more, but didn’t quite get there.

PS. What was the deal with the Hillary Swank FBI character, Sarah Grayson? Brought so late into the film the character felt tacked on, a little like this PS.