Wonder

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: PGWonder

Directed by: Stephen Chbosky

Produced by: Todd Lieberman, David Hoberman

Screenplay by: Jack Thorne and Steven Conrad and Stephen Chbosky

Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Izabela Vidovic, Daveed Diggs, Mandy Patinkin.

How would you feel if your appearance caused strangers to gawp, freeze in horror or avert their eyes, so they could pretend they couldn’t see you?

This is Augie Pullman’s world, a 10-year-old boy born with severe facial deformities, about to enter school for the first time. At the school gates with his fiercely loving family, Mum, Isabella (Julia Roberts), Dad, Nate (Owen Wilson) and his teenage sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), Augie hesitates to remove his final shield of anonymity, a space helmet, his final buffer between him, and a schoolyard full of staring children.

Augie accepts that he is different, he just wishes everybody else didn’t have such a hard time with the way he looks.

Based on a New York Times bestseller, Wonder addresses today’s appearance driven culture where one is quick to judge another without making time to look beneath the surface.Wonder

Director Stephen Chbosky refuses to demonize the surface appearance of his characters by using film to shoot Augie and all those in his orbit through multiple viewpoints.

With multiple viewpoints Chbosky chooses not to minimize the severity of Augie’s facial differences, or the value society places on physical appearance.

One stand out scene is in Chbosky’s multiple viewpoint rendering of the bully, Julian, (Bryce Gheisar).

When Julian is called into the Headmaster, Mr Tushman’s (Mandy Patinkin) office to account for allegedly photo shopping Augie as deformed out of their class photo, we are stunned and moved to compassion as Julian’s mother interrupts and presents an unexpected layer to this scene. Julian’s mother unapologetically declares that she photo shopped Augie out as she was sick of her visitors concentrating on the deformed kid in the photo and not seeing her son.Wonder

As Julian’s parent storm out of Mr Tushman’s office, Julian turns back to apologise. As a child with an innocent heart he knows he has done wrong and is genuinely sorry. Without recrimination only heartfelt sadness Mr Tush says, ‘I know you are son’.

There is a lot of heart and transformation within this film and a lot of unbridled joy.

I was captivated by the effervescent joy and connection between Augie and his family.

This is a family everyone would want to be part of. A family whose joy is not metered or seeking approval from anything external to themselves. A family who celebrate each other and their unique differences.

Via says to Augie, ‘Why blend in when you were born to stand out’.

And it is Augie’s self-acceptance that transforms the lives of everyone in this story and everyone watching.

Wonder penetrates as a film about the self-acceptance of our differences and how the choices we make define and expose our truest character.

When we don’t accept ourselves it is easy to judge and put down those who are different from us. Our judgements never define those we judge, they define us.

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The Only Living Boy in New York

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MThe Only Living Boy in New York

Directed by: Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2)

Written by: Allan Loeb (21, The Space Between Us, Just Go with It)

Producers: Albert Berger, Jeff Bridges, John Fogel, Mari Jo Winkler-Ioffreda, Ron Yerxa

Cinematographer: Stuart Dryburgh

Starring: Callum Turner, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan, Cynthia Nixon, Jeff Bridges, Kiersey Clemons.

When Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) bemoans the fact he hasn’t done much in his twenty-something years, his new-found mentor, writer W F Gerald (Jeff Bridges) reminds him, ‘You’ve had sex with your father’s mistress. I’d say that’s something.’

And that’s sort of this film in a nutshell.

Fragile relationships, forbidden love and flawed characters.

Sadly, despite the stellar cast, this is also a flawed movie. Part The Graduate, part Barfly, The Only Living Boy in New York does not reach the heights of either of those films – but to be fair, not too many films do.

That’s not to say this film is to be avoided, there’s plenty to keep one interested for the duration.The Only Living Boy in New York

Jeff Bridges is clearly enjoying the chance to get down and grungy; the presence of Lou Reed (through music and references) adds to the New York feel; Cynthia Nixon as Thomas’ mother and Ethan’s (Pierce Brosnan) wife is nicely understated, and there is obviously other eye candy for most audience members (Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan and Kiersey Clemons).

Thomas, a college graduate, discovers his father, Ethan, is having an affair with a beautiful colleague, Johanna (Kate Beckinsale). He decides to follow her and, somehow, for some reason, and with little resistance from either of them, they too sleep together.

At the same time, Thomas’s best friend, Mimi (Kiersey Clemons) announces she’s dropped her muso boyfriend, obviously in the hope of taking her platonic relationship with Thomas to the next stage.

Everyone has decisions to make: unfortunately it’s pretty much the same decision for all of them – who to choose?

The only other substantial revelation/surprise comes toward the end but most will see it coming from a long way away.The Only Living Boy in New York

One of the main reasons this film does not reach the heights it could have is that it’s hard to feel much for pretentious, cliched, wealthy publishing types.

Their actions are those of New York aristocrats bored with life but lacking the wherewithal to expand their interests outside their circle of influence. They could do anything: travel the world, climb Everest, skydive – anything they want; but they choose to wallow in their own dissatisfaction.

So while there is enough interest to follow their story, one does so with little sympathy for any of them. ‘Wake up guys and smell the flowers’, that’s if flowers grow in New York.

Interestingly, with the actors he had to work with, and the context of the story, Marc Webb fails to make the most of the sexual chemistry that should have oozed off the screen.

On balance, a film that, with more subtlety and nuances, could have been a ‘must see’ but that still has enough to provide for a pleasant ninety minutes to fill – so long as you’re not expecting the class, style and substance of The Graduate.

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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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’.

A Ghost Story

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Written and Directed by: David Lowery A Ghost Story

Producers: Toby Halbrooks, James M. Johnston, Adam Donaghey

Cinematographer: Andrew Droz Palermo

Starring: Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck.

A Ghost Story invites us into the tender space of young love shared by Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck and the tragic aftermath of grief as a fatal car crash leaves C dead and transformed as a ghost throughout the movie.

Landlocked by love in one state of being and one place, C remains beneath a sad and forlorn sheet with cut out holes for eyes, to witness time and his lover change without him.

Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, Aint Them Bodies Saints) had been wanting to tell a ghost story for years with the classic iconography of the bed-sheet ghost and with Affleck as no ordinary ghost he achieves that.

Lowery sets the visual tone that this is not a traditional motion picture by shooting the film in the 1:33 aspect ratio, meaning the image width is only slightly greater than its height.  This film technique enabled Lowery to create a towering presence of the shrouded ghost, a still and dominating presence within each scene.A Ghost Story

The cinematography is pared back with the glare and grit of everyday realism and it is in the familiar and the known that Lowery captures us.
Through doorframes – a fascination of Lowery’s – both dark and functional, they frame Affleck and Mara in ordinary rooms of no import, but it is in their lack of adornment where the intimate confrontations and revelatory keypoints are revealed without massive movement or violence.

There is something to a movie with long stretches bereft of dialogue, we remain in the stillness as the ghost does and without distraction we sink further into the tragedy of love lost without goodbye and time moving forward where the loved one occupies no space only in memory.

In an unforgettable scene, Mara’s luminous distinctive features convey all the profound grief you thought you’d need dialogue for. In isolation, she stuffs an entire family size chocolate pie in a single four-minute take. The body of food is ill equipped to replace her loss of C.

In a later scene, we witness the profound pathos of love and of lost hearts craving connection through the ghost’s presence.A Ghost StoryA Ghost Story

When M finally leaves their home, she embeds a lover’s note into a door frame. The repetitious scratching by a ghost without hands is both tragic and beautiful and as he seeks to unearth the note oblivious to the passage of time without him, we are reminded his sense of identity is derived from his attachment as the beloved.

As I left the cinema I was unsure how I felt about the movie and had to sit with it for a while – in fact a few days – as I stepped out into the noise and the bustle of my ordinary world.

I felt haunted by the film’s imagery of tender grieving and the paradox of grieving a love torn apart by unforeseen tragedy and the living with love separated from the adored one.

Through the art of film Lowery poses the aesthetic as a response of grief and catastrophe.

A Ghost Story penetrates as a poignant reminder that the blessing of our good luck is to sit in witness to an event that is possible to each of us.

Our shared humanity wants to vouch safe the journey of love and for it not to leave us ill-prepared for the space that remains in the absence of the loved one.