Song To Song

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MSong To Song

Directed and Written by: Terrence Malick

Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezk

Produced by: Sarah Green, Nicolas Gonda, Ken Kao

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Lykke Li, Val Kilmer.

Song To Song is a series of moments captured up close and pieced together to create a love story.

There’s minimal dialogue with the thread woven by the voice-overs of the main characters: BV (Ryan Gosling), Cook (Michael Fassbender), Faye (Rooney Mara) and Rhonda (Natalie Portman).

I had to find my way out of you, to life.

It wasn’t an easy film to watch as the many moments are made through different shots, angles and movement, switching perspectives to show light casting shadows, to leaves swirling in water; the affection of lovers through hands intertwined, socked feet being bitten, a smile or thoughts voiced-over a stare.

I tried to be kind.   It only made me colder.

Director and writer Terrence Malick has reached for the stars with this film.  Creating something aesthetically beautiful but also self-conscious.

The poetic narration of the characters worked well with imagery but the dialogue spoken felt fake and forced.Song To Song

It was like the camera was left to roll, then all the good bits taken and edited into a story that was decided later.

By making a film this way, there’s natural moments of wonder and laughter but it also felt like the actors were self-aware.

Ryan Gosling shone as BV – the warmth of this nature and ready grin making me almost jealous of Rooney Mara as Faye.  I really didn’t like her character at the beginning of the film – that coy, little girl act, grating.

But as the film progressed, I was immersed into the story gaining a better understanding of the character, Faye.

The film’s loosely based on BV making a record deal with the super successful and rich party-boy, Cook.Song To Song

They travel around (with Faye in toe, of course) to places like Mexico and many other different houses and spaces including music festivals.

There’s cameo appearances from the likes of Anthony Keidis, Iggy Pop and Pattie Smith as themselves.  Yet, BV, Cook and Faye kept in character (somewhat), trying to keep that loose storyline – the narrative sacrificed to include some cool footage into the film.

I’m all for the aesthetics but it made some parts of the film unnecessary as the fluidity of the story was lost to include the beautiful and poetic.

Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman make an appearance on the fringes of the film, the story losing itself amongst other people, only to find itself again with BV and Faye, making the journey moving, annoying, boring and sometimes completely absorbing.

It’s a different kind of movie.  I think the film has taken itself too seriously and yet, not seriously enough.

Malick has created a film like an art installation.  Like Andy Warhol filming actresses while interviewing them as they did whatever they wanted as long as it was interesting.  There’s the same feel here.  But revolving around the theme of sex and love – some parts worked, some didn’t.

I appreciated the reach and push made of this stellar cast.  I just wish it didn’t feel so pretentious.

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Final Portrait

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MFinal Portrait

Directed and Written by: Stanley Tucci

Adapted from: James Lord’s memoir, ‘A Giacometti Portrait’

Produced by: Gail Egan, Nik Bower, Ilann Girard

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Tony Shalhoub, Sylvie Testud, Clémence Poésy.

‘No question of the portrait ever been finish’, states Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush).  As a portrait is never finished.

And it certainly begins to feel that way to James Lord (Armie Hammer) after agreeing to pose while on a short trip to Paris in 1964.

Based on James Lord’s memoir, ‘A Giacometti Portrait’, the film is written and directed by Stanley Tucci (also known for his acting and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in, The Lovely Bones (2009)), the film centres on the battle of wills between the two men: Alberto, the cantankerous genius, and the ever-tolerant James: forced to sit on a rickety wicker chair, day after day as Alberto paints and then repaints his portrait.Final Portrait

What began as flattery turns into a test of endurance as he bares the rantings of the aging Swiss-Italian.  Alberto at one point telling James, ‘Don’t scratch’

‘I itch’, James replies.

‘Don’t itch.’

Yet, through all his vitriol and terrible treatment of his ever-loving wife, Annette (Sylvie Testud), he shows warmth and love for his favourite model and prostitute, Caroline (Clémence Poésy).

Funnily enough, a film about an artist is shown in drab colours as most of the scenes were shot in Alberto’s destitute studio – filled with sculptures, finished and some just begun, with long faces resembling their maker.

But I couldn’t help smiling.

Geoffrey Rush is just so believable as this grumpy genius, embracing the artist’s technique of painting, speaking fluent French and Italian and most importantly showing the movement and attitude of the artist.

‘Have you ever wanted to be a tree?’ he asks James.

‘No’.

Alberto might be cranky, but there’s also vision.  And we’re given a glimpse into the mindset of the man.Final Portrait

The quietly knowing brother, Diego (Tony Shalhoub) balances the tone of the film, lightening the mood as he’s well aware of Alberto’s moods.  And still loves him in spite of it.

Set over two weeks, the idea of showing a character through the process of painting a portrait simplifies the peeling away of layers.

The film is really, a character study.

I was surprised when the film finished as I was happy to stay in the wry, exasperating yet thoughtful space.

And the clever way of showing Alberto’s personality was a pleasure to watch.

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The Girl With All The Gifts

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MA15+The Girl With All The Gifts

Directed by: Collie McCarthy

Adapted from the novel, ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’, Written by: Mick Carey

Music Composed by: Cristobal Tapia de Veer

Starring: Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, Sennia Nenua, Fisayo Akinade, Anthony Welsh.

After recently starting to watch, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016) and stopping after 15 minutes because I was just so sick of zombies, I surprised myself by taking in, The Girl With All The Gifts.

With Glenn Close starring and my avid love of thrillers, I thought the film looked good.

It made sense to me, fungi infecting the population and turning humans into blood thirsty beasts.  It’s the need for protein that turns the Hungries into killers.

And as, War Of The Worlds has shown us, and frankly this last flu season, it’s the micro-organisms and shown here, the fungi (not a micro-organism, but you get the drift) that will win in the end…

So, the premise of the film was interesting.The Girl With All The Gifts

The film begins with children, about 10 years old, being wheeled into a makeshift classroom, strapped to a wheelchair, wearing matching orange tracksuits.

The soldiers who transfer them from cell to classroom are obviously scared of the kids, yet, Melanie (Sennia Nenua) is a kind and polite, extremely intelligent school girl.

Until she’s hungry and can smell flesh.

After the compound’s attacked by seemingly endless hungries, Melanie’s favourite person and teacher, Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton), along with Dr Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close), Sergeant Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine), and soldiers Kieran Gallagher (Fisayo Akinade) and Dillon (Anthony Welsh) escape, to the outside world, back to London to wait for rescue.

Scottish director, Collie McCarthy (Outcast (2010), Endeavour (TV series, The Girl With All The Gifts2012) has brought a UK flavour to the film which is a nice change from the saturation of the American zombie takeovers, setting the film in London with native accented characters.

And there’s some good acting here – Glenn Close, who can do no wrong, brings a solid performance as the villainous researcher.  And young Sennia as Melanie holds her own as the hybrid fungal/human creature.

But it was difficult to take the hungries seriously when the fungus growing over their faces looked like green fur.

The infected blew the suspension for me – the hungries not always believable, so after the strong opening, the film waned.

There is some blood and guts for the those who like a bit of gore mixed with suspense.   And a few light moments to break the tension.

I appreciated the thought put into the script with some new ideas making the film more than just another zombie movie.

So, not a brilliant film, but worth a watch.

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Good Time

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MA 15+Good Time

Directed by: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie

Written by: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie

Produced by: Sabastian Bear-McClard, Oscar Boyson, Jean-Luc De Fanti, Terry Dougas, Paris Kasidokostas Latsis

Composer/Soundtrack: Oneohtrix Point Never

Cinematographer: Sean Price Williams

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Ben Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tahliah Webster, Barkhad Abdi, Buddy Duress.

The Safdie brothers (Josh and Ben) return with their fifth feature film, building on their gonzo-style street films with Official Selection and winner of the Cannes Soundtrack Award, Good Time.

And I was hooked from the opening scene.

When Nick Nikas (Ben Safdie) is questioned by a psychiatrist (Peter Verby), you can tell there’s something not right with Nick.  He’s slow.  But asking for word associations for, ‘water and ‘salt’, the sadness and beauty and insight into the always lost but understanding all the same was given when Nick makes the association with the sea while tears run down his cheeks.

Then his brother, Connie (Robert Pattinson) bursts into the room, dragging his brother from a place that’s making him cry – it’s wrong to take Nick from a place trying to help him, but he does it for all the right reasons.  It’s love.

Connie’s not a bad guy, he just does bad things.  He wants his brother to feel what he feels.  Good Time

Sharing the experience of robbing a bank seems easy.  Connie’s smart.  Street smart.  He can manipulate others to get what he wants.  He’s bad because he’s misleading but Connie doesn’t want to hurt people, he just wants to help his brother making the character all the more believable because people aren’t purely bad or purely good, there’s always that somewhere in-between.

After Nick gets caught by the police, Connie has to come up with ten-thousand dollars to get him out on bail.  And he knows there’s only so many times Nick can change the TV and annoy the other inmates before he gets beaten to death.  So there’s desperation to get that $10K.  Nothing good comes from desperation.Good Time

Good Times felt like real life – a moment-by-moment record of controlled chaos.  Like life, sometimes there’s just no time.

Decisions are made in the moment to try to get through and survive.  The raw nature of the film reminding me of Oscar winner, ‘Moonlight’.  But I related more to the 90s vibe here.

I enjoyed seeing Robert Pattinson embrace his role, the Safdie brothers pushing that Brooklyn element of the film.

Ben Safdie and Pattinson wrote letters to each other for weeks as Connie and Nick, discussing their lives in character to develop the relationship between the two brothers to translate onto the screen.

People will go to see Pattinson in a new role but the stand out for me was Ben Safdie as Nick.

And the soundtrack has to be commended.

The more I get into film the more I understand the integration of image and sound to give the story its emotional landscape.

Sound can give so much more than words.

Here, the thought of the ocean began the emotional tone of the film which continued with the soundtrack.

Daniel Lopatin who records under the name Oneohtrix Point Never has created an electronic-based score with the film ending with a song recorded in collaboration with Iggy Pop.

Add the dialogue, sometimes written just before recording, the film had a chaotic feel, making the fiction truthful – believable because only real life can be that strange.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for more from the Safdie brothers.

Good Time had balls with a dash of genius.  And it wasn’t a harsh ride.  It just felt honest.

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Victoria & Abdul

GoMovieReviews Rating:
PG-13Victoria & Abdul

Director: Stephen Frears

Based on journalist Shrabani Basu’s book: Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant,

Screenplay by: Lee Hall

Casting Directors, Leo Davis & Lissy Holm. Casting Director – India, Nandini Shrikent. Music by Thomas Newman. Make-up and Hair Designer, Daniel Phillips. Costume Designer, Consolata Boyle. Production Designer, Alan Macdonald. Editor, Melanie Ann Oliver, ACE. Director of Photography, Danny Cohen, BSC.

Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Beeban Kidron, Tracey Seaward.

Starring: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Eddie Izzard, Adeel Akhtar, Tim Pigott-Smith, Olivia Williams, Fenella Woolgar, Paul Higgins, Robin Soans, Julian Wadham, Simon Callow and Michael Gambon.

In 1887, Abdul travels from India to present a ceremonial medal as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

As the title suggests, Victoria & Abdul is a film based on the (mostly) true events of a previously unheard of close friendship between Queen Victoria and a Muslim Indian, Abdul Karim.

The film opens on a caricature portrait of the queen: an elderly, overweight woman, bored and cantankerous as she attends seemingly endless engagements to celebrate her 50 years on the throne.  Until a tall, handsome ‘Hindu’ catches her eye.

Aside from the difference in age and race, Queen Victoria blossoms under the attention of this most attractive, warm-hearted man.  And you can see the romantic overtures of the relationship as the elderly monarch falls in love with Abdul’s (Ali Fazal) bright eyes and unique perspective of the world.

Although not a physical relationship, Abdul becomes her close confident and Munshi, a spiritual advisor and teacher – completely unheard of in 17th century England.

She persists in keeping Abdul by her side against the pressure and ultimate rebellion of her Court and family, demanding she stop keeping the Indian man’s company, let alone promote him.

And it’s fascinating to watch the iron will of the Queen as she insists – because, after all, isn’t she the Empress of India?

In 2001, journalist Shrabani Basu, while researching the origins of curry, discovered not only Queen Victoria’s love of curries but also a portrait and bronze bust made of an Indian gentleman.   After further investigation, 13 volumes of Queen Victoria’s diaries were found, previously unread because they were written in Urdu (a Persianised and standardised register language of the Hindustani language).

After translating the diaries, Basu discovered the unconventional relationship between the Queen and a young clerk, Abdul.Victoria & Abdul

The book has been adapted for the screen by writer, Lee Hall (who also wrote the beloved, Billy Elliot (2000)), changing the journalistic style of the book into a drama more suited to a wider audience.

Victoria & Abdul

The setting and costuming were carefully crafted, showing the extravagance of royalty while also showing the silliness of ceremony.

Victoria and Abdul is a period drama, which isn’t really my cup-of-tea, but there’s true brilliance in casting Dame Judi Dench as Queen Victoria (again) – Dench depicting the Queen’s grit beautifully with guidance from director, Stephen Frears (both Frears and Dench having experience portraying Queen Victoria with Frears directing The Queen back in 2006 and Dench cast as Queen Victoria in, Mrs Brown (1997)).

Victoria & Abdul gives a glimpse into the personality of the woman, her iron will and the simplicity of her nature; the drawing reflected so well in Abdul’s eyes.

It was like watching an elderly, sick woman come to life.

And inspiring to see one so sure of her wants and needs against all other opinions, even those of her son.

Fan’s of Judi Dench you will enjoy seeing her play the borderline dirty old woman cradle snatching a younger man (Abdul, 24 when he first arrived in England and the Queen, in her 80s), and to admire her strength of character while surrounded by pompous idiots.

So, an enjoyable watch with highlights of humour and emotional undertones – a chance to look behind the curtain of English Royalty, to glimpse a remarkable woman who, against all odds and so late in life, found love and friendship in the most unlikely person, her Munshi, Abdul.

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.

 

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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