Deepwater Horizon

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Action/Drama           Rated: MDeepwater Horizon

Director: Peter Berg

Screenplay: Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand

Screen Story: Matthew Sand

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O’Brien and Kate Hudson.

Based on the article written by David Barstow, David Rohde and Stephani Saul: ‘Deepwater Horizon’s Final Hours’, Deepwater Horizon is about one of the largest man-made disasters to have ever occurred.

Ultra-deep-water drilling off the coast of Louisiana, the rig suffered a massive blowout after pressure caused oil to explode up the pipeline.  The oil then caught fire destroying the rig.  The disaster killed 11 people and leaked 50,000 barrels of oil into the ocean for 87 days.

Deepwater Horizon is about putting the audience in the midst of the disaster, about pressure from the depths hard to fathom.  In fact, the whole scenario is difficult to get my head around because I’m not an engineer nor a deep sea drilling technician that understands drilling and pressure and the forces of rotting dinosaurs from a previous millennia.  And there isn’t a requirement to have this knowledge as the film shows the staff, doing what they do, without dumbing it down for the audience.

The story is shown in a way where you get it.  That the mud is used to contain the pressure of the oil, so that if it’s oozing up the pipes onto the rig, that’s a bad thing: the mud isn’t stopping the pressure.  And if that dial goes to a psi in the red area of the dial, that’s a very bad thing.

That’s what I liked about the film.  Being right there with the people working on this monstrous rig.

Mark Wahlberg as the Transocean chief electronics technician, Mike Williams, gives a great performance as an everyday guy doing his job.  And Kate Hudson as the wife waiting at home keeps the cheese to a minimum – it’s all about down-to-earth folk just dealing with it.

Wahlberg and director, Peter Berg, have worked together previously in the film, Lone Survivor.  Another survival story about making tough decisions. Berg doesn’t use cheap tricks to tug the heart strings, he just tells a tale with an authentic flavour and Wahlberg plays the no-nonsense hero well.  And the simplicity and straight forward telling of Deepwater Horizon gave the story more impact and power.  It was left to the audience to feel the emotion.

I love a good techy film and Deepwater Horizon filled the bill with great camera work to show the scale undertaken to drill into the depths of the ocean; and the explosion and visual spectacle of the disaster was totally believable on screen.

There was a glossing over of the politics of dealing with BP, but covered by the interaction between Donald Vidrine, the BP company man played by John Malkovich (he plays a villain just so well) and Kurt Russell as Mr. Jimmy who was the offshore installation manager.

Rather than the politics or emotional drama, Deepwater Horizon was more about the confrontation of the disaster itself.  And I liked that.

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Mountain Cry

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MMountain Cry

Directed by: Larry Yang

Adapted Screenplay: Larry Yang

Music by: Nicolas Errèra

Cinematography by: Patrick Murguia

Starring: Yueting Lang, Ziyi Wang, Taishen Cheng, Ailei Yu, Jin Guo, Caigen Xu, Chendong Zhao; Siying Li.

Language: Chinese Mandarin

Subtitle Language: English

Based on: Lu Xun Literary Prize recipient novel of the same name written by Ge Shuiping.

Mountain Cry is a Chinese tale of a mute girl, Hong Xia (Yueting Lang), who moves to a remote rural village with her abusive husband, La Hong (Yu Ailei), and two children.

After her husband is killed by a detonation used in a badger trap set in the woods, a young villager, Han Chong (Ziyi Wang) is blamed for the accident.  The village council then forces Han to look after the young widow and her children until the debt is paid for killing her husband.

Mountain Cry has been beautifully adapted to the screen with director and screenwriter Larry Yang relating this amazing story of Chinese village life and the two main characters slowly falling in love.  But this film is so much more than a romance, there’s crime here and mystery.

The characters show more of themselves with each action, with each scene adding weight to the adage, show don’t tell.  There was such a gentle touch here with tragedy and longing, freedom given and taken away, responsibility and loyalty and love all revealed like leaves slowly falling.

When novels are adapted to the screen there can be the feeling of parts missing or the story being rushed or glossed over, but Mountain Cry was a complicated story given depth, revealed slowly allowing the audience to become absorbed by the mystery of Hong Xia’s life.  Not surprising that the film won Shanghai International Film Festival Media Award Best Director Award and Shanghai International Film Festival Media Award Best Scriptwriter Award.

Although set in 1984, there was a classic feel to the story: old fashioned tools used for farming, handmade paper and painted writing, and the echoing sound of voices and drums like the heartbeat of the vast mountains.

The scenery was captured beautifully by cinematographer, Patrick Murguia.  And the soundtrack a fitting accompaniment (Nicolas Errèra) to this classic Chinese tale.  But it was the characters who were the focus, and their relationships.

Although a tragedy, the story was lifted by the simple warmth of Han Chong and his ginger kitten, but you need a quiet mood for this one.  And I have to say the film was slow at times.  But by the end, I was completely absorbed and pleasantly surprised by the mystery and beauty of the story.

A slow reveal but well worth the journey.

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Everybody Wants Some!!

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director/Writer: Richard LinklaterEverybody Wants Some!!

Starring: Blake Jenner, Juston Street, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell, Glen Powell, Temple Baker, J. Quinton Johnson, Will Brittain, Zoey Deutch, Austin Amelio, Tanner Kalina, Forrest Vickery.

As suggested by the title (a classic by Van Halen), Everybody Wants Some!! is a tribute to the ‘80s era (and yes, they all really do want some).

Ah, the ‘80s – how far we’ve come from: pooh brown pants with tight shirts tucked in, the mighty mustache – the mighty mosh out in all its glory; tape decks and punk rock, smoking where-ever, pin ball machines and table tennis.

The film had a lot of fun with the college setting in the 1980s. But Everybody Wants Some!! was also about freshmen settling into college life with all the girls and parties and lessons to be learned.

Set at the start of term, freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) arrives at a house where the ceiling is about to collapse because the guys are filling up a water bed for better bedroom experience with the ladies – the frat house for the college baseball team.

Following Jake and the other freshmen settling in over the 3 day lead-up to the beginning of classes, it’s party time, where the focus is finding a girl while sizing up the rest of the guys in the baseball team.

The guys are happily physical with each other; a natural competitiveness comes to light with each personality rising to the surface as the days and parties continue.

And the film evolves into an interesting story of guys facing the challenge of growing into themselves, and how friendships develop through the ability to appreciate difference; to be able to fight, get over it and grow.

There were some fascinating perspectives discussed while taking hits from a bong.

And I enjoyed the baseball!

I’m really not a sports fan, so I was surprised how much I liked seeing the characters play.

The baseball wasn’t a feature until later in the film and this was clever as it showed a more serious side to the characters: this wasn’t about sizing each other up and challenging, this was about working together as a team.  Bullshit just doesn’t cut it because this is about their future.  Something to be taken seriously.

So yes, there was loads of testosterone and girls in skimpy outfits.  But there was also an honesty and sincerity here.

Richard Linklater also wrote the 1993 film Dazed and Confused (the predecessor to this one).  I was far younger when I watched Dazed and Confused, and I loved the cheekiness of it, the fun.

Everybody Wants Some!! although still relational, had a greater intellectual aspect.  This is a step up from High School.  This is College.

These aren’t just idiot jocks out for a root (well, not all the time), there’s also a seeking, a challenge in these characters.  And it was good to see guys just being guys.

At the start of the film, I would have to say the humour was aimed at a younger audience, as was the message: more your teen to 20s, perhaps.  But I enjoyed the film more as it progressed.

An entertaining winter warmer loaded with testosterone developing into a film with a surprising amount of depth.

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GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director/Writer/Music: Ivan SenGoldstone

Starring: Aaron Pedersen, Alex Russell, David Gulpilil, Jacki Weaver; David Wenham.

Sequel to Mystery Road (2013).

A crime drama set on the backdrop of the desert mining town of Goldstone.

Goldstone gets you thinking about the value of life out in isolation where the threat is from the people who run the town and earn the mighty mining dollar.

Out there in the desert, the desolate packed earth runs through the veins up to the soul of those unable to quench it.

This is a film driven by the strong performances of Aaron Pedersen as Jay Swan, the grieving drunken cop sent to the country of his mob to find a Chinese girl gone missing.  And Jacki Weaver as the Mayor: a cold character, with the ice in her stare showing the predator beneath her floral apron.

David Wenham as Johnny, the head of the mining company, was also a stand-out performance: an iconic Aussie character with his stubby shorts, long socks pulled up to the knees and glasses from the ’70s.

And the Indigenous people also play a part in this film, with old man Jimmy’s (David Gulpilil) voice echoing off the red rock reflected on the water of secret rivers.

It’s unique, the setting of this film.

Director Ivan Sen makes the most of the endless land and rosy sunsets by taking shots from high above to show the utter isolation of the place.  He uses the quiet threat of the land where wild half-breed dingoes and flies will eat you if you happen to get lost.  The lone cop, Josh (Alex Russell) telling the detective, the outsider, ‘Be careful where you step, there’s plenty of snakes around’.

And I found the quiet of the film interesting, with a soundtrack made up mostly of the desert wind and bird call of the outback.

This isn’t a film that entertains but takes you on a journey of crime in a place so isolated, the one cop in town is seemingly unable to fight it.

It’s a different set of rules in Goldstone, amongst the hawks and red dirt.  And this film highlights the difference between the organic, the value of fish in the river compared to the fake power of money.

Goldstone is glittering glass often mistaken for natural material.  And like the title of this film, money is just paper.  Human trafficking is not of the earth.  It’s a human trait, like fake gold.

So yes, this is a quality film that gets you thinking, but it’s such a quiet slow burner you need to concentrate with this one.

Me Before You

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Directed by: Thea SharrockMe Before You

Writer: Jojo Moyes – Screenplay and Novel

Starring: Sam Claflin, Emilia Clarke, Vanessa Kirby, Eileen Dunwoodie, Pablo Raybould, Gabrielle Downey, Steve Peacocke and Henri Charles.

When Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke) loses her job as a waitress at a café, she takes a position as a carer for the cantankerous quadriplegic, Will Traynor (Sam Claflin).

Born the eternal optimist, Lou works at winning a smile from a man who is literally on suicide watch.

Me Before You follows the relationship between Lou and Will, taking the audience through the highs and lows of a once adrenaline junky who had life in the palm of his hand to a man completely reliant on others to function in life or to even get out of bed.

So, between the super cheesy soundtrack, the Mary Poppins reincarnation exhibiting the most expressive eyebrows I’ve ever seen on film and a storyline made to squeeze tears, you can guess I’m not a fan of these drama/romance/tear jerkers!

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I can also say that Me Before You was a heartfelt story with lovely moments and well-paced drama.

I couldn’t help but love Lou (even with those eyebrows), with her quirky outfits and genuine love of life and people: I’ve never hated anyone,’ she says.  And yes, she’s believable if not ditzy.

Will Traynor was suitably irritable, with the two characters set up in a narrative formula of cranky meets sweet.

Aussie actor Steve Peacocke as Nathan was a pleasant surprise: a no nonsense nurse who takes on the heavy lifting – a practical character who added a realistic view of Sam’s injury.

But the cheese of the soundtrack!

Look, I felt this movie, I really did.  There were tears and not a dry eye in the cinema.  And it wasn’t because it was all sad and disability, there was mostly a lightness, carried by the optimistic Lou. But, it’s a story made to pull the heart strings – romance crossed with the tragedy of debilitating injury leading to the controversial contemplation of euthanasia.  Not a storyline I’d usually go for, but a film well-paced with thought put into the characters and effort put into the build of the relationship between Sam and Lou.

If this is your sort of movie, yeah, it’s great.  But you need to be in the mood for this one.  Make sure to bring the tissues.

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Whisky Tango Foxtrot

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Directed by: Glenn Ficarra, John RequaWhisky Tango Foxtrot

Screenplay: Robert Carlock

Based on: ‘The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan,’ by Kim Barker

Starring: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, Billy Bob Thorton, Steve Peacocke; Christopher Abbott.


Kim is a 40 year old copy writer who spends her time on an exercise bike going no-where.  No matter how hard she peddles, Kim just isn’t getting anywhere.  Her life is going backwards.

Presented with an opportunity to get out from behind a desk and report in front of a camera in Afghanistan, Kim leaves her boyfriend and comfortable life for the chaos of the Kabul Bubble where shit literally flies through the air.

Whisky Tango Foxtrot (I’m thinking military speak for WTF) is a juxtaposition of genres: war, comedy and drama.

It’s hard to categorise Whisky Tango Foxtrot.  There’s some dark humour here: Kabul International Airport A.K.A Killed In Action.  But I would say this movie is a drama with the main character, Kim Barker (Tina Fey), having a midlife crisis.

At the beginning, I was concerned the film was falling firmly on the ‘My life journey’ style of film, but thankfully, with the introduction of characters in Afghanistan, the film took off on its own journey with the focus on the characters and the reality of life in the ‘ka-bubble’.  

I wouldn’t call the film a comedy, even though Tina Fey (known for her parts as a comedian) is the protagonist, but there are funny moments with the misunderstandings between different cultures, and the inherent humour of Iain, the Scottish photographer.  Yes, this is mostly a drama with the elements of war: gun fire, bombs blasting and drones flying, played over with a sometimes cheesy soundtrack.  It was a strange juxtaposition between this romantic drama and comedy set on a backdrop of the war in Afghanistan.  This wasn’t a MASH situation.  There were some serious thought-provoking moments.  And it worked.

I enjoyed watching this film because I liked the characters.  The translator, Fahim Ahmadzai (Christopher Abbott) was a standout with warm eyes and a genuine soul; then there’s the security guy Nic (Steve Peacocke), fellow journalist, Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) – yes the film was heavy on the Aussie actors not that it’s a bad thing!  Then there’s the photographer Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman), the politician Ali Massoud Sadiq (Alfred Molina), the general Hallanek (Billy Bob Thorton) and then the people of Afghanistan.

This was a well-rounded story, and yes, it was heart-warming.

It was just some of the moments were strange.  For example, Kate reporting in front of the camera only to realise she’s standing near a dead body hidden under rubble but for an arm.  Not funny, just a bit strange.

The mission undertaken by marines with the green of night vision but with a romantic soundtrack playing, also strange.

But the strength of the storyline with the careful handling of the characters by directors, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011); Focus (2015)), Whisky Tango Foxtrot was an enjoyable film to watch.

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The Daughter

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Directed by: Simon StoneThe Daughter

Produced by: Jan Chapman, Nicole O’Donohue

Screenplay by: Simon Stone

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Ewen Leslie, Paul Schneider, Mirada Otto, Anna Torv, Odessa Young, Sam Neill.

An Australian film based on a play by Henrik Ibsen, ‘The Wild Duck’.

After Henry (Jeoffrey Rush) closes down the timber mill, the town starts dying – boarded-up shop fronts reflect the people left: hidden secrets kept behind the surface of happy families.  But slowly, the surface is scratched away as Chris (Paul Schneider), Henry’s son, reunites with his family and old Uni mate, Oliver (Ewen Leslie), to attend his father’s wedding to his second wife, Anna (Anna Torv).

I love films based on plays – you always know the characters are well-developed and the dialogue a highlight and authentic.  But I hadn’t prepared myself for the emotional kick in the stomach this film became.

This is a story about being lucky in life even if it’s not perfect.  A roof over the head of a loving family, that’s being lucky.  Yet, the others who don’t have it, want to destroy it.  Even if they think it’s the right thing to do.  And there’s many a sad story behind every seemingly happy family.  And this is a very sad story.  Yes, a few deep breaths are required.

I was particularly affected by the stand-out performances of Miranda Otto playing Hedvig and Ewen Leslie as Oliver, playing father and daughter and the beautiful relationship between them.  Sam Neill as the grandfather is also worth mentioning – ‘Stories like these are as old as the hills’, he says.

The setting of the film is chosen carefully: country scenery of fog drifting through the trees of a pine forest and sunlight reflected off the water running through grassy banked rivers.  Yes, there’s some real beauty here.

And Hedvig is such a lovely, smart girl, her love of the people in her life a fragile treasure that all who know her try to protect.  But mostly there’s a sadness, like a duck shot out of the sky and left with a broken wing.  You can only hope she’ll fly again.  Lucky duck if she’s saved.  But is she lucky if she can’t fly?

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