Based on a touching true life memoir from Matt Logelin that details the firsthand experiences he had raising his first daughter when his wife tragically passed away, Netflix's high profile release Fatherhood (that is in no way connected to the Parenthood franchise) see's director Paul Weitz team up with a dialed back Kevin Hart to deliver a pedestrian affair that while having it's heart in the right place, fails to make much of an impact as either a drama or a comedy seeped in real life scenarios.
Starting out promising enough with Hart working in a similar space as he did with The Upside from a few years ago and showing off a different side to his smart talking persona that has established him as one of the modern era's biggest comedic forces, Fatherhood suffers just as many other recent Paul Weitz films have also over recent times from a sense of by the numbers delivery and failed opportunities, as our initial interest quickly gives way to a struggle to stay engaged in a film that lacks the spark to make it fly.
It's hard to remember that at one stage Weitz was part of the creative duo behind comedy classics such as About a Boy and American Pie, with his last twenty or so years in Hollywood failing to inspire much in the way of content worth recalling and that lazy and lethargic direction is found throughout Fatherhood, with many ripe and potentially fantastic moments in Logelin's parental struggles passing the film by to feel like nothing more than a checklist of familiar scenarios delivered in unsurprising and non-engaging ways.
It's a shame this is the case as alongside Hart Weitz had the talented Alfre Woodard, Lil Rel Howery and the rising star power of DeWanda Wise at his disposal but all these performers are underutilized in poorly designed side characters and uninspired scenes with Hart left too do the films heavy lifting through his restrained performance, that at times you wish was allowed a little more breathing room to create a more flavorsome offering that is too clean and workmanlike for its own good.
Being based on a true story and being relatable to anyone that exists amongst a family unit, Fatherhood should've been something a little more than what we get here but as it stands it ends up being nothing more than another quickfire Netflix original that will gain some initial wins for the streaming service but quickly disappear into its growing back catalogue of watchable but low-level films.
Final Say -
While its nice to see Kevin Hart try his hand at something a little more meaningful and while the story at the heart of this tale is well-intentioned and pleasant, Fatherhood does nothing we haven't seen before and was in dire need of more laughs or emotional highs.
Continuing on his return from what must surely go down as one of the shortest retirements in Hollywood history, Oscar winning director Steven Soderbergh is back to the crime genre his known so well throughout his career with the likes of the Oceans trilogy, Traffic and Logan Lucky with his new star-studded vehicle No Sudden Move, a direct to HBO Max feature that is easy to watch without ever becoming the riveting outing it thinks itself to be.
Without question better than Soderbergh's previous efforts such as the diabolical Unsane and the barely noted streaming efforts such as High Flying Bird, The Laundromat and Let Them All Talk, Move is a quick moving affair that is shot in a bizarre fish eye like manner thanks to extra long lenses (a distracting way too have filmed this talk heavy affair) as we follow low end rent a criminals Curt Goynes and Ronald Russo (Done Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro) as they navigate a complicated job that goes south very quickly in Detroit of the 1950's.
Not bothering with much in the way of set-up or exposition as we get introduced to Goynes and Russo accepting a job off Brendan Fraser's organiser Doug Jones, Move gets stuck into things without a fuss or worry but the travails of these two shady figures isn't always engaging enough to hold our interest, even if a late act play about what's really going on and what lays at the heart of the job at hand makes things far more interesting in the grand scheme of things, making one wish Soderbergh had allowed this too play out a little earlier to help overcome the films hump in its middle act after a solid home hold-up start.
As is usually the case with a Soderbergh film in this genre, the films dialogue and delivery from a name brand cast ensures this small-scale film feels larger and more prestigious than it perhaps ought to feel like and having been long term servants of Soderbergh projects, Cheadle and Del Toro are as solid as ever as two rather generic central figures with lot of joy to be had in the supporting turns from the likes of Fraser, Ray Liotta, David Harbour and a surprise cameo from someone that may not in fact be such a surprise on second thought.
Capturing the time and place of 1950's Detroit well and ensuring things keep moving even when not a whole lot is happening, Move is a polished middle of the road effort from Soderbergh but one still wonders what the whole point of his return from retirement is if his films continue to be of this generic nature, even if the technical aspects of them feel as though they're an excuse for a creative to try and find the next best thing.
Final Say -
Not always thrilling, No Sudden Move isn't able to match Soderbergh's best efforts in the crime cannon of films but its able cast and neat last act still make it worth a look.
The crowning achievement in Irish director Jim Sheridan's career to date, with his film nominated for 7 Oscars in the 1994 Academy Awards ceremony including one for Best Picture and Best Director, the based on the true story In the Name of the Father is an incredibly well acted and scripted drama that nowadays may feel more familiar to viewers than those that watched it with fresh eyes upon release but one that still holds a power over and grip on viewer's to this day.
Based around the story of Irish based father and son Gerry and Giuseppe Conlan, two simple souls from Ireland who were unfortunately targeted by British police in relation to an horrific London bombing attack by the IRA in 1974 and alongside other innocent acquittances jailed for heinous crimes they never committed, Father clearly harbors a story Sheridan and his two leading men Daniel Day-Lewis and the late Pete Postlethwaite were passionate about as they bring the Conlan's story to life.
As is too be expected from work by quality actors such as Day-Lewis and Postlethwaite, Father's power and memorability is helped along by their stunning work and it's sad to think that with Day-Lewis now retired from acting and Postlethwaite having passed away in the years following Father's release that these performers can no longer give us turns like this and watching the two industry stalwarts join forces as a father and son that at times are at odds against one another but at other times beautifully bonded in love, is the type of high caliber material moviegoers often seek out but rarely find.
Unlike some of his other big turns in his most famous roles in the likes of Gangs of New York or There Will Be Blood where he chewed scenery and anything else that was in his path in the best possible way, Day-Lewis in particular is a lot different to how we usually expect to see him as the care-free, mischievous and ultimately likeable Gerry, a man who dabbles in petty thievery and partying but is anything but a cold blooded murderer and his turn here is easily up their with some of his best performances in a career that was littered with them.
Allowing us to get know Gerry before he became a wrongly imprisoned criminal, looking for new opportunities in London as his country of Ireland is torn apart by pointless war and carnage ensures there's a lot of audience good will for him and his kindly father and while the film never strays off the well-trodden path of these type of fight for justice films that have become a mainstay of Hollywood and other cinema for some time, there's a quality and heart to Father that will ensure its place in the hearts and minds of audiences for years yet to come.
Final Say -
It never does anything in a way we wouldn't of expected from this type of story but there's an undeniable power in the Conlan's story and the performances of Day-Lewis and Postlethwaite are as good as you could possibly get from two leads.
Showing no signs of slowing down hot off the heels of Black Widow, a raft of well-received Disney+ series and arriving not too far in front of the hotly anticipated The Eternals, Marvel continues to put in work that puts many other wheelhouses too shame, with the marital arts infused Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, yet another entry into the brands increasingly loaded catalogue of quality blockbuster releases.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly what Marvel keep doing to maintain the momentum that started all those years ago with 2008's Iron Man, it's absolutely correct when many say a lot of these origin stories and event pictures follow a very set formula from A to B, but with an ability to attract some of the best actors working in the industry today and handpicking a raft of some of the most exciting Hollywood filmmakers around, Marvel have once more struck gold with the incredibly fun and inventive Shang-Chi.
Quite possibly the most visually sumptuous Marvel film yet, sometimes feeling as if Marvel has meet with Ang Lee/Yimou Zhang and in my mind the Marvel film that features the best choregraphed action scenes yet from the spectacle heavy brand, Shang-Chi is a big screen blast that is freshly directed by the upcoming Destin Daniel Cretton who here has got his just rewards after his great debut Short Term 12 and the sadly undervalued The Glass Castle came before this big-budgeted ride.
Infusing his film with a great energy and charm that is enhanced by the work of leads Simu Liu (in a career launching turn) as our likable hero Shaun/Shang-Chi, Awkwafina (doing her usual but fun schtick) as Shaun's bestie Katy and Tony Leung as the unfortunate villain of the piece Xu Wenwu, Cretton has turned out to be the perfect choice to start off the cinematic journey of the fist swinging Shang-Chi and helps instill in his film some nice differences to what we've come to expect from comic book blockbusters of the modern era.
Most notably for the film is the exciting use of hand to hand combat that is delivered spectacularly in two stand out sequences on board a moving bus and then bettered alongside a high rise building in Macau, both these set pieces are easily some of the most noteworthy of any Marvel film yet while also benefiting the film other than its Asian infused eccentricities is the fun relationship between Shang-Chi and Katy than never bothers with adding extra baggage to add weight to their believable and fun friendship.
If there was a major drawback to Shang-Chi's many wins it is in an overdrawn finale, a major problem many have acknowledged previously when it comes to Marvel films, Cretton and his team can't quite stick the landing for Shang-Chi with it being a little too long in the tooth for its own good and slightly overblown and while it features some incredible imagery and technical wizardry, the films rip-roaring start and strong middle section gives way too something lesser.
Final Say -
Another huge win for Marvel who have here with the help of director Destin Daniel Cretton and his talented cast, created an instantly likable cinematic universe that provides the comic kings with one of their most unique and exciting playgrounds yet.
Most surprises in life aren't often of the pleasant variety but if there was a 2021 surprise for all of us to take stock in its Pig, a truly unlikely high-quality film that is absolutely not the movie you expect it to be, as it becomes both a touching drama and a timely reminder that when given the opportunity, the oft-maligned Nicolas Cage is still right up there with the very best working in the industry today.
What on paper may appear to be yet another tax necessity direct to video d-grader starring the one time Oscar winner, Pig is not Taken with hooves and is far removed from the type of mindless fare you'd expect from first time feature film director Michael Sarnoski, as we get a meditative, slowly-paced and effective examination of life, what we find purposes in and love as Sarnoski's 90 minute drama slowly begins to show it's hand on it's way too what is likely too remain one of 2021's most emotional poignant final stretches.
Appearing in almost every scene of the film, Nicolas Cage is award worthy here as reclusive truffle hunter Rob, a man who has eschewed society (and showers!) and only has one remaining contact in the form of Alex Wolff's (delivering a performance that is too worthy of award recognition) budding entrepreneur Amir and finds peace and meaning in his friendship with his beloved foraging pig that is taken from him by a bunch of strangers Rob is determined to track down.
Saying too much more about where Pig goes and how it goes about it would be a disservice to the carefully considered way in which Sarnoski and his leading man tell their tale but more often than not the story of Rob and his quest to discover who has his hooved friend takes us to unexpected places and deals with instances in unexpected ways and in a day and age where many films simply follow a path trodden out before them previously, Pig is a breath of fresh air in the most surprising of ways imaginable.
Also helping its case to becoming 2021's most unpredictably great drama and one of the best films of the year period is the films haunting and minimalistic score by Alexis Grapsas and Philip Klein, the moody cinematography by Patrick Scola and the pitch perfect script by Sarnoski, who has well and truly announced himself to the industry with this uniquely beautiful effort.
Final Say -
Put your prejudices aside and forget what type of film you think Pig is going to be on face value, this is one of 2021's best film's and a resounding reminder of the talents of Nicolas Cage.
You heard it here first, Riders of Justice will at some stage become a Hollywood remake, as this Danish mixture of thriller/comedy and a sprinkling of hard drama harbors within it a great story of revenge and intrigue that whilst as it stands doesn't set the world on fire, makes for a ripe foundation for what could be a genuinely great film.
Frequent collaborators, director Anders Thomas Jensen and leading man Mads Mikkelsen (once more proving to us why his one of the best working in the business right now) start things off with a bang here as we are introduced to a scenario where Mikkelsen's army man Markus is rushed back home to care for his teenage daughter when his wife is the victim of what appears to be an unfortunate train accident but when Markus is told by a duo of researchers that claim they know more about the accident and what it may've been, Markus is set on course for action against a criminal group that appear to have played a part in the occurrence.
Filled with various twists and turns, Justice takes us on a journey we are not always prepared for as Markus squads up with Nikolaj Lie Kaas's deep thinking Otto, Lars Brygmann's complicated Lennart and Nicolas Bro's computer wizz Emmenthaler and while at times it appears as though Jensen's film is headed down a particular pathway or set-up Jensen's oddball script and bizarre moments keep things fresh for better and for worse as the film finds it tough balancing its various tonal shifts with audience sentiment as we remain often unaware of how we are supposed to be feeling at any given time.
Dealing with some heavy material that lay at the core of its narrative, Justice could be draining stuff without the moments of lightness it has frequently throughout, often courtesy of Emmenthaler's unpredictable behavior or Jensen's witty script but at times you wish it had decided more concretely what film it exactly wanted to be as you can't help but feel this familiar feeling yet originally constructed set-up had more to give us than what exists as a final product.
Despite these failings there's very little doubt that Justice is a well-made and performed film and a rare example of a foreign film that deserves a chance to be remade with hope that all of its elements can combine into one to create something truly special.
Final Say -
A unique hybrid of a film, Riders of Justice features yet another top quality Mads Mikkelsen performance and a story that surprises at multiple occasions but its uneven tone and difficulty in making us understand what we should be feeling because of it halts its chances of becoming a must-watch.
An Australian horror/thriller short film shot in and around the Victorian city of Geelong, Grounded is an impressive independent offering from the mind of actress and writer Josephine Croft in partnership with director Jesse Richards.
Taking place in a setting that will seem foreign to many of us around the world in today's climate, Grounded's seven minute runtime takes place almost entirely within the confines of a plane that has been left on the runway with Croft's unfortunate Anne stuck on board all alone....or is she?
Wasting little of its precious screen time time on build-up or set-up, Richards and Croft get stuck straight into Grounded's neat premise as we and Anne are thrust into an horrific situation made all the worse by the fact that Anne begins to suspect that her hellish winged prison may not be a pleasant place to drink a bottle of juice in.
There's not a lot of depth or metaphorical meaning to what transpires in Grounded but there's an abundance of aspects to enjoy here, from Croft's solid turn as the frustrated and scared Anne, Richard's impressively produced directing and Sean Tinnion's memorable score, Grounded may be born from the DIY handbook but its a stylish and well-put together short that deserves its place amongst various festival's and competitions around the world.
Always a joy to support local Australian offerings and to get around up and coming talent, Grounded is well worth keeping a close eye on as one suspects that this is the beginning of a collection of intriguing careers from this capable group of Australian makers and shakers.
Final Say -
A moody and well designed short genre offering, Grounded takes to the skies of low-budget filmmaking in a memorable way.
In what's only his second feature length film as a director following on from the little seen but well-received 2012 Richard Gere starring Arbitrage, Nicholas Jarecki tackles a weighty and topical multi-strand exploration of the opioid pandemic that is running rampant throughout America and the world but despite a capable cast and potential to craft a tension riddled thriller with a message, Crisis suffers its own titular problem as it fails to find an identity for itself or craft sufficient suspense too keep us engaged.
Unfortunately suffering a fairly paramount problem when it was initially released not long after one of its headlining stars Armie Hammer found himself in hot water for a raft of very public issues, Crisis does struggle to overcome the fact its at this time hard to remove Hammer the actor from Hammer the character and his role as DEA undercover operative Jake Kelly often takes us out of the time and place the movie finds itself in but that's only one part of why Crisis is unable to properly enthrall as Jarecki tries but fails to propel all of the films plot strands into one cohesive or intriguing whole in what ends up feeling like a poor mans Traffic.
There's very little energy or imagination on display here as Evangeline Lilly's ex-addict mother grieves the loss of her teenage son whilst discovering how he wound up dead in suspicious circumstances, Gary Oldman's college professor/researcher takes on a big drug company trying to sell a dangerous new drug and Hammer's DEA agent works to take down a world-wide drug operation with the film and Jarecki's direction feeling very much like Crisis has come straight from the made for TV bracket of Hollywood.
It's not to say there aren't moments within the film that feel like they belong in a better film, Oldman's arc in particular as the up against the odds Dr. Tyrone Brower feel like the could've belonged in a much more tightly focused and refined film and as you'd expect the Oscar winning actor is always a joy to watch even when his found himself in something not befitting of his talents (an unfortunate trait that is getting more prevalent these last few years) but for a majority of Crisis's runtime you will be finding it hard pressed to find a real reason to care, especially with Lilly's lacklustre story strand occupying far too much landscape in a film up against it to stay afloat.
It's a shame such a relevant for our times dramatic thriller that rips story elements straight from the headlines of today is such a forgettable affair and in an industry that has at present mostly forgone these multi-faceted and multi-pronged examinations of hot topic issues, Crisis had a chance to make its mark only to fail to capitalise on the tools it had at hand and chances it might've taken creatively to be something worth tracking down.
Final Say -
A capable cast and a narrative that could've been something special is mostly wasted on a lethargic and by the numbers outing that doesn't do anything worth noting. A mundane, if not horrible offering that is likely to quickly sink away into oblivion, Crisis is a mediocre film in almost all aspects.
It's incredible to think that despite 40 years passing since it initially burst onto cinema screens around the world that Mad Max 2 (aka The Road Warrior), George Miller's action extravaganza, has lost none of its thrilling spectacle power thanks to its "for real" stunts and high-octane energy that still surpasses many modern films to this day.
Ramping up things a hundredfold from the original Mad Max that featured a few car crashes amongst its post-apocalyptic wasteland adventure featuring Mel Gibson's ex-cop Max Rockatansky, Road Warrior was at the time of production the biggest budgeted Australian film of all time that saw Miller and his creative team enact carnage unlike we'd ever seen done on a local production, that also was an inspiration and benchmark for the action genre in the years to come.
Often regarded as one of the best examples of an action experience committed to screen thanks to its endless barrage of car-fueled stunts and mayhem (Terminator director James Cameron sighted the film as an inspiration to his action work) and arguably only bettered when Miller's long time coming Fury Road finally roared onto screens a few years ago, Road Warrior is powered by the most barebones of plots you're likely to see in a feature but that matters little when the enthusiasm and eye candy on show is what you came to see.
Barely uttering more than a few lines throughout the entirety of the film, the at the time still up and coming Gibson doesn't get much too do overall here and is far less charismatic than he would come to be known for in efforts like Lethal Weapon and Braveheart but in many ways that's the joy of the Mad Max character, with a simple man merely trying to survive an anything but simple time and place, a place where marauding bandits like Kjell Nilsson's Humungus commands running the barren dust swept lands of Australia as they seek out death and destruction and the much sought after gasoline.
Rampaging along at a brisk pace that just passes the 90 minute marker, Road Warrior isn't at all interested in nuances or moments of reflection with Miller hellbent on ensuring that most of the films screen time is action first and questions and answers last and in an age where many modern films attach unneeded baggage and filler to their stories in hope people see deeper things in their flash and pizzazz, Road Warrior is still a joy to behold today as we witness and partake in organized chaos at its finest in the land down under.
Final Say -
There's not a lot happening under the hood of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior but the insanely choregraphed and orchestrated car-founded action is still a cinematic thrill to this day that was largely unmatched for years until Fury Road changed the game again.
For his first feature length film, released recently via Amazon Prime across the globe, Australian writer/director Aaron McJames channels his inner Dark Star to create a micro-budgeted sci-fi/comedy oddity that relishes in its rough around the edges delivery to produce an outing that is sure to find a nice place amongst the cult circuit of independent films that are adored by film fans seeking out something very far from the mainstream.
Seemingly a passion project for McJames, who clearly knows his genre entries with Astro Loco featuring a number of throwbacks and winks to films such as 2001: A Space Oddity, Aliens and Sunshine but despite his film feeling indebted to these type of science fiction classics (as well as John Carpenter's DIY sensibilities that served him so well over a number of decades), Astro Loco does feel like its own beast as we follow a motley crew on a more than likely doomed mission across the galaxy on the request of a money making focused organization.
Marking the return to screen for Australian actor David Argue, who made a name for himself in key appearances in classic Australian films like Gallipoli, BMX Bandits and Razorback, Astro Loco features a willing cast inhabiting our vessel who find themselves bickering and clashing with one other over various occurrences that is exasperated by the ever present presence of the Jon Reep voiced A. I Hetfield, who is starting too showcase worrying signs as his intelligence and understanding of humanity begins to evolve.
Reading the films synopsis or watching the films trailer may make one think they know what they're in for when they sit down to watch Astro Loco but thankfully McJames ensures his film takes enough unsuspecting twists and turns and features a wonderfully pitch black comedic sensibility that you often feel as though this dialogue heavy outing, which puts characters above spectacle (both due to budgetary reasons and narrative purposes), is a surprising and imaginative affair.
Undoubtedly held back by its financial restraints, casting necessities and some punchlines and emotional beats that don't quite stick the landing, when taken for what it is, Astro Loco is a fine example of getting things done with the bare basics and signals a director who deserves more chances to apply his trade on a more fiscally backed outing.
Final Say -
A fun and inventive feature length diversion that is sure to find its fans in the cult film world, Astro Loco is a sci-fi comedy that has enough heart and imagination to be worth your time.
One of the most glaring examples of an "almost" film I can recall seeing, poor old Reminiscence at times comes mightily close to providing us with something special and wondrously inventive but more often than not squander's it chances to become a film that is intriguing in parts but quickly moves towards a picturesque failure rather than an original winner.
Transitioning from her work on the hit HBO series Westworld and marking her feature debut as a director, Lisa Joy has found very little of her namesake with Reminiscence's recent release around the world on the hybrid same day streaming/cinema format that has seen her Hugh Jackman starring sci-fi infused romantic thriller sink badly at the global box office in what will go down as one of 2021's most disastrous performance's from a financial point of view.
Garnering a slew of fairly mediocre reviews with but a handful of critics willing to overlook the films failings for the good it sometimes manages to deliver, Reminiscence feels like a poor man's hybrid of Inception and call's to mind the grand vision of a now revered film such as Dark City as we follow Hugh Jackman's army man turned memory investigator Nick Bannister through a mysterious case of missing love interest Mae (Jackman's Greatest Showman co-star Rebecca Ferguson) in the not to distant future where the war ravaged world is overcome by rising sea-levels and people's obsession with re-living the past rather than the dreary present.
Story wise this concept provides Joy with a great chance to explore some wonderfully realized visual moments and the film is jam-packed with references and insights into a greater world you wish we had been able to explore here but what we are left with outside of the great mix of neo-noir cityscapes and dingy dive bars is a rather so-so story between Bannister and Mae that never becomes a love story or mystery that grips like it could've.
There's so much going on here you almost feel as though Joy and her friends at HBO would've been better served had they decided to allow Reminiscence to grow and expand its many concepts in a mini-series or the likes, this may've given room for the foundation of the story to grow, for us to find reasons to care more about Bannister and Mae's dealings and for the mostly hinted at scenarios in this product to become more than something that teases us without every providing a resulting feeling of satisfaction.
Final Say -
Visually arresting and filled with some fantastic ideas, Reminiscence is sure to find some fans but for the majority, this will be a disappointing experience in the "almost" category.
One of the biggest examples of an "almost" film you're likely to see, Walter Hill's genre mash-up of thriller, drama, musical and neon-soak western Streets of Fire was designed as a "Rock n Roll fable" that was tag-lined as "Tonight is what it means to be young" but this rarely spoken about oddity was a failed franchise starter that wasn't quite able to get all elements humming in harmony, despite it still being a unique and important part of Hill's often undervalued filmography.
Regarded in cinema circles for his work behind the camera on films such as Southern Comfort, The Warriors and 48 Hrs. As well as a being key figure behind the classic Alien series, Hill has had an incredibly diverse and original journey in Hollywood, with his passion project here one that looked to combine some of the writer/directors favorite cinematic staples into one entertaining package but you can see throughout the entirety of the film the struggle that it faces to be so many things all at once as the film only ever gels together in brief but memorable moments.
Taking place in a rain drenched unnamed city (with the films rain effects eating into a large chunk of the movies budget), Fire kicks things off with a fully-fledged concert performance from Diane Lane's Ellen Aim, who is briskly kidnapped mid-performance by Willem Dafoe's Raven and his gang of motorbike riding hoodlums, only to find herself planned to be rescued by her ex-boyfriend Tom Cody (Michael Pare in one of his biggest lead turns) and a motley crew, with the film barely pausing for breath between songs, beat-ups, one liners and Dafoe's latex outfits.
It's an insane hybrid of ideas and moments, the film is about as 80's as you'd get with Ry Cooder's score, the Blade Runner like sets and fashion all well and truly of the era but you can also sense the Western influences on the film with Cody's trench coach sporting ex-soldier turned mercenary the type of character you could see being created with Clint Eastwood in mind, while the Rock and Roll undertones (and Rick Moranis supporting turn) other components to a film that wanted to reach for the stars and do things its own way, only to find itself treading water in the middle ground on its way too being an entertaining conjuring that didn't cast the spell it wanted to.
For all its failure's too properly launch or stick the landing, there's little doubt that Fire is one of the more ambitious box office disasters of the 80's, one that provides to this day a solid viewing alternative to modern day affairs that can often be produce of a tired and copycat heavy system, with Hill's film further proof that the Hollywood legend is a director that walked his on path to create products for the ages.
Final Say -
It's not the slam dunk you'd hope it too be but this undervalued piece of 80's cinema is unlike anything you've ever seen before or since with Streets of Fire a film you need to watch to understand.
A familiar legal drama with some fine performances
Nominated for two Golden Globes and winning one for the performance of its leading lady Jodie Foster, The Mauritanian is a prestigious drama that knows its way around a good story but director Kevin Macdonald's film never excels in any major facet, meaning whilst always watchable and at times gripping in its telling of a true life tale, this rather generic and forgettable film can't find its own voice in a marketplace filled with many such trial over adversity legal dramas.
Having not made a truly good film now since 2009's underappreciated thriller State of Play, that followed on from his best works The Last King of Scotland and the unforgettable Touching the Void documentary, Macdonald finds himself struggling once more to infuse his features with much energy or stand out elements and The Mauritanian really suffers from its restrained delivery that the best efforts of its leading performers can't help overcome.
In her most fully formed role in some time, Jodie Foster is as solid as you'd expect playing real life American based lawyer Nancy Hollander who found herself working towards freeing Tahar Rahim's Guantanamo Bay inmate Mohamedou Ould Slahi from his years of imprisonment and torture after American intelligence agencies pinpointed him for involvement in Al-Qaeda activities and dealings with September 11 terrorists, despite a seemingly serious lack of hard evidence against the well-spoken and long-suffering soul.
At its best when Foster and Rahim share the screen (with Rahim finally getting a role worthy of his talents after his breakout A Prophet lead turn), The Mauritanian plods along on its two hour journey and while the injustices committed against Slahi are evident and emotional, the film itself never quite manages to combine all its powerful moments or situations into a white knuckle thriller or a gripping all round drama as Macdonald ticks off a serious of typical political drama features (boxes of evidence delivered to offices, people crying while reading reports) and wastes the supports of Benedict Cumberbath and Shailene Woodley along the way with underwritten and basic side characters.
It's a shame the film didn't manage to become more than it is, far from a bad film and telling a story worth being heard, The Mauritanian is a respectable effort from all involved but one that could've been more when you compile all the evidence in its favor.
Final Say -
Two strong central turns and a worthy true life tale make The Mauritanian a solid film but there is nothing remarkable about Macdonald's generic and familiar feature that never stands out from a crowded genre.
A fittingly unique documentary for an undeniably unique figure of pop culture and Hollywood, Val is a refreshingly real and honest examination of actor Val Kilmer, whose multi-decade career in the movie industry now finds itself in a sad position following the performers battle with throat cancer that has left Kilmer with difficulty talking and completing everyday tasks.
Utilizing a vast array of homemade video footage Kilmer had shot throughout his career as both a budding actor and one of Hollywood's most in demand leading men, Ting Poo and Leo Scott's documentary is as close as we will ever get to living alongside Kilmer and while the documentary like the man himself is anything but typical, this is both an insightful look at what it means to make it in Hollywood and achieving ones dreams as well as the harsh reality of what a fall from grace looks like as one attempts to master their craft and remain on top of their game.
From short lived highs such as becoming The Batman, starring alongside your childhood acting hero Marlon Brando or being cast as a lead in a play only to be placed behind Kevin Bacon and Sean Penn, Val is a showcase for the fickle industry that is Hollywood and the acting game as well as a showcase for the talented Kilmer who possessed an abundance of on screen charisma and talent but perhaps was never allowed to truly shine the way in which he and his fans would've liked to have seen.
Getting help to deliver this documentary from his son Jack who narrates his fathers written word as we follow his life from a child right through to college student/budding screen actor (making his debut in all-time great comedy Top Secret), Val never once feels like a vanity project for Kilmer who now finds himself in a strange position as a performer unable to do what he loves and does best and while the film may disappoint some looking for a more stereotypical biographical documentary, there's a grace, power and often immense sadness watching Kilmer's past experiences and eye opening current circumstances (such as a Tombstone screening or Comic Con appearance) play out before our eyes.
Final Say -
Combining hours of first hand footage shot by the man himself and walking an honest and truthful line on what Kilmer's current state of being is, Val is an eye opening account of not only a Hollywood star but a man whose dreams alluded him despite getting ever so close to the nirvana of being at the top.
The granddaddy of psychological horror/thrillers as well as genuinely unnerving dramas, Ingmar Bergman's oft-debated and frequently analyzed 1966 black and white oddity Persona is a film that to this day remains a unique and hard to explain experience that no doubt gave birth to a range of directors and features that were born in the wake of this sometimes mesmerizing and sometimes perplexing feature length affair.
A creation that feels as though it directly inspired films such as Black Swan and filmmakers along the lines of David Lynch and Darren Aronofsky, Persona is a an event that allowed Bergman to create an open to interpretation narrative centered around the off-putting friendship/relationship between Bibi Andersson's kindly nurse Sister Alma and Liv Ullmann's mute and troubled actress Elisabet Vogler as the famed director explores the very psyches of the human condition and what it means to be ones true self, in a tale that is likely going to take multiple screenings for viewers to come to some form of grips with.
There's not a lot of incidents or big moments in the film as such, Bergman keeps things relatively low-key as he infuses constant close-ups and dialogue heavy scenarios prevalent throughout the tale of Alma's increasingly fragile mental state, that appears to be bought on by Elisabet's strange condition and their seclusion on a sparsely populated island but there's barely a moment in the film where you feel comfortable as a viewer, consistently on edge and doubting what you are seeing/hearing as you try to make heads and tails about who is who and what is happening to them.
For those that love their films wrapped up in a neat package with answers forthcoming at most stops, Persona will likely feel like a frustrating movie watching experience but watching Bergman's directional craft at work as both a director and in this case screenwriter is a sight to behold and the performances of both Andersson and Ullmann feel ahead of their time with both actresses delivering what should be considered career best roles portraying tricky characters to bring to life.
Watching these two actresses ply their trades as the fragile inner being of the two women becomes more apparent throughout the films runtime is a real cinematic delight and while the film may not be the "perfect" all-round feature some scholars and reputable film critics laud it to be, there's little point in trying to denying the impact Persona had on the future of film and its creators as one of the all-time greats created a unique and long-standing product with a formidable legacy following on in its path.
Final Say -
It may not be easy to fathom or simple to explain in words or thought but Persona is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to key cinematic entries and its tension riddled vibe is always going too be hard to match.
For good reason the Pixar brand has become a name synonymous with the words quality and magical and while expectations on new outings from the Disney owned company can't always be expected to be in line with the likes of Toy Story, Wall-E or Coco, the mediocrity of the animation behemoths newest adventure Luca comes as a shock to the system in more ways than one.
Directed by first time feature length animation director Enrico Casarosa, who has previously worked on Pixar outings such as Coco and The Incredibles 2 in various roles, Luca lacks any of the charm, spark or fantastical goodness that many of its counterparts have had in abundance, as we are thrust into a story of friendship that has very few life lessons or reasons to engage in its narrative as Jacob Tremblay's sea monster/human boy Luca finds himself on dry land with new found fellow friend and compatriot Alberto as the two wide eyed youngsters join together to find a Vespa scooter to frolic around town on.
The Italian seaside village is certainly a colorful and energetic landscape for Casorosa and his creative team to explore in a visual sense but all the nicely animated set pieces and visually appeasing moments fail to make up for the lack of charm or spark elsewhere as we as an audience are thrust into Luca's life and world with barely an ounce of set-up or refinement with Luca and Alberto's childhood adventure far from quality Pixar storytelling.
From everything from Monsters Inc learning to confront ones fears, Coco's acceptance of death as well as life, Soul's purposeful expose on what makes ones life special or Wall-E's tale of love and friendship against all the odds, Pixar has long managed to make heartfelt animated tales that wonderfully mix together entertaining and emotionally poignant stories for young and old, whereas Luca feels like a film for nobody in particular with even young children likely to have grown tired by its repetitive feeling plot around the half way mark at best.
Another key flaw to Luca's inability to make strides is the fact that Luca, Alberto and all other characters that find themselves embedded into their Vespa infused tale aren't at all engaging, there's nothing memorable or special about any of these humans and creatures. In desperate need of a Woody, Buzz, Dory, Bing Bong or Sully, Luca's failure to bring laughs or heart often stems from its poor narrative harboring bland characters, characters that are unlikely to be remembered in the months or years to come.
Final Say -
It's colorful and well-intentioned but Luca is one of Pixar's bigger missteps in a mostly grand history of great produce. Unlikely to be spoken about by anyone in the soon to be future, this is an animated offering even the most easy to please of Disney fans can skip.
Some brilliant video game moments get lost in a trite story
There's been a long and storied history of bad video game movies, movies that tried to recapture the magic of pixelated form into something that was going to keep fans and newbies alike happy but for one reason or another failed in their mission to turn gaming greatness into a film of quality.
In what is a major win for the film, Shawn Levy's Free Guy thankfully does an amazing job of capturing the video game magic that many gamers feel when they log into their game/system of choice and enter into a world that provides endless hours of entertainment and there's no denying that when Free Guy is focused more around its video game origins this is one of the most enjoyable Hollywood films of the season but sadly the film is lumped with a trite plot line that feels like a poor man's Truman Show, one that takes away from all the chaotic fun it had at its disposal.
Creating yet another chance for its star Ryan Reynolds to bring out his Deadpool act for a more wider ranging audience, Free Guy see's the content to coast along actor bring NPC (non playable character) Guy to life as his happy go lucky bank teller finds out his idyllic yet repetitive life is in fact nothing but a program for a game he is only just made aware of and is very much a part of, its a familiar set up in a colorful and chaotic world yet while it roars along for the first act, Free Guy sadly becomes a lame and tiresome love/life affirming journey that in many instances is too preachy where it should have been pure sugar coated silliness.
There's moments within the film that are exactly what the doctor ordered, Guy waltzing the streets for the first time with the game around him made alive or a hilarious fight with a quickly programed muscle clad opponent ("catchphrase") are brilliantly staged and inventive but Guy's awkward romance with Jodie Comer's Molotov Girl/Millie is not what the film needed, especially when billed alongside the films insistence on providing life lessons or by somehow making Taika Waititi utterly unfunny and annoying as he gets little too do as the films shoehorned in villain Antwan.
Never the most original of directors, you wish a director with more willingness to stray from the usual had perhaps brought Free Guy to life other than Levy, while the action and spectacle is all on point, there's something wrong with what Free Guy wants to be and what it ends up becoming, a mix of brilliant video game to life moments lost in a terrible story with a bunch of characters and happenings that are instantly forgettable.
Final Say -
A frustrating experience that does a lot right bringing the video game culture to cinema but also a lot poorly when it comes to story and characters, Free Guy has some fantastic components caught up in a generic ride that isn't worth a second thought.
A raw and intimate examination of a legend of Australian cinema
After making his stunning debut in Nicholas Roeg's unforgettable Australian set drama Walkabout as a teenager, Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil has become a national treasure, appearing in some of the countries most noteworthy films along his incredible career.
Key roles in the likes of Storm Boy, Crocodile Dundee, Rabbit Proof Fence, The Tracker, The Proposition and Charlie's Country have ensured that there aren't many more iconic figures in the local industry than the award winning actor, who now sadly aged into his 60's faces an imminent passing at the hands of lung cancer, a fight that is here documented in Molly Reynolds raw and uncompromising documentary My Name is Gulpilil.
Produced by one of Gulpilil's closes friends, director Rolf de Heer, My Name was filmed over the span of four years as Reynolds joins Gulpilil and care giver Mary in a warts and all examination of Gulpilil's story as told by the man himself, there are no talking heads here, this is Gulpilil's story and he wants to tell it in his own unique way, that makes for an at times heartwarming and other times unfocussed viewing.
For a life so well-lived and eccentric, arriving from the bush into the movies and then alongside the Queen for dinner, Gulpilil's life is one that wouldn't be able to be conjured up by even the wildest of imaginations but its a shame that Reynolds wasn't able to keep her exploration of the man more focused, as the film frequently veers from subject matters without much care or consideration, feeling like a film that would've benefited greatly from following a more traditional approach for a very un-traditional person.
A key for the film is Gulpilil's endless charm and charisma, whilst he is here a frail and often forlorn figure, there's still a passionate soul underneath his withered exterior and he is unafraid to confront the ghosts of his past that includes battles with domestic violence and drug/alcohol abuse and hearing him talk openly about these instances in his life as well as his passion for his culture and craft makes for fascinating viewing around a once in a lifetime human.
While it appears as though the inevitable is approaching faster than Gulpilil or we'd care to admit, there's little doubt that when the sun sets on the life of one of cinema's great icons, there's a legacy here that will live long into the future, a career that has entered into many minds and hearts and inspired countless others to follow in the footsteps of a pioneer who paved his own path.
Final Say -
A documentary that can frustrate with its aimless nature but enchant with its honest depiction of a living legend, My Name is Gulpilil is a fitting enough swansong for an Australian actor that will go down as one of the most important figures in the industries history.
A duo of great central performances enliven this dark and sad tale
One of only a select few films in cinema history too be nominated for the "big 5" categories at the Oscars (Film, Director, Screenplay, Actor and Actress), Louis Malle's crowning achievement in his eccentric directional career is a fine showcase for screen legends Burt Lancaster and the then up and coming Susan Sarandon, as the two esteemed performers play lost souls Lou and Sally, sad characters lost in the hustle and bustle of the once thriving Atlantic City.
Having lived out an incredible life in front of the camera, Malle's film seemed destined to allow the aging Lancaster one more chance at Oscar glory and while he ended up being beaten out on the night there's no denying that his turn as the mysterious and complicated Lou is one of the actor's greatest triumphs in a film that would've paled in insignificance had he not been as on song as he was.
Introduced to us spying on Sarandon's casino waitress Sally late one night then getting stuck straight into some ironing and errands on behalf of Kate Reid's elderly downstairs neighbor, Lou lives out a sad and sorry life that only finds joy when Lou recalls his supposed past glories as a low-end mobster/criminal and Lancaster's downtrodden expressions and weathered nature fits the bill perfectly here, especially as Lou finds potential salvation and life long aims being meet when Sally's friends arrive in town with a hustle in mind.
Striking the line between genuinely depressing and darkly comedic, Atlantic City is a hard film to completely pin down and there's no question that its a film that is devoid of any truly likeable characters or plights but Malle and his cast strike a realistic tone and human core that lays at the foundation of the film and you can't help but feel that this story in many ways tackles the true nature of inhabitants of a city like Atlantic City and calls to mind Nicolas Cage's later Oscar winner Leaving Las Vegas in the way it looks at flawed people in flawed situations.
There are elements of the film that haven't aged too well these 40 plus years on, some of Malle's direction feels slightly lethargic and some of screenwriter John Guare's scripting is very much of the early 80's era but in capturing a time and place in Atlantic City (demolished buildings and all) and two great central turns, this film remains worthy of seeking out.
Final Say -
A somber and depressing tale of life in a location that was supposed to offer light at the end of the tunnel, Atlantic City is a unique drama with some find performances as two screen legends at different stages of their careers came together to showcase their incredible skills.
No Pirates of the Caribbean but a fun family film regardless
A long time coming with various delays and Covid pandemic's stopping its planned 2020 release, 2021 finally sees Disney's latest theme park ride turned film Jungle Cruise make its way into the market courtesy of a hybrid cinema/Disney+ release, with this $200 million production a nice distraction if nothing more at this time and place.
A hybrid of Indiana Jones/Romancing the Stone with a hearty dosage of The Mummy, that also wants desperately to give off the same vibes as the original Pirates of the Caribbean (still the gold standard when it comes to rides to film examples), director Jaume Collet-Serra takes a break from low-budget horror's and Liam Neeson thrillers to take Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt on an adventure filled quest to find a magic plant deep the Amazonian jungle circa the early 1900's in a journey that should entertain the whole family across its two hour runtime that barely pauses for breath from one event to the next.
Jam-packed with questionable CGI that will make you long for the days where films were shot on location or at least real life locales rather than green screens at the back of a studio, Cruise is a colorful and energetic affair that does work far better than it had any right too thanks to its charismatic leads that generate nice moments off one another and a playful sense of adventure that is sometimes lost on modern day films taking a more po-faced approach to these type of affairs than necessary.
Perhaps darker than one would except from the Jungle Cruise brand especially for a film with more puns than a season's worth of Friends, Cruise does nicely to steer away from a film that adults would struggle too sit through and some of Collet-Serra's action scenes such as an attack on a tribal village or a finale that is enlivened by the presence of comedic scene-stealer Jesse Plemon's make the film more than just a generic family affair, even if the film lacks any type of memorable performances like a Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow or an action scene/spectacle that would've made the film greater than it is.
In some ways you wish someone or something managed to elevate the film too a higher level, there's moments in the film where opportunity seems to be arising for it too become a new Pirates level of popcorn entertainment or a very enjoyable Indiana Jones light rollicking adventure but as it stands Cruise is just an enjoyable and unassuming family film that is better than it should've been, but also not as good as it could've been.
Final Say -
A pleasant diversion for the whole family, Jungle Cruise provides a fun two hours in the Amazon (CGI) jungle with some likeable leads but it never does anything to make one think they will be remembering the film down the river at any time in the future.
In 2016 we got a look at the life of untamed cats that roam the ancient streets of Turkish city Istanbul with the lovable little documentary Kedi, so its only right that now we have a look at the other paw thanks to Elizabeth Lo's documentary Stray, that this time around follows the adventures of wild street dogs including the films main focus Zeytin.
Mostly wordless and only featuring humans when its absolutely needed, Stray is literally a dogs eye view of life on the streets of the hustling and bustling city that has a blanket ban on anyone owning or hunting stray animals, meaning dogs just like their feline friends have free reign across the city to explore and enjoy as they rustle out an existence in the harsh but also sometimes beautifully warm world they find themselves in.
Proving once more that pictures can tell a thousand words, Lo has done well in keeping Stray in tune with its unique animal centric delivery and while there is no real plot to hold onto in a typical sense of what a narrative might be, Stray never falters in its 70 minute run-time as it holds our attention as Zeytin and her friends Nazar and the adorable puppy Kartal journey alongside one another and some lost human immigrants who all find solace in one another's company.
Anyone who counts themselves a dog fan will instantly recognise the human parallels that can be found in this tale and particularly Zeytin's trials and tribulations and whether its about finding ones place in the world or being one of those almost invisible bystanders as life and others pass you by, Stray and Lo have an honest way of exploring everyday life that feels relatable and warm for anyone that lives in the now.
The film may've benefited from more focus or a designated end goal but at days end Stray is an often adorable examination of a dogs way of life and one that refuses to shy away from the harsh realities of such an existence, even if the splattering's of warmth and love ensure you as a viewer are reminded that in life, the good often far outweighs the bad if we just keep pressing on.
Final Say -
Never outstaying its welcome and beautifully capturing life on the streets of Istanbul, warts and all, Stray is a neat companion to the feline Kedi and a must-watch for any die-hard canine fans.
A film that feels new, Old is one of the strangest Hollywood offerings of the year
When it comes to M. Night Shyamalan films, life really is like a box of chocolates in that you just genuinely don't know what you're going to get.
There's the oh so sweet (The Sixth Sense), the decent (Split) and then there's some real sour taste flavors (The Happening/The Last Airbender) that make the topsy turvey director one of the most unpredictable working in the Hollywood system.
Going about things his own way over the last few years with self-financed low budget projects that can turn a profit with the smallest of success, Shyamalan does what he has rarely done in his career previously by here stepping away from his own material too adapt graphic novel Sandcastle that was created by Pierre-Oscar Lévy and Frederick Peeters, creating one of the strangest and most jaw-dropping Hollywood films you're likely to catch at the cinema this year in the form of Old.
Rounding up a cast loaded with A-grade talent if not exactly household names, Shyamalan takes his stacked ensemble to a secluded beach that one first step onto its shores appears to be sometime of island paradise but is anything but as our collection of hotel guests quickly discover that the beach they are trapped on is one where years pass by in minutes as they race a raging biological clock before they turn to bones and dust.
A hybrid of a meditative drama on aging that has significant thriller and horror moments, Old holds within it the very best and very worst of Shyamalan the filmmaker (including a significant role Shyamalan gives himself, instead of one of his regular cameos) with some moments of this film easily Razzie worthy with others genuinely disturbing and memorable creating a frustrating experience that is always engaging in its unpredictability but one that flounders too often to be considered close to good in the true sense of the word.
An easily identifiable flaw too the film that rears its head far too often is Shyamalan's suspect script.
Dealing with some scenes that even the most respected of directors would struggle to bring to life confidently (honestly some scenes in this film are beyond description), Shyamalan and his cast, that is best lead by Bernal in a rare Hollywood leading man role and Alex Wolff getting to play a 6 year old turned teenage boy, can't always get the audience on board with what the characters in Old are dealing with or how they go about dealing with it and while you'll often be unnerved and on edge, you wish more of the film had managed to gel together in a more finely tuned manner.
As is often the case with a Shyamalan film, the film that lays before us lives and dies on its finale and that's another aspect of Old that will be up for debate for some time as while in some ways it makes what has happened before it make more sense, there's a lot of unanswered questions and suspect flippancy that does make you wish for a more shocking and water cooler worthy explanation.
Final Say -
You've never seen a film like Old before making it an intriguing offering but there's too much here that doesn't work and feels half-explored to make this latest Shyamalan ride something special.
Following on from his Oscar triumph with his 2003 Animated Short Harvie Krumpet, Australian artist/filmmaker Adam Elliot gave the world his first and to this day only feature length effort Mary and Max, a unique locally made animated affair that has managed to remain one of the most beloved films of all time across the globe.
Sitting pretty in the IMDB's Top 250 films list and in no danger of losing its spot anytime soon, Mary and Max is the little film that could as Elliot and his creative team bring the story of unfortunate young Melbourne girl Mary Dinkle and her pen pal friendship with lonely obese and neurotic New Yorker Max Horovitz to life, in what is a film that may be billed as an oddball comedy (of which it frequently is) but may also surprise viewers with its honest, depressing and unfortunately observant musings on what it means to be a human.
You can tell every aspect of Mary and Max's painfully precise creation has been carefully considered and pondered by Elliot and co with every single scene of this 90 minute film choc (olate) full of Australian throwbacks, side gags and stories, making Mary and Max a feast for the eyes and senses as well as a curiously deep meditation on those lost souls in our world that often find themselves misunderstood and forgotten about.
In many ways nothing big happens in the story of Mary or the plight of Max but in so many ways there are big moments too as Elliot resists the urge too explore too many other characters or happenings and while there are lottery wins, unhealthy creations, blind neighbors and lots of unfortunate gold fishes at play, Elliot's tale is at its best and at its most wholesome when we are focused on nothing more than Mary and Max's strange but important friendship.
Guided at all times by Barry Humphries narrator who adds context and exposition to the plights of our central duo, Toni Collette's Mary and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman's (in a role he recorded exclusively over Skype) Max may be humans with some serious cracks in their ways of life but they are wonderfully bought to fruition by Elliot and his two voice performers and they all work together with love and affection for their characters and craft and combine to give Mary and Max a sense of heart and purpose that is not only hard to find in animated films but in any films regardless of its type.
It's disappointing that Elliot has yet to find himself behind the directors chair for another feature film in the many moons since Mary and Max's release as on the back of Harvie Krumpet and this well-loved feature he had a chance to become one of our most well-regarded creators with hope that he will once more bring the odd and charming to life in another offering in the near future.
Final Say -
A film unto its own, Mary and Max is one of the most well-respected Australian films of the modern era and for good reason as its loving staged examination of friendship and finding oneself in the world creates a film worthy of being discovered for years yet to come.
Its been over 35 years since The Goonies first made a splash back in 1985 and in the time since the Steven Spielberg backed kids own adventure film made itself a favorite of many children of that era and the eras since, many other imitators have tried and mostly failed to try and capture the same magic that existed in the ageless classic.
There have been some wins in this space with Netflix's hugely popular TV series Stranger Things arguably the closest we will ever get to Goonies like goodness of a ragtag group of kids/teenagers thrown into a rollicking world of intrigue, danger and adventure while J. J Abrams Super 8 also managed to do a fine job of being Goonies light but thoroughly entertaining but there have been many misses in this space also as films look to create their own world of mystery, suspense and fun with a focus on the child in all of us.
One of the most blatantly Goonies inspired films I recall seeing (it even features 80's child star and Goonie member Ke Huy Quan in a supporting role!) , Netflix's latest family oriented original Finding 'Ohana wants badly to be the newest all-ages romp we all enjoy and features a set-up and location that seems tailor made for some fun and frenetic times but director Jude Weng's try hard and forced film fails to inspire much in the way of magic as its tiresome story, terrible scripting and string of poor performances halts any chances it may've had of being in the same class as the 80's classic.
Set in the picturesque islands of Lost aka Hawaii, 'Ohana is a colorful and vibrant film in regards to its setting and locations but Weng's film that is centered around young New Yorker Pili and her families move back to their home state of Hawaii where they discover the meaning of family and life on a quest for lost treasure to help save the families property is rather forced and uninspiring even if the messages the film is portraying are all unquestionably good ones.
Nothing in Weng's film feels overly original or inspired, jokes fall flat around bland characters and juvenile scripting and budget set pieces constantly rear their ugly heads throughout, meaning keen eyed older viewers will be having a tough time getting immersed in Pili's quest to strike it rich and learn the meaning of life with her siblings and friends.
You can sense there is a really strong film somewhere in 'Ohana, the casting of native Hawaiians and the paradises jaw dropping surrounds gives the film a fresh vibe in certain aspects but nothing can excuse such poorly designed narrative movements, wooden acting and a lack of suspense or thrills, which ensures this wannabe family classic is one for the very young viewers only, not the child that lay inside us all.
Final Say -
A tough film to enjoy despite its good intentions, this latest Netflix original is far from being a modern day Goonies and will have most viewers rolling their eyes rather than captivated by a supposedly fun-filled adventure.
A reminder of the importance of quality journalism
Winner of over 25 local and international awards and recently nominated in both the Best Foreign Language Film and Best Documentary feature categories at this years Academy Awards, Collective is the little Romanian doco that could, as it works to shine a light on some horrifying components of the Romanian healthcare system as well as a stark reminder to us all of the importance of the role of high-class journalism in our "fake news" filled world.
Born out of the ashes of an horrific incident in Romanian history where countless victims of a terrifying nightclub fire highlighted the countries inadequate and shockingly inept health system and those that are in charge of ensuring things are done decently and in order, Collective is like a Hollywood thriller in the way it acts as a fly on the wall like account of journalist Catalin Tolotan (a genuine everyday hero) and his teams quest to hold authorities and companies accountable for years worth of neglect and criminal activity.
Its the type of plot you wouldn't dare conjure up as an act of fiction in fear of people calling the narrative out as far-fetched but Collective takes many twists and turns along its runtime and as the true horrors of Romania's issues come to the forefront, you will be left with your jaw on the floor on multiple occasions in what is a real life story that feels like it could never and should never have been allowed to become what it did.
There's a no fuss like approach to Nanau's direction of everything that occurs throughout Collective, in many ways almost anyone could've filmed Collective and it may've benefited slightly from a more imaginative approach but in some ways also the barebones approach to telling this story allows the focus of the film to remain where it needed too as we the audience are given an insight to a problem I am sure many around the world had never even heard of.
Key also to the film is the likeability and smarts of both Catalin Tolotan and temporary health minister (getting one of the toughest gigs you'd ever care to imagine being given) Vlad Voiculescu, both gentleman make for strong central presences in the film and lights in an otherwise dark climate that they are battling. Their mindsets and commitment a reminder that even in such horrific situations, the best of humanity can prevail.
Final Say -
A confronting, shocking and unique documentary, Collective may not be a polished product but its a must-watch piece of journalistic filmmaking and an important player in the story of Romania as it looks to overcome years worth of detrimental activities to finally move forward with a sense of justice and purpose.