Movie Review, Top End Wedding

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There’s a lot to love in this Australian romantic comedy. It’s funny, heartwarming, entertaining and has magnificent scenery, including locations in Darwin, Katherine Gorge, Tiwi Islands and Kakadu.

Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) and her fiancé (Gwilym Lee) leave their life in Adelaide to fly to Darwin to get married, but upon arriving discover that Lauren’s mother Daffy (Ursula Yovich) has left the family with no explanation. Lauren’s father (Huw Higginson) is heartbroken, preferring to lock himself away in the pantry, while listening to sad songs, and brings us many great moments.

This film is about families–building them, grieving them, celebrating them, mending them. The Australian film and television industry is relatively small and with lean budgets, and I have always felt this works in our favour because when we make a production we generally do them well, with strong scripts and strong acting, and this one is no exception.

Top End Wedding is total joy.

This film is rated M but it could easily have been rated PG, in my opinion. There’s no sex, no violence and the few instances of the f-word are covered over by external noise.

Verdict:  Go see it!

 

Movie Reviews: Ferdinand and Paddington 2

Kids movies are winning at the moment, with Ferdinand and Paddington 2 both delightful films for young viewers.

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Firstly, Ferdinand, the bull who was a lover not a fighter. The beauty of this film is that it speaks to the viewer on so many levels. The fate of the bulls in this Spanish Provence is not unlike that of the gladiators in Ancient Rome–fight or die, and ultimately, you will die anyway–except that it’s still happening today.

As a young bull, Ferdinand watches his father go away to fight and never return. He decides to escape and finds himself in what can only be described as heaven–fields of flowers, a little girl who loves him, a peaceful life. But when he accidentally causes havoc in the town square he is caught and returned to the bull pit where he must save his friends and face the bull fighter. There are difficult themes here–such as humanity’s treatment of animals and even a scene inside an abattoir–but it is handled so sensitively that the younger viewers (such as my five-year-old son) might not directly understand what is happening. (Thankfully, this saved me from having a difficult conversation with him about animal slaughter and meat consumption, which I’m just not yet ready to have.) If you are an animal lover, you will be moved. Everyone will feel hope. A beautiful film. My only small criticism was that it was a tad long through the third quarter (time was filled with singing and dancing) and my son asked to leave. But he stuck it out and was soon rewarded with some fast action to re-engage him. Four stars.

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And then we come to Paddington 2, a charming film that is, in my opinion, better than the first one (and it’s not often you can say that about sequels). I do find Paddington a bit stiff and intellectual for small kids but the physical comedy does seem to counteract it. To my relief, this film isn’t as scary as the first one (which my boy hasn’t managed to sit through at all) and Hugh Grant is just fabulous as the villain Phoenix Buchanan (and Hugh Grant is always fabulous in a villainous role, in my opinion). My son, always short on patience, declared he wanted to leave in the first ten minutes, but I encouraged him to stick it out and was rewarded by him putting two thumbs up at me at the and declaring ‘that was a great movie, Mum’. I’m sure the train chase finale helped.

In this film, Paddington is trying to find the perfect birthday present for his aunty Lucy’s hundredth birthday but his desired pop-up book of London is stolen by Phoenix Buchanan and Paddington is framed for the theft and sent to jail. There are truly delightful moments in jail, especially as Paddington befriends the most feared inmate of all, Knuckles McGinty, played superbly by Brendan Gleeson (of recent film, Hampstead).

Do stay till the end for Hugh Grant’s encore during the credits.

Four stars.

 

 

Movie Review: Murder on the Orient Express

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An all-star cast, a classic tale, lavish scenery.

Kenneth Branagh both directs this film and stars in it as Hercule Poirot, the detective trapped on a train with a dead man and the murder trapped on board with rest of the ensemble in the luxe train after an avalanche blocks the path through the European mountains. The cast includes the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz and William Defoe all playing their part in the plot for this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s famous novel of the same name.

I haven’t actually read Christie’s novel, so I didn’t go into the cinema knowing anything about the characters or the outcome of the mystery. I did expect a visually stunning movie, which it it is. But I felt the film couldn’t quite get the tone right–was this hysterical melodrama, or was it an arty production of a tired old favourite, or was it supposed to be serious drama? All the characters felt flat, except for Hercule Poirot, who really did star in the film, as he probably should.

When I got to the finale and the unravelling of all the clues, I had an overwhelming sense of disappointment and a feeling that I’d actually known the answer for quite a while and it wasn’t a particularly satisfying one at that. (Apologies, perhaps, to Christie.) All in all, this wasn’t a standout film for me.

3 stars.

 

Movie review: ‘Home Again’

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I love Reese Witherspoon, so that was all I needed for me to go and see this movie, plus the trailer promised an experience that was light, fun and funny.

The story:Alice (Witherspoon) is turning forty and has just returned home to her father’s house after separating from her husband, bringing her two girls from New York to Los Angeles, looking for a fresh start. She meets three young men in their early twenties who are struggling to make it in the film industry and they all go home to her house for the night. They are supposed to leave the next day, but once Alice’s mother (Candice Bergen) discovers the men are big fans of her ex-husband (an Oscar-winning film maker, and Alice’s father), she convinces everyone that the young men must stay in the guest house till they get on their feet. Romantic comedy should ensue.

My verdict: I really wanted to love this film. As I said, Reese Witherspoon is wonderful, I love the fact that we have a forty-year-old protagonist, it has a ‘glossy’ magazine style to the visuals, and promised to be a great break from reality.

But here is my essential problem with this film: Alice has two young daughters under ten (I’m guessing). What mother brings home three strange men and allows them to stay at her house, frequently unsupervised, trusting them with her two little girls, and even accepts them getting involved, by taking the kids to school and other events?

I just could not get past the premise of this film. I couldn’t totally relax into the story, constantly wondering if we were going to be let down by one of these men. The trust just wasn’t there. Also, the comedy factor just wasn’t there. Amusing, yes. Laugh out loud, no.

3.5 stars for me.

Film Review: Battle of the Sexes

Just Fabulous!

I went to see this film because I love both Emma Stone and Steve Carell, the two stars, and I have been known to spend many hours on the couch during the Australian Open, indulging in tennis. I was not disappointed.

Stone plays Bille Jean King and Carell plays Bobby Riggs, both tennis greats in the USA, who played a match in 1973 to see who was the greater player.The-Battle-of-the-Sexes-Poster

I have so much to say about this film and yet, just like the film, I want to leave a lot of space around it. There are so many unsaid things in this story, so much quiet to hear the words that are almost to painful for both characters to express–sexuality, for King, and a gambling addiction for Riggs. Compassion overflows throughout the dialogue and story, and Carell doesn’t disappoint; he is as fabulously funny as ever, with real depths of pathos to his role.

This film made me uncomfortable in the sense that it was difficult to watch the truly disgraceful disparity in male and female power in that era (and the appalling way female tennis players were treated), and the icy feeling that, in truth, not much has changed.

(Also, can we pause a moment to feel some respect for Australian champion Margaret Court who was travelling halfway around the world WITH A BABY and couldn’t even afford a decent hotel room let alone a nanny?!?)

I loved this film through and through.

4.5 stars

Movie Review: Captain Underpants

Bright. Loud. Frivalous.

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I went to see this movie for two reasons. Firstly, I have a five-year-old son, who upon hearing the very term, ‘Captain Underpants’, began to laugh and asked to see the movie. Secondly, because I once heard an interview with the creator of the novels, Dav Pilkey, and was so moved by his story that I have longed for the moment my son was old enough to enjoy Pilkey’s creations.

You see, Pilkey was a child with dyslexia and ADHD and was repeatedly sent out of class and into the hallways. The pain he experienced at school gave him a keen sense of connection and service to children and actually began volunteering with school kids straight out school himself–something very unique for an eighteen-year-old. This was a young man who had a mission, I thought. And I think the worldwide phenomenon that is his books, proves that. This is a man who gets kids.

Having said that, I haven’t read any of the Captain Underpants books (as I’m still waiting for my son to get a bit older). My review here is strictly on the movie.

Firstly, my beef with his film is the level of violence contained in it for a G-rated film. I don’t see how animated violence (torching cats, having people hit by cars (repeatedly), or machines that want to shrink your brain and turn you into a zombie) is any different to actual violence. My son climbed into my lap towards the end (the grande finale of violence) and said it was scary. Still, he did want to hang on till the end and that is the first film he has actually sat through till the credits rolled.

I think this movie is pitched at kids slightly older than five. I’m thinking 7-9 years would be a good indication, as some of the humour is mature and there is a fair amount of written text that contains jokes, if only you know how to read.

It’s over the top. It’s meant to be.

But too much violence for me (and my son).

3 stars.