Review – ‘The Report’

“Truth Matters”

The Report‘ couldn’t get made at a better time. With everything happening in today’s American and global political climate, it shows how little the general public actually is allowed to know about whatever happens within the borders of their government buildings. An entire country is at stake when secrets come out, that shouldn’t have been secrets in the first place when laws get executed correctly.

Idealistic Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver), gets tasked by his boss, Senator of California Diane Feinstein (Annette Bening), to lead an investigation into the CIA’s post 9/11 Detention and Interrogation Program. Jones’ relentless pursuit of the truth leads to findings that uncover the lengths to which the nation’s top intelligence agency went to destroy evidence, subvert the law, and hide a shocking secret from the American public.

Scott Z. Burns hasn’t directed a feature length film since 2006’s ‘Pu-239‘. Having previously written films such as, ‘The Laundromat‘, ‘Side Effects‘ and ‘Contagion‘, it seems he has a very good work relationship with this films’ producer Steven Soderbergh (director of last named films). With ‘The Report‘ he knows what he’s going for and doesn’t hold back on any occasion. The story goes off like a missile, and only slows down when hitting its target at the finish line. That might be a challenge for some viewers, but the suspense throughout the second and third act is rare and delivers what political polymaths are looking for. To those who aren’t particularly interested in politics and cover-ups, this might be a tough one to sit through.

Adam Driver, is truly on a roll these last couple of years. With two more films on the horizon in the last two months of 2019 (‘Marriage Story‘ and ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker‘), it seems there’s no stopping him in becoming one of the most talented actors of this generation. He shows just how focused and career driven he is as his character Daniel J. Jones. He’s unsurpassed and will definitely get recognition for his hard work coming awards season.

What plays like a political ‘Social Network‘, could’ve benefited from a rewrite by Aaron Sorkin, just to streamline it a bit more. The dialogues are heavy and littered with dark humour, but without any real character development, it misses the opportunity to make the audience connect with anyone on a deeper level. You never get to look behind the suits into their homes. The mental struggles of being accused of whistleblowing and torturing people, must take its toll on politicians and CIA-agents, no? We get little hints at their personal lives when being interrogated by government officials, but this is all just small talk. It does go without saying, Greg O’Bryant deserves much praise for editing this film. I wonder how long the rough cut must’ve been.

There’s a wide range of well known actors passing by as fundamental characters in the big scheme of things. Annette Bening, brilliant actor taking on the full look and characteristics of Senator Feinstein, doesn’t have many explosive scenes to wow, but is subtly captivating. Corey Stoll, Jon Hamm, Maura Tierney and Michael C. Hall all have important parts to keep things moving, but with the little amount of screen time fail to impress with anything more than acceptable.

Burns‘ ‘The Report‘ is an important watch, delivering facts in a striking manner. It’s worth watching for Driver’s performance alone, observing a man who loves doing his job and excels at it. A history lesson in American politics and terrorism with a little dig at propaganda filmmaking and journalism, and a big spotlight on the CIA’s misconduct.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review – ‘The Report’

Reviewed at Sony Pictures Theatrette, Sydney, Oct. 29, 2019. Australian Classification: TBC. Running time: 119 min.

PRODUCTION: A Transmission Films release of an Amazon Studios presentation of a Topic Studios, Margin of Error, Unbranded Pictures, Vice Media production. Producers: Scott Z. Burns, Jennifer Fox, Danny Gabai, Eddy Moretti, Kerry Orent, Steven Soderbergh, Michael Sugar. Executive producers: Michael Di Verdi, Vincent Landay, Tj Rinomato, Lila Yacoub. Co-producer: Jennifer Semler. Associate producers: Hannah Mescon, Sara Miller, Ashley Peter.

CREW: Director, writer: Scott Z. Burns. Camera (color, widescreen): Eigil Bryld. Editor: Greg O’Bryant. Music: David Wingo.

WITH: Adam Driver, Corey Stoll, Jon Hamm, Linda Powell, Annette Bening, Maura Tierney, Michael C. Hall, Evander Duck Jr., John Rothman, Victor Slezak, Guy Boyd, Alexander Chaplin, Joanne Tucker.

Antenna Documentary Film Festival Review – ‘Push’

Finance will bring itself down.” – Saskia Stassen

“The first sign that you’re going to have to leave your neighbourhood? It’s when vintage clothing shops show up.” Great quote to open your documentary with. What follows is more shocking that you’d ever thought possible. The housing crisis is a very serious problem. Not just in one specific country, but it’s a global epidemic.

Housing prices are skyrocketing in cities worldwide. Communities are being pushed out of their suburbs. Public service employees, such as police officers and firefighters can’t even afford living in the cities they are supposed to protect. In Frederik Gertten‘s ‘Push‘, we follow Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing. She travels around the world to figure out where the problem is coming from and how we, the public and governments, can solve it.

“But the problem goes beyond governments and gentrification”, as expert Saskia Sassen explains. Properties get sold overseas as investments – assets to play with. We meet a group of squatters, who have taken over a prime location bought by an ex-army general from Qatar back in 2003. The owner has never been here and so they decided to take “refuge” and will keep on doing so, until the government solves the housing problem, which is becoming worse each year. Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire in North Kensington, West London share their story on how horrible insurance companies have treated them. Months after the horrific tragedy in which 72 people lost their lives, they still haven’t received any settlement or new place to live in. The burned down building is now a physical representation of the displacement of their community. This is only the tip of the iceberg when realising how big the problem is on a global scale.

Farha carefully listens to each and every one of the stories she encounters at far ends of the globe. People getting threatened with lawsuits, because they don’t agree with rent going up every twelve months, or neighbourhoods claiming back their properties by buying them themselves, even if that means they will be paying them off for the rest of their lives. When Farha digs a little bit deeper, after a short visit to Stockholm, Sweden, she discovers a big corporate scheme that makes more money than all governments in the world combined. I mean, corporate greed – what’s new?

Gertten’s documentary is for at least two thirds interesting and raises bigger questions, but ‘Push’ never really pushes for change. The problems are on the table with potential solutions being discussed, but nothing concrete comes of it. This isn’t something that will get solved in the next decade, and maybe he could do a follow up on the subject someday. Nonetheless, an educational and important watch.

⭐⭐⭐

‘Push’ is screening as part of Antenna Documentary Film Festival:

  • Dendy Newtown, Oct. 27 at 4pm

Tickets are still available: https://tix.antennafestival.org/Events/Push/Sun-Oct-27-2019-16-00

Antenna Documentary Film Festival Review – ‘Push’

Reviewed from online screener provided by publicity team, screening as part of Antenna Documentary Film Festival, Sydney, Oct. 24, 2019. Running time: 92 min.

PRODUCTION: An WG Film production. Producer: Margarete Jangård. Executive producer: Fredrik Gertten. Co-producer: Laura Baron Kastner. Line producer: Elizabeth Benjamin.

CREW: Director, writer: Fredrik Gertten. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Janice D’Avila, Iris Ng. Editor: Erik Bäfving. Music: Florencia Di Concilio.

WITH: Leilani Farha, Saskia Sassen, Stig Westerdahl, Joseph Stiglitz, Frederik Jurdell, Florian Schmidt, Roberto Saviano, Ada Colau, Michael Muller, Leila Bozony.

Antenna Documentary Film Festival Review – ‘For Sama’

Even when I close my eyes, I see the colour red.” – Waad

Aleppo, July 2016 – Waad al-Kateab, a young Syrian mother has been documenting everything that has been going on in her city, with her handheld camera. Her intimate and uncensored view on the war is as striking as the bombs that go off around her and her family. This isn’t just a segment in the 7 o’clock news, for Waad, this is daily life.

It hasn’t always been like that. It all started in 2012, when she was in her fourth year of her Economics degree. Fellow students are seen spraying slogans on the university walls, in a way of verbally and visually protesting president Bashar. The dictatorship of the Assad family has been going on for decades and the people are fed up with it. Christians and muslims start a peaceful revolution, fighting for freedom. Through the next couple of years, Waad falls in love, gets married and gives birth. She captures every extraordinary moment on film, to one day show her daughter, Sama, the truth from within the war zone that once was their home.

Waad’s footage is compelling and horrifyingly graphic, but I’m thankful someone has put a spotlight on all of it. When tortured and handcuffed bodies are found in the river, civilians try to get them out of the water with fences. These vulnerable citizens have no emergency services to rely on anymore, it’s all about survival. “The only thing that mattered, was the revolution“, says Waad. They were shocked at what the regime was willing to do to stay in power.

In the midst of panic, fear, death and despair, Waad still finds happiness and joy. Her daughter never cries, because she doesn’t know a world without bombs. The way this woman captures all of the moments her family and friends go through, is both heartbreaking as it is eye-opening. War isn’t normal. Thousands of innocent children died here because of greed and power.

For Sama makes you furious, it makes you unhappy, it makes you hope. Hope for a better future for those who had to flee their dreams. Waad al-Kateab‘s powerful story is unprecedented. It grabs you by the throat and leaves a mark on you. This isn’t just a story, this is history.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

For Sama‘ screens as part of Antenna Documentary Film Festival:

  • Chauvel Cinema, Oct. 26 at 2pm

Tickets are selling fast, so get them while they last: https://tix.antennafestival.org/Events/For-Sama/Sat-Oct-26-2019-14-00

Antenna Documentary Film Festival Review – ‘For Sama’

Reviewed from online screener provided by publicity team, screening as part of Antenna Documentary Film Festival, Sydney, Oct. 24, 2019. Running time: 100 min.

PRODUCTION: An Umbrella Entertainment release of a Channel 4 News presentation of a Channel 4, Frontline, ITN Productions, PBS Distribution, WGBH production. Producers: Waad al-Khateab. Executive producers: Raney Aronson, Ben de Pear, Nevine Mabro, Siobhan Sinnerton, George Waldrum.

CREW: Directors: Waad al-Khateab, Edward Watts. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Waad al-Khateab. Editors: Chloe Lambourne, Simon McMahon. Music: Nainita Desai.

Antenna Documentary Film Festival Review – ‘Hi, A.I.’

What once was thought impossible, seems to be closer than ever – robots. Or as ‘Hi, A.I.‘ likes to address them, Artificial Intelligence. In German filmmaker Isabella Willinger‘s (Away From All Suns), we get to meet different individuals ready to embrace this technology for personal companionship or that of others.

Dental students working on a moving robot with real human teeth that reacts to stimuli – as an opening, this is quite the scene out of a horror movie. We quickly get introduced to Pepper, a robot with a very simple design and a tablet interface attached to his chest. Pepper is now part of a Japanese family, mostly here for Gran to talk to when she’s all by herself. The family discusses if they should connect Pepper to the internet, but unanimously decide it’s better not to tamper with his character. Gran likes Pepper’s childlike-voice, but soon realises he’s more self-centred than she’d like him to be, mostly ignoring her questions.

On the other side of the planet we meet Chuck, who’s just on his way to pick up his humanoid companion robot, Harmony. The factory worker explains how he should pick her up and when demonstrating how it’s a lot easier when he detaches her head, Chuck fully creeped out decides he’ll do it the hard way and just carry her under her arms. Together they embark on a road trip in his RV, where he starts a convo resulting in a misunderstanding and over-explaining a simple word such as “while”. Harmony could easily have been the embodiment of Apple’s Siri. That doesn’t stop Chuck from falling head-over-heels in love with her and opening up about his tragic past as a child.

Multiple other interesting designs barely get any screen time and that’s absolutely fine. From an information desk robot who gives presentations on Tokyo City and sings songs at specific times throughout the day, to an absolutely adorable silver balloon type of robot with the skinniest wirelike legs, climbing and hopping up and down stairs. In the meantime scientists and A.I.-experts discuss humanoid robots and how we are headed towards a robot society, baring the question on why robots have to look so much like humans.

Through the use of podcast recordings and following the whereabouts of Chuck and Harmony, and Pepper and his new family, ‘Hi, A.I.‘ stays fascinating until the very end. Doomsday scenarios and the usefulness of artificial intelligence discussions never go in-depth, since most of these speculations are based on fear without any concrete evidence.

Hi, A.I. gives you some food for thought. Artificial Intelligence isn’t something from the past anymore, it’s here and only growing expeditiously towards entering our daily lives. Ethical concerns aside, the stories portrayed here are sweet and wholesome. The positive and negative changes on human behaviour are in need of more studies, but in the meantime I think saving our planet is more of a concern to us, than worrying about Blade Runner-type futures.

⭐⭐⭐

‘Hi, A.I.’ is screening as part of Antenna Documentary Film Festival:

  • Palace Chauvel, Oct. 25 at 7pm
  • Palace Verone, Oct. 27 at 2pm

Tickets are still available: https://tix.antennafestival.org/Events/Hi-AI/Fri-Oct-25-2019-19-00

Antenna Documentary Film Festival Review – ‘Hi, A.I.’

Reviewed from online screener (provided by publicity team), also showing as part of Antenna Documentary Film Festival, Sydney, Oct. 24, 2019. Running time: 90 min.

PRODUCTION: A Rise and Shine Release from a Kloos & Co. Medien GmbH production. Producer: Stefan Kloos.

CREW: Director: Isabella Willinger. Camera (color, widescreen): Julian Krubasik. Editors: Stephan Krumbiegel, Olaf Voigtländer.

INXS ‘LIVE BABY LIVE’ Screens Across Australia November 14

INXS’s legendary 1991 Wembley Stadium gig shown will be shown in cinemas for the very first time from November 14 2019. The show has been fully restored from the original 35mm print to create a new widescreen 4K Ultra HD version, and the film also now includes a previously unseen ‘lost’ track and a brand new Dolby Atmos audio mix by the band’s Executive Music Producer Giles Martin and Sam Okell, created at Abbey Road Studios.

This stunning concert film will be in cinemas in Australia and New Zealand from November 14, North and South America from December 9, and internationally from November 27. Check INXScinema.com for local listings.

1991 had been a spectacular year for INXS. Their album ‘X’ had been on the charts for eight months, going platinum in the UK as well as double platinum in the US. Winning two Brit Awards, INXS had played a record-breaking run of shows in their Australian homeland, headlined Rock In Rio, and undertaken a sold-out tour of the USA. However, it was the events of July 13th 1991 that would take the band into the musical stratosphere.

Six years to the day of Live Aid and five years and a day since the band supported Queen at Wembley Stadium, INXS headlined their own show at the famed venue to a sell-out crowd of 73,791 crazed fans with support from Jellyfish, Roachford, Jesus Jones, Deborah Harry, and The Hothouse Flowers. The event, called ‘Summer XS,’ was immortalised in the best-selling long-form video ‘Live Baby Live’ (directed by David Mallet) and partly by the album of the same name.

Twenty-eight years on, the film has been painstakingly restored over a six-month period from the original 35mm negative to 4K Ultra HD. The film is also now presented in glorious cinematic widescreen, which was created by going through the film shot by shot and repositioning every one to get the best out of the frame. To accompany the astonishing visual upgrade, the audio will now be presented in full Dolby Atmos, created by the band’s Executive Music Producer Giles Martin and Sam Okell, at Abbey Road Studios. Even better, the restoration process unveiled a ‘lost’ performance which was not included in the original releases – ‘Lately’ from the ‘X’ album. It is now returned to its rightful position in the concert setlist.

INXS’ long-time manager Chris M. Murphy had spent a decade scouring the world trying to locate the original 35mm film cans to produce this result. With the search becoming increasingly desperate and just when (almost) everyone had given up hope, the missing canisters were miraculously found in Australia.

INXS ‘LIVE BABY LIVE’
from NOVEMBER 14 2019

TICKETS ON SALE NOW AT INXScinema.com

Palestinian Film Festival – Double Short Review – ‘Ambience’ and ‘In Vitro’

Ambience

Wisam Aljafari‘s short film ‘Ambience‘ tells the story of two young Palestinians trying to record a demo for a music competition inside a noisy and crowded refugee camp. When their recording fails because of the chaos around them, they discover an innovative way to meet the competition deadline.

The stellar short is Cannes Film Festival 3rd Prize Cinéfondation winner, and it became clear very early on that its simple gritty black and white aesthetic was more of a back ground noise than the actual back ground noise they end up recording. The music by Saed Masanat is terrific. The dialogue is very minimalistic and I must say, both actors (Salah Abu Nea’ma and Mohammad Alkhmour) do a decent job at showing their dissatisfaction with what seem like just clatter and tumult at first. Once they embrace the melodic harmonies of shouting and clangour on the streets, everything falls into place.

⭐⭐⭐

Larissa Sansour/Søren Lind, In Vitro, 2019, film, 2 channels, production still. Courtesy of the artist. Photographer: Lenka Rayn H

In Vitro

We were all raised on someone else’s nostalgia.” – Dunia

Larisa Sansour‘s short film, titled ‘In Vitro’, is staged in the town of Bethlehem decades after an eco-disaster. The dying founder of a subterranean orchard is engaged in a dialogue with her young successor, who is born underground and has never seen the town she’s destined to replant and repopulate. Inherited trauma, exile and collective memory are central themes.

The streets of Bethlehem getting filled with a black oily substance, make for a great opening shot, what follows then is a split-screen conversation between two scientists, reminiscing on what used to be. Terrific cinematography go hand in hand with the well written screenplay, which discusses religion, science and natural disasters. Definitely worth checking out if you like post-apocalyptic content with a pinch of existential crisis.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Ambience‘ and ‘In Vitro‘ are both screening as part of Palestinian Film Festival.

Ambience‘ will be shown in the following cities:

  • Sydney, Dendy Opera Quays, Oct. 24 at 7pm – before feature ‘It Must Be Heaven
  • Canberra, Capitol Cinemas Manuka, Oct. 25 at 6:30pm – before feature ‘It Must Be Heaven
  • Sydney, Dendy Newtown, Oct. 28 at 6:30pm – before feature ‘It Must Be Heaven
  • Melbourne, Cinema Nova, Oct. 31 at 7pm – before feature ‘Screwdriver
  • Hobart, State Cinema, Nov. 2 at 3:30pm – before feature ‘It Must Be Heaven
  • Sydney, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Nov. 2 at 7pm – before feature ‘It Must Be Heaven
  • Perth, Event Cinemas Innaloo, Nov. 8 at 6:30pm – before feature ‘It Must Be Heaven
  • Brisbane, Event Cinemas Myer Centre, Nov. 8 at 6:30pm – before feature ‘It Must Be Heaven

Tickets are available now: https://www.palestinianfilmfestival.com.au/tickets/ambience/

In Vitro‘ will be shown in the following cities:

  • Sydney, Dendy Opera Quays, Oct. 27 at 4:30pm – before feature ‘Ibrahim: a Fate to Define’
  • Melbourne, Cinema Nova, Nov. 3 at 4:30pm – before feature ‘Ibrahim: a Fate to Define’

Tickets are available now: https://www.palestinianfilmfestival.com.au/tickets/in-vitro/

Palestinian Film Festival – Short Review – ‘Ambience’

Reviewed from screener provided by Palestinian Film Festival’s publicity team, Sydney, Oct. 17, 2019. CBA-Rating: Unclassified 15+. Running time: 15 min.

CREW: Director: Wisam Aljafari. Camera (black and white, widescreen): Ibrahim Handal. Editor: Belal Abu Alia. Music: Saed Masanat.

WITH: Salah Abu Nea’ma, Mohammah Alkhmour, Jameel Hilmi, Nelly Salman, Mutaz Shafout.

Palestinian Film Festival – Short Review – ‘In Vitro’

Reviewed from screener provided by Palestinian Film Festival’s publicity team, Sydney, Oct. 22, 2019. CBA-rating: Unclassified 15+. Running time: 28 min.

PRODUCTION: (Denmark, UK, Palestine) A Spike Island Production. Producer: Ali Roche. Line producer: May Odeh.

CREW: Director: Søren Lind, Larissa Sansour. Screenplay: Larissa Sansour. Camera (black and white, split-screen): Anna Valdez-Hanks. Editor: Sue Giovanni. Music: Niklas Schak.

WITH: Hiam Abbass, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Marah Abu Srour. (Arabic dialogue)      

Review – ‘Tayamangajirri’

We are the eyes during the day and they are the eyes for the night time.” – Nilus

Tayamangajirri means “we look after each other”. Set in Wurrumiyanga on the Tiwi Islands, this half hour documentary made for NITV takes a glimpse into the world of a dedicated team of Tiwi Islanders who work around the clock to keep the local kids safe. Narrated by Australian television and stage actor and singer Rob Collins (Cleverman), we follow patrollers Janey and Camilla as they work through the night to ensure that the local kids are off the streets by 9pm and ready for school the next day.

We also see Nilus at work – he’s from the school attendance strategy team – also known as the “yellow shirt mob”. Even in this small community there are a lot of distractions, such as phone use and social media, but also card games. When teenage girl Sylvia noticeably starts missing classes, our team of patrollers takes it upon themselves to find out why her attendance isn’t what it used to be. Janey, Camilla and Nilus are proud to teach the next generation culture, history and the traditions of their people, and encourage them to get an education so these young people will never have to live in anyone’s shadow and show everyone how talented and ambitious they are.

Set against the vibrant culture of island life, this small community takes pride in their achievements and unity. Once a catholic mission, Wurrumiyanga still shares its traditional culture with catholicism. We see the entire island unite for the Tiwi Football Grand Final, and even then our team of patrollers helps out. Police forces call them a “godsend”. Stories get shared from generation to generation at the waterhole, and when ANZAC day arrives, we find out Janey’s grandfather fought in World War II – a war that was never even theirs to start with.

They are one big family, who cares for each other. The people trust this team, who put their blood, sweat and tears in caring for these children, even if that means they have to miss out on precious time with their own families. They are dedicated to their profession and do it with love.

Director Charmaine Ingram is a Yidinji woman, and started as a journalist working all major Australian broadcasters. Her ABC iView web series Trans Black, was a good example of what she does best: tell stories about the underdog and those who are often overlooked in mainstream media. She says of the documentary: “It was important to me to show how Aboriginal leaders and families care about their kids and their kids’ education”.

Producer Sally Ingleton, who’s currently directing the feature documentary ‘Wild Things‘ about environmental activism in Australia, says, “Most Australians will never have the chance to visit the Tiwi Islands or a remote community. But thanks to NITV audiences will get the chance to see a really insightful and surprising story about how the Tiwi Islanders are grappling with similar issues to many parents when it comes to education and managing their kids use of mobile phones and social media.”

Tayamangajirri gives us an exclusive look inside a traditional community, dealing with issues around social media and phone use by teenagers. It’s engaging and inspiring to witness the next generation of Tiwi Islanders capable of achieving great things, passing on life lessons and not just waiting for change. This proud united community knows the goals they’re aiming for and make changes for the better, while staying true to their beliefs.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

The film was shot on lands belonging to the Tiwi people and post produced on lands belonging to the Larrakia nation.

TAYAMANGAJIRRI will screen on NITV, 8.30pm 28 October.

Review – ‘Tayamangajirri’

Reviewed from online screener provided by publicity team, Sydney, Oct. 21, 2019. Running time: 26 min.

PRODUCTION: A 360 Degree Films Production in association with Native Bird Media for NITV, with assistance from Screen Territory. Production investment: Screen Australia, NITV. Producer: Sally Ingleton.

CREW: Director: Charmaine Ingram. Camera (color, widescreen): Gary Russell, Tom Lawrence. Editor: Sam Frederick.

Review – ‘Ready or Not’

The rich really are different.” – Daniel Le Domas

From the creators of horror phenomenon V/H/S, comes a classic new horror tale that you won’t forget so easily. In ‘Ready or Not‘, we meet Grace (Samara Weaving), who just joined the Le Domas-dominion, by marrying the family’s youngest son Alex (Mark O’Brien). Excited as every newlywed should be on their wedding night, she gets ready for a “bone-a-thon” with her husband, until she notices grumpy aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) spying on them from a dark corner. Scared and confused, Grace heads down with her man, where she gets invited to participate in an old family-tradition.

Alex’s lovely mother (played by Southern Belle, Andie MacDowell) tries to figure out what Grace exactly sees in her son. When Grace explains how she grew up in foster families and always wanted a big family like theirs, mother-in-law Becky seems a lot more at ease, than when her older son Daniel (Adam Brody) married the gold digging Charity (Elyse Levesque). Late to the party, are sister-in-law Emilie (Melanie Scrofano), husband Fitch (Kristian Bruun) and their two sons. Now the family is complete, they can put their game faces on. With the little brats now tucked into bed, the adults gather around the family table and Grace gets a quick lesson in Le Domas-history and how they got into the whole board game business. Grace gets to pick a card, on which is written which deadly game they’ll be playing tonight. ‘Hide and Seek’ it is. While an innocent Grace, assumes she’ll be spending her wedding night in the dumbwaiter, dad puts on ‘The Hide and Seek’-song and the entire family gears up with crossbows and rifles, ready for a night of hunting.

The clever, witty and extremely hilarious screenplay comes from Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy (not that Ryan Murphy), who are pretty new to the writing game. These guys know how to set up a film, keep momentum going with batshit crazy violence and end it all with a bang of a finale. Directing duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett seem to know exactly what they’re doing, blending horror with top notch comedy. Combine this with Brett Jutkiewicz‘s gritty cinematography and Brian Tyler‘s orchestraic score, and you have a pretty darn good film right in front of you.

All the behind-the-scenes work would be for nothing, if we didn’t have a cast who’s having the time of their life. Samara Weaving (The Babysitter) is an absolute blast as the bride running for her life – still wearing her (now shredded) wedding dress and Converse, covered in blood most of the time. This scream queen is drop-dead-gorgeous and brings the most wicked whimsical energy to the screen. Her screams slice through bones. Her on screen lover, played by O’Brien (Arrival) knows how to counterbalance her energy and is there to back up a strong woman. Like they say “behind every strong woman…”, you know the drill.

Supporting cast has some true acting legends in their midst. Andie MacDowell (Groundhog Day) and Henry Czerny (Mission: Impossible) as Mrs. and Mr. Le Domas are absolute dynamite. MacDowell plays a more calm and absolutely lovely mother, yet protective of her family when she has to be, while Czerny’s Mr. Le Domas knows what’s at stake and start to lose his patience while throwing F-bombs, getting on his wife’s nerves. Adam Brody (Shazam!), Melanie Scrofano (Wynonna Earp), Kristian Bruun (Orphan Black) and John Ralston (Bitten), each bring their A-game, but it’s Nicky Guadagni who steals every scene she’s in, as the ever-grumpy Aunt Helene.

Ready or Not‘ is a side-splitting massacre that’s delightful as the night is grim, with a brilliantly exuberant cast. You’ll want to show this to your friends and rewatch it, over and over again. “Do you think this is a fucking game?”

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review – ‘Ready or Not’

Reviewed at Event Cinemas Gold Class, Sydney, Oct. 21, 2019. (20th Century Fox Early Media Screening) CBA-rating: MA15+. Running time: 95 min.

PRODUCTION: A 20th Century Fox release of a Fox Searchlight, Mythology Entertainment and Vinson Films production. Producers: Bradley J. Fischer, William Sherak, James Vanderbilt, Tripp Vinson. Executive producers: Daniel Bekerman, Chad Villella.

CREW: Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett. Screenplay: Guy Busick, Ryan Murphy. Camera (color, widescreen): Brett Jutkiewicz. Editor: Terel Gibson. Music: Brian Tyler.

WITH: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Nicky Guadagni, Elyse Levesque, John Ralston.     

Netflix Review – ‘Eli’

The devil always lies.” – Rose

Included in the 2015 Blacklist for top unproduced screenplays (written by the guys who wrote ‘The Autopsy of Jane Doe‘), this Paramount production was purchased last year by Netflix. When a boy with some sort of auto-immune disorder, arrives at a treatment facility with his parents, he hopes to get cured and finally live a normal life.

Eli (Charlie Shotwell), at first hopeful, meets Dr. Horn (Lili Taylor) at her lush yet minimalistic mansion – fully equiped to house patients with conditions such as the young boy’s. When getting the grand tour of the house, Eli notices shadows lurking in the corners. After his first of three treatments, where Dr. Horn and her loyal team of nurses take tissue samples, the teenager wakes up in his room haunted by seemingly malicious spirits, scaring him into his parents bedroom. When trying to explain this to the team of professional scientists, they quickly file this under hallucinations from the anaesthesia. But when things seem to get worse and worse with every day passing, and treatments getting more intense, Eli uncovers secrets that lie deep within the facility, that will turn his own and everyone else’s lives upside down with apocalyptic consequences.

Ciarán Foy (Sinister 2) isn’t new to the horror genre and directs this with much needed confidence. Some jump scares don’t land, but I have to admit when some heavily mutilated children run towards you out of nowhere, you’ll try and duck away. It also helps when your director of photography (Jeff Cutter10 Cloverfield Lane) knows how to put things in perspective and gives you angles others might not even think of. The score by Bear McCreary (Godzilla II: King of the Monsters) also gives you the much needed suspense as soon as the film starts.

Charlie Shotwell (Captain Fantastic), who plays our titular character, has to carry this entire film on his own, and he partially succeeds. His screaming and yelling gets quite tiring after a while, but he definitely lands the more serious and dramatic scenes. Kelly Reilly (Yellowstone) is the other standout, playing Eli’s mother with much needed intensity and depth to embody her character’s struggles as a caring parent.

Unfortunately, the always strong Lily Taylor, who has starred in scary movies such as ‘The Conjuring‘ and ‘The Haunting‘ is particularly weak as Dr. Horn. Not only does her character play a big part in the reveal around Eli’s disease, but it’s pivotal to the entire storyline. Emotionless and boring, Taylor didn’t seem to know what went on in this story. Max Martini (Fifty Shades Freed), also laughably overacts as Eli’s father.

Eli‘ is part ‘The Boy in the Plastic Bubble‘, part ‘The Others‘ and part ‘Rosemary’s Baby‘. Nonetheless entertaining for 98 minutes, with a twist ending you’ll never see coming and makes you wanting more.

⭐⭐⭐

Netflix Review – ‘Eli’

Reviewed on Netflix, Oct. 20, 2019. CBA Rating: MA15+. Running time: 98 min.

PRODUCTION: A Netflix release of an Intrepid Pictures, Bellevue Productions, Paramount Players production. Producers: Trevor Macy, John Zaozirny. Executive producers: Matt Alvarez, Jenny Hinkey, Melinda Nishioka. Co-executive producer: Mike O’Sullivan. Associate Producer: David O’Leary.

CREW: Director: Ciarán Foy. Screenplay: David Chirchirillo, Ian Goldberg, Richard Naing. Camera (color, widescreen): Jeff Cutter. Editor: Jason Hellmann. Music: Bear McCreary.

WITH: Charlie Shotwell, Kelly Reilly, Max Martini, Lili Taylor, Sadie Sink, Deneen Tyler, Katia Gomez.     

Japanese Film Festival Review – ‘Kakegurui’

Bring on the madness!” – Yumeko Jabami

Copyright 2019 Homura Kawamoto, Toru Naomura / SQUARE ENIX “Kakegurui Movie” Project

Japanese Film Festival is back to tour Australia from October through December 2019. Their line up is more diverse than ever and what a film to start things off with. ‘Kakegurui’ is the live action film, based on the similarly titled Square Enix manga-series, which was distributed in western countries by Netflix. Not familiar with the source material, I dove into the film and let me tell you, it stands completely on its own.

Kakegurui, shows us what happens behind closed doors at Hyakaou Academy – a private and elite institute that has been around for over a century. The academic ranking is based on how well the students gamble. Only the best of the best get rewarded, with riches and status. The ones who lose, become subhumans – or as they call them “kitties and doggies” – who most likely go in debt with the school and can only get back to normal by winning a game against the School Council President, Kirari Momobami (Elaiza Ikeda). Yumeko (Minami Hamabe) is new to the academy. Her pretty enchanting looks are only surpassed by her unquenchable appetite to gamble and win it all.

After the music video intro, we get to take a look at The Village, an on campus location free of debts and loans, where everyone runs off to after losing against the School President. Like Murasame (Hio Miyazawa), head of The Village, says “Gambling is meaningless and it won’t save anything“. But soon they’ll have to gamble for their lives, when Kirari forces a student rep election. If you don’t vote, you’ll be expelled. The council will even loan you 10 million Yen, which you can repay after the voting. Well knowing that The Village will refuse to act on the new situation, the council sends a group of their own to claim back the school building. Soon, every pupil will place bets on who they want to see become a part of the School Council. Nothing is what it seems and every move is a gamble.

You can definitely tell the movie is inspired by manga. Some visual effects include eyes popping out of skulls when in distress or tied up hair flying out of their scrunchies when angry. When a student leaps over a group of boys, she flies through the air to then get caught in a bag. It’s impressive to behold and funny at the same time. When the accompanying score elevates every gambling scene with a haunting choir, this really feels like raising the stakes. Everything is a bit over-the-top, from the smoky visuals to the acting, and for Kakegurui, it all feels right.

The acting isn’t bad though – actually it’s pretty darn good. The female lead, Minami Hamabe, is charming and definitely knows the character she’s playing. Her playfulness by not letting anyone see her cards, plays in her favour and surprises you a lot in the third act where she unveils some of her secret weapons. I must say, the entire female cast is just remarkably strong. Aoi Morikawa, who plays Meari Saotome, is great at more dramatic face acting. Sometimes so over-the-top dramatic that it caused me to laugh out loud. That’s without a doubt, a skill. Elaiza Ikeda looks menacing on her throne, but loses a lot of her external flair when being put in the spotlight. Still keeping her powerful stoic persona, she now looks more like the typical rich kid brat.

The male cast has a bit of a problem. Every girl in the film gets to team up with a boy, but they can’t compete with these powerful women on screen. Mahiro Takasugi‘s (who plays Ryota Suzui) over-the-top acting becomes exhausting very fast, and Yuma Yamoto‘s (playing Jun Kiwatari) mood-swings as a deranged gambler are so aggressive, it’s not pleasing to look at. The one actor who did more by being less is without a doubt Hio Miyazawa. His Amane Murasame is noticeably troubled (we later find out what made him this way), without having much dialogue and still connecting with the camera.

Kakegurui is an over-the-top high roller. Every game gets accompanied with on screen visuals used in a simple way that works with the film. Twists and turns make the story fly by with ease and even made me wish there was more. Dive into your bankroll and place all your chips on Kakegurui – there is no table limit and all bets are off.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Kakegurui screens at Japanese Film Festival in:

  • Brisbane (Event Cinemas Brisbane Myer Centre – Sunday 27th October, at 3pm)
  • Sydney (Event Cinemas George Street – Saturday 16th November, at 3:25pm)
  • Melbourne (Treasury Theatre – Sunday 1st December at 5pm).

Buy your tickets now at https://japanesefilmfestival.net/film/kakegurui/

Japanese Film Festival Review – ‘Kakegurui’

Reviewed from online screener (provided by GAGA Corporation), Oct. 1, 2019. (Also in Japanese Film Festival, Sydney) BCA-rating: Unclassified 15+. Running time: 119 min.

PRODUCTION: (Japan) A GAGA release of a Dub, Stardust Pictures production. Producers: Yûichi Shibahara, Yanghwe Yoon, Tatsuya Iwakura, Tsuyoshi Matsushita. Executive Producers: Ryûji Abe, Masahiro Kazumoto, Hiroo Maruyama, Satomi Odake, Yasushi Utagawa. Committee Producers: Naoshi Fujikura, Yoshirô Hosono, Hideo Katsumata, Jun Masuda, Katsuyoshi Matsuura, Shinji Nakano, Kazumi Satake, Akihito Watanabe, Tatsumi Yoda, Eisaku Yoshikawa. Line Producer: Tarô Mori.

CREW: Director: Tsutomu Hanabusa. Screenplay: Tsutomu Hanabusa, Minato Takano. From the manga by: Homura Kawamoto, Tôru Naomura. Camera (DCP colour): Takashi Komatsu. Editor: Naoichirô Sagara. Music: Michiru.

WITH: Minami Hamabe, Mahiro Takasugi, Aoi Morikawa, Elaiza Ikeda, Hio Miyazawa, Yûma Yamoto, Yurika Nakamura, Natsume Mito, Ruka Mutsuda, Haruka Fukuhara. (Japanese dialogue)