2018 | DIR: STEVE MCQUEEN | STARS: VIOLA DAVIS, MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ, COLLIN FARRELL, LIAM NEESON | REVIEW BY ALEX MAYNARD.
Of course, it helps that WIDOWS boasts a phenomenal cast and crew: Gillian Flynn (of Gone Girl fame) cowrote the script with McQueen, while Viola Davis shines as Veronica Rawlings, defacto leader of the titular group. It can be tempting to simply assume sight unseen that Davis will nail any role she’s given, but her reputation is earned from WIDOWS’ first moments. The film opens with a juxtaposition of four criminals’ personal and professional lives, a compelling sequence which culminates in Veronica’s reaction upon learning the crew, including her husband (Liam Neeson), are all presumed dead. Without giving too much away, Davis’ visceral performance in this scene alone is utterly mesmerising. However, WIDOWS is far from a one-woman show; rather, its ensemble feels like a casting director’s dream come true, with each actor given an appropriate showcase. Seriously, you know a film is bursting at the seams with talent when Jacki Weaver and Robert Duvall each have around five minutes of total screen time (although they make the most of these brief appearances, as you’d expect). My personal highlight was Daniel Kaluuya’s turn as the vicious mobster Jatemme, which further proves his breakout role in Get Out was no fluke.
McQueen and Flynn pack WIDOWS’ script with an incredible amount of ideas and largely succeed at balancing these with the tonal demands of an action-thriller. Unsurprisingly, the film has plenty to say about both race and gender, keeping these topics at its forefront throughout; look out for a flashback involving Veronica’s teenage son and prepare to be devastated. Yet as the title should suggest, this is emphatically a film about grief. Veronica, Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice’s (Elizabeth Debicki) overwhelming sense of loss extends even to WIDOWS’ technical aspects: shots of them alone are composed with the women off-centre to draw attention to their missing ‘halves’, with McQueen and editor Joe Walker allowing these moments to linger slightly longer than I expected. Some viewers might be disappointed that the actual heist doesn’t occur until the third act, but McQueen’s mastery of suspense makes sure this brilliantly-paced sequence pays off. In fact, I would argue the stakes feel especially high here because of how much time is dedicated to ensuring the widows’ emotions are portrayed honestly. Having characters move between story beats without so much as a pause is basically an action genre trope at this point, which makes WIDOWS feel particularly refreshing in comparison.
I’m sure WIDOWS’ genre-defying approach won’t please everyone; honestly, McQueen’s unusual choice to wait until the final 40-minutes to showcase its thrills leads to the film feeling a little slow at times. However, not only is the action worth the wait, there’s plenty of captivating drama to be found beforehand. Although these elements don’t combine as well as McQueen perhaps intended, it’s incredible that a single film delivers them both so well.
2018 | DIR: CHRISTIAN RIVERS | STARRING: HERA HIMAR, ROBERT SHEEHAN, HUGO WEAVING | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
It has been adapted from a series of award-winning books, of which there are nine, and while the story might have leaped off the page and gripped its readers, it translates terribly to film and makes for a cringe-worthy and embarrassing reproduction.
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2018 | DIR. JULIAN SCHNABEL | STARRING: WILLEM DAFOE, OSCAR ISAAC, MADS MIKKELSEN, VINCENT PEREZ | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
So you can imagine my relief when At Eternity's Gate turned out to be a thoroughly engaging and surprisingly entertaining film. It is not like the typical artist bio-pics that grind my gears, but rather it is a unique and fascinating examination of an icon, whose legacy is insurmountable.
The film stars Willem Dafoe as Vincent van Gough, and it follows the later years of his life and chronicles his creative processes as well as his insecurities, connection to nature and failing mental health. The story begins with an exhibition of his being rejected by a publican. When his work is deemed to be puerile and inane van Gogh seeks guidance by a fellow artist Paul Gauguin (Oscar Isaac) whose own modernist work influenced the French avant-garde. While they subscribe to different methods and ideals they both adhere to non-conformity and influence each others vision. On advice from Gauguin, van Gough heads to the south of France and immerses himself in nature.
From there the film documents his thinking process (or lack thereof) and follows him as he encounters criticism and personal attacks from those who misunderstand him. Director Julian Schnabel comes full circle from his 1996 debut Basquiat (a biographical film about the post-modernist artist) and takes an experimental approach to telling his story. A variety of techniques are employed to represent various moments and mental states of van Gough's journey; from random monologue musings over a black screen, to shaky hand-held point-of-view camera angles and surreal horizontal multifocal split-screen. It is a strange and wonderful method of storytelling, which examines the various stages on his work, and remains humble without being heavy-handed or pretentious.
Dafoe is outstanding (as always) and offers one of his most delicate and emotionally fractured performances to date. He bares a striking resemblance to his real-life counterpart and connects to van Gough's fragile state of mind as earnestly as history describes it to be. The film is by no means an accurate historical account (it's more of a romanticised vision of his life) but it successfully dispels the myth that he was a raving madman. Instead is treats his mental illness with sincerity and compassion, depicting him as a sympathetic and passionate man. His ever-loyal brother – who was also an art-dealer – is also portrayed beautifully with Rupert Friend adding further weight to the story. In addition to Osaac and Friend the supporting cast includes Mads Mikkelsen, Vincent Perez and Matthieu Amelric, who are all good. Mikkelsen's role as a priest tasked with evaluating van Gough in the mental institution provides one of the films highlights and offers the one of its most lighthearted, yet telling, qualities.
At Eternity's Gate will test many people's patience with its slow plodding and meandering exposition, but for those who enjoy skewed structures and obtuse techniques it will stir the imagination and inspire creative streaks within. It is a richly textured exploration of a renegade whose worth was never appreciated at the time, but who would become one of the most celebrated and influential figures in the history of Western art.
At Eternity's Gate will be released theatrically in Australian on 14/02/2019.
2018 | DIR: PHIL JOHNSON & RICH MOORE | STARRING: JOHN C REILLY, SARAH SILVERMAN, GAL GARDOT | REVIEW BY GLENN COCHRANE.
I will begin my review of Ralph Breaks the Internet with a glaring observation of the title and the missed opportunity to call it Ralph Wrecks the Internet… after all Ralph is a wrecker, not a breaker. But… so be it. 6 years after the original movie Ralph (John C. Reilly) is back, along with his best friend Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) and a slew of characters, new and old. When the owner of the ‘Litwak’s Family Fun Centre & Arcade’ installs Wi-Fi the characters inside the games are perplexed by its strange and seemingly irrelevant existence, however when Vanellope’s game is damaged and put up for sale, Ralph decides to venture into the Internet to visit eBay to purchase the missing piece that will restore the game and save the characters within it. Vanellope travels alongside him and discovers a new and exciting game called Slaughter Race.
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