Latest Star Wars - a Tour De Force
Abram’s latest addition to the cult heptalogy is an explosive blend of action and heart which, although borrowing heavily from its predecessors, still brings something new. The Resistance’s galactic attempts to defeat the evil First Order are chronicled with stunning special effects, striking production design, Mindel’s noteworthy cinematography and William’s rousing score. Performances have improved from its antecedents; Ford’s roguish charm is countered by formidable newcomers Isaac, Boyega and Driver. Ridley’s sensitively bold protagonist Rey is tough, daring and independent. Despite its mostly predictable plot, TFA is an expeditious, riveting edge-of-your-seat journey and possibly my favourite Star Wars so far.
Harry Meets Sally – cynical, predictable but fun
Reiner’s ode to male/female friendships satisfies in a droll rom-com with witty writing. Attempting to challenge the principle that men and women can’t be “just friends”, Harry (Crystal) and Sally (Ryan) undergo a tumultuously comical relationship from prickly acquaintances to intimate confidantes to (gasp) lovers. Ryan shines as bubbly, outspoken, nit-picking Sally, brilliantly countered by Crystal’s morose demeanour and sardonic wit. Their lively chemistry sustains an otherwise tedious film. Ephron’s writing is playful, snappy and engaging and Reiner’s directing balances quick-witted banter with bitter confrontations. Although cynical, predictable and unrealistic, When Harry Met Sally is still light-hearted, pleasant, and fun.
Warm and Witty albeit Melodramatic - The Dressmaker
Moorhouse’s return is a hilariously caricatured depiction of small-town Australia with captivating performances, stunning costumes and witty writing. Performances are robust; from Weaving’s flamboyant Sergeant to Hemsworth’s striking larrikin, from Snook’s sassy Trudy to Davis’ hilariously cranky recluse. Winslet thrives as tenaciously brazen femme fatale Tilly, whose homecoming unleashes revenge upon the callously petty townspeople. The script combines black comedy with gothic tragedy, producing a farcically grim storyline. The unnecessary introduction of sensational plotlines tips the film into melodrama, however Moorhouse incorporates this into the film’s eccentric style with an explosively cathartic finale. A hysterically theatrical lark, worth a watch.
Darabont’s celebrated adaption of King’s beloved story is rightfully hailed as one of the greatest films of all time. This heartfelt tale of an unlikely friendship forged in an unforgiving jail has both impeccable writing and profound performances. Like Cuckoo’s Nest, it highlights the power of friendship and the resilience of the oppressed individual. Robbin’s resourcefulness and Freeman’s kindness remind audiences of the humanity in us all. Shawshank makes profound arguments about the catastrophic consequences of ‘institutionalisation’, and the harsh reality of prison life. With an ending both beautifully optimistic and satisfying, Shawshank will forever live close to our hearts.
Suffragette - Superb conclusion to 2015 cinema
Gavron’s tribute to the foot-soldiers of the British Suffragettes is gritty yet poignant, backed by a strong female cast and crew. It chronicles Maud’s intense and empowering journey from timid laundress to militant Suffragette in the face of brutal patriarchy. Mulligan humanises the dedicated Maud with righteous indignation, well supported by Duff’s tenacious Violet, Bonham-Carter’s determined Edith, Streep’s zealous Pankhurst and Gleeson’s conflicted Inspector. It’s beautifully executed in its period art design, sensitive handling of emotional scenes and absorbing script. A gripping film that explores both the family dynamic and political landscape of the time, Suffragette is both harrowing and beautiful.
Back to the Future borrows too heavily from past in repetitive sequel
Spielberg’s temporal sequel all but copies its predecessor in a predictable follow-up about altering fate. Like the original, McFly (Fox) and Doc (Lloyd) must travel across time to fix problems, ultimately creating more problems. Their ascent to a futuristic 2015 initiates a trans-generational race against the clock to right past (and future) wrongs. Irritatingly, the sequel is purposefully self-referential, both exactly copying the famous skateboard chase, and setting most of the film’s events during the original. Although delivering an amusingly speculative vision of the future, BTTF2 fails to introduce any new gags, thus producing the worst kind of déjà vu.
Austen Classic, Pride and Prejudice, Revitalised in Elegant Rom-Com
Wright’s take on Austen’s hilarious novel is charming, witty and elegant. Set in the Regency Era, it portrays the lives of the Bennet daughters, principally the vivacious Elizabeth who rejects the loveless economic marriages of her time. Knightley thrives as bold spirited Lizzie, Pike delivers as graceful Jane, Blethyn delights as frivolous Mrs Bennet and Macfadyen’s haughty and stoic presence dominates the screen. With a mellifluous score, classic art design and classic costumes, Pride and Prejudice is a stylish revision. An enchantingly satirical illustration of the class divide of the 1800s, P&P is a pleasing contribution to the Period genre.
Impulsive Sherlock emerges in action-packed mystery
Pierce’s riveting escapade follows eccentric sleuth Holmes and his accomplice Watson as they battle black magic in this Victorian thriller. Downey Jr’s Holmes is erratic, belligerent and astute, but an unconvincing genius compared to Cumberbatch’s autistic prodigy. He’s well paired with Law’s level-headed Watson, and this camaraderie is central to the film’s charm. The art direction brilliantly establishes the Victorian mood, while the fluctuating speeds of the stunts correspond with the rambunctious and exhilarating Celtic soundtrack. Although inevitably discredited, the supernatural theme is dull compared to Doyle’s typically perplexing puzzles. Regardless, SH is still a boisterous, exciting and sensational adventure.
Published January 28, 2016