Wednesday, 1 March 2017

March 2 2017:  
Jasper Jones
Miss Sloane
Alone in Berlin

Yep, Oscar has come and gone!  And what an amazing result it was! I am delighted that Moonlight won Best Film, but disappointed that it happened the way it did.  And so now it's back to business as usual (though a couple of Oscar contenders are still to release over the next couple of weeks).  

Jasper Jones
Director: Rachel Perkins
Length: 101 min

© Madman - The three young leads are tremendous
This wonderful film is based on a best-selling novel, set in the small West Australian town of Corrigan in 1969. Don't be deluded into thinking it's a kid's flick, although youngsters steal the limelight. Bookish 14-year-old Charlie (Levi Miller) is asked for help by Aboriginal outcast Jasper Jones (Aaron McGrath), when a girl goes missing and JJ fears the blame will be pinned on him. What happens as Charlie and Jasper try to solve the mystery will change not only their lives, but the lives of everyone in that small-minded, bigoted town. Deep secrets are unearthed and everyone is forced to confront the reality of their lives. The film sports a fabulous cast - Toni Collette, Dan Wyllie, Hugo Weaving, Matt Nagel, and Angourie Rice as Charlie's potential love interest. On one level it's a coming of age story, but that's to short-sell it. Perkins has done a splendid job directing a thriller that includes themes of racism, young love, bravery, parental and marital conflict, dark family secrets and more.
4 - wholeheartedly recommended!  

Miss Sloane
Director: John Madden
Length: 132 min

© Roadshow - Chastain  & Raw pull
out the girl power
Jessica Chastain plays Elizabeth Sloane, a cool, ruthless Washington lobbyist, who works herself to the limit. When approached by the gun lobby to influence women to their point of view, she defects to the opposition, joining a smaller company to do battle which will involve her in pushing the boundaries and breaking the law. Ultimately her self-assurance and "win at all costs" mentality will be challenged. I began the movie (politico-klutz that I am!) thinking I would never be able to follow the intricacies of the political machinations, but suddenly it took a hold of me and I was hooked.  It's always a pleasure to watch Jessica Chastain on the big screen. In this role she absolutely dominates, and is ably supported by Gugu Mbatha Raw, John Lithgow and Mark Strong. 
3.5 - highly recommended!

Director: James Mangold
Length: 137 min

© 20th Century Fox- Hugh Jackman gives his all in the final
performance as Wolverine
I'm no superhero buff, but Logan really got me in. You don't have to have seen all the prior X-Men films to enjoy this latest film featuring the Clawed One - Wolverine - now known as Logan. It's the story of a tired (theoretically immortal) man, sick of life, and with his powers to heal weakening. A reason to live emerges in the form of Laura (Dafne Keen), a child mutant who needs his help and protection. At first reluctant, Logan (of course) relents. There are many interesting layers to this story - themes of family, belonging, isolation, sacrifice, genetic engineering - all lurking under an incredible overload of violence that is both cartoon-like, but also a tad disturbing. Overall the impressive thoughtful scripting, and Jackman's mastery of and empathy for his character make it a fascinating and entertaining cinematic outing. 
3 - recommended!

Alone in Berlin
Director: Vincent Perez
Length: 98 min
© Icon -  Gleeson and Bruhl perform well in an 
ultimately uninspiring movie
In 1947 Hans Fallada wrote a novel called Every Man Dies Alone. 52 years later the book was published in English and became an international bestseller. Fallada based his novel upon the true tale of an ordinary German couple, who made their own small but highly personal protest against the Nazis by writing seditious messages on cards and leaving them in public spots in Berlin. Brendan Gleeson plays Otto Quangel, a factory foreman, and Emma Thompson his wife Anna. Daniel Bruhl is the police inspector charged with tracking down the culprits. The film's design nicely captures the look and mood of the era, while all the leads play their roles with tolerably authentic German accents. (Well, Bruhl IS German!) But here's where the problems begin - a Spanish director takes on a German story, shoots in English, and it ends up feeling somehow unconvincing. To add, there is simply insufficient dramatic tension for what should be a much more compelling tale. There are many stronger Nazi films than this turgid story.
2 - maybe!  

PS: If you are wanting an excellent rundown on why Moonlight is a must-see film, check out this article by my colleague Stephen Russell.

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