Wednesday, 30 August 2017

August 31 2017
Ali's Wedding
God's Own Country
Girl's Trip
47 Metres Down

This week's films go from the sublime to the ridiculous. No doubt the sort of films I really go for show something about my basic nature; I certainly seem to enjoy dramatic movies far more than comedy (with a few notable exceptions). Nevertheless, it takes all sorts, and this week's selection should have something to offer for all tastes! 

Ali's Wedding
Director: Jeffrey Walker
Length: 110 min
© Madman - a romantic comedy that has crowd-pleaser
written all over it. 
Ali (Osamah Sami) is the son of a Melbourne Imam, Mahdi (Don Hany). He is also a victim of his parents' expectations and those of the broader Muslim community. Of course they want him to be a doctor! When he tells one reckless lie, Ali sets in train a catastrophic chain of events. Caught between his sense of family obligation and his heart, Ali grapples for the right thing to do. This is a true story based upon actor/writer Sami's award-winning book A Good Muslim Boy. It's a timely tale, told with much heart and good humour. Filmed in and around Coburg, it depicts the local Muslim community in an affectionate way that cuts through all the current hysteria, and makes audiences keenly aware of the difficulties young Muslims must face straddling two worlds and cultures. I find some of the characters a little too stereotyped, and it's barely credible that Ali would get away with some of the deceptions he perpetrates (though, as they say, truth is stranger than fiction!) Despite this there are some real strengths, especially Helena Swires as Dianne, the gal of Ali's heart, the recognisable and beautifully shot Melbourne settings, but above all the messages of tolerance and love, within families and broader society. 
3.5 - recommended!

Gods Own Country
Director: Francis Lee
Length: 104 min
© Rialto - searing emotional realism, as young farm
hands get up close and personal
John lives on  a rugged sheep farm in Yorkshire with his dour Grandma and his father, who has suffered a stroke. He works hard by day and escapes via boozing and casual sex with men at night. When a Romanian worker Georghe is hired to help out, the men get together, initially in an aggressive almost animalistic way, but soon the gentle European is helping John get in touch with feelings the taciturn young Yorkshire lad never knew existed. One can't help but draw comparisons with Brokeback Mountain, but this film is even more raw and confronting. The careful attention to detail of farm life and tending the animals is absolutely exquisite, and much of the emotion between the men is conveyed without dialogue. The film tells an important story of self-discovery, tenderness and redemption, themes which, regardless of sexual orientation, are universal. This is top-shelf film-making. 
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended (as long as you're not a prude!) 

Director: Marc Webb
Length: 101 min
© Roadshow - cute and smart!!
Films about child geniuses seem to have a head start, especially if the kid is cute! This little smarty is seven-year-old Mary, (McKenna Grace), whose mother suicided and who is being raised by her uncle Frank (Chris Evans). Frank is determined to give Mary as normal a life as possible, but when Mary's genius for mathematics comes to the attention of her  teachers, things get tricky. Trickier still when Mary's maternal grandmother (Lindsay Duncan) turns up and is determined to fight Frank for custody and the opportunity to allow Mary's prodigy gene to blossom. Although there is nothing ground-breaking in the film-making, there is plenty to enjoy: the young lead is simply adorable without being cloying, and Evans and Duncan feel real in their roles. The issues the film raises, of fraught family past, secrets and ensuing conflict, along with the question of what is best for the child, are all worth pondering. Add into the mix Octavia Spencer as Roberta, Frank's landlord, Jenny Slate as Bonnie, Mary's teacher, and you have an thoroughly entertaining, at times tear-inducing story. 
3 - recommended!

Girl's Trip
Director: Malcolm D Lee
Length: 122 min
© Universal - fun for some? Not me! 
Here's a worry for me - so many critics seem to be raving about this one, touting it as the best raunchy comedy in a long time. With a great cast, including Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett-Smith, I went with high hopes, but found myself barely cracking a smile. Not because it's crude and crass, (which worked really well for me in Bridesmaids) but because I found it ludicrously over the top, trying too hard to be the loudest, most raucous and most vulgar. Celebrating the black sisterhood, it follows four friends on a trip to New Orleans, where they over-indulge in everything and up the ante on grossness. Sure, the friendships themselves feel real, the womens' energy is impressive, but the cliches are overblown, and the balancing of sickly girly sentimentality with all the crudity left me cold. Oh well, perhaps I'm just not the demographic for this one!
2 - you've got better things to do with your time!

47 Metres Down
Director: Johannes Roberts
Length: 89 min
© Vendetta - "uh-oh - a shark is coming - don't
worry - it'll be fine!" 

Sisters Kate (Claire Holt) and Lisa (Mandy Moore) are on holiday in Mexico. Kate, the more reckless of the two, convinces Lisa to go on a "fun" adventure where they are lowered into the water to observe the great white sharks circling from the "safety" of a cage. Predictably, the winch breaks, the cage descends, and the oxygen supply runs low.  
Where do I begin on this one? It's almost a case of so bad it's good! The dialogue is the most idiotically banal I've heard in a long while, Matthew Modine is unsuitably cast as the boat's captain, and at times the visuals are so dark and murky one can hardly see what's happening. (That could be deliberate, but doesn't make for easy viewing.) The logistics of the plot are generally unbelievable and the final "twist" is a puzzlement. Despite all this, there were moments where I felt decidedly tense and totally claustrophobic. It's no Jaws, but if you like to hear terrified girls shriek, gasp and panic while great whites circle, this genre film could be for you!
2 - you've got better things to do with your time!

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