Fences Film Review

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Some people build fences to keep people out, and other people build fences to keep people in.

fencesTo the outside world, the Maxsons live contented lives: Troy (Denzel Washington) has just won the right to become the city’s first non-white driver in the sanitation department; his wife of seventeen years, Rose (Viola Davis), looks after the family home, keeping it spotless and always ready with a good hot meal while looking after the finances; and a teenage son, Cory (Jovan Adepo) who is doing well enough in the school football team that college talent scouts are considering giving him a place.

 

A couple of decades after his own dreams of joining major league baseball because he was deemed too old by the time African-American players are admitted, Troy is still bitter about the path that “could have been” and takes out his resentment on Cory. He refuses to let Cory play football and insists he spend his “spare” time working to support the family. Continue reading

Manchester By The Sea Film Review

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manchester-by-the-seaIn the idyllic, seaside town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, once lived Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) with his wife, Randi (Michelle Williams) and their three young children. He sometimes hangs out with his older brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler) and his nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges) on Joe’s boat, the Claudia Marie – named after their mother. It is clear from the outset that Lee and his family are close.

Following a family tragedy, Lee moves away and is working as a handyman who keeps mostly to himself. His quiet existence is turned upside down when his brother dies suddenly of a heart attack, leaving him the sole guardian for 16-year-old nephew – Patrick’s mother, Elise (Gretchen Mol) having left the family many years earlier.

When Lee returns to Manchester, he is confronted by not only the sad realities of death – arranging for the funeral, the burial and all the legal ramifications – but also all the ghosts of his own past that he has never forgiven himself for. Continue reading

Lion: The True Story of A Man’s Long Journey Home

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lionPicture yourself as a five year-old, small in stature but large in spirit and eager to do everything you can to be your mother’s little helper. You look up to your big brother who, despite being only a few years older, is larger-than-life and everything you want to be. Your family is poor but hard-working and always full of love.

One evening,  despite your sleepiness, you ask your brother to take you with him on his evening job run – because life in impoverished Calcutta, India, means you start working as soon as you are big enough to carry anything and taking any job you can find. Your big brother reluctantly agrees and together you go on a train ride somewhere. You don’t know where because you fell asleep on the train and you can’t read anyway.

When you wake up, you are all alone on a bench on a deserted train platform. You call your brother’s name but get no response. You peek into every train car. You are tired and hungry. You become lost inside one of the carriages and you head into the great unknown. When the train stops, you get off but you cannot understand a word people are shouting at you. They are speaking a different dialect. It is now several days later and all you can do is survive the best that any street-smart five year-old can in a foreign environment. Continue reading

Jackie: The Fairytale Without A Happy Ending

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jackieA great deal has been written about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy Jr on that fateful day in November of 1963. The image of his body slumped across his wife’s lap in the backseat of the convertible as the motorcade made its slow procession along the Dallas street has been imprinted in the world’s memory. History books, documentaries, TV shows and films have all told their versions of what happened before, during and after the gunshots were fired. In Jackie, director Pablo Larrain (with a screenplay by Noah Oppenheim) gives us a new insight into the mind of the woman whose blood-soaked suit haunts American history to this day.

Being First Lady is no simple task. There is no job description and the only way to get it is if your husband happens to be the President. With two small children in tow and in an era when media publicity and televisions were only just becoming commonplace, Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) brought glamour to the White House. She gave a televised tour of “the People’s House” proudly but nervously with the help of White House Social Secretary, Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig). Continue reading

Allied:Suspicious Minds

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Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl and get married. Boy suspects girl is not who she claims to be. What’s next?

alliedIt is 1942. Canadian intelligence officer, Max Vatan (Bratt Pitt), is working with the British in Casablanca. Going undercover as the Parisian husband of Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard), a French resistance fighter, the two are on a mission to assassinate the German ambassador.

Despite knowing the risks of their jobs and the pitfalls of falling in love on the job, Max returns to England at the end of their successful mission and requests permission to bring Marianne to London so that the two could marry.

Two soon becomes three with the dramatic arrival of baby Anna in the middle of an air raid. However, their blissful life is thrown in doubt when the Special Operations Executive tells Max that they suspect Marianne is not who she claims to be, and that she is, in fact, a German spy who stole the identity of the real Marianne after she died in France.

As Max races against the clock to uncover the truth, he faces the frightening possibility that his life and love may have all been built on a lie. Could he carry out the execution as his superiors commands should their suspicions prove to be true or face becoming a traitor against the Allied nations? Continue reading

La La Land Brings Back Old Hollywood

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Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall.

la-la-landIf you have recently watched Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life – the old WB television classic’s revival on Netflix – you may be forgiven for thinking you have stepped into Stars Hollow on the big screen. Yes, that familiar sight you see is, indeed, the Warner Bros Studio lot in Los Angeles.

Let me backtrack a little here. La La Land opens with a sight familiar to Los Angelenos: sunshine and stationary traffic, the kind that turns a freeway into a parking lot. But this is a musical, so of course, the drivers soon get out of their cars in frustration and start to dance and sing. Think Cliff Richard in Summer Holiday or just about any Elvis musical. This being Los Angeles where the sun always shines (when you see through the smog and haze) so the costumes are all bursting with colour (think West Side Story).

But unlike the Elvis musicals, La La Land also has a strong plot, bringing together big-screen darlings – Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling – for their third outing. Mia (Stone) is a struggling actress working in the cafe on the Warner Bros Studio lot where “real” movie stars frequent in between takes. Sebastian (Gosling) is a jazz pianist with dreams of opening his own jazz club while trying to make ends meet playing Christmas jingles in Bill’s (J.K. Simmons) restaurant. Continue reading

Tell Me Your Name

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your-nameHave you ever wished you lived a different life? Or had a feeling you were meant to be something else? Someone else? Woken up from a dream that feels so real you need to pinch yourself to figure out if you are awake or asleep?

Young Mitsuha is a seventeen year-old girl in Itomori, a small Japanese village in the country. She dreads her life as the estranged daughter of the local Mayor, being brought up by her grandmother with her younger sister. She wishes she could be a handsome Tokyo boy in her next life.

Later, Mitsuha wakes up and finds herself in the body of Taki, a teenage boy in Tokyo. After a period of initial shock and some hilarious incidents involving Taki’s friends discovering his “feminine side”, the two realise they are body-swapping several times a week, triggered by sleep. They begin to leave notes and messages for each other about their day on phones and school books to help them act less mad whenever they switch back to themselves. Continue reading

All Hail Chief Moana!

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moanaThere are so many reasons to love Disney’s much-anticipated new animated film, Moana. Let’s start with the title character herself. Who and what Moana is is as important to us as an audience in the twenty-first century as what she represents. For generations, we have grown up with Disney animations giving us strong female characters who are looking to be saved by brave, yet flawed, male characters who must fall in love with them for their inner beauty. Damsels in distress, trapped in castle towers by evil stepmothers.

Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) is not a “Disney Princess”. She is not an orphan (hurrah!) but in fact has two healthy, happy and loving parents – Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison) and Sina (Nicole Scherzinger) – who are very much alive. Even better still, she has a beautiful grandmother, Gramma Tala (Rachel House) who is considered by their people as slightly eccentric as she is always telling scary monster stories to the children and dancing on the beach.  Moana is not looking to be saved by Prince Charming, nor is she looking for love or validation from any man.

So who is Moana and what is all the fuss about? Continue reading