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Charlie Says ★★

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Released: TBC

Director: Mary Harron

Cast: Matt Smith, Hannah Murray, Marianne Rendón, Sosie Bacon, Merritt Wever, Suki Waterhouse, Chace Crawford and Annabeth Gish

Reviewed By: Dion Wyn

In the space of 12 months we will of had two Charles Manson movies. Soon will be Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood; but first of all we have Mary Harron’s Charlie Says. Harron most famously known for American Psycho has always created character focused movies. Now she is talking Charlie Manson, but through the eyes of the people he brainwashed into murdering people during his Helter Skelter plot. The story follows three young women were sentenced to death in the infamous Manson murder case, but when the death penalty was lifted, their sentence became life imprisonment. One young graduate student was sent in to teach them – and through her we witness their transformations as they face the reality of their horrific crimes.

The casting of Matt Smith as the bogey man Manson caught my interest. Unfortunately Smith is not Manson; he doesn’t have the power, the stare and the tension of this man. The Manson Family has been a keen interest of mine for many years. If you can’t embody the man then your film will not work. Harron was slated for the portrayal of Bettie Page in 2005, for me Gretchen Mol did embody Page’s enigma and the film works because of it. Mary Harron’s angle on the tale is the saving grace of the picture. We meet them while they are imprisoned and they recall what had lead the to Helter Skelter. Harron seams the tale with great care, you can sense why they joined the Manson family and the era of free love is shown in a very gritty manor.

The build up to Sharon Tate’s murder is tense and harrowing. Charlie Manson’s plan to create a race war is of pure evil. The girls can sense his plan is unjust but they are too far into the rabbit hole now. The women are abused physically and mentally but they have dedicating their mind body and spirit to him. The actual tone and pace of the film is all over the place. You can’t sense the spark that creates Manson into a monster. You just hear a speech from him and that is all. Marianne Rendon, Hannah Murray and Sosie Bacon give a strong trio of performances. You can believe their obsession and pain; the inevitable reformation of their sins can be seen in their eyes. Charlie Says is more of their story than of Manson. Unfortunately the pull point for anyone is Smith as Manson. It doesn’t execute the potential it actually had.

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Featured Review

Hurricane ★★★

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Released: 7th September 2018

Directed By: David Blair

Starring: Iwan Rheon, Milo Gibson

Reviewed By: Van Connor

What is it about a good old brim ’n’ bluster war tale that lets a bit of charm and a whole heap of cheekiness carry a movie? There’s a bit more to David Blair’s Hurricane than that, but the prominence of its cheek ’n’ charm approach is undeniable. From the moment Game of Thrones baddie Iwan Rheon struts his way through a daring escape from the Nazis, the fun’s on for this engagingly peppy and likeable true story.

 This tight and tidy hundred and ten minute war story concerns the  formation of the RAF’s 303rd squadron in the wake of their exile from Poland, and the prejudice afforded them by their British allies. “England needs all the help it can get,” Rheon’s Zumbach explains; his fellow pilots, however, are more interested in seeing them remain on the ground. Add into this mix the friendship of a group of young female war clerks – including a rather fine performance by Stefanie Martini – and the stage is set for the 303rd to prove themselves worthy of history.

It’s not entirely unlike Red Tails, with the tale of Tuskagee airmen and their treatment by American pilots sharing similar beats. As you’d expect from any war story, there’s a lively cast of supporting players bringing up the ensemble – including winning turns from Marcin Dorocinski and Krystof Hádek – and even an amusingly thankless part for the token yank, in this case a role fulfilled by Milo “son of Mel” Gibson. Rheon’s the star here, though, with swagger and charisma to match the admirably-produced (for what’s presumably a lean budget) fireworks going off in the skies above them.

Blair helms with an able hand. He’s noticeably more confident in the dramatic quotient of the tale, but is aided immeasurably by some impressive VFX work. A misjudged score by Laura Rossi proves periodically distracting, though, its tone faintly too whimsical and overblown to remain in keeping with the smaller scale sensibilities that keep Hurricane focused and confidents. It’s down to a deadpan sense of humour that Hurricane ultimately takes flight, piloted largely by the charms of Rheon and a game cast, and emerging rather an endearing World War II biopic.

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Featured Review

Final Score ★★

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Released: 7th September 2018

Directed By: Scott Mann

Starring: Dave Bautista, Pierce Brosnan

Reviewed By: Van Connor

If you’ve ever surfed the wasteland that is the home platform-centric side of post-nineties action – that void off to the side of where the mainstream were being distracted by Bourne movies and Michael Bay – you might have caught the faint whiff of a particularly nasty little actioner back in 2009 by the name of The Tournament. Essentially a Playstation-plotted Contest of Champions romp, the tight-and-tidy beat ‘em up made director Scott Mann a fleeting name to watch out for; fleeting only because his rather forgettable sophomore effort, Heist – which starred Robert de Niro and Dave Bautista – came and went with none of the same fanfare. Now he’s back, and (to put it in genre terms)  he’s out to make Die Hard. Unfortunately, he’s landed closer to Sudden Death.

OK, that’s unfair. Call it two-thirds of the way between Sudden Death and Under Siege 2 (remember how that was subtitled Dark Territory? That got lost to history) with all the individual plot mechanics of Die Hard. Mann reunites with Bautistae, with the WWE-star-turned-surprisingly-loveable-actor starring, of course, as Navy SEAL Uncle Mike,   who’s suffering from one of those failed missions that’s left him minus his best friend, but plus a fallen bro’s widow and daughter, who he visits in London on a regular basis. 

Uncle Mike’s  ‘niece’ is one of those fun Kim Bauer types who seem sharp as a tack in conversation, but then merrily wander into danger at the most inconvenient moments. She’s probably the wrong person for Uncle Mike to take to see West Ham play on a regular day, let alone one on which there happens to be a group of terrorists stealthily laying siege to the grounds in search of an amnesty-exiled former warlord. There’s a frankly hilarious pandemic-style simulation displaying “Projected Civil Unrest” if the terrorists get ahold of their quarry, but it mostly just plays like the whole General Radek element of Air Force One, without the sense of dread.

The intentions behind Final Score appear to have been, in their entirety: “they’re demolishing West Ham, let’s make Die Hard there”, but even there this rather overlong and startlingly uninteresting effort falls vastly far off the mark. Bautista is back on WWE Studios autopilot (we all ironically like 12 Rounds, calm down), and nobody else involved seems in the faintest bit interested in being there either. To pick far from the lowest hanging fruit, Pierce Brosnan – star of I.T. – has never been so visibly bored, and, in a movie featuring such wince-inducing penmanship as “why did my dad have to do it? Die…” it’s hard to begrudge him the right.

Meanwhile, a bevy of genre clichés litter a pretty uneventful go around the action wheel, featuring stops to pick up everything from Token Hot Girl Terrorist: Kink Edition to a panicky Argyle-like sidekick  that the script (boasting the talents of no fewer than three writers) uses entirely for the purposes of eyebrow-raising racially-driven humour. 

As far as the laugh factor goes, it’s here that Final Score actually gets one in the net, though  that depends on how alluring you find it to mock a feature this unironically silly. On that front, it’s no Geostorm, by any means – it’s not even a Gamer, certainly no Shoot ‘Em Up – but there are arguably enough mechanically-derived set pieces and plot beats in there to appease the baser wants of genre die-hards (sic). The final score’s not a great one, but if you’re game for Sudden Death all over again, it’ll scrape through for you on penalties.

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Featured Review

The Nightingale ★★★★

With a powerhouse performance from Aisling Franciosi, The Nightingale is a courageous and eye-opening character study

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Released: TBC

Director: Jennifer Kent

Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Baykali Ganambarr, Damon Herriman, Harry Greenwood, Ewen Leslie, Michael Sheasby and Charlie Shotwell

Reviewed By: Dion Wyn

Jennifer Kent’s horrifying debut The Babadook set a new benchmark for Australian filmmakers. She encapsulated horror and tackled mental health issues on the head. A true horror film for the ages. Kent is in competition with her latest The Nightingale. Not much information was available prior to the premier, but anticipation was very high! The Nightingale is set in 1825, Clare (Aisling Franciosi), a young Irish convict woman, chases a British officer (Sam Claflin) through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. On the way she enlists the services of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy (Baykali Ganambarr), who is also marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past.

The Nightingale is a brutally harrowing tale from Jennifer Kent. The brutality of women and ethnicities is ruthlessly portrayed, but comradery and justice prevails in the end. Clare suffers a vast amount of abuse from Claflin’s Hawkins. Her determination for justice and resolution is truly powerful. Framed in academy ratio Clare’s journey of revenge takes us through the Tasmanian outback. The ratio enables Kent to show the claustrophobia of the journey. The use of close up shots becomes the window into our protagonists soul. Kent’s dark and gruesome tone is the key to open Clare’s inner most thoughts and actions. The doom and gloom may be prominent but there is a light heartedness through this harrowing tale.

Clare finds Billy an Aborigine to guide her through the bush. The tension between the British  and the natives are gruesomely tense during this period. The tension between them at the beginning is difficult. As their journey unfolds they grow a bond and become equals. You will see a blossoming relationship between them with a lot of humour. Humanity triumphs in this tale and Kent’s poignancy is a masterstroke. The initial incident that begins this journey is purely disturbing. The shock factor is what Kent uses to open our eyes to the brutality that women have suffered for centuries. Unfortunately we are still living in dark times of domestic violence and Kent wants us to wake up.

The use of Gaelic and Aboriginal songs convey the pain of our protagonists. It is a beautiful way to show emotion be it happiness or anger. The use of these unique languages is a breath of fresh air. Identity is very important to them and you can feel the embrace for their culture and traditions. Aisling Franciosi gives a powerhouse performance as Clare. You can feel the pain in her eyes along with her singing. The anger she conveys is raw and uncontainable. She is a major contender this awards season. Baykali Ganambarr as Billy is in the same boat as Aisling. It feels like a mirror image performance. No doubt we will see him in the mix this season too. The Nightingale is a courageous character study that will open your eyes to what is still happening today . Jennifer Kent has created a film that needs to be seen. One of the strongest and most poignant films at Venice this year.

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