Directed By: Alfonso Cuaron
Starring: Yalitza Aparcio, Marina De Tavira
Reviewed By: Dion Wyn
Most Academy Award winning directors would normally go on and create epic scale films of their wildest dreams. Simply this is not what Alfonso Cuarón had in mind with Roma. The Gravity director has premiered his 8th feature film on the Lido with a very simple story, chronicling a year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City in the early 1970s. Cuarón wanted to pay homage to his youth growing up in Mexico City, it is also his first film in Spanish since the brilliant Y Tu Mamá También (2002). Roma is the first Netflix film to be released at Venice this year. Once a hot contender for Cannes, Venice has clearly benefited from this.
Roma is nothing but a pure emotional tearjerker; Cuarón has created a tale of two women who become stronger together during a torrid year in their lives. In both cases, it is men that have shaken the foundations of home life, and Cleo (Aparcio) and Sofia (De Tavira) must maintain stability in the life of the house and cope with a multitude of changes. Roma seems to be a mass homage to Yasujirō Ozu, as it is the household serving as the epicentre of our tale. The house breathes life to the family, from the dog-fouled garage to Cleo’s maid’s quarters. But within this smoothly flowing household we see small clues of sorrow unfolding. Cuarón takes his time showing us what is unfolding in Roma. He abstains from using close-up shots to express the true emotions of the characters, you are guessing what will come next and most of the time you are hoping for a happy resolution. Cuarón shot Roma with great finesse, the black and white setting is remarkable.
From his long takes to his beautifully absorbing tracking shots, you feel the blood coursing through the heart of Roma. Cuarón distorts your mind with a sensory assault, with brutal imagery layered on top of this your television may not have the same effect as it did on the big screen. These set pieces that test our heroines are painful to watch and the reality of 1970’s Mexico hits you like a freight train. One scene will have the audience with a lump in their throats, and your eyes will not believe what you have witnessed. The two leading actresses Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira give a subtle yet powerful performances. Their body language always tells you something you may not know, but their dialogue disguises it in plain site of the children. Their performances resonate with me personally, my mother came into my mind a lot through out the film. She has had great pain and tragedy in her life but she was always there for my family. Roma is a true homage to women and Alfonso Cuarón’s strongest film.
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.
Final Score ★★
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.
The Nightingale ★★★★
With a powerhouse performance from Aisling Franciosi, The Nightingale is a courageous and eye-opening character study
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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