True Spirit – Movie Review

TL;DR – An impressively acted story that is let down by forced conflict and unnecessary padding.     

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit sequence

Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix service that viewed this film.

The Pink Lady leaves Sydney Harbour.

True Spirit Review

There are these moments that you remember because they touched all of society when they happened. Usually, these are moments of tragedy that cut through the world, but for Queensland and Australia, we had the moment built on triumph. Today’s film is based on that long journey by Jessica Watson across the planet.

So to set the scene, Jessica Watson (Teagan Croft) grew up on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia, where water was always on your doorstep. She learned how to sail on the open ocean, catching the wind and riding the waves here thanks to her coach Ben Bryant (Cliff Curtis). Jessica had one dream: to sail around the world by herself, which took a bit of a beating when her boat was severely damaged by a cargo ship in the 2009 trail run. But with everything going against her, Jessica is determined to make the trip before the government legislates that she can’t go.

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She Said – Movie Review

TL;DR – Even with all the frustrating production decisions, there were still moments when it landed when it needed to.    

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film

Warning – Some scenes may cause distress

The New York Times

She Said Review

One of the most important social movements of the early 2000s has to be the ‘Me Too’ movement. This has been a moment in time exploring and exposing the silence around sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace. Every industry has had its own reckoning, including Hollywood, which is the base for the film we are looking at today.

So to set the scene, we open with a film set on the coast of Ireland as a young woman starts a job on a film set. Hard cut to London, where the same lady is running down a London street alone with tears rolling down her face. In 2016, after an expose about misconduct failed to dent President Trump’s election Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson) of The New York Times asked her journalists to integrate all the systems that project perpetrators. Two journalists, Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) start on the trail of a whole system supporting the abuse of a high-profile producer in Hollywood because something is rotten in the state of Miramax and Harvey Weinstein.

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Respect – Movie Review

TL;DR – A film anchored by a transcendent performance that captures you from the start and never lets you go.      

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene

Disclosure – I attended a Press Screening of this film

Respect. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Respect Review

It has been the era of the musical biopic, with Elton John, Freddie Mercury, and even the Sparks Brothers getting a film all about them. But if one person is missing from this list, it would be the seminal Aretha Franklin. Her voice is like no other, and you get taken to another world every time you hear it. Today, we get to look at a film that not only fixes that glaring gap but does so in a way that left tears in my eyes.

So to set the scene, we open in Detroit, 1952, in the house of Reverend C. L. Franklin (Forest Whitaker). He is hosting a party for several influential people in the African-American community. Making his way to the back of the house, he finds Aretha ‘Re’ Franklin (Skye Dakota Turner) asleep in her bed. He asks her if she wants to sing, and the answer is, of course, yes. Even at a young age, she leads the choir at her father’s church, but as Aretha (Jennifer Hudson) grows older, she wants to do more to help Martin Luther King Jr. (Gilbert Glenn Brown). But at a party, her father surprised her with a ticket to New York to meet with John Hammond (Tate Donovan), a famous music producer, who could make her into a star.

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The United States vs. Billie Holiday – Movie Review

TL;DR – A film with one of the best individual performances I have seen in a long time, bolstered by an amazing supporting cast but ultimately held back by some odd stylistic choices.    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene.

Warning – Depicts scenes of abuse.

Disclosure – I was invited to a screening of this film.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday Review

Billie Holiday has one of those voices that you can instantly pick out. It has this uncanny ability to be soft and harsh all at once. When writing this review, I wondered when the first time was I had heard a recording of her performing? And it could have been off one of my grandfather’s records as he always had Jazz and Big Band playing. Or at the very least, it was on one of the radio stations in Fallout. But knowing about her voice, I realised before watching this film that I did not know much about her life at all. Well, today, I help fix that with a movie that charts some of the struggles she faced.

So to set the scene, we open with an older Billie (Andra Day) as she and her manager Miss Freddy (Miss Lawrence), sits down with interviewer Reginald Lord Devine (Leslie Jordan) to chart her life and explore why the government is so opposed to her. Well, we flashback in time to 1947, as a young soldier Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes) makes his way to a jazz club in New York City where Billie is about to perform a complete set, including the one song no one but the audience wants her to sing Strange Fruit. Someone who especially wants her to stop the song is Agent Harry J. Anslinger (Garrett Hedlund) from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

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Judas and the Black Messiah – Movie Review

TL;DR – This is a film that continues to show that Daniel Kaluuya is one of his generations best actors      

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film.

Nominated: Stunning Costumes

Judas and the Black Messiah. Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Judas and the Black Messiah Review

There are moments when a film is perfectly timed with what the world is going through, and after the 2020 Black Lives Matter protest movement, it was the perfect time to take a look back in time at the Black Panther movement. This film delves into a difficult time and explores the intersection of revolution and government control in America.

So to set the scene, we open in the FBI’s halls as its Director J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen), who is railing against a Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) of Chicago who has the power and charisma to unite many of the different anti-government movements across the country. FBI agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) is looking for a way to get a mole into the local Black Panther organisation that Hampton leads when William “Bill” O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) falls into his lap after being caught impersonating a federal officer, and now they have their Judas.    

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Penguin Bloom – Movie Review

TL;DR – A beautifully charming film that will make you feel a lot of emotions    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Disclosure – I paid to see this film.

Penguin Bloom. Image Credit: Roadshow Films.

Penguin Bloom Review

You may have many fears, some might be more obvious like spiders or heights, but others are deeper down like what if you were in a crash and became paralysed. This fear is at the heart of the film we are looking at today as we see the aftereffects of this profound change.

So to set the scene, we open with Noah Bloom (Griffin Murray-Johnston) giving a rundown of his life. It is full of living on the beach, going for a surf, and making honey as a family. However, on a fateful trip to Thailand, Sam Bloom (Naomi Watts), her husband Cameron (Andrew Lincoln), and their three kids Noah, Rueben (Felix Cameron), and Oli (Abe Clifford-Barr) were climbing up to the top of a building to get a look of the view. However, when Sam leans on a fence, some rotten wood gives way, and she falls over the edge to the concrete below. Back at home, Sam is trying to adjust to her life in a wheelchair, but as Noah is down the beach, he finds a magpie chick that had fallen out of a nest who they take home and call Penguin.

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Rose Island (L’incredibile Storia Dell’isola Delle Rose) – Movie Review

TL;DR – A strangely completing story if a bit flawed in its execution   

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Rose Island (L'incredibile Storia Dell'isola Delle Rose). Image Credit: Netflix.

Rose Island Review

One of the things about getting to watch a story based on a true story is that reality is often weirder than fiction. One of the more bizarre parts of world history has been the drive to create micro-states that have popped up across the world. Today we look at a story about one that was built off the coast of Italy.

So to set the scene, we open in Strasburg in 1969 at the Council of Europe. Here a sick Giorgio Rosa (Elio Germano) is waiting to be heard. After working out a scheme to get rid of him, the officials actually read his brief and become compelled to hear him out, for they want to hear about the Island that Rosa built. We then flashback over a year to when he was still a student in Bologna and crooning for Gabriella (Matilda De Angelis) who broke off their relationship three years earlier. After another run-in with the authorities, the eccentric builder tries to find a way to get away from the retractions of government, and international waters seemed like a good start.    

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The Black Emperor of Broadway – Movie Review

TL;DR – A look at a revolutionary figure in Broadway’s past and the layers of oppression he had to go through to get where he did.     

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Warning – Extensive use of blackface

The Black Emperor of Broadway. Image Credit: Vision Films.

Review

If there is one large blind spot in my art history, it is Broadway. I didn’t come from a musical theatre background, so any introduction to this world is welcome. Today we look at a film that explores this through the life of Charles Sidney Gilpin one of its first Black stars. I should say that before we dive in as a bit of a warning that this is a film very much set in the 1920s and the language and depictions used in the movie are consistent with that time which may be difficult for some viewers.

So to set the scene, Charles Sidney Gilpin (Shaun Parkes) is working in a blackface minstrel show that goes around entertaining white people at parties. He hates the work and tries to get a job a legitimate actor which is difficult in a time when few roles are written for black men, and white people in blackface perform most of them. That chance finally comes when noted play write Eugene O’Neill (John Hensley) writes his newest play The Emperor Jones about a leader of Haiti and he wants Charles for the role.

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Escape From Pretoria – Movie Review

TL;DR – A exploration of tension when one wrong step can be fatal.    

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Escape From Pretoria. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Review

One of the things I like the most about cinema is when they let me know of stories that I have previously been unaware of. As well as this, I have seen a lot of prison break films in my time, some fictional, some real, some ‘we think this is how they did it’, and I have always found them fascinating. Well, today we get to explore both of these with Escape From Pretoria.

So to set the scene, we open in the heart of apartheid South Africa with accrual footage of the time. It is here where we are introduced to Tim Jenkin (Daniel Radcliffe) and Stephen Lee (Daniel Webber) who work setting up leaflet bombs for the African National Congress or ANC. One day after a successful campaign, they are captured by the police and sentenced to twelve and eight years in the all-white political prisoner’s prison in Pretoria. While in Pretoria jail they meet Denis Goldberg (Ian Hart) who was put on trial with Nelson Mandela and fellow prisoner Leonard Fontaine (Mark Leonard Winter). They dream of escaping, but how do you do that when you are locked behind several feet of steel?    

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Movie Review – The Windermere Children

TL;DR – A deeply emotional and confronting film that looks at the aftermath of trauma and how you can walk back from it.   

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Awards:

Nominated: The Emotion.

The Windermere Children. Image Credit: Fremantle.

Review

There are those moments in life where we get to see the full depths of human cruelty and few moments have exemplified it more than the Holocaust. It was a moment where human depravity was industrialised and weaponised in the endeavour to exterminate an entire race. Today we explore a film that deals with the aftermath and trauma through the eyes of the children that survived it.     

So to set the scene, we open in on a bus full of children as they make their way through the British countryside at night. The bus is full of children refugees rescued from Holocaust camps. One thousand children brought from the camps to Brittan and 300 of them came to Calgarth Estate on the shores of Lake Windermere. As they arrive, there is a real fear that they have swapped one camp of despair for another. Their families are likely all dead, and all of them have suffered travesties that make every dog a threat and food something you hide when you can. They only have funding for four months to help them with their trauma, which is not enough time given everything they had gone through.

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