In the Heights – Movie Review

TL;DR –  It captivates you in the first moments and never lets you go until the very end.   

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There may be a post-credit scene

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

In the Heights. Image Credit: Warner Brothers.

In the Heights Review

If there is one genre that has kind of disappeared from movie screens, it is the musical. Looking back, the last proper musical I saw on the big screen was The Greatest Showman. But something is exciting about being in a room full of people as the music and emotions wash over you. That moment when a song hits all the right notes, and you feel that emotion in your soul.  Today, I get to add another entry onto this list with the sheer delight that is In the Heights.

So to set the scene, we open with Usnavi de la Vega (Anthony Ramos) sitting on a beach telling a bunch of kids the story of the land of Washington Heights in the far off city of Nueva York. Here we see Usnavi go about his day, looking after his Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), opening up his bodega with his cousin Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV), and striking out with Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) while Sonny and his best friend Benny (Corey Hawkins) watch on. But something is happening on the street today, Kevin Rosario’s (Jimmy Smits) daughter Nina (Leslie Grace) is coming back from Stanford, and everyone is ready for the celebration.

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Those Who Wish Me Dead – Movie Review

TL;DR – While it starts a bit muddled, it soon picks up, and the third act had me on the edge of the seat.    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

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

Those Who Wish Me Dead. Image Credit: Warner Brothers.

Those Who Wish Me Dead Review

I am not sure what you feel when you hear the word ‘firestorm’, but for me and I think many Australians, there is a visceral terror as we have all seen that all-consuming force. We know that destruction, year after year, so when you set a film in this world, there is a kind of instant buy-in as to the danger from the moment that first spark gets set off. But for a movie to work, it needs to be more than that, which is what we get this week. 

Set the scene, we open with a group of firelighters jumping out of a plane and parachuting down into the oncoming storm. They’re smokejumpers, and they are trying to make a firebreak and shore up the defences when the wind turns the fire directly at them. A year later, two men walk into the house of a district attorney in Fort Lauderdale, and minutes later, the house explodes, killing the whole family. Back in Jacksonville, Owen Casserly (Jake Weber), a forensic accountant, is getting his son Connor (Finn Little) ready for the day when he sees the news and immediately knows he is next. The two flee to Montana, where Owen’s brother-in-law Ethan Sawyer (Jon Bernthal) works as a sheriff, but just as they get close, the two men Jack (Aidan Gillen) and Patrick (Nicholas Hoult), attack.  

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Fatale – Movie Review

TL;DR – A film with a solid concept that hits hard early and then gives diminishing returns after that.    

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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

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

Fatale. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Fatale Review

When writing a movie, I would take it that one of the more difficult parts of any screenplay is to know when that wow moment will be and how that moment affects the whole film. I think we have all watched that movie where that wow moment has fallen flat, or when it came at the wrong part of the film. Well, today, we have an interesting case of a movie making a big statement with its wow moment that had me on the edge of my seat and then did very little with it from that point onwards.

So to set the scene, Derrick Tyler (Michael Ealy) is a basketball agent who has worked to build his company from a small operation to one of the big players in the industry. But while his professional life is reaching for the heights, his marriage with Tracie (Damaris Lewis) is on autopilot. All of this is made worse when Derrick, enabled by his business partner Rafe Grimes (Mike Colter), has an affair with a woman in Las Vegas. This was a turning point for Derrick, but he has to look in horror when the women Val Quinlan (Hilary Swank) turns out to be Detective Val Quinlan.

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Stowaway – Movie Review

TL;DR – A film that understands the weight of the question it asks and the damage that would do to people.     

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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

Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix subscription that viewed this movie

Stowaway. Image Credit: Netflix.

Stowaway Review

It should come as no surprise to long or short term readers that I love Science Fiction. While the fantastical location of space is an excellent place to set your film, and I enjoy them no matter how they come. What can make a film special is when they use that setting to ponder important questions about the human condition. Today we have a look at a film that delves into crucial Kobayashi Maru territory.   

So to set the scene, we open in as the Hyperion mission on MTS42 is about to launch. Mission commander Marina Barnett (Toni Collette) is setting the ship on a course for a two-year mission out to Mars and back. Along for the mission is Zoe Levenson (Anna Kendrick), a medical researcher and David Kim (Daniel Dae Kim), the ship’s biologist. You feel the rumble of engines, the shake that makes you think the very ship will through itself apart, but then you break free into the void. Once connected with the main module, they begin the long trip to Mars. However, this is a mission with supplies for three people, but as the title implies, someone else made the journey into orbit.

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Land – Movie Review

TL;DR – A film where profound sadness and haunting beauty intersects on the mountains of rural Wyoming.  

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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

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

Land. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Land Review

There is a genre of cinema that is sometimes derogatory referred to as a vanity project. This when a star gets enough clout to be able to direct their first film and then casts themselves in the lead role. These are usually overly dramatic works hoping to buy into that Oscar love. However, every now and again, you get a film that cuts through that noise and shows a real talent both behind and in front of the camera. With Land, we get just such a film and a phenomenal directorial debut from Robin Wright.  

So to set the scene, we open in Chicago with Edee (Robin Wright) in a therapy session, trying to talk about why she is alone with her pain and why she refuses to share it with anyone. She is there out of her sister Emma (Kim Dickens) insistence, who is scared that her sister might self-harm. Edee instead decides to sell everything she owns, rents a car and drives all the way to rural Quincy, Wyoming. Here she buys a cabin off the beaten track that was already off another beaten path to be alone from everyone. But living with no running water, electricity, or phone has more challenges than first encounters, especially when winter starts.

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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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Voyagers – Movie Review

TL;DR – While it is clearly treading across old ground, I still found the narrative and the cast to be compelling throughout.    

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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

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

Voyagers. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Voyagers Review

When you are talking about scenarios that immediately capture your attention, humans escaping Earth to try and colonise another planet to make sure humanity survives is one of those that immediately catches my attention. When it is done well, you are drawn into this world of desperation and struggles of leaving behind what you love for the unknown, but you lose the humanity for spectacle when it is done poorly. Today we look at a film that kind of swings between these poles in parts, but never the less left an impact on me.

So to set the scene, in 2063, the climate on Earth is steadily worsening as the planet warms, leading to the genuine suggestion that humanity might not survive as a species. However, in this moment of darkness, scientists find what they believe to be a habitable planet. The only problem is that it will take over 80 years to reach it with the current technology. This means that those who leave on the trip will likely not be alive when it arrives, and indeed it will probably be their grandchildren, the third generation, that will survive. Given the danger and pressure to get a scouting ship out as soon as possible, they decide to grow a purpose crew that has never seen the big open world so they won’t miss it during the long ride. However, that means they are just children, so Richard Alling (Colin Farrell), their teacher decides to join them on the one way trip into the dark to help prepare them for those moments when it all goes wrong.     

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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.

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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In The Land Of Lost Angels – Movie Review

TL;DR – An intimate exploration of a crime as it unwinds across the days.   

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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

Disclosure – I was sent a screener of this film.

In The Land Of Lost Angels. Image Credit: The Filmbridge.

In The Land Of Lost Angels Review

In my exploration of cinema outside of my traditional Anglosphere, today I have another first. I think my previous investigation of Mongolian Cinema began and ended with watching The Hu on YouTube. Today, I take the first steps to fix that by looking at this brooding work of cinema.

So to set the scene, we open in the dark of a Los Angeles night. Ankhaa (Tumursukh Erdenemunkh) is on the phone back home telling everyone not to worry because his new job pays well, but clearly, this is not quite the truth. Along with his friend Orgil (Iveel Mashbat), they go through the motions of setting something up, including purchasing a gun, much to Orgil’s surprise. You are not sure where this is going, right up until they grab Scott (Mike Cali) from his car and slap a ransom note to the window.  

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The Map of Tiny Perfect Things – Movie Review

TL;DR – A film full of charm and heart that explores time in an authentic way   

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

Disclosure – I paid for the Amazon Prime subscription that viewed this film.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things. Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things Review

There seems to be a renaissance in the Time Loop genre in recent times, one of those perfect intersections of art and reality. You don’t have to sell someone on the concept of the same day over and over again because that is life at the moment. While it might be the case that there are not that many stories that you can tell within this genre, today we look at a film that shows that there is still more to see in this world.

So to set the scene, were open in the morning as Mark (Kyle Allen) wakes up and begins his day. But unlike reality, every movement is perfectly timed as if he knows everything that is about to happen. Of course, this means that he does know what is about to happen because Mark is stuck in a time loop. Mark is spending his days copying Groundhog Day trying court Phoebe (Anna Mikami) when one loop something changes as Margaret (Kathryn Newton) appears, and he discovers that he is not alone.  

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