Moonage Daydream – Movie Review

TL;DR – This documentary is a psychedelic kaleidoscope, but you should come into it preparing for a marathon rather than a sprint    

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

Warning – This film contains strobing lights in places.

Glitter falls from the celling into Bowie.

Moonage Daydream Review

While I have been enjoying this current resurgence of musical biopics, I have connected the most instead when films have dived into the more traditional documentary form to explore someone’s life, like Gurrumul. Today we look at a documentary that might also be an experimental artwork in its own right.  

So to set the scene, well, actually, I am not sure that works in this particular situation because this is a film that does not follow a traditional or even non-traditional form of narrative structure. What we get here is a snapshot of different parts of David Bowie’s life, works, and art, as well as what inspired him and how he inspired so many.

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6 Festivals – Movie Review

TL;DR – A transcendent exploration of music, youth, and the times in our lives where the two powerfully intersect.    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

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

Warning – contains scenes that may cause distress.

Utopia Valley, Central Coast, NSW, New Year's Eve.

6 Festivals Review

When people write stories about young people, they often look back to their own lives as inspiration. But there becomes a disconnect between setting something in the now based on a feeling from the past. This issue can lead to outdated films before they even make it to the screen. Well, today, we look at a movie that avoids those pitfalls by focusing on the very real and now.

So to set the scene, we open on a small rowboat in the middle of the river as three friends, James (Rory Potter), Maxie (Rasmus King), and Summer (Yasmin Honeychurch), drink wine out of a box and sing Powderfinger’s My Happiness. They are using the boat to sneak into the Utopia Valley music festival on the central coast of Australia’s New South Wales. But they are soon rumbled by the cops and have to do a quick fence jump to get in. The festival is a riot, right up until the cops catch up with them, and James is forced to reveal that he has cancer. Knowing that he can use his cancer as a good excuse, the three convince James’s mum Sue (Briony Williams), to take them to the Big Pineapple festival and more, as they try to hit six festivals in a row.     

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The Musical Scores of 2021 That Wowed Us

One factor that I will always look out for with a film is the musical score. I can get caught in the world of music, as it sits in my head in the days, weeks, months, and even the years that come. There is immense artistry in weaving emotions from music, having us slip into the world that is created, fear the oncoming dread even if we do know why, or rejoice in the triumph of that final victory.

Music charts the cinematic world, it guides us, it can lift us up, and it can crush our souls. This is its power. So without further ado, these are the musical score that moved us in 2021. Be warned that there may be some slight spoilers ahead for the films in question, and if you click on the titles, you will be taken to the full review. 

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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 Sparks Brothers – Movie Review

TL;DR – An absurd story of an equally odd yet compelling bad that survived many different seismic changes.    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

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

The Sparks Brothers. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The Sparks Brothers Review

To be honest, when  I heard the pitch of a documentary about a band that has been both hugely influential but also under the radar? Well, I didn’t know quite what to think about it? Then you find out that Edgar Wright of Hot Fuzz and Baby Driver fame was directing it, and well, then you go from unsure to very interested in a moment, and I am glad that I did.

So to set the scene, we open all the way at the start, where brothers Ron Mael and Russell Mael growing up in California. Then coming together after college to form the band Sparks after a couple of failed starts. From here, they would put out some well-received but not as popular albums until someone in their record had the idea “let’s try them in England”, and the story snowballs from there. Now I should say that my screening was interrupted by a fire alarm, which may have influenced my thoughts on the film, but given the documentary style, there was a moment at the start when I thought the warnings were some sort of immersive element, so I think it was fine.

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Awards – The Musical Scores of 2020 That Wowed Us

One factor that I will always look out for with a film and that is the musical score. I can get caught in the world of the music, as it sits in my head in the days, weeks, months, and even the years that come. There is immense artistry in weaving emotions from music, having us slip into the world that is created, fear the oncoming dread even if we do know why, or rejoice in the triumph of that final victory.

Music charts the cinematic world, it guides us, it can lift us up, and it can crush our souls, this is its power. So without further ado, these are the musical score that moved us in 2020. Be warned that there may be some slight spoilers ahead for the films in question, and if you click on the banners, you will be taken to the full review. 

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The High Note – Movie Review

TL;DR – A completely charming film from start to finish    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

The High Note. image Credit: Universal.

Review

Films about the music industry are tricky to pull off because they demand you have genuine emotion in a world of fake glitz and glamour. Indeed the best films in this genre either focus on a newcomer trying to break in or pulling back the curtain to reveal the reality of the industry. Today we look at a film that has elements of that outside story, but it takes a risk by centring it on the heart of the industry with all its glitz, glamour, and biases.

So to set the scene, Mags/Maggie/Margret (Dakota Johnson) works as a personal assistant to the great Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross). Grace was a musical icon in her day, but these days she spends her time touring and releasing ‘best of’ albums. Maggie has been her PA for three years, but she wants to take her carrier to the next level and has secretly been remixing Grace’s new live album in her free time. This comes to a head when Grace’s manager Jack Robertson (Ice Cube) finally convinces Grace to get someone to produce the album and Maggie has to decide if she is going to stay quiet or speak up and take her chance.

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Slim & I – Movie Review

TL;DR – A beautiful documentary looking back on the lives of  Slim Dusty and Joy McKean  

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

Awards

Nominated: Best Australian Film

Slim & I. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Review –

Growing up in Australia, even if you might not know who Slim Dusty is or even if just the name rings a bell, you will still know a bunch of his songs, even if it is only through osmosis. Songs like A Pub With No Beer and Duncan sit in the pantheon of Australian music, and you probably started humming at least one of those tunes to yourself just with the mere mention of the name. However, I must confess that I didn’t really know much about his life beyond those touchstone moments and even less about Joy McKean, the I in Slim and I and the main focus of the documentary.  

The documentary follows a (mostly) chronological look at the lives of Joy McKean and Slim Dusty’s from their start in music through to today. We get to see them go on these gigantic Australia wide tours, raise a family on the road, and also write at least two albums a year which might be the most bonkers part of the entire process. Indeed, over their 50-year love story, they wrote at least 107 albums which is frankly ridiculous. They show this story with a mix of interviews with both Slim and Joy’s family but also with key members of Australia’s Country Music scene like Keith Urban, Missy Higgins and Kasey Chambers. As well as this, we get archive footage going back to the 60s, both professionally shot and also just from home cameras. There is such a varied amount of footage that someone had to be well ahead of the curve in adopting that technology and preserving it all these years.

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Movie Review – Black is King

TL;DR – A visual masterwork and required viewing if you have Disney+    

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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

Awards:

Nominated: Beautiful Cinematography & Stunning Costumes
Winner: Stunning Costumes

Black is King. Image Credit: Disney+.

Review

Today we review a film that might be the oddest film I have watched from a conceptional perspective. It is a reinterpretation of the story of the Lion King remake, a movie I thought was okay but not much more. But this reframing is the barest framework the film uses throughout to explore everything from religion to music to race and more. This should not work, but it does.      

Black is King. Image Credit: Disney+.
It explores many themes during its runtime and gives each and every one of them the justice they deserve. Image Credit: Disney+.
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Movie Review – Nobody Knows I’m Here (Nadie Sabe Que Estoy Aquí)

TL;DR – A haunting look at the damage that fame can do set in the beautiful world of the Chilean coast.    

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

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

Nobody Knows I'm Here (Nadie Sabe Que Estoy Aquí). Image Credit: Netflix.

Review

Fame, it is a thing that many people want, and in the world of Twitch, YouTube, and TikTok it is almost more obtainable than in any other point in history. However, fame can come with a cost, fame can come with damage, and fame can have lasting effects. Today we look at a film that explores these issues and the legacy that can leave in their wake.

So to set the scene, a child musical prodigy Memo (Lukas Vergara) had a lot of hope at one point but now all grown up Memo (Jorge Garcia) spends time breaking into houses and not doing much else. The rest of his time is spent working on his uncle’s Mr Braulio’s (Luis Gnecco) sheep farm on a coastal island of Southern Chile. His past haunts Memo as the damage of his youth lives through every part of his life.  

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