Saturday, 17 August 2019

FILM REVIEW: APOLLO 11



Madman Films

Through a seamless blend of actual audio recordings and in-the-moment footage, Apollo 11 captures history as it happens - that history being the 1969 moon landing.

Fifty years later, those images are, for the most part, as pristine as though they were shot on modern-day digital, while the conversations between mission control in Houston and the three astronauts - Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins - as they orbit the Earth and shoot for the moon, are enlightening and riveting. Indeed, the outcome is never in doubt but there's a level of suspense in Apollo 11 that makes its 93-minute run time just fly by.

Refreshingly void of voice over narration and talking head interviews, director Todd Douglas Miller, who also edited this documentary, lets events play out and speak for themselves.

A perfect companion piece to Damien Chazelle's most excellent First Man (2018), a biopic of sorts of Armstrong's life leading up to and culminating in his historic first steps on the lunar surface, Apollo 11 is an impressive way to mark the 50th anniversary of this most historic event.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

FILM REVIEW: PARASITE



Madman Films

The dark-souled cousin to Hirokazu Kore-eda's Shoplifters (2018), Bong Joon-ho's Cannes-winning Parasite takes the underclass family out of their impoverished hovel and into the home of the one-percenters; rubbing them up against each other to comic and discomfiting effect.

In what begins as a light-hearted con by the Kim family, who, one by one, inveigle themselves into the architecturally stylish yet austere home of the well-to-do Parks, Parasite gradually develops – or descends – into an excoriating satire of the divide between the haves and the have-nots in modern-day South Korea.

Of course, Bong's tale is universal: the gap between the rich and the poor continues apace in most late-stage capitalist economies, and Australian audiences cannot fail to see the unflattering similarities between both societies. (Jordan Peele served up a similarly tart humble pie to his fellow Americans with US earlier this year.)

Where Parasite goes beyond its initial set-up, however, is best left to be discovered by the audience. Needless to say, no one gets off – or out – unscathed.

FILM REVIEW: YESTERDAY



Universal Pictures

What would a world without the music of The Beatles look like? Well, there'd be no Oasis for starters, and for some reason there wouldn't be any Coke or Harry Potter either.

That's the state of the world in director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Richard Curtis's Yesterday, in which struggling musician Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) awakens from a cycling accident and realises that no one – not even Google – has heard of John, Paul, George and Ringo. What to do? Cash in, of course.

Super-stardom beckons when fame – and Ed Sheeran – literally come knocking at the door of this nobody who is now, apparently, the greatest musical wordsmith of all-time. But guilt, impostor syndrome and matters of the heart – Jack can't decide if he's in love with his long-time best friend and manager, Ellie (Lily James) – keep Jack from grasping fame ("the poisoned chalice" as his new American manager, Debra Hammer (MVP Kate McKinnon), describes it) with both hands.

Not a jukebox musical of the Fab Four's greatest hits, nor a full-on romcom – indeed the romantic subplot is the film's least interesting and least successful element – Yesterday is everything a truly great Beatles song isn't: safe, bland, and forgettable.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

FILM REVIEW: BLACKkKLANSMAN



Universal Pictures

It's been 12 years since a Spike Lee joint released in Australian cinemas. Whether that is because of the inconsistency of Lee's output or local distributors' seeming reluctance to release 'black' films is a debate for another time.

That last cinema release, however, was the entertaining mainstream thriller Inside Man, starring Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster. Lee's latest film, BlacKkKlansman, arguably his most mainstream and entertaining since that 2006 release, stars Denzel's son, John David Washington.

He plays Ron Stallworth in this 'fo' real' true story of how a black police officer in 1970s Colorado Springs managed to successfully infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. No, not by using white face (this isn't a Wayans brothers comedy, though there's much humour to leaven the incendiary drama) but by means of a proxy: Jewish detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver).

Having established, via telephone, a rapport with the local leader of the Organisation (that's what the KKK prefer to call themselves, for PR purposes), Officer Stallworth needs Zimmerman to act as him to gain access to the group's inner sanctum. "You can do anything with the right white guy," he quips to his higher-ups, who aren't so happy that their rookie, and only black officer, sees himself as capable of more than desk duties.

Before long, Zimmerman, posing as Stallworth and wearing a wire, is attending local KKK meetings, get-togethers and target practices; gathering intel about the members and any possible criminal activities. Meanwhile, Stallworth observes from a distance while also managing to forge a long-distance friendship (again over the phone) with Klan, sorry, Organisation national director, David Duke (Topher Grace).

Originally intended as a project for Jordan Peele (a producer here) following his Oscar-winning, box office hit Get Out, BlacKkKlansman doesn't lose any of its ferocity or humour with the change of authorship (Lee co-wrote the screenplay with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott, adapted from Stallworth's own book).

Lee, now aged 61, is just as energised, angry and on point as he's ever been; his delivery may not be elegant but his intent is never in doubt. And while the allusions to America's current political climate are not subtle, they're also inevitable. Like the opening title card says, this is some fo' real, fo' real shit, whether it's early 1970s or modern-day America.

Some audiences may find BlacKkKlansman a little too in-your-face at times, and it is, but only those who have more sympathy for (white) racists than they do for black lives, on and off screen, will be truly offended.