Sunday, 26 June 2016


Madman Films

On a sunny afternoon, five girls -- all siblings -- decide to walk home from school, taking a detour to the beach where they frolick in the water with some fellow (male) students. But by the time they arrive home, word has spread like wildfire -- or Chinese whispers -- and the girls' grandmother berates them for their "indecent" behaviour.

From here on, the grandmother and uncle of the girls, orphaned several years ago, will gradually make their home a prison whilst they attempt to preserve the girls' purity and marry them off; virtual house arrest and virginity tests just some of the punishments and indignities meted out to the vibrant, spirited young women trying to find their way in the world.

That world is modern day Turkey, which, although officially a secular society, boasts a Muslim population of some 95%, with conservative observance more rigid in the rural regions of Turkey, where Deniz Gamze Erguven's debut feature is set. By turns joyous, maddening, sad and hopeful, Mustang isn't so much a critique of Islam but of patriarchy everywhere, which seeks to control women's sexuality, and by turns, their joy, lives and very freedom.

But these sisters aren't so easily imprisoned. Even as the metal bars go over the windows and one-by-one male suitors are brought to the house with the prospect of a marital match, these young women bend, and even break the rules as much as they can.

Erguvan, co-writer Alice Winocour, and the five extraordinary young actresses (Gunes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan) do similar things with your nerves and your heart, so invested are you in the plight of these siblings.


20th Century Fox Films

It's the end of the world as we know it -- again. And no director takes quite such a delight in the destruction of our planet -- be it via alien invasion, atomic bomb-created giant lizard, meteorological phenomena or it simply imploding from the inside out -- as does Roland Emmerich. From Independence Day in 1996, through Godzilla (1998), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), and 2012 (2009), the German-born blockbuster maestro has been finding new ways to tear planet Earth a new one.

Twenty years later, he's back -- along with Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman -- to finish the job the alien invaders began in 1996. It's a long time to wait for an unnecessary sequel to a film which, by no means a classic, has its admirers; it's certainly not without its big, dumb and fun charms, especially when viewed through a prism of nostalgia. The film is very much of its time.

Sadly, Independence Day: Resurgence is very much of its time: spectacle without awe, popcorn fun without a hint of wit. It's camp and self aware some may argue, but a team of five writers have failed to inject the screenplay with any sense of urgency, thrills or human emotion (not many films would have you rooting for the occupants of a school bus to be crushed underfoot by a giant alien queen).

Independence Day 3 has apparently already been greenlit. If we must have that unnecessary sequel, here's hoping it takes at least another 20 years to reach us. By that time, the real destruction we as a species are inflicting upon Mother Earth may have already taken its toll.

Thursday, 2 June 2016


Sony Pictures

Even before all the pennies drop and the cards revealed in the thriller Money Monster, Jodie Foster's fourth foray behind the camera as director, most people will already be on the side of Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell), the gun wielding man who takes a New York TV station hostage live on air.

Kyle is venting his frustrations at both the network's on-air financial adviser, Lee Gates (George Clooney), and Ibis Clear Capital, the corporation which lost all of his savings when they experienced a"glitch" which wiped out $800 million of shareholders' money. Kyle is understandably angry, both at Lee for promising viewers that the stock was a safe bet, and at the company's leaders (including Dominic West), who refuse to provide any more solid explanation for the loss.

Of course, not everything is as it seems. And as events unfold in real time (with a fudge here and there), Gates's producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), ever-present in her host's earpiece, works feverishly to get to the bottom of the mysterious glitch while keeping things in the studio from escalating.

Thriller, Wall Street smack down and (social) media commentary, Money Monster may not always successfully marry its genres but it's never less than entertaining; Clooney, Roberts and O'Connell (with a persuasive New Yawk accent) are all very good.

And while it would be easy to dismiss the film's attempts at post-GFC moralising -- especially given the presence of two of Hollywood's 1 percent-ers -- there's enough drama and tension (and humour) to ensure audiences are suitably rewarded for their investment.


Walt Disney Studio Films

Though not as messy as Tim Burton's 2010 Alice In Wonderland -- which somehow managed to gross $1 billion at the international box office and yet required six years for a sequel -- Alice Through The Looking Glass, this time directed by James Bobin (The Muppets) isn't able to manage any real interest in its narrative; one which sees Alice Kingsley (Mia Wasikowska) return to Underland and embark on a time travelling mission to discover what happened to the family of the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) before he mortally succumbs to his melancholy in the present day. Sacha Baron Cohen adds some pep to the adventure as Time, but Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter, reprising their roles as sibling royal rivals, offer very little. And while the feminist ethos which bookends the film (Alice is now a sea captain and remains steadfastly resistant to the demands of men) is admirable, it may be wasted on the younger audience who are there simply to be wowed by the surreal characters and landscapes (which may or may not be in 3D depending on your screening).