Melbourne, April, 9th, 2018 (Peter Malone). Below, find film critics written by Peter Malone for the month of April (Part 2).

  1. LOVE, SIMON
  2. MARSHALL
  3. THE MERCY
  4. PACIFIC RIM
  5. PARTY, The
  6. POP AYE
  7. SHERLOCK GNOMES
  8. THAT’S NOT MY DOG
  9. TOMB RAIDER
  10. UNSANE
  11. WINCHESTER
  12. WRINKLE IN TIME, A

LOVE, SIMON

US, 2018, 110 minutes, Colour.

Nick Robinson, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Logan Miller, Keiynan Lonsdale, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Talitha Eliana Bateman, Tony Hale.

Directed by Greg Belanti.

Simon is a 17-year-old high school student, popular, living at home with his devoted parents and his sister (who is determined to be a chef and does a lot of practising in the kitchen). It seems the picture of an ideal family, American style.

But, very soon, it emerges that Simon is deeply preoccupied, a problem about himself, a problem about his identity. He knows that his orientation is gay. However, it is a secret from everyone and he has not thought realistically about coming out.

Love, Simon is based on a book which has the evocative title, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli. It is well written, creates characters effectively, some very seriously, some with a touch of caricature. And it invites the audience to identify with Simon, as a person first of all, then with his dilemma about revelation or not and its consequences. While his father is genial, he is also prone to wisecracks and the audience anticipates that he may find Simon’s coming out difficult to cope with. Simon’s mother, however, is a psychologist.

At school, Simon has a very loyal group of friends whom he picks up in his car each morning. There is Leah (Katherine Langford), who is obviously devoted to him. There is Abby (Alexandra Shipp), new to the neighbourhood and to the school. And there are two black friends, Nick and Bram (Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Keiynan Lonsdale, who is an Australian actor), They have classes, do the ordinary things at school, several of them participating in the school production of Cabaret, the MC being played by an annoying school friend, Martin (Logan Miller).

The main comic element in the film, which lightens the seriousness times, is in the personality of the vice principal, Mr Worth (Tony Hale) who is forever in the corridors, commenting on everybody as they pass, especially as he confiscates their phones. He chatters, is friendly with the students – and has to be ready for whatever problems arise.

When word goes around the school that somebody is gay, the reactions are a mixture of acceptance, intolerance, mockery.

The device that the screenplay uses for Simon to act on his struggle is finding an email message from an unidentified student, Blue. Simon impulsively replies, using the code name Jacques. He does get a reply from Blue, then finds himself thoroughly preoccupied at school, in class, at home, at meals, talking with his friends, waiting for messages from Blue. Simon begins to pour out his heart, empathising with Blue, indicating his problems and, impulsively, realising it only after he has pressed “sent” that he has signed his message, Love, Simon.

Blue has his own personal struggles and the screenplay indicates three possible characters who might be Blue.

While the audience is drawn into Simon’s story, hopefully understanding or, if not understanding or, even, disapproving, the film explores the repercussions of coming out. What was difficult in past years is still difficult but the community has, generally, more empathetic response.

Because Simon seems so ordinary in his daily life, the coming out is a surprise for most people. And the film shows how they deal with it, especially because Simon gets entangled with his emotions then, with somebody tapping into his emails, there is always the risk of the unwelcome outing.

Whatever one’s approach to issues of sexual orientation, this is a film well worth seeing and discussing, a testing out one’s moral framework, of one’s emotional response, of empathy and understanding.

Love, Simon is an unexpected cinema invitation for thoughtful response to characters and issues.

 

MARSHALL

US, 2017, 118 minutes, Colour.

Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Sterling K.Brown, Dan Stevens, James Cromwell, Keesha Sharp, Roger Guenveur Smith, Derek Baskin, Ahna O'Reilly.

Directed by Reginald Hudlin.

This is quite an impressive film and to be recommended.

Justice Thurgood Marshall may be well-known in the United States but is less known throughout the world. But he and his career are well worth knowing. He was first African-American to be appointed to the American Supreme Court, in 1967, serving until 1991.

The part of his story that is told in this film takes place in the early 1940s, at the time of America’s entry into World War II. Thurgood is a lawyer – and has a powerful back story about his studies, acceptance and not at universities, and later suing the university that would not accept him. Strong-minded, he is sought after all over the United States, but especially in the South, to give advice in court cases. He is a member of the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The film introduces him in action and being successful and acclaimed in his legal advice. The other character who is introduced is a Jewish lawyer, insurance lawyer, Sam Friedman. He is an interesting counter-foil to the character of Thurgood Marshall, especially when he is dragooned by Marshall into collaborating with him in the defence of a young man who is accused of rape. Friedman has to rely on Marshall’s notes.

The screenplay is interesting just in the exploration of the case, the characters involved, the complexities of the action, lies that are told in the motivations behind the lies. It takes place in the comfortable white city of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

There is also the tension of racial prejudice, the prosecutor being an arrogant young white man belonging to social clubs in the town, the judge giving the impression of being impartial but with racist presuppositions.

And the cast is very strong. Chadwick Boseman had already portrayed Jackie Robinson and baseball in 42, James Brown and music, Get It Up. He was about to become to T’Challa, Black Panther. He makes Thurgood Marshall an earnest, highly self-assured legal expert, presumptions of winning cases, not hesitant in using and manipulating people for his legal purposes. Josh Gad provides a strong counterpoint as the Jewish lawyer. Dan Stevens is the arrogant prosecutor. James Cromwell is the judge. Sterling K. Brown is the accused man with Kate Hudson as the allegedly wronged wife.

It is a pity that this film was not more widely seen, contributing to the history of African-Americans and their heritage, the move from slavery and racial prejudice and the consequent struggles, the significance of the and a NAACP and its role in American society and promotion of African-American issues, and the atmosphere of the 1960s with the Civil Rights Movement, the influence of Martin Luther King and the appointment of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court.

Audiences will be caught up in the momentum of the court case – and tension moments when Marshall’s wife suffers a miscarriage and a compelling sequence where Marshall briefs Sam for his summation (Marshall having to move on to his next case) and Friedman’s convincing delivery.

The film is directed by Reginald Hudlin, better known as a director of comedies and television series, some of which starred Eddie Murphy. This is definitely a change of pace for him and well worthwhile.

 

THE MERCY

UK, 2018, 98 minutes, Colour.

Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, David Thewlis, Ken Stott, Mark Gattis, Andrew Buchan, Simon McBurney.

Directed by James Marsh.

This film is based on a true story, the experience of sailor, Donald Crowhurst, in 1969. For those who know how the story ends, it is an interesting unfolding of the events. For those who do not remember the story, it is something of a suspense film.

The film opens with a speech by Sir Francis Chichester who broke a record of sailing around the world alone. The British Sunday Times then suggests a competition for sailing around the world, non-stop. It is to be a media event.

In the coastal city of Teignmouth, Donald Crowhurst is something of an inventor who also enjoys sailing with his wife and children. We first see him at a show trying to persuade people to buy an invention which would help in establishing locations while at sea. He fails. Crowhurst makes quite an impression on screen as he is played by Colin Firth. Rachel Weisz is his wife.

However, he is quite excited by the Times competition and decides that he will participate. This means making his own boat, catamaran style. It means that he has to raise money, relying very much on a local businessman played by Ken Stott. He also has an agent-friend, David Thewliss, who helps him with the planning, with the finances, with public relations. The voyage will take at least six months.

The first question raised is why would Donald Crowhurst undertake such an adventure. Did he really think he would win? Was there something missing his life that this voyage would compensate for? As we listen to Crowhurst talking with his wife and his sponsors, we realise that he was at a stage of life where he needed something to prove himself, to himself and to others.

There are many scenes at sea, sailing successfully, becalmed, storms. Not all his equipment works perfectly. And he keeps in radio contact with his wife and family and with those backing him at home.

He experiences a crisis, his sailing progress not as much as he anticipated. And he experiences a crisis in himself, whether he is as good as he thought, whether he can persevere, what would he do if he did not make as much progress as hoped for.

It soon appears that he is not succeeding. His temptation is to alter his log, to create a false impression, to keep going – not necessarily to win, actually realising that had better not, but, at least, complete the course. This is exacerbated after long weeks of sailing because The Times becomes more interested.

The scenes at sea are punctuated by some flashbacks, some scenes of family at Teignmouth, his PR man and assistant doing their best, and the media, somehow rather, getting to hear about him and his becoming something of a headline.

The moral dilemma begins to consume him – and whether there is any mercy or forgiveness for his deception.

A film of endurance, of some heroism, and of some moral ambiguity.

 

PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING

US, 2018, 111 minutes, Colour.

John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Burn Gorman, Charlie Day, Tian Jing, Jin Zhang, Adria Arjona, Rinko Kikuchi.

Directed by Steven S.De Knight.

A reviewer remarked that there was a transition from the original action and mystery, post--apocalyptic horror of the original Pacific Rim to just a noisy action in this sequel. There was also a remark that the film was geared to an audience of 10-year-old boys. This reviewer, having missed the preview, found himself sitting, unintended, beside to 10 plus or minus boys. The film held their attention all the way through, rapt, sometimes comparing notes.

Which meant that their reactions were sometimes more interesting than what was happening on the screen. Not that there wasn’t a lot happening up there. Probably too much. Giving too much time to think about other things…

And, one of the thoughts was that this is something of a combination of Godzilla and The Transformers. And the sound engineering seemed like a combination of that from both films.

In the original film, there is a crack in the bottom of the ocean allowing alien monsters, rather gigantic, to emerge into our world. The early minutes of this film do a resume for us in case it wasn’t in the forefront of our memories – even with a visual tribute to Idris Elba as the hero of that film. What they did in the past was to create gigantic creatures, engines of war, with humans inside, physically moving the creatures forward, working out the strategies and executing the tactics.

And, there is a great deal of this in the sequel. Lots of fights between the aliens and the human creations.

And the humans? John Boyega, known now as Finn from the new Star Wars films, is the son of the earlier film’s hero, living a rather easy life because there is peace in the world, although he is not above leading on gangs who want to plunder some of the past technology. He encounters a young woman who has been honing her skills on re-creating the attacking creatures. They are all called up because of an imminent threat. And the officer in charge is played by Scott Eastwood – with everybody commenting that he seems a 21st-century uncanny embodiment of his father, in look, in whispering voice, in action and heroics.

There is some training. There are clashes within the troop. But, then they will have to go into action, Boyega and Eastwood inside the main attacking machines, running on the spot to propel the creation forward… there are also risks, no damsels in distress because the young woman can outmanoeuvre the men at times.

And, perhaps in memory of Godzilla, there is a huge destruction of a metropolis as in most of these films, but this time it is Tokyo. The aliens are on their way to Mount Fuji to get rare earths for their own strategies. Where better to have a climax than on the slopes of Mount Fuji and its volcanic crater? While it is not a Pacific Rim, it is a rim for derring-do.

Perhaps those 10-year-olds went out of the cinema eager for a sequel. It will probably depend on their box office contributions …

 

THE PARTY

UK, 2017, 77 minutes, Black and white.
Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy.
Directed by Sally Potter.

Over the decades Sally Potter has made quite a number of interesting, often offbeat films, remembering Orlando, The Man who Cried, Rage, and Ginger and Rosa.

In this film, photographed in very effective and sharp black-and-white, she also shows how much material can be condensed into 77 minutes of running time.

It is something like this: Sally Potter has called on several top actors, three British, two Americans, an Irishman and a German, written them some very sharp and telling dialogue, directed them to interact with each other, mounting tension as the film goes on, many in the audience remembering the effect of this kind of social drama in the confines of a meal as in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

The film opens with Janet, Kristin Scott Thomas, opening the front door and raising a revolver. We have to wait only about 75 minutes to know what this is all about – and be surprised. Kristin Scott Thomas portrays a politician who has just been announced as an opposition minister, for health, having campaigned long and hard and put her socialist principles into practice. This is the other meaning of the Party, the political party. Then we see Bill, her husband, sitting depressed and forlorn, rather haggard and not with it, listening to music, waiting for the guests for a celebratory meal. He is played by Timothy Spall.

The first visitors to arrive are April and Gottfried, Patricia Clarkson and Bruno Ganz, an unlikely couple, she very sardonic, even cynical, American, close friend of Janet, full of opinions and certainly in no way hesitant to express them, some offhand, some calculated – and often the calculation is to upset and hurt. On the other hand, Gottfried is a genial German who admires April immensely even though she expresses the desire to separate from him and keeps putting him down in front of everyone. He is a personal coach, anti-Western medicine, interested in breathing, self-help, self-healing, and considering doctors’ diagnoses the equivalent of voodoo or curses.

The next couple to arrive and Martha and her partner Jinny, Cherry Jones and Emily Mortimer. Martha is an intellectual, university professor, trendy in many ways, common-sensed. Jinny is much younger and is about to announce that she is not only pregnant but is expecting twins, more than a shock for Martha.

Another couple is expected, husband, Tom, Cillian Murphy, and Maryann who does not arrive. He easily breaks out in a sweat despite his very dapper suit, and relies on cocaine fixes in an attempt to calm his anxiety. He has also brought a gun but decides to throw it into a garbage bin.

This review, having introduced the characters, will leave the rest for the audience to experience, be surprised at, sometimes laugh, sometimes be dismayed, wonder about human nature and its follies and foibles.

Each of the characters has a story. Many of the stories are intertwined and cause quite some surprise and anxiety, outbursts of affection, outbursts of violence, and the problem whether Janet will continue in her role as the new minister.

In fact, a well-written, well-directed, well-acted, contemporary issues drama.

 

POP AYE

Thailand, 2017, 105 minutes, Colour.

Directed by Kirsten Tan.

A film from Thailand. A film about an elephant. And the name of the elephant’s Pop Aye.

This is a very quirky film – although, audiences are not used to see quirkiness from Thailand. It will have a local appeal and, apparently, international audiences have responded very well to the star, the elephant.

We are introduced to a middle-aged man leading an elephant along the road in country Thailand. He needs a rest, hails down a truck with the audience watching how an elephant, lumbering but elegant, steps onto the back of the truck. But soon, the man clashes with the truck driver and is left on the side of the road again. Which means that the audience is wondering what this is all about.

Throughout the film there are a number of flashbacks so we are able to build up the story of the man and his past and his encounters with the elephant. In fact, he first met the elephant as a child, when its mother was shot, and his uncle took the elephant in (while the kids were watching cartoons of Popeye on the television). Later, the elephant was part of a circus.

The man is having something of a midlife crisis, seen on television being interviewed about demolishing of buildings in Bangkok, the building of new high-rise buildings, the achievement of the man in the past – but, the younger generation is coming up, not telling the man that a board meeting was in the morning when he thought it was the afternoon. And, there is tension between himself and his wife.

At this stage, he happens to see the elephant in the street and is moved. He is actually moved to buy the elephant with the quest to take him back to his uncle in the countryside.

Which means that this is what might be called “an elephant road movie.” There are various people to meet along the way. There is a sympathetic beggar and the man takes compassion on him. There is a bar where he is taken by the police who accuse him of having forged papers for the elephant. There is a transgender prostitute, a female prostitute. Then the beggar is found dead on the road and the man decides to take his body to a Buddhist temple (where the monk is interested in the fee and has a Visa card ready as well as a camera to take pictures of the elephant). There is the dead beggar’s love from long ago, she and the man scattering the ashes in a ritual by a tree. Finally, Pop Aye getting back home.

While these are the high points of the story, what matters is seeing the them, appreciating their quirkiness, wondering what will happen to the man and his wife as well as to the elephant.

 

SHERLOCK GNOMES

UK, 2018, 86 minutes, Colour.

Voices of: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, Chiwitel Ejiofor, Jamie Demetriou, Mary J. Blige, Dexter Fletcher, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Matt Lucas, Ozzy Osbourne, Stephen Merchant, Richard Wilson.

Directed by John Stevenson.

We all know Sherlock Holmes. We have read the stories by Conan Doyle. We have seen the films, going back to the 1930s or to Basil Rathbone. We have seen a variety of actors portraying Sherlock Holmes and we have seen the television series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. There is a certain fascination in anticipating an animated feature film where Sherlock is the protector of all the garden gnomes of London.

But, what about the children who are the target audience for this film. Do they recognise the name? Do they know anything about Sherlock Holmes? Probably not. So, what is the attraction? The filmmakers have prepared a base by making a film some years ago with the garden gnomes, Gnomeo and Juliet. And Gnomeo and Juliet are here again, easing the way into the Sherlock story. Clearly, this is an opportunity for children to learn about the great detective and for parents and adults to explain and share their memories and experiences of Sherlock Holmes.

The setting is this: garden gnomes are being transferred to a London house with a very limited and scruffy garden which horrifies them. They are in the home of Lord Redbrick and Lady Blueberry (voiced momentarily by Michael Caine and Maggie Smith). When the couple go out, the garden gnomes (and a large amorous frog) come alive.

The gnome Capulets nominate in Gnomeo and Juliet as leaders of the gnomes and they work beautifying the garden. However, danger is at hand, and the gnomes are all abducted.

Who would do such a thing? Conan Doyle fans will immediately come up with the name: Moriarty. We are introduced to the clash between Sherlock and Moriarty (who appears on screen in the likeness of the baby doll). They clash in a museum where Sherlock and Dr Watson rescue some of the gnomes. The dinosaur bones collapse and Moriarty is presumed dead. Not a bit of it. He then abducts all the gnomes of London, hiding them in a cavernous area at the base of Tower Bridge, all decked out, and glued to their seats, to form a being colourful capital M.

Sherlock is, as always, self-assured, arrogant in his manner, very superior, even to Dr Watson, upsetting him with the result that Watson wants to prove himself but makes the situation worse. Gnomeo and Juliet are not abducted and they participate in tracking down the gnomes and in the rescue. Moriarty intends destruction – when the bridge opens to let shipping through, the mechanisms will go down on and crush the gnomes.

This means that there is quite a lot of action in the film, searching and sleuthing, Holmes and co aboard a large ship, a helicopter flight, two rather dumb live gargoyles, like dragons, as Moriarty’s assistants, scaling the heights of Tower Bridge, gnomes falling, soap and water to free the glued gnomes, last-minute rescues – but, Dr Watson’s walking stick having a rope and arrow to help escapes…

And, while Juliet has been very bossy, she appreciates more and more than Gnomeo’s love for her. And, Sherlock comes to his senses and apologises to Dr Watson. And as for Moriarty… will he return? (And there is also a guest appearance, courtesy of Mary J. Blige as Irene Adler, but on side this time.)

Very colourful, colourful gnomes, and lots of voices – James McAvoy and Emily Blunt as Gnomeo and Juliet, Chiwitel Ejiofor as a very dignified Dr Watson, Jamie Demetriou as Moriarty – and, rather surprisingly, Sherlock, superior accent and all, Johnny Depp voicing Holmes.

 

THAT’S NOT MY DOG

Australia, 2018, 89 minutes, Colour. Shane Jacobson, Ron Jacobson, Paul Hogan, Steve Vizard, Jimeoin, Fiona O'Loughlin, Paul Fenech, Christy Whelan, Tim Ferguson, Stephen Hall, Russell Morris.

Directed back to Dean Murphy.

in many ways, it might have been a very good idea for comedian Shane Jacobson (best known as Kenny) to invite a number of his friends, well-known and lesser-known comedians, to a party at his house with the request that they have some jokes ready to narrate. Other critics have suggested that it is not a very good idea and that it is not cinematic, something rather for presentation online or some kind of series.

Many people will see the title of the film, see Shane Jacobson’s name and possibly some of the of the cast and decide that this is an Australian comedy for them. However, a caution.

This is for an audience which might be called broad-minded. There are many jokes focusing on sex – which they are entitled to. However, a number of them are pretty coarse, what used to be called “dirty jokes”.

This means a warning to audiences who might be cautious about broad humour, about sex jokes, and, especially, about frequent coarse language – and it is frequent in this film. This is a matter of sensibilities and sensitivity – and while many of the jokes are certainly G or PG rated, quite a number of them M-rated, which might mean not suitable for more fastidious sensibilities.

Shane Jacobson wants to throw a party for his father, Ron Jacobson, who actually initiates the jokes and the tone. And he recurs during the film with a number of other jokes as does Shane himself. Later in the film, there is a pause from the jokes with a rather more tender scene between father and son, the son paying tribute to his father and his humour when he was young and this party as a possibility for repaying him.

The film shows the preparation for the party, an evening party on the property. It shows the various guests turning up.

It means then that for almost an hour and a half there is a continued succession of jokes, some of them funny, others of them funny enough but probably better told in small groups rather than up there on the big screen. And there is also the distraction of the cast laughing far more heartily at the jokes than the audience is. Occasionally, there is a strong outburst of laughter from the audience, but often the audience will be just sitting there, perhaps laughing interiorly.

For those who like play on words, there is a recurring chorus with Steven Hall (well known for his variety of impersonations in Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell) exchanging a fair number of corny but amusing word plays.

In the background, quite a number of Australian musicians and singers are playing, which does make the film something of a musical.

And the guests? Apart from the now-familiar face of Shane Jacobson himself, some of the big names invited include Paul Hogan (who does know know to tell a yarn), Steve Vizaard, looking more ample he did in television days, with audiences recognising Jim (Anthony Lehman) from Utopia. Tim Ferguson is in his wheelchair and does tell a wheelchair joke as well. Some of the other faces might be familiar but not their names – and there is a very strong cast list with a sketch of each of the end with their name.

By and large, there is enough amusing material to entertain an undemanding audience – it is directed to Dean Murphy and he and others receive a credit for “joke wrangling”. If there is to be a sequel, the joke wranglers need to be much more selective of high quality jokes (whether rude or not).

 

TOMB RAIDER

UK, 2018, 118 minutes, Colour.

Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi, Jaime Winston, Nick Frost.

Directed by Roar Uthaug.

Those in the know about the title Tomb Raider will immediately think of Lara Croft. She is the heroine of computer games. Those who don’t play computer games but who like action movies, will immediately think of Angelina Jolie and the two films where she played Lara Croft. Surprising to find another Lara Croft story so soon.

This time Lara Croft is played by Alicia Vikander, Swedish actress who has performed in quite a range of films from Denmark to the UK to Australia (twice) to the United States. She won an Oscar for her supporting role in The Danish Girl. Some audiences might be surprised at the casting but, in fact, she has appeared in Seventh Son, Jason Bourne, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The plot is not dissimilar from Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider. Lara is wealthy but is disappointed by her father’s leaving her and for his disappearance, now presumed dead. We see her involved in action training, delivering food by bike around London, participating in a fox-hunt bike chase, recklessly, through the streets. She is taken out of custody from the police by her guardian, played with icy friendliness as usual by Kristin Scott Thomas. Then there is Derek Jacobi as the lawyer for her to sign the papers acknowledging her father’s death and her inheritance.

However, there is, as always, a mysterious key. Then there is a mysterious basement. And mysterious information about his mission to go to an island off Japan to find the tomb of an evil queen and investigate her curse and prevent Trinity, the evil power conglomerate, from destroying the world. (Spoiler: she does achieve all this!)

While London looks good, she gets help in Hong Kong which also looks good. She enlists the son of the captain who took her father to the island (Daniel Wu). They are shipwrecked, separated, the Chinese man taken into a labour camp, Lara rescued by the leader of an expedition, Vogel (Walton Goggins).

We see Lara’s motivation with scenes from her as a little girl, with her devoted father, the death of her mother, his departure, always calling her Sprout and a kiss with two fingers for her forehead. Vogel tells her that he has killed her father.

Vogel is in the employ of Trinity and communicates by phone with a mysterious employer. When Lara escapes from his clutches – emulating the best traditions of Tarzan leaping through the forest, diving into rivers, hanging on to wrecked planes to save going over the rapids… she sees a mysterious figure who, of course, is her father who has been surviving in caves for seven years, trying to sabotage Gogel’s attempts to find the Queen’s tomb.

Vogel has been searching in the wrong area but, with the capture of Lara and her father, the whole enterprise moves to the real location.

What goes on inside the tomb, the dangers, the threats, the various devices for floors to open, walls to close in will remind most audiences of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Perhaps a bit too similar?

A Chinese friend keeps guard in order to rescue her if necessary, vocals of the slaves support him.

The tomb is found, there are images in hieroglyphics, John Croft has misinterpreted aspects of the message, the Queen communicates an infection and destroys some of Vogel’s thugs – and, a final split-second timing for Lara to escape with her father urging Sprout to run, the two finger kiss on her forehead, and his sacrificing himself.

Meanwhile, back in London, Lara discovers some secrets about Trinity, who the head might be (as if we didn’t guess) and goes to the pawnshop where she tried to get money earlier in the film from Nick Frost and Jaime Winstone in cameo roles. She buys two guns – to be ready for a sequel.

 

UNSANE

US, 2018, 98 minutes, Colour.
Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Juno Temple, Jay Pharaoh, Amy Irving, Matt Damon.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Do we actually use the word “unsane”? Is it something of a mixture of sane and insane? Can it imply that somebody can be sane and insane at the same time?

Director Steven Soderbergh, with a strong career in films, Cannes award for Sex, Lies and Videotape, and an Oscar for Traffic, decided that he would stop making films and turn his attention to television. His decision for a new direction in work did not last long and in 2017 he released Logan Lucky and in 2018, Unsane.

The star of the film is British Claire Foy, who made such an impression as the Queen in The Crown and appeared also in Breathe. We first see her in her office at a bank, in a Pennsylvania city, treating a phone client with some severity. The worker in the next desk comments on her harsh approach. However, Seymour (she explains her name, that she was called after her maternal grandfather) is a success at work, praised by the boss, suggesting she travel with him to a conference in New Orleans – though she seems to have a quizzical response, suggestive that he is being suggestive.

Then, she goes to a bar, meeting up with a man whom she had contacted through an app, seemingly permissive but then suddenly stopping. So far, perhaps so ordinary.

However, she has been troubled by a stalker for two years, moving away from her mother (Amy Irving) and from Boston. She decides to go to a therapist and explains her fears and answers questions about contemplating suicide. Suddenly, she is interned in an institution for 24 hours, the staff suspicious of her responses, rather Cuckoo’s Nest in their application of rules and regulations. She finds herself in a dormitory, tormented by the young woman in the next bed, Allison (Juno Temple).

An explanation is given that institutions like this are dependent on insurance income and can keep intended patients as inmates for as long as companies are prepared to pay the insurance. (To be a particular interest for Soderbergh who explored the exploitation of medication and institutions in his film, Side Effects, 2013.)

As the film develops, and Seymour finds herself confined, she denounces one of the workers as her stalker. The authorities say that he has been definitely checked and, in fact, he is in charge of the distribution of the medication each night.

At one stage, we might have been suspicious that all this was going on in Seymour’s head, that she had imagined the stalker. Yet, here he is (Joshua Leonard) and sometimes in charge of Seymour.

She does make friends with another inmate, Nate (Jay Pharaoh) who tells her about the insurance scams and lends her his mobile phone so that she can make contact with her mother who hurriedly drops everything at home and hurries to her daughter, making demands, taking strong stances.

The plot does get quite complicated as it goes on, Seymour and her dealings with the alleged stalker, his behaviour, his interactions with Nate, his plans for a happy life with Seymour.

There is plenty of melodrama here, especially in a final confrontation, police investigations, media investigations into the ethics of the institution…

And, with Seymour returning to work, and some of her behaviour, we begin to wonder what has really happened…

 

WINCHESTER

Australia, 2018, 99 minutes, Colour.

Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, Sarah Snook, Finn Scicluna-O'Prey, Tyler Coppin, Angus Sampson, Bruce Spence.

Directed by the Spierig Brothers.

The poster looks arresting. Helen Mirren in the centre, dressed in 19th-century black, lace and veil. Who is this mysterious woman?

In fact, she is based on actual character, Mrs Winchester, the wife of the inventor of armaments, especially the well-known Winchester rifle. This means that Helen Mirren has the opportunity to play the Grande Dame that she does so well.

The poster also highlights that this is a film by Michael and Peter Spierig, originally from Germany, settling in Australia, making a number of films especially the acclaimed vampire thriller, Daybreakers, and, one of the most intriguing Australian films, Predestination, about time, identity, gender identification. The most recent film was a continuation of the Saw series, Jigsaw. Expectations were high from horror fans. However, they seem to have been somewhat disappointed, expecting more blood and gore and fears and frights. After all, it is, in fact, a film about a haunted house and ghosts.

The interesting premise (and tourists can go to see the Winchester house in San Jose, California) is that Mrs Winchester was conscious of the number of people who had been killed by the armaments. Over the decades, she extended her house with ever-increasing rooms in memory of or, perhaps, locations for the spirits of those who had been killed.

Needless to say, the board of the Winchester Company, who were extending their franchises into skateboard-making, are concerned about her mental health and send a doctor, Jason Clarke, who has his own regrets about his dead wife, subsequent drinking, to assess Mrs Winchester. At the house, he encounters her niece, Sarah Snook (who was excellent in Predestination) and her son who is prone to have preternatural experiences.

The film actually looks very elegant, is set in 1906, is more of a period piece than a horror film. However, there are things that go creak and bump in the night in the house, a sense of the presence of spirits. This is particularly true of one of the servants (who can be seen only by the doctor) and who turns out to have a bizarre history, his brother killed in the Civil War by Winchester, the violent consequences for the servant going berserk, his reaching out to possess the boy, to confront Mrs Winchester.

Perhaps it could be better said that this is a film of atmosphere rather than horror action, though there are the confrontations with the ghost at the the end. For those who enjoy being immersed in a period with an eerie atmosphere, it is an interesting venture.

 

A WRINKLE IN TIME

US, 2018, 109 minutes, Colour.

Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling,, Deric McCabe, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifiniakis, Michael Peña, Andre Holland, David Oyelowo.

Directed by Ava DuVernay.

A Wrinkle in Time is based on a popular novel by Madeleine L’Engele. It was filmed in 2004 as a Canadian miniseries.

This is a story with physics, maths, fantasy, mysticism – with the original novel having aspects of religion. These are not explicitly present in this screenplay although there are elements of religious symbolism.

The book has been very popular for decades but the film version, released by Disney, has not been kindly reviewed – and skimming through the bloggers’comments on the IMDb, there is practically no one who liked the film, many boasting of walking out, using the word “disappointing”…

If you come to the film without having the background of the book, you will indeed find it rather strange. But, it is a fantasy and is to be interpreted as such.

Meg (Storm Reid) is devoted to her scientist father (Chris Pine) who works with his academic wife (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). And Meg is very intelligent. Then we see her at school, the victim of quite obnoxious bullying, sad because it is the fourth anniversary of her father’s disappearance (and the bullies saying that she should do the same). At home, Meg now has a little brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), aged six, and even more intelligent than Meg. He has a strong and articulate presence.

Then the film turns into fantasy with three women, called the three Mrs (Whatsit, Which, Who) arriving with strange messages, basically urging Meg and Charles Wallace to search for their father. Conducting experiments, and wanting to shake hands, as he said, with the universe, he is now lost in the universe. A pleasant youngster from school, Calvin (Australian Levi Miller) is also in the house and joins in the journey.

And here comes one of the great oddities of the film: costume design and make up for the three Mrs. At times, they look as if they have come from an op shop and not been too discriminating in what they wear, or how make up as been applied (odd-coloured lips and bejewelled faces). And, one of them, Mrs Which appears at first in a rather gigantic form – but later comes to normal size. And the three Mrs are portrayed by Oprah Winfrey (as the giant Mrs), Mindy Cabling as the more ordinary Mrs and Reese Witherspoon, still something of an apprentice and appearing as rather ditzy.

Then it is a move through the wrinkling time, space travelling to other planets, time travelling, under the guidance of the Mrs until their capacity for “Tessaring” (the ability to move through the wrinkles) begins to fade. Then the three are on their own, relying on Meg’s determination and Charles Wallace with his insights and abilities.

It is here that something of the religious dimension does come in. There is a pervading evil presence in the universe. It is described as “It”. It is very much like a satanic presence, is one diabolical pervading of the universe, tempting and testing the youngsters, and taking possession of Charles Wallace. Which means that the three Mrs are like something of a Providence or of guarding Angels. But, it is up to the children to confront and destroy the evil It.

So, there is quite a range of adventures, some friendly planets, some frightening planets which grow instant high trees and provide cliffs, an odd version of a “little boxes” suburb where children and their mothers are automatons. And the Darkness of the It.

The children’s being reunited with their father is not without a great deal of turmoil, and his having to admit that he had abandoned his family to search for the meaning of the universe. However, goodness pervades as well as happiness – and even the bullying girl next-door neighbour changing heart.

The film does have a lot of ingredients – and a pity that so many people were not drawn into it but, in fact, were repelled. Perhaps a wrinkle in filmmaking judgement.