Melbourne, May, 10th, 2017 (Peter Malone).

Below, find reviews done by Peter Malone on the films:

  • BAD GIRL
  • CHIPS
  • COUNTRY DOCTOR/ MEDECIN DU COMPAGNE
  • FATE OF THE FURIOUS, The
  • FRANTZ
  • FREE FIRE
  • GOING IN STYLE
  • GRADUATION, The
  • GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOLUME 2

BAD GIRL

Australia, 2016, 87 minutes, Colour.

Sara West, Samara Weaving, Benjamin Winspear, Felicity Price, Rebecca Massey.

Directed by Fin Edquist.

In many ways, despite the setting in the present, this is something of an old-fashioned melodrama, a drama about a psychotic character and the havoc that she can wreak.

Bad Girl was filmed in Western Australia, the countryside and a small town with the prospect of wealthy homebuyers attracted by modern architecture to move out of the city to live in comfort. At the opening of the film, we see the Anderson’s, Peter and Michelle (Benjamiin Winspear and Felicity Price), with their rebellious daughter, Amy (Sara West), sitting in the back of the car, sullen, only 17 but having had trouble with the police and institutions. The parents hope that she will be rehabilitated and bond with them as they move to the modern house that Peter has designed. Actually, things are not all that easy and he is becoming dependent on visitors from China to purchase his units.

Some of the neighbours a friendly, and a young girl, Chloe (Samara Weaving), turns up offering to clean the house as she says she is doing for other homes around the town. She is a very pretty girl but Peter Anderson is wary though Michelle reaches out to her.

A good part of the film shows the bonding between Amy and Chloe, especially as Amy intends to run away from home but those who are going with her fail to show up and a drunken Amy walks on the local bridge railings in the middle of the night, only to be rescued by Chloe. Chloe does do the jobs in the house, has long talks with Amy, especially after Amy runs away again and has commandeered the car owned by two young men and drives it recklessly. Amy reveals that she has been adopted, Peter and Michelle having adopted out their baby when they were studying and were too young to keep it. Chloe’s idea is that Amy should go on to a website and the people to her natural parents to make contact – which they seem to do.

Things are difficult at home, Amy and Chloe become firm friends, especially with a sexual attraction.

Review should probably end here, not taking the plot developments any further but leaving them to the audience as the details become more and more complicated, Chloe becoming more and more part of the household, seeming to become indispensable to Peter and Michelle while Amy seems to be more and more rebellious, disappearing from the house.

The plot becomes more melodramatic torch the end, with touches of blood and violence, keeping the audience fairly alert, some suspense and twists, with a happy ending come thing coming as something of a relief!

Not bad of its kind.

 

CHIPS

US, 2017, 100 minutes, Colour.

Dax Shepard, Michael Peña, Jessica McNamee, Adam Brody, Ryan Hansen, Kristin Bell, Jamie Bock, Vincent D’Onofrio.

Directed by Dax Shepard.

There is no major reason for making your decision to see Chips. In fact, there is really no minor reason either.

Fans of the television series which ran from 1977 to 1983, 139 episodes, may find the skeleton of a plot and the characters they liked but an entirely different take, sometimes tongue in cheek, always suggestive, even vulgar. Contemporary audiences may get something of a kick out of the characters and their adventures but there are so many similar stories in film and television. Somebody remarked that younger audiences these days seem to get a thrill out of crass comedy so this might appeal here.

This is a police-partner, sometimes buddy, though odd couple, who team up, one going undercover in the California Police Highway enforcement to uncover corrupt police who are staging elaborate robberies, laundering money by buying artworks to get them to Mexico. There is violence and also a couple of murders.

The partners are Michael Peña as Ponch, being transferred to California from Florida where he has had some unfortunate incidents, partners being shot, and a predilection for ogling women and becoming involved with them. The other is Dax Shepard as Jon Baker, inept at most things, with a touch of hypochondria, hopeless at shooting but a star champion in riding a motorbike. He’s also rather obsessive in his interpretation of the law. Needless to say the obsessive tangles with the freewheeling causing all kinds of clashes and, again needless to say, their beginning to understand each other and help solve the crimes.

Vincent D’Onofrio is the arch villain, the police chief behind the robberies, along with other members of the force – including some twists in revealing characters.

Despite the pressures and the efforts of the corrupt police, Ponch still has his roving eye and several of his female police workers are more than willing to be roved upon.

Jon Baker’s alienated wife is played by Kristin Bill, Dax Shepard’s wife in real life.

This version of Chips won’t enhance the popularity of the original television series and a further film, Chips 99. It is certainly not an enhancing kind of film.

 

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS

US, 2017, 139 minutes, Colour.

Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Luke Evans, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludicris’ Bridges, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emanuel, Elsa Pataky, Scott Eastwood, Helen Mirren.

Directed by F. Gary Gray.

So, this is what world taste looks and sounds like! As it hurtles towards bringing in $1 billion in box office returns, this is what millions of people want to see in 2017.

In fact, this is the eighth film in the series of Fast and Furious action movies that began in 2001. And, of course, there is every reason that there will be a ninth.

 

One of the curious aspects of the series is that, except for one film, the star is someone who does not really exude charismatic screen presence, Vin Diesel. The charismatic one, Paul Walker, was killed in a car accident in 2013 but the subsequent films invoke his memory, as does this one, especially in its final scene and the naming of a baby, Brian, after him.

In the beginning, this was a series about cars, fast cars, drag races, American settings, overtones of the law with touches of lawlessness, and aspects of the drug world. Since then, the action has become international. In fact, this one opens in Cuba, a kind of Havana that Fidel Castro may never have dreamt of (or had, perhaps, thought that he had overthrown). Dom and Letty (Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez) are honeymooning in Havana when the screenplay offers the opportunity for a huge drag race (after plenty of ogling of the young women in the capital), a big opening because Dom is driving something of a jalopy with a fierce engine inserted and actually finishes the race driving in reverse!

It is this quality, rather than his personality, that is attractive to the villain of the film, a blonde dreadlocked, Cipher, Charlize Theron who threatens him (the audience does not quite know why only that he looks at a photo) and he has to betray his friends and work for her.

With the introduction of Cipher, as well as Mr Nobody of the CIA (Kurt Russell) and his assistant, Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) and tracking down Hobbs at his daughter’s football match (Dwayne Johnson) and setting up action sequences in Berlin, the streets of New York City, and, eventually, snowclad northern Russia, the whole thing moves somewhat into James Bond territory. The rest of the crew get the call, Tej, Romano and Ramsay.

One of the complications is that Hobbs finishes up in prison but his escape is organised, along with his nemesis from the previous film, Jason Statham. And, by the end of the film, Jason Statham’s brother from the previous film, Luke Evans. And for good measure – very good measure – but only briefly who should turn up with as the brothers mum, Helen Mirren!

The New York chase with all its complications is an engaging set piece. But then, in Russia, there is a huge submarine, an explosive with a deadly time setting, Cipher in her plane, the whole gang on all kinds of vehicles driving through snow, submerging in the ice, the submarine ploughing through ice and snow – and the goodies achieving world peace! Also, of course, finally with the help of Dom.

Many will enjoy the scenes with Jason Statham and his goo-gooing with the baby!

(And, temptation not resisted, is it the Fury of the Fatuous!)

 

FRANTZ

France, 2016, 104 minutes, Black and white/ Colour.

Paula Beer, Pierre Ninney, Ernst Stotzner, Marie Gruber, Johann von Bulow, Anton von Lucke, Cyrielle Clair.

Directed by François Ozon.

For over 20 years French director, François Ozon, has made a variety of films, mostly serious, a touch of the musical, some comedy. This is one of his most touching films.

In the early 1930s, director, Ernst Lubitsch made a war drama, Broken Lullaby. This forms the basis for Frantz.

The principal setting is a town in Germany, 1918-1919, the impact of the defeat of Germany in World War I, the memories of so many young men who were set eagerly to war and who died. We see a young woman walking through the town, going to the cemetery to put flowers on the memorial headstone for her dead fiance. The young woman, Anna, lives in her fiance’s house, his father a doctor, his mother a kindly woman, all of them grieving. The name of the dead son is Frantz, with pacifist views, an artist and a violinist.

Anna sees flowers at the gravestone and then a young visitor. She tracks him down at the local hotel and discovers that his name is Adrien. Adrien comes to the house, wanting to knock on the door but is unable. When Anna meets him, she encourages him to come but, when the doctor hears that he is French, he refuses at first to come to meet him. While the doctor his grieving, he is also bitter against the French, something fostered when he goes to the local tavern and has a drink with the other fathers of young men who have not returned.

He eventually does speak to Adrien who recounts to the family his memories of Frantz, times in Paris, Frantz’s interest in art, a painting by Manet which he cherished – although it is a painting of a suicide. Listening to Adrien has an effect on the doctor who comes to realise that it was the parents who were eager to send their children to war, but the adult generation supplied the weapons for the war, the weapons that were the occasion with their children’s deaths.

It should be noted that basically the film is in black-and-white but there are a variety of colour sequences, especially the flashbacks in Paris, and, more sombrely, for flashbacks to war in the trenches.

As Adrien becomes more involved with the family, he becomes uneasy and decides to leave.

What Adrien has told the family is not exactly exact and he wants to explain to Frantz’s parents his relationship with their son. Anna offers to do this but glosses over the truth, leaving the parents with Adrien’s happy memories and stories.

The parents are eager that Anna go to France to meet Adrien who has not responded to her letters – and finds that he comes from a wealthy family, is able to track him down at his mother’s estate, realising that she has developed affections for Adrien. She is helped in her commitment by going to confession to a local priest who encourages her not to tell the truth to the parents.

Ozon is able to involve his audience very emotionally in the situations, with the characters, compassion for the parents, especially for the doctor who comes to realise the enormity of a country sending its sons to war and to their deaths, to Anna and her feelings, to Adrien and his wanting to visit the family – and, as with so many stories from France ln the war, there is not an entirely happy ending.

 

FREE FIRE

UK, 2016, 91 minutes, Colour.

Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, Sam Riley, Noah Taylor, Jack Reynor, Enzo Cilenti, Babou Ceesay.

Directed by Ben Wheatley.

If ever there was a film with a free-for-all shootout, a long free fire, then this is that film.

Someone, with a penchant for rhetoric, instead of asking “why?” used to ask “to what purpose?”. This particular question arises often during the film? Why? To what purpose?

The director has a strong reputation for small budget films with intense characters and has a different perspective on violence: Kill List, Sightseers, High Rise. There is no doubting his skills as a director, working with his wife, Amy Jump, on screenplay as well is with editing. All in all, the film has a great many admirers, critics, fans of offbeat cinema, and it is a piece of bravura filmmaking.

The film runs for only 90 minutes but, with so much of the action taking up in the incessant shooting, it often seems a long 90 minutes.

The director has assembled a very strong cast. First of all there are the Americans (the setting is said to be Boston 1978) who are the arms dealers. Over them all is a quietly suave Ord (Armie Hammer with a beard and penchant for marijuana) who has to keep in control the bizarre and and chattering dealer, Vern (Sharlto Copley with his strikingly disturbing South African accent). They have two drivers, Gordon and Harry (Noah Taylor and Jack Reynor). Then there are the buyers, with Frank the go-between (Michael Smiley), a man with a machine to count the transaction money (Babou Ceesay) and the only woman in the deal, Justine (Brie Larson who won the Oscar as Best Actress for Room). They also have two drivers, Stevo and Bernie (Sam Riley in possibly the most intense performance amongst other intense performances, and Enzo Cilenti).

Stevo has been bashed the night before and is complaining – only to find as the deal is drawing to a close, the money counted, the crates lifted, that Harry recognises him as having attacked his sister leading to the fight and the bashing. Harry pulls a gun, fires at Stevo – and for the duration we have everybody taking cover, everybody firing, some woundings, some attempted bargaining, the case with the money out there in the open, and, surprisingly, two outsiders coming into the warehouse with rifles.

While there are many eventual casualties, everybody firing the shots tends either to miss or to wound rather than to kill – prolonging the free fire.

The only concession to audiences who might not like violence is the playing of several John Denver songs!

The dramatic question, of course is, who will survive and, although this is a spoiler, only one does. Who?

 

GOING IN STYLE

US, 2017, 97 minutes, Colour.

Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret, Matt Dillon, Christopher Lloyd, Joey King, Peter Serafinowicz, John Ortiz, Siobhan Fallon Hogan.

Directed by Zack Graf.

As Going in Style was released, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman discussed the potential audience in a radio interview. They quickly pointed out that this was a film for an older audience – and that film makers had really discovered in recent years that there was an eager older audience, especially after the success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. They also remarked that this older audience was often sick and tired of just sitting in front of the television and were eager to go out to see a film but there were not so many that they really wanted to see.

Robert Redford was 80 in 16. In 2017, Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda all turn 80. As regards Going In Style, Michael Caine was born in 1933, Alan Arkin in 1934 and Morgan Freeman amongst those turning 80 in 2017. Plenty of older star power around, just mentioning in passing Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.

In fact, the first version of Going In Style, which was released in 1979, starred George Burns who was 83, Art Carney who was merely 61 and dramatic teacher, Lee Strasberg, 78. But, 80 is not what it used to be either for the actors or for the audience. There are a lot of 80-year-olds happy to go out to see the film!

Actually, this is a bank robbery film. Early in the piece, Michael Caine’s Joe is having a grim talk with his financial advisor because he is receiving notices that his home will be reclaimed by the bank when there is an expert robbery, executed by masked men and carried out within three minutes and an effective escape. But that does eventually give Joe some ideas, especially when he and Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Albert (Alan Arkin) go to their factory and find that production is going to foreign countries and not only that but the pension scheme has collapsed. What else is an elderly person to do but rob a bank!

They make meticulous preparation, but have to do a fair number of rehearsals to get their movements agile and ready for a successful under three minutes robbery. They have connections who give them advice, some fake guns and blanks, and make the pledge that they will only take the money that they would have accrued in pensions if they were to live for several years, anything over for charity.

Joe has a daughter and granddaughter living at home and doesn’t want to lose his house. Willie and Albert board together and, unknown to the others, Willie has tumours. Albert has the touch of the pessimist but certainly is attracted by the woman at the local store, played by Ann-Margret (only 75!).

The investigator for the original robbery is played by Matt Dillon, obviously, the younger lead in the film (though 52 at time of filming). He is conscientious, has his suspicions, questions the suspects, follows them – but, a very entertaining part of the film is the dramatising of their alibis, very well thought out, the use of masks, playing to video surveillance and deceiving it. The three belong to a local club where they go to have their dinners, a charity club does get involved in charity work and the days of the fair is on is a cover for the robbery. Christopher Lloyd (78) plays the rather doddery manager. And the club is the recipient of a hefty donation – and the flirtatious waitress at the diner, who does give them some pie gratis when they haven’t the ability to pay, also ruled receives a substantial tip.

And, at the end, wedding bells for Albert and his girlfriend, and everybody gathered in dancing, definitely going in style. Nothing particularly great about the film but an entertainment for its intended audience.

 

BACALAUREAT/GRADUATION 

Romania, 2016, 127 minutes, Colour.

Directed by Christian Mungiu.

Christian Mungiu is one of the most distinguished of the new wave of Romanian directors in the first decades of the 21st century. His 4 weeks, 3 months, 2 days won the main prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007. He followed this with his collection of short stories, Tales from the Golden Age and then the film about exorcism in Romanian Orthodox situation in Beyond the Hills.

This time he goes to a country town in Romania, showing the surfaces of families and the depths within the families, a father who has high expectations of his daughter and her scholarship to England, the daughter interested in study but more in a relationship, the father and his relationship with his emotionally fragile wife and his conducting an affair.

While all this can be covered by the seeming respectability, when the difficulties surface, they have all kinds of repercussions for the people concerned.

This is a very strong drama, very well written and well performed – and, while it is Romanian in its focus, it has universal themes.

 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2  

US, 2017, 136 minutes, Colour.

Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillen, Pom Klementieff, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan.

Directed by James Gunn.

To write a review of this adventure for the numerous fans would be a waste of energy. They thrilled to the first film, most are very happy with the second. Rather, this is a review for those who are not fans of the Guardians of the Galaxy or who do not understand who they are and what they are about.

This is material for a children’s audience and, probably especially, for adult children who delight in the characters, the special effects and action, the jokey repartee, the blend of the serious and the comic. These films are, via writer and director James Gunn who obviously is enjoying himself with the stories, the outlandish aspects of the characters and their adventures, playing with all the special effects, as even some of the more serious reviewers have said; a lot of fun for the fans.

The origins of the film are in Marvel comics (and creator, Stan Lee, has a cameo as usual, and reappears at the very, very end after all the credits). Speaking of credits, there are quite a number of inserts into the final credits with all the characters – and promise of adventures to come.

In the first film we saw the team of Guardians putting some order into the universe. On paper, they seem the least likely of Galaxy guardianship. Peter Quill, Chris Pratt, does seem to be some kind of superhero, half human and half galactic, with a sense of ironic humour. Then there is the green-coloured Gamora, Zoe Saldana (changing from her blue in Avatar), something of a superhero type, joining Peter in action, attracted to him but suppressing any desire to express this, labelling it as “unspoken”. Drax, Dave Bautista, is a giant -like hero, not always quick on the uptake, but generous in going into action.

One of the stars of the show is Rocket, rather fox-like, but mistaken for all kinds of other animals, which he rather resents. He is voiced by Bradley Cooper. His cheeky, something of a rogue, stealing batteries from a high priestess at the opening, rather flexible in his attitude towards the truth, not above slinging off at everyone. Then there is the mini-material doll, Groot, with all the limitations of small size, childlikeness, able to make a few sounds rather than words (although Vin Diesel is credited as the voice of Groot and Diesel non-fans will think that Groot is much more lively and personable than any of Diesel’s screen characters, including all the Fast and Furious films). Sylvester Stallone, oh. Though he is better at the end and during the final credits.

For the first half of the film, older audiences may wonder why they are sitting there and whether they should leave all the shenanigans to the younger audience. However, there are intimations of father-son clashes. Defying belief, Kurt Russell is made up near the opening as a young man in the 1980s, but later, we see him as he more ordinarily is, although he is Ego, with superhuman powers, his own planet, seeking a son who has powers like his – finding them in Peter Quill. Actually, Kurt Russell is pretty good in the role of Ego.

All is not as it seems, Peter has been brought up by another rogue of the planets, Yondu, quite a substantial role for character actor, Michael Rooker. He turns out to be the true father-figure who is prepared to sacrifice himself for his son.

Another of the clashes is the sister-sister struggle between Gamora and Nebula. And, with more clashes, there is a gold-plated priestess with her own space vehicle and attendants, Ayesha, played by Elizabeth Debicki.

This may not explain Guardians of the Galaxy or its appeal but it indicates something of how the film is made and how it comes across. And early box office results indicate that fans all around the world love it.