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Film Reviews | John McDonald

Film Reviews

Thor: Ragnarok & The Snowman

October 20, 2017
Thor & his buddy

At the beginning of this week I was looking forward to The Snowman, based on a gripping crime novel by Norway’s Jo Nesbø. I had fewer expectations for another Scandinavian saga – Thor:Ragnarok, the third installment of the popular Marvel superhero franchise. By the end of the week my expectations had been trashed so effectively … More


Blade Runner 2049

October 13, 2017
How advertising works in 2049

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) is the epitome of a cult classic. It didn’t set the box office on fire at first appearance, but with every year its grimy vision of the future reappears in one film after another. If Scott had kept possession of the original sets he could be running a useful little … More


The Final Portrait

October 6, 2017
Smile for the camera, James & Alberto

In Paris in 2006 I dined with James Lord in the restaurant of L’Hotel in rue des Beaux Arts. It’s the hotel in which Oscar Wilde had expired in an upstairs room, losing his final battle with the wallpaper. Many years after Wilde’s departure, Lord established himself in an exquisite apartment on the other side … More


Battle of the Sexes

September 30, 2017
What we did in the 70s.. Billie Jean & Bobby

It’s strange to watch Battle of the Sexes from an Australian perspective, remembering how we barracked for Margaret Court in her rivalry with America’s Billie Jean King. Forty years on, Margaret Court looks like the most dreadful sourpuss – an outspoken homophobe, and allegedly an apologist for Apartheid. Billie Jean King has taken a very … More


Mother!

September 21, 2017
Mother! The poster says everything & nothing

For want of a better term one would have to call Darren Aronofsky’s bizarre, polarising Mother! a ‘horror movie’, but he has really invented a new kind of film that offers several strong lines of interpretation under the umbrella of a grandiose cosmic vision. Most horror flicks have a pretty basic structure: those who offend … More


Victoria and Abdul

September 15, 2017
The Monarch and her Munshi

One marvels at the undying appeal of Queen Victoria for latter-day filmmakers. Along with two features: John Madden’s Mrs. Brown (1997) and Jean-Marc Vallée’s The Young Victoria (2009), there are dozens of movies in which the Dear Old Queen makes an appearance. She’s usually portrayed as a stern but lovable grand dame who strikes an … More


The Dinner

September 8, 2017
Some gruelling courses at this dinner party

After watching Steve Coogan send up his own dramatic aspirations in The Trip to Spain, it requires a conscious readjustment to accept the tortured, bipolar character we meet in The Dinner. To play history teacher, Paul Lohman, Coogan not only has to find an American accent, he has to exude bitterness and self-pity in every … More


Maudie

September 1, 2017
Maudie & Everett get hitched

In every bio pic one can’t help wondering what the subjects of the film actually looked like. Unless it’s a movie about another movie star it’s unusual for the lead actors to closely resemble the people they’re playing. In the case of Maudie it seems that director, Aisling Walsh, was never interested in getting leads … More


The King’s Choice

August 25, 2017
Jesper Christesen dodges a bullet in The King's Choice

Scandinavian history may not be a pressing concern for most Australians, but we can all recognise the importance of political courage – if only by its absence in Canberra. The King’s Choice deals with the dilemma that beset King Haakan VII of Norway when his country was invaded by the Germans in April 1940. Erik … More


Logan Lucky

August 18, 2017
Meet the Logans

Steven Soderbergh is one of Hollywood’s mavericks and one of its great professionals. A certain percentage of his films might be termed arthouse projects, while others embrace the mainstream, leaping from genre to genre with the enthusiasm of a life-long student of the cinema. It’s almost as if Soderbergh becomes wary of his own artistic … More