Film Reviews

Sydney Film Festival 2016

June 10, 2016
The Childhood of a Leader (2015)

Whoever puts together the official program for the Sydney Film Festival should be given responsibility for the city’s urban redevelopment. The minds behind such a masterpiece of cross-referencing, indexing and organisation might have thought twice about the over-expansion of Green Square, the stealthy growth of Barangaroo, the tree massacre on Anzac Parade, and the ludicrous … More


Queen of the Desert

June 3, 2016
Nicole Kidman in 'Queen of the Desert' (2015)

Werner Herzog has made some great movies in the course of a career of more than 50 years, but Queen of the Desert isn’t one of them. In this biopic – a virtual masterpiece of miscasting – the “waif-like” Gertrude Bell is represented by the towering form of Our Nic; James Franco struggles with a … More


Money Monster

June 3, 2016
George Clooney in 'Money Monster' (2016)

At a Q & A last week, after the premiere of Money Monster, director, Jodie Foster spoke about her admiration for the films of Sidney Lumet. It was no revelation as her movie has resounding echoes of two Lumet classics – Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and Network (1976). There’s also a more-than-passing resemblance to Spike … More


Hunt for the Wilderpeople

May 26, 2016
Julian Dennison in 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople' (2016)

I’ve never wished I was a New Zealander except in the middle of one of Taika Waititi’s movies. There’s so much local colour, so many gags that only a Kiwi would understand, that I always feel I’m missing something. In What We Do in the Shadows it was funny to see the vampires strolling down … More


The Nice Guys

May 26, 2016
Ryan Gosling & Russell Crowe in 'The Nice Guys' (2016)

Take Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, a sassy blonde teenager, and a salacious story that revolves around the Los Angeles porn industry circa 1977, and you have The Nice Guys. It’s not so much a formula film as half a dozen formulas that director, Shane Black, has mixed together to create a surprisingly fizzy cocktail. … More


Highly Strung

May 19, 2016
Scott Hicks director of 'Highly Strung'.
Photograph: Adelaide Film Festival

In the rarefied world of classical music the blood-letting is not so obvious, but it can still get nasty, as shown by Scott Hicks’s documentary, Highly Strung. This film has at least four different narratives that don’t always interact smoothly. The first is a portrait of the Australian String Quartet, beginning in late 2013, when … More


X-Men Apocalypse

May 19, 2016
Tye Sheridan in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' (2016)

Not having bothered to watch the past seven – or is it eight? – X-Men films, I feel at a disadvantage when it comes to reviewing this latest installment in a long-running franchise. I didn’t avoid the previous films for any special reason, merely a lack of interest in the overblown superhero genre that has … More


The Man Who Knew Infinity

May 12, 2016
Dev Patel in 'The Man Who Knew Infinity' (2015)

There may be no Afghans in lead roles in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, but The Man Who Knew Infinity does manage to insert a few genuine Indians in key places. Who else but Dev Patel, known for his work in Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and Neill Blomkamp’s underrated Chappie. Patel has become the … More


Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

May 12, 2016
Tina Fey in 'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot' (2016)

If The Martian can be classified as a comedy in last year’s Golden Globes, I suppose the same applies to Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa strive mightily to keep the tone light in a film in which there is a significant amount of carnage and bloodshed, but it’s never laugh-out-loud material. … More


Mia Madre

May 6, 2016
John Turturro in 'Mia Madre' (2015)

Mia Madre is an example of a favourite cinematic sub-genre: the film about a director making a film. Fellini’s 8½ is the grandfather of the lot, but every year there are new installments. This time it isn’t Fellini’s alter-ego wading through a surrealistic cavalcade of memories, or Wim Wenders’s bleak evocation of a stalled film … More