Thursday, 22 September 2016

LIFF MOVIE REVIEW: PERFECT STRANGERS





9/10


In the modern world mobile phones are the keepers of our most private thoughts. What would happen if the contents of our mind were exposed for the world to see?

During a dinner party seven friends decide to play a game: for the duration of one evening they would give up their mobile phones. Every message and every phone call is no longer private. They could read each other’s texts and listen to each other’s conversation. Do they have anything to hide? And if they do, how bad would the damage be?

We are all used to light hearted Italian farce, but PERFECT STRANGERS delves into dangerous territory when the humorous brushes with the sad and even the tragic. Set during an eclipse of the moon, this is a night of revelations, that points out exactly what each character is capable of. The snappy, quick-witted dialogue carries the movie forward. It is a well-acted, addictive film, that delivers plenty of surprises along the way.

PERFECT STRANGERS would make a terrific stage production. The nuanced performances, the structure and the dialogue have great re-viewing value, a necessary quality that separates great from good. This is a film to recommend and to discuss. It is not a surprise that PERFECT STRANGERS was chosen to open ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL 2016 in Melbourne.

Without giving any definitive answers PERFECT STRANGERS reflects on the true meaning of friendship, relationships and secrets. It is a near perfect film, as thought provoking as it is entertaining.


Friday, 16 September 2016

KOREAN MOVIE REVIEW: TRAIN TO BUSAN


8/10

We have seen it all before, a world pandemic, the dead come alive and the characters are struggling to survive in a changing world. But TRAIN TO BUSAN is not just a "zombies on a train" flick,  it provides and delivers an emotional impact that only Korean cinema is capable of.

TRAIN TO BUSAN is the follow up to Yeon Sung-Ho's animated feature SEOUL STATION and is his first Live Action film. He is a remarkable filmmaker, whose work always focuses on social injustices in modern South Korea, his main characters being underdogs and social pariahs. Here, however, he steps away from this type of protagonist, introducing a seemingly cold hearted and calculating businessman Seok-Woo, who reluctantly accepts his daughter's birthday wish and takes her to Busan to see her estranged mother. Soon after, the country is in lockdown, a virus outbreak begins and the flesh eating army of zombies emerge. Busan, however, seems to be a safe haven, so the train carries on. With the passengers succumbing to the virus one after the other, Seok-Woo will have to make many character defining choices in order to save his daughter and protect others.

TRAIN TO BUSAN relies more on action than suspense. With a very few obvious CGI moments, it is full of practical effects and make up, that make the gory moments naturalistic and "raw". The sympathetic characters and relentless thrills provide a huge entertainment value, but one cannot escape the feeling it has all been done before. What puts TRAIN TO BUSAN apart from many other popular zombie movies, is the famous Korean sentimentality. Delivered just in the right dose it makes TRAIN TO BUSAN somewhat special, putting it higher than many similar zombie flicks.


TRAIN TO BUSAN is a solidly made, well-paced feature, that doesn't pretend to be more than it is - entertainment. It's is a sort of a "bagatelle" for the serious filmmaker Yeon Sang-ho, but it is certain to bring him some international acknowledgement, that he well deserves.

Monday, 12 September 2016

TV SERIES REVIEW: AMERICAN GOTHIC 2016


8/10


In the avalanche of each year's TV shows, it is not easy at times to find a hidden gem.

Never mind the bad reviews and the rating - AMERICAN GOTHIC may not hold an original premise, but it's one of the best whodunit mysteries TV has to offer this year.

At the centre of the story are the Hawthornes, a rich and influential family who get themselves mixed up in a serial murder investigation.

A murder weapon, the belt, is found in the structure of the collapsed tunnel that the family has built. The patriarch of the family, Mitch, quickly falls under suspicion. But did he have an accomplice? A prodigal son, Garret, who has returned just when the family gets into turmoil, is the primary suspect. The other possible accomplices are any of the Hawthorne family: a crazed drug addicted artist son Cam,  a ruthless bisexual politician daughter Alison, and a controlling matriarch Madeline. And what about the young and innocent Tessa, who was just a teenager when the murders occur? Is she really beyond suspicion? The story is even more complicated with Tessa's police husband Brady on the case, whose obsession with finding the culprit creates a conflict of interest. Everyone has something to hide. And with good reason, because this serial killer case is much more complex than anyone could anticipate. 

AMERICAN GOTHIC is by no means a perfect show. It is slow in the beginning, uses a lot of dramatic clichés and the start of the mystery does not seem compelling by any means. The slow beginnings caused bad reviews and a drop out of viewers, but in due course AMERICAN GOTHIC redeems itself, spectacularly. This is a case where the explanation is more interesting than the premise itself. Not only do we get the multi-layered family conflict and a satisfying resolution to the questions posed, we are suddenly given a new set of suspects just before the season finale, with the surprises coming in spades. And they are not some random revelations. Carefully crafted over 13 episodes, they feel organic and natural, and all you want to do is to slap yourself on the forehead saying - it was all there. How did I not see it coming?


The main problem with AMERICAN GOTHIC is that it is a six episode show stretched to double its size. But there's an upper side to it - the more you spend with those characters the more you care for them. The best part? The last three episodes redeem every minute you thought you wasted on this show. If you love mysteries that exceed your expectations and surprise you, AMERICAN GOTHIC is for you. Give it a chance, persevere through some slow action, and be rewarded! 

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

MIFF MOVIE REVIEW: DEVIL'S CANDY



7/10

A young family, obsessed with heavy metal, moves into a house with a troubled history. It's not long before the previous owner returns and tries to get in. And he would not take "No" for an answer. He likes heavy metal too, only for his own personal reasons - loud music keeps the voices in his head at bay. And it's the voice of Satan that he is hearing.

DEVIL'S CANDY is the second feature from the Australian director Sean Byrne, following his still very popular THE LOVED ONES, and this is his first American film. 

The premise is not highly original, however what this movie lacks in originality it delivers in tension. A slow burning thriller soon turns dark and violent, culminating in a cleverly made straightforward home invasion scene that will make your skin crawl.

But the biggest win for DEVIL'S CANDY is not the scares, but the characters. Byrne has created a tightly knit family with real relationships and real problems. It's a very sympathetic bunch, and Kiara Glasco, as the young daughter, is particularly charismatic. She is a promising actor to watch!


DEVIL'S CANDY hardly gives anything new to the genre, but in the world where remakes rule, being an original script and being this good is a rare treat for a horror movie buff.

QUICK FACTS

Director Sean Byrne mentioned during Q&A that the film is based on the real story, when his family members were harassed by the previous owner of the house they lived in;

Various rock bands gave green light to use their music in the film;

The paintings in the film were created by a real life Devil Worshiper;