Crip Camp (2020) Review

https://www.thefilmagazine.com/crip-camp-documentary-review/ SSP

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Review in Brief: Baby Done (2020/21)

A lot of New Zealand comedies have a very distinct feel, and BABY DONE from writer-director team Curtis Vowell and Sophie Henderson echoes the voice of its producer Taika Waititi. This is deadpan-funny, heartfelt and unafraid to make its protagonist a challenging personality to spend the allotted time with. The film grows beyond quirkyness for the sake of it with a mature look at a difficult time in any woman’s life, all through the prism of an immature character’s view of the world. The performances, particularly from leads Rose Matafeo and Matthew Lewis as an expecting couple (the former unready to surrender her youth, freedom and passion for climbing, the latter excited at the prospect of fatherhood and exasperated by his partner’s actions) are pitched about right for this bittersweet and grounded story. Not every moment lands or hits the right tone, but overall this will leave you uplifted, fulfilled, even enlightened. SSP

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Review in Brief: Judas and the Black Messiah (2020)

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH tells a heightened version of a story that everyone should know, and tells it with righteous anger. Unfortunately some elements of the film’s abundant style do admittedly get in the way, like the depiction of the real shoot-outs as flashily violent Scorsese-esque set-pieces, losing grounding in the process. Why they wanted Martin Sheen under distracting prosthetics as J Edgar Hoover instead of casting someone who actually looked like him is perplexing as well. Daniel Kaluuya is mesmeric as young Black Panther leader Fred Hampton but it is LaKeith Stanfield as reluctant FBI informer Bill O’Neal who has the tougher, more restrained role and is tasked with keeping the whole thing on the tracks. Reconstructions of O’Neal’s only TV interview are powerfully employed to reinforce the imagined but plausible scenes and so we end up with a slippery and difficult portrayal of complicated men. SSP

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Review in Brief: Minari (2020)

There’s no debate, MINARI is an American film – what could be more American than a tale of a family buying a farm and dreaming of living off the land? It’s astounding that the film features two of the first Korean (and the first lead of East Asian descent) acting nominations in the history of the Oscars with Steven Yeun and Youn Yuh-jung, and there’s no weak link in this effortlessly grounded ensemble. The way the beautiful arable imagery is captured reinforces the romance of the American Dream just as what this family has to go through almost completely shatters it. The observational family domestic scenes gently enthral, the themes are universal and the wider socio-political context packs a punch. About the only thing that doesn’t seem completely necessary is the added jeopardy of the finale, though director Lee Isaac Chung waiting to go out with a bang with his story is understandable. SSP

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Review in Brief: Sound of Metal (2019/20)

SOUND OF METAL will leave you spent, physically, emotionally, and if you can hear, aurally. On the cusp of success, metal drummer Ruben (Riz Ahmed) loses most of his hearing and must reconcile his new life with the help of a deaf community. He not only has to learn to be deaf, but to learn to live in the moment and just be. Is the jarring sound of metal, which is all that the implants Ruben eventually receives actually offer, better than no sound at all? The film is delicately directed, crisply edited and a game-changer in its sound design, conjuring a whole new world of challenges for its protagonist, a raw and vulnerable Ahmed. The passage with Ruben adjusting to his new life and priorities, gently guided by Paul Raci’s Joe is certainly the film’s most satisfying, but poignant peaks and technical flourish can be found throughout this punchy and powerful story. SSP

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Godzilla vs Kong (2021) Review

https://www.thefilmagazine.com/godzilla-vs-kong-movie-review-2021/ SSP

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Review in Brief: Ammonite (2020)

AMMONITE is a labour-intensive, impeccably detailed and tender film, the second from tactile master Francis Lee. This is a story of passions, of the agony of being starved of them, of being kept from them. Direct comparisons to PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE would be lazy, but both films do notably feature two women (here Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan) in a relationship liberated by the brief absence of smothering patriarchy. Everyone looks convincingly cold and uncomfortable for the time period, Winslet’s performance as palaeontologist Mary Anning is all-consuming, hunkered-down and punctuated by telling physical tics, usually in the way her hands, her invaluable tools, move. There’s no reason to presume historical figures with no documented relationships were heterosexual, and Mary and Charlotte’s passionate time together feels convincing and honest. Ammonite’s final ten minutes delivers an emotional gut-punch to rival Lee’s GODS OWN COUNTRY, even if the rest of the film isn’t quite as transcendent. SSP

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Review in Brief: Life in a Day 2020 (2021)

Despite a worldwide pandemic, in 2020 life went on. Ten years on from crowd-sourced documentary LIFE IN A DAY Kevin Macdonald and his team did it again, this time picking 25 July 2020 as the date of record. This world-spanning journey proceeds chronologically from sunrise to sunset, stories grouped by subject, predominant emotion or theme, all held together with neat editing and a beautiful but unobtrusive score. We meet an opera-singing surgeon belting out an aria before pulling up his mask to resume his duties, and a couple undergoing IVF treatment hitting heartbreaking setback. We see the particular extra challenge Covid deaths impose on predominantly Muslim countries with the religious importance of cleansing every body before burial. We reconnect with one contributor to the original Life in a Day whose teenage son has passed away in the intervening years, and in the year of George Floyd’s murder an African American woman tells the story of how she has lost three brothers to the police. Even though it gives us some upsetting sights, LIAD 2020 is ultimately a hopeful and universal document of the resilience of humanity in the most trying of times. SSP

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Fugitive Dreams (2020) Review – MANIFF

https://www.thefilmagazine.com/fugitive-dreams-movie-review/ SSP

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Showa Era Godzilla Movies Ranked (1954-1975)

https://www.thefilmagazine.com/showa-era-godzilla-movies-ranked/ SSP

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