Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)


So sharply written that it cuts, the third movie from award-winning playwright Martin McDonagh is a dramedy that starts with cleverness and wit, then opens up into something truthfully human.’ Jeffrey Anderson – Common Sense Media

I walked into the cinema with no idea what the title of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri really was, or meant, or in which sequence those five words were constructed. All I knew was that this film snatched a Golden Globe for Best Drama and two acting awards, so I figured that coming into my favourite season of the year (after autumn) of the Academy Awards, this was on the top of my list of must-see films. And I was so right. If you read the synopsis like I did, then you’re probably not overly enticed to pay this humble film a visit, because The Greatest Showman or Coco are far more entertaining, but I think that if you give it a chance you will feel all of the emotions and much much more. After all, this is a masterpiece!

Three old weathered billboards stand alone scattered against a sparsely travelled road on the outskirts of small Missouri town, Ebbing. Mildred Hayes, portrayed by the brilliant Frances McDormand, has placed a one-month down payment on their rent to display three small phrases to all who pass by: ‘Raped While Dying’, ’And Still No Arrests?’, ‘How Come, Chief Willoughby?’. Those three emotionally charged phrases ring throughout the entire film, painting a canvas of one mothers anger and heartache for her lost daughter toward the local police force. Ebbing’s chief officer Sheriff Bill Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson, is the target for vengeance for failing to find the killer, despite his own long suffering in his battle against cancer. Rather than focusing on the crime and resolution as you would expect, Three Billboards zooms in on the cause and effects of tragedy, the repercussions of pressure and the harboured inner anger in all of us. Yet the movie travels across more than just revenge in this battle between Mildred and the law, but into the very depth of our humanity.

The pain of others haunts Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in just the same way as the overarching theme of vengeance does. Here you can see playwright turned filmmaker Martin McDonagh pave the way into a genre of his own, mixing pain and violence with frequent cruel laughs. Although it doesn’t seem like it according to the plot, you’ll be laughing from start to finish. But perhaps the most ambitious aspect of the film doesn’t lie in the comedy tragedy mix, but in the depth of the characters. Here the playwright showcases his unique style in constructing a story with the highly talented characters on focus, which leaves you vouching for, yelling at and laughing with every single one of the characters on screen. In particular, feminine righteousness and masculine power in Frances McDormand and her equally excellent hard-ass Woody Harrelson and violent Sam Rockwell play to a defining range of dislike, empathy and arrogance, each one making an indescribably powerful impact on the course of the film. In fact, ThreeBillboards is so narrow on the characters that it feels as though Ebbing is only a small town of nine people, and perhaps that is what appealed to me the most. The entire film (without giving anything away) sticks within the outlines of a revenge film, yet portrays a kaleidoscope of emotions in a town stricken with heartache and sorrow in one big plight to find a killer and maybe one day to all get along.

If its insanely high ratings or success in the Awards circuit isn’t enough for you to go and watch this film, there’s not much I can do. But just know you’re missing out.


IMDb – 8.4/10  Rotten Tomatoes – 93%


Home Again (2017)

home again

‘This is one of those brightly lit Hollywood romcoms with commercial-style acting and precious little insight into human behavior. It’s built on thin contrivances and thinner characters.’ Michael Ordona csm

My loyalty to Reese Witherspoon and Nancy Meyers, who produced The Holiday, The Intern and It’s Complicated (all films I loved), pulled me on board for the most recent addition to the romantic comedy genre. Here, amateur writer and director daughter of Nancy Meyers, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, juggles appealing younger men, outrageously expensive interiors and coddled well-off people in the hope of creating a warm romance, but didn’t quite hit the mark. My biggest mistake was coming to Home Again after watching the triumphant Big Little Lies, so be aware that the two are practically polar opposite – except maybe Witherspoon dropping off her kids to school in an expensive SUV. Home Again is here to please, so it’s very pure and very simple.

Witherspoon is Alice, a newly separated 40 year old interior designer with two beautiful daughters, who has just moved back to her late director father’s LA home. Her sheepish, rumpled and still wildly-in-love husband Michael Sheen is back in New York, desperate to patch things up. On the eve of her 40th birthday celebrations, Alice meets three young wannabe filmmakers with a dream of succeeding in LA. Opening up her lavish garden house for their use during their time making it in LA reels in an odd but sweet makeshift family, the combined traits of everything her ex-husband should have been. The house guests become unpaid child-care providers, tech troubleshooters and man candy, and of course from here on out the rest of the movie is pretty predictable.

Meyers-Shyer had previously mentioned that Home Again was a reflection of the struggles of young divorced women combined with a gender twist on May-December romances, which is interesting enough. But Alice’s hurdles are not relatable to the majority of its viewers, considering they all blow over once she gains the courage to verbally confront them. So inevitably, you are pulled into an alternate reality where everything is just as beautiful on the inside as the outside, and the rich and famous inhabit every luxury on a silver platter. Following her award worthy work in Wild and Big Little Lies, this is an inevitable step backwards for Witherspoon, yet there is something different and oddly charming that appeals to this light hearted rom-com.

If you’re at the cinemas in Australia this weekend, you practically have to pick from The Snowman, Geostorm, Kingsman, Home Again, Blade Runner 2049 or Captain Underpants – i would pick the latter, or if that isn’t your cup of tea, then Blade Runner. But if you’re after a light hearted, slightly disappointing, sometimes funny but overall satisfying romantic comedy you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for in Home Again.


IMDb – 5.7/10  Rotten Tomatoes – 30%

Silence (2016)


Silence, this religious epic, a dream project of director Martin Scorsese for decades, is somewhat difficult and unwieldy, as well as a bit gory, but it’s also magnificent, beautiful, and masterful.” – Common Sense Media ★★★★★

This is what makes Scorsese’s film so radical, and so unlike many other movies about religion: It’s actually art.” – The Atlantic ★★★★★

Returning to the ideas that haunted his whole career, Martin Scorsese delivers a film of grandeur and great fervour about Christianity, martyrdom and the silence of God. Sacrifice in the service of the greater good beckons to the ambiguous heroism of one man reaching a future of earthly peace and comfort, in the midst sin and humiliation. Martin Scorsese takes a fearless plunge into deciphering the silence of God in the midst of human suffering, drawing out a passion project of incomprehensible faith and power.

Following the 1966 passion novel by Shusaku Endo, Silence pays its small tribute to the extremely profound influence of Portuguese missionaries who risked their lives to bring the word of God to 17th century Japan. Andrew Garfield, with his eyes filled with fervour, stars as Father Sebastian Rodrigues. Adam Driver, his somewhat starved body resembling an ascetic saint, co-stars as Father Francisco Garupe. These two young Portuguese priests, fierce and full of determination, journey east to Japan in search of their missing mentor Father Cristovao Ferreira, played by Liam Neeson. Senseless rumours drain the village of his apposition to the Christian faith, but when Rodrigues and Garupe arrive in Japan they quickly realise just how viciously Christianity is being suppressed. What unfolds is a gruelling story of relentless faith under ruling samurai who are mercilessly committed to flushing out hidden Christians, any way they can.

Within Martin Scorsese’s’ creative collaboration with Jay Cocks, who also wrote The Age of Innocence, the script doesn’t wallow in the violent visuals, but rather utilises them as a way to reflect the horror of religious persecution. The introduction of doubt is the propeller of the film, considering 2 hours and 40 minutes of spirituality is unlikely to sell to an audience of Marvel Comic Universe-ites. In particular, Liam Neeson is phenomenal in reflecting his character’s reconciliation of conviction and doubt about God, in choosing to suffer with mankind instead of ending its suffering. This is the heart and soul of the film. But all of the performances in Silence are sensational, each character grabbing onto this intense, sacrificial dedication that pulses through their very veins. As Scorsese mentioned, “Silence is about the necessity of belief fighting the voice of experience.” And there is no doubt that Scorsese maintains a rigorous fix on the complexity of faith, refusing to temper with the film’s harshness with any form of sentiment. But to most visionaries’ delight, issues of this complexity are not designed to go down easy, but instead, they are entitled to live and breathe in the cinema air.

But if I can add a personal comment from a Christian point of view, something baffles me about the way faith wavers under pressure, even though martyrdom is so prominent today. *Spoiler alert* I hated the ending – I think he should have died for his faith.

But if I can add a personal comment, from a Christian point of view, something baffles me about the way faith wavers under pressure, even though martyrdom is so prevalent today. *Spoiler Alert* I hated the ending – I think he should have died for his faith.

The price for your glory is their suffering.

Silence is a technical, visual and soulful marvel with editing capacities that effortlessly overlap into pure cinematic art. No one with the genuine belief of the power of cinema should miss this epic creation of essential filmmaking from the modern master – a man who embodies the images he puts on screen.

… “I pray but I am lost, am I just praying to silence?


Imdb – 7.5/10  Rotten Tomatoes – 84%


Hell or High Water (2016)


“Taut, tense and burnished by Jeff Bridges at his best. This is a deceptively simple tale of Texan cops and robbers that drags the Old West into the modern age.” – Empire ★★★★☆

It took a while to notice that David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water had made the list of Best Picture nominees at the Academy Awards this year, while we were so overwhelmed that Martin Scorseses’ Silence and Tim Miller’s Deadpool had lost the race. Here comes a throwback to the dusty rambling glories of Hollywood new wave Westerns, inspired by Depression-era thrillers, to reveal arguably the most understated and contemporary socio-political film of last year. That’s a mouthful.

Brothers Toby, played by Chris Pine, and Tanner, played by Ben Foster, first arrive at a remote Texas Midland Bank branch to rob every penny they can fit in their sacks. They make off with some loose bills, and proceed to rob every other bank in the region. Here, Toby is the mastermind, conveying his sincere and potent grievance from the foreclosure on the mortgage of his family property. But of course, with the death of their mother and an oil discovery on the property, Toby is infuriated with immediate eviction and recruits ex-prisoner older brother Tanner to help earn the property back. It’s the story of cowboy’s and Indians – onetime kings of the plains now suspended in a place where both are pushed to near extinction, and what evolves is greed, pain and utter heartlessness.

David Mackenzie’s direction makes the robbery sequences bubble with jolts of extravagant yet realistic violence, getaway action and car chases, on the backdrop of dusty plains. The casting of each character enhances the regional colour and tone of the film, drawing out incredible performances from Chris Pine and of course the highly praised Jeff Bridges. The present day atmosphere and lack of open-carry laws, mixed in with rowdy cowboys creates an amusing and unpredictable vigilante of local distress. But the script is notably the most powerful in this film, and the exchanges are superb in a film so entirely thick with it. The low-key humour, the poignant loneliness, the undercurrent teasing, Hell or High Water is nothing like anything you’ve seen before.

Hell or High Water is talking, character and western backdrop thick. Riding on the back of films such as No Country for Old Men, it draws out weathered storefronts, abandoned pastures, rusted farm equipment and oil derricks on the premise of a film set to define regional identity. Only enhanced by an overly impressive score, Hell or High Water is pleasant but not extravagant, and a delight for anyone with a soft spot for Texas.


Imdb – 7.7/10  Rotten Tomatoes – 98%

The Great Wall (2016)


“A hybrid between a historical epic and an action fantasy, The Great Wall manages to be only a passable example of each genre, which makes it less memorable than it had the potential to be.” – Common Sense Media ★★☆☆☆

Matt Damon has earned his merits for action spectaculars with Saving Private Ryan, The Martian and the Bourne films, yet veteran Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou is an action world class master. Following Hero, House of Flying Daggers and the unforgettable 2008 Beijing Olympics ceremonies, Zhang Yimou teams up with the US for the co-production of the century, a whopping $150 million dollar project. And the result in a nut shell? It takes a white Hollywood A-List actor to save the Chinese world.

The Great Wall, a monument decorated with history, prestige and nobility, a place where the walls whisper ancient myths- and this is one of them. Matt Damon is William and Pedro Pascal is Tovar, two 12th century European mercenaries who scope the deserts of Western China looking for mysterious black powder. In the search for riches and fortune, the two best-friends push toward the Great Wall to make a deal, where they are met with a spray of arrows and an immensely organised and colourful Chinese army. Zhang keeps this swirl of colour, light and dizzying action as almost a distraction from the plot, which unfolds miraculously from a plan to escape.

The Great Wall’s action scenes exemplify a sense of fierce determination and precision, a shared responsibility that one will rarely discover in action spectaculars. Not only is the film thrillingly large scale, but it is visually euphoric, an artwork of colour and beauty amidst a prominence of computer-generated imagery. Although the film is often well-choreographed, it is very easy to be seduced by scenes of impersonal warfare and battle. But as the fighting slows down, and the characters evolve, there is little spark between our Caucasian and Chinese performers. But this is simply because The Great Wall is unlike any American blockbuster you’ve ever ever ever seen, and character development is minimally the focus in the inventive and thrilling action pieces that evolve before your very eyes.

I was born into battle.

I have little to say about The Great Wall, other than its fantastic ability to work as an action-adventure spectacular. In this, we see the triumph of the Chinese as sacrificial, determined and relentless warriors, in what can only be described as a tribute to China’s war history. But in the midst of this fierce patriotism is an entertaining blockbuster with eye-popping and breathtaking cinematography – that only follows the simplistic plotting of a Chinese myth. Watch this blockbuster on the biggest cinema screen you can find.


Imdb – 6.3/10  Rotten Tomatoes – 36%

Hidden Figures (2016)


The remarkable untold story of three African-American women who engineered America’s triumph in the space race, and ultimately women’s rights. Crashing through the $100 million barrier at the Box Office on opening weekend, and earning itself a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards, Hidden Figures has gained wonderful momentum worldwide. The world was captivated by the Friendship 7 mission, the first US attempt to match the Russians, and in the heat of the space race Glenn became a national hero. But behind the scenes the immense contribution was much less known.

Katherine Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson, has an impeccable eye for solving incomprehensible equations, evident from her first scholarship – in which she surpasses her classmates (and teacher) by lightyears. Many years later, working alongside Mary Jackson, Janelle Monae, and Dorothy Vaughn, Octavia Spencer, in the segregated West Computing Group for NASA, Katherine becomes a human computer calculating advanced math for the space program. But despite the intensity and significance of their work, the women are relegated to separate bathrooms, lunch rooms and work facilities. After being bumped up to NASA’s Headquarters to check space-flight calculation trajectories, what unfolds for Katherine is a battle against white supremacy for recognition, respect and fundamental equality.

Octavia Spencer, who received an Oscar nomination Best Supporting Actress, plants her feet into a stubborn, assuring and mesmerising role as computation expert. The contrast between Spencer and her white supervisor, Kirsten Dunst, promotes the invaluable truth of the Civil Rights Movement – the oblivious racism, embedded into the unconsciousness of simple Americans. Yet here, Hidden Figures takes one enormous aspect of history and displays it beautifully, never once stopping to shove it into your face. Janelle Monae does an incredible job in driving the simplicity of emotion, conveying the underdog protagonist who is met with challenges but wins them over trope. But Hidden Figures manages to apply this formula spectacularly to tell an inspiring story. And of course, the phenomenal Taraji Henson shines among her tea-fed white male colleagues – drawing out the beautiful message of the film to inspire and encourage the world.

Every time we get a chance to get ahead they move the finish line, every time.

The wonderful women who carry Hidden Figures, display brilliance and authenticity to the very moment the credits roll down the screen. After walking out of the bustling (and in my case packed) movie theatre, your mind will soak in inspiration, fulfilment and encouragement remembering the film as being entirely wonderful. Let this film remind you that despite any hurdles, we can still cross the finish line. Breath-taking stories don’t stay hidden for long. This heart-winning film is one that cannot be missed.


Imdb – 7.9/10  Rotten Tomatoes – 92%

Manchester by the Sea (2016)


“Masterfully told and beautifully acted” Empire ★★★★★

“A minor key masterpiece” The Guardian ★★★★★

The stricken, painful, heart-wrenching transgression of life is the current of Kenneth Lonergan’s newest addition, Manchester by the Sea. A glimpse of life in the real world, of unfathomable heartache, of lessons unlearned. The film already hailed by many as a masterpiece, Manchester by the Sea combines Arthur Miller and Woody Allen to express a superb abundance of beauty in turmoil.

The remarkable Casey Affleck is Lee Chandler, a lonely Boston janitor who carries copious poisonous rage towards the world and himself. The death of his beloved older brother Joe, who resonates only in generous reminiscence, saddles Lee with the sole guardianship of his only son Patrick, played by Lucas Hedges. Anger pulses through Lee’s ingenious face and remarkably indignant smile. What unfolds before Lee is an offer of poignant redemption by the parenthood and friendship of one incredibly unstable child. Yet the film doesn’t work out as simply as that.

Manchester by the Sea is deep, thoughtful and intrusive – a story about the complexity of forgiveness and compassion within the struggle of relieving pain. It is a story of parenting, but of the biological and completely improvised kind. On the surface this appears as a duller twist on the tedious childish-adult-forced-to-grow-up formula, by throwing heartache, loneliness and one orphan minor into the mix. But Lonergan is too indulged in his sensational actors, his undivided audience and perhaps reality itself to showcase any irrationality or formulae. But with the dry comedy pace and uncomfortable aesthetic of the film, there remains nothing but reality itself. This film is simply remarkable.

I can’t beat this, I’m so sorry.”

From start to finish, Manchester by the Sea is powerful and thought-provoking. Rarely do films showcase the harsh reality of those who live with pain and loss, stricken by the fate of one horrible mistake. A story driven by characters whom the actors embodied with precision and with excellence, Manchester by the Sea is an outstanding addition to the Best Picture nominees this year.


Imdb – 8.1/10 Rotten Tomatoes – 96%