Mini Review - Raya and the Last Dragon
Raya and the Last Dragon (out Mar 4) is an animated feature that’s reminiscent of Game of Thrones. A young woman teams up with a dragon to locate magic gemstone pieces which can be used to unite the world. The analogies are laid on too thickly and its depiction of heroes and villains is too simple… but there’s still fun to be had with Awkwafina stealing the show as the voice of the funny dragon. Grade: B-.
Mini Review - About Endlessness
About Endlessness (out Mar 4) is a peculiar, hypnotic film from Swedish director Roy Andersson. With no real plot, it feels like it belongs in a modern art museum! Andersson offers up 70 minutes of random-ish imagery with minimal dialogue. There are splashes of both humour and sadness. Hard to forget. Grade: B+.
Mini Review - Blackbird
Blackbird (out Feb 25) is the story of a dying woman (Susan Sarandon) who brings her family together one last time to celebrate and say goodbye. There are some nice, heartfelt one-on-one scenes but the film is weakest when it brings all the characters together and succumbs to unnecessary, over-acted melodrama. Grade: B.
Mini Review - Boss Level
Boss Level (out Feb 25) is reminiscent of Edge of Tomorrow in that it's an action flick about a man stuck in a time loop who is killed again and again. Can he find a way out? I like the concept but the stiff performances (I'm looking at you Naomi Watts), heavy narration (it takes forever to set up the premise), and repetitive fights give it a slightly subpar feel. Still worth a look for action fans. Grade: B-.
Mini Review - Minari
Minari (out Feb 18) follows a Korean family who immigrate to the United States in the 1980s and try to make a better life for themselves on a small farm in Arkansas. This is a skilfully acted drama where we watch these characters go about their daily lives. The pace is a touch sluggish but you grow to care about these people and their fate. Grade: B+.
Mini Review - Days of the Bagnold Summer
Days of the Bagnold Summer (out Feb 18) is a British coming-of-age comedy about a rebellious, rock music loving teenager who reluctantly must spend the summer holidays with his "most boring person in the world" mother. It's over-scripted and doesn't always flow smoothly but it's still fun to watch these two characters push each other's buttons. Monica Dolan is wonderful as the mum. Grade: B.
Mini Review - The Little Things
The Little Things (out Feb 18) wants to follow in the footsteps of David Fincher's Zodiac – in that it’s more about the investigating detectives than the serial killer – but it’s inferior in almost every way. It’s hard to believe three Oscar winning actors (Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto) could be involved with something so unsatisfying. Grade: C+.
Mini Review - The Truffle Hunters
The Truffle Hunters (out Feb 18) is a riveting documentary that fills your brain and lifts your spirits. It's about the elderly Italian men who search for one of the rarest foods in the world - the white Alba truffle (often selling for more than $10,000 AUD per kg). There’s no unnecessary narration and no talking heads. It's a simple, beautiful film that takes us deep inside this fascinating world and its curious characters. Grade: A.
Mini Review - Another Round
Another Round (out Feb 11) is a darkish comedy from Denmark about four male high school teachers who try to maintain a continual blood alcohol content of 0.05% throughout the day to see if it will improve their lives. This could easily have been a silly, far-fetched comedy but director Thomas Vinterberg isn't "preachy" and he's created real, honest human beings. The ending is the right one. Grade: B+.