Category Archives: Film

Ford VS Ferrari (Film Review – No Spoilers – In Cinemas 14 November)

Media Screening – On assignment for Sydney Scoop / Editor: Rebecca Varidel
152 minutes
In cinemas Thursday 14 November

For those unfamiliar with the world of professional motor racing, it’s compelling ability to draw you into this world and its story will surprise you and make you look at the relationship you have with your car differently the next time you get behind your wheel.  For marketers its a great study on repositioning, for car enthusiasts we’re taken on a journey of bliss in pursuit of 7000 revolutions per minute where time stops and a driver reaches motoring zen being at one with his or her vehicle.

Set in the 1960s, Ford aspires to change its perception as a leading brand in the motoring industry by competing in the world’s oldest 24 hour car race, Le Mans. Dominated by Ferrari, Ford calls on Caroll Shelby (Matt Damon), the only American driver to ever win it to help them build a car faster than its main rival. Unable to drive, Shelby calls on old friend Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to lead the design team and race the US $9 million car to victory.   Based on a true story, some embellishments are taken to propel the story.


Damon’s Southern texan charm in Shelby alongside Bale’s thrillseeking hothead Miles are a formule 1 extravaganza.  The two hours and thirty two minutes of film is jam packed with octane with dramatic moments from corporate politics of the executive offices testing a friendship. It’s balanced with comedic moments from the longtim rivalry between Henry Ford II and and Enzo Ferrari and we’re given a new granule perspective into race car mobility with the high senses of Ken Miles (Christian Bale) with each gear change, clutch control and corner steers embodying every feature of the car he has helped design. Although the actors had never worked together previously, they were excited by the chance to share the screen and explore the friendship between these two singular characters.

“Shelby just felt Ken Miles was indispensable to this mission, and Ken was known for not suffering fools,” Damon says. “He was irascible and not afraid to speak his mind and did not want to just fall into step with everybody else. If he thought an idea was stupid, he’d tell you, and he had very little political skill or diplomatic skill. And so he was a constant source of frustration to Shelby because he couldn’t get out of his own way. But Shelby really needed him to help build the car and to then subsequently drive it at Le Mans.”

There’s no CGI at all in this film in order to capture the essence and premise of the film – the characters built the cars and drove the cars into racing victory.  This authenticity is what adds to the dynamics of the film.   Before shooting began, Bale trained with veteran stunt coordinator and stunt driver Robert Nagle to help him prepare; Bale drives both a Shelby Cobra and a variety of Ford GT40s on screen. The stunt coordinator spent a week with the actor at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Phoenix, Arizona, which specializes in racing. “Christian was very much into it and has a very strong aptitude for this” Nagle says. “He’s the best actor I’ve ever trained for driving.”  Throughout, picture car coordinator  RickCollins, whose previous credits include several films in the Fast & Furious franchise, First Man, Bright and Captain Marvel, among others, worked closely with the production designers and his art directors to make sure the cars that were either built, borrowed or rented were exactly what was used back in the day.

In the softer scenes we begin to understand the mind of a true engineering genius. “If your’e going to push a car to it’s limit, you have to respect it” he says in an eye opening scene, one of many he has with son Peter (Noah Jupe). It’s this humanising with support from wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe) that makes this story one that resonates with everyone.


“There’s a point at 7,000 RPMs where everything fades
The machine becomes weightless. It disappears.
All that’s left, a body moving through space, and time.
At 7,000 RPM, that’s where you meet it. That’s where it waits for you…”


The Invisible Man (Movie Preview: In Cinemas 28 February)

What you can’t see can hurt you. Emmy winner Elisabeth Moss (Us, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale) stars in a terrifying modern tale of obsession inspired by Universal’s classic monster character.

Trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with a wealthy and brilliant scientist, Cecilia Kass (Moss) escapes in the dead of night and disappears into hiding, aided by her sister (Harriet Dyer, NBC’s The InBetween), their childhood friend (Aldis Hodge, Straight Outta Compton) and his teenage daughter (Storm Reid, HBO’s Euphoria).

But when Cecilia’s abusive ex (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House) commits suicide and leaves her a generous portion of his vast fortune, Cecilia suspects his death was a hoax.  As a series of eerie coincidences turns lethal, threatening the lives of those she loves, Cecilia’s sanity begins to unravel as she desperately tries to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.


The Bull – Бык (Film Review)

Media Screening
Drama (Russia) – Original Title Бык
Russian Resurrection International Film Festival
Duration: 99 minutes

Set in the urban areas and far removed from metropolitan Moscow, after the collapse of the USSR, communities like this one were seriously impacted during the 1990s transition period from communism to democracy.   Its economic, social and political evolution made way for the emergence of street gangs to take over cities and renogade groups where a simple walk along the street could have calamitous consequences.

Anton (Yuriy Borisov) is “The Bull” a nickname derived from his chronic heart condition (Bovine Heart syndrome).  The story centres on family life and the business he has with friends – panelbeater by day, hijacking luxury cars by night.  Sharpness, savagery, courage, impulsiveness and peer pressure are explored in this depiction of post-USSR life that became a logical way out after a country was seen to have abandoned them.


Session Times for this movie and other RIFF productions reviewed:
Saturday 9 November 9pm (Breakaway) – The Capitol Melbourne
Sunday 10 November
2.30pm (Odessa) – Canberra Capitol Cinemas
7pm pm (Why Don’t you Just Die) – Gold Coast Broadbeach
7pm (The Bull) – Canberra Capitol Cinemas
Tuesday 12 November 7pm – Event Cinemas Brisbane
Tuesday 12 November 7pm – The Capitol Melbourne
Thursday 14 November (Odessa) – Adelaide GU House
Thursday 14 November 7pm – Event Cinemas Sydney CBD
Friday 15 November 7pm (Odessa) – The Capitol Melbourne
Saturday 16 November 9pm (Why Don’t you Just Die) – The Capitol Melbourne
Saturday 16 November 5pm – Event Cinema Sydney CBD
No screenings – Perth Event Cinemas Innaloo

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Russian Resurrection International Film Festival: Top Pick

Renowned Russian director Oleg Stepchenko has been attending screenings of his star-studded action blockbuster Journey to China (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan), followed by post-screening Q&A’s in Perth, Brisbane and finally tonight in Sydney.

The full Russian Resurrection Film Festival program will screen 16 brand new features and three retrospective classics acros having just wrapped up in Perth (25-30 October) now in  Brisbane (5-13 November), Canberra (6-10 November), Sydney (7-17 November), Melbourne (8-17 November), Gold Coast (9-10 November) & Adelaide (14-17 November).

Film Reviews now available forBreakaway  |  Why Don’t you just die   |

Credit: Denis Makarenko

American Son (Film Review)

She was the Queen of Spin, the right hand woman of the President for seven seasons.  She was another strong powerful character from the world of ‘Shondaland’ in the stable of diverse characters ever to hit the smallscreen forever changing the ‘whtiewashed’ rechurn of television drama.   Olivia Pope was a master negotiator and fixer.

So it’s difficult not to compare Kerry Washington’s portrayal of broadway character, Kendra to Olivia who is just as brazen, opinionated and articulately fierce in the Netflix Original that began screening last week.  It’s also difficult not to draw parrallels if you’ve never seen the theatre production as this could very well be a fast forward into Fitz and Olivia’s love story post-Scandal with a message still holding much relevance today.

It’s a film that captivates from the opening scenes at such high intensity without burning out as we watch the intermingling of four characters.  It demonstrates a clear lag in the way this topic is handled at dealt with here in Australia.  It’s confronting and it’s spectacularly written.  Steven Pasquale is the perfect pairing, a household name in theatre (Miss Saigon, The Bridges of Madison County) carrying the role of Kendra’s estranged husband Scott with assertion from it’s original theatre form into the television adaptation.

There are three intertwined plots that unravel while layering the suspense – a missing child, adultery and racial discrimination couched in sub plots of social class and injustice which Jeremy Jordan‘s character (Officer Paul Larkin) is the main catalyst for.  Not all is black and white with the failed interracial relationship between Kendra and Scott, nor the assumption of predjudice when it comes to delving into the friction surrounding police authority through Officer Paul Larkin and Lieutenant John Stokes (Eugene Lee) when added into the mix at key points.

Every angle of the themes raised are satisfyingly explored from all directions with explosive confrontations, deep contemplation and gripping drama.  What’s striking about the script is its ability to draw us to invest heavily in the fifth character who is never on screen and stirring emotion with it’s still shocking (even though possibly anticipated) conclusion.



Credit:  Denis Makarenko

The Report: Uncovering the secrets of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program (Film Review)

Media Screening 
On Assignment: Sydney Scoop – Editor: Rebecca Varidel
Thriller (USA)
Duration: 128 minutes
In Cinemas Thursday 14 November

Most of us are unlikely to ever read the Senate’s 525 page summary report into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. “The Report” is a powerful dramatisation of events as they unfolded, with a decade of content condensed into 120 minutes of intense viewing.

TTR_00330.jpgWritten and directed by Scott Z. Burns (Contagion, The Bourne Ultimatum), and starring a cast led by Adam Driver, Annette Bening, and Jon Hamm.  The Report is a dramatic, hard-hitting portrayal of one man’s dogged pursuit to uncover the truth, and to expose the heinous practices of the CIA that were unleashed following 9/11. 

In spite of the heavy material and confronting subject matter, the speed and intensity of the storytelling will have you on the edge of your seat, as the horrific details of CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program are revealed.

TTR_01308.jpgDaniel Jones is the Senate’s lead investigator, and is the central figure in this gripping tale of corruption and cover up. The story unfolds over a decade-plus long period, culminating in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s 525 page summary report (the full report is 6,700 pages), and the enactment of the McCain-Feinstein Anti-Torture Amendment.

TTR_03708 (1).jpgIt is almost farcical that two psychologists could compel the CIA to spend $80 million of US taxpayers’ money to undertake systematic torture of suspected terrorist detainees, euphemistically referred to as “enhanced interrogation techniques”. There’s a scene in the movie where these  methods – walling, attention grasps, slapping, facial hold, stress positions, cramped confinement, white noise and sleep deprivation – is presented to the CIA as the new frontier in eliciting unique intelligence.

Even more shocking is the re-enactment of the interrogations. And then the sobering truth of the subsequent CIA subterfuge to prevent the truth from coming out.  It’s serious, must-see viewing with lessons for us all.

Showing at the following cinemas from 14 November:

NSW: Palace Cinemas (Chauvel, Norton St, Central, Byron Bay), Dendy Cinemas (Opera Quays, Newtown), Hayden Orheum Picture Palace CremorneUnited Cinemas Collaroy

VIC: Palace Cinemas (Balwyn, Brighton Bay, Como, Kino), Cinema NovaSun Theatre YarravilleClassic Cinemas ElsternwickLido CinemasCameo BelgraveRegent Cinemas Ballarat

QLD: Dendy Cinemas (Portside, Coorparoo), Palace Cinemas (James St), Cineplex Balmoral

SA: Palace Nova (EastEnd, Prospect), Trak CinemasThe Regal Theatre

ACT: Palace ElectricDendy Canberra

WA: Luna LeedervillePalace Cinemas Paradiso

TAS: Star Theatre Launceston






Untogether: Jamie Dornan & Billy Crystal underutilised? (Film Review)

Media Screening
Drama (USA)
Jewish International Film Festival
Duration: 99 minutes

It was like watching an extended episode of a soap opera really.  There’s nothing particularly interesting about the plot and hard to understand the purpose it serves as part of the Jewish International Film Festival.   Billy Crystal plays a rabbi and Lola Kirke’s character, Tara,  is established to be a devout practising Jew.  Yikes.

It’s skating in the realms of light porn with Jamie Dornan, so there is an audience for this since he’s working the softer notes of his 50 shades repertoire but  it’s quite a let down having seen more compelling productions like The Mover,  currently screening that have been specifically curated to feature stories and personalities that broke new ground.

In saying that, it does show the lighter side of the festival (just), is a film for escape about two flawed characters who don’t realise they are in love and is a good choice for a mid week couples outing as there are some pretty heavy topics being covered this year in some of the other films screening.

Would it be my first choice based on what’s showing?  No.


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