Summary: A female pilot is met with hostility when she joins an all male crew during World War II. However the issues between them soon pale into insignificance when they discover they have a ‘monster’ on board.
Cinema Release Dates: 14th January 2021 (Australia)
VOD Release Dates: 1st January 2021 (USA)
Country: New Zealand, USA
Director: Roseanne Liang
Screenwriter: Max Landis, Roseanne Liang
Cast: Byron Coll (Terrence Taggart), Beulah Koale (Anton Williams), Chloe Grace Moretz (Maude Garrett), Callan Mulvey (John Reeves), Nick Robinson (Stu Beckell), Taylor John Smith (Walter Quaid), Benedict Wall (Tommy Dorn), John Witowski (Bradley Finch)
Running Time: 83 mins
Classification: MA15+ (Australia), R (USA)
OUR SHADOW IN THE CLOUD REVIEWS
David Griffiths’ Shadow In The Cloud Review:
Shadow In The Cloud is the kind of film that doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up… and I think I like it that way. As a film it is as much a monster horror as it is a war film and it is just as much sci-fi/fantasy as it is a thriller… yes, it is a very hard film to try and pigeon-hole. That all gets even trickier when I point out that three-quarters of the action of the film takes place in a small section of a place that barely gives leads actress Chloe Grace-Moretz (Kick-Ass) room to physically move.
Moretz plays Maude Garrett a young woman who boards an Air Force plane in New Zealand right at the height of World War II. The all male crew which include John Reeves (Callan Mulvey – Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and Anton Williams (Beulah Koale – The Last Saint) are suddenly put out by having a ‘dame’ on their plane. Most make disgusting and degrading comments about what they would like to do to the ‘bird’ with very few making any effort to protect her. The general consensus is that they certainly don’t want a woman on their plane when they are already running such a mundane mission.
Maude’s only saving grace is the mystery surrounding the highly secretive package that she is carrying and the fact that she carries orders from a high ranking officer that the others fear. With very little space on board the flight though they stow Maude away from the rest of the crew and it is only then that secrets start to be revealed as she is one of the first to spot the ‘gremlin’ that is ripping apart the plane and the fact that they are being shadowed by enemy planes.
I am still a little confused at what director Roseanne Liang (My Wedding And Other Secrets) was trying to create with this film? Was she trying to turn Chloe Grace Moretz into an action hero like we recently saw with Milla Jovovich in Monster Hunter or was she trying for something a little more. Certainly there is something that I liked about this film despite some of its weaknesses. I loved the twists and turns that the plot took as secrets started to be revealed – yes they are kind of hard to believe but at the same time I was watching a movie where a winged creature was attacking a plane as well.
What I do know is that the action worked and we saw a new string in the bow of the acting talents of Moretz. At times here she is asked to put in a theatre like performance in a tight space while also playing an action lead – a weird mix that I dare say would not be able to be pulled off by many performers out there. The creature looks amazing, no surprise there seeing it was created by Weta Workshop, but the film is sometimes let down by its cheesy soundtrack and at times dodgy looking CGI which I guess I was supposed to over-look as part of the film’s steam-punk vibe.
Liang also successfully makes her point about sexism in the workplace. What the all male crew (who for a majority of the film are reduced to voices over a radio) say about Maude is disgusting and I am pretty sure it would have even the most hardened chauvinist seeing the errors of his ways. She also reveals aside of history that a lot like to ignore – the role of women during the World Wars… no they were not all at home darning socks.
At the end of the day Shadow In The Cloud does work. The action sequences on board the plane suggest that Liang is a director that we need to be watching in the future while the final battle sequence may have been simple but it is exactly what I felt was needed to finish off the film.
This film once again reminded me of the acting force that is Chloe Grace Moretz and has made me place Roseanne Liang on my list of directors to watch in the future. Shadow In The Cloud might be a mixing of genres but it is certainly worth the admission fee at the box office.
Summary: A respected Army leader suddenly finds herself in a battle of life and death in a mysterious world where humans are prey for other-worldly creatures.
Cinema Release Dates: 1st January 2021 (Australia), 31st December 2020 (Thailand), 29th January 2021 (UK), 18th December 2020 (USA)
VOD Release Dates: TBA
Country: China, Germany, Japan, USA
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Screenwriter: Paul W.S. Anderson, Kaname Fujioka (video game series)
Cast: Jin Au-Yeung (Axe), Aaron Beelner (Palico), Diego Boneta (Marshall), Meagan Good (Dash), Josh Helman (Steeler), Tony Jaa (The Hunter), Milla Jovovich (Artemis), Ron Perlman (Admiral), Nic Rasenti (Sergeant Roarke), Jannick Schumann (Aiden), T.I. (Link), Hironi Yamazaki (Handler)
Running Time: 99 mins
Classification: M (Australia), TBC (Thailand) 12A (UK), PG-13 (USA)
OUR MONSTER HUNTER REVIEWS
David Griffiths’ Monster Hunter Review:
While a film is often judged by the way that it is received during the Awards season there are times when the best feeling in the world is to sit down a watch a film that is never going to even be mentioned during the illustrious awards period. Yes, it is great to sit down and watch a film that challenges you or makes you think, but at other times all you really want to do is sit down, turn your brain off and watch something dumb yet enjoyable. That is where films like Monster Hunter come into the picture.
Based on the popular video game franchise Monster Hunter sees director Paul WS Anderson (Alien vs Predator) once again re-united with his real-life wife Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element) after the duo made four Resident Evil movies together.
The storyline is basic. Jovovich plays Lt. Artemis a strong but caring solider who is well-respected by her colleagues who serve under her. While out a mission looking for a missing team Beta team they suddenly find themselves stuck inside a powerful storm that somehow pushes them through a gateway to another dimension where the likes of Admiral (Ron Perlman – Hellboy) are stuck in an everlasting race to survive as they hunted by other-worldly creatures.
As Artemis’ crew drop like flies (that isn’t a spoiler it pretty much happens in the first 20 minutes of the film) she suddenly finds her only help can come from weather-beaten warrior known to the audience only as The Hunter (Tony Jaa – Ong-Bak). The only problem is that while they rely on each for survival they also don’t trust each other.
Chances are if you have enjoyed what Anderson has done as a filmmaker with the Resident Evil franchise over the years then you will also enjoy Monster Hunter. The film is pretty much action sequence after action sequence yet somehow it also makes The Hunter and Artemis likeable characters. The fact that you can tell that Jovovich and Jaa obviously got on well off-screen makes for a chemistry on screen that just can’t be manufactured.
For me the film’s biggest weakness was that it didn’t allow us long enough in the world that it had set up. Outside of The Hunter and Artemis most of the characters are ‘missing’ for a huge chunk of the film which means the audience never really gets a chance to know other interesting characters like Admiral and his team.
The ending is insanely rushed to the point that you almost wish that Anderson had adapted this into a television series rather than a movie and as the final credits role you really do find yourself hoping that the movie becomes a franchise so you get a chance to share more adventures with these characters and take another trip into this world that leaves more questions about it than answers.
The key to this film working though is the amazing visuals created by Anderson and his team. When it comes to epic action sequences there are few in the cinema world that can do what Anderson does. Even when the Resident Evil franchise felt like it had thrown away any scrips or plot you could always guarantee that Anderson’s action sequences would be out of this world, and the same happens here. Add that to the fact that Anderson gives this film a feel like it is a war film with monsters just thrown in and it is not hard to see why this film is going to become a guilty pleasure for a lot of action film lovers out there.
If you are looking for a film that will keep you entertained without making you think these holidays then Monster Hunter is the film for you. Yes it has huge action sequences, lovable heroes and reveals a unique pairing of Jovovich and Jaa but do be prepared for a film where the ending is slightly rushed but will leave you wanted more. Monster Hunter is far from the perfect film but is certainly enjoyable for those of us who like action films.
Summary: During World War II a group of soldiers are ask to take a ‘break’ at a mansion once taken over by the Nazis. The stay at the mansion is not exactly what they expected though.
Australian Cinema Release Date: TBA
Thailand Cinema Release Date: TBA
Australian VOD Release Date: 5th August 2020
Director: Eric Bress
Screenwriter: Eric Bress
Cast: Skylar Astin (Eugene), Laila Banki (Mrs. Helwig), Kyle Gallner (Tappert), Vivian Gray (Ann), Shannon McKain (Lieutenant Morgan), Yanitsa Mihailova (Christina), Matthew Reese (Sergeant Elks/Echo 11), Alan Ritchson (Butchie), Theo Russi (Kirk), Brenton Thwaites (Chris), Shaun Toub (Mr. Helwig), Billy Zane (Dr. Engel)
Running Time: 94 mins
Classification: MA15+ (Australia)
OUR GHOSTS OF WAR REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Dave Griffiths’ Ghosts Of War Review:
While a lot has happened during 2020 it seems that this is the year where filmmakers realised that you can make a horror film set during World War II without it turning into something schlocky. Of course earlier this year we were delivered the sensational Blood Vessel and now director Eric Bress returns to the director’s chair for the first time in sixteen year with Ghosts Of War.
To me Bress has had one of the most unusual careers in Hollywood that you could imagine. He first amazed me as a filmmaker with the captivating The Butterfly Effect back in 2004 and then as a screenwriter kick-started one of highest grossing horror franchises ever with Final Destination. Despite the success of these films though Bress never returned to the director’s chair – not even with his hit TV series Kyle XY. Now Bress returns to a chair that probably should be considered his throne, and it makes you wonder what we have missed out on while this talented filmmaker has been locked away in the writer’s room.
Ghosts Of War sees five American soldiers including Chris (Brenton Thwaites – Maleficent), Eugene (Skylar Astin – Pitch Perfect) and the mysterious Tappert (Kyle Gallner – American Sniper) arrive at a French Chateau towards the end of World War II. While they see the posting as a cushy place to get some respite they are soon shocked to learn that the chateau was the site of a Nazi atrocity that has left some ghosts looking for retribution behind.
The real reason why I loved Ghosts Of War is something that can’t mention here as I hate reviewers who spoil films. All I will say is that this is a decent supernatural thriller that contains a twist that nobody will see coming win a million years. It is that twist that once again reminds me why Eric Bress is such a fascinating filmmaker.
I remember that there something amazing about The Butterfly Effect the first time I watched it. It was a film that too its audience on a journey of twists and turns and you never really knew where you were going to end up. It was a good strange, the kind of strange that makes Christopher Nolan (Inception) the cinematic God that he is. That same feeling is conjured up with Ghosts Of War – a film that sees the suspense level continue to rise throughout before leaving the audience with a finale that they could never predict.
Also making Ghosts Of War memorable is the fact that despite the supernatural element Bress doesn’t just simply let his characters be walking clichés. Many screenwriters would have taken the easy route here and made the five soldiers a blend of each other, that isn’t Bress’s style though and instead he gives each character a personality, strengths and weaknesses. That of course endears to the audience which again raises the suspense through the roof.
With great special effects, interesting characters and a sensational plot that ends with a bang there is a lot to love about Ghosts Of War. In a lot of ways the horror elements of the film are some old school ‘ghostly’ scares but it is the interesting plot points that Bress throws into the mix that makes this film so different to what we have seen in the past. There is no doubt about it this film shows why we need to see more cinematic magic from Eric Bress over the next few years.
Kyle McGrath’s Ghosts Of War Review:
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Love or hate him Jesse Eisenberg has become one of the most important and diverse actors of modern cinema. His over seventy acting performances in cinema and theatre has seen him play roles as vast as one of DC Comics most well known villains in the form of Lex Luthor, a zombie hunter in the Zombieland franchise and of course Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in the award winning film The Social Network.
Perhaps though it is Eisenberg’s most recent role that has most touched his heart. From Jewish descent himself Resistance sees Eisenberg play legendary mime Marcel Marceau before he found fame – at a time when he rescued and protected thousands of Jewish children during the Nazi invasion of France during World War II.
“The unfortunate thing is that Holocaust films always seem to resonate with modern day audiences,” says Eisenberg when asked whether or not the events in Resistance are things that audiences today can easily relate to. “With themes like racism, prejudice and tribalism and brutality they are things that still exist today…. unfortunately. More acutely while we were filming The Tree Of Life synagogue shooting happened in Pennsylvania, my neighbour’s from across the street sadly had their friends there at the time. Luckily they survived but that showed that anti-Semitism still exists and it reared its head while we were filming the movie.
While the film does look at one of the darkest times in human history Eisenberg says he does believe though that the film does have a silver lining.
“I think one of the nice things about the movie though, is that is about a guy who is unlikely hero who is a civilian who ends up becoming this important person without ever intending to be,” he explains. “I think it really does speak to us all and what we have the ability to do now. The world might be a crazy and chaotic place right now but this movie shows someone that uses their own skill set, which in this case was being mime – the last guy you would think could be helpful during a war – to help others. That makes me think about how we are calling people heroes today that we would never have three months ago. You re-look and redefine what bravery is and I think this movie clearly shows that.”
There has never been a shortage of powerful Holocaust era films over the years with films like The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas and Schindler’s List being considered classics while even last year the powerful yet quirky Jo Jo Rabbit reduced many people to tears and Eisenberg says as an actor he understands why filmmakers are drawn to making films about this time period.
“I think there are millions of reasons why filmmakers want to make films about this era,” he says slowly. “I can only speak for myself though, but when I was about twenty years old I started to research my family’s history and I discovered that my cousin who lives in Poland was a survivor of the War and I started to learn more about her story more intimately… I had even met her a couple of times when she had visited New York.”
“But then I went to Poland and stayed with her,” he says continuing his personal story. “And I learnt about her story and her story to me just felt like this unbelievable miracle and also included people like Marceau who were selfless but put their own lives on the line to protect and save people like her and her survival when she was a little girl and I wrote a play about that. It is a kind of Holocaust play but it is my take on it because it is a contemporary play and it talks about both modern day culture and the Holocaust, so to me when somebody says that there are a lot of stories that have been told about the Holocaust it is because different stories tell different themes. The thing I wrote is about a really important time in my family’s history and I thought it was important to tell.”
He goes on to say that he believes it was very similar for the writer/director of Resistance Jonathan Jakubowic. “I think for Jonathan he grew up hearing these stories because his family were Holocaust survivors and some of his family actually died in Krakow during the Holocaust so he felt like he had a thick connection but he did want to approach the story of a different angle so he told the story of Resistance by telling the story of an artist who come to terms with his inner kindness and comes to terms with a way to create his art in the worst possible circumstances so you could say that rather than being a Holocaust film it is the story of an artist with the Holocaust as a back drop.”
Resistance is currently unrated in Thailand but is for adults and is currently available on a number of streaming platforms.
Does a good film always have to mean a pleasurable experience? That has been a question that I have asked myself a lot over the years. As a cinema lover I’ll admit that some of my favourite films can sometimes make for an uncomfortable viewing experience. Films such as Trainspotting, Baise Moi and Bully tackle some pretty invasive subjects. And yes while they are hard to watch they are films I turn to time and time again when I want to watch something decent. Now I think I will be adding new Columbian film Monos to that list.
From director Alejandro Landes (Porfrio) Monos follows a group of child soldiers who are part of a rebel alliance designed to try and take a stand against Columbia’s Government and armed forces. The group’s Commander (newcomer Wilson Salazar) runs a tight ship. He makes his troops train hard so when he gives them a mission he expects them to pull it off with ease.
The task at hand is to look after a milking cow named Shakira and to guard a young foreigner (Julianne Nicholson – I, Tonya) who has been kidnapped for ransom by the rebels. However, kids being kids things get out of hand as they celebrate the union between Wolf (newcomer Julian Giraldo) and Lady (newcomer Karen Quintero).
With the camp in disarray it comes under attack from the Army so their Commander sends them deep into the jungle to guard their prisoner in a more secure environment. However, the disturbance amongst the group leads to Bigfoot (Moises Arias – Ender’ Game) making a grab for power while the more sensitive Rambo (newcomer Sofia Buenaventura) becomes the group’s punching bag.
There was no way I was ever expecting a film about child soldiers to be something light and fluffy, but there was something about Monos that was very, very different than what I expected it to be. On the surface these kids are going through all the things that you would expect from a coming-of-age film. There is romance, bullying, drinking, drug use and even moments of sexual exploration. But when you add guns and a military regime into the mix the suspense is driven sky-high.
What I thought was remarkable about the film though was how easily you warm to group of kids who are basically putting a young girl through the most traumatic experience of her life. Somehow though the screenplay even finds a way to bring in moments of true tenderness between the group and their victim… it sounds strange but believe me it works and it is what makes this such a stunning film.
Throughout watching Monos I also found myself blown away by the natural feel that the film conjures up. Maybe it is because one of the cast was an actual child soldier in real life or perhaps it is because most of the cast have never previously acted so were easy for the director to mould to what he needed, but for some reason there are times in Monos when I felt like I was watching a documentary and not a scripted thriller.
Monos shares a lot of similar themes to Lord Of The Flies and I have to say that it could easily become a cult classic just like its predecessor. How Monos escaped Oscar attention I will never know – that is a crime in itself.
Summary: A detemined journalist hunts down the solider that was in charge of her brother’s unit when he disappeared. She is shocked to find though that the incident has left the solider facing demons of his own.
Australian Cinema Release Date: NA
Thailand Cinema Release Date: NA
Australian DVD Release Date: 10th June 2020
Country: Australia, United Arab Emirates
Director: Storm Ashwood
Screenwriter: Storm Ashwood
Cast: Gus Bohn (Billy), Warwick Comber (Father Batty), Firass Dirani (Welshy), Jai Godbold (Tan), Sonny Le (Thong), Steve Le Marquand (Carl Boddi), Jett Lowen (Bo), Josh McConville (Seth), Lydia Mocerino (Imogen), Rena Owen (Michelle Pennyshaw), Natalie Rees (Sarah), Jessi Robertson (Lizzy), Hugh Sheridan (Josh), Bonnie Sveen (Rebecca), Juwan Sykes (Stretch), Oliver Wenn (Phil)
Running Time: 92 mins
Classification: MA15+ (Australia) TV-14 (USA)
OUR ESCAPE AND EVASION REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Dave Griffiths’ Escape And Evasion Review:
Often in cinema we see war glorified. The action star seemingly singlehandedly taking on a whole Army and coming out on top. Occasionally we do get to see the thought-provoking war film – films like Saving Private Ryan or Hacksaw Ridge that such us the horrors of the battle field and have us questioning whether or not war is the necessity that we are led to believe it is.
What we rarely get to see though is the aftermath of war. What happens when the solider has left the battlefield and is now back at home trying to live an everyday life? Or what happens when somebody doesn’t return from war, is there family left wondering how they died? Was it quick, was it slow?
Those are the themes that Australian filmmaker Storm Ashwood (School) chooses to focus on in his latest film Escape And Evasion and the result is a sensational film made even better by the performance of a leading man that deserves to pick up an award or two for his portrayal of a returned soldier at breaking point.
The plot is driven by Rebecca (Bonnie Sveen – Home And Away) a determined journalist who is trying to find out what happened to her solider brother who never returned from active service in Burma. To her frustration she finds that there is no record of what happened or even what Australian soldiers were doing there.
She finally hunts down the man that was in charge of her brother’s unit – Seth (Josh McConville – Fantasy Island) – a soldier who is so haunted by his experience that he has turned to alcohol to try and cover the pain. That has left him with a torn apart family but helps him deal with the secrets that his superior, Michelle Pennyshaw (Rena Owen – Once Were Warriors), asks him to keep.
As a film Escape And Evasion never gives its audience a chance to take a break. Whether it be tense dialogue-driven scenes between Seth and Michelle or Seth and Rebecca or combat sequences Atwood floods the film with tension. Instead of making the film an uncomfortable watch this instead just adds to the experience. You literally feel the tension building inside as you become desperate to know what happened to Rebecca’s brother and what the hell occurred that has left Seth the broken man that he is now.
Ashwood may well be one of the directional finds of 2020. His debut feature film – School – did show us that there was a gifted director just waiting to break out. While some were sceptical of the film it did show an artistic side and was brave enough to be different than other films in its genre. With Escape And Evasion Ashwood loses the artistic or experimental side but again goes about things differently as he mixes tense dramatic scenes between characters with emotional charged war and torture scenes. The result is a well-rounded film that leaves the audience not asking any questions at all.
Even with all the brilliance that the director shows with this film it would have fallen in a heap if he did not have the right leading man to bring the story to the screen. Luckily Ashwood found the exact right person to have play Seth in the form of under-rated Australian actor Josh McConville. With known actors like Hugh Sheridan (Packed To The Rafters) and Steve La Marquand (Last Train To Freo) also attached to the project you could easily understand if Ashwood had given one of them the leading role. Instead though he takes a chance on McConville who repays him with one of the best performances you are likely to see on screen in 2020.
Escape And Evasion is one of the cinematic shining lights of this year. An intense and dramatic film – it is one of those movies you will find wanting to watch two or three times to really embrace it. One thing the film will leave you with though is the knowledge that Josh McConville and Storm Ashwood need to be noticed by Hollywood.
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