The BFG

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The BFG

What will happen when a movie-making magician and a legendary writer team up for a beloved children's classic?

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Sherpa

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Sherpa

What a real-life tragedy on top of the world teaches us about Australia's promotion of social climbing.

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Risen

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Risen

Flawed yet provocative, this unofficial sequel to The Passion of the Christ brings our eternal destiny to a cinema near you.

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Room

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Room

A hard-hitting drama that could have been even better, if God was allowed to stay in it.

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Spotlight

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Spotlight

This sobering reminder of the power of truth also should caution us about sitting in judgment upon others.

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Point Break

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Point Break

What's the point of this remake? Not sure, even with a few tasty glimpses of soul-shaping significance.

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The Good Dinosaur

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The Good Dinosaur

(PG) Directed by Peter Sohn
Voices of Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Elliott

by Ben McEachen

Stories have been around since T-Rex was a lad, so it's a bit rich to expect new species to emerge. But Pixar's latest all-ages expedition doesn't bust a gut to cover its familiar tracks.

Aimed politely at the pre-school market and their entourage, The Good Dinosaur is The Lion King redux. You know, with dinosaurs.

Perhaps post-millenial youngsters know not of Simba and his circle of life, warranting the Disney machine to support Pixar pilfering that popular tale. Or, having released Inside Out during the same 12 month period, maybe the animation powerhouse spent its annual quota of creative capital.

A long, long time ago, little apatosaurus Arlo (voice of Raymond Ochoa) is a scaredy cat who, obviously, is going to have to face his fears. Inevitably, he washes up alone and must find his way home through the obstacles and life lessons you'd expect.

Surrounded by photo-real landscapes of subtle majesty, Arlo is accompanied on his travels by a primitive boy who behaves like a loyal dog. If their amiable relationship is an ironic jab at where we have evolved to, such layered meaning gets short shrift. Instead, The Good Dinosaur strides unambitiously as a simple Simba story whose “make your mark” message is as benign as it is under-articulated.

This review was first published by Rolling Stone. Click here to check out more reviews.


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Fargo Season 2

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Fargo Season 2

(MA15+) Created by Noah Hawley
Starring Patrick Wilson, Kirsten Dunst, Ted Danson

by Mark Hadley

Hollywood film-makers the Coen brothers have spent their career teaching us to chuckle at crime. Triumphs like The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Though, Fargo and now its small-screen spin-off have set audiences rolling in front of some dark scenes. But their black comedy isn’t a perversion of morality so much as a profound insight. Evil is, in the final analysis, a laughing matter.

The first series of Fargo hinted at a bizarre string of killings, “… that terrible business at Sioux Falls.” The second season jumps back to 1979 to let us in on just what that means.

Patrick Wilson, best known for Watchmen and The Conjuring, plays State Trooper Lou Solverson. Lou and his father-in-law Sheriff Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) are called on to investigate a triple homicide involving a judge. What looks like robbery is revealed to be a bungled attempt at intimidation by Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin), the youngest son of South Dakota’s leading crime family. But before Rye can escape he’s hit by a car driven by Sioux Falls beautician Peggy Blumquist (Kirsten Dunst). Afraid the accident will spoil her dreams for the future, Peggy drives home with Rye’s body embedded in her windscreen. Unfortunately Rye’s not dead. So begins the series of bloody incidents that build out this season’s Fargo farce.

Danson’s performance is well seasoned and Dunst has transformed herself to reflect a housewife struggling under the twin weights of small town expectations and winter fat. Possibly the most endearing performance, though, comes from relative newcomer Jesse Plemons (Friday Night Lights) as her bemused but supportive husband. Writer/director Noah Hawley has also crafted a perfect trip down memory lane, not just with his 1970s setting but with lessons learned from previous decades.

The entertainment industry likes to sell stories about the criminal masterminds but, as a court reporter, I learned an interesting truth: there is no such thing as a smart criminal. The overwhelming truth is their lives rarely measure up to the myth. Fargo reminds us that super criminals never exercise as much control as they claim. That’s why God laughs at evil.

The Bible mentions several types of laughter but by far the most chilling is that God directs towards those who delude themselves into thinking they can set aside His plans. They’re rebellious toddlers who don’t realise their father is watching everything, the same perspective Hawley affords his audience.

The all-powerful Gerhardt crime family and the Kansas City mobsters dig deeper holes for themselves even as they think they’re shoring up their empires. But Fargo’s tantalizing truth is that it’s not just criminals who can build on sand. As the law closes in on the criminals, spare a thought for everyday Peggy whose attempts to avoid justice are just as juvenile.

God has decided who His king is. Any decision to reject Jesus, cleverly planned or well intentioned, is going to look just as silly on the last day.

This article was first published by The Melbourne Anglican, November 2015. Click here to check it out.

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The Program

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The Program

While all that is presented might be true, this handling of Lance Armstrong's career surges with an offputting sense of venom.

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Man Up

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Man Up

Pegg and Bell share such bubbly chemistry its worth sitting in on their version of a “getting to know you” evening.

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The Dressmaker

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The Dressmaker

Unforgiven with a sewing machine? Yeah. Kinda. Whatever it is, this is an Australian oddity of memorable proportions.

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Bridge of Spies

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Bridge of Spies

Beyond the challenge to deliver justice for all, even to our enemies, Bridge of Spies offers the powerful witness of a man who holds to his beliefs. No matter what.

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