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Movie Review: Warehoused


An estimated 12 million people are living in refugee camps with only 0.1% being re-integrated into normal society. Directors, Asher Emmanuel and Vincent Vittorio, seek to address this problem through Warehoused: The Forgotten Refugees of Dadaab, an earnest documentary dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of refugees and their need for basic human rights like education, safety, shelter and clean water.

While the film takes a global stance on the issue of refugees, it focuses on those living in the world's largest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. The film-makers get up close and personal with several of the reported 500-600k refugees, investigating their situation within the camp and exploring some of the issues surrounding their protracted confinement and seeding in other countries around the world.

Much like God Grew Tired of Us, we're dealing with a group of individuals who have been displaced by the political, social or wartime circumstances affecting their homeland. In a similar vein, the film-makers travel to Willmar in the United States, one of the resettlement towns where a refugee family have been transplanted. While the repatriation is touching and the cultural immersion is fascinating, the encampment is the main focus in Warehoused, identifying intricate issues such as: food being used as a commodity, unchecked crime within the encampment, problems relating to the host country and the sporadic population growth of these long-serving camps.

Warehoused documentary

"What is home?"

Through experts, authors and industry specialists, the filmmakers get a broader understanding of the issues facing the organisations that support these camps and the inner turmoil caused by the growing need for these centres for the displaced. As wars continue, the camps multiply creating a generation of alienated people who are born into a suspended state of captivity. Frustrated by the long waiting lists for resettlement and stunted by the cold hard facts of the situation, some try to escape, finding themselves vulnerable and at the mercy of nationals.

The documentary is a tapestry of real-life accounts, talking heads and on-the-ground footage with simple animation to connect the dots. Warehoused: The Forgotten Refugees of Dadaab is successful in its mission to create awareness around Dadaab and the on-going global crisis. Instead of manipulating the audience, the film-makers take the time to get a practical snapshot of the situation, humanising the affected and delivering the facts with as little distortion as possible. While a little scattershot, it's an eye-opening and important account of life within the camps, resettlement and the hunt for a solution to reverse the rapid growth of refugee camps around the world.

The bottom line: Earnest


 
Movie Review: The Mummy (2017)


Tom Cruise has come a long way since he converted to Scientology and stopped aging. He may have found the fountain of youth, trail-blazed a comeback and reinstated himself as a Hollywood legend, but as tall as he is on that pedestal... he's far from perfect as evidenced in his latest film, The Mummy. One thing that's missing from Tom's repertoire of talent is comedy... the elusive genre that many actors turn to as they age, maybe it's just Bob De Niro. While he was memorable as Les Grossman in the war spoof Tropical Thunder, he was playing it straight just like he did in Risky Business, Knight and Day, Rock of Ages and Edge of Tomorrow.

"Straight with ice" is his thing, which he plays off quite masterfully in some action vehicles with most of his comedic appeal coming from poking fun at him. Ironically, it took killing Tom Cruise over and over again in Groundhog Day style for people to laugh in Edge of Tomorrow. He's the epitome of steely-eyed determination, making us admire him but never truly warming hearts if you count Jerry Maguire as a fluke. All of this is to say he's been miscast in The Mummy, a big budget reboot, which appears to have been written for Chris Pratt.

So you've caught yourself a big name star like Tom Cruise, a Hollywood tiger who can sell your movie based on his name alone. How do you make him fit? Well, you ensure there's plenty of action recalling the airplane disaster from Edge of Tomorrow and the underwater scene from Mission Impossible... cast a co-lead actress to try emulate the chemistry he had with Emily Blunt and then add a superfluous sidekick for a stab at buddy movie charm. While Cruise is sheer perseverance and managed to sell himself as Jack Reacher, this role as Nick Morton in The Mummy is out of reach.

In much the same way as X-Men: Apocalypse, a long-dormant all-powerful ancient evil is resurrected and terrorises the earth. In this story, the evil embodied by an Egyptian princess inadvertently swipes right on our dear friend Nick, who becomes integral to her fulfilling her dark mission. Through a slow-burning seduction, he becomes locked into a deadly love triangle between Jenny, his archaeologist crush, and Ahmanet, a grown up and tattooed version of The Ring's Samara.

The Mummy 2017

"Nick I want you to know I would've settled for the last Rolo..."

The Mummy series starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz was characterised by a charming, fun-loving blend of treasure hunting romance and epic adventure similar to Jewel of the Nile - supersized by CGI and ancient Egypt horror. In an attempt to be refreshingly different, the latest The Mummy is trying to capture the tricky dark cult comic adventure tone of Army of Darkness. Unfortunately, they don't have Bruce Campbell, his boomstick or the twisted horror comedy balancing act that is Sam Raimi. The script flat lines, veering unexpectedly into the strange territory of Cabin in the Woods and failing to tap into the dark cult comedy of films like Shaun of the Dead and Reanimator.

It's as if they're trying to snare the indie spirit of a low budget horror comedy with a blockbuster budget and 13 rating. The result is devastating. Alex Kurtzman may have a rich history of producing blockbusters, but much like the live-action pantomime, Maleficent, a director transplant can result in serious complications.

The first of these is the miscast lead, Tom Cruise, who seems too dignified and street smart for this dumb tongue-in-cheek role. The second is a lack of chemistry with his picture perfect yet flat co-lead, Annabelle Wallis, who comes across like a bland hybridisation of Emily Blunt and Rosamund Pike. The third bent nail in the sarcophagus is the film's tone, which wavers from stoney-faced action thriller to ridiculous horror comedy on the hunt for epic adventure. What starts like American Sniper Lite turns into a wacky Tomb Raider misadventure that should have been gifted to the more adept genre-benders, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Much like The Mummy 2, the latest The Mummy is overloaded with special effects, which range from epic to irritating. While the preamble to the title is promising, connecting Crusade knight tombs and Egytian mythology as if it was gearing up to become a rip-roaring National Treasure style yarn, it simply begins to crumble. The pacing and eye candy is good enough to keep a cat mildly entertained as you switch your brain to standby mode. Unfortunately, this is where you remain as Russell Crowe talks about being in the business of evil and cheesier one-liners punctuate the dead air.

Going into The Mummy expecting a turkey will soften the blow, but the film's tonal shifts make it bizarre, mustering up a half-wink to signal we're in on the joke only for us to realise it's not winking, it's died. You'd do well to watch the original The Mummy or Romancing the Stone again rather than immersing yourself into this chasm of unfunny and cheesy mayhem that is The Mummy. This is big budget Uwe Boll when they really needed a film-maker like Sam Raimi and a cheeky star like Chris Pratt to truly excavate its true potential.

The bottom line: DOA


 
Movie Review: Toni Erdmann


Toni Erdmann is an unconventional comedy drama written and directed by Maren Ade, portraying a father desperately trying to patch things up with his estranged daughter. A practical joker with a fake teeth and wig disguise that recalls early Leon Schuster pranks, Winfried tries to reconnect with his hard-working daughter, Ines, by resorting to his outrageous alter ego, Toni Erdmann. From retired "slacker" to business coach, Winfried's attempts to win his daughter over go from nuisance to social time bomb as he associates with her colleagues and becomes more entrenched in her working life.

For the most part, this German language coming-of-age drama is a two-hander, focusing on the fractious relationship between the father and daughter. By means of a fly-on-the-wall account, we experience the amusement, history, irritation and uneasiness of the familial bond, as Winfried arrives unexpectedly in Romania, where Ines is brokering an important business deal with a big client. Part serious about being married to her job, part wanting to let go and burst out laughing at her father's bold and incredibly silly interactions as Toni Erdmann, we experience several layers of dysfunction in this candid dramedy.

Toni Erdmann 2016

"My people will contact your people."

Like a German version of About Schmidt, we journey with the pairing as the complete opposites learn from each other and try to find a way to repatriate. It's a heartwarming, silly and fun-loving film, which moves from stupid pranks to outrageous and daring social experiments. Spending more time with family, not working so hard or taking life less seriously seem like lifelong goals, yet serve as the underlying message in this touching albeit ridiculous comedy drama.

Peter Simonischek is reminiscent of Gerard Depardieu in terms of his physical presence and clownish demeanour, delivering a delightful and easy-going performance. Sandra Hüller's tightly-wound turn completes the comic duo as she serves up a complicated mix of amusement and irritation with her unorthodox yet persistent father. At 2 1/2 hours, it does seem long, but remains entertaining by virtue of its voyeuristic docudrama style, warm natural flow of comedy, undercover travelogue and heartfelt family drama.

While there's nudity and one unusual sexual encounter, Toni Erdmann has a playful tone and operates like a bag of tricks, constantly surprising one with its low-key blend of authentic drama and silly comedy. The chemistry and performances from Simonischek and Hüller make it seem so, and much like a cabaret, it's a delight to see what they'll throw at us next. While it's not on par with About Schmidt, it remains a memorable, quirky and entertaining father-daughter portrait.

The bottom line: Enjoyable


 
Movie Review: Sachin - A Billion Dreams


Sachin: A Billion Dreams is a documentary about the Indian cricket prodigy, who went on to inspire a nation. Directed by James Irvine and featuring a host of interviews and voiceovers from cricket legends, personalities, family and friends - this comprehensive film covers his early childhood, how he was introduced to cricket and how it became his life. While many will have heard the name, Sachin Tendulkar, known as "The Little Master" in cricketing circles, few know the back story and impact he's had on the face of the sport and its borderline religious status in India.

Sachin Tendulkar started playing cricket at an early age and attributes much of his passion for the game to his brother, Ajit, whose influence has been ever-present throughout his career. Starting with the fanfare of Sachin's destiny as a world-class batsman and an icon for the game, we're whisked back to his pre-teen days as a prankster, growing up in a conventional middle class setting the youngest of four. Through docudrama and narration from Tendulkar himself, we get an inside perspective on his early life from the bustle of his neighbourhood to receiving his first bat and training at the cricket academy nets.

From his youth, Irvine paints a picture of a young man, whose obsession for cricket and natural talent led him to become a force and local schoolboy legend. Breaking cricket records and staying in to the complete frustration of his peers, he quickly became a media sensation as his rise to fame saw the teenager appear for his country. Sachin: A Billion Dreams tracks Tendulkar's meteoric cricket career from a memorable and defiant early innings to lauding critical acclaim and winning the hearts of the adoring Indian fans who would tune in just to see his innings or chant "Sachin... Sachin".

Sachin: A Billion Dreams

"Photographers, I think I'm ready for my close-up..."

However, this biographical documentary isn't simply about Sachin's personal life and achievements, but covers Indian cricket's highs and lows... starting with their impressive World Cup win in 1983 and following their triumphs and blunders up until 2011. Sachin: A Billion Dreams pores through decades of uneasy team dynamics, captaincy changes, coaching disasters, mismanagement issues, national embarrassment and scandals that rocked the sport. While taken from Sachin's perspective, we get a wonderful crash course overview of cricket in India, chalking up the good, the bad and the ugly with a sense of objectivity.

From being the nation's darling to being cooped up in a hotel for 7 days to avoid confronting angry fans, we get a strong sense of just how much value was placed on Tendulkar and the pressure he underwent to perform for his team. Perhaps Sachin became a national symbol of hope, demonstrating that the game of cricket cuts across classes and everyone has the opportunity to seize their destiny, represent their country and achieve success.

The documentary features archive footage, interviews and includes present day material as Tendulkar becomes the storyteller. At almost two and a half hours, it's almost as long a slog as his historic double century one day innings, yet manages to keep you locked in thanks to great sound design, glossy visuals, sharp editing, good pacing, engaging infotainment and some fresh insights. The filmmakers aren't getting up close and personal with Tendulkar, whose face and demeanour has always appeared to be guarded much like his playing style. Instead, we're getting a fan's summation of his career, which is empathetic and ultimately glorifying.

Tracking India's world cup triumphs and failures gives the film an international flavour as they detail a longstanding rivalry with Pakistan and many gripping games against Australia during the Shane Warne years. Unfortunately, South Africa doesn't feature much apart from the match-fixing saga with Hansie Cronje, some great bowling from Alan Donald and Gary Kirsten's years as India's coach. Perhaps Tendulkar didn't fare as well against the Proteas than he did against other great cricketing nations.

Sachin: A Billion Dreams is a competent, lightweight and entertaining sports documentary. While it borders on becoming a puff piece, the correlation between Tendulkar's prowess and India's collective sighs, and the multi-generational family ties give the film a greater sense of importance and intimacy, which is brought together in a moving farewell speech to a stadium of devotees. While it's primarily aimed at Indian, and then international cricket fans, there's enough pulpy biographical material, news history and sports trivia to satisfy the curious, much like a flashy celebrity behind-the-scenes round-up.

The bottom line: Enjoyable

 
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