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Mary Magdalene review : boasts a lot of stillness, dignity and beauty

Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix star in Garth Davis film Mary Magdalene. Check out Drew’s review!

Drew Turney

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Director:

Garth Davis

Cast:

Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tahar Rahim

Run time:

120 mins

Rating:

A couple of reviews called this movie dusty, stuffy and even boring – too genteel to really throw any philosophical cats amongst the pigeons of how history views “Mary Magdalene”.

You can see where the criticisms were coming but they’re a little unfair. You might find yourself responding more to it like you would a painting. It has a real fabric to it – the sand and rough, scratchy surfaces the clothes were made from quite tactile – and a lot of stillness, dignity and beauty. I think it might say more about today’s movie audiences weaned on the teat of comic book movies, video games and switching between apps at the first sign of disengagement than any real fault in the movie itself.

Or maybe movies have just trained us to expect what Pauline Kael once described with the phrase ‘kiss kiss, bang bang’ – movement, high passion and ferocity. “Mary Magdalene” has none of that, just thoughtful introspection and a kind of drifting lilt. Just the kind of thing people seemed to hate about Terrence Malick’s last few movies, in fact, but “Mary Magdalene” director Garth Davis doesn’t sacrifice plot for all that stuff to the extent Malick has lately.

The story is about the young Mary (Rooney Mara) going about her life in the fields and fishing grounds, railing so gently against the strictures of first century Judaean society to get married it barely elicits more than a raised eyebrow.

She’s aware of the prophet that’s emerged in the area claiming to be the embodiment of God on Earth and when she meets him and hears him speak, sets about becoming one of his followers to help share his message of peace and acceptance.

And that’s really it. Her fellow disciples receive her into their ranks to varying degrees of acceptance, making the film the feminist tract Mara promised while promoting it. In doing so it also tries to address what director Garth Davis and writers Helen Edmundson and Phillippa Goslet consider a historical inaccuracy, that the other disciples’ rejection of Mary because of her gender was conflated throughout history so much some Middle Ages Pope simply decided she was a prostitute.

But as this movie rightly points out (according to the New Testament history), she was the only witness among Jesus’ disciples to witness his crucifixion, burial and resurrection, so she seemed to have a special place among them.

And Jesus himself (Joaquin Phoenix, in one of the roles he seemed born to play) seems similarly aware of how special Mary is, affording her extra privilege to his ideas and sharing seemingly more of a personal bond than with the other disciples. Phoenix plays the role like Mara plays Mary and the film itself unfurls – with a mood many will see as ineffectual, impenetrable and obscured but which is actually gentle, loving and peaceful.

Where Mel Gibson wanted to show the blood and brutality of this story and era in “The Passion of the Christ”, Davis is more interested in the soft-focus, muted sense of grace and contemplation. Go into it with that spirit and there’s a lot to like.

Film Reviews

Avengers : Endgame review : a masterpiece designed for the fans

An epic battle to end all battles

K.T Simpson

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One year after “Avengers: Infinity War” and it’s all culminating into one big epic end – aptly named “Avengers: Endgame”. Of course being a film set firmly within a superhero narrative, nothing is really “the end” so I wouldn’t shed too many tears, Marvel fans – there is plenty more Avengers to come, with “Spider-man: Far From Home” coming in July and the standalone “Black Widow” film upcoming with Scarlett Johansson as the protagonist. Producer Kevin Feige has noted that he considers “Far From Home” the ‘end’ of the third faze of the MCU, rather than “Endgame”, but regardless – one thing we can expect from “Endgame” is one giant battle to end all battles.

It’s nearly impossible to describe the plot of “Endgame” without giving away all the surprises, so I won’t. We all know what happened at the end of “Infinity War”, and in “Endgame” the leftover Avengers seek to right the wrongs and the chaos that Thanos (Josh Brolin) creates after collecting all 6 Infinity Stones. With 50% of the world’s population wiped out, which includes a large chunk of the Avengers and their families, the team embrace time travel to essentially turn back the clock and return the world to its original state and its inhabitants back where they belong.

The big focus for “Endgame” is the survivors, working together to save their crew and the rest of humanity – Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Nebula (Karen Gillan). The all-star group is only scraping the surface of what’s to come, with each team member bringing something to the table to help locate the infinity stones and fix what Thanos broke.

What follows is an entertaining thrill ride of surprises, “Back to the Future” jokes a-plenty and a killer soundtrack that is reminiscent of said film: and when you see the credits roll and Alan Silvesrti’s name come up, it all comes together nicely. If you think it’ll be all doom and gloom, given the subtext of the entire narrative, you’d be wrong – with the script full of humorous quips that are perfectly timed and the best way to crack a smile after half your favourite superheroes were reduced to dust in “Infinity War”.

Dead or alive, you’ll see all characters in this time-heist flick, which is really a film purely for the fans. It’s the superhero of all superhero films, and a terrific nod to the 21 Marvel movies that preceded it. It promises goosebumps, fistbumps and all other kinds of bumps that you’ll expect from an epic like “The Avengers”.

If you want a “Braveheart” style battle, you got it. If you’re after some clever pop culture references, take a big serving of that too. Furthermore, if you’re a big comic book nerd and just want a decent fix of superhero delight, “Avengers: Endgame” will deliver that as well. Oh, and if you want an appearance from the late and great Stan Lee – you will not be disappointed. But are you ever?!

Is it the best film ever made? No. But it does deliver in the hype we were all promised and is a spectacle more than anything else. The standalone Marvel films have more depth and substance to them, particularly on a character level. But “Endgame” promised the ending of all endings and that’s what you’ll get. Essentially it’s a fan service film, so Marvel fans – sit back and enjoy. “Endgame” delivers strongly on the nostalgia of the Marvel films that were delivered before it, and in a very clever manner. It is here that the film is most impressive, with the throwbacks to what has led them all up to this one final battle against Thanos. It’s a great way to see how it’s all tied together, and each film within the MCU has its part to play.

Though a long movie (3 hours and not a second under), it can be summed up very succinctly : “Endgame” is nothing short of a masterpiece. It’s directors Anthony and Joe Russo at their absolute best, and something that will be proudly displayed on their trophy shelf.

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Film Reviews

Penguins review : a film the whole family can enjoy

All together now: awwwwwww

Mike Smith

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I don’t know what it is about penguins that make them so damn cute! Is it the way they walk? The fun they obviously have when they slide across the frozen tundra of the Arctic? The excessive fuzziness of their young? I really don’t know but I’m pretty sure they could do an all-penguin remake of THE EXORCIST, complete with projectile vomiting and self-gratification with a crucifix and people would go “awwwww.” Which is exactly the sound I made many times during a recent screening of “Penguins.”

Steve is an Adelie penguin looking for love. He and the other males in his colony are on a trek to find a mate. But the road to love isn’t easy. Especially when your pals are stealing parts of your nest in order to attract that special gal. And what are you supposed to do when you finally meet her?

A beautifully shot (over an almost three year period) film that manages to be both heart-warming and thrilling, “Penguins” gives the audience the “birds-eye” view of life in Antarctica. And it’s a pretty chilly one. Whether it’s having to walk miles upon miles to find food or teaching your chicks how to play dead when a leopard seal tries to eat them, it’s a hard knock life. Yet, it’s also one full of love and adventure.

Like “March of the Penguins” before it, “Penguins” is a film the entire family can enjoy. Kids will love it for the penguins’ parents for the story. Nature is on full display in this film and it’s one I highly recommend.

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Film Reviews

The Curse of the Weeping Woman review : fails to add any value to the Conjuring universe

Falls short of a decent horror

K.T Simpson

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“The Curse of the Weeping Woman”, known as “The Curse of La Llorona” in other markets, adds to the “Conjuring” franchise by introducing a new horrific entity for us to have nightmares over. In a world full of horror films, it’s becoming more and more rare for any film to stand out as an original addition, so let’s delve into “Weeping Woman” to see if it’s worth seeing…

“The Curse of the Weeping Woman” begins with social worker Anna Garcia (Linda Cardellini) confronting a trouble mother who has seemingly been abusing her two young boys. As she gets taken away from her children, the woman pleads that there is more to her story, and blames the ghost of La Llorona – otherwise known as the Weeping Woman – for hurting her children. Unfortunately for Anna, La Llorona targets her children next, and will stop at nothing to take them away.

As Anna digs deeper, she discovers the history of the Weeping Woman in an effort to defeat her and get back to normal life, saving her kids in the process. Anna seeks help from a local priest, Father Perez (Tony Amendola from “Annabelle” – and practically the only tie to the “Conjuring” universe) who has had history dealing with demonic entities, such as that seen in the Annabelle doll.

As a standalone horror flick, “The Curse of the Weeping Woman” would be your typical teen-scarefest, and if you like a good jump scare then you’re in the right place. Where it fails is adding anything of value to the “Conjuring” universe. Its attempt at linking it back is by referencing a few key things from the franchise, but unfortunately it feels like a late script change to give it a reason to be released theatrically. Ultimately, James Wan producing a film within the “Conjuring” universe without directing reeks a lot like INXS without Michael Hutchence – the beats remain the same but there’s nothing that stands out, it merely goes through the motions of your stock-standard horror flick.

Furthermore, “The Curse of the Weeping Woman” is choc-a-block full of horror cliches – furniture flying across the room, doors opening and slamming shut, spirits suddenly appearing in people’s faces and said people being dragged across the room. Not to mention possession and nearly drowning in the bath. Absolutely nothing about this film is an original concept and that’s where it really fails to be any kind of memorable.

As the film nears its climax, it becomes unnecessarily complex as they attempt to defeat the corpse bride – or La Llorona as she’s called. As with any possessed house/person flick, things ramp up very quickly, but the elements involved with facing the spirit head-on are largely complicated, to a degree that just leaves audiences scratching their heads. As a result, the film goes from mildly frightening to just plain boring, as we wait for the end. Referring to the aforementioned clichés, the back third of “Weeping Woman” throws them all into a single scene – which is why it gets so weirdly complicated.

Michael Chaves directs “Weeping Woman”, and in terms of directing style definitely has a unique take. A lot of the frights come from first-person camera view, engaging the audience as if they too were living this nightmare. Chaves is also set to direct “The Conjuring 3”, due out in 2020, so it will be interesting to see how he ties the film in to both this one and the rest of the “Conjuring” franchise.

Look, overall “The Curse of the Weeping Woman” isn’t great. It’s a weird film to shove into “Conjuring” folklore, when it probably would be more successful as a straight-to-VOD teen horror for those looking for just another mindless demonic possession film.

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