Quick Picks brings you short reviews of movies available to rent, buy or stream now. High Ground (2020) is available to rent and buy now. Luca (2021) is available on Disney + now, and The God Committee (2021) is available to rent or buy from 19th July.
Over recent years Australia has begun to explore its colonial roots on film with a sense of urgency. Unpicking what colonialism meant and continues to mean for a relatively young nation with a complex history. These movies have included Jennifer Kent’s outstanding The Nightingale, Phillip Noyce’s Rabbit-Proof Fence and Warwick Thornton’s stunning Sweet Country. High Ground continues this exploration of imperialism, genocide and cultural appropriation within the confines of a John Fordesqe western. Its opening scenes brutal as we follow Gutjuk (Guruwuk Mununggurr) as he is taken into the care of a local mission following the slaughter of his family. Here, High Ground’s tale of violence and an ever-repeating cycle of conflict and destruction are both sincere, urgent and essential viewing.
While it may not find the devastating voice of some of its predecessors, High Ground is visually striking and layered with critical discussion. Its narrative rooted in a stark realism that is inescapable from the first scene to the last. High Ground asks us to reflect on the beliefs and actions behind colonialism and the individual’s place in its ongoing legacy. While at the same time never shying away from the brutal ideas of superiority that led to the enslavement and murder of indigenous communities.
While we love the convenience of streaming, some films deserve the big screen. Luca, however, has seen its premiere move online as Disney + continues to pick up titles in favour of the cinema. The risk of this is twofold; first, there is a chance the film doesn’t gain the attention it deserves, and second, it is consumed rather than savoured in a gigantic online warehouse of movies. In my opinion, Luca, just like Soul, deserved a cinema outing.
After serving as a story artist for Coco and Ratatouille, Luca places Enrico Casarosa in the director’s chair. His first feature a delightful, engaging and beautiful exploration of friendship, pasta, vespers and diversity. Each beautifully animated scene bathed in the sunshine of the Italian coast. Here we meet two young sea monsters Luca (Jacob Tremblay) and Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), their newfound friendship coupled with a daring exploration of the human world above their ocean home.
Casarosa, Andrews and Stephenson’s story takes the saying “A fish out of water” and layers it with a delicate exploration of identity, discrimination, acceptance and love. And while the story may follow a similar narrative arc to many of Pixar’s previous outings, Luca feels delightfully different. The films beautiful vistas and characters a love letter to Italian culture and filmmaking. Meanwhile, the voice performances of Tremblay and Grazer fill every scene with warmth and honesty. Their magical sea creatures in boys clothing, believable, heartwarming and joyous.
The God Committee
The God Committee is released on Digital Platforms from July 19th
Austin Stark’s adaptation of Mark St. Germain’s play about a group of doctors tasked with deciding who should receive a heart transplant is both striking and deeply frustrating. It’s narrative flitting between two stories; one strong, engaging and urgent, while the other is melodramatic and ultimately unneeded. Both stories focus on the relationship between our two main characters Dr Andre Boxer (Kelsey Grammer) and Dr Jordan Taylor (Julia Stiles). The first exploring the politics of the so-called God Committee, a group of doctors who decide who should live or die when an organ donation arrives at the hospital. While the second focuses on the relationship of Boxer and Taylor, some eight years after the board meeting. And it is within the latter that The God Committee fails, as it falls into simplistic medical melodrama.
When exploring themes of ethics and fairness around the boardroom table, the lives of patients held in the hands of a small group, The God Committee, is engaging, fascinating and scary. The roots of the medical establishment in the United States exposed for what they are; a divisive and all too often unjust interweaving network of care based on personal wealth rather than need. The films’ performances and screenplay shine in these segments, even if occasionally falling into ER and Grey’s Anatomy territory. But, in choosing to also focus on the relationship between Boxer and Taylor, his ailing health, need for a new heart and experimental work, The God Committee undoes its greatest asset; the board room. The result a film of two stories that only ever needed one.
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