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Tommy’s Honour

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The bonnie banks of Scotland set the scene for Tommy’s Honour, a golfing family-drama about two of the men that ruled the game in its early days.

Old Tom Morris (Peter Mullan) is the greenskeeper for the St. Andrews Links who started the inaugural Open Championship in 1860, going on to win four tournaments. His son, Tommy (Jack Lowden) is a young prodigy in the sport. Young Tommy resents the strict class lines that dictate Britain and the sport at the time. As the son of the greenskeeper, Tommy is looked down upon despite his playing ability.

Tommy’s Honour tells the story of these two men, still regarded as two of the best players in the history of golf, and the successes and tragedies that fill their lives. The film tackles more themes than one would expect, and the almost two-hour runtime is reflective of that.

Much more than a movie about golf, Tommy’s Honour also addresses class struggle, religious morality and death. However, the engrossing father-son drama and the romance between Tommy and Meg (Ophelia Lovibond) occupy the majority of screen time.

From the accents to the scenery, Tommy’s Honour is an ode to late-19th century Scotland. Aesthetically, the cinematography transports the audience to St. Andrews.

With countless golf matches and references to the sport, Tommy’s Honour is a hard draw for those not fond of the sport. That said, the golf scenes are actually enjoyable and only serve to enhance the drama of the lives of the two men central to the story. There are the indulgent moments for the golf lover, but the majority of the golf scenes serve a purpose.

Even when getting into the jargon of the game, the drama and relationships in the lives of the Tom Morrises are enjoyable to watch unfold onscreen. It is easy to enjoy the golf scenes for their dramatic underpinnings in addition to the golf action. That being said, there are moments of confusion, especially because the golf at the time was significantly different.

The performances of the two leads are the real drivers in this movie, and with an excellent supporting cast and surprising turns, Tommy’s Honour is an enjoyable movie set in the world of golf that a professional putter or amateur could enjoy.

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A warm movie set against the cold background of Nova Scotia, Maudie is an intimate homage to the life of Canadian painter and unwavering optimist, Maud Lewis.

Lewis suffered from rheumatoid arthritis from childhood, and the juxtaposition of Maud Lewis’ beautifully optimistic personality, exemplified in her artwork, and her sad life is where the film truly digs up its most emotional moments.

For those unfamiliar with Lewis’ oeuvre, the film provides a wonderful story of an exceptional woman that lived her life carefree of the obstacles thrown at her. The screenplay by Sherry White is accessible to those unfamiliar with the artist and allows for rich performances by the leading cast, Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke as Maud and Everett Lewis, respectively, that give insight into the day-to-day life and hardships of the Lewises.

Maudie tells the story of the invincibly optimistic painter and her gruff husband. Their relationship is difficult at times to watch unfold, but the actors’ performances save the movie from falling completely into despair.

Hawkins’ performance is award-worthy. Her commitment to the unique mannerisms of the character go beyond a mimic of the artist’s disability. Hawkins’ performance comes from an emotional place and manifests itself within the confines of Lewis’ body, giving more depth to an already intimate film.

Hawke is unrecognisable as the jaded and demanding Everett Lewis, Maud’s boss-turned-husband. Hawke’s performance of an insensitive man is, conversely, deeply sensitive. The rest of the cast allow Hawkins to shine as the lead, especially Kari Matchett as Sandra, the New Yorker that is depicted as the first to ask for Maud’s paintings and a friend to Maud during the film’s emotional climax.

Director Aisling Walsh gives Maudie an appearance evocative of the artist’s work, going beyond the script to show the world in a way Lewis may have seen it; it’s as if the film is picked from the mind of Maud Lewis, which is perhaps why it is so warm and inviting. The musical score and composition, for example, take away some of the emotional heft and allow the film to breathe during the happier moments. The film is drawn out and, despite being charmingly quaint at the start, begins to drag on to a slow, yet fulfilling, finale.

Maudie is not a romantic movie, despite being about a long relationship. It is inspiring and beautiful, but the life of Maud Lewis as depicted onscreen is anything but happy. A woman cast aside in her life and celebrated mainly after her death, her story is equal parts engrossingly tragic and joyful.

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Kiki, Love to Love

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Kiki, Love to Love is a sex comedy that shows the fun and misadventure that accompanies uncovering the sexual aspect of relationships. It’s a passionate and romantic comedy about sex, not a raunchy tale of debauchery.

That being said, Kiki, Love to Love is definitely not for the prudish. The film starts with a visual comparison of animal and human intercourse, and immediately goes into a discussion of harpaxophilia, also known as arousal from robbery.

That’s just one of the colourful words that audiences can learn from Kiki, Love to Love, but despite the salacious nature of the film, it has real heart. At its core are five stories of love in a Madrid community, not tales of the depraved. This film treats sex as one of the fundamental parts of a relationship, even when that sex is uncommon.

Director Paco León also stars as one half of a couple looking to reignite the spark in their relationship. León plays Paco and Ana Katz plays his wife, also named Ana. Paco and Ana, with encouragement from their friend Belén (Belén Cuestra), adventure into the world of sex clubs. Some of the film’s funniest moments – and also some of the lewder – happen as Paco and Ana discover the fetish community.

León’s storylines invite us into the lives of these characters in a way that might start as uncomfortable for some, but is approachable, welcoming even.

Kiki, Love to Love is a comedy that takes the high ground and does not resort to mocking fetishes. The film takes them as very serious character traits that lead to some of the comedic moments, finding the humour and reality of the search to uncover a fetish, understand what turns someone on, or an effort to create an orgasm.

One of the particularly questionable relationships is between José Luis and Paloma, played by Luis Bermejo and Mari Paz Sayago, respectively. This couple’s story, about a plastic surgeon and his wife, approaches an uncomfortable and complicated border of assault that is not properly wrapped up.

The ensemble performances are all strong and ground some of the more heightened situations in the film. Despite moments that reach for an obvious laugh, the blend of physical, situational and smarter comedy brings even more life into the film.

Despite the risqué subject matter, Kiki, Love to Love is not pornographic or crude. It is romantic, sensual and funny, but definitely adult. It is a stereotypical Southern European way of thinking about love and making love, but with a fresh voice and modern situations.

If all of this sounds familiar… Kiki, Love to Love is a remake of Josh Lawson’s comedy The Little Death. Unlike that film, though, Kiki killed it in its native box office and will most likely do better in Australia than its source material did. Go figure.

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Ronny Chieng: International Success

Having already made his bones as an integral part of The Daily Show, Malaysian-born Ronny Chieng is taking centre stage in Ronny Chieng: International Student, a new comedy series based on his own experiences studying in Melbourne.
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Ronny Chieng: International Student

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Ronny Chieng, known for his work in local stand up and on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show in the United States, takes inspiration from his time at Uni to create the contemporary and funny collegiate comedy Ronny Chieng: International Student. The series follows the fictional Ronny and his friends, all but one of whom (Ronny’s Australian love interest Asher, played by Molly Daniels) are roommates in the International House, as they attend Law School in Australia.

Ronny Chieng: International Student lampoons students of all types and mocks the everyday quirks of a campus and its bureaucracy. For example, when Asher’s laptop gets a virus, it constantly repeats the phrase, “You have been impregnated by the sperm virus.” As Chieng runs across campus to fix Asher’s computer, he must deal with impossible administrative officials, unhelpful IT support, and a team of bullying computer nerds.

The development between characters is more present in the friendships that develop than between Ronny and Asher through their romantic storyline. Chieng spends much of the season in the “friend zone”; despite a few plot points revolving around Ronny trying to impress or help, these usually fall to the side as funnier and stronger moments arise.

This speaks to the strength of the ensemble, which bring it to virtually every scene. The entire supporting cast is funny and willing to take their performances to the next level, playing with stereotypes and then breaking them down. Even guest actors deliver exaggerated performances that make this collegiate world absurd, yet still grounded in reality.

In one particularly funny episode, Ronny joins an improv team to impress Asher. But, the main storyline of Ronny’s unrequited love ends up being a distraction to the insane performances from some of the actors (look out for a Shia LaBeouf impression) and the witty writing.

The ensemble has plenty of gifted comedians, including Hoa Xuande as Elvin and Patch May as Craig, two foils who produce some of the best scenes in the series when they are at odds and when they are working together.

If you are familiar with Ronny Chieng, he brings a similar comedic style to this show as he does The Daily Show, a passionate, narcissistic, and angrily quizzical viewpoint on the world. His voice is clear, but leveled out by the other characters with their own unique styles.