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Jasper Jones

The best types of stories are about something. Although mindless escapism may be fun, most don’t have depth to make them memorable. Those cleverly interweaving a message within its narrative usually stay longer in audience’s affections. Based on Craig Silvey’s novel, ‘Jasper Jones’ captures what makes a good story. Using the local Australian landscape to its advantage, ‘Jasper Jones’ has several layers that can be enjoyed by all who like uncovering what makes people tick.

In 1969, Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller) is a young teenager living in a small Western Australian town. An outsider to his family due to his introverted ways, he is startled one night when woken by a strange noise. The cause of the disturbance is Jasper Jones (Aaron McGrath) a mixed-raced boy needing Charlie’s help. Wanting to solve a mysterious death, Jasper takes Charlie on a mission that will affect the whole town. Secrets and deception plague the boys as they learn to face their fears and grow into men.

‘Jasper Jones’ is a coming of age story without the clichéd connotations such a term uses. Whilst it follows the formula of Charlie becoming a more mature person, the film is more than that. It’s about being an outcast and not being afraid to be different. Settling for the expected norm isn’t always a good thing – a point well conveyed via Charlie’s mother, effectively portrayed by Toni Collette. She is part of a strong ensemble bringing to life a community full of suspicion and prejudices.

Director Rachel Perkins’ successfully develops a good sense of pace. ‘Jasper Jones’ tells its tale within an appropriate run-time filled with drama, pathos and gentle humour. That isn’t always an easy thing to pull off and one she and the screenwriters do with style. Although primarily aimed at a young teen market, ‘Jasper Jones’ doesn’t talk down to anyone with its mature tone reflecting the journey Charlie endures. The rugged scenery and soundtrack also solidify the remoteness and beauty of Charlie’s surrounds.

It’s always a pleasure seeing an Australian movie crafted with care. ‘Jasper Jones’ slowly builds its atmospheric story forcing you to immerse yourself in its small world. Its messages are there for observant viewers to find with a screenplay ensuring it won’t be quickly forgotten.

Rating out of 10: 8

Rings

One of the rules of horror films are that characters should never do what they’re told. It can be assured that if someone is warned not to do something, they’ll do it. The temptation to slightly mis-behave is something we all carry over from childhood. The consequences for doing the wrong thing were less harsh than what occurs in scary movies. ‘Rings’ shows just how bad ignoring warnings can be. The third in the American remakes of the original Japanese series, it almost conjures scares for those always caught being bad.

Julia (Matilda Lutz) is worried when her boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) becomes enraptured by a horrific urban legend. Delving into the myth of a sinister video where the watcher dies 7 days after viewing it, Holt’s actions have dire repercussions. Not heeding the warnings given about the video, Julia aims to save her boyfriend from a dark fate. Making a shocking discovery of another movie within the video, Julia’s life is increasingly perilous as death becomes her constant companion.

‘Rings’ relies heavily on the horror movie phenomenon known as ‘jump scares’. When something is about to happen or a shocking incident is occurring, a very loud noise usually joins it. This is lazy film-making, adhering to the genre clichés without taking time to generate genuine scares. ‘Rings’ is typical of recent horror films in having little flair or imagination. It isn’t completely terrible, as the new additions to the Rings mythology are intriguing. The way they’re done is disappointing as with so much money available, such a bland product is created.

Any horror film thrives or dies by its scares. ‘Rings’ has a modicum of cheap thrills to accompany its very bombastic soundtrack. But once these shocks are over, another one arrives to quickly negate any impact. ‘Rings’ won’t be a worthy addition in the annuls of horror like ‘The Exorcist’ or ‘Halloween’ as it refuses to do anything original by living off the infamy of its predecessors. The actors do little but react to the pyrotechnics with some woeful performances reflecting the low-grade talent involved.

There have been worse horror movies than ‘Rings’, although this is as bland as many others. The spectre of another sequel is the only truly horrific moment which would scare the shackles of Death as it crawls through eternities’ door.

Rating out of 10: 4