John McDonald

John McDonald
Tomatometer-approved critic
Biography:
Since 2011 I've been writing a weekly film column for the Australian Financial Review, which is also posted on my personal website, johnmcdonald.net.au which has a free subscription.

Movie Reviews Only

T-Meter Title | Year
67% The Translators (2019) Naturally, as this is a film made by the hyper-literate French, there could be no suggestion that Oscar Brach is a Dan Brown-style dullard. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 18, 2020
67% I Am Woman (2020) Even if people were walking clichés in the 70s, it's best not to portray them as such. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 18, 2020
91% La Belle Époque (2020) At every turn we are reminded of the highly artificial and manipulative nature of the cinematic medium, even as we surrender to its seductions. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 18, 2020
72% Tenet (2020) I doubt that even the director could explain what it's about. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 18, 2020
87% Deerskin (2020) It seems a perfectly natural move to become a serial killer, ready to dispose of anyone who refuses to hand over their jacket. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 16, 2020
90% Echo In the Canyon (2019) This film makes no attempt to be comprehensive, ignoring the problematic parts of the story and portraying Laurel Canyon as a little piece of musical paradise. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 9, 2020
67% The Burnt Orange Heresy (2020) It's not a flattering portrayal of the art critic - a job that bears no resemblance to whatever it is that James does. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 31, 2020
94% Babyteeth (2020) She claims to like him because he's fearless, but it soon becomes apparent that she's the fearless one. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 31, 2020
96% A White, White Day (Hvítur, hvítur dagur) (2020) Ingimundur is a man of few words. His tactiturnity might denote a rugged, independent spirit, but it's also the sign of an introverted personality that allows anxieties to seethe and boil over - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 31, 2020
90% The Booksellers (2020) It's the older bookdealers who feel the game is up, while the younger ones see many signs of renewal. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 31, 2020
87% Shirley (2020) The greatest horror it reveals is that of the artist's life - a 24/7 obsession that removes Shirley from the world and locks her into a prison of her own construction. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 31, 2020
47% Greed (2020) Gross satire and moral disapproval are drinks that should never be mixed. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 31, 2020
95% It Must Be Heaven (2019) As comedies go, It Must Be Heaven is not exactly laugh-out-loud, but it's weirdly seductive. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 31, 2020
100% Honeyland (2019) It's impossible to watch Honeyland and not wonder what becomes of Hatidze when the camera goes away. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 31, 2020
99% For Sama (2019) We see the way children and parents respond to the pervasive fear, not wanting to be parted even if it is a matter of simple survival. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 31, 2020
86% Color Out of Space (2020) For the record, director, Richard Stanley, has decided the never-before-seen colour will be a kind of lurid pinky-purple. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 31, 2020
72% Vivarium (2020) This may not be the best time to release a feature about a couple trapped in a suburban nightmare, completely isolated from the rest of the world. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 30, 2020
93% The Personal History of David Copperfield (2020) Perhaps in order to save Dickens from himself Iannucci has given us a thoroughly colourblind David Copperfield, in which the lead role is played by Anglo-Indian, Dev Patel. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 18, 2020
90% Dark Waters (2019) What has emerged is a recognisable genre film: the little man (or woman) takes on a big, bad, impersonal organisation in the face of overwhelming odds. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 18, 2020
63% Motherless Brooklyn (2019) When Norton set aside the lead role for himself he was 39. Today he is 50. If we're not overly conscious of his age that's because the character, Lionel Essrog, is one of literature's more unusual private detectives. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 18, 2020
87% Emma. (2020) Taylor-Joy has such big eyes she could have been designed by a Japanese cartoonist. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 18, 2020
78% Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) The running gag in the film that all the violence and bloodshed is part of Harley's "emancipation" from her failed relationship with the Joker. It's the equivalent of those movies in which a middle-aged divorcee goes out and rediscovers life. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 18, 2020
81% A Hidden Life (2019) I don't know if Malick intended to tell one of those 'uplifting' stories in which personal tragedy is transmuted into a triumph of the human spirit, but audiences are more likely to leave this film in a state of depression. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 18, 2020
95% A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019) It's a film that really shouldn't work. One constantly feels that at any moment the entire thing will degenerate into vat of marshmellow. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 18, 2020
69% Bombshell (2019) In the language of power there's always a favour, or some kind of quid pro quo. Ailes made it pretty clear what he expected from the aspiring talent. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 18, 2020
95% Little Women (2019) Little Women is a great proto-feminist fiction too often presented as sentimental, 'heart-warming', family fodder - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 18, 2020
51% Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) The franchise has become a decadent, First World subculture that allows people to enjoy a little harmless fantasy at the price of switching off one's brain and abandoning any sense of what makes a great movie. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 6, 2020
20% Cats (2019) After an hour of Cats I began to suspect the popcorn they fed us had been laced with a psychotropic drug. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 6, 2020
79% Jojo Rabbit (2019) His Nazis are evil but also foolish, dangerous but ridiculous. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 1, 2020
100% Suzi Q (2020) Quatro broke down all sorts of barriers for women in a male-dominated rock culture. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 9, 2019
77% Judy & Punch (2020) It's a project that would have benefited from some tough criticism in the developmental stage, but instead it has an air of self-congratulation. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 9, 2019
87% Where's My Roy Cohn? (2019) If you've ever found yourself wondering how American politics attained its current level of crazed amorality, Where's My Roy Cohn? provides a few answers. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 9, 2019
82% The Report (2019) Burns could not have known the release of his film would coincide with the daily drama of impeachment proceedings but the timing could not be more opportune. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 24, 2019
92% Ford v Ferrari (2019) There's barely a scene in which cars are not being driven, discussed, designed and argued about, but somehow it's not the cars that matter. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 17, 2019
70% Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) Anticipating each updated Terminator is like waiting for the new iPhone. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 6, 2019
71% The King (2019) Michôd has turned history on its head in making the young King into a pacificist who is drawn into a war against his better judgement. Once committed, however, he shows a ruthless, tyrannical streak - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 27, 2019
96% Birds of Passage (Pájaros de verano) (2019) Columbian directors, Cristina Gallego and Cirro Guerra have produced an entirely new kind of crime movie - an ethnographic gangster tale in which age-old tribal customs rub up against the brutality of the South American narcotics trade - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 27, 2019
78% Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) If you're thinking this seems to be a list of horror clichés and stereotypes, that's not an uncharitable suspicion. The filmmakers' skill rests in the way these stereotypes are reanimated in a narrative that contains a surprising number of layers. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 13, 2019
82% Judy (2019) Zellweger inhabits the character so comprehensively it's impossible to imagine another actor in the role. This may be because she has had her own share of unpleasant experiences in the spotlight. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 13, 2019
68% Joker (2019) If violence is a natural product of a community that is learning to take pleasure from hatred, Joker affords us a glimpse of the coming apocalypse. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 13, 2019
84% Downton Abbey (2019) In a world of vulgar, populist leaders with funny hair, one can understand the appeal of this vision of an orderly, hierarchical society ruled over by civilised beings - but it feels like a sales pitch on behalf of traditions that now lie in ruins. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 23, 2019
83% Ad Astra (2019) Roy is a space-age Telemachus who reveres the father that set off on a voyage many years ago and remains a stranger. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 22, 2019
24% The Kitchen (2019) What we get is a fullscale domestication of murder and extortion, as if these are regular businesses women have been unjustly prevented from pursuing. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 9, 2019
84% Dogman (2019) It's obvious that Marcello the dogman is not just the keeper of a pooch parlour, he has a full set of dog-like instincts. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 1, 2019
86% The Nightingale (2019) Every step in this grim story is deftly negotiated. The rape scenes are handled in a manner that is all menace and no eros. The violence is graphic and relentless, but never "gratuitous". - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 26, 2019
85% Once Upon a Time In Hollywood (2019) Tarantino's approach to filmmaking is that of an intellectual who wants us to think of him as a real badass dude. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 26, 2019
71% Danger Close (2019) The dialogue may be stagey but these gun battles are horribly realistic, as shells whizz through the air like a swarm of angry insects. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 10, 2019
60% Ophelia (2019) The first casualty is Shakespeare's richness of language, which was obviously judged too complicated to be imposed upon a generation brought up on social media. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 10, 2019
67% The White Crow (2019) It was probably a much better idea to get a real Russian ballet dancer to play the role rather than an English-speaking actor with a phoney Russian accent and a dance double. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 31, 2019
87% The Third Wife (2019) The story is hardly more than a series of brushstrokes that slowly create a nuanced picture of life in Hung's household. - Australian Financial Review EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 22, 2019