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This Week's Film Reviews (Dec 13, 2019)

11 Dec 2019

Clint Eastwood’s new movie RICHARD Jewell opens this week.  Watch for Kathy Bates as Richard’s mother.

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FILM REVIEWS:

THE BODY REMEMBERS WHEN THE WORLD BROKE OPEN (Canada/Norway 2019) ***

Directed by Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Maija Tailfeathers

THE BODY REMEMBERS is a low budget 2-handler about two indigenous women.  It has a simple premise and directors Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Maija Tailfeathers go to great lengths with details. 

The film opens with Rosie (Violet Nelson) riding a bus.  A woman with a child gets on, dropping a plush toy that Rosie picks up.  It is hinted that she likes children an it is soon revealed that Rosie is expecting.  Also seen boarding the bus in the background is Aila (the film’s co-director and writer, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers) who later encounters Rose crying not the street, but not before the audience is given some background of her.  Aila is 31 and wants a baby but has had problems having one despite hers trying.  Aila has had an abortion before.

Áila then encounters again Rosie, barefoot and crying in the rain on the side of a busy street.  She soon discovers that this young woman, Rosie, has just escaped a violent assault at the hands of her boyfriend. Áila decides to bring Rosie home with her and over the course of the evening, the two navigate the aftermath of this traumatic event.  Not much in terms of the story but Aila tries to convince Rosie to stay at a safe-house to protect herself and the baby.

This is one extremely slow moving film saddled with details.  If one loves details, then this film will be a pleasure to watch.  The directors ensure that one feels for each character down to every moment.  Every movement or action have repercussions.  Rosie at one point takes something from Aila’s handbag.  It does not register what it is till much later in the film that it is her wallet.  Rosie is particularly rude and ungrateful  despite Aila’s care.  Credibility comes into the picture. 

As far as Aila’s patience for Rosie despite her rudeness and swearing, one might attribute it to Aila’s not being able to have a baby.  Other than that, her patience is quite beyond belief.  Any normal person would have given up on Rosie.  The scenes in the taxi are overlong and demands a lot of patience.

Though one might sympathize with the pregnant and abused Rosie, Rosie is depicted to be an independent person who thinks she knows what she wants, regardless of  her being right or wrong.

THE BODY REMEMBERS is definitely a difficult watch, for its attention to detail, its slow pace and sombre and depressing story.  To the directors’ credit, this is an uncompromising tale that celebrates the the resilience of women, regardless whether the film works or not.

The TFCA has nominated this film as one of the three nominees for this years Best Canadian Feature that carries a big cash prize.   It has just been selected as Canada’s Top 10 for 2019.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8l3WC4wl-SY

BOMBSHELL (USA 2019) ***1/2

Directed by Jay Roach

The film’s premise is simple enough that it can be stated in one line.  Women previously sexually harassed by Fox News CEO Roger Ailes  stand up and expose Ailes for his crime.

BOMBSHELL is a no-nonsense drama.  It gets right to the crux the matter with little humour and with no side-stories.  The film therefore turns out an uncomfortable and occasionally   gut-wrenching watch (even if one is a male) but this is a story that needs to be told - for the women and others to stand up and make a difference so that what has happened in the past will never happen again.

The script by Charles Randolph details the pure hell the abused women have to go through to attack Ailes.  “You must be prepared when Ailes summons everything and goes all out to destroy you,’ warn the lawyers taking up the case.  The truth can be seen in how the career, family and personal life have been made a living hell.

While most of the characters in the film are real-life characters, the film clearly states at the start that a few fictional ones have been added to dramatize the events.  One such character is a Fox worker, Kayla played by Margot Robbie, a victim who comes out to tell the story and cries why others have not done ether duty.

The single best performance belongs to Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly.  Besides looking like a dead ringer for Megan Kelly, she totally inhabits the role.  Those who have followed the news on the subject will likely find it difficult to distinguish between Theron and Kelly.  This is how good Theron is and her performance has been praised widely by critics everywhere.  The other best performance belongs to John Lithgow who is daring enough to put on prosthetics to look even  more disgusting and older that Roger Ailes.  Ailes has passed away sine the movie had been completed.

Director Jay Roach known especially for his Austin Powers movies tackles BOMBSHELL with dead seriousness and little humour.  The one funniest punchline in the film is uttered by Roger Ailes when accused of sexually harassment of the women: “I never used to be this ugly.”  Roach has made political films before, as in TRUMBO (blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo)and the TV dramas such as GAME CHANGE and RECOUNT.

The success of BOMBSHELL might see the emergence of the similar sexual harassment case of Harvey Weinstein, which would likely have juicier bits. 

The film ends with titles informing certain events that have happened since the making of the film.  The titles mention the settlement amounts the sexually harassed victims obtained which is just as much as Ailes’ severance pay after his resignation.  The second statement is meant to anger the audience so that more can do their part to ensure sexual harassment and bullying stops, once and for all.  BOMBSHELL is a film about real life events that needs to be told.  The heroes in this movie are the victims who risk all to do all that needs to be done.

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6394270/videoplayer/vi2331492121?ref_=tt_ov_vi

(Video Review:  Video out this week……)

FREAKS (USA 2018) ***    

Directed by Adam Stein and Zach Lipovsky

FREAKS, which premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival features an impressive low budget dystopian apocalyptic scenario that though runs into familiar territory.  Still, it has a unique feel to it.  The film looks good in its production values.  Writer/directors Adam Stein and Zach Lipovsky craft a creepy tale that keeps the audience guessing what is happening especially in the first half.

Everyone loves a good thriller, especially when one knows literally nothing about the plot.  FREAKS is that thriller provided you have not read anything about it.

The film opens on the insides of a dilapidated house where a man (Emile Hirsch) and a daughter (Lexy Kolker) reside away from anyone else.  This immediately brings the recent dystopian father and daughter drama LIGHT OF MY LIFE which Casey Affleck starred and directed where the father and daughter live on their own away from strangers after some plaque has destroyed most of the females in the world.  But nothing is initially stated at the starting of FREAKS except of what one hears from the father.

Chloe's father (Hirsch) prevents her from leaving their dilapidated house or from even looking outside their board-up windows. It is not clear if there are actual dangers outside, as "Dad" believes, or if there is something psychologically wrong with him.  This is where the film works really well.  There is an image on the television with the words: “Drone targets house in Seattle”.  What does this all mean and why is dad warning Chloe of evil men outside.

It is right after the father returns from getting supplies that he gets wounded and passes out.  Chloe escapes through the front door to meet a strange Mr. Snowcone (Bruce Dern) who entices her with a chocolate ice-cream cone.

When the elderly Mr. Snowcone takes Chloe to the park, he scare hers by pushing her too high on the swing.  When a cop arrives, it turns out that she can make the cop go away by her sheer will.  Nothing is what it seems and the film takes a brilliantly chilling turn.

At this point, one can hope that the film gets better as the script also written by the two directors have put in many odd set pieces in the first 30 minutes that need to be explained.  For one, Chloe is locked up in the closet where she meets her apparent sister.  The people outside the house seem to know Chloe’s name and Chloe’s mother, though the audience have no knowledge  where or who Chloe mother is.  The neighbour appears to resemble the mother too.

It is right at the half way mark that everything is explained.  The film turns into action mode and this is where the film turns less interesting once the mystery is revealed. 

To the directors’ credit, they still keep a few surprises of the story for the second half, which though not as absorbing as the first half still makes not a bad sci-fi thriller.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Qdr8sbhz30

KINGSWAY (Canada 2018) ***
Directed by Bruce Sweeney

This dysfunctional comedy is done with much of the Bruce Sweeney wit that viewers of his previous films DIRTY, LAST WEDDING and EXCITED are used to.  And it is bitingly funny.  Take the first scene with Matt (Jeff Gladstone) in his psychiatrist office. “I am better.  I don’t need to be here and I can leave.”  So he gets up and leaves the office.  But Matt is not better but getting worse, even considering suicide.  It does not help that his wife, Lori is having and affair but worst of all, his dysfunctional family is butting in trying to do what they think is best for him - which is not.  The bossy sister, Jess (Camille Sullivan) and mother, Mary (Gabrielle Rose, who is always a pleasure to watch) will not leave Matt alone, even stooping so low as to confront Lori for him.  Director Sweeney knows how to tread the fine line between anxiety and crazy and often the line is blurred.  One wishes that there would be something deeper in the story or some message  for the audience but Sweeney’s film is so entertaining, no one really cares for anything deeper.  The fantastic cast do a great a job as well.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2ILcjp-x44

RICHARD JEWELL (USA 2019) Top 10 *****
Directed by Clint Eastwood

From the film’s trailer that’s been playing everywhere, it does not take a genius to guess the film’s entire story.  But the film’s pleasure lies not in the story, that many are already aware of, from the news articles, but in the way the events are re-created on film, courtesy of veteran director Clint Eastwood (UNFORGIVEN, MILLION DOLLAR BABY), screenwriter Billy Ray and a stellar cast delivering winning performances including relative newcomer Paul Walter Hauser as the titular Richard Jewell.

The film was based on an article “American Nightmare” published by Vanity Fair in 1997 and chronicles the life of Richard Jewell during the events that led to a bomb attack at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.  Jewell then heroically saves lives after a bomb was detonated during the 1996 Summer Olympics. However, the FBI identifies him as one of many suspects and this leads to his unjust vilification by journalists and the press.  The FBI cleared  him after 88 days.

Everyone loves an underdog.  When a film shows the underdog finally winning, it becomes a winning movie.  But this movie takes things one step further.   The underdog is persecuted.  Richard Jewell who discovers the bomb is suspect of bringing in the bomb and has to clear his name.  “Put eyes on him.”  the FBI is told. 

Eastwood’s talent for music and fondness for country music can be witnessed in the enlivened scene in the Park where singer Kenny Rogers delivers an arousing song.  Eastwood did deliver one of his best films of his career (sadly a flop at the box-office), directing and starring him and his son, Kyle way back when in HONKYTONK MAN.

Eastwood’s film probably contains what is arguably the funniest segment in a film this year.  This occurs when the entire spectator group at the Kenny Rogers concert doing the ‘macarena’ much to the chagrin of FBI agent Shaw (Joe Hamm).

The film also probably contains the best message in a film this year. “This is what you got.  Go do you job, son!” says mother to son, Richard Jewell.

It is just simply endearing when a director takes the advice given in a movie script to heart.  When Jewell is pulled in the office for a pep-talk by the campus Dean on taking his security duties too seriously, like stopping kids on the road for drugs testing, Jewel replies that he was told by him at a punch bowl during a party “I don’t want no Mickey-Mousing on these campus grounds.”  Director Eastwood has taken this advice to heart.  No Mickey-Mousing in this film with him taking the material in all serious earnestness, in creating on of his better movies in his career.

To director Eastwood’s credit, he has inserted into what can be considered to be a male oriented story strong female presence.  The first is the well written and performed character of Jewell’s mother played by Oscar Winner Kathy Bates (MISERY).  Bates delivers magnificently in what could be a small under-written role.  Her one scene where she delivers a plea to the President of the United States to clear person’s name is proof that she deserves another Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.  Having downloaded the screener from the Warner Bros. site, I watched this segment 3 times as it was that awesome.  I cried all three times from Bates’ performance.  In what could be described as a hero without a  (human)villain piece, the villain is  the media as embodied n Scruggs, a reporter played with gusto by Olivia Wilde.  Wilde’s character is one that changes from pure greedy evil to person with a conscience.

RICHARD JEWELL is the story of a hero, not a fictitious one found in perhaps the Marvel alternative universe but one that lives, suffers and experiences life as a human being does on the Planet Earth.  This is the reason RICHARD JEWELL should be seen, as perhaps a sign of redemption for the human race that there is still much good to be found in the human race, especially during the Christmas season.

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3513548/videoplayer/vi1837612825?ref_=tt_ov_vi

UNCUT GEMS (USA 2019) ***
Directed by Josh and Benny Safdie

UNCUT GEMS is a crime drama with Adam Sandler in serious dramatic mode displaying a totally frantic and unstable character.  Howard (Sandler) is a determined jewel dealer determined to prove himself a champion in his day-to-day life,.  He idolizes his client list of famous athletes procured for him by his middleman, Demany (LaKeith Stanfield).  Ever scheming with things always going awry, Howard intends to sell a mined chunk of rock full of embedded gems at auction — after it's shipped to him from Ethiopia inside a fish carcass.   Josh and Benny Safdie’s film is often as annoying as the protagonist who has very few redeeming qualities.  The main plot gets distracted.  Howard’s mistress subplot could very well be cut out from the film with little effect.  So can a few other things like his Jewish family gathering and a few other subplots all of which leads to the film’s over 2 hour running time.  Initially annoying and deserving of good beating-up which Howard gets a couple of times, the audience eventually grows to love this dirtbag by the last reel - which shows how good an actor Adam Sandler can be.

Trailer: (unavailable)

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This Week's Film Reviews (Dec 5, 2019)

05 Dec 2019

Quiet week - before the storm of Christmas movies descend upon us.

ANTIGONE and IN FABRIC open this week

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FILM REVIEWS:

ANTIGONE (Canada 2019) ***1/2

Directed by Sophie Deraspe

Two French language films involving police brutality (in these films, police opening fire causing riots) make this year nomination entries for their country’s Best Foreign Language Film entries.  ANTIGONE is Canada’s entry for the Best Foreign Film.  LES MISERABLES is France’s entry.  Both films are quite different.  The short list has at the time of writing not yet been announced.

ANTIGONE is an ambitious film adapted from the classic Greek tragedy. 

ANTIGONE is the name of a Lebanese immigrant living in Montreal with her grandmother, sister and two brothers.  The film begins with a dinner scene where the audience is introduced to each family member.  Things look rosy for the new Canadian family.  Antigone has a romantic fling with a white Canadian boy whose father is running for politics office.

Things take a turn one day when cops show up unexpectedly at a playground.  One brother is shot and the other arrested.  Because the arrested brother has got a record, he likely will be deported.  Antigone having a clean record and not yet an adult figures she can pose as her brother and get him out of prison by pretending to be him.  This she does.  But nothing is what it seems.

By helping her brother escape from prison, Antigone confronts the authorities: the police, the judicial and penal system as well as the father of her friend Haemon. The brilliant teenage girl, on a spotless path so far, feels the noose tighten on her. But to man's law, she substitutes her own sense of justice, dictated by love and loyalty

Director Deraspe always has some new twist in the story, as the film progresses.  Antigone discovers that the brothers are not as innocent as they seem.  The arrested one is part of a local drug gang in which the shot brother held a high position.  Antigone is arced with a dilemma.  Family for citizenship?  The film stresses both the importance of family as well as the need to lookout for oneself and not be bogged down by family.  After all, it is one that is responsible for ones own life.  The decision Antigone takes is revealed in the film’s final shot.

ANTIGONE is a rough watch and is meant to be so.  It is a film that reveals the hardship of immigration in an extremely cruel world.  But director Deraspe shows that there is hope.  There is always good people out there.  The good people out there in this film turns out to be Antigone’s white boyfriend’s father who goes out of his way to do the right thing and earn back the respect of his son.

ANTIGONE is a film deserving of the distinguished honour of being selected as Canada’s entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar.  But LES MISERABLES is the better picture as it is more spectacular and daring in its storytelling, taking more risk than ANTIGONE does.  Still ANTIGONE plays more with conflicting raw emotions.  ANTIGONE starts off slow, but it hits boiling level pretty fast.  Definitely worth a look, the film went on to win the prize of Best Canadian Feature at the last Toronto International Film Festival.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo5os3XbZC4

IN FABRIC (UK 2019) ***1/2

Directed by Peter Strickland

IN FABRIC is a comedy horror about a killer red dress - literally.  The red dress has the ability to cause death wherever it is worn.

If all this sounds weird, it should - as the story makes no logical sense at all.  But this fact does not spoil the pleasure this odd and deliciously film of evil delivers.

The dress comes into possession of two people.

The first is Sheila Woodchapel (Marianne Jean-Baptiste from Mike Leigh’s SECRETS AND LIES), a recently divorced bank teller who lives with her son Vince.  She buys the dress from the  department store Dentley and Soper's after being convinced by a very weird store clerk Miss Luckmoore (Fatmah Mohamed). 

Luckmoore is strange for a number of reasons.  Luckmoore partakes in strange rituals with the store mannequins and often takes a dumbwaiter deep into the store.  At one point, she caresses a store mannequin which is revealed to have a bleeding vagina while the store worker Mr. Lundy (Richard Bremmer) watches and masturbates.

In the film’s second half, the dress comes into possession of washing machine repairman Reg Speaks (Leo Bill) who is made by his friends to wear it on a night out. He is engaged to Babs (Hayley Squires) and is also chastised by his boss for minor indiscretions.  He also makes people go into trances when reading out washing machine faults. Babs takes a liking to the dress and decides to wear it as well however she is concerned by how the dress is able to fit them both despite being different sizes and the appearance of a strange rash on their chests. The dress also breaks down their washing machine and Reg is fired from his job when he is reported on for repairing his washing machine off the books.

There are other kinky scenes such as the store looting scene that begins with two female customers having a go at it after quarrelling who should be served first.  Babs also gives birth to a demon baby while Reg does her delivery screaming on her behalf.

Other strange scenes include Reg’s firing scene.  It takes Strickland to show Reg’s boss chewing up Reg’s company card to imply his termination at the company.  Other’s include Sheila’s attempts at dating other men after her husband leaves her for a younger model.  At two of her dates, her date informs her that he has brought discount coupons.

Both Sheila and Reg are equally interesting victims of the dress.  Luckmoore provides the necessary excuse for director Strickland to indulge in his comic horror.  The film often fills with saturated colours, particular red, reminding one of the Italian gallo movies of the 60’ and 70’s that Italian directors like Mario Bava and Dario Argento used to make.

The film has a huge fire as its climax but it takes more than fire to burn the devil dress.  A sequel in the works, maybe?  But I think director Strickland would have other innovate ideas to scare or surprise his fans.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biHUTtV4K40

KINGSWAY (Canada 2018) ***
Directed by Bruce Sweeney

This dysfunctional comedy is done with much of the Bruce Sweeney wit that viewers of his previous films DIRTY, LAST WEDDING and EXCITED are used to.  And it is bitingly funny.  Take the first scene with Matt (Jeff Gladstone) in his psychiatrist office. “I am better.  I don’t need to be here and I can leave.”  So he gets up and leaves the office.  But Matt is not better but getting worse, even considering suicide.  It does not help that his wife, Lori is having and affair but worst of all, his dysfunctional family is butting in trying to do what they think is best for him - which is not.  The bossy sister, Jess (Camille Sullivan) and mother, Mary (Gabrielle Rose, who is always a pleasure to watch) will not leave Matt alone, even stooping so low as to confront Lori for him.  Director Sweeney knows how to tread the fine line between anxiety and crazy and often the line is blurred.  One wishes that there would be something deeper in the story or some message  for the audience but Sweeney’s film is so entertaining, no one really cares for anything deeper.  The fantastic cast do a great a job as well.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2ILcjp-x44

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This Week's Film Reviews (Nov 29, 2019)

28 Nov 2019

If you liked VISAGES, VILLAGES by Agnes Varda in 2017, VARDA PAR AGNES, the director's swan song makes its debut this week.  The hilarious KNIVES OUT alos opens.

 

FILM REVIEWS:

KNIVES OUT (USA 2019) ***1/2

Directed by Rian Johnson

Director Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper) assembles an all-star cast (Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, and LaKeith Stanfield) in a brilliantly conceived whodunit Agatha Christie style that brings back good memories of films like CLUE, MURDER BY DEATH and THE LAST OF SHEILA.  A wealthy author, Harlan Thrombrey (Christopher Plummer) is apparently murdered and detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is being paid a stack of cash by an unknown family member to solve the case.  Every member of the family household is suspect as each one has been denied the inheritance and has a motive for killing.  The maid/nurse is also suspect as she is the last one to see Harlan.  The film moves fast just as these kind of whodunits go and one can never figure out who did it, though good guesses could be made.  Craig is great speaking in what a family member calls a ridiculous southern Texan leghorn accent.  Johnson directs in good fun and his film is totally entertaining as a super whodunit with a few unexpected plot twists in the end.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xi-1NchUqMA

STAND! (Canada 2019) ***

Directed by Robert Adetuyi

STAND! is a new film based on the stage musical of the same name.  I admit that I have not heard of the Canadian musical and neither have many of my friends.  So, the film arrives with a challenge to attract audiences to see this relatively unknown musical that is slotted in between 2 big musicals, the already box-office champ FROZEN 2 and the upcoming CATS at Christmas.  Director Robert Adetuyi (STOMP THE YARD and TROUBLE SLEEPING) has done a decent job.

STAND! is set 100 years ago against a backdrop of civil unrest and a violent general strike that changed Canada’s history.  The story follows an immigrant Romeo & Juliet in 1919 as they battle for love and a better life on the streets of Winnipeg, amid political and social turmoil.  Stefan (Marshall Williams from GLEE and HOW TO BUILD A BETTER BOY) and his father Mike (Gregg Henry) fled Ukraine for the New World, where they struggle to earn enough to reunite the family. Stefan is instantly smitten with the Jewish suffragette neighbour, Rebecca (Laura Wiggins), but Rebecca’s brother Moishe and Mike oppose the would-be couple. Meanwhile, soldiers returning from WWI are angry at the lack of jobs after the war and violently threaten the city’s immigrants, including Emma (Lisa Bell), a refugee from racial strife in Oklahoma.  When a movement develops for workers to leave their jobs in protest, a wealthy lawyer (the villain of the piece) pits all against each other in a dramatic and inspirational final stand.

Though set a century back many of the issues depicted in the film are still relevant today.  Racial tension and fear of losing jobs to foreigners are always relevant issues and so is the concept of evil and power.  The script by Juno-winner Danny Schur and Rick Chafe often falls into cliched territory but the actors perform their duties with such conviction that the flaws can often be overlooked.  For example, Stefan’s obstinate father Mike refuses to join in the strike and even works as a scab but on knows that he will eventually end up in the protest march, which he does in the end.  For a period piece, the art direction, wardrobe and atmosphere are impressive.

STAND! can stand (pardon the pun) very much as a drama on its own without being classified as a musical.  The actors do not breakout into song or dance that often, so that the film does not really feel like a musical.  A few of the songs are also pretty good, tune and lyrics as well.   Despite being small budget, the film looks grand.  The climatic march at the end of the film requires a march of ten thousand people.  This is quite hefty logistics. 

STAND! the Juno-award-winning musical hit set against the Winnipeg General Strike by composer Danny Schur & Rick Chafe’s hit musical opens across Canada on November the 29th.  A small but effective musical, STAND! is worth look.

Trailer: (unavailable)

 

THE TWO POPES (UK/USA/Italy/Argentina 2019) ***1/2

Directed by Fernando Meirelles

Films about popes have already been interesting, regardless if one is Roman Catholic or not.  The Roam Catholic institution has survived ages.  News and headlines about priest abuse and the selection process of a new pope have always fascinated the world.  In THE TWO POPES, director Fernando Meirelles’s (the director of the Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign Language film, CITY OF GOD), THE TWO POPES tells the stories of not one but two popes as they interact with each other, both with different ideals for the church and basically two highly different people.  Yet, they are good people, as they should be, with great ambitions for the Catholic Church.  They are played by two of filmdom’s finest actors, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, both now old enough to play the two pontiffs.

The film opens with Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pryce) preaching in the streets in Argentina while also cheering his favourite soccer team.  The film quickly established Cardinal Jorge as  a decent man with ordinary pleasures like the love for soccer.  The film effectively closes with both popes watching the World cup final each cheering for their home teams, while making ‘human’ jokes while getting extremely excited.

Of the two popes, Bergoglio is the more interesting, only because director Meirelles devotes more time in him.  Bergoglio prefers walking or biking to limousines.  He likes to tango and watch soccer with ordinary people.  In an amusing early scene, we hear him whistling "Dancing Queen" in the Vatican men's room.  He is clearly shown to be against sexual abuse, believing that offenders should be defrocked.  He is also against homosexuality, which clearly will anger the majority of people, but that is his belief.  No reasons are given for this belief.

Director Meirelles spends time on the process of selecting Bergoglio that went behind closed doors in the Vatican when white smoke from the chimney would indicate the decision that a new pope has been selected.

In contrast is the opposite nature of Pope Benedict (Hopkins), who regards any change as a perilous compromise to the Church's integrity.  Nevertheless, Benedict realizes that momentum is building for Bergoglio to succeed him, so the two men meet, break bread, and engage in a debate that reveals much about their respective pasts and divergent visions for the future.  This is perhaps the most interesting part of the film, analogous to climatic confrontation in a film drama.  The only difference here is that there is no right or wrong but differences in opinion and beliefs.  Except for the fact that homosexuality should not be condemned in the Catholic Church, an issue neglected in the film.

THE TWO POPES should be seen primarily for the performances of its two leads, Hopkins and Pryce.  Director Meirelles has also achieved the formidable task of making a film on the Catholic Church more interesting that it should be.

THE TWO POPES premiered this year at the Toronto International Film Festival.  It has a limited screening engagement at the Bell Lightbox before being streamed on Netflix.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpUd9SoP-l8

 

VARDA PAR AGNES (France 2019) ****
Directed by Agnes Varda

 

Agnes Varda talks about film and about her films to an audience in a grand cinema auditorium.  This is the documentary -  a doc about film, life and inspirations.

Agnes Varda mentions the three words that are all-important to filming: inspiration, creation, and sharing.  Without inspiration, there is no film.  Varda, obviously gives examples from her past work, mentioning how she immediately wants to film her uncle Varda the second she met him.  She started visualizing colours, camera angles, shots and all.  The film the shows segments of that encounter.  Varda also mentions the difficult part of creation, getting the finance  needed to make a film.  She confesses that she often had to work with small budgets.  She came up with her film CLEO IN THE AFTERNOON filmed in real time of 90 minutes, to cut cost.  CLEO turns out to be one of her most successful ones.  The third element of sharing, she is currently doing, communicating to her audience in the auditorium.

Directors have their niche.  Some directors make action films, some comedies and some documentaries.  It is the latter category for Agnes Varda.  In her film, JANE B. PAR AGNES V., there is one exquisite scene she captures while Birkin is walking with her son on the beach.   A woman is lying flat on the beach with a Bible on her chest while two men stoop each by her side.  The boy questions the mother for the reason, and she replies that she does not know.  The film does not indicate any reason for the image either.  Varda sees images like these, captivating and occasionally without reason, but to Varda, this image needed to be captured.  It is these little intricacies that make Varda the artist that she is, as well as gives this doc its great pleasures.  Varda’s segment on her potato exhibition is nothing short of extraordinary.

Though at the age of 90 at the time of filming this doc, Varda still emanates her characteristic vibrant energy. She offers a wide-ranging journey through her world: her filming process, her feminism, her fine-art photography, her long-time relationship with director Jacques Demy.  There are signature flourishes of animation, and formal detours into the dreams that form the integral basis of her reality.

Varda died only a month after Varda by Agnès premiered at Berlin, and with this in mind, it's hard not to see it as a eulogy. Yet, like all of Varda's work, it brims with life. And its takeaway is not a past-tense legacy, but a sense of how Varda lived through her films, of what she brought to the art form, and — the greatest gift — of finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. "Nothing is banal if you film people with empathy and love," Varda once said. This is the inspiration she has left us with.  Many of her best films are on display here, from CLEO DE 5 A 7, SANS TOIT NI LOIT (English title VAGABOND), THE GLEANERS to VISAGES, VILLAGES, her last and BEST film in 2017.   Sandrine Bonnaire from SANS TOIT NI LOIT appears as a guest talking to Varda.

For those who grew up with Varda and her husband Jacques Demy, VARDA PAR AGNES is a pleasure. 

AGNES PAR VARDA is a true film on how life imitates art (in this case, film) and how art imitates life.  Varda passed away with this doc marking this film her swan song.  There are too many pleasures in the film to be mentioned, so best to see this film for oneself.

Trailer: http://www.filmswelike.com/films/varda-by-agnes

 

 

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This Week's Film Reviews (Nov 22, 2019)

19 Nov 2019

Heavyweight FROZEN 2 opens this week.  Two dramas WAVES and THE REPORT make their debut if drama is your cup of tea. 

And two films starring busy Adam Driver open this week.

Two festivals also start their run this week - CineFranco (a celebration of French film) and Blood in the Snow (BITS) film festival.

FILM REVIEWS:

ATLANTIQUE (ATLANTICS) (France/Senegal/Belgium 2019) ***
Directed by Mati Diop

Fleeing across the sea from Africa as refugees to Spain.  Things are hard for the young as director Diop tackles current problems like unemployment, abuse of local workers (unpaid wages by the exploiting rich) and arranged marriages. 

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Blood in the Snow (BITS) Film Festival Toronto 2019

18 Nov 2019

BITS 2019

BITS stands for Blood in the Snow.  Blood in the Snow is a relatively new local Toronto film festival that combines blood in a white or wintry setting.

For 6 days at the Royal Cinema from November 21 to 26, 2019 screenings of premieres of Canadian genre (horror, sci-fi, action and thriller) features, shorts and web series.

A complete list and schedule of films can be found by clicking the link below:

https://www.bloodinthesnow.ca/

Capsule Reviews of Selected Films

DEAD DICKS (Canada 2019) ***1/2

Directed by Chris Bavota and Lee Paula Springer

One wonders the reason that this film got selected for the Blood in the Snow film festival as there is no blood in the snow in this film.  But thank heavens the film got picked, as this film shows lots of promise.  And there are lots of blood to compensate, as bodies get chopped up and disposed in garbage bags. 

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Cinefranco 2019

18 Nov 2019

Cinefranco 2019

Cinefranco 2019 runs from November 22 to the 30th 2019.  Programmed and run by the tireless and ever-cheerful Marcelle Lean (who I am proud to say is a good acquaintance of mine) since the fete first started.

The Festival’s Main Program is the most important international francophone film festivals in English Canada.  It is comprised of up to 40 francophone films and brings together thousands of fans.  The films reflect the richness and diversity of filmmakers from Canada, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Algeria, Morocco. Tunisia, Senegal and other countries.  The goal of this program is to showcase films rarely seen or not distributed in Toronto cinemas. Considering that fewer and fewer French films are being released (such a pity) in theatres, Cinéfranco provides an essential platform to foster the appreciation of francophone films. Therefore, Cinéfranco gives the unique opportunity for francophone film lovers to experience the films on a big screen, and for filmmakers to meet their audiences. Cinéfranco provides popular yet quality programming, from hilarious comedies to social dramas, through moving documentaries or captivating thrillers. The viewers get to vote for their favourite film which is awarded “The Audience Prize” at the end of the festival.

For complete information of the festival including descriptions of the films, please click the Link:

https://www.cinefranco.com/fall-festival

Capsule Reviews of Selected Films:

AN AMOUR IMPOSSIBLE (AN IMPOSSIBLE LOVE)(France 2019) ****
Directed by Catherine Corsini

Don’t let the title put you off.  This is no cheap riff-off of a ROMEO AND JULIET story.  UN AMOUR IMPOSSIBLE is an incredible emotional and intelligent romance so dark yet beautiful that will surely affect many couples for the fact that the story can be or might be more common than expected. 

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This Week's Film Reviews (Nov 15, 2019)

14 Nov 2019

Slow week with FORD V FERRARI being the only big one opening. 

FILM REVIEWS:

ASSHOLES: A THEORY (Canada 2019) ***
Directed by John Walker

Some grapple with the challenge of treating other human beings decently. Others are just… assholes, claims Professor Aaron James in his New York Times bestselling book, Assholes: A Theory. This intellectually provocative film takes a playful approach to uncovering why asshole behaviour is on the rise in the workplace, in government, and at home.

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TIFF Cinematheque Presents - The Films of Nagisa Oshima

14 Nov 2019

TIFF Cinematheque Presents - The films of Nagisa Oshima

This rare retrospective of Japanese New Wave director runs from November 14th to December 5th at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

the series is entitles IN THE REALM OF OSHIMA - the Best of Japanese Mater Nagasi Oshima.  The title is taken form his most notorious and famous work IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES. I guarantee you would not forget the film, at least of its explicit sexual scenes.

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This Week's Film Reviews (Nov 8, 2019)

07 Nov 2019

One film that demands to be seen opens this week - the 3 1/2 hour long Martin Scorcese’s THE IRISHMAN with De Niro and Pacino starring.

FILM REVIEWS:

DOCTOR SLEEP (USA 2019) ***
Directed by Mike Flanagan

DOCTOR SLEEP is based on the Stephen King’s 2013 novel, that follows what happens after THE SHINING, which was made into the Stanley Kubrick horror classic of the same name with Jack Nicholson, who declined to appear in this sequel.  Flanagan is an American filmmaker. He is best known for his horror films, all of which he directed, wrote, and edited including Absentia (2011), Oculus (2013), Hush, Before I Wake, Ouija: Origin of Evil (all 2016), Gerald’s Game (2017), and Doctor Sleep (2019).

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Reel Asian Film Festival 2019

05 Nov 2019

The Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival 2019

The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival® is a unique showcase of contemporary Asian cinema and work from the Asian diaspora. Works include films and videos by East, South and Southeast Asian artists in Canada, the U.S., Asia and all over the world. As Canada’s largest Asian film festival, Reel Asian® provides a public forum for Asian media artists and their work, and fuels the growing appreciation for Asian cinema in Canada.

The (23rd) Reel Asian International Film Festival runs from November the 7th to the 15th, 2019 in downtown Toronto. 

Capsule reviews of selected films (as recommended by the ReelAsian publicist) follows below this article.

For more information and a full schedule of screenings, please check its website at:

http://www.reelasian.com/festival/

Capsule Reviews of Selected Films

COME DRINK WITH ME (Hong Kong 1966) ****
Directed by King Hu

Undeniably the best film to be shown at the Asian Film Festival this year and free as well, COME DRINK WITH ME a must-see if you have not already seen it. 

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