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This Week's Film Reviews (June 28, 2013)

28 Jun 2013

Opening this week are THE HEAT, WHITE HOUSE DOWN and the doc HOW TO MAKE MONEY SELLING DRUGS.

 

Also observing a check is the Italian Contemporary Film Festival.

 

 

THE HEAT (USA 2013) ***

Directed by Paul Feig

 

            From Paul Feig, the director of BRIDESMAIDS comes another female bonding movie starring McCarthy who was also in the first feature.

            The plot concerns an over confident, educated and effective FBI agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) assigned to Boston to work with small time foul-mouthed officer Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) to solve a drug related case.  It is a female brains vs. brawn to solve the case.

            The film demonstrates the acting talent of Bullock as well as the comedic expertise of McCarthy.  The two characters play extremely well against each other, with the audience often swayed from one side to another.  The female buddy cop movie is a welcome change from the frequent male buddy cop movies that then only populated  movie screens.  In fact Bullock and McCarthy fare so well (and better say than any Danny Glover and Mel Gibson in their LETHAL WEAPON films) that one would expect very soon a sequel such as THE HEAT 2.

            Running at over two hours, one can suspect that the film went over as the filmmakers decided to leave all the improve bits intact.  Despite the loose narrative and thin plot, the film hardly feels like 2 hours due to the fact that the film is often so funny.

            There is one scene in which Bullock confesses the difficulty of being a female in her working world.   Fortunately, the film does not delve into the serious issues but quickly switches back to comedy.

            The film is basically a two actor vehicle.  No one else is memorable or given anything important to say.  The only exception could be the ambulance segment in which a paramedic has an argument with Bullock’s FBI character.

 

 

HOW TO MAKE MONEY SELLING DRUGS (USA 2012) ****

Directed by Mathew Cooke

 

            Written, directed and narrated by Matthew Cooke (DELIVER US FROM EVIL, TEENAGE PAPARAZZI), the documentary HOW TO MAKE MONEY SELLING DRUGS is a surprising accurate account of the said process while being honest, funny and true.

             Executed in the form of a guide set at different levels,  Cooke teaches the ABC’s of how to make it from Level 1 (Getting Started) to Level 5 (How to Become a Drug Lord)  In the process, the audience is taken through domestic and international distribution of narcotics from street corner seller to private distributor to Drug Lord.  Cooke enlists the aid of many past dealers and distributors as well as cops and narcotic agents.  Why would past offenders tell their stories?  The reason is that all of them are now converted and working to help those dealing with drug abuse.  A few of them, such as the Hispanic Pepe, are just plain hilarious on camera, offering tips on how to make money selling drugs.  The film starts off with marijuana and cocaine and later informs that the principles can be applied to any other drug.  Stars such as Woody Harrelson, Susan Sarandon have their say just as the film includes clips from SCARFACE and THE GODFATHER.

            It would be simple to dismiss the film as cheap entertainment because of its subject matter being drugs.  But upon careful consideration, Cooke has concocted a very well made documentary.  The subject is well researched, tested and tried, the interviewees are experts in the field on both sides, who must have been persuaded a great deal to participate in the movie and the film is surprisingly accurate from its math (a segment includes how much money can be made in just 3 months with a marijuana start-up kit) to what is happening out there in the streets.  The film is both educational and entertaining, hilarious and scary as it grows mostly serious toward the end.  But the film does lag a bit towards he second third due to the film delving a bit too much in depth with the accuracy that not everyone (unless you are in the industry) cares about.

            The setting is the U.S., so what transpires is not applicable to Canada or other countries.  The film emphasizes that guns are needed to protect the seller.  This might not be true in Canada and elsewhere where it is not the right of every individual to bear arms.  This right leading to violence and killings, according to Cooke, is what is driving the drug industry to uncontrollable violence and corruption.

            The best thing about the documentary is the overall good intention of the filmmaker.  He gives his two cents worth on how to stop the drug wars and violence and the film has the overall tone of a drug user quitting the habit and helping others.  I first saw this film a TIFF and seeing it a second time is just as much fun as it is instructional.

 

 

STORM SURFERS (Australia 2012) ***

Directed by Justin McMillan and Christopher Nelius

 

            The technology of 3D is most effective in films like STORM SURFERS and those on overcrowded attended concerts in which the audience would favour the same experience as being there without actually being there.

            STORM SURFERS is a character driven Aussie documentary about storm surfers and their quest to search and ride the biggest wave.  Never mind the fact that they have families or may lose their lives.  The thrill cannot be matched.  Fortunately, the film captures the high spirits of three characters and transfers them to the audience.

            The three are surfers and best friends Ross Clarke-Jones and two time surf champion Tom Carroll.  They enlist the aid of surf forecaster Ben Matson.  The trio chase giant storms and hence giant waves across the southern oceans.  The camera work is more than excellent as it seems that the lenses are on the surf board with the surfers.  Of course, the lenses are splashed with sea water, but the thrill of the rides is captured well enough.

            The technique of surf hunting through the computer is also explained quite effectively.  The three also speak to the camera as they explain their logic of their motivations.  Take it or leave it, the audience have to handed tit o them at least for being dedicated daredevils.  But one might want to hear what the families o these three has to say about the activities.

            What the film lacks in narrative material, it more than makes it up during the surf action segments when the waves are ridden.  Whether one likes this sport or not, one cannot dispute that this is one of the most exciting documentaries this year.

 

 

 

WHITE HOUSE DOWN (USA 2013) **

Directed by Roland Emmerich

 

            The second foray into an attack on the White House after the Gerard Butler vehicle (OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN) boasts James Vanderbilt, the writer of THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN teamed up with Emmerich, the director of INDEPNDENCE DAY.  The film promises lots of pyrotechnics and action sequences.  But apart from those, there is little else the film has to offer.  The film, of course opens on Independence in the Stats.

            The tired plot is a rehash of other films.  As already mentioned, this is already the second film on the same theme of the White House under attack.  The hero being a single father with a daughter (WAR OF THE WORLDS), a President that is black (DEEP IMPACT, THE FIFTH ELEMENT), an unexpected hero (the tour guide) varying villains, a twist with an emerging new villain at the end – are nothing new at all.  There is one scene with a gun pointed at the little girl’s head, which might upset the censors.  Even the nice little touches like Cale entering the burning White House to see a painting of the same (the old British attacking) could be easily thought off.  But upon second thoughts, no one in the audience would believe the girl will be shot.

            Cale (Channing Tatum – yes, one gets to see his shirtless upper body at least 5 times) takes his daughter, Emily (Joey King) to tour the White House.  He leads her to believe that he is up for the job of the President’s secret Service.  When the White House comes under siege, Cale has to protect the President (Jamie Foxx) while losing Emily in the washroom – about the only novelty in the story.  In the process, two others get sworn in as President.

            One cannot complain about the stupendous crashes (the helicopter shut down and exploding on the ground; car crashes; burning rooms), but it stakes more than these to make a suspenseful action thriller.  Emmerich acts like a traffic cop orchestrating one sequence after another rather than functioning as a director.

          

UNFINISHED SONG (SONG FOR MARION) (UK 2012) ***

Directed by Paul Andrew Williams

 

            Known for his shocking domestically violent first feature LONDON TO BRIGHTON, director Williams goes mushy in his film dedicated to the family.  Arthur (Terence Stamp) is coping with the news of his wife, Marion’s (Vanessa Redgrave) terminal cancer.  He has to put up with her perpetual cheeriness, especially when she forces him to take her to her choir practice.  Arthur also has problems relating to his son (Christopher Eccleston) though his granddaughter is quite the peach.  It appears that the family problems are all too convenient and nothing that has not been seen in other films before.  Still Williams squeezes many funny moments from the choir group (called the OAPs – old age pensioners, the common term for seniors in Britain) and the songs chosen deliberately go against type.  Redgrave and Stamp do marvels with the limited script delivering performances demonstrating them as masters of their craft.  The point that the choir is in competition also enables Williams to make his tearjerker a feel good movie.

 

 

 

Best Bets of the Week:

 

Best Film Opening: HOW TO MAKE MONEY SELLING DRUGS

Best Film Playing: THIS IS THE END

Best Action: PAIN AND GAIN

Best Family: MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

Best Documentary: HOW TO MAKE MONEY SELLING DRUGS

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