This Week's Film Reviews (Oct 11, 2013)

11 Oct 2013

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS  is the big film opening this week.   Other openings include the Canadian comedy THE RIGHT KIND OF WRONG and the comedy action MACHETE KILLS.


TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto begins a series of film by Claire Denis beginning with her latest film LES SALAUDS (BASTARDS)



BASTARDS (LES SALAUDS) (France 2013) ****

Directed by Claire Denis


French auteur Clair Denis has been known for her shocking and intense films.  A story of revenge would therefore be the ideal vehicle for her.  BASTARDS deals with a merchant seaman’s return to Paris to avenge the wrongdoing on his family.

Marco (a very intense Vincent Lindon) rents an apartment and has an affair with a sleazy financer’s mistress (Chiara Mastroianni).  The financer has bankrupted his sister and caused the husband to commit suicide.  The daughter is used by the financer as a call-girl.  Denis utilizes all he sleaze to the full with lots of graphic nudity including bold shots of the vagina.

Denis also loves to film during the night and cinematographer Agnes Godard has created some  stunning night shots.

Linden is just excellent as the tormented soul.  Denis has also assembled quite the list of new young actors including her regular Gregoire Colin and Lola Creton from LE PERE DES MES ENFANTS and UNAMOUR DE JEUNEUSE.

But the film has a few loose ends that are unexplained.  How did Marco know where to find his daughter-in-law and how did the financer find out that Marco was sleeping with his wife?  It also takes a while to figure who is who in eth film as it is difficult at times to distinguish among the characters during the night shoot.

Still, this is one of Denis better films – a mix between fiction and reality. And very dark!



In-person director intro and Q&A —
Friday, October 18 at 6:30pm 


Directed by Paul Greengrass


CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is the story of a hijacking by Somali pirates and the aftermath.  But this is not the first film about Somali pirates to hit the screen recently.  Last year saw the documentary STOLEN SEAS and a few months back the Norwegian thriller A HIJACKING.  All 3 films  are different in their own  good way, highlighting different viewpoints.  CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, which the film makes clear right at the beginning that it is based on a true story is the most Hollywood action type of the three, but that does not mean that the film does not get certain messages through at the same time.

Based on the book ‘A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea’, by Richard Phillips himself with Stephan Talty, the story is seen from the point of view of the Captain, obviously a very organized man, as established by director Greengrass at the start of the film when he has conversation with his wife (Catherine Keener) about his family.  The same can be observed as he boards his ship, seen as endless mechanical compartments and takes control.

Running at over 2 hours, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS achieves capturing the audience’s attention for the most part, though one could complain that the end result is predictable, never mind that it be true.  But the first half of the film is more exciting than the second half especially with the segments involving the ship trying to outrun the pirates.  The boarding  of the pirates on the ship is also nail-biting exciting, which is no match for the rescue of the ship by the Navy SEALs during the second half.  Understandably, Greengrass resorts to drama, particularly the conflict between captain Phillips and his Somalia counterpart, Muse (Barkhad Abdi) and he emotional toil on each.

But credit should also be accredited to the master camera work (often handheld) by precious Ken Loach collaborator Barry Ackroyd for his exciting images, camera angles and shots and viewpoints.

Two time Oscar winner Tom Hanks  has the title role of the able Commanding Officer of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship.  Though the script by Billy Ray displays Captain Phillips as a courageous and selfless  leader, the audience is at least spared from a gun tooting type Hollywood hero.  His heroics are quiet, calculated and smart.  The only complaints that there is just too much Tom Hanks, especially the moaning and the crying, in the final reel, in the segment where he is medically examined by a medic.  The actress playing the medic must be complemented as she embodies so perfect the stereotype of a police or medical officer that  it is hard to stifle sniggle.

Ultimately, it takes a Hollywood blockbuster like CAPTAIN PHILLIPS to bring audiences awareness to the global economic problem resulting in Somalian piracy.  STOEL SEAS, the best source for the look at the problem and A HIJACKING hardly brought in the numbers needed.  His film should do the trick while providing exciting entertainment at the same time.

Trailer:  http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi2534778393/


Directed by Kathy Brew and Roberto Guerra


“If you can’t find it, design it!”  That is the motto of the 50-over year working husband and wife relationship of the Italian Vignellis whose renowned work ranges from ‘the spoon to the city’.

Just as one would think twice about watching entire documentary on one designer couple, directors Kathy Brew and Roberto Guerra bring out the best there is to learn about design and the Vignellis.  From their humble beginnings as immigrants to the U.S. to their establishment of their own Institute of Design, one cannot must admire their work and gifted design talent.

There is much to learn in this documentary as well.  The most interesting is for example the fact that there are only two fonts – the serif and he sans serif.  The one this review is using is Times new Roman which is a type of serif, which means ‘it has feet’.  Other examples include the fascinating example of one of the ahead-of-its-time design of a cup with a place to place the thumb.

But it is also marvelously entertaining to hear both husband and wife speak as they are funny, entertaining and also intelligent.

Also on display are hundreds of their designs over the years.  These are not only inspirational but pleasure for the eyes to behold.  What more can one want in a documentary on design?







Directed by Robert Rodriguez


MACHETE KILLS that began as a fake trailer directed by Rodriguez in Quentin Tarantino’s THE GRINDHOUSE gets its full feature version as n almost perfect B action flick.  Prior to the feature, Rodriguez does another fake trailer entitled MACHETTE KLLS AGAIN... IN SPACE.  Or is this jot another fake trailer?

MACHETE KILLS has all the elements of a B-movie – the bright red/blue fading colour titles; the loud screaming music soundtrack; the scratched images on screen etc.  The story is typically the type found in the 60’s and 70’s spy rip-off films – with Machete (Danny Trejo) as the James Bond type spy complete with villain (Mel Gibson) with his plan to take over the world with a bomb ticking to go off.

The plot of MACHETE KILLS begins with Machete teaming up with the U.S.  President (Charlie Sheen) in a bid to capture Voz (Gibson) who has a plan to lie in outer space while destroying the world.  Machete works with gorgeous Michelle Rodriguez ho has a climatic catfight with bad girl Amber Heard.  All this is good clean fun except there are lots of blood, severed heads and chopped limbs.

Rodriguez has assembled an impressive list of cameos that includes Lady Gaga (playing herself basically), Antonio Banderas not to mention of course, Gibson and Estevez.

Guilty entertainment, which will be followed by maybe the sequel MACHETE KILLS …IN SPACE?




THE RIGHT KIND OF WRONG (Canada 2013) **

Directed by Jeremiah Chechik


THE RIGHT KIND OF WRONG is the type of romantic fantasy in which the man will always get the girl no matter how impossible the situation may be.  The target audience would then be surprisingly male, as was noticed when flyers were offered for a free screening of this film early this year.  You had to be male and of a certain category before you got the free invite.

The story is of a Leo Palomino’s (Ryan Kwanten) quest to win the heart of the bride, Collette (Sara Canning) he happens upon at her church wedding.  This is the wrong type of script – credibility-wise.  Just because Collette can kick a football makes him go crazy in pursuit after her.  Never mind the big punch she gives him in the face when he crashes the wedding.

Everyone in the town knows the loser – as his ex-wife has written an amazing blog that eventually becomes a bestseller entitled ‘why you suck’ about all the things the loser does wrong.  The script tries to play with the phrase ‘right kind of wrong’ many times.  But the script fails to convince the audience that Leo is any bit of a writer.

Chechik’s film contains a few laugh out loud laughs but it is too smart for its own good – like a wrong type of right.  Comedienne Catherine O’Hara as Collette’s mother, two cutie cats and a ghost bear are unable to help much.  The characters are too smug to be likeable and the situations seen previously in countless romantic comedies.  The result is a still a very tired old spin on the romantic comedy genre that has already flooded the cinema this year.




Best Bets of the Week:

Best Film Opening: Captain Phillips

Best Film Playing: Blue Jasmine

Best Comedy: This is The End

Best Foreign: Les Salauds (Bastards)

Best Animation: Turbo

Best Action: Kick-Ass 2 and RED 2

Best Documentary: Red Obsession


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