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This Week's Film Reviews (Jun 26, 2015)

25 Jun 2015

Two animal movies open this week.  Dog or Teddy bear?  Max is  family movie about a boy and his dog while TED 2 is an R-rated comedy.  Eden and The Overnight also open.

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Three new series open at TIFF Bell Lightbox.  TIFF Cinematheque presents - Summer in Italy, Dreaming in Technicolour and Vittorio De Sica.

FILM REVIEWS:

EDEN (France 2014) ****

Directed by Mia Hansen-Love

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Director of GOODBYE, FIRST LOVE and LE PERE DES MES ENFANTS, Hansen-Love tackles a more ambitious project – the rise of electronic dance music from the 80’s to the 00’s as seen through the eye of rising teenage DJ Paul (Felix de Givry). 

Paul and a friend form a DJ duo called Cheers. Hansen-Love ties in another group of two called Daft Punk, that moves into his circle of friends. Those in the scene know of the success of Daft Punk especially after they created such a hit in 2013 with their song/mix “Get Lucky”. Hansen-Love shoots all the glories and downs of the club scene from the girls, drugs and dance to the club’s high rents, change in music styles and romances. 

The film is lengthy at 130 minutes, and can be quite the chore to watch if one is not familiar or interested in the subject matter. Though Hansen-Love never goes into depth, just skimming the surface of the club scene, her camerawork does capture the spirit of the moment. It helps that she likely drew insight from her younger brother, DJ Therein who in real life had residency at the well-known Queen Club in Paris. 

Her traits from her previous films are also evident in EDEN. Romances picked up after a decade follow the one in GOODBYE, FIRST LOVE and the shot of Paul crossing the street is reminiscent of the poster of the actor doing the same in LE PERE DES MES ENFANTS.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2l1T9xs-o0o

THE LITTLE DEATH (Australia 2014) ***1/2

Directed by Josh Lawson

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Australian Josh Lawson’s debut feature uses dictionary definitions as a plot device. It begins with the translation of ‘le petit mort’ or the little death which is explained as a slang term for ‘orgasm’. What then unfolds is a cute, inventive little sex comedy with 4 couples exploring other sexual fetish (largely unfamiliar) definitions such as dacryphilia (sexual arousal through crying).

THE LITTLE DEATH works in a similar fashion to Woody Allen’s EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK, only with more heart. And with that surprise difference, it makes this a better film.

The first couple, Maeve (Bojana Novakovic) and Paul (Lawson himself) fare pretty well despite the fact that they are not married. But when Maeve confesses to Paul that she has a ‘rape’ fantasy, he tries to surprise her but with disastrous results. The second couple, Evie (Kate Mulvany) and Dane (Damon Herriman) embark on role playing to spice up their sex life. The weirdest couple is long-married Phil (Alan Dukes) and Maureen (Lisa McCune). Maureen nags half the time while Phil has a sexual kick while watching his wife sleeping. This results in him drugging her to sleep every night. The funniest couple gives a whole new definition to the term water sports. Rowena (Kate Box) discovers herself mightily aroused whenever her husband, Richard (Patrick Brammall) sheds a tear (dacryphilia). As a result, she goes all out of the way to keep Richard crying including forcing him to peel onions which is becoming more and more common during meals. All these segments are linked together by the character Steve, newly moved into the neighbourhood, who suddenly appears at the door of each couple offering baked ‘gollywogs’ while informing them that he is required by law to inform them that he is a convicted sex offender.

The stories are inventive and fresh enough. Though one might not work that well with a film like this one knows that one can expect something better around the corner. And director Lawson springs a major surprise with the wild card of the ending boy and girl (not technically a couple) meeting by chance. Monica (Erin James) works at a video service translating phone calls for the deaf-mute. She winds up on a call with Sam (T.J. Power), only to find that he wants her to mediate his conversation with a phone-sex operator (Genevieve Hegney). What transpires is a perfectly orchestrated verbal and visual set-up guaranteed to have the audience laughing out loud while feeling super good at the same time. If every one of the stories were this well executed, the film would garner 5 stars.

The stories begin with each couple being set up.  Then the stories of the first 4 couples are intercut among each other.  The only exception is the last story that is allowed to unroll in its entirety forming the film's climax.  This is a good decision on the director's part as the last story packs the biggest punch!

The film should be seen for the last segment alone. Still, the other stories are not half bad and should provide the laughs, though at times quite uncomfortably. THE LITTLE DEATH is a good little naughty film that should keep audiences titillated. Whatever happened to ordinary run of the mill sex? as one of the characters in the film complains. But there is nothing to complain here.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnnhesQ8Rxc

MAX (USA 2015) **

Directed by Boaz Yakin

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One would like to give credit to a good old-fashioned family film made in a good old fashioned way, in this case, a good dog trainer doing his stuff and made without special effects and CGI. MAX has a good story and possesses good family values in its message. Unfortunately, good intentions are not enough. The execution of the film leaves lots of plot holes and the film leans toward sentiment, perhaps like the classic dog movie LASSIE, COME HOME.

A military dog, named Max, from Afghanistan is adopted by his late handler's (Robbie Amell) grieving family in the U.S., where his close bond with the soldier's brother, Justin (Josh Wiggins) leads to a life-altering revelation in this family-friendly adventure. The story is expanded to include some weapons running involving some bad-ass Mexicans, though Justin’s best friend and romantic interest is also Mexican.

The dog vs. dog fights, racing and dog attack segments are well orchestrated and almost lift the film above its flaws.

Yakin’s film is considerable racist against the Mexicans. The Mexicans are deemed the bad guys, period. They all speak with the stereotyped accent and treated as second class citizens in the movie.

As for plot holes, the father’s (Thomas Haden Church) gun holster just happens to be left behind for the dog, Max to pick up the scent Max trails the father through a stream with heavy currents though it is clear that he never went through that path. The father also leaves a message to his family about going to a hunting lodge which triggers suspicion as the family does not own one. Why would the kidnappers allow the father to phone home?

But audiences might still favour seeing a boy and his dog surmount unbeatable odds. It would be interesting to se how this film (95% on Rotten Tomatoes say they want to see this film) fares at the box-office.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EPPMCwD5bw

THE OVERNIGHT (USA 2015) ***
Directed by Patrick Brice

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The Duplass Brothers and actor Adam Scott must have been impressed with Patrick Brice to have executively produce his film. Judging from the curriculum vitae of the producers (The Duplass Brothers’ HUMPDAY and Adam Scott’s naughty HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2), small budget sex comedies seem right up their alley.

The film begins with the main couple Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) having sex sans nudity. This follows with Alex taking their son to the playground where he meets another kid. They get invited to the kid’s parents (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godreche) neighbour welcoming dinner party. The children's playdate becomes a couple's playdate after the children are put to sleep.

THE OVERNIGHT falls into the category of ‘uncomfortable comedy’ (THE OUT-OF-TOWNERS, THE HANGOVER 2). These are comedies based on mishaps occurring one after another on the unfortunate lead characters. The main trap these comedies fall into are that the mishaps are often unfunny and it is uncomfortable for the audience to find humour in the misfortune of others. In THE OVERNIGHT, as the couples party deeper into the night, Alex and Emily face weirder and weirder situations (Kurt’s a**hole paintings, Charlotte’s bi-sexuality) which are not necessarily funny. The pot smoking and drinking forms the excuse that Alex and Emily do not leave the party.

Brice’s script stereotypes the French to be sexual liberators. Charlotte is French and Kurt has lived in France. 

Adam Scott plays Alex, who is the primary victim in the sex ensemble of 4. Scott has proven himself the able victim in HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 in the unforgettable scene where he gets it up the a**, and he proves he is again willing to go all the way in terms of a male kiss. Jason Schwartzman comes across as a good creepy too-friendly neighbour with something up his sleeve.

The film comes across as a male rather than a female comedy. The two wives appear manipulated by their husbands though they have the occasional say. The breast pump and massage segments may offend the female audience that might result in more males liking the film.  The script contains more male humour with items such as penis envy, homophobia, and male dominance in the sense that the husbands have the final say.

THE OVERNIGHT has the same feel (but not as funny) as the other couples claustrophobic film, CARNAGE, Roman Polanski’s adaptation of a French play “The God of Carnage”. Even the puke scene (Kate Winslet in CARNAGE to Scott’s in OVERNIGHT) seem a used plot device.

For a film with a naughty premise that stretches the limit throughout its running time, it ends on a fairly safe note with a plot twist. Plot twists are almost a requirement in American scripts these days.

THE OVERNIGHT arrives at the same time as another little sex comedy THE LITTLE DEATH (slang term for orgasm) from Australia. These two films should keep couples with naughty thoughts in their mind fully occupied. 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R54tN3njkpE

 

BEST BETS:

Drama: Testament of Youth

Action: Mad Max: Fury Road

Animation: inside Out

Foreign Language: A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

Comedy : Dope

Best documentary: Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Disbelief

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