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This Week's Film Reviews (Jan 22, 2016)

21 Jan 2016

 

Big films opening include the young adult book adaptation THE 5TH WAVE and the nasty but hilarious DIRTY GRANDPA.  

Also opening are 45 YEARS and ONE FLOOR BELOW (capsuled reviewed).

FILM REVIEWS:

45 YEARS (UK 2014) ***

Directed by Andrew Haigh

Like his previous film WEEKEND (about a gay couple’s relationship), 45 YEARS tests the relationship of Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtrnay) after a marriage of 45 years.  They have in plan, their 45th anniversary party.  But trouble brews in paradise.  A letter arrives at the couple’s rural home with news that the body of Geoff’s first girlfriend, Katya, has been found, encased in ice.  Questions and suspicions arise.  Is Geoff still in love with Katya?  Are there any other secrets?  Why is Geoff unable to ‘perform' after the news?  The film ends beautifully with Geoff’s speech at the Anniversary party.  Haigh’s film is full of sensitivity and quiet power.  It moves at a slow pace with the audience having to read between the incidents and performances of the actors.  A different look at very long term relationships, a sort of British variation of Michael Haneke’s AMORE.

BOY AND THE WORLD (O Menino e o Mundo) (Brazil 2013) ***1/2

Directed by Alê Abreu

As in last year’s SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE, BOY AND THE WORLD is a wordless animated feature though gibberish Portuguese can be heard occasionally in the film’s soundtrack.  Thus, this Brazilian import, has a more universal appeal, as it can be understood by people in countries speaking different languages.

The story is also a universal one.  Being wordless, one must concentrate a bit more to put together the film’s narrative.  The story concerns the boy of the film’s title, one who journeys to the big city, to see what is both fascinating and frightening.  All this is captured by the film’s colourful visuals.

The film begins with the boy (animated as a stick figure with huge round Charlie Brown head with black slit eyes and no mouth) looking at a coloured rock.  The patterns turn out to be inside other patterns as the camera weaves in and put different colours and patterns.  All this is very mesmerizing and captivating.  The boy then jumps onto a cloud and after jumps into the waters of a stream and runs into the woods.

The story involves the boy leaving for the city (that looks like Rio de Janeiro) in search of his father.  He has various adventures including getting a dog, meeting mechanized workers (looking like THE WALL) and facing police oppression.  The film also has abstract moments like the symbolic fight between good and evil as seen by the fight between a black bird and colourful phoenix.

The film contains beautiful moments such as the one emphasizing the importance of family, in which the boy eats bread with a melon dip with his mother and father.  But the film has an overall bleak look as director Abreu lays his views on world pollution of lumber and oil, as well as the slow destruction of natural resources.

The visuals are amazing - simple and colourful being the two words best used to describe it - just like the kaleidoscope toy the boy looks and plays with.  The segment of the tankers carrying colourful containers, all rectangular in shape filling the screen makes one of the more memorable moments.  But just as amazing as the visuals is the film’s soundtrack that is made up of instruments like the flute, and Brazilian music like the samba and hip-hop.

The film has the feel of METROPOLIS and is at times, just as intense.  To Abreu’s credit, the film is without dialogue and thus has to be more cinematic.  Though the film is animated and about a boy, children might find the film difficult to understand.  But the film has a total Brazilian feel about it - from the characters to the background.

BOY AND THE WORLD is welcome, very original adult animation so different from what other studios like Disney, Ghibli and Aardman provide.  The film is unique and has won over 40 film festival awards so far.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqdrwu0NvY8

 

DIRTY GRANDPA (USA 2015) ***1/2

Directed by Dan Mazer

A party scene has one character saying: “Party till you are pregnant!”  Another has a prosthetic penis (an erect one at that) in the face of Zac Efron in bed after the De Niro character admits that ‘naked’ is the best way of sleeping.

If the above offends, stay away from DIRTY GRANDPA - the movie.  The film is meant to offend.  If the above do not do it, De Niro gets to use the ’N’ word later on in the movie.  It is what is expected from the British co-writer Dam Mazer, who penned the BORAT and ALI G. characters with Sacha Baron Cohen.  But DIRTY GRANDPA is extremely funny, if not a bit inconsistent in its laughs. But if a few jokes fail, one knows there are more successful ones to offend just around the corner.

But the film has a poor start with the funeral services of Dick Kelly’s (De Niro) wife of 15 years.  Cousin Nick’s (Adam Pally) drunken shenanigans (speeches and small talk) are unfunny and a waste of time.  His later appearance does more of the same and director Mazer would have done better to edit this character out of the film.  Then there is the appearance of Dick’s grandson, Jason (Efron) and his annoying fiancé, Meredith (Julianne Hough).  The Meredith character and her scenes are also unfunny at all, though her character is key to the film’s plot.  John Phillip’s script could have given her a few funny moments.

The film’s simple plot allows for lots of hilarious distractions.  Dick fools his grandson Jason to drive him to Florida for spring break for the sole reason that Dick and his late wife go there every year.  But Dick has another agenda up his sleeve.  He finally confesses to Jason once there in the film’s funniest line: “I have been faithful for 15 years, and all I want to do now is fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!”   The two get a chance when they meet two hot chicks Shadia (Zoey Deutch) and Lenore (Aubrey Plaza) on the road.

The film’s funniest parts are nothing less than inspired.  At a beach party, there is a ‘Flex Off”, a take off from a ‘Dance-Off’ where Dick and Jason hilariously take on a couple of hunks in the contest.  Another exceptionally funny segment is when Jason gets drunk and naked, smokes crack and takes off stoned on a motorbike to a beach where he is mistaken for a child pervert.

Oscar winner De Niro has proven his comedic skills in films like MEET THE PARENTS and THE FAMILY, while Efron has proven himself  just as proficient in last year’s NEIGHBOURS.  Together, they form a dynamic duo in comedy.

The film’s climax does not involve anything as dramatic as the heroes saving the world but involves the heroes accomplishing an equally daunting task.  Dick gets to fuck after 15 years in another very funny segment.  If you are prepared not to be offended, DIRTY GRANDPA proves enough filth for the funny bone for the entire 2016.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZSzMIFZT7Q

THE 5TH WAVE (USA 2016) **

Directed by J. Blakeson

THE 5TH WAVE is based on the young adult novel of the same name by Rick Yancey, the first of a trilogy published in 2013.  The book has been favourably compared to THE HUNGER GAMES and critics have hoped that the book and film should do for aliens what TWILIGHT did for vampires.  Sony Pictures has picked up the film rights - surprising that Lionsgate missed the boat.

The waves refer to the increasingly deadly alien attacks that have left most of Earth devastated.   The aliens are called ‘the others’.  The 1st wave is the electromagnetic wave that destroys all of earth’s power,  The second is quakes and the third is a virus carried by birds that have wiped out most of humanity.  The 4th involve aliens inhabiting humans and the 5th of the film title refer to the others’ final attack on humanity.   All these sound quite interesting and so is the film until about a third through the film.

As the film begins, director Blakeson’s images and attention to details captivate.  Detailed images of for example of litter on the ground, a cat, a family glaring up at the sky all raise expectations of a good solid sci-fi thriller.  The special effects (though CGI generated) of tsunamis and the destruction of major cities like London are all impressive.

But when the 3rd wave arrives - the virus that destroys most of the earth’s population, the film begins to fall to bits, as if affected by the same virus.  The film gets progressively sillier with twists that do not make sense at all.  There are two main twists, that will not be revealed in the review, safe to say they should make solid logical sense.  They do not!

The protagonist of the story is a heroine (like in TWILIGHT and THE HUNGER GAMES), a young Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz from KICK-ASS) who first loses her mother (Maggie Siff), followed by her dad (Ron Livingston).  Her first priority in the story is thus to look after her younger brother, Sammy (Zachary Arthur) who turns out to be extremely spoilt and annoying.  Sammy must keep his ugly teddy bear and has no sense to tell the bus driver to stop when his sister is chasing after the bus.  (Or maybe it is the scriptwriter who has no sense.)  The search leads her to meet the best looking hunk seen in a young adult film this year.  Evan Walker (Alan Roe) aids her in searching for Sammy.  This takes them to the facility led by Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber).  The film’s most outrageous scene has Cassie catching the hunk swimming naked in the stream.  Obviously, she falls for him.  She distrusts him at first but then who can resist those dreamboat eyes?

But the film gets sillier and sillier.  One scene has Evan suddenly appearing in the alien facility.  “I have planted bombs!” he tells Cassie.  Another has Cassie looking at the sky in broad daylight seeing stars.  Yet amidst all the mayhem, Cassie manages to write her diary, which Evan reads.  Fortunately there is no scene in the film showing Cassie writing a journal entry, and that would be even more laughable.

The 5TH WAVE works well at the start, gets terribly boring and then unintentionally hilarious.  To that effect the film is not without its entertainment value.  To the filmmakers’ credit the production costs came below $40 million, which is a bargain for a sci-fi special effects film.  The fact that unknown actors (except for Moretz) were hired helps.  It would be interesting to see if Sony Pictures continues with the film adaptation of the other two novels.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmxLybfGNC4

FLORENCE AND THE UFFIZI GALLERY 3D/4K (Italy 2015) ***1/2
Directed by Luca Viotto

One of the world’s greatest attractions in Florence, Italy is the Uffizi Gallery and the central dome.  It is Renaissance art at its finest.  Cineplex’s Third Season of ‘In The Gallery’– A Spectacular Cinematic Tour of Exhibits From Around The World features this attraction.

The documentary both explores and discovers the city of Florence, artistic home to legendary figures like Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Raphael, Leonardo and Botticelli with a detailed, central chapter dedicated to the very treasure house containing their masterpieces: the Uffizi Gallery.  The ‘secret story’ of each of the timeless works of art in the gallery is disclosed in all its beauty, including the breathtaking “Adoration of the Magi” by Leonardo Da Vinci, which will be brought back to life in 2016, after several years of restoration, and here unveiled in worldwide exclusive premiere on the big screen.  Also, a fascinating, Gothic-flavoured interlude will display much darker, more monstrous and frightening paintings, such as those by Caravaggio.

Several other selected paintings are also displayed on the screen with great 3D detail and with voiceover interpretation.  Who could ask for anything more?  The audience is given full access to proximity of greatness without having to fight with the crowds for a viewing.  

Among my favourites shown in the film is the painting: The Birth of Venus (Italian: Nascita di Venere [ˈnaʃʃita di ˈvɛːnere]) by Sandro Botticelli (mid 1480’s).   Voiceover informs the history that Botticelli was commissioned to paint the work by the Medici family of Florence, specifically Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici under the influence of his cousin Lorenzo de' Medici, close patron to Botticelli.   The painting depicts the goddess Venus, having emerged from the sea as an adult woman, arriving at the shore on a shell.  Zepher blows accompanied by Chloris.

A fair portion of the film features actor Simon Merrells portraying Lorenzo Il Magnifico talking abut his art as if his character is alive.  This is not really credible nor does anything above a normal voiceover.  Moreover, Merrells is not a particularly good actor either.   These segments be best edited out of the film.

The Gallery attracts about 2 million visitors annually.  This is the chance for filmgoers to experience a unique experience without having to travel to Florence or weave through the crowded halls in a gallery not originally designed to be a visitor’s museum.  The film, a multidimensional and multi-sensory journey in the Florentine Renaissance through its most representative beauties, where the latest-generation 3D and 4K technology and the most advanced techniques of modelling and dimensionalization are put at the service of the national artistic heritage to valorise it and to export it all over the world is a definite must-see!  The film took the Italian box-office by storm scoring first place in its first two days of initial release.

This is a special presentation with limited screenings.  Showtimes are: 3D presentation on Jan 21 and the 2D presentation on Feb 21.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JIPiOaL4qM

ONE FLOOR BELOW (Un Etaj Mai Jos) (Romania/France/Germany/Sweden 2015) ***1/2

Directed by Radu Muntean

Low budget, neo-realistic Romanian films have impressed Cannes and TIFF audiences lately and ONE FLOOR BELOW is no exception.  The story here centres on 50ish Patrascu, living in building when one day he witnesses a domestic quarrel ONE FLOOR BELOW that ends up in murder.  But the film follows the man about his work (he helps people registers cars) and family routine before his dealing with the murder.  Patarscu tells the police nothing.  The murderer pretends to need Patrascu’s services in order to confront him on the reason he has kept quiet regarding the murder.  Expect no closed ending from director Muntean, but he takes his audience on a good ride showing the lives, attitudes and behaviour of Romanians in Bucharest, where the film was shot.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/125085803

BEST BETS:

Best Film Opening: MUSTANG

Best Film Playing: THE HATEFUL EIGHT

Best Action: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

Best Animation: THE GOOD DINOSAUR

Best Foreign Language Film: SON OF SAUL

Best comedy: SISTERS

Best Drama: CAROL

Best Comedy/Drama: JOY

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