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This Week's Film Reviews (Aug 3, 2017)

04 Aug 2017

Quite a number of variety of films opening this week.  Many to choose from including the recommended DETROIT by Kathryn Bigelow.

 

Best Bets of the Week:

Best Film Opening: DETROIT

Best Action: VALERIAN and THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

Best Horror: ALIEN: COVENANT

Best Family: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Best Foreign: GRADUATON

Best Documentary: AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL

 

Best Comedy: BABY DRIVER

 To find a review for a past film, type the title of the film in the SEARCH box on the front page of site.

 

FILM REVIEWS:

BRIGSBY BEAR (USA 2017) ***
Directed by Dave McCary

Who is BRIGSBY BEAR?  The name indicated a TV cartoon show for kids.  That is exactly what Brigsby Bear is, but why has no one heard of this bear?  The answer is that Brigsby Bear is a children’s show character totally concocted and made by kidnapper parents to keep the child occupied.

When the film opens, we seen the now adult still kidnapped James Pope (Kyle Mooney)  watching an episode of Brigsby Bear on television through VCR cassette tapes.  James is shown having dinner with his parents, Ted (STAR WARS’ Mark Hamill)  and April (Jane Adams) who practice odd rituals.  It is soon revealed that James Pope was kidnapped from a hospital as a baby and since childhood all the way to adulthood has known nothing about the world except Brigsby Bear, a children's show character fabricated by his kidnapper parents.  One day, James is rescued and brought out into the real world where he learns that Brigsby Bear is not a real children's show.  Confused and baffled by these turn of events, James sets out to make a Brigsby Bear movie to show the world what he has learned.

The main flaw of the film is the film’s credibility.  The credibility factor is sacrificed for the film’s charm.  Director McCary goes all out to show that there is no badness in every character of his story.  The kidnappers are revealed to be good hearted people whose only sin is wanting to love their own child.  They even admit to knowing their abduction of James being wrong, yet they are desperate to love.  For all the trouble that James creates in the environment around him, everyone is forgiving from his family (his sister initially shown as an independent no-nonsense sibling; his doting parents) to all his new friends.  Everyone also aids James to make his Brigsby film.  The title of his finished film, comically called “BRIGSBY BEAR, the film my friend help me make”  tells the whole story.

It is difficult to figure out the intentions of BRIGSBY BEAR.  Perhaps the message is that there is goodness in everyone, even if you have kidnapped a baby and kept it for your own for a full twenty years.

The most enjoyable bits of the film are the BRIGSBY BEAR episodes.  The cartoon bear costume and his adventures saving the world from the evil Sunsnatcher are nothing short of hilarious - with lots of corniness thrown in for good measure.  The special effects are crayon drawn but colourful enough.

BRIGSBY BEAR proves that corny can be funny! The good intentioned film over emphasizes the point of how good intentions triumphs over evil.  The film ends up entertaining enough if one can stomach the over saccharine sweetness.

Small indie films like this one and previous successes like NAPOLEON DYNAMITE featuring geeky protagonists have a niche audience which somehow do reasonably well at the box-office.  The well-intentioned BRIGSBY BEAR should do likewise.
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFUvQi2TVOE

THE DARK TOWER (USA 2017) ***
Directed by Nikolaj Arcel

The film’s story from ‘imdb’ goes this way: The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O'Dim, also known as the Man in Black, determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.

The film has been reported to have gone through $6 million in reshoots and production troubles.  Though based on 8 volumes of a series by author Stephen king, the story sounds absolutely terrible.  But surprisingly the film is not all that bad.

The main difference is the introduction of Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), an 11-year-old adventure seeker who discovers clues about another dimension called Mid-World.  The story now become more credible, because the audience can identify with a human being or a boy at that.  No one believes him, least of all his mother and her new husband who have arranged for him to attend a psychological retreat.  His dreams on being chased by ‘skin’ people’ are realized when the skin people (recognized by him) show up at his home to take him to the retreat,  This results in an exciting chase on the rooftops.  Upon following the mystery, he is spirited away to Mid-World where he encounters a Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), who is on a quest to reach the "Dark Tower" that resides in End-World and reach the nexus point between time and space that he hopes will save all existence from extinction. But with various monsters and a vicious sorcerer named Walter o’Dim (Matthew McConaughey), the Man in Black hot on their trail, the unlikely duo find that their quest may be difficult to complete.

The film deserves to be commended for its continuity.  When Jake throws his shoe through the portal as a test, his shoe is shown after he enters it.  He is also shown in need for water and food after entering the new land.

McConaughey makes a creepy and evil enough villain without having to overdo it.  While Elba seems wooden in his role, it is sort of expected for a gunslinger not to emit any emotions.  Taylor as the kid is an excellent find (though his British accent is detectable in some parts), putting the much needed human feeling into the film.

The film is noticeable violent down to details like chards of glass pulled out from a hand and realities like the death of close ones.  The special effects are primarily used for the action sequences though the film’s most interesting parts are the parts on earth involving Jake in school and at home.

The film successfully combines several genres like horror, sci-fi, western and fantasy. 

The ultimate question is how well the film does at the box-office as THE DARK TOWER is expected to be one of many films to come.  At a production cost of $60 million, which is modest in comparison to futuristic films, THE DARK TOWER should at least make a decent profit.

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

AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER (USA 2017) ***
Directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk 

AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER is the sequel to the 2006 Academy Award Winner for Best Documentary AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH starring Al Gore where the former Vice-President of the United States championed the fight on global warming.  In that film, the effects of global warming were convincingly portrayed on screen, rallying uncountable numbers of followers to fight against global warming.  After more than 10 years, many of that film’s predictions (the best example used being the flooding of the World Trade Centre grounds), laughed upon by skeptics have come to pass.  This sequel is timely and premiered at Sundance early this year.

The film follows the efforts made to tackle climate change and Al Gore's attempts to persuade governmental leaders to invest in renewable energy, culminating in the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016.

The film begins lightly with references to the 2006 film and with Al Gore in lighter mode  shown joking and laughing.  His joke about a lady (not recognizing him) telling him that if dyed his hair black, he would look like Al Gore is funny enough, enabling the film to transition slowly to a more serious nature.  Gore is also shown, in the film’s best moments giving his climate speeches, while getting fully worked up in the process.

Gore is undoubtedly presented in the film as the conquering hero, besides a champion for the climate change movement.  Well, better a hero for a crucial course that no hero at all.

While the film traces Gore’s attendance at the Paris talks in 2016, it narrows the events to his victory at convincing India to cooperate.  At the same time, the film shows how each country contributes to the reduction of global warming and where the problems lie.  The film’s high is the revelation of how much Chile has done in the construction of solar powered plants.  Another high is how Geogetown, Texas through its comical mayor has also championed itself towards 100% renewal energy.  He emphasizes the saying that we should leave the world a better place in terms of renewal energy.

The ultimate question asked is whether AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL is better than the original INCONVENIENT TRUTH.  The truth is that it is difficult for anyone who has seen the 2006 film to remember, especially after 11 years have passed.  A fellow critic colleague mentioned that SEQUEL is the better film, being more focused, also claiming that he has just re-watched the original for comparison.  For myself, I remember being more moved by the first film, and understandably so, for the more disturbing images of the effects of global warming shown.  In SEQUEL, though many images are still shown, most of these are the catastrophes like the flooding and drought scenes, but the melting ice and the depletion of ice created the greater impact.

Still in SEQUEL, directors Cohen and Shenk have re-edited the film following President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, to expand Trump’s role as antagonist before the film hits theatres.  All the better to incite the workers for climate change to have a common enemy, and an easy target at that.

The film ends, predictably though necessarily, with how everyone can contribute to the cause, with the website they can log on to.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huX1bmfdkyA

LANDLINE (USA 2017) ***

Directed by Gillian Robespierre

Director Gillian Robespierre and actress Jenny Slate team up once again after their mildly successful film, OBVIOUS CHILD.  Their new film LANDLINE opens to a couple having sex in the woods.  There is no full nudity, just trousers and skirts down or up as the case may be.  It is a comical scene as the orgasm is interrupted by what she calls a woodchuck’s peter pater.  Most people can relate to this scene, as most people would have had sex in the outdoors at least once in their lifetime and the scene would be a familiar if not an amusing one.

LANDLINE is a female point of view relationship romantic comedy/drama involving three females of the Jacobs family - the mother Pat (Edie Falco), and the two daughters, Dana (Jenny Slate) and the younger, Ali (Abby Quinn).  The main plot involves the sisters finding out, by accident that their father, Alan (John Turturro) is having an affair.  They decide to find out who his mistress is but they debate on whether they should inform their mother. 

A simple premise of a father’s secret infidelity in a slightly dysfunctional household is not enough material to keep an audience interested throughout an entire movie.  So, the scriptwriters (the majority of whom are female, as is obvious from the film) have inserted other subplots or distractions.  Two are the relationships of the two daughters.  Another is the use of drugs, heroin by the youngest daughter.  And another involves the film’s setting in the 1990’s.  The setting means no use of cell phones as they were not invented yet, hence the film title of LANDLINE.  Robespierre also has the excuse to put in plenty of 90’s period music which include lots of really popular songs like “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood and My favourite song “Two of Hearts” by Stacey Q. 

The film tries too hard at times making it look too smart for its own good.  Many of these involve Dana and her boyfriend, Ben (Jay Duplass).  The bath tub scene looks too manipulative and false, only there to create an artificial ‘cool’ segment.  Their corny dialogue in the scene does not help either.  Working better is the relationship between the younger sister Ali and her drug using boyfriend.  Their banter and relationship appear more natural and comes across as not only more spontaneous but credible.

Of all the performances, Edie Falco (the mother) is the most winning.  John Turturro does well as the hapless asshole who cheats and then expects to be forgiven for his errors by his smart talk.  This confrontation between Alan and Pat forms the film’ s best part with the audience clearly on the side of the female’s.

Despite the film’s flaws, it succeeds on the performances of its cast.  The humour is slight but the drama is real.  The sibling interactions work. The feeling is that the dysfunctional family onscreen could be yours.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llmki0lioMs

THE TRIP TO SPAIN (UK 2017) ***
Directed by Michael Winterbottom

More of the same.  The third entry of the food critics trips after THE TRIP TO ITALY and THE TRIP (that one set in the U.K.) provides fans of the trilogy what is expected from director Michael Winterbottom and actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.  Besides delicious mouth-watering gourmet delights with landscapes and stunning scenery on display, audiences will be treated with the usual comedic banter between the two actors complete with their impressions that they are famous for.  Winterbottom (his best works being JUDE and COCK AND BULL STORY) takes it easy for the light comedy.  Coogan looks much fitter and slimmer than his first THE TRIP film, his working out and jogging clearly noticeable.

Coogan and Brydon play themselves in the three TRIP movies.

One difference is that the two travel by luxury ferry to Spain.  Steve gets sea-sick on the trip while Rob always ends up doing better.

As food food on display in this film, there is much less emphasis on food compared to the other two films.  As for impressions, their famous Michael Caine and James Bond impressions are again present for good cheer, to make sure fans are not disappointed.  There is a bonus of them doing Mick Jagger doing Bond impressions.

Something new in this trip is the first rendering of a song by Coogan with a bit of commentary from Brydon.  The Oscar Winning song “The Windmills of Your Mind” is crooned by Coogan followed by the trivia question asked of the original singer of the song.  (Answer is Noel Harrison, son of Rex Harrison).

After the culinary trip to Italy has ended, director Winterbottom turns on his serious tone, as he did in his other two films.  Rob returns to his family of wife and two children, playing around with them like a godfather does.  Steve on the other hand, discovers the girlfriend that he has suddenly fallen in love with, pregnant with baby from someone else.  The seriousness is totally out of sync with the rest of the film.  Steve landing stranded in the desert with an even odd development after is even weirder.  The film would have been better enign with the ending of their trip to Spain.

THE TRIP TO SPAIN is interesting enough to keep those who liked the first two films satisfied.  New converts would be difficult.

What next?  The most obvious is a TRIP TO FRANCE.  But fans may grow tired by then.  Too much more of the same.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTvy8ab1NSo

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