- Category: Movie Reviews
- Written by Gilbert Seah
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY opens this week and will be the new box-office champion. The INSIDE OUT 2018 LGBT Film Festival also begins. Check out that article for more information.
BEST FILMS PLAYING:
ISLE OF DOGS
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY
C’EST LA VIE (LE SENS de la FETE)
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
BIRTHMARKED (Canada/Ireland 2017) **
Directed by Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais
BIRTHMARKED is a Canadian/Irish comedy with a good premise but unfortunately falls flat due its script and lack of direction.
The film begins in 1977. Two respected scientists, Ben Morin (Matthew Goode) and his wife Catherine (Toni Collette) quit their jobs at the university to conduct an experiment they think will revolutionize our understanding of human identity, after they are inspired by a speech on scientists making a difference in human beings. The project aims to raise three children contrarily to their genetic predispositions to prove the ultimate power of nurture over nature. They want to prove that everyone has the same potential to become anything. Maya, a newborn girl adopted from two feebleminded parents, is raised to be smart, while Maurice, a newborn boy adopted from two anger-prone parents, is raised to be a pacifist. Finally, their own biological son Luke, who comes from a long lineage of scientific brains, is raised to become a revered artist. The film’s message is the importance of family above all. The experiment will reveal little scientific truth, leading Ben and Catherine to discover the true value of family.
BIRTHMARKED’s script by Marc Tulin is the sloppiest script this year for a variety of reasons, a few of the more noticeable ones mentioned below.
The film begins in a 1978 setting. For one, the script never ever mentions where it is set. Being an Irish/Canadian co-production, one can imagine the reason the filmmakers the setting ambiguous, so that the film will be marketable in the U.S., Canada and Ireland. Director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais takes great pains with the music, wardrobe and props (vehicles) in the creation of the ’77-’78 setting, but the script completely blows it with one character using the phrase “most importantly”, a term that was never used till after 2010. Nothing is mentioned of the other two adopted kids’ parents - who they are or why they would allow their children to be a part of human experiments. The ethics of the experiment is never discussed. The ending is also unsatisfactory with no closure. Characters like Dr. Julie Bouchard (Suzanne Clement) and Mrs. Tridek (Fionnula Flanagan) appear out of nowhere. One is played by a French Canadian and the other an Irish, to be fair. For a film about there children, one would expect the children to be super cute with each one memorable for their own peculiarities and perhaps even stealing the movie from the more experienced actors. No such luck as the children’s roles are underwritten.
One wonders the reason British actor Matthew Goode (hardly recognizable) has ditched his good looks, hiding under a beard and spectacles for the role of the scientist, after all he kept his good looks as a mathematician/scientist in THE IMITATION GAME. Director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais gives himself a cameo as a fellow scientist. Toni Collette assumes another quirky role after the recent MADAME.
The main subject on nature vs. nurture is is never debated or concluded resulting in the film’s good intentions being insufficient to save it.
KAYAK TO KLEMTU (Canada 2017) **
Directed by Zoe Hopkins
What begins like a documentary eventually turns into a story settling on a teenage girl’s mission. The words displayed during the opening credits inform the audience of an upcoming native hearing on a judgement of oil tankers passing through their lands that may cause damage to native resources. The 14-year old Ella, a native, (Ta’Kaiya Blaney), is asked by her Uncle Dave (Evan Admas) before his death to testify at this hearing to be held in the community of Klemtu.
The title, KAYAK TO KELMTU refers to the trip by kayak undertaken by Ella. Ella decides to grant her Uncle Dave’s dying wishes - which includes scattering his ashs along the way. The trip allows Ella (and the audience, obviously) to discover the land and then deliver her testimony at the end of the trip at Klemtu.
This is a film that delivers a strong message for the indigenous people. Their lands have been stolen and violated. It is time to stop - beginning at halting the oil tankers from travelling through their inland waters. One oil spill and the damage will be irreversible. Klemtu, is a tiny community in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, where Ella’s family used to live. Ella is thrown for a loop when she’s joined by her wacky aunt (Sonja Bennett), wayward cousin (Jared Ager-Foster) and cranky uncle (Lorne Cardinal). As they make their way up the Inside Passage to Klemtu, not only is the trip a challenge, so too are the family dynamics.
Despite the filmmakers’ good intentions, the film aimed at a family audience turns out too crowd pleasing, manipulative (like the the bear hunting encounter) and at times unbelievable. The script also (too obvious) contains some Hollywood-style powerful crowd arousing dialogue. Ella’s mother says: “That pipeline does not stand a chance, ” as Ella partakes of the trip to the hearing.
One of the most impressive aspects of the film are the stunning scenery of the British Columbia natural landscapes. The camera lingers from the rocks on the shores of the rives to the forests to the mountains and even the pretty little flowers and vegetation, all part of the greater nature of things.
Young actress Ta’Kaiya Blaney who in real life is an environmental activist delivers a winning performance. The only trouble is that she always looks too perfect with perfect make-up and tidy hair even after spending 4 consecutive days and nights in a storm. At Klemtu, the audience suddenly sees her and her aunt wearing bright new parkas.
Despite the film’s faults, credit must be given to Hopkins and crew for trying. The film sends an important message to save native natural resources. But the more important message is that everyone, whether directly affected or not, should do his/her own to save Mother Earth. The film, a crowd pleaser, won the audience award at the 2017 imagineNATIVE and Powell River festivals, and took Best Canadian First Feature at Victoria 2018.
ON CHESIL BEACH (UK 2017) ***
Directed by Dominic Cooke
It was back in the days when a married couple had sex for the very first time on their wedding night. As such, sex on the wedding night for the first time is an extremely stressful experience which many a couple try without much knowledge of the sexual act.
This is not a common topic, so ON CHESIL BEACH based on the novel by British writer Ian McEwan that was selected for the 2007 Booker Prize shortlist makes a welcome premise for a film. The Boulting Brothers’ THE FAMILY WAY with Hayley Mills and Hywel Bennett and Alan J. Pakula’s THE STERILE CUCKOO with Liza Minelli and Wendell Burton are two notable films that feature newlyweds with consummation problems. McEwan adapted disown screenplay for the film directed by theatre veteran Dominic Cooke.
ON CHESIL BEACH opens with the wedding night of a couple, Florence Ponting (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward Mayhew (Billy Boyle) in the summer of 1962. The audience learns Florence is a music undergraduate while Edward a History undergraduate at the same University. They fall in love. Through flashbacks, the backgrounds of the groom and bride are revealed, the former of a higher class while the latter has been described by Florence’s mother (Emily Watson) as a country bumpkin. Still the two are very much in love.
But they fail to consummate on their wedding night. They both eventually confess that it is their first times. Director Cooke plays the scene with dead seriousness while the scene is interrupted by flashbacks. When the drama finally settles back on the couple, Edward pre-ejaculates on Florence due to his excitement which her. Disgusted, Florence flees to the beach where a major confrontation occurs. They depart after Florence suggests that they could lead a life without sex, which she prefers likening the relationship to two homosexual men she knows of in Manchester. She claims that he could have sex with others and she not be jealous so long as they still love each other. Edward bolts off in disgust.
Director Cooke is a 4-time Olivier Prize winning director. His direction is meticulous, with a cinematic display of the atmosphere of the period. His camerawork is impressive with many a stunning shot of the couple, especially arguing as ON CHESIL BEACH often with both figures in the same frame.
Ronan is excellent in the role of the frigid bride, again reprising the role of a young lady coming-of-age while disrupting the lives of those around her (as in ATONEMENT and the recent LADY BIRD). Boyle is also quite the actor, rising in fame after DUNKIRK and the recent drama THE SEAGULL.
The only problem with Cooke’s film is its choppiness as it does not flow well from one segment to another. It takes a while before the audience realizes the direction Cooke is taking his film. The film’s last act, with the two, not getting on in age with prosthetics make-up should have been more moving had it transitioned more smoothly from its abrupt jump in years of the couple.
Still ON CHESIL BEACH is a handsomely crafted period love story, though never reaching the heights of the simpler Boulting Brothers’s film with the identical theme, THE FAMILY WAY, but both very entertaining romantic dramas.
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (USA 018) ***
Directed by Ron Howard
(The review contains a few plot points. that should not spoil ones enjoyment of the film)
Han Solo, is the space outlaw made famous by Harrison Ford ever since the first blockbuster STAR WARS wowed the world is. It would be a treat for Star Wars fans if Ford made an appearance in this movie.
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is the second of the Star Wars anthology films following ROGUE ONE in 2016. The film is a stand-alone instalment set prior to the events of A NEW HOPE. As the title implies, the film follows the adventures of the beginnings of Solo (played this time around by a younger Alden Ehrenreich) before he joins forces with Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. The film is written by Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan and directed by Ron Howard taking over the direction after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were let go owing what the studio cited as ‘artistic differences’. Lord and Miller are still credited as executive producers.
A good exercise watching the film would be to guess which section was directed by Lord and Miller and which were taken over by Howard. The former made the crazy LEGO MOVIE, which might have been too much for the Star Wars franchise.
The film opens with young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) fighting for survival on a desolate planet while having the dream of becoming a pilot to fly his ship among the stars. But first he has to get out of the hell hole. He and his love, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) attempt to but she is captured at the last minute, Solo escaping promising to return to the planet to save her. This opening escape sequence (with the introduction of great sets, odd creatures and stunning alien landscape) is done really well and sets up the stage for an exciting film, which fortunately director Howard delivers. The story goes on to Solo meeting with a master criminal, Beckett (Woody Harrelson) who becomes Solo’s mentor. They eventually embark on a task to aid Master Criminal Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) steal prized fuel from a distant planet. Along the way, other new characters are introduced including Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Solo’s Wookiee sidekick and best friend.
The film introduces new terms like gravity well, hyper fuel, Crimson Dawn just to list a few. The film reveals (good for Star Wars paraphernalia) how Han Solo got his name, how he and Chewbacca originally met and how he got his first starship to fly.
Alden Ehrenreich, a star in the making, creates an excellent Han Solo, the new super young action hero, the space outlaw who will gradually grow into Harrison Ford in the later films. The other new actors like Clarke and Donald Golver as Lando Calrissian also prove their worth standing besides veterans like Harrelson and Bettany.
The film contains all the elements of a good action movie - betrayal, love, sacrifice and exciting action set-pieces. There is the classic climatic fight between hero (Solo) and villain, Dryden. The ending includes both a plot twist and a western-like showdown.
SOLO: A STAR WARS film turns out to be another solid action space western in the Star Wars franchise, another winner for director Ron Howard, translating to lots of money for Disney studios.