The Toronto International Film Festival opens the week.
BEST FILMS PLAYING:
Angels Wear White (China/France)
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
BEST FILMS OF 2018 (so far)
Angels Wear White
Isle of Dogs
You Were Never Really Here
THE NUN (USA 2018) *
Directed by Corin Hardy
THE NUN is a gothic horror film set in 1952 Romania after World War 2, where the bombs dropped on an abbey have uncovered a portal where evil can emerge from another world. It is a spin-off of 2016's The Conjuring 2, (the nun is CONJURING 2 has a cameo in this film - not that anyone can remember or recall what she looks like) and the fifth instalment in The Conjuring Universe.
The film, believe it or not is English director Corin Hardy’s second film. It begins in 1952 with a character saying the demon in the painting is real. There is no reference to this painting or this demon in any other part of the movie, The film continues with a group of nuns in abbey in Romania (don’t ask why Romania) where they walk carrying kerosene lamps in dark corridors before encountering a sign saying ‘God ends here’. This follows by a nun committing suicide and the body found by a French Canadian called Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) (his name is later revealed as Maurice - no kidding), though this character speaks with a distinct European and not a Quebec French accent. A Catholic priest, Father Burke (Demián Bichir) is dispatched from the vatican and together with a Catholic noviciate (Taissa Farmiga, younger sister of Vera Farminga) are sent to Romania to find out what is going on.
One segment has a scene in a graveyard where there are bells connected to the headstones. The reason given is that if someone is buried alive by mistake, they can ring the bell from their coffin and be saved. Without any warning, the Catholic priest is buried in a coffin and rings the bell to be rescued, which he is by the noviciate. But not before all the other bells begin ringing for no reason. Then the magic question asked by the noviciate; “How did you get brief in there?” It i the evil that is going on,’ is the hilarious answer given by the priest,
The film’s climatic 15 minutes need mention. This is the fight between good and evil. As the portal is being sealed by supposedly the blood of Christ, there is a snake creature that appears from the demon’s mouth. The demon that emits a force that pushes the nun to be dunked in water (where did this water suddenly come from?) and more high jinx that has no continuity or sense. The dialogues no better. When the blood of Christ is mentioned, the words ‘Holy Shit’ is heard. That the dialogue goes, “Yes, that is the holiest of shit.”
The folk’s funniest moment is Frenchie saving the movie nun’s life. “It is called the kiss of life,” he tells her after. “Thanks for saving my life, she replies.
The film cost $22 million to make, which is a lot considering that the film is such a mess. Judging from the last 15 minutes of the film’s climax, never has a film been so incoherent.
PEPPERMINT (USA 2018) *
Directed by Pierre Morel
PEPPERMINT is the ice-cream flavour Riley North’s daughter picks at the fair. The film could also be called Rocky Road the flavour Riley (Jennifer Garner) choses for hers or also for the awful route the revenger thriller takes.
When Riley North's (Jennifer Garner) husband and daughter are killed in a drive-by shooting by members of a cartel and the killers walk free owing to corrupt officials on the cartel's payroll, she takes matters into her own hands and seeks vigilante justice against those who destroyed her life.
The film begins with a slice of Riley’s family life. Husband is overly loving, daughter annoyingly cute and smart and everyone is lovey-dubey. After Riley’s family is killed, she takes down the killers one by one till she reaches Garcia, the chief villain. Added to the story is the vigilante element (DEATH WISH).
The film’s lazy script does not bother with plot details or character development or even suspense build-up, all the laments necessary to make a good thriller. Showing Riley with her family enjoying fun times together is a very laze way to get the audience to feel for her. Nothing is shown how Riley got to transition from loving mother and housewife to martial-arts expert and super fighter. One short clip is shown of an MMA fight with the cops saying that Riley was in one of the fights.
The fight scenes are barely exciting - too much gunplay and fast cuts to examine in detail what actually happened. Garcia’s henchmen are all buffed but too easily beaten by Riley in unbelievable punch-ups.
The only one interesting character is that of cop Carmichael (John Gallagher). He aids Riley initially - in fact too much. When it is revealed that he is actually Garcia’s undercover, his initial actions do not add up. He could have done her away many times given so many opportunities.
Jennifer Gardner now joins the ranks as an actress in action films. Having carved her name in fame for romantic dramas, she looks entirely out of place kicking and fighting int he movie. She only looks convincing at the start of the film as the loving wife and mother. THE TOMB RAIDER or HUNGER GAME actresses would have fitted in better. Putting in a female fntaed of a male in the revenge action genre at least makes a welcome change, given the film’s limitations and problems.
Cardboard characters, simplistic plot, silly plot twists, unexciting action sequences, uninspired acting, mediocre sets and music, PEPPERMINT leaves far to be desired.
Successful films of this genre that include Morel’s previous Liam Neeson revenger TAKEN are often described as guilty pleasures. PEPPERMINT is a total displeasure. The film at the press screening ended with a blank screen instead of closing credits. “No wonder the film is so bad,” remarked a fellow critic. “It wasn’t even finished.” But whether finished, edited or improved, it is doubtful that the film will impress.
TULIPANI - LOVE, HONOUR AND A BICYCLE (Netherlands/Italy/Canada 2017) ***
Directed by Mike Van Diem
If the title of the new Dutch, Canadian and Italian co-production TULIPANI - LOVE, HONOUR AND A BICYCLE (written by Dutch-Canadian writer Peter Van Wijk) sounds whimsical, it is appropriate - for the film is a whimsical tall-tale of romance and comedy. The film begins with the Dutch catastrophic flood of 1953 where farmers lost their lands.
Gauke (Gijs Naber), a one of hose unfortunate Dutch farmers. He vows he will never have wet feet again. Armed with a satchel full of tulips bulbs, he cycles south, where fate leads him to the sweltering heat of Italy, and he settles (after collapsing on his bike) on the outskirts of a small village in Puglia. Against all odds, he plies his fairylike and miraculous tulip trade, lives his passionate love-life.
The film alternates between the present and the past. The present sees Italian inspector (Giancarlo Giannini) questioning three suspects that includes Anna (Ksenia Solo) on a murder. Anna relate the story oh how she had left Montreal, Canada after her mother dies in hospital to disperse of her ashes in Italy. Her story is the film’s story. The film goes back to where Anna first goes back to Puglia, Italy where she meets Vito and his mother. The mother is the one who took Gauke in. The tale goes on to how the Dutchman helps the village stand up against the local Mafia.
TULIPANI is a beautifully shot film, a sort of fairy tale that does not necessarily have a happy ending. But it has a message of standing up against oppressors. The fact that Gauke sells hundreds of tulips to every single one of the villagers who have them displayed on their windows is quite the fairy tale. The story involves all three countries, the Netherlands, Italy and Canada with the most respect given to Dutch culture and the love of tulips. The Italians are portrayed as loud-mouthed feisty people but the film shows the beauty of Italy.
One has to take some of the scenes in stride. The audience is to believe that all the tulips sprout up one day in multiple colours to the delight of the Italians which no one notices the day before. The excuse given however, is that the story as told by Anna to the inspector is exaggerated, At one point, the inspector claims that he loves a good story, implying the director Van Diem giving himself a pat on the shoulder for being a good story teller.
Director Van Diem might be a familiar name as he was the director way back when in 1997 responsible for the Best Foreign Film Oscar winner CHARACTER. That was a different kind of film - a harsh film on a father and son relationship in a law setting, compared to this tulip fairy tale romantic comedy. TULIPANI is the kind of film that will delight the commercial public but will have critics shrugging. (The film has a 100% audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes with many critics panning the film.)