The Toronto International Film Festival opens the week.
BEST FILMS PLAYING:
Angels Wear White (China/France)
The Children Act
BEST FILMS OF 2018 (so far)
Angels Wear White
Isle of Dogs
You Were Never Really Here
THE CHILDREN ACT (UK 2017) ****
Directed by Richard Eyre
THE CHILDREN ACT, based on the Booker prize winning novel by Ian McEwan and adapted by him, is a part courtroom drama part marriage crisis involving a London high court Judge, a super-efficient no-nonsense Fiona Maye (Twice Oscar Winner Emma Thompson). She brings her no-nonsense work attitude to her home. Neglecting her husband consistently for work, her husband, Jack (Stanley Tucci) finally has had it and announces in the comical scene, that he wishes to have an affair before actually getting down to it, as they have not had it for 11 months.
It is trouble when a novel or film is made up of two equally important stories, and the problem is evident in Eyre’s film. The only connection between the two stories is Fiona’s behaviour as the stories are quite distinct and only affects each other in terms of one is work affecting Fiona’s private life. But the big plus in the film, which is Thompson’s performance as she is so good and steals every scene she is with as much perfection inner acting as in the Judge’s duty that the problem is easily overlooked.
The film centres of High court Judge Fiona Maye. As her marriage flounders, she is taking on the ruling of a case involving a Jehovah Witness boy, Adam Henry (Fionn Whitehead). He is in hospital, and in need of a blood transfusion, which he refuses on religious grounds. His parents (Ben Chaplin and Eileen Walsh) feel the same. Her ruling of the case will not be revealed in this review (for the sake of spoiling a key plot point) but it is safe to say that Maye makes an exception to the rule by making a personal visit to the hospital to speak to Adam before ruling on the case.
Court room scenes are always a pleasure to watch - for its well delivered and written spheres to the often created tension. Director Eyre (NOTES ON A SCANDAL, IRIS) captures the audience’s attention to the fullest in every court room scene from the moment, Judge Maye knocks on the door entrance to the courtroom and the clerk announces: “All Rise”.
Thompson is required to sing and play the piano, delivering a performance in the film, which she carries on very convincingly. Actor Tucci plays the husband , a lecturer at a college. As he speaks with his American accent, the script never explains the reason if he got married or met Maye in America. Of all the supporting performances, two stand out - Jason Watkins playing the Maye’s long-suffering clerk, Nigel providing the film’ largely dead-pan humour and Whitehead as Adam Henry.
It should be noted that there are a few changes in the book and film, but with very large differences as a result. The changes compromises the film in its intensity but makes it easily more credible.
THE CHILDREN ACT also questions the audience’s stand on the morality issue, but not so much as the drama of the film. The film also ends, quite brilliantly with an open instead of a closed ending as in the book (again which will be revealed for spoiler alert reasons). Regardless, THE CHILDREN ACT is a meticulously crafted film, extreme well acted and written.
MANDY (USA 2017) **
Directed by Panos Cosmatos
MANDY a futuristic horror is director Panos Cosmatos second feature after his ultra-pretentious futuristic drama that I absolutely hated THE BLACK RAINBOW. RAINBOW was exceptionally slow moving, like the beginning of MANDY as if the director wanted everyone to remember the comatose, rhyming with his last name. Panos is the son of Greek director George Pan Cosmatos, whose films I also generally dislike. His most successful film is one I hated THE CASSANDRA CROSSING that starred Sophia Loren.
Panos Cosmatos reaches one step higher in MANDY that it has well-known actors Linus Roache (PRIEST, THE WINSLOW BOY) and Nicolas Cage.
MANDY begins really slowly, so one must be fully attentive as it is easy to doze off. Consider the inane dialogue. “Are you ok?” “I am not ok.” “Is it my fault?” “it is totally your fault.” The dialogue goes on and on without making much sense.
Cosmatos’ horror movie MANDY pals like an art house horror flick. Art and horror do not not go well together, as this exercise and Cosmatos’ devious film THE BLACK RAINBOW have proven.
The film is set in at futuristic looking 1983. But this story is a little more steeped in demonic myth than microchips.
Red Miller (Cage) lives with his enamored girlfriend, artist Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough), in a cabin near the lake. Red works as a logger, while Mandy has a day job as a cashier at a nearby gas station in the woods. She creates elaborate fantasy art, and Red admires her work greatly. They lead a quiet and reclusive life, and their conversations and behaviour hint at a difficult past and psychological hardship. Red appears to be a recovering alcoholic, and Mandy recounts traumatic childhood experiences.
The film shifts to a weird guy (Ned Dennehy) lying on a bed yelling at his mother , Mother Marene (Olwen Fouere) (with the inane dialogue above) followed by his brother assuring him “consider it done” to a request he has made. The film then follows Brother Swan as he tries to kidnap Mandy with the help of the Black Skulls, a demonic biker gang with a taste for human flesh and a viscous, highly potent form of LSD. Red Miller saves the day. Watch out for the duel the chainsaws.
Cosmatos loves to play with visuals. A lot of his scenes are coloured bright red and accompanied with a thundering soundtrack like from an electric guitar.
MANDY’s story is incredibly difficult to follow and really frustrate got try.
Nicolas Cage appears only after nearly half the movie has transpired. Once he appears everything picks up. He is at one point stabbed with a sharp knife through his sides with a crazy woman yelling: “Now you will legalize the the cleansing power of fire.” Cage is so over the top, he adds the campiness that is seriously needed to life the film’s dreariness.
MANDY is not for everyone and it is also safe it is not for many.
THE PREDATOR (USA 2018) **
Directed by Shane Black
It is hard to keep track the number of PREDATOR movies. So popular they have become that there are many social media groups just dedicated to those movies. Counting the two ALIENS vs. PREDATOR spin-offs, this PREDATOR 2018 is the 6th in the franchise.
The director Shane Black (IRON MAN 3, THE NICE GUYS) started off as an actor in the original Arnold Schwarzenegger 1987 film, his character killed off by the predator in that one, hired because he could also be standing in as an emergency scriptwriter for James Cameron. In this film, it was reported that the script was occasionally written within 10 minutes in Black’s trailer before it being filmed. It shows. The story is crap, the narrative is weak and a lot of what transpires on screen make no sense. It totally believable that the script was incomplete before the first shoot. The story for what it is - centres on one man and his group of PTSD soldiers taking out invading predators. The leader is an ex-soldier (Boyd Holbrook) aided by a biologist (Olivia Munn) who has to put up with quite a lot of male chauvinist bullshit. That is the extent of the plot - the rest is smart talk, or maybe improvised dialogue that if written done just before shooting. It is all blood, violence gore and foul language.
Canada’s own Jacob Tremblay has the role of the little boy, the innocent faced son caught in the predator crossfire. He accidentally mistakes the predator’s armour as a Halloween costume wearing it out trick or treating creating a few mega blow-ups. The script requires the character to utter the fuck word many times, which is done. One assumes that it is someone else’s voice over the boy’s dialogue. The boy is supposed to be a really smart kid, able to solve complicated chess puzzles and have a fantastic photographic memory. The film never explains where the genius comes from, except that the kid is autistic, which does not mean this kind of intelligence. One character in the film even asks the question:”Where did he get all this from.” Of all the performances, Tremblay does the best stealing the scene from all the other adult actors.
The script contains lots of dialogue that would whizz past most of the audience. Since the team of soldiers are supposed to be all suffering from PTSD, this might explain the reason their words don’t make much sense, just as the jokes don’t - just fast quick talk.
For PREDATOR fans requiring lots of action, there are tons of pyrotechnic blow-ups, mashing of metal and quick edit fights which should have them satisfied. Most of the action takes place in the city as opposed to the jungle in the original PREDATOR, though the film’s beginning scenes are set in the jungle.
THE PREDATOR was chosen to open the Toronto International Film Festival Midnight Madness Section and should have got enough cheers from that brand of audience.
WHITE BOY RICK (USA 2018) ***
Directed by Yann Demange
WHITE BOY RICK stars newcomer Richie Merritt, delivering a solid performance as Ricky Wershe Jr. the drug hustler and informant, based on the 1980’s true to life criminal of the same name. Yann Demange who wore the script and directed this based on true story film, dramatizes many of the incidents for the screen, easily noticed. The narration is choppy with unequal time given to each of the major parts, more time needed to be allotted for the informant segment. Demange breaks ground on the ease of communication between the white Merritt family and black folk. Never once does colour come into the picture. All performances are excellent, the best coming from Bel Poulter playing Rick’s difficult and sassy sister. As emphasized many times in other drug movies, the sentencing is so hard on drug offences that one would be better off murdering someone than being caught with a gram of cocaine. Still the film comes across with the message that drugs are bad and the target are the federal agents (Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rory Cochrane) who promises Rick immunity for informing but never come true to the promise.