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This Week's Film Reviews (Oct 30, 2020)

24 Oct 2020

A quieter week for new movies opening with only a small handful.  New Canadian horror movies make their debut with the BLOOD IN THE SNOW film fsetival that begins this week.  Check separate article for this fest.

 

FILM REVIEWS:

 

bOObS THE WAR AGAINST WOMEN’S BREASTS (USA 2020) ***
Directed by Megan S. Smith

What a title!  bOObS!  There is a solid message in this doc that it delivers with some humour making it more watchable.  It begins with a disclaimer that one has to decide for themselves and a lot of what is about to transpire will shock.  Citations are provided.

Firstly mammography is denounced.  Mammography is explained to be equivalent to about 100 chest X-Rays, and therefore deadly.  It is used for early detection of breast cancer.  The doc now defuncts this myth.  When a lump appears on the body, if cancerous, it has been there for 2 to 5 years.  Therefore mammography is not an early detection of cancer, the audience is informed not once but with the sentence repeated and told for a total of five times.

The doc goes into ‘The Carla Case’.  Carla speaks to the camera.  With the radiation treatment, survival is 5%.  Carla said no, based on the odds, did research and is still living after 2 years be eating well.  All her tumours disappeared and the one on her reacts shrunk half the size.

Two other cases are examined by the doc.  The Capella Case and the Katie case, all equally intriguing. 

One of the key things taught in the doc is breast density.  If a woman has dense breast then, mammography will not be able to detect breast cancer accurate to 50%.  Also, having dense breast means one is 3 - 5 % more likely to develop breast cancer.  There is the fight to create legislature so that women will be able to find out about their breast density before taking a mammogram.

The film loves to poke humour at the way data is displayed.  When some important message is explosive, the letters explosive goes exploding on the screen.  The doc repeats certain segments a couple of times to get the messages across.

bOObs is downright clear about what it wishes to say.  An expert tells the audience directly: Be educated about your your breast density.  Eat right!  Live right!  Talk to your physician!”  And most important of all:  The ultrasound is needed as the mammogram will miss the tumour detection for women with high breast density.

Another insightful revelation is the fact that a lot of cancer tumours grow very slowly or by Gods’ s great plan just die off.  It is better to leave the tumour alone that to treat it which often leads to early death.  Treating it is risky as the doc also explains, verified by the experts.  Another topic is the amount of radiation that goes with a mammogram.  Then there is the question of the new 3D mammogram vs. the 2D mammogram., the latter involving much more relation with not much improvement in detection.

The interviewees also speak of an alternative to mammography - thermography, a safer and surer way of  cancer detection.n

bOObs is  a doc that every woman worried about breast cancer should see.  For males and those not worried about breast cancer, the doc should also provide invaluable information that should not be missed.  A fun watch as well, despite the morbid theme with a whole of information to be relayed.

bOObs is available on demand, DVD and VOD from October 6th.

Trailer: https://bit.ly/2GjMLZK

 

COME PLAY (USA 2020) **

Directed by Jason Chase

Oliver (Azhy Roberston) watches Spongebob Squarepants and then looks into the television set with the camera taking a TV-eye view from within.  Spongebob Squareapants never looked so creepy after this.

The premise of COME PLAY is a children’s book that appears in the movie entitled ‘Misunderstood Monsters’.  In it exists a very lonely monster that seeks a friend from another world - which is Earth.  The monster wishes to befriend the little ‘mute’ boy.  The monster can achieve this if it and the boy grab each other’s hand and according to the book, the monster will drag him back to its world.  The monster evidently travels through electricity which the boy finds out.  One way to stop the monster travelling is to remove electrical devices in the vicinity.   If this sounds scary, it could be, but the script appears not to have nailed the scares.

The film's protagonist is a boy called Oliver.  He is mute but is undergoing speech therapy with the hope that he can speak a few sentences.  He is aided in speech by an app on the phone, though his classmates make fun of him, jealous that he can and that they cannot use their phones in class.  Oliver has no friends which worry his parents.

Things go bump in the night.  There are countless cheap shots at making the audience jump out of their seats by using sudden loud noises, (dragging of chair on the floor, opening of a door) sometimes for no apparent reason.

The film contains silly sequences.  One has mother (Gillian Jacobs) and son hiding under the bed from the monster.  One would assume the monster does not rely only on sight and sound to catch its prey.  Another has the son suddenly speaking “Fear… Fear…Fear..” the boy utters when he and the mother are chased by the monster.   The silliest portion is the supposedly Hollywood ending.

The film contains a few hilarious laugh-out loud moments which reduces the horror at hand.  When the boy’s mother sees and believes the existence of the monster - which occurs only too easily to be believed, the boy’s speech therapist talks to the mother about physical impasse - the response of someone feeling the same as a loved one.  The mother asks the monster the typical ridiculous question found in horror film genres: “Why are you doing this to us?”   Even the dialogue admits  the stupidity of the plot’s concept.  “I know it sounds silly, but the monster uses electric power to move around,” explains the mother.  When the mother explains that the monster os able to light up the lamps in the house, the father (John Gallagher Jr.) remarks: “It is helping you with the chores.  You do not have to screw a light bulb.” 

The monster looks sufficiently scary, courtesy of the special effects monster department.  A few frightening images include the monster coming out from a table lying horizontally on the floor.

COME PLAY is so ridiculously stupid that one cannot help but watch it to its end.

Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/?v=LQwiqhdMQ7g

FISHBOWL (USA 2018) ***1/2

Directed by Stephen Kinigopoulos and Alexa Kinigopoulos

An indie film true and true, this small budget gem is directed by a sibling team and shot on location in the house up the street from where they live, a spooky house that they discovered were owned by the nicest people, allowing the film to be shot there.  Not that there are many big Hollywood films opening during these times of Covid-19, more of indie films, but this one stands out as an indie mystery thriller.  At 92 minutes, it is attention grabbing from start to finish.

FISHBOWL is an absorbing and disturbing tale of sin and redemption.  The setting is small-town Bishop, filled with secrets.  The story focusses on the Simon sisters (Emily Peachey, Caroline Coleman, Belle Shickle) who are trying to cope with the absence of their mother (Judith Hoag) and maintain a normal life, while enduring Catholic school and typical teen struggles under the watchful eye of their demanding teacher, Mr. Barnes.  Silently repressing the sisters to the point of abuse is their damaged father, Rick (Rick Kain) who, quite adrift himself, is growing increasingly obsessed with The Rapture that he believes is imminent.  He pays $1000 for a ‘save your soul’ kit.  For the girls, home is anything but a refuge.   In the midst of rebellious acts, punishments, and religious imposition, the sisters must cling to one another to survive. On the night that Rick believes to be The Rapture, he will attempt to take his daughters to the second coming.

The Kinigopoulos siblings film their drama in deadpan style with still frames with little movement of the camera.  Often, the characters enter the frame, and when they do there is not such movement either.  The tactic allows the audience to stare at the screen and wonder what is going on, and ponder what might happen next in the film.  Often the silence can be overwhelming.  So overwhelming that when a character suddenly speaks, it may cause the audience to jump or laugh at its unpredictability.  Example is the scene at the party where a boy turns to one of the sisters shouting over the music playing:”What is your name?”

The dialogue often contains deadpan humour.  “I don’t know how to say it, but I will say it.” the local church pastor tells the father.  Or when after one of the sisters having accepting Jesus Christ during the service returns to the pews and asks the father: “Can we go now?”

The film pokes fun at religion, particularly Christianity and particularly TV evangelists who ask for money.  Hopefully, this film will help put these evangelists out of business.

The word fishbowl besides its literal meaning can refer to a large number of things including a debate method, a software server and even a song.  What the title refers to is not explained in the press notes, nor can I determine for sure where the reference comes from.  My best guess is that the title is the metaphor of a real fishbowl where the Simon sisters are entrapped.

FISHBOWL will opens in select theatres and be available on demand October 27. 

Trailer: https://www.dropbox.com

THE HOLIDATE (USA 2020) **

Directed by John Whitesell

THE HOLIDATE is a Netflix original romantic comedy that has little originality. The term romantic comedy is enough to scare many an audience away, particularly critics.  And with reason.  Romcoms are usually cliche ridden forced to have a romantically satisfactory Hollywood ending, thus limiting any freshness a script could attempt.  The HOLIDATE is no different unfortunately, and what transpires on screen is what audiences have seen before - many times. 

The script by Tiffany Paulsen defines the term holiday as a date for the holidays.  Holiday gatherings usually involve a single male or female bringing a date, and this usually turns out problematic with family pressure and feelings put to the test.  So, a holidate is perfect - a date soley for the purpose of being a date for all the holidays, no strings attached, no feeling attached no sex involved.   

Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Luke Bracey) hate the holidays!  So a holidate to both of the would be the perfect solution.  Sloane and Jackson meet at a mall and decide to be each other’s holidates.  Needless to say, they eventually begin to have feelings for each other and fall in love.

The first holiday chosen is Christmas and the film ends again during the advent season.  THE HOLIDATE can thus be classified as a Christmas movie.  Usually every year, the first Christmas themed movie arrives early November, but this one arrives early at the end of October.  The first of such films usually sucks, and so does this one.

To be fair to the filmmakers, the film ’s 10 minutes look promising.  The jokes are quite hilarious.  It starts with Sloane putting out a cigarette butt on Santa’s head (Santa is an outdoor Christmas ornament) with her saying, “another fucking holiday”.  When her mother asks her if she was smoking, she says no to which the mother relies: “No man wants to marry a smoker….. who lies.”  Other humorous antics occur during the family gathering where the audience is introduced to the other family members, the funniest being Aunt Susan (played by Tony Award Winner Kristin Chenoweth) who would pick up anyone for the family gatherings.

Paulsen’s script tries to make the romcom different from others.  Jackson is Australian, which allows a few Crocodile Dundee jokes.  But the lazy script fails to reveal any of Jackson’s family or past.  He has one friend, an African American who works with him in his golf profession, who helps him (unfunnily) with some dating advice.

The film contains lewd language with the ‘f’ word uttered a couple of times.  One horrific segment has Jackson lost a finger from an accident and rushed to the hospital.  This is of course, the opportunity to include a lot of finger jokes like: “ cannot put my finger on it.” and so on… many of which are corny and unfunny.

The climax has Sloane declare her love for Jackson in public, in this case at a mall during Christmas, ending with the mall public clapping and cheering at the couple.  This has been tried so many times and more effectively, say in Martin Scorsese’s ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE where the customers at a diner applaud the couple Ellen Burstyn and Kris Kristofferson.

A few very hilarious moments are not enough to save this cliched romantic comedy where one can only shrug at the truth of Sloane’s words when she says that this is her worst Thanksgiving ever.

Trailer:

 

JIMMY CARTER ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT (USA 2020) ***
Directed by Mary Wharton

This new doc on former President of the United States Jimmy Carter, is a breezy, light and entertaining while insightful look at the man, his life and his policies while being the commander-in-chief of the largest economy of the world.  There have been countless docs on former Presidents, the more notorious ones like Richard M. Nixon getting more coverage than the good guys.  Jimmy Carter is considered one of the good guys, and is my most favourite Presidents in my lifetime.  Trump is having more and more angry docs (among them UNFIT, TOTALLY UNDER CONTROL) made about his failings.

Director Wharton’s doc opens with Carter in 1976 quoting one of the best musicians who ever lived - Bob Dylan.  The doc concentrates on Carter’s love for rock and roll music, particularly Gospel music, jazz and rock and roll.  It also ties music into his Presidency and how it affected his election. 

Carter was President for just one term from 1977 -1981, losing the Presidency to Ronald Reagan.  The doc highlights his successes and failures - the former winning the Nobel Peace Prize and the latter the Iran hostage crisis which was due to his taking care of the cancer-ridden Shah of Iran in the United States.

The doc is interspersed with rock and roll music including the famous Mr. Tamborine with guests that include rock and roll stars giving their two cents worth like Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, the Allman Brothers, Paul Simon, Roseanne Cash, Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks.  His son, Chip provides quite the insight of his father.  Chip confesses in a light moment that he has smoked pot with Nelson.

Carter’s love for rock and roll helped him in his Presidency campaign.  The Allman Brothers and Jimmy Buffet helped him gather finds and crowds.  Also, connecting with rock and roll allowed Carter to connect with the younger votes of the United States.

Current President Donald Trump by inevitable comparison to Republican former President Jimmy Carter clearly shows that he has none of the solid traits Carter possesses.  Trump will ditch his friends (his lawyer is serving time for him) while Carter did not abandon Willie Nelson when he was in jail.  Carter cares about people, winning the Nobel peace prize.  Trump just brags about his foreign visits.  In fact, might as well stop the comparisons since there is absolutely nothing good at all to say about Trump.

Those who love Bob Dylan will love the references director Wharton makes to this man.  Dylan says that when he met Governor Jimmy Carter, Carter was able to quote the lyrics all his songs.   This began a long friendship.   Nelson also spoke of smoking pot while visiting him in the White House with a member of the White House staff, but the doc reveals it was Chip who did it.

As set by the tone of the title JIMMY CARTER ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT, Wharton’s doc tells happy and entertaining stories interspersed with unforgettable music of an otherwise great former President and human being.

Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfFF-PP78iA

 

MY NAME IS PEDRO (USA 2020) ***1/2

Directed by Lillian LaSalle

A doc is often as interesting as its subject.  The subject in this doc is a little known school assistant superintendent named Pedro.  Pedro Santana is not a world famous artist or President or King or an evil Corporation that have ruined millions of lives but a normal human being.  But as he says, he likes to encounter and meet people to change some little thing that they can remember him by.  Pedro is an endearing person and therefore makes an endearing and watchable subject.  His hair says it all.  Long curls that make look like a rock star, his hair also infuriates his family, but he likes his hair that way.

Lillian LaSalle's documentary MY NAME IS PEDRO explores what public education meant to South Bronx Latino maverick educator, Pedro Santana, and what he, in turn, meant to public education.  The film begins with Santana greeted by many followers in what appears to be a tribute to his work.  Taking the microphone, he says that he will tell his story.  And this begins the film.

MY NAME IS PEDRO is a profound story of how one person actualizes learning and positive change in children, adults, environments and communities through an 'impact' ripple effect strategy that he has effortlessly perfected.  The film is also an essential and timely reminder of the importance of great educators (and of how one person can make a difference) that exist within the infrastructure of our country's public education system.  Being an educator myself, (film reviewing is my passion and does not pay the bills), I find the film inspiring with the film often bringing tears to my eyes.

As a child, his grade school teacher tells the camera that Pedro was not the brightest kid in the class.  But he was the most hardworking and that was what made him stand out and what make her want to pay special attention to his efforts.  This likely influenced Pedro in his dealing with children’s education when he grew up  - that everyone is special.  Director LaSalles is observant enough to also make the point that kids know when adults are interested in them or not.

The film also has special meaning for me.  As a child Pedro stuttered and had to practice speaking and practicing his speech constantly.  I stuttered as a teen too but I could not pronounce the ’s’ at age 6, and had to go for special tutoring.  I still remember having a lot of trouble trying to pronounce ‘Esso’.  I could not pronounce ‘ch’ till after Grade 6, pronouncing ti as ‘sh’ till a classmate kept on making me practice the correction.  Now, I have no trouble in speech and my public speaking is excellent.  Pedro is also an excellent speaker when he reached adulthood.

One wishes director LaSalle included more segments of Pedro at work.  There are a few obvious enactments.  This is here the Pedro’s and the doc’s magic works.

MY NAME IS PEDRO opens across cities in virtual theatres in the United States this weekend and at Toronto’s Hot Docs on the 29th of October.

Trailer:

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