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Two sexy camp films open this week - GIRL PICTURE and BODIES BODIES BODIES.

 

FILM REVIEWS:

 

BANK ROBBERS: THE LAST GREAT HEIST

 (Los Ladrones: La verdadera historia del robo del siglo)

(Argentina 2022) ***
Directed by Matias Gueilburt

 

The true crime documentary BANK ROBBERS: THE LAST GREAT HEIST poses and answers the all-important question ‘does crime pay’.  The obvious and sure answer comes at the end of the doc: “Only if you do not get caught”.

Bank robbery planning and execution films were at its most popular in the 60’s and 70’s with exciting caper films coming from Britain, French and Italy making stars of actors like  Stanley Baker and Lino Ventura whose name became synonymous with gangster/robber films.  BANK ROBBERS: THE LAST GREAT HEIST is a documentary, but feels like one of the popular fiction caper films made more exciting and intriguing because it all took place in january 2006.

Through revealing interviews, the perpetrators of Argentina's most famous bank robbery detail how, and why, they carried out the spectacular 2006 operation.

The robbery/heist took place around 12:38 pm on Friday the 13th of January, 2006, Buenos Aires and the rest of Argentina witnessed a shocking bank robbery in broad daylight, which turned out to be an elaborate heist that hoodwinked police and authorities.  One of the robbers on interview asks whether superstition comes in.  The Buenos Aires police’s special operations team, which is called  the Falcons, responded to the situation as the building had 23 hostages made up of customers and employees inside at the mercy of the robbers.  An accomplished negotiator was also brought in to deal with the robbers’ demands - the robbers having their own negotiation who had himself served some 15 years in prison.

The doc is a thorough one, looking at the motives and philosophy of the bank robbers, the latter coming across as over the top.  It goes so far as to distinguish the difference between morals and ethics.  The planning and execution are all seen ons green, portrayed by both enactments and old footage.  The robbers get caught.  There is no spoiler here as it is obvious that if they did not get caught, there would not have been this documentary.  The film also goes into detail as to how the robbers felt and escaped and how they eventually get arrested.

A few flaws stand out in the doc.  Though the men set out to steal the contents of 400 bank deposit boxes within a two-hour period, nothing is mentioned of the boxes after the robbers leave the bank.  The interviewed and voiceover talk in detail about bags of money and even how accurate, down to the last $20 of the money, but there is no more mention of the deposit boxes or what was in them. 

The doc talks about the reason the crooks got caught giving two main ones - one being of one of the men’s greedy wife, (Beta’s wife) who sent a note to each of the robbers demanding $300,000 each and when her request was unfulfilled went on to tell on them.  The other, not so convincing, is how the cell phones were tracked, as explained by a member of the Falcons.

BANK ROBBERS: THE LAST GREAT HEIST is another Netflix original true crime documentary that is as fascinating as any fictional bank robbery/heist film popular in the 60’s and 70’s.

 Trailer: 

 

BODIES BODIES BODIES (USA 2022) ***
Directed by Halina Reijin

 

In Roger Kumble’s sexy and campy 1999 CRUEL INTENTIONS, two vicious step-siblings of an elite Manhattan prep school make a wager: to deflower the new headmaster's daughter before the start of term.   The film became a classic hit.  In the equally campy and sexy BODIES, BODIES BODIES BODIES, the stakes are higher.  BODIES BODIES BODIES begins with an erotic scene with two young girl making out, kissing passionately with tongues.  There is a murderer, it seems on the loose and everyone of the sexy young bodies at a hurricane party is suspect.

A group of seven young friends have a house party at a remote mansion during a hurricane, hosted by childhood best friends Sophie, who is recently sober, and David, who is excessively wealthy.  Bee is the working-class girlfriend of Sophie, and new to their group of friends; she is naive to the kind of party they host and eats a large amount of cake without realizing it is an edible.  One of the guests, Jordan, also warns Bee that Sophie is not who she seems.  Sophie, having been in rehab, has not spoken to the others in the group for some time, and social dynamics are awkward between them. The group decides to play party games, choosing "bodies bodies bodies", a murder in the dark-style game. The game goes poorly and fractures the friendships even more, with David arguing with everyone from his girlfriend Emma to another outsider in the group, the much-older Greg, who is Alice's new boyfriend. They end the game but soon find a real murder has taken place, and have to again search for the murderer among them

This game involves every player taking a slip of paper, in which one slip  has a marked ‘X’ identifying the murderer.  The lights are turned off and the murderer is supposed to kill off a player.  The victim will lie, pretending to be dead on the floor while the other players try to identify the killer.  In the film they play the game but the lights really go off in the hurricane and the players fall dead one after another.

The young actors are impressive, giving their all to the performances.  They are able to speak fast and articulate, without any improvisation or stammering words like ‘like’.

There is much to enjoy in the film - the dark skeletons in the closet revealed; the sexy bodies on display; the bitch fights; the arguments and the slasher type killings.

One neat thing about the script, evident only at the end of the film and after a bit of thinking, is the identity of the killer.  The solution is not handed on a platter to the audience and a bit of recollection of the events of the film is required to figure out the answer.  No murder classic, but BODIES BODIES BODIES is enjoyable campy and sexy fun, playing the game that director Reijin and scriptwriter Sarah DeLappe had laid out for their audience. Reijin is a Dutch director making her English film debut with BODIES BODIES BODIES -  a worthy talent to be reckoned with.

The film opens in theatres in Canada, August 12.

Trailer: 

COSTA BRAVA, LEBANON (Lebanon 2021) ***1/2

Directed by Mouni Alk


The new and impressive directorial debut COSTA BRAVA, LEBANON by Lebanese actress and filmmaker Mounia Akl, starring Nadine Labaki (Capernaum) and Saleh Bakri (The Band's Visit) is brimming with social comment, set in a familial setting.

The family is the Badri family.  The film opens with scenes of the two daughters sleeping together on the same bed and the husband and wife on their bed, signalling a closely knit and loving family.  The husband’s mother also lives with them, she suffering from some kind of breathing disorder but given only a year to live while they were in Beirut.  Moving into the country, she has lived beyond the one year given by her doctors.  Their country home is something environmentalists would die for, the house surrounded by trees and plants giving them fresh and healthy sustenance.  They also have a beautiful outdoor pool.   But there is trouble in paradise.

The setting is  the near future, according to the opening titles.  In the not-so-distant future, the free-spirited Badri family has escaped the toxic pollution and social unrest of Beirut by seeking refuge in an idyllic mountain home.  Without warning, the government starts to build a garbage landfill right outside their fence, intruding on their domestic utopia and bringing the trash and corruption of a whole country to their doorstep.  As the landfill rises, so does tension in the household, revealing a long-simmering division between those family members who wish to defend or abandon the mountain oasis they have built.  Their daily life begins to fall apart and the pressures mount.

There are two stories in the film.  One is the political and social unrest of Lebanon, particularly Beirut.  There are massive protests in the country especially regarding air pollution and garbage collection.  That air stinks.  The people have taken to the streets.  The government promises progress by embarking on a green landfill.  But green landfill my ass, as remarked by the head of the Badri family as the garbage people start burning the trash in the landfill.   The image of tons of garbage bagged in plastic is a sorry sight.  One can imagine similar problems in other countries.  The  garbage will end up polluting the air and water, as seen by the bright orange water emitting from the kitchen tap of the Badri home.

The second story focuses on the family relationship.  When trouble arrives, the husband and wife have a big argument on whether to just leave their country home and move back to Beirut.  Fighting the authorities is obviously going to be difficult if not impossible.  MR. Badri  begins video recording all the environmental abuses but does not feel confident that it will not be of any help.  Their teenage daughter’s raging hormones result in her flirting with the garbage workers.  The youngest daughter in the meantime is trying to take everything in.

A keen and darkly comic commentary on Lebanon’s waste crisis and unsettled political landscape, Costa Brava, Lebanon won the prestigious NETPAC Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Audience Award at the BFI London Film Festival.

COSTA BRAVA, LEBANON opens in Toronto on August 13 at the Revue Cinema.

Trailer: 

DAY SHIFT (USA 2022) **1/2
Directed by J.J. Perry

A blue-collar father, Bud Jablonski (Jamie Foxx) provides for his family as a San Fernando Valley pool cleaner, which is secretly a front for a union of vampire hunters.

The film’s premise sounds lame but director J.J. Perry who co-wrote the script includes many add-ons that stretch the story to its 90 minutes plus length but not necessarily improve the story.

The film plays with the vampire myth.  Vampires are still afraid of daylight and garlic.  There is a homemade garlic grenade that Bud makes.  But one vampire is looking at surviving in daylight.  The story adds on the existence of different groups of vampires - easter, juvies and others that do not live with each other.  These vampire groups exhibit different traits.  Apparently the vampire’s fangs are very important and they fetch a good price in the market, which is cornered by the union.  Bud sells the fans of the vampires he kills but cannot fetch a good price as he is not in the union.  He needs to get into the union to earn a fair amount of money from his vampire hunts in order to save his family.

Bud’s daughter needs $3000 for new braces.  Then there are also other expenses that add up, like school fees.  The wife wants to move back to live with her mother, putting their house up for sale unless Bud comes up with the money by the coming Monday.  So, Bud joins the union and is granted temporary membership as long as he does not violate any rules.  Into the picture comes unison nerd Seth (Dave Franco) to accompany Bud at every moment.  Seth’s boss wants to kick Bud out of the union and Seth is forced to take along Bud. Seth plays like a rookie vampire killer.

At this one third mark of the film, DAY SHIFT begins to feel like a buddy cop movie.  Dave Franco livens up the proceedings but still, this is well tread material.  Cop buddy films are a dime a dozen and DAY SHIFT feels the same way despite the vampire difference.

The action scenes are well choreographed and exciting enough with the added dimension of distorted human bodies - human beings who have ‘turned’.

Jamie Foxx is the usual expected fit and buffed action hero and Franco proves welcome comic relief and steals the show right under Foxx’s nose.  Snoop Dogg has a small role as the super cook, vampire hunter and Bud’s buddy, Big John Elliot, donning a huge cowboy 10-gallon hat.  The film occasionally plays like (intentionally) a spaghetti western.

It is odd that so much emphasis is placed in the story of Bud's daughter.  Bud takes her to a birthday party, spends time  with her and the mother and bonds with her.  One would expect DAY SHIFT to be catered for family viewing, but the gore, violence and horror go against the flow.

DAY SHIFT is so-called because Bud takes the day shift in killing vampires.

The film has an excellent soundtrack of songs including a cool one from Snoopy Dogg during the closing credits and a remix of 'California Love’ at the start.

DAY SHIFT almost succeeds as a no-brainer time waster.

Trailer: 

 

THE FALL (USA 2022) ***

Directed by Scott Mann

 

The new low budget $3-million dollar action thriller THE FALL follows Becky (Grace Fulton) and Hunter (Virginian Gardner) as they face their fears by free climbing an abandoned tower in the desert.  But tensions run high when they find themselves trapped at 2000 feet with no way down.

The script is filled with cliches and follows the expected path of the story, though containing a few twists in the plot at the same time.  The reason d’être for the climb is established at the film's start.   Three climbers up on a mountain suffer a calamity.  The male falls to his death, this being the time and place where the female dominates the male.  The male’s belle Becky is distraught with guilt.  To overcome her fears, the other female climber Hunter convinces her (yes, it all sounds too silly) to climb one more in order to overcome her fears or she will not be able to live her life.  So, Becky succumbs to Becky’s psychological advice and the two attempt to climb the desert. tower  They surprisingly never tell anyone or have any Plan B.   Maybe these two deserve what they are about to go through as surely the Gods must punish stupidity.

Of the two actresses Gardner clearly steals the show.  She, the more spirited and daring of the two and always spewing the right lines and having the right thing to say at the right and wrong times, she is always also a pleasure to watch, the camera often hovering beneath her short shorts as she  climbs up or down the tower as if stating the fact that cinematographer McGregor (Spanish guy, no first name) is a dirty old man.  To McGregor’s credit, he displays excellent camera work, from the close ups of the jittery bolds about to fall out of the holes of the tower to the imagery of the towering motions in the film’s opening scene.

But again as the phrase goes, believe it or not, THE FALL turns out to be quite the exciting feature.  Director Mann manages to get his audience to feel for his two characters, rooting for their survival.  There are, needless to say, countless edge of the seat suspense moments.  After all, isn’t vertigo one of the greatest and most common fears of human beings?

Incredibly stupid but also incredibly thrilling THE FALL proves the power of cinema over all rhyme or reason.  It also does prove that if one believes in the material as in the director and the film’s two brave actors, the film has a solid chance of succeeding as in THE FALL.  But upon careful reflection other blockbusters like THOR and TOP GUN also contain highly unbelievable situations as well.  THOR with a hammer yielding super-hero fighting against Gods like Zeus and Tom Cruise in an even more predicament managing to overcome all odds by stealing and flying a stolen enemy plane situated out of nowhere.

THE FALL is a Lionsgate release opening this weekend.  Lionsgate used to be a star studio with their TWILIGHT franchise.  Perhaps THE FALL might be a hit they desperately need in their film division.

Trailer: 

GIRL PICTURE (Tytöt tytöt tytöt (Girls Girls Girls) (Finland 2022) **
Directed by Alli Haapasalo

 

MEAN GIRLS - Finland style follows the story of three teen girls as they discover womanhood in the course of three consecutive Fridays.

The first few scenes introduce the audience to the three girls, two of whom are close friends.  Mimmi is playing hockey and refuses to play the game on the rink as she thinks it a stupid exercise of hitting a ball between two poles and a net.  In the course of the gym class, she beats up a fellow classmate.  Her friend, Rönkkö dismisses a possible date at the coffee shop both work at, Rönkkö saying that she feels nothing from him - hint she may be gay.  Then there is the other girl, a competitive skater Emma who fails three times on the rink doing a skating move called the triple Lutz.  The three meet at the coffee shop and end up going to a house party.

From the first few scenes it is obvious that director Haapasalo overdoes her intentions. Mimmi need not have hit the other classmate nor given the audience a slice of her philosophy to show this girl’s independence or have Emma fall to the ice not once nor twice but three times.  Subtlety is not Haapasalo’s strong point.  To add fuel to the fire, many of the incidents and growing pains faced by the three have been seen at one time or another in other teen movies .

The girls go to movies - art movies with films like LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD and THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE being referenced.

Things go almost perfect at the film’s half way mark.  Mimmi and Emma fall passionately in love while Rönkkö goes toned with Sipi, the cutest boy at the party.  But Rönkkö is unable to sexually satisfy him nor get herself turned on.  Emma’s skating practice and Mimmi’s family get into the way of their relationship.  Sex is a major factor as well.

It can be observed that a lot of the troubles the girls face are due to themselves and in part toothier raging hormones.  If the grill can control their emotion and yes, behave, they would not have to undergo this many turmoils.

How the girls face their teenage problems are all part of growing up.  Director Haapasalo examines these pressures with sensitivity and insight as the film takes on a more serious note.  The film is largely serious throughout and the light touches are minimal with little humour and no laugh-out loud moments.

The film works best when director Haapasalo pauses the film to let the audience reflect on how each of the girls feel.  The tacked on happy ending and the over-sentimentality of the climax mars the director’s good intentions.

Girl Picture played TIFF Next Wave as well as numerous festivals including Inside Out, CUFF, Sudbury’s Queer North Film Festival, and the Gimli International Film Festival happening later this month.   It makes its debut at TIFF Bell Lightbox and should be of greater interest to the younger wave generation.  The film is shot mainly in Finnish with a little English and French spoken.

Trailer: 

 

LIE HARD (USA 2022) **
Directed by Ian Niles

 

To get a girl in marriage, the man must often go to the parents and get permission to wed their daughter.  Often this involves wooing them and charming them in a winning way so that they feel that the man would be a worthy husband to take care of their daughter.  In the classic Elaine May 2007 comedy THE HEARTBREAK KID written by Neil Simon, Charles Grodin had just married Jeannie Berlin and on his wedding day, fallen in love with another girl played by Cybill Shepherd.  He has to convince the extremely stern and wealthy father of the girl Eddie Albert that he is worthy.  In the new comedy, written, directed and starring Ian Niles, Rob Smart is the character that has to lie his way to marry the daughter of wealthy Julius while pleasing him at the same time.

THE HEARTBREAK KID was totally hilarious despite the improbable premise of the plot, and became an instant classic that the Farrelly Brothers could not remake.  LIE HARD follows a somewhat familiar premise, with the protagonist lying his way through work, his girlfriend and everything else to get his girl.  LIE HARD is a bomb.

The film is predominantly white except for the girl, Katie (Melanie Chandra).   Rob Smart, Katies’s father (Patrick Kilpatrick), the mob boss, Big Sally (Catherine Crutin) and almost everyone else is white, which is now strange for a move these days.

The lying gets crazy and uncontrollable after Smart lies and borrows money from the mob.  This plan succeeds initially with Rob then welcomed by Katie’s family with open arms.  Big Sally leverages Rob’s job at a real estate development company to get him to sabotage contracts in her favour, her scheme all along. Unfortunately for Rob, these lies get him fired, rendering the scheme useless and putting Rob further into jeopardy.

This is an uncomfortable comedy that often has problems working because the audience roots for the hero.  In this case, Smart is such a liar that he deserves no sympathy.  The film is also unfunny for the most parts and predictable  as well.  Smart, the main character is silly, goofy, naive and just plain annoying.  The film is likewise.

When Ron begins to act funny after his nonstop lying and things go uncontrollably wrong, Katie asks him;  “What is wrong?   Something is off.”  The same can be said for this sorry ego-trip of the Ian Miles movie, LIE HARD.

LIE HARD opens Tuesday the coming week.

 Trailer: 

WE ARE LIVING THINGS  (USA 2021) ***

Directed by Antonio Tibaldi

 

Directed and co-written by Antonio Tibaldi, WE THE LIVING THINGS plays like an arthouse alien sci-fi drama.  It follows the relationship between two strangers (one in Chinese and the other Mexican) that both are immigrants in the United States and who share a common interest in alien abduction.  For a grounded human drama, the film’s backdrop of alien abduction does not help the story’s credibility and neither do many of the incidents.  But the film is not without its arthouse pleasures that include excellent sound mixing and editing, cinematography, social comedy and apt direction.

WE ARE LIVING THINGS is the story of underdogs and outcasts, a theme that adds urgency in today's political climate.  The drama is set in the United States with two illegal aliens as its main characters. Solomon (Jorge Antonio Guerrero, the Mexican hunk who appeared with full frontal nudity in Alfonso Cuaron’s Oscar Winning ROMA) and Chuyao (Xing Chen Lu) meet accidentally.  As events unfold, the characters begin to sense that they ‘know each other from somewhere else'. They both have had powerful experiences that seem to indicate hidden dimensions behind reality, but they don't know what to make of these experiences or how to share them.

Solomon and Chuyao have had to overcome hardships for most of their lives. In order to survive and see light at the end of the tunnel, they are both believers. But what they believe in is not institutionalized religion, it's in the existence of an external, outer space life form that could save them. Solomon grew up in the streets of Mexico City. His mother Magdalena was a street kid herself. When she became pregnant, she knew she could never take care of a baby. After she gave birth, she left him behind and headed north for the border. As a teenager, Solomon went searching for her. In an Arizona border town, he met Constance, who told him that she knew his mother, and that Magdalena had been abducted by aliens.  Chuyao believed that she was abducted by aliens .  This led to conflict with her family and she left China for the United States as a result.

The alien abduction obviously serves as a metaphor for what happens in the lives of the two protagonists.

The Cinematography by Luc Bigazzi is excellent.  Bigazzi shot the Oscar Winning Paulo Sorrentino’s THE GREAT BEAUTY.  Also deserving of mention is the production sets (the interiors of the lodgings of both the wealthy and the poor) by Kate Rance who was responsible for the film THE CHAIR.

WE ARE LIVING THINGS is a slow burn of 90 minutes but holds the audience’s attention from its unique delivery from its production values and convincing performances.  The ending, however is a bit of a let down though the open ending may be forgiven as WE ARE LIViNG THINGS is an art movie after all.

WE THE LIVING THINGS opens August the 12th at the Carlton Cinema, downtown.

 Trailer: 

WHEN I CONSUME YOU (USA 2022) ***1/2

Directed by Barry Blackshear

 

 

Billed as a horror mystery drama, WHEN I CONSUME YOU follows a woman, Daphne Shaw (Libby Ewing) and her brother, Wilson Shaw (Evan Dumouchel) seeking revenge against a mysterious stalker.

Director Blackshear is in control of his material the moment he puts the audience in mystery mode with an initial segment at the film’s start of a damsel in distress in a toilet, panting and gasping while washing blood off her hands.

WHEN I CONSUME YOU is that rare film that makes the audience think, whether consciously or unconsciously from the images its director flashes on screen.  The images of 3 photographs of a boy and girl at different ages as kids, teens and grownups is one example.  The first thing assumed is that the two are brother and sister.  The second is that the two must have been close and the third is that there must be some trouble brewing as the brother and sister look a bit troubled as grownups.  All these are true, as one recognizes the power images have on the mind and how director Blackshear uses these to tease the minds of his audience.  This is Hitchcock’s play on how quickly the mind can draw conclusions from images.  (Hitchcock has mentioned that if he flashes an image of a young girl on the screen followed by the image of an old man looking, a sinister assumption can be drawn that the man is a dirty old man.)  The film contains a shower scene (with a shadow seen behind the shower curtain like in PSYCHO) posing the question if director Blackshear is paying homage to the Master of Suspense.

Director Blackshear again forces the audience to think in another scene in which Daphne goes for an adoption interview (she wishes to adopt a child).  She reveals that she is a recovered alcoholic and drug user and that  she is prepared after much reparation to adopt a child.  The interviewer poses a question: “With your history, what would you do if you were me?”  Would you, as the audience give Daphne a chance?   - tough question, indeed.

The characters are decent folk that one will sympathize with.  Daphne has got herself clean.  The brother is troubled and can only get a job as a janitor.  He wishes to teach.  “I really want to help kids.  I will work so hard to help people if you can give me the chance,” says Wilson at one point in the film.

There is one great scene that should be used in the film’s trailer.  In that scene Wilson confidentially says to his sister that he will find the stalker and make him confess.  Her reply: “How? You can hardly tie your own fucking shoes.”

The stalker first appears at the film’s 15 minute mark.  When the stalker strikes, director Blackshear uses various camera techniques (jittery hand held camera, screeching sounds, amplified sound of footsteps, stoning lights) to effectively crate at atmosphere of menace and fear.  It is also difficult to tell at any point in the film where the film is headed, unless one has read about the film before hand.  To the audience's advantage, the less known about the film the better.  Note that the film turns extremely dark and metaphorical.  Director Blackshear blows his audience away showing that love can hurt and there is always hope amidst grave impossible odds.

WHEN I CONSUME YOU is one fo the better horror mystery drama out this year and puts its more than talented director on the map as a talent to be reckoned with.

Trailer: