FILM REVIEWS:

THE ACCIDENTAL TWINS (Hermanos por Accidente) (Colombia 2024) ***
Directed by Alessandro Angulo

 

It would be so cool to have an identical twin, says one of the accidental twins, the name of Jorge Bernal,  at the start of the documentary THE ACCIDENTAL TWINS.   Be careful what you wish for.  His following statement goes to to say that he could hardly believe that his entire life lived had been a lie.

The new Netflix original documentary from Colombia tells of two sets of identical twins switched at birth in Bagota, Colombia as it explores their complex history and new identities.

The doc, as expected, is divided into three parts,  The first is the discovery of the identical twin, the second is how the twins got switched at birth - by mistake or deliberate and the third is the reactions of the twins, how they cope with the new found truth and how they deal with the new truth.

The discovery occurs when Jorge’s co-worker, Yaneth, a girl goes to her boyfriend’s butcher shop to buy meat for a BBQ.  She notices a butcher who looks like Jorge and yells to him, with no response.  Jorge tells her when she tells him about the incident that he never worked at the butcher shop.  After some more fishing, She shows a photo of William (the guy at the butcher shop) to Jorge who is surprised.  The plot thickens.  Jorge has an identical twin that does not look like him.  It is then discovered when Jorge looks at a photograph of William and his twin, he finds that William’s twin looks like his twin.  This discovery portion takes around a third of the film’s length and is mildly interesting, though the discovery is important in the story.

The doc requires some following as there are two sets of twins that looks similar.  Names can be confused.  The main subject is Jorge and his non-lookalike twin is Carlos.  He discovers his real twin, William working at the butchers and William’s twin Wilber who does not look like William but like Carlos.  Once these identities are cleared, the film is easier to follow,   Director Angelo spaces the time of introduction of each of the 4 characters, so that the audience can take time to absorb the material without confusion.  The tactic works.

But the re-enactments are obvious.  These include the ride in the cab with Jorge and Carlos to meet their identical twins at the Plaza de Lourdes.  The doc is made up mainly of these re-enactments and interviews.  The re-enactments aid in making the film easier to follow though those involved in filmmaking or those who watch docs a lot of docs know that re-enactments are often made to fool the audience that what is taking place is taking place in real-time and not a re-enactment.

THE ACCIDENTAL TWINS does not glorify its subject but tells the story the way it is.  The story is nevertheless interesting enough to warrant a documentary in the making that does not take much research but more detective work.  The pieceing of the re-enactments together gives the doc a mystery element and works to bring up the entertainment level a notch or two.  Director Angelo ends his film on a feel-good, not about the power of the human spirit to forgive and to look at the good fate dishes out.

THE ACCIDENTAL TWINS opens for streaming on Netflix, on Thursday this week.

Trailer: 

 

THE BIKERIDERS (USA 2023) ****
Directed by Jeff  Nichols

 

Set in the 1960s, THE BIKERIDERS follows the rise of the Vandals MC, a Chicago outlaw motorcycle club.  Seen through the lives of its members and their families, the club evolves over the course of a decade from a surrogate family for local outcasts into a violent organized crime syndicate, threatening the original founder's unique vision and way of life.

The origin of the club featured in the film in the 1960s originated from a number of clubs the first one founded as early as in the 1930s.  The club featured in a work of photojournalism called The Bikeriders published in 1967 by Danny Lyon (played by, Mike Faist, recently seen in CHALLENGERS and in Steven Spielberg’s WEST SIDE STORY) a collection of photographs and interviews documenting the lifestyle of members of the club in the 1960s.  As depicted in the film, Lyon spent four years riding with the Outlaws' Chicago chapter beginning in 1963 and became a full-fledged member of the club in "an attempt to record and glorify the life of the American bike rider”.  It is also interesting to note that The Bikeriders preceded Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by Hunter S. Thompson, who warned Lyon that he should "get to hell out of that club unless it's absolutely necessary for photo action.

The film is told from interviews given by Kathy (Jodie Cormer) to Danny Lyon.  Kathy is the wife of Ben (Austin Butler) one of the prominent dedicated and crazed riders of the Vandals, a sort of successor, handpicked by to the founder, Johnny (Tom Hardy).  As she tells the story, the film is intercut with the story of the Vandals, beginning with how Kathy met Benny at a bar and how they hooked up and married, though the wedding was never shown on screen, though is mentioned.  Another omission in the film is Johnny’s wife or woman, who only has two brief appearances in the film.  Given this interview, the otherwise male bike story is given a female perspective.  Kathy rates her feelings that she boldly tells the often emotionless Benny.  Kathy wants him to leave the bike club after a severe accident that causes Benny to almost lose his leg.

Credit to Nichols for creating a convincing and stunning period piece with great shots of motorbike riding.  Nichols elects superb performances from his entire cast, particularly Tom Hardy.  

Tom Hardy stands out as Johnny with his tough talk and leather gear.  His fight scenes aid in showing his masculinity and dedication towards the bike club.  He rarely shows kindness but serves to protect those around him, of course within reason.  Hardy speaks with a slurred accent, likely giving tribute to Marlon Brando who has a similar bike role in the 1953 film László Benedek's THE WILD ONES, the film given a nod in one scene.

THE BIKERIDERS opens in theatres on June 21st.  THE BIKERIDERS is a tough film about tough males, but given a female point of view, morphing it also into a love story.   It is worth a watch, the best film opening this week.

THE BOY IN THE WOODS (Canada 2023) ****

Directed by Rebecca Snow

 

The film is set in eastern Poland in 1943.  At this time, Eastern Poland was under Nazi Occupation for a period of 2 years.  In the local town of Buczach, the once-thriving Jewish Population has been decimated.  The last remaining residents are awaiting deportation.  This is where the film begins, based on a true story as the film titles announce.

The boy’s family is rounded up on the street about to be loaded into trucks, together with other families in the local neighbourhood.  At the chance that no guard is looking, the mother forces the boy to run and escape through a gate and he does.  He ends up with a rural family who discards the boy after he poses an extra threat to the family.  The father of the family is stern to the boy but has to give him up.  The father is played by Richard Armitage.  Jett Klyne who plays the boy delivers a powerhouse and convincing performance.

The film has the atmosphere of a Grimm fairytale, especially with the boy in the woods.  It feels like Hansel and Gretel as the boy is led to the woods by the man and never to return.  The boy does not meet a witch but has to live in a makeshift shelter of wood and branches, hiding away from ‘Jew Hunters’ who can earn a good buck if they catch the boy and turn him in.   The woods are the ones in Northern Ontario where the film is shot, a Canadian production.

Despite the seemingly simple premise, a lot happens.  The boy, Max meets another younger boy, Yank, who he promises to take care of.  With the need for companionship, the two become passionate friends while still living in the danger of being caught by the Jew Hunters.

The story is part coming-of-age story as Max grows up and learns about responsibility and survival and part survival story describing the strength of courage and the human will.

THE BOY IN THE WOODS is based on a true story.  Rebecca Snow took on the project of "The Boy in the Woods" inspired by Maxwell Smart's true story of survival. She met him while making the documentary Cheating Hitler.  The image of Max is shown at the end of the film during the closing credits, Max now being in his senior age.  The girl he had saved as a baby by the river just before the Germans surrendered is also shown in the closing credits.

Trailer: 

INHERITANCE (Polish title: Spadek)(Poland 2014) ***
Directed by Sylwester Jakimow

 

What won’t a person do for money?  This is the question an old gentleman asks at the beginning before firing a bullet from a gun, the bullet flying off in slow motion.

Family fighting for an inheritance is not a new premise in murder comedies.  The recent one on Netflix from Italy THE PRICE OF NONNA’S INHERITANCE that opened last month had a family trying to murder the rich grandmother’s new younger fiance to save their share of inheritance proved quite funny.  INHERITANCE from Poland has a a family gathering at a wealthy dying uncle’s estate fighting for a larger portion of the inheritance.  Uncle isn’t really dying but is murdered.

The film challenges itself.  Voiceover (the voice belongs to one of the family members) says that inheritance will turn a large family into lunatics.  And how about an abnormal family?  The statement primes the audience to expect more from the film.

Is the family abnormal?  There is a gay member who shows up with his lover and an older member with her much younger boyfriend who the family thinks is after her money.  The audience soon learns that the uncle, who is actually not dying is a practical joker and totally fucked up.  He initially fools the family during the reading of the will that would leave the entire inheritance to the local orphanage before suddenly appearing behind them and laughing at them from looking at their faces.  He invents a game to be played by the family the next day to keep them closer together as a family.

To make matters worse and as the plot thickens, a blizzard occurs that isolates the family from the outside world.

The trouble starts with the rich uncle.  No one knows the truth but rumours are that he was a spy, or that he was the first TV game show host or that he was an inventor.  Needless today, he was very rich and even if you inherit a million zlotys, you feel that you lost if someone else inherited two million.

Uncle is dying.  Ore is he?  He insists on having his family, extended ones included at his estate.  They all arrive and prove to be a whole assortment of characters, who obviously for entertainment's sake, do not get along with each other.  They also try to outdo each other, while trying to impress their rich uncle with the big inheritance, to gain his favour and a bigger portion of the inheritance.

Soon, as the film progresses, Uncle dies.  Is he dead?  There are shades of Agatha Christie akin to a film like Neil Simon’s MURDER BY DEATH.  It is barely funny with the murder plot clouding the humour.  The game that Uncle forces the family to play is at least quite inventive though nothing to write home about.

INHERITANCE, a Netflix original movie from Poland and in Polish opens Wednesday this week for streaming on Netflix together with another one from Poland, a magical fantasy, KLEKS ACADEMY.

THE OMICRON KILLER (USA 2023) *** ½

Direct by Jeff Knite

 

The film opens with the date November 7th, 2020 with the Omicron Killer and then flashes forward to the year 2021, November 7th with the imitation Omicron Killer after the original killer has died.

A copycat serial killer, killing his last victim on the anniversary of the death of the original killer, decides to retire from his life of murder.  But his retirement doesn’t last for long. Attacked by vicious thugs, left severely wounded and hospitalized, The Omicron Killer returns, hellbent on vengeance as he embarks on a new reign of terror!

“If looks could kill, you would be dead by now!” says one nurse to another as the Omicron Killer is examined in the hospital after he has killed the three thugs who attempted to rob him.”  He had done away with the three viciously.

From the beginning 15 minutes so far, the violence is extreme and escalates in intensity as the film progresses, with  low-brow humour put in.  The three thugs who got killed trying to rob the Omicron Killer sure got what was coming to them.

Omicron (B.1.1.529) is a variant of SARS-CoV-2 first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by the Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa on 24 November 2021.  It was first detected in Botswana and has spread to become the predominant variant in circulation around the world.  Following the original B.1.1.529 variant, several subvariants of Omicron have emerged including BA.1, BA.2, BA.3, BA.4, and BA.5.  Since October 2022, two subvariants of BA.5 called BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 have emerged.  The film is called The Omicron Killer because this killer is like the Omicron virus, a copycat or variant and a deadlier killer than the original COVID-19 virus.  The Omicron Killer is initially made fun of as a pathetic copycat of a serial killer, with the fact that serial killers are already really pathetic as they are.  With this in mind, director Knit plays his film like a black comedy, also with loser detectives, made even funnier by having their hard-ass foul-mouthed female boss, constantly abusing ten as well.

The film plays like a horror slasher black comedy.  The humour is as crude as the characters are.  The film is effectively set during the Pandemic with many characters wearing a mak.  For a small-budget movie, director Jeff Knite has created a cultish and very entertaining slasher horror black comedy.   A side plot involves a band of cultists led by a female who calls herself the Empress who with her followers, who she often refers to as idiots, try to resurrect the original serial killer on the night of the Blood Moon (A "blood moon" happens when Earth's moon is in a total lunar eclipse. While it has no special astronomical significance, the view in the sky is striking as the usually whitish moon becomes red or ruddy brown.)

The Omicron Killer is a big and fat motherf***ker who never says a word.  He would dispense with anyone who gives him a hard time, and that would be quite many people.  He can be seen as a man who is being abused by society and decides that he's fed up and is not going to take It anymore.

THE OMICRON KILLER opens on Digital Platforms on June 25th.

Trailer: 

OUTSTANDING: A COMEDY REVOLUTION (USA 2024) ***
Directed by Page Hurwitz

 

On a serious note,  the new Netflix documentary, OUTSTANDING: A COMEDY REVOLUTION chronicles the history of LGBTQ stand-up and considers the importance of LGBTQ stand-up as a driving force for the gay movement at the same time.   But it is quite funny as the doc is interspersed with comic routines as well as funny gay anecdotes that are guaranteed to make one laugh out loud many a time.

The doc begins humorously with Margaret Cho, a gay comic icon doing her routine saying: “When I was 14, I told my mother I wanted to be a comedian.  She replied (doing a Korean accent), “Maybe it is better that you just die!”

Robin Tyler says it all in a moving interview.  If you are in a closet, you’re in a vertical coffin.  All you do is suffocate to death.  She is Canadian from the prairies, what one might call a prairie dyke.  She came out young and was never in the closet.

The impressive cast of LGBTQ comedians includes  Lily Tomlin, Rosie O’Donnell, Eddie Izzard, Sandra Bernhard, Billy Eichner, Fortune Feimster, Tig Notaro. Margaret Cho and Solomon Georgio, who are among the many performers who recount their personal stories of developing their comedic styles and grappling with homophobia.

As much as the doc makes one laugh, there are also sad and moving moments.  The doc includes the history of fighting for gay rights.  The anti-gay activist Anita Bryant who fought to remove gay rights and to remove gays from jobs and work is displayed as saying that lesbians cannot reproduce and so they recruit our children.  Following is Harvey Milk, a gay elected official who says: “I am here to recruit you.”  These scenes including the riots of the Stonewall uprising remind LGBTQ people, how much they had to fight to have their voices heard.  Though homophobia is still rampant around the world, one must admit that there has been much improvement as well as much more to do.

The biggest hero (or heroine) in the doc is Sandra Bernhard.  She was a fighter, in theatre, and a musician in comedy.  She fought the fascists like ex-President Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell, an American pastor and televangelist.  The doc includes clips of her speeches and performances, all both heartbreaking and moving,

As much as gay culture progressed in the 70s and 80s, there was a huge pushback in the arrival of AIDs. This brings the doc to a more sombre tone.  Politics are also brought in with clips of speeches by ex-Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton

In the words of comedian Judy Gold: A great comedian will make you laugh and make you think and maybe change your mind.  Such is the importance of LGBTQ comedians.

OUTSTANDING: A COMEDY REVOLUTION covers material that most audiences are familiar with, but a reminder of history and what the LGBTQ community has gone through is important as it is part of History while accomplished in a humourous entertaining way.

OUTSTANDING: A COMEDY REVOLUTION opened for streaming this week Tuesday on Netflix.  Worth a watch, for sure.

Trailer: 

THELMA (USA 2023) ***
Directed by Josh Margolin

 

In the new senior action comedy THELMA, 93-year-old Thelma Post gets duped by a phone scammer pretending to be her grandson.  Against all odds, she sets out on a treacherous quest across the city to reclaim the $10,000 that was taken from her.

Everyone needs an action hero.  Even seniors!  June Squibb who is now at the ripe age of 94, plays a very credible action hero (with a nod to Tom Cruise and his MISSION IMPOSSIBLE action flicks) who takes on the evil villain scammer guy (Played by Malcolm McDowell best known for his performance in Stanley Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE) in what is a likable movie for seniors and those a bit younger as well.  It is difficult not to like a 93-year-old character making matters right and getting her money back.

THELMA tackles the difficulties seniors go through.  One of the most pressing challenges seniors have is getting familiar with technology including the Internet.  Thelma is the first senior section superhero.  But mostly, the story is credible as it shows the challenge a senior has in learning how to use a computer and search the internet. In THELMA, Thelma is aided by her grandson Danny who helps her search the internet which also includes banking.  The villain is also aided with computers by his nephew, Colin. 

The film has a few major plot flaws - one being that no one would be able to do a bank transfer of an amount as large as $10,000 in one transaction.  Anyone who’s tried to make an e-transfer with a large amount would know the fact. 

Most important of all, seniors in real life are easy targets of scammers.  Thelma was an easy target, too trusting and easy on giving up her cash,

Director Margolin works well with his senior actress/star as is evident in the film.  He also creates a few highlights as in the scene where unexpectedly, she fires a gun.  Another is Thelma stealing the mobile scooter of her friend Ben played by Richard Roundtree, best known in the role of Shaft in the original SHAFT film.  

Thelma is the first senior section superhero.  But mostly, the story is credible as it shows the challenge a senior has in learning how to use a computer and search the internet.  In the film, Thelma has the aide of her grandson, Danny who is amicable played by Fred Hechinger. 

Apart from the old actors, there are two young ones, Danny (Thelma’s grandson) and Colin The villain’s nephew). It would have been cool to have a scene with the two youngsters fighting it out in an action scene.

In real life, June Squibb is an action hero to many.  Her resume proves the fact.  She began her career by making her Broadway debut in the musical Gypsy (1959). Her first film role was in the 1990 romantic comedy ALICE by Woody Allen. She later had supporting roles in films The Age of Innocence (1993), In & Out (1997), Meet Joe Black (1998), About Schmidt (2002), and Far from Heaven (2002).  Her breakout role wasin 2013.  Squibb appeared in the comedy-drama film Nebraska and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

THELMA is June Squibb’s first leading role at the age of 94.  She will soon appear in the remake of the black comedy Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead and also is set to appear as a lead character in the drama film Eleanor the Great.

THELMA opens at the TIFF Lightbox June 21st.

Trailer: 

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