BABES (USA 2024) *
Directed by Pamela Adlon

 

BABES follows inseparable childhood best friends Eden (Ilana Glazer) and Dawn (Michelle Buteau), having grown up together in NYC, now firmly in different phases of adulthood.   When carefree and single Eden decides to have a baby on her own after a one-night stand, their friendship faces its greatest challenge. BABES delves into the complexities of female friendship with a blend of laughter, tears, and labour pains.

The film gets terribly irritating at the very beginning when the very pregnant Dawn goes for a restaurant Thanksgiving dinner with Eden.  Her water trickles and she screams at the top of her voice annoying not only all the other restaurant clients but the audience as well.  Dawn is loud, obnoxious, rude and crass.  Eden sort of allows the behaviour.

        The segment in which Dawn crawls on all fours at the hospital when she is in labour  says it all in terms of overdoing a situation,

It does not take a genius to guess how the story turns out.  It turbans out just like a romantic harlequin book would.  The best friend would argue and have a major fallout before becoming best friends forever again.

There should be a contest to see who is the more annoying character.  Eden or Dawn?

From co-writers Ilana Glazer and Josh Rabinowitz and directed by Pamela Adlon, BABES is described in the press notes as a hilarious and heartfelt comedy about the bonds of friendship and the messy, unpredictable challenges of adulthood and becoming a parent.  What the filmmakers want their film to be and how it turns out is a totally different thing.  With respect to the film, the filmmakers seem totally out of touch with what is happening.  The best way to describe the film is being drunk and totally out of intro.  The drunk and totally drunk person is having a hell of a good time, but the other, looking after the drunk friend is having a horrid time.

BABES is a terribly annoying female slant comedy in which the filmmakers think what they are proving on screen is funnier than what it is.  Shouting and screaming half the time, I wanted to walk out of the cinema at the one-hour mark.  And I should have!

BABES opens in theatres on May 24th.

Trailer: 

EXTREMELY UNIQUE DYNAMIC (USA 2023) ***
Directed by Harrison Yu, Ivan Leung and Katherine Dudas

 

In this (likely) first-ever and (possibly) award-winning feature, Ryan and Daniel, two childhood best friends and aspiring actors, spend one final weekend together before Ryan moves from LA to Canada with his fiancé. Wanting to create one lasting memory, they decide to make a movie... about two guys making a movie… about two guys making a movie. Along the way, bottled-up secrets arise as they unpack their decades-long friendship and prepare for the next chapters of their respective lives.

The concept is neat and kind of stoned confusing who the directors play with quite a bit throughout their film.  The concept gets a bit tiring after a while and watching the childish antics of these two young adults can get quite challenging.  But the two actors Harrison and Ivan are quite endearing and they keep pushing the lines until something works.  Thankfully, the film shifts into gear in the second half when thongs get quite tense.  One does sympathize with the gay Daniel who keeps the secret of his sexuality from his best friend Ryan.

The story covers a topic seldom mentioned in films.  How does one tell one’s best friend that one is gay?   The subject is dealt in detail and sincerity upping the film several notches from being just a dumb stoner movie.

EXTREMELY UNIQUE DYNAMIC is maverick no-budget filmmaking and one has to give credit for the filmmakers for their tireless energy.

The Meta-Asian-Stoner-Bromantic-Coming-of-Age Dramedy, EXTREMELY UNIQUE DYNAMIC celebrates its International Premiere at the 2024 Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival May 25th 7 PM at TIFF Lightbox.  It is the opening night Gala.

Trailer: 

 

 

FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA (USA/Australia 2024) ***½

Directed by George Miller

 

No more Mad Max, but a new character Furiosa arises from the last MAD MAX: FURY ROAD film in the new MADS MAX franchise FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA.  Having the same visionary director George Miller who helmed all the previous Mad Max movies, the latest edition is similar to FURY ROAD in the sense that it is a continuous action-packed film one action sequence after another with no intention of stopping.  Anya Taylor-Joy replaces Charleze Theron as Furiosa.  Miller is a visionary and his MAD MAX film franchise shows him directing all 5 films, MAD MAX, ROAD WARRIOR, BEYOND THUDERDROME, FURY ROAD and FURIOSA.  Miller won an Oscar for directing the animated feature HAPPY FEET,

The story does not really matter much as the importance is only secondary to the action sequences.  So despite a loose narrative with loose ends as well, director Miller’s film still succeeds, thanks to his visionary look of a dystopian desert landscape similar to that of the Australian desert where much of the film was shot (in New South Wales).

Miller co-wrote the with Nico Lathouris. It is the fifth installment in the Mad Max franchise, serving as both a spin-off and prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). The film stars Anya Taylor-Joy and Alyla Browne as younger versions of the title character Imperator Furiosa, originally portrayed by Charlize Theron. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Burke also star.

The film begins with a young Furiosa abducted from her homeland, known as the Green Place of Many Mothers, by members of the Horde of the Biker Warlord Dementus (Hemsworth). They hope to use Furiosa to find the place of abundance she hails from, but Furiosa keeps it secret and escapes with the help of her mother Mary Jo Bassa. Dementus captures Mary and executes her and takes Furiosa as his own. She is encouraged by Dementus’ History Man to make herself invaluable, but she plans to escape back to green.  History Man tells her to study and learn so that she can be useful to Dementus.  Dementus and his horde run into a war boy while looking for the land of abundance and believe the Citadel he speaks of is the land. They go to the Citadel, where Dementus tries to rally the people there against their leader to his side. The leader turns out to be Immortan Joe, the war boy turns out to be a red herring and they destroy Dementus’ horde, seizing his bikes and weapons as he and a few of his men manage to escape with the young Furiosa.

There is not much left in terms of the story except the battle going on between Dementus’ horde and Joe’s men.   There is no good or evil but the audience tends to take the side that Furiosa is on - which is not Dements’ side.  One point in this saga is that Furiosa would be expected to return to the land of abundance which never happens.

Trailer;

THE GARFIELD MOVIE (USA 2024) **
Directed by Mark Dindal

 

GARFIELD, the world’s most lovable cat, or at least the most popular being the most syndicated cat comic strip in the United States gets to star in his own animated feature opening this week.  Director Mark Dindal (originally from Disney who had worked on THE LITTLE MERMAID, ALADDIN and WB’s CATS DON’T DANCE) plays it safe with the Jim Davis comic strip, keeping the spirit of things - which means like the strip, it gets pretty boring with the monotony of Garfield’s high jinx.  GARFIELD held the Guinness World Record for being the world's most widely syndicated comic strip

The film chronicles the life of the title character Garfield the cat (Chris Pratt), his human owner Jon Arbuckle (Nicholas Hoult) and how they met in a generally unfunny restaurant sequence (except maybe funny for children), and Odie the dog ( Harvey Guillén).  True to form, Garfield controls everything with Odie just playing along.  Garfield eats lasagne, hates Mondays (the only thing missing issues is the Carpenters’ song ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’) controls his owner and gets into mischief ever so often.  He also watches Catflix on TV.

In the film, the rut is attempted to be broken when Garfield ventures out to discover his father, voiced by Samuel L. Jackson.  Garfield is thus set to have a wild outdoor adventure  Garfield’s long-lost father – a scruffy street cat Vic who turns out to be more than expected – Garfield and his canine friend Odie are forced from their perfectly pampered life into joining Vic in a high-stakes heist.  Garfield goes through some life lessons on the way and learns more about his father.

Every story needs a villain and the villain in this film comes in the form of Hannah Waddingham as Jinx, a villainous Persian cat.  The villain does not appear too villainous and does not have any scheme such as destroying the universe or the world or even the world of cats.

The story gets sappy along the way, probably the sappiest film on record that Samuel L. Jackson has been in.  He does not get to use the ‘mf’ word that comes with him being in the movie.  The film’s animation is colourful and lively enough and with the film keeping true to the comic strip ends up being a mild and barely entertaining exercise.  Children will find Garfield’s antics more cute and amusing.

The product placement is obvious to the point of embarrassment.  The filmmakers make no attempt to subtly put the advertisements in place.

This is the second GARFIELD movie, the first one opening 20 years ago in 2004 to awful reviews (less than 20% acceptance on Rotten Tomatoes).  This one has got better reviews so far (over 70% on Rotten Tomatoes), though the film has not turned out as hilarious or adventurous as promised in the trailer.

Trailer: 

GARFIELD opens in theatres on May 24th.   The film opened in 18 countries on May 3, and grossed $22 million in its first weekend. Its largest markets were Mexico ($8.8 million), Spain ($3.2 million), Brazil ($2.2 million), Italy ($1.6 million), and Peru ($1.3 million).

HIT MAN (USA 2023) ***½

Directed by Richard Linklater

 

Richard Linklater whose film DAZED AND CONFUSED broke him to fame continues his fresh look at the criminal commonly as the hit man, one frequently hired to do some nasty service like doing away with someone’s enemy.   A bit of morality comes into play too as to whether the hirer or the hit man is the criminal, with the hit man brought to court in a number of scenes.

The film begins with the words that what one is about to see is a somewhat true story,  Truth be told, the end credits inform that the story is based on a magazine article, which implies of course, that changes have been made for the purpose of dramatization and entertainment.  Drama and entertainment, HIT MAN provides.  Though the title implies an action movie, Linklater’s film is clearly not but a wry look at the hitman genre with humour and romance tied in.  The romance is believable enough, as Linklater has proved his mettle in the romance genre with films like BEFORE SUNSET, BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFOE MIDNIGHT.  HIT MAN is best described as a somewhat true crime comedy thriller about role-play, romance, and the precarious pursuit of self-knowledge.

HIT MAN serves as the perfect vehicle for Everybody Wants Some!’s Glen Powell.  This is Powell’s best and most believable role, discounting his terrible teen adult romance ANYONE BUT YOU and playing second fiddle to Tom Cruise in TOP GUN MAVERICK.

Gary Johnson (Glen Powell) is a philosophy professor by day, lecturing his students on theories of morality.  Gary gets to propel his views on the students.  “Life is short!  Push yourself out there!”   Needless to say, his hitman job gets Gary to put his theories to the test.  In his downtime, he works with the police in surveillance vans as a tech-savvy staff investigator during undercover sting operations.  When the temperamental officer who normally plays the role of hitman is placed on leave for misconduct, milquetoast Gary is asked to step in because he vaguely resembles the ousted officer. To everyone’s surprise, Gary proves himself more than adequate in the restaurant segment where he performs his first sting.  After that, Gary thrives impersonating the fabricated killer for other clients, putting them in the slammer for murder intent..

One day, Gary, in character as Ron, the charismatic lone-wolf hitman, meets would-be client Madison (Adria Arjona), who is desperate to get out of her abusive marriage.  Sparks fly. Soon, he reaches out to Madison outside of their arrangement to start a decidedly non-professional but steamy fling.  But as Gary attempts to keep his various personas separate, his lies accumulate and someone actually ends up dead.  He finds himself in the middle of a real crime with all evidence leading back to him.

The script written by both Powell and Linklater contains enough twists and turns with a good Chemistry-romance between the leads.  Powell and Linklater make a good team as did Linklater and Ethan Hawke.

Trailer: 

HIT MAN had its international premiere at the 80th Venice International Film Festival on September 5, 2023, followed afterward by its North American premiere on September 11 at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).  It is scheduled to be released in select theatres in the United States on May 24, 2024, before streaming on Netflix on June 7, 2024.

 

ILLUSIONS FOR SALE? THE RISE AND FALL OF GENERATION ZOE

(El vendedor de ilusiones: El caso Generación Zoe)

(Argentina 2024) ***

Directed by Matías Gueilburt

 

Generation Zoe is the company founded by Leonardo Cositorto.  Generation Zoe, is a spiritual coaching network hiding the most unusual scam in Argentina's history.  Ordinary folk who have a hard time with their lives suddenly get greedy and take a risk to invest all their savings to achieve what they believe is an accessible dream.  And then they lose everything,

This is the crime documentary of the genesis, growth, and fall of the most bizarre and ambitious financial platform in Latin America, which turns out to be, to a large extent, a faithful reflection of its eccentric creator: Leonardo Cositorto.

The doc spends the first three quarters on the introduction and growth of the company.  Then, a reporter finds something fishy and writes to the Security Commission to find out that there is no trading thee with Generation Zoe.

One of the interesting subjects tackled in the doc is ontological communication.  Ontology is the philosophical study of being. It investigates what types of entities exist, how they are grouped into categories, and how they are related to one another on the most fundamental level (and whether there even is a fundamental level).  Ontologists often try to determine what the categories or highest kinds are and how they form a system of categories that encompasses the classification of all entities.  And the reason Leonardo Cositorto is so effective in convincing so many victims is ontological communication.  Ontology is important in communication studies because it provides a context for understanding how humans communicate. Ontology is the basis for all human existence, which includes the way of communicating. To understand and approach communication studies requires an understanding of the ontological principles.

Cositorto was attracted to Vila Maria in the province of Cordoba in Argentinian, a rich city.   and the head town of the General San Martín Department. It is located in the centre of rich agricultural land. The area leads the country in the production of milk. The city has a population of 72,162 per the 2001 census (Greater Villa María: 119,000), which makes it the third largest city in the province.  This is where it all started.

Then came March 20th, 2020 when the Pandemic began.

Interesting too is to watch how everything spiralled.  The company Zoe owned dealerships, health food stores, and name brands as well as started having its own cryptocurrency.  The bigger the rise, the harder would be the fall.  

The doc being a little tech savvy and easy to understand is an easy watch for those not well versed with investing,  As every person dreams of riches, the doc is of interest to almost everyone,  And there are important lessons to be learned in this fast-moving documentary.

ILLUSIONS FOR SALE? THE RISE AND FALL OF GENERATION ZOE are professionally made, made even more credible as it features interviews with the President of the Company as well as the Vice President Max Batista, together with a couple of poor victims who had their hopes dashed as well as money lost.

The doc opens for streaming on Netflix this week.

Trailer: 

MY ONI GIRL (Japan 2024) ***½

Directed by Tomotaka Shibayama

 

Though unfamiliar to North America, the word one is a valid word in the English language.  In Japanese folklore, a type of demonic creature is often of giant size, great strength, and fearful appearance. They are generally considered to be foreign in origin, perhaps introduced into Japan from China along with Buddhism. Cruel and malicious, they can, nevertheless, be converted to Buddhism.  In the new Japanese animated feature MY GIRL ONI, the one is in the form of a teenage girl.

Yatsuse Hiiragi, a first-year high school student, is the type of person who cannot refuse requests because he wants to get along well with the people around him and not be disliked by them. However, nothing he does goes well and he has no one he can call a best friend. One summer day when it snows out of season, he meets Tsumugi, a demon girl who has come to the human world looking for her mother. Tsumugi, who has a personality opposite to Hiiragi and does not care about what others think of her, takes Hiiragi on her journey.

One change of scenes is done initially at the start of the film when Yatuse is on a mountain of snow and the background changes from the snow to the subway train he is in, on the way to school.  The same scene change occurs when the background of the school gym changes to an outdoor eating place.  This technique gives the impression that what is occurring on screen is with real characters in typical movies and not animation.  The animation of the character looks as if they are taken right out of a Studio Ghibli animated feature, such as HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE or the recent  THE BOY AND THE HERON the films directed by Master Japan animator Hayao Miyazaki.   It is a good feeling as there are not enough features coming out of Ghibli Studios, the films are usually of outstanding quality entertainment.

The film is available in two formats - the dubbed version and the original Japanese version with English subtitles.  The one on Netflix I viewed is in the original Japanese with English subtitles.   

The best things about MY ONI GIRL are its Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki look, its fascinating Japanese folklore and a coming-of page story that feels unrushed and genuine.

The film is part of a three-film exclusivity deal between Colorido and Netflix that started with Hiroyasu Ishida's DRIFTING HOME that released in September 2022.

Trailer: 

 MY GIRL OMI will be released simultaneously in Japanese theatres and on Netflix globally on May 24, 2024.

THE SALE GIRL (Mongolia 2022) ***
Directed by Janchivdorj Sengedorj 

From Mongolia comes this rare coming-of-age tale set in contemporary times and in the city and filmed in both Mongolian and Russian. THE SALES GIRL is an edgy sexy comedy drama that gives audiences a glimpse into modern Mongolia.

When college coed Saruul takes a temporary job as a clerk in a sex shop, her poker-faced indifference makes her the perfect foil for the shop’s clientele, who range from slightly sheepish and cautiously curious to downright perverse.  But it’s the shop’s flamboyant, eccentric female owner, Katya who initiates Saruul’s journey into adulthood – taking her under her wing, teaching her the art of living, and gently guiding her on the path to self-discovery.

Saruul looks young enough to be underaged, but she is old enough to be selling toys in the sex shop.  Even Katya makes the remark at one point in the film: “You want me to get arrested when the cops find you, underage working in my shop?” to which Saruul unequivocally gives her her I.D. as proof of her age.

There is a neat scene of Saruul, while taking public transport noticing the runaway dog running in a pack of other strays, apparently enjoying itself in its new freedom.  Her character is somewhat similar to the dog’s having found her new freedom.  Saruul had initially remarked that the dog looked bored and did not behave like a dog.

Though all of Arum’s coming-of-age lessons come from the shop owner, she is also aware of her own present life.  At one point, she rightly chastises the owner that there are poorer people who are unable to enjoy freedom due to poverty and commitment.  They are stuck in their chores like cooking and routine, unable to get out of the rut.  Saruul, is stuck with strict parents, her strict demanding father and her mother who is only concerned with family.  The parents’ greatest shock occurs in one scene where Sorrel is caught nude with her mate, yes, removing his cum that has got stuck on the ceiling.

Saruul also faces the odd awkward situation during her deliveries of the shop’s merchandise when customers make sexual advances towards her.

Besides being set in the city, the film contains seldom-seen scenes of the Mongolian countryside like the steppes and rocky landscapes.  A candid look at a more rural Mongolia has Saruul and the owner stopping to buy mushrooms from a country girl in the rural areas.

THE SALES GIRL is a humorous coming-of-age story set in a different setting of the sex toys trade and in Mongolia, a place unfamiliar to North Americans, two facts make this film worth a look.  The film has made a successful run in film festivals around the world winning many awards in the process.  Among them (only the ones that the film has won awards are included):

Udine Far East Film Festival (2023) | Winner, Audience Award, Nominee for Best Screenplay

Vesoul Asian Film Festival (2023) | Winner, Best Film

Bangkok World Film Festival (2023) | Nominee, Best Film

Osaka Asian Film Festival (2022) | Winner, Best Actress (Bayarjargal Bayartsetseg)

New York Asian Film Festival (2022) | Winner, Best Feature Film

Adelaide Film Festival (2022)

Trailer: 

THE SALES GIRL premieres via VOD and Digital on May 24th. 2024.

SILENT LAND (Chica Ziemia) (Poland/Italy/Czech 2021) ***1/2

Directed by Aga Woszczyńska

 

SILENT LAND traces the downward spiral of a bourgeois Polish couple’s relationship from the very start to the end of the film.  Though on paper, the story looks simple and plain, director Woszczyńska who also co-wrote the script, delivers a deliciously wicked comedy (or drama) of manners that has the feel of a classic Chabrol movie, even to the extent of the possibility of a murder.  The film is also reminiscent immediately of Dominik Moll’s Cannes Opening film LEMMING (10 years or so back) which traces a couple’s suffering relationship.

Aki Kaurismaki the Finnish director of minor masterpieces like FALLING LEAVES, DRIFTING CLOUDS A NEW HOPE is known for his deadpan comedy.  SILENT LAND explores deadpan drama in which the characters are mostly silent while the drama is still intense and intrinsic as if waiting to explode.

This is a tale of bliss interrupted. In her feature debut, director Aga Woszczyńska (her short FRAGMENTS debut at Cannes in the Directors Fortnight in 2014) chooses taut, thoughtful sequences to peel back the veneer of success from this beautiful bourgeois couple.

The setting is an Italian holiday vacation rental which the couple )seeking Polish) is staying at.  The couple, assumed wealthy are both white, blonde and arrogant in wanting the best for their vacation.  The husband is upset that the fan is not working and later is even more upset when he discovers the pool empty and not working,  Their Italian host swiftly sends over a local worker to fix the situation.  The young, muscular migrant Arab worker immediately faces a language barrier with the couple. When he suffers a terrible accident poolside, it is as if fate had been conspiring against all three of them from the beginning.  The worker falls in and drowns.  The local police are called in.  All the Italian host can say is that at least the pool has been fixed.

The film has a similar feel to the Oscar-winning ZONE OF INTEREST in which a German family worries about their posh residence beside the Nazi concentration camp next door.  In SILENT LAND, the rich couple is unaware of their poor surroundings on the island they are vacationing.  They want the pool filled regardless of the water shortage the island is facing.  They are oblivious to the fact and even if they knew, it would likely not have made a difference,  Director Woszczyńska sublimely builds up an atmosphere of dread and menace culminating in a surreal scene at the end that is kept as a surprise.

SILENT LAND played at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2021 when I first saw the film.  The film took it time to get a release but is worth a look, standing the test of time.  SILENT LAND opens on SVOD, Film Movement PLUS on May 21st, 2024 the best film opening this week.  The film is shot in different languages with Polish, English and French spoken.

Trailer: 

Comments powered by CComment