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Phantom Thread (2017)
Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread
Phantom Thread, is an absolutely wonderfully detailed and observed film that I feel is an important film and even a very relevant film in today's world of Hollywood scandals of sexual harassment and abuse. What I am getting at here, or suggesting is not because of any physical, or sexual violence in this new film because there is none, but what I could keenly observe was a man's overbearing and dominant relationship (if one could call it that) over a woman, and again while there may be no physical, or sexual violence, there is still the damage of hurt feelings as well as countless other forms of damaged emotions and inner hurt that as we all know is still a form of abuse and is still painful and terribly damaging. One looks at Daniel-Day Lewis's character here, who is a man who seems very almost obsessive compulsive and routine to the point of almost being fanatical about how he lives his life. Everything has to be according to his schedule, or timing and if the tiniest thing even slightly irritates him, or takes away his focus from his work, or whatever it might be that he is doing, he either becomes cold to the point of being distant and almost getting pleasure out of seeing the other party be witness to his terrible bouts of mood swings and his ever changing mood which here seems to change as often as the weather. He is in many ways a quiet man and may even be classified as a genius in his line of work, but at the same time he is a control freak when it comes to his work and the events going on in his life and this also comes into effect here when a new relationship is brought into his life. Pretty much from his first couple of encounters with this new girl named Alma, Lewis's character Reynolds, seems to want to mold, or even conform her to a certain image that is not what the world, or society deems women to be, but instead how he things they should act, speak and behave and again because he has to have everything so rigid and to a very fine routine, this means that he not only more or less has a dominating role over Alma, but she has very little freedom to behave, or just be herself and instead must adapt to Reynolds every and any whim, or personal standard of status that he believes she should have. The sad thing is that at first, Alma completely goes along with this. Maybe because deep down she is a lonely and damaged person herself and maybe this is the only kind of acceptance she has ever received. Maybe she is afraid of losing the only relationship that up to now she has ever had. The dominance of Reynolds is equally fascinating and disturbing to watch and it immediately made me reflect on today's abuse of women in Hollywood which is in the media almost daily with new accusations of sexual assault against people pretty much weekly. This is a problem that I fear has been not only in Hollywood and the film industry for a long time, but also just in society in general where women are often under valued and even still today treated as sexual objects. The interesting thing about Phantom Thread, is that Alma doesn't put up with this attitude for too long and instead she starts to play Reynold's game right back at him and in a sense there is almost a feeling of trying to play games with each other till eventually both parties will be dominant, or acceptable to one another. It certainly is a fascinating character study and one well worth observing and I fear that not only in the period piece setting of this film, but even today, that unhealthy and destructive relationships like this still exist and how they are completely damaging and ruining people's lives because one member, or the other is too timid, or afraid to speak out against it. Paul Thomas Anderson has always proven how wonderful at bringing to the screen unique and well developed characters he is and this may be one of his most interesting and best to date. Day-Lewis, who says that he is retiring from acting after this role, gives what I think is one of the best performances of his already legendary career. With Reynold's observances of life and his tics, mannerisms and body language, Day-Lewis makes this a character that we both loathe and yet can not take our eyes off at the same time. It is truly this year's most well written and fascinating character and I would also call Lewis's performance as the best male performance of the year. The supporting performances by Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville are also fantastic as is the writing, direction and attention to detail. This is a film for serious film goers who love to study and observe people, places and situations and if you are a lover of character studies and deeply involving films, then you could not have a better film you could ask for and Day-Lewis ends his career with another honourable and wonderful performance that continues to prove he is one of our best living actors. One of 2017's best films.
The Florida Project (2017)
Sean Baker's The Florida Project
Sean Baker's The Florida Project is an absolutely perfect if not maybe too painfully astute look at what is currently wrong with America today and what seems to have been a problem for far too long and yet little to nothing seems to have been done about it. And no, I am not talking about President Trump, or how he is residing over the country, or giving an overall favourable, or negative opinion on his presidency because that is neither here nor there and does not effect the purpose, or intent of this review one iota. I will just say that after this weekend's faux pas over things said in a meeting that were overheard and made public and these were not exactly words, or language that depict, or show the president in the best kind of light, but all I will add here is that if he wants to remain president and seek a second term, he will really have to be careful about the words that come out of his mouth, whether they be in public, or behind closed doors and that also includes being cautious and considerate about how you use and what you write on certain forms of social media, in this case the one with the cute little bird. There enough said and done. As for The Florida Project, it addresses the long standing issue of poverty in America, and shows an unflinchingly realistic portrayal of the lives of several people, particularly in focus being a young mother named Halley and herv daughter Mooney. People watching this film can come away with many different opinions, or theories based upon what they have just watched. I am personally of the opinion that Baker here is neither glorifying these people and how they live, or personally finding fault, or blaming them either. Maybe there stems a much deeper problem and issue here than what lies on the surface. There are examples of how the motel they live and can hardly pay rent for is one thing, but also how they have no real sense of how to spend, earn, or even save money. If money is so tight do you really need to go out and buy all those cigarettes you are seen smoking, because I do not know about America, but here in Canada they are heavily taxed and if you are anything even close to a chain smoker you probably blow a large part of your monthly income on the deadly and yet very stupid things. You can also look at Halley and her friends and instantly notice that they are covered from head to toe in elaborate tattoos that encompass their entire body. There is more of their body that is covered in ink than that is not. Again tattoos depending on the size and the elaborateness to them are not inexpensive either and again you are not really investing your money here in the best way. Halley also seems to be a person who unfortunately is her own worst enemy by having an extremely rebellious attitude towards any kind of authority, or just basically people in general. While Halley tries to scrape together some kind of income to afford the small room her daughter and her call home, Mooney is meanwhile out with her friends getting into all kinds of mischief just for the sake of doing it, including such things as vandalism, arson and even begging other people for money. Halley you can tell as much as is possible for her, truly loves Mooney and yet she is setting an absolutely terrible example for her by the way she lives her life on a day to day basis and when Mooney is reprimanded by the kindly yet firm manager of the motel named Bobby, Halley just shrugs it off and then seems to forget about it until more problems ensue and what begins as just harmless pranks become more and more harmful and Halley herself also seems to be spiralling out of control with both her temper, her wild lifestyle and just having no sense of self control, or knowing when to call quits on this destructive lifestyle that is not only damaging her, but also her daughter's image of a mother and role model is in very sore and sordid shape. One can argue that perhaps if Halley had continued on with her education, or perhaps done some volunteer work, or gotten involved in some extra curricular activities she would be a lot further ahead than she is right now, but the film asks the question of who is really to blame here. Is it always a government's responsibility to play nanny to it's citizens, or should the powers that be offer more in ways of incentives and encouragement and maybe even social programs to help out, so that these kind of problems don't risk the tipping point. Maybe also the individual needs to be a bit responsible for themselves and try to put their best foot forward in life and not be afraid to try new things to better one's self. There are no easy answers to these questions and yet poverty and the type of behaviour I have mentioned is still on the rise and it is definitely something that needs to be addressed one way, or another. The Florida Project is not always the most easiest film to sit through because of the very disturbing self destructive behaviour that is on screen in front of us. And yet, I was glad the film gave us a no holes barred look at the problem and allows us to think, pray and grasp about the problem at hand. This is a powerful film that should definitely be a wake up call to any and all people in government as well as to educators and parents as well. The performances here are the best of any film this year from mostly a crowd of new faces, but they all do such a fantastic job here and Willem Dafoe as Bobby, is one of my favourite, if not absolute favourite performance I have seen him in. A tender man with a good heart who also knows how to be firm and authoritative when he needs to be and yet he knows the trouble of those around him. This is a powerful film that will hit you hard whether you want that, or not, but there is no denying it's impact and the questions that arise from it. One of 2017's best films.
Darkest Hour (2017)
In reviewing Darkest Hour, I find it extremely difficult to write this review without making comparisons to this year's other film about Winston Churchill, simply titled, Churchill, starring Brian Cox in the leading role. The two different films have areas where sometimes they compliment each other and at other times it is as if they could not be any further distant, or opposite from one another. This same thing happened when back in 2005 you had Bennett Miller's film version of Capote come out telling the true story of writer and social figure, Truman Capote as he researches and writes his most famous book, In Cold Blood. The film was a smash with critics and was nominated for several Academy Awards including winning the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman the Best Actor Award for his uncanny and terrifically spot on portrayal of Capote. About a year, or possibly even less than that you had Infamous come out which starred Toby Jones as Truman Capote this time and yet still was about him conducting the interviews and even befriending one of the inmates on death role for the crime he committed which would later result in Capote's best selling book, In Cold Blood. I never saw the version with Toby Jones entitled, Infamous, but I remember one critic on television saying that of the two versions, Infamous was the one he preferred even though it got neither the awards, or media coverage that the earlier Seymour Hoffman film did. Is this always nescessary to have two films about a certain event, or person coming out in such short time apart from one another? And yet as I saw Churchill back in the Summer, and am now have seen Darkest Hour, in the days following Christmas, I have to make a distinction about which film is the better of the two and also which one I liked better in my opinion and I will go against popular opinion here and say that I actually preferred the Brian Cox film better for reasons which I will now elaborate on. The Brian Cox version of Churchill, I found to be not as technically polished, or shall I say that it did not come near as having the same financial backing, or behind the scenes talent that Darkest Hour did. You can tell right away that Churchill was more of an independent production whereas Darkest Hour probably cost a fair bit to make and of the two, Darkest Hour trumps it in terms of visual flare having what I consider to be some of the best cinematography, lighting and period piece attention to detail of any film I have seen this year. How the crew of Darkest Hour can set a tone and a mood just simply by it's lighting, or use of objects whether numerous, or few in a room was quite respectably and admirably done. The film was gorgeous to look at even though at times some of the scenes it was capturing were bleak, or the furthest thing you can think of away from the word 'gorgeous'. Also of the two performances, both were good, but Gary Oldman as Churchill in Darkest Hour, wins the prize here just as he most likely will on Oscar night as well. Everything from the miraculous make up and hair transformation of Gary Oldman into Churchill to his ravenous and empowered performance is the stuff that Oscar voters go for and truth be told it was an excellent performance. Brian Cox's performance used little to no makeup and yet while still a good performance on it's own merits, Gary Oldman's will be the one that is remembered. In terms of film structure and composition, Darkest Hour also overtakes the earlier film and you can tell that a much more experienced team worked behind it and they achieved what they set out to do and then some. So if Darkest Hour is visually a better film as well as technically structured better and has a better performance, why do I go with what is obviously the underdog between the two? I think more than anything it comes down to the fact that I overall found Churchill more of a pleasurable viewing experience and I was not only engrossed, but also fascinated by it's subject matter and for a fan of history as well as politics it was a satisfying night out at the movies. Darkest Hour on the other hand often to me felt very dry and at times it bordered on even being a bit slow, or dare I use the word 'boring'? It wasn't nearly as exciting, or as engrossing as the earlier film and I felt it also lacked emotion whereas it looked great, but there seemed lack of empathy at times and I do not think we got to know Churchill as well as we did in the earlier film where it often focused on his deteriorating health and on the rocks marriage as well. Darkest Hour feels more like a history lesson out of a really academic text book which is informative, but makes for a dull and dreary study session. Still both films have their merits, but of the two I have made my choice which I prefer and I am sticking by it. I am probably in the minority with my opinion kind of like that sole reviewer who preferred Infamous, to it's more awarded and decorated Capote, but in this case sometimes smaller is better and more effective.
When, I first read that Alexander Payne, a filmmaker I have come to really admire and also enjoy the films of over the years was going to make a film about shrinking people and putting them into miniature societies, the whole thing sounded off to me and like it could not be any farther than his usual fare which for the most part is expertly done satires, or great characterizations about human beings in general to what can make them great, but mostly I think Payne likes to portray them more in a realistic light showcasing their warts and all and totally not shying away with showing the things that are downright unlikable, or even loathsome about them. Downsizing sounded to me more like an idea of a television sitcom that I would never even want to bother to sit through for 22 minutes plus commercials and the fact that the reviews coming out of various film festivals were for the most part pretty negative even more soured my opinion of the film and I more or less just thought that I would skip it when it came to my local multiplex theatre and maybe not even bother with it when it came to streaming. As the release date of the film came closer and closer, the reviews in a strong majority were mostly negative and I would have gone with my initial impulse to skip the film entirely, but then I read in a small blurb where Jonathan Rosenbaum (one of my most admired and also most influential film reviewers in my opinion) had posted earlier reviews of Alexander Payne films that he had seen and for the most part would give them a mediocre, or even a scathing review when it came to something like Payne's first film Citizen Ruth, as well as Sideways, which was a film I could not warm up to when I first saw it and although subsequent viewings have enhanced my overall opinion of the film, I would still consider Election, About Schmidt and Nebraska to have been his best work to date and his film, The Descendants, was to me a very immature and at times ridiculous film that I would consider his weakest, if not worst film to date and please keep in mind that I have never seen Citizen Ruth, in it's entirety, but I know Rosenbaum found it to be overly cynical and was overall offended by the film and it's crass depiction of subject matter considering whether to be pro choice, or pro life when it comes to a woman's pregnancy. Rosenbaum said in a quick little blurb that as of now, he considered Downsizing to be Payne's best work to date and as I usually agree and respect his opinion very much I overall gave in and decided to give Downsizing a chance even though I expected it to be more or less a sellout picture by Payne by giving in to Hollywood demands and standards and yet pleasantly I could not have enjoyed the picture more, or have been more wrong about it. The plotline about shrinking human beings and placing them into small communities just seemed to be a basic outline of the film that I would say does not even cover about fifty, or more percent of the film's plot, or running time. Instead we are given a film that gives us a lot to think about, be in some ways encouraged by and also a film that is as far from a commerical film that you could want and thankfully steers away from any and all sitcom like material. The film asks big questions about one's own meaning in life and what our actual purpose here is on this earth. Payne presents us with a character who has lost a lot in the process of becoming small, but at the same time by helping others by donating not just his time, but putting others instead of himself and overall showing great acts of love and charity, he not only discovers how good it makes him feel inside, but perhaps he has a bigger purpose in life than just looking after his own needs, but instead helping out those less fortunate than himself and this is what will truly anchor him in life and give him happiness. The film at times has some good laughs, but really it is more of a thinking person's drama which addresses the issues I mentioned above about own's own destiny and self worth, but it also takes a look at the environment and just how as a human race we truly do in a lot of ways need to focus less on ourselves and more not just on other people, but also where we live, breathe and call home as well. This is a film that tackles a lot of big questions and does it's best job to answer them, but in the end I found myself deeply moved by what I saw as well as thinking that although this is not marketed as a Christmas film, it perfectly fits the bill of a film dealing with one who gives selflessly and to help others and also just a celebration of who we are as human beings and the overall message to love and how giving is so much better than receiving. If you look at the real meaning of Christmas this is what it is all about and I don't know what Payne personally believes faith wise, but he has constructed a thinking man's film that as well as giving you much to reflect upon will also touch your heart and may just inspire you to do more with your life as well. I was so glad this film was entirely different from the trailers I saw and I hope people will give it a chance and see where this film will take them.
Lady Bird (2017)
Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird
Greta Gerwig has more than earned her fair share of praise for her writing, such as scripts with Noah Baumbach like Frances Ha and Mistress America, and I find her a very warm and welcome presence in any, or pretty much all films that I see her in as an actress. She has a fine range of showing great humour and delivers and writes comedy and comedic moments very well, but she also has something about her and the films that she writes, or stars in that allows us to connect with her and just almost in a sense be around her and spending two hours, or an hour an a half with her is never boring, or a waste of time, but always these are very fulfilling and rewarding movie experiences and sometimes they can bring about great joy, or even cause you to reminisce about yourself and what certain situations were like for you that present themselves in her movies and often they can cause you to laugh, cry and even reflect, or look deep in yourself and for someone who looks for a little something more when I go to the theatre, I find these particular qualities worth very much and can instantly make a film a masterpiece in my mind. Having now just seen her directorial debut, Lady Bird, I am glad to say that everything I had just written above about her performances and her other writing credits can all safely be said for this new piece of work as well. Gerwig does not herself star in this new film and yet it is embodied with her charm and sense of self discovery and worth that most of her work brings about. Saoirse Ronan, who is a very great actress on her own, gives what I would consider to be the best performance of her very short, but what is sure to be a very lengthy career because how not just with this role, but previous ones as well, where she can totally immerse herself into any kind of character, or genre, so flawlessly and each time deliver a performance that can be subtle yet very powerful and here I think she gives a screen presence that shows just as Gerwig can deliver comedy, or comedic scenes, so can Ronan, and yet this is also a performance and film of great emotional depth and a film that requires much soul searching not just for the actors, but for us watching as well. Ronan captures what can be one of the hardest roles to nail down perfectly and that is playing a teenager and young adult who are trying to forge their way ahead in life and meeting any and all obstacles on the way. We see how at many times and stages of her life that she just wants to be noticed and accepted by those around her, from her peers to even winning the approval of her mother, who may seem distant and uncaring and yet loves her unconditionally, even if she has a difficult time showing it. We see how things for Ronan's character 'Lady Bird' as she calls herself is not always the most easy at home as her father who is a warm and deeply caring man is dealing with unemployment and because of this and other issues, has been dealing with depression issues for years. The household income is also a problem causing them to be extremely careful with their expenses and having the mother working at any and all hours and sometimes even double shifts to help care for her family. Lady Bird goes to a catholic school and yet seems to have no real exploration of faith, or any sense of a higher power, or belief system which is something that seems to change as she gets a bit older and also question the bigger and more important issues in life. There are the added pressures of fitting in at school, dating, sex and just trying to carve out her way and have a prosperous and rewarding future. Lady Bird has done many acts of rebellion and makes a lot of mistakes on the way, but this is also a sense of growing and yet after each fall she seems to pick herself up and eventually develops the emotional maturity and outlook that will get her not only through high school, but into the tricky stage of being an adult. Ronan's character brings about much joy and laughter and yet there are also times where we come close to tears and can identify with this character in more ways than one. The supporting performances by Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts, are moving and essential to this film. There were a couple of scenes with Metcalf, where her performance is so true and yet moving, I could feel tears building in my eyes, especially in a couple of select and yet beautifully moving scenes. Gerwig proves that she not only has the capability to act and write, but also to direct and put together a film that any young, or older person can identify with in some way shape, or form and is not only an enjoyable ride, but an enlightening and moving one that makes this film one that will linger long after you have watched it and is powerful enough to make you look at life and things a little differently. For this great sense of the human spirit and how great Gerwig masters writing what it means to be human, this makes the film a grand achievement that I think will only improve after repeat viewings. This is already an awards darling and expect it to continue to dominate any and all awards for very good reasons.
Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House
Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, is unfortunately a prime example of a case where you have a film dealing with real people and events that in the right and most capable of hands could potentially have turned into a riveting and overall fantastic movie given the fact that the overall subject matter and the real events and surroundings are fascinating in their own right and yet unfortunately the crew behind this film turn what could have been a truly mesmerizing film into a dull and ultimately lifeless piece of film. The film if you do not already know, is based upon the famous whistle blower who helped convict and later turned in secret evidence concerning then President Richard Nixon's association with the Watergate Scandal and how that ended his second term as President of the United States with him resigning as commander and chief which was probably a smart move because otherwise he would have been impeached. As anyone who is familiar with my reviews knows that I have a deep and passionate interest in politics and not just in my home country of Canada, but overall across the globe. I was not even born yet when Nixon was in office, or this whole scandal occurred, but I was nonetheless very familiar with it from my childhood days of reading old Doonesbury comic strips amongst the countless films and pieces of media that have been made upon the subject. The story and subject matter in itself is a fascinating one and was even made into the award winning, All the President's Men back in the 70's. And yet here the cast and crew do not seem to know how to approach this material and one of their biggest faults is turning what could have been an endlessly fascinating film into one of the most dull and I will say boring films of this, or any number of recent years. The film has a screenplay that seems to suffer from lack of ambition on all and every account. The film takes Mark Felt and makes him dull, boring and not a character who captures, or maintains the least amount of interest among the viewers. Neither do the side characters as well, they all feel very uninspired and in search of a better film to have been made about them. Most people probably know most if not all of the things that lead up to Nixon's resignation as well as the Watergate Scandal itself and this film manages to tell it in a way that seems to be flailing all over the place with no true direction, or end in sight. It takes what should be a simple and straightforward story and makes it jumbled and confusing which doesn't add much to the fact that the film is an outright bore in every other area. Even some subplots including Felt's missing daughter have no emotional impact, or any lasting interest upon the viewers because the characters have not been developed well enough for us to be invested in them, or care really one iota about what is going on when in fact in reality these were fascinating things and yet everything this film touches seems to be made wooden, lifeless and in bad need of resuscitation. I also can not give any accolades to the acting because it also is all over the place with some of the actors going too over the top with their performances, some who look like they are sleepwalking throughout the course of the film and others whose performances are so hammy that the Golden Raspberry Awards do not have to look far for some of it's worst performance of the year awards. One of the film's major problems is it's screenplay because it simply does not seem to know how to tell this story, to deliver a simple and yet effective plot line without making it all confusing and muddled and these characters all seem so one dimensional and we neither care about them, or what is happening to them and this is a film that is less than two hours in length and yet because it is so meandering and meaningless the film seems like it is coasting on autopilot for eternity leaving us sleeping in the backseat. This is a film that could have been potentially great in the right hands and yet as it stands it will remain a film that will not rouse even the least bit of interest and feels amateurishly done in the worst way possible. In other words, avoid like the plague.
The Man Who Invented Christmas
The Man Who Invented Christmas, is an account whereas how much is purely fiction and how much is based on fact is completely unbeknownst to me, but it does make a very entertaining and at the same time heartwarming story of how author Charles Dickens came to write one of his most beloved stories, A Christmas Carol. The film takes place in the mid 1800's and Charles has just had a string of unsuccessful books and is badly in need of a bestseller and yet unfortunately he is currently having a bad bout of writer's block and no inspiration, or ideas seem to be forthcoming. As the Christmas season approaches and while Charles has various stresses as well as pressures of everyday life going on around him not only in his home and with his family, but with the mounting pressure of having to come up with the next big story and also find a way to pay the bills and keep the family afloat with some of their more lavish living and a new baby on the way as well. However as the tension builds, Charles eventually starts to get inspiration from the various people in his life from complete strangers he has chance encounters with to as well considering his own past and his relationship with his father. These spark ideas of a story set at Christmas and with various influences as well as based on the negativity and bitter spirit of those he meets in the street who seem to have much contempt and no empathy whatsoever of the homeless and the growing problem of poverty that surrounds the country, he then comes up with his lead character that will forever live on in infamy both on page and the screen with the name of Ebenezer Scrooge. Whilst Charles is trying to put the perfect story together, visions of the characters he has created narrate and show him visions of where the story should go as well as getting inspiration and insight from the everyday people in his life. This is not giving anything away, but we all know how the story eventually turns out, but an interesting side note to pay attention to is the creative process of writing and of Charles Dickens himself. Again, I have no idea how factual the information here really is, but like I mentioned earlier, it still makes for a very watchable and interesting film. Charles is plagued with writers block and at times he can be a ferocious beast to the ones around him including his own family and the people who serve and are loyal to him. Also whilst writing this new story and Scrooge coming to his eventual epiphany of living a different life than the cold, miserly and selfish one he once lead, this will eventually also touch Charles and elements of his own life and he will eventually come to the realization that perhaps he has been distant from his own family and loved ones and missed what is truly important in life as well as perhaps being just as cold and heartless as the character who he is writing. This is a perfect family film as it captures not necessarily the true meaning behind Christmas as few films really do, but it does show a sense of loving your neighbour and being kind to others and I think that in itself is a noble enough thing and something that will hopefully touch and shatter even the most hardened of hearts. We see how through his fictional character Ebenezer Scrooge, how he eventually learns more than anything else is how to love, be charitable and help your fellow man. Charles whatever he was like in reality makes an interesting counter point to the Scrooge character and drives home a valuable lesson here as well as making it's subject matter entertaining and well done technically as a film as well as boasting some excellent cinematography and it's attention to detail for that time period is exquisite and seems to have been excellently researched and developed. The acting is all very good here as well and allows for times of both laughter as well as more touching and humane moments as well. The cast who for me were mostly newcomers who I was unfamiliar with all do a serviceable job here and should definitely be commended on a job well done. As far as modern Christmas films go this is definitely one of the better ones to have come out lately and it succeeds not just because of the warmth it gives, but also championing the spirit of love and goodwill to your fellow man as well as being a film that is appropriate for the whole family and also one that all should enjoy. For these merits alone this film is one to see during this Christmas season and should be a staple on television as well on Christmases to come become it definitely has the potential to become a classic.
Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017)
Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Having only directed this his second film as a feature film director, Dan Gilroy, continues to prove that he is not only a master at creating wonderfully diverse and original characters, but also bringing them to life with rich and detailed storytelling followed up by excellent direction of the events he is filming as well as getting great performances from those who he is working with. Now, I admit that when I saw his previous feature, Nightcrawler, back in 2014 that I had a few issues with it, mainly being Jake Gyllenhaal's performance as the hyper and manic lead character because I often found that the performance felt a little too gimmicky for me and felt more of a put on and as an effect than anything truly real, or concrete. I think I felt at times that there was no richness, or great character development of said character, but instead I felt that often at times the character and the film itself, almost found itself distancing, or even alienating itself from it's audience. In some ways this worked well giving the film even more of a mysterious and yet haunting ambiance which is I think what it was going for and yet while I respect Gyllenhaal very much as an actor, I would have to say that the performance to me felt more weird than truly wonderful. And yet there was still much to like with Nightcrawler including wonderful performances from Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed as well as boasting a wonderfully photographed film and capturing a dark and shady side of the news world and media as we currently know it and maybe has been for awhile. I would have to say that Gilroy definitely continues to grow both as a filmmaker and a writer and here with Roman J. Israel, Esq., he provides us with another character that at times may be hard to like, or even empathize with at times, but the big difference here as opposed to the last time as I found we had more development of this character both on an emotional level as well as giving critical analysis as to the things that he does and why he chooses the way he lives and ultimately what would lead to some of the major plot devices of the film. This is a character who is very socially awkward with mannerisms and other body language that always seems to come out at the most inappropriate of times and he isn't exactly the most delicate with how he speaks, or in what way he delivers his speech which through the course of the film has turned off more than one, or two characters. We see at the same time that this is a character of a very high intelligence quota who also has a deep sense of his own morals and what he considers to be right and wrong. The character goes through a number of life changing events and some are good and some definitely are not and we see over the course of time that the ideals and his high moral sense eventually become decayed and seem to fade away as he seems to lose faith not only in the people around him, but also society itself and how our times are certainly changing, but not necessarily in a good way. He eventually caves in and can not be the person he once was, or so we think, because deep inside this complicated and yet fascinating character still lies is very moral core and he will have to truly evaluate both what is important to him and how he stands as a person at the end of the day and maybe not all hope is truly lost. Gilroy as he did with Nightcrawler, again shows us a troubling side of human nature and has developed a wonderfully intricate and fascinating character of Roman J. Israel, and unlike Gyllenhaal's performance, I found here that Denzel Washington pulled off what must have been a tricky performance to nail, and yet he does so with the utmost skill and craft that this is I would say one of his best performances in a long time and it would definitely rank among his best of all time. It is so wonderful to see Denzel stepping away from big budget Hollywood fare and truly sinking his teeth into a rich and truly rewarding role and the fact that he also produced this film gives me even more reasons to celebrate him as an artist for a job truly well done. This is a film that deals with our moral actions as human beings and shows what is important to us and also as a society we have lost a lot of caring towards our fellow man and greed in a lot of ways has completely corrupted. The film still shows a glimmer of hope though and perhaps shows that in our counter cultural times there are still people out there who want to make a difference and change what they see before them. This is a film with one of the best performances, script and direction of this year and I hope it catches on with more viewers because this is definitely a film to see more than once and have rich and meaningful conversations about. It is truly refreshing to see a film like this in this day and age and I have no hesitation about calling it one of the best films of the year.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), is the type and kind of film that I am so glad exists and especially now in a time where we as film goers see stuff that rarely borders on the edge of brilliance, or has something new to offer, or say, it is truly almost a revelation, or a strong breath of fresh air when you get a film like this of this kind of quality and achievement. I have been a fan of Noah Baumbach's work since I first saw his 2007 film, Margot at the Wedding, and his screenplay credit which he shared with Wes Anderson, on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Over the years, I have caught up with most of his body of work and while there still remains a few films of his that I have not seen yet, I have to say that he is one of my favourite contemporary filmmakers and screenwriters which I think is really an honour especially in today's world of film when all you see coming out at the mainstream theatres are just countless remakes upon remakes, unnecessary sequels, or films based on comic books in where the source material is not something even as a child I would have been interested in. I have always been a firm believer that to have anything close to a great film you have to start with a great screenplay and go from there. Baumbach has consistently proved over and over again that he is a master at writing screenplays and fills them with his at times very cynical look at the world, but at times he also can be quite playful and infuse his films with such richly layered and wonderfully constructed characters that they just give his films so much humour as well as a wonderful and yet sometimes fractured look into the lives of families as well as taking an honest look into various kinds of different relationships and seeing what makes them grow apart, but also what strengthens them and the people in those relationships. Baumbach is a great observationist as he seems to be so in tune with people and can capture sometimes how as a human race we can be so incredibly flawed including times of selfishness, arrogance, pride, jealousy and a large swath of emotions that I think if anyone were to take an honest look at themselves, could easily find within not only themselves, but many people in our family and in our midst whether we be in a relationship with them, or not. This new film again takes the look at various members of a very dysfunctional family and at times we are laughing with the characters and sometimes at them as well. And yet, Baumbach seems to have a love for each and every one of these characters and they are not just written to be mocked, or made fun of in a negative, or overly critical way, but instead I think he is just showing the true side of human nature and how over time our true flaws and neuroses will eventually come out. With any family we see again the things that unite us, the things that tear us apart and then there are those times in between, but nevertheless with all the members various eccentricities and their own desires of what they think they need in this world to make it work for themselves, or at least somewhat in their favour, we see them openly and honestly and with his great use of characterizing people and giving them both a sense of humanity and great personality these characters feel rich and layered as well as so wonderfully real and at times, in fact most of the time it is an actual joy to watch them on screen and interacting with one another. Baumbach has toyed over the years with making bitter and cynical statements about family life such as in The Squid and the Whale and Margot at the Wedding and then later in his career he infused a lot of playful and fun qualities into his films such as Frances Ha, Mistress America, or While We're Young. I am happy to report that this new film has a great balance between the old and the new and being able to offer criticisms and things that this family has really got to work on as well as truly celebrating who they are as individuals and allowing us to laugh with them, cry with them and ultimately share their pains and joys all in the course of a two hour film which feels like a warm and yet very rewarding family reunion that for a change I was glad I was invited to. The Meyerowitz Stories, has one of if not the best screenplay of the year so far as well as the best performances I have seen of any film thus far this year. Everyone here truly goes above and beyond by enhancing the written qualities of these wonderfully written characters and really making them work. This is a film which is just so brilliantly observed and so true to life and for it's accuracy, and how we can not only relate to it, but also have a wonderful time watching it makes The Meyerowitz Stories, the best film of the year so far and another accomplishment in Baumbach's already impressive body of work. Also, I hope the fact that this is a film that was released directly to streaming devices will not hurt it's chances of being up for any major awards because each performance in here is so truly deserving as well as it's wonderful screenplay. I hope Hollywood and the Academy take notice now and anything that would prevent this from getting top honours would truly be a saddened case of a film being overlooked and something of this quality of calibre I hope is richly decorated come awards time.
Victoria & Abdul (2017)
Victoria and Abdul
Momentarily after the new film, Victoria and Abdul starts, there is a title card that humorously tells us that the story we are about to see is inspired by true events, at least mostly as the playful title word play suggests. As you will later discover having watched the film, this statement not only about the film, but what takes place and what did apparently happen in reality may in some ways be found to be humorous, as there is a lot of comedy and things to find amusing within this account, but at the same time there is also tragedy that is all the more disturbing because it is not caused by unforeseen circumstances, or events, but instead at the hands of your fellow human beings, who still after all these years have racist and xenophobic tendencies that as much as we may progress as a human race in some ways, these are things that are unfortunately still alive and well as much as we wish they weren't. The film which is as we later learn based on journals and writings of one of our main characters, chronicles the friendship between then Queen Victoria of England and a man named Abdul, who is living over in India, which is then under British rule because of colonialism and she is considered to be Queen not only of England, but also as an Empress of India as well. How a very humble and in many ways, simple person such as Abdul should come not only to meet, but also befriend Queen Victoria, when in actuality they are literally world's apart, I will leave to your viewing pleasure to see the story unfold before you. This is a friendship much to the exasperation of not only Queen Victoria's staff, children and fellow ruling members of the British aristocracy, but even to Abdul, who comes from an entirely different background, culture and world than what he is introduced to when he comes to England in the presence of Queen Victoria. Instead of being pompous, or even hateful because of the British rule in his homeland of India, Abdul willingly serves and also befriends Victoria, and the two of them really bring out the best of themselves and also each other. We see how Victoria, is getting in many ways feeble and frail because of her old age and in a lot of ways she has little to nothing in common with her own family, or the people who work beside, or under her. She is respected by them, but as the film moves along these other counterparts who are meant to be loyal, really just seem to be in it for themselves, and their own best interests are at the heart of everything they do. Abdul, as I mentioned is extremely humble and unlike the fellow ruling class at that time, he is a man that seems not only full of life, but also of joy. Often when we see him, he has a gigantic smile on his face that is almost infectious and he has an optimistic attitude at most if not any time and situation. Victoria is often tired, bored and grows weary of everything that sits in front of her and yet Abdul breathes life and energy into her and makes her not only love the life that she has, but to treasure the things in her life and also what makes this world so very precious indeed. They write together, he teaches her and they just generally have a wonderful connection and bond to one another that I can safely say that she had with no one else within her quarters. For the sake of the monarchy and power that was in her grasp, her fellow servants, family and monarchy all try to stop Abdul, and get him as far away from her as possible, but even when he is threatened he remains both loyal and the best friend that Victoria could possibly have. This is a story of a friendship which knew no boundaries and a love that may have tried to have been suppressed, but instead grew all the more because of it. And instead of hating, or ridiculing each other because of culture, or other background issues, they instead embrace what each other and their culture and world views have to offer. There is a lot of beauty and hope to be found in this film by witnessing this relationship and in a lot of ways there is a gentle and kind quality to this film. We also do witness as I stated earlier the evil side of mankind which is just as prevalent today as it was back then. The film falls a little bit victim of melodrama and some clichéd if not familiar territory in the second half, but it still holds up well as a film as a whole and is a beautiful story that needs to be told and also a lesson in acceptance and tolerance that everyone should see. The performances are all spot on and this is a film not only to inspire, but also as a valuable life lesson of acceptance and even love which I think will win over even the most hardened of hearts.
Wind River (2017)
Wind River, is a film that certainly packs an emotional wallop and punch to the gut and will be sure to linger with you quite awhile after you have seen it. This is accomplished not just simply because this is a film and filmmaker in total control of their craft and just filling the project with emotionally rich and well developed characters, a haunting yet beautiful musical score and also a sense of tension as well as dealing with the grief and the hurdles that these characters have to go through as well as incorporating a message that because of it's resonance and truth now more than ever is sure to connect with many people who look at the news on a daily basis and know just generally about the true subject matter of this film. By divulging this I am not giving any spoilers away for this film, but it is indeed based on true events about a murder and rape outside of a Native American community to a young Native American woman. The film takes place and I assumed that actual events also took place in Wyoming, but as a Canadian who has never been to Wyoming, I can certainly tell you that missing and murdered Aboriginal women is nothing new in Canada and has dominated and been a big part of the news over the years and sadly decades even. The last federal election we had here in Canada, this was an issue that was brought up by the opposition parties against then prime minister Stephen Harper, who with his Conservative party seemed a little chilly if not downright cold on the matter where there was little to no follow up, or investigations to these murders and missing girls across our country. While, I generally do not consider myself to be a member, or fan of the Liberal party which is currently in power under Justin Trudeau, I do hope however that they follow up with their initial persistence during rounds of parliamentary question periods and look into these deaths and murders with not only more resources, but also funding and the proper authorities to follow through with it. Are these a case of outright racism against these girls, or are there more underlying problems that may have to do with it? Here in Canada as well as depicted in the state of Wyoming, here in this film, it shows the true and yet sad state of how society in many ways has failed it's Native population. I am not sure how publicized it was at the time, but these days you can find much information about the residential schools that these young Natives were sent to several decades ago and how these schools affected them severely psychologically and perhaps in many other damaging ways as well. I know that within the Aboriginal communities alcohol and drug abuse can be a major problem and I say this because as depicted with some of the characters in this film, I think a lot of these individuals have not only been discriminated against within their own communities, but also by the governments who have sworn to protect them and this unfortunately has led to communities and areas that are supposed to be well funded and taken care of, but instead there has been cases of corrupt leaders who are stealing money away from their own people not to benefit others, but instead to lavish themselves with yearly bonuses and fancy living. The homes were these people are living are often run down and dilapidated and are in no means safe to call proper homes, or should even pass the health bill for safe living. I feel that these individuals often feel like there is no hope for them and often society has shunned against them which has caused them to turn to suicide and other means of abuse to one's self including high volumes of not only suicide, but also of alcohol, drug use and in many cases it is no wonder that these poor people can not survive on anything less than their monthly welfare checks. Hopefully soon the governments both here in Canada and over in America, will realize what a national problem will be and already is and I hope they will be swift to act and actually accomplish something to greatly benefit these people. The film also deals with the subject of grief and loss which is something that I think any audience member who sees this film can agree with. It shows that time may go by, but these wounds are internal and we may come around eventually to accepting certain things, but we will always have that deep loss and void that perhaps only true healing can fix. This is a powerful film fuelled by a passionate and yet moving screenplay and anchored by terrific performances and direction. This is certainly a film to see and also talk about after and perhaps get involved, maybe even within your own community because this is a problem that needs to be addressed and ignoring it any longer will just escalate things to an even greater tipping point.
The Neighborhood (2017)
I find with each new Frank D'Angelo film that I see, that he continues to improve as a filmmaker, actor and I think most of all in this case, as a storyteller as well. People could easily find things within the film with both how it was made as well as structured to find fault, or criticism over and they may have some valid points, but I give D'Angelo credit because this is the third film of his that I have seen and I notice that he continues to improve and get better with his filmmaking, but most of all with his acting and storytelling. He has proved that he knows how to carry a film as an actor and he can be quite expressive when he needs to be and show a range of emotions to whatever the particular scene in question is needing. I have no faults whatsoever with his acting and I think he is gradually becoming a very solid actor and I would definitely be curious to see him in some projects that he didn't write, or direct himself because I think that he definitely has the capability and talent to star in films by other directors and still pull off passionate and effective performances even if he was not the one doing the film itself. Here again as the other two films that I have reviewed of his, he has gathered himself with a lot of actors who are not usually in the spotlight, or receive a lot of due notice when it comes to other Hollywood stars who get both more publicity and more fame and glamour as well. And yet I find that he always has had a good supporting cast within his films. Some performances definitely hold the picture in place better than others, but most of these performers definitely can also carry a film and should be given a second look when it comes to casting agents for major as well a minor film roles as well. Here some of the acting is very impressive at times, especially from some of the more season and experienced actors, but generally everyone here puts their best foot forward and achieves what needs to be done and then some. D'Angelo's directing could use a tiny bit of fine tuning here and there when it comes to framing shots as well as having a more coherent and steady flow with both the story as well as moving from scene to scene, but these are just minor faults and did not detract away at all from my overall enjoyment of the film and I truly did enjoy it very much and I only mention these constructive criticisms because I know that D'Angelo will continue to perform well and master his technical abilities behind the camera and I know that he will just get better as times go on and I hope that more people will not only discover his films, but that they will have wider releases as well as more reviews and talk of them in public and in the media. I think he is quite good as a storyteller and one thing that has impressed me in all three films, but is truly standalone here is his sense of good dialogue and how to write interesting characters. In his film Sicilian Vampire there was a lot of back and forth banter and humorous although foul at times conversations between the main stars, particularly the male characters and I find that he has a good sense of how to write characters with good camaraderie as well as having interesting discussions and the odd foul joke as well. The dialogue he has and the actors who pull it off very well, make it feel very natural and breezy and it truly is a great delight to watch it because it is written well, performed well and just makes for compelling viewing as well. Some of the themes he touched on in earlier films can find their way back here and yet the story feels quite original at times and I truly found myself captivated not just with the various goings on of the plot, but also with it's interesting characters as well. As those who have read my reviews before know, I am not a huge fan of crime, or gangster movies because I find that too often they fall into the same category and can feel clichéd, or if you have seen one film you have seen them all. However this film with it's sharp dialogue and truly fascinating characters and storyline truly captured my attention and didn't let go till the end credits rolled. I appreciate that this is a smaller film with a more minuscule budget and yet it makes up for it with it being a more captivating and engrossing film than most in it's genre and again some of the actors here really do a terrific job pulling it off. There is violence in the film, but it is very tastefully done and not done to excess, or to be offensive which I for one could really appreciate. I continue to be fascinated by D'Angelo's new films and as far as the ones I have seen go, this one is definitely my favourite and in my mind his most skilled accomplishment yet and I dare say one of my favourite films of this year. I look forward as always to see what he will do next because I think he is an auteur to watch who keeps getting better all the time and that is an great triumph in itself. See this while it is playing near you and give it a shot, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
The Glass Castle (2017)
The Glass Castle
I remember reading Jeannette Walls' memoir back in 2012. A good friend had given it to me as a gift because he himself had read it and liked it very much and thought that I would too. At the time that I read, The Glass Castle, it was either the Fall, or Winter of that year and I remember that during that year I was dealing particularly with some unwanted anxiety and depression issues which were mostly situational issues and yet nevertheless they were there. As, I read this memoir, I found myself appreciating it and yet perhaps because of the fragile emotional state I was in where any little thing could bring about a strong anxiety attack, or racing thoughts, I found the book a difficult read not because it was overly academic, or anything of that kind, but instead because of the high emotional intensity of the book and the themes that the book ran on which in this case was a true story about a girl growing up in an extremely dysfunctional family. I remember whilst reading the book that I became almost exasperated at the two parental figures in the book and why they chose two live the way they did and why so much trauma and difficulties were thrust upon their young children at such a young and impressionable age. I haven't read the book since then as usually I will finish one book and then jump right into another with me very seldomly returning to a book to reread it, but one thing that stuck out about the book to me and it becomes even more apparent now that I have seen the film version of The Glass Castle, is that basically we are dealing with two parental figures who for reasons either of their own choosing, or perhaps some like other things were maybe situational as well. Needless to say they did not want to live a swanky, posh lifestyle and give their kids everything handed to them on a silver platter. These kids really had to witness a lot of difficult and what I would consider traumatic life changing things as they were growing up in the Walls' family household including alcoholism, poverty and going without daily necessities such as food as well as the fact that their father, Rex, could almost be really friendly and warm one minute, but in the next be the exact polar opposite and could come on strong, intimidating and even down right scary and mean. The alcohol he consumed any chance he had probably did not help this and there were often many family arguments and things that could get so tense and uncomfortable that you could probably cut the thick dense air around them with a butter knife. One element that is really rewarding to watch amiss the dysfunction is how these young kids really stuck together and would defend one another and more, or less made a pact between one another to always be there for each other because I think that even at a young age they knew that their family dynamics were not in the least bit what you would call "normal" and that to survive that they would have to make it on their own and be self sufficient and be able to provide for themselves and also each other. While, I was at times incredulous with these two parents while I read the book and also watched this new film, I have to say that the film also gave the story a new light to the subject in my eyes as while it showed the unhealthy living conditions of this family and what to most children would have caused irreparable psychological damage, the film also shows us that while living like this certainly wasn't easy for any of them that because of their surroundings they all grew up to be perfectly functioning and capable people who were not hindered because of their upbringing, but instead grew all the more strong because of it and truly learned to persevere and stay strong in the midst of whatever storms came their way. The film also showcases that while Rex Walls in particular was a terrifying figure at times and a true nonconformist and yet he had his own personal demons and troubles to deal with and even if he had an odd way of showing it, he really did love these kids with all his heart and that no matter what happened nothing would change that. And, I think also as the kids became adults they could put aside the troubling and bad times and remember everything that was good because there were certainly those moments as well. This film version of The Glass Castle, is top notch in each and every way possible and while it can not include each and every moment of the book, what it does leave us with is quite memorable. The acting here is beyond phenomenal from the young child actors to greats like Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, who I sincerely hope are both up for Oscars for their powerful and moving performances. This is a film that hits you quite hard emotionally, but at the same time is a completely rewarding experience that made me appreciate the book even more, but also gave me a different look at this family and dysfunction in general with even a sense of acceptance and love towards this family. This is the most powerful and moving film of the year so far and also with the best performances so far this year. A true masterpiece in each and every sense of the word.
While sitting through the new film, Detroit about the Detroit riots from 50 years ago and also what happened afterwards at The Algiers Motel, which could be described in no other terms than extreme police corruption, intimidation as well as flat out abuse of power and racism, it left me pondering as I sat in my theatre seat about how exactly I would rate this new film in my review for it and what also I would say about it. The problem proves to be a perplexing one because as one who reviews films would know, you basically have to review a film on a number of different levels and looking at several sections of criteria and merits within the film to give the film a proper rating and overall review. If, I was to look at this new film as someone who is overall judging the technical achievements, or faults within it when it comes to things such as direction, writing, cinematography, acting and just overall how this new movie was made I have to say with great and precise determination and praise that it far excels in each and every one of these levels of craft and overall filmmaking. There really is no weak link here because everything on a technical as well as skilled level is just done so well here and everyone both in front of and behind the camera has achieved true greatness with this film and I think however you felt about the film after you came out of viewing it, I think few people could say that it was poorly made, or even the least bit amateurish because nothing could be farther from the truth. It is probably the most skilled and polished piece of work I have seen thus far this year as far as sheer craft, technical ability and overall filmmaking talent goes. So why am I hesitating and not just singing the film's praises repeatedly over and over? My main problem lies not so much with the film's subject matter, or what it is about, because even though I am sure that there was much fabricating and the writer and director took a certain amount of liberties when telling this true story and even within the end credits it admits that some, or maybe more than we think of what we saw was up to the writer and director involved because some things that would make the film more coherent, or just that much more effective as far as storytelling goes was added, or dare I say made up to make things a bit juicier, or probably the best word I can use here is 'shocking'. I realize that to make a film powerful and overall to have a great affect upon it's audiences you have to leave your viewers sometimes with strong emotions, or a sense that what they just saw was powerful, or moving, or whatever adjective best suits the film in question. This is a story that definitely needs to be told to shame both the police force and attitudes of the law enforcement in this particular situation, but also raise questions about one's own moral duties, or questioning inwardly about what we ourselves would do in these particular situations. To film a story like this, I realize that to capture it authentically you do need to show some violence and brutality up to a certain point as well as both scare and perhaps even provoke your audience into some kind of fear, or tension to really get the mood across about what you are displaying on screen. On the other hand, I felt that while this film needed to be forceful with it's approach that it crossed on my levels what is appropriate and after awhile the language as well as the violence seemed to not just border, but over engulf itself by being far too excessive with it's use of screen violence and language that at times it was not only a turn off, but also quite unsettling as well. I realize the filmmakers really wanted to pack a punch with this story and the overall product and they certainly achieved that, but perhaps going to this far an extent was not necessary in my opinion and I feel that in the meantime they are going to turn off many potential viewers of this film and may even cause more sensitive audience members to leave the theatre in disgust. I feel that to make a film effective you do not need to resort to these type of tactics to get a response from your audience and again here it feels excessive and almost like it was trying to attack and manipulate the audience. However as far as technical achievements go this far far surpassed all my expectations on that level, so I am giving it a perfect rating for that alone as well as the fact that this is a story that needs to be told even if it would have been just as effective, or preferable if they toned down the brutality a notch. Overall you be the judge, but be forewarned.
The Big Sick (2017)
The Big Sick
I think that it can be safely said that pulling off a great, or even a good comedy takes a lot of talent and a lot of hard work because you not only have to appeal to a small base, but in order to make a successful film work, usually it has to be fairly accessible and you have to have strengths within the film to propel it along such as great comedic delivery by your actors as well as having a razor sharp script, or a least a script that knows how to both tell a good story and yet be very humorous in the meantime. There have been many great comedic films over the decades and some would probably fall into my own brand of comedy that I personally favour which would tend to be a bit drier, or have a least some kind of observational, or even neurotic, or self deprecating humour involved in it. Unfortunately a lot of the comedies today, or at least what is considered to be on everybody's radar, or considered "the next big thing" usually escapes me as today's sitcoms on television I can't stand and it leaves me missing the great comedic legends such as the television productions of Norman Lear in the 1970's such as All in the Family, Maude, Good Times and One Day at a Time. These were shows that knew how to tell a good story, were downright hilarious at times and also what I think was really fascinating was how those shows captured both the mood and events of the times that they were portraying. Such as political opinions, racial attitudes, poverty and the list goes on and on. I wish today's shows and movies too would learn, or take a page from these old shows and make a biting yet fascinating look at today's world and the events going on instead of just endless jokes involving profanity, scatological humour, or things involving, or around perversity. This new film, The Big Sick proves to be the new reigning champion in today's comedy film because it works so successfully on a number of different levels. It accomplishes the task of being a comedy because it is at times very funny and there were several laugh out loud moments during the film and also some small moments where I laughed inwardly and probably had a big smile on my face. The film kept the crude jokes and language to a minimum (yes, they are still there, but not thankfully the main goal of the movie) and instead it uses these very witty jokes alongside telling a story that when you come right down to it is a story of great depth and a truly insightful and yet honest look at modern relationships and just love in general. The film tells a good comedic story and has lots of laughs, but yet it also pulls off the tricky balancing act of adding drama and even some sadness into the mix with this comedy and yet it all feels so natural and like these events could be going on in our very own lives (probably with a few variables here, or there), but the film successfully allows us not just to laugh at these characters, but also allows us to empathize and feel their sadness, joy, grief and a whole gamut of emotions throughout the course of the film's running time. The film is based on a true story of it's main star Kumail Nanjiani and he also co-wrote the film with his wife, Emily V. Gordon and we cheer for these two during the course of the film and even if we have a sneaking suspicion of how it will all turn out, it still allows for plenty of moments of both laughs and sometimes coming close to tears as well. The Big Sick also commendably shows relationships and finally gets the message across to audiences that today people truly do take relationships too flippantly where there really sometimes does need to be some effort involved and when we as people engage in one night stands, or brief affairs, is that really love, or does it just end up hurting us and making us all the more vulnerable in the end? We as people need to evaluate our relationships and what we think about love and what it truly means to have a healthy and functioning relationship. As with anything worthwhile this can take work and a fair bit of effort, but I think most people can tell you that the end result is worth it. The acting by the main stars and supporting are amongst the best if not the best performances by an ensemble cast I have seen so far this year and the writing by Gordon and Nanjiani has depth, laughs, sadness and true heart to it that not only makes it a true winner as a comedy, but in a range of different categories and one of the most perspective and yet also effective looks on relationships and love to come out in awhile. Truly one of this year's best films.
A United Kingdom (2016)
A United Kingdom
A United Kingdom, is truly a fascinating film and the fact that it is based on a true story only enhances both the power and the overall affect the film has on it's viewers. This is a good example of a film that is very rarely made these days and yet when you get a film of this kind of quality and yet also a film that is truly inspiring and also leaves you cheering and elevates your mood while watching it, these are all the signs of a truly well done piece of art. The film also feels classic as it is also very tastefully done and there is really nothing here that is offensive, or that young viewers would not be allowed to see and it just shows that in today's culture and way of looking at things that you truly do not need excessive language, sexuality violence, or any kind of various depravity and or, immorality to tell a good story, or to make a film in any way more appealing, or commercially successful. Unfortunately as A United Kingdom, was originally released in theatres several months ago, it was not a big box office success which is truly a shame because I think if it had been more heavily advertised that you would have had more people going to see it and perhaps also people who normally stay away from theatrical motion pictures these days who will actually come out and see a film like this because of not only it's wholesome qualities, but also the fact that it is telling a story that is not only riveting, but powerful and inspiring all the same. It truly makes what comes to the theatre on a weekly basis look like absolute junk because as said earlier this film does not need to sink down into depravity, or offensive content to tell an interesting story and to tell it very well. The acting here by it's two leads is fantastic and I have enjoyed both David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike in various other roles as well and here they continue to prove what great and versatile performers they truly are. And with Oyelowo with films such as Selma and The Butler, both of which I had a few issues with, I do truly have to commend him over his choice of roles as he does not seem like the kind of actor who will sell out, or do a film that is offensive, or vulgar, but instead he seems to choose films that in their own way are both inspiring and gives the viewer a lot to think about. He also plays characters that seem to be good role models and characters who not only respect themselves, but also the people around him and I think he is truly paving a great way for younger actors and those who just like to watch films with roles of truly commendable characters and people and I think that is more rewarding then say playing in a silly box office hit, or degrading himself by starring in offensive, or lewd pieces of work. A United Kingdom, is generally a very moving film that chronicles in the late 40's as well as 1950's, the kind of racism that was going on both in Europe and around the world as well. Often you look at the characters and the oppression and hatred these two leads experienced just because they were a couple of mixed race and I truly was horrified at times while I witnessed not only acts of violence and words of hatred directed towards them, but also the level of ignorance and bigotry within my fellow human beings and the fact that this story is true and all these events happened is a depressing thought at first, but then when you look at how everything turned out and how these two people persevered even at the most difficult of times and facing oppression and hatred both from forms of government to their very own family members to the point where they truly proved that a dedicated couple who are sworn to each other and who never give up on one another will truly achieve great things and that they will find their happiness. The supporting players here are all excellent as well and the writing is good because of how it deeply explores the issues of hatred we have towards each other and the levels and lengths we unfortunately as humans will go to see that it stays that way, but it also shows that love and acceptance truly will overcome and nothing is ever so bleak that it can not find it's way out of it's troubles. This is a film that not only should be seen by young people, but will be a film that I think will truly be embraced by audiences who unfortunately didn't see it the first time. Now is your chance which I hope you won't pass up.
The new film Churchill, is an account of several days during Winston Churchill's role as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and it especially takes place when the United States and other allied countries decide to set up an attack as this is right during the second world war and yet Churchill himself wants to be a great leader and put an end to this war, but at the same time he does not know if the plans laid out for defeating the Germans are perhaps the best laid plans, so he struggles both inwardly and outwardly in the course of a couple of days to make a decision not only for himself, but for the people who put him into office and the rest of the world. I always love a good political, or historical biography and over the past ten years, or so, I would definitely say that this film could be counted among the best of them. The film has several things that really propel the film along and one of the best things it has going for it is Brian Cox's portrayal of the man in question. I have always admired the acting of Brian Cox over the years and sometimes you see him in so many films, but unfortunately you often forget what you have seen him in because he is more of a character actor who usually plays supporting roles, but he almost always is great in the roles he has been assigned and as his role as Churchill, he plays the role to perfection. I am quite sure that there was some makeup and facial reconstructing to get Cox to look as close to Churchill as possible and that was pulled off quite well I think, but other than at times looking like the man, he also seems to embody him with his strong screen presence in this movie as a man who is often very passionate about what he believes in which can lead to him sometimes turning off those around him, or often there are scenes where Winston is shown ranting and raving, but it is the farthest thing possible from any kind of lunacy, but instead is because of how deeply this current second war as well as the first has affected him and how his leadership of the country is not just something he puts on the back burner and lets someone else decide the big decisions for him, but instead he wants an opinion and decision on each and every thing that is going on and you can safely say that it was his life's mission to put the people first and to do what was right for them while in office. Cox's passionate performance elevates and accentuates a powerful and very passionate man who was known for fits of rage and truly being steadfast and sometimes stubbornly unmovable when it comes to the things that he believes in. You will often see Winston walking around, sometimes pacing back and forth with a large cigar in his mouth and he is deeply perplexed and sometimes troubled to the very core of his being as to what to do about situations, with the war being the biggest thing, or one of the biggest challenges he has ever had to face in his years as a prime minister. His wife sometimes gets completely exasperated with him and you can tell that it is not a perfect marriage in any way, often because Winston seems to put his job ahead of the jobs and duties of being a husband and in this regard he truly does put his wife secondary and often himself as well to the various things going on at the time. Churchill's mannerisms and overall social behaviour could be described as a little rough around the edges, but as the saying goes I think that often his bark was worse than his bite. The film does play out quite in a fascinating way both as a character study, a work of history and world events and also the world of politics and geopolitical goings on. I have heard and read some feedback where people have claimed that this new film has taken on quite a few artistic and other liberties with the events they depict in the film and even with Churchill himself. As to all the nitty gritty and deep historical facts to the film and the events and people they are based on, I truly have to play dumb as a lot of this is stuff from grade school history class that I would need a refresher course on to say how accurate, or inaccurate it is. As a film though and as a piece of entertainment it passes with all flying colours and is a great achievement in the field of acting as well as depicting a public figure and history and making it riveting and truly memorable and that is at least worth the price of admission.
Maudie, the new film about Canadian artist Maud Lewis, is at times a disturbing watch, but as a whole it is a very fascinating film on a number of different levels. Before, I went to see this new film, I looked up various pictures and images of Maud's different paintings and I honestly have to say that a lot of what I saw I did like. I am certainly no art critic and do not pretend to be one either, but with Maud's paintings I found myself loving her bright use of primary colours as well as the sometimes very simplistic style she used to paint with and I found this further enhanced her work by not being overly flashy, or showy, but instead it has more of a primitive almost at times childlike style, or way it was done, but instead of looking amateurish it instead highlights her grand use of colours and accentuates what she is painting and gives the whole thing a very pleasing look that I think words like bright, or happy could definitely accompany her body of work. Needless to say with the examples I saw online as well as the pieces that were showcased in this new film, I would consider myself a fan of her work and if I was to come across one of her pictures in a store, I would definitely consider buying it and hanging it up with my other collection of prints by various other modern artists. The other fascinating thing about this new film are the characters of Maud herself and her husband Everett Lewis. Both are complicated characters in a lot of ways and while at times their relationship is sometimes very difficult to watch, there is also a certain tenderness and mutual admiration that these two characters have for each other, even if they do not show it openly, or as evidently as perhaps most people would. Maud, is often hunched over and has a lot of difficulty walking and performing everyday tasks from what we later learn is arthritis, but I would not be surprised if there were other factors involved in this as well. Maud also has a certain childlike way to her as well. Sometimes she can be downright stubborn about a certain situation and at times she can also be very socially awkward and at times could easily mimic, or be confused with someone struggling with any number of types of autism. At other times she seems to have a general rosy type view of things and for the most part she seems to be a pragmatist and tries to look on the brighter side of life and in a lot of ways she will often forgo her own feelings, or wants to the extent that she is always willing to please and often puts her own happiness aside to please others. Everett, on the other hand is a man who seems to be extremely rough around the edges. Whenever we see him he mostly has a huge scowl on his face and looks unhappy and pretty much is angry and bitter a lot of the time. This causes what is a lot of the dysfunction, or at least what appears to be difference from the norm in his relationship with Maud. Everett, we learn was most likely an orphan and most of his life he seems to have been away and never truly gotten to integrate himself into life with other people, or mastering the terribly tricky thing of human relationships and even the basic levels of how to interact with other people. He often seems like a very self centered and sometimes downright cold and mean man. However as the film goes on we definitely do see his relationship with Maud tested on a number of different issues and yet they are always sticking by each other no matter what situation may present itself. Deep down I think they both had a sense of love for one another. It may be different than what most people would consider love, but I think it was still there even if it was hard to see at times. The performances by Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke are terrific and give much depth and also much to contemplate after watching them perform as these characters and they also do a fine job of establishing just how complex these people were. The body language, facial movements and mannerisms are all done to perfection and these are certainly two performances that will be noticed come awards time next year. I also like how the film did not sugar coat, or suggest an easy life for either of these two characters, but instead shows you them in the best and worst of times. The art aspect and Maud's paintings also make for intriguing viewing, but what is most evident to me here is a story of two polar opposite people trying to make a go of it and perhaps doing better than most people could say of their own relationships. Certainly food for thought and an intriguing notion the film leaves you with which is one of it's truly commendable qualities as well as being a great biopic, but more than that a truly unorthodox relationship that may be difficult to watch at times, but certainly is rewarding as well.
The Lunchbox, is a wonderful new film which is a reworking of sorts of 1998's American romantic comedy, You've Got Mail, which starred Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. In this version it takes place in India, and involves a food delivery service which drops off lunches to people in the various businesses around the area. After a meal that was meant to be delivered to her husband instead ends up on the desk of office worker Saajan, he takes one taste of the food delivered to him, thinking that this is just the usual restaurant chain that is supposed to be bringing him his meal, but instead he notices that the food is a lot better than usual and also inside the food tins used to store the lunch is a note to her husband Rajeev, from the cook of the meal and Rajeev's wife, Ila. What happens next is most interesting as Saajan doesn't just apologize and make Ila aware that the food is not going to her husband, but instead writes a note back to her in the same food container, telling her of his great love of her cooking. Ila then decides to continue to send food back and forth to Saajan and with it each day is a little letter that she has written and through the gift of her cooking as well as Saajan and Ila both being lonely people, they end up starting a pen pal relationship where they correspond to one another with letters and in Saajan's case, he also ends up getting a delicious meal out of it. The premise as I watched the film, immediately reminded me of You've Got Mail, which for an American romantic comedy is definitely among the better of them, but thankfully The Lunchbox takes it's own road with this story and definitely makes it something all of it's own instead of a direct remake, or a foreign language copy of You've Got Mail. There is plenty here to definitely please fans of romantic comedies and there is also enough here that will appeal to foreign film fans as well as those who are connoisseurs of Indian films. I myself have really become quite smitten with the East Indian culture within the past ten years or so, after being introduced to some wonderful restaurants in the downtown core of my city, as well as discovering great Indian films such as Sholay and the wonderful works by Satyajit Ray, such as Charulata, or The Big City among his very impressive work, which I think ranks right up there with some of the world's best filmmaking auteurs. As far as literature goes, you also can not beat a good Salman Rushdie novel either. As for The Lunchbox, this is a film that not only fascinates you with a dash of culture from another side of the world, but you also grow with these characters and while their lives may seem so very different from our own in some ways, you can not shake off the feeling and sense that so very much of what they go through and deal with on an everyday basis is the same as if you are in America, Canada, or any other part of the world, so no matter where you may be living and putting the cultural differences aside, you will definitely be able both to relate and have empathy for the characters on the screen in front of you. There is also so much wonderful humour and lighthearted moments to be had here as well. The humour at most times is quite quiet and small, but definitely more than once I was looking up at the screen with a big smile on my face and truly enjoying what I was watching and at times getting great amusement and joy out of the film. There is a certain element of warmth not only to these characters, but to the film itself, not just with it's wonderful yet subtle sense of humour, but there are moments in this film that I found had true beauty in them. A great example would be the mellowing out of Saajan towards a new fellow coworker and how he becomes in many ways a kinder and gentler person because of these wonderful meals and letters that he is receiving. This is a film of not only great character study, but it also has a great sense of humanity and an in depth look and feeling of true human emotions and spirit which really makes this film quite touching at times, but also reflective to those watching it and at times a film of great warmth, beauty and dare I say, love. The acting is wonderfully expressive even when it is at it's most subtle and the screenplay truly captures the human spirit, but also allows the viewer to have much fun with the film in the process. This is one of the best films of the last several years and definitely not one to be missed. A true modern day masterpiece.
To me, the new film Colossal, is not only one of the most original films I have seen in quite awhile, but I can with much assurance guarantee you that it is unlike any other big monster movie you have ever seen and I mean that in the best way possible. The film is made on a small scale budget in relation to modern monster movies such as this Spring's new King Kong film, or even the reboot of the Godzilla franchise that came out a couple of years ago. Hollywood definitely does not generally know how to make these type of films anymore. I remember in my teens, staying up late on a Friday, or Saturday night and watching these schlock B movies that would be shown on television after most sane people would have gone to bed. You are probably aware of the kind. The ones with the monsters that look like giant plastic action figures that you would find in a ten year old boy's toy collection, or backdrops and buildings meant to resemble large cities such as Tokyo, or various other places which were destroyed by the monsters on question, and these were just cheap cardboard cutouts that were easily crushed and destroyed by these monsters and then probably taken out back into a giant recycling bin to do your part for the environment. These films were probably never intended to be great films, but in a way they were a fun part of my years growing up and I think to many others as well, especially if you lived in the 50's, or 60's and got to see these movies at the drive in, or even on late night television hosted by Vampira, or a variety of late night hosts. Colossal, is in a certain regard a monster film, but I am also happy to report that it is also so much more than that. The film's trailer unfortunately gives away too many of the key plot points, so I will avoid by divulging them any further. However, I will say that this is a film that many will look at and think that the filmmaker is either a genius, or out of his mind and I think a lot of people that walk out of the movie will not be quite sure what they have just witnessed, but trust me, this is all a very good thing. This is a film that uses the backdrop of giant monsters to tell a much more deep story involving such real issues including alcoholism, bullying and dealing with the different targets and stresses that set us off in life and how we are not always in command of our behaviour, or actions, even though we really should be and if not this could lead to major consequences not only for ourselves, but others also. The film took me a little while to get used to it's off the wall humour and collection of characters, but once I got in the right mindset, I was enjoying this film thoroughly and not only was I entertained by what I was watching, but it also made me think and gives one plenty of things to reflect upon after the film is over, which I don't think you would be able to say for your average Hollywood monster movie. This is a film which may seem silly, or like a bad rejected Hollywood script to some, but instead we have a great piece of entertainment here that also touches upon some very real and very human emotions and issues that I am so glad they brought up and incorporated into the script. I haven't seen her performance in Rachel Getting Married, but of the films I have seen with Anne Hathaway, I can safely say that this is my favourite and probably her best performance that I have seen thus far. A humorous performance at times certainly, but also a great portrait of someone who clearly has gone off the deep end and needs a major wake up call. I am happy to report that the small theatre in which I saw Colossal was packed and this is just further proof that if major theatre chains gave these films a chance they would certainly do well because there definitely is an audience for it. As it stands this is the first great film I have seen of 2017 and one of the most original in awhile which is a feat all by itself. Excellent job.
As a Canadian and an avid film watcher and lover, the last thing I want to see within the Canadian film industry and the films that are being released, are films that are made in Canada and may star Canadian actors and actresses, but essentially have the look and feel of an American film and in more ways than one is basically just a carbon copy of an American film. In my mind this shows no originality and is basically just another example of someone in the film world wanting to cash out and more, or less sell any artistic integrity they have and not use the beautiful landscapes, locations and things that make living in Canada great, but instead filming in big cities and trying to make a film from Canada look and feel like it is New York City, or some other big town in our big brother to the South. Thankfully over the years there have been people and organizations here in Canada that try to preserve Canadian films, talent and content such as The National Film Board of Canada, for one example. There have also been original Canadian television and film projects that are filmed here in Canada and look anything but being filmed in the states. Take the classic Canadian television series, The Beachcombers for a good example. Good stories and good acting and yet filmed completely in a logging town right on the water itself and featuring all Canadian actors. Nothing Americanized about it at all. There have also been some great examples of Canadian films showcasing our amazing country such as Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, which was an Inuit film and filmed completely up North using Inuit people as actors and having a real and authentic feel to it and yet being a great film all the same. A lot of talent is coming out of Quebec these days such as the wonderful Xavier Dolan, but we need more talent all across Canada, which is why I am so proud and thankful of a film such as Weirdos here. A film that is uniquely Canadian and just an unique film all on it's own as well. The film takes place in the 1970's in Nova Scotia and a lot of the film has the characters either walking, or driving across the roads there, so you can see the beautiful landscapes as well as hearing some great Canadian music from that time period in the background as well. The film was shot in black and white which I personally think was an excellent choice to give the film the unique style and voice all of it's own. And did I mention that the cinematography is gorgeous and some of the best black and white cinematography I have seen in awhile? More directors definitely need to go back and utilize this because it is a much under-appreciated art form. The film also has all the elements of a coming of age comedy/drama, but without the usual things that would say make an American film of the same kind feel so cliché, or like something that has been done a thousand, or more times before. This one has the spirit of something like Hal Ashby's wonderful Harold and Maude, and yet it borrows some of those similar elements that made that film so unforgettable and great, but also wants to be it's own unique story and vision and this movie sets out and completely achieves that. The characters feel real to me in a story like this, especially the two leads and even though it takes place in the 1970's, I feel that these characters could have easily been from right here and right now because one of the truly commendable things about Weirdos, is in a sense it is a time capsule film of that time period, but the other great thing about it is that it could really fit any time period and transcends time and world events to make it seem fresh and new right now even though it took place 40 years ago. The screenplay here must have been a lot of fun to write as it equally was to watch because it is filled with such originality both in it's characters and showing people and their differences and eccentricities that don't make them weird perhaps, but shows them as who they are and really gives them a chance to shine. This isn't so much a film about weird people, but instead people who are finally given their chance to speak and be in the spotlight and I find that quite refreshing. Weirdos is one of the most inventive and original films not only in Canadian films, but worldwide in quite awhile and it is brought to life with some of the best talent imaginable. This is a highly recommended piece of work that like any good film, will grow on you as you watch it and with repeated viewings as well. Very good.
The Red Maple Leaf (2016)
The Red Maple Leaf
The highest compliment that I can give the new film, The Red Maple Leaf, and there are in fact quite a number of things that I really found myself admiring during my viewing of the film this evening, all of which I hope I am able to discuss with this review, but the thing that I think is most evident is how much writer/director/actor Frank D'Angelo has matured both in front of and behind the screen. His last directorial effort, Sicilian Vampire, was a film that I personally had a lot of fun with. The film had a lot of laughs as well as being quite tongue in cheek with some of it's over the top and sometimes campy dialogue and storyline. It was a film that you certainly had to be in a fun and lighthearted mood to watch and anyone who likes more bizarre, or downright cult, or offbeat films would have certainly had their day made by that film, but whilst the film was over the top and campy, I still found that D'Angelo still was able to assert his own brand of storytelling and artistic craft to the film which gave it a certain uniqueness as well as making it a film all of it's own. I can recognize criticism where some say it was perhaps an act of self indulgence, or even trying to really paint a glamorous and favourable picture of D'Angelo, but I could ignore that while watching Sicilian Vampire, because the film was still an overall very fun and entertaining watch and quite frankly it is better than a lot of other films I see on a yearly, or monthly basis, so I was all for something new, silly and downright fun, even if it did at times appear to be in D'Angelo's favour, or basically trying to make him look "cool" as one reviewer put it. I knew from the moment I saw Sicilian Vampire, and have since become a fan of his weekly program, The Being Frank Show, that I really wanted to see more of him as a writer and director because the talent is definitely there and he shows much potential and I think a lot of that showed with Sicilian Vampire, but now even more so in his latest film, The Red Maple Leaf. The writing for one thing feels a lot more focused and I think D'Angelo knew exactly how he wanted to tell this story and knew where he wanted to go with it and it shows. The fact that this new film features a storyline that is compelling within the first few opening shots of the film to it's end credits is really a great credit to D'Angelo both as a screenwriter and director. The film is over two hours long, but not once does it ever feel too long, or like certain scenes could have been trimmed down, or ended up on the cutting room floor. It is quite impeccably edited and it makes for a very smooth and yet compelling film with no moments of filler, or scenes that may have just been put in there for other reasons, but everything here feels quite focused and on the mark which ultimately makes for a better looking and an ultimately more satisfying film experience. The film in some regards is a mystery about a missing girl and both as a mystery and the detective who is trying to solve the case as he unravels the pieces of the puzzle that come about from his great insight and intuition truly makes for fascinating viewing because we never once know exactly where the film will go, or who the culprit may be and it certainly is quite a fascinating and captivating two hours plus that kept me guessing the whole time while sustaining my interest of the whole thing. The other aspect of the film which is just as strong as the mystery elements and just as satisfying is the story of our main character who has just gone through a devastating loss and how it is affected him and completely changed the man who he is. Turning to alcohol and living a painful and tormented existence where his only sole means of satisfaction, or perhaps purpose is a better word, is his job and solving this case with the missing girl. We see both these two aspects of a mystery as well as one of a man who has lost everything who needs to find closure in his life and yet while on the job he is the best detective you can find and this makes for viewing that is interesting with both it's mystery elements, but also adds some very well sought out character study and a certain dimension to this and the other characters that is pulled off perfectly due to the more polished writing as well as some very capable performances. The acting this time around also feels more rounded and feels more rehearsed and more perfected than Sicilian Vampire, but at the same time, please keep in mind that these are two totally different films and each have totally differing moods and agendas. The acting is well done here though and while some performers outshine others, generally everyone is pretty good here and gets the job done right. The film also looks and feels more professional and put together and perhaps not quite as amateurish as the last outing, but I do not use this as a criticism, but again only pointing out that D'Angelo seems to have matured and grown not only as a filmmaker, but perhaps as a person as well because this is a more mature outing and also one that feels more personal and complete as a film.
Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Manchester by the Sea
Manchester by the Sea, is one of the few films of last year, or really of any number of recent years that I could say that is deeply and truly a full fledged masterpiece of a film in each and every aspect. This is a film that not only delivers what I think are some of the best performances by both seasoned actors and actresses and some who are just starting out from any film this year, but also such a deeply layered screenplay with such great insight and character study that it truly puts many other films to shame because this film is from an original screenplay and in a time and era of so much that is not new, or remade, or a sequel to this or that, it is so refreshing to have a film with this much talent behind it that truly does not disappoint. The main character here played in what I think is the best male performance of last year by Casey Affleck, is an absolutely fascinating character not only to watch, but also to study and there is so much depth and feeling to this character that even if you do not notice it right away, or even on your first viewing of the film, it becomes so obvious later on and this is a character that truly is one of the most realistic and yet what a well done observation of what is essentially an antihero, who has gone through so much in his still very young life and how what has happened to him has essentially haunted him and has not only changed him for the short time being, but perhaps forever. One aspect of Affleck's character that I don't know how widely recognized it was from most people, was the simple fact that this is a character who is basically a functioning alcoholic. When, I say that I mean he is in all regards an alcoholic, but in some ways and then again in other ways not so well, he has integrated himself into society and can hold down a job and provide for a roof over his head, but at the same time we see how much this man is both at odds with himself and other people. Events that have happened to him have not only traumatized him, but have cost him what could have been the best years of his life. His mere existence now is just getting through each and every day and we see how much guilt he throws upon himself for past mistakes and how he can't force himself to come out of the barrier, or shell if you would like to call it that he has surrounded himself in. Part of this is because of his own insecurity and feelings of guilt and remorse, but also in part for the fact that he wants to protect himself and his feelings as he has already been very damaged in this aspect and he truly needs all the help that he can get to lead to forgiveness for himself, but also forgiveness and acceptance of others. He despises himself so much that he has virtually no contacts whatsoever in his life and he says much to little to anyone he encounters and we know truly he is a broken person in much need of healing. The only thing to bring him comfort, or to set his soul at rest is more alcohol which just adds fuel to the fire and is not helping anything, but instead making things much much worse. This is a very natural performance by Affleck, in the sense that it is so believable and I think that most people will immediately be able to relate, or find some sort of attachment to him and his predicaments because all the various things he feels and that are going on in his head, we have all had to deal with at one point or another. We not only have sympathy for this character, but we have also invested our time and interest on him and we can only hope that things turn out better. In this day and age and what could very well be a very politically correct year at the Academy Awards, by giving people awards based on things other than talent because some people got up and squawked and made noise because they were not nominated last year and ended up making a whole racial and political thing over it when it was definitely not necessary. I hope Affleck wins Best Actor, but in my gut I am afraid that the awards will be more politically minded and it will go to someone else instead simply to please an audience instead of giving credit to a performance well done. All the supporting performances in here are also fantastic and deserve all the accolades that they are receiving. This is one of the best character studies in recent years and of all the Best Picture nominees I have seen thus far, this film outshines them all by many miles. What a wonderfully scripted and made film that I am glad has caught on with audiences and I hope many more will discover it on rentals, or streaming because this is too good a film to see just once, but with repeated viewings you will discover what hidden joys and treasures this film possesses and truly there are a lot of them. As it stands the absolute best film I have seen of 2016.
Roar, is a film that certainly has to be seen to be believed. The film has brought upon itself many a curious viewer and with it's theatrical re-release in 2015, the film was being billed and sold on the very fact that everything you see on the screen before you is real, and while no animals were hurt during the filming of it, many cast and crew members were and it ultimately proved to be a timely and in other words, a disastrous film shoot. The premise is simple enough about a man living in the wild amongst many lions, tigers and various forms of other wildlife. This man considers these animals to be his friends and will snuggle up to them, play with them and treat them as you would any domesticated pet, like say a dog or cat, except in this case, these were real live animals and basically if you pulled a wrong move, both your character and the actor portraying them could suffer serious injuries if not be killed. For the first little while as I was watching this man treating these wild animals like everyday pets, I thought to myself that he must be insane and no matter how much you love, or respect animals, there certainly has to be boundaries that need not be crossed and this guy did not just cross those lines, but they never seemed to occur to him in the first place. That is where some of the interest, or should I say intrigue comes from while watching the film, Roar. Because it is well documented that many of these cast members as well as the crew suffered serious injuries while filming this, it brings a certain element of danger as well as suspense as you watch not only the more peaceful interactions with the animals, but also when the animals start to turn and even though the film is PG rated and there is no copious amounts of violence or gore, you still truly have a sense of fear and dread with what these actors must have gone through during the course of what must have been a draining and terrifying shoot. The film has been dubbed by some in the film world as a cross between watching Swiss Family Robinson meets watching a snuff film, and while you certainly don't witness anyone actually being killed, and nobody actually died during the film as to the knowledge I have read of it, it still gives the film the feel of watching an underground film, or even something like the Mondo Cane films that were popular amongst certain groups in the 60's and 70's because everything you watch is real and it gives the film almost a documentary type cinema verite kind of look and style. As, I mentioned earlier, sometimes you actually fear for the lives of these characters and the safety of the actors portraying them for this very reason and I think most likely no matter how big of an animal lover you are, nobody would really want a whole den of lions living and roaming around free in their house. Agreed? The film was certainly a labour of love for star, writer and director Noel Marshall, who also got his real life family including wife Tippi Hedren and daughter Melanie Griffith, to also star in the film. You would think after an unpleasant film experience as Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, that Hedren might want to stay away from working with real animals, but that was not the case here. Roar, is sometimes unintentionally hilarious as some of the antics of the animals on screen prove to be cute at some moments and at other times quite amusing. The acting in the film is really nothing award worthy in any way and when there is real life danger on the set, sometimes you laugh in spite of yourself for the absolute foolishness for these people putting themselves in harm's way and it sometimes backfiring on them. All the same, all these qualities make Roar to be an absolutely fascinating film to watch and it also proves to be quite fun at times as well. Think of an 80's version of Jurassic Park, or even Jaws. The audience I was in the theatre with also laughed along with much of the film and I am certain nobody could have called it a boring, or uninteresting experience. As for the film it does show light upon people placing more importance on animals than human life itself which while you think about it, the whole thing becomes kind of ironic after watching the film, but it is still nonetheless interesting and worth seeking out for anyone curious about anything I mentioned above, or just for a definitely unique viewing experience as this film certainly was. I would definitely be interested in knowing what the film's screenplay was actually like because as stated earlier in the film, the real life actions of the animal costars really wrote and dictated the film, so rightly they got credit where the credit was due.
The Founder (2016)
Who knew the story behind how McDonald's Restaurant became a worldwide phenomenon and franchise and the man behind it would be such a fascinating and engrossing film? I also find it interesting to point out that just this week as The Founder was given a wide theatrical release, earlier this week it was revealed on the news that the current McDonald's Restaurants, and I would assume that this would be not just the restaurants here in Canada, but most likely nationwide, it was revealed that most if not all of the food cooked there had come into contact with some sort of peanuts, or nuts which would prove to be a problem for anyone with any kind of serious allergy and I know this could potentially pose not only health risks to the customers, but also perhaps turn away those same customers as nut and peanut allergies in particular seem to be on the rise and those who are very allergic to it need to keep away from it at all costs. Just an interesting side note here as with this new film we are introduced into how McDonald's came to be and why in pretty much every city you will most likely find one. The film profiles the founder (if that is the right word to use) Ray Kroc, who was initially more of a salesman who embarked upon a small San Bernardino restaurant in California, run by two brothers who really seemed to be changing things in the fast food market. Keep in mind that this was back in the 50's and in an era when drive through meals were extremely popular and a big thing at that time. When, I say drive through, perhaps I should say "drive in" because this is where a cute girl in roller skates would come up to your parked car outside of the restaurant and would take your order and what was supposed to be a short amount of time, you would then get that meal delivered to your car by the same girl wearing the same pair of skates and you could then eat the meal in your car with utensils and other things provided. Not surprisingly that idea did not prove to be too novel and that is why when Kroc discovers this new restaurant in California, run by these two brothers, he discovers that they have an operation that not only runs smoothly, but also delivers great results. Forget the waiting in your car for the food as well as the girls in roller skates, but now you could go up to the restaurant window and place the order yourself and receive everything that you asked for in most times in less than a minute's time. Extremely impressive, isn't it? And so sparked the curiosity of Kroc, who didn't just want to invest in this restaurant, but turn it into a national franchise with new locations popping up everywhere. As the film goes along we really get to see the true kind of man that Ray Kroc is, or should I say was. He was a man who was more than anything else an opportunist. The two brothers with the original one location restaurant were big on quality, great customer service and everything meeting very strict standards and what they thought of to be the absolute best. Kroc, on the other hand was more interested in the cash he would receive from these restaurants and whether it lead to cutting costs when it came to quality, or being ruthless enough to cut people literally out of deals and leave them high and dry, he would stop at nothing to make more money for himself and what he considered to be his precious investment, when in reality everything about what Ray did was stolen, or copied from these two original brothers who had good ethics and values regarding business and Kroc milked them and the business for all that it was worth for the sake of profit. I don't have to tell anyone how this story ends because wherever you are living you probably have your own golden arched restaurant nearby flashing that famous name. This is another in a line of great films not just about seeking opportunity and finding a name for yourself in the business world, but it again addresses the absolute greed and corruption that can come from it. Was Kroc really a genius in the marketing world, or did he have the right people with him and knew how to bleed something till it was absolutely dry? This is a film that is tremendously entertaining and the fact that it is all true makes it even more so. The film will disgust you at times with it's look at greed and corruption in your fellow man, but at the same time it will leave you with a good look at society and what has happened to it. The script is intriguing and well written as is the spot on direction, and who could forget the marvellous performance by Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc? He deserves an Oscar for it and I am so glad that he has his career back on track again. A film with much to say and think about which is just as tasty as even the food which it may represent. One of the year's absolute best films.