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Dom Hemingway (2013)
Jude Law brings to life one of the most original and memorable characters that I have ever met in a movie. Hello there and welcome to another review from the Toronto International Film Festival 2013, I am movie critic Nick Iacobucci for We Live Film and our next movie review is for "Dom Hemingway". This crime dramedy is set to open in limited release in November 2013, and scheduled for more of a wide push in the spring of 2014. "Dom Hemingway" stars Jude Law in the title role of Dom, and joining him on screen are Richard E. Grant, Emilia Clarke, and Demian Bichir. "Dom Hemingway" comes to us from the very talented writer and director Richard Shepard, and he is the previous filmmaker of "The Matador" with Pierce Brosnan & Greg Kinnear. Mr. Shepard now challenges both his pen and his filmmaking style, and does his creation of Jude Law's Dom go too far or is it right on the money.
This tale tells of a man named you guessed it Dom Hemingway. Dom is just getting finished serving a 12 year sentence in prison, and he is looking the money that is due him. Dom is a professional safe-cracker and upon getting out re-teams with his close friend named Dickie portrayed by Richard E. Grant, and together they will be paying a visit to their boss Mr. Fontaine. Drugs, booze, and immaturity seem to keep Dom off of the path of the straight and narrow, and will he be able to fend off hookers, gangsters, and the high-life? Well people there are challenging performances, there are risky performances, and there are bold performances and then there is the performance of Jude Law as Dom Hemingway. From the film's opening paragraphs Dom annihilates dignity and respect, and simply shoves himself down the throats of the viewing audience. This is without question one of the gutsiest roles that I have seen in quite some time, and with some brilliant spoken dialogue Jude Law delivers a tour-de-force portrayal of one of the most likable scumbags in the history of cinema. I will not even insult Law by comparing his creation to anything else. Dom Hemingway isn't like this person from this movie or that person from that movie, and that's because Don Hemingway is 100% original.
This brings me to the wonderful Richard E. Grant who shines very bright in this feature. He is the balance and contrast to the ridiculous and outrageous behavior of Jude law. Throughout this movie Richard Grant has the absolute best facial expressions and reactions that you could possibly ask for, and he will have you laughing many times in this movie without even saying a word.
Now you must give credit where credit is due, and we wouldn't have a story, dialogue, or personalities without writer and director Richard Shepard. This man has committed to paper the best dialogue that I have ever heard that was not written by Quentin Tarantino or Aaron Sorkin, and the way that he can generate moments of sincerity in "Dom Hemingway" is just baffling. Shepard's real talent lies in the fact that he creates real people first, and then surrounds those real characters into a solid story. This director's choices of art, music, slow motion techniques, and many other things are perfect accoutrements to this world given us, and I can't wait to see what writer/director Richard Shepard will give us next.
My honest opinion in describing this film would have me calling it like being shot out of a gun for about an hour and a half, and the pacing of "Dom Hemingway" very much reminded me of Doug Limon's overlooked gem "GO!" For as outrageous and messed up as this film is Shepard never overlooks the golden rule of filmmaking, and in turn creates a solidly entertaining film that is just fun to be a part of. "Dom Hemingway" will actually take at least 3 viewings just to get all of its wit, and on top of everything Shepard creates a quality looking film.
Now there are a couple of things that I must address and they really aren't anything negative. The first is that Dom is an absolute 100% scumbucket, and it is safe to say that not all people are going to like or appreciate him. Dom is a relentless, vulgar, womanizing, violent, drug abusing criminal, and he will not sit as well with others as he does with myself. The best example that I can think of is Vincent & Jules from "Pulp Fiction". These 2 individuals are less than admirable in almost every aspect of humanity, but somehow you love these 2 guys. Next I hope that I have not built this movie up too much for people, and in turn set their expectations through the roof on this one. I just loved this movie, and I hope that other enjoy it as much as I do.
At Just over 1 hour and 30 minutes "Dom Hemingway" was not only my favorite film of the entire festival, but it is without question one of my new all-time favorite films. The biggest issue that I have with this movie is that it will not be released until next April 2014, and it won't be on DVD until about a year from now. When this film becomes available for purchase I can say with absolute certainty that I will repeatedly watch this one until I have major portions of the dialogue memorized, and I will put this one right up there with "The Usual Suspects" & "Reservoir Dogs" when it comes to being re-watchable. I have always been a fan of Jude Law and I have always respected him as an actor, but now I think that he is an acting flipping God! Nick's Reel Screen Review is a perfect 4 stars out of 4, and that's for the risky, challenging, and precarious "Dom Hemingway".
Long and Boring......and Long!
This 2-part double feature, character study, and drama is slated to be shown as two separate films, but at its world premiere I was shown both films as one continuous feature length film. "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby" will open in the coming months and stars the on screen talents of Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Ciaran Hinds, Bill Hader, Viola Davis, Jess Weixler, and William Hurt. This film comes to us from writer and director Ned Benson, and this is his first full length feature film after successfully bringing to life many short films.
Well people sometimes you talk about technical aspects of a film & I will talk about this film in such a manner, however sometimes you talk about a movie personally or how it struck you personally .and that's where I'm going to begin. This is the longest, most boring and pointless waste of time that I have come across in a good long while. To put it into perspective this is only a few moments shorter than "Titanic" or "Schindler's List", and either of those films could be considered a laugh-a-minute compared to this thing. You guys out there know that I never spoil movies but this is a spoiler-free review because nothing happens in this movie, which means that I couldn't spoil it if I even wanted to. All of the people in this movie just move from scene to scene where nothing is connected in such a way as to propel the narrative forward, and to put it in the simplest of terms if "Eleanor Rigby" was any more dull then I would've been watching real life.
In my opinion filmmaker Ned Benson violated the very first rule of why people plan to take time out of their day, why people put money aside for the multiplex, and why in most instances that people travel a good distance to a theater they do all of these things because they want to be entertained. I'm going to tell you guys something right now, and all of the artsy fartsy people aren't going to be able to give me their character study bullshit about this movie because I have an answer for them. The answer is this. The two ladies behind me we're snoring most of the film, the guy sitting next to me was frequently bitching and moaning about how terrible this was to his wife, and I myself had to get up out of my seat & stand in the back of the theater for a few moments to avoid falling asleep myself. "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby" was screened for us at 2:00 in the afternoon so I ask you, does this sound good to anyone? These are my true and honest experiences sitting at the world premiere, and I'm not going to change my position because most other critics agree to like this film.
I will say however after going through my notes that I will complement & give credit where credit is due. First the girl that portrays Chastain's sister is independent film queen Jess Weixler, and she is a brilliant breath of fresh air and a sign of hope during a duration of time that is anything but speedy. Her scenes with Chastain are probably the project's best, and Chastain is once again well above average. She's solidly founded in this character and I can sympathize with her, but at the same time she is such an indecisive and morose individual that you just want to give her a swift kick in the derrière and tell her to get over it! Make a decision .do something! On the flip side James McAvoy stood out to me as lighter and funnier than his counterpart. Even though McAvoy's Conor is anything but a perfect character, I did always feel like he was more of a victim than anyone else. Without question the project always plays to the favor of the Eleanor character, even though in my humble opinion she is a very flawed protagonist. Then I will concede that McAvoy's buddy played by Bill Hader was such a welcomed treat, and that's because without him and his humor everyone would have been snoring instead of just the two ladies behind me.
This writer and director crafts a quality looking picture, but fills it with a central heroine that just doesn't know what she wants. Boo-Freakin-Hoo, and welcome to the real world! There is her father, her mother, her sister, her professor, and most all her husband right off the top of my head that are all ready and willing to help this character, but the problem is that she just doesn't want it. Then I just couldn't get over how many times Eleanor would do something with no motivation or explanation, and this lead to more than a few unresolved conflicts.
At 3 hours and 15 minutes "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby" felt so long that I actually thought that it was December when I came out. Boy I can't stress enough again how very lucky I was to attend the world premiere screening where I was able to see both parts of this "Character Study". You know because 1 hour and 35 minutes just wasn't enough enjoyment for 1 afternoon, no this guy had to pile on another 1 hour and 40 minutes just in case you couldn't get enough the first go-round. What really sucked more than anything was that out of the entire film festival this was by far the longest film that I saw, and was unfortunately one of the worst as well. At the end of this investment of time you truly have learned almost nothing new than when you began this journey over 3 hours previous. Nick's Reel Screen Review is a very dismal 1 star out of 4, and that is for the very dismal, slow, and un-entertaining "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby".
Bad Turn Worse (2013)
A Solid Crime Thriller - TIFF Review By ReelScreenReviews
*****May Contain Spoilers***** The tale tells of a story that takes place in a small town in Texas where there isn't much to do except to figure out how to leave town or to get into some trouble, and that pretty much describes our three coming-of-age main characters. Sue & Bobby would like nothing better than to leave this town in favor of college, and BJ knows that college just isn't for him and manages instead to get into trouble with some of the wrong people. BJ steals money from a man named Giff and because of this Bobby, Sue, and BJ all end up all on the hook for it. Giff wants them to commit another crime in order to make up for this one, and if they don't come through they will have to answer to Giff's boss who's known simply as 'Big Red'.
Well people these first time filmmakers brought to Toronto not only a well-crafted story, but a quality looking film as well. These brothers collaborated extremely well with director of photography Jeff Bierman, and together they expertly capture the look, feel, and texture of small town Texas. In "We Gotta Get Out of this Place" they show you these long, wide, and barren shots of literally nothing to do, and all of this adds to the main characters main problem of seclusion. Even in the film's beginning the absence of a musical score just compounds to the loneliness and solitude of this location. They all must have known exactly what kind of visual tale that they wanted to tell, and that's because the end result is very smooth for the viewer. Other complements go out to these two brothers for their very cool use of transitioning the film from one scene to the next, and they also made use of good lighting, shadows, and silhouettes throughout the movie.
This now takes me onto the performances, which by the way are all above average. The three main players are all solid, but I will start with the film's villain and best performance in "We Gotta Get Out of this Place". The film's main antagonist is Giff, and he is brought to vivid life by the very talented Mark Pellegrino. He creates a scary southern low-life creep, but whenever he is on screen you can't help but give him your full attention. He's scary and funny all at the same time, and throughout the feature he has many priceless lines that he delivers with a perfect hint of "Deliverance". On the flip side Jeremy Allen White plays Bobby and is the film's central and lead character. He more than pulls off an innocence and charm that make him very easy to side with. He also gives us a sense of always wanting to do the right thing if the right thing is even a possibility considering their current situation, and put simply you can't help but really like the kid.
The other two leads are BJ & Sue played by Logan Huffman & Mackenzie Davis. BJ is above average as the troublemaker of the three, and this young actor brings an edge to this person that makes you never fully like or accept him. He is very credible as an actor and shows a wide array of emotions in the character of BJ. Finally Sue is the girl of the love triangle, and is the driving force of what the other two guys will do going forward. However I can honestly say that she is so much more than a love interest, and provides the film with a sexy and solid passion that proves very effective. She continually strives to better herself and that is the motivation for the film's title "We Gotta Get Out of this Place".
Now seeing so many films back-to-back day after day in Toronto well sometimes you go into the theater not knowing what the movie is even about or who's in it. This fell into that category and was a welcomed and pleasant surprise of a crime thriller, and that genre is not easy to pull off. This film is like "Blood Simple" meets "Last Man Standing" meets "Twilight", and what could've been a real missed opportunity is anything but. With a fraction of a Hollywood budget and almost no known stars the Brothers Hawkins have done a fantastic job taking an already tight script, and turning it into an even tighter film.
Okay just a few minor 'Nick-Picking' issues to touch base with. The first is why did they have to give us the standard "Twilight" love triangle because that has been done to death no pun intended. Next there were more than a few times where convenience seemed to be the driving force of the script, but you'll have that I guess as well. Then there were 2 montages that I felt did nothing but add length to the feature, and at least one of them could've been cut in favor of more screen time for William Devane.
At right around 1 hour and 45 minutes "We Gotta Get Out of this Place" was much better than average, and I would love to see this film get some recognition. I absolutely love when filmmakers manage to get a lot out of a little, and that is the definition of what we have here. A solid crime drama with rich and believable characters all wrapped up in a great looking film
well I don't know what else you could ask for? Nick's Reel Screen Review is a very highly recommended 3 ½ stars out of 4, and that's for the crime thriller "We Gotta Get Out of this Place".
One of 2013's Best Movies...A Must See!!! - TIFF Review By ReelScreenReviews
*****May Contain Spoilers***** This heart-warming and humorous drama screened at TIFF this year and I was lucky enough to see this premiere, and this film stars Dame Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Mare Winningham, & Michelle Fairley. "Philomena" comes to us from director Stephen Frears, and he has been a very successful director for a very long time with films the likes of "The Queen" & "High Fidelity" going all the way back to "The Grifters" & "Dangerous Liaisons".
This tale tells of a woman in her mid to late 60's named Philomena, and she is and has been in search of her long lost son for many years. As a young teenager she got into trouble and gave birth to a baby boy out of wedlock. Now in a last chance effort for Philomena she contacts a disgraced journalist to enlist his help in finding her son. This writer is Martin Sixsmith and he is coincidently very much in need of something in his life at this moment, and together he and Philomena embark on a journey of parental heartache while tackling new frontiers within themselves.
Well people I will start by saying that director Stephen Frears has picked up right where he left off with "The Queen". He seemed to have struggled here and there for a few years, but he is at the top of his game for the second time in the last two attempts. This filmmaker has created drama that is compelling, laugh out loud funny, and solidly entertaining all at the same time, and his direction unfolds the story in a smooth and even manner. Frears knows exactly when and where to be serious, he knows when to lighten the story, and most of all he always keeps the film interesting. There is a plot reveal in the beginning of the second act and it really could've dampened the mood and tone of "Philomena", but instead this director constantly takes us into fresh and enjoyable territory.
The screenplay is delivered by star Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope and together they have countless television writing credits to their names, but I am totally shocked at just how fulfilling a feature film that they have crafted with "Philomena". These screenwriters consistently fill this film with doses of wit and charm, but those moments surround a very interesting and investigating tale. They have created a story full of rich and full characters, and these characters deliver their lines brilliantly. The spoken dialogue is out-and-out bold at times, and even some of the humorous lines had quite an edge to them. On top of all of this the movie is very touching and sincere, and you'd better bring a box of Kleenex when you see this because many were weeping all around me. People will be crying for moments both happy and sad as the tale plays out, but the entire movie will resonate with most people for a while after the end credits have stopped rolling.
This takes me to the driving force of this feature, and that would be to stars Judi Dench & Steve Coogan. Dame Judi Dench delivers to us a wonderful turn on the silver screen, and her performance is quite unique because few can find the line between warm, cordial, and direct all in the same film. She very much sheds her usual hard edge in favor a lovely and humane role. She opens the audience up to a motherly love and passion for finding a child that has been long since gone, and at the same time she swears and brings a blunt truthfulness to many scenes throughout the movie.
Then Steve Coogan trades in his usual straight comedic portrayal and instead gives us what I would say is his best work on the big screen to date. His work as Martin Sixsmith is a wonderful slice of drama, and his combination of serious & light humor couldn't have worked more brilliantly. Coogan must have had a real passion for this project because he serves as screenwriter and producer as well as star, and you can see that passion when you're watching the end result. He is a character that is maturing into a new spot in his life, and to me as an actor he has accomplished the exact same thing.
Now together Dench & Coogan are quite a character all their own, and the brilliant banter between them was definitely the motor that drove this story. "Philomena" thrives on the great and constant confrontations between Martin and his older counterpart, and these two performers actually get the best acting out of each other. The more that they are together in the film the better the movie gets, and as the film plays on they both learn and grow as people because of their interaction together. Just like "Midnight Run" this movie doesn't work without both the ying and the yang, and would have fallen apart without cooperation.
At right around 1 hour and 40 minutes "Philomena" was nothing short of a bright shining jewel of a film. This is one of the most moving and pleasantly constructed features that I have seen all year, and I could easily sit through this one again when it gets a wide push across the country. The two lead characters work so incredibly well together that they should consider working with each other more often. If you are a Judi Dench fan this movie is a must-see, if you are a Steve Coogan fan this is a must-see, and if you are a fan of truly great movies
then this feature is for you as well. This movie is absolute perfection & that's why Nick's Reel Screen Review is a perfect 4 stars out of 4, and that's for one of the year's best in "Philomena".
Blood Ties (2013)
Great Acting in a Solid Drama - TIFF Review by ReelScreenReviews
********This Review May Contain Spoilers******** This crime drama and period piece will open soon enough I'm sure and it stars one of my all-time favorite actors in Clive Owen, and joining him on screen are Billy Crudup, Mila Kunis, Marion Cotillard, Zoe Saldana, Lili Taylor, and James Caan. "Blood Ties" comes to us from director Guillaume Canet, and he is the previous director of "Little White Lies" & the brilliant "Tell No One" from 2006. I just love the film "Tell No One" and it was very cool meeting the director, and sitting in on his Q & A following the screening.
This tale tells the story of family and specifically of two brothers in Brooklyn, and how these two people of the same blood line couldn't be more different if they were from separate planets. The younger brother Frank has grown up to become one of New York City's Finest, and his older brother Chris lives and breathes on the opposite side of the law and has become a career criminal. They both have love interests and children that add to the family drama, but it is the family of organized crime that it the strongest bond between these two brothers.
Well people I will begin with this ensemble cast and to one solid actor in Clive Owen. This man commands the big screen with just a look, and his rugged sex appeal makes him connect even more with the audience. Now what is shocking in his portrayal of Chris is his cold-freakin-bloodedness, and as the film progresses he never redeems himself or falters from this life of crime. Bill Crudup's turn as Frank is a very nice complement to Owen's Chris, and his sensitive, righteous, and vulnerable portrayal gives "Blood Ties" the moral compass that it needs. Now even though Frank is the better of the two brothers he himself is not without faults, and let's just say that he is less than admirable when it comes to acquiring his own love interest.
Now unfortunately because of time constraints and also because of the size of the cast I can only briefly cover the rest of the on screen players. Both Zoe Saldana & Mila Kunis are more than simple love interests and both at least bring to life real characters, and even though James Caan really isn't in the movie all that much he is very effective when he is on the big screen. Marion Cotillard once again tackles a role that she has never tackled before and comes off above average as she usually does, and even bit players like "The Soprano's" John Ventimiglia & "The Wire's" Domenick Lombardozzi manage to bring substance to this feature.
This takes me to director Guillaume Canet and you could see and feel his passion for the look & tone of the 1970's. Everything in "Blood Ties" from the soundtrack, to the costumes, the props, and especially to the cars were spot-on perfect, and added all up these elements made up almost a character all its own. Canet also worked brilliantly with his frequent director of photography Christophe Offenstien, and together they put on display a beautiful New York City decades long since passed. The DOP also captures correctly the interior shots and again brings authenticity to these smaller moments as well.
Then the entire family theme of "Blood Ties" worked well for me. Now the moments of sincerity are few and far between, but they are very effective when used. I also very much enjoyed the scenes in the film where the entire family was together at dinner or for a family function, and those were the film's best moments because the acting is so darn good that the scenes just feel genuine and realistic.
Now as much as I did enjoy "Blood Ties" there are more than a few 'Nick-Picking' issues to go over. The first and biggest issue with this film is that it is almost 2 ½ hours in length. For as much as I can complement the directing and visual style of the filmmaker, as the screenwriter he should've just gotten to the point a whole lot sooner. Some spots in this movie reminded me of a Tarantino or Apatow script where the scenes just go on & on, and I believe that these guys love their own writing more than anyone else. Extra sub-plots that are decidedly unnecessary could've easily been eliminated, and by doing so would've lead to a much tighter feature. The movie also followed some typical stereotypes and this was one of the few spots where the project felt completely unoriginal. There was also much homage paid to Scorsese, Friedkin, & Coppola maybe a little too much than needed. Finally, why can't people ever just get away with it? Why does something always come up that has to ruin it? I don't know, I guess that you wouldn't have a movie otherwise?
At just shy of 2 ½ hours"Blood Ties" was an above average film, but the length is its biggest flaw. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole "Angels with Dirty Faces" theme surrounded by "Mean Streets" & "The French Connection", and with the ensemble put together in this film how could you really fail? This was a project that to me was very much an example of many coming together for the benefit of the project or film, and I think that you could tell that all involved actually cared about the movie. This tale builds to a very satisfying conclusion, and I enjoyed most of this one almost start to finish. Nick's Reel Screen Review is a solid recommendation of 3 stars out of 4, and that's for the flawed but entertaining crime drama "Blood Ties".
Better than Average Independent Feature - TIFF Review by ReelScreenReviews
***This May Contain Spoilers*** A young woman grows as a person while exploring the life's work of her estranged father. Hello there and welcome back once again to ReelScreenReviews & We Live Film's continuing coverage of the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, I am movie critic Nick Iacobucci and our next movie review is for "Cinemanovels". This independent drama stars Lauren Lee Smith, Jennifer Beals, Ben Cotton, and Kett Turton. "Cinemanovels" comes to us from writer/director Terry Miles, and this is his second film debut in Toronto in the last few years.
This tale tells of a twenty-something woman named Grace, and when the film opens her father has already passed away. Her dad was one of the well-regarded filmmakers ever to live, and it seems that he died while a festival of his work was being constructed. This gentleman always referred to his fictional movies as 'Cinemanovels', and that is where we get the film's title. Now Grace is doing her best to see this film festival come to life, and Grace is also dealing with family issues as well. She and her husband have been attempting to get pregnant to no result, and maybe she's even falling out of love with her better half. Before this tale comes to a close Grace will make some tough decisions, and will this father that never was around be the missing element that brings some direction to her life.
Well people this film "Cinemanovels" is surprisingly above average, and the story given to us is full of rich and deep characters surrounded in a worthy narrative. There is enough substance to the tale to at least recommend it even though it is anything but a perfect film. The lead actress is Lauren Lee Smith and she delivers a solid performance that in fact does hold the film together. Now her character of Grace has many flaws and imperfections but you without question like and root for her. Her biggest drawback is that Grace knows what she wants, but she won't commit to anything including marital, professional, and personal matters.
Now there were other players on screen and Kett Turton was extremely likable as a young filmmaker named Adam. He is a very down-to-Earth persona and connects with the audience just as he does with Grace. He is using his professional talent to assist Grace in the film festival, but the more he is around Grace the less professional Adam wants their relationship to become. Adam's roommate Charlotte is a very humorous character and I actually could've used more of her in the movie. Then Jennifer Beals from the 80's classic "Flashdance" shows up as a friend of Grace's, and Miss Beals is not only still talented as an actor but she is still very beautiful as well. Rounding out the cast is Ben Cotton as Grace's husband Ben and putting it plain and simple you don't like this guy because Grace really doesn't like him.
Now there are some 'Nick-Picking' issues for the film "Cinemanovels", and I'll begin with the movie's main flaw. This movie sometimes doesn't explain itself when it needs to. Her dad has died and you basically learn about him through other people and his legacy of films and work. You end up drawing your own conclusions about this man, and not always what you deduce will be correct. Then what happens to Grace and her husband isn't told to a reasonable conclusion, and her husband doesn't even know many basic things about his own wife.
Now I will cover what I believe to be the biggest hindering aspect of "Cinemanovels". Within this story a woman is putting together a collaboration of her father's best feature films, and throughout the movie "Cinemanovels" we get flashbacks to scenes from these feature films that her father directed. I actually very much enjoyed this part of the film, and how these scenes mirror Grace's current life situations. However this film is shot entirely with digital cameras and when you do that you end up giving the film a deliberate and certain look. The issue comes when we flashback to her father's body of work because those sections are also shot with digital cameras. Her father was supposed to be this grand impressionist of a movie maker and never would have shot films digitally, but regardless those recollection scenes really should have had a different look and feel to them altogether. Those scenes should have been shot wider and recorded on actual film to convey the difference that was needed, but in the end I know that this is an independent feature and suffers most because of lack of funds. This means the director probably could have and wanted to do just that, but unfortunately he just couldn't afford it.
At right around 1 hours and 40 minutes "Cinemanovels" was not a great movie, but it was anything but a bad movie also. I very much enjoyed how you get to see the lead character grow and change as a prison, which means that it was nothing like "Hateship Loveship". The unanswered questions that this film raised didn't sit all that well with me, but taken on a whole the filmmaker did tell a well-rounded tale. The biggest saving grace for this movie is the surprising reveal during the film's finale. The surprise in this feature is touching, and meaningful, and totally satisfying
and without it I wouldn't have recommended this movie. Nick's Reel Screen Review is a mild but still recommended 2 ½ stars out of 4, and that's for the independent drama "Cinemanovels".
A Strong Film Visually but Confusing None the Less
*********This May Contain Spoilers******** "The Enemy" debuted at TIFF 2013 and stars the on screen talents of Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, & Isabella Rossellini. This film comes to us from director Denis Villeneuve. He is the director of "The Prisoner" which also debuted in Toronto and also stars Gyllenhaal, and the well-regarded "Incendies" from a few years back.
This tale tells of two separate individuals that have absolutely nothing to do with each other, which is until one of them discovers that they look and sound exactly alike. One of these guys is an actor & one is a professor, and one night while watching a DVD the professor realizes that he has a doppelganger. The face and the voice of the two gentlemen are a spot on match for one another, and after they come together and become acquainted with each other the movie gets a little bit weird. They begin an almost covert agreement that will place each other in the opposite's life, and will this add to an existence of intrigue or will it compound an already complex storyline.
I actually find myself split on this one, but the more that I think about this one the more I guess that I enjoyed it. I do have many things to complement when it comes to this movie, but unfortunately whenever a filmmaker sets out to make a confusing or interpretive film they usually succeed in doing so.
Well people I will begin with the positives and I must start with double lead actor Jake Gyllenhaal who does a fantastic job in this dual role. He has the quirks and mannerisms down to a science, and he brings these characteristics to life in two different people. One is a very unkempt looking and unconfident college professor, and the other is a cock-sure actor that always knows what he is doing. Gyllenhaal shines on screen because you can tell which guy it is just by looking at him, and I mean down to the posture. He very much reminded me of Michael Keaton from the over-looked gem "Multiplicity", because there as well Keaton had the personalities down rock solid.
I also need complement Melanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon who are the girlfriend/wife of the duo, and each is a real person in this small cast. Each one of these women is 10 times smarter than most love interests in film today, and it was cool to see such solid work from such a small group of actors. Watching "The Enemy" the interior shots felt like I was viewing a live stage or theater production, and that is until we get to see the beautiful city of Toronto as the backdrop for "The Enemy". Credit director of photography Nicholas Bolduc for brilliantly capturing this Canadian Metropolis, and after walking around this city for a week and half let me tell ya he did in fact represent the city of Toronto brilliantly. He added an orange tint or a sepia tone to the wide exterior shots, and it gave the city almost a warmer feel. Ironically it was 95 degrees in the city on the day that I saw this film, and not only did it look like the hottest day of the year on screen but it actually was the hottest day of the year outside as well.
The filmmaker Denis Villeneuve definitely has a talent behind the camera, and he very much gets the best out of his actors. It's just that he so very much reminds me of the 2 eccentric directors David Cronenberg & David Lynch. This film has "Naked Lunch" & "Dead Ringers" written all over it and you can without question see many tributes to David Lynch every now and again.
This takes me to the film's one drawback, and that is that I really didn't know exactly what was going on probably for more than half the movie. There are things that happen at the beginning of this film and you're like "Alright", but then it is never fully explained. This plot point that I'm talking about is revisited in the middle of the film and there is something in the film's finale about it, but I have no idea why it is there or what it even means? Then I don't believe that these 2 lead personalities are twins because they cover that in the story with one of guy's mothers, but in my opinion they still leave that open to some sort of interpretation. There are many spots in this film that feel like the end of "Lost in Translation", where you're not supposed to know specifically what it is, but it leaves itself open to analysis.
At 90 minutes some will also complain about the "The Enemy's" abrupt ending, but that is another reason that I enjoyed it, because it was abrupt. This film was short, sweet, and to the point, and you could have watched it 2 times in a row back-to-back and it still would've been 15 minutes shorter than "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby". I listened to the filmmaker explain that basically there is no explanation, which means I can't wait for someone's YouTube video about "The Real Clarification of 'The Enemy'" or "'The Enemy' Explained". This is one of those movies that if you caught it on the right night, and were under the influence of the correct substances, well you're probably going to enjoy this one. However I know for sure that the non-certainties of the film will turn off quite a few. I am still very torn between 2 ½ stars and 3 stars out of 4, but I am going to go with the artistic value of the film and up it to 3 stars out of 4. That solid recommendation is for the muddled but still technically smooth drama "The Enemy".
A Perfect Depiction of a National Tragedy - Tiff Review by ReelScreenReviews
******This Review May Contain Spoilers****** The assassination of JFK and the following 4 days are re-counted in our next review. Hello there to everyone watching and thank you once again for getting your 2013 Toronto International Film Festival info from We Live Film & ReelScreenReviews, I am movie critic Nick Iacobucci & our next movie review is for "Parkland". This period piece and intense drama will open in limited release at the beginning of October and will bow on DVD in November, and it stars Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti, Marcia Gay Harden, Tom Welling, James Badge Dale, & Billy Bob Thornton. "Parkland" comes to us from director Peter Landesman, and he is a first time filmmaker that also serves as the screenwriter on this project.
"Parkland" tells the tale of the events that unfold on November 22nd, 1963, or the day that John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated. After being shot President Kennedy was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital where a team of respectable medical personal did everything in their power to save this world leader. This film also incorporates the elements of Abraham Zapruder or the man that famously shot the most watched home movie in history. "Parkland" also covers Lee Harvey Oswald and his family's relation to Parkland Memorial, and it also has time for the Dallas Police, the Secret Service, and the FBI.
Well people "Parkland" is shot very up close and personal, and many times throughout the film you actually feel like you are watching a documentary. It obviously makes use of the Zapruder film and mixes dramatic narrative and actual footage for an almost seamlessly flowing story. "Parkland" felt very realistic from time to time, and never relents on an intensity that it brings forth from the film's beginning.
Now even though most people are fully aware of the events that occurred on the road in Dallas that fateful day, most are completely unaware of the events that followed. The actions that unravel in the operating room are grippingly graphic and powerfully real, and the film also introduces other points of insight. Like what happens amongst and within the Oswald family is a revelation, and their relationship with the cops and the Feds is quite interesting.
"Parkland" also explains how an ordinary average garment manufacturer could easily be considered a United States national hero. Abraham Zapruder knew what he had filmed, and I might add knew about the technicalities of photography for the time period. He was there with the FBI & the Secret Service every step of the way, and Mr. Zapruder was the distinct and crucial element as to why anyone knows anything about the murder of JFK. He positively knew what he had filmed and he kept on filming it as it played out, and in my opinion that alone makes him a hero. There are only conspiracy theories today because of the strength of Abraham Zapruder in that moment on the 22nd of November 1963, and without him nobody would've known anything concrete. It shows us direction and a time scale of the shots fired as well as a 2 dimensional blueprint of the murder itself. Put simply in an era where cameras were just being invented for the masses, this was the one aspect the killers never counted on.
Then "Parkland's" authentic look and feel was truly a character all its own, and added very much in its delivery. The clothes and décor, the cars and props, everything in this feature is a spot on match for 50 years previous. Then aside from the way the movie looks the emotional connection that it captures with the audience is even more impressive. There were many people in attendance that were crying for a fallen American President that was likely killed many years before they were even born. This film perfectly conveys the misery & tragedy of a country mourning the loss of its emperor.
Then I actually wrote the word 'Relentless' in my notes to describe this film 4 times throughout its viewing. "Parkland" absolutely does not stop in terms of the trauma that unfolds in the hospital, the city, or the country that November day. It seems to interweave authorities, witnesses, victims, & of course medical personal all wrapped up in a national heartbreak. This movie is filmed well, the screenplay is tight, the acting is top notch, and with little time to breathe I don't know how anyone could complain about boredom.
I think that I clocked "Parkland" at a quick 1 hour and 30 minutes, and in that time there wasn't even 1 boring or worthless second. This film is the definition of a true ensemble cast, and that's where everyone that stars in it cares more about the film than they do about their own individual performances. This movie flew by as one of the most enjoyable, interesting, and informative films that I have seen all year, and that's why Nick's Reel Screen Review is a perfect 4 stars out of 4. That perfect recommendation comes for the grippingly realistic drama "Parkland".
A Solid Drama of Conscience - A TIFF Review by ReelScreenReviews
This film debuted at TIFF and I was lucky enough to sit in on the world premiere. "Felony" stars the on screen talents of Joel Edgerton, Tom Wilkinson, Melissa George, and Jai Courtney or Jr. John McClane from the new "Die Hard" feature. "Felony" comes to us from director Matthew Saville the long time television director and previous director of "Noise" from 2007. He now collaborates with both writer and star Edgerton in order to bring this tale of principles to the screen.
This tale tales dives into the story of 3 police officers that all become entangled in a web of deceit that could destroy more than a few lives and careers. A veteran detective strikes a child on a bicycle on his way home after having more than a few drinks, and the events that he describes to his fellow officers don't exactly represent the truth. Of the two detectives that show up to investigate one is an old-school man in blue that wants nothing more than to protect his fellow officer, but his younger and more ethical partner wants to begin an investigation that would eventually unravel the facts many would like to keep secret.
Well people once again at TIFF this year I went into this film expecting to see a standard police drama, and once again I was surprised by a fresh and compelling tale. The director does a very nice job visually and he unfolds the drama and mystery at just the right pace, & he made use of hand held cameras from time to time by not over-using them throughout the movie. Also, Edgerton's script never gives you any more information than you need at any one time in the film, and his screenplay at least took chances with a child victim & police corruption. Most of all however the story always beckons the question, "What would you do?" Now because "Felony" could be considered a smaller film it absolutely relies on strong or solid performances, and thankfully the 4 main stars really don't disappoint. I'll start with Edgerton who wrote himself a very good character. He proves once again that he can hold a film together, and the sympathy for this guy is the driving force of the project. You easily feel for the guy, and Edgerton accurately depicts inner turmoil and personal suffering of conscience. Then his wife is portrayed by the mostly credible Melissa George, and this could be her best work in years. At her character's foundation is a mother that would do anything to protect her family and she encourages her husband to keep quiet. I think her best line is when she says to Edgerton, "I hate you for making me say this" and that is in reference to her character wanting her husband to stand mute and to not take responsibility for his actions.
The other 2 cops are played by Jai Courtney & Tom Wilkinson, and Courtney is solid as the young and righteous rookie detective. You believe his change the world attitude and that he wants to do what is right, and he is also a brilliant contrast to his older more run-down partner brought to life by one of the best actors alive in Tom Wilkinson. Wilkinson is great as this aging and alcoholic cop and he simply owns this character right from the start. He is so good on screen that many times he looks like he's not even acting because he's just so natural. Wilkinson is also responsible for "Felony's" only moments of humor which are scarce, and he also fuels the movie's main conflict.
This brings me to my normal segment of "Nick-Picking" issues. I will start these by saying that the main character has this struggle and conflict that is powerful, but the film on a whole lacked this emotional force. "Felony" also could've had a stronger ending, and throughout the police drama it introduced side crime stories that really just went nowhere. This film is good but it is definitely not great. There were moments where I could see them going for something like an "L.A. Confidential" kind of theme with the three cops and the distinct behaviors, but this movie is nowhere near the caliber of that film.
I clocked "Felony" at right around 1 hour and 40 minutes, and if I had to pick one word to describe it I would use the word 'Solid'. This was a solid police tale that instead of tackling the usual drugs, gangs, and chase sequences brought us a compelling drama of principles & conscience. Joel Edgerton once again shows that he can headline a film, and this time struts his stuff as a credible screenwriter as well. A strong supporting cast helps to raise this film above the realm of simply average, and all and all this is a quality movie. Nick's ReelScreenReviews is of course a 'Solid' recommendation of 3 stars out of 4, and that's for the police drama "Felony".
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
One of the year's best films
May contain minor spoilers
Well people I will begin by saying that "The Dark Knight Rises" is almost exactly like Marvel Studio's "The Avengers", and that's because if there was ever a film that you could deem 'Critic Proof' this is definitely it. Now the aspect where "The Dark Knight Rises" completely separates itself from Marvel Studio's "The Avengers" is that this is just next level filmmaking at its best. Now don't get me wrong I loved "The Avengers" and it was a fantastic and fun ride, but this 3rd installment of Nolan's Batman trilogy is a real movie, with real characters, surrounded by real conflict and depth.
I will pick up right there with Christopher Nolan, which is to say he is everything that represents the good in filmmaking. There is a line at the end of the very long credits where he attests to this wholeheartedly when you read, "This motion picture was shot and finished on film." The 2 people that I can compare him to the most are Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg. First off Nolan won't even move forward until he has a strong story that is worth telling, and most of the time he writes the stories himself which makes him a lot like Quentin Tarantino. Then he is just an absolute master that brings these almost intimate characters and concepts together in some of the biggest Hollywood films ever created, which makes him a lot like Steven Spielberg. Regardless, he has already proved that just into his early 40s to be one of the best directors Tinseltown has ever seen, and here he tells a lucid narrative tale.
In the past he has had the hero of "Insomnia" commit an accidental crime of murder, killed off the love interest that did not choose the main character in "The Dark Knight", and here insanely traps an entire police force while holding a complete city hostage. Put simply this man has brass balls as a filmmaker, and takes chances and risks that would make William Friedkin and the great Sam Peckinpah proud. Actually the only thing that is anti-Nolan in this film is the ending that leaves us with the following or continuing tale.
As the film's central protagonist and in the dual roles of Bruce Wayne/Batman Christian Bale has almost never been better. He gives us a billionaire that has the misfortune of becoming fortune less, but centers his character as a realistic if not righteous man. Bale delivers a haunting and tormented performance, and the Academy award winner brings at home at every turn.
This brings me to Tom Hardy as the villainous Bane. Tom Hardy seems to impress me more with each performance, and is nothing short of amazing as the nemesis of The Dark Knight. Even though his face is covered almost every moment of the film, his eyes, the rest of his face, and his physical body language speak an Encyclopedia of words throughout. Much as he did as Tommy Riordan in last year's brilliant "Warrior" he really doesn't need to say much, and when he does through his voice altered masked it's almost always chilling. I just found it wildly coincidental that the only part of Bane's face that is covered by a mask of sorts, is the only part of Batman's face that is free of disguise. I also enjoyed how Bane is maniacal but intelligent, and the worst kind of criminal one that is smart. Whether he is breaking out of a plane in midair, blowing up bridges or a football field, or crashing the stock exchange, there is always a method to his madness.
Then you have Anne Hathaway, who is never referred to as 'Catwoman', and brings some lighter moments to the film. She teases our hero in a love connection sort of way, and without her the film I believe would have been much too morose. Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman are both solid as always, and Michael Caine brings wonderful humanity to the film more than a few times just as he did in the previous 2 films. Then Joseph Gordon Levitt, another Nolan favorite and regular, shows up as a street cop named John Blake. Levitt is once again extremely well above average and holds some surprises of his own.
At 2 hours and 45 minutes "The Dark Knight Rises" is filmmaking at its absolute finest and a model for summer films to try and live up to. The production designers have crafted a look that brings realism to a comic book feature, and the entire art Department completely out did themselves. Director of photography Wally Pfister collaborates for the 7th time with Nolan, and his expert use of bringing the lighting, the framing, and the choice of the visual look to this film is astounding. It looks like San Diego's Comic-Con was raided by costume designer Lindy Hemming, and Hans Zimmer's score really captures the dark feel of the feature, but still find a sense of enlightened resurrection. One of the film's best assets however is how extremely careful and precisely edited the film has been put together. Lee Smith has been cutting films in Hollywood for about 25 years now, but has never utilized his talent more brilliantly or meticulously then he has here. "The Dark Knight Rises" impresses without trying, and brings morality to almost every frame without ever standing on a soapbox. This is not just a summer movie; this is a surefire Oscar contender that will demand respect and notice from the Academy. "The Dark Knight Rises" is the crowning achievement to not only the films of Batman, but could easily be considered one of the best superhero films of all time.