Film Review: NEVER AGAIN IS NOW (USA 2019) ***1/2

Never Again Is Now Poster

Evelyn Markus is a psychologist.  She is not a filmmaker by profession.  But Evelyn has a story to tell.  This documentary is her story of doing her part to prevent NEVER AGAIN being now.

Markus is a Jew born and raised in the Netherlands where her family history goes back more than 400 years.  She grew up in the 60s and 70s in the world’s most liberal city, Amsterdam, virtually without any antisemitism where she enjoyed life with her long-time partner, Rosa.  But that all suddenly changed in 2000 when a pink Star of David was graffitied on her front door.  With calls for “Jews to the gas!” shouted in soccer stadiums and shocking and violent attacks in the streets…as a child of Holocaust survivors, her world was taken apart.

Markus found a letter detailing her mother’s Holocaust experience.  When approached by producers who were planning to make a documentary about antisemitism in Europe, she decided to take action.  Markus’ personal story therefore packs quite the punch.  

NEVER AGAIN IS NOW succeeds in two main ways.  The first is educating the audience on antisemitism.  Most of the world are aware of the hatred towards Jews during the holocaust of WWII.  But some are unaware of the widespread and deepful hatred still going on today.  Incidents like the Charlie Hebro killings in France and the synagogue killing the U.S. illustrate the point.  The second is how the hate is manifested and spread.  The film emphasizes the need for governments to do more to prevent hate crimes.

The doc reveals the difference between religious tolerance between the U.S. and Europe something that myself and many would not be that aware of.  Markus praises American as the Land of the Free compared than intolerant Europe where incidents like the holocaust, in WWII, and other terrors attacks have occurred.  The film also points out that American is not immune to the attacks.  The film blames not only the right but also the left which has increasing become a problem.  The film contains disturbing scenes of hate speeches delivered by many an Islamic Imam in the name of faith.

Those interviewed in the film include globally renowned experts, Parliamentarians, religious leaders, authors, activists, playwrights and political commentators including Ben Shapiro, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and devout Muslim physician Qanta Ahmed.

While many films and docs display the good of mankind, this one shows the amount of hate and evil present in man particularly the religious leaders of Islam.

The one important message that Markus’s movie wishes to make is: “Silence in the face of evil is evil itself.”  The entire films serves to prove and verify the fact.  To remain silent should not be an option.  The time to speak up is now.  Though a bit over preachy, NEVER AGAIN IS NOW gets the message across loud and clear.

The doc also details the three different groups of people that should speak out.  One is the oppressed Jew.  Markus initially left the Netherlands when persecuted but now speaks out.  She speaks out in the form of making this documentary.  The other is the Muslim who speak out against the hated Islamic persecutors of antisemitism hate, spoiling the name of Islam.  The third is everyone else who should do what is right.  The film lists the website where one can speak out.

The film ends appropriately with an epilogue describing the anti-semitism in the U.S.  Back in 1940 human beings could have stopped the evil threat but they didn’t. Now this evil has to be stopped, while human beings still have the chance.  

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f64VhhRm6Hs

Screenplay of the Day (Watch Reading): OPERATION BABYLIFT by John McCarney

The true story of a Bowie knife toting airline CEO and a Volkswagen van driving hippie who risk their live to save mixed race orphans from being murdered.

CAST LIST:

Jenkins: Christopher Bautista
Narrator: Sean Ballantyne
Daly : Malcolm Taylor
Cory: Luke Robinson

****

Short Film of the Day (Watch): 01, 7min., Germany, Experimental/Animation

01, 7min., Germany, Experimental/Animation
Directed by Julian Friedrich, Katharina Potratz

Sergam is a little boy. A refugee. His boat’s stranded on the coast. His mother didn’t survive. Instead, a young woman takes care of him and they both set off on their way through a nightmare.

Watch Short Film

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

Film Review: PARASITE (South Korea 2019) ****

Parasite Poster
Trailer

All unemployed, Ki-taek’s family takes peculiar interest in the wealthy and glamorous Parks for their livelihood until they get entangled in an unexpected incident.

Director:

Bong Joon Ho (as Joon-ho Bong)

Writers:

Jin Won Han (screenplay), Bong Joon Ho (screenplay) (as Bong Joon-ho)

From the director of OKJA and SNOWPIERCER, PARASITE has already garnished praise from critics and filmgoers all over the world.  The Winner o the roestgious  Palme d’Or at thisnyear’s Cannes Film Festival.  PARASITE is already abbot-office success in Korea and the wold over.

PARASITE is also a Netflix original movie.  It has a limited run before being going on to Netflix, which means that the ilm will stream for free for Netflix subscribers.  Netflix has made excellent films such as ROMA last year.  There is a slew of excellent Netlfix films coming soon after PARASITE like THE KING and THE IRISHMAN with THE LAUNDROMAT, DOLEMITE just opening.

Half way through the movie, the effectiveness of a plan is discussed.  If one has no plan, then chaplain cannot go wrong and things will work out.  This weird logic is subtle applied to the story of PARASITE where anything can happen and chaos rules.  The result is a sort of ‘wtf’ foreign art film that is as energetic and it is unpredictable.

PARASITE tells the story of two families, one rich and one poor.  The poor one slowly but surely takes over the rich none just as a parasite, hence the film’s title.  This is a vertical story of class struggle — punctuated by staircase scenes going from mouldy basements to top floors, from darkness to breezy spaces designed by star architects. — Parasite observes and dissects with surgical precision the life of two families of different social backgrounds.

The poor family: Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) is a good-for-nothing, unemployed family man, patriarch of a family of derelicts — his wife Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin), his clever twenty-something daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam), and his son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) — who live in an overcrowded, sordid basement. 

The rich family: Parks, on the other hand, live in a fabulous house with their teenage daughter Da-hye and terribly spoiled son Da-song, who has suffered a childhood trauma that occasionally causes him seizures and strange behaviour. When, due to an unexpected stroke of luck, Ki-woo is hired by the Parks to be the private English tutor of Da-hye, the destinies of the two families cross.  Ki-woo gets his mother to be employed as the new housekeeper, not letting the Parks know of their mother/son relationship.  Then he gets the father and sister employed as well, again not disclaim the family relationship.  The parasitic family ate over but not with dire consequences.

The film takes a third of tis running  time for the predictable series of events before director Bong pulls a super punch in his film.  The story takes a wild totally unpredictable twist where the class struggle story turns into a wicked farce.  All the events take place amidst a huge flood take wreck the poor family’s dwelling.

The ending is  a little marred by slow preaching but Bong’s film has at this point already accomplished what he had intended in what is supposed to be an ‘unplanned’ film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isOGD_7hNIY

Film Review: GRACE A DIEU (By the Grace of God) (France 2018) ****

By the Grace of God Poster
Trailer

The three men, friends of childhood, will cross, compare their personal experiences and question their life of couple, family and professional.

Director:

François Ozon

French veteran director Francois Ozon has made his name with upbeat comedic drama like SITCOM, LES AMANTS CRIMINELS (The Criminal Lovers), SWIMMING POOL and others.  His mood takes in turn to sombreness in his latest offering GRACE A DIEU (By the Grace of God).  The film is a fictional account inspired by the real life and trials Father Preynat, implicated for acts of pedophilia dating back to 1986.  With a case still then pending before the French courts, the film created an unprecedented controversy and the Father Preynat’s lawyer even asked for the postponement of its release.  At present, French justice has ruled and authorized the film’s release in France in February.  Since then, Father Bernard Preynat has been found guilty of sex abuse of minors and defrocked.

This film tells the moving incredible story.

The film first centres on Alexandre (Melvil Poupaud of Xavier Dolan’s LAURENCE ANYWAYS) living in Lyon with his wife and children. One day he learns by chance that the priest who abused him, Father Preynat when he was in scouts is still working with children.  

The consequences are deeply rooted in Alexandre’s life.  He confronts Preynat who admits the deed but does not ask for forgiveness.  The important moment is examined in the film when Alexandre tells his wife that if Preynat went on bended knee to ask for his forgiveness, he would not know what to do.  The wife replies that if Alexandre forgave him, he would be Preynat’s victim forever.  The film also debates the fact that the church’s aim is forgiveness and redemption at the expense of the victim.  “I don’t want forgiveness,” says Alexandre. “I want Other Preynat sanctioned.  He is a danger to children.”

Alexandre decides to take action and is soon joined by two other victims of the priest, François and Emmanuel. They band together to “lift the burden of silence” surrounding their ordeal. But the repercussions and consequences will leave no one unscathed.  Based on events from the 2019 conviction of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon for concealing the conduct of Father Bernard Preynat, the film  compassionately illustrates the varying effects of trauma on survivors and their families in this urgent portrait of resistance, the power of mobilization, and the mysteries of faith. 

Ozon’s film might not stop child abuse in the Catholic Church forever but his heavy guilt-laden film will almost certainly make the guilty ashamed.

Ozon is known for his twisted sense of humour as evident in his breakthrough film SITCOM or his gay re-telling of the Hansel and Gretel story in LES AMANTS CRIMINELS.  Not much humour can be found in GRACE A DIEU, but he includes one quote of Father Preynat’s victims: “In my life, I have only made love to 3 people – me , my wife and Father Preynat”

The film finally gets a release in Canada on October 18th after official selection at the Halifax, Cinefest Sudbury and Vancouver Film Festival. Grand Jury Prize winner at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, BY THE GRACE OF GOD is a film, told as it is in all its sensitivity and dead seriousness and should be seen for its subject of pedophilia in the Catholic church to be revealed.

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8095860/videoplayer/vi2285091353?ref_=tt_pv_vi_aiv_1

Screenplay of the Day (Watch Reading): Miracle Cove, by Al Cool (TV PILOT)

SERIES: Set in 1970, this rainforest tale follows a damaged son wanting to save his sisters from their violent father by taking a dangerous logging job. There, he must live with his decision in a world intertwined with a twisted employer, workplace thugs, mentors and an alluring lover — a world he might not survive.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Andrea Irwin

Dad/Johnny: Steven Holmberg
Weylin/Dirk : Logan Forsyth Freeman
Tom: Thomas Fournier
Annaleigh: Katelyn Varadi
Faeona: Delphine Roussel
Herbie/Jim: Jolly Amaoko

Producer/Director: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com

Festival Moderators: Matthew Toffolo, Rachel Elder

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editors: Kimberly Villarruel, Ryan Haines, John Johnson

Festival Directors: Rachel Elder, Natasha Levy

Camera Operators: Ryan Haines, Temitope Akinterinwa, Efren Zapata, Zack Arch

Short Film of the Day (Watch): PLEASURE BOYS, 8min., UK, Documentary

Directed by Elliott Watson

Rippling muscles, screaming crowds and non-stop attention. Is it ego or alter-ego that defines ‘The Pleasure Boys’ strip group? Exploring the motives and sacrifices of four male strippers, this documentary challenges masculinity as a construct in the modern world.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Watch Film:

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

Full Review: PAIN AND GLORY (Dolor y Gloria) (Spain 2019) ***** Top 10

Pain & Glory Poster
Trailer

A film director reflects on the choices he’s made in life as past and present come crashing down around him.

Director:

Pedro Almodóvar

PAIN AND GLORY sees director Pedro Almodovar still in peak form in this highly personal film about a successful filmmaker, Salvador (Antonio Banderas) in his autumn years.  A revival screening of an old movie, “Sabor” with the invitation for him and his main actor to attend a Q &A awakens skeletons in the closet.  The film intercuts his life as a child with his loving mother (Penelope Cruz) and his first male desire in the form of an older teen, Eduardo (César Vicente) he educates in reading, writing and in mathematics.  

PAIN AND GLORY is most similar to Almodovar’s best film LA MALA EDUCACION (BAD EDUCATION) with similar scenes like young boys bathing in the river and the influence on cinema on the protagonist as well as first love.  The young boys were under the watch of Catholic priests, one of which is a pedophile.  In PAIN AND GLORY, the river scene has Penelope Cruz, looking as beautiful as ever, washing her sheets in the river with other women and her son.  She is singing what could be a traditional country Spanish song in a scene that the protagonist, Salvador reminisces of.

PAIN AND GLORY draws from the work and life of director Almodovar and could be describe as an autobiographical film.  It can be described as several vignettes put together to form a story.

What is most inspirational about Almodovar movies, are that most of his movies are about the love of cinema.  In LA MALA EDUCACION, the two male lovers first met as kids in a cinema. In PAIN AND GLORY,  it is all about Salvador and his films.  At the film’s start, Salvador confesses he has just watched and was moved by his second watching of his film “Sabor”.  That is so true that watching a film a second viewing brings forth much more that was miss the first time. Salvador also confesses that his lead actor’s performance seems much better than it was 30 years ago.

The film’s best parts are those involving Salvador’s sexual awakening – when as a boy he places his hand over Eduardo’s, the one he is teaching how to write, or how the Eduardo trips don to wash, totally nude. 

Director Almodovar splashes his colours again in this film.  He transforms the dull cave Salvador lived in as a kid into whitewashed walls with colours in the curtains and tiles.

What is most marvellous is the way Almodovar shows the beauty in life and how life dishes it out.  Being poor, he had to go to a seminary on a scholarship to earn his A Levels diploma.  But there, he is pulled out to sing in the choir because of his beautiful voice and given passing grades in his subjects without learning anything.  Yet, when he became a filmmaker, his knowledge came from other means.  But now as an ageing filmmaker with physical and emotional ailments, Salvador must find himself again.

Salvador is constantly sick with ailments like migraines (Almodovar has them too), back pain and others.  Almodovar’s deeply personal work is extremely moving and he is able to arouse the audience to feel the pain suffered by Salvador.  Banderas won the Best Actor prize at Cannes for his portrayal of Salvador and the actor playing Salvador’s first desire is the hottest thing seen this year at TIFF.

PAIN AND GLORY has the best joke that would not be noticed by the majority of the audience.  I would call it Almodovar’s personal joke.  Which is really funny.  When the boy faints in the middle of the film, his mother and Eduardo think it is due to the sun and possibly a minor heat stroke.  But the reality is that the boy fainted after seeing Eduardo’s big penis.

I first viewed PAIN AND GLORY at TIFF and now a second time.  The film survives a viewing proving that it is layered, brilliantly and an overall excellent film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEjFOkCKb3g 

Film Review: THE ADDAMS FAMILY ( USA 2019)

The Addams Family Poster
An animated version of Charles Addams’ series of cartoons about a peculiar, ghoulish family.

Writers:

Matt Lieberman (screenplay by), Charles Addams (based on characters created by) | 3 more credits »

This 3D computer animated film began in 2010 as a Tim Burton stop motion animation feature project.  After several revisions, it was decided and finalized in 2017 to have directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan direct a new film with a revised screenplay.  As everyone already knows, this is not the first adaptation of the ADDAMS FAMILY since the beloved TV series.  At present, I cannot remember all the previous film adaptations, they being released quite some time back.

The best of the ADDAMS FAMILY’s is as most people will agree, the TV series with John Astin as Gomez and Carolyn Jones as Morticia.   This latest version clearly attempt to re-create the atmosphere and feel of the TV series, which it succeeds, but only to a point.

The premise of the film is The Addams family’s move to New Jersey.  Their lives begin to unravel when they move to New Jersey and face-off against the 21st century and its greedy, arrogant and sly reality TV host Margaux Needler while also preparing for their extended family to arrive for a major celebration.

The film begins with the wedding of of Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Moritica (Charlze Theron).  Their celebration is interrupted by angry town folk who want to get rid of monsters from their town, a scene familiar to the classic FRANKENSTEIN story.  So there is the move to New Jersey –  never mind the explanation how come the two children Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) and Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) are suddenly grown up. 

The film springs to life once the catchy theme song of the TV Series ADDAMS FAMILY is heard on the soundtrack.  So much for beloved nostalgia.  Even the new songs Christina Aguilera released “Haunted Heart” and “My Family” sung by Migos, rapper Snoop Dogg and Colombian Reggaeton superstar Karol G cannot match that.

The film suffers from a weak narrative made worse by weak story-telling.  The ilm is punctuated or interrupted by un-connected humour.  The lack of a sufficiently menacing villain does not help either.  The TV host Needler and the mean girl at school Bethany do not really qualify as the usual destroy the whole planet-type villains.

In the TV series, a lot of the humour is derived by innocent ordinary humans stumbling across the Addams Family and being shocked by their strangeness.  These were funny and worked well.  In this film, it is the other way around here the human beings are the monsters that taunt the otherwise innocent Addams Family.

The humour of the film will escape the little ones in the audience as there are quite a few dialogue jokes.  The monsters should be harmless enough not to scare the children.

When the film ends with the full lyrics of the TV series song sung out, as if forming the film’s climax, one feels certain that the filmmakers have run out of ideas.  THE ADDAMS FAMILY is harmless fun but it could have been more fun.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7Ug863S8dQ