DEMOLITION, Movie Review

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demolitionDEMOLITION (USA 2015) ***1/2
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Heather Lind, Chris Cooper

Review by Gilbert Seah

I had a conversation with a friend about houses a month ago. He claims that modern houses have no character unlike those like the old buildings in the French countryside. It is remarkable that in Jean-Marc Vallee’s latest film about life and what matters, the film hits the nail on the head of our conversation when the lead character, Davis says of his ultra-modern expensive home: “I hate this house. It’s just shiny stuff!” (Dvid demolishes it later on in the film.)

DEMOLITION tells the tale of a finance executive, trying to make sense of his life after the passing away of his wife. It totally makes sense as the accident occurs suddenly out of the blue, just as Vallee shocks the audience with the shock tactic of a car ramming into the couple’s, in the midst of conversation followed by a blank screen and news of the wife’s (Heather Lind) death. Davis Mitchell’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) father-in-law and head of the finance firm, Phil (Chris Cooper) tells him that in order to repair something, one has to take it apart and put it all together again to understand how it works. The trouble with Davis is that he can take things part but not put in back together. So, he takes it upon himself to tear down the leaking fridge or plumbing in the office washroom but not able to re-assemble he parts. And so his life is the same – he takes it apart, driving everyone, particularly Phil bonkers, but he cannot piece it all back together.

Vallee has created a very thoughtful film here – made more profound in that he leaves the audience to figure out what his film or hero is all about. He helps with a voiceover, provided by Davis himself as he writes to the vending company venting on one of the machines that is unable to put out an M&M’s peanuts package. The Public Relations of the company (Naomi Watts) is drawn into the story, with her son Chris (Judah Davis) helping him to make sense out of life.

Many other issues like coming-out (Chris’s) and gay bashing are tied into the story.
One conversation piece also brilliantly ties in to the message of what matters most in life. Chris swears constantly to which Davis says, “If you swear so much, the swearing loses its effect and you only look stupid.” Here, Davis has surprisingly hit the nail on the head as to what’s important and it then takes the kid to show him the way.

There are two too commonly used tactics in films that spoil the originality of DEMOLITION One is the shock tactic of the accident out of nowhere and the other is the hero running off into the sunset (as in Truffaut’s 400 BLOWS).

Still DEMOLITION is an interesting film, for sure as I have seen the film a second time (the first at the Toronto International Film Festival) and Vallee’s film still feels fresh in its storytelling and execution.

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NATASHA, Movie Review

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natashaNATASHA (Canada 2015) ***1/2
Directed by David Bezmozgis

Starring: Alex Ozerov, Deanna Dezmari, Genadijs Dolganovs

Review by Gilbert Seah

Written and directed by David Bezmozgis based on his short story, NATASHA tells the tale of the forbidden pre-teen romance between two Russian Immigrants living in the north of Toronto during one summer.

It all starts with Mark Berman’s (Alex Ozerov) uncle bringing over a new wife from Russia to Toronto. With the new wife comes baggage in the form of her young daughter, Natasha (Sasha K. Gordon). The new wife is not what she seems and neither is Natasha. Natasha hates her mother, calling her a whore. Natasha is not that innocent either, having participated in the sex industry in Russia. Mark is given the task of showing her around and a romance develops. Mark on the other hand, supplements his pocket money by selling pot in his neighbourhood.

Director Bezmozgis is a good story-teller His film is never boring and he fills his film with solid supporting characters from Mark’s family to the suspicious new immigrants. A lot of Russian atmosphere is also integrated into the story with a large portion of the dialogue spoken in Russian as well as in English.

NATASHA is also a film proudly Canadian. There are shots of northern Toronto where the film is set as well as shots of the Toronto Subway system and the ferry to the Centre Islands where Mark takes Natasha. The film feels and looks authentic and there are no false notes in the story. The catchy opening song and music adds to the film’s innovative feel.

A bit of philosophy is added for good measure. Mark reads German philosophy and some good message are offered to the audience. Natasha says that all of what she is told, she already knows, but Mark remarks that she knows only because it is said out aloud to her. So true. It is these little details that makes Bezmozgis’ film attentive.

The Russian content in the story and the fact that this is a dark tale involving young sex creates the atmosphere of a Vladimir Nabokov novel as in LOLITA and LAUGHTER IN THE DARK. Secrets are laid out into the open but are yet not apparently visible.

But the forbidden romance, incest upon consideration is not really incest as the the two overs are actually related through marriage and not blood. Still, the fact that the families trust the boy on looking after the 14-year old girl makes the sex forbidden. The sex scenes are kept at a minimum and within good taste while remaining quite erotic at the same time.

The two teen leads deliver quite good performances. Ironically both are young recent Russian immigrants like the characters they portray, Ozerov immigrating to Toronto and Gordon to the U.S. Ozerov is a young star to watch – young, sexy and brooding, already proving himself able to carry a lead in this film and in other films like the recent COCONUT HERO and A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY.
NATASHA is a well-made Canadian entry that deserves to be seen.


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Happy Birthday: Robbie Coltrane

robbiecoltrane.jpgHappy Birthday actor Robbie Coltrane

Born: Anthony Robert McMillan
March 30, 1950 in Rutherglen, Scotland, UK

See reviews of their best work:

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dir. Chris Columbus
Richard Harris

Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
dir. Chris Columbus
Daniel Radcliffe

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
dir. Alfonso Cuaron
Gary Oldman

HARRY POTTER 4Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
dir. Mike Newell
Alan Rickman
Ralph Fiennes


HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIXHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
dir. David Yates
Daniel Radcliffe
Harry Melling

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCEHarry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
dir. David Yates
Daniel Radcliffe

dir. David Yates
Daniel Radcliffe
Emma Watson

dir. Rian Johnson
Adrien Brody
Mark Ruffalo

dir. Mark Andrews
Brenda Chapman
Kelly Macdonald
Billy Connolly

THE TALE OF DESPEREAUXThe Tale of Despereaux
dir. Sam Fell
Robert Stevenhagen
Voices by
Matthew Broderick

dir. Martin Campbell
Pierce Brosnan
Sean Bean

THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGHThe World is Not Enough
dir. Michael Apted
Pierce Brosnan
Robert Carlye

dir. David Yates

Happy Birthday: Katy Mixon

katymixon.jpgHappy Birthday actor Katy Mixon

Born: Katy Elizabeth Mixon
March 30, 1981 in Pensacola, Florida, USA

See reviews of their best work:

Drive Angry 3DDRIVE ANGRY 3D
dir. Patrick Lussier
Nicolas Cage
Amber Heard

THE INFORMERS Movie PosterThe Informers
dir. Gregor Jordan
Billy Bob Thornton
Mickey Rourke
Kim Basinger

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dir. Phil Traill
Sandra Bullock
Bradley Cooper
Thomas Haden Church

dir. Jeff Nichols
Michael Shannon
Jessica Chastain

STATE OF PLAY Movie PosterState of Play
dir. Kevin Macdonald
Ben Affleck

Created by: Danny McBride, Steve Little, Katy Mixon

Four ChristmasesFour Christmases
dir. Seth Gordon
Reece Witherspoon

Happy Birthday Today: Warren Beatty

warrenbeatty.jpgHappy Birthday actor Warren Beatty

Born: Henry Warren Beaty
March 30, 1937 in Richmond, Virginia, USA

See reviews of their best work:

Splendor in the GrassSplendor in the Grass
dir. Elia Kazan
Natalie Wood

Bonnie and ClydeBonnie and Clyde
dir. Arthur Penn
Warren Beatty
Faye Dunaway

dir. Hal Ashby
Julie Christie

Dick TracyDick Tracy
dir. Beatty
Al Pacino

dir. Warren Beatty
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Diane Keaton

Movie Review: SILENTLY WITHIN YOUR SHADOW (short film) Directed by Scott Lyus

Directed by Scott Lyus

As their relationship grows, Lucette’s obsession for ventriloquism and her dummy Hugo starts to strain her relationship with Jace. To Lucette Hugo is more than just a dummy, he’s her best friend and represents her ambition as an artist, to her, he’s very much real.

Read review by Amanda Lomonaco:

I have to admit to having a lot of mixed feeling about Scott Lyus’ imaginative short. Like a lot of other films in the February lineup for WILDSound, Silently Within Your Shadow played on an already familiar storyline, and added its own interesting twist to the tale. Nevertheless, I had a difficult time immersing myself into the story of the film, for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, I have a slight bias against ventriloquist doll or other doll related horror films. For one nothing, in my mind, will ever beat R. L. Stine’s brilliant stories, aside from the hilarity that is the entire Chucky series. Moreover, whenever I see a horror movie doll my heart feels immediately torn between a slight feeling of distaste and an anjoyment of all cinematic things that compel me to squirm in my seat.

The performances in Silently Within Your Shadow also threw me off a little. I wouldn’t go so far as to criticise any of the actors too harshly for their work, but there were definite points in this short where I wasn’t quite buying what was going on. My uncertainty, however, stems from the fact that I couldn’t quite tell if my disbelief was based purely on the acting, or from the written dialogue itself. While the storyline for Lyus’ film twisted a well-known story in a refreshing way, the dialogue itself felt like it could have used a little more polished to seem more natural.

From personal experience doll-based horror films are something people have quite strong feelings about. Or perhaps that’s just me projecting. In any case, Lyus’ short was one of the few independently produced doll-horrors that have pleasantly surprised me. Regardless of how you might feel about these films there is one valuable lesson we can get from them; be wary of ventriloquist dummies and the people who play with them.


Movie Review: BALLERINA (short film) Directed by Marc Thomas


5min, USA, Horror/Thriller

A woman at home alone encounters a malevolent presence in the form of a… music box?

Read review by Amanda Lomonaco:

At first glance, Marc Thomas’ Ballerina seems like your typical, every day, predictable horror film, but don’t get too comfortable. Through very subtle nuances, fantastic special effects, a great musical score, and excellent timing, Thomas has made an excellent short film guaranteed to make your skin crawl.

This is definitely one of those short films that I’m at risk of spoiling by saying too much about it. At just 5 minutes, there isn’t much you could reveal about Ballerina that wouldn’t ruin Thomas’ excellently plotted suspense. What I can say is that as a horror lover I rarely find myself crawling with goosebumps when I watch a film, but Thomas’ short had me at the edge of my seat.

One of the great things about this short is what Marc Thomas has managed to do with an already familiar, and almost cliché storyline. Though it’s a difficult art to master, the advantage of using these kinds of stories is the ease with which you can surprise the audience by veering from it even if slightly. Ballerina has achieved this in such a discrete but impactful way, that it’s impossible not to commend it.

The reactions to this film were all intense and infectious. It speaks a lot about any film when it can provoke such a strong reaction from a large group of strangers. If you don’t like horror films, beware; Ballerina will almost certainly give you nightmares. Then again, if you’re anything like me, that might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of BALLERINA: