Film Review: FIRST REFORMED (USA 2017) ***

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

First Reformed Poster
Trailer

A priest of a small congregation in upstate New York grapples with mounting despair brought on by tragedy, worldly concerns and a tormented past.

Director:

Paul Schrader

Writer:

Paul Schrader

FIRST REFORMED is the name of an old church built in 1767 that is still standing in the film of the same name.  The film’s subject is Reverend Toller (Ethan Hawke), a good-hearted God-fearing man but one who questions his faith after the death of his son, that also resulted in his marriage break-up.  Toller is lonely.  Toller is also ill with a cancerous tumour.

The film is directed by Paul Schrader, known for his serious films.  His best movies include BLUE COLLAR, CAT PEOPLE and AFFLICTION, the latter film winning James Coburn the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  FIRST REFORMED shares a bit of the scarce but biting humour in AFFLICTION, in the form of Cedric the Entertainer playing the supporting role of Pastor Jeffers.  But Schrader is dead set on the subject at hand – the relevance of religion in today’s world.  Jeffers offers advice to Toller in  a sit-down session in his office: “You are always in the garden.  Jesus was never always in the garden.  He was sometimes at the market place or on the mountain.  He was never in the garden on his knees spitting blood.”   This is the film’s laugh-out loud yet serious segment.  Unlike the recent film DISOBEDIENCE with an Orthodox Jews setting, this film is respectful of its religious setting. 

The story unfolds from the appearance of Mary (Amanda Seyfried).  She wants the reverend to speak to her husband, Michael (Philip Ettinger) who wants to destroy the child that Mary is now bearing.  This is when Toller reveals (to the husband and the audience) that he is a man with baggage himself.   His family have all been in the military. By tradition, his son follows by enlisting, against the wishes of his mother.  The son is killed 6 months later in Iraq.  Toller’s wife and him are now separated with Toller now serving in the church.   In mid-film, a tragedy occurs that Toller blames himself for, wondering what he could have done different.

Toller keeps a journal, writing by hand his thoughts and deeds every 24 hours.  The words serve two purposes.  Besides recounting the events that have occurred  stressing the importance of each, they also reflect the intimate thoughts of the writer, how he feels as he goes on, not only with the events but the daily routines.  Toller intends the diary be destroyed after a year of writing, done as an experiment, which makes the exercise all the more curious.

The Reverend Toller (age 46) is revealed to be a meticulous man from the very first scene.  He insists on fixing the leaking faucet in the men’s toilet on his own, without having to spend unnecessary money.  He can be an angry man an a timid one intimidated by those above him. 

Toller is a character waiting to explode, just as the Coburn character exploded in Schrader’s best film since AFFLICTION.  Hawke delivers a dead serious performance, one of the best of his career.  These are just two reasons making FIRST REFORMED a worthwhile film to watch.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCF5Y8dQpR4

 

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

Advertisements

Film Review: BLACK KITE (Canada/Afghanistan 2017)

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

Black Kite Poster
Clip

Arian loves kites but a changing Afghanistan stands in his way. When the Taliban take power and ban kite flying, he all but gives up on his passion. However, to give his daughter Seema a … See full summary »

Director:

Tarique Qayumi

When Taique Oayunmi’s film, BLACK KITE opens, the audience witnesses a a political judgment/verdict of the violent chopping off of his hands of Arian (Haji Gul) which is then expanded to an execution the next morning.  In the prison that night, Arian almost dies of thirst but offers to tell his story in exchange for a drink of water from his fellow inmate.

But the story that unfolds is a different one.  The next scene is one with a little boy fascinating with kite flying.  The boy is Arian who learns both how to make and fly kites from his uneducated father.  The vast difference in tone could mean one of two things – a spectacular film that blends terror to innocence or a really mismatched film.  Unfortunately, Qayumi’s film is not only mismatched, but a complete mess, all over the lace despite some good intentions.  Many of the incidents do not make much sense.  He introduces new characters at any point and then removes them (Arian’s wife for example) and his messages on life (example Arian as the boy’s honesty) send mix messages.

The worst thing of all in the film is that it is never clear exactly the reason Arian is to be executed in the morning.  The only hint is that the enemy suspects him of sending messages to the resistance by his kites, but then why offer him pardon at the end of the film instead of execution.

There is a very odd point in the first half of the film when Arian as a boy attends school.  He tells his father a bold faced lie that he obtained a diploma where he had failed his schooling.  He is happy and dandy with no guilt.  His father praises the boy and later tells the boy that honesty is all that counts.  This mix message causes the boy to confess the truth but the father unfortunately dies before the confession during some insurgence.  The point here Qayumi wants to bring across is indeed puzzling, unless he wishes to satirize the point, which even makes less sense given the film’s context.

The one plus of the film is the assembled archival footage detailing the King, Zahir Shah’s attempts to modernize the country, including mandating public education for children.  This is a fact, I am many do not know.  But whatever happened to the king’s good intentions?  The film also touches on woman’s right issues, but again the line is blurred.  Women are not allowed to fly kites, so Arian allows the doughtier to fly kites when there is no moon and darkness so no one finds out.  This is hardly a point made for the good of female rights.

The film incorporates some animation that appear at various points throughout the film for no apparent reason.   As a result the animation appears out of place and totally unnecessary.  It also tends to become a distraction of the events that are taking place.

Instead of a political tale, Qayumi’s film ends up trivializing the events to the story of a man in love of the flying of kites.   For a film that has a running time of 90 minutes, BLACK KITE seems to be flying on forever.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8odaf9TqC8

 

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

Italian Contemporary Film Festival: LOVE AND BULLETS (AMMORE ET MALAVITA) (Italy 2016) ***

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

Love and Bullets Poster
In order to avoid the death of the husband (the criminal boss Don Vincenzo, “King of the Fish”), Donna Maria sends her henchmen to kill a lookalike (a shoe-seller) and then she sets up a …See full summary »

 

LOVE ND BULLETS is the Italian acclaimed crime musical comedy that won Italy’s  David di Donatello Awards Best Film Award this year.  It follows a Naples Camorra crime boss’ wife faking of her husband’s (The Fish King) death in order for them to live their rest of their lives comfortably without fear. 

 When the top henchman, Ciro falls in love with the nurse, Fatimah he is supposed to kill (as the nurse has seen the boss alive) the star-crossed lovers become the next targets.   The film both suffers and benefits from a weak narrative, unmemorable and catchy songs though one won the Italian film award for Best Song and campy performances all the way through.  One has got to love the most shameful plagiarized segment of the film where Fatimah sings the FLASHDANCE song (“What a Feeling”) with the film’s own Italian lyrics.

  Fatimah sings as if it was the best original song in the world.  One has to admit the Manetti Bros. (who wrote and directed the film) have balls, gall and spirit!  New characters pop up into the story every 15 minutes or so.  I hated the first 20 minutes of the film but fortunately did not give up on it as it got much better eventually becoming quite the crowd-pleaser.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HMd5SGOUyE

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

LGBT Inside Out Film Festival: A MOMENT IN THE REEDS (Tämä hetki kaislikossa), (Finland 2017) ***

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

A Moment in the Reeds Poster
Trailer

Having moved to Paris for university, Leevi returns to his native Finland for the summer to help his estranged father renovate the family lake house so it can be sold. Tareq, a recent …See full summary »

Director:

Mikko Makela

Writer:

Mikko Makela

 

 MOMENT IN THE REEDS opens with gay undergraduate student Leevi (Janne Puustinen) revisiting his hometown in Finland to help renovate the family’s lake house.   When his father (Mika Melender) drives him to the house, it is revealed that his father does not approve of his son’s sexual orientation but there is nothing he can do about it anyway. 

  Leevi helps in the innovation but is not particularly good at it, storming off at one instant when hitting his finger with the hammer.  (Most gay men are not good in this field of work!)  The dad has hired a helper (Boodi Kabbani), who shows up unable to speak much Finnish.  The father is unable to communicate with him but the help and son speak English.   Dad is suddenly called away.  No surprises then when the helper, who is a Syrian refugee turns out to be gay and he and Leevi have really hot sex before the father returns. 

 If his film was made 20 years ago, the son would not have come up to the father.  Despite the familiar well-worn theme, the film is quite an entertaining watch, primarily for the reason that it does not aim high.  Coming-of-age, father/relationship, refugee problems are just a few issues tackled in this film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oyJodhVRok

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

Film Review: LET THE SUNSHINE IN (Un beau soleil intérieur)(France 2017) ***

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

Let the Sunshine In Poster
Trailer

Isabelle, Parisian artist, divorced mother, is looking for love, true love at last.

Director:

Claire Denis

Writers:

Christine Angot (screenplay), Claire Denis (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

 

LET THE SUNSHINE IN has been touted by critics as Claire Denis in lighter form.  From the film’s opening scene with Juliette Binoche having sex with an older man taking too long to reach orgasm, lighter form might still be very serious to the average moviegoer.  Denis’ films as the director herself, is not always say to take, the director recently giving her interviewer for THE GUARDIAN a hard time at all the questions asked, but her films are often more rewarding and a challenge than the typical Hollywood kitsch.  LET THE SUNSHINE IN is not a comedy but a drama.  It follows its heroine, Isabelle (Juliette Binoche), a middle aged divorced painter living in Paris, as she looks for love.

Isabelle’s love encounters, each lasting some months or so.  The first is the banker (Xavier Beauvois), next, a good-looking actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle), then, a fellow artist (Alex Descas) and lastly her ex (Laurent Grevill).  The film can be divided into 4 separate segments bound by one theme followed by a conclusion.

For each of the segments and lovers, Isabelle exhibits the same personality – that of a head strong, intelligent woman wanting to find true love and a relationship but just meeting the wrong men.  The common trait is her frustration often leading to anger when she is unable to get what she wants.  She ends up ditching the lover and moving on to the next one.  It is interesting to note that she always starts off on a wrong footing.  The first one, she tries is a married man, another she picks up at a club, and another one her ex, whom she had, had before.

Denis allows her audience to see what is wrong with each man and emphasizes their faults.  The banker is seen to be the worst, abusing a waiter at the bar where they have a drink.  “Put the water there,” he insists to the waiter.  “I need hot water.”  He also has the gall to tell Isabelle that his wife is extraordinary but she only charming.  It takes great pleasure later to see Isabelle tell him off and slam the door in his face.

The film has a unexpected ending in the form of a segment involving Isabelle and a fortune teller played by no less than Gerard Depardieu.  Depardieu delivers a speech on Isabelle’s love lives even going down to specifics on whether a particular lover might or might not work out.  This ending looks like a cop-out with a too all written out conclusion dished out to the audience, which goes against the flow of the rest of the film.

Denis’ film is a very intriguing watch as Denis makes very emotional wrenching films often dealing with characters unable to get out of the rut their themselves have gotten themselves in as in CHOCOLAT, her first and one of there best films.  LET THE SUNSHINE IN is aided by an extraordinary and charming performance by her star Juliette Binoche.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ps_Sau7xqQY

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

Italian Contemporary Film Festival: A CASA TUTTI BENE (THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME)

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

There Is No Place Like Home Poster
A big family that like any other one includes relatives that see each other often and others that rarely meet, reunite to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of grandma Alba and grandpa …See full summary »

Director:

Gabriele Muccino

The Italians are known to be hot-blooded people.  In A CASA TUTTI BENE (direct translation: At Home, Everyone is fine), a big Italian dysfunctional hot-blooded family celebrate a Golden Anniversary on an island.  Alba and Pietro have been married for 50 years.  They live on an island.  To celebrate, they invite their children, their wives,, ex-wives, children and other assorted relatives to attend.

  A recipe for disaster, especially when a storm brews and ferry services are cancelled with the dysfunctional family unable to leave the island.  Envies, jealousies, past loves surface.  At one point, even Pietro screams, when things get too out of hand: “When are they going to get off this fucking island?”  Though the setting sounds like a perfect comedy premise, there is more drama than laughs.  It takes a while for the audience to figure out who is who and who is related to whom and what each quarrel is about.  The film does not always work (the tacked on happy piano sequence), but when it does, the characters really grab you. 

One cannot help but feel sorry for some of them.  Everyone deserves to be happy .  But director Muccino deftly manoeuvres his film effectively with some good dramatic set-pieces.  His film seems to work as the film became number one at the Italian box-office two weeks in a row when it first opened.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Qi0dH6Frj8

 

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

Film Review: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRE (USA 2017) ***

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

The Gospel According to André Poster
Trailer

From the segregated American South to the fashion capitals of the world, operatic fashion editor André Leon Talley’s life and career are on full display, in a poignant portrait that …See full summary »

Director:

Kate Novack

 

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRE is a documentary on fashion icon, André Leon Talley.  When the film opens, André states his view on life and the fashion world – his Gospel.  He stresses that it is beauty not fashion that rules.  He continues to say that it is important to share the beauty with people you respect and love.

Those in the fashion industry know André by name.  Those who are not, might have noticed him in recent documentaries.  He appears in any doc in which fashion is involved.  It is difficult not to notice him.  He is an African American and a towering big man.

Besides being famous in the fashion industry, André has put Afro Americans on the map of fashion.

Director Novak’s doc follows the same route as most biographies on famous people.  She informs the audience of the subject’s background and what factors influenced him to become the celebrity he is.  André grew up poor, from the South who was brought up by his grandmother, Bennie Frances Davis, a maid on Duke’s campus, who supported him by cleaning from dawn to dusk.  She taught him the importance of discipline and respect while cooking him all kinds of cakes and pies which made him the size he became to be.  The one thing that he looked forward to every week was going to the all coloured church, where all the folk wore their Sunday best.  His grandmother, did the same and owned a big collection of hats.  Novak also documents, through interviews Andre’s climb to fame.  Like every celebrity, there are demons to be exorcised.  In Andre’s case, it is his weight.  He is not shy to show himself at a diet centre trying to lose many of the pounds he had put on.  Still, he maintained his fabulousness, always wearing the most outlandish outfits.  André made his name from being the editor of the fashion magazine Vogue.  Director Novak has many past Vogue editors talk about André.

Novak has assembled quite an impressive cast of interviewees that include celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg (though she only appears once), Mets Annual sponsorship dinner organizer and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Tamron Hall, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg, Whoopi Goldberg, Valentino, Manolo Blahnik, Maureen Dowd, Fran Lebowitz,  Eboni Marshall Turman, super model Naomi Campbell and the late comedienne Sandra Bernhard.

Those in the fashion business will be in for quite a treat with this comprehensive look at  the industry while those are not, will learn quite bit including learning who’s who in fashion.   The clothes, gowns, jackets, dresses, hats and shoes on display are out of this world.

André is revealed to be a kind person, not proud and visibly upset at poor taste rumours spread about him.  He also is proud to say that he has done drugs like cocaine.  André is one fabulous, larger than life personality who has worked hard to get to where he is.  For this reason alone, there can be a lot to be learnt from this man.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzZkVGCY5rY

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY