Film Review: ROGER WATERS US + THEM (USA 2019) ****

Roger Waters - Us + Them Poster
A look at Roger Waters’ 2017-2018 concert tour.


Sean EvansRoger Waters

The Us + Them Tour was a concert tour by Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd.  The tour visited the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and countries in Europe and Latin America, showcasing songs from Waters’ career with Pink Floyd and from his most recent album as a solo artist, Is This the Life We Really Want? It opened on 26 May 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri and ended on 9 December 2018 in Monterrey, Mexico.

Roger Waters, now at the age of 76, co-founder, creative force and songwriter behind Pink Floyd, presents his highly anticipated film, ROGER WATERS US + THEM, featuring state-of- the-art visual production and breath-taking sound in this unmissable cinema event.  Filmed in Amsterdam on the European leg of his 2017 – 2018 Us + Them tour which saw Waters perform to over two million people worldwide, the film features songs from his legendary Pink Floyd albums (The Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, Animals, Wish You Were Here) and from his last album, Is This The Life We Really Want?  Waters collaborates once more with Sean Evans, visionary director of the highly acclaimed movie, Roger Waters The Wall, to deliver this creatively pioneering film that inspires with its powerful music and message of human rights, liberty and love.

The concert film comes with a message.  Unlike Bruce Springsteen’s WESTERN STARS which is too preachy, Roger Water’s film takes the preaching down several notches.  The message of everyone are brothers and sisters comes across loud and clear – emphasized by the lyrics of many of the songs performed.  The film is bookended by an image on a mother sitting on a mound of sand on a beach looking out into the ocean.  A child is with her.  The image is called ‘The last Refugee’ in the closing credits and shows Waters’s fight for this cause.  There are also other disturbing images intercut with the concept, footage of refugees overcrowded into a road sailing towards  what they believe is freedom and a better life.

The best song performed is “The Wall”  which is enough to move any audience.  The song is accompanied bu children of many races n orange jumpsuits on stage during the performance.  The visuals seen on the gigantic screen behind the stage are well thought-of and executed, much the vision of Sean Evans.

The camera intercuts the performances with the reactions of the spectators many of whom know the lyrics of entire songs by heart.

The entire concert film is not only entertaining but a very moving experience.  This is the next best thing to attending the concert – without the hassle of having to deal with the crowds.

This film will inevitable be compared to Springsteen’s WESTERN STARS.  Roger Waters’s film wins hands down.  Waters works also more layered and a better listen – my view, (sorry Springsteen fans.)

Stay for the closing credits.  The credits list all the performers on stage as well as those behind the scenes.  The short entitled “A Fleeting Glimpse” comes after as a bonus.


Film Review: THE MEANING OF LIFE (Canada 2017) ***

The Meaning of Life Poster
A starving musician Finn Faber (Tyler Shaw) gets a temporary job as a therapeutic clown at a hospital entertaining sick kids. He is assigned a 9 year-old leukemia patient: Sophia Hill (Sadie Munroe). Finn soon learns that Sophia coming into his life was no coincidence, but an important lesson he needed to learn before making a big step forward in life.


Cat Hostick


Cat Hostick

It is bold for a film to be entitled THE MEANING OF LIFE.  One expects some life altering experience for the audience or perhaps some urgent message of life.  In writer/director Cat Hostick’s film, she attempts both.  These are extremely high goals to achieve and one cannot fault her for want of trying.  The film poses this all-important question: Would one give up ones career for family or for someone one loves?

A starving musician Finn Faber (Tyler Shaw) gets a temporary job as a therapeutic clown at a hospital entertaining sick kids.  Finn is a music songwriter.  He is assigned a 9-year-old leukemia patient: Sophia Hill (Sadie Munroe).  Finn soon learns that Sophia coming into his life was no coincidence, but an important lesson he needed to learn before making a big step forward in life.

Finn’s inconsistency in character is too noticeable.  Finn is super patient with Sophia.  He encourages her in her painting to no end.  At one point, in  order to start her on drawing live animals, he tells he to close her eyes and imagine that it can be done.”  But Finn has absolutely no patience or time for his father.  Thee is no real reason of how the enmity between father and son has come to this level.

The dialogue between Finn and Sofia is at times corny, but it works and if one evaluates, one can hardly come up with anything better.  “You are a nice dork, I like you.”  “You are beautiful, with or without hair,” Finn tries to convince Sophia to do chemo.

Tyler Shaw who does Finn’s songs is pretty good. He sounds like  a cross between Ed Sheeran and Sam Mendes. The guitar playing is not half bad either.

The best thing about this film are the performances.  Tyler Shaw, who has been signed on by Sony Music in real life does a marvellous job singing and acting.  The young actress Sadie Monroe is a scene stealer.  Other veterans include Dan Lett (who I personally just got acquainted with at the gym) playing Finn’s father, a Canadian actor who has acted in countless films including X-MEN APOCALYPSE and THE SHAPE OF WATER.  Lett has only two scenes in the film but makes them count.

The film has a good message and story but it get a bit sappy and preachy especially towards the end.  “You are the only therapy these kids look forward to each day.” says the nurse to Finn at the end.  Or Finn saying: “I will never give on music.”  The tacked Hollywood ending is also a bit too much, spoiling what might have been a decent believable story.

Flaws aside, THE MEANING OF LIFE turns out to be a pretty decent film.  Director Hostick tries her best and the effort shows.  Entertaining with a message to boot, the film makes a worthy watch.

Film Review: THE FIRST KING: BIRTH OF AN EMPIRE (Il Primo Re) (Italy 2019) ***

Romulus & Remus: The First King Poster
Romulus and Remus, two shepherds and loyal brothers, end up taking part to a journey that will lead one of them to be the founder of the greatest nation ever seen. However, the fate of the chosen one will pass from killing his own brother.


Matteo Rovere


Filippo Gravino (story), Francesca Manieri (story) | 4 more credits »

An Italian re-making of ROMULUS AND REMUS, an early pre-Christianity feature way back when, when films of this genre together with Biblical films were extremely popular.

When the film opens, the audience sees two brothers Romulus and Remus as they tend sheep right before everything is swept away by a tidal wave.  They are captured by a tribe and locked in cages.  After they are others are forced to fight each other in the mud (dirty, brutal and sexy fights) for amusement of the captors, the prisoners escape, only to travel through hard terrain in order to survive.  They also have to fight superstition and sometimes each other to survive.

Why do Romulus and Remus care so much for each other that they are willing to sacrifice their lives for each?  Apparently they have sworn allegiance when they were taken apart as kids from their mother by an attacking tribe.

There is hand-to-hand combat and fighting with ancient weapons like swords, clubs and hammers.  All this allows for a lot of blood-letting such as a spike on the side of the neck letting out gushing blood or a head cracked open.  There is even a half body (a silly looking special effect) seen hanging from a tree.

This is a male oriented film so females beware.  There is only one female in the group surviving the journey.  There is no romance – only macho males fitting each other and showing off their muddy bare bodies.  

It is just one fight after another.  The film gets a bit monotonous in tone though not for lack of trying.  If the men are not fighting other tribes, they are fighting each other.  The lack of humour clearly puts a damper on the entire film.  The founding of Rome is the excuse given for the film to have more clout.  Romulus and Remus are given credit to the founding of Rome hence the subtitle “Birth of an Empire”.

To the film’s credit, THE FIRST KING is beautifully shot.  Most of the action takes place in the country and woods amidst streams and rivers.  The men are not very gruff and sport lots of facial hair.  There has bonnet been a group of uglier actors assembled on display film.  But everyone seems to be in shape.

The film runs a lengthy 2 hours and 5 minutes but it could be cut short and edited for a tighter film.  The action set piece are equal well spread out, so there is not long a dull moment, unless one finds the action boring.  One imagines that this is reason for keeping the fights sufficiently violent.

Yet, THE FIRST KING delivers if one likes films in this genre.

The DVD and Blu-ray are just out October 24th this week.  They come with these bonus features: “Making of” and “Trailer”.  The English version is also available but it is best to watch the film in Italian with subtitles.


Film Review: ZEROVILLE (USA 2018)

Zeroville Poster

A young actor arrives in Hollywood in 1969 during a transitional time in the Industry.


James Franco


Steve Erickson (novel), Paul Felten | 1 more credit »

James Franco has made a name for himself in pictures primarily as an actor.  He received an Oscar nomination for 127 HOURS and acted in hits like PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and FREAKS AND GEEKS.  Though credited with 39 directorial credits, the films he has directed have been mediocre at best.

In ZEROVILLE, made a few years back and only just released, James Franco stars and directs himself as Vikar a wannabe Hollywood celebrity.  He more than meets his match in the form of outrageous characters such as Seth Rogen’s APOLCALYPSE-type director, Will Farrell’s producer, Megan Fox’s starlet and Jacki Weaver’s editor.  But it is though Dotty, the editor that Vikar learns the game.  “Fuck continuity.  It is the passion that is the editing.” is what Vikar believes after watching how the kissing scene between Elizabeth Tylor and Montgomery Clift was edited in A PLACE IN THE SUN.

ZEROVILLE requires one to have sufficient knowledge of old movies to fully appreciate what director James Franco intends.  One such movie is the 1951 George Steven’s film A PLACE IN THE SUN that starred Montgomery Cliff and Elizabeth Taylor.  Vikar (Vikar with a K is what he called himself) has a shaved head and ridiculous moustache.  He loves Montgomery Cliff and Elizabeth Taylor so much that he has both Taylor and Clift tattooed on his shaved head.

Franco must totally believe the spill on continuity as his film does not pay much attention to continuity.  One scene had him break a car widow.  No blood shown, nothing and another has his hand in a bandage.  Though his film aims high, it is a mess without much direction with the characters shouting all over the place a lot of the time.  The Vikar character in contrast just broods along with a sullen look.  But the film contains isolated hilarious bits.

The film funniest segment has what is supposed to be the filming of the Arthur Hiller 1970 film LOVE STORY based on the Erich Segal novel.  Ali McGraw cannot distinguish between the lines “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” and “Love means never ever having  to say you’re sorry” which requires so many takes that she storms out in frustration.  Another one that matches is the one where Vikar is interrogated by the cops, being a suspect in the Sharon Tate murders.  The film has shades of ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD.  Both films are set in 1969, Hollywood.

Of the classics, these must be Franco’s favourites, as their names keeping popping up. They are A PLACE IN THE SUN, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, SUNSET BOULEVARD, CASABLANCA, JOAN OF ARC and THE SEARCHERS, even though Vikar considers John Wayne as a hontytonk racist pig.  The film has clips from John Ford’s MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, JOAN OF ARC and a 3 Stooges clip.

ZEROVILLE ends up a pretty bad movie.  It just wanders around just as its protagonist Vikar with a little aim but loses purpose on its way.  At least it is good for a few laughs.


Film Review: JUDY (UK 2019) ***

Judy Poster

Director: Rupert Goold


Tom Edge (screenplay by), Peter Quilter (based on the stageplay “End of the Rainbow” by)

Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival just last September to a standing ovation likely because Oscar Winner Renée Zellweger was present, JUDY makes its debut in theatres just two weeks after.   Oscar winner Renée Zellweger delivers a note-perfect performance (she reportedly sang all the songs herself) as Judy Garland during the last year of her life.   When one thinks of Judy Garland, one thinks good times like THE WIZARD OF OZ and the famous song “Over the Rainbow”, but those expecting a feel-good movie will be out of luck.  In fact, the first song sung by Garland occurs after 40 minutes of screen time.  The film is based on the Peter Quilter’s stage play “End of the Rainbow” which is pretty grim.

The film shifts to and fro, intercutting from Judy during the last year her life to the days where she was just 16 working at MGM Studios for MGM head, Louis B. Mayer.  Two aspects of Judy’s life are portrayed and both heavily involve performances.

For the 16-year old, Judy is shown to be raised on film sets and nearly every aspect of her life — from what she could eat to who she could date to what drugs she should take — was dictated by MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer.  Mayer is shown just short of being as nasty as Harvey Weinstein.  Judy became a wondrously gifted movie star who never learned to take care of herself.

When the film opens, the audience first sees Judy a middle-aged, homeless, broke, embroiled in a custody battle, and all but blacklisted in Hollywood.  She is kicked out of the hotel is is staying at and she is left homeless with two children.  She docks them off at her ex, Sid (Rufus Sewell).  In a bid to regain some control of her career, she accepts a residency at a London theatre. She refuses to rehearse and, crippled by anxiety, insomnia, and alcoholism, can barely make it to the stage opening night. But once there, in the spotlight, before an eager audience, microphone in hand and a crackerjack band at the ready, she’s suddenly at home. And it’s magic.  But not all the time.  One scene has her collapse on stage and another being heckled but the audience and then boo’ed off after she loses it and insults the audience.  These are not pleasant scenes to watch.

Though based on a play, the film does not feel like one, owing primarily to the frequent intercutting of Judy in her last year and Judy when young.  Unfortunately, the film falls into cliched territory with the expected manager that uses her, her bout with alcohol and her descent from fame.  There is little insight or background about Judy Garland that is provided.  JUDY can best be described as a play about Judy Garland than a biopic.

The film has a few solid moments.  The best of these is Judy’s chance encounter with a couple of gay admirers.  They sing with Judy and reminisce of the times when they were arrested for gay behaviour.  Judy Garland and her daughter Liza Minelli are gay icons.

JUDY is an ok watch aided by a solid performance by Renée Zellweger but do not expect too much and you will not be disappointed.



Charlie and Hannah's Grand Night Out Poster
Two girls. A Friday night. And magical candy that makes body parts talk and through which a trip to another galaxy becomes the easiest thing in the world.


Bert Scholiers

This playful film, CHARLIE AND HANNAH’S GRAND NIGHT OUT follows 2 girls,  Charlie (Evelien Bosmans) and Hannah (Daphne Wellens) as they step out in the night scene of Antwerp.

The film is shot mostly in black and white (but with bouts of colour later on), giving it a trippy look.  It begins with Hannah arriving in the late of a Friday night to meet with her friend, Charlie.  She apologizes for being late as she says she was urgently doing irrelevant things like eating a kiwi.  Then she says she dropped a pair of scissors on her toe.  It is ok replies Charlie and the two carry on, playfully, engaging in irrelevant conversation that appears cute at the start but leads to boring and even monotonous quickly.  They arrive at their party after purchasing cheap liquor at 5 euros as they figure that that is what their friends are worth.  ‘Is this film worth 5 euros?’ comes the immediate question to my mind.  At the party Hannah meets with Fons (Patrick Vervueren) and indulge in more irrelevant chi-chat.

Director Scoliers spans equal screen time on each of the heroines.  Though Charlie appears on the outside less fickle than Hannah, both are indistinguishable.

Some parts of the film defy logic. When the magic candy (code name they use for drugs) they consume take effect, Hannah’s boobs talk.  They talk to each other.  But why is Fons who had not taken any hear the boobs?  Another segment has Charlie on a rack in an old horror movie.  She then escapes by taking another candy and turning herself into a block of flats, when she can see the whole city.  “Oh, there’s Hannah,” she remarks.

On the other hand, Charlie shares a cigarette with Catherine the Great.  Before long, Charlie is out spending the rest of the night with Fons, Hannah’s friend.  It is clear the Fons is interested in Charlie.  Hannah does not care that Fons has ditched her (both of them have had sex before).

The film spends a lot of time on the ex’s of both women.  Not that they are that interesting, but the girls bitch about their ex’s non-stop.  Do their new male friends (or the audience) really care?

To the film’s credit, the visuals, especially when the girls get high are visually ‘cute’, colourful (favourite colours appear to be red, blue and purple) and made trippy especially when combined with a bit of animation.

As a result of their drug trip, the girls get to evaluate a little on their lives, though one can doubt if they will really change their lives at all.  The girls are too immature and indecisive for that matter.  One scene has plates hanging on the wall of women being fucked – really offensive to women.  Women are also treated as slags in the film.

There is nothing really grand about Charlie and Hannah’s Friday night out and there is nothing grand about this film either.  Everything fizzles out quickly.  Playful does not necessarily fun and this film proves it.


Film Review: ABOMINABLE (USA 2019) ***

Abominable Poster

A magical Yeti must return to his family.


Jill CultonTodd Wilderman (co-director)


Jill Culton

The new Dreamworks animated feature that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival has nothing abominable about it.  It is so pleasantly nice that that the film title should be re-named “Pleasant” or perhaps “Happiness” since the setting is Shanghai, China.

In the current times of  ‘more women in movies’, it is not surprising  that the main protagonist is a female.. She is Yi (Chloe Bennet), a resourceful girl in a totally female family consisting of mother and granny, ‘nai nai’ right after the loss of her father.  Being Chinese, she knows how to play the violin (a little stereotyping here),the instrument worth to her more than anything else in the world.  What is puzzling in one scene is when asked to play for the family after dinner, she says she sold the violin.  The reason is never clear and left for the audience to decide the reason for her decision to say that.  The gender of the yeti that she saves is brought into question in one scene, as likely to the filmmakers whether to make the yeti male or female.  It would be a little much to make it also a female, so ‘male’ looked after by a female would be the expected option.

Having fled the secret laboratory where he’s been detained, a young Yeti, that is named Everest (non-speaking, just making abominable snowman sounds) frantically scurries through the streets of Shanghai before hiding on an apartment rooftop, where he takes solace in a billboard advertisement for travel to Everest. It’s also where he meets Yi. Yi and the Yeti discover a shared fondness for Yi’s grandma’s dumplings — which the Yeti consumes in crazy quantities — and a love of music. An outspoken advocate for Asian actors and film roles in Hollywood, Bennet voices Yi with an impressive mix of American confidence and Chinese family values.

Yi quickly surmises and turns correct that her new companion is being hunted by a squad of ruthless militiamen, led by wealthy collector Burnish (Eddie Izzard) and the zoologist Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson). with red hair looking like an animated Tilda Swinton who usually has roles of this nature in films. Recruiting two cousins as accomplices (Chinese have large families – stereotyping?), Yi determines to help the Yeti get away. With their pursuers hot on their tails, the quartet hop on a barge bound fo

The setting in China instead of the U.S, makes total sense.  The Himalayas where Yi takes Everest is close to the Himalayas compared to the U.S.   Also, a film set in China will do better at the box-office globally as Chinese the second largest market in the world.  (Will this film be subject to tariffs on the Chine-American trade war?)

The film draws from other films like E.T. (also from Dreamworks). Yi is aiding Everest finding home and reuniting with his parents.  The bonding between master and teen is reminiscent of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.

The animation from Dreamworks is great as expected though there is not much excitement in anything in terms of insight or innovation.  Recommended for little kids!