Film Review: 13 MINUTES (Germany 2015) ****

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

13 minutes.jpgIn November 1939, Georg Elser’s attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler fails, and he is arrested. During his confinement, he recalls the events leading up to his plot and his reasons for deciding to take such drastic action.

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Writers: Léonie-Claire Breinersdorfer (screenplay), Fred Breinersdorfer (screenplay)
Stars: Christian Friedel, Katharina Schüttler, Burghart Klaußner

Review by Gilbert Seah

A reenacted and partially imagined account of a true event, Oliver Hirschbiegel’s 13 MINUTES tells of the attempted assassination of Adolph Hitler in 1939 by the planting of a bomb inside a column of a Munich bierkeller by German Georg Elser (Christian Friedel). The bomb detonates but misses killing Adolf Hitler, the German leader, by just 13 minutes.

Director Hirschniegel broke into the world film scene with DAS EXPERIMENT and made more headlines with his Oscar nominated Best Foreign Film DOWNFALL. 13 MINUTES lost to LABYRINTH OF LIES that year for Germany’s nominated entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar though 13 MINUTES is clearly the better film.
Watching the film, one would eventually wonder how Elser’s story came into fruition. It is clear from the film that Elser was arrested and told part of his story. Also, the explosion of the Munich bierkeller did occur and Elser confessed to the Nazis.

The film begins with Elser’s planting of the bomb and his arrest following. With maps of the building on him (why the hell would he not dispose of them after is the big question), the German Security Services link him to the assassination attempt. They believe Elser must have been working with a group of conspirators and torture him for information. They also round up members of his family from his home village, including Else Härlen (Katharina Schüttler), a married woman Elser has been seeing.

When Else Härlen is brought before Elser, he fears for her life and tells the police chief Arthur Nebe (Burghart Klaußner) and Gestapo head Heinrich Müller (Johann von Bülow) that he acted alone, procuring detonators from a steel factory and stealing dynamite from a nearby quarry. All these events including how he came to despise the Nazis are shown in the film through flashbacks when Elser is interrogated in prison. He outlines the two clockwork mechanisms he built to time the explosion and hopefully kill Hitler as he made a speech.

Still believing Elser could not have attempted the assassination alone he once more tortured using drugs (Pervitin) but with the same result as before – he confirms acted alone. The audience is also led to believe this fact, unlikely as it seems that one person from a village could be so tech savvy.

Elser is beautifully played by Christian Friedel, displaying a countryside charm and one that would change character from innocent bystander to convicted assassin.

This is not the first film made on an attempted assassination of Adolph Hitler. The Tom Cruise vehicle VALKYRIE immediately comes to mind, though that was supposedly masterminded by other German generals in 1944. But Hirschbiegel’s 13 MINUTES hits closer to home with a protagonist the audience can feel for.

Sadly, the audience learns at the end of the film that Elser was kept in concentration camps for five years and was shot only a few days before American forces liberated Dachau concentration camp (a few weeks before the war ended). Looks like time was never on the side of poor Elser.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SsIsCWXtV4
 

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FILM REVIEWS: SULLY (USA 2016)

sully.jpgSULLY (USA 2016) **
Directed by Clint Eastwood

Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn

Review by Gilbert Seah

Director Clint Eastwood follows his high successful AMERICAN SNIPER, a story of an unlikely American hero with SULLY, a story of a likely American hero.

SULLY is the movie based on Chesley “Sully” Sullenberg’s 2010 autobiography, Highest Duty that envisions the American sense of common humanity.

The so-called miracle on the Hudson occurred in 2009. This was the safe landing on the Hudson of a plane that had two of its engines blown. The captain of the flight known fondly as SULLY piloted the plane to safety saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew. Heralded a hero but not until cleared of accusations that his decisions were not the best, this is the film that praises, or over-praises the deed.

The question is that do we need to re-watch a re-enactment of a story already told and known to most Americans? There is always a need at any time for a story of heroism. In these times of terrorist attacks, Americans need to be reminded of their heroes. SULLY seems a film to do just that.

Eastwood, known to be right-winged, has directed SULLY (Tom Hanks) to show a hero with all the right words to say and a man who can do no harm. He is blessed with a loving family and a wife (Laura Linney) who professes her lover for him constantly.

Eastwood’s film, shot in IMAX shows the plane’s landing on the Hudson in all its glorious images. But there is no suspense or thrills as the audience is well aware of the fact that everyone on board survived. The landing is shown in clumsy flashback, when Sully is having a drink at the bar, again congratulated at very possible moment in the film. Parts of the landing are shown twice as if the audience need be reminded of the heroic deed.

But with the story of SULLY already known, and no real facts provided or insight on the story, Eastwood’s film grows to be quite a bore quite soon, and remains so throughout its full 2 hours and 10 minutes, that seems to be the staple running time for all of his films.

Though Hanks has been praised for his portrayal of SULLY, his performance is nothing new. Like his role in HOLOGRAM, Hanks looks as if he is sleepwalking through his performance. Often sleepless like his character in HOLOGRAM and always thinking of what would have happened or what would have not, Hanks sulks most of the time, looking as if the plane landing was all a dream. Laura Linney who plays Lorraine, Sully’s wife mopes all the time too. The audience gets a glimpse of the real Lorraine Sullenberger, i.e. Sully’s wife at the closing credits.

The audience at the promo screening applauded and seem pleased with the film. Who would not applaud a hero? Still Eastwood’s SULLY is nothing more than a recounting of events, overpraising its hero and lacks any solid thrills or imagination.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjKEXxO2KNE

Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.

Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month: http://www.wildsoundfestival.com

Movie Review: NEON BULL (Brazil/Uruguay/Netherlands 2015)

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

neonbull.jpgNEON BULL (Brazil/Uruguay/Netherlands 2015) ***
Directed by Gabriel Mascaro

Starring: Juliano Cazarré, Maeve Jinkings, Josinaldo Alves

Review by Gilbert Seah

NEON BULL tells the story, set in a Brazilian rodeo setting, of Iremar (Juliano Cazarre) and his immediate family, all living at the edge of poverty. The family consists of his girlfriend an exotic dancer (Maeve Jinkings) and her daughter Caca (Aline Santana). Iremar works at a rodeo called the ‘Vaquejadas’ in the north east of Brazil. In the rodeo, two men on horseback bring down a bull by its tail (which is sanded for grip) within a time limit. There is no story but the film’s purpose is to show what life is like for them. The film works around Iremar’s immediate family and work while focusing on his desire to get out of the bull business as it is difficult hard-breaking work. Iremar’s passion, believe it or not is designing skimpy women’s clothes.

Mascaro uses dramatic set-ups to tell his story. The segment in which the little girl Caca asks Iremar, the mother’s befriend out of the blue for a hug shows the closeness between the two that is missing between her and her real mother. On the other hand, the mother slapping Caca in another scene demonstrates the mother just tolerating her most of the time. These often isolated segments do not help smooth the flow of the story telling, which feels choppy at times. The dramatic contents of the film, however, are strong.

Mascaro loves to focus his camera on images of bodies be it humans, even on co-worker Ze’s (Carlos Pessoa) pot-belly and his protruding belly button or on the almost perfect contours of the white bulls in the rodeo. It seems natural then, that his protagonist has the ambition to design fashion outfit as an alternative source of income.

The film’s cinematography by Diego Garcia is detailed enough to observe dust in the wind. His fond of use of shadows is apparent in the many night scenes. There is much to enjoy in the lighting department as well, as evident in a scene which is lit up by the needle of a sewing machine emphasizing Iremar’s dedication to his design work.

NEON BULL has the mixed feel of art and biopic. The slowness of pace and the often lingering of the camera with the explicit use of colours (the white bulls, the neon lights, the colours of posters) are the realistic dirty look of poverty of the subjects.

The climax of the film is where everything comes together – filmmaking-wise. It is a sex scene, very graphically explicit, shot in the night with shadows and minimal lighting with selected musical scoring. The sex is very erotic and different, between Iremar and his cosmetics saleslady who happens to be pregnant. It is not a scene for everybody, riding from behind, but tastefully done, arguably.

If the visual and dramatic setups are tied in with a stronger film narrative, NEON BULL would emerge a more focused film and even one that could contain a message of survival and maybe the mistreatment of animals. Shot in Portuguese.

Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com

Movie Reviews of the TOP OSCAR Nominated Films

Read movie reviews of the top films of 2015, that also happen to have received Oscar Nominations. 

Movie Review: CAROL (USA 2015) Top 10 *****

https://festivalreviews.org/2015/12/27/movie-review-carol-usa-2015-top-10/

Movie Review: ANOMALISA (USA 2015) ***** TOP 10

https://festivalreviews.org/2015/12/27/movie-review-anomalisa-usa-2015/

Movie Review: SON OF SAUL (2015, Hungary)

https://festivalreviews.org/2015/12/20/movie-review-son-of-saul-2015-hungary/

Movie Review: CREED (2015)

https://festivalreviews.org/2015/12/19/movie-review-creed-2015/

Movie Review: JOY (2015)

https://festivalreviews.org/2015/12/15/movie-review-joy-2015/

Movie Review: THE REVENANT (2015) ***** TOP 10

https://festivalreviews.org/2015/12/22/movie-review-the-revenant-2015/

Movie Review: THE BIG SHORT (US 2015) *****

https://festivalreviews.org/2015/12/25/movie-review-the-big-short-us-2015/

Movie Review: THE WITCH (USA 2015) ****

the_witchTHE WITCH (USA 2015) ****
Directed by Roger Eggers

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie

Review by Gilbert Seah

Set in 17th Century New England, writer/director Roger Eggers (whose background is in production design and theatre) has mounted more than a handsome production in his chilling horror debut. Looking like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT from the frequent flickering lighting (though the comparison does not do THE WITCH, the better film justice) and Shyamalan’s THE VILLAGE from the period setting, the story follows a newly settled New England family from England.

When the film opens, we hear dialogue which informs the audience that the family has just been banished from the village due to witchcraft, details unspecified. They settle on their own on the forest outskirts. The religious family is comprised of William (Ralph Ineson), his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) and their five children. The film centres on the daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), who is made to look after her infant sibling while the parents toil the land. But the baby suddenly goes missing (never explained how in the film, but assumed to be taken by a wolf), and Thomasin has no explanation either.

William and Kate descend into hysteria. Did the evil in the woods take their unbaptized child? Their twin children, Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson), blame Thomasin but their own behaviour has become disturbingly suspect. Middle child Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) takes it upon himself to search for the answer with dire consequences. Thomasin admits to being a witch to scare the twins into silence but it backfires on her.

The film has certain unexplained scenes like an actual witch that appears and kisses Caleb. The other is the possession of the twins.

The film succeeds for two reasons. One is its ambiguity which makes everything all the more mysterious and scary. Is the family descending into religious madness or are there supernatural forces afoot? But the film falls apart when director Eggers shows actual demonic forces in motion. Second is the scary effects created by the light, setting and soundtrack. The characters speak with an old Northern England accent and old English which takes a while to get used to. Sample dialogue: “What’s the matter with thee? Come hither!” The story is supposed to be based on folklore and the dialogue adapted directly from old literature.

But THE WITCH is a very scary film- not scary in the form of the typical B-horror flick but in genuine fear of the unknown. Religion and superstition drive the family part. Trust in God appears to be the answer for the family, but faith is obviously not enough. The desperation of the family is on clear display and examination here. Eggers shows differing points of view, from the daughter to the father, mother and even the brother., while always centring on Thomasin. Eggers knows how to create a sense of evil from almost any prop, from the goat, to the evil stare of the rabbit, to the woods to the omnipresent darkness. THE WITCH also contains very disturbing images, made even scarier because often, it is hard to make out exactly what is depicted, and much is left to the imagination. The scariest image is the crow picking at the mother’s breast. Evil, indeed takes many forms.

Altogether a very impressive film debut by Eggers and definitely a most chilling one.

Movie Review: FLORENCE AND THE UFFIZI GALLERY 3D/4K (Italy 2016)

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

FLORENCE AND THE UFFIZI GALLERY 3D/4K (Italy 2015) ***1/2
Directed by Luca Viotto

One of the world’s greatest attractions in Florence, Italy is the Uffizi Gallery and the central dome.  It is Renaissance art at its finest.  Cineplex’s Third Season of ‘In The Gallery’– A Spectacular Cinematic Tour of Exhibits From Around The World features this attraction.

The documentary both explores and discovers the city of Florence, artistic home to legendary figures like Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Raphael, Leonardo and Botticelli with a detailed, central chapter dedicated to the very treasure house containing their masterpieces: the Uffizi Gallery.  The ‘secret story’ of each of the timeless works of art in the gallery is disclosed in all its beauty, including the breathtaking “Adoration of the Magi” by Leonardo Da Vinci, which will be brought back to life in 2016, after several years of restoration, and here unveiled in worldwide exclusive premiere on the big screen.  Also, a fascinating, Gothic-flavoured interlude will display much darker, more monstrous and frightening paintings, such as those by Caravaggio.

Several other selected paintings are also displayed on the screen with great 3D detail and with voiceover interpretation.  Who could ask for anything more?  The audience is given full access to proximity of greatness without having to fight with the crowds for a viewing.  

Among my favourites shown in the film is the painting: The Birth of Venus (Italian: Nascita di Venere [ˈnaʃʃita di ˈvɛːnere]) by Sandro Botticelli (mid 1480’s).   Voiceover informs the history that Botticelli was commissioned to paint the work by the Medici family of Florence, specifically Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici under the influence of his cousin Lorenzo de’ Medici, close patron to Botticelli.   The painting depicts the goddess Venus, having emerged from the sea as an adult woman, arriving at the shore on a shell.  Zepher blows accompanied by Chloris.

A fair portion of the film features actor Simon Merrells portraying Lorenzo Il Magnifico talking abut his art as if his character is alive.  This is not really credible nor does anything above a normal voiceover.  Moreover, Merrells is not a particularly good actor either.   These segments be best edited out of the film.

The Gallery attracts about 2 million visitors annually.  This is the chance for filmgoers to experience a unique experience without having to travel to Florence or weave through the crowded halls in a gallery not originally designed to be a visitor’s museum.  The film, a multidimensional and multi-sensory journey in the Florentine Renaissance through its most representative beauties, where the latest-generation 3D and 4K technology and the most advanced techniques of modelling and dimensionalization are put at the service of the national artistic heritage to valorise it and to export it all over the world is a definite must-see!  The film took the Italian box-office by storm scoring first place in its first two days of initial release.

This is a special presentation with limited screenings.  Showtimes are: 3D presentation on Jan 21 and the 2D presentation on Feb 21.

 

Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com

Movie Review: CHICKLAND (Short Film) 2015

CHICKLAND played to rave reviews at the November 2015 FEEDBACK Film Festival

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video from the Festival:

  MOVIE POSTERCHICKLAND, 11min, France, Comedy/Sci-Fi
Directed by Stanislav Graziani

Bubu and Toufik think they are the next Steve Jobs and Martin Zuckerberg… They have implanted a chip in their brain, which gives them access to the web… giving them instant access to universal knowledge. For their first experiment, they test it on picking up girls…

Review of the Short Film by Amanda Lomonaco:

Chickland left me a little bit on the fence. With the growing dissemination of devices like the Google Glass, and the expansion of Virtual Reality technology Chickland is a bit of a terrifying reminder of a reality that we could all soon be living in. Nevertheless, director Stanislav Graziani did a good job at balancing out the miracles of new technology, with the limitations of our own human psyche, providing  a slightly less dystopic view of the future.

The hardest thing to understand about the film was the age range of the actors involved. The male actors seemed far too young to be approaching the girls they were trying to pick up, although perhaps this was done on purpose, considering the end result of their experiment. The end of the film itself is also a bit reassuring, emphasizing the humanity of even the most technologically oriented minds.

There isn’t much that can be said about Chickland without revealing much of the film’s plot. It’s a peek into the future, into what life might look like if Google Glass ever really catches on. Of course there are certain differences. It’s not likely that the Google Glass “victims” of the future will have no suspicion of the tactics being used on them. Then again perhaps this was what Graziani was indicating in his depiction of the boy’s interaction with the math student.

Students of art might also find this film a little insulting in how easily the one boy was able to fake being a literary connoisseur, while his counterpart struggled to prove his math prowess. Nevertheless both the boys’ reactions to “completing the task” at the end of the film showed a lot of emotional sensitivity, one that most young boys of that age would normally not be so ready to admit or expose.

Chickland is an interesting experimental look into what our future might look like, how our grandchildren might date, find partners, or explore their sexuality. It sparks a lot of thinking about where our technological pursuits are heading, what it might truly bring us in the future. This wasn’t by any means one of my favourite short films to watch, but it certainly carried some interesting ideas that will inspire you to consider how natural human emotion is able to coexist with the calculated patterns of digital technology.