Film Review: OUTRAGE (USA 1950) ***

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

outrage.jpgA young woman who has just become engaged has her life completely shattered when she is raped while on her way home from work.

Director: Ida Lupino
Writers: Collier Young (written for the screen by), Malvin Wald (written for the screen by)
Stars: Mala Powers, Tod Andrews, Robert Clarke

 Though dated as the film may seem, OUTRAGE was controversial at the time of release being only the second film dealing with the subject of rape – thigh the word was never used and the rape implied and never spoken of in detail. The first film was JOHNNY BELINDA that earned Jane Wyman the Best Actress Oscar.

OUTRAGE deals with a single young lady, Ann (Mala Powers) about to be married. But when she is raped one night by a man with a scar on his neck, Anne leaves home, totally traumatized and unable to function properly in a social setting. She meets a sympathetic Rev. Bruce Ferguson (Tod Andrews) who helps her recover. At a party, she almost kills a man who make advances towards her, she imagining him to be her attacker.

Lupino’s film clearly has a strong feminine presence as observed in many scenes, the story and characters. Ann’s office is made up of a larger female than male staff. The males often perform more tedious tasks compared to the females, perhaps Lupino’s preferred take on an alternative universe. For example, Ann’s male colleague neighbour is given the arduous monotonous job of stamping a pile of pages, one after another non-stop. Ann’s father is a Geometry teacher, bogged down by a boring teaching job teaching what is widely well known as a boring subject – Mathematics, and down to an even more boring branch of it, Geometry. Ann’s mother is the more sympathetic one and shown to be the stronger of the two parents n terms of making in impact on Ann’s happiness.

Lupino, who co-wrote the script with two other writers is a simple enough story that traces the traumatic effects of a night assault on an innocent young woman, how her life is affected by it, and how she slowly but finally recovers with the help of kind human beings. No mention of the details of the assault are given, the nastiness just put aside, leaving the audience to imagine the worst, as observed by Ann’s after-attack behaviour.

Lupino builds up suspense and audience anticipation whenever she can. The scar of the coffee seller is shown on camera close-up early in the film, implying the man to be of questionable character. He is later revealed to be Ann’s attacker. Ann agrees to work late one night, which prompts the audience to fear for her.
Ann’s after assault behaviour is drastically different undergoing changes such as visions of her attacker, denial of her engagement and paranoia that everyone around her is looking at her and judging her. This is drastic behavioural change that almost results in Ann killing a man at a party who has made advances towards her. Lupino shows the aftermath of a sexual assault in all its fury and unpleasantness.

OUTRAGE ends with the attacker getting caught as informed casually to Anne, though nothing is shown of the incident.

OUTRAGE is an ok film, solid for its time, but a bit dated considering how films have progressed since with censorship now relaxed.

OUTRAGE will be screened on August 24th at the Bell Lightbox in its 35mm archive print as part of the TIFF Cinematheque Retrospective on Ida Lupino entitled INDEPENDENT WOMEN that runs from August 4, 2017. Watch for the Lupino article that will include capsule reviews of selected films from this retrospective.

Film Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBzfd0yqFY4

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Film Review: VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS (France 2017) ****

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

 valerian.jpgA dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

Director: Luc Besson
Writers: Pierre Christin (comic book), Jean-Claude Mézières (comic book)
Stars: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen

Review by Gilbert Seah

 
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is the new widely anticipated French science fiction action film written and directed by Luc Besson best known for THE FIFTH ELEMENT and LUCY. The film, based on the French science fiction comics series Valérian and Laureline, written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières is to date the most expensive French film ever made at a price rage of $197 million euros. To break-even it has to make $350 million worldwide. It is a big a risk as James Cameron’s AVATAR but the film is stunning in its visuals and imagination and comes highly recommended for Besson’s vision and delivery of this space opus to the big screen. It be best seen in 3D and on the biggest screen possible.

The film opens with an alien species on a distant planet. They speak a different language and lead a different lifestyle, in tune with nature giving their planet back what they receive from it. This is reminiscent of the blue AVATAR creatures in the James Cameron’s film. An apocalypse happens and their planet is destroyed. On the other side of the Universe, a dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe. Nothing makes much sense in the film’s first half, but writer/director Besson keeps the audience’s curiosity strong. It is during the second half that the story comes together, becoming more of a conventional film with the fight between good and evil, with Valerian and Laureline being the space fighters and peace keepers working for ‘the government’.

But it is not the story that will astonish the audiences. The visionary action sequences consisting of computer generated landscapes and creatures of all shapes and sizes will mesmerize. The best of these are three information selling beaked liked creatures who speak both simultaneously but separately forming sentences that are hilarious and brilliant. The capture of the jellyfish on the mammoth sea creature providing some genuine action and thrills and the butterfly bait fishing are inspirational set pieces. Another memorable scene has Laureine wearing a huge hat with the top of her head exposed only to find her brains about to be eaten by an Alien Emperor, the way Chinese used eat monkey brains as a delicacy before the practice was banned.

Much negative reviews have been posted of the lead actor’s Dane DeHaan’s performance as Major Valerian. DeHaan is a young 31-year old American actor with some Dutch background, hence his Dutch surname, who has proven himself able to carry a lead role in the recent but badly received A CURE FOR WELLNESS. In that film DeHaan demonstrated a different kind of hero, a vulnerable one, as in this one, full of character flaws like impulsive decision making, unlike other space action heroes like hans Solo or Luke Skywalker. His partner, co-fighter for good against evil and love interest, Lareline is played by Cara Delevingne who emits sexiness and charisma. They do exhibit good chemistry on screen, and her speech on love at the film’s end though cliched, works. Supporting performances by Clive Owen as the villain and Ethan Hawke are also impressive.
Rihanna plays an alien dancer who performs a Sally Bowles in CABARET type dance forms one of the film’s best musical dance numbers – amazing and unforgettable combined with special computer effects. Music is by Alexandre Desplat.

For all its flaws, Besson’s brilliantly conceived film still scores top marks as a futuristic space action adventure. Much better than THE FIFTH ELEMENT and the new STAR WARS film series.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XawbuBCj-Fo
 

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TIFF Cinematheque Presents – The Films of Kathryn Bigelow

kathryn bigelow.jpgThe TIFF Cinematheque first retrospective on Kathryn Bigelow entitled KATHRYN BIGELOW: ON THE EDGE begins July 21.

Bigelow’s first film was the low-budget debut THE LOVELESS (an arty, hipster spin on ’50s biker movies, co-directed with Monty Montgomery and starring Willem Dafoe)  Following that, she  made her critical (but commercial unsuccessful) breakthrough with NEAR DARK, a grimy yet wickedly stylish tale of a pack of vampires traversing the American Southwest.  This was followed by a slew of films including POINT BREAK, STRANGE DAYS and others culminating with her glorious Oscar winner THE HURT LOCKER.  The retrospective arrives in time with the release of her new film DETROIT.

Bigelow was married to and divorced from director James Cameron.  Their collaboration can be seen in his script of STRANGE DAYS which Bigelow directed.

Bigelow’s best films are NEAR DARK, BLUE STEEL and STRANGE DAYS, all three of which oddly enough, did not do well at the box-office.

In April 2010, Bigelow was named to the Time 100 list of most influential people of the year.

For the complete program of the retrospective with screening dates and times, please check the TIFF website at:

CAPSULE REVIEWS OF SELECTED FILMS:

BLUE STEEL (USA 1990) ****
Directed by Kathryn Boggle

BLUE STEEL is yet a another really awesome Bigelow film that flopped at the box-office.  She wrote this film with Eric Red after their collaboration NEAR DARK and marks another very human emotional script with a female cop character.  Just as Bigelow functions as a female action director BLUE STEEL is set in a man’s world.  Jamie Lee Curtis plays a rookie cop who foils a grocery store hold-hp shooting the robber (Tom Sizemore) who pulls a gun on her.  But she does not notice the robber’s gun stolen by a customer, who turns out to be a psychopath (Ron Silver) who uses the gun on a killing spree around NYC.  Detective Turner (Curtis) engages in a cat-and-mouse game with the killer that consists of a series of actions set-pieces.  The only problem is the sudden appearance of the killer shooting at Turner in a subway station for no reason except to provide the climax for the movie.  Still, this is Bigelow at her exciting best, and BLUE STEEL is an absorbing watch from start to end.  Ron Silver is the creepiest villain I have seen for a long time in a movie.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJTOmShc9E0

NEAR DARK (USA 1987) ***** Top 10
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

NEAR DARK is Kathryn Bigelow’s second and arguably BEST movie feature that mixes the western and vampire horror genres based on a script written by Bigelow and Eric Red.  The story follows a young man, Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) in a small midwestern town who becomes involved with a family of nomadic American vampires.  It all starts one night, when Caleb meets an attractive young drifter named Mae (Jenny Wright).  Just before sunrise, she bites him on the neck and runs off.  The rising sun causes Caleb’s flesh to smoke and burn.  Mae arrives with a group of roaming vampires in an RV and takes him away.  The film plays like a male victim basically in a female victim role which makes sense since Bigelow is a female action director.  NEAR DARK is one action set piece after another, the top two being the bar segment where the vampires terrorize a local biker bar, killing everyone before burning it down followed by a police takedown at a motel.  The only problem with the film is Bigelow’s Hollywood ending where Mae, the vampire becomes human again with the couple living happily ever after.

Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiYSirEHS5E

ZERO DARK THIRTY (USA 2012) ***1/2

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

ZERO DARK THIRTY (referring to the period of time 30 minutes past midnight) is the story of perhaps the greatest American manhunt in history – the search and capture of Osama Bin Laden.  The story centres on the character of naïve CIA agent who goes by the name of Maya (Jessica Chastain) who supposedly masterminded the discovery of the whereabouts of OBL.  The navy seals were called in to attack the fort with the result of him being killed.  But not after Maya has given out all that she has got.  The script has her undergo the typical coming-of-age growing up to maturity as she accomplishes her goal.  Initially, shocked but accepting the torture by the American military, she gradually grows from soft to hardened in order to get the job done.  Maya finally reaches her angry peak when she confidently says to the Navy Seals, “You go and kill Bin Laden for me,” as if it is her own private vendetta.  The script and director keeps the film moving fast from start to finish keeping the audience’s attention.  The climatic segment of the raid on the fort in the dark of night is brilliantly executed.   

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxC_JNz5Vbg

Film Review: CHASING CORAL (USA 2017) ***

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

CHASING CORAL.jpgCoral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world.

Director: Jeff Orlowski
Writers: Davis Coombe, Vickie Curtis
Stars: Andrew Ackerman, Pim Bongaerts, Neal Cantin
Review by Gilbert Seah

 
Opening Friday July 14th on Netflix and in a few few cinemas (if one can be found in your city), is a Netflix original documentary, and one that is worthwhile to take a look at, in terms of education and importance of the consequences of global warming.

Those familiar with filmmaker Jeff Orlowski will remember his Emmy Award winning documentary CHASING ICE that demonstrated the disappearance of ice on the planet’s surface over time due to climate global warming. This new documentary CHASING CORAL traces the death of corals around the world, again due to global warming. The film is timely arriving at the same time as Al Gore’s sequel to AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH and when President Donald Trump opted out of the G20 climate accord.

CHASING CORAL is both a horror story and a feel good film. Director Orlowski who co-wrote the film follows the standard format for this kind of documentary. The problem is stated, and emphasized throughout the film, then shows the facts on film with the hard and tireless work put in by those involved. He then shows where the problem is headed and what one can do about it. Experts are interviewed to underline the key points in the film.

CHASING CORAL also turns out to be entertaining through the many stunning photographed shots of corals with fish and other creatures that survive on it. Though the complicated cameras are shown, most of the technical details are just lightly touched. All the audience is told is that it is a very tedious and difficult process with turns out very frustrating for the time involved.

Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world.

The film takes the audiences to various coral reefs around the world. Photographs are shown of dying reefs, bleached white from as far as Thailand, the Florida Keys in the U.S. and the Philippines. The most famous reef of all, The Great Barrier Ref on the east coast of Australia is where the film spends most of the time on. The most horrific fact revealed is that 29% of the corals in the northern part has died in the one year of 2016. The world has also lost 50 % of all the coral life in the past 30 years. A presentation of the fact is shown with spectators wiping tears from their eyes. It is a devastating fact. The reefs feed the ocean life and with that gone, the forests and eventually man will perish through the destruction of the Eco-system.

It i weird that despite all the warnings Orlowski has sounded during his film, he ends it on a positive note saying the emission of carbon fuels are already cut down and that many cities around the world are already doing their part. The U.S. is not on the list of countries doing their part.

Trailer: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v= b6fHA9R2cKI

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Film Review: TO THE BONE ( USA 2017)

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

to the boneA young woman is dealing with anorexia. She meets an unconventional doctor who challenges her to face her condition and embrace life.

Director: Marti Noxon
Writer: Marti Noxon
Stars: Lily Collins, Keanu Reeves, Leslie Bibb

Review by Gilbert Seah
 
The credits both opening and closing proudly announces TO THE BONE a film about anorexia, the eating disorder a Netflix original movie. It has been proclaimed that Netflix gets to make films studios are scared to make. This definitely holds true for this depressing, unglamorous project on a subject suffering from anorexia and shunned by her family. But TO THE BONE is so bad that one wonders if the studios could foresee the fact.

One would expect more from director Noxon and lead star Lili Collins who both suffer from the disorder. But the film glamourizes the illness in the way Collins looks so beautiful in every scene and everything she does appears ok and everyone else especially her stepmother is wrong. But unforgivable is the fact that the film is a really boring exercise from start to end. It does not help with the weird ending in which her real mother, Susan (Lili Taylor) feeds her milk from a baby bottle and a fantasy scene in which Ellen she’s herself nude on the ground, presumably dead.

It is hard to judge Collin’s performance when the film is this awful. Taylor does the best she can and Keanu Reeves has the odd role as Ellen’s charismatic doctor who is supposed to a do wonders with his unconventional methods. “I’m not going to treat you if you do not want to live!” He tells Ellen the first time he interviews her.

The story follows teenager Ellen who has dropped out of college. Her stepmother, Judy who lives with her real dad wants her to be cured from her anorexia. But Judy is shown as a very intolerant and bad mother, always criticizing poor Ellen and downright silly, making silly assumptions that Ellen and her stepsister always laugh about. So, Ellen is convinced to go to this medical facility led by Dr. William Beckam (Reeves). There is nothing in the film that shows him to be revolutionary in his treatment. His insistence of telling Ellen’s inner voice to ‘ f*** soft is laughable if not downright unbelievable. The facility consists of an assortment of skinny patients that are there to make Ellen look good. The subplot of Ellen having a romantic fling with the one boy, Luke (Alex Sharp), who wants to be a singer/dancer leads nowhere.

The film at least looks crisp and clear, especially with the desert landscape at the end, courtesy of cinematographer Richard Wong. Music is decent with an original song near the end.

But the film teaches nothing about anorexia nor does it offer any real insight on the people suffering from it. The least the script could have done is provide some medical information on the subject. The film also inserts unnecessary new age material. Ellen’s mother is a lesbian. In one scene, she praises her own breakdown saying people should have them to learn from them. Susan also puts a Ellen in a tent with no electricity with kerosene lamps for light and a bedpan if one need to go do their stuff. Ellen (or Eli, since she changes her name half way through the film for no proper reason) has not come out of life any smarter and neither has the audience.

Trailer: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=705yRfs6Dbs

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Film Review: RESTLESS CREATURE: WENDY WHELAN (USA 2017) **

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RESTLESS CREATURE WENDY WHELANDocumentary on the great American Ballerina Wendy Whelan.

Directors: Linda Saffire, Adam Schlesinger
Star: Wendy Whelan

Review by Gilbert Seah

The RESTLESS CREATURE of the film title stands for the title of the ballet, ballerina and NYC Ballet Company’s principal dancer, Wendy Whelan is performing or it could stand for her restless character as well, one that would never give up dancing. “If I don’t dance, I’d rather die,” Whelan says at one point during an interview in the film.

The film definitely centres on Whelan and she has a lot to say in it. It is a world of ballet and discipline, dance torture to the body and decadence. Perfectly sculptured bodies everywhere! This is not the world that most people are familiar with. The same saying applies to the film. It is strictly for ballet and dance aficionados. Those not in that world will hardly sympathize with Whelan’s complaints. And she can be quite the cry baby, going on and on about herself.

The film is all about Whelan. The film traces her dancing as a very young girl in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, then as a teenager on her own in New York and, finally, as a rising ballerina with the company. At the time of the making of the documentary Whelan is in her 40’s. She is dancing still and competing with dancers half her age. Her body cannot take it. In fact no body can be put to such strenuous exertion. Whelan is finally feeling it and her doctors and therapists are advising her to give her body a rest. But she wants to do this last dance.

Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger’s documentary looks good on the surface with candid interviews with Whelan and her contemporaries. But upon closer examination, the film just skims the surface on nits subject. Where are her parents from? Nothing is mentioned of her personal life. Does she ever have a boyfriend or girlfriend for that matter? The directors also make no attempt at trying to have the audience connect with their subject. They lay out Whelan bare, warts and all hoping that that the audience feels for her. Whether they succeed depends on the person concerned, but it does not work for me. I find it hard to feel for a person, talented or gifted though they may be, who is so involved in their own world, also is constantly praising themselves and not considering the rest of the world

Whelan has got all her attention and glory and it is time for her to give the younger dancers a chance at the stage. The film also does not really show her dancing at her prime. The film does contain a few show of her performances like “La Sonnambula” and “Symphony in Three Movements by George Balanchine and The Cage by Jerome Robbins. There should be more of Whelan’s performances that demonstrate how hard ballet is for the body. The climax of the film shows Whelan’s performance of RESTLESS CREATURE.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZOWVFr5yg0
 

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Film Review: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (USA 2017)

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WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APESAfter the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.

Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves
Stars: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn

Review by Gilbert Seah
 
The original PLANET OF THE APES films were camp and occasionally goofy. They were never taken that seriously. The first featured Charlton Heston stripped naked so that the audience could see his bare buttocks and ended with him cursing God after discovering the Stature of Liberty half buried in the sand.

This followed with BENEATH THE PLANT OF THE APES where subterranean creatures were battling the apes that ending with Earth blowing up. What next? ESCAPE FROM, CONQUEST and the most ridiculous BATTLE FOR which ended the series.

The series reboot began similarly with PLANET OF THE APES flowed by RISE and DAWN OF and now WAR FOR. The primary difference is that the reboot series is serious fodder. The camp and fun is gone. What is left is a serious man vs. ape and the fight for what is right, things that also can get quite ridiculous. When things get ridiculous, the series will end.

The plot takes place two years after the events of DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes have been embroiled in a war against humans. As the ape population decreases, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts (isn’t the film serious enough?) in order to avenge his fallen companions. The encounter with the apes and humans puts them into the ultimate confrontation, to determine the fate of the Earth. But the plot is not as simple as it sounds. It also involves a mad colonel (Woody Harrelson) a kind of Marlon Brando character from APOCALYPSE NOW. (There is a poster with the words APEPOCALYPSE NOW, as if the similarity is not already evident.)

The actual war involves two factions of human beings – one led by the colonel who believes that sick human begin should be totally destroyed and the other the rest of the world who believe that the sick can be cured. The apes are caught in between. The problem with all this is the oversimplified plot. What about the other nations of the world like he Chinese, Indians etc. Also, the number of apes can never outnumber the number of humans, though the excuse given is the virus that eliminated most of the human population.

Caesar leads the apes out of the jungle to the new land like Moses in the Bible’s old Testament. The analogy is so obvious and makes the film even more serious for the fact. To the filmmakers’ credit, the film has excellent production values and looks absolutely stunning on film.

So what is the attraction of the PLANET OF THE APES films? Someone once told me he wanted to go see it because he was so obsessed with seeing apes riding horses with rifles slung round their backs. The question is whether the fascination will hold after 4 or 5 similar films. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is the 4th of the reboot series and cost a whopping a amount of money with a running time of 140 minutes. Perhaps enough is enough!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=UEP1Mk6Un98

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