Movie Review: MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 (USA 2016) ***

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greek_wedding_2.jpgMY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 (USA 2016) ***
Directed by Kirk Jones

Review by Gilbert Seah

Cold on the heels of the big ethnic comedy $240 million hit MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, numero 2, the sequel arrives 14 years after audiences have forgotten everything about the first. The entire cast is supposedly all present though the director has changed hands.

Written and starring Nia Vardalos, the film is, as the title implies about her Greek family and another big wedding. In the first film and in this one, Toula (Vardalos) has to learn how to deal with her Greek parents and this time around her now grown up 17-year old teen daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris) adds more problems. One wonders why Paris is not named Athens or Athena.

The film is basically sitcom material – funny and laugh-out loud in parts as most sitcoms are. There are several stories on display here, the main one of which is the wedding of Toula’s parents Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan). As the story goes, their original marriage was not signed by the priest during the War and so they are not legally wed. Maria wants to be proposed to properly and not be taken for granted while Gus is too proud to do so. The other story is that of Toula being the fixer of the family’s problems. She needs to ‘date’ her husband, Ian (John Corbett) again. Another is Paris going to college. They want her to stay in Chicago but she wants to flee the nest to a college in NYC. Other subplots (too many for ones comfort) involves a gay family member coming-out, Gus’ reunion with his misunderstood brother and Gus’ ancestry. Most of the film goes exactly as expected down predictability lane without much fanfare though garnishing a few laughs.

The first movie made a ton of money despite horrid critical reviews. This second has only obtained a mere 25% approval rating (at the writing of this review) but of course, this might mean nothing. Though 14 years may be a long time for a sequel to bang on the success of the first, there should be sufficient Greeks and other ethnic immigrants who would appreciate this well-intentioned comedy.

The actors do well playing the parts. Andrea Martin from SCTV steals every scene she is in, as the fast and smart-talking aunt who is never afraid to show it. Writer Varalos and director Kirk Jones keep their film tame as family fare. Jones is best known for his Irish comedy hit WAKING NED DEVINE.

The film contains a lot of Greek that is to like. There are lots of Greek food, music and dances on display as the word Opa! that also appears on the license plate of their cars.
It should be warned too that the film is overly well-intentioned. The feel good parts are overdone and it seems that the film has been written for the family who only watches the Disney Channel. GREEK WEDDING 2 is ok entrainment and perhaps once every 14 years or so is the perfect time interval for any new entry.



Short Film Movie Review: THE FAUCET (4min, USA, Comedy)

THE FAUCET played to rave reviews at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival in January 2016.


THE FAUCET, 4min, USA, Comedy

Directed by Samip Raval & Danny Klimetz

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

How many times have we tried to wash our hands on touch-less faucets, or tried to dry them on automatic driers, only to look like idiots as we stupidly wave our hands in front of an unresponsive sensor? We put a man on the moon, but we still can’t invent dependable motion sensors somehow. Yet thankfully these situations lead to hilarious plotlines, such as that in Samit Raval and Danny Klimetz’ film The Faucet.

The only minor critique I would have for this short is that, for such a predictable outcome, the film lasts a little longer than you would normally expect. Regardless, Raval and Klimetz still manage to somehow extend the element of comedy by using a few clever curveballs throughout the film. These unexpected mini-twists almost turn the technology itself into a character that is simply out to get our poor, hygiene-conscious, protagonist.

If you enjoy being frustrated, or you have some sort of a gripe with new technology, then you will very likely enjoy The Faucet. I do not all into any of these categories myself, but I was certainly able to appreciate the humour in this film. After all, lets face it, who doesn’t enjoy a good comedy? Particularly one that so many of us can relate to.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the short film

Short Film Movie Review: LOVE AT FIRST LIGHT (1min, Ireland, Comedy)

LOVE AT FIRST LIGHT played to rave reviews at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival in January 2016.


LOVE AT FIRST LIGHT, 1min, Ireland, Comedy

Directed by Caroline Grace-Cassidy

A mixup occurs the morning after a one night stand.

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

More of a punch-line than a short film, Love At First Light is one of the better short comedies I’ve seen in a while. Trust the Irish to keep things simple, and to the point, even in the most awkward and racy situations.

It’s hard to talk about a 1 minute film without revealing most of its plot line, but I’m sure many of us have been there. If not we know more than enough stories from our friends who have been there. That one night stand that got away, that we could never stop thinking about. Thankfully none of the characters in this film will ever have to struggle with these doubts.

This is actually a great short film to watch on Valentine’s day, whether you’re single or in a relationship. All of us can appreciate the silly transience of our emotions, particularly when they come with they relate to the strong, passionate sentiments of love. We’ve all had that partner, or crush, that we think we could never live without, until we do and we’re ok. We’ve all had that moment where we’ve had just a little too much to drink and all of a sudden we become the most deeply feeling and loving human beings on the planet.

…No? Just me then? In any case, Caroline Grace-Cassidy’s film is incredibly relateable, hilarious, and clever. Grace-Cassidy manages to pack quite a powerful mix of emotions and comedy, within an incredibly short film, showcasing a very strong talent for story-telling. Lovers of stand-up will love this short film that could easily be a segway into one of Seinfeld’s shows. Whether your significant other is a box of chocolates, a furry companion, or a two legged semi-hairless being, give this film a watch with them. You’re likely to have a good laugh regardless of your situation.

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Movie Review: CHICKLAND (Short Film) 2015

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

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  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.

Movie Review: THE LAST POST (Award Winning Short Film) 2015

THE LAST POST played to rave reviews at the November 2015 FEEDBACK Film Festival

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  MOVIE POSTERTHE LAST POST, 15min, UK, Comedy/Social Media
Directed by Adam Preston

A halfwit is invited to speak at the funeral of a girl he only knew through the internet.

Review of the Short Film by Amanda Lomonaco:

Hilariously cringe-worthy. There’s no other way to describe this one. We all now a girl like her; updating her social media constantly, her life seems near perfect, everything she does is amazing, and fun, everything she eats is delicious, and if you wanted you could find out everything about her. Well, almost everything. As we all know social media and online profiles only give us little peeks into a person’s life. No matter how often you update it, how much content you add to it, it’s hard to know the real truth of who a person really is purely through their social media profiles.

Adam Preston has somehow managed to perfectly balance the tragedy and comedy of our excessively interconnected lives. Using the knowledge you can typically gather from a person’s social media accounts Preston writes a hysterical eulogy for one such social media star. This is certainly one film where credit needs to be highly awarded for performance. The Last Post’s main character had me tearing up with laughter non-stop.

Admittedly Preston could have added to the comedic value of his short by having the funeral attendants accept the eulogy as a sincere tribute to the deceased. Nevertheless his actual choice of direction didn’t  detract from the hilarity in any way. I also feel obliged to question Preston’s choice of the social class of the deceased and her family. It seems a little reductionist to have her and her family be from a region with a certain reputation for ignorance, simplicity, and poverty. It might have been a little more interesting if they had been from a posh family. However, part of the reason for this could have been to increase the threatening demeanor of the two bully brothers.

The Last Post is more than just a hilarious short film; it’s a commentary on today’s modern, digitally centered society. I had a very odd feeling as soon as the film was over because after having laughed the entire way through the film, I found myself pondreing deeper issues as soon as it was over. Comedy is for everyone, and comedy that is pertinent to current issues is all the more worth it. It kind of suits all flavour preferences; if you’re up for something more serious, this movie will work for you, if you’re up for a good laugh, add this to your list, heck it even has a little violence if that’s your cup of tea! I think you can see where I’m going with this one. Definitely give The Last Post a watch, whatever your inclination. It will be worth it.


Movie Review: SISTERS (2015)

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sisters_posterSISTERS (USA 2015) ***1/2
Directed by Jason Moore

Golden Globe hostesses Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have proven themselves apt at comedy whether on their own or as a team.

SISTERS, drawing largely from Saturday Night Live type comedy, is a mix bag of tricks, but thankful succeeds.
Fey and Poehler play sisters. Both are goofballs. When the film opens, each comedienne is given the opportunity to strut her worth. Poehler begins as Maura, a nurse earnestly providing aid outside a supermarket to a homeless man. Not only are her antics useless and embarrassing, but the homeless man turns out to be a construction worker. She is finally told to ‘f***-off” by the supermarket manager who she mistakes for a bag lady. This 5-minute action is actually the film’s funniest segment as nothing else beats it. So when the next segment shows Fey as her sister Kate, a jobless beautician fumbling a client at home while her daughter Haley (Madison Davenport) suddenly appears, it becomes immediately apparent that this mildly funny next 5 minutes are no match for Poehler’s. But when the two appear together, they rub off each other, so Poehler becomes less funny while Fey becomes more. The two also work hard to complement each other, whether in comedy or in dance as a later musical number shows.

The story concerns their parents Deanna (Dianne Wiest) and Bucky (James Brolin) selling their family house in Orlando. The sisters are called in to clean up their room. As it turns out, they decide to throw one last big party. Kate agrees to become the party’s house mother (which means no drinking) while Kate gets to catch up on her missed partying. Kate’s daughter turns up. Kate finds the daughter/mother relationship stretched and tested even more when she finds her sister has been harbouring the secret of looking after Haley.

Many comedies are spoilt by sentimentality or the drama of the underlying story. In SISTERS, director Moore and writer Paula Pell (a SNL veteran) do not, thankfully fall into this trap. They realize the comedic potential of the party. The party becomes the film’s main focus lasting half of the film’s running time. One high jinx follows another, and an impressive cast of goofy partygoers are assembled that create quite the few laugh-out loud segments. The supporting cast are surprisingly funny, matching and in a number of segments, getting even more laughs than Poehler and Fey. John Leguizamo’s sleazy ex-alcoholic Bobby Moynihan, Oscar Winner Wiest’s foul-mouthed angry mother and John Cena’s bulked tattooed drug dealer are all exceptionally funny. But top prize goes to Maya Rudolph (the bride in BRIDESMAIDS and the secretary with the helmet hairdo in INHERENT VICE) as the self-invited guest who decides to ruin the party. It is about time Rudolph gets a lead in her own movie.

There are a few incidents that make little sense, like a guest putting in the whole bottle of laundry detergent in the machine resulting in suds filling the house. This scene is reminiscent of Blake Edwards’ THE PARTY in which Peter Sellers finds his party filled with bubbles as well.

Ultimately, it is the hit-and-miss ratio that counts. SISTERS has a high one. SISTERS works, and proves that the ladies can come up with an equal if not better bad behaviour movie than their male counterparts. (Seth Rogen and gang in the recent THE NIGHT BEFORE.).

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Movie Review: THE LADY IN THE VAN (2015)

the_lady_in_the_van_poster.jpgTHE LADY IN THE VAN (UK 2015) ***1/2
Directed by Nicholas Hytner

Review by Gilbert Seah

There are several reasons to watch the new Maggie Smith, Nicholas Hytner and Alan Bennette collaboration of THE LADY IN THE VAN. For one, it is based mostly on a true story – the words that appear on the screen at the film’s start, signifying a modest comedy on life. And with an equally number of pleasures as well to be derived from the film.

Adapted from the based-on-fact hit West End play by Bennett (best known for THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE), the film’s title referring to a high-born homeless woman, known as Miss Shepherd (Dame Maggie Smith) fallen on hard times who finds temporary shelter parking her van in Bennett’s driveway — for fifteen years. It is a chronicle of the unlikely friendship between the writer (played by Alex Jennings) and the elderly eccentric who takes over his driveway.

The play and script is smart enough to have two protagonists – Miss Shepherd and Bennett. Bennett is seen as a double in the film. As explained – there is the man that writes and the one that lives. They speak to one another, the equivalent of the man talking to himself. He gives himself a perspective of his life, humorously as well as dramatically. He is a timid fellow, kind enough to look after his ailing mother as well as Miss Shepherd. In contrast, Miss Shepherd is ornery, impolite, and bullying Not all there, she claims to take advice from the Virgin Mary. And she smells bad. There is a mystery about the woman that is kept from Bennett and the audience but all is revealed by the end of the film. But Bennett, despite his very private nature, takes pity on her and says she can stay there for three months.
Miss Shepherd is seen to be one that hates music. She screams and scares away children that play music outside her van. But she has studied music in Paris and plays the piano. The reason for her current behaviour is an intriguing one, and one that Hytner uses to full effect.

But besides being a film about friendship and old age, it is mostly a film about life. The film depicts the bit seedy yet very respectable London neighbourhood of Camden Town (on the Northern Tube line). (I am proud to say I have lived there – though as a tourist and guest for 15 days and the film brings a good effective feel in of neighbourhood chivalry and friendliness.) The message about life in the film is an obvious one, though one mostly ignored. It is stated clearly at the end – to love life is to start living. It is, put subtly, in the writing of Bennett’s character – that he is not to put himself in the writing but to find himself in the writing.

Maggie Smith bares all in the film and she is not afraid of looking old, haggard and ugly for the role. It is a completely different role from her Oscar winning THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE. She would get my vote for her second Oscar.

THE LADY IN A VAN is a tale of life, playfully funny and authentically set in Camden Town, London. Great performances in a film relatively well directed from a clever script full of ripe dialogue.


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