Movie Review: 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE ***1/2

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10_cloverfield_lane.jpg10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (USA 2016) ***1/2
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg

Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.

Interview with 10 Cloverfield Lane Special Effects Foreman – Donnie Dean

Interview with 10 Cloverfield Lane Cinematographer – Jeff Cutter

Spoiler Alert: Please note that in order to provide a readable film review, there are minor plot points that have to be revealed in the review.

It should be noted that every attempt has been made to keep the key plot twists secret so that readers will not have their entertainment of this film compromised.

Films about sole captives have always done reasonably well at the box-office and have sat well with audiences. From William Wyler’s THE COLLECTOR to Peter Jackson’s THE LOVELY BONES to the recent Oscar best actress winning film ROOM, creepiness has always translated to good suspense and thrills. It is surprising that the above three films dealt with the main element of suspense and 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE is the only one that is truly a horror picture. And quite a good one at that. The antagonist is played by the excellent John Goodman. Can you imagine waking up after being unconscious in a tiny room only to be greeted by a gigantic unshaven monster of a man? Now that is really scary. And the script written by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stucken, and Damien Chazelle milks that idea to the limit.
The film is a science fiction horror film and the spiritual successor of the 2008 film CLOVERFIELD, although the two films do not share the same fictional universe or continuity.

CLOVERFIELD dealt with teens protecting their neighbourhood from aliens. So 10 COVERFIELD LANE obviously has real aliens in the plot, though the first part of the film teases the audience with the fact that there might not be ab alien invasion and that Howard (Goodman) is keeping both Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Emmet (John Gallagher, Jr.) prisoners in the dark on the false pretext of an alien invasion fall-out. But whatever the reason, Michelle,the lead character, has decided to escape, regardless.

The best parts of the film is Trachtenberg’s depiction of the desperation of all the three characters – each one dealing with it in his or her own way. The script also blends humour in the best of unexpected times. This is obvious in the film’s start with the intercutting with Michelle’s car accident and the titles ‘Paramount Pictures Present” and then car overturning and then “A Bad Robot Production”. The script is also clever enough to always keep the audience surprised with one plot turn after another. Howard can turn from super nice captor, to suspicious host to totally angry monster. The bunker itself is a contradiction of wonderfully designed live-in space to isolated captive room. Even the start of the film is a surprise. Michelle is shown driving away for 10 minutes of screen time before it is revealed she is running away from her lover, Ben (voiced by Bradley Cooper). “I think we’re alone now” is also an obvious but fun choice of a song on the soundtrack.

A bit of moralizing is included for good sport. Is it better to be alive in this situation?

There are a few minor loopholes in the plot, which cannot be mentioned here due to they being spoilers, but these are minor and can be overlooked. But the last 15 minutes of high tech, high budget climax destroys the otherwise excellent plotting of the first 3/4 of the film. It could be argued that the last segment is necessary to bind the two CLOVERFIELD films, but unfortunately director Trachtenberg has thrown all logic out the door as the audience can see what one small bottle of whiskey could do.

Despite its flaws, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE is thoroughly entertaining and succeeds as a horror movie. One wonders though of the NORTH BY NORTHWEST styled letter credits the filmmakers have chosen to use.

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Short Film Movie Review: YO SOY PEDRO (10min, France, Sci-Fi/Comedy)

YO SOY PEDRO was the winner of Best Musical Score at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival in January 2016. 

  MOVIE POSTERYO SOY PEDRO, 10min, France, Sci-Fi/Comedy
Directed by Jordan Inconstant

1977. Mackenzie and Banks are two Americans cops who encounter an alien that has just crashed. The police take him for a film actor and decide to bring it back to Hollywood studios. 

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

Yo Soy Pedro is one of the most unique films I have seen in a while, and it took me a little discussion with other audience members in order to truly appreciate it in all its glory. I guess that just serves as all the more proof of how misunderstood the science fiction genre can be. Nevertheless once I got a better handle on it, I realized how great of an example this film was that science fiction doesn’t need complex story-lines or super expensive production values to create quality entertainment.

Jordan Inconstant’s short film could not embody the director’s own name more. A Hollywood based film, spoken almost entirely in French, with extremely obvious, not-so-special effects Yo Soy Pedro manages to embrace two different genres while still making a political statement. Tired of watching numerous films based in different countries where everyone speaks English, Inconstant decided to create one in the United States, where everyone speaks French. Moreover, he adds to his critique of Holywood cinema by very poorly dubbing the only supposedly Spanish speaking actor in the film. In fact, despite my fluency with the language I could barely tell it was even Spanish that he was speaking – thank goodness for subtitles.

It’s impossible not to appreciate the cleverness of Inconstant’s creation, through everything from his plotline, to his production values, to his intricate use of language. Inconstant proves that he is able to laugh at himself, and at the film industry as a whole, while still embracing it with all its flaws. He not only seizes at Hollywood’s cheesiest cliches, he subverts them so cleverly that you could watch his film repeatedly and discover a new facet each time.

I’m not sure I’d go so far as to declare this film is for everyone, but it certainly has a strong appeal to a well-informed cinemaphile. In fact, for fans of Tim Burton, I have to admit some aspects of this film reminded me quite a bit of Ed Wood.Anyone who’s seen Burton’s infamous flop will quickly understand why Yo Soy Pedro might incite equally mixed reactions. If you’re a fan of clever, self-reflexive Hollywood comedy, give Inconstant’s film a shot. If he doesn’t have you on the floor laughing, he’ll at the very least be able to force our an involuntary smile from you.

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Short Film Movie Review: DISAPPEARED (5min, Canada, Fantasy/Romance)

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

DISAPPEARED, 5min, Canada, Fantasy/Romance
Directed by Jon Silverberg

On the day he plans to propose to his girlfriend, a lowly shipping clerk finds a fountain pen that cause objects to vanish. He embraces the strange phenomenon as a novelty, until it threatens to impede his romantic plans, and very existence.

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

This film definitely played on one of my biggest fears, and despite its light-hearted nature I couldn’t help but feel a heavy knot in my gut after watching this. I have mentioned repeatedly in my reviews how much I am a fan of horror, but perhaps the very fact that Disappeared isn’t a horror film is what got my nerves jumping. Fortunately I seem to be the only person in the audience with a phobia for disappearances, as everyone else seems to have simply enjoyed it for what it was, even more so for its open-endedness.

While Jon Silverbeg’s introductory performance could have been a little more convincing, this minor flaw is quickly forgotten as the rest of the story draws us in. There’s even a certain catharsis in the very idea of a magical “erasing” pen that can make all our troubles go away. You can’t help but root for Silverberg’s character as you watch him magic all his problems away just so he can make it to dinner and propose to his girlfriend.

The best thing about this short was most certainly the ending… in a good way. It is both surprising, and vague enough to let you create your own satisfying version, and even leave you longing for a sequel. One audience members cleverly pointed out that it would have been interesting to encounter the other people or objects that the magical pen had been used on. In fact nothing says Jon Silverberg’s character wouldn’t encounter exactly that just moments later. The film ends so abruptly it leaves all that room precisely for you to interpret and decide where his life goes to from here.

It’s easy to deduce from here that this film is certainly one for the more creatively minded. Nevertheless, caution should be taken for those with a phobia of disappearing loved ones, like me. I guess that also makes this perfect for lovers of mystery. It’s always nice to appreciate good home-grown cinema, and Disappeared is definitely a good example of the capacity of the Canadian imagination.

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Short Film Movie Review: ARTIFICIAL (20min, Spain, Sci-Fi/Thriller)

ARTIFICIAL was the winner of Best Cinematography at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival in January 2016. 

ARTIFICIAL, 20min, Spain, Sci-Fi/Thriller
Directed by Luis Espinosa

A man goes to a job interview. What he doesn’t know is that he has already been selected. CORPSA offers to pay him 80,000 Euros if he agrees to be cloned. But more than just a lot of money depends on his decision.

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

I’ve always found Science Fiction to be a tricky genre in the film industry. People seem to either love it or hate it most of the time. I’ve never been sure if that’s because of how expensive it is to produce a good sci-fi film, or because people have a hard time wrapping their heads around them, but the genre often provokes a lot of mixed reviews. That’s the only explanation I could find for the audience’s reaction to Artificial. During moderation people seemed a bit at a loss for what to say about their experience, whereas I wasn’t sure how anyone could have helped but fall in love with it.

Harkening back to a recent Indie sci-fi favourite, Ex-Machina, David P. Sanudo manages to simplify Alex Garland’s original concept and cause an even bigger impact. By condensing the films’ twists and turns into a smaller time span, Sanudo, the mastermind behind Artificial, keeps the audience constantly on their toes. 20 minutes pass by in an instant as you constantly try to figure out what’s actually happening and then get slammed with more shocking information just as you think you’ve figured it all out.

Connoisseurs of Spanish cinema will easily recognize Aitor Mazo and be disappointed to hear this was his final performance. Suffice to say hiswork in this short film was no less impressive than those of his blockbusters. It’s heartwarming to know the famous star passed away after such a great contribution to independent cinema, but it’s always sad to lose such a valuable component to the International film scene.

Fans of Spanish cinema and science fiction alike will appreciate this film for its simplicity in the face of such complex, and deeply philosophical concepts. Sanudo’s use of the ever familiar job interview setting also appeals to a less tech obsessed audience and provides an interesting fantasy relief to a commonly nerve-racking situation. With a thought provoking storyline, excellent performances and amazing production quality, Artificial certainly deserves every award it has won. Hats off to David Sanudo and his team for such an impressive final tribute to one of Spain’s cinema greats.

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Movie Review: SNOWTIME! (Canada 2015) *** Directed by Jean-François Pouliot

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

showtimeSNOWTIME! (Canada 2015) ***
Directed by Jean-François Pouliot

Starring: Angela Galuppo, Mariloup Wolfe, Lucinda Davis

Review: Gilbert Seah

LA GUERRE DES TUQUES (3D) is the highest grossing Canadian film of 2015. But almost no one in English Canada has heard of it. As the saying goes in the film industry, French Canadians see French Canadian films but English speaking Canadians do not see Canadian films at all – French or Canadian. So, it would be appropriate then to dub the French animated feature into English complete with an English title SNOWTIME! as if the original never existed.

But when the film, a delightful kids fantasy set in real life progresses, it becomes apparent that the film is very Quebecois despite the fact that all the character are speaking English. Even the names of the leads Luke and Sophie sound French (Luc et Sofie). The setting is a little village, snow covered, the typical seen in pictures of Quebec, which one kid calls the best village in the world. And he and the other kids believe it too.

The animated feature is based on and is an animated version of the 1984 family film THE DOG WHO STOPPED THE WAR (French title LA GUEREE DES TUQUES, no change here).
This review is based on the 3D English version.

The film centres on a group of children, led by Luke (Nicholas Savard-L’Herbier in the French version, Angela Galuppo in English) and Sophie (Mariloup Wolfe in French, Lucinda Davis in English), who plan and stage a giant snowball fight during the Christmas holidays. The story is unimportant. The fact that all the children appear to be having a fine time at war is all that matters. Until someone loses an eye – or a dog is hurt, as in the case of this film. As in most children’s films, SNOWTIME! is one centred around the children. There are no adults around. The kids behave like adults mostly, dealing with issues such as acceptance, loyalty, friendship and chivalry, elements that make a good family or children’s tale. This is a delightful Canadian film, quite unlike Disney expensive blockbuster animated features like FROZEN. Still, there are a few catchy tunes like “You are My Sweater” (whatever that means, I have no clue) performed at the end credits.

The 3D effects are well done with lots of snowy stuff tossed out of the screen at the audience. The village looks very Christmassy and the film has an overall warm and fuzzy atmosphere despite the ‘war’ setting.

The humour is mild at best. It is not overtly hilarious or extremely goofy, characteristics of most animated features these days. Getting brain freeze from drinking milkshakes or changing the odds of winning during an arm wrestling match are examples of the kind of humour found in the film.

The result is a rather mediocre entertaining film. The plusses of the film include the gorgeous animation on the screen, better bang for the buck that the multi million dollar products churned out by the Hollywood studios. At least Canadians can say this is our animated feature. It is up against strong competition like NORM OF THE NORTH and KUNG FU PANDA 3.

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Movie Review: THE 5TH WAVE (2016)

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the_5th_wave.jpgTHE 5TH WAVE (USA 2016) **
Directed by J. Blakeson

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Matthew Zuk, Gabriela Lopez

Review by Gilbert Seah

THE 5TH WAVE is based on the young adult novel of the same name by Rick Yancey, the first of a trilogy published in 2013. The book has been favourably compared to THE HUNGER GAMES and critics have hoped that the book and film should do for aliens what TWILIGHT did for vampires. Sony Pictures has picked up the film rights – surprising that Lionsgate missed the boat.

The waves refer to the increasingly deadly alien attacks that have left most of Earth devastated. The aliens are called ‘the others’. The 1st wave is the electromagnetic wave that destroys all of earth’s power, The second is quakes and the third is a virus carried by birds that have wiped out most of humanity. The 4th involve aliens inhabiting humans and the 5th of the film title refer to the others’ final attack on humanity. All these sound quite interesting and so is the film until about a third through the film.

As the film begins, director Blakeson’s images and attention to details captivate. Detailed images of for example of litter on the ground, a cat, a family glaring up at the sky all raise expectations of a good solid sci-fi thriller. The special effects (though CGI generated) of tsunamis and the destruction of major cities like London are all impressive.

But when the 3rd wave arrives – the virus that destroys most of the earth’s population, the film begins to fall to bits, as if affected by the same virus. The film gets progressively sillier with twists that do not make sense at all. There are two main twists, that will not be revealed in the review, safe to say they should make solid logical sense. They do not!

The protagonist of the story is a heroine (like in TWILIGHT and THE HUNGER GAMES), a young Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz from KICK-ASS) who first loses her mother (Maggie Siff), followed by her dad (Ron Livingston). Her first priority in the story is thus to look after her younger brother, Sammy (Zachary Arthur) who turns out to be extremely spoilt and annoying. Sammy must keep his ugly teddy bear and has no sense to tell the bus driver to stop when his sister is chasing after the bus. (Or maybe it is the scriptwriter who has no sense.) The search leads her to meet the best looking hunk seen in a young adult film this year. Evan Walker (Alan Roe) aids her in searching for Sammy. This takes them to the facility led by Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber). The film’s most outrageous scene has Cassie catching the hunk swimming naked in the stream. Obviously, she falls for him. She distrusts him at first but then who can resist those dreamboat eyes?

But the film gets sillier and sillier. One scene has Evan suddenly appearing in the alien facility. “I have planted bombs!” he tells Cassie. Another has Cassie looking at the sky in broad daylight seeing stars. Yet amidst all the mayhem, Cassie manages to write her diary, which Evan reads. Fortunately there is no scene in the film showing Cassie writing a journal entry, and that would be even more laughable.

The 5TH WAVE works well at the start, gets terribly boring and then unintentionally hilarious. To that effect the film is not without its entertainment value.

To the filmmakers’ credit the production costs came below $40 million, which is a bargain for a sci-fi special effects film. The fact that unknown actors (except for Moretz) were hired helps. It would be interesting to see if Sony Pictures continues with the film adaptation of the other two novels.

 

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Movie Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

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

star_wars_posterSTAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
(USA 2015) Top 10 *****
Directed by J.J. Abrams

Review by Gilbert Seah

The film world has finally gone crazy. Disney and Lucasfilm has enforced a world embargo on film reviews at 3.01 (yes, to the very second) on Wednesday December 16th. The film premiered Monday evening in Hollywood and for press, which includes this fortunate reviewer, Tuesday morning. No one had any idea of the venues for Monday’s screenings (3 separate theatres) till the last minute. Sales on Amazon of the old STAR WARS films rocketed 400%. Pre-sales of tickets have not seen numbers like this since the beginning of time, in a galaxy far, far away!

The hype on TV and anticipation have been great. The studios made press hush up on spoilers. And after seeing the film, one will respect those wishes. But there are a lot of surprises and twists in the plot, none that make little sense, and revealing them will would definitely spoil the film’s entertainment value.

The story is short and that does not mean much as the film is more character and action driven. It is set approximately 30 years after the events of RETURN OF THE JEDI where the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire have become the Resistance and the First Order, respectively, and follows new heroes Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) alongside characters returning from previous Star Wars film. Rey, a scavenger finds a droid who holds a map that has the key to finding Luke Skywalker. The dark side wishes to bring down the resistance and thus goes all out to capture the droid and thus the map. Lots of exciting battles result culminating with a climatic sabre to sabre combat between the heroes and villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

The film succeeds in all departments from acting, to the grand music, scored again by maestro John Williams to the costumes, creature and robot designs to sets, spectacle and cinematography. Iceland and Abu Dhabi, where the film was shot add to the grandeur from the desert to the icy mountain landscapes. Rey’s outfit is perfectly designed, a greyish fabric that flows so that she looks elegant while fighting or tracking in the desert. The sets of the dark force, in red and black, looks (humorously) like something taken of of a North Korean dictatorship rally.

Director Abrams, best known for the STAR TREK reboot takes over the reins from George Lucas, who admitted the series needed new blood. Abrams is smart enoguh to put in lots of new blood in the form of new characters like Rey the main female protagonist, Finn an ex-trooper who moves to the good side because it is the right thing to do and Poe while not forgetting the importance of legends like Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Hans Solo (Harrison Ford) and of course, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). New ‘robots’ like the droid also meet old time favourites R2D2 and C3PO. Abrams knows how to work the audience. When Princess Leia and Hans Solo reunite and hug, the scene will bring tears to the audience’s eyes. And there are no embarrassing kissing scenes but lots of hugs that get the same message across.

If one wants spectacle there are lots of it. The blowing up of a star fighter that eventually sinks in quicksand, the flight/fight segment between the freighter commandeered by Rey and Finn and the star fighters and the shootouts are just a few examples. And it is one well-orchestrated action segment after another. Abrams knows how to pull back his camera to show the full action spectacle while also engaging in the closeups of the characters’ faces. Lots of smart dialogue as well, with too many quotable lines to include in this review.

The hype and wait are worth it. Abrams’ film is as amazing as you will hear. And it is definitely the best action film of the year, best to be seen in 3D and IMAX.

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:www.wildsound.ca

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