Film Review: WAVES (USA 2019)

Waves Poster
Trailer

Traces the journey of a suburban family – led by a well-intentioned but domineering father – as they navigate love, forgiveness, and coming together in the aftermath of a loss.

WAVES unfolds the drama of a black family of a son trying to connect with his strict father.  It is surprisingly and to the director’s credit that he is white and one would never expect such an emotional tale of black folk be told by none other than non-black folk.

Cracks begin to show in the perfect façade of a young athlete, Tyler’s (Kevin Harrison Jr.) life.  Tyler is a talented wrestler living in a  comfy wealthy residence courtesy of his business oriented father.  He and his sister live wth him and their step-mother after their biological mum overdosed.  But the future is still bright.  Tyler has everything he needs: a wealthy family to support him, a spot on the high-school wrestling team, and a girlfriend (Alexa Demie) he’s head over heels in love with.  Committed to greatness and under intense scrutiny from his father (Sterling K. Brown), Tyler spends his mornings and nights training. But when pushed to the limit, life changes dramatically.

Tyler sustains a shoulder injury forcing him to quit wrestling.  He gets his girlfriend pregnant.  He wishes the baby aborted but she refuses resulting in a huge fight.  It does not help that dad is a real bully but sustains his actions by believing he is doing good.  “I am doing this not because I want to…. but because I have to….”  chastising Tyler.

To the film’s credit, Shults’s film is filled with such visual splendours like the colourful night run through the lawn sprinklers during one night scene, with rainbows visible in the images.  There is one scene with the couple with the camera at chest level that looks like Shults is paying homage to MOONLIGHT.  The scenes in the river with the fish are also stunningly shot.  His soundtrack is occasionally loud and boisterous, obviously made so to be annoying and to display Tyler’s state of mind – but subtlety could also be practiced.  Warning: those susceptible to headaches be best to stay away rom this movie where audibility is set several notches up, and too often in the film.

Shults’s film is a wild ride that initially takes you on and not let you get off.

The message of the film, among other things can be summed up with the statement: “The road to hell is paved with Good Intentions”.  Clearly the patriarch of the family had done what he had though was best, all full of good intentions.  But things do not always turn out the way they should and things can quickly go awry.  Ironically, the same can be said of Shults’s over long 135-minute film.  The film could have been cut 30 minutes instead of  propelling on with he father’s redemption process.  The message has already gone through, hard and clear and there is no need to haul the audience into the redemption process.  Also the switch from the main character from son to daughter disorientates the audiences a great deal.  Indeed, the road to a failed movie is also paved with similar good intentions.
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5z3cr8AB5g

Film Review: THE REPORT (USA 2019) ****

The Report Poster
Idealistic Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones, tasked by his boss to lead an investigation into the CIA’s post 9/11 Detention and Interrogation Program, uncovers shocking secrets.

Director:

Scott Z. Burns

THE REPORT is about the alleged report which exposes the CIA for their use of torture on suspected terrorists.  Most of what has been going on is already well known, including the inhuman torture methods as these have since been publicized following the Oscar Winner for Best Documentary, Alex Gibney’s TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE.

Gibney’s film examines the U.S. policy on torture and interrogation, specifically the CIA’s use of torture and their research into sensory deprivation. The CIA re-terms the word torture with the phrase enhanced interrogation.  The film includes discussions against the use of torture by political and military opponents, as well as the defense of such methods; attempts by Congress to uphold the standards of theGeneva Convention forbidding torture; and popularization of the use of torture techniques in TV series such as 24. 

Burn’s film is highly different and employs actors to re-enact real life characters in the true story.  THE REPORT plays as a political thriller that explores matters of vital importance to the present. THE REPORT takes a deep dive into recent revelations that have lost none of their capacity to shock and appall.

Dan Jones (Adam Driver) is the man assigned to research and submit a report.  He is asked twice during the movie. “Did you sleep?” to which he answers.  “I used  to but it gets in the way of my work.”  Jones, a staff member of the US Select Committee on Intelligence, is tasked with helming a Senate investigative report into the CIA’s use of torture after 9/11.  Some $80 million was spent; 119 detainees were interrogated. Hundreds of hours of recordings of those interrogations were destroyed. What happened? Who is accountable? Faced with one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after another, Jones spent half a decade finding out.  The CIA expected Jones to do the study , uncover a few facts but never expected Jones to go through all the extreme lengths to find out the truth and to uncover it to the American people.

Burns elicits excellent performances from his entire cast.   Adam Driver and Annette Benning both deliver award winning performances.  One cannot imagine anyone else playing those two roles.

Some might complain about the film’s talkiness.  It is talky but that is not necessarily a bad thing.  The dialogue from the script, also written by Burns is sharp and witty, and able to carry ones attention throughout the film.  A few of the torture scenes are re-enacted to emphasize the terrible use of torture by the CIA.

Everybody knows the ineffectiveness of torture as a interrogation tool to get information from the enemy.  Which is basically the tortured person saying anything to get the torture to stop.  Most of the information surrendered are either information the U.S. already knows or lies.  The script offers little debate on the matter, as the fact is already well known and stablished inTAXI TO THE DARK SIDE.  The REPORT is an excellent companion piece to that film film and succeeds, despite all the bad stuff the American CIA has done, in extolling the United States as a democracy who can call out its bad people.  If only they would made these people pay for their crimes.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHmn9U3c0zA

Film Review: FROZEN 2 (USA 2019) ***

Frozen II Poster

Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven leave Arendelle to travel to an ancient, autumn-bound forest of an enchanted land. They set out to find the origin of Elsa’s powers in order to save their kingdom.

Directors:

Chris BuckJennifer Lee

Writers:

Jennifer Lee (screenplay by), Jennifer Lee (story by) | 4 more credits »

After the phenomenal billion dollar success of 2013 FROZEN, directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee return with their sequel that will surely make more money for the already wealthy company Disney.  

The origin FROZEN was much well loved not only for its memorial musical songs but an incredible story – the type typically found in classic fairy tales.  The story involves two close sisters, princesses, Elsa and Anna, Elsa given ice magical powers that she is unable to control.  It is beneficial to recall the story of the first.  Though not necessary, the story of FROZEN II will make more sense thus enhancing ones entertainment.  So, before venturing to see number 2,  do a little homework and read on the original story.  Most of the characters in the original including the much beloved Olaf, the snowman and Sven the reindeer are present, so fans should not be disappointed.  Again, magic is the key and saving the Kingdom Arendelle is the princesses’ quest.

When the film opens, it is three years after the events of the first film.  Elsa (Idina Menzel) starts to hear a strange sound from the north calling her.  Together with her sister Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Olaf (Josh Gad) and Sven , they embark on a new journey beyond their homeland of the Kingdom of Arendelle in order to discover the origin of Elsa’s magical powers and thus save their kingdom.

Kristoff is the iceman who plays Anna’s boyfriend, providing the romantic element of the story.  The sister-sister antics which made the original so enchanting is ever present in this one with the two girls always looking after each other.  

The songs are present but occasionally not well spaced out – the first two songs appear too close to each other leading to a a rather slow start for the film.  The humour is only slight at best, provided by Olaf, but nothing extremely goofy or funny.  

FROZEN 2 is heavy plodding while the original is heavy plotting.

Song-wise, no song in FROZEN 2 can match the famous “Let It Go”  of the original, though not for want of trying.  Each character in FROZEN 2 appear to have a song of their own from Elsa’s “Into the Unknown” to Olaf “When I Get Older” to  Anna’s “The Next Right Thing” and lastly to Kristoff’s “Lost in the Woods”.

Directors Lee and Buck keep to the successful formula of the first in terms of mood, atmosphere and  animation effects.  But the film, though visually stunning lacks the innovation and fresh ideas of the original thus leaving it, sorry for the pun, frozen in its delivery.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwzLiQZDw2I

(Cinefranco 2019): LE MYSTERE HENRI PICK (The Mystery of Henri Pick) (France 2019) ***1/2

The Mystery of Henri Pick Poster
Trailer

An editor discovers a novel that she considers to be a masterpiece, in a library whose particularity is to collect the manuscripts refused by the publishers. The text is signed Henri Pick, a Breton pizza maker who died two years earlier.

Director:

Rémi Bezançon

Writers:

Rémi Bezançon (dialogue), Rémi Bezançon (screenplay) | 3 more credits »

A bold inventive comedy that is ripe for Hollywood to remake.  While conducting a television interview with the widow of pizza restaurateur Henri Pick, who is the posthumous author of a bestseller, talk show host Jean-Michel Rouche (Fabrice Luchini) attracts the wrath of his employer and the spectators by suggesting the book could be a sham. The same evening, his wife leaves him and he is fired from his job at the network. This double disgrace reinforces his desire to prove that he is right.  As Rouche acts not only like a know-it-all proud peacock but an asshole, the audience is only too glad to witness his downfall.  But Rouche is not without charm.

He is joined in his investigation by the late author’s bookworm daughter, Josephine (Camille Cottin), after convincing her the book couldn’t have been written by her father. Echoing Agatha Christie, false leads and literary fun abound in this charming French affair.  There is no romance here not even a little hint, but the story works as both a clever whodunit or rather whowroteit as well as a study of characters in a French literary setting.  Luchini exhibits charm as the disgraced host who eventually redeems himself. A mysterious pleasure of a film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbyBzbTYw5s

(BITS Film Festival 2019 Review): SHE NEVER DIED (Canada 2019)

She Never Died Poster
When a girl goes missing, a woman with a mysterious past tracks down the people responsible.

Director:

Audrey Cummings

SHE NEVER DIED is the female companion piece to the 2015 similar horror feature HE NEVER DIED that was written and directed by Jason Krawczyk.  It follows an immortal, cannibalistic loner who has withdrawn from society to protect both himself and other innocents from bad people.  

In SHE NEVER DIED, the loner is now a girl.  Lacey (Olunike Adeliyi), a socially detached loner is cursed with immortality and a never-ending tedium of existence. In her attempts to keep her compulsions in check, she seeks out the darkest souls humanity has to offer.

Lacey must now face her own inner demons while simultaneously finding her next meal.  But Lacey is not the film’s most interesting character.  This honour belongs to the middle-age detective who uncovers her path and learns of her ‘powers’.  

Nothing is explained in the film as to how the girl obtained her powers.  The film is a blood fest with lots of torn body parts, if you like this sort of thing.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHq9o5BGSys

Film Review: THE GOOD LIAR (USA 2019) ***

The Good Liar Poster
Trailer

Consummate con man Roy Courtnay has set his sights on his latest mark: the recently widowed Betty McLeish, worth millions. But this time, what should have been a simple swindle escalates into a cat-and-mouse game with the ultimate stakes.

Director:

Bill Condon

Writers:

Jeffrey HatcherNicholas Searle (novel)

Nothing but excellence can be expected from GODS AND MONSTERS and THE FIFTH ESTATE director Bill Condon and British heavyweights Helen Mirren (Oscar winner for THE QUEEN) and Sir Ian McKellen(Two-time Oscar nominee),  But what is lacking here is a somewhat lack of surprise.

Before venturing out for the film screening, I was hypothesizing the film’s plot.  Con man McKellen entices Mirren for a date and aims at stealing all her money.  McKellen falls for Mirren while she discovers the truth and ends up milking McKellen instead for all his worth.  Not all of the above is true for the movie, but a fair portion is, and it is a good guess, from just watching the film’s trailer.

When the film begins, the audience sees the pub date between two who have met using ‘computer services’.  They immediately confess they honour the truth though each are superb liars, fooling notably each other, but the audience as well.  This is the more fun part of the script.  Consummate con man Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen) has set his sights on his latest mark: the recently widowed Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren), worth millions.  And Roy means to take it all.

  From their very first meeting, Roy begins plying Betty with his tried and true manipulations, and Betty, who seems quite taken with him, is soon going along for the ride.  But this time, what should have been a simple swindle escalates into a cat-and-mouse game with the ultimate stakes—revealing more insidious deceptions that will take them both through a minefield of danger, intrigue and betrayal.

The quite too incredible to be believed story is based on a widely acclaimed novel by Nolas Seattle adapted for the screen by Jeffrey Hatcher who also penned MR. HOLMES also directed by Condon.

The supporting cast fare well.  Russell Tovey (THE HISTORY BOYS and QUANTICO) plays the supposedly grandson of Betty while the excellent Jim Carter last seen in DOWNTON ABBEY plays Roy’s friend and conman.

The script’s story takes the audience back to World War II Germany where credibility becomes the issue where background on the real Roy Courtney is dumped on the audience.  The film also contains some brief nudity but a quite a bit of violence.  The struggle between Roy and Betty at the film’s climax is rather laughable and could have been due eliminated.

A few continuity problems exist, that many might not be aware of.  One segment has Roy enter the London Underground through Piccadilly Circus station.  Once inside, the tube walls indicate Charing Cross Station.

THE GOOD LIAR ends up a cheesy thriller, with some really nasty bits – not entirely boring but lacking more solid substance.

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5563334/videoplayer/vi1183235865?ref_=tt_ov_vi

Full Review: FORD V FERRARI (USA 2019) ***

Ford v Ferrari Poster

American car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford and challenge Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.

Director:

James Mangold

Right out of the headlines on November the 14th, 2019.  Ferrari unveils their 5th latest car for their 2019.  So the question is who is thermal winner in the phrase FORD V FERRARI?   On Ford’s side, they are investing a lot of money into the smart car.

One of the big films opening this week is FORD V FERRARI, from 20th Century Fox now owned by Disney, that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

FORD V FERRARI features two of the finest looking actors working in movies at present – Christian Bale and Matt Damon  Bale discards his good looks, looking sufficiently grimy to portray an expert auto-mechanic/race car driver eventually working for Ford.

FORD V FERRARI represents the kind of movie 20th Century Fox finances that Disney does not know what to do with.  This is what was reported.  To Fox’s credit, it takes guts to finance a film like this one, when car race movies are seldom financed.  This could be the reason this big production is released at this odd time in November.  But it is not a bad film and definitely worth a look for its excitement and drama.

Director James Mangold (3:10 TO YUMA) and the 4 film writers tell the story of real-life superheroes Carroll Shelby (Damon) and Ken Miles (Bale), race car engineers who commandeered the resources of the mighty Ford Motor Company in the 1960s to go head-to-head with the gods of Italian auto racing, Ferrari.  

This is one car racing movie that shows the mechanics and marketing and business that goes behind the scenes of a race.   The mechanics at the race’s pits tops are just as important as the race car drivers.  Everyone has an input to who or which car wins the race from the families of the race car drivers, to the company to almost everyone connected to the race.

But it is the Ford motor company’s owner Henry Ford and marketing chief that the two have to keep fighting in order to beat Ferrari.  So the title of the film should be Underdogs V Ford.   At worst the film descends a bit into cliche territory, especially in two manipulative segments (the fight and the ride Ford takes in the race car) that got the audience at the TIFF screening I attended applauding.  D.P. Phedon Papamichael shoots the race sequences, particularly the night ones spectacularly as if putting one in the driver’s seat. 

Christian Bale excels in his role as maverick Ken Miles.  Nothing in the film is mentioned of the reason his speaking wth a British accent.  Reading up on Miles, he is described in Wikipedia as a British born American race car driver.

FORD V FERRARI is the type of crowd pleasing action packed movie that critics generally dislike and audiences cheer to.  That said, it is definitely worth a look!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3h9Z89U9ZA