TIFF 2017 Movie Review: APOSTASY (UK 2017) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2017. Go to TIFF 2017 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

 APOSTASY.jpgA faithful Jehovah’s Witness is forced to shun her own sister because of a religious transgression. As the separation draws out, she starts to question the meaning of God’s love.

Director: Dan Kokotajlo
Writer: Dan Kokotajlo
Stars: Siobhan Finneran, Robert Emms, Sacha Parkinson

Review Gilbert Seah

APOSTASY is a term for the formal abandonment of ones faith, regardless of what the faith might be. In this minimalist family drama set in Manchester, England, the faith of a family is put to the test. The family concerned is the mother, Ivanna (Sobhan Finneran) and her two daughters, 20-year old Louisa (Sacha Parkinson) and 18-year-old Alex (Molly Wright).

They are Jehovah Witnesses, who are rigorously devoted to their religion. They also take their religious mission door to door amongst a large Pakistani community in Oldham of Greater Manchester.

Alex has already received a blood transfusion at an early age, dictated by the hospital to save her life but a definite no-no in the belief of the faith. When Louisa gets impregnated by a non-believer, she is dis-fellowshipped by the Elders of the church. Not only that, but her mother and sister are disassociated and not allowed to see her.

All three main actresses are nothing short of superb. Director Kikotajlo is fond of using close ups to show the emotions of his characters’ faces. APOSTASY is a small budget film that dramatically achieves its aim of revealing the truth and hardships of a religious belief.

Trailer: (non available at time of writing)

APOSTASY1.jpg

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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: QUEEN OF KATWE (USA 2016) ***

queen_of_katwe_poster.jpgQUEEN OF KATWE (USA 2016) ***
Directed by Mira Nair

Starring: Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o

Review by Gilbert Seah

The film is based on the book entitled “The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster” by Tim Crothers. The title itself tells exactly what is going to happen in the Disney film – Disney Studios the one being most famous for making formulaic films. Do we need then to watch this movie?
Apparently a lot of people think so. QUEEN OF KATWE has already been selected to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and the London Film Festival later in November.

QUEEN OF KATWE is directed by Indian American Mira Nair. She is an odd choice for the job having taken on controversial projects like THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST. But she has directed crowd pleasers like MISSISSIPPI MASALA and SALAAM BOMBAY! The public will likely be quite pleased with QUEEN OF KATWE as Nair hits as many right notes as she can in this biographical sports drama.

For sports dramas where the sport involved is football or soccer or boxing, whoever watching the game knows what is happening and who might be winning. The same cannot be said for chess. Even at the crucial moment of a checkmate, by looking at the pieces on the board, no one can tell what is happening. This is a challenge for the director who needs to incite excitement in the game. This is achieved in one vey funny part when one character asks another during a match. “What does it mean?” The answer is jubilantly shouted: “It means she is winning!”
The film begins in 2011 when Phiona is playing in the chess championships. The rest of the film is told mainly in flashback – how Phiona has reached this point in her life and the film carries on from here.

Once can hardly complain about Nair’s direction or William Wheeler’s script. The film is thorough to include everything that an underdog has to go through to become a champion. The girl Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) and her family are evicted form her home; Phiona comes into conflict with her uneducated mother (Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong’o) who understands little of the importance of education; she loses an important game; she learns humility etc. etc. etc. By the time the film gets to the last reel with the climatic crucial chess game, the story has stretched out far too long. But for many who love getting their right buttons pushed. QUEEN OF KATWE will likely have them reaching for their tissues. David Oyelowo plays her coach Robert Katende, who always has the right advice for everyone and cannot do the wrong thing.
The best and most important part of the film is the one in which Phiona grows too proud after winning a game and decides she is too special to wash the vegetables for her mother. Her mother pulls her out of bed in the important scene screaming that maybe Phiona needs her feet washed as well.

The film ends well with each actor standing beside the real character their portrayed. There are no photos here, real people with real actors.

The film will be screened with in conjunction with a delightful and inventive animated short called INNER WORKINGS (director Leo Matsuda) – a sort of alternative take on INSIDE OUT. Running just over 5 minutes., this terribly funny film outshines QUEEN OF KATWE. But QUEEN won the runner-up prize for the People’s Choice Award at the recent TIFF.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4l3-_yub5A

TIFF 2016 Movie Review: SADAKO VS KAYAKO (Japan 2016)

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2016. Go to TIFF 2016 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

sadako_v_kayako_poster.jpgSADAKO VS KAYAKO (Japan 2016) **
Directed by Kôji Shiraishi

Starring: Mizuki Yamamoto, Tina Tamashiro, Aimi Satsukawa |

Review by Gilbert Seah

Two iconic Japanese ghosts are thrown into the ring for a grudge match that’s the ultimate spectral showdown.

A more appropriate title would be THE RING VS THE GRUDGE. University students Yuri (Mizuki Yamamoto) and Natsumi (Aimi Satsukawa) buy an old VCR in order to transfer their home videos to DVD, but when Natsumi watches the dusty old tape found in the machine, she realizes she may have fallen victim to the curse that their urban-legends professor Morishige (Masahiro Komoto) is obsessed with.

Meanwhile, high-schooler Suzuka (Tina Tamashiro) is having dreams about a mysterious house down the street from her new home. Though warned not to enter the house lest she be killed by the Saeki family curse, she is soon drawn inside by the resident ghosts, Kayako and her son, Toshio.

The film is SADAKO VS KAYAKO. But the film does not turn out as well as it sounds. I am not a fan of mash-ups like BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN or COWBOYS VS ALIENS. They turn out too silly and never achieve much, the only exception being the excellent Japanese classic KING KONG VS GODZILLA.

Sadako exists mainly as hair coming out of the TV or video tape so a confrontation of hair against a white crawly ghoul might not amount to much.

Director Shiraishi spends too much time setting the stage for the fight and when it finally occurs, it is a disappointment.

See this only if you must!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyLA6nfPvRo

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TIFF 2016 Movie Review: AFTER THE STORM (Japan 2016) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2016. Go to TIFF 2016 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

after_the_storm_poster.jpg
AFTER THE STORM (Japan 2016) ***
Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda

Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Yôko Maki, Taiyô Yoshizawa

Review by Gilbert Seah

AFTER THE STORM is Kore-da at his mildest ilmmaking. Don’t expect the drama of LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON or the imagination of AFTER LIFE his two best films. Yet AFTER THE STORM is not without its pleasures.

On the surface it is a simple film, a kind look at a loser. Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) is a failed writer, a third-rate detective, and a hardened gambler. As the film’s title seems to suggest, the salient moments of his life have already passed before the beginning of the story.

He won an important literary award when he was young, but his promising career vanished into thin air. Now, his father has died and his wife has left him. He adores his young son, but seems resigned to his position on the sidelines of the boy’s life.

One night, when a typhoon strikes, the broken family is forced to spend the night together at Ryota’s mother’s home. The ensuing interaction that is both bittersweet and tender forms the film’s highlight. “I never want to grow up to be like you.”, the son says. “I will always love them. They are my family.”

The father says at one point. Great performances here not only from Abe but from Kirin Kiki as Ryota’s mother, who is so funny she steals every scene she is in.

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

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

 

TIFF 2016 Movie Review: Tereddut (Clair-obscur) (2016)

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2016. Go to TIFF 2016 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

clair_obscur_poster.jpgCLAIR-OBSCUR (Turkey/Germany/Poland/France 2016) **
Directed by Yesim Ustaoglu

Starring: Mehmet Kurtulus, Metin Akdülger, Okan Yalabik

Review by Gilbert Seah

A female director’s film about two females. So expect a lot of feminine perspective to be presented in the story told. Turk director Yesim Ustaoglu offers a parallel study of two women — a psychiatrist with a long-time live-in partner and a wife in a conservative, nearly tyrannical household — in this study of the possibilities and limitations that exist for women in Turkey today.

A third through the film, their paths cross as the psychiatrist treats the other after a catastrophe.

Ustaoglu’s film clearly intends to show women’s hardships in terms of two different imprisonments of the two women. She succeeds in her tale of Elmas, the young abused new wife, but fails in the second tale of the psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist comes along as too smart and her arguments against her husband does not really feel genuine, as her husband could also feel himself used by her, as she did have an affair before the quarrel.

A mixed bag of emotions in this film, though the visuals are arresting.

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

 

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TIFF 2016 Movie Review: CARRIE PILBY (USA 2016) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2016. Go to TIFF 2016 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

carrie_pilby_poster.jpgCARRIE PILBY (USA 2016) ***
Directed by Susan Johnson

Starring: Bel Powley, Nathan Lane, Gabriel Byrne

Review by Gilbert Seah

Being too smart might be detrimental to ones life. Based on Caren Lissner’s best-selling 2003 novel, CARRIE PILBY is a story of a awkward teen who graduated Harvard at the age of 19 and lives in a small NYC apartment paid for by her London-based father (Gabriel Byrne).

Carrie (Bel Powley) has no job, no purpose and no friends because she actively dislikes just about everyone (rating them “morally and intellectually unacceptable”) as only a teenager can.

Her one regular contact is her dad’s therapist friend, Dr. Petrov (Nathan Lane in rare role of an unfaithful straight man), who after a fruitless series of weekly visits finally sets Carrie some homework: a five-point plan to get her life together. As they say, nothing goes as planned. The plan results in her life turned more upside down. Johnson’s film takes half the film to get its footing.

The first half is really annoying with Carrie spurting out too much clever dialogue and the script getting too smug for tis own good. It treats its audience as simple folk that need a twist in every segment or needing a punch line after a dialogue.

The film gets more tolerable in the second half even turning to winning when Carrie finally gives up on the plan.

Part coming-of-age, part father/daughter relationship and part romance, CARRIE PILBY is a chick flick that finally rises, like is character at the end.

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