Full Review: VICTORIA AND ABDUL (UK 2017) ***

Victoria and Abdul Poster
Trailer

Queen Victoria strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.

Director:

Stephen Frears

Writers:

Lee Hall (screenplay), Shrabani Basu (based on the book by)

Stars:

Judi DenchOlivia WilliamsMichael Gambon

Director Stephen Frears has made great controversial films like SAMMY AND ROSIE GET LAID, THE SNAPPER and MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE.  He has also made films about royalty before, like THE QUEEN and also sentimental slush like PHILOMENA, with Judi Dench.  VICTORIA AND ABDUL a film about Queen Victoria (Oscar Winner Judi Dench) and her Indian servant Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) contains a cocktail of all the elements of the films mentioned above.  The result, as expected as a mediocre Jack of all Trades Master of None film, which shines but only occasionally.

 

The film chronicles with humour and insight the friendship between Queen Victoria and a decades-younger Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.  Karim has been summoned because of his height to present in England all the way from Agar, India the colonized homeland, a present.   The present is satirically, a ceremonial coin on behalf of British India to the Queen as a part of her Golden Jubilee in 1887,  Abdul with another travel for the intimidating task. 

 

Abdul has done what is forbidden during the ceremony.  He makes eye contact with the Queen who finds him handsome.  In no time he is cooking her curries, talking to her about his culture, and being elevated to the post of official clerk, or Munshi, becoming an indispensable part of the household — and state.

 

This is where trouble boils.  The Queen’s son, Bertie and the household take offence that this ‘coloured’ lowly servant is treated royally.  The ultimatum comes when the Queen decides to knight Abdul in order to have her household respect him.  The opposite occur.  The household threaten to resign if Karim is knighted.  This is where the Queen uses her brain and oratory to win the day.  Frears uses the incident to make a statement about the refugee crisis and racial prejudice.  The film’s best segment occurs here when the Queen chides her entire household with a speech that put them to shame.  This is a Dench’s award winning performance.

 

Frears’ assessment of Britain and royalty remains respectful.  The Queen at one point remarks: “A lot of people around the world hate me.”  Abdul says of the British as uncivilized on the ship en-route to England for the first time: “They put it’s blood in their sausages and eat sheep’s brains.”  The first words heard by Abdul on landing: “Welcome to Civilization!”

 

Queen Victoria is revealed in the film with all her grandeur (her robe and servants) but also with all her faults and her ageing process.  When she is first seen in the film, her face is not shown, but her body covered in white (like a shroud) in bed with snoring heard.  She also claims herself to be and shown as well as cankerous, ill-tempered, fat but also one that has held five generations of household and mother of many children and grandchildren.  “I am the Queen of England and the Emperor of India,” she claims proudly.

 

VICTORIA AND ABDUL is Frears’ mediocre film which is tolerant of everything and offends no one.  These kind of films are often humorous, handsomely mounted, well acted but unfortunately forgetful. 

 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BT2Ph_9bGPs

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Full Review: STRONGER (USA 2016)

Stronger Poster
Trailer

Stronger is the inspiring real life story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope following the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Director:

David Gordon Green

Writers:

John Pollono (screenplay), Jeff Bauman (based on the book “Stronger” by)

Stars:

Jake GyllenhaalTatiana MaslanyMiranda Richardson

The Boston marathon.  PATRIOT’S DAY saw Mark Wahlberg star in the film that hunted down the terrorists responsible for the bombings.  STRONGER, on the other hand, looks at the Boston marathon from the point of view of a victim.  And a really bad victim at that – one that has lost both his legs in the middle of the bomb explosion.

 

To the film’s credit, the film is an adaptation of the memoir by Jeff Bauman, recounting his struggles to adjust after losing his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing.  So, it is a true story, rather than one based on true events.  But unfortunately the film wallows in self pity.

 

The film tells the story of Jeff’s tragedy and rebirth. 

 

Runner Erin Hurley (Tatiana Maslany) was still a mile away from the finish line when the bombs went off.  Her boyfriend, Jeff (Jake Gyllenhaal), however, was right there.  He is rushed into surgery, but his legs must be amputated.  The bombing’s immediate aftermath provides Jeff with an unexpected sense of purpose as he had seen one of the terrorists responsible for the blasts.  He gives information to the FBI that proves instrumental in their investigation.  But this is not seen in detail in the film.  So one wonders, whether Jeff really saw the bomber or imagined it.  Once that very public drama quietened down,  Jeff’s personal drama, a challenge as much for his morale as his body, is begins.  With Erin by his side, Jeff slowly recovers, one arduous step at a time.

 

Green’s film centres on the travails and sufferings of Jeff.  But it opts out for cheap shots – like showing the parts where Jeff has trouble in the toilet trying to shit or urinate. 

 

Jeff is shown in the film on the road of self destruction.  Erin scarifies her all for him.  But he is shown as unrepentant, unhealed by his mother who want him to get all the glory and money for his mishap. 

 

The film shows Jeff’s change in outlook.  Unfortunately, this change is shown coming from just one event instead of a gradual progression – the meeting of the Mexican who attended to him during the bombing.  Though this might be true, this one event that apparently changed Jeff’s outlook on life seems quite incredible.

 

Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Malsany and Miranda Richardson (as Jeff’s mother) deliver excellent performances despite the film’s flaws.  If the film turned out better, they might be up for acting Oscars.

 

The film ends, expectedly during the closing credits with shots of the real Jeff and Erin.  It is revealed  that that the film is based on the book written by Jeff which is not mentioned at all in the film.

 

One can only wish the film would have been a better one that would show more of the triumph of the human spirit instead of one that showed a man wallowing is self pity.

 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6MN0QfQx7I

Full Review: BATTLE OF THE SEXES (USA 2017)

 

Battle of the Sexes Poster
Trailer

The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs.

Writer:

Simon Beaufoy

Stars:

Emma StoneAndrea RiseboroughSteve Carell

BATTLE OF THE SEXES begins with Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) just winning the women’s singles tennis championship making her number one female player in the world. King is outraged with the inequality of pay by the National Tennis League, especially with Jack, the chairman (Bill Pullman), who is shown to be the real villain of the story.

Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), arranges the battle of the sexes match, using his loud mouth and publicity to earn himself some cash to aid his failing marriage. To King, winning this match is more symbolic. It is a milestone for women’s rights for equal pay, a point that is mentioned at the film’s end credits but not made clear throughout the film.

The lazy script by Simon Beaufoy (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) never bothers with important details of the story. How, for example did King’s husband Larry, learn of his wife’s sexuality. In the film, King tells her hairdresser lover that this is her first time with women, but apparently the husband knows King has has same sex relationships before.
The film overdramatizes to the point of laughter. One scene has Billie’s lover in her hair salon shop hearing the news of Billie, realizing that she is needed and dramatically drops everything to leave the salon.

The wardrobe of the 70’s has never looked so awful in any other film. Did we, in the 70’s really look that bad thinking we were looking so cool? Billie’s husband, Larry ‘s clothes are the worst. Perhaps that might be one reason she later left him. The hair of everyone is just as bad, including Billie’s even after a hairdo from her girlfriend.

The script contains lots of inane dialogue and unfunny jokes. One line has Larry asking his wife if she was getting a blow dry, with full sexual innuendo. The film sheds no real light on the female rights movement, except what we already know. The dialogue contains lot of cheap jokes on women like Riggs saying that he believes women should be on the tennis court, but for picking up balls. These jokes are predictable, told many times before and if they meant to offend women, they still might. Two anti-female remarks are also voiced by two stars Llyod Bridges and Ricardo Montalban shown on old TV footage.

The crucial tennis match between King and Riggs can hardly be called exciting. For one, history already dictates who had won and the audience is in for no surprise. The camera is also placed mainly in one spot, showing the overhead shot of the players. The directors appear more concerned to show the match in long takes than any thing else.

Oscar Winner Emma Stone is too skinny to look like a tennis player. Carell looks remarkably like Bobby Fisher as they are right around the same age in the story. The nude picture of Carell resembles the one taken by Riggs. The rest of the cast of Sarah Silverman, Elisabeth Shue are largely wasted by the script that are unbothered with these characters.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES ends up a boring film on an exciting sport.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5ykcuAS1F4

BATTLE OF THE SEXES 1

TIFF 2017 Movie Review: VISAGES, VILLAGES (Faces Places)(France 2017) ***** Top 10

 

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.

Faces Places Poster
Director Agnes Varda and photographer/muralist J.R. journey through rural France and form an unlikely friendship.

Directors:

JRAgnès Varda

Stars:

Jean-Luc GodardJRLaurent Levesque

Faces Places have received high critical praise from critics at Cannes, many calling it a masterpiece. That might be too big a term to use for this little personal film but VISAGES VILLAGES is simply the most delightful and personal film at the festival.

Director Agnes Varda (wife of the late Jacques Demy), now 89 is famous for her films, photographs, and art installations that focus on documentary realism, feminist issues, and social commentary with a distinct experimental style.

In this latest and perhaps her last doc (she is losing her vision), she and fellow friend and artist known as JR travel around France, particularly the North in their photo camion to take pictures of the people they visit. At Le Havre, for example they photograph the images of three wives of the dockworker and paste them on stacked containers.

In a deserted mining town, they paste the photograph of the last woman (wife of a miner) still staying in the old house district. When asked the reason she does this, she replies it is too demonstrate the power of imagination.

No doubt about that, this film is personal, inspiring, powerful, sad and happy and perhaps ‘masterpiece’ might be really an accurate term to describe this film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmHG5HXYc9w
 

VISAGES, VILLAGES 1

TIFF 2017 FINAL REPORT – BEST OF THE BEST

The last day, the 17th of September marks the end of another year of the Toronto International Film Festival. Most noted difference is the fewer number of films programmed, as attendances over the past years have been dropping. Reasons for this state of affairs are many including higher unaffordable movie prices, the removal of the festival all movie pass and movie pirating.

Of the 79 festival films seen this year, I have selected my 10 best – the best of the best.

These are listed in alphabetical order:
ANGELS WEAR WHITE (China/France)
BPM (France)
BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 (USA)
THE CHILDREN ACT (UK)
L’INSULTE (THE INSULT) (France)
LES GARDIENNES (THE GUARDIAN) (France)
LOVELESS (Russia)
THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (Ireland)
THE SQUARE (Sweden)
SWEET COUNTRY (Australia)

The public is the most important and the PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD went to THREE BILLBOARDS.

Other winners as selected by the Toronto Intrenational Film Festival, are, as listed below, in the different categories.

Till next year…….

The Toronto International Film Festival® announced its award winners at the closing ceremony at TIFF Bell Lightbox today, hosted by Piers Handling, CEO and Director of TIFF, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of TIFF. To watch the presentation, visit tiff.net/ceremony. The 42nd Festival wraps up this evening.
The short film awards below were selected by a jury comprised of Marit van den Elshout, Head of CineMart at the International Film Festival Rotterdam; award-winning filmmaker Johnny Ma (Old Stone); and Cannes 2017 Art Cinema Award winner Chloé Zhao (The Rider).

IWC SHORT CUTS AWARD FOR BEST CANADIAN SHORT FILM

The IWC Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Short Film goes to Marc-Antoine Lemire’s Pre-Drink. The jury remarked the film “is a monumental yet intimate portrayal of a woman in transition. Lead by the towering performances of the film’s two actors, both of who are worthy of receiving their own awards. The jury were especially taken by the leading actress who gives one of the best performances we saw in the Short Cuts programmes. The 2017 Short Cuts jury honors Pre-Drink for Best Canadian short film.”

The award offers a $10,000 cash prize, made possible by IWC Schaffhausen.

IWC SHORT CUTS AWARD FOR BEST SHORT FILM

The IWC Short Cuts Award for Best Short Film goes to Niki Lindroth von Bahr’s The Burden (Min Börda). The jury remarked, “Whimsical but tragic, imaginative and just plain weird, this is exactly what one can expect from a Scandinavian musical with fish in bath robes singing out their existentialist crisis. This is a film that stands out in this program and any film program it will ever be part of.” The award offers a $10,000 cash prize made possible by IWC Schaffhausen.
The jury gave honourable mentions to Matthew Rankin’s The Tesla World Light (Tesla: Lumière Mondiale) and Qiu Yang’s Xiao Cheng Er Yue (A Gentle Night).

The Canadian awards below were selected by a jury comprised of Mark Adams, Artistic Director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival; Canadian documentarian and Hillman Prize winner Min Sook Lee (Migrant Dreams); and artist and filmmaker Ella Cooper, who is also the founder of Black Women Film! Canada.

CITY OF TORONTO AWARD FOR BEST CANADIAN FIRST FEATURE FILM

The City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film goes to Wayne Wapeemukwa’s Luk’ Luk’l. The jury remarked, “The award goes to a striking debut film that disrupts borders – of form and content and suggests new cinematic territories.This beautifully realized film offers a unique Canadian perspective, made with real compassion, insight and remarkable characters from Vancouver’s East Side.” This award carries a cash prize of $15,000, made possible by the City of Toronto.

The jury gave honourable mention to Sadaf Foroughi’s Ava.

CANADA GOOSE AWARD FOR BEST CANADIAN FEATURE FILM

The Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film goes to Robin Aubert’s Les Affamés. The jury remarked, “This year the Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film goes to a hybrid art-house film that proved to be something of a revelation. Wonderfully scripted and perfectly cast, this film managed the rare feat of featuring genuinely interesting and well-rounded characters; surprising dramatic and comedic moments with well thought-out multi-generational female roles (who were totally badass, I might add) while also dealing with poignant and contemporary issues, set against a striking rural backdrop and hundreds of ‘ravenous’ zombies.”

This award carries a cash prize of $30,000 and a custom award, sponsored by Canada Goose.

The jury gave honourable mention to Simon Lavoie’s The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches (La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes).

THE PRIZES OF THE INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF FILM CRITICS (FIPRESCI PRIZES)

The Festival welcomed an international FIPRESCI jury for the 26th year. The jury members comprised of jury president Jonathan Rosenbaum (USA), Robert Daudelin (Canada), Martin Horyna (Czech Republic), Ivonete Pinto (Brazil), Marietta Steinhart (Austria), and Jim Slotek (Canada).

Prize of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) for the Discovery programme is awarded to Sadaf Foroughi for Ava.

Prize of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) for Special Presentations is awarded to Manuel Martín Cuenca for The Motive (El Autor).

NETPAC AWARD

As selected by a jury from the Network for the Promotion of Asian Pacific Cinema for the sixth consecutive year, the NETPAC Award for World or International Asian Film Premiere goes to Huang Hsin-Yao’s The Great Buddha+.

Jury members include jury chairperson Rashmi Doraiswamy (India), Jian Hao (China), and Savine Wong (Canada). The jury remarked, “The NETPAC Jury awards The Great Buddha+ for depicting the interface between the haves and have-nots, with black humor and style, innovating with noir in representing the social reality of Taiwan today.”

TORONTO PLATFORM PRIZE PRESENTED BY AIR FRANCE

This is the third year for Platform, the Festival’s juried programme that champions directors’ cinema from around the world. The Festival welcomed an international jury comprised of award-winning filmmakers Chen Kaige, Małgorzata Szumowska, and Wim Wenders who unanimously awarded the Toronto Platform Prize, presented by Air France, to Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country.

“This is a spiritual epic taking place in 1929 in Australia’s Northern Territory,” said the jury in a statement. “It is a great saga of human fate, and its themes of race and struggle for survival are handled in such a simple, rich, unpretentious and touching way, that it became for us a deeply emotional metaphor for our common fight for dignity.

Speaking about their deliberations, the jury added: “We saw 12 films from all over the world that took us into very different universes of the soul and to extremely different places on our planet. We were thankful to be able to see these films and we very much appreciated that actually exactly half of them were made by women. TIFF is leading the way, we feel.”

“As we only had one award to give, we had to be quite radical. We also limited ourselves to only one special mention, even if other films might have imposed themselves for best acting, writing or directing.”

Awarding a special mention to Clio Barnard’s Dark River, the jury said: “This film, deeply rooted in the Yorkshire countryside, convinced us, as its characters and actors, its photography, its story and its sense of place were all so much ONE, so utterly believable and controlled, that we were totally taken by it.”

The Toronto Platform Prize offers a custom award and a $25,000 cash prize, made possible by Air France.

New this year, the Festival presents a free screening of Toronto Platform Prize winner Sweet Country at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 8:30 pm on September 17. Tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 6:30pm.

GROLSCH PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARDS

This year marked the 40th year that Toronto audiences were able to cast a ballot for their favourite Festival film for the Grolsch People’s Choice Award. This year’s award goes to Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The award offers a $15,000 cash prize and custom award, sponsored by Grolsch. The second runner-up is Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name. The first runner-up is Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya.

The Grolsch People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award goes to Joseph Kahn’s Bodied. The second runner-up is Craig Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99. The first runner-up is James Franco’s The Disaster Artist.

The Grolsch People’s Choice Documentary Award goes to Agnès Varda and JR’s Faces Places. The second runner-up is Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! The first runner-up is Long Time Running directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas De Pencier.

TIFF 2017 Movie Review: CATCH THE WIND (PRENDRE LE LARGE) (France 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.

Catch the Wind Poster
A middle-aged factory worker’s life is upended when she follows her employer to Morocco.

Director:

Gaël Morel

Writer:

Gaël Morel

Stars:

Sandrine BonnaireLubna AzabalIlian Bergala

CATCH THE WIND is a personal look at what happens when companies second source to a cheaper country. The story concerns Edith (Sandrine Bonnaire) informed that the job she’s held for her entire adult life is being relocated to Morocco. She refuses to accept a healthy severance package.

Against the advice of her colleagues, her self-absorbed son, and even the consultant hired to fire her, Edith instead opts to follow her job to Tangier.

Arriving with the naïve energy of a teenager on their first overseas trip, Edith realizes before long what she’s up against: the expected subpar working conditions and subpar pay, but also an adjustment to new social and cultural realities — nuances that her failure to grasp would mean her job and, more importantly, her dignity.

The film works for two factors. One is the detailed account by director Morel on what living is like in Tangier – the factory corruption, the poverty, the strife to support families and the danger on the streets.

The second is Bonnaire’s calculated and worthy performance. Brutal yet sensitive, PRENDE LE LARGE finally gets Morel’s characters a happy ending but not without sheer determination and strong will.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsfAPoCk5AA

CATCH THE WIND

TIFF 2017 Movie Review: LAISSEZ BRONZER LES CADAVRES (Let the Corpses Tan)

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.

Let the Corpses Tan Poster
The Mediterranean summer: blue sea, blazing sun….and 250 kg of gold stolen by Rhino and his gang! They had found the perfect hideout: an abandoned and remote hamlet now taken over by a …See full summary »

Writers:

Jean-Pierre Bastid (novel), Hélène Cattet 

Stars:

Marc BarbéBernie BonvoisinDorylia Calmel

The film credit sequence begins with the title splattered on the screen one word at a time sets up the stage for what audiences are to expect in the upcoming 92 minutes gore fest.

An extreme close up of events and we are talking seeing a screen of a close up of a close up like a the teeth in a mouth. This effect can be terribly annoying if one is sitting up close to the screen, so best be at least in the middle to thee back of the theatre when viewing this one. The story is simple enough. A gang of thieves absconding with 250kg of stolen gold arrives at the abode of a listless artist caught in a bohemian love triangle.

The scenario quickly escalates into a desperate day-long firefight between cops and robbers throughout the remote ruins of a Mediterranean hamlet — and genre and art-house tropes collide in a relentless reverie of action spectacle. It should be noted that as bloody as this film is, it is not as bloody as the other Midnight Madness, nor is it as inventive.

Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani are also fond of using colour saturated silhouettes as in the spaghetti westerns.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Cx48AN5_y8