TIFF 2018 Review: THE DIVE (Israel 2018) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

The Dive Poster
When a family patriarch dies, three brothers must put aside their differences to carry out their father’s last wishes, in Yona Rozenkier’s tender yet analytical debut examining what it means to be human.

Director:

Yona Rozenkier

When a family patriarch dies,  prodigal son Yoav (Yoel Rozenkier) returns to the sparsely populated kibbutz where he was raised.  He is greeted by his mother, his elder brother Itai (Yona Rozenkier), and his younger brother Avishai (Micha Rozenkier), who is about to ship off to perform his military service in Lebanon. Yoav is an ex-officer traumatized by his experiences, while Itai remains a serviceman and believes fiercely in a man’s patriotic duty. Their conflicting perspectives generate a deep rift in Avi. 

 The title THE DIVE refers to the act that the three brothers must perform – to deposit their father’s remains in an underwater cave, an excuse for the film to exhibit some superb underwater cinematography.  

Rozenkier (his first feature) successfully captures the male chauvinist world of the three bothers and how their lives are adversely affected

The film is ultimately about something much more profound: what it means to be human, made more believable as the story is autobiographical.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysRi5yC2MRI

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TIFF 2018 Review: THE OTHER STORY (Israel 2018) ****

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

The Other Story Poster
Strong female protagonists have been the mainstay of many Avi Nesher films. In ‘The Other Story’, two rebellious young women – one fleeing the chaos of secular hedonism for the disciplined …See full summary »

Director:

Avi Nesher

Writers:

Avi Nesher (co-writer), Noam Shpancer (co-writer)

THE OTHER STORY is one of the BEST Jewish films I have seen, succeeding for the fact that it has quite a good story, and one related to Jewish mores.  The film follows two rebellious young women, one fleeing the chaos of secular hedonism for the disciplined comforts of faith, the other desperate to transcend her oppressive religious upbringing for sexual and spiritual freedom, cross paths unexpectedly in Jerusalem — with startling consequences — in this empowering drama from Avi Nesher (PAST LIFE). 

 The film begins with Yonathan returning from the U.S. to Jerusalem, called by his ex-wife to do whatever crooked means possible to prevent their daughter Anati from marrying by defaming the groom.  Meanwhile, Yonatan’s dad gets him involved in another couple’s dispute over custardy of their child.   It is fucked up people doing fucked up things to un-fuck up their lives – a sort of dysfunctional family with a thriller element thrown in for good measure.  

THE OTHER STORY is totally unpredictable, hilarious while remaining smart and believable.  The best surprise in this crown-pleaser is the happy ending that had the audience applauding at the end credits.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/283720820

TIFF 2018 Review: JEREMIAH TERMINATOR LEROY (USA/UK/Canada 2018) **

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

A young woman named Savannah Knoop spends six years pretending to be the celebrated author JT LeRoy, the made-up literary persona of her sister-in-law.

Director:

Justin Kelly

Writers:

Justin KellySavannah Knoop (memoir) | 1 more credit »

Laura Albert (Laura Dern) writes tough, insightful fiction under a pseudonym, JT LeRoy. Her JT is not just a pen name but a whole persona, a teenage boy from West Virginia living a dangerous life as a truck stop sex worker.  Laura was born in Brooklyn a generation earlier, and grew up in New York’s punk scene.  Writing books such as The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things as JT gives her complete freedom to explore the darker regions of human experience. Readers and the media love it so much that they begin to demand JT in person.  

As journalists press for interviews with JT, turmoil mounts with Laura’s husband Geoffrey (Jim Sturgess) and sister-in-law Savannah (Kristen Stewart).  Partly from desperation, partly for kicks, they conspire to have Savannah don a wig and sunglasses, adjust her voice, and become the teenage boy author.   Despite everything being based on a true story, Kelly’s film is extremely dull.  He makes no attempt to make the events authentic or to make Savannah believable as JT.  Whenever she appears as JT, she mumbles all along and the media and everyone takes it in from Cannes to Paris to the U.S. 

 Worst of all is the pretentious bit at the film’s end where Laura preaches to the audience that everyone has to be the person he or she is.

TIFF 2018 Review: GRETA (Ireland/USA 2018) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Greta Poster
A young woman befriends a lonely widow.

Director:

Neil Jordan

Writers:

Ray Wright (screenplay by), Neil Jordan (screenplay by)| 1 more credit »

Some films are best if seen without any prior knowledge of the plot.  Neil Jordan’s GRETA is one of them.  As in Jordan’s THE CRYING GAME, the shock occurs when the girl the protagonist is having sex with suddenly is shown with a penis.  The big surprise secret comes literally out of the closet at the 30-minus mark of Jordan’s latest psychological thriller GRETA.  

Set in NYC, Isabelle Huppert plays a widow developing a friendship with a naïve young woman, Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz).  Frances returns the handbag she finds on the subway to its rightful owner, Greta (Huppert).  Frances recently lost her mother and feels alienated by her father; Greta has lost her husband, and her daughter lives far away.   The two become fast friends much to the consternation of her best friend (Maika Monroe).  

Unfortunately, the film ends with a totally unlikely twist in the plot that could only happen in a one in a million chance.  This spoils an otherwise excellent thriller.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7SUePnsxWo

TIFF 2018 Review: THE STANDOFF AT SPARROW CREEK (USA 2018) **1/2

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

The Standoff at Sparrow Creek Poster
A former cop-turned-militia man investigates a shooting at a police funeral.

Director:

Henry Dunham

Writer:

Henry Dunham

Writer/director Henry Dunham’s debut feature tackles a series of current issues – gun control; violence; loyalty among others.  The film begins with the announcement of a mass shooting, not shown on screen, an incident unfortunately too common these days.  The cops are all out to find those responsible, being under great pressure from everyone.  

The story centres of a neighbourhood militia that have an assortment of weaponry.  It is discovered that the recent mass shooting was apparently carried out by one of its own members as one of the AR-15 rifles (reportedly used in the shooting) stored in a lumberyard warehouse is missing.  Fearing that the authorities have already connected the weapon to their collective and will soon descend, they resolve to determine who among them has broken ranks, so that they can deliver the perpetrator to the police and not risk jeopardizing their operation. 

The film has little action and lots of talk.  Most of the excitement comes in the revelation of the dialogue.  Of course, if the whole film relies on the dialogue, it should be flawless.  But there are a few loop holes.  The audience is also required to be 100% attentive to the dialogue while expecting a few plot twists.  A few bouts of humour are inserted (there should be more), but all the talk seems too much for a Midnight Madness movie.

TIFF 2018 Review: THE LAND OF STEADY HABITS (USA 20018) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

The Land of Steady Habits Poster
Trailer

Feeling trapped in the stifling, wealthy enclave of Westport, Connecticut, Anders Hill (Ben Mendelsohn) retires from his job in finance and leaves his wife (Edie Falco) in the hopes that it… See full summary »

Writers:

Nicole HolofcenerTed Thompson (based on the novel by)

THE LAND OF STEADY HABITS is another NETFLIX original and not a bad one at that.  The film is set in Westport, Connecticut.  One can only speculate the reason this one did not get made through the normal channels.  This is a story of a middle-aged man who has left metaphorically the land of steady habits. 

Anders Hill (Ben Mendelsohn) has quit his well paying job and divorced his life – the protagonist, like the film going against the natural flow of things.  He figures life will be more rewarding but things get worse.  When the film opens, he has just picked up a woman and having sex.  Besides not being able to get it up, his adult son Preston (Thomas Mann) rejects him.  Oddly enough, he bonds and smokes up with the neighbours drug-culled son Charlie (Charlie Tahan).  

When Charlie commits suicide, Anders is blamed.  Holofcener (ENOUGH SAID) is good at this kind of films.  She gets into her characters and keeps her film well paced, intelligent and smart.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbKDFMW8hGE

TIFF 2018 Review: HOLD THE DARK (USA 2018) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Hold the Dark Poster
Trailer

After the deaths of three children suspected to be by wolves, writer Russell Core is hired by the parents of a missing six-year-old boy to track down and locate their son in the Alaskan wilderness.

Director:

Jeremy Saulnier

Writers:

Macon Blair (screenplay by), William Giraldi (based on the book by)

HOLD THE DARK is the latest film from director Jeremy Saulnier (GREEN ROOM, BLUE RUIN) whose specialty appears to be moody thrillers.  In HOLD THE DARK, written by Macon Blair adapted from the novel by William Giraldi, the film begins with a child playing outside in the winter snow when he sees a pack of wolves.  The child goes missing.   His home is one of a handful of trailers on the edge of the wilderness in Alaska.   His father (Alexander Skarsgård) is serving in the Middle East and his mother (Riley Keough) seems to be succumbing to cabin fever.  

She calls in Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright), a writer and expert on wolves; she believes the creatures took her boy and hopes Core can find him.  The film is quite different for a number of reasons that enable it to stand out.  The first is the wilderness setting.  The second is an unlikely older unattractive looking hero who disappears for a length of the film.  Anyone can be killed off in the story.  

The film is also a bit over the top in violence that undermines the authenticity of the story.  Still, HOLD THE DARK is an apt thriller.