Film Review: THE SENSE OF AN ENDING (UK 2016) ***1/2

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

the_sense_of_an_ending.jpgDirector: Ritesh Batra
Writers: Julian Barnes (novel), Nick Payne (adaptation)
Stars: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter

Review by Gilbert Seah

The first thing that should be known when watching the drama THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is that it is based on the 2011 Man Booker Prize winning book of the same name by British author, Julian Barnes. The influence of a writer and the importance of writing are both evident at many points in the film.

The story in the book is told in two parts, narrated by Anthony ‘Tony’ Webster at two stages of his life, the first as a school lad in the 6th form (Grade 12 or Pre-University) and secondly in his elderly retired part of his life. The script by Nick Payne (a playwright with this being his first film script) reverses the process. The film opens with Tony (Oscar Winner Jim Broadbent) in his senior years recounting the past, which is told in flashback. This story-telling better suits a film structure.

The film is the story of how a letter written in anger by Tony in his younger days had affected the girl, Veronica (Freya Mavor) he loved and his best friend, Adrian Finn (Joe Alwyn). The story here emphasizes the importance of writing even as Tony jokes with this line uttered at the start if the film: “No one writes anymore.”

The film is an excellent blend of writing in and direction. The words of the book come alive as the beautiful dialogue is spoken by the actors. Director Ritesh Batra’s (he made the highly successful Indian film THE LUNCHBOX in 2014) English directorial debut is excellent.

Batra plays the film as a mystery with lots of skeletons in the close in addition to false clues to tease the audience. The truth comes out at the very end. Nothing is what it seems. The climax occurs in the pub where a revelation is made to Tony. Batra’s Indian influence can be noticed with the over-excited, chubby Indian postman who delivers the post to Tony’s house.

Despite the seriousness of the story, there is a lot of humour in the film. The humour comes primarily from Tony’s lesbian daughter, Susie (Michelle Dockery). She is a member of the LPL (lesbians impregnating lesbians). When the film opens, she is taking her father to the lesbian baby delivery classes.

But the film, in all earnest, (funny enough) is a coming-of-age story of a senior retired man, disgruntled with his life, as seen as he mutters and grumbles about at the start of the film. After his growing up process, he is shown the kinder gentleman.

Jim Broadbent is again, excellent in his meticulously portrayed Tony without any display of over-acting. Charlotte Rampling (who is always doing roles of frustrated seniors) plays the elderly Veronica while Matthew Goode has a small role as Tony’s teacher in school.

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is so called because, as quoted from by author Julian Barnes, in life incidents just happen. In books, a meaning to an incident is explained. In the film all events occurring to Tony’s life come with explanations. And very satisfactory ones resulting in a very satisfactory film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYLNTQGpNQ0
 

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Film Review: Goon: Last of the Enforcers

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

goon2.jpgDirector: Jay Baruchel
Writers: Jay Baruchel (screenplay), Jesse Chabot (screenplay)
Stars: Elisha Cuthbert, T.J. Miller, Liev Schreiber

Review by Gilbert Seah

Hockey is a Canadian sport with lots of fights and violence. Hockey films have been made when this essential characteristic was removed and looked down upon. This has resulted in the worst films (SCORE: A HOCKEY MUSICAL; HELLO DESTROYER) ever made on the sport. Fortunately GOON captures the violence and rowdiness of the sport and the two GOON movies can arguably be considered the best Hockey films.

When the first GOON was released, the film poster (with the tongue between the two fingers) created an uproar and all the posters had to be taken down in Toronto. Director Burachel who co-wrote and directed the second GOON, taking over the directing reins from Michael Dowse (IT’S ALL GONE PETE TONG, FUBAR) knows hockey and loves to create ‘shit’ like his supporting character, Pat in the movie. In real life, Baruchel is an avid Hockey fan who has worked in raunchy comedies before with the likes of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. So, GOON: LAST OF THE ENFORCERS uneven though it may be (as this is Burachel’s directorial debut), is still a good effort.

The story follows the first GOON film, with most of the characters still present. The film begins with a fight that puts the lead character, Doug (Seann William Scott) in hospital and unable to play again. Doug gets a job in insurance even though he (and his boss) know nothing about insurance. The insurance segments are very funny. Doug’s girl, Eva (Alison Pill) is expecting a baby. He promises to stop fighting, a promise he cannot keep. Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell, also seen in the recent TABLE 19), who put Doug in hospital is brought in as the new team captain. During the pro lockout, Doug’s team, the Halifax Highlanders, unites with a bunch of new players. Finally Doug is brought back in. Confrontation and a major fight between the two result.

For a comedy, this film is more violent than any boxing film (taking ROCKY and RAGING BULL as examples). Director Burachel knows how to shoot the fights and they are not easy to watch. Burachel also knows how to film hockey games, and the matches are well executed with all the excitement of a top sports film.

Jay Burachel has a few scenes as Pat, Doug’s best friend. Whenever Pat appears, there is trouble. But there are also laughs. The lead Seann William Scott appears here with full facial hair. Scott is a good enough actor, being in teen comedies like the AMERICAN PIE films and DUDE, WHRE’S MY CAR? This is the actor who plays a character that takes a dump in his enemy’s cooler at a camp fire (one of the AMERICAN PIE sequels), so a lot of toilet humour ca be expected from him. Canadian actor Callum Keith Rennie plays the team owner.

GOON: LAST OF THE ENFORCERS is a male comedy about hockey. So, don’t expect any messages or life lessons. The film is a lot of fun and laughs. It is like the game, very Canadian. I enjoyed it a lot.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4N__jY27zY

 

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Film Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (BELLE ET LA BETE) (USA 2017) ****

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

beautyandthebeast.jpgDirector: Bill Condon
Writers: Stephen Chbosky (screenplay), Evan Spiliotopoulos (screenplay)
Stars: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline

Review by Gilbert Seah

Right after two blockbuster films LOGAN and KONG: SKULL ISLAND with lots of killings and dead bodies, comes the musical family fantasy animation/live action to sober audiences back to sugar sweetness.

Having no desire to see a musical live-action Disney re-make of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, the film proves to be a surprise where magic, music and romance can still charm the hell out of a hardened audience.

It is still the same story, based on the French fairy tale novel BELLE ET LA BETE by Barbot de Villeneuve, most would be familiar with A handsome selfish price is cursed by an enchantress to be a beast forever unless he is saved by falling in love (both ways) before the last petal of her rose falls.

Belle (Emma Watson) is the young woman who is taken prisoner by the Beast in his castle in exchange for the freedom of her father Maurice (Kevin Kline). Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and she learns to look beyond the Beast’s exterior to recognize the true heart and soul of the human Prince within. Meanwhile, a hunter named Gaston (Luke Evans) is on the loose to take Belle for himself and later intends to hunt down the Beast at any cost. He riles up the villagers (FRANKENSTEIN style) to invade the castle, burn it to the ground and slaughter the beast. Belle eventually falls in love with Beast and they waltz together in the grand ballroom to the famous Beauty and he Beast song. Romantics in the audience should have lots of Kleenex handy – especially when Beast utters the tear-jerking line to Belle: “You came back!”

Great pains have been taken to make the film look like a fairy tale. The French village of Villeneuve in the film looks something right out of a fairy tale story book. Belle even sings in the morning, just as Snow White sang to the birds in SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS. There is the icy cold winter surrounding the beast’s castle (like the snow and ice in FROZEN) and the talking tea-pot, cup, candlesticks and clock as in the original animated BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

Watson is perfect as Belle, the beauty but the film’s impressive cast includes stars Emma Thompson (she gets to sing a line of the famous song), Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen and Ewan McGregor.

Gay audiences should be pleased with the gay content in the openly gay director, Bill Condon’s (GODS AND MONSTERS, two TWILIGHT films) film. Josh Gad plays Gaston’s gay sidekick, LeFou (obvious to all except to Gaston) who sings and prances about to no end. During the fight at the Beast’s castle, one of the invaders is given a ‘pretty bad boy make-over’ and he is last seen dancing with LeFou in the grand closing dance scene.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is more a musical than LA LA LAND with most of the songs being memorable and catchy. See it! You will not be disappointed!

Interesting fact: the animated version cost $25 million while this live-action cost $160 million to make.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvW_L8sTu5E

 

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Film Review: CHOKESLAM (Canada 2017)

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

chokeslamDirector: Robert Cuffley
Writers: Robert Cuffley, Jason Long
Stars: Chris Marquette, Amanda Crew, Michael Eklund

Review by Gilbert Seah

With the film’s tagline “Love is hard to pin down”, it is not hard to guess that CHOKESLAM is a romantic comedy about wrestling.

CHOKESLAM is a story about bruising ones knuckles on the barriers of love and the perils of dating a wrestler with a bad temper. The wrestler in question is Sheena DeWilde (Amanda Crew, SILICON VALLEY). But the film’s protagonist is a nerdy 28-year old Corey Swanson (Chris Marquette JOAN OF ARCADIA), a mild-mannered deli clerk who slices cold cuts for a living, whose first love is Sheena. Sheena has just flown into town for their high school reunion. Corey learns of the reunion from an unfunny, clumsily staged hold-up by a classmate he recognizes. He attends, convinced that seeing Sheena one more time will finally give him closure on that better-forgotten chapter of his life.

The script does nothing to make Corey, the romantic underdog likeable. The only time the audience gets a surprise is when he sneaks an unexpected kiss to Sheena. Otherwise, he could be a dirty old guy stalking a pretty innocent lady. Corey is annoying to no end.
What makes a good comedy is timing, a good script with potential hilarious set-ups. The script is only mildly funny and all the comedy seems to fall flat mainly to poor timing Cuffley attempts dead-pan but often switches to sit-com style comedy as a last resort. One example can be seen in the hospital segment where Corey looks blankly at the ceiling with his neck brace just before mother comes in and says silly unfunny remarks like how her son never gets sick.

If one expects to see some professional wrestling, be prepared to be disappointed. There is one scene where two wrestlers go at it while Corey and Sheena look on from the side. But the action is intercut with the conversation (and an uninteresting one at that) so no one really bothers with either. Other wrestling scenes are mainly ho-hum. Three-time WWF champion Mick Foley has a supporting role in the film, playing Patrick – so WWF fans might be thrilled.

CHOKESLAM is an indie Canadian film and I would normally give a Canadian film a chance, especially it being an indie as well. But it is hard to root for a Canadian film that pretends to be American (as seen in the American money dished out from the cash register in the robbery scene). And also harder to root if the film is this bad and uninteresting. So, does Corey get the girl in the end? Well, that is what the film is all about!

CHOKESLAM is part of the Canadian Indie Film Series. The film has managed to snag preview screenings across Canada March 15th while opening widely across Canada on April the 7th. As the director is Canadian from Calgary, the film was chosen as the Closing Film of the Calgary International Film Festival.

The only ones ending chokeslammed are the audience. A good comedy should not be that difficult to pin down!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23ScWYpjDe4

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Film Review: WILSON (USA 2016) ***

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

wilson.jpgDirector: Craig Johnson
Writers: Daniel Clowes (graphic novel), Daniel Clowes (screenplay)
Stars: Woody Harrelson, Sandy Oian, Shaun Brown

Review by Gilbert Seah

Woody Harrelson had a supporting role of a neurotic teacher who did not care a f*** in the indie film EDGE OF SEVENTEEN last year. It is as if he expanded that character fully and incorporated the character as WILSON, a film in which the lead character is a lonely, neurotic and funny man who has almost given up on life. When the film opens, he quips that at present all his dreams when he was a kid (like wanting to grow up an astronaut, doctor) are all mired down in disappointment. Wilson (Harrelson) is separated from his estranged wife, Pippi (Laura Dern) but still loves her.

Wilson is likely the saddest protagonist seen in a film this year. Wilson does have a super cute terrier, that he walks daily. Every one would stop to pat this cute thing. Wilson would do a fake dog voice when this happens, creeping the patter out Wilson is also the type who should sit next to a stranger when there are lots of empty seats around i a bus or coffee shop just to strike up a conversation The film uses these segments both for comedy as well as to introduce the character of Wilson to the audience.

As WILSON is a film about losers based on a graphic mover by Daniel Clowes, who also wrote the screenplay, its humour is a bit weird and obviously not for everybody – though I cannot complain as it is very funny.

Alexander Payne (ELECTION, SIDEWAYS, THE DESCENDANTS) was originally hired to direct (he serves as one of the `film’s producers) but Craig Johnson (THE SKELETON TWINS) took over, doing a fine job. The best thing about the film is its unpredictability, just like life itself. Wilson never expected himself to be thrown in jail. While confronting his daughter to give her s*** for testifying against him, he is given good news about being a grandfather. The jail term served by Wilson also surprisingly does him good, forcing him to be social in the prison society. It is believable that such a turn in character can occur.

WILSON is the role that Harrelson was born to play – annoying, eccentric, smart-talking while occasionally being smart. But he would not likely receive an Oscar nomination for such a small film. Laura Dern, an often under-rated actress does a marvellous job as the ex-wife, who keeps her dignity amidst losing her daughter and family. Acting honours also goes to the cute terrier.

In a nut shell, WILSON is a film about a sad middle-aged man called Wilson who through sheer termination finally comes of age in the goring up process. A small little small budget film, WILSON is charming and an entertaining enough film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48cCcaxIi_E&vl=en

 

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Film Review: T2 TRAINSPOTTING (UK 2017) ****

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

T2.jpgDirector: Danny Boyle
Writers: John Hodge, Irvine Welsh (novels)
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Kelly McDonald

Review by Gilbert Seah

T2 TRAINSPOTTING, the 20-years after sequel to TRAINSPOTTING, is so-called after the filmmakers got the rights to use T2 (hasta la vista baby to T2 standing for TERMINATOR 2) arrives with all the characters as well as the actors and director/writer after ageing a full 20 years. Hopefully, the elapsed 20 years have made each person smarter. Judging from the movie, they certainly have.

The original can be remembered (even after 20 years) for its catchy beginning sequence when Renton runs at full speed on the street only to stop with the camera right in front of him. A reverse of that effect is achieved brilliantly at the start of T2. Renton (Ewan McGregor) is now running on a treadmill at full speed, trips and falls flat on the gym floor. The camera is neither stationary nor the character but ends with both in motion before the final shot.

Boyle is directing in top form with all the energy and innovation as his first films. I have been a Boyle fan for his early films like SHALLOW GRAVE, TRAINSPOTTING and 28 DAYS LATER and not too keen on his later ones like his over talky STEVE JOBS (there is an extended talky sequence in T2 when Renton rants about ‘choosing life’), SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and not especially with his 2012 summer Olympics opening ceremonies.

Though it is not necessary to have seen or be familiar with the original, it is recommended to view the fist film in order to appreciate T2. All the four characters have gone on in life, though their personalities have remained intact. Renton leaves Amsterdam to return to Edinburgh. He meets up with Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) who still blames him for ripping him of with money from the first film. Begbie (Robert Carlyle) has broken out of prison while Spud (Ewen Bremmer) is still hooked on candy. The villain of the piece is Begbie, who is as violent as ever, seeking to kill Renton for stealing his money.
All the actors are nothing short of perfect in their roles including Kelly Macdonald as Sick’s Boy’s girlfriend, Diane.

The film is much an action film as a character driven piece. The action sequences are well executed (the car chase/escape where Renton jumps on the roof of a car; the fight in the dilapidated building; the club scene) as well as the dramatic confrontations. Audiences should expect and be warned of the excessive violence, swearing and drug use in the film.

Boyle also dazzles the audience with his fancy camerawork at the start and also in the unforgettable sequence when the camera pulls back from Renton’s room into a abysmal corridor.

But T2 delivers – as each actor, director and writer demonstrates. The film is impressive in all departments but most of all, it brings closure to what Boyle celebrated – the use of heroin. This mature film displays the characters now mature and grown up with the drugs perspective put well in place, artistically and less graphically.

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

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CANADIAN SCREEN AWARDS 2017

by Gilbert Seah

The Canadian Screen Awards, presented by the Canadian Academy of Film and Television.was held on Sunday March 12th at the Sony Centre in Toronto and hosted by Howie Mandel.

What is it? Canadian Screen Awards host Howie Mandel spends the first 5 minutes explaining what it is, before nicknaming it a STD ( as it is viral, being a cross between big screen, TV and digital). Going around the audience after his montage, cracking jokes and insulting selected people, Mandel shows how good and at-ease he is at being the host of such an important event. Mandel shows himself to be extremely articulate and alert. This is not the Oscars or Golden Globes but this is our Canadian own.

The first and funniest acceptance speech was given by Catherine O’Hara or Best Actress in Schitt’s Creek. This one has to be seen (and heard) to be believed.

But the BEST speech was undoubtedly given by Christopher Plummer for his Lifetime Achievement Award. “Never be ashamed of making a fool of yourself”, are unforgettable words of his.

More crass and edgy than any other awards show so far this year, it is arguably the funniest, despite the fact that no one has seen the majority of the nominees.

Among whom the Canadian Screen Awards went to:
(never mind you probably have not seen or even heard of the films)

Best Actress in a Film:
Tatiana Maslany (The Other Half)

Best Actress in a TV Drama:
Tatiana Maslany (yes, again for Orphan Black)

Best Original Screenplay:
Daniel MacIvor (Weirdos, a gay coming-of-age movie)

Bes Actress in a TV comedy:
Catherine O’Hara (Schitt’s Creek)

Best Actor in a TV comedy:
Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (Kim’s Convenience)

Best Documentary Program:
Guantanamo’s Child

Lifetime Achievement Award (presented by Director Atom Egoyan):
Christopher Plummer (representing the BEST in stage and screen Canada has to offer.)
Best Actor in a Film:
Stephan James (Race)

Best Drama Series: if you have heard or seen any of them besides ORPHAN BLACK)
Orphan Black (obviously) – with a nice little speech about diversity.

Best Director:
Xavier Dolan (It’s Only the End of the World )

Best Film:
It’s Only the End of the World

Best Comedy Series;
Kim’s Convenience (because Schitt’s Creek won last year)