Film Review: THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING (USA 2018)

This Changes Everything Poster
Trailer

An investigative look and analysis of gender disparity in Hollywood, featuring accounts from well-known actors, executives and artists in the Industry.

Director:

Tom Donahue

Nobody likes a complainer nag on and on on an issue – the person being a man or a woman.  The same can be said about the film THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING that at first goes on and on at how women are mis-represented and how they have been ignored, less abused, with the film industry targeted.  Fortunately, the film switches in the last 30 minutes to show how changes have been implemented.  The film turns encouraging and crowd pleasing (to both genders).

But what is most strikingly visible is the fact that this doc that complains about the minority of women in the directing field has enlisted a male to direct what basically is a woman’s film.  The fact goes against not only what the film stands for but against total logic.

The doc neglects to consider other fields with women in the employ to get a better perspective of the situation of women in industry.  The doc also fails to note the advances of the progress that has been made.  It does mention that Kathryn Bigelow is finally the first female to win the director’s Academy Award for THE HURT LOCKER in over a century but instead of losing at it as progress, bitches about it  The doc could do very well to tout the fact that women also excel in certain areas and that theses days the ratio of female themed or made film to their male counterparts has steadily been increasing.  A good example of similar themed female vs. males films are BOOKSMART and GOOD BOYS.  BOOKSMART about two female high school girls was funnier, raunchier with superior comedic set-pieces and cinematography than the male teen Seth Rogen collaboration GOOD BOYS.

One wonders what the purpose of the doc is.  The under-representation of women in the film industry is already a known fact, but whatever seems to be done appears insufficient.  Aside of the fact that the director of this doc is male, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING would be considered a good film if it does a few things.  Firstly, it must convince the audience that the under-representation of women in the film industry exists and is a danger if not corrected.  The doc must also anger audiences to act towards the change.

The ‘This’ in the film title is accomplished by actress Geena Davis (THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST, THELMA AND LOUISE).  She founded the Geena Davis Institute and commissioned a two-year study, he first of tis kind on the subject.  Davis used to address the issue on film meetings, when told that the problem is known and something has already been done about it.  The important study shows otherwise. “Females are not properly represented in kids’ films”  was one of the findings.  An example is Disney’s FINDING NEMO when all the fish voices were done by men.  And in her won words which is 100% true in all case of prejudice, If the bias is unconscious, it is therefore present and the most harmful.

Understandably, the film’s climax takes in hot issue of the Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment case.  The case is the perfect example of Hollywood gone wrong now being in correction mode.

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING ends up an insightful look at the injustice done to women in the film industry particularly by the major film studios, with Disney and Paramount Pictures singled out.  Yes, there has been progress (take for example last week’s new film releases: Out of 6, one of which is neutral – a doc on the environment, three were female based) but still much work needs to be done.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=dPGwJmSMoPs

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Film Review: WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE (USA 2019)

Where'd You Go, Bernadette Poster
Trailer

 

A loving mom becomes compelled to reconnect with her creative passions after years of sacrificing herself for her family. Her leap of faith takes her on an epic adventure that jump-starts her life and leads to her triumphant rediscovery.

Writers:

Richard Linklater (screenplay by), Holly Gent (screenplay by) | 2 more credits »

The answer to the question of the film title: WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? is Antarctica.  Bernadette (Oscar Winner Cate Blanchett) is seen at the film’s start kayaking along in waters with icebergs in the background.  What led to this scene?  The film flashes back the story 5 weeks earlier to explain the series events leading to this.

WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is a mystery comedy drama that has two things going for it.  First is the film’s director Richard Linklater (BOYHOOD) who has made quite the name for himself as a filmmaker to be reckoned with.  Second is its star Cate Blanchett who is the main reason to see the movie.  Blanchett is nothing short of excellent, supported by an equally apt Kirsten Wiig playing Audrey her woman-made enemy.

The film is based on the recent bestseller of the same name by Maria Semple – with a few changes.  The novel could be described as unfilmmable as it consists of a series of emails and texts, so to Linklater’s credit, he has done an excellent job with his script.

The book is mostly narrated by Bee who is the daughter of Bernadette but the film makes Bernadette the main character.  Bernadette is an agropbobic architect  who after considerable success winning the prestigious architecture award in L.A. has moved with husband, Elgin (Billy Crudup) and daughter Bee (Emma Nelson) to Seattle where Bernadette never leaves the family home.  Elgin is an important designer at Microsoft.  All of Bernadette’s chores are done through her cell phone via Anjuli.  When Bee convinces both parents to go on an Antarctic cruise, Bernadette tries to come up with any excuse not to go – as she hates people and seldom leaves the house.   There is much more in the plot which should not be disclosed in the review.  But it s safe today that Bernadette runs into a big fight with her neighbour Audrey (Wiig).  When her husband suspects that his wife is having psychological problems, he and assistant, Soo-Lin (Zoe Chao) arrange a meeting to have her committed. This is the Bernadette escapes ending up in Antarctica.

In the book,  Soo-Lin is impregnated by Elgin, but this is not the case in the film.  Bernadette suspects he husband of liking Soo-Lin but that is it and there is no infidelity unless one can argue that it could be implied.  This simplifies the story which is already quite complicated with too many subplots.

The script is a little too heavy on the dialogue.  The voiceover, and dialogue from all the characters appear too perfect for the typical American, though one can argue that one character is an architect and the other a Microsoft genius.  The script sneaks in quite the few world issues like environmental conservation, climate change and feminine presence.  As in recent films such as Alfonso Cuaron’s ROMA and the recent THE KITCHEN where it is said: “we women have to stick together.”, the statement is realized in the segment when the enemy Audrey bonds and ends up aiding Bernadette when her husband plans to commit her.  A woman is also in charge of the Antarctic Station.

Stay for the ending credits where the design of the Antarctic station comes alive in front of he audience’s eyes.

WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE ends up an over-bloated dysfunctional family drama that is ultimately resolved in a somewhat entertaining film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em1onUCArxs

Film Review: Mowgli (USA/UK 2018)***

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle Poster
Trailer

A human child raised by wolves must face off against a menacing tiger named Shere Khan, as well as his own origins.

Director:

Andy Serkis

Writers:

Callie Kloves (screenplay by), Rudyard Kipling (based on the stories of)

MOWGLI is a curiosity piece, a non-Walt Disney’s THE JUNGLE BOOK.  Made by Warner Bros and and slotted for release in 2016 the same time as Disney’s live action THE JUNGLE BOOK, with both films based on the Rudyard Kipling stories, MOWGLI was delayed two years and in the meantime got bought over by Netflix.  After an initial November release in the theatres, MOWGLI can presently be seen on Netflix.  Needless to day, watching it on the big screen in 3-D is optimal, as expressed by director Serkis himself.  MOWGLI is a quality film like many of he new Netflix originals these days, the most notable being ROMA which is also playing and likely to be nominated for Best Foreign Film.

The story runs along the same lines as the animated Disney’s 60’s full length cartoon and its 2016 live action version.

MOWGLI begins with the appearance in the jungle of Kaa (Cate Blancette), an Indian python seer, watches as Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), a crippled Bengal tiger, breaks jungle law by hunting down a family of humans, with only the child escaping.  Bagheera (Christian Bale), drawn to the scene, rescues the man-cub, Mowgli (Rowan Chand), and takes him to a family of wolves being raised by Nisha (Naomi Harris) and Vihaan (Eddie Marsan), only for Tabaqui (Tom Haollander), Shere Khan’s hyena follower, to find the boy before he is chased off.  They take the infant Mowgli before the wolf council and Akela (Peter Mullan), the pack leader, to decide his fate, with Bagheera buying his life with a kill and Baloo strong-armed into agreeing. Shere Khan arrives to kill Mowgli, but Akela stops him, saying the boy is now a member of the pack and forces Shere Khan to leave, but not before the tiger vows to return.

The story goes on with Mowgli discovering his own kind (the man village).  The climax is the fight between MOWGLI and There Khan.  Kaa intervenes to save Mowgl near the end.

Serkis’ versions the most serious of all the JUNGLE BOOK film, undoubtedly.  There are scenes where carcasses are eaten.  The animals like the slimy python, Kaa look incredibly real and therefore scary – perhaps too scary for children under the age of 10.  A few sentimental hogwash segments like Nisha telling Mowgli that he belongs, no matter what others say, could have been dispensed with.  The film is also too playful for adults.  One wonders the target audience of the filmmakers.

The time gap between Disney’s THE JUNGLE BOOK and MOWGLI helps.  For one, many would have forgotten the main story- and if not at least a few key plot points.  

Netlflix buying the film from Warner Bros. is likely a good thing as this gives the film a different distribution, be in cables subscribers.  The chance of losing money on this one is less as well.  The cost of production is not listed but it must be up there in the millions, as the film’s special effects are exceptional.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FB1KTG-O1V0

Film Review: OCEAN’S 8 (USA 2018) ***1/2

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TV Program

Debbie Ocean gathers an all-female crew to attempt an impossible heist at New York City’s yearly Met Gala.

Director:

Gary Ross

Writers:

Gary Ross (screenplay by), Olivia Milch (screenplay by) | 3 more credits »

 

OCEAN’S 8 (original title OCEAN’S EIGHT) has almost nothing in common with the other OCEAN movies.  There is no casino, no rat pack and no Steven Soderbergh directing, though Soderbergh has producer credit.  Matt Damon of the OCEAN films makes a quiet cameo while the atmosphere of the crime caper is kept intact.  As most are aware of by now, OCEAN’S EIGHT is a female spin-off of the rat pack OCEAN films.  The female rat pack rob the prize jewels during the annual Mets benefit gala dinner.

The film opens with Debbie Ocean (Oscar Winner Sandra Bullock) released from jail when she promises to live the simple life.  Yea, right.  She has no intention whatsoever to alter her life of crime.   Inspired by her brother, Danny Ocean, Debbie attempts to pull off the heist of the century at New York City’s star-studded annual Met Gala.  Her first step is to assemble the perfect crew (which the film introduces one by one): Amita (Mindy Kaling), an Indian jewel expert, Tammy, (Sarah Paulson), a now housewife, previously Debbie’ crime partner, best friend, Lou (Oscar Winner Cate Blanchett), Asian thief, Constance (Awkwafina), Tech savvy genius, Nine Ball, (Rihanna) and Rose (Helena Bonham Carter).   Bell will wardrobe mega-star Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) who will be wearing $150 million worth Cartier necklace that they will steal together with other assorted jewellery at the Met Museum.   More fun is entered into the proceedings with insurance investigator, John Frazier (late night show host James Corden) behaving like an efficient but sarcastic Sherlock Holmes.

The actors appear to be having a really good time particularly Carter,  Hathaway and Corden and their enthusiasm rubs off well on the audience.

In these times of female equality, it is good to see a solid well-made female crime caper.  What is immediately notable is that there are no fights, firepower, pyrotechnics or car chases. It is a tough task to keep audience attention from waning and suspense sustained.  The script co-written by Olivia Milch and Ross (director of SEABISCUIT, PLEASANTVILLE, THE HUNGER GAMES and writer of BRUBAKER, BIG) and direction by Ross achieve the rare feat.  The film runs over two hours and the only time I glanced at my watch was tat the 2-hour mark.

Those who are in the know of the haute couture industry (sorry – you are not, if you do not know who Anna Wintour or André Leon Talley are) will enjoy this film more for the appearances of cameos, the familiarity of fashion events and a few fashion inside jokes.  The filmmakers have assembled a stunning cast of cameos, like Matt Damon, Carl Reiner and Elliot Gould as well as a whole lot playing themselves such as  Anna Wintour, Zayn Malik, Katie Holmes, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian, Adriana Lima, Kylie Jenner, Alexander Wang, Kendall Jenner, Olivia Munn, Zac Posen, Hailey Baldwin, Derek Blasberg and `Lauren Santo Domingo.

Don’t expect any life lessons or messages as the film does the reverse, promoting theft and embezzlement as well as promoting the satisfaction from exacting a revenge. But the film, provides classy, sophisticated entertainment in place silly fodder like BLOCKERS, LIFE OF THE PARTY and I FEEL PRETTY that have fart and shit (though there are puke) jokes.

Female version of Hollywood blockbusters have done critically like the recent female GHOSTBUSTERS.  OCEAN’S 8 cost a hefty $70 million.  The former film was the most successful comedy at the box-office of that year but only made a tiny profit due to its huge cost.  OCEAN’S 8 might be in the same boat.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFWF9dU5Zc0

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Film Review: THOR: RAGNAROK (USA 2017) ***

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Thor: Ragnarok Poster
Trailer

Imprisoned, the mighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk, his former ally. Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.

Director:

Taika Waititi

The third THOR film, the sequel to THOR:THE DARK WORLD and the seventeenth (not that anyone can really keep count) film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the massive $180 million production arrives with all the extravaganza expected.  With a host of top Hollywood and British stars, lots of characters and action super heroes and tons of special and visual effects, THOR: RAGNAROK should please fans of the MCU but for the more serious cineaste, it is quite the chore to watch.

To recap who this Thor (Chris Hemsworth) person is…  Thor is the crown prince of Asgard based on the Norse mythological deity of the same name, who has become a “lone gunslinger” while solving universe-ending perils in his search to learn more about the Infinity Stones.

The filmmakers have decided to make a few changes to the THOR universe.  Immediately recognizable is Thor’s new look which includes his shorter hair and new outfit.  He is more vulnerable in the third film with him plunged to the ground many times including the loss of his hammer.  His enemy and half-brother Loki is now his aide and friend as also seen in the last scene when they ponder on how Earth will accept both of them when they arrive.

When the film opens, it is two years after the Battle of Sokovia,  Thor’s quest for information about the Infinity Stones leads him to the fire demon Surtur, from whom he learns that his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been impersonating their father Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) since the Dark Elf conflict.  Surtur taunts Thor with knowledge of the coming Ragnarok, the foretold end of Asgard that Surtur will bring about when he unites his crown with the Eternal Flame that burns beneath the city, but Thor defeats Surtur and claims his crown, seemingly forestalling the prophecy.  And this is just 5 minutes into the film.  Thor then returns to Asgard and exposes Loki’s treachery, before travelling with him to Earth to recover Odin.  The story goes on and on with Thor’s eventually battle with his sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) and his saving of his people.  What is good about the script by Eric Pearson and the writing team of Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost is that it can be complicated that one can have a fine time dissecting the story, or one can totally ignore it and still enjoy the grandiose battles in the film.  Pearson ties into the picture a multiple of other action heroes that include the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Skurge (Karl Urban), Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Heimdall (Idris Elba) among others. 

A fair share of the budget must have gone into the CGI and special effects.  It shows!  The film looks amazing and is visually stunning.  The music is by Mark Mothersbaugh and the soundtrack is not too loud to give anyone a headache.

The film is predicted to  take in $100 million plus the opening weekend and to eventually gross domestically a goal of $250 million bringing Disney and Marvel a hefty profit.  So that it is a big win against the serious cineaste who basically can be told to take a hike.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?>

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Film Review: MANIFESTO (Australia/Germany 2016) ***

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manifesto.jpgCate Blanchett performs manifestos as a series of striking monologues.

Director: Julian Rosefeldt
Writer: Julian Rosefeldt
Stars: Cate Blanchett, Erika Bauer, Ruby Bustamante

Review by Gilbert Seah
 

 It is best to know the definition of the term MANIFESTO before seeing this movie. According to Wikipedia, a manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes the author believes should be made. It often is political or artistic in nature, but may present an individual’s life stance.

Manifestos relating to religious belief are generally referred to as creeds.
The film integrates various types of artist manifestos from different time periods with contemporary scenarios. Manifestos are depicted by 13 different characters, among them a school teacher, factory worker, choreographer, punk, newsreader, scientist, puppeteer, widow, and a homeless man. All the characters are performed by 2-time Oscar Winner Cate Blanchett, as was envisioned to be performed by a female performer by German writer/director Julian Rosefeldt.

Visual artist Julian Rosefeldt crafts 13 distinct, vignettes that incorporate timeless manifestos from 20th century art movements weaving together history’s most impassioned artistic statements in this stunning and contemporary call to action.

From the press notes: “Art history is a derivation of history and we learn from history,” says Rosefeldt. “And in a time where neo-nationalist, racist and populist tendencies in politics and media threaten again democracies all over the world and challenge us to defend our allegedly achieved values of tolerance and respect, Manifesto becomes a clarion call for action.

There are a few scenes that though watchable, are difficult to make sense of. One best example is the one occurring right in the middle of the film where Blanchett plays a Russian diva choreographer. The segment begins with the tracking camera revealing several unconnected images including one with a man in a bear costume sitting on a bench with the head off. The camera then moves backstage and finally rests on the choreographer and assistant as she blurts out manifesto prose (while smoking a cigarette on a long cigarette holder, often flicking her ashes on her assistant’s clip board). The troupe she is choreographing perform magnificently, but she keeps screaming, in her Russian accent, words that often mean nothing in context.

Watching MANIFESTO is an art experience unless you enjoy sitting for days watching Cate Blanchett. Is this an intellectual experience? Maybe, if you have the patience to decipher what is happening on screen. But the film has been very well put together in all departments from sound to set design to writing and execution.

One has to pay careful attention and follow the logic and flow of the dialogue. Often too, after concentrating for a few minutes, listening to the poetry of words, the dialogue mean nothing – like the quips on dreams, children and worry. This is that rare film that one has to work to earn the pleasure, but it will be one definitely unforgotten.

Though made in 2015, the film originally premiered as a 13-channel film installation at the Australian Centre of the Moving Image. The 90-minute feature version premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bk1HosLWM0o

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TIFF 2016 Movie Review: VOYAGE OF TIME: LIFE’S JOURNEY (Germany 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.

voyage_of_time_lifes_journey_poster VOYAGE OF TIME: LIFE’S JOURNEY (Germany 2016) **
Directed by Terence Malick

Starring: Cate Blanchett

Review by Gilbert Seah

From the director of THE TREE OF LIFE, this film has Malick at his most personal, which might not be a film for everyone.

Many segments will only make sense to Malick. The film is reported to be a years-in-the-making ode to the wonder of creation. The wildly ambitious Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, according to Malick, leads the audience on a temporal trip through the history of the universe.

The film begins with light and darkness and explosions interpreted to be the birth of stars and the evolution of life on Earth. The film is then set in the inky depths of the oceans, where incandescent creatures float in the darkness.

The poetic narration written by Malick is voiced by Cate Blanchett. But not all the segments are original.

Some like the funnel of thousands of small fish devoured by other bigger fish and diving birds have been shown on Disnyeworld films. Also warning: the soundtrack is crisp clear. Anyone eating popcorn can be heard. I had to tell the person behind me to stop eating!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVyWObJY9FQ

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