Film Review: THE ADDAMS FAMILY ( USA 2019)

The Addams Family Poster
An animated version of Charles Addams’ series of cartoons about a peculiar, ghoulish family.

Writers:

Matt Lieberman (screenplay by), Charles Addams (based on characters created by) | 3 more credits »

This 3D computer animated film began in 2010 as a Tim Burton stop motion animation feature project.  After several revisions, it was decided and finalized in 2017 to have directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan direct a new film with a revised screenplay.  As everyone already knows, this is not the first adaptation of the ADDAMS FAMILY since the beloved TV series.  At present, I cannot remember all the previous film adaptations, they being released quite some time back.

The best of the ADDAMS FAMILY’s is as most people will agree, the TV series with John Astin as Gomez and Carolyn Jones as Morticia.   This latest version clearly attempt to re-create the atmosphere and feel of the TV series, which it succeeds, but only to a point.

The premise of the film is The Addams family’s move to New Jersey.  Their lives begin to unravel when they move to New Jersey and face-off against the 21st century and its greedy, arrogant and sly reality TV host Margaux Needler while also preparing for their extended family to arrive for a major celebration.

The film begins with the wedding of of Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Moritica (Charlze Theron).  Their celebration is interrupted by angry town folk who want to get rid of monsters from their town, a scene familiar to the classic FRANKENSTEIN story.  So there is the move to New Jersey –  never mind the explanation how come the two children Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) and Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) are suddenly grown up. 

The film springs to life once the catchy theme song of the TV Series ADDAMS FAMILY is heard on the soundtrack.  So much for beloved nostalgia.  Even the new songs Christina Aguilera released “Haunted Heart” and “My Family” sung by Migos, rapper Snoop Dogg and Colombian Reggaeton superstar Karol G cannot match that.

The film suffers from a weak narrative made worse by weak story-telling.  The ilm is punctuated or interrupted by un-connected humour.  The lack of a sufficiently menacing villain does not help either.  The TV host Needler and the mean girl at school Bethany do not really qualify as the usual destroy the whole planet-type villains.

In the TV series, a lot of the humour is derived by innocent ordinary humans stumbling across the Addams Family and being shocked by their strangeness.  These were funny and worked well.  In this film, it is the other way around here the human beings are the monsters that taunt the otherwise innocent Addams Family.

The humour of the film will escape the little ones in the audience as there are quite a few dialogue jokes.  The monsters should be harmless enough not to scare the children.

When the film ends with the full lyrics of the TV series song sung out, as if forming the film’s climax, one feels certain that the filmmakers have run out of ideas.  THE ADDAMS FAMILY is harmless fun but it could have been more fun.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7Ug863S8dQ

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

Greta Poster
Trailer

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 (the film’s original title was THE 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).  The scene in the subway station in Manhattan was shot at Bay Station, Toronto.  It is ironical that the Transit’s Lost and Found in Toronto is located at this Bay Station.  Frances recently lost her mother and feels alienated by her father (Colm Meaney); Greta has lost her husband, and her daughter lives far away.   The two become fast friends much to the consternation of her best friend Erika (Maika Monroe).  Erika turns out to be a bigger part in the story than envisioned.

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.

Still all things given, having seen the film twice, there are many pleasures derived from GRETA.  One are the excellent performances by the two leads, Huppert and Moretz.  Huppert is sufficiently creepy and nasty, a character the audience would love to hate, contrasting the innocent character of Frances who is so naive as to return a handbag with the cash intact.

Another pleasure is the campy dialogue, obviously written to bring the audience up to the type of talk of the present.  When Frances tells Erika of returning the wad of money found in the handbag, Erika remarks on use of the money  “Spa or colonic?”  Erika continues that a friend who had colonic can now recite the alphabet backwards.  When Frances later declines an outing invite from Erika, Erika’s retort is: “Am I snorting meth or you are telling me you are going dog shopping with the old lady?.”   And another instance, Erika warns Frances: “The crazier they are, the more clinging they are.”  The use of the chewing gum metaphor is also funny, “sticking around”.

As expected in a Jordan film, the film contains some very nasty (though camp) sequences.  One is when Frances uses the cookie cutter to slice off Greta’s finger.  Huppert is so good in her role as the menacing predator, that any audience member would also gladly slice off her finger.  The camera quickly focuses on the blood spurting vertically out from the severed finger – a deliciously camp moment.

The film is largely shot in Toronto around the Bay Subway Station area.  Those who live downtown  will immediately recognize the familiar streets and buildings.

Though one can tell was will happen in this predictable horror fare, GRETA is still guilty pleasure due largely to Jordan’s flare for the weird.

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

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

Film Review: THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST (USA 2018) ****

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The Miseducation of Cameron Post Poster
Trailer

In 1993, a teenage girl is forced into a gay conversion therapy center by her conservative guardians.

Director:

Desiree Akhavan

Writers:

Desiree Akhavan (screenplay), Cecilia Frugiuele (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

 

Young adults forming alliances and fighting formidable foes of evil in an alien environment.  It is all part of survival and retaining ones identity while saving the world.  This might be the description of the young adult films like DIVERGENT, THE HUNGER GAMES or the recent THE DARKEST MINDS but also for a very real and disturbing film entitled THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST.  The quiet Cameron Post has only her self appreciation and wits as weapons against the forces of evil, which here is in the form of misguided Christianity.

Abuse can take many forms, but not as bad as those suffered by the young orphan girl Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz).  Caught during her prom night making out with another girl (the prom queen) in the back seat of a car by her date,  Cameron Post is sent to be ‘cured’ at a gay conversion therapy camp.  In one scene she is seen hiding under a table sneaking a telephone call home, crying her eyes out because she cannot take the abuse any longer.

Abuse is the worst when it is psychological.  “Isn’t teaching a person to hate herself for being gay self abuse?”  asks Cameron at one point in the film.

Co-written by Cecilia Frugiuele and directed by Desiree Akhavan, adapted from Emily Danforth’s acclaimed 2012 YA novel, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is the survival story of this young, spirited, orphaned, small-town Pennsylvanian, forcefully sent the equivalent of a prison camp with no privileges.  The setting is 1993, just after AID’s had taken the world by storm and just before gay rights, same-sex marriage and gay acceptance were the norm.  It is indeed sad to be gay during this period. 

The film has two standout performances by two young actresses Moretz and Sasha Lane (as Jane Fonda).  Why that character is called Jane Fonda is humorously explained in the film.  Lane is immediately recognizable from her last role in Andrea Arnold’s 2016 film AMERICAN HONEY where she earned the title role as a spirited teen.  Of course, she plays another here, but one is is of such independent spirit that she survives the brainwash and helps Cameron stay glued to her sexual orientation.  But it is Moretz from SUPERBAD who steals the show as the vulnerable Cameron who finally sees the way.  She delivers a controlled yet powerful performance, often crying intend of yelling, planning instead of physical retaliation.

Director Akhavan moves her film at a leisurely yet gripping pace.  She understands the power of the story and the gravity of Cameron’s desperation.  She lets her story unfold with all its intensity without resorting to cheap theatrics or dramatic set-pieces except for the one displaying a suicidal’s troubled outburst.  This allows the audience to think and feel for the film’s characters.

The villains at the Christian camp are Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and her visibly oppressed, “ex-gay” brother Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.).  The two of them are smiling all the time making them really creepy.  Dr. Marsh runs the camp with a Nurse Ratchet-like efficiency.

THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST, a hit when premiered at Sundance ends up a powerful told tale of the triumph of the individual spirit over evil.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEdngvMGjg0

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Movie Review: Neighbours 2 (USA 2016) ***1/2

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bad_neighboursNEIGHBOURS 2: SORORITY RISING (USA 2016) ***1/2
Directed by Nicholas Stoller

Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Clara Mamet, Selena Gomez

Review by Gilbert Seah

NEIGHBOURS the Seth Rogen comedy with Zac Efron as a frat neighbour was one of the best comedies of 2014. It featured the funniest sequence in a comedy that year – the Robert De Niro segment in which Efron, Dave Franco and gang all dress up as De Niro to taunt Rogen and wife for calling the cops the night before to lodge a complaint about their party.

NEIGHBOURS 2 has tough shoes to fill. But thanks to good writing from a script credited to 5 writers, the sequel makes it. Jokes like the air bags and the Dean Carol Gladstone character (Lisa Kudrow) from the first film are brought back into the sequel. If a few jokes do not work, one can be sure another couple will in a few minutes. With hardly any time for the audience to take a breather, NEIGHBOURS 2 comes across as intense as the dressed up clown that shows up at a tailgate party, a segment that is almost as funny as the De Niro sequence.

The success of this film lies a great deal on the comedic potential of both Efron and Chloe Grace Moretz. Efron plays the older frat member, now graduated and unable to find a decent job and living space while Moretz plays his younger female version looking to party all the time. Teddy Sanders (Efron) helps her at first in renting her sorority house that just happens to be next to the house that Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) is selling. But Teddy switches to Mac’s side to help him evict the sisters sorority. It is a fairly simple plot but with plenty of comedy potential, with the setups well staged. Efron has proven his mettle in comedy as in the first NEIGHBOURS and the recent DIRTY GRANDPA. Efron can even be funny in moments demanding the audience to show sympathy for his character. Teddy, for example, shows genuine puzzlement on why eggs get hard whereas pasta gets soft when dunked in boiling water, Moretz, however, has the straighter role. Her character serves to anchor the story. Her sorority sisters, Beth (Dope’s Kiersey Clemons), and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) and other sorority members are left with the task of providing the laughter.

NEIGHBOURS 2 also lifts comedy to a level of political correctness. The gay jokes are largely positive, with Teddy’s best friend, Pete (Franco) coming out and getting married to his new husband. On the female side, the sisterly bond fosters positive feminism while male chauvinism (such as in the depiction of girls as whores in colleges) is frowned upon. There is also a comedic discussion on the difference between a male teen vs. a female teen losing his or her virginity.

While NEIGHBOURS 2 is funny enough, its desperation to top the original is obvious. The film grabs at any opportunity for a joke, even to have didoes dressed as princesses to get a laugh. The result is the film looking a bit ‘all over the place’ compared to the more focused original despite the almost equal high to hit miss laughter ratio.

 

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Movie Review: THE 5TH WAVE (2016)

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the_5th_wave.jpgTHE 5TH WAVE (USA 2016) **
Directed by J. Blakeson

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Matthew Zuk, Gabriela Lopez

Review by Gilbert Seah

THE 5TH WAVE is based on the young adult novel of the same name by Rick Yancey, the first of a trilogy published in 2013. The book has been favourably compared to THE HUNGER GAMES and critics have hoped that the book and film should do for aliens what TWILIGHT did for vampires. Sony Pictures has picked up the film rights – surprising that Lionsgate missed the boat.

The waves refer to the increasingly deadly alien attacks that have left most of Earth devastated. The aliens are called ‘the others’. The 1st wave is the electromagnetic wave that destroys all of earth’s power, The second is quakes and the third is a virus carried by birds that have wiped out most of humanity. The 4th involve aliens inhabiting humans and the 5th of the film title refer to the others’ final attack on humanity. All these sound quite interesting and so is the film until about a third through the film.

As the film begins, director Blakeson’s images and attention to details captivate. Detailed images of for example of litter on the ground, a cat, a family glaring up at the sky all raise expectations of a good solid sci-fi thriller. The special effects (though CGI generated) of tsunamis and the destruction of major cities like London are all impressive.

But when the 3rd wave arrives – the virus that destroys most of the earth’s population, the film begins to fall to bits, as if affected by the same virus. The film gets progressively sillier with twists that do not make sense at all. There are two main twists, that will not be revealed in the review, safe to say they should make solid logical sense. They do not!

The protagonist of the story is a heroine (like in TWILIGHT and THE HUNGER GAMES), a young Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz from KICK-ASS) who first loses her mother (Maggie Siff), followed by her dad (Ron Livingston). Her first priority in the story is thus to look after her younger brother, Sammy (Zachary Arthur) who turns out to be extremely spoilt and annoying. Sammy must keep his ugly teddy bear and has no sense to tell the bus driver to stop when his sister is chasing after the bus. (Or maybe it is the scriptwriter who has no sense.) The search leads her to meet the best looking hunk seen in a young adult film this year. Evan Walker (Alan Roe) aids her in searching for Sammy. This takes them to the facility led by Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber). The film’s most outrageous scene has Cassie catching the hunk swimming naked in the stream. Obviously, she falls for him. She distrusts him at first but then who can resist those dreamboat eyes?

But the film gets sillier and sillier. One scene has Evan suddenly appearing in the alien facility. “I have planted bombs!” he tells Cassie. Another has Cassie looking at the sky in broad daylight seeing stars. Yet amidst all the mayhem, Cassie manages to write her diary, which Evan reads. Fortunately there is no scene in the film showing Cassie writing a journal entry, and that would be even more laughable.

The 5TH WAVE works well at the start, gets terribly boring and then unintentionally hilarious. To that effect the film is not without its entertainment value.

To the filmmakers’ credit the production costs came below $40 million, which is a bargain for a sci-fi special effects film. The fact that unknown actors (except for Moretz) were hired helps. It would be interesting to see if Sony Pictures continues with the film adaptation of the other two novels.

 

Also, 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