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2019 TIFF Movie Review: LES MISERABLES (France 2019) ***** Top 10

Les Misérables Poster
Trailer

Television adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel, which follows Jean Valjean as he evades capture by the unyielding Inspector Javert. Set against a backdrop of post-Napoleonic France as unrest begins to grip the city of Paris once more.

A most arousing contemporary film set in today’s troubled world with a bonus message to boot.  What begins with the celebration of France’s World Cup eventually turns sour with the theft of a lion cub (that is the cutest and the real LION KING) from an East European circus by an African kid.  

Three Paris cops, a black, a white racist and a rookie attempt to calm the racial tensions in the Muslim neighbourhood where the thief resides.

  When the kid is flashed shot in the face, a riot on police brutality erupts.  Director Ly exhibits brilliant writing (he co-wrote the script) and excellent camera word while steering superlative performances from all his actors.  His totally gripping film will undoubtedly keep one on the edge of one seat right to be very end where surprises and twists in the plot abound. 

A truly remarkable feat in definitely my personal favourite film of the festival.  And wait for the Victor Hugo quote from LES MISERABLES at the film’s end to conclude the events.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5u-HKciyhM

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TIFF 2018 Movie Review: COLETTE (UK 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.

Colette Poster
Trailer

Colette is pushed by her husband to write novels under his name. Upon their success, she fights to make her talents known, challenging gender norms.

Writers:

Richard Glatzer (screenplay by), Wash Westmoreland (screenplay by) |2 more credits »

COLETTE tells the story of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley), celebrated French writer and gay icon, not the average early-20th-century woman.
  The film follows her rise to fame while her writing credit is stolen by her husband.  One cannot help but side with Colette against her obnoxious and cowardly husband, Willy (Dominic West) but the script makes him a too easy target to hate.  Knightley prances about as if she is the best actress o the planet playing Colette, even more so giving the impression that it is just such a huge thing when she bears her breast in a scene onstage.
  Giving the impression of being totally staged and manipulative, the film gets more monotonous during the second half when it could have become more exciting. 

 

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Film Review: TOMB RAIDER (USA/UK 2018)

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Tomb Raider Poster

Trailer

Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared.

Director:

Roar Uthaug

Writers:

Geneva Robertson-Dworet (screenplay by), Alastair Siddons (screenplay by) |2 more credits »

 

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Full Review: THE SQUARE (Sweden 2017) ***** Top 10

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The Square Poster

Trailer

The Square is a poignant satirical drama reflecting our times – about the sense of community, moral courage and the affluent person’s need for egocentricity in an increasingly uncertain world.

Director:

Ruben Östlund

Writer:

Ruben Östlund

 

What is THE SQUARE?  In director Östlund’s (FORCE MAJEURE) new film THE SQUARE, the square is a place of trust and caring where everyone shares equality and obligations.  It is also the name of the newest project of Museum Director Christian (Claes Bang) which he hopes will bring in money for the cutting edge art museum in Sweden he represents.  Christian hires two young TV publicists to spread the word on social media.

The film is made of a number of cinematic set-pieces.  If this method of filmmaking sounds familiar, it is used by Swedish director Roy Andersson (A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE, SONGS FROM THE SECOD FLOOR) who happens to be director Östlund’s mentor.  Though these set-pieces appear unconnected on the surface, they upon close examination all tie into the greater scheme of Östlund’s universe.

These set pieces include:

the film’s most brilliantly executed segment set during the museum charity dinner where a wild man (a very scary Terry Notary) is let loose among the guests.  If the guests show any sign of fear or make any sudden moves, the wild animal will turn on the hunter after sensing his/her fear.  This art act ends up going out of control.

the post sex scene in when Christian and Anne (Elizabeth Moss) argue on who will take hold of the filled condom for disposal

the poor kid that confronts Christian on his act of accusing him of being a thief

the museum display of separating visitors into two sections; one that trust and the other that mistrust people.  In the trust section, the guests are supposed to leave their cell phones and wallets behind.

a TV interview gone terribly and embarrassingly wrong

the confrontational scene between Christian and Anne when Anne accuses Christian of using his position of power to attract women, a segment that seems to serve as a prophecy to the current Weinstein sex scandal.

One observable thing is that what happens to Christian after his downfall from museum director.  He is still questioned to no end, and not allowed to at least go into disgrace in peace.  When he decides to seek forgiveness from the boy he wronged, it turns out that he is unable to do so as the boy and family has moved.

One of the film’s best jokes in the film is the scene of the exhibit with the mounds of gravel that goes terribly wrong when the cleaner on the vacuum machine accidentally sucks up the dirt. 

The film is also not without arresting images, courtesy of cinematographer Fredrik Wenzel.  The two most striking ones include the shot of Christian building with escalators and star is rising above him like a maze (see trailer in link below) and the other with Christian in a heap of garbage as he searches for the piece of paper containing an important telephone number.

As in most successful satires on film (Terry Giliam’s BRAZIL), the story follows the downfall of the protagonist.  In THE SQUARE, Christian almost gets his chance to prove himself worthy of being a good human being by apologizing to the boy he has wronged.  But Östlund removes this opportunity in a twist of fate when he discovers the boy has moved with nor forwarding address.

The film deservedly won this year’s Palme d’or Prize. The film is as wicked a wicked satire can be as well as sexy, brilliant, complex and bitingly hilarious.  It is a cruel, absurd and unforgiving world we live in and Östlund has captured it masterfully in his minor-masterpiece.  Clearly the best film I have seen this year – hands down.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u77vsmBya2w

 

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TIFF 2017 Movie Review: THE SQUARE (Norway 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.

THE SQUARE.jpgThe Square is a poignant satirical drama reflecting our times – about the sense of community, moral courage and the affluent person’s need for egocentricity in an increasingly uncertain world.

Director:

Ruben Östlund

Stars:

Claes BangElisabeth MossDominic West

In director Östlund’s (FORCE MAJEURE) film, the square is a place of trust and caring where everyone shares equality and obligations. It is also the name of the newest project of curator Christian (Claes Bang) which he hopes will bring in money for the cutting edge art museum in Sweden he represents.

Christian hires two young TV publicists to spread the word on social media. The film is made of a number of cinematic set-pieces. Though these set-pieces appear unconnected on the surface, they upon close examination all tie into the great scheme of Östlund’s universe.

The film is also not without arresting images, courtesy of cinematographer Fredrik Wenzel. The two most striking ones include the shot of Christian building with escalators and star is rising above him like a maze (see trailer in link below) and the other with Christian in a heap of garbage as he searches for the piece of paper containing an important address.

The film deservedly won this year’s Palme d’or Prize. The film is as wicked a wicked satire can be as well as sexy, brilliant, complex and bitingly hilarious. It is a cruel, absurd and unforgiving world we live in and Östlund has captured it masterfully in his minor-masterpiece. Clearly the best film I have seen this year – hands down.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u77vsmBya2w

Happy Birthday: Dominic West

dominicwest.jpgDominic West

Born: October 15, 1969 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, UK

Married to:
Catherine Fitzgerald (26 June 2010 – present) (4 children)

I went to America to get away from constantly being cast in costume dramas, playing posh people. It’s interesting that I’ve been cast as a working-class cop [The Wire (2002)] because I doubt that would happen at home. The films I most enjoy in England are by Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, but it’s very unlikely I would be cast in them; I’ve tried a few times, but I’m perceived as posh.

[on The Wire (2002)] The show provokes a kind of obsessive following. Those who love it kind of cherish the fact that it’s not quite as world-renowned as The Sopranos (1999). It’s like being in a secret club.

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Movie Review: MONEY MONSTER (USA 2016) ****

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

moneymonster.jpgMONEY MONSTER (USA 2016) ****
Directed by Jodie Foster

Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Caitriona Balfe, Giancarlo Esposito

Review by Gilbert Seah

MONEY MONSTER is a star-studded sharp Hollywood satire/drama that is as current as the stock prices on the stock market charts. Financial TV personality Lee Gates (George Clooney), who offers up stock advice on his hit show “Money Monster”, is held hostage by a viewer, Kyle Budwell (Jack O’ Connell). Kyle had lost all of his money, following a bad tip from Lee during his show. Kyle wants answers. As the police surround the TV studio, Lee eventually sympathizes and takes Kyle’s side in discovering the truth about the company’s $800 million loss explained on TV as a glitch in the company’s financial algorithm.

MONEY MONSTER is a odd film in that its middle portion is better than the end. The story is predictable enough once naive Kyle takes Lee hostage. It does not take a genius to figure out that Lee will take Kyle’s side and that the villain of the piece is the CEO of the company (Dominic West) who eventually confesses to his embezzlement. But as they say, the devil is in the details. It is all the little observations and various incidents that make the movie totally watchable thus covering up the predictability complaint of the story.

Directed by Jodie Foster (THE PANIC ROOM), the film contains strong feminine roles. The most obvious is Julia Robert’s Patty Fenn, a more than able producer. She is Lee’s neglected girlfriend who proves she that she is able to control the hostage situation as well as their relationship. The other is that of Molly (Emily Meade), Kyle’s girlfriend. Molly’s speech to Kyle, on the air, on how much a loser he is, is the arguably funniest to be found in a film this year: As in recent ‘female’ films, the males (Lee, Kyle, the show producer, Walt) are all egocentric ‘idiots’. But by putting them up high on the pedestal and making it all funny, Foster gets away with it.

Performances are top notch. Clooney and Roberts work their chemistry but top marks go to Brit actor Jack O’ Connell (STARRED UP) , playing the straight role of the victim/antagonist. He demonstrates how to keep attention from waning even when the limelight shifts to another character. The other supporting roles are well performed by Dominic West as the financial villain, Walt Camby and Caitriona Balfe as Diane Lester, the whistle blower.

The incidents leading to the expected results are however genuinely inventive. The parody on found footage is take up another level with a network camera following the hostage and kidnapper down the elevator and into the street, still shooting. Lee raps on stage and offers stock tips also satirizes the financial world well. The script by Alan Di Fiore, Jim Kouf and Jamie Linden is smart enough to include clips of “The View” as everyone watches the takedown on television. Walt’s defence statement that all these would not have happened if events had worked out with the stock going up instead of down rings so true. When something illegal occurs and everyone benefits, no one says anything.

For a thriller, editing is crucial. The camera shots of the snipers crawling into position, the movement of the target, the shots of the crew behind and in front of the camera and the dance routine (to show just enough but not too much) are close to perfect.

MONEY MONSTER ultimately satisfies as it delivers what it is supposed to – a sharp and witty satire on the financial world that is both funny and smart at the same time. It features Hollywood’s top and upcoming stars at their best. Highly recommended – take this as as a movie tip!

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