Full Review: CLIMAX (France 2018) ****

Climax Poster
Trailer

French dancers gather in a remote, empty school building to rehearse on a wintry night. The all-night celebration morphs into a hallucinatory nightmare when they learn their sangria is laced with LSD.

Director:

Gaspar Noé

Writer:

Gaspar Noé

French auteur Gaspar Noé excited audiences with his first two films, the excellent CARNE and the sequel SEUL CONTRE TOUS which were both an hour or so long.  But Noé pushed the limits with ENTER THE VOID and IRREVERSIBLE and he continues to do so with his new film CLIMAX about a troupe of dancers on acid.

What can one do with a troupe of real dancers?  Noé proves that more than everything can be done.  His film can be divided into 5 parts – the interviews; the group dance; the mingling of the dancers; the individual dances; the sex that occurs after the acid takes effect and the climax (aftermath).   Even if all else fails, the dance choreography is so good, many done with one long take, that watching these dance segments is worth more than the ticket price.  I myself, would watch the film again just for the dance sequences.

The film begins with the dancers being interviewed by an unseen male and female interviewer.  This sequence takes about 15 minutes and the audience sees the obsession of the dancers. “Dance is everything.” “I will commit suicide if I cannot dance.”  “I would do anything to be able to dance in the troupe.”  To the last comment, Noé pursues the implications further, bringing light to the current sexual abuse in the entertainment industry, but with an intelligent difference.  The two dancers who make the identical last comment are probed further to the point that their sexual offers might be accepted.  Noé uses the males instead of the females to be accosted and the possible guilty party to be one male and one female.

The troupe’s dance number is nothing short of stunning.  Forget the dances in any other television show or dance movie.   This is the real thing – real dance from the streets, expertly choreographed by gifted dancers.

When the dancers start mingling, the audience discovers more about each individual, their sexual orientation, who each has the hots for and how one might be related to another.  This is the time the dancers take to the spiked sangria. The LSD (acid)  takes about a hour to take effect.

The film breaks out into dance again.  This time it is individual dance where each dancer is given the chance to perform solo.  Noé uses the overhead shot.  The camera displaced above and each dancer moves in a and then out of the spot, with the dance performance seen from a bird’s eye view.  It is uncommon to shoot dance numbers this way, but it is nevertheless inventive and effective.

The last two segments are not so easy to watch.  Once the dancers start to feel the effect of the drug, their emotions come loose and sex begins leading to the films climax which unfortunately is not so entertaining as the dance sequences.   Noé’s camera goes upside down with lighting going on and off so that not every scene can be deciphered clearly.

Noé never fails to shock and to push his filming limits.  CLIMAX shows Noé at one of his most effective, disturbing though not disgusting.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AuDB8pskGs

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Film Review: SECOND ACT (USA 2018) ***

Second Act Poster
Trailer

A big box store worker reinvents her life and her life-story and shows Madison Avenue what street smarts can do.

Director:

Peter Segal

Though advertised as a romantic comedy, SECOND ACT has the romantic element only as a subplot, which is a good thing as romantic comedy have been such a well-worn genre, audiences can hardly be surprised any more.  SECOND ACT, like the title implies, gives the romantic comedy a second angle and a successful one at that, in timing and delivery of the comedy.

Jennifer Lopez begins as a happily settled woman in a relationship.  As far as modern America goes, one assumes that she is not married to her man, as he stands up and leaves her before the first third of the film is up.  Trey (Milo Ventimiglia) wants children while she wants to pursue her career.  Her career is what the film is all about.  Maya Vargas (Lopez) is a bright woman who has no limits to her ambition and inventiveness.  (Would Lopez ever play a stupid person?)  She is unappreciated at work, and quits a Walmart like chain after they bring in someone (Dave Foley) to take the position she was supposed to be given, only because she does not have a degree.  So, her best friend’s son makes up a false curriculum vitae giving her gleaming degrees and work experience and lands her a job at a prestigious company under Treat Williams whee she is supposed to come up with a winning ‘green’ product.  She encounters lots of obstacles which makes for some of the film’s hilarity.

The film proves that a solid story is key to a good comedy.  The story also involves a sentimental element with another worker, Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens) that is played well and not too be too obvious as to choke the audience by tightening the heart strings.  In fact the story is absorbing enough to keep the audience so glued to the film that one hardly notices that the film does not contain that many funny parts.  That is a good thing as romantic comedies often try too hard.  

The film’s best segment has Maya dirty dancing at a party with her obnoxious villainous competitor in the company.  But the film also contains missed moments.  The romantic fallout of Maya and her partner is predictable and less interesting or funny.  It does not help that the actor playing him tries too hard and fails miserably.  He seems to be there only for his looks.  Treat Williams as Maya’s new boss, Anderson Clarke is a nice treat (pardon the pun!), Williams a good actor in the 70’s but hardly seen on the screen lately.

Lopez also performs the song “Limitless’ composed by Sia.

What do director Peter Segel and Jennifer Lopez have in common?  A series of flops.  Segel made THE NUTTY PROFESSOR II: THE KLUMPS and 50 FIRST DATES?  Lopez made thriller misses like THE CELL, THE BOY NEXT DOOR and at best the rom-com MAID IN MANHATTAN.  Surprisingly, together like two negatives making a positive, SECOND ACT is endearing while entertaining, not going into excesses, but dealing out quite often the right mix of funniness and drama.  SECOND ACT is one of Lopez and Segel’s better films.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsVo5necW6Q

Interview with Festival Director Rob Lobosco (MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL CINEMA EXTRAVAGANZA)

The Melbourne International Cinema Extravaganza M.I.C.E. aims to be one of Melbourne’s leading cinema extravaganza, raising awareness and celebrating these wonderful totem animals- Mice.

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Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Rob Lobosco: As a new film festival it is a great opportunity for filmmakers to submit and be part of something evolving, bringing together a collection of great films and celebrate their efforts.

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival 2019?

A collection of great work in honour of the millions of mice that are used in research to save lives.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Films will be judged and the best will be selected. Of course All film creations are the best in which case all films will get a mention.
We are most excited about looking for an amazing script.

4) Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

I think all festivals do their best In judging and sharing their viewpoint about the films. It is a collective decision amongst the judges and sometimes it may be disappointing to filmmakers not to be selected. But there is a huge celebration for filmmakers to complete a title and that’s the main focus for filmmakers to embrace. We all see the amazing creation in your film and are honoured to watch it and ‘not selected’ should not dishearten you, it should propel you to keep going.

5) What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Creation, stories, characters, situations and how they all blend together to become a film. Film fascinates me in that there are limitless ways to tell a story and the filmmaker chose this particular way. It’s amazing to judge film with this in mind.
The motivation also is for the life saving totem animal of our festival – mice.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

Film freeway is a great platform and fantastic place to submit films all around the globe.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

We see it as a hub for emerging new talent and with its creators actively writing, producing and judges for other film festivals, it will become something quite special for filmmakers. A festival to bring together film makers with their new creations, network, collaborate and ultimately create!

8) What film have you seen the most times in your life?

A few- Beaches, Titanic and Muriel’s Wedding!

9) In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Investigating a situation/story and truthfully following the character’s physical, emotional, esoteric and spiritual journey, makes an Oscar winning film.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

Melbourne is a multicultural hub for amazing artistic talent and wonderful films. It’s a great place to be to create.

Even though we are so far away ‘downunder,’ we are very well connected to filmmakers all over the globe because of the need to collaborate and connect and create!

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: HER JOB (Greece/France/Serbia 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.

Her Job Poster
 Director:

Writers:

Katerina Kleitsioti (screenwriter), Nikos Labôt(screenwriter)

Direct from current times as heard on the Greek radio about the country’s dire unemployment woes, a husband has been put out of work for far too long.  The wife, as a result takes employment as a cleaner at the newly opened shopping mall.  They have two children, the elder daughter being spoilt and uncontrollable. 

 Panayiota (Marisha Triantafyllidou) works hard but has a hard time at work, especially driving the new vacuum cleaner as well as a hard time at home, having to cook and have the family complain when she is not around to do chores for them.  Things look as if it is reaching boiling point but director Labot takes his film to a higher level.  Things improve.  After taking driving lessons, Panayiota masters the vacuum.  Her supervisor and colleagues appreciate her hard work and dedication.  Her daughter starts cooking for her and husband cleaning for her.  

Director takes his film even one step further.  To reveal more would spoil the film’s twist and enjoyment.  The film works wonders, thanks to actress Triantafyllidou’s performance and the director’s frequent use of closeups that show every expression of joy and regret of her face.  Marvellous too, is the way Labot connects the audiences to the protagonist, family and story.

Trailer: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/video/her-job-trailer-1137998

TIFF 2018 Review: FALLS AROUND HER

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.

Falls Around Her Poster
A relentless pursuit to seek reclamation through isolation.

Directors:

Darlene Naponse,

FALLS AREOUN HER is a true Northern Ontario and Anishinaabe First Nation film that celebrates the winter of Canada as seen in the landscapes of lake, forests and rivers.  The film stars Tantoo Cardinal shining as a world-famous Anishinaabe musician (there is a shot her singing at the stat of the tim – showing some good original music) who returns to the reserve to rest and recharge — only to discover that fame (and the outside world) are not easily left behind.  

Her sister Betty (Tina Keeper) senses there may be more to Mary’s need for isolation and urges her to reconnect with family and old friends.  As Mary gets out more and even starts dating, it seems as though new possibilities are on the horizon.  She has demons to rid off which includes her past manager who is quite the woman abuser, though he gets what he deserves in the end as the film shifts uncomfortably towards horror slasher mode. 

Otherwise it is a relatively dull affair, all good intention aside.

TIFF 2018 Review: MAYA (France 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.

Maya Poster
The film follows a 30-year-old man named Gabriel, a French war reporter who was taken to hostage in Syria and then heads to India after months in captivity.

Director:

Mia Hansen-Løve

It’s been frequently on the news about war journalists in Syria being kidnapped with the threat of being decapitated on live televsion.  MAYA, Mia Hansen-Love’s (LE PERE DE MES ENFANTS, EDEN) latest film has one such French journalist recently freed who travels to India on vacation to recuperate.  

He meets MAYA, an Indian girl who opens his eyes back to life, though she is too young for him to start a love affair.  The best segment of the film is his re-meeting of his mother  who is working with foreign children, though detached from her own son. This the only serious musings on life by the director.  Lighter fare. otherwise  from Hansen-Love with lots of beautiful scenery of poverty stricken India. 

 The film does not really go anywhere as deep as her previous films but MAYA is still worth a look.