Film Review: THE PUBLIC (USA) ***

The Public Poster
Trailer

An act of civil disobedience turns into a standoff with police when homeless people in Cincinnati take over the public library to seek shelter from the bitter cold.

Director:

Emilio Estevez

THE PUBLIC is Emilio Estevez’s ambitious little movie that tackles a few key social issues while being commercially entertaining.  Estevez gives himself the title role as a thankless, sensitive but realistic librarian.

After instilling to the audience the oddness and importance of the librarian in the American society with voiceover over archive black and white footage, the film opens with head librarian of downtown Cincinnati, Stuart Goodson (Estevez) heading to work one very cold morning.  He encounters  people who greet him on the way and it becomes obvious he is setting himself up as the sympathetic hero of the piece.  He meets an old lady who accuses Jews of meaningless deeds, while the homeless wait for the library to open so that they can wash up in the toilets.  He is also realistic as he answers back rationally to a female librarian under him who accuses him of leaving his carbon footprint behind.  It is obvious he likes her though she appears a bit too radical for him..  All these incidents are the prologue to a lawsuit undertaken by a public prosecutor (Christian Slater), again a too obvious villain of the piece.  The prosecutor is also running for the office for mayor.  It is seldom one gets to see Slater snarling and growling as a villain.

One quarter through the film, a new character, a police negotiator (Alec Baldwin) whose son is missing because of a drug addiction problem is introduced into the story.

One feels that Estevez is too manipulative in his sardonic humour and tackling of too many issues – from the homeless to mental health to the city’s opiate addiction to the environment and yes, politics.  “Try not to kill any of my friends,” says the female librarian to the cops at one point.

The film opens a few insightful possibilities.  Do the homeless protect and look after other homeless?  The film seems to think so.  Estevez takes the notion one step further when they take down the library after a cold Arctic blast hits the city resulting in -10C. 

To Estevez’s credit, a few bits of his script are quite good.  His film also propagates the main worthy cause of the homeless, despite looking too ambitious.  The film has a twist in the story despite an Hollywood happy ending.

Estevez and Slater are both good but it is Baldwin who steals the show, showing he can play serious as well as comedy (Saturday Night Live’s Donald Trump).

The film was shot in the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.  The story was inspired and a little glamourized by the moving 2007 essay “Written Off” by Chip Ward, a now-retired assistant director of the Salt Lake City Public Library System.

This is a film that presents problems with no solutions leaving it somewhat disappointing.  One might argue however, that these problems can never be solved, but Estevez should provide some ray of hope.  THE PUBLIC is a not half bad mix comedy/drama relevant social issues that seems too obvious in pleasing the audience.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJXikN1kOqQ

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Film Review: DUMBO (USA 2019) ***

Dumbo Poster
A young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly, helps save a struggling circus, but when the circus plans a new venture, Dumbo and his friends discover dark secrets beneath its shiny veneer.

Director:

Tim Burton

Writers:

Helen Aberson (novel), Ehren Kruger (screenplay) |1 more credit »

Everyone loves and remembers Disney’s 1941 favourite animated feel-good fantasy, DUMBO.  Dumbo, the baby elephant is born with huge ears that allow him to fly thus becoming the sensation of the circus.  Don’t expect the same with the live action film DUMBO written by Ehran Kruger and directed by Tim Burton.  Burton’s most famous films were BEETLEJUICE, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS all known for its darkness and nightmarish ideas.  It is not surprising then that Burton’s DUMBO is dark and gloomy. Dumbo rarely smiles, the scenes are mostly dark and the soundtrack is filled with loud and annoying sounds like chimpanzees screening, loud circus music and people yelling rather than talking normally.  Those prone to migraines best stay away from this one.

The films starts on a bleak note where a rundown train carrying the circus that is falling on hard times travel through poverty America.  Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) is returning by train home to his children after the war.  It is revealed that he has lost one arm.  His wife has also passed away from influenza.  Holt is out of a job because circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) sold his horses).  How more gloomy can the plot get?  

More!  Baby Dumbo is born and separated from his mother.  The circus is sold to a conniving entrepreneur, V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton) who is out to make money out of the new sensation of the flying elephant.  Dumbo’s act needs to be polished and creates havoc when Vandevere wants the bank to invest money in his amusement world.

The magic of the original DUMBO emerges only a few times in the movie – mainly when Dumbo soars into the air.  Even then, most of the flight takes place in the enclosed tent and if outside, occurs in the dead of night.

A lighter note is added with the characters of Max Medici and Vandevere’s French girlfriend Colette (Eva Green).  Both have the propensity to do good.  The end up taking Dumbo’s side.  Even the one henchman of Vandevere ordered to kill Dumbo’s mother tells on the deed, and quits his job out of disgust at his boss.  Keaton in full powder-packed make-up, hams up his villainous character to the extreme of being cartoonish.  His love for money ends up his downfall.

Nico Parker as Milly Farrier, Holt’s daughter and Finley Hobbins as Joe, Holt’s son are sufficiently charming reminding audiences that this is supposed to be a family movie.  The other circus performers are just there for show with little much to do except for Miss Atlantis (Sharon Rooney) who does a few mermaid tricks and the snake charmer (Roshan Seth) who gets to utter the magic words “Fly my little one!”

But for whatever is director Burton’s vision for the film, he does effectively capture the gloom of a struggling circus as he does on a world recovery from the war.  His mark is certainly stamped on this movie.

For all that it is worth in terms of gloom vs. feel-good, DUMBO does grab the audience into the adventure of the circus and one does feel sorry for the elephant when his mother is forced to leave him.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NiYVoqBt-8

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

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