Film Review: MANDY (USA 2017)

Mandy Poster

Mandy is set in the primal wilderness of 1983 where Red Miller, a broken and haunted man hunts an unhinged religious sect who slaughtered the love of his life.

MANDY a futuristic horror is director Panos Cosmatos second feature after his ultra-pretentious futuristic drama that I absolutely hated THE BLACK RAINBOW.  RAINBOW was exceptionally slow moving, like the beginning of MANDY as if the director wanted everyone to remember the comatose, rhyming with his last name.  Panos is the son of Greek director George Pan Cosmatos, whose films I also generally dislike.  His most successful film is one I hated THE CASSANDRA CROSSING that starred Sophia Loren.

Panos Cosmatos reaches one step higher in MANDY that it has well-known actors Linus Roache (PRIEST, THE WINSLOW BOY) and Nicolas Cage.

MANDY begins really slowly, so one must be fully attentive as it is easy to doze off.  Consider the inane dialogue.  “Are you ok?”  “I am not ok.”  “Is it my fault?”  “it is totally your fault.”  The dialogue goes on and on without making much sense.  

Cosmatos’ horror movie MANDY pals like an art house horror flick.  Art and horror do not not go well together, as this exercise and Cosmatos’ devious film THE BLACK RAINBOW have proven.

The film is set in at futuristic looking 1983. But this story is a little more steeped in demonic myth than microchips.  

 Red Miller (Cage) lives with his enamored girlfriend, artist Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough), in a cabin near the lake. Red works as a logger, while Mandy has a day job as a cashier at a nearby gas station in the woods. She creates elaborate fantasy art, and Red admires her work greatly. They lead a quiet and reclusive life, and their conversations and behaviour hint at a difficult past and psychological hardship. Red appears to be a recovering alcoholic, and Mandy recounts traumatic childhood experiences.

The film shifts to a weird guy (Ned Dennehy) lying on a bed yelling at his mother , Mother Marene (Olwen Fouere) (with the inane dialogue above)  followed by his brother assuring him “consider it done” to a request he has made.  The film then follows Brother Swan as he tries to kidnap Mandy with the help of the Black Skulls, a demonic biker gang with a taste for human flesh and a viscous, highly potent form of LSD.  Red Miller saves the day.  Watch out for the duel the chainsaws.

Cosmatos loves to play with visuals.  A lot of his scenes are coloured bright red and accompanied with a thundering soundtrack like from an electric guitar.

MANDY’s story is incredibly difficult to follow and really frustrate got try.

Nicolas Cage appears only after nearly half the movie has transpired.  Once he appears everything picks up.  He is at one point stabbed with a sharp knife through his sides with a crazy woman yelling: “Now you will legalize the the cleansing power of fire.”  Cage is so over the top, he adds the campiness that is seriously needed to life the film’s dreariness.

MANDY is not for everyone and it is also safe it is not for many.



Film Review: LOVE, GILDA (USA 2018)

Love Gilda Poster

In her own words, comedienne Gilda Radner looks back and reflects on her life and career. Weaving together recently discovered audiotapes, interviews with her friends, rare home movies and … See full summary »


Lisa Dapolito

LOVE, GILDA is a documentary which as its title implies, a loving tribute to the late comedian Gilda Radner who passed away a decade or so ago from ovarian cancer,

D’Aplolito’s documentary is exactly what one would expect of what homages do – interviews from close firms and family, detail of the subject’s youth and influence, the rise to fame, the subject’s talent and perhaps some faults may it be alcohol or drug use.  This is the reason the doc is so unimpressive. There are no surprises.  In fact, none of Gilda’s flaws are mentioned.  One can either assume she did not use any or she did and the point left out.  It should be noted that Gilda hung around John Belushi in SNL, a heavy drug and alcohol user.  Belushi died from a drug concoction of heroine and cocaine.

The film traces Gilda’s influence coming from being inspired by Charles Chaplin and Lucille Ball (the doc includes a few short clips of Chaplin and Ball).  Gilda grew up with naturally born talent, first amusing her father when he came home from work.  Sadly he left her at the tender age of 14.  D’Aplolito provides a glimpse of her dad coming out of a swimming pool.

The multi-talented writer, singer and performer first shone at the Second City comedy club in Toronto.  She was an original cast member of Saturday Night Live (SNL), creating characters like personal advice expert Roseanne Roseannadanna and reporter Baba Wawa.  She performed her one woman Broadway show to rapturous audiences and left a modest mark on the movies with roles opposite her second husband Gene Wilder in the likes of Hanky Panky (1982) and The Woman In Red (1984).  The doc also mentioned her big flop comedy directed by starring her and Wilder, HAUNTED HONEYMOON.

The interviewees in the doc include her brother and other close friends.  Current SNL performers like Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy and Amy Poehler also have they say.  There is quite a bit of archive footage with Gene Wilder, who the doc is quick to mention is not a comic but an actor in comedies.

But for a doc about such a lively artist, the doc does not match her spirit.  Her comedic routines on display are not her best and do not elicit laugh-out laughs.  They are mildly humorous at best.  This is best described to be similar to an SNL episode – a ht or miss, as in the case of many of the SNL’s skits.

So what did Radner contribute to the human race?  The doc is quick to point out that Radner made jokes out of her cancer.  There is a funny bit with her and Gary Shandling on the topic. Radner was unafraid of pushing the limits of her humour.

It is hard to fault D’Aplolito’s doc on Gilda Radner.  But one would have expected something more biting and funnier.  In the end, the doc creates a sadder cloud over the talented comedienne.  Death was always her enemy – taking away her loving after at the age of 14 and also taking her away at the early age of only 43.


Film Review: THE WIFE (USA 2018) ***1/2

The Wife Poster

A wife questions her life choices as she travels to Stockholm with her husband, where he is slated to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Björn Runge


Jane Anderson (screenplay by), Meg Wolitzer (based on the novel “The Wife” by)

THE WIFE is the story of the neglected long-suffering wife, Joan (Glenn Close) who when he film opens learns that her husband Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) is to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his body of work.  

Both travel to Stockholm with son in tow.  But secrets soon surface.  As they say, behind the success of every man is a woman.  It turns out that Joan is the secret of Joe’s success.  She is the one actually writing all the books with the husband Joe claiming all the victory.  When Joe gets all smug about it, and worst still begins making advances to a female photographer, Joan finally loses it – with the husband’s pride, insincerely and dishonesty.

The story also flashes back to the 1950s when Joan (played by Close’s real-life daughter Annie Starke) was an eager student and Joe (Harry Lloyd) was a then married creative writing professor – and to the 1960s when Joan got a job at a publishing house.  Although Joan herself had writing ambitions in those days, a caustic encounter with a failed novelist (Elizabeth McGovern in an extremely effective and amusing cameo) warned of the obscurity awaiting the “lady writer” no matter how talented.  Her words determine Joan’s ultimate fate in life.  It is not that a writer needs to write.  A writer needs to be read.  A woman’s work, no matter how good will never be read.

A film about writers and this one about a Nobel Prize winner for Literature at that is expected to have exceptional writing.  Jane Anderson’s script achieves this but blows it in one unfortunate scene.  At best, the script reveals only bits of the wife’s secrets at a time, whetting the audience’s appetite for more in terms of anticipation.  Some of the best script involve unwritten dialogue.  When a tragic event occurs in the film (not  to be revealed as a spoiler), Joan’s sad face is shown but with no tears, the only water shown in images on each side of the frame.  But Anderson’s script blows it in the introduction speech when Joe is given the Noble Prize during the ceremony.  The phrase “most importantly,” is used.  Not only is this phrase considered incorrect grammar  by many, this phrase was only used in the last 5 years or so in North America and therefor never in the 1990’s (the film’s setting) and certainly not in a European city like Stockholm.

The script’s best line is uttered by Joe: “There is nothing worse than a writer with feelings that have been hurt.”  Yet Joe does not realize the truth in his words.  He has committed the offence twice in not acknowledging his son’s work and more important, his wife’s literary contribution.  The husband and wife’s final confrontation is also well written and well acted out.

Glenn Close is an exceptional actress who has been nominated six times for an Oscar.  She delivers a brilliantly understated performance a kind of reversal FATAL ATTRACTION that should finally garnish her the Oscar she deserves.  If her character, Joan never won any award, lets hope that this would be an example of life not imitating art.


TIFF 2018 Review: RETROSPEKT (Netherlands/Belgium 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.

Retrospekt Poster
Puzzle-like psychological drama about a domestic violence support worker .


Esther Rots


Esther Rots

Retrospeckt by definition is the Dutch word meaning the series of events that occurred in the past.  Director Ether Rot’s RETROSPEKT cleverly puzzles together a timeline-jumping narrative of protagonist Mette’s relationship to work, life, and motherhood culminating in catastrophic events.  

In many films, a non-chronological narrative is chosen at the director’s whimsy but in this film there is a reason for it.  Mette (Circé Lethem) has undergone an accident that has jolted her memory and psychical condition.  The story unfolds just as she is fitting her past together.  It is an intricate puzzle narrative where the stakes only escalate with every new shard of revelation.  Mette is happily married and works in an abuse shelter.  They have a new baby added to the family.

  When she takes in an abused victim into their home, disaster occurs.  Rots has created a scary suspensor made even more tense from her jump-timeline tactic coupled with the perfectly eerie soundtrack of operatic screeching songs by composer Dan Geesin.


TIFF 2018 Review: THE DIVE (Israel 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.

The Dive Poster
When a family patriarch dies, three brothers must put aside their differences to carry out their father’s last wishes, in Yona Rozenkier’s tender yet analytical debut examining what it means to be human.


Yona Rozenkier

When a family patriarch dies,  prodigal son Yoav (Yoel Rozenkier) returns to the sparsely populated kibbutz where he was raised.  He is greeted by his mother, his elder brother Itai (Yona Rozenkier), and his younger brother Avishai (Micha Rozenkier), who is about to ship off to perform his military service in Lebanon. Yoav is an ex-officer traumatized by his experiences, while Itai remains a serviceman and believes fiercely in a man’s patriotic duty. Their conflicting perspectives generate a deep rift in Avi. 

 The title THE DIVE refers to the act that the three brothers must perform – to deposit their father’s remains in an underwater cave, an excuse for the film to exhibit some superb underwater cinematography.  

Rozenkier (his first feature) successfully captures the male chauvinist world of the three bothers and how their lives are adversely affected

The film is ultimately about something much more profound: what it means to be human, made more believable as the story is autobiographical.


TIFF 2018 Review: THE OTHER STORY (Israel 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.

The Other Story Poster
Strong female protagonists have been the mainstay of many Avi Nesher films. In ‘The Other Story’, two rebellious young women – one fleeing the chaos of secular hedonism for the disciplined …See full summary »


Avi Nesher


Avi Nesher (co-writer), Noam Shpancer (co-writer)

THE OTHER STORY is one of the BEST Jewish films I have seen, succeeding for the fact that it has quite a good story, and one related to Jewish mores.  The film follows two rebellious young women, one fleeing the chaos of secular hedonism for the disciplined comforts of faith, the other desperate to transcend her oppressive religious upbringing for sexual and spiritual freedom, cross paths unexpectedly in Jerusalem — with startling consequences — in this empowering drama from Avi Nesher (PAST LIFE). 

 The film begins with Yonathan returning from the U.S. to Jerusalem, called by his ex-wife to do whatever crooked means possible to prevent their daughter Anati from marrying by defaming the groom.  Meanwhile, Yonatan’s dad gets him involved in another couple’s dispute over custardy of their child.   It is fucked up people doing fucked up things to un-fuck up their lives – a sort of dysfunctional family with a thriller element thrown in for good measure.  

THE OTHER STORY is totally unpredictable, hilarious while remaining smart and believable.  The best surprise in this crown-pleaser is the happy ending that had the audience applauding at the end credits.



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.

A young woman named Savannah Knoop spends six years pretending to be the celebrated author JT LeRoy, the made-up literary persona of her sister-in-law.


Justin Kelly


Justin KellySavannah Knoop (memoir) | 1 more credit »

Laura Albert (Laura Dern) writes tough, insightful fiction under a pseudonym, JT LeRoy. Her JT is not just a pen name but a whole persona, a teenage boy from West Virginia living a dangerous life as a truck stop sex worker.  Laura was born in Brooklyn a generation earlier, and grew up in New York’s punk scene.  Writing books such as The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things as JT gives her complete freedom to explore the darker regions of human experience. Readers and the media love it so much that they begin to demand JT in person.  

As journalists press for interviews with JT, turmoil mounts with Laura’s husband Geoffrey (Jim Sturgess) and sister-in-law Savannah (Kristen Stewart).  Partly from desperation, partly for kicks, they conspire to have Savannah don a wig and sunglasses, adjust her voice, and become the teenage boy author.   Despite everything being based on a true story, Kelly’s film is extremely dull.  He makes no attempt to make the events authentic or to make Savannah believable as JT.  Whenever she appears as JT, she mumbles all along and the media and everyone takes it in from Cannes to Paris to the U.S. 

 Worst of all is the pretentious bit at the film’s end where Laura preaches to the audience that everyone has to be the person he or she is.