Film Review: ANNA (France 2019) ***

Anna Poster
Trailer

Beneath Anna Poliatova’s striking beauty lies a secret that will unleash her indelible strength and skill to become one of the world’s most feared government assassins.

Director:

Luc Besson

Writer:

Luc Besson (screenplay)

ANNA returns flashy French director Luc Besson (THE FIFTH ELEMENT, arguably his best movie) to his NIKITA (the film re-titled LA FEMME NIKITA in North America) roots with an ultra-violent slick spy/assassin action pic.  ANNA is ridiculous, stylish, sexy and camp.  Love it or hate it.  Two of my film critic colleagues, TV personality critic Richard Crouse and NOW Magazine critic Norman Milner both hated it with a passion.  I sort of loved it, so why the enormous difference in opinion?

One reason is how one wants to look at the film.  ANNA is tacky.  It would not be a surprise if the film would be re-titled LA FEMME ANNA.  Besson has done this before and better.  This might just be a vehicle for his new muse, super model Sasha Luss.

The plot can be summed up in one line.  Quote Wikipedia: “Beneath a woman’s striking beauty lies a secret that will unleash her indelible strength and skill to become one of the most feared assassins on the planet.”  Of course there is more.  Anna (Luss) has a lesbian lover, Maud (Lera Abova) as well as two male lovers, Russian Alex Tchenkov (Luke Evans) and American Lenny Miller (Cillian Murphy).  Overlooking Anna at all times is KGB chief Olga (Helen Mirren. looking sufficiently ‘awful’ for the part, glasses and all).  The film is unveiled in non chronological order, where more than too often, an incident occurs before the story moves back 3 weeks or 3 months to explain what really happened causing the incident to occur.  The tactic is laughable but this could be Besson’s intention to mock the spy/mystery genre.

The film lasts a little under 2 hours, which is quite the chore if you hate the film from the start.  On the other hand, regardless the fact, there is enough going on in the background, exotic sets and locations, beautiful people, outrageous action set-ups (like the hot sexy closet scene).

Apart from the hours of action nonsense, there is one sad part that stands out – the subplot involving Anna’s lesbian girlfriend Maud.  Maud is oblivious of Anna’s dubbed ice and just loves her regardless.  Maud dances in happiness, often whispering sweet nothings to Anna who completely ignores her for other worries.   One wishes better for this poor character which somehow stands out in this emotionless flick.  Besides Abova, Helen Mirren as Olga and Cillian Murphy as Lenny deliver stand out performances that one wishes would save the movie.

The only thing consistent about the outrageous story is Anna’s desire to become free, which she obviously attains at the very last moment in the story.  I am sure that there are quite the few in the audience who wish they could be free as well from Besson’s movie.

Besson has had a string of flops including VALERIAN which I absolutely adored.  One has to give the man credit not for want of trying.  ANNA cost $30 million to make but looks as if it cost more than double that.  It is expected to have a soft opening at the box-office.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ku-PkrtyUs

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Film Review: THE LEISURE SEEKER (USA 2017)

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The Leisure Seeker Poster
Trailer

A runaway couple go on an unforgettable journey in the faithful old RV they call The Leisure Seeker.

Director:

Paolo Virzì

Writers:

Michael Zadoorian (novel), Stephen Amidon (screenplay) | 3 more credits »

 

Oscar winner Helen Mirren (THE QUEEN) and Donald Sutherland star as an elderly couple looking for adventure on one boisterous and bittersweet final road trip.

It has finally come the time (UGH!) when both Mirren and Sutherland star in a old fart film, and one that goes all the way.  Yes, heaven forbid but the worst can happen. THE LEISURE SEEKER is the camper that the elderly married couple take off on their road trip.

Italian director Paolo Virzi who also did the music for the film makes clear of his American political stand.  The film opens with Trump, newly elected voicing his speech on the radio “We will make America great again.”  Another scene later on in the film has the couple walking through a pro-Trump rally.

Ella (Mirren) is dying of cancer.  Her husband, John (Sutherland) is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  As the film opens, their son and daughter discover that their parents have taken off with THE LEISURE SEEKER, on a last road trip.  Neither Ella nor John is interested in quietly fading away surrounded by nurses and machines just to needlessly prolong a winnowing life.  They travel from Boston to Florida (some nice scenery on display) with John behind the wheel.  He may not always be cognizant of the nature of their trip — she assures him it is just a vacation — but he gets into the spirit.  As they pass through cities and towns they see how much the world they know has changed for ill or for good.

The film is based on the novel by Michael Zadoorian.  But as a film, there is too much tackled in the film.  Everything that one can think about growing old is in the film and covered unfortunately in a clinched manner.  

The issues covered include:

sex between an elderly couple

sickness that are incurable such as cancer and memory loss

past skeletons in the closet

children who care too much

being a burden

loss of bodily functions

dying

retirement homes

being taken advantage of as seniors (the hold-up scene)

what old people really look like outside their make-up and hair pieces

Director Virzi acts like a traffic cop ushering these issues in an out.  The incidents like the traffic comes and goes, none too memorable, and quite boring too, just as the job of directing traffic.

Helen Mirren does a southern accent though her British accent can still be heard.  Her first few dialogue lines are done with British accent which is odd.  Mirren is brave enough to show her real looks, with thinning white hair and all.  Sutherland, looking really lean and sexy in the old (younger days) photographs on display in the film.

The script attempts to put some insight with lots of quotations from Hemingway as John is a former professor of Literature.

It is clear that the film is aimed at displaying humour, affection, observation, and maybe a little satire, but the result is another old farts fantasy film about old people trying to be young again.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGGKsVFslJ8

 

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TIFF 2017 Movie Review: THE LEISURE SEEKER (USA 2017)

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 Leisure Seeker Poster
Clip

A runaway couple go on an unforgettable journey in the faithful old RV they call The Leisure Seeker.

Director:

Paolo Virzì

Writers:

Michael Zadoorian (novel), Stephen Amidon (screenplay)

Stars:

Helen MirrenDonald SutherlandKirsty Mitchell

Oscar winner Helen Mirren (THE QUEEN) and Donald Sutherland star as an elderly couple looking for adventure on one (romantic?) final road trip. Ella (Mirren) is dying of cancer.

Her husband, John (Sutherland) is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. As the film opens, their son and daughter discover that their parents have taken off with THE LEISURE SEEKER (the name of their camper), on a last road trip.

Ella nor John is interested in quietly fading away surrounded by nurses and machines just to needlessly prolong a winnowing life. They travel from Boston to Florida (some nice scenery on display) with John behind the wheel. The film is based on the novel by Michael Zadoorian with Italian director Virzi at the helm. But as a film, there is too many issues tackled.

Everything that one can think about growing old is in the film and covered unfortunately in a cliched manner. Director Virzi acts like a traffic cop ushering these issues in an out. The incidents like the traffic comes and goes, none too memorable, and quite boring too, just as the job of directing traffic.

The result is another old farts fantasy film about old people reminiscing or trying to be young again.

Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gd5LWTvMy4U
 

THE LEISURE SEEKER

Film Review: COLLATERAL BEAUTY (USA 2016)

collateralbeauty_movie_poster.jpgCOLLATERAL BEAUTY (USA 2016) **
Directed by David Frankel

Starring: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Michael Peña, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley

Review by Gilbert Seah

The subject of coping with death has been dealt in dozens of ways in films. In the recent ARRIVAL, the death of Amy Adam’s daughter is tied into the main plot of alien arrival. This worked. In another space film GRAVITY, the Sandra Bullock character is given the grief of a dead child to humanize her character. The ploy did not work and the story looked totally fake. In the recent praised MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, Casey Affleck’s character comes to terns with death in a gut-wrenching emotional tale of redemption. In David Frankel’s COLLATERAL BEAUTY based on a script by Allan Roeb, Will Smith’s character finally accepts his daughter’s death with all the sugar coating of all the Christmas cakes in a pastry shop. Despite attempts to make the story believable, COLLATERAL BEAUTY is plain horrid!

When the trailer for COLLATERAL BEAUTY first appeared on the internet, Guardian Magazine came out with an article heralding the arrival of the worst movie of 2016. And understandably so! The trailer showed Will Smith as a man grieving the death of his daughter by writing letters to Death, Time and Love. Scenes that follow show the personifications of these abstractions with Smith speaking to each of them, played by Helen Mirren, Jacob Latimore and Keira Knightley respectively. The music and mood are sloppy sweet sugary, especially catered for Christmas. Who would want to watch such Hollywood bulls***? There is one word for all this, in the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge – HUMBUG!

But the film is not all that bad. The reason that Death, Time and Love are in the story, actors playing the parts, is to fool Howard Inlet (Smith) so that he can be deemed mentally unfit to hold on to his shares and thus prevent his firm from being sold. So three employees, who have worked with Howard since the incident of his daughter’s death, Whit (Edward Norton), Simon (Michael Pena) and Claire (Kate Winslet) plot the scheme. But this not not mean that the film is all that good either.

Director Frankel who directed THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA knows how to set up scenes. The first 10 minutes of PRADA when Meryl Streep, the no-nonsense head of the Prada office strides in – to the total disarray of all the other scattering employees is one unforgettable, beautifully executed scene. There are a few of these in COLLATERAL BEAUTY, like the confrontation scene between Howard and Time on the subway train, but the individual set-ups do not work on the whole. The metaphor of the falling dominoes is used to the maximum of a ridiculous three times. The film eventually settles to boredom as it is hard to care for characters made so unbelievable.

It is a complete waste to see Oscar Winners Winslet and Mirren in this silly story. Mirren does bring a bit of dignity into this nonsense but she must be laughing her head off, off screen.

The film partly works when it pokes fun at the credibly of the story. When Howard looks shocked at the sudden appearance of Death, Time and Love, the shock looks genuine – probably because of genuine disbelief. The film is the worst when Howard pines over his dead daughter – the worst of the worst has him watching a video of him playing with her, when she was still alive in a park, and shouting… “Daddy, daddy!” If this scene was not so obviously manipulative, it might have jerked a tear or two from a few of an innocent audience.

There is a twist in the plot at the end which makes no sense to the whole story of what Howard is going through.

Christmas brings along good films – Oscar contenders. But it also brings the worst of Hollywood films – COLLATERAL BEAUTY being one of them.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isQ5Ycie73U

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Happy Birthday: Helen Mirren

helenmirrenHelen Mirren

Born: July 26, 1945 in Chiswick, London, England, UK

Married to: Taylor Hackford (31 December 1997 – present)

 

 

 

 

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