Film Review: WILDLIFE (USA 2018) *** Directed by Paul Dano

Wildlife Poster
Trailer

A teenage boy must deal with his mother’s complicated response after his father temporarily abandons them to take a menial and dangerous job.

Director:

Paul Dano

Writers:

Paul Dano (screenplay by), Zoe Kazan (screenplay by) | 1 more credit »

Paul Dano, in his early 30’s  is an excellent actor who has been seen in a diverse range of films from COWBOYS AND ALIENS to 12 YEARS A SLAVE.  He has delivered outstanding performances in his films, the best of which is with Daniel Day Lewis, holding his own with the multiple Oscar Winner in P.T. Anderson’s THERE WILL BE BLOOD in which a troubled teen learns of life.

Having proven his active chops, Dano has now taken on directorial reins in a new film again centring on a troubled teen.  Dano also co-wrote the script with his partner Zoe Kazan, this giving the film a female point of view.  It is familiarity that Dano has dealt with and it is of no surprise that the actor he has chosen to play the 14-year old protagonist, Joe looks somewhat like a younger version of himself.

The film is set in 1960, Montana.  Jeannette (Carey Mulligan) and Jerry Brinson (Jake Gyllenhaal) have recently moved to Great Falls, Montana with their teenage son Joe (Ed Oxenbould).  Tensions build after Jerry is fired from a low esteemed job as a golf pro at a country club.  He is offered his old job back but refuses out of pride, and instead of looking for work, he sleeps in his car and watches the local firefighting efforts against a forest fire raging in nearby mountains.  To support the family as Jerry looks for a job, Jeannette takes a job as a swimming instructor, while Joe works at a local photography studio.  One day, Jerry decides to take a low-paying job fighting the forest fire, which upsets Jeannette and worries Joe.  Jeannette speaks openly about her strained marriage with Jerry to Joe, and the stress of the situation takes a minor toll on Joe’s school life.  

While Jerry is away, Jeannette becomes romantically involved with one of her students, Warren Miller (Bill Camp), a rich older man who owns an automobile dealership.  Fireworks begin when Jerry returns and Jeannette announces that she is moving out – all this inferno of and to Joe’s dismay.

WILDLIFE s a simply told family drama but one told with conviction.  The mountains and icy landscape look stunning in  the background, reflecting the loneliness of people in  the vast surroundings.  Dana connects the audience with both points of view, that of the mother and the father but it is the story of the young son.   “I surprised myself and had a good time.  Did you?”  asks the mother to Joe and one point int he film, illustrating how the film looks from the woman’s point of view and then when there is no answer from the son, switches perspective back to the son.

The desperation of the mother is what propels the family woes.  She tells Joe after Joe catches her making out with Miller.  “He wants to make it better.  Maybe you got a better plan.  I wish I was dead.”

It is a common story of father leaving home to get a decent job while mother becomes restless.  There is really nothing Joe can do.  He wants to keep the family together, but all he can do is to say how each misses the other.

Dana keeps his film on track as Joe’s coming-of-age passage as he is forced to navigate the complex dynamics of adult relationships and figure out what to make of the woman who used to be just Mom.   A well paced family drama with real characters from Paul Dana. 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q77YXl_ujBM

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TIFF 2018 Review: THE SISTERS BROTHERS (USA/France/Romania/Spain 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 Sisters Brothers Poster
Trailer

In 1850s Oregon, a gold prospector is chased by the infamous duo of assassins, the Sisters brothers.

Director:

Jacques Audiard

Writers:

Jacques Audiard (screenplay by), Thomas Bidegain (screenplay by) |1 more credit »

Director Audiard’s films have always benefited from oddball protagonists from his first film, De Battre mon coeur s’est arrêté to DHEEPAN to UN PROPHETE.  Two weird protagonists create havoc in his latest film adaptation of Patrick deWitt’s award-winning western novel called THE SISTERS BROTHERS.  

Two brothers with the last name ‘sisters’,  Eli (John C. Reilly) and Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) are bounty hunters sent to kill a prospector (Riz Ahmed) accused of stealing from a tyrannical crime boss (Rutger Hauer). Their journey takes them through an encounter of myriad complications from San Francisco and through the Sierra Nevada: witches, bears, a madam who owns a town and commands a murderous army of fur trappers, and a detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) tracking the same peculiar man they are.  It is a great adventure, also for the audience to see Audiard excel with different material.  

Also, the film is quite funny with biting humour and a bit of message on the lessons in life.  And as in all his films, the goal of his protagonist is to have a stable life.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OwvqKwTKmE

Full Review: STRONGER (USA 2016)

Stronger Poster
Trailer

Stronger is the inspiring real life story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope following the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Director:

David Gordon Green

Writers:

John Pollono (screenplay), Jeff Bauman (based on the book “Stronger” by)

Stars:

Jake GyllenhaalTatiana MaslanyMiranda Richardson

The Boston marathon.  PATRIOT’S DAY saw Mark Wahlberg star in the film that hunted down the terrorists responsible for the bombings.  STRONGER, on the other hand, looks at the Boston marathon from the point of view of a victim.  And a really bad victim at that – one that has lost both his legs in the middle of the bomb explosion.

 

To the film’s credit, the film is an adaptation of the memoir by Jeff Bauman, recounting his struggles to adjust after losing his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing.  So, it is a true story, rather than one based on true events.  But unfortunately the film wallows in self pity.

 

The film tells the story of Jeff’s tragedy and rebirth. 

 

Runner Erin Hurley (Tatiana Maslany) was still a mile away from the finish line when the bombs went off.  Her boyfriend, Jeff (Jake Gyllenhaal), however, was right there.  He is rushed into surgery, but his legs must be amputated.  The bombing’s immediate aftermath provides Jeff with an unexpected sense of purpose as he had seen one of the terrorists responsible for the blasts.  He gives information to the FBI that proves instrumental in their investigation.  But this is not seen in detail in the film.  So one wonders, whether Jeff really saw the bomber or imagined it.  Once that very public drama quietened down,  Jeff’s personal drama, a challenge as much for his morale as his body, is begins.  With Erin by his side, Jeff slowly recovers, one arduous step at a time.

 

Green’s film centres on the travails and sufferings of Jeff.  But it opts out for cheap shots – like showing the parts where Jeff has trouble in the toilet trying to shit or urinate. 

 

Jeff is shown in the film on the road of self destruction.  Erin scarifies her all for him.  But he is shown as unrepentant, unhealed by his mother who want him to get all the glory and money for his mishap. 

 

The film shows Jeff’s change in outlook.  Unfortunately, this change is shown coming from just one event instead of a gradual progression – the meeting of the Mexican who attended to him during the bombing.  Though this might be true, this one event that apparently changed Jeff’s outlook on life seems quite incredible.

 

Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Malsany and Miranda Richardson (as Jeff’s mother) deliver excellent performances despite the film’s flaws.  If the film turned out better, they might be up for acting Oscars.

 

The film ends, expectedly during the closing credits with shots of the real Jeff and Erin.  It is revealed  that that the film is based on the book written by Jeff which is not mentioned at all in the film.

 

One can only wish the film would have been a better one that would show more of the triumph of the human spirit instead of one that showed a man wallowing is self pity.

 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6MN0QfQx7I

TIFF 2017 Movie Review: STRONGER (USA 2016)

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.

Stronger Poster
Trailer

Stronger is the inspiring real life story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope following the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Writers:

John Pollono (screenplay), Jeff Bauman (based on the book “Stronger” by)

Stars:

Jake GyllenhaalTatiana MaslanyMiranda Richardson

STRONGER looks at the Boston marathon from the point of view of a victim. And a really bad victim at that – one that has lost both his legs in the middle of the bomb explosion.

To the film’s credit, the film is an adaptation of the memoir by Jeff Bauman, recounting his struggles to adjust after losing his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing. So, it is a true story, rather than one base on true events. But unfortunately the film wallows in self pity.

The film tells the true story of tragedy and rebirth. Runner Erin Hurley (Tatiana Maslany) was still a mile away from the finish line when the bombs went off. Her boyfriend, Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), however, was right there. He is rushed into surgery, but his legs must be amputated. The bombing’s immediate aftermath provides Jeff with an unexpected sense of purpose as he had seen one of the terrorists responsible for the blasts.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Malsany and Miranda Richardson (as Jeff;s mother) deliver excellent performances despite the film’s flaws. If the film turned out better, they night have been up for acting Oscars. One can only wish the film would have been a better one instead of one wallowing is self pity.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6MN0QfQx7I
 

stronger

 

Film Review: LIFE (USA 2017) ***1/2

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

life.jpgDirector: Daniel Espinosa
Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds

Review by Gilbert Seah

LIFE is a new science fiction horror film directed by Daniel Espinosa, written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (who both penned DEADPOOL and ZOMBIELAND) and starring two of Hollywood’s hottest stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Dr. David Jordan and Ryan Reynolds as Rory Adams. The two are part of a six-member eclectic crew of the International Space Station that uncovers what initially seems to be the first evidence of life on Mars.

LIFE is the scariest horror film so far this year. Espinosa and his writing crew know how to shock people with genuine scares, not using silly tactics like false alarms and the volume of the sound suddenly for no reason going three times as loud. The film is set in space. Space is an unknown entity to human beings. Anything can happen in space. The sight of space with little light and vast endless openness is in itself the scariest notion ever.

The film begins with voiceover and scenes describing an international space station. The film is totally successful in grabbing and maintaining the audience’s attention. Everyone has to listen and pay full attention – or some important fact will be missed. The first thrill of the film involves the capture of a space probe returning from Mars with a sample inside. This task is obviously successful (so no spoiler alert here). The crew is tasked with studying the sample, which may be the first proof of extraterrestrial life. However, the study eventually backfires as the organism displays incredible strength and gains intelligence. The creature becoming extremely hostile and killing them all one by one. Ariyon Bakare’s Hugh Derry is the first casualty in a segment where his pain is matched only by his screaming. Trapped aboard the ISS with the rapidly-growing organism humorously nicknamed Calvin, the crew must find out how to kill it before it manages to escape and destroy Earth.

There are two things going for this horror film – unpredictability and suspense build-up. Director Espinosa builds his film slowly but effectively to a horrifying climax. He knows how to create real terror. The segments in which the victim are attacked by the creature are almost impossible to watch, with the creature’s tentacles entering the mouths of its victims. These start occurring after the first half of the fpm right up to the very end. A little spoiler alert here – anyone of the crew could be done away with. Don’t be fooled by the star billing.

At times, the film feels like other space horror films like John Carpenter’s THE THING or Ridley Scott’s ALIEN films. But LIFE tries and succeeds to be different. For one the ending is totally unpredictable. But one has to probably discuss what actually happened as an explanation is not crystal clear and could be open to different interpretations.

Ridley Scott’s new ALIEN reboot (ALIEN: COVENANT) arrives in a few months.

How it will compare to Calvin is the anticipatory question.

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

_________

Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

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DEMOLITION, Movie Review

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

demolitionDEMOLITION (USA 2015) ***1/2
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Heather Lind, Chris Cooper

Review by Gilbert Seah

I had a conversation with a friend about houses a month ago. He claims that modern houses have no character unlike those like the old buildings in the French countryside. It is remarkable that in Jean-Marc Vallee’s latest film about life and what matters, the film hits the nail on the head of our conversation when the lead character, Davis says of his ultra-modern expensive home: “I hate this house. It’s just shiny stuff!” (Dvid demolishes it later on in the film.)

DEMOLITION tells the tale of a finance executive, trying to make sense of his life after the passing away of his wife. It totally makes sense as the accident occurs suddenly out of the blue, just as Vallee shocks the audience with the shock tactic of a car ramming into the couple’s, in the midst of conversation followed by a blank screen and news of the wife’s (Heather Lind) death. Davis Mitchell’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) father-in-law and head of the finance firm, Phil (Chris Cooper) tells him that in order to repair something, one has to take it apart and put it all together again to understand how it works. The trouble with Davis is that he can take things part but not put in back together. So, he takes it upon himself to tear down the leaking fridge or plumbing in the office washroom but not able to re-assemble he parts. And so his life is the same – he takes it apart, driving everyone, particularly Phil bonkers, but he cannot piece it all back together.

Vallee has created a very thoughtful film here – made more profound in that he leaves the audience to figure out what his film or hero is all about. He helps with a voiceover, provided by Davis himself as he writes to the vending company venting on one of the machines that is unable to put out an M&M’s peanuts package. The Public Relations of the company (Naomi Watts) is drawn into the story, with her son Chris (Judah Davis) helping him to make sense out of life.

Many other issues like coming-out (Chris’s) and gay bashing are tied into the story.
One conversation piece also brilliantly ties in to the message of what matters most in life. Chris swears constantly to which Davis says, “If you swear so much, the swearing loses its effect and you only look stupid.” Here, Davis has surprisingly hit the nail on the head as to what’s important and it then takes the kid to show him the way.

There are two too commonly used tactics in films that spoil the originality of DEMOLITION One is the shock tactic of the accident out of nowhere and the other is the hero running off into the sunset (as in Truffaut’s 400 BLOWS).

Still DEMOLITION is an interesting film, for sure as I have seen the film a second time (the first at the Toronto International Film Festival) and Vallee’s film still feels fresh in its storytelling and execution.
 

Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

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

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month: http://www.wildsoundfestival.com