2019 TIFF Movie Review: SYNCHRONIC (USA 2019)

Synchronic Poster
Two New Orleans paramedics’ lives are ripped apart after encountering a series of horrific deaths linked to a designer drug with bizarre, otherworldly effects.

Writer:

Justin Benson

Set in New Orleans, paramedics and close friends Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) arrive on the scene for what seems like a typical overdose.  They end up stumbling upon a bizarre plot that will take them down a most unexpected path.  Deaths occur from a synthetic narcotic known as synchronic, which has some extreme side effects that don’t just alter consciousness. 
 When Dennis’ teenage daughter (Ally Ioannides) tries synchronic and goes missing.  Steve, who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, aims to discover the truth behind the killer drug named SYNCHRONIC and inadvertently sets off on a journey to find her – a journey that involves time travel.  It is an outrageous premise that has so many loose points.  Worst still the directors are way too serious with their story which looks as if it is made up as they go along.  
What is inconceivable is that no explanation is given on to the reason Steve ends up in the swamp or on a battlefield depending on the position he takes the drug.  Benon and Moorhead takes their audience on a wild ride which ends up going nowhere furiously fast.  One cannot care for stuff that do not make sense.

2019 TIFF Movie Review: ENDINGS, BEGINNINGS (USA 2019)

Endings, Beginnings Poster
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A 30-something woman navigating through love and heartbreak over the course of one year. During that time, she will unlock the secrets to her life in a sudden turn of events and in the most surprising of places.

Director:

Drake Doremus

ENDINGS charts disappointments in relationships from a female point of view.  An idealistic woman (Shailene Woodley) attempts to get her life on track financially and romantically, but gets caught in a love triangle with a free-spirited bad boy (Sebastian Stan) and his more stable, scholarly best friend (Jamie Dornan).  

With little money, she lives in her sister’s guesthouse, she regularly witnesses her sibling and her brother-in-law fighting, which only exacerbates the once-idealistic Daphne’s growing despair regarding long-term love.  One can tell that she is going to pay for playing the two men, which she does.  But the way she gets everything back in focus is questionable especially when there are no catalyst put into by the script.  Worst is director Doremus’ fondest for closeups with the background often blurry.  

The trouble is that most of the film’s images are generally more blurry than usual making the production values look cheap.  The film is aimed at demonstrating how one can still come out strong despite total hopelessness all round.  Woodley plays the part despite the unconvincing script.

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9147456/videoplayer/vi1420214041?ref_=tt_ov_vi

Film Review: A PRIVATE WAR (USA 2018)

A Private War Poster
Trailer

One of the most celebrated war correspondents of our time, Marie Colvin is an utterly fearless and rebellious spirit, driven to the frontline of conflicts across the globe to give voice to the voiceless.

Director:

Matthew Heineman

Writers:

Marie Brenner (based on the Vanity Fair article “Marie Colvin’s Private War” by), Arash Amel

A Private War has been described as an American biographical drama film though director Matthew Heineman has made it clear that he did not intend the film to be a run-of-the-mill biography.  This is obvious once the film starts kicking into gear as it becomes clear exactly where the film is heading.  Heineman praises his subject, British journalist, Marie Colvin (an admirable performance by Rosamund Pike despite the film’s flaws) to no end – a martyr for the course of war journalism.  The film is based on the 2012 article “Marie Colvin’s Private War” in Vanity Fair by Marie Brenner and written for the film by Arash Amel.

Heineman’s film begins with Marie Colvin in a war zone doing her job covering the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.  When the film whisks Colman from one war zone to another, ending in HOMS in Syria, it is clear that the film is not really interested in telling the stories of the casualties of war – nor of the sufferings of the people; nor of the lies told by Governments nor of the fact that world needs to be told of what is going on and to be aware (as Colvin, herself says her goal in journalism is).  It is to tell of the heroism of one Marie Colvin – but without the warts at all.

At the film’s worst, Colvin is seen in the battlefield with perfect hair with nicely groomed curls down her sides.  The fact must have been pretty obvious as most of her other war scenes has her hair tied in a bundle.

The film contains no shortage of subtleties.  When Colvin receives the Foreign Correspondent of the year Award, the film quickly moves away from the scene and omits her acceptance speech.  Yes, the audience gets the point the she is not in the business for the fame.  A PRIVATE WAR is all abut Colvin’s conviction in telling stories in dangerous scenarios.  The other fact is her Sunday Times boss, Sean Ryan played by Tom Hollander is always seen in a suit and tie, another indication that the director needs to keep reminding the audience that Colvin is doing a dangerous job in the field while he is having it ‘cushy nice’ in the office.  “I want to tell their stories,” Colvin says at one point in the film.  Heineman isn’t interested in telling ‘their’ stories at all but only her story.  So unsure that his audience will not get the film’s point, the point  has to be said out loud to Colvin in the dialogue:  “If you lose your conviction, what hope do we have?”

The best film about journalism, and one that demands to be seen is Phillip Noyce’s NEWSFRONT, also arguably one of the best Australian films ever made.  Bill Hunter plays a newsreel man in the 60’s in a film that exhorts its heroes in the news without resorting to glamorization and overblown set pieces.  The one shot in NEWSFRONT of a drowned cameraman in a flood he was covering is enough to say it all.  A PRIVATE WAR, in contrast drums the fact into the audience to no end.  Even Colvin’s PTSD (Post Trauma Stress Disorder) is downplayed.  With the scene of her having a bath together with her wealthy lover played by Stanley Tucci, the film has reached its ridiculous limit.

But there is a reward in staying for the closing credits.  Annie Lennox delvers a beautiful rendition of the song “Requiem for a PrivateWar”.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTf0Lc5YAcc

Film Review: FIFTY SHADES FREED (UK 2018)

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Fifty Shades Freed Poster
Trailer

Anastasia and Christian get married, but Jack Hyde continues to threaten their relationship.

Director:

James Foley

Writers:

Niall Leonard (screenplay by), E.L. James (based on the novel by)

 

FIFTY SHADES FREED is the third film of the FIFTY SHADES franchise with the first two FIFTY SHADES OF GREY and FIFTY SHADES DARKER winning raspberry awards for worst film and worst acting for its actors.  FIFTY SHADES is likely the worst reviewed film franchise ever though the films have been Universal tons of cash.

The film clearly aims at a female audience.  Imagine the fantasy – Marriage to a wealthy husband with the perfect body, romantic wedding vows, a glamorous lifestyle and most of all, great sexy with S&M thrown in for good measure.

FIFTY SHADES FREED opens with what looks like the perfect wedding.  It is the marriage of Ana (Dakota Fanning) and billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).  But the matrimonial noon is tested when Ana insists on ‘not being Mrs. Grey’.  She insists on keeping her maiden name, her job and dispenses with a wife’s household duties.  All this results in sexual punishment dished out by her husband.  Ana loves it and keeps going on till she eventually gets pregnant because she missed her shots.  The marriage is on the rocks.  The plot also invokes Ana’s ex-boss, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) stalking her and wanting to punish her for what she has done to him, which is explained later on in the film.  That is pretty much the film.  Sex, sex, sex, get Ana’s stalker and would-be killer then the end.

FREED can stand on its own with audiences unfamiliar with the stories of the other two films.  Ana met Grey in the first film engaging in S&M sex.  The second film shows her being promised marriage by Grey while having trouble at work with her boss who turns up as the villain in FREED.

The sexual scenes are interesting but goes boring really quickly despite the two perfect bodies of the actors.  For what the script provides, Dakota Fanning does quite a good job at her performance, making the audience care for her despite her gong against all the hubby’s wishes.  Marcia Gay Harden has a small role as Christian’s adoptive mother, but her role is simply awful, involving her to hug the gorgeous Christian at one point in the film.  She looks as if she got a sexual turn on in the film when she holds on to him.

A few things that Universal Pictures got right with this sequel.  The budget is kept the same as the second film at $55 million with a shorter running length.  It is clear that the movie should still make money though expectedly less that the $580 million for the first and $300 million for the second.  At the film’s promo screening, one self touted critic remarked loudly that the film is shit and the editing is shit.  It is easy to condemn a film without giving clear examples.  The editing is actually half decent, especially the S&M scenes, keeping it fairly decent considering the film’s content.  Th car chases are also well cut with ok continuity.  

Having not seen the first two films, I actually enjoyed the tackiness of the film’s first 20 minutes, to see how much rubbish the audience can take in.  But tackiness or not, the film keeps repeating itself (example: the story’s silly excuses for Ana’s behaviour to keep getting sexually punished.)  The S&M are not really imaginative.  I am are everyone has seen a vibrating, dildos or handcuffs.  The film then resorts to ice-cream being slid on the naked bodies.  In Mike Leigh’s LIFE IS SWEET for example, he had a sexual bathroom scene with his two actors covered in chocolate. The film is noticeably drug free.  I am not advocating drug use, but this really stretches the film’s credibility.

James Foley takes over the director’s reins.  Foley has directed decent films in the past, the most notable being Mamet’s GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS.  FIFTY SHADES FREED is obviously not one of them. Foley goes for empty glossiness.  Though the film has a slick look, there is no substance and the polished exterior fades fast.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJCc5HRPxYA

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Happy Birthday: Amelia Warner

ameliawarner.jpgHappy Birthday actor Amelia Warner

Born: Amelia Catherine Bennett
June 4, 1982 in Liverpool, Merseyside, England, UK

Married to: Jamie Dornan (26 April 2013 – present) (2 children)

Read reviews of the best of the actor:

STONEDStoned
2005
dir. Stephen Woolley
Starring
Leo Gregory
Paddy Considine

Winter Passing
2005
dir. Adam Rapp
Starring
Deschanel
Darrell Larson
MOVIEQUILLS
2000
dir. Philip Kaufman
Cast:
Geoffrey Rush
Kate Winslet