TIFF 2018 Review: DRIVEN (USA 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.

Driven Poster
Intense thriller where politics, big business and narcotics collide.

Director:

Nick Hamm

Writer:

Colin Bateman

Irish Nick Hamm directs DRIVEN based on the outlandish true story of the John DeLorean (Lee Pace) the designer of the car of the same name (the vehicle used in BACK TO THE FUTURE), the rise and downfall of him and his Californian neighbour Jim (Jason Sudeikis).  This is the second film about drug snitching after WHITE BOY RICK but in this one the federal drug agent, Ben Tisa (Corey Stoll) is more effective. 

 While Hamm tries to dramatize the events, a lot of the film depends on the technical details of the case, which might bore a few people, judging front a number that left the theatre during the showing.  The fact that Hamm is Irish is clear with the facts emphasized that Belfast made the Titanic and a lot of workers will be out of work if the DeLorean manufacturing money does not go through.  The story is already crazy enough without having to put in the ridiculous 10 second ending which obviously did not happen. 

 Good period 70’s atmosphere coupled with superb performances by Sudeikis and Pace.

Trailer: https://teaser-trailer.com/movie/driven/

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Film Review: PERMISSION (USA 2016)

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Permission Poster
Trailer

A woman on the brink of a marriage proposal is told by a friend that she should date other men before spending the rest of her life with her boyfriend.

Director:

Brian Crano

 

There are two categories of chick-flick romantic comedies – those made by female directors and those made by male directors.  The former category usually sees everything from the feminine perspective while glorifying the female while more often than not, debasing the male counterpart. 

PERMISSION, the new romantic comedy debut by writer/director Brian Crano belongs to the second category.  Like most films in this category the male filmmaker usually also takes the side of the female, giving them enough respect so as not to offend them.  In PERMISSION, the female is clearly the more mature and intelligent of the couple.  Since the film is written by a male, males cannot complain that this is a feminist film.

The film begins with a really short sex scene between the two leads.  Anna (Rebecca Hall) and Will (Dan Stevens) are very much in love and have great (if not, too short) sex.  Will intends to propose to Anna at her birthday celebrations at a bar with her brother, Hale (David Joseph Craig) and current male lover, Reece (Morgan Spector).  But that is impeded by the suggestion of Reece and Hale to have Anna “test date” other men before she ultimately settles down.  This results in the relationship turning open, meaning that Will can try other girls too. 

The couple faces the obvious problems that result in an accepted open relationship though the film and the couple insist that dating others does not constitute an open relationship.  My question to them is then: What then is an open relationship?  The problems include jealousy number one followed by number two, the craving for wanting for sex with strangers.  But the biggest danger of all is the probability that the stranger might be the better one to marry.  These are two human feelings that cannot be removed, and unless a couple can deal with these two issues, an open relationship or a closed relationship with allowance for multiple sex partners should not ever be considered.   Anna and Will together believe that their love for each other can conquer all.  So the rest of the film goes on to see whether love can.

Writer/director Crano’s film runs into many problems.  For one, the main premise of the couple is compromised by the introduction of Anna’s brother’s gay relationship.  Worst still, Crano inserts a problem into the gay couple’s relationship – the adoption of a child.  This distraction is boring and does not contribute to the main story at hand.  The four characters are all too nice and likeable.  The film would be more interesting if any one would be a complete asshole or one to be totally at fault.  Some of the humour makes no sense at all, as in Will spitting into his lover, Lydia (Gina Gershon) mouth, while high and having sex.

One good insight the film provides is that it shows the hurt the people go through as a result of such an experiment.  The film also surprisingly is almost saved by its ending.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EV9ZnPPnyz8

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Film Review: COLOSSAL (Canada 2016). Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis

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colossalDirector: Nacho Vigalondo
Writer: Nacho Vigalondo
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell

Review by Gilbert Seah

 
An eccentric movie is occasionally praised by critics for just being different. But there are films like COLOSSAL (that premiered at last year’s TIFF) and the recent SWISS ARMY MAN that are so weird that they make no sense at all.

SWISS ARMY MAN had a farting corpse dragged around from start to end of the movie. Plain awful, unfunny and senseless. Director Nacho Vigalondo (TIMECRIMES) is given big money with this high flyer starring Anne Hathaway and Dan Stevens, among others. But his eccentric film would be a very hard watch for the commercial moviegoer, less any critic.

The film opens with a little girl witnessing a monster in the playground. The film quickly forwards 25 year years after. This is really funny, similar to the opening sequence of THE LOBSTER, but that is the only scene that gave me a giggle.

The film’s protagonist is a going-nowhere party girl, Gloria (Anne Hathaway) who discovers a mysterious connection between herself and a giant monster wreaking havoc on the other side of the globe, in Seoul, South Korea. Gloria (Anne Hathaway) parties too hard, drinks too much, and does not think about the consequences — that is, until her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) gets sick of her behaviour and throws her out. Unemployed and with nowhere to live, Gloria heads back to her hometown and rekindles a friendship with childhood chum Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who now runs his dad’s old bar. Dreams of a fresh start are dashed when Gloria slides back into old habits: she drinks till last call every night with Oscar and his cronies (the hilarious Tim Blake Nelson and Austin Stowell), she stumbles home each night via a playground-sandbox shortcut, and she sleeps through each day till it’s time to drink again.

One day (lo and behold!) she emerges from her haze to the news that a giant monster is stomping its way through the panicked metropolis of Seoul.
Why is the film that weird? Gloria has awakened to a different world to discover how the real-life monster movie taking place halfway across the world might be somehow connected to her. The monster mirrors her moves. For example if she falls, so does the monster, killing Koreans on the ground. The segment in which Gloria and Oscar have an all out fight is also total ridiculous.

Vigalodo attempts to blur the lines between fantasy, drama and sci-fi. He only succeeds in dumping all three genres into a cauldron of messy brew.
The special effects of the robot menacing Seoul look like a cheap version of GODZILLA.

Hathaway looks half lost throughout the film. Actors Dan Stevens and Jason Sudeilis are largely wasted.

If things cannot get more ridiculous, Gloria travels to Seoul at the end of the film.

Director Vigalondo makes no effort to get the audience to like any of her characters. His sense of humour is lacking and the film is neither funny nor amusing. The film ends open ended, (not revealed in this review) with an inside joke on the protagonist. Best to give this film a complete miss.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqcZtz8VXXE

_________

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Happy Birthday: Jason Sudeikis

jasonsudeikisJason Sudeikis

Born: September 18, 1975 in Fairfax, Virginia, USA

My floundering career has nothing to do with my lack of talent, or being a five in the looks department. It’s the height that’s going to get me, you’re absolutely correct. I don’t know why people keep hiring me. I’m like, “Guys, I’m really way too tall to be doing this.” I bring it up all the time, but nobody’s listening. Maybe it helps that I tell people I’m five foot thirteen.

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Movie Review: MOTHER’S DAY (2016). Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts

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mothersdayMOTHER’S DAY (USA 2016) **

Directed by Garry Marshall

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Timothy Olyphant, Shay Mitchell, Jason Sudeikis

Review by Gilbert Seah

Director Garry Marshall has created his niche in directing saccharine sweet films for the not so demanding moviegoer. His NEW YEAR’S EVE, VALENTINE’ DAY and PRETTY WOMAN say it all. The 81 year-old has been at it since 1982 when I saw his first film YOUNG DOCTORS IN LOVE. He also is the creator of the iconic TV series, “Happy Days”, “Laverne & Shirley”, and “Mork & Mindy”.

So do not expect much from his latest family comedy MOTHER’S DAY. The plot involves 3 interconnecting stories with mothers. They are loosely connected. For example, a friend of one gives advice to another who is in a different story. So, the film could consists of 3 unconnected stories for all that matters.

The first mother is Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) who has two sons. Her recently divorced husband, Henry (Timothy Olyphant) is marrying young Tina (Shay Mitchell). To Sandy’s dismay, everything is going on too well with her ex. The second mother is high profile TV star, Miranda (Julia Roberts) who has given up her daughter, Kristin (Britt Robertson) for her career. Kristen seeks to find her mother while not being able to commit to marrying her Irish boyfriend. And there is Jesse (Kate Hudson), a mother who married an east-Indian against her parents wishes. All these stories are quite easy to follow on screen, despite it sounding confusing on paper. It is hard to determine which is the best story. But one can tell that there is healthy competition among the stars to do their part the best. Aniston tries very hard at being funny. Roberts smiles a bit too much looking artificially false.

All these shenanigans are mildly funny. An example are the stand up comic routines during the comedy contest at Burn’s (Jon Lovitz) club. Those routines including the $5000 prize winner are just ok funny at best. The other shenanigans also invoke a tear or two as niceness is pulled out of these stories, which director Marshall is so good at. There are a few genuine funny moments like the runaway trailer with the laptop screen having the image of the East Indian mother as it topples of the table when she says” “Where is everyone gone?”

Marshall has assembled quite the all-star cast. Marshall has got most of the big names, like Julia Roberts, who has worked with him before. Also noticeable is his use of minority groups to play bit parts (like the down-syndrome girl at the film’s start). But then, his film goes in the opposite direction with some very racist East-Indian jokes later on in the film. He also stereotypes East Indians having the mother, for example, always appearing wearing a full sari and always having all Indians speaking with a strong accent.

Midway during the film, the hit song “Photograph” by Ben Shereen is performed, only emphasizing Marshall’s desperation to get his film liked.

Otherwise, MOTHER’S DAY is just the typical Garry Marshall film: mildly entertaining at best and irritatingly full of sentimentality and niceness. As the saying goes, every Marshall story (he cowrite this film) has a happy ending.

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Movie Review: RACE (2016) Directed by Stephen Hopkins

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raceRACE (Germany/France/Canada 2016) ***
Directed by Stephen Hopkins

Stars: Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Eli Goree, Jeremy Irons, William Hurt

Review by Gilbert Seah

The word RACE of the film title could mean the running competition or a people of the world. Stephen Hopkin’s biographical sports drama tells both the story of African American athlete Jesse Owens (Stephan James) running in the Berlin Olympic games in 1936 and the controversy ensuing with the then upcoming Hitler regime. Owens went on to win 4 gold medals. Hopkins is no stranger to biography, having directed THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PETER SELLERS.

The script, written by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse, covers many stories. The first and foremost is the story of the athlete Owens and his white coach Larry Snyder. The other is the romance between Owens and his girl, Peggy (Amanda Crew), who he has already had a daughter with, when going to the games. A political subplot involving the boycotting of the Games by the U.S. due to Germany’s racial policy of exclusion of blacks and Jews makes good interest into an otherwise too often told tale of underdog achieving the top prize. This story pits Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons) against host of adversaries. Despite the many stories, director Hopkins always has the main story in focus, the winning of the games, while keeping the other side stories in perspective. The overall feel is a solid narrative.

Newcomer Stephan James inhabits the role of the star athlete very comfortably. He looks young as well as buff enough to pass off as an Olympic medallist. He is convincing without having to overact his role. But it is the supporting cast that deliver the prized performances. Carice van Houten steals the show as German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, commissioned by the Hitler to film the games. She runs head to head with the Interior Minister, Dr. Joseph Goebbels (played with sinister relish by Barnaby Metschurat). One could watch both van Houten and Metschurat, two German acorn forever.

The period piece was sot in both Berlin where the Games took place as well as Montreal to stand in for spots of Berlin. The atmosphere of 30’s Europe is satisfactorily convincing, but not over-stunning. The shot of the Games are excitingly executed with camera intercutting among the faces of the athletes, the looks on the faces of the coaches and of course, the spectators.

It is odd that this piece of anti-racism is a co-production between Germany and Canada. One would have expected the film, supported by the by the Owens family, the Jesse Owens Foundation, the Jesse Owens Trust and the Luminary Group to have some American financial backing.

Hopkins plays his film safe without trodding into too deep waters. The racial controversy is tackled with tact and quickly covered for. The result is a rather mild anti-racist film, that is more suited for the family than one to invoke controversy.

The film ends with the pictures of the real characters against the actors that played them. Again, formulaic safe filmmaking, like a history lesson that disturbs no one and stirs no still waters!

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