Movie Review: THE MEDDLER. Starring: Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne

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themeddler.jpgTHE MEDDLER (USA 2015) ***
Directed by Lorene Scafaria

Starring: Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, J.K. Simmons, Cecily Strong, Michael McKean, Jerrod Carmichael

Review by Gilbert Seah

Just a week after the comedy HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS arrives another film with a senior protagonist. Though the two films are highly different, the target audience might be the same. THE MEDDLER will have tough shoes to fill, as the former film serves up more comedy, commercial style with 2-time Oscar winner Sally Field while THE MEDDLER is a combination of down-to-earth drama and autobiography. The story is fashioned from the writer/director Lorene Scarfaria’s relationship with her own mother.

THE MEDDLER of the film title is Marnie (Susan Sarandon), who after her husband’s death has nothing better to do but to meddle. But her meddling is not bad in any sense as her intentions are genuine. Her ‘meddling’ involves suffocating her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), not giving her any space, helping a fast-food worker with his law degree and offering as much as underwriting $13,000 for Lori’s friend’s wedding among others.

When Lori finally has had enough of her mother and moves away to sort out her career, Marnie is forced to face the worse – not having her daughter around and to rethink her options. So she falls in love.

The trouble with THE MEDDLER that real life stories like the one based on the director’s mother do not turn out to be that interesting on film.

Another problem is that Marnie has no real obstacles to her life. Her life is actually a total breeze. She is financially more than able, thanks to late husband, and she has a loving daughter and two very eager lovers. These factors lowers the film’s interest even more. Director Scarfaria makes matters worse by having one eager lover, the one played by J.K. Simmons sing to his chickens, thus amplifying the desperation of the film’s story.

But the film contains a few neat surprises. Examples are Marnie’s upcoming romances. The way she ditches her lovers or possible lovers is nothing short of plain hilarious.

Sarandon has a track record of superlative performances in films such as THELMA AND LOUISE, LORENZO’S OIL and my personal favourite, THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK. And she is still a knockout at the age of almost 70. She makes the movie.

But the character of Marnie might not necessarily be a senior or mother. A best friend or younger person could have the same charter mould as Marnie. The script could have picked a different aged or even male protagonist to appeal to a wider audience and put some problems in her life to make the film more varied.

The result is a film more close to life (despite Marnie’s too convenient wealth) that it comes too close to home and monotonous. THE MEDDLER contains less humour and more drama, most of it brought on herself by the character. As such the target audience might prefer to watch a more fairy tale of a film like HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS. Only box-office receipts will reveal the fate of both movies.

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Movie Review: KUNG FU PANDA 3 (2016)

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kung_fu_panda_3KUNG FU PANDA 3 (USA/China 2016) ***
Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni

Starring: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu

Review by Gilbert Seah

The third of the KUNG FU PANDA animated features provides more of the same. However, being family fun entertainment, critics should not be too hard on the filmmakers. As long as KUNG FU PANDA delivers a safe product, everyone especially a less discerning audience should not complain.

The first one in the series that is a Chinese co-production, Fox obviously has an eye for the large Chinese market. There is a Chinese version with Chinese dubbed voices. The previous two films grossed more than $600 million each and this $120 million production should beat those records. To be super safe, the script by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger have added many more pandas into the film – in the form of a secret panda sanctuary.

Po finally gets to meet his real biological father in this film. The segment of their meeting, as shown in a promotional clip before is the funniest of the film. Of course, his adoptive father, Mr. Ping (James Hong) the goose who wants to open his own dumpling stall is incredibly jealous. Po is brought to a Panda sanitary where he trains panda students in martial-arts. Po also meets Mei Mei, an overly eager panda, who had been promised to Po through an arranged marriage when they were children. But the main plot involves an evil ancient supernatural spirit called Kai begins terrorizing China and stealing the powers of defeated kung fu masters. Now in the face of incredible odds, Po must learn to train the village of clumsy, fun-loving pandas to become a band of Kung Fu Pandas.

Added to the film are new characters like Po’s (Jack Black) biological father, Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) and Mei Mei (a brilliant Kate Hudson), a female panda who has the hots for Po. Hudson does a marvellous job resulting in the audience wanting to see more of Mei Mei. The villain of the piece is Kai (Oscar winning J.J. Simmons) who adds a some humour to his role. His voice is easily recognized from the low tones. The usually Po gang is still present. So, for those KUNG FU PANDA fans, Viper (Lucy Liu), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Crane (David Cross) and even Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) are back.

The climatic fight between Po and Kai is ok but nothing too exciting nor out of the ordinary. But the antics of Po is enough to entertain despite the relatively weak plot.

The Chinese influence in this entry is clearly evident. There is more oriental folklore, more oriental colours and more oriental architectural drawings. This entry is also the most colourful of the three with the animation at its peak. The ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ song is also given a Chinese slant. Hans Zimmer hits with the overall musical score.

KUNG FU PANDA 3 should be a big hit. At the end of the promo screening, kids can be seen in front of the screen imitating the martial-arts moves of their hero, Po.

 

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