Film Review: STAN & OLLIE (USA/UK/Canada 2018) ***1/2

Stan & Ollie Poster
Trailer

Laurel and Hardy, the world’s most famous comedy duo, attempt to reignite their film careers as they embark on what becomes their swan song – a grueling theatre tour of post-war Britain.

Director:

Jon S. Baird

Writer:

Jeff Pope

STAN & OLLIE (or perhaps alternatively called LAUREL & HARDY) is a capsule biographical film of the two of the world’s most famous comedians and a tale of undying friendship.

The film is a biographical comedy-drama film directed by Jon S. Baird (from TV films and a few obscure theatrical films) from a screenplay by Jeff Pope.   The comedy is derived mainly from their acts on stage and Laurel’s s often smart mouths remarks while the drama is the story of their friendship and  Oliver’s illness). Based on the lives of the comedy double act Laurel and Hardy, the film stars Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. It already premiered in October 2018 at the BFI London Film Festival.  The film had a limited release in the United States on 28 December 2018 and will be released widely in the United Kingdom, the United States and in Canada in January 2019.

The film is boosted by two outstanding performances.  Besides being impressionists, the actors have to act as well.  Both Coogan and Reilly enable audiences to forget who they really are but for their characters of Stan & Ollie.  It is a tough decision to see who does the better job.  Being American, Reilly earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor (the Golden Globe is more American than foreign press) while Brit Coogan got snubbed.  The other way around for the BFTA (British awards) where Coogan was nominated for the Best Actor award with Reilly up for nothing.

The film is a U.K. co-prodcution as most of the film is set in the U.K.  The film begins with the duo embarking on a gruelling music hall tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland during 1953, and struggle to get another film made – their own (comedy) version of Robin Hood.  There is stop during the tour in Newcastle, though no-one during those segments speak with any Geordie accent.

The film’s narrative is choppy (the script picks up a few incidents in the duo’s lives that mostly affected their bonding) punctuated by the duo’s acts on stage with the dramatic set-pieces.  These acts are at least well performed.  The audience get to see their best acts performed by the impressionists, which shows both how good the acts are and how good the impressionists are as were the original performers.  

The film gets a bit sentimental at times, especially in the last scenes where Ollie is ill from poor health.  But the film’s two best segments are the dramatic confrontation where their friendship is tested and the comedy act where the two are supposed to meet by a change room but fail to see each other.

The shooting of the last performance on stage – the dance number routine by Stan & Ollie must also be commended.  The use of shadows, camera angles and editing to emphasize the talent of the duo is expertly done and watching the sequence is well worth the price of the admission ticket.

The film ends appropriately with the epilogue that Ollie’s health deteriorated after the tour, leading to his death in 1957 and Stan’s eight years later in 1965. Stan continued to write sketches for Laurel and Hardy in the last eight years of his life.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlTTsN4JGnU

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Film Review: RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET (USA 2018) ***1/2

Ralph Breaks the Internet Poster
Six years after the events of “Wreck-It Ralph”, Ralph and Vanellope, now friends, discover a wi-fi router in their arcade, leading them into a new adventure.

Writers:

Phil Johnston (screenplay by), Pamela Ribon (screenplay by) | 5 more credits »

One can observe more and more formulaic flow in the Disney movies.  Even for their December Christmas animated features, one year features a male and the next a female young protagonist.  This year sees a young female (as it is the lady’s turn) but she dabbles in stuff that more males would be interested in – car racing.   Her character, Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman, who recently got her Hollywood Walk of Fame) is however, in a video game and her best friend is WRECK-IT RALPH (John. C. Reilly), who in this film breaks the internet.  Her dream is to win races.  The film questions the importance of friendship against chasing ones dreams.  No prizes for guessing the answer!

The film begins with something quite different.  While a lot of scripts begin with  some dream that needs to be reached from poverty, this story begins with Ralph and Vanellope having the perfect life.  They enjoy what there doing, are best friends and want nothing to change.  The film questions this status quo.

The setting is six years after the events of the first film (also in real time as the last RALPH movie was 2012).  The steering wheel controller on the Sugar Rush arcade game console breaks, forcing Mr. Litwak (Ed O’Neill) to unplug the machine.  Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz evacuate all of the Sugar Rush residents to other games before it is shut down, placing the racers in the care of Fix-It Felix Jr. and Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun.  Ralph and Vanellope then use the arcade’s new connection to the Internet to go looking for a replacement steering wheel.

The script uses fully all the quirks that can be found in the internet.  Those who are unfamiliar (maybe none in today’s audiences) will find a few things strange but the filmmakers make the solid assumption that everyone is aware of the concept of viruses, search engines and social platforms.  A few new internet characters like eBoy and  Mr. Knowsmore ( the man who knows everything in charge of a search engine) sprite up the list of characters.

The film also contains a few totally entertaining imaginative numbers like the tap dancing on the car hoods and the animated Busby Berkeley sequences.  The film’s funniest segment is Ralph’s visit to the virus Master, Double Dan (Alfred Molina in his British accent) and told never to look at his little brother, which of course, he cannot help but do, while making comments about him all the while.

John C. Reilly has an unmistakable voice and one can only expect him to do his goofy, sympathetic tones, especially in the scenes where he is pleading for Vanellope’s friendship.

Two lively songs ‘Zero’ and ‘Place Called Slaughter Race’ enliven he festivities.  (There are also a few songs in the other December Disney animated features).

RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET is no FROZEN, TOY STORY or COCO.  But it does have its moments and its inventiveness.  The most inventive of these involve the coming together at the film’s end of all the past animated movie characters (the Disney Princess lineup with The Muppets, Star Wars, Disney Animation, Marvel Comics, and Pixar characters)

together.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lX71_Jcm4po

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

1997 Movie Review: BOOGIE NIGHTS, 1997

BOOGIE NIGHTS MOVIE POSTER
BOOGIE NIGHTS, 1997
Movie Reviews

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Don Cheadle, William H. Macy
Review by Cathryn Naiker

SYNOPSIS:

A famous porn director discovers a young man in a nightclub. He is soon thrusted into the pornography scene of the late seventies and early eighties. They enjoy great success together and are looking into crossing over into mainstream film. However, the year 1980 along with being wired on cocaine and the introduction of videotape turn their worlds

About:

This was director Paul Thomas Anderson’s sophomore feature film. Anderson had been researching this film since the late eighties and based a lot of the characters on real life accounts. The film was picked up by new line cinema who was constantly in battle with Anderson over length and content of the film. The studio was disappointed with the film until critics started praising it. Burt Reynolds, in arguably his best work as Jack Horner, won a Golden Globe for best supporting actor. The film was also nominated for a few Oscars, but no wins.

Highlights:

Boogie Nights was the movie that turned “Markey Mark” into Mark Wahlberg. From pop music (“Good Vibrations”, anyone?) to infamous Calvin Klien tighty whitey ads, Mark was able to somehow make the transition from a pop-star to a serious actor in an era where singer/actor transitions were not so common or successful. I think that the role of Eddie/Dirk Diggler for Mark was a great role for him at the time since so much of the film focuses on his “package” and that was also the cause for a lot of his publicity in real life. Another outstanding performance came from Julianne Moore who plays Amber Waves. Amber is the main starlet in Jack Horner’s films. She is the maternal role model in a house full of lost souls. In the mist of a custody battle for her son, we see her being motherly towards Dirk Diggler at the same time we see her introduce Dirk (and presumably other characters) to cocaine.

Review:

When this film first started being reviewed most people were expecting a comedy about the porn industry of the 1970’s. Instead, there was a very long dramatic ensemble piece about sex, drugs and not enough disco or rock and roll. This film came at a time where 90’s chic became a crossover between the “heroin look” and bellbottoms. The 70’s made a huge comeback in 1997 in fashion and in films like “54” and “Austin Powers”.

I feel where this movie fails is at telling the story of all the characters they portray. Then again, if it did tell such a story, it would be five hours long. All the characters are strong but there are just too many of them. Some key players don’t even get introduced until halfway through the film. The movie got very muddled with too many story lines but was eventually tied together in the end. For example, Don Cheadle’s character, Buck Swoope, has a great story line about a porn star that wants to open his own speaker and electronics store. But what does his journey have to do with Dirk Diggler? After watching the film again I can’t even remember if they share any dialogue together. I’m not saying Buck Swoope shouldn’t be in the film (because he’s fantastic in this movie) but his character is just an example of why there is just too much going on at once. On the flip side, it’s the charm of these characters that make the film what it is.

Overall I thought this film was highly entertaining, full of energy and impulse and kept me on the edge of my seat for an ending that was worth sticking around for (in more ways than one!).
boogie nights.jpg

 

Film Review: SING (USA 2016) ****

sing_movie_poster.jpgDirected by Garth Jennings

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly

Review by Gilbert Seah

Garth Jennings, director of the not-so-successful THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY and the excellent SON OF RAMBO seems an unlikely choice for director of the 3D computer-animated musical comedy film produced by Illumination Entertainment (the DESPICABLE ME films). But Jennings who also voices the old secretary Matilda, the glass-eye popping iguana in the film, proves a worthy choice.

The age-old plot of SING involves the protagonist, here in the form of a cute koala (Matthew McConaughey) putting up a show in order to save his failing theatre. He comes up with a brilliant scheme to save his stage: put audience members on it. “Real talent from real life,” Buster declares. Buster is determined to host the world’s greatest singing competition, and, given the overwhelming response to his call for participants, the show might just lay claim to that title. After an exhaustive (and entertaining) audition process, his lead contestants left are an exhausted mother of 25 piglets, a timid adolescent elephant, a porcupine with punk, a rodent con artist with Sinatra-esque chops, and a gangster gorilla eager to change careers. Each is as desperate to change their life as Buster is to rescue his business. Who will win? It doesn’t really matter as all eventually do their part to save the theatre. Jennifer Saunders of ABS FAB does the voice of ex-diva a sort-of patron for Moon’s theatre as she is rich beyond means.

SING is undeniably a feel-good movie with an extra coating of sweetness that stretches credibility to the limit. If the film was not animated, it would never get away with the premise. But animated feature are supposed to be totally crazy and not matter how unbelievable, any crazy premise will always work to its favour.

Water has always been difficult if not impossible to animate. Disney’s THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE (from FANTASIA) with Mickey Mouse demonstrated that. But now with computer animation, all is possible. In SING, Buster Moon decides to create an elaborate lighting sequence for his show using squids in a huge water tank that ends up leaking and blowing up. All this is an excuse to showcase the studio’s impressive modern animation with computer aid using water. No complaints here, as the sequence is one of the film’s best animated, as in the time lapse rebuilding of Moon’s theatre near the end of the film. Disney and Pixar are faced with stiff competition here.

The impressive cast of actors and singers include Reese Witherspoon as Rosita, Seth MacFarlane as Mike, a small white crooning mouse with a big Frank Sinatra-esque voice and an arrogant attitude, Scarlett Johansson as Ashley, a crested porcupine punk rocker, John C. Reilly as Eddie Noodleman, a Suffolk sheep and Buster’s partner, Tori Kelly as Meena, a teenage Indian elephant with an exquisite voice, and severe stage fright,Taron Egerton as Johnny, a Cockney-accented mountain gorilla, who wants to sing and Nick Kroll as Gunter domestic pig and Rosita’s German-accented, very optimistic and bubbly dance partner.

SING is by no means a faultless feature. It falls into the trap of having too many characters for its own good and not knowing when to shorten its story. The film also hurdles at too fast a pace, as in the father gorilla escaping jail to see his son perform.

The film features more than 85 classic songs from famous artists all more than adequately performed by the animated characters as well as a few catchy original songs.

Like Moon going all out to save his theatre, one cannot help but root of writer/director Jennings in his worthwhile effort and awarding him an “A” for effort.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7uGHY-t80I

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Happy Birthday: John C. Reilly

johncreilly.jpgHappy Birthday actor John C. Reilly

Born: John Christopher Reilly
May 24, 1965 in Chicago, Illinois, USA

Married to: Alison Dickey (1992 – present) (2 children)

Read reviews of the best of the actor:

DAYS OF THUNDERDays of Thunder
1990
dir. Tony Scott
Also Starring
Nicole Kidman
Robert Duvall

A RIVER WILDA River Wild
1994
dir. Curtis Hanson
Starring
Meryl Streep
Kevin Bacon

Boogie NightsBoogie Nights
1997
dir. PT Anderson
starring
Mark Wahlberg
Burt Reynolds

MagnoliaMagnolia
1999
dir. by PT Anderson Anderson
starring
Tom Cruise
Philip Seymour Hoffman

THE HOURSThe Hours
2002
dir. Stephen Daldry
Cast
Nicole Kidman
Meryl Streep

Aviator
2004
dir. Scorsese
starring
Leonardo DiCaprio
Cate Blanchett

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
2007
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Starring
Reilly
Jenna Fischer

Step BrothersStep Brothers
2008
dir. Adam MacKay
Starring
Will Ferrell
Reilly

MOVIE POSTERCARNAGE
dir. Roman Polanski
Stars:
Jodie Foster
Kate Winslet

movie posterTHE THIN RED LINE
1998
dir. Terrence Malick
Starring:
Nick Nolte
James Caviezel

9 Movie Poster9
2009
dir. Shane Acker
Starring
Elijah Wood
Jennifer Connelly
Crispin Glover

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant Movie PosterCirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant
dir. Paul Weitz
Stars:
Chris Massoglia
Reilly

MOVIETHE GOOD GIRL
2002
dir. Miguel Arteta
Starring
Jennifer Aniston
Jake Gyllenhaal

Cedar RapidsCEDAR RAPIDS
dir. Miguel Arteta
Stars:
Ed Helms
John C. Reilly

MOVIE POSTERCHICAGO
2002
dir. Rob Marshall
Starring:
Renée Zellweger
Catherine Zeta-Jones

MOVIE POSTERFOR LOVE OF THE GAME
1999
dir. Sam Raimi
Starring:
Kevin Costner
Kelly Preston

MOVIE POSTERWE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
dir. Lynne Ramsay
Stars:
Tilda Swinton
John C. Reilly

MOVIE POSTERTHE DICTATOR
dir. Larry Charles
Stars:
Sacha Baron Cohen
Anna Faris

MOVIE POSTERWRECK IT RALPH
dir. Rich Moore

Stars:
John C. Reilly
Jack McBrayer

MOVIE POSTERANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND CONTINUES
2013
dir. Adam McKay
Stars:
Will Ferrell

MOVIE POSTERBEARS
2014
dir. Alastair Fothergill
Keith Scholey
DOCUMENTARY

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1993
dir. Lasse Hallstrom
Stars:
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Johnny Depp

MOVIE POSTERGUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
2014
dir. James Gunn
Stars:
Chris Pratt
Vin Diesel

MOVIE POSTERTALLADEGA NIGHTS: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
2006
dir. Adam McKay
Stars:
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MOVIE POSTERA PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION
2006
dir. Robin Altman
Stars:
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MOVIE POSTERLIFE AFTER BETH
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Stars:
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