Movie Review: CHEATER, USA, Comedy/Drama

CHEATER a seven-minute film, directed by Michael Boctor and Dylan Hancock, is a spellbinding and intense comic rollercoaster. We start without hero desperate to cheat on the test he hasn’t studied for- a relatable plight to us all. After a series of escalating hijinks and stakes that jump to extremes, all chaos ensues and the cheater must answer for it.


The magic in CHEATER, is that you will never see it coming until you are strapped and locked into our hero’s mission, and as things reach a laughably ridiculous crescendo, it almost feels believably absurd. A wonderful film with escalation, stakes and hilarious twists, CHEATER is not to miss!


Review by Kierston Drier

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CHEATER, 7min., USA, Comedy/Drama
Directed by Michael Boctor and Dylan HancookAn Anxious student, Trevor, continually tries to cheat on his exam until his neighboring classmate Carl gets fed up and outs him. The teacher instead disciplines Carl which angers him, resulting in a kerfuffle which ends in Carl being tased and removed by security.

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Film Review: STUPID SMARTPHONE THERAPY, Germany, Experimental

An inversion on the classic “millenials are addicted to their phone” cliche, STUPID SMARTPHONE THERAPY turns the trope on its head and tells the story of a young German girl going on vacation to Toronto with her father. But the vacation is soured by her father’s inability to look away from his phone.

A humorous bit of social commentary, STUPID SMARTPHONE THERAPY breaks open and examines are dependency on technology, while also making statements about  some of the social constructs and assumptions we walk around with everyday. Our heroine is quirky and loveable, her wit and charm are infectiously entertaining. The film’s style makes a thought-provoking and slightly absurdist comedy that the whole family can enjoy. Well done, director Garmamine Sideau!

Review by Kierston Drier

PLAYED at the January 2018 EUROPEAN Film Festival.

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STUPID SMARTPHONE THERAPY, 4min., Germany, Experimental
Directed by Garmamie SideauThe social impacts of various technological innovations are redefining the role of human relationships and communication in a growing globally connected and diverse digital world. Meet Serena, a biracial German teenager on a dream vacation to Canada with Henok, her smartphone addicted workaholic father. Serena’s dream vacation is quickly tuned into a puzzling and challenging nightmare of personal conflicts involving smartphones, identity, belonging and jiujitsu.

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Film Review: THE BEGUILED (USA 2017) ***1/2

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the beguiled.jpgAt a girls’ school in Virginia during the Civil War, where the young women have been sheltered from the outside world, a wounded Union soldier is taken in. Soon, the house is taken over with sexual tension, rivalries, and an unexpected turn of events.

Director: Sofia Coppola
Writers: Sofia Coppola (written for the screen by), Thomas Cullinan (novel)
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning

Review by Gilbert Seah

THE BEGUILED is the new 2017 American period drama remake of the well-known 1971 Clint Eastwood Don Siegel collaboration. Written and directed now by a woman Sofia Coppola (daughter of Francis Ford Coppola) famous for her strong female films like THE VIRGIN SUICIDES and LOST IN TRANSLATION, the film arrives with lots of accolades since winning her the Best Director Prize at Cannes this year, making her the second woman director ever to win the prestigious award.

Cineastes and film critics would definitely be very eager to watch this film. Three main reasons for can be sited. The first is that THE BEGUILED is a new film by Sofia Coppola who is a definite presence in current film. Her new work is always something to look forward to. As the Don Siegel directed original was very all received critically, it would be very interesting to compare the differences between the two films, differences attributed to one film made with a strong feminine value and the original directed by a top action director with his top actions star (Eastwood). The new version also updates the political correctness. Thirdly, the new film boasts an impressive cast that includes Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Colin Farrell, the latter complete with full Irish accent in the Eastwood role.

THE BEGUILED is based on the novel The Beguiled (originally published as A Painted Devil) by Thomas P. Cullinan. Coppola’s film holds the same story though it removes the character of Haille, present in the 1971 version. Haille is a black slave that was taken to the soldier’s fascination. Set during the middle of the American Civil War 1860’s, injured Union soldier John McBurney (Colin Farrell) is rescued from the verge of death by 12 year-old Amy (Oona Lawrence), a student at an all-girl boarding school in the south, the Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies. Martha (Nicole Kidman) reluctantly agrees to take him in until he has built up his health, under the condition that he is locked in the music room and kept under watch. Both Edwina (Dunst), the schoolteacher, takes an immediate liking to John, as does Carol (Fanning), a teenage student. Female jealousies are aroused leading to a terrible climax.

Siegel was an action director and his film is more violent than Coppola’s. When McBurney’s leg is amputated, he is given wine in Siegel’s film while given chloroform in Coppola’s. The former is almost brutally unwatachable. Also in Siegel’s film, McBurney is hit by a candlestick before falling down the stairs while McBurney is pushed down the stairs in the latter.

In Coppola’s film, the soldier is not the main character trying to survive but now become the object of the females fantasies while the females become the main characters in the story. The outcome of the soldier remains the same.
THE BEGUILED is rich in period atmosphere with an authentic feel of the confusion of the civil war. Coppola’s updated version is absorbing, terrifying and well-directed piece of work deserving her of the Best Director’s prize at Cannes.


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Film Review: HIDDEN FIGURES (USA 2016) ***

hidden_figures_movie_poster.jjpg.jpgDirected by Theodore Melfi

Writers: Allison Schroeder (screenplay), Theodore Melfi (screenplay)

Stars: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kirsten Dunst, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons

Review by Gilbert Seah

HIDDEN FIGURES is given a limited theatre release at Christmas to qualify for the Oscar nominations. Obviously, 20th Century Fox hopes the film will strike it big at the Academy Awards.

Movies cover the hot topic of racial tensions in a number of ways. There is the angry rile up the emotions LOVING, THE BIRTH OF A NATION or the quieter FENCES(also opening during Christmas) where racial problem are irked out by hard-working law abiding citizens in the long run. In HIDDEN FIGURES, racial tension is covered in a whole different light – in a feel good crowd pleasing movie.

As the film proudly annoys at the start with the titles on screen “Based on true events”, HIDDEN FIGURES tells the true, little-known story of three brilliant African-American women who worked at NASA in the 1950s and ’60s and played a major role in sending astronaut John Glenn into orbit. Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), and Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) worked as engineers and “human computers” to push the limits of mathematics — as well as the limits of race and gender in the scientific community. Expect a little bit of romance and a look at the racial tensions of the Civil Rights era in this drama that promises to provide some great, real-life role models for girls and people of colour in STEM fields.

There are a lot of silliness in HIDDEN FIGURES. The most obvious of which is the dialogue penned for astronaut John Glenn (he passed away this month) who is the first American shot into Earth’s orbit. When told of the entry velocity of the spaceship into Earth’s gravitational pull, he remarks: “That’s one hell of a speeding ticket.” When informed where the craft will land, he says: “I always wanted to swim in the Bahamas.” If these were actual words Glen spoke, he must have been quite a clownish goon. The lyrics of the films’ songs (apaprently penned by artists like Pharrell Williams) like: “No more running…” and “Look what you done to me…” which underline the events happening in the film are not only unnecessary but yes, silly to the point of laughter.

Performance-wsie, the three female leads can do o harm. It is also refreshing (and funny) to see supporting actor Jim Parsons (from TV’s THE BIG BANG THOERY) in a thoroughly straight role as an antagonist or the only female in his department. Kevin Costner as the boss adds a certain dignity, welcome in the film.

HIDDEN FIGURES could have turned up a really excellent film instead of this mediocrity written down for audiences to feel good during the Christmas season. It is a question that the director and scriptwriter not having enough faith on the source material that it would work on its own without pumping in additional over-sweeteners.



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Happy Birthday: Kirsten Dunst

kirstendunstHappy Birthday actor Kirsten Dunst

Born: Kirsten Caroline Dunst
April 30, 1982 in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, USA

Read reviews of the best of the actor:

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Midnight Special, Movie Review

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midnightspecial.jpgMIDNIGHT SPECIAL (USA 2015) **
Directed by Jeff Nichols

Starring: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver

Review by Gilbert Seah

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL reunites director Jeff Nichols and actor Michael Shannon once again in a film dealing with an apocalyptic world. There is much to like and dislike about MIDNIGHT SPECIAL compared to TAKE SHELTER, but unfortunately, the former throws logic and reality to the wind. The plot and ending of MIDNIGHT SPECIAL is important to the enjoyment of the film and should not be revealed in my or any review, but it is sufficient to say that the ending should at least be a bit believable and not be totally absurd as in this case in terms of logic and possibility and also in terms of special effects. The ending is as if the special effects department was given an unlimited budge and the department spent the entire budget and more.

The film starts with a suspenseful abduction in which a man is wanted for the kidnapping of a child. It is all over the radio and the state in terms of an amber alert. Roy (Shannon) has fled a religious cult in rural Texas with his eight-year-old son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), who possesses otherworldly powers. Roy’s accomplice and childhood friend, Lucas (Joel Edgerton sporting a very convincing Texan accent), a state trooper, helps to bring the boy to an undisclosed location on a specific date, during which a celestial and possibly world-changing event may occur.

There are a lot of points in the script (written by Nichols) that do not make sense. But of course, one can argue that a good thriller need not require good explanations as the Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock has proven many times in his Masterpieces. For example Richard Thornhill (Cary Grant) was hunted down by the organization in NORTH BY NORTHWEST though no reason was ever given. But MIDNIGHT SPECIAL thunders towards a needed explanation that when revealed, makes no sense whatsoever. The supporting character of Lucas could also be done way with, though character development-wise, it does bring a good perspective to the character of the lead, Roy.

But for me whose first profession is engineering, I can really annoyed when a story leaves too many unexplained loose ends. Among these are: “Why does the kid and absolutely no one else land on this planet with the same situation? How does the kid comes to obtain all the information and for what purpose? Why the purpose of ‘the rapture’ at the film’s climax as it really serves no purpose? And why does the cult get so involved with the boy?

Shannon has always been an excellent brooding actor, accomplishing a range of widely ranging characters. Here Shannon is able to conniving the audience of a troubled yet caring father. He is willing to kill anyone to save his son.

The first half of the film works better than the second half. When more is left to the audience’s imagination, the more mysterious and suspenseful the film becomes.

The performances of the actors almost save the movie. Two of supporting cast deserve mention. One is Sam Shepard playing the cult leader, Calvin Meyer and the other Adam Driver as the FBI agent Paul Sevier who ends up helping Roy and Alton. One suspects that Nichols demanded solid no-nonsense performances from his actors.

But love it or hate MIDNIGHT SPECIAL will definitely affect audiences on way or other, in an extreme just as the film is (extreme).

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