Film Review: STAND! (Canada 2019) ***

Stand! Poster
In post-World War I Winnipeg, a Ukrainian immigrant and a Jewish woman get caught up in a labour strike.

Director:

Robert Adetuyi

STAND! is a new film based on the stage musical of the same name.  I admit that I have not heard of the Canadian musical and neither have many of my friends.  So, the film arrives with a challenge to attract audiences to see this relatively unknown musical that is slotted in between 2 big musicals, the already box-office champ FROZEN 2 and the upcoming CATS at Christmas.  Director Robert Adetuyi (STOMP THE YARD and TROUBLE SLEEPING) has done a decent job.

STAND! is set 100 years ago against a backdrop of civil unrest and a violent general strike that changed Canada’s history.  The story follows an immigrant Romeo & Juliet in 1919 as they battle for love and a better life on the streets of Winnipeg, amid political and social turmoil.  Stefan (Marshall Williams from GLEE and HOW TO BUILD A BETTER BOY) and his father Mike (Gregg Henry) fled Ukraine for the New World, where they struggle to earn enough to reunite the family. Stefan is instantly smitten with the Jewish suffragette neighbour, Rebecca (Laura Wiggins), but Rebecca’s brother Moishe and Mike oppose the would-be couple. Meanwhile, soldiers returning from WWI are angry at the lack of jobs after the war and violently threaten the city’s immigrants, including Emma (Lisa Bell), a refugee from racial strife in Oklahoma.  When a movement develops for workers to leave their jobs in protest, a wealthy lawyer (the villain of the piece) pits all against each other in a dramatic and inspirational final stand.

Though set a century back many of the issues depicted in the film are still relevant today.  Racial tension and fear of losing jobs to foreigners are always relevant issues and so is the concept of evil and power.  The script by Juno-winner Danny Schur and Rick Chafe often falls into cliched territory but the actors perform their duties with such conviction that the flaws can often be overlooked.  For example, Stefan’s obstinate father Mike refuses to join in the strike and even works as a scab but on knows that he will eventually end up in the protest march, which he does in the end.  For a period piece, the art direction, wardrobe and atmosphere are impressive.

STAND! can stand (pardon the pun) very much as a drama on its own without being classified as a musical.  The actors do not breakout into song or dance that often, so that the film does not really feel like a musical.  A few of the songs are also pretty good, tune and lyrics as well.   Despite being small budget, the film looks grand.  The climatic march at the end of the film requires a march of ten thousand people.  This is quite hefty logistics. 

STAND! the Juno-award-winning musical hit set against the Winnipeg General Strike by composer Danny Schur & Rick Chafe’s hit musical opens across Canada on November the 29th.  A small but effective musical, STAND! is worth look.

Trailer: (unavailable)

Film Review: SUPERGRID (Canada 2018) **

SuperGrid Poster
In a future where a plague has infected much of the population, two brothers are tasked with traveling to Canada to retrieve a mysterious package.

Director:

Lowell Dean

The Grid is a highway through post-apocalyptic Central Canada from the U.S. Border to the Northwest Territories.  It is the setting of this futuristic dystopian film that lays like a MAD MAX  FURY ROAD wannabe.  The film unites the crew of the successful WOLFCOP films.

Watching SUPERGRID increases ons admiration for FURY RAOD’s director Australian George Miller.  The classic is hard to imitate.  In SUPERGRID, unlike in Mad Max where every character is tough desperate and angry, every character in SUPERGRID just stands around trying to look tough.  They carry lots of weaponry are are not afraid of using them.  They spew out mean words with cussing, often threatening each other to no end.

The film cents on two estranged brothers, Jesse (Leo Fafard) and Deke (Marshall Williams) who must travel the notorious “Grid” to collect and deliver a mysterious cargo.  Deke is the good-looking one while the scruffy Jesse has more anger to contend with.  In the middle of the movie, Jesse’s ex girlfriend shows up to help, among the situation more intense. They have failed in the past and they do not like each other.  Cliche and no surprises in plotting here!  The job is supposed to be their last detail.  Why?  No real reason is given and one knows that they will always be forced to make another one.  As in the case of the story that the brothers have to survive one last run.

SUPERGRID is quite an intense and serious film for a totally escapist actioner.  The script’s only funny parts are Deke’s one-liners and these are the most unfunny one-liners written in an action film this year.  One would imagine that at least one of the two script writers T.R. McCauley and Justin Ludwig cold have come up with something remotely funny.  Not only does the future look bleak, but one thing after another keeps going wrong for the brothers.

The film’s production sets, containing largely of trash, broken walls and sparse landscape are convincing enough.  The film aims for a MAD MAX look and the film looks it, being shot in the open sparse plains of Saskatchewan, Canada.  The special effects are all right and the action sequences passable.  But there are no fantastic panoramic shots of riders or car chases in the vast desert as in the MAD MAX films.

The film at least looks like a proud Canadian production, deserving of Saskatchewan  fundings. It uses the landscape of Saskatchewan.  The film also features the province’s indigenous people in the casting

The brothers are not told what the cargo they are picking up, not that anyone cares.  The brothers also encounter a lot of weird characters at the U.S. Canada border who demands sachets of water.  All the apocalyptic events are vaguely explained resulting in a scenario that one can hardly be sure of.

SUPERGRID would have resulted in a better film if the filmmakers put in the same effort to connecting the audience to the story and characters as they did in creating the film’s look and atmosphere.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5XHdmQuSkk