Film Review: LUCE (USA 2019) ****

Luce Poster
Trailer

A married couple is forced to reckon with their idealized image of their son, adopted from war-torn Eritrea, after an alarming discovery by a devoted high school teacher threatens his status as an all-star student.

Director:

Julius Onah

Writers:

J.C. Lee (play), J.C. Lee (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

Though based on a play, the film co-written by the director an J.C. Lee, seldom feels like one due to director Onah taking the audience out of one scene and moving the action around interiors, exteriors and intercutting the acts so that thee are frequent scene shifts.  It is a good tactic which works well.

An all-star high school athlete and accomplished debater, Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is a poster boy for the new American Dream.  As are his parents (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth), who adopted him from a war-torn country a decade earlier.  When Luce’s teacher, Miss Wilson (Octavia Spencer) makes a shocking discovery, finding dangerous fireworks explosives in his locker, Luce’s stellar reputation is called into question.

The most satisfying element of the film is the way the story and characters grab the audience form the start and never let go.  What ever is revealed is just sufficient to get the audience anticipation going and wanting for more  It is difficult to keep the momentum going and the film thus slag, but jut a little in parts.

The script (and play) also leaves ambiguous points unresolved so that the audience can make up their minds on what actually happened – for example whether Luce actually had fireworks in his locker or was it his friend’s who shared the locker with him.  The answer is irrelevant to propel the story but curiosity is till there with the audience.

Performances are excellent all around, especially that belonging to Octavia Spencer as the history teacher, Miss Wilson.  Spencer displays both he strength, courage yet vulnerability of her character.  As she is finally dismissed as a result of her stand, her loss might turn into another Oscar win fo Spencer who has already won an Oscar for a supporting role in THE HELP.  Waits and Roth are both excellent as the often divided couple but they carry the strength of their roles magnificently.  This is not the first time they play a coupe together.  They id in Michale Hanake’s FUNNY GAMES year back as a couple whose ho i invade by psychotic young neighbours.  Last but not least is the performance by newcomer Sim Sim whose first performance as disturbed young black man is reminiscent of Will Smith’s role in SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION.   It is at this point that the film feels like a play fuelled by great  performances.  

Director Onah also demonstrates his sense of humour.  Right after a suspenseful remark is made in the film, the next scene is quick shifted to Miss Wilson having a shower withe the water spraying for the showered, Hitchcock’s PSYCHO-style.  Miss Wilson has a shower can and has a towel wrapped around her as i waiting for something ominous to happen.

The characters are human ad subject to the foibles of human nature.  The love for their son forces the adoptive parents to abandon their good judgement of good and evil in order to keep the family together.  This is not what the audience wishes to see but is what is expected to happen in real life.  Feelings and motions often rule above principles.  The non-compromising non-Hollywood happy ending might not satisfy audience when the film ends, but it is an ending worthy of whether the film’s story is heading.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqzgDB1CMI4

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THE BLEEDER (former title: CHUCK) (USA 2016) ***

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

chuckA drama inspired by the life of heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner.

Director: Philippe Falardeau
Writers: Jeff Feuerzeig, Jerry Stahl
Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Naomi Watts, Ron Perlman, Liev Schreiber

Review by Gilbert Seah

 Quebec director Falardeau has made some excellent Quebec films like CONGORAMA, MONSIEUR LAZHAR (his most famous and critical acclaimed film) and MY INTERNSHIP IN CANADA. THE BLEEDER with all its good points, however, is unable to reach the director’s high point, probably due to its depressing subject matter, though based on a true story.

The film is based on the life of Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber). It traces the rise to fall to redemption of Chuck, the man concentrating on his personal life rather than his boxing. It is tough to see a man from the Bronx, go down after gaining fame. The life of fame and riches seduced the man, resulting in him leaving his wife, doing drugs like cocaine and flirting around.

The atmosphere of the 70’s where the story takes place is authentically created. There are 70’s period films that do not look as if they were made in the 70’s, The BLEEDER looks as if it was made in the 70’s. Everything from props, dialogue, hair, music and sets is perfect.

This is the life of Chuck Wepner, best known for his 1975 fight with the heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali. The film is called THE BLEEDER because Chuck is able to take punishment, which allowed him to stay that many rounds in the ring with Muhammad Ali.

Live Schreiber plays Chuck the loser that he is. He is not too bright either. When he learns that Stallone stole his life story, he calls United Artists and asks to speak to directly to Stallone. When Chuck finally meets Stallone, he does not even ask him for royalties. One problem with the film is that Chuck is not a likeable human being. Worse, is that he is a loser with few redeeming qualities. It is hard to feel sorry for a man who was married three times who keeps cheating on his wives. His daughter is understandably upset with him. Everyone would be, including the teacher at a PTA meeting who walks away disgusted. Unlike the film ROCKY, which is based on Chuck’s life a film that became so popular because ROCKY was about a winner, THE BLEEDER is about a loser.

The boxing scenes are violent and necessarily so, as the film has to show the character living up to the name of Bleeder. The main match, the one between Muhammad Ali and Chuck is convincing enough to look like the real thing.
Schreiber is excellent in his role as Elizabeth Moss is as his second wife. The film does not really explain how Sylvester Stallone learned about Chuck’s life to portray him so accurately in his Oscar Winning film. The actor, Morgan Spector playing Stallone is totally laughable in his look – looking like a skinny though toned version of the Stallion.

THE BLEEDER is not a bad film. But a depressing film about a loser is going to be a tough sell to attract audiences.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AQXwOOqNNw

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Film Review: I AM HEATH LEDGER (Canada 2017)

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

i_am_heath_ledger.jpgFriends and family of the late actor Heath Ledger remember his life and career.

Directors: Adrian Buitenhuis, Derik Murray
Writer: Hart Snider
Stars: Heath Ledger, Naomi Watts, Ben Mendelsohn

Review by Gilbert Seah

Thunderbird Entertainment is releasing I AM HEATH LEDGER in select Cineplex theatres across Canada for a special event screening on May 4th, Thursday. The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 23rd, and takes an intimate look at the remarkable life and career of Heath Ledger, featuring interviews with Naomi Watts, Ben Mendelsohn, Ang Lee as well as his family and closest friends.
The big question is why would anyone but a true Heath Ledger fan want to spend 90 minutes of their lifetime in a theatre watching a documentary of his life.

Before dismissing the film, it should be noted that there are many things that can be learnt from the film, and from the life of Heath Ledger. Heath Ledger died from cardiac arrest after taking prescription drugs. He won an Oscar (posthumously) for his role of The Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT and did a great job as a gay cowboy in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, his two biggest roles (clips shown). But there is a lot of the man that many do not know.

The doc on Heath Ledger begins with a musician who talks candidly about the late Australian actor. Ledger has no time for anything that has no risk. He lived on the edge.” And more important, these words, “He is one person that is too big for this world.”

These are other quotations describing Heath Ledger:
Heath lived life to its fullest.
He knew everything about the camera.
He was documenting everything. He never stopped.
Music was always in him.
He was big in sharing in success.
He truly was an artist.

He was a one-man force of nature (referring to his video direction).
The most engaging effect of Ledger is his energy. He would show up at the early morning at friend’s place for breakfast and never run out of ideas as a filmmaker. His constant proximity to a camera allows his doc to show many candid footage of the artist. A few of these show his limitless energy, which is indeed catching and admirable.

Offering insight are the interviews with the famous actors who have worked with Ledger in his other films. Among them are Mel Gibson in THE PATRIOT, Emile Hirsch and Naomi Watts in LORDS OF DOGTOWN and Djimon Hounsou in THE FOUR FEATHERS.

The film spends time on BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and with reason. Director of the film Ang Lee speaks of his performance how he would nail the acting target. This was the film which he, a top star of the time, plays a gay cowboy. It was a film that changed Ledger’s life for two reasons. It marked his maturity as an actor and he met future wife, Michelle Williams, who had a supporting role in the film.

The film is biased in that it sidesteps any bad characteristics of Ledger. His drug use is totally dismissed with nothing mentioned also of his partying and drinking. Unlike the doc on Amy Winehouse, AMY which shows both sides of that singer/songwriter, I AM HEATH LEDGER only shows one side, the good side of Heath Ledger.

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

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Happy Birthday: Naomi Watts

naomiwatts.jpgNaomi Watts

Born: September 28, 1968 in Shoreham, Kent, England, UK

Auditions are just so humiliating and degrading. You get a five-minute time slot for a part you’ve spent six hours or more studying for or thinking about, and you get into these rooms full of people who barely make eye contact. They’re bored and frustrated that they can’t find the right person, energy that is instantly crushing and which makes it hard to shine. Going through that process over and over, you become so wounded and guarded that it’s impossible to give you best stuff away. That’s why I will never forget what David Lynch did for me. When he cast me in Mulholland Drive (2001), I was literally at the lowest place, and yet he managed to pull away all those masks.

MULLHOLLAND DRMullholland Dr.
2001
dir. David Lynch
Starring
Watts
Laura Harring
STAYStay
2005
dir. Marc Forster
starring
Ewan McGregor
Ryan Gosling
KING KONG Movie PosterKing Kong
dir. Peter Jackson
Starring
Jack Black
Watts
Adrian Brody
FAIR GAMEFAIR GAME
dir. Doug Liman
Stars:
Naomi Watts
Sean Penn
EASTERN PROMISESEastern Promisese
dir. David Cronenberg
Starring
Viggo Mortenson
Watts
MOVIE POSTERDREAM HOUSE
dir. Jim Sheridan
Stars:
Daniel Craig
Rachel Weisz
THE INTERNATIONALThe International
2009
dir. Tom Tykwer
Starring
Clive Owen
Watts
MOVIE POSTERJ EDGAR
dir. Clint Eastwood
Stars:
Leonardo DiCaprio
Armie Hammer
MOVIE POSTERTHE IMPOSSIBLE
2012
dir. Juan Antonio Bayona
Stars:
Naomi Watts
Ewan McGregor
MOVIE POSTERMOVIE 43
2013
Stars:
Emma Stone
Stephen Merchant
Richard Gere
Liev Schreiber
MOVIE POSTERTHE PAINTED VEIL
2006
dir. John Curran
Stars:
Naomi Watts
Edward Norton
MOVIE POSTERST. VINCENT DE VAN NUYS
2014
dir. Theodore Melfi
Stars:
Melissa McCarthy
Bill Murray

TOP NAOMI WATTS PHOTOSSEE – WITHOUT MAKEUP PHOTO

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SEE – BODY PHOTO

SEE – BOOTS PHOTO

SEE – BOYFRIEND PHOTO

SEE – BRA PHOTO

SEE – BREASTS PHOTO

SEE – BUTT PHOTO

SEE – CLEAVAGE PHOTO

SEE – CLOSE UP PHOTO

SEE – CLOTHES PHOTO

SEE – CURLY HAIR PHOTO

SEE – CURVES PHOTO

SEE – DRESS PHOTO

SEE – EARS PHOTO

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SEE – EYES PHOTO

SEE – FACE PHOTO

SEE – FASHION PHOTO

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SEE – MODEL PHOTO

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SEE – PANTS PHOTO

SEE – PHOTO SHOOT PHOTO

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SEE – STYLE PHOTO

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SEE – AND EDWARD NORTON PHOTO

SEE – AND FAMILY PHOTO

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SEE – AND LAURA ELENA HARRING PHOTO

SEE – AND LIEV SCHREIBER PHOTO

SEE – AND NICOLE KIDMAN PHOTO

SEE – AND SEAN PENN PHOTO

SEE – ANN DARROW PHOTO

SEE – AS MARILYN MONROE PHOTO

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SEE – ELLE PHOTO

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SEE – ESQUIRE PHOTO

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SEE – PREGNANT PHOTO

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SEE – STELLA MCCARTNEY PHOTO

SEE – VANITY FAIR PHOTO

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DEMOLITION, Movie Review

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

demolitionDEMOLITION (USA 2015) ***1/2
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Heather Lind, Chris Cooper

Review by Gilbert Seah

I had a conversation with a friend about houses a month ago. He claims that modern houses have no character unlike those like the old buildings in the French countryside. It is remarkable that in Jean-Marc Vallee’s latest film about life and what matters, the film hits the nail on the head of our conversation when the lead character, Davis says of his ultra-modern expensive home: “I hate this house. It’s just shiny stuff!” (Dvid demolishes it later on in the film.)

DEMOLITION tells the tale of a finance executive, trying to make sense of his life after the passing away of his wife. It totally makes sense as the accident occurs suddenly out of the blue, just as Vallee shocks the audience with the shock tactic of a car ramming into the couple’s, in the midst of conversation followed by a blank screen and news of the wife’s (Heather Lind) death. Davis Mitchell’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) father-in-law and head of the finance firm, Phil (Chris Cooper) tells him that in order to repair something, one has to take it apart and put it all together again to understand how it works. The trouble with Davis is that he can take things part but not put in back together. So, he takes it upon himself to tear down the leaking fridge or plumbing in the office washroom but not able to re-assemble he parts. And so his life is the same – he takes it apart, driving everyone, particularly Phil bonkers, but he cannot piece it all back together.

Vallee has created a very thoughtful film here – made more profound in that he leaves the audience to figure out what his film or hero is all about. He helps with a voiceover, provided by Davis himself as he writes to the vending company venting on one of the machines that is unable to put out an M&M’s peanuts package. The Public Relations of the company (Naomi Watts) is drawn into the story, with her son Chris (Judah Davis) helping him to make sense out of life.

Many other issues like coming-out (Chris’s) and gay bashing are tied into the story.
One conversation piece also brilliantly ties in to the message of what matters most in life. Chris swears constantly to which Davis says, “If you swear so much, the swearing loses its effect and you only look stupid.” Here, Davis has surprisingly hit the nail on the head as to what’s important and it then takes the kid to show him the way.

There are two too commonly used tactics in films that spoil the originality of DEMOLITION One is the shock tactic of the accident out of nowhere and the other is the hero running off into the sunset (as in Truffaut’s 400 BLOWS).

Still DEMOLITION is an interesting film, for sure as I have seen the film a second time (the first at the Toronto International Film Festival) and Vallee’s film still feels fresh in its storytelling and execution.
 

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