2019 TIFF Movie Review: WASP NETWORK (France/Belgium/Spain/Brazil 2019) ***

Wasp Network Poster
The story of five Cuban political prisoners who had been imprisoned by the United States since the late 1990s on charges of espionage and murder.

Director:

Olivier Assayas

WASP NETWORK is a multi-level political thriller that tells the story of numerous characters set in the Cuban American cold war.  Director Assayas did CARLOS which spanned a 181-minute lengthy running time.  WASP NETWORK has more stories to tell and it seems really rushed in Assayas’ storytelling in this 2-hour film.  The primary story is set in December 1990. Airline pilot René González (Edgar Ramírez) steals a plane and flees Cuba, which is about to topple into an economic crisis precipitated by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Having abandoned his wife (Oscar winner Penelope Cruz) and daughter, René, now based in Miami, is regarded as a coward and a traitor, though in letters home he explains that he is fighting for a more just and prosperous Cuba as a member of the activist organization Brothers to the Rescue.  

Another character is fellow exile and pilot Juan Pablo Roque (Wagner Moura). René gradually becomes more aware of the moral compromises the Brothers make to do their work — and the degree to which the CIA is involved in supporting anti-Castro activities.  Director Assayas makes the CIA the story’s chief villain.

Trailer: https://www.cineuropa.org/en/video/rdID/375491/f/t/

Film Review: EVERYBODY KNOWS (Todos lo Saben) (Spain/France/Italy 2018) ***

Todos lo saben Poster
Trailer

Laura, a Spanish woman living in Buenos Aires, returns to her hometown outside Madrid with her two children to attend her sister’s wedding. However, the trip is upset by unexpected events that bring secrets into the open.

Director:

Asghar Farhadi

Two time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi’s (A SEPARATION, THE PAST) latest and one of his weakest entries shows the Iranian director treading water in familiar territory.  The popular  saying ‘we have all see it before’ hails true.

A SEPARATION and THE PAST, Farhadi’s two best films shows family drama about broken relationships told in the form of a whodunit.  The opposite is recognizable in EVERYBODY KNOWS.  Who, close to the family planned the kidnapping of the teen daughter?  The kidnapping is an excuse for the family drama that unfolds which also reveals a skeleton in the closet for the audience but one that all the characters in the story already know – hence the film title EVERYBODY KNOWS.

The film begins with the arrival from Argentina to Spain of Laura (Penelope Cruz) and her two children for her sister’s wedding.  During the wedding, there is an electricity blackout during which teen daughter Irene (Carla Camra) is drugged and kidnapped.  The rest of the film functions as the whodunit until Irene is finally set free at the end of the film.

It turns out that a ransom is to be paid and Paco (Javier Barden), a family friend has the access of funds to pay the ransom.   The EVERYBODY KNOWS secret is that Paco and Laura had an affair in the past though Laura is married  now to Alejandro (Ricardo Darin) who is conveniently not around  so that the two can rekindle their past passions.  It also turns out that Irene is Paco’s daughter which serves more incentive for him to get the money to pay off the ransom.  There is even more unnecessary drama not entirely related to the plot.  Irene is a feisty girl who wants to elope with a handsome local teen.

Farhadi has gained the reputation of directing films in a language he cannot speak like Spanish in this Spanish entry or French in THE PAST.  This must surely not be an asset though the director has done pretty well in the past.  He now appears to glide through films in different countries like a tourist.  EVERYBODY KNOWS looks like a tourist ad for Spain with its sunny weather and gorgeous vineyards.

The film boasts stars Bardem and Cruz, a big boost for Farhadi as his films never had the privilege of such big internationally known stars before.  But Cruz is quite awful transforming from happy and cheery celebrating her sister’s wedding and reuniting with friends to worried and howling mother after her daughter is kidnapped.  Bardem fares better as the rough bohemian love interest.  (Cruz and Bardem are real life wife and husband.)

The film ends up more a successful family drama and less a satisfying whodunit.  The guilty kidnappers are revealed at the end, and they seem to get away with the deed while the poor victimized family continue to suffer.

The film opened the Cannes competition in 2018 and has so far received so-so favourable reviews from critics.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IU3xV9ZRYlk

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (USA 2017)

A lavish train ride unfolds into a stylish & suspenseful mystery. From the novel by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express tells of thirteen stranded strangers & one man’s race to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.

Director:

Kenneth Branagh

Writers:

Michael Green (screenplay by), Agatha Christie (based upon the novel by)

Stars:

Daisey Ridley, Penélope CruzWillem Dafoe

Film Review: THE QUEEN OF SPAIN (Spain 2016)

THE QUEEN OF SPAIN.jpg
The misadventures of a Spanish crew during the filming of an American movie in 1950’s Spain.

Director: Fernando Trueba
Writer: Fernando Trueba
Stars: Penélope Cruz, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin

Review by Gilbert Seah

THE QUEEN OF SPAIN arrives after its Gala Selection at Berlinale 2017. The film is the sequel to Fernando Trueba’s 1998 drama THE GIRL OF YOUR DREAMS which also starred Penelope Cruz in a story set during the Spanish Civil War with Josef Goebbels falling in love with Macarena Granada. The film, though not many are familiar with in North America won seven Goya Awards including best film and best actress for Cruz. But what is more well known, is that Cruz and director Trueba worked together on the 1992 film BELLE EPOQUE which won the Best Foreign Film Oscar. With that, THE QUEEN OF SPAIN aroused sufficient interest to get commercial distribution.

The film is not as good as the other two, and in fact quite a disappointment, considering the film’s setting and its ambitious political intentions. Trueba injects lots of comedy and melodrama and the kind of goings-on during the filming of a movie. The film is fun to watch but could have developed into much more.

There are many stories – in fact a few too many on display in the film. The most important of all is to the one considering Cruz’s character but a film director, Blas Fontiveros (Antonio Resines) that has got into a lot of political trouble in the past. He suddenly appears at the start of the film, like a ghost as everyone though him dead, but is arrested. With so many people in the new film that he has helped in the past, they decide to spring him. The new film that is made is an American Hollywood film shot in Spain by director John Scott (Clive Revill) who is so old, all he can do is shout ‘action’ or ‘cut’ between his naps. The main star from Hollywood is Marcarena Granada (Penelope Cruz) who falls in love with a grip (Chino Darin) on the set. Other subplots include the dandy American actor, Gary Jones (Cary Elwes) and an assorted Spanish crew including a couple (a lesbian and gay man) who marries for convenience.

The setting is the nostalgic age where Hollywood came to Spain. Clearly director Trueba hates politics and Franco for that matter and has a sort of love/hate relationship with Hollywood as depicted in the film. The McCarthy witch hunt in which screenwriters were banned from working in Hollywood is given a nice touch in the film. One such writer arrives in Spain and works under an assumed name.

THE QUEEN Of SPAIN is a well intentioned film which has taken too much on its plate. It still is an entertaining romp – a tribute to the nostalgic filmmaking times of the 50’s – a film in a film. Following its premiere in Berlin, which was met with a long standing ovation, the film was nominated for five Goya Awards held this past March, including a nomination for Cruz as best actress.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VfVvAlyeJ4

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Happy Birthday: Penélope Cruz

penelopecruz.jpgHappy Birthday actor Penelope Cruz

Born: Penélope Cruz Sánchez
April 28, 1974 in Alcobendas, Madrid, Spain

Read reviews of the best of the actor:

THE HI-LO COUNTRYThe Hi-Lo Country
1998
dir. Stephen Frears
Starring
Billy Crudup
Woody Harrelson

THE GOOD NIGHTThe Good Night
2007
dir. Jake Paltrow
Starring
Gwyneth Paltrow
Simon Pegg

Vicky Cristina BarcelonaVicky Cristina Barcelona
2008
dir. Allen
Starring
Scarlett Johansson
Javier Bardem

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger TidesPirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
dir. Rob Marshall
Stars:
Johnny Depp
Penélope Cruz

MOVIEBLOW
2001
dir. Ted Demme
Starring:
Johnny Depp
Penélope Cruz

G-FORCEG-Force
2009
dir. Hoyt Yeatman
Starring
Will Arnett
Penélope Cruz
Zach Galifianakis

NINE Movie PosterNine
dir. Rob Marshall
Stars:
Daniel Day-Lewis
Marion Cotillard
Cruz

MOVIE POSTERTO ROME WITH LOVE
2012
dir. Woody Allen
Stars:
Ellen Page
Greta Gerwig

MOVIE POSTERBANDIDAS
2006
dir. Joachim Ronning
Espen Sandberg
Stars:
Penelope Cruz
Salma Hayek

MOVIE POSTERTHE COUNSELOR
2013
dir. Ridley Scott
Stars:
Brad Pitt
Goran Visnjic

MOVIE POSTERVOLVER
2006
dir. Pedro Almodovar
Stars:
Penelope Cruz
Carmen Maura

82. SEE – BOOBS PHOTO

81. SEE – BOOTS PHOTO

80. SEE – BRA PHOTO

79. SEE – BUTT PHOTO

78. SEE – DRESS PHOTO

77. SEE – ELLE PHOTO

76. SEE – FASHION PHOTO

75. SEE – FEET PHOTO

74. SEE – GLAMOUR PHOTO

73. SEE – GOLDEN GLOBES PHOTO

72. SEE – JAVIER BARDEN PHOTO

71. SEE – LEGS PHOTO

70. SEE – LIPS PHOTO

69. SEE – LOREAL PHOTO

68. SEE – NAKED PHOTO

67. SEE – NAKED BREASTS PHOTO

66. SEE – NINE PHOTO

65. SEE – NINE CAST PHOTO

64. SEE – OSCARS PHOTO

63. SEE – PIC PHOTO

62. SEE – PREMIERE PHOTO

61. SEE – SEXY PHOTO

60. SEE – SMOKING PHOTO

59. SEE – SPANISH ENCHANTRESS PHOTO

58. SEE – STYLE PHOTO

57. SEE – TOM CRUISE PHOTO

56. SEE – VAGINA PHOTO

55. SEE – VANITY FAIR PHOTO

54. SEE – WALLPAPER PHOTO

53. SEE – WOODY ALLEN PHOTO

52. LESBIAN SCENEFrom Vicky Christina Barcelona

51. WOMAN ON TOPDancing in a sexy black mini-dress.

50. TOM CRUISE SCENEFrom Vanilla Sky. It is a dream or reality

49. CHROMOPHOBIAA scene with Sir Ian Holm and Penelope Cruz in “Chromophobia” (2005)

48. ELEGYWith Ben Kingsley. director: Isabel Coixet; based on Philip Roth novel ‘The Dying Animal’

47. BLOWThe scene where George and Mirtha meet in 2001 film. With Johnny Depp

46. TANGO SCENEFrom Captain Corelli’s Mandolin in 2001

45. OSCAR PERFORMANCEThree scenes from her winning OSCAR role Vicki Christina Barcelona

44. DANCE SCENESinging and dancing from the 2009 NINE. Sexy dance scene

43. STRIPTEASE DANCEHot strip tease from the film NINE in 2009

42. OSCAR SPEECHWinning best supporting actress for Vicky Christina Barcelona

41. INTERVIEWOn David Letterman in 2009

40. TRIBUTEMontage of the best of Penelope Cruz

39. SHORT HAIRPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

38. RED DRESSPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

37. RED CARPETPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

36. RALPH LAURENPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

35. PREGNANTPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

34. GOWNPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

33. OSCAR DRESSPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

32. NYLONSPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

31. NOSE JOBPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

30. GLASSESPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

29. FEATHER DRESSPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

28. FACEPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

27. EYESPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

26. EYEBROWSPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

25. DRAWINGPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

24. DARK HAIRPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

23. CURLY HAIRPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

22. SHORTSPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

21. WPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

20. UPDOPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

19. TATTOOPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

18. SMILEPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

17. CASUALPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

16. BEDROOMPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

15. BEACHPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

14. BANGSPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

13. BABYPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

12. ASSPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

11. ARTPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

10. AND JAVIER BARDEMPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

9. 2011PHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

8. AND MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEYPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

7. MANGOPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

6. MAKEUPPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

5. LIPSTICKPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

4. LINGERIEPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

3. AND JOHNNY DEPPPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

2. JEANSPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

1. HAIRPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

BONUS PIRATEPHOTO of the sexy actress from Spain

Movie Review: ZOOLANDER 2 (USA 2016) ***

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

zoolander_2ZOOLANDER 2 (USA 2016) ***
Directed by Ben Stiller

Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penélope Cruz, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Christine Taylor

Review by Gilbert Seah

ZOOLANDER and ZOOLANDER 2 are milder versions of Sasha Baron Cohen’s BRUNO which are still pretty wild for most audiences unfamiliar with films like these that satirize the fashion/modelling industry.

It took a while, 15 years, since the first ZOOLANDER (2001) also directed by Ben Stiller hit the screens. It has been a long wait – the stars have grown older, and the plot makes use of the fact. Whatever goes on in the movie does not make much sense, but famous pop stars are being killed as they are protecting the Chosen One. “You can’t kill us all.” utters Justin Bieber, the 6th pop star killed in a year, before he kicks the bucket after posing on Instagram. Even Madonna has struck her last pose! Who is the Chosen One and who is the villain? As outrageous as the plot is, the twist is even more outrageous than anything found in any film in a while. Hilarious? It is in a way if one sits back and ponder over what has occurred. The script, by no less than 4 writers including Stiller, Justin Theroux (the writer of AMERICAN PSYCHO who also appears in the film as an evil DJ) is actually hilarious, though it might not seem so on first appearance. Perhaps ZOOLANDER 2 should be seen a second time to digest the mayhem on screen.

So, the not-so bright Zoolander (Stiller) is drawn out of recluse together with fellow model, Hansel (Owen Wilson). The villain is Mugatu (Will Farrell hamming it up, the most he can ever muster), engineering his escape from fashion prison. (Don’t ask!)

Not everything is original in the film. A lot of the jokes are similar to ZOOLANDER 1 and the ending sexy cat fight between two beauties, Penelope Cruz and Milla Jovovich, to the delight of all the males watching is way too similar to the scene from the French film (that did not get released here), OSS 117 NEST OF SPIES, directed by THE ARTIST’s Michel Hazanavicius.

The star cameo list is staggering. They include Bieber and real life fashion icons, Valentino, Vera Wang, Marc Jacobs, Tommy Hilfiger and Anna Wintour. The trouble is that these icons are not immediately recognizable, but their names are emphasized at least so audiences know who they are. Of the recognizable star cameos, Susan Sarandon (doing a ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW routine), Milla Jovovich, Macaulay Culkin, Billy Zane, Katy Perry, Sting and Neil deGrasse Tyson strut their stuff, all playing themselves. But the best of these belong to Benedict Cumberbatch who surprises as he plays All, a transgender looking super model so full of himself that he marries himself.

ZOOLANDER 2 plays like a spy spoof as well as a satire of the fashion/model industry. Hate it or love it, my partner best described the film as “not that funny but sill entertaining.” Yes, and the film has lots of energy! But audiences not in the know might be totally bewildered at the goings-on!

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