TIFF 2018 Review: TEEN SPIRIT (UK 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.

Teen Spirit Poster
Trailer

Violet is a shy teenager living in the Isle of Wight who dreams of pop stardom as an escape from her small town and shattered family life. With the help of an unlikely mentor, Violet enters an international singing competition that will test her integrity, talent and ambition.

Director:

Max Minghella

Writer:

Max Minghella

The film’s setting is the Isle of Wight where a Polish family of single mother (Agnieszka Grochowska) and shy 17-year old daughter Violet (Elle Fanning) who dreams of pop stardom etch out a difficult living.  

Violet enters an international singing competition as an escape from her small town and difficult family life.  Her days are spent doing chores, waiting tables, and attending secondary school, where she keeps to herself.  Violet surrenders to song and enters a competition. She befriends Vlad (Zlatko Buric), a once-celebrated opera singer who hears Violet and knows she’s something special. 

 He declares himself her manager and trainer, accompanying her as she tries out for a popular televised musical talent program called Teen Spirit.  The film is totally cliche ridden and filled with predictable plot points right up to the very end of the film.  Fanning is fantastic in the role, who almost saves this bland crowd pleaser.  

The contestants on the TV series “America Got Talent’ perform much better.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu0Hwb6qUX0

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Film Review: PERMISSION (USA 2016)

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Permission Poster
Trailer

A woman on the brink of a marriage proposal is told by a friend that she should date other men before spending the rest of her life with her boyfriend.

Director:

Brian Crano

 

There are two categories of chick-flick romantic comedies – those made by female directors and those made by male directors.  The former category usually sees everything from the feminine perspective while glorifying the female while more often than not, debasing the male counterpart. 

PERMISSION, the new romantic comedy debut by writer/director Brian Crano belongs to the second category.  Like most films in this category the male filmmaker usually also takes the side of the female, giving them enough respect so as not to offend them.  In PERMISSION, the female is clearly the more mature and intelligent of the couple.  Since the film is written by a male, males cannot complain that this is a feminist film.

The film begins with a really short sex scene between the two leads.  Anna (Rebecca Hall) and Will (Dan Stevens) are very much in love and have great (if not, too short) sex.  Will intends to propose to Anna at her birthday celebrations at a bar with her brother, Hale (David Joseph Craig) and current male lover, Reece (Morgan Spector).  But that is impeded by the suggestion of Reece and Hale to have Anna “test date” other men before she ultimately settles down.  This results in the relationship turning open, meaning that Will can try other girls too. 

The couple faces the obvious problems that result in an accepted open relationship though the film and the couple insist that dating others does not constitute an open relationship.  My question to them is then: What then is an open relationship?  The problems include jealousy number one followed by number two, the craving for wanting for sex with strangers.  But the biggest danger of all is the probability that the stranger might be the better one to marry.  These are two human feelings that cannot be removed, and unless a couple can deal with these two issues, an open relationship or a closed relationship with allowance for multiple sex partners should not ever be considered.   Anna and Will together believe that their love for each other can conquer all.  So the rest of the film goes on to see whether love can.

Writer/director Crano’s film runs into many problems.  For one, the main premise of the couple is compromised by the introduction of Anna’s brother’s gay relationship.  Worst still, Crano inserts a problem into the gay couple’s relationship – the adoption of a child.  This distraction is boring and does not contribute to the main story at hand.  The four characters are all too nice and likeable.  The film would be more interesting if any one would be a complete asshole or one to be totally at fault.  Some of the humour makes no sense at all, as in Will spitting into his lover, Lydia (Gina Gershon) mouth, while high and having sex.

One good insight the film provides is that it shows the hurt the people go through as a result of such an experiment.  The film also surprisingly is almost saved by its ending.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EV9ZnPPnyz8

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Film Review: PROFESSOR MARSTEN AND THE WONDER WOMEN (USA 2017) ***

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Professor Marston and the Wonder Women Poster
Trailer

The story of psychologist William Moulton Marston, the polyamorous relationship between his wife and his mistress, the creation of his beloved comic book character Wonder Woman, and the controversy the comic generated.

Director:

Angela Robinson

PROFESSOR MARSTEN AND THE WONDER WOMEN examines the relationship of Dr. William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), the creator of WONDER WOMAN with his wife, Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and the second girl, Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) in their menage a trios.  A man with two women living together with S&M sex including bondage and spanking, set in the 40’s does not an easy film make.  Credit therefore goes to Robinson for incorporating an uncomfortable subject into a movie for general audiences.  In fact, the film goes to accredit bigamy.  Those that do not agree are said in the film to be simple.  The film will definitely infuriate many. The film does not always work, as do awkward projects.  

The film begins with the rejection of the violence and sex depicted in the Wonder Woman comics.  While appearing at the Board on Enquiry, Dr, Marsten explains his case, while the film flashes back to his marriage and sexual arrangements with Olive under the guise of psychology apprenticeship.   Complications arise when Olive’s two boys come into the picture and when a neighbour enters the house unexpectedly and catches the three in a  sexual bondage act.

For a film promoting the acceptance of S&M and bondage, it is surprising that there are no graphic sex scenes nor even nudity.  Yet the film comes across as disturbing one.  It shows that no graphic scenes are needed to take the sexual content to an different psychological frontier.  By means of intercutting of scenes with the Wonder Woman comic book showing tied up prisoners, whipping and spanking, director Robinson cleverly makes her point.

But if one examines the situation on another level, there is nothing really objectionable.  Many men have mistresses.  The only difference in this case is that the wife is also in love with the mistress.  It also makes the sex affair more congenial for everyone if the three decide to stay together.  Everything works well till society objects.  The same thing happened in the past for gay couples.  They were rejected and ostracized from society with their acts deemed evil.  Now that society has condoned same sex marriages, gays living together are cool.  Robinson recognizes the fact and emphasizes it in one key scene where Marsten screams that it is only society that has to accept them.   As to sexual fetishes, everybody has them, in one form or another.

Robinson is also quick to point out that the film is set in 1928 (though Wonder Woman was created in 1941), at the start and that there is a new psychology that is in the making.  At one point, Professor Marsten says to Olive: “How do you expect to learn about life if you refuse to live it?”   Some psychology is also thrown into the film for good measure, like Marsten’s explanation of the 4 categories of dominance, compliance, inducement and submission.  This enhances the credibility of the characters and the plot of the film.

After viewing PROFESSOR MARSTEN AND THE WONDER WOMEN, one will never look at the WONDER WOMAN comics again in the same light.
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r991pr4Fohk

THE BFG (USA 2016). Directed by Steven Spielberg

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the_bfg.jpgTHE BFG (USA 2016) **
Directed by Steven Spielberg

Starring: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader

Review by Gilbert Seah

THE BFG (big friendly giant) premiered at Cannes this year in the out-of-competition category to rave reviews. So expecting a lot from Spielberg, the director who is reputed to be a creator of dreams, I went into the BFG film (a film with a story of a giant collecting dreams in a bottle) expecting a lot but was duly disappointed.

The film based on the Roald Dahl children’s novel, deals with an orphan named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) who lost her parents when she was a baby. Sophie is kidnapped from the orphanage one night by the BFG (Oscar Winner Mark Rylance from Spielberg’s NEST OF SPIES) and brought to Giant Land. There, Sophie befriends the BFG. The book and film fail to give a satisfactory reason of Sophie being kidnapped. The BFG turns out to be one who captures dreams and delivers them to children in the human world. In Giant Land, Sophie meets the other nasty evil human-eating giants. Going back to London, she convinces the Queen (Penelope Wilton) to capture the evil giants. That is the story, a simpler one compared to other Dahl’s stories.

Spielberg opts to leave out Sophie’s orphanage life. Nothing is shown about her life there, except of a mention by her to the BFG that the matron Mrs. Conkers is nasty and gives out lots of punishments such as locking children in the cellar which is rat infested. Not one other child is shown in the film leaving out a key element in the film – the human element. Other characters like the Queen’s Head of Army and Air Force, the King of Sweden and Sultan of Bagdad are largely left out. There are no ‘real’ human beings in the film except for Sophie. Everyone else like the queen and her men are shown as clowns and just pawns for the story’s movement.

At least the special effects animation and Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography are nothing short of stunning. The look of Mark Rylance as the BFG looks very close to Quentin Blake’s illustration in the Dahl book. From the very first frame to the last, there is always the feeling of awe. But the basic human story is lost. Special effects have undermined the simple pleasure of a Roald Dahl book. There can always be too much of a good thing. After being in Giant Land for an hour, the special effects animation begin to look normal.

Spielberg keeps his film in family mode. There is not gore or any scene in which a giant gobbles a human being. When Sophie is eaten by a giant in her dream, she is seen thrown into a dark black hole. Spielberg also resorts to cheap laughs like fart jokes The BFG offers Sophie a fizzy drink called frobscottle that causes noisy green-coloured flatulence. The flatulent humour is revisited when the Queen herself drinks the frobscottle.

The film is dedicated to Melissa Mathison, the scriptwriter (she also wrote E.T.) who passed away during the film’s production.

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Happy Birthday: Rebecca Hall

rebeccahall.jpgHappy Birthday actor Rebecca Hall

Born: Rebecca Maria Hall
May 3, 1982 in London, England, UK

Married to – Morgan Spector (26 September 2015 – present)

Read reviews and pics of the best of the actor:

e LINK and see the HALL film reviews!

CLICK and SEE MORE MOVIES REVIEWS!

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