Film Review: MARY MAGDALENE (UK/USA/Australia 2018) **

Mary Magdalene Poster

The story of Mary Magdalene.


Garth Davis

Comes Easter usually come a slew of Christianity films.  MARY MAGDALENE is one of them that does not have the Christian faith directly as a theme.  Mary Magdalene is one of the women who encountered Jesus of Nazareth in the Bible.

Besides being set in Biblical times and a film that has Jesus as a subject, there are other reasons that might attract moviegoers to MARY MAGDALENE.  The film features two stars Rooney Mara and Joachim Phoenix who normally play shit disturbers – Mara in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and Phoenix in INHERENT VICE and YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE, now playing a super good Mary and the Son of God, Jesus.

Though Mary is believed by may to be a reformed prostitute, no such mention of this fact is evident i any part of the film.  When the film begins, Mary is seen delivering a bay saving the mothers life before being offered as a bride to a man she does not love.  She declines to continue the typical mother and wife role set in her village of those times.  Mary and  her village are under the rule of King Herod, which the audience is informed is a puppet ruler of the Roans who has beheaded John the Baptist for preaching the Kingdom of God.  The Mary Magdalene character is present in the  4 Gospels of the new Testament that account for the life of Jesus on Earth.  The life of Jesus is in the background in the film with Mary as the protagonist.

The film’s setting is Galilee.   The cinematography is impressive and most of the scenes are spectacular to look at – with the lake in the background (according to the press notes) or sea (according to the Bible).  

MARY MAGDALENE fails for a number of reasons for two main reason – the miscasting and the fact that thesis one boring film.   Whenever Mara appears, despite her angelic face, one can always recall her bad ass roles.  The same can be said for Phoenix only worse.  It is totally laughable when Phoenix as Jesus starts preaching doing good deeds.  Director Davis also sues the film to promote the feminine cause – the role of women in society.  The film drags on with event after event that does not really connect the audience with the narrative.  No one really cares if Mary fall in love or marries her soul mate either.

The film has an eclectic cast that includes Tahar Rah as Judas Iscariot, Tcheky Karyi as Elisha and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples (I did not know Peter was black and that Judas was Arab).  One can understand current films striving to be politically correct to further the causes of feminism and racism.

For MARY MAGDALENE – see it for what it is worth, which is not much.  Better to spend your money on Easter eggs!



Film Review: DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT (USA 2018) ***1/2

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Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot Poster

On the rocky path to sobriety after a life-changing accident, John Callahan discovers the healing power of art, willing his injured hands into drawing hilarious, often controversial cartoons, which bring him a new lease on life.


Gus Van Sant


John Callahan (based on the book by), John Callahan (story by) | 4 more credits »

DON’T WORRY HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT is a comedy-drama biography film based on the memoir of the same name by John Callahan.  Gus Van Sant (DRUGSTORE COWBOY, MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO, GOOD WILL HUNTING, GERRY, ELEPHANT) wrote the screen adaptation and directed the film.  

When the film opens, John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix) is addressing an audience after winning some award for his cartoons.  Callahan is in a wheelchair as a result of a car accident involving drinking.  But Callahan is still drinking though he is attending an AA group led by Donnie Hill (a totally unrecognizable Jonah Hill).

The film unfolds in non-chronological order, centring on Callahan before and after the accident, including his rise to fame with his cartoons.

DON’T WORRY will inevitably be compared to the French film, Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (French: Le Scaphandre et le Papillon), a 2007 biographical drama based on Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoir of the same name, on a man’s disability and rehabilitation.  The film depicts Bauby’s life after suffering a massive stroke that left him with a condition known as locked-in syndrome. Bauby is played by Mathieu Amalric.  Bauby is totally conscious but unable to move all parts of his body but his left eye that he used to write the memoir.   The Diving Bell and the Butterfly won awards at the Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, and the César Awards, and received four Academy Award nominations and is considered by critics as one of the best films of the decade.

DON’T WORRY never reaches the high standard hit by Le Scaphandre et le Papillon but goes towards a different direction, stressing more on the emotional than physical comeback.  Whether Callahan can have sex is one of the main conditions examined.  The main difference between the two films lie in the difference in the two main characters.  In the French film, Bauby was strong and fixed on recovery while in this film, Callahan is self destructive and wallows in self pity.  This is not helped by the fact that Callahan is still an alcoholic.

The film also considers the emotions that Callahan goes through right after the accident in the hospital.  Ironically the drunk driver, Dexter (Jack Black) that caused the accident walked away with only a few scratches.  Callahan met Dexter by chance at a bar and spent the night drinking heavily and driving.  The film fails to mention what happened to Dexter after the accident.  But Callahan asks key questions like: “Why is this happening to me?” – a question that is invariably asked by probably every person undergoing such a tragic accident.  Callahan also confesses to a worker, Annu (Rooney mara) that he promised God that he would do anything and or would make a pact with the devil to become normal again.   These key emotions differentiate DON’T WORRY from the French film.

Callahan’s birth as an artist only begins at the film’s one hour mark.  A few of the cartoons are revealed to the audience and to Callahan’s credit, they are quite funny –  a kind of THE FAR SIDE by a guy in a wheelchair.

Van Sant’s DON’T WORRY encompasses the best of his ‘lonely’ films like ELEPHANT and GERRY and ‘hidden talent’ films like GOOD WILL HUNTING, offering audiences gut wrenching insight in his soulful biography of a troubled human being.



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Film Review: A GHOST STORY (USA 2017) **

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A GHOST STORYIn this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife.

Director: David Lowery
Writer: David Lowery
Stars: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, McColm Cephas Jr.

Review by Gilbert Seah
If a film is weird enough, it makes matters worse if the filmmaker makes the film even weirder. This is the case with David Lowery’s ghost story drama – an extremely difficult to follow, confusing yet the simple storied film.

Lowery is well known for having directed Disney’s PETE’S DRAGON, now doing his minimalist project, something I guess he always wanted to do.

The story follows a couple who is referred to in the film’s notes simply as C and M. C is the male (Casey Effleck) and M is the female (Rooney Mara). When the film begins, the couple are are in a suburban home about to sell their house. They are quiet, indicating perhaps though director Lowery never makes it certain, that they need more communication. They talk about a piano with M shown dragging it out to the front of the house for garbage collection.

The next scene has C in a morgue. He is next shown in a sheet with two cut out holes as eyes. C is apparently a ghost though no reason is offered. Another ghost in a sheet with two cut out holes appear later on in the. Film. Again, it makes no sense whatsoever.

The film goes on. Moving on at slower than a snail’s space, Lowery tests the audience’s patience to no end. The music is eerie, dialogue kept at a minimum. People move in and out of the house as C occasionally scares people in the house by throwing cutlery.

As if matters cannot get worse, the film shifts back and then forwards in time towards the last third of the film. There is also a scene where a bulldozer suddenly demolishes the walls of the house.

The ghost can disappear, as is assumed when the sheet crumples to the ground. It can therefore move on to heaven or better things? No one is sure.

The film contains lots of long takes – especially long takes of close ups, something not too often seen in films. An example is the re-visited poignant scene in bed where C and M face each other in bed, kiss and fall asleep. The first time the scene is performed, it lasts a full 5 minutes. There are again other scenes this slow moving.

Performance-wise, nothing much is required from Mara nor Effleck. This is a director’s piece not the actors. All the actors are required to do is brood and brood, and maybe put a sheet over themselves. Needless to say, there are no special effects required in this ghost story.

A GHOST STORY is not badly made. It is well executed, well performed and a nice mystery from start to finish, challenging the audience. It is a haunting ghost story, but not a scary one, though the art house concept will scare commercial audiences away. Many critics at the screening loved A GHOST STORY but I am not a fan.


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Film Review: SONG TO SONG (USA 2017)

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song_to_songDirector: Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman

Review by Gilbert Seah

 Terrence Malick’s films have been accessible to some and highly inaccessible to others. The best example is Malick’s TREE OF LIFE that the Toronto Film Critics association awarded Best Film of the year that most of the public hated. Malick’s last film was his indulgent ode to the Universe which he made though the man is neither a scientist of physicist. That was a complete mess.

His latest indulgent film SONG TO SONG begins at a concert of some sort where the crowd is wild and violent. It is an energetic scene that provides some promise of an exciting film that never comes to fruition. As the film unfolds, it is revealed that SONG TO SONG is supposedly a film about life that is led from song to song or from kiss to kiss.

SONG TO SONG is a love story set against the Austin, Texas music scene, with two entangled couples — struggling songwriters Faye (Rooney Mara) and BV (Ryan Gosling), and music mogul Cook (Michael Fassbender) and the waitress whom he ensnares, Rhonda (Natalie Portman) — chase success through a rock ‘n’ roll landscape of seduction and betrayal. The betrayal involves Faye who hides her affair with Cook from BV. BV has a fling with Amanda (Cate Blanchett) while Faye also experiments with same sex with Rhonda. The film intercuts frequently among the couples, without any meaning or direction.
The film contains a lot of voiceover, particularly from Rooney Mara at the beginning of the film.

SONG TO SONG is stunningly shot by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki with credit also going to Malick. The best spectacular scenes are the ones with the rooftops, the crystal clear waters, the beaches including interior scenes like the gorgeous decorated and furnished apartments.

It is difficult to judge performances when a film has no narrative or direction. But Malick, has assembled, besides the main stars mentioned above, other famous names in his cast like Val Kilmer, Iggy Pop, Tom Sturridge, Holly Hunter and Lykke Li.

The film’s first cut was 8 hours and shortened to two hours with huge snips that included singer Patti Smith totally removed from the film. Even Fassbender thought he would have been totally cut out of the film leaving only his voiceover.

In SONG TO SONG, Malick delves into romantic relationships in an experimental type film where narrative is thrown into the wind. The film is often all over the place. incoherent and senseless.

The critical response to the film has been pretty bad so far with only a few praises. It currently stands, at the point of writing, at just the 50% mark on meteoritic and rotten tomatoes. SONG TO SONG is also one of the lowest rated Malick films.

As in almost every Terrence Malick film, SONG TO SONG is undeniably, a visual treat. But that is all that can be said about the film. It also runs too long at 129 minutes.



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Film Review: LION (Australia 2016)

lion_movie_posterLION (Australia 2016) **
Directed by Garth Davis

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Dev Patel

Review by Gilbert Seah

When a feel-good story as in LION is made into a film, filmmakers often still feel the need to add on additional sweetness. PLAY IT LIKE BECKAM, BILLY ELLIOT and the more recent QUEEN OF KATWE are examples of films that fall into this trap.

Audiences do not seem to mind as observed in the box-office success of the first two aforementioned films though QUEEN OF KATWE bombed. Critics, however are never impressed with sugar-coated feel-good films. Unfortunately, LIONS falls into this category. Director Davis is still not ashamed to show a tear or two dripping from the face of the main protagonist, Saroo (Dev Patel), not once but twice.
Dev Patel (THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE), Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman star in the true story of Saroo Brierley, who was adopted by an Australian couple after being separated from his family in India at the age of five, and then located his original home using Google Earth 25 years later.

The film begins with overhead shot of Tasmania, Australia before settling, oddly in India. Here, the audience sees precocious five-year-old Saroo Khan (Sunny Pawar) in a very poor family. Over-eager to help his older brother Guddu with any odd job that will provide their family with much-needed money, Saroo follows Guddu everywhere he goes. One night the two boys are separated on a train platform in their native Madhya Pradesh, and Saroo winds up nearly a thousand miles away in Calcutta where he is fortunately taken in by a government orphanage. When an Australian couple (Kidman and David Wenham) adopts him, he is taken to live with them in Hobart, Tasmania. It’s not until Saroo leaves that island as a young Australian man (Dev Patel) that he begins to wonder what became of his first home and the family he so adored. Saroo falls into romaine with an Australian (Rooney Mara) in an awkward romance. It does not take a genius to figure out that Saroo will eventually be united with his mother in India through the help with Google earth.

Adapting Brierley’s own book, A Long Way Home, screenwriter Luke Davies and first-time director Garth Davis infuse the story with just too much heartbreak. Nothing is gained or learnt from this predictable true tale made worse with its tear jerking at every possibility. This is an example of the worst of a based on a true story, tear at your heart-strings film.

The reason the film is called LION is revealed at the very end of the film. Not that it matters any. The film LION arrives with much less than a roar.


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Happy Birthday: Rooney Mara

rooneymaraHappy Birthday actor Rooney Mara

Born: Patricia Rooney Mara
April 17, 1985 in Bedford, New York, USA

Read reviews and see pics of the best of the actor:

dir. David Fincher

YOUTH IN REVOLT Movie PosterYouth in Revolt
dir. Miguel Arteta
Michael Cera
Portia Doubleday

dir. David Fincher
Jesse Eisenberg
Andrew Garfield

A Nightmare on Elm Street Movie PosterA Nightmare on Elm Street
dir. Samuel Bayer
Jackie Earle Haley
Rooney Mara

dir. David Lowery
Rooney Mara
Casey Affleck

dir. Steven Soderbergh
Rooney Mara
Channing Tatum

dir. Spike Jonze
Joaquin Phoenix
Amy Adams


and Charles McDowell
and Daniel Craig
and David Fincher
and Jesse Eisenberg
and Kate Mara
and Kyle Gallner
and Scarlett Johansson
and Taylor Swift
and Thomas Dekker
and Troian Bellisario
as Dragon Tattoo
as Erica Albright
as Lisbeth Salander
Before and After
Black and White
Close up
Curly Hair
Cut Hair
Empire Magazine
Getting Tattoo
High School
in a Nightmare on Elm Street
in Law and Order
in Tanner Hall
in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

in The Social Network
in The Winning Season
in Youth in Revolt
Kissing Boyfriend
Magazine Cover
Mini Dress
Movie Poster
Nipple Poster
Nipple Ring
On Set
on the Street
Photo Shoot
Red Carpet
Short Dress
Short Hair
Short Skirt
Spiked Hair
W Magazine