2019 TIFF Movie Review: ENDINGS, BEGINNINGS (USA 2019)

Endings, Beginnings Poster
Clip

A 30-something woman navigating through love and heartbreak over the course of one year. During that time, she will unlock the secrets to her life in a sudden turn of events and in the most surprising of places.

Director:

Drake Doremus

ENDINGS charts disappointments in relationships from a female point of view.  An idealistic woman (Shailene Woodley) attempts to get her life on track financially and romantically, but gets caught in a love triangle with a free-spirited bad boy (Sebastian Stan) and his more stable, scholarly best friend (Jamie Dornan).  

With little money, she lives in her sister’s guesthouse, she regularly witnesses her sibling and her brother-in-law fighting, which only exacerbates the once-idealistic Daphne’s growing despair regarding long-term love.  One can tell that she is going to pay for playing the two men, which she does.  But the way she gets everything back in focus is questionable especially when there are no catalyst put into by the script.  Worst is director Doremus’ fondest for closeups with the background often blurry.  

The trouble is that most of the film’s images are generally more blurry than usual making the production values look cheap.  The film is aimed at demonstrating how one can still come out strong despite total hopelessness all round.  Woodley plays the part despite the unconvincing script.

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9147456/videoplayer/vi1420214041?ref_=tt_ov_vi

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I, TONYA (USA 2017) ***1/2

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I, Tonya Poster
Trailer

2:24 |Trailer
Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.

Director:

Craig Gillespie

Writer:

Steven Rogers (screenplay)

In 1994, the figure-skating world was shocked by the brutal attack on US medal hopeful Nancy Kerrigan.  The more shocking news was that the attack was allegedly conceived and executed by those close to — and perhaps including — rival figure skater Tonya Harding.  The film tells Tonya’s story and thus the title I, TONYA.

The story is revealed in tongue in cheek events with humour and irony while keeping to the main dramatic details.

Sad, funny but real this biopic of the infamous American figure Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) plays like a mockumentary as the film is bookended by interviews of the main characters 20 years after ‘the incident’.  The film then unfolds in chronological order with Tonya as a child brought to the skating rink as a skating prodigy by her mother who would often slap her around for not doing her best.  

‘The incident’ as described in those exact words in the film itself refers to the breaking of rival skater Nancy Kerrigan’s knee by Tonya’s ex-husband.  The question was whether she knew of the plot.  As the film explains she likely did not at the start, as it was all Jeff Gillooly’s (Sebastian Stan) idea but when she did get nailed for it, she was then banned from figure skating in any organization for life, a sentence in her own words, that was worst than prison.

Films have been often made of heroes and survivors, but it is seldom that one is made of white redneck trailer trash.  That is Tonya Harding.  But director Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers portray the skater as someone America loved to hate, but also paints her, despite her volatile and fierce personality someone vulnerable to her surroundings and acquaintances.  She is treated brutally (physically and emotionally) by both her two closest relatives, hers husband and mother (Allison Janney).

Director Gillespie remembers that I, TONYA is after all a film about the sport of figure skating.  The segments of skating have to be good and they are.  Compare the recent tennis film BATTLE OF THE SEXES which made the mistake of including no exciting matches in it.  Her triple axel at the 1991 championships is shown beautifully in slow motion.

Gillespie elicits some mighty fine performances from his cast most notably Robbie in the title role as well as Janney as her stern mother, LaVona.

The dialogue though in everyday words are at times so predictable, one can say the words just before the characters utter them.  In one scene, after LaVona after throwing a knife that sticks into her daughter’s arms utter the words: “Every family has its ups and downs.”   A comical line though the words are stolen from the play and film THE LION IN WINTER.  But there are some good lines in the script as when LaVona says (and really believes) that she sacrificed being a loving mother so that Tonya can grow up to become a fierce skater.

Though the film deals partly with the daughter/mother relationship, it shows for once that the relationship is a sour irreconcilable one.  Still the film finally gains the sympathy of the skater, that in her own words describes herself as the one America grew to hate.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXZQ5DfSAAc

 

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Happy Birthday: Sebastian Stan

sebastianstan.jpgSebastian Stan

Born: August 13, 1982 in Constanta, Romania

It was like a huge master class every day in rehearsal with [director] Bob Falls and [actor] Liev Schreiber. I spent the whole time at the table taking notes on everything Liev was saying: Quoting Shakespeare and how [the play “Talk Radio”] was similar to this or that play. I’d come in and be so hyped up and he’d be like, “Listen. It’s all great, but you gotta figure out what you want here and why.” [2007]

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MOVIE POSTERCAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
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dir. Anthony Russo
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Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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captain_america_civil_warCAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (USA 2016) ***
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Daniel Bruhl, Frank Grillo

Reveiw by Gilbert Seah

Judging from the box-office successful but critically panned BATMAN V. SUPERMAN, audiences love to see their super heroes battle one another – never mind the reason, never mind who wins, and never mind anything else. In this latest Marvel superhero movie, there are lots more of the same. It is a dream come true for current action fans as there is a full 15 minute action fight scene during which two factions of super heroes battle it out with each other.

The film begins with establishing the reason for the formation of the two factions. It is a world disaster in which innocent people are killed in Nigeria following a criminal being pursued by the Avengers. As a result of the collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps, one led by Steve Rogers aka Captain America (the handsome hunk Luke Evans) and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s Ironman (played by Robert Downey Jr.) surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.

This is an AVENGERS film despite the Captain America title. Other Marvel heroes on display here include Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the Winter Soldier of the film title (Sebastian Stan), Falcon from the IRONMAN films (Anthony Mackie), Hawkeye with his arrows (Jeremy Renner), Vision (Paul Bettany), Spider-man (Tom Holland) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) the latter two providing most of the humour in the film. But the script by a multiple of writers includes many one-liners that only Marvel fans will find funny, or whoever is in the mood. But the one-liners are quite mediocre and no match compared to those found in other action films like the DIE HARD or TERMINATOR films.

So there is one faction led by Ironman with Spidey, Faclon and Spider and the other by Captain America, Winter soldier and Hawkeye. There is an extended fight scene between the two leaders as well but no one really comes out the outright victor. The heroes use their powers like Spidey his web, America his shield and Hawkeye his arrows.

The film running at almost two and a half hours is surprisingly short on both story and character development. The script contains lots of repetitions on the need to control the Avengers i.e. to substantiate the rivalry between the two groups. All this tends to be a tad boring after a while, not to mention that the matter is never resolved at the end and the film set up for a sequel.

Not much is demanded in the acting department for an action film of this nature except for the actors to look good. And they all look very bulked up or pretty as the case may be. This reviewer never liked Robert Downey Jr. as an actor (in Sherlock Holmes, IRONMAN and other films) or in person for his wise-cracking smart-ass attitude. So, the best line in the film delivered by Black Widow to him: “Are you incapable of letting go of your ego for one Goddamned second?” gave me a big smile.

CAPTAIN AMERICA is a film that would delight action Marvel fans, but those serious in their taste of cinema – might want to take all this with a pinch (or rather, heap) of salt.

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