Advertisements

Film Review: WELCOME TO MARWEN (USA 2018) ***

Welcome to Marwen Poster
Trailer

A victim of a brutal attack finds a unique and beautiful therapeutic outlet to help him through his recovery process.

Director:

Robert Zemeckis

Writers:

Robert Zemeckis (screenplay by), Caroline Thompson (screenplay by)

WELCOME TO MARWEN is based on the 2010 widely acclaimed documentary, Jeff Malmberg’s  MARWENCOL.  The doc follows the crucial event of April 8, 2000, when Mark Hogancamp was attacked outside of a bar by five men who beat him nearly to death after he told them he was a cross-dresser.  After nine days in a coma and 40 days in the hospital, Hogancamp was discharged with brain damage that left him little memory of his previous life.  Unable to afford therapy, he created his own by building a 1/6-scale World War II–era Belgian town in his yard and populating it with dolls representing himself, his friends, and even his attackers.  He calls that town Marwencol, blending the names Mark, Wendy, and Colleen.

Robert Zemeckis’ film is however treats the material quite differently.  WELCOME TO MARWEN is a fantasy drama.  The film begins with a doll figure looking like Steve Carell flying an aircraft during WWII, shot down from the skies in Belgium where he is saved from Germans by a troop of beautiful girls.  This fantasy world of dolls eventually dissolves into the

true story of Mark Hogancamp (Carell), a man struggling with PTSD.  After having his memory erased from being physically assaulted, by five men beat him up and left him for dead, all because he told them that he liked wearing ladies’ shoes.   Following the attack, Mark was left with little to no memory of his previous life due to brain damage inflicted by his attackers. In a desperate attempt to regain his memory, Mark constructs a miniature World War II village, called Marwen in his yard to help in his recovery.  Unfortunately, Mark’s demons come back to haunt him when he’s asked to testify against the five men responsible for ruining his life.  Mark’s PTSD is shown in the ilm to be caused by an overdose in taking his medication raster that the trauma itself.

One might argue that director Zemeckis is trivializing Mark’s personal tragedy.  There are reasons many would think this way.  In the script by Caroline Thompson, Mark falls in love with his new neighbour, Nicol (Leslie Mann in a dead serious role).  It is this love for her that helps him recover and for him the strength to attend court and to pursue his doll show.   The chance encounter with photographer, David Naugle, which afforded Hogancamp the opportunity to show his works is totally omitted in the movie.  Nothing is shown of the hard work that went into the creation of the village of Marwen.  When Nicol does not return Mark’s love, there is another, Roberta (Merritt Wever), who works in the toy store, in the waiting line.

The fantasy animation has the look of one of Zemeckis’ previous films POLAR EXPRESS.  The sequences, though well-done is not shown convincingly to serve any purpose but to fuel Mark’s obsessions which in the film, is not shown to be a good thing.  The dolls, a few topless are disturbing, especially when used as play things for a man who is not all there.  

It is assumed that Mark finally gets it all together when he attends his court hearing.  But by showing the culprits looking sorry of themselves, Zemeckis seems to have brought down what he has been building up throughout the film, that the guilty should pay for their bad deeds.

What ends up is a well-intentioned film that has lost its way from its storytelling.  What could be a gut-wrenching real life recovery drama ends up as Hollywood feel-good fluff.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6dy7xQ8NeE

Advertisements

Film Review: VICE (USA 2018) ****

Vice Poster
Trailer

The story of Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), an unassuming bureaucratic Washington insider, who quietly wielded immense power as Vice President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.

Director:

Adam McKay

Writer:

Adam McKay

Expect the unexpected from Writer/director Adam McKay.  VICE could stand for the evil that men do or the word before President, the office which Dick Cheney attained.  He was Vice-President of the U.S., and arguably the most powerful one in history while having quite a few vices in his character like drinking uncontrollably.

McKay wraps up plenty of surprises in his anything-may-happen bio on Dick Cheney.  Credits come on around the hour 15 minute mark.  The film has not ended then but if one leaves, then the story could have ended there.  But it goes on with full credits given at the end.  There is narration too, from Jesse Plemons, who speaks to the camera.  One wonders what he has todo with the story.  To tell you more would spoil the surprise, but he has quite a bit to do with Cheney’s life.

McKay’s cast is fantastic.  Christian Bale gained 40 pounds froth Cheney role and the make-up to allow him to age in an unhealthy manner is convincing.  A Best Actor Nomination is definitely in the works here.  Steve Carrell plays the unliked Donald Rumsfeld with all the sinister relish he was muster.   It is surprising to see Tyler Perry inhabit the role of conscience bearing Colin Powell who finally resigned from the Administration.  Oscar Winner Sam Rockwell (from THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIE EBBING MISSOURI) is almost unrecognizable as President George W. Bush, portraying him as a conniving no-good human being (which he is).

Everything unpleasant one has heard in the news on Dick Cheney is in the film – including the so-called hunting accident when he shot his hunting friend – from his university drunken days to the vice-presidency.  His university drop out is recorded and so is the impetus for his ambition in politics.  This is a very meticulously crafted scene, which the audience hopes actually took place.  His wife, Lynne (Amy Adams) gave him an ultimatum calling him a ‘fat drunk’ in the process.  Cheney succeeds in the change.  McKay also documents the couple’s loyalty to the Democratic Party, and for former President Richard Nixon.  For this unfamiliar or who dispel politics, there is still much to appreciate in McKay’s VICE,  For one McKay is a very resourceful and talented director and if not surprising the audience is updating the story to his skewed lenses.

The film includes a segment on the gay sexual orientation of Cheney’s younger daughter Mary (Alison Pill).  Cheney was shown willing to give up his career for her.  This segment gives me some respect for the man I never liked.  This is thus an important part in the life of the Cheney family which McKay is wise enough to include.

McKay is clearly against the evils executed by the Bush Administration primarily the War  on Iraq.  He inserts lots of images of innocent victims from Asia and Iraq.  He also mocks the Unitary Executive Power that the Administration had and used to approve any proposals.

VICE is the second film made on the Bush Administration after Oliver Stone’s W.  McKay has made a powerful bio on Dick Cheney but one not without his biting humour.

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

Film Review: BEAUTIFUL BOY (USA 2018) ***

Beautiful Boy Poster
Trailer

Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.

Writers:

Luke Davies (screenplay by), Felix Van Groeningen (screenplay by) |2 more credits »

Films about addiction no matter how well made are a difficult watch.  Acclaimed films of this genre in the past, Blake Edwards’s DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (alcoholism) and Otto Preminger’s THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (drugs) are examples.  The title of this latest opus on drug addiction supposedly crystal meth addiction, attempts to disguise the unpleasant material at hand.

Based on the bestselling pair of memoirs by father and son David and Nic Sheff, Belgium director Felix van Groeningen’s first English language film chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.  The son is the addicted one, and the father a mild user of drugs when younger goes all out to save his son from devastation.  As the story is derived from their memoirs, one can safely assume that all the events that occur in the film are true, maybe with just a little bit of dramatization.

Academy Award nominee Timothée Chalamet delivers a better performance here than in the over-rated CALL ME BY YOUR NAME.  But it is Steve Carell than achieves the acting honours.  At times, one hates his character for being too controlling and at other times, sympathize for his defeat.  It is when one never notices an actor’s performance that he is doing a phenomenal role and Carell achieves this feat proving himself apt at both comedy and drama.

Nic is indeed a beautiful child with two brothers.  Nic’s drug use grows uncontrollably.  The film traces his genuine attempt at rehabilitation, then coming clean before a relapse.  His parents (Amy Ryan plays the mother) are always there for him, though too angry and controlling (understandably) at times.  Nic comes close to death as well.  As said, it is a chore to watch the downward spiral of a drug addict.

Though film’s press kit says that the drug of addiction is meth, the film shows otherwise.  Nic is shown at various point heating up a liquid in a spoon and then injecting the solution into his veins.  Meth is just mixed with water when injected, so Nic must have progressed to crack, which is not explained to the audience.  In another scene, David, the father sniffs a line of powder as he claims he wishes to experience first hand of the drug.  Again, nothing is explained to the audience as meth is normally consumed by snorting (as David did) but more commonly by smoking it in a meth pipe (never shown) though the use of injection (which gives a faster high) is less common.

The film is well shot (the surfing segment) and there are no complaints with regards to the other departments.

BEAUTIFUL BOY premiered at TIFF together with another drug addiction film, Baldvin Z’s LET ME FALL from Iceland set in the capital of Reykjavik.  Baldvin Z draws his film on true stories and interviews with the families of addicts and is clearly the better film in terms of raw authenticity.  In this film Magnea the addict is never really keen of rehab and constantly lies to her long-suffering parents who finally gives up on her.  BEAUTIFUL BOY in comparison is American and the boy Nic genuinely wishes to come clean though the film proves this an extremely difficult task.  But BEAUTIFUL BOY proves once again the triumph the human spirit over adversities like meth addiction.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y23HyopQxEg

Film Review: LAST FLAG FLYING (USA 2017) ***

Thirty years after they served together in Vietnam, a former Navy Corpsman Larry “Doc” Shepherd re-unites with his old buddies, former Marines Sal Nealon and Reverend Richard Mueller, to bury his son, a young Marine killed in the Iraq War.

Writers:

Richard Linklater (screenplay), Darryl Ponicsan (screenplay) |1 more credit »

Full Review: BATTLE OF THE SEXES (USA 2017)

 

Battle of the Sexes Poster
Trailer

The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs.

Writer:

Simon Beaufoy

Stars:

Emma StoneAndrea RiseboroughSteve Carell

BATTLE OF THE SEXES begins with Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) just winning the women’s singles tennis championship making her number one female player in the world. King is outraged with the inequality of pay by the National Tennis League, especially with Jack, the chairman (Bill Pullman), who is shown to be the real villain of the story.

Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), arranges the battle of the sexes match, using his loud mouth and publicity to earn himself some cash to aid his failing marriage. To King, winning this match is more symbolic. It is a milestone for women’s rights for equal pay, a point that is mentioned at the film’s end credits but not made clear throughout the film.

The lazy script by Simon Beaufoy (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) never bothers with important details of the story. How, for example did King’s husband Larry, learn of his wife’s sexuality. In the film, King tells her hairdresser lover that this is her first time with women, but apparently the husband knows King has has same sex relationships before.
The film overdramatizes to the point of laughter. One scene has Billie’s lover in her hair salon shop hearing the news of Billie, realizing that she is needed and dramatically drops everything to leave the salon.

The wardrobe of the 70’s has never looked so awful in any other film. Did we, in the 70’s really look that bad thinking we were looking so cool? Billie’s husband, Larry ‘s clothes are the worst. Perhaps that might be one reason she later left him. The hair of everyone is just as bad, including Billie’s even after a hairdo from her girlfriend.

The script contains lots of inane dialogue and unfunny jokes. One line has Larry asking his wife if she was getting a blow dry, with full sexual innuendo. The film sheds no real light on the female rights movement, except what we already know. The dialogue contains lot of cheap jokes on women like Riggs saying that he believes women should be on the tennis court, but for picking up balls. These jokes are predictable, told many times before and if they meant to offend women, they still might. Two anti-female remarks are also voiced by two stars Llyod Bridges and Ricardo Montalban shown on old TV footage.

The crucial tennis match between King and Riggs can hardly be called exciting. For one, history already dictates who had won and the audience is in for no surprise. The camera is also placed mainly in one spot, showing the overhead shot of the players. The directors appear more concerned to show the match in long takes than any thing else.

Oscar Winner Emma Stone is too skinny to look like a tennis player. Carell looks remarkably like Bobby Fisher as they are right around the same age in the story. The nude picture of Carell resembles the one taken by Riggs. The rest of the cast of Sarah Silverman, Elisabeth Shue are largely wasted by the script that are unbothered with these characters.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES ends up a boring film on an exciting sport.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5ykcuAS1F4

BATTLE OF THE SEXES 1

TIFF 2017 Movie Review: BATTLE OF THE SEXES (USA)

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2017. Go to TIFF 2017 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Battle of the Sexes Poster
Trailer

2:23 | Trailer
2 VIDEOS | 37 IMAGES

The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs.

Writer:

Simon Beaufoy

Stars:

Emma StoneSteve CarellElisabeth Shue |

by Gilbert Seah

BATTLE OF THE SEXES begins with Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) just winning the women’s singles tennis championship making her number one female player in the world.

King is outraged with the inequality of pay by the National Tennis League, especially with Jack, the chairman (Bill Pullman), who is shown to be the real villain of the story. Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), arranges the battle of the sexes match, using his loud mouth and publicity to earn himself some cash to aid his failing marriage. To King, winning this match is more symbolic.

It is a milestone for women’s rights for equal pay, a point that is mentioned at the film’s end credits but not made clear throughout the film. The lazy script by Simon Beaufoy (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) never bothers with important details of the story.

The film overdramatizes to the point of laughter. One scene has Billie’s lover in her hair salon shop hearing the news of Billie, realizing that she is needed and dramatically drops everything to leave the salon. The wardrobe of the 70’s has never looked so awful in any other film.The script contains lots of inane dialogue and unfunny jokes.

One line has Larry asking his wife if she was getting a blow dry, with full sexual innuendo. The film sheds no real light on the female rights movement, except what we already know.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5ykcuAS1F4

BATTLE OF THE SEXES

Film Review: DESPICABLE ME 3 (USA 2017) ***

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

DESPICABLE ME 3Gru meets his long-lost charming, cheerful, and more successful twin brother Dru who wants to team up with him for one last criminal heist.

Directors: Eric Guillon, Kyle Balda
Writers: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio
Stars: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker

Review by Gilbert Seah
 
There are two attractive ingredients in the DESPICABLE ME animated features. One is the super-villain Gru (Steve Carell) or now ex-super villain Gru now working for the AVL (Anti-Villain League). The other are the adorable mumbling Minions. If one is not entertaining one enough, the other strive to be.

The film opens not with the Minions or Gru but with the story of a new super villain named Balthazar Bratt (voiced by South Park’s co-creator Trey Parker). Bratt was a former child actor who portrayed a young super villain in a popular television series before the show was cancelled as a result of his puberty and his waning popularity. This led to him adopting his former persona to become an actual super villain (complete with 80’s eraser head haircut and fashion). Bratt is out to steal the world’s most expensive diamond, in order to fuel his robot invention to destroy Hollywood as revenge, but along arrive Gru and wife (Kristen Wiig) to stop him.

It is obvious that DESPICABLE ME pays homage to the PINK PANTHER films. For one, Inspector Clouseau was French as is director Coffin and the diamond is unashamedly coloured pink. When the diamond is in show, the music comes on, though not with the famous Henry Mancini tune, but with Michael Jackson’s BAD in this case. As Bratt steals the diamond, he moonwalks Michael Jackson style to the diamond.

The main story of DESPICABLE ME 3 involves Gru and Lucy fired from the AVL owing to their failure in capturing Bratt. The others are subplots – quite a number of them – ties in with this event. One of these are the minions who want Gry to go back being a villain. The Minions also have the talent of showing up anywhere and everywhere during the movie. Kids love this, as observed during the film’s promo screening. The kids would scream out every time (adults beware!) the little darlings appear. The subplots involve Lucy bonding with her three adoptive children. The main one involves Gru meeting up with his newly found brother (also voiced by Carell), a more flamboyant character, thanks to his mother (voiced by no less than Julie Andrews).

But with all the subplots including the main story, the film strugglers to create very funny moments or high points that would make this sequel memorable over the others (including THE MINIONS) or even over the other Illumination Entertainment animation like THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS.

The film appropriate premiered at the Annecy International International Film Festival, director Pierre Coffin being French as such. The film opens this weekend alongside two other comedies THE HOUSE and BABY DRIVER and though will face stiff competition should do well at the box-office this weekend coming off at number 1. It also helps that there are countless Minion fans, both adult and kids around the world that will forgive an average DESPICABLE ME sequel, which is very much what this one is. DESPICABLE 3 is good, predictable, harmless family fun.

Trailer: http://universalpictures.ca/detail.aspx?title=DESPICABLE+ME+3&lang=en

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

Advertisements