Thursday, July 28, 2016

"Pete's Dragon" is good, but ...

I caught up with "Pete's Dragon", oh I'd say a couple of weeks ago, and I have to say it really is such a well-made, beautifully rendered children's entertainment because, well, the director at work here is David Lowery who made the magnificent "Ain't Them Bodies A Saint." back in 2013, which turned out to be a really important film of the last 3 or so years. "Pete's Dragon" is obviously a slight step back for Lowery, but still a very charming movie.

I mean, in all honesty, there are no real ways to finance your own vision anymore. Directors are fucked at the moment in terms of creative freedom. All the millennial filmmakers that showed shades of greatness with an indie are being bought off left and right by Disney for their superhero, mass-marketed franchises. An empire is being built and they can afford to just buy out all these up and coming talent.

There was a line this producer said to me back at Sundance that I'll always remember: "all these filmmakers here think they can retain their creative freedom, even after a Sundance hit, but they eventually sell their soul to the devil. We're living tough times."

"Embers" is poor sci-fi @FantasiaFest #Fantasia2016

To make a post-apocalyptic film, you must truly have a vision that not only is interesting, but is authentic enough to give you the nagging feel that this could feasibly happen in our society one day. It worked wonders in Alfonso Cuarón's now classic "Children of Men," but it faltered in Fernando Mereilles' misbegotten "Blindness."

In writer-director Claire Carré's "Embers," a global neurological disorder has erased most of the population's memory. Those who remain in this wasteland of no mercy try to find some kind of connection and meaning in a world that is slowly deviating from it.

At its core, "Embers" is simply told with a mosaic of characters, with all but one having lost their memory. The neurological disorder is not exactly explained, nor do you really get any of the science behind the tragedy. Some of the characters can remember a whole day, some can remember just minutes.

é tries to keep her film grounded in reality, but struggles to find some kind of coherence to her vision. The locations and set design are top notch and were clearly well researched. There's an abandoned church in Gary, Indiana where characters named Boy (Jason Ritter) and Girl (Iva Gocheva) wake up and struggle to figure out if they are or have been in love. There's a lot of questioning, which turns out to be an intriguing proposition for the audience, but finally ends up being frustrating in the end due to the repetitive nature of the story.

Another story concerns an intellectual professor (Tucker Smallwood), who has found creative ways to survive with what he has, and the friendship he strikes with an orphaned boy (Silvan Friedman). These segments of the film don't necessarily advance the story in any way shape or form, but are a way to just add another layer to an already struggling mosaic. 

Additionally, there is containment in the story of Miranda (Greta Fernandez) who lives with her father (Roberto Cots) in a bunker. They found a way to stay resistant to the disease, but Miranda still has the itch to go out, find her missing mom and build up some kind of connection with the outside world, even if it means losing her own memory. It's this struggle between freedom vs safety that invariably invades the entire film. It's not necessarily an invalid question to ask, but it could have been done n many more subtle ways than those presented in "Embers."

The only character arc that actually works is that of an unnamed young man (also the one with the least amount of screen time). This violently aggressive young man (Karl Glusman) brings a whole new meaning to the term "survival of the fittest" by attacking elderly men for their canned food, young children for self-esteem, and girls for sex. It's a shocking reminder of just which direction this film could have gone if it wanted to step on the dark side of humanity. Instead Carré stuffs her film with hope, love, family, adolescence, and an overall triumph of the human spirit.

It's in Glusman's performance that we are most interested in, as he bears the rage and fury of the apocalyptic world on his shoulder. When he finally gets a taste of his own medicine by being brutally attacked by a gang, you'd think he'd finally rest, calm himself down, and learn a valuable lesson; but he continues on in his path of terror, wreaking chaos wherever he sees an opportunity. 

"Embers" tries to be a complicated dissection of a possible world not too far ahead of us, but it lacks the imagination to make us soar along with its vision. It's a depiction of humanity and the world at its supposed lowest state, but you never really feel the misery or despair that is supposed to be present everywhere. Carréchooses to be optimistic and by doing that she makes the film lose a big chunk of its credibility. [C] 

Possible #TIFF2016 title: Gavin O'Connor's "The Accountant" with Ben Affleck

Not appearing on the first slate of TIFF films, this curiously thought-out film looks to be a total mindfuck of the highest order. At first you think this is going to be Affleck's "A Beautiful Mind," I was wincing, but then it takes a complete 180 and shatters our expectations. O'Connor's last film was "Warrior," which is still, to this day, the best film about Mixed Martial Arts that I have ever seen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

#FantasiaFest review: "Skiptrace" starring Jackie Chan and -SHOCK- Johnn Knoxville

MONTREAL — Jackie Chan has had Chris Tucker and Owen Wilson assist him in past buddy-cop comedies. Movies like “Rush Hour” and “Shanghai Noon” were fun to watch, but they always had to rely on the chemistry that Chan would have with his co-star. The screenplays always played to the genre’s conventions, but never had enough material that one might call “original” in them. Nonetheless, the stunts and fights were always inventive, and how could they not be, with Chan, who continues to eschew using a double to perform the sequences himself, often risking his limbs, if not his life.
With the right co-stars, Chan and co. could actually make a lazy script work, but sadly, Johnny Knoxville is not one of them. Director Renny Harlin‘s “Skiptrace,” making its North American premiere at Fantasia Film Festival, stars Jackie Chan as Hong Kong cop Bennie Chan and Johnny Knoxville as American gambler Connor Watts, and it just so happens that they both, unknowingly, are the targets of a nasty Chinese criminal. Chan’s Bennie is obsessed in capturing drug-dealer kingpin “The Matador,” who is responsible for the murder of his partner. Meanwhile in Macau, Watts is being chased by Russian gangsters for impregnating the boss’ daughter, but also, unwillingly, witnesses the shooting of a woman by the Chinese mob. Watts is the prized witness for Chan, but also the a prime target for Chinese henchmen who will chase both of them for the rest of the movie.
Chan and Knoxville do share moments where their partnership works, even if they do feel like shades of better scenes we’ve seen in older films, but one at a Russian packing plant where a matryoshka doll is used as a prop is not only tremendously exciting stuff, but encompasses the ingenuity and humor that one might find in a better Jackie Chan movie. But mostly, the plot is almost a prop in itself, a kind of excuse for the next fight to eventually occur. Chan’s signature comedy fighting style is infectious, and there’s a reason why this man has been in the game for more than five decades and has had so much success. Chan is the product of what would have probably happened if Charlie Chaplin and/or Buster Keaton were equipped with a litany of martial-arts skills.
The locations in “Skiptrace,” which include China’s Guangxi and Guizhou Provinces and parts of Mongolia, are beautiful to watch and do sometimes distract from the lazy plotting that Harlin has concocted here. Harlin, now 57 years old, is no slouch at giving us stinkers. He’s made it a living in a career that includes titles such as “Cutthroat Island” and “Deep Blue Sea.” His directing here is competent and outlandishly safe, but expecting anything other than by-the-book entertainment from Harlin is not informing yourself enough of his past.
Knoxville is not necessarily a bad actor, but his skills lie in more daring films and not the ones that lean conventional. In “Skiptrace,” his role is filled with lame one-liners and no real sense of a developed personality. Seeing the king of “Jackass” pretend he knows what he’s doing during fight sequences is an absurd proposition to believe for the audience. He always seems out of place, and the inconsistent tone he brings to Watts is a disservice to the comedic elements the film is trying to create.
Chan, on the other hand, stumbles, dives, rafts, climbs, jumps his way around the fight sequences as expertly as we always expected him to. His physical stamina is remarkable to watch, especially when you realize the man is 62 years old, and while his acrobatic nature has always been part of his shtick, so has the endless flow and rhythm that come with his every movement. He brings energy to a film that desperately needs any kind of life, but there is only so much Chan can do. [C-]

#TIFF2016 announcement came with a few surprises

This mornings TIFF announcement came with a few neat surprises, but there were no key fall films from the likes of Ang Lee, Clint Eastwood, Terrence Malick,  Denzel Washington, and Martin Scorsese to be found. That was only the initial slate, a second slate will be announced later this month. These are the five surprises that happened with this morning's announcement:

Christopher Guest's "Mascots"
Who knew this one was brewing. Any film by Gueat is worthy of a watch. His best, A Mighty Wind, was released more than 13 years ago. I very much welcome a comedy to the fest lineup. Most of the titles are dire and dark, but a Guest movie usually celebrates the hidden joys of life. Will probably be key to try and fit this in my itinerary.

Rob Reiner's "LBJ"
Not too many people paid attention to even this movie's existence. With every Reiner film getting released I cross my fingers it'll be the start of a comeback. I mean this is the guy who gave us The Princess Bride, This Is Spinal Tap, Stand By Me, When Harry Met Sally and A Few Good Men, all considered classics today. He's been on the downwards since the mid-90s, but consider me interested in LBJ. He was a tremendously important president and it's nice to see s biopic happening.

Jonathan Demme's "JT + The Tennessee Kids"
Yes, it's a documentary. But, it's Demme. As good as those Neil Young docs have been its about time Demme uses his incredible talent at filming concert footage towards another artist. Because that artist is the highly talented Justin Timberlake the urge is irresistible to find out how the finished product will look like.

Jim Sheridan's "The Secret Scripture"
A vastly underrated filmmaker, Jim Sheridan still has the chops for the blue collar angst he tackled the peak of his career. Based on the popular book about the diary of a patient at a mental facility, the territory is familiar as Sheridan tackled the Irish penitentiary in "In the Name of the Father". Add Rooney Mara and I'm intrigued.

Marc Foster's "All I See is You"
Tell me you're not intrigued by the premise. A blind woman regains sight and discovers the secrets her husband has kept hidden from her all these years. Foster's track record is decent and he could have easily done another high budget blockbuster following his World War Z success, but no he has decided to go back to his roots. Blake Lively stars, but in all honesty I'm less concerned now that I've seen "The Shallows" and know she can act.

Vikram Gandhi's "Barry"
Sundance had "Southside By You" which focused of Barack and Michelle Obama's first date. It was a Linklater-esque type of affair. "Barry" is Vikram Gandhi's look at the President's college days. It features Ashley Judd, and "The Witch" breakout Anya Taylor-Joy. Not much is known beyond its premise, but rest assured after 2011's "Kumare" Gandhi might be ready for the big time. 

Garth Jennings' "Sing"
British actor-director Garth Jennings, whose 2007 debut “Son of Rambow” was praised at Sundance returns  A decade later with his follow-up “Sing”: an animated 3-D musical which features animal characters (including a koala voiced by Matthew McConaughey and his sheep pal voiced by John C. Reilly) who try to rescue their theater from closing. There's a pig named Rosita played Reese Witherspoon, if that doesn't excite you then I don't know what to tell you, but expect something special from Jennings.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Post-Morten: The McConaissance

I think we can all safely say that Matthew McConaughey’s much heralded “McConaissance” phase has hit a slight thud as of late: Gus Van Sant’s “Sea of Trees” was quite possibly the worst film to play Cannes 2015, meanwhile this summer’s Gary Ross-directed “Free State of Jones” was met with lukewarm reviews and completely vanished Oscar Buzz. All this to say that these are still admirable failures and continue to show the 46 year-old actor’s willingness to continue working with well-respected directors.
And we shall always remember that astonishing string of films McConaughey put out between 2011 and 2014. In that first year alone he delivered “The Lincoln Lawyer,” Richard Linklater’s “Bernie” and William Friedkin’s soon-to-be classic “Killer Joe.”
In 2012 “The Paperboy“ was such a far out, perplexing movie that it had critics booing at Cannes, but once it did come out it turned out that this wholly original Lee Daniels film was actually a pretty damn good, risk-taking and deliciously lurid B-Movie. Jeff Nichols’ “Mud“ and Steven Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike“ both followed suit and were critically acclaimed with critics raving about Mcconaughey’s acting chops.
2013 was the peak year. He earned an Oscar for “Dallas Buyers Club,“ was the lead character inHBO’s brilliant first season of “True Detective“ and then had one of the great cameos in cinema history in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street“ (cue the chest thumping).
Suffice to say this was one hell of a run, which ended with Christopher Nolan’s brilliant, flawed, ambitious “Interstellar” in 2014, and has us nostalgic for more of that rush of brilliance McConaughey in the years to come.
That run was proof that he was fed up with taking high paying roles in ludicrous romantic comedies aimed at a female crowd that just wanted to see his dashboard abs (“Sahara,” “Ghost of Girlfriends Past,” “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” among many, many others). No, our boy wanted more than just that and we did as well, always knowing he had the talent to be exceptional. His effortless performance as Wooderson in Richard Linklater’s stoner classic “Dazed and Confused” was the highlight of that film, giving him hilarious one-liners, and a ludicrously dirty mustache to boot. Also we can never forget his Buddy Deeds in John Sayles indisputably great “Lone Star,” which ended up being a warm-up for his triumph in “Killer Joe.”
If you want to re-visit the “McConaissance“ without having to rewatch each and every one of the films mentioned then you’re in luck. Burger Fiction, in yet another one of their entertaining supercuts, have traced the evolution of Matthew McConaughey for us in visual terms. It’s enough to make you hope that the actor gets out of his current rut of films and produces another McConaissance classic. Up next for him is Stephen Gaghans “Gold which is building up Oscar buzz and is rumored for a possible slot at both TIFF and Telluride this fall. [Via OnePerfectShot]

DC`s last stand with the release of three trailers: Wonder Woman, Justice League and Doctor Strange

Batman vs Superman was such a catastrophe for DC movies that they should have gone back to the drawing board. But they didn't. They have decided to go on with all the remaining projects, and there are many left. Three of which have had their trailers unveiled this past week. Let us not forget also the damage control that Warner did by inviting press and bloggers to the set of Justice League last month. I heard it was a total shitshow with nothing, but ass-kissery and a few self-entitled bloggers trying to run the show. 

This looks interesting. For the most part. Gal Gadot can do no wrong in my books. She`s stunning, talented and probably the best casting for Wonder Woman, although I do fear her Israeli accent might get in the way of her character`s amazon-ness. It also seems like Pine is going to be the comedy of the film, a partner in crime that will lurk in the shadows and surely give way for lots of feminist themes at play here. I am not entirely on-board with this film yet, but it could make for a pleasant surprise, especially with a female director, Patty Jenkins, at the helm. 

Earlier I spoke about the Justice League set-visit as being part of the damage control WB had to make after Batman V Superman. Well, this trailer seems to be a somewhat coherent improvement in terms of humor, but the degenerate style Zack Snyder seems to bring to every one of his movies looks to be intact. I would not hold my breath for this film to be anything, but a marginal marketing product. I do like Ben Affleck`s decision to have a batman sport decent five o`clock shadowed scruff with the mask. 

Here`s the biggie for me. First thing you notice from the trailer is the great cast. Tilda Swinton, Benedict Cumberbatch and Mads Mickelson in a super hero movie is good enough for me to give it a chance. Problem is the director here is Scott Derrickson. Known for making very average horror films (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Deliver us From Evil, Sinister) I have no clue how this guy got the job. The trailer looks good and has an Inception-like vibe going with all of his playful imagery of tall skyscrapers and colliding worlds.

Friday, July 22, 2016

@FantasiaFest sleeper "The Love Witch"

The first thing that you notice about Anna Biller's "The Love Witch" is how strikingly beautiful a movie it is.  Shot on 35mm its look is inspired by 1960s sexploitation and Technicolor melodramas. It is sumptuous in its eye-popping photography filled with relentless color and incredibly impressive and precise costume design.

Its plot of a modern-day witch named Elaine (a very spicy hot Samantha Robinson) that relentlessly, but good-hardheartedly, concocts magical spells to get men to fall in love with her, can seem like a throwaway compared to the actual, eye-candy imagery Biller has created. You wouldn't be wrong, but what Biller is trying to create is a cinematic treatise very much akin to what Todd Haynes did with his Douglas Sirk inspired melodrama "Far From Heaven." The beautiful, luscious coilers are deceiving enough to make an audience believe that what they are seeing is total pastiche, but the underlying themes and resonances that lurk beneath tell a very different tale.

Elaine's Gothic, Victorian-inspired apartment is an over-the-top inspired treat. There are spell books and love potions being created all around the place. It makes for a hilariously messy environment, but one which subtly indicates the deranged mind of its titular character. She makes over-the-top potions, sprinkles them with absurd spells and then goes out to find the next victim in her deadly web. We never truly know if the spells actually work or if she just picks up all these hapless male souls because, well, she's quite easy on the eyes.

Most of the men Elaine meets are weak-minded fools that cannot handle the heavy, and proudly feminist image, that comes with dating this kooky witch. Her aim is to get the perfect man, but not without getting what she truly wants. She will use sex, just like Scarlett Johnanson's toxic UFO vixen all too easily did in "Under the Skin," to seduce her male partners and get to her ubiquitous goals. The sex scenes are ugly, misguided and completely awkward, purposely so, but they also end up revealing the true nature of many of its male characters. The sex brings out the hidden truths that the plasticized men she encounters have kept hidden until that very moment from her.

Newcomer Robinson is unusually impressive. She not only is perfect for the role with her provocatively good looks, but brings erotic, provocative, and never mean-spirited vibes to her character. She might be responsible for a few deaths, but Biller somehow finds a way to make Elaine likeable and not entirely responsible for the murders she has committed.

Robinson certainly looks the part with her great outfits and provocative blue eye make-up. Her performance is veers between the erotic and the outrageous.

It is no coincidence that "The Love Witch" feels like it was made in another era, in fact it is such a technical accomplishment that at times I truly thought I was watching something that was actually shot in the late 60s.  Much of the visual palette stems from the technicolor thriller genre made popular back in the late 60's early 70s. From the acting to the lighting to the compositions, Biller has pulled out quite the effort to authenticate her film and make it look, sound and feel like it was made in 1971. She even directly uses music from older Ennio Morricone's Italin giallo soundtracks such as "The Fifth Cord" and "A Lizard in a Woman's Skin."  The fact that Biller has stated that the film is supposed to be set in modern times, and we do happen to catch a few people talking in cell phones, is an accomplishment in itself because never does it feel like your in present time when 3watching the film.

And so, with all these technical accomplishments, "The Love Witch" does retain its feminist themes throughout. Biller explores female fantasy in the most diabolical of ways imaginable and gender politics are dissected in such an honest, but stinging way that it could infuriate some feminists with its truthful observations.  Biller proves to be the an auteur in the truest sense of the word: She directed, wrote, produced, edited the film and created many of the spectacular costumes and set decorations. She also, quite possibly, created a new cult classic. B

“Lights Out” finds genuine scares in the dark

Teresa Palmer in Lights Out (2016)
As kids, most of us will go through a stage in which we are afraid of the dark. It’s part of human DNA, seemingly hardwired in our subconscious: stay away from the dark, because there could be danger.David F. Sandberg‘s “Lights Out” plays with a fear of the dark. The director surely knows that innumerable prior horror films have used this trope indiscriminately to scare audiences. But the difference between “Lights Out” and any other mainstream horror movie is that it actually uses the dark as the center of its plot, organically drawing out the majority of its jump scares in the process.
In “Lights Out,” a fearsome entity starts haunting a family, but the fact that this wholly evil spirit can only attack if the lights go out is a way for Sandberg to think of creatively different ways for his heroes to find the light. Whether it might be unlocking the car door, using a phone’s flashlight or lighting candles, the film’s protagonist family needs to survive, and to do so they have to steer away from any darkness.
Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) and her little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) realize that their mother Sophie, thought to be mentally ill for many years, was actually not insane at all. The moments they thought she was talking to herself turned out to be conversations with an evil entity named Diana. The problem is that Rebecca and Martin have now angered the entity and are being chased by it.
The plot is not the film’s strong point, which Sandberg likely recognizes. That’s why, when the narrative eventually plays out and concludes in the film’s finale, it turns out to be by far the weakest moment of “Lights Out.” But beforehand, Sandberg delights in finding new, twisted ways to use our fear of the dark to pull us into his web of scares.
Palmer and Bateman make a formidable team in the picture and are served well by Sandberg’s concerted effort to develop his characters in the film. Rebecca and Martin might be estranged siblings, but when they do finally bond and try to save their mother (Maria Bello), it’s a strikingly poignant moment.
The remarkably accomplished Bello brings out the torment and frustration within Sophie. Her best performances, in “A History of Violence” and “The Cooler,” defined her career in the aughts with intelligence, restraint and eroticism. Although her role here is somewhat underwritten, Bello makes the best of it, bringing out the terror of a person trapped in a place she’s given up escaping from.
“Lights Out” is not only about what goes bump in the night, but is also a modest look at clinical depression. Sophie has been battling demons throughout her life, due to a refusal to take her medication. The fact that the devilish entity would disappear if she only took her antidepressants is metaphorical enough to create an abundance of fan theories by film’s end. It’s not bad for a film that is wrapped in the fabric of a B-movie.
At 81 minutes, “Lights Out” feels a touch overlong, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome. A highlight is the opening scene which introduces Diana and the film’s harrowing use of the dark. The horror genre is known for having terrifying openings, but the one in “Lights Out” is one of the very best in recent years, setting up the main antagonist where she is frightened the most: a constrained, subterranean facility, but more importantly, in one that has no windows for the light to shine through. In “Lights Out,” the sun rarely shines in, but when it does, it feels like a momentary pause from the horror creeping in the dark. [B]

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"The Unknown Girl" a Dardennes misfire

From IMDB:
"A doctor attempts to uncover the identity of a patient who died after she refused her treatment."

I remember being dead-tired at some point during my stay at Cannes, must have been mid-way, mostly due to the fact that my roommate over there would show up at 4am every morning drunk as a skunk and then proceed to be the loudest snorer I've ever encountered. Suffice to say that when it came the time for the 8:30am screening of the new Dardennes brothers opus "The Unknown Girl" I completely slept through the morning and woke up in panic that I missed the screening. I tried to not listen or hear any opinions of the film until I finally got a chance to see it on the last day of the fest, but suffice to say I couldn't avoid the disappointment that came out of post-screening from critics and bloggers alike. I ended up catching the film on the last day of the fest, when the programmers re-screen the entire competition, I wasn't impressed.

The Dardennes pretty much had a perfect track record until "The Unknown Girl". Their brand of cinema verite isn't groundbreaking, but it's forcefully powerful. They are experts at creating tension in the most minimalist of situations. "The Unknown Girl" felt like a greatest hits package instead of a new tale. This is the Dardennes in an almost redux paradox. Everything that happens in the film feels foreshadowed by their past movies. Sundance Selects has the U.S. distribution rights, but have opted for a 2017 release. The 113 minute cut I saw of the film at Cannes has now been shortened to a 106 minute cut. That says everything you need to know about this movie.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fantasia review: "Rupture"

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If Steven Shainberg’s career as a director was helped by his Sundance breakthrough “Secretary,” it hasn’t been easy coasting since then. Shainberg followed that film up with the Nicole Kidman– and Robert Downey Jr.-starring “Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus,” which, just like “Secretary,” has built up a loyal cult fanbase over the years.

Even so, it has taken 10 years for Shainberg to release his next film. “Rupture,” unlike his last two films, follows genre tropes a little more closely. It stars Noomi Rapace as Renee, a single, Montreal-born mother who gets abducted for a reason unbeknownst to her and undergoes severe and traumatic experimentation in a hidden lab, with the goal to make her ultimately defeat her worst fears, all for a nefarious purpose. But Renee doesn’t submit easily to her captors, and almost as soon as she’s strapped down to a gurney, she begins to plot her escape. But it won’t be easy.

The medical laboratory is creepily thought-out, with some sly, subtle details mixed into its labyrinth-like contour. Even if one escapes from his/her room, finding a way out of the place is frustrating and almost impossible to achieve. The ventilation system leads to nowhere, ditto the elevator which just leads Renee to another floor filled with immaculate maze-like detail. It’s a nightmare location fully fleshed out by Shainberg and his co-screenwriter Brian Nelson.

The halls are roamed by experimental doctors checking up on their “patients” one door at a time. Michael Chiklis plays the unnamed leader of the gang in a not-so-subtle, underwritten role; ditto Lesley Manville playing his assistant, Dr. Nyman, a woman that always seems to have a hypodermic needle in her hand. There’s also Kerry Bishé as another unnervingly cold nurse, and Peter Stormare in a small but no less creepy role. The relentless action passes by so swiftly that Shainberg doesn’t get to build up his villains in a way for us to despise them enough. Chiklis and Manville are given one-sentence lines, which they deliver in the best manner they can, but which don’t really add up or bring authenticity to their characters. The same could be said of Rapace’s Renee, whose background story we barely know except for a brief five-minute introduction at the beginning of the film showcasing her as a frustrated single mother who doesn’t like her ex-husband and is struggling with the challenges of raising a pubescent son with emotional issues.


Sacrificing character for action, Shainberg’s film does hold onto to its luridly devilish pace until its final third when the director decides to add the supernatural into the mix. The conflicting mixture of the real and the surreal ends up being a decidedly failed opportunity to accentuate Renee’s horrific psyche. All this time we were in her head and ready to go anywhere to taste that final bit of freedom with her. What Shainberg does is add an unnecessary and uninvolving twist to the story that, instead of feeling fresh and original, becomes frustratingly distant and cold.

The Swedish-born Rapace, has been slowly but surely building up a career in American movies and making a real mark. The 36-year-old actress has also done sci-fi/horror before, starring as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw in Ridley Scott’s “Alien” prequel “Prometheus” and in the currently filming sequel, “Alien: Covenant.” Her facial gestures and looks can sometimes be filled up with an innumerable amount of emotions, and her physical prowess — she’s no slouch in the muscle department — builds considerable heroism to a story that needs it.

Premiering at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival, “Rupture” places a gripping hold on its audience for nearly two-thirds of its 102-minute running time before stumbling slight in the final act. It might not be as risk-taking as previous Shainberg gems, but his knack for expertly crafted drama remains. [C+]

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Summer Movie Season since 1998-

The rule is pretty simple, it has to be a big studio film. I decided to do this mini-project by looking back at every summer movie season since 1998. I picked the great, artful films that came out between May and August. The films had to a) be financed by a big studio system b) critically acclaimed or up for awards consideration.

1998: Bullworth, The Truman Show, Out of Sight, There`s Something About Mary, Saving Private Ryan

1999: South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, The Blair Witch Project, Eyes Wide Shut, The Iron Giant, The Sixth Sense

2000: Gladiator and Chicken Run

2001: Moulin Rouge, Shrek, Artificial Intelligence: AI, The Others

2002: About A Boy, Spiderman, Insomnia, Road to Perdition, Minority Report, The Bourne Identity

2003: Finding Nemo, Seabiscuit

2004: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Spiderman 2, The Bourne Supremacy, Collateral, The Manchurian Candidate

2005: Cinderella Man, Batman Begins, War of the Worlds, The 40 Year-old Virgin, The Constant Gardener, Red Eye


: Ratatouille, The Bourne Ultimatum, Superbad,The Simpsons Movie, Hairspray

2008: Iron Man, WALL-E, The Dark Knight, Tropic Thunder, Vicki Cristina Barcelona, Hellboy II

2009: Up, Star Trek, Distrct 9, Public Enemies, Inglourious Basterds, Drag Me To Hell

2010: Toy Story 3, Inception

2011: Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life, Super 8, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Help

2012: The Dark Knight Rises



2015: Mad Max: Fury Road, Inside Out, Straight Outta Compton

2016 is the big question mark right now as we have not really had anything of artistic value since the summer movie began. There will be those that say "Captain America: Civil War" is worthy and I will somewhat agree with that, but is that really art? Are we now in the phase where we consider a superhero movie that is meant as a major product placement as art?

With the surprising news that "The Founder" has been moved to December and "Star Trek Beyond" being an average movie, we have skimp options to save this terrible summer we are having, maybe the worst, most uninspiring summer movie season yet.

1) Jason Bourne
2) Pete's Dragon
3) Kubo and the Third String
4) War Dogs

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Well, wasn't that lovely: Damien Chazelle's "La La Land" trailer

It is quite comforting knowing someone out there in the studio system, is actually, in all god's honesty, trying. No really, just attempting something fresh and wild. Risk-taking is at a full-on stop this year and it won't be getting any better in the next few years. Embrace, cherish and soak up this wonderful trailer.