Parkland TIFF Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

Parkland

Starring Zac Efron, Jacki Weaver, Marcia Gay Harden, Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton, James Badge Dale, Colin Hanks, and Tom Welling.

Written and directed by Peter Landesman

Peter Landesman’s Parkland looks into groups of people who were affected by those events that occurred during November 22, 1963. There’s the titular hospital with staff (Efron, Hanks, and Gay Harden) negotiating space from secret service men (Welling) and a priest (Earle Haley) while trying to revive two important men in two different days. There’s Abraham Zapruder (Giamatti) who surrenders his 8mm footage of the event to CIA operatives (Malkovich). There’s the Dallas-based FBI branch trying to look into threats before and after that day. Lastly, we see the life of an office worker named Robert (Badge Dale) and his mother (Weaver), who are related to Lee Harvey Oswald, accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy.

The only characters standing out is Weaver’s Mrs. Oswald, who’s forgivably bad in her performance as an insufferable woman who believes that her favourite son, Lee Harvey, works for some secret mission in the government. At least she wasn’t bafflingly passive as she was in Stoker. The other person is Badge Dale’s Robert, who is gallantly suffering through all of this like he would in some Coenesque dark comedy. That would have been a good angle on an oft rehashed story. Anything would have been better than this dried path. I would call this movie ‘journalistic’ but at least movies like those are explosive. This one’s just sloppy.

 

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Attila Marcel TIFF Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

Atilla Marcel

Starring Guillaume Gouix, Anne Le Ny, Bernadette Lafont and Hélène Vincent

Written and Directed by Sylvain Chomet

Director Sylvain Chomet sets aside animation for a while to direct his first live action feature, and in doing so he provides us with some great visuals. Some. There’s a shot of the protagonist, Paul, a Parisian pianist who doesn’t speak, wakes up from a psychedelic dream and the plants behind him bring put his wide green eyes. There’s also the charmingly antiquated Paris that we’ve seen in his earlier movies like The Illusionist. That said, Chomet doesn’t condescend into showing us a Hollywood, postcard version of Paris. He finds time and place to include racially diverse characters who are content in living in the city after its many glorious eras. What a world to live in for Paul, who can’t fit into the present and can’t access and accept his past. But these little moments never get to the warm, magical effects that his animated movies have. He could have gone farther, and without having to make parts of it into a chanson-styled musical.

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Adore Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

Adore

Starring Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, James Frecheville, Xavier Samuel and Ben Mendelsohn

Written by Christopher Hampton

Directed by Anne Fontaine

Adore plays out like the Doris Lessing vignette from which it is based called The Grandmothers. It substitutes a presumed South African setting for the Australian beach side. It has this a silent quality that makes the characters within it yearn for change without, of course, disturbing the natural setting near which it occurs. The wind blows against the swaying trees as a – group of – isolated white housewives who break rules.

In this case it is two women, Roz (Wright) and Lil (Watts), who have been friends since childhood, drinking little shotties of hard booze while floating on a raft near the coast. They grow up together, marry different people and have sons, Ian and Tom (Samuel and Frecheville) who are also growing up together. The bonds between these characters, who choose to be together, get stronger despite of all the strong, contradictory emotions they have towards each other. Not even husbands (Mendelsohn), suitors and wives can tear these four apart from each other.

I do like a movie that explores Freudian themes. I would, normally. These four characters transfer and sublimate their desire, every character means and symbolize many things for each other. The sons, as ‘young gods,’ just makes their mothers yearn for their past and to be desired as they would have been in their prime. The mothers reach out to each others’ sons for validation, the sons look for their mothers for comfort. There’s a scene where Lil looks into a mirror and stares at her reflection, looking at the person who feels old and withered.

Both reasons stated above have strains of co-dependent patterns of behaviour. Adulthood and seems to come difficultly for these four characters.

That also means their relationships the forge seem to be based in lies, wanting and being with other people because they don’t want to act on another frivolous tabooed desire. They’re also unable to control their desires, which makes character arcs seem circuitous. Some of us in the audience can argue that these relationships are plausible, but it’s equally frustrating to watch people act repetitiously in life as it would to watch them in a movie.

The repetitious plot points also make the film seem longer than its 110 minute run.. Lessing’s short is around 50 pages long. Christopher Hampton, who adapted this short, has finally written a screenplay set in modern times with characters who somewhat talk like real human beings. However, he could have cut the movie’s running time by 20 minutes and still have given us a more coherent, emotionally effective movie.

 

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Kick-Ass 2 Review (Kirk Haviland)

kick_ass_2-wideStarting this weekend in theaters from Universal Studios is the eagerly awaited sequel to the 2010 cult film that hit large on home video, Kick-Ass 2. This time around the film is under the reigns of writer/director Jeff Wadlow and only produced by the original’s director Matthew Vaughn. The graphic novel sequel to Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall, is a veritable blood bath, which beckons the question of how the film will translate to the theater screen.

Kick-Ass 2

Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Donald Faison, Lindy Booth, John Leguizamo, Morris Chestnut, Clark Duke, Augustus Prew, Olga Kurkulina and Jim Carrey.

Written and Directed by Jeff Wadlow

kick-ass-2-imageWhen we last saw junior assassin Hit Girl (Moretz) and young masked hero Kick-Ass (Taylor-Johnson), they were trying to live as normal teenagers Mindy and Dave.  With graduation looming and uncertain what to do with their shared calling, Dave decides to start the world’s first superhero team with Mindy.  Unfortunately, when Mindy is busted for sneaking out as Hit Girl, she’s forced to retire, leaving her to navigate the terrifying world of high-school mean girls on her own.  With no one left to turn to, Dave joins forces with Justice Forever, run by a born-again ex-mobster named Colonel Stars and Stripes (Carrey). Just as they start to make a real difference on the streets the rechristened Red Mist, now the self-proclaimed super-villain The Motherfucker (Mintz-Plasse) assembles his own evil league and puts a plan in motion to make Kick-Ass and Hit Girl pay for what they did to his dad.

kick_ass_2Kick-Ass 2 tries to recapture the magic of the first film but never quite gets there. Johnson is good back in Kick Ass mode, though the goofiness that his original performance carried due to his inability to fight and gangly awkwardness is gone with a buff and trained Dave this time around. Moretz does what she can but is wasted and handcuffed with a terrible subplot this time around. Jim Carrey has little more than a glorified cameo, but his Col Stars and Stripes is a great characterization, a born again Christian version of Rambo, and is sorely missed after his departure. But the best performance comes from Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the newly rechristened ‘Motherfucker’ who discovers after getting beaten up multiple times that his evil villain superpower is that he has tons of money. Motherfucker plays out as an unhinged yet scrawny and spoiled brat and Mintz-Plasse is enjoying the hell out of it.

kick-ass-2-aaron-johnson-christopher-mintz-plasseThe biggest issue that Kick Ass 2 runs into is that it doesn’t stick with a tone for the film which results in an uneven film that can’t decide whether it is a dark comic action picture or a light awkward teen comedy. Two years have passed between the first film and Dave is a high school senior while Mindy is now a 15 year old sophomore in the same school (up to a 4 year difference between her age from the first film as she is a 11 year old in the comic book but her age is not 100% clear in the first film). This level of creative scripting allows the film to bring a level of sexual tension between Dave and Mindy that never works and has an extremely lackluster payoff. In fact Moretz has been done a great disservice in this second film. Her Mindy is crammed into an unoriginal “Mean Girls” subplot that never fits the darker tone of the rest of the film and leads to one of the most moronic sequences involving a “weapon” on film this year. The sequence feels straight out of a “Jackass” film as Johnny Knoxville and crew would have a lot more fun with this tool. The final act is a blood bath with an all-out brawl at the center of it and the scene stealing Mother Russia (Kurkulina) and Hit Girl going blow for blow. Kick-Ass renews fisticuffs with Motherfucker in an anticlimactic fight that lacks all the charm that their final fight from the first film packs in.

new-kick-ass-2-featurette-teases-hit-girl-vs-mother-russia-watch-now-142530-a-1376375797-470-75Despite its faults, fans of the original Kick-Ass will find enough to latch onto here to enjoy the film. It’s nowhere near as inspired as the original film was and never finds the right balance between comedy and violence that Matthew Vaughn so adeptly straddled, but the characters are a welcome return and Hit Girl in whatever truncated version we may get is still better than no Hit Girl at all. Kick-Ass 2 is a mild recommend.

Till Next Time

Movie Junkie TO

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Trance Blu-ray Review (Kirk Haviland)

trance-bluray-coverTrance

Starring: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson

Written by Joe Ahearne, John Hodge

Directed by Danny Boyle

 

New to Blu-ray is the latest film from Academy Award winning director Danny Boyle that marks his first step back into the realm of the psychological crime thriller since his debut film “Shallow Grave”, “Trance”. The film is the feature adaptation of writer Joe Ahearne’s television film from 2001 of the same name and features a stellar trio of actors leading the small ensemble set in the high stakes world of art thievery.

Simon (McAvoy) is a fine art auctioneer who gets mixed up with a gang led by Franck (Cassel) looking to steal a painting. After the painting goes missing, Simon and Franck, along with Franck’s crew, join forces with hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Dawson) to recover their lost spoils. As boundaries between desire, reality and hypnotic suggestion begin to blur the stakes rise faster than anyone could have anticipated.

trancecb3Trance features some excellent performances of an overcooked script that ultimately results in a decent yet flawed final product that plays out slightly better on a second home viewing but ultimately still falls flat.  The script starts off with elegantly simple and well explained art heist that is easy to follow with a great performance from McAvoy. After the heist goes wrong and Simon loses his memory, Simon goes for hypnotherapy from Dawson’s Elizabeth and the story slowly gets more erratic and out of control. The final act is a series of twists and turns that overlaps and contradicts each other that is set up in the premise of a spider’s web unraveling, yet plays out like the entire web collapsing on top of it. The actions of Dawson’s Elizabeth make the least sense of the 3, but she ultimately holds the fates of all of them in her hands.

McAvoy’s sly grin and charm lose impact and believability on second viewing, his Simon is a character that always seems to be hiding something yet is never convincing enough as a foil for Cassel’s Frank. Cassel is brilliant, as usual, as the Gang leader who despite his best efforts and often brutal methods attempting to extract information from Simon cannot help but be drawn into Elizabeth’s sensual web. Dawson’s performance is bold, uninhibited and seductive. She fearlessly gives everything to the role and is quite frankly the main reason the film actually works in the end. It’s Dawson’s performance that gains the most from the second viewing as the nuances and reactions she use fit into the story much better. The film has a slick visual style and sensibility that enhances the performances as well. With Boyle working with frequent collaborator, Academy Award winning cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, behind the camera and production manager Mark Tildesley setting the stage, even a regular apartment takes on a unique and effective look.

??????????????????The Blu-ray comes equipped with a fascinating retrospective of Danny Boyle’s films under the Fox Searchlight banner, with Boyle talking about his thoughts one each film from “A Life Less Ordinary” up to Trance. We get a handful of throwaway deleted scenes that explain/expound on nothing from the main film and short film and theatrical trailer. Finally there is a four part feature on the making of Trance itself.

 

The film’s performances and visual style aren’t enough to elevate the film above the overly convoluted script on a repeat viewing. But Dawson and Cassel have a strong chemistry that shines; it’s McAvoy who’s the real miss here. Despite the film’s merits it still manages to fall just short of a recommend.

trance-1Till Next Time

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

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