FILM SHOWCASE

Subtitle

Review Blog


view:  full / summary

WONDER PARK review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on March 15, 2019 at 4:25 AM

Directed by: David Feiss, Claire Kilner, and Robert Iscove

Running time: 93 minutes in 3D

Release date: March 15, 2019

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Adventure, and Fantasy

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG



In this computer animated adventure teen comedy film, which is also a television series based on the film scheduled to debut (same year as theatrical release) on the Nickelodeon Channel, is the third animated film from Nickelodeon Movies (after Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and Barnyard) to spawn an animated series on the network.


With the use of a 'multi-tensil-town' celebrity voice talent cast, the plot is about a young imaginative and optimistic 12 year old girl named June Baily (Brianna Denski - and Sofia Mali as younger June) who spends her childhood days constructing an amusement park filled with fantastical rides and inhabited by talking stuffed animals called Wonderland with her loving and enabling parents (mother - Jennifer Garner, and father - Matthew Broderick) along with neighborhood friends - specifically her young admirer Banky (Oev Michael Urbas) - within her home and backyard.  As a couple of years pass, she suffers the lost of her mother to illness and looses her sense of imagination as depression sets in causing problems in school, reclusiveness, lack of personal care and interest, and a desperate need to find serenity.  Although her father, relatives, and friends console her, June can't overcome the death of her mother.


While using the realm of fantasy in this narrative, one magical day June is running home through the woods when she discovers on old rollercoastercar and climbs in - and suddenly she finds herself in Wonderland, an amusement park she had once created in her mind as a younger child.  The film takes its audience into another dimension of dark netherworlds, along with mystical creatures such as: Boomer (Ken Hudson Campbell), the narcoleptic blue bear who welcomes the visitors to Wonderland; Gus (Kenan Thompson), a beaver who is the brother of Cooper (Ken Jeong); Steve (John Oliver), a potcupine who is a safety officer of Wonderland; Greta (Mila Kunis), a warthog who is Steve's love interest; and Peanut (Norbert Leo Butz), a chimpanzee who acts as Wonderland's mascot and ride creator.  It is an adventureous journey that heels June emotionally and rehabilitates her from her heartbreaking loss.  This tale takes form of a fairytale transcending the bounds of human possibility, while rendering an enlightening moral attitude.   It shapes up into the tone of magic, myth, and wonder.  The message delivered is extraordinarily appealing to both children and adults.


This is a marvelous CGI animated coming of age film set in a contemporary Alice in Wonderland theme.  By the use of a variety of vivid colors structured in a creative domestic emotional setting, the characters led by June (Brianna Denski) are humorous and lively.  The fast pace adventure draws its audience into the world of fantasy and the moral dilemma of a child finding a place in growing up.  This film is the female version of Jimmy Neutron, and it adds a new look to the great Nickelodeon franchise.  Wonder Park is a wonderful family-friendly popcorn movie for all ages.


FILM RATING (B) 

TRIPLE FRONTIER review & interview by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on March 8, 2019 at 6:50 PM

Directed by: J.C. Chandler

Running time: 125 minutes

Release date: March 6, 2019 & March 13, 2019 Netflix launch

Genre: Drama, Crime, Action/Adventure, and Thriller (in some Spanish and Portugese with English subtitles)

Distributor: Netflix

MPAA Rating: R



In a co-scripted narrative crediting J.C. Chandler and Mark Boal, a story originally by Mark Boal, is a film about loyalties that are tested when five friends, all military veterans, reunite to rob a South American drug lord, unleashing a chain of unintended consequences.


This film stars Ben Affleck as Tom "Redfly" Davis, Oscar Isaac as Santiago "Pope" Garcia, , Charlie Hunnam as William "Ironhead" Miller, Garrett Hedlund as Ben Miller, and Padro Pascal as Francisco "Catfish" Morales.  In a strong supporting performance is Adria Arjona as Yovanna. It is story of a group of former Special Forces operatives who reunite with the plan a heist in a sparsely populated mult-border zone of South America.  For the first time in their prstgious careers the unsung heroes undertake this dangerous mission for self instead of country.  But when events take an unexpected turn and threaten to spiral out of control, their skills, their loyalties, and their morals are pushed to a breaking point in an epic battle for survival.


It is an epic action/adventure film that displays high energy, big-budget physical stunts and chases, with rescues, battles, fights, escapes, destructive crises (floods, explosions, natural disasters, fires, etc.) non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, and adventurous two-dimensional 'good guys' battling 'bad guys' - all designed for pure audience escapism.  It is a plot and character driven production that covers a large expance of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop, accompanied with life situations and stories involving intense character development and interaction.  Yet, the crime elements of ruthless stealing and murder leaves another layer to the narrative's structure of romance in Adria Arjona's character as Yovanna, Pope's love interest.  Her character challenges Pope to help her to escape from the violent drug cartel occupied territory.


This exceptionally gifted ensemble presentation portraying emotionally impacting situations in exotic locales is great.  Thus, giving praise to brilliant cinematography and capturing fearless surrealism in desolate, gritty, and harsh environments.  The tone is set to acknowledge the horror heartlessness of criminal operations.  The theme is shocking yet mesmerizing....you won't be able to take your eyes away,  However, an emotional message is concrete in the plot development, as the unit strong veterans are challenged in their mission.


In a roundtable interview with the cast, many questions were asked and many statements were made concerning the production o this film.  Filmmaker Chandler commented on the casting process, "I became attached to the projectt during the summer of 2015.  The casting was an amazing and bumpy process.  But I believe that the right people are in the film.  He also stated, "So before I became locked into one way of making a movie, I wanted to try something else.  When I read this story, what was neat about it was that I'm a huge fan of Kathryn Bigelow (original director).  The story isn't something tha I would have ever come up by myself, which is what I was looking for, so that I could stretch myself,  But the thematic element is something that I have looked for before, and will continue to do in my future projects."


Ben Affeck commented on the bonding process as men on a mission between fellow actors:  "We did training, we worked together, we worked with people who trained us and tried to learn as much as we could. Also, we heard a lot about how people don't die for a flag; they die for the guy next to them.  We understood, that level of bonding and commitment to one another was gonna really drive the story, drive the plot, drive the character stuff, so it was kind of essential to it.  You know, we just put in the time and genuinely like each other.


Oscar Isaac added: "And trust, too.  I think, often, what you see in these kinds of movies is a lot of forced chemistry and force stuff.  I think the fact that we kind of let it be its own thing....A lot of other people bring themselves to it, as opposed to,you know, too many back pats and things like that."


Another topic the actors and directors discussed was the procss of working with military advisors on creating authentic physical recreations.  Charlie Hunnam stated; "The Navy SEALS anda Delta Force operator worked with us.  The one Delta Force guy blew my mind, particularly in his proficiency across the board."  Ben Affleck added, "We shot live weapons, and tried to learn how to emulate them the best way we could."


Garrett Hedlund followed up about the bonding: "All of us have known each other in different facets throughout the years.  This was Oscar and my third film together, and we have known each other for 10 years.  Charlie and I have been pals for 15 hears, and always wanted to do something together."


Pedro Pascal about the competitveness of the actors in the physical scenes: "I think wew were all a little concerned that was going to be the case.  You see a movie like this...But the fact is, this is ultimately a brotherhood.  We are on a mission together and we function as a unit....I think, individually, our characters lean a little more towards generousity than competitiveness....excluding the incredible Adria Arjona."


As for Adria Arjona, she stated; "Working with these guys was challenging...they pushed me.  The script attracted me because of the veterans who are sent to save our lives, but unfortunately they forgotten their mission once they made their return, because of the heist.  We shot in Bogata in a violent and unsafe are, but I felt safe because of heritage.  I put muself in my character's shoes and found it personal for a woman in finsing her way."


This is an amazing film and I concur with J.C. Chandler's director' statement in saying;  "The film touches on ideas of masculinity and what makes you valuble to yourself, your family and your society."


FILM RATING (A)






   



CAPTAIN MARVEL review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on March 6, 2019 at 8:25 PM

Directed by: Anna Boden

Running time: 125 minutes in IMAX and 3D

Release date: March 8, 2019

Genre: Drama, Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi, and Adaptation

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13


This superhero film is based on the Marvel Comics ccharacter Carol Danvers.  It is the twenty-first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The story borrows elements from Roy Thomas's 1971 "Kree-Skull War" comic book storyline, starring Brie Larson as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, alongside Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Clark Gregg, Annette Bening, and Jude Law.


Set in 1995, the story follows Carol Danvers as she becomes Captain Marvel after the Earth is caught in the center of a galactic conflist between two alien worlds.  A backstory is immediately introduced as Carol Danvers, a free-spirited girl who challenges male dominated sports and endeavers, grows into a woman who enters the U.S. Air Force and becomes a fighter pilot.  During her flight drill, she turns into one of the galaxy's conflicts and crashes her aircraft.  After a bit of unconsciousness, she finds herself without a memory and recruited in Starforce as one of the galaxy's mightiest heroes.  She is known as part of an elite Kree military team.  However, bits and pieces of her past haunt her.  This part of the plot sets the tone for her curiosity throughout the entire film.


With the use of crisp pacing and non-stop motion CGI the theme of a femme fatale is engaged on screen, as Brie Larson is a stock character of a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensure her male characters, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations.  Her ability to enchant and hypotise her victim(s) is demonizing and alluring.  However, the many characters involved should be examined and explained.


The supporting cast consist of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, who at this time is a low level bureaucrat.  He appears without his signature eye patch as the film is set before he loses his eye.  It is explained that Carol Danvers is the first superhero that Fury has come across., which sets him on a path to where the character is in the modern MCU films.  Ben Mendelsohn as Talos is the shape-shifting leader of the Skrull invasion of Earth, who is working undercover within S.H.I.E.L.D. as Fury's boss.  Djimon Hounsou portrays Korath a Kree mercenary and second-in-common of Starforce.  Lee Pace plays Ronan the Accuser a high ranking Kree official.  It is his role in the Kree military intersecting with Starforce in an interesting way.  Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau is a  special character, who is one of Carol Danvers' oldest friends and a fellow female Air Force pilot who goes by the call aign "Photon".  She is a single mother to highly inquisitive and free spirited daughter Monica (Akira Akbar)  Gemma Chan plays Minn-Erva, a Kree sniper and member of Starforce.  She finds Carol Danvers as her compitition as the most talented since she joined the team.  Annette Bening shines in her role as the Supreme Intelligence, an artificial intelligence that is the collective enbodiment of the greatest minds of the Kree people, and the ruler of the Kree Empire.  Jude Law also captures screen imagery as Yon-Rogg, the commander of Starforce and Carol Danvers' mentor, who trains her to use her new powers.  He has a special mentee relationship with Carol Danvers, which becomes a source of tenson in the film with other members of Starforce.  Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson is a rookie agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who works closely with Fury.


Additionally, Algenis Perez Soto and Rune Temte portray Att-Lass and Bron-Char, respectively, both members of Starforce; Att-Lass is the marksma of the team, while Bron-Char is the bigger, stronger guy who fights with his fists.  Carol Danvers' comic book cat character is Chewie (named for the Star Wars character Chewbacca) appears in this film, renamed Gosse for the Top Gun (1986) character Nick "Goose" Bradshaw and is portrayed by four different cats, Reggie, Archie, Rizzo, and Gonzo.  Each cat was chosen based on their actions and personalities.  Also, Kelly Sue DeConnick, the Captain Marvel comic book writer has a cameo in the film, and Stan Lee, co-creator of the first Captain Marvel, appears posthumously.


Showcasing a female protagonist is a great lesson in inclusiveness and enpowerment.  Brie Larson's performance displaying extraordiinary powers and abilities, relevent skills with advanced equipment is exciting. She exerts a moral code, including a willingness to risk one's safety in the service of good without expectation of reward.  In the sci-fi theme is an imaginative content such as futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes and extrterrestrial life.  As for the time travel motif, it provides a necesary distancing effect which allows the film to address the contemporary plot andissues in metaphoric ways, and valuble for providing a view of the historical plot where every person is significant.


Captain Marvel, gives it's audience an exciting and euphoric story to follow.  It is mesmerizing...you won't be able to take your eyes away.  With impeccable performances, it is emotionally impacting.  Yet, it is a 'down-right' cool movie!


FILM RATING (A) 


 

ALITA: Battle Angel review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on February 14, 2019 at 3:40 PM

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez

Running time: 122 minutes in RealD 3D and IMAX 3D

Release date: February 14, 2019

Genre: Action, Adventure, Romance, Animation and Adaptation

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

MPAA Rating: PG-13


From visionary filmmakers James Cameron (AVATAR) and Robert Rodriguez (SIN CITY), comes the American cyberpunk super-hero action film  ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL, an epic adventure of hope and empowerment.  The production development stems from Yukito Kishiro's Battle Angel Alita manga, which was brought to James Cameron's attention by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro.  Cameron immediately became enamored with the concept and bought the product.


As for the story, this a tale of the titular cyborg Alita (Rosa Salaza), a lead role portrayed by way of motion capture animation who is a disembodied "core" who awakens with no memory in a post-apocalyptic world destroyed by a technical fall.  Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), a scientist who is Alita's caretaker finds her in the ruins and gives her a new body.  They later discover Alita is more than what she seems and has an extraordinary past that gives her super powers.  As she navigates her new life, she battles other machines who are empowered with various skills.  During her new life venture, she encounters a young man named Hugo (Keenan Johnson) who becomes her love interest.  He teaches her to play a gladiator-style game called Motorball.  As she masters the game, it catches the eye of villainous Vector (Mahershala Ali), the man who rigs Motorball combat matches.


While Alita is categorized as the femme fatale, she is not really a maneater.  She is a stock character of a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare men, often leading them in compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations.  The action sequences are high energy with big-budget physical stuntd and chases,along with rescues, battles, fights,escapes, destructive crises, non-stop motion, spectacular rhthym and pacing.  Yet, the romantic aspect focuses on the basic insecurities people feel when they fall in love.


Supporting cast members add layers to the story, as Jennifer Connelly plays Dr. Chiren, the ex-girlfriend of Dr. Ido, who escaped with him from the false utopia of Zalem?Tiphanes, but became disenchanted with real freedom.  Meanwhile, Ed Skrein portrays Zapan and Elza Gonzalez as Nyssiana, cyborgs whose task is to track down and kill Alita.  However, Michelle Rodriguez plays Gelda, a cyborg warrior from Mars who trained Alita.  


Epic in nature, this film impacts its audience with the life journey of Alita as she ventures the streets of Iron City, and finds young love with Hugo.  Yet, the deadly and corrupt forces she encounters, and her chances of regaining her memory give this movie a collossal impact on its execution and dellivery.


FILM RATING (B+)


 

WHAT MEN WANT review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on February 8, 2019 at 4:55 PM

Directed by: Adam Shankman

Running time: 1 hour 57 minutes

Release date: February 8, 2019

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Romance, Fantasy, Remake, and Adapatation

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

MPAA Rating: R


In a spin-off remake of the 2000 film What Women Want, the plot follows a woman who, after getting passed over for a promotiom in the managing and promoting celebrity sports personalities, gains the ability to hear men's inner thoughts.

Ali Davis (Taraji P. Henson) is a successful sports agent who's constantly boxed out by her male colleagues. When Ali is passed up for a well-deserved promotion,she questions what more she needs to do to succeed in a man's world, until she gains the ability to hear men's thoughts.  With her newfound power, she looks to outsmart her colleaues as she races to sign the next basketball superstar.  Her aggressiveness fostered by her father played by Richard Roundtree, is out of control, but it is soon leveled when she meets her love interest played by Aldis Hidge.


With sports celebrity cameos such as Shaquille O'Neal, and music emporess Erica Badu as a fly-by-night vudu witch, the film is amusing.  But as a movie one would want to enjoy, it has too many flaws to acknowledge as something meaningful. Ethnic humor and ghetto dialogue is exaggerated and is substituted for solid comedy. The subplot of a romantic theme as woman meets man, and the journey of the two with its ups and downs, is banal.  Overall, their isn't an emotional message delivered. If one was looking for a female empowerment statement to be made, there really isn't.


The use of a cast that includes Tracy Morgan, Tamala Jones, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Max Greenfield, and Brian Bosworth gives their all in a storyline that is weak and whimsical.  The comic relief is troublesome and depends heavily on the celebrity talent's exposure on screen.  This presence on screen of celebrities is light in tone, and causes the overall theme to be troublesome.  The use of ethnic puffery (exaggerated statements) in the dialogue frustrated the sructure of the plot. It is not a provocative form of comedy, but disjointed.

 

A romantic comedy message in a film narrative must express, regardless of whether they are dramatic or comedic, espress the message that anyone can find true love.  It may be happy, sad, good or bad, but the film must affirm that there is a true love out there for every person.  Another message the film must express is that everyone feels general insecurities when they fall in love.  It has to display that vulnerability and fear is common when it comes to romantic relationships.  The purpose of this humor is to make light of serious and often taboo subject matter, and some actors (comedians) use it as a tool for exploring vulgar issues, thus provoking discomfort, and serious thought as well as amusement in their audience.  What Men Want, fails to execute its delivery in these messures aand leaves the audience uninspired.


FILM RATING (C)


 


 


  

GLASS review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on January 13, 2019 at 9:45 AM

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan

Running time: 128 minutes

Release date: January 18, 2019

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Sequel

Distributor: Universal Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13


In the relm of superhero thriller films, this sequel to Shyamalan's previous films Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2016), in the Eastrail 177 Trilogy, reprises Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Spencer Treat Clark, and Charlayne Woodard in their Unbreakable roles, while James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy return from their Split characters. Sarah Paulson, Adam David Thompson, and Luke Kirby join the cast.


In a series of escalating encounters, security guard David Dunn used his supernaturalabilities to track Kevin Wendel Crumb, a disturbed amn who has 24 personalities.  Meanwhile, the shadowy presence of Elijah Price emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men. 


However, the characters should be explained.  Bruce Willis plays David Dunn/The Overseer.  He's a former college football prodigy turned security guard who possesses superhuman strength, stamina, and invulnerable as well as an extrasensory ability to see the crimes people have committed by touching them.


Samuel L. Jackson portrays Elijah Price/Mr. Glass.  A mass murderer and comic book theorist with Type 1 osteogenesis inperfecta and super intelligence who was turned into the authorities after Dunn discovered the extent of his crimes.


James McAvoy is Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Horde.  He's a former Philadelphia Zoo employee with 24 different personalities whose body chemsitry changes with each personality.  The 24th personality is known as "The Beast".  


Supporting characters consist of Sarah Paulson as Dr. Ellie Staple, the shrink specializing in delusions of grandeur who treats patients convinced they are superhuman beings.  Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, a young girl who was kidnapped  by one of Kevin's personalities as a potential sacrifice to "The Beast" and survived.  Spencer Treat Clark as Joseph Cooke, David's son who has beleived in his father's abilities since he was a child, and sees him as a real-life superhero.  Charlayne Woodard as Mrs. Price, Elijah's mother who took great care of her son and always told him he was special no matter whar others said.  Adam David Thompson as Daryl, and Luke Kirby as Pierce.


The superohero thriller which is structured in layers, attempts to merge the various narratives in an action adventure drama with quasi-scientific, visionary and imaginative stories.  With the use of dark and shadowy villains, futuristic technology, unknown and unknowable forces, and extraordianry monsters the film displays constant havoc.  As the script is designed to terrify and shock, while entertain its audience at the same time, it really is mostly annoying.  Using CGI monsters and deranged humans as a special alternative for real entertainment, this film falls flat on its face.  


This is not a film the noted filmmaker should be proud of.  I was unimpressed!


FILM RATING (C-)

THE UPSIDE review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on January 9, 2019 at 8:35 AM

THE UPSIDE

Directed by: Neil Burger

Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes

Release date: January 11, 2019

Genre: Drama, Comedy, and Remake

Distributor: STXfilms

MPAA Rating: PG:13


Inspired by a true story written by John Hartman, based on the hit 2011 French film The Intouchables, and books You Changed My Life by Abdel Sellou by Abdel Sellou, A Second Wind: A Memoir by Phillippe Pozzo di Borgo, and The Upside: A Memoir by Abdel Sellou, is a heartfelt dramedy about a recently paroled ex-convict (Kevin Hart) who strikes up an unusual and unlikely friendship with a paralyzed billionaire (Bryan Cranston).


In A Second Wind: A Memoir  one of the books, it tells the true story of how (he) Phillippe, descendant of a wealthy aristocratic French family is totally isolated as his paralysis renders him unable to take care of himself until he hires an  unemployed and untrained African immigrant caregiver Abel.  In You Changed My Life by Abdel Sellou and The Upside: A Memoir, tells Abdel's (nickname Driss) version of the unorthodox relationship between the two.


The 2011 French film The Intouchables, is the biopic of this unusual relationship where as friendship saved two people.    In this updated Hollywood version,also starring Nicole Kidman, Julianna Margulies, and Aja Naomi King, gives powerful supporting performances for lead characters  Kevin Hart as ex-convict Dell and Bryan Cranston as wealthy Phillip.  The on-screen chemistry of the co-leads is excellent, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction.  While using great pacing and delivering fine dialogue, the film's narrative is often poignant, as well as funny.  


The tone and theme is clever in its structure of a romantic comedy to frame the platonic friendship between two very different men.  Their interaction is defined by feeling of brotherly love and amity.  As a buddy movie where the friendship doesn't play second fiddle to overblown action and rauchy humor.  It's like smoking weed versus sipping fine wine.  It is the classic odd-couple setup, only it pulls at your heartstrings.  It takes you on an emotional rollercoaster ride.


I always find fault in Hollywood remakes of good foreign films.  Mainly for the fact that the western world versions are wrapped in a formulaic structure.  In most cases, these adaptations showcase celebrity actors giving credit to their status oppose to the credibility of the story.  In this case, the narrative of humanism and an odd couple relationship scenario is well displayed in an atmosphere that can be shown on any global platform.  While maintaining a high standard of storytelling, along with good performances by a talented cast, the balance of executing and delivering this movie to its audience is successful.  


Perhaps, it is wrong to compare this version to the original French 2011 film, but this movie is solid and worth the time.


FILM RATING (B) 

TOUCH ME NOT review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on January 4, 2019 at 5:50 PM

Directed by: Adina Pintilie

Running time: 125 minutes

Release date: January 11, 2019

Genre: Drama

Distributor: Kino Lorber

MPAA Rating:  Not rated


Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Adina Pintile stretches her work into an avant garde character study narrative examining sexuality among three personalities.  It is an indept deep, personal soul searching venture into how to achieve real human intimacy bordering between reality and fiction following the journeys of three main characters; Laura (Laura Benson), Tomas (Tomas Lemarquis), and Christian (ChristianBayerlein).


Fimmaker Adina Pintilie is a Romanian whose work includes her as a visual artist.  Her work borders between fiction, documentary, and visual arts, andstands ourt through a highly personal visual style, with courage to experiment in cinematic language and an un compromising exploration of human psyche.  In her statement concerning this film, she wanted to have intimacy ploy to play a central role in human experience, having its roots in the initial physical, emotional and psychological bonds of people.


The film focuses on their craving for intimacy, yet also exploring their fear of it as they work to overcome old patterns, along with examining defense mechanisms and taboos in finding sexual freedom.  The astonishing format and structure is unique as it studies the edgy social drama of sexual struggles.  The personal stake of these personalities weighs heavily of the pacing and tone filmmaker Adina Pintilie places to this viewer.  


The attention of the narrative delivers an attitude of inspiration as an impressive visonary film.  Carefully, the rationale is to bring sexual norishment and conscienous to the viewer.   Yet, it resonates with exploitation as its base desire for a lurid subject matter.  Some scenes are similar to softcore pornography, in that the film severs largely as a vehicle for showing nudity and vivid sex scenes.  While delivering messages into the psychology of sexual exploration, it doesn't engage a theme of legitimatacy as it attempts to be a 'docu-drama'.


Touch Me Not, in my critical assessment is a failure because of its ineffectiveness supported by the story telling shots.  By using a documentary style format and structure, it lacks impacted attitude chill footaging that would force the viewer to 'lean-in' to see what is happening to the story.  The emotional cutaway shots are pretentious and lacks intensity.  


Overall, the film is penalized for poor execution and delivery as it attempts to project a serious tragedy.  It does not arouse pity as a magnitude action.  It does not reinforce the sexual tragedy of the protagonists and leaves an absence of viewer emotional reaction, such as, tension and intensity.


FILM RATING (C) 

MOWGLI: Legend of the Jungle review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on November 29, 2018 at 6:30 AM

Directed by: Andy Serkis

Running time: 104 minutes

Release date: November 29, 2018 (theatrically limited) & December 7, 2018 (wide on Netflix)

Genre: Fantasy, Drama, Action/Adventure, and Adaptation

Distributor: Netflix

MPAA Rating: PG-13


In a screenplay written by Callie Kloves with the mindset of rebooting Rudyard Kipling's 1894 legendary and classic story The Jungle Book, a story of abandonement of a male child named Mowgli, followed by fostering of wolves and other animals in an Indian jungle during the British occupation.  This contemparary reinvention brings to life the masterpiece tale with an international cast starring Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, Matthew Rhys, and Naomie Harris along with newcomer Rohan Chand as Mowgli.


Echoing Kipling's works of fiction which include The Jungle Book (1894), Kim (1901), and many short stories including The Man Wo Would Be King  in 1888, his poems Mandalay (1890), and Gunga Din (1890), this live-action and motion-caption animated film illuminates the wide screen with innovated genius the Kipling would welcome.  


The story is quite the same as the original, whereas a boy torn between two worlds accept his destiny and becomes a legend.  Mowgli (Rohan Chand) has never truly belonged in either the wilds of the jungle or the civilized world of man.  The adventurous plot is laced with intrigue and action which includes thrilling and intense chases, rescues, battles, and escapes.  It all begins as Mowgli learns the often rules of the jungle under the tutelage of a bear named Baloo (Andy Serkis) and a black panther named Bagheera (Christian Bale).  Mowgli is accepted by the jungle animals as one of their own except for the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch).  With non-stop action, spectacular rhythm and pacing the epic presentation is elaborate and mythic, while adding an extravagant exotic setting the plot features resilience in motion.


Supporting cast members Cate Blancett as Kaa the Indian rock pathon, Naomie Harris as Nisha the Indian wolf, Peter Mullan as Akela the Indian wolf, Jack Reynor as Brother Wolf, Eddie Marsan as Vhaan the Indian wolf, Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Haithi the Indian elephant, and Tom Hollander as Tabaqui the striped hyena are the voice and motion-caption unit of the production.  While Matthew Rhys as John Lockwood and Freida Pinto as Messua portray actual human characters.  These performances are very rich in classic narrative structure.


The approach of the visual effects is brilliant, which only enhances the emotionally moving adventure.  Staying true to the 1907 Nobel Prize of Literature winner Rudyard Kipling's passionate narrative, Andy Serkis's film shares his extraordinary gifts in storytelling - all for audience escapism, amazement, and wonderment.  


Mowgli: Lengend of the Jungle is an award consideration film worthy of exceptional acknowledgement.


FILM RATING (A+) 

THE NUTCRACKER and the FOUR REALMS review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on November 2, 2018 at 1:35 PM

Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom and Joe Johnston

Running time: 99 minutes in 2D and Real D 3D

Release date: November 2, 2018

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Adventure, Animation, and Adaptation

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG


This is a family-friendly holiday film based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker.  The mixture of the two plots are contemporarily merged as the 19th century The Nutcracker and the Mouse King is a story in which a young girl's favorite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, comes alive and, after defeating the evil Mouse King in battle, whisks her away to a magical kingdom populated by dolls.  However, The Nutcracker (ballet), another 19th century production, is about the young heroine (Clara and sometimes Marie, because of various adpatations the name changes between the name of the doll and the young girl), the plot follows the basic outline.


This updated version is focused on motherless young teenaged Clara (Mackenzie Foy), she the middle child of older sister Louise (Ellie Bamber) and younger brother Fritz (Tom Sweet), is a tinker of objects.  She, like her deceased mother, is tutored by master tinker Dosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman) who is also known as her godfather.  Her real father (Matthew Macfadyen) is in denial over his wife's death and it shatters the unity of the remaining family members.  As Clara receives a Christmas gift, a jewelry egg that requires a key to open, all she wants is the key - a one of a kind key that will unlock a box that holds a priceless gift from her late mother.  A golden thread, presented at her godfather's annual holiday party, leads her to the coveted key - which promptly disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world.  


It is in this land of mystery when Clara encounters a soldier Philip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), who soon becomes the Nutcracker, along with a gang of mice and the regents who preside over three Realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers, and Land of Sweets.  Clara and Philip must brave the ominous Fourth Realm, home to the tyrant Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), to retrieve Clara's key and hopefully return harmony to the unstable world stirred by Sugar plum Fairy (Kiera Knightly).


In this production that was filmed in London, had 32 days of reshoots by Joe Johnston after Lasse Hallstrom's prior direction.  This fantasy takes the audience to netherland places, another dimension, where events are unlikely to occur in real life - they transcend the bounds of human possibility and physical laws.  It is an element of magic, myth, wonder, and the extraordinary.  However, the flaws are evident in the casting of Helen Mirren and Keira Knightly.  These two fantastic actresses have carved their names in some of the most powerful and impeccable roles in their indivual filmography.  Yet, this casting is a misfire, due to them not seeming to throw themselves into thier roles.  The overtone is set as a wild, dramatic, sometimes hilarious ride - it is often exposed as absurdity that is penalized for poor execution.  The thought of whimpsical and frustrating comes to mind while watching Mirren and Knightly - too bad.


As a family-friendly holiday PG film, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, is a satisfying movie that relies too much on an epic production of costumes, medieval romps, covering a large expanse of time set against a vast, panoramic backdrop.  Its elaborate  elements of extravagant settings hits its mark, but its granduer and spectacle does not merit the overall film's delivery as being good.


FILM RATING   (C+)

LONDON FIELDS review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on October 26, 2018 at 1:20 PM

Directed by: Matthew Cullen

Running time: 118 minutes

Release date: October 26, 2018

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Crime, Thriller, and Adaptation

Distributor: GVN Releasing

MPAA Rating: R


Set in 1999 London, this crime noir thriller based on Martin Amin's 1989 novel of the same title features a star-studded cast including Amber Heard, Billy Bob Thornton, Johnny Depp, Jim Sturgess, and Cara Delevingue.


This film adaption, is a period piece drama, set in Martin Amis' then-futuristic 1999's London Field, painted in a portrait of a world plague by an unknown crisis, and a New York City based mentally blocked writer Samson Young (Billy Bob Thornton), who also narrates the plot, exchanges apartments with successful writer Mark Aspery (Jason Isaacs) - who is vaguely seen then the film.  Once Samson Young settles into his new exclusive London Fields apartment he meets a world-weary beautiful young woman Nicola Six (Amber Heard) who entices him, and manipulates a petty criminal Keith Taylor (Jim Sturgess) and dangerously bored millionnaire Guy Clinch (Theo James).  


In a dystopian future, clairvoyant femme fatale Nicola Six has been living with a dark premonition of her impending death by murder.  Amber Heard portrays this maneater, a stock character of a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers, leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations.  She is an archetype of literature and art.  Her ability to enchant and hypnotise her victims with a spell is described as having a power akin to a seductive enchantress.  In this film, she is considered a 'black hole' of sex and self-loathing intent on orchestrating her own extinction. The murderer may be Keith Talent, a violent lowlife whose only passions are pornography and the game of darts - whom he comptetes with Chick Purchase (Johnny Depp),  Is the killer the rich, honorable, and dimly romantic Guy Clinch (Theo James), or the film's narrator, literary author who now writes a novel about her mysterious life Samson Young (Billy Bob Thornton)?


London Fields is a very British tale about a mistress of seduction, having come to the end of men and a belief in the possibility of love, seeks her own murder - and sets about ruining the lives of two very different men in order to bring it about.  The narrator of the film and his novel of this situation is a self-described failure at his discipline - is terminally ill and now rapidly failing at life, too; he's set himself the task of chronicing the rather ignoble efforts of Nicola Six and her pyrhic dual seduction.  The proceedings are set against an ominously looming worldwide crisis climatic proportions.


However, the poor dialogue and its deliery by the characters fail.  Amber Heard lacks enlightment to her part and frustrates the narrative.  Her performance is painfully pathetic and stale.  Her erotic femme fatale tries to achieve her hidden purpose by using feminine wiles such as beauty, charm, and sexual allure is troublesome and whimsical..  Using the traits of promiscuity and her threatening qualities since by denying the males, her immortality leads to the ultimate destruction, falls and is penalized for poor execution in this film.


FILM RATING (C) 

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? review and interview by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on October 18, 2018 at 11:45 AM

Directed by: Marielle Heller

Running time: 106 mins.

Release date: October 19, 2018

Genre: Drama, Biiography, Comedy, Crime, and Adaptation

Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

MPAA Rating: R


Based on the book (memoir) by Lee Israel with the same title, in which she confessed her crimes of literary forgery and theft for profit, comes realistic cinematic account, starring Melissa McCarthy.


The film picks up in Leonore Carol "Lee" Israel's life after her celebrated run as writer who biographically profiled Katherine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Dorothy Kilgallen, and cosmetics tycoon Estee Lauder.  It was Lauder's disclaim and own book that discredited Israel's publication, thus rendering Israel's reputation in the literary world. The viewing audience of this film gets a front row view of Israel's anti-social attitude, as Mellissa McCarthy's dead-on characterization of Lee Israel, is portrayed in a disgruntled manner.  As a lesbian woman who did not have anyone in her life except for a cat, she was a resentful and displeased person as her career went into decline.  This was compounded by alcoholism and adding poverty.


During this era of the 1980-90s in NYC, used book selling was a business of making ends meet with the less economically fortunate, and Lee was part of this world.  This is when she meets a book store owner Anna (Dolly Wells), where Lee peddles an original celebrity letter to her and begins a soft romantic relationship.  It also, begins a friendly relationship with a charismatic gay homeless man named Jack Hock, brilliant played by Richard E. Grant, who later becomes her co-hort in the life of forgery crime.  With the sale of one letter to Anna, Lee decides to make money forging letters by deceased writers and actors.  Later, she begins stealing actual letters and autographed papers of famous persons from archives and libraries, replacing them with forged copies.


The film gives Melissa McCarthy a great platform to exert her dramatic assets, and she hits her mark in fine form.  This plot-driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, setings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction takes on historic and legendary dramatic scope.  The involvement between Lee and Anna gives an outlook of Lee's personality in a female bonding situation and emotional carthasis told from a female's attitude.  Where as Anna was truthful in an opening of a relationship, Lee only had the mind to connive for profit.  


Others in support cast positions is Jane Curtain, as Marjorie, Lee's long-time agent and friend.  This character solidifies the plot by giving credence to how those who knew Lee could not enable her, even if they wanted, because of her disagreeable behavior.


In an interview session with cast members Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, and Dolly Wells, I was fortunate to ask a few questions about the film and their performances.  Mellissa stated; "This was more verbal sparring for this character.  Working with Marielle Heller (director) was great, she was absolute certainty in the shoot and very collaborative.  I took care of Lee's exterior, then I found the interior Lee to fall into character.  The takeaway for the audience, hopefully, would be that their are people who are poor and homeless who are invisible, but should not be."  She also made comments about her supporting members of the cast, such as; "Richard is a remarkable actor and a tremendous listener.  Each scene was like we were singular.  Getting to do scenes with Jane Curtain, the legendary SNL personality, was amazing."


Richard E. Grant was gracious to tell me, "I found Lee's book had no information about Jack and I did a backgrond check using wikipedia on him.  After reading her (Israel) books and her memior, I came to the conclusion that she was anti-social."


Dolly Wells commented, "In London (her birth home) I worked in a book store.  I felt comfortable in character.  It was a real honor to work with Marielle Heller.  It was a beautiful and brave production - a lovely atmospher.  I found it easy to work with Melissa, the only fear element of the film is that I bring honesty to my part."


Can You Ever Forgive Me?, is a brilliant film depicting an era in NYC's culture, when a criminal career is launched by a controversial woman.  This is a formidable and engaging movie of realism, structured with crisp pacing and outstanding performances.  It's a period piece drama that covers a large expanse of time set against a vast, panoramic backdrop.  


FILM RATING (A)  


  

BIKINI MOON review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on October 12, 2018 at 3:20 PM

Directed by: Milcho Manchevski

Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes

Release date: October 12, 2018

Genre: Drama

Studio: Flix Premiere

MPAA Rating: Not rated


Film director Milcho Manchevski,a 1994 nominee for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 67th Academy Awards for his film Before the Rain, has brought to screen a dramatic and subplotted mockumentary about a female African American military veteran suffering from PTSD, and rendering her homeless.  It is uniquely structured as a narrative of a documentary film crew examining a female's life.


The lead character in this movie is Bikini (Condola Rashad), a homeless Iraqi War veteran on the streets of New York City, who exercises a compelling charm that inspires devotion in others.  This charismatic attitude is hindered by her PTSD condition, but gains interest from a documentary film crew filming at a human resource intake center, while processing and finding her immediate shelter.  Kate and Trevor (Sarah Goldberg and Will Janowitz), are two white liberal minded privilege individuals who head-up the film crew.  Determined to get a honest and engaging documentary, they undertake responsibility for Bikini's plight to find her shelter and restore her in society.


In this first act of the film, the a narrative is established as a filming of a documentary about Bikini's horrific plight as she must resort to giving sexual pleasures to landlord's offering rooms to rent, to a subplot of Kate and Trevor's unstable romantic relationship.  The life journey(s) is a serious, plot-driven presentation(s), portraying realistic characters, settings, human situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction.  It also, project stories whose central struggle between a problematic injustice in society.


As the documentary film crew led by Kate and Trevor examines Bikini's life and PTSD condition, they accept her well being by enablers to her for the sake of a good documentary.  They exploit her difficult, unpleasant, and embarrassing situation by taking her to their privilege home of particular advantaged people.  Meanwhile, Bikini also suffers from being separated by authorities from her daughter, whom she relentlessly searches for.  


The second and third act of this film becomes less impressive, because it loses the potency of its social subject matter and the resolving of Bikini's PTSD by not sending her to proper medical authorities.  The film's narrative proceeds with false betterment for the documentary's success, and the mockumentary as a subplot of Bikini's reunion with her daughter Ashley (Mykal-Michelle Harris) is added.  Trying to offer an emotional attitude to the plot, the challenging aspects fall stale and whimsical, resulting in a ride of absurdity.


In giving a formidible performance by Condola Rashad as Bikini in this film, she can't be responsible for the lack of continuity and disjointment.  Her accomplishment in portraying and staging her character is innovating.  Yet, the real sense of why these and other characters are introduced and satuated in the later scenes become less authentic in the underlying primary story.  Bikini Moon is highly powerful in its opening format, but loses its impact in its delivery and is penalized for poor execution.


FILM RATING (C+)


NYFF-56 reviews, capsules, editorial coverage by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on September 28, 2018 at 11:00 AM

                                    THE 56th NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL

                                               SEPTEMBER 28TH - OCTOBER 14, 2018


For 50 years, the Film Society of Lincoln Center has been devoted to supporting the arts and elevating the craft of cinema and enriching film culture.


The Film Society believes in the importance of empoering audiences to broaden their knowledge and deepen their passion for movies.  NYFF is just one of the many annual programs of the Film Society, which is open year-round on 65th Street - at the Walter Reade Theater and the three-screen Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, which show first-run films and revivals, as well as special annual series.



OPENING FILM


THE FAVOURITE

Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos

Running time: 2 hours

Release date: November 23, 2018

Genre: Drama, History, and Biography

Distributor: Fox Swarchlight Pictures

MPAA Rating: R


Early 18th century - England is at war with the French.  Never the less, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving with the people of Queen Anne's (Olivia Colman) court.  The frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah (Rachek Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Queen Anne's ill health aand mercurial temper.  When a new servant Abigail (Ema Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.  Sarah takes Abigail under her wing and Abigial sees a chance at a return to her aristocratic roots.


Using a dark comedic and dramatic tone, this epic historical narrative takes on a historical and extravagant setting with lavish costumes, accompanied by grandeur and spectacle.  It is a plot-driven presentation, portraying quasi-realistic characters, settings, life situations, and period-piece stories involving intense character development and interactions as the royal court politics and war with the French consume Sarah.  Agressive and manipulative Abigail steps into a royal breach of confidence to fill in as the Queen's companion.  The dramatic stage reflects the drama of the royal everyday life, but it also concentrates life, focuses it, and holds it up for examination.


Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone give empeccable performances on screen as they engage in formidible battle for the Queen's approval and acceptance.  Their provocative roles is the essence of dark humor accelerating the decentralization of the grand scheme in out doing each other.  As a result, the film enables the audience to realize the conflicts these two woman while simultaneously laughing at some of the absurd situations in can generate.  The situational layered dimensions keeps the viewer off balance with shock effects of betrayal that are visual, and a protruding fact of controversy.  Their burgeoning on and of friendship gives Abigail her chance to fulfil her ambitions and she will not let woman, man, politics stand her way.


Applying dramatic scope, high production values, crisp pacing, and a surreal panoramic backdrop, filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos creates his best work.  The clash of monarchy acceptance is amusing as well as dramatic. The only flaw is the final scenes that seem to run out of steam and leaves the audience wanting more of an impressive impact as to the wild and often hilarious ride.  Howver, this is a very good evocative costume drama film, that will leave a lasting impression.


FILM RATING (A-)



CENTERPIECE FILM


ROMA

Directed by: Alfonso Cuarin

Running time: 135 minutes

Release date: December 14, 2018

Genre: Drama in Spanish and Mixtec with English subtitles

Distributor: Netflix

MPAA Rating: Not rated


In a semi-biographical take on Cuarin's upbringing in early 1970s Mexico City, and follows the life of a middle class family and its live-in housekeeper for one year, and shot in black and white.  It is a script penned by the filmmaker Cuarin, and is improvised with a natural atmosphere by using Mixtec language - a tongue used by Mexico's indegenous tribes.


The central character in this film is Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), an indegenous woman who works as a housekeeper for a wealthy family in the privilege community, while supporting her own family in the rural ghetto.  The atmosphere is such that of a cast system, whereas the spanish speaking peoples are superior.  Her employer is a doctor, Sr. Antonio (Fernando Grdiaga), his spoiled and pampered wife Sra. Sofia (Marina de Tavira), his elder mother Sra. Teresa (Veronica Garcia), and four children - Tono, Paco, Pepe, Sofi (Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta, Marco Graf,Daniela Demesa).  


This character and plot-driven pesentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction is a film depicting life's daily system in a society separating classes of people and cultural differances of an important historical personage (or group)  from the past.  It also, showcases the governmental violent taking of lower class indegenous peoples property for exploitation, causing rioting and protesting during this era.


However, the continuity of this film has problems in its structure, because it is set up partially in a documentary style in its narrative storytelling.  While it tells of the patriarch doctor's infidelity causing the matriarch wife to getting a divorced from him and learning to find emplyment without any employment experience, housekeeper Cleo closer bonds with the privilege family.  


Perhaps, one can consider this is a mundane tale of a period in the filmmaker's life, but it does give insight of how life was in the 1970s Mexico.  If you are looking for more of a relevant narrative, Roma does not offer more. The film is penalized for poor execution and not a good entry for Mexico's 'Best Foreign Language Category'.


FILM RATING (C) 




CLOSING NIGHT FILM


AT ETERNITY'S GATE

Directed by: Julian Schnabel

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Release date: November 16, 2018

Genre: Drama and Biography

Distributor: CBS Films

MPAA Rating: PG-13


This internationally co-produced and casted drama film is about the final days of painter Vincent van Gogh.  It is a look at the life of him during the time he lived in AAries and Auvers-sur-Oise, France.


Willem Dafoe stars as Vincent van Gogh, Rupert Friend as his brother Theo van Gogh, Mads Mikkelsen as the priest who attempts to spiritually remedy Vincent, Mathieu Amalric as Vincent's medical/pyschologist Dr. Paul Gachet, Emmanuelle Seigner as the woman from Madonna Cinoux, Oscar Isaac as Paul Gaugin, Vladimir Consigny as another medical doctor Felix Ray, Amira Caesar as Vicent's sister-in-law Johanna van-Gogh-Bonger, and Vincent Perez as the director of the mental institution Vincent resided.  


With a stellar international cast focusing mainly on historical content that cover a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop, is a film that often share elements of the elaborate adventure film genre. This epic takes a historic and legendary figure, and add an extravagant setting and lavish costumes, accompanied by grandeur and spectacle, dramatic scope, and high production values.


The flaw in this production is the filmmaker attempting to make sense of a manic-depressed insane man. Willem Dafoe is brilliant as the main vehicle driving this character-driven presentation, portraying realistic people, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction.  Yet, the film begins with a shaky camera which gives reference and clarity to Vincent's origins.  But the second act delves into his creativity and process while exposing the audience to beautiful landscapes.  The tone of the film at this time is a journey for Vincent's necessary special scenary to paint, however the film's structure is interrupted by the time setting jumping, which causes lack of continuity and character development.


Filmmaker JulianSchnabel stated, "we did not have in mind of doing a biopic but a narrative, as we looked at his paintings.  This explained the structure, which is shown by each piece of his work we viewed.  The odd focus on shooting was purposely placed for Vincent's disturbing life he lived.  We had 7 hour workdays."  Willem Dafoe added, "we would get to the locations and points of shooting and we would shoot very quickly.  Strangely, many landscapes are still there where Vincent van Gogh was."  Oscar Isaac commented, "we often finished for the day on set and re-shoot a completely different scene at another location."


This is not one of my favorite films to digest.  I had problems with the structuring, pacing, and delivery of most of the performances.


FILM RATING (C+) 








 



FIVE FINGERS for MARSEILLES review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on September 3, 2018 at 2:55 PM

Directed by: Michael Matthews

Running time: 2 hours in Xhosa and Sotho with English subtitles, and English language

Release date: September 7, 2018

Genre: Drama, Western, Crime, and Thriller

Distributor: UNCORK'd Entertainment

MPAA Rating: Not rated


Filmmmaker Michael Matthews crafts Sean Drummond's contemporary western to screen with a multi-layered story that determines attitude on crime resonating from Apartheid and neocolonialism in South Africa.  With underlying factors of socio-economics, revenge, and redemption lives change forever when a strong young man returns home to a shanty town after 15 years to correct the wrong he left behind.


The socio-economic setting is an end of railway shanty town called Marseilles under a system of institutional racial segregation in South Africa, formerly known as Apartheid.  Non-White South Africans were removed from their homes and forced into segregated neighborhoods (tribal homelands, also known as bantustans) - such a place is Marseilles, also known as, "Railway End".  Neocolonialism, where as European countries after the so-called liberation in the aftermath of World War II continued economic and cultural relationships with their former colonies in Africa.  The Apartheid ruled militarism extorted and set fear in the inhabitants who attempted to make a living.  And the main setting and tone is set in this narrative, as a group of poverty stricken black youngsters find it impossible to resist their oppressors.  


One such young youngster Tau, part of the known group as, the "Five Fingers", fought for the rural town of Marseilles, against brutal white police oppression.  After an assassination of two police officers, young Tau flees leaving his town to deal with the incident.  Years past as Tau (Vuyo Dabula), a now freedom-fighter turn outlaw, returns to Marseilles, seeking only a peaceful pastorial life.  He searches for a woman he hard very strong feelings for, Lerato (Zethu Dlomo).  Only to find her and her elder father running a little inn.  When Tau finds the town under new threat with corrupt politics and gangland fear, he must relunctantly fight to free the threat and free himself from his past.


Kudos to the cinematographer and director of photography for the breathtaking shots of the South African landscape as a backdrop.  Along with the use of a brilliant ensemble performance, as well as, authenticity in portraying realism - actual local village children studying in local theater perform.  Supporting cast members such as, Kenneth Nkosi, Lizwi Vilakazi, Hamilton Dhlamini, Garth Breytenbach, and Aubrey Poolo solidify a very formidable script.  


The script is structured with crisp pacing and dramatic scope offering stories involving intense character development and interaction.  There is a sense of noir projected in the mysterious night time scenes in the dismill night inn and shadowed streets.  These darkened scenes set primary moods of melancholy, alienation,bleakness, disillusionment, disenchantment, pessimism, moral corruption, evil, guilt, and paranoia.  The riverting crime element is suspensefully set around the sinister actions of criminals and mobsters, portraying ruthlessness, stealing, and murdering their way through life.


The key roles in this feature provides the audience with a better idea of how the film is going to be as they carried the plot flow all the way through the film, as one man must fight and call on partners in crime, both old friends and new, for the rise of The Five Fingers to save Marseilles, the town he once abandoned.


This South African contemporary western is a unique and welcoming narrative.


FILM RATING (A-)  



Rss_feed