SIGNIS REVIEWS JULY 2018
BACK TO BURGUNDY/ CE QUI NOUS LIE
BELLE AND SEBASTIEN: FRIENDS FOR LIFE
INCREDIBLES 2, The
JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM
LEISURE SEEKERS, The
MAN WITH THE IRON HEART, The
SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO
TWO IS A FAMILY/ DEMAIN TOUT COMMENCE
US, 2018, 96 minutes, Colour.
Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin.
Directed by Baltazar Kormakur.
The title is very plain. This is a film about a battered yacht adrift in the northern Pacific Ocean. There have been a number of films in the adrift brain, about a decade ago several with people drifting in danger of shark attacks. In more recent times, Robert Redford was All at Sea, and Colin Firth was attempting a round the world record in Mercy.
This time the person adrift is Shailene Woodley, Tami Oldham, who does appear as herself at the end of the film, the film based on a true story.
Tammy had a hard upbringing in San Diego but left home and became a very happy-go-lucky young woman, happily drifting around the world from temporary job to temporary job, finding herself in 80 Tahiti. However, the film opens with the disaster for the yacht, her coming to consciousness, and searching for her partner, Richard Sharp, played by Sam Claflin.
The film goes into flashback, establishing Tami’s character, her chance meeting with Richard, their enjoying each other’s company, a growing bond, falling in love – shown with quite some tenderness.
The structure of the film is that it keeps moving backwards and forwards, keeping the tension about the yacht being adrift in balance with the background story and the romance.
Richard is asked by a wealthy couple to sail their yacht to the United States and he agrees, especially with Tami as his partner.
It is only at the end of the film that we actually see the vast storm that wrecks the yacht. In the meantime, we have very strong leading character, a strong female character at sea, with the physical strain, the psychological strain, the emotional strain that keeps her going for more than 40 days adrift. But, she is sustained by her relationship with Richard, her working with him, her caring for him.
Stories about people adrift at sea may not have a great appeal to non-sailors. However, Icelandic Dir Baltazar Kormakur retains the tension between the past and the present, has great admiration for Tami and her story.
BACK TO BURGUNDY/ CE QUI NOUS LIE
France, 2016, 130 minutes, Colour.
Pio Marmai, Ana Girardot, François Civil, Jean- Marc Roulot, Maria Valverde, Jean- Marie Winling, Florence Pernell, Eric Caravaca.
Directed by Cedric Clappisch.
This is a film to put on the list of French films that are worth seeing. While the English title emphasises the winegrowing area of Burgundy, the French title is more evocative of the themes of the film, Ties which Bind.
Visually, the film is most attractive, opening with a collage of the same view of the Vineyard throughout the seasons of the year. The location photography evokes the world of the Vineyards as well as life in a French town.
It is the characters who hold the interest. Jean offers a voice-over commentary on the events and the characters. He returns after 10 years away, driven away by his dominant father, but returning because of his terminal illness. (Dramatically, it is rather effective to have the reconciliations scene in the hospital placed later in the film, the earlier part concentrating on flashbacks and Jean’s difficulties with his father.) The family have been wine producers. On his return, Jean finds his sister, Juliette, managing the business, the harvest almost ready. There is also the younger brother, Jeremie, who has married a local girl, from a wealthy family and ad insistently dominating father, and they have a child.
Initially, there is great resentment that Jean had left, not made contact for 10 years, refused to come to his mother’s funeral. After an outburst, Jean is able to explain what has happened, his marriage in Australia, the birth of his son, their Vineyard out there.
So, while the timeline of the film shows the decisions about harvesting, the picking of the grapes and the workers who come in temporarily, the pressing of the grapes, the vats, the processes – offering all that any audience might have wanted to know about wine production, and even more…
The drama is interesting in the depiction of the three siblings, the effect of their father’s death, decisions about production, the reading of the will, the joint ownership of the house and the Vineyard, the pressures on Jean to sell his share and go back to Australia, Jeremie and his father-in-law wanting to buy parcels of the land, Juliette and her desire to be an effective wine producer.
There is a strong humanity in the film, audiences being caught up in the lives of the three central characters as well as in the work and the wine production. Pio Marmai plays Jean, and Ana Girardot is Juliette, François Civil is Jeremie. The film was directed by Cedric Klappisch – who knows how to make films about characters living together, bonds, conflicts, with his series of films which began with L’ Auberge Espagnol and was followed by Russian Dolls and Chinese Puzzle.
BELLE AND SEBASTIEN 3, LE DERNIERE CHAPITRE/ BELLE AND SEBASTIEN, FRIENDS FOR LIFE
France, 2017, 97 minutes, Colour.
Felix Bossuet, Tcheky Karyo, Clovis Cornillac, Thierry Neuvic, Margo Chatelier, Andre Penvern, Anne Benoit.
Directed by Clovis Cornillac.
The Belle and Sebastien books have been very popular in France for many decades, an earlier film version made in 1981. They are based on a series by French actress, Cecile Aubry. She also wrote the lyrics for the songs throughout the film.
Followers of French films will have seen the first two films in this trilogy. In 2013, the first was released, focusing on the experience of the young boy, Sebastien, at the age of six, living in the snowclad Alps, experience in World War II and German occupation and the rescue of French flyers. The role of Sebastian was played by a very young Felix Bossuet who continued in the role in the two subsequent films. His quite an engaging screen presence. Actually, so is Belle, the beautiful, white powerful dog that he befriends.
The second film, Belle and Sebastien, The Adventure Continues was released in 2015. The action moves forward to the end of World War II and Sebastien, again with Belle, anticipating the return of his friend, Angelina, from her flying action during the war.
While this third film does open with Sebastien’s birth, difficult situation in the stormy mountains, his mother dying, the wayfaring shepherd, Cesar (Tcheky Karyo in all three films) rescues the boy and brings him up, a grandfather-figure.
This time, Sebastien is 12. Belle has had a litter of pups. Sebastian goes to school but would prefer to be out in the mountains and his ambition is to become a shepherd like his grandfather. However, Angelina is about to marry Sebastien’s father and the boy overhears their plans that they will move to Canada, taking the boy with him. He decides to run away – especially since a very sinister figure, Joseph, arrives, claiming that Belle is his dog and that he will take her and the pups.
The director of the film, actor Clovis Cornillac, portrays this sinister figure, black coat, black shirt, black trousers, black beard, black hat and hair, glowering eyes, towering presence, a frightening figure for children. (It is obvious that the Cornillac is enjoying his role as actor.).
This means that there is quite some tension at the end, the dangers of the confrontation, the risks in testing the villain.
While the film can stand on its own, sufficient explanation is given in the screenplay, it will be more pleasing for those audiences who have seen the previous two films.
Australia, 2018, 94 minutes, Colour.
Directed by Judy Rymer.
With the worldwide movements of peoples travelling the world, migrants, refugees, those fleeing from persecution, there has been both a greater consciousness about the plight of those searching for another home as well as a hardening of consciousness against these migrants and refugees, a self-protective attitude and politics from countries in Europe, the United States, and, though with far fewer numbers, Australia.
Prominent Australian lawyer, Julian Burnside, worked in commercial law until he was asked around the year 2000 to become involved in social justice cases. The experience of politicians claiming that migrants were throwing babies overboard from the ship Tampa, and this later proven to be false, led him to a new career in legal cases about border protection and border policies. In this documentary, he is at the centre, speaking to camera, his observations and challenges, visiting several countries around the world to examine their attitudes towards migrants and refugees, sympathetic welcome as well as harsh closing of borders, the construction of fences and walls.
In many ways, this film is preaching to the converted. It will reinforce the views and feelings of those who believe in advocacy for people in need, for empathy and compassion for those who suffer. Many will not find anything new in what Burnside is offering but rather an expansion of consciousness, widening of horizons, literally in his visits to other countries. Those who are not converted will probably have their stances reinforced, more sympathetic to those countries who put up the barriers, the president of Hungary, demonstrations in Poland, and the internment of refugees on Nauru and Manus Island.
Many audiences will be familiar with some of the countries and their reactions – although, it is very sobering to look at the extensive wall cutting off Mexico from the United States and some draconian legislation which separates parents who lived for a long time in the US and their deportation to Mexico, having minimal contact with their children, for short times with only the possibility of finger touching through the barriers. This certainly extends the consciousness about human hardheartedness.
By comparison, Burnside visits the Greek island of Levros, just across from Turkey, receiving thousands of Syrian refugees, and, on the whole, welcoming them, the contrast between three camps on the island, two in the midst of the people who go out of their way for the newcomers and one a wired compound, established by the Greek government, which confines the refugees.
Perhaps most challenging is Burnside’s visit to Jordan, the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have come across from Syria, the reaction of the King, the population, enabling the refugees to find homes, however temporary, amongst the Jordanian people, the possibility of work, of earning one’s keep, of some temporary peace before returning, it is hoped, to homes and properties in Syria.
What most of the attention is on the present, one of the features of the film is to highlight the millions of children around the world who are not getting the education that they need and deserve – and pondering what are the consequences for the coming years for them as adults without this basic education and how they will cope.
At the beginning of the film Burnside highlights the Golden Rule, asking people to think of how they would wish to be treated in the same situations as the refugees. And one of the words that recurs throughout the film is ‘decency’, the kind of human decency that should be exercised to people in need.
This kind of documentary is always sobering. It is an opportunity to reinforce more compassionate attitudes towards those in need and, even if it is unlikely, to challenge those who think they must take hard and harsh stances.
UK, 2017, 103 minutes, Colour.
Sheila Hancock, Kevin Guthrie.
Directed by Simon Hunter.
Whew – and applause! The expression and feeling of this reviewer at the final close-up and triumphant image of Edie.
Edie? She is Edith Moore, an elderly widow, her daughter helping her to pack up house and moved to an aged care facility. She is getting ready to go – but, obviously, not at all ready when she visits the place. As she goes through her things, her daughter finding a diary in which Edie expressed her private responses to the hardships of her life, of control her controlling husband. She also finds a picture of a Scottish mountain which she climbed with her devoted father.
She gets a brainwave – one which her family and friends would not endorse, and the audience wonders whether this is a good idea or not. What about going back to that mountain in Scotland? What about climbing it? She packs her bags, take some money, please a message on her daughters and answering machine and takes the train to Inverness.
What seems a momentary annoyance at Inverness Station, a young man and his girlfriend rushing for the train, bumping Edie and knocking her over, turns out to be a happily fortuitous encounter. When the bus doesn’t come for several hours, he gives her a lift, helps her with accommodation because the town is booked out, lets her stay at his house. And the interesting thing is that he is working in a camping shop.
This all happens fairly early in the film so we know where we’re going, we know that we are going with Edie. At one stage, John, exasperated with her says she is like a cranky cow – and then agrees that she is a cranky cow. And, though we are more sympathetic at first because we know her, she actually is something of a cranky cow.
The point is what does one do with one’s life. What choices do we make, especially after living life with its regrets, wanting to change some of life if we could? Should there be a final quest? And, of course, should there be a final quest which is so demanding as an elderly lady camping out, rowing across a lake, climbing a mountain?
Needless to say, the Scottish Highlands scenery is beautiful even if the touch barren. But, as Edie goes on her journey, we are made to feel every step with her, the exhilaration, the physical and mental demands, the beauty, the bad weather – and the relief of finding a hunters hut with shelter and warmth for a night. Will she climbed to the top of the mountain and place a stone on the canyon there as she did in the past? What will John do, initially shamed by helping her for the money she gave him, helping her with the equipment, and the dilemma whether to go to her rescue or not?
Sheila Hancock has been in films and on television for many decades. She is quite a stream screen presence as Edie. Strong-minded and strong-willed, a touch imperious, a touch cantankerous, but a woman who wants to make something of her life.
Israel, 2017, 117 minutes, Colour.
Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler, Jonaton Shiray, Shira Haas, Yehuda, Almagor.
Directed by Samuel Maoz.
This is a very moving film. It is also very sombre.
The writer-director, Samuel Maoz, made the award-winning film, Lebanon (2009). It won an award from SIGNIS (World Catholic Association for Communication). Foxtrot screened at the Venice film Festival, 2017, winning the Grand Jury Prize. It also won a prize from SIGNIS.
Foxtrot seems an unusual title for such a serious film. However, there is a telling scene where the central character enters a building and finds elderly couples dancing the foxtrot. He explains and demonstrates the steps. Later, the son will dance a foxtrot on the road at his desert outpost – and the codename for the outpost in fact is Foxtrot. And, again, later, there will be peacemaking and reconciliation in the dancing of the foxtrot.
This is an Israeli film. The screenplay is in three parts, three acts, the approximately 40 minutes long.
The first takes place over some hours on one day, the military arriving at the door of an apartment with the audience sharing the apprehension of the parents who open the door. The news is that their son, very young, has been killed in the line of duty. The director uses many close-ups, especially of the father, Michael (Lior Ashkenazi in a most impressive performance). The mother collapses. Michael is quiet, quietly panic-stricken, then breaking out in anger and demands. He visits his mother with the news. His brother comes to help. An official comes to explain the protocols for the funeral and the tribute. Then there is other news which will take the audience by surprise.
There is a transition for the second part. The audience is taken out into the desert, the checkpoint on the lonely road, four young men doing their military service there. Nothing much happens. A camel walks by and they lift the barrier, the camel moves through, the barrier is lowered. The young men talk, play computer games, Jonathan, the son from the first part, has a sketchbook. One of the activities is to roll a can from one end of the hut to the other, their speculating that the hut is sinking. There is rain, heavy rain, scenes of watery mud seeping from the road.
As regards activity, a couple is held up, caught humiliatingly in the pouring rain. One of the young men uses techniques of photo identity so that the people can be cleared and move through. Later there is a group of raucous young men and women, though one looks intently at Jonathan. Again the checking, and then something overwhelming happens.
With the third part, the audience goes back to Michael and his wife. There are many close-ups, intense gazing at the face of the characters, feeling their tensions, sense of alienation, exasperation, grief. This part is introduced by an animated segment, bringing Jonathan’s sketches to life, the story of his father, courting his mother, sexuality – and a glimpse of Michael’s mother in hospital, the concentration camp number on her wrist.
As with the other two parts, there is a surprise that the audience could not have anticipated. An explanation that makes sense of the whole story. Tragic sense.
This is a film for an Israeli audience but makes quite an impact beyond Israel. It is a story about a husband and wife, about children and family – and, especially, different ways of coping with death, different ways of living through grief.
US, 2018, 127 minutes, Colour.
Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolfe, Millie Shapiro, Ann Dowd.
Directed by Ari Aster.
This film has received some very complementary reviews. Many have found it something of a relief, in terms of films which have horror elements, because it does not indulge in blood and gore. Rather, it is a film of atmosphere – at least until the last minutes.
This is the story of a family. The opening shot is that of an obituary, the grandmother of the family, a listing of the members of the family as well as the ancestors. At her mother’s funeral, Annie (Toni Collette) indicates that at times her mother was a difficult, secretive person. She has played a dominating role in her family’s life.
The other members of the family are Stephen, husband and father (Gabriel Byrne), the son Peter (Alex Wolfe) and the younger daughter, Charlie (Millie Shapiro). Stephen seems very normal, loving his family, going to work, sharing meals, bonding with his children. Peter also seems normal enough, a not untypical teenager, distracted at school, trying out drugs with his friends, with an eye on the girls. It is Charlie who seems a little strange, look, her manner, her drawings, hiccup, predilection for chocolate. And, suddenly, the lives of the family are changed because of a road accident.
Annie, who is an artist making miniature scenes of homes and rooms, worries that she cannot grieve as much as she ought to, becomes distraught at Charlie’s death, begins to clash with her husband, rants against Peter, reverts to an earlier habit of sleepwalking. In fact, she does go to group meetings to try to deal with her grief. There she meets a very friendly woman, Joan, who lost her husband and son (Anne Dowd) and Annie begins to depend on her.
And then, the family deteriorates further, Annie becoming interested in mediums and seances, Joan demonstrating the way, Annie trying to involve Stephen and Peter with bizarre results.
There is an atmosphere of horror in these interactions amongst the family, aggravated by mysterious and menacing dreams on the part of Annie and Peter. There are sinister sounds in the house, mysteries in the attic, strange books and photos in the box of the grandmother’s goods. Suggestions of a cult begin to appear.
And things then deteriorate, madness, family mayhem, an atmosphere of fear rather than explicit depictions. It might be said that the film is “atmospheerie”. Just as the audience might be thinking there are no explanations, some explanations come thick and fast. They may be satisfactory for some audiences but for other audiences they may seem suddenly absurd (too much detail).
So, some praise for the atmosphere, the performances, some questions about the rationale underlying the plot – and the film might be described as “herediteerie”.
US, 2018, 91 minutes, Colour.
Steve Coogan, Paul Rudd, Jack Gore, Jake Mc Dormand, Alison Pill.
Directed by Andrew Fleming.
The title sounds like a slogan promoting an estate agent. Is there an ideal home? One of the questions that the title and the film imply. And, more importantly, is there an ideal family?
This is a film, touches of comedy, touches of drama, touches of sentiment, which comes in the wake of discussions and legislation about same-sex marriage and issues of same-sex couples adopting children and bringing them up. Those in favour will respond well to the film. For those not in favour, it is an opportunity to look at a story, listen to real characters, rather than reflect on an abstract concept or a moral question.
The setting is Santa Fe. Audiences will enjoy the scenery in the background. In the foreground, at first, is Erasmus, sitting on a horse, talking to camera – and, eventually we realise that he is being filmed and is advertising. In fact, he is something of a chef, something of a promoter of high life. He is British, did a chef’s course in Oxford, was rather wild in the 1980s, drugs and sexual experimentation. His played by Steve Coogan.
Then we meet his producer, Paul, a bearded Paul Rudd, making him somewhat unrecognisable. He squabbles with Erasmus onset and somebody asks whether they are like that at home. Only worse! The two have been a couple for ten years, depending on each other, arguing with each other.
In the meantime, we have been introduced to a young boy, Angel (later he wants to be called Bill), his father being disturbed by the police in their apartment, getting his son out the window and sending him to Santa Fe to Erasmus. The father goes to jail. We discover Erasmus is his grandfather.
And this is where the ideal home and the not so ideal family come in to play. How do the two men cope with this boy, whose role model has been his criminal father and his addict-mother who fell to her death from a fourth storey window. And what role modelling will Erasmus and Paul offer?
The two men are rather camp in their way and manner. Erasmus could be described as fastidiously, hyper- sensitively self-centred. While Paul is a touch more down-to-earth, he proves himself more capable of being a father than Erasmus does. One of the things about the boy is that he is not one of those cute Americans. He can be very irritating. He also has a passion for Taco Bell – and the film seems at times like and extended commercial for Taco Bell.
Obviously, the two men are going to be challenged in how they relate to the boy and the effect that that has on their own relationship, especially on the cantankerous arguments they have and Paul’s proneness to have panic attacks. And the boy himself is challenged, going to school, eventually making friends. And what about the father? Especially when he is released from jail?
The final credits have a great number of stills of same-sex parents and their adopted children, so Ideal Home is something of a special plea film. When seriously considering same-sex relationships, marriages, same-sex adoption of children, it is important that stances are taken based on experience as well as principles and characters and stories that contribute to the experience.
US, 2018, 125 minutes, Colour.
Voices of: Craig T.Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener,
Eli Fucile, Bob, Samuel L.Jackson, Sophia Bush, Brad Bird, Isabella Rossellini, Jonathan Banks, Barry Bostwick, John Ratzenburger.
Directed by Brad Bird.
X-Men? (and X-Women) can relax. Apparently, super heroes have been banned for some years but but there are moves to have legislation to make them legal and acceptable again. Something of this helps to explain what is 14 years since the first Incredibles film came out and won an Oscar for Best Animation. It was highly popular and, at last some might say, here is the Incredibles family again.
These days, one has to be careful about inclusive language, not using super heroes to cover men and women, some finding superheroines to exclusive. The solution here is to call all these characters, Supers.
And, not only issues of inclusive language. There are issues of equality, sometimes the male Super standing aside while the female Super goes on mission. That certainly happens here.
At the beginning, the whole family is involved, mother and father, daughter and son. However, now there is a baby – who turns out to have more superpowers than you can shake a stick at! After the initial adventure, excitingly-paced, with help from an uncle and an agent who cannot only debrief memories but eliminate them, especially after the daughter has been recognised by the boy at school that she has a crush on. When they meet again, he has no idea who she is!
There is also a campaign going on, some villains, wearing special goggles which fixates them, are working for the Screen Saver, trying to get audiences back into real life and not dependent on screens. The manager of the television company, Winston, is the enthusiastic promoter of the cause which is to gather authorities from around the world to sign the document legalising Supers. He has a very talented IT and beyond sister,
The mother, known as the Super, Elastogirl, is sent on a mission to save a runaway train – quite an exciting sequence early on in the film. Since she is out on mission, father has to stay at home doing the domestic duties, nodding off as he reads a bedtime story to the baby, discovering all the powers that the baby has, trying to support his moody daughter, teach his son math complexities for his homework, do all the chores. And by the look of him, he doesn’t have time to shave!
With Elastogirl supporting the family, it is only right that the villain should be female and that there should be a lot of confrontation. There is. Also in the act are a whole range of characters who look as if they had graduated from Monster University, all with their special powers – but taken over by the villain, wearing their fixation goggles, combating the Incredibles.
For the final confrontation, the whole family joins in, and baby joins too.
So, something for family audiences, children with powers, parents with powers, lots of action, themes about media and influence, and equal opportunities for mother and father both professionally and domestically. (Who could ask for anything more!)
JILL BILCOCK: DANCING THE INVISIBLE
Australia, 2017, 78 minutes, Colour.
Directed by Alex Grigor.
A film buff’s delight. And a delight for all those interested in Australian filmmaking.
Jill Bilcock has an international reputation as being one of the world’s top editors. This film fills in the background of her life and career (she is almost 70 at the time of the film’s release). While it does not show all the films that she has edited (and the IMDb has quite a significant listing), it does focus with some detail on 15 of these films.
And the film gives some family background. It shows Jill studying the arts at Swinburne University in the 1960s, deciding on a career in editing, moving to the Melbourne company The Film House, under the leadership of Fred Schepisi. While practically no movies were being made in Australia at this time, there was lively activity in the industry, the making of commercials, with the government stipulation that all commercials for Australian television should be made in Australia. This gave many filmmakers the opportunity to develop their craft and be ready for the coming film renaissance.
Jill Bilcock also had quite some experience in spending time travelling, especially in India, even taking some small supporting roles in Bollywood melodramas.
It was in 1985 that Jill Bilcock launched her high-profile career, with the backing of director, Richard Lowenstein, collaborating with him and editing his docudrama, Strikebound in 1984. She further worked with him in his offbeat look at contemporary Melbourne society, Dogs in Space.
One of the values of this film is that it is very instructive for the average audience in just how significant editing is, quoting Francis Ford Coppola and others highlighting that cinema is editing and how important it is to connect with the audience. Jill Bilcock herself has done master classes and, throughout the film, there are explanations of the techniques of editing, the philosophy of editing, as Baz Luhrmann remarks, the technology, the personal inspirations, the judgements made, the sense of pacing, timing, the reworking of various sequences (15 attempts for the opening of Moulin Rouge), with comments from collaborating editors, especially her partner, Roger Savage.
In the early part of the film we see Jill Bilcock at work on Jocelyn Moorhouse’s The Dressmaker, looking especially at some of Judy Davis’s performance. There is also a great deal of attention given to Evil Angels as well as to Strictly Ballroom (even a mini masterclass on editing of the dancing, Jill Bilcock herself photographing legs, feet, movement that could be incorporated to give background to the continuing narrative). She worked again then with Baz Luhrmann for William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, the team working intensely together, finding creative ways of bringing Shakespeare into the 20th century.
It is interesting to note that Jill Bilcock has worked on more than one film for several directors, Bz Luhrmann, Jocelyn Moorhouse, Kriv Stenders (including some scenes from Red Dog and editing in the dog’s passive presence to create an active character). Phillip Noyce also has some comments on the editing of his South African story, Catch a Fire. As well, Jill Bilcock had an international experience on Sam Mendes’ Road to Perdition, including sequences with Paul Newman and Tom Hanks.
Jill Bilcock is lively character as well as an expert. It is a pleasure being introduced to her. It is instructive to listen to her and the detail of her work and the reasons for her choices. And it is very enjoyable to watch the clips from various films which illustrate her career.
JURASSIC WORLD: THE FINAL KINGDOM
US, 2018, 128 minutes, Colour.
Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniela Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, Jeff Goldblum, BD Wong, Geraldine Chaplin, Isabella Sermon, Robert M's.
Directed by J.A.Bayona.
This Jurassic film, the fifth in the series, was released at the time of the 25th anniversary of the original film, Stephen Spielberg’s exciting version of Michael Crichton’s story, Jurassic Park. The next two sequels continued the adventures but were not quite as astonishing as the original.
This new series of Jurassic films uses the word ‘World’ instead of ‘Park’. Audiences who saw the 2016 reintroduction of the Jurassic World, will remember that the title is rather literal, that a theme Park had been set up on an island, that the restored dinosaurs had a home where they could roam freely, that visitors could come and share this experience, prehistory in the present. However, human nature being what it is, each of the film has villainous humans who want to exploit the dinosaurs. No empathy, no holds barred. This led to quite some mayhem and destruction at the end of Jurassic World.
What to do with a sequel? The answer is basically, to provide audiences with excitement and with some wondrous special effects to recreate the dinosaurs, their size and menace, the possibility of friendship, the threat, this time, to their very existence.
At one stage, the screenplay has character remarking that the dinosaurs have been with us for over two decades – and, in our imaginations through the films, at times, in our heart of hearts, we probably were under the impression that they actually exist! But, no, they are movie fantasies.
So, with Jurassic World destroyed, where are we to go? There are two ideas behind this scenario. One is that a volcano is erupting on the island with the ruins of Jurassic World. A rescue mission to save as many dinosaurs, as many different species as possible. And, who better to consult than Claire, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Owen, Chris Pratt, from the previous film. And, in their adventures, they are joined by a young girl.
She is the granddaughter of Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), an old collaborator with John Hammond (with a portrait of John Hammond, Richard Attenborough, on the wall for nostalgia’s sake). Lockwood is being advised by Eli (Rafe Spall). But all is not as it seems, there are mercenaries rounding up the dinosaurs to escape the volcano, led by the ambitious and sinister Wheatley (Ted Levine).
The dinosaurs are shipped to Lockwood’s mansion (Claire and Owen and two assistants, one intlelligent, the other nerdish) where there are laboratories, a scientist (BD Wong) experimenting with the species, an entrepreneur (Toby Jones) wanting to sell of the dinosaurs as weapons to international buyers. (As so often, British actors are cast as the villains – but this time there are American characters with American accents!)
The climax is inevitable, Clash of the dinosaurs, goodies helping to save them, baddies coming to disastrous ends (some chomping ends). But, there are always some little dinosaurs at the Lockwood laboratories, possibly eager for a sequel.
JUST BETWEEN US
Australia, 2018, 106 minutes, Colour.
Deanna Ortuso, Joanne Nguyen, Calista Fooks, Kaarin Fairfax, Clayton Jacobson, Isobel Henry, Samantha E. Hill, Andy Rhodes.
Directed by Christopher Kay.
Although directed by a man, Christopher Kay, this film is a women’s film, written by Deanna Ortuso who plays the central role, also starring the producer, Joanne Nguyen as Trixie.
The film opens in Adelaide, travels through the countryside on its way to Sydney, with tourist pictures of Sydney and then a resolution along the coast.
Deanna Ortuso plays Hannah, shy and retiring, awkward at work, mistiming her responses, especially to the men at work and invitations to a party. Trixie, with Vietnamese background, has been adopted into the family. However, another sister, Bee, has died.
The film is also a ghost story, with Bee materialising, confronting Hannah and her being upset, challenging Hannah about her life and its lack of meaning. She urges Hannah to go on a quest, to a lighthouse and to come out of herself and make something of herself.
So, the film is a road film, Hannah and Trixie on their way, Trixie the more extroverted, urging Hannah on, and Bee continually reappearing and becoming part of the drama. There are various adventures along the way, the women’s football match, Hannah (continually being hit on the head by accident) breaking her teeth, getting them fixed by an attractive dentist, out on the town with him, spending the night with him while Trixie spends the night with one of the football players.
And so, on with the journey, the screenplay fills in the background of the two women and their family.
There is a change of tone when they arrive in Sydney, being ushered into a lavish hotel and into the best rooms only to find that there has been a mistake in their identities and, while they are abducted, and pressure put on them, it is erroneous – and the two women are able to effect their escape.
After a falling out with Trixie, a family argument, and with the urging of Bee, Deanna does find the lighthouse, finds something more in herself, reunites with Trixie – and, probably, is able to start something of a new life.
THE LEISURE SEEKER
Italy, 2018, 114 minutes, Colour.
Helen Mirren, Donald Sutherland, Christian Mc Kay, Dana Ivey.
Directed by Paolo Virzi.
While the film focuses on an elderly married couple, the Leisure Seeker of the title is actually their rather old caravan. There is a sense of tension at the opening when William, the son of the couple, and his frantically searching for his parents only to find that their house is empty.
No need to worry – or, perhaps, many reasons to worry. Under the guidance of Ella, Helen Mirren with a South Carolina accent, she and her husband John, Donald Sutherland, driving out of their Massachusetts town, going on vacation. Their son William (Christian Mc Kay) is more than worried. Their daughter, Jane (Janel Moloney) is concerned. Ella phones from time to time, not revealing their location, trying to reassure her children. In fact, during the journey, the film returns to the children and their discussions and worries. Their mother has terminal cancer but refuses treatment. Their father is suffering from increasing senility.
On the one hand, this road story is presented as “realistic” but, there are many episodes that somewhat defy realism, especially John’s capacity for driving and Ella’s capacity for keeping going. On the other hand, if the story is seen as something of hopeful imagination, it works much better for the comedy and the drama.
Starting in New England, the couple drive down the east coast, stopping in Pennsylvania, stopping in Williamsburg Virginia, making their way south so that they can visit Hemingway’s house in the Florida Keys. John has been a literature Professor. A major part of his memory consists of the works of Hemingway which he is able to quote, discuss with those waiting on him at diners or anyone who offers friendly attention, appreciating the insights of American literature. Ella, on the other hand, tries hard to keeping focused, sometimes getting impatient, at other times very tender with him, drawing him back to reality, continually showing slides at their caravan stops, reminding him of their past and of their children.
Ella continues to chat – which, despite Helen Mirren doing the chatting, is sometimes wearying. John continues to wander, an amiable man although, at one stage, he unwittingly reveals a past betrayal.
There are quite a few entertaining incidental characters, at the diners, at the caravan camps, at an old people’s home (with a brief cameo by an irascible Dick Gregory).
The purpose of the journey is, of course, to recapture the past for one last time. And so, to how Ella will handle the end of the journey. In many ways, they are both terminal and she makes decisions about this. Not everyone will agree with what she does but, in terms of a humanist society, she acts in accordance with her feelings and her conscience. For those who disagree with her, it is a challenge to appreciate and understand her perspective.
This is a film for mixed reactions. Some older audiences will identify with the characters, their long lives and their long love for each other, this last journey. And the talent of the two stars and happiness as well is the pathos the of their interactions enhance this. Other audiences may find the film difficult, maybe making comparisons with their own lives and being somewhat exasperated by this journey of Ella and John.
US, 2017, 105 minutes, Colour.
Ed Harris, Jason Sudeikis, Elizabeth Olsen, Bruce Greenwood, Wendy Crewson, Denis Haysbert, Gethin Anthony.
Directed by Mark Raso.
There are many good reasons for seeing Kodachrome.
“Regrets, I’ve had a few…”, Frank Sinatra singing My Way. The central characters in this film have more than a few regrets and one of them has been causing regrets to the others by his selfish doing it his way.
For audiences who have admired Ed Harris over many decades, fine performances, this is a must. It is certainly one of his best performances. He plays Ben Ryder, crack photographer, now old and not long to live because of terminal cancer. In his photography, he used Kodachrome and finds that Parsons, Kansas, is the last centre to develop slides from Kodachrome and he wants to make a kind of pilgrimage there, taking some rolls from the past that he never developed. The question is, how is he to get to Kansas, by car, plane being out of the question.
But, first, we are introduced to his middle-aged son, an executive with a small recording company, caught up in the hullabaloo of concerts and records, not having been successful over several years and about to be fired – one last chance to sign on a leading group. He is Ben Ryder’s son, Matt. His played by Jason Sudeikis, very well known for a lot of comedy films, but this role offers a reassurance that he can tackle dramatic roles quite persuasively.
He gets a visit, unwelcome, from a young woman, Zoe – played by Elizabeth Olsen, quite a forceful dynamic presence on screen. She is Ben’s nurse and urges Matt to drive his father to Kansas, not a likely proposition because Matt resents his father’s ignoring of him in the past, his infidelities to his mother, and has not spoken to him for 10 years. We know that he eventually will drive his father but we are presented with a range of motivations for his doing so, including his father’s assistant enabling him to stop on the way to interview the prospective group that he would like to sign.
The characters are particularly well drawn, Ed Harris is the embodiment of the narcissistic and neglectful father. For most of the film he seems to show no redeeming features but, towards the end, there is a frank conversation with his son and quite a moving scene where he meets veteran photographers at Parsons and they acclaim him, Matt looking on with some satisfaction.
There is a lot of incidental action along the way, showing some relenting on Matt’s part, Zoe and her putting up with a great deal from Ben, then Ben advising his son on how to deal with the group but, in another striking sequence, Matt uses his father’s advice to get the group but they then mock Ben’s incontinence in a stupid adolescent way and Ben defends his father.
This is one of the most persuasive father-son dramas, not an easy getting to know each other, especially after a significant visit to Ben’s brother, Dean and his wife (good cameos from Bruce Greenwood and Wendy Crewson), Matt grateful to Dean for being more of a father to him than his own father.
While there is a lot of bitterness, this is certainly a powerful film about regrets and, it will not be a surprise to find out what is on those previously undeveloped slides. In some ways, the ending is clear, but communicated to the audience with a blend of emotion and objectivity.
THE MAN WITH THE IRON HEART
France/Belgium, 2017, 120 minutes, Colour.
Jason Clarke, Rosamund Pike, Jack O'Connell, Jack Reynor, Mia Wasikowska, Stephen Graham, Thomas M.Wright, Geoff Bell, Enzo Cilenti, Ian Redford.
Directed by Cedric Jimanez.
At one point in this drama, SS chief, Heinrich Himmler, tells his underling, Reinhard Heydrich, that this is Hitler’s description of him, man with the iron heart. And this is certainly the portrayal of him here.
Heydrich is not the first name that comes up when we consider Hitler’s main supporters. Perhaps this is because he was assassinated, the only high Nazi official assassinated during the war. He was killed in Prague, 1942, but was a significant contributor to formulating the Final Solution.
This is really two films in one. The first half of the film focuses on Heydrich himself, indications that there would be an assassination attempt, in presenting him as a rather ruthless person, seen arrogant in the Navy, brutal fencing with an opponent, aggressive in casual sexual relationships, court-martialed and dismissed. The film then introduces us to Lina, who was to become Heydrich’s wife, her Nazi ideology and his joining the party, his marriage, several children, his policing and gaining information about suspects.
He is interviewed by Himmler and indicates quickly and sufficiently that he could be ruthless in the work of the SS. And this is seen graphically, firing squads, massacres in Poland, soldiers shooting civilians, the eradication of the Jews, the setting up of the concentration camps – and scenes where these atrocities are photographed and Heydrich watches them on film. In fact, he is so successful, that Hitler appoints him Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Again, there are graphic scenes of his ruthlessness. He has some (perhaps) redeeming moments with music, violin playing with his son, but he becomes consumed with his work, the plans for the Final Solution, that he begins to treat his wife like other suspects.
Then, halfway through the film, it changes pace. We are introduced to the Czech young men training in Scotland for going back to their fatherland. The focus is on to their parachuting into Czechoslovakia, joining the local resistance, the intention (Operation Anthropoid) to assassinate Heydrich. The film gives a great deal of attention to the characters, their interactions, the planning and the execution – as well as its consequences, audiences may remember the reprisals and the elimination of the village of Llidice, the searches for the perpetrators and the siege in the church which destroyed them.
For those interested in World War II stories, a great deal of interest. For those less familiar with the events, the two-part film may be sometimes confusing. However, Heydrich was remembered in Hollywood soon after his death in the films, Hitler’s children, Hangmen also Die. During the 1970s the story is told again in Operation Daybreak. Strangely, at the time of the making of this film, another version, Anthropoid, was filmed and released. The latter part of this film coincides with the whole story of Anthropoid, the resistance, planning, assassination, consequences.
Jason Clarke gives a sometimes chilling performance as Heydrich, filmed just before his portrayal of Edward Kennedy in Chappaquidick. Rosamund Pike can also be chilling as his Aryan-Supremacy? wife. Stephen Graham is quite frightening as Himmler. And young actors, Jack O’Connell? and Jack Raynor portray the two designated to lead the assassination attempt.
The film offers no sympathetic perspective on Heydrich while being in admiration of the resistance.
US, 2018, 92 minutes, Colour.
Will Arnett, Natasha Lyonne, Omar Chaparro. Voices of: Chris Ludicrus Bridges, Stanley Tucci, Shaquille O' Neal, Ru Paul, Gabriel Iglesias, Ronni Ancona.
Directed by Raja Gosnell.
Back in the old days, there was Francis, the talking mule. Then there was that talking horse, Mr Ed. And, since then, lots of films with talking animals, and developing techniques to make their mouths move to make it all the more convincing.
This time it is a talking dog, a strong Rottweiler named Max. In fact, he is on the expert staff of the NYPD. And, he talks to animals and they respond – initially a group of daffy pigeons who admire Max, want to help and, ultimately, succeed. Max is watching a group of criminals, trading in valuable animals and sees little panda in a cage and response to the panda’s appeal.
In the meantime, there is Frank, an FBI agent (Will Arnett), with the potential for being a romantic hero and detective but also prone to accidents. And this is very evident at first with the pursuit of the criminals by car, and Max using his ingenuity and vigour by chasing one of the criminals around the streets.
The head of the New York police is very supportive of Max as are some of the other dogs in the headquarters. Most reluctantly, the FBI accepts that Max will share a mission with Frank at a dog show in Las Vegas, apparently the most prestigious in the world, where Max will compete to be Best in Show.
Lots of dogs in this film – which means that, even though it is aimed at a young audience, parental dog lovers may well be satisfied in contemplating the range of dogs, their style, fussiness, dialogue, performance, preparation for the big show. One of the dogs is French, resentful of his past owner, but deciding to help Max. And, so, the voices are important with comedian Chris Ludicrous Bridges voicing Max, and audiences wondering who this French poodle is voiced by, discovering it is Stanley Tucci.
Of course, there is a touch of romance with Natasha Lyonne as another dog trainer, helping in the ultimate confrontation with the Hispanic villain and his contacts with Ukrainian gangs, Omar Chaparro.
There is a final action confrontation, a tiger on the loose, pigeons in pursuit of a car, the humans and the dogs all combining and combatting for success.
Enjoyable, forgettable, something for the holidays (although, some parents might be wary of the use of guns in the action).
SICARIO, DAY OF THE SOLDADO
US, 2018, 122 minutes, Colour.
Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabella Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Catherine Keener, Manuel Garcia- Rulfo, Matthew Modine, Shea Whigham, Elijah Rodriguez.
Directed by Stephen Sollima.
The original film, Sicario, made quite an impact on both critics and audiences. Inevitable, perhaps, that there would be a sequel. And, since the action took place in Mexico, in the world of the violence of that country and the cartels, American interventions, and there has been very little letup in the cartel violence and so, a sequel, the title emphasis on the warriors and the soldiers in these conflicts.
The first filming was released before the election of Donald Trump as was president. This sequel was released in the middle of his second year of presidency. Because he has targeted Mexico, Mexicans coming illegally across the border, at one stage separating parents from children and then going back on this policy, the film, with its visuals of the wall, the people-smugglers and their vehicles through the desert, is more than topical.
In fact, from the very beginning, even more contemporary themes are introduced. We see the American helicopters scouring the border area with their searchlights, the refugees fleeing, one of them going aside, putting out his prayer mat and his suiciding with an explosive. Immediately, we are taken to Kansas City, to a suburban supermarket, everything familiarly ordinary with three terrorists arriving and exploding bombs. And then, suddenly, we are with American secret forces in Somalia, abducting a terrorist, destroying his home and family, trying to get information about terrorists in the Middle East getting boats to Mexico to infiltrate the US. The interrogation sequence takes place in Djibouti.
And this is all within the first 10 to 15 minutes. We know that this is going to be an intense film, but violent film, a challenge to prevailing world attitudes towards migration, towards terrorists, towards secret agencies working outside the letter of the law.
Matthew Modine appears as Secretary of State with Catherine Keener as a rather ruthless advisor. The plan is to foment war against the cartel leaders, especially by the abduction of the daughter of one of them. Josh Brolin takes up his previous role as the head of these official/unofficial mercenaries and he brings back Benicio del Toro from the previous film, still full of anger and revenge for the death of his family.
With this all set out in the film, it is over to the audience to sit, sometimes in amazement, sometimes in horror, sometimes emotionally stirred, sometimes disgusted. But, whether an audience likes this film or not, given the headlines and the stories out of Mexico, given the revelations about past CIA interrogations and torture, this sequel is certainly topical. And, the final sequence means that there is going to be another Sicario film.
All US, 2018, 100 minutes, Colour.
Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Isla Fisher, Hannibal Buress, Nora Dunn, Steve Berg, Jeremy Renner, Leslie Bibb, Rashida Jones.
Directed by Jeff Tomsic.
Writing a review? Perhaps not, because this film is too silly for words.
However, it alleges that it is based on a true story. And, lo and behold, in the final credits, there are all kinds are sequences where these middle aged men carry on with taking one another. And then there is the photo of the group who have been playing tag for 23 years – and one of the members in a clerical shirt in the front row.
Boys will be boys. Men will be boys. But for how long? And what does this say about them – possibly playfulness at first. But then obsession and rivalry? Competitiveness, taking off the whole month of May from their work to play tag across the whole of the United States, money and costs no obstacle.
Then, there is a distraction about American politics, especially since the film was released in the second year of Donald Trump’s presidency. The distraction leads to thinking about the Whitecap house, Donald Trump himself and his equivalent of tag, especially with the great turnover of his staff and officials. Perhaps in American politics there is a lot of boys will be boys.
The cast actually give it all that they can. Ed Helms, in various disguises, completely obsessed, urged on by his rather rapid wife, Isla Fisher, promotes the tag game every year. Jake Johnson is something of a Stoner but nevertheless joins in. Hannibal furious is Kevin Sable, one of the more stable members of the group. Jon Hamm looks as if he is just stepped out of Madcap men and is a business executive who can let it all go for the sake of tag. And the target is played by Jeremy Renner, who has never been tagged, was about to get married, his fiancee, Leslie Bibb, in on the game and, surprisingly abetting Jerry in a false miscarriage defence.
Also along for the ride is Annabelle Wallis as a journalist interviewing Hamm but is abandoned for the tag game but she thinks that there is a better story in following through (and, of course, involved in the game at the end). Rashida Jones is also there the object of affection and attention by Jake Johnson and Jon Hamm.
TWO IS A FAMILY/ DEMAIN TOUT COMMENCE
France, 2016, 118 minutes, Colour.
Omar Sy, Clemence Poesy, Antoine Bertrand, Ashley Walters, Gloria Colston, Clementine Celarie.
Directed by Hugo Gelin.
The climax is at Jerry’s wedding – which leads to a hospital sequence and good-natured (we hope) tagging all round.
This is a remake of a Mexican film which has the evocative title, Instructions Not Needed. The original French title of this film has a different tone, Demain tout commence/Tomorrow Everything Begins. However, Two is a Family does give a focus to what this film is about.
Advertising tells us that it was one of the most popular films of the French box office in 2017-2018. It certainly has a lot of popular ingredients, a vivacious little girl aged eight, an oddball father-figure, a mother, Kristin (Clemence Poesy) who abandons her baby, some heart-wrenching child custody issues.
While the film is French and the opening sequences set on the coast of southern France, most of the action actually takes place in London. Fortunately, there are a lot of French-speakers in London as well as a French school for the little girl! The little girl is Gloria, played by actress Gloria Colston, able to speak charmingly in both French and English.
And the father-figure? Samuel. He is played by the very popular Omar Sy who made such an impression as the carer in The Intouchables. The filmmakers are able to capitalise on his agreeable screen presence – although, at the beginning, he is shown to be pretty reckless and irresponsible. Of course, this is the setting for him having to discover responsibility, a young woman arriving to tell him that he is the father of her baby and getting him to hold her while she takes €20 and gets a taxi and disappears from their lives.
What is Sam to do? He goes post-haste to London, gets lost, has some problems in the Underground, encounters a French-speaking man, Bernie (Antoine Bertrand) who ultimately helps him out. Bernie is a film producer and sees the potential in Sam as a stuntman. Bernie also has a roving eye and has a very camp manner.
And so the years pass. Gloria is eight, lively, goes to school, joins Sam on the film sets, and in-jokes with him pretending to be unconscious after a stunt and she telling him he is immortal and his waking up! Who could ask for anything more!
Actually, Sam has become very responsible man, a loving father, sending an email every night to Gloria in the name of her mother whom he describes as a world-roving secret agent. Of course, there is the perennial question about telling the truth right from the beginning because lying can lead to disasters.
Suddenly, Kristin makes contact, comes from New York with her partner, wants to meet her daughter, is overjoyed, Sam slightly mellowing in his attitude towards Kristin. But, we know that there will be a mother’s a desire to have custody of her daughter.
The film becomes very serious towards the end, with both parties making strong speeches in court, pleading their cause, and the point being made, and made out loud by the judge, that custody is for the benefit of the child, not of the parent.
There are some further complications, a bit more heart-rending, before an ending which give sense to the original French title: it will be tomorrow when everything begins for Sam.
Australia, 2018, 100 minutes, Colour.
Logan Marshall- Green, Melanie Velejo, Harrison Gilbertson, Benedict Hardie, Linda Cropper, Clayton Jacobson, Simon Maiden, Betty Gabriel.
Directed by Leigh Whannell.
There are so many horror films about these days, some classy like A Quiet Place, many of them routine gore stories, some of them B-grade (or Z-grade). A number of successful films in recent years, like Get Out, like have been produced by Jason Blum, sometimes including Blumhouse in the titles.
Upgrade is actually a Blumhouse filmed in Melbourne standing in for the US. The director is Leigh Whannell, writer and actor, who moves into directing with Upgrade, which he also wrote. Whannell has appeared in a number of films including The Conjuring series. But, at the beginning of his career, with his friend from Melbourne University, James Wan, he invented the Saw franchise. In real life, listening to him in interviews, he seems like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. But, he knows the ins and outs of horror conventions.
This is quite an above average a story. It is futuristic. It is science-fiction. And, it seems to be a variation on the Frankenstein monster theme. It is also a revenge action story.
Logan Marshall- Green plays Grey who likes tinkering with and repairing cars. He is married to Asher, who works in a highly professional firm. The two go together to deliver a repaired car to a whiz kid, Warren (Harrison Gilbertson) who explains that he has a technological device that can be inserted into a human to improve skills.
Very quickly, there is a disaster, with thugs crashing into Grey and Asher, killing Asher, Grey becoming quadriplegic. Obviously, he is a candidate for the device and it is inserted.
At first, this enables Grey to move, to stand, to fight. And, there is a voice inside him, named Stem, who dialogues with him as well is enabling him to move, but soon becomes in, anticipating situations controlling situations. Grey tracks down the thugs and confronts them.
But, obviously there has to be more than just the revenge theme. The complexities star with Stem taking over Grey, the young scientist becoming involved as well is the chief thug who is himself mechanised as well. It is all something of a conspiracy theory – but, the mystery for most of the time is, who is the main controller?
The film is well paced, often exciting, often mysterious, with touches of gory deaths as expected, and an explanation which goes beyond initial expectations – but which also could lead to a sequel.