Sunday, June 17, 2018

Film Review - The Incredibles 2

It's been 14 years since The Parrs last suited up to take on bad guys. Writer-director Brad Bird returns bringing to the screen the follow-up. In the original Supers lived in secret leaving Bob (Craig T.  Nelson) working as an Insurance agent in suburbia until he snaps becoming Mr. Incredible again with his wife Helen (Elastigirl) and their two older kids by his side. This time the action starts with a burrowing bank robber Underminer. The team assembles with Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) by their side they avert a crisis but cause significant damage that the powers that be see as the reason why Super's were on shaky ground in the first place.

Enter Winston Deavor (Bob Odernkirk) and his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener ). Winston is a telecommunications mogul with Evelyn being the creative visionary. Deavor admirers the Supers in the past seeing the way to their return is to show what they do and not just the end results.  The face of this comeback is Elastigirl to her husband's chagrin. She is more tactful reserve as opposed to Mr. Incredibles Brute force jump before looking methodology. As she goes off to her mission. Bob is left at one to take care of the kids and keep a special eye on baby Jack Jack who has developing powers that spring forward on his dad's watch.

Writer-director Brad Bird keeps that early 60's feel in the sequel. The cars are from that era as are the furnishings and the technology. The family dynamic is from and central again. Violet is having boy troubles thanks to her dad while Mom Helen keeps up her protective stance especially for baby Jack Jack. The narrative focuses on the role of supers in society. Are they helpful or distractive reeking havoc that they may sort out but ofter the criminal gets away while the target is ultimately protected through financial or government measures in place.

The key voices Craig T. Nelson Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson return for the sequel. The kids refer to Frozone as Uncle Luscious seeing him as more responsible and a better problem cover that their dad. Holly Hunter's Elastic Girl is right out front The telecommunications siblings put one of their pinhole cameras in her suit to broadcast her every move showing her added value to society.  However, there is a foe lurking breaking into live broadcast shining lights and patterns hypnotizing folks to get them to do their bidding. Keep an eye open for Edna Mode E 9 voiced by director Brad Bird. She is mad that Elastigirl is parading all over the airwaves in a creation that is not one of her own. She bonds with Baby Jack Jack getting the first real handle on his developing powers.

Incredibles 2 is a worthy follow up to the original. It was worth a wait but not sure if that wait had to be 14 years long. The ensemble cast does not set a foot wrong in an enjoyable romp that will appeal to fans of the Parr's of all ages. If there is to be a third chapter her's hoping that Brad Bird can get it to the screen in a shorter period of time.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

Incredibles 2 | Brad Bird | U.S.A. | 2018 | 118 Minutes.

Tags: Pixar, Animation, Superhero, Sequel, Monorail, Bank Robbery, Family, Dating, Summit, International Agreement, Memory, Baby Sitting.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Film Review - Ocean's 8

Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) opens the same way as her brother Danny (George Clooney) did his first Ocean's film. She's before the parole board, promises to be a good girl if she's released, collects her formal wear then heads to see her number one in this case Lou (Cate Blanchett) instead of Brad Pitt's Rusty. Next, they begin to recruit to pull off the heist she has been planning for the 5 plus years she has been in prison. They need a fashion designer, a fencer, a hacker, a hustler and a gem expert to steal a near priceless diamond neckless off the neck of Ball guest of honor actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) who Debbie and Lou declare that they can't use.  The exclusive Gala's theme this year is European Royalty. The first recruit is the Vivianne Westwoodesque designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter) She's positioned to dress Kluger then dispatched to France to borrow the 150 Million dollar Toussaint necklace as the perfect topper to Kluger's look for the evening. Mandy Kalings's Amita knows gems, semi-retired fence Tammy (Sarah Paulson) join's up. Awkwafina hustles as Constance while computers and security are handled by 9 Ball (Rihanna).

Director Gary Ross who also has a co-writing credit with Olivia Milch tip's his cap to the Soderbergh trilogy ay to the long with Mission Impossible series. There are special eyeglasses plus food tampering that sends Daphne Kluger running to the ladies room; the spot for the team make their move. The story runs along almost too smoothly until the first snag appears once the Toussaint is clasped around Daphne's neck. The audience and some of the characters are not aware of the true scope of the plan until the third act reveal keeping in line with past con artist plot .

Sandra Bullock leads the crew as Debbie Ocean. She is the kid sister of Danny having many of his same traits. She's been in a New Jersey women's prison for five years after being double-crossed by her Manhattan artist boyfriend. Bullock and Cate Blanchett's Lou have great chemistry on screen as they banter about past colleagues, why the job needs to be done and how women call pull this off because women are usually ignored.  Helen Bonham Carter is at her hair-brained best as Rose Weil a former 80's icon that owes the IRS a big chunk of cash as her collections continue to fail. Look for James Corbin as the practical Insurance investigator. He's not looking to place blame he just wants the neckless back.

Ocean's 8 is an enjoyable caper flick. It hits all of the formulaic notes in the early going then picks up speed as Daphne is doing her final fitting with the Toussaint before the event. The crew members play multiple roles that are all kept straight under the watchful eye of director Gary Ross. It slots nicely in behind Ocean's 13 with a couple of cameo's from that trilogy plus some celebrity ones from regular Met Gala attendees.

*** Out of 4

Ocean's 8 | Gary Ross | U.S.A. | 2018 | 110 Minutes.

Tags: Heist, The Met, New York, Parolee, Three-card Monte, Vegan Soup, Insurance Investigator, Auction, Food Truck.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Film Review - Hereditary

Ellen the matriarch of the Graham family has passed. Her immediate family feel grief but are not overwrought. Her daughter Annie (Toni Collette) found her mother to be overbearing and correcting. Going as far as to insist on breastfeeding Annie's second child Charlie (Milly Shapiro) who she identified as her favourite. Older son Peter (Alex Wolff) is more stoner then student. Paying little attention in class, crushing on a girl that he does not know how to speak to and resentful towards his mom over an incident from their past. His dad Steve (Gabriel Byrne) tries to play peacemaker in the home. Strange events begin to unfold at the funeral. The service is full of people that Annie does not know. That's followed by a hushed phone call to Steve reporting that Ellen grave has been decimated next the two kids begin to see weird things at school. Charlie has her own personal quirks she draws odd figures, hardly speaks instead periodically tongue clicks a tic that becomes more foreboding as the action progresses.

Ari Aster's debut film has several elements unfolding at once. Annie is a miniature creator whose working on a project that is falling behind schedule due to events at home. The film uses her work as a device to show our heroines building stress level as her client leaves friendly but probing calls looking for an update. It also is a stage to recreate events from the far and near past some, creepy, other disturbing and others downright horrific. The narrative begins to unwind a tale of untraditional beliefs, attempts to reset the natural order with Annie in the centre a seemingly unaware vessel that her every effort to protect her family is having the opposite effect.

Gabriel Byrne has perhaps the most even keel performance of his career as Steve.  He's the bridge between Annie and Peter. The ranking male in a female dominated family walking a half step behind his wife. Milly Shaprio has her breakout performance as Charlie. She is a dictionary-worthy example of a loner. Bearly speaking she, pays no attention to the things that regularly captivate 13-year-old girls plus suffers from a severe nut allergy that keeps her mother constantly on guard. Look for the Handmaid's Tale Ann Dowd as Joan. She appears in the parking lot of a grief support group that Anne first attends after her mother's death. She's a shoulder for Anne to lean on and an audience for her to speak freely because she can't do so at home.

Heredity is a horror film that is psychological and ritual based over physical and brutal. It's a key element of a successful film in this genre when it can deliver the chills in the open spaces of broad daylight. The first section of the film builds the family store by introducing keepsakes and recounting remarks from the past. A low grinding soundtrack beside personality traits of the principals add to the suspense, tension, and dread headed to a final act that puts Linda Blair's head turn from the exorcist as a throwaway scene in an ABC afternoon special. Avoid the chatter and the hype and get out to see this one soon.

*** Out of 4.

Hereditary | Ari Aster | USA | 2018 | 127 Minutes.

Tags: Tree House, Funeral, Grief, Necklace, EpiPen, Support Group, Decapitation, Seance, Incantation, Broken Nose.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Film Review - You Were Never Really Here

Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) does wetwork for a New York private investigator. He toils in back alleys at night or in tight narrow corridors of the seediest establishments.  Post titles Joe is cleaning his weapon of choice a hammer in a back alley. He encounters and deals with a combatant on his way into a Cincinnati cab headed to the airport. Our protagonist lands in New York heading arriving back at his Brooklyn home where he lives with his aging mother. Inner demons surface through flashbacks to a violent childhood mixed with present-day micro suicide attempts. His next assignment that spans the rest of the film is to rescue Nina Votto (Ekaterina Samsonov) the kidnapped daughter of a State Senator Alberta Votto (Alex Manette) taken to work underage in a brothel. The security, employees, and patrons are no match for Joe as he plucks Nina from the three-story walk-up bringing her to the agreed meeting location then things get extremely complicated.

Director Lynne Ramsey returns from a 6 year hiatus since 2011's powerful We Need To Talk About Kevin to pilot this film. The material is again both heavy and violent as Ramsey tells the story of a brawny loaner with a special forces background who is a blunt instrument of justice for the vulnerable and marginalized. The lean direct narrative features several scenes sparsely dotted with dialogue allowing the events to speak for themselves.

Joaquin Phoenix is in just about every frame of the film. He is more likely to emit a grunt than an eloquent passage of dialogue. His mind replays traumatic memories from his childhood of an abusive father plus his time  as a U.S. Solider. He's a brute sporting an unkempt beard that is more salt than pepper as he brutally dispenses justice in hand to hand combat with his adversaries. Ekaterina Samsonov is almost cationic as freed captive Nina Votto. She counts constantly in a haunting manner seemingly a defense mechanism that she likely employed when pinned under a patron at the brothel.  Judith Roberts is memorable in a supporting role as Joe's mother. She wants her space and independence as she constantly fights against her failing body and mind.

You Were Never Really Here is the story of one man who's internal battles scream while he outwardly presents as stoic and brooding. The beats, sex trafficking and pedophilia are harsh but still overshadowed by the entrenched system protecting the criminal syndicate. The acting is supubly understated backed by a foreboding Joe Greenwood soundtrack. It's a tough but rewarding watch that I can definitely recommend.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

You Were Never Really Here | Lynne Ramsay | U.K. / France | 2018 | 89 Minutes.

Tags: Government Agent, Ball Peen Hammer, Child Prostitution, State Senator, War Veteran, PTSD, Conspiracy, 50,000.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Hot Docs '18 Film Review - The Accountant of Auschwitz

The 2012 trial of John Demjanjuk in Munich represented a paradigm shift in the international practice of bringing perpetrators to trial for crimes against humanity. Before you had to be a trigger man to be brought before the courts. With the Demjanjuk trial, the standard shifted to being present, knowing  what was going on and serving a role contributing to the process leading to Oskar Groning charge and 2015 rial.  and brought to trial. Similar to the fate of a getaway driver if armed bank robbers take a life. Witness were brought in from the U.S. Canada and Hungary to give their accounts and see the proceedings on German soil. The 93-year-old Groning told his story matter of factly commented on his role to sort through the prisoners luggage for valuables as they were not going to be needed them anymore. He was on the ramp as prisoner's were selected into groups of those fit to do labour and the others that were headed to the gas chambers.

Director Matthew Shoychet focuses on a small group of witnesses that travel to Luneberg locals for the trial. They have conflicting emotions. So much was taken away from them but what is the value of putting a 93-year-old man on trial events that he was on the fringes on 70 plus years ago. It's German prosecutor Thomas Walter who presided over the Demjanjuk trial that convinced them to go. This trial is not for you only its also for the future. People who make the choice to be complacent in Crimes against humanity in the future must know that justice will pursue them to the end time.

The narrative looks at events going right back to Nuremberg including on camera accounts from Benjamin Ferencz the prosecutor at Nuremberg who is in his 98th year. they progress through to the mid 60's where the record of convictions that stuck was very low. The SS had 800,000 members, 100,000 were investigated, 6,200 were brought to trial leading to 124 life sentences. The German people were not into the process plus many of the judges were former SS members themselves. The use of visuals for the questions during the trial was very effective, The questions swiped across the screen followed by the answers and Gronings likeness. Holocaust deniers lead by Ursula Haverbeck were also present at the trial. However, her narrative was cut off by the police under threats of imprisonment.

The Accountant of Auschwitz is an important reminder of the consequences of participating even in a seemingly passive role in genocide, mass murder or chrimes against humanity. If found, you will be brought to justice no matter your age or status in life. The goal to serve as a deterrent to current and future generations but looking back at the the last few decades with Kosovo, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Syria it seems like the worst aspects of Human nature will triumph over any fears of facing a show trial at the end of your life. A sad commentary but true and history appears destined to repeat itself over and over again

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

The Accountant of Auschwitz | Matthew Shoychet | Canada | 2018 | 80 Minutes.

Tags: Holocaust, World War 2, Luneburg, Trial, Prosecution, Sentence, Nazi, Auschwitz, Poland, Israel, Detroit, Toronto, Forgiveness.

Hot Docs '18 Film Review - Transformer

Marc Kroc Kroczaleski is looking through old photo albums and comes across one in his high school football jersey. He remarks that the players would wear their jersey's to class on game days and the cheerleaders also wore their uniforms. He often thought about switching places knowing he would be more comfortable in their clothing than his. Janae Marie Kroc is the female side of the equation. Having come out to his three boys when they were 2, 4 and 6 the divorced ex-marine deals with parents that can't face the change and a level of fame as a champion powerlifter.  A 2015 You Tube incident outed Marc as Janae pushing the on and off again move to transitioning down the road to permanent change.

However, lifting weights runs deep Janae still meets up with old lifting buddies that are very accepting as are powerlifting commentators and fans. It seems that only his former sponsor Muscletech have a problem as they did not renew his contact after the news came out. His sons are very accepting coming for a weekend visit, asking questions that Janae openly answers playing video games as their dad does his makeup and adjusts his wig at the dining room table ahead of a night out on the town and being helpful with he calls out for assistance to find his purse.

Director Michael Del Monte presents the story of a riveting subject. Marc was 118 pounds entering high school. He was bullied, felt vulnerable and did not want to feel that way again so he turned to weights, the marines, bodybuilding then powerlifting. He transformed himself so people would leave him alone. Then did it again to bring stares and sideways looks at a 250 lbs musclebound woman. Del Monte's camera is passive as Janae progresses. Stepping up the estrogen, no more testosterone, appointments with surgeons to make changes in her voice then traveling to Seoul to a leading doctor to make facial changes.

Janae's goals are really simple to for the first time like the person that stares back at her in the mirror. Her sons are in full agreement with the plan. Suicide had been contemplated before remaining a possibility if this path is not followed. Despite the trepidation of his parents, Janae has a wide support system of old, new and weightlifting community friends. The film is a valuable insight into two worlds powerlifting and transgendered transitioning that is informative and well worth a watch.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

Transformer | Michael Del Monte | Canada | 2018 | 78 Minutes.

Tags: Transgender, Marines, Power Lifter, Dead Lift, Facial Surgery, Vocal Surgery, Estrogen, Makeup Wigs.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Hot Docs '18 Film Review - On Her Shoulders

On August 3rd, 2014 Nadia Murad Basee Taha's life changed forever. Murad was a student and farmer in her northern Iraqi Yazidi village of Kocho when Isis forces clad in black came to town. The separated the men from the women, then the children from their mothers killing most of the adults and taking the women and children up into the mountains as captives. Nadia became a sex slave attacked repeatedly by her captors. Although she felt bad about what was happening to her she felt worse for her fellow captives as young as 10 that were suffering the same fate. Nadia managed to escape was sent to Germany for treatment and counseling but after one session she left determine to bring relief for her  people no matter how many time she had to tell her story. The documentary builds toward Nadia's address to President's and Prime Ministers at the United Nations General assembly. She is repeatedly reminded that she only has 3 minutes to speak starting off a lengthy process spanning two continents as she visits world cities, speaks to politicians does interviews recounting the atrocities to herself and her people. In any downtime, she works on her speech and in her spare time she brings toys, present and hope to her fellow Yazidis in refugee camps.

Director Alexandria Bombach handles her subject superbly. She does not focus on the low hanging fruit of the blow by blow physical abuse suffered by Murad. Instead, she looks at what the Yazidis want now. Recognition and justice of the genocide that occurred, a solution for the Yazidis in refugee camps and freeing their homeland from Isis control. Bombach deals with the facts up front in at the form of a crisply edited sequence of interviews build on one long-form radio spot in Ottawa. Nadia is telling the details of her experience in different forums leaving her drained, crying and exhausted. These are the hard moments of being an activist outside of meeting political leaders, receiving gifts and touring politics capitals.

Nadia Murad is the reluctant heroine of her people's cause. She survived sex slavery the slaughter of 18 members of her family captivity and torture. As one of her experienced supporters, international prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo states it up to her to bring to light the fate of the Yazidi people. All she wanted to do was study, be an athlete, a farmer and open a salon one day as it would bring joy and comfort to Yazidi women. That is all gone and she will consider herself worthless until there is justice for her people. In one tell seen while in Ottawa she sees the Canadian soldiers on parade but can't help thinking that all the Yazidi soldiers are dead. She smiles and says thank you in English to well -wishers but wants to see action as she addressed the U.N. security counsel on Human trafficking, is elected a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador and does get to speak to the General Assembly in the end.

On Her Shoulders is the story of one young woman's quest to bring recognition of the plight of her people, legal action against the perpetrators and a plan of action for her below Yazidis living in refugee camps. Nadia Murad succeeds on all fronts. Teamed with high profile human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, Two strong fellow Yazidi's  Murad Ismael and Ahmed Khudida Burjus she is able to keep up a hectic pace quickly recover from endless interviews and photo ops to get the message out. The world does take notice as the slow wheels of justice begin to turn.

**** Out of 4

On Her Shoulders | Alexandria Bombach | U.S.A. | 2018 | 94 Minutes.

Tags: Documentary, Yazidi, Sinjar, Kocho, Islamic State, Genocide, Sexual Slavery, Activist, Refugee, United Nations, Parliament Hill, Brandenburg Gate,