Saturday, November 5, 2016

King Cobra

In brief: When a lonely suburban man turned gay porn producer discovers a hot, lucrative new star, he finds himself the target of rival pornographers who will stop at nothing to steal his money maker. This is a sensitive and darkly hilarious true crime story that works from top to bottom. Kelly’s sordid story takes us back in time to the glory days of 2006 before You Tube. Sean Paul Lockhart, is barely out of high school and already chomping at the bit to leave his life behind. Rebranding himself as “Brent Corrigan” and telling his oblivious mom that he’s off to a paid internship on a film set, he hops a bus out of San Diego up north. Soon he is a pawn between two competing porn producers. At heart, King Cobra compellingly traces the palpable tension between the performative nature of gay porn and the privacy of queer shame.
Ramblings: Absolutely uninspiring. Silly story and over-acting by most and underacting by others. Their heart wasn't in it and neither was mine.


In brief: Based on the 2008 novel by Phillip Roth, Indignation takes place in 1951 during the Korean War. The story follows Marcus Messner, the idealistic son of a humble kosher butcher from Newark, N.J who leaves for Ohio to study at a small, conservative college to avoid enlisting in the Korean War, where he finds himself at odds with the administration, grapples with anti-Semitism and sexual repression and pines after a troubled girl, ultimately ending up falling victim to his over-protective parents’ worst fears. Indignation captures with an uncanny realism a moment of innocence and caution in a post-World War II era, when an oppressive, puritanical conformism dominated white America. It evokes the drabness of a time when living standards were much lower than today; anti-Semitism was pervasive; and the fear of Communism was epidemic. The early murmurings of rock ’n’ roll were distant stirrings on black R&B radio, and racial segregation held sway. The tone of everyday life was circumspect and grimly proper.
Ramblings: ... and it really did not need to have a movie made about it. No characters you cared about.

I, Daniel Blake

In brief: The eponymous Daniel is an affable, 59-year-old carpenter in Newcastle, fighting to collect his Employment and Support Allowance after falling ill. (Government illogic stipulates that his benefits will be taken away unless he looks for work, yet doctor's orders prevent him from working.) Waiting to sign on at the local Jobcentre, Daniel befriends Katie, a young single mother who is also being shoved around by the vagaries of the system, having just been relocated with her two kids from a London homeless shelter to an affordable council flat up north. A mutually beneficial alliance, and makeshift extended family, is formed. Loach spins a tale that will leave no one unmoved. Working with some of most powerful set pieces he has ever filmed, the director effortlessly builds empathy for two downtrodden people — honest would-be workers navigating a cruel tangle of red tape while trying to steal a happy moment or two.
Ramblings: Super story. Ken Loach does it again. People you care about and stories you feel.

Roger D'Astous

In brief: The remarkable achievements of Roger D’Astous (1926-1998), one of Canada's leading architects in the 20th century as seen through the eyes of his clients and colleagues, based on unpublished archives. Roger D'Astous, who designed churches as luxurious residences, is a staple of architectural modernity. He had a huge personality, authoritarian and charming at once. D’Astous devoted his life to defining a nordic architecture. A student of Frank Lloyd Wright, D'Astous was sure to point out that he refused the offer of his master, who invited him to work with him. He designed two Montreal symbols: the Châteaain hotel and the Olympic Village. D’Astous fell from grace but experienced a rennaissance in the 1980s. The portrait of the man and the artist by Etienne Desrosiers is a wonderful document. The film is carried by precious images of architectural details and commentary, but it is also delicious in rhythmic silences and anecdotes.
Ramblings: Rather pedestrian. When you've seen one building you've seen them all. Interesting but story told in first ten minutes. Then repeat and repeat.

It's Only the End of the World

In brief: Louis is a terminally ill writer who has come home after 12 years of absence to tell his family he is dying. It's the proverbial prodigal's return, except that Louis' family is not so ready to forgive him for his desertion. His arrival precipitates chaos. His mother has tried to keep her family together despite their struggles in the wake of Louis' departure, and his loud, tempestuous siblings Antoine and Suzanne and introverted sister-in-law Catherine have their own crosses and grudges to bear. The group commences deconstructing a life's worth of damaged family dynamics, and the gifted writer becomes a mostly silent observer who can't get a word in edgewise to share the news he came to tell. As they all strive to — for once — be honest with each other, they create an emotional huis clos that offers them the chance to heal the wounds and fill the void.
Ramblings: May not be everyone's cup of tea. A lot of shouting but characters with real feeling and it showed.

The Dressmaker

In brief: This wickedly comic drama stars Winslet as a worldly dressmaker returning to the Australian backwater that exiled her. Tilly Dunnage arrives in the small town of Dungatar with her trusty Singer sewing machine at her side. Driven away when she was just ten for supposedly committing a heinous crime, resilient Tilly found her way to Paris, where she trained under legendary designer Madeleine Vionnet. She has come back to look after her ailing mother, Molly and soon turns heads at the town football game,notably, that of star player Teddy McSwiney. When Tilly is hired to design and custom-make haute couture for the more rebellious local ladies, a battle line is drawn: those who luxuriate in Tilly's progressive style against Dungatar's conservative busybody contingent. As tension between these camps escalates, Tilly's shadowy past becomes her enemies' most potent weapon. The Dressmaker is a sumptuous, saucy, and scandalous tale of love and vengeance in the mid-1950s.
Ramblings: Unfortunately I missed the first 20 minutes because of a previous show starting late and running overtime. So so story that couldn't decide where it was going.

A Man Called Ovi

In brief: Ove is the quintessential angry old man next door. An isolated retiree with strict principles and a short fuse, who spends his days enforcing block association rules that only he cares about, and visiting his wife’s grave, Ove has given up on life. Enter a boisterous young family next door who accidentally flattens Ove’s mailbox while moving in and earning his special brand of ire. Yet from this inauspicious beginning an unlikely friendship forms and we come to understand Ove’s past happiness and heartbreaks. What emerges is a heartwarming tale of unreliable first impressions and the gentle reminder that life is sweeter when it's shared. Beneath the twists and turns of this ordinary man’s life story there’s a casual social history of Sweden in the last half of the 20th century. The films message insists that the best route to cultural continuity is community, not ethnic exclusivity.
Ramblings: Amazing story that was revealed a bit at a time. Funny bits throughout. Well worth the wait. (Movie started late.) Similar to "I, Daniel Blake" but did it better.

Friday, November 4, 2016


In brief: Paterson works as a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey — an ordinary working guy in a run-of-the-mill small city. His life is regulated clockwork: up around 6am, home by 6pm, walk the dog, drop by the local tavern, down a beer, chat with the bartender. His wife is a perfect match. Laura is as even-handed and -tempered as her husband. But there's more to these characters' internal lives. Paterson is a poet and Laura a repressed artistic gadfly. Each day before driving the streets, Paterson scrawls a poem in his notebook, and each evening Laura welcomes him home with a new and quirky surprise. The film is an offbeat meditation on the couple and their desire for creative self-expression, Idiosyncratic in the best of ways, Paterson is a rewarding slow burn of a film.
Ramblings: Slow burn, yes. But no payoff.

American Pastoral

In brief: Based on Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, about a "perfect" American family that is torn apart by the social and political upheavals of the 1960s.  Seymour “Swede” Levov, a successful businessman with a happy family, his life begins to slide off the rails when his teenaged daughter, Merry, becomes radicalized in reaction to the war in Vietnam. Soon she rejects her family's comfortable existence for a secret life of violent protest. Arriving as the world grapples with a new period of chaos, American Pastoral offers a bold vision of history that doubles as a mirror to the present.
Ramblings: Did not care for any of the characters. Probably made a better book.

The Architect

In brief: A couple, Drew & Colin, preparing to start a family, sets out to build the perfect one-of-a-kind nest, only to hire an architect with ideas of his own. Parker Posey and Eric McCormack star in this bizarrely comic tale of love, obsession, and deceit as a couple who hires a modernist architect to build their dream house, not realizing he has every intent to follow his own design—and desires. They hire Miles Moss, whose affected scarf and plummy accent peg him as the kind of pretentious architect and a walking personification of pompous elitism, who proceeds to build HIS dream house instead of theirs. An homage to every modernist landmark imaginable, Colin and Drew’s “dream home” has a certain allure. Drew becomes Moss’ muse until Moss becomes entangled in a forbidden romance with Drew, who is inexplicably seduced by the man’s self-professed creative genius.
Ramblings: Very funny but unbelievable. Expensive mistakes would never have been allowed to happen.


In brief: Based on the final novel by the late, great Canadian novelist Carol Shields. An accomplished writer and translator, Reta Winters is blindsided and flummoxed by the recent actions of her eldest daughter, Norah. For no discernible reason, Norah has dropped out of university and now spends her days panhandling on the sidewalk outside of Toronto landmark Honest Ed's. The cardboard sign she affixes to her chest features only one word: GOODNESS. Reta fears losing her connection to her daughter, but is it possible Norah is seeking some way of reconnecting to the world? Over the course of Unless we come to understand the complex emotional histories of Reta and Norah. The former is a middle-aged woman for whom language is the key to comprehending life, the latter a young woman who has lost her faith in the ability of language, the academy, and society in general to imbue her life with meaning.
Ramblings: Get to the point! But the movie never did. A tedious hour and a half.

Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki

In brief: In 1962, with only a few professional fights under his belt, Finnish featherweight Ollie Mäki fought American Davey More for the World Featherweight title. Despite an overbearing manager/ trainer who’s clearly trying to vicariously relive his own days in the ring, Mäki cares much more about spending time with Raija than he does about training for the fight. She is a natural beauty with a face that lends itself well to the period and black and white photography. Olli confesses to his manager that he’s fallen in love. Poor timing and a disapproving manager create conflict, as the two are clearly meant for each other, all that stands between them is the big fight.
Ramblings: So, it's a true story. So what? Plodding story and not much else. Well filmed and acted but to what end?

The Meddler

In brief: Marnie Minervini, is a compulsive advice-giver, Recently widowed, ceaselessly cheerful, Marnie cannot stop texting, calling, and showing up unannounced at the home of her daughter, Lori. . Desperate to gain some control over her life following a messy breakup, Lori attempts to draw boundaries, but that only serves to unleash Marnie's meddling upon the greater Los Angeles area. Marnie starts to chauffeur the nice young Apple Store clerk to his college classes. She gives thousands of dollars to a not-especially-close friend of Lori's so she can have her dream wedding. Whether out of habit or in an unconscious avoidance of grief, Marnie can't stop being a mom to everyone she meets. But a chance encounter with a charismatic chicken-raising, rent-a-cop could spark a chance for Marnie to leave her characteristic supporting role behind and finally become the star of her own life. The Meddler is about that force of nature known as the doting mother.

Johnnie To's Office

In brief: In the global financial crisis following the Lehman Brothers collapse, feared and respected CEO, Miss Chang, prepares to list her billion-dollar company on the stock exchange. Chairman Ho Chung-ping — once her mentor, now her ally and lover — has promised her a wealth of shares in the company when it goes public. But when an audit exposes layer after layer of covert power plays and backroom dealings, it seems that the Chairman's promises may not be so easy for him to keep. Matters are further complicated by the arrival of young upstart, Lee Xiang, whose optimistic idealism throws a monkey wrench into Chang and Ho's ruthless scheming. A takedown of capitalist corruption and greed that's savvily packaged as a song-and-dance extravaganza, Johnnie To’s Office assembles a dream team of actors and professionals who deliver full-barrelled performances. Johnnie To’s first musical is kinetic, dazzling, and thrilling.

Driving with Selvi

In brief: Selvi, like so many girls living within India’s patriarchal culture, is forced to marry at a young age, only to find herself in a violent and abusive marriage. One day in deep despair, she chooses to escape, going to a highway with the intention of throwing herself under the wheels of a bus. Instead she gets on the bus, choosing to live… and goes on to become South India’s first female taxi driver. We first meet 18-year-old Selvi at a girls’ shelter in 2004 – timid, soft-spoken, a fresh runaway from a difficult life. Over a ten-year journey, we see a remarkable transformation as Selvi finds her voice and defies all expectations – learning to drive, starting her own taxi company, leading seminars to educate other women, and much more. In a society where women are often considered expendable or worthless, Selvi refuses to accept this estimation for herself, moving beyond the pain she’s experienced to create an entirely new life.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Eat That Question

In brief: An energetic, sharply edited celebration of the famed American musician and composer, whose wackily charismatic public persona belied his complex artistry, fierce intelligence and political conviction. He swiftly became the most quotable voice of dissent in popular music. Self-taught composer, musician, bandleader, producer and independent thinker, Frank Zappa created an oeuvre of blunt, eccentric, and satirical compositions that masterfully bridged genres ranging from rock to jazz, electronic, orchestral and novelty music. Told entirely through archival footage culled from the performer's 30-year career, this celebration of Zappa's life and legacy illustrates his irrepressible quest for enlightenment. Zappa died far too early, in 1993, of cancer. How important then, that such unforgettable Zappa interviews and performances across three decades have been painstakingly gathered from the obscure vaults of TV stations around the world to create this unique 90 minute feature documentary.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Mean Dreams

In brief: Two teens in a small rural community seek solace from their dark pasts and troubled home lives in a forbidden romance. The life of teenaged Jonas Ford is dominated by his father's struggle to keep the family farm afloat and his mother's ongoing battle with severe depression. When Casey Caraway moves in a few miles down the road, the two click immediately. But, while most parents would be happy to see their children find this kind of relationship, Jonas' father sees Casey as someone who distracts Jonas from his duties, while Casey's father, Wayne, an alcoholic prone to explosive and sometimes violent outbursts, sees Jonas as competition. Making things worse is the fact that Wayne is the town's new deputy, and the sheriff considers domestic abuse to be a household matter. With nowhere to turn, the young lovers are soon faced with an impossible decision.

Manchester by the Sea

In brief: Lee Chandler, is the resident handyman for a small apartment complex in a Boston suburb. He spends his days shovelling snow, fixing leaks, and doing his best to ignore the tenants' small talk. He spends his evenings either alone in his basement apartment or nursing a beer at his local, where he'll pick a fight with anyone who throws a glance his way. Yet somehow we know that buried beneath this sadness is another life. When he receives the news that his older brother Joe has died of a congenital heart condition and that to his surprise, he's been appointed legal guardian of Joe's teenage son, Patrick, Lee returns to his nearby seaside hometown, a place of both cherished and painful memories. As this mismatched pair stumbles through the mundane details of estate planning and the awkward strain of adolescence, Lee is forced to confront his past, revealed seamlessly through flashbacks, and the realities of his present.

The Man Who Knew Infinity

In brief: It’s hard to make numbers sexy, especially on screen, but the life of Indian mathematics genius Srinivasa Ramanujan, who revolutionized the field in the early 20th century, was an extraordinary story waiting to be told. Hailing from a poor Brahmin family in Madras, he arrived in Cambridge in 1914 and set the university on fire with his brilliant mind and startling mathematical formulas. The story begins just as World War I looms as an impoverished Ramanujan works as a lowly clerk in an accounting house in his homeland. He decides to write a letter to the formidable Cambridge mathematician G.H. Hardy, asking to be allowed to further his pursuits at Trinity College, Cambridge. Initially, a skeptical Hardy thinks the missive is a joke, even if he is tempted by the examples of the formulas inside and decides to take a chance and beckon Ramanujan abroad. The narrative is primarily driven by its central odd-couple relationship, amid cultural clashes and bigotry.

Standing Tall

In brief: Abandoned by his mother at just six years old, Maloney is constantly in and out of juvenile court. The boy’s mother is addicted to drugs and nasty guys and begs for the chance to dump her little “monster.” Later, he’s a teenager jacking cars and succumbing to some serious anger issues.A juvenile judge nearing retirement,Florence Blaque (Catherine Deneuve) and a caseworker with a rough childhood Yann come to believe that they can help young Maloney and save him from his life of crime. In an attempt to curb his reckless ways, Maloney is then sent to a stricter educational center, where he meets Tess a special young girl who reignites his hope for a better life. The film pays homage to those compassionate workers in child services, by meticulously chronicling of the case of one wayward teen.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Personal Shopper

In brief: Maureen is the personal shopper for a high-powered German model/designer and jet-setter who demands an endless supply of clothes and accessories be procured and delivered to her. But Maureen has just suffered a personal trauma: her beloved twin brother, Lewis, to whom she was intensely attached, has just died due to a congenital heart condition. She is also a medium, and attempts to communicate with Lewis while wandering around their cavernous childhood home in Paris, where he died. Gradually, mysterious things begin to occur. Ghost films are a storied tradition, and Personal Shopper does no mean job in following in the footsteps of some of the best. Assayas fleshes out the story with highly personal touches that explain the obsessions that haunt and trouble his heroine as she moves through the slick and garish world of her fashionista employer, and the dark, eerie spirit world where her brother is located.
Ramblings: Not really worth the bother. The acting was wooden and the story was unbelievable and the suspenseful part of the story was predictable.

A Second Chance

In brief: Detectives and best friends, Andreas and Simon, lead vastly different lives; Andreas has settled down with his beautiful wife and son; while Simon, recently divorced, spends most of his waking hours getting drunk at the local strip club. But all that changes when the two of them are called out to a domestic dispute between a junkie couple, caught in a vicious cycle of violence and drugs. It all looks very routine – until Andreas finds the couple’s infant son, crying in a closet. The usually collected policeman finds himself confronted with his own powerlessness and is shaken to his core. As Andreas slowly loses his grip on justice, it suddenly becomes up to the unruly Simon to restore the balance between right and wrong. A Second Chance is a shocking, moving and thrilling drama about real people forced into incredible circumstances.

Our Kind of Traitor

In brief: Based on a novel by master spy thriller writer John Le Carré. While on holiday in Marrakech, an ordinary English couple, Perry and Gail, befriend a flamboyant and charismatic Russian, Dima, who unbeknownst to them is a kingpin money launderer for the Russian mafia. Dima wants to cut a deal with British intelligence that would guarantee the safety of his family in exchange for information about politicians on the mob’s take. Dima’s crime overlords want him dead and there’s a short window of time to escape into the welcoming arms of the UK as an informant. When Dima asks for their help to deliver classified information to the British Secret Services, Perry and Gail get caught in a dangerous world of international espionage and dirty politics. The couple is propelled on a perilous journey through Paris and Bern, a safe house in the French Alps, to the murky corners of the City of London and an alliance with the British Government via ruthless and determined MI6 agent.


In brief: Over the course of his nearly-four-decade career with Charles Scriber’s Sons, Maxwell Perkins fought hard to bring the best works of Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway to the general public. Since the actual business of editing — during which Perkins casually marks up a Hemingway manuscript whose every word might be considered sacred today- is visually undramatic, Logan’s script focuses on the interpersonal dynamic between this literary gatekeeper and his greatest discovery, Wolfe . (Both Fitzgerald and Faulkner had been published before, whereas Wolfe, who’d been rejected by every company in town, was losing faith that his words “were worth a dime.”) Perkins was the representative of dogmas and prejudices of his time and milieu, and his life, as well as the art of his writers, poses the riddle of beautiful work embodying ugly ideas, of the private misdeeds of public achievers. The characters, literary works, and subjects of Genius are of enduring power.

Land of Mine

In brief: In the wake of the Second World War, the Danish authorities force thousands of German prisoners of war to defuse the millions of mines buried on Danish beaches. In 1945, in Denmark, after the defeat of Germany, the tough veteran Sergeant Carl Rasmussen is assigned by Lieutenant Ebbe Jensen to defuse and remove 2.2 million mines in the Danish West Coast to make the beaches safe. Carl receives a group of teenage Germans prisoners of war to clear mines. With the formal promise of Ebbe, Carl tells the youngsters that when the task is accomplished, the survivors would be released to return to Germany. After the initial hostility with the enemy, Carl realizes that the POWs are too young and befriends the boys. But when a mine in a clear area blows up his dog, Carl forces the boys to walk together on the safe areas to check whether any mine was left behind. Months later, the survivors complete their task but Ebbe sends them to another mined field. What will Carl do?