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The Healer (2017)
Arango threw a curve ball, and a lot of people missed the pitch
The first thing that everyone missed is that this is an "auteur" movie, that is, the writer and director are one and the same.
The significance of that is important.
Canada, since the launch of its film sector in in the 1980s via tax credits, has built a solid and reliable industry by being essentially the "Walmart" of the sector. Constantly undercutting Hollywood prices (because of the cheaper Loonie) has kept the cash flowing.
And the Canucks have also taken hostage obscure sectors of the business that no one else was paying attention to. For example, 90% of all the so-called "X-mas" films you have seen in the last 20 years were Canadian-made.
Finally, Canada is where most once-successful franchises go to die. When you see a horror franchise or action franchise on its very last legs -- think Freddy Kruger IX or something like that -- chances are it is Canadian made.
So, against this odd backdrop of entrepreneurial spirit, it is rare and refreshing to see an auteur express a vision that is not a knockoff of something else.
And that is the key. This film is an original, it is like nothing you have seen. It takes place in one of Canada's most picturesque (showcase) small towns but it is not a small town piece like Doc Martin or Gilmore Girls or even Corner Gas. It has elements of faith but it is not a "faith-based" movie. It has elements of a rom-com yet without the "rom."
Again, an original.
And it is technically perfect. The script is solid. The acting from the leads is excellent, especially the often-overlooked Jonathan Pryce. (Secondary characters are hit and miss, which unfortunately is the curse of Canadian film making.) The story holds the attention. The questions raised are interesting. In many ways the film revisits issues from the blockbuster hit Resurrection (1980) but in a much subtler way.
It is solid workmanlike entertainment and deserves a better rating than most members have given it.
Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)
Who says there is no such thing as time travel....?
Because writer/director Zahler has taken his audience back to an era when films were simpler, direct, and,above all, unrelenting in their pursuit of a single theme or idea.
He has manufactured a true guilty pleasure -- a film about a man making bad choices that is driven by brilliant characterizations, raw Adrenalin, and a compelling narrative that makes you watch no matter how much you know you should look away.
In the grand tradition of Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood, Vaughn, an actor once relegated to romantic comedies, does "the" physical role of his career and it is a barn burner.
There is no pretense at class. This is 1960s grindhouse from start to finish and if you have any doubts just listen to the closing music at the 2:05 mark --- a brisk orchestral piece that sounds more fitting to a vaudeville act than a melodrama. Zahler ends the show by signalling that he was messing with your head, overloading your senses, all along -- and moreover he was doing it deliberately and knowingly.
Don Johnson, an actor who continues to win SEXIEST MAN ALIVE awards for merely showing up at the ceremony, wanted to try something different and succeeded - his cigar-smoking, sadistic warden is a masterpiece. Unforgettable.
A hard film to review, a difficult film to classify, and an impossible film to ignore. The closest analog in this era would be the highly stylized, and highly violent, films from South Korea that glorify the individual over the system.
Our Souls at Night (2017)
Barefoot in the Park (1967) a Half Century Later
Some have said that Napoleon would have been nothing without Waterloo. The subtext of this movie may well be that the Baby Boomers, once the top demographic on the planet, having failed to improve the political system or the economic system, or to manifest especially noteworthy parenting skills -- in fact, having failed to improve the planet in any detectable way -- may best be remembered for simply getting old.
If that theorem is to be proved anywhere, it would be in this wonderful movie.
This may be a shock to the younger IMDb members, but at one time Redford and Fonda were not merely the biggest stars in Hollywood but also the biggest sex symbols in the biz.
If in 1967 -- please put on your time travel, butterfly effect, hats here -- you had suggested to these two that a full half-century later they would star is a laid-back but irrefutably charming rom-com where, in the very first scene, Fonda shows up at Redford's door and politely asks if he would mind sleeping with her ... well, let's just say that a raised eyebrow would be least you could expect in return
The script is so subtle (a word I have astonishingly used only a very few times in some 1350+ reviews here) that the viewer does not know whether to laugh or cry. Even the way Redford's character chooses to initially respond to the invitation -- not by a 411.com search, but by looking up Fonda's phone number in a handwritten address book his late wife had left behind -- brings an unavoidable smile to those who grasp the passage of time.
The dialog is a joy. It has ebbs and flows, ups and downs, and most importantly never quite heads in the direction you expect it to.
In fact -- this for film historians only -- it may be a true breakthrough in concept. Remember that in the 1970s scriptwriters tried to "take the rom-com up a notch" by deliberately cutting out the "boy meets girl" portion of the traditional formula. Dozens of rom-coms since that era have started with the very first scene taking place "the morning after," leaving the audience to wonder how the original romance blossomed, before getting caught up in the subsequent events.
In that context, the premise here, if this film resonates with people in the months and years to come, could become a milestone in rom-coms. And deservedly so.
The Shadow Line: Episode #1.2 (2011)
Oh WoW (says the Top Reviewer)
Since the IMDb has been kind enough to call me a Top Reviewer (over 1350 reviews) I wanted to repay the favour with a detailed and eloquent review.
That's my review.
This episode is the middle of a complicated story told via mini-series, but here is the rub: You don't need the other episodes. This instalment is so good you could watch it alone and simply be dazzled by the performances and the writing.
Rafe Spall in particular steals his scenes and makes even the Bond villains look friendly and amiable.
Nim's Island (2008)
textbook example of raw star power overcoming all obstacles
And when I refer above to "all obstacles," I mean a script that comes across like one of the animals on the island (all of whom are simply adorable) bit a chunk out of it, no one noticed, and they filmed it anyway.
Butler, Foster, and Breslin between them generate enough electricity to power Manhattan or, in this case, at least a small island. They keep you glued to the screen in spite of the nonsense.
The story contains a brief scene where an overweight Australian boy, along with his parents, is briefly on the island. He not only sees Mim but tracks her down and makes a connection. Seconds later, he has to leave and disappears from the story.
The audience feels much the same way by the time the curtain closes. But it was a fun ride while it lasted.
never a watcher when you really need one
The movie drags viewers into a world when psychic abilities are common and each ability has a cute name.
The pity is that Hollywood itself totally lacks any of these abilities, most especially the "watchers." Otherwise someone would have noticed that the great ideas in the story were steam-rolled under a chewy and wandering script.
As I have said in some 1350+ reviews here, the key to a good movie is audience connection. It is that simple. In the opening of the Matrix for example we connect with Neo and he carries us through the film.
Here all the characters are in a "connection vacuum" save for Fanning who holds the attention by star power alone. It is ironic how the script makes such a fuss about her "being 13 years old" when typical of Hollywood she was at the time 15 "playing younger." Turns out the strange world presented in the movie is quite normal and boring compared to the inner workings of Tinseltown itself.
This film could have been something special. Instead it will go into the annals of film history as merely an oddity.
Like the inmates, a film not certain of what it wants to be ...
My list of reviews on the IMDb contains a significant number of documentaries and it has always been my view that a good documentary can be both entertaining and informative at the same time.
(See, for example, my review of The 24 Hour War (2016), the tale of an infamous feud between two car companies. The movie made you FEEL LIKE YOU WERE RIGHT THERE AT THE TRACK.)
Which is not the case here. Here, Director Micah Brown made the most serious mistake any film-maker can commit going into a project. He believed his own "spin." Brown went out of his way, bent over backwards, performed filmic contortions, all to "de-sensationalize" this tale.
Fully aware that the fighting aspects could overpower the core story, and believing that the moral, ethical and existential aspects of the piece were far too important to trivialize, Brown presents the viewer with a story that overall seems more like a Sunday morning sermon than a boxing film.
The "proof" of the core flaw here becomes obvious when the actual fight finally arrives, after every possible moral nuance of the story has, by that time, been dug up and analyzed under a microscope.
Suddenly, as the bell sounds for Round 1, the ever-patient viewer realizes that he has no concept of the fighting capabilities of either man; there has been no attempt to present that information in the exposition; there is no colour commentary; the rounds (the culmination of the movie) are edited like a highlight reel and do not flow; and (surprise!) one of the opponents has a major size advantage that no one told you about.
Here is a tip to aspiring documentary makers: surprises are great for birthdays and anniversaries; story-telling requires keeping the viewer fully informed as we move along, so there can be "connection" with what is happening on screen.
Better Call Saul: Chicanery (2017)
copying genius ... is still genius
The template for this arc is Inherit The Wind, considered as one of the top 10 best courtroom dramas of all time.
But copying genius is still genius.
The Spencer Tracy movie dealt with issues of religion. This deals with issues of morality. Difference? Not much.
The audience, the characters, pretty much know what happened "factually." But the law is an odd animal. It is man's attempt to grasp at something greater than himself. Messing with evidence is wrong. But using the law to get back at your brother for a lifetime of perceived wrongs is no better.
Also the way the producers set up entire episodes with flashbacks that initially make no sense is becoming almost a trademark.
Brilliant. Just brilliant.
Stories about TRanshumanism do not always work as intended.This one does. In the original Frankenstein story, the interaction between the "monster" and an innocent child who stumbles on the creature has become iconic. And hard to beat. This episode recreates that scene with one difference -- the child is also artificial and the humans (two thugs) are the bad guys. It is clever and it works. Even better, it trumps itself. At the close the AI robot (the "monster") who saved the girl (also an AI) was so damaged defending the girl that he had to be rebooted. So when the girl comes to thank the bot for saving her life, he has no memory of it. She gives him a flower but, having no memory, he tosses it away. And the episode closes on that shot -- the flower lying on the ground. Is that the future of mankind?
The great irony of course is that, because this was conceived as an "historical" -- almost educational -- drama, it never found an audience.
Which of course is the insanity of the modern entertainment business.
As a film, as a narrative, as a story, as entertainment it is perfect.
Perfect as to script, casting, acting, direction, editing, the whole 9 years.
In a parallel universe somewhere this film made it to theatres around the world and was cherished.
In this is universe, it is actually hard to find a copy.