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Posts Tagged ‘Foreign’

Alan Partridge

By: Addison WylieAPposter

North Americans have Will Ferrel’s Ron Burgundy, an on-camera anchorman who’s self-centred arrogance has him chewing down on his own foot often.  In Europe, the Brits have Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge.  Partridge is an egotistical radio personality obsessed with a celebrity image and a winning smile.

Where Burgundy can read on screen as a pompous jerk with a heart of gold steeped in spoof misogyny, Partridge is more endearing.  He always finds a way to slip into the spotlight, and try to have others sympathize with him or view him as an inspirational icon.  However, he’s just as easily flustered and frustrated when he isn’t included.

Steve Coogan’s amusing character takes a step away from real life airwaves and his UK Television show I’m Alan Partridge to star in his first leading vehicle self-entitled Alan Partridge.  The film is better known as Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa across the pond, but it’s a title that may have had others scratching their head over its otherwise silly meaning.

That adjustment is what’s going to make Alan Partridge’s overseas success interesting to observe.  I think it helps outsiders taking a chance on the film to know a little bit about Partridge before paying for a ticket.  His fumbled muttering, and his self-absorbed attitude may have the general North American movie going public growing irritated.  However, if they have that initial information or can quickly jive with the lead doofus, they may have themselves as good a time as us fans.

Personally, I found Alan Partridge to be a good comedy that met the goals it set out to achieve.  Director Declan Lowney manages to do what most SNL flicks have difficulty doing – taking a sketch character and having him carry a film all the way until the end.  It also helps that Coogan is still playing the cocky host splendidly.

Alan Partridge plays out as a movie Mike Myers would’ve jumped at the chance to star in.  I wouldn’t call Lowney’s film a laugh-out-loud riot as Myers’ past comedies have been (pre-Love Guru, mind you), but there’s a consistent flow of titters and chuckles that will have you pleased with most of the material.  Although, a scene featuring Alan getting caught with his trousers down will definitely shock you into hysterics.

The story of a disgruntled, newly fired radio personality taking the station and its employees hostage doesn’t feel rote, as does the decision to make Coogan the hero despite the role’s narcissism.  Partridge, being the unctuous goofball he is, manages to find fame in dire circumstances.  He completely understands the danger of the takeover, but is strangely complimented when he’s chosen as a messenger for the police and a co-host for a radio show during the malicious siege.

Lowney’s modest comedy will satisfy the Alan Partridge fan base as well as fans of Coogan’s dry wit.  The main question, however, still stands: how the hell is this going to perform outside the UK?

I won’t be surprised if Alan Partridge doesn’t drum up new anticipation during its North American theatrical release, but I won’t be disappointed if this type of movie finds cult life on VOD.

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The Suspect

By: Addison WylieTheSuspectPoster

You can’t say The Suspect was mismarketed.  All that spectacular stunt work that’s flashed in the film’s trailer is there, and it’s still enthralling in context.  What the trailer doesn’t capture is how overblown Won Shin-yun’s film is.  Maybe that’s for the better since the lethargic narrative is a major turnoff.

First, the film’s key strength: Shin-yun knows how to map out an action sequence.  There are more than enough car chases and crashes in The Suspect to get anyone’s adrenaline pumping.  The pursuits are no where near as compelling as the ones movie goers will see soon in Need for Speed, but the chases in The Suspect wet our whistle well.  Same goes for the hand-to-hand combat and the gunplay.

My only suggestion for Shin-yun is he shouldn’t feel the need to present his work as anymore generic as clichéd American action fests in order to capture some sort of recognizable excitement.  The camera work in The Suspect is either too closed in, shaking around like crazy, or both – which causes some of the fine choreography to be lost in translation.  The sloppily choppy editing is also to blame.

There are way too many add-ons set on driving up the film’s intensity.  Shin-yun is trying too hard to convince the audience what they’re watching is impressive and energetic.  That said, Shin-yun could possibly be shovelling on more of these contrivances to cover up how dull Im Sang-hoon’s revengeful script plays on screen.

Sang-hoon has a very hard time adding onto his characters or the nature of getting even.  Instead of building off of his own material, he plunks a lot of “stuff” on top of unfolding events and the emotional characters – none of which are interesting or thrillingly intriguing.  He attempts to add twists and new motives, but inverts his characters in a way that make each person on screen become more complicated than they need to be.

The Suspect lacks confidence.  The film has the appearance of a movie that knows how baggy it’s getting, and is constantly vying to win back its audience while trying to make ends meet with its own story.

The Suspect does have the look and feel of a smart thriller.  As I often drifted into a dazed state, I found myself wondering what a Bourne endeavour would look like through Won Shin-yun’s filmmaking vision.  In time, I think he’ll follow the same steps as Fast and the Furious filmmaker Justin Lin and grow to have what it takes to direct a franchise.

Unfortunately with The Suspect, Shin-yun finds himself spinning a number of plates. It’s neither enjoyable for him nor his spirited audience.

Here Comes the Devil

February 15, 2014 Leave a comment

By: Addison WylieHCTDposter

I don’t know what possession is more crucial and harmful: the ones that occur in Here Comes the Devil within the Tijuana cliffs or the wrestling match between mature horror and fanboy immaturity that litters the film’s screenplay.

Adrián García Bogliano’s horror is one of those movies where audiences can tell there are heavy influences driving the film.  It’s also one of those movies where these homages don’t simply stay on the filmmaker’s sleeve, but rather engulf the whole film.

Bogliano shows movie goers he knows what makes a memorable horror.  He seems to know how to establish the beginning of something sinister while also letting the audience use their imagination when it comes to more chilling content.  A lot of what happens in Here Comes the Devil looms in the shadows, and are only expressed by what others reflect.  These lead to some really creepy moments of pure description.

The performances aren’t half bad either.  Young Alan Martinez and Michele Garcia know how to burn a hole through other characters and sink their ominous presence into our afterthoughts.

The roles given to the child cast are more interesting than the adults though.  There’s no balance between the two groupings.  That said, the relationship between the parents (Francisco Barreiro and Laura Caro) is believable.  We feel their stress over the loss of their children and their incessant harping as they try and figure out what’s really going on once their kids become blank slates.

However, the characterization behind the older folks is flimsy.  For what feels like every ten pages of Bogliano’s script, abrupt and graphic sexual matter crashes into the story.  These scenes of rawness could help flesh these adults out more, but they enter the picture with such aggression and are stretched beyond their limits.  As I mentioned, it’s as if another force is snatching the pen away from Bogliano.  A being who writes “naked girl gets more naked and shows boobs” with such pre-pubescent enthusiasm.

Despite how Bogliano directs his actors and how he makes a path for this painstakingly slow burn story, Here Comes the Devil can never shake its “been there, done that” vibe.  It reminded me of a lower end variation of James Wan’s Insidious.  There’s an evil force consistently joining others, and we’re constantly using our own thoughts to fill in the grisly visuals.  Funny enough, Here Comes the Devil also hits the same flaw Insidious collided with – it’s conclusion becomes too showy.

What makes me favour Insidious over this is that Wan was able to generate paranoia and increasing fear while keeping up with a decent pace.  Bogliano, on the other hand, takes double the amount of time to portray or explain anything.  It’s a film that can’t decipher the difference between “a slow burn” pace and a “slow” pace.  Because of that, we get an end product that drags its feet all the way to the finish line.

Here Comes the Devil offers very little to get excited about, no matter how much gore, nudity, and creepy kids it hurls at the audience.  Then again, should I expect anything else from a film that cared so much to make me not care?

TIFF Next Wave 2014: For No Eyes Only

February 14, 2014 1 comment

FNEOstill

By: Addison Wylie

Tali Barde’s feature film debut For No Eyes Only is set as a tense thriller adding a modern twist to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.  It doesn’t come through on being a thriller.  Instead, it’s accidentally profound.

What I admired most about For No Eyes Only is Barde’s perceptual take on modern day voyeurism without being too on the nose.  Sam (a mopey loner played convincingly by newcomer Benedict Sieverding) suffers from a sports injury and has nothing better to do but hack webcams as he recuperates.  Something tells us that even if Sam was able bodied, he’d still get a kick out of watching the private lives of others.

When other people find out about Sam’s sneaky hobby, they’re shaken up briefly before being mesmerized themselves.  It goes to show us that even though this modern day hyperactive generation needs constant movement, they’re more entranced by letting their eyes slip into another world for long periods of time.  If you didn’t understand why teens were fascinated with online pop culture pitstops such as ChatRoulette, Barde’s movie may help you see eye-to-eye.

For No Eyes Only, however, loses its way.  When Sam and a friend witness questionable events over a fellow student’s webcam, the social commentary sits on the back burner and the thriller components take over the narrative.

There are rookie trip-ups (a muddy picture, over-stylized environments to emphasize a mood), but most of these are easily forgiven since this is Barde getting his feature film feet wet for the first time.  That said, whenever the film is going for big scares with high strung tension, it feels as if the film is stepping outside its natural element and trying to hit targets that are out of its range.  Sometimes independent minimalism can help make these situations believable, but Barde isn’t freaking anyone out with that mock musical score during those dry cat-and-mouse chases.

It’s nice to know Barde will be a filmmaker who will takes risks with his work, but his first feature needed to be something even simpler.  With his aptitude to dictate what he sees in relevant culture, it’ll be neat to see how he approaches another genre like a drama or a coming-of-age comedy.  But, until he can garner more experience, maybe he should take a break from thrillers.

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Catch For No Eyes Only at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox on Sunday, February 16 at 1:30 pm. Filmmaker Tali Barde will be in attendance.

More TIFF Next Wave coverage at Wylie Writes:

Read my review of G.B.F. (screening Sunday, February 16 at 6:15 pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox)

Big Bad Wolves

January 20, 2014 Leave a comment

By: Addison WylieBBWposter

It’s easy to see why Quentin Tarantino named Big Bad Wolves as the best film of 2013.  It’s basically a love letter to the filmmaker’s earlier work – an elaboration on that infamous torture scene in Reservoir Dogs.

Filmmakers Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s bottled thriller has three men (a father who’s daughter has been kidnapped and murdered, a renegade cop, and a tied up potential criminal) spar with one another to find the whereabouts of the daughter’s decapitated head.  Oh, and to get violent revenge.

Keshales and Papushado want to pull off a layered film where characters are pushed to the limits and are forced to go places they didn’t expect to go to; thus, filling out the character development with unpredictable arcs.

Big Bad Wolves, however, only gives audiences the broad strokes of depravity, desperation, and deception.  There’s nothing necessarily thought-provoking or cunning to the screenplay (also written by the directors) which plays out like a prepubescent teen’s idea of “cool” and “gritty”.

The subject matter involving kidnapped children and passionate angry adults is disturbing, but the directorial team doesn’t dig any deeper than your basic storyboard motivations.

Because there’s no emotional connection between the film and the paying public, Keshales and Papushado shovel violence into a scene in order to pull a jolting reaction from their audience.  The effects are terribly graphic and the torture is so nasty, even the thirstiest of gore hounds will find Big Bad Wolves to be too sadistic.

If Keshales and Papushado had observed Tarantino’s work again, they may have caught on to the fact that the imaginative Academy Award winner prefers dialogue over visuals.  They could’ve just as easily generated the same squirmy reception from their audience if the duo had just thought outside the box.

Films like Hard Candy and Tape have shown movie goers that it’s possible to create a bottle film that relies entirely on tension and imagination built by well crafted characterization and detailed rehearsal.  Keshales and Papushado would much rather have bruised, bloodied flesh do all of the talking and sneering in Big Bad Wolves.

If I have any pats-on-the-backs for these two filmmakers, it’s that I was pleased to see that they were able to insert instances of dark comedy amidst the unpleasantries.  There’s the occasional quippy conversation that happens between the brutality, but the dry sense of humour hardly feels tacked on in order to break the ice.

Nevertheless, I expected more maturity from Big Bad Wolves.  I’d prefer to see thrillers turn up the heat in ways that ask the audience to use our heads – even if it’s just a minor contribution.  Big Bad Wolves lukewarmly simmers and finishes with subpar, dirty results. You can have this one, Quentin.

Blue Is the Warmest Colour

January 15, 2014 2 comments

By: Addison WylieBITWCposter

Palme d’Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Colour is an intellectual work about observing and defining sexuality.  It’s a raw look allowing the viewer to be in clear view of everything, but by no means presents itself as indecent.

In fact, those graphic scenes of sexual content that seem to be flooding the media surrounding Blue Is the Warmest Colour with controversy are represented this way because there is no other way to shoot them showing the euphoric belongingness our rattled lead portrays while entangled in her partner’s embrace.

Abdellatif Kechiche’s sprawling three-hour epic captures the growth of high school student Adèle (played with bravery by Adèle Exarchopoulos) as she discovers herself and alternatives around her, guiding her through early adulthood.

There is not a switch of performers as Adèle matures.  Exarchopoulos – proving herself to be quite the incredible actress – disappears within this role that causes her to take numerous risks both physically and emotionally.  It’s been mistakingly considered an understated performance because of Exarchopoulos’ newcomer status and how natural each mannerism and motivation elapses, but her entrancing ability to expand on Adèle’s curiosity and lust is nothing short of phenomenal.

There’s a powerful scene that speaks clearly about how periodically epiphanic Blue Is the Warmest Colour becomes both to the audience and to the film’s leading lady.  It follows a break up that’s heartbreaking for other reasons.  Adèle realizes that what she was meant to believe through her youth is resisting against her preferences.  She’s broken up because she feels broken herself.

Adèle meets up with a playful new friend named Emma (played with equal wonder by Léa Seydoux).  Emma is generally seen as a short haired queer tomboy contrasting with Adèle’s demure.  The two are pulled towards each other and – soon enough – become very close.

Abdellatif Kechiche doesn’t introduce the film’s gay community as an underground mystery.  We see copious same sex couples making out, but the lifestyle isn’t shown as despairing or dangerous.  The filmmaker has done a great job at showing that everyone – no matter which gender you prefer – is the same.  It makes a statement about equality without having to stop the film to spell it out.

Blue Is the Warmest Colour has also been touted around the globe as Adèle: Chapters 1 & 2.  It’s best to look at the movie in three parts: the conception, the romance, and the feeling of being abandoned for long spells.

While Kechiche does an absolutely brilliant job at displaying authentic bubbling love offering audiences perspectives that tread across uncharted waters, the final leg feels mellow when compared to the previous gutsy levels the filmmaker hits.

When Emma and Adèle are hitting rough patches, Blue Is the Warmest Colour hastily grasps for conflict.  It’s been such a patient ride up to these moments of frustration; and, this final act feels like a rootless departure from its crafted continuity.  However, it is a pleasure seeing Adèle become a woman and steadily build her career.

The final haul is not as arresting as the film’s validity during Adèle and Emma’s early years, but the ambition and skill Abdellatif Kechiche is able to resonate through the meaty timeline makes Blue Is the Warmest Colour damn near perfect.

A Hijacking

August 17, 2013 3 comments

By: Addison WylieA Hijacking poster

With intensity comes pressure, and with pressure comes fear.  Tobias Lindholm’s A Hijacking has all of the above.

Lindholm’s excellent film is shot and edited as a docudrama and often reminded me of Paul Greengrass’ United 93 regarding how it treats its audience as flies on the wall.  But where United 93 was based on a real life tragic event, A Hijacking’s story isn’t directly based on a true story but still feels sickeningly real.

What begins as a regular trip aboard the MV Rozen – a cargo ship traveling towards Mumbai – unexpectently  becomes dangerous when it is suddenly taken over by a band of Somali pirates.  Back in Copenhagen, the shipping company’s CEO Peter Lugvigsen (played by Søren Malling) begins to hear messages and requests from the pirates’ negotiator Omar (played by Abdihakin Asgar).  The villains ask for millions of dollars as ransom for the crew and the Rozen.  Peter, who is determined to captain his own company, takes on the role as the other negotiator while prominent employees standby overhearing in the boardroom.

As days pass (yes, days), the crew, the pirates, and Omar grow anxious.  A hostage speaks for the nervous movie goers and comments on the drastic mood changes among the terrorists.  A scene’s attitude can change within a snap of the fingers providing more nerve-wracking suspense to an already taut plot.  The crew members try to meet the pirates on the same wavelength and make small talk.  While the baddies welcome the smiles and handshakes, they can just as quickly point their rifles at the benign shipmates.

I lost count of how many times my heart leapt into my throat and my stomach sank during A Hijacking.  It’s never a displeasure watching Lindholm’s film nor is it so uncomfortable it’s unwatchable.  But, a great feeling of dread with a slight tease of hope always makes us uneasy and our eyes glued.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourselves muttering “oh no” to yourselves as you watch the ship’s conditions worsen.

The acting is grade-A.  Malling is terrific as someone with seniority and confidence that is slowly buckling under the tension.  Especially, when anonymous gunshots are heard over the phone.  Malling acts colder – and even too cold at times – towards those who are concerned about him and the progress of the negotiations.  But, those quiet moments as he mulls over his decisions are chilling.

Another phenomenal performance is Pilou Asbæk as the ship’s cook, Mikkel.  His kindness slowly deteriorates as he’s used occasionally as Omar’s verbal puppet.  When Peter refuses to talk to Mikkel or threatens to hang up, disappointment and separation sets in even more as he heartbreakingly comes to realize he may never see his wife or daughter again.

A Hijacking surprisingly ends on a much bleaker note than the one we think is coming.  But, the sombreness goes to show that Tobias Lindholm’s direction and his screenwriting isn’t afraid to throw last minute punches to shock the system.  Like the captured crew, you can never predict where A Hijacking is going to travel to once it takes hold of you.  It’s a riveting movie that I hope gets the respect and attention it deserves despite ingredients that some may be seasick about.