Movie Reviews

Published on March 9th, 2014 | by Ed Sum


Victoria Film Festival Reviews

Ed Sum was on hand at the Victoria Film Festival Feb 7-16th 2014 and got some great reviews of various films which we have posted here.

Just Who is Alan Partridge?

Not everyone on this side of the pond will know who British presenter Alan Partridge is. But after seeing the movie Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (the UK title of this film) his fame in North America will no doubt rise. Who knows, maybe he might get his own TV show in the States — heaven forbid. This fictional character is a media personality who has declined in fame over the years, and to see him claw his way back to the top is sad but funny.

His appearances are intertwined in reality and only those in the know will laugh at the follies going on. The wry humour is very sublime and audiences can chuckle along at how Partridge deals with his (still declining) fame. His ego gets in the way more often that not, and his demure can be likened to another character that fans of BBC’s Red Dwarf will no doubt recognize. Yes, he’s Arnold Rimmer. In the real world, to liken him to O.J. Simpson and Paris Hilton is appropriate. But in terms of who is more high-strung, even they pale in comparison.

English comedian Steve Coogan is brilliant in playing this narcissistic character. A lot of people will find this personality unbearable and that’s where the laughs are generated. Coogan succeeds big time in playing up the concept of a lost puppy just wanting attention. Plenty of viewers cannot help but go aw.

Maybe that is why Lynn (nicely played by Felicity Montagu), Alan’s PR rep, puts up with him. She is very much like Edie McClurg when she played Grace in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Although Partridge is no righteous dude, he is a funny bohemian that has to be admired. And, curiously enough, both Partridge and Bueller share a similar trait: they both get off rather easy despite the situations they wind up in.

And strangely, fellow DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) considers Alan to be a close pal despite all that goes on in the film. This relationship continues even after the radio station they both work in gets bought out by a huge media conglomerate and gets downsized. Both their jobs are in jeopardy. It’s either Alan or Pat that’s getting the sack, and the choice becomes off-the-top tragic when viewers learn it’s Alan who betrays Pat.

This film is hilarious as Farrell and Partridge keep up a precarious relationship when it is only the audiences who know the truth of who got Farrell sacked. Meaney steals the show in his easy-going portrayal of a man who simply wants to go “Die Hard” because of the blows he has received in life. Farrell lost a more than a job. He also lost his wife. The script suggests he does not have many friends, and not everyone are mates at the station. That can be rough for anyone. Viewers can instantly relate.

For an actor who is best remembered in North America in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space 9, Meaney has come a long way. His appearances in film and TV are infrequent — he tends to play more supporting roles than lead — and for fans, they can tune into to AMC’s Hell on Wheels to see what this fine actor is up to.

Director Declan Lowney does a great job at balancing time between these two actors. The screen time spent to develop both characters gives this film a great light-hearted feel. It’s a shame that audiences cannot root for Farrell, because ultimately, he’s the hero that the everyman wants to see succeed, not Alan. But in a hostage situation, the outcome can go any which way. Viewers have to tune in to see how it will unfold.

4 Stars out of 5

Just What is The Congress About?
A Movie Review & Analysis

In the movie, The Congress, reality can be changed by the simple sniff of a drug. Freedom is challenged when Miramount Studios — a parody of Mirimar and Paramount — invites Robin Wright (The Princess Bride, Forrest Gump ) to become their next big thing, a virtual character who will remain forever young. Instead, what happens is a look through the mirror darkly.

This movie changes pace from its satire about the Hollywood system to become a personal journey for Wright. She struggles for acceptance as an Oscar winning actress but instead gets treated like a piece of property.

This film is challenging to understand because in one moment, the story is about the search for freedom for this actress and her concern for the welfare for her children. She’s told to go into seclusion instead of doing whatever she likes when she finally sells her soul to the devil. In this case, it’s the studios who can use her image in anyway, shape or form. Her motivation is to help treat her son who is losing his ability to see and hear.

When she returns to renew her contract in a world of entertainment decorated by animated glitz and glamour, suddenly, there’s this story about a resistance movement. Without an explanation, just what viewers are watching is from a William Gibson novel. Here, corporations rule the world. The animated world is hiding something akin to The Matrix, but to find the truth requires a trip on a Yellow Submarine.

Although the animated visuals are marvelous to behold and reminiscent of a Betty Boop product, the modernist surrealist environment that includes Andy Warhol’s pop art is mostly eye candy at best. They serve to show that some people prefer to live in a fantasy. The real world has become dystopian and nobody, including audiences, knows why. If a reason is given, this elliptical tale can be understood after a second or third watch. But when it is currently touring the film festival circuit, viewers better come prepared with a ticket to another screening.

Although this movie is beautiful to behold with its colourful geometry and wonderful acting by Danny Houston playing a tired studio executive, the complexity of the narrative is psychotic at best. When this movie is loosely based off the book, The Futurological Congress by Stanisław Lem, not every detail was translated into the film.

Fortunately, a proper North American theatrical and VOD release is being planned for 2014 by Drafthouse Films. Let’s hope a video release, along with a director’s commentary, will be quickly forthcoming.

3½ Stars out of 5

Looking at Belfast’s Punk Scene in Good Vibrations

The title “Good Vibrations” can be deceptive unless a plot summary is next to it. Some people will think that this movie is about the Beach Boys and it is very far from that. Instead, this film looks at the emerging punk rock movement in country rocked embroiled in a civil war. This film is a fictionalized account of Terri Hooley’s life (Richard Dormer), a free-age thinker, who just wants to life to be gentler, if not kinder between him and the world.

As he grew up, he came to accept that the unrest would brew into something more. The boiling point reached critical in Belfast, Ireland in the late 70’s / early 80’s. Curiously, he decides to set up a music shop right in the middle of where the conflict is happening. He has it in his mind that music, in any form — from country to Mozart — can help bring everyone together. Musician Joe Strummer of The Clash best summarized all that went on in Northern Ireland. He wrote, “When punk rock ruled over Ulster, nobody ever had more excitement and fun. Between the bombings and shootings, the religious hatred and the settling of old scores, punk gave everybody a chance to LIVE for one glorious burning moment,” and that sentiment is perfectly reflected in this film by directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn.

Dormer is excellent in that role of that everyday person just wanting a better life. He’s married and has a child to care for, but there’s conflict in him. Does he leave with his family or can he do more and extend it to the bands and mates that he becomes a record label manager for?

The music that Hooley discovers from them is a miracle, and the visual religious allegories made in this film certainly have to be noted. The cinematography is solid and it helps raise this film to a level that must be seen. Despite the dark themes that underscore the film, there’s a happy tone to be found in the music. When part of the soundtrack includes tunes from Rudi, The Undertones, The Shangri-Las and The Outcasts (to name a few), this movie is like a discography of everything Good Vibrations released when it was its own record label.

The music used throughout the film only epitomizes what this film’s general message is about: Live for the moment – understand the life. If you can’t escape the harsh reality, it’s okay to say F*ck you!

Although everything is presented from Hooley’s perspective, his exuberance is infectious. Dormer’s performance shows an innocence that becomes more assertive by the end, and viewers really want to root for him, and wish he will achieve his goal. Ultimately, Good Vibrations is a feel good movie that says, it’s all right to be you and vent, no matter how much of the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

The Documentary Cyber-Seniors gets a Sneak Preview in Victoria, BC!

In the documentary Cyber-Seniors, computer technology does not have to be frightening for a generation who grew up listening to the radio. Oh how the times have changed! From the Silent Generation to the Baby Boomers, not all of them have embraced the digital age, where instant communication is done with the push of a button. Not all of them even know how to turn on a computer.

Advancements in technology to improve communication can be intimidating and the older generation can have problems understanding it. Macaulee and Kascha Cassaday taught their grandparents how to use a computer in order to communicate with them, and their success at home became a project that anyone can download a manual for and start-up in their own town. Filmmaker Saffron Cassaday saw what her sisters were doing and knew it can grow into something big. She began to document what her sisters have done and what she produced is a wonderful look how the lives of an elderly generation have transformed. Viewers cannot help but smile.

The seniors become even more active since they no longer feel confined to their retirement homes or feel isolated. They get love from both the youths who mentor them and from the sons, daughters or grandchildren they once could not connect with. Either they live so far away or travel back and forth is an issue in cold months. When it comes to playing videogames, each of them found the simplest of games thrilling. From Angry Birds to Minecraft, even though they may not play it regularly, at least a Youtube video can be made from it. For another senior, Scrabble on Facebook was here best way to keep her mind active and talk to her family at the same time.
This film is definitely a feel good movie that triumphs in educating the public. This film not only succeeds at showing that there is a cyber-movement afoot but also closes a generation gap. There are enjoyable moments of light-hearted humour. To see young Henri Pelletier express interest in a granddaughter is not without some laughs. This documentary is very humanitarian and more of this type of film should get made.
4½ Stars out of 5

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