Spirit Awards Review Nominee Screenings – week one

Standard

So I am a member of Film Independent and every year they do a two-week long jaunt of screenings of all the Spirit Award Nominees. As a lover of Indie films, these two weeks are quite heavenly as not only are the screenings just a short distance from me, but let me see and open my eyes to many films that you don’t always get a media screening invite for. It gave me personally an extra benefit this year as I was quite ill, especially these past few months and missed quite a few of screenings I did have. So onward with brief thoughts and grades on everything I’ve seen so far. Mind you, I did miss some of these even, as not only do they do a whole block of them on weekends as in four in a row – I had a medical time-out for most of the week. Luckily, many of the films are luckily on Netflix, Prime or Hulu – and as voters are also provided with links to watch all of nominated films. But truthfully, watching films on a laptop just seriously isn’t how they are meant to be viewed now is it. So with that in mind – here we go. (following in the format of the Film Independent Screening Awards schedule)

Day One:
“SORRY TO BOTHER YOU” Dir: Boots Riley

I was really loving the first part of this film as it was satire sharp, imaginative and funny. But not only does it run too long, but that bizarro left turn it takes in the last third of the movie will surely leave most as bewildered as I was.
Grade: C-

Day Two:
“SHIRKERS” Dir: Sandi Tan

This was a great little women-driven documentary that takes on a journey of a lost film, a strange relationship that made that happen, and all the friends along the way. But maybe it’s the oddness of all of it put together that works so well.
Grade: B

“LEAVE NO TRACE” by Debra Granik

If you asked me if I thought I would enjoy a film about a man (Ben Foster) and his 13-yr. old daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) who have been living off the grid in an urban park of all places, and what happens when they make a single mistake and get caught, well I would’ve have probably laughed a bit and given you a ‘NO’ in response. As it was, I loved this film. It was taunt with drama, and the age old question of what is right or perceived as so, and what is wrong, again, perceived as so.
Grade: A

“HEREDITARY” by Ari Astor

While the film wasn’t scary per se for me, nor a particularly good horror film by any stretch, it did stitch itself together enough to follow along and be entertaining mostly because Toni Collette took it there. I had forgotten about Gabriel Byrne somewhat over the years, but his supporting role along with Ann Dowd, Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff topping off with good performances of their own, helped bring this film up a notch to be sure.
Grade: C

“ROMA” Dir: Alfonso Cuarón

A completely different take on the trials and tribulations in the life of a maid in to a rather dis-functional wealthy family in 1970’s Mexico City. While Yalitza Aparicio is a breath of fresh air to be sure, along with Marina de Tavira and well, truly the whole cast, I do think it’s a bit over-hyped in the ‘how good it is’ department. Mind you it IS good and I will leave it at that.
Grade: B

Day Three:

“PRIVATE LIFE” Dir: Tamara Jenkins

Both Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti give a completely believable ordeal of what one couple goes through to have a child – including numerous fertility ordeals, tests, fake surrogates, family surrogates, money and most of all their own lives and relationships, in a series of choices that can only make one cringe at times as to what some will choose to endure.
Grade: C-

“THE FAVOURITE” Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos

Let me just shout about how much and how long I’ve loved Olivia Colman. I always felt she was under-utilized so much or not given enough credit for her work. Here, she finally gets her lead role that will no doubt finally change all that and bring her an award. Alongside Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone as her supporting, they do a commendable job of making this odd story come to life. While I didn’t love the film overall, the performances were so strong. Even Nicholas Hoult dons the old British wig and make-up to do a fun spin here as the strangest of cads. All said and done, just give Olivia her due already and be done with it.
Grade: C+

Day Four

“MADELINE’S MADELINE” Dir: Josephine Decker

I tried very hard to find a redeeming quality of this film and I just really didn’t find one. It was all over the place with nonsensical scenes cutting back and forth to add up nothing of what makes a film flow from scene to scene. It completely lacked any sense as you didn’t know if Molly Parker’s character was wanting Madeline (Helena Howard) to be crazy or making her crazy. All in all, it just lacked any and all of the Drama/Mystery/Thriller it is categorized as.
Grade: D-

“MINDING THE GAP” Dir: Bing Liu

As we know not all documentaries are going to be a pleasant, happy experience. This one however, made me feel as though I was watching a long drawn out episode of Teen Mom. And while I’ve never actually watched that show, I’m going to guess if you add in their boyfriends and skateboards, you’ve got it down pat. Enough said.
Grade: D-

“FIRST REFORMED” Dir: Paul Schrader

Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried both give good performances here and once again, without that this would be a truly hard film to sit through in it’s entirety. I just wish the movie didn’t drag so much for so long in many different parts. It’s seems as it’s trying to be a social commentary on despair, climate change, torment and tragedy all wrapped up in a bow that you see the ending coming right at you by the 30th minute leaving nothing to chance.
Grade: C

Day Five:

“If Beale Street Could Talk” Dir: Barry Jenkins

While I wasn’t Moonlight’s biggest fan, I did find Beale Street to be a far better film to be sure. I still didn’t love it as it left a lot of questions unanswered for me that I wanted to know and made it feel incomplete to me. While Kiki Lane and Stephan James are the leads, for me it was all about Regina King and Michael Beach (who is all of a sudden in so many projects and I love this fact) who really brought home the acting. And while so much of this hit hard, there was just still too much I wanted to know more about.
Grade: C+

And that’s all I’ve seen at this point – but I’ve still this weeks schedule and to make up some of last week’s also. So please come back as I will hopefully be posting more often again.

@pegsatthemovies

REVIEW: “HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS” (2014) ~ Relativity Media

Standard
hector 1

Fun little Pegg on a Stick given to us at theatre screening.. aka it’s a fan!

Was it just last year we were treated to “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” in which we saw Ben Stiller undertake a romp around the world voyage to understand the meaning of life? Yes it was..it seems every year we get at least one of these movies..some better than others.. This time out it’s Simon Pegg’s turn to try getting in touch with his happy-self side in “Hector and the Search for Happiness”

hector clara
Based on French psychiatrist François Lelord’s best-selling novel of the same name, Pegg plays “Hector” our dissatisfied protagonist of the movie, who is a seemly stuck in the rut of a never and I mean NEVER, changing everyday life with his live~in girlfriend “Clara” (Rosamund Pike) who literally does everything for him. He seems to like it this way and really doesn’t want it to change so he says. You hear stories about people like this, a wounded bird of sorts who can’t do anything for themselves. Hector though, is a psychiatrist who realizes his methods are not helping his quirky patients in the least, and so embarks on a trip around the world in a bid to discover the secret of happiness to be able to help his patients also find this hidden gem of life.

hector                    Among the destinations Hector jaunts too are Shanghai, where he meets “Ying Li” (Ming Zhao) with whom he almost cheats on Clara with, but as he spent the only night he had with her sleeping, it didn’t happen and he finds out her time isn’t exactly free. Onward to the Himalayas & meeting up with monks, then onto Africa to meet up with an old friend “Michael” (Barry Atsma) and in a so not even semi-plausible sequence, meets up with a big time dealer “Diego Baresco” (Jean Reno) who also saves his life when he is captured by the rebels..yes you read that correctly..captured by rebels I mean..ZZZZzzzzzzz.. it is possibly one of the most ridiculous, completely unbelievable sequence of events I’ve ever seen in a movie this year.

Director Peter Chelsom does well to capture the essence & energy of the various locales ~ noting here that the filming of some of these places is really beautiful and if nothing else the aesthetics in movie are mostly impressive, all the more so when you consider the films tight budget. As for the film’s relatable messages, well I guess the bulk of them could pretend to hit home, though the heavy-handed manner in which they are  executed leaves much to be desired. Sadly, it’s not the only problem in the unfocused  screenplay. This is exemplified in the final act; Hector’s (TADA!!) ~ ultimate realization is extremely sudden and feels like it comes out of nowhere. To paraphrase Clara, Hector’s girlfriend, “you have to build to it”.Pike makes good use of her screen time but she is severely underused throughout the film and you wonder why she is sticking around waiting while never really getting anything. from it.

hector stellan

Pegg is known more for his comedy chops than his dramatic acting, but here the focus is on the latter. Though the actor proves up to the task in the emotional moments and does his best to give Hector some likability, as written our protagonist is too immature and self-indulgent to inspire much empathy. A supporting cast that includes Stellan SkarsgMǻrd as “Edward” the suave & sophisticated business man who takes Hector out for the whirlwind evening in Shanghai, the wonderful Christopher Plummer as “Professor Coreman”  and Toni Collette once again playing an American role as Hector’s long unrequited love from days gone past, “Agnes” are always going to class up a mediocre film and they are enjoyable enough in their roles, but there is really little cohesiveness on what their characters musings on happiness really are.

hector-and-the-search-for-happiness-movie-photo-5

The screenplay really isn’t as profound as it thinks it is or tries to be and disappoints more than impresses but in an odd way it’s got a sweetness about it that I normally don’t fall for in a movie but maybe it’s because I think I liked a bit of the message it does tell or the fact that I’m a big believer in traveling as much as your life allows you too and experiencing life through other peoples eyes and cultures.  I didn’t hate this movie completely, though none of it is as particularly funny as I thought or hoped it would be, or even touching for that matter in it’s message. Those pursuing true happiness need not apply, but those content with mild entertainment will probably be satisfied.

Grade: D+  (below average- not really worth time or money)

#peggyatthemovies