Author: Katie O'Connor

Review: Hooligan Sparrow

Hooligan Sparrow begins with director, Nanfu Wang being confronted by a group of men who notice her camera. We then are introduced to seeing how she will be hiding her recording equipment underneath her clothing. This begins her journey of observing the life of Ye Haiyan, a.k.a Hooligan Sparrow. Sparrow is a women’s rights and human rights activist in China. The film introduces past forms of her activism using transgressive acts to bring forth pertinent issues in the socio-politial structure of China. At one point in her career of activism, she was offering free sex to migrant workers to bring attention to the working conditions of sex workers. The film is fueled by numerous scandals of government officials and police sexually assaulting young girls. This ignites Sparrow’s protest to bring swift punishment upon the perpetrators. This perfectly translates to the grand injstuce of goverment officials getting away with assaulting young girls by claiming they were prostitutes. Through this battle for rights and equality, Sparrow does not back down from the dangers and difficulty of defending the importance of artistic and journalistic freedom. Throughout the film, the audience is witness to the multiple attempts police and government officials take to “silence” Sparrow. Wang captures many of these uncomfortable incidents of intimidation tactics Sparrow faces in response to her acts of protest. This is illustrated through unflinching and raw footage through the...

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Review: Lord Jones is Dead

Lord Jones is Dead begins with two rival journalists, Samuel (Chad Krawchuck, Man of Steel) and Vincent (Daniel Janks, Ali) waiting outside the house for a young woman who is believed to be having an affair with a government minister. Joining them is photographer Clive (Jonathan Pienaar, Blood Diamond), there to get a picture of the girl. The three wait outside what they believe is the right house while often asking, “Is that her?” While on a dead-end and pointless assignment the trio kill time by critiquing the profession of journalism, smoking, reading the news and mulling over sexual relationships and news room crushes. The producers are presenting the film in conjunction with Canadian Journalists for Free Expression a Toronto-based non-profit dedicated to protecting the right of free expression. Based on the stage production of the same name by Matthew Clayfield, Lord Jones is Dead is a Canadian/South African film, with the story is set in the highly competitive news market of Johannesburg. It’s so competitive that Samuel explains how his editors told him, “Come back to the office with a story or don’t come back at all.” Throughout the film, audiences are introduced to the complex networks of the profession of journalism. This includes, the rise and redundancy of online news, the diminishing world of print media, along with the importance and struggle of uncovering truth and objectivity of a news item. It is...

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Review: The Secret Life of Pets

The Secret Life of Pets begins with Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) a spoiled terrier living in New York City with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper). Max loves his “only-child” life with Katie until one day she brings home a giant, hairy bear of a dog, Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Max and Duke do not get along when they first meet, in fact their relationship feels a little like a new inmate arriving at a maximum security prison. While on a walk with a dog walker who just wants to flirt with the girl in the park, the dogs get loose and are separated from the pack. As pampered dogs, they roam the streets until they are stopped by some feisty alley cats (the lead cat voiced by Steve Coogan). The cats attack them and steal their collars, as a result they have to dodge animal control. After hiding out from animal control, they meet Snowball (Kevin Hart), an adorable, fuzzy white bunny who is the leader of a massive underworld gang of former pets bent on revolting against the humans. Snakes, hamsters, frogs, a pig and others are involved in this gang located in the sewers. To attempt to join the gang, Max and Duke tell the animals they hate humans too and want to be part of the fight against humans when in reality, all they want to do is...

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Review: Weiner

Weiner begins by tracing New York congressman, Anthony D. Weiner as an energetic and passionate fighter for overlooked areas and policies in Congress. Weiner had a strong and fearless persona and great reputation, getting elected for seven terms, as well as being married to Hilary Clinton’s political aide, Huma Abedin. In 2011, his reputation and trust were shattered when sexually explicit pictures of him were leaked through his twitter account. This caused a national uproar where he was told he’s better off resigning. He also became the butt of every late night talk show and fake news shows. The film follows Weiner after his scandal in 2013 when he decides to run for mayor of New York. Many citizens sided with him and forgave him, but others wondered if he could be trusted again. Only weeks before the mayoral election, more pictures are leaked and more women he was involved with come forward. The film is very respectful in capturing how this impacted his marriage with Abedin. She believed in her husband even though he betrayed her. When the second bout of leaks surface she begins to second guess her campaign role, her support for him and their marriage. His staffers also begin to lose faith and voters turn against him. Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg deliver one of the most intriguing and honest political documentaries. This is a tough story to translate...

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Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople follows Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), a tough urban kid who is ordered by child services to move to a foster family in the countryside. He is taken to the shack of his new Aunt Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Uncle Hec (Sam Neill, Jurassic Park). Ricky is reluctant at first to stay with them and takes to “running away” at night. While he is cold to them at first, he begins to warm up to Aunt Bella as his caregiver, even though his Uncle Hec wants nothing to do with him. Soon after he arrives to stay with them, Aunt Bella passes away and Ricky feels a great loss. His Uncle Hec is notified by child’s services that due to his Aunt’s death, Ricky is to be returned to the city where he will be sent to another family or a juvenile delinquent centre. Ricky wants neither and pleads with Hec to join him in the bush to escape officials. This results in Hec and Ricky running for several months which brings about a national manhunt. Written and directed by Taika Waititi (Boy, What We Do in the Shadows), the film is wickedly funny, intelligent and endearing. Waititi fans will rejoice by the “quintessential-Taika” nature of this film. Waititi himself makes an incredibly hilarious cameo appearance as a church minister. The film’s offbeat humour and a solid cast of characters makes...

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Inside Out 2016 Review: Last Men Standing

Last Men Standing is a film that looks at the lives of eight men living HIV positive. These men were a part of the sexual revolution in San Francisco in the 1970s. The gay community flourished during this time in this particular locale, filled with love, friendship and a freedom of sexual expression. This gay culture these men had become so intimately apart of was destroyed by the AIDS epidemic which during this time plagued gay communities and the general population. The film takes a candid and remarkable look at these men who have lost friends and lovers to AIDS, while at the same time living with HIV themselves. It’s surprising when the film reveals that more than half of the American population living with AIDS are over the age of 50. The men we meet in the film never expected to live as long as they have. So many along the way have told them their time will be up in a few years time, yet these men have been living with HIV for over 30 years. They face depression, experience suicidal thoughts, chronic pain and loneliness. Financial distress is also a major contributing factor to their feelings of being misplaced. Their financial difficulties are forcing them to move away from the exceedingly expensive San Francisco to more remote and less expensive locations. Last Men Standing reminds us these men view living with...

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Review: À La Vie

À La Vie (To Life) is the story of three women who survived the holocaust and have not seen each other since the war. In 1960, they find each other and reunite in Berck-Plague. Hélène (Julie Depardieu, daughter of Gérard Depardieu), Rose (Suzanne Clément, Mommy), and Lili (Johanna ter Steege) dine together, they have their first ice cream together and go for their first swim. Their time together is not taken up reflecting on their experiences in the camps but coming together through love and friendship. À La Vie was originally released as a French drama in 2014. Director and co-writer, Jean Jacques-Zilberman, was inspired by his own mother’s experience in meeting two women while in the camps and forming life long friendships with these women. The film begins with Hélène and Lili during their time in the camps in 1945. The next moment, which may lead to some confusion among audiences, Hélène is in Paris. We are not given any information of how she made it there and why. While in Paris, Hélène returns to her family’s apartment and is relieved to find it has remained safe and untouched after several years since they were taken away. Hélène desires to return to her normal life upon her return to Paris. She begins to attempt to find her friend Lili, placing a classified ad for her for years in a Yiddish newspaper. Hélène finds love along the way...

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