Author: Sean Kelly

Review: Sing

Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) is a theatre-loving koala, who is desperate for a hit show. As a last resort, Moon decides to hold a singing competition at the theatre. When the prize money is accidentally listed as $100,000 (instead of merely $1000), it attracts a horde of wannabe singers, including pig housewife Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), who is teamed up with the flamboyant Gunter (Nick Kroll), rocker porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson), criminal gorilla Johnny (Taron Egerton), crooning mouse Mike (Seth MacFarlane), and shy elephant Meena (Tori Kelly). All the participants of the singing competition have to overcome their personal challenges, in order for the show to become a hit. Sing is the latest animated film from Universal Studios and Illumination Entertainment, best known for Despicable Me. This film is a jukebox musical, taking its cues from singing competitions like American Idol, as well as the television series Glee. The film features dozens of well-known songs, ranging from Frank Sinatra classics to modern pop hits. In fact, one of the most entertaining scenes in the film is the audition montage, featuring hilarious renditions of songs like “Bad Romance,” “Kiss from a Rose,” and “Safety Dance.” Eventually, the competition is pared down to the core contestants, who rehearse for the big show, all while Buster Moon tries to find money to prevent the bank from closing the theatre before the show. Sing almost doesn’t need to...

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Review: The Last Laugh

Is it appropriate to make jokes about the Holocaust? That is the question asked to comedians, such as Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, and Gilbert Gottfried, all of whom debate the use of this taboo topic, with some refusing to tackle the subject, while others believe that joking about the holocaust keeps its memory alive. Many of the jokes about the holocaust are seen by 90-year-old Auschwitz survivor Renee Firestone, who gives her own opinions about the use of humour in relation to this tragic event. The Last Laugh is a film that examines whether the Holocaust is a taboo subject for comedians to use. While on the surface this question may have an easy answer, it turns out that this debate is much more complicated, with the comics having many different opinions. The Last Laugh does a good job of tackling both sides of the debate, while also taking the time to get the opinions of actual holocaust survivor Renee Firestone. The issues addressed in The Last Laugh include Mel Brooks’ lampooning of Nazi’s in The Producers, while refusing to tackle the Holocaust itself, and the extremely differing opinions of Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, which is compared to the unreleased Jerry Lewis film The Day the Clown Cried. One of the biggest messages of this film is that comics are the conscience of the people, who should be allowed to see the humour in a tragic...

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Fifteen Years of Donnie Darko: The Birth of a Modern Cult Classic

How does one decide that a film has become a cult classic? While there are some who may consider “cult film” to be a genre of sorts, it is usually a designation that is added long after the film’s original release. It’s probably safe to say that when the decision was made to bring Richard O’Brien’s 1973 West End stage musical The Rocky Horror Show to the big screen, that the filmmakers wouldn’t have expected that The Rocky Horror Picture Show would still be having monthly midnight screenings four decades later. While there have been attempts over the years to manufacture a cult following for a film, such as the brief period when Repo! The Genetic Opera attempted to mimic Rocky Horror‘s monthly screening format, a true cult classic is created by an organically developed fan base That is where Richard Kelly’s 2001 debut film Donnie Darko comes in. After making its premiere at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, the release of Donnie Darko was seriously affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, thanks in no small part to a plot point involving a plane engine crashing into the titular character’s bedroom. Donnie Darko‘s theatrical release date was October 26, 2001, however the release was heavily limited to a few dozen screens in the Los Angeles area. Those who saw Donnie Darko reaped immense praise onto the film, although the film seemed destined to die a slow death. However, Donnie Darko...

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Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

As a kid, Jake (Asa Butterfield) was told stories by his grandfather Abraham (Terence Stamp) about a fantastical children’s home run by Miss Alma LeFay Perigrine (Eva Green), though Jake stopped believing the stories as he got older. One evening, Abraham is attacked by a strange creature and before dying instructs Jake to travel to the island in Wales where Miss Perigrine’s home resides. It turns out that Miss Perigrine and her “peculiar” children, including lighter than air Emma (Ella Purnell), are hidden in a time loop in 1943, with Miss Perigrine using her abilities to manipulate time to reset the day before a bomb destroys the home. However, the children’s existence is threatened by rogue peculiars known as Wights, led by Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), as well as the invisible and monstrous Hollowgasts. It has been more than three decades since 1985’s Pee Wee’s Big Adventure introduced the world to the fantastical imagination of director Tim Burton. However, some would argue that Burton’s output has grown stale in recent years, with the critically lambasted Dark Shadows in 2012 marking a low point in his career, though some of the more cynical would probably say that Burton hasn’t made a decent film since 1994’s Ed Wood. After scaling back with the relatively non-fantastical biopic Big Eyes in 2014, Tim Burton returns to the genre he is most known for with this adaptation of the 2011 young adult novel by Ransom Riggs. The...

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TIFF 2016 Review: Short Cuts Programme 7

The film selection of Short Cuts Programme 7 covers themes ranging from the loss of land to the effect technology has on our lives, along with love, loss, and general relationships. Half of the films in this programme are by Canadian filmmakers, with there also being films from the USA, UK, Sweden, and Israel. Gods Acre – 15 Minutes Despite the climate change induced rising water levels, Frank refuses to leave his family’s ancestral Cree lands. Gods Acre is a very sombre short film about Frank going about his business on his land, even though there is a growing flood that is getting closer to his cabin. The only thing that keeps Gods Acre from being a truly excellent film is a scene featuring two Mounties, in full regalia, confronting Frank with an order to evacuate. Showing fully uniformed RCMP officers is playing up to a Canadian stereotype, which causes an otherwise serious film to briefly drop down into satire, even if the scene is meant to comment on the general relationship between the Canadian government and indigenous people. Despite all that, Gods Acre is still a profound film. TMG_103 (rough cut) – 5 Minutes Presented as behind-the-scenes footage on a film set, an actress is pressured by her director to perform a fully nude sex scene. TMG_103 (rough cut) does a lot in its five minute running time to expose the inherent sexism in the film...

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TIFF 2016 Review: Short Cuts Programme 5

A theme that seems to prevalent in the films of Short Cuts Programme 5 is in how each of these short films seem to feature a protagonist who is either an outcast or going through some sort of personal dilemma. This selection is also incredibly diverse, featuring selections from Canada, Aremina, Lebanon, and Tanzania. However, the shorts all feature some similar issues, which will be discussed further as each film is looked at individually. BLACK HEAD COW – 12 Minutes Naserian is a bright child in a Maasai village, who is suddenly confronted with an arranged marriage she is expected to participate in. BLACK HEAD COW is written and produced by the students of the Orkeeswa School in Tanzania. The film deals with the dilemma involving the conflict between the desire for education with the cultural traditions of this village, with Naserian being expected to marry and older man, even though she wants to continue with her studies, which she is excelling in. It’s a shame that the film doesn’t really go too deep into this dilemma, with the film essentially ending on an ultimatum. Mutants – 16 Minutes On the first day of the baseball season, an accident leaves Keven with a hideous black eye. However, his paraplegic coach takes Keven under his wing and through the coach’s guidance comes of age through sex, sports, and scandal. Mutants would probably be a bit better as a...

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Review: The Light Between Oceans

Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) is a shell shocked First World War veteran, who accepts a job as a lighthouse keeper on the island of Janus, just off the coast of Western Australia. After months of living isolated on the island, Tom falls in love with and marries Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of friends on the mainland, and the two prepare for life together on Janus. One day a rowboat washes to shore, containing the corpse of a man and an infant girl. Suffering from grief after a series of miscarriages, Isabel begs Tom not to report the baby, which they can just raise as their own. However, Tom begins to feel some major regret over this decision when he finds out about the baby’s grieving biological mother Hannah Roennfeldt (Rachel Weisz). The Light Between Oceans is a romantic drama based on the 2012 novel of the same name by M.L. Stedman. Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines) writes and directs this adaption, featuring the stacked cast of Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, and Rachel Weisz. However, despite the talents both in front of and behind the camera, The Light Between Oceans can’t escape the trappings of similar weepy melodramas. At least half of The Light Between Oceans is spent solely on Tom and Isabel’s life on the island, with there being many silent montages, accompanied by the melancholy score by Alexandre Desplat. The film is...

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