Category Archives: Hated it

Photon, Director – Norman Leto

I was hooked by the description of this film:

Prepare yourself for a sensory overload of epic proportions.

Nothing less than the history of the universe, the formation of the stars and planets,

the origins of matter, and the daunting post-human future that lies ahead

are explored in this mind-bending experience.

All lies. This was far and away the worst film of the week and sadly my last film on the last day which left a bad taste in my eyes. The opening of the film takes us through an animated look at the origins of the universe and right through to the appearance of life. After that however the film just collapses in boring animation, themes and incredibly bad interviews with an academic who appears to also be totally bored by the questions he is asked and becomes almost hostile to his interviewer. There is a voice over narrator who speaks in monotone and is incredibly irritating. Have I done enough to put you off this one? As I left the film I muttered irritably that if I ever meet the narrator I would have to kill him. A couple of other patrons leaving with me turned and smiled agreement. Avoid this movie.

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World – Director, Werner Herzog

First a confession. I really don’t like Werner Herzog who I believe to be one of the most over-rated film makers of all time. The only film of his I think I ever liked was Encounters at the End of World about the people who live and work at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Other than that… nothing. Pretentious documentaries and boring meandering dramas. How he gets the attention he does is beyond me. Okay enough said. I gave him one more chance with this film because I was sold on the topic: a study of how the Internet has invaded our lives for good and bad. I was hugely disappointed. The film is trivial in the max. Nothing in the film is new or even insightful. It is one boring scene after the other and if you have lived in a cave until you saw the film you might learn something but otherwise be prepared to be unsurprised. The shallowness of the film is augmented of course by Herzog’s belief in most if not all of his documentaries that he must be the narrator. The script is silly and his voice condescending and irritating. Avoid this film at all costs.

Room – Director, Lenny Abrahamson

I really did not like this movie despite its 96 percent rating on RottenTomatoes. It is boring, unbelievable and pointless. It is winning because the kid is so damn cute but if not for that I think this film would disappear into oblivion which I suspect it will after February 28th passes. I am clearly way off the popular consensus. This starts with a woman who is a prisoner in a room with her young son. They have access to food and basic comforts but she is visited by her captor and is clearly a sexual slave to him. She has been there for seven years and the son is only 4 or 5 and is clearly the son of her and her captor. The focus of the film is that her son has no concept of the outside world except through the small television they have. The whole scenario seemed unbelievable to me. They behave as would any mother and son in a normal situation which I could not believe. The boy has concepts that he would never have if brought up in this situation. I don’t know if this is based on a real case or not or on research about people in similar circumstances but I just couldn’t believe the scenario at all. They escape in yet another unbelievable plot involving the son feigning death. Once they get out the story shifts to introducing the boy to the world he has never known. It is totally wrapped around the relationship between mother and son but it is just pointless unless you identify with the cute little boy. Sorry but this movie really is not very interesting at all. Just my opinion however. Enjoy… if you like that kind of thing.

The Revenant – Director, ALEJANDRO GONZÁLEZ IÑÁRRITU

This film has garnered 12 Oscar nominations including all the big ones except for the screenplay. It deserves maybe two of them. Di Caprio does not deserve a Best Actor award for one of his most forgettable performances ever. There is no real acting just a lot of grimacing and staring into the distance. On the other hand, Tom Hardy, who is one of my favourite actors, deserves a nomination for his role as the villain. He really does act and his scenes are among the best in the whole movie. He gets no recognition for some reason for some simply awesome character acting including Legend and The Drop to name but two. This is a great performance and deserves recognition but its not enough to save this disaster. The other nomination it deserves is for cinematography which is stunning but OMG… it just goes on and on. This is a very bad movie with the exceptions noted. It runs over 2 ½ hours and could easily be an hour shorter with no loss at all. I fell asleep briefly in one part and only stuck it out to the end to see how they were going to finish it. The story is of a scout who is leading a group of fur trappers back to what counted as civilization in the early American Northwest. They are attacked by native Americans who kill many of them and the survivors struggle on. Di Caprio’s character – the scout – is attacked by a bear and just survives but he is too badly injured to continue. His companions try to take him along but have to give up assuming he will die and they abandon him leaving one of their number to stay with him until he dies and then bury him. Di Caprio’s son also stays back. Needless to say the caregiver fails in his mission and abandons di Caprio assuming he will die and murders his son in the process. He heads back to join the others. He has miscalculated and of course di Caprio survives and comes back for revenge. The journey is long and grueling and actually totally unbelievable. The flintlock guns they use are deadly accurate (which is totally impossible) even over distances of hundreds of yards. The falls, cold and so forth di Caprio survives despite his grievous injuries are literally impossible to survive and it all becomes almost funny. The character played by di Caprio is totally unlikeable and his connections to the local native Americans are poorly drawn and not made a significant part of the story. For the last hour I must have looked at my watch every 10 minutes praying for the end to come. To be perfectly honest the only times I was captivated were with Tom Hardy’s scenes but even that, at the climax of the film, was poorly written. Also I take back my comment about the cinematography. One more shot of bleak wintery forests and mountains was one too many. Two thumbs down so to speak.

Macbeth – Director, Justin Kurzel

I am fairly conflicted about this movie which stars Michael Fassbender (who I like usually). I am not sure Kurzel has the credentials to take on something like this given his past record which is unusual and open to mixed reviews from very positive to very negative. I think Macbeth is one of the greatest plays ever written and Kurzel messes with perfection to his detriment I fear. While the cinematography is great as is the setting on the Isle of Skye, the film is really incoherent. If you did not know the play you would be totally lost. The dialogue has been butchered in the adaptation and the actors mumble and seem not to entirely understand what they are saying. On the other hand, it is very very violent which may be a good feature in the minds of some. So… amazing to look at but not Shakespeare and if you were expecting Shakespeare you would be terribly disappointed. If you expected a coherent story you might be disappointed too. Still there was something that was horribly attractive about the film. I would caution viewers who liked Fassbinder in previous outings to attend.

Into the Forest – Director – Patricia Rozema

This is officially the worst movie I have seen so far at TIFF. I was intrigued by the theme about two sisters in an isolated house in the US northwest when all the electrical power goes out for good all over the world. How will they survive? Some will remember back in 2003 when the entire northeast of the continent lost power for three days. It was survivable but a wee bit scary when you realize how dependent we are on electricity and how fragile it really is. This movie promised to help us understand that but it fails on many levels. I was not overly impressed with the script which was written by the director. The story fails to make any sense on so many levels as to be unbelievable and basically it was really boring. To go back to the Hitchcock film – there was really no suspense. The events were so predictable there was literally no tension in what should have been a very scary or at least anxiety provoking movie.

I think the director was trying to explore how a crisis like this might affect the relationship between two people particularly family members who are caught in a trap from which they really have no way out. The problem is that this scenario was not believable. The film is not science fiction or apocalyptic particularly so it was just too artificial and in the end overly melodramatic. It was also way way too long. We got the point about 30 or 45 minutes in and the rest was denouement. Oh yeah a story generally has a climax and then a denouement but this film has no climax because it really never goes anywhere.

I was also irritated by the fact that no explanation of the power outage was ever given or any sense that the country was at least adapting in some way to the crisis. The result was really a plot and story that was totally unengaging. I should tell you that this movie is well liked by many and has a high rating on IMDb for some reason yet to be made clear to me. So if you like the actors and like the director by all means go but don’t say you weren’t warned.

Pasolini – Abel Ferrara, Director

I was looking forward to this movie since I really like Willem Dafoe who plays Pasolini. In the end I was super grateful this movie is only 87 minutes long and that seemed long to me. It is very confusing, conducted in English, Italian with subtitles and Italian without subtitles and really gave very little insight to Pasolini or much else. I guess I should have been wary when the director was described as incendiary. I think if anyone uses a random word like this to describe a director then you should avoid the film at all costs. Other warning words are “challenging” “innovative” or “unique”. These generally mean ” really awful” in the opinion of this reviewer at least. Avoid this film.

http://www.tiff.net/festivals/thefestival/programmes/specialpresentations/pasolini

Hector and the Search for Happiness – Peter Chelsom, Director

I had high hopes for this movie. Simon Pegg is one of a group of British comic actors who did films like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End. He also was the perfect Scottie in the Star Trek reboot but here he is trivial and trite. The film follows a psychiatrist who goes off on a round the world quest to find himself and the meaning of happiness. All we get are a bunch of clichés like “Happiness is being loved for who you really are.” Or “Nostalgia is not what it used to be”. It was stupendously disappointing. Now I caution that some may like this film and you really have to like Simon Pegg (and I do) but if you don’t want to be disappointed as I was in the star. I could not find the words until I found this review that says it all.

“Looking to run fortune cookie writers and the post card industry out of business in one fell swoop, Peter Chelsom’s Hector and the Search for Happiness is not a film meant for cynics. With its pithy musings on what it means to be content, and slideshow approach to giving those musings an air of worldly wisdom, it asks the viewer to suspend not just disbelief, but emotional continence. If you’re capable of that, it will no doubt prove a wildly exciting and uplifting story of self-discovery. Keep even a shred of your self-awareness about you, and the empty enlightenment Hector and the Search for Happiness is offering becomes as grating as it is pat.”

http://www.tiff.net/festivals/thefestival/programmes/specialpresentations/hector-and-the-search-for-happiness


Antiviral – Canada – Brandon Cronenberg

Yes you are reading that right. This is a film by David’s little boy Brandon (well he is 32 but…) and it shows. I am going to go a bit cranky with this. I had heard about it being shown at Cannes along with Dad’s newest film Cosmopolis. So I was curious. People have been very polite about this movie I think so as not to offend David and it is clear that Dad pulled lots of strings to get Brandon some attention like getting into Cannes, hiring Malcolm McDowell to do a cameo role and so forth. The film harkens back to the early Cronenberg films like Shivers and Scanners but to my mind it is more like an amateurish version of those early films. This is a bad movie and I am particularly upset that it left such a bad taste in my mouth after seeing Great Expectations that morning.

The premise of the film is that celebrity worship has gone to the point where people are actually marketing the viral infections of celebrities and injecting them into fans so they can experience their favourite stars’ illnesses. Of course it all goes horribly wrong. At the Q and A after the film the sycophantic host asked the first question: “Like, How did you ever come up with the idea for this movie?” and Brandon in sharp contrast to the wit and intelligence of Mike Newell (see Great Expectations) responded; ” Like I got the idea at film school when I was like really sick see? And like I was thinking I have this flu from some other person like? Like I am sharing it with someone or something. And then I thought well what if like we actually gave people diseases of their favourite stars? Wouldn’t that be like the ultimate fan worship?” So this trivial thought was turned into a two hour ordeal.

I am paraphrasing this dialogue a bit but I should note that the average age of the 1500 at Great Expectations was maybe 50 and the average age at Antiviral was more like 30. In line waiting to get in I was just in front of four or five young film makers who were talking about their like script and like how they really wanted to get this guy to come to their party that night so they could like impress their producer right? It was driving me like mad right? When I got into the theatre however I was sitting beside a elderly gentleman, yes older even than me, and we chatted about the festival and the films we had seen and as the room went dark and the movie started, he fell fast asleep. Believe me, he had the right response to this loser film.

Antiviral

Werner Herzog and Into the Abyss – September 8

I attended my first film of the Festival last night and… well I left early. I left Werner’s last documentary last year Cave of Forgotten Dreams (see last year’s reviews)as well. I clearly have a love/hate relationship with this guy. I loved The Bad Lieutenant and Encounters at the End of the World but I really disliked this movie, the Cave and My Son, My Son, What have you done? The last two were at TIFF last year along with the Bad Lieutenant. Not sure what it is but I may not be able to stay away from his next film just in case it’s good.

Meanwhile last night we saw the premiere of his newest film at the Ryerson Theatre which is huge and was jammed with Herzogies. The man was there and got a standing ovation even before the film screened. The movie is a documentary about two men who commit three brutal murders just to steal a car for a joy ride. One is given a 40 year sentence and the other is on death row and is interviewed just a week before he will be executed. It is all set in Texas. In theory this is about capital punishment and Herzog introduced the film by telling us he does not believe in the death sentence and that he had no real argument for his position, only that he lived in postwar Germany and grew up with the Nazi legacy over his head. He claimed the Nazi’s had no problem killing people for trivial reasons as well as practice genocide and that no one of his generation, coming out of this history, would agree with capital punishment. He does interview the executioner who has killed 125 people in his career and points out that this man who clearly has no problem with execution, also has no real argument to support his position or his job other than that he does it.

This lack of argument or insight into one’s position echoes throughout this movie. The minister who stands with the executees, the family and friends of the murder victims, the police, the murderers themselves, no one has any insight into what they did, what happened to them or what is happening to them. The characters, who are all real, are from the more destitute and downtrodden members of Texas (American) society. I left the movie because it was clear that I would learn nothing about capital punishment or the human condition and I had this bad feeling that Werner (who conducted all the interviews) was quietly mocking the people he was talking to. The lives they lived were sad and pathetic and hopeless and Werner had the audience laughing at them and their answers. I am not sure Werner is a very nice man and this movie went a way to confirming that judgement.