Calvary

John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary starts with Irish Catholic priest Father James (Brendan Gleeson) in the confessional. A parishioner tells James that he was raped by a priest when he was a young boy, and that Father James has to put his “house in order” because he’s going to kill Father James in one week. Killing a good priest is going to harm the church much more than if he kills a bad one. Now, Father James knows who the man is, we don’t. During the week, James gets a visit from Fiona, the daughter he had before becoming a priest. James also visits some of his parishioners. They cover a multitude of sins from domestic violence to male prostitution. They have one thing in common: they hate the Catholic church. They all take turns insulting him and laughing at his attempts to save them. Among the cast is Quebec actress Marie-Josée Croze as a grieving widow, and the only person accepting James help. The film feels like an allegorical look at the state of the Catholic church today. As expected, Brendan Gleeson is excellent, as is the rest of cast. Calvary was filmed in beautiful County Sligo, Ireland. I found the film of limited interest. Not bad, but not good enough.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Calvary

 

Directed by: 
John Michael McDonagh
 
Screenplay by: 
John Michael McDonagh
 
Starring: 
Brendan Gleeson
Chris O’Dowd
Kelly Reilly
Aidan Gillen
Dylan Moran
Pat Shortt
Isaach de Bankolé
M. Emmet Walsh
Marie-Josée Croze
 
100 min.
 
Rated 14A
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Uvanga

In 2009 I saw Inuit filmmakers Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu’s beautiful film Before tomorrow. Uvanga is their new feature film. It takes place in Igloolik, Nunavut. Anna, a white women from Montréal, and her 14-year old son Tomas, arrive to visit his late father’s parents. Anna left Igloolik after she got pregnant. Tomas also meets his half-brother Travis. At first Tomas is unhappy to be there, and wonders why they came to such a remote, boring place. Not everyone is pleased by Anna’s visit. Sheba, Travis’ mom, is clearly angry that her late husband’s mistress is back. Tomas and Travis get along very well, and Tomas goes seal hunting, and skin the seal with his brother and his uncle. The boys will also find out how their dad died. Lukasi Forrest as Tomas, and Travis Kunnuk as Travis are the heart of Uvanga. Throughout the film they quietly show us the growing affection between the two brothers. No words are necessary. The beautiful Arctic landscapes are worth the price of the ticket. It is breathtaking. Uvanga is a rare look at a modern-day Inuit community.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Uvanga

 

Directed by: 
Marie-Hélène Cousineau
Madeline Piujuq Ivalu
 
Screenplay by: 
Marie-Hélène Cousineau
 
Starring: 
Marianne Fairley
Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq
Lukasi Forrest
Madeline Piujuq Ivalu
Paka Innuksuk
Carol Kunnuk
Travis Kunnuk
 
88 min.
 
Rated 14A
 
In English and Inuktitut with English subtitles

Land ho!

Land ho! is a road movie,but also a travelogue. The two main characters are older men. The film start with Mitch getting a visit from his former brother-in-law Colin. Mitch tells Colin that they are taking a trip to Iceland. The two men have contrasting personalities. Mitch is rambunctious, loud, and you could call him sexist, and Colin is a quiet soft-spoken man. Many times you can feel Colin embarrassed by his friend’s language. In Iceland they stay in nice resorts and hotels, go to fine restaurants and smoke the occasional joint. They get a visit from Ellen, Mitch’s distant younger cousin, and Janet, her travelling companion. And Mitch and Colin also get to enjoy Iceland’s beautiful landscape. Andrew Reed’s cinematography make you want to book a plane ticket and visit this beautiful country. Our two heroes are certainly enjoying themselves. Australian actor Paul Eenhoorn (Colin) and Earl Lynn Nelson play so well together, that the dialogue seems improvised… And maybe it is. This is Nelson’s third film, and he is impressive as the loudmouth Mitch. I think you’ll have a good time.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Land ho!

 

Directed by: 
Aaron Katz
Martha Stephens
 
Screenplay by: 
Aaron Katz
Martha Stephens
 
Starring: 
Paul Eenhoorn
Earl Lynn Nelson
Karrie Crouse
Elizabeth McKee
 
95 min.
 
Rated 14A

The case against 8

In June 2008, the California Supreme Court allowed same-sex couples to be married in the state. In November 2008, a ballot initiative called Proposition 8 was adopted by California voters, amending the California Constitution to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples. The case against 8 is about Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the challenge to prove that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. To that effect the newly founded American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) hired two of the best lawyers in the country. David Boies and Theodore (Ted) Olson knew each other very well. They were on opposite sides of Bush v. Gore, about the 2000 presidential election recount controversy. Conservative Ted Olson was greatly criticized by both by his conservative friends and by the gay community, but proved to be a staunch defender of marriage equality. The film is an overview of the five-year battle Boies, Olson and their team go through, from District court hearings in 2010 to the Supreme court decision in 2013. But the heart of the film belongs to the four plaintiffs. AFER chose two couples to represent the gay couples who were wronged by Proposition 8. Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier are a lesbian couple with four sons. Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo are the other plaintiffs. As they get quizzed by the lawyers and talk about the commitments they feel towards their respective partners, but also of having been denied a right granted to everyone else, of being second class citizens, they get emotional, as we do. The amazing thing about The case against 8, is that most of us were aware of the case and already knew the outcome. Yet, this documentary is exciting, full of suspense, and also works as a tear-jerker. “I love him more than myself”, Jeffrey Zarrillo tells the court about his husband Paul Katami. And love is what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

The case against 8

 

Directed by: 
Ben Cotner
Ryan White
 
112 min.
 
Rated Parental Guidance

Un été en Provence (A summer in Provence)

Rose Bosch’s Un été en Provence tells the story of teenagers Léa, Adrien and Théo, their little deaf brother. Their father has left the household, and their mother had to go in Montréal for work. They are sent to stay with their maternal grandparents on an olive farm in Provence. Mamie Irène (Anna Galiena) is welcoming and happy to see them. But grumpy Papi Paul (Jean Reno) has been estranged from the kids’ mother, and has never met his grandkids. Both Léa and Adrien are not happy to be without their friends and to find themselves in this boring country. In town, Léa meets a new beau, and Paul disapprove of course. Adrien has is eyes set on the owner of the ice cream parlor, who is an older woman. The teens think their grandparents are stuck up, until they find out that, when young, they were bikers/hippies, and are visited by their biker friends. They all sit around a camp fire, reminisce and sing some old Woodstock songs. The film is a series of clichés: about teens, about grandparents, about hippies and bikers, about Provence. There is nothing new. We’ve seen that movie so many times before. The only reason why some audience will accept and love such an ordinary, conventional film, and with a mediocre screenplay, is because it is French. You make the same film, with the same characters, and the same screenplay, but set in small town USA, with an American actor, oh let’s say Harrison Ford playing the grandfather, and the those people turn their noses up at it. And then there are the English songs. From the start we hear a series of English songs, beginning with Simon & Garfunkel’s The sound of silence (Do the producers think it will have the same effect it had in The graduate?) And an English song follows another one. Are there no French singers left in France? One of the bikers is played by French singer Hugues Aufray. Aufray became popular in France when he sang French versions of Bob Dylan’s best known songs, which he himself translated. But in Un été en Provence he sings them in English with a thick French accent. And it becomes worse when Paul and Irène join in, along with the rest of the biker gang, all with their French accent. They sound like a pack dogs barking at the moon. Ridiculous! We are in France, the characters seems to be speaking French, (sprinkled with lots of English words. Scotched is used twice in the film.) but there is no French culture. The film Easy rider is mentioned, we see a poster of Pretty woman, and Léa is a fan of the late Amy Winehouse. I found the whole film simply annoying from beginning to end. Avoid. Unless you are an avid fan of French films.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

 

 Un été en Provence (A summer in Provence)

 

Directed by: 
Rose Bosch
 
Screenplay by: 
Rose Bosch
 
Starring: 
Jean Reno
Anna Galiena
Chloé Jouannet
Hugo Dessioux
Lukas Pelissier
 
105 min.
 
In French with English subtitles

Magic in the moonlight

After the success of last year’s Blue Jasmine, here is the new Woody Allen: Magic in the moonlight. In 1928, Stanley (Colin Firth), an English magician is asked by a friend to go to a mansion on the French Riviera to help him debunk a psychic medium. Sophie, the young medium (Emma Stone), has convinced a wealthy family that she can get in contact with the ghost of the dead father. In the process she is hoping to get engaged to Brice, the son of the family. But Stanley will have none of it: Sophie is a fraud. When Stanley and Sophie clash, Firth and Stone work well together. Stanley is a curmudgeon who does not believe in anything, including God. In Sophie’s presence, he his going to soften his stance, and start to believe she may have psychic powers after all. This is not one of Allen’s best work. The screenplay is too thin, and the dialogue is ordinary. The ‘mystery’- if you can call it that – is not satisfyingly resolved. The acting from the two leads is fun to watch. It’s unfortunate that the great Australian actress Jacki Weaver is given such a small part. A more meaty part is given to Eileen Atkins who plays Stanley’s aunt, and she is very good. The Côte d’Azur setting is beautiful thanks to excellent work from Iranian-French cinematographer Darius Khondji. With at least one film a year, we can’t expect all of Allen’s film to be masterpieces.  Magic in the moonlight is just OK.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Magic in the moonlight

 

Directed by: 
Woody Allen
 
Screenplay by: 
Woody Allen
 
Starring: 
Emma Stone
Colin Firth
Marcia Gay Harden
Jacki Weaver
Hamish Linklater
Eileen Atkins
 
98 min.
 
Rated Parental Guidance

112 Weddings

Occasional documentary filmmaker Doug Block has been making a living as a wedding videographer. Over the last 20 years he must have worked on 111 weddings. So the idea came to him to find out what happened to some of these people in those videos. You have here a variety of stories. Some couples have not survived because of either infidelity, or mental illness. The interviews can be revealing on the dynamics between two people. And there are touching stories of hardships. The cancer of a child for instance. Or a husband supporting his wife who is suffering from depression. And there is also a couple who decide to get married, many years after their commitment ceremony. And then wedding #112. A light documentary that plays a bit like a reality movie, but still interesting.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

 112 Weddings

 

 Directed by: 

Doug Block
 
95 min.
 
Rated Parental Guidance