Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Evelyne Brochu

Polytechnique (2009)

What a time to be alive. And unfortunately, still live in.

It was December 6, 1989 and it was just like any other day at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. People were going from class-to-class, thinking of their days, getting ready for the holiday-break, and most of all, looking forward of what was next to come. But little did most of these people know that, by the end of the day, they would be shot and killed by one deranged loon (Maxim Gaudette). Due to issues with his mental well-being, as well as with authority, the killer enters the school and decides that it’s about time that the world heard and understood his hatred for all things women, which is exactly who he targeted in this attack, killing an overall of 15 and injuring 14 more.

Director Denis Villeneuve knows that he’s dealing with a difficult, downright disturbing subject here and while he doesn’t try to gore it up in an unsettling way, he doesn’t shy away from the harsh facts, either. A good portion of the movie is mostly dedicated to this school-shooting and as such, it’s chilling, compelling, and very hard-to-watch, meaning that as a director, Villeneuve gets what he needs to get done.

Just two gals looking for a fun time.

Shot in black-and-white, Villeneuve allows for the camera to swoon back-and-forth, following our certain characters as they go about their day and truly does put us in the place of this shock and horror. We feel as if we are right there, feeling the same distraught confusions that these people must have felt, having no clue where to go, what to do, or just what the hell was actually going on; this constant stream-of-confusion and cause-and-effect is shown quite well, as Villeneuve displays just how the actions took place, with people figuring out stuff a lot later than others, and often times, almost too late. It’s unflinching and as disturbing as it should be, making Villeneuve feel like one of the better displays of a school-shooting ever put to film.

Issue is, that aspect is so well-done, it’s hard not to find everything else lacking.

It isn’t that Villeneuve doesn’t try to aim for something deeper and smarter here, because he absolutely does. Much like Gus Van Sant did with Elephant, Villeneuve focuses on a few characters, giving us their lives, hopes, aspirations, conflicts, and backgrounds leading up to the school-shooting. It does help give us a point-of-reference once the carnage starts, but the issue is that there’s such an intense feeling in the air, these characters, as well as their developing-sequences, can’t help but feel like plodder to what’s to come. Maybe that’s the point – perhaps Villeneuve is meaning to have us expect the worst, but still keep us around, sitting, and waiting for it all to happen.

Do it. Idiot.

But then again, maybe not. What I do know is that for a 79-minute-movie, it’s a surprise how much of it can actually feel a tad meandering. Van Sant’s Elephant felt the same way, but it was much more deliberate and worked much better for the movie’s sense of style and meaning – here, it can’t help but feel a little long. The actors are all good, too, but as I’ve said, they’re sort of stuck with faceless characters who we see through this tragedy and that’s all we really need to know.

It’s a shame because they were real people, too.

But still, Polytechnique works because it gets the point across that not only are guns bad, but the ideas surrounding this sort of violence is even more scary. See, the killer in real-life wanted to get rid of all women in the world and very much opposed their equality, by any means necessary. It’s something that, unfortunately, we see too much of in today’s world and while the movie was made in 2009, it still hits on a lot of points that are often made whenever another mass-shooting comes around. The violence, the blood, the loss, and the death is there, but the actual ideas that this may never get better are also there, and it makes this all the much more sad.

When will it ever end?

Consensus: Chilling and frightening, Polytechnique can’t quite overcome its issue with its narrative, but still gets the hard and heavy points across without preaching, while also reminding the world of the tragic-loss.

8 / 10

Never forget. Not just this one, but every one.

Photos Courtesy of: Alliance Films

Advertisements

Pawn Sacrifice (2015)

How Bobby Fischer was everyday of his life, is exactly how I get when I enter a movie theater.

Ever since he was a little boy, Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) has always loved the game of chess. He’s also been incredibly paranoid about everything, too, but that’s done more to enhance his skills as a chess-player than actually hinder it. As he got older, Bobby became more and more known as a genius and gained a whole lot of notoriety – most of which, he wasn’t able to deal with. But the peak in his career/life came during the rise of the Cold War, when he challenged the Soviet Union and their best player, Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), to a series of chess matches. Though the Russians agreed, Bobby still felt as if the games were being rigged in ways that went against him and it’s what ultimately made him a tragic-figure in the media. Though everybody wanted to tout him as an “American hero”, Bobby just wanted to be left alone and pushed away from the rest of the society he viewed as “Commies”. This not only pushed away those who were most close to him, but also ruined his skill as a magnificent chess-player.

He's crazy.

He’s crazy.

The crazy, unusual life of Bobby Fischer is an interesting one that, sadly, not too many directors have tried to tackle. It seems as if because his antics were so erratic and controversial, that to just make a movie solely based on him and his antic tirades would lead to be nothing more than just that. However, Edward Zwick and his crew of writers (Steven Knight, Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson) try to make amends for that mistake in giving us a sorta-biopic of Fischer, his upbringing, and his momentous chess bouts against the Soviet Union.

There’s a slew of other characters to pay attention to, of course, but still, it’s Fischer’s story we get.

And as Bobby Fischer, Tobey Maguire is solid. Maguire gets a bad rap for not being the best actor out there, which isn’t something I wholly agree with; while he’s definitely not shown a huge amount of range over the years, he’s still proven to be a fine presence in movies that he’s just coasting-by in (the Great Gatsby), or when he has to act like a total and complete nut (Brothers). His performance as Fischer is a whole lot more of the later and it works; once we see Fischer grow up into becoming Maguire, he’s a whole heck lot more frantic, manic, and strange, and it’s something that Maguire can play quite well.

You’d think that three movies playing someone as nerdy and straight-laced as Peter Parker would make Maguire into a dull specimen, but thankfully, for him, as well as the movie itself, it didn’t.

Everybody else in this movie is fine, too and ensure that Maguire doesn’t steal the whole movie away from them, even if he does occasionally get the chance to do so. Peter Sarsgaard plays Catholic priest William Lombardy, one of Fischer’s fellow chess experts, who also served as one of his teachers, and gives a humane-look inside a guy who isn’t exactly what he appears. Sure, he’s wearing the same outfit that a priest would wear, but he swears, drinks, smokes, and is able to hang around Fischer, even when he seems to get so erratic, nobody in their right mind would stand-on by.

Michael Stuhlbarg shows up as Fischer’s manager of sorts and while you know he’s someone that’s not to be trusted, there’s still a feeling that he has Bobby’s best intentions at heart. He may not at all, but Stuhlbarg keeps us guessing as to what it actually is. Lily Rabe shows up as Fischer’s sister who tries to help her dear brother out as much as she can, but eventually, it becomes all too clear that the man is just too far gone to be helped, talked to, or aided in any way – which is actually a pretty sad that the movie doesn’t really touch on until the end of the movie. And though he doesn’t get a whole bunch to do, Liev Schreiber still does a nice job as Boris Spassky – someone who had no clue what to make of or how to handle Fischer, except to just play him in chess and hope for the best.

And honestly, the performances are all that’s worth to discuss here because they’re the reasons why this movie works as well as it does. Everything else about Pawn Sacrifice is as handsome and nice as you can get with a biopic, but really, that’s all it is and stays. Nothing really leaps out at you as any sort of insight into Fischer’s character or persona; he was just a wack-job that, yes, was great at the game of chess, also had plenty of issues when it came to interacting with others, his own psyche, and how to handle all of the fame that had totally blind-sided him. This, if you’ve ever known a thing or two about Fischer himself, is obvious, but the movie still tries to find other aspects to his character that haven’t been touched on yet.

He's not.

He’s not.

Problem is, they all have. So there’s nowhere else to go.

Zwick may seem interested in the political landscape surrounding Fischer at this time in his life, but he never goes anywhere further with it; there are constant conversations about Communism and conspiracy theories, but really, that’s just all of Fischer talking and no one else. Whether or not any of these accusations held true, are never said, which leads it to all just seem repetitive. Don’t get me wrong, there’s something enjoyable about watching and listening to Maguire ramble on about how the Jews, the Russians, the White House, and practically everybody else on the face of the planet, are out to get him, but after awhile, it becomes a bird that I would have been pleased to stop hear chirping.

And of course, there’s a post-script about Fischer’s later-life, how far away from society he had gone and where he had been living before he died, but it’s all too late. The movie had already focused so much time on Fischer’s life when he was younger, alive and successful – everything else was, as it seems, added-on filler. Which is a bit of a shame because this later-half of Fischer’s life would have been very interesting to see portrayed, but it doesn’t seem like the budget or time allotted it.

Shame. But I guess there’s another biopic to be made another time.

Consensus: Thanks to great performances from the cast, especially an unhinged and edgy Tobey Maguire, Pawn Sacrifice is an enjoyably, mildly interesting, but never seems to rise above being that.

7 / 10

The end.

The end.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Tom At The Farm (2015)

Stay away from farms. No matter what the stipulations are, just keep away.

After the death of his boyfriend, Tom (Xavier Dolan), is left utterly speechless. That’s why, even against his own best wishes, decides to travel out to the country and go to his funeral, where he meets the rest of his family. Problem for Tom is, nobody knows that Tom is the recently-deceased’s lover; everybody just assumed he was straight. Though Tom does get a bit close at times, he decides to keep to himself and not say anything to the family about the truth; however, that doesn’t stop the recently-deceased’s brother, Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), from getting all up in Tom’s business from the first second he lays eyes on him. Though Tom doesn’t want to disrupt what the family has already going with themselves, Francis takes it upon himself to torture and toy around with Tom; some of it has to do with the fact that he himself is opposed to homosexuality, but some of it may also have to be because Francis actually has feelings for Tom. Weird feelings, but feelings nonetheless. And it’s these feelings that makes Tom feel as if his life is in danger and may need to do whatever he can to get away from Francis, as well as the farm, as soon as humanly possible.

Console grandma and leave!

Console grandma and leave!

It’s weird that Tom At The Farm is just getting its U.S. release date now. A few years ago, while vacationing out in Canada, I actually had the opportunity to check it out at a local theater and thought it was only a matter of time until it hit the States, won everybody over, and all of a sudden, made me the coolest guy ever, because I saw it before everyone else. But the weird thing here is that, nearly three years after its completion, it’s just now getting its stateside release.

Why is that, honestly? Is it because Xavier Dolan’s latest (Mommy) seemed to do so well that studios eventually had hope for more Dolan movies? Or, is it because the movie’s terrible, has been collecting up dust for so long that eventually, Canada got sick and tired of it and just wanted to pass off the horrid stench of it to the U.S.?

Well, thank the high heavens, it’s not anywhere near that last idea.

That said, Tom At The Farm does have its fair share of problems. Dolan, as young as he may be, has already been criticized an awful-lot for being what some describe as “pretentious”, “too artsy”, and “repetitive”, and while I may not agree with all those terms, while watching this movie here, as well as his others, it’s hard not to notice a trend and wonder if he’ll ever break out of it. For instance, there’s a lot of showy scenes where Dolan lights a scene a certain way, hits the slo-mo button, and blares some odd pop-song in a way that may make hipsters think is cool, but to others, may be a tad bit annoying. Annoying, not just because it’s a neat trick that Dolan uses well and instantly makes people jealous of, but annoying, because it feels unnecessary, especially given how strong this movie is already.

But like I said, all those problems go aside when you realize that Dolan, for all his repetitiveness, is a pretty solid story-teller. However, what makes Dolan feel like a true talent is that it doesn’t even seem like he’s trying; rather than giving us everything we need to know about these characters, their situation, and what to expect with this story, right up front and center, Dolan allows for everything play out in a timely fashion. He’s vague on certain details, but eventually, you start to see some threads and pieces of an odd puzzle come together in a way that works for the movie both as a thriller, as well as a character-study.

That we know early on that Tom is a homosexual helps us identify with him and a person put in his situation; while he means to do well, at the same time, he also may be causing a lot of trouble and interruption. A part of him knows this, however, doesn’t want to wholly believe it. He’d much rather just pay his respects, find his lover’s family, know who they are, feel as if he’s completed an objective in his life, and try to move on.

Always hated being backed-up in a corn-field.

Always hated being backed-up in a corn-field.

Then, there’s Francis who isn’t as cut-and-dry as Tom may be.

For one, there’s something completely unsettling about Francis the first moment we see him. There’s a certain feeling that this character knows what’s up with his deceased brother and Tom’s relationship, isn’t happy about it, and wants nothing more than for Tom to leave him, his family, his farm and never be seen, or heard from again. This is understandable, but Dolan’s writing takes it one step further to show that there are some homicidal tendencies within Francis that have less to do with the fact that he doesn’t like homosexuals because he doesn’t agree with their life-style, and more to do with the fact that Francis may in fact be jealous of this life-style and has a hard time controlling his temper, his wants, his needs, or most definitely, his pleasures.

Same goes for Tom and eventually, the movie turns into a cat-and-mouse game between two unlikely protagonists; one of which is clearly more evil than the other, but at the same time, still human enough to where it doesn’t seem like his transformation is all that made-up. This Francis dude may just be as nutty and twisted as some people make him out to be, and it’s from here on where Tom At The Farm gets to be a little bit conventional. It’s still interesting to see how things turn out for both of these characters, but what ultimately started out as an interesting look inside the mind of a sexually-deprived man, soon just becomes a slasher-thriller – albeit one with less blood and gore.

More sex, though. Which is always a good thing, no matter what movie you are watching.

And it should be noted that both Dolan and Pierre-Yves Cardinal are both very good in their roles. Having seen all of Dolan’s movies, I’ve come to learn that, when he gets the chance to do so, is much more willing to take the back-seat in his movies. That’s neither a good nor a bad thing, it’s just a thing. But here, it works out well because it gives Cardinal plenty of opportunities to push this character, as well as this movie, further and further into the realms of darkness that nobody will be able to expect.

Those damn Canadians.

Consensus: While Dolan’s been better, Tom At The Farm is still an effective, odd and eerie thriller that works both as a character-drama, as well as a bit of a real-life horror flick, however, the former definitely works a lot better than the later.

7 / 10

With those eyes looking at you, kid, I'd head straight for the city and never look back.

With those eyes looking at you, kid, I’d head straight for the city and never look back.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire