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Sean Kelly on Movies by Sean Kelly - 3d ago

The wife of a famous author silently suffers after he wins a Nobel prize in The Wife. Joan Castleman (Glenn Close) is a woman married to acclaimed author Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce), who receives a call one morning saying that he has won the Nobel prize in literature. Initially Joan seems ecstatic about her husband’s accomplishment, however after arriving in Stockholm, she begins to feel deeply affected by all the attention being placed on her husband. This is made worse by Joe’s would-be biographer Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater), who threatens to reveal a secret the couple has held together for all these years.

The Wife is a drama directed by Swedish filmmaker Björn L Runge, based on the novel by Meg Wolitzer. The plot of the film focuses on the apparently happy spouse of an author, who is secretly contemptuous at his enormous success, while also scorning him for adulterous behaviour, such as his flirtations with his photographer. The film utilizes flashbacks to tell the history of the relationship between Joan, played as a young woman by Annie Starke, and Joe (Harry Lloyd). The flashbacks reveal that Joan was once an aspiring author herself and that Joe was once her college professor, who she began an affair with. As the layers are pulled pack, it reveals Joan as the victim of a patriarchal society that wouldn’t pay much attention to a woman writer, resulted in Joan apparently abandoning her dream of being a writer, following the advice given to her by alumni authoress Elaine Mozell (Elizabeth McGovern).

While The Wife has the type of plot that I have seen before, the film is elevated by an excellent performance by Glenn Close in the lead role of
Joan Castleman. Joan is a very multilayered character, who despite loving Joe very much, is slowly being torn apart by the secret they have held together for all these years. Making matters worse is the couple’s son David (Max Irons), himself an aspiring writer, who is increasingly frustrated by the lack of support given to him by Joe, surrounding a short story that David has written. Rounding off the central cast of the film is Christian Slater at his slimy best as Nathaniel Bone, who is trying to coax out material for his unauthorized tell-all biography on Joe.

Altogether, I have to say that The Wife a typical relationship drama, elevated greatly by an excellent performance by Glenn Close, as a silently suffering spouse victimized by the patriarchy.

The Wife is now playing in a limited run at the TIFF Bell Lightbox

The post Review: The Wife appeared first on Sean Kelly on Movies.

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Sean Kelly on Movies by Sean Kelly - 6d ago

A woman and her two children try to survive in the aftermath of an extinction level event in Bird Box. Malorie (Sandra Bullock) sets off on a dangerous journey downriver, accompanied by her two child simply named “Boy” (Julian Edwards) and “Girl” (Vivien Lyra Blair). Five years previous to this, a pregnant Malorie was at the hospital with her sister Jessica (Sarah Paulson) when some sort of supernatural force begins compelling people to commit suicide. Malorie finds safety at a house along with fellow survivors Tom (Trevante Rhodes), Greg (BD Wong), Cheryl (Jacki Weaver), Lucy (Rosa Salazar), Charlie (Lil Rel Howery), Felix (Colson Baker), Olympia (Danielle Macdonald), and Douglas (John Malkovich). When supplies begin to run low, the survivors have to find a way to get outside without looking at the sinister presence.

Bird Box is a survival horror film directed by Susanne Bier (In a Better World), based on the 2014 novel by Josh Malerman. The plot of the film moves back and forth between the time during and after this apocalyptic event. Admittedly, this flashback structure does take away somewhat from the suspense of the film, since it is already established from this first scene that Malorie and her two child are the sole survivors of this group hiding away in a house, so most of the film is a waiting game until the other characters in the film end up deceased.

While the similarity is apparently just coincidental, the basic premise of Bird Box, in which a supernatural force compels people to commit suicide, is pretty much the exact same as the plot for M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening. Bird Box also has some similarities to 2009’s The Road and even last year’s A Quiet Place. That’s not to say that Bird Box is a completely unoriginal horror film, it’s just that a lot of what’s in the film has been seen in other films.

Probably the element that allows Bird Box to standout the most is the film’s very stacked cast that includes Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight), Jacki Weaver, and John Malkovich, with the latter being a de facto antagonist of sorts as the trigger-happy alcoholic of the group. Then there’s Tom Hollander, who is introduced late in the film as fellow survivor Gary, who seems to be hiding a dark secret.

Altogether, I can say that Bird Box is a fine survivor horror film, even though it ultimately doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression.

Bird Box is now available for streaming on Netflix

The post Review: Bird Box appeared first on Sean Kelly on Movies.

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Sean Kelly on Movies by Sean Kelly - 1w ago

One of the world’s most acclaimed rock climbers attempts his most perilous challenge in Free Solo. Alex Honnold is an acclaimed rock climber, who has gained notoriety for his success at free solo climbing, where he does not wear any safety gear. Alex decides that the time has come to face his biggest challenge of free soloing of 3000 feet height of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. With one mistake being the difference between life and death, Alex spends months planning his climb and deciding whether the risks are worth it.

Free Solo is a documentary produced by National Geographic, which follows rock climber Alex Honnold on his very perilous task of free soloing El Capitan. Free soloing is an extremely dangerous form of climbing, since the route has to be planned out perfectly or else you would fall to your death. In addition, the very presence of a documentary crew adds and extra challenge, since they don’t want to get in Alex’s way and be responsible for a fatal accident.

Even with a rope and harness, rock climbing can be a very dangerous sport and Alex Honnold even receives two semi-serious injuries during the preparation for this free solo climb. However, he is unwilling to walk away from this challenge, even though the stakes are higher for his film time around. As someone probably on the autistic spectrum, Alex is shown to be an interesting individual when it comes to placing his priorities. This includes shrugging off news of fellow climbers dying, saying it’s just something that happens to everyone eventually. On the flip side is Alex’s girlfriend Sanni McCandless, who becomes increasingly worried about him and how the climb would affect their budding relationship.

After months of preparations and once false start, Alex Honnold finally attempts his climb in June 2017 and filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi utilizes multiple cameras, including a drone, to document this perilous climb. Even knowing how things turn out, this climbing sequence it probably one of the most suspenseful 15-20 minutes you would ever experience watching a documentary, since Alex only has the support of cracks and various nooks and crannies to get him up this very high rock formation. In fact, there is one moment where the drone filming Alex pulls back and he just turns into a tiny speck on this huge cliff.

I probably wouldn’t recommend people see Free Solo theatrically if they suffer from anxiety or are prone to vertigo. However, the film is still an excellent document about one man facing the biggest challenge of his life.

Free Solo is now playing at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema

The post Review: Free Solo appeared first on Sean Kelly on Movies.

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Sean Kelly on Movies by Sean Kelly - 1w ago

The origin of the young Autobot’s arrival on Earth is told in Bumblebee. As war rages on the planet of Cybertron between the Decepticons and the Autobot resistance lead by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen). With the Autobots on the verge of losing, Optimus sends young Autobot B-127 (Dylan O’Brien) to Earth. However, upon arrival B is heavily damaged in a fight with the Decepticon Starscream (David Sobolov), which includes the removal of his voice box. Hiding in the form of a Volkswagen Beetle, B is taken in by 18 year old Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), who nicknames her new robot friend “Bumblebee.” However, the Decepticons Shatter (Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (Justin Theroux) track Bumblebee to Earth and form an uneasy alliance with Sector 7 headed by Agent Burns (John Cena).

After five Transformers films directed by Michael Bay, Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) steps into the director’s chair for this prequel set in 1987, two decades before the events of the original Transformers film. Bumblebee focuses primarily on the youngest Autobot, who has lost his memory after being decimated in a battle with Starscream. However, he quickly befriends Charlie, an angst ridden teenager, who is still mourning the death of her father, which affects his relationship with his mother Sally (Pamela Adlon) and stepfather Ron (Stephen Schneider). Together with her neighbour Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), Charlie tries to keep Bumblebee a secret, however it becomes difficult once the Decepticons find his location.

It can be theorized that one of the goals of Travis Knight and screenwriter Christina Hodson is to right the supposed wrongs of Michael Bay’s Transformers films. As a result, Bumblebee leans heavily on nostalgia for both the original Transformers toys and cartoons, as well as the 1980s in general. While it’s a nice touch seeing the Generation 1 Transformers in action or Bumblebee playing Stan Bush’s “The Touch” from his radio, it is ultimately window dressing for an origin story that is merely so-so.

Probably the biggest issue I have with Bumblebee is that despite all the nostalgia towards the original Transformers, the film presents us with a pair of generic villains in the form of the “triple-changer” Decepticons Shatter and Dropkick. Part of the reason for this is the apparent desire not to disrupt continuity with 2007’s Transformers, so Megatron could not be used in the film. While the film does include Megatron’s second-in-command Starscream, it is merely a cameo in the first act of the film. In fact, I would say that all together, the entirely of the Generation 1 Transformers action in Bumblebee takes up no more than five minutes of screentime.

That all said, I can probably say that I enjoyed Bumblebee much more than 2017’s Transformers: The Last Knight, with the film being a relatively entertaining watch. However, the over-reliance on 1980s (and Transformers) nostalgia does end up holding the film down.

The post Review: Bumblebee appeared first on Sean Kelly on Movies.

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A young Harlem couple’s romance is altered when one of them is falsely imprisoned in If Beale Street Could Talk. Childhood friends Clementine “Tish” Rivers (KiKi Layne) and Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt (Stephan James) begin a passionate romance with each other, with is uprooted when Fonny is jailed after being falsely accused of rape. With Tish pregnant with Fonny’s child, she fights to prove Fonny’s innocence, with the help of her family, including mother Sharon (Regina King), father Joseph (Colman Domingo), and sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris).

Writer and director Barry Jenkins follows up his Oscar-winning success with 2016’s Moonlight, with this adaptation of the 1974 novel by James Baldwin. The title of If Beale Street Could Talk refers to a street in New Orlean’s, which is used by Baldwin is a metaphoric sense, in regards to the plight of African Americans. Indeed, the ultimate message of this story is that these characters are victims of a system that are prejudiced against black people. This is examined early on in a scene featuring Fonny catching up with his old friend Daniel Carty (Brian Tyree Henry), who has just spent two years in prison. When Fonny himself is imprisoned, Tish and her family believe that the key to proving his innocence is finding the accuser Victoria Rogers (Emily Rios) in Puerto Rico and get her to admit that she falsely identified Fonny.

After winning the Academy Award for Best Picture for Moonlight, Barry Jenkins gives himself the momentous challenge of adapting a novel written by one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. I would have to say that Jenkins does a fine good job with his adaptation, which tells a very bittersweet story of two young lovers from Harlem, who are victims of a very racist system. Even though the book and film takes place in the 1970s, If Beale Street Could Talk is a very timeless story about the challenges of African Americans to make a life for themselves in the United States.

The plot of If Beale Street Could Talk moves back and forth between the time before and after Fonny is incarcerated, as we see the blossoming of Tish and Fonny’s romance, before it is seriously affected by Fonny’s arrest. While Tish has the undying support of her family, there is a memorable sequence early in the film featuring the very harsh reactions to Tish’s pregnancy by Fonny’s ultra-religious mother (Aunjanue Ellis). This is one of a series of dialogue-heavy scenes that form the cornerstones of the film, with others being the aforementioned scene with Daniel Carty and a sequence late in the film with a very bloodshot looking Fonny telling Tish that everything is on day going to be alright.

Even though If Beale Street Could Talk is a drama about the African American experience, it has a story that crosses the boundaries of race. This is even seen within the film itself through a number of notable non-black characters in the film played by Diego Luna, Finn Wittrock, and Dave Franco. In fact, Franco’s single scene performance as a Jewish real estate agent stands out as one of few truly feel-good moments in what is over wise a very sombre and tragic story. Another standout performance in the film is Regina King as Tish’s mother Sharon, who takes over the narrative for a sequence that sees her travel to Puerto Rico to confront Victoria Rogers, with the sequence also featuring a brief cameo by Game of Thrones‘ Pedro Pascal.

Altogether, I have to say that If Beale Street Could Talk is a major step up from Moonlight for Barry Jenkins and you have no heart if your eyes are still dry at the end of this bittersweet love story.

The post Review: If Beale Street Could Talk appeared first on Sean Kelly on Movies.

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In advance of the theatrical release of Lifechanger on December 28, I got on the line with writer/director Justin McConnell to talk about the film.

00:19 – Opening Comments
00:56 – Interview – Justin McConnell on Lifechanger
00:19 – Closing Comments



The post Sean Kelly Interview – Justin McConnell on Lifechanger appeared first on Sean Kelly on Movies.

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The story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her fight against sexual discrimination is told in On the Basis of Sex. In 1956, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) was one of only nine women enrolled in the Harvard Law School, which she attended at the same time as her husband Marty (Armie Hammer). Fast forward to 1970 and Ruth has had settle for getting a job as a professor of Sexual Discrimination and the Law at Rutgers University, while Marty works as a tax lawyer. However, when Marty comes across a case discriminating a male caregiver, it provides Ruth with the chance set a new legal precedent over how both genders are represented by the law.

From director Mimi Leder (The Peacemaker) comes a biopic about the early years of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who would eventually become a longstanding Supreme Court Justice. As a student at Harvard, Ruth had to put up with the passive aggressive sexism of Harvard Law dean Erwin Griswold (Sam Waterston), while also being ignored in lectures by Professor Ernest Brown (Stephen Root). Both would later become Ruth’s legal opponents, as she sets out to overturn over a hundred years of sexual discrimination in the law and finish the fight begun by her idol Dorothy Kenyon (Kathy Bates).

On the Basis of Sex is a biopic that covers the first fifteen years in the career of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The title of the film is in reference to a quote by Dorothy Kenyon asking “if law differentiates on the basis of sex, how will men and women become equal?” Indeed, much of the film is about is about Ruth Bader Ginsburg fighting back against a patriarchal male society that is trying to stick with “traditional” gender roles. There is a striking image in the opening moments of the film, which shows Ruth in a blue suit walking through a sea of men in grey. In fact, it almost seems for a while that Ruth is the only woman in Harvard Law, though it’s later revealed that there are eight other females in her class.

Taking advantage of a rare case showing sexual discrimination against a man, Ruth decides to join Marty on a tax case that could set a new precedent in how the law treats the different genders. However, with Ruth never having before argued a case in court, it results in even allies, such as Mel Wulf (Justin Theroux) of the ACLU, to doubt her ability at being able to keep her composure in the courtroom.

On the Basis of Sex arrives as Ruth Bader Ginsberg celebrates her 25th year as a justice on the US Supreme Court and this biopic follows on the heels of the documentary RBG, which was released earlier this year. Felicity Jones has some large shoes to fill, playing such a cult feminist figure, however she does a surprisingly good job with the role. There is also a brief, yet memorable performance by Kathy Bates as civil liberties lawyer 
Dorothy Kenyon. Armie Hammer does a fine job as Ruth’s husband Marty, even though its pretty typical for most of the roles that he plays. However, the film does have a standout supporting performance by Cailee Spaeny (Bad Times at the El Royale) as Ruth’s teenage daughter Jane, who would go on to become a successful lawyer herself.

Overall, I would have to say that On the Basis of Sex makes for a good introduction to the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The post Review: On the Basis of Sex appeared first on Sean Kelly on Movies.

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