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Short reviews of films I only managed to see late in the game...


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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 8.Nov.23

Strange World  
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Strange World
dir Don Hall
scr Qui Nguyen
prd Roy Conli
voices Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Jaboukie Young-White, Gabrielle Union, Lucy Liu, Karan Soni, Alan Tudyk, Adelina Anthony, Abraham Benrubi, Jonathan Melo, Nik Dodani, Francesca Reale
release US/UK 25.Nov.22
22/US Disney 1h42

ethan, meridian and searcher
Structured as a series of adventures, this animated romp features terrific characters in outlandish settings. A likeable tale of sons seeking their own identity amid their fathers' expectations, it's a superbly well-made film, with fabulous animation. So while it may feel glib, it says some important things about the interconnection of nature, wrapped in a knowing look at exploration and discovery, and what makes a worthy legacy.
Jaeger Cade (Quaid) was a heroic explorer who went missing 25 years ago on a solo expedition after genius son Searcher (Gyllenhaal) broke from him, making agricultural discoveries that have powered their homeland. Now Searcher is an embarrassment to his own 16-year-old son Ethan (Young-White). But something is threatening his crop, forcing Searcher to go looking for a solution, accompanied by his wife Meridian (Union), Ethan and a team led by Callisto (Liu). Unexpectedly, they crash through into a subterranean realm full of inexplicable discoveries.
The animators have a ball creating this outrageous universe, playing visually with ideas of gravity and symbiosis. And the human characters are voiced to have strong personalities that work together in a vivid family dynamic. Each is complex enough to be both likeable and infuriating, although there's never much of a guess about how their relationship issues will resolve themselves. At least the story leaves them in a new place at the end, rather far from where they started.

Generational themes fuel the narrative, contrasting Jaeger's raging male ego, Searcher's focussed ambition and Ethan's exuberant sensitivity. A key scene sees these three hilariously struggling to find a common understanding of a world-building boardgame. With its witty script, this a knowing film that acknowledges how no child wants to be like their mother or father. And it also reminds us that, even as we forge our own way through their life, most of us will end up being just like our parents.

cert pg themes, violence 4.Jan.23

The Man From Toronto  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5
The Man From Toronto
dir Patrick Hughes
scr Robbie Fox, Chris Bremner
with Kevin Hart, Woody Harrelson, Jasmine Mathews, Kaley Cuoco, Pierson Fode, Ellen Barkin, Jencarlos Canela, Ronnie Rowe
release US/UK 24.Jun.22
22/US Sony 1h50
harrelson and hart
An offbeat mix of comedy and thrills that doesn't quite work, this action romp passes the time amiably enough thanks to Woody Harrelson and Kevin Hart. Indeed, I watched it on a plane, as I never had a chance to see it in a cinema or at a press screening. The story centres on Hart's character, a guy who is just trying to reconnect with his wife when he's mistaken for Harrelson's hitman and propelled into a violent international caper. The mistaken identity plot is rather simplistic, and it plays out without much nuance. So both of these actors are simply on cruise-control here, neither challenged nor very interesting to watch. But there are just about enough gags to keep us smiling.


The Final Game   42 Segundos
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
The Final Game
dir Alex Murrull, Dani de la Orden
scr Carlos Franco
with Jaime Lorente, Alvaro Cervantes, Tarik Filipovic, Oscar Munoz, David Bages, Cristian Valencia, Joan Sentis, German Alcarazu
release Sp 2.Sep.22
22/Spain Prime 1h46
The Final Game
Based on a true story, this film centres on a Croatian coach who is hired to whip Spain's water polo team into shape before the Barcelona 1992 Olympics. Yes, this is a fairly standard underdog sporting saga, and of course it's always enjoyable to see the cocky guys get their comeuppance. So while the plot feels inevitable, the film gets bogged down in the melodramatic antics of the players, with rivalries, romances, personal battles, drug tests and so forth. As it leads to the big final match against Italy (coached by a Serbian coach, adding a period kick), the film never quite captures the excitement of a sport that is usually thrilling to watch. With such unambitious camerawork, the climactic thriller isn't nearly as nail-biting as it should be. But the film is enjoyable and interesting enough, and the story is worth telling.


Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
dir-scr Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
with Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman, Nika King
release US/UK 10.Mar.23
23/US Columbia 1h33
The Rescue
Set 65 million years ago as Adam Driver crash lands on Earth while on a two-year exploratory mission, this lavishly produced sci-if adventure strikes a momentous tone from the start, plus the odd corny moment. The only other survivor is a resourceful 9-year-old girl who reminds him of his own dying daughter back home, for whose medical treatment he took this job in the first place. So apparently, America's cruel health care system predates the dawn of mankind. Anyway, they need to traverse a harsh primordial landscape populated with hungry insects and angry dinosaurs. This makeshift father-daughter team bonds despite not being able to speak each others' language, facing a range of threats and challenges as a doomsday asteroid heads their way. It's such a contrived, well-worn formula that it's impossible to take this as seriously as the filmmakers clearly intend it to be.


Full Time   À Plein Temps
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5
Full Time
dir-scr Eric Gravel
with Laure Calamy, Anne Suarez, Genevieve Mnich, Nolan Arizmendi, Sasha Lemaitre Cremaschi, Cyril Guei, Lucie Gallo, Agathe Dronne
release Fr 16.Mar.23,
US 3.Feb.23, UK 23.May.23
21/Fr 1h28
With a riveting central performance by Laure Calamy and a nonstop, often fully sprinting pace, this French drama has an electric kick in its exploration of the hectic pace of modern life. Writer-director Eric Gravel keeps the audience right with this single mother as she navigates a series of personal and professional issues while trying to get around during a calamitous national transportation strike. It's sometimes exhausting to watch her flail against the many obstacles that the script throws right in her way, but her tenacity is inspiring. And thankfully the film includes plenty of sharp humour and honest emotion.

18.Oct.23 • premiered at VENICE FILM FEST

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