Tag Archives: tom wilkinson

This Beautiful Fantastic

Bella Brown is an odd duck. Abandoned as a baby and raised without parents, or a proper home, she relies on order and predictability to manage her days and nights. She works in a library and dreams of being a children’s author – if only she could think of a story.

The only aspect of her life that isn’t obsessively orderly is her back garden, due to a deep and abiding fear of…plants. I think. But anyway, the yard is neglected enough that her landlord threatens her with homelessness if she doesn’t straighten it up in a month’s time. During that month, Bella (Jessica Brown Findlay) will meet three men: a) the rude and grumpy old widow next door, Alfie (Tom Wilkinson) b) Alfie’s hard-working, hero_This-Beautiful-Fantastic-2017unappreciated cook, also a widower, named Vernon (Andrew Scott), and c) Billy (Jeremy Irvine), a head-in-the-clouds inventor who haunts the library looking for inspiration.

This Beautiful Fantastic is sweet, and whether you find that a complimentary thing in a movie is up to you. It styles itself as a modern-day fairy tale, though I think that’s a bit of a reach. The story is a bit thin for that, though the characters are all fitting enough. But it IS a very pleasant way to tend to a blossoming if unlikely friendship between a reclusive young woman, and her nemesis – the cranky old guy next door. Set variously in a beautiful garden and a library. So very genteel.

The garden metaphor is painfully obvious of course. Get it? GET IT? Of course we do. Now back off with the lazy writing that still still somehow congratulates itself. But with some fine actors, it manages to be quite charming and a little offbeat. If your gag reflex for the saccharine is running sensitive these days, stay away. But if you want something kind of cute to do your taxes to, you could do worse.

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The Titan

30 years from now, the earth and its population are collapsing because we’ve used up all the resources and the habitable areas are diminishing because of the effects of global warming. As humans so often do in science fiction, and in true life non fiction, instead of fixing it, we’ve left it too late and aim to abandon it, looking to the stars for relief.

In this case, we’ve got our sights set on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Only instead of terraforming it, we’re terraforming ourselves. Or rather: an ambitious doctor is leading a military experiment to genetically enhance humans to make them more suitable for Titan’s harsh living.

Joel (Sam Worthington) is one of the chosen few, so he and his family, including wife Abi MV5BYmZlMGExOTgtNDg0Yy00ZjY0LThiY2YtZjhjM2Y3NzMyZGE2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzI1NzMxNzM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_(Taylor Schilling) and son Lucas (Noah Jupe), move to the military base where he and his fellow soon-to-be-super-humans will undergo the medical procedures and training necessary to get them into Titan shape. Professor Collingwood (Tom Wilkinson) fearlessly leads them into battle, but you can probably guess that this review doesn’t end with “and then they all lived happily ever after…on Saturn.”

Of course not. Because messing around with the human genome, with evolution itself, is always, always, ALWAYS a cautionary tale. What normally takes millions of years should never be rushed through in a couple of days. It’s weird that scientists, the very people who patiently explained evolution to us, seem not to have internalized that lesson. So poor Joel is subjected to way more than he bargained for, and yeah it has some pretty scary repercussions for his family, but if you think about it, also for the whole of humanity.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really seem as though anyone in the film has really thought about it. There’s a really interesting premise but the film fails in its identity. It doesn’t take enough risks, or ask the brave questions. And Sam Worthington is the blandest, most unremarkable actor ever – so much so that Sean wondered if he was possibly watching Joel Edgerton, who is the guy Sean is specifically blind to. But neither Worthington nor Schilling (dyed brunette, so she’s more believable as a doctor) are charming enough make us give a damn. Just about the only worthy thing in the whole movie is its location – beautiful Gran Canaria, Spain, which will make for a lovely holiday destination, and deserves to host nervier speculation on its picturesque island.

TIFF: Denial

denial_04Movies based on true stories were a recurring theme for us at TIFF 2016. Our festival experience included five B.O.A.T.S. in a row. My favourite of those was Denial. As a lawyer, I may be slightly biased toward legal dramas, but if you have even a passing interest in law and order (or Law & Order) then you’ll enjoy Denial.

Denial tells the tale of a defamation lawsuit brought by David Irving, British holocaust denier, against Deborah Lipstadt, American university professor. The claim is brought in England, and as a result in order to defend herself, Lipstadt is faced with proving that Irving is a liar.denial

Director Mick Jackson attended our screening and participated in a Q&A session afterward. Jackson confirmed that the courtroom scenes were word-for-word reenactments of the trial transcripts.  That was a great choice by the writers as it makes the scenes feel authentic in pace, tone and style. It was refreshing to me that the real-life scenes were allowed to stand by themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the over-the-top moments a la Col. Jessep’s crossexamination in A Few Good Men, but those don’t actually ever happen in real life. Real life is much more subtle.  Denial embraces that subtlety wholeheartedly and in doing so sets itself apart from your typical lawyer movie.denial-timothy-spall

Rachel Weisz puts on her best American accent and convincingly plays targeted Professor Lipstadt as a driven, determined and difficult-to-deal-with client, and Timothy Spall is wonderfully despicable as Holocaust-denier Irving. But my favourite performance by far was Tom Wilkinson as Lipstadt’s barrister, Richard Rampton, Q.C. Wilkinson is just so fun to watch in the courtroom scenes and in the strategy sessions with Weiss and the rest of team Lipstadt, led by Andrew Scott (who, thanks to his role in Sherlock, I was sure would turn out to be the evil mastermind pulling Irving’s strings). He conveys confidence while at the same time hinting at underlying conflict. I can only hope my British accent develops to the point where one day I sound as lawyerly as Wilkinson.

While I practice my accent, you should definitely watch Denial. I give it a score of eight unhandleable truths out of ten.

 

 

 

Unfinished Business

I usually have quite a high tolerance for Vince Vaughn, but man was this the most unnecessary piece of filmmaking I’ve seen since RIPD.

And I may have kept quiet except for what they did to poor Tom Wilkinson. The dude was in zzz5three (3!) of my favourite movies last year – Selma, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Belle. And this is his follow-up?

I mean, this is a movie where even Vince Vaughn was misused. And what they did to Nick Frost was criminal. But Tom Wilkinson might have a human rights complaint. It’s a goddamn travesty and I feel worse about myself for having seen it.

Selma

I know who Martin Luther King was. But this movie made me realize how little I know about what he went through as a leader in the civil rights movement, and it was just a tiny sample of what must have gone on throughout the 1960s (and beyond). It made me want to learn more and I think that is an important accomplishment. It has now been 50 years since the events in the movie actually took place, and I think the horrors that went on need to be remembered so we can try to learn from them (because we do still have a lot to learn). All of this is in the background. This movie would be notable for that alone, and it is hard to separate out the fact that what we are seeing actually happened, which I have been trying to do so I can then judge Selma as a movie and not just as something that needs to be seen as a record of important events.

The events in this movie are horrific. It is difficult to imagine that any of them could ever have happened, but then you remember that things like this still DO happen, that for some reason the USA still can’t or won’t indict cops who kill black people (and it is not just a US problem, the recent incidents just happened to take place there). And still that is only a small part of the big picture, because it is not just “white, black and other”. There are lots of concurrent struggles for equality going on, still, with no resolution in sight. We have made some progress but not nearly enough (and as a straight white male what I would consider enough may not even actually be enough, which makes it even clearer that 50 years later we still aren’t close to achieving real equality).

I would not likely have thought about any of this today if I hadn’t watched Selma, and it goes to show again that regardless of how well this movie was made, I am glad I saw it.  But here’s the thing: this movie is incredibly good. David Oyelowo IS Martin Luther King. He is phenomenal. He would have carried this by himself but he does not need to. Everyone involved is intent on making this movie the best picture of the year. Their love and respect for the subject matter drew me in from the very start. I do not think this movie could be any better. Because of the subject matter I cannot promise that you will be entertained but I can promise that you will be moved.

Ten out of ten. See it.

The Last Kiss

In a (seemingly) other lifetime, I was married to someone else. Someone not Sean. If that’s strange for you, believe me, it’s way weirder for me! I was in love the way only a 19 year can be. And maybe I still would be had bipolar disorder not reared its ugly head. My background in psychology came back to bite me: my rational brain thought, it’s fine, bipolar can be treated and managed. Don’t panic. I should have listened to the irrational part that said: run! Because while bipolar disorder IS highly manageable, the person has to WANT to manage it. The person has to TRY. The person has to not concoct elaborate lies in order to fool his wife, not buy generic over the counter drugs, file off the stamped logos, and pretend to be taking doctor-prescribed meds. You know, that kind of thing. Anyway, somewhere in the dramatic and volatile end of our marriage, I watched a movie called The Last Kiss. I cried my eyes out until they literally swelled shut. It was an emotional time.

I have never forgotten the emotional trauma of watching this movie, but I recently threw caution and hankies to the wind and gave it a rewatch, and here’s what I found out:

Other than a kick-ass sound track, this movie is a worthless pile of shit. There’s a fair bit of fat shaming nearly right off the top. I was rolling my eyes so hard at the shamelessly cheesy lines that an eyeball almost popped right out of the socket.

The premise: Michael (Zach Braff) is having the slimiest of crises – a quarter-life one. He has everything he wants – a nice home, a good job, a beautiful girlfriend, Jenna, and a baby on the way. So of course his complaint is that life is too perfect and he’s such a basic bitch that he’s worried life holds no more surprises for him. So while celebrating a MV5BNTUzODg0ODk5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjU0NTgxMDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1535,1000_AL_friend’s wedding, he naturally flirts with another woman – er, girl. The wedding guests are all in pastel but Kim (Rachel Bilson) saunters saucily up to the bar in a flaming red dress. She is leaking manic pixie dream girl out of every pore. No one pretends that she’s a real person, just the embodiment of the very young woman that a man about to start a family really wants to fuck. They go on dates, they kiss. They are rudely interrupted by the inconvenient death of his best friend’s father, which blows his cover story to shreds. His (pregnant) girlfriend throws him out, devastated.

Theirs is not the only relationship in tatters. Michael’s friend Chris (Casey Affleck) is on the verge of a nervous breakdown – since the birth of his son, his wife can’t stop finding fault with him and all they do is fight and try to keep the baby alive. Meanwhile, Jenna’s parents (Blythe Danner, Tom Wilkinson), o ye of the 30 year marriage, are also on the outs, also due in part to infidelity, but also, it seems, to a lifetime of happiness.

Michael, a dope and a natural born idiot, invokes double jeopardy: since he’s already in the dog house for kissing Ms. Manic Pixie, he figures he may as well fuck her. Because men are scum. But then he’s filled with regret and decides to stage a sit-in, or a vigil for his relationship, and it’s this whole sordid deal.

I must have been really messed up to find anything worthwhile in this mess. My marriage suffered from no mere infidelity – that seems a far smaller betrayal than the ones we suffered at the hands of mental illness. I’m not even sure which parts I related to, and today, all these years later, I want to slap Jenna across the face just to remind her that this sack of shit doesn’t even deserve to sit on her front porch. So yeah, things change. I’ve changed. The world has changed. Zach Braff is still a fuck knuckle.