Review: Seek (Canada: 2014): The Unsurprising and Uninspiring World of Toronto’s Night Life Revealed

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Eric Henry’s debut feature about a young men in the gay club scene is way to tepid to say anything about contemporary gay life. If one has never been to a club, I suppose one might find this interesting. But the actors fail to engage with their roles as they uncover secrets that everyone knows.

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Cinderella (USA: 2015): In case you haven’t heard, the shoe fits and she marries well

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As a children’s film, Kenneth Branaugh’s live action Cinderella is probably worth a visit for the high production values, lush sets, gorgeous costumes, and magical CGI. For adults, however, the movie offers nothing more than Disney’s take on the story from 1950 with no noteworthy changes that might offer a new perspective on the same old story.

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The Face Reader (Korea: 2013): Kang-ho Song as 15th Century Detective

Palace intrigue and bureaucratic reform in 15th Century Korea are deftly handled in The Face Reader. Kang-ho Song as always is fun to watch as the titular character, who winds his way from poverty and disgrace to the heights of power and back again. Director Jae-rim Han keeps the story simple enough for non-Korean audiences to follow this Korean period drama, which makes it a good introduction to the genre.

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Secretly, Greatly (Korea: 2013): Identity-crisis and action genres step on each other in otherwise entertaining film

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Brief Review

The comic book origins of the story are never more apparent than in the clashing final confrontation scenes of Secretly, Greatly, Chul-soo Jang’s action-comedy-drama about North Korean super spies. The different cinematic requirements of  drama and action are kept in check until the final 20 minutes, when they stumble over each other, making for a relatively disappointing finish to an otherwise entertaining film.

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Inherent Vice (USA: 2014): Strong style and mood cannot overcome a lost plot

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Brief Review

If one could enjoy a movie for mood and setting alone, Inherent Vice may be the masterpiece of the year.  It is America of of 1970 that director P.T. Anderson is laying out, that time of hazy drugs and confused meanings when the entire country seemed to have completely lost the post-war plot. That the rootlessness of the times overwhelms the characters is understandable, but at 2 1/2 hours, viewers may become restless at the meandering developments that always seem to be leading somewhere, but which never reach any specific conclusion.

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Mr. Turner (UK: 2014): Timothy Spall and a 349 degree view of an artist

Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner presents as close to a 360 view of a character as I think one can have on film without employing a cat scan. It is outstanding, if a bit long. I am not certain who is going to be nominated next month for best actor for the Academy Awards, but if Timothy Spall isn’t at least in the mix, I am not certain what an actor has to do to get there. I guess maybe he could talk more and grunt less, but my goodness, he takes to the role of the English painter JMW Turner with zeal.

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The film is a domestic and social portrait of one of the pivotal artists in history during the last 25 years of his life. Turner kept sketchbooks but he was not a diarist, so we don’t have any deep insights into what he was thinking at any particular time. The movie is true to that mystery. The social scenes in the movie are probably drawn the letters and diaries of others who met him. But even without the deep psychological study, Leigh has produced one of the most advanced profiles of an artist and his times that I have seen.

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