Saturday, June 27, 2020

VOD film review: Irresistible

Directed & written by Jon Stewart

ChinoKino score: C-

Review by Allan Tong

One of America's finest political satirists unleashes his take on the U.S. election machine months before the presidential vote. However, in Irresistible, Jon Stewart stays behind the camera. Instead, he's crafted a tale about a cynical Democrat political consultant (Steve Carell) who convinces a retired Marine colonel (Chris Cooper) to run for mayor in a small Wisconsin town. The Dems are up against a well-entrenched Republican mayor in this sleepy, agricultural villa, the kind of place where everybody knows your name. Naturally, the Republicans fly in their own city slicker consultant (Rose Byrne) to do battle in what becomes a symbolic battle between Red and Blue, and the soul of America.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

film review: Military Wives

Directed by Peter Cattaneo

Written by Rosanne Flynn & Rachel Tunnard

ChinoKino score: C

Review by Allan Tong

Military Wives has all the ingredients to add up to a rousing feel-good comedy. A group of disparate British women are united by a cause (their partners are soldiers fighting in Afghanistan); they band together to perform (a choir) so they're on a musical journey; the film's director made the smash hit, The Full Monty; the great Kristin Scott-Thomas is the lead; and there's lots of singing. Audiences should be cheering these ladies as they endure bad news from the war front and find solace in each other. We should be swept away by their voices and stories as they struggle to literally find their voices.

Sadly, we don't. The film is a by-the-numbers affair that  rarely raises a laugh or smile and doesn't emotionally draw us into the lives of these women. Rather, the film feels cold and distant. I never felt like the wives become pals. They lack camaraderi.e True, they share their sorrows over bad news and there are moments of genuine friendship, but it's not enough to ignite this film.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

film review: Les Misérables

Directed by Ladj Ly

Written by Ladj Ly & Giordano Gederlini

ChinoKino score: A-

Review by Allan Tong

The great French novelist Victor Hugo set Les Misérables in the Parisian suburb of Montfermeil, where this drama occurs a century-and-a-half later. Both stories examine the downtrodden of France's capital, but today those poor are mostly angry black kids in hoodies with few prospects or male adult role models. Enter good cop Stéphane (Damien Bonnard seen in Dunkirk) who joins the Anti-Crime Brigade in Montfermeil. He learns the ropes of this rough area by riding with Chris (Alexis Manenti, center in picture above) and Gwada (Djibril Zonga, right in picture), two veteran, jaded and hardass cops.

Hardass, because Chris (a nasty white cop) and Gwada (black, who grew up in the 'hood) apply the toughlove approach to their policing, like harassing a cute teenage girl in front of her friends, or roughing up young men just to keep them in line. That's all in a day's work. Stéphane bristles at their approach, but the veterans believe you gotta be tough to survive in Montfermeil. After all, the police are tiptoeing in gang territory.

Things turn bad when a troublemaking kid, Issa, steals a baby lion from a gypsy circus. The gypsies accuse a local black gang of harbouring Issa (Issa Perica), so the pressure is on to locate the lion and protect the child from retribution. To keep this powder keg from exploding, the three cops get sucked into this search, but ultimately their efforts backfire. [To avoid spoilers, let's leave the synopsis at this.]

Monday, May 4, 2020

film review: The Assistant

Directed by Kitty Green

Written by Kitty Green

ChinoKino score: B-

Review by Allan Tong

The Assistant hit theatres in February just as Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of rape. The release date was as intentional as this tale about an office assistant who works for an oppressive boss who beds young women to fulfill his sleazy sexual needs.

We see the film through Jane (played by Ozark's astonishing Julia Garner), an entry-level office assistant at a Manhattan film company. Jane is your common twentysomething office slave: a hardworking college grad who works insane hours and does every crappy task, from wiping away crumbs after meetings to enduring the wrath of the boss' crazy wife. Jane is so overworked that she forgets to phone her dad on his birthday. Jane wants to be a film producer, but for now she keeps her head down and does her job. We feel for her.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

film review: Hope Gap

Directed by William Nicholson

Written by William Nicholson

ChinoKino score: B-

Review by Allan Tong

Hope Gap captures the end of a 29-year marriage of an English couple, well-played by Annette Benning and Bill Nighy. Their millennial son, played by Josh O'Connor (known for The Crown) is caught in the middle of this painful break-up, playing messenger for both his parents. Nighy's Edward admits their marriage was a doomed mismatch from the start, something he's learned after falling for the parent of one his students at the school where he teaches. We never see the Other Woman, which avoids one cliche, but robs the film of potential conflict. Meanwhile, Benning's Grace stubbornly clings to the hope (or delusion) that their marriage still has life and isn't terminal.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

film review: The Jesus Rolls

Directed by John Turturro

Written by John Turturro

ChinoKino score: D

Review by Allan Tong

Die-hard fans of the cult comedy, The Big Lebowski, have been salivating for a sequel for over 20 years. Sadly, only die-hard fans will seek out The Jesus Rolls, and many will come away disappointed.

The Jesus Rolls is a misguided mess from start to finish. On the surface, the film looks promising. Writer-director John Turturro is a fine comedic and dramatic actor, not to mention sensitive filmmaker. Plus, he's working with an established character that he shaped, The Jesus. So, what could go wrong with this new story about The Jesus? In this film, Jesus gets out of prison and hooks up with his old buddy, Petey (Bobby Cannavale) and together they embark on a road trip marked with criminal escapades: stealing a car, beating up folks and firing a stolen gun. Along the way, they pick up a ditzy shampooist named Marie (Audrey Tautou, best known for Amelie).

Friday, January 17, 2020

IDS opens strong, celebrating all things design

Story and photos by Allan Tong
The 22nd annual Interior Design Show (IDS) launched last night with its annual bash in the Toronto Metro Convention Centre. Frigid temperatures didn't keep away 5,500 design fans who sipped Prosecco and devoured oysters as they surveyed the latest in home furnishings, from bathtubs to sofas and kitchen suites. January 17 is industry day, but the public is welcome this weekend though January 19 (10am-6pm), offering the public nearly 300 exhibitors and talks with renown designers including Brian Gluckstein, Lynda Reeves, Paul Austerberry and Jonathan Adler. Here are some cool, futuristic and eye-catching highlights:

Puzzled by Modern Sense Furniture?