So…. I like movies, but if you’ve already been to the amazing MobToronto.com site and read Part 1 one of my 10 Movies in 10 Days feature, you probably get the idea. MobToronto is a great place for all things cool in and around Toronto, so I thought I’d start it there, and finish it here at home, as CurtisMorgan.ca is the home for all things entertaining, sexy, and fun no matter where you are. So with that being said, let’s keep it moving.
Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids
So for me, this one was the most anticipated. A concert film captured over the last two days of his 20/20 World Tour (which I skipped after the disappointment of his joint tour with Jay-Z that I dropped $200 on). This was going to be redemption. A little something you should know about me: 1. I love Justin Timberlake. As a true music and performance fan, you gotta give it up to Justin for his quality and consistency. 2. I love concert films, whether it is Prince, Janet Jackson, Boyz II Men, John Legend — I could go on. 3. I’ve never seen one on the big screen. For all three of these reasons, I decided to pay the $58 to attend the Gala screening at Roy Thomson Hall (extremely exorbitant amount especially since days before the screening — long after I had purchased my tickets — Justin announced that the film would be available on Netflix in four short weeks). The live concert experience, for me, has been almost transcendent at times (one day, ask me about seeing Fred Hammond & Radical for Christ on a Sunday in a church parking lot — changed my life), so I had high hopes for this one. I spent all day thinking of a relevant thought-provoking question for Justin.
The reason, I imagine, that this concert film, garnered enough buzz to justify a Gala screening, other than Justin’s attendance, was the fact that it was directed by famed director Jonathan Demme (The Silence Of The Lambs, Philadelphia, Ricki & The Flash). Demme has experience directing concert films as he previously directed films for Kenny Chesney, Neil Young, and The Talking Heads. So I expected…. something… different than your typical concert film. My mistake.
After Justin and Demme came out and hyped the movie to the crowd, with Demme saying this is the most amazing thing we have ever seen, and Justin charismatically gushing about Demme and the people he worked with on the tour, the lights began to dim. The film starts out with Justin arriving at the venue and beginning show prep. Then, the next 10 mins of the film, are simply the 25 or so members of the Tennessee Kids saying their name and what they do on the show (ie. dancer, bass player, keyboards). That’s it. Then the show starts, and Justin takes over. Now, as someone who didn’t get to see this show live, it was Justin almost at his best (for me, the Justified Tour will always be my favourite). It was the complete show. Beginning to end. Entertaining, extremely. Special, no. Demme never went back to show any prep or what it would be like to tour with Justin, or ever went back to share little stories and anecdotes about life on the road with these professionals, didn’t even bother to have any of this amazingly talented group utter another word about how they got there and what Justin means to them. Nothing. The only evidence of Demme at all was a few “exclusive” angles of the performance, that brings you momentarily out of the Ken Ehrlich-style televised live show that we see whenever you turn on an award show.
I’m thinking that’s why, despite the $58 (!!!!!) per ticket that was charged, that there was no Q & A. I think Demme knows that Justin just basically handed him a paycheck. I get why Justin left. I’m sure at the end of every show on the tour, he watched the playback to look for improvement opportunities, I heard most of the greats do that, so he probably didn’t watch it. Regardless, he overpaid for Demme. The cameramen who shot the shows for the jumbotron could’ve delivered the exact same product, save for a couple of shots. Overall, as my first Gala goes, this one hurt a little. Will I watch it on Netflix? Should you watch this movie? Hell yeah, if you like Justin Timberlake, this man has still got it, like Justified dropped yesterday.
However, if you are a fan of Demme, and you want to see his imprint on a Justin Timberlake show…. skip it. Oh and fast forward the whole first 10 minutes, it’s not like you will even care about those people or even remember their names once the show starts, and that is incredibly unfortunate.
King Of The Dancehall
Nick Cannon goes to Jamaica to become the King of The Dancehall. That’s the pitch. Off the top, it seemed that everyone went into this one with one eyebrow raised, hoping that Nick does not, at any time, under any circumstances, attempt to speak ANY Jamaican patois. Nick Cannon has balls. You gotta give him that. It’s a brave thing he did here. I respect the courage to take a proud strong, self-sustained, contained culture like Jamaican Dancehall and attempt to commercialize it as an outsider (he may as well have been Lord of the Dance — that’s the only way he would’ve been more of an outsider).
Luckily for him, one of the smart things he did was to play that angle. By playing the new kid on the block, he and his audience learn about the intricacies, customs, braggadocio, and do’s and don’ts of Dancehall at the same time, adding relatability to his character. This movie attempts to depict the source of the dancehall culture of the island that has traveled to almost every continent in the world. It is a valiant attempt to, for the first half of the film. Then, things get a little… weird.
I see what Nick was trying to do here, and I commend him for it. However, when you are the writer, director AND star of a film that is based on something foreign to you, there are bound to be problems. To name a few: Most films in this genre showcase the dance style basics as a jump-off point, but then as the climax builds, so should the complexity of the choreography in order to titillate audiences, increasing the tension, and showing them things they haven’t seen before. Although the choreography in this movie has great moments, the final battle scene leaves you wanting more. That shouldn’t happen in a movie like this.
Also, at some point in the production phase, the film abandons all character development of any of the main characters, so much so that you realize on the final frame, that nobody learns anything. That is a crucial flaw in this film that won’t really affect you until you are thinking about the film after all the strong candy-like music video visuals drain from your memory (about 20 mins or so after the credits roll).
Now, the Toronto International Film Festival audience is a great one. I could tell that people really wanted this film to be good for various reasons. There is a strong island contingency here that is yearning to see itself represented honestly on screen. Thanks to great performances by local music talent Kreesha Turner (who Nick says is to blame for the concept of this film), newcomer Kimberly Patterson, and an AMAZING stand-out performance from Busta Rhymes (who single-handedly kept annoyed viewers in their seats awaiting his next scene), this film had its moments.
However, Nick chose to fill the screen with himself rather than capitalize on the talents he had at his disposal. Again, I see what he was trying to do, but he needs more experience in this area before he tries to wear all of those hats again. If you are a huge dancehall fan, it’s worth a look, Nick made sure that he would have somewhat of a built-in audience as he gave cameos to almost EVERY current dancehall artist in the game right now. The performances by attention-grabbing names like Whoopi Goldberg and Lou Gossett Jr. are not even worth mentioning as they were too brief to actually have an effect on the plot, or, unfortunately, the main character.
The trailer for Moonlight does a thing to you. But not a good thing. What it does is use devices, hooks, and juxtapositions to make you think, by the end of it, that you know what this movie is going to be about. But, … you’re wrong. It’s sort of about that. Was that intentional, or accidental? Director Barry Jenkins will probably never tell.
It is about a black boy who becomes a man, depicted by 3 different actors at the 3 “pivotal” stages of his development. This black boy gets the feeling early on that he might be gay. So this movie could’ve been a captivating story about a gay black youth in an impoverished section of the Southern states struggling with his “difference” in a place where you need to be the same to survive, and in doing so, finds kindness in the most unlikely places. This is what the first and the best third of the movie is about. The 2nd and 3rd acts slowly trade in the relatability of the main character for a singular lonely version of the protagonist who ultimately let the adversity of his situation change him, and right before we find out if he will triumph over the life-long beat-down that he experienced, so that he can bask in the moonlight of being who he is freely, the movie abruptly ends.
I watched this movie next to a lovely freelance German movie reviewer who was just as excited about this film as I was based on the trailer, and when the credits rolled, we both looked at each other a little puzzled, and agreed, that this is not what we thought it would be. And it’s sad, in a way, because the first act, had the potential to nurture the 2nd & 3rd act. One of my major problems was that there was a specifically beautiful, touching and poignant relationship in the first act, that featured the film’s most lovable character who was alive and well at the end of the act, and then in the 2nd act, the only reference to this character was one mention of his funeral and no mention of him in the 3rd. This point was hammered home during the Q & A when the author and playwright of the source material that was based on his life was asked how he felt about the film, seeing it for the first time. He said some general nice things, but then he, while fighting back tears, specifically referenced the portrayal of that relationship and thanked Mr. Jenkins for bringing that character back to life because he was crucial to his survival and he missed him immensely. The whole audience was tearing up at this moment. It became painfully clear that the way that relationship was treated in the film was nothing compared to what it actually meant to the creator. Barely giving flight to that relationship, and then neglecting to reference it hardly at all after the fact, was, in my opinion, an oversight.
One thing this film does have is amazing performances, most notably by Mahershala Ali (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Place Beyond The Pines, Luke Cage), Naomie Harris (Skyfall, 28 Days Later, Collateral Beauty), and an incredible debut performance from musician, Janelle Monae. Janelle and Mahershala were the best parts of this film. The camera loves Janelle, and she instantly had the audience in the palm of her hand with her portrayal of Theresa, like she has done on any stage she steps on. As far as musicians who try their hand at acting, this may be the most seamless transition in history. I decided to ask Janelle what the experience was like for her:
Perfect answer. Watch out for this one. That, being said Moonlight is a decent film, but the ending was a little too artsy for me. If you haven’t watched the trailer, … I suggest you Moonlight. This is one of those films that will sit better with you if you know nothing about it.
My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea
I knew absolutely nothing about this film going in, except that it had some exceptional voice talent: Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited, The Grand Budapest Hotel), Lena Dunham (Girls, Tiny Furniture, Adventure Time), and Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids, Big Hero 6, Brooklyn Nine-Nine). The movie title is probably the most literal one ever made, as this movie is about the main character, Dash’s (named after the movie’s writer and director, Dash Shaw) entire high school sinking into the sea.
I knew it employed some less sophisticated type of animation. Going in, one wonders if that would work, but it does what animation used to before all of this CGI, motion capture, and realism in animation. It pulls the audience into it’s own stylized form of storytelling with relative ease. It becomes lucid-like as if you were watching the telling of someone’s dream. It does this without getting too weird by maintaining the narrative throughout, and by the everyday teenager language employed by all of the main characters. It pulls you in with real human issues, like Dash’s jealousy of his two best friends falling in love with each other, and corporate greed, while making you swallow the absurdity of a high school slowly falling into the sea. Think Titanic but a high school. For a first-time director and writer, Dash has made a very entertaining film and secured great voice talent, including Susan Sarandon as a very memorable character. This movie is for teenagers and adults alike and is a surprising success.
Sadako vs. Kayako
So…basically, this was touted as the entity from The Ring vs. the entity from The Grudge. Ever since Godzilla vs. Mothra, this new genre of baddie vs. baddie has been slowly picking up speed. This was one that horror fans REALLY wanted to see. The Ring and The Grudge are probably the two scariest horror films that have come from the Orient. Both have been adapted by North American studios a few times over. Unlike the originals that spawned this hybrid, Sadako vs. Kayako does not take itself too seriously. There are quite a few funny moments to break up the terror on the screen, which is a welcome device to alleviate mounting tensions for novices and expert horror fans alike.
Not much to say about this movie. It is structured in an interesting way. It plays like you are watching a sequel to The Ring and a sequel to The Grudge, that are edited together. For the first hour of the movie, you are watching two films. It is only in the last 30 minutes that the two protagonists and antagonists even meet. But when they do, things get kicked up a notch. Around the same time, we’re introduced to a higher level warlock and his tiny sidekick, who are straight out of anime. They provide a lot of comic relief, but also orchestrate the explosive ending. This movie will be on-demand soon. It may hit theaters for Halloween, who knows. If you want a fun, yet scary ride with the two ghouls that haunted you years ago, you’ll enjoy this.
And the Q & A with these two was so much fun. They actually had answers to the questions they were asked without saying a word. Brilliant marketing around this film as these two were spotted all over the city leading up to the screening.
Thanks for reading all of this, if you did. Let me know in the comments what you thought of these movies if you saw them, if you have any questions or comments, or if you have any recommendations for something that we should all see. Don’t forget to check out Part 1 if you haven’t yet. Until next time, be easy.