One of the most powerful anti-war films ever made turns forty on August 15th and director Francis Ford Coppola is releasing Apocalypse Now: Final Cut in limited theatrical and DVD release. He says the original was “too clipped”, REDUX is “too long”, and this new version, it’s the way he originally intended it, “just right”. Restored from the original negative, the mind-bending landmark film, based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness features legendary performances by Marlon Brando as Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, the target of a Vietnam jungle search by Martin Sheen’s Captain Benjamin L. Willard. The US Military believes Kurtz has gone dangerously rogue in the jungles of Vietnam and orders Willard to exterminate him “with extreme prejudice”. What plays out is a harrowing, psychedelic odyssey through an inhospitable place where men have lost all reason. Willard is close behind. Coppola’s extraordinary masterpiece is one of the most acclaimed films in history and one of the most studied. Forty-nine minutes have been put back, the full length cleaned and restored over 11 months, with a 4K scan, Dolby’s HDR processing (Dolby Vision) in 5.1 surround mix Atmos, providing new brilliance, clarity and depth in sound and vision not apparent in earlier iterations. It made a lasting impression on this reporter, seeing it first as a young naïf and then 25 times more. Run, don’t walk.
Cate Blanchett never disappoints. As a disgraced architect running away from anything that may invite further failure in Where’d You Go, Bernadette? she’ able to balance her character’s nutty individuality and apparent mental collapse without bathos and keep it grounded. Quite the feat. Twenty years into her escape from LA to Seattle, a city she blames for her problems, Bernadette’s seriously distracted – lashing out, disappearing, trying the patience and well being of everyone around her, her husband (Billy Crudup) shows no compassion while her daughter understands it all. After an ugly intervention attempt and threats of a stay in the “looney bin” Bernadette decides a trip to Antarctica is in order. Richard Linklater’s latest oeuvre is certainly illuminating and funny at times, but it is Blanchett’s performance that matters, this flawed heroine with the strength to struggle survive and will herself well through creativity.
Julianne Moore’s husband, veteran writer-director Bart Freundlich tackles an English remake of Susan Bier’s 2006 Danish film After the Wedding. Michelle Williams plays the role originated by Mads Mikkelsen in a gender twist, as Isabel, who abandoned a lover in America under mysterious circumstances and found a meaning running an orphanage in India. After years away, she returns to New York to meet with Moore’s Theresa, an executive who dangles a huge donation as an incentive for Isabel to make the trip. The orphanage is in dire need of funds but Isabel soon discovers something is amiss. Theresa invites her to her daughter’s wedding; someone is there who brings the pain of her long-ago past rushing back. Williams plays her emotions right under the surface but holds strong enough not to fall apart, whereas Moore is way over the top, who ultimately, betrays herself (and us) by overplaying her big scene and ending for me, right there. Guess who plays Moore’s husband? Billy Crudup.
What’s summer without a shark? No fun, but no fear, there’s a giant clichéd shark horror with the women-in-distress motif leaping out at us, and I like it. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged stars some nubile young starlets including Sly Stallones’ daughter Sistine Rose Stallone in her first film, Brec Bassinger, Corinne Foxx, Brianne Tju and the lead Sophie Nélisse, who is a serious actress. Director Johannes Roberts has the girls outfitted in tiny bathing suits as they plumb the depths of an ancient underwater city. They’re all expert divers but the original plan to take a single twirl around the site and return to the boat is clearly not going to be followed, giving blind sharks time to get their acts together and strike. It’s often gruesome and rarely unintentionally funny. 80% of the film’s underwater, but scenes on dry land introduce a fun Mean Girls situation which is nicely addressed in an unforgettable ending. There are authentic scares, along with low-key anger at the girls for putting themselves and their loved ones in this situation. Not awfully scary, for that, I recommend the news.
Mads Brügger’s Cold Case Hammarskjöld with Göran Björkdahl rips the lid off the case of the diplomat’s mysterious death in 1961. UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld died in a plane crash en route to cease-fire negotiations during the Congo Crisis but the cause of the crash was never revealed. Brügger and Björkdahl spent six years interviewing witnesses and law enforcement officials to find out if Hammarskjöld was murdered, and what a story! Hammarskjöld supported the new freedom of African countries from colonial rule, earning enemies. The filmmakers track the crash site at Ndola, Zambesi where the plane was, oddly enough, buried. They find it using metal detectors, based on an earlier find of a sheet of metal riddled with bullet holes. They learn of Belgian mercenaries linked to businesses in Europe, and of the sounds of gunfire just before the crash. A mysterious man named Keith Maxwell, commander of Delta Unit acted as a doctor and experimented on black people for the South African Maritime Research or SAMIR allegedly under the aegis of the US as research into the weaponizing of viruses and psychological warfare, providing military support, carrying out coups. Maxwell wrote that AIDS would play a big role in creating a white majority in South Africa. A female SAMIR staffer was murdered just before she was to testify in court. Can’t believe what I’m writing because it’s so extreme, but these are the findings of the filmmakers laid out in this explosive doc.
The TIFF Name Game – Get a load of these folks coming our way next month. Meryl Streep, Robbie Robertson and The Band, Natalie Portman Eddie Redmayne, Mick Jagger, Marisa Tomei, Dakota Johnson, Dakota Fanning, Lucas Hedges, Olivier Assayas, Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, Kristen, Renée Zellweger Finn Wittrock, David Thewlis, Laysla De Oliveira, Luke Wilson, Rossif Sutherland, Atom Egoyan, Tantoo Cardinal, Jason Segel, Jennifer Lopez, Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer, Julia Stiles, Cardi B, Constance Wu, Michael Greyeyes, Tim Roth, Clive Owen, Catherine McCormack, avid Foster, Isabelle Huppert, Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe, Liam Neeson, Lesley Manville, Kristin Scott Thomas, Annette Bening, Bill Nighy, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Nicole Kidman, Joaquin Phoenix, Robert DeNiro.
Who and what films do you want to see at the Toronto International Film Festival? Leave your answers in Comments.
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