True Story

CHOCOLAT

Director / Roschdy Zem (OMAR KILLED ME/OMAR M’A TUER)
Stars/ Omar Sy, James Thierrée, Clotilde Hesme, Frédéric Pierrot and Noémie Lvovsky

In the late 1800’s, former Afro-Cuban slave turned circus performer Rafael Padilla, aka Chocolat (Omar Sy), entertains moderate sized audiences in the Northern parts of France. He earns his living playing a cannibal on stage, much to the amusement of a crowd who have never seen a man of colour before! During one of his routine yet lively performances, Chocolat is discovered by a reputable circus artist named Georges Footit (real-life circus performer and grandson of Charlie Chaplin, James Thierrée), who sees potential for success by forming a duo act to perform during the Belle Époque period in Paris.

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There is both a triumph and a tragedy to be shared in this biographical film that chronicles the life story of the first-ever successful black circus artist in France. The true story of a man who broke a barrier that needed to be broken for generations to follow, even if it had to be at his own expense.

As an entertainer and a man of colour, Chocolat’s success always had its limitations. Given the time and place he is situated, the willingness to play the submissive half of a duo slapstick routine intended to be of comedic nature to its audience was the only option he had at making ends meet. Unfortunately, this shameful and derogatory treatment was not restricted to the stage alone. When not in character, Rafael’s vulnerabilities would subject him to manipulation by colleagues and employers. What must be emphasised to this point regarding this French drama is the fact it is not depressing to watch at all. Actually, it is often delightful viewing and the story is consistently engaging. This is largely due to the superb performance from Omar Sy and the characterisation of who he portrays. Chocolat, quite admirably, never truly succumbs to playing the victim. He adds value to his choice of employment that rewards him and even enjoys life by pursuing some romance. Therefore, witnessing Chocolat’s growth as a performer and as a person does bring a sense of joy, as does Omar Sy’s best role and performance since 2011’s THE INTOUCHABLES.

3 ½ stars


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Viewer Discretion/ M (Mature themes, violence and coarse language) 

Trailer / CHOCOLAT

Moviedoc thanks Transmission Films for the invite to the screening of this film.

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THE PROMISE

Director / Terry George (HOTEL RWANDA, RESERVATION ROAD)
Stars/ Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, Christian Bale and Shohreh Aghdashloo

One promise that is made and will be kept by THE PROMISE is its goodwill. This historical drama has been produced for a single purpose – to educate its audience of one of the greatest and least known catastrophes of the 20th century. Any doubt surrounding its genuine intentions can be erased by the confirmed news that all proceeds from its theatrical run will be handed straight to not for profit human rights and humanitarian organisations.

THE PROMISE weaves a fictional love-story set during the harrowing true events that happened during the early days of World War I. In Constantinople, during the last years of the Ottoman Empire, 1.5 million Armenians were systematically exterminated by the Turkish military. An event that to this day is still denied by many in Turkey, where it is illegal to discuss the Armenian Genocide! Caught among the conflict is Mikael (Oscar Isaac), who leaves his ancestral village in what is now Southern Turkey to study medicine in Constantinople. It is there that he meets Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), an Armenian artist who is romantically attached to Chris (Christian Bale), an American journalist.

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THE PROMISE shares a few commonalities to the recent release VICEROY’S HOUSE. Adding a fictitious love story to tragic real-life events for similar reasons is certainly one of them. Though the on-screen romance depicted in THE PROMISE never truly ignites, it certainly fares better here than in Gurinder Chadha’s film. To be truthful, at 133 minutes in length, this production is quite laborious and considering the extremely upsetting scale of its content, is a little emotionally bland. Various aspects of its quality do equal that of a midday movie on television. Nevertheless, much of the deserved respect coming the way of THE PROMISE will be earned by the factual details it discloses and the awareness it raises. Many Hollywood celebrities including George Clooney, Sylvester Stallone and Leonardo DiCaprio have loudly and proudly boasted their praise for this film too!

A special mention must be made to Kirk Kerkorian, who is of Armenian descent and is the former owner of film production company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). THE PROMISE was shot in 72 days across 20 locations, including Spain and New York. It cost almost $100 million to produce, all of which was fully financed by Kirk who sadly passed away during the beginning of its production. This film would not have been made without him.

3 stars

THE PROMISE

Viewer Discretion/ M (Mature themes and violence)

Trailer / THE PROMISE

Moviedoc thanks Entertainment One for the invite to the screening of this film.

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CHURCHILL

Director / Jonathan Teplitzky (THE RAILWAY MAN, BURNING MAN, GETTIN’ SQUARE)
Stars/ Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, John Slattery, Ella Purnell and James Purefoy

CHURCHILL is the first of two films that dramatise one of the most defining moments in the career of United Kingdom Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. The other film to be released later in the year will be DARKEST HOUR, starring Gary Oldman.

Directed by Australian filmmaker Jonathan Teplitzky, CHURCHILL revolves around a tense four day period that happened during the first of two terms that Churchill served as Prime Minister. In June, 1944, the Allied forces are ready to make their move on unsuspecting Nazi Germans, who are occupying territory in north-western Europe. The only person opposed to the invasion is Churchill himself, who is still heavily traumatised by the consequences of similar plans that were carried out during the First World War, fearing that history will repeat.

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CHURCHILL is an intimately shot and gently scored portrait of a dreadfully important and volatile short period of time in the life of the iconic PM, who was best known for his rousing speeches.

Alex von Tunzelmann’s screenplay ostensibly renders an accurate portrayal of the inner demons that Churchill grappled with and the pressures and frustrations he endured. Another side explored in this fact-based story surrounds the relationship that Winston shared with his wife, Clementine (Miranda Richardson) and the support that she provided to her husband. This component of the script is less convincing due to the rather one-dimensional observation it makes, which I doubt is the real intention here. Questions pertaining to the truthfulness and fairness of its construction and development do remain. While the story may not offer most viewers many new insights, CHURCHILL does offer Brian Cox one his most significant roles yet and he makes his performance a career-best one that is reminiscent of Bryan Cranston’s Oscar-nominated work in TRUMBO.

When comparing this biopic to other politically-themed films, CHURCHILL isn’t of the same high quality as THE KING’S SPEECH or FROST/NIXON. Nor is it produced with the artistic integrity that made JACKIE such a hit with critics. Nevertheless, its matter-of-fact style and concise writing on the focal subject matter should not be mistaken for blandness.

3 ½ stars

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Viewer Discretion/ M (mature themes)

Trailer / CHURCHILL

Moviedoc thanks Transmission Films for the invite to the screening of this film..

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VICEROY’S HOUSE

Director / Gurinder Chadha (BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM, BRIDE & PREJUDICE, ANGUS THONGS & PERFECT SNOGGING)
Stars/ Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi and Michael Gambon

For three hundred years, Viceroy’s House in Delhi has been home to British rulers in India. But in 1947, that ruling is officially coming to its end. The historical events depicted in VICEROY’S HOUSE are close to the heart of its director Gurinder Chadha, who is also one of several writers and producers of this film. Chadha’s own family were caught up in the tragedy that unfolded.

Tasked with overseeing India’s transition to independence is Lord Mountbatten (Bonneville), great-grandson of Queen Victoria. Moving into Viceroy’s House for six months with his wife Edwina (Anderson) and daughter, violence begins to erupt between the Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs as plans to divide the country become public. Caught up in the conflict is Jeet Kumar (Dayal) a young Hindu and manservant to Mountbatten who has fallen in love with a young Muslim working at Viceroy’s House, Aalia (Qureshi).

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VICEROY’S HOUSE provides viewers with an insightful examination of the conversations that took place behind closed doors at the grand abode and an all-round understanding of the complications that followed. These sweeping and monumental changes, which led to the partition of India, had a devastating impact on its people. All of which will be told throughout this motion picture. With so much political conversation on its agenda to cover, the aforementioned fictional sub-plot has been scripted to humanise the film and to extend the dramatic impact that these changes had.

Jeet and Aalia’s romance is an acceptable and relevant addition to the films factual premise, despite its not always convincing development and taking too much of the spotlight toward the end of the film. As an entire movie, VICEROY’S HOUSE doesn’t captivate the emotions quite like it is very much capable of. It is a film to be watched rather than one to become involved in. Although it does not fulfill its own potential, VICEROY’S HOUSE is kept from any further disappointment thanks to a handful of facets that earn the film appreciation.

There is some subtext and dialogue that has been thoughtfully incorporated into the script, which is of complete relevance and serves as a message to the rapidly changing landscape of today’s world politics. The music score from Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) and some variety in visual filmmaking from Gurinder Chadha both serve the film very well indeed. And lastly, acting performances are mixed throughout VICEROY’S HOUSE, however the two strongest contributions from TV Series The X Files star Gillian Anderson and Manish Dayal (THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY) leave a lasting impression.

3 stars 

Viewer Discretion/ TBC (PG – Mild themes)

Trailer / VICEROY’S HOUSE

Moviedoc thanks Transmission Films for the invite to the screening of this film.

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DENIAL

Director / Mick Jackson (THE BODYGUARD, VOLCANO)
Stars/ Rachel Weisz, Timothy Spall, Tom Wilkinson and Andrew Scott

The first theatrically released film (in the US) since 2002 to be directed by Mick Jackson, who has been concentrating more heavily on episodes of TV Series and a couple of TV Movies, is DENIAL. Adapted from the acclaimed book “History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier” by Deborah E. Lipstadt, this Outstanding British Film of the Year BAFTA Nominee is a dramatisation of the Irving v Penguin Books Ltd case.

Written for the screen by two-time Oscar nominee David Hare (THE READER and THE HOURS), this case was first filed in 1996 and did not go to trial until early 2000. Deborah E. Lipstadt (Weisz) is sued for libel by self-proclaimed historian and renowned denier David Irving (Spall), after referring to him as a Holocaust denier in a book she wrote and published. Deborah, an acclaimed writer and historian who is employed as a Holocaust scholar, must work with a legal team to collect evidence and prove in a court of law that the Holocaust really did occur.

As far as biographical dramas are concerned, you can file DENIAL as a competently handled film that tells its true story genuinely. As a means to testify for its authenticity, all of the dialogue in the courtroom scenes is taken verbatim from the real-life trial records. These scenes are guaranteed to fulfil the appetite of viewers who value credible and significant legally sourced drama. Outside of the court case being detailed, there is less work invested into character background and storylines of a more personal nature. This works just fine for DENIAL, which isn’t without characterisation. A headstrong and passionate Deborah E. Lipstadt clearly being the most defined of them.

While DENIAL doesn’t possess cinematic production qualities and has a narrative that sometimes lacks a natural flow, it does often remain engrossing to watch and is informative viewing. It is quite good in all areas it needs to be and features uniformly solid performances. Definitely worth adding this film to your watch list.

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (occasional coarse language)

Trailer / DENIAL

Moviedoc thanks entertainment One and The Backlot Studios for the invite to this film screening.

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THE INNOCENTS/LES INNOCENTES

Director / Anne Fontaine (ADORE, COCO BEFORE CHANEL)
Stars/ Lou De Laâge, Agata Buzek, Agata Kulesza and Vincent Macaigne

Poland, 1945. War is over. Fear is not.

The new film from Anne Fontaine, who assists with the writing adaptation of LES INNOCENTES, earned four nominations including Best Film at the 2017 César Awards. Taken from the experiences of scenario writer Philippe Maynial’s Aunt, LES INNOCENTES is the true account of a French Red Cross Doctor who is treating the survivors of a former German camp. During a routine shift, Mathilde (Lou De Laage from 2015s THE WAIT) is approached by a young nun, Maria (Agata Buzek) who desperately pleas for her help. Maria takes Mathilde to the convent she is from where she soon discovers that several of its nuns are pregnant.

If the truth hurts, there are times that LES INNOCENTES is agony to fathom. Despite this fact-based story having more than its fair share of tragedy to occur, there are elements of comfort present in this very involving French/Polish drama.

After reading the film synopsis, it is clear that these nuns have sadly been raped. The timeline that this film is set in will give you a strong indication as to who is responsible for these callous and reckless actions. As LES INNOCENTES explores the magnitude of these crimes, the script clearly and effectively conveys the risks and complications that both Mathilde and the inhabitants of the convent are faced with. Once some further shocking revelations are made in LES INNOCENTES, there are moments that are so distressing that they can be difficult to stomach. And that’s when Anne Fontaine, directing with heart and sheer presence of mind, brings to the fore the spirit of humanity which is inherent to Mathilde. This, as well as a few of the nuns who are inclined to think more independently, definitely bring some form of warmth during these cold-hearted times.

A stand-out display of acting from the young French actress Lou De Laâge as well as the dreary atmosphere captured by the striking cinematography of LES INNOCENTES respectively complement its quality and add to the poignancy of this fine picture.

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (Mature themes and sexual violence)

Trailer / THE INNOCENTS/LES INNOCENTES

Moviedoc thanks Annette Smith, Rialto Distribution and The Backlot Studios for the invite to this film screening.

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LAND OF MINE

Director / Martin Zandvliet (A FUNNY MAN)
Stars / Roland Møller, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman, Emil Belton and Oskar Belton

Denmark, 1945. Five years of German occupation and six years of war have finally come to an end. Shot at historically authentic locations, this excellent Danish/German production was nominated for Best Foreign Language Picture at the most recent Academy Awards.

At the conclusion of WWII, an estimated 2,600 German POWs were sent to remove over two million land mines that are buried under the sand along the west coast of Denmark. Almost half of these men died or were severely injured. Many of whom were just young boys.

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Telling just one of these several untold true stories of its kind, LAND OF MINE distinctly articulates its premise and summons palpable tension right from the opening frame.

As you could imagine, watching these frightened and innocent youths learning to defuse a land mine before completing the assignment on-site is a harrowing experience. Knowing the fate that awaits if just one wrong move or lapse in concentration occurs is beyond unsettling. But before LAND OF MINE begins to sound like unbearable viewing, the value to be gained from this devastating true story is beautifully depicted, as humanity and friendship are formed from some of the most unexpected places soon after its opening. While there is fear, it is met with bravery. Solitary is comforted by support. LAND OF MINE eloquently demonstrates why these adolescent men became the victims and faced unfathomable punishment for actions they were powerless to sway.

LAND OF MINE is quite a landmark achievement that boasts a precisely written narrative that resoundingly resonates with society of today. Its music score heightens anxiety levels and deepens emotional connections just as intended. Lastly, the venerable and affecting acting performances from each member of its cast contributes greatly to its powerfully conveyed universal themes. Highly recommended.


4 stars
 

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Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (strong themes and violence)

Trailer / LAND OF MINE

Moviedoc thanks Palace Films for the invite to this film screening.

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