Categories Review Run This Town

LA Times Review of Run This Town – March 5, 2020

‘Run This Town’ Runs the Table in a True Tale of Mayoral Malfeasance in Toronto

by Kenneth Duran | Los Angeles Times | March 5, 2020

Smart, ambitious and impressive, “Run This Town” is the best kind of feature directing debut, a film that entertains and makes you look forward to what will come next.

Written and directed by Ricky Tollman and inspired by a real-life scandal that enveloped Toronto’s then-Mayor Rob Ford half a dozen years ago, “Run This Town” does several things well.

It delivers a savvy portrait of millennials — eager to get ahead in a world they never made while coping with multiple pressures — by presenting two individuals who end up working two sides of the same situation.

Mena Massoud (“Aladdin”) plays Kamal Arafa, a special assistant to Ford, who is — truly — a larger-than-life mayor (that’s Damian Lewis under a ton of makeup).

Kamal’s job is spinning Ford’s periodic bad behavior, and when he hears about a tape that shows the mayor smoking crack, he swings into action.

Bram Shriver (Ben Platt, Tony winner for “Dear Evan Hansen”) is an aspiring journalist stuck doing “best of” lists. Eager to prove himself to his acerbic bosses (Jennifer Ehle and Scott Speedman, both excellent), he too gets wind of the tape and goes after it.

Intent on telling these individual stories (as well as that of another Ford assistant played by Nina Dobrev), “Run This Town” also finds time for generational commentary and an examination of how both politics and journalism operate.

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Categories Review Run This Town

New York Times Review of Run This Town – March 5, 2020

What Happens When the Mayor Smokes Crack?

by Ben Kenigsberg | New York Times | March 5, 2020

“Run This Town,” a jagged, snappy procedural that splits its time between a downsizing newspaper and a dysfunctional city government, is a fictionalized account of an actual scandal. In 2013, The Toronto Star and Gawker both said their reporters had watched a video that appeared to show Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, smoking crack. Six months later, he admitted to having used the drug, but did not resign.

Bram (Ben Platt), a young journalist who writes listicles for a Toronto news outlet, is clearly out of his depth when he meets a potential source who wants to sell him the video. The movie, which ends with Bram delivering a self-righteous, mostly unmotivated defense of his generation’s work ethic, takes a weirdly sympathetic attitude toward his stumbles.

The film is much sharper at city hall, where the two other major characters work. Kamal (Mena Massoud), the special assistant to the mayor, gleefully demonstrates his reporter-stonewalling strategies to Ashley (Nina Dobrev), a new press aide. She eagerly runs interference for the mayor until he shows up at work drunk and grabs her lewdly. Damian Lewis plays Ford, whose name is not changed, in a surprisingly effective feat of prosthetics.

Making energetic use of split screens, the writer-director Ricky Tollman shows a gift for staccato cutting and clipped dialogue, as in a spirited discussion of terminology at city hall.

Read the rest of the original article at New York Times

Categories Print Media Review Run This Town

Run This Town Review – March 2, 2020

Damian Lewis is Exceptional as Ford

by Hannah Hoolihan | Screen Rant | March 2, 2020

In May of 2013, a video surfaced that appeared to show Toronto’s former mayor, Rob Ford, smoking crack. It was hardly the first time his name had come up in relation to controversy, but it was the rock big enough to cause a ripple effect throughout his administration. But, rather than focusing on Ford’s bombastic personality and fall from grace, writer-director Ricky Tollman’s debut feature centers on those in smaller positions working in a variety of industries around him. Whether they’re eager to break this monumental story or to try and keep it contained, the effort exuded by each party far outweighs Ford’s cataclysmic nature, even if his presence looms heavily over the narrative. Run This Town falls short of its storytelling aspirations but finds success in Ben Platt and Mena Massoud, who lead with lively, enthralling energy.

Run This Town‘s narrative is mainly focused on Kamal (Massoud), a political aide to Ford, and Bram (Platt), a recently-graduated journalism major with a hunger to break his first big story. The two live entirely different lives, but share one common goal of climbing the respective ladders at their institutions. When the video of Ford becomes known to Bram, he jumps at the opportunity to use this as his ticket to leave his current position as a listicle writer. Kamal, on the other hand, is struggling to contain the story while still maintaining his legitimacy in his field. In the end, the true focus of Tollman’s story is how tirelessly these two characters worked to prove themselves, which Massoud and Platt play up in equally electric performances.

Continue reading Run This Town Review – March 2, 2020

Categories Dream Horse Print Media Review Sundance Film Festival

Dream Horse Review: Hollywood Reporter – Jan 28, 2020

Giddy Up!

by Leslie Felperin | Hollywood Reporter | January 28, 2020

Toni Collette and Damian Lewis play members of a syndicate formed to raise a thoroughbred in this comedy-drama set in Wales and based on a true story.

Anyone who saw director Louise Osmond’s 2015 documentary Dark Horse, winner of the audience award at Sundance that year, knew it was a racing certainty that this almost-too-good-to-be-true story would get made into a feature film someday. Some critics even had casting suggestions: Jim Broadbent was mentioned a couple of times for the role of Brian “Daisy” Vokes, husband of Jan Vokes (Imelda Staunton? one critic mused), who was the mastermind behind the plan to breed a racehorse and pay for its keep and training through weekly subscriptions. The members of this syndicate were mostly clients at the local village pub where Jan worked as a barmaid, in a former mining village in South Wales.

Like horse racing, filmmaking is a high-risk gamblers’ game, but the team behind Dream Horse, the resulting dramatization of the Vokes’ story, have surely bred a winner with this endearing, determinedly crowd-pleasing adaptation. Even without knowing the real-life facts (in the U.K., especially in Wales, the story’s well known), the outcome could very easily be predicted by anyone who’s ever seen a British movie about plucky, working-class folk in a provincial setting triumphing over odds or at least exceeding expectations. But thanks to a well-assembled package, smoothly directed by Euros Lyn (best known for his TV work, including Doctor Who, Broadchurch and an episode of Black Mirror), and good casting all around, crowned by the reliably excellent Toni Collette as Jan, this has every chance of sprinting to victory at the box office finish line.

Continue reading Dream Horse Review: Hollywood Reporter – Jan 28, 2020

Categories Dream Horse Premiere Print Media Review Sundance Film Festival

Dream Horse Review: Variety – Jan 26, 2020

Equal Emphasis is Given to the Excellent Lewis

by Dennis Harvey | Variety | January 26, 2020

Louise Osmond’s 2015 Sundance audience winner “Dark Horse” was one of those documentaries that played like a crowdpleasing fiction, its real-life tale of underdog triumph had such a conventionally satisfying narrative arc. And indeed, the new “Dream Horse” proves that same material is indeed ready-made for dramatization.

Euros Lyn’s feature springs few true surprises within its familiar genre, one that U.K. filmmakers have specialized in at least since “The Full Monty.” Still, this is a well-cast, artfully handled effort that exercises sufficient restraint to really earn its requisite laughter and tears. Likely to have broad appeal, with strong word-of-mouth from its own Park City premiere, it looks to be one of the strongest commercial prospects at Sundance this year.

Toni Collette is in fine form as Jan Vokes, a middle-aged South Wales native whose life in declining former mining town Cefn Fforest has hit a seemingly permanent slump. Her children have left the nest, arthritic husband Brian (Owen Teale) mostly just parks himself in front of the telly, and her two jobs (bartending at the local social club/pub and cashiering at a big-box store) are joyless dead ends. She and Brian have always been keen on animals, each raising award-winning livestock from an early age. But currently they’re down to some geese, a lazy dog and the odd goat.

One day a newish patron (Damian Lewis) at the pub, bragging about his purported glories as part of a racehorse investing syndicate, piques Jan’s interest. After doing some research, she informs the incredulous Brian that they’re buying a brood mare, then actually goes out and does it. The next thing is to draft local investors to fund the considerable costs of orchestrating insemination by a racing stallion, raising the offspring, training, et al., with only the remotest chance of arriving at a winning competitor.

Continue reading Dream Horse Review: Variety – Jan 26, 2020