September 7, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Toronto Film Festival Reviews: “Fahrenheit 11/9,” “The Predator” & “Greta”


FAHRENHEIT 11/9 (Midwestern – opens September 21):  In the course of Fahrenheit 11/9, Michael Moore takes a shot at Jeff Zucker and Les Moonves for admitting that Donald Trump has been good for their businesses, but it’s a weakness of Moore that he lacks the self-knowledge to recognize that the same is true for himself.  11/9 is Moore’s most vital work in years, and may well be one of his most successful, because he’s got a clear (some might say easy) target to aim at.  Some of the material is rightfully infuriating and chilling, and occasionally it allows itself to be inspiring.  As a whole, the film is too scattershot to be truly great, as Moore devotes a great deal of the 128-minute running time to the water scandal in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, a story that isn’t quite the grand metaphor for the country as a whole that he wants it to be.  He also goes down a lot of memory lanes, both of cable news round-ups (did you know that everyone expected Hillary to win, right till the last minute?) and his own work, delving into Bowling For Columbine territory for a section on the Parkland shootings.  In the last stretch, though, Moore goes all-in on his grim vision of how Trump happened and what it says about the US, and he stretches beyond his limitations and touches something existentially frightening.  It may seem like a gag when Moore dubs Trump’s voice for footage of a Hitler rally, but he’s not kidding about the almost imperceptible way a mixture of economic frustration and a cult of personality can resolve itself into fascism.  This is Moore at his best, not just a gadfly with a weakness for stunts, but a political essayist with something to say.  He may not want to thank Trump for that, but inspiration can come from strange places.

THE PREDATOR (20th – September 14):  The Predator franchise has sometimes leaned toward the horror genre, but Shane Black’s sequel/reboot is full-on sci-fi action, with enough one-liners to approach comedy territory.  Those human-hunting aliens have returned to Earth, although this time for a reason that, once revealed, is awfully far-fetched even by genre standards.  As in the original Predator, a team of military tough guys, here led by McKenna (Narcos veteran Boyd Holbrook), has to do battle.  But this time, McKenna’s crew, apart from ass-kicking biologist Bracket (Olivia Munn) is a ragtag group of oddball psych cases who seem to have wandered out of The Dirty Dozen:  suicidal Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes), compulsively joking Coyle (Keegan-Michael Kay), Tourette’s sufferer Haxley (Thomas Jane), and so on.  Plus the only person on Earth who can comprehend the alien technology is McKenna’s pre-adolescent son Rory (Jacob Tremblay, from Room), who’s on the autism spectrum.  It’s a weird stew of tones, and the person who comes off best is Sterling K. Brown as what could have been a standard-issue evil government guy–will somebody give this man an action movie of his own?  It doesn’t help that although Black and co-writer Fred Dekker bring plenty of energy to the proceedings, the action sequences are shot and edited with no style at all.  This Predator doesn’t even try to be scary, and seems meant for viewers flicking through cable channels or streaming listings after a few beers.  It’s so undemanding it barely even asks to be watched.

GRETA (Kimmel – TBD)A B-movie from Neil Jordan (co-written with Ray Wright), classed up with tony references to European culture, the toniest of all being the presence of living legend Isabelle Huppert as its black widow.  Greta is sort of a callback to the 1990s mini-genre of “The ______ From Hell,” which included the nanny in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, the landlord in Pacific Heights, and so on.  Here Huppert is the middle-aged lady from hell, clearly creepy as soon as Frances (a game Chloe Grace Moretz) returns the handbag to her that Greta left behind on a subway.  Things get very dark indeed, and the script unfortunately has Frances do just about every dumb thing an ingenue can do in a horror movie.  (It also features some of the most ineffective cops in cinema history.)  If there was meant to be any meaningful undertone here, it’s not evident, and Greta isn’t any more than low-grade fun.  Jordan shoots it with elegance, though, and a masterful sense of pace, and Huppert seems positively gleeful as Greta reveals more and more of her monstrousness.  The ending is also a bit more clever than you might expect.  Greta makes one wish that all its talented participants had better things to do with their time, but it delivers the thrills it intends.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."