Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

Mary Queen of Scots
(UK, 124 min.)
Dir. Josie Rourke, Writ. Beau Willamon
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Joe Alwyn, Adrian Lester, Guy Pearce, Adam Bond, Jack Lowden
Saoirse Ronan stars as Mary, Queen of Scots
400 years before Nancy and Tonya, there was the rivalry of Mary and Elizabeth. One of history’s biggest grudge matches receives a hot-blooded and contemporary adaptation in Mary Queen of Scots. The film pulses with regal tension as Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie face off as the royal rivals in two powerhouse performances.

'Ben is Back' and Roberts Returns

Ben is Back
(USA, 103 min.)
Written and directed by Peter Hedges
Starring: Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, Courtney B. Vance, Kathryn Newton
Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges star in Ben is Back
Courtesy Elevation Pictures
Ben is Back might be the most depressing Christmas movie since It’s a Wonderful Life. But if there is a Jimmy Stewart in Hollywood today, his spirit endures in Julia Roberts’ infectious smile. Roberts is heartbreakingly good in Ben is Back playing Holly Burns, the devoted mother fighting to save her family with the same indefatigable goodwill that makes audiences cheer for George Bailey year after year. She gives one of her best and most surprising performances opposite Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased) in this engaging, emotionally draining, and ultimately rewarding portrait of addiction’s ability to tear families apart.

The Most Amazing Spider-Man Yet!

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
(USA, 117 min.)
Dir. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman; Writ. Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman
Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake B. Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Kathryn Hahn, Kimiko Glenn, John Mulaney, Nicolas Cage 
Peni Parker, Gwen, Spider-Man, Miles, Peter B. Parker, Spider-Man Noir
Courtesy Sony Pictures Animation
A few years ago, two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field described her experience playing Aunt May in one of the Spider-Man reboots, saying, “You can’t put ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag.” Unfortunately, that’s what far too many of these superhero movies try to do. Between putting lipstick on a pig and cramming poop into a sack, comic book movies often take themselves too seriously and forget why people are drawn to superheroes and crazy villains. Comics are great entertainment. They’re escapism and opportunities for anyone to dive behind the mask of a hero and have some fun while saving the world—and there’s nothing wrong with that.


'Roma' Tops Toronto Film Critics Association Awards

Alfonso Cuarón's Roma was named the year's best film by the Toronto Film Critics Association
Photo by Carlos Somonto / Netflix
Alfonso Cuarón's Roma is the best film of 2018 according to the Toronto Film Critics Association! The acclaimed Netflix drama won Best Picture and Best Director from the TFCA in a live vote held yesterday by film critics in the city of Toronto. Roma marks a deeply personal film for Cuarón following his special effects extravaganza Gravity, which won seven Oscars. The film is a portrait of two women in Mexico's Roma neighbourhood, a wealthy mother and her Mixtec housekeeper who cares for her children. Cuarón has called it a love-letter to the two women who raised him.


'The Go-Getters' and the Pigs of Hogtown

The Go-Getters
(Canada, 84 min.)
Dir. Jeremy LaLonde, Writ. Aaron Abrams, Brendan Gall
Starring: Aaron Abrams, Tommie-Amber Pirie, Kristian Bruun, James Cade, Christine Horne
Tommie-Amber Pirie and Aaron Abrams star in The Go-Getters
People say Canadians are nice, but I say fuck that nonsense.

We’re not “nice.” We’re just nicer than people from the USA are, and they aren’t very nice to begin with. Like, really—have you ever been to Toronto? It’s colder than an outhouse in Whitehorse!


The Favourite: The Mother of all Catfights

The Favourite
(UK/Ireland/USA, 120 min.)
Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, Writ. Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn  
Rachel Wesiz and Olivia Colman in The Favourite
Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos / Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Favourite is a saucy delight. Buoyed by a trio of courtly wenches in award-calibre performances, this spirited portrait of the affairs of Queen Anne in 1700ish Britain is a darkly funny romp. It’s the cleverest take on All About Eve since Working Girl as social climbing strumpet Abigail (Emma Stone) seeks to dethrone her cousin, Lady Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Malborough (Rachel Weisz) as the Queen’s BFF. Both ladies cozy up to Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and assure her that she’s the bee’s knees when all evidence points to the contrary. These mean girls have cruel intentions.


Oscar Predictions: Round 2 - Golden Globe Predix

A Star is Born- if there was ever a "Globes movie", this is it!
I completely forgot that the Golden Globe nominations come out this week so here’s a quick crack at them along with updated Oscar predictions. I’ve had a chance to see nearly all the contenders so far with Vice, Mary Poppins Returns, and Ben is Back rounding out screenings before the end of the week and the upcoming TFCA vote, so I’ve been a bit busy…stay tuned for reviews of The Favourite, Mary Queen of Scots, On the Basis of Sex, Stan & Ollie, Vox Lux and more!


Science and Serendipity: Akash Sherman Talks 'Clara'

Patrick J. Adams and Troian Bellisario star in Akash Sherman's Clara
Courtesy D Films
Clara will make audiences gaze up at the stars with wonder. It’s science fiction done right with big, thoughtful questions about the great beyond. The film intertwines questions of love and loss as melancholy scientist Dr. Isaac Bruno (Patrick J. Adams) feverishly dives into a search for life beyond our galaxy. His research gets a boost when an ethereal stranger named Clara (Troian Bellisario) comes into his life and shifts the cosmos, putting unquantifiable variables like love into the equation and deepening his quest. Isaac’s sense of the universe expands as his longing to know more about the galaxy, life, the afterlife, and that grey zone between scientific evidence and heartfelt belief all become intimately connected the deeper he probes the cosmos.


'The Drawer Boy': From Stage to Screen

The Drawer Boy
(Canada, 98 min.)
Dir. Arturo Pérez Torres, Aviva Armour-Ostroff; Writ. Michael Healey, Arturo Pérez Torres
Starring: Richard Clarkin, Stuart Hughes, Jakob Ehman  
The Drawer Boy is a contemporary classic of Canadian theatre and the film adaptation could enjoy similar esteem. This stage-to-screen take on Michael Healey’s acclaimed play is a refreshingly vibrant drama. Some audiences might find the adaptation a bit too talky and a bit too stagey, but stick with it. The Drawer Boy is a sparse, small-scale affair smartly told that takes the bare essences of good filmmaking—a good story, strong actors, and a sense of cinematic space—and bundles them together like a sturdy bale of wheat. It’s nice to have a Canadian film to get excited about again.

'At Eternity's Gate': The Art of Madness

At Eternity’s Gate
(USA/France/Switzerland, 110 min.)
Dir. Julian Schnabel, Writ. Jean-Claude Carrière, Louise Kugelberg, Julian Schnabel
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Rupert Friend, Oscar Isaac, Emmanuelle Seigner, Mads Mikkelsen
Willem Dafoe stars as Vincent van Gogh in At Eternity's Gate
Photo by Lily Gavin
Julian Schnabel is a master of visual poetry. The Oscar-nominated director of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly returns with another original and impeccably realized dive into the artistic process. Schnabel, a painter as well as a filmmaker, daubs a canvas of dreams and madness while bringing to the screen the brilliant yet troubled mind of Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh, played masterfully by Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project). The film is not a cradle to grave biography of the artist who is as famous for his Starry Night painting as he is for cutting off his ear. Instead, it’s an impressionistic interpretation of a genius both fuelled and plagued by demons. At Eternity’s Gate feels the evocative portrait Van Gogh would have wanted.


Portrait of a War Hero

A Private War
(USA/UK, 110 min.)
Dir. Matthew Heineman, Writ. Arash Amel
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander, Stanley Tucci  
Marie Colvin movie
Rosamund Pike stars as Marie Colvin in A Private War
There is a war going on. It doesn’t have bullets. It doesn’t have bombs. It doesn’t have drones. Instead, this war is one of words, access, and angles.

Touched by Mediocrity

(Canada, 78 min.)
Written and directed by Karl R. Hearne
Starring: Hugh Thompson, Lola Flanery, John MacLaren
Director Karl R. Hearne really seems to like the colour blue. It’s everywhere in his new feature Touched. It’s in the lighting (so cold!), the clothing (so sad!), and the mood (so dreary!).


EUFF Review: 'I Am Not a Witch'

I Am Not a Witch
(UK/France, 92 min.)
Written and directed by Rungano Nyoni
Starring: Margaret Mulubwa, Henry Phir, Nancy Murilo 
Margaret Mulubwa
The inciting event of I am not a Witch could easily be a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. A woman fetches a bucket of water and drops it when she encounters a young girl on the path home. Her explanation for being startled? The little kid’s a witch.


Boy Erased: Every Parent Needs to See this Movie

Boy Erased
(USA, 114 min.)
Written and directed by Joel Edgerton
Starring: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton, Xavier Dolan, Joe Alwyn, Troye Sivan
Theo Pellerin and Lucas Hedges in a scene from Boy Erased
There’s a moment in Boy Erased in which Nicole Kidman brought the house down at the Princess of Wales Theatre when the film premiered at TIFF earlier this fall. Kidman’s character Nancy rescues her son, Jared (Lucas Hedges), from a gay conversion therapy camp that she’d enlisted him in with hopes to straighten him out. As they escape, the camp’s leader and self-certified “therapist” (Joel Edgerton) comes running after them, convincing them to stop and correct their sins. Nancy, a devout Baptist, realizes that she can reconcile her faith with her love for her son. Nancy turns protectively and fiercely admonishes her foe with the sassiest “Shame on you!” decreed in cinema. The line comes straight from the heart as love gives Nancy a reality check and Boy Erased provides a pure, heart-breaking portrait of the bond between parents and their children.


EUFF Review: 'Omnipresent'

(Bulgaria, 120 min.)
Written and directed by Ilian Djevelekov
Starring: Velislav Pavlov, Teodora Duhovnikova, Vesela Babinova, Anastassia Liutova, Mihail Mutafov 
How many cameras does a person walk by every day? The fear of Big Brother watching over us is a reality that people take for granted. Government spying might be one thing, since they can only monitor so many people, but the threat of surveillance is everywhere, as are the inherent elements of power and control that come with the information gleaned by the voyeur. Omnipresent, the opening night film of Toronto’s European Union Film Festival and Bulgaria’s official entry in this year’s Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film, explores the destructive role of the panopticon as one man takes the all-seeing eye of the camera too far. It’s a chilling morality play on the power of media.