6/07/2018

'Prodigals': Keeping It Real in the Soo

Prodigals
(Canada, 108 min.)
Dir. Michelle Ouellet, Writ. Nicholas Carella
Starring: David Alpay, Sara Canning, Kaniehtiio Horn, Andrew Francis, David Kaye, Nicholas Carella, Jameson Parker, Brian Markinson 
Prodigas directed by Michelle Ouellet
David Alpay and Sara Canning star in Prodigals
LevelFilm
Prodigals is a new stage to screen production featuring a complicated legal trial and an even trickier romantic triangle. While the courtroom scenes might reveal the film’s theatrical origins, director Michelle Ouellet and writer Nicholas Carella open up the material remarkably. Who knew the quiet steel town of Sault Ste. Marie could be a backdrop for bigger drama? The Soo once again gets a starring role after its breakout turn in Edwin Boyd and its bargain bin appearance in Compulsion. Ouellet gives the Soo a crisp sense of place with Prodigals, particularly in the spicy Italian attitude that gives provides the city’s best flavours. Whatever one makes of the courtroom drama or the love story, one must admire the authentic character of the surroundings.


6/06/2018

Interview: Talking with 'Beast' Director Michael Pearce at Beatroute

 A favourite from TIFF, which I caught while covering the Platform competition, Beast hits theatres June 15. Film about a girl in love with a potential predator has an extra bite playing post-Weinstein!

Had a chance to speak with Pearce recently for BeatRoute to discuss the film and his process. Pick up a copy if you're in Vancouver!

Read it online here.

6/05/2018

Documentary-like Realism

Fail to Appear
(Canada, 68 min.)
Written and directed by Antoine Bourges
Starring: Deragh Campbell, Nathan Roder

At what point does drama end and documentary begin? Writer/director Antoine Bourges tightrope walks the line between fiction and non-fiction in Fail to Appear, but he isn’t aiming for hybrid hijinks. This intriguing film mines the aesthetics of documentary filmmaking through the lens of neorealism and the result is a unique work of docu-ish-fiction: a film that is, for all purposes, narrative dramatic fiction, but seems as authentic as life itself.


6/04/2018

'Les affamés' Leads Quebec's Prix Iris Winners

Zombie girl and her mother stand in front of a pile of junk
Les affamés
Emmanuel Crombez / Les Films Séville
It was a zombie apocalypse last night in Quebec! The Prix Iris, Quebec's equivalent to the Canadian Screen Awards and Oscars, were gobbled up by Robin Aubert and his team for Les affamés. The chilling ensemble drama stars Marc-André Grondin, Monia Chokri, and Brigitte Poupart as a group of rural Quebeckers as the lone survivors of a zombie outbreak. The film scored eight awards in total between last nights honours and the artistic and technical awards handed out earlier in the week. Les affamés scored wins in top categories including Best Film, Best Director for Aubert, Best Supporting Actress for Brigitte Poupart, and the annual honour of being the most acclaimed film outside Quebec.


5/31/2018

Tris and Finn Ride the Love Boat

Adrift
(USA, 95 min.)
Dir. Baltasar Kormákur; Writ. Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell, David Branson Smith
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin
Man and woman in a boat in stormy weather
Sam Claflin and Shailene Woodley star in Adrift
VVS Films
Adrift will inevitably headline Netflix’s playlist “Movies with a Strong Female Lead,” but this film really needs to be seen in a theatre. It’s a gripping romantic adventure on the high seas—Johnny Depp free!—as two young lovers combat the elements and struggle to survive on open water. The film sees YA franchises collide as Divergent’s Shailene Woodley teams up with The Hunger Games’ Sam Claflin to play Tami Oldman and to Richard Sharp. Tami and Richard are real-world adventurers basking in the sunsets of the Pacific Ocean on an ill-fated voyage home. A terrible storm leaves their ship ruined and adrift in the water as they cling to life against the elements. Their love story ensures that audiences will never let go while holding on to Adrift’s adventure.

5/30/2018

Schrader Reformed

First Reformed
(USA, 113 min.)
Written and directed by Paul Schrader
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Philip Ettinger, Cedric Kyles, Victoria Hill
Paul Schrader's First Reformed
Preach, Paul Schrader, preach! Schrader returns with his best film yet as a director. First Reformed is a dark, brooding, and suspenseful masterwork of tone, character, and real world urgency. After the disaster of The Canyons, which I actually sorta liked despite its flaws and awful lead performance by James Deen, Schrader seemed relegated to B-level obscurity. He’s back, stronger than ever, and ready to make those who doubted him say a few rosaries.

5/27/2018

"May You Live a Long Life."

Disobedience
(UK/USA, 115 min.)
Dir. Sebastián Lelio; Writ. Sebastián Lelio, Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola, Allan Cordunier
Sebastian Lelio Disobedience
Courtesy Mongrel Media
“May you live a long life.” One could possibly make a drinking game with how often this sentence appears in Disobedience. The saying is one of mourning, unique to Anglophone Jewish communities (according to the Internet) that carries different weights and meanings depending on the context and sincerity with which one says it. On the surface, it signals a celebration of life to someone who has lost a loved one.


5/24/2018

'Kayak to Klemtu': Where Roots Run Deep

Kayak to Klemtu
(Canada, 90 min.)
Dir. Zoe Hopkins; Writ. Zoe. Hopkins, Michael Sparaga, Scooter Corkle
Starring: Ta’Kaiya Blaney, Lorne Cardinal, Sonja Bennett, Evan Adams, Jared Ager-Foster
Courtesy Mongrel Media
Many documentaries chronicle the impact of the oil trade on BC’s oceans and coastal communities. Few dramas, however, invite audiences to build relationships and emotional connections with inhabitants of the land who struggle with this conflict. Oddly enough, writer/director Zoe Hopkins makes her feature debut with Kayak to Klemtu, which draws inspiration from the filmmaker’s effort to document stories from her community of Bella Bella as residents testified to the impact of oil tanker traffic in the Inside Passage. This serpentine waterway is far too congested—an accident waiting to happen in one of the most beautiful landscapes in Canada. Hopkins instead offers a hopeful and accessible story that shares with audiences a deep connection to the land and waters worth preserving.


5/17/2018

Mommy Issues Haunt 'The Child Remains'

The Child Remains
(Canada, 107 min.)
Written and directed by Michael Melski
Starring: Suzanne Clément, Allan Hawco, Shelley Thompson
Allan Hawco and Suzanne Clément in The Child Remains
Suzanne Clément checks into the East Coast branch of the Bates’ Motel in The Child Remains. The Mommy star encounters mommy issues at a creepy B&B in Nova Scotia, but they’re more of the Gus Van Sant variety than the Alfred Hitchcock pedigree. Despite an eerie setting and an earnest attempt to provide old-school horror on a shoestring budget, The Child Remains struggles to chill. Yelp reviews are often more terrifying.


Cannes Review: 'The Gentle Indifference of the World'

The Gentle Indifference of the World
(Kazakhstan/France, 100 min.)
Dir. Adilkhan Yerzhanov, Writ. Adilkhan Yerzhanov, Roelof Jan Minneboo
Starring: Dinara Baktybayeva, Kuandyk Dyussembayev  
Adilkhan Yerzhanov, Dinara Baktybayeva, Kuandyk Dyussembayev
Courtesy Cannes
As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself…I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again.
-Albert Camus, The Stranger


4/20/2018

Hot Docs Coverage at POV!

Apologies for the radio silence! We've been busy with Hot Docs preparations at POV including the new issue, which features a snazzy redesign and...baby's first cover story! Pick up a copy to read about new Hot Docs features like Grant Baldwin's This Mountain Life and Shasha Nakhai's Take Light, as well as picks for the hottest films from the first 25 years of Hot Docs.

Coverage:

-Food for Thought: Maya Gallus's The Heat - Chatting with the director of Hot Docs' opening night film about female chefs breaking through a male-dominated field.

-A Song of Reconciliation: The Power of Gurrumul - Director Paul Williams and producer Shannon Swan discuss their film about the late Australian singer.

-"Rocky Mountain High: Grant Baldwin's The Mountain Life" - Be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the mountains in this visually stunning trek with a mother-daughter duo.

-"Ain't that America: The Films of Barbara Kopple" - a look at the career of Barbara Kopple, this year's Outstanding Achievement Retrospective subject at Hot Docs. She's easily my favourite documentary filmmaker. Harlan County, USA is my pick for the best doc ever made.

-"An Acadian Tragedy: Samara Chadwick's 1999": chatted with director Samara Chadwick about her haunting film that returns to her high school in Moncton, New Brunswick, which saw a wave of suicides at the eve of the new Millennium.

- "Tube Stakes: Michael Sparaga's United We Fan": Director Michael Sparaga discusses his film about passionate TV fans who campaign to save their favourite shows.

Reviews:
-The American Meme
-Andy Irons: Kissed by God
-Anote's Ark
-Bathtubs Over Broadway
-Call Her Ganda
-Constructing Albert  
-Don't Be Nice
-Eternity Never Surrendered
-Grit
-Harvest Moon
-The Heat
-I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story
-Letter from Masanjia
-Love, Gilda 
-McQueen 
-Netizens
-On Her Shoulders
-Pick of the Litter
-Playing Hard
-The Reckoning: Hollywood's Worst Kept Secret
-Shorts: Prince's Tale and Turning Tables
-Snowbirds
-The Strange Sound of Happiness
-Witkin & Witkin

4/02/2018

'Boost': Between the Tiles of the Mosaic

Boost
(Canada, 95 min.)
Written and directed by Darren Curtis
Starring: Nabil Rajo, Jahmil French, Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Oluniké Adeliyi, Fanny Mallette, Brent Skagford, Théo Pellerin
Boost Darren Curtis
Screenie winner Nabil Rajo stars as Hakeem
One of my guilty pleasure when it comes to cheap Canadian cinema nobody’s heard of is Darren Curtis and Pat Kiely’s cracked-out and ridiculous comedy Who is KK Downey? A wonderful discovery at the 2008 Kingston Canadian Film Festival that some of my friends still cite as a reason why they won’t see Canadian films with me, KK Downey is a riotously silly parody of faux-author JT LeRoy who gained fame by penning a bestseller allegedly based on a previous life as a truck stop hustler. It’s a hoot largely due to its madcap direction and to Curtis’s fearlessly looney performance as the privileged white guy who crafts a story of oppression to sell his shitty book.


3/22/2018

Doggy Style

Isle of Dogs
(USA, 101 min.)
Written and directed by Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Koyu Rankin, Liev Schreiber, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Courtney B. Vance, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Give Wes Anderson a bone! His latest film Isle of Dogs is pooch perfection. Even a die-hard cat person will fall head over heels in love with this movie and leave the theatre doing little back flips whilst yapping for joy.


3/11/2018

Canadian Screen Award Film Winners (In Progress)

Sally Hawkins stars in Maudie
Mongrel Media
Maudie leads this year's Canadian Screen Awards haul with seven honours. The Canadian-Irish co-production scooped the Best Picture prize along with honours for UK-based director Aisling Walsh. Brit Sally Hawkins won a well-deserved Best Actress award for her astonishing transformation as folk painter Maud Lewis, who suffered from crippling arthritis. Hawkins' impeccable performance added to a great contribution to Canadian film by the actress, who starred in this year's Best Picture Oscar winner The Shape of Water, which was shot in Toronto and Hamilton. Maudie also scored an acting gong for Ethan Hawke, who really should have won last year too for his performance as Chet Baker in the biopic Born to Be Blue.


Canadian Screen Awards Preview: Picks and Foolish Predictions

Brigitte Poupart in Les affamés - the only Best Picture nominee that's truly excellent
Emmanuel Crombez / Les Films Séville
The Canadian Screen Awards are tonight and it’s an evening to quietly celebrate a so-so year in Canadian film. The roster of nominees indicates that the nomination committees went out of their way to find a diverse group of contenders and unearthed some buried nuggets, but few of these films screened theatrically and some of them barely made a peep on the festival circuit. A lot of the best Canadian work was short changed. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it qualifying runs don’t help much either when it comes to giving audiences a chance to see the films. Canadian television seems to be picking up steam with Schitt's Creek and Alias Grace expanding their wow factors beyond the land of the maple leaf, but our films are struggling.