Rideau Hall Movie Nights Return with 2 Canadian Films

Caroline Dhavernas and Paul Gross star in Passchendaele. 
Chris Large/ eOne Films
Get a double dose of Canadian films at this year’s Rideau Hall Movie Nights! Hosted by Canada’s Governor General David Johnston, the Rideau Hall Movie Nights screen two Canadian films, Passchendaele (2008 Genie winner for Best Film) and The Passion of Augustine, in Ottawa on August 21 and 22. The films will both screen free of charge courtesy of eOne Films. And there will be free popcorn too!

Searching for Spiegelman

Paper Towns
(USA, 109 min.)
Dir. Jake Schreier, Writ. Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Starring: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevigne, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Halston Sage, Jaz Sinclair
Margo Roth Spiegelman refers to herself as Margo Roth Spiegelman. Not plain Jane Margo. 'Go' is a no go. The mystery thickens since her parents are just "The Spiegelmans." Is “Roth” her middle name or is it some self-attributed prefix like “von”? Margo Roth von Spiegelman. Let’s call her by that name now, too, to make this review a little more John Greeny.

Jean-Marc Vallée's 'Demolition' to Open TIFF in First Wave of Galas and Special Presentations

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Demolition.
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
The Toronto International Film Festival dropped a strong batch of titles with the first wave of Galas and Special Presentations for the festival, which marks the 40th anniversary of TIFF. TIFF 2015 opens with Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, and Chris Cooper. I’m very excited for it, since Vallée’s Wild was my favourite film from TIFF 2014 and last year overall. It’s nice to see the festival also launch with a filmmaker who’s been strong rising star from the Canadian film industry, although Demolition comes as a mild surprise since its release date was recently changed to April, but that release date certainly takes pressure off both the film and the festival.


Spliced and Diced

The Editor
(Canada, 99 min.)
Dir. Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy; Writ. Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, Conor Sweeney
Starring: Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, Conor Sweeney, Paz de la Huerta, Samantha Hill, Udo Kier, Laurence R. Harvey.
Canada doesn’t have much history with Italian horror, but it does have a firm tradition of strange and unusual films coming out of Winnipeg. Films like John Paizs’ Crime Wave (1985), the films of Guy Maddin, and the collected works of the Winnipeg Film Group root Canada’s cold and dreamy city in a quirky history. One contemporary of the WFG group is the Winnipeg-based VHS and genre-movie loving collective Astron-6, the group behind cult hits such as Manborg, and their latest film The Editor is the culmination of their film geekery. Astron-6 members Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, and Conor Sweeney present this wildly entertaining and sensationally weird Canuck giallo film that might legitimately be one of the strangest films ever to come out of Winnipeg. The Editor lampoons the Italian tradition of splashy/shoddy horror popularized by Daria Argento, Lucio Fulci, and other filmmakers and puts a distinctly Canadian twist on this ultra-violent and super-sexy subgenre. It’s a bloody hoot.


Sherlock, Plain and Tall

Mr. Holmes
(UK/USA, 104 min.)
Dir. Bill Condon, Writ. Jeffery Hatcher
Starring: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Hiroyuki Sanada
Ian McKellen stars in Mr. Holmes.
Photo by Giles Keyte / eOne Films.
“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact,” writes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in “The Bascombe Valley Mystery” featuring the iconic detective Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock’s perceptive skills deduce an obvious fact, namely that people sometimes take for granted things that sit directly before them. Mr. Holmes, the latest film by Bill Condon (The Fifth Estate) fails to heed the good advice of its own super sleuth by overlooking the fact that dramatic embellishments sometimes make for better art and entertainment. This work of fan fiction re-imagines the world of Sherlock Holmes as a riposte to the fictions published by Dr. Watson, Holmes’s colleague and, in some ways, nemesis. The film, which adapts the book A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, presents Mr. Holmes without the deerstalker hat and pipe that make him iconic, and with fewer dramatic embellishments that make him such an enduring character.  Mr. Holmes is Sherlock, plain and tall, but the supposedly truer Sherlock it imagines is nowhere near as interesting as the detective of Doyle’s creation is.


Only the Crumbs Remain

(Spain/Ethiopia/Finland, 68 min.)
Written and directed by Miguel Llansó
Starring: Daniel Tadesse, Salem Tesfaye
Crumbs takes audiences to a world they rarely get to see on film: post-apocalyptic Ethiopia. This Spanish/Ethiopia/Finnish co-production directed by Miguel Llansó creates a mind-bending world with humble resources and plays upon the notion that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. The film recycles cultural refuse—the crumbs of past civilizations—as one lone warrior named Candy (Daniel Tadesse) trucks around an old Christmas tree and rummages through the leftovers of previous generations in search of a golden ticket to board the spaceship that looms high in the sky. These crumbs, however, are tokens of cultural junk: toys, novelties, and plasticky things worshipped by kids of the 1980s and 1990s. A Michael Jackson record can pay for Candy’s wedding to Birdy (Salem Tesfaye) or it can potentially blast him into space.


An Ode to Papa Bear

Infinitely Polar Bear
(USA, 88 min.)
Written and directed by Maya Forbes
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky, Ashley Aufderheide
Imogene Wolodarsky as Amelia , Mark Ruffalo as Cam and Ashley Aufderheide as Faith .
Photo by Seacia Pavao; SPC/Mongrel

Polar bears, like people, growl when their angry. Cubs can probably tell that Papa Bear doesn’t want to play if he lets out a low grumble, but other cubs might not know when their dad is play fighting if he’s growling at different octaves and levels all the time. A happy growl differs from a mad growl, but they’re growls just the same. It takes a keen cub to learn and understand her father’s growls and writer/director Maya Forbes does just that in her directorial debut Infinitely Polar Bear, which draws upon the filmmaker’s own experience growing up with her bipolar father in Boston while her mom went to school in New York. This layered and observant comedy/drama is a lovely ode to Papa Bear as Forbes guides her onscreen family through a tumultuous coming of age story for them all.


TIFF 2015 Canadian Film Wish List

Sarah Gadon and Malin Buska star in The Girl King.
TIFF announcements are just a week away, so it’s time to send out some festival wish lists! The big names get the first wave of festival shout outs when the Toronto International Film Festival announces the first slate of Galas and Special Presentations next Wednesday. If any Canadian films appear there, expect to see titles such as Remember, Beeba Boys, Hyena Road, Brooklyn (probably a Gala), Room (probably not), and The Witch, while others like Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room might appear elsewhere, say, in the Masters slate, if at all. All these films receive mention elsewhere on the blog, so here’s a look at ten Canadian titles Cinemablographer hopes to see unveiled when TIFF names its Canadian titles on August 5th:


Gyllenhaal Roars in 'Southpaw'

(USA, 123 min.)
Dir. Antoine Fuqua, Writ. Kurt Sutter
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Oona Laurence, Naomie Harris, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, and Rachel McAdams
Rachel McAdams and Jake Gyllenhaal in Southpaw.
eOne Films.

The song says it all: Jake Gyllenhaal is phenomenal in Southpaw. The Nightcrawler star beefs up for this underdog tale as fallen boxing champ Billy Hope. As Billy trains and gets his groove back to the film’s anthemic theme song “Phenomenal” by Eminem, it’s amazing to see how far Gyllenhaal has come as an actor who transforms himself physically, emotionally, and mentally for each role he plays. His impressive performance alone is reason to see this latest drama from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer).


Check the Hellions at the Door

Possessed (Pos eso)
Written and directed by Sam
Starring: Santiago Segura, Anabel Alonso, Josema Yuste, Concha Goyanes
The Spanish animated feature Possessed looks like a kids’ movie, but please check the little hellions at the door. Possessed puts an animated spin on The Exorcist and projectile vomit is the mildest thing that comes out of its mouth. The film features a full-blown hell child, obviously named Damian, and he makes Linda Blair’s Regan look like an angel. This absurd animated film is funny, sick, and twisted.


When Books Bring Baggage

Suite Française
(UK/France/Canada/Belgium, 107 min.)
Dir. Saul Dibb, Writ. Matt Charman, Saul Dibb
Starring: Michelle Williams, Kristin Scott Thomas, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ruth Wilson, Sam Riley, Margot Robbie
Matthias Schoenaerts and Michelle Williams in Suite Française.
eOne Films.


'The Hallow' Brings Old-School Horror

The Hallow
(Ireland, 92 min.)
Dir. Corin Hardy, Writ. Corin Hardy, Olga Barreneche
Starring: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic
Bojana Novakovic stars in The Hallow

Trees and horror moves have an odd relationship. Branches do nasty stuff in Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981) and they’re a source of unintentional hilarity in M. Night Shyalamalan’s The Happening (2008), but the trees an unrelenting menace in Corin Hardy’s debut horror flick The Hallow. Unlike Shyamalan’s lumber blunder, though, The Hallow manages a subtle eco message in an unsettling thrill ride. This old-school horror show uses a quick flash of green thinking as the springboard to nightmarish parable about the relationship humans have with their environment.

Prairie Noir a Home-Cooked B-Movie

Big Muddy
(Canada, 104 min.)
Written and directed by Jefferson Moneo
Starring: Nadia Litz, Justin Kelly, Rossif Sutherland, David La Haye, James Le Gros, Stephen McHattie
Nadia Litz stars as Martha in Big Muddy.

If central Saskatchewan is the core of Canada, then this country is rotten to the heart. Phyllis Dietrichson and other great femme fatales find a worthy counterpart in the sultry outlaw Martha Barlow (played by Nadia Litz, Monkey Warfare), a gun-totin’ prairie momma who loves horses as much as she loves her only son, Andy (Justin Kelly), in the prairie noir Big Muddy. This unconventional Canuck crime drama boasts a great sense of place with atypical characters for the genre and Canadian cinema alike, and central to this atmospheric thrill is Litz’s smoldering anti-heroine Martha. This is one good home-cooked B-movie.


Aboriginal Filmmakers Reframe NFB Archive in 'Souvenir'

Moving Forward / High Steel
Four Aboriginal filmmakers rewrite Canadian history in Souvenir, which plays as part of the mixed-media exhibit Gazing Back, Looking Forward, at the Aboriginal Pavilion during the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games in Toronto. The exhibit runs for the next little while and Canadian film fans (or interested parties in general) should see these four innovative works that deconstruct myths created in film. This project features four films from Jeff Barnaby (Rhymes for Young Ghouls), Michelle Latimer (The Underground), Kent Monkman (Group of Seven Inches), and Caroline Monnet (The Embargo Project) in a series that mines the archives of the National Film Board of Canada and reworks fragments of old films to reframe historical representations. The project, produced by Anita Lee (Stories We Tell), challenges the filmmakers to tell their own stories using only the NFB archives and music from artists Tanya Tagaq and A Tribe Called Red. In a collective act of remembering, Souvenir brings a voice that’s been missing from classic Canadian film.


Rom-Com Brings a Trans-Canadian Twist

Two 4 One
(Canada, 77 min.)
Written and directed by Maureen Bradley
Starring: Gavin Crawford, Naomi Snieckus, Gabrielle Rose, Andrea Menard
Gabrielle Rose and Gavin Crawford star in Two 4 One.
Hoggwild Films.

It might not have been shot on an iPhone, but it seems fair to call Two 4 One "the Tangerine of the Canadian film scene." The LGBQT comedy Two 4 One is even more fun than Tangerine, though, as it brings a warm, funny, and down-to-earth rom-com with a trans-Canadian twist. It’s a winner.