10/11/2018

Knuckleball: Kids Slay the Darnedest Things

Knuckleball
(Canada, 89 min.)
Dir. Michael Peterson, Writ. Michael Peterson, Kevin Cockle
Starring: Luca Villacis, Michael Ironside, Munro Chambers, Kathleen Munroe, Chenier Mundal

The appeal of children generally eludes me, but the little hellions seem to be awfully good tools to have whilst trapped in a creepy home with a maniac. Video games and movies have taught kids to be resourceful, and as the new horror-comedy Knuckleball shows, there’s at least one practical benefit to having children.  Kids slay the darnedest things—at least they’re good for something.


10/03/2018

First Man: From the Space Race to the Oscar Race

First Man
(USA, 142 min.)
Dir. Damien Chazelle, Writ. Josh Singer
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Corey Stoll, Jason Clarke, Patrick Fugit, Lukas Haas, Olivia Hamilton
Neil Armstrong
Neil Armstrong might have been the first man to walk on the moon, but we’ll all feel like we’ve been there after seeing First Man. La La Land director Damien Chazelle takes audiences to the moon with such heart-pounding skill that one could swear he shot the film in space. This technically accomplished achievement chronicles the landmark Space Race that culminated with the Apollo 11 landing on the moon with Armstrong (played by La La Land leading man Ryan Gosling) taking a major leap for all of humanity.


9/28/2018

Close Rewrites 'The Wife' Role

The Wife
(Sweden/UK/USA, 100 min.)
Dir. Björn Runge, Writ. Jane Anderson
Starring: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Max Irons, Annie Stark, Harry Lloyd
Glenn Close stars in The Wife
Photo by Graeme Hunter / Sony Pictures Classics
It’s hard to imagine a better showcase for Glenn Close’s talents than The Big Chill, Fatal Attraction, The World According to Garp, Dangerous Liaisons, or Damages, but The Wife might be the finest example of her strength as an actress. That might be the case because The Big Chill, Fatal Attraction, The World According to Garp, Dangerous Liaisons, or Damages are all great pieces of film and television. The Wife, unfortunately, is not a good film, but Glenn Close is great in it. She’s reason alone to see the film as she elevates every scene in which she appears with subdued, repressed rage. Close’s performance in The Wife is a masterclass in subtle, nuanced acting.

9/20/2018

Chien de garde: Canada's Stray Oscar Bid

Chien de garde (Family First)
(Canada, 87 min.)
Written and directed by Sophie Dupuis
Starring: Jean-Simon Leduc, Théodore Pellerin, Maude Guérin, Paul Ahmarani
Telefilm Canada threw us all for a loop Wednesday when they announced, without the usual warning or fanfare, the completely random selection of Sophie Dupuis’ Chien de garde as our official submission in the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s a random choice because Chien de garde marks the first time in a very long while that the pan-Canadian committee has put forward a film that had virtually no boost, platform, or exposure outside of Quebec. The film, which opened theatrically in La Belle Province in March and was dumped unceremoniously onto VOD for the rest of Canada sometime between then and now, actually drew some stellar reviews and garnered three of Quebec’s Iris Awards in the categories of Best Actress (Maude Guérin), Best Film Editing, and Best Breakthrough Performer. (The film has a full-throttle performance by Théodore Pellerin). 

9/17/2018

TIFF 2018: Festival Wrap-Up and Picks for 'Best of the Fest'

Destroyer, Blind Spot, Birds of Passage, A Star is Born, Roma, and Hotel Mumbai were some of TIFF's best
That’s a wrap for another year at the Toronto International Film Festival! TIFF had its best and arguably most exhausting year yet in 2018. There were some great movies and moments of TIFF, but the highlight might have been the Saturday of the first weekend when I came home and stress ate an entire bag of Kettle Chips with a bottle of prosecco. After spending nearly the entire day on email coordinating or conducting interviews that consumed the first few days of TIFF, it was a great way to unwind after missing several movies. Check out more coverage at POV and stay tuned to BeatRoute for the work fuelled by greasy chips and bubbly.

9/12/2018

TIFF Review: 'Retrospekt'

Retrospekt
(Netherland/Belgium, 101 min.)
Written and directed by Esther Rots
Starring: Circé Lethem, Lien Wildemeersch (Miller, Lee), Martijn van der Veen (Simon)
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Audiences seeking a healthy dose of WTF needn’t look any further than Retrospekt. This Dutch oddity is a true original. One might classify it as the first arthouse domestic violence musical, but that doesn’t really fit the bill since nobody belts a tune onscreen in Retrospekt even though the soundtrack is layered with peculiar original songs that twist the story in myriad ways. It might sound disrespectful; it might sound stupid; it might sound awful, yet Retrospekt somehow works thanks to the fearless audacity with which writer/director Esther Rots pulls it off.

9/10/2018

TIFF Review: 'The Fall of the American Empire'


The Fall of the American Empire (La chute de l'empire américain)
(Canada, 128)
Written and directed by Denys Arcand
Starring: Aléxandre Landry, Maripier Morin, Rémy Girard, Louis Morissette, Maxim Roy, Pierre Curzi, Vincent Leclerc
Programme: Special Presentations (Toronto Premiere)
TIFF
Denys Arcand is back with a vengeance! The Quebecois master returns with The Fall of the American Empire, a Robin Hood fable for the Trump era that resonates strongly with the anxieties, tensions, and unrest of the time. It's a perceptive punch in the face to capitalism and a damning satire of these days of darkness.  


TIFF Review: 'Angel'

Angel (Un ange)
(Belgium/Netherlands/Senegal, 105 min.)
Written and directed by Koen Mortier
Starring: Vincent Rottiers, Fatou N’Diaye  
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (International Premiere)
Courtesy TIFF
Twelve years ago, Fatou N’Diaye gave a heartbreaking performance as Gentille, a young Rwandan waitress at the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Robert Favreau’s drama A Sunday in Kigali. Audiences who saw this touching story of the 1994 Rwanda genocide at TIFF 2006 (or in release later) will recall N’Diaye’s touching innocence as the better half of A Sunday in Kigali’s love story about a Hutu waitress and a Canadian journalist who fell in love in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cut to TIFF’18 and N’Diaye is the star attraction of another ill-fated love story, and she steals the film as Fae, a doe-eyed prostitute in Senegal who strikes the fancy of a Belgian cyclist named Thierry (Vincent Rottiers). Viewers who slept on her performance in A Sunday in Kigali won’t want to close their eyes this time around.

TIFF Review: 'Climax'

Climax.
(France, 96 minutes - about half of which are just insufferable)
Dir. Gaspar Noé
Starring: Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub, Kiddy Smile
Programme: Midnight Madness (North American premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Master provocateur Gaspar Noé has well earned his status as a love-him-or-hate-him director. He wears his notoriety like a badge of honour after 2002’s Irréversible polarized cinephiles with its real-time rape scene, 2009’s Enter the Void had folks laughing in the aisles with a grand finale that imagined conception seen from the inside of a character’s cervix, and 2015’s 3D sexapalooza Love shot a bit too much pleasure in audiences’ faces. Noé’s latest romp Climax is arguably his best film—if only because it isn’t complete trash.

9/08/2018

TIFF Review: 'Freaks'

Freaks
(Canada/USA, 104 min.)
Written and directed by Zach Lipovsky, Adam Stern
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Lexy Kolker, Bruce Dern
Programme: Discovery (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF

Room
meets X-Men in the tense sci-fi family drama Freaks. This feature collaboration from Vancouver-born directors Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein is a smart exercise in small-scale science fiction. Freaks takes a simple conceit, namely that an unnamed father (Emile Hirsch) shelters his daughter, Chloe (Lexy Kolker), from the outside world. Chloe has never left their house. Her dad knows that she is unwelcome in the world because, like him, Chloe has unique powers. The outside world is not a friendly place—and it’s uncomfortably familiar to the world we live in today with its hostility to outsiders and fear of difference.

9/07/2018

TIFF Review: 'Phoenix'

Phoenix (Føniks)
(Norway/Sweden, 86 min.)
Written and directed by Camilla Strøm Henriksen
Starring: Yiva Thedia Bjørkaas, Maria Bonnevie, Sverrir Gudnason, Casper Falck-Løvås
Programme: Discovery (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
A phoenix is a symbol of renewal and resilience. The mythical bird rises from ashes to be born again, and its flame-lit image suggests light after darkness. There is little to lightness to be found in Camilla Strøm Henriksen’s feature directorial debut Phoenix, though, but after nearly an hour and a half of sombre melancholy, one can only leave the film with a sense of hope for its young protagonist.

TIFF Review: 'Blind Spot'

Blind Spot (Blindsone)
(Norway, 98 min.)
Written and directed by Tuva Novotny
Starring: Pia Tjelta, Nora Mathea Øien, Oddgeir Thune, Anders Baasmo Christiansen
Programme: Discovery (International  Premiere)
Courtesy TIFF
The power of the long take finds one of its best examples in Blind Spot. This outstanding Norwegian drama from actor-turned-director Tuva Novotny gives Birdman and Victoria a run for their money as the one-take wonder. A single 98-minute unbroken shot provides one of the most emotionally absorbing case studies in family dynamics and mental illness one could see at the festival this year. (TIFF’s programme guide incorrectly notes that Blind Spot is a series of long takes. The film doesn’t even credit an editor.) Even more impressive is the fact that Blind Spot marks Novotny’s first feature as a director, so the sheer difficulty of orchestrating all this camerawork and human drama into one perfect shot only makes the coup more noteworthy. Blind Spot is an outstanding technical and artistic achievement

TIFF Review: 'Float Like a Butterfly'

Float Like a Butterfly
(Ireland, 101 min.)
Written and directed by Carmel Winters
Starring: Hazel Doupe, Dara Devaney, Johnny Collins, Hilda Foy
Programme: Discovery (World Premiere)
Courtesy TIFF
TIFF throws a crowd-pleasing punch in its line-up of girl power. Audiences willing to overlook the many boxing movie clichés in Float Like a Butterfly may find an empowering tale of a young girl’s fight for freedom. Whatever its shortcomings, Float Like a Butterfly has a lot to admire in the representational aspects, which inevitably tipped the crowd in its favour.

9/06/2018

TIFF Review: 'Manto'

Manto
(India, 112 min.)
Written and directed by Nandita Das
Starring: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rasika Dugal, Tahir Raj Bhasin  
Programme: Special Presentations (North American Premiere)
Courtesy TIFF
Great voices in literature often reveal truths the public doesn’t want to hear. Particularly in times of social change and political uncertainty, the pen is the mightiest tool to give voice to the disenfranchised. Writer/director Nandita Das provides a biographical rendering of Pakistani author Saadat Hasan Manto with a stark and sobering eye for the late writer’s significance in capturing the social inequities of Partition-era India and Pakistan. Manto is a thoughtful biopic that honours the writer’s courage and his ability to capture the cultural pulse with a voice ahead of its time.

9/04/2018

Kicking Off TIFF with Previews of 'The Stone Speakers' and Shorts at POV

The Stone Speakers
Courtesy Time Lapse Pictures
TIFF starts this week! I'll be covering the festival at POV, BeatRoute, and odds and ends here. Stuff is quite heavily embargoed this year (understandably so - it's fair for us to be asked to hold coverage), so reviews and whatnot won't appear as quickly as they normally would. Stay tuned for things as they appear before, during, and after the festival.