10/20/2017

Coming to Amerika


Amerika Square (Plateia Amerikis)
(Greece/UK/Germany, 86 min.)
Dir. Yannis Sakaridis, Writ. Yannis Tsirbas, Vangelis Mourikis, Yannis Sakaridis
Starring: Makis Papadimitriou, Yannis Stankoglou, Vassilis Kukalani, Ksenia Dania, Alexandros Logothetis, Rea Pediaditaki, Themis Bazaka, Errikos Litsis
There are many sad stories in the global migration crisis: deaths, rootlessness, hopelessness, and families torn apart. However, there are few narratives as distressing as those of people who refuse to accept change and hold the gates to freedom shut. Borders are closing and fences are going up to clamp the human flow. The rampant xenophobia inherent in the era is not humankind’s finest hour.


10/17/2017

Denis' Dark World


Blade Runner 2049
(USA, 164 min.)
Dir. Denis Villeneuve, Writ. Hampton Francher, Michael Green
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Mackenzie Davis
Ana de Armas and Ryan Gosling star in Blade Runner 2049
Here’s the thing with updates: they can be a redundant waste of time, but, when they work, they can improve things by ironing out bugs and improving early drafts into a finely tuned revisions. Windows 10, for example, might be the best contemporary example of an utterly pointless remake. It adds nothing to the original except more kinks, headaches, and bad karma. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve’s outstanding revision of Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult hit that improves upon the original film. The measured Blade Runner 2049 might seem as slow as Windows 10, but in this case the massive update is worth the patience. This return to the world of the runners is deep and thoughtful sci-fi thanks to Villeneuve’s uncompromising vision.


10/16/2017

The Heart Goes Pitter-Patter for 'BPM'


BPM (Beats Per Minute) (120 battements par minute)
(France, 140 min.)
Dir. Robin Campillo, Writ. Robin Campillo, Philippe Mangeot
Starring: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel, Antoine Reinartz, Ariel Borenstein, Mehdi Touré
Nahuel Pérez Biscayart stars in BPM.
The Orchard
Expect your heart to skip a beat during BPM. It’s impossible to avoid feeling a stirring pitter-patter of the chest in this invigorating and rewarding drama about courageous AIDS activists. BPM (Beats Per Minute) dramatizes the story of the Paris faction of ACT UP, a committed band of activists from the LGBTQ community fighting to make the French government and big pharma be quicker to respond to the growing AIDS crisis. The film, which won four prizes at Cannes including the Grand Prix and is France’s bid in the Best Foreign Language Film race, is a stirring tale of a community asserting its voice in the face of adversity. Director Robin Campillo presents a group of individuals united by their lust for life and their hunger to see another tomorrow, and the vibrant pulse of BPM is truly life affirming.


10/13/2017

Jackie Chan Joins the Liam Neeson Club: A Conversation Between Members


The Foreigner
(UK/China/USA, 114 min.)
Dir. Martin Campbell, Writ. David Marconi
Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Katie Leung, Charlie Murphy, Orla Brady
Courtesy VVS Films
Liam Neeson, Denzel Washington, and Bruce Willis are sitting around a table. It’s 4:15 PM and the actors are partway through the seniors’ special at Denny’s. They nibble their chicken wings, lick their greasy spoons, and sip their decaf coffees while trading war stories of action films of the past.

In walks Jackie Chan.

“Some people care too much. I think it's called love.”

Goodbye Christopher Robin
(UK, 107 min.)
Dir. Simon Curtis, Writ. Frank Cottrell Boyce, Simon Vaughan
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald, Will Tilston
Domhnall Gleeson and Will Tilston star in Goodbye Christopher Robin
Photo by David Appleby / Fox Searchlight Pictures

Do you remember Winnie-the-Pooh? That little golden bear who lived in the Hundred Acre Woods with Piglet and Eeyore? That cuddly teddy who was friends with Christopher Robin and, in turn, a friend to all of us who cherished his adventures during story time?

But really, did any of us ever forget Pooh Bear?

Yikes—What a Mess!

The Limehouse Golem
(UK, 109 min.)
Dir. Juan Carlos Medina, Writ. Jane Goldman
Starring: Bill Nighy, Olivia Cooke, Eddie Marsan, Douglas Boothe, Sam Reid
Bill Nighy and Olivia Cooke star in The Limehouse Golem
Photo by Nick Wall
There are two or three great movies somewhere in The Limehouse Golem, but, holy crap, do they ever get lost in this nonsensical nightmare. Plot the first is a Jack the Ripper-ish bloodbath in which Scotland Yard inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) investigates a string of grisly murders committed in a dark corner of London. The deeds are so heinous and gruesome that people believe that only a monster could have committed them.


10/01/2017

"Oh, Let Them Talk"


Our Souls at Night
(USA, 103 min.)
Dir. Ritesh Batra, Writ. Scott Neustadter, Michael Webb
Starring: Robert Redford, Jane Fonda,  Matthias Schoenaerts, Phyllis Somerville, Bruce Dern
Jane Fonda and Robert Redford star in Our Souls at Night
Netflix

Our Souls at Night lets Netflix hit its stride with an original production that benefits from the smaller screens on which most audiences will see it. After the so-so Beasts of No Nation and the excellent First They Killed My Father, which really demand the grandeur of a theatrical screen for optimal effect, this sparse and delicately restrained adaptation of Kent Haruf’s equally simplistic posthumous novel fits the scale of the streaming site handsomely. It helps, too, that director Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox) knows what prizes he has in veteran actors Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. A film like Our Souls at Night doesn’t need any dressings when the core of the film—its stars and its script—is so rich and substantial.


9/28/2017

A League of Her Own


Don’t Talk to Irene
(Canada, 82 min.)
Written and directed by Pat Mills
Starring: Michelle McLeod, Bruce Gray, Anastasia Phillips, Scott Thompson, Geena Davis
Michelle McLeod stars in Don't Talk to Irene
Remember back in the 90s’ when Dishwalla sang about God being a woman? They must have been referring to Geena Davis. Not Thelma & Louise Geena Davis, mind you. A League of Her Own Geena Davis.

9/25/2017

Canada Sends 'Hochelaga' to the Oscars

Francois Girard's Hochelage, Land of Souls

It's official! Canada is sending Francois Girard's Hochelaga, Land of Souls to the Oscars as its official submission in the race for Best Foreign Language Film. The decision was announced this afternoon by Telefilm Canada's Carolle Brabant via Livestream. Hochelaga was selected by the Pan-Canadian committee of representatives from across the Canadian film industry. Although chaired by Telefilm, the body itself does not get a vote in the submission.

9/24/2017

2017 Ottawa International Animation Festival Award Winners

Nikita Diakur's Ugly is OIAF's top winner
The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) has announced the winners for its 2017 edition of the festival. Germany's Nikita Diakur won the festival's top honour, the Nelvana Grand Prize for Independent Short Animation, for Ugly. This breathtaking film offers a deconstructed palette of pinks and blues to find beauty in a dystopian world. As the winner of the Grand Prize, Ugly is now eligible for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.


'Battle' A Grand Slam

Battle of the Sexes
(USA, 121 min.)
Dir. Valerie Faris & Jonathan Dayton, Writ. Simon Beaufoy
Starring: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Elisabeth Shue, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Austin Stowell
Emma Stone and Steve Carell star in Battle of the Sexes
Melinda Sue Gordon / Fox Searchlight Pictures
It’s only a year after the mother of all showdowns in the battle of the sexes, but long before Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump threw mud on prime time television, a sportier grudge match hit the airwaves. It’s hard not to see the 1973 showdown between tennis champs Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs as a well-timed parable for Hillary and the Donald lobbing backhanded zingers in a rally between progressive sensibility and male chauvinism. Thankfully, the tennis match had a better outcome than the election did, but one can’t overlook how little things have changed in the 44 years since the game played on the court.


9/22/2017

Oscar Deadline Approaches: What Could be Canada's Best Foreign Language Film Contender?


Possible Canuck Oscar contenders are A Bag of Marbles, Hochelaga, Maligutit, Old Stone
and Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves
The submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film race are trickling in! Canada announces its contender on Monday, September 25 and whatever film we send joins a growing field that already includes some formidable frontrunners. Cannes winners The Square (Sweden), Loveless (Russia) and 120 Beats Per Minute (France) are leading the pack, but don’t count out Berlin winner On Body and Soul (Hungary) and fall festival breakouts like Razzia (Morocco), A Fantastic Woman (Chile), and Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father (Cambodia). Other submissions include Happy End (Austria), Racer and the Jailbird (Belgium), and The Fixer (Romania). With these and other submissions in place, what are the films that Canada might consider?


9/21/2017

“It’s Not All About You Anymore”: Mike White, Ben Stiller and Austin Abrams Talk 'Brad’s Status'

Austin Abrams and Ben Stiller star in Brad's Status.
VVS Films
“Can I say what your dad said to me yesterday?” asks Ben Stiller.

 “Uh, sure?” Austin Abrams laughs nervously.

 “He said he told you that you could do whatever you want so long as you finished medical school.”

“That’s a joke,” the younger actor inserts before turning to the members of the press seated ’round the table. “They’re very supportive of what I’m doing.”

9/19/2017

TIFF Review: 'Hannah'


Hannah
(Italy/Belgium/France, 95 min.)
Dir. Andrea Pallaoro, Writ. Andrea Pallaoro, Orlando Tirado
Starring: Charlotte Rampling
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (North American Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Charlotte Rampling gives a performance of devastating subtlety in Hannah. This masterful turn, which earned Ramping Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, shows the veteran actress at the top of her game playing a woman whose life falls into a tailspin when her husband goes to prison. It’s useful to consider Hannah as a European companion piece to the American indie Who We Are Now starring Julianne Nicholson as an ex-con struggling to shake her past, which also played the festival. Both films are intimate character studies about the unshakable stigma that crime places upon the individual. Sins of the past and guilt by association are different crimes in each film, but both actresses give powerfully introspective performances as women desperate to save their lives from the burden of their crimes. Rampling, like Nicholson, gives one of the best performances of the year in a hidden gem worth finding.

9/18/2017

TIFF 2017: Festival Wrap-up and Picks for 'Best of the Fest'

Sweet Country - My pick for 'Best of the Fest'
TIFF
TIFF might have scaled back its programming by 20-ish percent, but the Festival of Festivals still felt as big and loud as ever. The movies were good if one was willing to look for them, but anyone who complained about 2017 being an off-year for the programming didn’t stray beyond the Galas and Special Presentations or was too concerned about premiere status. There really were some hidden gems and discoveries. Out of the 50 feature films I saw before and during the festival, about 43 of them were good to great. A pretty good average, I think.