7/23/2014

What Film Could Be the TIFF Opener?

Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year
One question was probably on the minds of most future TIFF-goers as yesterday’s programming announcement ended: What could that open night selection be? This omission is the only real blip in an otherwise strong announcement. (There are so many appealing titles from yesterday's picks that it’s hard to do a top five, although Wild, Ned Rifle, Maps to the Stars, The New Girlfriend, and The Riot Club are immediate standouts.) I thought that The Riot Club seemed like a good bet for opening night, for Lone Scherfig’s film opens in the UK just a week after the festival. The factors of an attractive period drama, a cast of popular young leads (who also appeal to the older ‘Downton Abbey’ fans in the crowd), and a Danish director let The Riot Club check all the boxes for Oscar potential, commercial appeal, and world cinema. Opening with a film by a female director is also a great way for the festival to tell the industry, “We’re listening.” The Riot Club, though, doesn’t have US distribution at the moment and that seems to have been a decent factor in getting high profile titles such as Looper and The Fifth Estate for opening night in previous years. Other TIFFers pegged Wild, The Good Lie, and This is Where I Leave You as possible gets—all good ideas, but incorrect guesses. One can presume that it’s some sort of technicality that’s holding up the decision/announcement, like logistics, release dates/distribution, or maybe even final cuts.

7/22/2014

TIFF Announces First Galas and Special Presentations

This is Where I Leave You
The Toronto International Film Festival has announced the first wave of titles for #TIFF14 and it’s a very promising list! Among the Galas making their World Premieres at Roy Thompson Hall are Shawn Levy’s This is Where I Leave You, Lone Scherfig’s The Riot Club, and Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos, which will be the festival’s Closing Night Film. (Curiously, the Festival didn`t name an Opening Night Film.) David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars is among the North American premiere Gala selections, although more Canadian films will be announced on August 6.  Maps is one of several films in the line-up directed by Canadian filmmakers. The others are The Good Lie and Wild from Philippe Falardeau and Jean-Marc Vallée--American titles, but they're among the festival's bigger gets.

7/21/2014

Ottawa International Animation Festival Line-up Ranges from Local to Global

The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) announced today the line-up for the 2014 festival. In addition to the five features announced previously, the programme for OIAF ’14 has a healthy list of films that range from local to global. Two filmmakers will rep Ottawa’s animation scene amongst the competition. Mike Geiger’s film On the Subway is slated for a World Premiere in the Canadian Showcase while recent Algonquin College Grad Dougall Dawson’s The Pug appears in the Canadian Student Showcase. OIAF Artistic Director Chris Robinson noted the strength of Ottawa animation in the festival’s release, saying, “Whether we’re talking about Norman McLaren’s masterpiece, Neighbours (made in Rockcliffe Park) or John Kricfalusi’s ground breaking TV series, Ren and Stimpy (whose roots go back to his days at Brookfield High School), Ottawa’s animation history is long and diverse. It’s refreshing – and not all that surprising - to see contemporary local animators carrying forward this rich tradition.”

7/20/2014

Hell on Wheels

Snowpiercer
(South Korea/USA/France/Czech Republic, 126 min.)
Dir. Bong Joon Ho, Writ. Bong Joon-Ho, Kelly Masterson
Starring: Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Ah-sung Ko, with John Hurt and Ed Harris.
Courtesy eOne Films.

“My friend, you suffer from the misplaced optimism of the doomed,” sneers a haughty Mason (Tilda Swinton) to Curtis (Chris Evans), the hero leading the masses from steerage to first class in Snowpiercer. Swinton’s snivelling elitist and Evans’s compelling leader help make Snowpiercer one of the more provocative, not to mention entertaining, depictions of contemporary economic and ecological battlefields as ideologies clash within the confines of the heavily segregated train. South Korean director Bong Joon Ho (Mother) conducts a world cinema thrill-ride en route to the end of humanity, for the spectacular production design and foreboding darkness make Snowpiercer one of the stronger destinations for alternative fare this summer. Snowpiercer, aside from some choppy bumps in the ride, is an exhilarating first class ticket.

7/19/2014

'The Rover' Wanders a Nihilist Wasteland

The Rover
(Australia, 103 min.)
Dir. David Michôd, Writ. David Michôd, Story by Joel Edgerton and David Michôd
Starring: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy, Tawanda Manyimo, David Field
Courtesy eOne Films.
Chalk up The Rover under the list of 2014’s disappointments. This sophomore feature by Animal Kingdom’s David Michôd is as technically accomplished as his debut feature is, but audiences looking for another helping of exhilarating Australian cinema are in for a letdown. The Rover looks and feels great n its creation of a present-day dystopia, yet the unrelenting bleakness and pensiveness of Michôd’s vision has little payoff. More dull than thought-provoking and more a musing than a meditation, The Rover is a tragically empty wanderer.

7/17/2014

Rideau Hall Movie Nights to Include NFB Shorts

Big Drive is one of several NFB shorts playing at the Rideau Hall Movie Nights
The inaugural Rideau Hall Movie Nights will now include shorts! The Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, in good old moviegoing fashion, announced today that a selection of short films from the National Film Board of Canada (NFB)  will precede the feature film screenings on August 17 and 19. The shorts are a range of contemporary films and Canadian classics.

'Mommy' Trailer

It's here! Les Films Séville released a trailer for the hotly-anticipated Canadian film Mommy today. It's a beaut, especially from the clips highlighting the performances from regulars Anne Dorval and Suzanne Clément. The latest film from Xavier Dolan (Laurence Anyways, I Killed My Mother) gets an energetic (and sexy) preview after its much-buzzed debut at Cannes where it won the Jury Prize. The film will presumably get a North American premiere at Toronto, but Quebec audiences will at least get to see the film when it opens in theaters September 19. More dates to follow.


Ottawa 48 Hour Film Project Screens This Week


Ottawa’s reputation as Film Challenge City continues with the inaugural Ottawa edition of the 48 Hour Film Project. The 48 Film Project, though, is a global film challenge that dares filmmakers throughout the world to conceive, shoot, and complete a short film within forty-eight hours. Winners from each city move on to the big Filmapalooza event, which happens in Hollywood this year! Ten finalists then move on to a special screening at Cannes! Going from The Mayfair to Hollywood to Cannes is a pretty exciting trip!

7/16/2014

'Blood Ties' a Bloated and Familiar Family Saga

Blood Ties
(USA/France, 127 min.)
Dir. Guillaume Canet, Writ. Guillaume Canet, James Gray
Starring: Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, James Caan, Lily Taylor, Zoe Saldana, Matthias Schoenaerts

Blood Ties is a total gong show of terrible acting. It’s shocking to see so many stars turn in so many unwatchable performances. Something must have been in the water on the set of Blood Ties because the members of the usually reliable ensemble all deliver turns that are shockingly terrible. Even Marion Cotillard doesn’t come off well in this review. What happened?

7/15/2014

TIFF 2014: What Canadian Films Could Play Toronto?

Anne Dorval in Mommy. Photo: Les Films Seville
Festival season is just around the corner. Speculations have already begun for what might appear where, but we’ll have the first clues when Toronto, the big daddy of the festival circuit, unveils the first act of its programming line-up on July 22. Much of the early prognoses, however, haven’t really paid heed to the Canadian content of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, which is too bad since Toronto is, well, Canadian.

TIFF 2014 to Include 25th Anniversary Screening of Michael Moore's 'Roger & Me'

Michael Moore interviews 'The Bunny Lady' in Roger & Me
The first official title has been announced for the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. This year’s festival will include a special 25th anniversary screening of Michael Moore’s landmark 1989 documentary Roger & Me. Roger & Me, which sees Moore explore his hometown of Flint, Michigan as the closure of the General Motors plant throws the city into economic downturn, premiered at the festival in 1989 and won the now-coveted People’s Choice. Last year’s festival included a retrospective screening of the 1983 People’s Choice Award winner The Big Chill, which was a festival highlight. No word exists on whether Moore will revisit the popular “Pets or meat” sequence from Roger & Me, but one assumes that this screening will be just as enlightening and entertaining. A special 25th anniversary Blu-ray™ edition, DVD and Digital HD will be released from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on October 7, 2014.


7/12/2014

A Life and a Legacy

Life Itself
(USA, 118 min.)
Dir. Steve James
Feat. Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert.
Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel in Life Itself.
Photo credit: Kevin Horan

“Two thumbs up.” It’s a term so iconic and synonymous with film criticism that Siskel and Ebert had the term trademarked to prevent fraudulent doubling. The legacy of Siskel and Ebert is apparent on nearly every page of the web, for Facebook pages, YouTube links, and whatnot use enthusiastic thumb emoticons to note approval. Anyone can express himself or herself in clear terms.