7/12/2018

Having Their Cake and Eating It Too

The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger
(Canada, 92 min.)
Written and directed by Katherine Schlemmer
Starring: Matt Baram, Grace Lynn Kung, Mark Forward 
Unhappy couple eating dinner
This week’s quirky microbudget Canadian dramedy opening at the Carlton is The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger. Not to be confused with Xavier Dolan’s always-in-the-works The Death and Life of John F. Donovan starring Kit Harrington, Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain, and Susan Sarandon, this offbeat little oddity is as far away from the visual panache of the Dolan world as one can get. Writer/director Katherine Schlemmer concentrates on the characters and “what if” scenarios of connection and chance that her slightly speculative film develops. Most of the budget probably went to catering, but to Naardlinger’s credit, this is a rare Canadian film in which the actors actually eat their spring mix instead of just pushing it around their plates.


7/11/2018

"I'm No Spring Chicken"

Where is Kyra?
(USA, 98 min.)
Written and directed by Andrew Dosunmu
Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Kiefer Sutherland 
Catwoman ages gracefully
“I’m no spring chicken!” quips Kyra late in this film. She struggles to get work two years after losing her job, at which she was supposedly quite successful, and now she toils the demoralizing grind of unemployment. Few people, unfortunately, want an overqualified woman with wrinkles on the payroll. Pfeiffer dives deeply into this character study that demands every inch of her maturity as an actress. It’s a quietly powerful and immersive performance—one of Pfeiffer’s most surprisingly turns and arguably one of her strongest.


7/09/2018

Chatting 'Sorry to Bother You' with Boots Riley

New interview! Chatting Sorry to Bother You with director Boots Riley over at BeatRoute. You can catch this zany comedy in theatres starting Friday.

 

7/02/2018

2018 in Review: The Best Films of the Year so Far

Won't You Be My Neighbor?, Isle of Dogs, Fake Tattoos, Meditation Park, American Animals,
and Sweet Country rank as some of the year's best films so far.
2018 slept in, but what started as a slow year for movies has become a strong one. I’ll admit that I’m still not covering as many films as I’d like to here, but there are a lot of films worth championing that I’ve let slip through the cracks and want to take the time to spotlight.


6/28/2018

A Tale of Two Genre Films

Aden Young in The Unseen and Oluniké Adeliyi in Darken
Canadians make a lot of special effects driven movies, but they’re often for Hollywood producers. Genre films made with Canadian dollar aren’t particularly rare, either, but good ones often are. The works of David Cronenberg, Splice, Enemy, Pontypool, and most recently Les affamés, which must be the contemporary hallmark for great Canadian horror, are standouts. These titles are arguably auteur-driven films rather than genre pieces, and few of the films in between aren’t memorable. But they shouldn’t be the exception to the rule.

6/27/2018

'Marlina' Cooks Up Bloody Good Revenge

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts
(Indonesia/Malaysia/France, 93 min.)
Dir. Mouly Surya; Writ. Mouly Surya, Garin Nugroho, Rama Adi
Starring: Marsha Timothy, Egy Fedly, Dea Panendra
A woman sits around the table as men lie on the floor
They say revenge is a dish best served cold. A tepid lunch honestly doesn’t benefit anyone and revenge, like cooking, is best served piping hot with fiery gusto. That’s how Marlina cooks up a four-course meal of wrathful revenge. Let the last meal for any man who wrongs her be a heaping portion of incendiary, tongue-burning rage. 


6/21/2018

Interview: Chatting 'American Animals' with Bart Layton for the TFCA

Catch one of the best films of the year so far when American Animals hits theatres starting this week. It's a lively heist hybrid movie, a fascinating slice of true crime from director Bart Layton, whose The Imposter has to be one of the wildest films I've seen at Hot Docs. I had the pleasure of interviewing  Layton for the Toronto Film Critics Association and we chatted about hybrids, heist films, and going beyond the sentimental cheap shot of "true" stories.

Millennials and Marriage

Paper Year
(Canada, 90 min.)
Written and directed by Rebecca Addelman
Starring: Eve Hewson, Avan Jogia, Andie MacDowell, Hamish Linklater, Grace Glowicki
Pacific Northwest Pictures
The traditional gift for one’s first anniversary is paper. Maybe a card, a certificate, or a photograph might find its way into some wrappings as newlyweds celebrate their first year of marriage. Franny (Eve Hewson, Enough Said) and Dan (Avan Jogia, Ghost Wars) gift themselves an ironic piece of paper when Paper Year takes stock at their first year of marriage. This dramedy from Ottawa-born filmmaker Rebecca Addelman illustrates with bittersweet humour how the best gifts are often paper—and by that, I mean receipts.

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.