A Love Story, Unplugged

Hard Drive
(Canada, 82 min.)
Written and directed by William D. MacGillivray
Starring: Douglas Smith, Megan Follows, Laura Slade Wiggins, Jerry Granelli
Laura Slade Wiggins and Douglas Smith as Debs and Ditch in Hard Drive.
  Photo credit Dan Callis
William D. MacGillivray goes searching for analogue love in a digital world with Hard Drive. Hard Drive, which marks the director’s return to narrative film since 1990’s Understanding Bliss, might not be as formally engaging his some of his previous films are, but it’s nevertheless an intriguing film from a thematic perspective. The digitally titled and digitally shot Hard Drive takes an unconventional approach to young love in this technologically saturated age. Ditch (Stage Fright’s Douglas Smith) doesn’t seem to have Facebook, a cell phone, or even an iPod. He doesn’t Instagram his food when he goes for Chinese with his mom, played by Megan Follows (aka Anne of Green Gables), and he listens to music on, wait for it, the old-fangled combination of a Walkman and a cassette tape. Downtown hipsters be damned, Ditch is the real deal!


Hoffman the Shark

A Most Wanted Man
(UK/USA/Germany, 121 min.)
Dir. Anton Corbijn, Writ. Andrew Bovell
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Nina Hoss, Daniel Brühl, Homayoun Ershadi
“His strength was a total immersion in the role and a lack of vanity,” recalls director Anton Corbijn while speaking of his experience working with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman on A Most Wanted Man. A Most Wanted Man, Hoffman’s final starring role and last completed film (although his final work in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay hits theatres this fall), displays Hoffman’s humble absorption in his work at its best. His engrossing turn as German spy Günther Bachmann in this adaptation of John le Carré’s A Most Wanted Man displays the kind of immersive character work that made Hoffman of one the best actors of his generation, if not the best.                                                


Call Me Biased, but I Was Totally on 'Her' Side...

Photo: Jens Ziehe
“He gives me that look…”
“What look?”
“That look that says, ‘Your life is trivial. You are so trivial.’”
-Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep), The Hours

Call be biased, but I was totally on her side the whole way through Him + Her. Maybe it’s the die-hard Streep fan in me, yet the chorus of Meryls makes a very compelling case in their twenty-three minutes of (seven) screentime. The Meryls, interestingly enough, don’t actually make a plea in a divorce case against a host of Jack Nicholsons as I originally thought they did—they don’t intentionally, anyways—but the malleability of this he said/she said piece is truly brilliant.


'The Judge' to Open TIFF

Photo courtesy of TIFF
Here’s a surprise! The Toronto International Film Festival announced the selection for its Opening Night film today and the film is a film that was already announced. David Dobkin’s The Judge, which appeared in Tuesday’s first wave of Galas and Special Presentation selections for the 2014 festival, will open TIFF on September 4th. Perhaps, as speculated earlier this week, the delay was simply a matter of technicalities. “The stars aligned and we are thrilled to announce that we will kick off the Festival with The Judge,” said Piers Handling, Director and CEO, TIFF in a statement released by the Festival. “David Dobkin has delivered a moving, textured story about family, duty and the way we remember our past. We couldn’t have asked for a better start to this year’s event.” TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey added, “We always want to deliver for our audience and we can't think of a better way than kicking things off with The Judge. Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall are terrific in the film, and David Dobkin guides the entire cast to rich, satisfying performances.”

The Artistic Mind

Triptych (Triptyque)
(Canada, 95 min.)
Dir. Pedro Pires and Robert Lepage, Writ. Pedro Pires
Starring: Frédérike Bédard, Lise Castonguay, Hans Piesbergen
“The ultimate creator is the human brain and God is but one of his creations,” says Thomas (Hans Piesbergen) while recalling the mind-bending beauty of the Sistine Chapel in Triptych. Triptych, the latest film from Robert Lepage, is a brilliant meeting of artistic minds. Look only to the beautiful sequence in which Thomas, a brain surgeon, gazes up at the artistry of the Chapel’s ceiling and visualizes the image of a brain outlining the heavenly bodies of the paintwork. To conceptualize and to theorize art is to bring it to life, and to give life to oneself in the process. Triptych, needless to say, is a richly involving film.


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.


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.


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.”


Hell on Wheels

(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.


'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.


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.