7/26/2016

Blu-ray Review: 'Criminal'

Criminal
(USA/UK, 113 min.)
Dir. Ariel Vroman, Writ. Douglas Cook, David Weisberg
Starring: Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Jordi Molla, Gal Gadot, Ryan Reynolds
Ryan Reynolds in Criminal.
Courtesy VVS Films.
Heaven help me for the way I am… One doesn’t need a good defense for Criminal. This preposterously silly, but consistently enjoyable, actioner boasts an insane amount of star power for a film with such a ridiculous script. One doesn’t download or pop-in a flick like Criminal for some good dialogue, though, so anyone looking for an escapist adventure in the comfort of one’s own home can happily plead ‘guilty pleasure.’

This star-studded, high-concept actioner actually gets off to a great start with an intense opening sequence that puts Canuck Ryan Reynolds in the thick of a wild CIA operation that leads to nerve-wracking shootout. Then, in a twist one doesn’t see coming, the film shifts perspectives to the dark mind of Jericho, played by a raspy Kevin Costner, a career criminal and sociopath who is about as far aware from the family-oriented Bill Pope whom Reynolds plays. Criminal then moves into Self/Less territory and the film suffers somewhat from its resemblance to another Ryan Reynolds film that has a better grasp on its speculative premise. As the convoluted science introduces a passively likable doctor (Tommy Lee Jones) and a cranky CIA honcho (Gary Oldman), Criminal often loses credibility the more it tries to explain its premise and develop its innumerable characters in a supporting cast that includes Michael Pitt, Alice Eve, Gal Gadot, and Jordi Molla.

As a diversion, though, the movie offers action sequence upon action sequence with car chases, explosions, close-escapes, and rough encounters as the criminal/family man try to reconcile their differences and find a common DNA. The high-concept premise adds some novelty to the undemanding entertainment and Criminal probably seems a lot smarter the less one pays attention to it. Tune in during the intense set pieces, which director Ariel Vroman (The Iceman) choreographs with visceral steeliness and one might really enjoy it. It’s an ideal adventure enjoyed with either a crowd or a hangover.

The disc: Criminal’s 1080p digital transfer looks slick and stylish, making the film an easy option for action fans who want to dapple in something darker. The 5.1 Dolby True HD is mostly noticeable on the sharply punctuated gunshots of the film, a trait that the film draws out in its decent array of bonus features.

Bonus: The best offering among the range of extras is the Director’s Notes Featurette, which is like an abridged director commentary with key scenes replayed in isolation as Vroman explains some of the artistic choices behind the selected snippets. Especially interesting is the director’s reference to the opening gun battle offering single-shot exchanges between Pope and the baddies to evoke the visceral sting and terror of the attacks in Paris back in January of 2015.

The deleted scenes generally don’t offer much aside from moments that were presumably clipped for time, but a few extra tidbits with Reynolds are worth the gander, as is one twist with Jones that might have given the film an extra edge. The featurette ‘Criminal Intent’ offers a thorough range of interviews with the cast, director, writers, and producer as they explain their characters and the chemistry that the actors created on set. (There’s a little JFK love fest going on between prior co-stars Costner, Jones, and Oldman, which is fun.) The short doc also lets viewers know if they’ve been pronouncing Wonder Woman’s name wrong all along since it turns out that Gal Gadot is actually Gall Gadot, while an added guilty pleasure comes in the number of times that Costner expresses doubt in the production but seems to be enjoying the ride. Finally, music video for the theme song “Drift and Fall Again” by Madsonik is a slick and catchy number to play in the room while chatting about the flick with friends. Case closed.

Criminal is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital HD from VVS Films.




TIFF Announces First Wave of Galas and Special Presentations, Includes 4 Canuck Films

The Magnificent Seven.
Courtesy of TIFF.
The first wave of titles for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival is out! TIFF’16 opens with a bang with Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven kicking off the fest. The western seems like a fair choice to start the show given that it’s a major title opening on the heels of the festival. And since it sports perennial TIFF director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and it has a diverse cast that includes Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Byung-Hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Haley Bennett, The Magnificent Seven is a fitting flick to open a line-up that boasts a notably diverse range of films and talent.

7/25/2016

'Ghostbusters' is Funny, But It Kind of Drops the Phone

Ghostbusters
(USA, 116 min.)
Dir. Paul Feig, Writ. Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth
Ghostbusters answers the call for more female friendly Hollywood movies and, unfortunately, it kind of drops the phone. This totally unnecessary remake of the popular 1984 Ivan Reitman movie is passable summer fare, but that’s about it. The film essentially offers a retread of the original flick with altered chromosomes as Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones occupy the roles played by Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson back in the 80s. These girls are fun together and there’s no denying that the new Ghostbusters surpasses the original in the special effects department, although the 3D doesn’t add much aside from a few in-your-face eruptions of slime vomit.


7/22/2016

Contest! Win Tickets to See 'Nine Lives' Across Canada!

Here’s the purrrrfect summer movie! Nine Lives rolls into theatres like a kitty cat enjoying a sunbeam. Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Christopher Walken, and Cheryl Hines star in this family comedy that will bring out the cat person in everyone. Nine Lives opens in theatres Friday, August 5 from VVS Films, but lucky readers have a chance to attend a sneak peek! Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets!


7/21/2016

The Brits Are Back in Fashion, Baby!

Absolutely Fabulous
(UK, 86 min.)
Dir. Mandie Fletcher, Writ. Jennifer Saunders
Starring: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks, June Whitfield, Chris Colfer, Kate Moss, Lulu, Emma Bunton
Jennifer Saunders as Edina and Joanna Lumley as Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.
Photo by David Appleby. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Absolutely Fabulous will restore your faith in Britain post-Brexit. This zany and irreverently funny Brit pic brings the popular series across the pond and to the big screen for a laugh-a-minute riot. One doesn’t need to be familiar with the episodes of Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley), which ran off and on from 1992 to 2012, to enjoy the party. Sin is in as these gaudy, boozy, freewheeling socialite-wannabes put their drinks up and let the good times roll. Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is just the ticket for anyone looking to have summer fun in style.


7/18/2016

Capsule Reviews: 'The Shallows', 'Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates'

A few capsules to catch-up. Seen anything good this summer?

The Shallows
(USA, 86 min.)
Dir. Jaume Collet-Serra, Writ. Anthony Jaswinski
Starring: Blake Lively, Sully ‘Steven’ Seagull, MoFo Shark
If only Blake Lively had taken Dory’s advice to just keep swimming. The Age of Adaline star gives an intense physical performance as Nancy the surfer who faces off with a big mean shark that attacks her mere yards from the shores of some unnamed tropical beach. Seeing Nancy make a swim for it might have remedied some of the many plot holes and implausible why-didn’t-you-just… moments in The Shallows, which strains credibility for almost ninety-minutes despite an admirable pretense for realism and a simplified scenario.  


New Trailer for 'Zoom'

A new trailer is out for Zoom! This exciting hybrid film mixes live action drama and animation in a multi-layered web of art and reality. The film premiered at TIFF last year and went on to earn a Screenie nomination for its script. This meta-movie and Canadian-Brazilian co-pro is a new collaboration from the minds that brought Blindness and includes two stars from that film, Gael García Bernal and Don McKellar, along with Canucks Alison Pill, Jason Priestley, and Tyler Labine. Looks very original!

7/12/2016

'Wiener-Dog' Might Be Best in Show

Wiener-Dog
(USA, 90 min.)
Written and directed by Todd Solondz
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Keaton Nigel Cooke, Kieran Culkin, Julie Delpy, Danny De Vito, Greta Gerwig, Tracy Letts, Hope the dog
Greta Gerwig in Wiener-Dog.
Photo by Linda Callerus. Courtesy of Amazon Studios & IFC Films.

Someone, please give Todd Solondz a bone. The Happiness and Life During Wartime director is at his cynically best in Wiener-Dog. It’s his most upbeat, uplifting, and joyous work, yet also his most sardonically bleak film to date. There are dog tricks and there are Dog Tricks, and Wiener is the top dog of bitchin’ black humour.


7/07/2016

Contest: Win 'Hardcore Henry' Prize Packs!

Get ready to star in an action movie from the comfort of your own home when the first-person actioner Hardcore Henry comes to come video. (Read the Cinemablographer review of Hardcore Henry here.) Hardcore Henry hits Blu-ray and DVD July 12, and is currently available on digital HD from VVS Films. Lucky readers looking to put free shit and good times in the crosshairs can enter for a chance to win Hardcore Henry prize packs! Answer the trivia below for your chance to win!


7/06/2016

OIAF Announces Feature Film Selections

Window Horses. Courtesy of the NFB.
Festival season in the 613 is off! Today’s announcement of the feature film selections for this year’s Ottawa International AnimationFestival brings the first wave of fall festival premieres for the National Capital. OIAF looks strong on the feature film front as it heads into its 40th year as Ottawa’s biggest and most popular film festival and the largest showcase for animation in North America. OIAF ’16 boasts a whopping seven feature films, including Our Nixon director Penny Lane’s ridiculously brilliant NUTS!, which I caught back at Hot Docs and consider is an absolute must-see. (One of our freelancers at POV covered it then, but I’ll give it some ink here during OIAF.)


The John Grisham of le Carré Films

Our Kind of Traitor
(UK/France, 108 min.)
Dir. Susanna White, Writ. Hossein Amini
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Naomie Harris, Damian Lewis, Jeremy Northam
Ewan McGregor as Perry Makepeace and Naomie Harris as Gail Perkins. in Our Kind of Traitor.
An Entertainment One release.

Our Kind of Traitor takes John le Carré and drives him straight into John Grisham territory. This implausible, unconvincing, and heavy-handed thriller hammers its themes and noble characters with the blunt force of a hack’s gavel. The difference between a le Carré novel and a Grisham book is a lot like the divide between a “film” a “movie,” and adaptations of the British spy novelist, especially with The Constant Gardener, A Most Wanted Man and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, more than meet the standards of their source material. This latest lark, however, is about as generic, hokey, and, therefore, Grisham-y, as a spy flick can get. Put away the Smiley emoji.

7/05/2016

Contest: Win 'Mr. Right' on Blu-ray!

Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell make a killer couple in the action-comedy dating game Mr. Right. (Read the Cinemablographer review of Mr. Right here.) Mr. Right hits Blu-ray, DVD, and digital today from VVS Films. Lucky readers looking to lock ‘n load with this fun caper can enter for a chance to win Mr. Right on Blu-ray. Answer the trivia below for your chance to win a copy!


7/02/2016

Once Upon a Time...

Tale of Tales
(Italy/France/UK, 135 min.)
Dir. Matteo Garrone, Writ. Edoardo Albinati, Ugo Chiti, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudiso
Starring: Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, Shirley Henderson, Hayley Carmichael, Bebe Cave, Christian Lees, Jonah Lees
Salma Hayek stars in Tale of Tales.
Courtesy of Les Films Séville.

Once upon a time, there was a movie genre. It transported audiences from place to place, borough to borough, quartier to quartier, coffeehouse to coffeehouse, and era to era. New York stories, Parisian love letters, coffee cups and cigarette butts, and legends of red violins all left film lovers with fond memories of tales of tales.


7/01/2016

Cutting It: Film Editor Matthew Hannam Talks 'Swiss Army Man'

Matthew Hannam at the 2014 Directors Guild of Canada Awards where he won Best Film Editing for Enemy.

Swiss Army Man opens in Canada this weekend after a successfully controversial and acclaimed Sundance premiere where its unusual story featuring Daniel Radcliffe as a farting corpse was one of the festival's breakout hits. Radcliffe’s trick of playing dead gets some immediate laughs, but Swiss Army Man ultimately transcends its irreverent humour and grows into a moving bromance and a provocative musing on what it means to be alive.

6/29/2016

Let 'er R.I.P.

Swiss Army Man
(USA, 90 min.)
Written and directed by Daniels
Starring: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe
Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano in Swiss Army Man.
Photo by Joyce Kim, courtesy of A24.

Get a whiff of Swiss Army Man! This Sundance comedy of infamous flatulence features Daniel Radcliffe as a farting corpse. His performance is a true novelty, not only because the recurring joke has lots of gas, but also because his turn as a stiff injects the film with life. Swiss Army Man is an irreverent bromance for the indie crowd.