EUFF Review: 'Ballymun Lullaby'

Ballymun Lullaby
(Ireland, 72 min.)
Dir. Frank Berry
It’s funny to see Ballymun Lullaby only days after reviewing the short film The Journey for Toronto’s Regent Park Film Festival. The Irish documentary Ballymun Lullaby, which screens Friday, Nov. 21 at Ottawa’s European Union Film Festival, makes a fine companion piece to the Canadian short doc about the arts and life in Toronto’s Regent Park. Each of these documentaries could easily be seen as a fine piece of PR-spin in their own right—and offering a clean, alternative perspective of their respective communities is certainly one of the objectives of each film—yet the similar message of both films underscores a philosophy that extends far beyond the impoverished communities represented on film. Ballymun Lullaby offers a touching portrait of a community taking control of its identity, and its tale about inspiring and empowering the youth through the arts gives the film a universal appeal.

'Are you, Are you, Coming to the Tree...'

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
(USA, 123 min.)
Dir. Francis Lawrence, Writ. Peter Craig and Danny Strong
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland.
Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1.
Photo Credit: Murray Close / eOne Films

Are you, Are you
Coming to the tree
Where they strung up a man they say murdered three
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree…

Are you, Are you
Coming to the tree
Wear a necklace of rope, side by side with me.
Strange things did happen here,
No stranger would it be,
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.
-“The Hanging Tree”


EUFF Review: 'Rocks in My Pockets'

Rocks in My Pockets (Akmeni Manăs Kabatăs)
(Latvia/USA, 88 min.)
Written and directed by Signe Baumane
Starring: Signe Baumane
It helps to be a little bit crazy. Filmmaker Signe Baumane gives an eccentric and insightful portrait of madness in the unconventionally personal film Rocks in My Pockets. Rocks, which screens at Ottawa European Union Film Festival on November 28, is a truly unique bit of personal history as Baumane chronicles her family’s history of mental illness. This animated tale, Latvia’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film in this year’s Academy Awards race, is a wry, funny, and insightful stroke of genius.


Regent Park Film Festival Opens with a Spotlight on Canadian Shorts

Photo: Rick O'Brien.
Toronto’s Regent Park Film Festival offers four days of free screenings of films from Canada and around the world, but the festival’s shorts program on opening night is just the ticket for anyone who wants to see what this community film festival represents. RPFF kicks off with “Next: Emerging Directors Spotlight,” which opens the festival with a celebration of up-and-coming Canadian talent. This quartet of promising shorts bodes well for the future of Canadian film.


'Mommy' Crosses 3 Million Dollar Mark in Canada

Suzanne Clément in Mommy.
Photo: Shayne Laverdiere / Les Films Séville
Mommy continues its impressive bonanza at the Canadian box office, as Quebec distributor Les Films Séville shared the news via Twitter that Xavier Dolan's film has officially crossed the three million dollar mark in Canada. This take is very impressive, since Mommy has not only widened its stance to be Quebec's top grosser of 2014, but it could potentially become the top Canadian earner at the Canadian box office if its streak continues. The film has already passed The Grand Seduction's take of $2.7 million and is on track to top Pompeii's take of $4 million that currently leads the maple bacon b.o. Mommy's prospects look healthy, since the film, Canada's Oscar bid for Best Foreign Language Film, will inevitably pick up more momentum and exposure as it enters the thick of awards season and the Canadian equivalents. The film has also passed the milestone of one million admissions in France, which is most impressive.

Oscar Predictions: Round 3 - Christmas Comes Eary?

Christmas comes early, which is a blessing for Oscar fans in a year that seems particularly back-loaded. 2014 has ample strong films to offer, but this year’s race is too busy and too close to call, especially with so many seemingly viable contenders skipping the fall festival circuit and opening on Christmas Day. Into the Woods, Unbroken, Big Eyes, Selma, and American Sniper could presumably count for half the Best Picture line-up, and only a week ago it seemed like few of us could suss out the awards race until the time came to carve the turkey.


Full Metal Jazzfest

(USA, 105 min.)
Written and directed by Damien Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons
“Alternates, wipe the blood off my drums,” commands Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) following an intense rehearsal during practice for the Studio Band at Shaffer Conservatory. Fletcher runs band practice at the elite fictional music academy as if it’s boot camp, and Whiplash takes an unconventional look at the teacher-study relationship as Fletcher pushes one student, Andrew (Miles Teller), to the extreme. The drama might be farfetched—nobody bleeds that hard from drumming—but Whiplash pulses with the passion that consumes an artist when he strives to stand out in a competitive field.

Theatre: The Movie

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorace)
(USA, 118 min.)
Dir. Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Writ. Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicholás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo
Starring : Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis , Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough,  Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts
Michael Keaton as Riggan and Edward Norton as Mark in Birdman.
Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Michael Keaton, Batman himself, hit so rock bottom a few years ago that his biggest credit in the few years preceding Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), aside from a supporting role in RoboCop, is the 2013 thriller/inadvertent comedy Penthouse North. Penthouse North is so cheap and ridiculous that it substitutes both Manhattan and Afghanistan with a refurbished No Frills grocery in the middle of suburban Ottawa—yes, Ottawa. Filmmaking doesn’t get much lower for a Hollywood icon than shooting a Netflix-grade turkey in a bankrupt Canadian grocery store.


EUFF Review: 'The Candidate'

The Candidate (Kandidát)
(Slovakia/Czech Republic, 106 min.)
Dir. Jonás Karásek, Writ. Peter Balko, Michal Havran, Maros Hecko
Starring: Marek Majesky, Monika Hilmerová, Michal Kubovcík, Michal Dlouhys
The Conversation meets Wag the Dog in the Slovak/Czech co-pro The Candidate. The Candidate, which screens in Ottawa on Friday, November 14 at the European Union Film Festival, is a sleek and social-media savvy satire with its finger on the pulse of the political circus and both its thumbs feverishly working the buttons of an iPhone as it clicks away at a rapid rate. This sharply produced comedy-thriller is smart and incisive.


EUFF Review: 'A Special Day'

A Special Day (Un giorno special)
(Italy, 89 min.)
Dir. Francesca Comencini, Writ. Francesca Comencini, Guilia Calenda, Davide Lantieri
Starring: Filippo Scicchitano, Giulia Valentini.
The 2014 European Union Film Festival opens with a hot slice of cinema Italiano with A Special Day. Italy opens the festival this year since the boot-shaped country holds the Presidency of the European Union for 2014 and this Italian offering starts the festival with a nice toast of Prosecco. A Special Day is light and bubbly, a picturesque coming of age story, and a cautionary tale of aimless excess poured into one tall glass that goes down easy.


Win Tickets to 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1' Across Canada! (CONTEST CLOSED)

Citizens of Panem! Who is ready to volunteer for the next round of The Hunger Games? The third and final instalment of the beloved franchise begins when Oscar winner/superstar/coolest person ever Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. Mockingjay opens in theatres November 21 from eOne Films, but the district of Cinemablographer (ie: the best district) has tickets to sneak peeks of the film across Canada! If you live in Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, or Victoria and you want to see Mockingjay before it hits theatres, answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets to a sneak peek!

'Interstellar' Gets Lost in Space

(USA/UK, 169 min.)
Dir. Christopher Nolan, Writ. Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, Ellen Burtsyn.
Christopher Nolan flies through a wormhole of cinematic exploration in the innovative Interstellar, but the film gets lost in space. Interstellar is a spectacularly realized feat of unintelligible jibber-jabber. This visually stunning and phenomenally executed special effects extravaganza deserves to be seen on the big screen, yet Interstellar is often utterly incomprehensible.

'Dys-' and 'The Cold Heart' win Audience Awards at Cellar Door Film Festival

The Canadian horror film Dys- wins the CDFF Audience Award for Best Feature
Ottawa's Cellar Door Film Festival has  announced the two Audience Award winners for CDFF 2014. Dys-, directed by Maude Michaud, wins the Audience Award for Best Feature Film at CDFF ‘14 while The Cold Heart (Das Kalte Herz), directed by Hannes Rall, emerges with the Audience Award for Best Short Film. The selection of the Canadian horror film Dys- and the German animated fable The Cold Heart makes an especially fine pair for Cellar Door’s celebration of both Canadian and international filmmakers.


Ottawa's European Union Film Festival Screens Nov. 13-30!

Who’s still bobbing their heads to “Let it Out”, the theme from last year’s European Union Film Festival hit A Trip? Ottawa filmmies loved the song so much it brought Googlers galore, and the popularity of the catchy tune used in last year’s festival trailer shows how much this Ottawa festival connects with local audiences. Cinephiles get their annual treat once again when the European Union Film Festival (EUFF) screens in town this week. EUFF is presented by the Canadian Film Institute, the Delegation of the European Union to Canada, and the Member States of the European Union. EUFF continues to grow in its 29th year, which makes it one of the longest running film festivals in town, yet EUFF stays young at heart by showcasing cutting-edge examples of world cinema with hip hooks like “Let it Out.”


Planet in Focus Review: 'The Dark Side of Chew'

The Dark Side of Chew
(Canada/Mexico, 58 min.)
Dir. Andrew Nisker
So, who gave out gum on Halloween? I cautiously grabbed a piece of Double Bubble from the goodie bags we were handing out at my place and chewed the issue as I thought about the Planet in Focus doc The Dark Side of Chew. Andrew Nisker’s film paints bubble gum a shade bunch darker than the vibrant pink of most goodies (hence the title), so my thoughts on the film instantly spat the rubbery mass into the garbage. This stuff is really nasty when the film puts it in perspective.