4/29/2011

Thursday Fright Night

Scre4m ★★★
(USA, 111 min)
Dir: Wes Craven; Writ: Kevin Wiliamson
Starring: Neve Campbell, Emma Roberts, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Hayden Panettiere.

Insidious ★★★½
(USA, 103 min)
Dir: James Wan; Writ: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye.
Neve Campbell returns in Scre4m
The power was out here yesterday from about noon, so after dinner I decided wait out the blackout by going to the movies. I figured I’d make use of the dark and stormy-ish night and finally see Scream 4 (aka Scre4m). I was a bit hesitant to see Scre4m because when I marked essays earlier this year, forty-out-of-fifty of them were on the slasher genre. At least thirty of these discussed the ‘final girl’ motif in Halloween and used the original Scream as a point of comparison. Now being well versed in Carol Clover’s concept of the final girl, (the ‘final girl’ is basically the last girl standing after all her promiscuous friends have been picked off one by one. She is also the only female character who can confront ‘the monster’) I think that this is the first time I really appreciated the Scream franchise. 

4/27/2011

A Snowy Snooze-Fest

Curling ★★
(Canada, 92 min.)
Written and directed by Denis Côté.
Starring: Emmanuel Bilodeau, Philomène Bilodeau, Roc LaFortune, Sophie Desmarais.
Denis Côté blows a wad of Telefilm dollars with Curling, this bizarre and poorly lit film from Quebec. Curling was among the Top Ten films named by TIFF earlier this year, but unfortunately, I can’t share the enthusiasm despite my shameless keenness to promote our National product. To recommend Curling requires creative writing skills that far exceed my ineptitude for fiction.

In a similar vein of Dogtooth, Curling tells of an overly protective father (Emmanuel Bilodeau) who keeps his daughter, Julyvonne (Philomène Bilodeau), sequestered from the rest of the world. The father, nicknamed Moustache, is not nearly as sadistic as the freaky parents in Dogtooth are and that partly contributes to the lack of payoff in the film. Unlike Dogtooth, Curling just seems weird for the sake of being weird. 

4/26/2011

The Elephant in the Screening Room

Water for Elephants ★★½
(USA, 122 min.)
Dir: Francis Lawrence; Writ: Richard LaGravernese.
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz.
Did you ever see The Greatest Show on Earth, that lumbering, brain-dead, and ironically titled circus epic starring Charlton Heston that scooped the 1952 Oscar for Best Picture? Well, if you haven’t – and this is the first and only time I will say this – go rent it, because Water for Elephants is rife with references to Cecil B. DeMille’s three-ring circus. From the ring master costume of August (Christoph Waltz) to the similarities in appearance between Reese Witherspoon and the elephant-riding showgirl played by Gloria Graham, Water for Elephants provides many nods to the spectacular legacy of the circus within the cinema.

Unfortunately, though, while director Francis Lawrence (Constantine, I am Legend) does an excellent job of staging the circus performances, the drama of Water for Elephants crashes like a high-wire acrobat without a net (perhaps another reference to The Greatest Show on Earth?). It’s both surprising and disappointing that Lawrence capitalizes on the circus numbers so rarely, too, since the awesome spectacle of the circus is so well-served by the big screen. The problem may be that Lawrence is an odd partner for screenwriter Richard LaGravernese, whose previous credits, including PS, I Love You and The Horse Whisper, ensure that the adaptation of Water for Elephants focuses more on mushy romance than high-wire thrills. 

4/22/2011

3 Canadian Films in 1 Week?

Textuality
I voted in the advance poll today; you should too! More importantly, you can vote at the Box Office by supporting either of the two new Canadian films opening this weekend!

Textuality ★★★
A fun satire on dating in the digital age. At times, the constant references to social media can be as annoying as that friend who’s always on her BBM when you hang out, but realizing that might make you appreciate that film all the same. Really liked Carly Pope as Simone!

The High Cost of Living ★★★★
Saw this back in January when it was featured in the Canada’s Top Ten series by TIFF. I was really impressed by this debut featuring by Deborah Chow starring Zach Braff and Isabelle Blais. Read my full review here.

Another of the Top Ten films, Curling, opens at the Bytowne in Ottawa on Monday, so I’ll have some thoughts on that next week! And hopefully I’ll be back to full reviews!
TEXTUALITY - OFFICIAL THEATRICAL TRAILER from Strident Films on Vimeo.

4/11/2011

This Week/Month's Advice: See Hanna!

Cate Blanchett in Hanna (review below)

Arthur ★★½
Arthur
I really wanted to like this. The film is funny-ish and it has some decent performances, but something about the whole movie just feels…off.

Dogtooth ★★★½
It’s all Greek to me, but I enjoyed this strange and morbid nightmare! Definitely not a film for everybody…

A Summer in Genoa ★★½
What a disappointment! Who thought that a collaboration by Colin Firth, Catherine Keener & Michael Winterbottom would be boring? 

Win Win ★★★★
Hilarious and moving, this comedy by Tom McCarthy (The Visitor, The Station Agent) should be enjoyed and appreciated by all. Perfect script and an excellent cast, especially Paul Giamatti in another great lead & newcomer Alex Shaffer as Kyle. 

Funkytown ★★★½
A fun look at Montreal’s disco scene. The film takes a surprisingly dark turn and it has one plot thread too many, but Funkytown offers a snapshot of an important point in history. The film culminates with the 1980 referendum, which could be a whole film itself. Perhaps Funkytown would have worked better as a miniseries? 

Hanna ★★★★½
It's was inevitable that as soon as I declared Jane Eyre to be the best film  released this year, something better was bound to come along. That film, of course, is Hanna, Joe Wright's audaciously original spy thriller. Hanna should appeal to both mainstream and art-house audiences as it's a fast-paced cat-and-mouse actioner, but it's also assembled quite spectacularly. Wright makes a surprising departure from the prestige of Atonement and Pride and Prejudice and offers a gritty and frenetic film: Accentuated by the hyper-kinetic beat of the brilliant score by The Chemical Brothers, Hanna is a film that truly feels "contemporary."


Hanna also marks the second collaboration with Wright and actress Saoirse Ronan. Ronan stars in the title role, and she really carries the film with a performance that's just as impressive as her well-poised debut in Atonement. Ronan's Hanna is on the run from Marissa Weigler, a ruthless CIA agent/duplicitous bitch played by Cate Blanchett. Blanchett's a real scene-stealer in the film and her beguiling cat-like appearance makes her the perfect foe for Ronan's innocent Hanna. Ronan and Blanchett make Hanna an exhilarating fairytale cum nightmare. And Joe Wright fans needn't worry - Hanna still features one of his signature tracking shots!

4/08/2011

A Short Look at New Canadian Talent!

I can't believe that I forgot to mention this last week, but the CBC will be airing short films by filmmakers from the Canadian Film Centre every Saturday during April. The shorts give a sneak peek at some of the emerging talent within the Canadian movie scene. It's also worth tuning in simply for the fact that short films are quite difficult to see unless you catch them at a festival. Each film airs on CBC at Midnight.

I'm sad to say that last week was actually How to Rid Your Lover of a Negative Emotion Caused by You!, directed by Nadia Litz and starring Sarah Allen & Joe Cobden (he can now be seen in Source Code). I've been noting my enthusiasm for the film since TIFF last fall, and it disappoints me that I failed to give you all a heads up. Maybe they'll rerun it again?
Kill Brass
Up this week (Apr 10) is Kill Brass, which is also quite good. It's about an assassin whose mission backfires (har) when his target turns out not to be such an easy mark. Kill Brass is a taut and gritty production directed by Michel Kandinsky. The film stars Graham Abbey, part of the superb ensemble of this year's A Wake.

Up next on the 17th is Transmission, which I have not yet seen and look forward to, and Champagne  on April 24, which I reviewed with How to Rid Your Lover... at TIFF.

Tune in support your local talent before they flee to Hollywood!