I Could Have Laughed All Night

Crazy, Stupid, Love. ★★★★
(USA, 118 min.)
Dir. Glenn Ficarra & John Requa, Writ. Dan Fogelman
Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Bobo, Analeigh Tipton, Kevin Bacon.
Well, Bridesmaids might need to divorce itself from the title of this summer’s best studio comedy, since Crazy, Stupid, Love opens this weekend and it might have the sassy bridesmaids beat. What elevates both films above other recent movies are their go-for-broke comedic efforts and their emphasis on strong characterization. Whereas Bridesmaids is more driven by physical and situational humour (that’s not a bad thing!), Crazy, Stupid, Love fuels its comedy with sturdy parallel storylines and smart, uncontrived dialogue. Just like Bridesmaids, though, Crazy, Stupid, Love is a refreshing and laugh-out-loud hilarious escape in a season riddled with sub-par brainless blockbusters.

Trigger on DVD!!!

My favourite Canadian film of 2010 comes to DVD today! I caught the world premiere of Trigger when it opened the Bell Lightbox during TIFF last fall, and I fell in love with it instantly. I gave it a very enthusiastic five stars in my review from the festival, citing the excellent script by Daniel MacIvor, as well as Bruce McDonald’s loving rendering of Toronto and his pitch-perfect tribute to rock and roll. Trigger is most memorable, however, for the strength of its two female leads: as rockers Kat and Vic, Molly Parker and the late Tracy Wright are a flawless duo, not only in duelling with MacIvor’s snappy banter, but also in delivering raw, honest performances as the two fading friends.

Trigger made my Top Ten list for the year’s best films and Tracy Wright got the runner-up spot in my picks for the best performances of 2010. Shot in just a few days on a shoestring budget, Trigger is a little gem of a film worth adding to any collection of Canadian films.


Notice for Eviction

Good Neighbours ★★
(Canada, 100 min.)
Written and directed by Jacob Tierney
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Emily Hampshire, Scott Speedman, Anne-Marie Cadieux, Gary Farmer, Pat Kiely.
Add this one to the body count of 2011 duds, for Good Neighbours is an utter misfire. A real disappointment considering the promise shown by writer/director Jacob Tierney in last year’s The Trotsky, this new feature is a sloppy, poorly executed circus. Good Neighbours is presumably a hybrid thriller-comedy, but the generic mixing backfires disastrously and the film never really delivers any laughs, except for the odd chuckle induced by the laughably bad carnage of the murder plot. 


A Mellow Submarine

Submarine ★★★
(UK, 97 min.)
Written and directed by Richard Ayoade
Starring: Craig Roberts, Noah Taylor, Sally Hawkins, Yasmin Page, Paddy Considine.
A fun, quirky coming-of-age story, Submarine is much like (500) Days of Summer crossed with Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) finds himself at a bit of a romantic crossroads. Pulling him in one direction is his observation of the dwindling romance between his parents (Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor), which takes an odd turn when his mother’s first love moves into the house next door. Pulling him in the other direction is his neurotic crush on classmate Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Page). Oliver mulls the possible outcomes of each romantic folly in a fun and highly irrational voice-over, as well as in some eccentric interludes of indie comedy weirdness.


A Fine Slice of American Cheese

Captain America: The First Avenger ★★★½
(USA, 125 min)
Dir. Joe Johnston; Writ. Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving
Captain America: The First Avenger is a great slice of American cheese. Not only is this visual effects extravaganza a solid product of artificial processing, but also it has enough clichés and familiarities to fill the first half of Super 8. While Super 8 does not fare as well, Captain America proves that sometimes American cheese is a good thing. Just like a greasy grilled cheese sandwich, Captain America has little nutritional value. Take some mayo and stick a slice of cheese between two slices of white bread (or Hayley Atwell and Natalie Dormer in this case) and for those of you who like to slather some butter on your fatty sandwich, Captain America comes with the option of additional calories in the form of unnecessary post-production 3-D. A good sandwich indeed. 


See 'Life During Wartime'!

Allow me a few minutes to plug Todd Solondz's brilliant suburban satire Life During Wartime. A smart, funny, and insightful glimpse into the lives of three sisters, Life During Wartime cleverly scrutinizes the repercussions and follies of Bush-era America. From pill-popping preteens to gaudy strip malls to terrorists and China, nothing emerges unscathed in this unsettling essay on post-9/11 culture.


Cue the Tumbleweeds

Meek’s Cutoff ★★★★
(USA, 104 min.)
Dir. Kelly Reichardt; Writ. Jonathan Raymond
Starring: Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Will Patton, Shirley Henderson, Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Rod Rondeaux.
Kelly Reichardt is a true pioneer. With Meek’s Cutoff, the art-house director of Wendy and Lucy brilliantly deconstructs the Western genre with deft skill and insight. Meek’s is a Western seen from the perspective of a female protagonist, which is a departure itself given that the genre has long been the terrain of cocksure gunslingers. The film is arguably the most interesting take on gender in the genre since Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller


The Entertainer

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop ★★★½
(USA, 89 min.)
Dir. Rodman Flender
Conan O’Brien is a machine. A tall, goofy, redheaded machine. As the documentary Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop reveals, the late-night talk-show host thrives on the spotlight. “I’m like Tinkerbell,” O’Brien says, “Without applause, I die.”

Not only is O’Brien like J.M. Barrie’s pixie sidekick, but he bravely takes a moment in the film to pick himself from his Joaquin Phoenix-like dishevelment and compare himself to Anne Frank. “We both took a stand for something,” he says.


Mildred Pierce leads Primetime Emmy noms

"Mildred Pierce
HBO's brilliant mini-series "Mildred Pierce" racked up the love this morning during the announcement for this year's Primetime Emmy Awards. "Mildred" leads with 21 nods, including Best Mini-Series and Best Actress for Kate Winslet. "Mad Men" deservedly leads the Dramatic series field once again, with voters passing serious judgement on Don Draper's season finale shocker by nominating Carla Buono in the guest actress category over Canada's Jessica Pare (although in rooting for Randee Heller as Miss Blankenship!). Hot on the heels of "Mad Men" is newcomer "Boardwalk Empire". In the comedy series category, "Modern Family" leads with 17 nods. ("The Big C" got screwed!!!).

Awards will be handed out Septmenber 18.
Full list of nominees in main categories:

Outstanding Drama Series
"Dexter" (2006)
"Mad Men" (2007)


Contagion Trailer!

The trailer for Steven Soderbergh's Contagion has gone viral!
For a film by an Academy Award winning director that stars:
Academy Award winner Matt Damon
Academy Award winner Kate Winslet
Academy Award winner Gwyneth Paltrow
Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard
Academy Award nominee Jude Law
Academy Award nominee Laurence Fishburne
Academy Award nominee John Hawkes
and Academy Award nominee Elliot Gould ...
... I can't believe the words "Academy Award" don't appear in the trailer! Brave marketing team!
(And the movie looks good!)


Movie Reads for Summer!

One task I always like to set for myself during the summer is to assemble a reading list of books on which upcoming films are based. It’s fun to spend some time on the beach and imagine how these stories will look onscreen and then see how much stronger the director’s vision is compared to your own. More importantly, film adaptations often make for the more prestigious/highly touted studio films during the festival/awards seasons (ex: Precious, Never Let Me Go, No Country For Old Men, etc.), so reading them in advance might provide an edge in making your predictions. Take this list of upcoming movie-reads with a heavy grain of salt, though, as this time last summer I was reading Eat, Pray, Love in anticipation of the much hyped Julia Roberts vehicle… d’oh! Anyways, here are some titles to add to your reading list to prepare for the upcoming movie season:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Help should be first on everyone’s reading list this summer. Not only is the film the first to hit the multiplex (August 10), but Stockett’s novel is an immensely powerful, humorous, and enlightening debut. More impressive is how Stockett’s succinct prose and excellent characterizations make The Help a widely accessible – and deceptively simple – read. The movie for The Help stars Emma Stone as Skeeter Phelan, a social misfit in her Bible Belt hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, who undertakes a secret project when her ultra-conservative friend (Bryce Dallas Howard) starts an initiative encouraging Jackson families to create separate washrooms for their African-American help. Skeeter’s project is to write a story from the perspective of the help, and she begins by enlisting her friend’s maid Aibileen (played by Viola Davis) and Hilly’s sass-mouthed nemesis Milly (Octavia Spencer, who receives special mention from Stockett in her acknowledgments in the novel). Stockett’s inspiring tale of civil progress deserves comparison to Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and hopefully The Help will be just as strong (but not as controversial) as Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Walker’s novel.


There's No Place Like This...

The National Parks Project ★★★
(Canada, 120 min.)
Dir. Scott Smith, Stephane Lafleur, Peter Lynch, Daniel Cockburn, John Walker, Keith Behrman, Louise Archambault, Zacharias Kunuk, Hubert Davis, Sturla Gunnarsson,Catherine Martin, Jamie Travis, Kevin McMahon.
To celebrate the centennial of Parks Canada, thirteen Canadian filmmakers collaborated with forty musicians to pay tribute to Canada’s first National Parks system. The result is the anthology film The National Parks Project, in which each director takes a province and selects a park, and then works with a trio of musicians to produce a brief celebration of the Canadian landscape in all its cinematic glory. It’s sort of life Paris, je t’aime, except with the Canadian wilderness in place of the boroughs of Paris.

The Old Man and the "C"

Beginners ★★★★
(USA, 105 min.)
Written and directed by Mike Mills
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent, Arthur the Dog.
You’ll have a gay old time at Beginners. Not only does this new film by writer/director Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) complement its quirky humour with an irresistible offbeat visual flair, but it also features a virtuoso performance by Christopher Plummer as a gay old-timer. As told from the perspective of his son, Oliver (Ewan McGregor), Beginners opens by explaining to the viewer Oliver’s befuddlement when his seventy-five year old father, Hal, stepped out of the closet shortly after the death of his wife.


Teaser: The Iron Lady!

Take a (very) quick peek at Meryl Streep's performance in the upcoming Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady. The films opens in North America Dec. 16, 2011. (The 2012 date is international.)

Added a thirty second clip of the real Thatcher after the jump, for anyone who wants to judge Streep's voice and likeness. She seems pretty spot on in the last lines of the teaser!


O Malick Tree, O Malick Tree

The Tree of Life ★★★★½
(USA, 139 min.)
Written and directed by Terrence Malick
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken, Tye Sheridan and Sean Penn.
The fifth feature from philosopher/filmmaker Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life is a film of unprecedented scope and vision. A film that spans from the contemporary world to the days pre-dating humanity – and does so successfully – Tree of Life is arguably Malick’s most ambitious film to date. Considering this is the director who shot Days of Heaven at dusk with a cinematographer approaching blindness, that’s pretty gutsy.