A Tale Told by an Idiot

Anonymous ★★½
(UK/Germany, 130 min.)
Dir. Roland Emmerich, Writ. John Orloff
Starring: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Sebastian Armesto, Joely Richardson, Jamie Campbell Bower, David Thewlis, Rafe Spall, Derek Jacobi.
It is a shame that I already referenced “a tale of sound and fury, signifying nothing” whilst reviewing Julie Taymor’s disastrous 2010 adaptation of The Tempest. In my lambasting of her film, though, my passion for Miss Taymor’s previous works (especially Titus) caused me to withhold another phrase from said verse of Macbeth. It was a fortunate move, for the title of “a tale told by an idiot” is far more appropriate for Anonymous, the salacious Shakespeare romp by disaster director Roland Emmerich. 


Goin' Down Memory Lane

Down the Road Again ★★★½
(Canada, 84 min.)
Written and directed by Don Shebib.
Starring: Doug McGrath, Kathleen Robertson, Jayne Eastwood, Cayle Chernin, Anthony Lemke.
Forty years ago, Goin’ Down the Road opened in Canadian theatres and introduced to moviegoers Pete and Joey, two hard-lucked guys from Nova Scotia trying to catch a break in Toronto. Goin’ Down the Road is the quintessential “cheap Canadian movie”: it’s like a piece of Third Cinema with some Bruce Cockburn songs slapped on the soundtrack, but the story of these working class guys struck a chord with Canadian audiences, as did the familiar shots of the Canadian landscape and some seedy Yonge Street locations. It wasn’t a perfect film, but it broke ground for representing Canada to Canadians. In many ways the most important English Canadian film made up to that point (and arguably still today), Goin’ Down the Road is like the granddaddy of Canadian film. 


Hail Vera!

Higher Ground ★★★★
(USA, 109 min.)
Dir. Vera Farmiga, Writ: Carolyn S. Briggs & Tim Metcalfe, story by Carolyn S. Briggs.
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Joshua Leonard, Dagmara Dominczyk, Norbert Leo Butz, Donna Murphy, John Hawkes, Taissa Farmiga.
Hail Vera, full of grace, d’recting is with thee;
blessed art thou amongst actresses,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Higher Ground.
Holy Vera, Mother of Film,
pray for Madonna,
now and at the hour of W.E.


From Writer/Director Angelina Jolie

Vera Farmiga's directorial debut Higher Ground finally opens in Ottawa today and, in a fun coincidence, the trailer for Angelina Jolie's first feature was released today. Jolie's debut as writer/director is In the Land of Blood and Honey, a story of love set in war torn Bosnia.

It looks GOOD (but I thought it was in black and white?):

In the Land of Blood and Honey opens in limited release December 23rd.
(Expect it in Ottawa late January/early February)


Kim Cattrall Mentors at CFC Actors Conservatory

Kim Cattrall stars in Anchor Bay Films’ Meet Monica Velour.
Photo Credit: Kim Simms, Property of Anchor Bay Films
Kim Cattrall is having quite a year. She first gave a fearlessly funny performance as an over-the-hill porn star in the indie hidden gem Meet Monica Valour, which Criticize This said, "may be Cattrall's greatest performance." Next, Cattrall revived her role of Amanda in the stage production of Noel Coward's Private Lives. Cattrall stars in Toronto production with Paul Gross, and the play, directed by Richard Eyre (Notes on a Scandal) has been receiving raves from Toronto critics. Now Cattrall takes the role acting mentor in the actors conservatory at the Canadian Film Centre (CFC), which offers Canada’s first professional level training program for on-screen acting talent. As the CFC says,

In her role as a mentor, Cattrall will share her expertise with the next generation of actors through master classes and workshops.

“As a longtime supporter of the Canadian film industry, I think it’s so important to nurture and champion our local talent,” says Cattrall. “I’m really looking forward to mentoring the residents of the CFC Actors Conservatory and helping them push their careers further.”


Rave for The Descendants!

Pardon the brief bit of self-promotion, but did you see this blurb on the official site for The Descendants?

Yay! Glad to see Awards Daily make the presses!
And for my favourite film at TIFF too!!!


Cancer: Ain't that Sweet

Restless ½
(USA, 91 min.)
Dir. Gus Van Sant, Writ. Jason Lew
Starring: Henry Hopper, Mia Wasikowska, Ryo Kase, Schuyler Fisk, Jane Adams.
Mmmm… there’s nothing like a good dose of cancer to get you in the mood for some sweet, sweet lovin’. Cancer is the new fetish! So says Restless, the brain-dead romance from director Gus Van Sant. When emo-boy Enoch (Henry Hopper) meets mad-hatter Annabel (Mia Wasikowska) and learns that she has a terminal brain tumour, the news fails to put a bump on their blossoming relationship. Instead, Annabel’s liminal lifespan sets Enoch’s heart ablaze – and Annabel’s as well. The cutesy spin that Restless puts on cancer is repellent. It’s like a bad character flaw of George Costanza – or a gag from Family Guy – gone sour.


How Far Would You Go?

Wiebo’s War ★★★★
(Canada, 93 min.)
Written and directed by David York
It’s been a brave year for Canadian filmmakers. We first saw The Whistleblower take on the United Nations with its shocking exposé of a sex-trafficking operation involving UN peacekeepers, as well as the organization’s own cover-up when employee Kathy Bolkovac tried to make things right. Now comes David York’s documentary Wiebo’s War, which also brings a shocking story to the screen. Much like The Whistleblower, Wiebo’s War is laudable for its conviction to tell truth. It too is a fearless and important film: Wiebo’s War is one of those movies from which it would be difficult not to leave the theatre deeply affected and hungry for change. 


U.N. Screens 'Whistleblower'

Rachel Weisz as whistleblower Kathy Bolkovac
My brother tipped me off to this piece from Deadline, which reports that Larysa Kondracki's film The Whistleblower has achieved a rare feat. The United Nations will be holding a screening of the film, followed by a Q&A with Kondracki, as well as former UN rights lawyer Madeleine Rees (played in the film by Vanessa Redgrave) among others. The panel will be hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and it seeks to use the film to interrogate the issues of sex-trafficking and corruption that the film exposes. The Secretary General previously sent a letter to the director, expressing his distress after seeing the film. More importantly, he acknowledged the systemic problems that the film addresses and ended the letter by saying, "I want to assure you that we shall embrace the challenge that your film places before the United Nations." (Read the full letter here.) The UN screening takes place today at 3:30.

Shame Trailer!

Continued my raves for Shame last week when the poster debuted. We now have a trailer (from The Guardian) for one of my TIFF favourites - Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan for Oscar! Great trailer... can't wait to see this one again. (Love the score, too!)



Albert Nobbs Trailer!

The trailer for Glenn Close's Oscar vehicle Albert Nobbs has arrived (via Yahoo!). I saw the film at TIFF and  really liked it  (ie: ★★★), giving special praise to both Close's performance and that of her co-star Janet McTeer. Close stars as Albert Nobbs, a butler who is really a woman using the disguise to make her way through high society. As much as I immediately admired Close's work after seeing the film at the festival, her understated and humble performance looks all the more remarkable to me now that I'm halfway through seeing her ferocious work as Patty Hewes in Season 3 of Damages

As the story goes, Nobbs is Close's passion project - she's spent years working to bring the role to the screen since she starred in the play during the 1980's. Keep an eye out for Nobbs, as the trailer gives a good hint at what to expect: the tone, pace, and manner of the film are all there. I'll admit, I had no idea that it was a comedy before I saw it, and was initially thrown off. ('A comedy of manners', maybe?). Anyways, take a peek at will surely be one of the performances to watch come January:

Wiebo's War Opens in Ottawa Friday

Photo credit: Vincent Pietropaolo, courtesy of the NFB
Does all the risky business of George Clooney’s The Ides of March have you hungry for more edgy and politically engaged film? If no, saunter on over to Blockbuster Rogers, rent The Green Lantern, and hang your head in shame. If yes, mosey on over to The Mayfair Theatre this Friday and snag a ticket for Wiebo’s War. Wiebo’s War is the story of Wiebo Ludwig, an Alberta farmer who discovered that his farm lay on top of one of the largest undeveloped fields of natural gas on the continent. After his family is plagued by a series of health problems and the oil industry fails to respond, Wiebo started an explosively controversial campaign to save his family.


Et tu, Clooney?

The Ides of March ★★★★½
(USA, 101 min.)
Dir. George Clooney, Writ: George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Ehle.
Since most students are required to read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in Grade Ten English class, most moviegoers will doubtless catch the fine bit of foreshadowing offered by the title The Ides of March. George Clooney’s adaptation of the play “Farragut North” by Beau Willimon (who also gets a co-writer/co-producer credit) is a tale of political backstabbing of epic proportions, so the Shakespearean allusion does not go unwarranted. However, Clooney’s incendiary take on America’s contemporary political climate could be summarized equally well by another line from Shakespeare’s play, that in which Cassius says, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves….” The line served a fitting endnote to a speech by Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) in Clooney’s sophomore film Good Night, and Good Luck. It also offers a potent way of framing Clooney’s latest effort as a director, for Ides of March provocatively suggests that America is simply a political backwater in which the hopeful and the brave are as prone to corruption as even the most self-serving politicians.


Shame Poster!

Saw this new poster for Shame over at Coming Soon. Glad to see that Fox Searchlight isn't shying away from the risqué subject matter, and the rumbled bed sheets are a brave way to see whether or not sex sells. I'll bet it will in this case: if you recall, I saw Shame at TIFF this year (review here), giving the film on my Festival Scorecard, as well as the runner up spot for 'Best of the Fest'. Michael Fassbender also got my pick for best performance of the festival. I've included a clip of this Oscar-worthy portrait of sexual-addiction below. It's been circulating on the web for some time, but I've yet to post it.


Franglais Fun

French Immersion ★★★½
(Canada, 98 min.)
Dir. Kevin Tierney, Writ. Jefferson Lewis & Kevin Tierney
Starring: Olunike Adeliyi, Martha Burns, Pascale Bussières, Robert Charlebois, Gavin Crawford, Fred Ewanuik, Colm Feore, Ali Hassan, Jacob Tierney, Karine Vanasse.
Just in time for Canadian Thanksgiving comes a good, old-fashioned dose of political incorrectness. Taking aim at all Canadians from Quebec to the ROC (rest of Canada), French Immersion leaves no Canuck unscathed. The film lampoons Canada’s political climate by drawing upon its two official languages, as well as the stereotypes and prejudices that exist between Anglophones and Francophones. The satire of French Immersion is fearless, and the winning quality of the script by Kevin Tierney and Jefferson Lewis is that it’s funny because it’s true. 


Bollywood on Blades

Breakaway ★★★½
(Canada, 101 min.)
Dir. Robert Lieberman, Writ. Noel S. Baker, Jeff Schecter, Matt Simmons, Ajay Virmani, Vinay Virmani.
Starring: Vinay Virmani, Russell Peters, Camilla Belle, Rob Low, Anupam Kher, Noureen DeWulf, Sakina Jaffrey.
Currently doing gangbusters with critics and audiences south of the border is the Hollywood underdog story Moneyball. Starring Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s coach Billy Beane, Moneyball connects with audiences by tapping into a collective love for America’s shared national past-time, baseball. Here in Canada, where most citizens greet the sport with a yawn, Breakaway attempts to give our own version of movie-going pride by setting an underdog story within the more popular sport of hockey. We tried to do the same last year with Score: A Hockey Musical, and fell a bit short; however, Breakaway thankfully avoids all the Canuck kitsch that made Score so polarizing and therefore offers a better step towards a hockey movie done right. 


A Comic Escape

Griff the Invisible ★★★
(Australia, 90 min.)
Written and directed by Leon Ford.
Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Maeve Dermody, Patrick Brammal.
Oh, superhero fantasies. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a dream world where one could beat the bad guy, save the world, and get the girl? As kids, we enjoy playing make-believe with action figures and/or imaginary friends. For Griff though, playtime never stopped. Now, in his twenty-seventh year, Griff plays the role of superhero morning, noon, and night (with the occasional work shift in between).