4/30/2013

Hot Docs Reviews: 'The Last Station', 'Fall and Winter'

The Last Station
(Chile/Germany, 90 min.)
Dir. Catalina Vergara, Cristian Soto
Programme: International Spectrum
Well, I was bound to hit a grumpy patch after reviewing thirty films…


Hot Docs Reviews: 'Terms and Conditions May Apply', 'American Commune', 'Let the Fire Burn'

Terms and Conditions May Apply
(USA, 79 min.)
Dir. Cullen Hoback
Programme: Rule Breakers and Innovators (International Premiere)
Think before you post. That selfie of chugging 26-er of vodka might not be as good a profile pic as you think it is. Ditto that tweet about needing to pee. Some information doesn't need 140 characters. The perils of social media have been trounced across the news before, as any informed person has probably heard of the problems that the digital age has wrought for job seekers, or for countless persons who are victims of identity theft. Terms and Conditions May Apply looks at the dark underbelly of the digital revolution and asks if developers have gone too far in selling out consumers’ personal rights. The film is especially hard on Facebook and its two-faced founder Mark Zuckerberg, as it wags its finger at the industry for turning consumers into products.

Hot Docs Review: 'The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne'

The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne
(USA, 73 min.)
Dir. Matthew Pond, Kirk Marcolina
Programme: World Showcase (World Premiere)
"I don't take life too seriously. I'm not going to get out of it alive anyway."
  -Doris Payne

Are documentary subjects eligible for acting awards? I hope so, for Doris Payne gives a tour-de-force performance in The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne that is worthy of the Academy Award for Best Actress. Her story is soon to be a dramatic film, however, so pundits best keep an eye on Halle Berry when she inhabits this suave octogenarian jewel thief on the big screen. Berry has her work cut out for her, though, since I doubt anyone can play Doris Payne as well as Doris Payne plays herself.

Hot Docs Review: 'Muscle Shoals'

Muscle Shoals
(USA, 108 min.)
Dir. Greg ‘Freddy’ Camalier
Programme: Special Presentations (International Premiere)
Muscle Shoals makes beautiful music. Like last year’s Marley or Searching for Sugarman, Muscle Shoals pairs a great story with a cool soundtrack, and the harmonious voices of the film tell the larger story behind the music. This honey-tuned rock-doc by Greg Camalier is a must-see for music buffs.

4/29/2013

Hot Docs Review: 'Our Nixon'

Our Nixon
(USA, 85 min.)
Dir. Penny Lane
Programme: Special Presentations (Canadian Premiere)
A great documentary finds a kind of truth in the filmmaking process itself. Our Nixon, the new film from director Penny Lane, should knock the socks off documentary fans thanks to its phenomenal editing job that brings a story to life unlike few I’ve seen at Hot Docs this year. Lane and producer Brian L. Frye combed through a gargantuan collection of archival footage and devised a perceptive story by putting the pieces together with a shrewd eye for re-constructing history. Our Nixon is an impressive feat of filmmaking that playfully writes an alternative take on history using the frames of a story we all thought we’ve seen before.


Hot Docs Review: 'The Auctioneer'

The Auctioneer
(Canada, 57 min.)
Dir. Hans Olson, Writ. Clark Banack
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (World Premiere)
Dale Menzak and Dale's Auction Serivce employee Pete Conway
Photo courtesy of The NFB
A humble countryman, Dale Menzak is a man of few words. The Auctioneer, appropriately enough, is a quiet film itself. This NFB film directed by Hans Olson and written by Clark Banack, however, says little, yet it manages to say a lot.

Hot Docs Review: 'Sick Birds Die Easy'

Sick Birds Die Easy
(USA, 92 min.)
Dir. Nicholas Fakler
Programme: Nightvision (World Premiere)
Oh, the midnight crowd at Hot Docs is going to love this one! Sick Birds Die Easy might be in the running for the gonzo prize of the festival. This fucked-up documentary by Nicholas Fakler, whose previous film is the geriatric love story Lovely, Still, is a feverish acid trip through the lunatic fringe.

Hot Docs Review: 'The Kill Team'

The Kill Team
(USA, 77 min.)
Dir. Daniel Krauss
Programme: World Showcase (International Premiere)
Photo by Dan Krauss.
Fans of provocative exposés should add The Kill Team to their Hot Docs schedules. It’s a gut-wrenching account of the horrors of war and the atrocities that come after.

4/28/2013

Hot Docs Review: 'Felix Austria!'

Felix Austria
(USA, 76 min.)
Dir. Christine Beebe
Programme: World Showcase (World Premiere)
Felix Austria! is sure to add some whimsical character to your day of Hot Docs screenings. Felix Austria! takes audiences on a whirlwind treasure hunt as one academic tries to piece together a peculiar mystery between an ordinary American and the last descendant of the Holy Roman Empire. This delightfully strange film by Christine Beebe is an eccentric character study that is as colourful and personable as its subject is.

Hot Docs Review: 'We Always Lie to Strangers'

We Always Lie to Strangers
(USA, 109 min.)
Dir. AJ Schnack, David Wilson.
Programme: Next (International Premiere)
Parker Posey? Where is Parker Posey? This is a Christopher Guest movie, isn’t it? It isn’t? Really? This is an actual real-live documentary? Wow, neat-o.

Hot Docs Reviews: 'Ballerina', 'Narco Cultura', 'Dragon Girls'

Ballerina
(Denmark, 50 min.)
Dir. Maja Friis
Programme: International Spectrum (International Premiere)
Films two and three of Day 2 of Hot Docs showed the strange magic that film festivals have for allowing us to enjoy a diverse range of experiences in one quick dose. After the youthful funk of Pussy Riot, I hoofed it to the Isabel Bader and joined a sea of blue hair for Ballerina. Hot Docs, which gives free daytime screenings to students and seniors, clearly split the free ticket vote by age for these two screenings. It was quite a change, as Ballerina is far more sedated than Pussy Riot is. Back to back, the films were like pairing Peaches with Measha Brueggergosman.


Hot Docs Review: 'Interior. Leather Bar.'

Interior. Leather Bar.
(USA, 60 min.)
Dir. Travis Matthews, James Franco
Programme: Nightvision (International Premiere)
The 1980 film Cruising, directed by William Friedkin and starring Al Pacino, stirred some controversy by connecting a tale of a serial killer with an exploration of New York’s gay nightlife.  Interior. Leather Bar directors Travis Matthews and James Franco discuss it with their actors as a problematic conflation of a gay lifestyle and criminality. Adding to the notoriety of Cruising, they note, are forty minutes of footage that were cut to avoid an X rating. Matthews and Franco decide to re-imagine what kind of action might have been excised from the Pacin film and was never seen by the eyes of mainstream audiences.

4/27/2013

Hot Docs Review: 'Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer'

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
(UK, 86 min.)
Dir. Maxim Pozdorovkin, Mike Lerner
Programme: Special Presentations (Canadian Premiere)
Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer had the audience rocking with grrrrl power at the Bloor Cinema during the film’s first screening at Hot Docs. Applause and woohoos! erupted from the audience a few times during the screening. The vibe in the room echoed the fallout of the Russian feminist punk band’s arrest and the waves of support they have received from the international community.

Hot Docs Review: 'The Human Scale'

The Human Scale
(Denmark, 83 min.)
Dir. Andreas Dalsgaard
Programme: Rule Breakers and Innovators (International Premiere)
How much time do you spend in traffic? A child of the Ottawa suburbs, I can’t even fathom the hours of my life that I lost sitting in traffic. Isolated housing might seem like a nice, quiet, and safe environment to raise a kid, but a lot has changed since the boon of the suburbs several decades ago. The Human Scale, a smart talking heads doc by Andreas Dalsgaard, explains how patterns in human behaviour have shifted in recent years in terms of placement and habitat. We know more about the ideal living situations of gorillas than our own species, one expert notes.


Hot Docs Review: 'Continental'

Continental
(USA/Canada, 95 min.)
Dir. Malcom Ingram
Programme: Special Presentations
New York, 1968. Homosexuality is considered a crime in America’s booming metropolis. Men aren’t supposed to kiss in public, let alone hold hands, but people still do what comes naturally. Couplings go on behind closed doors, and the main safe-havens are dingy bathhouses that can leave a skin rash as a punitive damage. It’s in this era that savvy businessman (and impressive opera singer!) Steve Ostrow founded the Continental Baths—a clean, safe place for men to meet up and come and go as they please.

4/26/2013

Hot Docs Review: '15 Reasons to Live'

15 Reasons to Live
(Canada, 83 min.)
Dir. Alan Zweig
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (World Premiere)
I started writing a list of fifteen reasons to see this beautiful film at Hot Docs this year, but a baker’s dozen and a bit doesn’t seem sufficient. I just loved 15 Reasons to Live. As only the very best documentaries can do, 15 Reasons to Live captures the seemingly mundane shards of life that rarely receive inspection, yet it turns them over in a fine light and pieces them together into a radiant, unabashedly life-affirming mosaic.

Hot Docs Review: I Will Be Murdered

I Will Be Murdered
(UK/Spain, 88 min.)
Dir. Justin Webster
Programme: World Showcase (International Premiere)
“Sadly, ladies and gentlemen, if you are watching this video, it’s because I’ve been murdered by President Álavaro Colom,” says a man in a chilling video clip that opens I Will Be Murdered. The man, who was indeed murdered, is Rodrigo Rosenberg, a Guatemalan lawyer whose testimony shook his nation when it appeared on YouTube. Robert’s death sparked a political crisis—how many Presidents are pre-emptively accused of capital murder by a victim?—but the ensuing investigation into his death reveals an even stranger story. I Will Be Murdered is billed as a documentary, but it’s actually a thriller. It’s a gripping whodunit full of unexpected twists and turns.

4/25/2013

Hot Docs Review: 'Chi'

Chi
(Canada, 59 min.)
Dir. Anne Wheeler
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (World Premiere)

Chi
n. the twenty-second letter of the Greek Alphabet
n. the vital energy believed to circulate the body in currents
n. the will to live

Hot Docs Review: 'Downloaded'

Downloaded
(USA, 107 min.)
Dir. Alex Winter
Programme: Rule Breakers and Innovators (International Premiere)
Shawn Fanning. (Photo credit: Anghel Decca)
Oh, Napster. I thought the file sharing program was one of the greatest inventions of all time back when it came out in the late 1990s. I had dial-up internet (the red dot) and could download any song I wanted in less than an hour. Then came DC++ and I could have any movie playing on my screen in less time, which proved a godsend when I was living in Kingston and unable to see many Oscar contenders at local theatres. Films like Down to the Bone weren’t even available in Canadian theatres, so it was exciting to have a rare leg up on the Oscar race. After a few months of downloading went by, plus six seasons of The Sopranos and a few dozen movies, Paramount sent me a ‘cease and desist’ email in reference to a bootleg copy of Last Holiday that was on my computer. Downloading then seemed far lesser cooler than it was before the first time I nabbed a free track from Napster.


Hot Docs Review: 'Tales from the Organ Trade'

Tales from the Organ Trade
(Canada, 82 min.)
Dir. Ric Esther Bienstock
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (North American Premiere)
Mary Jo Vradis, on dialysis for nine years. Associated Producers Ltd.
What constitutes a crime? Stealing? Hurting someone? Killing another person? Saving another human? The first three are easy no-brainers. They’re mostly black and white laws with well-known clauses and punishments. The fourth charge, however, doesn’t seem like a reason to go to the slammer. Human beings are good by nature (I say that as a naïve overgeneralization) and it’s easy to suppose that helping out and doing a good deed should be met with a reward and not with a punishment.

Hot Docs Review: 'Alias'

Alias
(Canada, 67 min.)
Dir. Michelle Latimer
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (World Premiere)
Alias is one of the most urgent documentaries for Toronto audiences at Hot Docs this year. This stark, gritty, and street-smart doc by Michelle Latimer is a timely film in the wake of the city’s escalating media coverage of shootings and violent crimes. Alias explores the story omitted from the sensational headlines and takes the camera to the city margins. Using the story of five local rappers—Alkatraz, Alias Donmillion, Trench, Master Knia (Know It All), and Keon Love—Alias looks behind the stereotypes of Toronto’s rap scene.

Hot Docs Review: 'Who is Dayani Cristal?'

Who is Dayani Cristal?
(UK/Mexico, 86 min.)
Dir. Marc Silver, Writ. Mark Monroe
Featuring: Gael García Bernal
Programme: Special Presentations (International Premiere)
Gael García Bernal on top of “La Bestia” train on journey from Arriaga to Ixtepec.
Photo: Marc Silver.
“Who is Dayani Cristal?” The mystery could easily fuel an episode of CSI. The question arises after a body is found in the midst of the Arizona desert. He has no identification and no documentation, but only a folded prayer in his pocket and a unique tattoo on his chest. Emblazoned across the deceased man’s pectorals are the words “Dayani Cristal.” The names become an alias for this John Doe. Another dead foreign national on American soil, “Dayani Cristal” embodies the thousands of hopeful migrants who die going nowhere from no place.

Hot Docs Review: 'Anita'

Anita: Speaking Truth to Power
(USA, 86 min.)
Dir. Freida Mock
Programme: Special Presentations (International Premiere)
This year Hot Docs celebrates a select group of courageous individuals who changed history. The Scotiabank Big Ideas Series invites some of these inspiring individuals to come and share their stories with the audiences at the festival. One of these heroes is Anita Hill, a composed law professor from Oklahoma who fought a battle she didn’t choose when she became the centre of a sensational hearing on sexual harassment in 1991. Hill’s story brought necessary attention to the polarizing gaps in racial and gender equality in America. More importantly, though, Hill became a figurehead for the need to speak the truth in the face of adversity.

Hot Docs Review: 'The Ghosts in Our Machine'

The Ghosts in Our Machine
(Canada, 92 min.)
Dir. Liz Marshall
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (World Premiere)
“I’m trying to save the world,” whispers photographer Jo-Anne McArthur to a colleague as he marvels at the images she has placed before him. McArthur turns art into activism one still frame at a time by travelling the world and capturing the mistreatment of animals through her lens for a massive project entitled “We Animals”. Her pictures are stunning aesthetic feats, especially for how well they juxtapose the personality of our four-legged friends with the inhumanity of our industrialized factory farms and food industry. McArthur’s passion and conviction ring true in every frame of The Ghosts in Our Machine, making it one of the strongest offerings at Hot Docs this year.

Hot Docs Review: 'Chimeras'

Chimeras
(Finland, 87 min.)
Dir. Mika Mattila
Programme: Next (World Premiere)
Last year’s Hot Docs film festival opened with an acclaimed doc about an acclaimed Chinese artist. That artist, of course, is Ai Weiwei, and the doc Never Sorry certainly did an excellent job of revealing how the artist’s work enjoys a countercultural struggle with China’s oppressive government. Can we in the West name a Chinese artist other than Ai Weiwei, though? I certainly can’t, unless one allows for the inclusion of filmmakers.

4/24/2013

Hot Docs Review: 'The Devil's Lair'

The Devil’s Lair
(South Africa, 85 min.)
Dir. Riaan Hendricks
Programme: World Showcase (World Premiere)
The Devil’s Lair is sure to be one of the talking points at Hot Docs this year. Not only is it the sole offering from South Africa at the festival, but this bold observational film by Riaan Hendricks contains rare and extraordinary footage that’s sure to straddle the line of documentary ethics for some conservative viewers. The Devil’s Lair takes the audience into the home of a Cape Town drug lord named Braaim. Braaim is the leader of The Nice Time Kids, which is the biggest gang in the district of the Cape flats. The extent to which The Devil’s Lair reveals the workings of The Nice Time Kids might cross the line, but if it does, it’s in these moments that the film is most thrilling.

Hot Docs Review: 'The Manor'

The Manor
(Canada, 78 min.)
Dir. Shawney Cohen, co-director: Mike Gallay.
Programme: Special Presentations (World Premiere)
They say that the family that plays together stays together. Tony Soprano, for one, kept his “family” mostly intact through closeness and conviviality. The Sopranos would go out, whack Uncle Pussy, and then head to the gentleman's club to repair family ties with drinks and lap dances. What happens, though, to the family that runs The Bada Bada? Strip clubs seem like a strange business to be in. They’re not illegal, they’re not immoral, but they’re not exactly the first place that one associates with conventional kinfolk. Director Shawney Cohen enjoys a family “outing” of sorts as he documents the eccentricities of his strip club-owning family in The Manor. The Manor, which opens the twentieth annual Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival, is a humorous directorial debut for Cohen. It might have overtones of absurdist tragedy, but The Manor feels like one of the most ordinary family portraits ever captured on film.

'Sex' is Awkward. Funny Too!

My Awkward Sexual Adventure
(Canada, 98 min.)
Dir. Sean Garrity, Writ. Jonas Chernick
Starring: Jonas Chernick, Emily Hampshire, Sarah Manninen, Vik Sahay.
Forget bananas, forget strawberries, and forget lady fruit. Cantaloupe is the sexiest fruit you’ll ever taste. The juicy melon gets a sensual lick in Sean Garrity’s hilarious My Awkward Sexual Adventure as a meek accountant named Jordan (Jonas Chernick) undergoes a crucial taste test to please his would-be fiancée. The sweetest flavour of the cantaloupe is how it tunes Jordan’s palette to match sex with love, something that’s been lacking in his relationship for some time.

4/22/2013

Paul Schrader Presents 'Taxi Driver', Talks 'The Canyons'

Taxi Driver
“I think it still holds up,” joked screenwriter/director Paul Schrader while introducing his 1976 film Taxi Driver last night at The Royal in Toronto. Schrader was in Toronto to present and discuss his work as part of The Seventh Art’s Live Director Series. Taxi Driver was presented in a restored 4K digital transfer, which looked quite good for a digital projection. (Although, to be fair, I think the last time I watched Taxi Driver it was on VHS.) Schrader is indeed correct that his landmark film holds up: Taxi Driver is just as good as I remember, and Robert De Niro’s mesmerizing performance is twice as captivating when one sees it on the big screen.

4/21/2013

Good Golly, Miss Molly!

Molly Maxwell
(Canada, 90 min.)
Written and directed by Sara St. Onge
Starring: Lola Tash, Charlie Carrick, Krista Bridges, Rob Stewart.
Charlie Carrick and Lola Tash star in Molly Maxwell.
Courtesy of eOne Films
Pity the precious snowflake. It must be hard growing up today. Parenting styles have changed so that kids are given more freedom and a more flexible chance to find themselves than their parents had. The previous generation seemed pretty grounded, what with boys and girls popping out in moulds like Sally and Bobby Draper, but kids today just seem lost as they look into their iPhones in search of answers. Someone needs to make an app for growing up.

4/18/2013

Hot Docs Announces Festival Guest List

Roméo Dallaire is among the guests attending Hot Docs
Folks wanting to plan their Hot Docs schedules should take note of the names cited on the list released today by the festival. Hot Docs announced an impressive set of names of guests—including Roméo Dallaire, Anita Hill, and Matt Berninger—who will attend the festival and be on hand for Q&As following their films. The festival also announced that a whopping number of directors—160—will be present as well. Guests may be present for multiple screenings, but it’s best to catch the first screening of a film if you want to see the talent. The guests attending the festival are:


4/16/2013

Love, or Something Like It.

Like Someone in Love
(Japan/France, 109 min.)
Written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami
Starring: Tadashi Okuno, Rin Takanashi. 
I am a fool in love. Like Someone in Love, the new film by art cinema master Abbas Kiarostami (Certified Copy), is a beautiful romance. It's a sensuous drama with no happily ever after and no glass slipper at the end of its tale. Like Someone in Love is definitely not a love story, but you’re bound to fall in love with it.

4/15/2013

Molly Maxwell Opens Friday!

Canadian film alert! One of the most well-reviewed Canuck flicks of the year thus far opens in Toronto this week. That film is Molly Maxwell, the new film from CFC Features. Molly Maxwell tells of a schoolgirl named Molly (played by newcomer Lola Tash) who falls for her teacher (Charlie Carrick) and begins a saucy teacher-student relationship that isn’t by the book. Molly, a hip looking coming of age tale from debut director Sara St. Onge, has been earning raves from critics and filmgoers alike since it premiered at Palm Springs in January and went on to open the Canadian Front at MoMA in New York. The latter coup is especially impressive, considering Molly Maxwell beat out a triple-bill of Xavier Dolan films to usher in a week of Canadian content in New York. Variety gave Molly Maxwell some particularly good word on its festival run, noting, “Alternately sultry and vulnerable, Tash adeptly navigates the contradictions of her character, earning sympathy even in Molly’s most self-absorbed moments.” Praise for St. Onge is equally good, as the trade mag says the debut director “shows a Judy Blume-like willingness to confront the realities of contemporary teenage sexuality, from lesbian classmates to an awkward Planned Parenthood exam, blending unvarnished honesty with her propensity for cutesiness.” Sounds exciting! Come join me in giving Molly Maxwell some props when the film opens in Toronto at the Carlton on April 19th.


4/14/2013

The Senses of Cinema

Upstream Color
(USA, 96 min.)
Written and directed by Shane Carruth
Starring: Amy Seitz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig, piglets.
I have no idea what the heck Upstream Colour is “about”, but I found it absolutely thrilling. Coherence and definability seem to be the motives of least concern in this densely cerebral film by director/writer/producer/actor/cinematographer/editor/composer Shane Carruth. Upstream Colour lies somewhere between a romance, a noir, a thriller, a sci-fi, and a Sundance hipster film, and it’s all of them and none of them at the same time. Upstream Colour might be the most unique film in some time for cinephiles who think they’ve seen it all. Upstream Colour is most certainly an experimental film, as it’s a long-form abstraction with some semblance of a narrative that holds it all together. Upstream Colour is a film “experience” if there ever was one.

4/13/2013

Fathers, Sons, Trees, Stumps

The Place Beyond the Pines
(USA, 140 min.)
Dir. Derek Cianfrance, Writ. Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn, Ray Liotta, Rose Byrne, Bruce Greenwood, Emory Cohen, Dane DeHaan.
"Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them."
-Ezekiel 18:19-20

Derek Cianfrance gets biblical in his disappointing third feature The Place Beyond the Pines. After the bare bones heartache of Blue Valentine, Cianfrance delivers an ambitious, if bloated, epic saga of moral consequences. It’s a story of the bond between fathers and sons, and the guilt that is carried from one generation to another when the sins of the father haunt the son.

4/09/2013

NFB Brings Interactive 'A Journal of Insomnia' to Tribeca Film Festival

Photo taken from the production, courtesy of the NFB.
I make an effort to avoid blogging during the nighttime. My studies taught me that I could complete far more writing during the times when everyone else is asleep; however, I also learned that staying up through the wee hours is not a good habit for neurotic wannabe-writer types. Staying awake while alternatively typing away and trolling Twitter isn’t the healthiest of behaviours. There’s also a certain stereotype to bloggers that I make an effort to avoid: no posts on a Friday night, say, because that’s when one should get out and be social. Most of the times, though, these nights out just involve me going to a movie. It’s funny how both options result in me sitting in a dark room by myself, yet one is more socially acceptable than the other is.


4/06/2013

Our Marilyn

Love, Marilyn
(USA, 105 min.)
Dir. Liz Garbus
Featuring: F. Murray Abraham, Elizabeth Banks, Ellen Burstyn, Glenn Close, Hope Davis, Viola Davis, Jennifer Ehle, Ben Foster, Paul Giamatti, Jack Huston, Lindsay Lohan, Janet McTeer, Jeremy Piven, Oliver Platt, David Strathairn, Lily Taylor, Uma Thurman, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood.
A trip to London a few years back included a visit to the Tate. The highlight of the collection of modern art came in the Andy Warhol wing. Standing out amongst the gaudy cow wallpaper of the room is Warhol’s famed Marilyn Diptych, which is every bit the masterpiece in person as one hopes it to be. This trip included a few days in Paris, too, and I’d say that Marilyn is a far better sight than the Mona Lisa is.


'Sapphires' Shines

The Sapphires
(Australia, 99 min.)
Dir. Wayne Blair, Writ. Keith Thompson and Tony Briggs
Starring: Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy,  Miranda Tapsell, Shari Sebbins.
Photo courtesy of eOne Films.
Everyone in need of a pick-me-up should run out to see The Sapphires. The Sapphires is the most dazzling, effervescently feel-good movie of the year. It’s a great crowd-pleaser full of heart and soul.

4/05/2013

LAFF Review: '7 Boxes'

7 Boxes (7 Cajas)
(Paraguay, 105 min.)
Dir. Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schémbori, Writ. Juan Carlos Maneglia
Starring: Celso Franco, Víctor Sosa, Lali González, Nico García, Paletita, Nelly Dávalos.
It’s an appropriately hot Friday in Asunción, Paraguay. The tin roofs of the city’s hectic market shade its dwellers from the stifling sun. They also mask the dark goings-on that fuel the city’s shady underworld. 7 Boxes, a riveting thriller from feature debut directors Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schémbori, throws us into the heart of gangland Paraguay as we watch one boy navigate the stalls to escape with his life. 7 Boxes is so electrifying that it’s bound to leave viewers sweating in their seats.

4/04/2013

Remembering Roger Ebert

Film buffs everyone should mourn the passing of Roger Ebert. It’s sad to see the best, most influential critic roll the credits. Ebert died today after a long fight with cancer. He was 70.

Girls Gone Wild

Spring Breakers
(USA, 94 min.)
Written and directed by Harmony Korine
Starring: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgins, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine.
The opening scene of Spring Breakers introduces a no-holds-barred satire. A group of rambunctious college students parties it up on the beach of some anonymous tropical paradise. Gratuitous tit shot upon gratuitous tit shot comes together to form a double-D montage of juvenile excess. Boobs jiggle and booties bounce. Frat boys smack their bitches in the sand. They whip out their beer bottles and let the beach bunnies get drunk on the Bud Lite that pours their phallic fountains. These kids are the future of America; hence, America is fucked. Spring Breakers astutely makes its point within this scintillating prelude: it’s hard to grow up when you’re white and privileged.

4/03/2013

Gods, Men, and Matthew Fox

Emperor
(USA, 106 min.)
Dir. Peter Webber, Writ. David Klass, Veri Blasi
Starring: Matthew Fox, Tommy Lee Jones, Eriko Hatsune, Colin Moy.
It only takes one soldier to derail a mission. A good general can devise a shrewd plan of attack, assemble all the proper hardware and battlements, and command a robust group of soldiers to execute his orders. If, however, one lone soldier steps out of line, the entire mission can fly off the rails.

4/01/2013

Coming Soon: 'The Colony'

Laurence Fishburne stars in The Colony, an eOne Films release.
Coming to theatres this April is the hotly anticipated Canadian film The Colony. Shot sixty stories  below ground in a decommissioned NORAD base in North Bay, Ontario (the first film ever to shoot in the location), The Colony is a topical sci-fi thriller about a group of survivors forced into an underground colony to live through the freeze of the next ice age. Starring Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix trilogy), Bill Paxton (Alien), Kevin Zegers (Fifty Dead Men Walking), and Charlotte Sullivan (Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster), The Colony could be a big hit for Canadian cinema when it opens in theatres April 12.

Synopsis and trailer after the jump: