Contest: Win 'A Perfect Day' on DVD!

An all star cast featuring Academy Award winners Tim Robbins and Benicio Del Toro teams up for the rugged dramedy A Perfect Day. A Perfect Day comes to home video on Tuesday, August 30 from Pacific Northwest Pictures, and Cinemablographer has DVDs of the film to give away. Answer the trivia below for your chance to win a DVD of A Perfect Day!

Whiskey-Soaked Noir

Manhattan Night
(USA, 113 min.)
Written and directed by Brian DeCubellis
Starring: Adrien Brody, Yvonne Strahovski, Campbell Scott, Jennifer Beals, with Linda Lavin and Steven Berkoff
Yvonne Strahovski and Adrien Brody in Manhattan Night.
Pacific Northwest Pictures.

New York. Present day.

The streets are dark and the women are deadly. Back in the day, a guy knew when he was a mark and he knew who was makin' him.


Bleak Swan

A Tale of Love and Darkness
(Israel/USA, 95 min.)
Written and directed by Natalie Portman
Starring: Natalie Portman, Amir Tessler, Gilad Kihana
Natalie Portman makes her feature directorial debut with the austere historical drama A Tale of Love and Darkness. This film shows ample promise for Portman as a director after testing her chops with a segment in the anthology film New York, I Love You. It’s a work of great passion and dedication. The Jerusalem-born Portman adapts the story of Amos Oz (Amir Tessler), a young man who witnesses the changes in Israel following the Second World War and as the British Mandate for Palestine widens the historic rift as the Jewish people win their own nation state. The subject matter alone is vast and ambitious for a first feature for anyone. The film is as far removed from a vanity project that a starlet like Portman can direct, as it is barren and bleak, but there’s no denying that this film is ultimately a star vehicle for a very talented actress.


The Snowball Effect

In Order of Disappearance
(Norway/Sweden, 116 min.)
Dir. Hans Peter Moland, Writ. Kim Fupz Aakeson
Starring: Stellan Skarsgård, Bruno Ganz, Pål Sverre Hagen
Stellan Skarsgård in In Order of Disappearance.
 Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

“Instead of justice, I only got retaliation and escalation of violence in return,” says director Hans Peter Moland on his experiences with revenge. “So if you can’t have justice, you may as well have some fun.”


Contest: Win Tickets to See 'The Wild Life' Across Canada!

Robin Crusoe embarks on a new animated adventure in The Wild Life. The Wild Life is a hilarious new film about the relationship between humans, animals and smart, savage kitty cats. The Wild Life opens in theatres September 9 from eOne Films, but lucky readers across Canada have a chance to attend a sneak peek. Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets!


It's Only the End of the Summer: Taking Stock of Canada's Oscar Contenders Pre-TIFF

Xavier Dolan with Marion Cotillard and Nathalie Baye on the shoot for It's Only the End of the World.
eOne Films.
It’s already the end of the summer, so let’s do the annual Canada/TIFF/Oscars debate. Only five countries have submitted as of publication, the most high profile and surprising of which is Romania's pick of Sieranevada over Cannes Best Director winner Graduation.

Here’s the first question: Where are all the Canadian films this year? 2016 feels like a drought. There are far too many movies these days, but few of the films making to Canadian screens are Canadian.  


Contest: Win Tickets to See 'Southside with You' in Toronto!

Before POTUS and FLOTUS there was Barack and Michelle. Experience the love story of the young Obamas in the acclaimed drama Southside with You. Southside with You opens in theatres on Friday, August 26 from eOne Films, but lucky readers in Toronto have a chance to attend a sneak peek. Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets!


One Hell of Movie

Hell or High Water
(USA, 102 min.)
Dir. David Mackenzie, Writ. Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham, Katy Mixon, Dale Dickey
Ben Foster and Chris Pine star in Hell or High Water.
VVS Films.

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan returns with another intense, visceral, and potent crime drama with Hell or High Water. This crime drama is one lean, mean flick. Don’t go in expecting the adrenaline-pumping and heart-palpitating breathlessness of Sicario, though, since Hell or High Water takes an older man’s view of the world as grizzled old Sheriff Marcus (Jeff Bridges) looks at the decline of the American south as he nears retirement. The film, like the wise sheriff, is pensive and contemplative with its holster at the ready. Hell or High Water presents a parched America that is no country for old men and the divide between wrongdoers and victims is something that an ornery sheriff can no longer see with a fine line. It’s one hell of a movie.

Capsule Reviews: 'Endorphine', 'Tallulah', 'Sausage Party'

Capsule catch-up, as it's now TIFF email season.

(Canada, 84 min.)
Dir. André Turpin, Writ. Valérie Beauregard-Champagne, André Turpin, Robert Morin. Jonah Hill
Starring: Sophie Nélisse, Mylène MacKay, Lise Roy, Monia Chokri
Sophie Nélisse in Endorphine.
Photo by José Deshaies / Les Films Séville

André Turpin is one of the best cinematographers in Canada. Just look at Mommy, Incendies, Tom at the Farm and other recent efforts. He knows the art of composition and builds dramatic depth and tension by setting up a shot and using camera movement to exploit cinematic space to its full potential. He doesn’t shoot his latest feature directorial effort Endorphine, but the film looks fantastic as it envisions a dark, labyrinthine, and speculative world that exists in the grey area between Enemy, Inception, and Upstream Color.


'The Fault Lines of America': David Mackenzie Talks 'Hell or High Water'

Director David Mackenzie and actor Ben Foster on the shoot of Hell or High Water.
VVS Films.
The studios are bringing out the big guns this summer, but all their tent poles seem to be backfiring. Hell or High Water, however, hits theatres after premiering in the Un Certain Regard competition at Cannes earlier this year and offers a fresh alternative to summer fair with its rugged tale of outlaws and lawmen played by Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, and Gil Birmingham. This smart and exhilarating picture directed by David Mackenzie (Starred Up) and written by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) ruminates on a contemporary USA in which the landscape looks much greyer than it did in the pioneering days. The film envisions a gritty, hardened America through resonant themes and authentic performances, which are note perfect from Bridges’ award-calibre turn as an aging sheriff to the smallest parts of the ensemble cast.


Zoom, Zoom!

(Canada/Brazil, 96 min.)
Dir. Pedro Morelli, Writ. Matt Hansen
Starring: Gael García Bernal, Alison Pill, Maria Ximenes, Jason Priestley, Don McKellar, Tyler Labine 
Alison Pill in Zoom.
Elevation Pictures

“Zoom, zoom!” Like the kid in those catchy old Mazda commercials suggests, two zooms are better than one. Zoom, the new animation hybrid from Rhombus Media, offers three levels of zooms and kicks the film up a gear as it revs through these layers. This ambitious meta-movie is an intricate time loop that navigates multiple universes of fiction and storytelling. It’s a mind-bending, globe-hopping head-trip that puts audiences in the panels of a metaphysical comic book to explore the far-flung limits of reality.


Passion and Rage

(USA, 110 min.)
Written and directed by James Schamus
Starring: Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, Tracy Letts, Linda Emond, Danny Burstein
Logan Lerman and Sarah Gadon star in Indignation.
Elevation Pictures.

James Schamus makes a film just as well as he puts one out there. The former co-President of Focus Features and producer/executive producer of films such as Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has ample experience with screenwriting and his work on The Ice Storm reverberates in this similarly themed story of disaffected young Americans. Instead of drafting some words for Ang Lee to helm, though, Schamus offers his feature directorial debut with Indignation and it’s a taut, expertly crafted drama driven by story, character, and a quartet of powerhouse performances.

Win a Free iTunes Download of 'Lolo'!

Julie Delpy (Wiener-Dog, Before Midnight) returns to the director’s seat in Lolo. Delpy stars in this snappy new comedy about an unconventional love story and the demon child that threatens happily ever after. Lolo comes to home video on Tuesday, August 19 from Pacific Northwest Pictures, and lucky readers across Canada have a chance to win a free iTunes download Answer the trivia below for your chance to win!


It's Not Over Until the Iron Lady Sings

Florence Foster Jenkins
(UK, 110 min.)
Dir. Stephen Frears, Writ. Nicholas Martin
Starring: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg 
Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins.
Photo courtesy of eOne Films
Meryl Streep’s career as a performer began with opera. One wouldn’t know it from the caterwauling she does in Florence Foster Jenkins, but the hilariously heartfelt screeching as the notoriously bad singer highlights how Meryl Streep is simply marvelous in this role. As chronicled in Michael Schulman’s wonderful book Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep, the twelve-year-old Streep underwent lessons with soprano and vocal coach Estelle Liebling, just around the corner from Carnegie Hall where Florence Foster Jenkins enjoys a riotous climax. She learned how to breathe properly and stretch the full register of her vocal chords, while Liebling emphasised the meaning of the text to her students and the importance of covering the full range of the vocal register. It didn’t last, though, for four years later, Meryl recognised her limitations and quit.

TIFF Announces Platform Competition, Includes 2 Canadian Films

Those Who Make Revolution Only Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves.
Courtesy of TIFF.
TIFF has announced the twelve films that will compete in the new Platform programme! Platform boasts its second year as TIFF's competitive sidebar in which hot directors are boosted up to the next level. This year's line-up is a hot dozen that includes a strong Canadian component. Zacharias Kunuk’s Maliglutit spotlights Inuit cinema, although he seems far too established for this selection after his Atanarjuat was named the best Canadian film of all time in a poll by TIFF, while Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie’s Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves sounds quite promising. I'm a big fan of Denis' debut Corbo, so this selection sounds exactly like the sort of spotlight for an up-and-comer that the programme aims to serve.


Contest: Win Tickets to 'Kubo and the Two Strings' Across Canada!

Embark on a new animated adventure with Kubo and the Two Strings. Headlined by an all-star cast that includes Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, Art Parkinson, and George Takei, Kubo and the Two Strings is an ambitious animated feature from the acclaimed Laika animation studios. Kubo and the Two Strings opens in Canadian theatres August 19 from eOne Films, but lucky readers across Canada may attend a sneak peek. Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets!

TIFF Adds 2 Canadian Titles Including Ottawa-shot Thriller

I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House.
Courtesy of TIFF.
TIFF announced a whack of new titles today including the selections for the TIFF Docs, Midnight Madness, Vanguard, and TIFF Cinematheque. (Read more on the docs coming to TIFF over at POV.) The selections include two notable Canadian titles in the Vanguard: the Ottawa-shot thriller I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House from February/The Blackcoat’s Daughter director Osgood Perkins and Nacha Vigalondo’s Colossal starring Anne Hathaway, which sounds especially promising. These films join Anne Émond’s previously announced Nelly in the Vanguard programme.


Locarno Review: 'Where is Rocky II?'

Where is Rocky II?
(France/Germany/Belgium, 93 min.)
Written and directed by Pierre Bismuth
Featuring: Pierre Bismuth, D.V. DeVincentis, Anthony Peckham, Mike Scott, Robert Knepper
Photo courtesy of Mongrel International

Filmmaker Pierre Bismuth finds himself between a rock and a hard place in the ingenious hybrid film Where is Rocky II? Bismuth, who won on Oscar for his work on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, shows off some meta-movie skills as he follows the peculiar story of American artist Fred Ruscha and a piece of art that allegedly belongs to his body of work, but leaves no trace in the catalogues, museums, or collections of art lovers around the world. Ruscha’s work is a giant fake rock said to be made out of resin, papier-mâché, or other materials (it depends who one asks) that he reportedly used in a photo shoot and documentary. The rock, named Rocky II after the unfortunate Sylvester Stallone movie, sends Bismuth and a cast of characters on an eccentric quest for truth.


The Hollywood Dumpster Fire Rages On

Suicide Squad
(USA, 123 min.)
Written and directed by David Ayer
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnamen, Jai Courtney, Cara Delevingne, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jay Hernandez
Throw Suicide Squad into the raging dumpster fire that is 2016 tent poles. Hollywood just isn’t delivering this year. There’s a lot of star power here with the likes of Will Smith, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, and Margot Robbie and the premise of comic book baddies taking over for the superheroes is novel, yet this flick is for fan boys only. Despite a reported $175 million production budget, and probably something comparable spent on marketing given the film’s tiresome yearlong publicity assault, Suicide Squad amounts to two-hours of empty boring spectacle driven by crappy effects and unnecessary 3D glasses. (This review considers the 3D release.) Suicide Squad isn’t the raging pile of crap that Batman v.Superman is, but it brings absolutely nothing to the table besides a lot of unfulfilled potential.


Contest! Win Tickets to 'Florence Foster Jenkins' Across Canada!

Warm up your pipes with Meryl Streep as the best actress every plays the worst singer ever in the inspiring true story Florence Foster Jenkins. Florence Foster Jenkins opens in theatres August 12 from eOne Films, but lucky readers across Canada have a chance to attend a sneak peek. Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets to Florence Foster Jenkins!


Contest: Win 'Demolition' Prize Packs!

Jake Gyllenhaal breaks his home apart bit by bit in Jean-Marc Vallée’s new drama Demolition. (One of this blog's picks for the best films of the year so far!) Before taking a cue from Jake G, enjoy JM-V’s latest in the comfort of your own home as Demolition comes to home video. Demolition is out now on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital from VVS Films, and Cinemablographer has some swanky prize packs to give away. Answer the trivia below for your chance!


TIFF Announces Canadian Films!

Nelly. Courtesy of TIFF
TIFF has unveiled the list of Canadian films and it's a doozy! New works from masters like Deepa Mehta, Alanis Obomsawin, and Bruce McDonald headline the fest, plus North American premieres for three Canuck Cannes hits and for Ann Marie Fleming's Window Horses, which also plays OIAF.

I'm especially excited for Nelly, the latest film from Our Loved Ones director Anne Emond. Also promising are new features from Johnny Ma and Ashley Mackenzie, who delivered some of this blog's favourite shorts in recent years (A Grand Canal and Rhonda's Party, respectively). Plus eight docs and a Mullen! (No relation.)

Newly announced Canuck features are:


Woody, Reheated

Café Society
(USA, 96 min.)
Written and directed by Woody Allen
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Blake Lively, Jeannie Berlin, Corey Stoll, Parker Posey, Ken Stott
Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) and Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) in Café Society.
Photo by Sabrina Lantos, courtesy of Gravier Productions..
Woody Allen reheats some leftovers in the palatable but only mildly satisfying Café Society. The film, Woody’s 47th as a director (depending on whether one counts the shorts and anthology work), serves up a classy buffet of all his usual savoury fixings. There’s a steam tray of neuroses, a gravy boat of good looking girls, a side order of Jew jokes, and a worrisome young man having soup for one. Woody dresses it all in the swanky nostalgic fixings that typify about half of his work. There’s nothing like Woody serving up Paris when it sizzles, but California isn’t famous for its cooking and the Hollywood-set Café Society is like a day-old clambake in the Allen oeuvre. It won’t kill you, but it tasted far better the day before.