Coming to Amerika

Amerika Square (Plateia Amerikis)
(Greece/UK/Germany, 86 min.)
Dir. Yannis Sakaridis, Writ. Yannis Tsirbas, Vangelis Mourikis, Yannis Sakaridis
Starring: Makis Papadimitriou, Yannis Stankoglou, Vassilis Kukalani, Ksenia Dania, Alexandros Logothetis, Rea Pediaditaki, Themis Bazaka, Errikos Litsis
There are many sad stories in the global migration crisis: deaths, rootlessness, hopelessness, and families torn apart. However, there are few narratives as distressing as those of people who refuse to accept change and hold the gates to freedom shut. Borders are closing and fences are going up to clamp the human flow. The rampant xenophobia inherent in the era is not humankind’s finest hour.


Denis' Dark World

Blade Runner 2049
(USA, 164 min.)
Dir. Denis Villeneuve, Writ. Hampton Francher, Michael Green
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Mackenzie Davis
Ana de Armas and Ryan Gosling star in Blade Runner 2049
Here’s the thing with updates: they can be a redundant waste of time, but, when they work, they can improve things by ironing out bugs and improving early drafts into a finely tuned revisions. Windows 10, for example, might be the best contemporary example of an utterly pointless remake. It adds nothing to the original except more kinks, headaches, and bad karma. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve’s outstanding revision of Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult hit that improves upon the original film. The measured Blade Runner 2049 might seem as slow as Windows 10, but in this case the massive update is worth the patience. This return to the world of the runners is deep and thoughtful sci-fi thanks to Villeneuve’s uncompromising vision.


The Heart Goes Pitter-Patter for 'BPM'

BPM (Beats Per Minute) (120 battements par minute)
(France, 140 min.)
Dir. Robin Campillo, Writ. Robin Campillo, Philippe Mangeot
Starring: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel, Antoine Reinartz, Ariel Borenstein, Mehdi Touré
Nahuel Pérez Biscayart stars in BPM.
The Orchard
Expect your heart to skip a beat during BPM. It’s impossible to avoid feeling a stirring pitter-patter of the chest in this invigorating and rewarding drama about courageous AIDS activists. BPM (Beats Per Minute) dramatizes the story of the Paris faction of ACT UP, a committed band of activists from the LGBTQ community fighting to make the French government and big pharma be quicker to respond to the growing AIDS crisis. The film, which won four prizes at Cannes including the Grand Prix and is France’s bid in the Best Foreign Language Film race, is a stirring tale of a community asserting its voice in the face of adversity. Director Robin Campillo presents a group of individuals united by their lust for life and their hunger to see another tomorrow, and the vibrant pulse of BPM is truly life affirming.


Jackie Chan Joins the Liam Neeson Club: A Conversation Between Members

The Foreigner
(UK/China/USA, 114 min.)
Dir. Martin Campbell, Writ. David Marconi
Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Katie Leung, Charlie Murphy, Orla Brady
Courtesy VVS Films
Liam Neeson, Denzel Washington, and Bruce Willis are sitting around a table. It’s 4:15 PM and the actors are partway through the seniors’ special at Denny’s. They nibble their chicken wings, lick their greasy spoons, and sip their decaf coffees while trading war stories of action films of the past.

In walks Jackie Chan.

“Some people care too much. I think it's called love.”

Goodbye Christopher Robin
(UK, 107 min.)
Dir. Simon Curtis, Writ. Frank Cottrell Boyce, Simon Vaughan
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald, Will Tilston
Domhnall Gleeson and Will Tilston star in Goodbye Christopher Robin
Photo by David Appleby / Fox Searchlight Pictures

Do you remember Winnie-the-Pooh? That little golden bear who lived in the Hundred Acre Woods with Piglet and Eeyore? That cuddly teddy who was friends with Christopher Robin and, in turn, a friend to all of us who cherished his adventures during story time?

But really, did any of us ever forget Pooh Bear?

Yikes—What a Mess!

The Limehouse Golem
(UK, 109 min.)
Dir. Juan Carlos Medina, Writ. Jane Goldman
Starring: Bill Nighy, Olivia Cooke, Eddie Marsan, Douglas Boothe, Sam Reid
Bill Nighy and Olivia Cooke star in The Limehouse Golem
Photo by Nick Wall
There are two or three great movies somewhere in The Limehouse Golem, but, holy crap, do they ever get lost in this nonsensical nightmare. Plot the first is a Jack the Ripper-ish bloodbath in which Scotland Yard inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) investigates a string of grisly murders committed in a dark corner of London. The deeds are so heinous and gruesome that people believe that only a monster could have committed them.


"Oh, Let Them Talk"

Our Souls at Night
(USA, 103 min.)
Dir. Ritesh Batra, Writ. Scott Neustadter, Michael Webb
Starring: Robert Redford, Jane Fonda,  Matthias Schoenaerts, Phyllis Somerville, Bruce Dern
Jane Fonda and Robert Redford star in Our Souls at Night

Our Souls at Night lets Netflix hit its stride with an original production that benefits from the smaller screens on which most audiences will see it. After the so-so Beasts of No Nation and the excellent First They Killed My Father, which really demand the grandeur of a theatrical screen for optimal effect, this sparse and delicately restrained adaptation of Kent Haruf’s equally simplistic posthumous novel fits the scale of the streaming site handsomely. It helps, too, that director Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox) knows what prizes he has in veteran actors Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. A film like Our Souls at Night doesn’t need any dressings when the core of the film—its stars and its script—is so rich and substantial.


A League of Her Own

Don’t Talk to Irene
(Canada, 82 min.)
Written and directed by Pat Mills
Starring: Michelle McLeod, Bruce Gray, Anastasia Phillips, Scott Thompson, Geena Davis
Michelle McLeod stars in Don't Talk to Irene
Remember back in the 90s’ when Dishwalla sang about God being a woman? They must have been referring to Geena Davis. Not Thelma & Louise Geena Davis, mind you. A League of Her Own Geena Davis.


Canada Sends 'Hochelaga' to the Oscars

Francois Girard's Hochelage, Land of Souls

It's official! Canada is sending Francois Girard's Hochelaga, Land of Souls to the Oscars as its official submission in the race for Best Foreign Language Film. The decision was announced this afternoon by Telefilm Canada's Carolle Brabant via Livestream. Hochelaga was selected by the Pan-Canadian committee of representatives from across the Canadian film industry. Although chaired by Telefilm, the body itself does not get a vote in the submission.


2017 Ottawa International Animation Festival Award Winners

Nikita Diakur's Ugly is OIAF's top winner
The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) has announced the winners for its 2017 edition of the festival. Germany's Nikita Diakur won the festival's top honour, the Nelvana Grand Prize for Independent Short Animation, for Ugly. This breathtaking film offers a deconstructed palette of pinks and blues to find beauty in a dystopian world. As the winner of the Grand Prize, Ugly is now eligible for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

'Battle' A Grand Slam

Battle of the Sexes
(USA, 121 min.)
Dir. Valerie Faris & Jonathan Dayton, Writ. Simon Beaufoy
Starring: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Elisabeth Shue, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Austin Stowell
Emma Stone and Steve Carell star in Battle of the Sexes
Melinda Sue Gordon / Fox Searchlight Pictures
It’s only a year after the mother of all showdowns in the battle of the sexes, but long before Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump threw mud on prime time television, a sportier grudge match hit the airwaves. It’s hard not to see the 1973 showdown between tennis champs Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs as a well-timed parable for Hillary and the Donald lobbing backhanded zingers in a rally between progressive sensibility and male chauvinism. Thankfully, the tennis match had a better outcome than the election did, but one can’t overlook how little things have changed in the 44 years since the game played on the court.


Oscar Deadline Approaches: What Could be Canada's Best Foreign Language Film Contender?

Possible Canuck Oscar contenders are A Bag of Marbles, Hochelaga, Maligutit, Old Stone
and Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves
The submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film race are trickling in! Canada announces its contender on Monday, September 25 and whatever film we send joins a growing field that already includes some formidable frontrunners. Cannes winners The Square (Sweden), Loveless (Russia) and 120 Beats Per Minute (France) are leading the pack, but don’t count out Berlin winner On Body and Soul (Hungary) and fall festival breakouts like Razzia (Morocco), A Fantastic Woman (Chile), and Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father (Cambodia). Other submissions include Happy End (Austria), Racer and the Jailbird (Belgium), and The Fixer (Romania). With these and other submissions in place, what are the films that Canada might consider?


“It’s Not All About You Anymore”: Mike White, Ben Stiller and Austin Abrams Talk 'Brad’s Status'

Austin Abrams and Ben Stiller star in Brad's Status.
VVS Films
“Can I say what your dad said to me yesterday?” asks Ben Stiller.

 “Uh, sure?” Austin Abrams laughs nervously.

 “He said he told you that you could do whatever you want so long as you finished medical school.”

“That’s a joke,” the younger actor inserts before turning to the members of the press seated ’round the table. “They’re very supportive of what I’m doing.”


TIFF Review: 'Hannah'

(Italy/Belgium/France, 95 min.)
Dir. Andrea Pallaoro, Writ. Andrea Pallaoro, Orlando Tirado
Starring: Charlotte Rampling
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (North American Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Charlotte Rampling gives a performance of devastating subtlety in Hannah. This masterful turn, which earned Ramping Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, shows the veteran actress at the top of her game playing a woman whose life falls into a tailspin when her husband goes to prison. It’s useful to consider Hannah as a European companion piece to the American indie Who We Are Now starring Julianne Nicholson as an ex-con struggling to shake her past, which also played the festival. Both films are intimate character studies about the unshakable stigma that crime places upon the individual. Sins of the past and guilt by association are different crimes in each film, but both actresses give powerfully introspective performances as women desperate to save their lives from the burden of their crimes. Rampling, like Nicholson, gives one of the best performances of the year in a hidden gem worth finding.


TIFF 2017: Festival Wrap-up and Picks for 'Best of the Fest'

Sweet Country - My pick for 'Best of the Fest'
TIFF might have scaled back its programming by 20-ish percent, but the Festival of Festivals still felt as big and loud as ever. The movies were good if one was willing to look for them, but anyone who complained about 2017 being an off-year for the programming didn’t stray beyond the Galas and Special Presentations or was too concerned about premiere status. There really were some hidden gems and discoveries. Out of the 50 feature films I saw before and during the festival, about 43 of them were good to great. A pretty good average, I think.

TIFF Review: 'Who We Are Now'

Who We Are Now
(USA, 95 min.)
Written and directed by Matthew Newton
Starring: Julianne Nicholson, Emma Roberts, Zachary Quito, Jimmy Smits
Programme: Special Presentations (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Julianne Nicholson is always good, but nobody’s ever given her the chance to show her full potential. Nicholson is a reliable supporting player after turning in good work as, say, the tirelessly devoted Ivy alongside Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in August: Osage County, the straight-laced skating coach in I, Tonya, and the connective tissue to family drama in Tully. The actress gets her first true lead role in the movies with Who We Are Now and she doesn’t skimp on the opportunity to inhabit her character as fully as she can. What a treat it is to see a character actor find a great a lead role and dive into it.

TIFF Review: 'On Body and Soul'

On Body and Soul
(Hungary, 116 min.)
Written and directed by Ildikó Enyedi
Starring: Alexandra Borbély, Géza Morcsányi, Réka Tenki
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (North American Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
If a deer is your spirit animal, then On Body and Soul is the film for you. A pair of deer, one doe and one stag, steal the show from their human co-stars in this peculiar meditation on life and love. Pardon the pun, but it’s a film worth fawning over.

TIFF Review: 'C'est la vie!'

C’est la vie! (Le sens de la fête)
(France, 115 min.)
Written and directed by Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
Starring: Jean-Paul Bacri, Gilles Lellouche, Jean-Paul Rouve, Eye Haïdara, Suzanne Clément
Programme: Galas (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Thank goodness for subtitles. There was so much laughter at TIFF’s Closing Night Gala presentation of C’est la vie! that those of us in the audience might not have had a clue what was going on without the aid of subtitles. Loud and consistent laughter rippled throughout Roy Thomson Hall from beginning to end of C’est la vie! and often drowned out the French dialogue that had TIFF-goers in stitches. This warm and hilarious comedy from directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano (The Intouchables, Samba) was a perfect choice to close a successful edition of the Festival. It's a lot of fun.


TIFF Review: 'The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches'

The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches (La petite fille qui amait trop les allumettes)
(Canada, 111 min.)
Written and directed by Simon Lavoie
Starring: Marine Johnson, Antoine L’Écuyer, Jean-François Casabonne
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Horror thrives La belle province thanks to Simon Lavoie's utterly creepy The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches. This black and white nightmare is Quebecois gothicism to the core.  It's creepy,  arty, and literary cinema as Lavoie strips back the popular novel by Gaétan Soucy and gives a thoroughly visual interpretation of its tale of madness. The film will shake you.


TIFF Review: 'Happy End'

Happy End
(Austria/France/Germany, 107 min.)
Written and directed by Michael Haneke
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Matthieu Kassovitz, Toby Jones, Fantine Harduin, Franz Rogowaki
Programme: Masters (North American Premiere)
"Without happy endings, none of us would be here," laughed Michael Haneke while delivering a mic drop when asked about the relationship between families and happy endings at the North American premiere of Happy End. It turns out the arthouse director of bleak films like Amour, The Piano Teacher and The White Ribbon has a sharp sense of humor. As expected though, it's a very dark one.


TIFF Review: 'Faces Places'

Faces Places (Visages villages)
(France, 90 min.)
Dir. Agnès Varda, JR
Programme: Masters (Canadian premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF

Faces Places features the oddball couple of 89-year-old filmmaker Agnès Varda and thirtysomething photographer/street artist JR, but one won't find a better pair of kindred spirits at the movies this year. The two artists join forces and embark on an ambitious street art series as they tour the villages of rural France taking portraits of the local residents and pasting enlarged visages on the buildings of these small towns. At once a road trip and a non-fiction art film, Faces Places is a whimsical masterpiece of documentary filmmaking that pays tribute to the land and its inhabitants by intimately connecting the two.

TIFF Review: Journey's End

Journey’s End
(UK, 107 min.)
Dir. Saul Dibb, Writ. Simon Reade
Starring: Sam Claflin, Asa Butterfield, Paul Bettany, Toby Jones, Tom Sturridge
Courtesy of TIFF
Director Saul Dibb plunks moviegoers deep down in the trenches with Journey’s End. This tense and unsentimental portrait sees the Great War from its infamous bowels. It’s interesting to get this perceptively limited perspective on war hot on the heels of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which envisions the evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II through a triple pronged puzzle of land, air, and sea. Trudging through the muck with young and overeager Second Lieutenant Raleigh (Asa Butterfield, The Space Between Us), however, gives a tangible shivering realization of a universal truth of battle: war is hell.


TIFF Review: Alias Grace

Alias Grace
(Canada/USA, 90 min.)
Dir. Mary Harron, Writ. Sarah Polley
Starring: Sarah Gadon, Edward Holcroft, Rebecca Liddiard, David Cronenberg, Anna Paquin
Courtesy of TIFF
Praise be! After taking TVs and streaming sites by storm with the incredibly timely The Handmaid’s Tale earlier this year, the oeuvre of Margaret Atwood gets another page to screen adaptation with her finest novel, Alias Grace. This adaptation from creator Sarah Polley (Stories We Tell) and director Mary Harron (The Notorious Bettie Page) does ample justice to its source material based on the first two episodes screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. Alias Grace captures the scope, mood, and dryly playful account of the subjugation of women as told through the harrowing story of alleged murderess Grace Marks, which, sadly, resonates strongly no matter the setting Atwood uses or the time in which her work appears. The CBC/Netflix mini-series promises to satisfy the appetites of Handmaid’s fans while they await another season, and it’s both similar to and different from the Hulu series to stand in its own right and further more curiosity for all things Atwood. This miniseries is some dark and dangerous CanCon.

TIFF Review: 'Racer and the Jailbird'

Racer and the Jailbird
(Belgium/France, 130 min.)
Dir. Michaël R. Roskam, Writ. Thomas S. Bidegain, Noé Debré, Michaël R. Roskam
Starring: Matthias Schoenaerts, Adèle Exarchopoulos
Programme: Special Presentations (North American Premiere
Courtesy of TIFF
Dangerous curves ahead: Matthias Schoenaerts and Adèle Exarchopoulos bring the heat in Racer and the Jailbird. This thrilling drama from Michael R. Roskam (The Drop) is Belgium's submission to this year's Best Foreign Language Film race and it's a bold choice for voters with an inclination for something deep and dark. Racer and the Jailbird is a tale of ill-fated romance that probes our taste for danger and the thrill of living on the edge. This stylish and sexy potboiler puts its foot on the pedal and doesn't gear down for 130 minutes. 


TIFF Review: 'Hochelaga, Land of Souls'

Hochelaga, Land of Souls (Hochelaga, terre des âmes)
(Canada, 100 min.)
Written and directed by Francois Girard
Starring: Samian, Vincent Perez, Raoul Trujillo, Wahiakeron Gilbert, Emmanuel Schwartz, Tanaya Beatty, Sébastien Ricard, Siân Phillips, Linus Roache, Gilles Renaud, Tony Nardi, Naïade Aoun, George Wahiakeron Gilbert, Rykko Bellemarre, Jacques Newashish
Programme: Galas (World Premiere)
Les Films Seville
Hochelaga, Land of Souls is a spectacular and stunning achievement. It’s a sweeping and essential offering for Canadian film at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival with its epic scope, impressive scale, and artistic merit. 

TIFF Review: 'Brad's Status'

Brad’s Status
(USA, 101 min.)
Written and directed by Mike White
Starring: Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fischer, Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, Jemaine Clement
Programme: Platform (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Ben Stiller renews himself as an actor in Brad’s Status. The Zoolander star dives into his deepest role yet as Brad Sloan, an affable fortysomething who finds himself in a midlife crisis when his comfortable, if completely safe, life in Sacramento seems bland in comparison to the updates of his college buddies. The actor finds in Brad Sloane what Jim Carrey had in Truman Burbank and Andy Kaufman—a comedic character with just a few more dramatic edges to fully show off his chops. Brad’s old chums are objects of envy for their cushy gigs, early retirements, private jets, exciting weddings, and supermodel wives and Stiller marinates in Brad’s dissatisfaction like an über-cranky George Bailey.


TIFF Review: 'Borg/McEnroe'

(Sweden/Denmark/Finland, 100 min.)
Dir. Janus Metz, Writ. Ronnie Sandahl
Starring : Shia LaBeouf, Sverrir Gudnason, Stellan Skarsgård
Programme: Galas (World Premiere – Opening Night)
Courtesy of TIFF
Shia LaBeouf fires a mean backhand as John McEnroe in Borg/McEnroe. With his curly hair and rebellious star persona, he's surprisingly well cast as the bad boy tennis star who faced off against beloved reigning world champion Bjorn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) at Wimbledon’s 1980 Championship game. Labeouf also shares a facet of McEnroe's character that really adds to the dynamic of this engaging and compelling tennis drama: no matter how hard he tries or how much he proves himself, he's not an easy guy to like.


TIFF Review: Three Peaks

Three Peaks (Drei Zinnen)
(Germany/Italy, 94 min.)
Written and directed by Jan Zabeil
Starring: Alexander Fehling, Bérénice Bejo, Arian Montgomery 
Courtesy of TIFF

Three Peaks is bound to be dubbed the European The Mountain Between Us. Like the Kate Winslet/Idris Elba survival drama, which is also playing the Festival, this wintry white-knuckler sees two people stranded on a mountain where they must find common ground in order to survive. The lost duo of Three Peaks is a pair of strangers of sorts: Aaron (Alexander Fehling) and Tristan (Arian Montgomery), the latter of whom is the son of Aaron’s girlfriend Lea (Bérénice Bejo). This fateful trip puts the future of this new family on a precipice as Aaron must decide to accept this child as part of his life, while Tristan must make an equally life-altering choice to view Aaron as a father figure. That’s an awfully big mountain to climb between them.


TIFF Shorts: Bird, Bickford Park, Threads, Hawking & Kanye, Latched

  Ramona Diaconsecu, courtesy of TIFF 
This blog, unfortunately, doesn’t quite have as much freedom to dive into the TIFF shorts as it has in previous years, but taking on other commitments doesn’t mean shorts can’t be in season. TIFF’s Short Cuts programme often yields some of the best and most overlooked films at the festival. Even if one can’t take in the full spectrum of shorts, it’s worth catching at least one programme as a sample to catch innovations in form like Matthew Rankin’s outstanding The Tesla World Light (reviewed at POV) or any of the impressive documentaries in the shorts series, like Michelle Latimer’s powerful Nuuca, Elinor Nechemya’s revitalizing Everlasting Mom, and Caroline Monnet’s haunting Creatura Dada. (Check POV for a review of short docs coming soon.)

TIFF Review: Porcupine Lake

Porcupine Lake
(Canada, 85 min.)
Written and directed by Ingrid Veninger
Starring: Charlotte Salisbury, Lucinda Armstrong Hall, Christopher Bolton, Delphine Roussel, Harrison Tanner, Hallie Switzer
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Carol finds its maplecore counterpart in Porcupine Lake. As with the female friendship turned whirlwind love affair of Carol and Therese, the journey of Bea and Kate starts with a glance. Bea (Charlotte Salisbury) is having some ice cream at her family’s snack shack. (One of those French fry joints in cottage country where everyone goes for greasy grub.) Kate (Lucinda Armstrong Hall) comes in and grabs some scoops with her besties and, awaiting her frozen delight, turns arounds and works her 13-year-old eyes up and down the other girl whose ice cream is starting to melt. One can feel Bea blush with an unfamiliar tingle.


TIFF Review: Soldiers. Story from Ferentari

Soldiers. Story from Ferentari (Soldatii. Poveste din Ferentari)
(Romania/Serbia/Belgium, 119 min.)
Dir. Ivana Mladenovic, Writ. Adrian Schiop, Ivana Mladenovic
Starring: Adrian Schiop, Vasile Pavel-Digudai
Programme: Discovery (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
In a world of repressed morals, social taboos, and restricted freedoms, alter-egos are inevitable tools to help individuals explore their hidden desires. Soldiers. Story from Ferentari draws from such a tale in its adaptation of Adrian Schiop’s “fictionalized biography” and it delivers a rugged gay bromance in the conservative and impoverished Roma ghetto of Ferentari, Bucharest. The film finds an intriguing natural style as Schiop stars in the adaptation of the adaptation of his life, while non-professional actors and kitchen-sink mise en scène makes Soldiers. Story from Ferentari an authentic tale of forbidden love.


Sundowners and the Tertiary Life Crisis

(Canada/USA/Colombia, 95 min.)
Written and directed by Pavan Moondi
Starring:  Phil Hanley, Luke Lalonde, Tim Heidecker, Cara Gee, Nick Flanagan, Leah Faye Goldstein
Phil Hanley and Luke Lalond star in Sundowners.
Photo by Jesus Lora
Let’s introduce a new term for aging millennials: the Tertiary Life Crisis. Hitting 30 sucks—but in my case, the milestone coincided with Trump’s inauguration, so many people had a worse weekend than I did—and it’s a time for self-reflection. Particularly for those of us who threw our lives away for arts degrees, it’s hard to feel like an adult in a low-paying job going nowhere when other friends are signing mortgages, getting married, and popping out babies. But some people prefer creative passions, drinks with friends, and cats, so there’s no reason that one lifestyle should eclipse another on the roundabout road to adulthood.


The Reign in Spain

The Queen of Spain (La reina de España)
(Spain, 128 min.)
Written and directed by Fernando Trueba
Starring: Penélope Cruz, Antonio Resines, Javier Cámara, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chino Darín
Penélope Cruz stars in The Queen of Spain.
Pacific Northwest Pictures
The Queen of Spain, colloquially known as Penélope Cruz, returns to the throne in one of her most popular and acclaimed roles. Cruz gives an encore performance as Macarena Granada, her movie star character from The Girl of Your Dreams, which won her a Goya (Spanish Oscar) for Best Actress, and she’s in top form working again with director Fernando Trueba and most of the cast from the original film.


First Teaser and Images for TIFF Gala 'Hochelaga, Land of Souls'

All photos courtesy Les Films Séville
The first teaser and images are out for Hochelaga, Land of Souls (Hochelaga, terre des âmes). The film is the lone Canadian drama to get the full red carpet Gala treatment at TIFF this year. Hochelaga comes from acclaimed filmmaker François Girard, director of 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould and The Red Violin, both of which won the Genie for best film with the latter drama scooping one of the few Oscar wins for a Canadian film when it nabbed best score at the 1999 Academy Awards. Hochelaga seems to put Girard back in Red Violin territory with its tale about the lives and histories that have touched one unique place throughout the years. The film features a mix of French, Mohawk, and English, and it might be one to keep on the radar if it delivers. eOne Films and Les Films Seville have Canadian distribution. (No release date as of yet.)

This Time Tomorrow: A Living Family Album

This Time Tomorrow (Mañana a esta hora)
(Canada/Colombia, 85 min.)
Written and directed by Lina Rodriguez
Starring: Laura Osma, Maruia Shelton, Francisco Zaldua, Francisco Restrepo
There are no big moments in This Time Tomorrow. There are no loud dramatic bursts, no screaming fits, and no outpouring of emotions. And that’s just fine.


Detroit: Battle of Algiers

(USA, 143 min.)
Dir. Kathryn Bigelow, Writ. Mark Boal
Starring: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Jason Mitchell, Anthony Mackie, Hannah Murray, Kaitlin Dever, Nathan Davis, Jr., Jack Reynor, Ben O’Toole, John Krasinski
eOne Films
What a weekend to see Detroit. The morning of the screening, Twitter was ablaze with disgusting and appalling images of white supremacists, Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and other varieties of deplorable trash marching in a kind of #WhiteLivesMatter rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Emboldened by the idea that more rights for others means fewer rights for them, these pitchforking wielding racists leave one wondering if the land of Lady Liberty will ever find peace.


Nancy Grant Says Xavier Dolan's 'John F. Donovan' Will Debut this Fall

Kit Harrington in The Death and Life of John F. Donovan
Photo by Shane Laverdière / eOne Films
The plot thickens! After much debate and speculation ensued when Xavier Dolan's upcoming star-studded English-language debut The Death and Life of John F. Donovan was not included in the Toronto International Film Festival's Canadian programming announcement comes another oddity. According to Marc-André Lussier at La presse, the film's producer, Nancy Grant, says Donovan will premiere at a festival this fall.


'Wind River' Haunts with a Chill

Wind River
(USA, 110 min.)
Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene, Kelsey Asbille, Gil Birmingham
Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner star in Wind River
VVS Films
The whispers of frigid air provide a winter chill in Wind River. Set in the snowy mountains of Wyoming at the Wind River Reservation, Wind River could easily take place in the Canadian North up by Highway 16 (aka Highway of Tears) with its unsettling story of a young Indigenous woman who is raped and murdered in an act of violence that seems all too common. She runs through the snowy field as the film begins, coughing blood as her lungs freeze until her frostbitten bare feet can’t carry her any further and she collapses. As she runs, a poem quietly murmurs in voiceover: it’s the sound of a ghost floating through a valley in which death always hangs in the air. This film chills you to the bone with its unnerving and all too real drama.


TIFF Announces Canadian Line-up: A mix of veterans and newcomers (and no Dolan!)

Ingrid Veninger's Porcupine Lake debuts at TIFF
Courtesy of TIFF

There were three recurring questions at today’s TIFF press conference for Canadian films screening at this year’s festival:

1) Where’s the Dolan?
2) What about opening night?
3) Which of these people have you heard of?

Let’s unpack the #tiff17 interrogation in a game of bon cop/bad cop.


TIFF's Platform Competition Highlights International Films and Stars

Alicia Vikander and Eva Green star Euphoria.
Courtesy of TIFF
The Toronto International Film Festival announced the films selected for the third edition of the Platform competition. Introduced in 2015, Platform offers a prestigious and tightly curated line-up of auteur cinema designed to give new and innovative voices a spotlight in the programme. Previous winners are Alan Zweig's Hurt and Pablo Larrain's Jackie. The programme also gave a major spotlight to Barry Jenkins' Moonlight last year, which went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars.


Dunkirk: Band of Brothers

(USA/UK/Netherlands/France, 106 min.)
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Jack Lowden, Barry Keoghan, Aneurin Barnard, Tom Glynn-Carney, Harry Styles
Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

The clock keeps ticking in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Every second counts in this intense tour de force. Dunkirk is a pulse-pounding drama that realises the evacuation of British soldiers at Dunkirk by land, air, and sea. The film weaves together three narrative threads about the soldiers on the beach, the civilians in the boats, and the fighters in the air as they all work together to bring one another safely home. Breathless entertainment, Dunkirk is, but it’s foremost an intricately crafted drama about the collective struggle in wartime.


Losing Weight Isn't a Bad Thing: Thoughts on the TIFF Announcement

C'est la vie starring Suzanne Clément (centre) closes TIFF '17.
Courtesy of TIFF
Losing weight is rarely a bad thing. A diet looks to be boding well for the Toronto International Film Festival after reducing its belly by 20%. With today’s announcement of the first wave of programming, TIFF’s earliest slate of Galas and Special Presentations seems to have resisted the sugary cravings and empty calories. There’s a healthy mix of stars, indies and world cinema, and the effort to spotlight women directors (about 30% so far) and multiculturalism is appreciated given that this portion of the line-up draws heaviest from the Hollywood side of things, which still has a ways to go. Those numbers will improve with the forthcoming announcements of documentaries, indies, and international titles. TIFF’s eating its veggies even if most members of the press have little more than black coffee and free booze come September.


#TIFF17 Wish List

Ryan Gosling in Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049
The Toronto International Film Festival drops its first wave of programming announcements on Tuesday, July 25. The bulk of the Canadian programming gets unveiled fairly late this year (August 9th), but it’s not too early to start listing all the titles one hopes to see at the festival.

The pressure’s on TIFF this year, though. The festival announced earlier this year that it plans to reduce the line-up by 20%. Given that TIFF generally has around 300 titles, that’s about 60 films less than usual.


Ottawa International Animation Festival Announces Line-up!

Oscar winner Torill Kove returns to Ottawa with Threads
Courtesy NFB
The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) has unveiled the line-up for the 2017 edition of the festival. The festival, which is North America's largest showcase of animation and the National Capital's premiere film event, boasts a strong line-up of international works and Canadian cartoons. OIAF offers five feature films in competition this year and ninety-four short films in competition, fourteen of which are Canadian productions or co-productions. Also returning to the festival are the Canadian Panorama and Canadian Student Competition, which provide healthy surveys of CanCon.


Blue 'Moon'

From the Land of the Moon (Mal de pierres)
(France/Belgium/Canada, 120 min.)
Dir. Nicole Garcia, Writ. Nicole Garcia, Jacques Fieschi
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Louis Garrel, Alex Brendemühl 
Pacific Northwest Pictures
From the Land of the Moon is a film of a different era. Fifty years ago, it might have been the stuff of awards and rave reviews. There’s a lot to admire in its prestigious production that soaks up the scenery the Alps while French superstar Marion Cotillard acts her heart out playing Gabrielle, a young woman from a small post-World War II town who draws suspicions of madness because she believes in true love. It’s 2017, though, and movies need to do more than make their leading ladies long for a man to earn their laurels.


Vengeful Bitches Slay

The Beguiled
(USA, 93 min.)
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke, Emma Howard
“What have you done to me, you vengeful bitches?!” cries Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell) in a fit of rage. McBurney shrieks his words with a timbre so venomous that every male in the audience might cross his legs, wince, and grasp at his nether regions just to make sure that they’re still in the theatre. The male members of the audience, anyways.


2017 in Review: The Best Films of the Year so Far

Cate Blanchett gives the 13 best performances of 2017 in Manifesto.
Photo by Julian Rosefeldt, courtesy of Filmrise.
Is it already June? This year is just flying by. I’m sorry that updates here have been scant (work’s just been a series of events that haven’t let up) but this blog seems to be waking up from an extended hibernation. It’s time to recap the year at its halfway mark.

Contest! Win Run of Engagement Passes to See 'From the Land of the Moon' Starring Marion Cotillard!

Cinemablographer favourite Marion Cotillard returns in the acclaimed drama From the Land of the Moon. After debuting to strong notices for Cotillard’s performance at last year’s Cannes Film Festival (where she also turned heads for It’s Only the End of the World) and earning eight César Award (French Oscar) nominations including Best Film and Best Actress, From the Land to the Moon is coming to theatres. The film opens July 7 from Pacific Northwest Pictures and Cinemablographer has run of engagement passes for lucky readers to see the film. Enter the trivia below for your chance to win!


"That's, Like, the Biggest Shark I've Ever Seen."

47 Meters Down
(USA, 89 min.)
Dir. Johannes Roberts; Writ. Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera
Starring: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt
Mandy Moore Claire Holt
Claire Holt and Mandy Moore star in 47 Meters Down.
VVS Films
The cautious tourists always have the craziest vacations. Linda (Goldie Hawn) plays it safe and doesn’t talk to strangers during her Ecuadorian nightmare, but she gets kidnapped and terrorized by the cartel. Susan (Cate Blanchett) drinks Diet Coke without ice to avoid germs in Morocco, yet a renegade bullet nips her whilst she naps on a tour bus. Darlene (Kate Beckinsale) hesitantly agrees with her friend Alice (Claire Danes) to swap Hawaii for Thailand and (whoops) finds herself spending more time in jail than on the beach. Rose (Kate Winslet) follows her mother’s orders until she rebels and finds love on a cruise ship until (whomp whomp) the boat sinks. Lonely Planet doesn’t prepare tourists for plot twists.


Contest: Win a Digital Download of '100 Streets' Starring Idris Elba and Gemma Arteton!

Idris Elba, the Internet’s favourite candidate for the next James Bond, teams up with former Bond girl Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace) for the new indie thriller 100 Streets. This tense multi-narrative film stars the two suave Brits in an acclaimed ensemble cast that includes Tom Cullen (Downton Abbey), Franz Drameh (Attack the Block) and Ken Stott (The Hobbit). 100 Streets comes to iTunes on Tuesday, June 20 from Pacific Northwest Pictures and lucky readers have the chance to win a free digital download of the film. Enter the trivia below for your chance to win!