10/11/2018

Knuckleball: Kids Slay the Darnedest Things

Knuckleball
(Canada, 89 min.)
Dir. Michael Peterson, Writ. Michael Peterson, Kevin Cockle
Starring: Luca Villacis, Michael Ironside, Munro Chambers, Kathleen Munroe, Chenier Mundal

The appeal of children generally eludes me, but the little hellions seem to be awfully good tools to have whilst trapped in a creepy home with a maniac. Video games and movies have taught kids to be resourceful, and as the new horror-comedy Knuckleball shows, there’s at least one practical benefit to having children.  Kids slay the darnedest things—at least they’re good for something.


10/03/2018

First Man: From the Space Race to the Oscar Race

First Man
(USA, 142 min.)
Dir. Damien Chazelle, Writ. Josh Singer
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Corey Stoll, Jason Clarke, Patrick Fugit, Lukas Haas, Olivia Hamilton
Neil Armstrong
Neil Armstrong might have been the first man to walk on the moon, but we’ll all feel like we’ve been there after seeing First Man. La La Land director Damien Chazelle takes audiences to the moon with such heart-pounding skill that one could swear he shot the film in space. This technically accomplished achievement chronicles the landmark Space Race that culminated with the Apollo 11 landing on the moon with Armstrong (played by La La Land leading man Ryan Gosling) taking a major leap for all of humanity.


9/28/2018

Close Rewrites 'The Wife' Role

The Wife
(Sweden/UK/USA, 100 min.)
Dir. Björn Runge, Writ. Jane Anderson
Starring: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Max Irons, Annie Stark, Harry Lloyd
Glenn Close stars in The Wife
Photo by Graeme Hunter / Sony Pictures Classics
It’s hard to imagine a better showcase for Glenn Close’s talents than The Big Chill, Fatal Attraction, The World According to Garp, Dangerous Liaisons, or Damages, but The Wife might be the finest example of her strength as an actress. That might be the case because The Big Chill, Fatal Attraction, The World According to Garp, Dangerous Liaisons, or Damages are all great pieces of film and television. The Wife, unfortunately, is not a good film, but Glenn Close is great in it. She’s reason alone to see the film as she elevates every scene in which she appears with subdued, repressed rage. Close’s performance in The Wife is a masterclass in subtle, nuanced acting.

9/20/2018

Chien de garde: Canada's Stray Oscar Bid

Chien de garde (Family First)
(Canada, 87 min.)
Written and directed by Sophie Dupuis
Starring: Jean-Simon Leduc, Théodore Pellerin, Maude Guérin, Paul Ahmarani
Telefilm Canada threw us all for a loop Wednesday when they announced, without the usual warning or fanfare, the completely random selection of Sophie Dupuis’ Chien de garde as our official submission in the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s a random choice because Chien de garde marks the first time in a very long while that the pan-Canadian committee has put forward a film that had virtually no boost, platform, or exposure outside of Quebec. The film, which opened theatrically in La Belle Province in March and was dumped unceremoniously onto VOD for the rest of Canada sometime between then and now, actually drew some stellar reviews and garnered three of Quebec’s Iris Awards in the categories of Best Actress (Maude Guérin), Best Film Editing, and Best Breakthrough Performer. (The film has a full-throttle performance by Théodore Pellerin). 

9/17/2018

TIFF 2018: Festival Wrap-Up and Picks for 'Best of the Fest'

Destroyer, Blind Spot, Birds of Passage, A Star is Born, Roma, and Hotel Mumbai were some of TIFF's best
That’s a wrap for another year at the Toronto International Film Festival! TIFF had its best and arguably most exhausting year yet in 2018. There were some great movies and moments of TIFF, but the highlight might have been the Saturday of the first weekend when I came home and stress ate an entire bag of Kettle Chips with a bottle of prosecco. After spending nearly the entire day on email coordinating or conducting interviews that consumed the first few days of TIFF, it was a great way to unwind after missing several movies. Check out more coverage at POV and stay tuned to BeatRoute for the work fuelled by greasy chips and bubbly.

9/12/2018

TIFF Review: 'Retrospekt'

Retrospekt
(Netherland/Belgium, 101 min.)
Written and directed by Esther Rots
Starring: Circé Lethem, Lien Wildemeersch (Miller, Lee), Martijn van der Veen (Simon)
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Audiences seeking a healthy dose of WTF needn’t look any further than Retrospekt. This Dutch oddity is a true original. One might classify it as the first arthouse domestic violence musical, but that doesn’t really fit the bill since nobody belts a tune onscreen in Retrospekt even though the soundtrack is layered with peculiar original songs that twist the story in myriad ways. It might sound disrespectful; it might sound stupid; it might sound awful, yet Retrospekt somehow works thanks to the fearless audacity with which writer/director Esther Rots pulls it off.

9/10/2018

TIFF Review: 'The Fall of the American Empire'


The Fall of the American Empire (La chute de l'empire américain)
(Canada, 128)
Written and directed by Denys Arcand
Starring: Aléxandre Landry, Maripier Morin, Rémy Girard, Louis Morissette, Maxim Roy, Pierre Curzi, Vincent Leclerc
Programme: Special Presentations (Toronto Premiere)
TIFF
Denys Arcand is back with a vengeance! The Quebecois master returns with The Fall of the American Empire, a Robin Hood fable for the Trump era that resonates strongly with the anxieties, tensions, and unrest of the time. It's a perceptive punch in the face to capitalism and a damning satire of these days of darkness.  


TIFF Review: 'Angel'

Angel (Un ange)
(Belgium/Netherlands/Senegal, 105 min.)
Written and directed by Koen Mortier
Starring: Vincent Rottiers, Fatou N’Diaye  
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (International Premiere)
Courtesy TIFF
Twelve years ago, Fatou N’Diaye gave a heartbreaking performance as Gentille, a young Rwandan waitress at the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Robert Favreau’s drama A Sunday in Kigali. Audiences who saw this touching story of the 1994 Rwanda genocide at TIFF 2006 (or in release later) will recall N’Diaye’s touching innocence as the better half of A Sunday in Kigali’s love story about a Hutu waitress and a Canadian journalist who fell in love in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cut to TIFF’18 and N’Diaye is the star attraction of another ill-fated love story, and she steals the film as Fae, a doe-eyed prostitute in Senegal who strikes the fancy of a Belgian cyclist named Thierry (Vincent Rottiers). Viewers who slept on her performance in A Sunday in Kigali won’t want to close their eyes this time around.

TIFF Review: 'Climax'

Climax.
(France, 96 minutes - about half of which are just insufferable)
Dir. Gaspar Noé
Starring: Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub, Kiddy Smile
Programme: Midnight Madness (North American premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Master provocateur Gaspar Noé has well earned his status as a love-him-or-hate-him director. He wears his notoriety like a badge of honour after 2002’s Irréversible polarized cinephiles with its real-time rape scene, 2009’s Enter the Void had folks laughing in the aisles with a grand finale that imagined conception seen from the inside of a character’s cervix, and 2015’s 3D sexapalooza Love shot a bit too much pleasure in audiences’ faces. Noé’s latest romp Climax is arguably his best film—if only because it isn’t complete trash.

9/08/2018

TIFF Review: 'Freaks'

Freaks
(Canada/USA, 104 min.)
Written and directed by Zach Lipovsky, Adam Stern
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Lexy Kolker, Bruce Dern
Programme: Discovery (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF

Room
meets X-Men in the tense sci-fi family drama Freaks. This feature collaboration from Vancouver-born directors Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein is a smart exercise in small-scale science fiction. Freaks takes a simple conceit, namely that an unnamed father (Emile Hirsch) shelters his daughter, Chloe (Lexy Kolker), from the outside world. Chloe has never left their house. Her dad knows that she is unwelcome in the world because, like him, Chloe has unique powers. The outside world is not a friendly place—and it’s uncomfortably familiar to the world we live in today with its hostility to outsiders and fear of difference.

9/07/2018

TIFF Review: 'Phoenix'

Phoenix (Føniks)
(Norway/Sweden, 86 min.)
Written and directed by Camilla Strøm Henriksen
Starring: Yiva Thedia Bjørkaas, Maria Bonnevie, Sverrir Gudnason, Casper Falck-Løvås
Programme: Discovery (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
A phoenix is a symbol of renewal and resilience. The mythical bird rises from ashes to be born again, and its flame-lit image suggests light after darkness. There is little to lightness to be found in Camilla Strøm Henriksen’s feature directorial debut Phoenix, though, but after nearly an hour and a half of sombre melancholy, one can only leave the film with a sense of hope for its young protagonist.

TIFF Review: 'Blind Spot'

Blind Spot (Blindsone)
(Norway, 98 min.)
Written and directed by Tuva Novotny
Starring: Pia Tjelta, Nora Mathea Øien, Oddgeir Thune, Anders Baasmo Christiansen
Programme: Discovery (International  Premiere)
Courtesy TIFF
The power of the long take finds one of its best examples in Blind Spot. This outstanding Norwegian drama from actor-turned-director Tuva Novotny gives Birdman and Victoria a run for their money as the one-take wonder. A single 98-minute unbroken shot provides one of the most emotionally absorbing case studies in family dynamics and mental illness one could see at the festival this year. (TIFF’s programme guide incorrectly notes that Blind Spot is a series of long takes. The film doesn’t even credit an editor.) Even more impressive is the fact that Blind Spot marks Novotny’s first feature as a director, so the sheer difficulty of orchestrating all this camerawork and human drama into one perfect shot only makes the coup more noteworthy. Blind Spot is an outstanding technical and artistic achievement

TIFF Review: 'Float Like a Butterfly'

Float Like a Butterfly
(Ireland, 101 min.)
Written and directed by Carmel Winters
Starring: Hazel Doupe, Dara Devaney, Johnny Collins, Hilda Foy
Programme: Discovery (World Premiere)
Courtesy TIFF
TIFF throws a crowd-pleasing punch in its line-up of girl power. Audiences willing to overlook the many boxing movie clichés in Float Like a Butterfly may find an empowering tale of a young girl’s fight for freedom. Whatever its shortcomings, Float Like a Butterfly has a lot to admire in the representational aspects, which inevitably tipped the crowd in its favour.

9/06/2018

TIFF Review: 'Manto'

Manto
(India, 112 min.)
Written and directed by Nandita Das
Starring: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rasika Dugal, Tahir Raj Bhasin  
Programme: Special Presentations (North American Premiere)
Courtesy TIFF
Great voices in literature often reveal truths the public doesn’t want to hear. Particularly in times of social change and political uncertainty, the pen is the mightiest tool to give voice to the disenfranchised. Writer/director Nandita Das provides a biographical rendering of Pakistani author Saadat Hasan Manto with a stark and sobering eye for the late writer’s significance in capturing the social inequities of Partition-era India and Pakistan. Manto is a thoughtful biopic that honours the writer’s courage and his ability to capture the cultural pulse with a voice ahead of its time.

9/04/2018

Kicking Off TIFF with Previews of 'The Stone Speakers' and Shorts at POV

The Stone Speakers
Courtesy Time Lapse Pictures
TIFF starts this week! I'll be covering the festival at POV, BeatRoute, and odds and ends here. Stuff is quite heavily embargoed this year (understandably so - it's fair for us to be asked to hold coverage), so reviews and whatnot won't appear as quickly as they normally would. Stay tuned for things as they appear before, during, and after the festival.

8/30/2018

'Cardinals' a Brilliant Simmering Puzzler

Cardinals
(Canada, 84 min.)
Dir. Aidan Shipley, Grayson Moore; Writ. Grayson Moore
Starring: Sheila McCarthy, Noah Reid, Katie Boland, Grace Glowicki, Peter MacNeill, Peter Spence
Sheila McCarthy stars in Cardinals
D Films
Sheila McCarthy gives the performance of her career in Cardinals. Is this really the same woman who was so effervescent and full of life in I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing? If McCarthy made audiences soar with Mermaids, she lets them feel the sharp pain of hitting rock bottom in Cardinals. Playing Valerie Walker, a suburban mother who returns home from prison after serving time for killing her neighbour in an alleged drunk driving incident, her subdued performance is a master class in restraint. I am in awe of her intensity and focus.

8/24/2018

Riding the Waves

Breath
(Australia, 115 min.)
Dir. Simon Baker, Writ. Gerard Lee, Simon Baker, Tim Winton
Starring: Samson Coulter, Ben Spence, Simon Baker, Elizabeth Debicki, Richard Roxburgh
surfing boys australia
Adolescence feels a lot like being underwater. It has a certain murkiness and it takes a lot of feeling one’s way around to find direction. Add the feeling that time works against you while struggling to navigate this uncharted territory: there’s only so long before going up for air. This sense of suffocation, of life closing in on you the deeper you get, becomes more turbulent as the waves crash down and send you tumbling.


8/16/2018

Eggs Splattered on the Floor

Never Saw It Coming
(Canada, 83 min.)
Dir. Gail Harvey, Writ. Linwood Barclay
Starring: Emily Hampshire, Eric Roberts, Tamara Podemski, Shaun Benson, Katie Boland, Nick Serino
Emily Hampshire and Eric Roberts star in Never Saw It Coming
Keisha Ceylon is a small town charlatan. She moonlights as a psychic, helping families of the small snowy town of Sorrow Bay find their missing loved ones, but only after she gets their cash. Five grand nets a few easily plucked clues and everyone generally leaves the transaction happy.

Marky Mark and the Bloody Bunch

Mile 22
(USA, 95 min.)
Dir. Peter Berg; Writ. Lea Carpenter, Graham Roland (story)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, John Malkovich, Iwo Uwais, Rhonda Rousey, Peter Berg
Mark Wahlberg stars in Mile 22
VVS Films
Mile 22 opens with a bang and doesn’t let up. Mark Wahlberg and company deliver high octane, heavy calibre entertainment playing a group of covert operatives on a dangerous mission to transport and protect a key witness. Mile 22 is a slick, swift, and energetic thrill ride. It is also relentlessly, savagely, and exhaustingly violent. The flick’s going to please its target audience, but I just don’t have the stomach for this kind of movie anymore.

8/09/2018

Talking 'Blindspotting' with Daveed Diggs

two guys in a convenience store
Daveed Diggs (right) stars in Blindspotting with Rafael Casal
VVS Films
New interview! Pick up a copy of BeatRoute if you’re in the Vancouver area this month to read a funchat with Daveed Diggs, the star and co-writer of the new urban drama Blindspotting. Diggs, who won a Tony and a Grammy for his work in the Broadway game-changer Hamilton, stars as Collin, an Oakland native who returns emerges from prison to see his city transformed in a state of rapid gentrification. It’s an urgent film, as Collin witnesses a police shooting of an unarmed Black man and navigates the deeply entrenched systems of inequality while trying to find middle ground between justice for his fallen brother and safety for his own life. With the beat of the city and the pulse of true poetry, Blindspotting is not to be missed.



8/01/2018

Xavier Dolan Steals TIFF's Canadian Conference (Again)

Jacob Tremblay in Xavier Dolan's The Death and Life of John F. Donovan
Jacob Tremblay in Xavier Dolan's The Death and Life of John F. Donovan Courtesy of TIFF
I tip my hat to Xavier Dolan! The Québécois wunderkind stole the TIFF Canadian press conference two years in a row with the same movie. TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey pulled a rabbit out of his hat by making the surprise announcement that Dolan’s long-awaited English-language debut The Death and Life of John F. Donovan would World Premiere as a Special Presentation. The news was confirmed by the festival press office via a release sent immediately following the announcement.


TIFF Unveils CanCon for 2018: Arcand, Sweeney, Giroux headline dramatic front


Bruce Sweeney's Kingsway is among the notable Canadian premieres
TIFF
The TIFF Canadian line-up is and it’s…a bit underwhelming. There’s some good stuff, to be sure, like the documentaries including the World Premieres of Rob Stewart’s Sharkwater: Extinction and Igor Drljaca’s The Stone Speakers. (Readmore about the docs at POV.) But, beyond those titles, TIFF might have been smart to reserve some of the four Canadian films announced last week, like Patricia Rozema’s Moutpiece and Don McKellar’s Through Black Spruce for today. They’re doing the media line, anyways, and are bound to dominate the coverage.

7/27/2018

Filling Meryl's Muumuu

Shock and Awe
(USA, 89 min.)
Dir. Rob Reiner, Writ. Joey Hartstone
Starring: Woody Harrelson, James Marsden, Rob Reiner, Tommy Lee Jones, Jessica Biel, Milla Jovovich, Luke Tennie
News editor at his desk
Rob Reiner stars in Shock and Awe
Rob Reiner really should have worn a caftan during his rousing “yay, journalism!” moment in Shock and Awe. The director and star of Shock and Awe has a big golden muumuu to fill coming to theatres on the heels of The Post. Reiner simply proves that when it comes to acting, he’s no Meryl Streep and when it comes to directing, he’s no Steven Spielberg.


7/17/2018

Taking the First Step

Mary Goes Round
(Canada, 84 min.)
Written and directed by Molly McGlynn
Starring: Aya Cash, John Ralston, Sara Waisglass, Melanie Nicholls-King
Girl in a toque on a merry go round
Her name is Mary and she’s an alcoholic.


7/12/2018

Having Their Cake and Eating It Too

The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger
(Canada, 92 min.)
Written and directed by Katherine Schlemmer
Starring: Matt Baram, Grace Lynn Kung, Mark Forward 
Unhappy couple eating dinner
This week’s quirky microbudget Canadian dramedy opening at the Carlton is The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger. Not to be confused with Xavier Dolan’s always-in-the-works The Death and Life of John F. Donovan starring Kit Harrington, Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain, and Susan Sarandon, this offbeat little oddity is as far away from the visual panache of the Dolan world as one can get. Writer/director Katherine Schlemmer concentrates on the characters and “what if” scenarios of connection and chance that her slightly speculative film develops. Most of the budget probably went to catering, but to Naardlinger’s credit, this is a rare Canadian film in which the actors actually eat their spring mix instead of just pushing it around their plates.


7/11/2018

"I'm No Spring Chicken"

Where is Kyra?
(USA, 98 min.)
Written and directed by Andrew Dosunmu
Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Kiefer Sutherland 
Catwoman ages gracefully
“I’m no spring chicken!” quips Kyra late in this film. She struggles to get work two years after losing her job, at which she was supposedly quite successful, and now she toils the demoralizing grind of unemployment. Few people, unfortunately, want an overqualified woman with wrinkles on the payroll. Pfeiffer dives deeply into this character study that demands every inch of her maturity as an actress. It’s a quietly powerful and immersive performance—one of Pfeiffer’s most surprisingly turns and arguably one of her strongest.


7/09/2018

Chatting 'Sorry to Bother You' with Boots Riley

New interview! Chatting Sorry to Bother You with director Boots Riley over at BeatRoute. You can catch this zany comedy in theatres starting Friday.

 

7/02/2018

2018 in Review: The Best Films of the Year so Far

Won't You Be My Neighbor?, Isle of Dogs, Fake Tattoos, Meditation Park, American Animals,
and Sweet Country rank as some of the year's best films so far.
2018 slept in, but what started as a slow year for movies has become a strong one. I’ll admit that I’m still not covering as many films as I’d like to here, but there are a lot of films worth championing that I’ve let slip through the cracks and want to take the time to spotlight.


6/28/2018

A Tale of Two Genre Films

Aden Young in The Unseen and Oluniké Adeliyi in Darken
Canadians make a lot of special effects driven movies, but they’re often for Hollywood producers. Genre films made with Canadian dollar aren’t particularly rare, either, but good ones often are. The works of David Cronenberg, Splice, Enemy, Pontypool, and most recently Les affamés, which must be the contemporary hallmark for great Canadian horror, are standouts. These titles are arguably auteur-driven films rather than genre pieces, and few of the films in between aren’t memorable. But they shouldn’t be the exception to the rule.

6/27/2018

'Marlina' Cooks Up Bloody Good Revenge

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts
(Indonesia/Malaysia/France, 93 min.)
Dir. Mouly Surya; Writ. Mouly Surya, Garin Nugroho, Rama Adi
Starring: Marsha Timothy, Egy Fedly, Dea Panendra
A woman sits around the table as men lie on the floor
They say revenge is a dish best served cold. A tepid lunch honestly doesn’t benefit anyone and revenge, like cooking, is best served piping hot with fiery gusto. That’s how Marlina cooks up a four-course meal of wrathful revenge. Let the last meal for any man who wrongs her be a heaping portion of incendiary, tongue-burning rage. 


6/21/2018

Interview: Chatting 'American Animals' with Bart Layton for the TFCA

Catch one of the best films of the year so far when American Animals hits theatres starting this week. It's a lively heist hybrid movie, a fascinating slice of true crime from director Bart Layton, whose The Imposter has to be one of the wildest films I've seen at Hot Docs. I had the pleasure of interviewing  Layton for the Toronto Film Critics Association and we chatted about hybrids, heist films, and going beyond the sentimental cheap shot of "true" stories.

Millennials and Marriage

Paper Year
(Canada, 90 min.)
Written and directed by Rebecca Addelman
Starring: Eve Hewson, Avan Jogia, Andie MacDowell, Hamish Linklater, Grace Glowicki
Pacific Northwest Pictures
The traditional gift for one’s first anniversary is paper. Maybe a card, a certificate, or a photograph might find its way into some wrappings as newlyweds celebrate their first year of marriage. Franny (Eve Hewson, Enough Said) and Dan (Avan Jogia, Ghost Wars) gift themselves an ironic piece of paper when Paper Year takes stock at their first year of marriage. This dramedy from Ottawa-born filmmaker Rebecca Addelman illustrates with bittersweet humour how the best gifts are often paper—and by that, I mean receipts.

6/07/2018

'Prodigals': Keeping It Real in the Soo

Prodigals
(Canada, 108 min.)
Dir. Michelle Ouellet, Writ. Nicholas Carella
Starring: David Alpay, Sara Canning, Kaniehtiio Horn, Andrew Francis, David Kaye, Nicholas Carella, Jameson Parker, Brian Markinson 
Prodigas directed by Michelle Ouellet
David Alpay and Sara Canning star in Prodigals
LevelFilm
Prodigals is a new stage to screen production featuring a complicated legal trial and an even trickier romantic triangle. While the courtroom scenes might reveal the film’s theatrical origins, director Michelle Ouellet and writer Nicholas Carella open up the material remarkably. Who knew the quiet steel town of Sault Ste. Marie could be a backdrop for bigger drama? The Soo once again gets a starring role after its breakout turn in Edwin Boyd and its bargain bin appearance in Compulsion. Ouellet gives the Soo a crisp sense of place with Prodigals, particularly in the spicy Italian attitude that gives provides the city’s best flavours. Whatever one makes of the courtroom drama or the love story, one must admire the authentic character of the surroundings.


6/06/2018

Interview: Talking with 'Beast' Director Michael Pearce at Beatroute

 A favourite from TIFF, which I caught while covering the Platform competition, Beast hits theatres June 15. Film about a girl in love with a potential predator has an extra bite playing post-Weinstein!

Had a chance to speak with Pearce recently for BeatRoute to discuss the film and his process. Pick up a copy if you're in Vancouver!

Read it online here.

6/05/2018

Documentary-like Realism

Fail to Appear
(Canada, 68 min.)
Written and directed by Antoine Bourges
Starring: Deragh Campbell, Nathan Roder

At what point does drama end and documentary begin? Writer/director Antoine Bourges tightrope walks the line between fiction and non-fiction in Fail to Appear, but he isn’t aiming for hybrid hijinks. This intriguing film mines the aesthetics of documentary filmmaking through the lens of neorealism and the result is a unique work of docu-ish-fiction: a film that is, for all purposes, narrative dramatic fiction, but seems as authentic as life itself.


6/04/2018

'Les affamés' Leads Quebec's Prix Iris Winners

Zombie girl and her mother stand in front of a pile of junk
Les affamés
Emmanuel Crombez / Les Films Séville
It was a zombie apocalypse last night in Quebec! The Prix Iris, Quebec's equivalent to the Canadian Screen Awards and Oscars, were gobbled up by Robin Aubert and his team for Les affamés. The chilling ensemble drama stars Marc-André Grondin, Monia Chokri, and Brigitte Poupart as a group of rural Quebeckers as the lone survivors of a zombie outbreak. The film scored eight awards in total between last nights honours and the artistic and technical awards handed out earlier in the week. Les affamés scored wins in top categories including Best Film, Best Director for Aubert, Best Supporting Actress for Brigitte Poupart, and the annual honour of being the most acclaimed film outside Quebec.


5/31/2018

Tris and Finn Ride the Love Boat

Adrift
(USA, 95 min.)
Dir. Baltasar Kormákur; Writ. Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell, David Branson Smith
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin
Man and woman in a boat in stormy weather
Sam Claflin and Shailene Woodley star in Adrift
VVS Films
Adrift will inevitably headline Netflix’s playlist “Movies with a Strong Female Lead,” but this film really needs to be seen in a theatre. It’s a gripping romantic adventure on the high seas—Johnny Depp free!—as two young lovers combat the elements and struggle to survive on open water. The film sees YA franchises collide as Divergent’s Shailene Woodley teams up with The Hunger Games’ Sam Claflin to play Tami Oldman and to Richard Sharp. Tami and Richard are real-world adventurers basking in the sunsets of the Pacific Ocean on an ill-fated voyage home. A terrible storm leaves their ship ruined and adrift in the water as they cling to life against the elements. Their love story ensures that audiences will never let go while holding on to Adrift’s adventure.

5/30/2018

Schrader Reformed

First Reformed
(USA, 113 min.)
Written and directed by Paul Schrader
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Philip Ettinger, Cedric Kyles, Victoria Hill
Paul Schrader's First Reformed
Preach, Paul Schrader, preach! Schrader returns with his best film yet as a director. First Reformed is a dark, brooding, and suspenseful masterwork of tone, character, and real world urgency. After the disaster of The Canyons, which I actually sorta liked despite its flaws and awful lead performance by James Deen, Schrader seemed relegated to B-level obscurity. He’s back, stronger than ever, and ready to make those who doubted him say a few rosaries.

5/27/2018

"May You Live a Long Life."

Disobedience
(UK/USA, 115 min.)
Dir. Sebastián Lelio; Writ. Sebastián Lelio, Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola, Allan Cordunier
Sebastian Lelio Disobedience
Courtesy Mongrel Media
“May you live a long life.” One could possibly make a drinking game with how often this sentence appears in Disobedience. The saying is one of mourning, unique to Anglophone Jewish communities (according to the Internet) that carries different weights and meanings depending on the context and sincerity with which one says it. On the surface, it signals a celebration of life to someone who has lost a loved one.


5/24/2018

'Kayak to Klemtu': Where Roots Run Deep

Kayak to Klemtu
(Canada, 90 min.)
Dir. Zoe Hopkins; Writ. Zoe. Hopkins, Michael Sparaga, Scooter Corkle
Starring: Ta’Kaiya Blaney, Lorne Cardinal, Sonja Bennett, Evan Adams, Jared Ager-Foster
Courtesy Mongrel Media
Many documentaries chronicle the impact of the oil trade on BC’s oceans and coastal communities. Few dramas, however, invite audiences to build relationships and emotional connections with inhabitants of the land who struggle with this conflict. Oddly enough, writer/director Zoe Hopkins makes her feature debut with Kayak to Klemtu, which draws inspiration from the filmmaker’s effort to document stories from her community of Bella Bella as residents testified to the impact of oil tanker traffic in the Inside Passage. This serpentine waterway is far too congested—an accident waiting to happen in one of the most beautiful landscapes in Canada. Hopkins instead offers a hopeful and accessible story that shares with audiences a deep connection to the land and waters worth preserving.


5/17/2018

Mommy Issues Haunt 'The Child Remains'

The Child Remains
(Canada, 107 min.)
Written and directed by Michael Melski
Starring: Suzanne Clément, Allan Hawco, Shelley Thompson
Allan Hawco and Suzanne Clément in The Child Remains
Suzanne Clément checks into the East Coast branch of the Bates’ Motel in The Child Remains. The Mommy star encounters mommy issues at a creepy B&B in Nova Scotia, but they’re more of the Gus Van Sant variety than the Alfred Hitchcock pedigree. Despite an eerie setting and an earnest attempt to provide old-school horror on a shoestring budget, The Child Remains struggles to chill. Yelp reviews are often more terrifying.


Cannes Review: 'The Gentle Indifference of the World'

The Gentle Indifference of the World
(Kazakhstan/France, 100 min.)
Dir. Adilkhan Yerzhanov, Writ. Adilkhan Yerzhanov, Roelof Jan Minneboo
Starring: Dinara Baktybayeva, Kuandyk Dyussembayev  
Adilkhan Yerzhanov, Dinara Baktybayeva, Kuandyk Dyussembayev
Courtesy Cannes
As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself…I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again.
-Albert Camus, The Stranger


4/20/2018

Hot Docs Coverage at POV!

Apologies for the radio silence! We've been busy with Hot Docs preparations at POV including the new issue, which features a snazzy redesign and...baby's first cover story! Pick up a copy to read about new Hot Docs features like Grant Baldwin's This Mountain Life and Shasha Nakhai's Take Light, as well as picks for the hottest films from the first 25 years of Hot Docs.

Coverage:

-Food for Thought: Maya Gallus's The Heat - Chatting with the director of Hot Docs' opening night film about female chefs breaking through a male-dominated field.

-A Song of Reconciliation: The Power of Gurrumul - Director Paul Williams and producer Shannon Swan discuss their film about the late Australian singer.

-"Rocky Mountain High: Grant Baldwin's The Mountain Life" - Be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the mountains in this visually stunning trek with a mother-daughter duo.

-"Ain't that America: The Films of Barbara Kopple" - a look at the career of Barbara Kopple, this year's Outstanding Achievement Retrospective subject at Hot Docs. She's easily my favourite documentary filmmaker. Harlan County, USA is my pick for the best doc ever made.

-"An Acadian Tragedy: Samara Chadwick's 1999": chatted with director Samara Chadwick about her haunting film that returns to her high school in Moncton, New Brunswick, which saw a wave of suicides at the eve of the new Millennium.

- "Tube Stakes: Michael Sparaga's United We Fan": Director Michael Sparaga discusses his film about passionate TV fans who campaign to save their favourite shows.

Reviews:
-The American Meme
-Andy Irons: Kissed by God
-Anote's Ark
-Bathtubs Over Broadway
-Call Her Ganda
-Constructing Albert  
-Don't Be Nice
-Eternity Never Surrendered
-Grit
-Harvest Moon
-The Heat
-I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story
-Letter from Masanjia
-Love, Gilda 
-McQueen 
-Netizens
-On Her Shoulders
-Pick of the Litter
-Playing Hard
-The Reckoning: Hollywood's Worst Kept Secret
-Shorts: Prince's Tale and Turning Tables
-Snowbirds
-The Strange Sound of Happiness
-Witkin & Witkin

4/02/2018

'Boost': Between the Tiles of the Mosaic

Boost
(Canada, 95 min.)
Written and directed by Darren Curtis
Starring: Nabil Rajo, Jahmil French, Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Oluniké Adeliyi, Fanny Mallette, Brent Skagford, Théo Pellerin
Boost Darren Curtis
Screenie winner Nabil Rajo stars as Hakeem
One of my guilty pleasure when it comes to cheap Canadian cinema nobody’s heard of is Darren Curtis and Pat Kiely’s cracked-out and ridiculous comedy Who is KK Downey? A wonderful discovery at the 2008 Kingston Canadian Film Festival that some of my friends still cite as a reason why they won’t see Canadian films with me, KK Downey is a riotously silly parody of faux-author JT LeRoy who gained fame by penning a bestseller allegedly based on a previous life as a truck stop hustler. It’s a hoot largely due to its madcap direction and to Curtis’s fearlessly looney performance as the privileged white guy who crafts a story of oppression to sell his shitty book.


3/22/2018

Doggy Style

Isle of Dogs
(USA, 101 min.)
Written and directed by Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Koyu Rankin, Liev Schreiber, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Courtney B. Vance, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Give Wes Anderson a bone! His latest film Isle of Dogs is pooch perfection. Even a die-hard cat person will fall head over heels in love with this movie and leave the theatre doing little back flips whilst yapping for joy.


3/11/2018

Canadian Screen Award Film Winners (In Progress)

Sally Hawkins stars in Maudie
Mongrel Media
Maudie leads this year's Canadian Screen Awards haul with seven honours. The Canadian-Irish co-production scooped the Best Picture prize along with honours for UK-based director Aisling Walsh. Brit Sally Hawkins won a well-deserved Best Actress award for her astonishing transformation as folk painter Maud Lewis, who suffered from crippling arthritis. Hawkins' impeccable performance added to a great contribution to Canadian film by the actress, who starred in this year's Best Picture Oscar winner The Shape of Water, which was shot in Toronto and Hamilton. Maudie also scored an acting gong for Ethan Hawke, who really should have won last year too for his performance as Chet Baker in the biopic Born to Be Blue.


Canadian Screen Awards Preview: Picks and Foolish Predictions

Brigitte Poupart in Les affamés - the only Best Picture nominee that's truly excellent
Emmanuel Crombez / Les Films Séville
The Canadian Screen Awards are tonight and it’s an evening to quietly celebrate a so-so year in Canadian film. The roster of nominees indicates that the nomination committees went out of their way to find a diverse group of contenders and unearthed some buried nuggets, but few of these films screened theatrically and some of them barely made a peep on the festival circuit. A lot of the best Canadian work was short changed. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it qualifying runs don’t help much either when it comes to giving audiences a chance to see the films. Canadian television seems to be picking up steam with Schitt's Creek and Alias Grace expanding their wow factors beyond the land of the maple leaf, but our films are struggling.


3/10/2018

Doesn't Stir the Heart

The Heart is What Dies Last (C’est le cœur qui meurt en dernier)
(Canada, 105 min.)
Dir. Alexis Durand-Brault, Writ. Gabriel Sabourin
Starring: Gabriel Sabourin, Denise Filiatrault, Paul Doucet, Geneviève Rioux, Céline Bonnier, Sophie Lorain
Denise Filiatrault in The Heart is What Dies Last
Les Films Séville
This year’s totally random Canadian Screen Award nominee for Best Picture is The Heart is What Dies Last. It’s titled less awkwardly as C’est le coeur quit meurt en dernier in its native français, but presenters probably won’t be stumbling over syntax while ripping open the envelopes. It’s a fine, decently acted drama, but nothing to make the heart stir.

3/08/2018

Henderson Doesn't Miss a Beat

Never Steady, Never Still
(Canada, 112 min.)
Written and directed by Kathleen Hepburn
Starring: Shirley Henderson, Théodore Pellerin, Mary Galloway, Nicholas Campbell, Jared Abrahamson, Lorne Cardinal
Kathleen Hepburn Never Steady Never Still
Shirley Henderson stars as Judy in Never Steady, Never Still
Shirley Henderson, the actress with the squeaky voice, is a tremendous force in Never Steady, Never Still. This debut feature from Kathleen Hepburn gives the British actress an outstanding lead role as Judy, a woman living in oil country, BC, who experiences a tragic illness because of contamination from the fields. Judy suffers from crippling tremors having lived with Parkinson’s disease for twenty years and Henderson finds in the character the same empathy and strength that Sally Hawkins brought to her performance as severely arthritic painter Maud Lewis in Maudie. The physical power of this performance is incredible, but the emotional might is even greater.


3/05/2018

Safe, but Sound: Thoughts on Last Night's Oscars


“This is a really long show,” said Jimmy Kimmel while introducing last night’s Academy Awards broadcast. Kimmel started on the wrong note. The Oscars never seemed to end, but the duration wasn’t the problem. The monotony was. I could barely hear much of the show at the Oscar party I attended, and after a while, that wasn’t a bad thing because the banter in the room was often much livelier than the telecast. There wasn’t any big hiccup in the show, yet Kimmel kept apologizing and asking folks to move it along when he had no reason to say sorry. The absence of Envelopegate 2 stressed a big takeaway from the evening: safe doesn’t make for great TV.

3/04/2018

Oscar Party: Menu and Playlist

The ballots are printed, the predictions are set, and the red carpet is ready! A laid back atmosphere can make or break any good Oscar party as friends become rivals when battle lines are drawn between Three Billboards, Lady Bird, and Get Out. (Anyone without a stake in the race should take a bathroom break during Best Original Screenplay.) Help create a cozy and convivial mood with some themed Oscar noms for this year’s contenders. Draw out the finer points of the films over bubbly and have a good laugh: tonight’s for celebrating.

3/01/2018

Oscar Predictions: Final Round - Will Win/Should Win

Billboards, Lady Bird, Darkest Hour, The Post, The Shape of Water, and I, Tonya
For every ‘yup’ there’s a ‘but.’ This year’s Best Picture race is an unlikely field. Some major stat looks to be broken since all the contenders have a bit of baggage that decreases the odds of a confident win. Get ready for the Oscars to break the Internet on Sunday night! Awards season ends its six-month grind of toxic mudslinging on March 4th when either Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri or The Shape of Water takes Best Picture. It’s a tight race with Get Out, Dunkirk, and Lady Bird having adoring fans, and after last year’s crazy finale, the memory of #OscarsSoWhite, the shadow of Harvey Weinstein, the stench of Donald Trump, and the energy of #TimesUp, it feels as if there are many factors percolating with the usual stats and precursors. With an open mind, let’s look at who will win and should win in the top categories!


2/23/2018

'Les affamés' is the Best Canadian Horror Film in Years

Les affamés (The Ravenous)
(Canada, 96 min.)
Written and directed by Robin Aubert
Starring: Marc-André Grondin, Monia Chokri, Charlotte St-Martin, Micheline Lanctôt, Brigitte Poupart, Marie-Ginette Guay, Robert Brouillette
Robin Aubert's Les affames (The Ravenous)
Marc-André Grondin in Les affamés
Emmanuel Crombez / Les Films Séville
Some call it home and others call it cottage country, but what often draws one to the rural regions of Canada is the silence. The quiet and leafy countryside can be an idyllic reminder of a way of life that seems forgotten in the fast-paced and impersonal cities to which everyone flocks. There’s something truly beautiful, however, about sitting back and watching the sunset over grassy plains rather than through tightly packed condos, smelling pine-scented air rather than carcinogenic smog, or being in a neighbourhood where people wave rather than accuse randomly you of offending them. The sound of silence rather than the din of traffic. This image of “Canada” doesn’t really fit the cultural imagination anymore, but it hasn’t died away.