Doppelgänger Paul (Or a Review About How Much I Hate Myself)

Doppelgänger Paul (Or a Film About How Much I Hate Myself)
(Canada, 81 min.)
Dir. Kris Elgstrand, Dylan Akio Smith; Writ. Kris Elgstrand
Starring: Brad Dryborough, Tygh Runyan, Ben Cotton, Matty Finochio.
I hate myself for hating Doppelgänger Paul, since it’s a quirky little Canadian movie with a wonderful premise. Paul (Brad Dryborough) finds a note on his door from a man named Karl. Karl believes that Paul is his doppelgänger (i.e.: his double), so he has been following him since the two first crossed paths. It’s a strange, absurdist situation that has the potential to unfurl many philosophical musings. Unfortunately, though, Paul agrees to meet Karl immediately. Before the opening title card appears, the pair convenes in the park. Upon seeing Karl (Tygh Runyan), the first words out of Paul’s mouth are, “You look nothing like me!” Most people would have started running, but Paul decides to befriend his creepy stalker.


Don't Bring Grandma

The Raid: Redemption
(Indonesia/USA, 101 min.)
Written and directed by Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Yayan Rahuyian, Doni Alamsayah.
(Sung to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”)
Broken bones and blood and gore, blood and gore, blood and gore;
Broken bones and blood and gore,
La la la la laaaaaaaaa la.


Mad Men is Back!

Saw this clip from Sunday's premiere of "Mad Men" over at Awards Daily and thought I'd share. I thought Sunday's return of "Mad Men" was great and worth the wait of the seventeen-month hiatus. I think what really worked best about this double episode was how well the show integrated both Don's home and his workplace. In the past four seasons, Don's public and private life have been very separate; however, Sunday showed how these worlds come together after Don's spur-of-moment marriage to his exotic Canadian secretary, Megan (played by Montreal native Jessica Paré). Anyways, the highlight of the premiere occurred during Don's 40th birthday party. It was a surprise party thrown by Megan, which included the bigger surprise of a sexy cabaret number by the new Mrs. Draper. Proof that it's sometimes good not to mix business with pleasure:

How much did you enjoy Sunday's "Mad Men"?


The Philosophical Quagmires of Mr. Werner Herzog

Into the Abyss
(USA/UK/Germany, 107 min.)
Written and directed by Werner Herzog.
Into the Abyss is a meditation on the penalties of life and death as could only be achieved by director Werner Herzog. The filmmaker, who brought a unique philosophical inquisitiveness to non-fiction films like Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World, and more recently Cave of Forgotten Dreams, once again probes the human condition in Into the Abyss. It’s a provocative and thoughtful study on capital punishment. 


Let the Games Begin!

The Hunger Games
(USA, 142 min.)
Dir. Gary Ross, Writ. Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray.
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz, Alexander Ludwig, Donald Sutherland.
As I sat in the crowded theatre waiting for The Hunger Games to begin, I took note of the fact that the screening was jam packed for 10:30 am on a weekday. It was not a holiday, so hordes of students were clearly playing hooky so that they could experience the latest teen movie sensation before the other kids in school. It was nice to see so many people excited about a film; however, as the coming attractions began, the previews advertised a new Cabin in the Woods; the remake of Spider Man, since the 2002 reboot wasn’t recent enough; Titanic 3-D; the Iron Man/Thor/Hulk/Captain America gangbang The Avengers; and Twilight 4: Part 2. It’s scary that the most original film appeared to be this year’s second adaptation of Snow White. The Hunger Games, however, looks to be that franchise that has long eluded Hollywood.


It's Tilda Time!

The wait is over, Ottawa! We Need to Talk About Kevin is finally playing at a theatre near you. Opening today at The ByTowne, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a stunner. (It also opened to a 5-star review in The Citizen.) Based on the acclaimed best-selling novel by Lionel Shriver, We Need to Talk About Kevin is an excellent adaptation of the harrowing story of a mother, Eva (played by Tilda Swinton), who must confront her role in the nature/nurture debate when her son, Kevin (the impressive Ezra Miller), commits a school shooting. The real horror, Eva discovers, may be that she is the monster in the relationship because she never loved her son at all.

I saw We Need to Talk About Kevin at TIFF in the fall and it absolutely floored me. A truly powerful film despite the difficult subject matter, Kevin is wholly accessible thanks to the unique and personable style of director Lynne Ramsay. (I had the pleasure of teaching her first feature, Ratcatcher, while TA-ing Film 1000 last year, and I can honestly say that she is one of the strongest, most original voices in contemporary filmmaking.) Kevin made my list of Top Ten films of 2011 thanks to the power with which Ramsay tells this story; moreover, both Swinton and Miller made my lists for the Ten Best lead and supporting performances, respectively. Tilda Swinton makes the film especially harrowing, as she gives the performance of her career as Eva. The whole drama of We Need to Talk About Kevin plays out on Swinton's face as she relives and imagines the horror of Kevin's crimes. She was truly robbed of an Oscar nomination. Regardless, you'll agree she's in top form. If you care at all about supporting the best and bravest in cinema, you'll be talking about Kevin in the days to come. 


Landscape of Tragedy

Wetlands (Marécages)
(Canada, 111 min.)
Written and directed by Guy Édoin
Starring: Pascale Bussières, Gabriel Maillé, Luc Picard, François Papineau
The family in Wetlands (Marécages) has an intimate relationship with their land. Marie (Pascale Bussières, French Immersion) first appears stark naked as she walks through her wheat fields, through the tall grass and into the wetlands that surround her farm. Her son, Simon (Gabriel Maillé), is introduced playing in a tree. Correction: he is introduced while in a tree, playing with himself. Wetlands then offers a close-up as Simon’s semen dribbles onto a leaf and slides down like a raindrop or a spot of dew. Margaret Atwood, eat your heart out. 


Villeneuve to Adapt Saramago!

Julianne Moore in 2008's Blindness

I don't know how I missed this story, but Variety reports that director Denis Villeneuve's follow up film to Incendies will be an adaptation of José Saramago's 2002 novel The Double. I read the book this summer and quite enjoyed it. It's about a lonely man named Tertuliano Maximo Afonso who rents a video one day and sees his doppelganger in a small role in the film. Afonso becomes fascinated/disturbed at the sight of himself in another world, so he sifts through an endless range of material on VHS to better learn his double, and his quest eventually leads him to confront the man himself. Jake Gyllenhaal is tapped to star, so one can assume that the leading man will not be named Tertuliano Maximo Afonso. That won't fit on a marquee.

It's an odd, if convoluted premise, but, as always, Saramago is a master storyteller and he fills The Double with all sorts of philosophical goodness that seems right up Villeneuve's alley. The director will not be writing the script himself - Spanish screenwriter Javier Gullionwill be penning the adaptation. The film, titled An Enemy, will be a Canada/Spain coproduction, with Canadian producer Niv Fichman overseeing production. Fichman produced the 2008 film adaptation of Saramago's Blindness (pictured), starring Julianne Moore. Blindness is my favourite book, but I don't think the film was quite on par with the novel. I do, however, look forward to seeing how this one turns out!


Hot Docs Announces Films for 2012

The schedule and list of titles for Hot Docs 2012 was announced today. Hot Docs, Toronto’s weeklong non-fiction showcase, is North America’s largest festival and market for documentary filmmaking. Hot Docs has 189 titles slated to screen and has selected Alison Klayman's Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry to open the festival after its success at Sundance. Also among the film selections are the James Franco doc Francophrenia; Marley, the Bob Marley film by Kevin Macdonald; and Detropia, a portrait of Detroit in decay by the directors of the Oscar-nominated Jesus Camp. As you can see, I’m often keen on docs that explore questions of culture and celebrity, so one film that I’m particularly hoping to see is Despite the Gods, which shows the making of a Hollywood/Bollywood action film and is described as an “unforgiving behind-the-scenes look at Jennifer Lynch’s disastrous return to filmmaking after a 15-year hiatus.” I’m also always on the lookout for good Canadian docs. Among the Made in Canada titles in the festival are Theo Fleury: Playing with Fire; The Final Member, which chronicles the quest to add a human specimen to Iceland’s “penis museum”; and 5 new films from the National Film Board: The Mystery ofMazo de la Roche, Petra's Poem, Legend of a Warrior, Who Cares? and The Boxing Girls of Kabul.

To Rome with Love

Woody Allen & Penelope Cruz on the set of To Rome with Love
A batch of photos from the latest film by Woody Allen have been unveiled. To Rome with Love (formerly titled The Bop Decameron and then Nero Fiddled) brings Woody back to Italy. (You might recall that his 1996 musical Everyone Says I Love You was partially shot in Venice.) It also brings Woody back in front of the camera, giving himself his first acting job since 2006's Scoop. As with all of Woody's European romps, Rome will examine the lives and loves of various American tourists and ex-pats. Among the cast are Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Roberto Benigni, Greta Gerwig and Penelope Cruz (yay!), who won an Oscar for Woody's Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I'm very excited and can't wait until the film opens in limited release June 22.
(more pics available at The Playlist)


Just Stay Home

Jeff, Who Lives at Home
(USA, 83 min.)
Written and directed by Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass
Starring: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer, Rae Dawn Chong.
Meet Jeff. He is thirty, single, and unemployed. Jeff also lives at home. (Title drop!) He’s a real catch… for a contestant on Baggage. Luckily, though, Jeff is a quiet and introspective man. The film informs the audience so by opening with a visionary title card that offers a prophetic message from Jeff, who tells the audience to look for signs that will reveal their purpose in life. Audiences be warned: this is a sign.


Meanwhile, in Independent Filmmaking...

(USA, 58 min.)
Written and directed by Hal Hartley
Starring: DJ Mendel, Chelsea Crowe, Penelope Lagos, Miho Nikaido, Stephen Ellis.
When seeing Hartley’s Simple Men a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but squirm in my seat as I realized that the film would have been ended twenty minutes sooner had every character not repeated his/her lines twice. Thankfully, then, the characters in Meanwhile are economical in their verbiage and the film is only a brisk 58 minutes. Hartley, meanwhile, scales back much of the eccentricities that make his films so popular, or alienating, depending on whom you ask.

Watch: 3 Clips from Edwin Boyd

Three clips from the upcoming film Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster have surfaced! Starring Scott Speedman, Kevin Durand, and Charlotte Sullivan, Edwin Boyd has its 'Canada's Top Ten' screening in Ottawa on April 11. The film is scheduled for a VOD and limited theatrical release in the US from IFC on April 27. eOne has the Canadian release date TBD. Hope these clips tide you over! Anyone have a chance to see the film at TIFF?


Will Emmy Vote 'Palin'?

Game Change
(USA, 118 min.)
Dir. Jay Roach, Writ. Danny Strong
Starring: Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Ed Harris, Peter MacNicol, Sarah Paulson.
Watch out Hollywood! If HBO keeps giving juicy roles like these, the best and brightest stars of the silver screen may eventually keep to the small screen instead. Kate Winslet gave the best work of her career last year in Mildred Pierce, and there was Claire Danes in Temple Grandin the year before, and so on, and so on. Julianne Moore is HBO’s latest running mate in Game Change, the timely adaptation of the book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann that chronicles the behind the scenes campaign to make then-Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin the next Vice President of the United States. 


Canada's Top Ten Comes to Ottawa

Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen in Take This Waltz.
Photo by Photo by Michael Gibson. Courtesy Mongrel Media

As I reported in December, TIFF unveiled its annual list of the 10 best films that Canada had to offer, called “Canada’s Top Ten.” Although such lists are always subjective, they nevertheless bring attention to worthy Canadian films and they help raise their public profiles. I’ve now seen more of the films than I had back in December and agree with some choices, yet I’m still a bit peeved that Hobo with a Shotgun made the list when better Canadian films did not. (Cough, cough, The Whistleblower.) I made my own list of the Ten Best Canadian Films back in December, too, so feel free to debate.


Blows in All Directions

Headwinds (Des vents contraires)
(France/Belgium, 91 min.)
Dir. Jalil Lespert, Writ. Jalil Lespert, Olivier Adam, Marie-Pierre Huster, Marion Laine.
Starring: Benoît Magimel, Isabelle Carré, Hugo Fernandes, Cassiopée Mayance, Justine Leblanc, Ramzy Bedia, with Lubna Azabal and Audrey Tautou.
Based on the novel by Olivier Adam, Headwinds (aka Des vents contraires in its native France) demonstrates the perils of adapting a popular novel and presuming that many viewers are familiar with its tale and characters. Adam serves as one of the films four credited screenwriters, yet the narrative and tone feel a bit too manipulated, like they have been tinkered with and tweaked in painstaking labour. It’s unfortunate, then, that despite the obvious effort to convey a wide range of style and material, Headwinds blows in one direction too many.

Bridemaids Become Baby Mamas

Friends with Kids
(USA, 107 min.)
Written and directed by Jennifer Westfeldt
Starring: Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Maya Rudolph, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox, Edward Burns.
Well, it looks like the Bridesmaids have all grown up. Sort of. Aside from some familiar faces and some thematic overlaps, Friends with Kids shares no relation to the ultra-funny 2011 blockbuster, which holds the title of being the only film to bring explosive diarrhea to the Oscars. Friends with Kids has just as much to offer as Bridesmaids, and it should appeal to a similarly wide audience despite its comparatively smaller scale. This directorial debut by Jennifer Westfeldt, who co-wrote the 2002 indie hit Kissing Jessica Stein, is, like Bridesmaids, smart and funny, and sweet and coarse. It’s the first great film of 2012.


New url!

Exciting news! I decided to grow up and get my own url for Cinemablographer.
The new url:

Blogger assures me that all links and such should stay the same and redirect traffic, but please update your browsers to the new address to ensure that you continue to get all sorts of fun and insightful coverage on the movies. Please excuse the hiccups that occur while the blog is in transition: you'll notice that tags aren't working and that the reactions have gone back to 0, for example. If you find that you're having trouble with links on/to the page, please let me know. Thanks!

Catch of the Day

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
(UK, 111 min.)
Dir. Lasse Hallström, Writ. Simon Beaufoy
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked, Rachael Stirling, Tom Mison.
Ah, romantic comedies: the realm where delightfully preposterous premises such as salmon fishing in the Yemen lure one in hook, line, and sinker. Who would think that the Middle East provides a perfectly hospitable habitat for raising salmon so that one rich Sheikh can fish to his heart’s content? All one has to do, mind you, is build a river, erect a dam, divert the flow of water, control the ecology, and then steal 10 000 fish from the fish n’ chip stands of Great Britain and airmail them to the Yemen. And do all this while at war in the Middle East, no less. A bit of a pickle, one might say.


Monsieur Lazhar wins Genie for Best Film

Monsieur Lazhar's Genie winners Philippe Falardeau and Sophie Nelisse at an event earlier this year.
Well, we can’t accuse the Oscars of being predictable. As I said in my predictions post, we pretty much knew what to expect from this year’s Genie ceremony. In this case, however, I don’t think predictability is a bad thing, simply because it shows that people are finally talking more about Canadian films, more people are seeing them (or some of them, anyways), and more people are acknowledging that there is something of value in seeing our own stars and stories onscreen. As George Stroumbouloupous said during his introduction, “It’s Canada’s time to reclaim French films at the Oscars… did you really think The Artist was ‘French’?” As expected, the big Canadian film story of 2011, Monsieur Lazhar, was the big winner. The sweet little drama, which is really putting Quebec film on the map after being Canada’s second consecutive Oscar nominee/Genie winner after Incendies, won 6 Genies including Best Picture; Best Director for Philippe Falardeau, who gave a nice speech on the importance of personal filmmaking in Canada; Best Actor for Fellag; and Best Supporting Actress for young Sophie Nelisse, who pulled one of the night’s biggest surprises.