'Quartet' Featurette

A nice featurette has appeared for Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut Quartet, starring Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, and Pauline Collins. Take a look and make sure to see the film when it hits theatres this winter. (Remember: I gave Quartet five stars when it played at TIFF earlier this month!)

The Mouse Ran Up the Clock

(USA, 118 min.)
Written and directed by Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano
“I don’t want to talk about time travel,” says Joe (Bruce Willis) to his younger self (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) during a pivotal scene of Rian Johnson’s Looper. Looper, which opens in theatres Friday after kicking-off the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month, is a smart, talky action flick that often expresses its dislike for talking. The characters say a lot in Looper, but their words frequently serve to note which people/subjects they would rather not talk with/about. Smart and self-aware, Looper is an action-pic for the thinking-crowd. It’s bound to enjoy strong fanboydom and crossover appeal, so one can see why the folks at TIFF found it so attractive.


OIAF 2012: Best of the Fest

Kali the Little Vampire. Photo from the production, courtesy of The NFB

The 2012 Ottawa International Film Festival has come to a close. It’s been a pleasure to cover the festival, especially since this was my first opportunity to write about it as accredited media. My first accredited Ottawa event, actually, so a big thanks to OIAF!

OIAF: Short Competition 4

Short Competition 4 of the Ottawa International Animation Festival offers one of the more consistently strong line-ups of the festival. SC4 features two award-worthy standouts and no duds. There are no fart jokes here; there are only inspiring works of animated art.

OIAF Review: Babeldom

(UK, 81 min.)
Written and directed by Paul Bush
Where does one start with Babeldom? Let us begin with the walkouts. Saturday night’s Gala screening at the Ottawa International Animation Festival saw a mass exodus of patrons fleeing for the doors. I have never seen so many cinephiles exit the theatre. Smart folks they were. For those of us who stayed and survived, however, we certainly played witness to the greatest turkey on the festival circuit this year. (Breathe a sigh of relief, Passion.)


OIAF: Short Competition 3


Short Competition 3 of the 2012 Ottawa International Animation Festival is a hodgepodge of animated ditties. The programme begins with three quick shorts: the cute cut-out film The Bean (Hae Jin Jung; South Korea, 5:11), the uproariously funny Cee Cee’s Bedtime Stories ‘The first Time Cee Cee Did Acid’ (Noelle Melody & Joy Vaccese; USA, 2:11), and the amusingly revolting fable Gum (Noam Sussman; Canada, 1:00). Fans of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly will probably want to catch the music video Primus ‘Lee Van Cleef’ (Chris Smith; USA, 3:24), which pits some iconic gunslingers in a bizarre spaghetti-western zombie flick. The first half of Short Competition 3 is light and fairly enjoyable.

OIAF Review: 'Consuming Spirits'

Consuming Spirits
(USA, 135 min.)
Written and directed by Chris Sullivan
Voices: Chris Sullivan, Robert Levy
Consuming Spirits shows how a quick drink is often more rewarding than an all-night rager. Some things don't hold their own in the long run, yet a quick shot avoids the nasty overkill of a hangover. A sprawling odyssey in scope and vision, Consuming Spirits could be a great film if director Chris Sullivan tightened it by half. The film plays like a masterpiece for its first hour or so, but then gradually overstays its welcome like that party guest who lingers long through the night.


OIAF: Short Competition 5

A Morning Stroll

There are a few standout films in Short Competition 5 of the Ottawa International Animation Festival, but, unfortunately, the line-up as a whole is not as strong as the others I’ve seen so far. I’ll have to admit that when I returned to the festival programme to refresh my memory on the films that screened in the series, I could not even remember seeing Amigo do Pieto (My Best Friend, Portugal, 3:07) and Boy (USA, 1:07). Did these films even screen at the festival?

OIAF: Canadian Showcase

Big Mouth. Photo taken from the production, courtesy of the NFB.

This year's Canadian showcase at the Ottawa International Film Festival spotlights a wealth of visually arresting works from our national cinema. The annual programme makes for a great showcase for the National Film Board of Canada once again, as the NFB produced five of the ten shorts in the programme, which are arguably among the strongest films tier of the programme. One NFB short, Big Mouth (8:16), got a strong review here on Cinemablographer back when I saw it at WSFF. I liked the film even better this time around since my taste for it wasn't soured by Snow Canon, the film that followed it at WSFF. Directed by Andrea Dorfman in a colorful and kid-friendly array of quirky cut-outs, Big Mouth is sure to excite the kid in all of us.

Katniss Comes to Ottawa

House at the End of the Street
(USA/Canada, 101 min.)
Dir. Mark Tonderai, Writ. Davis Loucka (screenplay), Jonathan Mostow (story)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue, Max Thieriot, Gil Bellows, Eva Link.
Well, here’s a film that’s sure to put Ottawa film production on the map. House at the End of the Street stumbles a little as thriller, but it boasts some notable work by Ottawa’s film community. This high-profile pic benefits from a strong turn by popular young actress Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games). However, before she stepped into Panem, Katniss came to Ottawa to film House at the End of the Street and the film is worth noting for the strong presence it makes for our local talents.

'Winnie' Gets a New Trailer

Winnie finally gets a new trailer. The Canadian-South African co-production tells of the love story of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, played by Terrence Howard and Jennifer Hudson. I caught the film when it played at TIFF 2011 (review here) and it's worth checking out since it features one hell of a performance by Jennifer Hudson. I had mixed feelings about the film itself, but it screened as a rough cut and I believe that some of things that prevented me from appreciating the film fully (temp. score and awkward visuals) might have since been fixed. (I'll give it a second go.) This trailer also gives a hint at the new song performed by Hudson, which plays during the end credits. (The credits didn't make the TIFF cut, either, so I can't say much else about the song.) Regardless, chalk Winnie up to the list of strong female performances for 2012 and see the film when it begins its Canadian release on October 5th from D Films.


OIAF: Short Competition 1

La viande + l'amour

Short Competition 1 of the Ottawa International Animation Festival boasts a variety of styles and techniques in animated film. Offering 18 shorts from 11 different countries (plus a handful of exciting international co-productions), Shorts Competition 1 has something for everyone. Starting things off is Paper Man 2 (Canada, 4:37), which is an impressive collage piece by David Borish. It's a fun and clever tale of boots and their toys. (Watch out for Pac Man!) As the only piece of high school animation in the series, Paper Man promises good things from the next generation of animation artists.

OIAF Review: 'Arrugas'

Arrugas (Wrinkles)
(Spain, 89 min.)
Dir. Ignacio Ferreras, Writ, Rosanna Cecchini, Ángel de la Cruz, Ignacio Ferreras, Paco Roca
Starring: Tacho González, Álvaro Guevara, Mabel Rivera
Following a wave a success in Europe, the Spanish animated feature Arrugas (Wrinkles) made its North American Premiere last night at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. Arrugas was a hot pic to begin the festival’s feature competition, as it was recently named a nominee for Best Animated Film at the European Awards following its double win at Spain’s Goya awards where it won Best Animated Feature and Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s needless to say that Arrugas is a winner.


Win Tickets to the Premiere of the Ottawa-shot Thriller 'House at the End of the Street'

Any Jennifer Lawrence fans on the web? She won our hearts as Katniss in The Hunger Games and then wowed TIFF in Silver Linings Playbook¸ but before those movies premiered, Miss Lawrence was right here in Ottawa shooting the thriller House at the End of the Street. Lawrence stars as Elissa, who moves to a new town and finds herself living next door to a house where a young girl murdered her parents. When Elissa befriends the surviving son (Max Thieriot), she learns the story is far from over. Produced by Ottawa’s ZedFilmworks, House at the End of the Street is a high-profile thriller that is sure to put our local actors and filmmakers on the map.


'Rebelle' Represents Canada at the Oscars

No surprises here. Rebelle  (War Witch), directed by Kim Nguyen, is Canada's official selection to compete in the category of Best Foreign Language Film. Telefilm Canada, which makes the decision with its Pan-Canadian selection committee, made the announcement today via Twitter. Word is that the competition came down to Rebelle, Xavier Dolan's Laurence Anyways (which took the prize for Best Canadian Feature at TIFF), and Rafael Ouellet's Camion. Rebelle is a strong choice. I caught it at TIFF (review here) and gave the film 4 stars. Rebelle opens in Ottawa this Friday at The Bytowne, so you can judge the film for yourself and join in the support. After nominations for Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar, can the third time be a charm for Canada?

Save WSFF!

It was announced in August that the CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival is going on hiatus. However, you can help save this essential platform and marketplace for short film by signing an online petition. Remember: events like WSFF are invaluable for giving emerging filmmakers a place to show their work!

'Legend of a Warrior' opens in Toronto Sept. 21

Corey Lee. Photo taken from the production, courtesy of The NFB

Amidst all this talk of festivals, I always like to keep you updated when a festival favourite makes it to a theatre near you. Starting this Friday, Toronto audiences can see the Hot Docs hit Legend of a Warrior when it opens as the inaugural film at the newly branded Projection Booth Metro and will also be screening at its successful sister cinema, Projection Booth East. Directed by Corey Lee, Legend of a Warrior is a touching story of Lee’s attempt to reconnect with his father, Frank, a successful martial arts trainer. As Lee enlists in his father’s classes and tries to bridge the distance between them through sport, Legend of a Warrior explores the father son/journey through a fix of archival footage and funky comic book-style animation. In my review for Legend of a Warrior, I wrote, “Legend of a Warrior extends the story beyond the ring and shows how training and preparation develop greater aspects of character. Legend of a Warrior, though, packs a bigger punch by avoiding a climactic round in the ring altogether and by keeping the match between father and son. By offering such a personal journey, Legend of a Warrior excels because it knows that the greatest challenge is not the sport itself.” I also gave the film my prize for Best Canadian Doc at Hot Docs this year, if one needs another incentive!


TIFF 2012: Festival Scorecard and 'Best of the Fest'

Silver Linings Playbook wins the Cadillac People's Choice Award

Eleven days and thirty-four films later, the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival has come to a close. A big thanks goes out to all the programmers, staff, and volunteers for putting on the best edition of the festival I’ve seen so far. Thanks also to all the friends – new and old – who joined me for movies this year. The only thing better than seeing so many great films is chatting about all the goodies I missed. One of the best things about TIFF is that the festival is so large that one can see 3-4 films per day and still have lots to look forward to in the upcoming months. The size of the festival might now be one of its only shortcomings, though, for it’s impossible to see everything and it’s even harder to gain much consensus since so many people see so many films. I sometimes found it frustrating when I would hear good word on a film, but only after it has quickly come and gone. Cough, cough, Silver Linings Playbook, which won the Cadillac People Choice Award. (Festival award winners can be found here.) On the other hand, it really is nice to know we’re in for some exciting months ahead.

TIFF Review: 'Lore'

(Australia/Germany, 108 min.)
Dir. Cate Shortland, Writ. Robin Mukherjee, Cate Shortland
Starring: Saskia Rosendahl, Kai Malina, Nele Trebs, Ursina Lardi, Hans-Jochen Wagner, Mika Seidel, André Frid, Eva-Maria Hagen
Lore is a brave, beautiful film. As Australia’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards, Lore is surely going places. The film marks the long awaited return of director Cate Shortland after her astounding 2004 breakthrough debut Somersault. As strong as Somersault was, though, Lore is a massive leap forward for Shortland.

TIFF Review: 'Rebelle (War Witch)'

Rebelle (War Witch)
(Canada, 90 min.)
Written and directed by Kim Nguyen
Starring: Rachel Mwanza, Alain Bastien, Serge Kanyinda, Mizinga Mwinga, Ralph Prosper
Rebelle is an underdog Canadian film that has been winning hearts since it premiered in Berlin earlier this year. It’s the affecting portrait of a Komona, a fourteen-year-old Congolese girl who has just given birth. So that her new baby can understand how it came into this world, Komona tells it the story of how she became a soldier in the rebel army.


TIFF Reviews: 'Burn it up Djassa', 'Jackie', 'Dangerous Liaisons', 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist'

Burn it up Djassa
(Ivory Coast/France, 70 min.)
Dir. Lonesome Solo, Writ. Delphine Jaquet, Yacouba Soumahoro, Ange Ali Sanogo, Lonesome Solo
Starring: Abdoul Karim Konaté, Adélaïde Ouattara, Mamadou Diomandé, Mohamed Bamba
Burn it up Djassa is a real find for festivalgoers who explored the Discovery programme at the festival this year. This debut film by Lonesome Solo marks a rare film offering from the Ivory Coast. Told in the common vernacular and with sparse energy, Burn it up Djassa uses a gritty crime drama to offer a realist look at life on the street, particularly in the slums. Some of the observational footage lingers a bit too long (Djassa features several excessive long takes), but the film shows noteworthy potential in terms of narrative and aesthetic structure. The film features a lively narrator who describes the action in interludes of slam poetry, which are then played out as live action drama. Burn it up Djassa is worth the hunt for cinephiles keen at discovering new voices in world cinema.

TIFF Review: 'The Paperboy'

The Paperboy
(USA, 107 min.)
Dir. Lee Daniels, Writ. Lee Daniels, Pete Dexter
Starring: Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, Macy Gray
Dirty, violent, sexy, and sweaty, The Paperboy is 107 minutes of B-movie goodness. Like the sinful act of picking a pair of dirty undies off the floor and putting them on without a care in the world, The Paperboy is comfortable in its own filth. This is a film that is trash and knows it.

TIFF Review: 'Twice Born'

Twice Born (Venuto Al Mondo)
(Italy/Spain, 127 min.)
Dir. Sergio Castellitto, Writ. Sergio Castellitto, Margaret Mazzantini
Starring: Penélope Cruz, Emile Hirsch, Adnan Haskovic, Saadet Aksoy, Pietro Castellitto, Luca De Filippo, Sergio Castellitto.
What does it mean to be a mother? Twice Born, based on the novel of the same name by Margaret Mazzantini, tackles the questions of family ties in a beautiful, sensual epic drama. Set against the backdrop of the Bosnian war, Twice Born finds life amidst death.

Penélope Cruz stars as Gemma, an Italian woman whose son was born in Sarajevo amidst gunfire and bombings. His father, an American photographer named Diego (Emile Hirsch), was killed at the time, but Gemma and their son, Pietro, made it back to Rome safely. Gemma has since remarried Giuliano (played by director/co-writer Sergio Castellitto) during the sixteen years that have passed since the war.

TIFF Reviews: 'Middle of Nowhere', 'Hannah Arendt', 'Jump', 'Ginger & Rosa'

Middle of Nowhere
(USA, 99 min.)
Written and directed by Ava DuVernay
Starring: Emayatzy Corinealdi, David Oyelowo, Omari Hardwick, Lorraine Toussaint, Edwina Findley, Sharon Lawrence
Winner of the Best Director Prize (Dramatic) at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Middle of Nowhere is a notable independent American film. Writer/director Ava DuVernay tells an important story of the hardships faced by the families of inmates within America’s penal system. Through the story of Ruby (played by Emayatzy Corinealdi) and her endless devotion to her felon husband (Omari Hardwick), Middle of Nowhere shows how a punitive sentence is served by more than just the party behind bars. It’s hard to believe that this is Corinealdi’s first film role, as she gives a heartfelt performance as the resolute Ruby. This intimate film is a fine place to start, but it’s too bad that the Middle of Nowhere doesn’t give her even more room to shine. Aside from one confrontational scene by Lorraine Toussaint as Ruby’s mother, Middle of Nowhere mostly keeps the drama within mid-range. The restraint might prevent the film from hitting home to some viewers, but DuVernay’s even-handed approach is quietly compelling.


TIFF Review: 'Passion'

(France/Germany, 98 min.)
Written and directed by Brian DePalma
Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, Karoline Herfurth, Paul Anderson
Passion is a turkey! A remake of the 2010 French misfire Love Crime, Passion is a sleazy erotic thriller that pits The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace as the victim in a deranged lesbian love affair that ends in murder. From a fatally miscast Rachel McAdams to a farcical soundtrack by Pino Donaggio, which might be the worst score ever recorded on film, every element of Passion reeks of overblown camp.

TIFF Review: 'Smashed'

(USA, 85 min.)
Written and directed by James Ponsoldt
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Octavia Spencer, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Mary Kay Place 
Smashed is the one film that absolutely blindsided me at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. I'll admit that I knew nothing about the film going in. I just wanted a picture of Minny Jackson (aka Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer). Spencer is great in her supporting role, but the real reason to see Smashed is for its outstanding breakthrough performance by lead actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a vibrant alcoholic trying to go sober.

TIFF Review: All That You Possess

All That You Possess (Tout ce que tu possèdes)
(Canada, 91 min.)
Written and directed by Bernard Émond
Starring: Patrick Drolet, Isabelle Vincent, Gilles Renaud, Sara Simard, Jack Robitaille, Willia Ferland-Tanguay
It takes a true master to the simple banalities of life and turns them into moving works of art. It's fitting, then, that French Canadian director Bernard Émond's latest film All That You Possess (Tout ce que tu possèdes) had its world premiere in the Masters programme at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Émond was last at the festival in 2009 with La donation, which earned a special citation from the jury for Best Canadian feature. With All That You Possess, Émond offers another rich yet understated slice of life.

TIFF Review: 'Great Expectations'

Great Expectations
(UK, 128 min.)
Dir. Mike Newell, Writ. David Nicholls
Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Robbie Coltrane, Holliday Grainger, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Sally Hawkins
Great Expectations is a film adaptation that would make Charles Dickens proud. The classic novel has undergone countless retoolings whilst being brought to the screen (including the 1998 contemporary redux starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow), but this version by director Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) is a most welcome entry into world of Dickensian cinema. Painstaking efforts to honour the source material are evident throughout in Great Expectations and this riveting piece of cinema is a strong old-school rendition of the novel that stays true to the era.

TIFF Review: 'Therese Desqueyroux'

Thérèse Desqueyroux
(France, 110 min.)
Dir. Claude Miller, Writ. Claude Miller, Nathalie Carter
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Gilles Lellouche
Thérèse Desqueyroux marks the final film by the late French director Claude Miller (Un secret), which arrived at the Toronto International Film Festival after serving as the closing night selection at Cannes earlier this year. Miller’s last film is a gorgeous, stately affair. Thérèse Desqueyroux, based on the novel by François Mauriac, is an elaborate character study with a tour-de-force performance from French superstar Audrey Tautou (Amélie) in the title role.

TIFF Review: 'The Lesser Blessed'

The Lesser Blessed
(Canada, 86 min.)
Written and directed by Anita Doran
Starring: Joel Nathan Evans, Benjamin Bratt, Kiowa Gordon, Chloe Rose, Tamara Podemski, Adam Butcher

Based on the novel by Richard Van Camp, The Lesser Blessed is an important portrait of youth in Northern Canada. Told through the eyes of Larry Sole (played by newcomer Joel Nathan Evans), a teenage boy from the Ticho tribe in the Northwest Territories, The Lesser Blessed gives an unflinching portrayal of the problems affecting members of Canada's aboriginal communities, particularly the youth. As indicated by the burns that cover Larry’s back, which are shown in close-up in the film’s opening sequence, he grows up in life marked by scars of violence.

TIFF Review: 'The Sessions'

The Sessions
(USA, 95 min.)
Written and directed by Ben Lewin
Starring: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy
The Sessions is a bona fide tearjerker. It's the true story of Mark O’Brien, who was stricken with Polio at the age of six. Mark has since confined to a bed and he requires the aid of an iron lung to breathe. He has no mobility, aside from his ability to turn his head and smile. Mark, played in a triumphant performance by John Hawkes, has overcome considerable odds and accomplished quite a lot in his life. The Sessions is a heartwarming slice of life that deserves its moment in the spotlight.


TIFF Review: 'To the Wonder'

To the Wonder
(USA, 112 min.)
Written and directed by Terrence Malick
Starring: Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem.
It seems that there really are two ways through film: the way of Malick fans and the way of others. To the Wonder will surely test which side you are on, for it marks Malick's most demanding--if not taxing--film to date. This difficulty says a lot about To the Wonder if one compares it to the director’s previous film The Tree of Life and Tree emerges as the more accessible of the two. That may simply be because Tree is undoubtedly the better film – for all its infuriating madness, The Tree of Life is an exceptionally rich cinematic experience. To the Wonder might come nowhere near the scope and power of Malick's previous films (it's the lesser film he's done so far), but second rate Malick is still better than most films. It might not make new converts to the Church of Malick, and anyone who disliked The Tree of Life shouldn’t touch To the Wonder with a forty-nine-and-half-foot pole.

TIFF Review: 'Byzantium'

(UK/Ireland, 118 min.)
Dir. Neil Jordan, Writ. Moira Buffini
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan, Sam Riley, Jonny Lee Miller, Daniel Mays
Byzantium could have been the next great horror flick. Now that the Twilight saga is finally wrapping up, something needs to succeed Edward and Bella and sate the blood lust of vampire fans. Byzantium is more like the anti-Twilight, though, for there’s little emo pining going on here. Instead, it’s a blood soaked fracas of gothic horror. It's not much of a love story, either, but rather a mother/daughter tale of a curse that runs in the family.

TIFF Review: 'Quartet'

(UK, 95 min.)
Dir. Dustin Hoffman, Writ. Ronald Harwood
Starring: Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins,
“Growing old ain't for sissies.” The proverbial Bette Davis line arises frequently during Quartet, which tells of a retirement home for aged artists. Beecham House is a bit like the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, except that it offers group opera sessions instead of bed bugs and cricket. Like Marigold Hotel, Quartet is a fine tale of finding fulfillment during the golden years of life, as it marks the directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman, who jumps into the director's chair for the first time at the tender age of 74. Quartet is a strong project for Hoffman to make his debut, as it is truly an actor's virtuoso piece. With Quartet, Hoffman shows that an old dog is never too old to learn new tricks.


TIFF Review: 'Midnight's Children'

Midnight’s Children
(Canada/UK, 148 min.)
Dir. Deepa Mehta, Writ. Salman Rushdie
Starring: Satya Bhabha, Shahana Goswami, Rajat Kapoor, Seema Biswas, Shriya Saran, Siddharth, Ronit Roy, Rahul Bose, Anita Majumdar, Zaib Shaikh, Anupam Kher
Saleem Sinai was born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947. His birth coincided with the exact moment that the clock signalled the independence of India from Great Britain. A new child, a symbol of hope for the future of all of the new India, Saleem Sinai is a special boy indeed.

TIFF Review: 'Writers'

(USA, 96 min.)
Written and directed by Josh Boone
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Lily Collins, Nat Wolff, Kristen Bell.
Writers is one of those quirky little indie films that suffers from first feature syndrome. It's a cute little multi-generational story about a family of writers and their joint lesson in learning that life and fiction are not the same. The film is a decent first effort by writer/director Josh Boone, for Writers is driven by characters and their love for words, and to some extent each other. Writers is a talky film and a bit too wordy for its own good. For a film about three art of the writing process, however, it just feels so... written.

TIFF Review: 'Something in the Air'

Something in the Air (Après Mai)
(France, 122 min.)
Written and directed by Olivier Assayas
Starring: Clement Metayer, Lola Creton, Felix Armand, India Menuez, Carole Combes

There's something in the air in the summer of 1971. It's been three years since the events of May 1968 and the French youth are itching for an uprising. The youth movement explodes in the spectacular opening sequence of Olivier Assayas's Something in the Air, which sees a student protest beat down by the excessive force of the French police. Peace signs and good vibes can't hold their own against Billy bats and tear gas, so violence begets further violence until the police go too far and beat an apolitical young bystander to a bloody pulp.

TIFF Review: 'Thanks for Sharing'

Thanks for Sharing
(USA, 110 min.)
Dir. Stuart Blumberg, Writ. Stuart Blumberg, Matt Winston
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, Josh Gad, Alecia Moore, Joely Richardson, Patrick Fugit.
Let’s talk about sex. There’s no shame in probing the secret areas of human desire, as Shame successfully showed at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival through its searing depiction of sexual addiction. Thanks for Sharing takes quite a different approach to the lusty topic of sex addiction than Shame does. A witty and amusing dramedy, Thanks for Sharing marks a good directorial debut for screenwriter Stuart Blumberg, whose most recent credit was the 2010 hit The Kids Are All Right, which smartly depicted the normalcy of same sex parenting.


TIFF Review: 'Inch'Allah'

(Canada/France, 102 min.)
Dir. Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, Writ. Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette
Starring: Evelyne Brochu, Sabrina Ouazani, Sivan Levy
Inch'Allah comes on a wave of films about Canada's relationship to the Middle East. For example, Ruba Nadda’s Inescapable, which also plays at the TIFF 2012, jets Alexander Siddig and Marisa Tomei to Damascus for a politically-tinged thriller. The trend began with Incendies and its mythical tale about the devastating ravages of the civil war in Lebanon. The film proved a bone fide hit. Then came Monsieur Lazhar and its sweet tale about Middle Easterners becoming part of the Canadian cultural mosaic. There was also Afghan Luke, the inevitable CanCon turkey, but we'll just slip that one under the covers. If we can't see it, the problem doesn't exist, right?


TIFF Review: 'Imogene'

 (USA, 103 min.)
Dir. Robert Pulcini, Shari Springer Berman; Writ. Michelle Morgan
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Christopher Fitzgerald, Darren Criss, Matt Dillon, June Diane Raphael, Bob Balaban.
“There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home,” says Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. A high school stage production of the classic film opens Imogene, with the title character playing the role of Dorothy. Even as a schoolgirl, Imogene’s mind has been finely attuned to the stage. “This is stupid!” she continues, “Why would anyone want to leave Oz?” At the behest of her crotchety teacher, Imogene clacks her heels three times and gets back to reality. As noted by the sardonic tempo of her clacking (she’s no keener to return to Kansas), Imogene also seems to have adopted a perceptive cynicism to life, which combines with her dramatic skills and produces disastrous results when she grows up. Funny, awkward, and hopelessly lost, Imogene is much like Frances from Frances Ha if Frances woke up with a bad case of the Mondays.


TIFF Review: 'Frances Ha'

Frances Ha
(USA, 86 min.)
Dir. Noah Baumbach, Writ. Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver, Grace Gummer, Patrick Heusinger, Michael Zegen
Ahoy, sexy! Greta Gerwigians shall rejoice over the delightful little ditty of Frances Ha. The loveable starlet is in full ‘adorable scatterbrain’ mode in Frances Ha. A quirky joie de vivre tale told in glorious black and white, Frances is a charmer. I had a smile on my face from beginning to end during Frances Ha. Anyone who does not love this film is surely made of stone.

TIFF Review: 'What Maisie Knew'

What Maisie Knew
(USA, 93 min.)
Dir. Scott McGehee and David Siegel, Writ. Carrol Cartwright and Nancy Doyne
Starring: Julianne Moore, Onata Aprile, Alexander Skarsgard, Joanna Vanderham, Steve Coogan.
I realize that the past three TIFF reviews I have posted have all approached their films from the angle of adaptation. What Maisie Knew is another example of the journey from page to screen, so please permit me another, since adaptation is one of my greater interests when it comes to discussing films. What Maisie Knew deserves to be reviewed in light of its source material, too, since it is based on the classic novel by Henry James. It’s especially noteworthy because What Maisie Knew is a good case where the film outdoes the novel.

TIFF Review: 'Anna Karenina'

Anna Karenina
(UK, 130 min.)
Dir. Joe Wright, Writ. Tom Stoppard
Starring: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Matthew MacFadyen, Kelly MacDonald, Olivia Williams, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Michelle Dockery, Ruth Wilson, Emily Watson. 
Anna Karenina is a must-see film for anyone with a serious interest in the art of adaptation. It’s a must-see for any serious film buff, really, because this new film by director Joe Wright (Atonement) is very electrifying stuff. Anna Karenina is a bold new take on the classic novel by Leo Tolstoy thanks primarily to the skillful penning by scribe Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love) and the spot-on casting of Wright’s muse Keira Knightley in the title role. Everyone in the production deserves strong kudos, though, because Anna Karenina is one of the most exciting films to hit the screen in some time.


TIFF Review: 'On the Road'

On the Road
(France/Brazil, 124 min.)
Dir. Walter Salles, Writ. Diego Rivera
Starring: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Elisabeth Moss.
On the Road is an admirable effort to bring the great American novel – perhaps the greatest American novel – to the screen. Unfortunately, though, this effort by director Walter Salles and screenwriter Diego Rivera, the team behind The Motorcycle Diaries, veers into adaptation hell from the first minute that it translates the work by Jack Kerouac for the screen. On the Road is by no means a bad film, but it reveals the danger in bringing such a canonical work to the screen.

TIFF Review: 'Rust & Bone'

Rust & Bone
(France, 120 min.)
Written and directed by Jacques Audiard
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdure, Corinne Masiero
Heat. Sweat. Skin. Pain. Pleasure. Pride. Glory. Life. Death. In Rust & Bone, the drive for success meets with a loss. One person’s victory has a price for someone else. The film is the story of two fighters, Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) and Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard), both of whom are star performers and athletes who thrive on the thrill of the game. It’s not wealth or the status they seek in their endeavours; rather, it’s the overwhelming sense of being alive that offers the greatest reward. Like all the characters in the collection of short stories by Canadian author Craig Davidson, though, Ali and Stéphanie are knocked from the podium just when they feel themselves rising to the top. Rust & Bone is a searing drama about two wounded souls picking themselves up and moving forward, and learning new ways to return to the peak of their power. It’s one of the best films of the year.


TIFF: Jason Reitman's Live Read of 'American Beauty'

Nick Kroll, Christina Hendricks and  Bryan Cranston read American Beauty

Day one of the TIFF 2012 began with a live reading of American Beauty directed by Jason Reitman. Reitman has done a few of these live reads now, but it was his first time doing one at TIFF. It’s an exciting way to revisit and experience a classic film.


My TIFF Line-up! (Updated...again)

Premium Screenings

Midnight's Children
Dir. Deepa Mehta (Water); Canada/UK
Starring: Satya Bhabha, Shahana Goswami, Rajat Kapoor, Seema Biswas.
Programme: Gala
Synopsis: Spanning decades and generations, celebrated Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta's highly anticipated adaptation of Salman Rushdie's Booker Prize®–winning novel is an engrossing allegorical fantasy in which children born on the cusp of India's independence from Britain are endowed with strange, magical abilities.


TIFF Review: 'Let the Daylight into the Swamp'

 Let the Daylight into the Swamp
(Canada, 36 min.)
Written and directed by Jeffrey St. Jules
Starring: Sean McCann, Diana Leblanc, Pierre Simpson, Colombe Demers 

Photo from the production. Courtesy of the NFB
Let the Daylight into the Swamp seems like it would make for a great double bill with Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell. (I haven’t seen Stories yet, so I’m basing this assessment on clips, buzz, and articles.) Let the Daylight into the Swamp is an outstanding meta-documentary, which, like Polley’s film, was produced by Anita Lee of the National Film Board of Canada. Swamp also sees one filmmaker, Jeffrey St. Jules in the case, intuitively probe his own family history.

TIFF Review: 'Bydlo'

(Canada, 9 min.)
Dir. Patrick Bouchard

Photo taken from the production. Courtesy of the NFB
Bydlo. The word means “cattle” in Polish. In Poland and in other parts of Europe the bydlo occasionally serves as a term to belittle the working class. Bydlo is also the name of the fourth movement of Pictures at an Exhibition, the suite by composer Modest Mussorgsky. Bydlo, the film, takes all three of these definitions and combines them into an evocative animated film about the relationship between man and beast, and the beasts of burden that comes with working with the land. This film, directed by Patrick Bouchard and produced by Julie Roy of the National Film Board of Canada, screens this week at the Toronto International Film Festival.


TIFF 2012: Predicting the People's Choice Award

Last year's TIFF winner Where Do We Go Now?

The 2012 Toronto International Film Festival is just days away. Telluride is over and Venice is winding down its back half, so word is out on some of the TIFF features. Ben Affleck’s Argo and Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell seem to be among the most widely fêted films of those festivals, with good buzz also going to Central Park Five. The most hyped film going into TIFF is easily Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, which received good word on the Lido where it had its “world premiere”. I’m sad that I don’t have any of these films on my line-up, especially Polley’s film, but I made the choice to drop Stories from the busy first weekend because it is scheduled to play in Ottawa at The Bytowne in October. Personally, I’m already sick of hearing about The Master, so I’m going to wait for a bit of a buffer between the festival and the film’s inevitably delayed Ottawa release in order to enjoy it to the fullest. Every other blogger/critic seems to be drafting an epic poem in praise of PTA, anyways, so it might be worthwhile to see something else.