Brings Old School Charm into Summer!

Old Stock
(Canada, 85 min.)
Dir. James Genn, Writ. Dane Clark
Starring: Noah Reid, Melanie Leishman, Meghan Heffern, Jack Daniel Wells, Corinne Conley, Ana Gerguson, and Gene Mack.
Melaine Leishman and Noah Reid star in Old Stock.
Courtesy of eOne Films
Some kids grow up too fast. Stock, played by Noah Reid (Score: A Hockey Musical), barely grows up at all. He goes from puberty to retirement with the snap of two fingers. Stock skips his college years, his midlife crisis, etc. and heads straight to the old folks' home after high school. Life at Golden Seasons is pretty swell for Stock: sweater vests are sexy, meals are free, and prescription meds are widely available.

The Magic of Movies

Now You See Me
(USA, 115 min.)
Dir. Louis Letterier, Writ. Ed Solomon and Boaz Yakin & Edward Rincourt
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Mélanie Laurent, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine.
Dave Franco, Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher and Woody Harrelson in Now You See Me
Courtesy of eOne Films
Abracadabra! There’s something magical about going to the movies. Whether it’s the sheer entertainment value of the cinema or the thrill of diversion, the smoke and mirrors of moviemaking is great entertainment. I’ve never been one for literal magic—I’ll take the conjuring act of Meryl Streep any day—so it’s a pleasant surprise that Now You See Me pulls a rabbit out of its hat and brings the two art forms together to offer entertainment with a top hat.


We Drink to Forget.

The Hangover Part III
(USA, 100 min.)
Dir. Todd Phillips, Writ. Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Ken Jeong, John Goodman, Justin Bartha.
They say the cure for a hangover is to start drinking. Pour the boys a round, for they've managed to take one of the funniest, raunchiest comedies of the past decade and turn it into a bad case of coyote ugly. We all got drunk on the Wolfpack’s goofy debauchery in the original Hangover, but this once funny franchise has overstayed its welcome like the nausea that comes the morning after a night of hard drinking. The Hangover Part III is a textbook example that no formula exists to make a good franchise.


Summertime is Adventuretime

The Kings of Summer
(USA, 93 min.)
Dir. Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Writ. Chris Galletta
Starring: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Bosso, Moises Arias, Erin Moriarty, Nic Offerman, Megan Mullally, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Alison Brie.
 (L-R) Nick Robinso, Moises Arias and Gabriel Basso, star in eOne Films’
upcoming release The Kings of Summer.
School’s out for the summer! Escape pencils, books, and the teacher’s dirty looks with the whimsical indie comedy The Kings of Summer. Not too distant a relative of Mud and with a few signs of a little inbreeding with Moonrise Kingdom, The Kings of Summer is a quirky, Sundance-y coming-of-age story.

Hey, Hey, It's Picture Day!

Picture Day
(Canada, 93 min.)
Written and directed by Kate Melville
Starring: Tatiana Maslany, Spencer Van Wyck, Steven McCarthy, Susan Coyne, Fiona Highet, Nathalie Bailey.
Claire (Tatiana Maslany). Photo by Johnny Vong.
I used to hate Picture Day. Dressing up, posing for the camera, and saying “Cheese!” all seemed like a lot of effort just so your parents could give Grandma the same Christmas present year after year. Whatever happened to fruitcake?


Tommy Wiseau Presents 'The Room' in Toronto

Tommy Wiseau (centre) will be on hand to present his cult hit The Room.
Would you believe that I have never seen The Room? Tommy Wiseau’s cult favourite, deemed “the Citizen Kane of bad movies,” has its 10th anniversary this year. The Room is such a novelty among film buffs that it’s played monthly in theatres like Toronto’s The Royal and Ottawa’s Mayfair Theatre for the past few years. I’ve held out for reasons unknown, but now The Room has made an offer I can’t refuse. (Perhaps it’s The Godfather of bad movies?) Writer, director, executive producer, star Tommy Wiseau  is hitting the road with actor Greg Sestero for the Love is Blind Blu 2013 Tour and they’re coming to The Royal this weekend to celebrate The Room’s tenth birthday in person.


It's All About the Lens Flare!

Star Trek Into Darkness
(USA, 132 min.)
Dir. J.J. Abrams, Writ. Robert Orci & Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban, Alice Eve.

“Lens flare!” cried J.J. Abrams on the set of Star Trek Into Darkness. “I need more lens flare!”
“It won’t hold, sir! We haven’t any more lights,” replied the team of gaffers, exhausted and sweating from the heat beating down from all those heavy-duty lights.
“Gosh, darn it,” the directed shot back, “did you see those blue lines in Looper? Nobody’s gonna steal my thunder. I WILL GIVE THEM LIGHTNING!”
“But this is Star Trek… not an art film,” said the gaffers.
“Fiddlesticks,” Abrams grumbled, “I want red lines—like, Scorsese red! I want blue lines cutting across the screen! I want white dots turning Spock’s face into a disco bulb!”
“Can we add it in post?”
“Sure, why not? More lens flare for all!”


Shannon Chills as 'Iceman'

The Iceman
(USA, 103 min.)
Dir. Ariel Vromen, Writ. Morgan Land, Ariel Vromen
Starring: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer, James Franco
Chris Evans and Michael Shannon in The Iceman
Photo courtesy of eOne Films
No actor plays crazy as well as Michael Shannon plays crazy. It’s interesting to see/review The Iceman the day after seeing/reviewing Jeff Nichols’ Mud, which featured Shannon in a memorable supporting role. Shannon gave one of the best performances of the past few years in Nichols’ previous film Take Shelter, but he meets the high bar he set for his follow-up work with his menacing turn in The Iceman. Playing real-life contract killer Richard “Richie” Kuklinski, Shannon is undeniably disturbing and wholly believable as the stoic merchant of death.


That Muddy River

(USA, 130 min.)
Written and directed by Jeff Nicholas
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon, Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon.
Matthew McConaughey stars in Mud.
Photo courtesy eOne Films

The river. If there was ever a place for boys to go out and explore, it’s the muddy waters. Trolling the Mississippi River in a well-used fishing boat, fourteen-year-old friends Ellis (Tree of Life’s Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland, who makes his debut here) experience a summer on par with the downstream journeys of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.


'Company' Keeps on Running

The Company You Keep
(USA, 121 min.)
Dir. Robert Redford, Writ. Lem Dobbs
Starring: Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Terrence Howard, Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Jackie Evancho.
Robert Redford stars in The Company You Keep.
Courtesy eOne Films.
Living in hiding must tucker a man out. Thirty years in the shadows, watching one’s back and keeping an eye on the rear-view mirror must become tiresome. At some point, the man living in secret is bound to become restless and want to move forward. He’ll run, run, run without looking back.


'Blackbird' Haunts

(Canada, 103 min.)
Written and directed by Jason Buxton
Starring: Connor Jessup, Alexia Fast, Michael Buie, Alex Ozorov.
Blackbird won top honours for writer/director Jason Buxton as the breakthrough Canadian filmmaker of 2012. The film shared the award for Best Canadian First Feature when it had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall (it tied Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral) and then went on to scoop the corresponding prize, the Claude Jutra Award for best new filmmaker, at the Canadian Screen Awards. The kudos are well deserved, for Blackbird lives up to the hype! Blackbird is a solid feature debut for Jason Buxton.


'Colony' a Cold Gorefest

The Colony
(Canada, 95 min.)
Dir. Jeff Renfroe, Writ. Pascal Trottier, Patrick Tarr, Jeff Renfroe, Svet Rouskov
Starring: Kevin Zegers, Laurence Fishburne, Bill Paxton, Charlotte Sullivan.
Kevin Zegers and Laurence Fishburne in The Colony.
An eOne Films release
The Colony is the Paris Hilton of Canadian cinema. It has an attractive shell, but it’s dead on the inside. The $16 000 000 hopeful cash cow certainly looks impressive, yet one hopes that some of the money could have gone towards a better script. One wishes The Colony was something to rave about since it would be nice to have a decent mainstream moneymaker to give Canucks a jolt. It’s all so dead-on-arrival, though, that local audiences could feel reaffirmed that Canadian movies are “boring” and not worth their money when Michael Bay gives them more bang for their buck.


'August: Osage County' Trailer

Is Meryl Streep heading to the Oscars once again? Some people murmured back in 2011 that a win for The Iron Lady wouldn't happen because Streep had signed on for the powerhouse lead role in the adaptation of Tracey Letts's stage play August: Osage County. However, the new trailer gives some juicy hints that Meryl could be looking at Oscar number 4. (She's probably looking at nomination #18, anyways.) Word from test screenings has been especially strong regarding Streep's performance, and some viewers have given high praise to co-stars Julia Roberts and Margo Martindale, although the most excitement was probably in regards to a singing Benedict Cumberbatch. Will Oscar sing, too? We'll find out more if and when The Weinstein Company screens some footage at Cannes (they usually do), but with a release date set for November 8th, we will presumably have to wait for the fall festival circuit for solid buzz. Fingers crossed for Toronto!

August: Osage County is directed by John Wells (The Company Men) and also co-stars Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Sam Shepard, Chris Cooper, and Dermot Mulroney.


Turn the Volume Down, Old Sport!

The Great Gatsby
(USA/Australia, 143 min.)
Dir. Baz Luhrmann, Writ. Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Amitabh Bachchan.
Is Baz Luhrmann a film director or a disc jockey? He seems to have adapted The Great Gatsby with an excellent ear for creating a playlist of contemporary songs that speak directly to the characters and subtext of the novel, yet very little about his rock ‘n’ roll Gatsby seems to jive. Turn the volume down, Old Sport, and find the magic of the story!


When Memory Fails

Still Mine
(Canada, 102 min.)
Written and directed by Michael McGowan
Starring: James Cromwell, Geneviève Bujold.
Irene (Geneviève Bujold) and Craig (James Cromwell).
Photo by Ken Woroner. 
What happens when a filmmaker delivers one of strongest films ever to emerge from this country? It’s almost inevitable that any film that falls in the same vein will feel as if it’s not up to snuff. Such is the case with Still Mine, the latest film from Canadian director Michael McGowan (Score: A Hockey Musical!), which simply can’t shake its resemblance to Sarah Polley’s excellent 2007 film Away from Her. Away from Her, a love story that sees Grant (Gordon Pinsent) care for his long-time wife Fiona (Julie Christie) as she experiences Alzheimer’s, remains one of the most honest and affective films to hit the screen in the last decade. Still Mine, a love story that sees Craig (James Cromwell) care for his long-time wife Irene (Geneviève Bujold) as she experiences Alzheimer’s, is also honest and affective. However, through no fault of its own, Still Mine simply isn’t Away from Her.


Hot Docs Wrap-up: Oscar Talk and 'Best of the Fest'

Muscle Shoals wins the Hot Docs Audience Award
Another festival is over. How quickly time flies when you’re having fun. I had another great Hot Docs experience this year. I saw a total of 48 films and just over a dozen shorts at the festival this year (including press screenings and screeners) and almost all of them were good. (I would have seen fifty, but I had some job interviews during the festival.) This year’s Hot Docs coverage also included my first time writing for a print outlet, as I profiled the best Canadian shorts of the festival for Point of View magazine. Free copies of POV were available at the box office and the industry lounge, so hopefully you were able to grab a copy. (In case you didn’t, I wrote about Just as I Remember, Softening, Mary and Myself, Packing up the Wagon: The Last Days of the Wagon Wheel Lunch, and Yellow Sticky Notes | Canadian Anijam.) Finally, 2013 was a more sociable Hot Docs than previous years, as I had the opportunity to meet some Twitter friends in person. I hope we’re able to chat about movies in festivals to come!


Hot Docs Reviews: 'Blood Brother', 'Which Way is the Front Line from Here?', 'The Unbelievers'

Blood Brother
(USA, 93 min.)
Dir. Steve Hoover
Programme: Special Presentations (Canadian Premiere)
Rocky and Surya. Photo Credit: John Pope
Blood Brother won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for US Documentary at Sundance this year, and admiration for the film continued to grow at Hot Docs. I didn’t catch the film until its third screening, yet the theatre was still packed with moviegoers buzzing with excitement. This story of two best friends is an inspiring tale, as director Steve Hoover goes to India to visit his pal, Rocky Braat. Rocky has found a calling in India working in an orphanage for children with AIDS. It’s a difficult occupation, as Rocky seems to balance a tightrope walk between life and death every day.

Hot Docs Reviews: 'The Punk Singer', 'Finding the Funk', 'Mistaken for Strangers'

Saw a trio of rockumentaries on the last weekend of the festival, so it makes sense to post their reviews together.

The Punk Singer
(USA, 80 min.)
Dir. Sini Anderson
Programme: Next (International Premiere)
Photo courtesy Pat Smear
It's hard not to discuss The Punk Singer mentioning this year's other grrrl punk movie Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer. The latter film certainly entered the festival with more buzz, but the former deserves more. The Punk Singer, a biographical rock doc about Kathleen Hanna, might have a bit more trouble finding an audience than the Pussy Riot pic, though, since it's more of a behind-the-music tale than an exposé of current events. This is not to say that The Punk Singer lacks punch. Far from it. This tale of the founder of groups such as Bikini Kill and Le Tigre says as much about cultural politics as Pussy Riot does.


Hot Docs Review: 'Last Woman Standing'

Last Woman Standing
(Canada, 88 min.)
Dir. Lorraine Price, Juliet Lammers
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (World Premiere)
What is with Canadian filmmakers and boxing documentaries? Doc boxing is so frequent that it is almost becoming a sub-genre in our national cinema. Last year, for example, Hot Docs introduced a quartet of good Canadian docs—okay, three boxing docs and one doc about Kung Fu. All of them packed a sold punch (sorry), but the title for Canadian boxing-doc champion has officially been passed over to Last Woman Standing, which has its world premiere in the festival’s Canadian Spectrum this year. Last Woman Standing, directed by Lorraine Price and Juliet Lammers, is one of the best female-centric sports films I’ve seen since Million Dollar Baby. Frankly, it’s one of the best sports movies I’ve ever seen.


Hot Docs Review: 'Alcan Highway', 'Last Black Sea Pirates', 'Brave New River'

Alcan Highway
(Finland, 86 min.)
Dir. Aleksi Salmenperä
Programme: World Showcase (International Premiere)
I knew I’d see at least one good old-fashioned road movie at Hot Docs this year. Alcan Highway is a cool and quirky tale for all the wanderers at the festival this year. It’s the odd tale of a Finnish man named Hese who finds himself living the American Dream in Alaska. Without a place to call home back in Europe, Hese decides to fashion life his own way across the pond by souping up a classic big rig and fashioning it into a home with the help of an old camper that looks like a space ship from 1950s TV.

Hot Docs Reviews: 'As Time Goes By in Shanghai', 'The Crash Reel'

As Time Goes By In Shanghai
(Germany/Netherlands, 90 min.)
Dir. Uli Gaulke
Programme: Next (Canadian Premiere)
I won’t emphasize “You must remember this…” as a caveat for anyone planning their doc screenings in the coming months, but As Time Goes By in Shanghai is sure to please fans of sweet nostalgic music. This German-Dutch co-pro tells of Shanghai’s legendary Peace Old Jazz Band, which holds the Guinness world record for oldest band. They’ve only been playing together since 1980, but the members are mostly over eighty years old. They put on a swell show for a group of old-timers.


Hot Docs Review: 'Alphée of the Stars'

Alphée of the Stars (Alphée des étoiles)
(Canada, 82 min.)
Written and directed by Hugo Latulippe
Programme: Canadian Spectrum
Photo: Esperasmos Films.
Alphée of the Stars (aka Alphée des étoiles in its original French) is a touching and affectionately intimate tale. Candid and poignant, insightful and sweet, it’s easy to see why this endearing doc was a box office smash in Québec and went on to score nominations for Best Documentary at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards and Jutra Awards alike. Father/filmmaker Hugo Latulippe observes his five-year-old daughter Alphée with hopes that she can grow up and leave a normal, happy life in spite of the developmental challenges she faces due to a rare genetic disorder. Alphée was born with Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome, which impedes her neurological and muscular development. The tests on whether Alphée’s condition warrants special education programs at school are inconclusive, so her parents must look at their daughter objectively and determine her outlook on life.


Hot Docs Review: 'Blackfish'

(USA, 83 min.)
Dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Programme: World Showcase (Canadian premiere)
Tilikum at Seaworld Orlando taking a bow.
Photo: Our Turn Productions / Manny O Productions
How many of you saw Rust & Bone? I’ll feel like I’ve failed as a film reviewer if you haven’t, but even if you missed one of last year’s best films, you are probably familiar with its premise that a whale trainer (Marion Cotillard) is gravely injured during a performance with a killer whale. Rust & Bone doesn’t put the blame on the friendly orca, nor does it hold the SeaWorld like waterpark responsible. Stéphanie’s accident during her rocket ride is just a cruel act of fate. Rust & Bone, however, is surely inspired by one of the real-life tragedies that appear in Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s extraordinary doc Blackfish.