Anticipated Canadian Titles for TIFF

Podz (centre) with Dolan and Castonguay on the set of Miraculum
Happy Canada Day! As we celebrate our national holiday, let’s look forward to the biggest Canadian event of the year, the Toronto International Film Festival. TIFF, in spite of becoming a red carpet bonanza and a launching pad for award season hopefuls, still holds its Canadian roots rather well. Canuck films have already had a strong presence at festivals this year, with Vic and Flo Saw a Bear and Sarah Prefers to Run receiving strong receptions at Berlin and Cannes, respectively. Denis Côté’s Vic and Flo, unfortunately, probably won’t show up at Toronto since in opens in theatres September 6th. TIFF starts September 5th, so it could have a screening alongside the opening night selection on Thursday and use the festival to kick off its theatrical release. (The silver lining of Vic and Flo’s absence at TIFF means that one could then see it in theatres for half the price during a lull in the festival.) Sarah, meanwhile, opened theatrically in Gatineau, Quebec, but not in Ottawa, so it could be at TIFF with hopes to use its subtitled-Canadian premiere as a run to the Oscars.


Bitchin' 'Heat'

The Heat
(USA, 117 min.)
Dir. Paul Feig, Writ. Katie Dippold
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demián Bichir, Marlon Wayans.
Summer movie season cranks up the heat! A fun, brazen comedy hits the multiplex this weekend amongst the sea of returns and redids. The Heat, Paul Feig’s follow-up to the 2011 smash hit Bridesmaids, boasts more rowdy fun from the ladies. Bridesmaids took the R-rated comedy, which was beginning to look tired after one serving of American pie too many, and brought it back to life by having a troupe of female comedians deliver some of the wildest dirty jokes in some time. It was also a really smart comedy, which made it as much of an anomaly. The Heat takes another staple of the guy-movie canon, the buddy cop movie, and introduces its first set of mis-matched female leads. The Heat might not be on par with the raucous raunchiness of Bridesmaids, but this odd-couple comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy is solid laugh-out loud entertainment.


'The Guy who Knocks'

How to Make Money Selling Drugs
(USA, 96 min.)
Dir. Matthew Cooke, Writ. Matthew Cooke, Grant Jolly (story)
Narrated by: Matthew Cooke
There’s only one season left of Breaking Bad, so entrepreneurs who want to get rich or die trying need some schooling if they want to be the next Heisenberg. As any follower of the exploits of Mr. Walter White knows, it’s a tough process to go from minor player to Kingpin. Or, as the bald man in the pork pie hat might say, it takes a lot of work to go from fearing the knocks to being the guy who knocks. If you want to be the danger, you have to learn how to make money selling drugs.

KFF Review: 'The Front Line'

The Front Line
(South Korea, 133 min.)
Dir. Hun Jang, Writ. Sang-yeon Park
Starring: Ha-Kyun Shun, Soo Go, Je-hoon Lee, Ok-bin Kim.
The first Korean Film Festival in Canada’s capital began with the Ottawa premiere of The Front Line, a film that offers film buffs a historical account of a pivotal period in Korean history and a good snapshot of the strength of contemporary South Korean cinema. The Front Line, which was South Korea’s official entry in the Best Foreign Language Film race for the 2011 Oscars, is a war film of impressive scope. Featuring some excellent battle sequences and a potent tale on the futility of war, The Front Line makes a worthy stand to kick-off this week’s fête for Korean cinema.


2013 in Review: The Best so Far

Frances Ha is the best film so far this year.
2013 has already reached its midpoint. It seems to be going by so quickly, but the seasons of festivals and Oscar goodies can’t come soon enough. These movies could be a welcome relief to cinemas since 2013 hasn’t been an especially good year for films so far. Perhaps it was inevitable that the new crop might suffer in comparison to the endless stream of strong films that came out in 2012. I still haven’t given a five star review, although I was tempted to upgrade Frances Ha, which is far and away the best film to be released this year, when I saw it a second time.


Zombie Apocalypse

World War Z
(USA, 116 min.)
Dir. Marc Forster, Writ. Matthew Michael Carnahan and Drew Goddard & Damon Lindelof
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos.
Joe the moviegoer is like a helpless child stranded amidst the zombie apocalypse of World War Z. The zombie flicks just don’t stop swarming the multiplex. Summer after summer, movie after movie, Joe joins the masses and gets sandwiched between a family of four, in which mom smuggles a bag of cellophane wrapped goodies into the theatre and passes them to the kids whilst dad makes inane comments and eats nachos. Cheap Tuesday is Doomsday at the multiplex in summer movie season, especially when the masses show up for redundant cash-grabs like World War Z.

Hi-ho, Silver!

The Lone Ranger
(USA, 149 min.)
Dir. Gore Verbinski, Writ. Justin Haythe, Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio
Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Ruth Wilson, Tom Wilkinson, William Fitchner, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, and Helena Bonham Carter.
“Hi-ho, Silver! Away!” Summer movie season continues with the rollicking redo of the classic western series The Lone Ranger. Times have changed and so has the entertainment business, and the adventures your granddaddy used to listen to on the radio for free are now mashed into one epic widescreen adventure for a whopping thirteen bucks a ticket. One doubts that a movie has provided so much bang for your buck since Cloud Atlas, and The Lone Ranger guarantees a solid few hours of harmless escapism. It’s a hoot if you never take it too seriously.

Happy Birthday Meryl Streep!

Grande Streep: The Devil Wears Prada
Happy 64th, Meryl Streep!
Remember to enjoy free Starbucks on this, your birthday.



The Kids Are Totes Not All Right

The Bling Ring
(USA, 88 min.)
Written and dir’d by Sofia Coppola
Starring: Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Katie Chang, Taissa Farmiga, Claire Julien, and Leslie Mann.
Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Taissa Farmiga, Katie Chang
and Claire Julien in The Bling Ring, an eOne Films release
The Bling Ring is the film Spring Breakers wanted to be, but wasn’t. Smart, stylish, and satirical, Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring captures the excess and aimlessness of the current generation. The satire is so spot-on in The Bling Ring that it’s almost impossible to notice. Blink and you’ll miss it.


FEFF Review: 'Random Acts of Romance'

Random Acts of Romance
(Canada, 87 min.)
Dir. Katrin Bowen, Writ. Katrin Bowen, Jillian Mannion, and Kevin McComiskie
Starring: Sonja Bennet, Laura Bertram, Katharine Isabelle, Robert Moloney, Zak Santiago, Amanda Tapping, Ted Whittall.
Love makes people do all crazy sorts of things. Or is it sex that makes people wacky? The rules of attraction fly out the window in Katrin Bowen’s screwball sex farce Random Acts of Romance, an intimate ensemble dramedy that plays this Friday at the Female Eye Film Festival.

FEFF Review: 'The Disappeared'

The Disappeared
(Canada, 86 min.)
Written and directed by Shandi Mitchell
Starring: Billy Campbell, Ryan Doucette, Brian Downey, Shawn Doyle, Gary Levert, Neil Matheson
Did you ever see the Alfred Hitchcock movie Lifeboat? The classic is one of The Great Director’s better flicks, as Hitchcock offered a suspenseful tale of shipwrecked survivors clinging to life in the ocean, trapped with one of the very Nazis that sunk their ship. The 1944 thriller holds up to this day, but one suspects that Mr. Hitchcock would have tipped his hat to writer/director Shandi Mitchell in appreciation of The Disappeared.


Korean Film Festival in Ottawa June 26-29

The Front Line opens the Korean Film Festival
Korean cinema has seen a boon in recent years. The Asian nation has produced a variety of strong and distinct films that appeal to a range of fans from action-pic die-hards to world cinema festivalgoers. The success of Korean cinema has brought international recognition to directors like Chan-wook Park (Old Boy, Stoker) and created megastars like Jeon do-yeon (The Housemaid, Secret Sunshine) who see the kind of fame enjoyed by Hollywood stars. While it’s easy to catch gems like The Housemaid or the controversial Pieta on the festival circuit and in major markets, Korean films are few and far between on Ottawa screens. The Canadian Film Institute hopes to remedy that this June by presenting Ottawa with the first Korean Film Festival from June 26-29.The fest includes several Ottawa premieres and a screening of one of the most celebrated contemporary Korean films.


Contest: Win Tickets to see 'The Bling Ring' in Ottawa! (Closed)

Any Sofia Coppola fans here at Cinemablographer? I hope so! The indie auteur is back and fresh off the Croisette with her latest film, The Bling Ring. The Bling Ring, starring Emma Watson (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Leslie Mann (This is 40) and Taissa Farmiga (Higher Ground), shows a group of teenagers obsessed with fashion and fame who burglarized the homes of celebrities in Los Angeles. Tracking their targets’ whereabouts online, the teens would break-in and steal designer clothes and possessions. Reflecting on the naiveté of youth, amplified by today’s culture of celebrity and luxury brand obsession, the members of the Bling Ring introduce us to temptations that nearly any teenager would find hard to resist. What starts out as youthful fun spins out of control and reveals a sobering view of our modern culture.

The Enlightened Screen: Catherine Martin

Catherine Martin appears at CFI's 'Enlightened Screen' June 20
The Canadian Film Institute’s series “The Enlightened Screen” continues this month with its third installment. The CFI welcomes Catherine Martin in June to participate in its ongoing guest series that celebrates Canada’s independent filmmakers. Ottawans should be especially interested in coming out for a screening and discussion of Martin’s films because she hails from Hull, Quebec, i.e. just across the river from the 613. Martin, the first  Québécois  filmmaker to join appear at The Enlightened Screen after filmmakers Gary Burns and Peter Mettler, has been especially influential in bringing notice to contemporary Canadian and Québécois films. Most recently, Martin participated in the Canadian 2011 anthology film The National Parks Project, in which Canadian filmmakers and musicians collaborated in tribute to Canada’s National Parks. Her most recent feature, Trois temps d’après la mort d’Anna (Mourning for Anna) was named one of Canada’s Top Ten films in 2010 by the Toronto International Film Festival. Anna had a limited run here in Ottawa (just the CTT screenings), so the CFI screening poses a great chance for local film buffs to see and discuss renowned work from a local talent. Come join the intimate and enlightening film club of the CFI, as Martin will be in attendance for the June 20 screenings.

Screening in the third installment of “The Enlightened Screen” are:


Viva Margarita!

(Canada, 90 min.)
Dir. Dominique Cardona, Laurie Colbert; Writ: Dominique Cardona, Laurie Colbert, Margaret Webb
Starring: Nicola Correia Damude, Patrick McKenna, Claire Lautier, Christine Horne, Maya Ritter, Marco Grazzin.
What a charmer Margarita is! It’s easy to see how this delightful Canadian production won over audiences at last year’s Inside Out Film Festival in Toronto, and managed to do the same at festivals in America and Europe. This international crowd-pleaser, which plays like an indie relative of Mary Poppins with a LGBT twist or like Canada’s answer to The Kids Are All Right, is sure to receive a warm reception when it opens this month in Ottawa and Toronto.


'Gabrielle' Trailer

micro_scope released a trailer today for their latest production Gabrielle, which is the newest film to be produced by Luc Déry and Kim McCraw, the Oscar nominated producers of Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar. (And last year's equally good Inch'Allah.) Gabrielle is directed by Louise Archambault, whose credits include the feature Familia and a segment from 2011's The National Parks Project. The film stars Gabrielle Marion-Rivard and Incendies star Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, along with Alexandre Landry, Benoit Gouin, Marie Gignac, Isabelle Vincent, Sébastien Ricard, and Vincent-Guillaume Otis. The film's synopsis, described by my rough translation, is as follows: 'Students  Gabrielle and Martin are madly in love. However, their friends do not allow them to realize their love, as Gabrielle and Martin are not quite like the others. Determined, they will face the prejudices to expect to live a love story that is anything but ordinary.'

Summer Movie Reads

A Long Way Down should be first on your reading list!
The Summer Movie Reading List is becoming an annual tradition here on Cinemablographer. (Once again, I’ll offer five titles I’ve read and five that we can read together.) The journey from page-to-screen is far more enjoyable if you go along for the whole thing and can appreciate how filmmakers have transformed great works of literature into even greater films. For example, I had many a discussion last year over Anna Karenina, which seemed to yield a completely different experience between fans of the novel and those who hadn’t read it. (It’s freely available on e-readers, so I suggest you tackle it this summer and revisit the film. Anna’s also a much quicker read than the thickness of the book suggests, so don’t be intimidated!) On the other hand, even adaptation nuts like me know that it simply isn’t possible to read every book before seeing the film. Half the movies released are based on some sort of material, so that would take so much speed-reading that the endeavour would be pointless. It’s far better to enjoy the book than to simply check it off a list.


'The East' a Wake-Up Call for the West

The East
(USA/UK, 116 min.)
Dir. Zal Batmanglij, Writ. Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling
Starring: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Julia Ormond, and Patricia Clarkson.
The West seems to have it all. The countries on this side of The Prime Meridian have a sizable share in the wealth, power, and privilege of the world. One percent of the population wields more influence than the other ninety-nine. Fortunes are made, empires are built, and profits soar for some, while others lose. Such powers come with equal responsibilities, though, and the majority might not always remain silent as it sits and deals with a mess that allows few to prosper.


After the Sunset

Before Midnight
(USA, 108 min.)
Dir. Richard Linklater, Writ. Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke.
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Photo by Despina Spyrou, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn't think he'd remember. You take me. One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it, there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn't see me at all, but I'll bet a month hasn't gone by since that I haven't thought of that girl.
-Bernstein (Everett Sloane), Citizen Kane

What does it mean to chase the one that got away? Mr. Bernstein’s nostalgic monologue in Citizen Kane—one of the film’s best—is a classic ode to a kind of love that seems to exist only in the movies. The unattainable girl on the ferry, the one that got away, serves as a quintessential catalyst in the cinema’s quest for happily ever after.


'Blue Jasmine' Trailer

Cate Blanchett as Jasmine Photo by Merrick Morton
 © 2013 Gravier Productions, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Does Woody have another winner? I think so! Yahoo! debuted the trailer for Woody Allen's upcoming BLue Jasmine and it looks very promising. The film, which has only the vague premise of 'The story of the final stages of an acute crisis and a life of a fashionable New York housewife,' brings the Woodman back to the States after his European adventure. Blue Jasmine also seems to be one of Woody's darker, more dramatic films of late, which is cause for celebration, since Allen's few dramas often rank among his best films. (See Crimes and Misdemeanors, Interiors, Match Point.) Jasmine also looks to boast two strong performances from Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins as sisters Jasmine and Ginger. Blanchett looks especially good (and fashionable) as the boozy blue Jasmine. Do we have a Best Actress contender on our hands? Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K. and Peter Sarsgaard also star.

Blue Jasmine will be released July 26 from Sony Pictures Classics. Mongrel Media will distribute the film in Canada.


'Last Woman Standing' Airs Tonight

Mary Spencer Shadow Boxing
If you missed Last Woman Standing at Hot Docs this year, you are in luck. Last Woman Standing, one of the best films from the festival, airs on CBC Documentary channel tonight. This film really is worth tuning in to, since directors Lorraine Price and Juliet Lammers deliver one of the most engaging, adrenaline-pumping sports docs of late. (Last Woman Standing made the top five for the audience award at Hot Docs and landed on my own list of the best of the fest.) Canuck viewers should be on the edge of their seats as they watch this tale of friends Mary Spencer and Ariane Fortin who become rivals as they face off as the top two competitors for Canada’s shot at Olympic gold.


A Smart Take on 'Hannah Arendt'

Barbara Sukowa in Hannah Arendt
I don't usually repost articles here on Cinemablographer--I usually just share stories with a Tweet--but there's a really good read over at Indiewire on a film that I always felt I glossed over during my coverage at TIFF. That film, Margarethe von Trotta's Hannah Arendt, struck me with its thrilling take on academia as the director used a deceptively conventional biopic structure to realize the days in which the famed philosopher wrote her treatise The Banality of Evil. I especially liked the performances by Barbara Sukowa as Arendt, who does great things with a cigarette, and co-star Janet McTeer. Hannah Arendt got a mere capsule review from me during the festival, but it received a slight revisit when I reviewed Germany's Oscar entry Barbara later in January.


Golden Lyin'

(South Korea, 104 min.)
Written and directed by Kim Ki-duk
Starring: Cho Min-soo, Lee Jung-jin.
Cho Min-soo as Mi-sun. Courtesy of Mongrel Media
The press notes for Kim Ki-duk’s Pieta begin with the following note, which appears on a page unto itself thus stressing its overall significance in the grand scheme of the film:

‘Pieta’, meaning ‘pity’ in Italian, is an artistic style of a sculpture or painting that depicts the Virgin Mary sorrowfully cradling the dead body of Jesus. The Virgin Mary’s emotions revealed in ‘Pieta’ have represented the countless pains of loss that humans experience in life that are universally identifiable throughout centuries. It has been revived through master artists such as Michelangelo and Van Gogh.


Stories Sarah Tells

Photo courtesy the NFB
Chalk up another win for Sarah Polley and Stories We Tell. The annual Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards were handed out last night at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa and the annual gala acknowledged the work of Miss Polley and a handful of her peers who have made significant contributions to the arts in Canada. The event paid tribute to the honourees by including short films produced by the National Film Board of Canada, which has participated in the event for the past six years by offering cinematic profiles of the celebrated artists. The films capture the distinct flair and sense of creativity that make artists such as Polley worthy of the award. (It’s much more engaging than a speech, eh?)