|The Grand Budapest Hotel|
(Australia, 110 min.)
Dir. John Curran, Writ. Marion Nelson
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver
What’s the deal with camels? Camels don’t figure into the pictures much outside of advertisements for cigarettes or as icons of exotic places. The animals with the humps rarely receive prime billing in the movies even though they have an inherently cinematic quality to their peculiar frame. Tall, but not as tall giraffes, camels don’t need a long shot to share the screen with a fantastic actress. Their long, gangly frame also suits widescreen perfectly as they stretch across the screen with a dynamic hump in the middle that reaches for the sky. They seem like a cinematographer’s best friend! Also, they spit.
Young & Beautiful (Jeune & jolie)
(France, 95 min.)
Written and directed by François Ozon
Starring: Marine Vacht, Géraldine Pailhas, Frédéric Pierrot, Fantin Ravat, Johan Leysen, Charlotte Rampling.
How funny is it that Young & Beautiful is basically a feature film version of the song “Young and Beautiful” that Lana Del Rey sings as the Daisy theme in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby? Young & Beautiful, a worthwhile, if mildly disappointing offering from director François Ozon after the spectacular In the House (which made this blog’s list of the BestFilms of 2013), and “Young and Beautiful” both tell of girls who’ve seen the word, done it all, and had their cake now. They’ve enjoyed the world as their stage on summer nights, but youth fades and both tales end by asking how men view women when they’ve reached their golden years. By the time one is Charlotte Rampling with grey hair and nothing but her aching soul, youth and beauty don’t seem like hot commodities. The saucy Young & Beautiful is a François Ozon film, though, so it’s inevitable that the great Miss Rampling will reign over some hot young thing, but it’s fascinating to watch the director play newcomer Marine Vacht like a child in this unnerving tale of lost innocence.
Any fans of Once here on Cinemablographer? Yes? There’d better be! Director John Carney made a true breakout with 2007’s acoustic love balled Once and he’s finally back in movie musical territory with the sweet ditty Begin Again. Begin Again opens in theatres July 11 from eOne Films, but if you want to win tickets for an Ottawa sneak peek (along with some cool swag!), answer the trivia below to enter!
|A still from Watermark ©Edward Burtynsky, |
courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto / Howard Greenberg & Bryce Wolkowitz, New York
|"The Christmas Log"|
The selected films are as follows.
(USA, 134 min.)
Dir. Clint Eastwood, Writ. Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice
Starring: John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Michael Lomeda, Erich Bergen, Christopher Walken.
Jersey Boys marks the first—and hopefully only—time I have left a movie thinking, “Gee, I wonder what Adam Shankman could have done with that.” Yes, even Mr. Hairspray might have been a far better fit for this Broadway adaptation than the great Clint Eastwood. Jersey Boys sure looks and feels like a Clint Eastwood movie, though, for it’s sombre, serious, and dark, yet the chocolate-malt-and-jukebox-vibe of the material might simply be better suited to the bubbly candyfloss direction of filmmaker who better understands the energy of the genre. Jersey Boys is possibly the most inert and lifeless musical ever put to screen.
(Canada, 102 min.)
Dir. Michel Poulette, Writ. Pierre Billon
Starring: Roseanne Supernault, Ipellie Ootoova, Uapshkuss Thernish, Tantoo Cardinal, Graham Greene, Eric Schweig, Natar Ungalaaq.
When the Innu and Inuit first met, the first major meeting of cultures on Canadian soil was a giant case of boy trouble. An essential chapter of this nation’s history receives a rare telling in Maïna, a Best Picture nominee at the Canadian Screen Awards earlier this year, and the result is a disappointing hybrid of soap opera romance and those Canadian heritage minutes that used to play during the commercial breaks of Hockey Night in Canada. Maïna tells a story that predates the arrival of European colonists, but the encounter between Aboriginal tribes doesn’t receive the treatment it deserves. This well-intentioned film makes admirable leaps in terms of representing Aboriginal customers, cultures, and practices, yet it belittles its subject with its melodramatic treatment.
|Carl Bessai on the set of No Clue, an eOne Films release.|
All the Wrong Reasons
(Canada, 118 min.)
Written and directed by Gia Milani
Starring: Karine Vanasse, Cory Monteith, Emily Hampshire, Kevin Zegers
Ah, the big box store. It’s the place where everything is easy and accessible. Life is one-stop shopping with groceries, clothes, and electronics only a few aisles away and all for low, low prices. If only life could be so perfect!
|Meryl Streep in One True Thing|
(Israel, 112 min.)
Dir. Avi Nesher, Writ. Avi Nesher, Shanaan Street
Starring: Ori Hizkiah, Yehuda Levi, Adir Miller, Yuval Scharf
The 2014 Israeli Film Festival closes by taking audiences down a strange and wonderful rabbit hole in Avi Nesher’s The Wonders. The Wonders, not to be confused with Alice Rohrwacher’s Cannes film of the same name, is an amusing oddity. What exactly Avi Nesher is up to in this film is a wonder itself. The Wonders is an intriguing noir/adventure/comedy with a splash of the strange and unusual (a few splashes in the unusual department, actually) as a stoner-slacker named Ariel (Ori Hizakiah) finds himself embroiled in a bizarre espionage game involving a shady private investigator, a sultry femme, and a rabbi with supposedly wondrous powers. Deciphering which of these four players is the greatest charlatan of them all is half the fun, but Nesher might pull the biggest con of the lot with his generic hodgepodge and smart misdirection.
ObviousChild earlier this week. Now Obvious Child wants to warm the hearts (and butter) of Ottawa readers. Obvious Child opens in Ottawa this July, but a few lucky readers may win tickets to a sneak peek of this summer’s breakout indie comedy starring Jenny Slate! Answer the trivia below for your chance to win.
|Brendan Gleeson and Gordon Pinsent in The Grand Seduction, an eOne Films release|
The nominations for the feature film categories are:
A Place in Heaven
(Israel, 117 min.)
Written and directed by Yossi Madmony
Starring: Alon Aboutboul, Tom Graziani, Sophia Ostritsky, Karen Beger, Rotem Zisman-Cohen
A soldier, hungry in the battlefield, might do something drastic to save himself. Alternatively, a soldier looking for redemption might do anything to be saved when his life is on the line. An odd transaction—mutually beneficial it seems—happens almost anecdotally in Yossi Madmony’s sprawling A Place in Heaven as two soldiers strike a quick bargain during a repose from battle. Their deal follows an odd precept of Jewish law that permits a person to sell his or her place in heaven. The afterlife should cost a great deal, but a soldier named Bambi (Alon Aboutboul), the hero-of-the-moment after a risky mission, trades his soul for a plate of eggs. The deal occurs quickly and hurriedly like two friends trading a stick of gum for a cigarette. The nonchalant air with which Madmony dramatizes this transaction doesn’t bode well for the egg hungry man.
All the Wrong Reasons had a bittersweet debut when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. The acclaimed film scooped the 2013 Grolsch Film Works Discovery Prize for writer/director Gia Milani, but as the film marked an introduction to a bold new filmmaker, it also offered a sad farewell to a popular Canadian star, Cory Moneith. Monteith’s fans will be pleased to see a different side of the Glee star in this fine ensemble film that features several of Canada’s hottest talents including Karine Vanasse (Polytechnique), Emily Hampshire (My Awkward Sexual Adventure), and Kevin Zegers (The Colony). All the Wrong Reasons comes to home video June 23rd from TVA Films and Pacific Northwest Pictures, but two lucky readers may take home a copy of the film on DVD. Answer the trivia below for your chance to win!
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon
(USA, 84 min.)
Dir. Mike Myers, Beth Alla
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon is basically Hobnobbing: The Movie. That isn’t really a bad thing if one considers the smorgasbord of celebrities that Mike Myers trucks out for this fun talking heads documentary about Hollywood manager Shep Gordon. The amiable, laid-back atmosphere Myers creates as the A-listers tell stories about the legendary mensch is much like a group of friends reminiscing about good times at a party, trading stories and finding links in order to build some kind of rapport. Rubbing elbows and shaking hands is only a fraction of a manager’s job, but people need to like you if you want to get ahead in the biz. And people clearly like Shep Gordon. A lot.
A Long Way Down
(UK/Germany, 96 min.)
Dir. Pascal Chaumeil, Writ. Jack Thorne
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots.
Nick Hornby’s novel A Long Way Down is one of those irresistible books that can save your life. The film adaptation by Pascal Chaumeil, however, is one of those dreadful films that kill a good book. A great cast goes to waste in this staggeringly disappointing misfire. A Long Way Down, the movie, jumps from the ledge of greatness and falls with a splat into the abyss of adaptation hell. It’s a long way down from its potential and the result ain’t pretty.
(USA, 114 min.)
Written and directed by Jon Favreau
Starring: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Sofia Vergara, Bobby Cannavale, Emjay Anthony, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Robert Downey Jr.
There is no pleasure in writing a terrible review. Sure, it’s fun to trash empty derivative garbage once in a while, but even that feels like an insufferable waste of time since one could spend those hours seeking out valuable fare. A reviewer certainly finds some level of amusement crafting clever witticisms to make the medicine go down with a spoonful of sugar, but drafting a nasty review never feels as satisfying as crafting a glowing rave that encourages a reader to run out and discover something as value. A level of disappointment underlies harsh reviews, too, since one almost inevitably feels let down when one sees a talented artist fail to deliver upon the standards of which he or she is capable. Bad reviews leave a sour aftertaste for everyone.
(Canada, 110 min.)
Dir. Daniel Grou, Writ. Gabriel Sabourin
Starring: Xavier Dolan, Marilyn Castonguay, Robin Aubert, Anne Dorval, Louise Turcot, Julien Poulin, Jean-Nicolas Verreault, Gabriel Sabourin, Gilbert Sicotte.
|Xavier Dolan and Marilyn Castonguay in Miraculum. |
Photo: Les Films Séville.
A flurry of excitement is boosting Canadian film ever since Mommy premiered at Cannes in May, so eager beavers will undoubtedly want to see Miraculum, which is this year’s other major Canadian film starring the hot director/star team of Mommy, Xavier Dolan and Anne Dorval. Dolan and Dorval share not a single frame of the film, but they both give exceptionally strong performances within the solid cast of Québécois actors who fill the roles of this intricately plotted drama. Miraculum sees Dolan and Dorval within two separate time-lines in this multi-narrative kaleidoscope that sees fates intersect with one devastating plane crash. It’s an elaborate drama in the vein of Crash and 21 Grams, and the powerhouse performances are reason alone to see this thoughtful film.
|Rachel Browne, 1992. Photo Credit: Randal Newman|
Farewell, Herr Schwarz
(Israel/Germany, 96 min.)
Written and directed by Yael Reuveny
Writer/director Yael Reuveny scores a winner with her remarkable feature debut Farewell, Herr Schwarz. This powerful documentary, which screens Thursday as part of the Canadian Film Institute’s ongoing Israeli Film Festival, is a moving exploration of family history. Reuveny’s approach is beautifully intimate and delicate in its simplicity. Farewell, Herr Schwarz is a deeply personal film—almost uncomfortably so in its emotional frankness—yet the candor and vulnerability of the filmmaker fuels one’s desire to learn more.
The German Doctor (Wakolda)
(Argentina/Spain, 93 min.)
Written and directed by Lucía Puenzo
Starring: Àlex Brendemühl, Natalia Oreiro, Diego Peretti, Elena Roger, Florencia Bado.
The German Doctor lives and dies by its status of being inspiring by true events. This might seem like an unfair diagnosis for the film, which repped Argentina in the most recent Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film, but much of the power, horror, resonance, and disappointment one feels while watching The German Doctor almost inevitably pertain to the true events that intersect with the narrative. The German Doctor is a frequently satisfying and occasionally chilling tale of Nazi hunting, but the title cards that end the film and fill in the gaps are almost fatal punctuation marks for how much further writer/direct Lucía Puenzo (XXY) could have taken this intriguing story.
(Israel/USA, 107 min.)
Dir. Reshef Levi, Writ. Reshef Levi, Regev Levi
Starring: Sasson Gagai, Moni Moshonov, Patrick Stewart, Gil Blank, Yaël Abecassis.
They say an elephant never forgets, but the reputation of the elderly flows in the opposite direction. Memory is a funny thing. The three old cards in Hunting Elephants, which opens the Canadian Film Institute’s 11th annual Israeli Film Festival on June 8th, have more wrinkles than most elephants do, but they haven’t forgotten how to put on a good show. This fun, light-hearted crime comedy is a geriatric caper in the vein of RED, but like the machine gun toting’ Helen Mirren pic, Hunting Elephants sees some grey-haired grifters with a few tricks stashed away in their trunks, so this consistently delightful film should please viewers young and old.
Edge of Tomorrow
(USA/Australia, 113 min.)
Dir. Doug Liman, Writ. Christopher McQuarrie and Jez Butterworth & John Henry Butterworth
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton.
“Live, die, repeat,” is the tagline for Edge of Tomorrow, but it just as easily serves as a motto for a star operating under the Hollywood system. An inevitable machine of sameness, for better or for worse, allows actors to find a niche, build an audience, and rise to the top. Tom Cruise is one such star who has competently navigated Hollywood star economies to assert himself as a bona fide action star. From Top Gun to Days of Thunder and a few heroic dramas in between, the 1980s and 1990s easily establish a base that positions Cruise as an all-time star. Hollywood formulas, however, die by the virtue of their sameness just as easily as they succeed by them.
Obvious Child. Obvious Child, a hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, stars “Saturday Night Live” and “Parks and Recreation” comedienne Jenny Slate in a star-making performance of self-discovery. The film opens in Toronto June 20th, but a few lucky readers may win tickets to a sneak peek (with Jenny Slate in attendance)! You won’t have to murder-suicide anyone, but you will have to answer some trivia.
|Melanie Laurent stars in Enemy|
The winners are:
|Patrick Stewart stars in the Israeli Film Festival opener Hunting Elephants.|
|The Lion (Aaron Poole) and the Beaver (Joey Klein) in The Animal Project. |
Photo by John Gundy. Courtesy of Mongrel Media.
(Canada/Germany, 105 min.)
Dir. Paul W.S. Anderson, Writ. Janet Scott Batchler & Lee Batchler and Michael Robert Johnson
Starring: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Carrie-Anne Moss, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jessica Lucas, Jared Harris, Kiefer Sutherland.
Pompeii might actually be the only film that improves the more it enters Roland Emmerich territory. There’s a compliment in there somewhere.
|Mommy director Xavier Dolan. Photo credit: Shayne Laverdière.|
|The Sweet Hereafter|
This decision comes at a high point for the Canadian Film Review. After developing a successful publication, TV show and web series, the CFR has not only accomplished what it set out to do, but it shattered myths that these types of things could not be done. We are extremely popular with Canadian audiences. I am so incredibly proud of what my team and I have accomplished. We have proven that Canadians love Canadian content and there is an audience out there for it. This is groundbreaking in the eyes of the entertainment industry but it isn’t enough.
(The post makes some necessary observations on the state of Canadian film and is worth reading in full here.)
|In the Name of the Girl|
The programme for the Ecuador Film Series is as follows:
(USA, 97 min.)
Dir. Writ. Linda Woolverton
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Brenton Thwaites.
Angelina Jolie retains her title as the reigning Queen of Badassdom with Maleficent. The Oscar winning bad-girl-turned-Supermommy assembles many of the facets of star persona, plus some extravagantly accentuated cheekbones, and delivers a deliciously malevolent Maleficent who is both hero and villain alike. The film somewhat disappoints overall, but Jolie’s inspired incarnation on the beloved Disney baddie ensures that Maleficent at least lives up to some of the expectations.