|Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d’Arcy, Michael Keaton and John Slattery in Spotlight, an Entertainment One release. Photo by: Kerry Hayes|
(USA, 122 min.)
Dir. Danny Boyle, Writ. Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston
“Computers aren’t supposed to have human flaws. Why would we want to incept this one with yours?” asks Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) to Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) in a flashback scene of Steve Jobs. This hard-wired drama takes a bite out of the Apple icon as Aaron Sorkin thoroughly and brilliantly deconstructs the way we perceive our heroes with his outstanding script based on Jobs’ rocketing career and monstrous personality. Call it a clash of titans or a battle of gods and men, but Steve Jobs invites an audience to see a man for all his faults and shortcomings, yet asks if the man’s contribution to society is enough to redeem him in the end. At the heart of Steve Jobs, however, is a central philosophical meditation on the circuitry of humans and computers alike: both man and machine have failings, but only one has the capacity for kindness.
Cellar Door Film Festival returns for its second season and brings the best in horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films to Ottawa. (See the full line-up here.) This year’s festival opens with the enchanting dark fantasy/comedy Liza, the Fox-Fairy at The Mayfair on November 5, and it’s truly going to be a fun celebration of the strange and unusual. Thanks to CDFF, we have a pair of tickets to give away to the opening night screening of Liza, the Fox-Fairy. Answer the trivia below for a chance to win!
(Peru/Colombia/Germany/France, 94 min.)
Written and directed by Héctor Gálvez
Starring: Paul Vega, Isabel Gaona, Antonieta Pari
There ain’t no bones about it: Peru isn’t winning the Oscar this year. The Latin American nation’s official submission in the Best Foreign Language Film race is Héctor Gálvez’s elegiac drama NN and it’s certainly a film of which Peru should be proud. NN dramatizes a real case in which the ghosts of Peruvian political violence haunt the present as bodies as exhumed and citizens try to heal and move forward. It’s a well-intentioned film that should strike a strong emotional note with the local audience, but success on the international front seems trickier. Oscars aren’t the endgame of a film like NN, so its major award is Gálvez’s effort to put national trauma into the spotlight.
The Girl King
(Canada/Finland/Germany/Sweden, 106 min.)
Dir. Mika Kaurismäki, Writ. Michel Marc Bouchard
Starring: Malin Buska, Sarah Gadon, Michael Nyqvist, Patrick Bauchau, Lucas Bryant, Francois Arnaud, Martina Gedeck
2015 is an epic year for Canadian co-productions with films like The Witch, Room and Brooklyn among the most impressive and high profile efforts. Add the sweeping historical drama The Girl King to the list, for this gorgeously realized production is truly an international affair. This joint effort with Finland, Sweden, and Germany tells the story of Sweden's Queen Kristina, played by Malin Buska, the nation's virgin sovereign circa 1650. Kristina is an unconventional monarch with her forward-thinking philosophy and interest in girls. The Girl King is a timely parable of power and love that feels relevant to today, for instead of playing the Royal Uterus, a queen’s then-conventional role, Kristina is Sweden's Elizabeth with a queer crown.
A double dose of Xavier Dolan films earn the top prizes in the feature film categories of the Directors Guild of Canada awards. Dolan’s 2014 Oscar submission won the prize for Best Feature Film, while Charles Binamé won Best Director for Elephant Song, which co-stars Xavier Dolan as a sociopathic killer. (Dolan wasn’t even nominated for Best Director.) The film awards mostly shared the wealth among the bigger titles of 2014. The big winners of the night were in the television categories, though, with The Book of Negroes sweeping the TV Movie/Mini-Series awards and Schitt’s Creek dominating the awards for comedy. The awards were handed out in Toronto last night at the Carlu. Full list of winners below:
Bridge of Spies
(USA, 141 min.)
Dir. Steven Spielberg, Writ. Mark Charman, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Austin Stowell, Will Rogers
Spielberg is back! The master of escapism returns with the rousing and impeccably crafted Cold War drama Bridge of Spies. It might seem strange to say that Spielberg emerges from a slump even after his two previous films, Lincoln and War Horse, are both Best Picture Oscar nominees and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a box office hit even if it stained a franchise, but Bridge of Spies sees Spielberg in his element. The film is grandly entertaining and polished with the signature Spielberg flare. It’s patriotically and wholesomely appealing, yet—and this aspect most crucially elevates the film above Spielberg’s most recent works—it doesn’t feel lame, trite, or cheesy. Bridge of Spies is instead dark and thoughtful on America’s place in the world and its position on foreign policy. In short, Bridge of Spies showcases of Spielberg’s skills as both an entertainer and an artist.
|Cellar Door Film Festival opens with Liza, the Fox-Fairy|
Labyrinth of Lies (Im Labyrinth des Schweigens)
(Germany, 122 min.)
Dir. Giulio Ricciarelli, Writ. Elisabeth Bartel
Starring: Alexander Fehling, André Szymanski, Friederike Becht, Gert Voss
|Alexander Fehling as Johann Radmann. |
Photo by Heike Ullrich, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics / Mongrel Media.
The horrors of the Holocaust are so many that they’ll never cease to tell compelling stories. One has to hand it to the Germans for consistently acknowledging this dark chapter of their nation’s past. It’s no wonder, then, that Labyrinth of Lies, a film tackles the choice to make the Holocaust a collective responsibility among Germans, this the country’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film in this year’s Academy Awards race. (The superior Phoenix is ineligible due to release dates.) This well-mounted drama from director Giulio Ricciarelli is an impressive feature debut that puts history on trial as one man seeks the truth.
Price of Love
(Ethiopia, 99 min.)
Dir. Hermon Hailey, Writ. Hermon Hailey, Max Conil
Starring: Eskinder Tameru, Fereweni Gebregergs
Crumbs.) Price of Love continues its run on the festival circuit with a recent stop at the inaugural African Film Festival of Ottawa where it screened to a respectable crowd and showcased a promising talent at a promising new film festival. This drama from director/co-writer Hermon Hailey evokes Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 neorealist landmark The Bicycle Thief with the compelling search at its heart. Call this realist fable Taxi Thieves.
TIFF review here.) Blanchett stars as award-winning journalist/producer Mary Mapes and plays alongside Robert Redford as Dan Rather in this timely dramatization of the story behind Mapes/Rather’s fall after following a lead to expose President Bush’s war record. Truth opens in theatres October 30th from eOne Films, but readers across Canada can attend a sneak peek! Answer the trivia below for a chance to win!
(Australia, 82 min.)
Dir. Joseph Sims-Dennett, Writ. Joseph Sims-Dennett, Josh Zammit
Starring: Lindsay Farris, Stephanie King
Rear Window goes down under in the incoherent Aussie psychological drama Observance. Parker (Lindsay Farris) takes a gig creeping on a blond woman through the back peephole of a vacant apartment, but instead of seeing a murder, he witnesses one through the fleeting fever dream of his mind. There's a bug in the air at this little Aussie complex, yet its source, antidote, and purpose are never clear. Observance is an admirable attempt at lo-fi horror that disappoints by never asserting itself.
(Canada, 87 min.)
Written and directed by Cody Campanale
Starring: Alino Giraldi, Shannon Coulter, Edward Charette, Andrew Di Rosa, Chloe Van Landschoot
“Bullshit.”“It fuckin’ happened!”“Oh, bullshit! Show me then.”“She took them down.”[Passes the phone.]“Holy shit. Jesus Christ, this poor fucking girl.”“She’s a fucking slut…”
(USA, 103 min.)
Dir. Peter Sollett, Writ. Ron Nyswaner
Starring: Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Michael Shannon, Steve Carell
It’s crazy to think that the drama of Freeheld takes place only a decade ago. The blond, flowing hair that Julianne Moore sports as New Jersey detective Laurel Hester looks like a wig out of a 1980s music video, and the film really hits an emotional punch when one realizes the immediacy of the film. What begins as a fight in 2005 only really sees the full effect of its results today as Laurel and her partner Stacie (Ellen Page) fight for equality when Laurel undergoes treatment for cancer. Their case, which revolves around Laurel’s pension and her struggle to have it transferred to Stacie upon her death, is a poignant corner of the victory for marriage equality today. This moving love story of is one many on the road to the iconic pink ‘=’ displayed around the world.
(Canada, 103 min.)
Written and directed by Deepa Mehta
Starring: Randeep Hooda, Ali Momen, Sarah Allen, Waris Ahluwalia, Balinder Johal, Paul Gross
|L to R: Waris Ahluwalia, Ali Momen, Randeep Hooda, Ali Kazmi, Steve Dhillon, Jag Bal, and Gabe Grey in Beeba Boys. Photo by Doane Gregory. Courtesy of Mongrel Media.|
Deepa Mehta pulls a Ruba Nadda with Beeba Boys. The great Canadian arthouse director, like Nadda did with 2012’s Inescapable and again with 2014’s October Gale, tries her hand at genre and finds herself out of her element. Beeba Boys is Mehta’s first real misfire, as it struggles to balance comedy and the gangster genre within a well-meaning and urgent dramatization of gang violence among Indo-Canadians in Vancouver. The themes are and concerns are perfectly in line with her body of work, but the delivery is way off. Simply put, Beeba Boys puts the ‘meh’ in Mehta.
Lights! Camera! Cure! by Vixens Victorious launches next week and shines a spotlight on two worthy causes. For one, this film festival is also a charitable event for which all proceeds go towards the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. Even better, Lights! Camera! Cure! champions filmmakers who are traditionally underrepresented in the film festival circuit: female filmmakers; or, Canadian female filmmakers more specifically.
(Albania/Italy/Kosovo, 100 min.)
Written and directed by Iris Elezi, Thomas Logoreci
Starring: Flonja Kodheli, Fioralba Kyremadhi, Artur Gorishti, Tinka Kurti, Alban Ukaj, Luca Lionello
Albanian films are few and far between, and that’s a darn shame if they’re anywhere near as good as Bota is. Bota is Albania’s official submission in the Best Foreign Language Film race for this year’s Oscars and while it might be a dark horse at best, it’s a great example of the Oscar derby giving marginal films a platform for exposure. Bota is a hidden gem worth discovering.
eOne Films, but readers across Canada can attend a sneak peek! Answer the trivia below for a chance to win!
|Director Davis Guggenheim, Malala Yousafzai, and Ziauddinuddin Yousafzai in Birmingham, England. |
Caroline Furneaux / Twentieth Century Fox Film
The Last Witch Hunter opens in theatres October 23 from eOne Films, but readers across Canada can attend a sneak peek! Answer the trivia below for a chance to win!
(Slovakia/Czech Republic, 75 min.)
Dir. Ivan Ostrochovsky, Writ. Marek Lescak, Ivan Ostrochovsky
Starring: Peter Balaz, Zvonko Lakcevic, Jan Franek, Stanislava Bongilajova
Slovakia’s Oscar submission Koza is not a contender. The Slovaks admirably put up their dukes with an unconventional candidate for the Best Foreign Language Film race, but Koza, even at an anemic seventy-five minutes, is a tiresome slog. The film follows a down-and-out boxer named Koza (Slovak for “goat”), played by Peter Balaz, as he goes back into the ring to earn enough money to pay for his girlfriend’s abortion (why not double team with Lily Tomlin?) and this story of a well-intentioned loser is no knock-out punch. It’s a harmless welterweight.
People Hold On
(Canada, 98 min.)
Dir. Michael Seater, Writ. Paula Brancati, Michael Seater
Starring: Katie Boland, Paula Brancati, Mazin Elsadig, Ashley Leggat, Jonathan Malen, Al Mukadam, Noah Reid, Chloe Rose
Is our generation a lost one? People Hold On finds a group of high school friends at a crossroads when they reunite for a traditional cottage getaway that puts them all at a junction. Without the direction or confidence to choose between the carefree recklessness of youth and the sobering responsibilities of adulthood, these eight friends create considerable tension as they confront the personal struggles that keep them from growing up. Aided by a confident cast and a strong indie soundtrack, this lo-fi film is The Big Chill for a generation of Canadians, minus the corpse of Kevin Costner that sets the 1980s classic in motion.
review here) and it’s bound to warm the hearts of audiences when it hits theatres next week. Meet the Patels opens in theatres October 16 from D Films, but Toronto readers can win tickets to a sneak peek! Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets!
(USA, 78 min.)
Written and directed by Paul Weitz
Starring: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox, Sam Elliot
Grandma is an outstanding star vehicle for Lily Tomlin. The 76-year-old comedienne gives one of the best performances of her career in Grandma playing a sassy granny. As 78-year-old Elle, a widowed lesbian who helps her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) collect funds for an abortion for an unexpected pregnancy, Tomlin channels the tricky road of motherhood as Elle revisits ghosts of the past and confronts the many women in her life. She is vibrant, out, and funny in Grandma, and she’s confidently in driver’s seat of this indie road movie. Tomlin’s performance in Grandma gives audiences everything they could hope to find in character study.
Rock the Kasbah opens in theatres October 23 from VVS Films, but readers in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver can attend a sneak peek! Answer the trivia below for a chance to win!
(USA, 130 min.)
Dir. Ridley Scott, Writ. Drew Goddard
Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Wong
Is there life on Mars? Well, yes and no. The Red Planet is a desolate and barren place in science fiction (and, admittedly, reality) and The Martian is no exception. However, there is life on Mars in this thrilling survival drama from director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) as stranded astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) shows that life endures in even the most unforgiving places. This smart sci-fi film brings the genre back to its roots and takes audiences to space without any of the gimmicks on which recent space outings rely. With or without the 3D glasses, The Martian is a thrilling trip. (This review considers the 2D version.)
This Changes Everything
(Canada/USA, 89 min.)
Dir. Avi Lewis
Programme: TIFF Docs (World Premiere)
“I’ve always kind of hated films about climate change,” says Naomi Klein as she introduces the eco-doc This Changes Everything. Klein drolly gives her condolences to the polar bears that often inspire sympathy in fire-and-brimstone climate chance documentaries that primarily deliver their messages through fear. As someone who watched over one hundred environmental documentaries this summer for a film festival, I appreciate Klein’s sentiment. Her rebuttal is even better.