|Deepa Mehta at Beeba Boys |
WireImage/Getty for TIFF
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron)
(Sweden/Germany/Norway/France, 101 min.)
Written and directed by Roy Andersson
Starring: Nisse Vestblom, Holger Andersson, Charlotta Larsson, Viktor Gyllenberg
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence wins the prize for best film title of the year, if not all time. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence might also have the most inaccurate or misleading title since Vic + Flo Saw aBear. Andersson’s film, which screens at Ottawa’s European Union Film Festival after winning the Golden Lion at Venice last year (it’s also Sweden’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film), has neither pigeon nor branch. However, Pigeon certainly reflects on existence—and, boy, does it ever do so grandly!
(USA, 124 min.)
Dir. Jay Roach, Writ. John McNamara
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, John Goodman, Michael Stuhlbarg, David James Elliott, Dean O'Gorman, Alan Tudyk, Louis C.K
|Helen Mirren stars as Hedda Hopper and Bryan Cranston stars as Dalton Trumbo in Jay Roach’s Trumbo, an Entertainment One release. Photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle|
“Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” are chilling words that define a dark and pivotal chapter of Hollywood history. The years of the Hollywood Blacklist in which industry figures like screenwriter Dalton Trumbo were ostracized and persecuted for their politics, are important years for Hollywood to remember, yet the story of the Hollywood Ten doesn’t get much screen time from Tinsletown. Aside from George Clooney’s excellent Good Night, and Good Luck, which uses the 1953 CBS news coverage of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to interrogate media responsibility in Bush-era America, few contemporary films ask that familiar question. It appears again in Trumbo, perhaps the fullest dramatization of the era of the Hollywood Blacklist, but the film unfortunately feels like a missed opportunity to turn the question of McCarthyism right on its head.
(USA, 120 min.)
Dir. Tom McCarthy, Writ. Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci
Fans of Linden MacIntyre’s Giller Prize-winning novel The Bishop’s Man must, must, must see Spotlight. Spotlight doesn’t adapt MacIntyre’s excellent 2009 Canadian novel about a so-called “clean-up man” of the clothe who enabled his fellow clergy to molest young parishioners without reprisal or scandal, but fans of the book are bound to be taken by this equally incendiary film about the story that broke the church’s web of corruption wide open. This true tale dramatizes the landmark 2002 feat of journalism by the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe, which exposed the cover-ups of sexual abuse in the local Catholic Archdiocese with an ongoing commitment to the story. (Read the Spotlight series here.) The complexity and wrestling with guilt and faith one reads in The Bishop's Man find a powerful counterpoint in Spotlight as the mess of cleaning up the cover-up spins a story that leaves one spinning. Print might be dying, but Spotlight makes a solid case for the value of a free, impartial, and intelligent press.
Award-season FYC-ing continues!
Straight Outta Compton
(USA, 147 min.)
Dir. F. Gary Gray, Writ. Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff
Starring: O’Shea Jackson, Jr.; Corey Hawkins; Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown, Jr; Aldis Hodge; Paul Giamatti
profiled here in the Summer Movie Reads of 2015). Carol stars Cate Blanchett and Cannes Best Actress winner Rooney Mara in two of the performances that critics are calling the year’s best. Carol opens in theatres beginning December 11 from eOne Films, but lucky readers in select cities may win tickets to a sneak peek. Answer the trivia below for a chance to win tickets!
Class Enemy (Razredni sovraznik)
(Slovenia, 107 min.)
Dir. Rok Bicek, Writ. Nejc Gazvoda, Rok Bicek, Janez Lapajne
Starring: Igor Samobor, Natasa Barbara Gracner, Tjasa Zeleznik, Masa Derganc, Robert Prebil, Voranc Boh, Jan Zupančič
The European Union Film Festival finds a fitting follow-up to Luxembourg’s unsettling drama Baby(a)lone with Slovenia’s provocative drama Class Enemy. Both films are uncomfortable portraits of youth in revolt, but while Baby(a)lone finds power in the urgency of its character study, the group rebellion of Class Enemy situates the film in a larger collective uneasiness passed from generation to generation. This feature debut by Rok Bicek, Slovenia’s bid for Best Foreign Language Film back in 2013 (when Youth director Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty won) is a powerful high school drama about ghosts that linger and lessons we all must learn.
(USA, 103 min.)
Dir. John Eric Dowdle, Writ. John Eric Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
Starring: Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Pierce Brosnan
Family vacations are often hell, but nothing compares to the nightmare of a trip to Southeast Asia that the Dwyer family endures in No Escape. Owen Wilson stars as Jack Dwyer, a man who moves his family to an anonymous Asian country (although it’s unmistakably Thailand) to work on a major dam project. No Escape turns the family’s new home upside-down when a political coup rocks the nation just hours after the family arrives. The action-packed No Escape leaves no time for sightseeing as the Dwyers run for their lives in an adventure they’ll never forget.
The Forbidden Room
(Canada, 120 min.)
Dir. Guy Maddin, co-dir. Evan Johnson; Writ. Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Robert Kotyk
Starring: Louis Negin, Roy Dupuis, Clare Furey, Udo Kier, Geraldine Chaplin, Charlotte Rampling, Sophie Desmarais, Karine Vanasse, Marie Brassard, Mathieu Amalric
“Life in its thrall—a nightmare!” reads an intertitle within Guy Maddin's hallucinatory phantasmagoria The Forbidden Room. The Forbidden Room is Maddin in his thrall, at the peak of his ridiculously extravagant weirdness. Every once in a rare while comes a film that lets an eccentric auteur unleash himself to his full potential, and The Forbidden Room is a richly dreamy, somnambulant kino-opera of style and experimentation. Only Maddin would even dare to attempt such a dense experiment, let alone achieve it. The Forbidden Room is one of Maddin’s strangest and best films yet.
The Keeper of Lost Causes
(Denmark/Germany/Sweden/Norway, 92 min.)
Dir. Mikkel Nørgaard, Writ. Nikolaj Arcel
Starring: Nikolaj Lee Kaas, Sonja Richter, Fares Fares, Peter Plaugborg, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard,
Anyone debating seeing Secret in Their Eyes this weekend might want to reconsider and catch Keeper of Lost Causes at the European Union Film Festival instead. This dark Danish co-production is a gritty crime drama. Much like the difference between the remake of Secret in Their Eyes and the original, this foreign affair suggests that thrillers are best done with subtitles.
|Saoirse Ronan as Eilis and Emory Cohen as Tony in Brooklyn. |
Photo by Kerry Brown. Courtesy of Mongrel Media
(Read the 4-star review here.) Bang Bang Baby hits VOD November 27 from Search Engine Films, but lucky readers can win a free download to enjoy Bang Bang Baby on VOD and sing along in the comfort of their own homes. Answer the trivia below for a chance to win!
Secret in Their Eyes
(USA, 110 min.)
Written and directed by Billy Ray
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Dean Norris, Alfred Molina
Avert your eyes, Hollywood is at it again. Argentina’s Oscar winner The Secret in Their Eyes gets a ho-hum Hollywood remake in this by-the-numbers potboiler from writer/director Billy Ray (who wrote Captain Phillips). The original Secret in Their Eyes, despite being an Oscar winner, has ample room for improvement, so one feels a genuine disappointment that this remake fails to take the material to its full potential. The remake doesn’t even have a doozy of a long take to inspire one to leave the theatre raving, unlike hoe the original saved itself with five minutes of breathtaking filmmaking.
|If I Was God... Photo courtesy of the NFB|
(Luxembourg, 90 min.)
Written and directed by Donato Rotunno
Starring: Joshua Defays, Charlotte Elsen, Etienne Halsdorf
The kids are not all right in Baby(a)lone. Baby(a)lone opens this year’s European Union Film Festival in Ottawa and it’s much darker and edgier than past festival openers have been. Baby(a)lone might not be the first film with which one expects a country to represent itself at an international showcase, nor at the Oscars where the film is Luxembourg’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film, but it’s brave of Luxembourg to be so bold. The film is bound to strike a nerve with some festivalgoers, especially parents, but the tough rawness of Donato Rotunno’s direction gives Baby(a)lone a potent sting. It’s an uncomfortable watch—and an urgent one.
By the Sea
(USA, 132 min.)
Written and directed by Angelina Jolie Pitt
Starring: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Niels Arestrup, Melvil Poupaud
Angelina Jolie Pitt directs her third dramatic feature with By the Sea, and this piece of Euro arthouse cinéma finally gives the first onscreen team of Brangelina since the two actors heated things up in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. (Granted, Pitt has a cameo in Jolie’s dramatic directorial debut In the Land of Blood and Honey, but this film is their first real pairing both in front of the camera and behind it.) The two actors are as hot and sexy as ever in this languid arty vacationer that plays like the seaside holiday of Frank and April Wheeler as Americans Roland (Pitt) and Vanessa (Jolie Pitt) take a holiday in France and see their marriage hit the rocks. Scenes from a marriage, perhaps? Let’s hope not, but Angie's arty adventure deserves some credit as the couple spices things up.
|Cannes sensation Son of Saul screens EUFF. |
Photo: SPC / Mongrel
Answer the trivia below for a chance to win tickets to a sneak peek!
(UK/USA, 148 min.)
Dir. Sam Mendes, Writ. John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw
|Bond (Daniel Craig) following Marco Sciarra through the Dia de los Muertos parade in Spectre. |
Photo: Stephen Vaughan / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Danjaq, LLC and Columbia Pictures
There’s no need to worry, Henny Penny: the sky isn’t falling. Yes, James Bond is back after the franchise high of Skyfall and it’s a relief to say that the newest 007 film, Spectre, isn’t to Skyfall what Quantum of Solace is to Casino Royale. Skyfall sets a high bar with its billion-dollar box office, two Oscars, and BAFTA win for Best Film, so while Spectre is no Skyfall by any regards, it’s enough to keep 007 fans satisfied that James Bond is on the mend.
(Taiwan, 105 min.)
Dir. Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Writ. Chu Tien-Wen, Hsieh Hai-Meng, Zhong Acheng
Starring: Shu Qi, Chang Chen, Zhou Yun, Satoshi Tsumabuki
Wuxia films can be a grand affair as marital arts masters and soaring swordsmen trade blows and defend their honour in elaborate action sequences and set pieces. Take Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, arguably the best martial arts film ever made, which flies to fantastical heights as warriors cross swords in duels that play like treetop ballet, or Zhang Yimou’s Hero, another gorgeously realized film about the futility of living by the sword. Add Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s The Assassin to the list of notable wuxia films, but this one stands out for very different reasons: it barely contains any action. Call it a pacifist action film, maybe. It's an acquired taste despite the gorgeous packaging.
(USA, 112 min.)
Dir. Ramin Bahrani, Writ. Ramin Bahrani, Amir Nedari, Bahareh Azimi
Starring : Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern
Will the housing crisis ever level off? The Occupy-era drama 99 Homes resonates long after the market crash as everyday citizens still find themselves reeling after the economic downturn caused by American greed. This drama from Ramin Bahrani (At Any Price) delivers an emotional wallop thanks to a trio of searing performances and a smartly crafted script that stings with the bitter defeat of the USA housing crash. 99 Homes is a passionate powerhouse.
(USA, 81 min.)
Dir. Jessica Edwards
The year of the music doc continues to roll as Mavis! offers soulful sweetness. This documentary feature about soul/gospel icon Mavis Staples is a joy to watch. Maybe it’s the music or maybe it’s Mavis’s vibrant personality, but this film by Canuck native Jessica Edwards is consistently appealing. Mavis! sings.
(USA, 118 min.)
Dir. Tarsem Singh, Writ. David Pastor, Alex Pastor
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Natalie Martinez, Matthew Goode, Ben Kingsley, Victor Garber, Michelle Dockery
Canada’s Ryan Reynolds faces the future in Self/Less! This sci-fi/thriller, which is much better than reviews during its theatrical release suggest, is an ambitious flick that mixes high-concept innovation with fast-paced escapism. It’s smart, entertaining, and just ridiculous enough to be compulsively watchable.
Port of Call
(Hong Kong, 120 min.)
Written and directed by Philip Yung
Starring: Aaron Kwok, Elaine Jin, Jessie Li, Michael Ning, Maggie Shiu
Answer the trivia below for a chance to win tickets to a sneak peek! Raise your fingers if you want tickets!
long take!) Secret in Their Eyes opens in theatres November 20, but lucky readers can see it before the film hits theatres! Answer the trivia below for a chance to win tickets to a sneak peek!
|Liza, the Fox-Fairy wins the CDFF Audience Award for Best Feature|
Beasts of No Nation
(USA, 133 min.)
Written and directed by Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Abraham Attah, Idris Elba
(Canada/Germany, 95 min.)
Dir. Atom Egoyan, Writ. Benjamin August
Starring: Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, Dean Norris, Henry Czerny
|Martin Landau and Christopher Plummer star in Remember. |
Photo: Sophie Giraud © 2014, Remember Productions Inc.1
The elderly are getting a second wind at the movies these days. They’re staying at Exotic Marigold Hotels (The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and enjoying posh Swiss spas (Youth). They’re singing in Quartets (Quartet) and being good grandmas (Grandma). They’re even killing folks, like Christopher Plummer does in Atom Egoyan’s new golden oldie thriller Remember playing Zev, a Holocaust survivor out to kill some Nazis like a mofo from a Tarantino film.
Z for Zachariah
(Iceland/Switzerland/New Zealand, 97 min.)
Dir. Craig Zobel, Writ. Nissar Moodi
Starring: Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chris Pine
Adaptations of young adult literature are a-plenty, but depth in this stream of YA-to-screen endeavors is often scarce. Z for Zachariah, alternatively, exceeds the limitations of many YA adaptations because this take on Richard C. O’Brien’s novel doesn’t cater to the teen demographic. One could instead argue that Z for Zachariah betrays its literary origins by offering a perceptive dystopian drama that breathes life into the YA world; however, young readers and young viewers are bound to find the film as equally accessible as the book is, since this minimalist drama finds power in understatement. With only three actors and a great story, Z for Zachariah tackles some of the most fundamental questions of human nature with philosophical depth.