Monday, December 2, 2013

And so we come to December...

I went away on a week long road trip through the American south. I was very nervous about being pulled over by a cop in my BMW and getting shot to death. Or being hijacked at a gas station in my BMW and getting shot to death. Or cheering a Patriots win in Bank of America stadium and an angry Panthers fan shooting me to death. You get the idea.

Anyway, so I missed all my shows for a week, and upon my return, I discovered that I watch thirty shows. THIRTY. And they were still airing new episodes, so I tried to catch up, but they just kept coming and then Dr. Who came back (but Boardwalk went, still thirty) ANYWAY, I just watched an episode of Person of Interest AND I'M SOOOO MAD that I can't watch anything anymore, so I'm taking a writing break. AN ANGRY ANGRY writing break. AARRGGGHHH DAMN YOU PERSON OF INTEREST. DAMN YOU TO THE DEEPEST PIT OF HELL!!)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 An unnecessary sequel to a perfect movie. I did not enjoy it at all. Kids might like it though. But the first one was awesomesauce.

12 Years a Slave So, before I left, I told Mary that if she didn't hear from me for 12 years, she should come fetch me from South Carolina. Because that is what I learned from 12 Years a Slave. Free black people go to the South and WHAMO. This is the story of an African-American musician who is kidnapped by shady carnies and sold into slavery where he languishes for some number of years. Oh yeah, twelve! Duh. This movie was good, but there were too many all-star cameos (from Paul Giamatti to Brad Pitt) that distracts from what is otherwise a stripped down brutal narrative.

Gravity This movie was great. It's probably too late, but I highly recommend seeing it in 3D at a theater. It's a weirdly intimate film set against a big blockbuster spectacle setting. It's about americans in space or one woman's journey from tragedy to triumph. Something. Go see it! (I got yelled at on twitter for being so effusive about Gravity, but being lukewarm about 12 Years. To which I responded "eh, I likes what I likes.")

Frank & The Robot This is a small independent film set in the not-to-distant future. It's about an old man dealing with dementia and how in the future they have robot helper aides. He was a robber and so he uses the robot to help him plan robberies again. It's cute. Susan Sarandon and the Cyclops kid from the X-men movies are in it.

New Jack City HAHAHAHAHAHAH I saw this in a theater when I was a kid. I must have snuck in cause for shizzle my mommy did NOT take me to see this movie about cops going undercover to bust a crack king. YO THE WIRE TOTES RIPS THIS MOVIE OFF! Except for the Wire didn't have laughable writing and camp acting. But other than that: SAME!

Tyler Perry's Temptation Sigh. I saw two Tyler Perry involved movies in a row without wanting to stab him in the face with a spoon. So, I thought, hey, maybe we can be friends, Tyler Perry and I. Maybe I can spend the money I have saved for the bail money I will need should I ever meet him on the street. BUT NOOOOOO. He has to go and make this claptrap about an uppity woman who dares want to open her own business and have a career. Seriously, Tyler Perry might be the devil. THE DEVIL. DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE. DO NOT AARRGGHHHH!!! STABBED WITH A SPOON, I TELL'S YA! Oh, and the *BEST* part of this movie is that he not only fucks up notions of equality and justice; he also fucks up basic tenets of Christianity. Homie doesn't get to "remarry and have a kid with some other chick" while his "first wife" is still alive. Adulterer much, Tyler Perry? AARRRGGHHH.

R.I.P.D. This is a cross between Men In Black and Ghost, if Men in Black and Ghost were the worst movies you ever saw. RIPD made me think Tyler Perry's Temptation wasn't so bad. Ryan Reynolds and I are broken up!

The Internship This is a cute movie about two middle aged guys, who are laid off, trying to make it in a field of youngsters at google. No really, google let them use their name and everything. I enjoyed it.

The Purge So, remember how when I saw "Edward Scissorhands" and couldn't believe it wasn't a horror movie and there were no scissorhanded rampages? WHAT A WASTE OF Tim Burton and something called Edward Scissorhands! That's how I feel about this movie which imagines a world where America suspends laws for 24 hours and you can kill and burn and maim as if your wont, without any consequences. The whole movie is just set in this one family's house. And we watch as they run and scream as ne'er do wells break through their defenses and try to pick them off. Booo. This should have been set on streets outside. Booo.

Pacific Rim We build giant robots to defeat the giant sea monsters? Cool. I'm in. Can't wait for the sequel. I imagine the monsters laid an egg and then it hatches and we have to bring back the monster fighting robots! I did not guess correctly on who would live.

The Heat I like the idea of a female buddy cop movie. I like Melissa Mccarthy and Sandra Bullock. But somehow I did not like the Heat. I dunno. It was just put together wrong. Maybe I'll like the sequel?

White House Down LISTEN. LLIISSSSTTTEEEEEENNN. Hollywood CANNOT make enough movies about the US President making a last stand to defend the White House, and by extension, America and all that America stands for! I am here for Olympus Down, White House Down, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue down, The house that the president lives in down, allluuhhhdem! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! (Oh, it's about a plot to overthrow the US President and the President, with the help of a Channing Tatum, fights back. *slow claps* *single tear falls from eye*)

The Hangover: Part III You know, as bad as it was, this was still better than two. Shrugs.

Monsters University I liked this installment better than the original, which I remember not liking at all. OMIGOSH, this movie is basically "The Internship" but animated!

The Croods This movie is about cavemen trying to survive the ice age or some nonsense. It's awful. I don't even think kids will like it.

Salinger I've long hated "The Catcher in the Rye." And because of that I have refused to read anything else by Salinger (except the Banafish story, I read that). I had it in my head that Salinger was basically a "Holden" (read: over privileged, spoiled whiner) but turns out he served in the infantry on D-Day, so I retract that. Of course, he "courted" 13-year-olds (when he was 30ish) so... I've gone from annoyed to creeped out. Win?

What Maisie Knew Sad film about an eight-year-old girl with a rock star mom who is always on tour and an older man father who isn't really interested in parenting. She gets shuttled between them during the divorce and then abandoned by both after the court gives the dad custody. Sadface. But it has a happy ending. Sorta.

Only God Forgives OH MY GAWD. So, you know how I've seen every Ryan Gosling flick on netflix? I was SO excited when I saw there was a new one. O_O DDUUUDDEEE. This movie is soo bad. First of all, I think it's set in Bangkok but everyone just speaks English with an accent. WUUTTT? Then, not only is Ryan Gosling NEVER shirtless, he also runs a fight club ring. SO he's always fighting, BUT IN A SUIT. THIS MOVIE IS JUST TROLLING US AT THIS POINT. *fights air*

The Loneliest Planet If there was a theme to this month's reviews, it's "recommendations" -- Jordan recommended Pacific Rim, @mediaobsessed recommended Salinger AND THEN THERE'S JULIUS GOAT. *glares* Grr. He recommended this movie about a couple hiking through somewhere. It's like 40 minutes of them la la la hiking, kinda making fun of their tour guide, two minutes of them getting held up at gunpoint and then forty minutes of them sulking around because the woman is mad the man pushed her in front of the gunman. (But like only for a second, he totally stepped in front of her after that second. It was like a moment of "no, TAKE HER" and she holds it against him. Sheesh. CHICKS, AMIRITE? But then the movie just ends. Horrible. BOOOO!!!

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days This movie was also recommended by Julius Goat. It's sooooo soooo soooo shocking and horrifying, but you don't even know what's happening for the first half hour. I'm not sure if it'll ruin it to tell you what it's about, so I won't because I think it's good and everyone should see it. BUT ZOMG. ALL THE TRIGGER WARNINGS. LIKE ALL OF THEM! TRIGGERS EVERYWHERE!

Holy Motors So, this is where Julius Goat became "JULIUS THE MONSTER." Ask me what this movie is about. Go on. ASK. I HAVE NO EFFING IDEA!! THERE'S A FREAKING TEN MINUTE ACCORDION SOLO BREAK IN THE MIDDLE THOUGH!!! MONSTER!! HE'S A MONSTER!! In fact, I think he's making these movies in his basement JUST TO TROLL ME!!! HIM AND HIS @ASTINTO ALTER EGO. Cause there is NO WAY these are two different men! NO WAY!!

Frances Ha More like Frances "Meh." It's about a twenty-something who is still childishly living her dreams while her friends grow up around her and get married and new jobs and she just sorta dances through life. Literally. I dunno, I guess I should relate to her, but she's just such a dunderhead with logorrhea, I couldn't believe she didn't trip on her own feet, hit her head on the sidewalk and bleed to death internally. Of course, she gets it together in the end. Sorta. Meh.

Dogtooth JULIUS THE MONSTER STRIKES AGAIN! Actually, I liked this movie, but like "4 months", the horror of the movie sneaks up on you as the movie builds. Suddenly there's a sinkful of blood and a body in the trunk and you are wondering just exactly how we got here. Uh. Lemme slap a trigger warning on this one too.

Upstream Color Okay, so BOTH @astinto AND the Monster recommended this abstract abomination of a film. THAT'S HOW I KNOW THEY ARE THE SAME!! This movie is about a flower worm pig virus and running through the streets, hiding in bathtubs and falling over balcony railings. There is NO WAY two different people could have liked this... this.... what could AT BEST *LOOSELY* be described as a movie. GRRRR. WHAT THE HELL *WAS* THAT!

In Bruges I know you're asking yourself, but Dawn, Julius the MONSTER is a monster, why did you see so many of the movies he recommended? Well, I'm glad you asked. See, it started with him recommending THIS movie. NOW, *THIS* movie was FANTASTIC! Like, it was funny and touching, but there was a thriller aspect to it and it told a story with interesting characters and it had a start and a middle and an end. You laugh, you cry, you get sucked into pig movies with talking limousines! *throws fish*

The Vicious Kind Um... no idea what this movie is about. Hold on, lemmee go google. OH. BAH. GAH. *spits* this movie was horrendous. It's about a guy picking his brother and his brother's girlfriend up from college to drop them off at the dad's house. UGh. awful. Just awful. The brother sleeps with the brother's girlfriend. The end.

The English Teacher This movie had the potential to be good. It stars a teacher who tries to help a struggling former student by paying to mount a production of his play. Then it turns into a weird sex thing. Meh.

October Baby So, funny story, I saw a trailer for "August Rush" about a kid put up for adoption who finds his parents later...whatever, this was years ago, anyway, I'm scrolling through netflix and I see this movie and I think oh, that's the movie about the put up for adoption kid, so I click it. Well, October baby *IS* about a put up for adoption kid, BUT it's a movie funded by some Christian ministry in Tennesee, so it's about a FAILED ABORTION BABY put up for adoption! And it turns out, she *REMEMBERS* it! And she goes searching for her mom who tried to abort her. AND SHE FINDS HER! I'm giggling as I type this because the acting and dialogue is *precisely* what you're picturing as the product of a christian ministry. Jasmine Guy and the blond Dukes of Hazzard guy are in this for some reason. It's unintentionally HILARIOUS. Don't see it though.

The Lifeguard Why do all of Veronica Mars' movies suck? This flick about a 30 year old who goes back home because she's so sad about a tiger dying in an apartment that she needs to rape the 16-yr-old stoner kid down the street is dreadful. Basically, annoying selfish woman does annoyingly selfish shit. Film at 11. Yawn.

Open Water HOLY SHIT!! HOLY SHIT!! THIS MOVIE SCARED THE CRAP OUTTA ME!! (And yes, I realize, low hanging fruit.) IT'S GREAT. Like Gravity, but in the ocean space. SEE IT!!

Arbitrage Dumb Richard Gere movie. Man goes drunk driving with mistress, crashes, kills her, calls up the only black person he knows to help him flee the scene. Sigh. I wish I was exaggerating. Turns out he's also a business crook.

Empire State Dumb movie with The Rock about dumb kids who try to pull off a heist and end up ticking off the mob. It's supposedly "based on a true story." Yawn.

Regarding Henry Dumb Harrison Ford movie where he is a crack lawyer but then gets shot in the head and realizes there is more to life than winning trials! Double Yawn.

The General's Daughter Dumb John Travolta movie where he is a military investigator trying to figure out who raped and murdered the general's daughter. Sample dialogue "She may have been murdered that night, general, but YOU KILLED HER YEARS AGO!" Eye. Roll.

Friday, November 1, 2013


Ugh. Not to be confused with that Movember thing where savages walk around with hairy faces like cave people. Gross. You get running water, electricity and flat screen TVs, in exchange you shave your face. THAT IS CIVILIZATION, PEOPLE!!!

Okay, rant over, movie time!

It’s the holidays and stuff, so I planned to focus on a central theme like horror movies for Halloween or family movies for Thanksgiving. But, like always, I then remembered I’m terrible at plans and/or follow through, so we just watched a bunch of random films. Oh, I did manage to see a Jason Statham movie every Friday. Cause Friday is my shooty movies day because… brain something something. (Sorry, writing these on Friday and words are hard. Not a good day to start NanoMoSomething, but start it I will anyway! Crap. Where was I?) Hmm… can I review the Jason Statham movie I just finished because technically, it was a November movie? Eh, if you don’t tell, I won’t ask. That’s not how that goes. Sigh.

Hashtag Friday Brain.

Redemption Jason Statham! Friday. You know what? There wasn’t that much shooting in this one. He plays a rogue British special ops guy who was ambushed in Afghanistan and killed a bunch of civilians in retaliation. Now he’s on the run from MI5 or 6 or Interpol or whatever. He’s hiding as a bum and befriends a runaway girl. But the girl gets taken in by pimps, so then he breaks into an apartment and steals that guys identity and then he becomes a hitman… um, and he makes out with a nun from the homeless shelter. Okay, okay I’m not explaining this right. Jason Statham. There are scenes where he’s shirtless. Moving on.

Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds I liked this movie. I confess I accidentally clicked on it before I saw the Tyler Perry brand and didn’t turn it off when I saw his stupid face cause I figured I hadn’t shat all over a Tyler Perry movie in a while. But hey, it turns out he’s not always a repulsive sexist buffoon. Though, there were sexist buffoonish elements to this movie about a rich man who falls in love with the single mom janitor and quits his job to move to Africa with her. (Seriously, “Africa.” The camera pans on the boarding passes he gives her and it says “Africa 2:00 PM” I laughed.)

Take This Waltz Okay, this is one of those movies that I can’t in good conscience tell anyone to watch cause, it IS weird… but it’s interesting. At first brush, this movie starring Michelle Williams seems like your typical annoying flighty girl meets boy movie. (“I’m afraid of being afraid” is sample dialogue from the first twenty minutes, during which she pretends to be wheelchair bound AND a tour guide.) And after you watch it, you will want to hunt down @astinto and lock him away in a dark, damp place with fire breathing bees coated in peanut oil as his only company. But, then you suddenly realize the whole movie basically tracks this chick on a love bender and you decide that’s kind of funny. Plus, bonus points for creative use of “video killed the radio star” outside of a trivia context.

Girl in Progress This is another movie that I turned against a quarter of the way through, but won me over in the end. Again, I can’t tell anyone to see it, cause, it is your typical coming of age story about a teen who decides her single mom is the worst and she wants to run away fare, but the actors are cute and I didn’t want to stab anything by the end. It stars the poor man’s Rosario Dawson.

Mama I don’t read reviews or synopses before I see movies. This is probably why I see so many bad flicks, but I honestly like to be surprised/unbiased when I see things, so I go in blind. However, sometimes a movie is so bizarre, that I have to google reviews afterwards. And for mama, I found this one.

I laughed so hard reading this review, I completely forgot what I had originally found so confusing. These questions are such a brilliant takedown of Mama, that I kinda recommend you see it, so you can read this review and appreciate their genius. But only kinda. Mama is dumb.

The Other Woman I usually hate adultery movies. They offend me to my puritanical core and it blocks out my ability to see anything other than cheating garbage piles of humanity. However, this story about wife number two and how she step parents and deals with the ex wife and her own parents, was interesting enough to break through that. So, that says something.

Hyde on Hudson Ugh. I do not like when movies make me dislike figures that I previously liked. This is an adultery movie about FDR. See above. Barf.

Following This movie is only like 70 minutes long, but it’s brilliant. It’s done by the Batman movies guy. It’s about a loser who decides to randomly follow people and one day, he ends up following THEEEE WRONG DUDE. Scary. Sad. But mostly scary and I’m never making eye contact with anyone ever again.

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia This movie is fantastic! It’s a documentary about “hillbillies.” They are lawless white people who live on the dole. And I probably shouldn’t have just written that because I’m now afraid they might kill me.

House at the End of the Street This movie had a twist that I didn’t see coming. It’s about Katniss Everdeen and her single mom moving into a house in a fancy town because they got a deal on it due to the murder house being across the street. Katniss is drawn to the broody young man living there – the only surviving member of his family after his sister double murdered his parents. The last twenty minutes are scary and engaging, but not enough to make up for the first banal hour and a half.

First Position Great documentary about young dancers from all over the world trying to win scholarships and jobs in the elite ballet schools/troupes. Did you know I danced ballet for 10 years because my mother has long dreamed of having a daughter very different from the one she actually has? It’s true. There are adorable pictures.

Away From Her Okay, I believe I have now officially seen every Sarah Polley movie in existence? Um… I didn’t like this one at all. It’s about a man putting his demented wife in a home, but she hangs on to lucidity just long enough to give him permission to leave her and then when he’s cheating on her, it’s only to get her boyfriend back in the home with her. Eyeroll. Super flimsy and cliché. Boo.

Young Adult I LOVED THIS MOVIE. It seems a wonder that it didn’t star Katherine Heigl though. It was totally her wheelhouse. But Academy Award winner Charlize Theron shines as a young adult novelist (see what they did there?) who goes back to her hometown after getting an e-mail that her high school boyfriend and his wife have just had a baby. The whole cast is brilliant and the movie is great. Nine hundred thumbs up. (I think only 450 people saw this movie. Sadface.)

Much Ado About Nothing This movie was well done. It’s in black and white and it’s Shakespeare, so definitely don’t watch it on a Friday. Also, I thought the SHIELD Agent Coulson guy was woefully miscast. But seeing Fred and Wesley together again, was totes worth it! Bravo. So good.

World War Z I didn’t hate this movie. Though I haven’t read the book(s) and heard that those make the movie look like puke. Basically, an infection has spread, turning large swaths of the earth’s population into zombies and Brad Pitt has to figure out how to stop it in time to save his family…um… and the little Mexican boy they find in Newark! (That was my favorite part, the Newark scene. I’m like “end of the world Newark looks EXACTLY like the 2010 shithole Newark I had to work in for a month. Newark. *shudder*)

This is the End HAHHAHAHA speaking of the end of the world… this movie was great, despite large doses of James Franco. Basically, the rapture has come and the movie follows six A-B list Hollywood actors who are trapped together in James Franco’s mansion after a party. Great deaths of some of the most annoying celebrities AND a hilarious Emma Watson cameo. I laughed a lot.

The Bling Ring AHAHAHAHAHAHh Hermione Granger is on a roll. Here she plays one of a band of teenagers who break into celebrity homes and steal. She is very good. Oh, this movie is awful though.

The Whistleblower This was not a Friday movie. This was a serious Tueday movie. Tuesday is the day we tackle serious topics like sex trafficking and corruption of the UN Peacekeeping force in Bosnia. So…yeah. Tuesday! The movie is kinda meh. But justice and… truth…yeah…meh.

Resident Evil WHY HAVE YOU PEOPLE NEVER TOLD ME ABOUT RESIDENT EVIL??? I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS!!! Duuuddeeeeee. I think I kinda love movies where the AI goes rogue and starts slicing people up with lasers! (The zombie component made little to no sense, but the LASERS and the gassing and the train and the running. Yep, I’m here for all of that.)

Fire With Fire This movie literally has half a star on Netflix. I saw that it had half a star on Netflix. I clicked it anyway. I deserved every minute of this drivel about a man in witness protection who decides he’s got to take the law into his own hands! Ugh. UGH. SOOO fucking bad. Do you see the title? HE’S A FIREMAN! Do you know how he kills the bad guy in the end? WITH FIRE! *throws all the throwable things* It stars the rich man’s Eva Mendes.

After Earth Speaking of awful movies. Why does America keep trying to make Jaden Smith happen? This movie is about Earth After… um… I think it was an invasion or something. And Will Smith is the big commander and Jaden is his son who wants to follow in his footsteps to fight the wooly mammoth thingies. Booorrriiiinnngggg.

The Space Between This was another Tuesday movie. It’s about a little boy whose taxi driver dad drops him off at the airport to go to boarding school in California before going to his second job at Windows on the World on a Tuesday morning in 2001. Waaaaaaa. The kid is assigned a surly flight attendant because he is an unaccompanied minor. She then rents a car to drive him back to New York after the terror attacks and we find out her husband worked at a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Waaa *Cries all the tears*

The Intouchables This movie about a paraplegic --- um…quadriplegic maybe (he can talk and movie his head, but nothing else) rich old man who decides to hire the brash, teenage black guy who only showed up to the job interview to be able to get unemployment benefits is interesting. It wasn’t magical negro offensive. I liked the dynamic between the characters, though, naturally, there was stereotypical black guy steals expensive thing from man stuff, but I still liked it. What was weird, is that at the end, they say the movie is based on a true story and they show a picture of the wheelchaired man and his aide… but the aide wasn’t black at all! I don’t think I’ve ever seen that kind of race changing in a “based on a true story” movie before.

Edison Force Holy Shit. I’ve been writing for hours. How many damn movies did I see this month?! This flick about a corrupt elite special force is garbage. Don’t see it. Don’t talk to anyone who has seen it.

Safe Jason Statham Friday, ya’ll! He is on the run from the mob after he was supposed to throw a fight but didn’t. He finds a young Chinese girl who is also on the run and decides to help her. There is much shooting and shirtless Jason Stathamness.

I don’t know how she does it O_O. <- My sternly serious face. Everyone involved in this movie, from the actors to the writers to the directors should forever be banned from making movies EVER AGAIN. This movie was offensive in every sense of the word. EVERY. SINGLE. SENSE. It was also wretched. To say I hated this movie doesn’t even come close to capturing the anger and disgust whirling around my head after I finished it.

Intolerable Cruelty You know what’s worse than accidentally watching a Coen Brothers movie after you’ve sworn to never again watch a Coen Brothers movie? Realizing an hour and a half into it THAT YOU’VE ALREADY SEEN THIS GODAWFUL movie about a divorce lawyer who marries a gold digging woman. DUDE. THE FUCK ??? ARRGGHHH

End of Watch This movie is about beat cops. One white, one latino. They patrol the streets of East LA. Three guesses which one is shot to death trying to save the other one. Eyeroll. Skip. SKIP. SKIP.

The Kid With a Bike Aww, this is a movie about a kid abandoned by his father who then sells his bike. A hairdresser buys it back for him. He asks her if she will be his new mom. Then he joins a gang. It might be in French. I don’t fully remember.

Beyond The Sea Kevin Spacey plays Bobby Darin. I didn’t know anything about Bobby Darin. There were dazzling musical numbers. It was fine.

The Double This movie is bad. Oh my god why did Eric Foreman ever leave that seventies show to do movies? He is awful at it. And this movie about a Russian double agent who is activated to find another Russian double agent is no exception to the suck. Russian double agents? Jaysus. What year is it? 2011?

Another Happy Day This movie is also bad. It’s one of those Holden Caulfield “I’m a spoiled rich boy who is the only one in the world ‘keepin’ it real and god my mom is SUCH A BITCH” movies. There are voiceovers and a wedding on the private estate of some one or another and there’s not a person of color to be found for miles and miles.

Arthur Newman Blargh. Another wretched pick by me. This one is about a man who fakes his death to leave his girlfriend and son and that bitch of an ex wife. He then, OF COURSE, takes up with the runaway twenty nothing girl who is steals his wallet. Eyeroll.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Not a fancy schmancy one in Toronto... just a regular one in my living room. I'm not bitter at all, AT AHSTINTOE!

Dr. Strangelove: Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb I remember seeing this movie in high school and loving it. As I started to rewatch it, I thought it wasn’t going to hold up, but then it totally did, and was still very funny. Mineshaft gap. HA! Oh, it’s about a crazy general who tries to give America a head start in the nuclear war by basically sneak attacking Russia first. Then hijinxs ensue. And we discover no fighting is allowed in the war room. LOL.

Behind the Candelabra This is a movie on HBO. It was apparently rejected by movie theaters because it was too gay. I loved Liberace as a kid; I have owned many a pair of Liberace sneakers as an adult. I didn’t particularly care for this movie because it didn’t show very much of the stuff you love Liberace for – there are one or two scenes of him playing the piano and the showy stuff, but mostly it’s about him preying on young men for sex --- which is less flattering. Douglas was great though. Matt Damon passable. It’s okay --- but I don’t think Liberace fans will like it. I wish they’d do a Liberace, Liberace movie!

Clear History This was also an HBO movie. It’s about the Curb Your Enthusiasm guy getting kicked out of a car company by the Mad Men guy right before the company takes off. I thought it was awful. But to be fair, I hate Larry David. Like violently. I think he’s a disgusting unfunny hateful petty little man. But the posters do a good job of disguising him, so I didn’t realize it was Larry David until about twenty minutes in -- around about when he was implying to a woman of color that because her hairdo doesn’t require daily shampooing, her hair must stink. See? Unfunny and disgusting. But you know, if you like him, this movie is for you. #Shade

Epic This movie stars Beyonce and she gets ganked in the first twenty minutes. I don’t know why they don’t put that right there on the poster! It’s an animated feature, so I don’t think that’s particularly spoily. I mean, you do know someone gets ganked in the first twenty minutes of all animated features, right? It’s an okay movie about the fight of good and evil.

The Big Wedding Yarf. This movie is about a young couple getting married even though all their parents' and siblings' marriages are all dysfunctional. Robin Williams plays the priest. Blech. It’s an all star cast in a low caliber script. I’m guessing the screenwriter must be someone’s cousin or something.

The Great Gatsby Baz Luhrmann’s movies are pretty. They’re colorful and bright and interestingly staged. However, the syntax in his movies is always stilted. The Great Gatsby more so than the others. I think I would have preferred watching this movie on mute.

Star Trek: Into Darkness A sequel to the first Star Trek movie where Kirk gets the helm of the ship and is saddled with a merry band of misfits. Here, he breaks all the rules, is demoted and has to earn it all back! And then he pays the ultimate price! It was exciting. I liked Benedict Cumberbatch.

Oblivion This movie is terrible. Terribly terrible. It’s about Tom Cruise clones. Nobody needs more than one Tom Cruise. Awful.

Now You see Me I enjoy magic. And capers. So, this movie wasn’t the worst. I figured out the twist right away, but the movie wasn’t ruined. IT is unbelievably fantastic though.

Uncle Buck Why. Who. WHAT. WHERE. I… poor John Candy that this piece of junk was his last movie. But HEY it introduced the world to McCauley Culkin!

Stories We Tell Awww. I don’t know how I feel about this movie exactly. But I feel sorry for somebody, but I’m not quite sure who… I don’t want to lay out the options either, because the movie is worth a watch and all the entanglements partly drive the movie. It’s an indie film about a family. In Canada. Go watch it.

Parker Remember when J-Lo used to make movies? She’s back. And actually, this movie is good. It’s an action revenge thingamabob. The bad guys leave Jason Statham for dead, BUT THEY’RE WRONG! Dun dun dun. J lo isn’t annoying and I think Patti Lupone is also in this. It was good. Very shooty. If you like shooty. Uh... it's still shooty even if you don't like shooty.

The Way This movie was so sad. It’s about a dad who goes to Spain to collect his only child's body after the son is killed on the first day of his pilgrimage. The dad then decides to complete his son’s journey. He meets people along the way. It’s sad. I totally want to do the journey now. But I don’t like walking or flying or Europe…so… *whistles*.

Erased There’s a crazy lady at my job who told me Alexander Skarsgard was in this movie. She is a damn hell ass liar. It’s about Ex-CIA agent who works for a bank and then his teenage daughter comes to live with him after her mom dies. But THE BANK IS FAKE! THEY LIED TO HIM and now he's targeted for assassination! And you are rooting for the assassins the whole way.

The Rum Diary Barf. I can’t remember if I broke up with Johnny Depp after that horrendous Rango movie, but we are definitely done after this vomitously unforgettable bomb.

In the Land of Blood and Honey Oh my gosh. This movie was FANTASTIC. Fucking Angelina Jolie. CAN’T SHE FAIL AT ANYTHING?!?!?!? *throws all the shoes* It’s about the relationship between a Bosnian Serb soldier and a Bosnian Muslim woman through the war. Ugh. So gut wrenching. Humans are awful um… humans. So sad. Beautifully well done movie.

The Avengers I watched this movie again in anticipation of the TV show SHIELD. It wasn’t as good the second time around. I still like Robert Downey Jr though… and the Hulk and Loki… okay, it was still pretty good.

Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey This movie is a good theoretical story. The band Journey loses its front man and starts trolling youtube where they discover an unknown Filipino man. They fly him in, he’s amazing and they hire him. Racists complain, Filipinos flock to the band in record numbers, the singer’s life becomes a Cinderella story. But all that happens in the first 26 minutes, yet the movie is 100 minutes… after a while, it’s like “I get it. I feel good, applause applause… can we wrap this up now?” I did go buy a Journey CD after.

Into the Abyss is a documentary film written and directed by Werner Herzog about the death penalty. He definitely believes the death penalty is wrong, but the movie interviews people on all sides of the issue – the daughter of the victim who goes to the execution, the dude executed, the dude who was with the dude who was executed but only got life, the chick who marries the dude who got life after *reading* about his story. O_o It’s a look at a death penalty case where all the perpetrators are white men; there is no question about guilt or mental fitness. It’s interesting to see what your views on the death penalty are when divorced from “mitigating factors.” (Except poverty. Still a lot of the poverty.)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

TIFF Day 11

It's done! I'm done! 20 films in the bag! WOO HOO!!

Atilla Marcel
Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville and The Illusionist) comes along with his first live-action film. Full of colour, with strokes of whimsy, and all based around tragedy, it's an admirable effort.

Paul has never spoken, and at 33, raised by a pair of overprotective aunts, his life is about to change.

Bah, I'm tired. It's a decent film that's 15-20 minutes too long and could use a more cutthroat editing.

Yay! All movies written about.

Tiff Day 10

All Is By My Side
At this point in the festival, I'm debating on just abandoning tickets. 20 movies is a bunch, and I had heard mediocre to bad reviews of this one, but had found only decent ones online.  In the end, it's a Jimi Hendrix biopic, so I went.

At two hours, this is far too long to tell a rather boring tale. This is the story of Hendrix's life the year before he got famous. As Jimmy James with straight hair and a cheetah jacket, playing guitar in a club band, the world did yet know of his genius. But Linda Keith - Keith Richards' girlfriend - comes into the club and is awed.

Hence goes the tale of how a bunch of English white people helped Jimi Hendrix become a star over a very boring year. It's as if the script felt it had to hit a few notes like him beating his girlfriend, smoking a little weed, getting told off by some black people, and being hassled once by some white cops. In between that, he plays some songs that aren't his and gets told what his next gig is.

The Hendrix estate wouldn't grant the rights to his songs, so they aren't here. Instead, some Blues, a Beatles song, and some random riffs make up his repertoire.

In short, I really didn't see the point. The direction was interesting at times, going quasi-documentary at points. The acting was all fine, and Andre Benjamin does a solid job of portraying Jimi Hendrix, but absolutely nothing is gained from seeing this.

Witching & Bitching
My only Midnight Madness flick of the festival, this one was proper mental. A group of despondent men rob a gold exchange shop dressed as street buskers. A silver Jesus, his young son, a green Army Man, Spongebob, and others go in guns blazing, and it all goes to shit.

The survivors escape north, aiming for France (did I mention this was Spanish? No? It is.). They run into a coven of witches, and shit goes crazier.

The director pointed out beforehand that he was going through a bitter divorce at the time he wrote this. It shows. Every male character is fed up with women. As far as they're concerned, women are terrible, conniving, will rip your heart out, and are as intimidating as hell. All the women are, well, witches.

I was surprised by the overall quality of this film. Something like this is usually fairly low-budget and showing. Overall it was an incredibly enjoyable time, although I wonder how much would translate outside of the cult movie theatre environment.

TIFF Day 9

A remake of the Clint Eastwood classic. With Samurai. I suppose that could be the review right there, except I haven't seen the original, so I can't compare.

The Meiji era in Japan brought the end of the Samurai. These elite soldiers were hunted down relentlessly, fleeing to northern Hokkaido. Jubei (Ken Watanabe) survives this cull, finding an Ainu wife and fathering two children on a modest farm. Known as "Jubei The Killer", with a tale of his slaughter of a Christian village and a troop of persuing soldiers making him legend. His wife has died, and all he wants is to be a father and live in peace.

Then an old friends shows up with news of a bounty on two settlers who assaulted a prostitute in a frontier town. Jubei turns down the offer, but realizes he needs the money for his family to survive the coming winter after a fruitless crop. So he unearths his sword and heads out.

The idea of old kick-ass Samurai going after bad dudes sounds awesome. Sadly, there was not so much swording as there was talking and riding horses. There was even a fair bit of gunplay, which while perhaps appropriate for the era portrayed, makes for some disappointment and redundancy in the remake.

No, this was very much a remake, so Japanese audiences don't need to see the original. Watanabe is very good, as are most of the performances. However, his two sidekicks suffer from more classic Japanese acting - overplayed, over emoting, and generally unsubtle.  The whole thing was a bit overlong, and felt generally unnecessary. Beautifully shot, a worthwhile story with some localized messages (poor treatment of the northern Ainu, the end of Japanese eras, etc.), but overall only good, not great.

Friday, September 13, 2013

TIFF Day 8

Seven days. A week. Work, movie, movie, home, sleep, work movie movie home sleep workmoviemoviehomesleep. Lines of sweaty people, bitching about the lines, panicking with their claustrophobia. Latecomers wondering why they can't get 5 seats together. 2500 volunteers need applause when K.C. and the Sunshine Band play. ARRRRRR. Will I have time for the Q&A AND make my next movie?


China has a well-known one-child policy. Hong Kong is still very western, with rules that differ from the mainland. These two areas are separated by a river that twists and bends its way between them.

The wife of a wealthy Hong Kong businessman and her chauffeur have different lives, and different problems. Mrs. Li's husband disappears without warning, cancels their credit cards, suspends his bank account, and won't answer her calls. She is suddenly facing a life alone and a long fall from the top of the social ladder.
While Mrs. Li's predicament isn't uncommon in the Western world, she is of the old school of thought, where these things don't happen. She goes into shock, unsure how to deal with what's happening. She desperately tries to maintain the illusion of wealth and social standing while hiding the truth from everyone.

Fai commutes for two hours every day from the mainland to drive Mrs. Li around in her Mercedes. Him and his young daughter tell people that his wife is visiting family for a few months, only to come home with her hiding in the apartment, both of them scared of people finding out she's pregnant with their second child. Something that would result in an unaffordable fine, or the loss of their children's rights as Chinese citizens. The only solution is to get to a hospital across the border so the child can be born as citizen of Hong Kong. The problem being that everyone else seems to be trying to do the same thing.

If this was a movie from nearly anywhere else, resolutions would be simpler. Mrs. Li would send some lawyers after her husband and get her share from the coward. While she may still be heartbroken and devastated, she wouldn't fear destitution as much -- the situation would be commonplace. Fai's child would be born and their concerns would be about money, not the rights of their children. But this is a Chinese film.

Director Flora Lau hasn't made a complex film, but its simple story is effectively told. She has paced it incredibly slowly, driving home the slow-burning desperation of its protagonists. Unfortunately, with such a thin narrative, this pace makes the 95 minute movie feel significantly longer. It's a rarely-seen look at the divide between two areas of modern China and the effects this society's rules have on individuals. Although to be honest, I felt little pathos for either character, thinking "Well why did you get pregnant in the first place?" and "They have divorce lawyers in Hong Kong, don't they?" most of the time.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

TIFF Day 7

The Wind Rises
Hayao Miyazaki's swan song is a gorgeous piece of art, and likely his most straightforward movie. Miyazaki is a huge airplane nut. He wrote a multi-issue manga in a Japanese model airplane magazine a while back, and now it's a full movie.

It's basically a fictionalized biopic of an amalgam of his two favourite airplane designers. Young Jiro dreams of airplanes at the dawn of widespread aviation. He enters a dreamland where he speaks to his idol, Italian Aeronautical Engineer Giovanni Caproni. Awakening, he decides to become an Aeronautical Engineer himself.

And he does. That's pretty much the plot of the movie. Jiro goes to school, gets a job, and designs the Zero Fighter. Along the way he meets a girl, has a vacation, and works a lot, occasionally returning to his dreams to speak with Caproni. Evenly-paced is an accurate term here.

Now, the movie is gorgeous, funny, and has mildly fantastical sequences in the dreamland, but isn't Miyazaki's standard fare. A few people heading out after the movie voiced their disappointment, but it's a well-constructed film and truly worth watching for the artistic merit alone. But don't go in expecting an adventure of any sort.

Short Cuts Canada - Programme 5
It's been a while since I've been to a short film program at TIFF, but this year they had a number of movies that grabbed my attention. This just happened to be the group with the most of those.

Kicking it off was Bruce Alcock's Impromptu - an animated piece about an impromptu dinner party. Done from the main character's point of view, entirely in line drawings, and in 3D, it's a visual treat for a relatively everyday tale. I love Alcock's At The Quinte Hotel, and this keeps him in my good graces.

Then came The End of Pinky - the tale of a Montreal night where a man aims to kill his friend for betraying him. Claire Blanchet has created a beautiful 3D work of a dream-like noir Montreal, taken from Heather O’Neill's short story.

The Chaperone 3D was the funniest of the night, recounting the tale of a teacher in 1970's Montreal who took on a biker gang mostly by himself. Mixed media, 3D, with a charming narrator providing nuggets of wisdom as he describes his dismantling of some disruptive bikers at a church dance. The crowd was in stitches, as Fraser Munden and Neil Rathbone threw everything they could think of at the camera.

Next up was the shortest film of the fest - CRIME: Joe Loya, the Beirut Bandit. A quick 3-colour animated telling of Joe Loya's first bank robbery and how it kind of went awry. It's amazing how much can be fit into 2 minutes.

Numbers & Friends was described as "an art film about fantasy sports." Told through still photography with some subdued movement added to the scenes, it's the story of an immigrant coming to North America and learning about the importance of baseball, hockey, and fantasy sports in connecting with the male psyche in his new country. Though visually interesting, I found it hard to stay focused on the story being told.

A night at an arts supply store goes odd in Roland, when a man wants to use the employee restroom and refuses to take no for an answer. We were assured it was a true story, with perhaps the mood altered a bit for film. An amusing "yah, that could happen to anyone" tale with a bit of "be careful how you relate your stories" lesson thrown in.

Finally was An Extraordinary Person - which deals with a party guest who is having a pretty rough couple of days and finally loses it on her fake friends. Full of actresses who are well-known in Quebec (read: I didn't recognize any of them), it does an admirable job of creating well-defined characters in only 29 minutes, albeit not a single one that is likeable. This is a good thing, because the things said would seem cruel to anyone you think of as a good person.

15 screenings down. 5 to go. 4 days left.

TIFF Day 6

The Grand Seduction
Yet another Canadian feature, this time from Don McKellar (and, unknown to me at the time, co-written, or at least anglicized, by Michael Dowse, of The F Word and Goon fame). An English remake of a popular Quebecois film, it tells a universally comic tale with a ton of heart.

Set in the Newfoundland fishing harbour of Ticklehead, this is a story of people coming together to regain their hope and dignity. The fishing has long dried up, and with it the jobs and independence the townsfolk once knew. Their welfare cheques arrive, and everybody lines up before dispersing to do... well, not much.

But a petrochemical company is looking to build factory somewhere in the province, and Ticklehead is in the running. There's just one problem, they need a permanent doctor - something they haven't had in eight years - or the company won't even consider them. The Mayor is useless, so generational fisherman Murray (Brendan Gleeson) takes control and rallies the town. A young city doctor (Taylor Kitsch) is convinced to spend a month in the harbour through perhaps less than wholesome means, and the townsfolk have that month to convince him that Ticklehead is the greatest place on Earth to convince him to stay. This involves faking a love of Cricket, providing his favourite meals, and whatever else it will take for them to get their man.

I suppose one could say there's commentary on the surveillance state, corporate greenwashing, fishing regulation, social programs, or civic action, but that would be looking far too deeply into a warm-hearted comedy. Newfoundland is shot gorgeously, and the performances are all spot on. From riled up fishermen to their frustrated wives to spineless company men to the fish-out-of-water doctor. The comedy lies in the efforts of the community, without ever turning sincerity to mockery, which is a fine line to walk. And casting Mary Walsh and Gordon Pinsent as a couple was genius.

This isn't a laugh-a-minute broad comedy, but one that gets chuckles and smiles and the occasional guffaw, with an underlying sentimentality that keeps it grounded as the audience wonders if all this effort will be for naught.

Jodorowsky's Dune
This is the story of possibly the greatest science fiction movie never made. After 2001, but before Star Wars, Alejandro Jodorowsky was going to make Dune. He had had a series of cult films that had performed very well in Europe and midnight showings in the States - El Topo and The Holy Mountain - avant garde mind fucks from a surrealist's mind. But their success lead to him getting a carte blanche for his next movie, and he chose Dune.

This doc covers the story of how it all came together, and ultimately failed. Jodorowsky gathered Dan O'Bannon, H.R. Giger, French artist Mœbius, and sci-fi artist Chris Foss to design the film. Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, and Salvadore Dali were signed on to act. His son underwent years of fight training to play Paul. Pink Floyd was doing music for the film. A scene-by-scene storyboard was created and assembled into a massive tome that told the entire story. Then it was rejected by every studio in Hollywood.

Jodorowsky, even at 84, is a magnetic and enthusiastic personality. Right away he has you believing in his vision, and it's easy to see how he was able to assemble whatever talent he wanted. Getting them to abandon their lives and homes to work with him in Paris on the most ambitious film of its time. His Dune would have been violent and spectacular and ultimately uplifting. A surrealist hippy vision of what could be. Jodorowsky saw it not as a film, but a means to change the world. His cast and crew were "spiritual warriors", and he only wanted those who exuded passion and genius. It could have been phenomenal.

Granted, it could have also been a disaster, as it was easily a decade ahead of its time in terms of what could be achieved. But that's never really considered, because Jodorowsky's personality doesn't allow it. Regardless, it's influence cannot be denied, as a montage of later films shows.

This film is carried on the obvious love everyone involved still has for the film that never was. Many of the artists consider it their best work. The critics see it was tremendously influential. Everyone laments that it could have changed the blockbuster model before it started. Jodorowsky still thinks it could change the world.

This made me 3/3 on docs at this year's fest - another great piece that has the audience leaving feeling inspired and creative and joining the chorus of those who wish this Dune could be seen.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

TIFF Day 5

Finding Vivian Maier
A man buys one of a number of boxes of negatives in the hopes he'll find some old pictures of his Chicago neighbourhood for an upcoming book. He glances a bit, gives up, and puts the box in a closet. Later on he starts scanning the pictures and discovers they're very good. This is the beginning of how the world discovered Vivian Maier.

You may have heard the story. A nanny since the mid 20th century, Vivian Maier took lots of pictures. Over 100,000 of them in her lifetime. Almost all of them street photography, largely in Chicago, but some in New York and France as well. The pictures are stunning, and could have disappeared if not for the above twist of serendipity.

What you probably don't know is anything else about this woman. John Maloof, who discovered Maier, aims to change that with his movie seeking out what he can about her. Starting with scraps he's able to track down former employers and children she looked after, where he finds more information, and more people. Each has some scraps of information that he's finally able to piece together into a more complete history. Of course, to be a good documentary, there must be more lurking beneath the surface of the subject.

Maloof traces her roots, gets her charges to reveal tales they'd never told their parents, and eventually has her former clients wondering and guessing about her hidden secrets. Through it all though is the photography, and where it fits into her life. Amazing shots, critiqued by experts as among the best of her contemporaries, yet rejected by the major institutions of today. MoMA and its ilk don't like dealing with unknown artists, especially posthumously, where a third party has interpreted their work. Despite the reluctance of the old guard to accept her work, Maier's photographs have captured the public's imagination and drawn masses to her exhibits at smaller galleries.

I loved this documentary. Despite the darker aspects of Maier's life, despite the lingering questions surrounding this fame, it is a story of recognition. Of a life's work being discovered and adored  and accepted. And it's as much about Maloof's journey to get this recognition for someone he never knew as it is about Maier's work.

The Husband
Tense. That's the one word I'll use to describe Bruce McDonald's latest film. The tale of a husband having a terrible year. His wife Alyssa (Sarah Allen) is in jail for sleeping with a 14-year old student.  He has a newborn baby to care for by himself. He secretly loathes his job. And he has to deal with the fallout, both real and imagined, from his wife's crime.

We join Henry (writer Maxwell McCabe-Lokos) as his wife is weeks away from parole. The toll of the past year is clearly weighing heavily on him. His happy, if modest, life is briefly shown in flashback, and now it is crumbling, taking him along with it. The car is breaking down, he's juggling between being a father and a breadwinner. He dutifully makes trips to visit his wife in prison with baby in tow. His coworkers are concerned about him, his father-in-law (Stephen McHattie, who should be in everything always) helps where he can with money and advice, he never sees his friends and dreads encountering them. Over all of this is a growing and very unhealthy obsession with the teenage boy he blames for all of it.

As the day of Alyssa's release nears, Henry's psychological breakdown becomes increasingly imminent. He can't keep it together by himself, but feels he has nobody to turn to, so takes his own, destructive path. McDonald ramps up the tension steadily through the film, creating a looming sense of dread - whatever is going to happen, it won't be good.

Set in Toronto, the final climax struck me as oddly... Canadian. It was damned polite, all things considered.

McDonald just continues to grow as a filmmaker. I missed his early work, coming in at Pontypool (still one of my all-time festival favourites), and this may be his most accessible and complete work I've seen.

Monday, September 9, 2013

TIFF Day 4

The F Word
Radcliffe round two for me. While he was perfectly acceptable in Horns, he's a much better match in The F Word. I usually don't bother with romantic comedies at TIFF, as the bulk of the genre isn't worth the premium price. It's rare a When Harry Met Sally, or Annie Hall or even a Crazy, Stupid, Love comes along, so I'm happy to let the masses pass judgement before I buy a ticket. But this had two things going for it - director Michale Dowse (Goon, Fubar) and leading lady Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks). If I'd known it was set in Toronto, that would have shot it near the top of the list.

I loved Goon, and I thought Ruby Sparks was great, especially Zoe (who wrote and starred in it). The write-ups on The F Word were that it wasn't your typical rom-con, and they were right.

The story isn't unfamiliar - boy (Wallace - Radcliffe) loses girl, boy meets new girl (Chantry - Kazan), new girl has boyfriend, boy and girl become friends while secretly pining for each other. Many people might call it their life. Of course, this friendship develops into one that is so good that neither side wants to jeopardize it by revealing their feelings. There's also that really great 5-year relationship with her live-in boyfriend (Ben - Rafe Spall) Chantry has going. So, friendship continues as nothing more.

Except that Wallace has his meddling friends trying to push him to admit his feelings for Chantry, and Wallace worries about the fallout. Meanwhile, Chantry refuses to set any of her friends (or sister) up with Wallace because she obviously has feelings for him. Ben moves to Dublin for a temporary work assignment, Chantry gets offered a job in Taiwan, nothing much happens to Wallace.

Your typical rom-com setup, right? Dowse and screenwriter Elan Mastai do something strange with it though - they ground it in reality. Chantry has a good thing going with Ben, they're happy, in love, and stable, and Ben's not an asshole. She's not going to throw that away for a crush. Her concerns about the promotion are more about uprooting her life over wanting to be near one friend she's known for a few months (although he does factor in). Wallace is drifting in life, and while he knows he's fallen completely for Chantry, he's the nice guy who doesn't want to be a home wrecker and ruin a really good friendship. His best friend (and Chantry's cousin)  is a buffoon with blunt advice and a crazy whirlwind romance of his own going on who wants the same for his buddy. There are no crazy chase scenes, or ridiculous setups where a bunch of stupid decisions leads to comic situations. There is one unexpected and nearly believable moment of absolute slapstick that works incredibly well though.

It all comes to a head of course, and there's drama and pain and whatnot, but again, there's been so much time building up a real chemistry and believability in the characters that it doesn't feel tired and hackneyed.

Both Radcliffe and Kazan are great in this. Radcliffe gives the impression that this is right in line with his real persona, joking, sarcastic, self-effacing, and British - he's more comfortable in this role than I've ever seen him. Kazan once again stays away from the "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" trope by being a real person. In fact, other than being a great friend and someone to hang out with, she teaches Radcliffe nothing, pushes him towards no life-altering decisions, or really actively changes him in any way. At no point does she blow his mind with some insight on how stuck he is, or provide a song that will change his life. There's a great chemistry between them, and you find yourself rooting for them to figure some way to work this out so they can keep the friendship. The rest of the cast is able to keep up easily, with sharp banter and sincere relationships with the central characters. The sharp, sarcastic wit throughout the script makes this seem easy.

I mentioned it's set in Toronto, right? It is. Wonderfully so. The city, as any great city, is a part of the story. Not explicitly so. There's no hanging off the CN Tower, or going to a Leafs Game here. Much like Take This Waltz, it serves as a backdrop. The parks, the beaches, the houses, neighbourhoods, and skyline are all framed to be recognizable and feel just right for the characters. As writer Mastai said in the Q&A - "when you're in love, every city is Paris..." so why can't that city be Toronto?

Now if only they'd had the guts to end it differently.

Fading Gigolo
John Turturro does Woody Allen. Well, actually John Turturro does Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, and a bunch of other women as he plays a male prostitute, with Woody Allen as his pimp.

Murray (Allen) is a New York bookstore owner - which means he's closing the store. Fioravante (Turturro) is his florist friend who is working at his shop two days a week and living hand-to-mouth.  A casual comment from his dermatologist (Stone) gets Murray thinking that maybe he could pimp out his single friend to lonely women for a small finder's fee, which would of course help them both out financially.

And so, the comedy stage is set. The concept of Fioravante as an attractive ladies man is somehow made believable through the conversations amongst Stone and Vergara - he's not a pretty boy, is in good shape, has rough hands... is a MAN, but not some impossible ideal of a man. In short, he's approachable and non-threatening. The concept is of course absurd, but this IS a comedy. Allen doing his thing for the first third of the movie makes this abundantly clear.

The movie takes a strange turn around the halfway mark, when Vanessa Paradis comes in as Avigal, the widow of an Hasidic Rabbi. Here, Fioravante becomes a caregiver, leading this bereaved woman out of her mourning, not through sex, but through love and caring and a bit of sensuality. This leads to a whole strange subplot of some sort of underground Jewish tribunal of Murray and a jealous neighbourhood Jewish patrolman (Liev Schreiber). It's a bit of a jarring tonal shift.

As a whole movie, the second half lessens it. It has the feel of two different films combined into one, or a prelude that takes too long to get to the real heart of the story. As a concept though, it's very much an homage to old school Woody Allen, with New York as a the familiar backdrop, jazz as the familiar soundtrack, and an absurd idea surrounded by precise prattle moving it all along. It won't go down as a classic, but if you've got a spare hour and half, it's an enjoyable distraction, and definitely keeps me interested in Turturro on the other side of the camera.

TIFF Day 3

Only Lovers Left Alive
Jim Jarmusch's latest film explores a brief period in the very long life of a bored vampire.

Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is a rock star. A reclusive rock star. A reclusive vampire rock star. He also happened to write something for Schubert once. Living in a deceivingly ramshackle house on the edges of Detroit, he wants nothing more than to be left alone while composing his music. He has but one friend, Ian (Anton Yelchin), a human (or zombie as Adam is wont to call them) who can seemingly acquire anything Adam needs, from incredibly rare guitars to custom-made wooden bullets.

Eve (Tilda Swinton) is Adam's wife, living in Tangier, enjoying a life without worries and marvelling at the world around her. She has long since realized that when you're immortal, the point is to enjoy your long life. She hangs out with her dear friend Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), who supplies her with high-quality blood and conversation.

Adam has admired and consorted with great writers and scientists and learned much from them, but as he's watched the "zombies" destroy themselves through greed and arrogance, he has become melancholy and suicidal. Tesla had lightbulbs you didn't need to plug in, in the 1800's. Electricity can be gathered from the atmosphere. Yet humans keep polluting their water and their blood and their lives. The craftmanship of the past, even as little as a few decades ago, is lost, and he despairs. So he calls his wife and mopes her into coming to visit.

Her arrival spurs him to venture out. The arrival of her sister (Mia Wasikowska) sets events in motion that forces change upon him.

But this is a Jarmusch film, so there isn't much that actually happens. There is no major climax or conflict that leads to massive vampiric battles or mass destruction. There are no chase scenes or tense stalkings in the dark. There's no glitter to be found anywhere. What there is, is an exploration of what being an immortal vampire must be like in an age of surveillance and the Internet and the global village and blood diseases and passports and paparazzi and  fame. How does one avoid the dangers of these things while still embracing their possibilities? And how does someone who has seen it all keep themselves interested in living?

It's wonderfully stylistic, with shots to drool over and moments to ponder, with a soundtrack that is as much a part of the story and scene as the dialogue. Droll and darkly humourous, this might not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you go in expecting an evenly-paced exploration of a day-in-the-life instead of a compartmentalized thriller, you won't be disappointed.

Heart of A Lion
A Finnish film exploring the rise of xenophobic whites-only nationalism in Europe through they story of a man grappling with his beliefs, Heart of a Lion is heavy and well-crafted.

Teppo is the leader of a white supremacist group in his Finnish town. Unemployed after standing up for a friend who was fired, he finds that being good with his hands, but not his head means work is hard to come by. After yet another failed interview, he meets a waitress, Sari, who takes him home with her. Upon discovering his affiliations the next morning, she violently kicks him out, as her son is mixed-race. Somehow though, Teppo convinces her that he's worth a shot. That he'll care for her son, and that his beliefs aren't about race but about defending his country and family and friends. She buys this load and gives him a shot.

After just accepting that piece of idiocy (hey, people are lonely and horny and do stupid things, and other than being a complete racist, Teppo seems like a good guy... *sigh*), I moved on and enjoyed the film.

Sari's son, Rhamu, does not take so kindly to his new racist "stepfather", despite Teppo actually trying to accept Rhamu while figuring out how to keep his ties to his gang of bigots. Clearly these are two ideas cannot work in the same space, so something has to give. And give it does.

Sari ends up in the hospital as a result of the conflict at home, Teppo's even more racist (and insane) brother deserts the army and shows up on his (and Sari and Rhamu's) doorstep, unaware of the current situation, the neighbourhood fathers come after Teppo for unrelated reasons - bringing everything to a head.

The reason I like seeing movies from Nordic countries is because they deal with familiar themes without all the bluster of Hollywood. There are fights, brawls, explosions, tension, beatings, and lots of anger in this film, but all if it is subdued by North American standards. Between every beating is a conversation, and often growth or change in one of the characters. These are not smart people, a fact made abundantly clear. They are struggling and ignorant and looking for someone to blame and people to rely on. When something threatens your family, you protect them - the question is, which family is the most important one to you?

Director Dome Karukoski does a fine job of showing Teppo's growth and realizations. From hiding while picking up Rhamu from school to protecting him to admiring him, the visual steps are incremental. The muted colours of the film reflect the bleak reality the characters find themselves in, and the ultimate result of the story is strangely uplifting in its violent way.

The Double
My most anticipated film of the fest, based purely on my interest in the director, Richard Ayoade. Perhaps best known as Moss in The IT Crowd, Ayoade has struck me as brilliantly, insanely funny. The brilliant part of that is what's important, because I didn't expect a movie based on a Dostoyevsky piece to be a laugh riot.

Jesse Eisenberg stars as a worker drone in a dystopian time (think Brazil without the 1984 overtones) who discovers that he has a double that is taking the life he wants for himself. In reality, Jesse Eisenberg plays Jesse Eisenberg and also a Jesse Eisenberg with self confidence. It's not exactly a stretch role for him as both Simon James and James Simon..

In fact, the basic idea behind the plot has been seen before, because the source material isn't exactly new or a secret. You've seen this play. Exactly the same person, except brimming with confidence, and also conniving and immoral, shows up his lesser twin. That's not to say it can't still be done well, which it is here.

Simon (the introvert) wants the girl in the copy room (Mia Wasikowska), has ideas for the founder of the company he works for, is recognized by nearly nobody, and is incredibly alone. Simon's loneliness and shyness is palpable. A pushover who gives up his seat in an empty train because an anonymous man tells him it's "his". He stutters and sputters and kowtows to everyone. James (the type-A) shows up at the company as a rising star, is loved by everyone, meets the boss almost immediately, and can have any woman he wants, all without having a single bit of substance to him. He's rude, demanding, and a force of nature that even Simon gets swept up by.

Jealousy and backstabbing all leads to a forseeable conflict.

Where this movie shines is in its portrayal of the world. It's repetitive, on the verge of breaking down, isolated, inhuman, and seemingly hopeless. Suicides are rampant, everyone is lonely, and seemingly living the same monotonous lives in tiny apartments and a perpetual midnight. Beautifully built scenes that call back to Welles and Gilliam and Carax - shadows and stillness in one moment, colour and motion the next, languid moments running into hyper-kinetic interruptions.

It's a commentary on the humdrum of our daily lives, with the manifest fantasy of "if only I was more confident, things would go better" writ large. A dream and nightmare for the cubicle-dwellers of the world. It's not a perfect film, but it's a damned good one.

And Ayoade was charming and hilarious in both his introduction and the Q&A after the film. So even if this sucked, I'd probably line up for his next one.

TIFF Day 2

The first swing and a miss of my fest. Joe Hill's novel as directed by Alexandre Aja. The novel was a bit of a mess, but with an interesting premise and ideas that made it worth sticking with (church-going general good egg starts turning into a demon and is conflicted on the use of his new-found powers in an attempt to find the killer of the love of his life). The seemingly endless flashbacks and scattershot pacing made it hard read for me at times, but in the end I found it enjoyable enough. I had hoped that its conversion to a movie would alleviate most of my issues with the text - quicker pacing, tighter motivations, etc..

It handled most of that well, but fucked up in enough other ways that the movie ended up worse than the source material. Ig's horn growth has the effect of getting those who see him to spill their darkest secrets and desires. In the novel, this comes off as a bit creepy, revealing the blackness in everyone. The early exchanges are particularly bleak, making some of the middle ones (ie.- his family) seem less so, and just sad. However the movie handles these transitions poorly. They're played as dark humour, which is fine, but it takes a few seconds to realize that people are actually spilling their guts to Ig. Casual conversation turns to darker talk, but seldom gets to the level of the book. For example, the priest is turned from an uncaring adulterer to just another guy who believes Ig killed his girlfriend.

There is also no explanation given for Ig's transformation. The book's requires a definite suspension of disbelief (beyond that required for a guy to grow horns), but at least it's there. That explanation is removed in the opening shot of the film.

Most egregious is the change to the real killer. In the book we slowly learn of his true nature. That he's a thief and a psychopath and rapist who hasn't been right since he was a child, but has convinced the world that he's the salt of the Earth by following his twisted view of Ig's example. In the movie, this psychopathy isn't realized. He's comes off as just a creep who was looking out for himself.

And then there's the casting. Radcliffe as Ig is fine. There are moments when he's obviously stretching, but he generally works. Joe Anderson is quite good as Ig's brother, although the changes to that character made little sense. Max Minghella is also capable as Lee Tourneau, for what little he's given. But my biggest issue is the casting of the women. Juno Temple as Merrin is awful. Her acting style doesn't work at ALL with the character and comes off as stilted and awkward. Meanwhile, Kelli Garner does what she can with Glenna, who is practically unnecessary in the adaptation vs her more important (yet still secondary) roll in the novel. I walked out thinking that they mixed up the casting sheets, as both actresses would have been superior in the other's role.

The film is beautifully shot though. I can't argue with that assessment. Gorgeous colours,  and impressive visuals abound. But that's hardly a reason to see it.

Here's hoping that whatever adaptation of Locke & Key (Hill's amazing graphic novel series) comes about is superior to this.

Robert Lepage's 9-hour play, Lipsynch, has one three-part triptych taken from it for this film. An exploration of what we take for granted every day, through three connected stories.

First is Michelle, who works at a Quebec book store, where she has that unbelievably encyclopedic knowledge of everything the store carries that one finds in these old shops. But Michelle hears voices, self-harms, and has never been well. Her sister wants only what's best for her, but Michelle laments her lost voice as a poet. She realizes the medications to control her schizophrenia are necessary, but that their side-effects rob her of the life she truly loves.

Then there is Thomas, a German neurosurgeon in London who has developed a tremor in his hand. His attempts to control it are for naught, and the toll this takes on him threatens his marriage and his passion. He turns to alcohol to steady his hand as he prepares for another surgery to save another life.

Marie is a jazz singer who has a brain tumour. She has been slurring and forgetting words, and her surgreon, Thomas, has informed her that the removal of the tumour may result in temporary aphasia, a terrifying thought for someone who relies on words to make her living. However, as her story progresses, we learn that this isn't the most devastating side effect.

The stories aren't in exact chronological order, so we learn the fates of the central characters before they do, removing the drama and tension that this film is unconcerned with. Lepage seeks to convey they interconnectedness of words, and voice, and memory, and speech. He does this by showing the betrayal of our most important piece - our brains.

Beautifully shot and acted, with a wonderful melding of directorial styles between Lepage and Pedro Pires, Triptyque is a meditation on loss, love, and communication.

Friday, September 6, 2013

TIFF Day 1

Tim's Vermeer
Penn & Teller's movie about their friend Tim Jenison's attempt to recreate Johannes Vermeer's "The Music Lesson". Vermeer is an interesting case of a painter with limited documented history. There is no record of his apprenticeship, and no records of his techniques. His paintings have no underlying sketches as would often be found. They also tend to be incredibly realistic for the time. Perspective is perfect, shadows are realistic, and most interestingly, there is often a depth of field that you find not in paintings, but photographs. Except that Vermeer predates photography by centuries.

This has led to theories of Vermeer using a Camera Obscura for his work. Essentially a dark room with a hole in one wall, creating a giant pinhole camera. Vermeer's Camera by Philip Steadman and David Hockney's Secret Knowledge are two books that explore this idea. However, there are shortcomings in the theory.

This is where Tim comes in. A genius who founded NewTek (Video Toaster, LightWave 3D), Tim had an idea of how Vermeer could have achieved his "painting with light" with simple tools. So he he set out to see if his idea worked. Not by just painting any old thing, but by physically recreating the scene in "The Music Lesson", grinding and mixing his own oil paints, and grinding his own lens using equipment available in the 1600's.

Teller directs this documentary in the best possible way - simply. The film focuses on the idea that Tim is not a painter, but an inventor and enthusiast about figuring out how things work. There is none of the traditional Penn & Teller humour or magic tricks or cutaways explaining things. This is a movie about Tim, Vermeer, and dedication. Penn narrates and fills in some spots, but does so mostly sitting in a chair, talking to the camera. Teller revealed in the Q&A afterwards that they had tried tying the techniques to illusions, or using skits, or having Penn talk about everything, but that none of that worked as well as just letting Tim build this world and paint.

The film also achieves an interesting balance while the painting is actually taking place - it conveys the tedium of this act without being itself boring. This was no small project, the count of days by the end of the project is staggering. As Tim himself pointed out - exploring how Vermeer could have achieved what he did doesn't lessen his work. It many ways, it makes them more impressive.

All in all, an enjoyable documentary on a topic I find fascinating.

Standing Aside, Watching
Yorgos Servetas' film about a woman moving to a small Greek town after maturing in Athens is a commentary on a changing world. Antigone (Marina Symeou) has moved to a small, local vacation town in the off-season after living in Athens. She's clearly lived here before (her Uncle is resident, an ex-boyfriend is back, an old friend greets her, etc.), but her experiences outside of the town have clearly shaped her differently than its residents. She is independent, progressive, and forthright, while those around her are either stuck in rapidly disappearing world or are apathetic to the problems around them.

The men are generally small-time tough guys who are in charge of their own little kingdom (with a couple exceptions). Misogynists who intimidate their way through life. Antigone's ex/friend Dimitris just wants to live in his small beach house without bothering anyone. Another old friend is in abusive affair with one of the town bullies. Everyone knows what's going on, but they're all standing aside, watching, instead of doing something about it.

Antigone, however, isn't wired that way though. She just wants to settle in, do her job, and live her life. But her mere presence is a catalyst for change. Through little direct action of her own, tensions in the town escalate rapidly. Attitudes begin to change. The changes of the World begin to encroach on this working-class town. Her ire grows as the days pass until she can't stand idly by, waiting for everyone else to do something.

The film itself has a deliberate pace without ever being too slow. It moves at the pace of the town it's set in. It never aims for grand theatrics, and while it's classified as a "thriller" it's really more of a basic story of how simple things can have significant effects.

A solid day 1 for me. Only 10 days and 18 films to go.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Is it fall already?

No. But it's close.

Anchorman This is a weird movie, right? I mean, I liked it. I thought it was funny. But it is a weird movie. I guess it’s about the integration of a San Diego television station (is that the right word for when they let chicks in? Hold on, lemmee google this “becoming co-ed”?) Whatevs, so Kelly Bundy becomes an anchor and she is kinda shady and ambitious, so hijinks ensure. Weird movie.

The Player Ugarles and Julius Goat said this is the prequel to Shawshank. It was okay. It hasn’t aged particularly well. But the fake movie they make at the end is hilarious and I would TOTALLY go see it. Oh, it’s about a producer who is so afraid he’s about to lose his job that he goes crazy. Sorta.

Pain & Gain This movie is awful. Awfully awful. And you know how much I love the Rock. I love The Rock a lot. He was not Rock-y in this. UGH. HORRID. I’m… so it’s a “based on a true story” movie about body builders who decide to kidnap their clients and steal all their money. But they’re dumb, so… they make many mistakes along the way. The outdoor grilling of their murder victims’ hands was funny.

Admission BLARGH. This movie is TUURRRIIBBBLLEEE. I don’t understand why Tina Fey or Paul Rudd are in this flick about a spinster admissions officer who well, is very into her job. Paul Rudd plays a do-goody hipster who won’t mind his own beeswax. He has a black son. Of course. *eyeroll* Badness.

Olympus Has Fallen Z.O.M.G. THIS MOVIE IS FANTASTIC!!! FANTASTICLY FANTASTIC!!!!! Okay, so it opens like the beginning of that rock climbing Sylvester Stallone movie and you’re all bummed out and think well, it can’t get worse than this. AND THEN IT DOES! And then ninjas (Dawn is SO #races) attack the capital and then occupy the white house and the last thing the final secret service guy says before he dies is “Olympus has… fallen.” OR IS HE THE FINAL SECRET SERVICE GUY??? Dun dun dun. No, he’s not. THERE’S ANOTHER! MAAANNN. SO GOOD. ASPLOSIONS, GUN FIRE, HELICOPTER CRASHES, everything that makes a movie awesome AND NO STOOPID LOVE STORY! (Except the love of a man for his country!) *slow claps*

Amour I swear I am going to fight the Academy. I’m going to fight it with fists. WHY ON EARTH was this movie nominated for Best anything?? The whole thing takes place in an apartment. But the old man is delusional and you’re not sure what’s real and what’s the opposite of real. The old lady is paralyzed and cranky. Everyone is French… Mon Dieu! Why am I watching this? Because… Oscar. Grrr. *shakes fist*

The End of Love So… this movie is about the year after a young mom dies and how the young dad copes with raising their toddler alone. The toddler is a surprisingly good actor. I was mad at people who said Quvenzhane Wallis shouldn’t be eligible for an Oscar because she’s just a kid, but I guess if the director could get such a moving performance out of a three-year-old, maybe they might have a point. I dunno. But the toddler was the best part and should totes get an Oscar. The movie was weirdly uneven. One minute the dad is making cereal for his kid, the next George Michael from Arrested Development is waving a gun all around. It’s like, if he’s friends with Michael Cera, why is he hurting for money to pay his rent and feed the child? All in all it’s okay. But weird.

42 This movie is super cheesy, but still moving. It’s about Jackie Robinson integrating (HA! Now it’s the right word) major league baseball. It’s annoying how Harrison Ford (the owner of the Dodgers) is painted as the real hero, but cest la vie. I wish Brooklyn still had its own baseball team.

The Call Based on Halle Berry’s hairstyle alone, I thought this movie was going to suck. Now, it wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination, “good.” But it didn’t quite dip to the level of suck. So, there’s that. It’s about a 911 dispatcher who has already lost a girl to a brutal murderer and when the call comes in from another young female victim, she refuses to give up until she gets her back safe! Her hair looks terrible.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation THE ROCK! AND HE’S ROCKY! Whew, breakup averted! It’s a super cheesy cartoon villain meets cartoon hero movie. London gets fucked ALL the way up!

Dredd Um… it’s a remake of the 1990s flick Judge Dredd. It wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen.

Clueless Aww. In college, I could recite all the lines from Clueless verbatim. It still holds up as a quirky, if somewhat creepy, rom-com. I’m glad time has corrected the injustice of Alicia Silverstone being a bigger star than Paul Rudd. RIP Brittany Murphy. *cues rollin with the homies*

The Imposter I saw Julius Goat and Dan England talking about this movie on twitter. It’s creeeeeee—pppyyy. Go see it. Then read the article in the new Yorker. DON’T READ THE ARTICLE FIRST, CHEATERS!

Religulous This “documentary” about how religion is destroying the world was awful. Bill Maher is rude, condescending and should be hit with a lightning bolt on sheer principle. Though, had I seen this movie first, I might not have spent hard earned money at Jesus world in Orlando. Bill Maher was right about that place. He’s still a dick though.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

TIFF Approacheth

So I might have made a mistake.

I've got 20 films lined up to see for TIFF, and 11 days to see them. Works out to about 2 films a day, mostly after work. Here's hoping they're all amazing and not completely draining.

I mean, they seem to be an interesting bunch, even if there is no Von Trier this year.

Tim's Vermeer
Johannes Vermeer painted 150 years before cameras were invented, yet his works show incredibly accurate perspective and realism. There are theories floating that he used lenses and rudimentary camera techniques to create these paintings. They tend to fall short in a few places. Enter Penn & Teller to explore this in a documentary (with Teller directing). Their friend, Tim Jenison spends over a year to recreate Vermeer's techniques using these theories, and filling in the blanks himself. From recreating the pigments used to crafting his own lenses, Tim goes for authenticity.

Since I first heard about the theory of "Vermeer's Camera", I've been intrigued by these ideas. So this clearly had to be seen. Plus, Penn & Teller and world premiere.

Standing Aside, Watching
Something about the description of this film kept me coming back to it. A greek movie about a woman returning to her small town from the big city, and just trying to fit back in. Except that her townspeople are violent and wary and things get out of hand. Oh, and her name is Antigone.

Joe Hill's book of a man, who wakes up growing a pair of horns and finding everyone spilling their darkest desires to him, is now a movie. Starring Daniel Radcliffe and directed by Alexandre Aja. That was pretty much all I needed. I do fear the legion of Harry Potter fans that will be waiting to catch a glimpse of Radcliffe though.

Adapted Robert LePage play, so I think I'm largely seeing this so I can tell a friend, who's a huge fan of his, all about it. Although it does sound interesting as another film tying together multiple stories into one intersected tale. This time involving a schizophrenic bookseller, a brain surgeon with a tremor, and a jazz singer who might end up with temporary aphasia.

Only Lovers Left Alive
Jim Jarmusch film about a vampire rock star, his girlfriend, and her sister. I feel I've seen a good number of vampire rock star movies at TIFF. Or at least movies about vampires with rock stars in them. Whatever. Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska... good enough for me.

Heart of a Lion
Ah good, a Finnish movie. TIFF ain't TIFF for me without something from that general area in it. This time it's the, I assume, uplifting tale of a racist skinhead gang leader who falls in love with a waitress with a mixed-race son.

The Double
THIS is the movie I'm most excited about. Based on Dostoevsky's novella of the same name about a man whose live is being taken over by his doppelganger. Now, Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska are fine actors, but they aren't the reason I want to see this. Not even Wallace Shawn is the driving force. No, director/writer Richard Ayoade is. Most famous perhaps as Moss in The IT Crowd (where he's brilliant), or maybe less so as the only reason to see The Watch, he also directed one of the best episodes of Community - Critical Film Studies (Pulp Fiction/My Dinner with Andre). Now, combine that last bit with him directing Wallace Shawn, and I'm in.  It had better not suck.But then, even if it does, I'd still be stoked to hear a Q and A with him afterwards.

The F Word
More Daniel Radcliffe. I really should have added Kill Your Darlings just to complete this year's Radcliffe TIFF trilogy. Really, Zoe Kazan is more of an attraction here (go see Ruby Sparks if you haven't already). Now, I would have overlooked this one entirely (Romantic Comedy isn't my usual TIFF genre), but it's from Michael Dowse of Goon and Fubar fame (I'm just gonna ignore Take Me Home Tonight).

Fading Gigolo
Woody Allen plays John Turturro's pimp. Written and directred by Turturro. That's all I should have to write here.

Finding Vivian Maier
Maybe you read about the cache of over 100,000 photos found a couple years ago in the effects of a career nanny. As Vivian Maier was busy nannying, with spouse, children or apparently friends of her own, she was also taking pictures. Lots of pictures. Of everyday life while wandering around the cities she worked in. Self-taught, and very talented, these shots were almost lost. This is the movie about trying to find out more about this woman, 4 years after her death.

The Husband
Bruce McDonald's entry to this year's festival. After Pontypool and Trigger, he pretty much gets automatic placement on my picks (others would put him there for Hard Core Logo and The Tracey Fragments). The story of a father having a shitty year as his wife is in jail for sleeping with one of her students, and he's raising their infant son alone. Called "a kind of horror comedy about impotent male rage and the limits of compassion" in the TIFF description piques my interest, Stephen McHattie being in the cast only helps.

The Grand Seduction
Don McKellar is another one of those Canadian directors that gets an automatic entry on my list. He has this incredibly droll and deadpan sense of humour and humanity that makes its way into his films and roles. In this instance, he's remaking a French Canadian hit from 2003 about a small fishing village that tries to entice a big city doctor into living in their town so they can get a big manufacturing plant to set up nearby and give them jobs. And Gordon Pinsent's in it, so I think I'm legally required to watch this as a Canadian.

Jodorowsky's Dune
Just realized I have three documentaries this year. This one is about the Dune movie that was never made by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Using production storyboards and recollections, we are to learn about what would have been one hell of an ambitious project. It would have starred Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, and Salvador Dali, and would have been written by Dan O'Bannon, and designed by H.R. Giger, years before Alien would appear.

The Wind Rises
Possibly Miyazaki's last film, it spans the decades of life of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Japanese Zero Fighter. A bit of a departure in subject matter for the famed Japanese animator for sure.

Short Cuts Canada - Programme 5
It's been a few years since I've gone to a shorts programme at TIFF. But this has a Bruce Alcock piece in it (Impromptu), and his rendering of A Night at the Quinte Hotel remains one of my all-time favourite short films. The End of Pinky, and CRIME: Joe Loya - The Beirut Bandit also looked interesting. Rumour is An Extraordinary Person is one of the highlights of the entire short program, so this should be a good time. And as always with short films, if you don't like one, it won't last long.

A Chinese film about a chauffeur and the spoiled wife of his employer and the secrets they both have. It reads as a film that explores the Hong Kong/Mainland China divide, and Chinese class divisions. Most appealing to me though is that it's cinematographer is Christopher Doyle, best known for his films with Wong Kar-Wai. So it should at the very least be gorgeously shot.

A Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood's classic. How can one turn down the old Samurai in place of gunslingers concept? Having not actually seen the Eastwood version (what?? I know!), I get to go into this fresh.

All Is By My Side
A biopic of Jimi Hendrix on his way to stardom. Who doesn't love Hendrix? If it's you, then I'm sorry, but you're wrong. Starring André Benjamin as the iconic James Hendrix.

Witching & Bitching
My only Midnight Madness pick this year. I'm either getting old, or they moved a bunch of the more interesting stuff to the Vanguard and Wavelengths programmes. A Spanish film, that, well, here's a paragraph from the description:

"A group of buskers led by a Jesus Christ in silver body paint pull out machine guns and grab a massive haul from a Cash for Gold store. The heist is masterminded by José (Hugo Silva), a down-on-his-luck divorced dad who, due to his custody schedule, is forced to bring his eight-year-old son to the robbery."

This somehow leads to them dealing with a coven of soul-sucking witches in a dark forest or something. Look, just read that over again and don't question me.

Atilla Marcel
I finish the fest off with this one. Not through any planning, it just happened to fit there in the schedule. This is Sylvain Chomet's (The Triplets of Belleville, The Illusionist) first live action film, and that on it's own hooked me. Supposedly calling back to Buster Keaton and Jaques Tati, with a Wes Anderson colour palette, the general impression I get is this will be a bittersweet French comedy, which suits me just fine as a Sunday afternoon end to what will be a very long festival.

You got all the way down here? Impressive. But not as impressive as if I actually see them all. Interestingly, I don't think any of these have made the "Movies you must see at TIFF" lists I've read so far. Surely that's a good sign.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Movie Reviews

The Neverending Story

The tale of a literate boy who reads a book in an attic about some kid who loves his horse and a princess without a name. There's also a flying dog. Look, I've been watching this for 7 days straight, with only occasional pauses for pee breaks and food. At this point, I'm so tired that I can't remember which one I'm stopping for anymore. I can't remember what happened five seconds ago, let alone remembering what happened 5 seconds ago. Does this move ever finish? How does it all fit on this one VHS tape? It feels like I won't ever see the credits. I didn't think the title was literal. How could it be? But no... this story NEVER ENDS! It's just hour after hour of darkness. The Nothing takes over and then... nothing. Forever.

Oh fuck. The TV turned off a week ago. Forget I said anything.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

I don't know any clever August puns...

Should I worry that I haven’t seen ANY of the summer blockbusters? This used to be my FAVORITE time of year! But I guess with all the birthday traveling, I just haven’t had the time; but honestly, I do not have the inclination either. Superman… the giant robot thing…Wolverine…Eh… I guess I’ll wait for the DVDs. *Coco Shrugs*

The Chernobyl Diaries

I saw this movie a while ago, but when I scrolled through my past review recaps it wasn’t there. It’s a decent enough faux documentary horror flick. (Though, the premise, twenty-somethings decide to go on “an adventure tour” of a nuclear disaster site smacks of the hashtag #whitepeople.) I liked the end.


HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAH Am I really going to review a Syfy movie starring Tara Reid and Ian Ziering called Sharknado? HAHAHAHAHAHA No.

The Revisionaries

This is a documentary about the 2010 Texas schoolboard process of updating the state’s public school textbooks. And yet, it wasn’t boring. Actually, at the point where the one guy makes a motion to “remove references to ‘hip-hop’ and replace them with ‘country and western music’ because *that* music doesn’t have a place in our schools,” I was laughing hysterically. Racism makes people insane, y’all. There was also a motion to remove the philosophies of Thomas Jefferson and insert President Obama’s middle name AND declare Ronald Reagan a national treasure. *IN TEXTBOOKS* Textbooks that students will learn from for the next decade. Oh, and I didn’t even write about the evolution “debate.” HAHAHA Spoiler… it did not go well for evolution. TAKE THAT DARWIN! WHO’S THE FITTEST NOW, BITCH? HAHAHAHHAAHHAAH Oh, Texas.

The Shawshank Redemption

“…hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” So, this entire movie is pretty much bullshit, amirite? I don’t understand why it’s so revered, I saw it once in college and promptly forgot about it, so I thought I’d missed something and decided to watch it again. Nope. It’s your standard prison fantasy. Though, I guess I don’t know anything about prison in the 50s, prisons that I got to know in the aughts are nothing like that. And Red would never have been paroled. Shrug.

Shadow of a Doubt

No clue why I rented this movie about a strange man who comes to stay with his sister’s family. It’s funny, I think Hitchcock suffers from his later successes, because I kept waiting for something terrible to happen, but nothing does till the very very end when there’s just no choice. So, I’d jump at every frame change or camera closeup and then be disappointed that nothing happened. It’s okay.


Yo, this is a creepy ass Korean vampire movie. I don’t know whose fault it is that I saw this, but I will find you and make you watch some creepy ass movie with creepy ass smiling vampires who stab people in the neck. And old stroke victim mothers who are out for revenge. Shudders. *Turns on all the lights*

The Last Stand

Oh man, Arnold Schwarzenegger, why can’t I quit you? You’re a liar, and a cheat and a Republican, and yet… I loved the last stand. There’s high speed chases and a helicopter attacks stuff and an old lady is all shooting people with a shotgun and Arnold is all “Ahm too old for dis shit” and then he like pulls the pin out of a grenade with his teeth! I can’t help it, I LIKE ASPLOSIONS!!!! *puts self on timeout*


This movie is so gotdamn pretentious. It’s like “Shadow of a Doubt” in that an uncle comes to live with his brother’s family after his brother dies, but it’s not like it because you’re just mostly rolling your eyes at the pretension. Jaysus. Terrible. Oh, it’s also like "Thirst" in that there’s a creepy ass chick stabbing people in the neck.

Won’t Back Down

Eh, I don’t think they meant to make a movie that celebrates union busting, but that’s what they did. It was alright, but the whole teacher teams up with dyslexic kid’s mom seemed contrived. I don’t care if it IS based on a real life story.

Ella Enchanted

I love me some Anne Hathaway. This movie about a girl cursed with obedience but who changes the world anyway, is a tad silly, but Anne Hathaway and Matt Damon’s famously dumped ex-girlfriend, Mia Driver? Minnie Driver? Something like that, are charming. The supporting cast is terrible. Though, it’s always nice to see Westley from “The Princess Bride.”

Gangster Squad

This movie was AWESOME! I don’t know why it didn’t get at least as much traction as LA Confidential – it has that same film noir vibe about it – except the plot made sense and didn’t put me to sleep after an hour. PLUS there are black people and Mexicans! Brava, Gangster Squad, Brava. Also, Ryan Gosling is shirtless. Oh hey, and he’s paired up with Emma Stone AGAIN… Hmm… note to self, keep an eye on that Emma Stone. Grr.

Identity Thief

This movie about Jason Bateman going to look for Mellissa McCarthy, who has stolen his identity, does all the right things to be a heartwarming comedy, but it just wasn’t heartwarming or particularly funny. This is definitely one of those movies where all the funny parts are in the trailer. I can’t quite put my finger on why it didn't work for me, but at the end I was just kinda like “Meh.”

A Good Day to Die Hard

Wooo! All the asplosions and “too old for this shit”ness of The Last Stand without having to feel all dirty about liking the lead. I’M IN! Also, there is a shocking double double cross! *slow claps* Keep on dying hard, Mr. Willis!