Review: The Devil’s Violinist

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Director: Bernard Rose (Immortal Beloved, Ivansxtc, The Kreutzer Sonata, Two Jacks)
Writer: Bernard Rose
Producers: Christian Angermayer, Gabriela Bacher, Rosilyn Heller, Danny Krausz
Starring: David Garrett, Jared Harris, Joely Richardson, Christian McKay, Veronica Ferres, Andrea Deck
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 122 min.


Coming into The Devil’s Violinist, I had little knowledge about the project besides the fact that it was biopic of Niccolò Paganini, a violinist and composer I knew nearly nothing about. I didn’t recognize the handsome dark haired actor portraying Paganini but Jared Harris is certainly a great talent and let’s be frank, when have I ever been known to pass up a costume drama? Never, that’s when.

The Devil’s Violinist isn’t so much a biography as it is a drama about a musician who we know for a fact was a talented violinist and composer, a man who lived a lavish lifestyle and who was rumoured to be associated with the devil. Writer/director Bernard Rose takes a very short list of facts and weaves a story of mystery, intrigue and of a tortured artist who sells his soul to the devil, enjoys everything the world has to offer – from women to drugs – and eventually suffers for it.

If you’re looking for a biography on Paganini, you had best look elsewhere. Rose’s take on the maestro is so frivolously extrapolated that The Devil’s Violinist is far more fiction than anything else. I went reading about Paganini after seeing the movie only to discover that, among other inconsistencies, he suffered from syphilis and was later treated for tuberculosis neither of which was mentioned in the movie. As for his involvement with the devil… the movie does seem to get that part right. One can’t call this any sort of biography which leads to the question: why use Paganini’s name at all? My thought is that it adds intrigue and frankly, it’s a great excuse to fill the movie with spectacular music.

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Trailer: Effie Gray

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Funny how these things happen.

Before last week I’d never heard of John Ruskin and then his name came up in a conversation regarding Mike Leigh’s excellent Mr. Turner and here we are, only a few days later, with a trailer for a movie about Ruskin and his marriage to his young wife, the titular Effie Gray.

Directed by long time British TV director Richard Laxton, Effie Gray is written by the wonderful Emma Thompson who also stars in a supporting role but this is the Dakota Fanning show as the talented young actress stars as Effie opposite Greg Wise’s John Ruskin. Julie Walters, Tom Sturridge and Robbie Coltrane also star.

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Review: Selma

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Director: Ava DuVernay (Middle of Nowhere, The Door)
Writer: Paul Webb
Producers: Cassandra Kulukundis, Todd J. Labarowski, Emanuel Michael
Starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Wendell Pierce, Lorraine Toussaint, Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 127 min.


Sometimes there’s a sense that a movie is succeeding because of its timeliness and little more. It’s why there are instances of multiple biopics vying to be first out the door after a subject’s death but sometimes, it’s a little more abstract than that. That certainly appears to be the case with Ava DuVernay’s Selma which was in production long before the events of Ferguson ever happened but in the wake of that national disaster, Selma is likely to become a rallying cry for change and it’s a damned fine one at that.

Written by newcomer Paul Webb, Selma picks up in early 1965. LBJ is in office and he has a pretty good relationship with Martin Luther King Jr.. In one particular meeting, King pushes for change, namely in the ability of African Americans to vote. Johnson argues there are more important issues to deal with; he has a different agenda. King pushes ahead with the argument and along with the leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the group take action and their next fight to Selma, Alabama. A ripe territory for a showdown.

Du Vernay’s film isn’t simply a retelling of the events leading up to what happened in Selma. It’s also a portrait of a man who has been fighting for a long time. A man who is tired; a man who feels defeated; a man who leads but does not go on alone. Webb’s portrait of King gives the good with the bad. The film shows King to have been a great preacher, a man who could mobilise masses, but it also doesn’t shy away from King’s troubles; his infidelities, his indecision, his feeling of defeat and fighting an unwinnable fight. Mostly it creates the picture of a man who led a movement but who was only human. A man who relied on the supported by the people around him to succeed.

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Contest: Win Tickets To See The Gambler! [Vancouver]

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Rupert Wyatt’s The Gambler opens in theatres on December 25 and we’ve got 5 double passes and some promo items to give away for the advance screening on December 22, 7:00pm at Scotiabank Theatre.

Jim Bennett (Academy Award®-nominee Mark Wahlberg) is a risk taker. Both an English professor and a high-stakes gambler, Bennett bets it all when he borrows from a gangster (Michael Kenneth Williams) and offers his own life as collateral. Always one step ahead, Bennett pits his creditor against the operator of a gambling ring (Alvin Ing) and leaves his dysfunctional relationship with his wealthy mother (Academy Award®-winner Jessica Lange) in his wake. He plays both sides, immersing himself in an illicit, underground world while garnering the attention of Frank (John Goodman), a loan shark with a paternal interest in Bennett’s future. As his relationship with a student (Brie Larson) deepens, Bennett must take the ultimate risk for a second chance…

Jim Bennett (Academy Award®-nominee Mark Wahlberg) is a risk taker and high-stakes gambler who is very familiar with games of chance. For your chance to win, just identify the 4 popular casino games below, and email us your answers before midnight PST on Friday, December 19! Winners will be chosen from all entries on December 20, 2014.

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After the Credits Episode 164: Whistler Film Festvial Wrap

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Four days of eating, drinking and movie watching are over and so is the Whistler Film Festival.

Just before saying goodbye to the village for another year, Colleen (adead.horse), Dale (Letterboxd) and I (Letterboxd) were joined by The Green Screen of Death podcast co-hosts Adrian Charlie (twitter) and Bill Harris (twitter) to count down both the good and bad of the festival.

The guys also recorded their own Whistler wrap show which you can download or stream.

Apparently, we were too loud for the library.

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WFF 2014 Review: I Put A Hit on You

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Your romantic evening doesn’t go as you expected. Actually, it ends in an argument and you storming out of the restaurant. You go home, get blitzed and in a moment of alcohol induced anger, you put a hit on your ex only to wake up hours later, figure out what you’ve done, instantly regret it and then head over to his place to save his life.

It doesn’t sound like much of a plot but the crowd funding video for Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart’s I Put a Hit on You went viral, proof that perhaps this concept of doing stuff you regret while drunk is something a lot of people have experienced though I expect the Craigslist market for hitmen is rather limited.

The concept for Clark and Stewart’s movie is perfect for a single location shoot. Once the set-up is out of the way, it takes all of 10 minutes, I Put a Hit on You moves to Ray’s apartment and pretty much stays there as Ray (Aaron Ashmore) and Harper (Sara Canning) try to sort out the mess she has created. While trying to figure out how to survive the night, the pair also delve into their relationship problems in a dramedy that mostly works.

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WFF 2014 Review: After the Ball

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We all have kryptonite. I have more kryptonite than most. If the movie involves dancing, cheerleading, drumlines, high school drama, Shakespeare, modern interpretations of Shakespeare, or re-telling fairy tales, I’ve probably seen it or want to see it. I simply can’t help myself. This is my candy and I love to bite into a new bar. Rarely is that new bar completely fulfilling. Even rarer, like, white elephant rare, is when that piece of candy happens to be Canadian. I’m pretty sure the last one was How She Move (review) and that was a long, long time ago.

What first caught my attention about After the Ball is director Sean Garrity. A few years ago Garrity really impressed with a great little thriller titled Blood Pressure so when I saw his name attached, I didn’t look any further. I knew I had to see this. Imagine my surprise when I read the description to find that After the Ball is basically Cinderella meets “Twelfth Night” set in the fashion industry.

Portia Doubleday stars as Kate, a talented fashion grad who is trying to get a job in the world of haute couture. She’s talented but her family name is problematic. Her father owns a consumer friendly fashion line that, in the past, has been known to steal couture designs and re-package them for the mall crowd. Defeated, Kate returns home and decides, against her initial floundering, to take on a job at the family business. She squares off against her terrible step mother and two despicable (and dumb) step sisters, gets fired, returns in disguise and falls in love with the in house shoe designer – played by, no less, Marc-André Grondin.

Jackpot.

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WFF 2014 Review: A Most Violent Year

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Truth be told: if you haven’t seen a J.C. Chandor movie, you’re missing out. Like, seriously missing out. That doesn’t however, mean that you should skip A Most Violent Year. Actually, that means that you should see A Most Violent Year as soon as possible and then head back and check out the director’s previous work.

Also written by Chandor, A Most Violent Year sounds like the most boring movie ever about the most dry industry ever. Oscar Isaac plays Abel Morales, the owner of a heating oil company in the early 80s when people, instead of having deals with the electric or gas company for their heating, they negotiated heating oil prices with the providers directly. Life has been good for Morales. He’s risen through the ranks from driver to owner, married a beautiful, smart woman, and he’s just about to close the biggest deal of his life.

But all is not well at Standard Oil: the company is under investigation for fraud, the bank has pulled out of their real estate deal, trucks of oil are being stolen right from Morales’ nose and to make matters worse, now Morales’ seemingly perfect home life is starting to show cracks. It’s definitely a violent year for Morales but not in sense you might imagine.

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