Archive for the ‘Canadian Film’ Category

  • Review: Lost Heroes



    Director: Will Pascoe
    Producer: Tony Wosk
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 107 min.

    Though the comic book isn’t selling as well as it did before the bubble on comic book speculation burst, the industry seems to be experiencing a resurgence. The movies, at least the Marvel ones, are performing well both in the box office and critically, and comic books seem to have entered the mainstream consciousness at a level we haven’t seen since World War II. But with the exception of Wolverine, the heroes and heroines we mostly see/read about are American and even he doesn’t quite fit the profile of truly “Made in Canada.”

    Anyone who knows anything about Canadian comics knows that over the years there have quite a few Canadian made and bred heroes. Captain Canuck is likely the most popular but there have been others, from the heroes of the old Canadian Whites to the recent Heroes of the North and Will Pascoe’s documentary Lost Heroes tracks both the heroes and their creators through the years.

    Beginning with the rise of Canadian comics during the war Pascoe, with the help of historians, collectors and creators, traverses the wilderness of Canadian superheroes, tracking the rise and fall of publishers and the heroes and heroines that came through the years. From Nelvana of the Northern Lights (the first female superhero, she beat Wonder Woman to the stands by a few months) to Alpha Flight, Lost Heroes does a fantastic job of not only shining a light on the forgotten heroes but also on the history of comics through the decades and the continued battle to create heroes and books that have a uniquely Canadian vision.

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  • Trailer: Stress Position


    This ultra-high-concept film is the feature debut of A.J. Bond, who creative soul who directed the cleverly weird time-travel short film Hirsute which we instantly loved after catching it at 2009 edition of The Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Stress Position nestles on the line between film experiment, documentary, torture-porn and pure anti-septic whiteness. The film involves a game between the director and his star David Amito, which has only three rules: 1. No severe pain 2. No permanent physical damage & 3. Nothing illegal.

    Inspired by a flippant remark about the torturous enhanced interrogation techniques used by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay’s personalized torture regimes aimed at breaking each other’s will, but without causing any severe physical pain. Set entirely in and around an avant garde torture chamber custom built in an isolated warehouse, the film captures the surprising trajectory of the experiment from both sides of the cell as the two friends play both victim and oppressor, not to mention actor and director.

    The acting here may not be any great thespian work, but the idea is at the heart of the matter. Furthermore, in full Gaspar Noe fashion (with a slight dash of Hitoshi Matsumoto’s criminally under-seen Symbol, the trailer is not for those who have any audio-visual sensitivities. You have been warned.

    Stress Position opens in Toronto on April 18th at Carlton Cinema in Toronto.

  • Friday One Sheet: The Key [Enemy]


    One more poster from Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy. This one was designed by Sam Smyth and highlights the spider imagery in the film, certainly suggesting its connection to the key – both the one exists in the film, as well as the the more ‘big picture’ key to figuring out exactly what the film is trying to be. Further with this, the tagline on the key art is “Chaos is Order Yet Deciphered” which is the declarative opening quote on that kicks off the film.

    If you like the kind of nexus you might get from crossing David Lynch and David Cronenberg, and the film is still playing somewhere nearby, you should really give this unusual film a try.

  • Review: Enemy



    Director: Denis Villeneuve
    Screenplay: Javier Gullón (Based on a novel by José Saramago)
    Producers: M.A. Faura, Niv Fichman
    Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini
    MPAA Rating: R
    Running time: 90 min.

    Denis Villeneuve is a national tresure. The Canadian director who has garnered acclaim around the festival circuit for years, landed in Hollywood with a bang, delivering the great 2013 thriller Prisoners, that didn’t rip him of his artistic integrity. Unsatisfied with simply one movie, Villeneuve was also in post production on a second feature which co-produces with France instead of Hollywood. Far smaller, Enemy is also proving to be the more ambitious of the two projects in both subject matter and scope; a tall feat considering Prisoners went to some pretty deep places.

    The basics of the story are fairly simple: while watching a movie, a history professor named Adam spots a man who appears to be his identical twin. Adam becomes obsessed with the idea of meeting his double and after some stealthy manoeuvring, discovers his double’s name (Anthony) and address. The pair eventually meet and it’s immediately clear that beyond looking identical, they share nothing in common. Adam is mousy and bumbling while Anthony is confident, womanizing and conniving.

    As one might expect, the pair eventually trade places but the events surrounding the switch are far more nuanced and complicated than anything Hollywood has ever offered up from mistaken identity stories. Mind you, Enemy is adapted from a José Saramago novel so exploration of deep, philosophical ideas are to be expected and screenwriter Javier Gullón doesn’t shy away from any of them.

    Adam is completely engulfed and haunted by the discovery of his double, almost as if he’s discovered some secret that will change his world. Helen, Anthony’s pregnant wife, is just as shaken by the discovery of her husband’s double but for Anthony, the emergence of Adam simply provides him with an excuse to be even more self centered. I can’t help but think that maybe Gullón and Villeneuve are making a statement on the perils of self involvement because things don’t progress very well for Anthony.

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  • Trailer: The Husband


    We love Canadian genre-hopping director Bruce McDonald in the Third Row. From his road pictures to his rock documentaries for the CBC (and rock-mock-docs for the rest of us), to his slacker comedy to his semiotic take on the zombie subgenre, the prolific director keeps providing quality on all fronts. With The Husband, which premiered to some acclaim last year at the Toronto International Film festival, McDonald tackles the darkly comedic horror of the male ego and rage. The film stars Maxwell McCabe-Lokos with Stephen McHattie (yay!) and the wonderful August Diehl.

    Henry, is having a really bad year. His wife, Alyssa, a former teacher, is in jail for sleeping with a fourteen-year-old student, leaving Henry to raise their infant son alone. He loathes his ad agency job — and his co-workers even more. Moreover, the burden of single-parenting has essentially cut Henry off from his friends, leaving him to stew. Henry has kept a lid on things so far, but as Alyssa’s release looms, he finds it increasingly difficult to contain himself.

  • Review: Sex After Kids



    Director: Jeremy Lalonde
    Writer: Jeremy Lalonde
    Producers: Jeremy Lalonde, Jennifer Liao, Lori Montgomery, Keri Peterson
    Starring: Paul Amos, Shannon Beckner, Jay Brazeau, Amanda Brugel, Ennis Esmer, Kate Hewlett, Kris Holden-Ried, Peter Keleghan, Mary Krohnert, Mimi Kuzyk, Zoie Palmer, Kristin Booth, Katie Boland, Christine Horne, Mark Robinson, David Tompa, Gordon Pinsent
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 105 min.

    Turns out Canada is a really great place to find sex comedies and the last few years have been especially fruitful. This year alone we’re in for two great sex romps, Jason James’ That Burning Feeling (review) and Jeremy Lalonde’s Sex After Kids. Where James’ movie has one man searching for answers, Lalonde’s introduces a cast of diverse characters all of whom are at a cross roads: they’ve had kids and now their sex lives seem to have disappeared. Except nothing is quite this simple.

    There’s a lesbian couple figuring out what has caused a riff in their relationship, empty nesters rekindling their love life, new parents who are trying to follow their therapists’ recommendation to have sex for 100 days in a row, a couple dealing with their changing feelings for each other, a single father adjusting to his changing tastes in women and a single mother who chose to have a baby on her own and is now buzzing for a quickie only to find weirdos (note: unless you’re ready for what follows, never include the words “cockle doodle doo” in your personal ad).

    On the surface, Sex After Kids sounds like it’s checking off tick boxes; gay couple: check, old couple: check, singles: check. The thing about Lalonde’s script is that it never feels like that’s what he’s doing. The stories, though at first completely disconnected aside from similar themes, do have a connecting thread but its not obvious nor is it unnecessarily crammed in. It feels natural to the story almost as if the idea started with the various members of a parent’s group and evolved from the stories shared there but Lalonde doesn’t feel encumbered by the structure of starting with the connection and for a while, Sex After Kids ambles along from story to story in hugely enjoyable style.

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  • Review: Mourning Has Broken


    After preparing a enthusiastically cooked and relaxing fry-up of fillet mignon for his cat on a lazy Saturday Morning, the everyman at the centre of Brett and Jason Butler’s Mourning Has Broken returns to the cozy confines of his own bed to discover that his wife has passed on. Rather than deal with the immediate and quite difficult emotions (and logistics) of his spouse’s condition – we will find out later she was seriously ill for some time – he instead decides to grab the weekend ‘to do list’ off the fridge and finish up her last requests, as it were, even if it is just buy groceries and pick up the drycleaning and a red-velvet cake.

    This might sound like an opportunity for difficult and deep drama, and judging by the wonderful visage and performance chops of Robert Nolan the actor is up to the task, but instead the film aims for some rather blunt humour of how the minor annoyances of everyday social contracts – the logistics of running those errands or simply indulging a tedious barfly or neighbour – can be, or perhaps are completely, coloured by our own moods or own self-induced anxieties. As a species in these modern times, we are weak and our coping mechanisms barely up to the task and that is worthy of art. But it feels like a lot of the ideas here come from over-tilled situational comedy soils.

    Our ‘hero’ succumbs slowly to his emotional impulses and his half-checked anger as the grind of bad Toronto drivers, tedious and unhelpful (or too helpful!) shop clerks, inconsiderate neighbours, and all manner of selfish urban denizens carve a blood-red slab off of his dwindling supply of patience with humanity. It is not long before we find the man for whom we are sympathizing with, begin rant like a lunatic to cinema-goers about their rude behaviour and utter lack of understanding on why we go to movies in the first place: to have a common emotional experience. It is too much and not enough at the same time. Slowly, inevitably, I found myself turning on the poor fellow, as he pisses on the unkempt bathroom of a local bar and buys a baseball bat intent on petty revenge. That our man is swallowed up by his own environment is tragic, that it all seems so self-inflicted pushes it into grunge-opera. This is a fantastic and ripe concept. But the string of situations presented feel too conscious, not funny enough, or crazy enough, or developed enough – an unfortunate side-effect of fast shooting and zero budget.

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  • From Sundance to your living room: Watch My Prairie Home for free!



    Director Chelsea McMullan has had a really great year. Her documentary My Prairie Home (review) is an intimate and eye opening look at singer-song writer Rae Spoon’s music and the uphill personal struggle the artist has fought as a spokesperson for the transgendered. It’s wonderfully shot and a really beautiful story of an individual who, through their personal work, is inspiring and fighting for the rights of others.

    Since its world premiere at VIFF in September, the film has been garnering acclaim, most recently at the Sundance film festival where it will have one last screening tomorrow night. My Prairie Home will be available on demand and for download on iTunes on January 28th but Canadians have a chance to see the movie, for free, before anyone else.

    On Sunday, January 26 and Monday, January 27, My Prairie Home will be available for free either via the NFB Screening Room or simply by clicking play on the player below.

    For now the player will stream the movie’s trailer but starting Sunday, it will change to play the doc so mark your calendars and enjoy!

    My Prairie Home by Chelsea McMullan, National Film Board of Canada

  • Canadian film is dying. Is there hope for the future?



    The rumblings have been growing for a decade but over the last few years they have become deafening screams: the movie industry is in flux. Some say it’s in trouble but when studios are raking in billions of dollars annually, it’s hard to say that the business is in any sort of “trouble” but what’s true in the US isn’t necessarily true in Canada. Canada’s film industry really is in trouble and it needs help.

    The common complaint was always that Canadians simply didn’t care to see Canadian movies because the movies weren’t good. Problem is, this hasn’t been the case in decades. Canadian movies aren’t simply, to quote the title of Katherine Monk’s book “Weird Sex & Snowshoes.” The influx of international production has created a workforce of leading industry talent and the rise in technology has had a similar effect in Canada as it has in other parts of the world: more movies are being made, more risks are being taken by filmmakers and as a direct result, we’re catching wind of better Canadian cinema. The problem is that our cinematic landscape is still terrible. What else can you call it when only 2% of the entire Canadian box office is attributed to Canadian film?

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  • Review: Jingle Bell Rocks



    Director: Mitchell Kezin
    Producer: Mila Aung-Thwin
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 93 min.

    I guess you could say I don’t have the best holiday spirit. I complain when the mall puts up their Christmas decorations right after Halloween and when one of the local radio stations turns into Christmas music 24/7 on December 1st. I love the holiday and the idea of taking a break from work and spending time with family and friends and partaking in some of the consumerism of the holidays but my Christmas spirit doesn’t kick in until December 24th when I throw in the Boney M Christmas album and sit down to dinner with the family.

    When I noticed that Mitchell Kezin’s Christmas music documentary Jingle Bell Rocks was playing Whistler, I skipped right over it that is, until it landed on a top five movies of the festival list, I figured I’d better give it a go and boy, am I glad I did.

    Kezin’s doc is a very personal one about an obsession that began early in the director’s life and he’s been searching and collecting Christmas music for decades. He though he was alone in his passion but as is usually the case, you start digging deep enough in any pile and you’re going to uncover others who are as passionate as you are and that’s exactly what happened to Kezin. In his travels he’s discovered an entire subculture of collectors, mostly record collectors, who collect Christmas music all year long. But we’re not talking about Elvis’ Christmas album or the most recent top 40 Christmas collection. We’re talking one of’s (“Santa Came on a Nuclear Missile” is unforgettable) and forgotten classics like The Free Design’s Christmas album (a band I’d never heard of but I’m now complete enamoured with).

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  • Canada’s Top Ten Unveils Fantastic 2013 Line-Up



    Ah, Canada’s Top 10. A group of folks in Toronto review the Canadian releases for the year and pick and choose their favourites which are then screened in Toronto on January 3 to the 12th at the TIFF Bell Lightbox before the show is packed up and hits the road across the country.

    I usuaklly have some bone of contention to pick with the line-up but this year, I must admit I’m rather impressed by the selections, if only because the ones I’ve seen from the batch of honored titles this year give me great hope for those I haven’t seen. Yet.

    The features list includes Canada’s Oscar hopeful Gabrielle, festival favourite Sarah Prefers to Run and three of my VIFF favourites (all of which have a decent shot of making my year end list): Xavier Dolan’s Tom at the Farm, Denis Côté’s Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, Jeff Barnaby’s outstanding feature Rhymes for Young Ghouls and though Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners didn’t make the cut, his second feature of the year, Enemy, did make the list.

    The shorts aren’t looking too shabby either with the much buzzed about Noah (see notes), Claire Blanchet’s beautiful short for the NFB The End of Pinky (review) and Kevan Funk’s striking Yellowhead.

    If this is a sampling of the best Canada had to offer this year, we’re not doing too shabby. Not at all.

    Full list of titles along with screening details and tickets available at the Canada Top Ten website.

  • VIFF 2013 Review: That Burning Feeling




    Producer turner writer/director Jason James isn’t exactly new to the movie business. He’s been working in the production side of the business for a number of years but the pull of filmmaking was just too strong to keep it on the backburner so taking a queue from the character in his debut feature That Burning Feeling, James jumped right in.

    Paulo Costanzo (familiar to TV audiences as Evan on “Royal Pains”) stars as Adam Murphy, a successful man-behind-the-man of real estate mogul Roger Whitacre, a self obsessed business man who has made a name for himself creating “communities” all over the city. Adam is a bit of a ladies man but when he wakes up one morning with some discomfort “down there”, he takes himself to the doctor only to discover he’s contracted an STD. Turns out the worst thing that could have happened to Adam is also the best thing that could happen to his life because in being forced to contact all of his partners from the last few weeks, he comes to realize that his life is vacant and meaningless and that though successful in business, he’s completely unsuccessful at what really matters in life: living.

    James’ movie may sound a lot like a romantic comedy and it certainly has some of those overtones but it feels far more authentic than most. On paper, Adam is the worst kind of playboy, a guy who doesn’t even bother to learn the names of the women he sleeps with, but on screen, Costanzo gives the character a charm that’s hard to resist. It also helps that Nick Citton’s script gives Adam a bit of depth beyond the male version of Katherine Heigl in one of her less successful romcoms. For that matter, all of the characters in That Burning Feeling are interesting – from Whiteacre who comes across as an egomaniac with a ferocious business and sexual appetite (John Cho is really fantastic in the role which is a departure from his usual characters) to the women who become so important in Adam’s life.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

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