I always love a little surprise at a film festival but that surprise is usually a little foreign gem and rarely does it manifest as a comedy and a Canadian one at that.
Last year’s VIFF brought both the awesomeness of Welcome to Me (trailer, review) and Preggoland (review). The latter is written and stars Sonja Bennett, a talented Canadian actress who you’ve probably seen gracing either your small screen or the silver screen. She’s been around for a while but her turn here as Ruth, a 30 something woman who fakes her pregnancy, is really star making. Not only is the script funnier and smarter than the concept has any right to be, Bennett has excellent comedic timing and the movie, which also co-stars James Caan and Danny Trejo in an unlikely but hilarious role, is a big winner.
The entire thing is directed by Jacob Tierney and that right there is indication that we’re in good hands, but Preggoland really defies expectation to deliver a great Canadian comedy the likes of which I haven’t seen since Starbuck (review).
I‘ve been a fan of Ruba Nadda since I saw Cairo Time a couple of years ago and when the chance to speak to speak with the Canadian director about her new romantic thriller October Gale came up, I jumped at the opportunity.
I really likedOctober Gale when I saw it at VIFF last year. It’s not the darkest of thrillers but it’s a great story of the hardships of working through loss and features fantastic perfomrances from Patricia Clarkson, Scott Speedman and Tim Roth.
During our chat, Ms. Nadda and I talk about her recent fascination with thrillers, the art of on-screen chemistry and the difficulties, especially in today’s landscape, of romances that simmer just below the surface.
It is not only Astron-6 doing cheesy 1980s throw-backs. Out of Montreal, Anouk Whissell, François Simard, Yoann-Karl Whissel originally made T is for Turbo for the first ABCs of Death anthology open-submission contest. It did not win the slot (losing to claymation T is for Toilet), but ABCs producer Ant Timpson, along with Hobo With A Shotgun director Jason Eisener, liked the short so much they decided to produce it into a feature. It bowed at Sundance in the midnight program, but to coincide with its premiere last night, they released this 80s synth-scored trailer.
The film is Turbo Kid and it is set in the apocalyptic future of 1997. A young solitary scavenger becomes a reluctant hero when he meets a mysterious girl in the wasteland. The villain is well represented by Canuck legend, Micheal Ironside. If you grew up on everything from BMX Bandits to Hell Comes to Frogtown to Solarbabies, then this might hit your nostalgia sweet-spot when it pops up on the genre festival circuit, or I’m guessing, VOD. If you reside in Canada, indie distributor Raven Banner already has the rights for the great white north.
Motion posters. There are not many of them made at this point, but as cinemas switch to screens for their poster displays, I expect there to be more of them in the future. I doubt they will be as ethereal and evocative as these from Guy Maddin’s forthcoming feature, The Forbidden Room.
Dreamy vaselined lenses and putrid yellow colour palette that remind me of smoke and water damaged book covers…In a good way. There are more tucked under the seat.
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.
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.
You know that moment when you realize you’re so deep into a lie there’s no easy way to turn back? Preggoland is exactly that. Except it’s also much more than that.
Sonja Bennett stars as Ruth, a single 30 something who lives at home with her dad. All of her friends are married with kids and her younger sister is the bane of her existence, making Ruth feel like a teenager and in a way, she is. She works at a local grocery store where she’s worked since high school, she hangs out with co-workers who are half her age and generally doesn’t appear to be doing much with her life. And then she’s mistaken for being pregnant. And she goes along with it. But then she tells her friends she’s pregnant and then suddenly her life seems to be taking on some meaning and actually moving forward except the whole time she’s living one big sham and lying to everyone.
The idea of going along with a misconception isn’t exactly new but Bennett, who also wrote the script, brings a charm and likability to Preggoland which I haven’t seen in other movies which feature the female version of the “man child.” Part of it is Bennett herself who fully commits to the role an delivers a great performance complete with outstanding comedic timing, but there’s also the script which takes a ridiculous premise and goes in some interesting directions with it exploring everything from friendship to strange and complicated family relationships and though it ends with a sort of happily ever after, it earns that ending.
Preggoland reminded me a little of Starbuck, that other Canadian gem from a few years ago. It features similar characters with similar story arcs about growing up and becoming better versions of themselves and I expect that when this lands a Hollywood re-make, it will turn out just as badly as the Starbuck one did. Thankfully, we’ll always have the original.
Preggoland has been picked up by Mongrel Media who will open the film Spring 2015.
If there is one person winning at VIFF this year, it’s got to be Canadian bad boy Xavier Dolan. Not only has he impressed the crowd with his stunning directorial effort Mommy but he’s appeared in no less than two other films screening at the festival. The first, a middling drama from Daniel Grou (the only memorable part of that film are the performances, particularly that of Dolan) and now Elephant Song, a period drama based on a play of the same name.
Directed by Charles Binamé, Elephant Song stars Dolan as Michael Aleen, a troubled young man committed to an asylum and his afternoon chat with Dr. Toby Green (Bruce Greenwood). Dr. Green isn’t Michael’s regular shrink but he’s been asked to speak to the boy to try and find out where his regular doctor has disappeared to. In the two hours that follow, Dolan and Greenwood banter back and forth, mostly in circles, and Michael slowly shares personal details about his past. Apparently Greenwood can’t just read the file because he left his glasses at home…yeah. Would you like to know more…?
OK, so the first one wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be, in spite of a TIFF Midnight Madness bow and considering nearly every major up-and-coming indie horror director did a segment. And yet, word is that the second one branches out a lot more from horror and gore and easy gags, and there is actually some quality stuff contained there-in
More importantly, for this writer, my son is one of the two leads in Astron-6 FX guru Steve Kostanski’s segment which kicks off the trailer. Yup, the boy has an IMDb page consisting of horror movies, and makes a father proud.
The rest of the trailer features a lot of mayhem, pain, a little comedy, and a fair bit of gristly imagery. Give it a look.