Archive for the ‘Film Festivals’ Category

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: Boyhood

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    Director: Richard Linklater
    Writer: Richard Linklater
    Producers: Richard Linklater, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, Cathleen Sutherland
    Starring: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
    MPAA Rating: R
    Running time: 163 min.
    Country of Origin: USA

     
     

    (5/5)

     
     

     

    Coming-of-age films seems to be a dime a dozen these days. Some films receive the title and aren’t really coming-of-age films at all. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is the first “true” coming-of-age film I’ve ever seen. Had I known what I was walking into before the screening, I would have been much more excited settling into my seat.

    Shot over the course of eleven years, Boyhood is sort of the equivalent of taking all of Linklater’s “Before” movies and combining them into one film. Throughout the picture, we watch as young Mason (Ellar Coltrane) matures from roughly age six, to his first day at college and everything that happens to him and his family during that time. In a brilliant and patient concept, Linklater uses all of the same actors over the course of this time period. So actually, if there’s one complaint I have about the film, it’s that the title slights the movie a tad; in that while this is very much Mason’s journey through adolescence, it also plunges us into a significant chunk of the parents’ lives too. Lives showcased by, as Mason’s mother (Patricia Arquette) notes, “nothing more than ‘a series of events’.”

    In the beginning, the chemistry feels a little off and we don’t yet have much investment with the child actors who get most of the screen time. Even Arquette seems a little unpolished. We’re thankfully saved by Ethan Hawke’s character who really injects heart and humor into the film just as we’re wondering if this is going to be a slog. Suddenly we flash forward in time and everyone is slightly older and there are some new players on the table. By now, (a couple of years in real time and in movie time), actors seem more comfortable and understanding of Linklater’s vision. The chemistry is much more on and the kids have taken a real leap in the performance department. This chemistry and vision only gets stronger as the movie progresses.
    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: The Unknown Known

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    Director: Errol Morris, Robert Fernandez, Errol Morris
    Producer: Amanda Branson Gill
    Starring: Donald Rumsfeld, Errol Morris (interview voice)
    MPAA Rating: PG-13
    Running time: 103 min.
    Country of Origin: USA

     

    A snow globe shaking back and forth, little white flecks – snowflakes – swirl and obfuscate whatever is in the globe. Oh my what a loaded image. It is one of the chief ones Errol Morris employs in his lengthy interview with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Another is an endless ocean of waves: a blank canvas or adrift in the endless wilderness? True to form, after 96 minutes of Rumsfeld speaking, I felt as if I learned nothing at all from what he was saying. A marvelous bit of form echoing content, although for the sake of learning from history, it can be a bit infuriating.

    Rumsfeld, very recognizable for doing so many podium PR sessions on TV for the better part of a decade, was (is?) a career politician from a young age and when these interviews were shot, he was hawking his memoir, Unknown & Known. He’s served as U.S. Secretary of Defense (twice), Congressman, White House Chief of Staff (and Dick Cheney’s boss), at one point was close to getting the Republican nomination to run for the Presidency. His second stint as Defense Secretary was during 21st Century America’s greatest foreign policy challenges, 9/11 and the War On Terror. He issued tens if not hundreds of thousands of memos, which he indeed calls snowflakes, and was an architect a lot of policy. He dictates many of those memos verbatim for the camera – a camera which almost desperately tries to keep up scanning the documents like a typewriter.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: Whitewash

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    Director: Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais
    Writers: Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais, Marc Tulin
    Producers: Luc Déry, Kim McCraw
    Starring: Thomas Haden Church, Anie Pascale
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 90 min.
    Country of Origin: Canada

     
     

    (4/5)

     

    Over the last few years, Thomas Haden Church has emerged as an excellent supporting player in a wide variety of projects, from indie productions to big Hollywood movies, but he rarely breaks out into leading performances. Leave it to a small Canadian production to put the actor front and centre in a movie that is, for most of its running time, simply Haden Church being excellent.

    Whitewash opens with death. At first you think it might be accidental but when Bruce (Haden Church) loads the body onto his snowplow and proceeds to dispose of it, it’s pretty clear that this wasn’t an accident. Or well planned. Disoriented, angry and drunk, Bruce drives his plow off the road and into the vast woods, driving recklessly for miles before crashing and blacking out. He wakes the next morning and assesses the situation: his vehicle is broken beyond repair, he has limited supplies and he has no idea where he is.

    What begins as a tale of survival quickly devolves into the story of a man spiralling into madness. After a few days in the bush, Bruce makes a dash for civilization only to be drawn back into the wilderness in the dead of winter. He drags his necessities, fuel, food and alcohol, into the woods and the safety of his snowplow which has quickly become his safety net. In flashbacks, we learn that Bruce is a lonely widower who has pretty much given up on life. He can’t work, he has little money and he spends his days at home drinking his sorrows into slumber. We also discover that the dead man is Paul (Quebec superstar Marc Labrèche), a man with his own set of troubles that takes full advantage of Bruce when he realizes that the widower is easy prey. There’s a sense from early on that Bruce has been on the verge of losing his mind for some time but the events that unfold when Paul arrives in his life push him over the edge.

    Whitewash is impressive. Labrèche is fantastic as Paul, a weasel of a man who goes from reeking of desperation to despicable con-man in the span of a few days but this is the Haden Church show and the actor shines in his performance as a man who is slowly pushed into madness. He doesn’t begin as crazy but there’s a hint that Bruce is a little unhinged all along and Haden Church handles the minute changes in the character really well. He also possesses great screen presence which is imperative considering he’s alone for a large part of the movie’s running time.

    Whitewash takes place mostly in winter and director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais and cinematographer André Turpin (who previously worked with Denis Villeneuve on Incendies and Maelström) use the snowy landscape effectively, its harshness providing a nice visual queue of Bruce’s mental collapse.

    Survival stories are nothing new and they vary greatly in quality but Hoss-Desmarais’ Whitewash is one of the better ones, a mix of survival story and thriller that also has a surprisingly dark sense of humour reminiscent of the Cohen Brothers’ work. Thoroughly enjoyable, Whitewash is a great debut for Hoss-Desmarais and a fantastic showcase for Haden Church.

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: Witching & Bitching

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    Director: Álex de la Iglesia
    Writers: Jorge Guerricaechevarría, Álex de la Iglesia
    Producer: Enrique Cerezo
    Starring: Hugo Silva, Mario Casas, Carolina Bang, Carmen Maura, Javier Botet
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 110 min.
    Country of Origin: Spain

     

    They are in every city along the main tourist drags, those living statues of celebrities, comic book characters and horror icons just standing there, silently hoping for your loose change. In Álex De La Iglesia’s latest bit of mayhem, they’re not standing still for long; nothing here is ever silent for long. In broad daylight on the crowded streets of Madrid, Jesus Christ, a Toy Soldier, Spongebob Squarepants, the Invisible man and possibly Mickey & Minnie Mouse knock off a “We Buy Your Gold” shop. In a haze of sweat and bullets, they make off with the booty of a couple thousand golden wedding rings in a hijacked Taxi.

    Painted head to to in silver body spray, Jesus, with a shotgun to match his chrome skin and thorny crown, is actually Jose, a single Dad who perhaps unwisely, choses to not only bring his 10 year kid, Sergio, along for the heist, but gives him a fairly active role in the job. While at gunpoint, one of the hostage gives Jose grief for involving a child in the crime for which violence will be inevitable. Jose defends himself stating that he only gets custody a couple days a week. The hostage sympathizes with the unfair court system that favours the mother. At one point during the escape, Sergio is firing two pistols, Chow Yun Fat style, at the police, over the shoulders of his dad who carries him. Do not look for cinéma vérité or neo-realism, or any kind of common sense here, as this is pure ‘id’ filmmaking from a director who particularly excels at this sort of middle-finger to propriety and society. Witching & Bitching may be less operatic than de la Iglesia’s The Last Circus, but more is as gonzo as anything he has done (and considering the man’s lengthy C.V. of genre genius, that is indeed saying something. In his sights here is the impotent machismo of men, and the vindictive revenge of women. And children being shat out the other side. Literally.

    Witching And Bitching

    The women-bashing continues in the car as the both the cabbie and an unwilling passenger (a hostage taken when the cab was hijacked) also have significant lady problems that they are more than happy to moan about. The cabbie goes so far as to throw is own wedding ring on to the heap of golden bands acquired during the heist and offer to join up. Jose’s phone sounds off with a red klaxon ringtone, where the caller ID indicates his ex as “Armageddon.” She calls to check in on the incompetence of her ex husband and chew him out for the sheer practice of the act. Played by the diminutive but feisty Macarena Gomez an actress who is no stranger to black comedy spectacle – her performances in horror comedy Sexykiller and the over-the-top misogynous gangster picture Neon Flesh could be described as broad, but here that is just a very bad pun. After taking out her frustrations on her patients (she’s a nurse) when she finds out about the heist, she is soon hot on the trail of her ex-husband and child with two police inspectors tailing her to them.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Cinecast Episode 349 – Smell the Glove

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    You’d think this were an episode of “Coast to Coast.” Aliens, Elvis, Stonehenge, Witches, talking birds, dragons, world war III and amps that go to eleven. Matt Gamble is a special guest this week to talk about the “exhausting marathon” that is The Raid 2. We dive into the psyche of Nigel and David and lament the loss of all the past drummers. This is Spinal Tap in all its glory folks (now kick our assess, we insist!) Kurt saw Rio 2 for some reason and Andrew continues MSPIFF with Witching & Bitching and accidentally watches the “wrong movie” when he confuses Kevin MacDonald for Bruce MacDonald. Everything feels loose and foggy in this episode for some reason. Which is just the way Jonathan Glazer (Under the Skin) likes it.

    As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

     


     

    Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!


    DOWNLOAD mp3 | 98 MB
    if player is not working, try alternate player at bottom of this post

     
     
    Full show notes are under the seats…
    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: Manakamana

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    Directors: Stephanie Spray, Pacho Velez
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 118 min.
    Country of Origin: Nepal

     
     
     

    Screens tomorrow, April 14th at 4:15pm.
    [tickets]

     

    Two elderly women sit in a gondola while it travels down a verdant Nepalese mountain. Having visited the Manakamana temple earlier in the day, they have purchased ice cream on a stick for the ride down and it is melting in the hot interior of the cable car. They laugh and carry on, unguardedly about the futility of neatly consuming the frozen dessert. The simple joy might be the single best scene seen in film all year. It’s certainly the warmest. How else would this image be possible without Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez’s super-16mm camera (presumably travelling without an operator) sitting on the opposite bench in the car? They allow us to stare without being impolite or influencing the experience in the Heisenbergian sense. This kind of commitment; the mundane as profound, intimate yet knowing little, makes the experience rich beyond explaining the nuts and bolts of what the film is. While watching I got that special kind of tingle when something truly transportive is happening on the screen in front of me.

    manakamana

    Extraordinarily simple in execution, the film Manakamana consists of 11 of these 11-minute-long cable car rides; 5 up the mountain and 6 down. Splices are provided by the darkness of the cable-stations at either end of the trip. We only see one couple make both journeys. Another ride is an open car filled with goats, shipped up for sacrifice, possibly. The etymology of the temple name comes from “heart” and “wish” and indeed wishes are said to be granted by the Goddess Bhagwati to all those who make the lengthy pilgrimage up the mountain, although it is now facilitated with a state of the art tram which cost about $5 for a two way trek.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: Intruders

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    Director: Young-Seok Noh
    Writer: Young-Seok Noh
    Producer: Sun-hee Choi
    Starring: Suk-ho Jun, Tae-kyung Oh
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 99 min.
    Country of Origin: South Korea

    Intruders screens tonight, April 10th at 9:50pm
    [tickets]

     
     

     

    If you can generalize about a single country’s cinema, I think the safest statement you might be able to make is “Korean films blend genres better than anyone else”. Whether it’s comedic dark crime thrillers, melodramatic heist films or goofy family drama monster movies, Korea’s filmmakers seem to have a natural desire (perhaps even a need) to morph genres, combine them or simply blow them apart – sometimes within a single scene. Of course, like any other generalization it doesn’t always hold, but it does draw me to their films on a regular basis. Hence my immediate curiosity to see Intruders. Once I realized it was directed by Noh Young-seok (whose previous film Daytime Drinking was one of the best hidden gems from TIFF several years ago), it became a must see.

    TIFF2013Intruders

    Like Daytime Drinking, Intruders begins with a young man from Seoul trekking up North by bus to spend some time in the cold and snowy mountainous region of South Korea. While he just wants to get to his friend’s currently unused resort to focus on finishing some writing work, he’s a bit out of place there and this doesn’t go unnoticed by the locals. He manages to grab the attention of a recently released convict who insists on giving directions, providing uncalled for assistance and doing his best to get a good solid drinking session going. The humour is deadpan and is based on the city’s guy’s baffled reactions to the rural guy’s odd yet still friendly behaviour. Unlike the previous film, our city dweller this time manages to avoid too much heavy drinking at the outset, but it’s not like he’s any better focused. He’s a champion procrastinator and keeps finding other ways to waste time and avoid his writing, including traipsing through the woods out back, discovering trapdoors in the woods and running into a bunch of other people – all of whom seem to be just a wee bit off…
    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Cinecast Episode 348 – Immediately to Eleven

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    So Game of Thrones is finally back on the air with a brand new season. Does it live up to the wait we had to endure or was it a bit of a let down? Matt and Kurt also deliver a back and forth on the two wide to semi-wide theatrical releases this week in Captain America: Winter Soldier as well as Jodorowsky’s Dune. We dive into a very Red Dawn in which fantasy and reality’s lines are blurred which Kurt takes quite an issue with. The Minneapolis Film Festival is in full swing and Google and Bollywood make their appearances known. Danny Boyle is in the mix along and apparently the 90s b-squad is going for a comeback in Jerome Sable’s Stage Fright. Seriously, Minnie Driver is still around?

    As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

     


     

    Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!


    DOWNLOAD mp3 | 124 MB
    if player is not working, try alternate player at bottom of this post

     
     
    Full show notes are under the seats…
    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: Google and the World Brain

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    Director: Ben Lewis
    Producers: Viva Van Loock, Bettina Walter
    Starring: Various speakers, experts and current and former Google Employees
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 90 min.
    Country of Origin: UK

    Google and the World Brain screens this Saturday, April 12th at 6:00pm
    [tickets]

     
     

    (4/5)

     

    Love ‘em or hate ‘em, or no opinion either way, Google is here to stay. Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve used Google at some point. Very likely in the last ten minutes. If this site’s stats are accurate, you’re even very likely to be using a Google product this very moment. It’s safe to say Google is as much a part of our lives as television ever was. They’re always innovating, always coming up with ways to make life “better.” And they’re growing. Fast. So in the early part of this century, when Google decided they wanted to scan every book ever made into a colossal digital library, some eyebrows were raised – some out of curiosity, some out of fascination, some out of skepticism and many others, out of fear and anger.

    The World Brain is a concept by H.G. Wells which talks of a world encyclopedia that is accessible by all human beings in order to make their lives better and hopefully contribute to world peace. Google has taken this concept and run with it. The plan is to digitize every single book ever printed (that is still in existence) and make them available to everyone. At first glance, this sounds like a great idea: free information for everyone, anytime, all the time. But there are concerns. Copyright of course being a glaring issue. Monetizing “orphaned” pieces of publication. Or possibly even an Orwellian monopoly of information.
    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: Gangs of Wasseypur (parts 1 & 2)

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    Director: Anurag Kashyap
    Writers: Akhilesh Jaiswal, Anurag Kashyap, Sachin K. Ladia, Zeishan Quadri
    Producers: Anurag Kashyap, Guneet Monga, Sunil Bohra
    Starring: Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Tigmanshu Dhulia,
    MPAA Rating: R
    Running time: 320 min.
    Country of Origin: India

     

    Pulling back, deliberately and slowly, from a soap-opera on the TV which is all song and dance and character introductions, the 315 minute long Gangs of Wasseypur kicks off with a single shot Johnnie To style unbroken assault on the stronghold of Faizal Khan with automatic weapons, grenades and narrow alleyways. It’s the bright herald of a major film career just leaping onto the international stage. Let us get this out of the way first: Anurag Kashyap’s generation spanning story set in the coal capital of India and spanning almost 70 years comfortably, nay confidently, belongs alongside the great crime sagas of the cinema: The Godfather Trilogy, City of God, Bertolucci’s 1900, Heimat and Election. The perfect nexus of history, craft, thematic heft, and balls-to-the-wall entertainment, it why cinema was invented in the first place. It is HBOs “Deadwood” rogues gallery of character actors as much as it is the legacy scheming driven plot mechanics as “I, Claudius.” Rare is the opportunity of novel-style story telling and mighty cinematic craft to come together in such a marvellous package. It’s a gift to film lovers. Shown into two parts, each one well past the 2.5 hour mark, but conceived as a single film it, in the director’s words, shows “frogs in a well,” 200,000 people spread across three streets. The rough and impoverished criminals are unwilling to leave or even look beyond the small neighbourhood and spray as much blood as possible for ownership of its organized crime opportunities which are equally transient.

    Wasseypur may change hands geographically (India to Bengal), ethnically, even religious borders are mobile, but the Khans and the Singh’s have been at each others throats since the dawn of the coal era where two patriarch’s fought over the rights to hijack coal trains. When Ramadhir Singh kills Shiva Khan in this conflict, the Kahn’s young child Sadar shaves his head and vows to destroy Singh, not by murder, but my unravelling his empire piece by piece. As Singh enters politics to cement his empire, Sadar collects a growing number of wives, fathers several sons and kills a lot of folks with a machete. The law stays out of Wasseypur for fear of escalating slaughter, and a fair bit of carrot-stick mechanics from Singh. Part one of the diptych has an almost documentary feel, it even weaves a hefty of documentary footage to establish the context of the era spanning the 1940s up until the 1980s. Popular music from the cinema and TV act as a greek chorus to the proceedings, but begin to establish a theme that will pay off in the second part. Namely that the second generation of gangsters are so influenced by what is thrown up on screen, it leads an elder Singh to offer, “Everyone has his own movie playing inside his head, it it were not for the damn movie’s there would be no fools in this country.” This as the film slowly moves out of history lesson mode and into Scorsese mode. One advisor Nasir (think Robert Duvall or Derek Jacobi) narrates the film Goodfellas style as the crime moves from the coal industry to owning the fisheries, to unabashed extortion, to eventually the burgeoning Iron business. If it is hard to keep track of the characters in the first 90 minutes of the film, they’ve all been immortalized after that point with impeccable attention in narrative craft establishing relationships and motivations and territory.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • TCM Classic Film Fest 2014: A Preview

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    After missing last year’s TCM Classic Film Festival due to a minor thing like having a baby, I’ve been really excited to jump back in this year, and thankfully, I was able to secure a media credential to cover the fest despite taking a year off. My schedule will necessarily be a little less manic this year thanks to not wanting to completely abandon my husband and child for the weekend, but I hope to make it to enough things to make my coverage worthwhile.

    In the meantime, here’s a preview of the fest now that this year’s schedule has been released. Since the TCM Fest splits pretty well into time slots (aside from a few special events and extra-long movies), I figured I’d just go through each time slot and identify some best bets if you’re planning to attend. Passes are already sold out, but individual tickets will be sold on space-available basis before each screening.

    The overall theme this year is Families in the Movies: The Ties That Bind, which is a pretty broad theme, and indeed, you’ll find films about aging parents, fathers and daughters, single mothers, sisters, and dysfunctional families scattered throughout the festival along with the usual assortment of films considered Essential and Discoveries by the programmers (and Tributes and Special Presentations that have special guests or unique experiences attached to them).

    Thursday, April 10

    PRE-SLOT SPECIAL EVENTS

    TFF-HollywoodMuseum

    In addition to the films, the TCM Fest always has a lot of special events – panels, parties, exhibits, etc. These are generally all passholder-only, so no individual tickets are available. They run concurrently with movies throughout the weekend, but they start up earlier on Thursday. These first three are all before any films start playing, and are all for passholders only, so I’ll separate them out.

    2:00pm – Meet TCM (Egyptian Theatre) – From the program: “As TCM celebrates its 20th year, join TCM staffers as we share insight into the network, how it is produced and what is on the horizonas we look forward to the next 20 years.” TCM has done such a great job attracting fans as a brand, and even though I’ve never made it to one of these, I bet it’s fun to hear some behind the scenes info.

    3:30pm – Sons of Gods and Monsters (Hollywood Museum) – Makeup artist Rick Baker and director Joe Dante will be on hand to discuss the legacy of monsters in classic cinema, with moderation from TCM producer Scott McGee (who’s a great guy). Should be a great time.

    5:00pm – Welcome Party / TCM at 30 Exhibit (Club TCM @ Roosevelt) – Robert Osborne and several guest stars will welcome passholders to the festival and talk about their favorite classic movie moments. I’ve never been big on the parties at Club TCM, either, but this is one of the best chances to mix and meet and greet other film fans as well as famous classic era actors and actresses.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Cinéfranco Francophone International Film Festival Hits Toronto

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    Cinéfranco, arguably the most significant International Francophone Film Festival in English Canada, has started. Running from March 28th through until April 6th, the Toronto-based film festival showcases the rich diversity of Francophone cinema, in an attempt to help promote and better appreciate French film. This year’s programme addresses the anxiety of aging, historical heroines, immigration, love, romance, and wrestling, all of which are merely the tip of the iceberg.

    Jean-Marc Rudnicki’s Les Reines du Ring (Wrestling Queens) had its English Canada premiere on Saturday, March 29th. The film centers on Rose, a young single mother who’s just recently been released from prison. Held responsible, and punished, for a horrible accident, she’s had her son taken away from her, and placed into foster care. Having found a job at a local grocery store, she’s getting her life back on track. All that’s left is to win back the trust of her now disappointed young son. The way back to his heart is through one of his greatest passions: professional wrestling.

    Les Reines Du Ring

    Rose assembles a team of coworkers, each woman facing their own unique life changes. As they train alongside retired wrestling veteran Richard the Lionheart, they conquer their personal obstacles, and assert themselves as the new face of female professional wrestling.  » Read the rest of the entry..

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