Archive for the ‘Film Festivals’ Category

  • Hot Docs 2014: I Am Big Bird, The Condemned, and Watchers of the Sky.

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    Hot Docs 2014

    I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

    Hot Docs 2014: I Am Big Bird - The Caroll Spinney Story

    Director: Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina

    Program: Special Presentations

    Run Time: 85 minutes

    From Bozo the Clown to Oscar the Grouch, Caroll Spinney has been enriching the lives of adults and children alike for nearly 45 years. At 80 years old, he is the last remaining member of the original Sesame Street puppeteers. With very little known about his private life, we’re given a rare and heartwarming look into the man behind the feathers. Through interviews, a host of home videos, and archival clips, we see both the man and his characters exposed. We are shown the various events that have shaped Spinney’s life – tragedy, a wonderful love story, and a near venture into space aboard the ill-fated Challenger. What’s left is a wonderful man, an artist and entertainer, and a legacy that has carried generations.

    An absolutely beautiful and captivating film, Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina have managed to allow us a glimpse at the very private life of one of the most beloved figures in children’s entertainment of the past century. We’re shown his complexity as a human being, and his natural embodiment of the dichotomy between Oscar and Big Bird. Touching interviews with family members affirm his dedication as a father, husband, and professional. Unwavering in his commitment to anything he undertook, he’s spent his life being all things to all people, and doing so with humour and humility.

    While the film is a treasure to watch, there’s a profound sadness that punctuates its joy. The legacy is ending, and he is the last of a different breed of human. While Big Bird will live on through the ages, the times have changed, and so too has the nature of entertainment. There’s an unshakable sensation that you’re watching a heartbreaking resignation, and anyone who grew up with Sesame Street or any of Jim Henson’s creations will surely feel nostalgic pangs that teeter on the edge of heartbreak. You will laugh, and you will cry, but most importantly you will remember a time when a big fuzzy bird taught you togetherness and unquestionable love. » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Cinecast Episode 350 – Nanobot Jesus

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    Do you want to have a long, loving conversation about the state of the art in comic strips? A lengthy tangent in this weeks show does that at more: Schulz, Watterson, and even Keane come into the mix along with Penny Arcade, The Oatmeal and XKCD as two recent documentaries on the subject are available VOD. But before that, Kurt and Andrew find very little to say about Dom Hemmingway that Jude Law hasn’t already shouted at you for 100 minutes. Matt Gamble joins midway through a lengthy recount of the recent episode of Game of Thrones (S04E03) in which Kurt continues to marvel at both the density of information in any given episode, as well as the lengths for which HBO is willing to go for gratuitous nudity (the former is astounding, the latter is getting tedious).

    We go back to 1984 with the story of racism, the military and the awesome voice of Adolph Caeser in the Roshomon-esque A Soldier’s Story. In the Watchlist, Andrew gives us the lowdown on TV’s Fargo before continuing to working his way through the Minneapolis/St. Paul Film Festival. His favourite film of the year thus far, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood should be put on your radar. Andrew also pours some sugary-love on the rare Thomas Hayden Church starring film, Whitewash. Kurt does his own gushing with William Friedkin’s restored and glorious remake of Wages of Fear, the 1977 hidden gem, Sorcerer as well as his bafflement with 2013 Best/Worst type cinematic oddity, Fateful Findings. Matt digs deep into the first few episodes of Mike Judge’s Silicone Valley and then sweet, sweet comic strip love.

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

     


     

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    Full show notes are under the seats…
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  • Hot Docs 2014: Doc of the Dead, The Nose, Divide in Concord, and More…

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    Hot Docs 2014

    Doc of the Dead

    Hot Docs 2014: Doc of the Dead Director: Alexandre Philippe Program: Nightvision Run Time: 82 minutes Campy, fun, and tongue in cheek, Alexandre Philippe’s Doc of the Dead surely entertains. Tracing the history of the zombie on and off the silver screen, he takes the audience through a rudimentary education of the genre. Through a series of talking head interviews with the likes of George A Romero, Simon Pegg, Bruce Campbell, Robert Kirkman, Max Brooks, and Sherman Howard, we’re shown how zombies came to be in popular culture, and the lengths to which people have become obsessed. Zombie walks, zombie obstacle courses, zombie weddings (officiated by none other than Campbell himself), shelters, weapons, clothing, toys, shows, comic books, and festivals, the world is screaming for “brains!” Zombies are so engrained in popular culture at this point, that there seems to be very little we don’t know. For those familiar with the genre, aficionados and horror gurus alike, they’ll find nothing new here. The layman, however, will take great interest in what Doc of the Dead has to offer. Even still, it teaches us very little in the way of new or groundbreaking information. What the film does provide is an unfortunately perfunctory look at the world’s obsession with zombie culture. While that portion of Doc is intriguing, and a little shocking, it’s at best the end third of the film, and we’re left with very little to sink our teeth into. The anecdotes and interviews are entertaining, nonetheless, but many will groan. They’ve been here before, and they recognize that tree. Ultimately, Doc of the Dead does little to whet the appetites of zombie lovers. Screenings: Saturday, April 26th at 11:59pm at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema Sunday, April 27th at 9:30pm at Hart House Theatre Saturday, May 3rd at 9:45pm at the Royal Cinema » Read the rest of the entry..

  • 2014 TCM Film Festival: Touch of Evil

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    touch-of-evil

    I knew this TCM Film Festival was going to be a brief one for me, as having a one-year-old daughter lessens ones flexibility considerably, even with a very considerate husband. My major goal was to find one thing that he and I could go to together since he was going to spend a lot of the rest of the time alone with our daughter while I galavanted off to watch movies. As soon as I looked at the schedule, it was clear which film that would be. We both name Touch of Evil as likely our favorite Orson Welles film (yes, over Citizen Kane), and have done so long before we even knew each other. The chance to see it at the TCL Chinese (no, I’m still not used to calling it that) in the version cut according to Orson Welles’ notes – it was just meant to be.

    Going to a movie at the TCM Film Festival when one of you has a pass and the other is depending on the standby line is something of a stressful situation, but thankfully we got there early and he got in fine. It was the first time I had been in the Chinese theatre since TCL bought and remodeled it, and I’m a bit ambivalent on the new look. The decor is as resplendent as ever, but it’s all stadium seating now, which results in some 230 fewer seats (though 900 seats is still a lot) and generally makes it feel much less communal than it did before. It’s still a great way to see a movie, but it didn’t feel as much like a classic movie palace experience. But I’m being nostalgic for a time I never knew.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Hot Docs 2014: Opening Night and The First Day

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    Hot Docs 2014

    The 2014 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is upon us. North America’s largest Documentary festival is about to take over Toronto, showcasing some of the best documentaries from around the globe at ten venues across our fair city. With over 200 wonderful feature length and short documentaries to choose from, you certainly won’t be disappointed.

    This year’s festival plays host to a series of diverse films, highlighting themes of love and relationships, addiction, crime, fashion, gender and sexuality, just to name a few. This year’s Made In program will turn its gaze towards Denmark, showcasing six films that exemplify the region’s outstanding contribution to non-fiction cinema. The Next program returns to the festival with an eye for the arts, creativity and pop culture, while new program Love, Factually celebrates love, passion, and matters of the heart.

    Hot Docs’ 21st year starts this Thursday, April 24th, with The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, and continues until May 4th with a wide array of exceptional documentary film that simply must be seen. Don’t miss out, and be sure to grab your tickets fast. For a thorough breakdown of what’s coming this year, be sure to take a look at Bob Turnbull’s preview article on the festival. » Read the rest of the entry..

  • 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.
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  • 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!


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    Full show notes are under the seats…
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  • 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.

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  • 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…
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