Archive for the ‘Marina’s Reviews’ Category

  • Review: Jesus People

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    Director: Jason Naumann
    Screenplay: Dan Ewald, Rajeev Sigamoney, Dan Steadman
    Producer: Dan Ewald, Jason Naumann, Rajeev Sigamoney
    Starring: Tim Bagley, Mindy Sterling, Joel McCrary, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Robert Bagnell, Damon Pfaff, Richard Pierre-Louis
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 90 min.


    This is what I know about Christian music: it exists, there’s a station on the local radio dial that is dedicated to said music and Stryper has a couple of pretty good songs. After watching Jesus People, I can’t say I know anything new about Christian music but I do have a new level of disdain for it and I’m not even sure why.

    Directed by Jason Naumann and adapted from a web series of the same name, Jesus People is a Christopher Guest style mockumentary about a dying pastor who decides to form a pop group as a way of making good Christian music his son, who listens to rap music and is clearly going to hell, will like.

    After a failed attempt to round up real stars of the Christian music scene, Pastor Jerry turns into a low rent Simon Cowell and holds a “Heaven’s Idol” at his church in hopes of finding the next big star from among his congregation. What he ends up with is an overly sensitive teenage boy, a self-obsessed beauty queen who can barely sing, an African American counsellor (token black guy and “rapist”) who also turns out to be the most reasonable of all the characters, and a disgraced Christian pop star who was once the talk of the town but has been downgraded into obscurity after her personal life took a nose dive.

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  • Review: Lost Heroes

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    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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  • Review: Need for Speed

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    Director: Scott Waugh
    Screenplay: George Gatins, John Gatins
    Producers: John Gatins, Patrick O’Brien, Mark Sourian
    Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez, Harrison Gilbertson, Dakota Johnson, Michael Keaton
    MPAA Rating: PG-13
    Running time: 130 min.


    At some point, someone is going to have to explain to me what the appeal is of running in a race where the prize is five cars, most of which don’t even make it to the finish line. I can understand that in the case of Need for Speed’s Tobey (Aaron Paul), the race is far more personal but otherwise, what’s the point? Bragging rights? I’m not sure I’d be bragging about being arrested at the end of a race and the last time I checked, a Ferrari that has exploded into a fireball has the same value as a pinto that has exploded into a fireball: that would be zero.

    Based on Electronic Art’s long running video game franchise, the movie adaptation basically takes a bunch of really awesome cars and gives people a reason to drive around in them at high speeds and perform ridiculous stunts. The story pits Tobey, a struggling garage owner, against Dino (Dominic Cooper), a successful race car driver and dealership owner whose business isn’t doing as well as he outwardly suggests. The beef gets deeper when Tobey and Dino are in a race that ends with a death. Tobey goes to prison and comes out a few yeas later determined to get his revenge by claiming a spot on the winner-takes-all race organized by a mysterious character simply known as Monarch (Michael Keaton occasionally channelling Beatlejuice – not to mention a blunt homage to Vanishing Point) and, of course, winning the race and in the process maybe knocking Dino down a couple of pegs.

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  • Review: Mr. Peabody & Sherman

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    Director: Rob Minkoff (Flypaper, The Forbidden Kingdo, The Haunted Mansion, Stuart Little, The Lion King)
    Writer: Craig Wright, Jay Ward
    Producers: Denise Nolan Cascino, Alex Schwartz
    Starring: Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Allison Janney, Stephen Tobolowsky, Joshua Rush, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Stanley Tucci, Lake Bell, Mel Brooks
    MPAA Rating: PG
    Running time: 92 min.


    I should make it clear right out of the gate that I never watched Rocky and Bullwinkle. I’m familiar with the characters in a superficial pop culture sort of way but as far as the intricacies of that universe and the characters that inhabit it are concerned, it may as well be new material. So in the back of my mind, I knew that Mr. Peabody was a character that stemmed from Rocky and Bullwinkle but beyond that, he’s completely new to me and though it didn’t affect my enjoyment of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, it may have some influence on others who are familiar with the character’s origins.

    Mr. Peabody is a genius dog who, upon discovering a baby boy in an alley, fought to adopt him as his son. After all, boys can adopt dogs so why not vice versa? Sadly, not everyone is on board with this idea and on his first day of school, Sherman gets into a little trouble with Penny, a smart girl who doesn’t like her intellect being one-upped by the new kid. It ends in a fight and a social worker threatening to remove Sherman from Mr. Peabody’s care. Peabody devises a plan to woo Penny’s parents, a plan that is going smoothly until Sherman and Penny take a ride in the Way Back Machine and kind of mess up the universe.

    On the surface, Mr. Peabody and Sherman is a time travel comedy adventure which borrows heavily from both Back to the Future and, most notably Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Peabody invented the Way Back Machine as a learning tool for Sherman, taking him back to meet important individuals and witness historical events. Obviously, when the kids get a hold of it, things get far more complicated than that what it the messing up of historical moments and all but hovering just under the surface is also a great story of friendship, overcoming our differences and most importantly, the bond of family and the struggles of being a good parent.

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  • Review: Vampire Academy

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    Director: Mark Waters (Freaky Friday, Mean Girls, Just Like Heaven)
    Writer: Daniel Waters, Richelle Mead
    Producers: Susan Montford, Don Murphy, Deepak Nayar, Michael Preger
    Starring: Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Danila Kozlovsky, Gabriel Byrne, Dominic Sherwood, Olga Kurylenko, Sarah Hyland, Cameron Monaghan
    MPAA Rating: PG-13
    Running time: 104 min.


    Chances are that if you’re not 15 or a fan of Richelle Mead’s novels, you have no idea and/or interest in Vampire Academy but let me tell you, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Particularly if you like the biting social commentary of something like Mean Girls mixed in with the sass of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the movie, not the show that I’ve only seen five episodes of.

    Rose (Zoey Deutch) is a Dhampir, half human/half vampire, she is training to be a guardian, a protector of the Moroi, the non-sparkly vampires who don’t explode into flame in the daylight but who are also kind of helpless thanks to their dependence on the guardians. Rose and her best friend Lissa have run away from the confines of Vampire Academy and have spent the last year on the run, mingling in with humanity. They’re eventually dragged back by Dimitri, a god among guardians, to face the music: not only have they broken a bunch of rules but Lissa, the last of the Dragomir line and possible successor to the throne, has been under the protection of an untested guardian.

    The universe isn’t very complicated but you’d think it was rocket science considering the amount of time and trouble writer Daniel Waters (yes, that Daniel Waters) and his brother director Mark Waters (yup, of Mean Girls fame) take to explain the basics. The movie kicks into the explanation from the get go with some less than appealing voiceover and mixed throughout the movie are moments which are clearly fan service (I could almost hear the brothers discussing how they had to include the Molnija marks – a short scene which ridiculously includes a male hair toss and is later echoed, far more naturally, near the end of the movie). Thankfully, Vampire Academy bounces back quickly, delving heavily into a high school drama that also plays out like a Nancy Drew mystery. The girls need to figure out what their psychic bond really means, who is bullying Lissa and why the Princess is a target while also dealing with their personal boyfriend drama. Oh high school. What a drag.

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  • Review: Sex After Kids

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    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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  • Blu-ray Review: The White Queen

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    Directors: Colin Teague, James Kent, Jamie Payne
    Writers: Philippa Gregory, Emma Frost, Malcolm Campbell
    Producer: Gina Cronk
    Starring: Rebecca Ferguson, Amanda Hale, Faye Marsay, Eleanor Tomlinson, Juliet Aubrey, Janet McTeer, Max Irons, James Frain, Aneurin Barnard, David Oakes
    MPAA Rating: 18A
    Running time: 580 min.


    Author Philippa Gregory has been writing historical based romance for decades and though adaptations of her novels have come before, none have managed to garner much attention or fanfare. BBC, the go-to for period dramas, took on the task of adapting Gregory’s “The White Queen,” the first in a trilogy of novels set during the War of the Roses. What’s interesting about Gregory’s take is that the story is told from the point of view of the women who toiled behind the scenes to shape not only their lives but history.

    “The White Queen” opens shortly after Max Irons is crowned as King Edward IV. A womanizer, he falls for a beautiful widow who stops him on the road pleading for her husband’s lands and moneys be returned to her so that her sons may have something to inherit. Smitten, Edward spends the night with Elizabeth Woodville (newcomer Rebecca Ferguson) promising to make her queen, a promise he delivers on against everyone’s wishes. As Queen, Elizabeth proves to be a force to be reckoned with, guiding Edward in affairs of the state which pit her against Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick who is known to many as “the Kingmaker” for his ability to make and dethrone kings as it pleases, or more accurately, benefits him.

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  • Review: Brightest Star

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    Director: Maggie Kiley (Some Boys Don’t Leave, Down the Shore)
    Writers: Maggie Kiley, Matthew Mullen
    Producers: Paul Finkel, Kyle Heller, Jason Potash, Gina Resnick
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 90 min.


    First love is hard. You meet that special person that you connect with in a meaningful way only to wake up one morning in your apartment with strangers moving in. At least that’s what happens to Chris Lowell in Maggie Kiley’s Brightest Star.

    Simply known as “The Boy,” Lowell is a recent college grad looking for the thing that makes him passionate. We learn he’s a great salesman and marketer but it’s not what he wants to do; that job is simply a half hearted attempt to impress Charlotte (Rose McIver), the girl of his dreams who has dumped him. Mind you, if I was Charlotte I might have done the same thing. Here I am going to work every day and trying to find my own way in life while my apparently lazy boyfriend works odd jobs and tries to find his passion. Truth is that Lowell’s character is a dreamer. The kind of guy that everyone says they want to be with but when reality sinks in, we come to realize that he might never find his way. That’s not a bad thing but it can be hard, especially when the people you’re with aren’t on the same trajectory.

    Charlotte dumping him is the best thing that happens to Boy. He explores the corporate world, meets a new girl and then screws it all up by getting back with Charlotte. Boy doesn’t know what he wants and that’s clear from the moment he takes the new job and we realize that he’s only doing it because he thinks it will better his chances with the girl of his dreams when instead, he just wastes time and screws up two relationships.

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  • Review: Jingle Bell Rocks

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    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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  • Review: Aftermath

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    Director: Wladyslaw Pasikowski
    Screenplay: Wladyslaw Pasikowski
    Producers: Dariusz Jablonski, Violetta Kaminska
    Starring: Maciej Stuhr, Ireneusz Czop, Andrzej Mastalerz, Zbigniew Zamachowski
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 107 min.


    War is never really over. The fighting might stop, soldiers leave, bodies buried and homes rebuilt but the effects of war have a way of reaching through time. Sixty years after WWII, new war stories are still emerging, small facts about people and places that were lost to history and memory. Wladyslaw Pasikowski’s Aftermath is a slightly more complicated in that the fictionalized events have erupted a national discussion about Poland’s complicated history.

    Ten years in the making, Pasikowski’s film is inspired by historian Jan Gross’ “Neighbors,” a carefully researched history that uncovers the reality of the murder of the Jewish population of an entire town. Covering similar ground, Aftermath stars Ireneusz Czop as Francis, eldest Kalina son who escaped to the United States in the 80s leaving his brother Jozef (Maciej Stuhr) and his parents behind to care for the family farm. Francis has reluctantly returned to the unchanging village of his youth to visit his brother Jozef whose wife and children have abandoned him and moved in with Francis in the US.

    Jozef has been making enemies of most of his neighbours by buying up, and occasionally stealing, old Jewish headstones which he has set into a makeshift cemetery in one of his fields. He’s taught himself enough Hebrew to read the inscriptions and feels a pull to the work he’s doing, as if he’s setting straight an old wrong. It’s not until Francis goes digging through the archives that he discovers that there’s far more at stake than a few misused headstones and that the town is harbouring a very nasty secret.

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  • VIFF 2013 Review: That Burning Feeling

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    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.

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  • VIFF 2013 Capsule Reviews: Cinemanovels, Rhymes for Young Ghouls & Sarah Prefers to Run

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    I always try to squeeze in a handful of Canadian features throughout my festival going (it’s often the only time I really get to see new emerging Canadian talent) and I’m either getting really good at selecting titles or this year’s batch of films are particularly strong. On this Canadian film roundup, I touch base on three Canadian features: Terry Miles’ woman-in-crisis story Cinemanovels, Jeff Barnaby’s brilliant feature debut Rhymes for Young Ghouls and the Cannes selected Sarah Prefers to Run (click on the title to jump directly to the movie).

    Cinemanovels

    Cinemanovels

    I first discovered Terry Miles’ work at VIFF in 2009 with the release of The Red Rooster (review). I didn’t care much for that movie but Miles showed great promise and the following year I had a chance to see his follow-up A Night for Dying Tigers and again I was disappointed to find a movie that looked great and showed promise in the script but didn’t really manage to deliver. I was convinced that Cinemanovels was going to be the movie to break the mould and that with it, Miles would finally hit the jackpot and deliver a really great movie and for the most part, he has succeeded.

    Lauren Lee Smith is fantastic in her leading performance here as Grace, a 30 something married woman going through a midlife crisis. She and her husband (Ben Cotton is also pretty great here) have been trying to have a baby and Grace is frustrated by the process. Things aren’t helped any when her father, a celebrated Canadian film director who abandoned Grace and her mother for his young muse, dies. In an attempt to learn more about her dad, Grace offers to curate a showing of his works, a process which brings her closer to understanding the man her father was and also helps her deal with the problems in her own life.

    Cinemanovels features Miles’ excellent cinematography, great performances, particularly from Smith who is magnetic on screen, and a story that is not only interesting but well developed. The woman in crisis theme has been appearing a lot lately and my common complaint with many of them is that the women all feel unrealistic and childish. Grace’s situation is relatable and her actions and reactions feel real.

    It’s not perfect (would have been nice to see a bit more from Katharine Isabelle whose character is mostly unnecessary and the movie clips from Grace’s great Canadian master director are painfully bad) but Cinemanovels is funny, touching, smart and the movie Miles has been working towards for years.

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