Preggoland Trailer

Preggoland

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).

Preggoland opens across Canada on May 1st.

After the Credits Episode 168: Interview with Ruba Nadda

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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 liked October 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.

October Gale is currently available on VOD and opens theatrically on Friday, March 6th.

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WFF 2014 Review: After the Ball

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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.

Jackpot.

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Review: Spaces and Reservations

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Director: Brendan Prost (Coch, Generation Why)
Screenplay: Brendan Prost
Producer: Brendan Prost
Starring: Zach White, Taylor Hastings, Jennifer Kobelt, Arianna McGregor
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 140 min.


Somewhere in Brendan Prost’s Spaces and Reservations is a really great story about relationships and the difficulties of falling out of love with your best friend. What’s frustrating is that the brilliant movie isn’t even buried but rather lost in a second act that goes on forever.

Clocking in at well over two hours, Spaces and Reservations opens with a wonderful story of two individuals who are in love but whose relationship is stagnant. Jamie and Kacie have been together for four years and living together for some time and they have a well worn routine that makes their life predictable. Jamie seems completely comfortable with this life; once a shy introvert who was pulled out of his shell by his now girlfriend he seems content dividing his time between work, home and the occasional visit to his sister’s. Kacie, on the other hand, looks tired and sad. The pair don’t kiss and they almost don’t touch, in some instances it almost looks like they avoid coming into physical contact with each other; a clear indication that all is not well in their relationship.

It’s clear that Spaces and Reservations is about what happens next in this relationship the problem is that the movie’s second hour becomes as stagnant as the relationship it depicts. The second act goes on for ever and the movie loses nearly all of the momentum in builds in the opening. The only thing that keeps the story afloat, though just barely, are the performances from Zach White and Taylor Hastings as Jamie and Kacie respectively. There’s a natural chemistry to the pair and their characterizations are brilliant, traversing from the comfortable to the cold and back into amiable friendship with ease. Not only are they the highlight of the movie, their chemistry and relationship is the only thing that manages to keep the movie afloat after a near disastrous second hour when Spaces and Reservations seems stuck in a repeating loop where nothing happens.

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

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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

Toronto After Dark 2012: In Their Skin Review

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Director Jeremy Power Regimbal’s feature film debut In Their Skin is a pure genre exercise in tension and suspense. It’s sole purpose in life is to slowly but surely make you feel uneasy, make you wince and make you twist in your seat. Even though it owes many debts to its home invasion movie brethren, it does eventually create its own feeling and tone while also playing a bit on its theme of identity (the nature of your own identity; having it taken away from you; etc.). It makes sense that they moved to a slightly more generic title from its original one of Replicas, though, since it doesn’t really spend a great deal of time dwelling on the subtext. It’s all build, build, build…And it’s quite effective at doing it.

It starts almost from the get-go too. There’s tension in the marriage of Mark and Mary and it’s obviously been percolating for awhile. The couple and their son take off for some cottage time to see if they can repair some of the damage, but it’s going to take some time – they aren’t at the screaming fight level, but the slow simmer of unspoken issues stage doesn’t look to be ending any time soon. Upon meeting their cottage neighbours – the very odd and somewhat daffy Bobby and Jane – Mark feels obliged to invite them over for dinner. Mary’s not exactly thrilled at the idea and accuses Mark of simply not wanting to spend time with her alone. It gets worse during the dinner – one of the more awkward and uncomfortable social gatherings you can imagine – and as it becomes apparent that Bobby and Jane aren’t exactly the innocent simpletons that we initially thought they might be, Mark and Mary feel they need to end the evening early and send the couple and their son (who they claim is the same age as Mary and Mark’s, but is obviously a good 4-5 years older than that) packing with a very clear statement that they will not be welcomed back.

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Review: Cafe De Flore

With Jean-Marc Vallee’s latest film Cafe De Flore starting a wider release today (in Toronto followed by Ottawa and Vancouver in the coming weeks), we’re re-publishing our review from this year’s TIFF.

 

I was somewhat shaken walking out of Jean-Marc Vallee’s latest film and needed to actually catch my breath off to the side of the cell-phone checking hordes. It was partially due to several very personal reactions to a few moments and characters, but mostly because the film was absolutely magnificent in just about every respect. I’ve found my “I can’t imagine seeing a better film this year” film.

Vallee’s Young Victoria didn’t exactly win any converts in major production house circles, but anyone who saw C.R.A.Z.Y. has probably already given him a lifetime pass. As great as that film was (and if you haven’t seen it, please track it down via any legal means possible and also give a listen to the Movie Club Podcast episode specifically on that film), Cafe de Flore has just surpassed any reasonable expectation of what this filmmaker could do. Possibly even all the unreasonable expectations too. It shows a command of thematic content across multiple stories, an inate feeling of putting music to images and an almost perfect sense of flow. He knows when to ask his actors to be subtle, to bring forward some emotion and when to go BIG. He knows when to keep a scene going, when to stay with a take and when to cut across stories and time periods. That’s what I’m left with as I consider my reaction to the film – everything seemed dead on perfect.

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Review: Wiebo’s War

 

With “Wiebo’s War” being released to several theatres this week, I thought I should republish a review I wrote earlier in the Spring while it screened at the Hot Docs 2011 film festival. It’s fascinating, heartbreaking and easily one of the best documentaries I’ve seen all year. A list of cities screening it can be found at the bottom of the review.

 

Typically, the best documentaries are the ones that make you look at something from a different angle, approach a situation or person in a way you never expected and even further educate you on a topic that you thought you already knew. For example, if you’re Canadian, you may think you know the story of Wiebo Ludwig. If the name rings a bell or two, it is more than likely the warning kind that signals “crackpot”. Director David York’s current day look at the man, his closed community and the history of his battles with the oil companies drilling near his land may not completely change your view of Wiebo, but it might give you some insight into some of his actions.

Some background first…Ludwig was implicated in several oil pipeline bombings in Alberta and B.C. in the late 90s and involved in the shooting death of a young teenage girl on his property. He was charged and found guilty on several counts of vandalism that related to the explosions and served close to 2 years in prison before being released and allowed to return to his community’s compound. The community is a devout Christian one that he has built up with several families and is mostly self-sufficient which allows them to stay insulated – apart from the occasional trip to town – from the rest of society. Of course, given that oil production is a big part of the economic engine in this region, many people weren’t exactly happy with Wiebo’s alleged involvement with those bombings and he and his family weren’t overly welcomed in town. One night in 1999, a group of teenagers went joyriding on his property and before you could say “stupid prank gone wrong”, a young girl was dead. As reported at the time, Wiebo came across as an eco-terrorist who had a borderline cult deep in the backwoods of Northern Alberta backing him up.

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TIFF Review: Cafe De Flore

I was somewhat shaken walking out of Jean-Marc Vallee’s latest film and needed to actually catch my breath off to the side of the cell-phone checking hordes. It was partially due to several very personal reactions to a few moments and characters, but mostly because the film was absolutely magnificent in just about every respect. I’ve found my “I can’t imagine seeing a better film this year” film.

Vallee’s Young Victoria didn’t exactly win any converts in major production house circles, but anyone who saw C.R.A.Z.Y. has probably already given him a lifetime pass. As great as that film was (and if you haven’t seen it, please track it down via any legal means possible and also give a listen to the Movie Club Podcast episode specifically on that film), Cafe de Flore has just surpassed any reasonable expectation of what this filmmaker could do. Possibly even all the unreasonable expectations too. It shows a command of thematic content across multiple stories, an inate feeling of putting music to images and an almost perfect sense of flow. He knows when to ask his actors to be subtle, to bring forward some emotion and when to go BIG. He knows when to keep a scene going, when to stay with a take and when to cut across stories and time periods. That’s what I’m left with as I consider my reaction to the film – everything seemed dead on perfect.

Would you like to know more…?

Cinecast Episode 213 – Broadening Your Horizons by Telling You Something You Already Know

 
 
We still have not figured out that it is the ‘summer blockbuster’ season, so instead Kurt and Andrew decide to dig into one of the big Canadian films, (nominated for best foreign language Oscar) Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies (which we keep very light on *Spoilers*). An epic ‘what we watched’ section follows. Along the way, tangents on Lars von Trier and Cannes, the two fantasy epic mini-series on cable, Tree of Life, and Jodie Foster’s Beaver. There are lots of good DVD and Netflix picks to round out the show.

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


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_11/episode_213.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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HotDocs 2011: Beauty Day


 

 

Beauty Day opens with a most decidedly not-beauty moment for Ralph Zavadil (otherwise known as Cap’n Video). As his camera rolls and documents yet another of his solo “stunts” for his cable access show, the jovial Cap’n (looking like David Lee Roth after a week-long bender) launches himself off a high rung on the ladder he’s propped up against his fence. The plan is to plunge right into the middle of his tarp covered pool to demonstrate a new way of opening it for the season. As the 14 year-old videotape footage shows, things go horribly wrong – the ladder yields from Ralph’s push off, he drops short of the pool and lands square on his neck on the concrete breaking 2 of his cervical vertebrae. “Unfortunately, I didn’t think it through all the way” says current day Zavadil – not with any bitterness, sadness or regret in his voice, but with the self-deprecating tone of someone telling a really good story to his buddies. Of course, when you’re wearing what appear to be reindeer antlers with multicoloured headlamps on them, you need to make sure you aren’t taking yourself too seriously.

So why has director Jay Cheel decided to focus his feature length debut on the star of a decade old cable access show from St. Catharines, Ontario who sounds like a bad impersonator mixing French and Newfoundland accents? You can certainly see the initial appeal – Cap’n Video was a staple of the TV diets of teenagers in St. Catharines in the early 90s (a “Jackass” show before “Jackass” existed) and that failed stunt gave him world wide attention (a “Real TV” segment, Japanese TV, talk shows, etc.). However, there’s got to be more than just that, right? You bet there is. As with many of the best documentaries, the people themselves become just as fascinating as the central storyline. By the end of the film, I had not only become somewhat attached to Ralph and his friends and family, but quite disappointed that I couldn’t spend more time with them. They are interesting, funny and show a great spirit towards how they live their lives.

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