Monday, 31 March 2008

Canadian Film Fest 2008 - Coverage

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Pre-Festival Coverage
March 24, 2008

Daily Coverage
Canadian Film Fest 08 Day 1 - March 25/08
Canadian Film Fest 08 Day 2 - March 26/08
Canadian Film Fest 08 Day 3 - March 27/08
Canadian Film Fest 08 Day 4 - March 28/08, Rock, Paper, Scissors throw down!
Canadian Film Fest 08 Day 5 - March 29/08

Post-Festival Coverage
Wrap Up
Awards

The Canadian Film Fest 2008 ran from March 25-29/08 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Canadian Film Fest 08 - Wrap Up

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Five days of film have come and gone with the Canadian Film Fest. It was my first time attending this festival and I would have to say I don't think I've ever spent such a concentrated amount of time at the Carlton at in a while. The range of films was great, I loved how they showed shorts with the majority of the features and there were tons of Q&A's with filmmakers, actors and the like. A fun time all around. Here are some highlights of the festival.

Quintessentially Canadian & Favourites Features: Maple Flavour Films, River, The Chair, Mr. Big and Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Way of the Tosser. These films were not only fantastic but also felt 100% Canadian from either the subject matter (Maple Flavoured Films and Mr. Big) or the tone (River and Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Way of the Tosser). I also had to throw in The Chair as I can honestly say I feel like I've lived in that house.

Quintessentially Canadian Shorts: Moment and Bedwetter

Favourite Short: It is too hard to pick just one. Moment was brilliant as it visually depicted emotion in an understated way, Loonie challenged preconceived notions and Everything is Connected was heartfelt and honest.

Themes: Isolation, Family, Crime dynamics, Bizarre circumstances, Production

Best Attended: Hank and Mike, Production Office

Most Enthusiastic Crowd: Production Office, I swear I felt like I was going to lose my hearing due to the laughter in the audience

Scariest: The Chair, by far. I was worried it would be your run of the mill horror flick but it's so much more.

Still thinking about: Hide. I can't get this film out of my head. The film itself is gorgeous and the idea has stuck with me.

Favourite Experience: The film Maple Flavour Films and panel discussion regarding the state of English Language Canadian film on Day 2. It gave me a lot to think about as well as generated quite a few ideas. Now to decide who to contact about those ideas

Best Day: Day 4 by far. All the films rocked and I got to hang out with my sis.

Wasn't expecting: Late starts. I have patience, especially when the majority of the screenings are in the same theatre so you know you'll be able to get into the next one. But, almost all started 5+ min late, and on the Day 2 the Screening of The Chair started 30 minutes late (10:20pm instead of 9:50pm). That was one late night.

Best Q&A: Intro by Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Way of the Tosser. This vid says it all. If you want to taste the experience, check out the screenings on April 4 & 5/08 at the Bloor. This screening was the most memorable of the fest. I would highly recommend this film, you can start by checking out their website which includes info on the tour.

The Canadian Film Fest runs from March 25-29/08 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Canadian Film Fest 08 Day 5 - March 29/08

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Day 5 of the Canadian Film Fest brings the festival to a close. So many films over the four days: 14 features and 21 shorts. I was thrilled to be able to check out most of them!

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(Tiffany Burns director of Mr. Big, Dr. Rubin "Hurricane" Carter)

Mr. Big
Writer/Directer/Producer: Tiffany Burns
Documentary

A very intense documentary that centres on the Mr. Big sting strategy of the RCMP. The technique is considered entrapment in the US and the UK, but the documentary demonstrates numerous cases of it here in Canada. This is a film that needs to be seen by all Canadians.

Warnings: Crime scene pictures are shown, sometimes extensively of a family that was murdered. I had to look away from the screen during those parts.

For more on Mr. Big check out their website (includes disturbing images)


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Shorts, Shorts and more Shorts! The afternoon had two back to back shorts screenings, here are the highlights.

Communication Breakdown
Writer/Dir: Stefano Colacitti
Cast: Aurora Brown, Stephen Lobo
16 minutes

An innovating story about dating in out current techno-world. This short film was fascinating, with solid acting and hilarious to boot. It captured the attention of the audience quickly & easily. Also has a fantastic poster (see above).

Darkness Calls in Gitxsan
Dir: Anthony Wong
Cast: Jay Turley, Shawn Woods, Dan Wilson, Robert Milson
19 minutes, animated

In true storytelling style, this film brings inspiration and hope to those whom do not fit the mould.

For more on Darkness Calls in Gitxsan check out the website

Everything is Connected
Writer/Dir: Jonathan Sobol
Cast: Kevin Jubinville, Dylan Everett
12 minutes

Delightful and touching, this short is shows a unique family bonding.

Inheritance
Writer/Director/Producer: Mike Weiss
6 minutes, animated

The power of cheese. This wild short has to be seen to be believed.

For more on Inheritance check out their website or watch the film here

The Strap

Dir: Jason Gileno
Cast: Kyle Harrington, Robert Skeates
5 minutes

Short and shockingly sweet, this film plays with fear, punishment and the power of strong will.

Monument
Writer/Director/Producer: Alain Delannoy
12 minutes, animated

Fascinating animated short that mixes various styles that gives it a unique home spun flavour with a sophisticated story. Ingenious.

What You're Ready For
Dir: Corey Lee
Cast: Michael Riley, Stephen Park

Wry, familiar and cunning this short shows the power of self-help, literally.

For more on What You're Ready For check out their website

Portage / Crooked Lake
Writers/Dirs: Mathew Miller, Sascha Drews, Ezra Krybus
Cast: Stephannie Richardson, Candice Mausner, Alysha Aubin, Morgan McCunn, Guy Yarkoni

This screening brought the festival to a bit of an anticlimactic close. I chose it over the festival closing film (the two time slots conflicted) and I guess most folk went to that instead as it was a pretty quiet screening. The trailer shows it to be a thriller, which I think is a misrepresentation as it's really a drama and personal story. The subject matter was rather disturbing and for it to be billed as a 'sensual' tale I would say felt rather inappropriate as the actors appear so young.

For more on Portage / Crooked Lake check out their website

The Canadian Film Fest ran from March 25-29/08 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Rock, Paper, Scissors throw down!

As promised, here is a vid so you can see a taste of what the experience of seeing what Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Way of the Tosser is like. A nice lil' intro as well as well as impromptu head to head RPS between Tim Doiron vs Bern Euler, Festival Director.

For more on Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Way of the Tosser check out their website, info on the tour which will round up April 4 & 5/08 at 9:30 at the Bloor in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Canadian Film Fest 08 Day 4 - March 28/08

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Day 4 was a fantastic day at the Canadian Film Fest, in fact it has been my favourite so far! Every single one of the films I saw was excellent: Bedwetter, River and Rock, Paper Scissors: The Way of the Tosser. I didn't get a chance to see The Third Eye and Thirteen, but I hope the screening went well, the films looked very interesting. Four days down, one to go!

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(Mario Moreira, writer & director of Bedwetter)

Bedwetter
Writer/Dir: Mario Moreira
Cast: Damian Michalis, Eduardo Giron
Short

Impressions: A beautiful short that mergers the daily family realities with its spiritual history and is compelling in every way.

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(Vanda Schmöckel, Adam Budd from River)

River
Dir: Mark Wihak
Cast: Maya Batten-Young, Adam Budd

Impressions: This is a touching and heartfelt film about friendship, in every sense of the word. Impressive debut performances by both of the leads, Maya Batten-Young and Adam Budd whom with the director Mark Wihak developed with story for 2 months before improvising all of the dialogue. I loved how every moment felt real, whether it was a moment of joy, sadness, awkwardness or play. And play they did! Isn't that what friends are for? Someone to play, share experiences with and talk to. This is a beautiful film to experience.

For more on River check out their website

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Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Way of the Tosser
Dir: Tim Doiron, April Mullen
Cast: Tim Doiron, April Mullen, Ryan Tilley, Peter Pasyk, Martin O'Carrigan

Impressions: Holy moly, this film had the crowd in stitches. Hilarious and earnest, it follows Gary Brewer while training for the RPS (Rock, Paper, Scissors) championship with the help of his girlfriend Holly Brewer (no relation, yet) and friend Trevor. The film explains the history of Rock, Paper, Scissors as well as modern champions and events. A truly unique experience, this film is not to be missed.

We were lucky enough to have the charismatic cast at the screening. Tonight I'll post a vid so you can see a taste of what the experience of seeing the film is like as well as impromptu head to head RPS between Tim Doiron vs Bern Euler, Festival Director.

For more on Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Way of the Tosser check out their website, info on the tour which will round up April 4 & 5/08 at 9:30 at the Bloor in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Canadian Film Fest runs from March 25-29/08 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Canadian Film Fest 08 Day 3 - March 27/08

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I'm starting to feel like I live at #9, which sounds straight out of Coronation Street but alas the location is the Carlton. How I've managed to resist popcorn for all three days is a feat that surprizes me. But, when it comes down to it, it isn't about the location nor the food but it's about the films. So here they are, shorts and features alike.

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(Jill Carter, Karen Cliche from Moment)

Moment
Dir: Jill Carter
Cast: Karen Cliche, Jefferson Brown, Jason Gautreau
Short

Impressions: This is a gorgeous and touching short film reflecting on the power of a moment. How much a glance or a smile can affect us. An outstanding achievement.

For more on Moment check out their website

Production Office
Writers/Dir: Deborah Marks & Steve Solomos
Cast: Shauna MacDonald, Brandon McGibbon, Tim Rozon, Maury Chaykin

Impressions: This film played to a filled to the brim and excited audience whom appeared to relate very well to the subject matter: the inner workings of a production office for a film. Although there was no smooth sailing for this office there was a lot of entertainment value from far fetched stories to razzing people out to the ultimate creative problem solving. The colourful use of language had me dumbfounded at more than one occasion. I think we may just have found the new sailors in town!

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(crew & cast members of Production Office)

Desmond Coy
Dir: James Wilkes
Cast: Kerr Hewitt, Justin Kim, Laura Burns
Short

Impressions: An interesting idea is here and it is well executed but I have to admit I had to look away during the violent moments, of which their were quite a few in this short film.

For more on Desmond Coy check out the trailer (includes disturbing images)

Hide
Dir: KC Bascombe
Cast: Christian Kane, Rachel Miner, Polly Shannon, Beth Grant

Impressions: This film includes almost as many genres as Big Trouble in Little China. It has elements of westerns, crime, romance, revenge, thriller and horror. A criminal couple with varying levels of remorse encounters various obstacles while on the road. Although the violence level hits high for some tolerance levels, this films is worth checking out. It is beautifully shot and includes excellent performances by the two leads Christian Kane (Lindsey from "Angel") and Rachel Miner. It is an outstanding production, and one of the best of the festival. I'm sure it will keep me thinking for a long time.

For more on Hide check out their website

Loonie
Dir: Michelle Nolden
Cast: Jack Knight, Allegra Fulton
Short

Impressions: It is astonishing the range of emotions captured in this strong short film as it allows us to partake in the moments of a brief encounter between two people.

Places Everyone
Dir: Marc Thomas-Dupuis
Cast: Elias Varoutsos, Raphael Roussel

Impressions: The wild thing about Places Everyone was the language. I think it's fair to say there are two protagonists who are friends and one of them speaks almost exclusively French while the other speaks English. Totally wild. The themes of the film revolve around ideas what to do next, which is always a good question. Where will you go next?

For more on Places Everyone check out their website

There are still two days of the festival left some check it out and be part of the crowd!

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The Canadian Film Fest runs from March 25-29/08 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Film Fan Fridays for Friday March 28, 2008!

Hello Film Fans and Fanatics!

Welcome to Film Fan Fridays for Friday March 28, 2008!

In limited release this week we have just one film, The Year My Parents Went on Vacation which was Brazil's entry for the Academy Awards. That gives us four wide releases 21, the inspired by a true story card counting film, which the Canadian version The Last Casino still pops up on TMN and it holds a special place in my heart. We also have Run Fat Boy Run starring Simon Pegg as well as Stop-Loss and Superhero Movie.

It may be the first week where we have more festivals than individual films being released. I'm currently enjoying the Canadian Film Fest, and looking forward to Images next week. If I had my own secret twin with a collective consciousness I would definitely check out Cinefranco and Female Eye as well. Actually, I would check them all out, but alas I can only be in so many places at once.

Trailers are all sight unseen this week so I hope if you choose to watch them they are spoiler free.

Have a great weekend!

Shannon

Festival Watch

Canadian Film Fest
Celebrating exclusively Canadian film
Continues until March 29, 2008 with screenings at The Carlton and Varsity in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Cinéfranco
Annual celebration of international Francophone cinema
March 28 - Sunday April 6/08 at the Royal in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Female Eye Film Festival
Film festival of film made by women, seen by everyone
March 27 - 30/08 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Images Festival
21st annual Images Festival of independent film, video and other time-based media
April 3 - 13/08 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

MPENZI: Black Women's International Film & Video Festival
Friday March 28, 2008
Medical Sciences Building Auditorium at the University of Toronto, 1 King’s College Circle in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Reelworld Film Festival
8th annual festival celebrating diversity in film, video, and new media
April 2 - April 6, 2008 with screenings at The Carlton and Scotiabank in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Friday March 28, 2008 Releases

21
Dir: Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde, Monster-in-Law, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!)
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Aaron Yoo, Lisa Lapira, Jason Pitts, Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Run Fat Boy Run
Dir: David Schwimmer - feature film directorial debut
Cast: Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, Dylan Moran, Hank Azaria
UK/USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Stop-Loss
Dir: Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry)
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rob Brown, Channing Tatum, Timothy Olyphant
USA
Official Film Site (autoplays trailer), IMDb Page, Trailer

Superhero Movie
Writer/Dir: Craig Mazin (The Specials)
Cast: Sara Paxton, Drake Bell, Leslie Neilson
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

The Year My Parents Went on Vacation / O Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias
Dir: Cao Hamburger (O Filme Castelo Rá-Tim-Bum)
Cast: Michel Joelsas, Germano Haiut
Brazil
Limited Release
Official Film Site (autoplays stills from the film), IMDb Page, Trailer

**please note this list of releases reflects first run film released in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as of March 28, 2008**

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Canadian Film Fest 08 Day 2 - March 26/08

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Day 2 at the Canadian Film Fest brought delights and discoveries. One of the most anticipated screenings for me was for Maple Flavour Films and the panel following the screening to discuss the current state of Canadian English-language films. First up, the film!

Maple Flavour Films
Dir: Michael Sparaga
Documentary of the cross Canada tour to promote the film Sidekick, as well as talk to Canadians on the street on about Canadian Film.

Impressions: This is a fantastic documentary about Canadian film. Not only does it tell the personal journey of the film Sidekick and its cross country tour but also talks to regular Canadians as well as film industry professional to give a multi angled view of what is happening to Canadian films. It is humorous as well as insightful and overall hopeful, as it shows that although people in general aren't necessarily aware of Canadian film, they are not only open to it but also want to see and like it.

For more on Maple Flavour Films check out their website

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left to right: Michael Sparaga (filmmaker), Rob Cousins (Cineplex Entertainment), Peter Vamos (Playback) Dan Lyon (Telefilm), Anna Stratton (Triptych), Brad Pelman (Maple)

Panel Discussion on the state of Canadian English-language film industry
Moderated by Richard Crouse
Many ideas in the film and the panel were discussed revolved around how to get Canadians to see Canadian film. There are many barriers including the proximity to the US who are a major producer in terms of film overall, also people don't hear about the films (through ads, articles or word of mouth) so don't go to the films. It was also noted that recently we have had some great successes in Canadian film with films like Away From Her and Eastern Promises. There are also initiatives like the Film Circuit which bring Canadian Films to communities. Also, for filmmakers there incubators like the Canadian Film Centre and the National Screen Institute.

This screening and panel was so popular that they had to turn people away, and it's great to see that much interest in Canadian Film.

If you are looking for where to find out about Canadian Film Releases, here at Movie Moxie I always highlight the Canadian films released in Toronto in every edition of Film Fan Fridays.

Your Beautiful Cul de Sac Home
Writer/Dir: Cameron Kirkwood
Starring: Jeff Geddis, Charles Officer, Ennis Esmer, Terra Vnesa, Scott Beaudin

Impressions: A tale of subversively controlling suburbia... through lawn care. One part comedy and one part drama, two concurrent stories are told in the same local of suburbia. The path of least resistance, or the path of no resistance due to no choices - which one will we chose, or be chosen for us? Innovative ideas of manifestos, locked rooms and water balloons this film will keep you engaged throughout.

For more on Your Beautiful Cul de Sac Home check out their website

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(Bern Euler, Christopher Warre Smets director of The Last Hit Man)

The Last Hit Man
Writer/Dir: Christopher Warre Smets
Cast: Joe Mantegna, Elizabeth Whitmere, Romano Orzari, Michael Majeski

Impressions: A highly energetic crowd was present for this film, which is the second of the festival to include Joe Mantegna in the cast. It is a family centred crime drama (new genre alert!), but of a job gone wrong. The performances were the clear delight of this film. Joe Mantegna stars as not only a hit man as well as a pitch perfect protective father of tough as nails Elizabeth Whitmere. The supporting cast was very strong with Romano Orzari as the replacement killer and Michael Majeski's performance as the perfect boyfriend had me in stitches. I have to admit that overall I was surprized at the numerous American references (license plates, location references, paying for healthcare, etc) considering the context of the viewing.

Highlights from Q&A with director Christopher Warre Smets
Although the main actors couldn't make the screening, we know they were there in spirit. Romano Orzari wrote a letter which included thanking not only the festival but all the volunteers as well. The film was preceded by a message from Joe Mantegna, and it was clear that working with him was a positive experience for the entire cast and crew.

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(Brett Sullivan director of The Chair)

The Chair
Dir: Brett Sullivan
Cast: Allana Chisholm, Lauren Roy

Impressions: This film knocked my socks off. I was expecting it to be a gratuitous horror film when in fact it's a ghost story. Is it scary? Hell ya. Is there horror? Yep, it's got that too. Does it all work? You bet. I was very impressed with the performance by Allana Chisholm, as there were so many moments that could have been terrible clique and she pulled them all off. The director Brett Sullivan mentioned that he wanted a film that would be creep out, not gross out for which I say three cheers to you! It is great to hear that that was the intention, and even more so the experience of the film was creepy indeed.

Highlights from Q&A with director Brett Sullivan:
The house in the film is actually his house.
From idea to completed project it took 6 months.
The 'Chair' was often taken on tour with the film and people could check it out/sit in it.

For more on The Chair check out their website

Learning to Love the Front Row:
I will admit I'm not used to non-stadium seating with sold out shows. For most folk, this might not be an issue but a wee 4'9" me it was. The great news for the festival is that films are being very well attended. That being the case, it's front row from now on baby!

The Canadian Film Fest runs from March 25-29/08 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Canadian Film Fest 08 Day 1 - March 25/08

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(outside the Varsity* cinema)

Even with the cold and wet March weather upon us, the wait is over! The Canadian Film Fest kicked off Tuesday night with a bang. The five day festival focuses exclusively on Canadian film and that is so exciting to see. This year the festival boasts 14 features and 22 shorts of home grown talent. Bring it on!

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(Bern Euler, Founder/Festival Director)

We are welcomed to the festival by Bern Euler, Founder/Festival Director at the busy house at the Varsity* before the screening of the evening. There is a great energy in the room with the contagious buzz that comes hand in hand with opening nights. After the crowd is settled and subdued with by a reminder on why Canadian film is great, we get on to the show!

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(Bern Euler, Thomas Michael and Matthiew Klinck)

Hank & Mike
Dir: Matthiew Klinck (Greg & Gentillon)
Writers: Thomas Michael and Paolo Mancini
Cast: Thomas Michael, Paolo Mancini, Joe Mantegna, Chris Klein, Tony Nappo

Impressions: A tale of two Easter Bunnies against all odds. Follow the bunnies Hank and Mike as they smoke, drink, binge eat ice cream and spend a surprizing amount of time accidentally or on purpose, in the presence of unclothed women. It ain't your regular Easter tale, that’s for sure. This comedy is a creative exploration on bunnies versus the world, and if you like crass humour paired with fun with foul language this film is for you. The two leads Thomas Michael (Hank) and Paolo Mancini (Mike) play very well off each other as long time friends. The performance by Chris Klein (Rollerball) as the evil corporate dude is as dark and twisted as they come. Add to that the hilarious deadpan nature of Easter Bunnies out and about functioning in the everyday world and you’ve got fascinating film experience.

Highlights from the Q&A with Thomas Michael (writer/actor/producer) and Matthiew Klinck (director):
The characters were initially created through sketch comedy.
The costumes and appearances went though many permutations before the one you see in the film.
Both of the leads had 4 bunny outfits, all other bunnies had 1.
A use for Chunky Soup that you don't really want to know.

The Q&A closed on "It's different, not necessarily for everyone but we hope you liked it." Judging from the reaction of the house, they did.

More Hank & Mike: website, trailer, IMDb page

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The Canadian Film Fest runs from March 25-29/08 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

*Please note the majority of the screenings are at the Carlton. Check the film schedule for more info.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

My Week in Film: Current & Classics

We return with not only the odd coincidence of current & classic film this week, but all of the current films are a slew of S's: Sleepwalking, The Savages and Starting Out in the Evening. Plus, they are all about drama and family dynamics. Too weird! I was quite impressed with Starting Out in the Evening, and although it has a rockin' score over at Rotten Tomatoes (86% as of March 24/08), I heard little to no buzz on the film after it's release. I believe the trailer had a hint of misguidance pegging it as a subtle thriller but it's a drama, centred on two writers: one emerging and one fading. It's full of emotion and great performances from the lead actors: Frank Langella and Lauren Ambrose as well as a strong supporting cast: Lili Taylor and Adrian Lester (Doomsday). Next up is The Savages, which while watching I went back and forth on how much I enjoyed it. I did finally settle into the film and was amazed by Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman and how they created a understated and believable sibling relationship. Their physicality as well as verbal interplay was bang on, for me that was the highlight of the film.

Next up is Sleepwalking which I wanted to enjoy more than I did. Often it just felt like something was amiss, like I didn't trust what the actors were saying and at times it felt over acted and then there would be a wonderful, touching scene. Overall it did feel uneven, although it has some special moments.

Next I fell into some catch up land seeing some films from recent years. First was Half Nelson, which has been on my list for over a year due to the Oscar nomination for Ryan Gosling. Oh my goodness, did he ever deserve it as his performance was tour de force. I was astonished. Also there was another strong performance by the young actor Shareeka Epps. Although this film dealt with content that may make some people uncomfortable (drug use), I highly recommend it. It's the best film I've seen this month by far. It's watching films like Half Nelson that make movies like the next one I saw pale in comparison. This was The Kingdom, which I ended up turning off after about 30 minutes. It wasn't awful but I didn't feel that it was bringing me anything. Highly violent including to the masses as well as individuals, and it had a torture scene as well. Also, after that first 30 minutes in they were still mucking about on 'how to get past a problem' and the trailers and previews clearly indicate they solve that problem, which left me going "Get on with it!".

Now, it's time for a time warp and working through some classics. First up is 1927 Buster Keaton silent film, The General. This is a film that comes up in a fair amount of film books as well as all time lists and I'd have to say it gets earned the credit for that. Although the story and setting are not something I'd normally be interested in (US Civil War), the intensity of the characters and their drive is so prominnate you can't help but connect to their journey even if you don't feel akin to their task. Also the physicality of Buster Keaton is phenomenal. It is refreshing to see the pure expressionism of silent film. Truth be told it's not the only silent film of the week, I also checked out Guy Maddin's Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary which has been on my list for ages. This is a film performed by a ballet company and although it took me longer to settle into the silent nature of the film I kept reminding myself that I do know the story of Dracula enough to just watch and enjoy, and enjoy I did. The visual style of Guy Maddin is a force to be reckoned with. Intense, expressive and captivating I could not recommend his film more. A thrilling film to say the least.

More classic viewing with Stagecoach, a classic western directed by John Ford and staring John Wayne. I really enjoyed this film and although it is not my favourite western it is sure close. A simple premise but filled with lively characters this film is a fun ride start to finish. Next up is another ground breaking film, but of a different genre: Night of the Living Dead. George A. Romero's directorial debut and first zombie film does not disappoint. It holds up very well over time and is much more than a simple zombie film. I recommend both of these classic films.

The one film that fits none of the categories but was delightful nonetheless is Little Voice. This 1998 UK film which won Michael Caine a Golden Globe is a diamond in the rough. A tale of the blue collar dream to strike it rich and very close to it's very dysfunctional home. Astounding performances from a stellar cast including: Brenda Blethyn, Michael Caine, Jane Horracks, Ewan McGregor and the delightful Jim Broadbent as Mr. Boo. It's a tale of harsh times and hope, as well as the power of music and belief. Well worth watching.

Up next week is All Canadian, All the Time as I'll be living and breathing the Canadian Film Fest (runs from March 25-29/08). Check out my pre-festival impressions here.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Canadian Film Fest 2008

The Canadian Film Fest starts this week and has a exciting selection of films and events, all exclusively Canadian. Out of the 34 films (features and shorts) many genres are represented: comedy, horror, documentaries and drama are all in mix. The festival not only has a fantastic line up of films, there are also a variety of panel discussions as apart of their lecture series.

One of the documentaries of the festival bridges a screening and a panel discussion: Maple Flavour Films. This is a documentary that follows the cross Canada tour of the film Sidekick while concurrently interviewing Canadians on their knowledge and interest in Canadian films. I think this will be one of the highlights of the festival. The panel discussion following the screening will be moderated by Richard Crouse with panelist involved in the Canadian film industry.

One thing that is certain about us Canucks is we like our comedies, and we get plenty of them here. Six of the feature films and five of the shorts are comedic in nature, here are some giggling highlights:

Hank & Mike is the festival opener and has perfect post-Easter timing as we journey with two bitter unemployed Easter Bunnies. See more on the film site or watch the trailer. Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Way of the Tosser follows the life of a tosser with such ups and downs in the competitive world of Rock, Paper, Scissors. See the trailer and film site to explain the unexplainable.

What is more funny that comedies? The concept of what could go wrong while making films themselves. The explorations include Production Office, set during an all nighter on a sci-fi film shoot where many things can and do go wrong and Places Everyone which goes through the process of first time film making.

After seeing the nightmares of what could go wrong, we have the opportunity to see work of and fuel for nightmare's themselves with a strong selection of scary films. We have The Third Eye (site has creepy images & sounds) which explores trepanation is an 'ancient procedure that involves drilling a hole in one's head' . I'm glad the term trepanation was defined in the film synopsis and film site, as it was not in my handy dandy Gage Canadian Dictionary! Next up is The Chair, which looks pretty gruesome to me, judge for yourself by checking out the trailer on film site. If you are spoiler sensitive just watch the first minute - if you can take it! For the outdoor adventure thriller fans among us, Portage (renamed for US release as Crooked Lake) will be right up your alley, or shall I say stream? It makes the Canadian Shield a scary place to be! See the trailer here.

For those of us who prefer calmer moments, there are dramas to choose from as well. River looks compelling dealing with theme of friendship. The process of the film sounds fascinating, all the dialogue was improvised and shot with a crew of 5. I can't wait to see this one.

After all that, there is even more! The festival includes a healthy number of short films, some of which will play with the feature films and then there are two shorts screenings with a collection of different shorts. The shorts including a vast variety of styles and topics, including animation with Monument, Darkness Calls in Gitxsan (trailer) and Inheritance, coming of age with Rock Paper Scissors and self help guru's What You're Ready For.

For more information, check out the Canadian Film Fest website, Film Schedule, Ticket Info and Lecture Series

The Canadian Film Fest runs from March 25-29/08 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Film Fan Fridays for Friday March 21, 2008!

Hello Film Fans and Fanatics!

Welcome to Film Fan Fridays for Friday March 21, 2008! It appears as the snow is (finally!) melted and we have reached the first day of spring, we have also had a turn around with film releases to include a larger amount of quality in the mix. We also kick off into festival season here in Toronto with two film festivals this week and then at least one a week for a good three months. See a rundown of Spring film festivals here. I'm really looking forward to the Canadian Film Fest up next week, it promises a rockin' variety of films and all are are brimming with home grown talent.

In limited release this week we have a whopping six films to explore. First up is the latest from Denys Arcand Days of Darkness / L'Âge des ténèbres, one of the selections for Canada's Top Ten (2007). We have two period pieces, Married Life set in the 1940's with a stellar cast including Chris Cooper and Patricia Clarkson. The next period we visit is the 1810's with The Duchess of Langeais based on the Balzac novel. This film has a very interesting alternate title: Don't Touch the Axe. I wonder what that is all about. If you'd rather have some giggles, the checking out The Grand could be more your scene with it's mockumentary style and casino setting looks like it could be some good fun. I admit my curiosity is piqued strictly to see Werner Herzog in it with an over the top performance. Snow Angels is coming out this week, and I'm a bit perplexed on what exactly it's about but considering it's coming from David Gordon Green who brought us the wonderful treasure that is All the Real Girls, I think it's worth a shot. The last limited release is the latest from Guy Van Sant, the skateboarder tale Paranoid Park. I had the opportunity to see Paranoid Park at TIFF 07 and was not impressed with it overall and especially with the depiction of apathy, that being said it is getting high acclaim and if you are a Van Sant fan (especially Elephant), I think this could be up your alley.

We have three wide releases this week, first up is Drillbit Taylor starring Owen Wilson as a 'Budget Bodyguard' that high school kids hire to ward off bullies. Did I forget to mention it's a comedy? Yeah. Hmm. Ok, next up is Shutter a US horror film that is a remake of a 2004 Thai film of the same name. I'll admit it looks scary but also quite similar to other films by the noted 'Executive Producers': The Grudge & The Ring. Finally we have the newest from Tyler Perry with Meet the Brown's which looks rather endearing and stars Angela Bassett.

Have a fantastic long weekend!

Shannon

Festival Watch

Canadian Film Fest
Celebrating exclusively Canadian film
March 25 – 29, 2008 with screenings at The Carlton and Varsity, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Queer 2 Fly Film Festival
Celebrating Canadian queer film
March 22-23, 2008 at Innis Town Hall, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Sneak Preview

The upcoming comedy Run Fatboy Run directed by David Schwimmer, starring Simon Pegg, Dylan Moran, Thandie Newton and Hank Azaria has a sneak preview this Saturday March 22, 2008 at 7pm at Varsity, Silvercity Yonge/Eglinton, Sheppard Grand, Eglinton Town Centre and others. See the trailer here, you get the gist of the film about 1/3 way through, some pretty big spoilers in the rest of it.

Thursday March 20, 2008 Releases

The Duchess of Langeais / Ne touchez pas la hache

Dir: Jacques Rivette (Va Savoir, Paris nous appartient)
Cast: Jeanne Balibar, Guillaume Depardieu, Michel Piccoli, Bulle Ogier
France/Italy
Limited Release
Official Film Site (autoplays trailer), IMDb Page, Trailer

Paranoid Park
Writer/Dir: Guy Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Gerry, Elephant)
Cast: Gabe Nevins, Jake Miller, Taylor Momsen, Daniel Liu
France/USA
Limited Release
Official Film Site (UK site), IMDb Page, Trailer
Trailer containers a fair amount of the film, I'd say only watch the 1st half if at all

Friday March 21, 2008 Releases

Days of Darkness / L'Âge des ténèbres
Writer/Dir: Denys Arcand (The Barbarian Invasions / Les Invasions barbares, The Decline of the American Empire)
Cast: Marc Labrèche, Diane Kruger, Sylvie Léonard, Caroline Néron, Rufus Wainwright
Canada
Limited Release
TIFF 07 Link, IMDb Page, French Trailer

Drillbit Taylor
Dir: Steven Brill (Mr Deeds, Little Nicky, Without a Paddle)
Cast: Owen Wilson, Nate Hartley, Troy Gentile, Ian Robers
USA
Official Film Site (autoplays clips from the film), IMDb Page, Trailer

The Grand
Dir: Zak Penn (Incident at Loch Ness)
Cast: Woody Harrelson, David Cross, Dennis Farina, Cheryl Hines, Richard Kind, Chris Parnell, Werner Herzog
USA
Limited Release
Official Film Site (autoplays trailer), IMDb Page, Trailer

Married Life
Dir: Ira Sachs (Forty Shades of Blue)
Cast: Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, Pierce Brosnan, Rachel McAdams, David Richmond-Peck
USA/Canada
Limited Release
Official Film Site (autoplays trailer), IMDb Page, Trailer
Big spoilers at 1/3rd and 2/3rd of the way through

Shutter
Dir: Masayuki Ochiai (Kansen / Infection, Saimin / Hypnosis)
Cast: Joshua Jackson, Rachael Taylor, Megumi Okina
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer
Trailer is pretty scary, and spoiler free until 3/4 the way through

Snow Angels
Writer/Dir: David Gordon Green (All the Real Girls)
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, Michael Angarano, Jeanetta Arnette
USA
Limited Release
Official Film Site (autoplays trailer), IMDb Page, Trailer
Spoiler free until the hit the 1/3rd point, I stopped watching 3/4 way through

Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns
Writer/Dir: Tyler Perry (Why Did I Get Married? Madea's Family Reunion)
Cast: Angela Bassett, Rick Fox, David Mann, Tamela J. Mann, Tyler Perry
USA
Official Film Site (autoplays trailer), IMDb Page, Trailer
Spoiler free til the 3/4 point

**please note this list of releases reflects first run film released in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as of March 21, 2008**

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

My Week in Film - Messing with Memory

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It's been another unintentionally themed week, this time round it's 'Messing with Memory'! I'm still surprized at how often a the theme prevail though the randomness.

First up we have Looking for Alexander / Mémoires affectives, this is a 2004 award winning Canadian film. I was very impressed with this film as it takes you on a journey with the protagonist Alexander, played by the formidable Roy Dupuis, as he explores his relationship with his own memories. It’s a touching and astounding drama that is well deserved of the 7 awards (Genies & Jutras) it has won.

Moving right along with the theme of memory is Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, which is a bit of a cult classic I would say. It’s told from the perspective of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern from Hamlet, but they appear to only have knowledge of things that happened in the play. It’s a brilliant concept fuelled with fantastic wordplay delivered with expertise by Tim Roth and Gary Oldman. This is a complete treat for English Lit, Drama and Hamlet fans.

Next up is 2046, which is Wong Kar Wai’s follow up to In the Mood for Love. This film is filled with memory and emotion of the lead character played by Tony Leung. It blends reality and fantasy in beautiful settings with compelling characters. Although I did not enjoy it as much as In the Mood for Love, it is a wonderful visual exploration and emotional journey.

Staying over to visit on the other side of the world I found myself watching Bullets Over Summer / Baau lit ying ging, directed by Wilson Yip whom previously I’d only seen his martial arts/action films. This has a bit of that flavour considering it is a buddy-cop movie but the crux of it is more along the lines of a drama and plays with one of my favourite themes: unconventional relationships. It did have a smattering of gender crap, but I forgive it as it didn’t feel overt and I found that overall the film was quite touching. I will leave the memory connection a mystery as it is cute minor piece of the film.

Premonition ironically took me two tries to get through it, and I’m surprized I finally did make it all the way through. This was billed as a supernatural type thriller which is misleading as it is really a drama with barely a hint of the possibility of the supernatural. I was disappointed and a to be honest a bit bored, there is a lot of repetition of scenes and sequences which truthfully were not that interesting to see the first time round.

Next I watched The Return which I barely remember it being released back in 2006. Can we even say ‘back in 2006’ yet? This film delivers where Premonition did not. It is a supernatural thriller and although it was quite dark and sometimes disturbing I felt it was a solid movie. I even watched it twice in one weekend. Sarah Michelle Geller does a good job in the lead role and I was impressed with the performance by Peter O’Brien as the hard to read stranger. It’s a solid rental.

I’ll close with the two films that all I can say about memory is that I just want to forget them. First is Slither, a Canadian/USA monster film and it was ridiculous on most counts. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was hoping to enjoy at least something. It’s always good to see Nathan Fillion, but that wasn’t even enough. There was also huge amounts of gender crap in this, I’m surprized I ended up watching it the whole way though. I did not make it all the way though the last film which was Romper Stomper. I knew this was a risky choice going in, I wanted to check it out to see Russell Crowe’s performance but the content (skinheads) and level of violence and hatred was too high for me. I turned it off after 10 minutes or so. I did get the sense that it was a well crafted film, but I couldn’t watch it.

Recent theatre memories include The Bank Job and Doomsday, feel free to click through to read my full reviews!

How about you? Made any good movie memories this week?

Up next week I’ll be mixing Current & Classics films with: Sleepwalking, The Savages, Starting Out in the Evening, The Kingdom, The General and Night of the Living Dead.


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Guy Maddin celebration on Bravo!Canada

A rare treat we shall find in the next few days on Bravo!Canada. The channel is showcasing fantastic films by Guy Maddin, one of the most innovative directors in Canada. The series will include Brand Upon the Brain! which made my list of favourite films & experiences of 2007. If you haven't seen any of his films I strongly urge you to check them out, there is literally nothing like them. He is a master at creating bizarre worlds and implausible characters, yet with such a strong thread to the familiar that is makes us feel as though we walk amongst them in these worlds. Take a walk with them this week.

Wednesday March 19/08
8:30pm EST: Shorts & interview clips
9:00pm EST: Brand Upon the Brain!

Thursday March 20/08
8:00pm EST: Teardrops in the Snow (documentary of making The Saddest Music in the World)
9:00pm EST: The Saddest Music in the World

Friday March 21/08
7:30pm EST: Shorts & interview clips (repeat of March 19/08)

Saturday March 22/08
9:30pm EST: Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary

Sources: Northern Stars, Bravo!Canada

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Doomsday

Writer/Dir: Neil Marshall (The Descent)
Cast: Rhona Mitra, Adrian Lester, Craig Conway, Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell, Lee-Anne Liebenberg, Alexander Siddiq, David O'Hara
UK, 2008

Seen: March 16, 2008 at Scotiabank in the early morning hours

Reason to see: I was impressed with The Descent, and the first half of the Trailer looked like it would be post-apocalyptic fun with strong female characters

Overall I was not impressed with this film, it did not live up to my expectations and was in essence a gore-fest. I was looking forward to seeing a strong female character but that aspect felt neutralized with the gender crap thrown in the film, which included completely unnecessary albeit brief nudity. There was also one character, again briefly shown, that was an uncomfortable racial stereotype which completely threw me off.

There is an interesting idea here but the film barely comes back to its own plot involving issues of contamination, containment and a virus. All of that set in a post-apocalyptic world gives you a huge blank slate when it comes to styling and this fell short to a lot of styles we've seen before and that there are so many different ones that all together is was quite non cohesive.

In and between all of that there is violence, violence and more violence. I didn't go in with blinders and expect this to be a family fun film but the level of violence was really high and anything that could happen did happen with blood, guts, dismemberment and more and all in a non CGI way. Violence doesn't always bother me but it was so gratuitous in nature that it turned me off.

I felt that I might be being a big harsh on my judgement of the film so I check out the films site and it does indicate that the intent was to be an homage to films such as Mad Max and Escape From New York but adding a new flavour. Unfortunately I didn't see much new. In fact, I found that one entire sequence that was glaringly familiar to another film including 3 exact lines from that film (Aliens).

I did find some of the acting quite good. Adrian Lester as the sturdy sidekick, David O'Hara as the cold-hearted authoritarian and the always wonderful Malcolm McDowell. I thought Rhona Mitra was good as the lead, Eden, but I kept seeing Kate Beckinsale's character in Underworld while she was on screen. Ironically Rhona Mitra is slated to be in an upcoming Underworld prequel so she got some dress rehearsal time here. I also felt that Bob Hoskins seemed as if he was a separate film altogether, however this might be due to the fact I'm used to seeing him in comedies.

Warnings: Violence, torture, gore

Shannon's Overall View:
I wasn't entertained
I wouldn't watch it again
I'd be hard pressed to recommend it, but if you liked the Trailer you will like the film

17 minutes of preshow including 10+ commercials and 5 previews: The Ruins, Street Kings Smart People, The Strangers and Prom Night

Return to Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2008

Monday, 17 March 2008

Upcoming Film Festivals in Toronto, March - May 08

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As the snow melts and the parka's turn to pullovers, it's time to consider the upcoming festival season. We have many exciting festivals that will soon be in out midst ranging from homegrown talent to films from afar and everything in between. I'm really looking forward to the Canadian Film Fest because Canadian film rocks! Also, it's great to see The Toronto Singapore Film Festival which is just in its third year! As we move closer to the hope of summer months we get to some of the biggies in film festival land with Images, hotdocs and Inside Out. Everything looks so good this year, I can't wait to get in the festival spirit. I hope the snow stays at bay or for the very least inside queues!

So many festivals, so little time. What piques your interest for the next few months?


March
2008

Female Eye Film Festival
6th annual film festival of film made by women, seen by everyone
Thursday March 27 - Sunday March 30/08
Opening Gala: The Stone Angel
2008 schedule is online (select Program / Events)

Canadian Film Fest
Previously known as Canadian Filmmakers Festival, this festival celebrates exclusively Canadian film
Tues March 25 - Sat March 29/08
2008 schedule is online
Festival Coverage at Movie Moxie

Cinéfranco
Annual celebration of international Francophone cinema
Friday March 28 - Sunday April 6/08
Line up includes Genie nominated films Les 3 p'tits cochons and My Daughter, My Angel
2008 schedule is online

April 2008

Reelworld Film Festival
8th annual festival celebrating diversity in film, video, and new media
April 2 - April 6, 2008

Toronto Singapore Film Festival
3rd annual festival introducing Singapore film to Canadians
April 4 to 6/08 at Innis Town Hall, the University of Toronto's St. George campus
2008 schedule is up
Ticket information including film synopsis
Festival Coverage at Movie Moxie

Images Festival
2008 bring the 21st Images Festival of independent film, video and other time-based media, including on and off screen presentations as well as panels.
April 3 - 13/08
2008 schedule is online (from the main site, select Program at the left)
Festival Coverage at Movie Moxie

Sprockets
Toronto International Film Festival for Children
April 12 - 18/08
2008 schedule is online

Hot Docs
Canadian International Documentary Film Festival
Thurs April 17 - Sun April 27/08
2008 schedule is online
Festival Coverage at Movie Moxie

May 2008

Toronto Jewish Film Festival
2008 brings the 16th annual festival
May 3 - 11, 2008
2008 schedule is online

Inside Out
18th Annual Lesbian & Gay Film & Video Festival
May 15 - 25/08
Festival Coverage at Movie Moxie

Know of a festival not on the list? Email me at moviemoxie at gmail dot com, and I'll add it to the list!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

3 films on DVD for $1?

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I never thought I would see DVD's at the dollar store. Let alone one that sports 3 films. Even if the films are old and the quality is a little.. well, atmospheric. But really, 3 films on 1 dvd for $1? Well, $1.13 with tax but still.

I've been meaning to catch the original Night of the Living Dead, but I did not imagine getting to see it this way. I'll let you know what the experience is like!

Friday, 14 March 2008

Film Fan Fridays for Friday March 14, 2008!

Hello Film Fans and Fanatics!

Welcome to Film Fan Fridays for Friday March 14, 2008! We are still in the land of March uncertainty with releases. Upon first viewing I wasn't sure there was anything I would be interested in this week, but after more research and trailer watching I find I'm compelled to see over half of the films ! How about you?

In limited release this week we have CJ7, the latest from Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle) and it's been strongly panned so far but I'm still going to give it a chance. One wonderful thing about Stephen Chow is he isn't afraid to genre hop. Sure, Kung Fu Hustle was a hit and certainly so due to the kung fu nature and fighting scenes but CJ7 feels more along the lines of Batteries Not Included, that doesn't mean it has no charm. Only a viewing will tell. Next up we have Sleepwalking, another film plagued with bad reviews but I think it looks like a quite the compelling tale of a morphing family dynamic. Last up we have Funny Games, a shot by shot remake by Michael Heneke’s of his own 1997 Austrian film of the same name. I know a lot of people eagerly awaiting this film and I do hope they enjoy it, however it appears too dark for me which is reinforced by imdb description of violence which is over 800 words long (typically longer than my own film reviews). I will say the film poster is amazing, and possibly the best of the year so far. Those that crave dark films will have this as a treasure in their midst this week.

Wide releases are a bizarre combination. It's a little surprizing to see Horton Hears a Who! released *after* March Break and all I can say is that feels a little sad. The trailer barely indicates anything like a rhyme, and it certainly doesn't show any charm. Fancy animation and one liners? For sure. Heart? Nada. I don't think the good Doctor would be proud. Our other two wide releases are certain to be action packed: Never Back Down and Doomsday. Can I hide in the corner as I say I will be happy to see both? Doomsday is brought to us by the director of The Descent which is ripe with strong female characters and his new endeavour promises no less. Never Back Down appears on surface to be the latest response to physical activities films that is of no association with dance, but in heart it maintains all the themes of a dance film with a different target market. The cheese factor is high, but I'm curious to what it will bring.

In theatre news, the Varsity & Scotiabank have announced early showings of films starting as early as 10am as of March 10/08. I hope that works out well for them!

Have a great week!

Shannon

Festival Watch


Banff Mountain Film Festival
Celebrating films about mountain adventures
March 14 – 16, 2008 at The Bloor, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

University of Toronto Film Festival
Films made by students for students
Continues until March 15, 2008 at Innis Town Hall, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Special Screenings

Them / Ils
Dir: David Moreau and Xavier Palud (The Eye)
Thursday March 20, 2008 at 9:30PM at The Bloor, presented by Rue Morgue

Friday March 14, 2008 Releases

CJ7 / Cheung Gong 7 hou
Dir: Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle)
Cast: Stephen Chow, Jiao Xu, Chi Chung Lam,
Hong Kong
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer
Trailer isn't really describable, you just have to watch it to get it.

Doomsday
Writer/Dir: Neil Marshall (The Descent)
Cast: Lee-Anne Liebenberg, Rhona Mitra, Emma Cleasby, Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell, Alexander Siddiq
UK
Official Film Site (autoplays trailer), IMDb Page, Trailer
Trailer spoiler-free until 1/2 way point

Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!
Dir: Jimmy Hayward & Steve Martino – directorial debuts
Voices: Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Carol Burnett, Seth Rogen, Isla Fisher
USA
Official Film Site (site has games!), IMDb Page, Trailer
Hard to say if this one is spoilery, has anyone not read the book?

Funny Games / Funny Games U.S.
Writer/Dir: Michael Haneke (Caché / Hidden, The Piano Teacher / La Pianiste, Funny Games <1997>)
Cast: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart
UK/USA/France/Austria
Limited Release
Official Film Site (autoplays trailer), IMDb Page, Trailer
I did not watch trailer - watch at your own risk!

Never Back Down
Dir: Jeff Wadlow (Cry_Wolf)
Cast: Sean Faris, Amber Heard, Cam Gigandet, Djimon Hounsou
USA
Official Film Site (autoplays trailer), IMDb Page, Trailer
You get the gist of the film at the 1/2 way point

Sleepwalking
Dir: Bill Maher – directorial debut
Cast: AnnaSophia Robb, Charlize Theron, Nick Stahl, Woody Harrelson, Dennis Hopper, Deborra-Lee Furness
Canada/USA
Limited Release
Official Film Site & trailer, IMDb Page
You get the gist of the film at the 1/2 way point

**please note this list of releases reflects first run film released in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as of March 14, 2008**

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

The Bank Job

Dir: Roger Donaldson (The World's Fastest Indian, The Recruit, Thirteen Days, Cocktail)
Cast: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, James Faulkner, Daniel Mays, Stephen Campbell Moore
UK, 2008

Seen: March 10, 2008 at Scotiabank

Reason to see: Out of the options for this weeks releases, it was the one I was most interested in.

It took me a while to settle into this film, as going into it all I knew was the cast and that it was a heist film. Usually heist films have a lot of glitz and glam (Heat, the Ocean's series or even The Good Thief), but The Bank Job is more of a personal tale and that is its strength. We come to know and care about the heist team as they feel like real people. I knew this was the case when I would think of the characters by their character name and not the name of the actor during the film. Speaking of acting I was impressed with the cast as a whole, especially Saffron Burrows and Daniel Mays as well as many of the supporting cast including Hattie Morahan, Michael Jibson and Georgia Taylor (Toyah from "Coronation Street"). The plot was much more involved than I would have imagined and I'll be the first to admit it will take me a few watches to get it all straight, but I find that par for the course with this kind of film and overall makes it a strong film. It was great to see a smart instead of blow-everything-to-smithereens heist film.

Warnings: Violence, torture

Shannon's Overall View:
I was on the fence about it initially, but now I'd say it is solid entertainment
I'd watch it again
I'd recommend it, especially to intellectual/action oriented film fans

19 minutes of preshow including 15 commercials (!!!!) and 5 previews: Shutter, Never Give In, Smart People, Forbidden Kingdom and The Midnight Meat Train

How can people be late to a film that has 19 minutes of preshow, I mean, really? Also there were some really late arrivals methinks it's likely due to March Break shenanigans.

Return to Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2008

Monday, 10 March 2008

My Week in Film - a horrific week indeed!

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Although never intentional, there seems to be a theme to the films I see per week and this week was no exception, it was a horrorfest bridging films old and new. It's also the first in a while where I didn't trek out to the theatre, but that may be from the three days in a row last week culling the competition. Turned out that the only film I was interested of the new releases I had already seen, Continental, un film sans fusil which is my favourite film of 2008 so far.

First up is John Carpenter's The Thing which holds up pretty well considering it is from 1982. A simple yet scary premise with a classic Carpenter score this film was one I could feel nostalgic about even though I was watching it for the first time. It also helped that it starred Kurt Russell and Keith David (Frank from They Live), whom were perfect casting. Very fun scary film, I'm sure I will see it again.

One film I'm surprized I watched, and only did so as it was on my challenge of See the next 5 movies recommended to me regardless of what I think of them was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). This film is truly horrific. I would not watch it again and would only think that true horror fans would get something out of it. Also after perusing trivia on the film, including people actually getting hurt (mostly minor injuries), it makes it all the more disturbing and harder to recommend. It was interesting to see in terms of a historical point of view in horror film, there are many moments and ideas that are used in numerous films since the film came out.

After that I completed the 5 films on my 5 recommended films list with the remake: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003). I ended up turning this off after 25 minutes. Although I didn't make it through seeing the whole thing, it was fascinating to see the differences between the two films. The original was hard to sit though, but the remake was miserable as the majority of the characters were strongly indifferent. In the first, you care about these unfortunate souls. In the remake, not so much. I think that shows one of the strong shifts in horror film over the years. Instead of an interesting yet unlikely story with a combination of normal and bizarre people, recently what we tend to get is unlikeable characters, be they good or bad in implausible situations.

I do feel that the trend of indifference is growing, but hasn't taken over the genre. This is demonstrated by films such as The Descent, which was a happy surprize of a film. Happy might be pushing it as it is horror after all. I hadn't put much stock in this one, but after a few recommendations from trusted sources I gave it a go and it was worth it. Excellent creation of tension, interesting characters and it was awesome to see women doing extreme activities without it being some kind of 'issue'. They just did it, and it rocked. I also loved how it was a little tongue in cheek in terms of the horror genre and still managed to be scary. A well crafted film.

The last of the scarefest was checking out the Canadian short Madame Tutli-Putli (available for viewing here). Haunting & innovative, this short has it all.

After all the scares I needed a bit of a break and checked out Breaking and Entering. I had no expectations going in beyond hearing some vague but not overwhelming praise. It feels like a combination of 'intersecting lives' and political commentary but I was left feeling like I wanted more. More story, more depth, more chemistry, more of everything or anything. The one think I loved was Juliette Binoche's beautiful Euro-English mish mash dialogue and accent. I love hearing people slip from one languages to another, it always warms my heart.

Next week: Messing with memory - Looking for Alexander, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, The Return, 2046 and various others.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Film Fan Fridays for Friday March 7, 2008!

Hello Film Fans and Fanatics!

Welcome to Film Fan Fridays for Friday March 7, 2008! March is one of those months where I always think you should be able to tell spring is around the corner, but you rarely can. Seems to be the case with film selections as well, I thought we were over the early winter dry slump but if feels like it is carrying though a little longer than normal. You can see that this week with the absence of any limited releases.

So, that leaves us with four wide releases. The most anticipated of the four would likely be the historical adventure film 10,000 B.C., with its combination of live action and CGI in an epic tale. Next up is The Bank Job, which is a 'based on true events' 70's UK set heist film, and looks like it could be a lot of fun. Keeping on the UK release vibe, we also have Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day which sports a stellar cast including Frances McDormand and Amy Adams in this period comedy film. Finally we have College Road Trip, the Walt Disney presented G Rated father/daughter film with Martin Lawrence. Am I the only one confused? Doesn't sound like your average college film that is for sure.

I’d also like to mention that the Genies were presented last week (see winners here), and the major winners were Away From Her (directing, writing, actor, actress, supporting actress) and Eastern Promises (writing and numerous technical awards). It was a great year for Canadian film and it’s always great to see the awards.

Have a great week!

Shannon

Festival Watch

University of Toronto Film Festival
Films made by students for students
March 12-15, 2008 at Innis Town Hall, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Special Screenings

Music for the Screen
Series of music films showing Canada Music Week
Including: Songs from the Soul, D Tour: A Tenacious Documentary
Continues until March 8, 2008 at The Royal, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Friday March 7, 2008 Releases

10,000 B.C.
Dir: Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow, The Patriot, Godzilla <1998>)
Cast: Steven Strait, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis
USA/New Zealand
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer
Trailer spoiler free to 1/2 way point

The Bank Job
Dir:Roger Donaldson (The World's Fastest Indian, The Recruit, Thirteen Days, Cocktail)
Cast: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, James Faulkner, Daniel Mays, Stephen Campbell Moore
UK
Official Film Site (includes synopsis), IMDb Page, Trailer
I was hooked by the trailer 1/3 of the way in, so stopped watching it. May contain spoilers

College Road Trip
Dir: Roger Kumble (The Sweetest Thing, Cruel Intentions)
Cast: Martin Lawrence, Raven-Symoné, Brenda Song, Kym Whitley, Eugene Jones III
USA
Official Film Site (autoplays promo material), IMDb Page, Trailer
Spoiler free til the 1/2 way point

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Dir: Bharat Nalluri (Downtime, Killing Time, The Crow: Salvation)
Cast: Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Ciarán Hinds, Shirley Henderson
UK
Official Film Site (includes synopsis), IMDb Page, Trailer

**please note this list of releases reflects first run film released in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as of March 7, 2008**
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