Friday, 29 April 2011

Film Fan Fridays for Friday April 29, 2011

Hello Film Fans and Fanatics!

Welcome to Film Fan Fridays for Friday April 29, 2011! It's a quiet week as we only 5 films in release, and and that used to be a pretty normal number of releases but this year it feels like it's usually in the 10 films range. So many films to choose from. We also have Hot Docs kicking in to gear, bringing us 199 documentary films to choose from over the next week and a bit. I'll be covering the festival at Movie Moxie, be sure to stop by and check it out.

In limited release this week we have just one release with The Conspirator, a dramatization of Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), a woman charged with conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. The film also stars James McAvoy and is directed by Robert Redford.

In wide release this week we have four films to choose from, starting with one that I'm actually a little embarrassed to admit it but I'm really looking forward to it: Fast Five. Yep. The fifth in the Fast and the Furious the series that features with fast cars, small clothing, a reprisal cast of Paul Walker, Vin Diesel and Jordana Brewster plus new addition of Dwayne Johnson (Faster). We also have the Disney film Prom (was I the only one that thought it was a doc? ), which seems like it shows the chastest prom ever, although looks very cute nonetheless. We also have animated sequel Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil and Bollywood release of Chalo Dilli.

Be sure to check out my Hot Docs previews (overview, reviews of Superheroes, Family Instinct, At Night They Dance and A Simply Rhythm, Imagining Emanuel and The Future is Now!) and swing on by Movie Moxie for coverage throughout the festival.

Have a great weekend!

Shannon

Festival Watch

Hot Docs
Canadian International Documentary Film Festival
April 28 - May 8, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Friday April 29, 2011 Releases

Chalo Dilli
Dir: Shashant Shah (Dasvidaniya)
Cast: Lara Dutta, Yana Gupta, Akshay Kumar
India
Official Film Site & Trailer, IMDb Page

The Conspirator
Dir: Robert Redford (Lions for Lambs, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Quiz Show)
Cast: Robin Wright, James McAvoy, Tom Wilkinson, Evan Rachel Wood, Alexis Bledel, Johnny Simmons, Danny Huston
USA
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Fast Five
Dir: Justin Lin (Finishing the Game)
Cast: Vin Diesel , Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Dwayne Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil
Dir: Mike Disa (Dead Space: Aftermath)
Cast: Hayden Panettiere, Glenn Close, Joan Cusack, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, David Andy Dick, Brad Garrett, Patrick Warburton
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Prom
Dir: Joe Nussbaum (Sydney White)
Cast: Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonell, De’Vaughn Nixon, Danielle Campbell, Yin Chang, Kylie Bunbury, Nicholas Braun, Jared Kusnitz, Jonathan Keltz
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

**please note this list of releases reflects first run film released in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as of April 29, 2011**

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Hot Docs 2011 Preview: A Simple Rhythm, Imagining Emanuel and The Future is Now!

Photobucket
Professor Steven H Strogatz demonstrates the synchronization of metronomes in Tess Girard's A Simple Rhythm.

A Simple Rhythm
Dir: Tess Girard
Canada

Rarely does a film capture me within the first few moments, but A Simple Rhythm did just that *and* it brought tears to my eyes in the first few minutes. Yep, a film that's about universal rhythm will do that to me. I absolutely loved it. I loved that it drew on experts from many different communities from scientific to artistic to explore rhythm and the patterns it creates, maintains, sustains and relays. I loved how it found and celebrated the beauty in something that could feel so dry, but instead we see it in many different beautiful lights, interpretations and presentations. A beautiful exploration on a fascinating topic and easily my favourite of the festival so far. An exceptional film that I highly recommend.

An image from Tess Girard's "A Simple Rhythm"; a film that combines the dialogue of philosophical and academic conversation on rhythm and synchronization with metaphoric images of the every day.

A Simple Rhythm screenings at Hot Docs:
  • Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 7pm at The Royal Cinema
  • Sat, May 7, 2011 at 6:30pm at Cumberland 3
  • Sun, May 8, 2011 at 3:45pm at The ROM Theatre

Photobucket
Image from Imagining Emanuel

Imagining Emanuel
Dir: Thomas A Østbye
Norway

Imagining Emanuel is an absolutely fascination exploration of identity, history and truth, especially from the point of view of how we actually actually view these things and when we consider them to be 'real'. What is it that make the truth, the truth? When do we definitively know who someone is? Does that change depending on who we are: someone on the street versus a government representative versus a law enforcement officer? Does it change who we are, to question these truths? I loved how this film was put together and it was brilliant it it's exploration of these interesting questions from a theoretical point of view as well as adding a human and personal perspective. Unique in many ways, and well worth checking out.

Imagining Emanuel screenings at Hot Docs:
  • Wed, May 4, 2011 at 9:15pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4
  • Fri, May 6, 2011 at 1:30pm at Cumberland 2

Photobucket
Image from The Future is Now!

The Future is Now!
Dirs: Gary Burns & Jim Brown (Radiant City)
Canada

An exploration of the importance of art and connection with society is seen through the journey of a skeptic with an at arms distance guide who funnels him from interesting thinker to art creator, philosophers and beyond. I love the idea of the film, but I was taking a bit aback as I could tell right away that it's not quite a straight up documentary (it was a strong familiarity with Canadian actors that gave it away), but in all fairness it also feels intentional. The Future Is Now! has a very direct and clear tone to get it's message across, but it also feels like it might be preaching to the converted. I hope not just the converted, because the message is great as well as the journey structure that hopefully can and will open people up to considering new ideas, reflecting on their own opinions and foster new ways of thinking. I think anything that can achieve these goals and has an optimistic attitude to boot, is a welcome endeavour and an great source of inspiration.

The Future is Now! screenings at Hot Docs:
  • Thu, May 5, 2011 at 9pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
  • Sat, May 7, 2011 at 1pm at Cumberland 3
Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival runs from April 28 - May 8, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Dinoshark (DVD Review)

Photobucket
Photo - Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment

Dir: Kevin O'Neill (Dinocroc)
Cast: Eric Balfour, Iva Hasperger, Aarón Díaz, Christina Nicole, Humberto Busto, Richard Miller, Roger Corman
USA, 2010 (TV)

Reason to see: I don't think I can resist a film with a title like Dinoshark.

What a boatload of fun Dinoshark is! I'm totally loving that SyFy flicks have been hitting DVD & BluRay so those of us up here in Canada have the opportunity to enjoy their awesomeness. I love monster movies that you can complete tell the tone and style by the title, and Dinoshark is just that: a dinosaur-shark that causes mayhem and craziness among waters that aren't prone to such a vicious predator!

The setting is Puerto Vallarta, a perfect water setting for any hungry prehistoric shark looking to chomp into a variety of different prey. Too bad it's eating habits cause to rain on the locals parade, which sparks a hunt to solve the mystery of the dinoshark. One of the things I liked about the film is it shifts several things that could be stock expectations to something a bit different. The main set of characters include both Trace (Eric Balfour of Skyline & "Haven") and Carol (Iva Hasperger), whom feel like long-term locals, but we don't that push-and-pull of local vs non-local feel. Instead there is a refreshing friendship between them and Luis (Aarón Díaz) and Rita (Christina Nicole), which gives the film a sense of binding together against the odds & working to save and maintain the safety of friends feels over a hunted vs hunter. We also have a helpful as opposed to evil-and-interested expert in Dr. Frank Reeves, in a pretty freaking strong performance by producer Roger Corman himself!

The film has a great sense of fun to it with lots of lurking moments, crazy kills and loves of screams and squeals throughout. I loved camaraderie between the friends characters, the adventurous spirit and the rescue mentality. The monster effects were pretty decent and the creature was pretty fun for a monster movie. Overall, I found Dinoshark one heck of a good time. CHOMP!

Warnings: Gore
DVD Extras:
  • Commentary with producers Roger Corman & Julie Corman and director Kevin O'Neill, moderated by independent producer Perry Martin. Another awesome commentary which is both entertaining and informative as it discusses how the film came to be from the idea to building the team, the connection and how it's a follow up to Dinocroc, where the title, concept and story came from, how Kevin O'Neill got into the film industry and visual effects background and how it played into directing the film, the challenges of independent filmmaking, working on the water and extras casting as well as the expectations of the audience and how to meet them.
  • Trailer
Dinoshark is available on DVD as of April 26, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I already look forward to watching it again
I highly recommend it to monster movie fans

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

The Resident (Review - DVD/Blu-Ray Combo)

Photobucket

Image: Courtesy of Alliance Films
Legal Line © 2010 Resident Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively in Canada by Alliance Films. All Rights Reserved. © 2010 Resident Productions. Tous droits réservés. Distribué exclusivement au Canada par Alliance Vivafilm. Tous droits réservés.

Dir: Antti Jokinen (Bioterror)
Cast: Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Christopher Lee, Lee Pace
USA/UK, 2011

Reason to see: Hammer Horror + Jeffrey Dean Morgan = yes and more please!

The Resident stars Hilary Swank as Juliet, a doctor who is newly separated from her husband (played by Lee Pace) and looking for a new place to stay. Although the choices seem limited, she comes across an imperfect-yet-charming place newly renovated by the owner, Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and situated in a large building which appears to be only occupied by Max and his grandfather August (Christopher Lee).

I really enjoyed the characters The Resident, they are understated and very accessible with the quiet Juliet who is rebuilding her life and the kind and brooding owner Max (played charismatically by Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Two people who seemingly have nothing in common beyond rebuildling their living spaces and of course the luck of living in the same building. But in true horror nature, things start to go awry and things start to get pretty freaking creepy. I love how it's a slow burn in terms of the horror side of the story, and gets the feeling of something just being 'off' very well. And when I say creepy, I mean really creepy in a voyeuristic sense with a dash of home invasion tension as well which if a sure fire way to really freak people out. That being said, it's not my particularly my favourite kind of horror although I did think the unnerving tone was very well captured.

I thought the story and acting were both solid, and the creep factor is was way high. It was also a complete treat to see Lee Pace (The Fall), he's a great actor and I am always on the look out for his name to pop up in film (and we will see him later this year in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part I). It's not quite what I imagined a new Hammer Horror film to be, but I've seen almost exclusively vampire/werewolf films of theirs from the (distant) past, but it was a nice nod to those films to see Christopher Lee here. If you are looking for a slow burn creep out film, check out The Resident.

DVD Extras:
  • Trailer

The Resident is available on DVD as of April 26, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I'd recommend it to horror fans, especially in the creepy/voyeuristic vein

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Hot Docs 2011 Preview: Superheroes, Family Instinct & At Night, They Dance

Photobucket Photobucket

Superheroes
Dir: Michael Barnett
USA

Every wonder what it would be like to be real life superhero? I think most of us have had at least one time pondered what it would be like but the focus of this film is people who took that beyond thinking and into action and have become real life superheroes. Patrolling the streets, fighting crime, scaring off baddies and occasionally... stopping for a beer? Superheroes makes it clear that although there may not be tons of real life superheroes out there, and most come from the place of wanting to help the helpless, they have varying ways of doing so and even more so varying levels of competency doing so. Some are high trained in martial arts & parkour, where as others you wonder how their suit is even kept together, but all feel very strongly about stepping up and fighting injustice, and I loved how the film focused on that sensibility when it at times could have easily gone for humour. It's respectful and intelligent, talking to numerous superheroes as well as experts in the field from psychologists to likely the biggest expert in the field: Stan Lee. The superheroes themselves are the real stars of the screen, and they both suprize and inspire the viewer. Well worth checking out.

Superheroes screenings at Hot Docs:
  • Mon, May 2, 2011 at 9pm at the Bloor Cinema
  • Wed, May 4, 2011 at 4pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
  • Sun, May 8, 2011 at 7pm at The Royal Cinema

Photobucket
Zanda, in Family Instinct

Family Instinct
Dir: Andris Gauja
Latvia

One of the things I always look for at film festivals is to see if there is any Latvian film, as it's a rare to find and being of Latvian heritage myself it's a treat to see. This wasn't quite what I'd imagine to be regular everyday Latvian life, but it's a very intimate look at one particular family. Family Instinct follows a family of quite an unusual make up, we see it centred on Zanda whom we see during a time of absence from Valdis - the father of her children (and also her brother). That's only one of the many strange and almost unbelievable things in the film, which we see from a fly on the wall perspective as the strange, but apparently everyday, life as it rolls out day by day. From crazy binge drinking to uninvited guests, many of which strongly seem to favour Zanda's company while Valdis is away. The film is an eye opener on many levels, and I absolutely couldn't tear myself away from it.

Family Instinct screenings at Hot Docs:
  • Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 9:45pm at Cumberland 3
  • Sat, Apr 30, 2011 at 4:30pm at Cumberland 3
  • Tue, May 3, 2011 at 11am at Isabel Bader Theatre

Photobucket
Hind, dancing against all the odds in At Night, They Dance

At Night, They Dance
Dir: Isabelle Lavigne & Stéphane Thibault
Canada

I'm always up for a dance film, but was a little hesitant although still very curious about At Night, They Dance which follows belly dancers in Cairo. I have to say that the dancing elements are low, and even dancing seems to be most of the times a generous way to put is as the young women are mostly on stage with a live band and at times dancing or moving for an all male crowd. The gender dynamics and tension in this film are rough, the male dominated industry is bridged by Reda, who is a former dancer herself and the mother of several daughters who dance are likely more who will dance in the future. It's interesting to see it from the perspective of almost a participant, as we are brought full force into the world without context and live through the lives of the dancers and their handlers through the long nights and various celebrations and events. It wasn't what I expected but it was wild to see this portrait on a lifestyle from such an intimate point of view.

At Night, They Dance screenings at Hot Docs:
  • Tue, May 3, 2011 at 9pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4
  • Fri, May 6, 2011 at 1:15pm at The ROM Theatre
Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival runs from April 28 - May 8, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Monday, 25 April 2011

DVD Releases for April 26, 2011

Happy Tuesday! Weekly fun day and time to look at a selection of the DVD and Blu Ray releases for Tuesday April 26, 2011. This week is pretty action centric so bring on the flying kicks!

  • IP Man 2 Put Donnie Yen & Sammo Hung in a Wilson Yip film, and I'll always be set to see it. But add to the fact that it's a historical film centred on Wing Chun martial arts master Ip Man who was Bruce Lee's mentor, that makes this a must-see for all martial arts fans. And it's awesome to boot.
  • Dinoshark on DVD and BluRay (DVD Review) Another SyFy film fun-ness following crazy (dino) shark shenanigans, this film is a fantastic popcorn flick. And it stars Eric Balfour (Skyline, "Haven"). Woohoo!
  • The Resident DVD/BluRay Combo (DVD Review) Hammer Horror home inner invasion-style flick starring Hillary Swank, Jeffery Dean Morgan, Lee Pace & Christopher Lee.
  • Shaw Brothers Triple Threat Sweet looking selections including Invincible Shaolin, The Gamble & Shaolin Prince.
  • Norwegian Ninja Yep. That's a film I'm willing to see based on the title alone (US DVD release date June 28, 2011).
  • El Topo (Blu Ray) Alejandro Jodorowsky's 1969 cult classic, and the BluRay has lots of extras including On-Camera interview and a Feature Commentary by Alejandro Jodorowsky.
  • Casino Jack Kevin Spacey stars in this crime/comedy biopic on scheming, corruption and politics.
  • Jolene based on the story by E.L. Doctorow and starring Jessica Chastain, Dermot Mulroney, Chazz Palminteri and directed by Dan Ireland.
  • Come Undone sizzling hot-looking Italian drama from director Silvio Soldini.
  • Blow Out (Criterion) starring John Travolta & Nancy Allen, directed by Brian De Palma.
Titles on Amazon.ca(Canada):


Titles on Amazon.com (US):

Hot Docs 2011 Preview

Spring Film Festival Season is in Toronto in full force with Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival opening this week and it's your sure fire way to satisfy all your documentaries needs. The festival kicks off with an film made entirely through advertising with the Opening Night Screening of POM Wonderful Presents: the Greatest Movie Ever Sold at the Winter Garden Theatre on Thursday April 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm with an introduction from filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me). That is some heavy hitting documentary goodness!

One of the things I love about Hot Docs is the wide variety of films to choose from and two of the ones I'm most curious about couldn't be more different: Fightville, centred on MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey. I mean, any festival that has high profile film on puppets and martial arts is a winner in my book.

More films on my radar include the club culture film Limelight, inspirational Dolphin Boy, Project Nim from James Marsh director Oscar winning film Man on Wire from Hot Docs 2008, and self-explanatory titled Boy Cheerleaders and Jig. So many films to look forward to over the festival 11 day run here in Toronto and I'm really looking forward to diving in.

Be sure to check back here at Movie Moxie for more Hot Docs previews and festival coverage.

The festivals has so much to offer, and you can check out more information on the individual programs, browse by subject (Sports & Competition, Performance & Performers and Animals & Wildlife are all categories I have my eye on) or see the festival schedule online at the Hot Docs website.

Festival Passes & Tickets are available for purchase and with many popular titles it's always wise to check the Rush Only Screenings if you are planning on heading down to the festival and taking your chances at the door. Need to know where you are heading? Check out the festival venue information. For more information on ticketing and box office check here on the Hot Docs website.

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival runs from April 28 - May 8, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Sunday, 24 April 2011

I Love You Phillip Morris (DVD Review)

Photobucket
Image: Courtesy of Alliance Films
Legal Line ©2009 Europacorp. All Rights Reserved. Distributed Exclusively in Canada by Alliance Films. All Rights Reserved.

Dir: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa - feature film directorial debut
Cast: Jim Carrey, Ewan MacGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro
USA/France, 2011

Reason to see: The trailer got me curious on this on, which was played tons last year but and I missed the very limited theatrical run earlier this year.

Every once in a while a film comes around and the premise seems so crazy you are surprized to even hear it, like what we have with I Love You Phillip Morris where con man Steven Russell (played by Jim Carrey) creates all kinds of craziness from fraud to staging personal injury accidents to keep cash flow coming in to keep happy times flowing with his kept boyfriend Phillip Morris (played by Ewan MacGregor). And then the words "Based on a True Story" come up and you have to do a bit of a double take.

Based on the book I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks by Steve McVicker, this is actually a biopic that's in the vein of a it's so-crazy-it-can-only-be-true point of view. In the film we follow con man Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) who falls in love with a fellow inmate Phillip Morris (Ewan MacGregor) in prison. What I love about the film is that embraces the craziness of Steven and the bizarre lengths he will go to to make money. But even more amazing, is that in the calm centre of this vortex of lunacy there is a beautifully, touching romance between the two amazing men. The film is carefully crafted in that it draws you with it's outlandish premise and flamboyant behaviour, and before you know it you care deeply about the people involved and cheering for them to make it through, come clean or both. Jim Carrey and Ewan MacGregor have fantastic chemistry in the film and together bring this compelling story alive.

I really enjoyed how the film could flip between tones from comic to serious, and the music really highlights this as it's got a wondrous, quirky and whimsical spirit to it that really brings the whole film together. I loved listening to the audio commentary which pinpointed some of the most bizarre moments were some of the most truthful ones. A engaging, beautifully-spirited romcom that literally is like no other. I highly recommend I Love You Phillip Morris, a tale of love, lies and lengths people will go to for both.

DVD Extras:
  • Audio Commentary with writers/directors Glenn Ficarra & John Requa, producers Andrew Lazar & Far Shariat, chief lighting technician Max Pomerleau and director of photography Xavier Pérez Grobet Very entertaining commentary that covers many different aspects of the film from which things that are true to their real lives of the people involved from actual lines and ideas and also things that were really real but wouldn't or didn't quite work in the film, the challenge of creating a film that's shot in two tones, structure of the film, repeating visual montages plus technical infomration on specific shots & techniques, what they are called, how they achieved and the choice to use them.
  • The Making of I Love You Phillip Morris (11 minutes) included behind the scenes footage, film clips and interviews with writers/directors Glenn Ficarra & John Requa, actors Jim Carrey, Rodrigo Santoro, Leslie Mann, Ewan McGregor on how the film is based on amazing true story, reactions to the story and script, the character of Steven Russell, research for the film and creating their individual characters and on working together.
  • Deleted Scenes (7 scenes, 16 minutes) combination of extending and deleted scenes, mostly focused on the Steven Russell (played by Jim Carrey), that give interesting insight and depth, especially emotionally, to that particular character
  • Red Band Internet Trailer
  • Green Band Theatrical Trailer
  • Red Band Theatrical Trailer
I Love You Phillip Morris is available on DVD as of April 19, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I really enjoyed it
I'll easily watch it again
I highly recommend it to fans of relationship dramas with a healthy dose of comedy included

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Somewhere (DVD Review)

Photobucket

Image: Courtesy of Alliance Films

Legal Line © 2010 Somewhere LLC. All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively in Canada by Alliance Films. All Rights Reserved.

Dir: Sofia Coppola (Marie Antoinette, Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides)
Cast: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Chris Pontius, Michelle Monaghan
USA, 2011

Reason to see: I want to love Sofia Coppala's work

I was rather hesitant going into Somewhere. I've been on-again/off-again with connecting to Sofia Coppola's work and I didn't think a male-protagonist, actor-centric, Hollywood set film would be the one to reel me back in. But it was. It really, really was.

Somewhere is a film that just like it's title, you think you may need to think really hard about it, but you don't. Just settle into it and let it run it's course in it's relaxed pace and experiential tone. Let it wash over you and as you steal the moments of time with it's characters actor/celeb Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) who unexpectedly has a sudden influx of time with his preteen daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning). I loved how Somewhere defied my jaded expectations going into the film. I expected to hate Johnny and be annoyed at his living the fast lane lifestyle, but instead I found it easy not to judge him but rather empathize with the craziness of his world that had both intimate connections and bizarre close-but-distant and then fleeting meetings. I thought I would be all up and arms about the imbalance of the father/daughter relationship, but instead I found it quite touching to see an unusual but somehow balanced relationship which was certainly imperfect but still full of caring and kindness.

It's a film that brings a wild surrealness to light, especially of the fleeting and fast moments that get swept under carpets or left out for someone else to clean in a rote, regular way. It's a film that you just have to roll with as it's a journey film where the next destination is somewhere just over the next hill or round the next corner. Even when it's not going somewhere, you still feel it moving which is quite an amazing way to capture the passage of time and way that life can just trickle by. I was very impressed by where it went, and how it got there.

DVD Extras:
  • Making Somewhere (17 minutes), it's amazing that this behind this making of very much carries the minimalist tone of film in the inclusion of a lot of behind the scenes footage, as well as brief interviews with writer/director Sophia Coppola on idea and inspiration on the film, and several interviews including with producers Roman Coppala & G. Mac Brown, cinematographer Harris Savides, costume designer Stacey Battat, sound designer Richard Beggs, production designer Anne Ross and actors Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning & Chris Pontius on working with Sophia Coppola, the tone of the film, the locations, costumes and preparation for the film.
Somewhere is available on DVD as of April 19, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I'd recommend it as an art house/experiential film

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Photobucket
Stephen Dorff (left) and Elle Fanning (right) star in Sofia Coppola's SOMEWHERE, an Alliance Films' release. Photo Credit: Merrick Morton - Image: Courtesy of Alliance Films

Photobucket
Stephen Dorff (left) and Elle Fanning (right) star in Sofia Coppola's SOMEWHERE, an Alliance Films' release. - Image: Courtesy of Alliance Films

Soul Surfer

Photobucket

Dir: Sean McNamara (Bratz, Raise Your Voice)
Cast: AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, Lorraine Nicholson, Ross Thomas, Kevin Sorbo, Carrie Underwood, Cody Gomes
USA, 2011

Seen: April 9, 2011 at AMC

Reason to see: Looked inspiring, based on a true story and a girl surfer. That's a yes-yes-yes!

I'm a huge fan of Gidget (It's a lock on my top 5 films list), so it should come as no surprized that I raced out to see Soul Surfer, a biopic on surfer Bethany Hamilton who faces some pretty extreme challenges in her surfing career which is much as I can say and keep this spoiler-free, something of an extra challenge with biopics!

Bethany is played by AnnaSophia Robb (Race to Witch Mountain), who does a great job of presenting her as a positive, inspiring youth surfer who even during trying times maintains an amazing outlook that was one of the key factors in winning me over in the film. I was completely over-the-moon happy to be watching a film that's a female-protagonist biopic on an athlete. I wish we saw more films with this focus, I know I would go to them!

Now, the film has two semi-warnings that I feel the need to mention and that is one to just lightly say that some of the issues are difficult to see which sadly often goes hand-in-hand with inspiring film, but in this case I totally felt it was worth it as it feels like it really honours Bethany's story. I also feel the need to mention that there is some religious content in the film, also something that goes hand in hand with inspiring film, but it didn't feel overbearing for those who are of different faiths. Again, it felt fairly presented and important to the film, but I know it can be something either reels in or repels viewers, and in this case I felt like it will be an added bonus for like minded believers, but doesn't push out anyone who follows a different beliefs.

I loved the story of the film, the honesty of Bethany's journey which including both vast challenges as well as a wealth of support from her family and the family dynamic really won me over, it felt very true and very tender. I also think Bethany's journey is so inspiring and really touched me, and it's one that I think people can really benefit from hearing and seeing what she went though. It may read a bit sweet for some people, but can't we all use a little more sweetness in our lives? I know I can.

See also: Podcast review of Soul Surfer

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I already want to watch it again
I'd recommend it for fans of inspiring films, sport films and female protagonist films

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

African Cats

Photobucket

Dir: Alastair Fothergill (Earth) & Keith Scholey - feature film directorial debut
Documentary
Narrated by: Samuel L. Jackson
USA, 2011

Seen: April 22, 2011

Reason to see: I love cats. Big, small, wild, domestic... doesn't matter. I love 'em all.

I'm a big cat lover. I love cats, especially big cats so deciding to see African Cats which follows two cat families was a very easy decision. I usually only see documentaries at film festivals, and certainly rarely see family-friendly nature documentary (although I think Nénette and Sharkwater would qualify...more on the nature side of things), so retrospectively I shouldn't be surprized at the constructed narrative to create structure on the film. I can understand that, even if I didn't really dig the building voice over in anticipate of exciting action moments, as nature in action is exciting enough on it's one. But, I understand how that helps the audience along if need be. But I couldn't quite get my head into believing the story itself, as it really humanized the cats relationships which makes them more relatable but it also strips away their catness. I'm no expert in wild cats but a lot of what they presented as almost epic conflicts felt like pretty normal life-in-the-wild behaviour and certainly very cycle-of-life oriented.

I'm all for making things more dramatic, but not if it doesn't start with what's real and I couldn't tell what was story and what was real. This is where the 'family centric' nature of the film comes in, as it very focused on the mom-cats, but extremely vague on how they go from not being a mom to being a mom-cat. I also kept finding myself thikning "Is that really what that lioness was thinking?", and after a few times I started to lose confidence in what I was being told about the cats themselves. I didn't believe they knew what they were thinking, although I'm sure big cat behaviour has been followed and studied, I don't think we know what they are thinking. Instinct, actions, moments and desires can be analyzed, but thoughts? I'm not convinced.

But, what drew me to the film was the awesome, gorgeous, wonderful cats and or that it delivers. I thought I would be all over the lion family, but I was actually completely won over by the cheetah family - they are absolutely fascinating felines and I really appreciated seeing their story. Lots of cute big cat moments and gorgeous imagery throughout the film, which is what got me there in the first place. This cat-owner had more than a few "aww!" moments, but also had lots of disbelief, which isn't the best response for a documentary. I did enjoy lots of what I saw, but wanted to love it start to finish.

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it, but wanted to love it
I'd watch it again just to see the cheetahs
I'd recommend it as a family-friendly documentary

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Poll Results: What April Release Are You Most Looking Forward To?

Bit late getting the results up but the April Release Are You Most Looking Forward To is an overwhelming 44% to Hanna! Looks like women kicking butt is a trend people like, and it's hard to argue with that!

Here are the detailed results:
44% - Hanna
11% - Tie: Apollo 18, Arthur, Your Highness
7% - Insidious
3% - Tie: Prom, Soul Surfer, Source Code, Water for Elephants

Thanks for voting!

In a Better World / Hævnen

Photobucket

Dir: Susanne Bier (After the Wedding / Efter brylluppet, Brødre, The Things We Lost in the Fire)
Cast: Mikael Persbrandt, William Jøhnk Nielsen, Trine Dyrholm, Markus Rygaard, Ulrich Thomsen
Denmark/Sweden, 2011

Seen: April 19, 2011 at Varsity

Reason to see: This year's Oscar winner for foreign film, and I love Susanne Bier's films, especially After the Wedding / Efter brylluppet

In a Better World / Hævnen is an extraordinary film. It's a heart-wrenching drama that presents, poses & pushes the boundaries in terms of power, control and the use of violence. It's odd because that is 100% true, but it doesn't always feel like that is the film you are watching as it's mostly through scenarios involving the two families that make up the majority of the ensemble cast. The family dynamic are powerful and as interesting as all the control and power play throughout the film.

One of the things I love about Susanne Bier's films is that you instantly understand the emotional relationships between the characters in the film, before they are explained - if they even are explained. The performance from the actors are so strong that they instantly draw you in and make you want to know more. A dynamic is created and understood, but you want to know the why behind it. I found this the strongest between the father/son relationship of Claus (Ulrich Thomsen of Fear Me Not / Den du frygter) and Christian (William Jøhnk Nielsen), where you can easily feel the power imbalance but continue to wonder why. We also see an interesting family dynamic through the young and bullied Elias (Markus Rygaard) and loving mother Marianne (Trine Dyrholm) and father Anton (Mikael Persbrandt), a doctor who often travels abroad to and treats villagers. With this family we see less inner turmoil but more dealing with being outsiders in several scenarios which makes them on the receiving end of tension quite often.

Internal and external forces are at work here, and as much as we see the families cope and struggle with their own support systems, they they also deal with external factors which can bright heightened tension into the mix and the question of morality comes strongly to the surface. Also questions come into play of when principle is pushed from concept to an actual real scenario, will people stand by their words, or succumb to reacting outside their comfort zone. What pushes people to act out, to lash out and to hurt others, or to choose inaction over action. Is it ever justified? Who gets hurt? What does that say, how does that feel, and what does that teach? What example is set? Who learns from it, if anyone?

It's a fascinating, and tough question to ask and the film is very brave in how it tackles these questions. The characters and complex, compelling and brought to live by the extraordinary cast, in particular William Jøhnk Nielsen who gives an amazing performance for someone so young. I absolutely loved the journeys, even though they were often harsh and challenging, but they always felt true. I believed every action, emotion and moment in the film. I highly recommend it, although want to know that there are a few disturbing ideas and images that aren't easy to take in and might tip people over the edge. But for me, the power and value of the journey was well worth it.

Warnings: Disturbing ideas & imagery

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I'll own it
I highly recommend it, but note the warnings

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Book to Film Club April 2011 Film: Water for Elephants

Photobucket

Water For Elephants, our March book and April film selection for the Book to Film Club came this weekend. Have you had a chance to check it out yet? I'm really looking forward to seeing it and planning to very soon, I'm so curious about how the casting plays out and I'm actually quite looking forward to seeing the animals. I'm also very curious to see how faithful an adaptation it is. We will know soon! The film adaptation stars Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz, James Frain, Hal Holbrook and Paul Schneider, directed by Francis Lawrence (Constantine, I Am Legend). I'm looking forward to hearing people's thoughts!

Here are some things to ponder when thinking, writing and/or journaling about the film:

  • Did you enjoy the film?
  • Was the film what you expected from reading the book?
  • How did you feel about the tone of the film?
  • Did you feel that the captured the time period well?
  • How did you feel about the casting? Were the characters what you expected?
  • Were there characters, moments or ideas you liked better in the book? If so, what were they?
  • What was your favourite thing about the book?
  • Were there characters, moments or ideas you liked better in the film? If so, what were they?
  • What was your favourite thing about the film?
  • Was there anything you understood more after seeing the film?
  • Was there anything you felt was missing from the film?
  • Did the film capture the spirit of the book?
  • Who would you recommend the book to?
  • Who would you recommend the film too?
  • Are you happy you read the book before seeing the film?
  • Would you recommend people read the book before seeing the film?
  • What was the impact of reading the book before seeing the film?

If you don't have a site of your own, you can always start a blog or posterous site or share your thoughts and connect though Good Reads (feel free to friend me on Good Reads here).

Water for Elephants Film Reviews by Book to Film Clubbers:

Friday, 22 April 2011

Film Fan Friday for Friday April 22, 2011

Hello Film Fans and Fanatics!

Welcome to Film Fan Fridays for Friday April 22, 2011! Happy Good Friday, Earth Day and upcoming Easter weekend! I'm surprized we don't have a family pick of the week but we still have lots to choose from!

In limited release this week we have including 4 Canadian films. 4! I think that is a record! I think I will say that one more time - 4 Canadian films out this week. Let's start with the CanCon! We have the science fiction/thriller Repeaters, social media romantic comedy of Textuality, Toronto-set/rave culture and immigrant story of Lost Journey and The High Cost of Living. We also have the documentary Bill Cunningham New York and big focus on history this week with a re-telling of Vel' d'Hiv Roundup in La Rafle and the Chinese drama/history film The Warring States.

In wide release this week we have the April Book to Film Club Selection of Water for Elephants, based on the book by Sara Gruen and follows a veterinary student (played by Robert Pattinson) who runs away with the traveling circus. I'm really looking forward to this one, even though I didn't super love the book. Water for Elephants also stars Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz, & Hal Holbrook and is directed by Francis Lawrence (Constantine, I Am Legend). Also out in wide release and Earth Day tie in is African Cats, a nature documentary centered on two cat families and how they teach their cubs the ways of the wild. We also have Tyler Perry's latest with Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family and Bollywood release of Dum Maaro Dum.

Have a great Easter & Earth Day weekend!

Shannon

Friday April 22,2011 Releases

African Cats
Dir: Alastair Fothergill (Earth) & Keith Scholey - feature film directorial debut
Documentary, Narrated by: Samuel L. Jackson
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer,

Bill Cunningham New York
Dir: Richard Press - feature film directorial debut
Documentary
USA/France
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Dum Maaro Dum
Dir: Rohan Sippy (Bluffmaster!, Kuch Naa Kaho)
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Bipasha Basu
India
Official Film Site & Trailer, IMDb Page

The High Cost of Living
Dir: Deborah Chow - feature film directorial debut
Cast: Zach Braff, Isabelle Blaise, Patrick Labbe
Canada
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Lost Journey
Writer/Dir: Ant Horasanli - feature film directorial debut
Cast: Andy Madadian, Shiva Negar, Reza Sholeh, Pedram Ziaei, Hamid Savalanpour
Canada
Limited Release
Official Film Site & Trailer, IMDb Page

Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family
Writer/Dir: Tyler Perry (For Colored Girls, Why Did I Get Married Too?, I Can Do Bad All by Myself, Madea Goes to Jail)
Cast: Tyler Perry, Loretta Devine, Shad “Bow Wow” Moss, David Mann, Cassi Davis, Tamela Brown Mann, Lauren London, Isaiah Mustafa, Rodney Perry, Shannon Kane
USA
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

La Rafle.
Writer/Dir: Rose Bosch (Animal)
Cast: Jean Reno, Mélanie Laurent, Gad Elmaleh, Raphaëlle Agogué, Hugo Leverdez, Joseph Weismann
France/Germany/Hungary
Limited Release
Official Film Site & Trailer, IMDb Page

Repeaters
Dir: Carl Bessai (Mothers&Daughters, Normal, Unnatural & Accidental)
Cast: Dustin Milligan, Amanda Crew, Richard de Klerk, Benjamin Ratner, Teach Grant, Alexia Fast, Anja Savcic
Canada
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Textuality
Dir: Warren P. Sonoda (Coopers' Camera, 5ive Girls, Ham & Cheese)
Cast: Jason Lewis, Carly Pope, Kristen Hager, Eric McCormack
Canada
Limited Release
Official Film Site & Trailer, IMDb Page

The Warring States
Dir: Chen Jin (Mini, Love Story by Tea, Love in the Internet Generation)
Cast: Degang Guo, Huang Haibing, Wu Jiang
China
Limited Release
No Official Film Site Found, IMDb Page, Trailer

Water for Elephants
Dir: Francis Lawrence (Constantine, I Am Legend)
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz, James Frain, Hal Holbrook
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

**please note this list of releases reflects first run film released in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as of April 22, 2011**

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Movie Moxie Podcast 34: In a Better World & Political Films as a Genre

This week on the Movie Moxie Podcast Shannon chats about the Oscar winning Danish/Swedish co-production In a Better World, takes on Political Films as a Film Genre and as always takes a look at DVD releases of the week and what is heading to the theatre this Good Friday/Earth Day! We also have a return to the Question of the Week which took a wee hiatus last week.






Show Notes
0:00 – 1:10 - Introduction
1:10 – 4:50 - News
4:50 – 18:50 – In a Better World Review
18:50 – 26:15 – Political Films as a Film Genre
26:15 – 34:00 – Question of the Week
34:00 – 36:00 – DVD releases
36:00 – 39:45 – Upcoming Next Week
39:45 – 40:52 – Outro

Question of the Week: do you feel that a film is ‘better’ when you relate, resonate and recognize the truth in the journey of the protagonist? Let me know your thoughts!

Show notes

Political Films As Genre Show Notes
  • Wikipedia Definition: Political Cinema in the narrow sense of the term is a cinema which portrays current or historical events or social conditions in a partisan way in order to inform or to agitate the spectator. Political cinema exists in different forms such as documentaries, feature films, or even animated and experimental films.
  • List of All Political Films reviewed
  • I mentioned both In the Loop and Four Lions as political comedy films that I’ve enjoyed.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

DVD Releases for April 19, 2011

Time to take a look at a selection of the DVD Releases for April 19, 2011, and it looks like it's a week of royalty... and horror!
  • The King's Speech (DVD Review) Winner of 4 Academy Awards including Best Picture and a very deserving win for Best Actor Colin Firth who in this biopic plays royalty with a stammer and is aided by the unconventional Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush). I Highly recommend it.
  • Royal Collection This multi-film collection including lots of great films: The King's Speech, The Queen, The Young Victoria, Shakespeare in Love and Vanity Fair
  • Ingrid Bergman Swedish Film Collection More collections to enjoy, this one is includes June Night, A Woman's Face and Intermezzo
  • Rabbit Hole I still need to catch up with the heart wrenching looking drama bathed in grief and starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart and Dianne Wiest.
  • Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet Danielle Harris and Bill Moseley star in this slasher flick that has it's roots in a real life story (US Release Date June 14, 2011). Update: Canadian release date will be in July 2011.
  • I Love You Phillip Morris (DVD review) I love films that have look completely crazy, and then the 'based-on-a-true-story' comes up, which is what we have here in this comedy/romance starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor.
  • Somewhere (DVD Review) Story of a actor (played by Stephen Dorff) who has to deal with the unexpectedly arrival of his daughter (played by Elle Fanning), directed by Sofia Coppola.
  • Born to Raise Hell Steven Seagal stars in this crime/action film set in the Balkans that with street war, gangs and vengeance.
  • Mega Piranha With a title like Mega Piranha, do you need to know more? Okay... the more is it stars... TIFFANY! I have to see this one.
  • Damned by Dawn Supernatural horror with isolated locations, creepy grandmother and a banshee.
  • The Worst Horror Movie Ever Made Another one where the title really seems to say it all!
  • Gulliver's Travels Jack Black stars in the latest rendition of this classic adventure story.
Titles on Amazon.ca(Canada):

Royal Collection (The King's Speech/The Queen/The Young Victoria/Shakespeare in Love/Vanity Fair)
Ingrid Bergman Swedish Film Collection
Rabbit Hole
Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet
I Love You Phillip Morris
Somewhere
Born to Raise Hell
Mega Piranha
Damned By Dawn
Worst Horror Movie Ever Made
Gulliver's Travels

Titles on Amazon.com (US):


Royal Collection not currently available on Amazon.com

The King's Speech (DVD Review)

Photobucket
Image Courtesy of Alliance Films. Legal Line © 2010 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively in Canada by Alliance Films. All Rights Reserved. © 2010 The Weinstein Company. Tous droits réservés. Distribué exclusivement au Canada par Alliance Vivafilm. Tous droits réservés.

Dir: Tom Hooper (The Damned United)
Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Jennifer Ehle, Derek Jacobi, Timothy Spall
UK/Australia, 2010

Reason to see: I knew from the trailer I would see the acting-heavy, inspiring-looking biopc with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter.

Now, *this* is all the good things that awards season can bring us. Phenomenal actors, heart wrenching historical stories and Colin Firth (A Single Man) winning us over, again. And it won over many hearts and minds as it picked up 4 Academy Awards including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Colin Firth) and Best Original Screenplay.

The King’s Speech is a biopic though, and biopics can be tricky to write about as each viewer of the film may have a different level on knowledge of the history we are seeing on the screen, and for readers of this review I don’t want to spoil any of the plot with historical facts as one of the beautiful things about The King’s Speech is that it plays strongly as a drama with all the complications and conflicts along the way be they personal notations or public knowledge. So I’ll tread lightly.

In The King's Speech, Colin Firth stars as a royal with a stammer, his wife (played by Helena Bonham Carter) enlists the untraditional help of Australian Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush) to help him. It’s a fascinating, trying and compelling story about power, duty and personal pride as well as having historic relevance to boot. From the human connection perspective, the ability to express yourself, to get your message across, is a powerful thing and an important ability to each an every person in the world. Seeing a film where a person of great prestige and duty is struggling with such an everyday thing is astounding. Colin Firth projects to perfect amount of composure of someone of such an important stature, but seeing him struggle is something the audience can easily relate, sympathize with and we are most certainly cheering for him, hoping that he will overcome this burden.

The magic really happens when we see the relationship created between his character and Geoffrey Rush’s, who has taken on teaching him to work through his stammer through unconventional methods. It’s a beautiful, bumpy, real relationship that we get to see build throughout the film and the both Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are delightful to watch. It’s a perfect story of story, characters and actors who are all top notch. The importance of duty and image coupled by the personal journey of expressions plugs the story into every emotional fibre of the viewer. It’s absolutely brilliant and easily one of the best films of the 2010 and easily made The Perfect List.

DVD Extras:
  • Audio commentary with director Tom Hooper a really interesting audio commentary and it's amazing to hear that challenges of the film and the absolutely spectacular specificity to details throughout from indicators of the score to choices of character interactions, as well as lots of lovely notations to working with the fabulous cast. A pretty technical, but still very accessible commentary, which will be especially of interest if people are curious about the creative process.
  • The King's Speech: An Inspirational Story of an Unlikely Friendship (23 minutes) film clips and interviews with director Tom Hooper, producers Iain Canning & Gareth Unwin, screenwriter David Seidler, actors Colin Firth, Guy Pearce, Helena Bonham Carter, Timothy Spall & Jennifer Ehle on journey of the main character, the relationship between Bertie and Lionel, the importance of speech, the pressure and challenges of the newness of live radio, the casting, working together and characters as well as the production and costume design and the discovery and contribution of the diaries from the actual Lionel Logue.
  • Q&A with the director and cast (22 minutes) Q&A with director Tom Hooper and actors Colin Firth, Guy Pearce, Helena Bonham Carter & Claire Bloom, moderated Matt Holzman from KCRW with a live audience and answering questions on working together, on creating the stammer, on their characters, the relationships between the characters, on why choosing this story and why it had not been previously told.
  • Speeches from the Real King George VI (2 speeches) Pre-War Speech Radio Broadcast Sept 3, 1939 (5 minutes, audio played while showing image of King George) and Post-War Speech from May 14, 1945 (2 minutes, video footage).
  • The Real Lionel Logue (10 minutes) film clips along with interview with Mark Logue (Lionel Logue's grandson and co-author of The King's Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy) on how he came to the project, on Lionel Logue and his background and how he came to help people with their speech issues, the diaries of Lionel Logue and the relationship built between the King and Logue.
  • The Stuttering Foundation (1 minute) Public Service Announcement from The Stuttering Foundation
The King's Speech is available on DVD as of April 19, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I'll watch it repeatedly
I highly & widely recommend it to all

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2010-2011
Originally reviewed for Theatrical Release - December 26, 2010

Photobucket
Colin Firth stars in The King's Speech, an Alliance Films release (Image: Courtesy of Alliance Films).

Photobucket
Geoffrey Rush stars in The King's Speech, an Alliance Films release (Image: Courtesy of Alliance Films).
All content on Movie Moxie is written by Shannon Ridler, © 2006 - 2012