Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Super Hybrid (DVD Review)

DVD Review the killer car/monster movie Super Hybrid

Dir: Eric Valette (One Missed Call, State Affairs)
Cast: Shannon Beckner, Oded Fehr, Ryan Kennedy, Melanie Papalia, John Reardon, Adrien Dorval
USA/Germany, 2011 (DVD)

Reason to see: Killer Car & Oded Fehr was enough to get me interested!

Killer car, here it comes! The premise alone got me interested and I'm actually quite of fan on Oded Fehr and really wish we saw him of more and I was surprized that although he's the first name to appear, he's not the protagonist of the film. Although I do really enjoy Oded Fehr (who is in the film a lot), this was a happy surprized as this killer car movie actual follows Shannon Beckner and she is our protangonist Tilda, who with a get it done attitude and no-muss, no-fuss take on life who is easy connect to and empathize with at her not-so-glam lifestyle of working on cars with a bunch of guys included a quietly connected family member.

Given that this is an monster movie, we should chat about the car itself and this film has an interesting take on killer car idea and creatively blends in ideas that allow for the opportunity to showcase several cars and bring in a creature feel into the mix There is a fair amount of action via car chases and lots of destruction and mayhem. Although you might be thinking Christine, Super Hybrid actually takes inspiration from films like Aliens 3 and Pitch Black focusing on characters and moral dilemmas under pressure of being faced with a monster. It has classic monster movie elements of denial, disbelief and of course dismemberment. I actually quite enjoyed our female protagonist grease monkey Tilda (Shannon Beckner), she's reluctant to try out the hero role of the crazy situation but steps closer in that direction each time our antagonist (or at least non-vehicular antagonist) the brutish Ray (Oded Fehr). Ray & Tilda play off each other really well, giving both tension to the crazy situation and an uneven opportunity for the remaining cast members to feel the need to choose sides. And with survivalist films, you know side-taking is likely going to crop up and ramp up everything.

I enjoyed the action sequences and chases, both of which are pretty fun and we get lots of different cars and vehicles in action. This makes up for the non-car special effects which aren't as snazzy but pretty on par with a lot of monster movies out there. I also really enjoyed the rag tag group of characters we follow through the mayhem, whom I actually connected to more that expected. If you watch a lot of monster movie you can usually see where they are going, but with this kind of film that’s where I find half the fun – how crazy will they take it? How far will they go? Who will survive (if anyone) versus the monster? Even if you figure out each and every moment, it’s still a hell of a lot of fun to watch the mayhem in action.

DVD Extras:
  • Under the Hood of Super Hybrid (34 minutes) substantial featurertte that includes film clips, behind the scenes, interviews with director Eric Valette, producers Oliver Hengst, Elizabeth Wang-Lee & Kevin Dewalt, writer Neal Marshall Stevens, production designer Tom Valentine, cinematographer John Leonetti, special effects artist Emersen Z., 2nd unit director Richie Burden, actors Shannon Beckner, Oded Fehr, Melanie Papalia, Ryan Kennedy on the premise of the film, the stigma of the genre, the stunts & the huge number of cars destroyed in the process of filming (100+!), selection of and working with director Eric Valette and Shannon Beckner as Tilda, that the film is centred on the story & character journeys over CGI & effects and the characters their roles in the film; plus sections on The Look, The Cars, The Special Effects & .... that go through the locations of the film including the creation of the parking garage and the inspiration behind the look & feel of it and the challenge of the confined location, working with the red camera, the car as a character and film and the changes it goes through during the film, the effects in and touches on their creation and placement in the film and behind the scenes on some set up and shooting of car action scene plus challenges of all stunt working being mostly interiors and the importance of putting the stunt team together. This featurette has a voice over to guide you through, but it refers to the film as Hybrid, as opposed to the DVD title Super Hybrid.
Super Hybrid is available on DVD as of August 23, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'd watch it again
I'd recommend it as fans of car films and monster film

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Prom Review: 2-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray + DVD) Review

DVD Review of the Disney coming of age film Prom starring Aimee Teegarden & Thomas McDonell.



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, Joe Adler
USA, 2011

Reason to see: Trailer easily piqued my interest

I've wanted to see Prom from the very first trailer I saw for it. It's hard to resist the teen drama angst, super sweet tone and the perpetual question of "Who will *you* go with?".

In the film we follow Nova Prescott (Aimee Teegarden) prom organizer extraordinaire, who is committed to giving the senior class the best, most important and last dance of the year. To do lists in hand and a trusty team of helpers, it looks like all is going according to plan. But life, nor prom, seems to ever go according to plan. Part of the non-plan comes into play with bad boy Jesse (Thomas McDonell), a very non-interested-in-prom guy gets roped into helping out with the grand event and of course him & Nova don't get along. Tensions mount as Prom gets closer and closer and we get closer and closer to understanding Nova and Jesse, and they to understanding each other.

Both Nova & Jesse are character with stories we are familiar with, but what I loved about the film is that it knows we are familiar with them and therefore can play with the type a little bit and get away with it. Don't get me wrong, it's not super out of the box and stays pretty risk-free but it does demonstrate the power of choice and the effect that choice has. The film does take the opportunity to get a little more out of the box while the supporting cast though, as we follow stories from eternally forever together couple Mei & Justin (played by Yin Chang & Jared Kusnitz), the popularity couple Tyler & Jordan (played by De'Vaughn Nixon & Kylie Bunbury), and a trio of sophomores including music obsessed best friends Lucas & Corey (played by Nolan Sotillo & Cameron Monaghan) and cutie Simone (Danielle Campbell) whose lives intertwine with senior prom goers in different ways. From them we experience a lot of romance drama, conflicting expectations and the tip of the iceberg of cascading decisions that they know will ripple over into the rest of their lives. And those are just the power-couples! Personally, I loved the polar opposite stories of Lloyd (Nicholas Braun) on the continual quest to find a prom date and the very relaxed Rolo (Joe Adler) whom isn't phased by all the hoopla around the prom takes everything in stride.

There is a huge emphasis on the lengths people will go to being asked, and it's sweet to see all the ways. I've always found the allure and emphasis on prom a bit elusive as here in Canada it's not as big a deal (and we call it the Formal), although any opportunity to get pretty and dance is something I support.

Prom is heart warming and sweet, and even puts a toe forward onto some pretty safe but still new ground in terms of bucking the norm and getting out there. I had a blast watching it and could easily recommend it for pure smiles, laughs & all-around fun.

DVD Extras:
  • Putting on Prom Featurette (6 minutes) film clips, interviews with producer Justin Springer, writer Katie Wech, director Joe Nussbaum and actors Yin Chang, Joe Adler, Nolan Sotillo, Nicholas Braun, Janelle Ortiz, De'Vaughn Nixon, Kylie Bunbury, Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonell, Raign Rodriguez, Danielle Campbell on the inspiration for the story, the characters, casting - especially the choice of going with mostly new actors, peoples experiences with prom, the effect, impact & importance of prom and working together on the film.
  • Bloopers (2 minutes) really funny collection of bloopers from physical blunders to line screw ups to all around goofing around.
BluRay Extras:
  • All New Short: Last Chance Lloyd following the character of Lloyd (Nicholas Braun) on his quest to find a date
  • Bloopers
  • 4 Deleted Scenes
  • Putting on Prom Featurette
  • 7 Music Videos including Allstar Weekend—“Not Your Birthday”, Neon Trees—“Your Surrender”, Moon—“Time Stand”, Nolan Sotillo—“We Could Be Anything” (English version), Nolan Sotillo—“Juntos Lo Haremos Bien” (Spanish version), Those Dancing Days—“I’ll Be Yours” and Girl In A Coma—“Come On, Let’s Go”
  • & more
Prom is available on DVD as of August 30, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll happily watch it again
I'd recommend it to fans of high school set films & teen dramas

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011





Film Reviews - Mexico

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011) *

*indicates co-production

Back to Countries List

DVD Releases for August 30, 2011

Time to take a look at a selection of DVD releases for Tuesday August 30, 2011!
  • Prom (DVD Review) Disney's high school drama set along the backdrop of getting ready for the all important event of The Prom. It's quite charming and very enjoyable. DVD review will be up soon!
  • The Ward (DVD Review) I can't wait to get my hands on this John Carpenter directed film set in 1960's in a mental institution with "unseen forces". I'm hoping it's as creepy as it sounds.
  • Vampire Diaries: The Complete Second Season TV Series based on the L.J. Smith novels and it's got vampires, witches, love triangles, higt school drama and general mayhem throughout. I don't know how they get so much into each and every episode. If you haven't hopped on this fun train there is still time to catch up with Season 3 starting on September 15, 2011. I've been on board since day one and chatted through almost the entire series over at Hexed: Sisterhood of the Supernatural.
  • Paranormal State: Season Five I was late to the party on this one, but it's a fantastic non-fiction paranormal show with paranormal investigator Ryan Buell, and what really won me over is that the team always approaches the cases from the perspective of helping the people who are being affected. Another one that I chat about over at Hexed: Sisterhood of the Supernatural.
  • Nikita: The Complete First Season Action series starring Maggie Q in the title role inspired by the film La Femme Nikita of a forced trained agent who turns on and works towards exposing the company who trained her.
  • Cell 211 Oh, I thought this was the Canadian horror flick Cell 213 (out soon I think), but it appears to be a Spanish film. Let's call it this week's wildcard!
  • Bereavement Lots of buzz on this film recently with Michael Biehn in town just last weekend at Fan Expo! It's a prequel to Malevolence, and I'll admit it looked a little to brutal for me about a kidnapped kid who is forced to do some really bad things. Also stars John Savage, Alexandra Daddario and Brett Rickab.
  • Roadkill I remember hearing about this horror flick over at the Saturday B Movie Reel over at Tuning into SciFi TV and although it didn't sound great, it did get my curious!
  • Win Win I'm a sucker for inspiring stories and sport films and this indie flick seems to have it both, and is from the director of The Station Agent and The Visitor: Tom McCarthy.
Titles on Amazon.ca(Canada):



Titles on Amazon.com (US):

Friday, 26 August 2011

Film Fan Fridays for Friday August 26, 2011

Hello Film Fans and Fanatics!

Welcome to Film Fan Fridays for Friday August 26, 2011! I know many of us are deep in the trenches of scheduling out TIFF plans for the year, but we still have a packed Friday full of interesting releases hitting theatres this weekend.

In limited release this week we have 3 films to choose from and I have my eye of the Irish comedy The Guard starring Brendan Gleeson as an Irish cop and Don Cheadle and an FBI agent who have to team up against their will - funny how many cop films have this premise, and each and every time I want to see them! We also have the war drama 5 Days of War starring Rupert Friend, Andy Garcia & Val Kilmer and the documentary Chasing Madoff.

In wide release this week we have 4 releases including supernatural horror flick Don't Be Afraid of the Dark starring Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, directed by Troy Nixey ("Latchkey's Lament") and produced by Guillermo del Toro and keeping the tension high we have the vengeance/action film Columbiana starring Zoe Saldana (The Losers) stars as a hitwoman. We also have the telling it then-and-now film The Debt with the story of three secret agents and a look back at their assignment from the 60's and this one has a stellar cast including Helen Mirren, Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, Marton Csokas, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Wilkinson & Jesper Christensen. Wow. Last up for wide releases is the Paul Rudd comedy Our Idiot Brother, also starring Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer.

Columbiana
Also stars Jordi Molla, Lennie James, Michael Vartan and Cliff Curtis; directed by Oliver Megaton (Transporter 3).
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Fan Expo

Have a great weekend!

Shannon

Festival Watch

Fan Expo
Horror, Gaming, Anime, Comic Book & Sci Fi Expos
August 24 - 28, 2011 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Friday August 26, 2011 Releases

5 Days of War
Dir: Renny Harlin (Twelve Rounds, The Covenant )
Cast: Rupert Friend, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Richard Coyle, Andy Garcia, Val Kilmer
USA
Limited Releases
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Chasing Madoff
Dir: Jeff Prosserman - feature film directorial debut
Documentary
USA/Canada
Limited Releases
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Columbiana
Dir: Oliver Megaton (Transporter 3)
Cast: Zoe Saldana, Jordi Molla, Lennie James, Michael Vartan,Cliff Curtis
USA/France
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

The Debt (2011)
Dir: John Madden (Killshot, Proof (2005), Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Shakespeare in Love)
Cast: Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, Helen Mirren, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Wilkinson, Jesper Christensen
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)
Dir: Troy Nixey ("Latchkey's Lament")
Cast: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison, Jack Thompson
USA/Australia/Mexico
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

The Guard (2011)
Writer/Dir: John Michael McDonagh - feature film directorial debut
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong, Fionnula Flanagan
Ireland
Limited Releases
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Our Idiot Brother
Dir: Jesse Peretz (The Château & First Love, Last Rites)
Cast: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Steve Coogan, Rashida Jones, Hugh Dancy, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

**please note this list of releases reflects first run film released in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as of August 26, 2011**

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2011: Passes on Sale



It's time to start getting excited about this year's Toronto After Dark Film Festival, as passes for the 2011 festival are now on sale and the All Access Pass gets you into all of the 19 screenings with priority entry. If you haven't already heard, the festival has moved their schedule back to spooky October (I'm so happy about this) plus they have changed locations this year and the festival will be at the Toronto Underground Cinema downtown at Queen & Spadina. I'm a Queen Street Girl at heart so I can work with that, although it will be strange to be someone other than the Bloor.

I'm looking forward to hearing what titles are in store for this years festival and if you are heading out to the Fan Expo this weekend be sure to stop by the Toronto After Dark booth (#1520) and ask for a sneak peak to the festival this year! They will be sharing 8 of the titles over the weekend, and the curiousity is driving me insane! I can't wait to hear what they are! Action, science fiction, horror and zombies are sure to be on the roster and looking at titles from past festival year such as Black Dynamite and Let the Right One In / Låt den rätte komma in, I'm sure we'll be are heading into to another amazing year. I can't wait.

The Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2011 runs from October 20-27, 2011 at the Toronto Underground Cinema, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

TrollHunter / Trolljegeren (DVD Review)

DVD review of the brilliant Norwegian monster film TrollHunter / Trolljegeren
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Image Courtesy of Alliance Films
Legal Line ©2010 Filmkameratene AS. All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively in Canada by Alliance Films. All Rights Reserved.

Writer/Dir: André Øvredal (Future Murder)
Cast: Glenn Erland Tosterud, Otto Jespersen, Johanna Mørck, Tomas Alf Larsen, Hans Morten Hansen
Norway, 2011

Reason to see: A Norwegian monster movie is a must-see in my book.

Trollhunter is a vérité style (found footage) film following a group of students who are on the trail of capturing a story involving mysterious bear attacks and an elusive hunter. The team includes the quietly enthusiastic Thomas (Glenn Tosterud), Johanna working the sound (Johanna Mørck) and Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) whom we mostly hear over seeing as his character is behind the camera. They set off in their search involving mysterious tracks in the woods and try to deduce what has been going on by interviews locals, as well as hunters and a government official. The follow their nose spirit of looking into the mystery gives the film a fantastic, adventurous spirit to it as the audience doesn't know any more or less than the trio at any time.

As a spoiler-free film reviewer, this is one of my favourite kinds of films and because it's so great I can (and do) recommend going into the film blind and just seeing it. It's highly entertaining, very engaging and looks gorgeous at every step. The characters are very accessible and pull off the natural tone with ease, creating a perfect canvas for any tone it takes, be it human drama or horror or even comedy. The actors are amazing, bringing very realistic reactions to any given scenario making it a joy for the audience to be brought into their world. I was particularly impressed with Glenn Tosterud as the curious and persistant Thomas and Hans Morten Hansen as gruff and elusive Finn.

The film is excellent, and is able to blend the horror easily with humour and the human factor. I loved how even though it's fun and very funny at times, it's not over the top or going for laughs because it's strongly rooted in the human factor as well as the mythology and stories of the Trolls. It's absolutely gorgeous to watch, with tons of time spend outdoors in the woods and in nature which is a treat to see and gives a huge vastness of the land that is ever present and mysterious given weight to idea of letting your mind fill with infinite possibilities on what could be 'out there'.

Bringing fable to life in modern day culture isn't easy, but TrollHunter pulls it off at every turn. I watch a lot of monster movies, and TrollHunter is truly a cut above. I absolutely loved it and highly recommend checking it out.

I had a chance to chat with director André Øvredal and actor Glenn Tosterud about the film, and you can see that interview here or listen to it here.

DVD Extras:
  • Deleted Scenes (5 scenes, 3 minutes) * nice collection of deleted scenes more on the hunting and tracking, as well as some fun goofy bits with the students.
  • Improvs & Bloopers (2 minutes) 2 improvs both funny to serious and some funny bloopers
  • Extended Scenes (3 scenes, 7 minutes) * extended scenes including the students interviewing various people about the unusual activity and also chatting with Hans. These were fun to see and it's wild to watch extended scenes for a vérité style film, because you kind of turn your brain off a bit and don't question the pacing, but it is still structured and created. Very interesting.
  • Visual Effects (6 minutes) 4 sections on Visual Effects Breakdowns: Ringlefinch, Digital Models, Jotnar and Tosserland & Mountain Kings. Really cool breakdowns of several of the creatures and shows visually how they were incorporated into the film, and I loved the Digital Models section which included really awesome troll classifications. No audio, just visuals and in very clear stages to tell the story of how they put the trolls in the film.
  • Behind-the-Scenes (23 minutes) * 7 behind the scenes: Troll Foot, Good Vibes on the Shoot, While We Wait, Russian Bear, The Tin Man, The Beard & Movie Stars. Really cool to see some of the preparation, test run and then actual footage for a vérité style film, to see the planning that's involved as well as the final footage. It was also fun to see prep work for some of the stunts, props & make up (especially Otto Jespersen's beard!) as well as the contrast between prepping, waiting and goofing around until actual shooting. behind the scenes and shooting.
  • Galleries (6 minutes) Troll Sketches & Troll Habitats concepts sketches of trolls and lots of locations shots of habitats set to music.
  • HDNet: A Look at Trollhunter (4 minutes) featurette with film clip, critics quotes and interviews with writer/director André Øvredal & actor Glenn Tosterud about the premise of the film, the different layers in the film, the character of the Trollhunter, the road movie feel of the film, the intent to make it feel very real and the design of the trolls.
  • * All DVD extras in Norwegian are subtitled in English
TrollHunter / Trolljegeren is available on DVD as of August 23, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I'd watch it, repeatedly
I highly & widely recommend it

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011
Originally reviewed for Theatrical Release - August 19, 2011

Fall Reading Selections - 2011 Book to Film Club

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Time to share what we'll be reading for this Fall for the Book to Film Club! By process of elimination you've know the titles as they are the last three from the original list, but here is the reading order:

September 2011 Book: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
In anticipation for the film Hugo from director Martin Scorcese (Shutter Island, The Departed, Gangs of New York, Goodfellas). This is the only book to film where they've changed the title on us, but at least it's very recognizable transition. It's also a bit different as the book is a combination written & illustrated book and was inspired by "Georges Méliès, his surviving films, and his collection of mechanical, wind-up figures called automata. (source)". I hope the film keep sthat kind of feel! The film stars Asa Butterfield, Chloë Moretz, Michael Pitt, Jude Law, Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen
Film Release Date: November 23, 2011

October 2011 Book: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
A supernatural thriller followsing a young lawyer who goes to small town which has a menacing spectre. I can't wait for this one! Stars Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter series), Ciarán Hinds (The Eclipse) and Janet McTeer, directed by James Watkins (Eden Lake). I'm really excited because information (including stills & trailers) have started to be released and a North American release date has also been confirmed, this one was a bit of a gamble and looks like it will pay off - we'll read it in spooky October and have a few months to process before it hits the big screen.
Film Release Date: February 3, 2012

November 2011 Book: Brighton Rock - by Graham Greene
The book is a crime thriller set in the 1930's, and the film adaptation shifts the setting to the 60's. Film stars Sam Riley (Control, Franklyn), Andrea Riseborough, Andy Serkis, John Hurt and Helen Mirren and is directed by Rowan Joffe. I think I used up all my guessing luck on release dates with The Woman in Black as Brighton Rock continues to elude us, unless you are in New York & LA where it will open August 26, 2011.
Film Release Date: Feb 4, 2011 (UK), Opens in New York & LA August 26, 2011. Still awaiting confirmation on wider North American release date.

And that rounds out the year for Book to Film Club as we'll take December off as intended, giving us a tally of 11 books read this year. Not all our books had their films come out on screen and some release dates were pushed to 2012, but I'm sure we'll keep our fingers crossed to see them on the big screen soon.

It's never to late to join the Book to Film Club! Feel free to join us at any time by hopping into this months read of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas or joining us in September with The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. You are welcome at any time. Sign up for updates here.

NEDS (DVD Review)

DVD Review of NEDS (Non-Educated Deliquents) from writer/director Peter Mullan

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Image Courtesy of eOne Films

Writer/Dir: Peter Mullan (The Magdalene Sisters)
Cast: Conor McCarron, Richard Mack, Peter Mullan, Marianna Palka, David McKay, Joe Szula, Christopher Wallace
UK/France/Italy, 2011

Reason to see: Acclaim and I've really enjoyed Peter Mullan acting in the past

Set in 1970 Glasgow, Scotland NEDS follows John McGill, a smart young boy who isn't given many, or possibly any, chances in life and is continually faced with getting the short end of the stick. He's luck some times is bad and he often being on the wrong end of power dynamic and having no one to look up to.

John is predominately played by Conor McCarron, who does a great job with the character, a boy is often quiet but clearly strong as well as smart. You can feel John's need to grow and do something, to be someone and to be seen all while still maintaining a malleable-ness as he hasn't yet grown into the person he will be yet. It's so tragic to see a character with such drive and intention but with zero support, incentive or role models. No one expects anything from him and he's already shrouded by the shadow of his older brother Benny who is feared by all the local boys. It's amazing to see that actuality of when there is so little to react to or be a part of, people will go wherever the energy is be it good or back. Time after time of being uninvolved, disillusioned, left out, left behind and overlooked eventually do add up and it's heartbreaking to see.

One of the challenges of trying to keep spoiler free on films is that sometimes I'll keep research to a minimum and it this case I wish I went a few steps further. Peter Mullan was certainly the draw here and I've loved every performance I've seen him in from True North at TIFF in 2006 (which I saw twice at the festival, because it was just that good), to Boy A and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. And I thought his performance was great here too, but he's behind the camera as well in the writer/directors chair which is where where I missed a research step as I didn't realize he also brought us the highly acclaimed, tough-set The Magdalene Sisters, which I had a really hard time with. It's not that the films aren't good, they are, but suffering through the limited choices, joyless lives and seeing how easily people can turn to cruelty is almost too much for me to bear. I get it, but I don't always want to see it. Or perhaps I don't feel I need to see it. But, I can easily see how the story can resonate with people and it in any way encourages other people to open the eyes and be kinder and/or provide a catharsis through relateability or otherwise, I can totally understand the bond people have with this film.

I did love the cast, they are a completely energetic rag tag group of guys that get across both visceral nature of the violence in the film just as well as the kids-being-kids silliness, and you can feel the difference between the two energies which is something as an viewer I really appreciated as it feels like we know the line, but perhaps John does not. For the performances, along with Conor McCarron as John and Peter Mullan as Mr. McGill, I also thought Joe Szula as John's brother Benny & Christopher Wallace as Wee T were particularly good and I'll be keeping my eye on what they do in the future.

And one final admission. I watched it with the subtitles on. The accents are awesome and I watch a lot of international film & TV, but my Canadian ears were missing a lot of the words.

DVD Extras:
  • Deleted Scenes (2 scenes, 8 minutes and 4 minutes) one really long extended scene that's great in showing encounter with a different side of adult supervision and indifference and a great scene between John & his brother Benny.

NEDS is available on DVD as of August 23, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it/loved it/didn't love it
I'd watch it again/buy it
I'd recommend it as

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Tactical Force (DVD Review)

DVD review of action flick Tactical Force starring Steve Austin, Michael Jai White, Michael Eklund and Keith Jardine

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Image Courtesy of eOne Films

Writer/Dir: Adamo P. Cultraro (Corrado)
Cast: Steve Austin, Michael Jai White, Lexa Doig, Michael Shanks, Michael Eklund, Candace Elaine, Steve Bacic, Adrian Holmes, Keith Jardine, Darren Shahlavi
USA, 2011

Reason to see: Action films start with a yes for me

I was really impressed with last years Hunt to Kill, so when I saw a new Steve Austin action flick which also starred Michael Jai White (Black Dynamite) I had no quams about giving this sucker a try. We follow a SWAT team that is, how shall I put it... overly enthusiastic about their jobs and given that they are not suppose to 'enjoy' them so much they are reprimanded to menial drills to brush up on tactics through exercises and of course things are going to go wrong. They have too! Because if there are no problems to solve, how are our team going to set things right?

Straight-up full-force action entertainment. I loved the cast which along with Steve Austin whose good at the team lead and Michael Jai White who can fight like a machine and be sweet at the same time, we also have Michael Shanks ("Stargate") as a Russian (I assume…) baddie, Michael Eklund (Hunt to Kill, 'Intelligence') as a snitch and lots more baddies to choose from Adrian Holmes as suave Lampone, Candace Elaine as deadly Ilya Kalashnikova or Keith Jardine as the powerhouse Tagliaferro. It's like a pot of gold of characters, all of them are different from each other and are fun to watch. The film also is clever to use a premise that limits it to only a few locations which means we can focus on the action. And the action is where it's at, I love how we get lots of different action sequences and fights all throughout the film and in an impressive amount of locations given the structure. I didn't always know who would end up fighting who, but it was pretty much a guarantee that everyone would be fighting someone at some point. Lots of great fights and action sequences, with interesting choreography and a check of a lot of punches.

Overall, Tactical Force was tons of fun. The action is great and the characters are either likeable, or you like to hate 'em and that make each moment on screen worth watching. The DVD also has a great featurette with Steve Austin, Michael Jai White and Keith Jardine with some behind the scenes on lots of the fights that was a treat to watch as well. A fun film that I'll definitely be watching again.

DVD Extras:
  • Inside Tactical Force featuring Steve Austin, Michael Jai White and Keith Jardine (10 minutes) film clips, behind the scenes, selections from fight sequences and interviews with Steve Austin, Michael Jai White and Keith Jardine discussing the film story, their characters, working on the film, training with an actual SWAT team and focus on accuracy with the weapons, fight style choices for the different characters, and working together.
  • Fight Sequence (2 minutes) awesome montage of the fight sequences in the film.
  • Trailer
Tactical Force is available on DVD as of August 23, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I easily recommend it to action film fans

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Meet Monica Velour (DVD Review)

DVD review of Meet Monica Velour starring Kim Cattrall & Dustin Ingram

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Image Courtesy Anchor Bay Entertainment

Writer/Dir: Keith Bearden - feature film directorial debut
Cast: Kim Cattrall, Dustin Ingram, Brian Dennehy, Keith David, Jee Young Han, Jamie Tisdale, Daniel Yelsky
USA, 2011

Reason to see: Unconventional friendships often win me over

I'll admit I had a few hesitation going into Meet Monica Velour, which follows an former adult star who has ends up meeting one of her adoring and rather young fan. The premise alone has an air of creep to it, but there was something interesting that kept drawing me to the film - it could have been the fantastic Kim Cattrall or the quirkiness of the idea or most likely the unlikely friendship that made me take the chance. And I'm certainly glad I did take a chance, because it turned out to be one hell of a fun and touching film.

Meet Monica Velour is a fantastic film showcasing life, expectations and the complexity of where those two things meet. We follow high school Tobe (Dustin Ingram) who is a die hard fan of Monica Velour, who now lives a less than glamorous life and just trying to make ends meet. Her life is rough, but Tobe can’t help but naively see her in the most ideal light and sweetly treats her with the utmost care and honour at every turn.

It's amazing how many times I thought the film could go creepy, but it doesn't. Tobe has a beautiful innocence to him which seems strange given that he surrounds himself with Monica-paraphernalia of posters and videos, but it also gives him a way to channel this awe of Monica. Kim Cattrall is fantastic as the seen-and-done-it-all Monica, who barely could give a care about this gangly kid who optimistically keeps turning up to see her, without having a clue about her rough and tumble life. There is a great balance between a sweet shyness and stark realism in the film, how it can show turning a blind eye to things we don’t want to see just as easily as a truth that you don’t want to believe but know to be true. And it’s all done with sense of honesty and often fair dose of beautiful awkwardness. Both Dustin Ingram and Kim Cattrall do a great job of showing a strong emotional range in their characters that makes them easy to relate to and cheer for. The film also has a great supporting cast including Keith David as Claude, who serves as the wise man of advice and stability.

I loved the gentle awkwardness that is present in almost every moment of the film, and I loved how funny it was. Not over the top or ridiculous, although it can be with some of the fun period early-Monica-days, but just in how it shows the truth of human nature and brings these characters to life. It was wild to see that juxtaposition of innocence and knowingness, and how they could still learn and grow from each other. Truly delightful and hilarious to boot.

DVD Extras:
  • Audio Commentary with writer/director Keith Bearden and actress Kim Cattrall, really nice conversational commentary chatting about the overall story, the characters of Tobe and Monica and the inspiration behind the character of Monica and putting the costumes and look for her together, the art direction & props, how the film is not a morality tale, changes that happened along the way, challenges of a first time filmmaking including casting some of the extras and funny stories from filming.
  • Deleted Scenes (4 scenes, 7 minutes) combination of extended and deleted scenes including a faux old Monica movie and pretty funny fantasy sequence, and scenes that insights into Tobe's life and prospects.
  • Trailer
Meet Monica Velour is available on DVD as of August 16, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com.

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I'll watch it again/buy it
I strongly recommend to fans of quirky comedies and films with unconventional relationships

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

One Day (2011)

Review of the film One Day starring Anne Hathaway & Jim Sturgess, directed by Lone Scherfig, based on the novel by David Nicholls

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Dir: Lone Scherfig (An Education)
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Rafe Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Ken Stott, Romola Garai
USA, 2011

Seen: August 19, 2011 at the Varsity

Reason to see: It's part of the 2011 Book to Film Club and on my list of Most Anticipated Films of 2011 (mid-year addition)

I was really excited to finally see One Day. I loved the book, which we read in May for the Book to Film Club and book selection especially it's unusually narrative structure of touching base with out two protagonists Emma & Dexter on the same day year after year. I thought the casting for them was perfect with Anne Hathaway (Devil Wears Prada, Rachel Getting Married) as the bookish Emma and Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe, Heartless) as the flash hipster Dexter, and the both completely embody their characters which made it easy for me to love the film. And I really loved the film. I LOVED it. I love how it incorporated the unusually narrative structure and stayed very true to the book (I actually can't think of any deviation), which I can only imagine would be due to the writer David Nicholls also penning the screenplay.

I love how the film shows a lot of the everyday lives of Dex & Em, and how it can vary on good days to bad day because it's always on the same day of the year and you just don't know how it will turn out. How Emma can be down on herself and Dexter can be too high on himself and somehow they barrage each other to meet in the middle. It's a slice after slice after slice of their lives, each of them building, growing and toppling in different directions but still always being themselves, for better or for worse. It also manages to accomplish feeling of the depth you get from slow burn building of the stories, but it in fact the film goes by rather quickly. The result is a compromise of knowing rather than seeing the depth of the friendship between Dexter and Emma grow over time, which is my only criticisms of the film. And that's barely a criticism of the film because I didn't actually need it, but I did want it. I always believed the stage and strength or fragility between them, no matter when in time it was. I just wanted to see it more of them.

One personal treat of the film is the art director, costuming and hair. I might appreciate this more than other films as it's officially the first 'period piece' that I've lived through all the stages and I remember all the clothes, hair, glasses and heck even lighting trends of the time and they are all spot on. That gave the film something a little extra special because I could remember when I would have wore that dress or when everyone went for a certain style or when something was new, or when something had started to fade away. The film is very much about the long-term and how relationships can change and grow over time as well as how some things never change no matter how hard you try (or pretend to try).

But it's really about the characters of Em & Dex, and Anne Hathaway & Jim Sturgess are brilliant here, truly making the film. I think I'm slightly influenced as I heard the casting before reading it or just after I started and I could see them as the characters - especially Jim Sturgess as Dex. And I don't what they did to make him look different in the earlier years, but I didn't even really recognize him and somehow that was perfect too. Then all of a sudden it was like there! There he is! Really bizarre. The supporting I didn't know about going in and ended up being such a treat, Patricia Clarkson & Ken Stott as Dexter's parents gave a lovely depth to his character which can all to easily be brushed off as unlikable. But the biggest surprize was Rafe Spall as Ian, who is the funniest non-funny guy I've ever seen. Brilliant. So brilliant.

If you read and enjoyed the book I'd highly recommend seeing the film, and if you haven't I would recommend checking out the book first. For people that haven't read the book, it’s easy to misinterpret it as quirky cute or straight up romance but it's truly about life, love and real relationships. It's neither over the top whimsy nor gritty and dark, but fits solidly and perfectly as genuine and real. I loved it.

See also: One Day DVD Review

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I'll buy it
I'd highly recommend it to fans of the book, relationship dramas and dramas

Also see: 2011 Book to Film Adaptations and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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The Beaver (DVD Review)

DVD review of the drama The Beaver directed by Jodie Foster and starting Mel Gibson, Jodie Fostr, Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence

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Image courtesy of eOne Films

Dir: Jodie Foster (Home for the Holidays, Little Man Tate)
Cast: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence, Cherry Jones, Riley Thomas Stewart
USA, 2011

Reason to see: Idea of a puppet being therapeutic intrigued me

The Beaver follows the journey of Walter (Mel Gibson) a man battle depression which puts him really on the edge and adversely affects his family including his wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) and their sons Porter (Anton Yelchin) and Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart).

Wow, I knew The Beaver was about someone who talks though a beaver, but I had no idea how dark and depressing it would be. I guess I thought it would be more about therapy or someone finding themselves over literally depression and mental illness, and that makes it more of a challenge to review as I find films on mental illness hard to watch and therefore don't often fit them in to my viewing schedule. To make it even more complicated, there certainly are some comedic tones to the film (there is a talking puppet after all) but I would give it kudos for balancing the comedy with the tragedy and not going for dark comedy and also not pulling any punches.

It really sits with the darkness of depression, and even though it's uncomfortable and creates imbalance in the relationships between the family and all of the people in the film. The introduction of Walter talking though the puppet of the beaver initially helps and brings in some comedy but it also creates it's own slew of problems as well. Again shows the challenge of what to do when things aren't okay and how to deal with that with the people you love, or the possibly even more destructive effect of not dealing with what people are going through. Although there feels like some absurdity in the ideas, the film plays it very straight but I often found myself just wondering if they were going to go further. Because of this there is an extreme element of disembodied attachment that reminded me of The Red Shoes, the reliance on an object to obtain a goal and it's a very unnerving thing.

Even though there is tough subject matter to get through, at least we are receive them via some very strong performances, in particular Mel Gibson as Walter and in effect the beaver itself. I was also very impressed with Anton Yelchin's performance here, I've been keeping an eye on him for a while and it's nice to see him in an original role as both Terminator Salvation and Star Trek had strong characters and source material to draw on. Here, it's a clear that he's got the acting chops to hold his own among Jodie Foster & Mel Gibson along Jennifer Lawrence who plays Norah a fellow high school student that fills in and interesting side plot to the films mix.

It wasn't an easy watch and is easily outside my normal watch range, but I can see how the human drama, mental illness themes and strong performances could be a pull for those who enjoy films that don't hold back and really go deep into the emotional core of things. If the study of human nature is your thing, The Beaver is definitely one to see.

DVD Extras:
  • Audio Commentary with director Jodie Foster about the character of Walter and his depression, the effect of his depression on the entire family and people around him, the relationships within the familiar, challenges of the film, different choices an possibilities of how or if the beaver would talk, the choice of what kind of puppet and the clarity of it really being a prop, the casting of Anton Yelchin & Jennifer Lawrence and their characters of Porter & Norah, when scenes were shot or re-shot, desired tone of scenes, ideas and scenes that didn't make the final cut of the film and plus very interesting notation on what was a deal breaker for many people for the film. Although I found the film a challenging watch, I really enjoyed listening to the commentary and hearing the insights, inspirations and a more relatability perspective from director Jodie Fostr.
  • Deleted Scenes (2 scenes, 4 minutes) with option commentary from director discussing the nature of the scenes and what they bring to the film and characters, as well as why they weren't included in the film. Commentary is nice as they acts as introduction & explanation to scenes but aren't total voice-overs.
  • Everything is Going To Be O.K. ~ Featurette on the making-of The Beaver (12 minutes) film clips, behind the scenes and interviews with director/actor Jodie Foster, producer Steve Golin, actors Mel Gibson, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence and Cherry Jones introducing to the film and the character of Walter, the story, the characters, working with the puppet and design ideas on puppet choice, the complicated choice around what tone to go with considering both the dark and comedic nature of the film plus the casting choices & working together.
The Beaver is available on DVD as of August 23, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I wanted to enjoyed it more
I'm not sure I'd watch it again
I'd recommend it fans of films that explore human nature, especially mental illness

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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(L-R) MEL GIBSON, RILEY THOMAS STEWART and JODIE FOSTER star in THE BEAVER. Photo Ken Regan, Courtesy of eOne Films

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ANTON YELCHIN stars in THE BEAVER. Photo Ken Regan, Courtesy of eOne Films

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JENNIFER LAWRENCE stars in THE BEAVER. Photo Myles Aronowitz, Courtesy of eOne Films

TIFF 2011: Festival Schedule Goes Live Today

I've said it before and I'll say it again, planning your TIFF experience all comes down to The Schedule and today is the day it goes live. I often have weighted lists of to see films and cross checked lists to try and get a balanced approach to touch on all the bases, themes, and must see films that I want to pack into each year. And then the schedule comes out and all the planning can fall into place - or you could have your top 3 must see films only play in conflict with one another.

That's when you put on your creativity cap and get to planning. I'm a pen & paper person myself (or more specifically graph paper, pencil and highlighters...), but I know people that have had great success using online tools as well. Know what works for you. That is the most important thing for scheduling as well as enjoying the festival: Know what works for you.

Want to see the stars? Your best chance to see them at an intro or Q&A is at the first screening, especially if the film is a World or International premiere. The list of guests has arrived (PDF Link) an it is full, full, full to the brim with people I'm sure we'd all love to see.

If you like Q&A's, give yourself time between screenings Often screenings will have Q&A's after the film, so give yourself a little extra time if you want to stay. Filmmakers and actors come from all over the world to show and share their films, so honour the opportunity to hear what they have to say. And, why not even ask a question if you're feeling brave!

Are you a completist? Join in the ranks of the Midnight Madness crowd and go to all the screenings in the programme, or pick another programme, country or even an actor and make your own completist experience by seeing as much as or all of those films at the festival that fit your own theme.

Like suprizes? Have someone else pick the films for you. Wow, that seems rather radical, I can't imagine doing it myself but you never know what treasure you may find.

Like meeting people? The lines at TIFF are a great way to connect with fellow films fans from Toronto and aboard. Be friendly and see what happens!

Know your pace If you know seeing 3 films is your max, work with that number as your base, if you can tack another one in that's a must see, try it but don't continually push your limits. or 11 days we'll be pushing a lot of limits, so choose wisely which ones to give into and which ones to let go. I know I'll happily sit through 6 screenings in a row, but it's not for everyone.

Know what works for you. Think of previous years, and which have been the screenings and experiences that you cherish the most. What was it that made it so special? Can you make that happen again? I sure hope so!

The Festival’s Official Film Schedule comes out today online but if you are more of a paper person it's available at The Festival Box Office at 225 King Street West (see hours & box office info here). Or if you have the patience to wait a few days check the Thursday August 25, 2011 issue of The Grid (formerly Eye) or the Thursday August 25, 2011 edition of Toronto Star for a 24 page section on TIFF including a full film schedule.

The Toronto International Film Festival 2011 runs from September 8 - 18, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

DVD Releases August 23, 2011

Time to take a look at a selection of DVD releases for Tuesday August 23, 2011!

  • The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore (Book) Starring off with a book this week as it's the second in the Lorien Legacies which started with Book to Film Club selection I Am Number Four which we read all the way back in January. That feels so long ago! And that is why I hesitated from including series, because it takes a while for them to play out but as lots of us enjoyed the film I think it was a good rule-breaking.
  • TrollHunter (DVD Review) Fantastic Norwegian monster movie shot vérité style (found footage) film following a group of students who are on the trail of capturing a story involving mysterious bear attacks and an elusive hunter. See also my interview with director André Øvredal and actor Glenn Tosterud (read here or listen here).
  • Tactical Force (DVD Review) Awesome action flick starring Steve Austin, Michael Jai White, Michael Shanks, Michael Ekland and Keith Jardine. Great use of limited locations and really piles in on the action.
  • Super Hybrid (DVD Review) I'm always up for a monster car movie, especially if it stars Oded Fehr!
  • NEDS (DVD Review) stands for Non-Educated Deliquents, and this is a pretty harsh look at growing up in Glasgow the 70's in from writer/director Petter Mullan.
  • The Beaver (DVD Review) family centred drama following a Dad who decides to talk through a beaver puppet to get through depression, directed by Jodie Foster who also stars alongside Mel Gibson, Anton Yelchin & Jennifer Lawrence.
  • Secret Sunshine - Criterion Collection I've only heard fantastic things about this film and I'm happy to see it on Criterion here as I missed it at festivals in the past.
  • Cold Fish also very acclaimed film, especially among the genre crowds this Japanese film from Shion Sono and just recently tied for first for Best Asian Feature at Fantasia 2011.
  • POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold a meta-like exercise from director Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) who films the process of getting funding through advertising for the film he's currently...filming.
  • The Killer / Hardboiled Double Bill Awesome opportunity to catch these two classic Chow Yun-Fat titles together!
  • To Die Like A Man / Morrer Como Um Homem highly acclaimed Portuguese about a transvestites desire to complete transformation before passing away.
  • The Event: Season One I didn't quite stick with this series last year (only so much TV you can add every September!) but I'm curious to see how it turned out - and now you can see it all.
Titles on Amazon.ca(Canada):


Titles on Amazon.com (US):

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Book to Film News: Women in Black Still & Trailer, Book Adaptations at TIFF, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Trailer

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Image: Daniel Radcliffe in The Woman in Black

Book to Film Selection The Woman in Black: Image, Trailer & Release Date

I love this image release for the upcoming film The Woman in Black. The films is a supernatural thriller follows a young lawyer who goes to small town which has a menacing spectre and stars Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter series), Ciarán Hinds (The Eclipse) and Janet McTeer, directed by James Watkins (Eden Lake). The Woman in Black is part of the Movie Moxie Book to Film Club, and we will be reading the book by Susan Hill in the near future, and the film will be released on February 3, 2012. See more information about the film at the Official Website & Facebook Fanpage.

Woman in Black Official Teaser Trail:


Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Trailer Released!

Trailer popped up for this espionage story set during cold war and following George Smiley an intelligence expert pulled out semi-retirement. Film stars Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds (The Eclipse), directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In / Låt den rätte komma in) and is based on the novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré. This one almost made this years book to film club but we didn't hear a release date until very recently - too bad as it would have been great timing for it's November 18, 2011 (North American), September 16, 2011 (UK) releases.



More Book to Film Goodness Among New TIFF 2011 Titles
TIFF announced lots and lots of titles earlier in the week from Cuban zombies to Japanese monster flick, but these book to film adaptations were the ones that popped out of the mix to me:
  • Wuthering Heights from director Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank) starring Kaya Scodelario and James Howson. I read the book last year and found it a challenge but I'm very curious to see the adaptation.
  • Killer Elite, will have it's World Premiere at TIFF, it's an action flick starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Yvonne Strahovski, Robert De Niro and Dominic Purcell directed by Gary McKendr. The film is an adaptation of The Feather Men by Sir Ranulph Fiennes and is centred on assassinations of members of the SAS an there iscontroversy over the 'based on true events' aspect of the novel it is noted here as "based on a true story". Regular release date for The Killer Elite is September 23, 2011
  • The First Man, an adaptation of Albert Camus' autobiographical novel with from director Gianni Amelio.
One Day in Theatres From August 19, 2011

And of course we have one of our August Book to Film Club Films in theatres this weekend with One Day. I've pulled together some questions to ponder for book to film clubbers here, and I'm still in pondering the film myself, mostly in how much I liked it and felt it kept true to the book. You can share your thoughts on it here.

Love Book to Film Adaptations?

It's never to late to join the Book to Film Club! We are currently reading The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and will be watching it next when it hits theatres in October 2011. Our Fall reading & watching schedule will be announced this week. Check back here or sign up for updates here.
All content on Movie Moxie is written by Shannon Ridler, © 2006 - 2012