Friday, 30 September 2011

Film Fan Fridays for Friday September 30, 2011

Hello Film Fans and Fanatics!

Welcome to Film Fan Fridays for Friday September 30, 2011! It's another record high week of releases. 14 films. If you wanted to see everything you'd have to go to 2 a day! Personally, I would love to do that.

In limited release this week we have the majority of our titles with 8 films playing on just a few screens and I'm surprized to see Machine Gun Preacher in limited release, it's the biopic starring Gerard Butler as Sam Childers a biker preacher-defender of Sudanese orphans and was one premise I almost didn't when I heard it but it's true. Keeping it we have 2 documentaries We Were Here and Sleep Furiously. Making things go boom we have the indie sweetheart film Bellflower following two friends who literally like to blow cars up and it's been winning the hearts of many and it has a total hipster feel to it. We finally have Gus Van Sant's Restless (2011) coming out (I remember the trailers last summer!) a melancholy looking drama centred on mortality and love, starring Henry Hopper and Mia Wasikowska and I'm sure that one will have tears. There is also the South Korean film Poetry, Chang-dong Lee's follow up to the well received Secret Sunshine. Also out is the comedy The Last Circus / Balada triste de trompeta, and wow we've had a few circus movies this year! And last but not least the Thursday September 29, 2011 release of documentary A Matter of Taste: Serving up Paul Liebrandt.

In wide release this week we have 6 titles to choose from including spooky looking Dream House starring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz & Naomi Watts and from the poster I bet there are some kids in that one too. We have the comedy/drama 50/50 following a twenty-something battling cancer (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and is a semi-autobiographical story from screenwriter Will Reiser. What's Your Number? stars Anna Faris and is based on book 20 Times a Lady by Karyn Bosnak and follows her journey as she looks back at her past 20 relationships to see if any of them could have been "The One", along with the help of neighbour Chris Evans. We also have the Canadian/Punjabi comedy-drama Breakaway / Speedy Singhs starring Vinay Virmani, Russell Peters and Rob Lowe, Force a Bollywood remake of the Tamil film Kaakha Kaakha and the Christian drama Courageous. That truly is a little bit of everything.

Have a great weekend!

Shannon

Festival Watch

Brazilian Film Festival of Toronto
September 29 - October, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto Palestine Film Festival
September 30 - October 7, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Thursday September 29, 2011 Releases

A Matter of Taste: Serving up Paul Liebrandt
Dir: Sally Rowe - feature film directorial debut
Documentary
USA
Limited Release
Official Film Site & Trailer, IMDb Page

Friday September 30, 2011

50/50 (2011)
Dir: Jonathan Levine (All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, The Wackness)
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Bellflower
Writer/Dir: Evan Glodell - feature film directorical debut
Cast: Evan Glodell, Jessie Wiseman, Tyler Dawson, Rebekah Brandes, Vincent Grashaw
USA
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Breakaway / Speedy Singhs
Dir: Robert Lieberman (NetForce, The Tortured (2010)
Cast: Vinay Virmani, Russell Peters, Camilla Belle, Rob Lowe, Anupam Kher
Canada
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Courageous
Dir: Alex Kendrick (Fireproof (2008))
Cast: Alex Kendrick, Ken Bevel, Kevin Downes, Ben Davies
USA
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Dream House
Dir: Jim Sheridan (In America, In the Name of the Father, My Left Foot)
Cast: Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz, Elias Koteas, Marton Csokas, Taylor Geare
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Force
Dir: Nishikant Kamat (Mumbai Meri Jaan, Evano Oruvan)
Cast: John Abraham, Genelia D'Souza, Raj Babbar, Mohnish Bahl
India
Official Film Site & Trailer, IMDb Page

The Last Circus / Balada triste de trompeta
Writer/Dir: Álex de la Iglesia (The Oxford Murders, The Day of the Beast, La comunidad)
Cast: Carlos Areces, Antonio de la Torre, Carolina Bang, Manuel Tallafé
Spain/France
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Machine Gun Preacher
Dir: Marc Forster (Stranger Than Fiction, The Kite Runner, Quantum of Solace)
Cast: Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon
USA
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Poetry
Writer/Dir: Chang-dong Lee (Secret Sunshine)
Cast: Jeong-hie Yun, Nae-sang Ahn, Da-wit Lee
South Korea
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer.

Restless (2011)
Dir: Gus Van Sant (Gerry, Good Will Hunting, Paranoid Park)
Cast: Henry Hopper, Mia Wasikowska
USA
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Sleep Furiously
Dir: Gideon Koppel (A Sketchbook for the Library Van)
Documentary
UK
Limited Release
No Official Film Site Found, IMDb Page, Trailer

We Were Here
Dir: David Weissman & Bill Weber (The Cockettes)
Documentary
USA
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

What's Your Number?
Dir: Mark Mylod ("Entourage")
Cast: Anna Faris, Chris Evans
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

**please note this list of releases reflects first run film released in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as of September 30, 2011**

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Warrior (2011)



Dir: Gavin O'Connor (Pride & Glory)
Cast: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison
USA, 2011

Seen: September 15, 2011 at Scotiabank

Reason to see: It's on my list of Most Anticipated Films of 2011 (#8)

I was so excited to finally get to see Warrior, although looking back I think I shouldn't have smished it into my schedule of TIFF viewings. I forgot I usually choose a palette cleansing film where my expectations are nil and that somehow resets my film viewing from festival mode to normal (previous years palette cleansers have been Whiteout and The Protector). But I did the festival a bit differently and that led me off track, and I think that didn't help my film watching experience and I wish I could revisit it under different terms. But, to take a lesson from the film itself on not going back but forward and you gotta do what you gotta do attitude I'll push though.

Warrior stars Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom, The Square) and Tom Hardy (Bronson, Inception) as estranged brothers who separately dive into a MMA (mixed martial arts) competition. Both come from previous fighting backgrounds and are not only estranged from each other but also their recovering alcoholic father (played by Nick Nolte). I was completely ready to love Warrior. It was not one, but two of my current favourite actors (Tom Hardy & Joel Edgerton) and it's got mixed martial arts. That's well more than enough for it to be a film I've been looking forward to for over a year, but even with doing my best to avoid trailers and the marketing it felt very clear even before sitting in the theatre where the film was going. I know I'm more sensitive than most on spoilers and there is a certain attitude that sports films tend to sway the same way, but I still felt it was very clear where we are going. If I had connected to one or both of the brothers stories, I think it would have helped. It's not that they aren't compelling or timely, both of them are - I just didn't quite get there with them.

What I did love is the honesty in the family relationships, that they wore they own hurt and that family history lived in different memories of the two brothers and their father. That felt very real to me and I appreciated the emotional journeys of the characters. Switching gears completely, the other thing I loved about the film was the pomp and circumstance of the competition and general MMA-ness, it totally took me back to the days of when I watched wrestling for hours on end with my siblings and most often with my own brother. There is a certain attitude that goes along with that world of sports entertainment that is like no other. Oddly the space that divides those two things of pomposity and family drama is the space where I found the film sat the most, and I wasn't quite with it for that ride. And it was a long ride of 2h20min, and even on that I feel divided - I appreciated the depth of the stories but I just wonder if we needed it all. It also stands apart from many sport films as it doesn't feel like other of the characters are fighting for the joy of the sport or a strive to excellence, but rather for the money and there is an air of desperation and helplessness that's although resonates currently, it's not a comfortable place to be.

I think I need to give it some time and watch it again, because I want to love it and I only liked it. I would have loved to see the fighting itself more clearly as oppose to the fast cuts and often through or with obscurities, but I have a feeling that keeps it authentic with the MMA-verse. It's just the guys are all in such great shape it would have been awesome to really see the action a little clearer as a personal preference. But as a family drama and that speaks to the extraordinary challenges people face, I think it's a win-win.

See also: Warrior DVD Review

Shannon's Overall View:
I wanted to loved it
I'd watch it again
I'd recommend it to fans of fighting films

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed, Most Anticipated Films of 2011 and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (Book Review)

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The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Reason to Read: September Selection for Book to Film Club

This is one of our Book to Film Club selections that I knew very little about going in as it was a recommendation about a friend and once I saw that it was an unusual combination of illustrations and text as well as having a touchstone to the time of when film began, I knew it was a shoe in for the club. After selecting the title, I had to wait 9 whole months to actually get my hands on it and read it! Oh, I did browse it at the library once, but just once! Once I did have a chance to dive in I was hooked. I loved the illustrations and forgot that images can be such a quick and adept form of storytelling. I really liked how they followed particular moments with a sequence of images, often going deeper or pulling the specific focus of the moment.

I was surprized though that I didn't quite take to the character of Hugo right away, I was curious about his back story and wanted to hear more as well as being sympathic to his situation of fending for himself but it didn't quite click for me right away although it did build over time. I think he starts off pretty withdrawn with his sense of wonder being dimmed pretty low, but as it lights up and got more and more drawn into his world. And I really liked the world, the book does a great job giving the reader a sense of the time and the place and I loved the location of the train station, it felt so vast and piqued my curiosity.

Overall it was easy to sink my eyes and hands into this one, a very accessible story of wonder and enlightenment and I loved that. It's got a extra special something for the film historians & fans out there and that's one thing I'm really curious to see how or if they will incorporate into the film. It's odd because I usually have at this point a strong sense of how I feel about the casting, but I'm at a loss not having any reference for Asa Butterfield, who will play Hugo Cabret. I am familiar with Chloë Moretz from Kick-Ass & Let Me In, and it will be interesting to see her in the more subtle role in this film. Although I haven't matched up the rest of the cast of Michael Pitt, Jude Law, Emily Mortimer, Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen to their roles, they are all actors I enjoy so look forward to seeing them on screen. I also totally forgot that Martin Scorcese (Shutter Island, The Departed, Gangs of New York, Goodfellas) is directing, which is likely the reason the film wasn't on my radar as I'm not always a fan of his films, although they are always gorgeous with great art direction and that's will be key to creating the Hugo's world.

If you haven't yet joined the Book to Film Club, you can still join us in the final stretch for with The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (October 2011) and Brighton Rock by Graham Greene (November 2011). Sign up for updates here.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Frisson des Collines (DVD Review)

DVD Review of the delightful film Frisson des Collines set in 1969 Quebec following a young boy determined to get to Woodstock.

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Image Courtesy of eOne Films

Dir: Richard Roy (Café Olé)
Cast: Antoine Pilon, Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge, Antoine Bertrand, Evelyne Brochu, AAnick Lemay, Patrice Robitaille, Paul Doucet, Geneviève Brouillette, Louis Champagne, Viviane Audet, Rémi-Pierre Paquin, Jean-Nicolas Verreault
Canada, 2011

Reason to see: It looked absolutely delightful and I always try and check out French Canadian films

Frisson des Collines is a lovingly nostalgic film set in 1969 Quebec in the time leading up to Woodstock, a preteen boy Frisson (Antoine Pilon) dreams of attending the festival and meeting Jimi Hendrix. I do adore films set in this time and at this age, and even though it's before time I think there is something beautiful about the simple complexities of filling the summer days and a time of young coming of age. From bike rides and troublemaking on many levels, there is a beautiful free spirit nature to the time and the character, even though there is some pairing of hardships alongside the friendships and fun times.

I loved the friendships & relationships that Frisson creates and cultivates in the film, which range from school kids his own age to the adults be they locals or new to town. He has a generous openness alongside kindness and curiosity that seems to draw people in, and there is a beautiful sweetness to it even if we know he's continually attempting time and time again to find a way, anyway, to get to Woodstock. It's always a treat to see a young actor take the lead and hold a film, and Antoine Pilon really does that here. The supporting cast is fantastic as well, I particularly enjoyed the performances by Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge as Tom Faucher the local laid back lighter-upper and Evelyne Brochu as Hélène Paradis, the new teacher in town.

A truly charming film that steps bravely into optimism and liveliness even when things are looking down. It was a pleasure to escape into Frisson life and see the world from his perspective, especially as the film treated both the kids adventures and the adults happenings with the same emotional weight, relevance and importance. It takes fine tuned finessing to pull that off in a believable way, and it does it with ease. A real treat.

DVD Extras:
  • No DVD extras
Frisson des Collines is available on DVD as of September 27, 2011. Check it out over at Anazon.ca

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I'll watch it again
I widely recommend it

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

The Ledge (DVD Review)

DVD Review of The Ledge, a thriller starring Charlie Hunman, Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson and Terrence Howard exploring faith and belief through characters with complicated pasts.

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Image Courtesy of eOne Films

Writer/Dir: Matthew Chapman (Heart of Midnight, Strangers Kiss)
Cast: Charlie Hunman, Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson, Terrence Howard
USA, 2011

Reason to see: Like the cast and tension filled trailer caught me

I went into seeing The Ledge on the weight of the trailer, which looks pretty compelling and had some familiar faces of actors I enjoy - in particular Terrance Howard (Hustle & Flow). It has tension thrill ride written all over it, and I enjoy a good thriller especially when there could be a mystery and debate involved. Little did I know that the weight behind the struggle here is all wrapped up with a philosophical religious bow. Wow. That was a shocker.

In all honesty, when I think about it retrospectively I don't mind that the religious themes and philosophical arguments weren't glaringly evident from the get go as if I had known I wouldn't have given the film a chance and then I would have missed out on what it has to offer. I was very impressed with Charlie Hunnam Who plays the lead character Gavin, a charismatic hotel worker who is, well, he doesn't actually really seem to be doing much of anything with his life other than living it which makes it even more of a mystery when he ends up on The Ledge. The cast of characters is filled out with Gavin's gay roommate Chris (Christopher Gorham of 'Covert Affairs'), religious couple next door Joe & Shana (Patrick Wilson & Liv Tyler) and detective Hollis (Terrance Howard) all of which have their own challenges and struggles to go through as well. I actually really liked the story behind Terrance Howard's character and wished they'd focus on it a bit more over Liv Tyler who was important to the central story but had the least believable back story that literally had me dumbfounded. I'm not quite sure what they were thinking about her character, it was very broad stroked and not quite believable but I think she carried it off as best she could. The acting here is actually quite solid and although I've not seen Charlie Hunnam since 'Queen as Folk' UK (but people I'm sure also know him from 'Sons of Anarchy'), I'll certainly keep an eye out to what he does in the future as there are some strong acting chops there. A little rough with the weight of whole story on him, but it's in there.

Bringing thriller and religion together is pretty gutsy as I don't know many folks that play in those two sandboxes, which made me wonder who the film is targeted for. On the religious side, I don't think it would play well and then for the non-believers I wonder if they would give the arguments a chance. It's a tough call. I know I found that it kept me engaged not only during watching but it's stayed on my mind ever since. It's certainly on that has many different offerings from being enjoyable as a straight-up thriller to diving in really deep with the philosophical questions, to enjoying the unique combination of both. Overall, The Ledge wasvery engaging and certainly a story that will stick with you.

DVD Extras:
  • Interviews: with actor Charlie Hunnam (26 minutes) * on what drew him to the project, selectiveness of roles, the state of the film industry, the draw to acting, on religious beliefs, on his characters beliefs and love, the genre(s) of the film, the title and the effect of being on the ledge, working together with the other actors & the director; producer Mark Damon (28 minutes) on going from being an actor to a producer, on the role and responsibilities of being a producer, on traits required to get the picture got made, on the appeal of the film to the audience and touch on his film career and the drive it takes to keep going; writer/director Matthew Chapman (19 minutes) on restarting his career with this film, the inspiration behind the film, the idea about the story, the appeal of the film and the cross genre appeal, on working with the cast & crew; producer Michael Mailer (12 minutes) * on the influence of his father, on the challenge of finding the right audience of the film, the challenging ideas in the film, the cast, on belief systems and the appeal to both believers and non-believers; actor Patrick Wilson (18 minutes) on the decision to become an actor, what drew him to the role, on the research done for the role, the experience of acting, on working with the actors and on the different appeals of the film.
  • All the interviews are lengthy and the questions are often quiet and even though you can tell the interviewers loved the film they questions aren't always quite diplomatic but they do go pretty deep not only into the film but also their careers as a whole. It would have nice to have them a little tighter and edited down a bit especially as the questions are hard to hear and some (noted with *) have competing sounds in the background, but even so the answers are always clear.
The Ledge is available on DVD as of September 27, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
It really stuck with me
I'd watch it again
I'd recommend it to open minded thriller fans

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

DVD Releases September 27, 2011

Time to take a look at a selection of DVD releases for Tuesday September 26, 2011!
  • Frisson des Collines (DVD Review) Charming 1969-set French Canadian film following a preteen boy who has his heart set on going to Woodstock and seeing Jimi Hendrix.
  • The Ledge (DVD Review) films that put the thriller genre full of religious philosophy are few and fair between, in fact this might be the only one I've ever seen that's done it. And it's keep me thinking every since watching it, strong performances from Charlien Hunnman especially and asked some interesting questions.
  • True Legend pretty spectacular historically set martial arts film following two brothers: the family man & successful Su Can (Vincent Zhao) and the power hungry adoptive brother Yuan Lie (Andy On). Fantastic fights & fabulous settings & art direction made this very exciting to watch and I think it has one of my favourite posters of the year. Those hands,... they are coming to get you!
  • The Butcher, The Chef and The Swordsman / Dao Jian Xiao Not one but 2 martial arts flicks out this week! I've not seen this one but it's on my list!
  • Carlos (Criterion) Blu-Ray biopic/crime film that's so long it's sometimes not called a film but always talked about with affection gets the BluRay Criterion treatment.
  • Lost Future Wow, Sean Bean films have been coming out of the woodwork since Game of Thrones! This one is a post apocalyptic made of TV flick also starring Sam Claflin (The Pillars of Earth, Snow White and the Huntsman). I'm thinking it's Lost World fast-forward to the future?
  • The Boxer and the Bombshell This is another wild card is a love triangle boxing style & femme fatale style starring Rose Byrne, Hugo Weaving and Matt le Nevez.
  • Call me Fitz The Complete First Season Multiple Gemini winning Canadian series starring Jason Priestly as a car salesman who in to a little bit of everything shady.
  • Hung: Season 2 Thomas Jane is back in Season 2 of the teacher who takes moonlighting to a whole new level.
  • Queen as Folk Complete UK Series I can't believe it's been over 10 years since this fantastic TV series debuted. Wow. Own it all today!
  • Footloose (DVD & Blu-Ray) Deluxe Edition With the remake around the corner it's time to kick off your Sunday shoes and dance up a rebellion to the original film with Kevin Bacon.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon Ah, I'm not likely to watch this 3rd after surving the first two of the super-shiny-fast-spinny-robots in disguise film but I will admit I do think the trailer for the film is one of the best of the year. Crazy. But true.
Titles on Amazon.ca(Canada):


Titles on Amazon.com (US):


Frisson des Collines and Queer as Folk Complete UK Series not currently available on Amazon.com

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Book to Film Club September 2011 Book: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick


Last Sunday of the month means it's time to take a look at our Book to Film Club Book Selection: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.

The book is a historically set fiction novel inspired by "Georges Méliès, his surviving films, and his collection of mechanical, wind-up figures called automata. (source)". I really got a kick out of this one, enjoying the combination of illustration and text which also made it a very quick read (and after The Three Musketeers that was a welcome change!). It took less than a week to get though and I loved the curious nature of the characters and the sense of wonder in the world. I am very curious about the adaptation, and have a feeling they might be able to keep lots of if not all of the story in the film. Here's hoping!

Things to ponder on the book:
  • Did you enjoy reading it?
  • Was it what you were expecting?
  • What did you know about the book before reading it?
  • Did you enjoy the format?
  • What did you think about the combination of pictures & text?
  • What did you think about the writing style?
  • What did you take away from reading the book?
  • Is there anything you would change about the book?
  • Who would you recommend the book to?
About the upcoming film adaptation:
  • How do you feel about the casting of the film?
  • What do you hope to be the focus of the film?
  • What do you think is essential to keep from the book in the film?
  • What do you think they can trim away from the book to the film?
  • What do you think the challenges of the adaptation may be?
  • Do you have any hesitations on the adaptation?
  • What are you most looking forward to about the film adaptation?
If this was a re-read:
  • How did reading it this time compare with your previous time reading it?
  • Did you notice anything different this time round?
  • Did your interest and focus stay on the same characters and moments, or shift?
If you choose to shelf this out one:
  • Was there a barrier (format, genre, focus, time period, reception) ?
  • Would you consider trying it later?
  • Have you already read it?
  • Will you join us again in October for The Woman in Black? A supernatural tale that's hopefully a fitting selection for the spookiest month of the year.
Book reviews from Book to Film Clubbers:
Shannon
Norlinda

Film Adaptation
The adaptation has a truncated name, going with simply Hugo and will be in 3D. The film stars Asa Butterfield, Chloë Moretz (Kick-Ass, Let Me In), Michael Pitt, Jude Law (Gattaca, Repo Men), Emily Mortimer, Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, The House of Sand and Fog) and Sacha Baron Cohen and is directed by Martin Scorcese (Shutter Island, The Departed, Gangs of New York, Goodfellas).
Film Release Date: Wednesday November 23, 2011 (American Thanksgiving). See the trailer here.

If you haven't yet joined the Book to Film Club, you can still join us for the final 2 titles Our next book is a spooky selection for October 2011 with The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. Sign up for updates here.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Limelight (2011)



Dir: Billy Corben (Square Grouper, Cocaine Cowboys)
Documentary on New York Nightclub owner Peter Gatien
USA, 2011

Reason to see: I'm very interested in club culture

I'm so excited to see that Limelight is opening here in Toronto, I missed it at Hot Docs earlier in the year and I knew I wanted to see it as it had a club-connection. I loved the Toronto club Limelight and have many fond memories of it, and even though there is no connection noted to the Limelight of the film in New York, there still is a connection to that particular time and energy of the late 80's to mid 90's club culture.

The focus of the documentary Limelight is on Peter Gatien, who owned many nightclub in New York through the 80's to mid 90's including Limelight, The Palladium, Club USA and Tunnel, and a scandalous court case that put him in the limelight himself. Through interviews with Peter Gatien himself to club kids of the time, journalists, experts and even several criminals we see the rise of his empire from starting off in Cornwall (Ontario!) to the biggest leagues out there: New York. Getting to hear the build up of his career and empire is inspiring but it's equally intriguing to hear about the court case. I loved how even though the film has a very specific point of view and message, it still manages to create a balanced and consistent tone as it unveils the story surrounding the trial. I also loved the wide array of people they talked to about the trial and crimes, especially intriguing is to hear from the perspectives of people who were involved in crime at that time. Truly unique insight and points of view, that's for sure.

I really enjoyed Limelight for many reasons, I loved the nostalgia factor of the club culture, I appreciated how it showcased the entrepreneurial spirit and business savvy of Peter Gatien, and because I didn't know the case at all it also plays extremely well dramatically building & revealing the story. I'd strongly recommend checking in out, especially if you have in interest in real life drama, diving deep into crime cases or even if you simply remember fondly the fun times of clubbing in the 90's.

Limelight opens in Toronto on September 23, 2011 at the AMC Yonge & Dundas

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'd watch it again
I'd highly recommend to documentaries fans and anyone interested in club culture or biographies

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame / Di Renjie



Dir: Tsui Hark (Once Upon a Time in China film series, Seven Swords)
Cast: Andy Lau, Bingbing Li, Carina Lau, Tony Leung Ka-fai
China/Hong Kong, 2011

Reason to see: Sounded like a totally cool Sherlock Holmes spin on historical martial arts film

I was totally psyched to see this mystery/Martial arts flick set during the reign of China’s first female Emperor Wu Zetian and based on and actual person: Di Renjie (Detective Dee), a minister of state who was known for his ability to solve the complicated cases through knowledge of science and human nature plus a mastery of martial arts.

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame / Di Renjie stars Andy Lau (Infernal Affairs, The Warlords / Tau ming chong) as Detective Dee, who is recruited by Empress Wu Zetian (Carina Lau) to solve an very unusual case during the time leading up to her coronation. As it's a time of political transition there are eyes set on many as the culprit of the bizarre case that they show seen through different perspectives of forensics, to folk lore & superstitions. I loved how it showed the different perspectives and tones, because it alleviated my only concern about the film: that it would feel like CSI but during the Tang Dynasty. Thankfully, not so. It brings in the forensic investigational spirit but also has a great sense of adventure and an espionage paranoia element that piled all together in a mystery story makes for intensely engaging entertainment. The historical setting during the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD) and around an Empress' coronation allows for a multitude of lush settings and events that are gorgeous to look at. Plus: action, because we can't leave out that aspect of a historical Asian film! It's the high flying, creative thinking and with flourishes action which completely aligns to the tone of the film. I was really impressed with how the film brings this all together without feeling overwhelming but rather always takes it to the right heightened level. I would have loved to see more of Empress Wu, and maybe we'll get more about her in future films.

A great story and a true mystery, Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame / Di Renjie delivers on many fronts from it's gorgeous look to compelling characters. I'd strongly recommend it to any fan of historical action films, and anyone who loves a good mystery and even those who like to delve in the supernatural. Pure entertainment value on so many levels, and a truly enjoyable film.

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame / Di Renjie opens in Toronto & Vancouver on September 23, 2011 and plays at the Dark Bridges Film Festival in Saskatoon on Sunday October 2, 2011

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I strongly recommend it to fans of historical martial arts films

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011


Andy Lau as Detective Dee


Li Bingbing as Shangguan Jing'er in Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame / Di Renjie

Friday, 23 September 2011

Film Fan Fridays for Friday September 23, 2011

Hello Film Fans and Fanatics!

Welcome to Film Fan Fridays for Friday September 23, 2011! TIFF has come and gone for another year and we are back to having a packed Friday of 11 releases, some of which are coming to us hot off the festival trail. Let's take a look at what we have to choose from this week.

In limited release this week we have 6 films to choose from including Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame / Di Renjie a highly stylistic and intriguing mystery flick set during the reign of China’s first female Emperor Wu Zetian and based on Di Renjie, a minister of state who was known for his ability to solve the complicated cases through knowledge of science and human nature plus a mastery of martial arts. We also have two docs including the compelling film Limelight focusing on the trials against New York nightclub owner Peter Gatien and also in the doc corner is Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles looking at cryptic messages in tiles. Everything looks interesting this week! I'm also very curious to see Higher Ground which is Vera Farmiga's feature film directorial debut and Starbuck a French Canadian film starring Patrick Huard as an man who acts as a teenager who ends up having that catching up to him. Plus we have even more Canadian releases with the drama Afghan Luke starring Nick Stahl.

In wide release this week we have 5 films to choose from and there is not one but two action films from the big boys to the young starting with the Taylor Lautner identity-mystery/action/thriller Abduction. Wow. I think that's officially a subgenre. Also for action is Killer Elite based on the 1991 novel The Feather Men by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, from which there was controversy over the 'based on true events' aspect and the film stars Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Yvonne Strahovski & Robert De Niro. We also have more based on true stories that are more for pulling your heartstrings over hamstrings with Dolphin Tale based a true story of a tail-less dolphin and the humans who strive to save & support (I have to see that one!) and Moneyball a sport film/biopic based on true story of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt). Last up for wide releases is the Bollywood film Mausam , and I have to get out to more Bollywood. Maybe this week will be the time to go for it.

Have a great weekend!

Shannon
Festival Watch

COMMFFEST
(Global) Community Film Festival
September 22 -25, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Special Screening

White on Rice
Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival gets ready to rev up their 15 Years of Festivalling with a free screening of the comedy White on Rice at the Toronto Underground this Saturday Septmeber 24, 2011 at 7pm.

Friday September 23, 2011 Releases

Abduction
Dir: John Singleton (2 Fast 2 Furious, Shaft (2000), Poetic Justice).
Cast: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Jason Isaacs, Alfred Molina
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Afghan Luke
Dir: Mike Clattenburg (Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day, Trailer Park Boys: The Movie)
Cast: Nick Stahl, Stephen Lobo, Vik Sahay
Canada
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame / Di Renjie
Dir: Tsui Hark (Once Upon a Time in China film series, Seven Swords)
Cast: Andy Lau, Bingbing Li, Carina Lau, Tony Leung Ka-fai
China/Hong Kong
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Dolphin Tale
Dir: Charles Martin Smith (Stone of Destiny)
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson, Nathan Gamble
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Higher Ground (2011)
Dir: Vera Farmiga - feature film directorial debut
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Joshua Leonard, Dagmara Dominczyk, John Hawkes
USA
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Killer Elite (2011)
Dir: Gary McKendry - feature film directorial debut
Cast: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Yvonne Strahovski, Robert De Niro, Dominic Purcell
USA/Australia
Official Film Site, Official Facebook Page, IMDb Page, Trailer

Limelight

Dir: Billy Corben (Square Grouper, Cocaine Cowboys)
Documentary on New York Nightclub owner Peter Gatien
USA
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Mausam
Dir: Pankaj Kapur - feature film directorial debut
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Supriya Pathak, Callum Fuller, Ken Matthews
USA/UK
Official Film Site & Trailer, IMDb Page

Moneyball
Dir: Bennett Miller (Capote)
Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt, Casey Bond
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles
Dir: Jon Foy - feature film directorial debut
Documentary
USA
Limited Release
Official Film Site & Trailer, IMDb Page

Starbuck
Dir: Ken Scott (Les doigts croches)
Cast: Patrick Huard, Julie LeBreton, Antoine Bertrand
Canada
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

**please note this list of releases reflects first run film released in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as of September 23, 2011**

Movie Moxie Pocast 48: TIFF11, Warrior, Drive & Owned/Unseen Challenge



On this weeks episode of the Movie Moxie Podcast I do a TIFF post-mortem looking at several of the film I caught at the festival and also how I snuck out to see theatrical releases of Warrior and Drive as well as recent DVD releases. I also introduce a new feature on the podcast which is to get through "The Pile" of owned/unseen DVDs by the end of 2011 starting off with the biopic Attila.






0:00 - 1:05 Intro
1:05 - 18:05 TIFF 2011 Post Mortem
18:05 - 25:25 Warrior Review
25:25 - 32:05 Drive Review
32:05 - 45:45 Owned/Unseen intro & Attila Review
45:45 - 52:00 DVD Release Sept 13 & 20, 2011 and Upcoming this week
52:00 - 53:51 Outro

Show Notes:
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Subscribe through iTunes here.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Meek's Cutoff (Two Disc Special Edition with Blu-Ray and DVD) Review



Dir: Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Old Joy)
Cast: Michelle Williams, Zoe Kazan, Shirley Henderson, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano, Will Patton, Neal Huff, Tommy Nelson, Rod Rondeaux
USA, 2011

Reason to see: I have a soft spot in my heart for westerns, plus it's extremely rare for them to feature women

I was aching to see Meek's Cutoff, as it looked like a western with a female protagonist which is something extremely rare. After seeing it I'd want to call it an ensemble cast though, but that might just be due to the fact that everyone here is so great from Shirley Henderson to Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano to Zoe Kazan, but in all honestly it's Michelle Williams' show here. She is the one we are watching most of the time and she drives the story across the desolate land of the dust and darkness.

There are certain directors who have a very clear stamp on their work, and Kelly Reichardt is definitely a director that has a stamp. From the real-time feel of the pacing to naturalistic light, to following a piece of a journey without telecasting a back story which I actually really love because it in combination with the slower pace create a very engaging piece of cinema where the viewer has to work out the story for themselves. Who are these people? Why are they here? How do they know each other? Where are they going? Why? It might be crazy-making for some, but I love it. It's like figure out a puzzle where you don't even know what the picture on the box is, or even if you have all the pieces to make it work but you keep trying to fit piece to piece and see what sticks.

While we are trying to understand our characters on their long pilgrimage from somewhere to somewhere, we are treated to absolutely gorgeous landscapes of vast bleakness in dry, dusty weather giving the film a worn and tired energy as the characters continue to stumble through. There is amazing resilience and stubbornness on the trek, but when facing the vast unknown it's clear that making decision isn't an easy thing and even though we are following a small troupe of folks there are multiple, subtle power balances in play and what happens if that shifts and who can you trust, if anyone? It's a fascinating, subtle study of human nature against the forces of nature and against ourselves. A gorgeous, insightful and engaging film, Meek's Cutoff is one I'd easily recommend for all western fans for a refreshing new take on the genre with strong performances and beautiful scenery. Dive into the dust bowl and check it out.

DVD Extras:
  • The Making of Meek's Cutoff (9 minutes) behind the scenes prop preparation, animal wrangling, weapons and transportation footage and just like the film itself this extra feature has a very fly on the wall feel. There are no direct to the camera interviews, discussions or moments, it is all watching them work on and make the film. Very impressive to see the actual physical locations they filmed at, and the amount of work that went into making all the practicals happen, especially the work with the carriages.
  • Exclusive Essay by Richard Hell (on physical package)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
Meek's Cutoff is available on DVD as of September 20, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I'd highly recommend it to fans of dark westerns & existential films

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011



En Terrains Connus / Familiar Grounds (DVD Review)

DVD review of the quirky brother/sister road trip drama En Terrains Connus / Familiar Grounds directed by Stéphane Lafleur starring Francis La Haye & Fanny Mallette


Image Courtesy of eOne Films

Dir: Stéphane Lafleur (Continental, un film sans fusil)
Cast: Francis La Haye, Fanny Mallette, Michel Daigle, Sylvain Marcel, Suzanne Lemoine, Denis Houle
Canada, 2011

Reason to see: I loved Stéphane Lafleur's first film Continental, un film sans fusil (one of my faves of 2007)

I often like to start a film review by sharing the general premise or starting point of a film, but with En Terrains Connus / Familiar Grounds saying that it's about a family who is rather unconnected, especially the brother living with their Dad and a sister in an unhappy but not dismal marriage, doesn't really do the film justice. On that alone, it feels like a straight-up family drama, which again does not do it justice. It's all about the tone with En Terrains Connus / Familiar Grounds, and a beautiful acceptance factor paralleled by a quirky sentiment that runs strong here just as it did with Stéphane Lafleur's first feature film Continental, un film sans fusil. This tone of the bizarre being taken on face value, is one of the many things that I love about the film.

It's also this tone that makes the film get away with things that no family drama feels like it should, like moments of magical realism or possibly even science fiction that just are ... there. It might feel absurd from the outside looking it, but it's treated with total realism, and it just feels right. I loved watching the stories and characters lives unfold and come together Benoit (Francis La Haye) who doesn't have much success or experience in life to his sister Maryse (Fanny Mallette) who falls into a normal rhythm of life for the most part and then there is their father Alain (Sylvain Marcel) who just wants them all to have a family dinner to honour the memory of their mother.

It's not so much about the actual happenings as it is about the moments, especially the moments in the relationships. It's so nice to see a quote-unquote family drama that isn't people at each others throats or screaming or hiding dark secrets to shock the nation but rather to get an entire understanding of a relationship from a single moment, word or look. I loved that. It's subtle and beautiful, and the strength of the actors brings it home time and time again. The film does have a fun road movie element to it although it's literally an icy one which gives an unexpected parallel to needing to be able to go with the flow even under the forces of nature. And that's the best way to approach En Terrains Connus / Familiar Grounds, to go with the flow of it and enjoy the ride. I know I did.

DVD Extras (in French):
  • L'homme du futue / Man of the Future (9 selections, 12 minutes) reflections, promos, moments and insights with the character 'The Man of the Future' played by Denis Houle. These are pretty interesting and some quite funny, although I could only understand bits & pieces as they are all in French.
  • Joue moins fort / Don't Play So Loud (3 minutes) outtakes of Francis La Haye playing guitar.
  • Trailer
  • All extras in French
En Terrains Connus / Familiar Grounds is available on DVD as of September 20, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca

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

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011


Francis La Haye as Benoit in FAMILIAR GROUNDS Courtesy of eOne Films


Fanny Mallette in FAMILIAR GROUNDS. Courtesy of eOne Films.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

DVD Releases for September 20, 2011

Time to take a look at a selection of DVD releases for Tuesday September 20, 2011!
  • En Terrains Connus / Familiar Ground (DVD Review) a brother/sister road trip film and I'm thrilled to see another film director Stéphane Lafleur, as I loved Continental, un film sans fusil / Continental, a Film Without Guns.
  • Meeks Cutoff (DVD Review) I've only heard good things about the period set western following the tough life of settlers in 1845 and stars Michelle Williams and directed by Kelly Reichardt (previous Canadian release date was September 13, 2011).
  • Dumbo 70th Anniversary Edition Classic Disney film following our big eared Elephant friend Dumbo gets a reissue for it's 70th Anniversary.
  • Good Neighbours Canadian thriller set in an apartment complex during the 1995 winter; stars Jay Baruchel, Scott Speedman, Emily Hampshire & Xavier Dolan directed by Jacob Tierney (US release date Sept 27, 2011).
  • Circo I really want to see this circus documentary that came out in limited release earlier this year.
  • We Are The Night German vampire film about a trio of female vampires on the verge of recruiting another when to cops come out to play. I've a lot about this one and not sure if it falls in the sexy/fun or campy or racy or dark...but feels like it's at least a few if not all of those categories.
  • ChromeSkull - Laid to Rest 2 Sequel to slasher flick Laid to Rest, and this on stars Brian Austin Green, Thomas Dekker, Gail O’Grady, and Nick Principe, directed by Robert Hall.
  • Hawaii 5-0 (2010) Season 1 Last year saw the very successful reboot to this series that packs in action alongside great buddy cop energy. I watched most of the season and found it very entertaining.
  • Castle: The Complete Third Season Nathan Fillion stars as the mystery writer that helps solve real crimes and I'm surprized this one is already in it's third season. I couldn't get into it but I know there is lots of love for the show out there.
  • Body of Proof: The Complete First Season Pretty impressive & quick release on this one which started airing just in March 2011, it stars Dana Delany as a neurosurgeon turned medical examiner. Also stars Jeri Ryan & heads into it's second season ...tonight!
  • Supernatural Box Set Season 1 - 6 Because 1 season just ain't enough - with the Winchester Brothers fighting the supernatural takes time, and you have to have it all. Supernatural heads into it's seventh season this fall, premiering Friday September 23, 2011.
  • Vampire Diaries: Season 1 & 2 I would actually love to get this as I don't have either season of Vampire Diaries on DVD and the show moves at such a break neck speed that watching it multiple times is an easy, and rewarding, task.
  • Bridesmaids This Apatow formula with gender switch comedy has made big box office all summer long, but I still have no interest in it.

Titles on Amazon.ca(Canada):


Titles on Amazon.com (US):


En Terrains Connus / Familiar Ground, Supernatural Box Set Season 1 - 6 and Vampire Diaries: Season 1 & 2 not currently available on Amazon.com.

TIFF 2011 Coverage



I got to see 15 films this year but as always the festival provides countless memories in just 11 days. Let's have a look at the experience from start to finish.

Pre-Festival Coverage
July 27, 2011 - TIFF 2011: Opening Night Film & First Set of Titles
July 27, 2011 - Movie Moxie Podcast 43: TIFF 2011, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 plus One Month of DVD
August 3, 2011 - TIFF 2011: Vanguard & Documentaries Announced
August 4, 2011 - TIFF 2011: Midnight Madness Unveiled!
August 9, 2011 - TIFF 2011: Canadian Titles Unleashed!
August 16, 2011 - TIFF 2011: Galas, Special Presentations, Contemporary World Cinema & Visions Films Announced
August 21, 2011 - Book to Film News: Women in Black Still & Trailer, Book Adaptations at TIFF, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Trailer
August 23, 2011 - Festival Goes Live!
September 8, 2011 - Day 1: TIFF Picks
September 8, 2011 - Movie Moxie Podcast 47: TIFF Picks 2011

Daily Coverage
Day 3 - Saturday September 10, 2011: Vlog, Write Up
Day 4- Sunday September 11, 2011: Vlog, Write Up
Day 5 - Monday September 12, 2011: Vlog, Write Up
Day 6 - Tuesday September 13, 2011: Vlog, Write Up
Day 8 - Thursday September 15, 2011: Vlog, Write Up
Day 9 - Friday September 16, 2011: Vlog, Write Up

Film Reviews
388 Arletta Avenue
Arirang
Extraterrestrial / Extraterrestre
Fable of the Fish / Isda
Headshot / Fon Tok Kuen Fah
i am a good person i am a bad person
Incident, The / 2011 Incident at Sans Asylum
Livid / Livide
Raid, The
Sleepless Night / Nuit blanche
Snowtown
Swirl / Girimunho
Trespass
Tyrannosaur
Wuthering Heights

Polls
Are You Going to TIFF this year?

Post-Festival Coverage
Awards
Wrap-Up

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


Even the chairs are ready for a rest!
All content on Movie Moxie is written by Shannon Ridler, © 2006 - 2012