• TIFF Cinematheque - Japanese Divas

    JAPANESE DIVAS

    Japanese Divas is the second of three separate series by TIFF Cinematheque on SPOTLIGHT JAPAN beginning the year 2013.

    Anyone in North America would have difficulty in naming at least one famous Japanese actress, past or present. TIFF presents, beginning January 24th2013, a dazzlingly deluxe, two-month series that pays tribute to the legendary leading ladies of Japanese cinema, including Setsuko Hara, Kinuyo Tanaka, Machiko Kyo, Isuzu Yamada and Hideko Takamine.  This dazzlingly deluxe, thirty-film salute features masterworks by Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Ozu, Naruse, Ichikawa and more.

    Capsule reviews of 5 of the films are written below, courtesy of screeners and a screening provided by TIFF Cinematheque.

    For the complete program listing, show times, venue and ticket pricing, check the TIFF website at:

    www.tiff.net

    CAPSULE REVIEWS:

    FLOWING (NAGARERU) (Japan 1956) ***1/2

    Directed by Mikio Naruse

    FLOWING stars 3 Japanese veteran actresses in major roles.  The film begins with the hiring of a very obedient maid (Kinuyo Tanaka) by the proud mistress (Isuzu Yamada) of a failing geisha house.  Her daughter (Hideko Takamine) opts not to go into the business but help out in the sewing industry.  FLOWING plays a lot like WHEN A WOMAN ASCENDS THE STAIRS which stars an older Takamine as a hostess of a Ginza district bar.  The latter film is better as it seems Maruse learnt from the making of FLOWING.  While both films dealt with a strong female protagonist dealing with a failing establishment, FLOWING meanders for the reason that it has 3 characters while WOMAN ASCENDS THE STAIRS only has one.  Still Naruse excels in his quiet story telling techniques and it is a pleasure to watch three Japanese divas on the screen.

    (Screening March 29, Fri 630pm)

    THE MAKIOKI SISTERS (Japan 1983) ****
    Directed by Kon Ichikawa


    Set in the Osaka of 1938 this masterly tale made by Ichikawa centres on a family of sisters.  Five sisters resulting in five divas!  And big family drama!  But instead of concentrating on the drama and the fights, Ichikawa examines how conflicts are solved and how each sister settles differences with one another and thus settles down to their individual lives.  The most interesting of the sisters is the youngest who is spirited and rebellious.  She runs a doll making shop and can settle on her own without intrusion from the others.  This is a film that covers many areas from family conflict to change of times, to coming-of-edge with changing cultural customs and mores.  The complex narrative is brilliantly woven into a 140 minute film that also contains stunning cinematography of snowfall, shimmering falling cherry blossom petals coupled by exquisite shots of interior design of the Japanese dwellings as well as the characters’ wardrobe.  There is one scene where it comes together with layers of beautiful kimonos hung out in the halls of a sister’s house.  The film also traces the effect of an era lost and forgotten by many which at least can be remembered in this significant minor masterpiece.

    (Jan 27th, Sunday 730pm)

    THE FACE OF ANOTHER (Japan 1966) **

    Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara

    Based on the novel of the same name by Kobo Abe, THE FACE OF ANOTHER follows an engineer, Okuyama (Tatsuya Nakadai), whose face is severely burnt in an inspection related accident and is given a new face in the form of a lifelike mask.  Dr. Hira (Mikijiro Hira), a psychiatrist fashions a "mask" for Okuyama to wear which is indistinguishable from the face on which it is modeled.  Hira cautions Okuyama that the mask may change his behaviour and personality so much that he will cease to be the same person that he was. Hira believes that this disassociation with his identity will cause Okuyama to lose his sense of morality if he is not careful.   Okuyama tells no one that he has received the mask, and simply lives as a new man, telling his wife that he is traveling on business while he rents an apartment nearby.  The real Japanese diva could be argued to be a male in this film, as Okuyama is so full of himself from start to finish.  But the TIFF write-up purposes the actress Machiko Kyo, who plays Okuyama’s wife to be the diva.  Though Kyo has a supporting role, she is unforgettable as the wife who turns the tables on her husband when he decides to seduce her with his new identity without her knowledge.  The film is too heavy on the psychological drama.  Hira irritates Okuyama as well as the audience with his insistence of being told every step of the experiment.   The film has a side plot of the story (not in the novel) of a severely scarred girl (Miki Irie), supposedly caused by the atomic bomb in Nagasaki, intercut into the main story. This makes no sense at all

      (March 16, Sat 715pm)

    UGETSO MONOGATARI  (Japan 1953) *****
    Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi


    UGETSU is the Japanese ghost story that turns up on most critics list as one of the best films of all time.  And it is easy to see why.  The film is meticulously shot in black and white, with great period atmosphere set in feudal Japan when Samurais and troops terrorized the villagers and topped up with a really scary ghost story.  The main character in UGETSU is a sixteenth-century potter who abandons his faithful wife (Kinuyo Tanaka) for a spectral seductress (Machiko Kyo).  It turns out the latter is a ghost looking for a lover to take back to her world.  What is so scary about UGETSU is not so much of special effects or jump out of your seat tactics (there are none of these here) but the notion that reality and ghostly fantasy most often cannot be distinguished.  The potter has no idea that he is making love to a phantom and the audience likewise is taken for quite the ride.   Coupled with the theme is the message that one should not abandon family for fame and fortune for the greatest satisfaction in life is most often than not close to home.  The twin story of the potter’s neighbour who also abandons his wife to become a samurai works well into the film. 

    (Thursday Jan 24th 615pm)

    WHEN A WOMAN ASCENDS THE STAIRS (Japan 1960) ***** Top 10

    Directed by Mikio Naruse

    This little known film reveals both director Naruse’s style and his actresses’ fine form.  The film follows Keiko (Hideko Takamine), a young widow, called ‘mama’ by everyone in the film, who becomes a Ginza nightclub hostess to make ends meet.  The story recounts her struggle to maintain her independence in a male-dominated society.  Realizing she is losing her looks, she decides after talking to her bar manager, Komatsu (Tatsuya Nakadai) that she wants to open her own bar rather than remarrying and dishonoring her late husband to whose memory she is still devoted.  To accomplish this, she must secure loans from some of the affluent patrons who frequent her bar, but is unwilling to lead them on for the sake of money.  This seems to be the perfect Japanese diva role – one in which a diva regains her dignity.  Naruse''s films often contain simple screenplays, with minimal dialogue, unobtrusive camera work, and low-key production design.  This style completely suits the subject for this film allowing actress Takamine to totally shine in her role. One cannot help bu feel for her character, especially when she faces unsurmountable problems.  The result is a most delightful and pleasurable piece of entertainment.

  • This week's Film Reviews (Jan 18, 2013)

    This week sees quite a few outstanding films opening.  Who says that January is a ‘blah’ month?  I have to tout Schwarzenegger’s latest film THE LAST STAND as the best crowd pleaser that he has ever done.

    THE BASTARD SINGS THE SWEETEST SONG (Denmark/Sweden 2012) ***1/2

    Directed by Christy Garland

    The bastard in the film’s title refers to a wild bird that the character, Muscle in the film owns that sings the sweetest song.  This likely serves as the metaphor for his troubled family that director Christy Garland chooses as her subject and turns out a remarkable poignant and sweet tale.

    The subject of the film is a sweet but troublesome 75-year old called Mary Smith.  The setting is Guyana.  She drinks too much and when walking on the road has fallen a few times and pose a danger from being hit by a car.  As a result, the son that she lives with, called Muscle, locks her in her room, with all good intentions.  Muscle takes care of his mother, raises the chickens to become money-making cock fighters and does whatever he can to keep the lights on in the house.  The other family members do not allow Mary to go out either.  Here, we have one lady who has nothing to look forward to in life with herself and family and her own worst enemies.

    If all this sounds pretty grim, the film isn’t.  Director Garland’s film is an interesting account of a family.  Garland focuses on the plusses.  She gets Muscle to talk about his aspirations in life, such as reaching middle-class, which he does by the end of the film.  She also gets Mary to talk about her own alcoholism, which surprisingly Mary says is not good for her.  She also gets Mary to talk and recite the poems which she has written in the past.  (The poems are actually quite good.)  Garland takes a step back in her interviews and the only time the audience realize her presence is the soft sound of her voice in the background during an interview with Mary.

    Though the film is set in Guyana with a black family, the subject of taking care of an aged family member is a universal problem.  That is the reason Garland’s film feels so close to home.  And also too close for comfort!

    THE BASTARD SINGS THE SWEETEST SONG could have been made as a fiction drama with real stars depicting this family.  Perhaps Denzel Washington could have starred as Muscle with Cicely Tyson as the mother.  As for the message delivered in the film, Garland does not pound it to her audience.  The audience has to draw the parallels from the family on examination for much could be learnt an applied from them.  The film is indeed a sweet song.

    THE LAST STAND (USA 2013) Top 10 *****
    Directed by Kim Jee-Woon

    THE LAST STAND is so called because the main character of the story Sheriff Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) resigned himself to a life of fighting to what little crime that takes place in sleepy border town called Sommerton Junction after leaving his LAPD post following a bungled operation.  This is not the first time an action star slid back for a role like this.  Sylvester Stallone did the same with COPLAND which was a pretty good action drama.

    But this film does not look too attractive at first glance.  And what is this with a Korean director unknown in North America directing?  He must be pretty good for Hollywood to trust a huge movie project like Schwarzenegger’s return.  (When he said: “I’ll be back!” he was right!)  And Kim is more than pretty good!  THE LAST STAND is awesome, action packed, funny, human and a compelling watch.  I did not look at my watch once during the screening, and this says something for a critic not to check the time of an almost 2 hour movie.

    The film starts impressively with a spectacular escape from an FBI prisoner convoy, of the most notorious, wanted drug kingpin in the hemisphere, Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega).  He is hurtling toward the border at 200 mph in a specially outfitted car with a hostage and a fierce army of gang members.  He is headed, it turns out, straight for Summerton Junction, where the whole of U.S. law enforcement led by FBI agent John Banister (Forest Whitaker) will have their last opportunity to make a stand and intercept him before he slips across the border forever.  At first reluctant to become involved, and then counted out because of the perceived ineptitude of his small town force, Owens ultimately accepts responsibility for the face off.

    The film has more than sufficient action set-ups, the best one being the climax taking place with a car chase in a fully grown wheat field.  For Schwarzenegger fans, the script also contains choice once liners, the best one being his answer to the question when one surprised baddie asks him: “Who the hell are you!” which is: “I am the sheriff!”  The film successfully combines the successful elements of the classic western into the actioner.  A lone sheriff protects the town with the showdown being the time when the criminal, Cortez is due to drive through the town.  Sommerton Junction is also made up to look like a western town with one main street.  The classic conflict between bureaucracy and small town common sense works well with the interaction of the two lead characters, the small-town sheriff and FBI agent John.  The sheriff hangs up twice after being given orders by Agent John remarking: “I don’t know you and I don’t answer to you!”

    As for the human element, the emotions are strong.  The young police novice, Jerry Bailey (Zach Gilford) is tired of boredom and wishes to be transferred to L.A. to see more action.  But he gets more than he bargained for.  His romance with fellow officer Sarah (Jaimie Alexander) though a side plot works well to provide the needed human feeling in an action flick.  You might even need to reach for some Kleenex here.  Humour is provided by the sheriff’s sidekicks including Mike (Luiz Guzman, always a pleasure to watch) and deputy Lewis Dinkum (JACKASS’s Johnny Knoxville) aided by a more than humorous script.  The action sequences are expertly executed are as the single shots - like the one of Frank (Brazil’s Rodrigo Santoro – huddled up in the cell.

    As far as car chases go, the two featured here would put THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS to shame.  But director Kim is also expert in creating audience anticipation - Hitchcock style.  He also does away with one of the film’s main characters (as in Hitchcock’s PSYCHO) midway through the film.

    Whereas the recent GANGSTER SQUAD claims to be based on a true story, THE LAST STAND makes no such ridiculous statement.  The film can thus go into extremes of credibility (which is 6 good guys against an army of baddies) without fault.  See THE LAST STAND, the best new movie of 2013 which is unbelievably good!

    MAMA (Spain/Canada 2012) **

    Directed by Andres Muschietti

    Being executively produced by Guillermo Del Toro, ghost story MAMA will be expected to reach the high standards expected from the director of such hits as CRONOS and PAN’S LABYRINTH.  No doubt there are Del Toro touches in this film – little girls in peril, dark woods and trees and scrawny monsters, but MAMA does not deliver any thing not seen in any recent ghost movie.  The atmosphere created by director Muschietti is the best thing of the film but the combination of fantasy and the reality of a couple taking care of two young nieces do not work.

    It all starts with the Black October market crash of October - the script obviously trying to relate real life situations to the ghost story.  The father of the young family shoots his wife (not shown on camera) and kidnaps his two young daughters.  Crashing his car in the woods, the two girls are left to fend for themselves in an abandoned cabin.

    That was 5 years ago.  Now their Uncle Lucas (Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain), have been madly searching for them.  But when, incredibly, the kids are found alive in a decrepit cabin, the couple wonders if the girls are the only guests they have welcomed into their home. As Annabel tries to introduce the children to a normal life, she grows convinced of an evil presence in their house.

    Are the sisters experiencing traumatic stress, or is a ghost coming to visit them? How did the broken girls survive those years all alone?  As it becomes apparent that a ghost is visiting them, Muschietti’s film turns into a typical horror movie about as monster after a female protagonist who has to protect the children.  Once the monster ghost MAMA appears, the film goes downhill.

    There have been better ghost stories in the past such as THE WOMAN IN BLACK and ORPHANAGE.  MAMA is advertized as a ghost story but is in reality a horror flick that comes complete with false alarms and cheap scares.  And what is Jessica Chastain doing in this Spanish movie?  She looks as awkward as her make-up to make her look Spanish.

    ON THE ROAD (USA/UK/France/Brazil 2012) ***
    Directed by Walter Salles

    The film that took decades to be mad finally gets its debut directed by Walter Salles of CENTRAL STATION and THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES.

    The film has ‘Kerouac’ all over it.  The film is based on the well known author’s travel across the U.S. with his friends, which he penned into the cult classic novel ON THE ROAD.  Initially he wrote a letter requesting Marlon Brando to play the role of free-wheeling Dean Moriarty but never received a reply.  Francis Coppola bought the book’s rights and the rest is history.

    The movie tells the provocative story of Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), a young writer whose life is shaken and ultimately redefined by the arrival of Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), a free-spirited, fearless, fast talking Westerner and his girl, Marylou (TWILIGHT’s Kristen Stewart).  The story is simple enough which allows director Salles to do whatever he likes with the period piece getting the atmosphere, mood and pacing correct.  The central character is writer Sal.  He follows his new best friend, Dean all around and eventually writes a book about the travels but mostly about Dean.  That is about it!

    In the midst, the audience gets to meet a few of Kerouc’s real famous friends that include William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Old Bull Lee (Viggo Mortensen).  The film includes a few sex scenes that include a threesome and Dean humping a thin, tall salesman (Steven Buscemi) for $20.

    The atmosphere of the period piece is effectively created from props, wardrobe and sets and the cinematography by Eric Gautier is short of stunning.  Two scenes stand out that reflects the spirit of the road movie – one with the raindrops falling off the windshield as the car speeds in the rain and the one with the white lines of the road shown in close up.

    But for a film about the times wild and free, the film does not capture the desperation of the times and characters.  Part of it has to do with Dean’s mischief being too personal that it disconnects with the audience.  Even the scene involving Dean attending a concert with Sal and abandoning his wife and bay to have a good time does not come off as particularly awful.  The concert with Sal and Dean dancing along to the concert is the film’s best scene.

    Of the performances, Hedlund is the most successful as the troublemaker Dean.  His screen presence is definitely there and he is one of the best things about the film.

    Though the film is pleasant, the fact that it just keeps going on and on without apparent purpose, perhaps reflecting the way of Kerouac’s life just fails to satisfy the audience less lead to a compelling film.

    QUARTET (UK 2012) ***
    Directed by Dustin Hoffman

    A comedy/drama for seniors along the lines of THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL with the hotel replaced by a retirement home for gifted musicians.  In order for the house to survive, the house has to earn enough from their annual gala fundraising.  The organizer, Cedric (Michael Gambon) figures that a re performance by THE QUARTET that sung the operatic RIGLOTTO would do the trick.  Trouble that the four are often at loggerheads if not ailing in their health.  The film involves the four putting away their differences and singing together.  The question is not whether they will do it (the audience know they will) but the journey up to that point.  The script covers quite exhaustively what old agers go through (ailments, lost opportunities, wrong turns in life, enmities, pride) and it is also good to see veteran actors like Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins (who play THE QUARTET) have a good time.  Of course, the operatic soundtrack is an added bonus.

     

    PICKS OF THE WEEK:

    Best Film Opening: The Last Stand

    Best Film Playing: Django Unchained

    Best Comedy: This is 40

    Best Family: The Hobbit
    Best Documentary: The Bastard Sings the Sweetest Song

  • TIFF Cinematheque - Tokyo Drifters

    TOKYO DRIFTERS – 100 Years of Nikkatsu

    TIFF celebrates the centenary of the legendary studio with this sizzling series of gangster films, crime thrillers and sexploitation flicks.

    This new series is an absolute goldmine of unseen (in North America) films from postwar Japan.  The films were made from the Nikkatsu Studio than bloomed from its successful productions.  The films emerging from Nikkatsu often featured granite-jawed hit-men and vengeful ex-cons to scheming yakuza and sex-hunting girl gangs.  A combination of Hollywood action hero touch action (Schwarzenegger/Willis/Statham), gangster noir and spaghetti western type films, these are guilty pleasures to watch.

    For complete show times, venue, ticket pricing and complete listing fo films, please check the TIFF website at:

    www.tiff.net

    TIFF provided three screeners for the series, and for what have been provided, this reviewer loved what he saw.  Capsule reviews of these 3 films are provided below:-

    CAPSULE REVIEWS:

    A COLT IS MY PASSPORT (Japan 1967) ****

    Directed by Takashi Nomura


    This super cool action thriller features a Joe Shishido as a super cool hit man.  Hired by a crime boss to do away with another boss threatening his territory, he does so efficiently, dispensing his target right in front of the crime boss to prove he did his job.  But the target’s son joins forces with the crime boss who double crosses the hit man who is now on the run from both families.  But like Schwarzenegger, Willis, Statham and Stallone, this character always survives and comes up on top.  One difference is that Shishido does not spew out choice one liners nor is he that good-looking.  In fact, his face looks swollen.  But he still gets both the girl as well as the audience’s attention as a super cool hero.  His right hand man is a guitar strumming ballad singer who croons love songs.  Nomura’s film is action packed from start to finish with a great climax set in a dusty landfill giving the film the look of a real western showdown.  A COLT IS MY PASSPORT is utter delight, thoroughly entertaining and likely the best film of the series!

    (Sat Mar 16th 10 pm)

    RUSTY KNIFE (Japan 1958) ***

    Directed by Toshio Masuda

    Cops are not painted a good picture in RUSTY KNIFE.  One scene has a member of the public claim that cops are cowards while another has a stupid cop being careless resulting in a witness being shot.  Yet another cop lets a big key witness eat poison right in front of him.  The crooks are the obvious smart ones in the film though by no means less ruthless.  The heroes and poor souls are the bad guys turned good who also happen to be witnesses to a hanging that would do away with a big mobster that has done a lot of harm of the town of Udaka.  The cops want to put him away but no one will testify.  Two

    are down with just one left.  RUSTY KNIFE refers to the weapon used by the hero of the piece, the last man to testify.  This man is Yukihiko (Yujiro Ishihara), a low level Yakuza henchman recently released from prison, after serving time for killing the man he believed responsible for raping and the suicide of his girlfriend.  The film is typical Japanese revenge gangster noir churned out by the Nikkatsu Studios that should not disappoint fans of the genre.  The story also has a twist 30 minutes towards the end that keeps the film filled with its 90 minutes.  Satisfactory time-waster!

    (Sat Feb 9th, 9pm)

    TOKYO DRIFTER (Japan 1966) ***

    Directed by Seijun Sujuki

     

    TOKYO DRIFTER is the film resulting from the Nikkatsu Studios tightening the reigns on director Sujuki’s works.  The result is a film that often makes no sense, is all over the place (there is an extended saloon brawl scene, musical numbers and ridiculous shoot-outs) and short of narrative continuity.  Still watchable for all its bizarre segments, the plot if familiar, involves former yakuza hit-man Tetsu (blank-faced pop singer Tetsuya Watari, wearing a powder-blue suit), determined to go straight, but soon targeted by his former boss and an old rival for extermination.  One never knows what to expect but the hero still comes out alive and gun blazing nevertheless.

    (Sat Mar 2, 10pm)

  • TIFF Cinematheque - Trintignant and Riva

    Bell begins a series of films featuring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva to commemorate their Cannes Palme d’Or Winner AMOUR which is currently playing.

    It is odd to note that quite a many of the roles played by Trintignant is that of a weakling while Riva has strong female roles.  Wonderful to watch these veterans on the screen when they were at their prime.

    For complete programme, listings, venue and ticket pricing, checkt he website at:

    www.tiff.net

    Capsule reviews of 5 films from the series are provided below, courtesy of TIFF Cinematheque that provided the screeners.

    CAPSULE REVIEWS:

    LES BICHES (BAD GIRLS) (FRANCE/ITALY 1969) ****

    Directed by Claude Charbrol


    LES BICHES, translated into The Bitches or Bad Girls might not be the correct translation for the French term as in the movie LES BICHES refer to the female deer (or does) that the character called Why (Juliette Lassard) paints as a street artist before bisexual Fredericque (Charbrol’s regular Stephane Audran) whisks her off to her wealthy world of indulgence.  But they duo are bad girls.  Frederique mistreats Why to demonstrate her power and steals lover Michel (Jean-Louis Trintignant) from her right under her nose.  Why can forgive (do not ask why?) but she wants the affection still of Frederique.  Charbrol’s film is deadly sinister from start to end and one knows the story can only end in tragedy.  Enough said, but Charbrol’s film is both wickedly seductive and funny as is witnessed in the best of his works such as LE CRI DE HIBOU, COQ ET VINEGRETTE and THE CHAMPAGNE MURDERS.   The two idiotic fairies that hang around Frederique’s mansion are both hilarious as well as annoying!

    (Thu Feb 7th, 630pm)

    IL CONFORMISTA (THE CONFORMIST) (Italy/France/Germany 1970) *****

    Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci


    With THE SPIDER’S STRATEGM, THE CONFORMIST makes up the two best Bertolucci films.  Both are masterfully crafted political period masterpieces shot in stunning cinematography with gorgeous art direction and lighting.  THE CONFORM IST follows the life of Fascist Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant) from boyhood to the time as a grown man when his past catches up with his during the downfall of Mussolini.  There is a lot of story to tell in this film, based on the 1951 novel by Alberto Moravia.  The film opens with Clerici in Paris as he finalizes his preparations to assassinate his former college professor, Luca Quadri (Enzo Tarascio).  Through flashbacks, the audience learns of Clerici’s background including his relationship with his morphine-addicted mother and insane father committed to an asylum.  A homosexual encounter with a chauffeur, Lino (Pierre Clementi) appears to have affected Clerici’s ability to love his wife, Guila (Stefania Sandrelli).  Bertolucci’s film contains unforgettable segments like the murder segment in the snow covered forest, the lesbian tango dance and the Clerici’s visitation of the stark open offices of the Fascist Government.  The real purpose of Clerici accepting the role of the assassin is to attain a normalcy lacking in his life, which ironically is never achieved due to the fact that the man has confused normalcy with conformity.  The ending of the film which is different from the book which had Clerici killed is no less devastating.

    (Jan 11th, Fri 6.30pm)

    ET DIEU…CREA LA FEMME (AND GOD CREATED WOMAN) (France 1956) ***

    Directed by Roger Vadim


    The title says it all!  And God created woman and man does not know what to make of it.  The woman in question in Roger Vadim’s film is sex kitten Brigitte Bardot (Vadim did the same later for Jane Fonda in BARBARELLA) who drives all the men crazy she is around with.  She ends up marrying a brave but weak Michel (a very young Jean-Louis Tringtinant) who does so to save her from trouble.  Mother is upset but this drives eldest brother Antoine insanely jealous.  It does not help than rich businessman Curd Jurgens also has an eye for her.  But he also wants the family’s shipyard and the script is at least clever enough to have him and the family work together to get a viable business going, despite the sex troubles.  Brigitte Bardot is actually superb in her role, dishing out sex as well as sympathy so that the audience ends up caring for her – a rarity in films of this sort.  AND GOD CREATED WOMAN turns out better than it sounds and even turns up a satisfactory and realistic climatic ending.

    Sat Jan 26th 7.30pm)

    HIROSHIMA, MON AMOUR (France/Japan 1959) ****
    Directed by Alain Resnais

     

    HIROSHIMA, MON AMOUR should be seen not only for the reason that it presents a very young and beautiful Emmanuelle Riva (AMOUR) in her prime but that is a collaboration between Marguerite Duras who wrote the script and director Alain Resnais.  This is Resnais’ first film and the elements of memory, love lost and found, time travel (though not literally in this film as in JE T’AIME, my first French film I saw), exploration of human emotions found in this film are repeated in his future work.  In HIRSHIMA, MON AMOUR, a French actress (Riva) shooting a film in Hiroshima has an affair with a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada).  Both have had bad pasts, her particularly being locked in a cellar from an affair with a German soldier during the war.  They find solace in the short time they are together, while dreading the time for her to leave to go back to France.  She is from the province of Nevers and the Resnais’ inside joke is that she never wishes to return to Nevers.  The best thing of the film is the reflection of the effects of the atom bomb that was dropped on the city.  The images are unforgettable, scary but nevertheless stunning black and white.  Resnais’ film drags a bit during the second half when the film concentrates on the couple instead of the bomb, but the film is still a riveting experience.

    KAPO (Italy/France 1960) ****
    Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo


    Emmanuelle Riva would not be forgotten for her role of Terese in this film in which she commits suicide on electrified barbed wire with raised hand.  This scene provoked condemnation by French director/auteur Jacques Rivette that was reported to have really affected director Pontoecorvo.  The film is the coming–of-age story of Edith (Susan Strasberg), a Jew who loses her parents.  In order to survive, she is forced to take the identity of a French thief Nicole.  At first naïve and innocent, she becomes more hardened to the brutal life.   She first sells her body to a German guard in return for food; she becomes fond of another guard, Karl (Gianni Garko).  The fraternization helps her become a KAPO, one of those put in charge of the other prisoners. She thrives, but falls in love with Sascha (Laurent Terzieff), a Russian POW.   Edith redeems her soul by playing a crucial role in a mass escape, turning off the power.   KAPO is a good story that involves transformation of character and the triumph of the human spirit.  Director Pontecorvo plays the film for more emotion than political correctness or statement.  But the still comes across not only as convincing war drama but a powerful account of life in a concentration camp.

    (Sat Jan 19th 4.30pm)

    MA NUIT CHEZ MAUD (France 1968) ****
    Directed by Eric Rohmer

    The 3rd of the director’s series of moral tales, MY NIGHT AT MAUD is ty[pivcal Rohmer material – talky, talky, talky.  This does not mean that the film is dull or uninteresting.  His subject again deals with coincidences that occur in many of his films and romance among young people.  And also the decision of finding a spouse (LE BEAU MARIAGE).  The lead character is a Catholic engineer Jean-Louis (Trintignant) who decies at the start of the movie that a blonde (Marie-Christian Barrault) he meets at mass is the girl he will marry.  He follows her while she rides her bicycle and eventually meets up with her and dates her.  But the title of the film refers to the night he spends with Maud (Françoise Fabian) just before meeting the blonde – a night when the audience gets to learn about Jean-Louis through conversation.  Some makes complete sense – like the interesting proposal that if one believes in God, he stands to gain infinity, but if he is wrong and there is no God, he loses nothing.  A lot of mathematics involving probability and expectancy is included in the script as JL studies Pascal.  The film is stunningly shot by Nester Almedros and set in Clermont Ferond (reputedly the ugliest part of France) but looking marvellous on film.  One of Rohmer’s best!

  • This Week's Film Reviews (Jan 11, 2013)

    A few OSCAR contenders make their opening in Toronto this week.  ZERO DARK THIRTY and AMOURmake their debut as does the cheesy GANGSTER SQUAD.

     

    AMOUR (France/Austria/Germany 2012) **** 

      Directed by Michael Hanake

    The Palme d’Or Winner at this year’s Cannes and TFCA’s chpice for Best Foreign film, AMOUR is no doubt riveting as are most of the Michael Haneke films (WHITE RIBBON, THE PIANIST, FUNNY GAMES). 

    This drama about love deals with an elderly couple Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers.  Their daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert) who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack. The couple''s bond of love is severely tested.  But the husband’s love persists and he honours her desire not to be put in a home.  But her health deteriorates badly so much so that she has to be fed and mutters most of the time from dementia.  Eva is upset by her mother’s health but does nothing.  Georges’ patience is severely

      Haneke covers all the areas of the subject here to his credit – Anne’s dementia, her bowel movements, her wish to die, her dependence on her husband, her required feeding, I fact everything.  The result is a rather brutal time watching what the family goes through.  But that is what life is about, and old age and failing health is something everyone has to go through, but from Hanake’s eyes.

    A DARK TRUTH (Canada 2012) **
    Directed by Damien Lee


    Not the first thriller about the fight for water rights (Roman Polanski’s CHINATOWN being the best film on this topic), A DARK TRUTH comes across as a well-intentioned but highly flawed film.

    Well intentioned likely for the impressive talent that lend their talents into the film.  Forest Whitaker, Andy Garcia, Deborah Kara Unger, Eva Longoria and teen Devon Bostick lend their hands.

    Andy Garcia plays a former CIA operative turned political talk show host, who is hired by a corporate whistle blower to expose her company''s cover-up of a massacre in a South American village.   When he arrives, he is plunged into a violent and chaotic situation, with the military cracking down on a group of protesters led by a pair of activists (Eva Longoria and Forrest Whitaker). The ever-increasing depletion of earth''s natural resource of water serves as the backdrop for this tense environmental thriller.

    But there is just too much going on in this film from the water rights problem, to the marriage problem, to the activists to the company involved.   The result is a messy thriller with no focus.  The film jumps from one character to the next just as it jumps from country to another.  Most of the talented cast look flustered as to what to do.

    The film, shot in Toronto is recognizable by its many common streets and sites, might interest more Torontonians.

    THE GANGSTER SQUAD (USA 2013) ***

    Directed by Ruben Fleischer

    THE GANGSTER SQUAD, based on the novel “Tales from the Gangster Squad” by Paul Lieberman is supposedly as chronicle of the LAPD’s fight to keep the mob in the form of Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) out of Los Angeles in then 40s and 50s.  The story traces the efforts of six officers led by John O’Mara (Josh Brolin).

    The film plays along the line of successful actions films like THE DIRTY DOZEN or THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.  The initial part of the film consists of recruiting the squad.  A few sacrifice their lives to save L.A. just a few of the dozen and seven were dispensed of.  The good police chief who pioneered the idea of an unknown gangster squad is played with sufficient scowl by Nick Nolte.

    It is odd that so many films make the same mistake as THE GANGSTER SQUAD does in the first reel of opening.  The words ‘based on a true story’ is flashed on the screen, followed by a quite ridiculous and unbelievable action segment in which Sgt John O’Mara single handedly enters the mobster’s lair and takes down 4 (the latter two without a weapon) to rescue a damsel in distress.

    The film has been in the news since the theatre massacre scene in the film has been removed after the DARK KNIGHT RISES shooting in a cinema in Colarado last July.  If it is true then that no publicity is bad publicity, the postponement of the film’s opening date to 2013 should do the film some box-office good.  But as far as gangster films go, Fleischer’s film is as over-the-top as Sean Penn’s performance.  It is doubtful that anyone would take this film too seriously.

    But one can hardly forgive the filmmakers trying to pas this hogwash as L.A. history.  Bits might be true, but if the film was touted instead as pure fictional works of cops versus mobsters, perhaps inspired by real events, critics may be more forgivable with the film’s result.

    The film is aided by a few intelligent performances, Sean Penn’s withstanding.  Josh Brolin is smart enough to play his character straight and serious, giving the film the tone of balance it desperately needs.  Pretty boy Ryan Gosling as Sgt Jerry Wooters does well in the role of a fighter that does not want to get his hands dirty.  Surprisingly it is Giovanni Ribisi who steals the show as the non-violent brain of the squad

    Though THE GANGSTER SQUAD is entirely watchable with credit given for good period atmosphere and well executed action scenes, it is clear that this film still comes across as quite implausible and laughable in many parts.  Don’t expect anything along the lines of THE BLACK DAHLIA or L.A. CONFIDENTIAL and you won’t be disappointed.

    MANBOURG (Canada 2011)

    Directed by Steven Kostanski

    This horror film is having a monthly screening at The Royal (College Street, Toronto).   January''s will be this Friday the 11 at 11:30 pm. - already a cult classic, the film is a love letter to straight to VHS sci-fi 80s movies.

    (Review will be posted for Feb’s screening)

    ZERO DARK THIRTY (USA 2012) ***1/2

    Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

    Right hot after winning The Best Picture Oscar for THE HURT LOCKER, director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal team up with another military action thriller.  ZERO DARK THIRTY (referring to the period of time 30 minutes past midnight) is the story of perhaps the greatest American manhunt in history – the search and capture of Osama Bin Laden.

    The story centres on the character of naïve CIA agent who goes by the name of Maya (Jessica Chastain) who supposedly masterminded the discovery of the whereabouts of OBL.  The navy seals were called in to attack the fort with the result of him being killed. But not after Maya has given out all that she has got.

    The script has her undergo the typical coming-of-age growing up to maturity as she accomplishes her goal.  Initially, shocked but accepting the torture by the American military, she gradually grows from soft to hardened in order to get the job done.  Maya finally reaches her angry peak when she confidently says to the Navy Seals, “You go and kill Bin Laden for me,” as if it is her own private vendetta.

    ZERO DARK THIRTY is efficiently technical and executed with military flair.  The film contains lots of disturbing torture segments but none more disturbing that have been seen in documentaries such as TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE and THE GUANTANAMO TRAP on the same subject on torture.  In the case of this film, director Bigelow does not really judge whether torture works or not, but she does reveal that relevant information was obtained through feeding a prisoner with information.  The script and director keeps the film moving fast from start to finish keeping the audience’s attention.  The climatic segment of the raid on the fort in the dark of night is brilliantly executed.  Bigelow is a female director comfortable with making non female films but this one has a female touch.  Besides the protagonist being female, she brings a more human look for example, at the torturing by the Americans.

    ZERO DARK THIRTY is an efficient thriller that at times is too technical to be entertaining.  But it is a well made film nevertheless.  Voted Best Picture by the New York Film Critics Circle and nominated for Best Picture by the TFCA.

    BEST PICKS OF THE WEEK:

    1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
    1. Django Unchained
    1. Amour
  • This Week's Film Reviews (Jan 4, 2013)

    Only 1 new film opening this week, PROMISED LAND, based on a script co-written by Matt Damon and John Krasinksi and directed by Gus Van Sant.  Other than that, sure that there are enoguh Christmas film still going around.

    Please check the Christmas Film Reviews for the reviews of all the Christmas movies.

    PORTRAIT OF WALLY (USA 2012) ***

    Directed by Andrew Shea

    Wally is Egon Schiele’s famous art painting of his mistress.  This painting was seized by the Nazis from Jewish art dealer Lea Bondi.  When the painting resurfaced in 1997 at MOMA (Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art), the government set in to confiscate the painting.  The painting was on loan to MOMA by Austria and a legal battle continued that embittered both the public and the art crowd.

    Director Shea’s film consists mainly of experts on the topic from museum directors to collectors to legal art films talking about the topic.  Though it appears to go on and on, the effect eventually rubs off the audience, who will feel as infuriated as though been robbed.  Shea has done his homework well and the list of interviewees selected is impressive.  The film would be of more interest to those who collect art, obviously, but the film is definitely not without its educational perspective.

    PORTRAIT OF WALLY is January’s Doc Soup presentation at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.  Screenings are on Wed Jan9 at 6.30 pm and 915pm as well as on Thursday Jan 10 at 6.45 pm.  The director will be present for a Q & A as well as to introduce his film.

    PROMISED LAND (USA 2012) ***

    Directed by Gus Van Sant

     

    Gus Van Sant is no stranger to the controversial movie after directing the critically and box-office successful film, MILK.  It is the topic of contamination by ‘fracking’ of the oil companies that is the issue in this movie.

    Fracking is the process of extracting oil by gas companies from the underground shale deposits beneath the earth’s surface.  The process has been known to contaminate the water in the region.  In PROPMISED LAND, based on a story by Dave Eggers, two corporate sales people Steve Butler (Matt Damon) and Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) visit a rural town to buy the drilling rights from the local residents.  Into the picture arrives, Dustin (John Krasinksi), a spirited but mysterious environmentalist intent of swinging the people’s vote the other way.

    The script is penned by Damon and Krasinksi.  No doubt it is again the Oscar script writing prize that Damon has his eye on, after he and good buddy Ben Affleck won for theirs in GOOD WILL HUNTING, also directed by Van Sant.  PROMISED LAND lands a good script, no doubt, one that will have audience feeling good for all good intentioned purposes.  It is highly manipulative and quite predictable at the same time.  Though there is no doubt as to the ultimate ending of the story, the script contains one major twist which I predicted without any problem at all.  Still, as far as commercial stuff goes, Kransinki and Damon’s script is one top notch script which contains the occasionally brilliance – such as the parts of the 25 cent lemonade change that the little girl instructs Steve Bulter on and the one of Steve and Sue in the car that will not start after their attempt at a fair fails and the banner “Global Go Home” falls on the windscreen.

    The script also plays it safe.  The film starts off with the lead character Steve Butler’s revelation as to his reasoning behind doing the kind of job he does.  He honestly thinks he is doing the folks a good deed.  Van Sant also swings the audience to Butler’s side before turning the tables.

    Damon, Krasinksi and especially McDormand land excellent performances that make the film a real pleasure to watch.  But it is really McDormand’s Sue Thomason single mother character that is the most interesting to watch.  This is a woman, who has unknowingly sold her soul to money for the sake of seeing her son grow up perfect, according to her eyes.  Nothing stands in her way.  McDormand makes this character lovable with a dash of humour and human emotions.  Hal Holbrook delivers an Oscar winning supporting performance as the knowledgeable retired school teacher who challenges the oil company.

    The small town atmosphere is effectively created from the wardrobe to the local bars to the farms.  Danny Elfman did the music adding some country flair to it.

    As far as the oil business goes, it is interesting to note that Abu Dhabi partly financed this movie, of course hoping to persuade Americans against fracking and producing oil in their own country.  Everything is a business including this film with Oscar hopes that of course, would boost the financial prospects of this otherwise

    bright movie.

  • This Week's Christmas Film Reviews (Dec 2012) Updated

    Early openings of these films Dec 19th Wednesday.  More opening Friday and Christmas day.  Check for updates.

    HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

    REVIEWS:

    CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WORLDS AWAY 3D (USA 2012) **

    Directed by Andrew Adamson


    For Christmas, (what more an appropriate time?) from the big top to the big screen, visionary filmmaker James Cameron (AVATAR, TITANIC) and director Andrew Adamson (Shrek, Narnia) brings on an all new 3D adventure: Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away.

    A young couple who is separated, must journey through the astonishing and dreamlike worlds of Cirque du Soleil to find each other, as audiences are supposed to experience the immersive 3D technology that will allow them to leap, soar, swim, and dance with the performers.

    It all begins with an innocent waif, Mia (Erica Minz) wandering a circus (called ‘Marvellous’) grounds before being attracted to various performers.  She enters a tent where she is fascinated, if not in mesmerized with an aerialist (Igor Zaripov).  During this performance, he falls on to the ground, the sand sucking him.  Mia dives as if to save him.  The two end up sucked into a different world where they, like the audience experience the Cirque Du Soleil performances.

    For a romantic story, the film does not work.  The audience is too distanced and no effort is made to make any sense of why the two should even look at each other.

    As for Cirque Du Soleil, the 3D and all the special effects, the result is a complete bore rather than fascination.  The title WORLDS AWAY says it all.  The individual sequences such as The Beatles’ ‘Under the Sea” segment are all mesmerizing but too much with no differentiation will eventually bring on big yawns.

    No doubt, those who are unable to cough out more than a $100 will have the film as the only opportunity to experience CIRQUE DU SOLEIL, but there is nothing like watching this live.  But this can also be boring as it is one performance after another.  It is either one is all out for it or not!

    DJANGO (Italy/Spain 1968) ***
    Directed by Sergio Corbucci


    DJANGO is one of the original spaghetti westerns and the one that shot actor Franco Nero to fame.  Nero has also a friendly cameo in Quentin Tarrantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED.  If ever one wants to know the definition of a spaghetti western, DJANGO is it.  The film is tacky, cheesy, violent, nonsensical for the most part, but mostly fun.

    The film opens with Django (Nero) rescuing a damsel in distress.  Apparently there are two feuding sections, the Mexicans and Americans led by Ted.   Django has allegiance initially with the Mexicans, or the Mexican general in particular but it is the Mexicans that crush his hands to pieces in the end.

    The plot involves Django falling in love with the damsel and stealing the gold from a fort.  The bad guys, both Mexicans and Americans are both done in at the end as expected.

    Tackiness takes the form of cat fights in the mud, cloths torn of the whores and the gunfight action scenes in which Django always comes upon top, smashed or no smashed hands.

    The film is obviously re-released to cash in on the opening of Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED, and will be screened at TIFF in the subtitled, not dubbed version.

    DJANGO UNCHAINED (USA 2012) ***** Top 10

    Directed by Quentin Tarrantino


    DJANGO UNCHAINED begins with the familiar title song sung by Elisa that was originally written by Ennio Morricone.  The music and look from the muddy and rocky landscape immediately immerse the audience in the atmosphere of the spaghetti western genre.  What follows is a typical styled spaghetti western but given the Quentin Tarrantino touch.  DJANGO UNCHAINED is the critic’s most anticipated film of the year.  It already went on to win a slew of award nominations mostly notable the golden globes, including Best Picture and acting honours for both its 2 leading stars.

    The film, set in 1958, two years before the civil war, begins with a travelling dentist, Dr. Schultz (Christophe Waltz), a German rescuing black slave Django (Jamie Foxx) from slavery, and hence the film’s title.  The sight of the free Django riding high on a horse with a white man draws more than resentment from any white folk in any town.  It turns out that Schultz is a bounty hunter who recruits Django to help.  In the process, the two attempt to rescue Django’s wife from Mr. Candy (Leonardo DiCaprio) a, slave trader who dabbles in black boxers.

    Dialogue (especially sweet talking) is always of prime importance in a Tarantino film.   In his last INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, he got away with the entire film shot in French and German.  In this film, German is also spoken but it is the word ‘nigger’ that is heard so often that it does not bother the audience any more.

    Though Christophe Waltz has most often been cast as a psychotic villain, casting him here as the hero and lead character is a good decision.  Waltz is also Tarrantino’s best sweet talker.  Waltz is so good and full of surprises, one cannot get enough of him.  His voice is immediately recognizable once he first appears, full bearded on screen.  Foxx is not bad but incomparable to Waltz and there are a few surprise cameos including Franco Nero (the original Django).  Samuel L. Jackson is definitely memorable as the really nasty black slave master, Steve who is s scary as he is over-the-top.

    Tarrantino leaves his strong imprint in this as in his other movies.  The film has an exceptional lot of dialogue in certain scenes (the best being the debate on the wearing of white masks during a raid), violence (the most cinematic being the blood sprayed on the white flowers in the field) and surprises, not counting the director’s own cameo near the end of the film.   The all out shootout climax at the end is quite the blast, well worth the almost 3 hour film length.

    At one point in the film, the DiCaprio character remarks to Schultz that Django has aroused his curiosity but questions whether he will get his attention.  Though DJANGO UNCHAINED is not as good as INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, his film will undoubtedly still be quite the attention grabber.

    GREGORY CREWDSON: BRIEF ENCOUNTERS (USA 2012) ***
    Directed by Ben Shapiro


    Gregory Crewdson, now a Yale Professor, is known in the art world for his painstaking, meticulous elaborately staged photographs, many taken with little light around the towns of Massachusetts that have always fascinated him.  Director Ben Shapiro paints a jovial natured character out of Gregory, taking his camera along when Gregory scouts for his new locations and works on his projects.  Though these may concern a lot of just driving around, the audience do get a good fell of the effort put into the artist’s work.

    It is not surprising then that the work chosen for this documentary is Gregory’s project entitled ‘Beneath the Roses’ which included his most difficult shot of a freshly snow covered main road in a small town in the wee hours of the morning.  The town had to be closed off and lights brought in to enhance the brightness.  Shapiro also brings the other side of the picture into the work.  An angry dissatisfied snow shoveller of the town, when told not to clear the snow for spoilage of a shot retorts that Greg and crew just come in and take over the town and that if any one slips on the ice, it is him that is responsible for not clearing the snow.

    The film includes a brief but eye-opening profile of the stories of Gregory’s Park Slope childhood (in which he tried to overhear patients of his psychologist father), his summers in the bucolic countryside (which he now imbues with a sense of dread and foreboding), and his encounter with Diane Arbus''s work in 1972 at age 10.  Interviewees chosen include novelists Rick Moody and Russell Banks, and fellow photographer Laurie Simmons, who comment on the motivation behind their friend''s haunting images.  But what is glaringly missing is Gregory’s current life.  Is he married, is he settled with a girlfriend or what even is his sexual orientation?  He could seem like a fussy queen hobbling about always wanting his own ways.

    That aside, Shapiro’s documentary on Gregory Crewdson does his work justice.  It is beyond doubt that the artist’s work is stunning, and a lot of time is also devoted for the audience to appreciate this fact.

    THE GUILT TRIP (USA 2012) ***

    Directed by Anne Fletcher

    Mother, Joyce Brewster (Barbra Streisand) and son, Andrew (Seth Rogen) take on a road trip ending in San Francisco so that son can sell his latest invention.

    As far as road trip movies go, this is a road trip movie, so don’t expect FUNNY GIRL or a great Barbra Streisand comeback.  In fact, when the film opens, and motor-mouth Streisand starts talking non-stop, one immediately reminded on a similar role she had in the 70’s in THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT, a romantic comedy in which she drives lover George Segal insane with her talk.  This time around, it is her son she drives crazy.

    So much so, that he has moved far away from her to go to school and tries to get her hitched again.  The problem with Fletcher’s film is that the plot pints are entirely predictable.  One can also tell when a confrontation scene is approaching or when Andrew is finally going to nail a sale.  But director Fletcher (27 DRESSES, THE PROPOSAL and STEP UP) knows how to please her audiences anyway as can be witnessed from her past box-office successes.

    Apart from that and that quite a few jokes just do not work (like the Grand Canyon jokes that fall as deep as the World Wonder), Streisand and Rogen do make good chemistry.  THE GULIT TRIP is also a well-intentioned good hearted comedy about how mothers and sons should love each other despite all differences.

    The only surprise is the end segment when the camera moves back in the airport lounge to reveal…. (sorry, no spoiler here!) a neat touch to the ending of the film.

    THE IMPOSSIBLE (Spain 2012) ****

    Directed by P.A. Bayona


    The film is based on a true story.· And the words ‘true story’ remain on the screen to emphasize that this incredible tale of a Spanish family holidaying in Thailand when the Tsunami hit in the 26th of December is all true.

    Many films have been made on the effects of the Tsunami on people, but none as immediate as this one.· THE IMPOSSIBLE does not deal with how a family or how people recover from the Tsunami’s aftermath but with a family’s desperate search for each other right after the storm hits.· It is an imperious journey, and not one short on hope, of survival and the search for lost ones.· The story is incredible and hence the appropriate title of the film THE IMPOSSIBLE.

    The story is effectively adapted from a Spanish family to an English speaking family working in Japan holidaying in Thailand.· When the Tsunami hits, the story focuses first on the mother, Maria (Naomi Watts) and the eldest son, Lucas (an incredible performance by blue eyed wonder boy Tom Holland who will definitely go far in the film world).· Maria is injured and both end up in a hospital where Lucas helps others find their lost family.· In the mean time, father Henry (Ewan McGregor) makes the difficult decision to leave the other two sons at a shelter while searching for his wife and Lucas.

    This seems a simple tale of the triumph of the human spirit.· But the script by Lopez is excellent from both dialogue and events points of view.· In terms of dialogue, there is an amazing written scene of Lucas chatting with a 76-year old survivor while gazing at the stars in the sky.· After exchanging information of their ages, the elderly woman (Geraldine Chaplin) says that the light in the sky could come from stars that are dead.· When asked by the boy how one can tell if a star is alive or dead, she replies that one cannot.· When Maria is given anaesthetics for sleep when she undergoes surgery, the doctor tells Maria to think of pleasant things.· When she closes her eyes, director Bayona uses the opportunity to offer the audience a second look at the stunning special effects of the Tsunami hitting the beach resort, this time with Maria as the focus.

    One can forgive any plot implausibilities when the film is titled THE IMPOSSIBLE.· Despite the film getting a bit sappy, THE IMPOSSIBLE is still a well crafted feel-good family movie.

    JACK REACHER (USA 2012) ****

    Directed by Christopher McQuarrie


    It seems as if there are insufficient MISSION IMPOSSIBLE films for Tom Cruise that he has to take on another lone super hero figure.  He is Lee Child’s JACK REACHER, a character in one of Child’s more than a dozen novels.  But this time around, the hero is a sexless (not interested at all in sex of either kind) but a protector of the innocent and totally street smart.  To differentiate the films, JACK REACHER is suspense mystery as opposed to action type MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.  Director McQuarrie (VALKYRIE) keeps reminding the audience of this throughout the movie, right down to the Hitchcock style overhead shot of blonde heroine Helen (Rosamund Pike, British actress now turned into American films) of falling to the floor after being tasered in the elevator.

    JACK REACHER is as slick and as efficient as McQuarrie’s film is executed.  As in the novels, ex-military police Jack Reacher is a loner, moving from town to town his whereabouts unknown till a caught sniper scribbles the words (‘Find Jack Reacher’ on paper while coming out of a coma.  The sniper has shot 5 apparently innocent victims, and defending attorney Helen (Pike) seeks to get him off death row but not without the help of Reacher (Cruise).

    When the films starts, the film looks like DIRTY HARRY, the one in which a sniper (Andy Robinson) holds a city ransom but Lee Child’s story is more solid that the film and at times just as satisfying.

    JACK REACHER moves at a slower pace than action films and necessarily so and this is not an action film.  But the tactic pays off, as the film incites much, much audience anticipation as it incites the inherent violence in the audience.  In many segments, one would want Reacher to beat the hell out of his victims.  The script, written by McQuarrie (who also wrote THE USUAL SUSPECTS) is not without humour.  But at times, it sinks into obvious preaching, as in the segments in which Reacher educates Helen on what freedom is and on what is the right thing to do besides just doing her job.

    Cruise is fine and credible enough for his Jack Reacher character despite the character in Child’s novel being 6 foot 5 inches.  Childs as a very brief cameo as a police officer in the station while the strong supporting cast including David Oyeolo (looking in many shots like a young Sidney Poitier) and Richard Jenkins aid the film along.

    JACK REACHER is the only action film, oops, I mean suspense mystery thriller around this Christmas and definitely worth a look!

    MONSTERS, INC 3D (USA 2012) ****
    Directed Pete Doctor


    The fourth entry from Pixar Animation and just as successful as their TOY STORY films, MONSTERS, INC. gets a full re-release treatment in 3d, just in time for Christmas.  A favourite and a box-office success when first released, MONSTERS, INC is imaginative, pure delight and deserve a second viewing be it in 3D during the festive tide.

    Directed by Pete Doctor and co -directed by Lee Unkrich and David Silverman, the story centres on two monsters who work for a company named Monsters, Inc.: top scarer James P. Sullivan (John Goodman with his bear-like voice) known as "Sulley” and his one-eyed assistant, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal).  Monsters generate their city''s power by scaring children, but they are terribly afraid themselves of being contaminated by children, so when one enters Monstropolis, Sulley finds his world disrupted.  The villains of the piece are Sulley’s rival, Randall (Steve Buscemi) and the owner of the company, Henry J. Waternoose (the late Oscar winner James Coburn).  In the mayhem, a little girl, Boo (Mary Gibbs) escapes into the monster world.  With every monster after her, Sully saves her and the day.

    Goodman and Crystal make up one of the best pair of voice characterizations since Murphy and Myers in the SHREK films.  But the prize voice goes to Bob Peterson who does Roz, the bespectacled femal clerk who is always after Mike for the paperwork.

    The animated sets particularly the doors and doors on conveyor belts running through the factory warehouse are both imaginative and stunning.

    Though the film has a monster theme, the filmmakers keep their animation of the creatures to be funny rather than scary.  Most of the time, the monsters are oafish, clumsy objects with more feet or tentacles or less members like one eye ending up amusing to look at.

    MONSTERS, INC is enchanting enough with or without the 3D.  The prequel MONTSERS UNIVERSITY should be a worthwhile wait.  It is scheduled to open in 2013.

    PARENTAL GUIDANCE (USA 2012) *

    Directed by Andy Fickman


    PARENTAL GUIDANCE is the only live action family comedy about a family to open this festive season that would be the perfect family outing to the cinemas.  Unfortunately, it is also the worst film to open and a brutal viewing experience.  The film feels much, much worse when you have the next person seated to you thoroughly enjoying this awful film.

    Old school grandfather Artie (Billy Crystal), who is accustomed to calling the shots, meets his match when he and his eager-to-please wife Diane (Bette Midler) agree to babysit their three grandkids when their type-A helicopter parents (Marisa Tomei, Tom Everett Scott) go away for work. But when 21st century problems collide with Artie and Diane''s old school methods of tough rules, lots of love and old-fashioned games, it''s learning to bend - and not holding your ground - that binds a family together.

    As the story goes, it is all predictable material and an uninspired production.  Crystal and Midler give it everything that they have to no avail.  The fact that the film concentrates on baseball does not help either, as not every family in the world, notable those outside the U.S. would be that interested in this American sport.  But the most embarrassing performance belongs to Tomei who delivers a clueless a performance as her clueless mother character.  And the film is not without the barfing and kick in the groin infantile humour.

    If PARENTAL GUIDANCE had better writing and direction, or perhaps had Crystal and Midler replaced and the entire film remade, the film might have been a classical.  This makes Billy Crystal’s other embarrassing family piece MY GIANT by comparison, a classic.  There are worse things I could write about this movie, but this is the season of good cheer.

    RUST AND BONE (France 2012) ***

    Directed by Jacques Audiard


    The much anticipated Cannes Grand Prix winner from the director of UN PROPHETE and DE BATTRE MON COUER S’EST ARRETE, Jacques Audiard, RUST AND BONE is just as dramatic, if not more but with a freer flowing style.

    The story centres on boxer, Ali.  Broke, homeless, and drifting, Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts from BULLHEAD) scrambles to make a living for himself and his young son: he steals food, sleeps on the streets, and finally relocates to the French Riviera to live with his estranged sister in her cramped apartment.  All too happy to let his sister watch the boy, Ali focuses on his burgeoning career as a back-alley boxer, dreaming of making it big as a mixed martial artist. Taking work as a nightclub bouncer, he crosses paths with Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard), who works as a killer-whale trainer at an amusement park, commanding the beasts with an ease absent from her interpersonal relations.   But Stéphanie suffers a terrible accident, losing both her legs in the process.  Director Audiard films the accident sequence artistically without too much gore and violence.  The unlikely pair fall into a tender, tentative courtship.

    The trouble with RUST AND BONE compared to his other films is not that there is not enough emotion or drama.  But there is not enough story.  The only subplot concerning Ali’s sister and their relationship cold has been expanded, as could the father son relationship.

    Cotillard delivers a good enough performance but it seems a cop out that her character should be comfortable in Ali’s boxing world.  She has to hobble around in her artificial limbs but is still able to collect all the bets.

    Despite its flaws, Audiard’s film is still engaging, thanks to the two lead performances.  Ant it is always dramatic to watch two misfortune creatures learn to get back on their feet.

    THIS IS 40 (USA 2012) ****

    Directed by Judd Apatow


    From responses of colleagues, THIS IS 40 is a hate it or laugh it comedy.  Writer/director/producer Judd Apatow (HE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, FUNNY PEOPLE) brings his mown brand of an original comedy that expands upon the story of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Apatow’s wife, Leslie Mann) from the blockbuster hit KNOCKED UP as we see first-hand how they are dealing with their current state of life.

    And they are not dealing with it too well.  It is hard to tell whether they are loving each other or quarrelling it all out more than half the time.  The film is long at over 2 hours, but I found the loud out laugh moments just too much – and I did not want the film to end.  As said, many would feel otherwise.

    As the ads go, the film is family- this is life and THIS IS 40.  The loose plot deals with Peter reaching 40 and his wife, now newly pregnant but unknown to Pete, who has just reached the same age, though she lies that she is 38.  They have two daughters, Maude and Charlotte brilliantly played by Iris and Maude Apatow, the director’s daughters.  That aside, they are pretty brilliant young actresses.  There is a strong comic supporting cast that includes Jason Segel, Melissa McCarthy and especially Albert Brooks and John Lithgow as the two very different fathers of the couple.

    Those who enjoyed BRIDESMAIDS will be pleased to see McCarthy at her funniest as well as Chris O’Dowd as Pete’s business colleague.

    There is one comical segment involving Debbie cornering and telling off one of Sadie’s classmates at school for him taking her (Sadie) off his ‘hot list’.  The repercussion is the boy’s mother cornering Pete who brushes her off while abusing her at the same time.  The next has all three parents in the school office at a faceoff.  These three skits put together are the funniest I have witnessed on film this year.  (Having the awards consideration screener, I have watched these 3 parts countless times to my amusement.)

    The script is timely with a story of a typical family in the present.  The characters deal with itunes, ipods with problems such as hot lists, relationships, parent/children relationship, work and friendship issues as well as parent issues.  Apatow has rounded up all the problems a couple in a typical modern family can face, the least of all their relationship with each other.

    The result is a very realistic funny film, with many off-colored jokes (that are really hilarious), great comedic set-ups and unforgettable hilarious moments.  THIS IS 40 is the best comedy this year.

    .

    BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIES:


    1)   THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
    2)   DJANGO UNCHAINED (Warning: May offend!)

  • Toronto Film Critics Association Awards

    The TFCA (Toronto Film Critics Association), of which your truly is a member is pleased to announce this year''s 2012:

    Full list of Toronto Film Critics Association Awards winners and runners-up:

    BEST PICTURE


    “The Master” (eOne)

    Runners-up:

    “Amour” (Mongrel Media)

    “Zero Dark Thirty” (Alliance Films)

     

    BEST ACTOR

    Denis Lavant, “Holy Motors”

    Runners-up:

    Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”

    Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”

    BEST ACTRESS

    Rachel Weisz, “The Deep Blue Sea”

    Runners-up:

    Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”

    Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour

     

    BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

    Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”

    Runners-up:

    Javier Bardem, “Skyfall”

    Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”

    BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

    Gina Gershon, “Killer Joe”

    Runners-up:

    Amy Adams, “The Master”

    Ann Dowd, “Compliance”

    Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserable”

    BEST DIRECTOR

    Paul Thomas Anderson, “The Master”

    Runners-up:

    Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty”

    Leos Carax, “Holy Motors”

    BEST SCREENPLAY, ADAPTED OR ORIGINAL

    “The Master”, written by Paul Thomas Anderson

    Runners-up:

    “Lincoln”, written by Tony Kushner, based on the book

    “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin

    “Zero Dark Thirty”, written by Mark Boal

     

    BEST FIRST FEATURE - TIE

    “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, directed by Benh Zeitlin

    “Beyond the Black Rainbow”, directed by Panos Cosmatos

    Runner-up:

    “The Cabin in the Woods”, directed by Drew Goddard

    BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

    “ParaNorman” (Alliance Films)
    Runners-up:

    “Brave” (Disney*Pixar)

    “Frankenweenie” (Disney)

     

    BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM

    “Amour”(Mongrel Media)

    Runners-up:

    “Holy Motors” (Mongrel Media)

    “Tabu” (filmswelike)

     

    ALLAN KING DOCUMENTARY AWARD

    “Stories We Tell” (Mongrel Media)

    Runners-up:

    “The Queen of Versailles” (Mongrel Media)

    “Searching for Sugar Man” (Mongrel Media)


    ROGERS BEST CANADIAN FILM AWARD FINALISTS

    “Bestiaire”, directed by Denis Côté

    “Goon”, directed by Michael Dowse

    “Stories We Tell”, directed by Sarah Polley

     

  • This Week's Film Reviews (Dec 14, 2012)

    THE HOBBIT is the big film opening this week.  Other Christmas blockbusters inch their way into the festive season beginning next week

    Dickens films make a run at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

    THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (USA/NZ 2012) Top 10 *****

    Directed by Peter Jackson

    New Zealander Peter Jackson’s latest J.R.R. Tolkien film is a very expensive $270 million production that might break Warner Brothers just as AVATAR could have done to 20th Century Fox.  Fortunately, THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is the BEST film that I have seen this year, and also the best of all his LORD OF THE RING trilogy films.  This is the first of again 3 films based on the 1937 novel.  The film has everything good riding on it except for bad press regarding animal abuse during the making of the film.  One wonders why, as Jackson’s CGI is so good in the film, he could have dispensed with the problem by using computer graphics.

    THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY has the Peter Jackson imprint all over it.  His early works such as BRAIN DEAD (released in Canada in video after censorship cuts under the title DAED ALIVE) and MEET THE FEEBLES are also evident in this film, so Jackson cineastes will have a field day identifying past influences.  The film is stunning to behold, courtesy of cinematographer Andrew Lesnie with the film resembling New Zealand country combined with a video game look.  The segment with the Hobbits running along the paths as if on a gigantic map is a prime example.  The 3D effects are the best I have seen in a 3D film this year!

    The story takes place 60 years before THE LORD OF THE RINGS.  When the film opens, Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) and his nephew, Froggo (Elijah Wood) quibble about a party in the uncle’s home in the shire.  Bilbo later sits outside smoking his long pipe when the film flashes back 60 years earlier when Bilbo (now played by Martin Freeman) was still sitting at the same spot visited by Gandalf (Ian McKellan) the wizard.  Gandalf pulls a fast one on the young Bilbo by inviting 13 dwarfs led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to his house for a party while recruiting him on the quest to aid the 13 fight to retrieve their stolen Kingdom.  Hence, he embarks on the unexpected journey of the title.  The film ends with the lot just entering the Lonely Mountain where the dragon sleeps and the fight for the Kingdom will likely continue with the next two films.

    For a 170 minute film, Jackson’s film moves really fast.  It feels only about 90 minutes when his film ends.  He knows how to tell a story with zest, spirit, excitement and humour.  The long sequence, for example when the 13 dwarfs invade Bilbo’s home is an extended 20 minute sequence, but it is so entertaining and hilarious.

    There are lots of familiar (and new) faces in this nostalgic film.  The familiar faces of McKellan, Wood, Holm, Hugo Weaving and even Andy Serkis (as Gollum) should delight LORD OF THE RINGS fans.  There is a visitation to a segment of how Bilbo obtained the ring dropped by Gollum in quite a lengthy but thoroughly amusing where the two pit their wits on riddles.

    As far as entertainment goes, Jackson delivers on all fronts.  The film contains lots of spectacle, action, humour and magic without leaving out the human element.  This is also the coming-of-age story of Bilbo in which he discovers the elements of chivalry and sacrifice.  It is this human element that makes the film works its magic.

    Jackson’s THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (Smaug is the name of the evil dragon that stole the dwarf’s Kingdom) and THERE AND BACK AGAIN should both be worthy waits for the festive seasons of 2013 and 2014 respectively.

    HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (USA 2012) **

    Directed by Roger Michell


    Roger Michell’s (NOTTING HILL with his best film being PERSUASION) is a carefully crafted, often stunning film to look at but suffers much from the script by Richard Nelson.

    Much can be foreseen from the film’s opening scene when fifth cousin Margaret Stuckley (Laura Linney) is summoned from her home to keep company with President Franking R. Roosevelt (Bill Murray).  The narrative tells of a depressed America with most of the population out of work.  Margaret takes a brown dress in front of the mirror.  The next segment has her wearing a blue dress, whisked off to see FDR.  There is nowhere else in the film that hints of a poor impoverished America.  The President and company are shown throughout the film dressed in fine attire, enjoying fine dining with loads of expensive decor surrounding them.

    But these are just two frivolities that hint of bigger problems in the film.  The film appears to centre on the secret affair between FDR and Margaret.  But the actual relationship is never fully revealed.  The film also meanders towards a more important event in history – the meeting of the King of England George V1 (Bertie) – the same stuttering Royalty figure that was featured in THE KING’S SPEECH.  During this weekend meeting, the bond between the U.S. and Britain was supposed to be forged, which was as, we all know, instrumental to their alliance during World War II.  But this important event is trivialised for a misunderstanding between FDR and Margaret.

    Fortunately both Murray and Linney are excellent in their leading roles.  The banter between King George VI and FDR on their disabilities in the night segment is touching and moving. Odd too, that British actress Olivia Williams from Camden Town, London got the role of Eleanor Roosevelt.

    HYDE PARK ON HUDSON has got mainly mixed reviews since its opening at the Toronto International Film Festival.  It is easy to see why.  Michell’s film moves at a slow pace, meandering all over the place without apparent purpose.  It is only at the end, that all is put to a neat closure with the narrative instructing on the conclusion of the odd affair between FDR and Margaret.

    MEET THE FOKKENS (Netherlands 2012) ***

    Directed by Rob Schroder sand Gabrielle Provaas

    The American title of a doc about prostitute sisters says the real thing.  Meet the F**kers!  The twins are Louise and Martine, past their prime (they are both now 69) though Martine still works as one.  Louise has to quit after suffering from arthritis and now unable to spread her legs.

    Rob Schroder sand Gabrielle Provaas’ documentary is light and easy going.  No need for the audience to concentrate or get angry on any of the issues on display.  Watching the film is akin to strolling the streets of the red light district – and taking in the sights.

    For anyone who has been to Amsterdam, the sight of women in windows tapping on the glass for attention is a familiar sight.  MEET THE FOKKENS follows this business, past and present, as told from the points of view of the twin sisters.  The camera still displays the cheerfulness of the two, be in dancing on the street, bathing at the sea-side or greeting their neighbours while wearing matching floral outfits.

    On the darker side, the two talk about the past – how they were forced to give up the space they had bought.  They also quip about the hassles from the government but mostly the violence and abuse they endured from their pimps.

    The film also provides a first-hand look (mainly humorous, with commentary from the twins) at Martine’s rendezvous with clients as she gives them what they ask for while remaining ever in control.

    It is hard to sympathize with Louise and Martine.  They chose this difficult life.  But they made more money than working in the factory making lampshades.  They have paid the price, being beaten, having to provide services for the undesirable and so having their neighbours look down upon them.

    Though MEET THE FOKKENS does not inform any new revelations, the directors and the twins do teach us that no matter what profession or what one has done in the past, human beings still deserve respect.  And that is one important lesson the film teaches!

    BEST BETS OF THE WEEK:

    Best Film Opening: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

    Best Film Playing: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

    Best Action: Skyfall

    Best Family: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

    Best Foreign: Holy Motors

    Best Documentary: The Imposter

    Best Drama: Anna Karenina

  • TIFF BELL Lightbox - Dickens

    WHAT THE DICKENS?

    As Christmas arrives, what would be more appropriate than a Dickens film series.  The many great films include the early works of David Lean down to the grand musical rendition of OLIVER! By Carol Reed.  Most of these are British productions and a few seldom seen ones such as LITTLE DORRIT parts 1 and 2.

    The series also offers two versions of GREAT EXPECTATIONS to tie in with the 20112 Mike Newell version which will open soon.

    For complete show times, venue and ticket pricing, please check the TIFF website at:

    www.tiff.net

    Capsule reviews are provided for two of the films below:

    GREAT EXPECTATIONS (UK 1946) Top 10 *****

    Directed by David Lean


    One of the two adaptations of a Charles Dicks novel by David Lean (the other being OLIVER TWIST) who also co-wrote the script, GREAT EXPECTATIONS is one of the best British films of all and much, much better that the new Mike Newell version out this year.  Shot in black and white and winning the Oscar for best cinematography and art direction, the film opens in a graveyard and shows the marshlands of Britain where young Pip lives.  This is classic Dickens, with poverty and class making an effect on the story.  Poor country boy Pip grows up (played by John Mills) and offered to becomes a gentleman of Great Expectations.  At the same time, Pip learns about humility while finding love at the same time.  Leans is an excellent story teller, using just the right amount of voice over narrative while retaining the novel’s adventure, suspense and excitement.

    OLIVER! (UK 1968) ***** Top 10

    Directed by Carol Reed

    Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist is given the full musical treatment in the otherwise drab story of how orphaned Oliver (angelic looking Mark Lester) survives thieves, street urchins and one of the vilest in British literature, Bill Sykes (Oliver Reed).  The result is on of the best musicals ever made based on the book by Lionel Bart.  Songs like “Who Will Buy this Wonderful Morning” will brighten anyone’s day while others like “Consider Yourself” and “Oom-Pah-Pah” will have audiences whistling in the aisles.  Ron Moody almost steals he show as a comical and sympathetic villain who when contemplating turning over a new leaf from a life of crime will start crooning the best song of the musical: “I am reviewing the situation.”  The one that steals the show is the pitbull playing Bill Syke’s dog, Bulls Eye who looks like the canine right out of FRANKENWEENIE.  OLIVER! Is a blast and should be seen one so often, the best during the festive tide.

  • This Week's Film Reviews (Dec 7, 2012)

    Smaller films get a chance to pop up their heads before the Christmas blockbusters rear their head.

    Opening are PLAYING FOR KEEPS and the culinary doc JASON BECKER: NOT DEAD YET


    DEADFALL (USA 2012) ***
    Directed by Stefan Rudowitzsky

    Not to be confused with the 60’s British crime drama of the same name by director Bryan Forbes with Michael Caine doing his homosexual accomplice’s wife, DEADFALL by Stefan Ruzowitzsky (THE COUNTERFEITERS) is just an odd a crime action thriller in which all things go terribly wrong.

    The film starts with a sibling team Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) driving off with the lot from an armed robbery.  Looking at the cash, Liza remarks that things are so boring unless something goes wrong.  Zach Dean’s script takes great pleasure in having things go wrong.  Everything goes wrong in every possible way, from the robbery, love affair between Liza and local boxer Jay (Charlie Hunnam), relationships (sister and brother; father and daughter; father and son) and encounters.  The car crashes and they have to make their separate ways to Canada in snowbound Michigan.

    The script also contains one too many stories.  Too many, that many of the subplots rise to be almost the real concern of the film.  Fortunately, these are interesting enough and hard to tell which is one is more interesting that the other.  Dean’s script is largely comical, which reduces the impact of the film’s inherent violence.  But this gives the effect of inconsistency.  In one scene for example, after Addison does away with a state trooper, the little girl who first thought Addison was her savior remarks: “You are no angel!”

    DEADFALL is more violent than it ought to be with digits chopped up with lots of red seen in the white snow.   For the violent character of Addison, Eric Bana is miscast.  He looks like the good guy in the movie and it does not feel right when he kills an innocent bystander.  By Bana gives his role all that his got, making the character an interesting one.  The able supporting cast comprising Sissy Spacek, Kris Kristofferson and the seldom seen Treat Williams as ex-sheriff politically incorrect Chet are all quite good.

    The cinematography of the wintry setting is pretty enough and made to good use with an exciting skidoo chase across a frozen lake.

    For 5 stories in one, the audience gets their money’s worth.  The action packed climax is exciting enough with the script tying up all the stories neatly.  DEADFALL is an odd movie, one that would critics would crucify but nevertheless still quite entertaining.

    JASON BECKER: NOT DEAD YET (USA 2012) ****

    (TO BE POSTED)

     

    PLAYING FOR KEEPS (USA 2012) *

    Directed by Gabriele Muccino

    PLAYING FOR KEEPS is a prime example of Hollywood mediocricity.  The film has a theme that has been done more than a dozen times before and with a star and supporting cast that is just good enough to make a so-so cash turnover.  Watching the film is like running on a treadmill – boring as hell and waiting for the time to be up.

    It does not help that the director is Italian Gabriele Muccino who made ONE LAST KISS.  It seems he cannot do much with the material.

    The story concerns a down on his luck soccer star George Dryer (Gerard Butler in auto-acting mode).  He has lost his wife, career, money and family for whatever reason that is not made clear in the movie.  He decides to coach his son’s soccer team and in the mean time win back the love of his wife, Stacie (Jessica Biel).  But he has to stay away from the advances of the pretty soccer moms played by a cast of well-known’s as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Judy Greer, Uma Thurman who spice up the film only so little.

    There is nothing to look out for in this tiresome film.  Even the climatic soccer game isn’t executed with much flair.  The son who scores the winning goal is just seen gliding the ball in.  And there is no need to guess that George gets his wife back in the end.

    BEST BETS OF THE WEEK:

    Best Film Opening: Jason Becker: Still Not Dead

    Best Film Playing: Silver Linings Playbook and Anna Karenina

    Best Action: Skyfall

    Best Family: Rise of the Guardians

    Best Adventure: Life of Pi

    Best Foreign: Holy Motors


    Best Documentary: The Imposter

    Best Drama: Anna Karenina

  • TIFF BELL Lightbox - Armageddon Films

    COUNTDOWN TO ARMAGEDDON

    As the year end closes, TIFF Bell Lightbox presents a series of Armageddon themed classics that range from Kubrick’s comical Masterpiece DR STRANGELOVE to the recent CHILDREN OF MEN.  They also range from funny, horror, emotional drama, action to romantic.

    The series begins December 14th and runs to the 21st.

    For complete film listing in the series, show times, venue and ticket pricing, please check the TIFF website at:

    www.tiff.net

    Capsule reviews for 4 of the films in the series courtesy of screeners provided by TIFF are found below:-

    CAPSULE REVIEWS:

    LAST NIGHT (Canada 1998) ***

    Directed by Don McKellar


    Torontonian Don McKellar stars, writes and directs his film about the last night in Toronto, Canada before the world ends.  This is a sweet, sad, funny and occasionally dramatic film about human emotions rather than a sci-fi action Armageddon flick.  No explanation is given as to why the earth will end at 12 midnight and none is necessary.  We see the characters trying toe make the best of whatever time they have left.  The lead characters, Patrick (McKellar) and Sandra (Sandra Oh) find themselves alone but meeting and finding romance for a surprising last time.  Others take to looting, murdering and killing.  No special effects here except for maybe the spectacle of an overturned streetcar and again none necessary.  LAST NIGHT is a pleasant look at ourselves in the time of catastrophe and the nice surprises that may occur – a sort of fell-good disaster film.

    THE QUIET EARTH (New Zealand 1985) ***

    Directed by Geoffrey Murphy


    Based on the novel of the same name, this film on the last days of the earth has the audience believe that there are only 3 survivors left on the planet.  The main character is a scientist, Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) who is surprisingly apt in putting together stuff like generators, tools light and whatever in order for human beings to survive.  The film spends too much unnecessary time (Operation Flashlight) explaining the reason the earth has come to this state of affairs (something to do with an energy grid) and what will happen afterwards.  Who really cares as all this hoo-hah is hardly believable anyway.  More interesting is how each of the three characters deal with each other and fortunately it is these interactions that keep Murphy’s film moving.  The special effects and explosions are well done for a low budget film like this one.

    THE ROAD WARRIOR (Australia 1981) ****

    Directed by George Miller


    The 2nd best film (DR STRANGELOVE being numero uno) of the Armageddon series and a film that can be watched multiple times.  ROAD WARRIOR is the second and best of the MAD MAX films (in fact, this film is known as MAD MAX 2 outside North America) and this film finds Paradise amidst attack by the villains of the piece, in this case warriors not out to steal their petrol but out to murder each and everyone of the community as well.  Though this is as much as the narrative goes, THE ROAD WARRIOR is as exciting as any action flick seen on screen for a long time.  There are tons of explosions, car chases, dismemberments, violence, blood and gore.  Of all the mayhem, two supporting characters stand out – the gyro man (Bruce Spence) and the viral kid (Emil Minty) whose steel boomerang can never be forgotten for what it did in the film.

    ZARDOZ (UK 1974) **

    Directed by John Boorman


    Director John Boorman’s vision of the apocalypse results in one of the silliest films of the genre, surprising after he had just made the excellent horror camping drama DELIVERENCE.  In Zardoz, the world has ended in the future with Zed (Sean Connery) playing an assassin before he enters a flying head to discover a civilization led by Charlotte Rampling who have conquered death and now decided to die.  This reversal of death is to be believed that it can be accomplished by the destruction of the tabernacle which only Zed can fulfil.  The script is utter nonsense and all over the place.  The premise is unbelievable as well and the fact that an entire civilization can exist inside a flying head is preposterous.  The special effects are just as cheesy!  But more ridiculous is the fact that Connery struts about the entire film wearing a red thong while Rampling rides a horse hunting him down.  Lot of nudity and rape too in this film, according to Boorman’s view of the world’s end!

  • This Week's Film Reviews (Nov 30, 2012)

    Smaller films make their debut this week.  Notable ones to watch out for are KILLING THEM SOFTLY and ANNA KARENINA.

    Bond and Beyond Bond series of films continue at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

    ANNA KARENINA (UK 2012) ***** Top 10
    Directed by Jon Wright


    An adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s famous novel of infidelity set in Imperial Russia, ANNA KARENINA is more director Jon Wright (ATONEMENT) than Tolstoy.  This is an extremely stagey and stylish adaptation from a script by Oscar winner Tom Stoppard, so those who must conform to normal narrative storytelling in a film be best advised to avoid this film.  The best example is the last scene of the film in which Aleksei (Jude Law) sets in a field of flowers.  The camera moves away from him and it is revealed that the field of flowers in on a stage.  The camera moves back even more to show the field overflowing from the stage on to the on to the auditorium.  All the world’s a stage!

    The classic ANNA KARENINA story has the heroine Anna (Kiera Knightley) falling in love with the younger Count Vronsky (Aaron Johnson).  When Anna bears the count’s child, her husband Aleksei Karenina (Law) banishes her from wealth and society but later forgives her.  This is the classic story of a doomed love affair given the stunning period setting, made even more lively and imaginative under the hand of Master Jon Wright.  Those who recall ATONEMENT, especially the segment in Dunkirk with the soldiers waiting to be transported back to Britain, will know what to expect from Wright in this movie.  ANNA KARENINA, Wright style is stunning, gorgeous, indulgent and 100% cinematic.  This is the one prime example of a director making an unforgettable imprint of a classic tale.

    Wright’s odd sense of humour is also present.  After a serious segment where love is professed, the camera cuts to the sight of a man loudly blowing his nose, then checking the mucus he left on the handkerchief.  But there are also a few masterly orchestrated cinematic segments, the best of which is a horse race taking place on stage that lead to a horse and jockey falling off, off the stage.

    Knightley looks stunning in her gowns as Anna.  But a hardly recognisable Jude Law steals the show.  He is able to transform the despicability the audience has for his character to one of sympathy by the middle of the film.  Olivia Williams and Emma Watson lend cameos in the movie.

    Despite all, Wright’s film still does not miss out on the human emotions. The chemistry of the actors works well and Wright is unafraid of showing full nudity (Knightley and Johnson) on screen.

    For the cinematic genius of Jon Wright alone, ANNA KARENINA is a successful experiment and one of the best cinematic films of the year.  Same too of the particular years, when I saw Wright’s HANNA and ATONEMENT!  A must-see!

    KILLING THEM SOFTLY (USA 2012) ****

    Directed by Andrew Dominik


    KILLING THEM SOFTLY from New Zealand director Andrew Dominik 9THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES, CHOPPER) is, as expected, another stylish film this time a satire on American corporate politics and capitalism.  Based on the 1974 novel Coogan’s Trade by George V. Higgins, Dominik uses the crime business to reflect the U.S. economy.

    Two low life hoods, Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) hit a poker game organized by Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) in one of the most suspenseful robbery sequences seen in a robbery film this year.  This act topples the balance of things in the crime world and expert Jackie (Brad Pitt) is sent to clear up the mess.  There is a neat song praising the profession of this man that runs throughout the film.  In the mean time, Jackie faces troubles of his own, especially in his hiring of a hired killer, Mickey (James Gandolfini) who is well past his prime and is an embarrassment to all around him.

    The set-ups are expertly created and the film is filled with inane but compelling dialogue, such as the talk of having sex with dogs before a robbery.  Dominik resets the 1974 novel to the present as noticed by President Obama being in power.

    Brad Pitt delivers powerful performance, smoking his cigarette as if he really enjoys it.  The supporting cast do not fare that bad either especially Liotta who deserves a Best Actor statuette for his role as the loser Markie.

    Dominik’s satire is too obvious, with President Obama heard and seen too many times on the television in the film, especially whenever the characters enter a bar with a TV set.  Obama’s speeches can also be heard loud and clear a few times.  But Dominik’s film succeeds too as a taut, short and sharp, stylish thriller (at 97 minutes) both well set up and acted with a satisfactory and rather snide ending.

    THE LAST MOVIE (Canada 2012) **
    Directed by Bruce Pittman

    THE LAST MOVIE has a good premise.  It is about a producer Samuel Booker (August Schellenberg) obtaining the rights of a Russian film noir film entitled ‘At Night” and hiring writer/director Nicholas Crawley to translate into a modern film. The actress hired to play the lead, Elizabeth (Beth Gondek) gets so into the character of the murderess that reality begins to blur.                                                                                                   But the film falls flat despite its opportunity for blackness at its most dark.  It is hard to pinpoint exactly what is wrong with the film as the film just doesn’t grab the audience as one would expect.  Part of the fault lies in the wishy-washy written character of Elizabeth.  She appears out of nowhere carrying psychological baggage that according to Booker, is perfect for her role.  The film’s funniest line is the producer’s reply in wanting to cast a 25-year old instead for the part: “The only baggage I see are the ones under her eyes!”                                                                                                                                      It is clear too that the actress Beth Gondek is too old for her part, but like the target audience for the to-be-made film and this one as well, is for the cinephiles above 40, for which Gondek has the appropriate charm.  But the actress Nataliya Alyexeyenko playing the Russian murderess in AT NIGHT steals the show from right under her.               There is no credit for the actor playing the main lead – the writer/director Nicholas Crawley.  One can guess that the role is being played by the film’s director Bruce Pittman who has quite the history in film.  From Toronto, he owns the famous repertory cinema called the Revue, which is still in operation.  He also served as an apprentice for John Frankenheimer and has worked in the film history in the market research section at Paramount.                                                                                                  Despite its flaws, the film has beautifully scored music including the works of Bach.  The lighting and moods are also effectively created.  The dialogue between producer and director debating on art vs. commercial success is particularly funny.                   The ending which is deliberately out of chronological sequence but assumed done for the surprise effect is a bit confusing.  Still, this flat thriller noir has its moments and is worth a look for those interested in the cinema, especially in the film noir genre.

    A LATE QUARTET (USA 2012) ***

    Directed by Zilbeman


    A well-renowned string quartet is put to the test when erupting emotions arise as a result of competing egos, past affairs and current affairs.  The catalyst is Peter Mitchell (Christopher Walken) forced to retire after being diagnosed with early symptoms of Parkinson’s.  Husband (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and wife (Catherine Keener) are other two members having marital issues while their daughter (Imogen Poots) sleeps with the 3rd member, Daniel (Mark Ivanir).  It is beyond doubt that the quartet will hold and perform Beethoven’s difficult Opus 131 String Qurtet in C-Sharp minor in all its glory.  Zilberman directs his film meticulously including all the details and nuances that a string quartet would go through.  Performances are also top-notch especially Walken’s.   Director Zilberman captures the difficult relationships of the individuals as they relate to the group.

    THE SUICIDE SHOP (France/Belg/Canada 2012) **
    Directed by Patrice Leconte


    First animated feature by French veteran director of such classics as MONSIEUR HIRE and RIDICULE is disappointing fare and bares resemblance to his lighter, more playful works such as PARFUM.  An expert in black comedy, satire and black humour, the subject of LE MAGASIN DES SUICIDES is a shop that sells props to aid people do themselves in.  Various kinds of ropes, poison, and other contraptions are stocked in the Tuvales family store.  But when the new baby kid is all smiles and cheerful, the family business is put to the test.  Leconte incorporates lots of songs though they are quite similar in lyrics and tune) and his wry humour about death and suicides.  The animation has the look of LES TRIPLETTES DE BELLEVILLE with exaggerated skinny or fat features.  The film is tastefully done and one can guess where the film leads to.  Mildly entertaining, but Leconte’s film runs out of ideas pretty soon.

    BEST BETS OF THE WEEK:

    Best Film Opening: Anna Karenina

    Best Film Playing: Silver Linings Playbook and Anna Karenina

    Best Action: Skyfall

    Best Family: Rise of the Guardians

    Best Adventure: Life of Pi

    Best Foreign: Holy Motors

    Best Documentary: The Imposter

    Best Drama: Anna Karenina

  • This Week's Film Reviews (Nov 21/23, 2012)

    Early openings this Week (Wednesday) for a majority of films because of American Thanksgiving -  LIFE OF PI, RISE OF THE GUARDIANS, RED DAWN and SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.  No review of RED DAWN because of screenings clash.

    Also at TIFF Bell Lightbox are the films of Nicolas Pereda.

    REVIEWS FOR THE WEEK:

    HITCHCOCK (USA 2012) ****

    Directed by Sasha Gervasi

    When the film opens, the figure of Anthony Hopkins who plays Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense appears. When Hopkins begins to speak doing Hitchcock, the audience at the screening I attended began sniggering, as it is a little humorous to watch any impression of the Master.  But as Hopkins continues, the audience grew silent as they realised how good Hopkins actually is and how much thought the script pays serious homage to Hitchcock.

    Based on the book ‘Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho’ by Stephen Rebello who also polished the script, the story centres on the relationship between the director and his wife, Alma (Helen Mirren).  Though the romance might seem the least interesting  compared to the other aspects of the story such as the making of Psycho, the distractions of the opposite sex for both husband and wife and the financial success of Psycho, it is really the romance that sets the foundation of the film.  And it is this romance that makes the picture that good.

    Besides the solid script and crisp dialogue, the film works primarily for its two lead actors.  Hopkins does more than a marvellous job, with both voice and mannerisms.  Oscar winner Mirren is just as good, if not better, showing her prowess in the best scene where she tells him off after he accuses her of adultery.   Credit also goes to James D’Arcy who looks and acts so much like Anthony Perkins, it is hard to tell the difference.

    But the darker side of the story in which Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), the serial killer whose life Norman Bates form PSYCHO is based on, appears to torment Hitchcock undermines the man’s genius.  The segment of the film in which the audience is shown literally screaming at the premiere of PSYCHO is superfluous.  Director Gervasi’s cheap theatrics are not necessary.

    There is nothing really new about Hitchcock depicted in this film that cineastes do not really know about, except maybe how much trouble Hitchcock went through to make PSYCHO.   His relationship with his wife, his treatment of his leading ladies, the fights with the studio, his practical jokes and temper are all present in the film.  But it is good to see everything put together as a cohesive whole.  The film touts PSYCHO as his best and most successful film though many would disagree.

    So sceptics disbelieving that the Master’s life should not be tempered with can be rest assured.  HITCHCOCK is an entertaining biography that serves the Master’s life and work justice.  Perhaps the film can even win an Oscar, the recognition that evaded filmdom’s best director of all time.

    INCH’ALLAH (Canada/France 2012) **

    Directed by Anais Barbeau-Lavalette


    INCH’ALLAH is intriguing as the film was produced by the same team behind the Academy Award®–nominated INCENDIES and MONSIEUR LAZHAR, two of Canada’s critically acclaimed films.

    This racially charged drama explores the impact and ramifications of Israel’s separation barrier on the divided populations of the West Bank.  Pointedly, the film does so through the perspective of an outsider: Chloé (Evelyne Brochu), a Quebec doctor just as the director is an outsider herself.  The doctor works in a women’s health clinic on the Palestinian side of the barrier but resides in an apartment on the Israeli side.  Though Chloé has adjusted to the daily grind of passing through the heavily guarded checkpoints to get to and from work, she is also constantly aware of the simmering violence that surrounds her.

    As the film goes, Chloé’s perception of the bizarre, bisected world in which she finds herself is further shaded by the friendships she makes on either side of the barrier. Ava (Sivan Levy), a neighbour in Chloé’s apartment building who is serving her mandatory military service as a checkpoint guard, becomes Chloé’s frequent drinking companion, the two women routinely going out for nights on the town.   These segments remind the audience of the presence of a female director.  On the other side, Chloé becomes close to one of her patients, Rand (Sabrina Ouazani), a young pregnant woman who lives in poverty, picking through garbage in search of reusable items. Rand’s family, especially her older brother Faysal (Yousef Sweid), is thoroughly committed to the cause of Palestinian liberation, and willing to take whatever measures are necessary.

    INCH’ALLAH is watchable and director Lavalette’s film comes off as dramatic and charged enough.  But the problem is that the theme of Palestinian/Israeli conflict is a well worn one.  In fact most films from Palestine deals with this tired topic.  And the film also falls into the trap of having a satisfactory ending for the soul reason that this kind of conflict is still present this very day.

    LIFE OF PI (USA 2012) ****
    Directed by Ang Lee


    Ang Lee returns back to familiar territory of the mystic and controlled discipline, in this case Indian, after the disastrous deviation into hippie culture of TAKING WOODSTOCK.

    Though the film’s poster offers the illusion that the film is a fairy tale Arabian Nights (such as SINBAD or the Rudyard Kipling stories), THE LIFE OF PI is more of an adult fantasy and one thankfully, without gore and violence.  The message in the film are lessons in life and the adventures are both mystic and at other times very scary, especially in the scenes involving the Bengali tiger.

    The film begins with the adult Pi (Irrfan Khan) being interviewed.  Pi recounts his childhood days in French India with the zoo his father opened.  When finance runs out, as Pi recalls, the family takes for Canada in a boat that gets shipwrecked.  Pi survives with a Bengali tiger in the lifeboat.

    The animal segments are well shot though these might be a bit violent for children.  But LIFE OF PI is not really a children’s film.  But the CGI effects are a bit overdone, especially the one involving the thousands and thousands (no kidding here) of meerkats on an island that Pi and his company come across.

    But the fantasy island is the best part of the story.  Lee should not have gone overboard with the looks but let the mystic play on its own strength.  The island which feeds Pi is in reality carnivorous and consumes its inhabitants at night.

    The film works on two accounts.  The film is based on the book which has a great story.  And Ang Lee has been proved to be a Master storyteller.  One cannot go wrong with both a great story told by a great story teller.  Lee gives this $100 million production all that it is worth!

    But one thing unexplained is the whereabouts of the tiger when the hyena attacks the wounded zebra on the lifeboat.  The tiger suddenly appears in the lifeboat out of nowhere after the hyena had done its harm.

    The film makes one major deviation from the book.  In the book, it is the Japanese officials who are asked which of the two stories told by the adult Pi is preferred.  There is no interviewer in the book.  In the film, it is Pi’s interviewer (Rafe Spall) that is asked the question.  In the film the character playing the interviewer has the identical name of the author of the novel.  Which would the audience prefer?

    PING PONG (UK 2012) ***

    Directed by Hugh Hartford


    This film is more about old age pensioners than ping pong.  The connection is the over 80’s table tennis (ping pong) championships in Inner Mongolia.

    Hartford’s film is divided into 2 parts.  The first deals with the individuals.  These are the pensioners from across the planet compete in the said above Championships.

    From retirement, care homes, mental and physical health to death and loneliness; 8 players from 4 continents, with 703 years between them; guide the film through the extraordinary world of Veteran sports. The film interweaves the competition with intimate and candid portraits that explore the hope, passion, prejudice, and immediacy of growing old.  The second part of the film is the Championships.  Now these 8 compete among themselves for the gold.  As their saying goes – ‘Never too old for gold!”

    Among the 8 are Terry (81) having been given a week to live, gets in sight of winning gold.  Inge (89) has used table tennis to train her way out of the dementia ward she committed herself to.  Australian legend Dorothy deLow is 100, and finds herself a mega celebrity in this rarefied world and Texan Lisa Modlich, a new-comer at 85 years old, is determined to do whatever it takes to win her first gold.

    What’s really comical are a few of the comments made by the competitors.  Lisa says of her German opponent: “Of course I beat her.  She can hardly move!”  Dorothy is in a wheelchair, just a content with all the attention than playing the game.  But there are wise saying too, such as: “It is ok to lose.  There is always another day.”

    PING PONG is a documentary that also teaches valuable lessons such as the importance of life; the importance of keeping fit; having a goal but most importantly, the value of living right through an old age.  This makes this documentary a rare crowd pleaser!

    RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (USA 2012) ****

    Directed by Peter Ramsey


    RISE OF THE GUARDIANS is a massive $145 million computer animated feature Christmas family film based on “The Guardians of Childhood” book series by William Joyce.  This feature is not to be confused with last year’s owl animation film which also contains the word ‘Guardian’ in its title.

    The Guardians look after the children of the world so long that they are believed in. The Guardians include Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the Sandman.  Jack Frost (Chris Pine) is the carefree teen with no responsibilities but is now called to be a Guardian when Pitch Black, the Nightmare King (Jude Law) and villain of the piece plans to engulf the world with darkness once the children stop believing.  Dakota Goy voices the boy, the last one in the world who still believes in the Guardians.

    RISE OF THE GUARDIANS has the perfect combination of manic mayhem and pacing.  Compared with last year’s Christmas animated feature ARTHUR CHRISTMAS, there was just too much going on in terms of side action, craziness and tomfoolery that it was too much to swallow for both adults and children.  RISE at least provides some breathers, so that one does not come out of the theatre too frazzled.  The fact that a few of the guardian characters like The Sandman and the Easter Bunny have few known behavioural characteristics, the filmmakers can add more inventiveness without breaking the rules.  The Sandman therefore is displayed largely as a silent round good-natured yellow creature with lots of magical golden dust to go around.

    There are no romance or cutesy embarrassing songs in this one, though one can see the temptation for the script to include a romantic angle between Tooth Fairy and Jack Frost.

    The music is by French composer Alexandre Desplat and scored by the London Symphony Orchestra.  Guillermo Del Toro, known for this kind of fantasy features executively produced the film.  This is the last combinational effort between Paramount and Dreamworks, and hopefully it will; be a good successful departure.

    SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (USA 2012) ***** Top 10

    Directed by David O. Russell


    Writer/director David O. Russell of SPANKING THE MONKEY, FLIRTING WITH DISASTER and of course THE FIGHTER returns to familiar territory of a guy trying to make good within his dysfunctional family.  This film which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and won the People’s Choice Award for Best film is based on the semi comic novel of the same name by Mathew Quick.

    The poor soul and lead character is Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper in his best role so far) has lost everything -- his house, his job, and his wife. He now finds himself living back with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert De Niro, also in his best role recently) after spending eight months in a state institution on a plea bargain.  Pat is determined to rebuild his life, remain positive and reunite with his wife, despite the challenging circumstances of their separation.  All Pat''s parents want is for him to get back on his feet and to share their family''s obsession with the local football team.

    But Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious young woman with problems of her own jogs into Pat’s and things get complicated.  Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he''ll do something very important for her in return.  He is to be her partner in a dance contest.

    The script includes many timely situations which audiences can relate to.  ‘Things happen for a reason”, and ‘Think positive’ are two phrases that are current phrases heard all the time these days.  SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is essentially a romantic comedy in disguise.  But Pat is s character so worked up, so crazy ant times that he should be locked up for all the things he does.  So, the distraction works.  The dance competition at the film’s climax is also extremely well executed while the two perform memorably and credibly at the same time.

    But what makes this film work are the performances of all the stars.  Cooper and De Niro deliver Oscar winning performances, so rare for a comedy.  And as Tiffany, the girl who so yearns for love, one cannot help for feel for her.

    Russell has directed a winning feel good movie from start to finish – hilarious with many, many laugh out loud moments, and with touching moments that will bring on the tears as well.  This reviewer does not like the romantic comedy genre at all, but SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is indeed a real winner.  Who but the most hard hearted can dislike a film about an good intentioned idiosyncratic romantic who wins out at the end?

    BEST BETS OF THE WEEK:

    Best Film Opening: Silver Linings Playbook


    Best Film Playing: Silver Linings Playbook

    Best Action: Skyfall

    Best Family: Rise of the Guardians

    Best Adventure: Life of Pi

    Best Foreign: Holy Motors

    Best Drama: Hitchcock

    Best Documentary: The Imposter

  • TIFF BELL Lightbox - Nicolas Pereda

    WHERE ARE THE FILMS OF NICOLAS PEREDA?

    The title of this series of films by Canadian director Nicolas Pereda is best answered: at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.  TIFF presents the little seen works of Pereda, who have just become known in filmdom after his SUMMER OF GOLIATH. To be screened won the Orizzonti Prize at the Venice Film Festival.

    Pereda’s films are slow paced, quite unlike the commercial films one is used to, but watching them is not without their rewards.  Pereda will be present at each showing of his film to introduce them and perhaps a Question and Answer afterwards.

    Here are the capsule review for 3 of the films to be screened.

    The series runs from Nov 22nd.  For the complete showtimes, please check the TIFF website at:

    www.tiff.net.cinematheque

    CAPSULE REVIEWS:-

    JUNTOS (Canada/Mexico 2009) ***
    Directed by Nicolas Pereda


    At the beginning of the film Gabino (Gabino Rodriguez) loses his dog, Juntos because he thinks his flatmate Paco (Francisco Barreiro) has left the door open.  The revisiting of the lost dog occurs at the end when Gabino and his girlfriend, Luisa (Luisa Pardo) take to the countryside.  But it is not the question whether the dog is found or not that is central to the story.  Director Pereda uses the incident to reveal the relations hips between Gabino has with both his girlfriend and Paco.  His relationship with Luisa is eroding while surprisingly, his and Paco (whom he wrestles around in one scene) seems to be all right.  The fact that the apartment’s plumbing is falling apart does not help either.  Their fridge is broken and hot water comes off from the tap though the boiler is broken.  Pereda evokes quite a bit of humour from this situation while milking more of the emotions that evoke from the incident.  Though nothing much really happens, this least seen work of Pereda’s, JUNTOS is more watchable that his other films.

    SUMMER OF GOLIATH (Mexico/Canada/Netherlands 2010) ***

    Directed by Nicolas Pereda


    Family conflicts arises when time comes up for the 2 fathers who have abandoned thier respective families to own up after the children have grown up.  Particularly disturbing is when one is asked to kneel and ask for forgiveness while those present are laughing at his embarrassment.  When the father laughs as well, those present get more upset.  Interspersed with the story is the suspicion of a 16-year old boy by the name of Goliath suspected of murdering his girlfriend.  The Pereda regualr, Gabino Rodriguez is again present playing a macho soldier roaming the Huilotepic countryside while his mother (Teresa Sanchez)is slowly unhinged by her husband who appears at hr home and refuses to leave while bragging at his past conquests over women.  The macho masculinity is both evident and ridiculed at the same time while Pereda takes his time to get his message delivered subtly on screen.

    WHERE ARE THEIR STORIES? (DONDE ESTAN SUS HISTORIAS?) (Canada/Mexico 2007) ***

    Directed by Nicolas Pereda


    Moving at a snail’s pace, for example in the 2 minute scene with the lead character peeling an orange while waiting for the bus, director Pereda’s film is nevertheless quite watchable for the way he subtly draws his audience into his world.  The world in this case a rather passive young man (Gabino Rodriguez) travelling to Mexico City to prevent his uncle from selling off his grandmother’s land that they are living on.  He meets up with his estranged mother (Teresa Sanchez) who works for  a wealthy couple as a live in maid.  Nothing much happens and most of the problems go unsolved.  The audience soon learns that it is not the purpose of Pereda to lead his film in a narrative way common to most commercial films.  Pereda’s camera is fond of lingering on the actions of his characters just as Pereda is fond of long takes.  The study here is of the family nucleus as well as poverty in the countryside.  His characters carry on their problematic lives when the film ends still trying hard to solve their unresolved difficulties.

  • This Week's Film Reviews (Nov 16, 2012)

    Biggest box-office film of the year to open this weekend - the last of the Twilight Saga series: BREAKING DAWN 2.

    Also worth a look are smaller films CITADEL and HOLY MOTORS from France.

    REVIEWS:

    CITADEL (Ireland 2012) ***

    Directed by Ciaran Foy

    CITADEL is a semi autobiographical psychological horror film about a young father who must overcome his agoraphobia if he wants to save his baby daughter.  Director Foy himself suffered from agoraphobia when he was mugged by gangsters.

    Shot mostly in Glasgow, the film is set in fictitious Edenstown, a rundown suburban sprawl that lies beneath three abandoned tower blocks.  Living in public housing with his baby Elsa, Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) has been scared to go out, ever since his wife was fatally attacked by feral children.  But now he finds himself terrorized by the same gang, who seem intent on taking Elsa.  Torn between the help of an understanding nurse (Wunmi Mosaku) and a vigilante priest (Scottish stalwart James Cosmos), Tommy doesn’t know where to turn.  The nurse thinks the predators are just socially deprived street kids. The priest knows differently.  In order to rescue Elsa, Tommy must enter the one place he fears the most – the tower block where he and his wife once lived.

    Foy’s film takes a while to get on its feet.  The first half deals with Tommy’s agoraphobia which is a tad boring and monotonous.  Once Tommy gangs up with the priest, the film gets really scary.

    James Cosmos is excellent as the foul mouthed knowledgeable priest.  The blind boy with him who helps Tommy is creepy as well.  The best part of the film deals with the feral children being able to sense fear.  So, Tommy has to conquer his fear for the villains and the enclosed spaces to rescue his daughter.

    Made on a shoe string budget, CITADEL succeeds as a different horror film in which syringes replaces knives and the feral children replaces monsters.

    HOLY MOTORS (France 2012) ****

    Directed by Leos Carax

    Definitely a movie not to be forgotten, French enfant terrible Leos Carax returns with a stunning new film HOLY MOTORS after a 13-year hiatus.

    Carax is best known for his extravagant over budget LES AMANTS DE PONT NEUF, an excellent film that scared investors from doing any future business with him.  The film also starred Denis Lavant and Juliette Binoche bringing her instant fame.

    HOY MOTORS is significantly different.  There is hardly any narrative sense.  The film begins when a man (Carax himself) unlocks a secret door to another world, where Monsieur Oscar (Lavant) lives.  Oscar appears to be a banker who travels the Paris streets in a stretch limo driven by Céline (Edith Scob).  But it turns out he’s got nine assignments today – all requiring disguises.  The film is thus divided into 9 parts excluding the portion that binds the parts together.

    Using his limo as a dressing room, Oscar turns himself into an old woman who begs near the Seine.  Next up, he’s a latex-clad acrobat who simulates sex with a limber lady.  Then he’s a sewer-dwelling beast who kidnaps a beauty (Eva Mendes).  This is the segment that Carax displays a full scale erection of Lavant’s penis.  But this is not the first film Carax has done this – as Lavant’s same member could be seen in a night silhouette scene in LES AMANTS DE PONT NEUF.  Oscar is also a fretting father, a sick uncle, a hit man and more.  Near day’s end, he meets an ex-lover (Kylie Minogue) who sings a romantic song.

    The film also contains a few film references.  Lavant has one role as Monsieur Merde, a reprisal of the same one in Carax’s previous film TOKYO.  The mask that Celine wears towards the end of the film has a similar look with the ghostly face in Georges Franju’s EYES WITHOUT A FACE.

    HOLY MOTORS is not for everyone.  But with Carax’s surrealism and imagination, the film will surely fascinate cinephiles.

    THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 (USA 2012) ***

    Directed by Bill Condon

    The fifth and final instalment of the Twilight Saga series arrives with full blast, no expense spared.  Director Bill Condon who made Part1 delivers what teens want in their romantic fantasy – tonnes of sexual innuendo, bloody gore and everlasting romance.

    Never mind the confusing story!  If one is unfamiliar with the previous films, general story or the book’s characters, expect to be in for a rather confusing time trying to piece together what is happening at the film’s start.  But it really does not matter after a while, as it is the big orgy of the battle showdown (that lasts quite a while) and the romance between Edward and Bella Cullen (Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart) are all that matters.

    The plot involves Bella, after being brought back from near-death by Edward after childbirth. Bella begins her new life as a vampire and mother to their daughter, Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy). But when Irina (Maggie Grace), a member of the Denali Coven, misidentifies Renesmee as a immortal child, a human infant who has been bitten and transformed into a vampire, to the Volturi, they set out to battle and destroy the Cullens for their betrayal. In a final attempt to survive, the Cullens begin to gather foreign Vampire clans and nomads to stand and witness against the Volturi, including the Denali, the Amazonian, the Egyptian, the Irish and Romanian Covens, with European and American nomads. With their allies, the Cullens and the Wolf Pack stand to prove their innocence to the Volturi once and for all.

    The special effects are top notch, an improvement from film after film in the series – done with CGI and with great care.  The fights are in the forest and bare open spaces.

    The transformation from man to wolf is well executed. The segment in which Taylor Lautner takes out his shirt to show his rippling muscles followed by his pants to transform into a wolf got the film’s loudest cheers from the female audience.  The declarations of eternal love uttered more than a few times between Edward and Bella would also more than satisfy the target audience.  Despite its flaws, BREAKING DAWN PART 2 delivers what the target audience wants, and the film is successful in that respect!

    BEST BETS OF THE WEEK:-

    Best Film Opening: Holy Motors

  • This Week's Film Reviews (Nov 9, 2012)

    Biggest film opening this week is the much awaited new Bond SKYFALL.  In line with the U.S. Presidentisal elections, LINCOLN makes its timely debut.

    Toronto: Lots going on at the Bell TIFF Lightbox with the series, BOND, Beyond Bond and Birth of a Villain series.  And do not forget the Reel Asian Film Festival.

    DANGEROUS LIASONS (China 2012) ***

    Directed by Hur Jin-ho


    DANGEROUS LIASONS is another example of a joint effort between Asian talents, in this case Korean, Chinese and Hong Kong.   Like the recent THE THIEVES, this film is a lavish, ambitious and expensive production that can be admired if not for anything else, for looks alone.

    Based on the French classic by Choderlos de Laclos and making no shame about it, since it retains the novel’s name in the film title, DANGEROUS LIASONS adapts the tale from 18th century France to 1930’s Shanghai.  For myself, I generally dislike such adaptations of literary classics, the most recent case in point being Michael Winterbottom’s THRISNA bringing the story of Tess to rural India.  But somehow, the production values, sets art direction, props and wardrobe as well as the age old story of love and deceit result in still a fresh film.  The only thing is that Stephen Frear’s last adaptation based on the Oscar winning adapted screenplay by Christopher Hampton was such an excellent film with stars like John Malkovic and Glenn Close that those images are still recent in ones memory. 

    In Korean director Hur’s version, Xie Yifan (Jang Dong-gun) is Valmont, the charismatic libertine.   Mo Jieyu (Cecelia Cheung) is Marquise de Merteuil, the affluent femme fatale bracing herself for beauty’s expiration date. And Du Yufen (Zhang Ziyi, most recognizable to Northern American audiences from CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) is Madame de Tourvel, the innocent human collateral haplessly caught in the cynical sexual gamesmanship between these two erotic schemers — but victim becomes victor when the beautiful young widow is able to inspire true love from the seducer who had elected her as the pawn in his nefarious game.

    Hur is fond of close-ups which helps brings the audience right up close to the emotional action.  Jang is sufficiently sexy and ruthless with his pencil moustache and good-looks just as Ziyi is forever gorgeous.  DANGEROUS LIASONS is a film in which everything looks gorgeous even the poverty surrounding 1930’s Shanghai.  With that, one can overlook the few flaws the film has.

    LINCOLN (USA 2012) ***

    Directed by Steven Spielberg


    Spielberg’s LINCOLN is a well-made sprawling historical epic that focuses on the political collision of President Abraham Lincoln with the powerful men of his cabinet as they establish the abolition of slavery and end the Civil War in the 19th century.

    Based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography on Lincoln, the film is based only on the last few years of the man’s life which as everyone knows ends in his sad assassination while watching a play at the theatre.  Still, there are lots and lots to tell, as evident when one watches the movie.  However, by nature of the subject, this is a periodic piece in which the characters are required to speak in 19th century English, thus rendering the film difficult to understand and inaccessible to a wide audience.  One is also required to have a bit of knowledge of American history to appreciate the film.

    Spielberg treats his subject as arguably the greatest working President in American history doing some of the greatest and noble work in the world.  Daniel Day Lewis plays Lincoln as a self spoken person, seldom shouting (except in the one fight scene with his long suffering wife played by Sally Field) but with an inner strength that encompasses patience, understanding and wisdom.  The other supporting players are hard to recognise but Fields and Tommy Lee Jones stand out.

    The $50 million spent on production shows.  The battles scenes are breathtaking, perhaps rivalling Spielberg’s other war film SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.  Costumes and set decoration of the period piece look magnificent as well.

    The climax of the film which is the vote against slavery is meticulously plotted and serves as the suspense and excitement for the movie.  Even if one is lost for the first half of the film, the second half of Spielberg’s film more than redeems itself.

    THE ORANGES (USA 2011) ***
    Directed by Julian Farino


    This is the story of two dysfunctional families the Wallings and the Ostroffs who live in a boring New Kersey suburb with the street name ‘Orange’.  The film offers almost equal screen time given to each family.  The two fathers are the best of friends, who since the beginning of time, jog together without fail every morning.

    But things take a turn when one, David Paige (Hugh Laurie who has totally lost his Brit accent) falls in love with his best friend David’s (Oliver Pratt) young daughter, Nina (Leighton Meester), much to the chagrin of all, especially his own daughter Vanessa (Alia Shawkat) who is best friends with Vanessa.

    The story is narrated by Vanessa’s character and offers good arguments on each side whether the couple should stay together.  The argument of David is: “I am Happy!”, but that does not hold for Vanessa who in one of the film’s funniest scenes (the revelation confrontation scene) threatens to go to the back to make out with the other dad as revenge.  The story does not appear much but director Farino milks the best as well as the most hilarious jokes from the situation.

    All the performances are top notch especially Catherine Keener as David’s long suffering wife.  Yet, Farino has transformed the story in the feel-good film of the year, the typical small indie film that Fox Searchlight loves to distribute.

    PUSHER (UK 2012) ***

    Directed by Luis Prieto


    PUSHER is the British remake of the Danish film of the same name directed by Nicolas Winding (who did DRIVE) who now serves as producer.  Winding gives this version his full blessing.

    I have not seen the original film version, which consists of a trilogy, but those who have seen both have attested that the original Danish films were more violent, less commercial and edgy.  So, this one set in Britain around the cobblestone street alleyways and warehouse dance clubs, this new PUSHER has an authentic feel for its surroundings.

    Prieto’s film opens TRAINSPOTTING style with the main characters introduced by first name on credits splashed with big letter on the screen.  The lead is Frank (Richard Coyle) a small time drug dealer (and user) trying to tech out a decent life with his girlfriend (Agyness Deyn) and best mate, Tony (Bronson Webb).

    Prieto plays it safe with a standard narrative storytelling.  First he introduces his characters and dealings then the main plot that goes sour followed by how Frank deals with the problem before ending the film with a twist.

    The problem is Frank borrowing a kilo of white from his supplier and then friend Milo (Zlatko Buric).  After the sale goes sour due to a bust and Frank having to dump the gear into a pond to remove the evidence, Milo goes berserk when he does not get the money.  Given an ultimatum, Frank goes down a downward spiral trying to cough up the dough that includes beating up Tony and fooling his mum and his girlfriend.

    Prieto’s film moves at a fast pace and he resorts to jumpy editing to create the effects of edginess likely the same kind a user would feel when under the influence.  But the edginess is slight and does not come off as effective as films like SPUN or SMOKIN’ ACES.  The violence and gore are all there though not as excessive as would be expected for this kind of film.  Acting is convincing with Buric coming off best.  Buric reprises the same role he did in the Danish film.

    Prieto creates sufficient tension and emotion in both his characters and situations.  The result is a tense, credible piece of commercial filmmaking that is accurate down to the price of the product, which is £2300 for 2 ounces.

    SKYFALL (UK/USA 2012) ****
    Directed by Sam Mendes


    AMERICAN BEAUTY director Sam Mendes lands the Bond director’s chair in his first but successful entry in the 007 franchise.  Though not known for films in the spy action or even action genre, but known for his dramas like REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, ROAD TO PERDITION and of course, AMERICAN BEAUTY, Mendes brings more drama as opposed to comedy to the Bond film.  And it works well!  SKYFALL connects to the audiences.  John Logan who was brought in to rewrite the script did a good job with some major twists and plot turns (not to be revealed in this review) that would satisfy Bond fans.

    SKYFALL is smart in many ways.  It begins with the standard action pre- opening credit sequence.  But unlike the previous Bonds in which the segments have nothing to do with the rest of the film, this one does.  A list of names is stolen and M (Judi Dench) says this one line, Hitchcock style to create audience anticipation: “We cannot afford to lose this list!”  The list is the introduction to the plot for the rest of the film in which MI6 undercover agents are revealed by the villain, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) putting MI6’s relevance in question.  Nothing in the rest of the film matches the excitement of this segment which includes a bike chase on rooftops of supposedly Istanbul and a fight atop a racing train.  The phrase “shaken not stirred” is replaced by “Perfect!” after Bond receives the correctly made martini.  His date appropriately replies to her drink: “I like mine straight up with a twist!”

    Daniel Craig as James Bond is once again overtly serious.  Thankfully, the script has most of the other characters played tongue in cheek such as the new young Quartermaster, Q (Ben Whishaw), the other operative Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) including the over-the-top performance by Barden as Silva which includes an uncomfortable gay scene.  The Bond girls range from very sexy Severine (Berenice Marlohe) to very functional Eve (Naomie Harris).

    Most of the standard Bond stuff remains untouched in SKYFALL.  Q still insists that merchandise be returned unspoiled, M still disfavours Bond (M confesses this in the first film she is played by Dench in GOLDENEYE) and a catchy Bond theme by Adele can be heard at the film’s start.  However, the famous Bond theme by Monty Norman is only first played in the middle of the film after one excellent action sequence, and then used again after.

    The death of Bond at the film’s start (this is not a spoiler as it occurs only briefly) occurs as if Bond can ever be mores serious.  Darkness often spoils a film franchise as can already be noticed in THE DARK KNIGHT (BATMAN) films.  But the relevance of a spy film in the age of sci-fi futuristic films is also parodied in the plot of this film in which M has to defend her MI6 agency in the present age.

    But SKYFALLS delivers in the action department aided heavily with lots of ammunition in the drama department.  This is above average Bond which more than makes up for the previously awful QUANTUM OF SOLACE.

    BEST BETS OF THE WEEK:

    Best Film Opening: Skyfall

    Best Film Playing: Argo

    Best Drama: The Sessions

    Best Documentary: The Imposter

    Best Family: Frankenweenie

    Bets Action: Skyfall

    Best Foreign: Dangerous Liasons (China)

  • TIFF BELL Lightbox - Birth of a Villain

    BIRTH OF A VILLAIN

    In this new series by TIFF Bell Lightbox, Twitch Film’s Todd Brown brings back the origins of filmdom’s greatest monsters.   The series are the first films from such classic horror franchises as Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser and Child’s Play on the big screen.

    Capsule reviews for 4 of these films (highlighted) are found at the end of the article.

    The series runs from Nov 10th to Dec 29th, 2012.

    The complete list of films and show times is outlined below:-

    A Nightmare on Elm Street – Saturday, November 10, 10:00pm
    Halloween – Saturday, November 17, 10:00pm
    Child''s Play – Saturday, November 24, 10:00pm
    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – Saturday, December 1, 10:00pm
    Hellraiser – Saturday, December 8, 10:00pm
    Phantasm – Saturday, December 15, 10:00pm
    The Howling – Saturday, December 22, 10:00pm
    Friday the 13th – Saturday, December 29, 11:59pm

    HALLOWEEN (USA 1978) ****
    Directed by John Carpenter

    The villain in HALLOWEEN is Michael Myers.  After murdering his older sister in 1963 on Halloween night by stabbing her with a kitchen knife, he is institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital.  Myers (Will Sandin) escapes 15 years later, returning to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois.  Myer’s doctor, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) follows him to Haddonfield to prevent him from killing.  Myers stalks babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends.  Carpenter’s slasher film, made at a miniscule budget of less than a million went on to make more than $70 million and was a huge success.  It is easy to see why.  The film is almost perfect in the way scares are generated.  There are similarities with Hitchcock’s slasher film PSYCHO in the way suspense is used rather than graphic gore and violence to create the horror as well as the way the knife plunges into the victim.  Carpenter did the music, utilizing for example, off-key notes (compared to Hitchcock’s screeching notes) when the slashing occurs or plunking sounds as the victims are stalked.  Pleasance is wonderful as both the frustrated and concerned doctor, describing the villain in one scene with all the relish he can muter as a creature of pure evil.

    HELLRAISER (USA)

    Directed by Clive Barker

    Flawed but still scary horror slasher movie American style though made in Britain.  The villain here is Pinhead (Doug Bradley) summed up from another dimension by Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) solving the puzzle of an antique puzzle box that he bought.  Sometime later, Frank''s brother, Larry (Andrew Robinson, son of Edward G. Robinson and known as the sniper from DIRTY HARRY) arrives at the house along with his second wife, Julia (Clare Higgins) who previously had an affair with Frank.  Larry''s teenage daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) chooses not to live with her stepmother and moves into her own place. While moving into the house, Larry cuts his hand on a nail, and drips blood on the attic floor. The blood somehow reaches Frank in his prison in the humanoids'' realm, partially restoring his body and allowing him to escape to the attic.  How the blood reaches Frank and how Kirsty manages to use the box to retract Pinhead and his cenobites are questionable.  The film also turns into the cenobites chasing teenage victim Kirsty by the end of the film.  Still the film contains many genuinely frightening scenes such as the one in which Kirsty stumbles through a dark corridor screaming for help.

    THE HOWLING (USA 1981) ***1/2

    Directed by Joe Dante


    THE HOWLING is an odd werewolf entry that stands out for its sense of humour and outstanding special effects of man transforming into the werewolf.  The film begins with Karen White (Dee Wallace), an L.A. television news anchor stalked by a serial murderer named Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo).  The traumatic experience of him being shot while almost killing her leads to her therapist, Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee).  The doctor sends her and her husband, Bill Neill (Christopher Stone) to "The Colony", a secluded resort in the countryside for treatment.  Nothing is as it seems.  The colony turns out to be a community of werewolves which the good doctor is involved in.  Jokes like the sheriff (Slim Pickens) eating ‘wolf’ brand chilli or a the disk jockey called Wolfman Jack abound as do lots of references to old wolf movies (example George Waggner is the name of the director of THE WOLFMAN, a 1941 film).  But the scares are genuine though the horrors are to be taken tongue-in-cheek at most times.  Dante does not skimp on the blood, violence, sex or nudity.  But Spielberg took him over to make GREMLINS, toning him down to family style horror movies.  Pity!

    THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (USA (1974) ***

    Directed by Tobe Hooper


    This is the original produced, directed and co-written by Tobe Hooper that spurned a reboot and many sequels.  Supposedly based on the murders of serial killer Ed Gein, this disgusting film featuring screaming almost naked women at its most vulgar concerns a terrorizing family of three.  The victims are a visiting group of 5 youths, one of which is an invalid who meets his end hacked up by a chainsaw while in his wheel chair.  This film contains many gruesome, unforgettable scenes such as the one in the van when a hitchhiker slits his own hand with a knife and then proceeds to slice the side of the arm of the invalid.  Others include stringing up a victim on the meet hook in the slaughterhouse and yet another, an extended screaming scene at the dinner table as the killers imitate her screams.  All this action is made even more intolerable by the soundtrack that includes squawking chickens and victims hacking from the stench of rotting corpses.  This film remains the horror film which contains the most disturbing segments of all time.  This film is one worst nightmare coming true and that is not necessary in a bad way.
  • TIFF BELL Lightbox - Beyond Bond

    BEYOND BOND (Nov 9 - Jan18)

    This series of spy films, some serious some spoofs rode on the wave of the popularity of the spy genre in the 60’s and 70’s. Like James Bond, many other secret agents emerged and were successful enough to spurn more than one or two sequels.  Dean Martin as Matt Helm started off with THE SILENCERS followed by MURDERERS’ ROW, then THE AMBUSHERS and THE WRECKING CREW.  OSS 117 had a reboot from the serious Frederick Forsyth to comical Jean Dujardin of THE ARTIST fame.

    Several other cheeky spinoffs arose such as agent Hugh Bulldog Drummond in DEADLIER THAN THE MALE which spawned one bad sequel, SOME GIRLS DO.  Anthony Hopkins had his run with the Alistair McLean novels and so did others like Richard Burton (THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD), Paul Newman (Alfred Hitchcock’s TORN CURTAIN) and Christopher Jones (THE LOOKING GLASS WAR) in mores serious cold war spy films.

    THE SPY WITH THE COLD NOSE and THE SPY IN LACE PANTIES (with Doris Day) are also funny comedies that arose from the spy genre.

    TIFF Cinematheque brings nostalgia to Toronto with a lot of favuorites including one of my all time favourites, Monica Vitti in Joseph Losey’s MODESTY BLAISE.  For the complete program, show times, venue and ticket pricing, check the website at:

    www.tiff.net

    CAPSULE REVIEWS:

    DEADLIER THAN THE MALE (UK 1967) ***1/2

    Directed by Ralph Thomas

     The first of two films featuring the character of secret agent Hugh ‘Bulldog’ Drummond (Richard Johnson who was director Terence Young’s first choice to play Bond) is camp action comedy with lots of sex and a bit of nastiness. ·The sex comes in the form of two sexy assassins played by Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina at the height of their fame. ·They are employees of diabolical mastermind Carl Peterson (Nigel Green) who plans to make more millions by assassinating King Fedra who owns many oil fields.· Johnson makes a suave enough hero, getting all the ladies just as Matt Helm does, minus the singing. ·The film has bits of uncomfortable torture as in the scenes in which Drummond’s nephew (Steve Carlson) get burned by a cigarette and a match when he refuses to provide information. ·The climax when Drummond fights Peterson using giant motorized chess pieces is impressively executed as is the hilarious end of the two bombshells when they literally blow up.

    THE IPCRESS FILE (UK 1966) ****1/2

    Directed by Sidney J. Furie

     

     

    The first and best of the 3 Harry Palmer films based on Len Deighton’s 1962 novel shows the super spy in a different vein.  Unlike his 007 James Bond counterpart, Palmer (Michael Caine) is a spectacled bloke who takes London Transport than travelling in Aston Martins.  Producer Harry Saltzman and film editor Peter Hunt of the James Bond films are involved in the same capacity in this film, as if they are making a proper serious spy film with no-nonsense.  The plot involves the brainwashing and kidnapping of British scientists.  Palmer whose job is to solve the problem finds that he has to deal with bureaucracy, a cranky egotistic boss (Nigel Green) and the fact that he thinks he has been chosen because he is expendable.  Even the bird (Sue Lloyd) who has moved in with him could be a spy.  The vulnerable super spy is also subject to weeks of cruel torture including the brainwashing process which he eventually overcomes credibly.  The climax is more suspense than action.  THE IPCRESS FILE was the voted the Best British Film of the year and deservedly so.  THE IPCRESS FILE is compelling from start to finish.

    OSS 117: RIO NE REPOND PLUS (France 2009) ***
    Directed by Michel Hazanavicius


    OSS 117 is the codename for Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, a fictional secret agent from the novels by French author Jena Bruce.  Films have been made on the adventures of OSS 117, the character played by various actors, the most recent being Frederic Stafford and the last by Jean Dujardin and directed by Michel Hazanavicius (THE ARTIST).   In this film, agent OSS 117 is depicted as a self-centred, racist, dimwitted and politically incorrect oaf.  But 117 still gets the ladies and the job done.  So, considered by his superiors to be the best in the business, he is sent on a mission to Rio de Janeiro, to find a former high-ranking Nazi who went into exile in South America after the war.  His eventful investigation takes him all across Brazil, from Rio to Brasilia and the Iguazu Falls, accompanied by a charming Mossad agent (Louise Monot) who is also looking for the Nazi.  This is the second entry of the series, and not as funny as the original (OSS 117: CAIRO NEST OF SPIES).  But this spoof of Bond still has its moments, the best being the agent unsuccessfully roasting a crocodile in order to impress his lady.  The success of the two 117 films allowed Hazanavicius to get funding for THE ARTIST which went on to win the Best Picture Oscar.

    THE SILENCERS (USA 1966) ****
    Directed by Phil Karlson


    This is American James bond in the form of a continuously drinking and self assured playboy spy Matt Helm (played by Dean Martin) based on a series of novels by Donald Hamilton.  The plot could be something right out of an Ian Fleming novel but the film is one of the most camp the Americans have ever done.  Helm is coaxed out of retirement by ex-girlfriend Tina (Daliah Lavi) to save the world from Tung-Tze (Victor Buono) from the Big O Organization who wants to control the world by sabotaging atomic missiles.   Buono looks as Chinese and is as outrageous as Joseph Wiseman in the first Bond film DR. NO.  And Roger C. Carmel looks like Oddjob SAKATA in GOLDFINGER.  But THE SILENCERS, the first and best of the Matt Helm series is a bit tardy in direction but by no means less entertaining.  The song and dance numbers are out of this world.  Dean Martin occasionally croons songs as if right out of his Dean Martin Show.  But the filmmakers have done something right, as the film spawned 3 sequels after this one.

     

  • Reel Asian Film Festival 2012

    REEL ASIAN (Toronto) Film Festival begins on November the 6th.  Below gives all the information you might need to know.

    Capsule reviews for a few of the films screened are provided at the end of the article.

    If you really need more detailed information, you can alo visit the festival website at:

    http://www.reelasian.com/

    The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (Reel Asian) will celebrate its 16th annual edition this year with more screenings, international guests and special events as it continues its expansion outside the downtown Toronto core to bring Richmond Hill residents a taste of the best in Asian cinema.

    Founded in 1997, Reel Asian began as a 3-day event established in response to meet the needs of an existing demand for Asian films in Toronto, and has since grown to a 10-day multi-city annual event attracting over 10,000 people. Reel Asian strives to develop programming that reflects the cultural diversity of Canada and increase public understanding and appreciation of the artistic, social and cultural contributions of those of Asian heritage through film. This year’s festival will take place November 6-11 in Toronto and November 16-17 in Richmond Hill to present 60 films and videos from 14 countries including Canada, China, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Kashmir, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.

    Highlights include:

    GALAS & CENTREPIECE:

    • TORONTO OPENING NIGHT GALA: FIRST TIME (China/Hong Kong 2012, Canadian Premiere, director Han Yan in attendance)
    • CENTREPIECE PRESENTATION: PRISON DANCER(Canada 2012, Canadian Premiere, director Romeo Candido, producer Ana Serrano and cast in attendance)
    • TORONTO CLOSING NIGHT GALA: ARCHITECTURE 101(South Korea 2012, Canadian Premiere, director Lee Yong-joo in attendance)

    INTERNATIONAL FEATURES: a selection of award-winning and noteworthy films including

    • China – EGG AND STONE by Huang Ji, winner of Tiger Award at International Film Festival Rotterdam 2012  
    • Kashmir/USA – VALLEY OF SAINTS by Musa Syeed, winner of Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize and World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival 2012  
    • China/Taiwan  – HOMETOWN BOY by Yao Hung-I, winner of Best Documentary 2012 at Taipei Golden Horse Award 2011 and Grand Prize for Best Director and Best Documentary at Taipei Film Festival
    • Indonesia – THE MIRROR NEVER LIES by Kamila Andini, winner of Earth Grand Pris at Tokyo International Film Festival 2011 and FIPRESCI Prize at Hong Kong International Film Festival 2012  
    • Taiwan – CHA CHA FOR TWINS by Yang Yi-Chien, winner of Best Narrative Feature and Best Screenplay at Taipei Film Festival 2012  
    • Japan – THE WOODSMAN AND THE RAIN by Shuichi Okita, winner of Special Jury Price at Tokyo International Film Festival 2011  

    CANADIAN PROGRAMMING:

    • Canadian Premiere of PRISON DANCER(Canada 2012, director Romeo Candido, producer Ana Serrano and cast in attendance)
    • Toronto Premiere of THE FRUIT HUNTERS (Canada 2012, director Yung Chang, quest in attendance)
    • North American Premiere of DAL PURI DIASPORA (Canada 2012, director Richard Fung in attendance)
    • Canadian Spotlight on MICHAEL FUKUSHIMA: THE ART OF PRODUCING ART(Producer/Director Michael Fukushima in attendance)
    • Canadian shorts are included in: ONCE LOST, NOW FOUND, IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK, ESCAPE OF REALITY, HARD LOOKand UNSUNG HEROES(Various filmmakers in attendance)

    SPECIAL GALLERY EXHIBITIONS: COLLECTOR(S) and AUTUMN COLOURS AFTER ZHAO MENGFU

    Continuing to engage with pan-Asian experimental installations, Reel Asian presents two exciting off-screen projects, each with a unique focus on video art.  Hosted at TPW R&D, Innis College, East Gallery and the Monarch Festival Hub.

     

    PITCH COMPETITION

    Reel Asian''s 7th Annual Pitch Competition - So You Think You Can Pitch? - is back for 2012. A collaboration between Reel Asian and Charles Street Video (CSV), this competition features prizes worth a combined value of more than $35,000. Teams of filmmakers will have six minutes each to pitch their projects to vie for $2,000 in cash; a brand new Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1; $10,000 (emerging category) and $18,000 (professional category) worth of production, post services and artist’s fees at CSV.

    REEL ASIAN HEADS TO RICHMOND HILL

    As part of our continuing initiative to reach new audiences beyond the downtown core, Reel Asian returns to the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts for its 2nd Annual Richmond Hill weekend film festival. We will be opening with the Canadian premiere of Floating City with Hong Kong veteran director Yim Ho in attendance and closing the uptown festival with Yung Chang’s highly anticipated documentary The Fruit Hunters.

    SCHEDULE AT A GLANCE(chronologically by date)

     

    TORONTO

    Opening Night Gala | Tue Nov 6, 7:00 PM | Isabel Bader Theatre 

    FIRST TIME

    Director Han Yan | China/Hong Kong 2012 | 106:00 | Canadian Premiere | Director in attendance

    Yearning to experience all the firsts of a young girl in love, terminally ill Shiqiao records her memories on a cassette tape when a high school crush reappears in her world. Starring two of Asia’s rising young stars Mark Chao and Angelababy.

    Canadian Spotlight | Wed Nov 7, 5:30 PM | Innis Town Hall

    MICHAEL FUKUSHIMA: THE ART OF PRODUCING ART

    Award-winning producer Michael Fukushima investigates the role of creativity and demystifies the producing process. Fukushima and several directors will be in attendance to address topics unique to creative producing such as risk taking, building creative teams and the vagaries of success.

    TIFF Cinematheque’s Free Screen | Wed Nov 7, 7:00 PM | TIFF Bell Lightbox

    IT MAY BE THAT BEAUTY HAS STRENGTHENED OUR RESOLVE: MASAO ADACHI

    Director Philippe Grandrieux | France 2011 | 73:00 | Toronto Premiere

    Focusing on one of Japan’s most revolutionary film directors, Grandrieux’s portrait finds Masao Adachi in Tokyo and unfolds as a conversation about revolution, desire and cinema. Co-presented by Reel Asian & TIFF.

    Shorts Presentation | Wed Nov 7, 7:15 PM | Innis Town Hall

    ONCE LOST, NOW FOUND

    Presenting meditations on memory and loss, connection, and pure joy, these films address some of the most powerful yet peripheral facets of human experience with quiet restraint and creative narratives. Including work by Keith Lock, Quek Shio Chuan, Christopher Makoto Yogi, Han Han Li and Kimi Takesue.

    Feature Presentation | Wed Nov 7, 9:15 PM | Innis Town Hall

    STATELESS THINGS

    Director Kim Kyung-mook | South Korea 2011 | 115:00 | Toronto Premiere | Director in attendance

    A North Korean migrant worker and young gay man are trapped by their social status, both physically and psychologically in the heartless megacity of Seoul in this dark and dreamy film by internationally acclaimed indie director Kim Kyung-mook.

    Youth Shorts Presentation | Thu Nov 8, 1:00 PM | AGO Jackman Hall

    IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK

    Amateur Sumo wrestling, street dancing friends, a felt turtle and copious cats remind us that stories of the unexpected are everywhere. Including work by Patrick Ng, Alisi Telengut, Stephanie Law, Jessica Wu, Vivienne AuYeung, Xiao Yang and Greg Masuda.

    Feature Presentation | Thu Nov 8, 5:40 PM | Innis Town Hall

    DAYLIGHT SAVINGS

    Director Dave Boyle | USA 2012 | 73:00 | Toronto Premiere | Director and Actor in attendance

    This charming romantic follow up to last year’s Surrogate Valentine finds singer songwriter Goh Nakamura on the wrong side of love again. While nursing a broken heart, a Vegas roadtrip yields unexpected results.

    Shorts Presentation | Thu Nov 8, 6:00 PM | AGO Jackman Hall

    UNSUNG VOICES

    Reel Asian proudly presents our inaugural Summer Youth Video Production Workshop, which launched this past summer with a merry band of intrepid youth who possessed little to no formal filmmaking experience, but had great stories to tell.

    Feature Presentation | Thu Nov 8, 7:40 PM | Innis Town Hall

    EGG AND STONE

    Director Huang Ji | China 2012 | 100:00 | Toronto Premiere | Director in attendance

    Shot in Director Huang Ji’s hometown in Hunan, this quietly disturbing autobiographical and award-winning debut feature uncovers the taboo subject of family abuse through the eyes of 14-year-old Honggui.

    Feature Presentation | Thu Nov 8, 8:00 PM | AGO Jackman Hall

    LUNG NEAW VISITS HIS NEIGHBOURS

    Director Rirkrit Tiravanija | Mexico/Thailand 2011 | 154:00 | Canadian Premiere

    The first feature film from acclaimed visual artist Rirkrit Tiravanija is an exquisitely photographed, minimalist “portraiture” of retired rice farmer Lung Neaw; a quiet and boyish man who spends his idle days conversing with neighbors, doing odd jobs and walking through the jungle.

    Feature Presentation | Thu Nov 8, 9:55 PM | Innis Town Hall

    GRACELAND 

    Director Ron Morales | USA/Philippines 2012 | 84:00 | Toronto Premiere | Director in attendance

    The driver for a corrupt politician gets embroiled in a botched kidnapping and must traverse the seedy underbelly of  Manila to save his daughter in this gritty noir.

    Youth Shorts Presentation | Fri Nov 9, 1:00 PM | AGO Jackman Hall

    ESCAPE OR REALITY

    Want to get away? You may or may not find what you’re looking for. These stories show us the potential and pitfalls of escaping from life’s impositions. Including work by Jack Shih, Leslie Supnet, Jeff Tran, Louis Yeum, Kim Young-sam, Eri Asai and Mina Son.

    Centrepiece Presentation | Fri Nov 9, 6:45 PM | The Royal

    PRISON DANCER

    Director Romeo Candido | Canada 2012 | 60:00 | Canadian Premiere | Director, Crew and Cast in attendance

    Inspired by the real-life dancing rehabilitation program that went viral on YouTube, Prison Dancer tells the personal, poignant, and hilarious stories of six Filipino prison dancers whose group dancing turned a maximum-security prison into a world stage. This unique presentation will integrate on-screen projection and live performance from the cast.

    Feature Presentation | Fri Nov 9, 7:00 PM | AGO Jackman Hall

    PEOPLE’S PARK

    Directors Libbie D. Cohn, J.P. Sniadecki | USA/China 2012 | 78:00 | Canadian Premiere | Directors in attendance

    This dynamic single shot documentary is a visual and aural adventure that glides through a public space in Chengdu, China revealing waltzing couples, karaoke singers and curious onlookers.

    Special Presentation | Fri Nov 9, 8:45 PM | The Royal

    VALLEY OF SAINTS 

    Director Musa Sayeed | USA/Kashmir | 82:00 | Toronto Premiere | Director in attendance

    Upon the beautiful but troubled Dal Lake in Kashmir, a young boatman’s world is opened up by a visiting scientist in this lyrical drama about friendship, family and home.  Winner of two Sundance awards.

    Feature Presentation | Fri Nov 9, 9:00 PM | AGO Jackman Hall

    HOMETOWN BOY

    Director Yao Hung-yi | China/Taiwan 2011 | 72:00 | Canadian Premiere

    Famous Chinese artist Liu Xiaodong returns home after 30 years to paint portraits of his boyhood friends while discovering the passage of time and economic developments that have altered the character of his rural hometown. Produced by iconic Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien.

    Feature Presentation | Fri Nov 9, 11:00 PM | The Royal

    TATSUMI

    Director Eric Khoo | Singapore 2011 | 98:00 | Toronto Premiere

    The fascinating life and sinister stories of legendary manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi are brought to life on the big screen in this animated biography about the man who pioneered gekiga,a genre of dark adult-themed comics. Tatsumi premiered at Cannes in 2011.

    3D Feature Presentation | Sat Nov 10, 11:45 AM | The Royal

    A FISH

    Director Park Hong Min | South Korea 2011 | 100:00 | Toronto Premiere | Director in attendance

    A professor traces rumours revealing his wife has become a possessed shaman in this mesmerizing exploration of the spirit world.  A Fish is Reel Asian’s first 3D film presentation.

    Feature Presentation | Sat Nov 10, 2:15 PM | The Royal

    THE MIRROR NEVER LIES

    Director Kamila Andini | Indonesia 2011 | 100:00 | Toronto Premiere

    Reaching beneath the mere beauty of the renowned Wakatobi region comes this award-winning coming-of-age story about the tenuous relationships between sea and community, mother and daughter, life and death.

    Feature Presentation | Sat Nov 10, 4:30 PM | The Royal

    DAL PURI DIASPORA

    Director Richard Fung | Canada 2012 | 80:00 | Canadian Premiere | Director in attendance

    Trinidad-born Toronto filmmaker Richard Fung takes an inquisitive food journey through the Caribbean and India to discover the mouth-watering roots of one of his (and Toronto’s) favourite foods, the dal puri, most commonly known as the roti.

    Feature Presentation | Sat Nov 10, 6:30 PM | The Royal

    JAKE SHIMABUKURO: LIFE ON FOUR STRINGS

    Director Tadashi Nakamura | USA | 60:00 | Canadian Premiere | Director in attendance

    Jake Shimabukuro plays the ukulele but not like anything ever seen or heard before in this rock documentary on the pioneering Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso who propelled this simple four-string instrument to dazzling heights. The screening includes a live performance produced by torontoUKES and the Corktown Uke Jam

    Feature Presentation | Sat Nov 10, 8:15 PM | The Royal

    WOLF CHILDREN

    Director Mamoru Hosoda | Japan 2012 | 117:00 | Canadian Premiere

    From director Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars) comes his latest animated masterpiece about Hana, a young woman who falls in love with a werewolf and bears wolf children.

    Feature Presentation | Sat Nov 10, 10:45 PM | The Royal

    COLD STEEL

    Director David Wu | China 2011 | 101:00 | Toronto Premiere | Director in attendance

    Bullets fly, swords are drawn and enemies slashed in John Woo’s longtime collaborator David Wu’s historical film that recalls the energy and glory of classic 1980s Hong Kong action films. Starring Tony Leung Ka Fai.

    Feature Presentation | Sun Nov 11, 1:00 PM | The Royal

    SEEKING ASIAN FEMALE

    Director Debbie Lum | USA 2012 | 85:00 | Toronto Premiere
    Stephen is an aging white male with “yellow fever”. Sandy is the Chinese bride he met online.  See if their marriage can make it through the cultural barriers and battle of the sexes in this intimate and quirky personal documentary.

    Shorts Presentation | Sun Nov 11, 3:00 PM | The Royal

    HARD LOOK

    From the full frontal stare of an unbatting, mascara-laced eye to the dispassionate gaze of a child who has seen it all, these films consider fallen heroes and arrested dreams.  Including work by Nobu Adilman, Eui Yong Zong, Hayoun Kwon, Wesley Cho, Lou Nakasako, Victoria Molina de Carranza and Jahel José Guerra Roa.

    Omnibus Presentation | Sun Nov 11, 5:15 PM | The Royal

    10+10

    Taiwan 2011 | 115:00 | Toronto Premiere

    Twenty of Taiwan’s top young and veteran directors each direct five-minute shorts to highlight the uniqueness of Taiwan.  The results are a panorama of Taiwanese society ranging from thriller to silent cinema to dark comedy. Including work by Hou Hsiao-hsien, Arvin Chen and Chang Tso-chi.

    Closing Night Gala | Sun Nov 11, 8:15 PM | The Royal

    ARCHITECTURE 101

    Director Lee Yong Joo | Korea 2012 | 115:00 | Canadian Premiere | Director in Attendance

    Han Ga-In, Uhm Tae-Woong and Bae Suzy star in this Korean box office hit about a woman who commissions her first love to build a new home in hopes to make good on a past promise.

    RICHMOND HILL

    Richmond Hill Opening | Fri Nov 16, 7:00 PM | Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts

    FLOATING CITY

    Director Yim Ho | Hong Kong 2012 | 104:00 | North American Premiere | Director in attendance

    Directed by pioneering Hong Kong New Wave auteur Yim Ho, Floating City tells the true story of Bo Wah-Chuen (Aaron Kwok), as he rises from being an orphan on a Chinese fishing boat to the upper echelons of the notorious Imperial East India Trading Company.

    Feature Presentation | Sat Nov 17, 1:30 PM | Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts

    CHA CHA FOR TWINS

    Directors Yang Yi-Chien, Jim Wang | Taiwan 2012 | 101:00 | Canadian Premiere

    Writer and co-Director Yang Yi-Chien, herself a twin, reaches into the emotional side of relationships between twin siblings in this charming Taiwanese film for all ages. Winner of Best Narrative Feature and Best Screenplay at the Taipei Film Festival.

    Feature Presentation | Sat Nov 17, 4:00 PM | Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts

    THE WOODSMAN AND THE RAIN

    Director Shuichi Okita | Japan 2011 | 127:00 | Canadian Premiere

    Celebrated Japanese actor Koji Yakusho plays a lonely lumberjack whose life is drastically changed when he’s unwittingly enlisted into helping a spineless young filmmaker to complete his low budget zombie movie.

    Richmond Hill Closing | Sat Nov 17, 7:00 PM | Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts

    THE FRUIT HUNTERS

    Director Yung Chang | Canada 2012 | 90:00 | Toronto Premiere | Guest in Attendance

    Award-winning Canadian documentary filmmaker Yung Chang’s The Fruit Hunters is a globetrotting tour of faraway places, filled with eccentric people to whom fruit is a way of life and not just a suggested daily dietary recommendation.

    INFORMATION:

    SCREENING AND INDUSTRY SERIES VENUES

    Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St. West

    TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. West

    Innis Town Hall, 2 Sussex Ave., at St. George

    AGO Jackman Hall, 317 Dundas St. West

    The Royal, 608 College St.

    University’s College, 15 King’s College Circle (University of Toronto)

    No One Writes to the Colonel, 460 College St.

    Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, 10268 Yonge St.

     

    BEFORE THE FESTIVAL

    • Online sales begin October 9 through reelasian.com (powered by TicketWeb). Online sales continue during the festival (see below).
    • Walk-up sales begin at 12:00 PM on October 10 – November 3 through T.O. Tix at Yonge-Dundas Square (open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 12:00 PM-6:00 PM). For future-day tickets during the festival, see below.
    • Charge-by-phone: 1-888-222-6608 beginning 6:00 PM on October 9 until November 5. Phone sales continue during the festival (see below).
    • Group Sales available by calling 416-703-9333 between 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM on weekdays. No pre-arranged group sales during the festival. Last day for group sales is November 2.     
    • DURING THE FESTIVAL

    Future Day Tickets

    • Online sales through reelasian.com until 11:55 PM on the day before the show.
    • Walk-up sales (cash only) at the Future-Day Sales Desk at each venue, starting one hour before the first show of the day at the following venues: Innis Town Hall, November 7 & 8; Jackman Hall, November 8; Royal Cinema, November 11 & 12 – this desk closes 20 minutes after start of the last show of the day. Jackman Hall only sells future-day tickets for shows screening at that venue.
    • Charge by phone: 1-888-222-6608 until the day before the show.

    Same Day Tickets

    • Available one hour before the screening.
    • Walk-up sales at each venue (cash only). Same-day tickets are only sold for that venue’s shows.

     

    BUYING SINGLE TICKETS FOR RICHMOND HILL

    • Online sales for single shows begin October 9 through reelasian.com (powered by TicketWeb) and/or through rhcentre.ca; online sales end at 11:55 PM the day before the show. Please note that tickets purchased online through TicketWeb will be available for pick-up only at the Reel Asian Box Office in the lobby of the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts (RHCPA) after 6:00 PM on November 16. Tickets purchased online through rhcentre.ca are available for pickup at the RHCPA Box Office 24 hours after purchase.
    • Walk-up sales begin at 10:00 AM on October 10 through the RHCPA Box Office (open Mondays through Saturdays 10:00 AM-6:00 PM) – last day for walk-up advance sales in Richmond Hill is November 15. No walk-up sales available at T.O. Tix.
    • During the Richmond Hill Festival (November 16-17), tickets for all shows may be purchased from the Reel Asian Box Office in the lobby of the RHCPA: 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM on November 16 and 12:30 PM – 7:30 PM on November 17.

     

    BUYING SCREENING 4-PAKS FOR RICHMOND HILL

    • Online sales for Screening 4-Packs available exclusively through reelasian.com (powered by TicketWeb) from
      10:00 AM on October 9 until 11:55 PM on November 5. Screening 4-Packs purchased online through TicketWeb will be available for pick-up at the will-call desk during the Toronto festival or from the Reel Asian Box Office in the lobby of the RHCPA after 6:00 PM on November 16.
    • Walk-up sales available in Toronto: October 9-November 3 through T.O. Tix. No walk-up sales for Screening
      4-Packs available at the RHCPA Box Office.

    TICKETS & PASSES:Regular Price    Discount Price*

    Regular Screenings                                                       $12                   $10

    Opening Night Gala (incl party)                                       $20                   $15

    Closing Night Gala (incl party)                                        $15                   $12

    Centrepiece Presentation                                               $15                   $12

    Festival Pass                                                                $80                   $65

    Industry Series Pass                                                      $40                   $36

    4-Pak (no galas or centrepiece, in advance only)             $36                   $30

    Richmond Hill Screenings                                              $12                   $10

    *Discount applies to students (with valid current ID), seniors over 65 (no ID required), and volume sales (10 or more tickets to any one screening)

    The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Department of Canadian Heritage, Telefilm Canada, Celebrate Ontario, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport and our festival major sponsors Rogers Communications Inc. and National Bank.

    CAPSULE REVIEWS:

    ARCHITECTURE 101 (South Korea 2012) ***

    Directed by Lee Yong Joo

    Like the opening might film FIRST TIME, ARCHITECTURE 101 is a film about first love, this time about a young couple who meet in their ARCHITECTURE 101 class.  They are asked to look around their neighborhood they live in as a class assignment and they discover one another.  But the boy’s love for her appears unreturned.  But years later, the woman returns to commission him, now an architect to build her a new house.  She hopes to rekindle his love but now as the tables are turned, her love seems lost.  Director Lee intercuts the action of the lovers, past and present so that the audience feels the past romance fresh.  One problem is that the woman comes across as somewhat of a ‘bitch’, demanding changes on the design of her house last minute, getting drunk in public, spoilt with nice clothes and wishing to rekindle a romance when the target is engaged to be married.  No prize awarded for guessing the outcome of this somewhat lazy feature that has some nice moments.  The unrequited love does come across the screen as real.

     

    CHA CHA FOR TWINS (Taiwan 2012) ***

    Directed by Yang Yi-Chien


    Original teen romantic comedy done right here from Taiwan!  Bright, breezy, funny and affecting, CHA CHA FOR TWINS tells the story of twin sisters Poni, the elder and Mini (both played by Peijia Huang) who both play in the school’s basketball team.  They are in junior high school.  Poni loves Ping (Paul Chiang) who cannot tell the twins apart and sends gifts to Mini thinkng that there is only one of them.  In the meantime, Yogurt (Lun Ou Yang) has the hots for Mini who rebuffs his advances resulting in his dating Poni instead.  Though all the mismatches appear confusing at first, the story of twins trying to be individuals is a winning one.  It does not help that the parents want things identical for both (like attending the same college) to save on finances.  The message of one being true to oneself comes across effectively as each try to be different while still loving the other as a twin sister.  The film won an award for Best Narrative Feature and Best Screenplay at the Taipei Film Festival.

    EGG AND STONE (China 2012) **
    Directed by Ji Huang

    EGG AND STONE is supposed to be a quietly disturbing autobiographical debut feature shot in director Ji Huang’s hometown in Hunan that uncovers the taboo subject of family abuse through the eyes of 14-year-old Honggui.· But one has to be extremely patient as Huang would spend minutes at a time with his stationary camera as a character dials and talks to the telephone or walks to get on a motorbike.· It is also difficult to piece the bits together to form a narrative.· If there is one thing more annoying than handheld camera it is stationary camera in which nothing apparently happens.· EGG AND STONE went on to win film awards.· But this reviewer does not get it nor has the patience to sit through a very, very slow film while trying to interpret what the director has on celluloid.· EGG AND STONE is both soft and hard which is supposed to represent the present China, as a character in the film says.· But the film is also as slow as eggs hatching or as monotonous as watching stones.

    FIRST TIME (Hong Kong 2012) ***

    Directed by Han Yan


    The opening film of the Reel Asian Film Festival is a crowd pleaser about first love.  Note that the other film ARCHITECTURE 101 also deals with the topic of first love.  FIRST TIME tells the story of a young girl, terminally ill Shiqiao (Angelababy) who falls in love with her classmate (Mark Chao).  As her memory suffers, she records what she remembers on cassette.  When the boy disappears and appears again years later, she finds her mother interfering for fear that her weak health may be affected.  There are a few plot turns in the story, which will not be revealed in this review.  But don’t expect the obvious though it is not difficult to guess the plot twists.  This is a sweet little film with comedy and drama nicely blended together.  Two of Asia’s rising stars show the heartbreaks of first love it is the actress who portrays Shiqiao’s mother who steals the show.

    TATSUMI (Singapore 2011) ****
    Directed by Eric Khoo


    There are two names that should be recognized before reading the capsule review of this amazingly captivating adult animated feature.  Firstly, the film is a based on the stories of Japanese living legend, manga pioneer and gekiga inventor Yoshiro Tatsumi, hailed by the New York Times as “one of Japan’s most important visual artists” with work translated into 17 languages.  Like his literary contemporaries, Tatsumi reflects, through the post-war tales, the major anxieties and alienation of regular people in fast-changing post-war Japan.   Secondly, TATSUMI is directed by Singapore’s Eric Khoo.  Khoo put Singapore on the film map with his first feature MEE POK MAN.  His second feature 24 STOREYS is the first Singaporean film to be screened at Cannes.  As Khoo lovingly strives to retain Tatsumi’s original work and mood, he lifts Tatsumi’s arresting images by shoot with bleak colours and often in monochrome with sparse settings.  The sinister short stories get full cinematic treatment as well as their points across as each story has deep emotional impact made even more powerful with the never outdated message of nuclear fallout.  Highly recommended!

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