Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Canadian Film Review: Cinemanovels (2013)

* * *

Director: Terry Miles
Starring: Lauren Lee Smith

Filmmakers put a lot of themselves into their films, and when you watch the entire body of someone's work, certain themes and ideas emerge over and over again as a common through line - but can you really know a person through their films and what they put into them? Terry Miles' Cinemanovels is a film about movies and identity, about a woman whose father is like a giant question mark in her history and who attempts to answer that question by watching all of the movies he wrote and directed. That what she ends up learning is more about herself than her father is, perhaps, inevitable but that makes the route she has to follow to get there no less interesting. Though it made the festivals rounds, including premiering a TIFF, Cinemanovels appears not to have received even a small theatrical release which, while not surprising for a Canadian film, is still unfortunate as it is light and engaging enough that it could have found an audience with a bit of a promotional push.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Review: We Are the Best! (2013)

* * * 1/2

Director: Lukas Moodysson
Starring: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne

In 1998, writer/director Lukas Moodysson broke through with Show Me Love, one of the all-time great films about adolescence. 15 years and 7 features later, he's come out with We Are the Best! which is, perhaps, not one of the all-time great films about adolescence, but is pretty damn great nevertheless. Adapted from the graphic novel Never Say Goodnight, written by Moodysson's wife, Coco Moodysson, We Are the Best! is a sweet, funny, and appropriately melodramatic story of three teenage girls trying to carve out identities for themselves. Employing a light touch that finds the sweet spot between taking the characters seriously and rendering their story in too serious a fashion, Moodysson has created a wonderful and incredibly engaging film about the minor tragedies and massive triumphs of growing up.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

* * * 1/2

Director: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford

When many of us think about "grown up" superhero movies dealing with themes that evoke real-world issues, we tend to think first of Christopher Nolan's Batman series, which dealt with many ethical questions and issues which became especially prominent in the post-9/11 decade. With The Winter Soldier, the Captain America series stakes its own claim on being the serious, grown up superhero story by spinning a yarn about national security, the military-industrial complex, and the corruption of institutional power. That it does this so successfully while still managing to tell an entertaining story about superheroes, supervillains, and their allies battling it out in the streets and in the air gives it a pretty strong claim to the title of the Marvel Universe's best film to date.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Netflix Recommends... Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

* * *

Director: Rupert Wyatt
Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis

This recommendation from Netflix is a bit of a cheat. Usually for this feature I go into a movie relatively blind, usually picking something that I wouldn't otherwise have sought out. This time, and because the pickings were a bit slim, I went with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a film that I've seen bits and pieces of but, for whatever reason, one which I'd never sat down and watched in its entirety before. As a result I’m super late to the planet of the apes party and at the risk of being ridiculously redundant: this reboot is pretty good. Reboots and “origin stories” have so flooded the market place in the last few years (and will continue to do so for years to come) that the very words are enough to make one’s eyes twitch, but a film like this one, which approaches the series’ premise from a different angle instead of just repackaging everything old to make it look new again, actually brings something of value to a series which had previously seemed to have run its course.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

21st Century Essentials: Dogtooth (2009)

All eras have works of art that are fundamental to our understanding of not only the craft itself, but the culture from which it was created. The 21st century is still nascent, but it isn't too early to start creating a canon that demonstrates the heights to which film as an artform has reached since the year 2000. These are the essential films:

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Christos Stergioglou, Michelle Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, Christos Passalis
Country: Greece

Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth is a political polemic disguised as a grotesque family drama. It is a story about iron-fisted authority, blind adherence to it and rebellion against it, and about how the institution goes about protecting itself from being undermined and destroyed. It is a supremely strange movie, and often uncomfortable to watch as Lanthimos steadily pushes the narrative further and further, engaging with the taboo and the merely bizarre, the tension rising until it seems like the film must explode off the screen. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to claim that this is a film that most people would “like,” but it is most definitely a film that leaves an indelible mark.