Monday, December 31, 2012

Adventures in Podcasting: The Matineecast Ep. 75


Ryan McNeil, of The Matinee, and his lovely wife Lindsay graciously had my wife Dionne and me over for some holiday treats and film discussion. In the latest episode of The Matineecast, the four of us share our top five films of the 2012! Needless to say there were films we all agreed on and films, a popular musical in particular, that led to some interesting debates. Be sure to give the episode a listen and share your thoughts on our top five films. Also, be sure to check back here tomorrow when I unveil the top ten films I loved in 2012.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sharing the Blogging Love


Wondering what film lovers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: The Substream highlights the Worst Films of 2012 in a special Watch This Instead episode.

10 am: Episode 146 LAMBcast looks back at the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.

11 am Fresh off her vacation, Ruth gives 10 reasons why The Hobbit is a worthwhile journey.

12 pm: James has a review of Elena.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Les Misérables


It was an interesting car ride home after an early morning screening of Les Misérables. The film sparked an interesting debate between my wife and I regarding how one analyzes film musicals. The question was raised as to whether or not it is truly possible to separate the music from the actual film when every bit of dialogue is sung? For my wife, Les Misérables was an engrossing experience that moved her deeply. As a fan of the musical, she thought Tom Hooper’s adaptation was a rousing success. I on the other hand, was a virgin to all things Les Misérables and found the film to be enjoyable, but ultimately flawed.

Starting in 1815, and spanning seventeen years, the film tells the tragic tale of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a man who is forever cursed by past sins. After spending seven years in prison for stealing food for his sister’s ailing child, Valjean is finally released on parole. However, Valjean soon realizes that life on parole is just as hard. He is treated with the same lack of respect and dignity by others that he experienced when in prison at the hands of the ruthless guard, Javert (Russell Crowe). Fed up with his status in society, Valjean breaks his parole and spends the next eight years reinventing himself as a prominent businessman and mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cloud Atlas


Ever since the extended trailer of Cloud Atlas was released, there was an odd mix of curiosity and excitement around the film. The early reaction at TIFF was surprisingly good from the majority of those who I had spoken with during the festival. However, those who disliked the film were not shy about voicing their displeasure. My main reservation going into the film was not the subject matter, but the directors behind the film. While I have liked the films that I have seen from Tom Tykwer, such as Run Lola Run and Heaven for example, I was starting to lose faith in Lana and Andy Wachowski. The combination of The Matrix sequels and Speed Racer had left a bad taste in my mouth. However, I must admit that I was glad I got around to seeing this film on the big screen. Cloud Atlas restored my faith in The Wachowskis’ ability to make more meaningful films.

Adapted from David Mitchell’s novel, Cloud Atlas covers six different stories that span from the early 20th century all to the way to a post-dystopian future. Each story is styled in such a way that it suits the tone of the era without making the overall film seem disjointed. The first story starts in 1849 and follows a young lawyer Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) who becomes ill while visiting a plantation. As he journeys home across the south pacific he is tended to by Dr. Henry Goose (Tom Hanks), who seems determined to ensure that Ewing’s condition continues to deteriorate. The next tale takes place in 1936 and centres around a bisexual composer, Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw), who apprentices himself to a legendary composer Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbnt). Frobisher creates the beautiful Cloud Atlas Sextet only to find that Ayrs wants to claim ownership of the piece. The third story, and last of the ones set in the past, involves journalist Lisa Rey (Halle Berry) as she stumbles upon a conspiracy taking place at a power plant run by Lloyd Hooks (Hugh Grant).

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Blind Spot: Rashomon


In the pouring rain a Woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) and a Priest (Minoru Chiaki) sit in bewilderment underneath the shelter of Kyoto's Rashomon Gate. The Woodcutter repeats to himself “I just don’t understand”, but what puzzles him is not clear at first. It is only when a third man, a Commoner (Kichijirô Ueda) emerges in the shelter that it becomes known that a murder has taken place. On the surface the facts are simple, a husband lays dead, his wife has been defiled and a bandit stands accused of the crime. Of course, in life, rarely are things as we perceive them to be. What actually took place on the day of the murder? Well, that all depends on whose version of the events you wish to believe.

Keep in mind though, just because the person telling the tale believes it to be true, does not necessarily make it so. It is this examination of perception that makes Akira Kurosawa’s film Rashomon, such a wonderful cinematic experience. The film’s narrative is told through witness testimonies during a trial. Kurosawa frames the trial scenes in such a way that the audience becomes both interrogator and judge. The witnesses seem to be answering all the questions that the audience would ask of them if given the chance. The problem for the audience is that each of the four witnesses have vastly different accounts of what happened.

Monday, December 24, 2012

2013 Blind Spot Series

Notorious

The Blind Spot series originated earlier this year from an idea James McNally of Toronto Screen Shots had for catching up on iconic films that he had missed. The 2012 series ended up being quite a treat as I got to experience some truly wonderful films. While circumstances beyond my control made me abruptly remove two films, Badlands and Nashville, from the list, I was fortunate enough to replace them with equally memorable films like Ran and Days of Heaven. Keeping with the philosophy that Ryan McNeil of The Matinee had for posting Blind Spot series reviews on the last Tuesday of every month, here are the films that will make up my 2013 Blind Spot list:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sharing the Blogging Love


Wondering what film lovers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: The latest episode of Cinema in Noir ranks the best and worst films of 2012.

10 am: The Outside the Envelope podcast discusses The Life of Pi.

11 am Corey jumps into the 48 frames per second debate that The Hobbit has caused.

12 pm: Andrew interviewed Quentin Tarantino about Django Unchained.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The 80s Movie Library, Holiday Edition: Scrooged

I know a lot of people who prefer the classic holiday film A Christmas Carol over the 1988 modernization of the Charles Dickens’ story, but I have to say that I rather enjoy Scrooged.  Bill Murray is perfectly cast as a cynical, selfish TV executive named Frank Cross (aka Ebenezer Scrooge.) He’s cut himself off from everybody; he delights in making his co-workers feel humiliated and small and he’s a lonely man in a foul mood as the Christmas season approaches. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas movie characters around the dinner table


Christmastime brings with it food, family and festive fun.  Inevitably, you’ll eat at least half your weight in cake, cookies, turkey and stuffing.  You’ll trim the tree.  You’ll give and get gifts in return.  And you’ll spend time with all of those kooky members of your family (we’ve all got them!) that you might only see during the holidays.  Oh what fun it is to eat and drink with those family members you might only kind of, sort of like.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Master Wins Big At Toronto Film Critics Association Awards


The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson’s 70mm drama about a battle of wills between a ravaged war veteran and the cult leader who offers him a place at his right hand, dominated the 2012 awards of the Toronto Film Critics Association.

Anderson’s film took Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay, with co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman named the year’s Best Supporting Actor. Anderson has now won Best Picture twice (previous was Magnolia 1999) and Best Director three times (previous was Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love 2002). He also shared the Best Screenplay prize with Being John Malkovich author Charlie Kaufman (1999).

Here is the full list of Toronto Film Critics Association Awards winners and runners-up:

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Hobbit’s Journey An Expected Tale


Peter Jackson’s return to Middle-earth has been a long time coming for Tolkien fans. The Hobbit had been tied up in so much red tape, that many wondered if the project would ever see the light of day. Now that the film is finally here, the discussion has moved from legal woes to the technology used to make the film, specifically the high frame rate, and the fact that the story has been broken up into three films. While I cannot speak to the hotly debated pros and cons of the high frame rate, as I saw the film in regular 3D, it is the trilogy aspect that will make or break most people’s view of the film.

Based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, the film’s prologue explains how the dwarf kingdom on the Lonely Mountain was overthrown by a gold loving dragon named Smaug. In doing so Smaug unknowingly comes into possession of the Arkenstone, a jewel of unknown power. Many consider the Lonely Mountain to be impenetrable, but the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) has come across a map that indicates a secret door into the Mountain. Gandalf along with thirteen dwarves, lead by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Artimage) the heir of the dwarf kingdom, have come up with a plan to reclaim the dwarf’s land. In order for their plan to work, they will need one more in their troupe and this is where Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) comes in.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sharing the Blogging Love


Wondering what film lovers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: Episode 47 of The Long and Late Movie Show review Middle of Nowhere and talk film critic polls.

10 am: Episode 95 of the KL5-Film podcast gets in the holiday spirit by reviewing Christmas Evil.

11 am Margaret was not too fond of Beast of the Southern Wild.

12 pm: Over at Film Army, Jameson looks at the top film scores of 2012.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Up and a montage to remember


My husband and I watched Pixar’s Up last weekend.  I had no idea the kinds of feelings watching it would evoke and the teary mess the montage in the first half of the film would leave me in.  That’s what I love most about movies.  You sit down to watch a film without expectation and the experience of watching it is more overwhelming than you ever imagined it would be because it made you feel so deeply. Up was like for me.  Well, at least the first quarter of the movie was anyway.  The second half of the movie changed tone and direction and became a little silly, but I suppose the writers wanted to lighten the tone for the youngsters after a very tear-jerking opening section.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pay Versus Play: Is There A Difference?


Yesterday Ryan over at The Matinee had an interesting post asking is what we think about a film based on how we watch it? In his example he pondered whether his enjoyment of the film Hitchcock was partly due to the fact that he did not have to pay to see it. This got me thinking about my own film viewing habits. Was there really a difference between what I pay to see in theatres versus films I view on Netflix?

If you have visited this site before, you will know that while I have a loving obsession for film, I do not cover every single new release that comes out. This is mainly due to two reasons. The first, and most important, reason is that I have responsibilities as a husband and father that take greater precedent than chasing down every potential blockbuster or possible award hopeful. The second reason is much simpler, in these uncertain economic times I have to be smart about where I spend my dollars. This is not to say that I do not see films in the cinema, in fact I believe that film is a collaborative art form that should be experienced in a communal setting. However, based on the two reasons I just mentioned, I am a little more picky about what non-film festival films I see in theatres.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Argo Keeps You On The Edge


William Shakespeare once wrote in his play As You Like It that “all the world is a stage, and all the men and women a merely players”, although this line has been quoted to death, it feels quite fitting for the film Argo. The film is all about orchestrating an illusion, despite the fact that many doubted it would ever work. Though history has proven that sometimes it is the most outlandish ideas that make the biggest impact.

Set during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, the film documents the events that led to the extraction of six stranded Americans who found refugee in the home of a Canadian ambassador. Considering how volatile the relationship between Iran and America was at the time, there was no foreseeable way to get the six Americans out of Iran alive without jeopardizing Iran/United States relations that were already hanging by a thread. Furthermore, if it was discovered that Canada was secretly harbouring the Americans it would have huge ramifications for Canadian relations as well. Seeing as every extraction scenario that has been debated amongst the powers that be ended in likely the death of the American stowaways, expert CIA “extractor” Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) comes up with the concept of making a fake movie. Mendez’s plan would have the six Americans pose as an Canadian film crew scouting possible film shoot locations in Tehran.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Have Scene It Before

Last month all 11 films were identified. Here is this month’s selection of film scenes. How many can you identify?
1.

2.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Sharing the Boggling Love


Wondering what film lovers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: Episode 283 of the Cinecast podcast talks Killing Them Softly.

10 am: Episode 130 of TUMP reviews Ruby Sparks.

11 am Film Junk is asking readers to share their favourite films of 2012 via the site’s Reader’s Choice Awards.

12 pm: James wants to know what type of film buff are you?

Friday, December 07, 2012

Scene Stealer: A Few Good Men


The scene that still stands out for me after repeated viewings of Rob Reiner’s military courtroom drama features one of the most oft-quoted and even mocked lines in film, but it cannot be denied how powerfully it is delivered by one Mr. Jack Nicholson.  Nicholson doesn’t have a big role in the film; in fact his total onscreen time is approximately 30 minutes.  But mention the film to anyone who’s seen it and you’ll invariably hear an impression of Nicholson’s famous exclamation, “You can’t handle the truth!”

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Holiday Movie Traditions


Every year around the Christmas holidays, I have to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  For me, Christmastime just isn’t Christmastime without multiple viewings of the funny holiday classic.  I’ve seen it dozens of times and yet it still makes me laugh and always leaves me feeling festive.  There’s something about those dysfunctional yet lovable Griswold’s! 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Adventures in Podcasting: Reel Insight Ep. 94


You may have noticed we have not been posting at are usual pace of late. Frankly responsibilities outside of this blog have had to take precedent. Plus I have been commissioned to write two articles for a fledgling online magazine which has taken up the last bit of free time I had left. Fear not though, we shall be back in the regular swing of things shortly. Until then we have something for your listening pleasure. Rachel Thuro and Jess Rogers, the lovely ladies behind the Reel Insight blog, invited me onto their podcast recently to discuss the works of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the episode and/or Philip Seymour Hoffman in the comment section below. Also, be sure to visit Reel Insight this month as they are holding a 25 Days of Christmas marathon!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

EUFF Review: Stopped on Track


Frank and Simone Lange (Milan Preschel and Steffi Kuhnert) sit in a doctor's office as the doctor plainly describes that Frank headaches over the last few month are due to a brain tumour. The couple are shown brain images and the doctor explains that because of the location, and size of the tumour, surgery is not an option. Their next decision is on how and when to tell their 14 year old daughter Lilli (Taslisa Lili Lemke) and 8 year old son Mika (Mika Nilson Seidel) that their father only has a couple of months to live.

At first Frank continues to go to work at the plant and all seems relatively well. One night as the family is around the dinner table Frank seeing his family together and happy becomes distraught and Simone tells her children that their father is not well. The family takes an overnight trip to a water park that starts out fine until Frank goes missing in the middle of the night to be found by his kids lying on the ground near a garden unable to get back to their sleeping quarters. Next we see Frank as he becomes violently ill in the car on the way home.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Holy Motors A Bizarre But Immensely Entertaining Ride


It has been almost a week since I watched Holy Motors and a day has not gone by without me reflecting on some aspect of the film. The film is one of those rare cinematic experiences where I was both dazzled and befuddled at the same time. Holy Motors is a film that is an enigma that cannot easily be solved in one viewing. In fact the film is not really designed to be figured out at all. Leos Carax deliberately crafts his film in such a way that it forces the viewer to focus more on the experience and themes rather than finding concrete answers.

The film starts off with a man (played by Carax himself) waking up in a room and inspecting a wall that looks like a forest. After a few moments he locates a hidden door which leads into a theater. As the man looks out into the theatre, the figure of another man scampers down the aisle followed by a dog walking in slow motion. It is at this point Carax's film falls down the rabbit hole as the main crux of the film beings to unfold. The film within a film finds Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) leaving a posh estate and walking towards a waiting limousine. After greeting his driver, Celine (Edith Scob), and making a brief phone call, Monsieur Oscar begins to prep for the nine “appointments” he will be required to fulfill over the course of the day. These appointments will have Monsieur Oscar embodying a series of unique personas.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sharing the Blogging Love


Wondering what film lovers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: Episode 72 of The Matineecast talks about Skyfall.

10 am: The Title Pending Movie Podcast also keeps the Bond train going with their take on Skyfall.

11 am Jay list the Top 5 Movie Proposals.

12 pm: SDG reviews Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. An essential Bollywood film that I should really get around to seeing

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Scene Stealer: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Planes, Trains and Automobiles was on TV Wednesday on the eve of American Thanksgiving.  I can always count on seeing that movie at this time of year.  It remains one of my favourite John Hughes films and John Candy films.  The scene that stuck out for me after watching it this last time is the scene where Del Griffith (John Candy) is driving a rental car while Neal Page (Steve Martin) sleeps soundly in the passenger seat beside him.  “Mess Around” by Ray Charles comes on the radio and Del begins to rock out.  He transfers a lit cigarette from his hand to his mouth in between singing and playing air guitar across the dash and saxophone with no hands on the wheel.  At one point, he tosses his cigarette out a crack in the driver side window, but unbeknownst to Del, the cigarette actually falls in the backseat.  Oddly enough, Neal sleeps right through all of it. 


Friday, November 23, 2012

Musical Chairs Dances to Familiar Beat


Despite the fact that many people deal with paralysis from the waist down on a daily basis, it is still a disability that few can fully grasp. People with disabilities are often met with pity, regardless of the fact that they can still have full and rewarding lives. Musical Chairs is a film that wants to both promote the extraordinary capabilities of people with disabilities, as well as inspire people to follow their passions. Like most romantic comedies though, reaching your dreams can only be achieved when you are willing to let love in.

A naturally talented dancer, Armando (E.J. Bonilla), works at his family’s restaurant during the day while dreaming of being a professional dance instructor. At night Armando works as a cleaner at a local dance studio. It is there we he becomes infatuated with the beautiful Mia (Leah Pipes), a dancer who sees potential in Armando’s raw talent. Unfortunately for Armando, Mia is dating the egotistical owner of the dance studio, Daniel (Philip Willingham). One night Mia is hit by a car will crossing the street. The accident leaves her in the hospital paralyzed from the waist down.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Great Debate – Frost/Nixon vs. Nixon



Welcome to the Great Debate, a feature that asks you to argue for or against one of two opposing film-related elements.  You will make your case for why you think one element is better than the other.  Let the debate begin!

The best portrayal of Richard Nixon 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Have Scene it Before

Last month all 11 films were identified. Here is this month’s selection of scenes. How many can you identify?

1.

2.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The 80s Movie Library: Friday the 13th

Over the weekend, I came across the original film in the Friday the 13th movie series, and I’ve got to say, it still holds up quite well.  The first film in the series isn’t the bloody gore fest that its sequels became.  It’s simpler in its scare tactics and depiction of murder largely due to the budgetary limitations of the time, but that’s not detrimental to the film which makes up for it with creepy, atmospheric tension rather than gore.  With that said, it is campier (and not just because it takes place at a summer camp) than its superior and far more chilling predecessor Halloween, but it works. 

The first part of the film is a tad dialogue heavy as it focuses on a group of six camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake, a defunct summer camp believed to be cursed due its history of unsavory events.  The property’s new owner, Steve Christy, is determined to reopen the camp.  As day turns to night, Alice, Marcie, Brenda, Jack, Bill and Ned do what teenagers do; some sneak off and have sex (a staple of the horror movie template), while others play “strip monopoly” or go off for a solitary stroll in the woods.  There’s a killer on the loose eliminating the counselors one-by-one.  Sex is relevant here, as it tends to be in the horror movie formula, as it serves as the sin the killer punishes the “naughty” teenagers for.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sharing the Blogging Love


Wondering what film lovers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: Episode 124 of the French Toast Sunday podcast list their top 3 Canadian films.

10 am: Episode 127 of TUMP has the guys discussing Bernie.

11 am Nostra give Brad Pitt’s latest film, Killing Them Softly, a rave review.

12 pm: Nick offers up a review of Lincoln.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Second Opinion: The Sessions


Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes) spends the majority of his day in an Iron Lung. He has a portable device which he can use for up to 4 hours when outside of the home but that depends on how he feels. His movements are based on tilting his head, moving his nose, and his overall eye expressions. We first meet Mark in a real life news report from his student days at Berkley. He is suffering from polio and has an electric gurney that has mirrors above his head so he can see where he is going.

A few years later Mark is a poet and writer living alone with an Aid that is rough and borderline abusive. Although Mark's muscles do not work, due to the polio which he has had since the age of 6, his mind is clear and sharp. Having lost his motorized gurney, after several prior accidents, Mark needs an attendant's assistance to get around. This includes his regular trips to church where he not only gives confession to the local priest Father Brendan (William H Macy), but also seeks approval to fire his abusive Aid.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Skyfall Proves Bond is Thrilling at Any Age


Ever since Daniel Craig first donned James Bond’s trademark tuxedo and bowtie, there has been a divide between the Bond faithful. There were those who immediately embraced the new, more rugged, James Bond and his slightly more realistic approach to the espionage game. However, there was an equal number of fans who found the lack of Bond staples, most noticeable the high-tech gadgets, to be a slap in the face of everything Bond. Fortunately Sam Mendes’ latest film, Skyfall, will not only unite both Bond camps, but also take the franchise in a thrilling new direction.

Skyfall is a film that both acknowledges and embraces that it chronicles a character who has been around for 23 films over the course of 50 years. The themes of getting older and dealing with ones mortality are prominent throughout the film. The world that Bond and MI6 now exist in has changed drastically. Enemies of Britain no longer can be identified by nationality, as most now lurk in the shadows and resort to acts of cyber terrorism instead of straight on assaults. As the methods of enemies change, the once solid counter-terrorism methods that M (Judi Dench) uses are now viewed as out of date by the government. Even M’s top agent, James Bond (Daniel Craig) seems to be showing his age as he is not the man he used to be.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reel Asian Review: Cold Steel


Mu Lianfeng (Peter Ho) is out hunting boar when a fighter plane crashes into his perch. Lianfeng saves the pilot trapped inside who, in turn, helps him learn how to refine his shooting skills. These skills eventually come in handy as Lianfeng is forced to save some Chinese soldiers that have been pinned down by Japanese snipers. Before he knows it, Lianfeng is recruited into the sniper division of the Chinese army and sent on missions to eliminate high ranking Japanese officials.

As Lianfeng proves himself with his unique talent, he becomes a hero in his village. He even catches the eye of a widower (Song Jia) who runs a popular tea house. His mentor Mengzi (Tony Leung Ka Fai), who is haunted by events of the past, advises Lianfeng that attachments only cause weakness in their line of work. However, Lianfeng is soon forced to choose between his heart and his country when a ruthless Japanese sniper takes aim at Lianfeng and those he holds dear.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Reel Asian Review: Dal Puri Diaspora


Like most Torontonians, the cold winter months makes director Richard Fung long for the warm climate of his homeland of Trinidad. To combat the seasonal blues, Fung likes to find solace in his local roti restaurant. It is this love for dal puri, a particular type of roti shell that is common in Trinidad and other parts of the Caribbean, which leads Fung on a globetrotting journey to discover the true origin of dal puri roti and how it eventually made its way to Canada.

Fung’s first stop is Trinidad where his quest reveals more than simple roti recipes. In order to truly understand dal puri, he needed to understand the historical roots behind it. Fung’s research uncovers a path that leads all the way back to the African slaves and the Indian migrants who were brought to Trinidad to work on plantations. Fung highlights how British colonialists viewed the African Slaves as being responsible for the decline of their plantations whereas the Indian workers were viewed as the crops saviours. This ultimately had lasting impacts on both the social hierarchy and racial tensions between the Indians and Africans on the island.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Reel Asian Review: Wolf Children


It seems that as Mamouru Hosoda continues to receive wider recognition outside of Japan, the more people are eager to compare him to the legendary Hayao Miyazaki. Part of this stems from the fact that Hosoda was original tapped to direct Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle; and part of it is due to how well Hosoda blends fantasy and reality in his films. Wolf Children is bound to add further fuel to the Miyazaki comparisons, especially in regards to the fluid animation and childlike sense of wonder in the film. However, hopefully Wolf Children will cement Hosoda as a brilliant talent in his own.

Wolf Children is a fantastical tale about a young woman, Hana, who becomes infatuated with a mysterious man she encounters at university. As the bond between them grows stronger, the man reveals that he a wolf-man, the last of his kind. At first Hana is stunned by the news, as wolves have been extinct for a long time, but her growing love for him allows her to accept him completely. The pair become inseparable and Hana eventually gives birth to two children, a daughter, Yuki, and a son, Ame. When tragedy strikes unexpectedly, Hana is forced to raise the children on her own. Over time the children being to display the ability to change into wolves. This becomes rather problematic for Hana as she struggles to keep her children’s gift secret. When Child Services begins to inquire why Yuki and Ame have not received the vaccinations that are required for all Japanese children, Hana decides it is time for change.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Reel Asian Review: First Time


Han Yan’s latest film, the romantic First Time, is much like the cassette tapes that play a central role in the film. There are two distinct sides: Side A is the typical cinematic romance; and Side B is a deconstruction of every convention in Side A. Like some cassettes though, the more you re-record over the tape the higher the chances that your favourite song gets buried in the noise. While First Time features numerous moments that work beautifully, Yan’s constant need to remix the audiences perception is ultimately the films downfall.

First Time tells the story of college student Song Shiqiao (played by model Angelababy) who has been suffering from a rare disease since she was a child. As a result of this condition, she cannot over exert herself, as it could lead to her death. This is why Shiqiao’s overprotective mother (Shan Jiang) has instituted several strict rules to ensure her safety. In addition to obeying her mother’s stern rules, Shiqiao must also frequently take medication that affects her ability to remember things. This leads Shiqiao to record all of her thoughts on cassette to fill in any gaps she may have. Fortunately for Shiqiao, her life takes a positive turn when a past high school crush, Gong Ning (Mark Chao), comes back into her life. As love begins to blossom between the sickly Shiqiao and the bad boy rocker Ning, it slowly becomes apparent that there is another side to this romance.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Reel Asian Review: Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings


Going into Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings, I had no prior knowledge of Jake Shimabukuro, or his particular talents. An hour later I was not only online researching Shimabukuro’s catalogue of work, but also contemplating if I should include a ukulele on my Christmas list. While the film itself plays like a traditional documentary, there is no denying that Jake Shimabukuro is an extremely talented individual whose positive attitude is rather infectious.

The film starts off during the second stop on his West Coast tour. Despite receiving both critical and commercial success, Shimabukuro still cannot believe how fortunate he is to achieve what he has. Playing the ukulele since the age of four, Shimabukuro slowly became a household name in his native Hawaii. He even formed a band, Pure Heart, shortly after finishing high school. However, it was not until is his video “Ukulele Weeps” went viral on YouTube, one of the first viral videos on the then fledgling website, that Shimabukuro became a worldwide sensation.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Reel Asian Review: Tatsumi


If you are a fan of manga, then you are most likely aware of the works of Yoshihiro Tatsumi. However if you are unfamiliar with either manga or Yoshihiro Tatsumi, you will be itching to find out more after watching the film Tatsumi. While the film is predominantly a biopic, it does not follow the typical conventions of the genre. This provides director Eric Khoo with the freedom to tell Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s life story the best way he knows how, through Tatsumi’s artwork.

Based on Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s autobiographical work, A Drifting Life and other short stories, the film tells his life story while interjecting five of his fictional gekiga stories. The stories include:“Hell”, about a photographer who is haunted by the truth behind a photo he took after the bombing of Hiroshima; The peculiar “Beloved Monkey”, a tale about a factory worker and his pet monkey; “Just a Man”, about a sexually frustrated husband who longs for an affair with a woman he actually loves; “Occupied” which focuses on a children’s cartoonist who becomes obsessed with lewd drawings in a public restroom and finally, “Good-Bye” which revolves around the broken relationship between a prostitute and her frequently drunken father during the Second World War.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Reel Asian Review: Seeking Asian Female


Seeking Asian Female opens by asking why certain Western men have a thing for Asian women. That might leave you with certain expectations for the film, but it’s best to leave them at the door. The movie is wonderfully surprising in how it explores some interesting and thought-provoking questions about the motives of the film’s subjects and the role of the documentary filmmaker.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Reel Asian Review: It’s Not What You Think

Outside of the numerous feature films screening at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, there are also six unique short film programs that offer a little something for everyone. While all six of the programs sound great, one of last year’s So You Think You Can Pitch competition winners has a short in the It’s Not What You Think program which made it a must see in particular. Here are some brief thoughts on the films in the It’s Not What You Think program:


Real Talk (Dir: Patrick Ng)

The Skinny: It’s inevitable–friends drift apart. But when your former BFF treats you like a chump, it’s time for some ‘real talk’ from the streets of Manhattan’s Two Bridges neighborhood.

Reaction: At first glance Patrick Ng’s film seems to be about a young man, Pax (Sk Wong), who loves hip hop culture, but struggles with the Asian stereotypes that society puts on him. However, Real Talk reveals itself to be an extremely engaging film about friendship and the pain of losing it. Pax and Iggy (J. Mal McCree) may be from different cultures, but they share a bond that transcends race. This is what makes the decline of their friendship so captivating. Ng’s strong visual eye really captures the urban beauty of New York and the cultures that reside within the city. While he creates his own unique style, Ng is not shy about showing were some of his influences come from. In one particular scene Ng uses a free-floating dolly shot that is commonly associated with Spike Lee films. Although it was the first short to play, Real Talk ended up being the highlight of this particular program. It is a smart, and extremely well made, film that demonstrates Patrick Ng is a director who you should be keeping an eye on in the future.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Reel Asian Review: Daylight Savings


Indie singer-songwriter, Goh Nakamura, is back playing “himself” in Daylight Savings, a follow-up to last year’s Surrogate Valentine.  The film succeeds as a standalone film and is more like another chapter in the life of Goh Nakamura rather than a true sequel, so it’s okay if you haven’t seen Surrogate Valentine.  Daylight Savings finds Goh on the cusp of making a real name for himself as a musician.  He’s about to set out on his first national tour and his songs are appearing in TV commercials.  One of his songs is featured in a commercial for a drug that treats depression.  Goh has been in a long-term relationship with a girl named Erika and is planning to relocate from San Francisco to Los Angeles to live with her.  However, prior to his move, Erika dumps Goh via Skype.  “I’m just at a point where I can’t be in a relationship with someone just because I like them,” she tells him, while the anti-depressive drug commercial airs on the TV behind him.  Sweet, good-natured Goh can’t seem to catch a break with the ladies.

Goh’s friend throws him a surprise going away party.  Having just been dumped, Goh arrives depressed, sad and uncertain.  His mood brightens up, though, when he meets fellow indie rock musician, Yea-Ming Chen (of band Dreamdate).  They talk, they laugh, they flirt, they appear to hit it off, but rather than give Goh her number, Yea-Ming suggests that they let serendipity determine if and when they’ll see each other again. 

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Reel Asian Review: Graceland


Marlon Villar (Arnold Reyes) is a driver for a powerful congressman, Manuel Chango (Menggie Cobarrubias), who finds his life turned upside down when his daughter Elvie (Ella Guevara) is kidnapped. Threatened with losing his daughter for good, Marlon is forced to follow the instructions given by one of the mysterious kidnappers, Visel (Leon Miguel), over the phone. Marlon is soon entrenched in an increasingly seedy web of deceit. As Marlon scrambles to get his daughter back, he must also deal with Manuel, whose daughter is also missing. To make matters worse, Marlon also has to contend with the local cop working on the case, Detective Ramos (Dido de la Paz), who seems more interested in investigating Marlon than he is in finding Elvie.

Graceland is a film that will catch many off guard. It is a film that wallows in the misery of the darker side of life while still managing to be an “edge of your seat” thriller. It is tough to talk about Graceland without ruining everything that makes Ron Morales’ sophomore film so riveting. Morales constructs a tightly woven film that crackles at an extremely quick pace. The film may appear to be a straightforward tale on the surface, but it is surprisingly layered. The story is filled with unexpected turns and shocking revelations that take the characters further down the rabbit hole.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Toronto After Dark Announces Award Winners

Cockneys vs. Zombies

Toronto After Dark Film Festival is thrilled to announce the Award Winners of its 7th Annual Edition! As is tradition at Toronto After Dark, the Jury were the fans themselves with over 4,000 votes cast this year by festival-goers to determine the best new horror, sci-fi, action and cult movies from the around the world!

Genre comedies won audiences over at Toronto After Dark 2012 with the crowd-pleasing British gangsters meets zombies action comedy COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES winning the festival’s Top Prize, the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film, GOLD. Close behind, DEAD SUSHI the latest splatter comedy from Japanese cult director Noboru Iguchi gobbled up the SILVER, while A FANTASTIC FEAR OF EVERYTHING a wildly eccentric British fantasy comedy starring fan favourite Simon Pegg snuck away with the BRONZE.