Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween: The night he came home

“What’s your favourite scary movie?”  That common refrain made famous in the Scream series is an easy question for me to answer – Halloween.  John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece horror film remains, for me, the quintessential slasher film that scares me shitless to this day.  Right from the opening credits; I’m covered in goose bumps and chills upon hearing the eerie signature score. 

The movie is so frightening and unnerving because it’s about more than a masked figure with a knife killing unsuspecting teens.  It’s about the psychology of the boy that grew up to be Michael Myers. It’s about how frighteningly visceral an experience watching the movie becomes; like the events in the film are happening to you and you’re not just watching a movie. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Blind Spot: 12 Angry Men

A few years back I wrote a post about whether Sidney Lumet was merely a good director instead of a great one. Silly, I know, but I had written the piece based on the Lumet films I had seen up to that point. At the time this did not include either Network or 12 Angry Men. Now that I have caught up with both, most recently 12 Angry Men, I can safely say with confidence that I am an idiot. Okay, maybe that is too harsh a statement, regardless I am man enough to admit when I am wrong.

If there are two films that seem to transcend time, in regards to cultural relevance, it is Network and 12 Angry Men. With respect to the latter, you cannot help but see parallels in 12 Angry Men to our current quick to make judgments culture. Although information is available at the tip of our fingertips thanks to smartphones and tablets, it seems like we are less concerned with the facts and more interested in our own opinions of what we think occurred. This is especially evident when looking at how the rise of social media sites like Twitter has changed how information and opinions are shared. It seems that more and more personal opinion is being misconstrued as fact. Even when actual fact is presented it is sometimes laced with personal bias.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Toronto After Dark Review: A Fantastic Fear of Everything

A Fantastic Fear of Everything is a horror comedy that is as off-kilter as the writer who Simon Pegg portrays in the film. Pegg plays Jack, a former children’s author turned crime novelist who suffers from a mild case of Panophobia (fear of everything). Part of the reason for this is his latest work, a script entitled “Decades of Death”, which has Jack researching the most heinous serial killers from the Victorian era. The research has taken a toll on Jack as he becomes paranoid that everyone around him possesses killer tendencies. It also does not help that there is an actual serial killer, referred to as the “Hanoi Handshake” in the papers, who is terrorizing the Vietnamese population in the East End. Oddly enough though, the only thing that seems to scare Jack more than serial killers is his peculiar fear of the local laundromat.

Jack has managed to live the better part of his life avoiding both leaving his house at night and doing his laundry. Unfortunately, this all changes when Jack’s literary agent Clair (Clare Higgins) sets up a dinner meeting with a prominent script developer who is very interested in Jack’s latest work. Pressured to take the meeting, and convinced the developer is linked to the killers he has researched, Jack is forced to finally confront several of his deepest fears over the course of one night.

Toronto After Dark Review: Game of Werewolves

Prior to the screening of his latest film, Game of Werewolves, director Juan Martinez Moreno mentioned in his introduction that he simply wanted to make a film that was pure fun and nothing more. It is safe to say that Moreno achieved his objective in spades with his delightful film that harkens back to both classic creature feature films and the works of Peter Jackson and Joe Dante.

Many years ago an evil queen was desperate for an heir. After her frequently cuckold husband could not provide her a child, the queen forces herself on man who is part of a traveling gypsy group. Discovering that she has become pregnant, and not wanting the baby’s true lineage to be known, the queen orders that all the gypsies be killed. However, before the last of the gypsies is killed, a curse is placed on the queen in which the baby will turn into a werewolf at the age of ten years old.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Toronto After Dark Review: In Their Skin

After the tragic death of their young daughter, Mark and Mary Hughes (Josh Close and Selma Blair) decide to take their nine year-old son Brendon (Quinn Lord) to the family cottage in the woods for a little vacation. The couple not only sees this as an opportunity to escape their daily routine, but also as a chance to possibly save their marriage. This is easier said than done as the couple finds themselves drifting further and further apart each day. Their quiet vacation is interrupted by the early morning emergence of their neighbours, Bobby (Cloud Atlas’ James D’Arcy) and Jane (Rachel Miner) and their son Jared (Alex Ferris).

While slightly annoyed by the timing of their appearance, Mark sees the couple’s act of dropping off firewood as nothing more than a neighbourly gesture. When Jane is persistent about making a salad for them, Mark has no choice but to reluctantly invite them to dinner later that night. Despite their seemingly well meaning intensions, the socially awkward Bobby and Jane begin to get more intrusive with each question they ask. The dinner takes a turn towards the dark side when Jared pulls a knife on Brendon after an argument occurs while playing video games upstairs.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Toronto After Dark Review: Wrong

In 2010, Quentin Dupieux took the festival circuit by storm with his absurdist “killer tire” comedy, Rubber. Although sold as merely a film about a tire killing things, Rubber revealed itself to be a smart and scathing commentary of big budget studio films. The film showed that Dupieux was a unique filmmaker who was full of potential.

Through his latest feature, Wrong, Dupieux officially cements himself as one of the most original and daring directors working today. The story revolves around Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick), a man who wakes up one morning to find his dog Paul missing. Devastated by this seemingly random turn of events, Dolph searches for the dog while struggling to cope with the sadness he feels. To take his mind off things, Dolph calls up a local pizza joint and inadvertently strikes up a conversation with one of the workers, Emma (Alexis Dziena), about the pizza company’s nonsensical logo. Little does he know that this harmless conversation will have big ramifications. As the search for the missing dog continues, Dolph not only encounters a detective (Eastbound and Down’s Steve Little) who has a unique method of connecting with the animal, but also a mysterious new age guru, Master Chang (William Fichtner), who may hold the key to finding his dog.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Blow Out the Candles: Elisabeth Shue

Elisabeth Shue turned 49 on October 5th.  I remember my first Elisabeth Shue movie when she was just 21 – The Karate Kid.  Then I saw Adventures in Babysitting, a film which has become one of my all-time favourite 80s movies.  I was about 11-years-old and I remember thinking that Chris Parker, the babysitter, was pretty cool.  Recently, I watched my latest Elizabeth Shue, Piranha 3D, and, well, it was entertaining for what it was, I’ll give it that.  It got me thinking about the evolution of Shue’s career from a young 80s actress to an Academy Award nominated star to a B-movie character. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ekran Review: Women’s Day

Depending on what part of the world you reside in, the notion of the “free market” means different things. While most see it as basic supply and demand, there are some corporations that see the free market as an excuse to exploit their employees for greater financial gain. It is this type of exploitation that Polish singer and composer Maria Sadowska focuses on in her directorial debut Women’s Day
Women’s Day begins with Halina (Katarzyna Kwiatkowska), a single mother and cashier at the local Butterfly supermarket chain, being offered a promotion that will ultimately change her life forever. Moving up to a store manager role, Halina sees this as a great opportunity for a better life for her and her teenage daughter, Misia (Julia Czuraj). After enduring a training session in which the company mantra of “Productivity” is reiterated over and over, Halina quickly discovers how seriously the mantra is taken. Halina begins to feel pressure from the Regional Manager, Eryk (Eryk Lubos), to make drastic changes to ensure productivity is increased and costs are lowered.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ekran Review: Crulic: The Path to Beyond

The name Claudiu Crulic may not be a household name in most parts of the world, but it should be. He serves as a harsh reminder of how easy the world you know can be taken away in the blink of an eye. The tragic tale of Crulic’s short life is the focus of Anca Damian’s documentary, Crulic: The Path to Beyond. The film examines how miscarried justice led to Crulic’s hunger strike and ultimately his death.

The film starts off with Crulic, voiced by Vlad Ivanov, recounting the day his family learned of his death. Although only 33 years-old, he was unrecognizable by his mother and half-sister as the hunger strike had changed his look substantially since they had last saw him. Comparing his life to a bus trip, with many starts and stops, Crulic’s experienced many highs and lows growing up. As an adult, Crulic, a Romanian, made frequent trips to Poland in order to buy cheap goods which he in turn would sell to wealthy Romanians back home. This all changed when Claudiu Crulic was wrongfully arrested for stealing the wallet of a prominent judge in Poland.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Toronto After Dark Review: Grave Encounters 2

A group of young people, convinced that the events of a popular horror film were real, decide to make a documentary at the same place where the events in the film took place to prove it. Sound familiar? While the premise of Grave Encounters 2 may sound a lot like another rather famous horror sequel from 2000, the comparisons end there. Written and produced by the Vicious Bothers, who directed the original Grave Encounters, the film strives to recapture the eerie feel of the first film while attempting to take the series in a new direction.

Grave Encounters 2 starts off with a collection of youtube-style reviews from viewers who both praise and discredit the film Graves Encounters. One of the reviewers is Alex Wright (Richard Harmon), a budding film student who is in the process of making his own horror film for his thesis project. After doing some research into what happened to the cast of Grave Encounters, Alex becomes increasingly convinced that their deaths in the film were actually real. Alex soon starts to receive cryptic messages from someone who claims they can confirm his suspicions about the film. The mysterious person will only reveal the truth about Grave Encounters if Alex is willing to meet at the same abandoned mental institution in Canada where the film was shot.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Toronto After Dark Review: Doomsday Book

Doomsday Book is an anthology film from the minds of famed South Korean directors Kim Jee-woon (I Saw the Devil) and Yim Pil-sung (Hansel & Gretel). The film consists of three unique stories that all explore all the possible fall of mankind. Splitting up the duties behind the camera Yim handles the bookend segments while Kim takes control of the story in the middle. Ranging from zombie comedy to the philosophical, Doomsday Book is a film that really does offer a little something for everyone.

Yim Pil-sung starts things off with his zombie apocalypse comedy “A Brave New World.” The film revolves around a scientist Yoon Seok-woo (Ryu Seung-beom) whose family not only goes on vacation without inviting him, but also leaves him a list of chores to do. One of the duties is to clean out some food that has been left unattended for far too long. Little does he know that the discarded food will end up in a Korean barbeque shop and inadvertently cause a zombie outbreak.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Toronto After Dark Review: Crave

We all have a good wolf and a bad wolf living inside of us, but what makes us who we are all depends on which wolf we feed more. At least according to the parable that Ron Perlman’s character shares in Crave. The challenge is figuring out how far you are willing to go to feed the wolf. This is the dilemma that the protagonist of Charles de Lauzirika debut feature film faces.

Aiden (Josh Lawson) is a crime scene photographer who is becoming increasingly disappointed with the state of mankind. Every murder that his friend, and police detective, Pete (Ron Perlman) calls him to document is just another reminder for Aiden of the evil that lurks in society. The world needs someone to stand up to the bullies, pimps, and pedophiles and that person is Aiden...or at least in his mind it is. While a meek photographer in real life, Aiden frequently fantasizes about being the type of guy who helps those in need. Unfortunately Aiden’s dark and twisted imagination starts to get the better of him just as he meets Virginia (Emma Lung), a younger woman who may just be the one bright spot in his life.

Toronto After Dark Review: [Rec]3: Genesis

[Rec]3: Genesis is a film that can either be viewed as a rebirth of sorts for the franchise or the beginning of the end. The previous two instalments in the [Rec] series have been considered by many as the high bar in the faux found footage horror genre. They consistently exceeded expectations by offering fresh scares while still following a familiar formula. This is why it is a little perplexing to see director Paco Plaza opt to take the franchise in a new direction the way he did.

The most noticeable change to the series in [Rec]3: Genesis is that it abandons the found footage troupe fairly early on in the film. The story this time takes place at the wedding of Koldo (Diego Martin) and Clara (Leticia Dolrea). The film starts off as a fake wedding video seemingly made by footage taken by both Koldo’s cousin and the wedding photographer. We meet some of the family members and get a brief sense of everyone’s relation in the film. The happy couple’s perfect day takes a turn for the worst when an uncle takes an unexpected fall during the reception.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Toronto After Dark Review: Grabbers

It is a little difficult not to think of films such as Tremors when watching the delightful Irish horror-comedy Grabbers. They both proudly express their love for the creature feature genre and the oddball characters that exist within it. This is one of the main reasons they are immensely enjoyable to watch. While Grabbers may not always reach the heights of Tremors, it does come close.

One night a meteor crashes just off the shore of the quaint Erin Island. The next morning a slew of fishermen are missing and the shore is littered with dead whales. A local cop Ciarán O’Shea (Richard Coyle) and a Dublin cop, Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley), filling in for O’Shea’s sergeant who is away on vacation, are entrusted with solving the case. Soon the pair are working with the town marine biologist Smith (Russell Tovey) in an attempt to figure out what exactly killed the whales?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Who Played Male Best?

Several actresses in Hollywood have made a big impact by playing men in film.  When handled carefully and executed well by a skilled actress, the roles that have required a woman to play a man have resulted in some pretty remarkable and acclaimed performances.  It’s an extreme acting challenge and it takes great talent to pull it off believably.  In the wrong hands, these roles can resemble caricatures or exaggerated portrayals where suspension of disbelief is a tall order because the woman pretending to be a man still looks and sounds like a woman.  The whole thing is made worse when the rest of the cast in the film pretends not to notice and renders the entire thing ineffective and unbelievable.  Here are a few notable females who’ve convincingly played men:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Scene Stealer: Romeo + Juliet

Two friends of mine recently told me that they selected “Kissing You” by Des’ree as the song for the first dance song at their upcoming wedding.  When they mentioned the song I immediately thought of the scene in Romeo + Juliet when the two star-crossed lovers see each other for the first time, their eyes alight with youthful innocence and tender passion, through the glass of an aquarium.  Baz Luhrmann’s reimagining of Shakespeare’s most popular play is a visual spectacle with bright, dynamic mise-en-scene set to a stunning and eclectic soundtrack ranging from hard rock and rap to soft ballads.  There are skinheads, drag queens and gunslingers wielding designer pistols. The film is like a series of music videos edited in a series of quick cuts full of bright colours and manic action.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Shorts That Are Not Pants: Fall 2012 Edition

The fall edition of the Shorts That Are Not Pants series took place last week at its new location, the Carlton Cinema. Despite moving to a new venue, by all accounts the night was a huge success as the crowd was treated to a night of entertaining short films. Here are my brief thoughts on the short films that were screened:

The Secret Number (Dir: Colin Levy)

The Skinny: Based on the short story by Igor Teper, The Secret Number is about a man whose world is thrown into question. Psychiatrist Simon Tomlin (Daniel Jones) has a troubling conversation with one of his patients, a brilliant mathematician named Ersheim (Tom Nowicki) who intends to prove the existence of a secret integer between three and four. Ersheim’s delusion compels Tomlin to dig deeper, but he only uncovers more questions — about fate, connection, and the nature of reality.

Reaction: The film took a while to find its groove but once the true nature of the plot was revealed I was hooked. Plus I did not see the ending coming despite the numerous clues that director Colin Levy laid throughout. It is a film that will probably play even better upon second viewing.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ekran Polish Film Festival Returns October 25th to the 28th

Ekran Polish Film Festival in Toronto returns for its 4th annual edition from October 25th to the 28th and is expected to draw an audience of over 3000 film-goers from across the GTA to its primary location at the historic Revue Cinema on Roncesvalles Ave.

Ekran Polish Film Festival is the brainchild of Ekran Polish Film Association, a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting Polish film and media arts within Canada’s multicultural setting. Over the first three years of its existence, the Ekran team was focused largely on promoting its activities within the Polish-Canadian community in order to secure sponsorships and grow its audience base. Having succeeded in this task, Ekran Polish Film Festival is now ready to take another step toward its long-term objective of delivering a program that can appeal to both Polish-Canadians and the broader multicultural community of Toronto.

Here are the films screening at the festival:

OPENING RECEPTION @ Innis Town Hal, 2 Sussex Avenue, UofT

October 25:
7:00 PM Barbara Białowąs’ Big Love (2012);
***Tickets: $20 in advance/$25 at the door; included with purchase of Festival Pass***

FEATURE FILM COMPETITION: Your chance to see the remaining twelve feature films in competition for the Ekran Film Awards at the historic Revue Cinema (400 Roncesvalles Ave).
***Tickets: $12 in advance/$15 at the door; included with purchase of Festival Pass**

Friday, October 12, 2012

Late Spring’s Charm is All in the Family

The bond between a father and daughter is a special thing, one that few outside of that bond can truly understand. This is exemplified beautifully in Yasujirō Ozu’s bittersweet drama Late Spring. The father in this case is Professor Shukichi Somiya (Chishu Ryu), a widower who lives with his daughter Noriko (Setsuko Hara). Noriko is a dutiful daughter who wants nothing more than to take care of her father by handling the household chores. At the age of twenty-seven many, including Noriko’s aunt Masa (Haruko Sugimura), think that Noriko should have been married already.

While others see Noriko’s window of opportunity closing, she remains firm in her belief that marriage will not bring her any more happiness than she has now. Unwilling to accept this train of thought, Masa pressures Shukichi to try and find a suitable mate for his daughter. Unfortunately for Shukichi, Noriko will not entertain any option that results in her father having to live on his own. It soon becomes apparent that the only way to marry off Noriko is by taking on a new wife of his own to curb Noriko’s constant need to tend to him.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reel Asian Unveils Sensational Selection of Films

Daylight Savings

Last night the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (November 6th -17th) unveiled the 60 films, from 14 different countries, that will be screening at the 16th edition of the festival. The sensational list not only includes films that were well received at festivals such as Cannes, Venice, Fantasia, and Sundance, but also films, such as Little Miss Jihad, that were products of Reel Asian’s annual So You Think You Can Pitch competition. Here is a look at some of the films that will be playing the festival in November:

First Time Opening Night Gala
Director Han Yan | Hong Kong / China 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.

Director Eric Khoo | Japan/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.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Grave Encounters Finds New Life in Found Footage

Ever since the success of The Blair Witch Project, found footage style films have become a major staple of the horror genre. The fact that they are cheaper to produce makes them an enticing option for both fledging directors and studios alike. Despite the cost effectiveness, the majority of the films to use this style rarely reach the heights that The Blair Witch Project did. This is why it is especially exciting when you come across a film that finds innovated ways to bring new life into the format. Grave Encounters is one of those films.

Directed by the Vicious Brothers (Collin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz), the film centers around a fictional paranormal based reality television show entitled Grave Encounters. Unfortunately, the show never made it past six episodes. The film offers a glimpse into what happened while filming that sixth episode. The show consisted of ghost hunter Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson), occult specialist Sasha Parker (Ashleigh Gryzko), technical expert Matt White (Juan Riedinger), cameraman T.C. Gibson (Merwin Mondesir) and special guest star, and psychic medium, Houston Grey (Mackenzie Gray).

Sunday, October 07, 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 274 of Cincast talks Looper.

10 am: Episode 6 of the As You Watch podcast reviews John Carter.

11 am Sati has a great post on how Autumn is interpreted in film.

12 pm: Bonjour Tristesse has been providing great coverage of VIFF2012.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Whose Line Is It?

Certain lines in movies are so good that they stick in your memory forever.  Some people throw around movie quotes like they’re part of their everyday vernacular and others engage in friendly games of movie quote trivia. Memorable movie quotes and lines of dialogue can be just as important to a film as its action and cinematography.  Speeches, one-liners, statements, professions of love and hate, insults, barbs, quips and cheesy sayings – they can each be remembered for their quotability, how and when the line was delivered, how funny they were and for many other reasons.  Many memorable movie lines aren’t from the best movies but they’re memorable anyway. 

We’ve selected a series of quotes from several films we’ve seen over the years.  Your job is to identify the character who said the line and to name the film.  Easy enough, right?  We think so….

Friday, October 05, 2012

Scene Stealer: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

For me, Terminator 2: Judgment Day remains one of the best action films and one of the best sequels ever made.  Its special effects are still extremely impressive today.  What surprised me the most about the film when I first saw it was the transformation in Linda Hamilton’s character, Sarah Conner.  It’s clear that Hamilton worked out hard for the film and understood what a physically and mentally strong specimen her character would be in the second film.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods Laughs the Chills Away

The Cabin in the Woods ended up being a test for me on several levels. I was unable to catch the theatrical release of the film. This normally would not have been an issue if it were not for the “go in knowing as little as possible” buzz the film generated. The problem with this though is that avoiding spoilers has become increasingly difficult in an age of twitter, blogs, Youtube, and podcasts. Miraculously, I managed to go through the better part of the year only knowing that Joss Whedon was involved, and that several people found it to be extremely scary. Having finally watched the film, I wish I had known a little more going in.

The film starts off just like your typical horror excursion. A group of attractive college students embark on a weekend of fun at a secluded cabin in the woods. All the standard character archetypes are present. There is Curt the jock (Chris Hemsworth), Jules the temptress (Anna Hutchinson), Holden the brains (Jesse Williams), Marty the pothead (Fran Kranz), Dana and the good girl (Kristen Connolly). However, things start to take a turn for the group of friends when they discover some strange artifacts in the cellar of the cabin. Furthermore, unbeknownst to them, the group’s movements are being monitored by two mysterious men (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford).

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

I Have Scene It Before

Last month 10 of the 11 films were identified. Nimórd Antal’s Kontroll was the only film to stump people. Here is this month’s selection of scenes. How many can you identify?



Monday, October 01, 2012

The Master is a Masterful Piece of Filmmaking

Paul Thomas Anderson has made a career out of telling enthralling tales about unique relationships, often but not exclusively between males, from opposite ends of the spectrum. Whether the film focuses on father and sons or unholy partnerships, Anderson has a keen eye for exploring the differences that unite individuals and keep them apart. This trend continues in The Master, a film that will surely mesmerize some and perplex others.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest opus centers around Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), an alcoholic who hazily floats through life with no sense of direction. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, as a result of serving in World War II, Quell finds it tough to find and maintain a job. The only constant in Quell’s life is his uncanny ability to make homemade alcohol out of everything from fuel to turpentine. After one of his beverages accidently poisons a co-worker at a cabbage farm, Quell flees California by stowing away on a boat.