Thursday, July 24, 2014

TIFF14: Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos headlines first batch of announcements


Well, it is that time of the year again.  The first batch of Galas and Special Presentations for the 39th Annual Toronto International Film Festival were announced this past Tuesday.  One element of this year’s festival that is being talked about the most is how TIFF is cracking down on other festivals (particularly the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado) poaching films that TIFF had previously announced as World Premieres.  This caused some to worry that some filmmakers would now premiere their films elsewhere.  Indeed, this new policy is probably part of the reason why TIFF’s Opening Gala film was strangely absent from the opening press conference.  Instead, the highlight of the announcement was the Closing Gala A Little Chaos, which is directed by actor Alan Rickman.

UPDATE (7/25): The world premiere of David Dobkin’s The Judge, which was already part of the initial announcement, has been confirmed as this year’s Opening Gala film.

Blindspot 2014: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

good_the_bad_and_the_uglyThis month I head to the old west for, Sergio Leone’s classic 1966 Spaghetti Western, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  The third film in Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, the film is set during the American Civil War and focuses on “Blondie,” aka the Man with No Name (Clint Eastwood), who has an uneasy partnership with the Mexican bandit Tuco Ramirez (Eli Wallach).  Both know half of the location of a cache of Confederate gold and they are both forced to accompany each other to the cemetery it is buried in.  However, the gold is also being searched for by the ruthless mercenary Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef), who will do anything to get it.  In this race between the Good (Blondie), the Bad (Angel Eyes), and the Ugly (Tuco), only one is destined to come out on top.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Doc Thoughts: Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago

walkingthecaminoEl Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James, is one of the most important of Christian pilgrimage routes.  People from all over the world travel to Spain to walk one of the many many routes leading to Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, with the 500 mile Camino Francés being the most used path.  Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago follows six pilgrims as they make this journey.  Along the way, these individuals experience difficult paths, nagging injuries, new connections, and spiritual awakenings.

The individuals who make the trek across El Camino de Santiago do so for different reasons.  With the Camino being primarily a Christian pilgrimage, the majority of pilgrims find themselves walking this path for spiritual reasons.  However, as seen in this documentary, the Camino attracts people of different shapes and sizes for a wide variety of reasons.  While some of the six pilgrims featured in the film are indeed highly religious, some are just walking the Camino for the challenge of it or the history of the area.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Thoughts on Obvious Child

obviouschildDonna Stern (Jenny Slate) is a stand-up comedian, who finds herself suddenly dumped by her boyfriend, who admitted to cheating on her.  As a rebound to the break-up, Donna has a one night stand with Max (Jake Lacy) and finds herself pregnant as a result.  Donna decides to have an abortion, which happens to be scheduled for Valentine’s Day, and she struggles to find a way to tell this news to Max, who turns out to be an incredibly nice guy.

I am not a guy who typically goes out of his way to see romantic comedies and I decided to go and see Obvious Child based on incredibly positive word of mouth.  I probably best know star Jenny Slate from her very brief period on Saturday Night Live, where she accidentally dropped the f-bomb on her very first episode, as well as her current recurring role on Parks and Recreation.  I believe Obvious Child is Slate’s first starring role in a film and it’s an expansion of the 2009 short of the same name.

My Thoughts on Snowpiercer

SnowpiercerFrom South Korean director Bong Joon-ho (The Host) comes the post-apocalyptic action-thriller Snowpiercer. Following a failed experiment to cure global warming, the world is sent into a cataclysmic ice age, killing most of humanity.  For nearly 18 years, the surviving population has been on board the train Snowpiercer, which was designed by the reclusive Wilford (Ed Harris).  While the most elite occupy the front of the train, those in the the tail end live a heavily impoverished lifestyle and are kept in line by Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton).  With the help of Gilliam (John Hurt), the elder leader of the tail end,  Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) organizes an uprising, with the goal to storm the engine and confront Wilford.  To do this, Curtis needs the help of Namgoong Minsu (Song Kang-ho) and is joined in the uprising by Edgar (Jamie Bell), Tanya (Octavia Spencer), and Namgoong’s teenage daughter Yona (Go Ah-sung).

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Doc Thoughts: Video Games: The Movie

VideoGamesTheMovieFrom executive producer Zach Braff comes this chronicling of the evolution of video games from a nerd niche to a multi-billion dollar industry. From early innovators such as Atari and Nintendo, to the modern powerhouses of PlayStation and X-Box, video games have become a major part of pop culture within a relatively short timespan.  As the debate continues about whether video games should be considered an art form, gaming culture continues to grow with each passing year.

It seems quite obvious that the goal of Video Games: The Movie is to somewhat validate gaming culture and prove that video games are indeed an art form.  However, in doing this, the film comes off as quite one-sided and even somewhat arrogant.  The film’s narration, which I didn’t immediately know was done by actor Sean Astin, frequently talks down to the audience and heavily borders on hyperbole.  As someone who has been a gamer since childhood, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat insulted at the way this film was presented.

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Thoughts on Boyhood

boyhood12 years in the making comes director Richard Linklater’s chronicle of a young man’s life from childhood to college.  Six year old Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) is a young boy, who lives with his divorced single mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), with the kids receiving regular visitations from their father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke).  As the years pass by, Mason learns the hardships of growing up, as he copes with his mother’s new lovers, relationships, and trying to find out what the point of life is.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Thoughts on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

DawnofthePlanetoftheApesThe stakes are raised in the second film of this rebooted Planet of the Apes series.  In the decade since the first film, the drug that has made apes smarter has also resulted in a global pandemic that killed half the world’s human population.  Caesar (Andy Serkis) has been living a peaceful existence with the apes in the redwood forest outside of San Francisco.  The apes soon find out that a colony of human survivors lead by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) have settled in the city and are looking to use a nearby dam to restore power.  Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Ellie (Keri Russell) arrange an uneasy truce with Caesar as they work on the dam. However, tensions begin to rise when the ruthless Koba (Toby Kebbell) takes issue with Caesar’s sympathy towards the humans.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Doc Thoughts: Life Itself

LifeItselfFrom Academy Award-nominated director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) comes this tribute to the life and career of film critic Robert Ebert.  Framed around excerpts from Ebert’s autobiography of the same name, narrated by sound-alike voice actor Stephen Stanton, Life Itself covers Ebert’s entire career from his early days as a critic for the Chicago Sun Times, his battle with alcoholism, his fame from the television series he co-hosted with Gene Siskel, his marriage to his wife Chaz and his latter day battles with Thyroid cancer, which resulted in the loss of Ebert’s ability to eat or speak.  The film captures Ebert during his final months, while those that knew him reflect on the kind of person Robert Ebert was.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Doc Thoughts: Doc of the Dead

DocoftheDeadFrom director Alexandre Philippe (The People vs. George Lucas) comes this examination of the evolution of the zombie in film and literature, as well as its impact on pop culture.  Zombies began as voodoo creations in films, such as 1932’s White Zombie, before being reinvented as the living dead in George A. Romero’s The Night of the Living DeadDoc of the Dead takes a look at the continued popularity of zombies, which have now entered the mainstream.  The film also ponders whether a zombie apocalypse could really happen and what we can do to prevent one.

Doc of the Dead opens with what appears to be a debate about the zombie apocalypse in the Canadian House of Commons. While it’s unknown whether these statements were actually made by Canadian politicians, this opening leads into a quite entertaining dramatized news report about a zombie invasion, which is filled with many familiar celebrity faces.  It is definitely a very fun way to kick off a documentary about zombie culture.