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Archive for the ‘Your Film Weekend’ Category

Your Film Weekend: The Day You Ignored Keanu

Posted by film On December - 12 - 2008

By Leo K. Moncel

The Day The Till Stood Still?

Happy Friday, once again, folks. We have to write in advance of our deadlines here, so tell me – is the world, in fact, standing still? An early perusal of Rotten Tomatoes had the new remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still weighing in at 27% positive. Yikes. I think that’s slightly higher than Bush’s approval rating and slightly lower than popular support for a coalition government. No surprise, though, about who has sat in an audience recently that didn’t snicker and jeer at the trailer for this one? Really, why anchor a big movie around Keanu Reeves right now? He still has to repent for the last two Matrixes. Mr. Reeves, if this one’s as much a stinker as people believe it’s going to be, I suspect you may become so hated by the movie-going public that your modest abilities will never be able to recover you from our ire. You haven’t got the skill or the charisma to Robert-Downey-Jr. your way out of a hole as deep as the one you’re digging now. I hope you enjoy being buried alive in your own money.

Rumble-Rusted Rourke Wins Rave Reviews

Rourke down but never out.

Rourke down but never out.

It’s WHAM, BAM, and EMOTIONAL SUBTLETY! Hold out until Wednesday, the 17th, and you could be first in line to see The Wrestler, a film that (at the time of writing) holds a shocking 100% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Wrestler was a huge hit at TIFF this year and scooped up the biggest distribution deal at the fest, going to Fox Searchlight for four million. Mickey Rourke plays a divorced, washed-up, former pro-wrestler who’s trying to fix his life and reunite with his estranged daughter. The performance from Rourke looks rock solid. Have a glance at the trailer if you haven’t yet.

Sook-yin Shines in Toronto

Sick to death of seeing Toronto play the same roles on screen? Boston, New York and Chicago? Have a look at Toronto Stories opening at an exclusive engagement at the Royal, 608 College. The premiere screening is tonight, December 12th at 7:00 p.m. The cast and crew will be in attendance. The film is composed of four different stories handled by different directors and shot in their own locales.

Oh my God, is that Chicago?

Oh my God, is that Chicago?

Each story is loosely wooven together by the presence of a single character who acts as a wanderer and a witness. The stories focus on radically different subcultures within Toronto. Explored is the imaginative world of children, the lives of borderline criminals, love amongst the too-hip, and the struggles of street-level addiction. Each story is peppered with a few Toronto inside references that will make you slap your knee, turn to the person beside you and mouth, “oh SHIT!” I won’t spoil it, but there’s one cameo that’ll make you do a flip-take.

Each director’s work succeeds, but the stand out story of the set is Sook-Yin Lee’s story of hipster heartache. Lee stars opposite Tygh Runyan, as Boris, a younger man with whom she becomes deeply infatuated. Boris is more than a little bit self-obsessed but just peculiar enough to remain perpetually fascinating to Willia. Willia, played by Lee, does some research in a delightful google-search montage and discovers that her difficulties in connecting with Boris may be of a different nature than she suspected. Lee’s ear for dialogue and eye for details make this an exceptional accomplishment.

So, that’s your film weekend. What’s in store next time? You tell me: leo(at)

Your Film Weekend: X-Mas Countdown and More

Posted by film On December - 5 - 2008

By Leo K. Moncel

This X-Mas, choose surreal and disturbing!

This X-Mas, choose surreal and disturbing.

Grouchy Grinch Steals X-Mas Spirit?

Things seem to be slowing right down as everyone gears up for the big X-Mas day slate, which will include a cyclops’d Tom Cruise’s goofy-looking Nazi-with-a-heart-of-gold adventure, Valkyrie; Sin City 2 - pardon me - The Spirit; Brad Pitt’s reverse-aging flick, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; and two creatively desiccated-looking offerings from Adam Sandler and Owen Wilson.

Call me a grinch, but the only thing coming out X-Mas day that I’m sold on is Waltz With Bashir, a smaller movie from Israel done in a rotoscoped style similar to Waking Life. The movie tells the story of the director, Ari Folman, confronting his lost memories of time he spent stationed as a soldier in Lebanon during the conflict in the 1980s. The stills are beautiful and festival feedback has been quite strong.

Oily, Disgraced Prez Back For More!

Opening today we have Frost/Nixon, adapted from the successful stage play of the same name. The buzz seems to be positive overall. Nixon is an ever-interesting character in the American imagination, perhaps by now more for his unpleasant, oily manner than his actual misdeeds. It will be interesting to compare this picture to W., which was, by many counts (including my own), awkward, lukewarm, and unengaging. If Frost succeeds, it will be further evidence for those who argue that to tell stories of historical significance well, we need some historical distance first.

Dec. 6th Remembered

This Saturday, December 6th, The Female Eye Film Festival enters its seventh year at the NFB. The date is chosen in commemoration of the Montreal Massacre and all profits generated will go towards charity organizations supporting victims of violence against women.

Dakota Fanning takes weighty role.

Dakota Fanning takes on weighty role.

The festival’s first program presents two feature-length documentaries. The first, Finding Dawn, is an unflinching look at the “dark heart of Native womens’ experience in Canada.” The second, The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo, exposes a crisis that has persisted for a decade. At two p.m. is a panel discussion on violence against women and in the afternoon and evening are two more film programs with features and shorts. The festival culminates with the presentation of Hound Dog, a feature about repression and abuse in the Southern U.S.A. starring Dakota Fanning and Robin Wright Penn.

The Female Eye Film Festival also offers a competitive screenplay development program that’s worth checking out for all you budding writers out there.

Do you have any film events I should know about? See anything good, unusual, or unusually good lately? Let me know – leo(at)

Your Film Weekend: Australia and More

Posted by film On November - 28 - 2008

Australia, Brazil, Japan: the big, loud countries versus the small, quiet one!

By Leo K. Moncel

Australia Bombed?

G’day mate! Shrimps on the barbie. Whatagwan? Did anyone rush out and see Australia on its Wednesday release date? I checked my calendar and Wednesday wasn’t even American Thanksgiving, so I don’t know what the excuse is for the oddball timing. Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman head the cast, and their combined star power and Aussie factor tip just over Mel Gibson’s. Plot-wise all I can grasp is that it has something to do with romance, cattle, and World War II bombings. It’s all an excuse for director Baz Luhrman to create some beautiful shots and some epic atmosphere and hopefully win some dollars. We’ll see.

Go tourism!

Go tourism!

Here in Canada we just came down from our little stab at making an epic with Passchendaele. It’s interesting to see how star power is getting Australia a big launch internationally, when I really doubt there was the same level of anticipation over our Passchendaele in Oz, if it even made it there. Paul Gross is simply a domestic star. If you think about it, the only Canadian names big enough to garner international attention and launch a huge film are Mike Meyers and Jim Carrey. If they’d work for scale, maybe we could put together an epic buddy comedy with Austin Powers and a guy who agrees to say “yes” to everything. It would be the worst movie you’d ever seen and make more than every Canadian film put together.

Japanese Movies, Free!

Don’t want something as large and broad as Australia? Looking for international cinema the way it’s meant to be — idiosyncratic? The Japan Foundation had you in mind when they decided to sponsor completely free screenings of contemporary Japanese films at the convenient Bloor Cinema. Tonight, November 28, is Shangri-La, about a newly homeless man who organizes his shantytown to enact revenge against the white-collar crooks who wronged him. Tomorrow, the 29th, what looks to be the highlight of this series — Half a Confession, about a former detective who turns himself in for the murder of his wife, claiming it was an act of euthanasia. But things get complicated when he won’t share the whole story. This film won best picture and best actor at Japan’s 2005 equivalent of the Academy awards, so it’s quite a safe bet for your zero dollars.

Brazil Film Fest Wants You!

If AluCine just got you started on Brazilian movies, go see some more! The Brazil Film Fest kicked off last night with Bossa Nova. The festival has quite a range of films from contemporary to classic, features and docs. One doc that grabbed my attention was The Xavante Strategy, about an isolated indigenous group that creates ambassadors to preserve its culture. Familiar, sure, but like the environment, cultural preservation is an ever-urgent issue. Go watch something and you just might find the next City of God. How awesome would that be, beating every one else to the next City of God? You’d have bragging rights forever.

Got a film event coming up? Anything you’ve seen lately that I should hear about? Send me an email at film(at) and we’ll get a lil’ sumthin’ written for ya.

Your Film Weekend: Slumdog Millionaire and More

Posted by film On November - 21 - 2008

This weekend, slum it, dog, with this international array plus Toronto-based titan

Slumdog an Unlikely Winner

If there’s a “dog” you want to catch this weekend, I doubt it’s Disney’s Bolt (opening today, if you do), but rather Slumdog Millionaire. The picture, directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting), was released last weekend but was the “underdog” to box office Goliath Quantum of Solace. The joke made by host Jian Ghomeshi on CBC Radio’s Q earlier this week was that the only people who saw Slumdog were those who couldn’t get into Bond. This prompted guest Cameron Bailey (co-director of TIFF) to retort that if Slumdog viewers were watching their second choice, they undoubtedly had a better experience than bored Bond audiences. Moreover, added Bailey, Slumdog viewers will be feeling pretty smug during Oscar season when the film’s critical acclaim crosses over into mainstream attention.

Slumdog Millionaire got nothing but positive reviews and buzz during TIFF and ended up walking away with the much sought after People’s Choice Award. Not just that, but it was the only other picture apart from The Wrestler to grab a major distribution contract during the festival. TIFF 2008, tainted by recession fears, was widely considered a drought for big buys. Still, Fox Searchlight picked up Slumdog for wide release when the film itself had only been hoping for DVD distribution to target South Asian communities in North America and the U.K.

The story, quite loosely, revolves around an 18-year-old orphan from the Mumbai slums who ends up on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. He wins a great sum of money but is promptly arrested by police who suspect him of cheating. After all, how could a street kid from a supposedly “lower caste” be so knowledgeable? A series of flashbacks into the boy’s life depict the moments he learned the information needed to answer the trivia. There’s some love and some loss. The consensus is that the film has brilliant energy and captures the atmosphere and character of the Mumbai slums remarkably. I may have to follow my advice here and watch this film. Could you tell I hadn’t seen it? I was one of the tools that Cameron Bailey was dissing.

AluCine Kicks Off

If you’re way downtown, have a look at AluCine, taking place at the National Film Board (150 John St). The AluCine Latin Media Festival kicked off its ninth year last night with an opening gala. The festival, which specializes in showcasing up-and-coming Latin American short films, is running two to three programs of shorts every day from now until Saturday, November 29th. Programs are grouped around country (Cuba, Brazil, etc.), identity (LGBT), or production mode (experimental, animated). Give it a shot, because it’s easy to fit into your schedule and it’s dirt cheap. $6 regular, $4 for students. That’s less than that plasticky sub you ate for lunch.

Documentary Titan Shatters Cinematheque

Get tickets now, because on Monday at seven, Canadian documentary legend Allan King is going to present a screening of his classic film A Married Couple at the Cinematheque. (Go early, see the new AGO, it’s incredible!) King, now 78, defied cultural rules about what was showable with his 1956 debut documentary Skid Row about homelessness and addiction. Warrendale, his 1967 doc on a treatment centre for disturbed children, has the distinction of being the most heartbreaking documentary I have ever seen. A Married Couple followed in 1969 and is another of his pioneering achievements. While ostensibly following the life of a married couple, the film raises all kinds of questions about how people behave when they are “being themselves” onscreen. King was opening up these debates three decades before reality TV tried its best to make these questions inane. This is an opportunity to see one of documentary film’s real groundbreakers in person. I say, take it.

Whatever you do this weekend, enjoy yourself. If you catch something great, let me know. If you’re hip to an upcoming film event, send me an email and I’ll write about it provided it’s not some old pervert showing smutty cartoons and bragging about how he did LSD. (Sorry, Torontonian reference only.)

What’s your film related event? Reach me at film(at)



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