WFF ’21 Review: ’18 1/2′ is an amusing genre mashup

18 1/2

There are many theories about the missing 18 1/2 minutes of Richard Nixon’s White House recordings. At a time of heightened controversy –thanks to Watergate and the ensuing investigations– the gap in recordings created a convenient slot into which a persons conspiracy theory of choice might fit.

Dan Mirvish’s new film 18 1/2 explores a quaint, yet zany, moment of alternate history where the tape itself was taped and a young transcriptionist secrets it away from the White House to listen to it with a journalist. Hilarity ensues when they check into a small town motel to do just that.

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WFF ’21 Quick Review: ‘A Wicked Eden’ offers a glimpse into a fascinating world

A Wicked Eden

There’s a whole world of sexual proclivities out there. The world of the dominatrix and the submissive is represented in media fairly thoroughly but often without much depth. A Wicked Eden changes that, taking a deep dive into the world of Alexandra Snow, a popular dominatrix.

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WFF ’21 Review: ‘Carmen’ is a lovely story of self-rediscovery and empowerment

Carmen

Devotion to a church or a cause is, for many people, a true calling in life. Those who join the priesthood describe hearing a call to that life and dedicate their lives to it. On the island of Malta, a tiny island nation in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, it is also a tradition that when a man hears that call, his younger sister goes with him. In theory, this is to devote her life to the church. In practice, it appears that it is to ensure that the new priest has a servant.

In Carmen, Natascha McElhone plays such a woman; having lived a life of servitude since she was 16 and set free 34 years later when he brother dies, suddenly she has to rediscover her own life and desires. What follows is a lovely journey of self-discovery that takes Carmen around the sun-drenched, 1980s set Maltese countryside.

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Review: ‘Don’t Look Up’ is angry at the right things, but lacks focus

Don't Look Up

Climate change is real. I can’t believe this is a thing that we still have to debate in the 2020s, but there is a not-insignificant portion of people –or at least people in positions of power– who seem content to let it happen in the name of high-profit margins, and have found a multitude of ways to distract the populace into either ignorance or obliviousness.

This is also the plot of Adam McKay’s new film Don’t Look Up, which presents a world not unlike our own that happens to have a planet-killing comet headed directly toward it and a and of scientists unable to convince the world to do anything about it. Subtle, this movie is not. Of course, subtly isn’t a requirement for a satire in the form of a pitch-black comedy, but you know what is? Humour. Unfortunately, this movie isn’t humorous either.

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WFF ’21 Review: ‘Confessions of a Hitman’ paints a portrait of a man you’d never suspect

Confessions of a Hitman

Every country has their extraordinary criminals, and Canada is no different. One key difference with notorious contract killer Gerald Gallant though, is just how ordinary he otherwise was. Living a mostly quiet suburban life, he carried out 27 hits (and attempted 12 more) in 25 years and went almost entirely unnoticed. Confessions of a Hitman chronicles that life and its absurd banality with Luc Picard in both the starring role and the director’s chair.

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Review: ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ is a Fun, Nasty, Scrappy B-Movie

Hell Hath No Fury

You know the rest of the saying. The wrath of a wronged woman is a fabled thing, and in this film, Nina Bergman’s Marie is betrayed by just about everyone she has ever met. The lover of a nazi officer, betrayed by the resistance, branded as a collaborator by the townspeople, and rescued by a group of US soldiers who are only interested in the cache of nazi gold, she happens to know the location of. So yes, she’s royally pissed.

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Review: ‘The Boathouse’ cribs from some classics to create an atmospheric horror story

The Boathouse

There’s a scene in the middle of The Boathouse in which the characters discuss a case of plagiarism over dinner. One character, a professor, tells the story of a student who copied a work by Joyce and then feigned ignorance. “If you’re going to steal,” he says, “maybe steal from someone more obscure.” This leads into an entire discussion of theft vs influence and how all of that shapes art and literature.

It’s a startlingly relevant scene as well because The Boathouse either –depending on your point of view– borrows from or is influenced very heavily by some classics, most notably the work of Henry James and Alfred Hitchcock. Do you know why these influences are classics, though? Because they’re good.

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Review: ‘The Witcher Season 2’ is a cool, confident continuation and improvement of the story that began in season one

The Witcher

Let me begin this by saying that I enjoyed the first season of The Witcher. Some were put off by the multiple timelines and Geralt’s absence from some of the stories, but I was not one of them. If you were, you will be happy to know that the entire second season takes place in a single timeframe and that Geralt’s story is the main plot of every episode. On the other hand, if you were like me, well, you already like the show, and you’ll continue enjoying it because it’s good.

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Review: ‘West Side Story’ reinvents a classic with modern context

West Side Story

Steven Spielberg is about to turn 75 years old. Since his debut feature in 1971, a full fifty years ago, he has tackled all manner of genre and subject matter, but never a musical. It makes sense then that his trademark skills –an iconic eye for composition and blocking, perfectly deployed single takes, finding the best cast for the story, and impeccable detail at every level– now all feel like he might have been refining specifically to make a musical because his new version of West Side Story makes excellent use of all of them.

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WFF ’21 Quick Review: ‘We’re All In This Together’ is a quirky family drama

We're All In This Together

Of all the most reliable subjects for drama, family is the most reliable. After all, unlike friends or coworkers, you don’t get to choose family, and that extra level of tether adds stakes to any situation. We’re All In This Together is a good example of this fact, bringing together a pair of estranged twins, an underaged sister in a relationship with an older man, and a mother who went over a waterfall in a barrel. Literally, not figuratively.

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WFF ’21 Quick Review: ‘Moon Manor’ is a lovely story about a man going out on his own terms

Moon Manor

Moon Manor feels like a film that is destined to be divisive. It follows an older man who has learned he has Alzheimer’s, and rather than waiting for it to erase him slowly, he throws a big party –a FUN-eral– to make sure he connects with the important people in his life before committing suicide.

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WFF ’21 Review: ‘Drinkwater’ is a quirky, Canadian, familiar coming of age film

Drinkwater

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a teenager is hopelessly in love with a beautiful girl and signs up for some kind of feat to impress her. He trains for this event and trains some more. At least once, he loses faith, but along the way, he grows up a little, turns his bully into a friend, and in the end, gets with the girl who has been his friend the whole time.

If any of this sounds familiar, then Drinkwater won’t have that many surprises in store for you, at least when it comes to the plot. But, on the other hand, it has a good central performance, an incredibly Canadian take on the materials, and a delightful supporting performance from Eric McCormack.

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Review: ‘The Power of the Dog’ features a powerhouse performance from Benedict Cumberbatch

THE POWER OF THE DOG

It’s fair to say that Benedict Cumberbatch is perhaps a little over-exposed. Since his big break with Sherlock in 2010, he has appeared in all manner of films, not only in prestige dramas like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Imitation Game, but also in major franchises like Star Trek, The Hobbit, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite their varied nature and differing challenges, it feels like all of these roles have blinded us to the simple fact that he is actually an outstanding actor. Not to say that he hasn’t done good work in the past ten years, but rather that we’ve forgotten exactly how good he can be.

Jane Campion is here to remind us of this and that she is one of the best directors working today.

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