Reviews

Review: ‘Jojo Rabbit’ is charming, but muddled satire

Posted by Matthew on November 12, 2019
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Jojo Rabbit

This is a movie that should be right up my alley. It has an acclaimed comedic writer/director known for films that strike exactly the tone that taking on a difficult subject like the Nazis is suited for, with an all-star cast and a premise just out there enough to maybe sneak in some real lessons without the audience knowing.

And it almost works. That’s not to say that Jojo Rabbit is a bad film. It’s actually a fine film. It has more than a few big laughs and a couple of great performances, but it never quite gels into something more.

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Review: ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ is totally fine

Posted by Matthew on November 12, 2019
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Terminator: Dark Fate

James Camerons 1984 film _The Terminator_ and 1991 follow up _Terminator 2: Judgement Day_ are both stone-cold classics. It’s not surprising that Hollywood has been making sequels in this franchise for the last two decades. It is surprising that most of them are …. we’ll say “of varying quality.”

Where those have failed, Terminator: Dark Fate actually kind of succeeds. It takes familiar elements from the original two, remixes them with some social commentary, and brings in all the legacy characters to pass the torch to a whole new cast.

Imagine The Force Awakens but for Terminator.

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Review: ‘Doctor Sleep’ shines in more ways than one

Posted by Matthew on November 10, 2019
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How do you make a sequel to a classic? It’s a difficult thing, the balance between paying homage to what came before and forging something new is a difficult one. An inch too far in either direction and you risk the ire of someone, either the fan who wants something new or the fan who really just wants the same thing all over again.

Doctor Sleep makes the question even more difficult. The film The Shining is, to reuse the word, a stone-cold classic. Adapted from Stephen Kings novel of the same name it takes many liberties with the story, so much so that King himself famously did not like it. King wrote the novel Doctor Sleep 36 years later as a sequel to his own work. So the question is how do you adapt a novel that serves as a sequel to a classic book and film which each has distinctly different arcs and in particular endings?

The answer is, of course, with great care, which is exactly what director Mike Flanagan has done.

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Review: ‘The Irishman’ is a contemplation of a life lived, and one not to miss

Posted by Matthew on November 05, 2019
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When you hear that Martin Scorsese has made a new crime movie with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and a pulled-out-of-retirement Joe Pesci, that’s cause to get excited. Scorsese is a master filmmaker, and his crime films are among the best in the genre.

The Irishman is no exception. A 210-minute examination of the life and times of Frank Sheeran, or at least the version he told of them, Scorsese and De Niro tell stories within stories that remind us why they’re among the best at what they do.

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Review: ‘The War of the Worlds’ is a thoughtful, Edwardian adventure

Posted by Matthew on October 20, 2019
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War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds is a classic story that has been adapted numerous times. Whether your favourite is the Orson Welles radio drama, the Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg adaptation, or Independence Day this is clearly a story you’ve seen before.

What’s interesting though is that despite the many adaptations there are precious few that take place within the time frame of the original written story. Which is one of the two refreshing changes with this thoughtful adaptation of the story produced by the BBC and airing on T+E in Canada.

If you’re expecting an action blockbuster I’m telling you that you should temper those expectations right now, this adaptation is a thoughtful slow burn more concerned with the effect the invasion would have than the invasion itself. That is to say, it’s pretty good.

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Review: ‘Zombieland: Double Tap’ has exactly no new ideas

Posted by Matthew on October 20, 2019
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Zombieland: Double Tap

I really liked Zombieland. It’s not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination but it has a great cast and a solid premise, and a few big laughs.

It was a surprise hit and made a ton of money so it’s no surprise that it got a sequel. What is surprising is that the sequel feels exactly the same as the original. That’s not always a deal-breaker, but ten years and a radically changed socio-political landscape in this world mean little to no updates in the new film definitely are a dealbreaker.

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VIFF Review: ‘Ford v Ferrari’ offers compelling drama and thrilling​ races

Posted by Matthew on October 20, 2019
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Ford v Ferrari / VIFF 2019

Ford v Ferrari is a lot of things: a showcase for two of our greta actors, one of the best car racing movies ever made, a compelling drama. At its core thought it’s a story of two men completely dedicated to what they do, and doing it in spite of the system they work in and the company they work for always asking them to make concessions.

Make no mistake, _Ford v Ferrari is an underdog story, but Ford isn’t the underdog and Ferrari isn’t the villain. The underdogs are Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, toiling away at making the best car in the world while their bosses are telling them to make the best Ford.

There’s a metaphor for filmmaking in there, somewhere.

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VIFF Review: ‘The Whale and the Raven’ is quiet and gorgeous

Posted by Matthew on October 12, 2019
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The Whale and the Raven / VIFF 2019

Whales are among the more majestic animals on the planet. They’re enormous but graceful, and they play an important part in the cultural history of many of the First Nations peoples of BC. In the Kitimat fjord system there are a pair of researchers, Hermann Meuter and Janie Wray, who study the orca and humpbacks who make their homes there, and Mirjam Leuze took cameras to chronicle what they do.

The Whale and the Raven is the result and follows is a slightly meandering but absolutely stunning-to-look-at 100 minutes of footage of the north coast of British Columbia.

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VIFF Review: ‘Synonyms’ is maddening, heartbreaking, frustrating, challenging, and contains a performance you definitely shouldn’t miss

Posted by Matthew on October 12, 2019
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Synonyms / VIFF 2019

Synonyms begins with the protagonist Yoav (Tom Mercier) breaking into a luxurious but unoccupied apartment looking for a place to sleep for the night. The clothes on his back, the few things in his bag, are all of his worldly possessions. After a night in the austere accommodations, he takes a shower and during that shower, someone steals all of his clothes and his bag.

Frantically he runs, naked and dripping wet down the stairs and after the thief but it’s too late, his things are gone. Rather than chase them into the street he returns to the apartment and passes out in the tub, seemingly to wait for death.

This franticness is at the heart of Yoav’s character. He’s in France feeling his past self with the sole, desperate intention to form a new self. But is that even possible?

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VIFF Review: ‘White Snake’ is an epic, adult, animated adventure

Posted by Matthew on October 11, 2019
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White Snake / VIFF 2019

Animation is a medium. It’s a weird thing to have to actually write down but to many when you say you’re about to watch an animated film they make a number of assumptions but they all basically boil down to the thought that animation is a genre with its own tropes and conventions but that’s not really the case, is it? Animation is a medium through which we often tell children’s stories but it’s actually perhaps the most expressive film medium, and perfectly capable of telling adult stories.

This fact is exemplified by White Snake, an animated epic from China which has a soft, whimsical animation style but also a dark, violent, and occasionally erotic story to tell.

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VIFF Review: ‘Pain and Glory’ is Amaldóvar’s most deeply personal film

Posted by Matthew on October 10, 2019
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Pain & Glory / VIFF 2019

Antonio Banderas and Pedro Amaldóvar are two of Spain’s biggest film exports and have worked together numerous times. It’s fitting then that in Pain & Glory, the story of an ageing filmmaker in a creative rut who needs address some unresolved issues from his past, Banderas is basically playing Amaldóvar.

He’s not, of course. Not exactly. Banderas is Salvador Mallo, a respected director who was a maverick in his youth and who has settled into more soulful work in his later years who is suffering from debilitating pain and illness. So he’s basically Amaldóvar in this semi-autobiographical film. He’s also transcendently good in the role.

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VIFF Quick Reviews: Guest of Honour, In the Tall Grass, Burning​ Cane, and Hard-Core

Posted by Matthew on October 08, 2019
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VIFF 2019

The Film Festival is a busy time and I want to make sure that every film gets its due so in an effort to catch up here are quick review of four films I saw at VIFF but hadn’t had enough time to write about.

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VIFF Review: The Two Popes is fun and funny

Posted by Matthew on October 08, 2019
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The Two Popes / VIFF 2019

When Pope Benedict XVI resigned there was a ripple of disbelief. None had resigned the papacy in 700 years. There was concern that he was being forced out due to his traditional and hardline stances. That his health was failing, or worse yet his mind.

Enter Jorge Bergoglio, a Cardinal from South America who was concerned with the poor and with reforming the church. Bergoglio had commanded a few votes at the previous papal election and Benedict and he disagreed on almost everything but ultimately it was Bergoglio who would next be elected and made Pope Francis.

The Two Popes retells the story of Bergoglio’s life, as he tells is to Pope Benedict in the year leading up to Benedicts resignation. It’s a charming movie, with more than a few good laughs, and two master thespians playing off one another for nearly two hours. In other words: you should definitely see it.

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VIFF Review: ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ is one of the most beautiful films you’ll see this year

Posted by Matthew on October 06, 2019
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Portrait of a Lady on Fire / VIFF 2019

In the story of Orpheus and Eurydice after Eurydice is bitten by a snake and dies Orpheus is advised that he can head to the underworld to retrieve her. He is told that he must lead her back to the surface world but that he must not look back for her until they are safely returned. As Orpheus crosses the threshold back to the surface he relents and turns back but Eurydice is still below and is then doomed to stay in the underworld forever.

It’s this story that is at the heart of the theme in Portrait of a Lady on Fire, a film as concerned with memory as it is with love. As the three principal women discuss in the film, is Orpheus a fool for looking back when he knows that will seal his love’s fate? Or is he a fool for love who wants to catch a final glimpse of his love exactly as she is in that moment, exactly as he loves her, and forgo putting them both through a second painful death?

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VIFF Review: ‘Daughter’ jumps head first into grief and self destruction, but doesn’t quite stick the landing

Posted by Matthew on October 06, 2019
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Daughter / VIFF 2019

Loss of a loved one does many things to many people. Some turn quiet and introspective, some get angry and abusive, and some are broken by the experience and become self destructive.

Daughter is the story of a man dealing with an immense personal loss who is one of these third types of people. Jim’s (John Cassini) life is in a spiral, a positive feedback loop of drinking and prostitutes and running away from his grief. He is estranged from his wife and friends and is barely present at his job, and all because he doesn’t have the courage or will to face his traumatic past.

That, my friends, is a hell of a setup for a movie. I wish the payoff was as good.

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