Reviews

Review: ‘Joker’ is a joke without a punchline

Posted by Matthew on October 05, 2019
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Joker

Let’s get this out of the way: I did not like this movie. Todd Phillips has made a movie about a horribly abused man who lives in a world full of assholes and who also has mental health issues and who also has a condition who also has some terrible impulses and through the course of the movie starts acting on those impulses, and places the blame literally everywhere but on him, but doesn’t really make a compelling argument about any of these ideas.

Joker is an essay without a thesis or a joke without a punchline. There’s a lot going on but no actual payoff. I couldn’t tell you who Joker is actually for, but I worry that one of the worst crowds on the internet is going to hold it up as inspirational.

In a word: yikes.

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VIFF Review: ‘The Whistlers’ convoluted plot keeps it from engaging.

Posted by Matthew on October 04, 2019
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The Whistlers / VIFF 2019

Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) is a cop. You won’t know that immediately, but you’ll know it soon enough. He’s not a good cop, in fact, he’s as dirty as they come. He’s arrived on La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands, to learn an aboriginal whistling language in order to communicate right under the noses of the Romanian police.

I’m not going to go into the actual plot here because as a slick neo-noir film the plot has so many twists and turns that telling you anything might be giving something away. Suffice to say that there is Christi and there is a femme fatale (Catrinel Marlon as Gilda) and there is a whole slew of bad people on either side of the law.

There’s just one problem: It’s kind of boring.

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VIFF Review: ‘Koko-di Koko-da’ is stuck in a time loop with self-loathing

Posted by Matthew on October 04, 2019
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Koko-di Koko-Da // VIFF 2019

One moment. It only takes one moment to shatter a person. Everyone has a different breaking point, but we all surely have one. For Tobias and Elin, theirs came whilst on a family holiday, during a routine meal for three with their daughter. It’s Elin who gets sick, swelling up and turning red and eventually the reason they are airlifted to a nearby hospital. They stay the night and wake up early to sing happy birthday only to be devastated to find their daughter has passed in the night.

To say this is a gut-punch would be an understatement. The film jumps three years ahead to the couple on their way to a camping trip. A few days away from their lives but isolated together with their mutual grief and self-loathing.

What follows is a surreal misadventure, one that leans heavily into metaphor and is —to put it mildly— difficult to watch. As they wake up in the morning they are accosted by three individuals (a woman with a hunting dog, a unibrowed brute carrying a dead dog, and an old-timey carnival barker) who proceed to humiliate and murder them. And then it happens again. And again. And again.

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VIFF Review: ‘The Realm’ is a fast-paced​ and satisfying political thriller

Posted by Matthew on October 03, 2019
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The Realm / VIFF 2019

The opening scene of The Realm follows Manuel (Antonio de la Torre) from a quiet beach, through a noisy kitchen, and to a table full of friends enjoying wine and seafood. There is laughter and toasting and inside jokes, and a great time being had by all. It’s a joyous scene but these men and women are no mere friends, they are all government officials and their good time comes at the expense of t​he people they have been elected to represent.

This is the world of The Realm, one in which it seems that nearly all government officials are corrupt to some extent and Manuel –our hero– is perhaps the worst of them. He has been living the high life for the last fifteen years off bribes, kickbacks, and graft, but when some of said graft comes to light his political party ousts him.

That’s a hell of a setup for a story but does the movie equal the potential? Yes, it mostly does.

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VIFF Review: Feminist Live Reads ‘Some Like It Hot’ has women playing men playing women (and totally rocks it)

Posted by Simon on October 01, 2019
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Feminist Live Reads: Some Like It Hot / VIFF 2019

Sitting comfortably alongside VIFF for a number of years, Feminist Live Reads reaches through the fourth wall to give an even more intimate experience to the moviegoer set. And their love letter tonight to ‘Some Like It Hot’ was part live theatre, part jazz performance, all brought together by some of the most versatile women you’ll ever hear tearing through Billy Wilder’s electric script.

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VIFF Review: ‘The Lighthouse’ is on a journey into madness and it’s taking you with it

Posted by Matthew on September 29, 2019
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The Lighthouse / VIFF 2019

Robert Eggers has made two movies now. Both with predominantly natural light, both with a confident eye and camera, and period set using actual dialogue from sources contemporary to said setting.

The man has a style, is what I’m saying. But whereas The Witch was a good old fashioned horror movie about a family terrorized by their own inadequacies and also a witch, The Lighthouse is something different altogether. It’s a chronicle of two men descending into madness, tortured by their utter solitude but also each other’s persistent company.

It’s tense, it’s absurd, it features two powerhouse performances, it’s overwhelming, and it’s an absolute must-see.

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VIFF Review: ‘Who You Think I Am’, in which Juliette Binoche dazzles

Posted by Matthew on September 28, 2019
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Who You Think I Am

Loneliness is a painful emotion. Whether you’re surrounded by people or not, the feeling that you are truly alone can cause even the most rational people to do all kinds of things. We are, after all, all human and subject to the whims of our emotions.

Enter Juliette Binoche as Claire, a 50ish publisher and professor and divorcée who is making her way unhappily through life. After she is spurned by Ludo –the younger man she has been seeing– when she suggests they spend some real time together she decides she would like to enact some revenge upon him. To that end she creates Clara, a gorgeous 24 year old avatar to bait Ludo with. After several glasses of wine and friend requests she receives a message, but it’s not Ludo she’s hooked, it’s his roommate Alex.

This is where things start to go a little sideways, and also where I am going to do my best to stop speaking about the plot as this one has many twists and turns and I don’t want to spoil any of them.

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VIFF Review: ‘Amare Amaro’, bitter love indeed

Posted by Matthew on September 27, 2019
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Amare Amano / VIFF 2019

Tragedy is defined as a form of drama, based on human suffering, that invokes an accompanying catharsis for the audience. A story in which the characters suffer, and no one ends up happy, and maybe we learn something along the way.

Amare Amaro is, very loosely, an adaptation of the Greek tragedy Antigone, in which the heroine attempts to secure a proper burial for one of her brothersin defiance of the king. Her brother was killed in battle, fighting for the wrong side, and fought to the mutual death against his own brother. This is not a happy story, in case the genre didn’t tip you off.

The updated story, in which Antigone is removed and one of the dead brothers is now the protagonist, has been transposed to modern times and results in a beautifully shot but melancholy picture about the lengths we’ll go to for the honour of the people we love.

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VIFF Review: ‘Babysplitters’ has some great moments but overstays its welcome

Posted by Matthew on September 26, 2019
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Babysplitters / VIFF

Having a baby is an overwhelming life change. I’m stating the obvious here, but it is the inciting idea behind the plot of Babysplitters, in which two couples who are divided on their intentions to have a child get together and decide that if the four of them have one baby together, then the burden might not be quite so life changing.

That right there is a pretty great setup for a comedy. There’s plenty of room for hi-jinx as the four people make the decisions that two normally would, as double the normal number of values and undisclosed religious backgrounds and other exiting biases and expectations clash together.

Add a great cast and you’ve have a hell of movie. Luckily, this movies has that too with Danny Pudi (Community) and Emily Chang in the lead roles. Together they enjoy an easy and sincere chemistry as a married couple at odds over whether to have a child (she wants one, he’s not so sure). Once they learn that their best friends (Maiara Walsh and Eddie Alfano) are in the same boat (but with the roles switched) the plot and hi-jinx ensue. But also it’s where the films problems begin.

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VIFF Review: ‘Assholes: A Theory’ is a disappointment

Posted by Matthew on September 25, 2019
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Assholes: A Theory / VIFF 2019

Everyone knows one. A friend or acquaintance you tolerate because a shared history or friend circle. He’s an asshole, but he’s your asshole. But why is he such an asshole?

Assholes: A Theory wants to explore the this segment of society. Why are people Assholes? How are they assholes? Can we distinguish different kinds of assholes? What kind of behaviour is asshole behaviour? What can we do about it?

A documentary with such a strong setup could be equal parts fascinating and hilarious. Unfortunately this is not that documentary, as while there are a few laughs and a few interesting examinations, the film peters out before it starts to hit the meat of the problem.

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VIFF Review: “Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own” highlights a lifetime of art

Posted by Matthew on September 24, 2019
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Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own / VIFF 2019

Documentaries are a difficult thing. The amount of time spent with the subject and the amount of footage shot compared to what’s used in the finished product, are both monumental. One needs a compelling subject with a compelling story to tell, and those are not as easy to come by as many would probably assume.

Luckily, Ursula von Rydingsvard is a compelling subject. A woman at the forefront of the contemporary art scene creating massive sculptures of cedar wood, bronze, and copper, she has been a creative force since the 1970s. She felt a life long determination to be an artist, a drive recalled by everyone in the film from her brother to to her patrons, but with a runtime of only 57 minutes this film a little light on the details of the story of this drive.

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VIFF Review: ‘White Lie’ is a tense psychological drama

Posted by Matthew on September 23, 2019
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White Lie / VIFF 2019

The problem with telling a lie –even a white lie– is that in order to maintain it you have to tell more of them. Each new lie you tell builds on the ones you’ve already told until one day instead of maintaining some small mistruth you’re maintaining an entire narrative that you can barely keep straight.

This is the world of Katie Arneson (Kacey Rohl), the university student and dancer at the heart of Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas’s White Lie. With one minor difference: she hasn’t told a little white lie, she’s told the world she’s suffering from cancer.

What lengths would someone have to go to to maintain that lie? How long could you keep your head above water with the lies swirling around you? These are the questions at the heart of this movie.

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Review: ‘Ad Astra’ takes you on a journey through the spaces between fathers and sons.

Posted by Matthew on September 22, 2019
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Ad Astra / Brad Pitt

James Gray seems to have a thing about fathers and sons. In his previous outing The Lost City of Z, a father left his family behind and travels 5000 miles across the globe to pursue his obsession of finding a city made of gold. We followed in across the world and watched how he could never let go of his obsession despite the toll it was having on his relationships at home.

Ad Astra involves that dynamic as well but from the other side, and taken to an extreme. We follow a son who was abandoned by his father who traveled 2.8 billion miles away in pursuit of scientific knowledge.

When we first meet Major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) he’s standing literally on top of the world, working on an International Space Antenna that stretches from the ground all the way to space. Space is where he’s most comfortable, isolated in his suit and perfectly calm until a massive power surge knocks him off the tower and he plummets back to earth. Even through this pulse pounding sequence his pulse never pounds, he famously has never had his heart rate get above 80. But then he learns power surge originated in space and may have been caused by his father.

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Watch Jurassic World Short Film ‘Battle at Big Rock’ Now!

Posted by Matthew on September 16, 2019
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Battle at Big Rock

Remember we let you know that there would be a new short film based on Jurassic World coming from Colin Trevorrow this past weekend? Well it’s here and you can watch it now!

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It Chapter Two Review: This movie is a million years long.

Posted by Matthew on September 08, 2019
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It Chapter Two

Some stories are beloved by their fans. This isn’t a terrible thing, but it can make stories difficult to adapt for the screen. What parts of the story can you trimmed down? What parts can be excised completely? These are difficult questions, and if your viewers are those that love the text their answer will be "nothing."

It Chapter Two is a long movie. It’s not a poorly made movie or a poorly acted one, but it is long. Too long. Like, way too long, and I feel like the filmmakers didn’t have adequate answers to those two questions I posed above.

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