VIFF Review: ‘Wonderstruck’ is a magical, moving tale for all ages

Todd Haynes movies, love ’em or … not? Wait, does anyone not love Todd Haynes movies? Anyway, the point is that the man is a consummate visual storyteller, and in that regard Wonderstruck might be his magnum opus. There two main stories, one set in the 1970s and another in the 1920s, each with a child protagonist and each moving in their own ways. If you’re thinking that they might be connected, yes, of course they are both to each other and a third story told later in the film.

It would have been easy to adapt this story, a kids novel, for kids but Wonderstruck is a moving tale for all ages.

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72nd Golden Globes: I Can & I Did. A Celebration of Diversity.

2105_1208_GG_2015_AlternateImage_ACThe Golden Globes are my favourite award show.  The combination of humour and sincerity that can only be achieved when A-List celebrities, precious auteurs and television “we’re just happy to be here” actors are shoved sardine-like into a hotel ballroom and given as much booze as they can (or can’t) handle.  An extra hat-tip this year to the Beverly Hilton who forgot to turn on the AC making melting orange spray tan the look of the evening.

This year, however, wasn’t quite the shitshow that the Globes can sometimes be.  Amy Poehler & Tina Fey did a solid ten and then, as happens every year, twitter questioned where they went for the next 2 hours.  The audience seemed to laugh hardest at how they introduced Amal Clooney to America:

“Amal is a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, was an advisor to Kofi Annan regarding Syria and was selected for a three person U.N. commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip. So tonight her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award.”

Quickly followed by massive gasps at their series of Bill Cosby rape jokes & pill/pudding pop impressions.  Fun fact re: Amal, she actually sewed her own gloves the morning of the Awards.  And when Ryan Seacrest interviewed the couple on the red carpet she pointed out the “Je Suis Charlie” button on her bag “in solidarity with the people of France”.

It wouldn’t be the last time the recent Charlie Hebdo tragedy was mentioned.  In fact the Hollywood Foreign Press Association President talked about how important free speech is whether it be North Korea or Paris to a standing ovation.  Helen Mirren, nominated for her role as a French chef in the 100 Foot Journey, wore a fountain pen pinned to her lapel.

The evening overall seemed to be sending a message of diversity.  Breakout star Gina Rodriguez won Best Actress in a TV Musical or Comedy for her leading role on Jane the Virgin, a show which fluidly slips between Spanish & English.  In her acceptance speech she said how she was grateful to represent “a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes”. (The title for this piece “I Can & I Did” came from how she paid tribute to her father.)  Maggie Gyllenhaal won Best Actress in a Miniseries for the Honourable Woman, a show in which she played an arms dealer trying to reconcile things between Israel & Palestine, and gave quite the feminist speech.

The Amazon show Transparent won for Best TV Series, and the star Jeffrey Tambor won for Best Actor in a TV Musical or Comedy.  A show about a Transgender person aired on a non-cable service won twice.  And everyone cheered.  The movie Pride was nominated (and I suspect, introduced for the first time to North American audiences) about UK gay activists who raised money to help during the Miners’ Strike.  Matt Bomer got to thank his husband after winning best Supporting Actor in a Made for TV Film (the Normal Heart), which was about the AIDS epidemic.

Common & John Legend won for Best Original Song ‘Glory’ from the film about Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, Selma.  Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt won a best Supporting Actress award for her work during a storyline about rape.  Eddie Redmayne won best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama about the life of Stephen Hawking (the Theory of Everything) and becoming paralyzed from ALS.  Julianne Moore won Best Actress (Still Alice), beating all the younger nominees, in a role about a women with early onset Alzheimer’s.  And Richard Linklater won Best Director for Boyhood (which also won Best Picture) for filming an indie movie over 12 years.

The message from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association this year was clear: Be different. Be brave. Be you.


VIFF Review: Maps to the Stars

VIFF 2014

Maps to the Stars

David Cronenberg makes two kinds of films: Great ones and weird ones. I’m honestly not sure which category Maps to the Stars falls into. On the one hand it’s a biting indictment of Hollywood and the stars who live there and featuring some completely amazing performances but on the other it’s a muddled mess of slow-moving plots, some of which are never resolved.

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Review: Non Stop


Liam Neeson is a celebrated actor. He’s been in epic romances, costumed adventures, and important historical dramas. Lately though he’s carved out a niche for himself as a slightly older action star. There’s only one reason why this works: Liam Neeson is great. The movies he’s making are kind of dumb, heavy handed, and full of plot holes, but for some reason they just kinda work. Taken is probably the first (and best) example of this. Non-Stop is just the latest.

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Review: Don Jon

Don Jon

It’s hard not to love Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He started out as your average adorable child actor and then rather than transitioning into fluff pictures he went indie, working on great films like Brick and The Lookout, building credibility and honing his acting skills. Now, after building a bank role with more mainstream fare he’s made the leap to writing and directing.

Turns out he’s pretty damn good at those too.

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Carrie Trailer Gives Away The Plot


Chances are you have seen the orginal 1976 film version of Carrie, or maybe even read the book by Stephen King. If you have, the watch away. If you haven’t, know that this trailer gives away the majority of the plot. Still, you probably are at least familiar with the original, right??

I don’t know how I feel about this trailer. Kimberly Price has two movies under her belt and they are great and good respectively. On the other, I feel this is a needless remake.

On the one hand It’ll hopefully be pretty cool to see the rampage played out with modern effects (as long as it’s not all CG) but on the other, I feel like this is a needless remake when the original effects work perfectly well.

Also, on the one hand, I really like CHloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore for Carrie and Margaret, they’re both talented actors. On the other, I feel like this is a needless remake when Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie were both Oscar nominated in the original.

Maybe you’re starting to notice a pattern.

Trailer: What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew

Have you had your heartstrings tuggeed recently? No? Well watch this trailer then.

I haven’t read What Maisie Knew but I am aware of the plot. Updating it from it’s 1890s context to now is makes a lot of sense. At the time of it’s writing the book was a reflection on society in which the story was somewhat scandalous whereas now it’s story is the new normal for a lot of people. It’ll be interesting to see how much of the original criticism comes through.

Matt Watches Bad Movies: Next


Oh Nicholas Cage, you wily rascal you. You have made some great movies in your time, but you’ve also made a whole bunch that I’ll be talking about for the next few weeks here in Matt Watches Bad Movies in what I’m calling my Nic-Cage-A-Thon!

Next, made in 2007, is based on a Philip K. Dick story, which is kind of amazing because it’s so bad when Philip K. Dick stories are usually so good. Then you find out how much they changed it all makes sense. Coles notes version of that story is that they changed basically everything except the ability to see into the future, which they also changed from being able to foresee the outcome to decisions.

So calling it “based on a Philip K. Dick story” makes as much sense as calling it “based on that book Snooki wrote”.

Next starts in Las Vegas where Nic –I’ll be referring to him as Nic for all of these, because they clearly take place in the same bizarro universe– is a shitty magician. But wait, it’s just an act, he’s a shitty magician to hide the fact that he can see 2 minutes into the future.

I’m not going to make a sex joke with that. Too easy.

At Nic’s show is gorgeous ginger government agent. She has figured out that he has some weird powers and is trying to figure it out. Nic goes from the show to a casino where they immediately think he’s counting cards. He figures out that they are coming for him, fucking tips them off by looking right at a camera, and leaves the table.

He’s able to escape because he’s in a casino and there’s tons of other people around to hide behind, and also the security team is full of idiots. He even steals some poor guy’s hat! Jackass! He gets to the cashier and has a vision of the most conveniently timed robbery in history (also, who robs a casino in vegas by taking a gun to the cashier? That makes no sense) stops it, has a standoff with casino security, and leaves.

Then he just walks out of the casino and steals a car to make his getaway. Note, to this point he’s technically done nothing illegal. Except stealing that hat. And hitting that guy. Anyway, he leaves and the police are there to chase him immediately. He makes zips in and out of traffic knowing what’s going to happen and then at the last second tries to get across some train tracks before a speeding train goes by but gets creamed by it instead AND THE MOVIE IS OVER YAY!!

Oh wait, that was a vision. Now we see literally exactly the same things happen except this time he beats the train. But he didn’t do anything different. He just made it this time. Ugh.

He drives the stolen car into his own fucking garage and then has a pretty forced conversation with Columbo, who is his father? Uncle? Manservant? It’s not really clear, but since Columbo is only in this one scene it doesn’t really matter. More on that later.

Gorgeous Ginger Government Agent shows up and they talk and then that turns out to be a vision too and he leaves before she shows up. The whole vision thing is getting really annoying.

He makes it to a diner where, at 8am he orders a martini and waits for 12 year old Jessica Biel. Apparently he’s had some vision that’s “way beyond the usual 2 minutes” about her.

Not turning that one into a sex joke either.

She walks in followed by her douchebag boyfriend. Nic goes through several iterations of trying to figure out how to make this underaged girl like him and it turns out the winning try is letting the boyfriend punch him in the face. I kind if wish the boyfriend would stick around to do that more, but he doesn’t. He leaves because of, you know, reasons.

So Nic and Baby Jessica make a connection and she offers him a ride (again, no sex joke) and they end up at a motel together where they totally have a moment and then have sex, which should be a joke since he looks like he’s about 50 and she looks 12, but isn’t. It happens. Mostly off screen thank dog.

In the morning Gorgeous Ginger Government Agent has a big plan to get Nic but he jumps off a cliff instead, and then does a dramatic turn to the left to avoid a sniper bullet, and then saves her life.

In return, she puts him in a chair in a windowless room with clamps holding his eyes open and networks news on TV. Cruel and unusual punishment, I think they call that. He sees ahead to the terrorists…

Oh yeah, there’s terrorists after him too, did I mention that? Not that it matters, they are even more inept than the government in this film. They have a nuke and they want to use it, Gorgeous Ginger Government Agent is trying to stop them and that’s why she’s been after him. This is actually a pretty big plot point, but it literally doesn’t matter, and I’ll tell you why in a moment.

So he fast forwards to the terrorists killing Young Jessica and he agrees to help without the clamps.

From this point it becomes pretty much “SWAT team taking directions from Nic” as he guides them in fighting the terrorists. They save the girl and go to the docks where there is a huge shoot out and then just when you think the day is safe Nic says “oh no I made mistake! I MADE A MISTAKE!” and the bomb goes off and everyone s killed and the movie ends.

Except then we’re back at the motel with him and Young Jessica in bed still. Remember how he lasts longer with her than with anyone else? Well he can see farther into the future with her too (ok, I had to do it once, sue me).

He walks outside and meetsGorgeous Ginger and they ride off to fight the terrorists and the movie actually ends.

Pretty much the only thing this movie has going for it is Jessica Biel (who is, as usual, gorgeous) and Julianne Moore (who can do basically no wrong) but even they are hampered by the utterly ridiculous script. Nic Cage is at his lazy best here, delivering lines with energy that ranges from “asleep” to “casually disinterested”.

Hell, I left out a major plot point and it didn’t matter because in the end the whole movie is a big feint anyway. They could literally have gone back to frame one and … well that would have been a little less annoying actually, just end the movie by starting from scratch. And what was the point of Columbo being there? He wasn’t in peril to give Nic motivation and they didn’t come back to him at the happy ending, he was just there because they needed a reason to delay Nic for a few minutes.

Pointless. Just like the rest of the movie.

Be sure to check back next week when the MWBM Nic-Cage-A-Thon continues. What am I watching? Well, don’t put your guesses in a time capsule, there’s a perfectly good comment form to use.

Rating: 2/10 (1 for Jessica Biel, 1 for Julianne Moore, 2 for Philip K. Dick, -2 for Nicholas Cage)

Matt Watches Bad Movies is a weekly feature in which Matt watches a bad film so you don’t have to. If you have suggestions of something terrible you’ve seen, or haven’t seen but are morbidly curious about, feel free to tell me about it in the comments or via twitter @posterboy81

Episode Twenty Seven: Children of Men, Rock of Ages and Prometheus

This week we’re sitting down to talk about all the news that is news and three films: Children of Men, Rock of Ages, and Prometheus.

Note: major spoiler warnings for Prometheus.

We also discuss the shiny new Microsoft Surface and the best new show on Canadian TV, Continuum.

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Like what you hear? Don’t like what you hear? Tell us! email at comments at, leave comments on this episodes page, and you can also follow us on twitter: @ManBitesWonders is Simon and @posterboy81 is Matt