Category Archives: movie review

Somber on the High Seas: Haemoo Sinks Under Its Own Weight

Genre-bending is a real Korean specialty. From the family drama monster movie hybrid of Bong Joon-Ho’s The Host to the madcap martial arts western of Kim Jee-Woon’s The Good, The Bad, The Weird, films like these turn on a dime. You just never know what to expect. One big Korean film at the Toronto International Film Festival this year is Haemoo, directed by Shim Sung-bo. Relatively unknown, the first-time director co-wrote Memories of Murder in 2003 with Bong Joon-Ho, who returns the favour here producing and co-writing Haemoo. Not bad having the director of Snowpiercer in your corner. It isn’t all smooth sailing with Shim Sung-bo’s debut, though. Climb aboard, matey, and I’ll tell you the tale.

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Got That Swing: Bang Bang Baby and Songs She Wrote About People She Knows

The super-stylized Bang Bang Baby follows Stepphy (Jane Levy) and her dreams of musical escape

Finding new talent is a thrill, that delectable shock when you hit on something that speeds your pulse and your synapses and says, “Hey, bet you’ve never seen it done quite like this before.” Getting that thrill is what the Discovery Programme at the Toronto International Film Festival is all about. It’s a showcase of forty films featuring the best new directors from around the world. There’s a bunch of Canadian films in the Discovery Programme, cuz hey there’s nothing wrong with a homer. Two of them happen to have a lot in common. Both Bang Bang Baby and Songs She Wrote About People She Knows are musicals with a hesitant lead finding her way to her dreams. Now those dreams are pesky things, and they never quite turn out the way you expect.

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It Follows: Heartfelt Horror Mines the Past for Something New

David Robert Mitchell’s throwback horror film It Follows is surprisingly fresh. And creepy.

Passing on the curse is a time-honoured horror tradition. Through an innocent act, the victim unwittingly brings a malevolent force down on themselves. The only chance for salvation is to make someone else the next target. That’s the plot for The Ring (2002) and its Asian originators, and it stretches back to Jacques Tourneur’s occult Night of the Demon (1957), which in turn takes literary inspiration from M.R. James’s short story Casting the Runes. (The Stephen King/Richard Bachman classic Thinner is another haunting example.) With his new film It Follows (2014) at this year’s TIFF, American indie filmmaker David Robert Mitchell turns the conceit to a sexually transmitted serial haunting. He takes that idea and runs with it, or rather, walks very… creepily… slowly. Now take a look around. We don’t have much time. But you need to know this.

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The Art of the Small: TIFF’s Shorts Cuts Canada

Matthew Rankin’s Mynarski Death Plummet is just one of the visually arresting films in the Shorts Cuts Canada programme

Everyone loves a big canvas. Directors can hardly resist getting all that vision up there on screen, going crazy Coppola-style waxing operatic and napalming the jungle for their personal Apocalypse Now. Lately, the push for longer movies is back, with blockbusters like Captain America: The Winter SoldierDawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy, and X-Men: Days of Future Past all clocking in over two hours long. Transformers: Age of Extinction is 165 minutes, fer chrissakes! But there’s another way. For the intrepid, those just starting out in film, and the craftspeople dedicated to the art of the small, short films are where it’s at. Over the next few days I’ll be posting interviews with a few of the many filmmakers in the Short Cuts Canada programme. Just like their lengthier siblings, these movies go anywhere, from comedy to horror, from surreal animation to the mundane grit of real life. So here’s to the miniaturists. Let’s get small after the jump.

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Doubling Down 2: More of TIFF’s Best Sequels

A few weeks back I took a look at a great sequels program TIFF is running in Toronto: Second Coming: Cinema’s Greatest Sequels. And sure enough, like a Hollywood mogul counting box office receipts with a wicked glint in his eye, that Pavlovian response kicks in. More! There must be more sequels, with more guns, and more villains. And Megan Fox! No, not Megan Fox. Leave her out of this. Forever maybe. But give us another hit of those truly awesome sequels, back to the well, one more sweet, sweet time…

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Friendhood: Double Play hangs with James Benning and Richard Linklater

Double Play follows directors Richard Linklater & James Benning and their charming friendship

There’s really two schools of indie. That’s what you realize watching director Gabe Klinger’s Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater (2013). The documentary is charming and laid-back, much like the two directors it spends time with. Richard Linklater is emblematic of the, forgive me, mainstream of indie filmmakers. He isn’t wholly part of the Hollywood machine, but his films pick up studio distribution. He pushes at the boundaries of conventional narrative with films like the 1991 plotless classic Slacker and his current hit Boyhood (2014). Then there’s truly avant garde filmmaking, as indie as you can get. James Benning follows the just a man and a movie camera tradition, experimenting with film form to make a radically personal, abstract cinema. Two very different directors, but good friends, with more in common than you’d think.

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The Man in the Meme: To Be Takei

Admired and admiring, George Takei reveals a few of his many sides in the fun doc To Be Takei

Oh my. There’s so much to George Takei. Part of the original, legendary Star Trek crew, beloved as helmsman Lieutenant Sulu of the starship Enterprise. Countless TV appearances, on everything from Perry Mason to Heroes. Outspoken activist, speaking out on Japanese internment and also gay marriage. Septuagenarian internet phenomenon, plying memes with the very best. And that unending feud with Bill Shatner. He’s an original who’s come even more into his own at such a late stage in his career, as the new documentary from director Jennifer M. Kroot To Be Takei (2014) attests. Beam over to the other side, and we’ll see all Takei’s been up to.

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Doubling Down: TIFF’s Best Sequels

With the release of a 4K digital restoration of the classic The Godfather Part II (1974), TIFF is putting on a great program as well. Second Coming: Cinema’s Greatest Sequels is exactly that, a look at some ground-breaking films and the even better sequels that followed them. While sequelitis can be a terrible Hollywood affliction, with no known cure for each successive Transformers mutation, sometimes those Part 2s turn out to be pretty awesome in their own right. Join me on the flipside, as the sequel strikes back.

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