Category Archives: movie review

The Ghost of an Idea: The Films of Sara Driver

Alfred Molina and Maggie O’Neil might find each other, with a little ghostly help in Sara Driver’s charmingly offbeat When Pigs Fly

An escaped mental patient (Suzanne Fletcher) places stones in the mouths of bodies she finds laid out by a roadside accident. A woman translating an ancient Chinese scroll sees her fingertips begin to bleed, mimicking the story in the fairy tale she’s just transcribed. A down-and-out jazzer’s life changes oddly for the better when he’s haunted by two ghosts tragically tied to an antique rocking chair. Each scenario is unlikely, unsettling and fantastical. And each one is central to the films of 80s director Sara Driver. A sometime collaborator with Jim Jarmusch, Driver’s work had moderate acclaim but then disappeared. Her first film, You Are Not I (1981), was lost in a New Jersey warehouse fire shortly after its successful festival run. The negatives were rediscovered in 2009 in the Tangiers apartment of Paul Bowles, the author of the story the film is based on, and now TIFF is showing her work in a mini-retrospective. Turn the page if you dare, brave reader, or okay, just give ‘er a click…

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Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes dominated the box office this past weekend, almost sending the Transformers into its own Age of Extinction. Just as it did in the 1970s, it seems the country is gripped in Planet of the Apes mania once again. Biff Bam Pop! contributor Jim Knipp got out to the movies this weekend and saw it for himself. Check out his thoughts, after the jump.

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Saturday At The Movies – Justice League: War


Here we go again, it’s the secret origin of the Justice League, yes, again. This time, it’s an animated version of the most recent version, the New 52 version by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. But where’s Aquaman? And what’s wrong with Captain Marvel, ahem, I mean Shazam? Check out my thoughts on Justice League: War after the jump.

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Haunted Future: The Anime Brilliance of Mamoru Oshii

Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell looms large over contemporary sci-fi

Take Blade Runner and draw a line from the 80s replicant noir to the 90s non-consensual machine-induced hallucinations of The Matrix. Somewhere on that line there’s a node, running backwards and forwards, channeling its influences and distributing them back out again, recombining them into a fearsome future hurtling toward us like a heavy calibre bullet. That perfect coalescing point is Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell (1995), the cyberpunk anime classic that had tremendous influence on the Wachowski brothers, Steven Spielberg A.I. and Minority Report, and James Cameron’s Avatar. It’s the film that kicks off TIFF’s retrospective Techno/Human: The Films of Mamoru Oshii, and boy does it pack a punch.

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A New Hope for the Navajo: Star Wars Strikes Back

Just this past June 4th, Chester Nez died. He was the last of the Navajo code talkers, one of twenty-nine heroes during WWII who developed a special code out of his Navajo language. Owing to its unique syntax, spoken tones, and lack of written language, Navajo was perfect to keep Japanese intelligence at bay during the war. How can you crack a code with no key, a language known only to insiders? Chester Nez was a hero (dive into the code talker story with the movie Windtalkers, or maybe don’t, it’s a mixed bag). But now the Navajo language is fading away, their youth uninterested in learning their ancestral language. And so it falls to Luke Skywalker and Star Wars to give the Navajo a new hope, to rediscover their native tongue with a more familiar cultural touchstone. How did this happen? Is the Force strong with this one? After the jump, the answers are.

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Balms Away: Burt’s Buzz Homes In On An Unlikely Icon

There’s no Aunt Jemima. Not a real one anyway. The idea came from a song in old minstrel shows, that homey old aunt often played by a white man in black face. Yikes. Somehow in the 1890s, her image consolidated as the face of pancakes. A brand was born.

Then there was Colonel Sanders, a real man with a real white pointed goatee. He even sold fried chicken, franchising KFC in the fifties till the business got too big and he sold it off. They kept his image on the buckets and in commercials, the aging southern gentleman forever tied to his lip-smacking blend of herbs and spices.

And there’s this guy, the one up there. He’s real, too, and they just made a movie about him. Directed by Jody Shapiro, Burt’s Buzz is the unlikely story of Burt Shavitz, the hippie beekeeper who missed out on millions, but became an icon anyway, his name smeared on countless people’s lips.
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Marty Picks Polski: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema

Martin Scorsese got his first exposure to Polish cinema at film school. Its heady stew of Italian neo-realism, French New Wave, and German Expressionism was a quintessential mix of European styles, but with a distinctive rhythm, humour and pessimism all its own. To say these films had a huge impact on Scorsese’s own development as a filmmaker would be, like, duh. Luckily we can say more than that, as TIFF is presenting the fantastic full traveling program of Martin Scorese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema throughout the month of June. Join me after the jump for a look at Kino Polska!

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Saturday At The Movies: Monsters (2010)

Monsters in monster movies.

The wolf man, the vampire, the swamp beast, the thing from another planet, the mutant entity. All of these creatures – and so many more – who doesn’t love them? The problem is that, in film, they are often derivative of those that have been seen in movies before. Sadly, they are also rarely done well.

At their essence, monsters are metaphors for the things we, as human beings living out our relatively short existences on this planet, fear. They are what we don’t want in our lives: hardship, pain or disease. They are what we can never hope to truly comprehend: hatred, death, and, sometimes, even love.

Monsters force us to acknowledge these elements in our own lives and, in acknowledging them, force us to understand and come to terms with our own, primal, fears and misgiving.

In a way that was very understated, very delicate and very human, that’s exactly what the 2010 low budget indie film, Monsters, did.

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