Category Archives: movie review
BASE jumping is back, baby. The acronym stands for Building, Antenna, Span and Earth. In practice, it means strapping on a parachute and hurling oneself off a tall, fixed place, whether a skyscraper, communications tower, bridge or forbidding mountain cliff. The rush is real. And so is the folly. As part of the promo leading up to the Pan Am Games in Toronto this summer, a duo of BASE jumpers leapt off the CN Tower a few weeks ago. Footage of the feat will be part of the Games’ opening ceremony. At the other end of the spectrum, veteran jumpers Dean Potter and Graham Hunt died in May BASE jumping with wingsuits in Yosemite National Park. Between success and failure, the experience is truly extreme. Marah Strauch’s Sunshine Superman (2015) takes up the life of one of the sport’s most charismatic pioneers, Carl Boenish (rhymes with “danish”). Let’s take a look over the edge, but careful, it’s a long, long way down.
Great artists are kinda fucking nuts. They don’t always seem that way. Sometimes they come across completely normal, as normal as you or I. (Well, you anyway.) Sure, some have their tics and rattles, but it’s the work that really shows where their compulsions lie. To look at his work, Hans Rudolf Giger must’ve been batshit crazy with all manner of body and technological loathing. His prodigious output is among the most distinctive art of the late twentieth century, from paintings to sculptures to the all-time creepiest xenomorph ever to smash its double-hinged projectile jaws into a human skull in Alien (1979). The documentary Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World (2014) finds Giger in the final fade of his twilight years, ailing but affable, presiding over his legacy with the creation of the Giger Museum in his home Switzerland. It’s an uneven doc, but Giger’s shadows are impossibly compelling. Grab a ticket. If the ride makes you sick, well, isn’t that what you paid for?
Biff Bam Pop’s It’s All Connected: Golden Glitter & An Underlying Darkness-The Legacy of Tony Stark In The MCU (Part 2)
Part one of Biff Bam Pop’s It’s All Connected: Golden Glitter & An Underlying Darkness-The Legacy of Tony Stark In The MCU took a close look at the similarities between father and son, Howard Stark and Tony Stark, including their personalities, business interests and shared legacies. At the same time, it laid the groundwork for the younger Stark’s role as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s greatest purveyor of malice.
Tony Stark and his Stark Industries conglomerate create weapons of mass destruction. This is known.
Midway through the first Iron Man (2008) film, after being tortured and, after seeing his company’s products sold to terrorist organizations and used for evil purposes, Stark comes to a marked and important turning point in his life wherein he states: “I don’t want a body count to be our only legacy.” An altruistic statement, to be certain, by a man who’s bravado is only surpassed by his bank account. Still, it’s a significant distinction to make that, at this time, Stark truly sets out on the path to becoming heroic.
But in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, everything that Tony Stark creates for noble, upstanding and heroic purposes always gets twisted in ways that transform that sense of benevolence into objects of mankind’s destruction.
Mia Donovan’s cerebral Deprogrammed, is a film about empathy. She shows the viewer what can happen when interpersonal understanding fails. This Hot Docs 2015 documentary shows the audience that what you don’t know is sometimes more important than what you do. Most importantly, we are asked where to “draw the line between personal expression and undue influence.”
Savage and beautiful, Toa Fraser’s The Dead Lands (2014) is a gripping warrior’s tale. A tribal chief’s young son finds himself the only survivor of a massacre, and vows vengeance. But to have any hope of repaying the grim blood debt, he must enlist the help of a mad warrior, feared by all. So begins a remarkable Maori action epic, featuring the little known art of mau rakau, a Maori martial art based in part on the brutal wielding of a serrated paddle called a patu. Kind of like a nasty ping pong paddle, properly wielded it can slit your throat or bash your brains right the fuck out. I was fortunate to be able to interview director Fraser, from a safe distance. Let’s leap into the fray, after the jump.
There’s a traveling retrospective of Ruben Östlund’s work going around; it was in New York earlier this year, and lands at TIFF in Toronto starting tomorrow. While four films is a bit light for a retro, the Swedish director does have a definite perspective, and seems on the verge of something. The same words keep cropping up to describe Östlund’s films: unsettling, provocative, audacious, perceptive. And the critics aren’t wrong. This guy likes pushing your buttons. Hard. He knows where they are and he goes after them with slow determination. So with his static camera and glacial skewering of public mores is Östlund a sadist or a satirist? You say tomahto, I say let’s make some soup after the jump.
You know how it goes. We all do it. The barista gets your name wrong, it’s awful. Rogers raises their internet rates again, it’s terrible. Kanye acts like an idiot at an awards show, again again. It’s appalling. But really, these complaints are the frills of cushy Western living. We’re pretty lucky to live in a society where we can freely bitch about these things (just don’t talk about the environment if you’re a Canadian government scientist, but nevermind). And it’s both astounding and so very depressing to see how easily such cherished freedoms can be tossed aside by governments ostensibly founded on those very principles. What’s awful is being persecuted for your beliefs. What’s terrible is being unlawfully imprisoned for years without representation, a trial or even formal charges. What’s appalling is being held prisoner by a nation founded on basic rights, when that nation itself acknowledges your innocence, but then lacks the will to set you free. That truly is absurd, and it’s the unsettling reality that the documentary Uyghurs: Prisoners of the Absurd sets out to reveal.
I was fortunate enough to watch a Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2014 Australian film called Predestination. This science fiction story is about time travel and it was written and directed by Spierig brothers, Michael and Peter. The film is based on a short story called “All You Zombies” written by Robert A. Heinlein and stars Ethan Hawke, as a Temporal Agent (time cop) on the search for a terrorist known as the Fizzle Bomber. Noah Taylor plays Mr. Robertson, the head of the Temporal Bureau and, the fabulous Sarah Snook plays a male writer named John. Using the pen name of “Unmarried Mother”, John is famous for writing confessional testimonials in a magazine. Sarah Snook gets to play two different versions of her character, starting out as female and ending up as a male. Sound confusing? Thanks to the wonderful acting of the two main stars, I was able to keep up to all the time jumps and gender switches. I was very excited to speak with Sarah Snook about her role in Predestination. Read the rest of this entry
TIFF’s got a retrospective of Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-Hsien on right now. Which could make you swoon, if you love lush cinematography, oblique story-telling and very long takes with a free-wandering camera. Or it could be as exciting as a long night with your second cousin’s family, driving around aimlessly, wishing these people you barely know actually had something to say. Beautiful, meditative, complex, tedious, distant, and meandering are all words that could apply to Hou’s mesmeric take on movies. Sometimes the spell works. Others… Join me after the jump to find where you fall on the Hou scale.
Heard of her? Probably. Name a film she’s done? Not so easy. Barbara Stanwyck earned a deserved spot in the A-List of classic Hollywood celebrity in her day. She played in 85 films over the course of 38 years, a Nick Cage-like pace punctuated with terrific range from comedies to tear-jerkers to hard-boiled film noir. She was nominated four times for Best Lead Actress but never won (though she did take home several Emmys for her later work in television), and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. To contemporary eyes she’s in a bit of a fog, not as clear a classic figure as the sharp-witted Katharine Hepburn or the tough gravitas of Bette Davis. Part of that haze is due to Stanwyck’s chameleonic range, the ur Meryl Streep if you will, as she tackled so many different kinds of roles with fluid aplomb. For the next two months, TIFF Cinematheque shines a light on Stanwyck’s wide-ranging career, revealing a fierce, independent icon from a bygone era. Bold and brassy, she’s all the reason they’re calling the program Ball of Fire.