Category Archives: movie review

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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Death of the Expected: The Films of Robert Altman

One of the most prolific and truly independent filmmakers of all-time, Robert Altman (right)

Prolific, rambunctious, and one of the true independents of cinema, Robert Altman was the kind of director Hollywood hated. From his 1970 breakthrough M*A*S*H to his final film, the elegiac A Prairie Home Companion (2006), his movies were big, sometimes unwieldy, ensemble pieces rather than star-driven, bursting with characters and ideas and dialogue that overlapped like ripples in a stream. Toronto filmmaker Ron Mann just had a special screening at TIFF of his upcoming documentary Altman (2014), and TIFF is putting on a retrospective of some of the legendary director’s best known films. Always surprising, Altman’s instincts were the antithesis of our blockbuster era. They made for great movies, even when they weren’t hits. Much like Tim Robbins’s movie exec in The Player (1992), very often Altman got away with murder.

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Orphans of the Storm: Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are the languorous undead and effortlessly cool in Only Lovers Left Alive

Few directors instantly conjure an image of cool aloofness in the way that Jim Jarmusch does. The man, in his dark clothes with his shock of white hair in a spiky pompadour, is probably as famous for his image as for his work. Such is the immortality that appearing on The Simpsons gets you. And yet the work is at least as distinctive. Slow, laconic stories about drifters and outsiders unspool inexorably as we share their reveries and defeats, and the occasional small triumph. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) is an interesting shift, as he turns his attention from his usual pantheon of beautiful losers to the immortal thirst of vampires.

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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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