Category Archives: movie review
Long before the teen angst pangs of Twilight or the fever heat of True Blood, director Kathryn Bigelow had an inkling of what a southern-fried vampire romance could be. Near Dark delivered on her vision of hillbilly vamps, an eighties cult classic that’s hard to believe is coming up on its thirtieth anniversary. The cinephiles at TIFF have dug out an archival print, so this Friday, July 21st, Bigelow’s blood-sucking hicks will rise again.
As always, I’ve been playing catch up with a few films that have been sent my way for review. Here are three – two worth watching, and one must avoid:
CHIPS (Warner Brothers) – This big screen film based on the beloved tv series from the late 70s got zero audience and poor reviews when it was released earlier this year, but guess what: this Dax Sheppard-directed film, that co-stars Sheppard and Michael Pena is a hell of a lot of fun. The two have genuine chemistry together as reluctant highway patrol partners who wind up as friends, as they work to take down corrupt members of the California Highway Patrol, led by the always entertaining Vincent D’Onofrio. The humour is fairly low brow, but there are some genuine laughs, and the cast definitely give it their all. While far from a classic, CHIPS deserved better than it got in theaters, and now is the perfect time to catch up with it. And I don’t think you’re going to hear a better line all year than “Shut up and turn down the fucking Toto.”
If you like thrillers, genre-bending capers, femmes fatales and shady figures wrapped up in criminal exploits where no one comes out on top, chances are you’re a film noir fan through and through. Maybe you’ve seen Chinatown ten times, and you think you’ve got the plot of The Maltese Falcon figured out. Maybe you have. But a jaded noir aficionado could do a lot worse than to check out some of the gritty gems in TIFF’s upcoming program Panique: French Crime Classics. It’s one dark amuse-bouche after another, a feast of chilling misanthropy and malice for the summer. “Cinematic A/C, Gallic style,” quips James Quandt, Senior Programmer, and he’s not wrong. These flicks get in your bones.
This summer, TIFF’s having a crime wave. French crime to be exact. They’re mounting two programmes, both bursting with criminal intent. I’ll take a look at the second bunch next week, a brilliant collection of flicks called Panique: French Crime Classics. Opening today is a different but related programme, Army of Shadows: The Films of Jean Pierre Melville. It’s a great ride, too, full of cool noirs and hard-boiled thrillers, from the best director named Melville that most definitely did not write Moby Dick.
I’ve had a ton of Blu-rays and digital movies come my way the last few weeks, and I’ve wanted to highlight a few of them, in case you’re looking for something to watch this weekend or over the next few weeks.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (HBO Films): I’m not going to sugarcoat this. I’d never heard the name Henrietta Lacks or her amazing story before. This was simply one of those films sent my way which I thought I’d give a chance. I’m certainly glad I did, as the legacy of Ms. Lacks is remarkable – she was an African American woman who, in 1951, had her cancer cells immortalized in the HeLa line of cells. Basically, these cells have been used countless times in major medical breakthroughs over the last 60 years. Sadly, nobody asked Ms. Lacks if her cells could be taken or used, and neither her nor her family ever received any sort of compensation for what essentially is her immortality.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is based on the book by Rebecca Skloot, who is portrayed in the film by Rose Byrne, who wrote a series of articles on Ms. Lacks and her family. Oprah Winfrey plays Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, and is absolutely captivating on screen. Deborah is hesitant to share her mother’s story with any reporter, and Oprah delivers the character as guarded but loving. It’s a bravura performance that can’t help but overshadow the rest of the film, which sometimes gets muddled as it moves across various timelines. However, Byrne and Winfrey have a great chemistry together, and help The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks rise above some of its pacing and script issues.
The voice-over in the beginning of City of Tiny Lights, the latest film from director Pete Travis (Dredd, Tesseract), might seem at odds with its hand-held cinematography and the gritty scenery of London, but as soon as Tommy Akhtar opens the door of his second-story office to a young woman named Melody, it starts making sense.
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There are those who might not be aware of “Nordic Noir,” a term used to describe the recent influx of Nordic genre films and television, but if the quality of genre fare coming out of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland continues to remain high, that should change soon. The latest film added to this list is Lake Bodom, from director Taneli Mustonen, who co-wrote the script with Aleksi Hyvärinen.
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Man. I guess people were so depressed in the seventies they’d try just about anything. As we live through a fast-forward remix of the Watergate scandal, it’s interesting to take a look back at those strange, hungover times. The Commune is a Danish film set in the seventies, so a rather different milieu than Nixon’s America. But societal malaise was pervasive in Western culture at that time. From the talented but uneven director Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration, The Hunt), The Commune is a loosely autobiographical film of his own experiences growing up in that era. It’s a spare tale of a marriage pushed too far, veering into melodrama.
Anyone who watches Mr. Robot knows how hypnotic Rami Malek’s presence can be. He’s mastered an aura of complicated blankness, his glinting, buggy eyes set deep in his flatly inexpressive face. Malek calls on that same bright, disturbed facade to propel the shambolic, disjointed thriller Buster’s Mal Heart from director Sarah Adina Smith. A head-scratcher with a twisty split narrative, the film’s an uneven study of one man’s descent into madness, held together by the force of Malek’s commanding distance.
There was a time when The Ring was the scariest film franchise going.
Based on the Japanese novel Ringu, written by Kôji Suzuki and its own cinematic adaptation by Hideo Nakata, the 2002 film introduced North American audiences to the character of Samara and a director named Gore Verbiniski, who would go on to spearhead the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise for Disney. The film was a box office success and scared the pants of audiences, so of course there was a sequel. The Ring Two didn’t make as much money as the first, even with Japanese director Najata at the helm, and the franchise was put on ice.
Until this year, and the third entry in the series, Rings. Which didn’t do very well at the box office and which critics hated.