Sent From a Turkey Coma

The big studio pictures opened earlier in the week to get a jump on Thanksgiving, but there are still some smaller titles opening today. Let’s take a couple of minutes to think about them as I digest what was surely the greatest meal of my week.

The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young: The infamous, famously complicated Tennessee marathon is celebrated perhaps a little too enthusiastically in this Hot Docs selection, now opening commercially. Susan is unimpressed.

James White: Josh Mond’s lo-fi indie stars Christopher Abbott as a young man forced to confront his own irresponsibility when his mother (Cynthia Nixon) gets sick. Glenn was riveted.

Requiem for the American Dream: In which Noam Chomsky explains at length how Western society is being undermined by the super-rich financial sector, and Susan can’t argue with his points.

Trumbo: Bryan Cranston leads a terrific cast as the vainglorious screenwriter who engineered a way around the blacklist in Jay Roach’s Hollywood docudrama. But the movie’s a little safer than its star.

There, you’re good to go. And if you’ll excuse me, I have Black Friday crowds to avoid …

The Moustache Man

It is always delightful to talk to Bryan Cranston about anything, but it was a double-plus-good pleasure to chat with him at TIFF about Trumbo, because he clearly had a blast making it and couldn’t stop from doing the voice in casual conversation.

You’ll find that interview in this week’s NOW, as well as my look at the Blood in the Snow film festival. I also review a bunch of movies, but we’ll get to that tomorrow. Right now I’m off to New York to honor my own Thanksgiving tradition of eating far too much turkey at The Dutch. God bless us, every one.

Holiday Fare

First things first: I’m returning to the Pop Culture Panel on CBC’s Q this morning, so tune into Radio 1 at 10 am local time to hear me yammer on about Jessica Jones, advance screenings of Star Wars and whatever else they throw at me. And if you’ve already missed it, you can listen to it right here.

Also: Three major studio pictures open today in advance of American Thanksgiving. I’m covering all of them in this week’s NOW, but the reviews won’t be online until later tonight. So here’s a handy preview!

Creed: Nine years after Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone’s first franchise gets a shot of new blood from Fruitvale Station‘s Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan, who find a new way into the story — and get an unexpectedly great performance out of the big lug.

The Good Dinosaur: Pixar’s latest feels like it’s been worked, reworked and re-reworked until the core idea’s been smoothed away into nothing. It has some great moments, so I can’t write it off entirely, and kids will love it because dinosaurs, but it’s the studio’s biggest mess since Cars.

Victor Frankenstein: James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe have a grand old time playing the mad doctor and his faithful (to a point) henchman, but Paul McGuigan’s cacophonous reimagining of the horror touchstone gets away from him in the last act.

And there you go! All set for the holiday weekend! Doesn’t it feel nice?

The Family That Sings Together

This week’s episode of Someone Else’s Movie arrives to a bold new world — a world where people have heard of the show beyond this blog and my Twitter account. Our dozen(s) of new subscribers will be expecting something great, and I’m happy to provide it.

This week, filmmaker and author Nelson George discussing Sam O’Steen’s Sparkle, a blaxploitation riff on the rise of Diana Ross and the Supremes that became a touchstone for at least one kid growing up in New York in the ’70s.

You can find it in all the usual places:  iTunes, Stitcher, direct from the SEMcast site. Just listen! It’s good for you!

The Last Battle

Fewer than a dozen films open this weekend, and next week is relatively thin because of the Thanksgiving blockbusters — so I get a little breathing space. That’s real nice.

Brooklyn: Saiorse Ronan’s performance as an Irish lass who emigrates to America in the early 1950s has been building some serious Oscar buzz since Sundance; I just wish the film around her was stronger. Glenn was a bit more forgiving.

Drone: Too many documentaries package their message in self-important urgency. Here’s one that simply lays its cards on the table, knowing that’s enough to scare the crap out of you.

Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World: The peninsula of islands off the coast of British Columbia, and the people who live there, are given a most admiring tribute by filmmaker Charles Wilkinson. And I can see why.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2: The final chapter! The last battle! About goddamn time! Seriously, Jennifer Lawrence is always a live-wire performer, but there’s no reason this movie needed to be two and a quarter hours long. Susan is similarly exasperated.

In Jackson Heights: At the age of 85, Frederick Wiseman’s latest demonstrates the stamina and an empathy of a filmmaker a third his age, capturing a Queens neighborhood in all of its messy, good-natured glory.

Man Up: As two random Londoners who find themselves enjoying a most convoluted date, Lake Bell and Simon Pegg are so great together that you’ll forgive an awful lot of the script’s sillier notions.

The Night Before: Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt reunite with 50/50 director Jonathan Levine — and bring Anthony Mackie along — for a goofy holiday romp in which ridiculous things collide with serious things, just like life. (Less likely to happen in life: General Zod being the weed guy for the Green Hornet, the Falcon and Robin.)

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict: In which Susan appreciates Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s appreciation of her subject — but only to a point.

Secret in Their Eyes: Juan Jose Campanella’s Oscar-winning political thriller was so slick that a Hollywood remake was inevitable; Susan says Billy Ray does a decent job, but the result is still a pale imitation.

And that will carry us into the weekend. Stay warm, everyone!

Armor Up

469735950In this week’s NOW I have a Q&A with Krysten Ritter about her shiny new Marvel series Jessica Jones, which goes live on Friday. And I run through the options at this year’s Regent Park Film Festival.

I also take a look at Michael McNamara’s The Trick with the Gun, which has its Toronto premiere at the Bloor tonight before going live on Vimeo On Demand tomorrow. (Michael is also this week’s guest on Someone Else’s Movie, discussing the intersection of Dylan and documentary that is D.A. Pennebaker’s Dont Look Back.)

And if you’re not utterly sick of my voice at this point, you might want to check out my appearance on Toronto Mike’d, which went up earlier this week. An hour and three quarters of me talking about myself. Believe it or not, that isn’t something I do every day …

Onward and Upward

Well, this is amazing: Precisely eight months (and 37 episodes) after launching Someone Else’s Movie, we got our first official review.  The AV Club’s Ben Cannon included it in yesterday’s Podmass roundup, and said some really lovely things about the show. (You have to scroll down a bit, but it’s there.)

I am frankly delighted, both by Cannon’s praise and by the ridiculous uptick in downloads that resulted — and I hope our new listeners stick around for this week’s episode, which features Toronto documentarian Michael McNamara on D.A. Pennebaker’s essential Bob Dylan portrait Dont Look Back.

The timing couldn’t be better, really: Michael’s new doc The Trick with the Gun has its Toronto premiere this Thursday at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, and Dont Look Back arrives on Blu-ray and DVD next week in a much-anticipated Criterion edition. So everybody wins, really.

Check it out! Subscribe on  iTunes, grab it on Stitcher or just download it straight from the SEMcast site. And if you’ve been listening all along, thanks for your support. There’s some really great stuff coming up, too.

Second-Level Gloom

This is a fairly serious release weekend, as megaplex owners brace themselves for the last battle of Katnip Evernote next Friday. Let’s plunge in.

By the Sea: This minor-key drama about an American couple facing middle age in the South of France would likely be taken a lot more seriously if writer-director Angelina Jolie Pitt had cast someone other than herself and her real-life husband in the leads … and maybe if she’d let someone else direct it. But there are some excellent things floating around inside of it, not the least of which is a fantastic Brad Pitt performance.

Entertainment: Rick Alverson’s latest is a deceptively deadpan study of a comedian (Gregg Turkington, playing a version of his monstrous Neil Hamburger character) shambling through a tour that feels like a season in hell.

The Games Maker: Rad describes Juan Pablo Buscarini’s fantasy as a low-budget Harry Potter knockoff, complete with the other Fiennes. I am not worried about having missed it.

Heist: Scott Caan Mann’s robbery picture feels like a straight-to-VOD thriller with an unexpected infusion of wackadoo invention … which allows the likes of Robert De Niro, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Gina Carano and Dave Bautista to have a little more fun than you might expect.

Kilo Two Bravo: Paul Katis’ directorial debut (released in the UK as Kajaki: The True Story) turns the ordeal of British soldiers trapped in an Afghan minefield into an almost unbearably intense thriller. So, you’ve been warned.

Love: Gaspar Noe’s latest provocation is a romantic drama featuring actors performing on-camera sex that sounds an awful lot like Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs, but without the music and in 3D. Paul was not impressed.

Love the Coopers: The first salvo in the All-Star Generational Christmas Comedy genre features Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Olivia Wilde and Marisa Tomei, among others. Phil was not enraptured.

Man Vs.: Chris Diamantopoulos is Man; what exactly he’s versus turns out to be pretty lame.

Mavis!: As in “Staples”. As in “legend’. And Susan says Jessica Edwards’ documentary will make you a believer, if you aren’t already. Although I cannot imagine how you couldn’t be.

The Reflektor Tapes: Kahlil Joseph’s rambling, pointless Arcade Fire collage will disappoint pretty much anyone looking to do more than get high and listen to a mix tape.

Spotlight: Tom McCarthy’s electrifying docudrama about the Boston Globe’s exposure of an act of stunning bad faith by the Catholic Church is up there with All the President’s Men in its portrayal of journalism and its narrative economy. Also, Mark Ruffalo and Stanley Tucci are the bomb. 

The 33: Antonio Banderas and Lou Diamond Phillips are among the eponymous Chilean miners trapped 23,000 miles 2,300 feet underground (see comments) after an accident in Patricia Riggan’s docudrama. Jose is not a fan.

Wrecker: Apparently this opens at the Kingsway today. First time I even heard of it was when I saw the ad in this week’s paper.

So, there you have it. I’d suggest starting with Spotlight, just so you can say you got in early.

In Character

In this week’s now, you’ll find my TIFF interviews with Spotlight director Tom McCarthy and co-star John Slattery and Kilo Two Bravo‘s Mark Stanley and Tug Hartley, as well as an extended web Q&A with Gregg Turkington, who puts a really interesting spin on his alter ego Neil Hamburger in Rick Alverson’s Entertainment.

I also take a look at the latest edition of the European Union Film Festival, because god knows there just aren’t enough film festivals going on right now.

And you’ll find this new thing we’re doing where we try to put a given film into a larger cinematic context. This week’s pick is the aforementioned Entertainment, so I use The Neil Hamburger Movie as a jumping-off point to explore character cinema.

Thumbsucker? Infodump? I have no idea what to call it, but I’m open to suggestions.

The Genius Problem

Trivia buffs take note: This week’s episode of Someone Else’s Movie is the first to feature an Oscar nominee, and the first to feature a guest with a film in the Criterion Collection.  And they’re the same person!

That would be Milcho Manchevski, writer-director of the very good, Oscar-nominated Macedonian drama Before the Rain (which could really do with a Blu-ray edition), who came through town last month and brought Milos Forman’s Amadeus into the basement.

He was a little soft-spoken, so the audio is a hair noisier than usual, but you shouldn’t have much trouble listening to it. As always, you can grab it on iTunes, Stitcher or by direct download. And enjoy!

My other other gig.