Rising Below Vulgarity

This week on Someone Else’s Movie, documentary filmmaker Jamie Kastner — whose latest film The Skyjacker’s Tale opens at the Hot Docs Cinema this Friday — digs into the madcap comedy of Mel Brooks’ directorial debut The Producers.

Every now and then you get a pairing of guest and movie that catalyzes the show in a really special way. This is one of those pairings, and I’m really glad it arrives right on the heels of Matt Watts’ look at The Heartbreak Kid — the two films share a certain underlying self-awareness and specificity, and it was really interesting to see the connections emerge over the course of the conversation.

You can get it at all the usual places — iTunesGoogle Play and Stitcher, or straight from the site. Please do that, and enjoy yourself. Or just watch The Producers again; really, the movie speaks for itself most eloquently.

Among The Dead

Canada’s Top Ten is underway at TIFF, but there are nine other features opening this week — one about a wake, one about an autopsy and another that’s just dead on arrival. Shall we go digging?

The Autopsy of Jane Doe: Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch are father-son coroners dissecting an increasingly disturbing mystery in Andre Ovredal’s English-language debut, which is about four-fifths of a great horror movie.

Bugs: I caught Andreas Johnsen’s documentary at Planet in Focus and thought it was a bit on the squicky side; Susan found it much more appealing.

The Bye Bye Man: Yeah, the notion of a boogeyman that infiltrates your mind as soon as you speak his dumb, dumb name is not the best idea — but Stacy Title knows what she’s doing and the actors all commit, so that’s something.

Live By Night: Ben Affleck’s adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s Prohibition-era gangland novel goes wrong almost immediately, and only gets worse from there. No wonder Warner disappeared the Oscar campaign so quickly.

Monster Trucks: There’s this truck with a monster in it, see? Totally different from the Transformers films, where the trucks are aliens. Rad can’t be bothered to care.

Mostly Sunny: Dilip Mehta’s profile of adult star-turned-legitimate Bollywood actress Sunny Leone is a textbook example of a TV special stretched to feature length. Or possibly an infomercial.

Patriots Day: Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg take another true story and turn it into a chance for Mark Wahlberg to play a blue-collar hero who turns disaster into triumph. Which, given the nature of this particular true story, is … problematic.

Sieranevada: I had to miss Cristi Pulu’s epic study of a Romanian wake to catch the Patriots Day screening. Jose definitely got the better deal that morning.

20th Century Women: Having been wasted in Rules Don’t Apply, Annette Bening roars back to the top of her class in Mike Mills’ autobiographical story of a boy (Lucas Jade Zumann) and his unconventional-even-for-the-’70s mother. Susan is all in.

Did I miss anything? I don’t think so … but I didn’t find out about The Autopsy of Jane Doe until Wednesday evening, so who knows?

Nation’s Pride (Again)

In this week’s NOW, I take a look at the latest edition of Canada’s Top Ten, TIFF’s annual roundup of the best in homegrown cinema.

It’s a good mix, though it’s unfortunate that Hugh Gibson’s excellent documentary The Stairs didn’t make the cut; not only was it a breakout at the film festival last fall, but the Toronto Film Critics Association just named it the best Canadian film of 2016, complete with our ridiculous $100,000 cash prize.

I mean, how hard would it be to swap it in for Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World? I’ll make some calls. Maybe we can still turn this thing around.

Mr. Pitiful

This week’s on Someone Else’s Movie, I’m joined by the actor and writer Matt Watts — whose cheerfully codependent sitcom with Bob Kerr returns to CBC this Sunday evening as Michael: Every Day — for a deep dive into The Heartbreak Kid.

If you’ve seen The Heartbreak Kid — and this is the Elaine May original, not the hideous Farrelly Brothers remake — you’re probably already stoked. If not, go track it down and prepare yourself for a peek into a side of the New American Cinema you may not have known existed … one where cultural identity and individual venality is explored from a very different but no less excoritating perspective. It’s a hell of a picture, as the kids say, and it made for a very engaging conversation.

You know what to do, right? Find it on iTunesGoogle Play and Stitcher, or download it straight from the site. Lenny Cantrow awaits you, as he awaits us all.

January Has Good Days Too, Eh

I wrote some words about last night’s Golden Globes ceremony for NOW — and I’ll be appearing on CTV News Channel at around 12:40 ET to discuss the evening, if you happen to be bored at lunch and needing a distraction.

But never mind Ryan and Emma; today’s real dream team is Bob and Doug McKenzie, as embodied by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas in The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie In Strange Brew, which NOW is presenting tonight as this month’s Free Flick Monday at the The Royal, and which I will be introducing at 7:30 pm.

You’re coming, right? I know it’s miserable out, but even so. Free movie! And the first hundred guests get free popcorn! Why wouldn’t you join us?

Oh, right, the frigid winter. Well, the last time I screened Strange Brew for people it was stiflingly hot and I had the flu, so surely you can brave the horror of putting on a jacket. See you there!

Silence, And The Rest

The new year is here, and with it comes movies. I review them! I review them all!

A Monster Calls: J.A. Bayona’s expertly manicured weeper struck me as utterly fraudulent when I saw it at TIFF, though it seems to be gaining some critical momentum. Eh, what do I know.

Railroad Tigers: Jackie Chan’s latest teams him with son Jaycee for a wacky romp about freedom fighters on a suicide mission during the second Sino-Japanese War. And if that summary seems at odds with the term “wacky romp”, well … yeah.

Silence: Martin Scorsese’s latest is the sort of movie I hope every new Scorsese picture will be — a thoughtful, meaningful and thoroughly compelling work from a genuine artist. So it’s got that going for it, which is nice.

Underworld: Blood Wars: The stupidest major-studio action/horror franchise of this century spits out another chapter. Who knows, maybe this one will turn it all around! Seeing it this morning; review should be online later today. UPDATE: It’s terrible.

And that’s it, until the Golden Globes on Sunday night, which I will be watching with … what’s the opposite of interest? Disinterest? Contempt? One of those, anyway.

Wonderment

Happy 2017! We made it through the hellish slog of 2016 and now it appears our reward is to watch helplessly as America sinks into depravity … but before all that, let’s enjoy the year’s first episode of Someone Else’s Movie, featuring Sleepy Hollow co-creator Phillip Iscove on Curtis Hanson’s Wonder Boys.

It’s a good one. I know I say that a lot — almost as much as I say “I know I say that a lot”, if I’m being honest — but it really is! Nearly two years into the podcast, the show has become what I want it to be, and the conversations are informed and energizing. Phil’s great, and so is the movie he chose.

It’s available on iTunesGoogle Play and Stitcher, or you can download it straight from the site. Enjoy it!

My other other gig.