You Can’t Take the Sky From She

Someone Else’s Movie gets its full nerd on this week, as Sam Maggs — who’ll be in town at Fan Expo Friday through Sunday, signing copies of The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy and promoting her new book Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors and Trailblazers Who Changed History — throws down for Serenity, the 2005 spinoff and conclusion to the short-lived Fox series Firefly.

Naturally, the conversation doesn’t stop there, folding in a few other beloved SF franchises and a great deal of love for Joss Whedon, because both Sam and I are big fans of that fella.

As always, you can find the show on iTunesGoogle Play and Stitcher, or download the episode straight from the site. Go on, do it now before the Alliance makes it illegal.

Also, Gene Wilder died and I wrote some stuff about him for NOW because that’s what I do. I’m just sad. God dammit, 2016, enough already.

Breathing Heavy

We’re closing NOW’s TIFF preview issue today, so I’m running around like a maniac seeing movies and filing capsules down to the wire.  Six-word review time!

Angry Indian Goddesses: Pan Nalin’s feminist drama overreaches slightly. [Susan]

Don’t Blink – Robert Frank: The artist and his art, superficially. [Jose]

Don’t Breathe: Evil Dead‘s Alvarez and Levy, reunited!

Hieronymus Bosch: Touched by the Devil: Thesis in the title, I guess.

Hooligan Sparrow: Sex-assault protestors struggling in China. [Rad]

In Order of Disappearance: Norwegian thriller has a mordant wit.

Ixcanul: Teenage despair on a Guatemalan plantation. [Rad]

Manhattan Night: Brody. Scott. Good performances, overheated movie.

Mechanic: Resurrection: … but he didn’t die, did he?

Southside with You: Barack and Michelle’s first date. Awwww.

A Tale of Love and Darkness: Natalie Portman’s directorial debut. Decent enough.

Tunnel: A particularly intimate Korean disaster movie.

There, that’s everything. Sorry, gotta run and do more stuff. You know how it is.

The Jane Austen Book Club

We’re coming to the end of another summer, and tonight marks the second-last Harbourfront Free Flicks screening, and the last one I programmed myself. I think we’ve got a good one to go out on: Ang Lee’s 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility.

This is the film for which Emma Thompson won an Academy Award for screenwriting — and a well-deserved one, at that; it’s a very good adaptation of a rather thick book — but the script is not her greatest accomplishment: She also gives a lovely performance as Elinor Dashwood, the hero of the story. Kate Winslet, at the time utterly unknown to anyone who hadn’t seen Heavenly Creatures, was just as great as her younger sister Marianne.

Ah, the whole cast is great, really, There’s Tom Wilkinson, and Hugh Grant, and Harriet Walter, and Gemma Jones — and ah, there’s Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon, and I guess we’re about to find out if we’re ready to watch him be so dashing with his death still so freshly felt.

It’s a longish movie, so we’re starting a little early. Join me tonight around 8:30 pm, will you? And be the first to find out what we’re screening next week!

The Howling

Hey, remember when I went to New York in January and recorded a bunch of episodes of Someone Else’s Movie?

Well, another one drops today, with The Mend writer-director John Magary graciously trooping down to Times Square in the middle of a snowstorm to talk about Wolf, Mike Nichols’ ill-fated attempt to make an upper-class monster movie with clangingly literal metaphors.

The movie isn’t a success, but that makes our conversation all the more interesting; Magary loves the film without reservation while being  entirely aware that it isn’t exactly one for the ages, and I was more than happy to explore that apparent contradition.

It’s available right now, so grab it on iTunesGoogle Play and Stitcher, or go straight to the source for a download. It’s fun! Enjoy!

You Want It, They Have It

This week has something for everyone: New work from documentary legends, a major-studio remake, a new stop-motion classic and a must-see indie. Also, War Dogs … though at least that one led to a pretty good conversation with Jonah Hill.

Ben-Hur: The cinematic chestnut gets a 21st century upgrade from noted Russian maniac Timur Bekmambetov (yay!) and noted Christian panderers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (hmmm). Rad was not converted.

Edge of Winter: Rob Connolly’s feature debut offers a simple conceit and strong performances from Joel Kinnaman and Tom Holland, who are better known these days as Rick Flag from Suicide Squad and the new Spider-Man. They’re pretty interesting as civilians, too.

Hell or High Water: Glenn raves about David Mackenzie’s latest, which resituates a classic outlaw story in modern-day Texas. Me, I’ll take any excuse to watch Jeff Bridges play a lawman. (Except for R.I.P.D. I’m not an idiot.)

Kubo and the Two Strings: The latest project from Laika is up to their high standards: It’s gorgeous to look at, it’s thoughtfully constructed and a little more grown-up than you might expect. And damn, but Charlize Theron is a great voice actor.

Miss Sharon Jones!: Barbara Kopple’s latest is a miracle of timing, capturing its subject just as her long-in-coming stardom is threatened by a cancer diagnosis. And what happens next is just as gripping.

Standing Tall: Emmanuelle Bercot’s drama opened Cannes last year but subsequently went missing from the fest circuit; it’s finally reached Canadian screens, with Susan’s qualified endorsement.

Truman: I’ve never been a big fan of Cesc Gay’s films — they always strike me as just a little too manipulative — but Jose says this one, about old friends reunited by one’s illness, is great.

Unlocking the Cage: D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus profile animal-rights lawyer Steven Wise, and become awfully invested in his cause. You will too, I expect.

War Dogs: Todd Phillips tackles the ethical clusterfuck that was miitary procurement under Bush-Cheney with a movie that really wants to be The Big Short and The Wolf of Wall Street, but isn’t. Bradley Cooper’s solid, though.

And that is everything, at least for now. Next week: More!

A Voice for the Voiceless

This week’s NOW features my interview with D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, two absolute legends in the reality-based community who came to town earlier this year with their documentary Unlocking the Cage.

That film began as a ride-along with a lawyer named Steven Wise and ended up embracing his mission, appealing passionately for the consideration of great apes and other animals as sentient beings deserving of basic rights and freedoms: Specifically, the freedom from abuse and confinement.

You should read the interview, and you should see the movie. It’s time for a change.

Order Up

After the heavier content of The Good Lie last week, we thought we’d program something a little lighter in the Harbourfront Free Flicks series.

So tonight it’s Chef, Jon Favreau’s charming return to his indie roots after the stumble of Iron Man 2 and the faceplant of Cowboys & Aliens. It’s an indie movie filled with A-listers, and it’s really quite pleasurable. Just make sure you eat first.

See you down at the lake, around 8:45 pm? Here’s my 2014 NOW interview with Favreau if you want to dig into the metaphor of the movie.

48

This week on Someone Else’s Movie, my guest is Edge of Winter director Rob Connolly, who takes a slice out of his press schedule to come by the studio and talk about Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit and its influence on his career.

This makes the third Zemeckis movie to land on the show, after Matt Austin Sadowski chose Back to the Future and Andrew Cividino went for Contact. And I can see the appeal: Zemeckis makes films that just bristle with ideas, and it’s no surprise that filmmakers would be drawn to and inspired by his work. I’d really love to get him on the show someday; the guy’s a great interview.

Find it on iTunesGoogle Play and Stitcher, or get it right from the source. And here’s a fun fact: Edge of Winter was shot under the title Backcountry, which had to be changed when Adam Macdonald’s bear-attack movie made it out first. And as you may recall, Adam did the podcast as well. So both Backcountry directors are friends of the show! Isn’t that cool?

… well, I think it’s cool.

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

I told you this week would be busy. No fewer than a dozen films opening, and me on top of most of them.

I’m so tired.

Anthropoid: Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan plot to kill the Butcher of Prague in this dour war picture, directed with typical self-importance by Sean Ellis (Cashback). It’s fine, but it could have been so much better.

Equity: Anna Gunn stars as a disgraced investment banker determined to get back on top (metaphor very much intended) in Meera Menon’s feminist spin on Wall Street thrillers. Jose has some reservations.

Florence Foster Jenkins: Stephen Frears’ latest casts Meryl Streep as the legendarily horrific chanteuse, with Hugh Grant as her longtime enabler. Phil enjoyed it.

Gleason: Rad goes all in for Clay Tweel’s documentary about Steve Gleason, a football player who refuses to let a diagnosis of ALS stop him from living his life.

How Heavy This Hammer: Kaz Radwanski follows Tower with a similarly suffocating study of middle-aged urban alienation. I like his style. (He’s also this week’s SEMcast guest, so check that out if you haven’t already.)

The Infiltrator: The Herculean efforts of Bryan Cranston and John Leguizamo invest Brad Furman’s rote drug-war drama with much-needed life, but it’s just so predictable.

Lo and Behold: Reveries of a Connected World: Werner Herzog peers into the abyss of the Internet and decides he doesn’t much care for it.

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise: The life and impact of the late author is celebrated in this expanded American Masters documentary built around an extensive interview recorded shortly before her death.

Operation Chromite: Anthropoid isn’t the only get-er-done war movie opening this week. This one — which is even duller and less involving — hails from South Korea, and features Liam Neeson in a dull walk-on as Douglas MacArthur.

Pete’s Dragon: David Lowery’s rapturous tale of a boy and his monster might be the thing that saves Disney’s soul — or at least validates the studio’s mania for remaking absolutely everything in its library. But don’t think of it as a remake; it is magnificently its own thing.

Sausage Party: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s first venture into animation is Toy Story inside a supermarket, with a lot more existential dread.

Zoom: Three stories — two live-action, one animated — bounce off of one another in Pedro Morelli’s nicely slippery drama. Fun fact: Screenwriter Matt Hansen is also a friend of SEMcast, and you should totally check out his episode.

Phew. And now to dig into next week’s movies. And some TIFF stuff. And some other stuff too. Because it never goddamn ends.

Hard Truths

You know what movie didn’t get a fair shake in theatres? Philippe Falardeau’s The Good Lie, which was unceremoniously dumped by Warner Bros. in October of 2014 when it became clear that Jean-Marc Vallee’s Wild was the Reese Witherspoon movie America was willing to get behind.

And in terms of Witherspoon’s Oscar chances … well, sure. She’s not even in the first hour of The Good Lie. But Falardeau’s movie is legitimately great, and watching it slide past its potential audience really stuck in my craw. So when Harbourfront asked me to program this year’s Free Flicks slate, I made sure it was on my list — and I’m presenting it tonight, down by our nice cool lake.

Need further encouragement? Here are my TIFF interviews with Falardeau and the real stars of the film: Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal and Kuoth Weil. Read ’em, and come on down. I’ll save you a seat.

My other other gig.