All posts by Norm Wilner

Norman Wilner is a film critic who lives in Toronto.

The Shallow End

With Transformers: Cough Up Twenty Bucks opening earlier in the week, today’s just about counterprogramming. And I’ve seen ’em all.

The Bad Batch: Ana Lily Amirpour follows A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night with this fever-dream wasteland picture about a young woman (Suki Waterhouse) who gets kicked out of Texas and falls in with cannibals. It’s wobbly and overlong, but it has its moments.

The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography: Errol Morris’ latest feels like a minor work compared to the historical value of The Thin Red Line or Standard Operating Procedure or the gripping immediacy of The Fog of War or The Unknown Known. But it’s a deeply enjoyable minor work, with Morris and his dear friend Dorfman mourning the death of analog photography in the most entertaining manner imaginable.

The Colossal Failure of the Modern Relationship: Two years after what felt like a vanity screening at the Italian Contemporary Film Festival, Sergio Navarretta’s romantic farce — featuring a fun turn from Enrico Colantoni, at least — shambles into commercial release.

47 Meters Down: Mandy Moore and Claire Holt try very hard not to be eaten by sharks in this simple, effective survival thriller, which would be a lot better if it didn’t do one really stupid thing at the very end.

The Hero: Sam Elliott makes the most of an increasingly rare leading role as an aging Western star sent spinning out by a cancer diagnosis, but Brett Haley — who cast Elliott as Blythe Danner’s love interest in I’ll See You in My Dreams — doesn’t give us anything new.

That’s everything! Enjoy your weekend! And I know I say this every time, but please don’t bother with the Transformers movie.

A Song of Blood And Ice Cream

This week’s episode of Someone Else’s Movie is a collision of things I love, as playwright, author and low-key Twitter cult leader Jonny Sun — whose book Everyone’s A Aliebn When Ur A Aliebn Too comes out next week — joins me to celebrate Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Cornetto Trilogy.

Yup, it took more than two years but I finally get to talk about my beloved Shaun of the Dead. And Hot Fuzz. And The World’s End. And it turns out Jonny’s just as fond of these films and that creative partnership as I am — but really, how could he not be? — which made for a really swell conversation.

Check it out! You can find it at all the usual spots: Subscribe on iTunesGoogle Play Music oStitcher, or just download it directly from the web. And go buy Jonny’s book, and catch him on tour this summer! He’s a sweetheart, he’d love to see you.

Small Surprises

Well, it finally happened: A Cars movie isn’t the most illogical and narratively incongruous thing opening in theatres in a given week. Brace yourselves.

All Eyez on Me: The life of Tupac Shakur is condensed and repackaged for a mainstream audience in Benny Boom’s biopic, which introduces Demetrius Shipp Jr. as the doomed hip-hop idol. Rad isn’t impressed.

Beatriz at Dinner: Salma Hayek and John Lithgow try very, very hard to put some soul into Mike White and Miguel Arteta’s drama, but it’s less a movie than a Buzzfeed headline: This Mexican Woman Found Herself At A Table With Donald Trump, You’ll Never Guess What Happened Next. (Only You Probably Will.)

The Book of Henry: Colin Trevorrow’s bid for indie respectability is as bad as you’ve heard, and maybe even worse. If nothing else, it’s proof that after this and Shut In no one should ever put Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay in the same movie again, as their presence in the same frame clearly creates a kind of awfulness vortex.

Cars 3: At last, a Cars movie I kind of enjoyed. Although it took more than an hour to get there and the larger world of the series still makes no goddamned sense. But hey, the kids will buy the toys.

In Search of Israeli Cuisine: Roger Sherman’s documentary tracks its subject’s evolution through the history of the Jewish diaspora. Rad finds it enlightening, and I am now suddenly hungry.

Rough Night: Broad City writers Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs bring us a female-fronted spin on The Hangover and Very Bad Things that features Kate McKinnon as someone called Pippa, so I am all the way in. Rad says it has its moments.

There, that’s everything. Oh, and tomorrow afternoon I’m judging whiskey sours at  the Thrill of the Grill on the Danforth, so come on over if you want to see me dangerously intoxicated!

(Also, there will be barbecue.)

“Twelve Years And Three Months.”

On this week’s episode of Someone Else’s Movie , I have a really great conversation with Allana Harkin about her cinematic security blanket: When Harry Met Sally.

I first became aware of Allana as a member of the Atomic Fireballs, the Toronto sketch troupe she co-founded with Samantha Bee, and have been delighted to see her go global as a producer and correspondent on Sam’s Full Frontal, so this was a total pleasure. Grab a black-and-white cookie and join us, won’t you?

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle Play Music oStitcher, or download the episode straight from the site. And enjoy it. That’s what it’s for.

Who Can You Trust?

Happy Friday! The Mummy is terrible! But a few screens over, a former Mummy co-star delivers some of the best work of her career, so that’s nice.

Awakening the Zodiac: The contents of an abandoned storage locker put three friends on the trail of the infamous serial murderer — and sure, that can’t go badly for anybody — in Jonathan Wright’s thriller, which Glenn found pretty watchable.

A Better Man: Attiya Khan got her abusive ex to agree to revisit their relationship for this documentary about the lasting impact of domestic violence, and she deserves  considerable credit for bringing that issue into the light from a new perspective. But the movie itself is very frustrating, with Khan and co-director Lawrence Jackman laboring to stitch together the emotional arc they clearly wanted but failed to capture. Susan isn’t too keen on it either.

Churchill: Jonathan Teplitzky’s stuffy biopic about the run-up to D-Day is almost shamelessly derivative of other, better movies, but Brian Cox does a sterling job of revealing the volatile, vulnerale human behind the inflexible public persona of Winston Churchill. You can still wait for VOD, though.

It Comes at Night: Trey Edward Shults’ paranoid plague thriller establishes an eerie atmosphere and features strong performances from pretty much everyone in the cast, especially Joel Edgerton and relative newcomer Kelvin Harrison, Jr. But it’s also so intent on being oblique rather than concrete that it winds up just sort of evaporating in the end.

Megan Leavey: Kate Mara gives a very good performance in this otherwise undistinguished biopic about a Marine dog handler who served in Iraq, came home injured and went on to lobby Congress to adopt her canine partner.

The Mummy: The biggest surprise of Universal’s latest horror reboot — designed to launch what seems like a pretty dopey line of interconnected classic-monster movies — is that it plays more like a cockeyed remake of Lifeforce than anything else. Only not as good, if you can conceive of such a thing.

My Cousin Rachel: Roger Michell’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s dark period romance is an ingenious unpacking of the standard structure these stories employ, revealing the chauvinism, xenophobia and classism seething beneath the British nobility. Sam Claflin is good; Rachel Weisz is great. Don’t miss it.

And there are all those film festivals, of course. There’s bound to be something you’ll enjoy.

Best Laid Plans

In this week’s NOW, I was supposed to interview an Oscar-winning actor who delivers a masterfully unreadable performance in My Cousin Rachel. But that didn’t happen because of stupid, stupid reasons.

Instead, I will just tell you to see My Cousin Rachel when it opens tomorrow, because it’s very good. And I’ll direct you to this collage thing I did about the crush of microfestivals that swarm into Toronto this week. Due diligence, and all that.

Family Resemblance

On this week’s episode of Someone Else’s Movie, I prepare for the return of Wynonna Earp by sitting down with Varun Saranga, who’s joining the show this season as … well, you’ll find out on Friday along with everybody else.

Varun picked The Royal Tenenbaums, marking the first time we’ve tackled Wes Anderson on the show — and I’m really happy for the chance to dive into his precisely ordered universe, especially since this particular film is one of Anderson’s most beloved.

You know what to do, right? Subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle Play Music oStitcher, or download the episode directly from the web.

Enjoy, and you should also enjoy Wynonna Earp if you aren’t already; I really love that weird little show, and I’m delighted to have it back. You can catch up to the first season on Netflix, or at the Syfy and Space websites.  So, you know, do that.