All posts by Norm Wilner

Norman Wilner is a film critic who lives in Toronto.

No End In Sight

Oh, it’s not enough that a few hundred features and shorts are barrelling at us thanks to TIFF. No, it’s  time to dump ten features into release, just to watch people’s heads explode. Six-word reviews, away!

Dave Made a Maze: Absurdist cardboard labyrinth slacker comedy.  Okay.

Expo 67: Mission Impossible:  A part of our heritage, kinda.

Good Time: Robert Pattinson’s great; so’s this movie.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard: Deadpool and Nick Fury kick ass.

Ingrid Goes West: Aubrey Plaza’s stalker picture really lands.

In This Corner of the World: Anime drama about Hiroshima, huh? Timely.

The Last Dalai Lama?: Religious figurehead considers his earthly position.

Logan Lucky: Steven Soderbergh, back in the game.

The Reagan Show: The packaging of a President, examined. [Susan]

This Time Tomorrow: Lina Rodriguez: Small moments, big meaning. [Rad]

There you are! And now I’m off to see one of the half-dozen movies opening next weekend. It never ends.

Another Week, Another List

That thing where I ranked the Stephen King adaptations was so well-received that NOW asked me to do another list, this time ranking the films of Steven Soderbergh as he marks his return to feature filmmaking with Logan Lucky.

So I did. Go read it. And then go see Logan Lucky this weekend. I’d put it at maybe #14 or #15, I guess.

Oh, and also I did another rundown of this week’s TIFF announcements. Still no Dolan. I wonder what happened.


Happy Wednesday! I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do today, but it all ends with the customary Harbourfront Free Flicks screening.

Tonight it’s How She Move, Ian Iqbal Rashid’s 2007 dance picture made right here in Toronto and featuring early appearances from Rutina Wesley and Nina Dobrev. It’s your basic story of a young woman who expresses herself through dance — not unlike Jennifer Beals in Flashdance, if Beals had choreographed elaborate step routines to hip-hop rather than jumping around to Michael Sembello.

Come on down to the lakeshore, maybe around 8:45 pm? I’ll see you there. And next week, Pacific Rim. That’ll be a blast.

It’s Not The Despair, It’s The Hope

After the goofy highs of last week’s episodeSomeone Else’s Movie takes a turn for the serious with writer/director Alexander Carson stopping by to talk about Terence Davies’ autobiographical masterwork Distant Voices, Still Lives.

This isn’t to say it’s a bad episode, or even a weak one — it’s just a little more thoughtful than usual. Sandy was up for a deep dive, and I’m really happy with what came out. Give it a listen, and think about your own life choices while you’re at it.

You’ve already subscribed, haven’t you? If not, go do that on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play oStitcher, or download it straight from the web.. And enjoy it. I certainly did.

Oh, and in other podcast activity you can hear me on this week’s episode of Black Hole Films, discussing the masterwork that is Dog Day Afternoon with honored SEMcast guests Jonas Chernick and Jeremy LaLonde. It’s a good one, and you can find it right here.

As You (Still) Wish

There’s something pure and lovely about The Princess Bride, isn’t there? I think so, anyway. And that’s why I have no problem introducing a free screening of it for NOW’s Free Flicks series at The Royal tonight, even though I did it just two years ago at Harbourfront.

Eh, it was the audience’s choice. What could I do. And in all honesty The Princess Bride can screen once a week if it wants to; there’ll always be an audience for Rob Reiner’s clear-eyed fairy tale, and for the pure and true love between Robin Wright’s Buttercup and Cary Elwes’ Dread Pirate Westley, and all the other wonderful characters William Goldman’s script packs in. It’s thirty years old next month and it hasn’t aged a day. It’s perfect.

Anyway, you know the drill. Doors open at 6:30 pm, I go on at 7:30 pm, the first hundred guests get free popcorn and everybody gets a free movie. Full details at the Facebook page. Come down, it’ll be nice.

All Sorts

With just a few weeks left in the summer, studios are rolling out all sorts of things. Thrillers! Horror movies! Animated … sequels … to movies no one saw the first time around?

I dunno, I guess people like cartoon squirrels. Let’s dig in.

Annabelle: Creation: If I have this right, this movie is the prequel to the prequel to the third-act sting in The Conjuring … and Glenn went to see it anyway. Poor Glenn.

The Glass Castle: Jeannette Walls’ memoir about escaping her horrific childhood becomes an Oscar-bait lookbook in Destin Daniel Cretton’s follow-up to Short Term 12.  I suspect there’s a longer cut that better serves both the source material and Brie Larson’s performance.

Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait: Pappi Corsicato’s profile of the painter and filmmaker arrives at the Hot Docs Cinema fresh from its Tribeca premiere. I haven’t seen it, but people seemed to like it.

Menashe: Shot clandestinely in Brooklyn, and performed almost entirely in Yiddish, Joshua Z Weinstein’s domestic drama is otherwise entirely rote, following a widower (Menashe Lustig) struggling to retain custody of his young son.  You’ve seen this movie before, just maybe not in this language.

The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature: Yup, they made another one. I would just like to point out that Rad goes to see these movies because he has small children.

Step: See, Rad gets to see good stuff too! And he really liked Amanda Lipitz’ documentary about team spirit forming amongst the Baltimore teens in an African-American step dance team.

Wind River: Taylor Sheridan’s thriller about missing and murdered indigenous women stars Jeremy Renner and Elisabeth Olsen as outsiders investigating a murder on a Wyoming reservation. And if either (or both) of their roles had been cast with a Native American actor, this would be a much more satisfying movie.

Also I wrote a thing about the end of Orphan Black in which I deal with my love of the show despite its many, many storytelling issues — and, ultimately, why those issues are irrelevant. Get on it, Clone Club.

In Amma’s Eye

I’ve been a fan of Amma Asante ever since I saw her first film, A Way of Life, in TIFF’s Discovery program back in 2004. It’s been a pleasure to watch her emerge as a maker of British cinema that takes an interrogative view on the empire, both with last year’s A United Kingdom and 2013’s Belle, her breakout drama and a film I’m delighted to be screening tonight as this week’s Harbourfront’s Free Flicks feature.

It’s a complex, challenging film masquerading as a conventional costume drama, with terrific performances from Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sarah Gadon, Emily Watson and Tom Wilkinson, among others. (Yeah, Tom Felton is a little sneery as the embodiment of aristocratic racism, but it’s a necessary evil.) And if you missed it in its theatrical run, as pretty much everyone did, now’s your chance to catch up.

Get down to the lake for about 8:45 pm so you don’t miss the pre-show — we have trivia! — and here’s my 2014 interview with Amma just in case you need more of a nudge.

And speaking of TIFF, I’ve got a rundown of today’s Canadian announcements going up later this morning. Will update with the link as soon as I have it.

Coke Sweat Fantasia

This week on Someone Else’s Movie I’m joined by actor, writer and producer Kelly McCormack — currently stealing scenes as Zeph on Killjoys and perverting CBC’s web space with The Neddeaus of Duquesne Island — for a lively conversation about Brian de Palma’s 1974 Phantom of the Paradise.

It’s a really fun episode, equal parts cinema theory and theater-kid enthusiasm as we pinwheel through the movie, its influences, the other films in its orbit and much, much more. Kelly’s tale of her first encounter with the film is one of my absolute favorite stories ever told on this podcast.

So go get it! Subscribe right now on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play oStitcher,or grab this specific episode directly from the show’s website. And enjoy! The Phantom commands it.

Expert Witness

As part of the Canada 150 cultural thing, CBC has a summer series, The Filmmakers, in which Johanna Schneller celebrates Canadian cinema by picking a film from the canon every Saturday night and screening it along with an interview with the director and a panel discussion.

It’s been pretty good so far, and tonight’s episode is especially great, if I do say so myself, spotlighting Don McKellar’s Last Night — a film too often overlooked in conversations about our national cinema, but one which says more about our country’s identity and attitude than anyone initially realized.

It’s the quintessential Toronto movie — we proved that at NOW with science! — and I was delighted to be invited onto tonight’s panel along with Sook-Yin Lee and Bob Martin to discuss it.

The producers also asked me to write this week’s essay, which you can read right here — I’m really happy with the way it turned out, too. You’ll also find my panel there, should you want to watch it in advance of the movie. But really, watch it in HD tonight so you can see precisely how bald I am. The photo doesn’t do it justice.

Cinema As Escape

It’s gross out there, and the prospect of spending a couple of hours in full-blast air conditioning sounds awfully appealing right now, doesn’t it? Just choose carefully.

Brave New Jersey: Jody Lambert’s not-quite-a-farce about the hysteria created by Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast falls sadly short of successful, though Mel Rodriguez gets one great laugh.

Brigsby Bear: Saturday Night Live ringer Kyle Mooney plays a damaged soul determined to finish the only story he’s ever cared about in this compellingly odd little picture, about which you should read nothing further if you can help it.

The Dark Tower: Stephen King’s monomythological epic finally comes to the big screen … and boy, do people hate it. Rad’s review should be up later today.

Detroit: Kathryn Bigelow examines the race riots of 1967 as a thriller that’s ambitious as it is uneven. But the Algiers Motel sequence, which comprises the bulk of the film, is phenomenal.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power: Al Gore returns to tell us we’re all probably going to die, and sooner than we’d like, unless we get our shit together and switch to renewable energy. So, hooray?

The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith: You can’t dance to it, but Sara Fishko’s documentary tells a fascinating (and entirely unknown, at least to me) story about the New York music scene in the late ’50s and early ’60s.

Kidnap: Halle Berry gets all car-chasey in the new thriller from director Luis Prieto, who made that pointless-but-watchable Pusher remake. No press screening, so I’m catching up to it this afternoon.

Landline: Jenny Slate, Gillian Robespierre and Elisabeth Holm get the Obvious Child band back together for a softer but still pretty good little dramedy about a splintering Manhattan family, set in 1995 when privacy was still a thing we took for granted.

The Trip to Spain: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon and Michael Winterbottom get their band back together for another delightful run of riffing and restauranting — this time seeming to acknowledge they can’t keep doing this forever.

There, that’s everything. Oh, wait, TIFF’s also launching its Ida Lupino series tonight, so I wrote something about that too. I’m a machine.