Choked, Slammed

Yup, way too many movies opening this week. I just got up, and I need a nap.

Chokeslam: Silicon Valley‘s Amanda Crew is the least convincing wrestler since Oliver Platt, but the script is what really undoes this overstuffed dramedy.

David Lynch: The Art Life: The cultiest of cult directors discusses his early life and his artistic journey in this enthralling docu-portrait from Jon Nguyen (who made the less satisfying Lynch a decade ago) and co-directors Rick Barnes and Olivia Neergaard-Holm.

The Devout: Connor Gaston’s intimate drama about parenthood and faith has some excellent ideas, and watching it fail to do anything with them is awfully frustrating.

Frantz: Susan is as big a Francois Ozon fan as they come, so when she says his latest — a black and white drama about death and mourning in post-WWI Germany — is undistinguished, that’s a major statement.

Giants of Africa: Toronto documentarian Hubert Davis tags along with Raptors GM Masai Ujiri to his basketball camps for African teens. Rad respects the mission but wishes the film had dug a little deeper.

Gifted: Chris Evans demonstrates that he’s basically Captain America all the time now, slugging it out in court so his genius niece can have a normal life in Marc Webb’s polished family drama. Totally derivative, but entirely watchable.

Going in Style: Zach Braff remakes Martin Brest’s fondly remembered oldsters-rob-a-bank comedy with Michael Caine, Alan Arkin and Morgan Freeman. Rad saw it; his review will be up later today.

Growing Up Smith: Newly arrived in America’s heartland, a boy from India tries a little too hard to assimilate in Frank Lotito’s immigration comedy, which drops into the Carlton today.

I Called Him Morgan: Kasper Collin’s examination of the 1972 murder of jazz great Lee Morgan got a lot of attention at TIFF last year … but Rad wasn’t a fan.

Smurfs: The Lost Village: Sony reboots their successful-but-dreadful franchise as a purely CG comedy, removing the humans and bringing something like gender parity to the land of Peyo. Rad says it even works, kind of. 

Song to Song: Terrence Malick does his Terrence Malick thing, gliding alongside Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender and Ryan Gosling (among others) as they couple and decouple in the Austin music scene.

Your Name: Matoko Shinkai’s body-swapping anime has been getting stellar reviews on the festival circuit; now it’s opening in Toronto with no advance notice whatsoever. I hope to see it soon.

And that’s everything, I think. Plus TIFF Kids, of course, and tonight’s One Brave Night marathon at the Revue. Look, if things were quiet I’d just complain about having nothing to do.

State of the Arts

This week’s NOW puts the movies front and center with a feature on where we’ve been and where we’re going. It’s something we’ve been working on for a while now, and on which I’ve been going full-tilt ever since I got back from London.

Here is the cover story, and here is some information about a gallery exhibit that you can visit at Brookfield Place as of Monday. Enjoy them both!

I also talked to my friend and podcast mentor Jamie Dew about the CAMH benefit triple-feature he’s throwing at the Revue tomorrow night, and took a look at this year’s TIFF Kids festival. Because this town can’t have enough film festivals, I guess.

Stage, Fright

This week’s episode of Someone Else’s Movie was recorded high over London, and it’s a goodie: None other than Reece Shearsmith -tackles the voluptuous horrors of Douglas Hickox’ Theatre of Blood, in which Vincent Price plays a Shakespearean actor who’ll stop at nothing to avenge himself upon the critics who failed to recognize his genius.

The choice provides ripe ground for a conversation on all manner of creative pursuits, and the irony that an actor and a critic are sitting down together to discuss a work about actors and critics was not lost on either of us. Also, I’m in awe of Shearsmith’s talents  (like friend of the show Alice Lowe, he’s a comic with a distinctive voice who’s been part of a lot of things I love, including the cinema of Edgar Wright and Ben Wheatley) and it was just plain delightful to be in a room with him.

So give it a listen, then! It’s available on iTunesGoogle Play oStitcher, or downloadable directly from the show site. Go get it, and enjoy.

Behold, Filth

Hey, it’s time for another NOW Free Flick Monday at The Royal, and tonight it’ll be my honor to introduce a screening of Filth City, Andy King’s freewheeling political satire about a crack-smoking mayor whose race to keep his addiction secret throws his city into chaos.

This is only the second public screening of the picture following its premiere at the Canadian Film Fest last month, so it’s going to be a madhouse. But rush seats will be available, so take a chance and come on down! Doors open at 6:30 pm, the first hundred guests get free popcorn and everybody gets a free movie. I take the stage at 7:30 pm, and I am told to expect at least one special guest!

(No, it won’t be Doug Ford. Unless he surprises all of us. Which he won’t.)

Anyway, full details can be found on the Facebook event page. Give them a read, and I’ll see you tonight!

Go Out Like a Lamb, Already

I don’t know about you guys, but this month has worn me flat out. I barely have the energy to slouch through the final wave of theatrical releases. But here we go:

The Boss Baby: Rad is the latest critic to be pleasantly surprised by DreamWorks’ new animated family comedy … but I’m still gonna wait for the Blu-ray.

Ghost in the Shell: Recasting a specifically Japanese story with a diverse assortment of actors was a gamble that doesn’t pay off … though you can see flashes of a viable solution rattling around in there. Sadly, the same applies to “remaking Ghost in the Shell as a live-action Hollywood movie 20 years after the material was revolutionary”.

Mr. Gaga: Kathleen is totally on board with Tomer Heymann’s decades-spanning profile of vaunted Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin.  I still can’t get into dance movies unless they’re Footloose.

Obit: Vanessa Gould’s documentary looks at the obituary writers of the New York Times, who must seek meaning in the lives of others. Susan wasn’t a fan at Hot Docs, but I’m still intrigued.

The Void: The genre-worshipping Astron-6 collective (Manborg, Father’s DayThe Editor) finally deliver a movie that stands on its own — meaning that even if you don’t get the John Carpenter references, you can still get pulled into its apocalyptic vibe. And Aaron Poole is great. (Opens tomorrow at The Royal.)

The Zookeeper’s Wife: Jessica Chastain does her best to engage the heart in a movie determined to hit all the obvious buttons of a Holocaust drama. That said, the lion cubs in the first scene are adorable.

… okay, that’s all I got. See you on Monday.

All Around the World

We’re back in the cycle of spring festivals. Two more get rolling in Toronto today, and I do my best to stay on top of them at the NOW site.

First, there’s Human Rights Watch, which is either making an effort to find a more positive spin on its generally grim mission statement or just giving up and laughing down the abyss.

And then there’s Water Docs, which remains the city’s single least interesting film festival from a conceptual standpoint but still chugs on. I guess that’s something.

Consider The Parking Lot

This week’s episode of Someone Else’s Movie is the first time the show gets to tackle the work of Joel and Ethan Coen, and we do it through my very favorite of their films.

Pat Thornton, a wonderful comic and actor who’s been getting a lot of attention for his performance in Filth City — though he deserves at least as much for his new Comedy Network special Different Times — picked A Serious Man, their almost-autobiographical 2009 farce about a Minnesota academic whose world collapses into chaos over a few weeks in 1967. And we have a great time digging into it, and into the Coens’ filmography in general.

Come on along! Be cool like us! Subscribe on  iTunesGoogle Play oStitcher, or just grab it straight from the site. And enjoy!

Unexpected Depths

While the majors try to outgame each other with allegedly beloved properties and the elevator pitch of Life, some genuine depth sneaks out in a couple of this week’s smaller releases. Do read on, and see what’s what.

CHIPS: Dax Shepard attempts to replicate the 21 Jump Street magic with a barely remembered ’70s cop show instead of ironically appreciated ’90s cheese. It does not work.

LifeGravityAlien = good-enough entertainment in Daniel Espinosa’s slick, very nicely cast creature feature. Although in retrospect, I would rather Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal had swapped roles.

O, Brazen Age!: Alexander Carson’s first feature follows a handful of Toronto friends through their quarter-life crises — and makes potentially familiar material feel new and challenging by adding an unexpected spiritual streak. I dug it.

Personal Shopper: Olivier Assayas and Kristen Stewart  reunite for an exploration of alienation, sublimated grief and haute couture in contemporary Paris. I really dug it.

Power Rangers: The goofy import monster-fighting show gets a big-screen upgrade, somehow roping in class acts like Elizabeth Banks and Bryan Cranston. But if they can’t appeal to Rad, who grew up with the original series, then who is this movie even for?

The Second Time Around: Susan finds a lot to like in Leon Marr’s low-key tale of two older people (Linda Thorson and Stuart Margolin) who fall for one another at an assisted-living facility.

Wilson: The latest attempt to translate Daniel Clowes’ misanthropic vision to the big screen has its moments — most of them courtesy of Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern — but it’s stiff and inert, and desperately missing the alchemy of Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World. More’s the pity.

And that’s everything, except for a reminder that the Canadian Film Festival wraps up tomorrow night with the premiere of Filth City, and that will be a hell of a party.

Alternately, you could catch the first Toronto screening of Sofia Bohdanowicz’ Never Eat Alone just down the block at the Lightbox. That’ll be good too.

Truth, and Occasionally Beauty

So, Hot Docs had its launch conference yesterday, and I did my best to capture the salient points in this piece for the NOW site. (Not included: The revelation that current SEMcast guest Sofia Bohdanowicz will be premiering her new film Maison du Bonheur at the fest, but only because that news arrived too late for inclusion.)

Bottom line: There’s a crap-ton of features and shorts racing towards us and we are barely prepared, people. It may even be time to panic.

Oh, but not before we get through this year’s Canadian Film Festival, which kicked off last night with an atrocious new satire from Ken Finkleman but greatly improves tonight and stays pretty solid straight through Saturday’s closing night screening of Filth City. I wrote about that too, because I am a goddamn machine.

My other other gig.