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Best of TIFF 2014: Dome Karukoski’s “The Grump” is a hilarious delight
Film Festivals / Film Reviews / Highly Recommended

Best of TIFF 2014: Dome Karukoski’s “The Grump” is a hilarious delight

Finnish Writer-Director Dome Karukoski’s new comedy “The Grump,” about an aging parent feeling out of step with the modern age, was also one of the sweetest, funniest, and most emotional films at the Toronto International Film Festival. When introducing the film, Karukoski described the central character (played by Antti Litja) as the sort of man … Continue reading

People with dementia are more “Alive Inside” than you might expect
Documentary / Film Reviews / Recommended

People with dementia are more “Alive Inside” than you might expect

“Alive Inside” opens on a ninety-year-old woman, sitting in a chair set against a black background, explaining that she can’t remember anything. The setting is very deliberate: she suffers from dementia, and as the film will argue repeatedly throughout, people with dementia in nursing homes live in a world devoid of meaning. We watch her start listening to Louis Armstrong’s “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and she lights up, telling us it reminds her of her school days. Then, the film cuts to an old black-and-white film strip, a stand-in for the kinds of memories the music must be evoking. The stories of her life start pouring out. What the social worker Dan Cohen discovered is that music seems to unlock a previously inaccessible world of memories for people with dementia, and “Alive Inside” follows his journey to bring this joy to more people. Continue reading

Josh Thomas returns for a second terrific season of the Australian comedy “Please Like Me” on Pivot TV
Highly Recommended / TV reviews

Josh Thomas returns for a second terrific season of the Australian comedy “Please Like Me” on Pivot TV

The terrific first season of Australian comic Josh Thomas’s comedy series, “Please Like Me,” set the bar high with its unique blend of humour, pathos, and awkwardness, which didn’t shy away from the very dark – in the first episode, Josh’s mother, Rose (Debra Lawrence), attempted suicide – but always remained buoyant. After getting dumped … Continue reading

Radcliffe and Kazan charm in “The F Word,” or “What If” friends fall in love in Toronto
Film Reviews / Recommended

Radcliffe and Kazan charm in “The F Word,” or “What If” friends fall in love in Toronto

When Michael Dowse’s smart and entertaining romantic comedy, “The F Word,” premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, it was hailed as one of the films (like Villeneuve’s “Enemy”) ushering in a new era of Canadian cinema: movies with mainstream appeal, featuring international movie stars, that are both shot in and set in Canada. … Continue reading

“Magic in the Moonlight”: a frivolous delight with Colin Firth and Emma Stone
Film Reviews / Recommended

“Magic in the Moonlight”: a frivolous delight with Colin Firth and Emma Stone

If “Magic in the Moonlight” were made by any other filmmaker than Woody Allen, it would probably seem like a perfectly agreeable romantic comedy. It stars Colin Firth playing a rendition of his trademark role, the charming curmudgeon, or you know, Mr Darcy, and features a plethora of clever one-liners and lovely 1930s costumes, especially … Continue reading

“I Origins”: a pseudo-science fiction film that actually gets how scientists operate
Film Reviews / Recommended

“I Origins”: a pseudo-science fiction film that actually gets how scientists operate

Most films that tackle something somewhat scientific take on scientific advisors to make sure they get things right. It’s often a job reserved for prestigious scientists: Carolyn Porco, for instance, who runs the JPL lab, was the advisor for J.J. Abraams’s first “Star Trek” film. Given the absence of good science in most movies, including that one, I can only assume that filmmakers don’t listen too much to their scientific advisors. On the other hand, we rarely see characters who act and talk like scientists – David Auburn’s “Proof”, about mathematicians, is one of the rare exceptions – in part, I would guess, because most filmmakers don’t start out by getting a STEM degree, like Shane Carruth (“Primer”) did. Continue reading

Review of “Into The Woods” at the SF Playhouse: the company outgrew its old home but hasn’t quite grown into its new one
Bay Area / Recommended / Theatre

Review of “Into The Woods” at the SF Playhouse: the company outgrew its old home but hasn’t quite grown into its new one

After almost a decade of selling out shows in their very intimate hole-in-the-wall theatre on Sutter Street, the San Francisco Playhouse moved to bigger and better digs on Post St two years ago. It’s allowed them to expand their audience and scope of production, but they’re also going through some growing pains. When they mounted … Continue reading

The RSC’s “Henry IV Part 1 and 2″ perfectly capture Prince Hal’s coming-of-age
Film Reviews / Theatre

The RSC’s “Henry IV Part 1 and 2″ perfectly capture Prince Hal’s coming-of-age

Taking a page out of the National Theatre Live’s playbook, the Royal Shakespeare Company has finally started broadcasting their productions to cinemas around the world, and then, unlike NTLive, making them available on DVD. Following the broadcast of Gregory Doran’s “Richard II”, the RSC has just broadcasted Doran’s productions of the next two Henriad plays. … Continue reading

“Life Itself”: After a life at the movies, Roger Ebert lives on in the movie of his life
Documentary / Film Reviews / Highly Recommended

“Life Itself”: After a life at the movies, Roger Ebert lives on in the movie of his life

I grew up watching “Siskel and Ebert and The Movies.” It was a weekly ritual in my house, helping us decide what to see that weekend. The show struck something deep, and inspired me to start writing film reviews at a very young age: I was in grade 6 and I started my own magazine. It was through their television show that Siskel and Ebert became the world’s most powerful and influential film critics. Continue reading