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“The Guest”: Dan Stevens’s charisma carries an otherwise flimsy genre film
Film Reviews / Independent film

“The Guest”: Dan Stevens’s charisma carries an otherwise flimsy genre film

Fresh from getting himself killed off of “Downton Abbey” so he could explore other acting opportunities, Dan Stevens plays a soldier with a penchant for killing in “The Guest.” Fueled entirely on Stevens’s charisma and its synthpop score, “The Guest” starts out intriguing until you realise the film and its protagonist are utterly vacant. But … Continue reading

“Gone Girl”: a feminist book gets watered down to a thrilling piece of pulp fiction
Film Reviews / Recommended

“Gone Girl”: a feminist book gets watered down to a thrilling piece of pulp fiction

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more faithful screen adaptation of a novel than David Fincher’s film “Gone Girl,” which was also written by the book’s author, Gillian Flynn. From its pitch-perfect casting – Rosamund Pike as the icily sophisticated and gorgeous Amy, and Ben Affleck as her husband Nick, a man with frat boy … Continue reading

“Pride”: a beating heart can change the world
Film Reviews / Highly Recommended

“Pride”: a beating heart can change the world

Sentimental without being drippy, rollicking and rousing without being over-the-top, Matthew Warcus’s “Pride” is the epitome of a feel good movie. With its bopping soundtrack of 1980s pop hits, sweeping camera, and bright colours – there’s even a fabulous dance number – the film remains buoyant throughout even as it tackles tough issues and hard … Continue reading

Best of TIFF14: “The Tribe” is beyond words
Film Reviews / Foreign film / Highly Recommended

Best of TIFF14: “The Tribe” is beyond words

After picking up all the awards in the Critics’ Week Sidebar at the Cannes Film Festival in May, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s Ukrainian crime drama – told entirely in sign language, no translation, no subtitles – already had plenty of buzz surrounding it by the time of its North American Premiere at TIFF. Of course, this didn’t stop someone, at the second public screening, from blurting out a loud “WHAT?!” when the title cards announced it would be in sign language: a very, very hearty laugh from the rest of the audience followed.
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Best of TIFF14: Lone Scherfig’s “The Riot Club” explores the darker side of privilege
Film Festivals / Film Reviews / Highly Recommended

Best of TIFF14: Lone Scherfig’s “The Riot Club” explores the darker side of privilege

The lads of The Riot Club – an exclusive club for 10 of Oxford University’s richest and brightest young men – make “Gossip Girl”’s Chuck Bass, at his rapiest, look like a prince. And this is a guy who traded the love of his life for a hotel before sleeping with his barely consenting step-sister. Like Chuck Bass, these boys were raised in the lap of luxury and privilege. As they say in Britain, they’re posh, which comes with special customs, accents, and terminology. Continue reading

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

“Frank”: a hilarious and bizarre trip inside the head inside that head
Film Reviews / Highly Recommended

“Frank”: a hilarious and bizarre trip inside the head inside that head

Midway through Lenny Abrahamson’s delightful, offbeat, and hilarious comedy, “Frank,” Don (Scoot McNairy) explains to his bandmate Jon (Domnhall Gleeson) that “sooner or later you’re going to get the feeling, ‘why can’t I be Frank?’ But there can only be one Frank!” Frank (Michael Fassbender), of course, is the de-facto bandleader of the unpronounceable Soronprfbs whose music is a bizarre mixture of electronica, alternative, and rock, with lyrics like “in the soup, ginger crouton, raw meat sausage.” Frank later describes their audience as “people who chance upon us, and realise after a few minutes, they don’t like us.” Much of Frank’s mystery derives from the fact that he never takes off his giant cartoon paper mâché head, not even to shower (“He must have a very bushy beard. How does he clean his teeth?”). It allows people to mistake his mental illness for genius, but he’s got both. 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