The TIFF Bell Lightbox takes a step back to the low fi days of computer programming starting this weekend with the underwhelming “Computer Chess”. The surreal and subdued comedy strives to obtain the levels of classic Christopher Guest productions in its quirkiness of world building, but the question becomes is it witty and engaging enough to earn that comparison?
Starring: Wiley Wiggins, Patrick Riester, Freddy Martinez, Myles Paige
Written and Directed by Andrew Bujalski
Set over the course of a weekend tournament for chess software programmers thirty-some years ago, Computer Chess transports viewers to a nostalgic moment when the contest between technology and the human spirit seemed a little more up for grabs. (more…)
New on Blu-ray from VVS Films is the tantalizing and titillating new film from “Kids” scribe Harmony Korine, the heavily buzzed about “Spring Breakers”. Starring a pair of former Disney child stars, a ‘Pretty Little Liar’ and Harmony’s own wife as bikini-clad bandits who desperately want to leave behind their humdrum college lives for sun, drugs and the allure of Spring Break. Spring Breakers has grown with infamy over the explicit nature of its subject matter and its stars as well as the nature of where Franco’s character truly came from, but the film succeeds on its own merits and is one of 2013’s best offerings so far.
Spring Breakers Blu-Ray Review
Written and Directed by Harmony Korine
Four sexy college girls, Faith (Gomez) Candy (Hudgens) Brit (Benson) and Cotty (Korine), plan to fund their spring break getaway by burglarizing a popular fast food shack. But that’s only the beginning. At a motel room rager, fun reaches its legal limit and the girls are arrested and taken to jail. Hungover and clad only in bikinis, the girls appear before a judge but are bailed out unexpectedly by Alien (Franco) An infamous local thug and rapper, Alien takes them under his wing and leads them on the wildest Spring Break trip in history. Rough on the outside but with a soft spot inside, Alien wins over the hearts of the young Spring Breakers, and leads them on a Spring Break they never could have imagined.
TV veteran Aaron Sorkin returns with a new show, his first since the ill-fated yet excellently written Saturday Night Live take off “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”, and this time he has taken his take on the inner workings of a network TV newsroom to the friendly confines of HBO with “The Newsroom”. The hit HBO show recently returned with its second season on the cable giant, so let`s delve in to the first season set to see if it`s worth your hard earned dollars.
The Newsroom Season 1
Created by Aaron Sorkin
Aaron Sorkin’s latest drama is set at a fictional cable news channel where anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) leads a group of reporters and staff striving to make a hard-hitting news program. After a recent blow up at a college lecture, anchor McAvoy returns to work to find that his support team, minus a handful of devotees, are all fleeing to the late night news program. McAvoy also inherits a new producer, his former flame MacKenzie McHale (Mortimer) and number one Jim Harper (Gallagher Jr), who is immediately smitten with Maggie Jordan (Pill). Also in the newsroom is Neal Sampat (Patel), late night producer Don Keefer (Sadoski), gorgeous and brilliant business reporter Sloan Sabbith (Munn) and the man over seeing it all Charlie Skinner (Waterston).
Starting this week at the TIFF Bell Lightbox is the documentary that caused quite the splash at this year’s Hot Docs film festival, “Blackfish”. When director Gabriela Cowperthwaite began investigating the death of a trainer who was dragged to her death during a “Dine with Shamu” show at SeaWorld, she soon found the initial story gave way to a far more shocking and further-reaching situation that plumbed the depths of a billion-dollar industry.
Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite
A killer whale linked to three trainer deaths over two decades, Tilikum is the backbone of the story presented in Blackfish. However, Cowperthwaite discovered it wasn’t just this particular whale; there have been multiple cases of Orca attacks on trainers in parks around the world, although never in the wild. Featuring testimonies from experts and trainers, and with never-before-seen footage, (more…)
Originally published at Dork Shelf
The Tagu Kung Fu School is located right next to the Shaolin Temple Monastery (the birthplace of the famed martial art) and is home to over 20,000 students. Dragon Girls follows three young female students at the school, living far away from their homes and families. They sacrifice the luxuries of childhood like days off, playtime and seeing their parents for the honor, respect and skill they will gain from their training. The physical and mental exhaustion and constant drive for perfection weigh heavily on the young warriors as they learn to cope with constant pressure to perform from every corner.
It’s easy to tell why director Inigo Westmeier has chosen her three subjects, as they run the spectrum of the students at the school. There’s the nine year old prodigy, whose father will only visit if she wins first place. Then there are the two teenagers, one who still tries hard every day but is just not as gifted as the rest, and the other, a returned run away from the school who doesn’t want to be there. Through the lives of these girls, and several others, we see the almost cult like attitude that the school fosters in their pupils. It’s a fascinating watch, and the girls are engaging onscreen presences.
The living quarters are in near squalor and the kids sleep in bunks beds with double digit roommates in each room. They are allowed to shower only twice a week and have to resort to a bucket and a tap at the end of corridor to scrub clean each morning. But the dedication to their craft of martial arts carries them through.
Till Next Time
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- ‘Pacific Rim’ Review (Dork Shelf) (moviejunkieto.com)
- ‘Deceptive Practice’ immerses us in the magical world of Ricky Jay (moviejunkieto.com)
- ‘The Act of Killing’ is a gut-wrenching 2 hours of cinema (moviejunkieto.com)
- Despicable Me 2 Review (Kirk Haviland) (entertainmentmaven.com)
Starting this past weekend at the TIFF Bell Lightbox is one of the most controversial documentaries of the year, “The Act of Killing”. The film follows around a group of killers, that have somehow become revered figures in their native Indonesia, as they relate their stories of death and mayhem with grins and smiles upon their faces as hey reminisce about the ‘good old days’ when they were responsible for the death of thousands.
The Act of Killing
Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer
After the 1965 military coup against the Sukarno government, Indonesia was overrun by marauding bands of paramilitaries who indulged in the mass murder of more than one million alleged communists. These victims included ethnic Chinese and intellectuals and left behind a horrifying record of atrocities that, ironically, has enshrined these killers in their nation’s history as patriotic heroes. Director Joshua Oppenheimer and his collaborators provocatively explore this dark chapter of Indonesia’s history by enlisting a group of former paramilitaries to re-enact their crimes in the style of the Hollywood films that they love. Gleefully recreating some of the many murders they have committed with the aid of sets, costumes and pyrotechnics, the proud band of killers exhibits a fixation on style over substance — as well as an utter lack of remorse over their actions — that is both monstrous and mesmerizing.
Starting this weekend at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema is the new documentary about the unsung heroes of the filmmaking process, the casting director, and the impact and evolution of the craft, “Casting By”. The film also serves to tell the story of the most influential and famous members of the casting world Marion Dougherty. In December of 2011, the film industry sadly lost Marion Dougherty and though most film fans would not recognize her by name; her work revolutionized the acting and casting industry.
Directed by Tom Donahue
Dougherty began her career as a casting agent in the 50s for a collection of New York based TV shows, including the Kraft Television Theatre, Route 66 and Naked City. During the studio era of film making that lasted into the early 60’s, casting was done by surveying the usual crop of studio-signed actors who were often given roles based upon their looks and personality versus their talent. However, Dougherty recognized that there was a large pool of actors in New York’s off-Broadway productions and acting schools and was the first person to cast unknown actors based upon character instead of appearance. But perhaps the best treat in this revelatory film is the massive collection of footage, screen tests and movie clips featuring legendary actors such as James Dean, Christopher Walken, Jon Voight and Maureen Stapleton, before their fame.
New in theaters this weekend from the director of “Red” Robert Schwentke is the latest multimillion dollar extravaganza vying for your money, R.I.P.D. Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds headline as two cops dispatched by the otherworldly ‘Rest In Peace Department’ to protect and serve the living from an increasingly destructive array of souls who refuse to move peacefully to the other side.
Written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi
Directed by Robert Schwentke
Veteran sheriff Roy Pulsifer (Bridges) has spent his career with the legendary police force known as R.I.P.D. tracking monstrous spirits who are cleverly disguised as ordinary people. Once the wise-cracking Roy is assigned former rising-star detective Nick Walker (Reynolds) as his junior officer, the new partners have to turn grudging respect into top-notch teamwork. When they uncover a plot that could end life as we know it, two of R.I.P.D.’s finest must miraculously restore the cosmic balance, or watch the tunnel to the afterlife begin sending angry souls the very wrong way. (more…)
Originally published by Dr. Terror`s Blog of Horrors
ITALIAN HORROR WEEK – DEEP RED – Ruminations on the Argento Classic from One of the Formerly Uninitiated.
Having grown up in the suburb of Mississauga, On Canada, a place that was great to grow up in but devoid of any of the cool, niche video stores that populate the so close yet so far metropolis that is Toronto, my introduction to anything other than the mainstream horror was stunted. Being the late 80’s early 90’s when I started to really pursue my education in earnest, one summer I systematically went through the entire horror section at the local Jumbo video and rented every tape they had, the internet was a funny place that you could download and watch a movie trailer in the blistering time of 45 minutes to an hour. Without the availability of something as amazing as the modern internet, with IMDB and the millions of torrent sites, back in the late 80’s/early 90’s tracking down rare films required actual homework. And with my local video store favoring films like “April Fool’s Day” and “Sleepaway Camp” to fill their shelves, the likes of Bava, Fulci, and Argento never seemed to show up.
Starting today at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and running through the rest of the summer is the new series based on the resurgence of the raunchy American comedy that was launched back in the 70’s by the now classic National Lampoon’s Animal House, ‘TOGA! The Reinvention of American Comedy’. Filled with special guests and screenings, the series promises to be one of the most hilarious set of films the Lightbox has managed to group together.
TOGA! The Reinvention of American Comedy
Running July 17th – Aug 29th 2013 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
In 1978 a film was launched into theaters that combined the growing movement of improv comedy, the likes of Saturday Night Live and comedy troupes like the Groundlings, emerging director John Landis and the National Lampoon humor magazine entitled National Lampoon’s Animal House. The film went on to shatter box-office records and drag R-rated comedy from its b-movie drive in origins into the mainstream. The film also made “Toga! Toga!” into a generational rallying cry and served as inspiration for many a college drinking night. This film series will screen 27 rude, crude and brilliant movies that changed the face of modern American comedy, all of which owe at least in part a huge debt to Landis’ ground-breaking comedy.
Starting at the Royal this week is the new coming of age story from Canadian filmmaker Dev Khanna and Degrassi graduate Raymond Ablack, Fondi ’91. Pretty early on the audience realizes that we are experiencing something spectacularly bad unspooling in front of our eyes. It’s sad that when we should be celebrating and forwarding Canadian cinema and film makers, director Khanna is Toronto based, that such a sloppy effort is around to help defend the stereotype that all film from Canada is bad.
Starring: Raymond Ablack, Mylène St-Sauveur, Serena Iansiti, Chris Pereira, Kyle Kirkpatrick, Thomas Wesson, Remo Girone
Written by André Bharti, Lenny Foreht, Dev Khanna, A. Sinha
Directed by Dev Khanna
Set against a background of lost innocence, youthful frivolity and dark moral themes, Fondi ‘91 follows the lustful adventures of a Jersey-based high school soccer team’s two week trip to Europe. Shot on location in Fondi, Italy, the team gets slaughtered during their on field (but not shown) matches as they are too caught up in scoring with the Italian ladies. (more…)
New in theaters north of the border this week is director Neil Jordan’s newest take on the Vampire mythos, Byzantium. Jordan returns to the genre he took on almost 2 decades ago with the Anne Rice penned Interview with a Vampire, but this time around he has a new take on the entire history of the vampire phenomenon.
Written by Moira Buffini
Directed by Neil Jordan
After fleeing their latest living quarters after an unforeseen attack, two mysterious women seek refuge in a run-down coastal resort. Clara (Arterton) meets lonely Noel who provides shelter for her and her daughter Eleanor (Ronan) in his deserted guesthouse Byzantium. Eleanor, an eternal schoolgirl, befriends Frank (Landry Jones) and tells him their lethal secret. They pair are actually mother and daughter, were born 200 years ago and survive on human blood. (more…)
Originally Published at Dork Shelf
Director Guillermo del Toro unleashes his long awaited summer blockbuster Pacific Rim on multiplexes everywhere this weekend. It’s by far the biggest film del Toro has undertaken and he’s left all the money on screen. But the story driving the robot and sea monster battling action and the performances, from a cast featuring some recognizable faces and names but lacking a major star, are not without issues sometimes distracts from the amazing effects and action on display.
When monsters known as Kaiju start rising from the sea, the war for our planet begins. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon is devised: massive robots called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge allowing the pair to react and behave as one. But even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenceless in the face of the relentless Kaiju after initial success. On the verge of defeat following the evolution of Kaiju fighting techniques, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes, a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi), who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past.
Originally Published at DORK SHELF
Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay
Deceptive Practice is a journey into the realm of modern magic with the multitalented Ricky Jay, a world-renowned magician, author, historian and actor. Touted as one of magic’s greatest, Jay is dedicated to researching, teaching, performing and perfecting his craft. Magicians would normally be reluctant to let their secrets out, let alone allow a documentary crew to peek behind their velvet curtain, but Jay allows directors Molly Bernstein and Alan Edelstein to do just that. (more…)
Starting this weekend at the TIFF Bell Lightbox is the veteran of the TIFF, Locarno and SXSW film festivals that examines the quiet life inside a museum, the people that walk among the pieces of art and their ruminations on their surroundings that comprises “Museum Hours”.
Starring: Mary Margaret O’Hara, Bobby Sommer, Ela Piplits
Written and Directed by Jem Cohen
When Vienna museum guard Johan (Sommer) befriends an enigmatic visitor, the grand Kunsthistorisches Art Museum becomes a mysterious crossroads which sparks explorations of their lives, the city, and the ways artworks reflect and shape the world.
Starting Friday July 5th from Kinosmith at the Cineplex Yonge Dundas cinema in Toronto is the film about one of rock music’s biggest cult heroes, Big Star. The film is filled with great music and interviews from the band members and the multitudes they influenced. The story of the band is also a unique and interesting tale that is told with plenty or archival footage and recording to flesh it out for the audience.
Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me
Directed by Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori
While mainstream success eluded them, Big Star’s three albums have become critically lauded touchstones of the rock music canon. A seminal band in the history of alternative music, Big Star has been cited as an influence by artists including REM, The Replacements, Belle & Sebastian, Elliot Smith and Flaming Lips, to name just a few. With never-before-seen footage and photos of the band, in-depth interviews and a rousing musical tribute by the bands they inspired, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me is a story of artistic and musical salvation.
The writing and directing teams behind 2010’s smash hit “Despicable Me” have returned, minions in tow, with a follow up that furthers the transformation of former super villain Gru into all around good guy in “Despicable Me 2”. Universal and Illumination studios definitely know what worked best the first time around and have spent the time in the sequel to advance those storylines instead of just rehashing the original’s premise.
Despicable Me 2
Written by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul
Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
In Despicable Me 2, Gru (Carrell) is recruited by the Anti-Villain League, rather forcibly by agent Lucy (Wiig), to help deal with a powerful new super criminal. The mission has Gru going undercover to find out who has taken a very deadly substance inside a shopping mall. Of course Gru’s minions and girls, Margo (Cosgrove), Edith (Gaier) and Agnes (Fisher), are all back attempting to help him out, and help him find love in the process. Meanwhile, Margo’s first boyfriend has Gru seeing red. (more…)
Starting this weekend at the Cineplex Yonge Dundas in downtown Toronto is perhaps the year’s best feature directorial debut so far from Director Sally El Hosaini, the award winning “My Brother the Devil”. The coming of age story set in the United Kingdom is a harsh and tragic tale centered on some very strong performances and a message about finding your own way without repeating the mistakes of the past.
My Brother the Devil
Starring: James Floyd, Fady Elsayed, Said Taghmaoui
Written and directed by Sally El Hosaini
Mo (Elsayed) is a young boy growing up in a traditional Egyptian household, but beyond the front door of the family’s modest London flat is a completely different world, the streets of Hackney. The impressionable Mo idolizes his handsome and charismatic older brother Rashid (Floyd) and wants to follow in his footsteps. However, Rashid wants a different life for his little brother and will do whatever it takes to put him through college (more…)
New to theaters today is the latest action opus from the team behind the first 3 “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, director Gore Verbinski and his star Johnny Depp, and the animated “Rango”, “The Lone Ranger”. The iconic figure and his partner Tonto started off as the stars of their own radio show in the 1930’s which morphed to film serials and a TV show by the late 40’s. Now after decades away from any screen, Disney has opted to bring back the pair for a blockbuster summer tentpole release complete with dazzling action set pieces and a star studded cast.
The Lone Ranger
Written by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio
Directed by Gore Verbinski
The Lone Ranger is bookend by a story in the 1930’s with a much older Native American spirit warrior Tonto (Depp) recounting the untold tale of the adventure that transformed John Reid (Hammer), a man of the law, into a legend of justice. In the late 1800’s , after his brother (Badge Dale) meets his untimely end at the hands of Butch Cavendish (Ficther), the presumed dead John Reid is nursed back to health by Tonto. Donning a mask to hide his identity, the duo set out upon a path of vengeance that ends up leading them to somewhere unexpected.
Originally posted on Dork Shelf
THIS WEEK AT THE BLOOR 6/28/13
No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka
No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka charts the final weeks of perhaps the most misunderstood and least mainstream covered conflicts of our time, the Sri Lankan Civil War. This war was conducted in secret with the Sri Lankan government booting the UN and foreign press reporters from the combat zone. More than 70,000 civilians lost their lives during this 26-year long war, but most of these deaths occurred during illegal government shelling that took place in its final months. Director Callum Macrae chronicles the final months of the battle with footage and interviews from both sides of the war. (more…)
With his first big budget action film since 2009’s “2012”, Roland Emmerich brings us the second film about the White House being forcibly taken of 2013, “White House Down”. This time around we have Jamie Foxx playing the President and army veteran/secret service wannabe Channing Tatum coming to the rescue as they take on a threat from inside US soil as Tatum’s daughter and others are trapped as hostages.
White House Down
Written by James Vanderbilt
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Capitol Policeman John Cale (Tatum) has just been denied his dream job with the Secret Service of protecting President James Sawyer (Foxx). Not wanting to let down his little girl with the news, he takes her on a tour of the White House, when the complex is overtaken by a heavily armed paramilitary group. Now, with the nation’s government falling into chaos and time running out, it’s up to Cale to save the president, his daughter, and the country (more…)
Brad Pitt teams with director Marc Forster to bring to life the Max Brooks novel “World War Z” to the big screen, at least in title. The film script bears little resemblance to the flashback laden, post war accounts that make up the book, and the infected ‘zombies’ here exhibit a pack mentality and bare a closer resemblance to the rage infected victims of “28 Days Later” than anything George Romero has ever created.
World War Z
Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof and Michael Straczynski
Directed by Marc Forster
After barely escaping New Jersey alive after a daring rooftop helicopter rescue, former United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt) traverses the world on behest of his former employers to stop a Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself. (more…)
New to DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada comes the ultimate throwback to the cheesy science fiction of the 1980’s, from the likes of director Charles Band, and the newest from the film making collective that is fast becoming the genre standard for Canadian film, Astron 6, Manborg. Manborg’s retro style and lovingly cheesy effects laden production is refreshing in an age where film effects are striving to become more photorealistic. Director Kostanski revels in throwing his basement made concoctions at the audience and fills his tale with lots of heart and hilarity to boot.
Starring: Matthew Kennedy, Connor Sweeney, Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, Meredith Sweeney, Ludwig Lee and Mike Kostanski
Written by Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie
Directed by Steven Kostanski
The armies of Hell have taken over the Earth, and all that stands in the way of the villainous Count Draculon and humanity’s total extinction is a motley crew of misfits led by the mighty Manborg: a warrior that’s half-man, half machine, but all hero. Manborg (Kennedy) (more…)