I love my documentaries and this one I recommend to everyone who at one time thought you could not trust anyone over 30. Although it is somewhat self-indulgent, Michael Caine narrates a trip through the 60’s. I am a sucker for Caine’s accent and delivery, so I was hooked from the start. There are interviews with Roger Daltry, Paul McCartney, Marianne Faithful, Mary Quant and Twiggy among others. We don’t see them as they are today but there is all kinds of archival footage of them from the time. If you can’t guess from the list of names this movie focusses on London of the 60’s which in many ways was the centre of popular culture of the time and avoids for the most part the nasty sides of things like Vietnam, the civil rights movement, and student and youth unrest but it does have a totally awesome soundtrack and great scenes from the time including a very very young Mick Jagger and the Stones, scenes of the Beatles at the Cavern nightclub and the wonderful street scenes all accompanied by Caine’s cockney accent. We also get some great scenes from his movies of the time including Alfie, The Ipcress File, Zulu and such. I learned some very interesting things, like how Michael Caine chose his screen name (He was born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite), and that Mary Quant invented the mini-skirt.
If you are up for a nostalgia trip this is all for you and there is some coherence. As a review in Variety puts it the film has three parts: the rise of the 60’s revolt against the mores of the previous decade, its flourishing and its decline as the 70’s close in. Still this is a movie about Michael Caine’s experience of the time in which he was a player but one very much connected to times and the people. Do not look for deep insight or critical analysis but have fun.
I really like Marvel Comics movies and of all those I love the Thor movies. With Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tom Hiddleston as Loki it’s a no miss buddy God franchise. What can I say. Instead of saving the Earth this time Thor saves Asgard from his sister – the evil Hela played but Cate Blanchett. The special effects are great, the supporting cast of Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbach, Anthony Hopkins, Karl Urban, Idris Erlba and especially Jeff Goldblum you really can’t miss. Goldblum is classic in a totally comic role and a new comer – Tessa Thompson also provides great comic relief. I have to admit that comic relief from a script that is totally tongue in cheek is not really necessary, but it is really fun anyway. Not Oscar stuff but truly Great Trash!! I promise. If you like super heroes you will love this movie. Oh by the way, the director Taiki Waititi is a New Zealander and plays a cameo role. You won’t recognize him except by his broad New Zealand accent since he plays a rock creature. The movie is up there with Guardians of the Galaxy in my opinion and I really like Stan Lee taking such delight in having fun with his characters. Oh yeah, Stan Lee also has a cameo. Look for him when you go to see it.
This is a movie just for fun. Based on a graphic novel set at the time of the Cold War, the story is about a literally kick-ass British MI-5 agent who is sent to Berlin to recover and bring back a double agent who holds secrets both sides want. The times in Berlin are complicated and agents from both sides have become self interested in the isolated world of West Berlin. No one can be trusted as it turns out even the people who sent Charlize to Berlin. This movie has no redeeming social importance whatsoever. It is not in the category of John Le Carre or Len Deighton in terms of accuracy about the Cold War or Berlin or secret agents but it is hugely entertaining. Charlize is supported by an superb cast including David McAvoy, Toby Jones and John Goodman and Sofia Boutella. The latter might be best known as Jaylah in Star Trek Beyond. You know… the alien with the great white and black makeup. I was inspired to buy the graphic novel and the film is totally true to it. Great trash.
Okay… I guess many think “oh my God not another King Kong movie! Its been done to death”. There is some truth to this and I also thought this when I first heard about it but… It’s awesome. What changed my mind was the cast that includes Tom Hiddleston (the Night Manager), John Goodman (Argo, Trumbo and many others) Brie Larson (Room), Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes on a Plane) and John C. Reilly (The Lobster). Then a review from Eli Glasner who described it as a B-movie on steroids and others who called it Apocalypse Now meets Kong. I was sold and when I went I was not disappointed. Glasner was absolutely right and as soon as you suspend disbelief and get into the fun you will enjoy this movie. Hiddleston is great in the lead role and everyone in the cast is clearly having a great time. The special effects are also excellent. Set in the early 1970’s the story is about an expedition of scientists with an army escort heading off to a mysterious island in the remote Pacific. Once they arrive it is not long before they encounter Kong and not only Kong but a whole island of monsters from which they must escape. Brie Larson is a great Fay Wray, John C. Reilly adds comic relief as a World War II US pilot who crash landed on the island and has been there for more than 30 years. All in total fun and adventure. Enjoy.
The only martial arts film of the festival this year. The film a really fun, very typical martial arts film about a match between Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man in the early 60’s. Lee had come to San Francisco to bring the ancient Chinese art of Kung Fu to North America much to the resistance of the traditional Chinese. The story is that Kung Fu Master Wong Jack Man was sent to shut him down. That is the legend. The movie however takes a somewhat different tack and is just based on this historic and mythic match but has a more complex story of a blossoming friendship between the two as they fight evil Chinese criminal gangs in San Francisco. It was totally fun and while martial arts purists are critical of the film they just really lack any sense of fun. If you like martial arts and like the films you will really enjoy this movie. For those of you who are purists I suggest you avoid it or be prepared to suspend disbelief and just relax. Totally fun, totally without redeeming social importance and some great fight scenes. Which is what its all about anyway. Right!? Yeah!
Yes I know the picture looks like a traditional American Western but this is really anything but. Instead it’s an Australian police drama set today in the desert of the Australian outback. It is the second film from Aussie director Ivan Sen about a indigenous federal detective who arrives in the desert and woe begotten town of Goldstone. He is there to track down a missing Chinese girl that he suspects of being a victim of human trafficking. Goldstone harbours a very private and protective mining operation that is causing pollution and local violence by its miners. The company also imports indebted Chinese girls to serve as prostitutes and has bought off the town’s mayor and many of the local indigenous population. Besides our hero (who is himself a deeply flawed individual) there is a local cop who has been keeping his eyes closed but who is essentially a good cop. A murder and finding of the missing girl’s body gets the story rolling ending in a bloody gun fight between the good and bad guys. The indigenous detective appears in an earlier film – Mystery Road – which I fully intend to watch next week. The story is exciting and while not really Oscar worthy is definitely worth seeing. I have become a big fan of Australia cinema and this film did not let me down. If there is an award worthy aspect to this film that puts it in a class by itself, it’s the cinematography which is absolutely stunning. The shots of the desert taken with drone mounted cameras take your breath away. Seriously.
There are some things that you can only experience at TIFF and this was one of them. Matt Johnson and Jay McCarrol made their names if we can call it that with a web tv show called “nirvanna the band the show” that you can all find on YouTube if you like. The views for the web tv show are in the 1K to 4K level so it was not an international hit by any means. The guys are high school buddies who may have been the class clowns and the episodes on YouTube are funny in the high school humour kind of way but the fans are super fans. They were lucky however and managed to get the attention of more polished producers and have managed to snag a series on CTV this fall called: nirvanna the band the show. (By the way nirvanna is spelled with 2 “n’s”) Then to promote the show they managed to get three episodes strung together at TIFF. I saw this at Hot Docs and from what I can tell all the fans of the web tv show were there. Enthusiastic would not be sufficient to describe their love. They cheered the introduction, the pre-screening commercials and then laughed continuously all through the show. And… to be fair it was pretty funny. The guys have upped their game and are in the Kids in the Hall category now. The premise of the show is two guys with a band who want to get a gig at The Rivoli in Toronto. To get attention they try several different strategies not connected to music at all. The three episodes that were screened were very funny but production quality is not the greatest. The guys are funny and may well improve with experience. There is some real talent here although polishing will be needed. Nonetheless the fans are clearly there.. or at least the few hundred at Hot Docs. I will watch the series this fall although the real fun today was the audience. Oh right – I should mention, I felt very old since the average age of the audience had to be under 30.
I went to see this film largely on the recommendation of Eli Glasner who gave it a rare 5-star rating. While I sometimes agree with Glasner this rating is a mistake. The movie is good and entertaining but not great and not 5 stars. I have always been of the opinion that movies are for entertainment primarily and occasionally they move above that but lists of the greatest films ever made tend to suggest an appeal to some universal principles of greatness that simply do not exist. So all that said Midnight Special is a sci-fi movie that may well fit into a class with some of the more loved films in the genre like Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Ex Machina or Blade Runner. The story is about a boy who appears to have special powers over which he does not have complete control. Everyone wants him from the NSA to the FBI to a crazy religious cult but none of them fully understand him. He is kidnapped from the religious cult and taken away by his father and mother who are chased down by the Feds but not before they are able to deliver their son to his ultimate destiny. The film is never entirely clear about how anyone knows about him, how he could possibly be the progeny of the two mortals or what really is going on. There are too many hiccups like this to make the film worth the 5-star rating in my opinion but I agree that it is a great ride with great acting and its not so bad that we are left with a few questions. Thanks Eli for making me go see this one and I will give it a 4-star rating so we are mostly in agreement.
I liked this movie although I will admit it is not the best Coen brother film ever. It is much quieter and more subtle than I had anticipated. Reviews are mostly very positive and congratulate the Coen’s on a tribute and laugh at 1950’s Hollywood but the negative ones are very negative. I think it might be useful to see the film in conjunction with Trumbo and with Women He’s Undressed which also look at the same period. Hail, Caesar does not miss the communist element in Hollywood but does make light of it. The attack on the left wing elements of the creative people in Hollywood of the time was devastating and not funny but I am not sure the Coen’s deserve the antagonism they get for having fun with the whole thing. Certainly it is a comic take but it is so clearly comic and so tongue in cheek that I really enjoyed it notwithstanding the real story. There are some really great scenes mocking the mega dance scenes, the heroic over the top epics, and the mega stars who led the Hollywood of the time. There a number of great cameos and some wonderfully comic scenes but for the most part it is done without going over the top. I enjoyed it but as I note there are much better Coen Bros. films. Their best films are really great so their lesser efforts clearly disappointed some critics but to be fair, not being as great as their best is still pretty darn good.
Deadpool was not on my list of films to see until I heard Eli Glasner’s review. It started with him suggesting that the scene he showed during his review was the only one that the CBC’s rules would allow. The film has an R rating for a reason. It is very very funny, violent, full of foul language, nudity and very adult themes. I think that pretty much covers it. We are of course dealing with a Marvel product and it is well done, well written, and not too heavy on the special effects although they do play an important role so those of you who like them will not be disappointed. Oh yeah. It’s a love story too.
I really liked this movie despite making the mistake of attending on opening day. The theatre (and I went to the 2D, non-AVX etc version) was packed. There were people munching on everything you can imagine over and above popcorn, there were Susie seat kickers, Teddy texters, loudmouths talking through the whole film etc etc. It was totally annoying. So wait a week then go. This is a story about a super hero with a foul mouth, a low moral threshold and a red suit. The need for the latter becomes clear early in the film. Assuming you can tolerate violence as a comic element you will really enjoy your just under 2 hours of entertainment. Go for it.