Films viewed in 2011

Archive for the ‘Canadian’ Category

488. Terror Train

In Canadian on February 24, 2012 at 4:46 PM

Dir. Roger Spottiswoode

A masked killer targets six college kids throwing a large New Year’s Eve costume party aboard a moving train.

MY TAKE

Jamie Lee Curtis is best remembered as the “scream queen” from the Halloween franchise, but a couple of Canadian films helped her secure the title. Prom Night is the classic of the two, but Terror Train is still worth keeping track of. The film has fun featuring a young David Copperfield as a mischievous magician, and his routine pulls off the trick of keeping you guessing about his allegiance throughout. The story is otherwise a pretty cut and dry tale of teens being terrorized in a confined space, but looks good and chugs along at a nice pace. In other words, don’t be surprised when they remake this film because it already has a fan base of about 12 people.

 

479. Les bons débarras

In Canadian on February 9, 2012 at 4:32 PM

Dir. Francis Mankiewcz

A mother trying to take care of her simple minded brother is in trouble with her rebellious daughter.

MY TAKE

Although it won the Genie for best film in 1981 and was named the best Quebec film of all-time by a 2003 poll in La Press, Les bon débarras feels severely neglected in Canadian cinema. Luckily, a restored DVD was created thanks to the now tragically defunct AV Trust, keeping this classic alive and available (however rare). Impeccable performances are the hallmark of Francis Mankiewcz’s coming-of-age showpiece, with Charlotte Laurier portraying a beautifully empathetic young girl and Germain Houde masterfully balancing a difficult role of a shattered soul. The mother-daughter relationship is also more raw and frank than we’re used to seeing in most films, and rounds out a refreshing drama that deserves to be dug up by the rest of Canada.

478. The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom

In Canadian on February 9, 2012 at 3:29 PM

Dir. Tara Johns

An eleven-year-old girl finds out she was adopted and she runs away to find the truth.

MY TAKE

If you’re going to fantasize about who your real birth mother is, I suppose Dolly Parton is as good as anyone. Tara John’s coming-of-age story is a sweet childish daydream that has a good heart, but the dramatic stakes are about the equivalent of a kid running away to the end of the block. Beautifully art directed to recreate a small town feel from the 1970s, the film does benefit from an authentic atmosphere even when the child performances sometimes feel stiff. The story is rescued by a satisfying third act that uses a smart tactic of including the real Dolly Parton without having her play an on-screen version of herself that’s supposed to be 40 years younger. Even with the help of special effects, her ungodly amounts of plastic surgery could never be that convincing.

 

476. Trigger

In Canadian on February 7, 2012 at 2:57 PM

Dir. Bruce MacDonald

Trigger is the story of two rock n’ roll women who once shared a friendship, a band and a whole lot of chaos

MY TAKE

In a rare example of a non-comic-book-based side-quel, Tigger gives us a parallel (but certainly not equal) tale of rock n’ role that exists in the same world as Bruce MacDonald’s own Hard Core Logo. Lacking all the ferocity, grit or testosterone that made the original so beloved, Molly Parker and Tracey Wright reminisce about days gone by and talk themselves in circles with a chorus of bemoaning. Instead of a rock ‘n roll road trip, we get a stranger’s stroll down memory lane populated by only glimpses of familiar faces.  Lazy cinematography and uninspired dialogue are also to blame, reducing the scope and impact of the film, which were most likely hindered by the ailing health of the late Tracy Wright. Perhaps I was just mislead by the liner notes, but the film would have been better off piggy-backing into the world of Boys (and Rock) on the Side.

474. Kissed

In Canadian on February 3, 2012 at 3:46 PM

Dir. Lynne Stopkewich

Over the years, a child’s romantic ideals about death blossom into the most profound relationship of her life.

MY TAKE

When you think about films that could only be made by a woman, I’m guessing Kissed isn’t what immediately comes to mind. But this artsy romp into necrophilia is handled with a delicate touch that would surely be beyond the reach of most male directors. Molly Parker plays the naïve nympho in question, possessing just the right balance of beauty and wide-eyed wonder to sell us on a deviant debutante. Peter Outerbridge can’t keep up to her fantasies, and brings the film to a logical if not shocking ending. One more example of why Canadian cinema has built the infamous reputation of weird sex and snowshoes.

469. A Beginners Guide to Endings

In Canadian on February 2, 2012 at 2:22 PM

Dir. Jonathan Sobol

Upon learning they only have a few days left to live, three brothers set off to reverse a lifetime of mistakes.

MY TAKE

Jonathan Sobol’s funny, lively and well-made first feature is a perfect example of why Canadian film is often referred to as “invisible cinema”. Despite having well-known American actors, like Harvey Keitel, and a Canuck bombshell like Tricia Helfer, A Beginners Guide to Endings is unlikely to never be known by general Canadian audiences. I follow this stuff very closely, and only discovered the film buried in the Canadian section of Air Canada’s in-flight entertainment. There’s plenty of wit on display here, as Scott Caan, Jason Jones and me-look-alike Paul Costanzo navigate their way around Niagara Falls in search of fulfillment, while drop-ins from actors like J.K. Simmons keep the humour and energy rolling. I’d like to know who’s to blame for ending this film’s life before it even got started.

464. Rude

In Canadian on January 31, 2012 at 11:35 AM

Dir. Clément Virgo

The stories of a reluctantly recidivist ex-con, a woman recovering from a breakup and abortion, and a shy boxer who’s bullied into gay-bashing are woven together by a freelance radio deejay.

MY TAKE

Aside from Vincenzo Natali’s Cube, Clément Virgo’s Rude is the only feature film from the Canadian Film Centre to have really dented Canuck cinema. Premiering at Cannes, the writer and director undoubtedly bore comparisons to being Canada’s Spike Lee, but this film stands alone as a fresh and energized voice, no matter what the nationality. Stylish in design and “verbal intercourse” (as the film’s sultry radio DJ says), the film has a pounding pulse that feels in sync with a restless truth. The inter-connecting stories of people being pushed and pulled through a violent society are each compelling, and round out a film that makes no apologies for what it has to say.

455. Class of 1984

In Canadian on January 26, 2012 at 4:46 PM

Dir. Mark L. Lester

A new, unsuspecting teacher gives his violent, drug dealing students a lesson they won’t forget.

MY TAKE

In the Canadian cinema yearbook of about 1977-83, only a few gems and cult classics passed the test of being more than sneaky producer write-offs. Mark L. Lester’s Class of 1984 certainly qualifies, as a no-holds-barred rumble through the blackboard jungle that is wild, tense, and even thrillingly cathartic (to anyone who has ever taught). The film was initially expelled from many countries for its “lewd” content, but as times have changed, it feels much more realistic than the filmmakers probably ever thought possible. Worth seeing for a good early appearance by Michael J. Fox, if nothing else.

452. Weirdsville

In Canadian on January 25, 2012 at 4:45 PM

Dir. Allan Moyle

A pair of slackers get in way over their heads when they try to dump off the body of a dead girlfriend.

MY TAKE

Somewhere between the murky waters of black comedy and hazy daze of burnout pictures, you’ll find Allan Moyle’s Weirdsville. Scott Speedman and Wes Bentley circulate this road to nowhere picture that involves a satanic cult, dwarf security guard and at least one successfully rendered drug trip of skating barefoot down main street. Although often impressive looking overall, both the performances and cinematography are too often stylistically inconsistent for the film to ever settle into it’s own unique groove. The result is a film that may not be often revisited, but is still a worthwhile late-night destination.

451. The City of Shadows

In Canadian on January 25, 2012 at 4:24 PM

Dir. Kim Nguyen

A doctor broken by 8 years of war in North Africa tries to save a city from the plague and from madness.

MY TAKE

A nimble runtime and beautiful backdrops will hopefully help Kim Nguyen’s The City of Shadows see the light of day. This Canadian feature, set in the foreign sands of North Africa, is a period piece that explores the medical, cultural and ethical effects of colonialism. The deep-rooted problems sometimes feel overly abbreviated at the expense of exploring complex character relationships, but the streamlined story at least manages to hold a singular focus. Aside from Jean-Marc Barr, we aren’t given much more than token charactures of evil soldiers and noble locals, but there are enough dramatic plot points to push us to a satisfying conclusion.