Ocean's 12

    2 March 2017, early evening

Ocean’s 12 was a film I don’t think i’d have looked up if I wasn’t on a plane. I loved Ocean’s 11, but did it really need a sequel? I guess they had a great cast of people and that’s a good enough reason to get the gang back together for a second film. Like the first film Ocean’s 12 centres around a heist. Terry Benedict (Andy García) has discovered the locations of the original gang and threaten’s them all if they don’t pay him back his money. So they all get back together so they can start committing crimes again. Catherine Zeta Jones and Vincent Cassel make foxy new additions to the story, playing a hot Interpol cop and a handsome thief respectively. The movie was better than I thought it would be. Certainly far less compelling than the first movie, but still a lot of fun to watch. At the end of the day Steven Soderbergh is a good directory. Certainly a solid airplane film.

Reviews of Ocean’s 12 on Rotten Tomatoes.

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The Hangover

    2 March 2017, early evening

On the flight to Paris I watch The Hangover. A group of guys get black out drunk at a bachelor party and lose the groom. They spend the next few days trying to find him. (Having your bachelor party days before your wedding seems like a bad idea: who does that anymore?) The film’s quite funny. The characters slowly piece together their weird night. It’s a silly fun film. Ken Jeong has a small part in the movie and is particularly great. (And Heather Graham shows up as well, who is lovely and i’m going to marry her.)

Reviews of the Hangover on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Dheepan

    2 March 2017, early evening

Before leaving for Paris a week or so ago I thought I should check out Dheepan, so i’d fully understand the experience of a Tamil person in France. The film is about a former Tamil Tiger who claims asylum in France along with a women and an orphan: the three pretend to be a family. We watch as they struggle to adjust to life in a crime ridden suburb of Paris. Antonythasan Jesuthasan does a great job playing the title character, Dheepan. (All three leads are fantastic, really.) It was weird watching a film that acknowledges the war in Sri Lanka. I really loved this movie. You should watch this film. It’s a gritty crime drama with a Tamil dude at it’s centre: how could you not?

Reviews of Dheepan on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Green Room

   28 November 2016, evening time

What a crazy movie. Green Room feels like something they’d screen at Midnight Madness. (I’m willing to bet they did.) The less you know about the film the better. There is a punk band. There are some neo-nazis. Shit gets real. There are lots of familiar faces in the cast. (Most notable for me was Alia Shawkat who plays Maeby on Arrested Development.) I really liked the film. You should watch it.

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Deadpool

   13 October 2016, late afternoon

Holy shit: can you go a whole year only watching superhero movies? Probably. Deadpool was a strange film, a nice change of pace from your typical superhero movie. In many ways it’s a send up of those films and a very formulaic repetition of those films. The film is probably most notable for being so aggressive about breaking the 4th wall. (There’s a joke in the film about how it breaks the 4th wall so much.) The film is very violent and crude. There is nudity and swearing and all of the good stuff. The hot courtesan from Firefly plays the love interest in the film. This movie is well worth watching.

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The Wolverine

   13 October 2016, late afternoon

The Wolverine was far better than I thought it would be, but ultimately a pretty stupid movie. I love the X-Men stories that touch on how long lived Wolverine is. This one begins in World War II: Wolverine saves a Japanese soldier from the bomb in Nagasaki. The story then jumps to the present, where we learn this same fellow is now dying and requests to say goodbye to Wolverine in person. Things go downhill from there. The first half of the film is far better than the second. The film as a whole is far better than the first Wolverine film. Hopefully this means the next one will be amazing. Should you watch this one? Maybe!

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X-Men: Apocalypse

   13 October 2016, late afternoon

X-Men: Apocalypse takes place in the 80s, and follows the X-Men as they fight against Apocalypse. The visuals in the movie are quite stunning. The story somewhat less so. (Like the last film, the scenes with Quicksilver are probably the best.) Bryan Singer’s return to the X-Men franchise has been great. Though the films never hit the high notes of X2 i’ve found them all quite enjoyable, and they all make up for the terrible X-Men III. This X-Men movie is no exception. The cast is stellar. Singer is good at cool comic book action sequences. The opening for this film in ancient Egypt is really great. If you’re on an airplane this is a must watch.

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Captain America: Civil War

   13 October 2016, late afternoon

On the one hand it’s probably nicer to watch Captain America: Civil War in a movie theatre or on a fancy TV rather than on an airplane. On the other hand the film is almost 3 hours long and that certainly helps kill time on a long flight. I am probably as surprised as everyone else that the Captain America films are the best of all the Marvel movies. This movie feels very much like what people probably hoped the Avengers sequel would be. Marvel has gotten quite good at jamming lots of characters together and giving them enough screen time where it doesn’t seem forced or weird. This film is very loosely based on the comic series where the government wants to regulate superheroes. Captain America and Ironman get in a fight and things escalate from there. It’s got some heart to it, like all the Captain America films, while still sticking to what feels like a formula for these sorts of movies at this point. The premise of the whole film seems a bit stupid if you step back and think about it, but it’s a fun film nevertheless.

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Ant-Man

   19 April 2016, late afternoon

Ant-Man was an enjoyable comic book film. I think Marvel has got pretty good at churning those out at this point. This one was funnier than most, probably in part due to Edgar Wrights script and early role in making the film. (I’d be curious to see what the whole film would have been like had he stayed on to direct.) The film stars Paul Rudd, Evagaline Lilly — hells yes — and Michael Douglas. The later plays the original Ant-Man Hank Pym, who hires Paul Rudd playing Scott Lang to help him do a big heist to make sure the Ant-Man technology doesn’t get into the hands of super villain arms dealers. You know how it is. It’s a fun film. It’s a bit goofy. All the shrinking stuff is done really well. The final fight scene feels right out of Wright film, and pokes fun at the big explosions and spectacle of most action movies. It’s probably on better than average when you compare it to the other Marvel films.

The official Ant Man website.

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Fire in Babylon

   19 April 2016, late afternoon

I put a hold on Fire in Babylon at the library right after watching the trailer. A film about how the West Indies kicked colonial ass at cricket? That’s a movie for me. The film tracks the rise of the West Indies from so-called “calypso cricketers” to the team that totally dominated the sport for the later half of the 70s and all of the 80s. The film begins with their embarrassing loss to Australia in 1974, the victims of Australia’s vicious pace bowling. Their captain Clive Loyd builds a team around his own pace bowlers and the rest is history. The film is basically scene after scene of serious comeuppance. It’s euphoric to watch. Near everyone involved in the team is interviewed for the film. It’s a serious feel good movie, and should be of interest to anyone, whether you like cricket or not.

The official Fire in Babylon website.

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Zootopia

   10 April 2016, lunch time

I watched most of Zootopia in between taking Mythilli in and out of the movie theatre when she got too scared to watch the film. The movie is about bunny rabbit who becomes the first bunny rabbit to join the police force in Zootopia, a giant animal metropolis. The films plot mostly revolves around her trying to find a missing otter while people don’t take her seriously. The rest of the film is about stereotypes and racism. On the whole this film is pretty fantastic. It’s a great film for children—who aren’t scared of movies, anyway. A great message and discussion on a difficult subject: animals make everything easier I suppose.

The official Zootopia website.

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Inside Out

    3 April 2016, evening time

Shima and I watched Inside Out last night—without Mythilli. Much of the film takes place inside a little girls head. Her feelings are the stars of the film: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger. At the start of the movie the girl and her family pack up and move to San Fransisco. This coincides with two of her feelings getting lost inside her mind. This is how Pixar explains the bad mood the little girl ends up in, as the rest of her feelings try and figure out how to keep her happy, and fail. The movie’s explanation for how people work and feel is very imaginative. This is a really good Pixar film. It’s all about our memories, and relationships, and how we become who we are as people. The film has some heart. I don’t have an absolute order of all Pixar films in my head—well besides knowing Wall-E is the best—but I liked this one a lot.

The official Inside Out website.

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10 Cloverfield Lane

    3 April 2016, evening time

10 Cloverfield Lane film is a thriller. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a women who gets into a bad car accident and wakes up in a bunker chained to a wall. John Goodman plays the man whose brought her there. The story unfolds at a brisk pace, with twist after twist. It’s a fun film. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a strange followup to Cloverfield. In many ways it feels completely different. The action takes place almost entirely inside a bunker, rather than the sprawling city of New York. There are basically 3 characters of note in the whole film. The man on the scene documentary film style of the first film is gone. I’m not even sure i’d call it a spiritual successor, but suffice it to say the name isn’t completely arbitrary. I’m not sure which of the two I enjoy more. They are both great films. This one probably could have ended a 10 minutes earlier and been a better movie, but I still liked it all the same. It’s worth checking out.

The official 10 Cloverfield Lane website.

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The Witch

    7 March 2016, early evening

The Witch is a slow atmospheric film. The costuming and dialogue transport you back to 1600s crapsack New England. The movie begins with a family of puritans leaving the plantation they live on to move out into the wilderness: the father has some undisclosed dispute with the people of the town and their leadership. He builds a house and small farm out in the middle of nowhere: it’s all downhill from there. The movie is creepy rather than scary. There is a sense of dread that permeates the whole film. All of the actors in the film do a great job, even the little children! This was a solid piece of film making. It’s so thoroughly immersive.

The official The Witch website.

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Meet the Patels

    5 March 2016, late afternoon

As a brown person whose family talks about marriage and arranged marriages all the time, Meet the Patels was god damn amazing. Ravi Patel is a comedian and an actor. (I saw him most recently in Master of None.) The film is shot by his sister, who he mocks for her terrible cinematography, and features his family heavily. The film opens with Ravi letting you know that he has just ended his relationship with his girlfriend of two years, prior to travelling with his family on a vacation to India. While in India he (eventually) agrees to let them set him up for an arranged marriage. The film then proceeds to walk the audience through all the logistics of getting an arranged marriage in 2015. The film is funny and at times very sweet. It’s refreshing to see arranged marriages presented in a very human way. His parents relationship is probably one of the most positive depictions of an arranged marriage i’ve seen in cinema. (They are also hilarious.) I don’t want to spoil the movie for you, but the film is probably as much about arranged marriages as it is about telling your Brown parents about your secret girlfriend. I found so much of the movie so thoroughly relatable, which might be why I enjoyed it so much. My unmarried cousins will screen calls from relatives or put off going back to Scarborough to avoid talking about why they aren’t married. It’s hilarious to know that from the top of India, in Gujarat, all the way down to Sri Lanka, the conversations and the attitudes around marriage are so similar. I wonder if they’ll do a follow up movie.

The official Meet the Patels website

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Her

    5 March 2016, late afternoon

Her was quiet lovely. A subtle science fiction film set in the near future. All the gadgets and gizmos presented are things available today tweaked ever so slightly. Joaquin Phoenix’s character, a lonely man dealing with the aftermath of a separation and divorce slowly falls in love with the operating system that powers his digital devices. This is the only piece of science fiction that feels very fictional. The AI is voiced by (the turbo-fox) Scarlett Johansson. (The other leads in the film are Amy Adams—who is always great—and Rooney Mara. That’s some solid casting.) Spike Jonez has made a really interesting film about intimacy and trust and love. It’s shot beautifully, as well. This film is definitely worth watching.

The official Her website.

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World War Z

    5 March 2016, late afternoon

I watched World War Z over three sittings on Netflix, usually in the middle of the night while snacking on something. This is probably not the best way to watch a film, but it likely reflects on how compelling I found the film. The movie stars Brad Pitt as a dude trying to figure out what the deal is with all these zombies that are talking over the world like a plague. The film is more or less a series of interest action sequences. I’d say they are all well done. People are dying all over the place, because of all the zombies. I wouldn’t rush out to watch this film, but if it’s playing on a flight you’re on you should watch it.

I’ve heard the book is great, though.

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Elysium

    4 February 2016, terribly early in the morning

Elysium was a bit too on the nose. South African director Neill Blomkamp presents another dystopian science fiction future, where the rich live in a giant space station orbiting crap-sack Earth. Earthlings try and sneak onto the space station Elysium so they can use their fancy hospital pods and basically live less crap lives. Matt Damon plays one such person. He ends up in robotic exo-skeleton, and has to fight crazy jacked-up South African mercenaries. That stuff is all pretty cool. Jodie Foster plays a jerk politician with a bizarre vaguely colonial accent. That was also fun. On the whole though, the film seems a bit weak.

Reviews of Elysium on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Kick-Ass 2

   26 January 2016, late afternoon

I watched the sequel to Kick-Ass over the weekend. (I started watching it at 1:00 AM, while eating some toast and nutella, and just never stopped.) The film carries on where the first one left off, but loses a lot of what made the first one amazing. There are only a handful of action sequences, and none of them really live up to the action sequences in the first film. (As such, there is far less excessive violence.) Each of the stories that ran through the movie felt weak. Matthew Vaughn, the director of the first film was simply the producer of this second one, which might explain why the sequel felt like it missed the mark. I’d skip this movie.

Kick-ass 2 on Netflix.

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Tig

    3 January 2016, late afternoon

Shima and I watched Tig late one night over the break. It’s a documentary about Tig Notaro produced by Netflix. Notaro had some amount of fame and success before being catapulted into some new stratosphere of fame and success after she performed a stand up set about her very recent diagnosis with cancer: which came after she broke up with her girlfriend, her mom dying, and her surviving the abdominal disease c-diff. The film looks at that time in her life, and then how she tries to follow up on such a bizarre way to end up famous. It’s a well done documentary if you want to learn about her and her story. I didn’t think there was a larger or more interesting message to it, though.

Watch Tig on Netflix.

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Dredd

   28 December 2015, late evening

Dredd suffers from not being The Raid, but is a fantastic film in its own right. Both films take place in high rises, with a couple cops versus super corrupt gangsters. Both films are very violent. I had thought Dredd was a Hollywood copy of The Raid, but apparently that’s not the case. Dredd was in production before The Raid started filming. Dredd has a solid cast, and Karl Urban is excellent in the title role. I really enjoyed the film.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

   28 December 2015, late evening

I liked the film. I have lots to say, but will wait to say it. You should watch this movie. The new cast of characters are fantastic. It’s amazing how much you can get done in a film when your stars are charming and have great chemistry. The film looks great as well. There is something to be said for practical effects. The contrast between this film and the prequels is so stark. This movie feels like a continuation of the original films, something the prequels never really did. I’m looking forward to the next one.

The official Star Wars: The Force Awakens website.

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Ixcanul

   29 September 2015, terribly early in the morning

The last film I saw at TIFF was Ixcanul, a proper art film from Guatemala. The film is about a Mayan girl whose parents work a coffee plantation. It’s a coming of age story, that touches on the conflict and hardship Kaqchikel-speaking people face. The film was also an interesting glimpse into a world I was completely unaware of. The movie is slow going, slowly ratcheting up the tension as some of the choices the protagonist makes come back to haunt her. Ultimately it’s a film about a lack of choices. This is the sort of film I really only watch at TIFF.

Ixcanul at TIFF 2015

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SPL II: A Time for Consequences

   28 September 2015, early evening

SPL II: A Time for Consequences was a proper-ass HK action film. A thematic sequel to Sah Po Lang, the film carries over some of the cast from the original, and some of the themes and mood. Simon Yam once again plays a hard boiled HK detective. I’m always down to see Yam play a hard as nails cop. Wu Jing plays his nephew, a cop in deep cover, who also knows some serious ass martial arts. New to the series, Tony Ja plays a prison guard who also inexplicably can kick ass like a mother fucker. Basically everyone in this film happens to also know how to kick ass like a mother fucker. There are some great action sequences through out the film. Of particular note is the prison riot. There is a lot to like in this film, though it’s punctuated by a lot of melodrama. The original was gritty crime drama, which I’d say I prefer. This film was still quite compelling, and well worth checking out. Again, I wish I saw it at midnight.

SPL II: A Time for Consequences at TIFF 2015

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Southbound

   28 September 2015, mid-afternoon

My friend Mezan picked all the films I watched at TIFF this year, starting with Southbound. The film is a horror movie anthology. There are 4 stories, each thematically linked. They also make some attempt for the various stories to flow into one another, so it’s not so disjoint. The stories are all over the place in terms of their mood and aesthetic. My favourite was the middle story, about the fellow who runs over a girl, but they were all quite enjoyable. The films are all about purgatory, dealing with guilt, etc. The film was part of the Midnight Madness program, and would have been fun to watch at midnight with that crowd. Seeing it after work on a Friday wasn’t quite the same. Still, it’s a fun bit of grind house cinema.

Southbound at the TIFF 2015.

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