Nighthawks

    4 March 2019, early morning

Collin Geddes, who used to run Midnight Madness at TIFF, now runs a monthly program at the Lightbox called KinoVortex. His last screen was an 80s cop film called Nighthawks, starring Sylvester Stallone early in his career. The film felt very much like a strange slice of 80s film making. Billy Dee Williams plays his partner. Rutger Hauer plays a suave European super-terrorist. (This was Hauer’s debut in Hollywood.) I don’t know if you can call the film good, but it’s certainly something. It’s likely worth watching just to see the films end, which is really something else. The movie also has an amazing score.

Read more about Nighthawks at TIFF.

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The Breaker Uppers

    4 March 2019, early morning

As romantic comedies go The Breaker Uppers was pretty great. The two leads, Madeleine Nalini Sami and Jackie van Beek, are women who both dated the same man, who was cheating on them both with each other. Cynical about love they start this firm to help others get out of their bad relationships. It’s a weird charming film. The leads also are the films writers and directors. Impressive. Like all good romantic comedies it touches on all the different sorts of love that exist in the world. The two leads are really hilarious. I’ll have to keep an eye out for them elsewhere.

Watch the trailer for The Breaker Uppers.

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Cold War

   28 January 2019, early evening

The trailer for Burning was Cold War. A polish film about the complicated and tumultuous relationship between a pianist and composer played by Tomasz Kot, and a fiery singer and dancer played by Joanna Kulig. The movie starts in 1949, ends in 1964, following their relationship from Poland to France and back again. It’s a beautiful film, shot in Black and White, and in what looked like 4:3—what a throw back. The music is incredible. The song playing in the trailer is beautiful, and apparently sung by the actress. What!

Read more about Cold War at TIFF.

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Burning

   28 January 2019, early evening

I watched Burning at TIFF before the holidays. My last film of 2018. Burning opens with Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) bumping into a girl he knows from his small town, Hae-mi (Jun Jong-seo). He doesn’t recognize her, she’s beautiful now. They begin a relationship of sorts, when a new fellow enters the picture. Someone rich and handsome. And so we have a love triangle. A strange film. Far more sinister than I had expected. Ambiguous. The actors are all superb. I really liked it.

Read more about Burning at TIFF.

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Shoplifters

   17 December 2018, early morning

A posse of us went to the members’ premier of Shoplifters at the TIFF Lightbox last week. This is the latest film by Hirokazu Kore-eda, who made Nobody Knows. I haven’t seen any of his other movies, but now feel like tracking them all down. The premise of the film is simple enough. A family of petty criminals find a girl seemingly abandoned by her abusive parents. They take her home and start raising her as one of their own children. The movie moves on from there. It’s an incredible film. Such a sweet sad film. The acting is so great. It’s playing at TIFF still, you should watch it while you can.

More about Shoplifters at TIFF.

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Roma

    1 December 2018, evening time

I ended up with a free membership to TIFF. My first film as a member was Roma, the latest film by Alfonso Cuarón. When I watched Children of Men I said, “Children of Men is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Holy shit that was good.” I know I am quick to throw superlatives around when it comes to cinema, but Roma was fucking fantastic. It’s one of the best movies i’ve seen in my entire life. The film is clearly autobiographical. There is so much detail and specificity in the 1970s Mexico the film shows us. The movie’s protagonist is Cleo, the servant of a rich family in Mexico city. The film is slow, sometimes funny, sometimes tense. There are two scenes in the movie, one in a hospital, and one on a beach, that are so masterfully put together they make the whole film worthwhile all by themselves. And they are just two scenes. You must watch this film. If you’re in Toronto you’re lucky enough to be able to watch it at the Lightbox: you should do that.

Read the Guardian’s review of Roma.

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Demons in Paradise

   18 October 2018, terribly early in the morning

It turned out Demons in Paradise was a documentary. I’m not sure why I thought it was going to be a fictional retelling of the war in Sri Lanka. No matter, it was an interesting film all the same. Directed by Jude Ratnam, the film is a look at the violence of the civil war through the lens of his family’s experience with the war. The movie’s narrative seems to move from violence inflicted on the Tamil community to violence inflicted by the Tamil community (upon themselves). The movie opens in Colombo, discussing Sinhalese violence. The movie ends in Jaffna, discussing Tamil violence. In between is a brief coda in Kandy, that feels a bit out of place except that it separates these two chunks of the film. Ratnam managed to get people to be quite candid about their experiences. An ex-LTTE fighter talks about the TELO massacre. People from other groups talk about the random violence they committed. The film also asks the question (but doesn’t answer) why the civilian population was so blasé about the violence being committed in their name. I liked the film. My friend Fathima (who shuttered her blog!) thought it was muddled and poorly executed. We are a complicated peoples.

I saw Demons in Paradie at Jackman Hall as part of the Rendezvous With Madness Festival.

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Train to Busan

   18 June 2018, early morning

Train to Busan is a Korean Zombie movie. The movie’s main protagonist is a Korean salary man, played by Yoo Gong, who is estranged from his wife and slowly becoming estranged from his daughter. For her birthday his daugther wants to go visit her mother in Busan, and so he agrees to make the trip their, planning to get back before lunch to continue his work day. Then all the zombies show up and it’s fucking mental till the end of the film. Train to Busan is expertly done. There is plenty of mellow drama, as the passengers you love on the train are slowly killed, one by one. Much of the movie is about the journey Yoo Gong’s character takes from being selfish and self involved to being selfless and helpful. He learns these things from the various passengers on the train. The main villain of the movie is another passenger who can be see as the end-game for a salary man like Yoo Gong’s character if he doesn’t change his ways. This movie is excellent.

Reviews of Train to Busan on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Thor: Ragnarok

   22 February 2018, early morning

I skipped the last Thor movie, it didn’t seem that interesting. I had heard many good things about Thor: Ragnarok, so it was the first thing I watched on my plane ride to Sydney. Directed (the very funny) Taika Waititi of New Zealand, the film feels like a refreshing change of pace from your typical Marvel fare. The movie is genuinely funny. A comedy first, and a special effects spectacle second. The story follows Thor as he meets his evil step sister, played by smoking hot Cate Blanchett, loses his hammer, gets banished to some middle of nowhere planet, finds the Hulk, and needs to come back and save Asgard. The highlight of the film for me—and I suspect most people—is Taika Waititi playing a rock man. It’s a fun film, thoroughly enjoyable.

The official Thor: Ragnarok website.

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Hidden Figures

   20 January 2018, early evening

Shima and I watched Hidden Figures last night, a film about the Black women who helped get American astronauts into space through the power of mathematics. It’s a nice feel good film, for the most part very well done. (Criticism of the film and its making Costner a bit of a White saviour seem fair, but that’s really such a small part of this film. I enjoyed his role as a crotchety scientist.) The three lead women—Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe—all play their parts very well. Also, the movie has a solid sound track.

The official Hidden Figures soundtrack.

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Bright

    3 January 2018, early evening

I watched Bright tonight, Netflix’s take on a buddy-cop Shadowrun film. Will Smith stars as a hardboiled cop. His partner is a well meaning Orc, trying to make it in a racist (literally, I suppose) police force. The world building in the film is pretty great, though all the commentary and parallels to our world are a bit too on the nose. Still, it seems to work well enough. The film doesn’t shy away from how silly its premise is. There are some parts of the film that don’t make much sense if you think too hard about them, but it’s a fun movie all the same. If you read a review of this movie that talks about Tolkein and not Shadowrun you can safely ignore it.

You can watch Bright on Netflix.

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Kong: Skull Island

    3 January 2018, early evening

The last film I watched while travelling to and from England last month was Kong: Skull Island. This movie follows a crew of scientists and soldiers who are off to investigate Skull Island. It’s a motley crew, and of course it all turns to shit and there is a giant monkey in the mix. It’s a pretty solid action film, and likely the spring board for some ridiculous multi-movie extravaganza about giant monsters. I think i’m down for that.

The official Kong: Skull Island website.

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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

    3 January 2018, early evening

Guy Ritche does a fantasy film about King Arthur and it’s more or less exactly how I pictured a Guy Ritchie take on British fantasy. It’s so over the top. The pacing is manic. I liked the film well enough. It was panned by critics, but if you’re on an airplane i’d say you could do worse than watch this film.

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Wonder Women

    3 January 2018, early evening

DC’s superhero films really have been mostly dreadful, so this Wonder Women film was quite refreshing. The film is an origin story of sorts, set during the First World War. Gal Gadot plays Wonder Women, and does a wonderful job. Chris Pine is an American spy who draws her into the larger conflict taking place in the world. By no means is it superlative film making, but it’s well put together and coherent, and that’s more than I was expecting. The ending of the film is a bit weak, but on the whole this is a fun film to watch. Also, Gal Gadot is so hot it’s crazy.

The official Wonder Women website.

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War for the Planet of the Apes

    3 January 2018, early evening

The emotional weight of this movie about monkeys. “This wall is madness. It won’t save him like it won’t save you.” A jab at trump? War for the Planet of the Apes is the most recent of the new Planet of the Apes films. These movies are really well done. Surprisingly so. The special effects for these monkeys is really quite remarkable. Serkis’s performance as the monkey in charge, Ceaser, is excellent. This movie follows him and his band of monkeys as they try and survive while avoiding the Humans who are trying to kill them. This may be the plot to all the new Planet of the Apes movies.

The official War for the Planet of the Apes

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Alien: Covenant

    3 January 2018, early evening

The airplane probably wasn’t the best place to watch Alien: Covenant. The film is the sequel to Prometheus. The film opens up with a colony ship full of people in cryosleep waking up because of an accident. They redirect their ship to a nearby planet and it all turns to shit from there. I fear the directors took the criticisms of Prometheus a bit too much to heart. This film tries very hard to explain everything that’s going on. There is no mystery. It’s also less visually interesting than Prometheus. It’s still an Alien film though. There are lots of blood and guts and cool Alien shit, but on some level it all felt like something I’d seen before.

The official Alien: Covenant website.

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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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