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.



   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.


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.



   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.


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.


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.


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.


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



    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.


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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    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.


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.



    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.



   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.


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.



   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


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



   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.


Mad Max: Fury Road

   27 May 2015, mid-morning

At the very last minute I made it into a cinema to watch Mad Max: Fury Road. The latest instalment of Mad Max is easily my favourite, though to be fair I can barely remember the other ones now. The movie seems to distil the essence of Mad Max down to its core. The movie is essentially one long car chase, punctuated by the briefest periods of respite. I can’t recall the last film I saw that was so amped up. (Perhaps the Raid?) Visually the film is stunning. I don’t completely understand how they even filmed this thing. Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy are super cool as the leads in this film. Go watch it!

The official Mad Max: Fury Road website.


For Grace

    7 May 2015, terribly early in the morning

I watched one film at Hotdocs this year, For Grace, a documentary about the opening of the restaurant For Grace. Chef Curtis Duffy closed down Avenue, a two Michelin star restaurant at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago to open up his own place. He thought he could do a better if everything was under his control. This was apparently one of the most hotly anticipated restaurants in the world. I was expecting something like the Opening Soon show on TLC. “Oh no, construction delays!” “Oh man, how did we mess up our schedule!” Apparently this is what the directors themselves thought. The film was originally supposed to be a 15 minute short on the Chicago Tribune website. Once they started filming it became clear there was so much more to this story. This film is much more about Duffy than his restaurant. He is so driven when it comes to his career he has sacrificed everything else in his life to be successful. This seems to be how it goes for most people operating at the upper echelons of the restaurant industry. The movie is a great mix of food, restaurant inside baseball, and the human experience. You should check it out.

The official For Grace website.



   19 November 2014, early morning

I ducked out of work in the afternoon last Tuesday to watch Interstellar in IMAX. I have been waiting patiently for this film since the first trailer was released. Set in the future, on an Earth where all our crops are dying, Matthew McCaonohay leaves his family behind in search for a new planet to call our home. In many ways it feels like a homage to 2001: A Space Odesy. There are certainly many nods to the film throughout this one. The film is a bit melodramatic, but I think it’s all done well. Like all of Nolan’s films it feels a little bit creepy throughout. One of the themes of the film seems to be about trust and lying, which certainly adds to that creepiness. There are robots and they are great. The film visually stunning. I recommend you also see it in IMAX if possible. I love everything Christopher Nolan puts out. This film was no exception.

The official Interstellar website.



   19 November 2014, early morning

Edward Snowden contacted two people to tell his story about the great excesses of the NSA. One of Glen Greenwald, who over the course of many weeks and months has told Snowden’s story in article after article. The other was filmmaker Laura Poitras. She met Snowden at the same time as Greewald, and has been filming him since. Citizenfour is the documentary about this whole story. It’s really quite incredible. There is footage from their first meeting, when Snowden first sees his story coming out, when he is first interviewed, when he tries to leave Hong Kong. Seeing everything play out neatly in a coherent narrative makes this story of mass surrvalience much easier to understand. Snowden really does seem quite principled and selfless in his pursuit of getting this story out. He looks to have been ready to give up everything. I think everyone should watch this film. It’s a great documentary. It’ll make you so paranoid.

The official Citizenfour website.


Revenge of the Green Dragons

   12 September 2014, early morning

Andrew Lau and Andrew Loo co-direct a (very) gritty look at Chinese gangsters in Queens New York in the 80s in the film Revenge of the Green Dragons. (It was produced by Scorsese, who directed the Hollywood re-make of Lau’s Infernal Affairs.) This was the only film I am likely to see at TIFF this year. I bought the ticket online in the morning, walked over to the Lightbox at lunch, and watched it with my friend who was taking the day off to watch films. I think next year i’ll try and actively participate in the festival again. I miss going and watching movies.

The film stars Justin Chon, and follows his character as he is pulled into the Green Dragons street gang and rises through its ranks. The film doesn’t present the gang in a glamourous light—at all. It’s pretty gruesome and violent at times. The film has a real 80s feel, beyond simply being set in the 80s. The soundtrack features a lot of electric guitar. It’s a very serious film, but the dialog is often cheesy gangster film dialog. I was reminded of As Tears Go By by Wong Kar Wai, itself a throw back to Mean Streets by Scorsese. The film is based on real life events, chronicled in a lengthy article from the New Yorker back in 1992. I liked it, but do think it was a bit muddled. Relationships aren’t explored fully, making some of the plot points in the film seem half-baked. Some of the twists seem pointless. My friend didn’t like the film at all.

The write up for Revenge of the Green Dragons over on the TIFF website.



   24 July 2014, mid-afternoon

If you watch one near future dystopian science fiction film about a train that circles the earth after a climate change apocalypse, make sure it’s Snowpiercer. What a film! They know how to make movies in Korea. Chris Evans stars in this film, which seems strange, but since I don’t think it’s strange for Korean actors to star in American films maybe i’m just being Western-centric. He is fantastic. All the actors are. Tilda Swinton in particular plays a great shitty British politician. The film is funny and dark and action packed and so many things all at the same time. I’m still trying to figure out what the message of the whole film was. The film has a limited release. You should try and watch it if you can.

The official Snowpiercer website.

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Silver Lining Playbook

   23 July 2014, early morning

I watched Silver Linings Playbook over the Christmas break, but forgot to mention it here. It’s a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. Both characters are suffering with some mental health issues, each dealing with them in their own ways. Cooper is trying to win back his wife’s love after getting out of a mental institution. He needs Lawrence’s help to get a letter to his wife, who has a restraining order against him. She agrees to help on the condition he is her partner in a dance competition. Seriously. That reads like the plot to a ridiculous romantic comedy, but somehow this one executes on that premise in a way that isn’t stupid. This film is an example of what you can do with the genre of you try. It’s a good film, fun to watch, with some great performances from both the leads and the supporting cast. As romantic comedies go it has to be one of the better ones out there.

The official Silver Linings Playbook website.


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