Happy trails. Films reviewed: Ghost Town Anthology, Red Rover, The Hummingbird Project

Posted in Canada, Canadian Screen Awards, comedy, Computers, Death, Ghosts, Mars, Quebec, Romantic Comedy, Toronto, Wall Street by CulturalMining.com on March 15, 2019

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

You know, Canada makes a lot of movies. Oscar season might be over, but the Canadian Screen Awards are on at the end of March, with lots of great nominees, including Les Salopes, The Drawer Boy, What Walaa Wants, The Grizzlies and The Hummingbird Project. And for a look at next year’s possible winners the Canadian Film Fest will be showing a dozen new movies starting on Tuesday.

This week I’m looking at three new Canadian movie about people blazing new trails. There’s a man in Toronto following a path to Mars, another man constructing a straight line from Kansas City to Wall Street, and locals in northern Québec trying to block strange outsiders from entering their town.

Ghost Town Anthology (Répertoire des villes disparues)

Wri/Dir: Denis Côté

Irénée-Des-Neiges is a mining town in Northern Quebec whose mine was shut down. The population is steadily decreasing and young people are moving south. So when Simon Dubé, one of the few young man left in the town, dies in a strange car crash everyone is devastated. His mom (Josée Deschênes) and little brother Jimmy (Robert Naylor), are hit especially hard. Was it an accident, a suicide, or something else? Whatever the cause it seems to spark a change in attitude in this dying town.

The Mayor Simone Smallwood (Diane Lavallée) reassures everyone that while it’s a sad event, the town will survive – we are a place for the living and will never be a ghost town. But Jimmy tells his best friend André (Rémi Goulet) his dead brother is communicating with him – so they go to visit the shack where his coffin is stored till spring (you can’t dig graves in the winter up north).

Adèle (Larissa Corriveau) a gawky young woman, prone to paranoia, is sure she hears strange noises late at night. Loulou and Robert a pair of retired busybodies thinks there might be wolves in the woods. Pierre and Camille, the attractive rich couple who own the local restaurant, see the shrinking of the town as a good thing – maybe they can renovate abandoned houses? When a grief counsellor arrives from Montreal (wearing a hijab, no less! *gasp*) the mayor sends her packing. We can take care of ourselves. We don’t like outsiders.

But the outsiders keep coming, including strange little kids wearing felt masks and Peruvian ponchos. Who are they and what do they want? Are they real, or just a hallucination? But when things turn really strange, the town has to make a decision – move away or get rid of these unusual outsiders with help from the outside.

Ghost Town Anthology is an eerie look at history, kinship, and mourning in small town Quebec. It’s also about the xenophobia and fear of strangers that persists long after secularism replaced Catholicism as its official religion.

Shot in beautiful, grainy 16mm film, it embraces the coldness and grey skies of a Canadian winter. With good acting and a consistently surprising story, Denis Côté continues his flirtation with magic realism in this unusual film.

Very interesting movie.

Red Rover

Dir: Shane Belcourt

Damon (Kristian Bruun) is a failed man. He’s a geologist at at a mining firm in Toronto’s financial district but his MBA boss Brad steals his research and treats him like dirt. His ex-girlfriend Beatrice (Meghan Heffern) dumps him the day he proposes, pushing him into the basement of the house they share. Now he’s forced to listen to her having sex with Mark (Morgan David Jones) a narcissist instructor from Australia she’s shacked up with. Damon is just a pudgy, depressed introvert who wallows in his misery. His only pastime is searching for treasure on the beaches with a metal detector.

But everything changes when he runs into a woman dressed in a space suit dancing in the sands. Phoebe (Cara Gee) is a singer- songwriter who is everything he is not – joyful, hopeful and full of life. She’s currently promoting Red Rover, a program to send a few people to settle on the planet mars! It’s sponsored by Gopi, a billionaire, who will choose the best applicants. She agrees to help Damon apply and they gradually are drawn to each other? Is it love or just a fling? Can Damon regain his self confidence? And is her really flying to Mars?

Shot in Toronto, Red Rover is a lighthearted rom-com with an unusual science fiction twist. It’s full of people telling stories and singing songs… and Cara Gee is especially appealing as the quirky love interest.

The Hummingbird Project

Wri/Dir: Kim Nguyen

Vinnie Zaleski (Jesse Eisenberg) is a young guy full of spit and vinegar. He works with his cousin the nerdy and neurotic Anton Zaleski (Alexander Skarsgård) a computer programmer. They work at a Wall street investment firm headed by the canny Eva (Salma Hayek). She keeps a close eye on her employees. Vinnie has a grand vision: to build a fiber optic line stretching from the Kansas City stock exchange directly to Wall street. By sending data a few milliseconds faster, the speed of one flap of a hummingbird’s wings. he could make billions of dollars on stock trades.

But the project is enormous. It involves digging a tunnel through mountains, under rivers in an absolute straight line, withthosands of tiny land purchase – just the width of the cable – along the way. He finds a secret investor from New Jersey to pay for it, an engineer, Mark Vega (Michael Mando) to do the physical planning, and hundreds of others to do the digging. They are working against time. Anton has to speed up the transmission. The investor has to keep investing, and Vinnie himself is postponing a potentially lifesaving operation to bring the project in on schedule. But can they complete the project in time, and overcome all the obstacles along the way?

The Hummingbird project is a look at the importance of the small local obstacles that can stall huge projects, and the burning ambition needed to complete it. It’s wonderfully shot in a forests and mountain ranges, with backplows, giant helicopters and sputtering drills all along the way. It’s a sometimes touching, sometimes tender story of an impossible dream. Eisenberg is great as Vinnie and Skarsgård unrecognizeable as Anton. Don’t get me wrong, I liked this movie’s energy, ambition and passion. It just seems at times that the meandering story is just an excuse for showing cool scenery and actors in hard hats.

Ghost Town Anthology opens today in Toronto; check your local listings. The Hummingbird Project opens in a week, and Red Rover is the opening night feature at the Canadian Film Fest next Tuesday night.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning, on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com.

People’s Choice. Movies Reviewed: The Imitation Game, Honeymoon

Posted in 1940s, Academy Awards, Biopic, Computers, Cultural Mining, Horror, Movies, UK, WWII by CulturalMining.com on September 19, 2014

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

_MG_1251TIFF – the Toronto Interntional Film Festival – is over for the year. The klieg lights are dimmed, the red carpets rolled up.  It’s like a carnival sideshow leaving town, with celebrities and their droves of fans replacing the bearded ladies and tattooed men of yore. And the hundreds of members of the media, myself included, are forced to look elsewhere for the Next Big Movie.

On the last day of the festival, this past Sunday, they announced the winning films in Cumberbatch signs autographs at TIFF Jeff Harriscompetition. Unlike most major film festivals which use panels of critics and filmmakers as judges, TIFF relies on moviegoers to vote for the most important prize, the People’s Choice award. They say Torontonians are a good barometer of what kind of movies appeal to the public these days. The proof is in the pudding; People’s Choice winners, more often than not, become next year’s Oscar winners: the wonderful Slumdog Millionaire, the moving Twelve Years a Slave, the pandering King’s Speech, and the so-so Silver Linings Playbook.

So this week, I’m going to tell you about the TIFF Grolsch People’s Choice award winner, and a low-budget horror movie opening in Toronto.

THE IMITATION GAMEThe Imitation Game
Dir: Morten Tyldum

It’s the dawn of WWII. The British have captured Enigma, one of Nazi Germany’s secret devices. All their military messages use that encryption machine. Cracking it could mean an early end to the war and countless millions saved. Alan Turing — a shy, super-intelligent mathematician and Cambridge – is asked to visit the Bletchley Radio works – actually a branch of MI6. They need him to join the team and solve the puzzle.

Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) probably got an “F” as a child  in the “plays well with others” category. Instead of working with the other recruits, notably his supervisor Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode) he decides that cracking codes, one by one, is a waste of time. Instead he sets about creating one of the world’s first computers. He names the giant wall of wires and THE IMITATION GAMEspinning discs “Christopher”, after his first gay crush.

He quickly alienates Commander Denniston (Charles Dance), his boss, who decides to get rid of him. Will he succeed? In a compromise, Turing decides to recruit ordinary people with extraordinary minds to work on his project, using a hard-to-solve cryptic newspaper crossword puzzle to locate his geniuses. Smartest of all is a woman, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley). Together they try to crack the code and win the war. But will they succeed? Will Joan and Alan fall in love? And what will happen after the war?

_MG_0467The story jumps back and forth from his time as a wistful schoolboy, to the thrill and excitement of wartime, to the dark period afterwards, where he is persecuted by the police as a gay man. The Imitation Game tells a fantastic, true story of unrequited love, action and adventure, and the dark politics of postwar Britain. While it’s skimpy on the sex – as in, none at all – it is still a wonderful story, miles above most biopics. Benedict Cumberbatch plays another irritating and emotionally-stunted Sherlock, but he does it so well, conveying his thoughts through a twitch of an eye. Many critics deride Keira Knightley as a one-dimensional movie star, but I found her great in this one. In fact all the cast, including supporting characters, are wonderful. Though patently Oscar-bait (wartime, British costume drama, no yuck factor) it’s wonderful Oscar-bait. I strongly recommend this movie.

Honeymoon
Dir: Leigh Janiak

Leslie Rose as Bea in the HoneymoonPaul and Bea are up in cottage country to celebrate their marriage. Bea (Rose Leslie: Game of Thones) is big-boned and robust with a winning smile. Paul (Harry Treadaway: Fishtank, Cockneys vs Zombies) is naïve, boyish and fragile. Rose’s childhood summer home is filled with wooden ducks and a giant bearskin covering one wall. They intend to skinny dip in the lake, make pancakes at noon, and spend the rest of the day in bed, screwing like rabbits.

All goes well, until they encounter Will – Bea’s  ex – and his disturbed wife Annie. Something is wrong with those two. And they seem to have affected Bea. Is she cheating on him? Paul finds her sleepwalking in the woods at night. Light beams shine through the window. Strange Harry Treadaway as Paul in Honeymoonmarks appear on her thighs – just mosquito bites, she tells him. And strangest of all, he catches her memorizing basic phrases like “My name is Bea… my husband is Paul… we’re married”. Is she really Bea? Or an eerie imposter? Or has she gone completely mad?

Honeymoon – a horror movie with a female director: quite rare! – has great acting and an interesting premise. It starts out like a dull love story, but starts to pick up after the first 20 minutes. It has me going for a while, but eventually falls prey to some awful, endlessly repeated lines that take the zing away. Honeymoon is a good try, but doesn’t quite do it for me.

The Imitation Game is coming this fall, and Honeymoon starts today in Toronto: check your local listings.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com

Rom not Com. Films Reviewed: Gloria, Tim’s Vermeer, For No Eyes Only

Posted in Art, Chile, Computers, Cultural Mining, documentary, Espionage, Germany, Inventions, Science, Sex, Uncategorized, US, Women by CulturalMining.com on February 14, 2014

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

It’s Valentine’s Day. For some reason, romance in movies has been inexorably tied to comedy. You’re in love? It must be a joke. Well, today I’m forsaking the romcoms and the soppy romances. I want to talk about some unusual movies about love, sex, and obsession. A Chilean movie about a divorced woman’s search for love, an American doc about a man’s search for proof, and German flick about a kid’s search for secrets.

GLORIA - FILM STILL 1Gloria

Dir: Sebastien Lelio

Gloria (Paulina Garcia) is an average, middle-aged divorcee in downtown Santiago. Her life is stale, worn-out. She lives alone in an apartment, with just a noisy neighbour and a hideous, hairless cat intruding on her privacy. Her home life is depressing, her office job is stultifying. And her kids are adults now. But she’s not willing to give up. She’s still full of energy – she wants to enjoy life, sing songs, fall in love, be in a one-on-one relationship. And, well, she wants to get laid.

So she starts hanging out in discos that play seventies music. (The people there all look like they went to this club back when those songs were new.) She goes there to pick up men – much older men. Ideally, she wants a man who is honest, who respects and desires her.

After some misfires, she falls for Rodolfo, a very conservative, rich, elderly ?????????????????????????man. He takes her for a drive to show her his wealth, his power. At first their relationship seems solid… but can she trust him? He interrupts their lunches with extended calls on his cel. And he’ll drop everything to run home whenever his daughters say they need him (He’s divorced – he says — but he’s still responsible for his girls.)

She wants him to meet her family and friends. Will he commit? And will he fit in with her lifestyle? (Gloria’s a free-thinking Chilean, Rodolfo’s roots are with Pinochet’s right-wing military.)

Although this movie is told in an everyday manner, this is a fantastic, bittersweet look at one woman’s life. The actress, Paulina Garcia, completely embodies and embraces Gloria – flaws and all. She convey’s what she’s thinking; not through words, but in her eyes. The whole movie is told from her point of view, and she exposes everything – body and soul —  for the camera. This is a fantastic movie, and Garcia’s performance is flawless and unforgettable.

Tim Jenison discovers a mistake in Vermeer’s original painting of “The Music Lesson.” Photo by Shane F. Kelly, © 2013 High Delft Pictures LLC, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights ReservedTim’s Vermeer

A Penn and Teller film; directed by Teller, narrated by Penn.

Tim Jenison is a tremendously successful Texan inventor of devices gadgets and software. Somehow, he became fascinated by the paintings of Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer.  How could they be so perfectly Tim Jenison’s daughters, Natalie, Luren, and Claire, fitting Claire’s costume so Tim can paint her as the female model in his “Music Lesson.” © 2013 Tim Jenison. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.lit, so realistically focused, so uncannily lifelike? He embarks on a mission – an obsession really – to discover the mechanical basis behind Vermeer’s art. He is convinced that Vermeer used a camera obscura – a dark room that projects inverted light images against a wall – long before photography and electric light was discovered. To his theory he adds the element of dentist’s mirrors, little discs on sticks.

Next he sets out to prove it – by rebuilding an exact replica of all the things portrayed in one of Vermeer’s paintings! Why? He recreates the furniture, the windows, the musical Tim Jenison in Delft, the Netherlands, where Johannes Vermeer lived. Photo by Shane F. Kelly, © 2013 High Delft Pictures LLC, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.instruments, everything… then sets up his camera obscura and dentist mirrors and begins to paint. Can he do it? Told by the team of magic debunkers Penn and Teller, this is a strange but fascinating story of a rich man who has the time and money to pursue his obsession. The strangest thing about his painting is the complete and total absence of any artistic feeling or aesthetic sense.

fornoeyesonly_06For No Eyes Only

Wri/Dir:  Tali Barde

This is a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. In that movie, Jimmy Stewart is stuck in a wheelchair with a broken leg but – through his apartment’s rear window he can see into the windows of the apartment behind him. And he thinks he witnesses a crime.

In this movie, Sam (Benedict Sieverding) is a high school student in Germany.fornoeyesonly_04 He’s the star field hockey player but has a broken leg. He was mowed down by the new kid, a tall and intense guy named Aaron (directorTali Barde). Sam is sure Aaron is up to no good. With too much time at home, Sam discovers a hacking system that allows him access to his classmates’ computer cameras – his personal rear window. This gives him an inside view of all his friends’ bedrooms – everything they don’t want anyone else to see. Including Livia (Luisa Gross), his secret crush.

Luisa is mature confident and sophisticated, while Sam loses all his bravado and stumbles when talking to her. She takes the lead and invites herself to his home for some “computer lessons”. She’s figured out Sam’s been watching.

fornoeyesonly_01At first she’s angry, but, soon she’s joining in on his intramural spy-project. That’s when they notice something strange is going on with Aaron. Where’s his dad? Why does he hide a kitchen knife in his bedroom? What’s he carrying to the basement? Is fornoeyesonly_02there really a crime? Or is it just their overactive imaginations?

It’s a fun movie but with an after-school-special feel to it – it’s a little too cute for a thriller. But if you consider it was made for just a fistful of Euros (less than 4000) by a recent college grad… Incredible! Though made in 2012, with Snowden’s recent revelations about NSA spying on ordinary people, this film is even more relevant today.

Pussy_Riot_A_Punk_Prayer_1.470x264Gloria opens today in Toronto and Tim’s Vermeer opens next week: check your local listings. For No Eyes Only is playing this weekend at the TIFF Next Wave festival. Go to tiff.net/. Also opening today is the fun Paraguayan thriller 7 Boxes, and the amazing courtroom documentary Pussy Riot: a Punk Prayer about the Moscow trial of Russian activists/musicians Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com

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