I’ve interviewed a lot of performers over the years. Some have been nicer than others, but one quality that’s rare is being “present”. Often the subject presses a mental “play” button, and it’s hard to get them off script.
Then there’s Mads Mikkelsen, who I got to interview twice in a short period of time. On both occasions he was engaged and willing to talk about everything, from an obscure Danish film (The Green Butchers) to Hannibal Lecter, the character that launched a thousand obsessions.
If phrases like “Altitude Adjusted Lachrymosity Syndrome”, “tinkety tonk and down with the Nazis” and “hello to Jason Isaacs” mean something to you, you’re probably a member of the Church of Wittertainment.
Now, if you have no idea what any of those expressions mean, allow me to explain. “Wittertainment” is the pet name for the BBC flagship radio show Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review. The podcast version of the program is regularly ranked among iTunes’s most popular and has been twice bestowed the Listener’s Choice Award among British podcasts.
Jay Baruchel’s Hat Trick: The Goon sequel’s director, co-writer and co-star stickhandles through traffic
2011’s Goon was a surprise hit. The film withstood hockey fan scrutiny while staying engaging for general audiences. The team behind the film knew their the subject — plenty of real-life events were worked into the script — and had solid source material (Douglas Smith’s career as a minor league enforcer).
Heard outside the premiere of Rocketman:“That took me down memory lane!”
Let me tell you, clueless patron: you got the very minimum out of the superb Elton John musical/biopic.
My main concern about Rocketman was that it would follow the Bohemian Rhapsody pattern: slight and self-congratulatory. Not only did it not, it succeeded at being insightful and — more impressively — relatable. I normally find it hard to root for multimillionaires whose miseries aren’t comparable to 99 per cent of the population. And yet, here we are.
The first John Wick (2014) could’ve gone straight-to-VOD like other Keanu Reeves movies at the time. But the plucky flick had great action scenes, clarity of plot and an unapologetic love of violence that made it fun.
Cut to five years later. John Wick’s production company, Lionsgate, doesn’t have any more Hunger Games movies. Needless to say there’s a lot of money riding on Mr. Wick’s ongoing success.
Why does this matter? Because economics bog down what could have been a tidy, satisfying trilogy in favour of squeezing as much cash as possible out of John Wick.
Hard to imagine a more difficult situation than promoting a film whose propulsive force died while making it. It’s the challenge diver Brock Cahill and activist Julie Andersen took on following the passing of Sharkwater Extinction’s director and shark advocate, Rob Stewart.
A sequel to the eye-opening 2006 documentary, Sharkwater Extinction picks up where the previous one left off. Every year, of all the sharks killed around the world, about 80 million are unaccounted for. Rob and co. set to find the culprits in a worldwide quest.
To describe Siobhan Fallon Hogan as “that actress who did that thing” would be to grossly underestimate her. Beyond brief yet iconic roles in Forrest Gump (the school bus driver) and Men in Black (Beatrice, Edgar’s long-suffering wife), Fallon Hogan has carved out a niche among European filmmakers trying to understand America through cinema.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse exists because the web-slinger is the only major Marvel property to remain outside Disney’s clutches (especially now that the Mouse House owns Fox’s X-Men and Fantastic Four ). Sure, Sony lends the superhero to the Avengers, but this studio is holding on to its golden spider.
This also means Sony had to get creative to make a Spider-Man universe. Though ravaged by critics (I didn’t hate it), Venom did pretty well at the box-office, better even than traditional Marvel properties at the international level.
There is no questioning Quentin Tarantino’s contribution to modern cinema: The maverick filmmaker rescued film narrative from stagnation and pumped fresh air into screen dialogue. In Inglourious Basterds, QT decided that rewriting history was a perfectly valid way to spin a tale. And it was.
There is, however, an aspect of movie making Tarantino has yet to master: depth. His movies have been consistently hollow and the subtext - crime doesn’t pay, violence is inherent to the human condition, what goes around comes around - feels less than inspired.
There’s nothing haphazard about David Lowery’s approach to filmmaking (Pete’s Dragon), but it’s still a surprise when, in A Ghost Story, the auteur crafts a narrative that very nearly grinds to a halt — in a good way.
In A Ghost Story, Casey Affleck (“C”) and Rooney Mara (“M”) are an average couple living in a rickety house. Their happiness comes to an end when “C” dies in a car crash. But death is just the beginning of the story. Hung up on the good times, the spirit of “C” passes up the opportunity to transcend to another plane and returns home, invisible to everyone, including “M”.
Christmas is a month and a half away and we’re already knee-deep in holiday movies: The Grinch, The Nutcracker, The Girl in the Spider’s Web. Also going for warm-and-fuzzy-feelings is Instant Family, a comedy about a married couple (Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne) who realize a childless existence is not particularly fulfilling. To escape the ennui, they become foster parents.
Sean Anders is no stranger to Christmas movies. He was at the helm of Daddy’s Home and the sequel.
I watched Annabelle Comes Home and Midsommar within hours of each other. The former is as good a scary movie produced by a major studio gets: impeccable production design, name actors and well-placed scares.
The latter is something better: it’s dangerous.
A standard horror film pits an overpowering force against normalcy. Writer/director Ari Aster (Hereditary) is changing the formula by shattering the starting point. Aster’s heroes start knocked off-balance by grief. This makes them more open to new experiences and ideas, but also susceptible to whatever evil lurks in the vicinity.
Anthropocene: The Human Epoch is more than a film. It’s part of a larger project that includes art exhibitions, virtual and augmented reality, a coffee table book with photographs and essays by filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal, Edward Burtynsky and Nicolas de Pencier (along with fresh work from Margaret Atwood), and an educational program that will take the film’s message to schools across Canada and possibly beyond.
Meeting Isabelle Huppert in person is a notch awkward. Anyone who’s followed her career has seen her in very compromising situations (The Piano Teacher), completely debauched (The Ceremony) and in the midst of severe emotional turmoil (White Material, Louder than Bombs). Not surprisingly, Huppert is guarded and stern. With a little prodding though, a dry sense of humour and self-deprecation come to the surface.
It’s ironic that a film about an intrinsically Canadian story like painter Maud Lewis’ was made by an Irishwoman, a Brit and an American. You sure can’t tell from watching the movie: Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke nail Maud and Everett Lewis, and director Aisling Walsh perfectly captures the rural East Coast milieu that shaped Lewis’ work.