Anthropoid+ Closet Monster+Hunt For The Wilder People

Anthropoid-d. Sean Ellis-I took the commuter train into Toronto on the weekend ,and checked out a brand new Euro co-production,t hat just had its world premiere at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival on 1 July 2016.

Anthropoid stars:Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan, Toby Jones, and Charlotte Le Bon . It tells the story of Operation Anthropoid, the World War II assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by Exile Czechoslovak soldiers on 27 May 1942.

It’s an interesting story-line that I was somewhat  familiar with,as it it has been the subject of previous feature film endeavours; including the 1943 Fritz Lang film: Hangmen Also Die!  This featured the only Hollywood script by Bertolt Brecht, and I caught an archive screening of it at the 2013 Berlinale.

However, that version filmed during the war years couldn’t reveal the true details of the secret mission at the heart of the story, as it was still mostly classified. This modern re-telling doesn’t suffer from the same limitations however.

It does suffer however from a clear lack of a consistent directorial and visual vision, relying too extensively on basic,routine,and uninspired coverage shots + editing, especially in the early stages. The movie was shot on film, and I found the digital conversion I viewed in Toronto unusually grainy,and lacking in clarity at times.

The choice of English dialogue was unfortunate. I’m a bit of a purist,and prefer films in their native language. It lends much more authenticity. It was also strange when the Nazi characters were allowed to speak German.Then the German was translated into English, in certain scenes, so the Czech people could understand it? It was awkward and took away from the film.

Otherwise the sets and locations and lighting all top notch, and I really liked the supporting casts performances of Toby Jones and Anna Geislerová.

And the story is great, it just might have been better realized with a more authentic grounding in the Czech language and a more consistent visual style.

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Hunt For The Wilder People-d.Taika Waititi-Closer to home,I dusted off the bicycle and headed to the homey confines of the Westdale Theatre, in Hamilton.There was a film screening that I had just missed at the Fantasia Film Festival, and I knew the director from his recent vampire-comedy: What We Do In The Shadows.

That film was released to critical acclaim in 2014.Director Waititi had been noticed even before this for his TV work , and was also nominated for an Academy Award for his 2004 short film Two Cars, One Night. His first feature films: Boy became the top grossing New Zealand film before the release of Hunt for the Wilder People.

Based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump,this film stars Sam Neill and Julian Dennison as a father figure and son who become caught in a manhunt.The film premiered In Competition at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on 22 January 2016.

I knew little about this movie before viewing, and went mainly on my love of Waititi’s previous film.

What a nice film this is. Inventive,funny,quirky,poignant, and inappropriate.

All at the right times and in the right measures. With great performances and a wonderful cinematic view of the wilds of New Zealand; I would definitely recommend this flick.

Even if you have to just around to find it:)

 

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Closet Monster-d.Stephen Dunn-Well it turned into a double-bill at The Westdale Theatre, as they had a brand new Canadian feature screening that had some buzz around it.

Closet Monster is drama written and directed by Stephen Dunn , and its Dunn’s debut feature.

It stars Connor Jessup as Oscar Madly, a creative and sexually confused teenager who retreats into a fantasy world to deal with his sense of isolation.The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Canadian Feature.

The film was shot on location and set in St. John’s, Newfoundland. This is a great feature to come out of the East Coast of Canada, dealing with topics of sexual identity, teenage angst, domestic violence, and artistic expression.

Those are is a lot of topics for any seasoned veteran to attempt; so it is even more impressive to see a 24 yr old filmmaker take on the challenge in his first feature.

I liked style of the film and it was helped along greatly by solid performances, good visual style, and a great 80’s inspired synth soundtrack from Todor Kobakov & Maya Postepski.

Actually the score may have been my favourite element of the film especially in the very cool and pivotal party scene.

Overall , this is a very ambitious and interesting film,although a few things didn’t add up for me.

The portrayal of the Father in the film seemed very uneven, and the use of artistic metaphor and symbolism was heavy handed at times. And I understood the use of  the pet hamster as a escape for Madly from the harsher realities of his youth, but still…a talking hamster? Quibbles perhaps:)

Closet Monster is in limited release this summer in Canada ,but do  try and catch this new  flick from a rising star in Canadian indie film.

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Fantasia: Conspiracy-Noir-Crime- Exorcism

Operation Avalanche-d. Matt Johnson-a very cool flick ,and an interesting take on the entire faked moon landing conspiracy theory. I did see a recent comedy flick called Moonwalkers that mined this territory as well. But this film is a very different kettle of fish.

Following up on his first feature The Dirties with his partner Owen Williams ,this is a drama about CIA surveillance operatives who take it upon themselves to convince their higher ups to allow them to shoot a fake moon landing. Relying on old film stock, reams of archive footage from NASA, and touches of black humour and inventive story-telling; this is a great new Canadian feature .

Catch this is you can, and watch for a surprise appearance from Stanley Kubrick:)

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Toro-d. Kike Maillo (Spain 2016)- I caught the North American Premiere of this film at Fantasia recently. This is a  new Spanish crime thriller that is more than just action and suspense. It is really a story of loyalty, betrayal, and sacrifice-with a nice grounding in Catholic religious imagery.

From director Kike Mallo, Toro is his follow up film to the 2011 sci-fi film Eva. Here he tells the story of Toro , a street thug who informs his gangster boss that he is leaving the criminal life behind after one last job.

However, the job goes horribly wrong and Toro ends up on jail, but is now a new man. He has no interest in criminal life, only his lovely girlfriend and their future together.

But the past has a way of catching up to him upon his release on bail, and he must come to the aid of his remaining family and hope not to lose everything he dreams for the future.

This is a great story mixing comedy, action, and drama in a super realist style, with some un-nerving and shocking imagery at times, but perfectly keeping with the thematic motifs and imagery built up through the storyline.

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The Priests-d. Jang Jae-hyun (South Korea-2016)-A Korean exorcist movie? Why not. Another in a strong string of movies featured at Fantasia from South Korea, The Priests is a crowd pleaser of a drama about the demonic possession of a young teenage girl in Seoul.

Coming to the rescue are burned-out outcast priest Father Kim (Kim Yoon-seok), who approaches tracking down and fighting demons to crime fighting. Making him the lead detective of sorts in this story.

And at his side is the newest in a long line of assistants,the very new and rebellious Deacon Choi (Kang Dong-won) ,who also stars in another great film at Fantasia: A Violent Prosecutor.

Together this unlikely pair must fight not only the powers of evil, but of the uncaring and untrustworthy beauracracuy of their own Church.

But they are a plucky pair and they have some aids at their disposal: a Bible, a tube of toothpaste, a Bach CD, and a piglet!

A very enjoyable horror film with some funny moments, keep your rosary beads close if you manage to catch a screening though:)

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Americana-Néo Noir at Fantasia 2016

Americana-d. Zachary Shedd (USA 2016) This is a great new Neo-Noir feature which had its international premiere here in Montreal Sunday night. Writer-Director Zachary Shedd was present to lend some insight into the screening.

Alcoholic ex-editor Avery Wells (David Call) is drinking himself into a semi-stupor at his isolated cabin in the Nevada mountains. That’s until his longtime producer friend (Jack Davenport) shows up and drags him back to civilization.

As Avery dries out at his friends house, he realizes the real reason for his rescue. Avery’s actress sister (Kelli Garner) is starring in his friends latest production which has gone way over budget ,and is seemingly doomed to failure.

Can Avery save the film in he editing room, and stay sober enough to do it? Or will the sudden shooting of his sister turn him into a tragic sleuth;destined to follow clues that may be real or hallucinations. And lead to the same dead end he is all too familiar with in his own life.

This is a beautifully brooding character study, and noirish drama, wonderfully executed on numerous levels.

DOP: Justin Foster brings a wonderful eye to the San Fransisco Bay area,as well as the isolated cabin in the Nevada mountains.There is a wonderful scene of the lead character Avery talking to his estranged partner on the fog shrouded upper balcony of her San Francisco house.

Editor: Saela Davis does a great job of piecing the story together and Composer: Jeremy Turner has just the right modern sounds with echoes  of crime films past to evoke the right mood for this film.

Watching Americana, I was reminded of some classic films, especially the great flick: The Lost Weekend;that featured Ray Milland as the alcoholic writer being chased by his addictions and demons.

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And the isolated cabin had echoes of Robert Mitchum’s hideout in Out Of The Past, and Raymond Chandlers novel: Lady In The Lake.

But these were just some threads of motifs I recognized; this is a great original story work in the Neo-Noir genre. Well-written and directed by Zachary Shedd ,this is an impressive first film for Shedd , who had previously worked as a producer on: Hiding Your Smiling Faces and A Little Closer. I’ll leave you with a peak at the films teaser/trailer and a website link.

Oh, and another cool thing, this film was a direct result of a large kick-starter campaign:) The list of names of donors scrolled for quite a few moments…

I highly recommend this film. Americana tied with the Polish feature: Demon for my pick for top film at Fantasia Fest 2016. With Train To Busan close behind:)

I’ll be updating the blog over the rest of August with some more Fantasia films that I screened in Montreal, and I also hope to write a little in September about some movies from TIFF 2016 .. Stay tuned…

Americana Website