Incredible Shrinking Wknd Review

We’ve all had moments we wish we could redo, so that we could say something better or not say it at all. If only we could get a redo, another take…

The Incredible Shrinking Wknd, written and directed by Jon Mikel Caballero, is the story of Alba (Iria del Rio), a young woman freshly turned 30 who still lives with her parents. She’s the life of the party whom everyone loves until the music stops. Her and five friends trek out to a cottage for the weekend to celebrate her birthday and get drunk in the woods. Right off the bat, we findt that Alba is a bit of a clutz, having forgotten to mention that the cottage has no running water. Luckily, they have plenty of beer, which they drink en masse along with a big dinner. It all seems to be going well, until mere hours after arriving, Pablo (Adam Quintero), Alba’s boyfriend of three years, breaks up with her. More precisely, he says he needs time. Instead, he freezes in time and Alba is afforded just that. A few moments later Alba is transported back to the passenger seat of the car, on her way to the cottage. Unaware at first that the day is repeating itself, Alba thinks that they are staying an extra day. When Pablo breaks up with her again, she suspects that something is off. Like maybe the linearity of time. 

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Ode to Nothing Review

What would it take to creep out an undertaker? Dwein Ruedas Baltazar’s third feature is a slow-burning, deeply unsettling art-horror hybrid. Sonya (Filipino superstar Marietta Subong), the protagonist of Ode to Nothing, is a mortician at a struggling funeral home in a small town in the Philippines. She lives with her father, who takes little interest in her or the business.  When bodies are brought in by their sobbing, sometimes wailing, loved ones, Sonya appears colder than the corpses as she sets to work on them. She tries upselling flower arrangements (or a plush coffin perhaps?), but living in such poverty means even the most devoted (and, of course, religious) families can barely afford the gravestone. Towards the beginning of the film, a middle aged woman brings her two dead parents in and requests a 2-for-1 deal on the flowers: “We have two dead people, that’s good for business.” 

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Les Particules Review

You might, understandably, roll your eyes and scoff at a doe-eyed person reminding you that “We’re all just stardust.” When gazing at the stars, the desired feeling of oneness and connection with the universe and all its inhabitants, at least for me, is nowhere to be found. And yet, films that sew a little bit of celestial mystery into the lining without falling into sentimentality can successfully widen their scope. Blaise Harrison’s first narrative feature Les Particules is a welcome addition to the oft-treaded coming-of-age genre by tinging it with sci-fi. 

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Astronaut review

Aside from their exorbitant wealth, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk also share a passion for space travel. They’ve faced much criticism for spending billions of dollars on their space ventures, and one could argue that they’re indulging in childish wish fulfillment that ignores the very real problems on this planet. That’s not to disregard the importance of astro-research, nor the appeal of space travel, but sentimentalizing the journey into space feels more escapist than romantic.

Shelagh McLeod’s debut feature Astronaut puts some of that romance back in the stars, but mostly makes a safe landing after an uneventful ride. Richard Dreyfuss plays Angus, a 79-year-old retired civil engineer and recent widower who has dreamt all his life of going into space. Struggling to stay financially afloat ever since his wife, who had dementia, was conned into buying a donkey sanctuary, Angus sells his house. His daughter and grandson want him to move in with them for fear of him getting lonely or falling ill, but his son-in-law would rather put him in a retirement home. Not much of this conflict is shown, because a few minutes into the film, he’s being driven up to his new home at Sundown Valley (if there ever was a euphemism for death…). Read More »

Swallow Review

If one were to compile a list of alienated housewives in film, it would be long enough to clog the kitchen sink. There’s something inherently cinematic about a pretty white woman picking furniture from a catalogue with a cigarette in one hand and a dead look in her eyes. But when a film lingers only at the surface of alienation, it becomes as tiresome as the patriarchal devices that the film is trying to subvert. Influenced no doubt by Todd Haynes’ masterpiece Safe and engaging with Margaret Atwood’s first novel The Edible Woman, Swallow leaves a disappointing aftertaste.

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extreme job remake

When waiting in line to see the second most-viewed film in Korean history, expectations are high. Fortunately, Extreme Job did not disappoint. Well, mostly. Silly and inventive, Lee Byeong-heon’s police comedy keeps the gags coming, until a tiring last half hour.

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You only need to take a glance at First Reformed director Paul Schrader’s extensive filmography to know that he’s a risk taker. Not just because of the subjects he choses or the approach he takes, but also in method. He’s worked in the studio system with big budgets, but he has also self-financed his work through Kickstarter. Schrader’s work bristles with themes of obsession and loneliness. Every film feels like an opportunity to explore those themes in a different context. What’s loneliness when you’re a drug dealer? A gigolo? A gay playwright? Schrader is one of those artists who, after 50 years, still feels like he’s in his prime.

He was in Montreal for a retrospective of his work at the Festival of New Cinema. We talked in a hotel cafe in Old Montreal. Here is our conversation.

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Happy New Year Colin Burstead Review

It’s the tried and true experiment: stick a dysfunctional family in a big house for a day and see what happens. When done well, it can be a like a cathartic claustrophobic symphony. But Ben Wheatley‘s Happy New Year, Colin Burstead doesn’t pack a punch.

This particular story of family dysfunction is set in the grand Cumberland House in Dorset, also referred to by its characters as a castle, Burstead Hall and “fucking Downton Abbey.” It’s not exactly a bottle episode, because we do see glimpses of Colin (Neil Maskell), his Mum Sandy (Doon Mackichan) and his sister’s Gini’s houses (Hayley Squires), but not enough to get a sense of how differently they all live. With such a large ensemble and diversity of personalities, Happy New Year fails to flesh them out.

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Searching trailer

Most teenagers would rather die than submit to their dad going through their entire laptop, contacting all of their friends and watching their private videos. But Margot Kim isn’t most teenagers. In SearchingDavid (John Cho) plays a recent widower whose daughter goes missing overnight. Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) volunteers to take on the case, but David can’t remove himself for the investigation, so he starts his own inquiry on his laptop and eventually logs into his daughter’s computer.

But as the film proves, the computer is only as smart as the person who uses it – you have to know what to type in the search bar. In that way, modern technology is neither a force for good nor evil. It’s a tool.

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From the first time you sit in that crowded theatre and hear the collective murmurings, you know that you’re up for a special experience. Genre fans are some of the most passionate and knowledgeable film fans out there. And for these fans, Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival is like a pilgrimage. It’s a chance to watch, discuss (and buy!) some of the best genre films of the year to come.

But what’s most peculiar about the festival is how it labels itself as a genre festival, but its programming often dissolves those established barriers. Genre is more a term used in film marketing departments than it is used by filmmakers. That’s partly due to the fact that so many popular “genre” films nowadays are not just one thing. Indeed, Fantasia is home to the multi-hyphenate film: Japanese-Zombie-Meta-Comedy (One Cut of the Dead), High School-Christmas-Zombie-Musical (Anna and the Apocalypse), and Neo-Noir-Slacker-Comedy (Under the Silver Lake). Basically the one rule of mixing styles and genres is: if you can justify it, you can pull it off.

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