Director Richard Linklater’s last film, the Oscar wining “Boyhood,” was a slice of life that showcased twelve years in the life of a growing boy. His new movie is also a slice of life but in a much-condensed form, spanning just three days in the life of a college baseball player.
It’s 1980 and when we first meet Jake (Blake Jenner) driving toward the next phase of his life, college. In the backseat are a small bag of clothes and a milk carton filled with his favourite LPs. Arriving just three days before classes start, he bonds with his teammates over KISS pinball machines, longneck Lone Star beers and boings filled with Maui Waui. They party, talk baseball, play a more violent version of Rock! Paper! Scissors! called “knuckles” and try and meet girls as the clock ticks down to the first day of classes.
Largely conflict free, this isn’t a story so much as it is a snapshot of a time and place. It’s a transport back to the time of waterbeds, “My Sharona,” fashionable mullets and trippy Carl Sagan cosmology. Linklater recreates the freewheeling feel of the era and the last blast of childhood before the responsibilities of adulthood. The temptation will be to label this a more innocent time, but that isn’t exactly accurate. These guys are just as interested in scoring with girls as they are soring runs on the field so innocent they are not. At most this is an affectionately nostalgic glimpse back into our recent past.
“Everybody Wants Some!!” is a charming reminiscence. Linklater gets the details right—including a crude warning against the pleasures of waterbed sex—but more importantly populates the film with characters that feel like real people and not stereotypes conjured up by a 1980s way-back machine. It’s troubling that the female characters are given little to do—perhaps Linklater’s next could be from the point of view of the woman’s experience—but the men are entertaining and compelling sorts whose conversations are occasionally inane, occasionally philosophical, just like real life.
In the last shot of “Everybody Wants Some!!”Jake watches his professor scrawl “Frontiers Are Where You Find Them” on the blackboard. The film doesn’t bother with its character’s boundaries, choosing instead to introduce to them as they are beginning the searching for their frontiers. The movie and its characters live in the moment, and that’s a pretty fun place to be.
“Y’all have no idea what you’re dealing with, do you?” asks cult leader Calvin Meyer (Sam Shepard) of his FBI interrogators in “Midnight Special.” They don’t, and for much of the running time of the film, you won’t either. Director Jeff Nichols has made a wilfully obtuse, but fascinating, sci fi drama that will keep you guessing, even after the credits have rolled.
The movie begins as an apparent missing child story. We’ve seen the scene before. A dowdy motel room, armed kidnappers, a child hidden under a sheet. What’s unexpected is how agreeable the eight-year-old Alton Meyers (Jaeden Lieberher) is. He hugs Roy (Michael Shannon) and sits quietly in the backseat as Lucas (Joel Edgerton) drives.
Seems Roy is the boy’s biological father and the men have kidnapped the boy from The Ranch, a cult compound run by Brother Calvin Meyer (Sam Shepard). The goal is to allow the boy to fulfill his destiny, but what exactly is that?
Is he a prophet? A saviour? Or a weapon, as the FBI and NSA officer Paul Sevier (Adam Driver) believe?
The boy has powers. Visible spectrums of light come from his eyes. In other words, the kid has gifts and rays shoot from his eyeballs. While on The Ranch would also speak in tongues. To the cult his is ravings have become scripture, to the FBI they appear to contain highly guarded secrets of national security. The date Friday March 6 looms heavy in the text, and with the date fast approaching the FBI want to know what might happen on the day.
“What do you think will happen on March 6?” they ask one cult member.
“If Alton is with us we will be saved,” she replies.
As the FBI amp up their chase for the boy, Sarah (Kirsten Dunst), Roy’s ex and Alton’s mother, joins in to help her son complete his journey. “The date and place is everything,” says Roy. “It’s all we have.”
“Midnight Special” is a special kind of sci fi film. The story is more about fear of the unknown and belief than flying saucers or little green men. Mulder and Scully would love it. Director Nichols has belief, belief that his audience will stay with a movie that doesn’t make it easy for them, that doesn’t stick to Robert McKee’s golden rules of script writing. Instead it teases out the information but only to a point. We learn enough to stay involved and are treated to several spectacular and exciting scenes along the way, but when it comes time to put a period on the story, Nichols instead uses a an ellipsis in a metaphysical ending that will mean different things to different people.
This is a, “Buy the ticket, take the ride,” movie. Is it satisfying? Yes, if you don’t expect answers to all the questions the film raises. It’s more “2001: A Space Odyssey” than “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” although this movie does share Klaatu’s cool eye lasers. Both are good, interesting pictures, but one is unconventional and brave enough to ask more than it answers.
After reviewing over one hundred submissions from comedies to thrillers to compelling dramas, Lakeshorts International Short Film Festival will bring the world of cutting-edge independent short filmmaking to Toronto’s Lake Shore. The Festival, produced by Fifth Ground Entertainment Inc. in association with Lakeshore Arts, will celebrate its sixth year at The Assembly Hall at 1 Colonel Samuel Smith Park Drive on Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7, 2016.
Running for two evenings, the Festival will showcase some of the best independent short films from around the world. On Friday, May 6, the focus will be on the Scotiabank Loved and Local selections, featuring the works of local, emerging filmmakers and hosted by award-winning actor Rick Roberts (Saving Hope, Republic of Doyle, Rookie Blue).
Loved and Local films include: The Offer (10 min, Canada), a quirky story about a door-to-door salesman selling answers to life’s questions in the form of encyclopedias; Zero Recognition (10 min, Canada), starring Lauren Collins (known for her role as Paige Michalcuk in Degrassi: The Next Generation) who decides to brave the world of internet dating and quickly finds her ego and sanity unravelling; and Who Is Hannah? (14 min, Canada), an unlikely coming of age tale based on the true story of co-writer Claire Stollery’s experience of meeting her biological father.
The Gala event on Saturday, May 7 will showcase international and award-winning short films, and will be hosted by renowned film critic Richard Crouse. Blue Carpet arrivals for the Gala will commence at 6:30 p.m. followed by a pre-performance reception, and the screening will begin at 7:45 p.m.
Featured films at the Gala include: Wrinkles, old folk’s tale (12 min, France), a charming tale about four seniors who decide to leave their home; Remembrance Day in a Weapons Factory (7 min, UK), which takes its audience through the practical and psychological aspects of warfare and Avo (9 min, Iran), a story about a young boy who finds a way to stay in touch with his grandfather from beyond the grave.
Lakeshorts is helmed by Artistic Director Michelle Nolden, a recent Canadian Screen Award winner for her ongoing role as Dr. Dawn Bell in CTV’s Saving Hope and soon to be released Prisoner X, and is produced by Fifth Ground Entertainment Inc.’s Chris Szarka.
“Over the past six years, we have watched this Festival grow from a grass-roots initiative to a city-wide favourite event,” said Nolden. “We are honoured to bring our passion for film to our community while making the world aware of our rich artistic life here in Toronto.”
Tickets for The Lakeshorts International Short Film Festival go on sale Friday, April 8 at 9:00am ET. Tickets to the Scotiabank Loved and Local are $40 and Gala tickets are $65, both available for purchase at 416-201-7093, and online at www.lakeshorts.ca. Door prizes offered include Samsung devices, Steam Whistle products and a bicycle from Oxygen Bike Co.
The Lakeshorts International Short Film Festival acknowledges outstanding achievement for featured short films through awards donated by local sponsors Agency 71 Inc., Cinespace Film Studios, City of Toronto, Deluxe Post Production Toronto, Scotiabank, Steam Whistle Brewing, TD Wealth, The Assembly Hall and William F. White International Inc.
For more information, please visit www.lakeshorts.ca or follow @LakeshortsFilm on Twitter.
Welcome to the House of Crouse. This week show runner Glen Mazzara shares secrets about how he made the transition from hospital administrator to Hollywood hotshot and John Lydon talks about… well, just about everything from frozen nipples to Richard III.
Richard and “Canada AM” host Beverly Thomson have a look at he weekend’s big releases, the bombastic “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2’s” souvlaki slapstick and the terrific tension of thriller “Eye in the Sky.”
Superhero geeks need not fear, this column will contain no spoilers.
In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the world’s two most famous caped crime fighters throw down, wrestling literally and figuratively to determine what kind of hero is best suited to serve the world’s needs.
The story picks up after the action in Man of Steel, which saw Superman (the square-jawed Henry Cavill) protect the planet by destroying half of Metropolis in an epic battle with the evil General Zod (Michael Shannon).
Batman (Ben Affleck), unimpressed with the collateral damage, joins the contingent of folks who see the Last Son of Krypton not as a champion but an alien threat. A battle ensues.
Who will win? Other than Kryptonite, Superman has no known weaknesses, so this would seem like a fairly one-sided fight, but Batman has skills as well, so who knows?
To get to the bottom of the matter I held a highly unscientific Facebook Batman v Superman poll to determine a winner. It drew mixed results.
“Brains over brawn,” wrote one FB friend, “Batman for the win!”
“Superman could basically fly down at super speed striking Batman before he could even sense he was coming and turn the Bat into vapour,” wrote a Superman fan.
Another wasn’t so sure. “Both seem to wear their underwear over their pants… it is a tough call.” Whatever the outcome, expect a wild showdown. But that’s on screen. It’s make-believe. What about Reel Life v Real Life?
The Caped Crusader and Supes have been duking it out for decades at the box office but Batman, specifically the Christian Bale era, comes out on top. The Dark Knight Rises and The Dark Knight KO the competition, with the 1978 Superman, the first Tim Burton Batman and the recent Man of Steel rounding out the top five.
Batman also brings in the lion’s share of the marketing money. According to comicbookmovie.com Batman sells almost two-to-one to Superman products.
That means more parents dress their kids as Batman than Superman at Halloween and that includes Ben Affleck and Christian Bale who met at a costume store last year as they shopped for Batman outfits for their kids.
What about prestige? Again Batman is victorious, with three Academy Award winners — Affleck, Bale and George Clooney — playing the Bat at one time or another.
As for the Metropolis Marvel, Oscar winners Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood both turned down the role as did best actor nominee James Caan who said, “There’s no way I’m wearing that silly suit.” Oscar winner Nic Cage wore the suit but his Superman story never made it before the cameras.
So far my Reel Life v Real Life look at Batman v Superman favours the Dark Knight, but Clark Kent’s alter ego is still a formidable foe.
Keep in mind, without Superman there may never have been a Batman.
Predating the Caped Crusader, the Man of Steel is a pioneer whose popularity helped create the superhero genre. Since then he’s been ubiquitous, inspiring an American Sign Language symbol, movie serials, TV shows, comic strips, pop songs — (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman by The Kinks among many others — and even a Broadway musical called It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman.
Finally, as one of my Facebook friends pointed out, Superman has at least one insurmountable advantage over Batman: “If Superman loses the fight he can fly back in time to fight again.”
In 1984 raspy-throated singer Bonnie Tyler warbled, “I’m holding out for a hero.” At the time I didn’t get the song’s sexy undertones but was reminded of the tune as I watched “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Thirty odd years later it’s quite clear what kind of hero Bonnie Tyler was looking for—“It’s gonna take a superman to sweep me off my feet!”— but it’s less certain what kind of hero the city of Metropolis wants or needs.
Ben Affleck plays Bruce Wayne as a weathered crime fighter, someone his trusty butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons) says, “got too old to die young, and not for want of trying.” Banged up and grumpy, his fellow crime fighter Superman (Henry Cavill) is in his bad books after tearing up Metropolis and knocking over Wayne Tower, killing many of those inside, during an epic fight against villain General Zod. “Maybe it’s the Gotham City in me,” says Wayne. “We have a bad history was freaks dressed as clowns.”
He’s not the only one to have a bone to pick with The Last Son of Krypton. Distressed by the Man of Steel’s seemingly uncontrollable power Congressional Superman Committee head Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) finds a supporter for her Aliens Are Un-American campaign in a Machiavellian tech mogul named Alexander “Lex” Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). “The world has been so caught up by what Superman can do,” Finch says, “we haven’t thought about what he should do.”
All this leads to a superhero showdown, a battle of the behemoths, cowls v capes. It’s Batman, a billionaire vengeance seeker with a bursting bank account and cool toys, v Superman, an alien with good intentions but uncontrollable powers. “It’ll be the greatest gladiator battle in the history of the world,” giggles Luthor.
Who will win? Who should win? Will it be the hero Bonnie Tyler is holding out for?
Wrapped around the central storyline is the introduction of lasso-wielding Amazonian Diana Prince a.k.a. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Luthor’s crazy schemes and the appropriately named Doomsday, a Kryptonian killing machine.
These are jittery times and “Batman v Superman” is a jittery movie. Luthor’s xenophobic notion that Superman is a dangerous alien, an “other” who we don’t quite understand, is ripped right out of Donald Trump’s playbook. “People hate what they don’t understand,” says Martha Kent (Diane Lane).
Mix that with depictions of the death and destruction on city streets and all-too-familiar shots of buildings with smoke oozing out of them and you’re left with a movie that as feels timely and ripped-from-the-headlines as a movie about tights-wearing superheroes can be.
Other than that it is essentially a long trailer for the next DC superhero ensemble movie tagged on to a WrestleMania style smack down. Director Zack Snyder does have a flair for staging darkly dramatic scenes—Superman surrounded by Mexican Day of the Dead revellers is a stunner and the image of Supes casually kicking the indestructible Batmobile out of frame with a flick of his foot is very cool—but while he is entertaining your eye he does little to engage your brain. There is tons of psuedo-intellectual talk about gods and monsters but it’s all surface, chatter meant to make the film seem smarter than it actually is. Very little of what happens feels motivated by the characters. It mainly feels as though someone came up with a grabby title and crafted a set of circumstances to justify the name. Characters talk and interact with one another but it feels in service of the title, as if they are all simply brand ambassadors, rather than living breathing people.
The performances are, if not super, then fine. As the superheroes Affleck makes a better Bruce than Bat and Cavill is suitably steel-jawed. Eisenberg plays Lex as a twitchy Mark Zuckerberg in a performance that suits the wonky tone of the film. The women aren’t given much to do, but Adams finds Lane’s pluckiness and Gadot shows real promise as Wonder Woman. Nearly everyone gets overpowered by the CGI overkill of the final hour, but I suspect fans aren’t looking for nuance as much as they are mega action and that Snyder delivers.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is bombastic. The experience of watching it is like having a drunk at a bar tell you the story after five beers. It’s loud and in-your-face with the occasional maudlin moment.
There was a time when superhero movies were fun, escapist entertainment. Those days seem to have passed. There are a total of two laughs in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” although there are several other unintentionally laughable moments. Now our caped and cowled heroes are as dark and troubled as a reject from a Kafka novel which, in this case, makes for a rather loud but dreary night at the movies.
It’s hard not to sound cynical and grumpy when reviewing a movie like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.” It is a fourteen-years-in-the-making sequel to one of the biggest grossing romantic comedies of all time, and while it has much of the warmth as the original, it feels warmed over.
Nia Vardalos leads the reunited cast in a story that’s all about mothers and daughters, grandparents and kids, nieces and nephews, brothers, one overbearing aunt and a long lost brother. In other words, it’s all about family.
Vardalos is Toula the bride from the first film, now the overprotective mother to Paris (Elena Kampouris). She’s still married to Ian (John Corbett) and living next door to her parents and brothers. It’s a tight knit group she says is so close it’s occasionally suffocating.
“Close families,” she says, “we make it through things like bad economies because we stick together, but some of us just get stuck.”
Everyone is involved in everyone’s business, so when it comes to light that because of a paperwork error Toula’s parents, Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan), were never officially married, the entire clan pitches in to throw another big fat Greek wedding.
There’s more, including a subplot about Paris leaving for university, the genealogy of Alexander the Greek and Toula and Ian’s own martial issues. It’s a catch-all for every crowd-pleasing clichés about big families. Let’s teach an old guy how to use a computer! Kids leaving home! Wait, there’s an inappropriate aunt! Battle of the sexes! No stereotype goes unturned in a screenplay (once again penned by Vardalos) that feels as bloated as an overstuffed Yemista.
Under all the clutter, however, are the characters. Vardalos doesn’t blaze any new ground here but she does stay true to the characters that made the first film such a hit. Gus is still a sitcom stereotype who thinks the Greeks invented everything, but Constantine brings him to life despite the weight of the clichés. Ditto Andrea Martin as the randy Aunt Voula and Kazan as the boisterous Maria. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” is a cartoon, an ethnic exaggeration, but the ensemble embraces it.
There’s not an ounce of cynicism here, and I think audiences might respond to the sweet open heartedness of Vardalos and company, but there isn’t a lot of originality here either.