Richard and CTV NewsChannel anchor Andrea Bain talk about the latest movies coming to VOD and streaming services, including the Dakota Johnson-Tracee Ellis Ross musical drama “The High Note,” the Midnight Madness ready “Dreamland,” the rom com riff of “All About Who You Know” and the implausible twists and turns of “Inheritance.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to VOD and streaming services including the Dakota Johnson-Tracee Ellis Ross musical drama “The High Note,” the Midnight Madness ready “Dreamland,” the rom com riff of “All About Who You Know” and the implausible twists and turns of “Inheritance.”
“Dreamland,” Bruce McDonald’s eleventh film now on VOD, is a chaotic vision that mixes and matches contract killers, doppelgängers, human trafficking and a vampire wedding in a surreal stew of midnight madness ingredients.
The film’s strange tone is established early, with Stephen McHattie cast in two roles, Johnny Deadeyes, a hitman with a heart of gold and The Maestro, an amoral, junkie jazz trumpet player. The action begins when Johnny’s boss, gangster Hercules (Henry Rollins), upset by a personal slight, orders him to cut one of Maestro’s fingers off before a gig at a wedding thrown by crime doyenne The Countess (Juliette Lewis) and her vampire sibling The Count (Tómas Lemarquis). It seems The Count is to wed the daughter of one of Johnny’s neighbors, a young girl supplied courtesy of Hercules’ human trafficking business. The situation gives Johnny pause, and one attempted double-cross later, (MILD SPOILER AHEAD) the wedding erupts into the kind of violence that would give “Games of Thrones’” Red Wedding a run for its bloody money.
As the title would suggest “Dreamland” operates on its own indefinable wavelength. It is wonderfully weird, a movie that exists in some sort of twilight zone where logic doesn’t matter. McDonald, no stranger to genre flicks, embraces the weirdness, creating a world where the mundane and the absurd go hand in hand. Keeping it from spinning out of control is McHattie who grounds his two world-weary characters with primal thoughts regarding their mortality. They fall on either side of the will-to-survive divide, but that little bit of humanity plays nicely against the loud-n-proud performances from Lewis and Rollins. Both are fun and energetic and both feel like they stepped out of a comic book compared to McHattie’s work, which, while still outrageous, feels more anchored to reality.
It makes sense that one of “Dreamland’s” lead characters is a jazz trumpet player because McDonald has made a Bebop movie, a deconstructed genre flick with a fast tempo and unexpected story angles with only occasional references to the expected genre tropes. This quote from cornetist, pianist, and composer Bix Beiderbecke about the music he loved could also apply to “Dreamland.” “One thing I like about jazz, kid,” he said, “is that I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Do you?” One thing is for sure about “Dreamland.” You won’t know what comes next.
To me the still shot of two teens, one wearing an Edward Bear t-shirt, hitchhiking on a two-lane highway is a powerfully nostalgic Canadian image. I grew up in 1970s era Nova Scotia where hundreds of kids (me included) hitchhiked on roads big and small. The image is iconic, a sentimental picture of a simpler time brought to vivid life in “Weirdos,” Bruce McDonald and Daniel MacIvor’s sweet new coming of age story.
Set in 1976 “Weirdos” puts McDonald back on the road. The “Hard Core Logo” director has a way with road movies and here he keeps the story of Kit (Dylan Authors), a bored Antigonish 15 year-old, in constant motion. Kit wants a different life, one far, far away from the small town existence offered by his dad (Allan Hawco) and grandmother (Cathy Jones).
With girlfriend Alice (Julia Sara Stone) in tow Kit hangs out his thumb, hitchhiking toward a change. As the pair make their way to Kit’s artistic mother Laura (Molly Parker)—she knows Andy Warhol!—the nature of the teen’s relationship is challenged as the young man grapples with his sexuality.
With some melancholy and much humour “Weirdos” expertly strings together the small moments that make up Kit’s life. Warm, affectionate and wallpapered with a K-Tel soundtrack of 70’s Cancon, it follows his journey to self-discovery. Authors and Stone do most of the heavy lifting here, handing in naturalistic, understated performances but it’s Parker and Hawko who provide the emotional sparks.
As absent mother Laura, Parker has the film’s flashiest role. She’s a dysfunctional grand dame with an imagined connection to Warhol and a headful of dreams. Her screen time amounts to little more than an extended cameo but Parker’s work is so vivid, so alive, it feels as though we’ve known her for years.
“The Republic of Doyle’s” Hawko is quieter, but poignant as the father who must explain himself in one of the film’s best scenes.
“Weirdos” is the story of outsiders, but as there are more people outside the circle than in, it really is a universal story of self-examination, one that can be enjoyed even if you’ve never hitchhiked or worn an Edward Bear t-shirt.
Welcome to the House of Crouse. To me the still shot of two teens, one wearing an Edward Bear t-shirt, hitchhiking on a two-lane highway is a powerfully nostalgic Canadian image. I grew up in 1970s era Nova Scotia where hundreds of kids (me included) hitchhiked on roads big and small. The image is iconic, a sentimental picture of a simpler time brought to vivid life in “Weirdos,” Bruce McDonald and Daniel MacIvor’s sweet new coming of age story. So pull up a beanbag chair, pull on your tie dyed t-shirt and listen to Bruce and Daniel as they transport us back to the 1970s. C’mon in and sit a spell.
Canadian horror — and I don’t mean when a Zamboni breaks down just before your ice time, but the kind of scary movies we make — tends to go against the grain. Movies like Ginger Snaps, Cannibal Girls and the squirmy body terror of David Cronenberg bring fresh points of view to established mythologies to breathe new life into old genres.
In 2008 director Bruce McDonald did just that with the bio-terror freakout, Pontypool. The story of a God Bug that turns people into zombies barely gives us a glimpse of the walking dead, instead replacing the gore with brain matter, making it one of the smartest undead movies in years.
He’s genre-bending again, this time in Hellions, a home invasion survival tale with a demonic twist. McDonald says Canadian filmmakers mess with traditional formulas for two reasons. The first is practical.
“The script, when I first read it, read easily like a 40-day shoot, $5-million movie,” he says. “But then you get the news that you only have 20 days and less money. There’s no choice but to subvert and say, ‘We have to now begin with this established premise and show a world we kind of know, but subtly we have to make some different kinds of choices.’
“Hellions was much more of an action picture, in a sense, but you need time to make action. A sequence will work much better in 25 shots than in three shots. That’s the practical nature of handmade Canadian cinema. We don’t have the big machine but we do have some smart people and we know how to do it. That does create a spin on things. You’re outside the gates of Hollywood and when the parents are away the kids will play.”
The second reason? “Canadians are naturally mischievous and like to f— with people,” he laughs.
McDonald’s extensive resume includes Canadian classics like Hard Core Logo and Highway 61, but it’s not heavily weighted to horror, even though he says Oct. 31 gave him his “Mr. Entertainment Gene.”
“I have loved Halloween more than any other holiday since I was young,” he says. “I think it was my first theatre. My first way into this entertainment world I love so much. I wasn’t Catholic so I didn’t get to the ceremonies of the Catholic Church and the robes and the incense and the priests and visions of hell. For a little Protestant kid from the suburbs, Halloween was the best.”
Canadian horror, and I don’t mean Tim Horton’s running out of Timbits just before your coffee break, but the kind of scary movies we make, tends to turn convention on its head.
How many hack comics have joked about the beastly effects of PMS? “Ginger Snaps” takes those jokes one step further in a wickedly humorous feminist werewolf allegory. Other examples of distinctive CanCon horror include “Black Christmas,” a movie shot in Toronto that set the template for most of the slasher films of the 1980s and ’90s, “Cannibal Girls,” an early horror comedy, and don’t even get me started on the squirmy body terror of David Cronenberg.
“Hellions,” a new film that smashes up “The Brood” and “Are You Afraid of the Dark,” is a fresh look at the Devil Child genre.
Chloe Rose is Dora, a pregnant high schooler left home alone on Halloween. She’s waiting for her boyfriend (Luke Bilyk) to come over but before he gets there kids in creepy costumes come to the door. At first it seems harmless, but when the same kids reappear, this time with Dora’s boyfriend’s head in their candy sack, things take a terrifying turn for the macabre.
Director Bruce McDonald, working from a script by “The Colony” screenwriter Pascal Trottier, has made a film hat is short on actual hardcore scares, but long on unease. McDonald uses visual tricks—nightmarish red and pink colour palettes, slow motion and inky darkness—dreamy sequences and a spooky children’s chant to underline Dora’s mounting fear.
“Hellions” isn’t the kind of slice-and-dice movie we’ve come to expect from home invasion movies like “You’re Next.” Instead it’s a loosely plotted, hallucinogenic horror that is more weird than scary.
– Each episode of REELSIDE offers an insider view of the creative process –
– Featuring Sarah Gadon, Caitlin Cronenberg, George A. Romero, Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, Don McKellar, Bruce McDonald, Stephen Amell, Michael Hogan, and more –
May 21, 2015
TORONTO (May 21, 2015) – The Movie Network goes behind the scenes of the creative process with REELSIDE, a new six-part, half-hour original documentary series that celebrates the stories of prominent Canadians both in front of and behind the camera. Debuting Thursday, June 4 at 9 p.m. ET on The Movie Network, each episode follows filmmakers on a unique journey, such as Sarah Gadon who partners with Caitlin Cronenberg on a photography project, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen who share experiences about being Canadian boys in Hollywood, and Matthew Hannam who sets off with mentors Don McKellar and Bruce McDonald on a classically Canadian road trip.
Following the premiere episode of REELSIDE, featuring Sarah Gadon and Caitlin Cronenberg, is a special presentation of the Canadian feature film, Enemy, starring Gadon and Jake Gyllenhaal.
“From exploring road movies in an RV in Northern Ontario to the streets of Toronto with horror icon George A. Romero, REELSIDE captures honest, behind-the-scenes moments with some of this country’s biggest names in entertainment,” said Tracey Pearce, Senior Vice-President, Specialty and Pay, Bell Media. “Visually and creatively, this is Canadiana at its finest and a must-see for fans of great storytelling.”
REELSIDE is a production from Fifth Ground Entertainment in association with The Movie Network and Movie Central. Executive Producers are Richard Crouse, Raj Panikkar, and Christopher Szarka. Producers are Szarka and Panikkar. Directors are Sarah Gadon, Philip Riccio, Taylor Clarke, Matthew Hannam, Matthew Lochner, and Raj Panikkar. For Bell Media, Lisa Gotlieb and Tina Apostolopoulos. Corrie Coe is Senior Vice-President, Independent Production, Bell Media. Tracey Pearce is Senior Vice-President, Specialty and Pay, Bell Media. Phil King is President – CTV, Sports and Entertainment Programming.
Ep 101 – Caitlin Cronenberg with Sarah Gadon Premieres Thursday, June 4 at 9 p.m. ET
Commissioned by an Italian fashion magazine for a photography project, celebrated photographer Caitlin Cronenberg and actor Sarah Gadon (Maps to the Stars) travel to Bruce Peninsula National Park. This episode explores how the pair connected amidst the Hollywood and Fashion machine, and issues of image-making, film, and fashion. Sarah Gadon’s directorial debut.
Ep 102 – Philip Riccio with George A. Romero Premieres Thursday, June 11 at 9 p.m. ET
Actor Philip Riccio (REPUBLIC OF DOYLE) goes behind the camera to explore filmmaking in the pre-digital era with his mentor, horror film icon George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Creepshow). Together, they remake one of Romero’s lost films. Romero guides Phil through 16mm filmmaking, reminiscing about his long career along the way.
Ep 103 –Evan Goldberg with Seth Rogen and Matthew Bass Premieres Thursday, June 18 at 9 p.m. ET
This episode catches Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen in LA on the set of big budget comedy Neighbors and at the premiere of their more personal project, This is the End. On the crux of the next big step forward in their careers, they share their journey from Canadian boys to making it big in Hollywood. Meanwhile, the pair guide rising talent Matt Bass through an endless string of rejections.
Ep 104 – Science Fiction Premieres Thursday, June 25 at 9 p.m. ET
Vincenzo Natali (Cube) takes audiences through a demonstration of world building, from conceptualizing a project from scratch to a fully realized creation. Graeme Manson (ORPHAN BLACK), Michael Hogan (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), Astronaut and Space-X Engineer Garrett Reisman, and film critic Jesse Wente all weigh in on the genre and the critical point at which science meets fiction.
Ep 105 – Don McKellar and Bruce McDonald Premieres Thursday, July 2 at 9 p.m. ET
Accomplished editor Matthew Hannam (SENSITIVE SKIN) sets off to Northern Ontario with his mentors, Don McKellar (SENSITIVE SKIN) and Bruce McDonald (Hard Core Logo), to create a documentary about their careers. Along the way, the two legends explore the iconic power of the Canadian road movie.
Ep 106 – Superheroes Premieres Thursday, July 9 at 9 p.m. ET
Emerging filmmaker Matthew Lochner is on a journey to create his own superhero concept, complete with a trailer. Along the way, Matthew enlists the help of Stephen Amell (ARROW), David Hayter (X-Men), and Lloyd Kaufman (The Troma Empire) to understand what it means to be a superhero, what’s behind the genre, and what it means to fans while uncovering glimpses of what drives them in their careers.