By John C.
Director Baz Luhrmann’s much talked about adaptation of The Great Gatsby finally came to theatres last weekend, becoming a genuine hit with audiences, in the wake of receiving a mixed response from many critics. After missing the screening, I finally caught up with the film during the week.
Like many people, I truly believe that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is one of the finest novels ever written, a work of prose that is still just as relevant after close to ninety years. The story’s quiet dissection of the excessiveness of the 1920s might seem to clash with the marketing behind the film, but this is a good adaptation of a great book that is carried by an excellent cast.
The film opens with Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) talking to a psychiatrist (Jack Thompson), recounting the time he spent living on Long Island in New York, making his money selling bonds after the first World War. His house is across the water from his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and her husband Tom (Joel Edgerton), and next door to the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), who throws lavish parties every Saturday night. When Nick is invited to one of the gatherings, he soon discovers through Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki) that Gatsby is hosting the parties in hopes of recapturing the attention of Daisy, his great love from before the war.
The first sign that this is going to be a modern take on the classic novel is the thumping opening of “No Church in the Wild” that plays early in the film, setting the tone for the rest of the soundtrack, produced by Jay Z. Much has been made of the selection of songs in the film, and they generally work well with the scenes, although it can be strange to hear the modern sound of “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody” alongside the images of a classic band. But the Jay Z songs are actually quite effective, with the modern rap music alluding to the jazz that would have been considered risky in the 1920s. The moving Lana Del Rey track “Young and Beautiful” is another highlight, beautifully playing over several key scenes.
The first few scenes take some getting used to, as our eyes adjust to the way that the camera swoops in and out of the scenery and between the actors, with some of the quick cuts causing a dizzying effect. The first party scene at an apartment in New York with Tom and his mistress Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher) is kind of overdone, like a modern music video as channelled through the 1920s. This is one of the times when the bombastic use of music and jumpy editing just feels excessive, but it’s also shortly after this scene that the film really finds its footing as a faithful adaptation of the source material. The digital trickery and brave soundtrack choices sometimes even work well to illustrate the story.
The 3D is done well and comes alive during the party scenes, but the quieter moments where the film really excels don’t really need to be seen in the format. Many audiences will be drawn in by the flashier scenes, but these give way to the vulnerability of the characters hidden beneath, which in itself is an interesting allegory to what F. Scott Fitzgerald was saying in the novel. The parties are a symbol of false identity, and Baz Luhrmann uses them to lure casual viewers into the story. These elements add up to a film that is often strikingly original and sometimes overly stylistic to the point of distraction.
But this is also a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the beloved classic novel that gets things absolutely right in terms of the cast. Jay Gatsby is a character who is bound by his past, holding on to a part of himself that he has already moved away from. He has created a false life for himself that allows him to live as a persona, hiding behind money and glamorous parties that serve as a facade for the vulnerable man underneath. Leonardo DiCaprio is brilliant in the role, with his small nuances in dialogue and facial expressions perfectly displaying these multiple layers beneath the outward appearance and irresistible smile of the character.
Nick Carraway is a man enamoured with the world of Jay Gatsby, before growing disgusted with the selfishness of the rich world around him. Tobey Maguire plays him as a wide eyed upstart, who becomes broken by what happens in his life. Daisy Buchanan is another complex personality, because by the end of the story the decisions she makes are actually kind of selfish, and Carey Mulligan nicely displays both the emotional elements and underlying coldness beneath the character. Although he is somewhat underused, Jason Clarke is excellent as George Wilson, playing a big part in the finale. The rest of the cast is equally strong in their roles.
As the romance turns to tragedy in the admirably filmed last act, the story is handled in a respectable and faithful way, leading up to an emotionally affective rendering of the final few scenes and the masterfully written narration. These are some of the best moments in The Great Gatsby, allowing the characters to truly come alive off the page. Although I respectfully disagree with a few of the stylistic choices, for the most part I do admire what Baz Luhrmann has done with the source material. This is a good movie with excellent performances that serves as a surprisingly faithful adaptation of a great book.
Release Date: May 17th, 2013
Rated PG for violence and language
Running time: 132 minutes
J.J. Abrams (dir.)
Roberto Orci (writer)
Alex Kurtzman (writer)
Damon Lindelof (writer)
Michael Giacchino (music)
Chris Pine as Kirk
Zachary Quinto as Spock
Zoe Saldana as Uhura
Karl Urban as Bones
Simon Pegg as Scotty
John Cho as Sulu
Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison
Anton Yelchin as Chekov
Bruce Greenwood as Pike
Peter Weller as Marcus
Alice Eve as Carol
Deep Roy as Keenser
©Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) in Star Trek Into Darkness.
Our reviews below:
Star Trek Into Darkness Review By John C.
***1/2 (out of 4)
Back in 2009, J.J. Abrams revamped the Star Trek franchise and delivered a stunning blockbuster that felt like an absolute breath of fresh air. Four years later, the director has returned with Star Trek Into Darkness, a sequel that doesn’t disappoint and delivers multiple surprises.
The film opens on the planet Nibiru, as Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is struggling to stop a volcano from erupting from within. When Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) makes a gut decision to save him, he ends up losing his spot as the head of the Enterprise, and has to prove himself to get back his job. But then a Starfleet base in London is attacked by the mysterious John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), and it’s up to the crew of the Enterprise to bring the menacing terrorist to justice. The ship’s crew, including returning characters Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Dr. “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin), is the only family that Captain Kirk has left and he is determined to keep them safe.
Chris Pine delivers a genuine movie star performance, adding layers of depth to the well established character of Captain Kirk. Zachary Quinto is excellent in his supporting role as Spock, providing ample moments of humour, while also bringing a surprising layer of human emotion to the film as he struggles to control his feelings. Benedict Cumberbatch makes for a menacing villain with a surprising identity, adding a feeling of genuine threat to the film. The rest of the cast is equally strong, and they all have great chemistry together. Alice Eve is a newcomer to the group as a young weapons expert, and she fills out her role and the uniform quite nicely, sure to be an onscreen highlight for many fanboys.
The technical elements are equally top notch this time around, with multiple action sequences that are guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat, all backed up by another excellent musical score by Michael Giacchino. Just like the brilliant franchise reboot back in 2009, Star Trek Into Darkness is an effortlessly cool summer blockbuster, that is carried by excellent performances and actually manages to surprise us with multiple twists in the expertly written plot. This is a popcorn movie in every sense of the word, and it delivers awesome entertainment.
Star Trek Into Darkness Review by Erin V.
**** (out of 4)
I won’t say much – at least nothing that will drastically spoil the plot. Granted if you want to go in totally blind, perhaps bookmark this page and come back later. Basically, Star Trek Into Darkness is a continuation of the 2009 Star Trek. After getting into some trouble in the opening scene that leaves tensions with Star Fleet, Kirk (Chris Pine) is slightly annoyed at Spock’s (Zachary Quinto) insistence for following the rules. But things soon have to be pushed back aside as a new threat arises in the form of the mysterious John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) who seems to have a vendetta against Star Fleet, leading the Enterprise to attempt to pursue and capture him without starting a war.
I personally like the style of these two recent films directed by J. J. Abrams. Clearly, they are not going to please everyone as things rarely do. But I enjoy watching this cast expand on the characters they first honed in 2009, and have fun doing so. Star Trek Into Darkness has a good mix of humour and tension, which worked for me. The visual effects are spectacular even in 2D (although you could see where the use of 3D would be cool in some scenes), and the editing and camera work is good as well with a similar style to the ’09 film. Top this off with another Michael Giacchino score and the film is worth the price of admission in my book.
The development of Kirk and Spock in this time line of Star Trek is quite interesting, and their interactions was one of the things I really liked here. From the opening scene and throughout, they set up very clearly how they each approach problems very differently (causing tension), but perhaps inadvertently pick up each other’s methods as well. By the end of the film, they quite obviously (and this reversal will be clear to fans) have to learn how to think and do like each other in order to get what needs to be done.
A line from another Nimoy cameo reiterates the fact that we are in a parallel universe and it’s something to be remembered. So pretty much what happens to this Kirk and Spock – versus what happened in old Spock’s reality – can be different and still preserve the integrity of the original series and films. When Nero came in the first film everything changed and their paths will always be altered for it, only logically deviating even more so down the road.
Star Trek Into Darkness Review by Nicole
**** (out of 4)
J.J. Abrams has created yet another exciting Star Trek adventure. Keeping with the same alternate timeline as his original 2009 film, this film focuses on the developing friendship between Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto). We really start to see how Spock’s rigid, literal thinking can be both a blessing and a problem in the introduction. Spock and Kirk save a planet from a volcanic eruption, but Spock is reluctant about being rescued because it would break the rule of not allowing primitive alien peoples to see advanced human technology.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, a new villain has emerged. John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) is his name, and he is all about stirring up trouble. When Spock’s logic and morals stops Kirk from simply killing Harrison, who has escaped to the hostile Klingon world of Kronos, he is brought back alive. It turns out Harrison is not who people think he is.
I won’t reveal too much of the plot, but I will say how much I loved this film. The interaction between characters is quite entertaining, keeping with the balance of seriousness and fun that the original series had. And anyone familiar with people like Spock will find humour in a lot of his logisms.
The special effects are fun, without taking away from the very human element of this film. All of the Enterprise crew is likeable, and each character is developed even further from the previous movie. But the character who shows the greatest development is Spock. Since he doesn’t usually show emotions in a conventional human way, people often assume he lacks empathy and compassion, a misconception that clearly hurts him deeply.
Star Trek Into Darkness is an exciting journey. The score by Michael Giacchino tops it off nicely, adding to the excitement of the film. With its messages of acceptance, the resistance of war, and the need to avoid revenge, Star Trek Into Darkness is one fun movie that is worth checking out.
Star Trek Into Darkness Review by Maureen
***1/2 (out of 4)
Star Trek Into Darkness has all the old school Star Trek fun of the original TV series. Right from the opening scenes with Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) trying to run from primitive aliens and a spewing volcano, concluding with Spock (Zachary Quinto) risking his Vulcan life by jumping into the volcano, you just know this is going to be a non-stop exciting adventure.
Meanwhile, on 23rd century Earth, a top Starfleet member, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) plots and carries out a deadly explosion at their London archive location. With or without Starfleet’s official approval, Capt. Kirk embarks on a mission to bring Harrison to justice. A Captain isn’t much without his crew, so with the help of the Enterprise crew, Kirk and his starship are back in business.
It’s wonderful seeing all the regular characters on screen again. Engineer Scotty (Simon Pegg), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Dr. McCoy all have some wonderful moments in this movie. Then there’s Spock, Capt. Kirk’s right hand man/Vulcan. The dialogue and bond between theses two characters is expanded in Star Trek Into Darkness and provides some of the funniest and most touching scenes. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto both shine in this latest Star Trek adventure. However, the spotlight shines on super villain John Harrison, as Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant here. Let’s hope he’s around for a sequel.
The special effects and action sequences are exciting and dazzling. This is the stuff that summer blockbusters are made of. While 3D is fun, this film works just as well in 2D. Along with the exciting action, what I really enjoyed was the sense of fun coming from the performances. As always, I also enjoyed listening to Michael Giacchino’s amazing score. I’m looking forward to watching Star Trek Into Darkness again on disc and can’t wait for the next instalment in theatres. This is worth a visit to your local theatre.
Star Trek Into Darkness Review by Tony
**** (out of 4)
Star Trek Into Darkness is the first sequel in the rebooted franchise directed by J.J. Abrams. The core cast led by Chris Pine as Kirk is back, all excellent counterparts for their predecessors from the original series started over 45 years ago.
The opening ten minutes before credits finds the Enterprise on a primitive planet where Kirk’s disobedience of the Prime Directive to save a life results in a demotion. However, after an attack on a London Starfleet base followed by an attack in San Francisco by one of its chief officers named Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) sends Kirk on a mission to the Klingon home world where Harrison is hiding out.
I won’t spoil the rest for those who intend to see the film. The first reboot was excellent but its timewarp plot was difficult for many of us to follow. It did however free up the series for new possibilities and the present film is more than a worthy successor. There are some nice twists in the story that leave us guessing almost to the end and lots of fun references to the original series for the fans. Production is excellent as expected with the cast and crew all well settled in their roles, backed up once again by a fine Michael Giacchino score.
Consensus: Expertly directed by J.J. Abrams, Star Trek Into Darkness is an incredibly entertaining summer blockbuster that serves as a worthy follow up to the 2009 film, delivering excellent performances and exciting action sequences. ***3/4 (Out of 4)
Release Date: May 17th, 2013 @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Rated PG for mature themes
Running time: 82 minutes
Patrick Reed (dir.)
Mark Korven (music)
Roméo Dallaire as Himself
Michel Chikwanine as Voice of Child
©White Pine Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Roméo Dallaire and former child soldier Bwira Kapoto in Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children.
Our reviews below:
Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children Review By John C.
*** (out of 4)
When Roméo Dallaire was a Commander for the United Nations back in 1993, he was sent to Rwanda, becoming a first hand witness to the horrible genocide that took the lives of over 800,000 people. After his retirement, he dedicated his life to becoming a prominent human rights advocate, openly speaking out against the ongoing use of child soldiers in many third world countries. His story was first accounted in the 2007 documentary Shake Hands With the Devil, which director Patrick Reed has followed up with Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children.
Although a lot of the facts in Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children have already been presented in other ways, Roméo Dallaire is a fascinating subject and this is a well made film that does a good job of showing the truth in a straight forward and urgent way. Because most of the graphic images are kept at bay, the important message will be able to reach a wider audience, making this a good choice to show in schools as an introduction to the subject. The descriptions of combat and child soldier process are disturbing enough on their own.
The animated interludes that retell a heartbreaking story bring something unique to the film, making Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children an interesting and thought provoking documentary about the shocking social injustice that is the use of child soldiers.
Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children Review by Erin V.
*** (out of 4)
Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children is a second documentary with Roméo Dallaire, following Shake Hands With the Devil. A former General who served as a peacekeeper during the Rwandan genocide, Dallaire has now made it his life mission to try to end the use of child soldiers.
Taking us into Rwanda and the Congo, Fight Like Soldiers is an interesting introduction to the subject, although doesn’t present much new for those already familiar with it. The film is worth seeing for Dallaire’s own perspective though – which as a former combatant allows him to empathize with why some young people may become stuck in the cycle of fighting. Those interested in human rights issues will probably want to check this one out.
Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children Review by Nicole
*** (out of 4)
Canadian Senator Roméo Dallaire is the subject of another documentary about the horrific abuse of children being forced into combat. After Dallaire had an encounter with a child soldier during the Rwandan genocide, he vowed to protect children from the unthinkable cruelties of being used as nothing more than weapons. Children are used as living shields for warlords, since a soldier would be reluctant to shoot a youth until it was too late. Children are also considered expendable, as the youth population in many third world societies is over 50%. With at least 250,000 child soldiers worldwide, the situation seems dire.
The documentary focuses on Congo, where rumblings of the Rwandan genocide still linger almost as a Cold War. Dallaire, with the help of the UN, hopes to free youth that have been recruited by announcing via radio, that any child used as a soldier can escape to any UN base. We meet two former child soldiers, age 15 and 16, who describe how they escaped.
Dallaire also touches on the horrors of terrorist Joseph Kony, the brutal kidnapping leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. One girl who escaped his clutches describes him as the devil in disguise. As he is always hiding, the only hope for his defeat are local people armed with handmade weapons. Dallaire begs the question of what makes war so appealing in the first place. He speculates it may be that the feeling of combat is more exciting that sex, and thus becomes like a drug. All is not hopeless, however, as Dallaire ends on a note of hope, suggesting that the use of child soldiers may end within 50 years.
Interspliced with artistic symbolic animation, Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children is an excellent introduction to a tragic topic. With little graphic imagery, this documentary is a perfect choice to show in a middle or high school.
Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children Review by Maureen
*** (out of 4)
Canadian Senator Roméo Dallaire is a man with an all consuming mission – to stop the use and recruitment of child soldiers around the world. The documentary, Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children, directed by Patrick Reed, gives insight into Dallaire’s drive and highlight the work the retired general is doing with the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Project.
Senator Dallaire’s perspective about what drives a child soldier is fascinating. He describes the adrenaline rush of being in the thick of combat as stronger than sex. He understands how once a child soldier is recruited and psychologically tortured and manipulated they become powerful killing machines. Yet Senator Dallaire has the utmost respect and absolute hope that child soldiers can be rescued and rehabilitated. He also addresses the issue of the use of young females as child breeders to create a whole new generation of child soldiers.
The key to ending these atrocities according to Dallaire is a United Nations presence in areas of conflict where there are safe zones for children to go before they are kidnapped and recruited as soldiers or sex slaves. Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children offers a glimmer of hope that things can change. The film doesn’t rely on graphic images to get the message across, but rather interviews with with Senator Dallaire and former child soldiers.
This documentary is suitable viewing for teens and adults whole are interested in the issue of child soldiers. With a running time of 82 minutes, it would also be suitable for classroom use.
Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children Review by Tony
*** (out of 4)
Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children is a Canadian documentary bringing Roméo Dallaire back to Africa to visit UN camps that attempt to rescue and rehabilitate young people that had been abducted by various warlords, the boys to serve as child soldiers and the girls as “bush wives.” Though he can never fully recover from memories of the Rwanda massacres that as a UN observer he was left powerless to stop, Dallaire hopes that in his quiet way he can still make a difference here. Along with a former military colleague and a pair of Canadian social workers, he interviews a warlord and a number of former child recruits on their way to a camp and eventually home to an uncertain future where they may not be accepted.
Over 82 minutes, the film takes the time needed to give the audience a sense of the frustration but hope that Dallaire shares with us. At his age, he remains as critical as ever of the powers that allow these atrocities to continue, and reminds us of the hypocrisy that pays lip service to child soldiers within Africa while condemning the Canadian Omar Khadr who at 15 allegedly killed a white American officer.
Though it admittedly goes over ground familiar to many, Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children is a good documentary of the current situation in Africa and other places where child soldiers are seen as a cheap weapon system.
Consensus: Although Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children shares some familiar facts, the documentary provides good insight into the social injustice of child soldiers, through candid interviews with the fascinating Roméo Dallaire. *** (Out of 4)
Release Date: May 17th, 2013 @ TIFF Bell Lightbox
Rated 14A for coarse language, nudity and sexual content
Running time: 103 minutes
Michel Gondry (dir.)
Michel Gondry (screenplay)
Jeffrey Grimshaw (screenplay)
Paul Proch (screenplay)
Michael Brodie as Michael
Teresa Lynn as Teresa
Laidychen Carrasco as Laidychen
Raymond Delgado as Little Raymond
Jonathan Ortiz as Jonathan
Jonathan Worrell as Big T
Alex Barrios as Alex
Meghan Murphy as Niomi
Chenkon Carrasco as Chen
Raymond Rios as Big Raymond
Brandon Diaz as Brandon
Mia Lobo as Bus Driver
©108 Media. All Rights Reserved.
Teresa (Teresa Lynn) and Michael (Michael Brodie) in The We and the I.
Our reviews below:
The We and the I Review By John C.
**1/2 (out of 4)
A group of high school kids in New York get on the bus after their last day in class before the summer, interacting and clashing with each other between the stops, maintaining their relationships and drifting apart as they slowly depart. This is the premise behind The We and the I, a believable coming of age film that is carried by authentic acting from the natural leads. Directed by Michel Gondry, with portions of the screenplay taken from his own experiences growing up in France, we are taken on a journey on the bus of teenage life, and all of the nastiness that comes with it.
The film is light on plot and the characters are sometimes shockingly unlikable in the ways that they are increasingly mean to those around them, which can make the 103 minute running time feel longer than it is. But the uniformly strong performances keep things watchable. The film actually picks up once it becomes more focused on the individual characters, and the stylistic touches that pop up throughout to give us more of the backstory are generally effective. For better and for worse, this is a believable film that sometimes feels authentic to the point that it could have been a documentary, with all of the bullying and arguing over relationships ringing true to the majority of high school experiences.
The film sometimes feels uncomfortably real to the experiences it authentically emulates, occasionally to the point of tedium. But good performances and a smooth soundtrack of classic hip hop songs make The We and the I a believable look at a group of city kids coming together and falling apart.
The We and the I Review by Erin V.
**1/4 (out of 4)
Taking place on a New York city bus on the last day of school, The We and the I is a look into the lives of a group of high schoolers as they interact with each other – some for the last time before graduating, and others before the summer break. We open with the bullies on the bus and with each section of the film move through until we’ve sort of pieced together where everyone fits into everyone else’s stories. By the time the bus starts emptying out, the film allows its characters to become more intimate and becomes a little more interesting.
It’s not that the film is not good – it is a decent effort with fine performances – but it is a little long at 1 hour, 44 minutes. In my mind it would have sustained itself better twenty minutes shorter. Still, if the trailer intrigues you, you might want to seek this indie out.
The We and the I Review by Nicole
**1/2 (out of 4)
The We and the I follows several teens as they head home on a bus on the last day of school. The film is in three parts. In the first part, we see the cruel disrespect that the bully kids have for everybody, both classmates and other random passengers on the bus. This part, while unfortunately quite realistic, is annoying and too long. However, one passenger gets back in a funny scene that is right out of the first two Madagascar films.
In the second part, we get to know the characters better. We begin to get glimpses into their lives, and begin to find out who these kids are. The third part is the most interesting, making the film worth seeing. Here we get to know a few characters more intimately. The conversations between these kids is moving, touching and sometimes heartbreaking. When news of a tragedy occurs, we see a side of two of them that we didn’t see before.
The We and the I takes a realistic look at teenagers growing up in a poor area of new York City. The performances are all quite believable and heartfelt, yet deceptively simple. What makes this film more interesting is that it stars real teenagers from a public school, as opposed to actors in their 20s. The We and the I is an interesting movie that, while fictional, often feels like a documentary. This one is worth checking out.
The We and the I Review by Maureen
**1/2 (out of 4)
Filmed in documentary style, French director Michel Gondry follows a fictional group of inner city New York teens on a public transit bus as they head home on the final day of school before sumer break.
When the rowdy teens pile out of school they literally take over the whole bus. With the bus driver (Mia Lobo) continuously shouting move on back, four of the “bad boys” in the group take over the farthest back seat. Led by Michael (Michael Brodie) the loud-mouthed, tough talking guys decide who sits where, who gets moved and who gets to have a pleasant ride on “their” bus.
Sitting elsewhere are groups of girls talking, including Niomi (Meghan Murphy) who’s planning her sweet 16 party with advice from her friend Laidychen (Laidychen Carrasco). Mixed in are various loners, outsiders who endure taunts and threats from the back of the bus. Then there’s Teresa (Teresa Lynn) wearing a blond wig who clearly has some issues and a history with Michael.
For the first half of the film it’s pure mayhem with bullying and crude exchanges being the focus. As the ride continues we get to know some of the characters stories even if we don’t like them any better. It’s when the bus has only a few passengers left and we get exchanges between Michael and a guy wearing headphones and then between Michael and Teresa that the film feels stronger. We start to sense the I rather than the We.
The We and the I works mainly because of the strong performances from the talented cast of inner city local teens. While hard to watch at times and a little too long, the film is still worth checking out for those interested in inner city life.
The We and the I Review by Tony
** (out of 4)
The We and the I is set almost entirely within a South Bronx bus taking students home on the last day of high school. Though it is fictitious, running for over 100 minutes on the fake BX66 route (no real routes beyond BX55), the talented cast from a local collective gives the film a documentary feel, despite the rock steady Red camera images unlikely shot on a moving bus.
I found the students as a group quite obnoxious at first, constantly taunting each other and the handful of adults on the bus. Though one gradually does get to know and become mildly invested in some of them as individuals, there are really too many to keep track of and I personally was glad to see the last of them once the ride was over.
Consensus: Directed by Michel Gondry, The We and the I is a little overlong and sometimes feels authentic to the point of tedium, but the believable performances of the natural actors make this coming of age film worth a look. **1/2 (Out of 4)
By John C.
Last week, the musical duo of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward released their latest collection of songs. Aptly titled She & Him: Volume 3, this is their fourth collaboration after the excellent A Very She & Him Christmas, and this latest set provides the perfect soundtrack for the summer in the same way that their last album did for the holiday season.
I’ve been a fan of Zooey Deschanel as both an actress and singer since I first saw Elf, and I’ve enjoyed watching her progression since then, from her work on the excellent New Girl and her collaborations with M. Ward. Throughout the second season of New Girl, which incidentally wraps up tomorrow night, I’ve really enjoyed the character development of the ensemble cast, and how they have advanced through the overall story of the show.
I’ve been equally impressed by hearing Zooey Deschanel’s progression as a singer, and she sounds completely confident as a performer throughout Volume 3, even when laying bare the emotional elements of the songs. The pure sound of her voice is expertly backed up by the inventive instrumental arrangements of M. Ward, providing a wonderful throwback album that is channelled through modern indie pop music. Throughout the fourteen tracks, She & Him: Volume 3 sounds like the season of summer in all of its glory.
The album opens with “I’ve Got Your Number, Son,” an upbeat throwback to the 1960s filled with catchy instrumentals and vocals that immediately set the tone for the rest of the album, recalling the summery sound of The Beach Boys. The second track is “Never Wanted Your Love,” an incredibly appealing song that has spectacular replay value, offering the same mix of bright instrumentals and smartly reflective lyricism that has made She & Him so successful over the years. ”I’m not talking to you anymore, I’m making my bed so I can lie there forever,” Zooey Deschanel sings on the chorus, providing an instantly memorable hook to the track.
The vocals of M. Ward come into the foreground on the third track “Baby,” a sweet love song that works in the same way that the duets did on the Christmas album, with pleasant harmonies between their two voices. The fourth track, “I Could’ve Been Your Girl” is a likeable song that is wistful for a love that didn’t work out. There is an introspective quality to many of the lyrics, and the fifth track “Turn to White” plays with the contemplative sound of a relationship that is slowly drifting away. “Sometimes I think I can fade away,” Zooey Deschanel sings on the chorus, suggesting that the album serves as a time capsule of what she was feeling when she wrote the songs.
The sixth and seventh tracks “Somebody Sweet To Talk To”and “Something’s Haunting You” are both prime examples of the delightful sound of Zooey Deschanel’s voice. The eighth track “Together” is an immensely appealing indie pop song, and the hook of “we all go through it together, but we all go at it alone” is just one of the many examples of the clever songwriting at play throughout the album. The duo pulls off a sweeping cover of the 1950s song “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” for the ninth track, a perfect mix of classic instrumentals and seductively romantic vocals.
The tenth track “Snow Queen” sees her coming to terms with how she doesn’t want to just “sit around and wait for the telephone to ring,” suggesting that she is stronger for coming through a relationship and standing on her own. The eleventh track is actually a cover of the Blondie song “Sunday Girl,” a fun take on the 1970s track that at once pays tribute to the original while sounding like something out of the She & Him catalogue. This is an example of a cover that holds up well alongside the classic recording, as the duo manages to make it their own without changing the melody.
This leads into “London,” a beautifully stripped down ballad that pairs Zooey Deschanel’s voice against the stark accompaniment of the piano, adding to the heartbreaking sound of loneliness in the quietly affective lyrics. The singer and songwriter is in an equally reflective mood on the thirteenth track “Shadow of Love,” a breakup song that is melancholic for the way that time passes after the end of a relationship. The album closes with the haunting “Reprise (I Could’ve Been Your Girl),” borrowing the name of the fourth track to finish the record on a contemplative note, like a relationship that fades away with the end of summer.
I’ve always liked the sound of She & Him, and fans of the duo are not going to be disappointed by Volume 3, a collection of songs that goes down just as smoothly as their previous outings. Zooey Deschanel’s voice is wonderful throughout the album, providing the perfect soundtrack to the summer days that lie ahead, both in the brighter and more reflective moments. With the season finale of New Girl tomorrow night, this is also the perfect thing to tide us all over until the show returns in the fall.
Release Date: May 10th, 2013 @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Rated 14A for coarse language, nudity and sexual content
Running time: 78 minutes
Shawney Cohen (dir.)
Mike Gallay (co-dir.)
Jim Guthrie (music)
Shawney Cohen as Himself
Roger Cohen as Himself
Brenda Cohen as Herself
Sammy Cohen as Himself
Bobby Ranger as Himself
Susan Dent as Herself
Gillian Brown as Herself
©KinoSmith. All Rights Reserved.
Sammy Cohen, Roger Cohen and Shawney Cohen in The Manor.
Our reviews below:
The Manor Review By John C.
***1/2 (out of 4)
The opening night selection for the recently wrapped Hot Docs, The Manor is an intimate portrait of a uniquely dysfunctional family that was among my personal favourites of the festival. Now that it’s playing in limited release, the film is absolutely worth seeking out.
When Shawney Cohen was six, his father Roger invested in the family business, a strip club in Guelph, Ontario where he was raised with his younger brother Sammy. Turning the camera on himself and his eccentric family, Shawney returns to the Manor as an adult, to tend the strip club while his severely overweight Dad goes in for stomach surgery, and his severely underweight Mom struggles to finally confront her eating disorders. With the eccentric ex-convict Bobby as their assistant, and a plethora of naked women in the background, the family struggles to finally overcome the challenges that come when a strip club is the one thing keeping them together.
There are many wonderfully absurd moments of humour throughout The Manor, with lines of dialogue and situations that won’t soon be forgotten. But the film also plays as a compelling family drama, with real life characters who we genuinely hope will turn out okay, and moments of heartbreak as we get the sense that some of these problems won’t soon be resolved. These are real people who we glimpse in their actual lives, and this makes the film all the more satisfying. Because even as things keep taking a turn for the worse, we never get the sense that this Jewish family doesn’t love each other in their own ways.
There is something immensely watchable about this film, right through to the perfect symbolism of the bittersweet final scene. As an incredibly entertaining documentary that seamlessly moves between comedy and tragedy, The Manor is priceless.
The Manor Review by Erin V.
***1/2 (out of 4)
Two weeks ago, The Manor played as the opening night film at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto. On the surface the documentary is about a small strip club and motel in Guelph, Ontario, but really it becomes more of a look into family that runs it.
Directed by Shawn Cohen – son of the owners, and manager at the club two nights a week – the film is an intimate look into their family life, the club, and Shawn’s own story of trying to figure out what he really wants to do rather than just inherit the family business.
The film is quiet and understated at times, but really succeeds in painting a portrait of this family – from Shawn’s mother who struggles with anorexia and his father with over-eating, to his relationship with his younger brother and the others in their lives. Due to the subject matter, there is some nudity (as expected) in the film, but for adults, The Manor is a well-made documentary worth seeing.
The Manor Review by Nicole
*** (out of 4)
The Manor follows a dysfunctional family as they go about their business of running a strip club. Filmmaker and family member Shawney Cohen takes the viewer through his family’s lives. His father Roger runs a “gentleman’s club” called The Manor out of Guelph, Ontario. Roger is satisfied with his business and he wants his sons to take on the career. But Shawney wants to do other, more normal things, such as filmmaking. However, younger son Sammy is happy with the club, and would be quite willing to take it on.
His girlfriend Gillian, however, notices a problem with the Cohen family. The mother Brenda is dangerously thin due to a severe eating disorder. She refuses to eat much, and uses laxatives, leaving her emaciated. Brenda gets joy from the animals, both wild and tame, that share the Cohen home. Everyday, she remarks on the swan couple that reside at a nearby pond, and spends time with the family dog and cat that live with them.
Roger has a different kind of problem. He overeats, and requires stomach surgery to curb his voracious appetite. The Manor provides an interesting look at the human condition. Roger’s assistant, Bobby, is an ex-con who is trying to get his life back on track. Sue, the manager of the adjacent motel Sue’s Inn, struggles with depression and drug addiction. And throughout the film, there are surreal shots of the strippers passing through the office naked, as if this were just their uniform.
If you are interested in psychology, sociology or unique family dynamics, then The Manor is an interesting documentary to check out.
The Manor Review by Maureen
*** (out of 4)
There aren’t too many families that would be comfortable having their personal challenges and family problems captured on camera for strangers to see. Fortunately, Shawney Cohen from Guelph, Ontario thought his experience of growing up around the family business, a strip club called The Manor, would be interesting to other people. He was right. His documentary called The Manor is a heartfelt look at a family who, despite their individual flaws, truly care about each other and the people they work with.
Dad Roger Cohen owns and runs the strip club. He tries to run a no nonsense “gentleman’s club” and clearly believes in giving people a second chance. His assistant manager, an ex-convict named Bobby Ranger is like a third son to him. Roger’s health is an ongoing issue as he is an obese compulsive overeater. By contrast, Mom Brenda Cohen has an obvious eating disorder and is severely underweight. Her struggles are one of the most touching parts of the film.
Helping run the club are oldest son Shawney and younger brother Sammy. Shawney has mixed feelings about the family business and would prefer to be a filmmaker. If The Manor is any indication of his abilities, then it looks like he’s finally found his calling. Sammy, it seems, likes the strip club industry and no matter what happens in the future will continue his father’s legacy.
The Manor isn’t a judgement on the strip club and exotic dancing industry. Rather it’s an honest look at a family who try and look out for one another no matter what. There are many touching and humorous moments in the film that provide an entertaining 78 minutes.
The Manor Review by Tony
***1/2 (out of 4)
The Manor, a strip club in Guelph ON, is the Cohen family business. Filmmaker Shawney Cohen still works there two nights a week but lacks the commitment of his younger brother Sammy and parents Roger and Brenda, children of Holocaust survivors who founded the place. Outside the family a bilingual ex-con helps manage the club and a woman with substance issues runs the cheap hotel housing most of the entertainers that is attached to the club.
The Manor provides an intimate view of a family that, aside from all the naked women in the background, is traditional in many ways, surviving serious challenges, particularly the strange combination of Roger’s morbid obesity and Brenda’s anorexia.
Consensus: Directed by Shawney Cohen who turns the camera on his family and the strip club they run, The Manor is a documentary that is both entertaining and heartbreaking, providing an interesting look at a unique situation. ***1/4 (Out of 4)
By John C.
I saw forty films throughout the 20th edition of Hot Docs and published a review for every one of them, an achievement that I am proud to have accomplished. The fact that many of them still stand out so clearly in my mind is a testament to the quality of the films that screened in Toronto over the past eleven days.
Although I saw a single disappointment and a couple of them were merely pretty good, I also had the pleasure of seeing ones that blew me away in one way or another, with so many great films that I find it near impossible to pick a clear favourite.
The festival opened back on April 25th with the world premiere of The Manor, an incredibly entertaining documentary that seamlessly moved between comedy and tragedy with its intimate portrait of a unique family running a strip club in Guelph. From the moment I left the press screening of the opening night selection, I just knew that this would shape up to be an outstanding festival, but there were still countless surprises left in store. There was a very cinematic quality to many of the films that I saw, with filmmakers finding unique ways to follow the documentary formula, as evidenced by the breathtaking cinematography in the fantastic Maidentrip and the awesome camerawork in the captivating 12 O’Clock Boys.
There were also films with remarkable stories that unfolded with a strong narrative sense, including the much discussed Unclaimed, which served as a powerful and moving look at how far someone would go to help a stranger reclaim their rightful identity. With an intricate real life plot that keeps turning in on itself, I Will Be Murdered was a masterpiece of documentary filmmaking, a shocking and multilayered mystery that shed fascinating light on deeply rooted corruption in a world where literally nothing is as it seems. Both as a documentary and an activist call to action, Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer rocked, offering a balanced view of an important political message.
The festival also offered many films that opened our eyes to issues around the world, including three that all shed light on problems that are primarily faced in India. Following one man on his inspiring journey to help others, Blood Brother was by turns heartwarming and incredibly sad, offering a story of hope along with heartbreak. The similarly titled Blood Relative was a thought provoking look at a genetic disease that can trap adults in the bodies of children. At just over an hour, Menstrual Man used great humour to shed light on an important cultural issue, offering an incredibly entertaining film, made all the better for its serious treatment of the subjects.
The use of child soldiers was the subject of Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children, a thought provoking documentary with the fascinating Romeo Dallaire. There were many emotional films at this year’s festival, offering some unforgettably powerful experiences. A haunting and achingly sad film about the small ways that we are all remembered after we die, Spring & Arnaud was a beautiful portrait and just one of the many ways that the title couple will continue to live on. Delving deep into a shocking case, Valentine Road was a heartbreaking, disturbing and vitally important film about the need for widespread acceptance of sexuality and gender identity.
But the festival also gave me life metaphors that I won’t soon forget, like the way that Chris “Wonder” Schoeck bends steel to build confidence in the surprisingly inspirational Bending Steel. The title of 15 Reasons to Live was inspirational on its own, offering a resonant collection of stories that ended on a moving note. The pure enjoyment of a film like We Cause Scenes offered a fun change of pace from all of the heartbreak on display, and Alphée of the Stars was an incredibly sweet film about a father’s love for his daughter who has a disability.
There were also small films that immediately got spots on my list of personal favourites, including Trucker and the Fox, an immensely appealing hidden gem that entertained while posing a fascinating question about how far is too far when it comes to caring for a wild animal. At just over an hour, Tiny: A Story About Living Small was an absolute delight from beginning to end, a thoughtful and inspirational redefinition of home that was lovingly crafted and highly recommended. We have never seen anyone quite like Ed Ackerman, and Special Ed was an excellent portrait of this interesting man who truly is something special, and a film that I look forward to revisiting.
I’ve always loved music documentaries and the sheer amount of them at this year’s festival was another highlight for me. The very entertaining Good Ol’ Freda finally gave the remarkably humble Freda Kelly an opportunity to tell her own story, providing an invaluable document of a lesser known chapter from The Beatles history. The story of how two young Scottish guys pretended to be from California and gained notoriety as a rap duo in England made for a compelling documentary in The Great Hip Hop Hoax, a fascinating look at the music industry and how long you can keep up a performance before blurring lines with reality.
Not only was Mistaken for Strangers a wildly entertaining concert documentary that is essential viewing for fans of the indie rock band The National, the film also had a very touching story about two brothers reconnecting. As a classic music fan, Muscle Shoals left me wanting to stand up and cheer, as it offered a comprehensive look at the small backwater town in Alabama that was home to FAME Recording Studios and their excellent backup band. With the performances providing an awesome soundtrack, the film was the deserving winner of the Netflix Audience Award, as voted on by people attending the festival.
The rightful winner of the award for Best Canadian Feature, When I Walk was an immensely powerful film, a movingly beautiful documentary that followed the young filmmaker Jason DaSilva’s journey into and life with a disability. Exhilarating, moving and inspirational, The Crash Reel was everything that a great film should be, an incredibly well crafted documentary that touched on the dangers of extreme sports while offering a powerful message about self acceptance. The experience of seeing both of these films for the first time won’t soon be forgotten, and they are already among the best of the year.
When I think back over the festival, I am thankful for the privilege of being able to see a total of forty films. I wouldn’t have been able to reach this number without the help of the many publicists who trusted me with advanced access to their films, allowing me to preview some of them before the festival even started. I have utmost respect for anyone who was able to come close to this number during the eleven days, and the fact that there were many on my list that I didn’t get to see is a true testament to the sheer number of quality films on display.
This was my third year doing Hot Docs, and I’ve always emerged with a few personal favourites. But I can honestly say that this year’s edition of the premiere documentary film festival was particularly outstanding, offering plenty of experiences that won’t soon be forgotten. Because I haven’t been able to reference every film that I saw, please see below for a complete list of all my capsule reviews. Here’s to another twenty years of Hot Docs.
By John C.
We are now at the final day of Hot Docs. The festival has been going strong since April 25th, and I’ve seen a lot of great films over the past eleven days. The other day I shared my thoughts on 12 O’Clock Boys, Blood Relative, Blackfish, The Crash Reel and Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story.
Below are my reviews of five more films that I caught up with over the weekend, bringing my total count up to forty. Please come back tomorrow for my complete wrap up of the festival, including a look back on everything that I reviewed. Enjoy!
Spring & Arnaud: When Spring Hurlbut first met Arnaud Maggs, she was 22 and he was 47. But their difference in age was the only thing the two artists didn’t have in common, and as a couple they became inseparable. He uses his photography to show the differences between things that appear the same, and her work is based around a fascination with the way people leave their mark on the world, studying both infancy and mortality. Forty years after they first met, the two are soul mates connected through art, but we just know that she will be the one left to remember him. Directed by Katherine Knight and Marcia Connolly, Spring & Arnaud is a haunting and achingly sad film about the small ways that we are all remembered after we die. As we reach the unforgettable final few scenes of the film, it becomes clear that this beautiful portrait is just one of the many ways that the title couple will continue to live on.
Monday, April 29th – 6:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Wednesday, May 1st – 4:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Saturday, May 4th – 2:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Alphée of the Stars: From her personality, Alphée is just like any other five year old. She has an adorable imagination and clearly loves spending time with her family, who all adore this special little girl. The fact that she has an extremely rare genetic disorder that causes developmental delays and muscular difficulties hasn’t held her back, prompting her family to take a vacation from Quebec and go to a small town in Switzerland where she can come into her own. Directed by her father Hugo Latulippe, with beautiful cinematography and poetic voiceover, Alphée of the Stars is a sweet film about a father’s love for his daughter who has a disability.
Tuesday, April 30th – 6:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Wednesday, May 1st – 1:30 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre
Saturday, May 4th – 3:30 PM @ The ROM Theatre
Shooting Bigfoot: Morgan Matthews grew up believing in Bigfoot, but when he became a filmmaker, the stories were just chalked up to childhood fantasy and he became one of the many skeptics. Following a rag tag group of eccentric hunters and trackers, Shooting Bigfoot takes us on their latest mission to try and prove the legend as real, heading out on an expedition in the woods that might just prove to be their most successful yet. The film gives us fascinating insight into the mindset of these individuals, even though the ending feels a bit cheap and it’s ethically questionable if the director actually knew what was going on. But regardless of how you feel about what ultimately happens, Shooting Bigfoot is most interesting when viewed as a fairly entertaining study of how much people are willing to believe when something is presented in the form a documentary, and the subjects are fascinatingly unique.
Tuesday, April 30th – 8:29 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Wednesday, May 1st – 11:59 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Friday, May 3rd – 9:30 PM @ The Royal Cinema
Unclaimed: When Tom Faunce served in Vietnam over forty years ago, he lived by the mantra of “no man left behind.” After returning from the war, he devoted his life to helping others and lived by the words of “no man left unloved.” But when he went back to do missionary work in Vietnam, he heard the story of an elderly man named John Hartley Robertson, claiming to be an American solider forgotten by his country and left behind after the war. Driven by his faith, Tom did everything he could to prove the identity of this mysterious man, and help him return to the family that long believed he was killed in battle. Directed by Michael Jorgensen, Unclaimed is a powerful and moving look at how far someone would go to help a stranger reclaim their rightful identity.
Tuesday, April 30th – 9:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Thursday, May 2nd – 3:30 PM @ The ROM Theatre
Saturday, May 4th – 1:00 PM @ The ROM Theatre
Mistaken for Strangers: When Matt Berninger was going on tour with his critically acclaimed indie rock band The National, he invited his younger brother Tom along as a roadie. Bringing a camera with him to capture all of the action, Tom comes prepared for a wild ride, but ends up realizing just how little he has achieved in comparison to his older brother. Determined to make a documentary about the band to prove that he can actually see something through to the end, the result is Mistaken for Strangers, a deeply personal film about self discovery and a behind the scenes look at The National. Essential for fans of the band and a true crowdpleaser that is pretty much universally relatable, this is a wildly entertaining concert documentary with a very touching story about two brothers reconnecting.
Tuesday, April 30th – 9:15 PM @ The Royal Cinema
Thursday, May 2nd – 11:59 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Sunday, May 5th – 4:00 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Release Date: May 3rd, 2013
Rated PG for violence
Running time: 129 minutes
Shane Black (dir.)
Drew Pearce (screenplay)
Shane Black (screenplay)
Brian Tyler (music)
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark
Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts
Don Cheadle as Colonel James Rhodes
Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian
Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen
Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan
Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin
James Badge Dale as Savin
Ty Simpkins as Harley Keener
William Sadler as President Ellis
Miguel Ferrer as Vice President Rodriguez
Paul Bettany as Jarvis (voice)
©Walt Disney Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Iron Man 3.
Our reviews below:
Iron Man 3 Review By John C.
***1/2 (out of 4)
How do you follow up one of the biggest and best movies of last year? You bring back Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), having anxiety attacks from the events of The Avengers and left to save the world from a different kind of threat in the excellent Iron Man 3.
The film opens with a flashback to 1999, when Tony Stark gets involved with Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) and first meets neuroscientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). We then jump ahead thirteen years, as the billionaire is suffering from PTSD after what happened in New York, going for days without sleeping and spending all of his time tinkering in the workshop. But there is a new kind of threat that comes from The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who keeps appearing through hacked satellite signals with disturbing videos promising more terrorist attacks, adding a level of genuine intensity to the film as mysterious explosions keep happening across the country.
With help from his beloved Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and Colonial James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) who dons the suit of the Iron Patriot, there is a lot of pressure on Tony Stark to save the world once again. But his journey to better understand himself adds another fascinating layer to the film, as he teams up with the young genius Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins), to help him with fixing his broken down suit. Directed by Shane Black, Iron Man 3 stages every action sequence on the grandest of levels, while also delivering a compelling human story.
This is a smart blockbuster that plays as a top notch action film, complete with riveting set pieces and ample moments of humour. The screenplay is sharp and witty, as Robert Downey Jr. expertly delivers the snarky dialogue and one liners that follow many of the scenes. As the stakes are raised throughout the film, so is the action, leading up to a thrilling finale that offers suspense that is felt across multiple platforms. Above all else, Iron Man 3 is also a Christmas movie in the same way that Die Hard was 25 years ago, with holiday songs ironically playing on the soundtrack and decorations being used for multiple purposes.
Robert Downey Jr. deserves an Oscar nomination for his role, taking the character that he made iconic and bringing him to even deeper places. Tony Stark is a charismatic hero, but now he is also a man haunted by demons of his own creation, suffering anxiety attacks and losing sleep over his memory of what happened in New York. He gets some of the funniest lines in the film, but the actor also excels during the quieter moments of self reflection. Tony Stark is a fascinating character who bursts off the screen both in and out of the suit, but he becomes truly human in the moments of self doubt.
The last five years of Marvel movies have become one of the most impressive franchises of all time, building up a fully developed world that spans numerous characters and films. This latest entry into the expansive series is not only a perfect conclusion to the Iron Man trilogy, but also a follow up to last year’s superhero extravaganza The Avengers, showing how the effects of that film changed the life of Tony Stark. There is a lot of mythology built up throughout all of these interconnected Marvel films, and the ways that they keep bringing all of it together is nothing short of triumphant.
Where The Avengers perfectly brought Phase One completely full circle, Iron Man 3 is a great start to Phase Two, once again setting the bar incredibly high for upcoming Marvel films and the rest of the summer movie season in general. I’m just gonna say it – Iron Man 3 rocks.
Iron Man 3 Review by Erin V.
***1/2 (out of 4)
In a long line of films in the Marvel universe, comes Iron Man 3. Following last year’s The Avengers, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has been trying to figure out where he stands in a world he now knows as a lot more complicated than he previously knew. Staying up for days at a time building suit after suit, he uses his obsession with advancing the technology as a way to escape having enough time to think about what happened in New York which brings on panic attacks. Tony’s abundance of suits (he’s now at mark 42) provides for a very entertaining final battle.
When a new threat arises in the form of ‘The Mandarin’ (Ben Kingsley) and the mysterious company Extremis, Stark’s world and life with Pepper Potts (Gweneth Paltrow) is violently torn apart. Alone and lost in the middle of Tennessee with a malfunctioning suit, he has to finally face his fears and learn to re-rely on using his innovativeness and intelligence to find a way to defeat these new threats rather than just falling back on the suit.
We see a different and very relatable side of Tony Stark this time around. Underneath his cocky and confident exterior, he is struggling to maintain a grip on his own anxiety and the image he presents. Showing a hero having these issues brings a real face to those suffering from panic attacks and PTSD – something that is not in the person’s direct control, but does certainly not make them weak.
The actors here continue to fulfill their roles to a tee. The film is often carried through dialogue-driven scenes between them, and like the other recent Marvel films this provides a nice balance of storyline with the action sequences coming organically in the plot without becoming bombastic. Although the 3D works well enough the film would be just as enjoyable at a 2D show if you want to save on the surcharge. The visual effects here are top-notch as always, and the score by Brian Tyler fits the Iron Man world quite well and I enjoyed its use in the film.
But how does Iron Man 3 hold up to last year’s The Avengers and the first two films about Tony Stark? Quite well in fact, which is quite a feat in itself. The characters continue to advance which keeps things from feeling repetitive. I would consider Iron Man 3 a notch above the second Iron Man, just because the characters develop more over the course of this film than they did in that one. If you haven’t seen the others, you will probably still enjoy this one, but the first two Iron Man films provide a good background to Stark and the references to New York will make far more sense if you’ve seen last year’s wonderful The Avengers.
Overall Iron Man 3 is definitely worth seeing – and be sure to watch for the after-credits scene, which perfectly bookends the reason for opening the film the way they do…
Iron Man 3 Review by Nicole
***1/2 (out of 4)
Iron Man is back in yet another adventure. This time, we see a more vulnerable side of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), as he struggles with panic attacks after his battle against Loki’s army. Iron Man 3 begins with a flashback to New Year’s Eve 1999, when Tony Stark is celebrating with co-workers in Switzerland.
The film then turns to December 2012, when he is faced with a new threat, a mysterious figure known as the “Mandarin” (Ben Kingsley). Several suspicious explosions have occurred and it is not clear who is responsible. Tony Stark must team up with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Colonial James Rhodes/Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle), to get to the bottom of the mysterious attacks before Christmas.
Iron Man 3 is a lot of fun. Robert Downey Jr. is just as likeable as ever. Gwyneth Paltrow carries a much bigger role as Pepper Potts, and Ben Kingsley is both scary and weirdly humorous as the Mandarin. Don Cheadle plays a more prominent role in Iron Man 3, and it would be interesting to see if he gets a bigger role in a subsequent film.
The special effects are as cool as ever, with lots of action and CG effects. But it is the human characters and the plot line that really carry the film. Iron Man 3 is a lot of fun, and will be worth revisiting in November leading up to Christmas. Be sure to stay through the end credits, for a funny epilogue.
Iron Man 3 Review by Maureen
***1/2 (out of 4)
Iron Man 3 opens with the voiceover of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) telling the story of how events in 2012 had their roots in a hotel room in Bern, Switzerland back in 1999. It’s there we see an arrogant and cocky Tony Stark hooking up with a brilliant scientist, Maya Hansen (Rebeca Hall) on New Year’s Eve, after brushing off the nerdy creator of AIM (a think tank organization), Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). As Stark learns, some encounters have future consequences.
Flash forward to Christmas 2012 where a near-manic and sleep-deprived Tony Stark is spending all his waking hours in his Malibu home lab designing one Iron Man suit after another. It turns out the events in New York where Iron Man and the Avengers team defeated a threat from alien forces have caused Tony to have severe panic and anxiety attacks. Iron Man’s devoted partner in business and love, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is frustrated and concerned.
Meanwhile the world is experiencing threats and attacks from a terrorist named the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). Unexplained bombings are being masterminded and carried out by an army of soldiers who overheat and combust when under attack. Tony Stark publicly challenges the Mandarin with the response being a major attack on Stark’s home. After the attack, Iron Man finds himself on a suited up flight to Tennessee, where the suit malfunctions and he has to rely on his wits and support from an unlikely ally, a young boy named Harley (Ty Simpkins).
Iron Man 3 is action-packed from start to finish. The Iron Man suit never gets old and the visual sequences in so many scenes are amazing to see. One of my personal favourites is the holographic crime scene recreation that Tony Stark manipulates to figure out Mandarin’s ultimate plan. The special effects are phenomenal throughout this movie. Although the 3D, while good, isn’t really necessary.
What’s different from the first two films is the vulnerability of Tony Stark in Iron Man 3. His panic attacks and his actions outside the suit show a whole other side of the brilliant entrepreneur. Robert Downey Jr. is wonderful to watch as always. His comic timing and delivery are perfect with his dramatic side being especially good.
Iron Man 3 also boasts a particularly good performance by Ben Kingsley as the odd and terrifying villain. Gwyneth Paltrow is also good as Pepper Potts. It’s nice to see the character have a stronger role this time. Don Cheadle seems to have fun with his role as Col. Rhodes/Iron Patriot, as do Guy Pearce and the original Iron Man director Jon Favreau have in their respective parts.
If you enjoyed the first two films, you’ll enjoy Iron Man 3. Robert Downey Jr. is always a delight to watch as the likeable hero. The level of action and violence make the film a little heavy for younger viewers, but intense enough for Marvel comic fans. Iron Man 3 is a nice addition to the Marvel series.
Iron Man 3 Review by Tony
***1/2 (out of 4)
Iron Man 3 features a recurring confessional voiceover from the title character Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), beginning with a flashback to a 1999 New Year’s eve party where he blew off obsessed scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and had a one night stand with another brilliant researcher, Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), leading to the present conflict. Suffering from severe insomnia and occasional panic attacks, Stark currently spends most of his time in the lab and not enough with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) who now lives with him.
A mysterious series of escalating terrorist bombings and threats from the “Mandarin” (Ben Kingsley) brings Iron Man back into action, but not before his home is nearly destroyed in an attack and he finds himself in rural Tennessee. With the help of a precocious local kid (Ty Simpkins) he manages to rig up enough gear to team up with Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle), locate Mandarin’s lair and defeat his force of enhanced burning hot fighters.
Now directed by Shane Black, Iron Man 3 has the same nice balance between action and humour as the first two films directed by Jon Favreau, whose character has been promoted in the present film from Stark’s chauffeur to security chief. Though over two hours long, it maintains interest with a good script to go with the exciting story, and as a bonus lots of small Marvel references for the fans, including the mandatory Stan Lee cameo (judging a beauty pageant). Among the fine cast, Ben Kingsley stands out, stealing every scene he is in, all the more impressive with RDJ in the room.
If you liked the other Iron Man films or comic book films in general, you will not be disappointed.
Consensus: Robert Downey Jr. delivers another excellent performance as Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, an incredibly entertaining blockbuster filled with exciting action sequences and a smart screenplay that has plenty of humour. ***1/2 (Out of 4)
By John C.
Hot Docs started exactly a week ago today and closes on Sunday, but I am still discovering films that are absolutely worth seeing. Yesterday I published my thoughts on Rent a Family Inc., Blood Brother, Brothers Hypnotic, The Great Hip Hop Hoax and Free the Mind.
Below are my capsule reviews of five more films, four of which have more screenings coming up. Although The Crash Reel already finished its run at Hot Docs, the film is absolutely worth seeking out when it opens next fall or winter. As always, you can get more information on the festival and purchase tickets right here. Enjoy!
12 O’Clock Boys: The title dirt bike gang in 12 O’Clock Boys gets their name for the way that they drive through the streets of Baltimore, popping wheelies that put their vehicles straight up in the air, with the police constantly on their trail. Directed by Lotfy Nathan, the film follows Pug, a young teenager who dreams of joining the notorious street gang, even if it means sacrificing his education in the process. With striking camerawork, including some awesome slow motion shots and an excellent soundtrack that drives the action, 12 O’Clock Boys is a captivating portrait of growing up in a rough neighbourhood where the ones with the dirt bikes run the streets.
Monday, April 29th – 8:15 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Wednesday, May 1st – 1:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Saturday, May 4th – 9:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Blood Relative: Divya is a teen girl stuck in the body of a child, and Imran is a young man who still looks like a teenager. They are just some of the many who suffer from thalassemia in India, a genetic disease that requires blood transfusions and iron chelation to stop the disorder from stunting their growth and leading to fatal illness. Many don’t receive the healthcare that they need, because the government won’t fund the treatment, leaving them to rely on the kindhearted Vinay to help raise the funds through his small charity. But even he is starting to run out of money, which provides some of the dramatic weight behind director Nimisha Mukerji’s film. Although there are a few too many shots of needles going into the skin, Blood Relative is a thought provoking look at a genetic disease that can trap adults in the bodies of children.
Monday, April 29th – 9:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Wednesday, May 1st – 3:30 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre
Friday, May 3rd – 1:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Blackfish: Back in 2011, a trainer was killed at Sea World, dragged underwater and mutilated by the whale she was working with. What followed was a discussion that the park wasn’t ready to have, instead blaming the trainer for wearing a pony tail. Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Blackfish uses the case as a jumping off point for the issue of capturing whales for entertainment in general, showing the unfairness of keeping the animals in captivity, which can drive them to a point where they turn on their trainers. Although the film is sometimes a little conventional in its approach and use of interviews, the real life footage of the attacks is shocking. With a story that will make you think twice before going to Marineland, Blackfish is a good documentary that asks important questions about the ethics of keeping whales in captivity.
Tuesday, April 30th – 7:00 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre
Thursday, May 2nd – 2:00 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre
Friday, May 3rd – 9:15 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
The Crash Reel: Right from the opening scenes of The Crash Reel, I immediately knew that the film would end up being one of my favourites at the festival, and I left the theatre completely blown away. The film opens a few months before the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, as champion snowboarder Kevin Pearce is training to make the team. But then tragedy strikes when he suffers a dangerous fall, and we are taken back in time to see his rise to fame, before witnessing his journey into his new life with a disability. Directed by Lucy Walker, who received an Oscar nomination for the equally outstanding Waste Land a few years back, this is an incredibly well crafted film that touches on the dangers of extreme sports while offering a powerful message about self acceptance. Exhilarating, moving and inspirational, The Crash Reel is everything that a great film should be. See this movie.
Wednesday, May 1st – 6:45 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Thursday, May 2nd – 5:00 PM @ Hart House Theatre
Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story: Growing up as a good Jewish boy in Winnipeg, David Steinberg went on to become one of the most influential stand up comedians in the late 1960s, inspiring everyone from Larry Charles to Larry David. Throughout his career, the Canadian comedian become known for his witty sermons and a brilliant psychiatrist routine, having appeared on The Tonight Show with Jonny Carson numerous times and even getting The Smothers Brothers kicked off the network for including him as a guest. Directed by Barry Avrich, Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story is an enjoyable little film that is worth seeing for the archival footage of this iconic comedian.
Thursday, May 2nd – 9:30 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Friday, May 3rd – 4:15 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre
Sunday, May 5th – 4:15 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre