Halifax film screening picks — July 18-24

18 Jul
July 18, 2016

Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the crowd-pleasing, critically acclaimed comedy-drama from New Zealand director Taika Waititi (following on festival favourite What We Do in the Shadows) has moved in at the Oxford.  The NY Times’ Manohla Dargis says Waititi is “still finding his way, but he’s already a director who—as he does in a shot of a friendly, undefeated child pausing to wave at a pursuer—can distill a worldview into a single, perfect cinematic moment.” Meanwhile, Swiss Army Man has made way by moving over from the Oxford to Park Lane.

Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship is back in Halifax at the Scotiabank Theatre in Bayers Lake.

The Atlantic Film Festival’s family-friendly summer outdoor screening series continues this Friday with the 2014 hit The Lego Movie.

  • Halifax area screening picks for this week:
    • Wednesday (July 20) — A Place in the Sun, Cineplex Park Lane & Dartmouth Crossing, 7:00pm, $6.99. George Stevens, USA, 1951, 122 minutes.
    • Friday (July 22) — The Lego Movie, Sullivan’s Pond, Dartmouth, 9:30ish, doors open at 8:30pm, free. Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, USA/Australia/Denmark, 2014, 100 minutes.

Like Someone in Love; Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (Netflix Canada picks)

16 Jul
July 16, 2016

Netflix offers just one film from the remarkable oeuvre of Abbas Kiarostami, the master filmmaker whose recent death rocked the film world.  Like Someone in Love contains many of Kiarostami’s trademark elements, including multiple extended scenes of conversations in cars, but also allowed the director to stretch out of the limitations of filming in his native Iran—shooting intimate interior sequences, and filming entirely in Japanese, a language completely foreign to him. It is a film whose meticulous, stepwise revelation and questioning of its characters rewards a patient viewing—and then “doesn’t so much end as screech to a stop” in the most obliquely abrupt way.

While Kiarostami deftly avoided political entanglements with his work, his fellow Iranian director Jafar Panahi has not been so lucky. Barred from making films for twenty years in Iran, he continues, despite his house arrest and lack of distribution, to find clever ways to bypass this ban. In the case of Taxi, he has stumbled upon the approach of driving around Tehran and filming amateur actors with small cameras including a dash cam (riffing on Kiarostami films, most obviously Ten, though the viewer who has not seen those films misses nothing crucial). The conceit is that he is posing as a taxi driver only to be recognized to the surprise of some of his passengers. Multiple levels of ironic comment, and the sheer invention of the episodes, generate a sense of pure fun that you wouldn’t expect from a politically resistant film, and the result is one of the ten best-reviewed films of 2015.

Halifax film screening picks — July 11-17

11 Jul
July 11, 2016

Swiss Army Man, a.k.a. the farting corpse movie, has arrived at the Oxford, where it is sure to continue dividing the opinion of audiences—a film “as likely to be described as a classic, an ambitious misfire, and one of the worst films ever made by any three people who see it together.”

And speaking of dividing opinion, the Scotiabank Theatre at Bayers Lake has Sultan, the Salman Khan vehicle that has already set new Bollywood box office records while inspiring at least one prominent critic not to review it, following on an inexcusably insensitive comment by its star, one that he has yet to satisfactorily account for.

The Cinema Series screening at the Astor Theatre in Liverpool this Wednesday is Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship.

For the Atlantic Film Festival’s first Halifax waterfront screening of the summer, they’ve gone in the vaults and pulled out the 1978 Ralph Bakshi rotoscoped, animated version of The Lord of the Rings.

  • Halifax area screening picks for this week:
    • Monday (July 11) — Stop Making Sense, Cineplex Park Lane, 5pm, $6.99. Jonathan Demme, USA, 1984, 88 minutes.
    • Wednesday (July 13) — Stop Making Sense, Cineplex Park Lane, 9:45pm, $6.99. Jonathan Demme, USA, 1984, 88 minutes.
    • Thursday (July 14) — Stop Making Sense, Cineplex Park Lane, 5pm, $6.99. Jonathan Demme, USA, 1984, 88 minutes.
    • Friday (July 15) — The Lord of the Rings (1978), Tall Ships Quay (Halifax waterfront), approx. 9:30pm, gates open 8:30pm, free. Ralph Bakshi, USA, 1978, 133 minutes.
  • South Shore screening pick for this week:
    • Wednesday (July 13) — Love & Friendship, Astor Theatre (59 Gorham Street, Liverpool), 7pm, $8. Whit Stillman, Ireland/USA, 2016, 92 minutes.

Halifax film screening picks — July 4-10

04 Jul
July 4, 2016

One of my favourite experiences at the greatly missed Wormwood’s Cinema was a repertory screening of Jonathan Demme’s brilliant, never-equaled Talking Heads live-show doc Stop Making Sense. I can still recall the projectionist coming out before the screening to advise us that he would be turning up the sound very far—and that we should feel free to dance on the seats. I don’t think the staff at Cineplex Park Lane will be similarly accommodating at screenings this week so you might want to confine your dancing to the aisle.

Park Lane also has some throwback screenings of a classic piece of Canadian cultural ephemera, 1983’s Strange Brew, through Wednesday (your mileage will likely depend on how much nostalgia you feel for Bob and Doug McKenzie), and this Sunday, with Dartmouth Crossing, has a matinee screening of 1951’s A Place in the Sun, with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor—”They are almost like reflections of each other; when they kiss, something incestuous and thrillingly forbidden throbs out of the screen.”

The Atlantic Film Festival’s summer outdoor series continues at Dartmouth Crossing this Saturday with an outdoor screening of How To Train Your Dragon—dusk hits at 9:36pm this Saturday, so you can expect doors to open around 8:30pm I believe, although AFF’s posted times continue to be contradictory at best.

  • Halifax area screening picks for this week:
    • Monday (July 4) — Stop Making Sense, Cineplex Park Lane, 2:30pm, $6.99. Jonathan Demme, USA, 1984, 88 minutes.
      Strange Brew, Cineplex Park Lane, 4:50pm & 9:25pm, $6.99. Rick Moraines & Dave Thomas, Canada, 1983, 90 minutes.
    • Tuesday (July 5) — Strange Brew, Cineplex Park Lane, 1:30pm, $6.99. Rick Moraines & Dave Thomas, Canada, 1983, 90 minutes.
      — Stop Making Sense, Cineplex Park Lane, 10:05pm, $6.99. Jonathan Demme, USA, 1984, 88 minutes.
    • Wednesday (July 6) — Strange Brew, Cineplex Park Lane, 10:05pm, $6.99. Rick Moraines & Dave Thomas, Canada, 1983, 90 minutes.
    • Thursday (July 7) — Stop Making Sense, Cineplex Park Lane, 4:50pm, $6.99. Jonathan Demme, USA, 1984, 88 minutes.
    • Saturday (July 9) — How to Train Your Dragon, Pondside Amphitheatre, Hector Gate (Dartmouth Crossing), approx. 9:36pm, free. Chris Sanders & Dean DeBlois, USA, 2010, 98 minutes.
    • Sunday (July 10) — A Place in the Sun, Cineplex Park Lane & Dartmouth Crossing, 12:55pm, $6.99. George Stevens, USA, 1951, 122 minutes.

Halifax film screening picks — June 27-July 3

27 Jun
June 27, 2016

Probably the biggest divider of opinion so far of this year’s films (other than the rather less gory if similarly beauty-obsessed Knight of Cups) is The Neon Demon, the latest from Nicolas Winding Refn. Says Andrew O’Hehir: “Whether you think it’s a brilliant feminist commentary or misogynistic softcore porn is entirely up to you.”

Another of this week’s adds to Halifax theatre screens has gathered rather more consistently positive reviews: Maggie’s Plan, the New-York-set rom-com directed by Rebecca Miller and featuring a rather tasty cast that includes Bill Hader, Ethan Hawke, Greta Gerwig, Julianne Moore, and Maya Rudolph—and, in a cameo as singer of a Quebecois cover band, Kathleen Hanna.

This evening you can catch the last screening in the Cineplex Classic Films series of the David Lean/Noel Coward classic Brief Encounter, at Park Lane and Dartmouth Crossing.

Wednesday’s Cinema Series pick at the Astor Theatre in Liverpool is Avril et le monde truqué, a.k.a. April and the Extraordinary World, a highly-regarded animated feature which I don’t believe has screened in Nova Scotia since the Atlantic Film Festival last September. The festival’s summer outdoor series kicks off at Dartmouth Crossing this Saturday with an outdoor screening of Shrek—it looks like it’s gates open at 7pm, screening at 8pm, although it’s really hard to tell from the information provided so far.

  • Halifax area screening picks for this week:
    • Monday (June 27) — Brief Encounter, Cineplex Park Lane & Dartmouth Crossing, 7pm, $6.99. David Lean, UK, 1945, 86 minutes.
    • Saturday (July 2) — Shrek, Pondside Amphitheatre, Hector Gate (Dartmouth Crossing), TBD, free. Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson, USA, 2001, 90 minutes.
  • South Shore screening pick for this week:
    • Wednesday (June 29) — Avril et le monde truqué, Astor Theatre (59 Gorham Street, Liverpool), 7pm, $8. Christian Desmares & Franck Ekincia, France/Belgium/Canada, 2015, 106 minutes.

Halifax film screening picks — June 20-26

20 Jun
June 20, 2016

This week, Cineplex Park Lane has a handful of screenings of Ali, the 2001 Muhammad Ali biopic much noted for Michael Mann’s direction and Will Smith’s acting, but also criticized (despite its length) as a reductive take on a complex persona. (For a more focused view of a key period of Ali’s life, you might want to check out Bill Siegel’s excellent—and much shorter—documentary The Trials of Muhammad Ali, which I see is on Mubi for another 15 days.)

I finally caught up with Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship, and I’m recommending it, despite some reservations. Kate Beckinsale is excellent, Chloe Sevigny maybe not so much, Tom Bennett is simply absurd, and there are perhaps a few too many moments when characters are mere tokens for their essential qualities rather than responding humanly to their situations. But it’s all a good laugh and at 92 minutes never has a chance to get boring.

There’s just one screening this week in the Cineplex Classic Films series of the David Lean/Noel Coward classic Brief Encounter, and it’s this Wednesday, 7pm, at Dartmouth Crossing.

  • Halifax area screening picks for this week:
    • Monday (June 20) — Ali, Cineplex Park Lane, 6:30pm & 9:40pm, $6.99. Michael Mann, USA, 2001, 157 minutes.
    • Tuesday (June 21) — Ali, Cineplex Park Lane, 3:45pm, $6.99. Michael Mann, USA, 2001, 157 minutes.
      — The Boy and the Beast, Cineplex Park Lane, 9:40pm, regular pricing. Mamoru Hosoda, Japan, 2015, 120 minutes.
    • Wednesday (June 22) — Brief Encounter, Dartmouth Crossing, 7pm, $6.99. David Lean, UK, 1945, 86 minutes.
    • Thursday (June 23) — Ali, Cineplex Park Lane, 6:30pm, $6.99. Michael Mann, USA, 2001, 157 minutes.
  • Annapolis Valley screening pick for this week:
    • Sunday (June 19) — The Meddler, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 8pm, $9. Lorene Scafaria, USA, 2015, 100 minutes.

Halifax film screening picks — June 13-19

13 Jun
June 13, 2016

Another week, another festival! Following on the heels of a successful tenth edition of HIFF this week is the fifth edition of OUTeast, Atlantic Canada’s only exclusively LGBTQ+ film and video festival. There’s an extensive program this year but perhaps the most artistically daring selection is the real-time drama Paris 05:59—”while some hetero audiences will unquestionably feel sidelined by the explicit orgy, the loss is theirs.”

The documentary section of the program includes a couple of notable Hot Docs selections: Strike a Pose, which catches up with Madonna’s Blond Ambition dancers some 25 years on, and Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four, which documents the role that hysterical homophobia played in a false gang-rape conviction in 1997.

On Sunday, the final day’s program features the French lesbian romance Summertime, and a directorial debut from SNL’s Chris Kelly, Other People, which garnered a nice notice in The Guardian, and sounds like a funnier James White.

In theatres this week you can catch Whit Stillman’s Jane Austen confection Love & Friendship, which is a riding a wave of glowing reviews, and which I frankly cannot wait to see. And this Sunday, Cineplex Park Lane and Dartmouth Crossing have the sublime David-Lean-directed Brief Encounter, a truly peerless film—”the best romantic film of all time.

Out of town this week, on Wednesday the Astor Theatre in Liverpool has The Meddler, and Fundy Cinema in Wolfville has The Man Who Knew Infinity.

Halifax film screening picks — June 6-12

06 Jun
June 6, 2016

HIFF, the Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival, is here for its 10th annual iteration, and once again, along with well-curated showcases for short films, there are some brilliantly chosen features. One of the most notoriously tricky to program is Portuguese director Miguel Gomes’ Arabian Nights trilogy. At 382 minutes in total length, its US distributor decided to release the three parts in consecutive weeks this past December. At the Directors’ Fortnight—the art-film showcase that runs in parallel with the Cannes festival—it showed on consecutive days, but there is also an argument for showing the whole thing in succession, as TIFF did last year (with two one-hour breaks), and as HIFF will do this Sunday at 3pm 1pm—PLEASE NOTE TIME CHANGE. The film is not an adaptation of the Arabian Nights in any strict sense, but rather takes its structure as a framing device for stories of austerity policies and their consequences in contemporary Portugal. Props to the festival for making this screening absolutely free—note that this will take place at 1649 Brunswick Street, unlike the rest of the week’s screenings at Deep Water Church on North Street.

Another highly anticipated feature is Don’t Blink: Robert Frank, an ambitious portrait of one of the world’s greatest photographic artists—and a part-time Nova Scotian at that. As well, you can catch the riskily shot-on-location Mina Walking, which won the Canadian Discovery Award for its story of a 12-year-old street-seller girl in Kabul, and the highly experimental 88:88 by Isiah Medina—another Canadian first feature, one that has been making “ripples to reckon with.”

The Thrillema returns this week with 1982’s George-Romero-directed, Stephen-King-written “anthology of human phobias,” Creepshow.

I deserve a slap on the wrist for failing to note last week that A Bigger Splash, Luca Guadagnino’s follow-up to I Am Love, is in town—it was at the Oxford last week, but has now moved over to Cineplex Park Lane.

Out of town this week, the King’s Theatre in Annapolis Royal has a Tuesday screening of the documentary Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, a film built out from rediscovered long-missing interview tapes. In Wolfville, Fundy Cinema this Sunday the John Carney’s latest musical delight, Sing Street.

  • Halifax area screening picks for this week:
  • Annapolis Valley screening picks for this week:
    • Tuesday (June 7) — Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, King’s Theatre (209 St. George St., Annapolis Royal),  7:30pm, $8. Lisa Immordino Vreeland, USA, 2015, 95 minutes.
    • Sunday (June 12) — Sing Street, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 8pm, $9. John Carney, Ireland/USA/UK, 2016, 105 minutes.

Halifax film screening picks — May 30-June 5

30 May
May 30, 2016

Dalhousie University will award an honorary doctorate to filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin tomorrow, and tonight she will be presenting her documentary Trick or Treaty?, in which she “digs into the tangled history of Treaty 9,” at the Central Library. The screening will be hosted by filmmaker Sylvia Hamilton, with filmmaker Catherine Anne Martin offering a traditional Mi’kmaq welcome, and Halifax poet laureate Rebecca Thomas performing a poem. Obomsawin will remain for a discussion after the film.

Cineplex Park Lane has a couple of screenings this week of The Boy and the Beast, last year’s anime hit in Japan from Momoru Hosoda, who might be the current leading candidate for “new Miyazaki”.

This Sunday, Fundy Cinema in Wolfville has the New Zealand film The Dark Horse, which has gathered a large number of positive reviews for its lead performance by Cliff Curtis. The film made the rounds of the 2014-15 festivals but only last month got a North American commercial release.

  • Halifax area screening picks for this week:
    • Monday (May 30) — Trick or Treaty?, Central Library, 6:30pm, free. Alanis Obomsawin, Canada, 2014, 85 minutes.
      — Rocky, Cineplex Park Lane & Dartmouth Crossing, 7pm, $6.99. John G. Avildsen, USA, 1976, 119 minutes.
    • Tuesday (May 31) — The Boy and the Beast, Cineplex Park Lane, 6:50pm, regular Tuesday-discount pricing. Mamoru Hosoda, Japan, 2015, 120 minutes.
    • Wednesday (June 1) — The Boy and the Beast, Cineplex Park Lane, 9:50pm, regular pricing. Mamoru Hosoda, Japan, 2015, 120 minutes.
  • Annapolis Valley screening picks for this week:
    • Sunday (June 5) — The Dark Horse, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 8pm, $9. James Napier Robertson, New Zealand, 2014, 124 minutes.

Halifax film screening picks — May 23-29

23 May
May 23, 2016

The Dalhousie Art Gallery Wednesday noir series concludes this Wednesday with the 1955 Robert-Aldrich-directed Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer mystery, Kiss Me Deadly, a “jagged, baroque, nightmarish picture captures the paranoid mood of the McCarthy era, the Cold War and nuclear angst.”

Out of town this week, the King’s Theatre in Annapolis Royal has a Tuesday screening of the Zhang Yimou picture Coming Home. In Wolfville, Fundy Cinema concludes its Wednesday documentary series with Gayby Baby, and this Sunday has The Brand New Testament, which Carbon Arc screened in March.

  • In theatres, seen & recommended:
  • In theatres, new/notable:
  • Halifax area screening picks for this week:
    • Monday (May 23) — Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Cineplex Park Lane, 1:30pm, $6.99. John Hughes, USA, 1986, 103 minutes.
      — Rocky, Cineplex Park Lane, 3:50pm, $6.99. John G. Avildsen, USA, 1976, 119 minutes.
    • Tuesday (May 24) — Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Cineplex Park Lane, 7:15pm & 9:30pm, $6.99. John Hughes, USA, 1986, 103 minutes.
    • Wednesday (May 25) — Kiss Me Deadly, Dalhousie Art Gallery, 8pm, free. Robert Aldrich, USA, 1955, 106 minutes.
  • Annapolis Valley screening picks for this week:
    • Tuesday (May 24) — Coming Home, King’s Theatre (209 St. George St., Annapolis Royal),  7:30pm, $8. Zhang Yimou, China, 2014, 111 minutes.
    • Wednesday (May 25) — Gayby Baby, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 7pm, $9. Maya Newell, Australia, 2015, 85 minutes.
    • Sunday (May 29) — The Brand New Testament, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 4pm & 7pm, $9. Jaco Van Dormael, Belgium/France/Luxembourg, 2015, 113 minutes.