Halifax film screening picks — Aug 31-Sep 6

31 Aug
August 31, 2015

It may be thin gruel for special screenings in Halifax this week, but out of town, three different screening series are kicking off their fall seasons. King’s Theatre Film Society in Annapolis Royal has the Brian Wilson/Beach Boys biopic Love & Mercy (excellent performances all around the cast, with the strange exception of Paul Giamatti); Astor Theatre Cinema Series in Liverpool has the excellent Clouds of Sils Maria, rescheduled from August 5; Fundy Film Society in Wolfville has the Kickstarter-booted Blythe Danner vehicle I’ll See You in My Dreams.

The British World War I drama Testament of Youth has moved in at the Oxford.

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for this week:

  • Monday (Aug 31) — Jaws, Cineplex Park Lane, 9:25pm, $6. Steven Spielberg, USA, 1975, 124 minutes.
  • Tuesday (Sep 1) — Testament of Youth, 6:30pm & 9:30pm, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). James Kent, UK, 2014, 129 minutes.
    — The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Cineplex Park Lane, 9:10pm, ‎‎‎regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Marielle Heller, USA, 2015, 102 minutes.
    —  Mr. Holmes, Scotiabank Theatre Halifax, 12:55pm &‎ ‎10:15pm‎‎, ‎regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Bill Condon, UK/USA, 2015, 104 minutes.

Here are my South Shore and Annapolis Valley screening picks for selected days this week:

  • Tuesday (Sep 1) — Love & Mercy, King’s Theatre (209 St. George St., Annapolis Royal), 7:30pm, $8. Bill Pohlad, USA, 2014, 121 minutes.
  • Wednesday (Sep 2) — Clouds of Sils Maria, Astor Theatre (59 Gorham Street, Liverpool), 7pm, $8. Olivier Assayas, Germany/France/Switzerland, 2014, 123 minutes.
  • Sunday (Sep 6) — I’ll See You in My Dreams, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 8pm, $9. Brett Haley, USA, 2015, 92 minutes.

Blu-ray diary: the BFI’s tasty answer to Criterion’s Rossellini/Bergman box

29 Aug
August 29, 2015

For the 100th anniversary of Ingrid Bergman’s birth—my 100th blog post. Thanks to all my readers and for all the positive feedback I’ve received in the past three years. I just re-upped with my hosting service so I guess you’re in for another year of this…

Rossellini & Bergman Collection (Limited Edition Numbered Blu-ray Box Set)The Roberto Rossellini/Ingrid Bergman Collection
(BFI 3x BD)

This is the second three-disc Blu-ray set of Rossellini films from the British Film Institute this year, following on their excellent War Trilogy release. Criterion was of course the first to release a box set of Roberto Rossellini’s films starring Ingrid Bergman, and that release was so brilliant that I proposed it as the best of 2013. That Criterion set is built around three features: Stromboli, Journey to Italy, and Europe ’51, whereas this new BFI box offers Stromboli, Journey to Italy, and Fear.

About Fear. My first impression was that it’s rather fascinating to see Rossellini essentially doing a Hitchcock-style film (if slightly German-expressionism-inflected) starring Ingrid Bergman. But I have to admit that my interest flagged a bit in the second half hour. I’m so attached to Rossellini’s rough-sketch approach to filmmaking that the smoother Hitchcockian feel began to make me sense something missing—until the Big Twist happens an hour in, one that is so emotionally brutal that it feels genuinely dark in a way that the more aestheticized Hitchcock rarely manages to touch. However—hopefully I’m not giving too much away—as with Journey to Italy, the closing scene turns away from that darkness in a way that will feel overly abrupt to viewers not used to Rossellini’s rhythm. My single reservation: with its German cast and aesthetic touches, I would really like to see the German cut of this film, and I imagine I would prefer it to the English. But this restoration is flawless, and the film is unique in the Rossellini oeuvre, so once again, props to the BFI for making it available.

Rossellini directed five feature films starring Bergman—the fifth, Giovanna d’Arco al rogo / Joan of Arc at the Stake, is really a filmed stage play performance and is not included on either box, and in fact was not included in the ten-film “Projetto Rossellini” restoration project that was recently undertaken by the Cineteca di Bologna. You have to concede that Criterion went the extra mile by including Europe ’51 (my personal favourite of the four Rossellini-Bergman feature films I’ve seen) in two restored versions, whereas the BFI has simply included the three films that were restored as part of the Projetto.

So, to double-dip, or not? Does the BFI’s box offer enough additional value to justify a second, overlapping purchase? Apart from Fear, here’s what it offers that the Criterion set does not:

  • The Machine That Kills Bad People (La Macchina ammazzacattivi, 1952). From Rossellini’s Bergman period, but not featuring Bergman, this is, as the box notes promise, a fascinating film. It’s a pleasing special feature for completists—the “Projetto Rossellini” restorations included eight fiction features, and with this inclusion all eight are now available in English-friendly editions—four in each of the two BFI sets.
  • Viaggio in Italia (1954). The alternative, Italian cut of Journey to Italy. Criterion’s box included the Italian cuts of Stromboli and Europe ’51, but, for some reason, not the Italian cut of Journey—though its differences with the English version are perhaps not as substantial as in the other two cases, it is a welcome addition here, and I enjoyed seeing the tighter cut with its mostly-Italian supporting cast speaking in Italian.
  • Bergman & Magnani: The War of the Volcanoes (La guerra dei vulcani, 2012). An entertaining documentary (in Italian, subtitled in English) “charting the scandal of the Magnani-Rossellini-Bergman love triangle” that cleverly tells its story partly by deploying scenes from Rossellini’s and Magnani’s films that mirror, sometimes uncomfortably so, episodes in their real-life relationships.
  • Ingrid Bergman at the National Film Theatre (1981), an interview before an audience, with a Q&A session, that doesn’t perhaps have much to add on the Rossellini years, but is entertaining for other reasons and worth a look for Ingmar Bergman fans (she is hilarious when talking about Casablanca). This was an event organized by The Guardian and hosted at what is now the BFI Southbank.
  • Adrian Martin 2007 commentary on Journey to Italy. The BFI release also brings over the Laura Mulvey commentary (2003) included in the Criterion release. Both are insightful and worth the time.

Bottom line: If you’re even half as much into Rossellini’s films as I am, you want this—an essential purchase for any serious collection.

 

No (Netflix Canada picks)

28 Aug
August 28, 2015

Pablo Larraín, Chile/France/USA, 2012, 118 minutes

Marketing, as it overlaps with public relations—or “communications” as PR now re-markets itself—is a subject that has fascinated me for many years now, particularly for the ethical issues that it raises. I still regularly meet people who decry all marketing and other professional publicity-seeking as inherently evil or compromised, and I often see films that simply and easily confirm those stereotypes—themselves designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. But here is a film that grapples with the question of whether marketing can be ethical and indeed serve a righteous purpose—in this case the overthrow of a brutal dictator, Augusto Pinochet of Chile, in 1988. Its answer are anything but simple—even as the film insouciantly skateboards to an improbable but somewhat historically accurate triumph, it is clear that victories won are neither complete nor easy. Appealing to contrarians of all stripes, the film also offers another slam-bang performance by Gael García Bernal, as well as its shot-on-analog-video format—complete with CRT-era aspect ratio—that jars at first but brings back the 80’s for anyone who lived through them.

Halifax film screening picks — Aug 24-30

24 Aug
August 24, 2015

The Thrillema has put on hold its screening of the Hayao Miyazaki / Studio Ghibli classic Princess Mononoke, from 1997. Originally scheduled for this Wednesday at the Museum of Natural History, it is now in search of a larger venue due to high demand. For updates watch the postings to this Facebook event page.

In the meantime, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, the highly acclaimed film from Marielle Heller, has moved in at the Oxford.

Art-house screenings around the rest of the province get back under way in earnest next week, but there is nothing of the sort lined up for this week.

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for this week:

  • Tuesday (Aug 18) — The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Cineplex Oxford, 6:45pm &‎ ‎9:15‎pm, ‎‎‎regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Marielle Heller, USA, 2015, 102 minutes.
    —  Mr. Holmes, Scotiabank Theatre Halifax, 12:55pm &‎ ‎10:15pm‎‎, ‎regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Bill Condon, UK/USA, 2015, 104 minutes.

Halifax film screening picks — Aug 17-23

17 Aug
August 17, 2015

I’m not sure that anything said about the movies this week can be heard over the box-office noise being made by Straight Outta Compton—what can I say, I want to see it too. (When it comes to films with saturation-level distro, The Gift is another solid choice.)

But summer is winding down, and that means the Atlantic Film Festival Summer of SuperHeroes outdoor screening series wraps up with The Avengers at the Halifax waterfront on Friday—prefaced by an additional treat, the Andrea Dorfman short Wound Up, from 1999.

Some summer-counterprogramming remains, with Mr. Holmes out at Bayers Lake, and Irrational Man still playing at the Oxford. And if you missed Far from the Madding Crowd when it played Halifax, there is a screening this Wednesday at Liverpool’s Astor Theatre.

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for selected days this week:

  • Monday (Aug 17) — Apollo 13, Cineplex Dartmouth Crossing, 7pm, $6. Ron Howard, USA, 1995, 140 minutes.
  • Tuesday (Aug 18) —  Mr. Holmes, Scotiabank Theatre Halifax, 11:30am,‎ ‎2pm, 4:30pm, 7:05‎pm & 9:40pm‎, ‎regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Bill Condon, UK/USA, 2015, 104 minutes.
    — Irrational Man, Cineplex Oxford, 6:45pm &‎ ‎9:15‎pm, ‎regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Woody Allen, USA, 2015, 96 minutes.
  • Wednesday (Aug 19) — Apollo 13, Cineplex Dartmouth Crossing, 7pm, $6, final screening of this engagement. Ron Howard, USA, 1995, 140 minutes.
  • Friday (Aug 21) — The Avengers, Tall Ships Quay, Halifax waterfront, 8:28pm, free, concessions & gates open at 7:28pm. Joss Whedon, USA, 2012, 142 minutes.

And one South Shore screening pick this week:

  • Wednesday (Aug 19) — Far From the Madding Crowd, Astor Theatre (59 Gorham Street, Liverpool), 7pm, $8. Thomas Vinterberg, UK, 2015, 119 minutes.

Halifax film screening picks — Aug 10-16

10 Aug
August 10, 2015

I went to see the newly-opened suspenser The Gift over the weekend and was pleasantly surprised—this is an extremely well-crafted film, incredibly so when considered as a first feature (by Joel Egerton, whose acting in this film is also excellent). It’s been a while since I’ve seen a mainstream film embrace ambiguity with such intelligence.

In other first-run engagements, Irrational Man, the latest from Woody Allen, has taken over at the Oxford, bumping Mr. Holmes out to the Scotiabank Theatre in Bayers Lake.

The Atlantic Film Festival Summer of SuperHeroes outdoor screening series rolls into its penultimate weekend with another pair of screenings: Guardians of the Galaxy at the Halifax waterfront on Friday, and The Incredibles at Dartmouth Crossing on Saturday.

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for selected days this week:

  • Tuesday (Aug 11) — The Gift, many times & Cineplex locations, ‎regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Joel Edgerton, Australia/US, 2015, 108 minutes.
    Irrational Man, Cineplex Oxford, 6:45pm &‎ ‎9:15‎pm, ‎regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Woody Allen, USA, 2015, 96 minutes.
    —  Mr. Holmes, Scotiabank Theatre Halifax, 11:30am,‎ ‎2pm, 4:30pm, 7:05‎pm & 9:40pm‎, ‎regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Bill Condon, UK/USA, 2015, 104 minutes.
    — Amy, Scotiabank Theatre Halifax, 9:30pm, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday. Asif Kapadia, UK, 2015, 128 minutes.
  • Friday (Aug 14) — Guardians of the Galaxy, Tall Ships Quay, Halifax waterfront, 8:42pm, free, concessions & gates open at 7:42pm. James Gunn, USA, 2014, 122 minutes.
  • Saturday (Aug 15) — The Incredibles, Pondside Amphitheatre, Dartmouth Crossing, 8:40pm, free, concessions & gates open at 7:40pm. Brad Bird, USA, 2004, 115 minutes.

 

Two Days, One Night (Netflix Canada picks)

07 Aug
August 7, 2015

(Deux jours, une nuit) Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France/Italy, 2014, 95 minutes

I haven’t done a statistical analysis but I bet this film was on more critic, newspaper, and magazine top ten lists in 2014 than any film save Boyhood. When we first learned that the Dardenne brothers had cast as huge a star as Marion Cotillard in their latest film, some perhaps wondered whether they were trading in their reliable social-realist aesthetic for a more bankable approach to film, but they needn’t have worried. Cotillard seamlessly inhabits this role of a marginally-employed woman fighting for her job, and the film’s compressed, deadline-driven plot gives her occasion to bring incredible intensity to her performance. Nothing explodes, no scenery is chewed, but the viewing experience is by turns draining and cathartic. Cotillard fully deserved the pile of Best Actress awards she took home for this one—bestowed by the European Film Awards, the National Society of Film Critics, and the New York Film Critics Circle, among others.

Halifax film screening picks — Aug 3-9

03 Aug
August 3, 2015

The Atlantic Film Festival Summer of SuperHeroes outdoor screening series continues this week with not one but two screenings: Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) at the Halifax waterfront on Friday, and Men in Black (1997), at Sullivan’s Pond in downtown Dartmouth on Saturday.

This Sunday a couple of local Cineplex screens will have a 20th anniversary screening of the gripping Apollo 13.

Speaking of spanning multiple decades, Oxford has welcomed in Mr. Holmes, which re-teams director Bill Condon with star Ian McKellen—making me nostalgic for my first viewing of Gods and Monsters, which I recall was also at the Oxford, some 16 years ago at least.

This Wednesday if you’re up for a South Shore road trip, the beautiful Astor Theatre in Liverpool has the brilliant Clouds of Sils Maria, which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for selected days this week:

  • Tuesday (Aug 4) — Mr. Holmes, Cineplex Oxford, 7:00‎pm & ‎9:30pm, ‎regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Bill Condon, UK/USA, 2015, 104 minutes.
    — Amy, Scotiabank Theatre Halifax, 1:10pm,‎ ‎4:10pm,‎ ‎7:10pm and‎ ‎10:10pm; Cineplex Park Lane 9:10pm, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Asif Kapadia, UK, 2015, 128 minutes.
    — What We Did On Our Holiday, Scotiabank Theatre Halifax (Bayers Lake), 1:10‎pm, ‎3:30pm,‎ ‎5:50pm‎, ‎8:10‎pm,‎10:30‎pm, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Andy Hamilton & Guy Jenkin, UK, 2014, 95 minutes.
  • Friday (Aug 7) — Batman, Tall Ships Quay, Halifax waterfront, 8:52pm, free, concessions & gates open at 7:52pm. Tim Burton, USA, 1989, 126 minutes.
  • Saturday (Aug 8) — Men in Black, Sullivan’s Pond, Dartmouth, 8:52pm, free, concessions & gates open at 7:52pm. Barry Sonnenfeld, USA, 1997, 98 minutes.
  • Sunday (Aug 9) — Apollo 13, Cineplex Oxford & Cineplex Dartmouth Crossing, 12:55pm, $6. Ron Howard, USA, 1995, 140 minutes.

And one South Shore screening pick this week:

  • Wednesday (Aug 5) — Clouds of Sils Maria, Astor Theatre (59 Gorham Street, Liverpool), 7pm, $8. Olivier Assayas, Germany/France/Switzerland, 2014, 123 minutes.

We Are What We Are [2010]; We Are What We Are [2013] (Netflix Canada picks)

31 Jul
July 31, 2015

We Are What We Are (Somos lo que hay) – Jorge Michel Grau, Mexico, 2010, 89 minutes

We Are What We Are – Jim Mickle, USA, 2013, 105 minutes

So many remakes, especially the most common kind—English-language versions of foreign-language horror films—seem to exist for reasons that are commercially sensible but artistically redundant. The idea of fixing something that isn’t broken generally offends me, and so I tend to avoid. What’s more, I often balk at awkwardly shallow/ill-thought attempts at transposing a story from one cultural context to another.

But Jim Mickle’s remake of We Are What We Are is a remarkable exception. He takes the general setup of the original—a family of cannibals tries to hold it together after a key member dies—and moves the setting from the slums of Mexico City to small-town America, with fascinating results. It similarly injects the story with enough social realism to make an improbable plot feel believable, but it simplifies the plot somewhat, possibly slowing down the third act a little too much, but paying off with a conclusion that has to be seen to be believed—and will still come as a surprise even if you’ve watched the original.

For its part, the 2010 original by Jorge Michel Grau is nearly as good—perhaps slightly hampered by a couple of plot points that don’t quite work, and by a couple of script passages that feel a little unsure in their character definition. But it, too, winds, with a series of rapid-fire twists, to a remarkable finish. In fact it really doesn’t matter which of the two you watch first—neither film is predictable based on its counterpart, and each has something unique to offer. Good on Netflix for offering up both.

Halifax film screening picks — July 27-Aug 2

27 Jul
July 27, 2015

There is just one special screening of note this week—the Atlantic Film Festival Summer of SuperHeroes outdoor screening series continues at the Halifax waterfront (Tall Ships Quay) with X-Men: First Class. Screening is at 9:05pm, preceded by the Siddhartha Fraser-directed short film Kona (2005).

At Cineplex screens, the Winehouse doc Amy continues at the Oxford, and the Scotiabank Theatre Halifax in Bayers Lake has the well-regarded Brit-com What We Did On Our Holiday, with Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, and Billy Connolly.

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for selected days this week:

  • Tuesday (July 28) — Amy, Cineplex Oxford, 6:45pm &‎ ‎9:45‎pm, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Asif Kapadia, UK, 2015, 128 minutes.
    — What We Did On Our Holiday, Scotiabank Theatre Halifax, 1:10pm,‎ ‎3:30pm,‎ ‎5:50pm,‎ ‎8:10pm, &‎ ‎10:30‎pm, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Andy Hamilton & Guy Jenkin, UK, 2014, 95 minutes.
  • Friday (July 31) — X-Men: First Class, Tall Ships Quay, Halifax waterfront, 9:05pm, free, concessions & gates open at 8:05pm. Matthew Vaughn, USA, 2011, 132 minutes.