Month: November 2009

Grown Up Movie Star (2009) Review 2

Grown Up Movie Star (2009) Review

As with most films about coming to terms with sexuality, Adrianna Maggs’ directorial debut Grown Up Movie Star is rooted in tragic failures of communication. Set within an inaccessible Newfoundland outport, the story begins with a one-sided conversation in a car. Ruby, the thirteen-year-old daughter of a “sham marriage” has just been informed that her mother is leaving the country to become a movie star.

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Cooper’s Camera (2008) Review 2

Cooper’s Camera (2008) Review

Christmas movies typically fall into one of two categories – There are the bright and bubbly classics designed to make families feel warm on the holidays, and there are the dark satires that expose the seedy underside of the hallmark holiday. Bob Clark’s beloved A Christmas Story falls into the former category, and provided Canada with a pleasant Christmas movie to be proud of. But on the flipside, Canada’s never had our version of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Bad Santa – that is, until now.

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Corpo (2007) Review 2

Corpo (2007) Review

The feature debut from Brazilian husband-and-wife duo Rossana Foglia and Rubens Rewald, Corpo follows a morose coroner, Artur (Leonardo Medeiros) in his quest to identify a female corpse. But this, however, is no ordinary body. Depicting ghastly signs of torture, this corpse was discovered alongside with hundreds of skeletons in a secret gravesite used by a former military dictatorship.

Artur’s obsession with identifying the corpse leads him to discover that she is a left-wing theatre artist. Like many other political dissidents, this radical actress was arrested, interrogated, and removed from public records. Though it appears that her remains are only a few days old, Artur is quick to dismiss this notion, instead opting to believe that she has somehow been preserved for several decades.

Yet when he contacts her family, he is confronted by Fernanda (Rejane Arruda), a capricious young woman who claims that she is the artist’s daughter, and that her mother is still very much alive. Refusing to believe that this is mere coincidence, Artur digs deeper, and the search for answers only serves to distort the boundaries between appearance and reality.

Despite its intriguing premise, Corpo isn’t a particularly exciting or thought-provoking film. What’s worse, its potential is completely derailed by a frightfully poor translation of Portuguese into English subtitles. As a result, scenes riddled with stylistic subtext are rendered moot, leaving the English-speaking audience grasping for relevance.

From here, things grow progressively more complicated – and more tenuous – as Foglia and Rewald ditch traditional narrative techniques by placing elliptical flashbacks intended to fill in the story’s numerous gaps. Unfortunately, this brings about more questions than answers, and adds to further layers of bewilderment to the tale.

Indeed, the film deals with substantial philosophic and political issues, especially with regard to the military occupation of the 60s and 70s. Despite the historically relevance, these events tend to foster more confusion than symbolism, and could have easily been written out of the script.

That’s not to say there isn’t a bit of life left in Corpo.  

Medeiros gives a strong performance as he plays the gloomily competent coroner in search of truth. In his defense, Medeiros does elevate the quality of this film, but through no fault of his own fails to match the success of his other roles in O Veneno da Madrugada and Cabra Cega. That being said, we come to know Artur as a master of his craft, gracefully performing an autopsy on a young man as an artist works away at his canvas who is a suitable and likeable protagonist.

The make-up and special effects team deserve to be commended for achieving frightfully brilliant cadavers. Fans of CSI and morbid curiosity will be delighted to know the realism is certainly present in all its horrific splendour, so much so, you could taste the putrefying flesh as if you too were hunched over the slab with Artur.

But sadly, those looking to feast on a sumptuously innovative, complex psychological thriller are heartily advised to look elsewhere – there’s just a bite of banality here.

The White Ribbon (2009) Review 3

The White Ribbon (2009) Review

There’s a mystery afoot in Michael Haneke’s stark and downbeat new thriller. The White Ribbon has already collected a mantel’s-worth of awards, beginning with the Palm d’Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, and more recently, a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. In early February, The White Ribbon was nominated for two Oscars – Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Film – where it is the odds-on favourite to win the latter.

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The Trotsky (2009) Review 4

The Trotsky (2009) Review

The Trotsky is a movie that desperately wants to be a cult hit. Sure, it is definitely a bizarre comedy, but not one that is destined for cult status. It’s simply trying too hard to be strange rather than simply being the result of a unique vision of a filmmaker. The movie is still a decent comedy and not without its charms. Just don’t expect it to have much of a shelf life. 

Former Popular Mechanics for Kids host and current Club Apatow member Jay Baruchel stars as a misfit teen named Leon Bronstein. For reasons best known to himself, Leon has decided that he is the reincarnation of socialist leader Leon Trotsky. The opening scenes see him struggling to organize a failed strike for worker’s rights at his father’s company. As punishment, he finds himself placed in a public school where he immediately antagonizes the principal (Colm Feore) and joins the student union with dreams of revolution.

Of course, high school kids don’t care enough to form any sort of revolution. At least they don’t without a delusional teen brave enough to spur them on, right? Right?

The plot is predictable but reasonably satisfying. The message about teenage apathy is apt, even if a strong high school satire could have been made on that subject without all the socialist baggage. In the end, the movie is dragged down by its main conceit. There are strong performances across the board, Jacob Tierney directs with confidence, and the script has a handful of decent laughs. Unfortunately the central Leon Trotsky conceit feels like a forced attempt at making what is essentially a light comedy seem political and intelligent. It also doesn’t help that the entire project has been fashioned on Rushmore, but with Max Fisher as Trotsky. The deadpan humor, verbose dialogue, widescreen cinematography, and musical montages in The Trotsky come lifted from Wes Anderson wholesale, which can be more than a little distracting.

Fortunately the actors keep things interesting. Bauchel works his geeky charm for all it’s worth. Feore clearly has fun mugging his way through the villain role. Up-and-coming comedic actor Ricky Mabe (Zack And Miri Make A Porno) steals some scenes as the apathetic student union leader, and Robert Altman regular Michael Murphy lends the film some big screen legitimacy as a pothead lawyer. With this being a Montréal based production, director Jacob Tierney even sneaks in some cameo roles for the stars of last year’s hysterical Canuk comedy Who Is KK Downey (a movie with a legitimate shot at cult status) and their presence is welcome in any Canadian film. Strong acting keeps the movie afloat, but just barely.

The Trotsky is a cute idea for a movie and it never really ascends beyond that. True, it’s smart and silly, but bares resemblance to too many better subversive high school comedies to ever stand on its own. The movie won’t become the cult hit the filmmakers clearly set out to make simply because there’s nothing memorable enough about the project to inspire devotion from a loyal fanbase. This is no cinematic revolution.

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