Heaven Is for Real

By: Addison WylieHeavenIsForRealposter

Heaven Is for Real is – so far – my favourite recent faith-based flick in a year full of religion centric movies.  It’s mild-mannered and shoots for attainable goals, which makes Randall Wallace’s movie all the more amiable.  Another major plus is how there’s no preachy hidden agenda detailing the motivations of the movie.  Religion serves as a prominent theme in Heaven Is for Real, but its only to add depth to the main struggles.

Heaven Is for Real is based on pastor Todd Burpo’s true story involving his four-year-old son Colton having a vision of the pearly gates and the bliss that awaits beyond them.  The encounter happens during an operation on Colton’s burst appendix, but he remains breathing.  He lies still in a closed off operating room, yet claims to have seen his father (played by Greg Kinnear) and his mother (played by Kelly Reilly) in tears and having their own heartbreaking moments.

With this new information, Todd doesn’t know how to comprehend this newfound knowledge.  He gets frustrated with the man upstairs during Colton’s turmoil, but he doesn’t question his faith.  He simply doesn’t know what to do with it.  Is this a sign?  Is it an event to share to his dependable Nebraskan community of followers? Continue reading

The One I Love

By: Addison WylieTheOneILoveposter

Every moviegoing year has a movie like The One I Love.  That one movie where everyone who sees it unanimously and silently agrees to keep quiet about it.

It’s a neat decision to witness.  It shows that the average audience still loves a challenge and still loves to keep a secret, hoping that their friends can one day see the movie and join the club.

Just as many who have seen and loved Charlie McDowell’s peculiar lil’ indie, I’m also going to keep details at a sparse supply.  I will reveal there are two leads.  A man and his wife, played nicely by Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss.  I’ll also reveal that their marriage is hitting a bumpy patch due to a lack of spontaneity, forgiveness, and trust.  Additionally, a therapist (played perfectly by Ted Danson) suggests that they head off on a getaway to a recommended house just outside of town, but just far enough away from other people.  That’s all you’ll hear from me regarding the plot. Continue reading

TIFF 2014: Into the Drink

Atlantic

By: Addison Wylie

For a while, Atlantic. was the most relaxed I had felt at this year’s festival.  Incredibly shot sequences of Fettah windsurfing across the infinite drink eased me into a trance.  Its angelic score cradling the audience is the final nuance Atlantic. has that completely sends us into adoration with these moments of Jan-Willem van Ewijk’s tranquil tale.

Alas, Atlantic. follows a bothersome and oddly common theme at this year’s TIFF.  Atlantic. eventually drifts away from its strengths and heads straight into boredom.

It’s a rare occasion where character development actually hurt Ewijk’s work.  There’s too much of it bogging down an otherwise weirdly interesting “man with no name”.  Actor Fettah Lamara knows how to work with his role of a wanderer and knows how to draw movie goers in when he’s having to utilize survival skills.  He doesn’t fare so well when he has to flesh this stranger out through the character’s family and acquaintances.  This maybe could’ve worked if filmmaker Jim Jarmusch took the reigns from Ewijk, but it’d still be a long shot. Continue reading

Bears

By: Addison WylieBearsPoster

I’ve had to alter my evaluating criteria for DisneyNature.  It’s clear the sub-studio has no interest returning to the quality of earlier docs like Earth and Oceans anytime soon.  Instead, families receive a cutesy story set to live action B-roll of animals in their natural habitats.

As someone who appreciates the importance of these wildlife documentaries, I find it tough to embrace this type of manufactured product.  DisneyNature’s African Cats left me feeling robbed, and I strained to muster a smile through Chimpanzee.

Well, as the saying goes, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”.  After observing over the years of how these films are set up, I now rate them accordingly to a couple of guidelines.  (A.) Did filmmakers Alistair Fothergill and Keith Scholey distract me away from my desired expectations with other strengths, and (B.) does the celebrity narrator appropriately fit?  If we look at those two questions and apply them to DisneyNature’s latest endeavour Bears, Fothergill and Scholey surprisingly pull through. Continue reading

TIFF 2014: Short Cuts with Sorrow

The Underground cover

By: Addison Wylie

We return to the Short Cuts Canada programmes to take a look at a few films that aren’t afraid to get “real”. Well, “real” in surreal surroundings and under crazy circumstances.

These three shorts may be tales out of a book (certainly in the case of The Underground), but the emotion conveyed is what makes these stories come alive. They hit and miss various points, but the risks these filmmakers take are nothing short of impressive.

On to the shorts! Continue reading

Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie

By: Addison WylieAVGNposter

Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie is fanfare to its core.  It’s also a movie that was funded by fans through a highly successful Indiegogo campaign manned by filmmakers/screenwriters Kevin Finn and the Nerd himself James Rolfe.

By avid YouTube subscribers and other online viewers having such an integral role in the making of Finn and Rolfe’s film, I’m not completely surprised to see the finished product completely pander to that crowd.  As someone who has watched practically every one of the Nerd’s reviews online, I was satisfied from a fan’s point-of-view.

What I’m disappointed with is how Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie doesn’t try to be more than just fanfare when other recent niche films have done so quite easily. Continue reading

TIFF 2014: Wet Noodle

Wet Bum

By: Addison Wylie

Wet Bum features a superb performance by TIFF Rising Star Julia Sarah Stone.  Her helpless presence draws us in, as if we feel the need to lend her a shoulder to cry on.  But, it’s her earnest portrayal of fourteen-year-old outsider Sam that signifies the puzzling phases of fitting in among your peers, and trying to swallow the lump in your throat when you’re singled out for being different.

The film that surrounds Stone is limp, but isn’t without strengths.  For instance, Wet Bum’s writer/director Lindsay MacKay knows how to make elements of a story ambiguous.  For a while, we don’t know if Sam’s relationship with her slightly older lifeguarding teacher is cute or cautionary.  And, Craig Arnold is especially good at crafting his performance around those moments of “what if?”.

MacKay also does a comparable job at disguising her film and not falling for usual coming-of-age tropes.  It comes off as a legitimate character drama about a meek high schooler instead of an overt quest to find herself. Continue reading

Toronto After Dark’s Frightful First Wave

ABCsstill

By: Addison Wylie

The Toronto International Film Festival may be in full swing, but Toronto After Dark shall not fall by the wayside.

On September 4, the eclectic festival – known for hosting screenings that would please any sort of genre fan – released their first wave of films.  The list has it all: toothy zombies, time traveling, werewolves, Elijah Wood, and two highly anticipated follow-ups to recent cult favourites.

The ten revealed titles can be viewed here.  But, before you click away, these are the flicks I’m looking forward to the most so far. Continue reading

TIFF 2014: A Special Place

In Her Place

By: Addison Wylie

At TIFF ’12, a cold film named Krivina made its mark on the circuit.  Directed by Igor Drljaca and produced by Albert Shin, Krivina was a film with a strong, silent lead.  It tested my patience with meandering stretches, but halfheartedly won me back with a shocking twist I didn’t see coming.

Smashcut to present day and the roles have switched with In Her Place – Shin is now the writer/director and Drljaca is a co-executive producer.

Now, this is more like it!  If Krivina showed audiences what sort of filmmaking Shin and Drljaca are interested in, In Her Place shows movie goers how their approach gains more momentum when the story and the characters are expressive. Continue reading

TIFF 2014: The NFB’s Mixed Bag of Short Cuts

MoultonCover

By: Addison Wylie

TIFF’s Canadian roots are more than prominent in the Short Cuts Canada programmes.  Alexander Rogalski and Magali Simard – two of the festival’s programmers – have selected what they feel are the cream of the short form crop.  They’ve included filmmakers with impassioned voices and integral visions, and they’ve even included some touched up classics.

It’s expected that The National Film Board of Canada would be involved in this showcase somehow.  Their contribution to the Canadian film industry has shown how movies can be considered a form of commentary and art.

The shorts they have included in Short Cuts Canada are a real mixed bag quality-wise, but most lean towards greatness. Continue reading