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Articles by Mark Barber

Reviews

Resistance

Jonathan Jakubowicz’s Resistance comes at a time of surging interest in more action-oriented films relating to the Holocaust, World War II, anti-Semitism, and Nazism.  Unlike recent media like Amazon’s Hunters and HBO’s The Plot Against America, Resistance doesn’t participate in any overt historical or genre revisionism, though it is hard to ignore its slight devotion to the thriller genre.

Reviews

Luba

Caley Wilson’s Luba explores the intersection of single motherhood, addiction, and abuse.  While its heart is in the right place, Luba struggles to give equal and equitable attention to all of these issues, earnestly yet questionably prioritizing some over others.

Reviews

Anthem of a Teenage Prophet

The melodic title of Robin Hays’ Anthem of a Teenage Prophet suggests, at the very least, a kind of experimental approach to tragedy and trauma.  Instead, this adaptation of Joanne Proulx’s award-winning novel Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet is surprisingly familiar;  replete with the traditional rebellious drug-fueled angst we’ve come to expect from cinematic representations of teenage life in the suburbs.

Reviews

Harpoon

The intersection of comedy and thriller do not often mix well, especially in survivalist narratives.  But Harpoon, even with its familiar survivalist tropes on display, evenly balances the two in an intense, frequently unpleasant, but endlessly watchable nightmare-at-sea.

Reviews

Mine 9

Eddie Mensore’s environmental thriller Mine 9 is a succinct depiction of trapped coal miners in Appalachia.  Coming at a time when the preservation of the coal mining industry is improbably and invariably debated, thanks to a political climate incapable of addressing an alternative to fossil fuels, Mine 9 satisfyingly addresses worker’s safety, while interrogating large corporations who allow fatal accidents like this to happen.

Reviews

Astronaut

Sending the unlikeliest of people into space–from Jason Voorhees to Homer Simpson–has always been a crowd-pleasing move.  So it should come as no surprise that Shelagh McLeod finds the same results in her feature directorial debut Astronaut, which sends seventy-one year old Richard Dreyfuss into the heavens, in perhaps the Oscar winner’s best performance in years.

Reviews

Blackbear

The synopsis of Blackbear vaguely reminds one of the 2006 film Annapolis–a film that, if you recall (and if so, good for you), was marketed as a recruit training film in the vein of A Gentleman and an Officer, but was actually, secretly, a boxing film.  Blackbear is similar: it starts off as a war film, with the two central characters as captives by ISIS, only to quickly become a boxing film within the film’s…

Reviews

Man Running

Gary Burns’ Man Running, which modestly premiered at the 2018 Whistler Film Festival, follows Jim (Gord Rand) as he participates in a 24-hour marathon.  The laborious journey he takes is vertiginously interspersed with flashbacks and hallucinations, suggesting a double struggle for the main character: one physical, one emotional.

Reviews

Finding Hygge

Finding Hygge explores the Danish concept of hygge, which a quick Google search tells me has to do with comfort, wellness, and happiness.  I was forced to Google, because at no point in this ninety-minute long documentary is the concept distilled or defined in a coherent manner.

Reviews

A Breath Away

A Breath Away emerges in the midst of a growing number of films dedicated to portraying the horrors of environmental disaster.  Timely as it is horrifying, A Breath Away is an emotionally-charged thriller that broadly follows the algorithmic pattern set by previous disaster films, and has little to say ideologically about its central issues.