film review Archive

If Beale Street Could Talk

(, , , , , , , , , , , , , )
January 10, 2019 Vic Thiessen

As I created my list of top-ten films of 2018, I noted that it was an outstanding year for films about the black-American experience and that most of those films were made by black filmmakers. Among them were Carlos López Estrada’s Blindspotting (written by Daveed Diggs), Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give, Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You and Peter Farrelly’s Green Book. But the best was saved for last, with Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk, which I like even more than Moonlight, Jenkins’ Best Picture winner of 2016. Tish (KiKi Layne) is a […]

Mortal Engines

(, , , , , , , , , , )
December 21, 2018 Carmen Andres

What happens when Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens—the filmmakers of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit—get a hold of the futuristic steampunk world of Mortal Engines, a 2001 young adult novel by Phillip Reeve? You get an adventurous and visually gorgeous two hour movie with a touch of thought-provoking ideas. Set hundreds of years after the “Sixty Minute War,” during which the use of powerful quantum weapons resulted in geological upheaval, giant predator cities roam the Western world on wheels, ingesting smaller cities and devouring dwindling resources. Haunted by her mother’s murder, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) […]

Widows

(, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )
December 13, 2018 Vic Thiessen

Writer/director Steve McQueen has made one brilliant film after another (Hunger, Shame, 12 Years a Slave), all of them dark dramas about people in pain and people inflicting pain on others. Widows, advertised as a heist thriller, is actually another slow-moving dark drama focusing on people in pain (and people inflicting pain). The film also explores a variety of vital and topical themes with obvious good intentions. But while Widows enjoys near universal critical acclaim, I am uncertain about whether such good intentions can succeed with such cold and violent characters, a number of whom are meant to be sympathetic. […]

Green Book

(, , , , , )
December 7, 2018 Jerry L. Holsopple

Green Book is named for the guide book that told black travelers where they would travel safely as a person of color. When traveling, you could find places where you would be welcome to check into a hotel or eat at a restaurant. The story, borrowed from a real story, however is more a glimpse into the forming of an unusual friendship, than it is a critique of this type of travel. Take a highly cultured black man, trained as a classical pianist, who departs on a concert tour into the deep south. Put a working-class night club bouncer, modestly […]

The Crimes of Grindelwald

(, , , , , , , , , , , )
November 27, 2018 Carmen Andres

It seems hard to believe, but J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World now spans two decades. The first Harry Potter novel was published in 1998, with the film adaptation premiering three years later. The last Potter film was released in 2011, ending our big screen journeys into that universe until the 2016 premiere of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which launched the first of five—yes, five—planned spin-off films destined to push the Wizarding World well into its third decade. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald picks up a year or so after the 2016 film. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who’s […]

Shoplifters

(, , , , , , , , , , )
November 16, 2018 Vic Thiessen

Arriving in U.S. theatres next Friday (November 23) is this year’s winner of the Palme d’Or, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Shoplifters was written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, my favourite active Japanese director (Kore-eda has made such memorable films as After Life, Nobody Knows, Like Father, Like Son and After the Storm). Kore-eda’s films are invariably thought-provoking and deeply humanizing, two of my favourite film attributes. Shoplifters, which has been compared to Dickens’ Oliver Twist, tells the story of a poor family living in a tiny bungalow on the outskirts of Tokyo. Surrounded by apartment buildings, […]

The Old Man & the Gun

(, , , , , , )
November 2, 2018 Gordon Houser

David Lowery is unique, a director to watch. He’s made four films, all of them receiving critical acclaim but all of them different from one another—at least on the surface. His first, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, is a romantic crime drama a la Bonnie and Clyde. Pete’s Dragon, a remake of an animated musical, is a moving fantasy adventure tale. A Ghost Story made my top 10 list last year. Though different, his films have a relaxed quality and use misdirection. These are on display in his latest film. The Old Man & the Gun is based on a 2003 […]

First Man

(, , , , , , , , , , , )
October 26, 2018 Matthew Kauffman Smith

July 21, 1969 is an important day in Smith family history. My parents were watching Apollo 11 perform the first lunar landing. When astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon and later walked, my brother Kent, then 14 months, started walking across the room, marking his first steps on earth. The moon landing carried cultural significance as well and elevated Armstrong to superstar status. My parents experienced the event and its aftermath firsthand, and I heard about it and studied it in school. My kids, however, have studied little about space travel and the lunar landing. So when my parents, […]

Three Indie Gems to Watch For

(, , , , , , , , )
October 11, 2018 Vic Thiessen

The 2018 Edmonton International Film Festival (EIFF) was not as good as last year but still featured a number of excellent indie films, including two from Canada (which understandably has many films in the festival, but rarely does so well). The big surprise for me was the extraordinary coincidence of having three of my favourite five films of the 2018 EIFF concerned with senior high school classes (I’m generally not a big fan of high school films), though they could hardly be more different. Here is a brief look, in the order in which I liked them.   The Silent […]

Four documentaries by Errol Morris

(, , , , , , , , , , , , , )
October 3, 2018 Jerry L. Holsopple

Knowing what the truth is in a given situation seems to be particularly challenging, with news organizations being called false, and totally opposite narratives both being claimed as truth. I suggest a dosage of documentary films by Errol Morris for an antidote. He is fascinated by how we discover the truth. He believes there is an historical truth, even when it is hard to find. He suggests, “It is often said that seeing is believing. But we do not form our beliefs on the basis of what we see; rather, what we see is often determined by our beliefs. Believing is […]