Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days Of Horror – The Brood

Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar) is going through a tough divorce. She’s in a custody battle with her husband, Frank (Art Hindle) for their daughter Candace (Cindy Hinds). At the same time, she’s been seeing psychotherapist Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) at the Somafree Institute. Raglan uses a treatment he calls “psychoplasmics”, where patients let go of their emotions through changes in their bodies. And Nola definitely has some emotions she needs to release: urns tout she’s a very disturbed woman who was abused as a child by her mother.

Then Nola’s mother is murdered by a disturbing, goblin-looking thing while she’s looking after Candice for Frank. Next, Nola’s father is killed–also by a little strange creature.

At least it looks like Nola has responded to the treatment well. A little too well. Frank is convinced that something sinister is happening at Somafree.
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Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days Of Horror – The Mask

There’s a chill in the air, the leaves are changing and twilight falls upon us sooner and sooner. That means that it’s time for another 31 Days of Horror, my annual horror movie blog series. In honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary, the theme is Canadian horror movies.

Canada’s film industry has always been overshadowed by the Americans, who dominate screens big and small. That said, we’ve managed to put out some pretty amazing movies, and we’re particularly good at horror. To start things off, we have what’s considered Canada’s first horror movie: 1961’s The Mask, a.k.a. Eyes of Hell.
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Guillermo del Toro’s Monster Celebration

Photos by Suzy Lyster.

Synergy can be a wonderful thing: Guillermo del Toro has made Toronto his base of operations and has a new movie coming (The Shape of Water) awash in critical and commercial buzz. The Art Gallery of Ontario is consistently looking for ways to bring first-timers in and is open to non-traditional exhibitions. Put Del Toro and AGO together and you have “At Home with Monsters”.

The stunning exhibit, organized alongside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Art, aims to break into the Mexican director’s creative process. Mission accomplished: It actually feels like stepping inside Del Toro’s head.

“At Home with Monsters” features over 500 objects, many from Guillermo del Toro’s personal collection and others selected by the filmmaker from AGO’s storage. The exhibit gives us a glimpse of Del Toro’s Bleak House, his home-studio in L.A. The place is filled with strange art pieces that captured Guillermo’s imagination and inspired him at one time or another.

Most of the rooms in the exhibition are linked to Del Toro’s movies, and grouped according to the director’s favourite authors and subjects. Among them, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, outsiders, insects, Victoriana, death and the afterlife, and a striking corner dedicated to Frankenstein’s monster.

Comfort Creates Fear

Guillermo del Toro was at hand to introduce “At Home with Monsters” to the press alongside co-curator Jim Shedden. In perfect Del Toro form, the director came on defense of genre filmmaking and pre-establishment Disney (“Like Frank Capra, Disney is often misrepresented. Fantasia, Pinocchio and Sleeping Beauty contain moments of great darkness.”) In spite of the remarkable collecting items he has lend to the exhibit, he doesn’t think of himself as a hoarder (“I can live without all of this”).

Not one to shy away from sharing his opinion about today’s political climate, Del Toro stated that “comfort creates fear” and brought up Tod Browning’s Freaks: “In the movie, normal people are horrible while the freaks have a cohesive, functional society based on accepting one another. Judging yourself by the standards of perfection is torture.”

“At Home with Monsters” will open to the general public this Saturday, September 30th, and is set to close January 7th, 2018. Del Toro himself will be signing the companion book and related items tomorrow Wednesday 27th from 4pm to 9pm at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Some restrictions apply.

Sunday Matinee: The Lodger: A Story Of The London Fog

<img src=”http://www.prairiedogmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/sunday-matinee.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-83591″ />We’ve almost reached the end of September and that means that Sunday Matinee will be going on hiatus for the month of October as I’ll be doing 31 Days of Horror again. This year’s theme will Canadian horror movies in honour of Canada’s 150 anniversary.

Today’s Sunday Matinee is Alfred Hitchcock’s 1927 masterpiece <em>The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog</em>. This was Hitchcock’s third movie but his first thriller.
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<img src=”http://www.prairiedogmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Lodger.jpg” alt=”” width=”182″ height=”268″ class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-93723″ />The plot has a serial killer on the loose, attacking blonde women on Tuesdays. While all the other blonde women are scared and hide their hair, Daisy Bunting (June Tripp) isn’t afraid. She lives at home with her folks and her boyfriend Joe (Malcolm Keen) is a police officer. Her parents are renting a room and a young man (Ivor Novello), who matches the descriptions of the killer, who calls himself The Avenger, comes to rent the room.

Slowly Daisy starts to fall for the lodger who is quiet and strange. When Joe starts to resent the lodger and confronts Daisy she breaks up with him. Joe then starts to believe that the lodger is The Avenger.

This is very early Hitchcock but it’s excellent. Several themes in this film Hitchcock would reuse in several of films over the years. Blonde female leads, ominous camera angles, shadowy lighting and an innocent man falsely accused and on the run. Hitchcock would refer to this film as “first true Hitchcock film” and it certainly lives up to the title.

 

Bee Nation Hits the Airwaves this Sunday

The definition of a crowd-pleaser, Bee Nation (Sunday, CBC, 9pm) revolves around an event with tension, drama and personal achievement ingrained in its DNA: The First Nations Provincial Spelling Bee competition, the first ever for Saskatchewan’s aboriginal communities.

It’s Documentary 101: Director Lana Slezic pics a handful of kids from the Kahkewistahaw reserve in SK and shows their lives and their preparation for the event. The spelling bee pool consists of 4,000 words and there is no standard training, and the level of parental support fluctuates wildly.

The approach allows some distressing information to seep through, like the fact schools in reserves receive considerable less money per student, forcing administrators to make some hard decisions regarding their institutions’ curriculum.

The children Slezic picks as main subjects are all overachievers, but each has a personality of their own: Mikayla is your traditional good student; For William, the sole idea of failure is devastating; The bullied Savannah is a model of personal drive. In each case, their parental figures see education as a way out, a chance to see a world beyond the reserve.

Heartbreak is unavoidable for the scrappy underdogs (the winners of the provincial chapter get to travel to Toronto to compete against private school kids with tutors), but makes for great cinema. It’s hard not to root for these kids or share the excitement of their first flight.

Bee Nation feels a bit stately (it’s presented under the CBC Docs POV banner and it shows), but the power of the story overtakes the format.

Sunday Matinee: The Untouchables

<img src=”http://www.prairiedogmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/sunday-matinee.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-83591″ />Today’s Sunday Matinee is going to be a short one because I’m at the SaskExpo this weekend. Today’s Sunday Matinee is Brian De Palma’s 1987 hit The Untouchables.

The movie was a loose remake of the TV series and based on the supposed true book of the same name. Starring Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness and Robert De Niro as Al Capone the movie takes a fictional look at the fall of Capone. The movie is super stylish and violent with Sean Connery doing a crusty old cop and Ennio Morricone doing an awesome score.

Saskatoon Expo 2017 Day 1

The fourth annual Saskatoon Comic and Entertainment Expo kicked off today. This year’s line of media guests include Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, The Crow), John Rys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings, Raiders of the Lost Ark), Cas Anway (The Expanse), Ruth Connell (Supernatural) and Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk). Voice actors Maurice Lamarche and Rob Paulsen (Pinky and the Brain) are also be here.
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TIFF ’17 Day 9: The Lightning Round

Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz in Disobedience.

When a movie falls through the cracks, Planet S catches it in a yearly section called The Lightning Round.

Disobedience (UK, 2017): Understated drama about two women coming to terms with their sexuality within a Jewish Orthodox community. It doesn’t obey any of the clichés this subgenre has us used to.

Downsizing (USA, 2017): By far director Alexander Payne’s worst film to date, it has plots for about five movies, all undercooked.

Oh, Lucy! (Japan/USA, 2017: Slight and tonally awkward. I wasn’t expecting Josh Harnett (of all people) to pop up in a Japanese movie.

The Crescent (Canada, 2017): Imagine The Others, but boring and badly acted. It looks otherworldly, but desperately needed a better plot to go with the visuals.

The Summit (Argentina, 2017): There are two plots in this film: Political intrigue among Latin American countries, and the daughter of a president acting crazy. The former is far better than the later, but the movie focuses on the wrong one.

Cocaine Prison (Bolivia, 2017): Underdeveloped country chooses to punish drug traffic small offenders over the infinitely more powerful kingpins. It personalizes the problem without forgetting the context. Not bad.

Princesita (Chile, 2017): Twelve year-old girl lives in a cult, gets a taste of the outer world, wants out. Noteworthy allegory of the oppression of the patriarchy, with a truly horrifying, artfully shot sexual violence sequence.

Let the Corpses Tan (France, 2017): The story of a robbery gone wrong embodies everything wrong with the Midnight Madness program this year. Weird for weird sake, barely competent filmmaking and ultimately, a pointless enterprise.

mother! (USA, 2017): Masterpiece. We’ll be talking about it for years.

Happy End (France, 2017): Michael Haneke’s weakest effort in years. Family alienation was better dealt with in Caché.

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (USA, 2017): A glorified behind-the-scenes doc from the time Jim Carrey interpreted Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon, this doc has great footage but loses its way trying to pretend is deeper that it actually is.

The Shape of Water (USA, 2017): A beautiful, dark fairy tale from Guillermo del Toro featuring a man-fish and Sally Hawkins. It certainly has its virtues, but I was less blown away than most people here.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (USA, 2017): Martin McDonagh relies less on his sharp dialogue and more on his character building skills in this black comedy with a heart. Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell use their well-honed personas to great effect.

The China Hustle (USA, 2017): Apparently, investing in China is a terrible idea. Dense but important doc.

Borg/McEnroe (Sweden, 2017): In theory opposites, the cool-as-ice Swede and the hothead American came from the same place. Well-made and ntertaining, although I ended up wanting to watch a Vitas Gerulaitis biopic.

Revenge (France, 2017): We live in 2017, do we really need to take ideas from I Spit in Your Grave? This is not feminism, it’s exploitation disguised as feminism.

TIFF 2017 overall: Three planets. The movies were average, but the parties were fantastic.

TIFF ’17 Day 8: The Death of Stalin, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Pyewacket

The Death of Stalin.

The Death of Stalin (UK/USA, 2017. Dir: Armando Ianucci): Wondering what would be of Armando Ianucci after leaving Veep? Look no further. The brain behind The Thick of It and On the Loop, is back to mercilessly mock a new institution, in this case, the Communist Party leadership and their power squabble following the passing of Comrade Joseph Stalin.

The best positioned to replace the mustached genocidal maniac is Lavrently Beria (Simon Russell Beale), chief of the secret police apparatus. Beria’s callous behavior rubs the rest of the Stalin administration the wrong way and soon a team of rivals targets him, although inner struggles make the task more difficult than it should.

While the plot sounds serious and the body count is considerable, Ianucci’s scalpel-sharp dialogue and some brilliant slapstick makes The Death of Stalin the funniest film of the festival by a mile. Actors not known for generating laughs like Steve Buscemi and Jason Isaacs demonstrate killer comic timing, supported by experts in the field Jeffrey Tambor and Michael Palin. Everything about this movie works, particularly depicting the dictator’s inner circle as a frat house. Hilarious and unsettling. Four planets. Distribution: Presumably theatrical.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (USA, 2017. Dir: Angela Robinson): This is the year of Wonder Woman: Never mind the two DC Comics film with the Amazonian at the forefront, here comes a biopic about her creator and the two women who inspired him.

William and Elizabeth Marston (Luke Evans and Rebecca Hall) are a couple of academics focused on the female mind. Rational to the extreme, their relationship is tested when William becomes infatuated with Olive (Bella Heathcote, The Neon Demon), his teaching assistant. Olive is not your average college student. Her open mind and sweet disposition soon turns her into a component of the Marston family. As they explore the limits of their polyamorous bond, the idea of a powerful woman with superpowers and a taste for bondage begins to take shape.

Professor Marston is an effective feminist film that benefits from strong turns by Evans, Hall and Heathcote. That said, it tends to state the obvious, as everybody feels the need to verbalize their feelings at all times. Regardless, it’s worth your time. Three planets. Distribution: Opens October 13th.

Pyewacket (Canada, 2017. Dir: Adam MacDonald): Pyewacket is the kind of movie that makes you wonder why would Telefilm support this (shades of the unwatchable Teen Lust). Reportedly a horror flick, Pyewacket is at heart a film student short stretched into 90 minutes. And that’s the least of its problems.

A goth teen who dabbles in witchcraft (Nicole Muñoz, in a less than stellar turn) gets mad at her grieving mother (Laurie Holden, The Walking Dead) and conjures a demon to get her killed. Eventually (and much later than you would think), the daughter-of-the-year comes back to her senses, but undoing the spell may be more difficult than expected.

I don’t know what I found more annoying: The cliché dialogue (teen angst has never been this flat), the across-the-board terrible acting (Laurie Holden excepted, despite her character’s inconsistency), the belief inexplicable, sudden noises are scary per se, or the hilariously silly conclusion. Pyewacket is a step back for Backwoods director Adam MacDonald. One planet. Distribution: Presumably theatrical.

TIFF ’17 Day 7: Suburbicon, Eye on Juliet

Matt Damon and Noah Jupe in Suburbicon.

Suburbicon (USA, 2017. Dir: George Clooney): There is no way Suburbicon could be considered an average film. It’s topical (fear of the “other” prevents us from noticing the true monsters in our society) and is directed by proven commodity George Clooney, from a script from the Coen Brothers. In spite of it all, it doesn’t add to more than the sum of its parts.

Matt Damon taps into his dark self as Gardner, a presumably average suburban dad in the 50’s. His home is invaded by a couple of thugs and his wheelchair-bound wife (Julianne Moore) is an unintended casualty of the break-in (or is she?). Meanwhile, their entire neighborhood is up in arms because a black family has moved in, oblivious to the horrors taking place a few doors down.

The film could be described as a mix of Fargo and Blood Simple by the way of Tim Burton. It’s undeniably entertaining but is hard to shake the feeling we have seen all this before. Furthermore, Clooney’s films are often staged to a fault and this one feels particularly airless. Oscar Isaac as a wily claims investigator provides the one breath of fresh air in this otherwise hermetic cautionary tale. Three planets. Distribution in Canada: Theatrical.

Eye on Juliet (Canada, 2017. Dir: Kim Nguyen): After the hard-hitting Rebelle and the fierce Two Lovers and a Bear, it’s no surprise writer/director Kim Nguyen has chosen a gentler piece as a follow-up. Eye on Juliet is a romantic drama in which technology acts as an accessory to amorous pursuits in unexpected ways.

Recently dumped by his girlfriend, Gordon (Joe Cole, Green Room) is on the brink of a nervous breakdown. His behavior has started to affect his job operating security robots remotely. In the midst of his pity party, Gordon becomes smitten with a young Arabic woman who hangs out near the pipeline his bots are protecting. The girl’s parents have arranged her wedding, unaware that she has a boyfriend and hopes to escape to Europe with him. Particularly susceptible to love stories, Gordon attempts to help them, but his involvement causes more trouble than good.

Even though the premise has potential and the visuals rise to the occasion, Eye on Juliet leans heavily on narrative clichés and corniness. The “growing tension” hardly registers and the final five minutes are blatantly borrowed from a 90’s travelogue classic. The film is not without merits, but it could have used a better story. Two and a half planets. Distribution in Canada: Theatrical.