Author: Andrew Parker

Review: The Longest Ride

Sophia (Britt Robertson) has been spending all her time at university refusing to party with her fellow sorority sisters in hopes of landing a potentially life changing internship at an art gallery in New York City. The Wake Forest senior has her life plans interrupted by an infatuation on the generically named Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood), a professional bullrider attempting to mount a career comeback after a nasty injury nearly killed him a year ago. On their first date, they rescue an elderly man (Alan Alda in the present, Jack Huston in flashbacks) from a car crash. They start a friendship with the man while he is recovering and he recounts to them the story of growing up Jewish in North Carolina in the 1940s, and the struggles to maintain a relationship with the woman he loved (Oona Chaplin). As far as Nicholas Sparks adaptations are concerned, The Longest Ride comes across as both a cheesy high point and an oddly ambitious project that understands perfectly well how corny it is. It’s not much more than a mash-up of previous Sparks novels (specifically Dear John and The Notebook), but that’s more of a fault in the source material than everyone else involved. It’s a shameless, unabashed rehash, but as shameless, unabashed rehashes go, it’s quite tolerable. Writer Craig Bolotin (Black Rain, Light It Up) can only do so much with...

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Review: Cut Bank

In the fair town of Cut Bank where we lay our scene (and the coldest place in America when winter hits), a local grease monkey (Liam Hemsworth), in over his head as an actor and truly showing how little charisma he has) seeks to leave small town life behind with his girlfiend (Teresa Palmer). One day while frolicking in a field and taking some pictures, the couple witnesses the murder of a acerbic postal clerk (Bruce Dern). The local lawman (John Malkovich) suspects something fishy, and he’s absolutely correct. It’s hard to really talk about why Cut Bank fails as a film to with any real degree of specificity. It’s biggest reveal – and a somewhat obvious one at that – happens just after the fifteen minute mark and the rest of the film surrounds the fall out, complications, and double crosses among a bunch of small town Montana residents with few likable, interesting, or sensible quirks between them. Cut Bank quickly devolves into a mad dash for people looking to collect on a reward for evidence leading to the arrest and prosecution of whoever killed the postman, who’s a government employee. It becomes one of those neo-noirs we thought we were done with in the post Pulp Fiction era of the ’90s. Director Matt Shakman has no sense of how to mete out the film’s twists and turns,...

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CFF 2015 Review: The Cocksure Lads Movie

An English band on the verge of stardom head to Toronto to start their North American tour. Before they’ve even left the airport in Toronto, the band has a huge disagreement and breaks up. The band members separate and spend the day in the city, taking in the sights and getting into plenty of odd situations. They start to understand what it means to be a band, but it may be too late for the group to get together before their first performance. There are few things worse than a misguided musical comedy, but the tone deaf stylings of The Cocksure Lads Movie might be one of the most dire examples. It doesn’t have an ear for comedic timing, a proper sense of setting, or even any catchy or amusing tunes. The film comes written and directed by Great Big Sea’s Murray Foster and has all the markings of the kind of Canadian film that gets made simply because one semi-famous guy knows a bunch of semi-talented guys that are willing to help sight unseen. The titular band comes in the vein of The Beatles or The Monkees; a fresh faced, boy-bandish bunch of blokes who play songs best suited to 1950s kitsch acts. Unfortunately for the film, they are an out of place (and inexplicably semi-successful) modern day band that’s jazzed to be making their first trip across the Atlantic to Toronto. But upon their arrival lead...

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Review: Tracers

The teen oriented actioner Tracers assumes that its viewers are too young to remember Point Break, too mainstream to have ever heard of District B-13, and that no one at all (sadly) saw Premium Rush. If one were to put all three films into a blender, they would get Taylor Lautner’s most recent stab at leading man status. It sounds like a recipe for disaster or a sub-par rip-off, but lo and behold, it’s actually far more fun and entertaining than it seems on a surface level. Lautner stars as Cam, a down on his luck NYC bike messenger who’s into the Chinese mob for an overdue $15,000 loan. One day on a run, he literally runs into Nikki (Marie Avgeropoulos), and a meet-cute happens before either has said a line of dialogue in the film. She runs with a pack of thieves that use parkour to carry off impossible missions. In need of cash and somewhat athletically inclined himself, Cam joins up with the team – which includes her Michael Shannon channelling brother (Rafi Gavron) and the team’s OG leader (Adam Rayner). Every twist in the screenplay from Matt Johnson (who previously wrote the enjoyably stupid scripts for Torque and Into the Blue) comes lifted from every movie listed above. How wholesale is the cribbing? The big twist is simply the inverse of the big reveal in Point...

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Review: Cinderella

Following the suspect Disney updating of Alice in Wonderland and the Sleeping Beauty mythos with Maleficent, it’s almost a breath of fresh air that Kenneth Branagh’s live action take on the animated fable Cinderella is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s not exactly ambitious or revisionist, but it’s gorgeously and dutifully mounted, well acted, and just interesting enough to warrant its own existence. In short, if you wanted another Cinderella tale, you got another Cinderella tale. If you’ve seen the 1950 animated version from Disney, you already know the story of this one almost word-for-word with the exception of the mice being unable to talk. The youthful and enchanting Ella (Lily James, who’s absolutely perfect in every way for this role) lost her loving mother (Hayley Atwell) at a young age, and her father (Ben Chaplin) died from illness on a business trip after remarrying. She has been forced to live with her loathsomely mean stepmother (Cate Blanchett, going surprisingly for understated menace instead of scenery chewing theatrics) and her buffoonish, bullying stepsisters (Holliday Granger, Sophie McShera) as a servant that’s to be kept in the attic and out of sight whenever she isn’t doing all of their chores and housework. Ella finds a spark of hope after briefly meeting Prince Charming (Richard Madden) and learns that he’s holding a traditional ball designed to help him find...

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Review: Chappie

Let’s not mince words: Chappie, the latest from District 9 and Elysium director Neill Blomkamp, is an atrocious, borderline unwatchable mess. There isn’t a single redeemable thing about it. How bad is it? I needed a full day away from thinking about every insipid, unoriginal, ludicrous, fraudulent, audience insulting moment of it to calm down. If I didn’t, this would have been 500 words of incoherent profanity. To stoop to that level is to essentially become the same film Blomkamp has produced. Its awfulness is rage inducing to an alarming degree, and yet it’s so bafflingly mounted that much like the similarly insane Winter’s Tale from last year, I almost want to tell bad movie aficionados to see it because it truly needs to be seen to be disbelieved. Be afraid of Blomkamp’s upcoming take on the Alien franchise. Be very afraid. Taking once again to the similarly futuristic streets of Johannesburg which set the stage for his first successful effort, Blomkamp starts off spinning a yarn about a war-torn hellhole of a city that has implemented a robotic police force to take the place of human police officers. (You know, like RoboCop.) Scout #22 (played by Sharlto Copley via motion capture, proving that he doesn’t need to actually be on screen to ruin a film anymore) has been banged up so much that it’s designated to the scrap...

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Stealing scenes: interview with Adrian Martinez, star of Focus

If character actor Adrian Martinez was actually a thief in real life and not just playing one in the movie Focus (in theatres everywhere this Friday), he’d definitely find the honour among his fellow grifters. Charming and boasting a boisterous laugh, he’s the exact opposite of the more taciturn and drily witted character he plays in his latest big screen outing. Martinez plays Farhad, one of the chief accomplices of confidants of Nicky (played by Will Smith), a master con artist who starts training a potentially gifted young upstart named Jess (Margot Robbie). With some help from Farhad and several other career criminals, Nicky trains Jess for a multi-layered and wide-reaching bait and switch operation at the Super Bowl, but he abandons her at the end of the job when he starts to have heavy romantic feelings for her. The two meet again in Argentina by chance when an F1 racing magnate (Rodrigo Santoro) brings Nicky in to help exact revenge on his competitors. Martinez, who has most recently appeared in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, American Hustle, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (just to name very few titles in addition to the half-dozen or so he has in various levels of production now), chatted with us during a recent promotional stop for his latest in Toronto. We talked about how con artists and actors aren’t that...

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