Author: Nicole Frangos

Review: The Choice

Travis (Benjamin Walker) is a country boy from a small, coastal town in North Carolina. Gabby (Teresa Palmer) is a silver spoon-fed debutante and Travis’s new neighbour. They are both in relationships of varying commitment. They meet, hate each other initially, inevitably fall in love, and then have to make a choice: do they choose love? This is the whole plot of The Choice, essentially. The Choice is based on the 2007 Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. This should tell you a lot. Overheard during the screening of this film: “Maybe this will be the Nicholas Sparks movie that will change my mind about Nicholas Sparks movies.” No. It will not. Instead, it will numb your mind, make you cringe and laugh out loud—not because moments are genuinely funny, but because the dialogue is so ridiculous and corny there’s nothing else to do. As expected, there is also a heavy-handed illness of some sort which is intended to touch your soul but will actually make you roll your eyes. The movie is 111 overdrawn minutes of Travis and Gabby falling in love—and not in an interesting or passionate way. Not much else happens here. There are, however, plenty of requisite cheesy lines and “revealing” conversations between characters. So many unnecessary conversations between characters! Characters like: the receptionist at Travis’s veterinary clinic; the nurse at the hospital where Gabby is an intern;...

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The TFS List: food porn

What is it about food and sex that connects the two so intrinsically? Is it the pleasure principle? Food and sex are so intertwined that sometimes it’s impossible to choose between them. For example, see the infamous study that suggests 52-percent of women would choose chocolate over sex. While said results may sound a bit dubious, one thing is for certain: it’s possible to extract as much pleasure from licking the cream from a delicious cannoli as it is from…well, you get the idea. The term “food porn” nods to this culinary/sexual conflation — food porn meaning the very sexy depiction of mouth-watering fare that excites your taste buds, similar to how something erotic can get you going. Movies are particularly shameless purveyors of food porn. Sometimes when viewing a film, the food looks so good, and gets one so riled up, you’re basically clawing your way to the fridge for some sweet release. This month at Toronto Film Scene, we salute the films that arouse our salivary glands. Julie and Julia (2009) Julie and Julia is very self-aware food porn, because, in addition to watching the eponymous characters create, and recreate, dish after dish of delicious-looking French food, both Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and Julie Powell (Amy Adams) wax poetic about how much they enjoy food. Take this quote from Julie: “I cooked artichokes with hollandaise sauce, which is melted...

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Best of EUFF 2015 Review: Liza, the Fox-Fairy

Liza (Monika Balsai) is a naïve, lonely nurse who wants love more than anything else. For the last 12 years she has cared for Marta, the widow of a former Japanese ambassador. Marta’s apartment is haunted by the ghost of Tomy Tani (David Sakurai), a Japanese singer from the 1950s and Liza’s only friend. On her 30th birthday, Liza is inspired by a Japanese romance novel and heads to a burger joint to fall in love—and then things start to change. Liza slowly gains more confidence and begins to date, but all of the men she dates are killed in horrible accidents. Convinced that she has turned into a fox-fairy demon (according to Japanese mythology, all men who fall in love with a fox-fairy die soon after), Liza tries to break the curse. The premise of this movie is interesting and unique—notably, it is set in a fictionalized version of Hungary in the 1970s. The unique combination of this setting and Japanese mythology seems like it would make a delightful surprise of a movie. Unfortunately, that is not the case. This movie was disappointing. It has such an interesting premise, and the main character is occasionally endearing, but unfortunately it fails to be a consistently engaging film. The dark humour that pervades the film, in the deaths of Liza’s suitors, is neither particularly dark nor humorous. There are a...

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Feels like the first time: The timelessness of Some Like It Hot

Many films we rewatch as adults are muddied by the nostalgia of youth. Movies you enjoyed in the late ’80s can age terribly — rewatching these beloved works years later can be disheartening. Some jokes fail the test of time, effects age poorly and what was once edgy can be terribly trite by today’s standards. Then there are movies we rewatch for years that comfort us, bringing us back to simpler times. For some, Pee Wee Herman movies are incessantly rewatchable for this exact reason, as well as some of John Hughes’s efforts. And then there are those that withstand the test of time. These films are so good that no matter how much time has elapsed, viewers new and old alike enjoy them. In 1959, Billy Wilder directed one such film that remains funny and thoroughly enjoyable almost 60 years later. Some Like It Hot has aged gracefully; it possesses everything you could possibly want in a film: mobsters, romance, comedy and men in drag. Set in 1929, it tells the story of two Chicago musicians (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) who accidentally witness the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. To escape the gangsters who want them silenced, they disguise themselves in drag and join an all-female band heading to Miami. Once on the road, hijinks ensue when both men fall for the band’s ukulele player and main singer,...

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Review: The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight is Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film and his first official foray into Western territory. The film’s events take place during a brutal blizzard in Wyoming a few years after the American Civil War. Bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) is rushing toward Red Rock, Wyoming, to collect pay for his fugitive prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Along the way he encounters another bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and the supposed sheriff of Red Rock (Walton Goggins). The party seeks shelter from the storm at a stagecoach stopover where they meet four strangers who are also waiting out the blizzard. Over the next few hours we learn that everything is not as it seems. Off the bat, it’s necessary to mention that everyone in this movie is great. Tarantino favourites like Russell, Jackson, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth are always guaranteed to perform—and they definitely do in this movie, with each one owning his role. But the real standouts are Leigh, as the fugitive Daisy Domergue, and Channing Tatum. Leigh’s fiery and grotesque performance is awesome; she’s able to provoke laughs from the audience while maintaining a sense of danger and desperation when necessary. Meanwhile Tatum, in a role I won’t mention so I don’t spoil it, is surprisingly great. He’s proven to be a gifted comedian, but in this film he’s able to be someone very different...

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Review: Sisters

When their parents decide to sell their Orlando home and move into an “adult community,” sisters Kate (Tina Fey) and Maura (Amy Poehler) are not happy. To the Ellis sisters, the house is an emblem of their family and the source of many happy memories—and for the unemployed, homeless Kate, it’s where she planned on living with her daughter. While cleaning out their childhood bedrooms, Kate and Maura decide to throw one more epic house party. If all goes to plan, the sisters will successfully relive their fleeting youth, get the straight-laced Maura laid, and potentially thwart the buyer’s plans. The party quickly escalates into a disaster of epic proportions, forcing the sisters to confront some of their shortcomings and fears, and raising the question: what is home? Fans of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will be happy to see their beloved duo on the screen again. They’re just so great together. Usually Fey takes on the role of the straight man, while Poehler gets to let her freak flag fly. In this film, however, these roles are reversed and it still works. Watching Sisters, you get the sense that it would be just as fun to hang around these two women for a few hours and listen to them shoot the shit. A great supporting cast helps them out too—Ike Barinholtz as Maura’s love interest is sweet and endearing, John Leguizamo...

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Women in the male-driven comedy (Or: Can you really teach a man-child to change?)

There is a scene in Ted (2012), which, three years after watching it, still sticks out. In it, Mark Wahlberg’s anthropomorphic teddy bear hosts some prostitutes at Wahlberg’s apartment and one of the working girls defecates on the floor. Cue the next scene, in which Mila Kunis (Wahlberg’s live-in girlfriend) picks up the shit while Mark Wahlberg screams in a corner. And with that, we have the literal representation of a one-dimensional female character putting up with an overgrown man-child’s crap. I loved Ted when I first saw it. I thought it was a funny movie, and it worked for me, especially as a huge Family Guy fan. I’m not an overly sensitive movie watcher and I’m rarely offended by comedies. However, there’s a specific trope that keeps appearing, particularly in comedies, and, to borrow a phrase from Peter Griffin, it “grinds my gears.” Last year, Saturday Night Live’s Cecily Strong did a perfect send-up of this trope, potentially even coining the term: “the one-dimensional female character in a male-driven comedy.” The term sums up this cliché perfectly. We see it all the time in male-driven comedies, where the main male character is fully fleshed-out, with complex characteristics, while the main female’s features are… well, she has none really, other than being ridiculously hot. Oh, and fun; she has to be fun, not a nag, because nags are a drag and don’t want to have sex. Other...

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