Author: Trista DeVries

Review: Kubo and the Two Strings

Over the past 10 years, Laika has created some of the most stunning animation ever committed to screen. Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls. For their 10 year anniversary, they have released Kubo and the Two Strings, the story of a young man who lives a quiet life with this mother on a hillside. His mother spends her days in a catatonic state, and her nights telling stories she can’t quite remember. When Kubo (Art Parkinson) is out after dark one night, he is attacked, setting in motion a journey. Aided by Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), Kubo must go on a quest to find his father’s magical armour, the only thing that can protect him. Kubo and the Two Strings is a challenging and ambitious film for the audience it’s aimed at. It relies on deep emotion, often conveyed without dialogue, to tell its story. There are multiple sections of the film with no dialogue, relying on the audience’s interest in the (sometimes mundane) action to propel the story forward. The action is filled with dazzling visuals accompanying a script filled with heart. The central theme of Kubo is storytelling – what the story is, who is telling it, what our own stories mean to the trajectory of our lives. This is where Kubo lives and breathes. The film has less of the scary (sometimes campy) action...

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Hot Docs 2016 Review: The Slippers

If you’re alive and over the age of 25, you have probably seen — and fallen in love with — The Wizard of Oz. And if you’ve seen it, you have also fallen in love with Dorothy’s ruby slippers. In fact, it seems everyone is in love with the ruby slippers. The Slippers, a documentary by local director Morgan White, looks at the creation of the ruby slippers, how they were saved from obscurity by an intrepid costumer named Kent Warner, and how they have become some of the most coveted objects in movie memorabilia. The Slippers is part historical document, part mystery, and nearly pure heartbreak. The story behind these red shoes not only fascinates, but enlightens the fact that Hollywood didn’t start caring about its own history until it became profitable, further proving that the people who make movies aren’t disillusioned about the fact that they are not making art, they are making money. White’s directorial style proves to be the film’s greatest asset. He is obviously a fan of old Hollywood, but the film is not made from the perspective of a fan, it’s made from the perspective of an investigator. What the film is not, however, is the history of The Wizard of Oz, something it smartly steers quite clear of. Instead, this is the story of two people (Kent Warner and Debbie Reynolds) who understood...

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Review: The Huntsman: Winter’s War

The Huntsman: Winter’s War expands on the story of Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) in two parts. The story begins as Ravena, the evil Queen from Snow White and the Huntsman (Charlize Theron), warns her sister Freya (Emily Blunt) that she is pregnant by a man who is promised to another woman. When Freya’s baby is born, the father plays a trick that ends in the death of her child, turning her heart cold and unleashing the power to control ice and snow. Freya departs to take over much of the kingdom, capturing her subject’s children to raise as a lethal army of Huntsmen. The only rule is that in Freya’s kingdom there can be no romantic love (only the motherly kind, which of course always has pure motives). Enter Eric. Raised to be the best of the Huntsmen, he falls in love with Sara (Jessica Chastain), who becomes his wife. Their love is discovered, things go bad, and Eric is left devastated. (Now go and watch Snow White and the Huntsman to find out what happens in between.) In present day, Eric is asked by Snow White, now the Queen, to find Ravena’s mirror which was stolen during transport to a sanctuary where it would be safe and harm no one. Chaos ensues. Where Snow White and the Huntsman was a dark, grey, dour piece of cinema that...

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Review: Victor Frankenstein

When a young man (Daniel Radcliffe) is rescued from the circus (and subsequently healed of his “humpback” and hunch) by a rich, eccentric benefactor called Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy), he becomes embroiled in Frankenstein’s unholy project of reanimating corpses. It’s Frankenstein. You know the story. The problem with Paul McGuigan films is that while they are meticulously crafted, and often star incredibly talented people, the resulting films are always somehow hollow and half-baked. Victor Frankenstein is no different. It seems as though the film may have been conceived with the sole purpose of giving audiences exactly what they want: James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe in old-timey clothes, dirty streets and hoity accents. By and large, however, it is the Victor/Igor relationship that mostly works, especially in light of some very questionable subplots with a love interest for Igor (Jessica Brown Findlay) and a vengeful detective (Andrew Scott). Radcliffe’s quiet reserve is the perfect foil for McAvoy’s manic, yearning need to create something new, but then Radcliffe’s particular brand of childlike wonder and wounded young man currently has no equal. Of course, the story is a significant departure from the stoic, enveloping Gothic horror of Mary Shelley’s original text, but it is the Gothic horror the film mostly gets right. Given the amount of actual horror today’s audiences witness on a daily basis simply by watching the news, Gothic horror...

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How the internet killed film criticism

Film criticism is dead. At least that’s what traditionalists would have you believe. If education and experience in the field of writing no longer carry the same gravitas as previously, what are the criteria? The Internet swept in and levelled the playing field, giving anyone with an opinion a voice, creating a conundrum for those whose job it is to render an informed one. Of all the major advancements brought about by the Internet, blogging is the one that has, arguably, had the largest impact on film criticism. Since everyone has an opinion, and blogs and social media allow everyone to express it, dialogue about film has been both elevated and lessened. Hollywood — forever obsessed with profits and opening weekends — listens to the loudest consensus in an attempt to craft critic-proof films. Blogging, for better or worse, is the ever-expanding present and unarguable future of film criticism. However, major questions remain: should bloggers be painted with a single brush and vilified for their often lack of formal education in the field? Are the atrophying traditional print and television journalists to be revered as the only ones qualified to critique film? The answer, unlike most current movie reviews, is not a simple thumbs up or down. A Brief History of the Blog Before we get to blogging’s effect on the film industry, it’s important to explore its backstory....

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Review: The Walk

In the month leading up to the completion of World Trade Centre (WTC) South Tower in 1974, wire-walker Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) snuck a crew into both the North and South Towers and walked between them. The stunt, called “the artistic crime of the century,” was both fascinating and illegal. The Walk tells the story of Petit’s life and his journey to complete this infamous stunt. The Walk is a truly spectacular film. While many will find the first person framing device (Petit stands beside the flame of the Statue of Liberty and tells us his story in flamboyant thespian form) off-putting, the nearly real-time depiction of the walk, complete with internal commentary from the man himself, is a riveting experience that won’t be forgotten. It is a ‘70s style heist movie mixed with a surrealist style, and it mostly works. Zemeckis’ over-reliance on digital animation techniques, which he pioneered with films like The Polar Express and Beowulf, in the first act makes it difficult to buy into Petit’s story. Once Zemeckis departs from this and begins to bring a more realistic, less storybook style to the film, it becomes much easier to digest. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is excellent as Petit. Petit himself is animated and spoke almost entirely in hyperbole and superlatives, and Gordon-Levitt does an excellent job of capturing his zeal. The supporting cast is also excellent, if...

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Review: Fantastic Four

Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is a young science prodigy, but no one thinks so. After inventing a teleporter in his garage with his friend Ben (Jamie Bell), he is recruited to a young adult think tank school called the Baxter Institute to continue his work on the machine, which seems to be transporting items and sand between dimensions. Meeting up with similar child prodigies Sue Storm, her brother Johnny Storm and the ominous Victor von Doom, together they create a machine that can transport people and things across the dimensional barrier. Once successful, the project is being handed over to NASA and the young scientists can’t abide. They go to the other dimension, a little drunk and very eager. While there an accident occurs and they come back to Earth with strange powers. It is difficult to know where to start talking about Fantastic Four. The synopsis given up there is pretty much the first three-quarters of the movie, plodding along at an interminable pace, while the final quarter (coming with absolutely no lead up or explanation) descends into a slapstick fight reminiscent of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It begins interestingly enough with Ben Grimm finding a hiding Reed Richards cowering in a car in Ben’s family’s junkyard looking for a power converter to power the teleporter in his garage. This endearing intro is peppered with the kind of lazy...

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