Crimes of Mike Recket (Bruce Sweeney) – I was able to catch this little gem of a film during TIFF, and Mind Reels were even able to catch up with the director, Bruce Sweeney, for a quick chat, as well, so I’ll count myself doubly lucky on this one! The film stars Nicholas Lea in the title role, and his performance alone is enough to make this clever film one to watch. However, he’s also surrounded by a talented cast, and Sweeney’s ability to play both director AND writer on this one gives the film a solid, unified look and feel. I don’t even know how to categorize this one, exactly. It’s an intelligent and witty noir/dark comedy/crime drama, and the way the pieces are laid out for us, coupled with Lea’s affable and charming portrayal of the often-foolish Recket, combined are all what landed this film on my best list for 2012!
Hitchcock (Sacha Gervasi) – I knew next to nothing about this film going into it, and while I already loved the cast and was intrigued by the subject matter, I really had no idea how much I would truly enjoy this film. From start to finish, I allowed myself to be swept up in the saga of bringing Psycho to the big screen but, more astonishingly, I was completely mesmerized by the love story going on between Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) and his wife, Alma (Helen Mirren). To me, Hitchcock was an absolutely fabulous examination of the creative process that both characters went through – especially at that particular time – and also what it takes for a marriage to survive, grow, and thrive, no matter what the circumstances are surrounding it. I didn’t know how things turned out in real life for the couple, so I was often at the edge of my seat, willing the pair to find their way forward together. The film took me on a journey I wasn’t expecting, and that’s as much as one could ask from any film, really. Hitchcock, I am happy to say, excelled in that area – and then some! Additionally, I giggled with glee every time that famous profile drifted onto the screen. Amazing.
ParaNorman (Chris Butler, Sam Fell) – I can’t really express how much I enjoyed this little flick! Went into it just looking for something cute and Halloween-y, and came out shocked at how thoroughly I adored it! It was absolutely cute and very Halloween-y, but I had not prepared myself for how hilarious it would be (there’s a line right near the end that had the audience erupt in applause – not a common scene for an animated flick), nor how sweet, nor did I think there would be some awesome horror in-jokes tossed in there for us adults! I love how it was filmed (I want my own wee Norman figure), I loved the story, the characters…everything about it makes me smile even now. And that can only be a great thing!
The Last Will and Testament of Rosiland Leigh (Rodrigo Gudino) – Tim and I stumbled into this creepy little film because of the booth that was set up for it at Fan Expo. Actually, it was the incredible poster that first caught our eye – then the trailer – then the booth itself. We made a date to chat with director/writer Rodrigo Gudino, and were able to check out the film early on, to boot. What a remarkable accomplishment! Gudino gives us chills without gore, and for the most part, we only see Aaron Poole on screen as Leon, a young man who goes back home after his mother dies to settle her affairs. We watch him react to things we can’t see, we hear sounds but don’t know where they came from, and there are so many God-forsaken angel statues in that house that you can’t help but be creeped out the whole time Leon is in there! It’s CREEPY! It’s a creepy film! See it whenever you can!
Sushi Girl (Kern Saxton) – I know I already raved about this film in my original review, so I won’t say a whole lot here. Tony Todd is an incredible presence no matter what he’s saying or doing. Mark Hamill is freaking disturbing as Crow – like, he’s funny, and then you kind of stop laughing, because he doesn’t really seem very funny anymore. And really, just – welcome back Noah Hathaway! The script is brutal, intelligent and tight, not a shot is wasted, the atmosphere is so tense you could choke on it, and every character is full and complete. Maybe above all else that I loved about this film, though, is that it introduced me to the incredible talent that is Courtney Palm. Even when the focus is not on her, you never forget that she’s there. I don’t have words for how amazing I thought her performance was, actually. I’m excited to see where she shows up next!
Finding Truelove (Samuel Kuhn) – This was the first documentary I watched as part of the Hot Docs line-up in 2012, and it was far and away the most fun I’ve had in a long time. The premise is simple enough: A group of buddies become so obsessed with the graduating class from an old yearbook they found at a Value Village that they decide to crash the class of 1990′s 20th high school reunion. And these fools film everything that happens along the way. Now, to be clear, Andrew, Michael and Clay did not graduate in 1990. Nor did they ever attend that school. They buy tickets to the reunion online and roadtrip from Portland down to Chico, California in search of one feather-banged mystery in particular, Timothy Truelove. It’s a love letter to all things 80′s – from a wonderful group of guys who hadn’t even been born yet. But what they might lack in experience, they more than make up for in passion and excitement, and by the time it’s over, you’ll want these guys crashing your high school reunion, too! I loved every ridiculous moment of this ride, from start to finish! (Also, the review I wrote initially may have helped the boys add even more to the film, in the end!)
Mr. Pip (Andrew Adamson) – I raved about this one when I saw it at TIFF. I felt like it had changed me in some way, and even now, months later, I still feel that to be true. Hugh Laurie is mesmerizing as usual, but with a depth of soul that is truly heart-breaking to watch. Seeing the people of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea brought to life, and their story told on screen, was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had while watching a film. Breaking it down to one story – about a girl who becomes transfixed by Dickens’ Great Expectations while it’s being read at school by the only white man left in the village – is why this film will stay with me, on some level, for the rest of my life.
Ghost Graduation (Javier Ruiz Caldera) – After having read the synopsis about this one, I realized it was one of those films that could go either way – it could be really amazing, or it could fall flat. Nevertheless, I gamely went to my screening for it at TIFF – and was thrilled to see just how much fun this flick ended up being! Ghost Graduation follows the adventures of a teacher, Modesto (Raul Arevalo) who can’t seem to hold down a job – or his sanity – because he sees dead people pretty much wherever he goes. Including in his therapist’s office. So when he ends up at a school plagued by the pranking spirits of some former students, Modesto comes to realize that he might actually be of some use to this particular school, after all. Imagine if you will, what it would have been like if the 5 cliched kids in the Breakfast Club had died in a fire in that school library while they were locked in there serving detention. And now they’re doomed to walk the halls of their high school – unseen by anyone but one another – for eternity. But then along comes Modesto – a man who can see them, hear them, talk to them like regular people…even teach them. For Modesto realizes that spirits who remain on Earth usually have some unfinished business of some sort that’s holding them back from moving on to the next realm. So what if his mission in life is to teach these lost souls, and help them finally graduate from high school? Ghost Graduation is a fun romp from start to finish. It simultaneously pays a loving, nostalgic homage to all those 80′s films we grew up with (particularly anything made by John Hughes), while also finding its own voice and creating something so enjoyably unique that it will appeal to audiences of all ages today. Rumour has it that Hollywood wants to remake it their way, but if you can get your hands on this delightful Spanish original, you won’t be disappointed!
Blackbird (Jason Buxton) – Oh man, this is another one of those movies that stays with you long after the credits have rolled. Another TIFF feature on my docket, this is a Canadian film about Sean Randall (Connor Jessup), an alienated teenager who vents most of his anger and frustration into writing online, and when the small community in which he now lives with his father suddenly takes Sean’s angst as a serious threat, the repercussions of their resulting fear changes everyone’s lives forever. I didn’t know what to expect from this film going into it, and by the time I left the theatre, I found I couldn’t say enough about it. I even stopped on my way out to congratulate director Jason Buxton and the stars he had with him at the screening on an amazing piece of work. Everyone in it gave phenomenal performances, from Sean’s father, Ricky (Michael Buie) to his love interest, Deanna (Alexia Fast), to his nemesis in the detention centre, Trevor (Alex Ozerov). Each actor brought an incredible sense of depth, heart and soul to their characters, and the relationships each one had with Sean were brought to vivid life in every moment they were on screen. For me, though, this film gave me the discovery of Connor Jessup, and being able to watch this young man chew up every frame of film in this movie was a complete and utter delight. His physical transformation on screen was as total as Sean’s emotional changes, and Jessup brought every bit of Sean to life – from a look in his eye to a change in his posture or the way he walked – every detail was visible in Connor Jessup becoming Sean Randall. The fact that he was surrounded by such an amazing group of actors only served to further raise the bar on the other films screening at TIFF, and I honestly would be shocked if Connor Jessup didn’t become some kind of a superstar in the acting world. In fact, I’m almost surprised that he hasn’t already. The kid rocks!
Goon (Michael Dowse) – I had no real intention of seeing this movie. I went along to a free screening and hoped it would be fun. Not really a huge fan of Seann William Scott, either. Not that I don’t like him – I just wouldn’t go see a movie just because he’s in it. Not a fan, not a non-fan. Just sort of a meh-fan, I suppose. Until I saw Goon, that is. How much ridiculous good fun is in this movie? First of all, there’s a ton of hockey violence, which is awesome. If I recall, the opening scene had blood spilling onto the ice as the result of some brawl or another, so yeah – we had a good idea of what we were in for as far as fight footage was concerned. And then there were the jokes – all of the hilarious lines and scenarios that are actually unique enough to be funny, yet common enough to still be relatable for the audience. Finally, there is the aforementioned Seann William Scott, playing rookie hockey enforcer Doug Glatt. Never before had I seen Scott play someone so huge and charming and vulnerable before, and I have to admit – I loved the combination. The whole cast is ridiculously fun to watch, but it’s Scott that brings that extra bit of genuine heart to a film I was ready to write off before ever setting foot in the theatre. I’m so incredibly glad that I gave it a chance, because Goon punched the crap outta me and ran with it!
People Like Us (Alex Kurtzman) – I went into this one fully expecting to enjoy it, just because the cast was so very pretty. I assumed it would be somewhat predictable yet heart-warming, and what I ended up with was so much more. Amazing soundtrack aside, I found conflicted and complex characters at every turn – flawed, and yet still resilient enough to earn my respect and admiration. I found myself judging them, and yet wanting them to all find their way to where they were supposed to be. And, naturally – still very pretty. The story follows Sam (Chris Pine) a salesman trying to work his way up to goldenboy status in his employer’s eyes. He’s got the look and the charm to pull it off, but is emotionally distant in nearly every facet of his life. He finds out that his estranged father has died, and goes to help his mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) settle the man’s estate. Sam also happens to be in a semi-serious relationship with Hannah (Olivia Wilde), even though he’s not always entirely honest with her, especially when it comes to revealing details about himself or his past. Despite this, and instead of being a sideline character at best, Wilde brings real depth to the role, and Hannah becomes more of Sam’s emotional anchor throughout the film. When Sam finds out that his father left a large sum of money to a sister Sam never knew he had – money Sam himself could use – he goes on a journey to discover who this woman is, and whether or not she deserves (in his eyes) to share in his father’s financial estate. He finds her, Frankie (Elizabeth Banks), working as a bartender and struggling to provide for herself and her young son, Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario), so Sam poses as just another customer at the bar and seeks to get to know her better, while lying to both of them about who he really is. But Sam and his father aren’t the only ones who have secrets, and this film allows each character – and the viewer – to re-examine their perceptions of family, lies and unconditional love.
An Affair Of The Heart (Sylvia Caminer) – I went into this documentary at Hot Docs as someone who had heard of Rick Springfield, but who couldn’t really ever have been called a fan. I knew Jessie’s Girl, and I remembered (when I heard it in the doc) that I’d loved Human Touch back in the day, but my mom watched General Hospital (I did not), and apart from those three things, I really knew nothing else about the man. I hadn’t given him a second thought for a couple of decades, so when I saw this film on the selection list, I decided it could be fun, and took a seat in the packed theatre on its opening night at the festival. And was totally rocked, from start to finish. This entire film is pretty much a love letter from Springfield to his fans, but it is shot in such a way that a novice like myself could feel included and be completely won over by not only the unique relationship he has with his fans, but by how remarkably honest and genuine he is. Even when dealing with personal pain or regret – talking about mistakes he’s made and singing through the pain of losing his father, for example – Springfield comes across as an actual human being, completely devoid of the facade that comes with the celebrity lifestyle. He is sincere, and fun-loving, and knows how to speak and focus his attention to make any person feel like they are the only ones in the room with him when a connection is required. He takes his time, he expresses himself honestly, and seeks to understand whatever anyone may wish to share with him. And the dude freaking rocks. His personal life and connection with his fans aside, the man is a performing machine, and pours his heart and soul into each and every moment he spends on stage. And there are a lot of moments! Is he ever NOT touring? If there is only one thing to take away from An Affair of the Heart, it’s that Rick Springfield loves his fans, he loves his music, and he loves his family. All of that is very evident in the fiber of the film. But if that’s ALL you take away from it, then you just weren’t paying attention, and need to have another look to get yourself to join us on the Yellow Rick Road (that one’s for you, Exec Producer Melanie Lentz-Janney)! You’ll be glad you did!