It’s hard to imagine a gutsier movie than Toronto-based filmmaker Matt Gallagher’s documentary Grinders… or one that better demonstrates how risk pervades everyone’s everyday life, even the lives of those not involved in illegal activity, as Gallagher was throughout the film.
It’s not happening until mid-May, but the annual Inside Out Film and Video Festival - celebrating all things lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered - kicks off Saturday (April 30) in Toronto with a launch party held at Canada’s National Ballet School beginning at 7 pm.
No matter how you choose to approach this year’s sprawling Hot Docs documentary film festival - making your movie picks according to subject matter, screening times, media suggestions, coin toss - it’s unlikely you’ll come up short.
In fact, putting together an itinerary is almost painful - there are just so many fascinating, controversial, offbeat and rare films screening that you’re doomed to miss something great in the pursuit of something even greater.
A documentary chronicling billionaire American real estate tycoon Donald Trump’s controversial plan to build a giant golf course on a pristine stretch of Scottish coast - a doc that landed the filmmaker and his producer in jail - will receive its world premiere as part of Hot Docs.
It promises to be a riveting behind-the-scenes look at the calamitous Ponzi scheme pulled off by American wealth manager Bernie Madoff. And it’s set to receive its North American premiere at the upcoming Toronto Jewish Film Festival.
A late-occurring Easter may be hogging the spotlight this year, but today (April 22) is also Earth Day.
At minimum, it’s a reminder to pause and think about our environment. More proactive greens can take the Earth Day ‘Give It Up’ challenge by shaking up their daily routine (giving up meat, for example) to reduce their footprint on the planet.
And if you need some help getting in the spirit, these five essential flicks about Mother Earth and the wonders of nature ought to do the trick. If nothing else, they’re all great time-wasters for anyone spending Good Friday crashed on the sofa, remote in hand.
An Inconvenient Truth (2006) Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s documentary is well worth revisiting as the grim stats he presents remain both deeply worrying and largely unresolved. That he manages to infuse his dire message with so much humour is impressive and leaves audiences feeling positive instead of overwhelmed.
March of the Penguins (2005) Though its message isn’t specifically environmental, it’s hard to imagine a movie that makes a more compelling case for Arctic preservation than this alternately hilarious, heartbreaking and enchanting film about the annual journey of Emperor penguins as they march to their traditional breeding ground.
Fast Food Nation (2006) In his book of the same name, author Eric Schlosser ably demonstrated that the retail cost of a Big Mac didn’t come close to capturing the actual environmental, social and health costs behind factory farming, which spiral beyond imagination. Director Richard Linklater’s movie adaptation loses some of the book’s punch, but the message is clear… and no, you don’t want fries with that.
Earth (2009), Oceans (2010) These eye-popping Disney documentaries exploring life on land and at sea are beyond gorgeous, the kinds of films electronics stores screen on HD TVs to make would-be buyers drool. Possibly the coolest thing about watching Oceans, however, is being reminded that we share our planet with some pretty amazing creatures most of us will never actually see but each of us can potentially impact based on our environmental choices.
Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006) If you think you hate big oil companies now - not to mention their shrewish sidekicks in the auto industry - just wait until you see how they furtively and thoroughly sunk what might have been game-changing technology poised to transform the world and the environment along with it.
Usually, Hollywood celebs are so cosseted by flesh-eating publicists that they seldom stir controversy with statements (though drunken and drug-fueled actions are another story). So it’s weirdly refreshing to hear director Tyler Perry openly throttle fellow filmmaker Spike Lee.
Tribute reports that during a Beverly Hills press conference for the West Coast premiere of his new film Madea’s Big Happy Family, which opens wide this weekend, Perry verbally slapped Lee, who called Perry’s work “coonery buffoonery” in an interview with Black Enterprise.
When asked about Lee’s comment, Perry replied: “I’m so sick of hearing about damn Spike Lee. Spike can go straight to hell! You can print that. I am sick of him talking about me, I am sick of him saying, ‘this is a coon, this is a buffoon.’ I am sick of him talking about black people going to see movies. This is what he said: ‘you vote by what you see,’ as if black people don’t know what they want to see.
“I am sick of him — he talked about Whoopi, he talked about Oprah, he talked about me, he talked about Clint Eastwood. Spike needs to shut the hell up!”
Frankly, that kind of unfiltered rage is sort of awesome. Spike, over to you.
Three homegrown films - a doc, a short and a student film - are heading across the pond to screen at this year’s prestigious 64th annual Cannes Film Festival running May 11 to 22 in the south of France. (note to inMovies editor: if you need a selfless, lowly blogger to cover it, I'm in! I'll even pay my own per diem!)
The Toronto Star is reporting that La Nuit elles dansent (At Night, They Dance), by Quebec's Isabelle Lavigne and Stéphane Thibault, has been selected for a special screening at the Directors' Fortnight showcase of unique directorial visions, May 12-20.
Filmed in Cairo, it's the story of a clan of women for whom belly dancing has become a cultural tradition and generational rite of passage. Looks kind of cool - check out the trailer below.
Meanwhile, the Star notes that another Quebec film - Nicolas Roy's 14-minute drama Ce n'est rien, about a man obsessed with his daughter - has been selected as one of nine international films competing for the Palme d'Or in the Short Film Competition.
Filmmaker Michel Gondry heads the jury for the short film Palme d’Or, which will be handed out at the festival's closing ceremony on May 22.
Gondry's panel also judges the Cinéfondation sidebar of student-made shorts, which this year includes Big Muddy, directed by Saskatchewan's Jefferson Moneo.
Inspired by classic American westerns and gangster films, it follows Andy, "a teenage outlaw, forced into a life of crime by his nefarious mother Martha and her ne'er do well boyfriend Tommy. When a mysterious drifter, Donovan, shows up at the gang's hideaway to settle a score, Andy comes face to face with his long forgotten past."
We would LOVE to be able to report first-hand about the reception these films receive… but let’s just saying we’re not holding our breath.
Happy birthday to Kate Hudson (32) and James Franco (33), both celebrating birthdays today as is Tim Curry (best known as Dr. Frank-N-Furter from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, now 65) and Canuck-born actor Hayden Christensen (30).
Updates all round: Hudson will soon appear opposite Gennifer Goodwin in the wedding-themed rom-com Something Borrowed (slated for an early May release) and is rumoured to be handling the title role of Linda Lovelace in the movie Lovelace, the bio-pic of the 70s-era porn star.
That role was originally offered to - and subsequently withdrawn from - Lindsay Lohan when her current legal troubles blew up. According to AP, the film’s director Matthew Wilder told E! News:
"We are withdrawing our offer from Lindsay Lohan - we are currently in negotiations [with another actress] and working out the legalities of bringing her onboard."
He added: "We have stuck by Lindsay very patiently for a long time with a lot of love and support. Ultimately, the impossibility of insuring her - and some other issues - have made it impossible for us to go forward."
Potentially good news for Hudson, bad news for Lohan and possibly movie-goers as well, since Lohan would have brought a been-there-done-that gravitas to the role that’s hard to imagine with rom-com queen Hudson. Plus Hudson is preggars, which may delay the production.
As for recent Oscar host Franco, he has multiple movies in various stages of production but two are especially notable.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a sci-fi thriller about scientists whose experiments with apes backfires horribly, creating a super-smart (and malevolent, naturally) gang of marauding monkeys. It’s due in August and who-eee the trailer (below) sure looks nifty; Freida Pinto co-stars.
Also notable and upcoming for Franco: director Sam Raimi’s Wizard of Oz prequel, Oz: The Great and Powerful which tells the back story of the title character. It’s currently not slated to open until 2013 but who knows? Babes Mila Kunis and Blake Lively (as Glinda the Good Witch!) are also attached to the project.
Finally, Christensen is due in 2012’s purported action/adventure Money for Nothing opposite Gary Oldman, which IMDB summarizes thusly:
Hardworking dad Josh Redmont has been receiving a check for $1,000 once a month from an unknown benefactor for seven years. One day, a stranger with a foreign accent (aren’t they just the worst kind?) approaches and clues Josh in. Therein hangs the tale of who's behind Josh good fortune and what kind of bill has come due for all those tax-free dollars.
As women across North America breathlessly wait this Friday’s opening of the Robert Pattinson/Reese Witherspoon romantic drama Water for Elephants - based on the bestselling novel by Vancouver-born, London, ON-reared Sara Gruen - Hollywood North humbly submits some interesting trivia for your consideration.
Think of it as ephemera you can share with pals as you grit your teeth and bear the frigging advertisements before the movie begins.
Water for Elephants is in fact not the first time Pattinson and Witherspoon have acted opposite each other; the pair appeared in a deleted scene in 2004’s Vanity Fair where - LOL - Witherspoon played Pattinson’s mother. In Water for Elephants, she plays his lover.
In fairness to Witherspoon, the paramour role is more like it; she is 35 in real life while Pattinson turns 25 on May 13. And let’s face it: 10 years ain’t nothing in the wake of the 16-year spread separating spouses Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher… or the 25 years separating Michael Douglas from Catherine Zeta Jones and the 60 years dividing (assigning to different galaxies is more like it) Hugh Hefner from fiancée Crystal Harris. But that’s a whole other discussion.
Back to the trivia. R-Patz wasn’t the only hot young Hollywood thing vying for the brooding, doe-eyed lead role of Jacob Jankowski, the would-be veterinarian whose future is wholly transformed by the accidental death of his parental units. IMDb reports that hunky model-cum-actor Channing Tatum, Emile Hirsh and Andrew Garfield also appeared on the long-list.
Pattinson was the clear box office choice but it’s fun to ponder the alternatives. While Garfield was an obvious no-go and Hirsh credible but seemingly too ready-made for the part (all puppy dog eyes and so earnest you can tell he’s never had a cavity just by looking at him), Tatum would have been an awesome disaster.
An actor with a neck wider than his head is cool, but then what would be the point of those pesky titular elephants with their costly trainers and all? Just to upstage the star? Nah.
Finally - and this is interesting - Scarlett Johansson is said to have turned down the role of Marlena, played by Witherspoon, while her real-life boyfriend Sean Penn (age difference, 24 years… just sayin’) was cast as Marlena’s husband, the circus owner August, but dropped out with the role ultimately going to Christoph Waltz of Inglourious Basterds fame.
Potential Gigli references aside, watch as I drive home the creepazoid factor of this May/December stuff just for kicks. Since shacking up with Penn, US Weeklyreports that Johansson enjoys staying home and hanging out with Penn’s offspring, 20-year-old daughter Dylan and 17-year-old son Hopper.
Given that Johansson is 25 (turning 26 in November), her and Dylan probably have a lot in common… musical tastes for example and maybe favorite fashion designers and movie actors, like Robert Pattinson and that geezer Sean Penn, who was once married to some pop star said to be some kind of a forerunner to Lady Gaga.