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Best Cinema Experiences of 2014:

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What really counts in this post is the experiences, not the wording or grammar, etc… That’s my polite way of asking you to disregard the lazy, formulaic summaries and to focus on each, particular screening and the atmosphere each created. Also, please forgive my shoty camera work and the quality of some of the videos…

I Origins (Cast and Director Q and A):

I’m a Mike Cahill admirer. “Another Earth” blew me away and I couldn’t wait for his follow up…and it did not disappoint. Oh, and having Michael Pitt join Cahill in a post-screening Q and A was the icing on the cake.

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99 Homes: (Cast and Director Q and A):

Michael Shannon, Laura Dern, and Andrew Garfield so close I could literally reach out and touch them…need I say more? Shannon is one of my all time favourite actors and the chance to hear him speak about his latest film nearly had me in tears of fortune and excitement.

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Locke: (Stephen Knight Q and A):

If you know me, you know that my fandom in regards to Tom Hardy and “Peaky Blinders” knows no bounds. Naturally, having the chance to catch an advance screening of “Locke,” Hardy’s and “Peaky Blinders” creator Steven Knight’s latest collaboration, left me winded. It’s also the only time my mom has ever stepped into my world, the life of a die-hard cinephile. And the fact that she loved it in its entirety left me overjoyed.

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The Imitation Game: (Cast and Crew Q and A):

Benedict Cumberbatch…in person…that is all… Oh, and Keira Knighley and Matthew Goode too.

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Q and A: Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

The Guest: (Director/Writer/Cast Q and A):

This past year’s screening of “The Guest” during TIFF 2014’s Midnight Madness program was easily the most fun I’d had at a cinema all year. Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard are uproariously funny and extremely talented at what they do. Add in the charismatic, unbelievably charming and handsome Dan Stevens in addition to the lovely Maika Monroe, and you’ve got one hell of a theatre experience. The film itself cracks my top 10 of 2014 with ease and this screening has a lot to do with it. I hate to admit it, but having my lame-o friends undergo the craziness with me made all the difference in the world. Plus, we were the only ones to bring a beach ball! Which only added to the over-the-top atmosphere throughout the entire screening. I should probably explain… Midnight Madness is TIFF’s most out of control cinephile experience. There’s loud music beforehand, it starts at midnight, there’s the potent scent of substance abuse lingering in the air, and usually has a ball or two being tossed around. It’s essentially a rock concert that replaces the band with a film.

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The 50 Year Argument: (Martin Scorsese Q and A):

This is, without question, the best experience I’ve ever had in a theatre to date, let alone 2014. Of course, any occasion that has you sitting in the presence of one of cinema’s greatest filmmakers is a monumental occurrence indeed. To be completely honest, the film, “The 50 Year Argument,” although thoroughly engaging and utterly interesting, was simply a welcomed formality, a terrific bonus. Being granted the opportunity to listen and digest Martin Scorsese discussing film and his career for an extended period of time is unlike any euphoric treat that’s ever graced itself to my presence.

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Did you have a particularly awesome cinema experience this past year? Let me know in the comment section below, I’m dying to know! Also, if you haven’t contributed your voice to the latest poll, please click on Vote! in the bar above to do so…don’t make me chase you down!

Little Favour (2013)

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I don’t normally watch short films unless they’re referred to me or nominated in that specific category at the Oscars…and even then it’s just to stay calibrated with the goings on in the film industry. It’s not that I find them to be a lesser form of filmmaking or anything like that, far from it. Simply put, they don’t interest me or catch my attention is what I guess I’m trying to say. Off the top of my head I couldn’t name you more than a handful of vignettes, let alone those that I rather enjoyed, and to be honest a lot of those that I do recall are made by Pixar. On the other hand, I do like to dip into the occasional anthology, but I don’t think they’re considered the same thing. I can’t grasp the concept of them. I feel it’s too much like jumping into a story at the climax. To their credit though, as the evolution of the short continues to progress, they tend to contain more and more effort into establishing a thorough, relative perspective. I don’t know, am I missing something? Please comment below with your thoughts and some references if you’ve got. Now, enough of my blabbering, onto the review.

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Not to be brash, but the only reason I watched “Little Favour” was for the same reason I think anyone will, Benedict Cumberbatch. Everything that man touches, I must witness. I’ve been an obsessor of his for a good long while now, as I’m sure many of you will attest to. And as I do with anything I post containing Cumberbatch, I implore you to watch his earlier work, specifically “Stuart: A Life Backwards” and “Hawking,” but I digress. “Little Favour” directed by Patrick Viktor Monroe, begins with Wallace (Cumberbatch), a war veteran dealing with PTSD attending a meeting with an old friend, James (Colin Salmon), whom Wallace owes a great deal of debt .Upon agreeing to babysit James’ little girl as a little favour, Wallace returns home with his new found responsibility and is viciously attacked and subjected to questioning by a group of thugs searching for James.

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The premise really is quite something, extremely intriguing. Nevertheless, I found it too short to absorb fully, I just couldn’t get into it like I would have preferred to. To its credit though, for its length, “Little Favour” did manage to grab me significantly, more than any previous short film anyway. Now, I don’t know if I’ve been spoiled by such rich, powerful performances recently, but I couldn’t help but want more from the ensemble. Or it could be that alongside Cumberbatch, it’s simply impossible to measure up. Salmon really is terrific, the shining star apart from Benedict himself. Other than that however, the performances left a lot to the imagination. What surprised me the most was Monroe’s camerawork, just superb. Hopefully in the near future he can helm a full-length feature, cause I’d really like to see what he can do. I’m sure it’ll happen because this little short will definitely spike his popularity.

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It never fails to astound me how Cumberbatch, one of the busiest, most sought-after actors working in the industry currently, continues to churn out gem upon gem without faltering. Then it hit me, when you’re this talented and love what you do as much as he does, is it work? I mean, I know it takes a strenuous effort to do what he does, it just appears impossible that he can steadily reach such a height without stumbling. But I guess that’s why he is who he is. While Cumberbatch’s performance here doesn’t measure up to his illustrious standards, it’s still fairly entrancing. I’ve come to the conclusion that his portrayal here is hampered by the film’s length and premise. It doesn’t hit him or orbit him as it should. He gives it his all, it’s just too small a sample size to deduce any effect, so not to any extent is this his fault. For its entirety, the performance of Cumberbatch is still very poignant, and considering how compacted the story is, the output of Cumberbatch is all the more potent.

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For all my unbalanced ramblings and flip-flopping, I’d still recommend “Little Favour,” if only for Cumberbatch’s performance. It is quite good, and I don’t know, I’d watch it again…

Little Favour: 8 out of 10.