Canadian Content

National Canadian Film Day is technically celebrated on April 22, 2020, but given our current collective situation, why not your quarantine just a tiny bit more patriotic by viewing these worthy Canadian titles.

HYENA ROAD Three different men, three different worlds, three different wars – all stand at the intersection of modern warfare – a murky world of fluid morality where all is not as it seems. Directed by and costarring Paul Gross, who’s gone full silver fox, plus Rossif Sutherland and Allan Hawco 


INDIAN HORSE Follows the life of Native Canadian Saul Indian Horse as he survives residential school and life amongst the racism of the 1970s. A talented hockey player, Saul must find his own path as he battles stereotypes and alcoholism. Directed by Stephen Campanelli, starring Forrest Goodluck and Sladen Peltier


ROOM Held captive for 7 years in an enclosed space, a woman and her young son finally gain their freedom, allowing the boy to experience the outside world for the first time. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson, starring Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay


RUN THIS TOWN An emerging political scandal in Toronto in 2013 revolving around crack-smoking mayor Rob Ford, seen through the eyes of young staffers at city hall and a local newspaper. Directed by Ricky Tollman, starring Mena Massoud, Nina Dobrev and Ben Platt 


THE SONG OF NAMES Several years after his childhood friend, a violin prodigy, disappears on the eve of his first solo concert, an Englishman travels throughout Europe to find him. Directed by François Girard, starring Tim Roth and Clive Owen 


BIRTHMARKED Two scientists raise 3 children contrarily to their genetic tendencies to prove the ultimate power of nurture over nature. Directed by Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais, starring Matthew Goode, Toni Collette and Suzanne Clément


THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS The story of people whose lives intertwine during a dramatic winter in New York City. Directed by Lone Scherfig, starring Zoe Kazan, Andrea Riseborough, Tahar Rahim, Jay Baruchel and Bill Nighy

FREAKS A bold girl discovers a bizarre, threatening, and mysterious new world beyond her front door after she escapes her father’s protective and paranoid control. Directed by Zach Lipovsky, Adam B. Stein, starring  Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Grace Park 


THE YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T.S SPIVET A ten-year-old scientist secretly leaves his family’s ranch in Montana where he lives with his cowboy father and scientist mother, escapes home, and travels across the country aboard a freight train to receive an award at the Smithsonian Institute. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, starring Helena Bonham Carter, Judy Davis and Callum Keith Rennie

THE CAPTIVE Eight years after the disappearance of Cassandra, some disturbing incidents seem to indicate that she’s still alive. Police, parents and Cassandra herself, will try to unravel the mystery of her disappearance. Directed by Atom Egoyan, starring Kevin Durand,  Ryan Reynolds, Scott Speedman, Rosario Dawson


THE 9th LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX A psychologist who begins working with a young boy who has suffered a near-fatal fall finds himself drawn into a mystery that tests the boundaries of fantasy and reality. Directed by Alexandre Aja, starring Jamie Dornan, Sarah Gadon and Aaron Paul

ASTRONAUT A lonely widower battles his family, ill health and time to win a competition for a golden ticket to space. Directed by Shelagh McLeod, starring Richard Dreyfuss, Lyriq Bent, Krista Bridges, Colm Feore


BANG BANG BABY A small town teenager in the 1960s believes her dreams of becoming a famous singer will come true when her rock star idol gets stranded in town. But a leak in a nearby chemical plant that is believed to be causing mass mutations threatens to turn her dream into a nightmare. Directed by Jeffrey St. Jules, starring Jane Levy, Justin Chatwin, Peter Stormare and Kristin Bruun

EVERYTHING’S GONE GREEN Ryan, a good-natured slacker, is tempted into a money laundering scheme while working for a lottery magazine. A capitalistic comedy that asks the question – when is “enough” enough? Directed by Paul Fox, starring Paulo Costanzo


DIM THE FLUORESCENTS A struggling actress and an aspiring playwright pour all of their creative energy into the only paying work they can find: role-playing demonstrations for corporate training seminars. Directed by Daniel Warth, starring Claire Armstrong and Naomi Skwarna

TAKE THIS WALTZ A happily married woman falls for the artist who lives across the street. Directed by Sarah Polley, starring Seth Rogen, Michelle Williams, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman


EDGE OF WINTER When two brothers are stranded by a brutal winter storm with an unpredictable father they barely know, the boys begin to suspect their supposed protector may be their biggest threat. Directed by Rob Connolly, starring Tom Holland and Joel Kinnaman 

GIANT LITTLE ONES Two popular teen boys, best friends since childhood, discover their lives, families, and girlfriends dramatically upended after an unexpected incident occurs on the night of a 17th birthday party. Directed by Keith Behrman, starring  Josh Wiggins, Darren Mann, Taylor Hickson, Maria Bello, Kyle MacLachlan

THE BODY REMEMBERS WHEN THE WORLD BROKE OPEN After a chance encounter on the street, a woman tries to encourage a pregnant domestic abuse victim to seek help. Directed by Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, starring Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Violet Nelson, Charlie Hannah, and Barbara Eve Harris


AND THE BIRDS RAINED DOWN (IL PLEUVAIT DES OISEAUX) Three elderly hermits live in the woods. While wildfires threaten the region, their quiet life is about to be shaken by the arrival of two women – A story of intertwined destinies, where love can happen at any age. Directed by Louise Archambault, starring  Andrée Lachapelle, Gilbert Sicotte, Rémy Girard 

WINDOW HORSES A young Canadian poet with Chinese and Persian parents travels to Iran to perform at a poetry festival (animated). Directed by Anne Marie Fleming, voices by Ellen Page, Sandra Oh


WATER Set in colonial India against Gandhi’s rise to power, it’s the story of 8-year-old Chuyia, who is widowed and sent to a home to live in penitence; once there, Chuyia’s feisty presence deeply affects the lives of the other residents. Directed by Deepa Mehta, starring Seema Biswas, Lisa Ray, John Abraham and Sarala


THE GRIZZLIES In a small Arctic town struggling with the highest suicide rate in North America, a group of Inuit students’ lives are transformed when they are introduced to the sport of lacrosse. Directed by Miranda de Pencier, starring Ben Schnetzer, Will Sasso, Paul Nutarariaq, Anna Lambe,Tantoo Cardinal, Emerald MacDonald and Booboo Stewart


MAUDIE An arthritic Nova Scotia woman works as a housekeeper while she hones her skills as an artist and eventually becomes a beloved figure in the community. Directed by Aisling Walsh, starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke


BROOKLYN An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within. Directed by John Crowley, starring Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters 


ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH Filmmakers travel to six continents and 20 countries to document the impact humans have made on the planet. Directed by Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky. Narrated by Alicia Vikander

CANADIAN STRAIN When cannabis becomes legal in Canada, boutique weed dealer Anne Banting is swiftly run out of business by the biggest gangsters in town – the government. Written and directed by Geordie Sabbagh and starring Jess Salgueiro


DRONE Ideologies collide with fatal results when a military drone contractor meets an enigmatic Pakistani businessman. Written and directed by Jason Bourque and starring Sean Bean


FALLS AROUND HER A successful singer leaves everything behind to return to her reservation to live alone. Written and directed by Darlene Naponse and starring Tantoo Cardinal

JAMES VS HIS FUTURE SELF A scientist meets a version of himself from the future who has traveled back in time to stop himself from inventing time travel. Starring Daniel Stern


LAVENDER After discovering old fractures in her skull, a photographer recovering from amnesia becomes increasingly haunted by a sinister childhood secret. Directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly and starring Abbie Cornish,  Dermot Mulroney, Justin Long


BEN’S AT HOME Heartbroken and cynical after he’s dumped by his girlfriend, Ben makes the unusual decision never to leave his house again. Directed by Mars Horodyski and starring  Dan Abramovici, Jessica Embro, Jim Annan

TAMMY’S ALWAYS DYING At the end of every month, when the welfare runs out, Catherine talks her alcoholic mother off of the same bridge. Literally. Directed by Amy Jo Johnson and starring  Felicity Huffman, Anastasia Phillips, Clark Johnson 

Valley Girl (2020)

First: a word about Logan Paul. Logan Paul is a Youtube star. “Star.” I know his name but not his content; he’s the brand of entitled-obnoxious that my life doesn’t need so I’ve never seen a single thing he’s done. I do know he’s been controversial, though. The first I heard of him, he’d gone to the suicide forest in Japan in late 2017 and posted a video of the corpse of a recently deceased (hanged) man. Cue uproar, cue “apology.” Youtube gave him a slap on the wrist (with 25M subscribers, their partnership is extremely lucrative to both) but he was back at it just a few weeks later. He’s sexist, he’s homophobic, he’s racist. Basically, he’s a giant douche. Valley Girl director Rachel Lee Goldenberg had the misfortune of casting him in her movie to play…well, a giant douche as it happens. This was in the spring of 2017, before the big controversies started to add up. The film was scheduled for a 2018 release by they scrapped it due to his involvement. This poor movie has languished on some shelf in Hollywood, serving a sentence for crimes committed by a single cast member. So yes, I acknowledge that Logan Paul is a problematic douche nozzle and we all wish he wasn’t in this movie even though he’s actually perfectly cast. With that said, onto the movie.

Yes, this is a remake of the 1983 film of the same name, starring Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman. Foreman played Julie, a perfect, preppie valley girl who falls for a punk (Cage) from the wrong side of the hills. In the 2020 version, Julie is a proper grown up. She (Alicia Silverstone) is a mom now, and she recounts this teenage romance to her daughter.

Cue: the 1980s. Cue the leg warmers, the big hair, the jazzercize, the popped collars. A young Julie (Jessica Rothe) frolics on the beach with her gal pals and then hits up the mall. She’s dating arrogant jock Mickey (Logan Paul) but an edgier guy has grabbed her eye. Randy (Josh Whitehouse) is not a punk, because punk is dead, but if she’s a little bit country, he’s a little bit rock n roll. Her friends think she’s having a nervous breakdown but as far as rebellious streaks go it’s actually pretty tame – just dreaming of leaving the suburbs and maybe prioritizing a career instead of marriage and motherhood.

2020’s Valley Girl is somehow even more 80s than the original: it’s an homage, a love letter, a glossy, hair sprayed tribute, and in doing so, it’s rounded out the edges and presents a sanitized pop version for your nostalgia cravings. This Valley Girl is a jukebox musical which means every song sung will be one you know; the retro soundtrack includes We Got the Beat, Bad Reputation, Hey Mickey, Call Me, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Kids in America, Just Can’t Get Enough, Material Girl, Safety Dance, Take On Me, Under Pressure, I Melt With You…well, you get the picture. The 80s vibes are strong in this one.

Is this a life-changing movie? No. Is this a great piece of cinema? Still no. But if you’re willing to embrace the cheese, it’s actually quite a bit of fun. And the great thing about the 80s is that you don’t actually have to have lived through them to be nostalgic for them. It feels like the nostalgia was baked right into the decade (and quite possibly Tang flavoured). Play I-Spy during the carefully curated costume party: can you spot Boy George – George Michael – Michael Jackson?

This movie is Grease meets Trolls World Tour meets Romeo and Juliet, but feels like it’s a 90 minute version of those Tiffany videos she used to shoot at the mall. Valley Girl knows what it is and isn’t afraid to lean right in. This is the 80s, turned up to 11.

The Lovebirds

Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) are lingering in her doorway as they say goodbye after a one night stand. Neither is ready to part so they go to breakfast, and then the park, and then they don’t even notice where they are because they’re too busy confessing mutual crushes and making ooey gooey eyes at each other and generally just agreeing that this is the best thing that’s ever happened to them. Rae and Nanjiani are charming enough that this fills you with joy rather than loathing.

Cut to: four years later. Leilani and Jibran are together, and having one of those fights that couples have, the little thing that turns into a bigger thing, angry words exchanged as they hurry each other out the door, late to a dinner party. The fight continues in the car, and things unravel to the point of breakup. We’re just starting to feel like this is going to be one mother of an awkward dinner party when WHAM, the cyclist that Jibrani just hit rolls up the hood of their car, smashes his skull into their windshield, and then flops back down to the pavement.

It’s funny how killing someone can really put a crimp in your plans. Now they’ll have to put dinner AND their breakup on hold to run from the cops – at least until they can clear their names. You might guess that this does not go well; The Lovebirds is in fact a comedy. The murder aspect is deadly serious but the escalating circumstances in which they find themselves are pretty funny.

“Things going increasingly badly for good people” is one of the most tired tropes in the comedy genre, and The Lovebirds is pretty much exactly what you expect. Happily, Nanjiani and Rae are talented enough and compatible enough that their chemistry saves this thing from mediocrity. It’s too bad the movie really leans on them to carry this thing, but it’s a relief that they can, and they do. The movie’s uneven, there are funny parts, draggy parts, parts that don’t work, and parts that really do. But on the whole I found it fun and enjoyable – light fare from talented actors who deserve to use this film as a vault to better roles and bigger spotlights. And since you may be cooped up with your own partner for the tenth weekend in a row, it’s not a bad idea to pour yourself some sangria and wonder how YOU’D react under similar circumstances.

Love Is Blind

Bess is a strange young woman. She’s studying ocular health, has a white peacock named Argus, sees a bizarre psychotherapist, has a treehouse that looks as though Big Bird built it, and can’t see her mother. Well, either she can’t see her or she’s not there: that point is a little contentious. Bess (Shannon Tarbet) maintains that her mother (Chloe Sevigny) died 10 years ago in a car crash while her father (Matthew Broderick) speaks to her like she’s still there. Either Bess has weirdly selective vision or her dad Murray is demented with grief.

To be fair, Murray might be a bit demented. He has Parkinson’s, which is often linked with dementia. His advancing disease may be partially to blame for Bess’s failure to launch. She’s still at home, not particularly excited about optometry or her boyfriend or the state of her life. The only thing that really holds her attention is her therapist, Farmer (Benjamin Walker), with whom she has worked intensively for the past several years. Is she cured? In fact, she is not even so much as diagnosed. But on his way to another degree, and in the name of research, Farmer attempts therapeutic approach after therapeutic approach, and finally he plays the last card in his deck: group therapy. He pairs Bess with “therapy buddy” Russell (Aidan Turner), a suicidal demolition man. Two problems. Russell is in love with Bess. And Bess can’t see Russell.

Love Is Blind is an experimental kind of film, and a beautiful one, perfectly framed shots, vibrant colour palettes. It has a distinct vibe and simply asks the viewer to go with the flow. It’s a tiny bit opaque in that we don’t know for sure who’s having the mental breakdown so we’re basically just sifting through opposing evidence, but all of the evidence is saturated with an aesthetic that I totally bought into, so instead of totally obscuring things, it’s like watching a movie through the filter of unicorn skin.This movie literally made me say OUT LOUD “I thought that was a metaphor, but it wasn’t.” Don’t tell me you’re not interested! I, for one, was enchanted.

Capone

Be careful what you wish for. Over on our Youtube channel (won’t you kindly hit our subscribe button?), Sean and I have very diligently reported on all the movies as one by one they were cancelled by corona, and have continued to update folks on new release dates, some delayed as much as a year, and others headed straight for VOD. Such as the case for Capone: it was to be available for rent as of May 12; we searched but we did not find…until now. And to be honest, I would have had more fun had I taken my 5 dollar bill, torn it up into chunks, surreptitiously inserted them into hamburger patties, and bet on Sean never noticing (cheese covers all manner of sin).

We knew going in that this wasn’t your typical gangster movie. Al Capone (Tom Hardy, hiding his good looks behind distracting prosthetics) spent a hard 10 years in prison…for tax evasion. Syphillitic singe the age of 13, the disease had begun to rot his brain, and though only 47, he had full-blown dementia. Don’t go thinking this was some sort of compassionate release: the Feds watched his every move, hoping to recover the rumoured $10M that he’d buried. But if that buried treasure does exist, its location has long since evaporated from Capone’s head. He rambles about his lavish Florida estate while “doctors” try to unlock the secret and family members try to make sense of his thoughts. If the movie is to be believed, his memories are as scrambled as his slurred speech (seriously? ANOTHER mumbly Tom Hardy role?). He may be haunted by his past but his wife Mae (Linda Cardellini) is haunted by his present, which is marred by incontinence. If your vision of a mob movie includes an addled-brained patient, his trademark cigar replaced with a carrot (for his “health”), a droopy diaper instead of pants, the only pin-stripes the one on his pajamas, carrying around a gold-plated tommy gun with half a mind (literally) to shoot someone or something, then you’re one lucky weirdo. Capone is the movie for you.

Hardy’s giving it his all but the movie’s just too aimless and disjointed to give anything back. The truth is, writer-director Josh Trank might also giving it his all, and his all just isn’t any good. He’s tanked a few movies with potential now. Maybe it’s time to start believing him. He isn’t ready.

Neither is this movie. I think there’s an interesting story in there somewhere, but Trank does his damnedest to obscure it. The result is an uncomfortable watch, and ultimately an unrewarding one.

Underwater

It feels like if you live and work at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, literally 10km straight down the belly of the ocean, you’re kind of asking for trouble. Not to blame the victims, but you’ve got to know drilling holes into and beyond the darkest depths of one of the last unexplored corners of the earth is a risky endeavour.

Norah (Kristen Stewart) is brushing her teeth…at some unspecified time. It’s hard to distinguish night from day when the sun and the moon are irrelevant. A small tremor at first, but enough of a shake to make her cautious. And soon: chaos. We don’t know exactly what’s happening but neither does she. Barely ahead of death and destruction, she races the flood and the collapsing quarters to a hub where she meets Rodrigo (Mamoudou Athie), a colleague whom she’s just now meeting for the first time, and together they slam the hold shut, sealing it from rushing water but also panicking survivors. Tough. When you’re that far beneath the ocean, there’s no room for error or second thoughts. Crawling over squashed bodies and around drowned bodies, they eventually meet up with barely a handful of other survivors: Captain Lucien (Vincent Cassel), Paul (T.J. Miller, ugh), Liam (John Gallagher Jr.). and Emily (Jessica Henwick). Which is when they realize that until now, they’ve had it easy. Their station is in ruins, so their only chance is to traverse the ocean floor toward the next one, where hopefully escape pods will still be intact. It’s practically impossible and completely dangerous, but what choice do they have?

Underwater will certainly call to mind other wet movies: The Abyss, perhaps, if not The Meg. It’s nonstop action and nonstop stress. There is tension in every breath. It is awful not to know the cause, and then it’s awful knowing it. Director William Eubank is relentless and it’s hard not to take that personally. My breathing is fast and shallow and I’m not even the one stripping to my underwear, shoving my broken arm into a very uncomfortable diving suit, rationing my oxygen, and taking on the ocean’s meanest predators in the Earth’s most hostile environment because the other threat is so much worse.

It’s a man vs. nature film that doesn’t quite tread any new water (forgive me), but it does stay afloat, buoyed by those that came before it. It’s formulaic and familiar, but it’s also a competent thriller and modestly entertaining.

The Weekend

Zadie (Sasheer Zamata) is a shameless third wheel. She’s been moping about her breakup for three years and instead of moving on with her life, she’s spending the weekend at a bed and breakfast with him…and his new girlfriend. And by “new” I mean “not Zadie,” because this couple have already been together for two years and Bradford’s walking around with a diamond ring in his pocket. Zadie is downright hostile to new girlfriend Margo (DeWanda Wise), who is understandably less than thrilled to have her love life constantly monitored by Zadie. And Bradford (Tone Bell) seems infuriatingly oblivious…or does he just like having two women fight for his attention?

So while Zadie is crashing what should be a romantic weekend for two, a man named Aubrey (Y’lan Noel) shows up at the B&B without his plus one, who minused herself out of their equation. Aubrey, who is handsome and charming and available, makes some overtures in Zadie’s direction. God knows why: Zadie is not exactly a catch and she’s pretty busy making a fool out of herself.

I wanted to like this movie but I hated it immediately. Zadie is a stand-up comedian and her whole schtick is a pity party in honour of her breakup which is now several years behind her. She’s an unlikable protagonist and exactly the kind of person I avoid at all costs so it was painful to spend a whole 87 minutes in her grating, self-centered presence. Zadie is so pathetic it’s hard to imagine that anyone would be romantically (or otherwise) interested in her, but only her mother (Kym Whitley) ever calls her on her bullshit so the rest of us are left searching for blunt objects to make the pain go away (strictly speaking, a remote would get the job done with a lot less mess).

The thing is, I love Sasheer Zamata who is in fact a stand-up comedian whom I have enjoyed on many occasions. I hated to see her good name debased with such a wretched and plaintive set. The whole cast had much to recommend it, and with better material this could easily be a group to watch. Likewise, writer-director Stella Meghie is an immense talent who would be better served by characters worthy of her attention. The Weekend is not her best work but I hope it at least exorcised some ghosts.