The Overload: North West Says No, Adele Says Hello and Phil Collins Hates Retirement

Welcome to The Overload, my new weekly post where I share pieces of by-now stale pop culture things and news, reheat and comment  on it for your reading pleasure every Friday! On this week’s edition…

NEXT TIME I’M AT BALLET, PLEASE NO PHOTOS

via Giphy/Nylon Magazine

On this episode of Dance Moms: Hollywood, North West took her mother’s advice to heart, put on her big girl Chanel tutu, had herself dragged across a parking lot and told the photographers to stop taking photos en route to her class. I wish I had that much confidence at three. And that tutu.

IT FOLLOWS: A WEIRD-GOOD HORROR MOVIE

I finally had the chance to watch the universally-adored It Follows and man, was it unnervingly weird and kind of kitschy because it drew on classic horror movie characteristics…but it is successfully creepy. Like, I turned off the lights and went to bed and for the first time in about fifteen years, I actually felt scared of the dark creepy. It’s on Netflix Canada for your viewing pleasure, just in time for Halloween.

HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIDE 

I’m here reporting from the other side to tell you I’m sorry for Adele breaking your YouTube record, Taylor Swift. Except I’m not, because 1) It’s Adele. 2) The video is directed by a Canadian named Xavier Dolan, and how could that be a bad thing 3)Excessive tissue use be damned, I do love this song (though admittedly, am still oddly underwhelmed by it, probably because it could easily be converted into a cheesy 80s ballad.) Also it’s been a week of hearing it/watching parodies/dubsmash videos/references so at least I can say that I’ve tried (and succeeded) to not get tired of this song.

JURASSIC WORLD VS. JURASSIC PARK TRILOGY

It’s no secret that I loved Jurassic World, mainly because of how nostalgia-inducing it was. To further emphasize that (and maybe further anger those who hated the reboot), someone named Pablo Fernandez created a video to compare Jurassic World to the original trilogy. Nothing will beat the original film (and in my books, The Lost World) but you can’t help but be a little amazed about what a dinosaur can accomplish in a wide shot across three decades.

TAKE A LOOK AT PHIL NOW (BECAUSE HE’S COMING BACK)

Phil Collins announced this week that he’s coming out of retirement to release a new album and go on tour. If you were born after 2000, Phil Collins is actress Lilly Collins’ dad and makes the kind of music that would probably make you groan. Well I groaned when I heard him as a 90s baby, so our generations aren’t totally disconnected, but I promise you liking this news will be cool in about twenty years so just do it!

THE WALKING DEAD RENEWED FOR SEASON 7 

via iOS9.com

Duh. But given how great/heartbreaking/anxiety-inducing this season has been so far, my genuine excitement might be stronger than my escalation of commitment with this show. And my tolerance for intestines falling out of bodies.

 

Film Review: Truth

via ComingSoon.net

Even on paper, any potential Truth had as a substantial commentary on journalism is squashed by the bias inherent to the film adaptation of a book by the story’s focal journalist-in-question, former 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes. In 2005, Mapes and CBS anchor Dan Rathers broadcasted an investigative piece showcasing documents indicating that then-President Bush did not actually fulfil military obligations as he previously claimed. The documents were obtained from Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett, and though efforts were made, there was little authentication and confirmation that these documents were valid.

Within hours of the broadcast, Mapes and Rathers’ story was being tracked and refuted by online commentators, bloggers, and eventually by other networks and publications, mainly based on the authenticity of the documents and the reliability of Bill Burkett and other testimonials. This prompted CBS to open an investigation into the journalistic process, where they eventually determed that the documents were forged, causing Mapes and Rathers to lose their jobs. It’s actually an interesting moment in American journalism, one that I was unaware of at the time as a whee little highschooler; but given that Truth‘s inspiration comes from Mapes own telling in her novel Truth and Duty, it feels innately skewed towards Mapes’ intentions and defence.

Cate Blanchett (Blue JasmineCarol) is completely engaging and fierce as Mapes; she is easily the strongest quality of the film. Another would be her fantastic chemistry with Robert Redford (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), which is convincing enough to make you believe in their veteran capabilities as journalists and why their real-life counterparts were so staunch in their commitment to their work’s integrity, which draws some sympathy towards their story. By way of their performances, the audience can deconstruct some pieces of conversation surrounding the intersecting lines of due diligence, technology and journalism in today’s world, but it never comes to full fruition because the film, for the most part, zeroes in on Mapes career fallout rather than the entire scenario as a case study.

Truth is a snappy drama that is abuzz from the get-go and quickly falls into its polished, dramatic descent with a supporting cast of familiar faces (Dennis Quaid, Elizabeth Olsen, Topher Grace). It is a smooth directorial debut from screenwriter James Vanderbilt (ZodiacIndependence Day: Resurgence), but not quite sleek enough to fall into the whimsically cool category nor striking enough to be a much talked about film in 2015; it is mainly just a resurrected defence.

I screened Truth at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Truth will be released across Canada this Friday, October 30th 2015.

 

 

 

 

Film Review: Room

via ComingSoon.net

It’s challenging to discuss the film’s story without spoiling it at its midpoint, so consider this your warning for any reveals ahead. You can skip to the bottom for some tidbits from the Q&A with director Lenny Abrahamson at TIFF. I also advise that when you go to see this movie that you bring tissues; perhaps a box, since your neighbour may not be as savvy as you. 

***

Room, an adaptation of Canadian author Emma Donoghue’s international bestseller of the same name, is a remarkable and heart shattering film whose two volumes of storytelling rest on leading stars Brie Larson (Short Term 12, 21 Jump Street) and Jacob Tremblay (The Smurfs 2). Their stunningly emotive howings both individually and together as protagonists Ma/Joy and Jack drive this story of trauma and survival.

Jack is like many kids; he likes to play, he likes to pretend, he likes to watch television and on most days, he likes to hang out with his mom. But does all of those things in Room – a shed that he was born and brought up in for his entire life, which is his whole world. His mother, Joy, knows otherwise; at the age of seventeen, she was abducted by a man named Old Nick and kept under lock and key for seven years in Room, clothed, fed, sexually and emotionally abused and impregnated by her captor. When Jack turns five, Joy decides it is time to plot an escape, but to do so, she must reveal the world Jack knows nothing of and prepare him for what could be their only chance to survive.

The first half of the film falls on this thriller-escape story, and result shouldn’t be surprising: Joy and Jack do make it out of Room alive. The second half deeply explores what it means to survive. Survival isn’t just about physically leaving a situation behind; it is also about navigating the emotional and mental trauma tied so firmly to such experiences. Some may be surprised by that tonal shift, but it is necessary in order to see the emotional arc progress.

In Room, the journey is propelled by the love between a mother and child, which is why the organic chemistry between Larson and Tremblay is so poignant. The unconditional love is the lifeline to a very disturbing and horrific experience, breathing motive and reason into both of their characters. Together, Larson and Tremblay prove to be a strong core of the movie; apart, they are strikingly strong, vulnerable and capturing.

Larson is a talent that’s been bubbling on the precipice of success for several years now, but this truly is her best performance to date. As Joy, Larson navigates her depression, PTSD and loss of adolescence in the face of assimilating back into the world with such complexity and honesty that it will be bewildering if she falls short in this upcoming awards season. Eight year-old Tremblay shows incredible depth in a role that demands innocence as much as it does maturity. I think people will be surprised by how much of an impact he has in this film, especially as we see him slowly explore his new world.

The fact that the movie nails down these two characters, their respective experiences and the relationship so well may be a testament to director Lenny Abrahamson’s faithfulness to Donoghue’s book; he did frequently collaborate with the author throughout the adaptation process. I say that as someone who hasn’t read the book, but I cannot imagine how readers may feel differently upon seeing the film because it is as emotionally evocative as fans of the source material made it out to be. The intimacy extends to the production as well; the first half was filmed in a 10×15 foot room in a Toronto studio.

Having won the Grolsch People’s Choice Award, Room is already a hit with audiences on the festival circuit and for plenty of reason, too: it is truthful, layered, emotionally-driven story with some of the best performances I’ve seen this whole year. That won’t be easy to contain.

***

TIFF15 Q&A with Lenny Abrahamson Bits

  • When filming in the 10×15 foot room, they were always within the space and Lenny regular shot from the bath tub in the room
  • There was a huge search and open call to find an actor who could play Jake. They needed to find someone old enough to believe he can do the amazing things that he could do and also not see through the mythology of the story and be able to enter the scenes completely. Brie assisted with the search.
  • Jacob Tremblay wanted to be an actor as young as two years old, and believes that this was an easy film to make. He found that the music makes you feel scared.
  • Abrahamson was drawn to the story because it felt like a poem to his own children. He was interested in how to make a film with two distinct parts and how to preserve that journey.
  • Brie and Jacob spent a lot of time together in the room connecting with one another and spoke a lot about Star Wars.
  • The cinematography was approached with an inflected style by Danny Cohen (note: you’ll also see his work in the upcoming The Danish Girl which is absolutely beautiful)
  • Some of the challenges in the adaptation process included balancing the double image between Jack’s perception and the reality of the situation; adapting the novel in the second half because it is shaped differently; and creating a forward motion and tension.

Room will be released in Canada this Friday, October 23rd by A24 Films. 

Survival 101: What I Need to be A Final Girl

There are two Halloween things that I will probably always want to do: one is to eat chocolate – especially the discounted chocolate AFTER Halloween, because cheap sugar is all a gal ever needs –  and the other is to watch horror movies, even though it is one of my most awkward relationships because I watch a scientifically definitive 70% of such movies through my hands that are obviously covering my eyes. While I am a bit of wimp when it comes to gratuitous gore and exorcism, I’ll always attempt to watch nearly horror film that comes my way.

So when Man Crates, a California-based company that distributes gifts for men in crates that – get this – can only be opened with a crowbar, challenged me to come up with a horror movie survivor crate, I thought “Yeah, okay, I’m Jaime Lee Curtis, no assembly required for this final girl!” …but then I realized that Jaime Lee Curtis didn’t have a cell phone during her scream queen days, which is the only reason I’d ever feel confident of living through a murderous Halloween night.

Given that I would hypothetically stake my life on a mobile device, I would probably need a lot of things to survive a horror movie, least of all some better hand-eye coordination and some track and field training. Since that can’t be packed in a crate,  I thought I’d share with you some select personal items that I would add to your otherwise standard crate (axes, net traps, instructions for net traps, chainsaws, safety goggles, Taylor Swift’s squad, etc).

Note: For different horror movie scenarios you would need different things. For instance, I would include a spare foot, needle and thread in my crate if I was in a Saw movie. Another example is if I was in a haunted house, for which I would ensure that I have a directory app with the numbers of every religious leader who could bless my house downloaded on my phone (that’s a thing, right?)

I’m inspired by the last horror movie I saw, The Final Girls, which parodies a classic Jason Vohorees-style horror movie, so my crate would be built to survive that type of scary movie.

Item #1: A sturdy but comfortable pair of sneakers


I have a really, really hard time believing that in thriller/horror films, the female characters are able to run in six inch stiletto, booties, or any other sort of footwear with a heel to escape the killer/stalker/dinosaur etc (but granted, I could use a few lessons in high heel athletics). If I’m on the run, I need the right kicks to make sure I don’t kill the arch in my foot because when I survive, I don’t want to be stuck in physiotherapy for the rest of my life. Run fast, but run safely too.

Item #2: Endless espresso/energy drinks
Admittedly, this may not be the best idea – have you ever taken back-to-back caffeine with the sole purpose of staying awake? I did it a number of times when I was pulling all-nighters during my undergrad and besides the delusional sense you get after three consecutive caffeine hits, your focus tends to go haywire. This could mean sloppy mistakes on my part, but I’m determined that there’s a way to offset those terrible effects and ensure that such energy supplements can be used wisely and effectively.

Item #3: Gasoline/Matches/lighter
When in doubt, just find a covert corner, meditate for a quick sec and tap into your inner-pyromaniac. Then just light everything on fire because no serial killer can escape fire (but make sure you map out an escape route so you can watch everything burn from a distance.)

Item #4: A hammer
I feel like in movies, when we meet the love interest/potential antagonist/murderer, the protagonist is usually fixing something outside, or gardening, or working on a car, or creating a stage set for the school play, or something and they have an awkward-cute encounter. I’d want a hammer to nail some stuff down on my front lawn and show to my future creepy boyfriend that yeah, I’m pretty and I’m in the skills trade…especially if it means I can use such tools for defence purposes. Worst-case date scenario, of course.

Item #5: Mints


This is my horror movie and if my life is being threatened, I should be promised a close, quasi-romantic encounter with the creepy boyfriend or “the cute best friend”, which means yeah, I’ll need breath mints. They’re less noisy than a gum packet, easy to carry and if need be,  I can try the Mentos-Coca Cola rocket thing and create a diversion to escape from the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlie Hunnam, Tom Hiddleston, etc.

Item #6: A Portable Cellphone Charger
Just a reminder that this is coming from a girl who said from the get-go that a cellphone gives her the confidence to survive, so I need to ensure that thing is turned on at all times and that I can SnapChat my entire escape from the Forbidden Forest/murder house on Elm Street/Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl.

Item #7: Dark Lipstick
Nothing like some Film Noir to make a girl feel aesthetically confident as a Final Girl because no one wants to mess with a girl in dark lipstick. I can also use it to write stalker-type messages on the mirrors of my co-stars/friends. So wait, am I now also the unsuspecting villain in this story?

What would be in your horror movie survival kit? Tweet me and Man Crates and let us know! 

Film Review: The Final Girls

IMG_3732

Director and cast of The Final Girls at TIFF15’s Midnight Madness

80s nostalgia is apparently a thing these days and running rampant in pop culture (most prominently is Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens), but few are nailing it with such a fantastic sense of irony as The Final Girls, a horror-comedy homage to slasher flicks of Halloween past directed by Todd Stauss-Schulson (A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas).

The Final Girls (referring to the last surviving girl who beats the villain in a horror movie) stars Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story) as Max, daughter of scream queen actress Nancy (Malin Åkerman, 27 Dresses) who passed away in a car accident. Years later, Max attends an anniversary screening of her mother’s claim-to-fame film Camp Bloodbath with her high school friends and peers. A fire wreaks havoc at the event and Max, in an effort to save her friends, cuts through the movie theatre screen to escape.

When Max and her friends jump through the hole, they end up in the actual film Camp Bloodbath, allowing Max to reunite with her mother and the rest of the cast of the film. With the threat of the Camp Bloodbath plot and the legendary Billy Murphy, a former camp kid seeking murderous revenge, Max must work with her mother, her friends and the rest of the characters of Camp Bloodbath to survive.

The Final Girls works because it never takes itself too seriously, even with the reunion between Max and her mother. It instead weaves that subplot amongst the several hilarious slasher flick tropes to play off more as a tribute to the highly revered genre with some semblance of an emotional grounding . That said, you’ll probably only enjoy it to the same extent that you can take its camp-y (pun intended) ways; from the hair to the humour,ch-ch-ah-ahs and John Carpenter-esque production, there’s a lot that may make you groan. It helps that a stacked cast of popular and young faces, including Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries), Alexander Ludwig (The Hunger Games), Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley), Adam Devine (Pitch Perfect) and Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) are completely committed to the ridiculous ride and possess enough self-awareness to ensure that The Final Girls doesn’t try to convince you of much more than what it intends to be: an endearing, occasionally corny and well-intended celebration of the scary films that many of us grew up on.

I screened The Final Girls at TIFF this year. The Final Girls is now out in select theatres across North America.