October 15, 2014

Toronto After Dark 2014: May I Suggest...

One of my favourite film festivals, and the first I decided to cover when I started this site, the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TAD) takes over downtown Toronto beginnng tomorrow until October 24th.. In store, there are 9 nights of horror, action, cult, and sci-fi movies. It is by far, one of the most fun festivals to attend... not only as a cult film fan.

For those of you who, like me, are still making up your schedules, I have taken the liberty of compiling a list of films I am planning to check out.

Opening Night
Thursday, Oct 16th, 9.45pm 
Director Richard Bates, Jr. bring us this "spooktacular ghost-hunting horror comedy starring Criminal Minds’ Matthew Gray Gubler, Thor’s Kat Dennings, Twin Peaks’ Ray Wise, Jeff Combs & John Waters".

Horror comedies are not only fun but can have a wider appeal. I have also read some positive reviews on this film; as such, it seems like a good way to start our time at TAD.

Sunday, Oct 19th, 9.30pm
This werewolf thriller builds to "an intense violent climax, in which a series of vicious nighttime attacks in an otherwise tranquil community compels an aging war veteran (Stake Land’s Nick Damici) to take matters into his own hands. As the ex-solder starts to track down the culprit, he realizes he’s up against a deadly foe that’s not quite human, but rather one part man, one part wolf, and very hard to kill".

A werewolf thriller? There is no way I could miss this film. And yes, this film is also garnering some positive attention as well... I'm ready to howl!

Monday, Oct 20th, 7.00pm
From Spanish director, Nacho Vigalondo (Time Crmes) comes this dark cyber thriller about a man (Elijah Wood) forced into a deadly game of cat and mouse with an online psychopath.

Elijah Wood in a thriller sounds rather enticing, if you ask me. Being a fan of Spanish horror as well, I am keen to see how this project turned out.

Tuesday, Oct 21st, 7.00pm 
A sci-fi crime thriller about a time-travelling agent (Ethan Hawke), tasked with stopping crimes before they’re committed.

To be frank, I am choosing this film based on the fact that it's Ethan Hawke and a sci-fi movie. Add some time travel to the mix and I am there... well, in a manner of speaking.

Thursday, Oct 23rd, 9.30pm 
In this documentary, horror journalist Tal Zimerman (Rue Morgue) travels the world to understand why we love to be scared. Horror icons John Carpenter, George A. Romero, Eli Roth, Don Coscarelli and more share their lively opinions to the subject.

I think many of us wonder the same thing, why do we "love to be scared"? I also think we need to support Canadian film projects, especially documentaries. I am definitely looking forward to this one.

Closing Night
Friday, Oct 24th, 7.00pm
When a menacing stranger (Game Of Thrones’ Liam Cunningham) shows up in the middle of the night at an isolated police station, the officer on duty (Pollyanna McIntosh) finds herself suddenly besieged by a demonic outbreak of violence.

Hmm... cryptic description. I researched more about this film and all I have to say is, it sounds like a heck of a ride! Not for the faint of heart but certainly one not to miss. Bring a buddy, if necessary.

All screenings are preceded by various genre short films. And for your convenience, all films screen at the Scotiabank Theatre. For full details on the festival line-up, festival passes, film times and more, visit torontoafterdark.com. See you in the night... after dark.

Theatre Review: YPT's To Kill A Mockingbird

To mount a stage production of a novel like To Kill A Mockingbird, that is controversial yet appreciated by young and old is no easy feat. Last week, Young People's Theatre (YPT) did just that, and a great adaptation is not enough to describe it.

The overall production excels on various levels. The story deals with relevant yet serious themes on racism, rape, prejudice, and how these are seen through the eyes of a child. It is refreshing to see that YPT did not shy away from these.

I found myself quickly drawn into the story. The cast, under Allen MacInnis' direction,  absolutely work well together. I noticed some familiar faces and some well-seasoned actors. Jeff Miller personifies Atticus Finch effortlessly and has "great stage presence" as my lovely companion put it to me. Tal Shulman (Dill), Noah Spitzer (Jem) and Caroline Toal (Scout) not only work well together and with the ensemble cast, they embody their respective characters very well. As an audience, we forget they are not children in real life.

Interestingly, this story always reminds me how often young people are more tolerable than adults. The character of Atticus Finch reminds us that parents play an integral role in how children view the world and those around them. There is no surprise why this novel, and its various interpreations on film or on stage, make it an important work to revisit again and again. The incidents in Ferguson are a clear example of how times change yet some people don't. It is through stories like this one that we can continually engage a younger audience in discussing how ignorance and prejudice affect not only one person but many. Atticus explains it best, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Jeff Miller as Atticus Finch and Caroline Toal as Scout
Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann
From an artistic perspective, I quite liked the staging of the show. Dana Osborne and team did well in keeping the set design to a minimal feel. Lesley Wilkinson's great use of lighting creates the necessary space to evoke setting and mood. I very much like this type of staging, especially for young audiences. It reinforces the idea of using one's imagination. But it also allows the audience to focus on the actors and the story.

Given that this is a production staged for a young audience -- 11 years onwards -- To Kill A Mockinbird may appear dialogue-heavy but it flows well. And it is not at all confusing. At 90 minutes with no intermission, its pacing works and nothing of importance is missed.

From casting, set and light design, and direction, YPT's To Kill A Mockinbird is not to be missed. I, thus, highly recommend this stage adaptation of the novel. The show runs until November 2nd, with extra evening performances added on October 18th, 25th and November 1st. For full scheduling and show information, visit youngpeoplestheatre.ca.

October 14, 2014

Reel Indie Film Festival 2014: My Picks

The Reel Indie Film Festival (RiFF) provides moviegoers and music lovers with the best in music themed films. RiFF is an independent film festival launched in 2013 as part of the 10th anniversary of the international music festival, Indie Week. RiFF showcases films, panels, parties, and a keynote speaker.

For those of you who have yet to attend RiFF and are looking for some films to check out, I give you my picks.

OPENING NIGHT - Tuesday, Oct. 14th, 7pm
Johnny Winter: Down & Dirty 
Directed by Greg Olliver (USA -Canadian Premiere)
Featuring interviews with Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), and Tommy Shannon (Stevie Ray Vaughan), amongst others, Johnny Winter: Down & Dirty charts the life and career of blues legend Johnny Winter, from his early beginnings in Texas to his later life on the road.

Wednesday, Oct 15th, 9:30pm
Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory 
Directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett (USA)
As dementia continues to affect millions of elderly Americans, the touching film reveals a remarkable, music-based breakthrough that has already transformed lives.

This film will be preceded by the music video, Monobrow  – performed by Dolman. As well as, by the short film Song from a Blackbird, directed by Enrique Pedraza.

Thursday, Oct 16th, 9:30pm
No Land's Song
Directed by Ayat Najafi  (Germany/France -Toronto Premiere)
Since the revolution of 1979 in Iran, women are not allowed to sing in public as soloists. Composer Sara Najafi gathers Iranian and Parisian singers to collaborate on a project, re-opening a musical bridge between France and Iran and defying censorship and taboos.

This film will be preceded by the music video, Up – performed by Arrested Development. As well as, by the short film ROR, directed by Natalie Cunningham.

Saturday, Oct 18th, 7pm
Born To Ruin
Directed by Brendan McCarney (Canada)
The film is a candid and sincere look at 5 best friends who comprise the Toronto indie band Wildlife. It follows their lives as they write and record an album. Nothing is censored. Nothing off-limits.

This film will be preceded by the music video, Hard Part – performed by Nathan Wiley. As well as, by the short film Petty Troubles, directed by Isaac Pingree.

RiFF will be screening many other films besides my picks here. Be sure to check out their website for full festival schedule and ticketing information, reelindiefilmfest.com. All film screenings will take place at The Royal Cinema.

If you are curious about the Indie 101 panels, seminars, mixers, and this year's key note speaker, visit indie101.com for full listings. Series begins on Thursday, Oct 16th, at the Bond Place Hotel.

And do not forget to check out Indie Week, from Oct 15th to 19th, at various venues in Toronto. It will be a week full of  local and international talent, as well, as films, parties, and more!