Category Archives: Fiction

Hidden Figures

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127 minutes

4.75/5

Director: Theodore Melfi

 

Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer)  are three African American scientists who helped put men into space while struggling for equality in 1960s Virginia. Based on true events, Hidden Figures follows Mary fighting for the right to go to an all white school to get an advanced engineering degree, while Dorothy works to keep her job in the face of technological advancements and Katherine is determined to receive the respect she deserves as one of the biggest brains in all of NASA. This is the compelling story of these three brilliant minds, who happen to be African American women and because of that, are not treated as equals.

This film is absolutely wonderful and deserving of it’s many academy award nominations, including best motion picture. I love how it shows just how hard these women’s lives were, and just how much discrimination they faced. They were three highly intelligent women who were treated like garbage because of their gender and the colour of their skin. Katherine had to walk half a mile because there were no “coloured” washrooms anywhere near her desk. Mary had to persuade a judge to get a court order for her to be allowed into school – for night classes! Dorothy was doing all the work of a supervisor, but because she was African American, did not receive the pay or title. On top of that, all three women were moms! Each one of them had at least two children! After watching this film it really reminds you how far respect and nondiscrimination has come.

e154021_t05Another thing that was amazing about this film is that they talk about all the science that was happening during that time in NASA. Due to the race to space between the USA and Russia, the 1960’s were an exciting time for science and technology. This film shows a lot of the cool math and science and technological advancements (like the development of computers) from that decade. What’s even cooler is that they barely dumb it down for the audience! We get to see everyone’s calculations and hear about fortran, the language of the computers, and even technical things like the problems with the heat shield. I really appreciated being able to learn a little bit while watching the film.

I also particularly enjoyed how not every single black person was nice, and not every single white person was mean. There was Mr. Harrison (Kevin Costner); who was the leader of NASA and didn’t care that Katherine a women or that she was African American, he just wanted her to do her work. If there was something impeding her, he would get rid of it, like giving her complete clearance of information or getting rid of all the “coloured” washrooms and just making them “washrooms” so that she could take less time in the bathroom (because she wouldn’t have to run half a mile in heels). Then there was Colonel Jimmy Johnson (Mahershala Ali) who said something pretty sexist the first time he met Katherine. “They let women in the science program?” Ya. He said that, as if he was trying to woo her. Not the best pick up line. This film wasn’t just black and white (for lack of a better metaphor) when it came to good and bad characters. Everyone was their own person with their own opinions.

One thing that was subtle and yet still absolutely wonderful was the soundtrack. It wasn’t loud or what you were meant to focus on, like in a film such as “La La Land” (another Academy Award nominee) and yet it was just as good. It supported the scenes very well, you didn’t focus on it and yet it filled the spaces where there was no dialogue so you could concentrate on the scenery or the intense math sessions. It was very versatile, from the songs that are playing on the radio, to the songs sung in the church scenes, to the scenes that are supposed to be ‘silent’, but you want something to fill that noise gap so it isn’t jarring. This film did all this perfectly and made it sound effortless.

One thing that I didn’t like about this film, is that they kind of glossed over Mary Jackson’s story. We see that she is smart enough to be an engineer but doesn’t have the credentials due to her lack of an advanced engineering degree. What we never see is what she works on at NASA. We see her home life and her hanging out with Dorothy and Katherine, but we rarely get a chance to see just what she normally does at NASA. I for one, would have loved to see what she did because she worked on the more scientific and less mathematical stuff for NASA and that’s something we don’t really see in the film. I think if we got more insight into Mary’s life we would be able to see the cool science things NASA was doing at the time along with the cool math they were doing.

All in all, this movie was near perfect. It had a wonderful story line, was based on true events, had moments of comedy even though it was a very serious film, and even had an amazing original score. I hope the Oscars treat Hidden Figures very well, because this film deserves each and every award it has been nominated for.

 

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Chokeslam

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Director: Robert Cuffley

Screenwriters: Jason Long and Robert Cuffley

4/5

Chokeslam was the closing gala film for the Calgary International Film Festival 2016. Here’s what I thought about it.

Corey (Chris Marquette) is a sad, almost thirty year old, still living with his mom and working at a deli people only come to if they want to rob it. When Corey’s pro-wrestler friend from high school, Sheena, arrives back in town and announces her retirement, Corey hatches a plan to get her to do her retirement match in their small town.

Sheena’s manager though, has different plans. He wants Sheena’s match in some high profile place like Chicago or Tokyo. But motivated by his love for Sheena, Corey will stop at nothing to get Sheena to stay in town for a couple more days.  

I am not like Corey.  

My life is very busy. I have every minute of everyday planned out. I certainly don’t have time to put my life on hold and wait for some person to come back, just so I can be with them. I don’t have to sit around and eat fruit loops in my pajama’s while watching hockey. Part of what made Corey such a great character was how he was so different than me and yet I understood his motivations, he just wanted one thing. To be with Sheena. He was willing to do pretty much anything just to be with Sheena. I think we all have something in our lives that we would be willing to do almost everything for.  While Corey was so different then me and most people, everyone could relate to him and understand how he felt.


14433124_1173234829381649_5367326240430201465_nMy favourite character was Michael Eklund’s character Luke, Corey’s best (and only) friend. He was hilarious. From the fact that Eklund was way too old to play someone going to his 10 year High School reunion, to Luke’s insane love of food and the fact that he thinks he’s the best person ever. Luke was such a great character and made a great duo with Corey. There’s this one scene where the two of them are eating fruit loops wearing matching pajamas and that scene alone made my day. The way that Luke imitates Corey is great.

When asked about his character, this is what Michael Eklund said:

“I auditioned for this movie in 2006, when I was old enough to go to my high school reunion and the movie almost got made, but then as movies do, sometimes they fall apart and then me and Robert made two other films after that audition, Walk All Over Me and then Ferocious and then we finally made Chokeslam which is where I met him, in the audition room. Ten years ago. It’s insane. I’m way too old to play Luke and he still gave me the role. I do remember that first time when I met Robert in the audition room, and I just had a feeling that we would someday make this movie, and we did.”

This film was very, very funny. There were simple comic moments, like when Luke gets hit with a chair, or when Tab pops out of nowhere behind Corey. But there was also some elaborate funny bits, like an entire scene where Corey gets a big piece of wood stuck in his butt. I enjoyed all the humour and for once, this adult film had tons of jokes that I laughed at and actually understood!

This film had tons of wrestling in it. There were lots of references and a couple of fights. Before seeing this film my only knowledge of wrestling was what I learned in gym class and the movie Nacho Libre, so I can’t say if they were very true to the sport, but the audience seemed to really like it and I thought it looked really cool. To work on the wrestling matches the crew of Chokeslam got help from pro wrestlers Harry Smith and Lance Storm.

 

After the film was over I got a chance to talk to screenwriter Jason Long. Here’s what he had to say about the film!

Q: What was the initial inspiration for this film?

A: The director Robert Cuffley had the original inspiration and it actually came from a dark story about after his high school reunion, there was a person he barely knew in high school but he had heard they had committed suicide. Which was part of the original  script for a long time and then it’s funny because when we switched to wrestling, we kind of went away from it but it’s funny because the theme of that kind of darkness and depression kind of came back which was very interesting that it came full circle. But that was the inspiration, in that he looked up the guy in the yearbook and he tried to remember his picture, and he couldn’t remember who he was. That was the first memory of Chokeslam, which was called Yearbook.

Q: How did you become involved in this project?

A: Well, Robert and I had written a movie called Turning Page together and it had just been shot, so they were editing it, and he thought, we should do another film, because sometimes people do more than one film. And I was like how about that?! That’s great! So Robert was like, well, I don’t know any other writers, or they’re all busy, Jason would you do another one, and I said yes. Because we’re friends. So he had the idea, he just brought it to me and i immediately said yes because by that time we were like, pretty tight.

This film was wonderful. It was thought provoking, comedic, well paced, all wrapped up in a movie about wrestling. I highly recommend this film to anyone who likes good laughs, body slams and flying elbows.

The Adventure Club at CIFF 2016

55The Adventure Club

Director: Geoff Anderson

3/5

Ricky, the leader of the Adventure Club really just wants to go on an adventure, just like his grandfather did before he died. One night, while Ricky is going through his late grandfather’s things, he finds a mysterious key in his grandfather’s office. Ricky then summons an emergency meeting of the Adventure Club, to go and solve all the secrets this key might unlock.

I enjoyed the way this film was  shot. Each scene seemed well planned. Perhaps the cinematographers could have taken more risks, but for a family audience it was comfortable. Everyone in the audience really liked this one scene in particular which was in the museum. The Adventure Club gang had to hide from the security guard in the museum and every time the security guard walked through the scene the kids were cleverly hiding in plain sight!

This film was also comedic. There were moments in the movie where the kids in the audience laughed, and others when it was the parents chuckling. That is super important when it comes to making a family film, there should be something for everyone. The fact that the cast includes members of the cast of the TV show Corner Gas and  Billy Zane definitely helped make the adults laugh, and the Adventure Club’s adult friend (played by Canadian acting legend Kim Coates!) was so crazy that the kids couldn’t help but laugh at his ridiculousness. 

Most of the time the adult actors were big scene stealers (because most of them were comedians) and sometimes it seemed like they were trying to out funny each other! Sometimes the fact that they were trying so hard took the spotlight away from the main characters of the film; the kids!

On the down side, older kids may find this film predictable. You have your typical trio of kids (the leader boy, the smart girl and the goofball boy) who find this magical item that some bad guys are looking for. With the help of a kooky adult they must stop the evil guys from acquiring the magical item. It was nice to see the great acting job done by young lead actor Sam Ashe Arnold as Ricky. Ricky learned some valuable lessons and brought his club closer together.  

Sam Ashe Arnold who plays Ricky decided drop by for the screening and I asked him a couple questions:

Q: Do plan on becoming an actor as a full time career?

A: Ya, I’ve already done around nine other films and short films. I really love acting, it’s what I want to do for life.

Q: What is your favourite part about acting?

A: I’ve always loved storytelling, so that’s my favourite part for sure.

Q: Do you have any upcoming films?

A: Ya, I have a film called High Rise Rescue which is going to be on Super Channel!

To conclude, this film was entertaining for many of the young kids in the audience and the parents that they brought along.

Parents, take your kids to the festival on Saturday October 1st at 2:15 at Eau Claire if you’d like to go see a movie that’s actually kid friendly! 

Hello Destroyer

hellodestroyer_04

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Destroyer

Director: Kevan Funk

Tyson Burr: Jared Abrahamson

3/5

Hello Destroyer was the first movie that I saw the Calgary International Film Festival.

Tyson Burr (Abrahamson) is a rookie member of the Prince George Warriors hockey team, but one day he gets into a terrible hockey fight that escalates quickly and ends in someone getting hospitalized. Tyson’s career ends abruptly when he is found responsible for the hockey players injuries and falls into a pit of despair and depression.

This movie caught the whole audience off guard and everyone was at the edge of their seat. We were all incredibly invested in Tyson and wanted to help him or at least give him a hug. I found it pretty hard not to yell at the screen and offer words of encouragement. This film definitely makes you feel uncomfortable that a lot of films don’t have the courage to make you feel and it’s all because of how invested you become with the characters.

I thought that it took too long for the plot to really get started. It was all about the fight that Tyson gets into, except that doesn’t happen until the middle of the film. There’s a lot of character development that is almost unnecessary for example; Tyson’s relationship with the mother of the family he’s living with? Do they need to have some love tension? She’s not a single mom.

At close to two hours, this film  goes on longer than it probably needed to, there’s quite a few unnecessary scenes or repetitive scenes, like when Tyson’s working in the slaughter house, you can show him  few times at the slaughterhouse, but how many times do you need to get your point across? Also, some scenes went on for too long, like some of the scenes where you see Tyson working out, we get it, he’s a hockey player and needs to keep in shape, do we need to see him jump rope for five minutes? Maybe not.

I don’t recommend this film for kids, it had tons of profanity and some nudity, I only looked at the synopsis of the film in the festival program and that didn’t mention any nudity or colourful language. I thought it would be about a young adult getting punishment for getting into a fight at hockey, but the kind of punishment one of my friends would get. Not getting banned from the league and getting kicked out their house.

This film was very quiet and inner-directed. I really liked the lack of dialogue. Since this was all about Tyson’s state of mind, there was a lot of close up shots no soundtrack and little dialogue. I enjoyed that. I really felt like I was feeling what Tyson was feeling and could understand what he was going through. It also got the point across that he was being alienated very well.

I brought my dad to this film because he used to play hockey and I thought he might like it. He said that this scene (below), when the coach was yelling at his players, brought back a lot of memories!

hellodestroyer_01

At the end of the film there was a Q and A with director/screenwriter Kevan Funk and actor Jared Abrahamson (who plays Tyson Burr). Here are some of the questions and answers!

 

Q: Was the film completely scripted or did you guys work on the mood and lines together?

A: J: Kevan wrote a good script, it was solid from beginning to end, but we did blend in a little improv, ad libbing within it. But mostly you have to give Kevan props, he’s a great writer and a great director he put this thing together. For four years he’s been working on this bad boy. With our improv’s, it was nothing without the blueprint.

 

Q: How did you become your character?

 

A: J: For me it was a mix between playing the hockey player and playing the man, you know, I grew up in a town where everybody played hockey so for me it was about finding the balance between being the guy on the team and the guy not on the team, and that’s what Tyson is. [For the record, Jared Abrahamson grew up in Flin Flon, Manitoba, hometown of famed, hard-nosed Philadelphia Flyer Bobby Clarke]

 

When asked about the resemblance to Fort Mcmurray, this is what Kevan Funk and Jared Abrahamson said.

 

K: I have a deep appreciation for this part of the country which I think is super under represented in the media. In the last five years of my work I’ve been interested in the shorts and the features, in actually looking in Canadian identity because I have an issue with especially English Canadian film that is almost terrified to embrace our identity and I think that leads to a lot of the problems when we talk about our inability to really articulate Canadian identity. I think it’s because we don’t spend very much time actually exploring it. So it’s a core interest in terms of the work I make.

J: This film is for Fort Mcmurray, it’s for Flin Flon, it’s for Thomson, it’s for Prince George, for Fort St. John. This is for all of rural Canada. We represent the part of Canada that doesn’t get shown on film often. Usually you see Toronto, you see Vancouver, this is for everybody that comes from places that don’t get a lot of attention. We’re trying to capture that for all you guys.

 

Q: What inspired you to make a film based on this topic?

 

A: K: The initial inspiration was actually this Errol Morris documentary called Standard Operating Procedure that is about the prison guards who tortured prisoners and it’s a fascinating film that you start looking at these people like they’re these awful human beings for the things that they did and it holds them responsible morally for the actions that they took part in, but it also shows how much they are a victim of the systemic violence and that was what was super interesting to me. It is looking at these systemic issues of violence in our culture and looking at the cultivation of the bad guy, or the evil particularly around violence. I think that us looking at a sense of cultural culpability is really important and the only reason it really ended up being hockey is not to due with the violence in hockey per say, it was more that hockey just happens to be our largest cultural institution in this country. I mean if I made this film in the U.S. it would probably be about the military or football.

 

Q: What other films influenced you?

 

A: Formally; there’s this film by Todd Haynes which is probably my favourite film of all time called Safe which is astoundingly good and criminally under seen, I rip off Safe all the time in this movie in terms of sound design. I’m very interested in a movie like that that also has a pretty quiet introspective character and is using the formal qualities that exists in the medium to sort of shape it.

 

Q: You used a lot of close up and obstructed shots during the movie, what inspired that?

K: I mean I work with an incredibly talented cinematographer who I’ve worked with for a long time and he’s an incredible creative partner, it goes back to what I was talking about with sound design. When you have a character and I give Jared a ton of credit for such a difficult role to play, because you don’t have a lot language to use other than physical language and then as a filmmaker on top of that you then have to articulate a lot of ideas that you can’t do through dialogue so a big part of this sort claustrophobic shooting style with the way we approach looking at Jared is to kind of create this weight that there is this sort of physicality to the image that you feel is on top of him throughout a lot of the film.  If he’s not going to sit down and say “oh I’m so sad, I’m so depressed, everything’s wrong in my life” you need to be able to communicate that and that is the sort of balance that you find in making something like this where the real sort of personal tragedy of this character is his inability to communicate and he is really only able to express himself tough violence. That’s what he’s learned and so then you have a responsibility as a filmmaker to still make sure that you’re communicating the ideas even if your character is not doing anything in such a deliberate way. I think Jared’s performance tells you so much of that through a lot these smaller moments but that’s why you need to shoot it in a way that you can catch the nuance of a performance because otherwise I think a lot of that emotion and story telling is lost.

 

All in all, even if this film wasn’t made for my age group or personality, this film left me with a lot to think about, and a good film always does.

In Real Life

real-postcard-4x6-front-finalIn Real Life

Jessica Love

224 Pages

3.5/5

Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper talk to each other everyday, consistently shower each other with gifts, and tell each other everything. They’re typical best friends, there’s just one slight problem; they’ve never actually met.

When Hannah’s spring break plans go awry, she finally decides to meet her best friend who just happens to live in Las Vegas. Plus his band is playing at the House of Blues. Hannah will go with her legal adult sister Grace, and her immature friend Lo, and finally meet the ghost she’s been talking to for four years.

I thought this book was very good. I liked how incredibly detailed the story was. From all the Las Vegas parties, to the many facial expressions of Nick Cooper to Hannah’s deep and intense fear of roller coasters. The way the author described Hannah’s thoughts and the action throughout the whole novel was so wonderful. It made me feel like I was a part of the group having an adventure in Las Vegas. The fact that it was so thorough and cleverly planned out made it seem so organic and unpredictable, which I thought was great. Stories similar to this can be very foreseeable but this one managed to keep me engaged.

I also really liked how it took place in just a weekend. Due to the fact that it was only a weekend, Jessica Love was able to go through every little thing that happened. You knew where they were every minute of the day, what was going through their minds and what was constantly going on around the characters. The weekend started with Hannah wanting to go meet Nick on the Friday night, Grace, Lo and Hannah drive out to Vegas Saturday morning, the whole shenanigans of the entire novel happens Saturday night, and then they drive home Sunday morning! The story wasn’t stretched out for a long period of time, so the author had the ability to really make it feel like an adventure out on the town of Las Vegas. She could  jam pack the story with problems and details without needing to stretch out the story over many days.

I also thought it did a great being super relatable. I understood everything that was going on inside Hannah’s mind and had totally felt that way before, she’s a character that goes through very normal struggles, like not wanting to have a bad reputation, but wanting to be free of the rules. Or how she is really scared of something and will do anything to avoid it. Or simply how she has feelings for someone, but she doesn’t want to tell the other person out of the fear of rejection.

I felt like the character Lo (Hannah’s best friend in real life) could have been expanded more. I know that because of the time restraint there wasn’t a lot of room for character development aside from the main characters, but I wanted to learn about Hannah’s party girl counterpart, or for Lo to mature, or grow up or something by the end of the story.

I didn’t like how Lo told Hannah to make Nick jealous by flirting with Jordy, then Jordy and Hannah kissed and that whole scene was not only very cringe worthy, but I think it wasn’t written as well as it could have been. It was written in a way where it didn’t add very much to the story and what it did add, it could have been put somewhere else and the story would have been just fine.

To conclude, this book was pretty decent. There were a few bumps in the road, but it was a good short weekend read. If you’re looking for something short and sweet, I recommend this book. I binge read it in two days.

Gone

gone_michael_grantGone

Michael Grant

4/5

558 Pages

Sam was sitting in class, when all of a sudden everyone over the age of fifteen disappeared into thin the air. Now, all the teenagers within the area of Perdido Beach, California who would normally be spending their time surfing or reading a book, must take care of the younger children and try to find a way to get out the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone). Meanwhile, kids from the private school up the hill from the town that was also affected are trying to take over the town and kill all the teenagers that stand in their way.

I really liked how this novel was post apocalyptic and yet, it didn’t seem like that was all the story was about. There was also the elements of self conflict in the minds of Sam and Computer Jack. Plus the fact that the private school kids fought the town kids for dominance in the area, gang style.

My favourite character was Computer Jack. He was a kid from the private school trying to take over the town. Jack had extreme computer skills, hence the nickname. The older kids used Jack for his knowledge on technology and didn’t give him very much in return. Throughout the book you get little snippets of what’s going on in his mind – he is fully aware that he is working for the bad kids but there’s nothing he can do about it, because he is being constantly bullied by those same bad people.

Something that I had a problem with is the fact that the character Astrid (she’s from the town) is nicknamed ‘Astrid the Genius’ but as you go through the book she uses less and less of her logic skills and has to be saved by Sam more and more. Coincidentally, as the book goes along, Sam and Astrid fall in love. That doesn’t mean Astrid can’t fix problems with her giant brain just because Sam likes her and she likes Sam.

Another thing that I was not a fan of was this other worldly creature called ‘The Darkness’, it was only barely introduced and didn’t really have a large role. I feel like you could have taken The Darkness out completely and the story would have been fine. Now, this book is the first in a long series so The Darkness could have a much larger role in the following novels but for now, he/she/it is a pretty useless character.
Still, this book was pretty good, it was a great post-apocalyptic book, there were just a few problems in the story line. I recommend this book for post-apocalyptic lovers and haters alike!

Suicide Squad

12489243_1674589672821667_4430624289856009994_oSuicide Squad

130 Minutes

2.5/5

Superman is dead and government agent Amanda Waller is worried about if the next Superman won’t be so kind. To prepare, she has put together a team of incredibly dangerous people to protect the world. Suddenly, an ancient sorcerer called The Enchantress returns to Earth seeking revenge for her death that was over five hundred years ago. Amanda must summon her team to go and defeat the Enchantress so they can keep this encounter with a meta human top secret. If anything goes awry, the villains get thrown under the bus.

First of all, this film had a really good soundtrack! It went pretty well with the movie and I knew a lot of the songs. For example; they use the song “You Don’t Own Me” by Grace, when they’re introducing Harley Quinn and it really helps give you insight into her personality. Other hits that the filmmakers used in this movie were; “Bohemian Rhapsody” covered by Panic! At the Disco and “Without Me” by Eminem. The songs almost told the whole story because they went so well along with the plot. I would love to see this film as a musical, wouldn’t that have been cool!

My favourite character was Harley Quinn. Props to the filmmakers because they kept Harley Quinn as PG as physically possible without taking away the essence of the character. She was absolutely insane and fearless, yet also incredibly funny. I wouldn’t call her a very good role model for young girls but she was definitely one of the few great things about this film.

I thought this film moved far too slow. The first hour was all about setting up the characters and why the world needs the Suicide Squad but even then, they were kind of walking around and not doing anything except for talking amongst each other for another twenty minutes.

I also did not like the way they explained any of the Suicide Squad’s backstories, except for Deadshot’s. They kept on showing Harley Quinn flashbacks that were just short enough to be confusing and to not explain anything about her. El Diablo’s backstory was okay, but they could have let him lose control a little bit sooner, he was very useless until about the last forty five minutes. Nobody even talked to him. For the other squad members, they just weren’t explained very much at all, and so you couldn’t even be able to remember their names or powers or anything about them at all.

Suicide-SquadComing into the film I was really hoping to enjoy Jared Leto’s Joker, but honestly, his interpretation of the Joker was not my favourite. He seemed far too insane, but just for the sake of being crazy. In my mind, the Joker is supposed to be crazy, but is supposed to be able to snap out of it at least a little bit and be able to make convoluted plans in an attempt wreak havoc upon Gotham City. This Joker’s plans were far less than convoluted. Also, if the editors had kept more of the Joker in the film, we might of seen more of his attempts to help Harley Quinn escape from prison, but because they cut so much of him out, his character as a whole was not properly explained and didn’t really make much sense.

In conclusion, although I still enjoyed the movie, this was probably the worst superhero film I’ve seen this year, but If you just want to go to the theatre for something to do with your friends, I suggest just go see this film.