Film review: Xavier Dolan’s Mommy

Chris Hanna

Xavier Dolan Mommy

Quebec cinema wunderkind Xavier Dolan’s fifth feature Mommy is his best by far.

In hindsight, Mommy is also Dolan’s first masterpiece. This isn’t a knock to his debut, J’ai tué ma mère, or the lush Laurence Anyways, or even the Hitchcockian Tom à la ferme, but none of his previous films are nearly as moving, captivating or artistically assured as Mommy is. Knowing what he can do now with Mommy, a passionate, beautiful and unique film about a Québécois family, with a script that is biting and emotional, it makes his previous efforts pale in comparison.

Set in 2015, when a new law is passed allowing Canadians with a problem child to give him or her up to a federal institution, Mommy follows Diane “Die” Després (the perfect Anne Dorval, in her fourth Dolan film) and her son Steve, whom Die picks up from what appears to be a boarding…

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Era Apocrypha: Venice review

In religious terms, “era apocrypha” refers to a series of dubious statements whose authenticity is brought into question. It is a reference to the lack of understanding of biblical canonicity.  In Greek, the word “apocryphal” is applied to writings that were only allowed to be read by those initiated because they were believed to carry wisdom that was too profound for the masses.

You need to think about that before you see Brendan Sweeny’s short film debut Era Apocrypha which premièred at the Venice Film Festival last week, in the Short Film competition. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the festival myself, but Sweeny and I worked together during TIFF last year, and kept in touch since then. He showed me his film and we chatted about what sort of themes were conveyed through it.

Told from different perspectives, the film is driven by biting conversation devoid of niceties. The action spans across several generations living in the same house, so in this sense it is divided into a series of short vignettes.  There is something ominous about the film’s characters, who all seem to be driven by reprehensible thoughts and words. The way Sweeny represents humans in Era Apocrypha is reminiscent of the way Michael Haneke does: they are despicable and petty.


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Film review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Chris Hanna

Guardians of the Galaxy

Science fiction has already had a great year at the movies – the warped Snowpiercer, the excellent Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America 2, and the critically-acclaimed-yet-to-be-seen-by-this-writer-who-hangs-his-head-in-shame Only Lovers Left Alive by Jim Jarmusch, Jonathan Glazer film Under the SkinGodzilla reboot, and Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow. With Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the genre’s streak of greatness continues, and will likely do so until the end of the year, with Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and the penultimate Hunger Games instalment still to come.

In Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel and director James Gunn (known before this for the great indies Slither and Super) make an action star out of Chris Pratt (known before GOTG for mostly playing loveable, bumbling, well-meaning fools, like Andy Dwyer on NBC’s fantastic Parks and Recreation). Pratt is Peter Quill, a resident of Earth who gets…

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The pains of being young : a review of Boyhood

My favourite kind of movie is the literary type; not necessarily movies about writers, but rather films that rely on strong writing and character development instead of plot. In that sense they become like works of literature, flowing with ease, and engaging the audience not with the use of intrigue, but with a pulsating heartbeat.

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is in itself more than just a film. It is a novel, a coming-of-age story, and it is also a cinematic miracle. Twelve years in the works, the project employs the same actors and characters and follows their journey through life seamlessly and effortlessly.


At the film’s core is Mason (Ellar Coltrane) who lives with his mom and older sister (Patricia Arquette and Lorelei Linklater) and whose teen-spirited dad (Ethan Hawke) visits occasionally to provide wisdom into the school of life and politics. Boyhood is not so much a story as it is a look at life through the eyes of this one boy, from ages 6 to 18. Every year is depicted by Linklater through a key event, or a memory, or just a regular day in his life. It is engaging because it is impossible not to relate to Mason’s growing and learning, and I often found myself reminiscing where I was when a particular song came on the radio while he and his dad were driving somewhere, or what my own awkward high-school years were like. Continue reading

Graveyard Gypsies: photo editorial

“The thing about rising is we have to continue upward: the thing about going beyond is we have to keep going.” – Cheryl Strayed Here at TCP, we enjoy dabbling in the dark & twisty. Our latest editorial was born from a Bulgarian myth called Nestinarstvo, where locals dance on burning coals to celebrate life and death […]

Film review: Snowpiercer

Chris Hanna


Like the train that is the film’s namesake, Snowpiercer is in constant motion.

The Korean production by Joon-ho Bong (The HostMother) stars an international cast that includes Chris Evans in the lead role, with Jamie Bell, Ed Harris, Octavia Spencer, Alison Pill, Kang-ho Song, Ah-sung Ko, Luke Pasqualino in roles of varying importance. It’s Tilda Swinton, though, who steals the show. In her third appearance on our screens this year (she’s in Terry Gilliam’s Zero Theorem, but it’s unlikely to get a Canadian theatrical release), and after a career resurgence thanks to her magnetic White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia in 2005, it’s clear there’s not much Swinton does wrong. In Snowpiercer, she’s Mason, a snobby bourgeois who dons a preposterous bob, fake teeth, expensive furs and colourful dresses and suits. She first graces Snowpiercer about 15 minutes in and her Mason…

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Film review: Begin Again

Chris Hanna

Begin Again Keira Knightley Mark Ruffalo

Like a great song, Begin Again is all about the build-up.

It’s a long road of meh, though, until the electrifying, invigorating, chill-inducing third act, which almost makes up for a choppy beginning and sometimes dull middle bit. Keira Knightley stars as Greta, a Londoner in New York with her beau, next-big-thing-in-music Dave Kohl (a surprising Adam Levine). She writes songs with him, sometimes for him, and they’re madly in love until she hears one of his new tunes and deduces that it’s about another woman. Disgruntled, she sings about loneliness at a dingy club later that night, where Dan (Mark Ruffalo, phenomenal as usual), drunk as a skunk, imagines Greta being backed by a pianist, violinist, cellist and drummer. It’s magic, he thinks and hopes.

Director John Carney is no stranger to movies about musicians, having helmed the Oscar-winning Once, like Begin Again only in that it features…

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Film review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Chris Hanna

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The most surprising thing about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is that Andy Serkis’s incredible motion-captured performance is only the third best thing about the Matt Reeves film.

Surprising because Serkis’s Caesar, an ape born of a chimp who received experimental Alzheimer’s medication, was the centrepiece of the 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which successfully rebooted the series to critical and commercial success (a $481 million worldwide box-office haul in its run) and made Dawn inevitable.

The visual effects are king in Dawn. Really, without them, Serkis’s performance – and actors Toby Kebbell, Terry Notary, Karin Konoval and Judy Greer, whose work as apes was also motion-captured – would be inconceivable. The explosions, CG set pieces and the many scenes of destruction (that fire…) were all breathtaking. Then there’s the score by Michael Giacchino, an Oscar winner for Pixar’s Up score, that is…

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Emmy nominations: Nine biggest surprises

Chris Hanna


One of the perks of living on the east coast is not having to wake up at ungodly hours for awards announcements.

This morning, at 8:30/5:30 PT, the nominations for the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards were announced by Carson Daly and Mindy Kaling. You can check out the full list of nominations here.

There were the predictable nominations for HBO’s True Detective, and Breaking Bad‘s final season (the two shows will be up against each other in the drama series categories, making those especially contentious), and FX’s miniseries game is unmatched (FargoAmerican Horror Story are up for several awards). But there were still some unnerving oversights – and some pleasant surprises – by the Television Academy. Here are nine.

1. Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black

Universally praised for her work on BBC America’s Orphan Black, Canadian Tatiana Maslany did not get a nomination in the…

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Film review: Only Lovers Left Alive

What is the traditional vampire narrative like? Well, Bela Lugosi’s famous Count Dracula was a dangerous and scary being, aroused by the purity of virgins. Thirsty for blood, vampires have been depicted in fiction and film as sexual predators with porcelain white skin and sharp fangs. Their inhumanity has been a key factor – vampires are not humans, they’re something else entirely.

Leave it to Jim Jarmusch then to create vampire heroes who are not only human, but also have a penchant for music and literature. And they dress like rock stars. Starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, Only Lovers Left Alive is a mood piece more than it is a film. It follows a couple, fittingly named Adam and Eve, as they battle the inconveniences of being vampires in this day and age: not enough supply of good quality blood due to the bad nutritional and drug habits of “zombies” (what they call humans), hiding their identities, and bemoaning the days when being a genius didn’t equate fame.only-lovers-left-alive02

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