Oslo, August 31st Review (Kirk Haviland)

Oslo, August 31st

Starring Anders Danielsen Lie, Hans Olav Brenner, Ingrid Olava and Malin Crepin

Written by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt

Directed by Joachim Trier

Off an extremely successful, record breaking European theatrical run, The TIFF Bell Lightbox welcomes the Cannes sensation Oslo, August 31st for an exclusive first run starting Friday August 10th. The Norwegian film from director Joachim Trier, a distant cousin of maverick director Lars Von Trier, stars the same actor from his award winning directorial debut Reprise, Anders Danielsen Lie, in a heavily character driven piece about a recovering addict and his return to the titular city.

Anders (Danielsen Lie) is a recovering addict in a rural rehab program. Coming near the end of his program Anders has been feeling more and more disconnected and actually does something drastic just to feel something. Given leave so that he may go into Oslo for a job interview, Anders decides to try to connect with his past by first paying a visit to Thomas (Brenner), another former junkie. Thomas, now a family man with two small children and a wife Rebecca (Olava), is happy to reconnect with Anders as he has grown stagnant in his life and yearns for his older, wilder days. Before Anders leaves, Thomas invites him out to a party later that evening, but Anders politely declines. Anders goes out for his interview and it does not go well. He goes to meet his sister for lunch, which goes even worse. Walking around Oslo, observing his surrounding and battling with the inner debate over what to do, Anders ends up at the party. Upon arrival Anders dives right back into the alcohol that he has been recovering from this whole time. As the night carries on Anders continues to slip deeper and deeper back into the lifestyle and the depression that once ruled his life, and continues to make bad choice after bad choice.

Oslo, August 31st is a hard yet engaging watch with a strong lead performance at its core. With not much of a narrative, Oslo, August 31st is a character driven piece that follows the slow descent of Anders back in to the drug fueled underground scene of Oslo that he had worked so hard at climbing out of. The city itself is set up immediately as a character, as the film opens with random thoughts and recollections from a variety of narrators musing about the city itself. Very beautiful to look at, the film’s cinematography is expertly displayed here. Director Trier keeps the film moving and fills the background with interesting scenery and characters that keep us invested in the film. Danielsen Lie is fantastic as the brooding Anders, wearing the pain and emotion on his face that belies the suffering below along with flashing a misleading grin that sucks you in and makes you feel that he may be enjoying the journey back into the dark. The supporting cast does some solid work here, Anders sure brings along a lot of pretty ladies with him, but this is Ander’s story from the very start.

Oslo, August 31st is a fascinating piece of cinema that works on many levels. But be warned, this is not a Hollywood film with a tacked on happy ending, it’s a spiral downwards that keeps going to its bleak and depressing ending, but it’s ultimately a fitting and very believable finish to our time with Anders. Oslo, August 31st is a definite recommend, and I’m betting an early candidate for a Best Foreign Language Academy Award nomination.

Oslo, August 31st starts its exclusive run at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Friday August 10th.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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Alps Review (Kirk Haviland)

Alps (Alpeis)

Starring Aggeliki Papoulia, Ariane Lebed, Aris Servetalis, Johnny Vekris and Stavros Psyllakis

Written by Efthymis Filippou and Giorgos Lanthimos

Directed by Giorgos Lanthimos

Director Giorgos Lanthimos smashed onto the scene in 2009 with the Venice Film Festival award winning Dogtooth. Lanthimos returns with another surrealist dark comedy with Alps, which starts its engagement at TIFF’s Bell Lightbox this Friday June 22nd.

Alps is the story of four people who start a business venture where they take on the mannerisms and dialogue of the recently deceased in order to help people cope with loss of their loved ones. Consisting of a gymnast, her coach, a paramedic, and a nurse, the four dub themselves Alps because in their leader Mount Blanc’s opinion the Alps can never be mistaken for any other mountain range, but they are big enough to fill the space of any other mountain range. The four have a set of rules that they must adhere to in order to maintain trust within the murky situations that occur in the course of running the business. It’s with these parameters intact that we see the Nurse (Papoulia) become entwined with the family of a coma patient who decide to use her services outside of the group dynamic. She also has an elderly father at home to take care of, flipping roles between daughter and wife, that plays with her sanity as she is almost constantly in one character or another. We follow her descent down as the other Alps find out what is going on and the line between character and real life blur even further.

Having not seen Dogtooth I was not very familiar with Lanthimos’ work, of course I had heard the buzz and had an idea what that film was about, as it has racked up the accolades, however I had no idea of the tone or pacing I would be facing in Alps. Unfortunately, the pacing is very slow and deliberate and the comedy is very dry. Alps is essentially a character piece without any character development as even Papoulia’s character barely develops beyond one-dimensional. Papoulia’s performance is quite believable though, despite the lack of development. Her talent on display here is the real reason you stay with the film and don’t quit early. The rest of the group has its moments to shine and in most sequences they deliver. The painfully methodical pacing means you’ll need to be prepared for this film when entering; this is not the film you watch when tired, as it will challenge you to stay with it throughout the film.

Undoubtedly there will be many who support this film as genius minimalist filmmaking, and I’m sure they will have valid reasons behind their arguments, but the pacing and lack of character development do not work enough for me. I will give Alps the mildest of recommends because of the performances on the screen, but know that you will have to work to keep up, or should I say down, with the pacing of it all.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto.

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Contact me at moviejunkieto@gmail.com

Goon Review (Kirk Haviland)

Goon (2012)

Starring – Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Liev Schrieber and Alison Pill.

Written by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg

Directed by Micheal Dowse

Editor’s note: Just a quick bit of information. Since the publication of this review, we have heard from Alliance and they confirmed that there was in fact no Q&A after the screening. Sorry for any confusion.

Hello Folks,

Sports movies are a tricky thing, but when someone gets it right they can become some of our most cherished classics. Movies like Slapshot, Rudy, Raging Bull, Major League, Field of Dreams, Hoosiers, and the recent Moneyball have all succeeded in crossing over from mere film to part cultural phenomenon. Phrases like “just a bit outside” and “putting on the foil coach” are immediately recognizable to sports and movie fans alike. Standing in a crowd of strangers and starting a slow chant of “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy” may not help convince people of your sanity, but I can almost guarantee over 50% of the people in that group will know what the chant means. This recognition is also what leads to the downfall of most sports film out there. They are either rehashes of the same premises or they focus too much on trying to do everything about the sport “right on film” that they lack in story and character. The reason the most successful of sports films become a success is because they don’t try to focus on the sport as a whole, rather a strong story within the context of the sport. This is why Goon works. It doesn’t try to explain hockey for what it is and why it is, it just wants to tell the story of a guy who loves to fight and stand up for his teammates.

Doug Glatt (Scott) is a simpleminded bouncer who just simply wants to belong to something. His parents and brother are successful in their careers and even his best friend Pat (Baruchel) has his own call in a T.V. show about hockey, “Hot Ice”. Doug’s life changes when he goes to a local game with Pat.  When a hockey player climbs into the stands after Doug, he knocks him unconscious. Doug is quickly given the moniker “the thug” and recruited by the local coach to play for the team. He is taught the fundamentals in the familiar “training montage” after he beats up over half his own team in one of the funnier moments of the film. It’s not long before he is moving up from the local team to a “national league just one step from the pros”, the films equivalent of the AHL, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He’s there to protect the team’s star, Xavier LaFlamme (Marc-Andre Grondin),  who is skittish about everything on the ice after getting knocked out  and concussed by the league’s veteran tough guy, Ross “the boss” Rhea (Schrieber). During the course of his time in Halifax he also finds love with self professed “slut and bad girlfriend” Eva (Pill). It all leads up to the inevitable showdown for the last playoff spot and the big fight everyone is waiting for.

It may sound too much like your typical sports themes, but writers Baruchel and Goldberg get creative within the conventions of a story like this and resolve the “issues” of the film in creative ways. Scott is clearly the focus of the film and he truly does bring a likeable charm to a role somewhat unlike anything else he has done. You find yourself drawn to cheer and root for Doug throughout the film. Alison Pill steals almost every scene she’s in and is absolutely stunning throughout. She is still one of my favorite parts of Scott Pilgrim (forget Ramona, I’d take Kim P, ……or Knives!) and at this point has me buying into whatever her next project is…blind. Schrieber as the grizzled veteran is an inspired choice and shines, especially during the “Heat” inspired diner scene between Doug and Ross.  Director Micheal Dowse does a solid job rustling all the big personalities into solid performances. We were also told during the film’s introduction that he had the creative ingenuity to configure a dolly rig on skates to get closer to the action.

We were lucky enough to have the Director and three of the main cast, Baruchel, Schrieber and Scott there to present the film. Alas, I was in the wrong theater from a Q&A standpoint as the other theater got that (I could be wrong but it was put forward that the other theater was mainly Industry/Media and the other theater was for contest winners like me, thus the lack of Q&A). This wasn’t too much of an upset as my friend, TO filmmaker Justin McConnell, and I both enjoyed the film regardless. Justin, along with making his own films, curates a short film program in Toronto that I will be discussing in a couple of weeks.

Cast Photo

Overall, Goon is just a good hockey movie, which is all the filmmakers wanted to do. It may not be the funniest or most heartfelt or even the best sports movie we see all year, but it’s earned a spot on my shelf when it hits Blu-Ray. A truly fun night out at the cinema.

Opens Friday Feb 24th in theaters across Canada and on VOD in the US.

Til Next Time

Kirk “Movie Junkie TO” Haviland

follow me on twitter @moviejunkieTO

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Hitchcock Spins a Murderous Yarn for Audiences at the TIFF Bell Lightbox

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Most of us have had moments when we think we are fairly unique; the main character of life’s story if you will. I was having one of these moments on Friday night when I approached the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto for a screening of Hitchcock’s classic Dial M for Murder. Surely I would be one of only a handful of cinephiles out on Friday night to catch a movie that is over 50 years old. This attitude was largely responsible for the shock I experienced when I had to scramble to find a seat. The screening must of have been sold out! Perhaps more surprising to me was the variety of people in the audience. Couples were on dates, a mother and her two teenage daughters laughed and gabbed as they found some front row seats, small packs of university students congregated at the back, and an elderly woman asked me to save her a seat in case her expedition towards the centre of the row proved fruitless. The audience was devoid of pretension and snobbery, these people were here to be entertained, and I realized, as I shed my own pretensions, so was I.

I should mention that the TIFF Bell Lightbox is an amazing movie theatre. The seats are spacious and comfortable, while the cup-holders are ingenious, as they are in front of and below the armrest and completely out of the way, while still easily accessible. Also, the four screenings that I have seen have started promptly, without commercials or previews; kind of a nice change of pace considering that previews are easily accessible online these days.

Dial M for Murder went off without a Hitch, if you don’t count its director. Grace Kelly was still beautiful as the delicate Margot Wendice, Ray Milland has retained his charismatically cloaked deviousness as Tony Wendice, who is in the market for a murdered wife, and my second time watching the film has given me a huge appreciation for the very humorous performance by John Williams as the infallible Chief Inspector Hubbard.

The strengths of Dial M for the Murder, and the reasons why it is a classic, are the strong performances by the cast, the intelligent screenplay from Frederick Knott (based on his play of the same name), and of course, the Master of Suspense behind the camera. Rarely do plays adapted for the screen work as well as this one. The quality of Dial M for Murder is in the same league as Sleuth (1972), which is high praise from me considering Sleuth is by far my favourite film of all-time.

I have trouble expressing how wonderful and fortunate Torontonians are to have a theatre like the Lightbox that is willing to screen Hitchcock classics, on actual film no less. If you grew up with Hitchcock films and want to feel nostalgic, or if you’re younger and are feeling adventurous, I urge you to get down to the Lightbox in November or December as there are some amazing Hitchock screenings ahead of us. Let the Master of Suspense show you how the old-school use to do it, before the Hollywood thriller became formulaic. Do not miss this opportunity!

Tickets here.

Show times are listed below:

The 39 Steps (One of the grandfathers of the modern thriller. Do not miss!)

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Sunday, November 27 @ 7:00pm

The Birds (‘The Birds’ is coming!)

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Tuesday, December 6 @ 9:00pm

Family Plot

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Thursday, December 1 @ 9:15pm

Sunday, December 11 @ 6:30pm

The Man Who Knew Too Much

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Saturday, November 26 @ 5:00pm

Sunday, December 4 @ 4:00pm


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Saturday, November 26 @ 8:00pm

Sunday, December 4 @ 6:45pm

North by Northwest (An adventure epic!)

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Saturday, December 3 @ 6:00pm

Thursday, December 8 @ 6:30pm


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Saturday, November 19 @ 5:00pm

Rear Window (Great performances by Stewart and Kelly, and a story that has been emulated more times than you can count)

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Thursday, November 10 @ 9:00pm

Sunday, November 13 @ 5:00pm

Sunday, November 20 @ 7:00pm

To Catch a Thief

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Saturday, November 12 @ 5:00pm

Sunday, November 27 @ 4:00pm

Saturday, December 31 @ 5:00pm


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Thursday, December 1 @ 6:30pm

Saturday, December 10 @ 5:00pm

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