2021

Review by David Baldwin

After an extended prologue, we flashback to Elias (Carl Anton Koch) checking himself and his mother Nadja (Peri Baumeister) in for an overnight flight from Frankfurt to New York. She is sick and not with him; instead taking heavy drugs in her hotel room and prepping for an experimental treatment in the US. Shortly after getting in the air, terrorists seize control of the plane and start making demands and taking hostages. Nadja gets caught in some crossfire and is believed dead — that is, until she reveals herself to be a vampire hellbent on protecting her son from harm.

Yes, you read that right. Nadja is a vampire and she is stuck on a transatlantic flight filled with mostly innocent passengers turned hostages and a batch of deadly terrorists, including the enigmatic Eightball (Alexander Scheer), who seems to have it out for her. What could possibly go wrong?

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Review by David Baldwin

As Fear Street Part Three: 1666 opens, Deena (Kiana Madeira) has flashed back to 1666 and inhabits the body of the infamous Sarah Fier (also played by Elizabeth Scopel). As Deena learns some long hidden truths about Fier and the curse she placed on Shadyside, she must also race against time in 1994 to save her girlfriend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) before it is too late.

The end of Fear Street is here. All the secrets are laid bare, all the puzzle pieces have come together and Co-Writer/Director Leigh Janiak has completed her film trilogy based on R.L. Stine’s book series. As I have mentioned in a past review, I was excited at the prospect of a three-film series of interconnected films being released over three weeks in the middle of what is traditionally the summer blockbuster season. While I had my reservations about the structure and plotting, I watched each film enthusiastically – or as enthusiastic as possible – and have no idea how I would have survived if the films were released in theatres months apart from each other. It truly is the kind of franchise I would have adored as a teenager and young adult.

All of that to say, Part Three is my favourite of the films and left me very bloody satisfied.

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Review by David Baldwin

Who is Anthony Bourdain? Prior to a few weeks ago, I really had no idea. Despite not watching it, I knew he was a chef who traveled and ate foods from all over the world on a popular TV show called Parts Unknown, and I knew he had committed suicide. And that’s where my knowledge of this legendary artist ended.

Enter Academy Award-winner Morgan Neville’s documentary Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain. It’s a lengthy title for a suitably lengthy film. Yet, it does not really feel very long at all. It opens as Bourdain is working on his future best-selling book Kitchen Confidential and quickly blasts into orbit as he starts traveling the world and becoming an international celebrity. It charts the highs and lows of his personal life, his addictive personality, his profane give-no-fucks attitude and the demons he was facing internally. Talking head interviews with family, close friends and his production team are peppered throughout, along with narration from the man himself and a treasure trove of candid and behind-the-scenes footage.

So needless to say, I am very aware of who Anthony Bourdain is now – or Tony as his friends called him.

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Image Courtesy of FOFS

By David Baldwin

Though I have always gravitated towards watching feature-length films, I have found over the past decade that I have increasingly become more interested in experimental short films. The breadth of ideas in these films is staggering and the way filmmakers compose and tell their stories in such a short time is simply miraculous. Some of these films work and look slick, while others fail and look incredibly amateur. But the passion radiating from these films is second to none. You can tell from every frame just how much love went into their creation. I worked on a few short films with my brother over the years, and the camaraderie and collaboration that went into those productions gave me a deep appreciation and admiration for the format.

I say all of this because I am excited to see what the 8th Annual Future of Film Showcase has to offer this July. I only knew about the festival showcase in passing previously, and this is the second year in a row where the work of 11 filmmakers will be available for all Canadians to watch for free on CBC Gem from July 9-22. I had the opportunity to screen four of the films in advance and if this is what we have to look forward to, I cannot wait to see what the rest of the festival will have in store.

Here’s a little preview of what to expect:

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Review by David Baldwin

It is the summer of 1978 at Camp Nightwing. The Shadysiders and the Sunnyvalers are at odds with each other as usual and are just about to start their annual Paint War tournament. As the campers are out having fun, the witch Sarah Fier has unwittingly possessed one of the camp counsellors. As bodies start to pile up, everyone must do what they can to survive the night.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that Fear Street Part Two: 1978 owes a lot to the Friday the 13th film series and countless other 1970s/1980s era slasher films. From the look and feel, to the ominous atmosphere and chilling soundtrack, right down to the horny and drug-obsessed counsellors, there is no stereotypical character or moment left unaddressed here. Well…maybe some midnight skinny-dipping. Beyond that, it will be incredibly challenging to miss checking off everything else you can think of from this immortal genre. Part Two wears all of its references and homages like a badge of honour and delights in putting the cast through hell as they avoid the killer’s ax. It knows what it is and does its very best to look radically different from its predecessor.

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Review by David Baldwin

It is 1994 and another murder spree has occurred in Shadyside. This latest massacre does not necessarily scare anyone in the town – they are used to multiple people dying at a time – but certain elements of what happened bear a striking similarity to a number of other murder cases from the past. Once a group of teenagers begins connecting the dots, they quickly realize they may have become the target of the source of a sinister evil that has plagued the town for over 300 years.

I worshipped at the altar of Goosebumps when I was younger. My parents were not a big fan of horror, but they indulged my interest in the series and its many spinoffs. I collected and read as many as I could, and I bet the majority of them are still lying around in a box just waiting to be rediscovered. R.L. Stine’s books were quick reads and were quite likely my gateway to the horror genre. All of this to say…I read a whole lot of those books and never really gravitated to his Fear Street series. So why am I so excited about the film series? Well, the idea of a connected trilogy premiering weekly felt like an inspired idea that had not really been done before – especially one based on a substantially less childish book series.

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Review by David Baldwin

Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Jude (Jack O’Connell) are a young married couple who have their whole lives ahead of them. That is, until a viral pandemic breaks out where those afflicted lose their memories. When Jude begins to show symptoms of the disease, the couple comes together to preserve their relationship and the memories that go with it for as long as they can.

Another movie about a pandemic? REALLY?! That was my thinking before I pressed play on Little Fish, Chad Hartigan’s rather timely sci-fi romance film. Much like everyone else, the real life pandemic has left me burnt out and languishing as I wait for some form of normalcy to kick back in. And after watching multiple documentaries and dramedies made about this moment in history that we are all living through – I was not immediately keen on taking another one in, even if it was based on a fictional event that was filmed well before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19.

How could I possibly get any enjoyment out of something that hits so close to home?

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Review by David Baldwin

Freelance journalist Amy (Valene Kane) is working against a looming deadline on a story about terrorists recruiting young European woman online. In order to get closer to the story, she creates a fake Facebook profile, posts a few links and almost immediately attracts the attention of terrorist recruiter Abu Bilel (Shazad Latif). The two begin conversing regularly on Skype, and as Amy’s story develops, so too do her feelings for Bilel.

The film is based on a true story and told entirely through a computer screen using Director Timur Bekmambetov’s patented Screenlife format (previously seen in the likes of Searching, Unfriended and if you were lucky enough to catch it at Sundance or SXSW this year, R#J). It lends the story an eerie aura of authenticity and though I find this style of filmmaking fascinating, I know it is not for everyone. So keep that in mind before venturing into Profile, because the action never leaves the computer screen.

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Review by David Baldwin

Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) has just been accepted to film school. She is positively ecstatic at the thought of moving away from home and bonding with “her people”. Most of her family is excited too. Her father Rick (Danny McBride) however, just does not get it. They had a great relationship when she was younger, but now it is strained, and only gets worse when Rick insists he drives her and the rest of the family from Michigan to California in time for the first day of school.

Then a robot uprising happens – and humanity’s last hope suddenly lies with the Mitchell family.

That sounds like a wild description and The Mitchells vs. The Machines somehow becomes even wilder than that before the end credits roll. In some instances, it becomes downright chaotic and completely unhinged. And I loved every single minute of it.

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Review by David Baldwin

A group of supervillains dubbed the “Miscreants” has been terrorizing the world since the 1980s and Emily Stanton (Octavia Spencer) has devoted her life’s work to developing a formula to create superheroes to fight against them. She has just finished perfecting a treatment – only to have her former best friend Lydia (Melissa McCarthy) accidentally inject herself with it. Now the pair must learn to come together again in order to save Chicago from the group.

I am not sure what I expected from Thunder Force, the fifth collaboration between McCarthy and her Writer/Director husband Ben Falcone. This film has a higher concept hook than their previous films, yet somehow is about what you expect it to be – a lame superhero movie with a few fun moments and a whole lot of world building nonsense. It takes a bit too long to really get moving (blame the endless training montages), but fans of McCarthy’s work will likely enjoy her commitment to every pratfall and asinine moment Falcone asks of her. Should it do well, I have no doubt Netflix will spin the film into a franchise that digs a whole lot deeper into the mythos behind the Miscreants and likely brings new superheroes into the mix to fight alongside McCarthy and Spencer.

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