Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I don't think I've ever seen any of the original NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movies. I was never really good with horror films when I was a kid and I tend to avoid them as often as possible even now. It isn't because I don't think they're any good; it's more so because I already have enough trouble sleeping and I don't need bad dreams on top of that.

This new nightmare is being billed as a re-imagining of the now classic Wes Craven series from the 1980's. Directed by music video director, Samuel Bayer, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET now stars Jackie Earle Haley as the iconic serial killer, Freddy Kruger. The trailer debuted this week and already has the internet all abuzz so I thought I'd share it with you. I already don't want to go to sleep.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is scheduled for release on April 20, 2010.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

BLU-TUESDAY ... September 29

It is the last release date for the month of September and certainly a big one at that. You can tell that distributors and retailers are setting themselves up for what they hope will be the holiday season that makes Blu-Ray a household staple. One of the biggest titles of the year, MONSTERS VS. ALIENS is out today. MANAGEMENT starring Jennifer Aniston was missed in theaters but hopes to find new love on BD. The surprising hit, FIREPROOF, with Kirk Cameron will grace many a Christian household. Cult classics, LABYRINTH and THE DARK CRYSTAL are now available. And SNAKES ON A PLANE finally makes its way to BD. There are three other titles that I'd like to highlight for you all this week. To get to them, we have to take a little stroll down the yellow brick road.

Before we get to that, I'd like to recommend this heartwarming family comedy, AWAY WE GO, by director, Sam Mendes (Academy Award winner for AMERICAN BEAUTY). While still editing his offering from last year, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, Mendes began pre-production work on AWAY WE GO, from writers, Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. (Eggers would go on to co-write the upcoming WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE). John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph are adorable together as a couple expecting their first child who do not know what city they should raise their family in. They travel around the country, even stopping north of the border in Montreal, in search of home and while, it is episodic, it is also good, genuine fun. For my full review of the film, click here.


- Commentary with Mendes, Eggers and Vida
- Making of featurette
- Green filmmaking featurette


This is huge! One of the most beloved films of all time is now given one of the grandest BD releases to date. Thie four-disc set contains a good chunk of all the previous special feature material released on the numerous versions that have come before this one but also contains new features too to whet your appetite ... and justify the purchase for those who may already have it on DVD. The audio and video have also been completely restored and I've heard the results are as magical as one would expect from the merry old land of Oz. I cannot wait to get this one in my collection!


- Commentary with the late Sydney Pollack and Oz Historian (?), John Frick
- Interviews with cast and crew
- A tribute to Oz and a handful of other documentaries on the subject
- Jukebox, with outtakes and original recordings
- Still gallery
- Storybook
- Sing along option!

Earlier this year, I had the chance to catch the first of two Steven Soderbergh pictures being released this year, THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, at the Tribeca Film Festival. I went on to interview both the director and the star, Sasha Grey. That interview would go on to be my first published for Canada's CBC Arts Online so this film holds a special place in my heart. The heart is an odd place to hold it as it is about a high priced escort facing the hard economic climate but it is also there for me because I truly loved the film. It is stylish without sacrifice of substance, a great experiment and success for Mr. Soderbergh. It is certainly one of his finest features and an excellent first offering in a year that also saw the release of the excellent THE INFORMANT!


- Unrated alternate cut
- Commentary with Soderbergh and Grey
- Featurette about the real girlfriend experience

For my interview with Soderbergh and Grey, click here.


Saturday, September 26, 2009


Written by Allison Burnett
Directed by Kevin Tancharoen
Starring Kay Pannabaker, Asher Book, Kherington Payne and Naturi Naughton

As the famous line goes, “remember my name.” This is what people have always wanted for some reason or another. And when it comes to the newest generation growing up and coming into the world today, they want to sing and dance their way into the hearts of eternity. From HAIRSPRAY to the HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL movies to “Glee”, the youngsters out there are enjoying a rebirth of the musical. Spawned by talent showcases like “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance”, young people today are witnessing a newfound respect for artistic talents. If you can sing and dance at the same time, watch out! And if you’re a triple threat and can sing, dance and act, then what you have there is FAME.

The original FAME film that went on to spawn a moderately successful television series was released in 1980. It followed a group of aspiring artists through their four year stay at Performing Arts School in New York City, year or year, just like the wizards of Hogwarts. There were no feature long storylines to guide you through, just one year of highs and lows at a time and a whole lot of letting loose in between. 29 years later, the kids are ready to bust their moves once again and the new FAME actually follows a similar structure. Teaching staff like Kelsey Grammar, Bebe Neuworth and Megan Mullaly guide through the auditions to their senior year and hope to free the artist within in the process.

In 1980, the unorthodox story development was strong enough to earn writer, Christopher Gore, an Oscar nomination for his screenplay. Now, many of the same plot points (from a sleazy audition to a near suicide in New York subway station) make the new grade but with little details changed here and there. The biggest and most unfortunate difference would be the issues the kids are facing when they’re aren’t in class. While coming to terms with your sexuality may almost be clichéd nowadays, it was pretty poignant stuff back then. Today, the kids only seem concerned with hooking up with either each other or an agent and making sure that Mom and Dad don’t hate them for the choices they’ve made. And with only tiny amounts of screen time allotted to each character, their problems seem like minor annoyances rather than insurmountable obstacles.

FAME, then and now, misses the mark for me on the most important thing about it – the performances. The players are talented; that isn’t the trouble. The director, first time feature filmmaker, Kevin Tancharoen, just never gives them enough time to show it off. The random moments here and there never come close to an entire episode of “So You Think Can Dance” as far as the “wow” factor is concerned. And if I am not there to admire all the amazing feats that I can only dream of doing from the comfort of the groove in my living room couch, then I’m not really sure why I’m there at all. Insipid teenage problems are not worth my time unless they are accompanied by breathtaking lifts apparently. I mean no offence but that is the price of fame.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Black Sheep Is Seeing Stars!

Every time I sit down to write a review, I have to come up with a letter grade to sum the entire thing up when I'm done. My reviews are often anywhere between 300 and 1000 words and that is completely reduced to just one letter with a + or a - after it. Ultimately, I felt it was taking away from the review itself so I'm doing away with grades. I mean, do I think I'm a professor or something?

From here on in, Black Sheep is looking to the stars. One, two, three, four, five - no halves or in betweens. Just stars, less restrictive and more rewarding. Sure, I still have to sum up my review into one of five categories but by simplifying the whole thing, I'm hoping that the reviews themselves will be given more say.

Here is how the stars work ...

5 STARS ... Excellent! Brilliant! I loved it!

4 STARS ... Very good. Solid entertainment.

3 STARS ... Good but not great ... Some problems but still enjoyable ... Not bad, if you will.

2 STARS ... Some redeeming qualities but watch at your own risk. Passable but just.

1 STAR ... You suck! Or as Sheldon might say, "Bah-ah-ah-ah-d!"

All the ratings for all the previous reviews have been updated. Some have even been adjusted now that some time has passed. In honour of the new system, Black Sheep gives you the 20 five-star reviews dating back to the beginning.





















Enjoy ... and if all goes well, maybe you can be my lucky star!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Black Sheep Previews: UP IN THE AIR

You might have seen this already but I wanted to throw it up here as I had the chance to catch the whole thing at TIFF last week. Director, Jason Reitman, has only made three feature films to date - JUNO and THANK YOU FOR SMOKING before this - and his latest, UP IN THE AIR, proves that he is a director with a clear vision and a concise approach to storytelling. His pictures are always crisp and clean and, while that may turn off some looking for rougher edges, I find it only allows for the details and the subtleties to break through.

UP IN THE AIR stars George Clooney as a modern day nomad. He has a one-bedroom apartment in Omaha but he ordinarily spends less than 50 days a year there. His home lies somewhere between the airports he flies to and the hotels he stays in. Clooney brings his own life into the picture for this eternal bachelor character and the supporting cast - Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick and Jason Bateman - are all excellent characters unto themselves, hence redefining the term "supporting".

UP IN THE AIR will certainly generate a lot of buzz this coming awards season and rightfully so. Look for it in theatres this December.

Black Sheep @ The Box Office: Take an Umbrella

There was plenty of action in the Top 5 this week at the box office with four new titles taking up four of the five spots. Only one of these titles was actually successful though. Breaking Sony Animation’s record for best opening day on Friday with $8.1 million, CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS went on to capture the weekend and the honour of third largest September opening ever (behind SWEET HOME ALABAMA and RUSH HOUR). Audiences were starved for family entertainment and they certainly filled up on this one. I would expect many second helpings in the weeks to come.

Toronto International Film Festival titles, THE INFORMANT! and JENNIFER’S BODY went wide this week. Steven Soderbergh’s second picture this year has earned some serious Oscar buzz for star, Matt Damon, and rightfully so. Sadly, this was not enough to drum up a lot of interest at the box office with a tepid $10 million start. Megan Fox tried to break past her TRANSFORMER association and as it turns out, people don’t really care about her unless she is surrounded by metal – even when the film title specifically refers to her most intriguing asset. The only other festival title to hit general theatres was Jane Campion’s BRIGHT STAR, starring Oscar hopeful, Abbie Cornish. It too saw a similar reception to THE INFORMANT!, pulling in an average of only $10K per screen – solid but not stellar.

In other box office news, Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Echkart fizzled in fourth with LOVE HAPPENS. Tyler Perry’s I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF stumbled 57% in its second week, pretty much on par with all of Perry’s previous directorial efforts. And Quentin Tarantino’s INGLORIOUS BASTERDS surpassed PULP FICTION in terms of gross to become the biggest domestic hit of his career.

NEXT WEEK: They’re hoping you remember their name as FAME remakes its way onto 3000+ screens. Bruce Willis goes sci-fi with SURROGATES (2700 screens). PANDORUM will try to scare the crap out of everyone on 2500 screens. And two more TIFF titles, Michael Moore’s CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY and Steve Hicks’s THE BOYS ARE BACK with Oscar hopeful, Clive Owen have their platform debuts.

Source: Box Office Mojo

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Black Sheep @ TIFF 2009!

And here it is - the last day of the Toronto International Film Festival. The winner of the Cadillac prize for favorite audience film has been announced and I am happy to say that it is PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL "PUSH" BY SAPPHIRE. Now a lot of people have speculated that PRECIOUS might win but these same people are just as quick to point out that no film this year has captured the hearts of filmgoers like last year's winner, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, which we all know went on to dominate awards season and take the Best Picture Oscar. The first time I ever saw SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE was actually at TIFF last year and I if you read my blog at all, you pretty much know how I feel about all the love people bathed that movie in. I had told myself that I wouldn't talk about it anymore but apparently, as a lot of you out there haven't gotten over it yet, I must. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE was an audience favorite because it was contrived and constructed to manipulate sympathy out of its audience and that ending with that fantastic closing credits dance sequence was designed to leave you feeling damn good as you tapped your feet to "Jai Ho" on your way out. Again, I reiterate that I don't hate the Danny Boyle film; in fact, I did like it. I just don't think it deserved its Best Picture win. As for PRECIOUS, it may not have connected with audiences the way SLUMDOG did but this one floors people in a way that SLUMDOG never could. Lee Daniels's film is honest, brave and unflinching and it features some of the most revelatory performances of the year. This TIFF win will mean Oprah can stay home a little more because it is now guaranteed to get noticed as its November release date approaches.

I have one more movie to catch before the festival ends this evening, Jason Reitman's follow-up to JUNO, UP IN THE AIR, starring George Clooney. If you don't mind, I'm keeping that one to myself. I'm not taking notes and I'm not even going to review it until its actual theatrical release, this December. No, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy it. Well, I hope to enjoy it. Whether I do or not, I will be sitting back anyway.

In the meantime, I will share my final TIFF experience with you. To talk about this experience, I need to talk about an experience from when I was 14 years old. It was spring and I can't recall how I convinced my mother to let me do this; I'm sure there must have been some lying involved but regardless, I somehow ended up getting her to drive me to the theatre so that I could catch Madonna's documentary about her Blonde Ambition tour, TRUTH OR DARE. It was the middle of the day and the audience was pretty bare, save for me, a couple of other male-male pairings and some random creepy old men spaced out across the theatre. Today, I caught TRUTH OR DARE for free outdoors in Dundas Square. There weren't too many people there - me, all by myself, and then a few other couples or small groups of gay guys and a few old men. At the time, the film by Alex Keshishian was not taken too seriously by the general population but critics considered it to be one of the stronger documentaries that year and were generally surprised when it didn't get any Oscar love. I haven't seen the film in at least four or five years and it is just as I remember it - an intimate portrayal of one of the world's biggest superstars with a persistent seed of doubt in regards to its authenticity throughout. The black and white backstage footage makes the contrasting color concert footage explode off the screen and allows Madonna to show why it is people have put up with her all these years - because she knows how to push people and she is one hell of a performer.

Of course the most ironic thing about watching it in Dundas Square, downtown Toronto, was when the scene in which Madonna plays Toronto came on and she is almost arrested for lewd behavior. Apparently, guests from the night before complained that when Madonna simulated masturbation on stage during "Like a Virgin", they were offended, and the police were there to inform her that if she did it again, she would be arrested. Now, here I am, 18 years later watching Madonna simulate that same masturbation number under a brilliant blue sky in the epicenter of Toronto where anyone and their children could walk by and watch for free. Oh, how the times have changed.

Thank you so much for following Black Sheep's TIFF coverage. I saw a lot of great movies and got a lot of great response from you. I'm a lucky guy just to be here and having had the opportunity to enjoy such great films surrounded by so many other great film admirers. Before I go, here is a full list of all Black Sheep's TIFF reviews one last time. Just click to read ...


















Period pieces about royalty can often play out like chess games. The board is set as it always is with elaborately costumed pieces and these pieces are moved one by one into battle. Each piece moves in a specific fashion that is dictated by the rules of the game and cannot deviate from that plan. Experienced players know how to make this quiet game exciting while others move the pieces in predictable fashions toward an end that cannot come sooner. Sadly, Jean-Marc Vallee’s The Young Victoria is so conventional that he even has his young queen, played by Emily Blunt, playing an uneventful game of chess at one point. I swear, I thought up the metaphor before that though.

After delivering an incredible debut, C.R.A.Z.Y., in 2005, Vallee caught the attention of the international film scene. How else could he snag talent like Blunt or more importantly, executive producers like Martin Scorsese or Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York? What he put together though never rises above the level of functional. Victoria is a naïve but determined monarch. Naturally, every one around her, with either political or royal ties, wants to take advantage of her lack of experience. Victoria must reach into the crowd of hands constantly grabbing at her to take the one that she can trust. She can’t seem to figure out which one that is but it was pretty obvious from where I was sitting.

Blunt, who actually skips here and there to remind us that she really is a very young queen, does what she can with the part but to her detriment, screenwriter, Julian Fellowes, gives her very little to develop. Dress her up as fancy as you like, we’ve all seen this before and The Young Victoria becomes a reminder that Vallee is pretty young himself when it comes to directing.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Black Sheep TIFF Review: WHIP IT

So, Drew Barrymore is a director now. Interesting. She’s a likeable Hollywood type. I don’t think she’s a terribly good actress but definitely likeable and clearly has a good handle on the producing game. I guess directing is the natural next step and her debut, WHIP IT, is appropriately rough when it’s supposed to be and surprisingly smooth when it needs to be. In fact, it pretty much embodied what I’ve always imagined the spirit of Drew Barrymore to be.

At one point early on in the story, Bliss (Ellen Page) is waiting on tables in Bodeen, Texas – otherwise known as the middle of nowhere. The cool kids from school ask her if she is supposed to be alternative now and Bliss replies, “Alternative to what?” For a while, WHIP IT feels as though Barrymore is trying her hardest to be the far end alternative to anything she can be and she’s taking Page with her. Bliss wants out of her nothing town, out of the beauty pageants her mom (Marcia Gay Harden) has been forcing on her for years and when she discovers roller derby in Austin, she thinks she’s figured it all out. She joins a pack of roller girls – Barrymore herself, Kristen Wiig, Zoe Bell (that awesome stunt chick from Quentin Tarantino’s DEATHPROOF) – to take on the baddest roller girl in town, Juliette Lewis, who is fierce but looks as though she hasn’t taken off her Misfits makeup in 20 years. They get down and dirty on the track and before long, Bliss’s life is just as broken and bruised as her thighs.

As different a story as Barrymore decided to tell her first time out, she seemed to be tripping over her own conventional history but she’s got a secret weapon that I never saw coming. She lets Bliss hang herself (figuratively) without ever letting her or us see it coming. This makes WHIP IT humble and it helped me see that when little Ellen Page first puts her skates on to fumble down her street, it wasn’t just Bliss learning to walk all over again toward her destiny; Barrymore is having just a wobbly time behind the camera. But again, like Bliss, she might just be real good at it someday.

Black Sheep TIFF Review: THE INFORMANT!

Who knew that ratting out your colleagues could be this much fun? Director and one of the few cats out there to earn the title of contemporary auteur, Steven Soderbergh knew, that’s who. And those of us smart enough to catch his latest mainstream offering, THE INFORMANT!, are lucky enough to be let in on the secret too.

When you think of a somewhat sloppy, average guy with a pathetic mustache and a protruding paunch, Matt Damon, the man who would be Bourne, is certainly not the first name that would jump to mind. Playing Mark Whitacre, the high-ranking biochemist turned businessman at Archer Daniels Midland, who decided to blow the whistle on his company’s international involvement in price fixing schemes of the amino acid lysine in the early ‘90’s, does however require a skilled actor with a charm that audiences can relate to and Damon might jump to mind for that one. So Damon packed on a few pounds and turned Mark Whitacre into a neurotic, paranoid over-thinker that the audience will love but never know whether to trust or not. Damon not only pulls off the demands of the character with seeming ease but he somehow manages to pull off the belly too.

I love Soderbergh when he’s being serious but I also love watching him let his hair down, that is, if the man had hair. He keeps THE INFORMANT! light in tone with a whimsical Marvin Hamlisch score and easy to admire with his own uncredited cinematography, that is smooth in movement but tinted yellow for a more nervous, uncertain effect. If you listen closely, you can almost hear him laughing in the background at how ridiculous all the people involved in this embellished true story were and how absurd the whole thing played out. Thanks for informing us, Steven.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Black Sheep TIFF Review: YOUTH IN REVOLT

Personally, I found the audience had a good time watching the world premiere of Miguel Arteta’s dark comedy, YOUTH IN REVOLT, yesterday at the Scotia Bank Cinema. Even the people who spent a good twenty minutes complaining before the movie started that they had barely seen anything of note at TIFF so far this year and called YOUTH IN REVOLT, “filler” in their schedule, were not lost on the wit and nuances of this twisted comedy. Yet today, I received a press release from the film’s distributor, Alliance, that said that the film had been pushed back to January 2010 from its initial October 2009 release. There was no explanation attached so I can only assume that the film didn’t connect as much as they had hoped. I thought it was great but what do I know?

Brampton boy, Michael Cera, plays Nick Twisp, a boy in his later teens, an age hopefully Cera will get the chance to grow out of sooner rather than later. He is most certainly a youth in revolt but not in the way that you would think. Nick’s rebellion, at first anyway, is aimed at the young generation he cannot help be a part of. He listens to Sinatra, watches Fellini movies and scoffs at the boys and girls he grew up with. It all changes when he meets Sheeni (Portia Doubleday). She listens to Gainsbourg, watches Godard and steals Nick’s heart immediately. Nick lives in a neighbouring city and must get kicked out of his mom’s so that he can go live near Sheeni, with his dad and so he creates a bad-ass alter ego called Francois in his head to do what needs to be done in the name of love.

As Francois, Cera sports tight white pants, a silly mustache and smokes all the time. Cera has been desperate to show other sides of himself for ages now and he attacks this duality with gusto. You can argue that Cera always plays the same guy but I feel that he consistently brings different shades to the same character type that show his ability for subtlety and nuance and give way to his potential genius. I might have a tiny crush on him so there may be bias here but YOUTH IN REVOLT is his first serious play for progress in his career and he does not disappoint.


Don Roos’s career as a director has been spotty at best. His debut feature, THE OPPOSITE OF SEX, showed great promise, a fresh voice that was loud and direct. Hollywood came calling and, after he gave them BOUNCE, they sent him home. That’s where he made HAPPY ENDINGS, which is when I pretty much gave up on him. His latest, THE OTHER WOMAN, finds him back in Hollywood’s good graces and, while his sharp approach may have softened, Roos has matured nonetheless.

The lovely Natalie Portman plays Emilia Greenleaf, a lawyer just starting out who falls for her employer instead of into her work. The non-linear revealing of the story does not always seem succinct but it goes a little something like this. Emilia gets pregnant; her boss (Scott Cohen) leaves his wife (Lisa Kudrow) and marries her. She, in turn, leaves her job and begins a rocky relationship with her stepson (Charlie Tahan) that gets exponentially more difficult when her baby is born and dies three days later. It is all some sort of half-cocked comment on the implausibility of love in our modern, overly complicated existence but polished for wide appeal.

The gravitas may not be there in order to take this exploration from the surface to the depths but the surface itself is smooth enough to see plenty of sentiment in its reflection. Portman is detached but unaffected. She has to carry the film and, though she seems to only be scraping the top layer of her character’s profundity, it is still enough to keep the tears flowing. THE OTHER WOMAN is conventional but sincere and in a time when real intimacy is considered by some to be fairy tale, genuine intention can be worth settling in for.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Black Sheep TIFF Review: THE UNLOVED

I didn’t write it down but the number of displaced, unwanted children in the UK according to the epilogue in actress-turned-director, Samantha Morton’s THE UNLOVED, was a shockingly appalling number, I assure you. The reason I didn’t write it down is because I needed to get out of that theatre so badly. Unwanted children is a serious subject and Morton has always proven herself to be a very serious actress. THE UNLOVED however is so intensely serious in both its creation and topic that it only serves to put its audience off instead of getting them involved.

There really isn’t a story to speak of. Morton just follows a lovely little eleven-year-old girl named Lucy (Molly Windsor) who has just been beaten by her father and who is estranged from her mother. She is subsequently placed in a government-owned child-care house and we in turn watch as she is exposed to theft, drugs and sex between some of the guardians and the older kids living in the house. She basically comes and goes as she pleases and all her social worker can do is try to get through to her that she really shouldn’t wander off. There are of course well-intentioned folks working in the house as well but the overall experience is pretty near deplorable. There is clearly a better upbringing to be had.

Lucy is basically the observer and subsequently she passes on her child’s perspective to us but we never get it. What we do get is what seems more like Morton’s perspective of what’s going on. Morton understands how bad the situation is and, as adults, we can see for ourselves and figure it out pretty quickly. If she really wanted us to break over what we were seeing though, she might have let Lucy do more of the looking.

Black Sheep TIFF Review: LE REFUGE

Do not fear the French; “refuge” means pretty much the same thing in English too. That said, if you don’t know the meaning of the word in either language, it doesn’t make that much of a difference. I’m not certain French auteur director, Francois Ozon knows the meaning though. I always thought it meant a place one could go to get away from anything one needed to get away from. For Ozon though, the refuge in question seems to be a place to make matters worse.

The refuge, both the cottage in the country setting and the film itself, are very beautiful. They are also both simple but one is quite a bit more quaint. Mousse (Isabelle Carre) is hiding away there for the duration of her pregnancy. It sounds simple enough but her baby’s father died the night they both did some bad heroine. She didn’t know she was pregnant at the time. She is later joined by her former lover’s brother, Paul (Louis-Ronan Choisy). He didn’t know she had kept the baby as last he heard she was going to abort it. She resists him at first but before long she is drawn to him, which is problematic given that he is gay.

Ozon knows that anyone seeking refuge runs the risk of never returning and allowing the healing to serve as a means to keep the rest of the world out for good instead. He also understands that spending too much time there makes it harder to get back. What he doesn’t understand is that sometimes the pain experienced by those seeking refuge only matters to those is pain. Those seeking refuge in Ozon’s latest film will need to look hard to find it.

Black Sheep TIFF Review: THE BOYS ARE BACK

When it comes to raising children, the predominant way of thinking is that young boys and girls need their mothers. The offshoot of that logic is that the fathers of these young boys and girls don’t really know what they’re doing. While I do not subscribe to this particular supposed truism, many do and the movies certainly agree. THE BOYS ARE BACK opens with a father (Clive Owen) driving along the beach, ever so close to the water, with his young son (Nicolas McAnulty) riding along on the roof of the car. Director Scott Hicks brings his latest film as close to the edge of cliché as Owen does his son to the ocean but fortunately both know when to get back to reality before its too late.

This particular reality had me teary within fifteen minutes of the opening credits. Owen, who may find his name tossed around come awards season for this one, plays an international sports writer based in Australia. He is barely home but that all changes when his beautiful wife (Laura Fraser) dies suddenly of cancer. Now, Owen must cope with the loss of the woman he loved and figure out the mind of a toddler. To make matters more complicated but not necessarily worse, Owen’s teenage son from a previous marriage, Harry (George Mackay), is sent to live with him shortly afterward. The boys behave very badly but always with the hope of a healthy growth ahead of them.

Hicks rose to fame in 1997 with two Oscar nominations for his biopic of David Helfgott, SHINE. His record has been spotty at best since. THE BOYS ARE BACK may not get him back that same kind of acclaim given the difficulty of the subject matter but those who see it will remember why he was recognized to begin with.

Black Sheep @ TIFF 2009!

Last night was one of those perfect evenings at the festival. The night air was fresh and alive; the crowds were out; and the North American premiere of fashion designer/photographer, Tom Ford’s first feature film, A SINGLE MAN, was about to take place about five walking minutes away from my place. I was too far back in line to see the red carpet arrivals but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t surrounded by the industry I so want to be a part of. The two gentlemen behind me in line went on about how many screens their new film was going to open on this fall; Canadian director, Atom Egoyan just waltzed past me; and, when I made my way to my second row seat in the theatre, I turned back to see Patricia Clarkson and CAIRO TIME co-star, Alexander Siddig, sit not more than three rows behind me.

Then it was time to welcome the dapper and gentlemanly Mr. Ford and the stars of his movie, Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. They were all a few feet away from me and we were moments away from watching one of TIFF’s most intriguing titles. After winning rave reviews in Venice last week, A SINGLE MAN had the house full of distributors wanting to see what all the fuss was about. The film was certainly worth the hype; naturally, it was gorgeous and definitely stylish. What else would one expect from a Tom Ford film? This story of a man who has lost his lover of sixteen years in a time when his relationship would not even be given any validation was heartbreaking and somehow very steamy. And for the first time, I truly enjoyed watching Firth. He is incredible in the lead role and he will certainly be a contender come awards season.

The only downside to the evening was raising my hand to ask a question during the Q&A after the movie, seeing Tom Ford look directly at me and notice my hand up and then have the moderator call on someone else for what would be the last question of the evening. My arm sunk down but nothing could have sunk the magic that lifted this evening higher than I ever expected. I even held the door open for Miss Clarkson on my way out …