Thursday, June 16, 2016

ICFF review: All Roads Lead to Rome

 Italian screen legend, Claudia Cardinale, delivers a sharp, sardonic performance in All Roads Lead To Rome (Tutte le strade portano a Roma), but even she can't save this romantic comedy which screens tonight in Toronto at the ICFF (Italian Contemporary Film Festival).

Cardinale plays 80-year-old Carmen who secretly plans to wed her one true love in Rome against the wishes of her son, Luca (Raul Bova). However, the focus lies on Maggie (Sarah Jessica Parker), a cheery, but daffy divorced mum who tries to re-connect with her rebellious (obnoxious, really) teenage daughter, Summer (Rosie Day) with a trip to a gorgeous Tuscan village that she frequented as a youth. Maggie runs into her old flame, Luca, and Summer wants to return to her sleazy boyfriend in New York who's battling drug charges.

Impulsively, Carmen and Summer steal a car and race to Rome to pursue their men. Of course, Maggie and Luca give chase, personal revelations follow between both pairs, and everyone winds up with the right partner at the end. I won't spoil the ending, but you can probably guess.

A talented cast can't save a predictable script and flat direction. The laughs are never big in All Roads Lead To Rome which has cute written all over it. The highlight of the film is Cardinale, who only has to deliver a gesture or expression to express a thousand words.

Ms. Cardinale will be on hand to present All Roads Lead to Rome tonight in Toronto at 9:30 pm, and Saturday, June 18 at the Trius Winery in Niagara. Click here for details.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

They Called Me Jeeg astonishes at ICFF

by Allan Tong

The best film of this year's Italian Contemporary Film Festival is They Called Me Jeeg (Lo chiamavano Jeeg Robot).

To label Jeeg as Italy's first superhero action film is incomplete. It's also a dark comedy with a twisted romance. Enzo (Claudio Santamaria) is a small-time crook who falls into radioactive waste during a cop chase. He's a lonely wanker who eats endless pudding and has no friends. During a botched drug deal which slays a fellow criminal, Enzo discovers these super physical powers that let him survive a fall off a high building and to shove refrigerators across rooms with his bare arms.

Enzo literally robs an ATM by ripping it out of the wall and steals using his newfound powers. That ends when gang leader Zingaro (Luca Marinelli) comes looking for his drugs and cash, and he strong-arms Alessia (Ilenia Pastorelli), the mad daughter of Enzo's fellow criminal. Enzo winds up protecting--and falling in love--with the poor, deluded Alessia who believes Enzo is the hero of a Japanese anime called Steel Jeeg Robot. She's been lost in her own world ever since her mother died years ago and/or her father started molesting her.

Meanwhile, videos of Enzo superhuman feats, like lifting a streetcar, go viral on social media and the public and police fear they have a supervillain terrorizing Rome. Ironically, Zingaro wreaks mayhem in the city streets by hunting down Enzo and Alessia.

Lead screenwriter Nicola Guaglianone takes Hollywood superhero conventions (radioactive super-powers, ordinary villain turns superhero) and imbues his characters with touching flaws and the story with left-handed turns. They add up to make They Called Me Jeeg into something imaginative and original. TV veteran Gabriele Mainetti makes an audacious debut, proving he can direct explosive action sequences as good as anyone in Hollywood yet convey humour and tenderness in dysfunctional characters. Santamaria plays Enzo with understated intensity, and Pastorelli portrays Alessia with surprising pathos in a role that is vulnerable to cliche.

Just when I thought that movies were stuck in the toilet, along comes something like They Called Me Jeeg to revive my faith.

Don’t Be Bad (Non essere cattivo) also explores Italy's criminal underbelly but is rooted in hard realism, not fantasy. Shot like a  gritty documentary, Don’t Be Bad follows a pair of  hedonistic young thugs who live in a world of money, clubs and cocaine in the nineties. Technically, the film is well made and the acting is taut, but Don’t Be Bad left me cold towards its amoral, empty anti-heroes.

Unfortunately, two films, a comedy and a drama, suffer from melodrama, though they're based on superb premises. Ustica dramatizes the 1980 Italian plane crash into the Tyrrhenian Sea that involved terrorism and government cover-up. The film is spoiled by wooden acting and on-the-nose dialogue. Two of A Kind (Ambo) is about a husband and father trying to have a second child, but he discovers he's sterile and his son is not actual son. The film takes a sickly sweet approach with the little boy narrating. Also, many scenes are bathed in soft focus and drowned  in a syrupy soundtrack.

A clearer, more rewarding approach is found in Rewind and Reboot (Torno indietro e cambio Vita)Marco is a successful businessman whose marriage of 25 years suddenly falls apart. He confesses to longtime buddy, Claudio, that he wishes he could go back in time and change his life. Boom! A car accident grants them both this wish and Marco meets with his future wife in high school in 1990.

Rewind and Reboot is a time travel comedy. Nothing new, but there are plenty of good laughs and clever story turns to make this a delightful watch. Overall, the acting is fine, particularly Ricky Memphis who is deadpan-perfect as Claudio in a subplot that nicely interweaves with Marco's. Rewind and Reboot is another strong comedy at this year's ICFF.

More ICFF reviews here.

The ICFF screens in Toronto and Vaughan with additional screenings in Hamilton, St. Catharines and Quebec City through June 19. Click here for the schedule and ticketing details.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Funnyman Zalone opens the ICFF in Toronto

story by Allan Tong
photos by Sally Warburton

"Thank you for the orgasm," declared Italian funnyman, Checco Zalone.

He and his longtime collaborator, director Gennaro Nunziante (right), opened the Italian Contemporary Film Festival last night with Quo Vado?, a comedy smash in Italy.

For me, the film was better the second time around. (Read my original review here.) No, it wasn't because the large screen and sparkling sound system of the TIFF Bell Lightbox dwarfs my home theatre system where I first watched the film as a low-res screener, but rather it came down to hearing the Italian-Canadian audience laugh at themselves. They were reacting to Zalone littering, honking his horn in traffic, being a 38-year-old mama's boy and the glory of holding a "permanent position" as a do-nothing bureaucrat. Ah, now I get it.

Afterwards, the sold-out audience feasted on pork and pasta at Roy Thompson Hall at Toronto's most luxurious film festival party. Wine flowed as women in long dresses danced with men in sharp suits beneath a clear sky.

Quo Vado? screens tonight in Vaughan at the Colossus Cineplex, and the ICFF runs through June 19. For my festival reviews, click here.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Love and laughter at this year's ICFF

by Allan Tong

From June 9-19, Italian cinema rules Toronto and Vaughan (with screenings in Hamilton, Quebec City and, new this year, Niagara Falls) with the Italian Contemporary Film Festival. The ICFF offers another entertaining year of movies, mostly drawn from Italy with a few from Canada, but this year the overall program skews towards comedy and romance.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Call for submissions: TIFF Studio 2016

TIFF Studio 2016 Applications are now open:
Calling Canadian writer-directors!

Applications for Canadian writer-directors are now open for TIFF Studio, our year round training programme for mid-career professionals, co-supported by the Harold Greenberg Fund and the Director’s Guild of Canada. Our fourth edition will run from June to January 2017.

Studio is a space for filmmakers to be inspired, consolidate skills, exchange ideas, and discuss challenges in a collaborative environment. Offered to a select group of 10 mid-career, writer-directors, Studio is intended to take the candidates careers to the next level, via creative and business skill development.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Call for submissions: Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (RIDM)

Submissions for RIDM 2016 are now open!

Quebec’s only film festival dedicated to documentaries, the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) presents the best reality-based films, including the works of established directors and new talents alike. Every November, RIDM screens approximately 140 domestic and foreign productions and hosts a dozen complementary activities such as workshops, master classes, debates and roundtables. The festival typically welcomes about 100 guests from outside Quebec, and hands out 11 awards selected by juries comprised of industry professionals.

Doc Circuit Montréal, the documentary market organized in parallel with the festival, hosts a dozen activities for documentary professionals, including workshops and presentations, and facilitates more than 1,500 business meetings.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

2016 Canadian Screen Awards – Pre-Show & CBC Broadcast Winners

Comedian Norm Macdonald hosted the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards live on CBC from the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, where 39 CSAs were presented to winners from across the country, it was announced by the Academy of Canadian Cinema &

"Tonight we congratulate and applaud all of the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards' nominees and winners,” says Academy Chair Martin Katz. “Through your skill, artistry and talent – you represent the cultural infrastructure of our creative economy. We are all very proud of you.”

39 Canadian Screen Awards’ winners included six Academy Special Awards:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

2016 Canadian Screen Awards – Television & Digital Media Gala 2 Winners

The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television held their gala evening at the Westin Harbour Castle for the second round of Canadian Screen Award winners for 2016.

The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television is pleased to announce that 49 Canadian Screen Awards and six Academy Special Awards were presented tonight in Drama, Children’s or Youth, Comedy and Variety categories. This Canadian Screen Awards Gala was hosted tonight by comedian Steve Patterson at the Westin Harbour Castle, Toronto.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

2016 Canadian Screen Awards – Television & Digital Media, Gala 1 Winners

The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television held its first gala tonight at the Westin Harbour Castle for the first round of Canadian Screen Award winners for 2016. The event was hosted by comedian Seán Cullen and presented 50 Canadian Screen Awards in the News & Sports, Documentary, Lifestyle, Reality & Digital Media categories.

In addition, they presented and three previously announced Academy Special Awards – Canada in Perspective received the Diversity Award; Mark Starowicz received the Gordon Sinclair Award for Broadcast Journalism; and Much Music Video Awards – Router-Based Production Audio Design received the Outstanding Technical Achievement Award.

Nominations announced for the 2016 MTV Movie Awards

Get ready movie buffs, because the 2016 Movie Awards are coming to you Sunday, April 10th from the Warner Brother Studios in Burbank, California.

It's time to witness another show down. Voting is now open, so get hype to cheer on more of your favorite bad ass girl crushes, epic superheroes and lovable villains as they fight dirty for the Golden Popcorn. Your vote counts towards their destiny. To host this epic night of movie magic, MTV has enlisted action hero and all-around BAMF, Dwayne Johnson, and 2015 Comedic Genius honoree, Kevin Hart to be our masters of the Golden Popcorn. This dynamite duo will be sure to fill the night with unforgettable jokes, side-splitting introductions, and tweet-provoking moments.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

2016 WGC Screenwriting Awards finalists announced

The Writers Guild of Canada celebrates 25 years of working for Canadian screenwriters, showcasing their talents at the 20th annual WGC Screenwriting Awards. The gala event takes place on May 2, 2016 at Toronto’s beautiful Koerner Hall.

This year close to 150 scripts were nominated, with 24 scripts chosen as finalists, and 32 screenwriters up for awards. Special awards, including the WGC Showrunner Award, the Alex Barris Mentorship Award, and the Sondra Kelly Award will also be presented.

The 19th Annual TIFF Kids International Film Festival, April 8 – 24, 2016

Festival extended to three weekends to make room for more films, more family time and more fun!

Toronto – The TIFF Kids International Film Festival™, one of the world’s premier film festivals for children aged 3-13, returns for its 19th year, brimming with exhilarating stories, diverse programming, and lively animations that will delight and inspire children and parents alike.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Call for submissions: Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (RIDM)

The Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (RIDM) or Montreal International Documentary Festival has announced its call for submissions for this year's edition. It will be held from November 10 to 20, 2016.

Quebec’s only film festival dedicated to documentaries, the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) presents the best reality-based films, including the works of established directors and new talents alike. Every November, RIDM screens approximately 140 domestic and foreign productions and hosts a dozen complementary activities such as workshops, master classes, debates and roundtables. The festival typically welcomes about 100 guests from outside Quebec, and hands out 11 awards selected by juries comprised of industry professionals.

Hot Docs Announces A Selection Of Special Presentations To Screen During 2016 Festival

Hot Docs is pleased to announce 15 documentary features that will be a part of this year’s Special Presentations program, a high-profile collection of world and international premieres, award-winners from the recent international festival circuit and works by master filmmakers or featuring some star subjects. These films will screen as part of the 2016 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, running April 28 to May 8.

The complete Special Presentations program and the full selection of films to screen at Hot Docs 2016 will be announced on March 22, including the 2016 opening night film. Ticket packages and passes are now on sale online. Single tickets and package redemption will be available beginning Tuesday, March 22, 2016.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Canadian Film Fest Reveals 2016 Lineup (March 30 – April 2)

The Canadian Film Fest (CFF), celebrating it’s 10th edition, has revealed the line up for this year’s festival along with a new logo and website.

The CFF returns to The Royal Cinema in Toronto from March 30 – April 2 and opens with the Toronto premiere of Jeremy LaLonde’s How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town, which is fresh off its U.S. premiere at Slamdance and stars Jewel Staite, Ennis Esmer, Katharine Isabelle and Kristian Bruun. Director X’s feature film debut Across the Line, with Stephan James and Sarah Jeffery, has its Toronto premiere as the closing night film.