It’s almost hard to believe that SIFF is winding down to a close but thems the facts, and I still need to get another 12 movies in before the end of next week. While that might seem an insurmountable challenge for you regular, non-obsessive folk, I’ll think of it as a walk in the park. With this capsule reivew series now in the tail end, I can safely say that SIFForty has certainly had a wealth of good stuff to offer but they’re nothing if not hidden amongst a trove of unenviable watches. As always, the good is mixed in with the bad, paper-bagged and drawn at random. But of course, this is why you read reviews. But still keeping within the reigns of SIFF protocol, these micro-reviews are sliced and diced down to a brief 75 words so you can read them fast, I can write them fast and the studio’s fat, rich, and happy. So, short and sweet reading for you, much more time for movie watching for me. This could be the beginning (or is it getting towards the end now?) of a beautiful friendship.
dir. Aaron Wilson star. Khan Chittenden, Mo Tzu-Yi (Australia)
An aggressively tedious concept film that sees an Australian pilot attempting to survive when shot down over enemy lines in 1942 Singapore. A total lack of momentum makes Canopy an aggravating, if not admirably shot, experience in positively bland, thanklessly simplistic filmmaking. The chirping sound design is like a setting on an Oasis Dream Machine (albeit interrupted by blips of gunfire) and coupled with the fact that the film is essentially dialogue free, Canopy is a snooze fest; a stressed cacophony of too little, too late. Though Aaron Wilson tries to put you into the midst of things, he’s more likely to put you to sleep. (D+)
dir. Non Young-seok star. Jun Suk-ho, Oh Tae-kyung (South Korea)
With a title that works on many levels, Intruders is a Hitchcockian thriller by way of South Korea. A screenwriter tries to find recluse in a snowy off-the-beaten-path village but winds up with far more than he bargained for in this strange, exciting thrill ride. Though there are some technical snags – mostly born of budgetary constraints (Non Young-seok sorely needed a better indoor camera) – the festering story is a novelty of old and new, East meets West and with its nail-biting final act, will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat until the closing moments. (B)
dir. Jennifer Kent star. Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney (Australia)
An eerie children’s pop-up book warns that once you’ve seen the Babadook, you’ll wish you were dead. Thankfully, that’s not true of the film itself. This Australian ghost tale circles the real life impossibility of single parent child-rearing in a film that’s part Home Alone and part The Shining. Babadook is a frugal little haunter that makes smart use of its minimalist means and wrings a borderline outstanding (or at least compelling unselfconscious) performance from its young actor, Noah Wiseman. (C+)
dir. Joe Swanberg star. Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, Lena Dunham, Joe Swanberg (USA)
Joe Swanberg returns to his meandering, improvisational ways in a comedy/drama about a new family unit celebrating their second Christmas, which is promptly crashed by recently dumped and perennially immature sister Jenny. Jenny (the irresistibly lovable Anna Kendrick) is a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pant’s kinda girl and Kendrick’s hopelessly awkward antics marry perfectly to Swanberg’s trackless filmmaking. His wandering style allows this grounded story of family fuck-ups to highlight the little things in life (babies cackling and dogs chewin’ on bones) and is a fully worthy successor to last year’s borderline commercial Drinking Buddies. (B)
Click through for more recap segments and stay tuned for the next collection of four in this whopping ten part series.
Part 1: JIMI: All is By My Side, Zip Zap and the Marble Gang, Hellion, Fight Church
Part 2: Cannibal, The Double, Time Lapse, Another
Part 3: Half of a Yellow Sun, Mirage Men, The Trip to Italy, Starred Up
Part 4: Difret, The Fault in Our Stars, The Skeleton Twins, In Order of Disappearance
Part 5: Willow Creek, Firestorm, Mystery Road, 10,000 KM
Part 6: Obvious Child, To Kill a Man, Night Moves, The Internet’s Own Boy