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Blu-ray Review: A Man Called Otto

March 20, 2023

By John Corrado

Please note that this is a review of the Blu-ray release of A Man Called Otto. For my full thoughts on the film itself, you can read my original review right here.

A Man Called Otto, director Marc Forster’s very enjoyable remake of the 2015 Swedish film A Man Called Ove, is now available on Blu-ray after becoming a modest hit at the box office.

Tom Hanks stars in the film as Otto Anderson, an old grouch grieving the loss of his wife, who gets a new lease on life when the pregnant Marisol (Mariana Treviño) moves in across the street with her husband (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and their two young daughters, helping bring him out of his shell.

I really enjoyed this one when I reviewed it a few months ago, with Forster offering a good balance of humour and moments that tug at the heartstrings. Hanks carries the film with a very good performance, and Treviño steals every scene she’s in. While remakes like this are rarely necessary, Otto is a well-made and well-acted film that has its own merits, delivering a poignant emotional impact to go along with the charming story of a grouch softening up in the presence of others. It’s a solid choice for at-home viewing.

Film Rating: ★★★ (out of 4)

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray includes a handful of bonus features, including a featurette and music video. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which ships with a slipcover.

Breaking the Rules: Making A Man Called Otto (8 minutes, 45 seconds): A decent overview of the production, including making a few updates to Americanize the original Swedish story, casting Hanks, and scouting locations to shoot in Pittsburgh.

‘Til You’re Home Music Video (3 minutes, 7 seconds): Rita Wilson and Sebastián Yatra perform their song from the film.

In The Studio With Rita Wilson & Sebastián Yatra (2 minutes, 42 seconds): Wilson and Yatra discuss recording the song together.

Otto Preps His Car For The Kids (1 minute): A short deleted scene from the film.

A Man Called Otto is a Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 126 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: March 14th, 2023

Review: Brother

March 18, 2023

John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Brother, the Scarborough-set drama from writer-director Clement Virgo that is up for fourteen Canadian Screen Awards, follows two brothers, Francis (Aaron Pierre) and Michael (Lamar Johnson), over the course of more than a decade.

Much of the film takes place in the 1990s, with the Jamaican-Canadian brothers living in a small apartment in the Kingston-Galloway area of Scarborough with their single mother Ruth (Marsha Stephanie Blake), who is struggling to make ends meet as a nurse to support them.

Opening with Francis leading the way as the brothers attempt to climb a hydro tower to see the view of Toronto from up high (a scene that we return to throughout the film), the story unfolds across two main timelines. In the earlier timeline, we see how Francis serves as mentor to younger brother Michael.

But we discover early on that, in the later timeline, Francis has died, leaving Michael without a protector and their mother distraught with grief. Through this mix of flashbacks and flash-forwards, the film takes place before and after Francis’s death. This fractured narrative approach allows Virgo to very effectively explore the before and after of a tragedy, showing how it fundamentally changes Michael and the crucial impact that it has on their mother and the rest of the community, as the filmmaker confidently jumps back and forth in time in a way that feels guided by emotion.

As much as this is a film about the bond between two brothers, it’s also a portrait of a grieving mother trying to reconcile the loss of her son, with some initial mystery around how he died. We always know that the story is barreling towards tragedy, but by telling it out of order, Virgo allows for rises and falls in emotion, offering a richly textured tapestry of moments in their lives that all swirl together. Despite the disjointed storytelling, it is easy to intuit where we are at different points in the story.

Similar to the film Scarborough from last year, this is a portrait of inner-city poverty and despair, but also one that allows for little glimmers of light. In adapting David Chariandy’s novel for the screen, Virgo has crafted an absorbing family saga, one that is guided by solid performances from its small ensemble of leads. The film is equally defined by its strong sense of setting, showcasing this long-neglected corner of Toronto that I’m glad is finally starting to be shown more on screen.

Brother is now playing in limited release, including at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. It’s being distributed in Canada by Elevation Pictures.

New This Week (03/17/2023): Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Brother, Boston Strangler, & More!

March 17, 2023

By John Corrado

New releases for the week of March 17th, 2023.

Lamar Johnson and Aaron Pierre in Brother

Theatrical Releases:

Shazam! Fury of the Gods (Wide Release): The biggest of this week’s new releases is this sequel to the 2019 DCEU film Shazam!, which is once again directed by David Sandberg and finds Zachary Levi reprising his role as the kid turned superhero. I enjoyed the first one back when it came out, but from what I’ve seen and heard, this sequel is a slight step down. I haven’t seen it yet, but probably still will soon.

Brother (Limited Release): This Scarborough-set Canadian drama from writer-director Clement Virgo follows two brothers, Francis (Aaron Pierre) and Michael (Lamar Johnson), over more than a decade, as Francis serves as mentor to younger brother Michael, before Francis’s death leaves Michael and their single mother (Marsha Stephanie Blake) struggling to grieve. I just watched this one last night, and it’s an absorbing character drama, with the fractured narrative allowing it to effectively explore the before and after of a tragedy. Virgo’s film premiered at TIFF last year, and is up for a whopping fourteen Canadian Screen Awards. (Review coming soon!)

More Releases: Tenzin (Limited), Riceboy Sleeps (Limited), Inside (Limited), Full River Red (TIFF Bell Lightbox)

Streaming Releases:

Boston Strangler (Disney+): Keira Knightley stars in this period piece serial killer thriller as female reporter Loretta McLaughlin, who first broke the story about the Boston Strangler in 1962. The film tries a little too hard to copy David Fincher, and lacks some necessary intensity, but the production makes up for it with solid period details, and the film is carried Knightley’s assured portrayal. It’s a bit of a formula picture, but Boston Strangler still works as a decent true-crime film, elevated by its good performances and sense of time and place. (Full Review)

Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, with Dave Letterman (Disney+): Directed by Morgan Neville (20 Feet from StardomWon’t You Be My Neighbor?), this very enjoyable mix of music documentary, concert film, and docu-special follows Letterman as he tours Dublin, Ireland for the first time, interviewing U2’s lead singer Bono and guitarist The Edge as they are in the process of reworking old songs. I found this to be a wonderful portrait of U2 and Dublin itself, charting how the band – and their country – has evolved over the years. Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day. (Full Review)

More Releases: The Magician’s Elephant (Netflix), Ted Lasso: Season 3 (Apple TV+), The Inspection (Paramount+)

Review: Tenzin

March 17, 2023

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Set in Toronto’s Tibetan community, Tenzin is a Canadian social issue drama that takes a moody, minimalistic approach to telling a story and exploring its themes.

Directed by Michael LeBlanc and Josh Reichmann, the film centres around Tenzin (Tenzin Kelsang), a young Tibetan man dealing with the grief of losing his older brother, who died in an act of self-immolation after lighting himself on fire to protest the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

LeBlanc, who also served as cinematographer, makes some interesting stylistic choices, including a scene where Tenzin slowly wanders through a Tibetan independence rally with the protesters mostly kept out of focus in the background. The camera often lingers on certain images, at times keeping us at a distance through unbroken wide shots.

Through these mostly assured framing choices, Tenzin (which was shot in Etobicoke, Parkdale and Scarborough) is effective at setting a mood. The film also features several more cerebral interludes that meld elements of fantasy, including visions that Tenzin has of his deceased brother, giving the whole thing a sort of slippery, illusory feel. This is matched by the eery, pulsating musical score courtesy of composer Colin Stetson.

The film mainly serves as a portrait of a young man struggling to come to terms with his brother’s suicide, weaving in how others in the community see his brother as a hero for what he did, and how this impacts Tenzin’s own sense of identity as an immigrant and his relationship to the Buddhist faith. These are all interesting themes, but at only 73 minutes, Tenzin is somewhat light on character development, with the actual plot and protagonists often coming across as surprisingly thin.

The screenplay itself, which was co-written by LeBlanc and Reichmann in collaboration with members of their cast, feels underdeveloped, including a subplot about the main character’s job working in the sleazy underground towing industry that isn’t as fleshed out as it could have been. We often get the sense that the film perhaps would have been better conceived as a short, instead of one that is barely stretched to over an hour.

But what works about Tenzin are the thought-provoking themes about heroism and identity that are at the periphery of it, which are brought to the forefront in one of the film’s best scenes through a story told by a shopkeeper about the phurba, a knife-like religious object that is significant in Buddhism. Even at such a brief running time, the film can still feel like it is spinning its wheels a bit, but there are moments like this that do linger.

Tenzin opens in limited release on March 17th, including at the Revue Cinema in Toronto. It’s being distributed in Canada by Game Theory Films.

Review: Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, with Dave Letterman (Disney+)

March 16, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Directed by documentary filmmaker Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?), Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, with Dave Letterman is a very enjoyable mix of music documentary, concert film, and docu-special that finds Letterman interviewing U2’s lead singer Bono and guitarist The Edge.

Neville follows Letterman as he tours Dublin, Ireland for the first time, catching up with Bono and The Edge as they are in the process of reworking old songs, and performing these stripped down acoustic versions in front of an intimate crowd at the Ambassador Theatre in Dublin.

Footage from this concert provides the through-line of A Sort of Homecoming, though the real joy of the piece comes from the way Letterman approaches both his subjects and surroundings with good-natured curiosity, as he embarks on a sort of travelogue. In some ways, it works best as a hangout film; some of the most enjoyable moments are when Letterman and the musicians are simply hanging out in an Irish pub for an impromptu song session (Dermot Kennedy also makes an appearance).

Neville does a good job of balancing these joyful moments with more introspective ones, as they reflect on the history of the country, their origins as a band, and how they fused a religious worldview with rock music. Letterman also interviews fellow Irish musician Glen Hansard, producer Jimmy Iovine, and, in one of the film’s best interludes, drag queen Panti Bliss, who talks about the history of LGBTQ rights in Ireland, which was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage through popular vote.

Timed to coincide with the recent release of Bono’s memoir Surrender, what emerges is an engaging portrait of how the band – and their country – has evolved over the years. As a documentary, it might not probe as deep as some might have wanted. But it’s in the little moments, such as The Edge playing the riff from “Where the Streets Have No Name” for Letterman in the studio (which leads into a story about them performing it at the Super Bowl Halftime Show six months after 9/11), or the duo unveiling the work-in-progress song they have written for Letterman as a gift, that A Sort of Homecoming finds its magic. It’s a wonderful portrait of U2 and Dublin itself.

Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, with Dave Letterman will be available to stream exclusively on Disney+ as of March 17th.

Review: Boston Strangler (Disney+)

March 16, 2023

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Written and directed by Matt Ruskin, Boston Strangler is a pretty good direct-to-streaming serial killer thriller that dramatizes the events around the real life Boston Strangler murders, seen from the perspective of Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley), one of the female journalists who helped break the story in 1962.

At the start of the film, Loretta is stuck working in the lifestyle section at the Boston Record American. A wife and mother balancing her career with raising kids, she is assigned tasks to review toaster ovens, while begging her editor Jack Maclaine (Chris Cooper) to put her on the news beat.

When three women are murdered in their apartments by a killer who is disguising himself as a handyman and preying on older ladies who live alone, Loretta is the first to discover a possible link between the murders; each of the victims has been strangled, with their stockings tied in a decorative bow around their necks.

Loretta is tentatively put on the case with Jean Cole (Carrie Coon), a reporter who is more jaded to the whole process. As more women end up getting killed, they see it as their duty to warn the public. They try to follow leads on possible suspects and attempt to get information out of the completely buttoned up Boston Police Department, but they face pressures within the male-dominated news industry. The paper insists on publishing their photos in the paper beside their bylines, to show they have female reporters on the case, which puts their safety at risk.

While Boston Strangler never reaches the levels of a David Fincher film, it is very much cut from the same cloth; it’s heavily modelled after Fincher’s 2007 masterwork Zodiac not only in its charting the pursuit of a serial killer, but also in its portrayal of someone becoming consumed by obsession as they try to identify and stop them. Ruskin tries a little too hard to make the next Zodiac (an impossible task), and his largely procedural approach does lack some necessary intensity at times, with the film doing a better job of building a sense of atmosphere instead of actual suspense.

The production makes up for it with solid period detail of the smoky newsrooms and grimy streets, all captured by Ben Kutchins’s classical cinematography. The film is carried Knightley’s assured portrayal of McLaughlin, while Coon does solid work as the more hardened reporter, and Cooper offers fine support as the expectedly gruff editor. This is one of those films where pretty much everything about it is solid and serviceable, without ever really necessarily rising above that level. It follows the beats of the genre to such a tee that it’s practically a formula picture, but Boston Strangler still works as a decent true-crime film, elevated by its good performances and sense of time and place.

(L-R): Carrie Coon as Jean Cole and Keira Knightley as Loretta McLaughlin in 20th Century Studios’ BOSTON STRANGLER, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by Claire Folger. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Boston Strangler will be available to stream exclusively on Disney+ in Canada as of March 17th.

Winners of the 95th Academy Awards

March 12, 2023

By John Corrado

Ke Huy Quan holds up his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Everything Everywhere All at Once

The 95th Oscars have officially wrapped up, with Everything Everywhere All At Once (which went into the night with a leading eleven nominations), absolutely sweeping the show with seven wins, including Picture, Director, and a trio of acting trophies for Jamie Lee Curtis, Ke Huy Quan, and Michelle Yeoh (becoming the first film to pull off that feat since Network in 1976). It was a truly impressive haul for A24’s multiverse-jumping action dramedy, which has been slowly but surely gaining steam since it first came out a year ago.

The remaining acting category, Best Actor, went to Brendan Fraser for The Whale (hinted at earlier in the night when the film won Makeup & Hairstyling over Elvis, suggesting Fraser’s main competition Austin Butler wasn’t likely to win). Fraser’s win is probably the award that I’m most happy with; I’ve been rooting for him to win since seeing the film at TIFF and witnessing the standing ovation that he received, and seeing him actually accept the Oscar was as satisfying as I had hoped.

Elsewhere, Germany’s International Feature winner All Quiet on the Western Front (a remake of the 1930 Best Picture winner) swept the tech categories, including Cinematography, Production Design and Score. Unlike some years, this wasn’t really a share the love sort of night; most surprisingly, Elvis went home empty-handed, as did The Fabelmans, The Banshees of Inisherin and TÁR (though Top Gun: Maverick thankfully managed to still win one for Sound).

As a whole, the ceremony itself was well produced, and Jimmy Kimmel was a solid host. Sure, there were a few corny jokes (like a dig at the short film categories making the show run longer), but he got things started with a solid opening monologue that did a fine job highlighting some of the films and nominees, while making a few obligatory references to the handling of last year’s infamous slap incident. The monologue was preceded by a nicely done montage of last year’s movies, that ended with Kimmel parachuting into the theatre à la Top Gun: Maverick.

Overall, the show itself was surprisingly good, especially compared to last year and the year before. It felt celebratory. The sets were nice, they had film clips, and all 23 categories were presented live. It felt like they actually listened to what dedicated Oscar viewers – those who actually care about the Oscars – wanted. I liked the way they presented the categories, with film clips and explanations for some of the technical aspects of filmmaking, including the use of props (such as some of the nominated costumes being onstage for Costume Design).

The performances of the nominated songs were admittedly a bit hit-and-miss. Diane Warren and Sofia Carson’s performance of “Applause” from barely seen Tell It Like a Woman was an unironic cheesefest, and Lady Gaga delivered a surprisingly minor rendition of Top Gun: Maverick power ballad “Hold My Hand” (Gaga initially announced that she would not be able to perform due to filming Joker: Folie à Deux, and was a last minute addition). But they went all out for a big production number of eventual winner “Naatu Naatu” from the Indian action epic RRR, and Rihanna gave a very good performance of her powerful Black Panther: Wakanda Forever track “Lift Me Up.”

While there were still a few frustrating instances of winners being played off the stage, the acceptance speeches were largely satisfying. Watching Ke Huy Quan accept award after award was one of the most satisfying parts of this awards season, and his incredibly gracious acceptance early in the night already feels like an all-timer Oscar moment, and Jamie Lee Curtis’s rousing “we won an Oscar” speech feels destined to live on through highlight reels.

The night began with Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio winning Animated Feature, and the filmmaker delivering a passionate, and short but sweet “animation IS cinema” speech. The live presentation of Live Action Short also allowed for a sweet moment when the filmmakers behind winner An Irish Goodbye led the crowd in singing happy birthday to star James Martin.

I didn’t do that well on my predictions (only getting 15/23 correct), but I didn’t necessarily expect to, either. I took some risks in my predictions, and it was fun to have a few surprises here and there, even if several of the big categories went to the expected frontrunners. And Everything Everywhere All At Once is certainly a very unique addition to the pantheon of Best Picture winners (to my knowledge, it’s the first to feature butt plugs), even if it still feels somewhat surreal that directing duo The Daniels actually managed to beat Steven Spielberg in Best Director.

Overall, I have to say that I enjoyed watching the show and how things went down. Below is the full list of nominees and winners, in the order that they were presented. Read more…

My 2023 Oscar Predictions

March 11, 2023

By John Corrado

It’s Oscar weekend, which means that it’s time for my final predictions for what will take home this year’s awards. While some of the big categories (Picture, Director) seem easy, there are a lot of hard to predict races. I have very little confidence in some of these predictions, and you know what? I’m okay with that, since it makes for a more fun viewing experience.

Will Everything Everywhere All at Once, with its leading eleven nominations, pull off a clean sweep, or collect a more modest haul on its way to almost certainly winning Best Picture at the end of the night? Is it really possible for Top Gun: Maverick to go home empty-handed, as some are predicting? How much love will Elvis or All Quiet on the Western Front get in the tech categories? I’ve included some additional commentary below trying to explaining my choices.

Best Picture:

It seems like one of the biggest sure things at this point that Everything Everywhere All At Once will actually win the Oscar for Best Picture. It’s almost hard to believe how the film has gone from entering the season seeming like an underdog with an outside chance of winning, but has quickly risen to be the unstoppable frontrunner. I like the movie a lot, and it will certainly be one of the most unique Best Picture winners. In second place seems to be Netflix All Quiet on the Western Front, a remake of a previous Best Picture winner, but I don’t know if it has enough momentum to actually pull off an upset (despite sweeping at the BAFTAs).

Predicted Winner: Everything Everywhere All At Once

Personal Pick: The Fabelmans

Best Director:

At one point, it seemed like the natural thing to do here would be to give Steven Spielberg his third directing Oscar for his deeply personal, beautifully crafted exploration of his childhood (and I still would do that). But, as EEAAO picked up steam as the Best Picture frontrunner, its directing duo The Daniels has gone along with it, and are now just as much of a sure thing to win.

Predicted Winner: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – Everything Everywhere All At Once

Personal Pick: Steven Spielberg – The Fabelmans

Best Actress:

This is one of the tightest two-horse races of the night between Blanchett and Yeoh, with pros and cons to each (Blanchett won BAFTA, but Yeoh won SAG). Yeoh has the narrative on her side, and she would be a worthy winner along with EEAAO, but Oscars have shown they don’t always care about that in the past. Blanchett delivered a towering performance as Lydia Tár that would be equally deserving of a win, and I have a feeling the Academy will be fine with making her a three-time Oscar-winner for it.

Predicted Winner: Cate Blanchett – TÁR

Personal Pick: Cate Blanchett – TÁR

Best Actor:

Like Actress, this is another close two-horse race between Fraser and Butler (initially a three-horse one when Farrell seemed like more of a contender). I’m still predicting (and hoping) that Fraser will be able to ride a tidal wave of goodwill towards his first Oscar, but it’s not an easy path. As I said before, the Academy has shown that they don’t always care about narrative; they famously (and wrongly) awarded Sean Penn for Milk over Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (another powerful comeback performance in a Darren Aronofsky film), and Eddie Redmayne won for playing Stephen Hawking over Michael Keaton in Birdman. If that trend of awarding biopics continues, Butler will win for Elvis, and I can’t complain; he’s incredible as The King. But I’m still giving Fraser the edge for The Whale.

Predicted Winner: Brendan Fraser – The Whale

Personal Pick: Brendan Fraser – The Whale

​Best Supporting Actress:

Another tight race, this time between Bassett, Curtis and Condon. Bassett initially seemed like the frontrunner, but I’ve always have a hard time seeing them awarding a performance in a Marvel movie, and it’s also possible that industry veterans Bassett and Curtis cancelled each other out in voting, with Condon coming up the middle. But Curtis had enough passion behind her to even get a nomination, and she’s a well-respected titan of the industry who did a lot to help push EEAAO as an awards contender, so I’m predicting her surprise SAG win will translate here as well.

Predicted Winner: Jamie Lee Curtis – Everything Everywhere All At Once

Personal Pick: Hong Chau – The Whale

Best Supporting Actor:

This is an easy one, with Quan maybe the biggest lock of the night to win. And you know what? He fully deserves it. Sure, Keoghan pulled off a surprise BAFTA win, but I don’t see that happening here.

Predicted Winner: Ke Huy Quan – Everything Everywhere All At Once

Personal Pick: Ke Huy Quan – Everything Everywhere All At Once

Best Original Screenplay:

Will Martin McDonagh really lose another chance at a screenplay win, like he did with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri? I’m predicting The Daniels to pick up this trophy for EEAAO, but would love to see McDonagh’s masterfully written Banshees prevail.

Predicted Winner: Everything Everywhere All At Once

Personal PickThe Banshees of Inisherin

Best Adapted Screenplay:

This is between All Quiet and Women Talking. It’s a tossup which one will prevail, but I’m tentatively giving the edge to Toronto’s own Sarah Polley for the former. A lot of people want to see her win, and it’s a movie where the writing stands out in particular. Though my heart goes with novelist Kazuo Ishiguro for Ikiru remake Living.

Predicted Winner: Women Talking

Personal Pick: Living

Best Animated Feature:

I adore four out of five of these movies and thought the fifth one (The Sea Beast) was good. Del Toro will win for his Pinocchio, and he deserves to. Though, by a hair, my heart still belongs to Pixar’s Toronto-set Turning Red.

Predicted Winner: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Personal Pick: Turning Red

Best Documentary Feature:

The only one of these I haven’t seen yet is A House Made of Splinters, but the other four all made my own list for the best documentaries of last year. I’m giving the edge to the archival footage love story Fire of Love, though the topical real life thriller Navalny is literally right behind it. Damn fine films, all of them, though All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is the best of the bunch, and it’s a shame it’s not more of a frontrunner.

Predicted Winner: Fire of Love

Personal Pick: All the Beauty And the Bloodshed

Best International Feature:

Predicted Winner: ​All Quiet on the Western Front

Personal Pick: ​All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Cinematography:

Predicted Winner: ​All Quiet on the Western Front

Personal Pick: ​All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Costume Design:

Catherine Martin won double Oscars for costumes and production design for two of Baz Luhrmann’s previous films, Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby, so I’m making a safe bet that she at least wins this one for Elvis. Though watch out for EEAAO or Black Panther (the first film won) as possible spoilers.

Predicted Winner: Elvis

Personal Pick: Elvis

Best Film Editing:

A lot of people have switched to the multiverse-jumping EEAAO in this category, though I’m defiantly sticking to Top Gun: Maverick (which I’m also predicting for sound, and these two categories usually go hand-in-hand). Ford v. Ferrari also won this category in the year of Parasite, so there is precedent for them picking something like Top Gun over the Best Picture frontrunner.

Predicted Winner: Top Gun: Maverick

Personal Pick: Top Gun: Maverick

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

Predicted Winner: Elvis

Personal Pick: The Whale

Best Production Design:

I’ve got Elvis winning Costume Design, so I’m going the easy route and predicting Catherine Martin to do another one-two punch with Production Design as well. Though it’s a literal toss-up with Babylon.

Predicted Winner: Elvis

Personal Pick: All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Sound:

War films tend to do well in this category, which could give All Quiet an advantage, but since I’m sticking to Maverick in Editing and these two awards usually go together, that’s what I’m going with. I’m also struggling to imagine a scenario where Maverick goes home empty-handed, so predicting it to win here at least for the roar of jet engines.

Predicted Winner: Top Gun: Maverick

Personal Pick: Top Gun: Maverick

Best Visual Effects:

The first Avatar won, and for the sequel to repeat seems like one of the biggest locks of the night.

Predicted Winner: Avatar: The Way of Water

Personal Pick: Avatar: The Way of Water

Best Original Score:

This has weirdly become one of the toughest categories to predict, but I’m thinking it’s down to All Quiet and Babylon. Both would be deserving, but I’m giving the edge to Justin Hurwitz for Babylon, partially because it’s a technical marvel and my personal favourite of the bunch (I’ve had it on repeat for months), and it will never leave your head in the best possible way. But is EEAAO a potential spoiler, or can John Williams win another Oscar? We shall see.

Predicted Winner: Babylon – Justin Hurwitz

Personal Pick: Babylon – Justin Hurwitz

Best Original Song:

Predicted Winner: “Naatu Naatu” – RRR

Personal Pick: “Hold My Hand” – Top Gun: Maverick

Best Animated Short:

Predicted Winner: The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse

Personal Pick: The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse

Best Documentary Short:

Predicted Winner: Stranger at the Gate

Personal Pick: Haulout

Best Live Action Short:

Predicted Winner: An Irish Goodbye

Personal Pick: N/A

Review: The Sea Beast

March 11, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The solo debut of Chris Williams (who co-directed Bolt, Big Hero 6 and Moana for Disney), the Oscar-nominated The Sea Beast is a pretty good animated adventure movie from Netflix that imagines a world where pirates sail the high seas, killing sea monsters at the behest of the monarchy.

Set in the 17th century, the film has two main characters; crusty sailor turned monster hunter Jacob Holland (Karl Urban), who was pulled from the sea as a young boy and raised by Captain Crow (Jared Harris) upon his ship the Inevitable, and wide-eyed young orphan Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator), who fervently reads about the monster hunters in her books and dreams about being one of them. 

Crow has taught Jacob every thing he knows about killing sea beasts. Working under orders from the King (Jim Carter) and Queen (Doon Mackichan), it’s the job of the monster hunters to protect the thriving port town of Three Bridges, spurred by ancient stories of when the sea monsters used to come to shore and eat people off land. After a trip to shore, the crew of the Inevitable set out to hunt the legendary female sea monster known as the Red Bluster, but soon realize that Maisie has snuck aboard their ship, jeopardizing the mission.

The film does feel long at nearly two hours (including about ten minutes of end credits), and there are a few too many story strands. The material is somewhat derivative of better movies (think How to Train Your Dragon), and the more cutesy elements such as a blue jelly blob sidekick, can feel shoehorned in to offset the darker stuff. But Williams, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Nell Benjamin, has crafted a decent adventure movie that has enough of its own lore to keep audiences mostly engaged.

Despite some more predictable elements (we just know that Maisie is going to challenge Jacob’s world view and help teach him life lessons), the core story is a good one, with some interesting, more mature themes about history and what stories get told. There is some solid, PG-level swashbuckling action, including an early sequence that finds the ship’s crew chopping tentacles off a sea monster as they wrap around them and the ship, as well as a well-timed comic moment involving two characters attached by the same rope. It’s all brought to the screen with polished animation, and a very nice, nautical-inspired score by Mark Mencina.

The Sea Beast is now available to stream exclusively on Netflix.

New This Week (03/10/2023): Scream VI, I Like Movies, Champions, & More!

March 10, 2023

By John Corrado

New releases for the week of March 10th, 2023.

Isaiah Lehtinen in I Like Movies

Theatrical Releases:

Scream VI (Wide Release): I had a blast with this latest film in the Scream franchise when I saw it at a screening last week. This sixth instalment not only builds off of last year’s “requel” but also improves upon it, as co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett simply have fun letting Ghostface loose in New York and playing around on a larger playground. Sure, some of the twists get a bit over the top in the last act, but it’s all in keeping with the meta fun of the series, and the opening sequence is one of the best in the franchise. (Full Review)

Champions (Wide Release): Peter Farrelly (the younger of the Farrelly Brothers) makes his solo debut with this feel-good sports movie starring Woody Harrelson as Marcus, an embattled minor-league basketball coach who is court-ordered to coach a local team of adults with intellectual disabilities. It’s a predictable story, but I enjoyed it for the good messages and positive representation, with the film succeeding by authentically casting disabled actors in these roles. (Full Review)

I Like Movies (Limited Release/TIFF Bell Lightbox): This wonderful directorial debut from film critic Chandler Levack was one of my favourites of TIFF last year. The Canadian indie follows Lawrence (Isaiah Lehtinen), a socially awkward 17-year-old cinephile who has his perspectives challenged when he starts working at a local video store under a female manager (Romina D’Ugo). Set in Brampton circa 2002, the film serves as a nostalgic ode to the early-2000s video store era, as well as a sharply written and surprisingly poignant coming of age film about a self-centred “film bro” struggling to learn how to look past himself. I adored it, and I highly encourage others to check it out. (TIFF 2022 Review)

More Releases: 65 (Wide), Mummies (Wide), Blueback (Limited)

Streaming Releases:

Chang Can Dunk (Disney+): This Disney Plus Original from writer-director Jingyi Shao follows Chang (Bloom Li), an Asian American teenager who loves basketball and makes a bet that he can dunk in order to impress a girl. I haven’t gotten a chance to watch it yet, but it seems like a decent coming of age sports movie.

More Releases: Miley Cyrus – Endless Summer Vacation (Backyard Sessions) (Disney+), Luther: The Fallen Sun (Netflix), Devil’s Peak (Digital/VOD)

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