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Disney+ Review: Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers

May 19, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is technically the latest in Disney’s long line of live action reboots, reviving the fan favourite Disney Channel cartoon series. But in the hands of director Akiva Schaffer (from comedy troupe The Lonely Island), this one serves as a satirical sendup of the sorts of nostalgia-driven, cameo-filled, IP-fuelled reboots that have become the norm in Hollywood.

The result is an entertaining reboot (or comeback?) that has fun doubling as a meta sendup of one. Set in a world where humans and cartoon characters live together, the film reimagines Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (The Lonely Island’s Andy Samberg) as washed up actors, who met as kids in school and became big stars on the show Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, but had a falling out when Dale tried to go solo and the show got cancelled.

In present day, Dale has gotten “CGI surgery” that has given him a 3D makeover, and now spends his time doing fan conventions. Chip, on the other hand, is still his old 2D self, and sells life insurance for a living. The two chipmunks are brought back together when their old co-star Monterey Jack (Eric Bana), who developed a bad cheese habit and owes money to underworld crime bosses, becomes the latest toon to go missing. With Monty at risk of getting “bootlegged” and sold off to be used in cheap, overseas ripoffs, Chip and Dale must play detective again in order to find him.

This all, of course, calls to mind the 1988 Robert Zemeckis classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which famously did the whole toons and people living together thing so well. This film has been drawing a lot of comparisons to Roger Rabbit (who even has a brief cameo!), but one of the things that made that film work so seamlessly was that it had a committed human performance from Bob Hoskins, who played it completely straight against the toons. Kiki Layne struggles to fill that role here as a police detective who was a fan of the Rescue Rangers growing up, with her performance feeling like a distraction. She doesn’t really sell the illusion of acting alongside animated characters, and it comes across as overacting.

The story itself feels a bit basic, and borrows a little too heavily from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (though this might be meant as another in-joke). Still, the screenplay by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand has a lot of funny one-liners and references to the original show and our current reboot-driven culture, with Chip often griping about the prospect of coming back for a reunion. The most inventive aspect of the film is how it blends different animation styles (including a trip through the “uncanny valley”) into a live action world. The film also has fun with its sense of scale, with the chipmunks living in tiny little houses that are built beside bigger ones.

Schaffer’s film is simply chock full of amusing little details and in-jokes. This is the sort of comedy that throws a lot at the wall, and while not all of it lands, a surprising amount of it does stick. Even if the numerous cameos and callbacks occasionally feel like too much, this is all part of the joke; we are living in IP-obsessed times, with many fans simply wanting a barrage of references and appearances from their favourite characters. But it’s self-referential in a way that something like Space Jame: A New Legacy wasn’t. This film delivers a lot of the same “oh look, it’s that character!” fan service, while also poking fun at the concept, sort of like having its cake and eating it too.

If you were somehow worried that Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers wouldn’t have enough of The Lonely Island’s signature style, than you have nothing to worry about, because this is every inch a Lonely Island movie (albeit a family-friendly one). The irreverence is here, but also a genuine love for these characters and their friendship, with the voices of Mulaney and Samberg matching them perfectly. The result is a better than expected (though still by no means perfect) reboot that has a good time poking fun at itself for being one.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers will be available to stream exclusively on Disney+ as of May 20th.

Disney+ Review: The Valet

May 18, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

A well-meaning parking valet in Beverly Hills gets roped into a scheme pretending to be the boyfriend of a famous movie star to hide her affair with a married man in the new romantic comedy The Valet, which serves as a surprisingly charming remake of the 2006 French film La Doublure.

The valet is Antonio (Eugenio Derbez), who lives with his elderly mother (Carmen Salinas) in a cramped apartment, and is still trying to win back the ex-wife (Marisol Nichols) with whom he shares a son (Joshua Vasquez).

The movie star is Olivia Allan (Samara Weaving), whose “feminist” Amelia Earhart biopic is about to premiere, but she is in the midst of having an affair with married real estate tycoon Vincent Royce (Max Greenfield), which threatens to upend the press tour if it gets out.

Enter Antonio, who ends up appearing in the same paparazzi photo as her when she is storming out of Vincent’s hotel room, and he happens to be passing by on his bike. The pictures get out, and Vincent hatches a scheme to hire Antonio to act as Olivia’s boyfriend, so that his wife Kathryn (Betsy Brandt) won’t find out about the affair. Antonio and Olivia both agree to go along with their just for show relationship, but also find themselves starting to enjoy each other’s company.

In adapting Frencis Veber’s original film for American audiences, screenwriters Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg transport the action to the States, and hone in on the specifics of the Hispanic and immigrant communities in California that Antonio inhabits. This cultural specificity is what makes The Valet feel fresh despite its mostly familiar plot (in addition to being a remake, it also has shades of Notting Hill and the more recent Marry Me).

The film sets up a number of subplots, the most heartwarming of which involves the relationship between Antonio’s mother, who only speaks Spanish, and their landlord Mr. Kim (Ji Yong Lee), who only speaks Korean. Neither one understands the other’s language, but have formed a close bond, with their children translating for them. There’s also the amusing and surprisingly sweet “bromance” that starts to form between Stegman (John Pirruccello) and Kapoor (Ravi Patel), a pair of private detectives who are trying to expose Olivia’s “fake” relationship

At two hours, The Valet threatens to feel bloated, but director Richard Wong helps ensure that the film’s somewhat disparate elements come together in mostly satisfying ways. Despite the slight sitcomishness of it at times, Wong also keeps the film feeling mostly grounded, including through a moment of genuine emotion in the last act.

Derbez, who also serves as producer, carries the film with his charming performance as a man who is well-meaning to a fault and learning how to value himself more. Weaving compliments him nicely, and adds depth to her character as she starts to view the superficiality and emptiness of her own life against the less flashy but more loving life that Antonio has with his family.

While it hints at themes involving immigration and the gentrification of the neighbourhood (Vincent is involved in a scheme to buy up and redevelop the local businesses), The Valet doesn’t go that deep and mostly keeps things light, though this isn’t really a fault. It’s predictable, sure, but also surprisingly sweet. The film is simply enjoyable enough and satisfying enough to work, and for a streaming option, that counts for a lot.

The Valet will be available to stream exclusively on Disney+ as of May 20th.

4K Ultra HD Review: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

May 17, 2022

By John Corrado

John Ford’s great 1962 Western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which brought together iconic screen stars John Wayne and James Stewart for the first time, is turning sixty years old this year, and Paramount Home Entertainment is celebrating by releasing the film for the first time on 4K Ultra HD this week.

Stewart stars as Ransom “Rance” Stoddard, a Senator who returns to his old town of Shinbone with wife Hallie (Vera Miles) for the funeral of Tom Doniphon (Wayne). The film mainly unfolds in flashbacks, as Rance recounts the story of his old friend, and the dangerous outlaw known as Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin).

The film was shot on Paramount’s sound stages, as opposed to on-location like Ford’s other big Westerns including The Searchers, and there are arguments over whether the black-and-white cinematography was a cost-cutting decision by the studio or a purely aesthetic choice by the director (it does help patch over the illusion of the actors playing both the older and younger versions of their characters). But these choices add a stripped down sense of intimacy to the film, which is more focused on characters and themes than big shootouts.

Based on a 1953 short story by Dorothy M. Johnson, adapted by screenwriters James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance feels innovative in its narrative structure, telling a story that is about storytelling, myth-making, and how history chooses which heroes to remember (this is brought home by the film’s famous line “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend”). There is a great sense of poignancy to the story, which in some ways serves as a deconstruction of the Western mythos. This poignancy has only grown over the years, and the film has aged like fine wine.

The film, which was Ford’s last movie to be shot in black-and-white, looks exceptional in 4K. The format allows us to really see the textures of the different sets and Edith Head’s Oscar-nominated costumes, and the clarity on faces is striking. It’s an often stunning remaster that offers a wholly satisfying viewing experience, doing justice to the production design and powerful performances of the film’s leads.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

There are no bonus features on the 4K disc, but the set comes with a regular Blu-ray that includes a number of legacy bonuses, along with a new Filmmaker Focus featuring Leonard Maltin. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which ships with a slipcover.

Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (7 minutes, 37 seconds): Maltin offers a nice overview of the film’s history, touching on the careers of Ford and key actors, and noting how this particular picture has grown in stature over the years.

Original Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes, 45 seconds)

Selected scene commentary with intro by Dan Ford along with his archival recordings with John Ford and Lee Marvin:

Stagecoach Holdup (3 minutes, 10 seconds)

Bringing Injured Ransom Back to Town (2 minutes, 10 seconds)

Showdown at Peter’s Place (7 minutes, 14 seconds)

Town Meeting (8 minutes, 17 seconds)

Ransom Shoots Liberty (54 seconds)

Who Really Shot Liberty Valance (1 minute, 31 seconds)

Leaving Shinbone (1 minute, 18 seconds)

The Size of Legends, The Soul of Myth:

Chapter 1: Changing of the Guard (2 minutes, 54 seconds)

Chapter 2: The Irascible Past (4 minutes, 43 seconds)

Chapter 3: The Hero Doesn’t Win, The Winner Isn’t Heroic (10 minutes, 41 seconds)

Chapter 4: Most Things Happen By Accident (13 minutes, 55 seconds)

Chapter 5: The Great Protector (5 minutes, 19 seconds)

Chapter 6: Spotlight – Lee Marvin (8 minutes, 4 seconds)

Chapter 7: Print the Legend (5 minutes, 58 seconds)

Feature Commentary by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, along with his archival recordings with John Ford and James Stewart

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 123 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: May 17th, 2022

4K Ultra HD Review: Beverly Hills Cop II: 35th Anniversary (1987)

May 17, 2022

By John Corrado

In honour of the film’s 35th anniversary this year, Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing the 1987 action comedy sequel Beverly Hills Cop II for the first time on 4K Ultra HD this week.

This follow up to the 1984 smash hit Beverly Hills Cop sees rough and tumble Detroit cop Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) returning to Beverly Hills, and re-teaming with the buddy cop duo Taggart (John Ashton) and Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) to stop an organized crime ring that is committing a series of crimes corresponding to the letters of the alphabet.

While the first one (which received its own 4K upgrade in 2020) remains the better movie, I had forgotten how well this film still holds up. The plot gets a bit muddled at times, and is somewhat of a rehashing of the first one, but Beverly Hills Cop II delivers a series of strong set-pieces, matched by precise editing and another propulsive synth score by Harold Faltermeyer.

Directed by the late Tony Scott (who was hot off the massive success of Top Gun a year earlier), taking over from the original’s Martin Brest, Beverly Hills Cop II is a more purely action-oriented film. This is evident right off the bat from the opening jewellery store heist, with its quick cuts setting the rhythm for the film (the sequel also notably plays out in widescreen at 2.39:1, a marked difference from the first’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio). Though Murphy’s motor-mouthed delivery, and the deadpan supporting roles of Ashton and Reinhold, still ensure that there are laughs throughout (the late, great Gilbert Gottfried also leaves his mark in a brief appearance).

Despite receiving mixed reviews at the time, with many critics comparing it unfavourably to the much better received first film, Beverly Hills Cop II still became one of the highest grossing movies of 1987, and received an Oscar nomination for the song “Shakedown.” It may not quite reach the heights of the first one, but works in its own right as a slick and very entertaining Tony Scott action movie.

The 4K retains a nice filmic look to it, while adding increased definition. The colours pop, including the shine of Axel’s red Ferrari in the opening credits sequence, and there is great clarity in terms of skin tones and texture, especially in close-ups on Taggart and Rosewood’s faces in the car. It’s all around a very fine upgrade, that provides a visually pleasing viewing experience.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The disc includes no bonus features. But a code for a digital copy is included in the package, which ships with a slipcover.

Beverly Hills Cop II: 35th Anniversary is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 102 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: May 17th, 2022

VOD Review: Homebound

May 16, 2022

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

Homebound, writer-director Sebastian Godwin’s feature debut, opens with Holly (Aisling Loftus) and her new husband Richard (Tom Goodman-Hill) driving to his ex-wife’s house in the English countryside so that she can meet his three kids and celebrate his youngest daughter Anna’s (Raffiella Chapman) birthday.

But they arrive to find that their mother has abandoned them at the property, and Holly starts to realize that the kids are most definitely not alright. Their father gets them to help slaughter a goose in the backyard (there is an assurance in the credits that no animals were harmed) for lunch, which they happily go along with, and he lets them drink alcohol with the meal.

Richard and Holly decide to stay until his ex gets home, but teenagers Ralph (Lukas Rolfe) and Lucia (Hattie Gotobed) make no secret of the fact that they don’t want Holly there, and start upping the ante in terms of bad behaviour. The trouble is that the film (which was financed by the BBC) has trouble deciding what it wants to be, never quite settling on if it is slow burn horror, psychological drama, or creepy kid movie, and it just sort of fizzles out before settling on a decision.

Even at a brief 71 minutes, Homebound is a bit of a slog to get through, with characters that we aren’t really given enough reasons to care about, and an underdeveloped story that is actually surprisingly predictable. Despite its generally unsettling atmosphere, the film also fails to build up much suspense, which would have been crucial for it to work. It does start to pick up in the final fifteen minutes, but Godwin doesn’t lay the proper groundwork for this ending to be satisfying.

With the scant amount of story that the film has, it feels like a short that has been just barely stretched to feature length, and it would have needed to spend a longer time developing its characters to offer a more satisfying descent into madness. There are some glimpses of potential in Godwin’s film, but Homebound is ultimately plagued by its paper thin plot and lack of any real character development.

Homebound is being released on a variety of Digital and VOD platforms on May 17th. It’s being distributed in Canada by Vortex Media.

Disney+ Review: Sneakerella

May 13, 2022

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Sneakerella, the latest Disney+ Original Movie, is a modern, gender-swapped take on Cinderella, that updates the setting to Queens, New York, adds a selection of upbeat hip-hop songs, and centres around sneaker subculture.

This sounds like a bit of a mad gambit, but Sneakerella actually works as a bright and surprisingly enjoyable musical. Instead of just being another live action reboot, the film offers a somewhat fresh reimagining of this classic story, with a few nods to Disney’s animated Cinderella to boot.

The main character is El (Chosen Jacobs), a sneakerhead working in the stockroom at his family’s shoe store in Astoria, whose real dream is to design his own kicks. The shop belonged to his late mother, who instilled in him his love of shoes, and is now run with an iron fist by his stepfather (Bryan Terrell Clark). And, in true Cinderella fashion, El’s cruel stepbrothers Zelly (Kolton Stewart) and Stacy (Hayward Leach) mercilessly taunt him and make him do all of their work.

When El sneaks away with his best friend Sami (Devyn Nekoda) for a classic sneaker relaunch, he meets a girl named Kira (Lexi Underwood) while waiting in line. The two spend a magical day together, with El showing her around his part of the city, but they part with no way of keeping in touch. Little does he know that Kira is the daughter of former basketball star Darius King (John Salley), who runs a family sneaker empire in need of fresh ideas.

We can predict where the story is going from earlier iterations of this classic tale, but it’s fun to watch as Sneakerella reimagines familiar plot points (the glass slipper, the fancy ball, the midnight deadline, etc.) to fit its modern setting. This includes a “fairy godfather” in the form of Gustavo (Juan Chioran), a kind older man who tends to the local community garden and serves as the film’s narrator.

This is not to say that every element of the film is equally smooth. Sami feels underdeveloped as a character. She is supposed to be openly gay, but her identity is reduced to a single line about having a girlfriend and a pride button on her backpack. The production also feels stagey at times, and the more fantastical flourishes can come across as a bit cheesy, especially against the more grounded setting. The whole thing has a sort of TV movie sheen to it, and was clearly developed for streaming (it feels like a Disney Channel Original Movie, which will surely be a feature, not a bug, for some viewers).

But it’s hard not to get somewhat caught up in Sneakerella‘s glossy mix of modern hip-hop musical and classic fairy tale, and director Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum (Aquamarine, Ramona and Beezus) keeps the story moving at an engaging clip despite the 111 minute running time. Jacobs carries the film with a spirited and likeable performance as El, and Sneakerella delivers a number of fun dance numbers and toe-tapping original songs, including a climactic rap battle.

Sneakerella is now available to stream exclusively on Disney+.

Blu-ray Review: Marry Me

May 10, 2022

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Marry Me has so many contrivances within its first twenty minutes that it feels extreme even by the standards of the romantic comedy genre. It relies on a number of far-fetched coincidences in order to bring its two unlikely love interests together, but the film is good-natured enough to kinda pull it off.

Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez) is a famous pop star who plans on marrying her pop star fiancé Bastian (Maluma) at her upcoming concert, following a performance of their new hit single “Marry Me.” Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson) is an introverted math teacher and single father to Lou (Chloe Coleman), who coaches the mathalon team at his daughter’s school.

Charlie’s colleague Parker (Sarah Silverman) has an extra ticket to the concert because her girlfriend just dumped her, and convinces Charlie to come instead. But, just as Kat is about to go on stage to exchange vows, news breaks that Bastian is having an affair. As fate would have it, at that same moment, Parker hands Charlie her “marry me” sign to hold while she takes a video. Kat goes on stage, sees Charlie holding the sign, takes it as a proposal, calls him up on stage, and decides to marry this complete stranger on the spot instead of her cheating boyfriend.

It’s a pretty absurd premise that is never entirely believable and goes exactly where you expect it to, but Marry Me mostly plays out with sincerity, fully embracing its place within the rom-com genre. What follows is a sort of riff on Notting Hill, following Kat and Charlie as they start to develop real feelings for each other, questioning if this relationship between a carefully managed celebrity and an ordinary guy can actually work.

There is a sort of old fashioned, cornball charm to the film’s surprisingly laid back romance, which doesn’t even really get hot and heavy. The most transgressive moment is a performance of a song called “Church” that features Lopez in a flesh-coloured bodysuit surrounded by scantily clad dancers dressed as priests and nuns, and it actually feels a bit out of place in what is otherwise a pretty squeaky-clean film that in many ways harkens back to a more innocent era.

The film basically exists as a mediocre early-2000s rom-com, that seems better now because we have been so starved for a decent one lately. This is the sort of film that has become an anomaly; a theatrically released mid-budget romantic comedy from a major studio that is aimed at adults, and Marry Me can’t help but feel like a bit of a breath of fresh air for these reasons in a sea of franchises and streaming-only releases (it was released simultaneously in theatres and on VOD in February, but that’s beside the point since it was developed for theatres).

It’s not particularly well made, with some uninspired framing and distracting moments of product placement, and the direction by Kat Coiro, who is mostly know for her TV work, in general feels pretty basic. But, if Marry Me works at all, it’s due to the likability of both Lopez and Wilson, and there is something to be said for seeing this sort of movie having been given the theatrical treatment again.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray comes with a number of bonus features, including some deleted scenes and a handful of standard featurettes. A regular DVD and code for a digital copy are also included in the package, which ships with a slipcover.

Deleted Scenes (Play All – 5 minutes, 27 seconds)

It’s Coming Together (15 seconds)

Plotting the Future (52 seconds)

Is Everyone Happy? (32 seconds)

Come to the Concert (53 seconds)

What Am I Doing Here? (1 minute, 5 seconds)

You’re Married! (1 minute, 3 seconds)

Having Fun at the Dance (25 seconds)

Flight Status (24 seconds)

Gag Reel (1 minute, 45 seconds)

Jennifer Unveiled (11 minutes, 49 seconds)

Behind the Camera: The Making of Marry Me (5 minutes, 28 seconds)

Turn It Up: The Music of Marry Me (5 minutes, 52 seconds)

Live At Madison Square Garden (4 minutes, 41 seconds)

Married With Style (5 minutes, 3 seconds)

“On My Way” Lyric Video (3 minutes, 9 seconds)

Feature Commentary with Director Kat Coiro and Producer Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas

Marry Me is a Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 112 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: May 11th, 2022

#HotDocs22 Review: Eternal Spring

May 9, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2022 Hot Docs Film Festival ran from April 28th to May 8th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

In 2002, following the Chinese communist government’s violent crackdown on practitioners of Falun Gong, a group of activists in Changchun hijacked a state-run TV station. They risked imprisonment and their lives to broadcast a video countering official propaganda about this peaceful spiritual movement, which was banned by the one-party dictatorship in 1999 to uphold the country’s “atheist beliefs.”

Director Jason Loftus recounts the story of this hijacking in his artfully crafted hybrid documentary Eternal Spring (winner of both the Hot Docs Audience Award and Rogers Audience Award for Best Canadian Documentary). The film centres around Daxiong, a comic book artist and Falun Gong practitioner who had to flee his home in Changchun due to persecution for his beliefs following the media takeover. Daxiong escaped to Toronto, and has always had mixed feelings around the hijacking, but he is now using his drawings to tell the story of the event two decades later.

The film opens with an overhead shot of Daxiong working on a drawing of Changchun at his desk, with the camera swooping down and taking us into the storyboard, which then opens up into a 3D model. The virtual camera takes us through an animated version of the city in a single take, flying through windows and in and out of buildings to show the violent arrests of the hijackers. What follows is an ambitious film that employs a non-linear narrative structure and unfolds across three layers; live-action interviews, animated re-enactments, and footage showing the behind the scenes of these animated sequences.

Loftus follows Daxiong as he meets with Mr. White, the only one of the hijackers who was able to leave China, at his home in Seoul, South Korea, piecing together the events surrounding the hijacking and the brave people involved. The somewhat meta, film-within-a-film approach allows Eternal Spring to offer an engaging recreation of the hijacking and its aftermath through vivid animation, while seamlessly cutting back and forth with the emotional interviews. The film’s graphic novel-style visuals are matched by Thomas William Hill’s stirring musical score.

I was already aware of the persecution faced by practitioners of Falun Gong from other documentaries on the subject, and Eternal Spring puts the full scope of the crackdown into sharp focus. It’s a powerful look at the persecution faced by those trying to practise their faith within an oppressive regime that censors dissenting thought, and the price that these individuals were forced to pay in order to break through the noise of government propaganda.

Screenings:

Tuesday, May 3rd – 8:30 PM at Varsity 8

Friday, May 6th – 5:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

#HotDocs22 Review: 2nd Chance

May 9, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The 2022 Hot Docs Film Festival ran from April 28th to May 8th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

In his first feature documentary 2nd Chance, filmmaker Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo) introduces us to Richard Davis, a man who has shot himself 192 times in the chest and survived. This might seem like an odd way to describe the man responsible for inventing modern day bulletproof vests, which are now regularly worn by law enforcement, military, and even politicians.

But it’s a very accurate description of the type of person that Davis is; a born showman desperate to attract attention to himself. Bahrani soon makes it clear in his film, which breathlessly charts the rise and fall of his body armour empire, that Davis isn’t exactly the easiest guy to pin down. He’s an amateur filmmaker whose low-budget productions showcasing his products became popular in law enforcement circles, a gun-loving patriot with a Wild West sense of justice (at one point he was offering a free gun to officers saved by his vests who “finished the job” by killing their attackers), and, perhaps most crucially to his company, a ruthless businessman desperate to escape any sort of accountability. 

Davis is a former pizzeria owner from Detroit, Michigan who started the company Second Chance Body Armour in the 1970s after his pizza shops burned down one night. As the story goes, he bravely defended himself in a gunfight against several men who tried to rob him during a pizza delivery. This experience left him shaken but inspired to redesign old flak jackets to make them more concealable and lightweight, using woven nylon. He started mass producing the vests through his startup company, which at one point employed much of his town, and gained notoriety for how he demonstrated the effectiveness of his products; by shooting himself point-blank in the chest to show how the vests worked to stop bullets from penetrating the skin.

Even as he is being interviewed by Bahrani in the film, it’s clear that Davis sees himself as the hero of his own story, with his vests having saved countless lives. But what starts as a quirky portrait of a self-made entrepreneur begins to fold in on itself, as Bahrani slowly reveals Davis to be an unreliable narrator. At first, this might seem like a slightly odd marriage between director and subject, but Davis is a character right out of a dark side of the American Dream, “greed is good” cautionary tale, recalling the central figures in Bahrani’s dramatic films like 99 Homes and The White Tiger.

If Davis himself remains a bit slippery and hard to fully know, Bahrani refuses to left him control the narrative. The film’s other main subject is Aaron Westrick, one of the first officers whose life was saved by a Second Chance vest, who became crucial to the company’s success and is also an integral player behind what become the documentary’s most dramatic turning points. It’s in the last act, when Bahrani delivers one final interview, that the film’s title takes on new meaning, and 2nd Chance reveals itself to be something much deeper than just the story of a man who kept shooting himself in the chest.

It’s something that Bahrani does so well, and the fact that he pulls it off is a testament to both the sheer luck of finding these subjects, and his talents as a filmmaker. Delving into relevant questions around both police brutality and violence against cops, as well as the slippery nature of truth, 2nd Chance ranks among Bahrani’s finest films, filled with the shades of grey characters and deep morality that defines his best work. This is compelling, thought-provoking stuff.

Screenings:

Monday, May 2nd – 9:30 PM at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema

Friday, May 6th – 8:15 PM at Varsity 8

Sunday, May 8th – 4:45 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

#HotDocs22 Audience Award Winners

May 9, 2022

By John Corrado

The 2022 edition of Hot Docs has officially come to a close, with the Top 20 finalists for the festival’s Audience Award being announced this morning. Director Jason Loftus’ documentary about Chinese censorship, Eternal Spring, has taken the first place spot for the general Audience Award, in addition to winning the Rogers Audience Award for Best Canadian Documentary.

The top three finalists for the Rogers Audience Award, which were announced at a free encore screening last night, were Eternal Spring in first place, Okay! (The ASD Band Film) in second place, and Unloved: Huronia’s Forgotten Children in third. The three films received a $50,000 cash prize split between them ($25,000 for first place, $15,000 for second, and $10,000 for third). The full list of finalists is below.

Rogers Audience Award for Best Canadian Documentary

1. Eternal Spring (D: Jason Loftus | P: Jason Loftus, Masha Loftus, Yvan Pinard, Kevin Koo | Canada)

2. Okay! (The ASD Band Film) (D: Mark Bone | P: Gregory Rosati, Amalie Bruun | Canada)

3. Unloved: Huronia’s Forgotten Children (D: Barri Cohen | P: Craig Baines | Canada)

Hot Docs Audience Awards

The top mid-length film in the audience poll was Sexual Healing and the top short film was Dad Can Dance.

1. Eternal Spring (D: Jason Loftus | P: Jason Loftus, Masha Loftus, Yvan Pinard, Kevin Koo | Canada)

2. Okay! (The ASD Band Film) (D: Mark Bone | P: Gregory Rosati, Amalie Bruun | Canada)

3. Unloved: Huronia’s Forgotten Children (D: Barri Cohen | P: Craig Baines | Canada)

4. Beautiful Scars (D: Shane Belcourt | P: Corey Russell | Canada)

5. The Smell of Money (D: Shawn Bannon | P: Shawn Bannon, Jamie Berger | USA)

6. Navalny (D: Daniel Roher | P: Odessa Rae, Diane Becker, Melanie Miller, Shane Boris | USA)

7. Handle with Care: The Legend of the Notic Streetball Crew (D: Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux, Kirk Thomas | P: Ryan Sidhoo | Canada)

8. Hunting in Packs (D: Chloe Sosa-Sims | P: Hannah Donegan, Ann Shin | Canada)

9. The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks (D: Reg Harkema | P: Nick McKinney, Kim Creelman | Canada, USA)

10. Batata (D: Noura Kevorkian | P: Paul Scherzer, Noura Kevorkian | Canada, Lebanon, Qatar)

11. Returning Home (D: Sean Stiller | P: Andrew Lovesey, Gilles Gagnier | Canada)

12. The Quiet Epidemic (D: Lindsay Keys, Winslow Crane-Murdoch | P: Daria Lombroso, Lindsay Keys, Chris Hegedus | USA)

13. Category: Woman (D: Phyllis Ellis | P: Phyllis Ellis, Howard Fraiberg | Canada)

14. In the Eye of the Storm: The Political Odyssey of Yanis Varoufakis (D: Raoul Martinez | P: Sol Tryon, Amir Amirani | UK)

15. How Saba Kept Singing (D: Sara Taksler | P: Sara Taksler | USA)

16. The Unsolved Murder of Beverly Lynn Smith (D: Nathalie Bibeau | P: Tara Jan | Canada | 2022)

17. Dad Can Dance (D: Jamie Ross | P: Jamie Ross | Canada)

18. Who We Will Have Been (D: Erec Brehmer, Angelina Zeidler | P: Erec Brehmer | Germany)

19. Alis (D: Nicolas van Hemelryck, Clare Weiskopf | P: Alexandra Galvis, Radu Stancu, Nicolas van Hemelryck, Clare Weiskopf | Colombia, Romania, Chile)

20. Relative (D: Tracey Arcabasso Smith | P: Tracey Arcabasso Smith, Laura Poitras, Jenya James Hamidi | USA)

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