The Secret Life of Pets is a real joy for animal lovers of all ages. It’s about the kinds of jams pets can create when they’re left at home to their own devices. Our crackerjack gang of pups, kitties and rodents from the same apartment building meet daily to cook up adventures but on this day they must take on a sewer gang. Their buddy has disappeared and these bad guys may know where he is. Team Pet explores the sights and depths of a candy coloured New York in all its eye-popping glory, while facing all kinds of perils. It’s hilariously funny and whimsical and the gags just keep coming, from a head banging poodle to a dachshund attempting to climb an escape ladder, to spontaneous outbursts of joy, it’s a real crowd pleaser. It is busy and frenetic just like your pet.
More pets. The world’s most placidly adorable canine star is at the heart of Todd Soldonz’ brooding episodic comedy Wiener-Dog. If anyone knows how to make a comedy brood, it’s Soldonz. We follow a dachshund through four successive owners all of them with screws loose. The first couple puts him down for having diarrhea, or think they have, he is dognapped by a rudderless young woman, then a failed university professor losing his grip on life and finally a grandmother played by Ellen Burstyn, a former porn model, too blind to see what’s happening with the dog. Its typical Soldonz; upsetting, entertaining, sweet, sour, hard to watch and unafraid. Warning: some scenes are not pretty. Stars July Delpy, Greta Gerwig, Kieran Culkin and Danny De Vito.
Critical darling Closet Monster was a huge hit on the festival circuit including TIFF with 14 nominations and ten wins and it’s finally in theatres. Its originality and sensitivity in telling the story of a closeted gay highschooler give it authenticity and imagination in absolutely perfect proportion. Ground down by a deeply abusive father and absent mother, he witnesses a brutal act that adds to the pressures that shut him down. Connor Jessup’s performance is shattering. Listen for Isabella Rossellini who plays the voice of the boy’s hamster and confidante Buffy. It’s a profound adventure with aspects of growing up that are familiar and unnerving.
Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words describes perfectly why Zappa’s personality will long outlive his music. Zappa began as a chamber musician and composer and was steeped in the classical tradition. His forays into rock and roll weren’t especially commercial but were interesting because of the discipline and rigidity he imposed. He’s far more interesting as an agitator though, never one to suffer fools, or back down from a verbal fight, he was a born malcontent. His anger was mainly focused on the America way and he was combative and confrontational in interviews, usually shutting the interviewer down hard. Zappa was an early adapter to digital recording and it’s sad to think that his death in 93 robbed us of what he might have created. Thorsten Schütte’s terrific doc of TV interviews and concert footage put it squarely in Zappa’s own words.
The Debt stars Stephen Dorff as a brash New York financial broker working a huge land sale deal in Peru. After two years of bargaining, one strategically placed farmer remains the hold-out that spoils it, refusing to give up on the ancestral land he’s still working, without any modern conveniences to preserve the old ways of life. His children are uneducated laborers with no hope of a better future but he doesn’t care. Dorff’s boss shuts the deal down just as another player is in touching distance. He decides to investigate the territory in question after his partner and friend disappears. What he finds brings him to a moral crossroad – the first time in his life – and he must find the truth. The film is episodic and extra characters tell their own sub stories making it a rich experience. It takes place in the breathtaking beauty of the Andes.
Last Cab to Darwin
Michael Caton stars as New South Wales cabbie Rex who on learning that he has terminal disease sets off to drive to Darwin in the Northern Territory where euthanasia is legal. However he begins to back away from the idea of dying when his trip getting there brings him a renewed sense of life, adventure and vigor and sense of belonging to the human race. When he arrives at Darwin he finds it’s the assisted death legal requirements so daunting that he opts for friendship. Last Cab to Darwin is one of those great films that gives you a little smile with a bit of a cry. The wonderful Jackie Weaver co-stars.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates stars Zac Efron and Anna Kendrick in this fact based and super crude comedy about brothers advertising for wedding dates on Craigslist. Get set for its high gross out factors, displayed body parts and functions.