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Previewing the 2015 Canadian Film Fest

March 24, 2015

By John Corrado

Pretend Were Kissing PosterDevoted to showcasing the best in homegrown independent cinema, the ninth annual Canadian Film Fest starts tonight with the Toronto premiere of The Cocksure Lads Movie.

Screening sixteen shorts and eight features over the next four days, the festival closes on Saturday night with Pretend We’re Kissing, which is among my personal favourites and one that has the potential to become a breakout hit.

All in all, I’ve had the opportunity to preview seven of these films, and can safely say that there is some good stuff here.  The eighth film being screened is Late Night Double Feature, which I’ve heard some pretty good things about and horror fans should like.

All of these screenings will be taking place at the Royal Theatre, and tickets and showtimes can be found right here.  Enjoy!

The Cocksure Lads Movie: After arriving in Toronto for their first big show, and breaking up almost immediately, the four members of the British invasion band The Cocksure Lads end up wandering the city, all meeting girls and getting into the usual mischief.  But as the night draws near, Dusty (Lyndon Ogbourne), Derek (Luke Marty), Blake (Edward Hillier) and Reg (Adam McNab), find themselves struggling to get back together before the curtain opens.  Although juggling a few too many characters, and sometimes feeling overly slight, The Cocksure Lads Movie makes up for these shortcomings with high energy and good spirits.  A fictional take on writer-director Murray Foster’s real life novelty band, this is a fairly enjoyable and often entertaining comedy musical that has some nicely staged moments, and offers a fun way to start the festival.

Wednesday, March 25th – 6:45 PM @ The Royal Theatre

Relative Happiness: Lexie Ivy (Melissa Bergland) is a plucky Bed and Breakfast owner in small town Nova Scotia, who desperately needs a date for her sister Gabby’s (Molly Dunsworth) wedding.  But when she asks her attractive and free spirited guest Adrien (Jonathan Sousa) to be her plus-one, a whole new batch of relationship problems are unleashed.  Maybe she should have heeded the advice of her charming and available roofer Joss (Aaron Poole) after all.  Pretty much everything about Relative Happiness is perfectly okay and sometimes even sweet in a clichéd romantic comedy sort of way, but the film is also far too lightweight and predictable to have any real lasting impact, beyond a few surface charms.

Thursday, March 26th – 7:00 PM @ The Royal Theatre

Shooting the Musical: Like an offensive joke that gets away with being offensive by becoming about the joke itself instead of the content, Shooting The Musical is a mockumentary that cleverly satirizes film school graduates who are willing to do anything to get known in the industry.  After his friend (Lee Shorten) commits suicide, and leaves behind a screenplay about a school shooting, young filmmaker Adam Baxter (Bruce Novakowski) exploits his death to assemble a cast and crew and turn the script into a musical, which understandably sparks controversy.  Although willfully offensive and certainly not for everyone, Shooting The Musical is pulled off with such brash confidence by writer-director Joel Ashton McCarthy, that we can’t help but keep watching.  The film walks an almost invisible line between being uncomfortable and genuinely entertaining, but it’s rare that we see a project this ballsy and ambitious coming out of homegrown independent cinema, and that counts for a lot.

Friday, March 27th – 7:00 PM @ The Royal Theatre

Barn Wedding: When their idyllic country wedding is moved to the middle of winter, Emma (Emily Coutts) and Colin (Brett Donahue) find themselves stuck at a snowy rural property, forced to spend the weekend dealing with old tensions between their friends and siblings.  The group of youngish adults are all dealing with their own various quarter-life crises, especially college friend and maid of honour Jessie (Kelly McCormack), who still lives with the bride and groom as their roommate.  Although the story follows a fairly predictable path, director Shaun Benson and writer Kelly McCormack offer enough nice twists on the typical wedding comedy along the way, to make Barn Wedding an enjoyable film that is elevated by believable dialogue and good performances.

Friday, March 27th – 9:30 PM @ The Royal Theatre

Ben’s at Home: After a bad break up, thirty year old Ben (Dan Abramovici) makes the decision to not leave the house again, spending his days reviewing movies and hanging out with anyone willing to come over.  But a cute grocery delivery girl (Jessica Embro) might just force him to rethink his plans, and pull him out of the house once and for all.  Maybe it’s just that I have a soft spot for movies about film critics, or can admittedly somewhat relate to the title character, but I really enjoyed Ben’s at Home.  Making the most of the perfectly timed 70 minute running time, which manages to be compelling despite being pretty much confined to a single location, this is a winning and incredibly likeable indie comedy, that succeeds thanks to a sharp script and naturalistic performances.  This is solid proof that you can make something completely entertaining, even with the simplest of resources.

Saturday, March 28th – 3:45 PM @ The Royal Theatre

Nocturne: Arman (Knickoy Robinson) is a sleepwalker who spends his nights wandering the city streets like a zombie, compulsively eating and making origami.  Cindy (Mary Krohnert) is his coworker, an insomniac who’s obsessed with fairy tales and starts following him at night, becoming drawn into his mysterious world.  There are a few intriguing elements here, including nicely animated sequences that help tell the story and some stylish cinematography, but the themes of Nocturne are frustratingly vague, and the film seems completely unsure of what tone it’s going for.  Feeling far too long at dangerously close to two hours, mark this one down as a mildly interesting but not really successful experiment.

Saturday, March 28th – 6:00 PM @ The Royal Theatre

Pretend We’re Kissing: Benny (Dov Tiefenbach) is a shy young adult who over thinks everything, and finds his life held back by his agoraphobic and part-time nudist roommate Autumn (Zoë Kravitz).  But when he has a chance encounter with Jordan (Tommie-Amber Pirie) at a concert, a young woman who believes in fate and seems perfect on the surface, Benny might have just found his first real chance at true love.  With some beautifully captured Toronto moments, Pretend We’re Kissing is an assured narrative feature debut from local writer-director Matt Sadowski.  Providing a wonderfully textured and sharply written examination of a short term love affair, believably portrayed by Dov Tiefenbach and Tommie-Amber Pirie, this is a likeable and entertaining film that nicely subverts the typical romantic comedy tropes, to reach a genuinely sweet final scene.

Saturday, March 28th – 8:45 PM @ The Royal Theatre

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