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5 Star Movie Reviews

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We loved these movies and gave them 5 star reviews. Check out more staff movie reviews here.

I am Big Bird

I am a huge fan of anything related to the magic of Jim Henson’s puppetry, so I jumped at the chance to watch this documentary on one of the world’s best loved birds! Carroll Spinney began working on the set of Sesame Street in 1969. You may (or may not) know that in addition to being the man inside the Big Bird costume, Spinney is also the puppeteer for the famously miserable Oscar the Grouch. Over 40 years later, and now at the age of 81, Spinney is still working on Sesame Street, bringing both of these characters to life. This is not a film designed for children. Rather, it’s an honest look at both the good times and the bad of Spinney’s life and career. There are some great stories in this documentary about the history of Sesame Street, the interaction of the puppeteers, and the legacy the character of Big Bird has created. And, as always, it’s a lot of fun to discover just how complicated (and awesome) the mechanics of working a puppet like Big Bird is. Definitely recommended for fans of Sesame Street or the wonderfully creative world of puppetry.

Meredith (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

What we do in the shadows

Spinal Tap meets the Lost Boys in this mockumentary about a pack of vampires living together in modern New Zealand. From bickering over household chores to hitting the club scene to fighting with werewolves, hilarity ensues as four undead blokes try to fit in. A warm and entertaining spoof on vampire and reality shows from the creators of Flight of the Conchords.

Laura (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Paddington

I loved this movie so much I saw it twice in the theater! It’s an utterly delightful film that has so much heart and is smart too. I laughed so much my sides hurt! Paddington is a young bear who finds himself homeless in England. The kind Brown family temporarily takes him in and tries to find him a home. But danger lurks in the form of a very nasty taxidermist with a grudge. The entire movie is wonderful and the graphics are so well done that you can see the bear’s fur move with the breeze. Paddington will totally melt your heart. An instant classic!

Leah (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Spring

Quite possibly the most original love story you will ever see. The no spoilers synopsis goes something like: troubled young American flees to Europe to escape his problems. He ends up in a picturesque Italian coastal village where he falls in love with a beautiful Italian woman. This sounds nice but a bit dull frankly. In reality, this is a love story crossed with a monster movie. Roger Ebert nails it with "A hybrid of Richard Linklater and H.P. Lovecraft." Just watch it! ;)

Mike (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Inherent vice

Set in a very groovy 1970, this sunshine noir tracks private eye Doc Sportello as he investigates the kidnapping of his ex-girlfriend and a billionaire land developer. Everything gets a bit hazy, a little funny, and very paranoid as the plot and the pot smoke thicken. Director Paul Thomas Anderson and an all-star cast do the impossible and brilliantly bring the work of one of my favourite authors, Thomas Pynchon, to the big screen.

Laura (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

God help the girl

In this delightful movie-musical, a young woman escapes a Glasgow hospital to form a pop group with a pair of quirky new friends. What the film lacks in plot it makes up for in a charming cast, great hipster fashions, and a seriously catchy soundtrack (care of Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch). Be warned, you may find yourself humming these songs for days.

Jessica Sheff (Staff) (Hespeler Library)

The Boxtrolls

In the Victorian-era town of Cheesebridge, monster-catcher Archibald Snatcher keeps the locals safe from child-stealing Boxtrolls in return for the promise of a coveted White Hat. Archibald wants to hobnob with the brie-eating great and good, but an allergy to cheese means his social climbing brings him out in hives... and worse. Meanwhile the trolls attempt to live peaceful lives, raising Eggs, a young human changeling, as one of their own beneath the city streets. A wonderfully inventive family film and a great antidote to the Disney-pink-princess-y animated movies out there.

Lucie (Queen's Square)

Calvary

The set-up is quite simple: Brandon Gleeson plays a Irish parish priest who is told that he will be killed in 7 days. What follows is a magnificent performance by Gleeson, who in visiting his parishioners examines the death of god, inasmuch as it explores the genesis of the original threat.

Phil (Queen's Square Library)

Frank

An aspiring British keyboard player joins an American art rock band fronted by a singer who wear a large plastic head at all times (Michael Fassbender). They then travel to an isolated location in Ireland to work on recording an album. I thought this was a quite funny and very odd movie, definitely original!

Mike (Queen's Square Library)

Wadjda

10-year-old Wadjda desperately wants a bicycle so that she can beat her friend Abdullah in a race. But Wadjda's mother won't allow it, fearing repercussions from a society that sees bicycles as dangerous to a girl's virtue. In the first full-length feature film to be made entirely in Saudi Arabia, (and by a female director) Haifaa Al-Mansour turns a little girl’s quest to earn money for her own bicycle into a poignant fable about growing up female in a place where women’s autonomy is severely restricted. Highly recommended.

Lucie (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Only lovers left alive

A depressed and reclusive rocker reunites with his wife in the slums of Detroit, where they discuss art, music, and the state of humanity. The lovers also happen to be centuries-old vampires, but don’t expect blood and gore. This is a fascinating and intellectual character piece, more Before Sunset than Dracula. Perfect performances, gorgeous photography, and a sumptuous mythology - Highly recommended!

Jessica Sheff (Hespeler Library)

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nobody can create the magical feel of a lost paradise like filmmaker Wes Anderson. Every scene is stunning in this lively trip back to the glory days of a swank hotel in Eastern Europe. Ralph Fiennes surprises with perfect comic timing as the poetry-spewing, older woman-loving concierge who finds himself in a mess of trouble. Themes of fascism and aging darken the mood of this flick, but overall it's an absolute treat for the eyes and the heart.

Laura  (Queen's Square Library)

Spirited away

Spirited Away is definitely my favourite of Hayao Miyazaki anime films. Hayao Miyazaki is sometimes called the Walt Disney of Japan. He has enjoyed fame in Japan as an animator and a manga creator, but in the North America, only true fans of anime (Japanese animated films) knew who he was until 2002, when his anime Spirited Away won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.  Since then, many of his films have become popular in Canada and the United States, including Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo, and Princess Mononoke. Check them out - they are all wonderful, both for kids, and adults who still have a sense of wonder!

Betty W (Queen's Square Library)

Rush

Fabulous film about the near-fatal rivalry between British driver James Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda during the 1976 Formula One season. Mike (Queen's Square Library)

Enough said

Julia Louis-Dreyfuss plays Eva, who has a crush on Albert (James Gandolfini), but hears terrible things about him from her friend (Catherine Keener), who happens to be Albert’s ex. Holofcener’s film is clever, good-hearted, and hilarious not to mention a fitting send-off for Gandolfini, who, in one of his final performances, is fantastic.

Lucie (staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Unfinished song

This movie made me cry. I’m so sorry I missed it at the Cineseries. It is a touching and heart-warming look at what people will do for love. The acting by Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp is truly awesome and I will never again listen to Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” or Billy Joel’s “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)” without thinking about this movie. Cathy (Queen's Square Library)

The Intouchables

This is the best movie I've seen in a long time. It's so hilarious that I was frequently laughing out loud but it's also a dramatic movie that's full of life, wisdom and soul. Based on a true story, Philippe is a rich quadriplegic who needs a caretaker. When Driss, a brash ex-convict, shows up, Philippe hires him and this amazing story of friendship begins. Even if you don't like foreign films, you should take a chance on this rare and unexpected treasure. Leah (Queen's Square Library)

Side effects

A superb thriller from Steven Soderbergh. A psychiatrist attempting to treat a depressed woman prescribes an experimental drug. She subsequently kills her recently released-from-prison husband in a sleepwalking episode. Was the drug responsible? Nothing is what it seems and you need to pay attention in this one. Mike (Queen's Square Library)

District 9

The South African director of this film has been getting a lot of press lately for the current Matt Damon vehicle Elysium. Definitely check out this extremely original movie about an alien invasion of Johannesburg first. Brilliant!
Mike (Queen's Square Library)
 
I can say with confidence that I've never seen an alien invasion movie like this one before. A great story - funny, heartbreaking, clever, sly - and it has alien weapons and battling robots! What else can you possibly want?
Betty (Queen's Square)

 

The Sessions

This funny and VERY frank movie is one of the most well-acted films I've seen in a long time. Based on a true story, this film is about Mark O'Brien, a polio survivor who can only spend three hours at a time out of his Iron lung. Still a virgin at 38, he wants to experience sex. After discussing it with his confidant, Father Brendan (an amazing William H. Macy), O'Brien hires a sex surrogate named Cheryl (Helen Hunt). These "sessions" make up the bulk of the movie. Both Hunt and John Hawkes (playing O'Brien) should have won Oscars for their fearless, beautiful performances. Hawkes' O'Brien is so likable and amusing and is infused with a bittersweet sense of hope. Hunt is nude most of the time, but it's her character's emotional bravery that comes across the most. This exceptional movie will stay with you for a very long time.  Leah (Queen's Square Library)

 

The woman in black

"The Woman in Black" is an old-fashioned British horror film, filled with deep shadows, creepy noises, haunted attics, unwelcoming villagers, now-you-see-them-now-you-don't apparitions and shrieking musical cues. Wonderfully entertaining and a welcome relief from the gore that passes for horror in other films, just don't expect to get a good night's sleep. Lucie (Queen's Square)

The secret world of Arrietty

Mary Norton’s 1952 children’s novel, The Borrowers, describes a family of small people who live beneath the floorboards of an English country house, subsisting on what they surreptitiously take from the oblivious “human beans” that live above them. Neither fairies nor entirely human, they live a friendly, parasitical relationship with the oblivious giants in their midst. Arrietty is a pretty animated version from Japan, a culture well-versed in miniaturism and stories of hidden entities that live around us. The result is an intriguing hybrid, mixing a Japanese reverence for nature (a raindrop shimmering on a leaf is a visual haiku) with quaint Victorian architecture and a story featuring contemporary, Caucasian-looking Japanese characters speaking in American accents. Lucie (Queen's Square Library)

Warrior

Easily the best movie I saw from 2011! An estranged recovering alcoholic father (Nick Nolte) trains one of his sons for a winner-takes-all mixed martial arts tournament in Atlantic City. Meanwhile, his other son (estranged from both his father and his brother) is also training for the same tournament. Superb performances by Nolte, Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy. Rocky for the 21st century! Mike (Queen's Square Library)

My week with Marilyn

Set in the summer of 1956, 23 year-old Colin Clark worked as a lowly assistant on the set of ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’, starring Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. Michelle Williams is stunning as Marilyn, wonderfully supported by Kenneth Branagh (Olivier), Judy Dench, Eddie Redmayne, and Emma Watson. Highly recommended. Lucie (Queen's Square Library)

Carnage

Add this to the list of great movies made from plays (Oleanna, Glengarry Glen Ross). Two sets of parents meet to discuss an altercation between their two young sons. Things start out civilly but quickly devolve to bickering and accusations. Wickedly funny and very similar to watching a train wreck in slow motion, uncomfortable but you can't look away. Great performances from all four actors: Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz. Mike (Queen's Square Library)

Senna

A gripping documentary about the ill-fated Brazilian Formula One driver. Asif Kapadia cleverly uses archival racing footage and television interviews to chronicle Senna's career and not-so-friendly competition with Alain Prost for the world title. Highly recommended, even if you aren't interested in cars or racing. Lucie (Queen's Square Library)

Winter's bone

This film won the grand jury prize at Sundance and with good reason. It is the bleak and riveting story of a seventeen year old Ozark mountains girl who cares for her younger sister and brother as well as her catatonic mother. Her meth-cooking father is on the lam and has put up their house as bond. If she can't find him, they will become homeless. Jennifer Lawrence is absolutely fantastic in the lead role here. You will also want to check out the Daniel Woodrell novel here at the library which the movie is based on as well as director Debra Granik's previous film Down to the Bone starring Vera Farmiga which we also have. Mike (Queen's Square)

Pan's labyrinth

Both beautiful and terrifying (sometimes at the same time). Guillermo del Toro creates an adult fairy tale dealing with Spanish fascism and the power of human imagination. Phil (Queen's Square Library)
 
This is a beautiful film and the 12 year old lead actress does an outstanding job. A very accessible foreign language film. Mike (Queen's Square)
 
Pan's Labyrinth is the most haunting film I have seen in years. Utterly unforgettable, it is the tale of a young girl trying to escape the reality of the Spanish civil war by completing 3 tasks set by Pan to prove she is the lost princess of a fantasy realm. Not for the faint of heart and definitely not for kids, it is nonetheless mesmerizing in its imagery. Amy (Queen's Square)
 

OSS 117. Cairo, Nest of Spies

Long before "The Artist", there was Hazanavicius-Dujardin-Bejo in "OSS 117". A French spy spoof set in 1950s it stars Jean Dujardin (looking very dapper à la young Sean Connery) as an extremely stupid secret agent. He's sent to Egypt with orders to "make the Middle East safe". Reminiscent of the best Pink Panther films, smarter than Steve Carell's Get Smart. Cinephiles will appreciate how it re-creates the look of 1950s cinema. Politically inclined viewers will approve of its satire of Western foreign policy. Everyone else will be rolling in the aisles as the hero and villain throw live chickens at each other. Lucie (Queen's Square)

Amelie

Movies like this don't come around very often. Meet Amelie, a quiet French waitress whose little acts of mischief change the lives of the people around her. Paris absolutely glows through her eyes. This modern fairy tale is genuinely sweet, charming and funny. Laura (Queen's Square)

Kick-Ass

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch called this movie "The most brazenly funny bloodbath unleashed on the public since 'Pulp Fiction'". Rude, crude, violent, morally questionable - but 2 hours of your time very well spent! Don't miss the incredible performance by Chloe "Hit Girl" Moretz. Lucie (Queen's Square)

Pirate radio

The plot's all over place, but the movie is still loads of fun. Great music and a fantastic ensemble cast. Betty (Queen's Square)

Up in the air

The best film I've seen in quite a while. George Clooney plays a corporate hatchet man who flies in and terminates people for companies who cannot or will not do it themselves. There's a depressing edge to this film: the more poorly the American economy does , the more work for Clooney's company. The complications are many:a potentially more ruthless understudy; a passionate connection made in the terminally passionless world of airports and airplanes; and the idea(s)/importance of home. The subtleties and depth of the story and characters made this one of best films I've seen in more than a year. Phil (Queen's Square)

The Last Station

Beautifully evocative of pastoral Russia in the late 19th century, this film recounts the tumultuous relationship of Tolstoy and his wife during that last period of his life. There is no bad performance here. Ruth (Preston Library)

Once

This film, which won an Academy award for its song “Falling Slowly” is a true gem. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are magic together, the story is simple and powerful, the music so good you can feel it in your bones. Jennifer (Clemens Mill Library)

Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine should have won the best picture Oscar this year...the fact it was only nominated in one category (best actress) just shows how irrelevant the Oscars are. The film tells the story of a married couple whose relationship is disintegrating. At the same time, it tells us how things started, jumping back and forth between the beginning and the end. Superb performances from both Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Mike (Queen's Square Library)