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Highlights of TIFF 2015 (Flack’s Report)

Posted on | May 2, 2015 | Add Comments

Operation ArcticTIFF Kids, a Toronto kid’s film festival (one of the world’s largest), is a twelve day spectacular of contemporary children’s cinema, collected from all around the world. Flick and Flack attended for their fourth time this year and managed to see some notable films. Here, Flack writes about three standout movies from his weekend in Canada.

Operation Arctic has one unbelievable, sort of ridiculous, insanely intruiging premise: a teen girl and her two younger twin siblings hide away on a helicopter in an attempt to locate their missing father, then end up stuck in Arctic Norway. With no one else around and a limited supply of canned foods to live off of, the dire situation only gets worse as polar-bear attacks and and harsh weather dampen the hopes of the three siblings. Go along with the over-the-top story of the film and you’ll be delighted by a well-executed, old-fashioned adventure yarn. The frigidly beautiful cinematography and some gripping bear battles are highlights.

Top SpinMany of the best documentaries focus on topics that seem uninteresting and odd, but manage to turn them into riveting and informative films. Top Spin does just that. The doc follows three teen table-tennis players as they compete for a spot at the Olympics, balance school with sports, and discuss the joy and pain of competitive sports. It has all the boiling suspense and riveting action of a great sports movie, but with thoughtful, poignant interviews to add some depth.

LabyrinthusBelgian sci-fi adventure Labyrinthus has it’s flaws, but manages to surprise more often than one would expect of a big-budget family film. The adventure begins when Frikke, an average teen, picks up a mysterious camera left behind by a masked biker. He soon realizes the object holds the keys to a dangerous but compelling video game, inside of which a young girl is trapped. Frikke is the only one capable of saving the girl, and it’s up to him to locate and stop the creator of the game. Labyrinthus is a bit like a digital-age update of Jumanji, though it’s darker in tone than that film. The multi-stranded plot does have some weak stretches, and most attempts at humor fall flat, but this is still a refreshingly imaginative adventure.

Digital Foosball and Virtual Reality at DigiPlayspace (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | April 25, 2014 | Add Comments

Playing with light, water, and sponges at DigiplayspaceWhat is DigiPlayspace? Certainly not your typical museum exhibit. Walk inside and you’ll find a virtual reality headset, two-person videogames, and a greenscreen all fighting for your attention. Wow is the word that best describes the sight. Coinciding with TIFF Kids, I got to experience all the excitement at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

The first display is a French installation titled Water Light Graffiti. Participants use wet sponges to turn on hundreds of LED lights and create a drawing. Water Light Graffiti pretty much defines what DigiPlayspace is all about: cutting-edge digital fun for all ages.

Of course, the fun doesn’t end there. Perhaps the exhibit’s most impressive achievement is the range of installations. One moment I was playing a two-person videogame, then I created digital paintings by waving my hands around and, eventually I wound up starring in a stop motion film.

Playing PaperDude VR with the Oculus Rift at Digiplayspace If there’s one thing you won’t find here it’s boredom. Still, three setups stand above the rest. First is PaperDude, a not-your-average-videogame videogame. After hopping onto a bike, I strapped on the much hyped Oculus Rift headset. In the game, you pedal your bike and move your hands around to toss newspapers to neighbors. The exciting part, however, is experiencing Oculus Rift’s virtual reality. As I frantically turned left, right, up, and down, all I could see was the world of PaperDude. The feeling is novel, fresh, and weird; unreal technology paradise.

Playing SuperPong at DigiplayspaceSimpler than PaperDude, yet just as fun, is SuperPong. Designed in Brazil, the game combines the look and rules of foosball with the digital simplicity of Pong. And the result? Like playing both those games at the same time on a big, bright screen.

Green-screen goofiness at DigiplayspaceThe third highlight of DigiPlayspace is a greenscreen set-up where participants are placed in blockbuster films and foreign locations. With the help of the latest Hollywood technology, I put on a green blanket, looked up at the screen, and saw myself as…Wolverine!?

3-D printed toys at DigiplayspacePast the main space is a back room that turns out to be a “Micro Maker fair” filled with programmable videogames, 3-D printed toys, and robotic balls controlled by iPods.

Of course, you can’t love all of DigiPlayspace’s activities but, hey, there’s something for everyone. Filled with interactive digital awesomeness of every kind, this is pure, unbridled fun for kids and adults. So what is Digiplayspace? Imagine playing with the future and you’re close to understanding.

DigiplayspaceDigiPlayspace ran March 8-April 21 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, Canada. It’ll be back for it’s fourth year in 2015.

Shorts and Superheroes at TIFF Kids Day 3: Flack’s Report

Posted on | April 24, 2014 | Add Comments

In Amar, audiences get a slice of a hard-working Iranian boy's lifeTwo shorts programs and a kid superhero rounded out another incredible year at TIFF Kids. Without further ado, here’s my opinions on our last day at TIFF (April 21)…

What do the daily lives of children look like? That’s the theme of the “Slice of Life” shorts program, a continent-spanning collection of four very different, very interesting documentaries. Jamey’s Fight tells the story of an aspiring soccer player with a serious stammer and uses traditional documentary techniques (talking-heads interviews mixed with clips). On the other end of the spectrum, Amar examines a day in the life of a  hard-working Indian boy with a unique, if confusing, interview-free style that puts us right into Amar’s life. Meanwhile, in Youseff, Please Say No!, an over-busy teenager is forced to reconsider his hectic schedule. The highlight here is To Be a B-Girl, an inspiring look at a German break-dancing girl that discusses gender stereotypes and the culture of this interesting sport.

Chikara-The Sumo Wrester's Son tells the true-life tale of sports, determination, and parental pressureAnother group of short documentaries, Strength Through Struggle focuses on children and their courage, resourcefulness, and wit during times of hardship. In Chikara- The Sumo Wrestler’s Son, a Japanese ten-year old trains to be a winning sumo wrestler, like his over-enthusiastic father. The question is, does Chikara want this future for himself? With haunting cinematography, thrilling editing, and narration from Chikara, director Simon Lereng Wilmont  creates a captivating portrait of childhood and one of the best short films I’ve ever seen. Two more moving tales of kids struggling with parental issues finished the program: Layla’s Melody, about a girl’s uncertain life in Afghanistan, and Hear This!, about a Danish kid-soccer player and his deaf dad.

Antboy isn't your average superhero (he's a kid!)The only feature film I saw this day was Antboy, a superhero hero adventure starring (refreshingly) a kid. Pelle is just a regular kid living a regular life until he gets bitten by an ant (sound familiar?) and receives incredible powers. Before long, Pelle is Antboy, a crime-fighting superhero. But does Pelle just want to be the “popular kid” or will he take advantage of his gifts? Parents looking for a safe alternative to the dark, brooding state of comic-book cinema will love taking their kids to this entertaining, kid-friendly superhero comedy.

From a jazz prodigy and flying meatballs, to engrossing true-life tales and a comic-book super-kid, TIFF Kids 2014 was filled with wondeeful movies of every variety. Another memorable year at TIFF is over but I have some unforgettable movie-going experiences to remember!

Poignant Family Dramas and a 3-D Food Adventure at TIFF Kids 2014: Flack’s Day 2 Report

Posted on | April 23, 2014 | Add Comments

Lauren and Harvey are on-the-run-siblings searching for a lost grandfather in Side by SideA heartrending family adventure, raining hot dogs, and shorts from up-and-coming (kid) filmmakers rounded out our second day (April 19) at the Toronto International Film Festival Kids. Here’s my thoughts on everything I saw.

Side by Side 4 1/2 Arthur Landon’s coming-of-age family adventure, is easily one one of my favorite films of the year so far. Lauren, a skilled runner, and her younger brother/obsessive gamer Harvey, are tired of their mundane and tragic lives. When their elder grandmother moves to a retirement home and Lauren enrolls in a distinguished running university, Harvey runs away. He’s soon joined by his sister-and a life-changing adventure begins. Filled with Scottish vistas and wonderful cinematography, Side by Side is a poignant drama that’ll have you laughing, crying, and smiling in equal measure.

Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) realizes his food making machine actually works in Cloudy With a Chance of MeatballsTIFF Kids isn’t just about “watching” movies; it’s about thinking, enjoying, and connecting with film on many levels. Storymobs, a Canadian organization where “great kids’ books meet flash mobs”, worked with families to create costumes and props for an exuberant reading of Judi Barret’s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. During the final performance, kids and adults took turns reading, as the audience looked on with hunger. Chris Miller and Phil Lord’s zany 2009 blockbuster adaptation was screened (in mouth-watering 3-D) later that day.

Films like Side by Side and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs are made for children but the Jump Cuts Young Filmmakers Showcase: Grades 7 and 8 featured films made by children. The featured shorts were all over the place, from a claymation commentary on global warming to a live-action zombie thriller. Some were made by schools, others by individual kids. The range of themes, stories, and mediums was incredible and a joy to watch. Precious Cargo, a touching tale about an elder man contemplating his future, had stunning cinematography and a thoughtful plot that could have you convinced the film was made by a professional. Safety Man and Man VS School were also standouts, with inventive, amusing stories signaling a bright future for film.

It was an impressive day at TIFF but there’s still more to come…

TIFF Kids 2014 Day 1: Flack’s Report

Posted on | April 20, 2014 | Add Comments

Felix is musically gifted but can he win over his mom?Comfy chairs, delicious popcorn, fascinating Q&A’s, and, of course, wonderful films… Flick and Flack have arrived at the Toronto International Film Festival Kids! For the next few days, we’ll be reporting on the festival (read our festival preview here). Here’s my take on our first day (April 19) at TIFF…

Felix 4 1/2 Felix, a South African teenager, has phenomenal musical talent and can’t wait to audition for his new private school’s jazz concert. His mother, however, feels that his musical passion will lead him down the path of his late father. As tensions rise, Felix is faced with a question: will he choose his mother or his music? Director Roberta Durrant displays adept filming skill by transforming a often-told theme into a tear-jerking, often witty must-see. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll tap your foot to the beat.

A group of friends discover the mystery of their evil school in Zip & Zap and the Marble GangZip & Zap and the Marble Gang 3 1/2 When brothers Zip and Zap are sent to an evil boarding school, they decide to challenge the cruel dictatorship residing over the school. Along with some new friends, Zip and Zap hunt for treasure, get chased by dogs, and uncover the mysterious past of their school. This amusing adventure is part Harry Potter, part Goonies, and all fun! An often comical and exhilarating roller coaster of a film.

So, that’s it for now… More TIFF Kids reviews coming soon!

A Look Ahead To TIFF Kids 2014

Posted on | April 13, 2014 | Add Comments

We can't wait to see Felix at TIFF Kids 2014For the past two years, Flack and I have taken the long drive up to Toronto, Canada to attend the TIFF Kids film festival to find films for the PCFF. We’ve seen some incredible films, not to mention the pleasure of reclining in the irresistibly comfy theater chairs, perusing the building’s movie bookstore, and just staring in awe at the Bell Lightbox building. This year, we’ll be back again and the lineup of films looks as good as ever. We’ll hopefully be bringing you written updates all throughout next weekend, starting on Friday and going through Sunday. For now, here are the films we’re looking forward to.

Felix

A fourteen-year-old boy wants to become a proffesional musician just as his late father was. His mom, however, isn’t supportive of this dream. Felix will have to win over his mom, face up to school bullies, and find the aid of his dad’s bandmate in order to follow his dreams. This has all the makings of an feel-good family drama.

Antboy

Pelle, a 12-year-old living in a small Danish town, has a boring, average life. But all it takes is a bite from an ant and he’s given superpowers. Pelle must face the villain Flea who is terrorizing his town and in doing so, cope with his new powers and learn the meaning of being different. Enter Antboy. Could be the perfect superhero adventure for younger ones.

Side by Side

The intriguing trailer for this brother-sister runaway film manages to clip together a lot, while still leaving questions unanswered. Equal parts adventure, drama, and coming-of-age story, the film promises to be both exciting and harrowing at the same time.

In addition to these films, we’ll also have access to the “Screening Room”, where we’ll be able to choose from a library of DVD’s (from this year’s festival) to watch on a computer workstation. It’s one of the many privileges of having Industry Passes.

See you in Toronto!

Sesame Street Treat: Flick + Flack meet Joey and Murray!

Posted on | April 21, 2013 | 2 Comments


Flack talks with Murray from Sesame Street abut his favorite (and least favorite!) letter, best friends, and favorite movies. For the first time ever Flick and Flack meet a Henson friend! Murray was kind and interesting to talk with. Plus, he said the name of our website which is AWESOME!


Flick and Flack interview master puppeteer Joey Mazzarino. He talks about getting into the Sesame Street business, meeting Jim Henson, and whether or not there’s a possibility of a Sesame Street film in this day and age.

TIFF Staff Double-Bill

Posted on | April 20, 2013 | Add Comments

Flick and Flack interview TIFF Director of Programming Shane Smith about TIFF Kids 2013, his favorite films, and more in this fascinating, candid talk.

Flack interviews Industry Services Coordinator Geoff McNaughton about his job, top movies, and more. The greatest part is when Geoff spills a few secrets of TIFF 2013.

TIFF Escalating!

Posted on | April 18, 2013 | Add Comments

What? “TIFF Escalating?” Flick and Flack have put a spin on the usual video reviews you’ve come accustomed to. Here’s the catch: As we review the films, we are both standing on the TIFF escalators. As they elevate us to the next level, we review the film we’ve just seen in approximately a minute a.k.a the time it takes for us to travel up the escalator. It may dizzy you just a bit, but it does give us an opportunity to zip through our reviews at a startling pace.

Watch ’em all here on Vimeo. TIFF (and us!) just got escalated to a whole new level!

Flick + Flack interview Director Maryam Milani

Posted on | April 15, 2013 | 2 Comments

Flick and Flack were fortunate to sit down with Maryam Milani, Iranian director of The Rooster Trademark Paper. We talked about the film, working with child actors, the reason why Milani made the movie, and much more. Below you can watch the entire interview.

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