This Week in Film: Rampart, How to Die in Oregon, Prom Night in Mississippi, Cult Night Triple Bill, Human Rights Watch, DVD and BluRay

This Week in Film rounds up noteworthy new releases in theatres, as well as key DVD / Blu-Ray releases, festivals, and other cinema-related events happening in Toronto.


Rampart (AMC Yonge & Dundas)

Oren Moverman's previous film, The Messenger (starring Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson), wasn't exactly a hit, and his greatest claim to fame to date, yet for which he receives little credit, is that he co-wrote Todd Haynes' cubist Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There. This is a shame, because he is actually a pretty promising director, at least as is evident in this new film, which also stars Mr. Harrelson (looking at a photo of Moverman just now, I realize that this casting decision probably has autobiographical implications). The film is set in 1999, and is a character study of an L.A. cop, Bad Lieutenant-esque, but with a difference. Neither the film nor the lead performance will drop any jaws — Rampart is merely serviceable entertainment and fun - but it stands as another step forward for a promising voice in cinema.

How to Die in Oregon (Projection Booth)

Lest anyone try to convince him-or-herself that this documentary about hospital patients contemplating state-assisted suicide will be a pleasant trip to the movies, it is not. Set in Oregon — one of the only places that allows this procedure in North America — How to Die in Oregon is an often paralyzingly emotional film about how our lives and bodies, from birth until death, are intertwined with, and stunted by, legal matters. It's also a harrowing portrait of humanity, a Frederick Wiseman-esque scenario shown earnestly and poetically. If you missed it at Hot Docs last May, it's a must-see now; just don't forget the Prozac.



For recommendations on what to catch at Toronto's rep cinema's this week, check out This Week in Rep Cinema.


CINSSU Free Friday Films — Cult Night Triple Bill! (Friday, February 24 at 7PM)

You can't really go wrong here, with three cult classics playing in one night (for free!) at Innis Town Hall, you're almost sure to see something you like provided you stay for all of it. Things get started off pretty bodaciously with the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie; hopefully no synopsis needed. After that, perhaps the only children's movie with female nudity that isn't a household name, Robot Jox, which is also known for its much less interesting quality of being a post-World War III piece of science fiction. The night cap is 1989's hilariously awful Lady Terminator, a movie that's notably devoid of James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and is none-the-better for it. Running times and estimated break durations say that this event could well run after mid-night, so pack accordingly.

MINT Film Festival presents: Prom Night in Mississippi (Friday, February 24 at 7:30PM)

First things first, MINT is the 'Made In Toronto' Film Festival, a monthly screening series of films that were, well, made in Toronto. They've been going strong for a full year now (first anniversary is only a couple of weeks away), so if you haven't heard of or been to any of their events before, show how much you love local filmmakers by changing that. This month's screening, in celebration of Black History Month, is of Paul Saltzman's Prom Night in Mississippi (notice: it's the 'Made' in Toronto festival rather than 'Shot' in Toronto). It's a 2009 documentary that follows a group of students from Charleston High School as they prepare for the first racially integrated prom in Charleston, Mississippi's history. Also, for some reason Morgan Freeman is in this movie. Before the screening, there will be a live concert featuring Canadian jazz vocal legend Jackie Richardson as well as actor/vocalist Sterling Jarvis accompanied on Piano by MINT Musical Director Steve Hunter. Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for students and seniors, or, if bought in advance at Rainbow Market Sq. Cinema, $13 and $12, respectively.


Human Rights Watch 2012 (February 29 - March 9)
Toronto's most humanist film festival is back for its ninth year, once again taking place at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Human Rights Watch is actually a traveling festival that brings a specially curated selection of about a dozen films to nine major cities in North America, and also to London, England. This year's festival includes a couple of titles from TIFF last September (The Island President, Habibi) as well as one of the bigger audience hits from last year's Hot Docs (The Bully Project). Tickets are on sale now; regular Lightbox prices apply to all screenings.

One particularly strong title in this year's festival is Fernand Melgar's Special Flight, a candid documentary about a Swiss prison for detained residents 'suspected' of being illegal immigrants — they can, by law, be held here for up to two years, purely because of suspicion, until it is decided whether or not they will receive that 'special flight' back to their home country. The prisoners, guards, and staff are shown in their every day environment, and help to frame an image of a prison scenario that flips our pre-conceived notions of what life is like in the big house. Guilty or innocent, the glimpses of these human beings quietly subverts the phobias and prejudices created by that arbitrary thing we call a border.


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