I saw Barney’s Version in a theatre last night and liked it. It’s a Canadian movie, which means it’s lucky to be seen by 1% of Canadian movie goers, thanks to the US’s distribution monopoly in North America (just saying), which is too bad, because there are plenty of high calibre Canadian films like “Barney’s Version” that are worth watching.
“Barney’s Version” tells a life story of a Mordecai Richler type character who marries the wrong women before he finally marries the right one. It doesn’t matter that the movie wanders a bit and doesn’t have the strongest narrative arc, Paul Giamatti and then Dustin Hoffman playing the dad are in such good form, as are all the actors, it’s satisfying just to watch all the characters live their lives. “Barney’s Version” isn’t on par with Away From Her, but it’s in the same class.
My #1 recommendation for a Halloween rental this year is Pontypool, directed by Bruce McDonald. If engaging the audience and provoking an emotional response is a measure of success for a movie, then Pontypool gets full marks from me. Seeing it in a theatre 6 months ago, I remember sitting up in my seat holding onto the armrest for the second half of it thinking, “Man, this is creeping me out.” It took me for a ride. The idea for the story is that language, the spoken word, is a virus — a virus that will turn you into a zombie if you don’t shut up.
The story appropriately takes place in a small town rural radio station where we can’t see what’s happening but we hear live reports from a guy in the street witnessing the mayhem of people slowly turning into zombies — and this is where your imagination goes nuts. As most people in radio will tell you, sound is a visual medium. The audience is engaged by listening, hearing the story unfold. Then we watch the reactions of the people at the radio station. There aren’t many zombies in the movie, but we don’t need to see them to feel their presence. Then comes the question, “How do you prevent the spreading of a verbal disease when you can’t talk about it, especially when you work at a talk-radio station?” The possible answers to this question are intriguing and entertaining. Although not a perfect movie, Pontypool succeeds so well at engaging the imagination to scare the crap out of you, while providing plenty of laughs along the way, it’s a perfect movie for the Halloween season.