Hot Docs Review: Miss Sharon Jones! [2016, Barbara Kopple]

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs | Leave a comment

Not so much a music doc as it is a triumphant look at the human spirit, Miss Sharon Jones! is a heartwarming tale of the incomparable Sharon Jone’s fight with cancer, which occurred a few years ago.

Directed by Barbara Kopple, the documentary follows Sharon Jones from the onset of her illness to her recovery stage, mixing in live music footage, talking heads and an observational style. The documentary mostly assumes that you are aware of who Sharon Jones is (even if most of the regular day people she encounters does not) and doesn’t really delve into her musical journey from wedding singer to Daptones MVP. Still, those who are fans of her will delight in the fact that Sharon Jones is as much a fighting spirit off the stage as she is on the stage.

As you watch the Sharon Jones battle cancer, you can’t help but feel a sense of joy when she overcomes the illness and goes back to what she loves doing most – performing. The film, as you would expect, is soundtracked by the music of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and the songs are carefully chosen, lending extra weight to some of the lyrics of the songs that accompany the journey.

A splendid film.

Miss Sharon Jones! plays this upcoming week at Hot Docs Cinema, click here for more details.

Concert Review: Tegan & Sara, June 25, Hilton Toronto

Posted on by Ricky in Reviews | Leave a comment

tegan & sara

It’s not every day you get invited to a private concert. It’s certainly not every day you get invited to a private concert by Hilton Hotels featuring Tegan & Sara, so like a moth to the flame, I hastily accepted my invitation to this exclusive show that took place Saturday night in the heart of Toronto.

A show held by Hilton Toronto that was billed as an exclusive experience to Hilton HHonors members, Tegan & Sara was a small and intimate affair in which probably half the crowd just went there for free food and drinks, but definitely left as Tegan & Sara fans.

It’s funny, as I was doing my typical in-depth (but not too in-depth) analysis of the night, I came to the startling realization that Tegan & Sara might just be my favorite Canadian act from the past half decade. Starting with The Con, I have definitely enjoyed their releases, accumulating with their new release, Love You To Death. Released just recently, Love You to Death is pop music at it’s finest, big tracks full of hooks and ear worms. As the group took the stage and launched into their first track, the hit single “Boyfriend,” it was apparent I was not the only one who felt that way as a majority of that crowd already knew the lyrics.

The rest of the set comprised of a combination of tracks from their previous works, including old classic “Walking With a Ghost.” In between the set, the group engaged with the crowd, telling stories about latte art, their love for Hilton (maybe tongue in cheek) and accepting facetime messages from fans on stage. It was all part of the Tegan & Sara charm. Standouts from the set include new track “Stop Desire and of course, the closing song “Closer,” one of their best and most likely identified as the track that ushered in the Tegan & Sara pop era, one that has seen them rise to the top and based off this record, will keep them there for awhile.

Hot Docs review: After Circus (2015, Viveka Melki)

Posted on by Paul in Hot Docs | Leave a comment


The circus is generally seen by many as a world of wonder, a place where we can be entertained by performers engaging in acrobatics, feats of strength, and various acts of derring-do. But what becomes of those performers when they get too old to keep performing? Where do they go when it’s time to call it quits?

After Circus takes a look at the community of retired (or semi-retired) circus performers based in Sarasota, Florida, the circus capital of the world.  Going in, I wasn’t certain what to expect, and thought that this might be a doc along the lines of Beyond The Mat, Barry Blaustein’s 1999 look at the lives of pro wrestlers. Thankfully, this film isn’t too much of a downer and generally takes a more lighthearted, sentimental look at it’s subjects’ lives, though it does touch on some of the realities of life after the circus and the struggle with issues such as health concerns, where to live, and how they’ll take care of themselves as they reach old age.

Even though most of the performers we see onscreen are no longer able to perform as they once could, each of them look back fondly on their experiences and seem to hold no regrets over their time in the circus. After Circus presents a heartwarming and slightly bittersweet look at people who are still loving that circus life.

After Circus screens again on Saturday, May 7 at 1:00pm at Scotiabank Theatre 13.

Hot Docs/CMW Review: Aim For The Roses (2016, John Bolton)

Posted on by Paul in Canadian Music Week, Hot Docs | Leave a comment

Aim For The Roses is a story about obsession. It’s a common theme for filmmakers, though director John Bolton takes an uncommon approach in his film, which is fitting since the subjects of Aim For The Roses each have rather uncommon passions and uncommon approaches to life. In a way, it’s the story of one man’s obsession with another man’s obsession.

Aim For The Roses tells the story of Mark Haney, a Vancouver musician described by friends and associates in the film as “kind of a renaissance man” who “wears interesting suits” as well as “a monomaniacal, obsessive character.” Amongst Haney’s many obsessions (which also include a passion for Archie Comics) is his fascination with Canadian daredevil Ken Carter, who made a bit of a name for himself in the 1970s and ’80s through various stunts and who apparently considered himself to be greater than Evel Knievel. We see Carter’s story unfold through some archival footage as well as dramatized segments playing out in conjunction with the story of Haney’s decision to create his own double bass concept album (also entitled Aim For The Roses) based around Carter’s life story.

It’s an intriguing and entertaining look at Haney’s creative process and inspirations, which include the creation of various characters to represent different elements of Carter’s story as well as composing a musical representation of the first 499 digits of Pi to run throughout the score. He definitely seems like an interesting character, though his quirks are perhaps topped by those of Ken Carter. After all, it takes a certain type of person to willingly risk his life multiple times for the sake of making, in Carter’s own words, “the ultimate statement.” Ultimately, Aim For The Roses is about the quest to make something more of yourself and the journey one must go through to make that ultimate statement.