12.31.2008

The Wrestler (2008)

Much ballyhoo'd return to grace for Mickey Rourke, it is everything the hype machine claims it to be, and more, for cheap quotable praises are all too easily given away these days. With that out of the way, I will go on record as saying that the last film I saw in 2008 was also the year's best for me. Granted, there was MUCH I didn't see this year, and this assessment is based on a very small sample size of current film. However, Darren Aronofsky's film did for me what so few modern films achieve: it made me feel, it reminded me that I, too, am a human being. Whether or not that is the ultimate goal of all film, or whether that should be a yardstick by which to measure a film's success, is another post altogether.

The wrestler and the stripper are symbols, as obvious as it may seem, for those who rely solely on their bodies for their living and as their bodies begin to fail them, so goes their worth in the world. As each grows older, and the form is stripped away, all that is very apparently left is the soul and the innate need to be loved, wanted, needed, simply not to be alone. Aronofsky eschews all sentimentality, though, in favour of raw emotion, of small lives laid bare and lived large, of characters who are legends in their own mind, but who ultimately come to the terrifying, soul-crushing, and ultimately redemptive and profoundly human realization that this...is...it. Facing the void. But being too stubborn or dumb to turn away. This small spark is all we have and we must clutch the spark, protect it, never let it go out. As long as we have that tiny spark inside of us, then the soul of man can never die. Instead of throwing in the towel, the characters soldier on, absurdly and beautifully. Just go see it (at the cinema, yes). The final scene alone is worth the price of a million bleeding hearts, and the rest of the film is just as good.

The Wrestler breathes, it bleeds, it weeps; it is broken, it sins, and it forgives. It simultaneously revels in the absurdity of human life and shows why that life is worth living. A more powerful and affecting film I have not seen in a long, long time.

12.28.2008

Dropkick gets into The Spirit of the season


ok look,
I love shitty movies. I do, that's my thing.
I mean, it's not my only thing. I like a lot of quality flicks too, it's just that i get all gitty about the crap. I mean the real horrid crap.
I LOVE Doom, I LOVE Speed Racer, I LOVE The Rundown, I LOVE Cool World.
When i want to relax and be entertained i throw on a Spiderman or a Star War, not a Herzog film.
So when I woke up on Christmas morning and read the reviews for The Spirit i was ecstatic.

A quick search on Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes will show you, it is one of the worst reviewed films of the year.
Roger Ebert says "There is not a trace of human emotion in it. To call the characters cardboard is to insult a useful packing material"
Nice.
Rotten Tomatoes has The Spirit at 15% of freshness, while metacritic has The Spirit at 33% out of a possible 100% in... goodness.

All these poor reviews only made me want to watch it more. I learned soon after watching Speed Racer that complete escapism isn't well received nowadays. I don't know if it ever was. But highly stylized escapism, no substance - that's the kinda flick i get going about. Flicks like these are the cult favorites of tomorrow. And that's what the Spirit is. Yeah, it's a piece of shit now but in 20 years people are gonna be watching this at midnight in rundown cinemas yelling out lines and cheering and throwing their own poop at the screen.

It's a flick with absolutely no redeeming qualities.
The acting is shite, the "directing" is totally shite, the plot is complete shite, and the look of the film was just borrowed from Sin City - The other film Frank Miller directed.
Funny because this film plays much like a Sin City yarn, only longer... much longer and less hard boiled.

What makes this flick so gosh darn unique is the absurdity of the whole thing. Why is our hero an unlikeable womanizing detective who is in love with his city? Why is Samuel Jackson giving an over dramatic monologue in a Nazi uniform while Scarlett Johansson, also in Nazi uniform, keeps piping in standing in front of a giant photo of Hitler? Why are all the women barely clothed? Why is Sam Jackson dressed as a cowboy? Why is Eva Mendez photocopying her ass? Why is The Spirit making out with the angel of death? Why is Jackson now a samurai with giant sideburns? What in the hell is happening in this movie anyways?

Hey, i paid 13 bucks to watch this thing and still have no answers.

The Spirit is based on an old Detective serial from the 40's, much like Dick Tracy it follows a detective solving crimes and romancing the "dames". What Miller has done here seems to deviate from the original comic. Although I've never read it myself I knew it WASN'T about a guy who died and woke up days later in his coffin with superpowers which is what this film is about. Here The Spirit is invincible and curiously enough his arch nemesis "The Octopus" (played by the craziest Samuel L. Jackson doing Samuel L. Jackson ever committed to film) also has the same power. The story is split between The Spirit wanting to know the why of his resurrection and him tracking down his lost childhood love Sand Seref (played by the bust busting Eva Mendez) who has become involved in the affairs, mistakenly, between Spirit and Octo... i think. It is, much like Frank Millers comic work, a love letter to film and pulp noir. If you focus on those elements of the film there's some fun to be had but Miller decides to also make this film a parody on detective serials, and comic book superheroes in general. Now that sounds intriguing but combined with all these different elements the film falls flat of successfully being a tribute or parody of any genre.
Instead the film becomes completely flat lined, a low steady hum that never changes its tone. This will drive most people who see this film insane.
But if you enjoy hanging around Central City (the mythic metropolis the story takes place in) and the hyper stylized noir campy world it embodies, you'll feel a little out of place but you'll know there are worse places you could be. *cough* Twilight

I say pass until the dvd release and then rent it from us. it will be most enjoyed if aged 10-20 years though so don't get too anxious.

With Love,
Kid Kadar

12.23.2008

A challenge....

Buffians.... I hereby issue you a 2009 challenge - Unearth a film masterpiece – In the early throes of '09 I'm proposing we go on a treasure hunt. Using what ever aids, sources and research tools you can think of to discover an unheralded movie masterpiece. It can be new, old, foreign, short, feature, doc, kids film, porno or anything else provided it was intended to be viewed on film.

I'll kick in $200 with each taker adding $20 of their own. Winner takes all. You have the month of January to complete your search and in early February, we'll show each piece (over several days if necessary) at Segredos. We'll vote by secret ballot and declare the winner.

I can assist in tracking down odd titles if need be but will be participating as well. Mike Brown has an extensive collection and access to other collectors and has agreed to help if he can.

Who's interested? We'll need at least 4 or 5 to make it worthwhile.

12.22.2008

As good as it gets.

Quality in film is a subjective matter. Cinema, for the most part, tends to be a product of its time, its topicality relevant to the moment and rarely universal. Most genre pictures fall distinctly into this category with comedies stale-dating faster than donuts and thrillers not far behind. It is a rarity to find a film that translates ahead in time and retains its relevance with future audiences. As a result, only the best that cinema has to offer tends to be remembered generation to generation. We tend to compare these standout films from the past with the entire cross section of present day output and overstate the qualities of earlier films as a result. Breakout mainstream movies suffer disproportionately unfair comparisons to earlier works because of intense marketing and awards campaigns designed to increase awareness with the audience.

Film is the assembly of a multitude of components - a script, a director, a cast, producers, technical production, costume and set designers and a host of other people create the work that ends up on the screen. The roles and tools each of these parties have to work with has changed immensely over the years as rudimentary techniques have been replaced with newer ones designed to improve the efficiencies and look of the final product. CGI replaced huge sets and arguably increased the realism and authenticity of many movies. Many films simply couldn't be made without the advent of computer enhancement and design. The best of these CGI reliant films allow modern filmmakers to seamlessly create spectacular set pieces that could only be imagined by earlier directors. Whether this has made cinema better or not lays in the eye of the audience.

The culmination of the grandness of modern CGI enhanced films is probably the LOTR trilogy, a series inconceivable without it. Peter Jackson managed to create believable versions of the Tolkien world in a way considered impossible a mere decade ago. This year's blockbusters The Dark Knight and Iron Man along with countless other films continue to build on the possibilities facilitated by the technical prowess of Hollywood's studios. Only hindsight will tell if these pictures hold up over the years and for future audiences.

At a more basic level, film making outside the mega-budgeted blockbusters has also changed. Screenplays have arguably become harder edged and more deeply steeped in realism. Audiences seem to crave the exploration of darker territory and many recent films have delivered the goods. This year's No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Gone Baby Gone and several others pushed Film Noir conventions in new and unusual directions. Others like The Fall, Paprika, Persepolis, Southland Tales, Micheal Clayton, The Lives of Others and many more offered up new takes on cinematic style and substance. All in all, while mainstream cinema may be in a rough patch in terms of general consistency, a good number of standout films still made their way into theatres.

The 1980's might be a good example of another time where popular culture was in a collective nosedive. While there is precious little to celebrate from this lost decade, a host of films from this period have stood the test of time. Films as diverse and revered as Repo Man, Paris Texas, The Terminator, Raging Bull, Blood Simple, Stranger Than Paradise, Children of a Lesser God, Aliens, Brazil, Platoon, Runaway Train, Akira and The Last Emperor all sprang from perhaps the worst period of 20th American pop culture. Twenty years down the road, we will be able to look back at this period of cinema with the benefit of hindsight and perhaps a different slate of films than we might expect will have aged exceptionally well. Who knows? All I can say for certain is Drop Kick will still be gay and likely hungover.

12.18.2008

All right, Kadas - you called down the thunder.....

As the result of my chosen vocation and love of the art form, I tend to synthesize my observations about society through the prism of cinema. As a tool for this task, it probably isn’t terribly effective, beyond articulating the pop-culture trends of the moment, but the correlations and evidence that something of the fantasy worlds created in film are, at least in part, reflections of the time and place in which they were created, seems valid enough.

Popular film making has often oscillated between periods of poignant social commentary and purely escapist fare (think the decline of Film Noir being followed by the mostly pompous trash of the early 60’s) but never before has Hollywood so gracelessly – and exclusively - embraced the vacuous mass-produced and mass-consumed blockbuster as they have come to over the past 10 years. I would go as far to say that American popular film might not recover from the disintegration of traditional cinematic convention that currently pervades the industry. A fundamental shift occurred in Hollywood during the past 30 years and I have yet to hear that trend well articulated - or even acknowledged in some corners.

Quantifying this shift is difficult because it has happened slowly and almost imperceptibly. It might best be illustrated by observing the vast differences between earlier and more current examples of the form. In the case of modern day cinema, to isolate the block of output from, say the early to mid 1970’s and compare that to the output since 2000, could possibly serve to show the trend more obviously and with greater impact than simply following the path chronologically.

It could be argued that the last golden era of Hollywood film making occurred in the period from roughly 1969 to 1974. This period coincided with the final collapse of the traditional Hollywood studio system and the rise of a youthful - and modestly independent – group of auteur/directors. Many American films released during this period are varied yet powerful indictments of the establishment (the Vietnam War and Watergate among the common themes) and the impact that these issues had on the psyche of the American population. It might be further argued that this intensely critical and often almost paranoid period of film making ran its course and served its purpose – offering insights and observations into counterculture and the disintegration of the publics' trust in its institutions and authority. What followed was another Hollywood oscillation into banal fantasy worlds that offered pat answers – Jaws, for example, serving to a) reduce “fear” to the realms of the unknown, and b) eliminate “cause and effect” from “actions and consequences”. The public ate it up, due in no small part to the removal of blame, implication and collective responsibility from the equation. The Conversation, Parallax View and Mean Streets, to name but a few had, just 2 or 3 years earlier, demanded the recognition of causality whereas the pure predatory instinct of a shark did not.

Star Wars, arguably the first true blockbuster in any modern sense, went one step further, facilitating a complete disconnect from reality using the intricate construction of a fantasy universe that required virtually nothing from its audience. The massive success of the Star Wars franchise announced the arrival of form over substance in American film making and the intervening 30 years has involved honing big budget pictures into what they have become today - almost perfect exercises in pacing, momentum and pure escapism. Filmmakers have distilled their product into its purest and most saleable form by draining it of anything that gets in the way of pacing. This evolution finds the typical movie audience often more bombarded than engaged and sadly leaves critical elements of the traditional film experience out of the equation. It should be noted that exceptions to the rule obviously exist and that a number of filmmakers have opted out of this creative cul-de-sac but the vast majority have not. It should be further noted that cinematic history is full of mediocrity and slapdash releases intent on offering nothing more than diversion. What is worth consideration, however, is just how much of present day cinema is devoted to offering little else.

A chicken and egg argument presents itself with regard to Hollywood’s output and that of the audience’s responses and expectations. Have films become inane exercises in hyper-mediocrity because the audience won’t support anything of merit? Drawing parallels to other forms of entertainment – books, television, music and so on, might suggest that filmmakers are simply responding to the market conditions of the day, but I think it’s rather more complicated than that. A better comparison might be to that of the huge expansion of gambling and casinos across North America. It would be hard to conjure up a more useless and destructive form of entertainment then a casino and yet the gambling industry’s growth shows no signs of slowing down. We have evolved into a society that demands instant and perpetual gratification from cradle to grave and film has come to reflect that fact. Film has the ability to provoke analysis and reflection on and about the human condition but unfortunately, it too, has been reduced to a simple commodity to be consumed, discarded and replaced by next weekend’s new big thing. Another pull on the one-armed bandit you could say.

One has to wonder whether American filmmakers can pull out of this creative nosedive or if, in fact, they even recognize that it’s happened. The blame for this creative dilemma needs to be applied to both the filmmakers and the audience. I sure some would argue that the splendidly dull and seamless visual stunts of the latest Bond film or the technical perfection of the next Marvel comic book adaptation is the natural and inevitable course for Hollywood’s dream factory, pointing to the huge box office receipts and critical acclaim that often accompanies these bloated amusement-park-ride flicks. The endless stimulation of video game graphics perhaps is the goal, but it is becoming increasingly evident that the emperor has no clothes. After the camera stops shaking and the sparks fizzle into darkness in the third act’s final display of pyrotechnics what remains is often an audience entertained but not engaged. The Wizards of Oz are exposed for what they are – illusionists without substance hiding behind blue screen wizardry and technical proficiency. The stories remain culled from old comics, TV shows and hack writers of dubious merit stitched together by screenwriters more apt at connecting big set pieces than telling tales.

It’s unlikely that the public will demand better. They are enamored with the simplicity and meekness of current film making. Great film requires more than just passive observation by the viewer. It demands engagement, presents questions, probes possibilities and integrates relevance and real issues by way of metaphor and allegory. We have been witness to the evolution of cinema that is, for all intents and purposes, reaching the apex of technical perfection while simultaneously hitting bottom with regard to the art of plot and character development and the telling of stories with any general relevance to the human condition. Critics and audiences alike are evidently bewildered by these diametrically opposed cycles and often confuse quality and efficiency. They are not the same thing.

Whether film reflects the state of society or the opposite holds true, those of us interested in the grandness and possibilities of cinema must search for it in other places and times. The past is rich with movie excellence and has never been more accessible than it is today. We also have the less diluted world of international film to explore, both past and present. Independent filmmakers continue to work outside the direct influence of Hollywood’s mainstream machinations and their work sometimes finds it’s way into distribution. The odd substantive Hollywood film continues to slip through the mediocrity grinder relatively unscathed and into the local Cineplex. This combination of alternative viewing options quietly keeps the art form (and its advocates) alive and well, even while the big boys are busy deciding what to blow up next.

12.17.2008

Batman, why I don't care about Batman, how I tried to care about Batman and how you don't care about how I didn't and then tried to care about Batman.


Batman is a man dressed in a black rubber bat suit fighting crime and stuff. Worst premise since Nazi surfers must die? Even the presence of Christian Bale really adds little to the credibility of this irrational holy sack of nut milk. It might be 'kinda cool'. The budget is big and gadgets are clever but it really isn't, is it?

Just to make sure it was the rest of the world that was wrong and not me, I went on a cigar waving investigation into my own opinion forming smooth noodle maps. Here it is for you to not read.

My issues really don't lie with the film in question so I'll back off before Kadas and Scott form an alliance (leaving me in possible danger of complete character assassination). Dark Knight is clearly a decent movie. What really leaves me conflicted is omnipresent with the genre. The very nature of sci-fi/fantasy means you can explain ANYTHING away. This makes writers squat over their typewriters and piece together the smudges of crap in the redraft. This isn't necessarily strict to the sci-fi genre. Just watch Quantum of Solace to see a sick bag of unnecessary effects and coerced action sequences hurriedly explained away with pseudo science. It's a very thin line to tread.

Not to mention (well…here comes a mention) nearly every sci-fi story is a rip-off, even the good ones. It has become urban myth that the first Alien project was pitched with the concept 'Jaws in space' but it's absolutely true. Most sci-fi films today are guaranteed to make their money back whatever. Cue more lazy writing.

I think back to my childhood. A good Sci-Fi or Fantasy adventure is every kids dream come movie. Who can remember being absorbed into the fantastical spandex codpiece that is Jim Henson's Labyrinth for the first time? The uber-camp spectacle of Flash Gordon (1980), the weird robot romance of Short Circuit and the Tolkeinesque dwarf tossing Willow? These are the films that make a childhood.
The problem I found as I got older (on my journey towards the pinnacle of mid twenties overweight neurotic checkout boy I am today) was that a lot of these films had no basis in reality. I simply can't suspend my disbelief that easily anymore. Everything became a joke.
I found I could continue to deny the real world well into my teens with the help of some r18 lovelies. The dark nightmare that was Terminator, Alien, the (1st) Matrix. These films at least referenced our world as we know it. What next? A slew of mediocre at best comic book movies. The League of extraordinary gentlemen? Must try harder.

By the time Lord of the rings came out I'd pretty much had enough.

Here are a few reasons to hate Sci-Fi/Fantasy:

I'm not sure when it was decided that funny collar = future! But when genre conventions become clichés it's time to rethink. So why the hell are people still wearing Sci-Fi jackets?

The most hateable lead actors in the galaxy?

"Duuuude!" Keanu Reaves in The Matrix can surely only be outdone by the epic super douche that is Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. Closely followed by the distracting smugness of Emile Hirsch in Speed Racer. That film needed rescuing instead it got the final nail in the coffin. Anyone remember Shyamalans cameo in The Village? That actually made me cough up what can only be described as faecal matter into my popcorn. I still ate it.

And finally, the fans.



I get nostalgic and miss the good old days. I just want to be entertained sometimes damn you. Sci-Fi/Fantasy films make you excited and disappointed on levels at which only a naïve child should be excused. But isn't this part of the fun of movies?

I have recently started to reconciliate with Sci Fi. I spent the last 8 hours watching Joss Whedons Firefly and have been thouroughly entertained.

For anyone that wants a sci-fi that really is down to earth, watch the awesome Primer.

This is as gritty and real as the genre gets. It won't take you on the highs and lows of 'T2' or make you lose a dougan like 'Robocop', but it has such a feel as to really get you to rethink the whole genre.

I feel guilty, I've been a snob. I've let a few bad apples spoil my fun.

Imagine me, stumbling in the desert, tattered and torn and on my last legs. Arms outstretched imploring the giant vagina-mouthed brain in a jar from Dune, "Please Sci fi/Fantasy, please have me back! I am sorry I generalised and mocked you, I was wrong. I just want to watch 300 and get psyched before paintball. Will you take me back?"
She holds me close, I wipe a tear from my cheek and close my eyes. I'm home.

So, When is The Watchmen coming out?

12.15.2008

takin' notes West enders?

For future reference,
-Howl's Moving Castle does not go into the Sci-Fi section. It goes into the Miyazaki section.
-Le Divorce is not a French film. Although the "Le" can probably screw you up. I thought the cover with Naomi Watts and Kate Hudson was a wee bit of a giveaway.
-Le Gai Savior does not belong in the Queer section. I know the title probably helped in that fumble but it does in fact go in the Jean-Luc Godard section.

East End don't play that way

12.13.2008

I'm not sure I'll be able to make it in Scott


From Kendall's email this afternoon...

Scott,

I have some bad news to warn you about... last night I slipped on some ice and landed on my side pretty badly, I thought I might have broken my ribs but I went to the hospital this morning for x-rays and apparently i just banged them up real good. I've been given some percocets and stuff for the pain, but the pain is definitely there. I think that since it's not broken, and with the aid of pharmaceuticals, I should be fine for my shift on wednesday (though possibly useless on ice cream). I am hoping that today's pain will be the worst, but I just wanted to give you a heads up and wanr you that I may be rather slow for the next week or two.

Please also excuse any typos - I am typing with one hand because when I got home from the hospital I managed to slice a chunk of my finger off on a soup can. I bet you just can't wait to have my klutzy presence in your store! I'm such a disaster, you'd better have me over for drinks soon before it's too late.

K

Paranoid Park (2007)

Two words: Severed Corpse. No, not the GWAR song, but what is ostensibly the crux of Gus Van Sant's pre-Milk effort, Paranoid Park. What Van Sant is really interested in here, though, are not the gory details (and they are surprisingly VERY gory) of the death, around which everything in the film revolves, but once again, the faces, backs and showering bodies of high school teens. Not as creepy as it sounds. In PP, he mines the same territory and style he explored in the superb Elephant and underrated Last Days, though Van Tarr gets a bit lost in this one. I don't know if it's the script, or the oft-horrendous non-actors' acting, but the film feels a bit flimsy. As usual the cinematography is soul-crushingly gorgeous, and there are some beautiful instances of soundtrack and film meshing synchronicitously (probably not a word). But overall, fans of the director will probably feel cheated by the threadbare plot and what feels like two movies in one: the first half's experimental-film feel cut with grainy super-8 slo-mo footage of skaters riding "Paranoid Park" (actually Portland's Burnside, and what are seemingly outtakes from Fruit of the Vine, Northwest, and Tent City); and the second half, which focuses more on the murder mystery, the implications of which are sadly hard to care about. If he had have picked one side and ran with it, there could have been an excellent film in there; as it stands, Van Sant has made a mildly interesting, but frustratingly flawed one.

12.12.2008

Dear Lord! - It's a shite avalanche!....

The releases for the next couple of week…

Burn Before Reading
House Bunny
Mamma Mia!
Death Race
The Women
Hamlet 2
The Mummy: Tomb of the Undead Dragon
Emperor of Bloody Sand Storm Death Part 7
Cheetah Girls (..and this sounded so promising)

Maybe we should look at that KRK order again with fresh eyes Joe. What the hell am I going to watch over Christmas?

12.11.2008

Toronto.... currently in production

For those of us interested in 'the industry' (anyone?), here's a link to the Toronto Film and Television Office website:

HERE!

This list shows all the current productions in the GTA. If you want to know what's going on, everything from Romeros new 'Blank of the dead' to Flashpoint to the latest crap Bell commercial is on here. Word has it that Britarded director Edgar Wright of Sean of the dead and the massively overrated Hot fuzz is set to shoot his next feature here in the summer. T'ronners still got it.


Two from Bob Clark...and a poll!

Stumbled across this article by Lee Ferguson earlier today on the CBC website and thought it nicely sums up two perennial favourites from the late, great Bob Clark - killed, along with his son, by a drunk driver in 2007. I'll honour his memory by watching at least one of the two (Black Christmas, which I do every year) in the next couple weeks. On a related note, I'm thinking of starting an I Love Margot Kidder campaign - Olivia Hussey's nice, but Margot....oh, Margot....

Oh, for the first time ever (not sure if it's going to work) I'm adding a poll on the sidebar. Vote early, vote often, and leave any additional remarks/films you think are unfairly excluded/included in the comments. You can vote for as many as you wish. It's going to be mad dope.

Sean of the Dead.

It turns out that Canfield isn't mad at us afterall Joe. Whew! He is still hung over and has no recollection of how he got home Sunday night/Monday morning. I mistook his absolute silence these last 3 days as another one of those "Sean's mad about some slight he perceived someone (normally me) tossed his way". It turns out he's just a big baby who can't handle 27 shots of bourbon and 15 beers. Creampuff.

Jenny G mentioned earlier today that Canfield was probably totally pissed with her too - although she can't remember what nasty things she said to him. He doesn't even remember talking to her, but I could almost swear that they were sitting on the sofa completely engaged in conversation for about 20 minutes.

Had I known he was as bombed as he was, I would have sent him home with 3 Thai transvestites, a jar of mayonnaise and a camcorder - just like we did with Ben last Xmas.

Missed opportunities.

Damn.

12.10.2008

Lives Of yo mOthers



I finally got around to watching The Lives of Others the other night. Since i was first hired at the Buff it had always been on my list.

When i first started working it was a one night rental and my coworkers and friends (trust, i keep the two groups as separated as possible) couldn't shut up about it.

Now here's my two cents. Excellent film. I mean superb stuff hands down.

It was funny though, I was thinking, as the film started noise diving towards the tear jerking finale, that this is the first German film I've seen in a long while where no one has died tragically. By the looks of things at that point, it looked like things were going to work out alright for everyone.

Just as that thought was given enough time to process some character ups and dies. In a ridiculously tragic way.

What's the deal Germany!? What, like the film wasn't already dealing with enough tragic subject matter!? Why you gotta go and break everyone's heart? You're on thin ice Germany!

Sure the academy will love you for it but it gets my panties in an uproar. It just annoys me. It isn't subtle what you're doing Germany, you can't just up the emotional tone of your already highly emotional films with death and expect the world to applaud you forever! a day is gonna come Germany, where your awesome technos and Ramsteins will revolt and nu rave German cinema will take off. Where no one dies tragically for no reason, where the heart of your pictures will focus on blond fat kids who eat chocolate and get stuck in suction tubes... Augustus Gloop was German right?

Anyways, just like how i felt with Funny Games, L.O.O. is almost an amazing picture.

The film tries to up the ante on your constitution by throwing some tragedy in your eyes but guess what? I DON'T CARE.

I have a friend who said while he was working at a movie theater he would always catch the tragic death as he was getting ready to clean up and open the doors while Lives of Others was playing. And he would shed a tear every time.
The only time my heart strings were pulled was the closing line of the picture. Which really was a beaut. But the tragic death? c'mon, just nonsense.

minus that arrow shooting straight for your heart this film was a cinematic Tijuana donkey show... in a good way.

12.09.2008

Hand on, Hand off - Dropkick soars with Hancock


Hancock is just flying off the shelves and with a recommendation from the big boss himself i decided to check out what all the huff was about.

The idea was totally my cup of whiskey soda; A superhero who, while trying his best to help people, falls out of the public's good graces and tries his best to become great again. I won't hide the fact that i'm a comic book geek or that i get all sweaty over big budget summer blockbusters. Cause i do' and that's what makes me so sexy. so the mix of big budget/real superhero/Will Smith had me skipping home to watch this.

It's impossible in our day and age to not hear a peep on a film. You will always, no matter how hard you try not to, read a review in a paper or have one of your friends go on about it and how good or crap is was. Especially as a film store employee you are privileged enough to hear a small review from customers upon any certain film's return. They'll toss you the DVD across the counter and say something like "fantastic" or "not bad" or "you should destroy it".

For Hancock i heard mostly less favorable things on it. Most customers just shrugged their shoulders at it; which only increased my curiosity on the picture.

Hancock isn't a bad movie but it's a flawed one for sure. The first half hour of the film was pretty much what I expected. An angry at the world Superhero who tries his best to help but can't help being a miserable drunken asshole. That scenario in itself is worth a dozen movies, not just half a hour of one. The titular hero saves the life of an unsuccessful (although you wouldn't be able to tell that from his house) PR man (played by Jason Bateman most recognized by today's' youth as Michael Bluth from Arrested Development who plays the same character here as well but best known to the oldies as Teen Wolf Too!) who takes it on himself to clean up Hancocks' image in exchange for saving his life. Image clean up detail includes going to rehab for drinking, anger management and prison which wraps up the films enjoyable first hour.

I had read a few places and heard from the lips of the peoples who be living on the streets that there was some convoluted twist that would have you running for the hills. While not as drastic a twist as seen in Danny Boyle's Sunshine, it is still a twist.

But since i was ready for it i actually kind of guessed it. And it's not even that much of a twist.. it's more of a shout. and just complicates things.

My problem with Hancock is that it has no real beginning or end. It felt like scenes from a second and third film of a solid superhero trilogy. It's a film that demands a prequel before the inevitable sequel. A sequel would be boring. I mean.. why can't Hollywood deliver on the goods sometimes? why can't we have a movie where people suck? where a superhero played by Will Smith is a drunk asshole who hates people. That's a movie with something to say.

This movie just says "hey, I'm entertaining rent me on a weekend night and enjoy me. Watch me with popcorn or whatever it is you like to put in your mouth while watching a flick. I'm dumb, let me wash over you. Let me take advantage of your wasted time."

but all in all, it was fun and funny. check it if you're waaaay too awesome.. like me.

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia or Seinfeld shared a crack pipe with Arrested Development



It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia is hands down the best show on television at the moment. It's the next Freaks and Geeks, it's the next Arrested Development, god damn this is the next MASH.

The show has just wrapped up it's 4th season on air, the Film Buff currently has seasons 1-3 on DVD.

IASIP revolves around 3 best friends Dennis, Mac, and Charlie who all own a bar in Philly. Dennis' sister, affectionately named Sweet Dee, works at the bar as well. For the first season these are the only main characters playing off each other with the same chemistry the Seinfeld gang had.
In season 2 Danny Devito joins the cast as Dennis and Dee's father which mixes things up a bit.

Sunny in Philly plays like Seinfeld on crack. Every character is completely self obsessed, narcissistic, and just plain rude. The basic idea of every episode is to see the gang in a new predicament. The titles of each episode explain what the gang will be getting up to for the next half hour. The episode titles themselves are usually the opening joke to any given episode as every episode opens with a quick 2-3 minute scene that cuts to the title of the episode and then the series' opening title sequence which is shot around Philly completely at night. Such episode titles include The Gang Gets Racist, The Gang Runs for Office, The Gang Goes Jihad, The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby, The Gang Solves the North Korea Situation, and one of my personal faves The Gang Dances Their Asses Off.

Although this formula is sometimes played with, using titles like Charlie Got Molested, Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody's Ass, Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire, Dennis Looks Like a Registered Sex Offender, and Mac Bangs Dennis' Mom.

Laughing this hard is criminal. I was bent over crying my eyes out while my roommate was shooting white wine from her nose. it was a scene to behold.
Anyways, Sunny in Philly, is incredibly funny, exceptionally written satire that is some of the best freshest comedy around North America today.

This comes highly recommended. The first 3 seasons, although devoured in mere days, have been dancing a tango in my dvd player. It's constantly playing around the house. I noticed today on my way out that it was playing, and no one was in my room watching it, so i left anyways. very entertaining stuff, check it out.

12.08.2008

My Head Hurts....

The quiet solitude of Casa Segredos was shattered last night. Crews surveyed the wreckage this morning searching for traces of a small piglet who became disoriented and accidentally wandered into the Wallace and Lansdowne speakeasy early last evening.

It was horrifying” said one bald, vegetarian, bass-playing, computer programmer attendee, who wished to remain anonymous, “They literally tore it limb from limb and devoured it in seconds flat. They were like fucking locusts

A Toronto Humane Society supervisor, evidently shaken from what he'd seen inside said, “It was obviously a bloodbath. I'm sickened by what happened in there. Several local chickens have also gone missing and we believe there may a connection.”

Police discovered hundreds of dead brown soldiers after they raided the notoriously private Segredos complex early Monday morning.

“A massacre”, was how one officer described it, “Things obviously got out of hand. The bathroom was flooded several times even though a sign above one of the urinals clearly stated that the water needed to be turned off.” “These animals obviously can't read”, added another.

Segredos (Portuguese for secret place) owner, a slightly tubby man known only as La Sporgenza was quickly ushered away in handcuffs into a waiting cruiser by officers this morning. He spoke only briefly to reporters suggesting that the real ringleader was, “Reed! - it's Joe Reed you want... and the Colombian!” before police tazered him repeatedly, tossed him into the back seat and sped away.

Investigations by various law enforcement agencies into what exactly happened Sunday night continue. A city-wide manhunt for one Joseph Reed of Toronto is currently underway. Immigration officials suggested in a news conference that Mr. Sporgenza is cooperating in their search for several U.K. illegals also thought to have been in attendance. The mysterious Colombian however, remains at large.

12.06.2008

The Dark Knight Viewing #2

I rewatched The Dark Knight tonight and was struck by how different the film feels on a second viewing. I think I liked it more this pass. The film felt less uneven and more cohesive than it did the first time and while its flaws are still evident, as comic book movies go, it's an interesting accomplishment. The Dark Knight and another comic book movie, Iron Man, occupy the top 2 box office positions for 2008 and notwithstanding their common origin (comics) and oddly similar alter egos (both single, billionaire business men by day and costumed vigilantes relying on technologically enhanced suits by night), the differences between the two films are significant. Crime, anarchy and chaos rule Gotham and Batman brings justice and vengeance to what is in essence an isolated and decaying urban island. Iron Man's world, by contrast, is a military one. Tony Stark is a weapons developer and manufacturer and war is his business. Iron Man is thusly engaged on a wider (or at least less specifically definable) stage. These differences in scope define and help place Batman and Iron Man in their respective corners. I wrote in a previous post that the politics of Iron Man troubled me. I felt the film was all-too-much a rallying cry for the Bush Doctrine and while I think director Jon Favreau got a lot right, he missed the boat entirely on the politics and cardboard bad guy front.

So it comes down to this: The Dark Knight is an urban movie, about urban issues of crime and anarchy with Gotham standing in for New York while Iron Man is a national movie, about America's role in world affairs. I don't mean to say that these films are exclusively about these matters but their respective setting and story lines do split relatively cleanly across the city/nation divide. The Dark Knight is a relentlessly bleak dissertation of the state of urban society. Writer/Director Chris Nolan explores and expands the concept of the “hero” to a far greater degree than does Favreau in Iron Man. I read a fascinating book about heroic figures recently that said among other things; “Heroes don't have to be good, they have to be great.” and “Heroes rise to the occasion when they are needed. A healthy society does not require them”. Bruce Wayne/Batman fully meets this criteria whereas I'm not so sure if Tony Stark/Iron Man isn't merely an extension of the military and therefore less a hero and more a soldier.

Kadas made the comment that The Dark Knight is more a crime movie than anything else and on this second viewing, I'm tempted to agree with him. It's head and shoulders more complex than Iron Man and I think a much better film. It'll be interesting to see where each franchise goes in subsequent films and how their success will effect the portrayal of other superheros down the road.

12.05.2008

Joe's Restricted Comments on Britarded's Post

So I'm going to add mine here.

Good post Tom. While not exactly a film thread I wanted to draw a line from 1) my request to provide a few reviews for the year end flyer, to 2) Kadas answering back that he would do 8 reviews (seemed high to me at the time, but so does Kris), to 3) Zero (nada) reviews actually coming from Kris, to 4) Kris's yearly Xmas bonus calculation = 1 pay period (x) the number of reviews provided for the year end flyer. Maybe if you're short (of money) at Christmas Kris you could borrow some from Kendall (4 reviews AND she's in England) or Joe (5 reviews) or even Nick (2 reviews AND wasted on red wine most of the time).

See how the thread goes there little buddy?

Sporgey.

11.30.2008

Threads

Hi everyone. I can't really manage more than 3 sentences on any one film, so no wordy critiques from me for now. I think I take after my mum, she can't manage more than 2 to 3 words on a film review but for me it's just as accurate. For example, here is what she said about Danny Boyles 'Sunshine'.

"Sunshine? Don't bother." - Linda Rochester 2008

Amazing I know.

We all know from experience that the majority of films are okay at best. My glass is half empty but it seems you can polish a turd after all. That's why we do marathons, it makes the most of the 'world' within the film and the characters become really well established. It's immersive even if it's not all that.

We've all done the sequels sessions, The Terminators, Aliens, Back to the future, Matrices and even Lord of the wasted 9 hours. I think me and Kris might get some smack and pringles and do the robocops soon. I'm saving the mind alterers for part 3. It's practically self-flagellation, I don't know why we do it but we do.

Then there's the directors marathons. Tarantino, Fincher, Wes Anderson and the Coens all offer pretty hellishly good weekend escapes. As if that's not enough these pesky TV series are getting quite distracting, no? I still haven't found a spare month to get started on The Wire but that black hole is an inevitable destination I will find myself and Mr. Noodle cosily snuggled up in sometime soon.

Ultimately though, the shows get cancelled and we're left feeling empty and for all of our time what do we have to show for it? We were entertained? This is where documentaries and biopics come in and can really broaden us, get us to experience another reality and generally educate us. We can travel and see things we would never see. Sure, it's all to be taken with a pinch of salt. It's movies. The fun really begins when you get on the end of one of these what I will call 'threads'.
That's a little film journey, a bunch of films connected in one or a variety of ways. Some obscure, some less so. I'd love to hear about your journeys and the links that carved out your path. I would even follow in your footsteps my brave pioneers! Here are a few of my recent wanderings.

Joy Division (documentary) -> 24 Hour Party People -> Control

If you give a nugget about music you should enjoy this little sesh. Choose your own order, you could call it a New Order if you like. Turbopuns! I'd watch the good vibes of '24 hour..' last actually. This lot can't really fail to entertain and inform and you get three looks at the same people and places that created the Manchester 'scene' at that time. Go get Madchestered. Dope!



My kid could paint that -> Who the f**k is Jackson Pollock -> Pollock -> Paintball next month

Vaguely related in the realm of splattered paint 'My Kid...' (documentary) is the story of Marla Olmstead, an apparent child prodigy who's paintings start to gain real interest in the art world. The tone quickly becomes teeth grindingly awkward as rumours that Marlas father has 'manipulated' her paintings start to hold some water. Eeek.

'Who the...' (documentary) doesn't feature the big J.P. at all but is the rather amusing and semi-tragic tale of a middle aged lady truckdriver who once bought a $5 painting at a thrift store in her home state of California. Turns out it might be a genuine Pollock and she heads out to get the painting authenticated. At the end of the film she has some evidence to support her claims but still no certificate, she is offered $9 million for the painting and turns it down. Mental. TRIVIA TIME! This is the same painting that was displayed in a gallery in The Beach in Torontos far superior east end this week and someone tried to rob it. The saga continues.

Pollock (2000) was Ed Harris' directorial debut and aswell as playing the big grump himself I must say it is a fair effort. It is an engaging and sad portrait of the man and his work and I really enjoyed this film.

I was so inspired by all this throwing pigments about that next month I am going paintballing for my birthday, you should come. I can't wait to shoot Joe til he screams like a macaque monkey on hot sand.



Next...
Overnight -> The Boondock Saints -> (Upon Release)All Saints day

I totally missed '...Saints'. when it was first released so watched it recently after first checking out 'Overnight'. This is the documentary following Troy Duffy the writer/director of the movie in question beginning at the point he has sold his first screenplay to Miramax. Sounds like a dream come true but this film demonstrates the galactic ego of Mr Duffy and his subsequent decline in Hollywood. It's amazing and painful to watch. It gets to the point of him basically getting run out of town and he eventually made it to Toronto to shoot the movie.
It's become a bit of a cult classic and you can kind of see why. The standout performance comes from Willem Dafoe as closet homocop super detective Smecker and a strangely memorable performance from David Della Rocco as 'The Funnyman', anyone seen him since? The sequel is currently shooting around Toronto and due sometime in 2009. I'll be there with crossed fingers.



Some future threads to look out for?
- Operation Valkyrie: The Stauffenberg Plot (Docu) -> Valkyrie (The movie!)
- The Life and times of Harvey Milk (Docu) -> Milk (Gus Van Sants promising new Penn driven nugget)

See you soon, Tom over t' east an that.

11.29.2008

What's Happenin' My Manalan?

The Happening

2008 might become to be known as a year renowned for a re-birth in (North!) American environmental consciousness with the victory of president elect Barack Obama, who has made no secret of his plans to mitigate the tax breaks given to Shell oil and other world-destroying international conglomerates, and the national recognition of ‘global warming (warnings?)’ as a legitimate cause. M. Night Shamanana pays lip service to the movement with his film The Happening. Perhaps it was his intention to become Hollywood’s token ‘we’re so progressive on social issues’ movie of the year (re: ‘Crash’). This film, however, will be remembered, at best, as Sarah Palin’s principal information source for her comments on global warming. It takes the 'Al' out of 'Al Gore'. The film pivots from Mark Wahlberg’s performance, who suffers from ‘lost child syndrome’ the entire time, always confused and posing line after line of dialogue as questions. But you can’t blame the guy or the character he plays, when the movie is absent of any plot-line or meaning; his confusion mirrors the viewers as they both realize there’s no content here at all. Not even the legendary ‘Shammy Twist’ at the end! Basically what ‘happens’ is 91 minutes of people committing mass-suicide because the earth has had it with the humans. Early in the film, when a seriously cracked out green-house hermit man talks about plants talking to each other and defending themselves, I 'naturally' dismissed him as a token ‘crazy country bumpkin’ type. But he is the prophet here; the ‘environment’ systematically breaks into human craniums and presses the ‘self-destruct’ button hidden in the depths of all our brains. If your searching for a top five selection for a movie to appear in subsequent episodes of ‘Mystery Science Theater 6000’ here’s your man; if you’re looking for anything else look far, far away.

11.28.2008

Zeitgeist: Addendum (2008)

This movie had loads of interest and requests at the store this summer. I've finally sat down to watch it today and I have to wonder if the interest stems from genuine belief and interest in the ideas that the documentary proposes, or if it's simply because the film is anti-Christianity/war/America-in-general, all that stuff we just love to hate.
I enjoyed the first chapter of the film, which discusses the Jesus myth in relation to pagan religions, and more fascinatingly (to me) how the story of Jesus might just be a personification of phenomenon regarding the sun, constellations and the equinox. It is a very fascination proposition and was presented very tangibly, however, it was also presented as fact. The film completely ignores the possibility of any other explanation of the Christian religion, and, more importantly when discussing how religion effects politics, it completely ignores the importance of why Christianity rules the nation, the history of the church itself rather than the religion. Choosing instead to focus on the stupidity of belief in Jesus, rather than discussing the much more prevalent point of belief in the church, two things which, although intimately connected, are not at all one in the same. This was somewhat of a running motif with this movie - using very understandable visuals and presenting information as absolute fact so that the story it tells is quite compelling when truthfully the way in which the film presents evidence is just as deceptive as the people are of the groups and actions it is obviously against.
The historical aspects of the film are interesting. The creator does well to give historical information, much of which I admit that I did not know, that itself is quite interesting and does, in fact have connection with the modern events he is discussing. However, the modern issues which it addresses are presented biasedly, to say the least. Skimming over details and never addressing any counter-arguments would never fly in an academic paper, I don't see why, just because something is on film and not paper, it should be passable in this instance. And I don't see how, morally, making a film in this deceptive manner makes someone any better than a government who the creator claims does the same thing, and that he is so abhorrently against.

11.19.2008

Antonio Gaudi (1984)

The last two years have been very good to Japanese art-house darling Hiroshi Teshigahara. Unfortunately, he's been dead for the last eight.

Until July of 2007, the name Hiroshi Teshigahara meant nothing to me. However, that month Criterion released a superb trilogy of films (Face of Another, Woman in the Dunes, Pitfall) by the Japanese director. It was then that I realized what I had been missing. I watched the three films rabidly and pored over the special features and the bonus disc included in the set. Still, I wanted more.

In March of this year, Criterion again stepped up to bat and released another long out of print Teshigahara classic, Antonio Gaudi. While not as essential a work as the former three, it is nonetheless a playful and contemplative film that does justice to both Gaudi's sculpture and architecture, but also - and perhaps more pointedly - it distills Teshigahara's filmic vision down to its essence.

In viewing this film, I realized that this was the perfect pairing of director and subject, however unlikely that may seem for those familiar with both artists' work. Although Teshigahara and Gaudi reside at opposite stylistic poles, and come from incredibly different artistic backgrounds, the clinical - not cold - eye of the director lingers over the sensual, simultaneously earthy and alien forms of the architect, and we feel that we are exploring new ground. The long takes and slow pans that Teshigahara employs force the viewer to see what the director wants us to see - perhaps the perfect example of the power of cinema to hold and arrest the gaze of the audience. Teshigahara approaches the works of Gaudi with a reverential eye, and not only highlights the stunning forms, but also goes on to create his own sort of art. By showing in close up the sinewy and undulating forms of Gaudi's work, he removes them from their immediate context and renders them abstract, forcing us to reconsider not only what we are seeing directly on screen, but its place within the larger work.

Teshigahara's preference for narrating a film with imagery rather than dialogue is again on display here. In fact, the few brief instances of a character speaking in the film are rather jarring. The end goal of both architect and filmmaker is to speak through images and forms, light and shadow, solid and void - in this sense, Teshigahara, like Gaudi, succeeds wonderfully. And by contrasting certain scenes at the film's outset - Spain's deeply religious rooting is shown through church frescoes and sculptures, and Spaniards dancing in the town square, eating, working, dealing in the market and generally going about their daily lives shows the secular way of life - Teshigahara effectively describes a cultural background rich in both the sacred and the profane, the cultural background which deeply influenced the work of Gaudi.

Throughout Antonio Gaudi, we see many recurring visual motifs, such as the spiraling, shifting, snaking shapes that so entranced Teshigahara as well as the entomologist (played by Eiji Okada) in Woman in the Dunes. The director seems genuinely captivated by the architecture as would be any tourist, and even though we have seen the buildings before, whether in pictures or on-site, Teshigahara's wonder of discovery translates beautifully and we feel as if we are seeing Gaudi for the first time. Teshigahara's is a foreign eye discovering and revelling in the forms that surround him. If you also keep in mind the difference of the Japanese and Spanish artistic traditions, Teshigahara's austere, minimalist filmmaking compostions layered over Gaudi's everything-in-the-mix aesthetic is all the more impressive. Imagine John Cage or Philip Glass recording an album of Beck songs and you see where this could have gone terribly wrong.

And speaking of music (what a segue), the film's otherworldly score that sounds like it could have been created by Herzog faves Popul Vuh mixes with classical compositions to set up the works on display. There is often a sense that we are being taken on a guided tour of a spaceship, or through one of the many rooms in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.

I began wondering, about 60 hypnotic and awe-filled minutes into the film, why exactly is it that we are drawn to architecture? Not only Gaudi, but, to use an example with more currency and relevance to us, why have the newly finished ROM and AGO structures caused so much hoopla in town? Is it the superstar architects themselves? Is it simply that we like to look at pretty things, and consequently feel better about ourselves for living in a more "beautiful" city? Bragging rights? I came to realize that Gaudi's work, and as the utmost extension of that, architecture, sculpture and art, allow me, personally, to see and touch mankind's capacity for creation and desire to dream. In gazing upon these finished structures, these living dreams, we can see and feel those fleeting intangibles, the manifestion of which eludes all but a tiny portion of us. Teshigahara's film allowed me to realize that, and I am grateful for the experience.

11.18.2008

Going down? (the rabbit hole?) Dropkick gets stuck in Elevator Movie



Elevator Movie is the directorial debut from Zeb Haradon. A film about two people trapped in an elevator.

yep.

that's it.



Elevator movie starts as an awkward character comedy shot in black and white with absolutely no budget. A perverted man and a recently born again Christian woman find themselves stuck in an elevator. Soon after finding that pressing the buttons over and over, using the intercom, and trying to pry the doors open results in nothing but frustration they decide to accept their fates until help must eventually show up. Luckily the woman was on her way home from the grocery store so they have supplies to last. After a few hours they decide to open up the coffee grounds and use the can as a lavatory.
Still, the hours pass and they soon realize they'll have to sleep in the elevator. The two wake up to find the food they had eaten the day before has been replenished in the grocery bag. Even the coffee grounds are now sealed away in the tin they had been using for their personal wastes.

This is where the film starts to smirk at you and slowly draws you in closer and closer until you can't breath.
If you are claustrophobic i wouldn't recommend this film. It's all shot in the confines of the elevator and the black and white film really adds to making you feel trapped inside that space.
Several times during the film i would blink my eyes and shake my head as if coming out of some hypnotic trance, it felt like I was there too with these two silently observing.

The film is an awkwardly dialogue driven comedy but when you finally give into the picture and its characters that is same moment when you start to notice the cable above you is being cut slowly.



The film free falls into the surreal and you're unable to shake out of it. Like a bad dream everything loses itself and becomes irrational. You look to the people around you to acknowledge the madness but they don't. They go along with every illogical event shaping around you and that's when you're truly trapped in that elevator.

People looking for a new Eraserhead or a polished independent comedy will have to take the stairs. This is less-than-no budget film making done right. The sound, editing, and even the acting will keep most from being able to enjoy this.

I gave this one a good day to sink in before making up my mind on it, but i think i knew this one was something special when during the hilarious ending moments of the film my brain jolted and i jumped up clapping. It seems that a few months ago i had dreamnt the ending of Elevator Movie. It was a happy but frightening moment that pushed me further into the belief that the film had a hex on me.

Debut directorial efforts like Zeb Haradon (who also wrote and acts as the man trapped in the elevator) gives us here is rare nowadays. This one may go unnoticed doomed to rot in the obscurity of other independent surreal films, but hopefully with a little luck this picture can pick up steam so we can see more efforts by Zeb. I would put this one beside The American Astronaut which is quickly becoming a cult classic right before our Film Buffed eyes, if it's not already considered one. Recommended and we don't stop, from the window to the wall, we be representin' and recommendin' fools!

good day old sports, K-PAX

Red (2008)

What a surprise this film was. I first picked up Red because I have great respect and admiration for Brian Cox and I also noticed that it has the curious distinction of being birected by Trygve Allister Diesen (?) and Lucky McKee (see what I did there?), whose May, Sick Girl and, to a lesser extent, The Woods, are, to me, three genre standouts from the past half dozen years.

Showing the same kind of sensitivity to his lead character as he had done in May, McKee really creates empathy for Cox's Avery Ludlow, an aging widower who simply wants to finish off his life enjoying the few simple pleasures he has left - his house, his general store, and his old dog, Red. All that changes one fateful day down at the ol' fishin' hole; Avery is enjoying a serene day by the water when three boys appear out of the woods, carrying with them a sense of unease and growing menace. For no good reason, the most petulant and brash of the boys fatally shoots Red. Ludlow is shattered, and soon after does some simple detective work and tracks down the boy, goes to his home and tells his father the gruesome details of the killing. The father and local rich guy Mr. McCormack (Tom Sizemore) assholishly disbelieves the story, and after asking his son Danny a few questions to which snide answers are given, dismisses Ludlow's claims as fiction.

With that as a starting point, the film begins to explore some fairly weighty issues, including vengeance, justice, the nature of truth, and how quickly things can spiral out of control when reasonable and rational human interaction is thrown by the wayside.

While some of the scenes suffer from local-theatre-company level acting, what really carries the film is the terrific script (based on the novel by Jack Ketchum, who has seen films adapted from two of his other novels - the brutal The Lost, and the harrowing and tough to watch The Girl Next Door) and Cox's stellar performance. The film really is kind of a one man show, a character study, and Cox delivers a terrifically subtle, nuanced, and heartbreaking performance. I find if my emotional reaction to a character is simply centred around one feeling, then the character is a sketch rather than a portrait. In this case, I felt only hatred toward Sizemore and Noel Fisher's despicable like-father/like-son duo. Unfortunately, these characterizations are closer to caricature than archetype, but they do serve a purpose - they set up the layered performance by Cox, giving him a framework in which to respond and react. Cox's seven minute monologue in which he describes one terrifying night which lead to the dissolution of his family is nothing short of riveting.

Even the film's title, Red, has many layers. Ostensibly about the slaughtered dog, the title also references the bloodshed throughout the film and the blind rage that motivates many of the characters' actions. The theme is also formally reinforced, as many of the fades in the film are not fades to black, but to blood red.

A simple, unobtrusive rustic acoustic score also punctuates scenes of harmony and violence, and the interplay between how the music works with each is intriguing.

Also look for a small role by Robert Englund, who seems to be in every genre film these days. Talk about a major career renaissance...kind of.

The film also appealed to me on a personal level - just when I was ready to give in, I heard Ludlow claim something to the effect of "never stop fighting, because the second you do, that's when the world rolls right over on you". I realized then and there that my daily battles with double wide strollers, farting/barking dogs, screaming minitards, and spaced out parents whose surface zen belies the tortorous innerquisiting "why, oh why didn't he pull out early?" - all within the confines of a video store, mind you - are not in vain...never, ever let the spark die.

Red is a small film, one that many will undoubtedly pass over in favour of bigger, more recognizable titles. Those that do skip Red, though, will be doing themselves a disservice. What we have here is an intelligent film that is both thought-provoking and a demands a visceral response in the viewer. Red is not a masterpiece, nor is it without flaw; but while it likely won't make many "Best of 2008" lists, it is, in my eyes, a minor gem that should not be missed.

11.17.2008

Dark Knight Review by Jonathan Lethem

Here's the link, in case you haven't already read it:
Lethem Dark Knight Review

11.13.2008

TransSiberian (2008)

It has been extremely exciting to watch Brad Anderson metamorphose from a fluffy RomCom meat-grinder into a full fledged "director" - one whose work has become, over the course of his last three films, more that of an auteur than that of a Hollywood also-ran. In the interest of full disclosure, no, I haven't seen Next Stop Wonderland or Happy Accidents, and while I'm sure they are charming films in their own right, they are not why I remain a fan of Anderson. However, his work on Session 9 (still one of the creepiest and most effective chillers of the past decade), the stark and cerebral The Machinist, and now, TransSiberian, shows incredible growth.

I can't seem to find any external reviews of TransSiberian without some kind of reference to Hitchcock, or to the film being "Hitchcockian", and while that may seem a bit of a stretch, it's not entirely off base - not to mention the fact that I twice slipped "cock" into the last sentence without anyone batting an eye.

The tension builds from the first frame, when we see Ben Kingsley, drawing more from his experiences with Jonathan Glazer than from those with Richard Attenborough. In fact, every character is superbly layered in this film, from Kingsley to Eduardo Noriega (reprising a much similar role to the one he played in Alejandro Amenabar's Tesis), to Woody Harrelson's totally wacky and hilarious country bumpkin-cum-jaded anti-hero Roy. There is no black and white here, just a whole lot of grey, resulting in the kind of moral combat in which a certain British director revelled...

So we come full circle, and while the student has yet to surpass the master, the vibe is definitely there and with each scene there is another turn of the screw. Finally, an "old school" adult thriller that refuses to pander to the audience or take the easy way out. Even after the seemingly tidy ending, this one keeps you guessing, and, as the best thrillers should, just slightly uneasy. As Kris is so fond of doing, I'll compare this to the spawn of a few other films - let's say a threesome between "A Simple Plan", "Midnight Express" and one of either "Silver Streak" or "Narrow Margin" (take your pick). Good show, and I look forward to seeing what Anderson does next.

10.31.2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Hallowe'en Part 14 - Kris watches Funny Games



so i watched funny games in the comfort of my bedroom, which many a lady can tell you is one comfortable place, alone with the lights off.

I think i may be sick.
i mean, in referring to a comment that Joe pointed out in his Martyrs review i came out of that flick calling it beautiful and that shit made funny games look like The Ref.

But at the end of that screening some one mentioned Funny Games and compared the two and i've had a number of friends tell me how fucked it is. How it made them all fucked up.

This was mostly boring and it was the original German version not that lame ass we're all pretty we're English version. What frightens me is that i didn't care at all. Maybe that shows that I'm desensitized to violence but i really didn't care. And i didn't get the mind fuck. It wasn't torture to watch, it was actually really easy to watch. It wasn't satisfying seeing people die, but i didn't care that they died. So a kid got shot. he was German! with blonde hair and blue eyes.. he had it coming.


oh and i found the bad guys very charismatic, like a sadistic unfunny abbott and costello.

man fuck this movie, and my head. i'm going trick or treating

10.29.2008

It's beginning to look a lot like halloween... part 13: 1980s Kinder Surprise Advert

As Scott proved in his Gumby post, sometimes the scariest videos of all are not the slasher films, the zombie flicks or the ghost stories...



10.27.2008

It's Beginning to look a lot like Hallowe'en.... Part 12: MURDER PARTY!!!!


Sometimes a film comes along and you think that it was made especially for you. It somehow tailors to everything you like. I got that feeling with Murder Party.

Murder Party is a comedy/horror and a damn fine one too. It's about a man named Chris (or Kris???) who on his way home on Hallowe'en, armed with candy corn and just rented horror flicks, finds an invitation on the ground to something called "Murder Party", the invitation stresses he should come alone. So, rather than stay in Kris bakes some pumkin bread, goggle maps the location of the party, and prepares his hallowe'en costume. When he arrives at the party which is in an abandon warehouse in Brooklyn, there are only 5 people there who take notice excitedly of him and knock him out whilst saying "welcome to your murder". When Kris comes to, he is tied and gagged to a chair observing the going ons around him.

These 5 people are part of a rogue art collective who are going to kill our hero in the name of art. Each of the 5 guests represent a different medium of the form, they are all competing for a grant from the host of Murder Party who arrives later.

The film is the most fun I've had since Speed Racer. It's smart and improvised humour. And the gore is bloody and disturbing. There might not be enough gore to quench the thirsts of the likes of Kendahali or Joe the ripper but the money shots that are here are well worth the price of admission.

The film some how manages to tribute my favourite horror films and non (the painter of an artist is a Baseball Fury from The Warriors which is just fucking frightening when shit hits the fan) and take a big steamer all over society's current idea of art - which i like to run my mouth off about on the day to day. Even though the film does tribute other horror films with the music and camera work it isn't a straight send up like Shaun of the Dead. This is wholly original and is a pure horror genre film that is a pure comedy genre film. It is it's own movie and it is absolutely fantastic.

Let's see.. this film is like.. reservoir dogs meets hostel and they didn't use protection so they had a kid who was Shaun of the dead but Shaun of the dead was really suppose to be a twin but it's twin became a tumour above it's right hip that you can barely make out as a little fetal child and they can't cut it off cause Shaun of the dead would die so Shaun of the dead lives with this thing but it starts to control him and that things name is Evil Dead 2. Evil Dead 2 makes Shaun of the dead kill a bunch of people and then kill himself and then detaches itself from Shaun and crawls across the subway tunnels into a good Christopher Guest film... or something.

Anyways, this is for the moment my #1 Hallowe'en film and i want to pop it in again and watch it over right now! oh dope maybe i will. You can rent this bad boy at the Film Bu...oh...


WWWAAAATTTTCCCCHHHH IIIIIIITTTTTTT

10.25.2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Hallowe'en...part 11: Mister Lonely

Okay so it isn’t a horror, but when the film centers around a commune where all it’s members are full time costume-donning imitators of pop figures present and past and live in a huge castle, I think it qualifies as being in the spirit of Hallows Eve. There’s even a creepy hanging at one point. The first hour or so of the movie are sidesplitting; with a classic scene of our Michael Jackson wanna be at an old folks home leading them in a call response of MJ yelps and ‘Never Die!’ and a great turn by Werner Herzog as an aero-priest. When we begin with Michael we see the smiles and laughter he can provoke in spectators, but it soon becomes clear that he cannot build nor sustain any meaningful relationships; when asked if he likes Paris he replies “no, not really”. Once surrounded by fellow fake-celebs he finds it easier to open up, etc. as the place really functions as a big support group, hidden away in ‘the highlands’ away from the general public. The commune of impersonators in action is something to be seen; a unique perspective on the effects of popular culture. The emphasis on aesthetic by big media, the glorification of image and so on, has made this cast of misfits completely uncomfortable in their own skin and their appearances, so much so that they only have confidence when they imitate figures whose narratives have already been established, whose identities are fully formed and are instantly recognizable to the general public. The strongest scenes of the film are the slow, hard, pastoral duties shouldered by recognizable symbols of wealth and glory; such as a potty mouthed Abe Lincoln, screaming profanities at James Dean and Sammy Davis Jr. to guide the sheep “down the fucking hill!’ back into their pen. While the film is slightly uneven in the closing half hour or so, and rushes towards a resolution, it never loses its bittersweet effectiveness. Fairly strong performances all around, and while Werner Herzog and his nuns might seem added-on at the last minute, I loved every minute of it. It’s quickly becoming my favourite 'dramedy' since The Royal Tenenbaums. So if you need a break from horror but don’t want to lose the halloween spirit, I urge you to check it out.

10.23.2008

It's beginning to look a lot like halloween... part 10: True Blood


My selection of movies over here is rather limited. Basically, with no video rental place anywhere near me, I'm confined to what I can rent from the school library, whatever is playing at the little cinema (very reminscent of the good old Eaton Centre theatre) nearby, or what I can find online. Well, you can imagine how great the selection at my school library is, and I've already seen the movies that are playing at the theatre here. This has made the task of finding decent horror movies to watch this month and include in the countdown somewhat more difficult.

But thankfully, Alan Ball has temporarily solved this dilemna for me by creating True Blood. After not being able to find anything good at the library yesterday I recalled hearing about this show premiering not long before I left, but never recalled hearing anything about whether it was decent or not. Although I've only watched two episodes of the new project from the creator of Six Feet Under, I'm well addicted already.

Set in Louisiana, True Blood follows waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), who can (for yet unexplained reasons) read peoples' minds, and how her life changes one night after she meets a vampire, her first since they 'came out of the coffin' two years ago. Now that a Japanese company has perfected synthetic blood, vampires claim that they have no need to kill anymore and just want to be like the rest of us. However, as one character points out in the first episode - would you give up all your favorite foods and drink just SlimFast for the rest of your life?
This show, similarly to Six Feet Under, is not a joke show, though their premises might make them seem like they could go that way. The show is sexy and violent, sometimes more disturbingly it is both at the same time, though Ball would not be the first person to cash in on this portrayal of the vampire world. Despite the fact that this show is much more fantastical than Six Feet Under, Ball seems to have counteracted this element of unrealism by cutting back a great deal on even the dark, twinge of humor that his former HBO hit had, although there are still some traces of it.
So far I like this one, but I may have to update after a few more episodes.

It's beginning to look a lot like Hallowe'en...part 9: City of the Dead (1960) aka Horror Hotel; or, Who Let the Fogs Out?

I'm talkin' 'bout John Llewelyn Moxey's foray into the witchtastic realm of devil worship and the occult. Without a doubt the foggiest film I have ever seen.

See, when the end of October nears and Samhain grows closer with the hour, for some reason I feel drawn toward books/art/music/film that deals with ghosts, monsters, and most of all...witches. Re: the latter - City of the Dead delivers in spades.

We begin with a flashback to the 17th century where one Elizabeth Selwyn is being tried (read: tied) for witchcraft by the townsfolk of a small Massachusetts burg (Whitewood). After her burning at the stake, we jarringly jump cut forward to modern times (well, modern for when the film was made, 1960) with Chris Lee's Prof. Driscoll lecturing a bunch of college kids in what looks to be the bird course to end all bird courses, Historical Witchcraft 101. While most of the jocks in the class snicker at Driscoll's intensity on the subject, one particularly keen student, Nan Barlow, takes things a bit more seriously, and, against the will of her brother, Prof. Richard Barlow, and her beau Bill Maitland (Tom Naylor doing his best Jimmy Dean impersonation), decides to visit Whitewood for a bit more of a hands on approach to researching her paper on witchcraft.

So she goes, checks into the Raven Inn, whose proprietress, Mrs. Newless, looks uncannily like Elizabeth Selwyn. Things begin to seem a bit off, and the further Nan gets into her studies, the more she begins to suspect she may be rooming among the very witches she came to research. Anyway, Feb. 1st rolls around, Candlemas eve, and Nan, the pretty young virgin, discovers a bird with a skewer through it (a starling, I noticed) in her dresser drawer - a sign that she's pretty much a goner. Soon afterward, she is spirited away post haste by the witches and sacrificed to some pagan god - no, it's probably Satan himself; these witches don't play. One of the witches in attendance at the sacrificial altar is none other than Prof. Driscoll! So he was a witch all along! I'm thinking that with post-secondary education enrollment rates dropping, more and more professors may be turning to black magic to secure tenure. Ba-dum-bing! (I'm sorry, that was horrible...)
Two weeks later, her brother and her beau begin to get suspicious that Nan hasn't returned, so they venture to Whitewood to find out what happened. Long and short of it is this: they discover that their arrival marks the second night of the year when the witches must make a sacrifice (the first was Candlemas eve) - and the witches have their eye on the only other good person in town, the preacher's granddaughter, Patricia, who has taken a bit of a shine to the recently arrived Prof. Barlow. Well, a bird with a skewer through it (I noticed it was a cedar waxwing - what does it all mean!?!) and a sprig of woodbine on the door means that Pat has been targeted to be the next sacrificial lamb. Many thrilling close calls ensue, but it ends with Pat and Barlow escaping, Bill dying (when Mrs. Newless whips a friggin' dagger across the graveyard and it lodges in his back - wicked scene - but not before he can carry a cross that literally shoots tongues of flame at the witches - it's dope), and Mrs. Newless being outed, finally, (as if it wasn't painfully obvious for the entire film), as Elizabeth Selwyn. Actually, if the heroes had simply phonetically reversed "Selwyn", they would have realized that "Newless" isn't far off....dummies.
I absolutely love this film, the amount of fog pumped in is immense. It really has a creepy, mysterious vibe, but retains a sense of fun throughout. Beautiful black and white photography, and a loopy, oboe-heavy jazzy score complete the picture. This is director Moxey's high watermark - he mostly cranked out workmanlike fare in television for the rest of his career (everything from Coronation Street to Magnum P.I., and everything in between) - though a close second would have to be the Darren McGavin vehicle The Night Stalker, the first of two TV-movies that were followed by the incredible series Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

And although Lee is highly touted on the DVD box and in the credits, he really only plays a small (admittedly important) part in the film. Some false advertising of the "star" that reminded me of the top-billing of Brooke Shields in Alice, Sweet Alice (aka Communion), although she lasts all of five minutes before being killed. A metaphor for her career?

City of the Dead (aka Horror Hotel in North America) is quite easy to find for a couple of bucks as a public domain print on countless "Horror Classics" collections - I have one of these and the print actually isn't bad - but I'm such a fan of the film that I recently upgraded to the more expensive but beautifully presented and extras laden VCI edition. I hear the Roan Archival Group edition is also very worthy. Check it out if you get a chance. Highly recommended for a spooky good time.