Big Bang Love, Juvenile A - a quick kristerview

So, Takashi Miike's latest rolled into the shop this week and i thought that it could use Dropkicks once over before being placed onto the shelves for mass consumption... probably not that mass.

One thing i've learned about watching Miike's films is, as similar as they may be, it's a hard thing to compare them to one another especially lately as it seems the director is tackling genres and "Miikefying" them. Like his answer to North America's Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings with The Great Yokai War, his answer to super hero flicks with Zebraman, and his latest effort demolishing the western with Sukiyaki Western Django (which i'm praying to the dvd gods will come out sometime soon so i can have a copy at home). So i'm not really gonna compare this film with his others.

With Big Bang Love Miike is taking on the typical male prison drama complete with homosexuality, leader of the pack fight outs, and corrupt guards. This story is a murder mystery of sorts that didn’t really have me guessing, nor did I really care for the conclusion of who did what to whom. What had me going was the sheer poetry that this film is. That's all i can really say about it, that this film was a poem in moving pictures and words. As a poem it really isn't for everybody, cough Kendall, it can feel very pretentious to some and completely moving to others. I am in the latter category and was completely lost in this one. It's so all over the place that i don't know if i completely put it in the "it's so cool" section yet... but it's definitely more than just okay that's for damn sure.

The biggest strength of the film is not the dialogue or the story, it’s the imagery. Everything were shown of outside the prison and surrounding area is normal. When we see flashbacks of the prisoners in Tokyo before their arrests everything is of our world. Once they enter prison everything looks like a dream and is completely absurd. It is obvious Miike is showing off his artistic muscles here, as if he threw all his best choices in style, camera angles, and imagery from the rest of his work and washed them, chopped them up, cooked em in a stew and served it to you. It’s not that all these things will work together, in fact alot of them taste better on their own but it is still edible. Some of the imagery is really tough to shake off though, like the shots of a giant pyramid that's on the outside of the prison walls to the left and a cartooney rocket ship outside the walls on the right seen whenever scenes are played in the prison yard, great imagery that plays well into the ideas the film is trying to get across. Really cool stuff.

Pick this one up if you're a fan of Miike, a sentimental existentialist, or just dig the weird ones.
G’night chaps

-Kris “drop bones” Mcfly


Kurt Cobain: About a Son (2006)

Ever wondered what a collaboration between Terrence Malick, Wong Kar-Wai, Gus Van Sant, Godfrey Reggio and whoever is in charge of the Smithsonian Folkways documentary division might look like? Well, look no further, you've found your film.

An absolutely beautiful, revealing, honest, hilarious and heart-wrenching anti-doc about one of the last great icons in pop music, Kurt Cobain: About a Son is a masterpiece, and I don't use the word lightly or often. Showing no actual footage or photographs of Cobain, Nirvana, Courtney Love, family and friends, director AJ Schnack, along with cinematographer Wyatt Troll (not joking), strings together an incredibly breathtaking and moving series of shots comprised of landscapes and people, all pertaining to the words being spoken behind the images - words culled from 25 hours of interviews conducted with Cobain just a year before his death. Never obvious or trite (although a few of the "faces" montages ALMOST bordered on a United Colours of Benetton advert), the images are here to enrich the dialogue and to cause the viewer to reflect on the simple and often disarmingly striking beauty of the commonplace, whether it's a diner in some whistle-stop mill town or the features of a gas station attendant in Seattle.

Schnack seems to be channeling some bizarre mix of Robert Frank, Ansel Adams and Larry Clark, and the results are never less than riveting. The images and voice are always superbly integrated - one never distracts from the other (although the sequence in the lumber mill with Queen blaring on the soundtrack was so gloriously and intentionally absurd, it made me laugh out loud). You almost forget that what you are essentially doing is listening to someone speak for 90 minutes - and you're completely enthralled.

I was just sliiightly too young to have been affected by Cobain's suicide (or "death", if you're in that conspiracy theory camp), but I was aware of the music at age 14 when Cobain left us. I remember one of my older sisters crying when the news came through and it seemed so strange in my naive world that someone could care about a person that they never even knew. Now that I'm older, and only marginally less immature, I realize that that sort of news is often the most jarring - to see one of your idols, one of your heroes, one of the immortals, become suddenly and savagely mortal in front of the world's eyes.

This film allowed me to see Cobain not just as a giant, a hero, a rock star, but someone so perfectly normal, someone just like me or my friends, someone profoundly human. And it is because of this that Schnack's film is both uplifting and incredibly mournful - it isn't a god who has left us, but a human being; this is precisely the sort of passing we must mourn if we are to remain human ourselves.

Sleep well, Gill-Man

Ben Chapman (1928-2008), best known for his role as the Gill-Man in Universal's 1954 classic The Creature From the Black Lagoon, has passed on. This news may seem apocryphal at best, what with Chapman being 80 years old and only having appeared in half a dozen films in the '50s, but I felt I had to report because the Creature was one of the first movie monsters I saw (along with the rest of the Universal stable), and had a HUGE influence on leading me down the warped and thorny path toward my current love for horror films of all kind (not to mention my fascination and unsettled score with a certain Creature From the Black Lagoon slot machine at Casino Niagara.....). Bet you we won't get ANY requests for Creature over the next weeks, while the Brokeback juggernaut rolls along.....sad, really.


Renting the dead

Working in retail makes one take notice on repeating trends of patrons. For instance, Elizabeth's lackluster sequel was released in theaters some months ago creating a sudden barrage of requests for the original film. The requests were so insistent that more copies of the film were ordered and slapped with a two night rental sticker to make sure all parties interested would get their chance to see the picture before it's sequel eventually left the theaters and, yes eventually arrive onto our shelves.

Sometimes though, the trends with what's renting is a little more interesting then people just wanting to rent up the prequels to the summers wave of blockbusters. One trend i have taken notice of recently is the curious way movie rentals go up for films featuring actors who are recently deceased.

The most obvious examples of this being Heath Ledger and Roy Scheider though, it goes without saying, the latter does not rent nearly as much as Heath.

I was working at the store when a man ran in to tell the staff that Heath Ledger had passed. It was a bit of a shock, more than anything his death just seems like a rip off. He was one of the better actors out there, maybe most of his work doesn't show that but he was a talented son of a bitch.

Later on that night having many many people inform us staff that yes, indeed Heath had passed, a man walked in bearing a list of films he had jotted down earlier. That list was comprised of Heath Ledgers filmography and this man was going to rent whatever was in. So, he rented the whole lot from 10 Things I Hate About You to Brokeback Mountain he was a happy camper but i, the trustful video store employee, was left a little out of sorts by that. I didn't see the point of sitting through a career worth of films, regardless of quality, featuring an actor who had passed away that same day. The requests for Heath's films kept coming, in the days that followed - they were mostly for Brokeback Mountain.

So there's probably a number of reasons for this. One could be that the name is thrown about, we see it everywhere in our media, people are writing articles, we see him all over our tv sets and all of our friends are talking about it. So there's this conscious or unconscious desire to go out and consume more Ledger.

Another reason could be the most human one and that's people just fucking miss the guy. They miss him and they wanna see him acting again.

And even another reason which is the most likely, is the want people have to not be out of the loop. You can't talk Heath's great acting abilities with your peers if you haven't seen A Knight's Tale... duh. You need to be in the know, you need to be able to say how great an actor he was and "i know because i've seen em all baby". Just like how all the Daniel Day-Lewis films are renting out now because everyone is talking about how amazing (which he really fucking is) he is in There Will Be Blood. Or maybe Day-Lewis films are renting out because he dedicated his golden globe to Heath Ledger? ahh, maybe

All i'm really trying to say is that it's a weird thing to see from the other side of the counter. Maybe i shouldn't be one to judge or take note of these things. I have in my possession at the moment Gangs of New York so there ya go. When Roy died Jaws, of course, was the first to go. Following the question many times that night "Oh Jaws isn't in? What else do you have with him in it?" Is it a fascination with death that drives this behavior or just a fascination with ourselves to be able to sling the shit quicker? Just weird and morbid to me, kinda makes you feel like we should make up alittle dark room in the back with all of Heath's and Roy's films with pictures of them and candles you can light and roses you could leave as you pick up your copy of The Patriot and Seaquest. Yeah, miss you already guys.

Toronto's Top 5 Indie Video Shops

City-TV has put together a series profiling the top 5 indie rental shops in T.O. The Film Buff made the cut! A link to each of the articles is below.
Part 1: Queen Video
Part 2: Suspect Video - note: as of this morning, the Queen and Bathurst location profiled here has been destroyed by fire. The original Markham St. location remains open.
Part 3: Marquee Video
Part 4: Black Dog Video
Part 5: The Film Buff


Wishing a speedy recovery to Suspect Video. So sorry for the loss.


Top 60 film 2000-2007 Revisited

Well, well ,well.

It appears that some of you are operating under the mistaken impression that this is some sort of democracy and your film opinions count. Just to clarify – it’s not and they don’t.

That being said – and to ensure that you continue operating under this false pretence and show up to work on time (Ben) – I have considered and accepted/rejected your input as listed below. It can’t be said that I’m not a fair man.


Being the blogbitch of this page your input cannot be ignored completely. I have thusly accepted your switcharoo of Code 46 in place of Serenity.

Also accept The Departed replaced by Infernal Affairs – spot on.

The Fountain – Gay and pretentious and it starred Wolverine. Veto’d (sorry Kris)

Cache – out, but no replacement in the cards yet.

Scanner Darkly – “Keanu’s best movie” ‘nuff said – Veto’d

august low:

What on earth are you talking about?

Stander, however, is an excellent candidate.


Memento – hard to argue that one – good choice.

The Royal Tenenbaums – another good one, but the other snotty film bastards (velo/high september/etc.) will likely bitch about it. Too ..something.. for their tastes. I’ve got no problem with it being on the list.

Ratatouille – Veto’d - popularity does not equal quality. I found it bland and frankly, kinda boring. Am I alone here?


American Psycho – Veto’d – get some help Ben.

Brick – it was absolutely intended to be a reworking of the stereotypes you are harping on about. That was the point! You offer up a compelling alternative with DMS’s though.

The Pledge is a good movie but not nearly a great movie – Veto’d for spelling it “asshoole”

Old Boy – a good candidate.

“Cowards Bend the Knee: uninspired, "art" for bourgouis nits” One of those nit’s employs you Ben – so, caution – but yes American Astronaut is a real treat and likely deserves a spot higher than Maddin’s film – it’s just he now lives among us and….

City of God – a good candidate.

Revolver - unnecessarily complicated rodeo filmmaking. Feels like Guy Ritchie glanced back at the film every day like it was a new 7 series Bimmer. Convoluted does not equal complex.

Garden State: moral of the film – your generation is fucked and wallowing in a self deluded sea of angst and emotional deadends. It stays.

All the Real Girls - a good candidate..

Head On – stays

Lunacy – out, but not for Punch Drunk Love which is OK but not great.

Memories of a Murder for Sexy Beast – agreed

Night Watch for The Aura - agreed

Lost in Translation – Veto’d, too trite.

Downfall: a much more complex villian. Christ, Ben it’s fucking Hitler! Of course he’s more complex. Veto’d.

Primer – excellent choice.

I’ll re-collate and post back a revised list later this week.



Garbage Warrior at the Bloor

Go see this - it's playing at the Bloor through the 21st.

Dear Diary

A quick update about Diary of the Dead - here's a little article from today's New York Daily News where Romero discusses what each of his zombie films means. Whether inadvertently or not, it seems to me that he gives Diary the short shrift. All the other films, as I said in my previous post, have some message with considerable heft (Day being my favourite, that film about "mistrust, about people beginning to completely lose faith in institutions and individuals."), while Diary merely preaches about the dangers of.....media saturation? Again, bad-timing.....


Diary of the Dead (2007)

George Romero's latest offering in his zombie cycle (the fifth, to date) was a letdown. It definitely had a "message", but spent so much time bludgeoning the viewer over the head with it that it became really tedious viewing. The characters are, for the most part, unlikeable and interchangeable - insert any fresh teen face here and get the same result. Whereas Romero's past zombie flicks (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, hell, even Land of the Dead - which certainly had it's detractors, but really grew on me) have parlayed their socially aware messages in a more subtle fashion, Diary refuses to deal in subtlety. But then, it is a zombie movie.....

Romero's films, though, are not so easily pinned down - what sets them apart from the piles of Italian zombie films from the same era is that George doesn't merely deal in gore opuses, meant to showcase the latest in special effects; rather, his films are thoughtful, if urgent, reminders to a society in a state of tumult and flux. Diary also carries an important message about the iPod generation's inability to communicate without a computer screen in front of them. However, in the past Romero allowed the audience to reach this conclusion on their own - here he stuffs it down our throats with some seriously godawful dialogue.
And you thought the roaches in Regent Park were bad...

Diary isn't a bad movie, I just call it a letdown because I hold Romero, one of my favourite directors, to such high standards. There are some excellent scenes of tension, and Romero is a master at turning regular, mundane locales into breeding grounds of fear. Also, the film has the misfortune of following hot on the heels of that "other" first-person shot horror flick, Cloverfield. The handheld camera work and the variety of devices used to convey the onscreen image (handi-cam, cell-phone cam, computer/video uplinks, etc) in Diary is interesting, but it's been done - Cannibal Holocaust, The Blair Witch Project, the aforementioned Cloverfield....I certainly don't think George has run out of ideas, or is simply copying - he's much too intelligent a director for that - but his movie certainly does suffer from bad timing. I certainly get what he's trying to do here, and the movie was fun, but the end result left me wanting.
Tryouts for We Will Rock You take a gory turn

I hope Romero (who just turned 68 on Feb. 4) lets the zombie hordes rest for awhile, and makes his next flick in the vein of Martin, or even The Crazies. The film has been garnering mostly positive reviews, though, so go decide for yourself whether or not I'm full of shit. After all, Diary of the Dead is still better than 99% of the new (or is that nu?) horror coming out these days... If for nothing else, go see Diary to toss a few bucks George's way; he's deserved it.

Playing in Toronto at the Paramount (or the "Scotiabank" theatre, if that's how you wanna roll).


The Lady from Shanghai - a quick kristerview

Kris here - Sometimes it really amazes me how little I know about film and how this gem got by me until now seems completely absurd. I am in love with Rita Hayworth, and admire the hell out of Orson Welles. I came across it, gasped and stroked the box art around Rita's face and rented (or rather borrowed) this bad boy. I wasn't expecting much due to the fact that i had never heard of this title before and with Rita and Orson top billed i couldn't understand why that is. Well, apparently i have to get out more because this was that perfect love-noir story. It's endlessly quoteable - but what else do you expect from a Welles script? The characters are complete toons while still remaining relateable and devilishly real. It's a beauty to watch as the locations keep changing from the start (Central Park) of the film all the way to the end (a fun house or rather a "crazy house"?). The film hits many noirish notes, playing them perfectly and blending them all together to make an experience that sticks with you the day after. Or at least Rita will stay with you, or Orson's Irish accent. Great film, Kris highly recommends it and puts it in that "It's so cool" category.


The Midget Faints Again

Tonight at the Royal, what better way to say "I lust you" than to take your special someone to a screening of all 22 chapters of Trapped in the Closet on the big screen? Kris you best be goin'. I know you're not working. Go. Go to it and be set free. If I wasn't working, I'd already be in line.....


RIP Roy Scheider, 1932-2008

So long, to one of the greats. At least Quint and Brody are together again.


Love Hurts, take 2

Today, let's look at an absolute classic of twisted, misanthropic glee. Yes, I'm talking about Bill Lustig's notorious 1980 exploitation treasure, Maniac.

Pretty obscure by mainstream standards, this sleaze-fest is revered in cult and horror circles as the missing link between Psycho and Silence of the Lambs. Wallowing in a festering, greasy, apartment, Frank Zito (the zany and totally awesome Joe Spinell) stalks and kills prostitutes (actually, pretty much any woman) and scalps them, collecting the cadavers' hairpieces and wardrobes in order to dress up a gaggle of female mannequins he keeps at home and converses with, fondles and lovingly caresses. Amidst accusations of misogyny, the film was picketed by women's groups upon it's release into the grindhouse cinemas of New York's 42nd St. ("The Deuce"). While understandable, Maniac is nothing more than an exploitation film that actually does what it sets out to do - which doesn't make it wrong or right, but certainly makes it effective. It is a wickedly twisted glimpse into the marginalized mind with some great atmosphere and rad gore effects from fx-wiz Tom Savini (who also shows up in what is the movie's most talked about death scene - has to be seen to be believed). Caroline Munro (highlighted in two consecutive posts now? Unintentional, I swear....) is stunning in a rather strange role.

Maniac is an all-out creep fest that really redefines the concept of "momma's boy". The film oozes a gritty, scuzzy pre-Giuliani New York vibe, and has a documentary-like feel, lending authenticity to the goings on. Spinell was honestly astonished and saddened at the backlash the film received and his attempt to shake the bad rap, 1989's Maniac 2: Mr. Robbie (in which he played a TV host by day and an avenger of abused children by night), was cut short by his untimely and heartbreaking death.

Currently not at either Film Buff location, it is definitely worth seeking out (or ask me - I own it). Uncomfortable, but essential, viewing.


Love Hurts

If you're like me (and God help you if you are), you hate Valentine's Day. You see it as a "holiday" conjured up by commercial crones, stewing over what to do between the "real" holidays (Christmas/New Year) and....May 2-4? Don't despair, though, you're not alone. For every Across the Universe, there is one Leaving Las Vegas; Love Story? Bah - try Love Liza; and if Paris, Je T'aime is your idea of a bad trip, check out Hated, the disturbing, awesome GG Allin doc, in all its poo-flinging, blood-letting glory.

As a build up to anti-Valentine's day, we (well, most likely just me - please guys, help me here, I'm drowning) will be posting about a series of films that explore, well.....the DARKER side of love.

Take 1: The Abominable Dr. Phibes
Question: is there a better tagline than: "Love means never having to say "You're ugly"?
Answer: No; no there isn't.

Obsession, deformity, psychedelic visuals and score, graveyard humour, inventive kills based on the biblical plagues, Vincent Price at his campy best and an uncredited Caroline Munro (hubba-hubba)....this one's pretty much got it all.....not only is it one of my favourite films of all time, it has one of the best trailers too.....behold:

Are...you...ready...for Dr. Phibes? Hmmmm....?

El Orfanato (2007)

Dir: Juan Antonio Bayona: Cast: Belen Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Princep

Thought working at the Film Buff was the best form of birth control? Think again....what if you had to deal with the demonic spirits of murdered orphans coming for revenge? Yeah, I'd choose that too....

My soul sistah and I went to the Bloor (my favourite cinema in Toronto) on Friday night to check out the new Catalan horror El Orfanato (The Orphanage), given a hearty seal of approval by Guillermo del Toro.

I was a bit worried because all the adverts for the film had del Toro's name prominently displayed above the title, as if to suggest that it was actually his creation - no, the onscreen direction is credited to one Juan Antonio Bayona (del Toro merely serves as one of half a dozen producers). The gimmick of top-billing a big name producer is usually done to get asses in seats, which is fine by me - often, producers' personal touches give a film all it needs to be more than the sum of its parts (think Val Lewton), which is exactly what The Orphanage is. Now, don't recoil in terror (that'll come later) when you see Bayona's name on the screen as director - this one has del Toro's fingerprints all over it, and Bayona is clearly paying homage to the master - this film plays out very much like a sequel to del Toro's own 2001 effort El Espinoza del Diablo (The Devil's Backbone), in that both share ghost children, a haunted orphanage (or school), strong ties to the past (whether personal or historical), and both come across as odd Continental versions of Grimm fairy tales.

My main (however minor) problem with this film was that it wasn't able to sustain a sense of rising dread throughout. I was expecting a ghost story in the same vein as The Others (or better yet, The Innocents), but this seemed kind of.....obvious? I don't know, I feel bad criticizing new original horror, and while this one is certainly slick, it seems to move in stops and starts rather than a slow ascension towards a terrifying finale. There certainly were some very frightening scenes, but for the most part they played as shock elements and surface distraction rather than providing deeply atmospheric chills, which is what the film seemed to be striving for. The face of the dead Benigna, the appearance of Tomas in the house at the birthday party, and, especially, the sequence with Geraldine Chaplin's spirit advisor, were all particularly hair-raising, but overall, the movie seemed to lack cohesion; perhaps a sign of Bayona's inexperience. But there is a lot to like here, and it is certainly a film worth seeing. Simon's voice is inadvertently hilarious and heart-warming, and it sounds like, as my sister put it, "a child smoker". Sounds good to me. And the masked Tomas, I'll mention again, is terrifying. Oddly, I found the unmasked, deformed Tomas not frightening at all, but incredibly sad and galvanizing - that was one of the most "real" moments of the film to me; I was able to identify with Tomas' alienation and the overwhelming, if unintentional, cruelty of children.

The final reveal where Simon's fate is mapped out to Laura is simultaneously bone-chilling and heartbreaking. If it was my movie (which it certainly is NOT, and until I have the guts/motivation to get up and make my own, none will be), I would have ended it right there, with a devastated Laura in full realization of the awful consequences of her rash actions, and having no other choice but to go on with the guilt. But as in so many "fairy-tale" flicks, Bayona felt the need to have a neat wrap-up with parallels drawn between his story and that of Peter Pan, Wendy and the lost boys.

I'll admit, I was moved - but only briefly - by the ending. Afterwards, I was disappointed by the filmmaker's choice to take the easy out and side with sentimentality over hard truths. If I wanted to watch Across the Universe (which, trust me, I NEVER, EVER will), I would. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the film, just don't see del Toro's name on the poster and go in all glassy-eyed expecting Pan's Labyrinth 2, because that, The Orphanage ain't.....now, get off yer couch and go see it.


Best Flicks Since 2000?

I’m providing below my take on the 60 best films since 2000 as the starting point for the Film Buff mid-2008 review. I’m looking for feedback on ones I might have missed or included and shouldn’t have. If you want something dropped, you have to offer a replacement together with some compelling reasons (Ben – I’m talking to you here) for its inclusion. Garden State and Serenity are not up for discussion, just so you know.

Joey? - Your thoughts on this brilliant list (given you and I are likely the only ones who will ever contribute here) would be appreciated.

The List….

12 and Holding, dir. Michael Cuesta

13 Tzameti, dir. Gela Babluani

2046 dir, Wong Kar-wai

A History of Violence, dir. David Cronenberg

Beat That My Heart Skipped, dir. Jacques Audiard

Brick, dir. Rian Johnson

Brotherhood Of The Wolf, dir. Christophe Gans

Brothers, dir. Susanne Bier

Cache, dir. Michael Haneke

Children of Men, dir. Alfonso Cuaron

Color Of Paradise, dir. Majid Majidi:

Cowards Bend the Knee, dir. Guy Maddin

Death of Mr Lazarescu, dir. Cristi Puiu

Deep Water, dir. Louise Osmond/Jerry Rothwell

Departed, dir. Martin Scorsese

Divided We Fall, dir. Jan Hrebejk

Duck Season, dir. Fernando Eimbcke

Dust, dir. Milcho Manchevski

El Crimen Perfecto, dir. Alex De La Iglesia

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, dir. Michel Gondry

Far Side of the Moon, dir. Robert Lepage

Garden State, dir. Zach Braff

Great Water, dir. Ivo Trajkov

Happy Endings, dir. Don Roos

Head On, dir. Fatih Akin

Hero, dir. Zhang Yimou

Inland Empire, dir. David Lynch

Intacto, dir. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Keane, dir. Lodge Kerrigan

Kontroll, dir. Nimrod Antal

Lady Vengeance, dir. Park Chan-wook

Lantana, dir. Ray Lawrence

Look at Me, dir. Agnes Jaoui

Lunacy, dir. Jan Svankmajer

Machinist, dir Brad Anderson

Man Push Cart, dir. Ramin Bahrani

Maria Full of Grace, dir. Joshua Marston

Memories of Murder, dir. Bong Joon-Ho

Memory of a Killer, dir. Erik van Looy

Mulholland Drive, dir. David Lynch

Mutual Appreciation, dir. Andrew Bujalski

New World, dir. Terrence Malick

Night Watch, dir. Timur Bekmambetov

Nobody Knows, dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda

Nurse Betty, dir. Neil Labute

Oldboy, dir. Park Chan-wook

Pan's Labyrinth, dir. Guillermo Del Toro

Paradise Now, dir. Hany Abu-Assad

Pretty Persuasion, dir. Marcos Siega

Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, dir. Jane Anderson

Proposition, dir. John Hillcoat

Renaissance, dir. Christian Volckman

Save the Green Planet, dir. Jang Jun-hwan

Serenity, Joss Whedon

Spirited Away, dir. Hayao Miyazaki

Take My Eyes, dir. Iciar Bollain

Time and Tide, dir. Tsui Hark:

Tropical Malady, dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Undertow, dir. David Gordon Green

You Can Count on Me, dir. Ken Lonergan

There you have it. My cards are on the table.


Death Hunt (1981)

"Well, well, well......look who just got uncivilized....."

Dir: Peter Hunt; Cast: Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, Carl Weathers, Angie Dickinson, Ed Lauter

Wed. aft., snow-bound. I can think of no better tonic on this stormy day than to curl up with a superb action/chase film from the early '80s. A film that deals in equal parts comedy and drama, high adventure and romance. A film that never takes itself too seriously, but doesn't shy away from scenes of hard-hitting, and often disarmingly true, dialogue. And most importantly, a movie that takes place in the snowy wilds of the Yukon territory (aka Canmore and Drumheller, Alberta) in 1931. The movie is Death Hunt.

Apparently based on a true story, the plot concerns aging and world-weary RCMP man Sgt. Edgar Millen (Marvin) who is more content with playing poker, smoking cheap cigars and drinking whisky than he is with upholding the law. This is still the frontier after all, and Millen is content to let the law take care of itself. That is until upstart recruit Constable Alvin Adams (Andrew Stevens) reports for duty, upsetting the old ways. Millen and his friend (fellow officer? This is never made clear), the bizarrely monikered but totally awesome Sundog/George Washington Lincoln Brown (Weathers) are pestered by local dog-fighter and general ne'er-do-well Hazel (ubiquitous character actor Lauter) to take down the famous Mad Trapper, Albert Johnson (Bronson) for "stealing" one of his fighting dogs (read: humiliating him in front of his peers). Millen leaves well-enough alone, as per usual, and Hazel and his group of cronies head up to Johnson's cabin to mete out their own terrible brand of justice. But of course, things go awry, one of Hazel's men is killed, and this is finally the impetus for Millen to spring into action. And the chase begins....

Bronson and Marvin are superb in their respective roles, and while this is generally an ignored work in Marvin's ouevre (having the misfortune of falling between Sam Fuller's 1980 war film The Big Red One and Michael Apted's Gorky Park in 1983), he really comes alive in the role, and seems to be having a lot of fun here as a man who is torn between being forced to uphold the law and the "new ways" - the fast approaching future where men of his ilk are left to grow old and die alone - and sticking to his own moral code, his begrudging respect and admiration for men like Johnson, men with the bark still on. Bronson has less material to work with, and outside of a few intense scenes, he ends up having more dialogue with a convalescing fighting dog than he does with any human character. Which I guess is partially the point - a man like Johnson is more at home in the natural world than he is with any man.

Call it a stretch if you will, but the chase here, and Johnson's flight, seems to be very much an attempt to escape from the encroaching world of man, the new world filled with gadgets and technology that simultaneously and paradoxically present a near infinite amount of possibility for connection while driving a wedge between a man and his spirit. It is no small matter that the new deputy, Alvin Adams is trained in "communications"; ironically, he seems to know far less about really "communicating", and is more inclined to shoot first, ask questions later, than the old-timer Millen.

There are scenes throughout the movie that show the advancement of technology and it's permeation of the small town, from the introduction of a radio to the appearance of an RCAF pilot who wants to take down Johnson and usurp Millen's power at the same time. Symbolically, the plane and its pilot meet a fiery end by crashing into a cliff, and the radio is shown in close-up and bullet-riddled after a shoot-out. There are also a few great scenes of dialogue where Millen makes it very clear that he doesn't like what he sees coming, even if he knows he is powerless to stop it.

Policewoman herself, Angie Dickinson, appears in a bizarre role that is completely incongruous to the goings-on, and reeks of studio tampering demanding a romantic subplot - too bad really, as she is a great actress, and deserves better. Her appearance only seems to distract from and bog down what could have been a much more streamlined tale. Look for William Sanderson, getting comfortable on the frontier as a warm-up for his role 25 years later in Deadwood, and a deadpan comic duo of Canadians (by birth or adoption) August Schellenberg and Maury Chaykin.

If you want to see two of Hollywood's baddest bad-asses face off, here it is. It's Into the Wild without the self-righteous preachy philosophizing of a deluded 23-year old. Oh, and with guns. Recommended.


Babylon Pink (1979) v. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Babylon Pink

U.S.A. | 1979

Directed by Henri Pachard


Samantha Fox

Arcadia Lake

Vanessa Del Rio

Color | 77 Minutes | XXX

Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC | 2-disc set)

...that unrelenting desire to release those inner longings that are universal and timeless...

Much ink has been spilled about Raging Bull losing out to the Mary Tyler Moore Show for best picture back in 1981 but few people are aware that the table was set for this calamity a year earlier. In 1980, the Academy saw fit to vote Kramer vs. Kramer over Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam triptych Apocalypse Now for best picture, but the real tragedy was overlooking by far the year’s most interesting and challenging "art" film, Babylon Pink. Pink quite possibly marks the high water mark of pre-video-era pornography. It didn’t even receive a nomination.

A straight up comparison of the Oscar-winning Kramer vs. Kramer with the now all-but-forgotten Pink reveals just how wrongheaded the Academy was.

Plot: K vs. K, check - B.P., check Advantage? A tie.

Dialogue: K vs. K, check - B.P., check Advantage? A tie.

Hottie Housewife Star Power: K vs. K, Meryl Streep – B.P., Vanessa Del Rio Advantage +++++ B.P.

Hot Sex: K vs. K – zilch – B.P. – lots. Advantage ++++ B.P.

IMDB Plot Keywords: K vs. K - "Nude wearing sunglasses, Battle of the Sexes" - B.P. - "Lesbian Sex, Psycho Sexual, Submission" Advantage +++ B.P.

Clearly, Babylon Pink was shafted by the Academy and it’s puritan membership. This is a film in desperate need of exposure to modern audiences.

I give Kramer vs. Kramer – 0 Boners and Babylon Pink - 4.65 inches of diamond-cutting carnal excitement, although truth be told, I’ve only seen the first 11 minutes of the later. It appears to be about hot chicks getting boned by blonde guys whereas Kramer vs. Kramer is the other 'way round.


Il Grand Silenzio (1968)

Sergio Corbucci's sorely overlooked classic in the spaghetti-western genre Il Grand Silenzio (The Great Silence) is, without a doubt, his masterpiece. 2 years prior, the prolific Corbucci made what many will tell you is his best (when in fact it is merely his best-known), the admittedly absolutely awesome Franco Nero vehicle Django. The Great Silence follows a similar hero, this one even more laconic than Django, but with good reason - he's had his throat torn out. Any normal person would have probably died, but not Silence - all he has to show for the mishap is a nasty scar around the neck which is covered with a neckerchief (don't you love that word?).

The convoluted plot has some bandits hiding up in the snow-covered mountains, a few bounty hunters on their trail, and Silence in the thick of it all. Jean-Louis Trintignant is excellent as the titular Silence, but it would have been interesting to see Corbucci reg Nero in the role (he was supposed to have played Silence, but was otherwise engaged with the production of another film at the time). Oh well - I'll give Trintignant his due. He certainly is the better actor of the two, and communicates much here without saying a word (one of the three greatest "silent" leads in sound cinema in my opinion, along with Zoe Lund in Abel Ferrarra's Ms. 45, and Warren Oates in Monte Hellman's Cockfighter). Italian genre vet Luigi Pistilli is also great as the reprehensibly sleazy Pollicutt, who is sort of the town lawyer, judge, tax-collector, and backstabber all-in-one. Throw into the mix a flabbergasted but tough sherriff (a wonderfully warm and comic turn by the great Frank Wolff), a stunning and tender and ultimately tragic Vonetta Mcgee as Silence's hunka-hunka-burnin' love, and the inimitable Klaus Kinski as the head mercenary, insane as ever, and you've got a real cookin' stew o' fun.

Now, people are all abuzz, like, Daniel Day-Lewis is soooo great and his performance in There Will be Blood is gonna get him an Oscar fer sher (what? you can't mend shoes with a little golden statue, can you Dan?), but what these people fail to recognize is that all his over-the-top histrionics stem directly from THE man, the late, great Klaus Kinski, who gives the Plainview performance of '68 in this one.

Ennio Morricone contributes a gorgeous and haunting score, which bolsters the lush and washed out cinematography of Silvano Ippoliti, (in)famous for his work on a coupla the bigger Tinto Brass pics.

It should be noted that this is a unique western in that it not only takes place entirely in wintry climes (the mountain shots with the bandits were on location in the snowy Pyrenees), but it has probably one of the most downbeat endings, in film, EVER. Seriously, even the grittiest westerns offer some glimmer of hope, but here.....none. Be sure to watch the alternate "happy" ending on the Fantoma-produced disc - totally bizarre, with Trintignant and Corbucci paving the way for future classics such as Tron, the little seen 1979 action flick The Glove, and that scene in The Fellowship of the Ring with the close-up on Sauron's severed hand. Dont worry, it'll make sense when you see it.....or will it? The film really is an anti-western, in the sense that it breaks a whole bunch of genre conventions. Keep in mind, folks, that this came out 3 years before Altman's supposedly ground-breaking snow-bound western McCabe & Mrs. Miller. Could Bobby have been a secret fan of Italian genre cinema? God only knows....(literally).

Be sure to watch the humourous and informative interview with Repo Man's Alex Cox on the extras of the Fantoma disc. The release is sound, with the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio intact. The audio is off in a few places and the print is faded in others, but this is the best you can currently do for this near-forgotten classic. Be forewarned - Corbucci's filmmaking style is not what you would call slick - there're messy jump-cuts, some dodgy camera work, and, in this film particularly, a few plot holes you could drive a stagecoach through (particularly the Kinski gun find - can someone please tell me how that made ANY sense?); BUT, there is a palpable energy to his ragtag films, and that shines through especially well here. Highly recommended for fans of Kinski, spaghetti -westerns, horrible English-language dubbing, and whip-cracks that sound exactly like gunshots.

the first post

Hello friends and fellow film fiends. The aim of this blog is to allow the eclectic tastes and unique voices of the the Film Buff staff (and extended family) to be heard through reviews, pictures, news, and anything else that might come up. Eventually (hopefully), everyone on staff will contribute something here, and you should find all sorts of interesting info and may even uncover a dusty corner of cinema you never thought existed, or perhaps rediscover a forgotten classic, or have someone else decide for you whether or not you should actually spend a few dollars to see Transformers. Overlooked classics, mainstream fare, cult, tough drama, action, horror, kids (maybe), noir, comedy, sci-fi, tv - this blog will have no specific focus or format; anything that might have even the most tenuous connection to that great art form we all love, film, is fair game.