Battlestar Galactica Season 4.5

5 episodes in and I'm enthralled once again at what is one of the best TV shows ever. In an effort to avoid any spoilers I'll stay away from specific plot reveals but Season 4.5 of BSG appears to be about the price paid for lost dreams. At the end of Season 4.0, the fleet and its Cylon allies arrive at Earth only to discover it's a nuclear wasteland from a war that happened long ago. The time-line of this war seems confused but I've read that it comes into focus over the course of the final episodes. The mystery behind Starbuck's death/resurrection gets more complicated and the final Cylon's identity is revealed in either the first or second episode. I'm glad the writers chose to avoid having the final season devolve into a who's-the-last-Cylon affair to be revealed in the final episode because it might have lessened the series. I'm sure all this sounds hugely geeky (and it probably is) but there are several scenes in the first few episodes that are as dramatically polished and brilliantly acted as I've ever seen on TV - or in cinema. Edward James Almos and Michael Hogan face off in a long awaited confrontation between Tigh and Adama that must be seen to be believed. Katie Sackhoff has grown as an actress immensely over the course of the series to become one of the best characters in the show. The cast, sets, writing, direction and effects are all top notch. You either get BSG or you don't and that's just fine. Those who can't get their heads around the space-opera lunacy of the show or its incredibly bleak version of humanity are probably right to skip it. I think if the mini series didn't grab you, the 4.5 seasons that followed won't change you mind. For the rest of us – this series has been a sublime experience. Thank Gods it lasted as long as it did.

Dollhouse Season One

Season One of Dollhouse, on the other hand, has been a bit of a disappointment. I'm hit and miss with Josh Whedon, having never quite got into Buffy (I didn't dislike it, I just didn't care) and then being completely taken by the short-lived series Firefly. At the heart of the Dollhouse premise is the ability to wipe out memories and imprint a specific personality into a living, breathing human. All sorts of possibilities present themselves as the mega-rich line up to buy a weekend with their perfect match week in and week out. Sometimes the dolls are love muffins, sometimes they're assassins and sometimes they're both. The concept seems a good one - it certainly opens lots of doors to varied plot lines - but the lead actress left me a bit flat and the whole thing began to feel like a 20-something variation on the Stepford Wives meets 90210 by about the 3rd episode. The biggest problem with Dollhouse isn't so much the plots as their unlikelihood. Everyone knows what would happen if you could hire some young beauty to do with whatever you wanted and know that no one would find out what that was (including the beauty whose memory is erased right after you return him/her). You certainly wouldn't go hiking and then hunt down your perfect match with a compound bow (a la The Most Dangerous Game from episode 4).

At its root, Dollhouse is a little like a fantasy baseball league, except it's about a white slavery ring with all the seedy undertones that that implies. They haven't gone down that path yet but the series just feels a little dodgy at its slightly creepy core. I could be doing some imprinting here – the thought of having a vacant and clueless Kadas covered in butter, wearing nothing but a smile and a pink beret dancing around Segredos for a whole weekend sounds great in theory, but I think this series – like my naked-one-man-(Drop)kick-line-dance-fantasy - is a little more disturbing than it seems at first glance. I'd say pass.

Oh... and sleep tight Kris. I'll be thinking about ya.



BSG 5.0

As I sit down later tonight to watch (likely straight through) the 4.5th season of BSG, I've conjured up a followup series of sorts – a kind of fanboy present-day-reality-version of season 5.0 – the result of recent basement observations and personal experiences.

Firstly, I should clarify that most of my current world view has come from The Matrix trilogy and the first four seasons of BSG. I believe without hesitation that humankind is under siege by a ruthless combination of ludicrous yuppinoids and a series of incredible technological advancements administered by the most incompetent and ubiquitous Canadian media company in existence, Rogers Communications Inc.

My casting for fake-BSG Season 5.0 is therefore as follows; a handful of people who aren't complete fucking morons are the crew of the Galactica and everyone else is a Cylon bastard. The shiny metal Cylon drones are Rogers Communications Inc. employees, controlled by their zombie king, Dead Ted. The Cylon skin jobs, also bent on our destruction as a race, are everyone else - Dead Ted's pink children, if you will. So, that makes the odds decidedly poorer than in the real show. There are about 30 normal people on our lonely Bufflestar, 45,000 shiny Rogers Cylons and 6 billion skin jobs.

In the opening episode, a faceless Rogers Cylon sends the Bufflestar an ultimatum saying that they need to have a technician come into the store to change over our “analog” interact phone line to a Rogers Cable Network version. A plot to grab control of our systems right out of the original BSG mini-series right? Well, not exactly. The 5.0 Cylons aren't quite as precise as they were back in Season 1. When we called them at the number they provided (paralleling the original yearly Cylon/Human spaceship meeting from the mini-series), they couldn't find our account from any of the info we provided (the account number, the Rogers' phone number or the billing name and address). Toward the end of the conversation, the Cylon's moving red eye burned super brightly for about 4 seconds, overloaded, fizzled in a shower of sparks and then went dark as its now-frozen metal body seized and then slumped in a Mumbai call-centre chair.
Strike one for the humans.

This ongoing battle for human survival is a little different from the real show. The Rogers drones have mysterious incompetence-ray guns that they accidentally fire off in every possible direction at completely random intervals. The skin jobs have learned to replicate themselves with an unbelievable rabbit-like efficiency that has the terrifying effect of a Wiley E. Coyote Acme-brand “just-add-water” instant-boulder mix that gets accidentally dropped in the toilet. The one-two punch of this enemy is formidable to say the least. The only thing going for the Bufflestar crew is a lack of focus by the yuppinoid skin jobs on anything other than themselves (and their offspring) and the incredibly poor aim of the Rogers Cylon drones. We live among them and yet they don't know who we are - a sort of clever reversal of the original series' plot line.

At the risk of folding a bit of the Matrix storyline into an already convoluted plot, a Neo-like human with unusual skills and a peculiar way is mankind's last best hope. As the series evolves, the mysterious “one” will come to understand his incredible power and hopefully make everything better again.

(Spoiler alert!) We're all counting on you Jules.

He is the one.



Abel Ferrara

The Film Buff West has just carved out new Ferrara section in the directors wall, in which my eyes spotted the Bad Lieutenant...a film I shamefully had yet to watch. My first exposure to Ferrara was a short French doc that followed him around NY (Abel Ferrara: Not Guilty). He seems carry mania wherever he goes in the city. It is surprising that he could ever be coherent and sober enough to make an order at Denny's, never mind making a film. To put it simply, he charmed the pants off me.

I have since watched Ms. 45, New Rose Hotel and now Bad Lieutenant. The latter is definitely the sleakest, and most engaging. All of them seem to have a similar vibe to them though. There is something of a "moral" that is attempting to bubble to the surface, but it never quite gets there. I think it is drowned in, for lack of a less prudish word, pornography. The ethics are almost a side order accompanying the main dish of intense, sexualized violence. A sort of confession after the binge (Ferrara is a Catholic, and Catholicism plays a big role in the Bad Lieutenant). Hypermasculine melodrama is what I would call it, if anyone's asking (good band name?). I think I like the man better than his work...there are a few directors I feel this way about (Herzog and Cassavetes being the two that come to mind). It is interesting that Ferrara seems to be heavily influenced by Cassavetes (and wishes a death in Hell on Herzog--who lately kind of deserves it). But Cassavetes has Husbands, Herzog has Stroszek, Bells from the Deep, and a dozen other gems. At times those filmmakers' works live up to the man, but I have yet to see that from Ferrara.

Moscow, Belgium (2008) - Van Rompaey

I was impressed with the preview of this one a few months back, and I grabbed it as soon as I could from the FBW. I was not disappointed as it turned out to be a charming little film. A really touching, sincere and messy love story. Nothing mind-blowing, but there is something impressive about a romantic comedy that doesn't send me into a spiral of dread and despair. I'm not really decided on whether it's a good date movie. At the very least, you could turn to your partner at just about any point in the film and say "at least I'm not as bad as these assholes." That might score you some points.

It is an unfortunately rare experience to see a picture (trying to bring that word back) about real, realistically fucked-up people. Europe seems to do a better job of this. Woody Allen used to be able to do it, but alas, no more. I think the best recent American film to capture this human realism was The Squid and the Whale, which is a delight and not unlike Moscow, Belgium.

Watch it, it'll do you right.


i wish my bike was an autobot... Transformers: The Movie (1986)

When it comes to Transformers there's only one film that really matters and that's the 1986 animated feature.
Long before Michael Bay decided to use these alien transport morphing killing machines as his vehicle to prove how dumb he thinks the average movie goer is, there was this flick... which kinda tried to prove the same thing.
Now don't get me wrong, the film is fun for all of the nostalgia factor it rises in me but with the eyes of a now much older Kris the film certainly hasn't aged well.

Watching the film now has you looking for things within it that as a young lad you never really paid too much attention to. Things like musical choices, voice acting, pacing, basic plot development, coherence, sanity... these are not the things i was looking for when i first saw this as a child. I was more distracted by all the pretty colours, explosions, and transforming things.

The film is about this artificial planet called Unicron voiced by Orson fucking Welles that goes around eating planets for some unkown senseless reason. Almost as senseless as having the once revered film auteur voice a floating planet that looks like some orifice out of a Cronenberg film and then, later in post, alter his voice so much that you can't even tell who is voicing the monstrosity. Now it's bad enough Orson's last note was as ridiculous as being a voice actor in an epic toy commercial but to have your voice altered to beyond any recoginition, well that's gotta hurt.
Orson Welles doesn't fuck around

I mean, what were they thinking? Why even get these big name actors to come on board if you're just gonna alter their voices to the point that you can't even tell if it's human beings voicing these things? Other big names include Judd Nelson, Robert Stack, Eric Idle and Leonard Nimoy all of whose voices are barely recognizable. I found myself eagerly awating the credits to find out who was who. Not necessarily A list actors but i was still surprised by the cast.

The soundtrack... is either the most god awful thing i've ever heard or i want to have its babies. it's really hard to say. It's all 80's power rock ballads that really just rock. It sounds like Styx, Journey, and REO Speedwagon are having sex with you... basically. On one end, i kinda like it, but on the other end it hurts.
What takes away from the music is that a power ballad plays whenever there's an action sequence and when the majority of the film is in action sequences it can get tiring. The songs are really out of place for the sequences, the songs themselves evoking emotions quite contridicatary of what's going on.
One particular action sequence i did find quite enjoyable was one between a group of Autobots and some sort of junk yard transformers set to the music of Weird Al Yankovic's "Dare To Be Stupid".
Don't stop believing...

What i did like about this movie is that the good guys got their asses handed to them. Hard.
Within the first 20 minutes Optimus Prime gets taken out, and is then replaced by Ultra Magnus who 20 mintues later gets destroyed... it's kinda the best.
And what happens to the bad guys? Well Orson Welles turns Megatron into Leonard Nimoy.

I mean later on Judd Nelson jumps in there and uses the matrix to stop Spock and Charles Foster Kane, with the help of Eric Idle but still...the good guys get completely embarrassed in this flick.
And it had a greater effect on me now than it did when i was a kid.
So when comparing this incoherent wreck to that of the new incoherent misogynistic sexist wrecks that Mr. Bay is churning out, i'd rather take this mess. At least the human characters are barely there to make me wanna kill myself knowing that we're of the same species.

anyways, i don't really recommend watching it... or particularly reading this review for that matter.
Screw Michael Bay, screw Unicron, screw Megan Fox, screw Unsolved Mysteries, and last but not least screw you... Shia.
that's right shia



Sacha Baron Cohen's much-hyped stink-bomb Bruno tanked in its opening week at the box office, the result we're told, of the dreaded and newly-minted “Twitter Effect”. Apparently, twittering-type people twittered one another en mass and suggested (in just 140 characters or less) that the movie sucked the big dong and needed to be avoided. Wow. Thank God for Twitter. Billions of people might not have known otherwise and gone to the multiplex unaware that Bruno actually sucked ass. The other reason bandied about to explain why Bruno went right in the hole seems to relate to a previously unknown (but obviously deep-seated) homophobic bent amongst movie-goers. Who knew?

What a load of fucking rubbish.

Back 7 months ago, before anyone had even heard of the colossal waste of human effort we now know as Twitter, everyone just talked to one another and passed on their thoughts about things like... you know … the movies we recently saw, for example. A pre-Twitter conversation might have gone something along these lines.

“Hey seen any good movies lately?”

“Well, I saw Bruno but it completely sucked. I wouldn't waste your time going to see it.”

“Hmmmm... I just don't trust those homosexuals anyways. Thanks for the heads-up”

“You're homophobic!”

“Yes. How about a reach around?”



Yes Virginia, there was pre-Twitter communication. It may have been incoherent, messy, and full of awkward pauses, but people managed to exchange ideas and thoughts even way back then. Thoughts like “that movie was absolute trash” and “this gypsy acid jazz/gospel choir from Dubai totally rocks” were discussed using our mouths, vocal chords and ears.

Twitter Effect?..... give me a fucking break. What if the movie was just awful and nobody liked it because... it was just awful. Could it be that simple? This homophobic excuse is also just too stupid for words. Catwoman may have been the worst superhero movie ever (other than Daredevil, but that goes without saying) but I didn't hate it because I don't like cats, black women or black women dressed in skintight patent leather pant/bra ensembles with cute little cat hats, 6 inch stilettos and a whip... actually, rather the opposite is true. I'm fond of cats. Catwoman didn't tank because the audience was full of racists and cat-haters, it tanked because it sucked huge and was directed by a French dickhead with one name.

Bruno will do big numbers on DVD. We'll have to go deep, Joe. Maybe even Freddie Got Fingered deep.


My Dinner With Andre (1981)

You must excuse my ignorance, but I had never, up until this evening, seen this fascinating, engaging, thought-provoking, and ultimately life-affirming film. I feel like I'm a late-comer to the party, especially since this movie has been out on DVD for quite some time (although out of print until recently, and fetching exorbitant and altogether ridiculous sums on Amazon and Ebay).

While watching this wonderful film, I was thinking of the horror of trying to recommend this to the average customer. Yes, indeed, a one hour and 40 minute film almost solely comprised of two men at a dinner table talking about life seems like a tough sell. At the same time, I thought of several people in my life, quite close to me - though in different ways - to whom I felt I needed to recommend this, if they hadn't seen it already. Try to watch it - you'll either be bored out of your skull after the first 10 minutes or completely hypnotized. And if you're one of the latter, I'd like to think I can count you as a friend. The incredibly sly, but unobtrusive way director Louis Malle frames the entire film is a marvel.
The recent Criterion re-issue is superb with a second disc of lengthy interviews with principles Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory nearly 30 years on. Really, I cannot stress how much of a revelation this film was to me, and when Wallace Shawn said the word "inconceivable" at the 3/4 mark, a disbelieving smile came to my face, and my mind was truly blown. This will remain on my FBE staff picks shelf for quite some time.


Midnight Movie (2008)

Not to be confused with the stellar doc Midnight Movies, this piece of shit kicked me in the balls and then stole my lunch money. Poorly aping details of several well-worn horror classics such as the fantastic Demons and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Midnight Movie cannot be forgiven for its ineptitudes. Production values are pretty good (aside from some dodgy special f/x), but nonsensical scenes that fit nowhere within the story, school play calibre acting, and plot holes wider than the one between your mom's legs all add up to a mess of a movie that stinks worse than downtown Toronto during the garbage strike. I would give the filmmakers credit for trying, if that's indeed what they had done.

Picasso famously noted (don't worry - this isn't about to become a Captain post) "Good artists borrow. Great artists steal." Well, these "artists" merely managed to botch the heist and as an end result get blown away (but not blown) by the bank manager. Too bad, really, I wanted to love this one. For horrors in a movie theatre, check the aforementioned Demons; for low budget drinking game fun, check Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. I can almost see MM becoming a cult classic in about 20 years, one of those "so bad it's good" flicks that draw me like a moth to a flame. Almost. Unfortunately, Midnight Movie is only "so bad it's worse", and should be tossed onto the growing, uncollected pile of refuse outside your home. If you do decide to watch it, make sure it is at (or after) midnight, by which time you'll have already had your fill of whatever substance you choose to abuse, or that your level of exhaustion from scooping cones for 500 kids that can't decide if they want Blue Carnies or Birthday Cake has taken its toll, and you can overlook the movie's shortcomings.

Being a horror junkie is tough going these days - yes, there are many great unearthed gems being released to DVD for the first time ever, but there is also a seemingly endless tide of direct to DVD crap that masquerades as horror but only succeeds in disappointing and frustrating the genre fan. But the reason they succeed is that we keep coming back for more, in hopes of finding the newest jewel. Very similar to being a Blue Jays fan. Like an alcoholic with a vision of clarity, or a new parent, I keep asking, "why do I do this to myself?" The question goes unanswered as I become distracted...Night of the Creeps is coming out on DVD in October!!!!!!


Wire In The Blood

If Only North American producer watched this show maybe there would be some hope for police procedurals. By breaking the mold and and making the main character a clinical psychologist, the viewer is treated to six seasons of blissful serial killings. Unfortunately it was canceled earlier this year for budget reasons, every episode cost about 1.5 million dollars and it really shows, it's a really good show watch it.


Watch Me.

I had about a dozen interesting film choices that I could have watched on Saturday night, all drawn from various posts and recommendations recently written about on this blog. Let me see.... there was Kris's Profit Motive, Graham's The Willow Tree, Tom's Sword of Gideon, Che! from the brief review by Justin, Ashes and Diamonds, Graham again, Joe's Wendy and Lucy, the fascinating sounding Pontypool from Kris's review back a few weeks ago and the list goes on.

What I chose, because I'm a fucking idiot, was..... The Watchmen.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not all that familiar with The Watchman graphic novel (or graphic novels in general for that matter). I like the idea of the graphic novel, but after a couple of pages, I normally come to the conclusion that I'd rather read a novel than look at pictures of one. Although I recognize that a great deal of talent goes into creating these uber-comics, I just can't shake the feeling that they're books for people who move their lips when the read.

Baammm! Pow! Zoinks!

I therefore sat down to watch the Zack Snyder's film adaptation not sure what to expect and without the requisite background knowledge of the comic's fan base. For a solid 20 minutes, I was much impressed. I loved the opening title sequence. It was smart, informative and gave just the right amount of background to flush out the setting and place. I thought the early scene with The Comedian getting his ass kicked, while shot in that terribly unrealistic and overused “superhero” style (super slo-mo, hyper detailed, navy bluescreen palette), was the best version of this little off-the-shelf technique I'd seen yet. What I didn't realize, at least at that point, was I still had about 2.5 hours left to go.

Eight clock-glances, two cans of coke, three trips to the bathroom and 16 cigarettes later, the closing credits ran. I admit to fast-forwarding through the Leonard Cohen “Halleluiah” boinking scene (seriously, what were they thinking?), but watched the rest of it pretty much straight through. I've read that the film is faithful to the original graphic novel but the result on the screen, quite frankly, drifted from engaging to a little bland and finally downright boring by the end. For all the up-to-the-minute technical wizardry on display, the pouting blue dude looked a lot like a character from some grade-Z '50s sci-fi.

The Watchmen was written in the late '80s, one assumes in reaction to the Ronnie Reagan polemics and politics of the day and while it probably seemed subversive back then, the post-Bush II era we live in has snuffed out any irony the original story had. The tongue-in-cheek horror of Nixon occupying the White House for 5 terms seems almost quaint along side the reality of the Bush/Cheney years. As a result, the main political underpinnings of The Watchmen world just doesn't work 20 years later.

A final note. Can you imagine being on a superhero team that included Dr. Manhattan? I mean, talk about a confidence-destroyer. The rest of the team seemed to possess some decent martial arts skills and zippy costumes but the swinging-dick-Doctor could blow people up and see the future just by stewing on it. It felt like a bunch of weekend gear-heads tweaking their 1996 Toyota Celica GT's and Michael Schumacher shows up with a 2200HP custom-built Scuderia Ferrari SPA F1 concept car and a complete pit crew to race with them. The best you can do is a very distant 2nd. I'd have voted him off the fucking island.

If you've not seen The Specials (2000), do so. The IMDb description goes, “The sixth or seventh best superhero team in the world pursue their rightful place in the harshly competitive world of toy tie-ins and fighting evil.” It's the best antidote to this kind of bloated film-making I can think of.

I should have listened to Kris and skipped The Watchmen in favour of any of the above noted recommendations (and now The White Balloon from Tom's morning post) but hey....

Wolverine comes out soon, eh?


The White Diamond.

First of all I’ve been really getting down with the Hogs docs recently. He has an uncanny skill for spotting points of interest, adjusting the direction of his films accordingly and leading us to unforeseen conclusions. I think this confidence as a director comes from a mix of experience, conviction and the independent spirit and financing of his films. He is certainly no Hollywood bureaucrat. The calculated risks he takes while shooting instantly make most documentaries look lame by comparison.

Often doc directors like to think of themselves as “invisible”. Obviously this is BS, the presence of a camera changes the situation and peoples behavior immediately. To counter this Werner is integral to his films. He is often emotionally invested and his aggressive and confrontational personal manner really cuts through the crap.

To top it all off, my favourite thing about his documentary films is the technique I am going to call the ‘Herzog hooooold’. There is clearly an unwritten rule for when camera operating for Herzog.

“After the subject has finished speaking, just hold! I will not talk, you will not move, we hoooooold!”

The nuances of character revealed in these short awkward pauses speak volumes and I haven’t seen a Herzog yet that didn’t make me laugh out loud during one of these shots.

The White Diamond follows Airship engineer Dr. Graham Dorrington as he leads an expedition to explore the Guyana jungle tree canopy using his newly fabricated airship. Grahams’ back-story includes a previous attempt which led to the loss of his friend documentary filmmaker Dieter Plage, a tragedy in which he clearly feels at least in part responsible. The expedition continues but not without turbulence and Werner steps in at times to secure the footage he needs by risking himself in an early test flight. As their trips become increasingly more successful our attention is drawn towards the personal story of one of the locals helping out the expedition. There is a certain poetry to the twists and turns as Herzog’s shoot everything ideology pays off for the better again. Essential viewing.

Also see: Grizzly Man, Encounters at the end of the world.


This is our planet, the Earth.

With things like grizzly bears and Don Cherry knocking about its not surprising people spend hours locked up with mother nature porn like ‘Planet earth’ and ‘Blue planet’. I just keep thinking to myself

“Earth… the sexy bitch. I want to get to know her better… but from a distance, obviously”.

Earth: the biography is a BBC / Discovery channel 2-part documentary series focused on the planet itself rather than its wildlife. It takes a step back, seeing the planet in the context of our solar system and it gives an all encompassing crash course in all things Earth. Once you get past the IQ low balling of the intro, our Scottish host Iain Stewart immediately gets to work. Iain doesn’t just spew out dry dougans from a studio armchair and expect you to swallow. He puts on his boots and jacket and gets up mother earth with a flashlight strapped to his 'heed'. See, here he is right in there:

"Give 'er buddy"

He starts by climbing. Then he climbs into an active volcano, right into it. Then he flies a jet. Then he hikes in the desert and goes diving in underwater caves and tunnels under a glacier and burns ice that’s filled with methane and each time it’s for a reason and often surprisingly poignant. These short investigations into some of the most extraordinary places on the planet are tastefully illustrated with excellent C.G. models and time lapse footage. Iain is an enthusiastic teacher and I really can’t emphasise how enlightened I felt after the series' 4-hour duration (I watched it twice). Throughout the series he covers the Birth of life and early life forms, the continental plates, the atmosphere, Climate, Weather, Natural disasters and shed loads more. I’m sure some people will find this retreads some things they already knew but did you know lightning sometimes strikes outwards fifty miles towards space? This program goes much further than common knowledge and is truly delicious food for the brain.

Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind

This documentary arrived at our store a few days ago and i was intrigued by the obscure box art, which features the films title followed by a paragraph that reads much like one of Captains reviews.
I thought what the hell? i'll test drive this baby, hey i can play smart.

I wanted to know as little about what i was about to watch as possible so i would have no expectations and would be ready for anything.
Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind (the title that had me confused at first but after viewing the film it now makes sense) is relatively about Americas past over the last few hundred years. With a complete focus on the bloody parts.

The film employs an almost sing song pattern that it follows throughout its duration. We are first shown shots of the "whispering wind", mostly shots of various woods or meadows and then shown the "profit motive" so to speak. Which is a shot of either a plaque indicating the location and explanation of a particular brutal event of the past, or the tombstones of people who have passed giving their lives for Americas much coveted freedom.

This pattern is very rarely interrupted, after the first 20 minutes a feeling of monotonous repetition can start to take over. Fortunately director John Gianvito must have clued in on this as the films running time comes out to a fair 58 minutes just in time for when boredom may start to sink in.

There is no soundtrack, just the sounds of what's around any particular shot. It works really well to draw you in especially during "whispering wind" segments, where i found more of my attention focused to as i was nearing the end of the film as oppose to the horrors of the past. Needless to say, the film is visually stunning.

One is quick to note that all of the dead shown here are from within America's own infighting. Any casualties of war with other countries have been left out. Mostly we see victims of massacres that were the end results of labour disputes or rebelling of slavery hence the title "Profit Motive".

John Gianvito is obviously stating sentiments towards civil injustices that continue to happen and reminds us that it wasn't too long ago that the freedoms we take as common sense now were paid for in much spilled blood.

I want to go into more detail of what happens to everybody at the end but i won't ruin it. You'll just have to guess who lives and who dies.
It's kinda like visiting all these important places without ever leaving your couch! neat!
Not for everyone but i certainly enjoyed it and recommend it.


The Willow Tree (2005) - Majid Majidi

Who knew I’d be back so quick, but I just watched this total fucking miracle of a film and I thought it would a good chance to fulfill my promise of a positive review. I don’t know how much I can say other than this is the reason I watch movies.

The ant on the windowsill, the flowers at the airport, the purging of a life’s work, the relationship between vision and cinema, between vision and desire. What a gem.

I've already got one thanks

For a second time now “fbwest” has been invited by strange facebook people to be their friends via email. That's 3 separate contacts this week alone inviting an inanimate object “fbwest” to pal up with them. I don't understand and was hoping one of you youthful social network experts could shed some light on these odd requests. Are they architectural fans? One of the invites came from someone with 697 friends, another from someone with only 555 (who is obviously uglier). How in the name of all that is holy does one have the bad luck to acquire 700 fucking friends? I don't even know 700 people all together and I've been on the planet twice as long as most facebook users. It literally boggles my mind. One of our staff (who will remain nameless) just about pee'd herself today because “someone wrote something on her wall” For fuck sakes – what does that mean? Is that a good thing?

I'm so glad that I missed this whole social/digital networking thing. In the really recent past you simply made plans and met up with your buds later. Now it seems that most furiously text one another for an hour after work, can't seem to agree on what the order of the evening should be and just go home. Brilliant! Think how much money you're saving.

A word of advice. 700 friends is about 696 too many and if someone writes on your digital facebook wall tell them to piss off and draw stupid shit on their own fucking wall and leave yours alone. No one should have more than 4 friends - but you need to be able to count on them to bury a dead hooker and keep their mouths shut about it if the need arises. In addition, you need a maximum of 12 acquaintances to invite to BBQ's and house parties. Know them well enough to hook up for a coffee but not so well that they feel comfortable asking you for money. They won't pay you back. If you've got a big family, avoid them by moving as far away as you can afford to.

Kendall is going to buy me a throw away cell phone for our cottage trip next week at Loblaws. It feels like an episode of The Wire and I'm rather excited about it. When we get back I'm going to toss it in the garbage with great glee. I might do a drug deal first though.

Save yourselves. Disconnect from the matrix as soon as possible. If you need to call someone from the woods, get Kendall to make the arrangements and don't ask any questions.


Visioneers (2008) - Jared Drake

I have to say I was a strong voice in trying to get this one in the shop and, having succeeded, feel a little sheepish that it stinks so much I couldn’t even make it through the whole thing. My interest was, more than anything, the casting of Zach Galifinakis (of Tim & Eric, Absolut Vodka and Between Two Ferns fame). Visioneers looked like it might have the same kind of aggressively bizarre outsider humour to it that the above titles have, the kind of thing Galifinakis seems to do well. I was hoping to catch a bit more of this before he disappears down The Hangover, jock-joke, Will Ferrel-esque, repeat-a-comedy drain (though The Hangover does look pretty awesome). Alas, Visioneers is pure indierockmovie wankery. It has the same quality to it that I can’t handle in Wes Anderson flicks—comedy that takes itself too seriously. I’m sorry to Wes Anderson fans (I imagine there are a few amongst us). Also sorry that I sound so much like a high and mighty film snot too. I really am trying to steer away from that!

One thing that got me thinking while dozing off to Visioneers was the peculiar way that Hollywood portrays banal, suburban American life (and by Hollywood I mean popular American cinema in general, including “indie”). What I mean is that surreal, soulless, almost cartoonish image of the suburban (i.e., Edward Scissorhands, Joe vs. the Volcano, Truman Show, etc.). Visioneers has a similar quality to it. It is like we are trying to make the suburbs more interesting by making them almost “sublime” in their banality. I’m not a good enough cultural theorist to understand what the collective motivation for this would be, but it’s interesting to think about. Now I sound like a snot and a film school wanker. I promise my next review will be about something I liked (and I will not use the word “sublime” again).

New at the FBE These Weeks! (July 14/21)

Got a little tied up consulting my Rosetta stone while reading Justin's posts, so didn't get a chance to post what's new and notable at the FBE this past week. I've combined the releases from last Tuesday and this coming Tuesday, with a break between the two weeks. Not sure who reads these lists, or if they're even useful(?), but it allows me to sneakily contribute to the blog in lieu of actual reviews. Anyway, some real inneresting stuff here:

Midnight Movie - horror film set in a movie theatre - I can't resist.
Callan Set 1 - Edward Woodward builds his detective chops for his visit to Summerisle (anyone? anyone?)
Resolved - debating doc
Grave of the Fireflies - FBE finally gets its own copy of this perpetually borrowed and at long last reissued anti-war anime. Beautiful, sorrowful, powerful stuff.
Bye Bye Monkey - wacky Kongmedy (sorry) from Marco Ferreri
Don't Touch the White Woman - good advice from Marco Ferreri
For All Mankind - Criterion reissue of the Apollo missions doc.
At the Death House Door - fascinating and frightening death penalty doc.
12 - Russian take on 12 Angry Men, less Fonda, more vodka.
Wire in the Blood season 6
Burning the Future - another scarier-than-thou doc about non-renewable energy and how we're all screwed.
Islands in the Stream - George C. Scott does his best Kenny Rogers impression
Plus Tard - newest from Israeli auteurAmos Gitai
World of Suzie Wong - portrait of the artist as an old man

2 or 3 Things I Know About Her - Criterion reissue of a bona fide Godard CLASSIC.
Made in U.S.A - Criterion reissue of a lesser Godard.
Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind - intriguing doc based on Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States"
Diaries Notes and Sketches (aka Walden) - Jonas Mekas' compendium of footage from the '60s New York art scene. Massive, in more ways than one.
Visioneers - odd-looking (in the best way) comedy starring that guy from The Hangover.
This American Life season 2 - NPR show makes good, goes to DVD
Cadavres - French-Canadian black comedy
Pontypool - Bruce McDonald's return to form after the incredibly divisive Tracey Fragments.
Moscow, Belgium - Belgian comedy
Hello Goodbye - French comedy
Diamonds - Candian miniseries about the diamond trade.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Sherlock Holmes, The Beloved Rogue, Tempest - quartet of John Barrymore classics.

And, as usual, all the big new releases.

Conquered by Britain.

I'm very much enjoying Tom's blog these days.

and Kadas? Where are you?

I'm not going to have to read that stupid Dunkblabbers thing to find out I hope...


I'm being followed by a Moon shadow.....

Watching For All Mankind, a 1989 documentary collection of various bits of NASA's Apollo mission footage recently released on Criterion Blu-Ray, was an odd but rewarding experience. You would expect a film about such a distinctly human endeavor to concentrate on the people that made it happen but it's not about them, at least not in any direct way. The narration is provided by way of stories, anecdotes and observations from a dozen or so unidentified astronauts who do not appear on screen, often times disconnected from the stunning visuals on display, collected and masterfully edited from the various Apollo missions by the film makers. I'm not sure if this benefits or detracts from the final film but it certainly makes for a highly unusual (and weirdly personal) look at the technological miracle of mankind's first journeys into space.

Where In the Shadow of the Moon (a 2007 documentary that covers this same period) is about what going into space felt like to the astronauts, For All Mankind is about how it feels to go into space, if that makes any sense. The astronauts in the later film are the mediators of the experience and the viewer lives this experience vicariously through them. They are personalities and heroes and at the heart of the 2007 film. For All Mankind is not about personalities. It's about the Moon, how you get there and what you see along the way. The difference between these two films is telling and perhaps just a little culturally revealing. The cult-of-the-celebrity that's become so entrenched in western society over the last 20 years leads one to consider if we are interested in - or even capable of - interpreting the world around us without the assistance of some outside (and hopefully famous) interpreter like Oprah. To draw a sort of parallel to another pairing of films For All Mankind is to In The Shadow of the Moon as Old Joy is to Sideways.

I don't know if this new-found fascination with the '60s space program of my youth is merely nostalgia creeping in or whether I'm looking for an antidote to the banality of the iPhone world circa 2009 but I have to admit to being awed by this particularly inspired period of the 20th century. Perhaps it was the sense that anything could be accomplished if society set its sights on a worthy goal. I don't know.

There's something deeply spiritual in how these astronauts discuss their journey and it's something that's missing in our modern day world. We need to capture something of that again and fuck off to another planet as soon as possible.




I remember the East end store before I worked there. It seemed so much fun, the guys there were wild. Whilst tidying the back room on Thursday I came across some old photographs from the FBE, on the back in brown smudges was written 'F.B.E. (B.T.)'

Okay you got me, it's not true.
I never did tidy the back room on Thursday.

Bicycle Kids....

Back in the middle of the 1980's, I liked a band called The Jazz Butcher. I don't know where they came from (they sounded vaguely British) but one of their songs Bicycle Kid with its hilarious lyrics and killer beat became a personal fav. The song went...

He's a bicycle kid, He's got his Mister T. slippers.
He's a bicycle kid, he's eleven years old.
Dog-faced spawn of a working class Tory,
Bicycle kid never does what he's told.
He's a bicycle kid and he wants to get a crossbow.
Bicycle kid had a rabbit that died:
Evil little fucker put his pet through the window,
The he ran to his mother and he cried, cried, cried.

Which brings me to another Dick Florida post. The City of Toronto is a terrifying beast, but I recognize that governing a bunch of wingnut twats driving their garbage past 12 transfer stations to toss it on some poor Etobicokian's front yard during the garbage strike can't be a cake walk either. The latest bit of society tweaking by the Meir Müller and his Greenboots is the “adjustment” of Dupont into a bicycle kid thoroughfare and traffic nightmare. What was a working downtown journey alternative for west enders of mostly four lanes a mere two weeks ago, has been squeezed into a two lane gridlocked parking lot with two huge, empty bike lanes occupying what was parking spaces, turn lanes and a ribbon of pavement that once contained moving vehicles. Progress.

I want a crossbow.


Black September

The Munich Olympics in 1972 was the scene of the 'Munich massacre'. This was the hostage situation and subsequent murder of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team by Palestinian terrorists. Historical events such as this often become subjects of books and films for years to come. I'm a sucker for a true story of any sort and when I found 3 films based on accounts of this event I settled down for a marathon. I must admit, frankly I'm a bit conflicted when being entertained by tragedy, should I feel guilty, is this exploitative? I can only think that knowing of these events can give us greater hope for the future. In the meantime let's see if these nuggets can keep our sadistic collective conscience entertained.
One day in September (1999 Kevin Macdonald).

September is a miserable sounding month isn't it? Back to school, shitty weather and also worth a mention, terrorism. This documentary from director of The Last King of Scotland and Touching the Void outlines everything that happened during that time from the build up to it's tragic ending. Mixing insightful interviews (including one with the only remaining terrorist, still in hiding) some reconstructions and lots of news footage from the time. The doc does a good job of educating while also being appropriately dramatic and entertaining. Still, I would say if you want a good doc for entertainments sake then go elsewhere, this is only interesting if you're interested. Which you should be.
also see: Waco: The rules of engagement, Jonestown, He's just not that into you.

The Sword of Gideon.

Never heard of this one but what I got was a decent 2 hours and 52 minutes of globetrotting espionage thriller, Tony Montana's bezzy mate teaming up with Austin Powers bezzy mate in a late 70's movie based on a book called 'Vengeance'. This story takes place after the Munich massacre (which is established briefly as the opening sequence) and is the story of the Israeli soldier who was hired secretly by the government at the time, to wreak vengeance on the purpetrators of the Munich massacre. The movie feels like a lesser accomplished 'Ronin' but turns into some west side story romance whinge in the middle redeeming itself by the end. Eventually the mission goes soft when a lady spy shags and kills one of the team, our main man has a baby and they fail to kill their final target. It certainly feels like the story was printed over the truth here and some of the scenes are so plot driven that it feels heavy handed. This doesn't spoil the film but it does leave it feeling fairly unremarkable.
Also see: Ronin, Dr.No, The Bourne Identity, The Italian Job, Austin Powers:The spy who shagged me


Spielberg's 3 hour retelling was daunting at first but after watching the first 20 minutes I found it to be completely unwatchable. It's essentially a remake of Sword of Gideon (well, it's based on the same book) but with better actors, bigger budget and a pedestrian middle of the road production from Spielberg whom obviously had an agenda in making this film. Not that I imagine it's no good or full of lies but my cynicism eventually meant I really couldn't face it. He can be a bit safe and boring old Steven, though I imagine he still thinks he's radical and some sort of a political activist. I think I’ll leave this one for someone else to bother with, or not.

The IT Crowd

In a desperate attempt to reduce the head-shake factor of this blog of late here’s a rather inane review.

Graham Linehan is the writer responsible for Father Ted and much of Big Train, Black books and Brasseye. Fans of any of the above won’t need selling on his latest show The IT Crowd but I firmly believe this show merits more nods at The Buff. It’s a cheaply produced British sitcom that relies on its quality writing and acting over production values. Our main characters are the uber geeky social outcast IT technicians Roy & Moss and Jen their 30 something single boss who really knows nothing about IT but instead spends most of her time trying to ‘bag a normal’. The humour ranges from the cheap and dumb to the quite complex farces that made Fawlty Towers a classic. Still, answering the IT office phone with "Did you try turning it off and on again?" and the concept that "If you type 'google' into google you can break the internets" raise a chuckle from me everytime. Each episode tends to tackle a specific issue or taboo and everytime the farce unfolds in an unpredictable way. The first series is good, the second is great and the 3rd series is yet to be released over here. Though I reckon it’s not quite up to Saxondale standards I hope the IT crowd can join Spaced, Black books, The Office, Alan Partridge and The League of Gentleman as solid Brit comedy recommendations.


Shedding some Twilight on the matter

Instead of doing the Globe's cryptic crossword tonight, I've spent several hours trying to decipher and expand upon Justin's Twilight review from a couple of days ago. Here's what I've got so far...

Twilight would have been better if it wasn't specifically about vampires but was instead simply an allegorical reflection on and about America. It was too obvious and the source material would have been more effective had it been presented in a more subversive way. I think that's what the first line means.

“...perpetuating the sublime's violent repression of desire without the concomitant moment of release.” means absolutely nothing to me. I gather this is a reference to the sublime/beautiful aesthetic concepts advanced by Burke but I don't know how it relates to (or what) a concurrent “moment of release” is. I'm not sure how many 14 year old girls read 20th century philosophers either. Could it be that the film was a populist adaptation of a populist series of books and not much else or is there something more going on here? I can't imagine that the director/producers set their sights much higher than that but stranger things have happened.

I'm also confused how Twilight's cuteness undermines the history of cuteness (or that there even was one). Is it overly cute and not cute enough? It also, apparently, “trades a coming of age story for the effect of Buffy reruns”, but I'm not sure what that effect is. I kind of thought Buffy was a coming of age story of sorts too. What exactly is being traded? I'm not sure what we gave up or what we got in return.

The last sentence is a real doozy. Who doesn't get to judge the particulars? The viewer or the characters? “...the reason which was to be the means of satisfying human ends becomes its own end” Is this a reference to the character's motivations? “What” becomes its own end and how does that effect and/or alter the character's ultimate goals? Isn't the whole Twilight thing a quasi-religious call for youthful sexual abstinence in the first place and therefore -by definition- it's about the happiness that this brings?

Joe's followup comment about not understanding the bulk of the review elicited the response; “this is the same old argument against popular american film, culture and media. nothing short of a analysis of the culture industry put forward by Theodor Adorno if you're interested.”

OK, I'm interested. Firstly, I'm a little unclear if “the same old argument against American popular film” stemmed from Joe's comment or was intended to advance the idea that further analysis of Twilight would benefit and augment the original review. If I recall, Adorno's philosophical premise maintained that capitalism was reinforced by culturally and intellectually stunted mass-marketed entertainment intent on keeping the masses passively satisfied. Twilight would seem to fit the bill here rather nicely but beyond this, are there other elements of this specific film make it more or less typical of the kind of film Adorno was warning us against? Twilight doesn't seem any more or less stupid than most films aimed at 14 year old girls, but perhaps I'm missing something here.

I love analyzing films for their cultural significance. What a film says – sometimes even accidentally – about society (and therefore by extension, us) makes for fascinating and rewarding contemplation. To me, a breakout populist film like Twilight is particularly interesting because it is aimed at a specific (and atypical, for a story about vampires) demographic. Vampire lore's 100 plus year history gives one pause to consider just how strange the underlying appeal of this mythical creature is. He's dead and yet alive, drains the blood of his victims and yet is often presented as a noble and romantic figure. Twilight seems to have defanged the beast and repackaged the lore in a way that 14 year old girls have taken to heart. At the risk of moving the discussion away from the likes of Burke and Adorno, isn't that the more intriguing and thought-provoking consideration here?

This is by no means the first attempt at pitching vampires to a younger audience but it might be the first time they have been aimed at a pre-pubescent one. The darkly sexual has always been front and centre in vampire stories, so much so that Anne Rice, a hack writer of no particular literary talent, managed to become an industry giant by moving the stories thematically closer to their sexual underpinnings. The Twilight series seems to have inverted Rice's approach and pushed the sexuality away from the core of the stories, giving them an innocence that masks the inherent sexuality of the vampire himself. From that perspective perhaps Twilight is more subversive than it appears at first glance. Is this an acknowledgment of a basic sexuality in youth or is that reading too much into it?

Thoughts anyone?



Che: part one

Great film. The camera distanced itself from the politics of his period just enough to make Che's character impersonal and historically accurate as a result.


Wow. Catherine Hardwicke is a good director. The film hits all the queues... unfortunately.
This film would be great if all the scenes necessary to make it about vampires were subsituted with scenes that had similar alegory without all the American fetishes of flatscreens, steaks, vampires, and more subversively integrating art and empiricism, perpetuating the sublime's violent repression of desire without the concomitant moment of release. It's cute while undermining the history of cuteness, love, and autheticity, trading what is a "coming of age" story for the effect of Buffy reruns. Without the possibility of judging particulars and rationally considering ends and goals, the reason which was to be the means to satisfying human ends becomes its own end and thereby turns against the true aim of happiness for the characters.



We never talk anymore. Not like we used to. You don't look at me the same way. I've missed you since i've been away, looking forward to hearing about what's good on Reddit the last little while. Even if for now we just keep it "professional" that night still lingers, i have your disease inside me...


Jules talked to me today. I thought we already discussed this. Please, don't let it happen again.



New This Week at the FBE! (July 7/09)

-Modern Love - French rom-com
-The Unborn - Gary Oldman sinks to new lows in this PG-13 "horror" film
-Lonely Are the Brave - Kirk Douglas just wasn't made for these times.
-Crips and Bloods: Made in America - Stacey Peralta's look at US gang wars. I prefer blue to red, so I guess I'm a Crip.
-Kath & Kim season 1 - Molly Shannon and smokin' Selma Blair star in this US remake of the hit Aussie comedy series of the same name
-Near Dark - re-release. Forget the current wave of vamp-mania (except for Let the Right One In - don't forget that) and re-visit this absolutely superb vampire action/thriller/romance from the late 80's. In my top 5 vamp films of all time.
-Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes - American commentator and social critic gets the doc treatment.
-Before Tomorrow - another Quebecois/Inuktitut production. Atanarjuat-redux?
-The Last Horror Film (aka Fanatic)- re-issue, with a great box. Maniac co-stars Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro (hubba-hubba) have fun in this gloriously grimy tribute to their earlier film, Taxi Driver and early-80's New York sleaze.

A few new "acquisitions" from our fine friends at the FBW...
-A Room With a View - more classiness from James Ivory
-It Came From Beneath the Sea - more awesomeness from Ray Harryhausen
-The Bicycle Thief - old Image version to replace our stolen deluxe Criterion edition

And on Blu...


Malden Moonwalks....

I was joking with somebody at the shop last night wondering how they might try and tie Karl Malden's death with that of MJ's flame-out last week. Low and behold this morning, this little ditty appeared on IMDB.

"Oscar winner Karl Malden has died at his home in Brentwood, Los Angeles, three years shy of his 100th birthday. The Streets of San Francisco star was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1912 and raised in Gary, Indiana - coincidentally the birthplace of Michael Jackson, who died last week, 50 years short of his."

(I admit to adding the last little bit there but the rest is verbatim)

Satire is nearly impossible these days.


Killing Me Softly

Le Tueur (The Killer) 2007

Le Tueur is one of those rare films that is both compelling and serene. Precious little happens during its 90 minute running time but it's hard to tear your eyes off the screen. This is mostly due to the riveting performances of both leads, Gilbert Melki (Intimate Strangers, The Right of The Weakest) who plays a doomed investment banker and Grégoire Colin (Beau Travail, The Dreamlife of Angels) as the man who has been sent to kill him. It requires some patience but the payoff is satisfying and thought-provoking. Both actors manage to create complex, detailed and believable characters with only a a few lines of dialogue. It's not a thriller by any means, more a drama about the goodness inherent in even the most flawed of us. Stellar acting and a leisurely but assured pace by first time director Cedric Anger makes this a decent pick if you are in the mood for something a little introspective.

By the way my little protégées, did either of you watch Kiss me Deadly like I told you to?