10.31.2009

Happy Halloween!

Have a haunted Halloween, boils and ghouls!  Look out for razor blades...






10.30.2009

It's Beginning to look a lot like Hallowe'en 2, Part 18 - Night Of The Creeps (1986)




Night Of The Creeps was finally released on DVD this past week which meant i finally got to see this B-horror classic.





And my word, what a fantastic piece of film making on display here. NOTC is one big stew of film references and genres. If you put Star Wars, Night of the Living Dead, Plan 9 From Outer Space, The Big Sleep and just about 1000 other inspirations compiled of the most entertaining elements from the history of cinema, stick that all in a blender and what you would get is Night of the Creeps.



A self conscious b-horror with just the right budget (not too high, not too low) that practically had everything i wanted in a movie. The characters are too much fun, from the cigarette smoking hard drinking Detective Ray Cameron (ripped straight out of the pages of Raymond Chandler) to the unibrow wielding frat boy Steve. The music is also phenomenal, no John Hughes inspired 80's soundtrack to be found here, Barry De Vorzon's signature bad ass synthy ambience is all you need. If you're a fan of The Warriors, then you'll really get a kick out of this soundtrack and in turn the film. Something about De Vorzon's music that gives the films he scores this feeling of being all around bad ass and entertaining.

If you haven't seen this, like i had, i urge you (if you're not a pretentious douchenozzle that is) to pick it up. If you're in the mood to be entertained you won't be dissapointed. Fun, funny, and an all around blast!

P.S. why in the hell after so long of residing in VHS purgatory does the dvd release have such hideous cover art!? gah! The vhs covers were so cool and even the bootleg dvd version was way better.


check it, here's the bootleg:














and here's what we get for waiting:


















lame... lame... tres lame.

10.28.2009

Some thoughts...

Oh freddled gruntbuggly,
Thy micturations are to me
As plurdled gabbleblotchits
On a lurgid bee
That mordiously hath bitled out
Its earted jurtles
Into a rancid festering [drowned out by moaning and screaming]
Now the jurpling slayjid agrocrustles
Are slurping hagrilly up the axlegrurts
And living glupules frart and slipulate
Like jowling meated liverslime
Groop, I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes
And hooptiously drangle me
With crinkly bindlewurdles,
Or else I shall rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon
See if I don't.

We're now considering doing all the holidays.....


I think we're on to something here.

It's beginning to look a lot like Halloween is OVER!!!!....



Aleks and I are working up a couple of Xmas DVD drop-in card options. I like this one the best so far.
Thoughts.....Anyone....?





Sporgey

10.27.2009

Un conte de Noël/A Christmas Tale (2008)

It seems that modern French film makers drift closer to the pretension/art divide than most others would dare. They can be utterly fearless. Perhaps it stems from the New Wave's perchance for flaunting convention at every turn. This is the culture that gave us Godard after all. Directed and co-written by Arnaud Desplechin, A Christmas Tale played, not surprisingly, to a mixture of rave and slightly befuddled critical reviews last year and then took it's sweet, bloody time getting to DVD. It is a fascinating (and admittedly, at times bewildering) film that seems to exist almost outside the standard conventions of modern film making. It is an unusual film experience because it just doesn't do or go where you might expect it to. I oscillated between liking it, being mesmerized by it and not knowing what to make of it, in approximately equal measures. Most of the major critics adored it but I'm not sure how well it will play with mainstream audiences. It is a complex and highly challenging film.

The plot revolves around Junon, the matriarch of a quirky grown-up French provincial family, played with an icy precision by the always excellent Catherine Deneuve. Junon is diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant from a family member with matching.... ah, marrowness, I guess. Past conflicts and family dysfunction has left two of the children (and by extension the entire family) estranged and Junon's medical need is the catalyst needed to have everyone return to the family home for perhaps their last Christmas together. What sounds like a recipe for teary-eyed reunions, heartfelt reconciliations and depressing reflections on broken families is nothing but. We're given ample opportunity over the film's 150 minute running time to get to know the large cast of characters that make up the extended Vuillard family... and they are not an easy bunch.

Imagine the Royal Tenenbaums as Douglas Sirk (or David Lean) might have directed it and you begin to get a feel for what Desplechin does with A Christmas Tale. This is a film distinctively and exclusively made for adults with lofty references to everyone from Emerson, Shakespeare, Seamus Heaney, Nietzsche and a host of others I'm sure I missed. It's an incredibly dense film (and I mean that in a good way) that probably needs more than one viewing to absorb in its entirety. I came away from my first pass oddly bedeviled by it, satisfied but reeling and as I continue to reflect on it, I'm beginning to think of it as one of the year's best films. At times, it flirts with arty pretension but as a whole, this is an accomplished piece of superior film making. It raises the bar, something I'm constantly bitching about but don't quite know how to manage when I finally get it. I've always had difficulty citing examples of films that are truly cinematic when someone pitches The Dark Knight as an example of great film making. A Christmas Tale is just that kind of film. Intellectual, real and raw in ways that even the best Hollywood films can never seem to deliver on.

I hope I haven't made the film sound too inaccessible because it isn't. It's long but there are darkly comic moments, several interesting and relevant subplots weaving in and out of the main story line, family secrets revealed and a Papa that seems a character straight out of the Triplets of Bellville. It was nominated for a huge array of European film awards and won a few of them. The further I get from it, the more I want to go back and give it a second look. A Christmas Tale is a chaotic, unsettling, emotionally rich and cinematically thrilling film. It sports a terrific score - an elegant mix of standards, classics and original music by Gregoire Hetzel, amazing acting by everyone involved and the director's deft touch at showing human life with all its moments of edgy irrationality and gentle sweetness.

It's a toss up right now between Il Divo, 35 Shots of Rhum, Let the Right One In and now, A Christmas Tale for my pick as the year's best release.

Sporgey

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Halloween 2, part 17: Betty Boop's Halloween Party

Bring your lunch.

10.24.2009

It's beginning to Look a lot like Hallowe'en 2, Part 16 - Zombieland (2009)

Zombieland is a film that doesn't pretend to be something it's not. Whatever ads you may have come across for the picture are an honest depiction of what the film is all about. That's right, just by looking at the poster whatever idea of a film you can muster up from that image is probably pretty close to what you get from Zombieland. It's a helium filled action horror comedy that leaves your brain in those empty moments between end scene and credit scrawl.

All the same it's hard to deny the charm of Zombieland, for all its brain dead qualities it doesn't attempt to do anything but entertain you. Whether or not the film accomplishes this depends completely on the viewer. I know some horror buffs who scoffed at this film before and after viewing, and rightfully so. Zombieland is the kind of cinematic experience that should be enjoyed without any expectations. Had i expected to be scared i would have been let down, as the film delivers minimal scares but then again i don't understand why anyone would expect to be scared by a film called "Zombieland".
The film begins amidst a zombie outbreak, the why or how of the hysteria is never fully explained nor does it has to be. This isn't that kind of zombie flick, the zombies here stand for nothing more than flesh bags waiting to meet the end of a sawn-off shotgun. The protagonist here played by Jesse Eisenberg is, oddly enough, playing a redux of his character in Adventureland. Actually, pretending that this film is Adventureland's genre u-turn sequel makes the film all the more entertaining. Eisenberg plays Columbus, a kid from (you guessed it) Columbus traveling across the states to get back to his hometown due to lack of a better idea. On his journey he meets a hummer driving, shotgun wielding, zombie killer extraordinaire Tallahasse (guess where he's from) played perfectly by Woody Harrelson. Together they travel across the country eventually being joined by Wichita (played by the gorgeous Emma Stone) and Little Rock (great turn by Little Miss Sunshine star Abigail Breslin).
One part road movie, one part buddy flick, one part shoot em' up, and two parts zombie survival picture the film moves at an enjoyable pace through its short run time leaving you entertained. I however did feel an urge to consume brains whilst leaving the cinema to curb by hunger for some smarts but all in all quite a fun ride. What made the film for me was an amazing cameo that most definitely is the centerpiece of the film, for those who don't know who it is do yourself a favour and make sure you keep it that way until you see it. For those who had the surprise ruined for them punch the person who told you in the gut for me.

Definitely worth checking out, not one that begs to be seen on the big screen but one that begs to be seen with others.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Halloween 2, part 15: The Gravedancers (2006)

I bought this last year based on a couple of good reviews citing the film as the best of the After Dark Horrorfest series 8 Films to Die For.  What?  Better than Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror?  Inconceivable!  Anyway, the other film in the series that the pundits deemed view-worthy was Nacho Cerda's The Abandoned.  Now, I loved Cerda's previous short Aftermath, and was greatly anticipating his first feature film.  Unfortunately, the thing fell flat.  There were a few good scares along the way, but overall, The Abandoned left me wanting.  So, I set The Gravedancers aside, fearing that the punters had misled me yet again, with the halfhearted hope that I'd pop it in one October night and, with expectations fairly low, be pleasantly surprised.  And, last night, that's exactly what happened.

The Gravedancers stars Prison Break's Dominic Purcell as Harris, one of three friends who come home for the funeral of their college pal.  After spending some time in the local watering hole, Kira, Sid (the other two friends) and Harris congregate after dark in the cemetery to truly celebrate their friend's passing, not to mourn him  but to rejoice in a life well-lived.  They make the mistake of dancing on a few graves though (hence the title, duh!); baaaad mooooove.  In doing so they have desecrated the deceased, who also happened to be "undesirables" in their time on earth, we learn later.  So the rest of the film is spent with the three grave dancers dealing with paranormal activities that occur with increasing frequency and violence.

Sounds kinda dumb, and I guess it is, but I'm a sucker for a good ghost story, and I was in the mood for something a bit more lively than one of the classics (The Haunting, The Legend of Hell House, The Innocents, etc, and I like to watch Ghost Story and The Woman In Black around Christmastime for some reason...).  The Gravedancers, while not a great film, fit the bill at the time, and for some good spooky fun, you really can't go wrong.

One thing that I though was well-done was how the filmmakers used mainly practical effects, something too rare in horror these days, and relied on CGI for the climax, which, while it would have been incredible if done practically, would have been far too cost-prohibitive to produce.

I don't want to raise expectations on a film like this (I suppose I already have) - that is often the kiss of death - but if you go in not expecting anything earth-shattering, and you can excuse a little wooden acting here and there (beyond the point in a film of this ilk, no?), but instead looking instead for a good little spook show, you'll be more than pleased;  I certainly was.

Anyone have any good ghost story film recommendations?

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Halloween 2, part 14: The Boxer's Omen (1983)

Wow, what to say about The Boxer's Omen?  One of the most mind-bending, visually imaginative and all-together fucked films I've seen in awhile.  A simple plot synopsis, though it cannot do the film justice, is necessary to understand what the hell is actually going on.

I've already forgotten the name of Lung Wei Wang's character, but we'll just call him Lung for clarification purposes, and Bolo Yeung, we'll call Bolo.  So, Lung's brother is beaten by shady methods in a boxing match with Bolo, and Lung is asked to seek revenge for the now paralyzed brother.  He travels from Hong Kong to Thailand to confront Bolo and demand a match to avenge his brother.  He is then drawn to a temple that bears a glowing arch that is identical to the one he saw in his dream.  There he is informed by the monks that he was chosen by their lama to come to them to free the now near-dead (actually imprisoned by a dark spell) lama from some horrible black magic curse.  The almost-dead lama speaks to Lung and tells him that they are twins and that if the lama cannot acheive immortality then Lung too will die.  So Lung becomes a monk and sets about training to break the curse and avenge his brother and stay alive.  The movie shifts incomprehensibly back and forth between Hong Kong and Thailand, and I could never be sure where they were exactly, as everything looked the saem.

Haha, reading that summary back again, I can't even believe how messed the film is.  But the best part?  Oh yeah, the best part are the amazing effects, gloriously gory and gruesome and slimy practical and stop motion effects involving the blackest of magics.  The lighting is also fantastic and trippy, and shares much with the contrasting primary colour schemes of Argento's Suspiria and Inferno.

I read a review that said if Jodorowsky and Coffin Joe got together and made a martial arts/horror film in Hong Kong, this would be it.  I can't think of anything more to say than that is probably the most apt description for The Boxer's Omen.  Unlike anything I've seen before, and doubt I'll see anything like it again.  We've got a copy in the FBE, and I've already ordered one for myself.  WATCH IT!  Her's one of my favourite scenes and a good example of the film's complete and utter gonzo zaniness and absolute defiance of logic.  Enjoy!

Year End Review

Buff People...

I've gone over the releases to date in 2009 and assembled a list of those titles that might be worthy of including in the year end flyer. I've posted it on the website at this address and wondered if a few of you could glance over it and advance any missing titles.

http://www.thefilmbuff.com/2009%20Flyer%202%20Review%20List.txt

As we talked about earlier, I'm thinking a brief description of each title (which I can write) and then an essay of sorts about the year in film, favourites, etc. from anyone interested in offering there take on the year in film.

Thoughts?

S

10.23.2009

It's beginning to look ....Part 3 Section 13 Sub-Entry B1.....oh forget it.

I watched Pontypool tonight and loved it. I've got nothing to add to Kadas's excellent review from a few months ago but thought with Halloween coming up, it might have slipped off a few other people's radar too.


http://thefilmbuffs.blogspot.com/2009/06/pontypool-pontypool-pontypool-pontypool.html

…..links to Kris's review.

Most definitely worth a look if you missed it.

One thing..... Only the French would broadcast a warning (in French) and leave the "Do Not Translate This Message" warning until the final sentence.

Idiots....

S

10.21.2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Halloween 2, part 12: Let's Scare Jessica To Death (1971)

Released in 1971, a year before Robert Altman's Images, John Hancock's (seriously) Let's Scare Jessica To Death is an anomalous landmark in the horror canon.

Based on Gothic horror author Sheridan Le Fanu's work "Carmilla", and starring TV (and later the underrated Exorcist III) vet Zohra Lampert, LSJTD has a simple plot:  Jessica has recently spent six months under psychiatric care/evaluation in New York for an unknown "illness", and now, supposedly cured, is moving out to the country upstate, along with her husband Duncan and their good friend Woody.  They are going to live in an old farmhouse and work the adjoining orchard, get back to the land, for the good of Jessica's mental state.  When they arrive in town, they are greeted less than hospitably by some old men, but things cheer up as they arrive at the house.  However, they soon find they are not alone here; living in the home is a woman, Emily, who has been squatting there for some time.  She is very friendly though, and all four of the characters get along quite well.  After a little bit of familiarizing, and a fledgling romance with Woody, Emily is asked to stay with the trio.  And that's pretty much it.  But as the story unfolds, we see that Jessica is indeed not well - she hears voices, her paranoia grows, and a mysterious girl in white appears at random times, seemingly to warn Jessica of something.

As Jessica's mind begins to fragment, Emily wedges herself between Jessica and Duncan, even treating the latter to some late night carnality one midnight.  And as things fall apart, Jessica starts to wonder if she is in fact mad, or if something more sinister is at play.  Even the somewhat revelatory ending is still left open to interpretation precisely because of Jessica's mental state.  "Dreams or nightmares?  Madness or sanity?", she asks herself in the film's bookending scene.

The score is excellent; throbbing electronic pulses mix with pastoral, folky acoustic guitar, and provide an aural backdrop for the dual sides of Jessica. 

All actors are quietly superb in their roles, and the film has that early '70s no-nonsense, matter-of-fact realism that was prevalent in almost all dramas then, and is sorely missing from much of today's cinema.  Lampert, especially, is wonderfully cast in a difficult role - she comes off at times lucid, at times shattered, simple; at times radiant, at times haggard.

The ambiguity of the film is its great strength and has given it its staying power, I believe.  We are never told one way or the other whether or not Jessica has completely slipped into a fantasy world facilitated by a broken mind, or if in fact the demons that haunt her are real. Laced with an undercurrent of dark sexuality and misogyny, LSJTD belies its often unadorned exterior.  I've watched this three times in the last year and a half or so, and find something new with each viewing.  We feel the very real sense that Jessica's fragile mental state could at any moment teeter slightly, plunging her into madness forever.

Another thing that puzzles me about the film is its title, specifically the "Let's" part.  "Let's" meaning "let us"...so who are the "us"?  The creepy old men in town?  Duncan, Woody, and Emily, playing some cruel and elaborate prank on Jessica?  Or are they the whispers inside Jessica's head, conspiring to remove her from this world once and for all?  Hmmm, certainly something to ponder...

Highly recommended viewing for this time of year, or anytime, for that matter - a worthwhile watch, all these years later.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Halloween 2, part 11: The Children (2008)

Fiends, I just couldn't resist a film with the tagline: "You brought them into this world...Now they will take you out".  Awesome!  The acclaimed offspring-horror was released on DVD yesterday and well, it's kinda sorta, meh.

The setup is cool - sister one takes her family to deep into the British countryside to meet up at the lavish home of sister two and her family, in which they will celebrate Christmas together.  However, one of the kids (who looks and acts disturbingly like my nephew Luke) gets sick and slowly a mysterious virus seems to pervade the bodies of each of the 4 (or is it 5?) kids at the home.  This isn't a normal virus, though, and turns each child into a flesh and blood version of Chucky, with the murderous impulses carried out upon various family members.

Certain scenes are clearly designed to show the difficulty of a parent looking upon their child as anything but an angel, and the toughness in making that leap from nurturing to harming.  I dunno, I guess you have to have kids for this to take effect, cause I wanted to smash some skulls during the entire thing - and even before the virus took hold. There were some eerie scenes, for sure, and I found the first 20 minutes or so to be effective at setting up realistic relationships and characterizations, and hinting ever so slightly at a uneasy sense of menace that might just be lurking.  Beyond that, the plot gets old fast, and the tension that is supposed to be built doesn't really go anywhere.

On the technical side of things, there are a few very intriguing and creative shots in the film, and a couple convincing gore effects as well, though we all know that a couple decent effects do not a good movie make.

If you want creepy kid horror, check out The Bad Seed, The Innocents, Alice, Sweet Alice, The Brood, The Orphanage (Larry Fessenden's directing an American remake, due out in 2011! Speaking of which, who has my copy of Habit?), even Them (ooops, I guess I just gave away that ending, didn't I?), or Roncesvalles at 3:45 pm on a school day (didn't think I was going to let so obvious a reference slip by unmentioned, did you?), among many others.  As it stands, The Children is less than the sum of its (at times, quite strong) parts.  Too bad, it showed so much promise....

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Halloween 2, part 10: Student Bodies (1981)

"Before there was SCREAM, there was...STUDENT BODIES"

So goes the line on the front of the DVD box.  Now, I'm not one of those who believe that Scream killed horror, or at least serious horror.  I love Scream; even moreso what is essentially its pilot run in Wes Craven's earlier film New Nightmare.  So I was intrigued by Student Bodies, this film from 1981 that claimed to be the original Scream.  In fact, it is much closer in spirit to Airplane, The Naked Gun, or the Scary Movie series, and surprisingly funny at that.

Not much of a horror, Student Bodies uses the late '70s/early '80s genre leanings to maximum comic effect; the opening scene is a medium shot of a house exterior with the word "Halloween" appearing at the bottom of the screen....cue creepy music.  And then, the screen goes black.  The same exterior appears a second later, the title at the bottom of the screen now says "Friday the 13th"...cue creepy music.  Again, fade to black.  A second later, same shot, but the title now says "Jamie Lee Curtis' Birthday"...cue creepy music.  Ha!  Then we go inside, where a scene very similar to the opening of Scream takes place, a girl answers the phone, heavy breathing ensues, repeat...  Then she hears a weird noise and goes outside to check on it, but when she comes back in, she leaves the door unlocked.  The camera zooms in on this soon-to-be fatal error and the word "UNLOCKED" flashes on the screen, with a big arrow pointing at the door.  Stuff like that...

The killer is called "The Breather" and pants like a dehydrated dog, which then becomes near-athsmatic wheezings, all the while tracking and killing virtually anyone who has sex.  Red herrings abound, obvious suspects killed, The Breather j-oing in a locker room while he stares at nubile coeds, a couple references to the real cause of death being swine flu (!?!), bizarre uses of the deus ex machina plot device and then, at the very end, the cliched "it was all a dream", followed by a real twist!  At 80 minutes and change, this movie stays just long enough and leaves before wearing out its welcome.

Intentionally or not, Student Bodies was quite prescient.  I can't believe how much so many later films have "borrowed" from this, yet it remains relatively unknown.  If you are a fan of any of the aforementioned films, you'll do well to check this out; even if you're not a fan, or are unfamiliar with them, you could do far worse for some mindless fun and surprisingly original humour.

Festival du Nouveau Cinema Montreal - Metropia (2009)

While in Montreal I checked out their annual La Nouveau Cinema Festival. The festival features mainly art-house and independent films, and i managed to make it out to only one screening but here are my thoughts.
Metropia is an animated film set in the not so distant future in Europe. As the world's resources have dwindled away Europe has constructed a vast metro system connecting all European countries to the subway tunnels. In this black and grey noirish future people only use this metro to get around leaving the outside world quite bare. Our protagonist, Roger, is an average guy who works at a call center and has a paranoia of the metro. Because of this he bikes to and from work even though it is illegal. When he has no other option then to take the metro to work one day he starts to hear voices in his head and gets lost in the maze of tunnels and trains unwittingly uncovering a deep conspiracy involving the system.
The first thing that catches you with this film is the animation. It's spellbinding and for the first 30 minutes i found myself saying "wow" out loud many times. Once you've gotten used to how the picture looks and feels the story drives you through the 80 minute running time adequately, leaving you happy you took the ride. My only gripe with the story was that i felt it flip flopped from surrealism to realism too often never letting me let go enough or let me hang on for long. I didn't know if i was suppose to follow along with the clues to get a better sense of plot or let the film bring me to places for the imagery, and by the end i couldn't really tell you what happens in Metropia. It's a good film, but its lack of focus on where it was and what it wanted to say left me confused. I mostly understood how it wanted me to feel, i understood the metaphors and the satire, i just don't know what happened plot wise to the characters.

I was also surprised by the cast of voice actors on display here Vincet Gallo, Juliette Lewis, Stellan Skarsgard, and Udo Kier just to name a few. Personally i thought the film was going to be in Swedish so to hear familiar voices was a bit jarring.
I hope some of you will get the chance to check this film out soon so we can sit down and pick each others brains about it. I'm assuming with its captivating aesthetic and prolific cast this one should be hitting theaters or at least DVD in the coming year.

10.20.2009

The Hurt Locker

A tough-as-nails picture about an elite American bomb squad stationed in Iraq - this is an almost flawless movie. The movie follows a three man bomb team, led by an impressive performance by Jeremy Renner, who portrays Sergeant William James. James is a risk-taking bomb defuser who is addicted to the adrenaline rush he gets from risking his life time and time again. He is a talented show-off and cowboy/boy scout hick, an all-american who defuses bombs like Patton eliminates opposing armies. However, his heroics are checked by the disgruntlement of the two other members of the bomb squad, whose job it is to keep him safe. It becomes clear that James is addicted to the adrenaline rush of living so close to death and his addiction eclipses everything else in his life.

The Hurt Locker captures something of the strangeness of modern warfare, in the vein of how Apoclypse Now articulated the stoned estrangement of soldiers in Vietnam. The foreign landscape of Iraq and with the huge armored suit James is helped into before each mission reminded me of the moon landing footage a la ‘For All Mankind’. The audio, which is for the most part complete silence other than James’ foot steps and breathing for stretches of time, also lends to the alien depiction of Iraq. Taking place in and around Baghdad, we witness half a dozen missions by the bomb team. In most scenes, the immediate area around the bomb has been evacuated, but dozens of people remain on their balconies looking over the three American soldiers - any of which can detonate the bomb via cellphone or other remote device. Each act is slow-burning and highly suspenseful - it doesn’t have the same satisfaction of a balls-out gunfight, but the anonymity of the bomb and the performances by the soldiers ratchets up the intensity. The director, Kathryn Bigelow, never takes the bait and associates an individual or group to the planted explosives - it is guerilla warfare at its most uncontrollable and vicious. The detonators or potential detonators of the live bombs remain invisible and despite attempts by James, they remain invisible. He seems to both thrive on the rush of not knowing, but also hates their anonymity because he can never gain substantial closure after the threat is neutralized. In the perp’s place, James has an assortment of ‘souvenirs’ from his closest shaves in a box under his bed - basically bits and parts of the deadliest bombs he has defused (this box being the inspiration for the title of the film ). Impressive as well, is how the political is rarely, if ever, directly addressed. There are no comments by the soldiers about foreign policy or rallys for or against the government - the focus remains on the three men in the bomb unit and what effect living under constant threat of death has on their psychology. All the same, it remains politically charged cinema and is potently clear that there is no ‘winning’ to be done in Iraq. The soldiers are isolated from their homes and only their guns are treated with callous respect by the Iraqi population.

My highest recommendation and worth seeing a couple times through.

10.18.2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Halloween 2, part 9: DEAD BY DAWN

Last night/this morning was the second annual Dusk 'til Dawn Horror Film Fest held at Mrs. and Mr. Coelacanth's cobwebbed cavern.  Another smashing success, though I've still gotta figure out a way to make it to the very end.  I crashed at about 4 and a handful of crepuscular fiends stuck around for one last film, finally clearing out around 5:45, just as the sky began to lighten.  I truly pity those that had to work today.

Thanks so much to all who came over throughout the night:  Emily, Mark, Sophia, Jen R., Katie, Tom, Graham, Nick, Kendall, Kris, Amanda, Joey - YOU guys bring the party.

A sickening, bloody, hilarious lineup of films was slated for this year, and we got through Kill, Baby...Kill!, Murder Party, From Beyond, Basket Case, New Nightmare, and finally, Frankenhooker, whose DVD box bears the encouraging quip from none other than Bill Murray: "If you only see one movie this year it should be Frankenhooker."  Two Henenlotter films in one night?  Insanity!

Thanks again to everyone who came, and especially to Byn, the hostess with the mostest, who kept the films rolling after I had shut my eyes for the night.  Until next year...


Welcome to Hell


The first guest.  Starting them early.  Enjoying Bava's Kill, Baby...Kill!


Pumpkin cupcakes with black icing (looks purple here) - the cause of much humour and sustenance throughout the night.


Da Couch Crew


No shirt, black teeth, photobomb


Enthralled by From Beyond


A cheery group


DGJL


Crazy as a fox


Pizza's here!  Oh fick, there's meat on it?  Sorry for the mistake, Mot...


Well-timed food delivery.  Joey loves it, Kris is nonplussed.


Delirium sets in...


Say goodnight.

10.16.2009

Its-beginning-to-look-lot-like-someone-else-should-pick-my-TV-viewing

I was trolling for a new series to sink my teeth into for a week or two and noticed Harper's Island up on the new TV wall earlier today. The general storyline has a wedding party and their guests tying the knot on an island off the coast of Seattle where years earlier a serial killer had murdered 7 people. Being in the mood for some more PG-rated Halloween fare, I thought I'd give it a try.

Mistake.

This CBS network series is nearly, nay ….completely unwatchable. I recalled the Richard E. Grant character in Altman's The Player who, if you remember, pitched a chilling, realistic film drama about an attorney who doesn't get to the prison in time to save the woman he loves from the death penalty. It was imperative to Grant's scriptwriter character that the film have no-name actors and remain true to his convictions. In the end, Bruce Willis shoots the glass in the death chamber, saves Julia Roberts at the last minute and utters some inane line like, “Sorry I'm late, traffic was a bitch.”

I imagine that happening to Harper's Island. The premise is nifty and has tons of potential. At it's core, the series is a train movie, and by that I mean it uses the very common narrative device of isolating the characters from any possible rescue or escape (think trains, planes, asylums, old dark houses, skyscrapers, the woods, or in this case, an island, etc.) Considering how often this plot device is used successfully (off the top of my head, The Shining, every train and plane thriller ever made, Die Hard, Carpenter's The Thing and Assault on Precinct 13 to cite two from Joe's earlier post, The Most Dangerous Game, Alien, and the list goes on and on), you have to work pretty hard to fuck it up - enter Harper's Island. The BSG series is a variation on this same device as is Drag Me To Hell (at least, metaphorically if you think about it) Deny escape and you build tension. Surely to God, someone noticed how awful this was when they ran the dailies?

Harper's Island is instead a terrible amalgam of Lost (it even has similar looking characters, including a fat, hairy guy) and any of a dozen MTV/The WB-produced series' that have endless stick-thin supermodels in 4 inch stilettos uttering mindless twaddle instead of real dialogue. It's a paste-together, cross-genre mosaic of other existing network programming and it simply doesn't work on any level, including the so-bad-it's-great escape hatch. Oddly, it could have been great, had no one who was involved in its production been asked in the first place. No, this show could have been Twin Peaks II, but instead it's The Hills on the Island of Dr. Gilligan by way of the O.C. meets a G-rated Ghostship. Lip Gloss horror-light in a nutshell.

Save yourself and do not take this 13 hour cruise....

….this 13 hour cruise.

Sporgey.

10.15.2009

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Halloween 2, part 7: In The Mouth of Madness (1994)

"Do you read Sutter Cane?"

What is my favourite John Carpenter film, you don't ask?  That's a tough one, as there are so many.  I could maybe give my top 5, in no particular order: Halloween, The Fog, Big Trouble in Little China, The Thing, They Live, and In the Mouth of Madness.  And that's excluding many worthy also-rans like Escape From New York, Assault on Precinct 13, Christine, Prince of Darkness, etc...  As you can see, picking a favourite is tough.  But I will say this - the film I have watched the most (disqualifying Halloween, which I watch almost every fall as a tradition) is In the Mouth of Madness, if that means anything.  I think I've seen it about half a dozen times, and it keeps beckoning me to return as the days grow shorter and the sun turns tea-weak through slate clouds.  Roughly once a year, sometimes more, something calls me back to Hobb's end.  Something old, dark, and wet.

The final film in Carpenter's supposed "Doomsday Trilogy" (The Thing being number one and Prince of Darkness being number two), ITMOM revolves around hack horror writer Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow, who we don't see until about halfway through the film), whose work bears no small resemblance to Stephen King.  Cane's work is massively popular, more popular than King or even the Bible, we are told.  Thing is, Cane has gone missing, and his latest work is having very strange effect on readers (almost everyone), driving them to madness, mayhem, and murder (hey, if you're invoking hack writers, you've got to use that most hakneyed of hack devices, alliteration).  Enter John Trent (Sam "God Among Men" Neill), an insurance fraud investigator, who has been contracted by Cane's publishing firm to find the missing author.  Trent is accompanied by Linda Styles, Cane's editor, and they set out to find the fictional Hobb's End, some quaint New England town that isn't supposed to exist except for in Cane's fiction.  Problem is, they find it; Hobb's End harbours some dark secrets and is anything but Main St. USA.

Carpenter does a masterful job of reigning in the various aspects of the story to keep it from becoming too confusing - there are quite an array of ideas on display here, and if you remove the slimy things which crawl out of the black pit in the church (very nice tip of the Lovecraft's Old Ones), and the couple of hatchet jobs (literally) that occur in town, you'd still find yourself dealing with a very darkly comic existentialist apocalypse horror.

As always with Carpenter, the practical special effects are top notch, and the director's own throbbing-synth score is fantastic.  Prochnow and Neill are worthy foils and Charlton Heston does a superb job as Cane's befuddled publisher.  And keep an eye out for many of the locations, as the film was shot in and around Toronto (most notably, the RC Harris filtration plant, doubling as an insane asylum here).

Carpenter had played with Lovecraftian ideals before (most notably in The Thing), but never so obviously as he does in ITMOM.  While Cane can be seen as King (or King-like), he is also operating very much within the Lovecraft mode.  And, though I can't remember the exact quotation, I'm pretty certain Cane actually says "the Old Ones" at one point, or something very similar.  With that in mind, the structure of the film is deceptively complex.  Sure, the "story-within-a-story" thing has been done before, but Carpenter masterfully weaves the fiction with the reality (still fiction, as it is the film itself), and with a bit of suspension of disbelief, the viewer is led to believe that what is happening onscreen is happening in the real world, outside the cinema.  Of course, it is less believable now, as the film and its decor have dated somewhat, but still, there is a complexity in the film that I have not found in any other of Carpenter's oeuvre (though he mildly flirted with similar concepts in his too brief, but highly enjoyable, Masters of Horror entry Cigarette Burns).  In this regard, ITMOM is certainly not to the same league as something like Synechdoche, New York, but they're playing the same game.

A thought-provoking and immensely re-watchable (not to mention quotable) film, I think that for me, ITMOM is, if not my favourite Carpenter film, his most accomplished and prescient work.  It marries the visceral impact of The Thing and the arcane sci-religion of Prince of Darkness and emerges as a powerful and whole work.  I only watched it a week ago, and something has me wanting to pop it in again right now, if only to remind myself, as one character in the film wearily and portentously utters seconds before eating the barrels of a shotgun, "reality is not what it used to be".

10.14.2009

A Threesome.




Okay. I know I have only written once on the Blog (sorry Joe), but I never think of anything worthwhile to write about. Every time I talk about a movie while working in the West End I get a pat on the back and some awkward laughing. Figures. Anyways, I have good news! I have something interesting to blog about! Three docs that inter-twine... Crips and Bloods, Fierce Light and The Garden.

Crips and Bloods, looks as if it's a bunch of tattooed thugs using Kris Kadas lingo.. it's not. The whole basis is largely the African American community in L.A. starting from the 1930's dealing with racism and the fight against it, including a lot of footage from the Black Panthers and the 1992 L.A. riots. This is where the movie flips and shows a society that instead of fighting for their rights, turns on itself and technically reverses the whole process for progress. The community splits into two sides and thus the title 'Crips and Bloods' starts to play out.
After the 1992 riots. The government started a program that was to help the community put itself back together. Although billions of dollars were set aside for the program, nothing is acheived. This is where the second movie of choice comes in... there was one good thing to come about.

In 'Fierce Light' the movie starts with the 1992 riots. Fast paced it reveals the one positive push to come out of the riots, a community garden. Set up in a very large industrial area we see the impact it has on the community and the fight to keep it alive. The film gives a wider perspective of the different people affected by the 13 acres of land and their active participation. It also goes into this spiritual rant after that. It is interesting, but I wasn't as absorbed in the rest.

And...The Threesome... 'The Garden'. It's very obvious. It deals with the Garden as a full-length doc.

(Tom if you try and hide the word NobGoblin' in my blog one more time, you will never goble anything ......EVER again.....do I make myself clear?)

Carrying on. 'The Garden' mostly looks at the spanish community who have taken over the land and grow many different types of edible plants. It deals with the fight against the city to keep the land which has been sold back to the original owner of the property. The community slowly starts to turn on itself just as in 'Crips and Bloods' which I thought was very interesting. It ends with a severe struggle to keep the land and keep the community together.

All in all these three documentaries group together to bring forth many issues within one society. As every film has one point of view, watching all three in sequence gives a nice perspective for the viewer. I suggest you try a threesome...*AHEM* This threesome. (oh..ha.ha.)

Love,

Niki Diamonds

p.s... if you just want to watch one ..go for Crips and Bloods.. Stacy Peralta is so dreamy.

10.13.2009

La Belle Personne



Christopher Honore and Francois Ozon are my favorite directors working in France today. Check out The Beautiful People (La Belle Personne) if you're into the sub-genre of "boarding school" films or into French Cinema in general. While not actually told at a boarding school, the important themes of authority and youth rebellion are there. Interestingly, this film and The Class couldn't be more dissimilar in their depiction of school in Paris. Nevertheless, perhaps they're equally relevant in their depictions of French society. The Class's realism vs The Beautiful People's bourgeois idealism. Their third act turning points make the best caparison. A teacher's failure to handle the schizophrenic diversity that is contemporary multicultural inclusion, and the other teacher's far more idyllically french moral tale of love and adolescence. In The Class, the students quickly outgrow their teacher, without considering the fact that doing so undermines their own privileged position as students. In the Beautiful People, the educator goes beyond relating to students, to having sexual relations with them. It's no wonder why The Class's title is so poignant. I'm conflicted because I enjoyed Christopher Honore's film much more, and perhaps this concern can attributed to the typical bourgeois guilt, that for which The Class's educator too suffers from.

It's always dark in Oslo

Beyond having a truly magnificent name, Norwegian director Bent Hamer has written and directed 3 well-received films, Kitchen Stories (2003), Factotum (2005) and his latest, O'Horten (2007), which was just released on DVD in the last few weeks. I liked the very quirky Kitchen Stories. It had a droll sense of humour and weird Nordic sensibilities that translated nicely to film. I never saw Factotum.

O'Horten received nearly universal praise from critics (89 on RottenTomatoes.com and an average of 78 on Metacritic.com, both solid scores) with some glowing comments in the text of most of the reviews I read and as a result I had some modest expectations going in. I'm going to swerve out of my lane for a moment here and talk about film criticism rather than the movie. There are certain types of pictures that I find myself wanting to like and root for, sometimes more than the film likely warrants - little indie films, old classics, slice of life oddities, Jarmusch's output, “smart” films and after viewing O'Horten, I think I'll now add, Scandinavian pictures. I wonder if this occurs with others or if critics in general are apt to see certain kinds of films in a positive light, regardless of their actual merits. I think it might explain why this film received so much acclaim. It may be hard to like, but it's impossible to hate.

O'Horten is one of two things, either a delicate, minimalist, surreal comedy (if you were to believe most of the critics), or alternately, a dull-as-dishwater yawn-fest that never gets going and delivers only a handful of genuinely engaging moments (if you happen to scroll down and read a few viewer comments). So which is it? To be honest, I'm not sure if you couldn't make a fairly compelling argument either way. I believe this is a film that you need to have some distance from (and a few days to reflect upon) before you can pass judgment. In spite of the awkward shifts and endless chair repositioning I found myself doing as I watched/endured it, O'Horten has been rattling around in my craw ever since. Again, I'm not sure if this is a function of the film's qualities or my astonishment to have lasted through the O'Horten's 90 minute running time without falling asleep or strangling the cat to create some tension in the room.

The plot(?) is extremely simple. After 40 years of service, a dedicated train engineer retires and tries to figure out what to do with himself. It's one part About Schmidt, one part Gran Torino and twelve parts Jacques Tati (a Le retraite de Monsieur Hulot, if you will). It captures, perhaps too well, the melancholy of having spent a lifetime pursuing mundane and singular interests and the difficulties people have adjusting when the framework of their existence suddenly vanishes. O'Horten is truly the antithesis of how an American film would cover the same themes and material. Eastwood's Walt Kowalski for example, goes out in a blaze of gunfire/glory in Gran Torino while Odd Horten goes ski jumping at night, skinny dips in the local public pool and sips draft in the world's most depressing bar.

So there you have it, an unconventional, glacially-paced, dryly whimsical, deadpan reflection on aging and rebirth that will either speak to the viewer or drive them utterly insane with twitching boredom. Hamer's completely subdued, off-centre cinematic sensibilities are in polar opposition (note the hilarious Nordic pun) to Hollywood's and it makes O'Horten either a breath of fresh, wintery air or as Monty Python once noted about Australian wines, a thing to be laid down and avoided. This is about as close to fucking Norway as I ever want to get, but in retrospect I don't regret the 90 minute investment O'Horten asked of (and amazingly, got from) me. Perhaps all those critics that gave it such overwhelmingly positive reviews felt the same way.

Sporgey

10.11.2009

Living in oblivion (1995)

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This absolute crack-up has nestled in my 'comedy top 5' since I first saw it nearly ten years ago. It's a joyously smart send up of movie-making from director Tom DiCillo with leading roles by Steve Buscemi and Catherine Keener. Having myself worked on enough low-budget films to fill Joe's 'staff picks' shelf at the Film Buff East, I can say first hand that Living in Oblivion absolutely nails the tension, egos, bitching, romance and paranoia brought on by the intense long hours of 'set life'.
The cruel and torturous retake scenes fill you with the genuine dread of a 40-take shot. Every department is represented and each has their trait, from the Director nursing the actors, to the D.O.P. resetting the lights constantly to the weird introverted sound guy. Of course, everything that can, does go wrong. The script keeps up a pace honestly as laugh-heavy as This is Spinal Tap and only gets better with repeat viewings. The in-joke is that the awful leading smarm character Chad Palomino is based on Brad Pitt, star of DiCillo's previous feature Jonny Suede. Funny that.
I would certainly say to anyone that works in film that this is necessary viewing. and to anyone else who likes their comedy with an edge close to home, it's well worth a watch.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Halloween 2, part 6: Thanksgiving

A special holiday interlude for all you would-be turkey/knob gobblers out there.  I really hope someday Eli Roth makes this real.

10.10.2009

The Ugliest Street in T.O. & Graham's New Home


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An American coop more like.


Loose change has been an unprecedented internet phenomenon since it's initial release in the wake of 9/11 and I've seen it now 4 or 5 times in it's various versions. This version of Loose Change tagged :An American Coup is the first properly distributed DVD version and it has received a significant face lift, nay... a complete re-hash. With the clear injection of some cash, Loose Change has lost it's iMovie captioning and righteous student voice-over and is now masquerading as a genuine investigative documentary. The earlier versions of Loose Change were pretty patchy and actually contradicted it's own arguments at points. This new version is much more streamlined and in it's search for credibility has lost a the rebellious feel and shock factor of the original. It swerves all over the place, throughout history and throughout the world in the most far fetched of ways to add weight to it's claims. Frankly, it's a massive crock of shit. The logic is flawed at every turn, blind eyes are turned on glaring errors and sweeping claims are made based upon the most vague and inconclusive evidence.
For instance, one key scientific 'expert' glosses over his claim to have found "evidence of incendiaries in samples from the rubble" and leaves it at that. Of course upon a bit of follow-up reading the 'evidence' he has is the presence of Sulphur in dust collected at ground zero. The Sulphur he claims is evidence of Thermite, an extremely high temperature burning incendiary capable of melting steel. Truth be told, traces of sulphur can be found in common dry wall and office ceiling tiles. What is initially persuasive and shocking falls apart with just a little thought and to be honest you can't help but feel anyone that really looks into this can't truly believe in it. Just a bunch of hacks exploiting a paranoia, and if you think of it like that it's all a bit offensive.
This version of Loose Change is certainly it's cash spinning death rattle, only to be played back to back with Moon Landing conspiracy nonsense on cable TV for eternity. As a bit of tongue in cheek entertainment go ahead, but this is certainly our generations definitive example of how misleading documentary film can be.

You wouldn't usually let these guys convince you of ANYTHING would you? Don't believe the tripe.

Also see Zeitgeist, Screw Loose Change (Debunking Loose Change re-edit), and Conspiracy? a fun series we've got in at the east end.

I'll get a Bottl'er bloo ther buddy eh? Right on. Buddy. Eh.


On the shelf this coming Tuesday, The American brew is a pleasant and thorough celebration of beer culture and history in North America. It's enlightening and fun and goes well with a warm flagon of your local mash. Clearly released to coincide with the ongoing renaissance of beer in North America, this one will rent well and satisfy anyone who's interested. Not likely to turn your Chardonnay sipping mother-in-law into a growler guzzling curmudgeon, but just about as interesting as a made-for-tv doc can get for us, the converted masses. Sit back, feet up and get educated on the cold stuff. The extras are good too.

10.09.2009

Monster Match no. 2

ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.

Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps (2010)

Not a review, but a heads up - perhaps old news to some of you, but I just heard on the radio that Olly Stone is currently filming the sequel to his classic 1987 film.  I know many have lost faith in Stone in recent years (many long before that), but I, for one, continue to keep the faith, and am intrigued.  It will be interesting to see where Stone goes with this in light of what has happened over the past 20+ years, and especially the last few.  A current economic climate that is far more volatile and vulnerable than the market was in the mid 80s should provide Stone with meaty material.  Douglas and Sheen are set to reprise their original roles, and Shia TheBeef will star.  I am, however, slightly leery of the plot synopsis pulled directly from IMDB:

"As the global economy teeters on the brink of disaster, a young Wall Street trader partners with disgraced former Wall Street corporate raider Gordon Gekko on a two-tiered mission: To alert the financial community to the coming doom, and to find out who was responsible for the death of the young trader's mentor".

Hmmmm......starting to have second thoughts about that whole "keeping the faith" thing...

Summer Hours (2008) French with S/T's

Over the years I've come to use 3 synonyms – movie, film and cinema as distinct definitions for the range of motion pictures I've watched. Most of them have been “movies”, entertaining diversions that are sometimes great, but mostly not. Every now and then you get to see a “film”, a picture that transcends the typical and becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Rarer still, are those motion pictures that qualify as “cinema”. Cinema is a rare treat, an experience that speaks directly to us. It's immersive, thought-provoking and offers a profound glimpse into who and what we are. Welles, Melville, Kurosawa, Ophuls and a handful of others ever made more than one. Most never get close.

French director Olivier Assayas wrote and directed Summer Hours, the latest example of a piece of pure “cinema” that I've seen. This small and eloquent picture is a mesmerizing meditation of globalism, tradition, family, and material and emotional values all told in a simple story about the passing of a family matriarch. Her three adult - and quite different - children are faced with the task of how to deal with her valuable possessions, art and heirlooms. It's simple, unsentimental and adult, the kind of picture that only the French seem capable of these days. I'm not sure how accessible Summer Hours might be to younger viewers, the topics and themes revolve around aging, death and our personal histories, something not often considered when you're 25. This is a work with so much verve and integrity however, that I don't think it matters.

Just about perfect.

Sporgey

10.08.2009

Well boys, looks like we hit the big time..

The Wheelers took to the streets pretty hard this past summer,
and here's us going international via google maps.
Miss you Joe and Tom.

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Paris: 2054

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Renaissance is an animated-sci-fi-detective-thriller based in a vision of future Paris complete with recognisable architecture and monuments. Appearing like an animated photocopy, it uses a unique mix of CGI and motion capture. Each frame is packed with texture and detail and the score, sound and acting have also been nailed. Daniel Craig plays our main man detective Karas in the dubbed English version.
Plot begins with a kidnapping which unfolds into a corporate conspiracy involving genetic research and goes on to reach totally surprising depths. The bold cinematography, memorable characters and awesome sci-fi gadgetry really elevate this film. it echoes of Metropolis, Blade Runner and Citizen Kane and yet it is not dwarfed by these influences. I'd love for one of you guys to give a second take on this, I really enjoyed it but it's a BIG story and with nothing else to compare it to I'm stuck trying to describe it. I'm also amazed by the quality:obscurity ratio here, how can I never have heard anything on something so up my alley? There is something for all of us in here. Amazing! 9 gold nuggets.

Boy, have we got a vacation for you...

Drawn in by the homoerotic display of a buff robot cowboy adorning the cover of Westworld I settle in for a chuckle. I'm quickly provided with one when rather than a genre grinding mind bender Westworld begins as awfully as Death Race 2000. If you haven't seen Death Race 2000, just think of Paul Verhoeven's deliberately corny fake TV commercials in Robocop and you're about there.

"I've had a couple of sword fights" testifies one man. Good start.

Michael Crichton, revered writer of Jurassic Park takes the role of director in this his 2nd feature film released in 1973. Westworld bares basically the same premise as Jurassic Park only instead of an amusement park with Dinosaurs, Westworld is an amusement park with robots playing cowboys. As the customer you pay to live out the fantasy of gunslinging and whiskey drinking in the wild west of the 1880's. Westworld is part of an amusement complex incorporating Ancient Roman world, Medieval world and Western world and we see glimpses of each world throughout the film.

In regards to human nature I think it's interesting to note that the idea of humans using robots to facilitate the living out of fantasies is a key concept in sci-fi (think of A.I., Total Recall, scenes in Minority Report or Stepford Wives) But intrinsic to this fantasy is the fear of losing control of what we have created (Frankenstein, Terminator, Blade Runner etc). Throw in these ingredients and you have a good chance of reaching an audience. However, the western/sci-fi blend is a challenge. Wild wild west and Back to the future 3 have proven that.

Westworld provides a few more laughs before it's tipping point and then doesn't really go anywhere. There is a computer malfunction and an intensely glaring robot played by Yul Brynner goes AWOL in a drawn out horseback chase scene. Okay, so an angry cowboy strutting through ancient Rome with his thumbs in his belt might possibly be the campest thing ever committed to film but it really doesn't go anywhere interesting. The human characters are about as engaging as a conversation with that "I've just done my first pill, what's your name?" guy at any given nightclub. Some shots seem to have influenced the later Predator and Terminator movies but that's all. There's talk of MGM bankruptcy and if you're going to remake something for a quick buck, why not Westworld? With so much potential it collapsed under it's own weight. We'll have to settle for strip clubs and paintball until Westworld becomes a reality. Damn.

Top DVD Rentals 2009 YTD

Below is weighted (number of copies, how long we've had the DVD, etc.) listing of the top renting films in the FBW so far this year. As always, it makes for some interesting reading. I've also got a list of all the movies added to the system this year and will start sorting through it later today so we can get going on the year-end mag.

In order of popularity......

Duplicity (yikes!)
Gran Torino
Adventureland
Revolutionary Road
Coraline
Slumdog Millionaire
Che: Part One
Defiance
I Love You, Man
Watchmen
Frost/Nixon
International, The
State of Play
Reader, The
Doubt
Class, The
Gomorrah
One Week
I've Loved You So Long
Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The
Happy-Go-Lucky
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Milk
Wall - E
Wrestler, The
17 Again (double yikes!)
Sunshine Cleaning
Man on Wire
Confessions of a Shopaholic
Che: Part Two
Rachel Getting Married
Hunger
True Blood 1 - Disk 1
Marley & Me
Twilight
Two Lovers
Waltz With Bashir
Bride Wars (have you people no shame?)
Let the Right One In
Valkyrie
Soloist, The
Grey Gardens
JCVD
Informers, The (what the fuck is this?)
Seven Pounds
Crank 2 - High Voltage
Mad Men 2 - Disk 1
True Blood 1 - Disk 2
Body of Lies
Synecdoche, New York
Taken
Surveillance
He's Just Not That Into You
Religulous
Pink Panther 2
True Blood 1 - Disk 3
Mad Men 2 - Disk 2
Madagascar - Escape 2 Africa
Last Chance Harvey
Dexter 3 - Disk 1
Stone of Destiny
Role Models
Tyson
True Blood 1 - Disk 4
Away We Go
Paul Blart: Mall Cop (9 brown nuggets)
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Mad Men 2 - Disk 4
Push
True Blood 1 - Disk 5

Drag Me to the Theatre Next Time.

Wow. I know I'm very late to the party and can't add much to the already excellent review one of you dudes posted back when it ran theatrically, but holy shit, Drag Me to Hell just rocks. What a movie!

Scary, funny, well shot, well acted, great direction, outstanding ending and completely engaging all 'round.

Top notch.

Sporgey

10.07.2009

Network - 1976 - Dir. Sidney Lumet

Remember my stories about horse sex videos from my job with the smack-heads in Salford? Of course not! I must admit to this morbid fascination I have with such things. Just yesterday I saw some photos that convinced me I REALLY should get a bicycle helmet. On them internets there is also an old video of a man shooting himself live on TV at a press conference, them internets once led me to believe that this movie is based on the life of that man. Bullshipedia. After Scott mentioned it again in his 'watch these films or you're a dick' post, I finally got around to throwing it on and I'm glad I did.

Network. To be unaffected by this film is to be a vegetable! I was instantly unaware of anything other than UBS, a fictional television network populated by wicked characters and wry dialogue. At the heart of the script is an informed cynicism regarding the media and a sense of destructive rebellion personified by Howard Beale, the ranting evangelist TV host preaching a bible of realism and enlightenment in a period of recession, depression and discontent. The narrative itself is sophisticated and sidesteps nearly all played out conventions. The characters run the full gamut from the greedy and shallow to the mid-life-crisis-man caught in a web, there is no real protagonist.

A series of sackings, back-stabbings, re-hirings, relationship breakdowns and seeming mental breakdowns is punctuated with epic and profound monologues written and spoken so strongly as to leave it in the good company of David Mamet's finest work. With a lingering moral about the individual in all of us and our responsibilities to ourselves and those around us the scope of Network is epic and it's execution triumphant. The irony is a script so dialogue heavy is likely inclined to alienate the very dumbed down audience it's centre character rages against. Enduring social commentary at it's finest, I'm still buzzing from it. Highly recommended.

Mr Death (Dir. Errol Morris)

This nightmarish portrait begins in typical style. Morris's trademark long slow shots with music and voice over might not be revolutionary but it's classy and functional. I'm often baffled by 'rise and fall' documentaries, the logistics of maintaining subject access must be a minefield but it always pays off, we love to see a good fail.
Our subject Fred Leuchter is introduced as an electrical engineer that somehow found himself working within his own niche. Following claims of empathy for humans on death row, Fred made a career out of redesigning and refining all of 'the four' methods of execution. The plot thickens exponentially as Fred is recruited by a team of holocaust deniers as their 'scientist'. For reasons that escape me, they believe Fred's status as an execution expert gives him some credibility as a historian and forensic scientist. Get this, he actually takes his wife on a honeymoon... to Auschwitz. There, he clumsily collects samples of concrete from the walls of Auschwitz' gas chambers and concentration camps. Fred finds himself knee deep in this 'debate' and in fact falls in line with the Holocaust deniers producing evidence in defense of their claims. You can't help but get that sinking feeling as Fred asks, "Well, why didn't they just shoot them?...it just doesn't make much sense". Next thing he is releasing reports through the Aryan print propaganda magazine and 'dispelling the myth' of the holocaust at neo-nazi rallies. As holes are quickly poked in Fred's science one scientist remarks

"If they go in with blinders on, they will see what they want to see"

For other examples of delusions prevailing and good sense failing also see, Overnight, Project Grizzly, The White Diamond.

10.06.2009

HAL had something to say, thought I'd share

System.Data.SqlClient.SqlException: Timeout expired. The timeout period elapsed prior to completion of the operation or the server is not responding. at System.Data.SqlClient.SqlConnection.OnError(SqlException exception, Boolean breakConnection) at System.Data.SqlClient.SqlInternalConnection.OnError(SqlException exception, Boolean breakConnection) at System.Data.SqlClient.TdsParser.ThrowExceptionAndWarning(TdsParserStateObject stateObj) at System.Data.SqlClient.TdsParser.Run(RunBehavior runBehavior, SqlCommand cmdHandler, SqlDataReader dataStream, BulkCopySimpleResultSet bulkCopyHandler, TdsParserStateObject stateObj) at System.Data.SqlClient.SqlDataReader.ConsumeMetaData() at System.Data.SqlClient.SqlDataReader.get_MetaData() at System.Data.SqlClient.SqlCommand.FinishExecuteReader(SqlDataReader ds, RunBehavior runBehavior, String resetOptionsString) at System.Data.SqlClient.SqlCommand.RunExecuteReaderTds(CommandBehavior cmdBehavior, RunBehavior runBehavior, Boolean returnStream, Boolean async) at System.Data.SqlClient.SqlCommand.RunExecuteReader(CommandBehavior cmdBehavior, RunBehavior runBehavior, Boolean returnStream, String method, DbAsyncResult result) at System.Data.SqlClient.SqlCommand.RunExecuteReader(CommandBehavior cmdBehavior, RunBehavior runBehavior, Boolean returnStream, String method)... and so and so forth.

Secrecy (2008)

Co-directors Peter Galison and Rob Moss put together this Errol Morris-styled talking head documentary about the history and modern day implications of U.S. Government secrecy as the Bush Administration was winding down in early 2008. Secrecy doesn't have anything particularly startling to say – it has no head-slapping “gotcha” moment – but it does present a thought-provoking take on the endlessly shifting relationship between public safety, national security, war, clandestine activities and what the U.S. Government deems necessary to keep secret from the public. It's a worthwhile watch if only to revisit how dramatically 9/11 changed the United States, how the Bush Administration leveraged this tragedy to operate with near-impunity and how difficult it is to undo policies shrouded in the cloak of official government secrecy.

Secrecy does a good job of connecting the dots to the past. It's particularly interesting to discover that an important legal precedent from a case in the early '50s that involved the issue of the U.S. Government's right to retain secrets/classified documents from even judicial review, turns out to have been a complete fabrication. More disturbing is the fact that this same legal precedent has been cited in 600 subsequent cases. It becomes evident that, like all bureaucratic institutions, the secrets industry never contracts, it only grows bigger and gets more convoluted. This ever-expanding web of official secrecy becomes increasingly vulnerable to manipulation and misuse, something exploited with grave implications during the Bush Administration. To question it brings charges of treason. To presume that governments are capable of (or interested in) imposing limitations on their own power, naïve.

The basic quandary and larger issue at the heart of Secrecy is the ongoing relationship between democracy and governmental power, and more specifically - how to police and who decides the degree to which and under what circumstances, governments should be allowed to operate outside the realms of public scrutiny. The U.S. Supreme Court has been the arbiter of these complex questions but it appears fundamentally ill-equipped to be an institutional watchdog because it's focus is too narrowly defined as the interpreters of last resort for the U.S. Constitution and its laws. It's a question that has huge implications for all democratic nations, and no clear answer.

As I watched the film, I couldn't help thinking that part of the problem stems from our increasingly self-centered existence. Tackling issues as large and ingrained as these requires banding together and collectively demanding change, something that just doesn't seem to happen anymore. We get so caught up in our own lives that we can't see the forest for the trees on some of these larger issues. There's an apathy, a dull collective disinterest that seems a product of modern narcissism and it's undermined our will to fight for a better world. Awareness is as good a place to start righting our course as I can think of and films like Secrecy are necessary and valuable assets in that exercise.

Nuggets of truth, if you will.

Sporgey.