Am I the only one hoping the Mayans were right?

Having grown up in the hay-day of the disaster film, I'll let you all (ahhh... I mean you Joe) in on a dirty little secret.... I was pretty stoked to see Roland Emmerich's utterly reviled 2012. While it sported a lousy 30% from snooty critics on rottentomatoes.com, it scored a modestly respectable 6.1 IMDb rating from Joe Six-Pack. I kinda knew what to expect going in – it was going to be cheesy and ludicrous and about 85% CGI.

...and I was right. The critics nailed this one. It is cheesy and ludicrous, all special effects and no soul. It's also the most spectacular, ass-kicking, fun-ride I've seen since Speed Racer. 2012 isn't supposed to be a great film, it's just supposed to entertain us and on this level, it simply knocked my socks off. Emmerich pulled out all the stops and after an opening half hour of stern, scientific-head-nodding with all sorts of murmurs like, “....but neutrinos can't affect matter. Well they are.” (Cue concerned scientist looks), the final 2 hours is absolutely insane. Everything gets destroyed. Every landmark and recognizable world city (except Toronto, so it seems we're not world class after all dammit) is split in half, torched and swallowed up by Mother Earth. You go girl. Here's what she did to Vegas for example....

2012 is 2013 times more satisfying than the gooey and insufferable Avatar, with all of its holistic planetary connectivity and hand-holding horseshit. The Mother Earth in 2012 is a fiery galactic bitch set on wiping the slate clean and starting all over again. Now there's an uppity interstellar mass I can get behind.

On a side note, the “goofs” section for 2012 on IMDb.com is 3073(!) words long and includes things like....

"Revealing mistakes: In the movie, neutrinos interact with the earth's core and cause temperature to rise. But, since they come from the sun, the first matter they should interact with is the water in the oceans, and as result our oceans should start to boil. For some undeclared reason in the movie, only the earth's core interacts with them."

That people seriously stew about things like this constantly amazes me. (....they're "microwaves"... you retard....) Around the middle of the movie, Yellowstone National Park goes nuclear with the largest volcanic explosion in history and rather than the initial shock wave instantly vapourizing the onlooking Woody Harrelson, he's gently knocked over and then pops right back up again. And you're going to get worked up about neutrino science? Ridiculous. (Rest assured that the plant-eating-vegan-do-gooder Harrelson gets it large a few minutes later when he's crushed under 2 acres of flying mountain top. YES! Nice one, Roland.)

All in all, I'd say 2012 was $250,000,000.00 well spent. If there was a Most Ridiculous Movie award at the Oscars, Avatar would still win it, but Roland would have definitely got the nomination he deserved. If you want the ultimate in cheesy Emmerich goodness, however – run the alternate ending and treat yourself to an impossibly-happy Hollywood ending to a film where 6 billion people just got flash-fried. Too, too fabulous. I squirted Coke right out my nose and nearly choked to death as I watched. I swear to God.




Thinking Inside The Box

The Box...... a simple, elegant, precise moral test. Push the button and someone, somewhere dies. You get a cool million dollars. Don't push the button and the box moves on to the next candidate and you don't get a dime. The concept of the test is nearly perfect. It's pure and clear, the ramifications (death to someone unknown) and the reward (personal wealth) are both understood, leaving the candidate armed with a simple choice and understanding the consequences of that choice.

As terrific as this little kernel of an idea may seem, it doesn't translate to a feature film and The Box (the film) suffers from attempting to flush out a entire movie from of what is essentially a single scene. It's a frustrating thing to watch because this is a story that had immense potential in the right hands. As it stands, The Box is a Mr. Potatohead film with random plot bits stuck on to make the end result seem like a feature film. They scotch tape everything together... from aliens to physical disfigurement to the afterlife to sacrificing lives for your children to Adam and Eve to NASA to Christmas to weddings to Helen Keller leaving a script that resembles every Stephen King book ever written pureed in a blender with the original short story from Richard Matheson. In a nutshell, it's a mess.

They should have called me. There is but one way to do this film and that's with Wallace Shaun and Andre Gregory. You put the box in the middle of a table and seat them on opposite sides. They sit there and discuss the implications of pushing the button, starting with the impulsive desire to strike it rich with one simple action and then slowly establishing the larger ethical ramifications and emotional cost of such a decision. Would you be consumed by guilt? If so, how would that guilt manifest itself? What if the random death is your own, say the death of your soul? The philosophical possibilities of the story are endless. I've read that The Box has been compared to the famous Milgram Experiment (you know, the Yale psychological tests where people were told to zap other people in an adjacent room and often did so, even though they understood the recipients might be facing excruciating pain or even death next door?) but disagree entirely with that connection. The Milgram test was based on the dynamic between authority and the transference of responsibility whereas The Box presents a clearly ethical question of personal choice and its moral consequences.

Unfortunately, The Box ended up in the uncertain hands of Richard (Donnie Darko) Kelley and it becomes an amalgam of the worst bits of Knowing and The Fountain starring the extra's from a low-rent version of The Day Mars Invaded Earth. Too bad because this could have been a great one.

Oh.... and in La Boîte (my My Dinner With Andre version), at the end of the film you come to realize that one of them (likely that little fucker Wallace Shaun) has already pushed the button and they've entered a Louis Malle film that they can never escape from. It's infinitely long and even slower than the original.

A final question …... As honestly as you can... would you press the button for a million dollars?



A Shocker from Elle U.K.!

Brits win at the BAFTAs!

The Eagle Has Landed!

Own the (other) Podium!

After getting our asses handed to us on a plate by the U.S. Men's Hockey Team last night, the only natural response is to sweep the upcoming Oscars and beat them like rented mules at their national sport; making shitty movies. If Avatar, Up in the Air, District 9 and octogenarian Christopher Plummer (tentative as the Canadian content of these nominations might be) can take their respective categories, I think that might teach those American clowns a thing or two about this country's moxy. Go Avatar!

Oh ya, and we still fucking OWN speed skating, the slopes, ice hockey, curling. Own it! Canuckistan rules!

Pontypool's obvious snub at last year's Oscars will not be easily forgotten, my war-mongering southern friends.



films on planes: part 1 - Shorts (2009)

I've been on alotta planes recently and these flights were pretty much the only times in the last few weeks I've had a chance to watch any films. So i figured i might as well share some opinions on the cinema i caught 35000 feet up in the air (no pun intended).

Flight: Toronto to Miami
Film: Shorts
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Class: Business
Meal: Omelet
Drink: Bloody Mary

My first plane ride was insanely early in the morning, i think the flight departed a little earlier than 6am, meaning with all the American beefed up security lately i would have to arrive at the airport two days prior or some shit like that.When the TV screens lowered, the ice was starting to melt on my second bloody mary and i was praying for something at least watchable to get me through the 3 hr flight.
I guess someone was listening, and that someone was an asshole because what i got for my in flight "entertainment" was the criminally mundane (even for children standards) Shorts.

This film... wait i take the term "film" back. This shitsmear on celluloid (actually i guess it would be shitsmear on SD cards) is by far one of the most horrid excuses for children entertainment i think i have ever witnessed.
I'm serious, i would take a Dora The Explorer film over this. At least I'd be learnin' some Spanish on the way to Colombia that might actually be useful.

The picture is made up of a collection of shorts that seem to be written by an 11 year old kid with severe attention deficit disorder. The whole thing is just covered in cgi and makes no sense whatsoever. All the stories are about characters (mostly children) who live in the same town called Black Falls.
Everyone in Black Falls live in similar houses and all the adults work for the Black company which is owned by Mr. Black (played by James fucking Spader.... i know). The Black Company makes the popular personal device The Black Box which can do everything. It's a sensationalized gadget that is a satire on Blackberries and iPhones i guess... does it really matter? Do they ever use this symbolism in a productive manner to tell kids that dependency on these gadgets is unhealthy and soul sucking? No, of course not it's just there for kids to go "neat".

Yeah so basically some loser kid finds a rainbow rock that when you hold and wish for something it comes true. So the film is one of those "be careful what you wish for" morality tales only much more shallow. The rock makes its way around to various characters and wreaks havoc on the town. It's like a Dr.Seuss story with the shit level turned up to an 11 year old internet porn addicted, xbox 360 playing, going to be 30 and still a virgin assclown. Really, it's like peering inside the head of today's 11 year old male.... one second there's running alligators, the next there's mini aliens, next there's mech robots, there's violence, and poo humour, and a smoking hot older sister character... yeah and somehow William H. Macy and James Spader are in this monstrosity
There wasn't much else to do on the plane and i really wanted to watch something but it was so bad that 45 minutes in i opted to listening to the horrid airplane radio stations instead. How i made it that far into this film is beyond me. Shorts made me ponder about the state of children's films today. It's as if kids films now are in imagination overload mode. When i was growing up there was Labyrinth, The Neverending Story, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles... these films had a sense of awe to them. Even as a child i could tell that it must have taken a lot of work to make the creatures and locations by hand and there was something comforting about that. I knew it was fake but the fact that it was really there, that human actors were interacting with real puppets gave me a sense of wonderment. As if because we created it and it was existing in real phsyical space that that was enough to make it real.
Now you can just shoot a film with a digital camera in L.A. suburbs, tell kids to scream at the sky for two hours, and afterwards just implant crazy images around them in post. It seems to me that a film like this has as much effect on a child as does the latest video game, they'll interact with it for awhile but are gonna be eager for something shinier and louder quite soon.

This is my plea to Robert Rodriguez,
please stop making these asinine kids pictures and make a good movie again. For the love of christ just make Sin City 2 already before all the principle actors get too old. At least you have Machete coming out later this year, the film based on the fake trailer from the Grindhouse films but even that doesn't get me too excited. If any film based on those trailers are gonna get made it should be Edgar Wright's Don't not Machete.
I can see on your imdb page that a Spy Kids 4 is in the works... really? jesus...
So, I finished my third bloody mary, tuned into the 80's station and stared out the window overlooking the west coast of The United States of America and sang to myself "... take these broken wings and learn to fly again... learn to live so free"

Hopefully the film gods would show me mercy on my next flight.

Drinking Ex and Asking Why.

During a recent discussion with one of the precious-generation, I found myself on the opposite side of a deep chasm called “age”. The conversation turned to movies (as it inevitably does in my circle) and we ended up talking mostly about two films, Bronson and Away We Go. I forget how we got on the topic of the easily-dismissible Away We Go – I'm guessing it was spurred on by the latest Roncesvalles yuppie horror-story or another – but when I asked what the youngsters thought of it, I got this rather surprising response.....

“I found it hopeful, a testament to the idea that you can break the mold and live life on your own terms”, came the oh-so-wonderfully-youthful response.

A crack opened in the floor and wrenched us apart in generationally-opposed directions.

Away We Go is an accidentally-astonishing work of piercing insight and I'm guessing it divides viewers, pro and con, almost exactly across life's midpoint. It probably articulates the world of Gen-Y slackers, circa 2010, better than any other movie in recent memory. It takes Dave Eggers’ self-obsessed, solipsistic, media-savvy/technically inept Applelets and releases them like butterflies into a world where they flap around in aimless pursuit of the perfect life. Mostly though, they just talk.., and talk... and talk... without a hint of irony about how difficult it is to communicate effectively. They endlessly ruminate about committing to remaining indecisive about commitment to a life that won't tie them down. They drift around sampling other people's existences, vicariously trying different lives on for size like they would clothes at Banana Republic. They contribute little and consume much, living like quasi-parasites off the miscues and drama of other people's real and necessary choices. They sneer and jeer at a series of grotesque family portraits as they float through them like pre-deceased zombies. The Peter Pan Syndrome so endemic to the 20-something layabout-messiah cohort has found a voice in Away We Go. The title alone is worthy of a special kind of head-slapping derision because on nearly every conceivable intellectual level, the two at the centre of the story are completely stationary. The hypocrisy of the latest generation is laid bare - and in a whirling dervish of jaw-dropping oblivion, Away We Go is found to be, of all things, “hopeful”.

The youngsters took a dimmer view of Bronson, finding it had little to say about their sunshine and iPop world. Viewed side by side, their youthful perspectives on these two films form a curious diptych. The first, Away We Go, apparently successfully epitomizes the burning desire for endless, boundless freedom so important to the precious-generation, the grand designs they have for themselves to create art, think deep thoughts, and live la vie boheme with a ever-present thin crusting of dried cappuccino foam on their upper lips, while the other, Bronson, a story about the ultimate outsider (and a man who, for the better part of the last 35 years, society hasn't been allowed to leave a 10' by 10' cell ….because he'll likely just fuck somebody up) clearly missed the mark - with them at least. They seemed particularly troubled by a scene in Bronson where Charley is pumped full of anti-psychotic mood-stabilizers, unable to do much other than drool, grunt and sit there. Not being able to broadcast might be this generations greatest fear. Can you still work an iPhone hopped up on 30cc's of Chlordiazepoxide? hmmmmm...... doubtful -  the horror.... the horror....

The strangest thing about these two films is they're basically about the same thing: freedom. In Bronson, Charley never develops much beyond that of an adolescent. He never matures, never learns, his authority-defined experiences are controlled and repetitious and as a result he seems nearly unchanged nearing the end of his journey through the British penal system. In Away We Go, John and Maya never develop much beyond adolescence either. They also never mature, never learn, their marketer-defined experiences are equally false and repetitious and as they end their journey through the American parenting system, the result is the remarkably similar. I'd call neither result “hopeful” but given the choice, I'd take prison. At least in time you can get out of prison and be an ex-con. You can never be an ex-Gen-Y'er.

The metaphorical crack that opened in the floor between my young stargazing dinner companions and myself is a bit of a double edged sword. I've got mixed emotions about not being able to occupy the headspace necessary to see the world through those wonderfully-naïve eyes anymore. If I could go back to the aimless self-obsession and self-important world of school, part-time jobs, pounding brews and discussing the esoteric, I'm not sure I would though. There is a time and place for those thoughts during the halcyon days of our youth that makes the world a more livable one. There is also a time to get on with it and get shit done. Great joy can come from both periods, provided you can come to terms with being on the other side of the canyon. It's a difficult thing – letting go of fanciful youthful oblivion and embracing maturity but sooner or later, you gotta recognize that it's happened.... and there's fuck all you can do about it but smile and nod when the youngsters express amusingly hopeful thoughts.

Realizing Bronson is ultimately closer to the way we go than Away We Go will come in due course. There's no point rushing it.



Inglourious posters

Check out these awesomely brutal interpretations of Inglourious Basterds poster art.  There is some stunning art here.  My favourites are 1, 2, 5, 7 and 9 (which intelligently reworks and incorporates the Totenkopf symbol).  You?


A little late but worth a look

Yes, we at the Film Buff East are wide open today to serve you and your beautiful family.  Regular hours, 3-10.  It isn't Angry Loner Day, after all...  Please don't call.


The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnussus (2009)

For all intents and purposes The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnussus is a film that could easily have never seen the light of day. Halfway through filming one of the stars of the film, Heath Ledger, died leaving behind an unfinished work. Director, Terry Gilliam, pressed onwards and completed his film and while it is obvious that this is not the film the director originally intended to create he still hits the ball... not quite out of the park... but a triple play for damn sure.

Now be warned, most of you will not take to kindly to this picture. Through reading critical responses and hearing first hand from fellow film enthusiasts it is apparent that most don't share my positive take on the picture. Repeatedly i have read or heard the word "messy" with the general opinion being that the film quite frankly does not make a whole lot of sense for many.

For me (and keep in mind this could be because i watched the film in a theater alone, resulting in a more personal response than would have otherwise been had i seen it with someone) the film isn't so much messy as it is lucid. I walked in expecting a half-finished picture, something salvaged with what footage Gilliam captured with Ledger and stitched together the rest of the story using a device of having other big name actors (Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell) to fill the shoes for him in missing parts.
When i first caught wind of Gilliams plan to use three different actors with such high profiles to finish Ledgers role i thought it was too good to be true.
Could Gilliam pull it off and make it work with the story he wanted to tell?

Well, yes and no.
Whenever the character Tony is inside the ¨real world¨ (is it?) he is played by Ledger and whenever Tony enters the imaginarium he is played by one of the three other actors.
I found the transitioning between the four actors worked quite well and for the most part we are given enough of an explanation to make it believable. Watching the three actors try their hand at playing Tony is both entertaining and moving, these three are not only playing the character the way Heath Ledger was playing him but they are also doing their best to imitate the actor as he was.
On the other hand there does seem to be something amiss story-wise with the character Tony, especially come the climax of the film. At times it feels like what the character has experienced inside the imaginarium isn't brought back with him when Ledger returns.

That is only one facet of what Imaginarium has to offer though, besides the character of Tony there´s many other story lines running parallel but trying to keep your eyes off Ledger here is quite tricky especially since his performance here is fantastic.

For me this picture makes a terrific book end to Gilliam´s ¨Life of Man¨films. It goes perfectly after Time Bandits (Child), Brazil (Man), and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Elderly) with Imagnarium being death or for the optimistic after-life. It is similar in tone and style to these terrific films and this picture is a true return to form for Gilliam.
If there were more of Gilliam´s signature visual style here that wasn't computer generated i think it would have become something truly special. The computer effects do capture Gilliam´s flair but it doesn't have the same charm as it does in his earlier works.
Call me sentimental but the computer can´t recreate Gilliam´s imagination half as good as Gilliam could with his hands... although it can do it quicker... quicker and much more cost effective.

Definitely not a film for everyone but i was completly lost in the beauty of it. It just felt and played like a Gilliam film to me and in the end it didn't feel messy or unfinished. It felt like Terry Gilliam made a film... go watch it.

Oh, and tis´a shame Tom Waits hasn´t received the praise he should have for his work here as the devil himself; Nick.
The Imaginirum of Dr. Parnussus is a film that speaks of the human imagination, the power it can weild over people, what sights can come of it, and how easy we can imagine ourselves falsely.



As I wind down two weeks of bachelorhood (and complete control of the movie selections here at Casa Segredos), I began to think about the film choices made, why I made them and what - if anything- I could take away from the experience. I watched more films than was healthy during this stint, logged all of them and wrote blog entries for some. The following is an effort to summarize the results of my little film festival.

I first settled on working through a series of classic films I'd missed that made the “They Shoot Pictures” website top 100 films, but only managed to see a couple of them. My January/February issue of Film Comment arrived and it included a long and well-documented list of both the best of 2009 and the best of the decade. I watched a few of these that I'd missed, several new releases, no TV, a couple from Uptown Mike Brown and 5 rarities I ordered from the U.S. The complete list is as follows;

The Shout (1978)

Deep End (1971)

Goodbye Dragon Inn (2003)

Syndromes and a Century (2006)

Colossal Youth (2006) (….most of it)

Yi-Yi (2000)

Bangkok Dangerous (2008)

A Bridge Too Far (1977)

Raging Bull (1980)

Rififi (1955)

Chandler (1971)

Rolling Thunder (1977)

Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (1973)

A Serious Man (2009)

Who Killed Teddy Bear (1962)

Ong Bak 2 (2009)

Bronson (2009)

Give 'Em Hell Malone (2009)

Two Lovers (2009)

La ciénaga (2001)

The Holy Girl (2004)

Headless Woman (2008) (for a second time)

Ronin (1998) (ditto)

Trapped (1972)

Tropical Malady (2004)

Avatar (2009)

Red Riding 1974 (2009)

Red Riding 1980 (2009)

Looking back over the list, a couple of groupings became obvious. I watched a block of films from the '70s, mostly kooky genre films and curiousities that were, in most cases, both entertaining and rewarding. The best were the two films by Jerzy Skolimowski, The Shout and Deep End. I watched several films that were on the Film Comment “Best of the Decade” list, two from Thailand's Apichatpong Weerasethakul, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed, Edward Yang's Yi Yi (good, just not my cup of tea), Ming-liang Tsai's Goodbye Dragon Inn, which I didn't care for and three from Lucrecia Martel, a trilogy of sorts from a very talented Argentinian director that I can't get out of my head. Acclaimed films from 2009 included the Coen Bros' A Serious Man, two of the films in the Red Riding trilogy (the third one's on deck), Avatar and a film I wouldn't have given a second look had it not made #16 in FC's top 20 films of 2009, Two Lovers.

From this widely divergent and varied bunch of films, I started to notice that there is a particular kind of film that occupies “best of” lists like Film Comment's, the recent Cinematheque decade poll, and others. None of them rate terribly high on viewers polls, but top endless critic's lists, which begs the question: why? I poked around at this issue a few weeks ago but it became clearer as I watched half a dozen of them over the last two weeks. I think the divide between films that achieve critical acclaim and those that gain popular appreciation (and therefore much larger audiences) has grown in lockstep with the mega-marketing campaigns and the huge box office numbers that pop-cinema has racked up over the last few decades.

Film Comment's decade rankings came from 100 filmmakers, critics, reviewers and writers who offered a variety of opinions and commentary about the decade's best/most influential films. A particularly insightful choice came from an English critic, Leslie Felperin who chose The Lord of the Rings trilogy as the “film(s) of the decade”;

“....for exemplifying the big-budget, heavy-on-the-visual- effects, safely retro, male-skewed aesthetic..... it's the kind of filmmaking for which the increasingly unadventurous general audience, who like to see known quantities up on the screen, will remember these years for.”

I think Felperin might have articulated better than I've heard before the current state of modern film and why the chasm that's opened up between critics and audiences appears to have grown in recent years. I purposefully buried Cameron's monstrosity Avatar in my viewing list because it is the very kind of film that I believe Felperin is talking about. It might seem strange to call the visually spectacular Avatar “unadventurous”, but on every other level it is curiously banal and intellectually stillborn. As Nick pointed out in his earlier review, it's as though the script was conceived and penned by the creators of FernGully. I'd add the Lion King meets Go-Bots meets the Smurfs. It's a great movie in the same way a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera is a great car. Beautiful to look at, but where do you put the groceries?. Whereas Disney and Universal create theme park attractions based on their movies, Avatar seems to have evolved in the opposite direction. Its depth may be limited to the incredible 3-D visuals, but really, who cares?

I've come to the conclusion that proper film critics have retreated to increasingly obscure and predominantly foreign output in an effort to cobble together a modestly-coherent modern cinematic vision to write about, which leaves them at odds with the Dark Knight/Lord of the Rings/Avatar audience filling the Cineplex's these days. Exceptions exist of course, The Hurt Locker is both modestly popular and one of the more intriguing films to come out of Hollywood's pop-factory this year, but it's an exception. While I didn't particularly like it myself, A Serious Man probably falls into the same category. It's interesting that Up made the cut in the expanded Best Picture category for this year's Oscars whereas Coraline, a superior film in every possible way (according to nearly every critic out there, whose word I'll have to take for that), didn't.

Beyond the films I've already posted about, the two loose trilogies that brought SNUFF to a close fell more into the acclaimed camp than the popular one. Lucrecia Martel's bizarre and unnerving debut La ciénaga from the early part of the decade (followed in 2004 by The Holy Girl and last year's The Headless Woman) and the British mini-series/film trilogy, Red Riding, which I'm currently working my way through, are examples of the kind of films that critics have championed of late. La ciénaga is a difficult film that made several of these top-ten-of-the-decade lists. It's a rambling and oddly unstructured movie about an extended family self-destructing during the financial debacle/decline that's paralyzed Argentina in recent years. A formerly upper-middle-class family of 6 comes apart at the seams as Mom and Dad drink themselves into oblivion as their world metaphorically (and physically) crumbles around them. It's a cautionary tale about what happens to a society when traditional values and the money disappear - and it ain't pretty. Over the course of the film, an image of the Virgin Mary apparently appears on a local water tower, spurring countless visits from various locals searching for a way out, a quick solution to reverse their declining fortunes or some sort of redemption that isn't forthcoming. It was hard not to think about Obama being a real-world variation on this same theme. As the rest of the first world increasingly begins to take on the look of Martel's Argentina from a decade ago, one wonders how prescient La ciénaga might be in future retrospect. From a critical standpoint, this film says more about the human condition in the opening scene than anything James Cameron has ever (and likely will ever) put up on the screen. Martel's more recent The Headless Women, a film that also made a good number of 2009 top-ten-lists makes far more sense having now seen her earlier works.

Red Riding has a bit of a convoluted history. I believe it started as a BBC miniseries, received some high praise/critical acclaim, morphed into a limited theatrical released film trilogy and is now being remade by Ridley Scott and will be set in the American Rustbelt. For a film that wasn't on my radar until 4 days ago, it landed with a thud earlier this week with about 5 inquires about its availability and several critical mentions as one of the cinematic events of 2009. It was released last year on PAL in the U.K. but went quickly out of print. The first two films in the series are excellent, set in Yorkshire in the miserable 1970's during a wave of child abduction/murders. I downloaded all three films to watch while I figure out a way to get a copy from the U.K. (Amazon won't ship it to Canada for some reason).

At the risk of meandering around here without coming to any particular point, the collection of films I watched over the last couple of weeks reiterated for me why cinema remains such a powerful medium. The hugely entertaining, yet weirdly vacant, Avatar represents one end of the current cinematic spectrum - the culmination of a trend toward spectacle overshadowing meaning. Alternative filmmaking, on the other hand, seems to move further and further from mainstream appeal, opening a gap in the middle that becomes more defined with each passing year. Only a handful of films in the recent past have a foot in both camps and I wonder if the lauded “golden ages” of cinema's past are simply times when more films than normal converge on the fine line between exhibitionism and introspection, or more to the point, movies that sit at the intersection of entertainment and contemplation. These days we seem to have to choose one or the other - which I think is the point being raised by critic Leslie Felperin. It's interesting to consider whether it's the mainstream or the arthouse that's shifted in recent years. As my little film festival draws to a close, I'm inclined to say both.  



Big Brother is accidentally watching....

As part of our insurance requirements, we have to have a security camera at the FBW. It operates from closing time to opening time (give or take) and if there's movement in the shop, it snaps a picture and sends it to my email address. Slick...until it doesn't work. Somehow the internal clock on the camera got outta whack tonight and it started sending me pictures around 9pm tonight. The first one that arrived was this strange affair.

Thought this might better explain Niki's "Red Frog" comment from her post earlier tonight.



Frozen (2010)

I was incredibly excited for this, and given the nearly unanimous rave reviews, more than hopeful.  Director Adam Green's previous picture, Hatchet - with its tagline "Old School American Horror" - split critics and fanboys down the middle.  Some claimed it was derivative, or didn't go far enough, others that it was the antidote to the anemic offerings in the genre as of late.  Neither extreme really struck a chord with me, and I found myself in the middle - while I enjoyed the film, and did find it a bit of a return of the real, I still thought it held back, shied away from the obvious leapfrogging to the next level, and while it was a bit redundant, it was still an enjoyable, entertaining throwback.  I thought that Green's next film would provide that important step.  While Frozen does make some strides towards maturity, it also is a frustrating watch for many of the same reasons as Hatchet.  Decent enough characters, but kinda MOR suspense, and while there are a few gruesome scenes, for the most part this festival darling is ice cold.

The setup is that three friends go on a Sunday ski trip and, after bribing the chair-lift operator so that they can get in one more run as night quickly descends, a chain of events has the trio stranded halfway up the mountain in the cable car, the resort shutting down for the week (it's off-season, so they can't afford to remain operational all week, and are only open Fri.-Sun.).  As the reality sets in that they are facing the prospect of being stuck on a ski-lift for a week, the snow begins to fall (of course it does!).

What follows is a confused muddle of events that can only be attributed to panicked and frozen minds.  Why else would you leap 50 or 60 feet to the ground below before trying to climb across the wire above to the support tower handily equipped with a ladder (which one of the characters does, only two days later)?  Add to this that the mountain setting just didn't seem very suspense-filled.  When you can see trees, and peaks, and a FREAKIN' POLE WITH A LADDER ON IT 30 FEET AWAY, things don't seem so bad as being left behind in the middle of the ocean.

Yes, the comparisons to Open Water are inescapable, and while there are surface similarities, Frozen just never got going, and you can't sustain tension when you haven't really built any in the first place.  To be fair, Open Water couldn't do so either, but when you have a 90 minute film about two people in the middle of the ocean, it better be either hella philosophical or have 60 minutes cut from its running time.  Open Water was inherently more scarifying (to me, at least) because of its setting.  I don't like open water.  Maybe my problem is that I've never been skiing?  I dunno...  Green is already filming Hatchet 2, so that should be the decisive film one way or another with regards to whether or not Green is a director to watch, or one to toss on the scrapheap of horror hackery...  Rad hand drawn poster I found for Frozen at Mondo Tees though:

We Live In Public. I thought it was some mockumentary like Paper Heart but with some stalking and pixelated visuals. Instead it transformed into a serious doc about the internet and this man Josh Harris the artist/geek/genius etc etc etc. I don't even know what to call him. It begins with the internet taking shape and Harris' investment into the future of video and chat on the internet. It seems too business oriented with stocks and companies fighting to develop this new project, but that's only the beginning. After about 20 minutes, it cuts to Josh, in the middle of a rave with tons of ladies and crazy installations surrounding this party. It turns out that Josh gains 80 million from his projects and he decides to take it to a new level. He builds the first hotel that is free (free living, free booze, free food) and constructs it so that every section has a camera and monitors. Everyone and everything is videotaped and viewed at the same time. With over 100 people living there it becomes too intense. There is more to the DVD but I rather not ruine it. I just keep cutting back to the weirdest images from the hotel. It comments on Facebook and Myspace and yes it's eerie but I was fully unable to turn it off as it's that facination of the gaze. The observer and observed in the same building in a constant circulation of feeding information. Mad creeps and yet a really interesting, well documented film. I suggest you watch it while someone watches you watch it while someone watches them watch you watch it and so on. It's kind of like the cam at the FB... you never know what's going to turn up.


Niki Diamonds (and Red Frog)

In My Skin (Dans Ma Peau) (2002)

I was completely blindsided by this film directed by and starring frequent Francois Ozon collaborator Marina de Van.  In My Skin is the story of Esther, recently promoted at work, and becoming more serious with her partner Vincent (played wonderfully by Lemming and Calvaire's Laurent Lucas).  After a mishap at a party where Esther cuts her leg, she slowly begins to become fascinated by the wound, gently prodding and picking at it and ultimately allowing it (and her new found pleasure derived from cutting herself) to consume her entirely.

A fascinating, bold, and at times very tough to watch film, In My Skin's success hinges on one thing - the believability of the lead performance and the empathy it commands.  Fortunately, de Van is quietly riveting, and not only is her descent into oblivion believable, it is tragic, horrifying, and, in a very strange way, beautiful.  De Van's Esther has the ability to completely and fearlessly let go, to allow her instincts and desires to complete her transformation from nervous stability to physical, emotional, and spiritual self-immolation; this, more so than any kind of physical hurt, is terrifying and awesome.  The idea that someone can willingly (or, arguably - and perhaps more frightening - unwillingly) sacrifice themselves to a feeling is at once simple and profound, and frankly, seductive.  I mean, we do it on a small scale everyday, give in to our cravings and desires, but not to the extent of obliterating your very existence in order to attain some form of total grace.

The film works on several layers: the first is straight up, Cronenbergian body horror.  I consider myself not very easily shocked - I've seen everything from Budd Dwyer's live televised suicide to 2 Girls 1 Cup (don't worry - I'm not linking to them.  You're all adults, and those curious know where to seek this stuff out) and pretty much a whole bunch of sick, twisted shit in between that has often left me despising myself for being a part of the same species that can create such things.  However, there were moments in In My Skin that truly made me squirm, but not in a sensationalistic sense.  See the "violence" here is never gratuitous, and is in fact necessary for the story to play out the way it does.  De Van treats the often gruesome visual details of Esther's affliction with a mix of poignancy and the sense that Esther is an stranger in her own skin, and cannot fathom what this alien tissue is.  In this way, In My Skin owes a huge debt to the the slow burn psychological nosedive of Polanski's Repulsion, and indeed, Esther and Catherine Deneuve's Carol undergo very similar meltdowns, though Esther's is obviously much more graphic.

Another reading of the film is to see it as an addiction parable.  This is an obvious one, and my earlier mention of the horror and odd beauty of someone allowing themselves to be utterly consumed is an idea that is often explored in more literal translations, i.e. the typical "drug movie".  However, even that has become a hackneyed film trope and these days drug movies are no longer transgressive and fearless, they are de rigueur.  By removing references to drugs/alcohol/sex/texting, de Van reconfigures the viewer's experience.  We no longer overlook the addiction itself, because the addiction is the film; the film is the addiction.  By making the viewer focus on the ghastly goings-on as an externalized force, he is not allowed to forget, and is constantly being reminded that this is indeed what addiction is, this living nightmare of the soul betraying the body is very literally right in front of our eyes.

Esther uses the mutilation to escape or transcend the banality and growing pressures of her "real" world, and the deeper she crawls inside herself, and becomes more and more detached from the society around her, her externalized stigmata become increasingly brutal, until she finds herself stripping and consuming her own flesh.  In order to feel anything, she must destroy herself; an interesting philosophical paradox, and one suggestive of the image and idea of the Ouroboros, a kind of cyclical self-destruction that brings emotional transcendence and renewal.

There is no real resolution or consideration of those left in Esther's wake; in many ways, In My Skin is sort of an anti-slasher, where the violence and hurt is self-inflicted and is limited entirely to one person.  The final shot is haunting and elegiac, and will be fused to your retina for awhile, in much the same way that the final moments of Martyrs were.  In My Skin is a powerful, provocative, punishing work that has easily jumped into my top five horror films from the last decade.  A difficult, emotional, and ultimately very rewarding watch.


Bronson and Why Can't They Get Neo-Noir Right?

A couple of days detour into newer releases had Give 'Em Hell Malone and Bronson on tap last night.

Bronson was a treat. I first heard about it from Graham last year and if I recall, it made his post-deadline top ten list for 2009. It's the story of Britain's most dangerous prisoner, Charley Bronson, a man incarcerated for most of his adult life, much of it spent in solitary confinement. Bronson is a wickedly entertaining film, directed with some nice stylistic touches by Danish film maker Nicholas Winding Refn (of Pusher fame, a film worth seeing if you missed it). The star of the film is undoubtedly Tom Hardy, who arguably delivers the most compelling performance of the year as the barking-mad Bronson. He is simply stunning. I'm not sure you can (or should try to) read much into Bronson. For all the operatic indulgences and surreal stage play structure employed to tell the story, Bronson distills down to a relatively straightforward biography about the ultimate misfit, a violent man completely at odds with society and its rules.

That the film works at all is a testament to the power of a brilliant performance and the unique artistic vision that the film maker/screenwriter/actors brought to the table. On a slightly separate note, the excellent score Graham mentioned in his earlier post is the glue that holds Bronson together. It's almost a character in the film - ethereal, funny and poignant, the kind of soundtrack that enhances scenes but doesn't get in the way. I'm hesitant to go all the way and call this an unqualified home run. It's the kind of film that delivers huge in the thrills department and demands a second viewing, but I'm still not 100% sure it warrants the top marks I want to heap upon it. Bronson left me with the same feeling I had after Hedwig and Pete Tong, if that makes any sense. I'm going to let it percolate for a few days and stew on it before I decide. My gut instinct is to call this a clear winner though.

Which is more than I can say for Give 'Em Hell Malone on the other hand. It's a complete misfire from the Frank Miller boudoir-noir school of modern misinterpretation. It's got a couple of modestly decent turns from Thomas Jane and Ving Rhames, but the plot, lackluster over-direction, cartoon bad guys and lousy female lead sink this project fast. There was probably an OK movie buried somewhere in this script, but it needed a much better director/screenwriter to flush it out. It's about a quarter as good as the 5/10 Sin City, if that helps.


Neo-noir should in the middle of a renewed heyday right now, given the general state of the things, but the underlying fundamentals of the noir motif seem lost on the current generation of Hollywood writers and filmmakers. As a result, all we get is shite like Give 'Em Hell Malone. They could all take a page from Melville's book (Jean-Pierre that is, not Herman). Melville's '60s crime films took the noir in an entirely different direction than recent filmmakers have opted for, boiling down the traditional tropes of film noir to the barest minimums - fedoras, trench coats and handguns. The dialogue was spare, the violence minimal and the doom...palpable. His greatest works – the loose trilogy of Alain Delon pictures that started with 1967’s Le Samourai, through Le Cercle rouge and his final film, Un flic – are remarkable for their emotional and visual murkiness. Melville famously described his vision for Un flic as being “a colour film in black and white” This sparse vision and pared-down style lent gravity and a gripping cool to his films, something completely missed in the noisy and cluttered direction of modern neo-noirs.

Sooner or later, we'll hopefully find a filmmaker who “gets it” and dials it down rather than up. Film Noir works best in the desperate and quiet world of a protagonist with nowhere to turn. If he isn't screwed by the 15 minute mark, it's just another crime flick.


Kadas Full of Grace


The new Thai-actioner Ong Bak 2 has as much in common with the original Ong Bak as The Aviator has with Gangs of New York.... in short, beyond sharing a single cast member, nothing. This supposed “prequel” takes Thai ass-kicker Tony Jaa back 1000 years where we witness his childhood martial arts training unfolding amongst a sort of Sherwood Forest band of outlaws, led by Robinratana Hoodsanitwoogthul. Like a good old-fashioned porno, the "plot" halfheartedly attempts to hang some sort of story on the gonzo action sequences that follow... ultimately pointless, but necessary I guess.

The action comes on hard during the second half and the film ends abruptly after a furious 25 minute one-man-army fight sequence that includes elephants, an unexplained bird-person and dozens of opponents dressed in black with wicker baskets on their heads being dispatched in various bone-crunching ways. I keep coming back to the porno analogy because the plot of Ong Bak 2 is nearly identical to both of the Best-of-Gay-Bukakke films Tom recently lent me.... a little guy surrounded by a whole bunch of bigger guys pointing their weapons at him. While not quite as ferocious as the original, Ong Bak 2 delivers a healthy dose of martial arts thrashings and ends in a way that makes you think you need to flip over the disk to watch the rest of it. You'll have to wait a bit though because that's called Ong Bak 3 and it isn't releasing until later this year. I'm guessing it'll be set 1000 years in the future and, taken together, the trilogy will dovetail into a kind of Thai “Fountain”.



Seriously, Man....

A nod for best picture at the upcoming Oscars...by the infallible Coen Brothers franchise...entirely set in some unnamed Jewish Mid-West community... during the coolest decade of the 20th Century. Wow...talk about a film designed to make any criticism of it nearly unthinkable. If you dislike it, you're chastised for lacking any understanding of film (the Coen's are brilliant and you just didn't get it) and for likely being a racist (or at the very least, antisemitic). You obviously hate Jews if you don't like stories about them and are more than likely a terrorist.  The vitriol aimed at any critic who voiced the opinion that A Serious Man comes off as a smug, mean-spirited, pointlessly vindictive and terribly unfunny black-comedy was quick and severe. Poor Paul Chambers from CNN (that bastion of thoughtful film critiques) drew this response from someone who felt his negative review of the film was misguided.....

(from tomatoesrotten.moc) alic b. writes...
“...sir, perhaps you should try Bobsponge squarepants...that should be mainstream enough. hank god for Cohen brothers. just the fact that you are starting a recension of a Cohen brothers movie with a "mainstream" in your mind, means you have no idea what you are doing Sir...how did you get this jobe is beyond any comprehension...jeeeeez!!! as love flag said, read a book or something please... [sic]”

...and really, what could you possibly add to that?

Bobsporge Brownshirt

Day 4/5 of SNUFF

A '70s triple bill starting with Rolling Thunder from 1977, an extremely difficult film to track down for some reason with a great performance by William Devane. Devane plays a released Vietnam POW who returns to San Antonio to a hero's welcome after 7 years of brutal captivity - only to find a wife whose fallen in love with someone else and a son who doesn't remember him. The locals give him a Caddy and 2000 silver dollars, one for everyday of his captivity, but soon after, bad dudes show up to steal the cash. They garbarate his hand (see the face one makes when that happens to the right), murder his family and leave him for dead.“Armed” with about 700 guns, a sharpened prosthetic hook, and Tommy Lee Jones, the Major goes a huntin'. As revenge films go, they don't come much revengier than Rolling Thunder. Winner!

Next up was the nearly indescribable (some would say - mostly unwatchable) Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street, made by director Sam Fuller for German TV in 1972. The whole thing is in English, which seems odd for a German TV program. It's a little like Fassbinder directing an episode of Kojak entirely in German. Truth be told, Dead Pigeon is monumentally awful, the script borders on hallucinatory and the acting …. dear lord, the acting ….is... just breathtakingly hopeless.

And yet it's strangely riveting. If Bresson made minimalist films, then Fuller's style could only be described as maximulist. To cite an example from the surreal Dead Pigeon, there's an extended scene where the lead is trailing a woman through the streets of Bonn. He can't be more than 3 steps behind her the entire time and it becomes clear that Fuller is just fucking with us. If she stopped quickly, he'd run right into her and it just gets loopier from there. The final scene can be watched here if you want to get a sense of just how bizarre this TV film is. Acting Brilliant!

Lastly, I finished Chandler tonight, a neo-noir from 1971 that's about 1/100th as good as Altman's The Long Goodbye with Elliot Gould from a couple of years later. Warren Oates, on the other hand is perfectly cast as a down and out P.I. and it makes you wish he'd been cast in place of Gould in Altman's mini-masterpiece. Now that would have been something. Somebody named Paul Magwood directed Chandler and while it isn't as awful as the IMDb user comments would suggest, Magwood never directed anything else for reasons that become obvious as the film wears on. It often feels like a shitty episode of Mannix, but Oates's performance makes it almost worthy of the time invested. An interesting total failure. (You'll notice Oates is sporting the then-popular garbarator face for the poster)


Deadbeat at Dawn (1988)

Depraved indie bad boy Jim Van Bebber locks down the low-budget, ultra-badass vibe in this entry, in which he also stars and does his own stunts, including leaping off quite a tall bridge. The tag line for the film is "He quit the gangs, they killed his girl", and if you need more explanation than that, stop reading now. Van Bebber nails the look and feel of grimy '80s actioners, but with an air of authenticity (perhaps coming from the suitably decaying Dayton, Ohio cityscapes that frame the film) lacking in many of the more polished offerings of the era.

In his little interview (on the lovingly assembled Dark Sky DVD, part of the "Visions of Hell: The Films of Jim Van Bebber" box, which also includes The Manson Family and several early shorts), Van Bebber relates how he wanted to create a mashup of The Warriors and some of the Chuck Norris films he worshiped. He does that, certainly, but adds his own stamp to the film with psychedelic montages, graphic drug use and the main character's rather explicit spiral into near-oblivion.The final 10 minutes are spectacularly bloody and primal; Van Bebber and cast do a remarkable job creating a palapable mix of menace and fatalistic humour.

Not to everyone's tastes, for sure, but if you can dig either of the aforementioned precedents of this film, you'll find something both familiar and unique in Deadbeat at Dawn. I enjoyed it so much I bought the box set for myself, for what little that's worth.  Check it.

Dark Side of the Men

While hardly an example of “nearly-unseen” cinema, at long last I finally watched Raging Bull yesterday, a film many consider to represent Martin Scorsese's cinematic high-water mark. Hard to disagree with that. It's also a movie that's been analyzed, dissected and written about countless times and I've got nothing to add that hasn't been said about it 1000 times before. Coincidentally, Nick and I watched (rewatched, in my case) Du Rififi chez les hommes, a remarkable and influential 1955 French crime film by blacklisted director Jules Dassin. As I reflected on Raging Bull and Rififi (a personal favourite of mine that in no small way, more than a decade ago now, contributed to the birth of the Film Buff), something about the themes they shared got my thinking about the influences and connections between these two films and the styles they represent.

The now-nearly-forgotten Jules Dassin was a victim of the McCarthy-era communist witch-hunts that occurred in Hollywood around 1950. He was one of those named by Elia Kazan, which effectively ended his career in Hollywood and severely undermined his later efforts to get work in Europe, where he fled after the HUAC trials. Rififi was his first film after leaving the U.S. five years earlier, which he grudgingly directed for a flat fee of $8,000, mostly because he was broke. He hated the book it was based on and significantly revised the script to include the now-famous heist scene. What started as an unwanted project landed Dassin a Best Director prize at Cannes, and although most Hollywood types continued to shun him, the film became a critical and commercial success, putting Dassin on the list of important directors working in Europe at the time. Sidebar....Gene Kelly was one of the few American stars who openly engaged with Dassin in public at Cannes that year, a testament to both Kelly's class act qualities and how the blacklisting stain stayed with people like Dassin.

While not the first true heist film (that honour probably goes to John Huston's 1950 Asphalt Jungle), Rififi is the first caper film to deal in detail with the planning and execution of the “perfect” heist. It is the film that almost all subsequent heist films can be traced back to. Rififi is best remembered today for its signature scene (the nighttime theft of millions in jewels), shot with minimal sound, no music or dialogue and lasting 20+ minutes, but what rarely gets mentioned is just how downbeat, fatalist and just plain mean the balance of the film is. The characters are mostly reprehensible criminals, living by some twisted code of ethics, a misplaced honour-among-thieves edict that brings on the inevitable downfall of each of them. Rififi represents the end of a mini-cycle of Dassin's that started with Brute Force and continued through The Naked City, Thieves Highway and his other masterpiece, Night in the City, the film he was in the middle of editing when Kazan named him to the committee. This cycle includes several points that connect them, not the least of which is their decidedly anti-capitalist bent, which likely contributed to his being blacklisting.

But what does all this have to do with Raging Bull? Dassin was one of the earliest directors to consistently work stories around characters with less-than-redeeming qualities. Scorsese's La Mota can trace a direct lineage to Dassin's underworld prisoners and mobsters – flawed protagonists whose actions were selfish and often destructive. Dassin didn't shy away from the underbelly of the human condition and made films about our weaknesses instead of our strengths. These themes put him at odds with the mom-and-apple-pie version of America that it liked (and still prefers) to hide behind. Even though the noir canon is filled with flawed characters, none were as consistently pitch black as Dassin's rogues gallery of ne'er'-do-wells. The 5 films he made from Brute Force (in 1947) to Rififi (in '55) became trailblazing signposts for an entire generation of film makers that followed, allowing young directors like Scorsese the latitude to expand and rework these themes. Like Rififi was for Dassin, Raging Bull would be the culmination of Scorsese's early exploration of humanity's dark side. Neither would return to the raw, self-destructive, single-character dramas they peaked with in both Rififi and Raging Bull. Dassin ended up in Greece and made mostly forgettable pictures thereafter. Scorsese's work became arguably more complex but he never quite recaptured the brutal realism of his earlier works. Connecting these two filmmakers might be a bit of a stretch but, particularly during these respective periods, they both seemed to be exploring similar themes. Two parts the flip side of the American dream and one part the evil that men do.

Post Script.....

I've fallen behind a little on my reports from SNUFF - what with all the gala openings and crazy parties that invariably accompany it - so I may try to shoehorn in another report later today on yesterday's stellar return to the unknown world of B-movies. On tap was the revenge flick Rolling Thunder (1977) with William Devane, Sam Fuller's delirious and rarely seen Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (1972) and universally-despised Warren Oates neo-noir vehicle, Chandler (1971).



SNUFF goes off-roading today with 3 stupendously different films starting with Edward Yang's 3-hour Taiwanese family drama, Yi-Yi (2000), followed immediately by The Pang Bros' Bangkok Dangerous (2008), and finally a revisit of A Bridge Too Far (1977) starring everyone, except Paul Newman, who stayed home to be on Carson and Steve McQueen, who died in the parachute drop. Nicholas Cage stars in all three films

… a one and a two..... Yi-Yi is dull as dishwater, but I spent most of the time reading the Sunday New York Times while it was on and didn't really pay it much mind. I think there's a good movie in there, perhaps even a great one, but it needed to be edited at least in half. As it stands, it's too long by at least the front and Week In Review sections of the Times. I watched the final hour fairly closely, except while I was in the shower, and enjoyed what I saw of it. Cage (see right) is riveting as Yang-Yang, a little Taiwanese child. The cat wisely slept through the whole thing. Taiwan looks like a cool place.

Back to Thailand this afternoon to view the much-maligned Bangkok Dangerous, a title that seems more like a warning than a movie. Loved it. Nicholas Cage once again owns this movie. It's a completely kooky film made immeasurably better by the jet-black WWE hairdo Cage sports throughout. I particularly liked the opening sequence where the Czech-that-out secret police position their important prisoner right in front of a big window, paint a bullseye on his forehead and then light up the room like the fourth of July. Cage, of course, wastes 'im... blind-sniper-assassin-style! (see left). It's immediately followed by Cage tazering his junkie Czech-mate to death and then dosing him with about a litre of herion to wipe clean any trace of his presence in Prog. Nary a Pang of guilt from the Thai brotherhood in the script department. I've already forgotten what happens after that. Bangkok looks like a cool place too.

Tonight's sold-out screening of A Bridge Too Far (Canfield, the cat and I) was a winner. This might be the last of the cast-of-thousands mega-pics of the '70s, but what a cast it is. Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Edward Fox, Elliott Gould, Gene Hackman, Nicholas Cage, Anthony Hopkins, Hardy Krüger, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O'Neal, Robert Redford, Maximilian Schell, Liv Ullmann, Denholm Elliott, and Colin Farrell, although not that Colin Farrell. This is a big-ass war film by director Richard Attenborough that has the entire citizenry of Beverly Hills attacking Nazis in Holland and failing miserably... just as you'd expect. Holland looks like a nice place at the start.... a little less so by the end. Interestingly, A Bridge Too Far is 1 minute shorter than Yi-Yi for some reason, even though way more happens. Cage puts a highly unusual spin on his portrayal of Dwight D. Eisenhower, playing him as a gay cowboy, but it works. (see right)

Tomorrow.... Westerns!  scratch that..... Bad Men!