Take a look over under the "Archive" at Tom's Fishing with John post

Accidentally even more disturbing than the complete post title....

Until the light takes us (2008)

Until The Light Takes Us recollects the Norwegian Black Metal scene of the early 1990s. Made notorious by a series of church burnings and homicides the subculture was subsequently tarred as satanism by the media. The film revisits that time, interviewing many key people and readdressing some claims about their motivations and beliefs.
Our two key interviewees are Varg Vikernes aka Count Grishnakh of Burzum seen here as he was until 2009, in Trondheim maximum security prison. Also Gylve of Darkthrone, a more passive character very involved in the scene but whom never crossed the line into criminal or violent activity. The interviews are totally engaging, especially that of Vikernes who is eloquent and compelling in his beliefs against the christian church and in a music which is surprisingly provocative when explained from it's conception. The film paces well by constantly turning our head between our two main subjects Varg & Gylve, representing the past and the present, the origins and a critique of the commercialization of Black metal culture in Norway, you could even say two perspectives from either side of the law.
It might be a stretch but I couldn't help noticing many parallels between black metal and the Rap scene of the early nineties. So many artists wanting to be the baddest, no-one backing down, everyone wanting to be the most extreme and both scenes crescendo with a series of deaths before being exploited commercially. Obviously the modern rap/R'n'B business is turning round much more cash these days, but the parallels were there at the start.
The production here is decent but what makes the film is really the subject and the clever way in which things are brought together to avoid a one note movie. Instead of just being about the music and excluding most of it's potential audience, Until the light takes us is instead about the people behind the music and the environments and circumstances that made them who they are. It takes an anthropologists perspective on Black Metal as a subculture rather than simply a musical genre. The soundtrack to the film is mercifully not Black Metal, instead the filmmakers opted for some electronic music which is moodier, cinematic and just works better.
It left me feeling enlightened and more appreciative in general of a scene I never understood and had had little exposure to. I was shocked at times and in awe that all this had happened and I knew nothing about it, swept under the carpet mostly. Now the right people have a chance to talk about it to a quite objective, some might even say sympathetic filmmaker. Provocative and controversial, just the way art should be.

Best of the Year Tally


The following is a tally of the average votes garnered for each title we kicked around as candidates for the best of the year. In an effort to rank these choices in a semi-apples-to-apples way, I've divided the list into 3 sections i) Art House Fare, ii) Documentaries and iii) Entertainment. I recognize that some films straddle the Art/Entertainment divide but wanted to somehow deliniate the Scott Pilgrims from the Revanches. Some titles skew up or down with only 1 or 2 ratings, but generally the ranking seems modestly valid in my view.

We have reviews on some, but not others. Does anyone care to pick a couple to do?

Thoughts on the above in the comments section if you'd be so kind.


Art House Fare

Prophet, A 5
Mid-August Lunch 5
Red Riding Trilogy 4.88
Winters Bone 4.88
Bad Lieutenant Port of Call: New Orleans 4.75
Revanche 4.6
Mother 4.5
Valhalla Rising 4.5
White Ribbon 4.5
The Square 4.5
Antichrist 4.33
Mesrine Parts 1 & 2 4.25
Wild Hunt 4.25
Bronson 4.1
$9.99 4
Eclipse 4
Escapist 4
Ip Man 4
Secret in Their Eyes 4
Terribly Happy 3.88
Bright Star 3.75
Lorna's Silence 3.75
The Killer Inside Me 2.83


Exit Through the Gift Shop 4.5
Art of the Steal 4
Baseball: The Tenth Inning 4
Until the Light Takes Us 4
Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage 3.88
Art & Copy 3.75
September Issue 3.67


Fubar 2 4.25
Inception 4.07
American, The 4
Losers 4
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World 4
Shutter Island 4
North Face 3.83
House of the Devil 3.75
Repo Men 3.75
Informant 3.58
A Christmas Carol! 3.5
Cold Souls 3.5
KickAss 3.5
How to Train Your Dragon 3.5
2012 2.75
Sherlock Holmes 2.69
Greenburg 2.33


In all sincerity, can anyone tell me what Inception was about? ...and didn't I just watch this movie back when it was a much better film called Shutter Island? Can a movie be both flawless and utterly vapid? I need some varied interpretations of what Nolan was trying to do/say here....because mine are sorely lacking.

You were right Kris.



Valhalla Rising (2010)

Valhalla Rising is Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn's near-about-face from last year's equally delicious, yet utterly different Bronson, perhaps the best one-two film-punch from any director in recent memory. Where Bronson drifted into near-avant-garde territory, Valhalla Rising is a Joseph Conrad-worthy existential journey into the depths of hell. The magnificent Mads Mikkelsen plays a one-eyed Scandinavian gladiator who, after beheading his owner (a Nordic clan chieftain who kept him in a cage like a Jabberwocky between medieval fight-club bouts), joins up with a bunch of equally-looney Christian Viking/zealots on their way to take over Jerusalem. A wrong turn at Albuquerque, leads the navigationally-challenged Crusaders to what looks suspiciously similar to the north shore of the St. Lawrence around Baie-Comeau, QC and into the invisible-clutches of some nasty orange-tinged North American primitives. Much slow-burn carnage ensues.

Valhalla Rising is absolutely magnificent, but it will have a hard time finding an audience. It's at once a gorgeous head-trip/art picture along the lines of Terrence Malick's The New World and a variation on Stallone's final Rambo entry. It's Kubrick by way of Tarantino, with some acid-laced Aguirre-era Herzog thrown in for good measure. In a strange way, it reminded me of Kick-Ass, perhaps because neither film seems to have an definable audience demographic, other than a few hardcore DVD industry participants, most of whom I know personally.

It's probably a stretch, but you get the feeling that Refn is working his way through Stanley Kubrick's catalogue, re-imagining various elements through contemporary Danish eyes. I first noted this with Bronson and the thematic territory it shared with A Clockwork Orange. This time out, Valhalla Rising's haunting soundscape reminded me of The Shining, the eerie buzzed-out atmosphere evokes 2001: A Space Odyssey and the violence, jarring and visceral like that of Full Metal Jacket. Malick is the other obvious influence here, but there are scenes in Valhalla Rising that wouldn't be out of place in an Aleksandr Sokurov flick either. The heavily-atmospheric screen compositions are constructed with varying degrees of saturation, emphasizing deep primary tones that feel almost primal in their rendering. While the combat scenes are bone-crunchingly graphic, Mads Mikkelsen brings a sublime and simple purity to the role, a combination of rugged charisma and inner stillness that makes him impossible to tear your eye/eyes off. He doesn't utter a single word in the film and yet owns every frame of it. Now that's acting.

This is one of those films that remains difficult, if not impossible, to recommend. I have no doubt that it will displace some high-ranking films on a few of your best-of-the-year lists, but I can't think of a single customer I would/could recommend it to. I've stumbled upon a few of these this year and this might be the best example.... a near-great film that simply won't find an audience, because outside a bunch of our fellow coworkers, one may not exist.


There is nothing like fresh air, with a rod in your hand.

Shot in '91/'92 Fishing with John is a fishing program not at all about fishing. Resembling any cheap 90's cable TV fishing program it mostly consists of horrible looking video, music that ranges from dodgy Casio beats to some lo-fi jazz noodlings and a Hollywood style voice-over dramatic enough to make fishing exciting. All these elements together are totally disarming at a passing glance, but give yourself 5 minutes and you begin to feel a surrealistic undercurrent. This is John and his friends getting stoned, talking a bit and failing to catch fish.
It's hard to imagine under what circumstances this show came to be. Was it produced in the spirit of a parody from the start and if so who was in on the joke? Were they really all high? What was the audience and where was this to be shown? I get the sense that without this Criterion release of Fishing with John we'd be very lucky to maybe catch the show at an obscure cult video festival or tucked away in a very late night cable TV slot.
I listened to the full commentary with director and host John Lurie to try get a handle on it all. Apparently, in the early nineties John had developed a habit of shooting his fishing trips with his film industry friends on hi8. He'd been threatening to do a show for a while, his take on what he saw as the bizarrely relaxing cable TV fishing show. Somehow he came to meet a Japanese investor eager to invest in almost anything and thus came forward the money for Fishing with John. I can only imagine the face of the producers upon receiving the show they had paid for. It's a surreal stoner's odyssey. We travel around the world with John and his guests Jim Jarmusch, Tom Waits, Matt Dillon, Willem Dafoe and Dennis Hopper. The commentary reveals an episode that never got made with Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. That would have been golden. But the thing is Fishing with John is golden. It's so unusual, in some ways very arty and sometimes utterly dumb. One minute it's philosophical musings, the next it's staged scenes of drama. It has that elusive x factor, the allure of the too bizarre to be true found only in rare one off gems like King of Kong or I like killing flies.
According to John, Tom Waits got so seasick and irate that they didn't talk for two years after the making of the show, Matt Dillon clammed up every time the camera rolled, Willem Dafoe was hilarious, Jim Jarmusch was easy going and Dennis Hopper was high on sugar and couldn't fish at all. I could watch this show all day if there were only more episodes that existed. Never mind Speed Racer, Fishing with John is the real ultimate stoner DVD.


Best of the Year Start List (Updated #3)

I'm working on a web-only version of the Year End Review and have been slowly shortlisting films I've heard bounced around as contenders for this year's best releases. I've added a few of my own favourites and have arrived at this....updated, again, again.



A Christmas Carol!

American, The


Art & Copy

Art of the Steal

Bad Lieutenant Port of Call: New Orleans

Baseball: The Tenth Inning

Best Worst Movie

Bright Star


Cold Souls



Exit Through the Gift Shop

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fubar 2


House of the Devil

How to Train Your Dragon



Ip Man


Lorna's Silence


Mesrine Parts 1 & 2

Mid-August Lunch


My Son My Son What Have Ye Done?

North Face

Prophet, A

Red Riding Trilogy

Repo Men


Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Secret in Their Eyes

September Issue

Sherlock Holmes

Shutter Island

Terribly Happy

The Killer Inside Me

The Square

Until the Light Takes Us

Valhalla Rising

White Ribbon

Wild Hunt

Winters Bone 
That's a wrap.


Skynet has become self aware.

Dear Elders,
I feel a contagious ripple of shrugs spreading through my generation. You've got us nailed, you're right. We are all dreamers with art degrees and iPods, Facebook and text messaging. Overgrown teenagers. We consider neuroses a positive character trait, we are douche bags. The funniest thing I've seen this month is a video of an angry Korean man careening down a lift shaft to his death. We call each other hipsters without ever confronting the irony in the fact that the key characteristic of being a hipster is to constantly label others as hipsters in a desperate attempt to set yourself apart. Right now, I'm listening to music that juxtaposes an angular post-rock jazz sensibility with twee and whimsical female vocals... in Japanese. I am by all categorical definitions and imaginable criteria, a dickhead.
However, It's time to embrace the dickhead and let our differences lie. We can't deny that the chasm between us is claiming victims all the time, as 25 year-olds take up knitting and your friends Mum hunts down student boys online we just need to look after each other. There is no real difference between us, the only thing that really changed is our environment, our climate. We construct all these ideas to help make sense of what has happened but in terms of actual, quantifiable change in personality, I don't believe it's so much. And this brings us to what we have to offer and what new things we can bring to film.
Watching Scott Pilgrim Vs The World a couple of weeks ago, I almost felt proud of my generation. We are annoying, but we're not living in a complete cultural void. Things are just happening too fast for us to straddle. We're really not all bad and as things have unfolded we're in a unique position with a whole bunch of phenomena to draw upon creatively. Cue this slew of internet related films and I feel like we're getting in a groove.
When this clip of a Winnebago salesman stressing out gets two million hits on you tube, eventually someone is going to pick up on it. When a bad movie reaches cult status 20 years after it's release and draws its star out from his everyday job as a dentist into an arena where again, he is the star. We need to capture that, I want to see that. And likewise with The Social Network. It's a story of our time, it's a story worth telling. These subjects that some would see as fleeting, are now starting to feel to me as what this era will be remembered for.
“Remember all those movies about McCarthyism/Vietnam/The Internet?”
Who knows, all this attempted wisdom should have probably just stayed in my head, but there I go again. Dickhead.

The Expendables (2010)

Existing on the dark side of the moon, at least when compared to the endless barrage of estrogen bombs going off at the cinema week in and week out for the last few years, Sylvester Stallone's Expendables certainly makes for an unusual viewing experience. As you might expect, it's an inverted, gender-mirror image of Sex and the City, the Twilight franchise and everything Nora Ephron ever directed. This is man movie territory, part homage to '80 action flicks, part sentimental longing for the good old days when men had testicles. Nearly everyone from the era is in it (except Seagal and Van Damme) and it reminded me that these guys have no modern day equivalents. Weird, isn't it? They just don't make movies like this anymore, which is, I suppose, both the point and the movie Stallone was making.

So, is The Expendables any good? Well, it ain't art to be sure, but fuck yeah, it's awesome! Sure, it might lack a little of the magic from the old days, but it works well enough on its own level. It's overly violent, gratuitous to a fault, ridiculous and improbable... and I didn't give a shit. Stallone is charming, funny and looks like he's nearly paralyzed on horse tranquilizers throughout. When he and Mickey Rourke hook up, you have to wonder who has more steroids coursing through their ever-prominent veins. The scene is 2 parts amazing and 3 parts jaw-droppingly creepy. It's like watching the results of a CIA super-soldier-science-experiment gone terribly right. The other ex-stars all hit their marks (and the bad guys) on cue and shit blows up over and over again.

And over again.

Gotta say....I really liked The Expendables. Sure, it was a silly throwbac......whoops, Donna's calling. All the girls have big boobs. Watch it.


The Night of the Hunter (1955)

It's easy to see why The Night of the Hunter bombed on it's original release: It was fundamentally at odds with the mom-and-apple-pie Eisenhower years in which it was released. It's a surreal and decadent film about a psychopath/serial-killer of his newlywed wives who, between working out schemes to dispatch the latest missus, has intimate talks with God. It wasn't exactly a Norman Rockwellesque vision of America, that's for sure. Part bogey-man, part bogus pastor, Harry Powell (played with complete zeal by an unusually over-the-top and creepy Robert Mitchum), shivers in disgust about the carnality of women ….and then he kills them. A vulnerable young widow Willa (Shelley Winters) with two kids and some hidden money, marries Powell and ends up at the bottom of a river. Ophelia, what have you done?

The Night of the Hunter would be the only film that actor Charles Laughton would direct... and that's a crying shame. Laughton, who was 56 when he directed the film, after pouring so much effort into the project, was reportedly disheartened by the film's poor box office performance. He would subsequently choose not to return to the director's chair and died a scant 7 years later in 1962.

While The Night of the Hunter has come to be acknowledged as a cinematic masterwork, it can at times seem to border on camp. This was entirely intentional, part of the eclectic vision Laughton had for the film. The script is credited to novelist-critic James Agee, although, according to Agee's biography, Laughton almost completely rewrote it, after becoming impatient with Agee's unshaped adaptation of the Davis Grubb novel. Laughton collaborated on Night of the Hunter with one the period's finest cinematographers: Stanley Cortez, celebrated for his deep-focus photography in The Magnificent Ambersons, among others. There is poetic sequence in The Night of the Hunter shot in deep focus with cobwebs, frogs and rabbits dominating the front of the frame, while far off in the background two diminutive, recently-orphaned children, also in sharp focus, sail down the river to escape the demented preacher Powell. The visual effect is one of an adult fairy-tale, which is key to understanding what Laughton was aiming for in The Night of the Hunter.

This is must-see material for cinephiles for any number of reasons, not least of which is the overriding influence of Laughton's vision. Auteur theorists found significant traction here and for good reason. Mitchum's double-barreled acting, the noirish, showy cinematography of Cortez, the surreal set design and the film's exaggerated, expressionist style all coalesce into an entirely adult version of a Disney animated feature.

The Night of the Hunter is a deeply-spiritual contemplation/expose on the eternal battle between good and evil, between religiosity perverted and the purity of human charity (as represented by the orphan's ultimate protector, Miss Cooper, played by an enchanting Lillian Gish). The exaggerated, eccentric expression of this battle is both timeless and poignant, even 50 years on, a lasting testament to Laughton's unique talents as a film maker and storyteller.

A quick note on the box art picture (which is not, unfortunately, the one Criterion ultimately went with). It comes from this site, Eric Skillman's blog and it includes a fascinating piece on the process of producing box art for Criterion's releases. Definitely worth a read.

10/10. Recently restored and just released on Criterion DVD and Blu-Ray (spine #541)


A complete failure.

OK.... so it turns out I'm not an oracle after all. I mistook two separate entries for Kadas and missed both times. (Jaded, closet bi-sexual..... & Closet fascist.... ). He didn't post his picks at all. I thought the Iron Giant list was Nick's and have no idea who it really was. A good one though. I thought Amanda was the Felicity pick.... turns out that was Niki... I've no idea who the There Will be Blood pick is, but their taste in movies is excellent. House?.... wow, brilliant pick. I got Tom and Joe right out of about 10 entries, a batting average of .200, just above accidental/random in terms of accuracy. Hopeless.

All in all ….an unmitigated disaster..... that proves little other than a swami I am not. Thanks to all those who added a list and sorry to the people who I thought might have been Kris and slagged accordingly. My apologies to Nothing-But-Net Reed who was, according to him at least, a stellar athlete back in public school.

I am humbled.

La Spordinary.


Like a Vulcan Mind-Meld....

As yet another condition of employment, I require some information from each you to complete an experiment I'm working on. To complete this astonishing act of cosmic insight, I need a number of people to anonymously post their 5 favourite films. From this snippet of personal introspection, I'm suggesting that it's possible to produce an astonishingly detailed portrait of the person associated with that list. Once I've had an opportunity to analyze the choices, I will post the results to your collective amazement. I guarantee the results to be uncanny, possibly even unsettling.

You may choose whatever films you want, the only condition being that they sit (or did at some point reside) up high on your list of personal cinematic favourites. They may also be secret, guilty-pleasures, films you are too embarrassed to admit loving, like The Fountain. With my unnatural ability to tease out deeply-guarded information based solely on simple film preferences, rest assured that I will spot and discount any red herrings you intentionally throw my way.

So, bring me your deepest secrets so that I may expose them to the world. 5 films..... 5 favourite films.... it's so simple.... so telling.... so personal. No attempt will be made to identify the person with their list. You will know who you are once I've stared deep into your soul.

WaaaaaHaHAHAha..... if you dare.



The Money Trap (1966)

The Money Trap is a film stuck between two periods, coming right at the end of the big studio era and just before the Hollywood New Wave struck and changed all the rules. Despite the fact that it was completed just a year or two before Bonnie and Clyde, The Money Pits looks like a relic in comparison. There are a number of late studio-era crime films that fall into this same category, movies like Frank Sinatra's The Detective and Tony Rome, David Janssen's Warning Shot, Madigan with Richard Widmark, Kaleidoscope with Warren Beatty, and Paul Newman's Harper. Most of these movies get fairly tepid reviews from critics who see them as examples of the studio's collective decline through the changing '60s. Strangely, this period ranks up amongst my favourites. There's something about them that strikes a chord.

The Money Trap stars Glenn Ford, Rita Hayworth and Joseph Cotten, all actors whose stars shone brighter in an earlier era. Relative newcomers Elke Somer and Ricardo Montalban round out the cast. The comfort of the leads after years in front of the camera, together with more accurately representing the age of the characters they're playing, lends credibility to the roles. Their world-weariness seems more palpable and real, quite likely because it is. The story is a standard one of greed, temptation and, as they so often are, a big pile of money. It's well directed by Burt Kennedy, who is mostly known for his work on TV and a number of '60s Westerns.

I've always liked this film. It's the flip side of Gilda (which starred Ford and Hayworth 20 years earlier), the '40s glamour replaced with grit, greed and the changing world of the '60s. Perhaps it's this “out of time” quality that appeals to me. We too, are living through a period of immense societal change and perhaps there's comfort to be found watching it play out in another era. The Money Trap is than a curiosity piece however, it's a solid film as well. In a strange turn, thespians Montalban and Elke Somer would go on to greater success than their much-more-famous (at least at the time) Money Trap co-stars. Rita Hayworth would only make a handful more films and Glen Ford and Joseph Cotten were mostly relegated to made-for-TV movies and mini-series for the balance of their careers.

The Money Trap and Nora Prentiss just arrived at the FBW (well, not quite...they're still at my place, but I'll get them to the store next week) on the stupidly-overpriced Warner Brothers Archive Collection.

....and is it just me or does Ford look like he's taking a crap in the middle of a gun battle on the poster?


Nora Prentiss (1947)

I'm almost afraid to call Nora Prentiss a film noir. I know I can be a bit one-note on the merits of the noir canon and pretty much deserve the eye-rolls and polite Ya, I'll give that one a watch, Scott niceties tossed my way when I recommend these old crime melodramas. Nora Prentiss is a bit of a different bird though. It's a top-notch B, well-written, well-cast, fantastically lensed by cinematographer James Wong Howe and directed with precision by Vincent Sherman. In short, it's a winner on almost every front.

It's also a film that's hard to describe without giving away too much of the plot. In a nutshell, a doctor, bored with his pedestrian existence, invents an elaborate plan to escape it with a night club singer he's fallen for. Wanker. Not surprisingly... it all goes very badly, but just how it goes badly is marvel of 40's potboiler scriptwriting. It simply boggles the mind that this film hasn't been remade. The story is adult, modern and has a wicked twist that arrives in the final 10 minutes that seems ripe for an update.

Kent Smith plays Doctor Richard Talbot and he nearly tops his performance in the noir/horror classic The Cat People, made 5 years earlier. Ann Sheridan plays Nora and despite being top-billed in a role that has been described as the ultimate “woman's noir”, Smith nearly steals the show. Nora Prentiss is the product of the studio system at its peak, with excellent performances from Smith, Sheridan, and a bunch of Warner Brothers regulars including Bruce Bennett (from Dark Passage and Mystery Street), Robert Alda (The Man I Love), John Ridgely (The Big Sleep) and a young Wanda Hendrix (from another great and nearly forgotten noir, Ride the Pink Horse – great title huh?).

The expressionistic look of the Nora Prentiss is a testament to the always excellent work by Howe and this film ranks amongst his best. The picture literally drips with a paranoid, claustrophobic atmosphere that's hard to shake. Vincent Sherman directed a number of noirs for Warner Brothers including Backfire, The Unfaithful (also with Sheridan), The Affair in Trinidad and The Garment Jungle, but I think Nora Prentiss is my favourite. The score by Franz Waxman is also stellar.

All that said, Nora Prentiss, like a lot of films from the era, requires a modern audience willing to grant the story a little leeway and suspend some disbelief ...particularly for the conclusion, an ending that's at once the film's best attribute, but also a little hard to swallow. It may not stand up to extensive scrutiny, but it makes for a excellent downbeat finale.


Scott Pilgrim Rocks.

I don't have much to add to Kris's comprehensive post about Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World from a few months ago, but with its Tuesday release on DVD/Blu-Ray, I wanted to drag it back up to the top of the blog. SPVTW is a blast. It's the most fun I've had watching a movie all year. The effects are nicely handled, the music and score excellent and the actors well cast, particularly Michael Cera in the lead. The PG rating is a huge bonus for us and in spite of the fact that this one tanked at the box office, I expect it'll find some life on our shelves (actually preferably off). Totally enjoyable and an easy recommendation, even for tweenies. And speaking of tweenies.....

It's somebody's 12th 12th birthday! …..Happy Birthday to you know who, who turns +/-12 again in the next couple of days. She and her BFF's are all going to Medieval Times to celebrate tonight! Imagine, this after just returning from 5 full days of rides at Universal Theme Park in Florida. You go girl.


War Films, Part 3

I never saw Apocalypse Now in the theatres and I don't remember why. It was later, on home video, where I first encountered Capt. Willard journeying up the Nung River into the deepest recesses of the jungle and toward an awaiting Col. Kurtz. About 10 years ago I watched the plus 40 minute Redux version of the film and truth-be-told, found the original preferable. It was tighter. The extra footage didn't seem to add anything to the story or our understanding of the characters. I'm pretty sure I watched Redux on VHS as well.

Two scenes always bugged me about Apocalypse Now; The night scene at the besieged, psychedelically-lit, American-held Do Lung bridge and the ending, which I never thought provided any closure to the story. The Do Lung bridge scene comes well into the film, at the height of Willard's personal conflict about the journey. Tellingly, the scene is dark, claustrophobic, unsettling and confusing - mirroring Willard's own thoughts about his mission to kill Kurtz. I've changed my mind about this scene after finally seeing it properly framed and reasonably close to its original theatrical presentation. On VHS, the scene is frustrating and nearly impossible to see. The Blu-Ray print is nothing short of a revelation, particularly for the final third of the film, which quite purposefully plays out in darkness with slashes of light illuminating the screen like lightning bolts. The Do Lung Bridge scene is improved immensely by the simple act of seeing it as Coppola had intended.

The ending..... some say it's brilliant and maybe it is. I've read that Coppola fiddled over what would be the 'final cut' version of the 35mm film, so various editing and differing release versions were screened at showings in 1978 and 1979 - many with alternative endings. The ending he went with wasn't modified in Redux, so it must have provided the effect he wanted. Even though Apocalypse Now is well past the point where critical analysis is either needed or of much value (and it's almost sacrilegious to question anything about the film among cinephiles anyways), I still think the ending is missing something. Neither of the two possible eventualities foreshadowed early on in the final act come to pass, the first being the bombing of the compound and the second being Willard taking over from Kurtz as the compound's leader. It briefly appears that Willard might consider the later, but as he wanders through Kurtz's followers, collects Lance and heads back to the boat, it becomes clear that Kurtz will not have a successor. Apparently, several of the earlier alternate endings included the destruction of the compound in the background as Lance and Willard start their journey back. To me, it's the ending the film should have – the period at the end of the sentence that I think is missing from what is otherwise an acknowledged masterpiece of film making.

The Blu-Ray boxset includes both cuts, the original and Redux and the brilliant documentary about making the film: Hearts of Darkness, A Filmmaker's Apocalypse.



One of the oldest professions in the world... in 3d! Jackass 3d (2010)

Did i actually go see this film? Yes.
Should i actually write a review for this film? Depends.
If i do write a review for this would i have anything interesting to say? Actually...

Jackass 3D brings back the original Jackass crew to do more of what they do best; disgusting, painful, and hilarious stunts.

Growing up i was a fan of Canada's own Tom Green, this being back when he used to be on public access. In the late 90's MTV caught wind of the hit and run comedian and signed him to their network. Soon after Jackass started up, a new MTV show featuring a group of young 20 somethings doing awful things to their bodies for laughs.
It may be debatable to say but one has to wonder if Jackass would exist without Tom Green.

Jackass went on to became a world wide hit, spawning countless seasons and not one, but two films. The phenomenon was a troubling one, what about this show had so many eating it up? Humour at this low a level certainly lacks any shred of intelligence or shame. How base had the mainstream consumers become? The comedy in watching people hurting themselves is for cave men, certainly we have come up a few notches on the evolutionary ladder to enjoy comedy that features a wealthy use of language and complex situations involving human relationships.

But some nights... when the mood is just right and the sun is setting blood red, you can't help it. You wanna see someone get hit in the nuts... AND IN 3D!
What's intriguing about this picture (besides the how and why) is that it's been four years since we have heard anything from the guys in the Jackass camp. This foray back onto the big screen demands to be bigger and better than their last effort. Unfortunately, they definitely accomplish that.

The stunts... are too many and too painful to include here, but they don't disappoint. The ridiculous novelty of 3D only makes the experience all the more bizarre and unwarranted.
This time around, however, i was laughing for a different reason. Self inflicted injury can only tickle my funny bone for so long, instead i found my laughs coming off the faces from the performers themselves.
Wherein past incarnations of the Jackass franchise it seemed that the performers took some sick satisfaction in what they were doing, yet here the rules of the game have apparently changed.
Before every stunt their once smug faces are now replaced with the looks of total fear and finally some shame. You can read in their faces that they really don't want to be there.

If you gaze into the abyss of their faces long enough you can watch their internal struggle playing out in their eyes:
"I can't do this... I'm being paid a lot of money to do this... I don't want to do this... but the money... fuck it just do it."

This internal struggle that all the players share is the most interesting thing about this particular Jackass installment. We are now watching 30 somethings doing disgusting things to their body that they really don't wanna do. For the first time, Jackass has depth (albeit, an unintentional depth... yet depth still the same).
What we are basically watching is non-sexual prostitution. These people are selling their bodies and for the price of a movie ticket you get to watch all the gory glory.
A thought more terrifying than a 3D Hostel film.


War Films, Part 2

I don't particularly like Paul Haggis. I didn't love Million Dollar Baby and I despised the moral knee-capping that was Crash, The Movie! I mean I really hated Crash. As a result, I had little optimism going into his followup film, In the Valley of Elah when I first watched it a couple of years back. I fully expected another sloppily written, heavy-handed commentary with a self-important story, an all-star cast and entirely too much.... well, Haggis.

It turns out that I was wrong, dead wrong in fact because In the Valley of Elah, while certainly flawed, is a truly gripping drama about a man’s search for answers. Tommy Lee Jones deserved a Best Actor Oscar for his subtle-yet-passionate performance as Hank Deerfield, a retired soldier whose son, an Iraq war soldier himself, suddenly goes AWOL and turns up murdered. The subsequent journey of discovery is devastating for Deerfield, exposing a son whom he hardly knew, a military that doesn't want the truth to get out and driving a stake through the very core of his entire ideology.

Haggis maintains a gradual and deliberate pacing throughout, building tension using the slow-boil mystery on the surface of the film while probing the much-deeper issues of modern-day patriotism, warfare and the fabric of American society. It is a vastly misunderstood and consistantly misread film, judging from the reviews and comments I've read about it. It received modest reviews on it's theatrical release and then sank quickly from sight. Jones' performance elevates the picture. His personal transformation over the course of his investigation is heartbreaking and involves mourning both his son's death and the loss of his own identity. The film's central metaphor, the epic battle between David and Goliath (they fought in the Valley of Elah, hence the title) has been mostly misinterpreted to mean Deerfield's fight against the tyranny and malignant military apparatus, whereas the actual metaphor is entirely more complicated, a point I'll come to below.

Charlize Theron provides an understated and low-key supporting performance as a detective hoping to prove herself with the case of Hank’s murdered son, which inadvertently falls on her desk. She is a single mother raising a young 8-year-old son herself, David, who isn't particularly inclined or pushed to engage in traditionally-aggressive masculine pastimes (sports, violent games, etc.). The story of David & Goliath is told to him twice during the film, the first time by Tommy Lee as one of bravery and manliness and a second time by Theron, during which David interrupts his mother to ask “Why would they let him fight a giant?”.

This seemingly-innocent question is the key to understanding the film. Young David is David and Goliath is a society that would shape his existence in such a way to facilitate him fighting in terrible wars. Tommy Lee Jones' Hank Deerfield comes to understand that he is part of the problem, not part of the solution and in a final abandonment of his ideological worldview, raises an inverted American flag (foreshadowed in an earlier scene) to indicate that he believes his home, country and society are in a state of extreme distress.

In the first part of this post, I made the suggestion that war films, particularly those that focus primarily on the “war is hell” in-the-trenches-with-soldiers view of military battle and warfare are apt to miss the larger sociopolitical issues that surround a nation's overt acts of aggression and, more importantly, often fail to address the fundamental issues of culpability and causality. The reasons why war is considered an acceptable extension of policy can't be effectively presented or explored by filmmakers in these stories, to put it another way. It allows those same filmmakers the luxury of avoiding the issue entirely, which I'm not sure isn't partly by design. In the Valley of Elah is an exception to this trend. It is a film that not only looks at the dehumanizing effects of warfare on the modern soldier, but also the expanded role society plays in that transformation. Instead of looking outward to explain and justify the extreme human cost associated with conflict, it suggests that we look inward at the structure of our own society to find the answers. It falls short of assigning blame directly on the perverted-capitalism that plagues our time, but it's a start. One can only hope that In the Valley of Elah will be appreciated years from now when the Iraq war is looked upon as the event that revealed to its citizens what America has truly become. With terrific performances and a gripping, insightful story, this vastly under-appreciated film is one of the best war-time tragedies of the decade.