Monday, August 26, 2013

One Chapter Ends...Another One Begins


Today marks the end of a lengthy, and I would say very unexpected, journey. After seven years it is time to close the door on this little film blog known as Big Thoughts from a Small Mind. While I have loved every minute of being able to engage in film discussions with so many of the knowledgeable readers who frequent this site, it was time for a change. Fortunately, just because one chapter ends it does not mean another one cannot begin. You can still read our thoughts on all things film over at our new site:

Cinema Axis

What prompted the change? Well to be honest I have been thinking about this for over a year now. It just took some time to finally push forward and realize the idea. The primary reason was that I wanted the site to better reflect what the blog had become. For the last few years it has not been only thoughts from my “small mind”, but thoughts from various personalities and voices. There came a point a few years back where I decided that it would be more interesting to have different voices sharing their thoughts on film rather than just my own. It is a decision I am glad I made and I still embrace that philosophy today. As film bloggers we tend to start out, be it consciously or not, striving for personal glory. However, the websites that always fascinate me most are the ones where various people come together through their love of film.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

TIFF Announces Masters and Discovery Titles


The 38th Toronto International Film Festival® announced the films in the Masters programme, which highlights the work of the world’s most compelling cinematic creators. The programme features a diverse collection of new films including world premieres from Quebecois directors Robert Lepage and Pedro Pires and Finnish filmmaker Pirjo Honkasalo; and North American premieres by Jia Zhangke, Jafar Panahi, Kim Ki-duk, Edgar Rietz and Claire Denis.

Masters

A Touch of Sin (Tian zhu ding) Jia Zhangke, China/Japan North American Premiere
An angry miner, enraged by the corruption of his village leaders, takes action. A rootless migrant discovers the infinite possibilities that owning a firearm can offer. A pretty receptionist working in a sauna is pushed to the limit when a wealthy client assaults her. A young factory worker goes from one discouraging job to the next, only to face increasingly degrading circumstances. Four people, four different provinces.

Abuse of Weakness (Abus de Faiblesse) Catherine Breillat, France/Belgium/Germany World Premiere An extraordinary collaboration between two legends of French cinema, Catherine Breillat’s brutally candid autobiographical drama stars Isabelle Huppert as a stroke-afflicted filmmaker manipulated by a notorious con man.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Before Midnight


Up until now there has always been an unattainable element of romantic fantasy that flowed throughout Richard Linklater’s Before series. Although I got swept away in following the budding romance between Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) in 1995’s Before Sunrise, there was a part of the seventeen year-old version of myself that felt “this could only happen in the movies.” The idea of meeting that special someone by chance on the train and spending one gloriously romantic day, in Europe of all places, seemed like an unattainable dream. Several years later, when the 2004 sequel Before Sunset was released, I found myself back in the comfortably romantic world of the pair. They were both a little older, but still as engaging and interesting as the first time I encountered them on screen. However, there was still a small element of Jesse and Céline’s beautiful relationship that still felt a bit inaccessible in the “real world.”

While it may have taken 18 years, Linklater’s latest film, Before Midnight, finally hit home in the most unexpected way. Now much older myself, I am in a place in my life where the lives of Céline and Jesse are no longer the impossible dream. In fact the reality is, aside from the exotic location of the film’s setting, I am living many of their experiences right now. Jesse and Céline no longer reside in that world where you can just drop everything for the chance of finding that one true love. The real world has crashed in on them and they must now learn how to survive amongst the demands of having a family, juggling careers, and trying to remain true to their individual passions.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Second Opinion: Elysium


Director Neill Blomkamp makes his long anticipated return to the screen with his second feature Elysium. Sci-Fi fans have waited, not so patiently, for a follow up to his first feature the visually stunning and unique District 9. Blomkamp, a graduate of Vancouver Film schools 3D Animation and Visual Effects program, has a seamless method of combining special effects and live acting that continues in Elysium. Blomkamp’s eye for robot construction, in this film in particular, is unmatched.

Dystopian Earth in the year 2154 is overrun by population, disease and lawlessness. Robots are both the police and parole officers on Earth. They show no favoritism and cannot be influenced or corrupted. The rich inhabit a space station in the sky, known as Elysium, filled with lush green fields, beautiful homes and the top technological and scientific achievements. They have devices, resembling a cross between a tanning bed and an MRI machine, which can eliminate diseases within a couple of minutes.

The story centers around Max (Matt Damon), a former car thief who is on parole and working on the line in a plant that makes robots. After an accident on the job, Max takes a contract from his old underworld contacts in exchange for a ticket to Elysium to cure the malady he contracted at the plant. The job does not go as planned and the strike team is intercepted by an earth based team of disavowed agents. However, Max does get information from the target that turns out to be more important than his sponsors could have expected.

The best part and worst part of the film are interrelated. There are no arcs in the story, therefore, the characters do not grow from the first time you see them on screen until the last act. This hinders the audience’s ability to develop interest in any of the characters. Scenes essentially bleed into each other almost like a random series of sequences all connected by chance. A good example of this is the sequence that starts with Max confronting a police robot while lining up for a bus. The confrontation ends with a broken wrist which leads to a reunion with Frey (Alice Braga) at the hospital. Frey is his childhood soulmate who has a daughter in the last stages of leukemia. Max’s job on the line is threatened by this detour to the hospital. The fear of losing his factory job leads Max to take a risk at work that causes his illness and ultimately his nothing to lose attitude. Although these events present the shell of the plot, there is very little character development that takes place in any of these moments or any others in the film for that matter.

Visually dazzling in scope, depth and detail, Elysium does have a fair bit that works well. It is a film that will especially appeal to sci-fi fans that are interested in the integration between humans and robots in a future society. However, those looking for a strong story, featuring characters that change and grow, will be disappointed as the film falls short. As a result, it is not a film that I can recommend.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

TIFF Announces Additional Titles


Featuring new films by Sean Durkin, James Franco, Patrice Leconte, Hayao Miyazaki, Fred Schepisi, Kevin Macdonald and Johnnie To

The Toronto International Film Festival® has announced the addition of 3 Galas and 19 Special Presentations to the 2013 Festival programme, including a further 12 World Premieres. Representing countries from around the world, the Gala and Special Presentations programmes offer a lineup of diverse titles and genres.

Toronto audiences will be among the first to screen films by directors Fred Schepisi, Alberto Arvelo, Reha Erdem, Dexter Fletcher, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, Megan Griffiths, Arnaud Larrieu and Jean-Marie Larrieu, Kevin Macdonald, Arie Posin, Charlie Stratton, Nils Tavernier and John Turturro.

GALAS

Blood Ties Guillaume Canet, France/USA North American Premiere
New York, 1974. 50-year-old Chris has just been released on good behavior after spending several years in prison. Waiting for him reluctantly outside the prison gates is his younger brother, Frank, a cop with a bright future. Chris and Frank have always been different, yet blood ties are the ones that bind. Starring Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, Matthias Schoenaerts and James Caan.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blind Spot: The Omega Man


When it comes to science fiction, I have always been more drawn to works that have a sense of realism to them. Do not get me wrong, I can appreciate ships that go into warp drive and sabers made of light just as much as the next guy. However, it is the fiction that is the most plausible, or at least seemingly so, that truly makes my mind race. This is one of the reasons why The Omega Man is another of the pleasant discoveries in this ongoing Blind Spot Series.

Based on Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend (remade again in 2007 starring Will Smith), Boris Sagal’s film is a cautionary tale of the evils that mankind can unleash on each other through our overreliance on science and technology. The film takes place in 1977, two years after the world’s population has been decimated as a result of the biological warfare between the Soviet Union and China. Thanks to an experimental vaccine Col. Robert Neville (Charlton Heston), a military scientist, is the last remaining human on earth...or so he thinks. Neville spends his days roaming the deserted streets of Los Angeles gathering supplies and trying his best to remain sane within the isolation. Although the loneliness plays tricks on his mind, it is far more tolerable then what occurs when the sun goes down.