Friday, July 30, 2010

Toronto is a Bloody Good Time After Dark

Although TIFF (aka. The Toronto International Film Festival) offered a glimpse into some of the big films they will be showing this September, I would like to highlight another festival announcement that came out this week. The Toronto After Dark Film Festival unveiled its full lineup of cult-tastic films yesterday. Running from August 13 -20, Toronto After Dark features a wide array of over-the-top comedies, blood curdling horror, genre mashing science fiction and all things in between. I recently became aware of the festival thanks to James at Toronto Screen Shots and Bob of Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind. While at this month's Toronto Bloggers Pub Night, they were both sharing their experiences at the last year’s festival. I was officially sold on the idea of checking it out this year once I heard a few simple words: “they screened Black Dynamite last year!” That was all I needed to hear to grasp what type of films the festival would be showing. After scanning the complete list of films, this year’s festival seems to be even crazier than I could have ever anticipated. If descriptions like “Killer Tire Horror”, “Cult Stoner Comedy (staring Adrian Brody)”, “Brutal Roman Action”, do not scream cult goodness then maybe some of the following trailers below will get your cult juices going:

Please note some of the following trailers contain strong language and graphic violence.

High School



Rubber



Centurion



Doghouse



Robogeshia



Human Centipede




The full list of Toronto After Dark films, and ticket info, can be found on the festival's website.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Moore Acting Roles Needed In Order To Afford School Fees

Just a quick post today as I need to do some prep work for a function I am attending tomorrow. As some of you already know, I occasionally do two features for The LAMB. One of them is the LAMB Acting School 101 in which a different actor or actress is highlighted each month. Basically it is a way for people to see what bloggers think about a particular actor's/actress' canon of work. Plus the LAMB Acting School 101 also offers bloggers a free forum to promote their blogs as well.  Next week the feature will be focusing on the works of Julianne Moore! So if you are a blogger, or know of a blogger, who has written a review, posted a commentary, recorded a podcast about Julianne Moore (or her films) be sure to forward it along to the email address below.

Here are the type of things I am looking for:
  • Articles on her best performances
  • Articles on her worst performances
  • General thoughts on the actress
  • Reviews of the films she has starred in

Send the link of the blog post to bigthoughtssmallmind@hotmail.com. Please note that multiple submissions are encouraged. The deadline for submissions is Monday August 2, 2010.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Whatever Happened To...?

Rick Moranis


Of all the SCTV alumni I find it odd that Rick Moranis is not prominent in front of the camera anymore. Heck, Eugene Levy is still managing to mix his big budget works with all those straight-to-DVD American Pie movies. Could Rick Moranis not do the same? The latter part of Rick Moranis’ career has consisted of family friendly movies. He has consistently shown that his comedic timing can provide good laughs to even the weakest feature. I think it would be hilarious to see Moranis in a comedy where he plays against type. Maybe a foulmouthed role is exactly what Rick Moranis needs to break his squeaky clean image. I could see Moranis making a splash in a raunchy Todd Phillips Hangover-style comedy; or even reteaming with Steve Martin for an adult skewed comedy.

Career Highlights: Strange Brew (1983); Honey I Shrunk the Kids (1989); Ghostbusters (1984); Spaceballs (1987); Ghostbusters II (1989); Little Shop of Horrors (1986); Brewster’s Millions (2005); Parenthood (1989); Splitting Heirs (1993); Little Giants (1994);

Low Points: Honey I Blew Up the Kids (1992); Big Bully (1996); The Flintstones (1994); My Blue Heaven (1990); Brother Bear (2003)

Last Seen On The Big Screen: Brother Bear (2003)

Where You Will See Him Next?: Since bringing back the Bob & Doug McKenzie characters, yet again, for Canadian television, Moranis has been fairly quiet on the acting front. It seems he is spending most of his time on the production side of things.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Is Sidney The Wiz At Afternoon Dog Running?

Is it blasphemous that I consider Sidney Lumet merely a good director opposed to a great one? This question has crossed my mind recently as this week marks a retrospective on Lumet career as part of The LAMB's wonderful series, LAMBs in the Director’s Chair. Before you run out and grab your pitchforks and axes, let me preface this by stating that a lot of my views toward Lumet stem from the fact that I have experienced more of his later works rather than his “classics”.


My earliest encounter with Sidney Lumet’s films was The Wiz when I was younger. I remember watching it one summer on television with a few family members. It was a big event that evening mainly because the all black cast featured both Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. Fast forward to present day and The Wiz still holds a special spot in my heart. It is not a great film by any means; in fact the unevenness of the film is more glaring now with than it when I first watched it over twenty years ago. I even had a tough time explaining my fondness for the film to my wife last week when we happened upon it on television. It is hard to point out the film’s strengths when giant trash bins, with oversized teeth, are gumming Michael Jackson’s arms on screen…believe me I have tried.



Many will cite Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon as examples of Lumet’s exceptional works and I would not disagree. I would even throw Running on Empty into the list as well. Those would be my top three selections, based on what I have see, of Lumet’s canon of work. All three films were stellar examinations of characters struggling with issues of loyalty. Whether it was the cop being true to his code of ethics in the face of corruption; the misguided criminal doing whatever he can to help the one he loves; or simply the young man who loves his family but must wants to be his own man; each one of those pictures left an undeniable mark on the world of film.


Loyalty is a theme that is constantly in all of Lumet’s films, although more often than not, it is never quiet executed as well as in the three films mentioned above. Just look at some of the films that people conveniently overlook when reminiscing about Lumet. Films like Guilty as Sin, which tried hard to be a sexy thriller but ended up being a sloppy mess. Don Johnson’s overacting matched with Rebecca De Mornay’s poorly written attorney was a recipe for disaster from the start. Halfway through the film you really could care less about De Mornay’s conflict of wanting to prove Johnson’s guilt while still having to represent him as her client. Or how about the generational comedy, and I use the term “comedy” loosely, Family Business. While some may have enjoyed seeing Dustin Hoffman, Sean Connery, and Matthew Broderick stumble around like buffoons, I could not help but think that the actors had signed up for the film script unseen. Let us also not forget the gangster’s girl with a heart of gold story, Gloria, in which Sharon Stone attempts to show off her softer side. One of the most shocking things about Gloria was that the formulaic story came from a John Cassavetes script.



Even decent films such as Night Falls on Manhattan, Q&A, Strip Search, and A Stranger Among Us fail to muster up anything more than a “well it was not a bad way to kill two hours” type of response. If I had to pick the one that stood out the most it would probably be the made for television feature Strip Search as I really loved the segment between Ken Leung, a vastly underrated actor, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. I like how the tension builds in the scene and the resolution is as equally unsettling as the interrogation.

Again I am not saying Sidney Lumet is a bad director, I just do not see him in the same light that many others do. Besides a handful of exceptional films the majority of Lumet’s body of work, based on what I have seen, is good but not necessarily great.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Shinsedai 2010: The Dark Harbour & Jellyfish Boy

The Dark Harbour



Over the weekend I was fortunate enough to catch a film at the 2010 Shinsedai Cinema Festival. Curated by Chris MaGee, of Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow, and Jasper Sharp, of Midnight Eye, Shinsedai showcases the best of Japanese independent cinema. Shinsedai is now in its second year but this was my first at the festival. Though time constraints of the weekend hindered me from seeing more than one film, Naito Takatsugu’s The Dark Harbour, Shinsedai has definitely wet my appetite to see more of what Japanese cinema has to offer.

The Dark Harbour is a quirky blend of comedy and drama that tells the tale of a lonely fisherman, Manzo (Shinya Kote), who is desperate in desperate need of a companion. The problem is Manzo is rather clueless in regards to how exactly to get a date. Manzo spends so much time trying to look cool that he is oblivious to the opportunities that present themselves. When a local company sets up a video dating night for city women and fishermen, Manzo jumps at the chance to final fill the void in his life. Though the chance for happiness may be closer than he ever imagined. Unbeknownst to Manzo, a young woman, Mitsuko (Yuko Miyamoto), and her son, Masao (Kazuki Hirooka) are secretly living inside Manzo’s closet.

While the premise may sound odd on paper, The Dark Harbour is one of those films that will ultimately have you leaving the theatre smiling. Even in the more downbeat moments there is a charm that never lets you go. A large part of the films appeal is the work of the three leads. Kote is wonderful as Manzo, although we are only with him for a short time you feel like you have known him forever. You cannot help but want him to obtain that happiness he so desperately craves. Both Miyamoto and Hirooka complement Kote’s performance nicely. They really help to sell the whole makeshift family aspect of the film.

If there is one aspect the film could have improved on is the overall pacing of the script. There are times when the film veers off the central Manzo/Mitsuko arc in order to have random comedic moments featuring some of the other fisherman in town. While amusing, the scenes do very little to further the overall plot of the film. Speaking of plot, The Dark Harbour would have also been better served with a little more focus on the character of Mitsuko. Naito Takatsugu establishes early on that Mitsuko has had trouble with men in the past though it is never elaborated on. Although the arrival of “the sufer” in the restaurant triggers a passion with Mitsuko; Takatsugu never clarifies what is it exactly about “the sufer” that causes Mitsuko to make the choices she makes? Even Masao does not seem to comprehend Mitsuko’s choice of action in the last act.

Despite the fact that Mitsuko may not be a character as fully realized as Manzo is, Takatsugu’s The Dark Harbour still manages to succeed on many levels. The film proves that, in a roundabout way, life’s true reward is having someone to share it with.

B


Jellyfish Boy

Prior to the to the screening of The Dark Harbour the audience was treated to a short by director Shoh Kataoka entitled Jellyfish Boy. The short examines the friendship between Kotaro (Ren Yasuda) and his best friend, who he calls Jellyfish Boy (Daiki Gunji). Over the course of the day we see the two boys play and discuss heavy issues such as independence and marriage. Although the subjects of discussion may be deeper than one would expect from children of such a young age, the childlike innocence in regards to how they see the world is always present. Jellyfish Boy is a heart-warming film that will have the viewer longing for the return of their own childlike innocence.

B+

Friday, July 23, 2010

During Wartimes Happiness Found In Dollhouses

Life During Wartime

In Life During Wartime director Todd Solondz revisits many of the characters that he brought to life so vividly in his films Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness, 15 and 12 years ago respectively. After once being married to a pedophile, Bill (Ciarán Hinds), Trish (Allison Janney) is happy that she has finally found herself a normal guy, Harvey (Michael Lerner). Trish and Harvey want to get married but their relationship becomes complicated when Bill is released from prison. Meanwhile, Trish’s sister Joy (Shirley Henderson) and her husband Allen (Michael K. Williams) are having problems of their own due to Allen’s habitual immoral habits. Joy decides to takes a solo trip to reconnect with her family but is haunted by the ghost of a past lover. Both Trish and Joy must figure out if it is better to forgive the past or to forget it all together.

Life During Wartime is like warmed over comfort food in many ways. You really do not need it but it satisfies for a brief time before you are ultimately hungry again. As a big fan of Solondz’s previous films I had no problem with the fact that he used a completely new cast to fill out each role. It did take me a while though to reconnect with the characters as it has been ages since I last saw either Welcome to the Dollhouse or Happiness.


I was pleased with the character interpretations that this new cast brought to the film. Janny, Henderson, Williams, Charlotte Rambling, and Paul Rubens are all quite good in their given roles. Yet I could not help but wonder what the actors from the original films would have done with this material? I think this is one of the main issues that hinders Life During Wartime overall. Instead of providing its own cinematic mark, Life During Wartime merely makes you want to revisit the dark beauty of Happiness all over again. Happiness was such a good movie that it really did not warrant a sequel. The same can be said, though to a slightly lesser extent, about Welcome to the Dollhouse. I felt like I knew everything I needed to know about these characters. I was never inclined to ponder “whatever happened to…?”

Todd Solondz trademark dark humor is still intact but somehow the film seems to play things much safer here than in his previous films. Solondz does raise some interesting questions on the lengths of human forgiveness; but this is a theme that he explored far better in his last film, Palindromes. At the end of the day, Life During Wartime serves as a nice reminder that I need to rent Happiness again more than anything else.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Too Much Time In Hot Tub Leads To Shrinkage

Hot Tub Time Machine


There was a time in the 80’s when you needed both interesting characters and a funny premise to have a successful buddy comedy. Think back to films like Trading Places and Planes Trains and Automobiles and you get my point. The 90’s saw the rise of City Slickers and folks who inhabited Wayne’s World and little by little the situations started to overshadow the characters. Now we have reached a point in buddy comedies where both the situation and the characters can be contrasted in matchbox size outline.

If you have seen the trailer for Hot Tub Time Machine then you already know everything you need to about the plot. There is very little left to explain story wise. Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry) head back to their old 80’s party-stomping for the weekend in hopes of reliving their glory days one last time. With Adam’s nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) in tow, the four men decide to drink their individual sorrows away and end up having a wild night in the hot tub. When the men wake up the next morning they are shocked to discover that they have all been transported back to 1986.

When Craig Robinson breaks the fourth wall and declares directly to the audience that “it must be some sort of Hot Tub Time Machine” he is clearly telling the viewer to officially check their brains at the door and enjoy the ride. Unfortunately we have been on this type of ride so much lately that the film runs out of steam fast than expected. Hot Tub Time Machine is very much akin to films like Old School and The Hangover. It even has all the same character types as those films. There is the good looking lead with relationship issues, the married one whose wife may be unfaithful, the man-child that refuses to grow up, and the nerd/straight man who just needs to loosen up. It was as if the screenwriters were using a paint-by-numbers book when writing the script.


While Hot Tub Time Machine does not offer much in the way of original comedy, it does have a few good laughs scattered throughout. The majority of the humour is directly correlated to the numerous 80’s references. Yet the highlight of the film in my opinion is Crispin Glover’s character, Phil. When Phil is first introduced he is a disgruntle hotel porter who is missing an arm. When the film jumps back to 1986 we see a much happier version of Phil with both appendages in tack. How does Phil lose his arm? Well that is one of the running gags in the picture. Phil always finds himself in dangerous situations though you never quite sure when, or if, the arm will go.

Hot Tub Time Machine will not be remembered as a comedy classic by any means. I would be shocked if it is even remembered by the end of this year. Still, thanks to Crispin Glover and a few well placed 80’s references, Hot Tub Time Machine is still worth a rental. It is one of those films that will play well on a boozy Friday night; or as television background noise at a party.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Do You Double Your Pleasure?


Upon walking out of the theatre after seeing Inception I turned to my wife and said “I would definitely see that again in theaters!” It then dawned on me that despite seeing a fair number of films over the course of my life. There are only a handful of films that I have actually seen more than once in the theaters:

The Matrix - I remember seeing this with a friend while home from university one weekend. After being blown away by the special effects I could not stop thinking about the film. I ended up seeing it again a few days later with some of my university pals when I got back in town.

Magnolia – I saw this film as part of a double bill with the Talented Mr. Ripley over the Christmas holidays in 1999. It was only playing in one cinema in Toronto, The Paramount, at the time before it expanded wide a week or so later. After spending over 5 ½ hours in total in the theatre many were surprised that I would be willing to endure another 3 hours of Magnolia a mere week later. Yet that is exactly what I did, again with some university friends, once I returned to school. As I have mentioned before Magnolia is one of my all-time favourite movies so I would still see it again in the cinema if it is ever rereleased in the future.

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – I am not a big fan of this film, though I think it works if you eliminated all the love scenes. The film would only be a half an hour but I digress. The main reason that George Lucas was able to suck more money out of my pockets was because I wanted to see the differences between the digital projection of the film compared to the regular version that I originally watched.

Borat– Technically I have seen this film two and a half times in theaters. I originally saw this at the midnight madness screening at TIFF in which Sacha Baron Cohen was in attendance in full Borat character. Unfortunately the film projector broke down about twenty minutes into the film and the screening was rescheduled for the following night. After laughing to the point of tears, it was my first experience with Cohen’s brand of humour, I was eager to see if I would still find the film funny when it opened officially in theatres a few months later.

Will Inception be added to this list? Possibly.  It depends on how my schedule plays out over the next few weeks. But the question I have for you is...

What movie(s) have you seen more than once in the theater?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Dreams’ Inception Is Often A Blockbuster

Back to the blogging grind, thanks to all for the well wishes. It was a great trip, good food, good people, etc.



Inception

In 2005 Christopher Nolan attempted to change the way most people viewed both summer blockbusters and comic books with his film Batman Begins. Nolan used that film to remind us that not all summer blockbusters had to be mindless affairs. It is possible to have a summer movie that offered both brains and explosions. Since then Christopher Nolan has continued his trend of making summer blockbusters for all those who prefer substance with their sugary treats. The Prestige and The Dark Knight both offered up much to think about while entertaining immensely. Now with his latest film, Inception, Christopher Nolan has raised the stakes in regards to how much thought, and attention, a viewer is required to put into a summer flick.

Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an expert at extracting information from people’s subconscious while they dream. Unfortunately Cobb is also a wanted man in the United States, so he is forced to take his extracting job on the road. After Cobb’s ex-wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) sabotages his latest mission, Cobb and his right hand man Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are offered one final job by Saito (Ken Wantanabe), a powerful business man who has the ability to make Cobb’s problems in the United States disappear. The only catch is, instead of stealing information, Cobb and Arthur must place information in to the mind of Saito’s corporate rival Robert Fisher Jr. (Cillian Murphy). Cobb knows the art of inception is much more complex than removing secrets from a person’s mind, so he sets out to gather a team of experts to pull off this heist. In order for Cobb’s plan to work he will need the assistance of Ariadne (Ellen Page) the dream architect; Eames (Tom Hardy) the expert forger; and Yusuf (Dileep Rao) the chemist who can create a drug so potent that will keep them all in the dream state for 10 hours. If the team succeeds, it could be the perfect crime. Unfortunately none of them anticipate the deadly enemies that await them on the other side.

If Dark City and The Matrix were to ever have a love child, Inception would be that child. Inception offers up a fresh spin on the heist genre. Many elements standard to heist flicks are present: the ”one last job” motivation; each member of the team having a unique skill, etc. The major difference being that it is not about what is being stolen, but rather what is put in. Inception is an extremely smart film in which the audience does not need a PHD to decipher. Christopher Nolan spends the first half hour of the film establishing everything that we, the viewer, need to know about dreams and the subconscious. I loved how the film considers “the idea” to be the worst type of virus to inflict mankind. So, for example, if someone plants the notion in your head that you look fat in those jeans, that simple thought starts to eat away at you until you eventually discard those jeans. Even if you are unable to grasp all of the philosophical concepts talked about in the film, Nolan designs the narrative in a way that makes Inception accessible to all types of viewers.


The thing I really enjoyed about Inception is that the narrative plays by all the rules it sets up. Unlike other high concept films, such as Wanted, the film never states one thing and then proceeds to do another. Everything in Inception is plausible in relation to the world that this particular film establishes. The timelines in the three levels, four if you include limbo, of the dream world are clearly stated. Even though the van may be shown falling in slow motion we know that in reality it only takes ten seconds to hit the water in that level, which is twenty minutes in the next and so on.

Despite all of the jargon tossed around regarding dreams and the subconscious, Christopher Nolan never loses sight of the fact that Inception is an action-packed heist film. He ensures that every level of the dream world is filled with tense action sequences. The standout being the Arthur’s gravity defying fight with some henchmen in level two of the dream world. I really liked that Nolan opted to give the centerpiece action scene to Arthur instead of Cobb. Out of all the characters Arthur is the most straight laced. He clearly knows how to handle himself with a weapon but he is not as flashy as Eames. Yet when the balance of the mission is on the line, Arthur will do whatever it takes to keep himself and his team safe.

In many ways Arthur is the perfect contrast to Cobb. Arthur knows what the proper limits are for their particular line of work. Cobb, on the other hand, has gone so far past the limit that he continually puts his team in jeopardy for his own selfish needs. If 2010 has taught me anything it is that being married to Leonardo DiCaprio may not be as sweet as most women assume it would be. In both Inception and Shutter Island, DiCaprio’s characters are mentally damaged by events from a previous marriage. The character of Mal in Inceptions could have easily been played by Michelle Williams as they are almost identical in their construction. It is Cobb’s relationship with Mal that is at the core of everything in Inception, without it the film does not work at all. There will be those viewers that complain about the lack of character development for some of the supporting characters. Yet I honestly cannot see how the film could elaborate on them anymore without ruining the central Cobb arc.

For a summer that has been particularly dull in terms of the amount of movies that truly excite, Inception is truly a breath of fresh air. It is not only one for the best films of the summer but, in my opinion, it also one of the best films to come out this year.

Sharing the Blogging Love

As I am heading off on my honeymoon this weekend, there will be no new post on this blog for about a week or so. Luckily there are some fabulous blogs out there to keep you entertained until I return. Below is a schedule I made for your movie blog reading pleasure. Hopefully this will keep you occupied until my return.




Your Blog Reading List Until I Return:

Monday
Film Forager
The Dark of The Matinee
Four of Them
You Talking To Me?
Motion Picture Gems
Scare Sarah
The King Bulletin


Tuesday
Encore's World of Film & TV
Movie Moxie
Detailed Criticisms
Film Intel
Matte Havoc
Screen Insight
The Movie Goddess


Wednesday
Movies Kick Ass
Bill's Movie Emporium
Action Flick Chick
I Rate Films
http://mcarteratthemovies.wordpress.com/
Subtitle Literate
Dude Dazz Movie Reviews


Thursday
Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind
Movie Mobster
Anomalous Material
Insight Into Entertainment
Sugary Cynicism
Twitch
Frankly, My Dear


Friday
Row Three
Filmspotting
Breating Movies
CinemaObessed
Movies and Other Things
The Cultural Post
Movie Critical


Saturday
A Life in Equinox: A Movie Lover's Journal
Between the Seats
Toronto J-Film Pow Wow
Kid In The Front Row
Nevermind Pop Film
The Incredible Suit
Cut the Crap Movie Reviews


Sunday
Let's Not Talk About Movies
Blog Cabins
battleroyalwithcheese
Life of A Cinephile and Bibliophile
Radiator Heaven
Final Girl
The LAMB

Repeat schedule as often as needed. Enjoy :)

Friday, July 09, 2010

Fricassee Five Friday: Julianne Moore

Spiced Just Right



Far From Heaven
While the film may be a nod to classic films from yesteryear, Moore’s performance was by no means an imitation. Her fresh, and heartbreaking, approach transcended the film into something truly magical.

Boogie Nights
As Amber Waves, Julianne Moore proved that not all of P.T. Anderson’s characters have daddy issues. Sometimes mothers get in on the dysfunctional family act as well.

Safe
Short Cuts may have been the film that helped usher Moore to a wider film loving audience, but Safe is the film that solidified her as a legitimate actress. Of all the damaged characters Moore has played this one ranks as one her best.

A Single Man
I wrote a review on this film earlier in the week so I will not dwell on it too much. Julianne Moore is only in the film for a brief time but it is memorable nonetheless.

The Big Lebowski
This is another film where Moore made a strong impact in a small role. There were so many great films featuring Julianne Moore that could have made this list. Yet The Big Lebowski earns a spot simply for the fact that Moore somehow managed to standout in a film that featured: a pot smoking hero, nihilist, a hairnet wearing bowler name Jesus, a severed toe, and a musical number. Quite a feat if you ask me. Plus who does not love The Big Lebowski?



Lay Off the Cheese



Hannibal
Julianne Moore had the tough task of trying to fill the shoes that Jodie Foster had made so memorable. Personally I thought Moore did a good job in the film, it is just too bad that the rest of the movie was so awful. Frankly, Manhunter and Silence of the Lambs is more than enough Hannibal Lecter to last a lifetime

Nine Months
What is wrong with a comedy about pregnancy and relationships starring Hugh Grant, Robin Williams, and Julianne Moore? Let’s start with the most serious offense, it was not that funny. There is a fine line between comedy and silly, Nine Months was just silly. Comedy works best when you do not foresee the punchline coming, the movie is the exact opposite of this logic. Every gag felt forced.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park
A young girl used gymnastics to kick a Raptor out the window…a Raptor!! There are many reason why I dislike this film, but I simply do not have the hours to go through all of them. By time the film turned into King Kong I had lost all interest.

Next
Sometime you stick with a film hoping that the payoff will be worth it; only to find out that you have been kicked in the groin at the end. Next is one of those groin-kicking movies. The movie is horrendous and the ending is a painful reminder that you just wasted two hours of your life that can never be replaced.

Freedomland
This film had to be a “money job.” In other words, something the actors agreed to do so that they could fund the smaller films that they truly want to make. That is the only way I can see Julianne Moore and Samuel L. Jackson justifying this awful movie. If you watch this movie closely, you will realize that every actor seems to be acting in a completely different movie. Julianne Moore’s performance, though extremely over-the-top, is the only one that really seems to fit the absurdity of Freedomland.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Kissing Frogs Often Use Lots of Tongue

The Princess and the Frog

In Disney’s reworking of the classic fairy tale, The Frog Prince, Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) has always dreamed of fulfilling her father’s legacy of starting up a restaurant. After one particularly bad day, Tiana meets a frog who calms to be a well known prince. Once a handsome young man, the penniless Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) was turned into a frog by the evil Dr. Facilie (Keith David). The only way to break the curse is for Prince Naveen to kiss a princess. As Tiana happens to be dressed as a princess for mardi gras, she decides to give Prince Naveen a quick kiss to see if that will work. Unfortunately the exact opposite happens and Tiana finds herself transformed into a frog as well. The pair soon find themselves on the run from Dr. Facillie’s shadow henchmen as they search for a cure to transform them back to normal.

It is nice to see Disney finally shine the light on a black princess for once, regardless of the fact that she spends the majority of the picture as a frog. I liked that Tiana is the most modern thinking female lead a Disney cartoon has had in a long time. Unfortunately the“traditional” Disney ending that this film incorporates is a bit of a slap in the face to both Tiana and young women everywhere. The Princess and the Frog uses the old-time Disney staple logic of “you can get what you want in life as long as you have a man first.” So instead of getting her restaurant first and then Prince Naveen afterwards; Tiana must do the opposite and first give up her dreams for love. Now I know that I am coming at this film from an older perspective, but is it not time for Disney to change the “prince charming is all you need” fantasy? Millions of young girls are growing up with the delusion that a husband is the key to achieving their career ambitions.


I would even be willing to ignore this fact if the male characters in this film were at least interesting, but none of them are. Prince Naveen, Lawrence (Peter Bartlett), and ‘Big Daddy’ LaBouff (John Goodman) are all one-note characters. Dr. Facilier has some nice musical moments but otherwise he comes off as a weaker version of Jaffar. Speaking of Dr. Facilier, he is by far the worst written character in the film. If you think back to all the great Disney films, the villains were just as interesting as the hero. Can you envision the Lion King without Scar? I cannot. When it comes to Dr. Facilier what do we know really? Everyone in New Orleans know he is a bad dude, but no one elaborates what he has done to earn that reputation. He apparently owes money to some evil spirits but the movie never explains how he incurred the debt in the first place. Also if Dr. Facillier has the ability to use dark magic, and is in desperate need of money, why did he not just impersonate Prince Naveen himself? It seemed rather silly using Lawrence to pull off such a ruse.

I will say this though, watching The Princess and the Frog reminded me of how much I miss the old school 2D animated films. Yes, there are some computer generated elements in the film but the bulk of the picture is a throwback to the animation style of classic Disney films of the 90’s and earlier. The character design, as well as many of the plot devices, reminded me lot of the film Aladdin. So it was not all that surprising to discover that directors Ron Clements and John Musker were also the directors behind Aladdin and other Disney flicks. The Princess and the Frog also does a good job at capturing the lushness of both New Orleans and the diverse mix of people who inhabit the city. The musical numbers are the highlights of this film as each one will have your toes tapping. The story in The Princess and the Frog may not be as compelling as the films in which it gives a nod to. Still, the movie did evoked enough nostalgia to keep me interested for a few hours at least.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Whatever Happened To...?

Debi Mazar

Today’s selection was suggested by Univarn, the brains behind A Life in Equinox: A Movie Lover’s Journal, be sure to visit his blog when you get a moment. What I find interesting about Debi Mazar is that she has been one of those career supporting actresses who never really had many opportunities to breakout. The last few years Mazar has been stuck on the small screen making appearances in everything from Entourage to Dancing With the Stars. Debi Mazar is often casted as the tough talking New York chick, but I have always viewed her as more than just that. I think tackling a few indie flicks where her vulnerability is on display would be in her best interest career wise. I would love to see what a director like Lisa Cholodenko could do for Mazar’s career.



Career Highlights: The Insider (1999); Goodfellas (1990); Jungle Fever (1991); Bullets Over Broadway (1994); Malcolm X (1992); Ten Tiny Love Stories (2001); The Door (1991); She’s So Lovely (1997); So I Married An Axe Murder (1993); Collateral (2004); Trees Lounge (1996); Little Man Tate (1991); The Deli (1997)

Low Points: Toys (1992); Beethoven’s 2nd (1993); Meet Wally Sparks (1997); Batman Forever (1995); Nowhere (1997); Be Cool (2005); Empire Records (1995); Hush (1998); Singles (1992); Money for Nothing (1993); Girl 6 (1996)

Last Seen On The Big Screen: The Women (2008)

Where You Will See Her Next?: Sadly it looks like more television work is in Mazar’s feature as she has no major films roles lined up at the moment.

Is there an actor/actress who you have not seen in a while? Maybe they never reached the potential you thought they would. Let me know in the comments section and I will add them to the “What Happened To…” list.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Stylish Single Man Seeks Shoulder To Cry On

A Single Man

After the sudden death of his lover Jim (Matthew Goode), George (Colin Firth) no longer sees any reason to go on living. Consumed by grief George decides that this is the day he will commit suicide. As George goes through the daily routine, for possibly the last time, he spends time with his best friend Charley (Julianne Moore) and discovers various opportunities for new love. One of which includes Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), one of George’s students

Is it possible that a film can be too pretty for its own good? If so, then I think A Single Man falls into that category. Tom Ford clearly has a keen visual eye. Every single frame in the film could be its own poster or magazine photograph. I really enjoyed the shots where George was observing the physical details of the various people he encountered. At times I found myself being so distracted by the visuals that I was starting to ignore aspects of the narrative.

Despite the strong visuals, Ford is determined to have A Single Man be more than just a stylish film. He really works hard to ensure that the story and characters are always at the forefront. This is what makes Tom Ford’s directorial debut such a memorable film. The story may revolve around George’s grief over losing his lover, but there is opportunity for him to find love around every corner. George is practically the gay kin of James Bond and Shaft, as it seems almost every person he meets wants to bed him. The refreshing thing about this is that George is completely aware of his sexual magnetism and often struggles not to give into his own urges.


The film is as much about moving on as it is about mourning loss. As much as I enjoyed the flashbacks segments between George and Jim, it was more exciting watching the cat and mouse like game that George plays with Kenny. The romantic tension is palpable yet it is George’s guilt, or at least his need to hold onto to the guilt, that is the wedge in their budding relationship.

The need to hold onto the past is also found in the George and Charley arc. To me this is the most gut wrenching part of the whole movie. George and Charley both have baggage to deal with but they display it in different ways. George wallows in his grief while Charley puts on the façade of being carefree. In my opinion it is Charley who is by far the saddest character in the whole picture. Her whole life is defined by the various men in her life. Now living alone, Charley drinks away her pain while secretly longing to rekindle the magical night she once had with George. The fact that George views their one encounter as a just a moment of fun is very telling. It represents how Charley has been viewed by most of the men in her life.

A lot of credit must be giving to both Colin Firth and Julianne Moore for their work in A Single Man. They do a wonderful job bring out the complexities of their individual characters. Their unique performances help to convey the sorrow and joy within George and Charley. Although there is a lot of grief that runs throughout A Single Man; the performances coupled with Tom Ford visual flare makes this film a rather joyous film to watch.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Movie Marketing Monday

The Social Network

A simple, and effective, trailer for a movie that focuses on the rise of social networking sites like Facebook. David Fincher is directing this one so it will be much more than a mere "tv movie of the week" type of film.




The Green Hornet

Okay, I rolled my eyes a bit when I saw that this movie was going to be in 3D. Regardless, I really like the casting here. Tom Wilkinson and Christoph Waltz are strong actors; and Jay Chou seems like a good choice for Kato. Plus it looks like the film captures the fun spirit of the old show. The only thing that worries me is that The Green Hornet comes out in January (i.e. studio dumping month).

Friday, July 02, 2010

WTF: Crom! Hear the Lamentation of Their Women

A quick post today as I am trying to get a bunch of stuff (e.g. some reviews, some stuff for The LAMB, etc.) done before leaving for my honeymoon on the 10th of this month. So instead of my usual Fricassee Five Friday post, I thought I would post something that brought a smile to my face this week. 

Conan the Barbarian: The Musical




Fricassee Five Friday will return next week.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Oh! Canada


As today is the annual Canada Day holiday, I thought I would offer up a Canadian playlist of sorts for all the non-Canadians who frequent this blog. While it would take forever to highlight all the great films that come out of this country, I opted to highlight a few of my favourites. I recommend renting any of the following movies if you want to feel like an honorary Canadian for a day.





Hard Core Logo

Depending on where you live Bruce McDonald’s Pontypool might probably be easier to find at your local video store, and is worth the rental by the way, but Hard Core Logo is my top pick from his stellar list of films. McDonald’s mockumentary about the fall of the Hard Core Logo punk band is funny, bittersweet, and immensely entertaining. The film is a Canadian classic in my opinion!




waydowntown

Man I love this film! waydowntown takes place in Calgary where many of the downtown buildings are connect via tunnels and skywalks. A group of co-workers make a bet to see who can survive the longest without going outside. The film follows the group over the course of one rather harsh lunch hour in the competition. If you have every worked in an office, I am pretty sure you will find this film amusing on several levels.




Rude

Clément Virgo has really established himself nicely as a director. I have been a big fan of his ever since I saw Rude. The movie follows three separate narratives over the course of one weekend. The thing that connects them all is the omnipotent pirate radio deejay named Rude. The films film may not be as polished as Virgo’s other work, Love Come Down or Lie With Me for example, but that only adds to the overall charm of the picture.




Marion Bridge

If you are a fan of Ellen Page and/or Molly Parker then let me bring your attention to a small film that never got the love I thought it deserved. Marion Bridge looks at three unique sisters who are forced back together when their mother becomes ill. The film is an honest look at both the joy and pain that comes with family





Cube

Vincenzo Natali’s film Cube is one of those films that still amazes me every time I see it. The premise is simple: a group of strangers wake up and find themselves stuck inside a big Cube. Within the cube are a series of rooms that are filled with deadly traps. The fact that Natalia crafts such a tense, and visual thrilling, film on a small budget is a sight to behold.




Love, Sex, & Eating the Bones

Similar to Clement Virgo, David “Sudz” Sutherland is another director to keep an eye on in the future. While Love Sex & Eating the Bones is easily the most mainstream film on today’s list, this does not mean it should be ignored. The story revolves around Michael, a guy who must confront his addiction to pornography or risk losing the woman who is his perfect match. I liked that Sutherland made an urban love story with characters that were not mere stereotypes or caricatures.



Maelström

Denis Villeneuve’s Polytechnique was one of my top ten films of 2009. Yet if you ask me which film of his is my absolute favourite? The answer is simple…Maelström. The film is tale about a woman who accidentally kills a fishmonger…only to end up falling in love with the fishmonger’s son soon after. Did I mention that the film’s narrator is a fish being butchered? Odd as the whole thing may sound this is a fantastic film that dissects love and guilt in a unique way.

Again this is only a small sample of some of the Canadian films I adore. It would literally take me a month to go through the rest of films on my list. Happy Canada Day!