Sunday, July 31, 2011

On Second Thought: Equilibrium and Ghostbusters II

This past Thursday night, the Toronto Underground theatre held another instalment of its wonderful Defending the Indefensible series. The premise of the series is simple, two individuals, be it critics, bloggers, or a combination of the two, get in front of an audience and debate why they either love or hate a particular film. The film is then screened for the audience. Afterwards the audience can ask questions to the participants based on what they just saw. The best part is that all the proceeds go to charity. This week's edition featured Sasha James defending Equilibrium and Matt Brown slamming Ghostbuster II.

In this science fiction action tale, the world has suffered through three World Wars and cannot live through another one. The leaders of the dystopian city of Libria, see the elimination of human emotion as the only way to prevent another war. Using medication to suppress desire and expression and an elite task force, known as Cleric to seek out anyone who may be violating the "Sense Offense" laws, the Council keeps its citizens in check. When Cleric John Preston's (Christian Bale) partner, Errol Partridge (Sean Bean), is found guilty of violating the laws, Preston is a assigned a new partner Brandt (Taye Diggs). They are commissioned with finding the underground resistance movement, who are promoting the right to feel, and destroy them once and for all. Yet when Preston begins to interrogate a beautiful resistance member, Mary O'Brien (Emily Watson), the lines between what he has been told is right and what he is starting to feel are blurred.

Equilibrium is a film that was clearly influenced by The Matrix and practically every science fiction film ever made. I remember being on the fence, in regards to my feelings towards Equilibrium, when I originally viewed the film several years ago. I had enjoyed the stylized gun play, referred to as "Gun Kata", but found elements of the story lacking. This time around, I realized just how silly Equilibrium really is, and the film take itself way too seriously. Having said that, I must say that I had a lot of fun watching it with an audience, I originally saw it on DVD, as the majority seem to revel in the absurdity of it all. To say that Equilibrium has some potholes would be a huge understatement. The leaps in logic throughout the film are just astounding. Scenes are sloppily thrown together to form a bridge of sorts between all the Gun Kata.

Original Reaction: I have no emotion (Grade C)
On Second Thought: I feel like taking Gun Kata on this whole production. (Grade D)

Ghostbusters II

Picking up five years after the events of the previous film, Ghostbusters II finds our fun loving paranormal fighting team on hard times. They have been sued by the city of New York for all the destruction they caused while saving the city. Bankrupt, The Ghostbusters have been forced to close up shop and take jobs, some of which are rather demeaning, elsewhere. However when they discover a river of ectoplasm flowing beneath New York, the team is determined to find its source. Little do they know that the ectoplasm is linked to a 17 century sorcerer, Vigo the Carpathian, looking for a new body to host his spirit. Fortunately for Vigo he does not have to look too far as Dana’s (Sigourney Weaver) infant son fits the bill perfectly.

Having a fondness for The Ghostbusters series I was interested to see how Matt Brown would take it apart. While he made some solid points against the film, I found that my love for the film did not waiver enough for me to consider it a bad film. Yes, the last act of the film is much weaker than I had remembered. It really does squander all the energy that the film had built to that point. Yet I find that the first half is the film’s saving grace. Bill Murray is hilarious in this section as he generates big laughs with the simplest of facial expressions. Everything from when his character, Dr. Peter Venkman, is hosting the physic centric television show to his attempts at winning back Dana’s heart is comedic gold. In fact the entire cast is solid in the first half of the film; I even enjoyed the relationship between Louis (Rick Moranis) and Janine (Annie Potts) a lot more this time around. Despite the obvious flaws with the last act, I still think Ghostbusters II is an entertaining comedy that still offers plenty to enjoy.

Original Reaction: Who am I going to call? Ghostbusters! (Grade A-)
On Second Thought: Who am I going to call? Ghostbusters! (Grade B)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blow out the Candles: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Born July 30, 1947

With skeletons billowing from his closet and his marriage dissolving before the eyes of the world, I thought it fitting to celebrate Arnold’s 64th birthday by reflecting back to a time when Arnold wasn’t headlining tabloids and governing California and he was just making movies.

He made a name for himself in the bodybuilding world winning the titles of Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia. Schwarzenegger hoped to use his bodybuilding career to segue into moviemaking and he did just that. After small roles in a few films in the early 1970s, Schwarzenegger raised his profile after starring in the bodybuilding film Pumping Iron. The film shows the rivalry between Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno as they both vie for the title of Mr. Olympia. Schwarzenegger won his final title before announcing his retirement from professional bodybuilding. Ferrigno gained his own victory of sorts when he landed the role of Dr. David Banner in the television series The Incredible Hulk, a part that Schwarzenegger had auditioned for and didn’t get.

Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilder physique was perfect for his breakout film role as Conan in Conan the Barbarian since the director wanted physically strong men in the film and cast several bodybuilders alongside Schwarzenegger. The acting in the film may be wooden, the special effects limited by the era in which it was made and the dialogue cheesy, but the film still holds up today as a thoroughly entertaining one.

In 1984, Schwarzenegger starred in what is inarguably his most famous role as a cyborg assassin in The Terminator. Schwarzenegger only had 18 spoken lines in the film. The line “I’ll be back” has become one of the most famous lines in film history.

Schwarzenegger became an international star in the 1980s in a decade when movie audiences were flocking to see action films and Schwarzenegger made several of them. Some of his most memorable movies were released in that decade including Commando, Raw Deal, The Running Man, Red Heat and Predator. Schwarzenegger switched gears in 1988 when he starred in the comedy Twins opposite Danny DeVito. The film was a hit and Schwarzenegger was genuinely funny and endearing as the naïve, inexperienced “twin” brother to DeVito’s conniving, money-hungry counterpart.

In 1990, Schwarzenegger starred in two more commercial hits and two of my favourite Arnie films – Kindergarten Cop and Total Recall. The first was a comedy that paired Schwarzenegger with a bunch of kindergartner co-stars and the pairing proved positively hilarious. Total Recall saw Schwarzenegger return to his action roots and to the science fiction genre where he had achieved such great success with The Terminator.

Schwarzenegger’s career peaked when he starred once again as a cyborg in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The film was the highest grossing film of 1991 and is among Schwarzenegger’s best action films. The film was a huge critical and commercial success and showcased groundbreaking special effects that still impress 20 years later.

Merging comedy and action, Schwarzenegger co-starred with Jamie Lee Curtis in the popular spy film True Lies. Schwarzenegger and Curtis were a comedic dream team, and it’s hard to decide whether this film is a better action or comedy film since it delivers so well on both elements.

Schwarzenegger’s most unique and unexpected role, Dr. Alex Hess in Junior, proved that he wasn’t afraid to take risks. In the film, Schwarzenegger plays a scientist who becomes pregnant as part of a scientific experiment. Although the movie flopped, it was not without some surprising kudos from critics. Roger Ebert wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times, “I know this sounds odd, but Schwarzenegger is perfect for the role. Observe his acting carefully in Junior, and you'll see skills that many 'serious' actors could only envy.”

With his bodybuilder physique, strong Austrian accent, long name and average acting skills, Schwarzenegger had some big obstacles to overcome in pursuing an acting career, but he found roles that built on rather than undermined his physical and vocal characteristics to become a reputable action star in an industry that he seemed out of place in.

What are your favourite Arnold Schwarzenegger performances and/or films? Let us know in the comments section.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Talking Harry Potter with the Biggest Fan in the House...My Wife!

Last weekend my wife Dionne (aka. Potterhead D) , a diehard Harry Potter fan, and I took in the final instalment of the beloved Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Needless to say she enjoyed the film far more than I did so I decided to conduct a mini interview with her on the ride home.

CS: Fresh out of the theatre, what are your initial thoughts on the film?

Potterhead D: I like how they visually did the various things from the book. It was not what I envisioned, but when you read the book you have your own picture of things. Still, I think they did a great job of bringing the book to life.

CS: Many are calling this the best film in the series, do you agree with that?

Potterhead D: No, though I am probably in the minority, my favourite book and movie is actually the first one. The wonder and awe of The Philosopher's Stone is what I love about the entire series.

CS: Neville was easily the highlight of part two of the Deathly Hallows for me? What were some memorable moments for you?

Potterhead D: Oddly enough it was the comedic moments that stood out for me. For instance Professor McGonagall’s line “I always wanted to use that spell” cracked me up. She is usually such a stoic character in the films that it was funny to see her get her moment to have fun and see the expression of glee on her face.

CS: While I enjoyed the film I was not blown away by most of it. I am not sure if it was the hype, or because I have a love/hate relationship with most of the movies as I prefer the books. I found that a lot of characters were wasted in the film.

Potterhead D: Well, Luna was one of those wasted characters. She usually has interesting moments in each film. There is just something about Luna that is endearing and goofy and they just did not use her well at all in this film. Yes, she has an important line that helps move the story along, but otherwise she is wasted. I was not blown away eithe,r but I knew what to expect because I read the books. Also, I did not know how they could bring it to life in a way that would be as epic, as I envisioned while reading the book.

CS: I guess the problem I have always had with the film adaptations is that my favourite parts of the book rarely make it into the films. Take the big battle scene for example, I watched the werewolfs and trolls attacking, but it really did nothing for me.

Potterhead D: Well your imagination will always be better in the books than in the movie.

CS: True, but in the book you had more time with characters like the Weasley twins. So you got the sense of how crazy this battle was. Sure the film captured the visual aspects, but I would have rather had that moment where we actually see those beloved characters parish. Not just the “oh look these five characters are now dead” pan across shot. It would bring a little more weight to both battle and their deaths.

Potterhead D: Almost like a montage of the supporting characters getting killed?

CS: Not necessarily a montage, but something to truly acknowledge their deaths. I mean we see generic students getting killed left and right in the film. I would have just rather had those frames spent on characters we actually care about. Switching gears for a moment, the idea of young love has always been an integral part of the series. Thoughts on when Ron and Hermione finally get together.

Potterhead D: I thought it came off a little silly in the film. It just happen at a weird moment when you cannot help but think “you are really going to do this now, with all the stuff going on. Another love story that never fully played out was Neville and Luna. They just left it hanging, though the more I think about it, I actually like how that was handled. I would be silly if everyone had that “big kiss” moment in one film.

CS: One thing I will say is that there is a whole lot of action in the film. I still think the film could have been one film instead of two parts. The stuff with the Deathly Hallows which was a major component of the first part, could have easily been cut down to a mere four minutes.

Potterhead D: Yes and no. I mean they're got to milk the series, but I actually like that they did it in two parts. It gave them the chance to expand on certain things. Since I am a fan of the movies I was willing to sit through more of them than probably you are.

CS: Do you think they will reboot the series one day?

Potterhead D: They can never reboot the series. There was an awe and wonderment plus a sensationalism that you just cannot recreate. You will have other series that come in claiming to be like Harry Potter, but there is no way they can top this series. Nor will they ever try and reboot the Harry Potter franchise.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Which is Better?

Dwayne Johnson
10 sample films:

The Rundown
Gridiron Gang
Southland Tales
The Mummy Returns
The Other Guys
Be Cool
Race to Witch Mountain
Walking Tall


Vin Diesel
10 sample films:

The Fast and the Furious
Saving Private Ryan
The Pacifier
A Man Apart
The Iron Giant
Find Me Guilty
Knockaround Guys
Boiler Room
Pitch Black

Which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments section

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Brother from Another Planet Only Calls Collect.

The Brother from Another Planet

Normally when I think of a John Sayles film my mind immediately goes to his stirring character dramas such as Passion Fish, Lone Star, Eight Men Out, Limbo and Casa de los Babys. The latter of which I had the pleasure of seeing at TIFF a few years back. Sayles and the bulk of his female cast who were in attendance at the Q & A displayed a level of intelligence and witty humour that has become common place in a large number of his films.

Despite being familiar with a number of his works, nothing could prepare me for the wonderfully unique comedy that is found in his 1984 film, The Brother from Another Planet. The film follows an alien, “The Brother” (Joe Morton), who crashes on earth while trying to evade the Men in Black (David Strathairn and John Sayles), who are intergalactic bounty hunters commissioned to re-captured escaped slaves. Looking like an average African-American male, minus his oversize feet which he keeps hidden, The Brother is sent to live in Harlem by social services. While in Harlem, The Brother, who has telekinetic powers but is unable to speak, spends his days observing the daily life of the citizens who inhabit the borough; and discovers that his skin tone has major disadvantages on this new planet.

The Brother from Another Planet is a rather deceptive comedy. On the surface it is an amusing comedy that is revels in the silliness of its premise. However, as the film progresses it becomes clear that The Brother from Another Planet is a rather biting social commentary. There are numerous comedic scenes in which the racial divide is apparent to everyone except for The Brother. In one brilliant sequence, The Brother meets a man on the train who wants to show him a few “magic tricks.” The last trick perfectly encapsulates how some non-African Americans view Harlem.

One of the reasons scenes like this work so well is partly due to Joe Morton’s performance. Known more for his supporting roles in films, such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Speed, Morton is fantastic as the lead. Despite not having a single line, Morton’s physical performance really is the glue that keeps the film together. He effortlessly moves through the gambit of emotions from innocence to fear to confusion to sadness without ever losing the overall tone of the film.

The overall oddness of The Brother from Another Planet may put some people off, but it is a film that you should not give up on based on the first twenty minutes. The film is an enjoyable ride that has a lot to offer. It tackles issues such as racism and the difference between social classes in an easily digestible and entertaining way.

The Brother from Another Planet is part of our The Must See List series.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The 400 Blows in 400 words

The 400 Blows

Set in early 1950s France, The 400 Blows revolves around Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), a mischievous young boy who cannot seem to keep out of trouble. When Antonie is not getting in trouble with his teacher, the aptly nicknamed Sourpuss (Guy Decomble), he is skipping school and getting into problems on the streets. Antonie’s father, Julien (Albert Rémy), thinks he needs stricter discipline yet his mother, Gilberte (Claire Maurier), who treats Antonie like her personal servant instead of her son, is far more willing to let things slide. She is more lenient because Antonie has information that she does not want to get out. Yet when Antonie takes his antics too far, he is forced to face the consequences of his actions.

The 400 Blows is my first foray into the French New Wave genre, which is probably why I was not blown away by director François Truffaut’s debut film like most cinephiles. While I did quite enjoy the film, I just wish the film was a bit tighter in certain scenes. It is obvious that what Truffaut was doing was groundbreaking for his time, and I could see how it changed the way people looked at form in cinema, but I felt the middle section of the film really meandered. My love for the character of Antonie really started to slide a bit in this section as Truffaut spends too much time focusing on his mischief in the streets.

What I did enjoy was the intricate dynamics between Antonie and both of his parents. Truffaut is clearly working out issues from his youth through the film as it has an authentic feel throughout. He really captures the feel of that period. The strongest aspect of the film for me is the third act from the time Antonie is in the jail cell to the abrupt ending. This is where everything that Truffaut hints at throughout the film bubbles up to the surface. Would I recommend The 400 Blows to others? Yes, not only because of its historical importance in regards to helping usher in French New Wave cinema, but also because The 400 Blows is a good film. I would recommend keeping your expectations modest thought and not to go in expecting an instant masterpiece. Having said that, who knows, maybe I will grow to appreciate the film more as I delve further into the French New Wave genre.

The 400 Blows is part of our The Must See List series.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Television a proven springboard for movie stardom

After writing about actors who have transitioned from making movies fulltime to popular roles on TV, I started thinking about actors who began their careers in television and became household names on the small screen before making movies.

Some of today’s biggest movie stars who got their start on TV include:

Leonardo DiCaprio on Growing Pains

He went from a heartthrob after appearing in James Cameron’s epic Titanic to serious movie actor and Martin Scorsese’s go-to guy in films like Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed and Shutter Island.

Johnny Depp on 21 Jump Street

Here’s another heartthrob who shed that label early in roles that required physical transformations that hid his good looks behind make-up and esthetics, as in Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He continues to take on transformative roles in film – Pirates of the Caribbean, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland - with great success.

Bradley Cooper on Alias

I was a huge Alias fan and if someone had told me then that the same actor who played nerdy, unlucky in love, Will, on that weekly drama would end up becoming a huge movie star, I would never have believed it. Bradley Cooper was memorable as the boyfriend everyone loved to hate in Wedding Crashers and his stock skyrocketed after he starred in the hilarious ensemble comedy The Hangover.

Bruce Willis on Moonlighting

One of my favourite action films is Die Hard. After that hugely successful film, Willis has shown throughout his career that he’s no one-trick pony. His filmography is surprisingly diverse with roles in some superb films like Pulp Fiction and Sin City.

George Clooney on ER

When George Clooney hung up his scrubs, he took the movie world by storm and didn’t look back. Some of his choices were flops (Batman and Robin), but he has also demonstrated over the course of his career a discernment for good films like Out of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven, Michael Clayton and Up in the Air. He’s also donned the director’s cap on films like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night, and Good Luck.

Which actor who got their start on television is your favourite? Let us know in the comments section.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Shinsedai 2011: Shirome, Midori-ko, Kung Fu Master, and Man-Eater Mountain

This weekend marks the 3rd Annual Shinsedai Cinema Festival. The festival celebrates the best in Japanese cinema. On Friday night I took in two feature films and two of the shorts that the festival has to offer.

Kung Fu Master
In this hilarious 3 minute short, Japanese actor/comedienne Shaq lampoons classic Hong Kong martial arts films of the 70s. Directed by Daisuke Sato, Shaq plays three different characters, an old kung fu master, a young woman, and a young man, who are all vying for kung fu supremacy. Shaq plays each character to their maximum comedic potential. Kung Fu Master is exactly the type of silly comedy that delivers the big laughs and will leave a permanent smile on your face.

Real-life girl group Momorio Clover stars in this horror mockumentary that blends elements of films such as The Blair Witch Project with the sensationalism of reality television. When a television director (played by the films director Koji Shiraishi) offers the girls of Momorio Clover their own television special they could not be happier. Yet their demeanor quickly changes when the true nature of the show is revealed. Momorio Clover must spend the night in an abandoned school where the supernatural being Shirome inhabits. Known for its giant white eyes, Shirome is said to grant wishes to those whose intentions are sincere and damn those who are not. How will Shirome view Momorio Clover’s desire for pop supremacy?

Although it is a ghost story first and comedy second, the humor in Shirome really does overpower the film in the end. While there are some genuinely eerie moments, it does not offer the same level of chills as other films in the genre. The strength in the film lies in the humour of the secondary characters. One standout character is a specialist in all things Shirome. He not only walks around with his own chanting assistant, but he is also is prone to being easily possessed. His scenes, especially the one in the middle of the film, offer some of the funniest moments in the entire film. The ladies from Momorio Clover do a decent job in the film, but most of their responsibilities consist of looking scared and screaming at pitch that you will not soon get out of your head.

Man-Eater Mountain
This beautifully animated short is drawn and narrated by director Naoyuki Niiya. It tells the twisted tale of a police detective and his two officers who are hunting down a ruthless killer in the haunted place known as Man-Eater Mountain. What starts off as a simple police chase descends into horrific demonic madness. The first half of Niiya’s film is brilliant, everything from the way the story unfolds to the use of animation is outstanding. The last act of Man-Eater Mountain will either be the make or break point for most audiences. The demonic madness moments take things to the extreme and the grotesque, nearly pornographic, aspects tend to run on longer than necessary. Still, issues with the last act aside, Man-Eater Mountain is a fascinating short whose first two thirds more than warrant a must see recommendation. In fact it ended up being my favourite film of the festival.

Set in a near-future Tokyo plagued by a food shortage, director Keita Kurosaka’s animated film, Midori-Ko, examines how one’s beliefs can be tested in times of crisis. Since she was a young girl, Midori has been repulsed by the idea of eating meat. One day Midori discovers a strange vegetable that seems to have the facial characteristics of a child. Over time the vegetable starts to grow arms and legs as well. Midori becomes a surrogate mother to the creature but finds it hard to keep it safe in a world starved for food. Soon Midori finds herself not only protecting the vege-child from the strange scientist she works with, which includes an old man and his fish head female partner, but also the five creatures that created the vege-child.

Visually, Midori-Ko is absolutely stunning. Kurosaka creates a truly unique world unlike anything you have seen on film before. What makes this film even more fascinating is the fact that Kurosaka drew all 20,000 frames in the film by hand over a ten year period. The plot, though interesting, did not quite live up to the visuals. While I was engaged throughout, there were some aspects of the story that just did not make any sense. This was due, in part, to how lazily some of the characters are introduced. Certain characters just appear in a scene and it is up to the audience to figure out how they connect to the greater story. Still the relationship between Midori and the vege-child held my interest enough to overlook some of the holes in the plot. Though I wish the story was a tad stronger, it is Kurosaka’s visuals that make Midori-Ko soar. The film is truly a piece of art whose beauty transcends the screen.

My Life in a Frame #3

My first cinematic crush: Thandwie Adjewa (Thandie Newton)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: Episode 52 of the Frankly, My Dear podcast reviews one of my all-time favourite films Flirting, as well as the immensely enjoyable Defending Your Life, and much more.

10 am: Episode 29 of Damn Good Movie Show podcast discusses best disaster films and Harry Potter. Also, be sure to stop by the shows newly created blog as well.

11 am: Jose dissects a great scene from Rebel Without a Cause.

12 pm: Jack's back! Here are his thoughts on the collaborations between Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski

1 pm: Kai list the Top 10 comedians turned actors.

2 pm: Aiden gives Captain America: The First Avenger a very positive review.

3 pm: Andrew shows love to Patricia Clarkson’s work in Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

4 pm: Kurt has a review of The Wicker Tree, which screened at the 2011 Fantasia Festival.

5 pm: Speaking of the Fantasia Festival, Edgar has a review of the film Another Earth.

6 pm: Movie Guy Steve takes Adam’s Rib to court.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Eight Not So Super Thoughts on Super 8

Super 8

Super 8 is a film that I can honestly say I thought I was going to hate after enduring the first twenty minutes. Pretty much everything you need to know about the characters is summed up in the first twenty minutes. I mean everything. The film offers very few surprises from a character standpoint. Yet ultimately I found myself completely won over by the end of the film. Sure it has its flaws but I had a whole lot of fun watching this film. If you have not seen Super 8 yet, I will not go too much into the plot as it is almost better to go into the film knowing as little as possible. I will merely say the film revolves around a group of kids who are making a short film on a 8mm camera. One night while filming, the kids witness a major train crash that will eventually have huge consequences on the small town in which they live in. Instead of giving my usual style of review, today I thought I would share eight random thoughts I had while watching Super 8:

1. I understand that director J.J. Abrams is paying homage to the classic 80’s films that Steven Spielberg use to make, but I wish the first act was not so “paint by numbers.” Even Spielberg’s films such as E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind did not feel so forced at the beginning.

2. The train crash scene is both horrible and fantastic at the same time. I loved the stuff at the station before the train arrives. Yet I found that the special effects, when kids were running from the flying debris, completely took me out of the moment as the effects were not strong enough in that sequence.

3. I was extremely happy to see Glynn Turman, who played the kind-hearted science teacher Roy Hanson in Gremlins, playing the kind-hearted scientist Dr. Woodward in this film. Something tells me his casting was not a result of coincidence.

4. Man these kids swear a lot, which is actually refreshing when you think about it. Normally in a film like this, when all hell breaks loose the children often keep the language clean to ensure family friendly receipts at the box office. Yet is was refreshing to see kids, who are running through a war zone, speak in a way that you would expect given the circumstances.

5. The film really comes to life when it focuses more on the kids’ friendship in relation to making to making the movie. The young casts of actors do a great job in their given roles. I especially thought Elle Fanning and Riley Griffiths, who plays the budding director Charles, were exceptional in their given roles.

6. The 8mm film that the kids make, which plays in the closing credits, was the icing on the cake for me. In fact, I almost enjoyed the 8mm film more than I did the actual Super 8 film.

7. “Drugs are soo bad” – my vote for comedic line of the summer.

8. J.J. Abrams has succeeded in making an instant classic that will play well on television for years to come. The film feels like he took two films of my youth, The Goonies and Stand by Me, and sprinkled in elements of all my favourite science fiction films throughout.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Which is Better?

Benicio Del Toro
10 sample films:

The Usual Suspects
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
21 Grams
Licence to Kill
Sin City
The Wolfman


Javier Bardem
10 sample films:

No Country for Old Men
The Sea Inside
Jamón, jamón
Before Night Falls
Golden Balls (Huevos de Oro)
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Goya’s Ghost
Eat, Pray, Love

Which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments section

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Actors doing double duty in film and on TV

Numerous actors have made the transition from film to television and from television to film with varying degrees of success. Television has been a great launching pad for several actors who went on to make it big in movies, while other actors have brought their movie star power to the small screen. Gone are the days when making movies was the be all and end all of an actor’s career. There is no “step back” stigma associated with making a television show over a big budget film nowadays. Rather, stars are working in TV and finding meaty roles with great substance on great shows that audiences tune into with interest, anticipation and excitement.

Here’s a look at a few great movie actors currently starring on popular television shows:

Glenn Close on Damages
For me, two of Close’s most memorable movie roles are in Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons. Each film is set in a different era, but Close plays a strong, volatile and vindictive woman in both films and she plays bad so very well.

Toni Collette on The United States of Tara
Toni Collette emerged as an actress to watch after she appeared in The Sixth Sense, for which she received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. Before playing mother to Haley Joel Osment, she starred in the Australian comedy Muriel’s Wedding.

Steve Buscemi on Boardwalk Empire
Steve Buscemi is doing some of his finest acting on Boardwalk Empire, and he’s left quite an impression on the big screen in some very quirky roles in several entertaining films. For me, his standout roles include his hilarious turns in the blockbuster films Armageddon and Con Air as well as his dramatic turns in Ghost World and Fargo.
Laurence Fishburne on CSI
Laurence Fishburne is bidding adieu to CSI next season to focus on making films. Two of his most commanding roles were as Ike Turner in the bio-pic What’s Love Got to Do with It and as Morpheus in the sci-fi phenomenon The Matrix. One of my personal favourites is his portrayal of caring, over-protective single father, Furious Styles in Boyz in the Hood.

Anna Paquin on True Blood
She’s the second youngest actress to win an Academy Award and she’s Canadian. After her Oscar winning turn in The Piano, Paquin didn’t suffer the fate of some child stars whose careers fizzle after reaching a big milestone at such a young age, a lá Tatum O’Neal. Rather, Anna Paquin has been working steadily since her Oscar win in a variety of different films such as X-Men and Buffalo Soldiers.

Jane Lynch on Glee
Before she became known as mean, ruthless Sue Sylvester on Glee, Jane Lynch made audiences howl as the oddball cougar with a crush on Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. She’s found her niche playing funny ladies in comedic films like Best in Show and Role Models. Her dramatic turn as a paranoid schizophrenic in Criminal Minds is proof that Lynch can mesmerize on screen even without being funny.

Alex Baldwin on 30 Rock
He’s the most famous of the four Baldwin brothers. He broke out big in the 80’s in popular films like Beetlejuice, Working Girl, She’s Having a Baby and Married to the Mob. Although not a great film, Baldwin was cast perfectly as the ruthless, narcissistic doctor in Malice. His acting work includes a bulk of television appearances on shows like Friends, Will and Grace and Saturday Night Live.
Which actor who currently dabbles in film and in television stands out for you? Let us know in the comments section.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dear Zachary A Heartbreaking Letter to Injustice.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

Before I share my thoughts on this film I have to give a huge thanks to Colin, the mind behind the Pick ‘n’ Mix Flix website, for recommending Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father for our “Must See List” series. Not only had I not heard of Dear Zachary before, but I would have missed out on a truly moving film experience. My wife would probably agree as two days after screening the film she was still shaken by what she witnessed.

After his long time friend, Andrew Bagby, is murdered by a former girlfriend, Dr. Shirley Turner, filmmaker Kurt Kuenner sets out to make a film that celebrates the life of his friend. Talking to Bagby’s family members, friends, and colleagues, Kuenner begins to craft a story about a man who was a promising med student and, more importantly, loved by all who encountered him. Yet Kuenner’s documentary takes an unexpected turn when Turner, while waiting for her extradition trial from Canada to the United States to start, divulges that she is four months pregnant with Bagby’s child.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father is, on the surface, Kuenner’s ode to his deceased friend and yet it evolves into so much more. The documentary is brilliantly edited as several different stories play out on screen during the course of the film. Despite the multiple storylines the film never feels overblown or dull. In fact the opposite occurs as the film is continually gripping as it provides a well rounded look at how the tragedy effected Bagby’s loved ones, and a detailed account of how the Canadian justice failed a community.

Never has a film made me feel embarrassed to be a Canadian the way Dear Zachary did. It made me angry to think that my beloved country’s legal system could be so flawed. I could understand if it was one particular person who dropped the ball, but it was a series of people at various levels that all took part in the massive blunder. Dr. Turner clearly had a sickness that seemed to be triggered by men yet everyone except the people who mattered could see it. Despite the rage that the film evoked, a greater emotion overcame me in the end: deep sadness.

I would be lying if I said that I did not get a little misty watching Dear Zachary. While I did not break down in tears, though I did see my wife reach for the Kleenex, I found it extremely tough to watch the film considering my newborn child was sleeping in my arms at the time. The film really makes you think about family, friends, and sacrifice. What Andrew Bagby’s parents had to endure after his death is unimaginable. This film is unflinchingly heart-wrenching to sit through, so I can only guess that it was 100 times worst for the Bagby family who had to endure it in real time. If this film does not make want to give a loved one, whether it be family or friend, a hug by the time the film ends then you may indeed have a heart of ice.

They say that a person’s life can be measured by how those who really knew them speak of them once they are gone. Dear Zachary takes this ideology to a whole new level as it celebrates both life and death but not necessarily in the ways you would initially expect. Although I can talk for hours about all the things I loved about the film, I will practice restraint as Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father really needs to be experienced. I can only hope that I have a quarter of the impact on the lives of my family and friends that the Bagby family had on everyone they encountered.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father is part of our The Must See List series. It was select based on a submission by Colin

Monday, July 18, 2011

Film and TV: Is it finally a fair fight?

Recently I started thinking about the merits of the film and television industries. I don’t think either is a better place for an actor to be - in film over television or vice versa. There was a time when film actors viewed work in television with disdain, but much has changed in the last twenty years. Television is now considered a reputable platform for filmmakers and actors wanting to produce strong, sophisticated entertainment.

The film world has followed the same formula for several years now. Around the last six to eight weeks of the year, in that precious time right before awards season, we’re usually treated to some pretty great film fare. After that healthy period of good movies and awards-giving, though, the dumping ground that is January through March begins when films are released with little to no expectation and very little appeal.

After the first quarter comes summer, and in the last few years in particular, this period has been dominated by too many sequels, remakes, superhero adaptations and painful-to-watch movies like Grown-Ups. While there will always be great movies to see, it seems more and more like studios are only releasing two months worth of quality films and ten months worth of subpar films. The level of excellence doesn't seem as consistent as it once was.

There’s plenty of excellent work being done on television. Big cable networks like HBO, Showcase and AMC are providing some exceptional television programming that can rival some films in terms of great script writing, superb acting and even impressive special effects. Shows like Glee, True Blood, The Killing, and Mad Men have all received better reviews then some major studio movies. Television shows are not immune to poor audience turnout and drivel either. Great shows like Arrested Development, Veronica Mars, The Chicago Code and Pushing Daisies were critical successes, but failed to draw strong and steady viewership and were cancelled well before their time.

Part of the problem is that reality TV is dominating the airwaves and television viewers are tuning in en masse to see “regular folks” doing “real, everyday things,” which is funny given that reality TV shows are as authentic as the scripted, fictional shows that viewers aren’t tuning into. Luckily, smart, sophisticated and entertaining programs like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Dexter and Breaking Bad are around to more than compensate for the excessive “reality” on TV.

So which industry is winning the battle? I think the film and television industries are shifting tides pretty evenly. There have been good, quality films in theatres (Inception) just as there have been good, quality programs on TV (Community), and there have also been box office bombs (Gulliver’s Travels) and television shows that have been cancelled before a complete first season has aired (The Event.) Each industry is bound to experience ebbs and flows in terms of excellence and commercial success. As long as the good continues to outweigh the bad, we movie and television fans can keep the faith that plenty of excellent work will continue to be done by filmmakers and television networks eager to keep the battle very much alive.

This is part one of a three part look at the correlation between film and television. The rest of the series will be posted on the dates below:

Part II - Actors doing double duty in film and on TV (Wednesday July 20th)

Part III - Television a proven springboard for movie stardom (Monday July 25th)