Monday, January 31, 2011

Movie Marketing Monday


Could this be the feel good indie film of 2011? We will find out in March.

Of Gods and Men

Although I did not hear much buzz about this film at TIFF last year, the trailer has me very intrigued.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading Schedule for Today:

10 am: Episode 190 of Mamo! podcast dissects this year’s Oscar nominations.

11 am: M. Hufstaders names The Departed’s Staff Sgt. Dignam as the BAMF of the Week. Wondering what BAMF stands for? Well let us just say that you may need to revisit Pulp Fiction to find out.

12 pm: 100 Years of Films gives their review of Beyond Rocks

1 pm: John tackles the titillating Ann-Margret film, The Swinger.

2 pm: Season 2 of the Midnight Movie Club podcast kicks off with a look at Quigley Down Under.

3 pm: Anna reviews the original version of the science fiction classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

4 pm: Edgar takes a look at Ken Loach film that I still need to see Looking for Eric.

5 pm: Bob lands his first movie poster quote! I missed this last week, so pointing it out this week.

6 pm: The latest episode of The Simon and Jo Film Show talks Blue Valentine and Terrance Malick’s Badland

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Five Films to Check Off the “Must See” List By the End of February

Like most movie fans, I have a large number of films on my personal “must see” list. Now with the Oscar nominations out, this list has just gotten bigger. Considering I have not put a dent in my list for a few months now, I have decided to pick out five random films that I will finally set aside time to see over the next month. Similar to weight loss, it is all about taking the small steps to achieving the overall goal. While not all of them may be considered cinematic gems, here is what is on tap for the coming month:

The Ghost Writer: I won a free copy of this film months ago and it has been sitting on top of my DVD player staring at me ever since.

The King’s Speech: It is the only one of the Best Picture nominees that I have not yet seen. Although, there are a bunch of other Oscar films to see (especially the documentaries and foreign films), I shall start with this one.

Unthinkable: A co-worker lent me this Samuel L. Jackson film several months ago and it has slowly made its way to the bottom of the pile. I seriously need to watch it and return it.

Enter the Void: Gaspar Noé’s follow up to Irreversible received high praise from several of the bloggers at the monthly pub night this week.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird: Okay, I did attempt to watch this late one night but fell asleep within the first 15 minutes. This is not a knock against the film, but more a reflection of the gruelling work week. The Good, The Bad, The Weird has been on the list for a few years now so this is a must see in the coming month.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Whatever Happened To...?

Bridget Fonda

I was going to feature my childhood crush, Phoebe Cates, this week but when I was reflecting on her works Bridget Fonda’s name kept on appearing. I had forgotten just how many films Fonda and Cates did together. I have always viewed Fonda as an actress akin to Laura Dern, the talent is there but the quality roles just are not being offered. Given the right material Fonda could easily reclaim some of the magic she had back in the 90’s.

Career Highlights: Single White Female (1992); A Simple Plan (1998); Jackie Brown (1997); Army of Darkness (1992); It Could Happen to You (1994); Strapless (1989) Bodies, Rest & Motion (1993); Camilla (1994); Doc Hollywood (1991); Scandal (1989); Grace of My Heart (1996); Touch (1997); Little Buddha (1993).

Low Points: The Point of No Return (1995); Monkey Bone (2001); Singles (1992); Lake Placid (1999); Kiss of the Dragon (1999); City Hall (1996); Mr. Jealousy (1997); The Road to Wellville (1994).

Last Seen On The Big Screen: The Whole Shebang (2001).

Where You Will See Her Next?: Currently Fonda does not have any films in production.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Will Boston Be Hollywood’s Next New York?

Thanks to the recent success of films like The Town, The Social Network and The Fighter it seems that Boston has become the city of choice for Hollywood these days. Although some are claiming that Boston has become the new New York of cinema, I do not think Boston has reached that level yet. If anything Boston seems to be turning into the east equivalent of the “dirty south”.

While corruption and crime have been prevalent in cinematic takes on Boston for years, there is a new wave of “Irish trailer trash” that has become a prominent fixture in many of the recent films. These are the characters that love their alcohol, frequently use drugs and take pride in their lack of education. In the past, these traits would stereotypically be associated with cinematic characters from the southern states. What was once considered a sign of southern backwardness has now become a badge of honour for Boston.

The fascinating thing about the recent emergence of Boston in modern day cinema is the portrayal of Boston women. Boston is becoming Hollywood’s hot bed for skanky and/or corrupt women. Whether it is the deadbeat mom Helen McCready (Amy Ryan) in Gone Baby Gone; the cokehead girlfriend Krista Coughlin (Blake Lively) in The Town; the over-barring mother of nine Alice Ward in The Fighter’s Alice Ward (Melissa Leo); or the Lady MacBeth-like Annabeth Marcus (Laura Linney) in Mystic River, the women of Boston are nothing like the ones you would find in movies set in New York or Los Angeles.

Speaking of New York and Los Angeles, one of the main reasons Boston has not reached their level in cinematic dominance yet is due to lack of romanticism. This is crucial when you look at how these cities are portrayed in films. Sure there are the grimy streets of New York featured in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets and Taxi Driver; not to mention the urban decay of the Los Angeles’ hoods featured in Boyz N The Hood and Colors. Yet, there are countless other films that romanticize both of these cities. Can anyone picture New York without thinking of Woody Allen’s Manhattan or Annie Hall? Can you think of LA without the glitz and glamour featured in everything from Sunset Boulevard to Mulholland Dr.?

Besides the corruption, and the obsession with sports, there is nothing in recent films that would make you drop everything and move to Boston. However, films like The Firm and The Departed have provided us glimpses of how the rich live in Boston. If we are to believe Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, the affluent ones in Boston can even survive an alien invasion without even a scratch on their car. Does this make Boston a must on your bucket list? While I am not asking for more Good Will Hunting type of films where the blue collar guy gets the girl, I would like to see other facets to Boston on screen besides the caricatures that Hollywood is portraying more and more frequently. I think if Boston is to be relevant in film as places like New York or L.A. we need to see the diversity that the city has to offer.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Movie Marketing Monday


Thanks to both Mad Hatter and Castor for giving me the heads up on news about my favourite killer tire film. I have mentioned Rubber a few times on this blog, both in my review of the film and in the list of 10 films to look for in 2011. Rubber is coming to video on demand in February and hitting theatres in April.


This one looks like the college version of Armored minus the big name cast. Still, unlike Armored, this film looks like it might actually be much quite good.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading Schedule for Today:

10 am: Episode 30 of the Reel Insight podcast discusses Jennifer Connelly’s body of work.

11 am: Sasha looks at one of my favourite films growing up Gremlins. Besides Gizmo, here are some things I miss about the 80’s: Phoebe Cates, Alf, and Thundercats.

12 pm: Speaking of my favourite things, Will takes a look at Toy Story 2.

1 pm: Emma has the full list of the 2011 BAFTA Nominees in case you missed it.

2 pm: Film Intel ponders why Mass Effect has not been made into a film.

3 pm: Alex reviews Blue Valentine.

4 pm: Anna list 11 movies that left an impact on her.

5 pm: Millie explores Ride the Wide Surf.

6 pm: Tony unveils his list of the 10 best films of 2010

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Million Dollar Baby Prefers the Best in Rings

Million Dollar Baby

In preparation for the upcoming Academy Awards, The Flick Chick is holding her own Best Picture Countdown. Everyday, from the Oscar nominations right up to the telecast, The Flick Chick will be highlighting the previous best picture winners. In order to fill in the gaps for films that she either has not seen or not already written a review for, she has called on other bloggers to submit their reviews on films from her list. I chose to revisit Clint Eastwood’s four-time Oscar winner, Million Dollar Baby, mainly because I wanted to see if it still packed a punch after having just watched The Fighter.

Directed by Eastwood, and written by Paul Haggis, Million Dollar Baby is a tale of a waitress, Maggie (Hilary Swank), who decides to pursue her dreams of becoming a professional boxer at age 31. In order to fulfil her dream, Maggie knows she needs a trainer so she turns to former trainer, and current gym owner, Frankie Dunn (Eastwood). Frankie was one of the best trainers in his time, but now spends most of his time filled with regret about how things turned out between him and his estranged daughter. Frankie’s only friend is Scrap (Morgan Freeman), a former boxer who fell on hard times and is now working as a janitor in Frankie’s gym. With the assistance of Scrap, Maggie eventually gets Frankie to break his “I don’t train girls” policy and become her trainer. As the unlikely pair start to make their way around the boxing circuit, Maggie’s star begins to rise. This forces the normally overcautious Frankie, to take a risk and get Maggie that a shot against Billie “The Blue Bear”(Lucia Riker). Billie is one of the dirtiest fighters on the circuit and will do anything to protect her title. With momentum in their favour, Frankie and Maggie know that this fight could possibly change their lives.

It has been five years since I last watched my DVD copy of Million Dollar Baby. I was both excited and a little hesitant to revisit it as sometimes our memories of the experience are greater than the film themselves. One element that was prominent this time around was how annoying Freeman’s constant narration is. Rarely do scenes play out on their own without the narrator chiming in to express the significance of the moment. It is almost as if Haggis and Eastwood are afraid to let the dialogue and images speak for themselves. This inadvertently results in the film underestimating the overall intelligence of its audience. While the last few scenes are designed to show the importance of Freeman’s narration, it is hard to believe that the person the narrator is actually speaking to would be interested in the side story at the gym involving Danger Bach (Jay Baruchel), Shawrelle Berry (Antony Mackie), and Omar (Michael Pena). While I think their side story, and the one involving Maggie’s family, are needed in the film; they would have the same impact without the assistance of the narrator.

My issues with the narrator aside, I found myself still falling for the film despite knowing what was going to happen. Million Dollar Baby is in reality two films in one. The first half is a rags-to-riches style boxing tale in which a self-proclaimed white trash girl and her crotchety trainer learn defy the odds. Like many other odd couple films, they have their ups and downs on the way to gaining mutual respect for one another. The second half is where the true heart of the film is. It is here where the film moves from a simple boxing film to a tale about morality, and family. The film looks at issues regarding euthanasia, atoning for past sins, and spirituality. It is hard to think of Million Dollar Baby without immediately focusing on the latter part of the film.

Clint Eastwood does a good job of juggling both the heavier moments with the comedic ones. He never ventures into the realm of slapstick despite coming close on a few occasions with the character Danger. The boxing scenes are well done and they never feel false. I liked how Eastwood slowly gives Maggie a cocky swagger as her wins increase. This offers a nice build up to her match with the menacing beast that is Billie. Overall Eastwood’s direction is sound and I would argue far better than his performance in the film. This is not to say that Eastwood is bad, in fact he is quite good, but after seeing his grumpy old man act in Gran Torino, it does not have the same humorous effect in Million Dollar Baby as it did when I first saw the film. Hilary Swank is brilliant in the film and well deserving of her Academy Award win for Best Actress. Swank shows both Maggie’s tough side and her fragile side, she has the audience laughing one minute and crying the next. While Maggie and Frankie are supposed to be the odd couple of the film, it is actually Frankie and Scrap who perfect this. Eastwood and Freeman carry over the great chemistry they had in Unforgiven into this film. Freeman is especially good as the man who, though blind in one eye, can see what is truly occurring far better than anyone else in the film.

Although six years has passed since its original release, Million Dollar Baby is aging very well. With the exception of the narration, the story still delivers an emotionally charged tale. The performances from the ensemble cast are great and the mixture of drama and humour help this film to retain its high re-watch value.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Fighter’s Family Pull No Punches

The Fighter

Sometimes our greatest enemies are the ones who we are linked to from birth. In the case of boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), it is his family that causes a great deal of his strife in his life.

Based on a true story, The Fighter looks at Micky Ward’s turbulent journey towards becoming a boxing champion. Micky is managed by his overbearing mother, Alice Ward (Melissa Leo), and trained by his brother Dickie Eklund (Christian Bale). The latter is a former boxer whose biggest claim to fame is knocking out Sugar Ray Leonard many years earlier. Much to Micky’s dismay, Dickie, still hanging onto his past glory, becomes entangled in the world of drugs. After losing a series of boxing matches to opponents that he had no business fighting in the first place, Micky starts to question whether or not Alice and Dickie are really working in his best interest. When Micky starts dating Charlene (Amy Adams), he begins to seriously think about getting his life back on track. Yet in order for Micky to move forward with his boxing career he will have to sever ties with his family, a task easier said than done.

After taking a minor misstep with his last feature length film, I Heart Huckabees, director David O. Russell is back in top form with The Fighter. Although the film is set in the world of boxing, boxing is actually secondary. The Fighter is more of a character study than it is a boxing movie. All of the members of Mickey’s large family constantly talk about the obligations to family, but Micky seems to be the only one to actually adhere to “family” logic. The rest of the clan seems more than happy to ride Micky’s coattails. Alice and Dickie, in particular, are especially blinded by the money and the celebrity status they believe they have. This is prominent in the way both of them prance around for the HBO cameras. One of the best scenes in the film arrives when Dickie is watching the HBO documentary, which he believes is about his boxing career, and realizes that the show is actually about his drug addiction. The range of emotions which he goes through in the short span of time is fascinating to watch.

Christian Bale is mesmerizing as Dickie, he really does deserve many of the supporting actor awards he has be receiving this award season. Within the first five minutes of watching The Fighter you completely forget you are watching an actor. A similar point can be made for both Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, as they each completely immerse themselves into their roles. While each are strong on their own, their scenes together are filled with so much tension that it is only a matter of time before the rage starts to boil over. While Wahlberg may not bring the same impact as his fellow cast members, he still gives a rather good performance. While Wahlberg is talented, a lot of his best work in this film is due to Russell’s direction. Similar to other films they have worked together on, Russell finds a way to perfectly play up Wahlberg’s strengths as an actor. Russell is able to bring out a vulnerability in Wahlberg that is not often seen on screen.

If you go into The Fighter looking for a straight movie about boxing you might be a bit disappointed as the boxing scenes are nothing out of the ordinary. Films like Raging Bull, Rocky, The Hurricane and even Girlfight had more exciting in the ring scenes.Yet, if you are looking for a film that delivers both a good story and great performances, then The Fighter is definitely a film worth seeing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

True Grit More Effective than Fake Grit

True Grit

Based on the novel by Charles Portis, True Grit is a tale of vengeance set in a ruthless time where the law of the land was often cruel and corrupt. After her father is killed by a swindler named Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), 14 year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) vows to avenge her father’s death. Seeking a man full of “True Grit” Mattie hires a rough U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), to hunt Chaney down. To ensure that Cogburn does not run off with her money, Mattie insists on accompanying Cogburn into the Indian Nation where it is alleged that Chaney is hiding out. Mattie and Rooster are accompanied by a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) who has been hunting Chaney for quite some time. Although the trio have the same goal in mind, they rarely any eye to eye. Yet, in the harsh violent terrain they will need to put aside their differences and show what they are really made of.

Having never watched the original True Grit film, nor read the novel on which it is based, one of the traits that immediately struck me about the Coen Brothers’ film is the level of humour. The writing in this film is top notch; the script is a good mix of western grit and witty one-liners. This is evident in the wonderful war of words that Mattie, Rooster and LaBoeuf have with each other. The first half of the film is especially funny as it is filled with many memorable lines. Whether it LaBoeuf commenting on Mattie’s lack of attractiveness, Rooster poking fun at the ineffectiveness of Texas Rangers, or Mattie out witting a trickster to get back her father’s money and horses, there is no shortage of laughs.

The three lead actors have a wonderful chemistry that really helps to enhance the dialogue. After making such a memorable mark in The Big Lebowski, it was not only exciting to see Jeff Bridges back working with the Coens but also refreshing that he was able to create another memorable character. Rooster is exactly what you would hope for in this film. He is the reluctant father figure to Mattie who loves killing just as much as he loves drinking. Rooster rarely lets his guard down, even when he shows a softer side it is only for a few brief moments. Both Damon and Steinfeld are great in their respective roles. There are a few times where the film seems to hint at Mattie and LaBoeuf’s relationship becoming something more but it never follows this idea through. Still, both actors bring so much to their respective characters that you feel like you have known them for a long time.

This brings me to the biggest issue I had with True Grit, the character of Tom Chaney. All of the other characters are so memorable that Chaney ends up being a huge disappointment. The first half of True Grit nicely builds up the lore of Chaney. The fact that it essentially takes two men to track him down gives Chaney the lure of being a really crafty villain. Yet when Chaney finally appears, it becomes apparent that he is nothing more than a buffoon. What is even more baffling is that LaBoeuf had so much trouble catching Chaney in the first place. If this was not enough, the emergence of Lucky Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper) completely overshadows Chaney. Lucky Ned Pepper is a far more interesting character than Chaney and, judging by how fast the film focuses on the Lucky Ned/Rooster arc, the Coens seem to be acknowledging this.

Chaney is practically a blip in the film and it is especially noticeable in the last twenty minutes of the film. From the moment Mattie has the encounter with the snake to the conclusion of the film, True Grit loses some of the shine it had at the beginning. The ending of the movie not only dragged on, but it felt like the film was trying to neatly wrap things up in order to answer questions that no one was asking. Regardless, there is plenty to enjoy in True Grit. The film is filled with great performances and it will have you laughing far more than you would expect from a western.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Movie Marketing Monday

The Resident

This film seems very reminiscent to the Sharon Stone/William Baldwin thriller, Sliver...just slightly darker.

Take Me Home Tonight

This movie actually feels like it should have come out in the 80’s instead of now. Oh well, at least Anna Faris is guaranteed to generate a few big laughs.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading Schedule for Today:

10 am: Movie Moxie offers up The Episode 21 of her podcast.

11 am: Mike gives us part three of his real life tale about trying to make it in the film industry.

12 pm: The wonderful folks at Total Film are handing out some blogging awards and want your input! Be sure to stop by their site and submit your vote for The Best Review Blog. Also, be sure to vote for the The Best Overall Blog as well. There are many great blogs listed, including a few that have shown love to this site, so be sure to take a minute and give them your support.

1 pm: Split Reel names Robert De Niro as the actor of the month.

2 pm: Dan gives a “SomeOleBullShit” rating to Gus Van Sant’s version of Psycho.

3 pm: Fitz has a screenshot of Andrew Garfield in his Spider-Man costume. Still not sure what to make of this whole reboot fiasco.

4 pm: For all you UK film lovers, Chris has some news on the “Back to the Future: Japanese Cinema Since the Mid-90s” touring program that is coming to a town near you.

5 pm: Top10Films countdowns the Top 10 Stephen King Adaptations.

6 pm: Thevoid99 has a nice review of Peter Weir’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

127 Hours? I Only Need 10 Minutes

In the past year I have watched on screen piranhas devouring male genitals, robogeshias burning the flesh off of a man’s face with acid breast milk, and a man named Machete use an intestine like it was a bungee rope. Yet none of those moments evoked a reaction out of me the way a scant ten minute scene in 127 Hours did.

Directed by Danny Boyle, 127 Hours is based on the true life story of Aron Ralston (James Franco), a mountain climber who found himself trapped for 127 hours in a near life-ending predicament. Known for frequently going out canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah, Ralston would often take off in the great outdoors without telling anyone where he was going. One day, after spending time with two hikers he meets along the way, Kristi (Kate Mara), and Megan (Amber Tamblyn), Ralston’s solo journey takes a turn for the worst when his arm becomes trapped under a fallen boulder. Trapped for over five days, Ralston’s will to live is what keeps him going. Ralston is forced to use all of his survival instincts in order to get himself out of the canyon and find his way to safety.

If you have already heard the story of Aron Ralston, read his book, or reard any reviews of the film then you know the lengths he must go to in order to free himself from the boulder. While the scene is not that long in regards to the films overall running time; the intensity of the scene makes it feel like an eternity. While Danny Boyle never lets the film get as graphic as your mind makes the moment out to be, he by no means attempt to shy away from the details either. Boyle’s sharp camera angles and editing bring every severed nerve to life on screen. It has been a long time since I squirmed so much in my seat, in such a short span of time, during a film.

As Ralston, James Franco does a terrific job of selling the agony and pain his character is going through in that scene. Franco is given the tough job of making the audience care about Ralston completely in the span of time before the crucial moment occurs. Alternately, Aron Ralston could have been portrayed as an arrogant daredevil who was destined to have such an encounter. Yet Franco shows that Ralston is merely a kind hearted soul who loved the outdoors as much as he loved his family. Most importantly, Ralston loved life and was willing to do anything to continue living for as long as he can.

Along with Franco’s great performance, Danny Boyle really deserves praise for making 127 Hours work as well as it does. Unlike Cast Away, to which this film is frequently and unjustly compared, 127 Hours uses the simplest techniques to keep its man alone in nature story moving at a brisk pace. Whether it is the crane shots that emphasize the gravity of Ralston’s circumstance, the split screen sequences, or the way Boyle showcases Ralston’s bouts of delirium through flashbacks and visions, there is never a moment when the film feels long and/or plodding. Boyle manages to make a rather engrossing film out a situation where the majority of the film takes place in one small and confined setting. While he may not get the same level of love that the Coen Brothers, Christopher Nolan, or Darren Aronofsky do amongst the online community, Boyle continues to showcase why he is one of the best directors working today.

It is easy to dismiss 127 Hours as another Cast Away but that would be foolish. 127 Hours is a film that rises above its simple premise and offers up a film experience that is both fascinating and long lasting.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Black Swan Dances in Darkness

Black Swan

One of the most fascinating aspects of Darren Aronofsky’s highly praised film, Black Swan, is its unique stance on what is perfection. While it is a common belief that perfection is achieved through flawlessness, Black Swan takes the opposite approach. It is only when we embrace both our flaws and darkest desires that we truly reach a state of perfection.

Nina (Natalie Portman) is a ballerina at a prestigious ballet company run by artistic director Thomas (Vincent Cassel). When the principle ballerina, Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder), is fired, Nina sees this as her chance to make her mark. Obsessed with nailing the lead in the new company production of Swan Lake, Nina pushes her body to the limit. Although Nina has the technique needed to succeed in the lead role, Thomas feels that she is too innocent to truly capture the spirit of the Black Swan. Nina becomes increasingly paranoid when Lily (Mila Kunis) joins the company. Lily is a free spirit who has a naughty side that is perfect for the role of the Black Swan. With her mother (Barbara Herhsey), a former ballerina, pressuring her to succeed where she once failed; along with the threat of Lily taking her role, Nina must decide how far down the dark path she is willing to go.

If Black Swan was an album, it would be a greatest hits compilation as that is what the film feels like at times. Black Swan incorporates all the best moments of director Darren Aronofsky’s directorial career up to this point. The film showcases his great method of storytelling while still incorporating the visual flair of his earlier works. Aronofsky takes us down the rabbit hole of madness and show us the beauty that lies within it. It is clear that Aronofsky has truly figured out how to keep his story at the forefront without overindulging in the visuals. There are so many smartly placed visual cues that Aronofsky is practically daring the audience to revisit his dark world after the film is over.

It is not easy to make a film primarily set in the confines of a ballet thrilling from start to finish but this is exactly what Aronofsky does. A lot of the film’s success is due to the wonderful work done by the ensemble cast. Natalie Portman really gives herself to the role both mentally and physically. When displaying Nina’s increasingly unstable mindset, Portman never loses that naiveté which Nina has at the beginning of the film. It is this reluctance of letting go of her innocence that not only makes Nina such a fascinating character, but also makes her final transformation even more stunning.

While Portman is getting a lot of Best Actress Oscar buzz for the role, the performances that stood out the most were the work by the supporting cast. Mila Kunis is quickly becoming an actress who is surpassing all of my expectation. She is fabulous as Lily and allows the film to send the audience on a few red herrings. Although Vincent Cassel continues his string of great performances, Black Swan might finally be the film that makes him a household name to mainstream audiences in North America. He is brilliant as the lecherous Thomas and his scenes with Winona Ryder are simply wonderful. Speaking of Winona Ryder, it is great to see her getting prominent work in movies again. Both Ryder and Hershey are exceptionally good in this film. Hopefully Black Swan will re-launch both careers to the point where they each get more meaty roles in films.

Black Swan is a film that should, and most likely will, be a prominent fixture when the Academy Award nominations come out in a few weeks. It is intelligent and visually thrilling without ever conforming to common convention. The performance and the direction makes this film a must-see for even the causal film watcher.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Movie Marketing Monday

Ice Age Continental Drift

How many of these are they going to make?

Cedar Rapids

I worked in the insurance sector several years ago and things never got this wild. Clearly I was working for the wrong company.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading Schedule for Today:

10 am: It figures that Lee and Dan’s Midnight Movie Club podcast would decide to take a week-long break just as I discover their site. Luckily, they left us their entertaining discussion of The Running Man to past the time. Also, check out their podcast on the Gregory Hines/Billy Crystal gem, Running Scared.

11 am: Tom shares his thoughts on Oscar hopeful The King’s Speech.

12 pm: Darren looks at one of my favourite franchises, the James Bond series, as part of James Bond January. Excuse me while I go and load up Golden Eye on the Wii...

1 pm: Andrew examines one of the forgotten characters in The Kids Are All Right.

2 pm: Hatter has an interesting piece on the fall of Blockbuster least in his area.

3 pm: Marshall not only talks about blogger burn out, but he also reflects on how blogging can keep you away from the simplest pleasures in life

4 pm: Univarn has a great article, entitled The Alienation Opinion Theory, in which he tries to figure out why there is so much love for Exit Through Gift Shops (a film I still need to see)?

5 pm: The Action Flick Chick asked readers to finish the line: any movie can be improved by adding... . Take a look at the responses they got.

6 pm: Episode 196 of the Cinecast podcast looks back at 2010.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Never Let Me Go to Hailsham

Never Let Me Go

There are times when we all question our purpose in life. Whether it is when we are swamped with work; having issues with a relationship; or merely feeling a case of the blues on a given day. Despite this, the fact that we have the option to change our path always offers up a glimmer of hope at our darkest points. Yet, what if our lives were already mapped out for us from birth? Instead of having dreams of being a doctor, lawyer, engineer, writer, etc; how would you feel if you found out that your sole purpose in life is to sacrifice yourself for the greater good of mankind?

This is the dilemma that the characters in director Mark Romanek’s film, Never Let Me Go, must face. Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, the film follows three childhood friends, Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield), and Ruth (Keira Knightly), from their days in an English boarding school, Hailsham. While at school they follow the strict set of rules that their headmistress, Miss Emily (Charlotte Rampling), has outlined for them. Their harmonious way of life starts to show cracks when a new teacher, Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins), reveals a secret about the school that will greatly impact the students.

Never Let Me Go was a film that did not impress me at first but, ultimately, I am glad I stuck with it. The slow pacing and seemingly typical love triangle had me wondering about all the positive reviews I had read. Fortunately the intricate and subtle layers of the film started to reveal itself and I became completely enthralled. Part of the lure of the film is that Romanek never opts for the big flashy scenes. Instead he draws out the sorrow and allows his actors to really revel in their character’s situations. Never Let Me Go offers many deep questions such as what is the value of a life? Do we have souls? And how do we assess who deserves to live and who deserves to die?

The three leads do a great job of showing the complexities of having hope in a hopeless situation. Carey Mulligan is really developing into quite a wonderful actress. She is slowly living up to the hype that arose after the release of An Education. Mulligan not only sold the bittersweet love story with Tommy; but she also, in her role as caregiver, showed how easily one can be desensitized to death. She questions if there is any real difference between those who are dying and the people they are saving.

One of the reasons that Mulligan is so effective in her role is the natural chemistry she has with both Keira Knightly and Andrew Garfield. Knightly shines as the vindictive Ruth, who may not be as strong as she seems. Knightly could have made Ruth an unlikeable character, but opts to make her far more rounded than you initially expect. Garfield on the other hand does of good job of portraying the fragile nature of Tommy without making him annoying. Even when the adult version of Tommy finally realizes his fate, it is his restraint and a somber tone, after a brief outburst, that speak volumes.

Never Let Me Go is a film that is far deeper, and frankly far better, than I had initially anticipated. It is subtle and powerful without ever ignoring the greater questions. This is a film that deserves to be both seen and discussed, as it will provide interesting debate.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Whatever Happened To...?

Rene Russo

I was watching The Thomas Crown Affair again on television the other day and it got me wondering where has Rene Russo gone? Like any actor, Russo has had her ups and downs in regards to quality of films she has been in, but she has always shown that she is a capable actress. While Hollywood is notoriously unkind to women of a certain age, Russo is one of those women who gets better looking with age. If Darren Aronofsky can resurrect Barbara Hershey’s career imagine what he could do with Russo’s.

Career Highlights: The Thomas Crown Affair (1999); Get Shorty (1995); In the Line of Fire (1993); Ransom, (1996); Tin Cup (1996); Major League (1989); One Good Cop (1991); Leathal Weapon 4 (1998).

Low Points: Buddy (1997); Outbreak (1995); The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000); Mr. Destiny (1990); Lethal Weapon 3 (1992); Big Trouble (2002); Freejack (1992);Showtine (2002).

Last Seen On The Big Screen: Yours, Mine and Ours (2005).

Where You Will See Her Next?: In Marvel’s next big franchise film, Thor.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Uncle Boonmee Lived One Wild Life.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

What happens to us when we die? This is the central question behind Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s mystical fable of the afterlife. While many believe that our souls pass on into the afterlife, Weerasethakul’s story takes the approach that souls are eternally bound to the people whose lives they have encountered. As Uncle Boonmee’s dead wife states “ghost aren’t attached to places but to people.”

Weerasethakul’s tale takes place in the countryside of the northeast section of Thailand. Uncle Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar), who is suffering from kidney failure, decides to spend his final days with close family and friends in his rural estate. One night Uncle Boonmee’s deceased wife appears out of the blue to see her husband. She informs him that several spirits and animals have surrounded his house as word of is impending death has spread. If that was not shocking enough, Uncle Boonmee’s long-lost son returns home that same night in non-human form. Transformed into a sasquatch-like creature, known as Monkey Ghost, Uncle Boonmee’s son recounts how he came to such a state and his dream of a dark future for mankind. With humans and non-humans by his side, Uncle Boonmee sets out one on last trip into the jungle towards the mystical cave in which his soul was first born. Along the way he experiences distorted memories and encounters various incarnations of his past.

Meditative and daring, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is nothing like what you would normally expect from a film categorized as a comedy. While there are some amusing moments, such as when Monkey Ghost poses for a “buddy” picture with the army after telling a story about the horrors of military rule, Uncle Boonmee is by no means a laugh out loud type of film. If anything, the film is the perfect blend of mystical phantasm and artistic flare. Apichatpong Weerasethakul incorporates various film styles ranging from documentary to period to elaborate on the themes of the past, lost beauty, and the supernatural.

The use of different tones really provides an overall richness to the characters in the film. This is evident in the eerie feel that Weerasethakul give Monkey Ghost. One minute its ominous red eyes create a sense of dread then, later on, you find yourself feeling sorry for the creature when it is abducted by the army. The arc of Monkey Ghost goes from menacing to sombre to comedic. In many ways a similar point can be made for the princess who has lost her beauty. She wants to be loved but is has problems coming to terms with the lost of her beauty. What starts off as a tale of a vain women eventually morphs into a euphoric and comedic tale as the princess has a special meeting with a fish.

At times the pacing in the film is a tad slow but that is to be expected in this type of story. The one element of the film that bothered me a bit was the perplexing ending. I could not grasp the significance of the characters sitting on the bed watching television, while their spirits go to the restaurant for a bite to eat, to the overall story. It seemed like it was done purely for stylistic reasons. Regardless, this was only a small mark on an otherwise shining piece of filmmaking. If you are in the mood to experience something different from the norm, then I would suggest taking a chance on Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Movie Marketing Monday

Movie Marketing Monday


The highs and lows of drug use have been the subject of many films. However, I like the sci-fi spin that this film takes.


Saoirse Ronan going all Salt-like to the music of The Chemical Brothers...yep, I am interested.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Top Films of 2010

Top Films of 2010

Narrowing down the list to ten films was much harder this year than it has been in the last couple of years. The fact that there were two ties on my list is a testament to the great selection of films that have been released in 2010. 

10) Never Let Me Go – Saw this, and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, on the plane coming back from my grandmother’s funeral. Both deal with issues of mortality but for some reason this particular film really stuck with me more than I thought it would. (Full review coming soon)

9) Scott Pilgrim vs the World – Ignored by the masses, Scott Pilgrim was both a comedic and visual assault on the senses. Hopefully this film will find a decent cult following on DVD.

8) 127 Hours / Black Swan – Did a double feature of these two films the other day. Although they are two vastly different films, I was extremely impressed with both of them. Still cannot decide which one I love more. (Full reviews coming soon)

7) The Social Network – Despite the claims, it is not the movie that defines a generation. Regardless, the film is a gripping legal drama that will have you looking at the issues of ownership in a whole new light.

6) The Illusionist – If one film can stop Toy Story 3 at the Oscars it will be The Illusionist. Subtle and sweet, without being overly sentimental, the film will reaffirm your faith in mankind. Plus, the hand drawn animation is better than most of the 3D cartoons released in 2010.

5) Micmacs / The Art of the Steal – Two of my favourite films from the 2009 TIFF finally it theatres this year. Unfortunately neither the hilarious crime capper (Micmacs) nor the gripping art theft documentary (The Art of the Steal) found an audience in their limited theatrical runs. I believe both are on DVD now, so be sure to seek them out at your local video stores.

4) Toy Story 3 – The animated film that made grown men cry is a testament to how you can make a film franchise work. Never losing sight of the importance of good story telling, Toy Story 3 found the perfect blend of humour and emotion.

3) Inception – “A smart summer blockbuster” is not a term you hear often but that is exactly what this film was. Visually stunning, great ensemble cast, and a brilliant plot, Inception was a sight to behold. The best thing about the movie is how it actually gets better upon repeat viewings.

2) Blue ValentineBlue Valentine has received more press due to its initial NC-17 rating than for the quality of the film itself. Which is a shame considering how good this film actually is. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are simply stunning in this film.

1) Winter’s Bone – I absolutely loved this film. The story was original and Jennifer Lawrence’s performance was outstanding. Out of all the films that I saw this year, it was a simple film about a girl determined to find her father that impacted me the most.

Honourable Mention: Ajami, The Kids Are All Right, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The American, Mr. Nobody, Fish Tank, The Messenger, The Last Exorcism, Shutter Island.