Monday, February 28, 2011

Movie Marketing Monday


Bad Teacher

Although the casting is good, the trailer is both unfunny and juvenile. Considering that I have liked the other films Jake Kasdan has directed, I will try my best to go into this one with an open mind.




Arthur

I can honestly say that I am looking forward to this remake. Russell Brand is the perfect choice to fill Dudley Moore’s shoes. Plus, you cannot go wrong with Luis Guzman.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Defending the Indefensible

A wonderful new film series is about to kick off here in Toronto this week. The Toronto Underground Cinema is hosting Defending the Indefensible, in which film critics, bloggers, and general movie buffs defend the films they love that most people think are awful. Judging by the list of films in the press release below, it is sure to be a lively series.



Andrew Parker and Toronto Underground Cinema proudly present the DEFENDING THE INDEFENSIBLE film series starting MARCH 4, 2011.

Film criticism is a strange business these days. In years prior to the rise of the Internet, it seemed like only a select few knowledgeable film critics held sway over the fickle viewing public. Now, it seems as if everyone is entitled to voicing their opinions no matter how strange or unpopular they might be. These conversations have lead to more heated arguments about films that in many cases, might not even be worth talking about. Even the most marginal of films can inspire passionate arguments amongst defenders and detractors. With that in mind Toronto blogger Andrew Parker devised the idea for the DEFENDING THE INDEFENSIBLE film series: a monthly exploration of films that time has either been unkind to or overlooked (or possibly should never be seen again) hosted by local film scholars, writers, and bloggers and designed to better educate the public that film criticism still matters even at it’s silliest.

After lengthy correspondence with several local film writers and various local film buffs, Andrew cultivated a list of suggestions of films that were liked by very few, but could be defended by one singular person very well. From this new list of films Andrew went back to the same writers and asked which of the films the other writers hated the most. Each screening will have a pair of local critics squaring off one on one in a discussion of some of the most divisive films in recent memory.

How it works:

-The evening will be hosted by an emcee that cannot stand the film screening that evening. This person will come on stage first to explain just why the film the audience is about to see is terrible and why the evening’s main presenter is wrong to defend it. This is all in good-natured fun and it will be dealt with in both a humourous and analytical fashion. The evenings should be thought of as a film school version of Fight Club crossed with the bravado of a professional wrestling match with a dash of old school Siskel and Ebert.

-Following the introduction by the evening’s host, our defender will take the stage and explain why the film about to be screened is a good film. This is an uphill battle not only because they are following someone who just blasted the movie about to be screened, but also because simply saying a film is entertaining is not a good explanation. All defenses must be grounded in some sort of close viewing of the film or in some sort of film theory. All defenses must be based somewhat in fact and no one can coast on the entertainment value of a film alone.

-The film will then be screened (in 35mm whenever possible and applicable) and following the film, the emcee and defender will once again take the stage for a brief recap of their arguments before turning over questioning to the audience that just viewed the film. For one of the first times ever in a public forum, a film writer will have to defend an unpopular viewpoint to the very public they have been writing for in the first place. Knowing that some people do not want to sit through these films for a second time, a special offer will be made to those who want to join in the discussion to come in after the film has screened to ask questions for a reduced admission price of $2 (all of which will be given to charity).

DEFENDING THE INDEFENSIBLE will be held once a month (on Fridays) at the TORONTO UNDERGROUND CINEMA (186 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Ontario). Admission is $10 per screening with a portion of the proceeds to go to charities agreed upon by the evening’s emcee and defender. Much like Celebrity Jeopardy these people have been gracious enough to donate their time and energy for some truly great causes. People wishing to join the discussion, but not watch the film will be admitted at the end of the film for $2 to join in the Q&A session, all of which will be donated to the charities being represented that evening. All tickets available at the door with no advanced ticketing. Some films will also include special guests involved with the making of the films being screened and some screenings will also include bonus auctions for various charities.


DEFENDING THE INDEFENSIBLE SCHEDULE
(Films to be shown on 35mm when available. Films and Guests are subject to change.)

March 4th: Special Series Opening Double Bill ($15 double bill)
7pm: Alien Resurrection, Defended by Norman Wilner (Now, MSN). Hosted by John Semley (Torontoist, amongst others)
9:30pm: Freddy Got Fingered, Defended by John Semley. Hosted by Norman Wilner

April 1st: Special April Fool’s Day Critic Battle Royale
7pm MacGruber, Featuring Will Sloan (The Varsity, Exclaim), Adam Nayman (Eye Weekly), Norman Wilner, and many more. Special guests and prizes!

April 15th: One of Our Own Night
7pm Speed Racer Defended by Toronto Underground Cinema’s Animation Series coordinator Peter Kuplowsky. Hosted by Adam Nayman

May 20th: The Tag Team Title Match
7pm Observe and Report Defended by Will Sloan and series creator Andrew Parker. Hosted by John Semley and Adam Nayman

June 24th: Ashton Kutcher Appreciation Night
7pm The Butterfly Effect Defended by Adam Nayman. Hosted by Norman Wilner

July 29th: The Series Organizers Face/Off (Special Double Bill with guests TBA)
7pm Equilibrium Defended by Sasha James (The Final Girl Project). Hosted by Andrew Parker
9:30pm Jennifer’s Body Defended by Andrew Parker. Hosted by Sasha James

August TBD
Special blogger hosted and defended evenings with various guests and films still to be determined

There will be no September screenings due to TIFF.

October TBD: Horror Sequels That (Don’t?) Suck presented by Brian McKechnie (CityTV, Criticize This!)
7pm: Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives!
9:30pm: Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare

Please send any questions, comments, press inquiries,ticket and interview requests, or requests to get involved to indefensiblemovieseries@gmail.com.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sharing the Blogging Love


Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading Schedule for Today:

10 am: Episode 9 of the Some Cast It Hot podcast is up. The ladies discuss Kamikaze Girls, Tarantino and much more.

11 am: Aiden explains why Troll 2 is an awful, but must see, film.

12 pm: Univarn has a nice piece on the superhero complex.

1 pm: Yong takes a break from his studies to review Prince of Persia Sands of Time.

2 pm: Rachel, from Film Girl Interrupted, looks at five of cinema’s Unreliable Narrators.

3 pm: Dazz watched Yogi Bear and shares some thoughts.

4 pm: Reel Whore examines the best and the silliest film moments of 2010.

5 pm: Mike looks at the Nicolas Spark adaptation The Last Song.

6 pm: Will takes a stab at Winter’s Bone and comes out unimpressed.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Award Predictions: If I Was A Betting Man…

Razzie Award Predictions


The Academy Awards are this weekend and many of the pundits and/or bloggers have already weighed in on who will win what. So instead of focusing on the Oscars, today I offer my predictions for the Golden Raspberry Award (aka the Razzie) which also take place this weekend. Celebrating the best of the worst, the Razzie has evolved into nothing more than a celebrity bashing tool over the years. Although I may not completely agree with this year’s nominees, Twilight fans please send your hate mail elsewhere, here is who I think will win nonetheless (see bolded):

Worst Picture
‘The Bounty Hunter’
‘The Last Airbender’
‘Sex and the City 2′
‘Twilight Saga: Eclipse’
‘Vampires Suck’

Worst Actor
Jack Black, ‘Gulliver’s Travels’
Gerard Butler, ‘The Bounty Hunter’
Ashton Kutcher, ‘Killers’ and ‘Valentine’s Day’
Taylor Lautner, ‘Twilight Saga: Eclipse’ and ‘Valentine’s Day’
Robert Pattinson, ‘Remember Me’ and ‘Twilight Saga: Eclipse’

Worst Actress
Jennifer Aniston, ‘The Bounty Hunter’ and ‘The Switch’
Miley Cyrus, ‘The Last Song’
The Four Gal Pals, ‘Sex and the City 2′
Megan Fox, ‘Jonah Hex’
Kristen Stewart, ‘Twilight Saga: Eclipse’


Worst Supporting Actor
Billy Ray Cyrus, ‘The Last Song’
George Lopez, ‘Marmaduke,’ ‘The Spy Next Door’ and ‘Valentine’s Day’
Dev Patel, ‘The Last Airbender’
Jackson Rathbone, ‘The Last Airbender’ and ‘Twilight Saga: Eclipse’
Rob Schneider, ‘Grown Ups’

Worst Supporting Actress
Jessica Alba, ‘The Killer Inside Me,’ ‘Little Fockers,’ ‘Machete’ and ‘Valentine’s Day’
Cher, ‘Burlesque’
Liza Minnelli, ‘Sex and the City 2′
Nicola Peltz, ‘The Last Airbender’
Barbra Streisand, ‘Little Fockers’

Worst Eye-Gouging Mis-Use of 3-D
‘Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore’
‘Clash of the Titans’
‘The Last Airbender’
‘Nutcracker 3-D’
‘Saw 3-D’


Worst Screen Couple / Ensemble
Jennifer Aniston & Gerard Butler, ‘The Bounty Hunter’
Josh Brolin’s Face & Megan Fox’s Accent, ‘Jonah Hex’
The Entire Cast, ‘The Last Airbender’
The Entire Cast, ‘Sex and the City 2′
The Entire Cast, ‘Twilight Saga: Eclipse’

Worst Director
‘The Expendables,’ Sylvester Stallone
‘The Last Airbender,’ M. Night Shyamalan
‘Sex and the City 2,’ Michael Patrick King
‘Twilight Saga: Eclipse,’ David Slade
‘Vampires Suck,’ Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer

Worst Screenplay
‘The Last Airbender,’ M. Night Shyamalan
‘Little Fockers,’ Michael Hamburg & Larry Stuckey
‘Sex and the City 2,’ Michael Patrick King
‘Twilight Saga: Eclipse,’ Melissa Rosenberg
‘Vampires Suck,’ Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer

Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel
‘Clash of the Titans’
‘The Last Airbender’
‘Sex and the City 2′
‘Twilight Saga: Eclipse’
‘Vampires Suck’

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

10 Films That Greatly Disturbed Me

10 Films That Greatly Disturbed Me

After watching Dogtooth last week, I got thinking about some of the films that have gotten under my skin over the years. While there are some disturbing films that I can watch over and over (i.e. A Clockwork Orange, etc.) there are some that I just have no desire to ever watch again (i.e. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc). Below is a list of films that have left an impression on me for better or worse.


Kids
I saw this film in my teens and the realism of it really hit me. I have watched this film a few times since then and can appreciate what director Larry Clark does with the film. Still I cannot shake the memory of my first encounter.


Twentynine Palms
I have never walked out of a film, especially one screened at a film festival, but I came very close with this one. After sitting through two-thirds of the film watching the main couple repeatedly have sex and get into arguments, the last act of the film focused on a random act of violence that is beyond words. To this day I still do not understand the significance of the violence in this film.


Straw Dogs
Although I think this film is brilliant, it still unnerves me every time I see it. One of the few films on the list where the violence, depending on your point of view, seem justified. However, this does not make this film easy to watch.


Irreversible
Gaspar Noé’s revenge tale is often talked about in relation to its unflinching nine minute depiction of rape. While that scene is indeed startling, I found the sequence of events that unfold at the gay bar equally hard to forget.


Bully
Similar to Kids, Bully is one of those films that stunned me because of its view on today’s youth. The fact that the story was based on true events made Bully even more unsettling. No surprise, Larry Clark was the director of this one as well.


The Hills Have Eyes
Considering the grotesque levels to which horror films go on an average day, it really takes a lot for a horror flick to bother me. Yet, The Hills Have Eyes remake went that extra mile. The rape scene in the RV was just too extreme in my opinion. There is so much that occurs in that moment that it took me weeks to get the imagery out of my head.


Gozu
This was my first introduction to the films of Takashi Miike. Now I have not seen either Audition or Ichi the Killer, two films that I hear are far more disturbing, yet Gozu makes the list for a birthing scene that is both strange and unsettling. Having only seen one other of his films, Sukiyaki Western Django, Miike is a director whose works I really need to catch up on.


Pink Flamingos
I usually enjoy John Waters’ films but Pink Flamingos is one of those films that you should not watch while eating. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. The film features some disgusting scenes that will cause many to lose their appetites. You will also never look at dog poop the same way again.


The Piano Teacher
Michael Haneke makes films that often get under people’s skin. Yet of all his films, I found The Piano Teacher to be the most disturbing. If you have problems stomaching scenes of self-mutilation than this film is probably not for you.


The Doom Generation
Although billed as a black comedy, the last act of this film is anything but comedic. The ending of the film features Neo-Nazis, multiple rapes, and mutilation. Needless to say this is not a film that one easily forgets.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The King’s Speech Is Well Delivered But I’ve Heard Better

The King’s Speech

As the Academy Awards draw nearer it is becoming clear that the best picture race is really between two films: The Social Network and The King’s Speech. While both are good films, The King’s Speech has the rather unfair advantage of being the type of film that is simply made for Oscars. It features the quintessential checklist of things that often appeal to the award voters: Period piece? Check. Features a person struggling with a disability? Check. Takes place during a major war? Check. Highlights a friendship that defies the normal social conventions? Check. Yet unlike most films that would simply rely on these aspects, The King’s Speech actually strives to be something more. It not only wants to entertain but provide insight into a way of life that is rarely accessible to the average person.

Directed by Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech documents the real-life story of King George VI (Colin Firth) who, after the death of his father King George V (Michael Gambon) and the abdication of the throne by his brother King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), is given the task of being the new King just as the world is about to go to war. Hindered by his uncontrollable stutter, King George dreads the role that he now faces. Seeking a cure for her husband’s condition, Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) asks speech expert Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) for assistance. Lionel’s methods are considered experimental and unconventional, but through his work he develops a special bond with King George VI. As the start of the war approaches, Lionel and King George must figure out a way to control King George’s stutter before he has to give one of the most important speeches of his life.


As odd as this may sound, King George VI’s stuttering actually turns out to be the least interesting aspect of The King’s Speech. While it is the obvious focal point of the film, the element that makes it such a strong film is the depiction Royal life. In many ways being a part of the Royal Family is like being in prison. Firth’s character even remarks that it is more like a “firm” than a family. Before having no choice but to accept his fate, King Edward VIII did everything he could to rebel against the standards that come with being a Royal Family member. Hopper does a good job of showing the differences between duty and free will through his interpretations of both King George V and King Edward VIII. Besides contrasting their different styles, he emphasizes the divide by showing King George VI’s struggle to navigate the two extremes.

Colin Firth does a wonderful job of conveying George’s inner conflict. The King’s Speech continues his string of solid performances of late. Both Firth and Rush bring an unexpected levity to the film that is surprisingly refreshing. It is easy to expect that a film of this nature would merely be stuffy and formal due to the subject matter, yet the performances help to raise The King’s Speech slightly above other films that have dealt with issues of royalty. The supporting cast is outstanding in the film. It is nice to see Bonham Carter playing a normal person once again. We have gotten so use to her playing broad characters that the film serves as a nice reminder of how good she can be in more subtle roles. It should also be noted that Michael Gambon, Guy Pearce, and Timothy Spall are all fantastic in their supporting roles. Spall is especially good as Winston Churchill. I was so enamoured with his work, that I would not have minded if the film had veered off and just followed Churchill through the war years.

While I do not think it is the Best Picture of the year, I can see why The King’s Speech was nominated for multiple Academy Awards. It is a film that will educate and entertain at the same time. Plus the performances are what really make this film standout above many of its competitors.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Movie Marketing Monday



Black Heaven

Interesting....very interesting...




Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

I should probably see the original the film before watching this but, from what I hear, this is a series that has entertained people of all ages.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sharing the Blogging Love


Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading Schedule for Today:

10 am: Lee and Dan’s Midnight Movie Club podcast dicuss the film Night Shift. Also, be sure to tune in next week when they tackle the Tom Hanks classic, The Burbs.

11 am: Earlier this week I was interviewed by Andrew, of Encore’s World of Film & TV, for his Interview with a LAMBpire column featured on The LAMB.

12 pm: Jack comments on Red Cliff and lists of off a few historical epics he enjoyed.

1 pm: Rachel talks about Marion Cotillard joining The Dark Night Rises.

2 pm: thevoid99 reviews Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers.

3 pm: Film Gurl looks at For the Love of Movies.

4 pm: M.Hufstader celebrates Valentine’s Day by looking at some killer couples...emphasis on killer. The list also includes memorable “Bromances” and “Sistamances”.

5 pm: Rorydean reviews Fight Club.

6 pm: Graygrrrl has a nice recap of the BAFTA Awards and what they might mean for the upcoming Oscars.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Which Is Better?

Which is Better?




Pre-1990 Terry Gilliam
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Jabberwocky
Time Bandits
Brazil
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen


 
or


Post-1990 Terry Gilliam
The Fisher King
Twelve Monkeys
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
The Brothers Grimm
Tideland
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus


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

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dogtooth More Unsettling Than Dentures

Dogtooth

When it comes to Academy Award nominations there are certain types of films that you can bank on. Period pieces and war related films tend to stand a better chance at being nominated than a risk-taking dramatic film whose content would shock many. So it is somewhat surprising, and rather refreshing, when the Academy Nominating Committee thinks outside of the box and show some love to a film like Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth.

Nominated in the Best Foreign Language film category, Dogtooth is a bold examination of what lengths some people will go to protect their children from the evils of the world. Three siblings (Aggelikki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, Hristos Passalis) spend their lives confined within the walls of their parents (Christos Stergiouglou, Michele Valley) estate. Fearful of the horrors that their father (Stergiouglou) has told them of the outside world, the three teenagers are home schooled. Yet their education is not what most would consider proper learning. They learn a new form of vocabulary where words such as “phone” refer to the saltshaker. The parents use these tactics to ensure that their children never wonder about the outside world. The only outsider allowed into the family’s home is Christina (Anna Kalaitzidou), a security guard at the father’s factory who is paid to handle the son’s (Passalis) sexual awakening. When Christina steps beyond her bounds, the ramifications threaten to destroy the perfect little world that the parents have worked so hard to create.

Dogtooth’s premise is similar to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village yet the actual content could not be more different. Dogtooth takes a far more realistic approach and, as a result, more disturbing examination of the issues of isolation and the evils of the world at large. It is fascinating to see the lengths to which the parents go in order to keep their family’s peaceful existence a float. What we would deem as excessive child abuse they would consider a necessary means to ensure their children remain innocent and pure.


The interesting thing is that Lanthimos’ seems to be suggesting that human nature, even in a childlike state, is anything but pure. The fact that the parents hired Christina is proof that they knew that it would be impossible to suppress the urges of a growing male with mere words. The perplexing thing is that they never even consider that women would have the same sexual urges. It is this misstep that leads to cracks in their seamless world.

Dogtooth is the type of film I could see Stanley Kubrick making if he was alive today. Although their situation would be considered strange by most, Lanthimos never treats his characters like freaks. They are merely a loving family who, for the most part, know no other way of life. The performances are outstanding all around. I especially liked Christos Stergiouglou’s work as “Father”. He creates one of the more memorable villains to grace the screen in a long time.

Despite its, at times, shocking content, Dogtooth is far closer to truth than fiction. If you really think about it, how do we know the things we know? Besides school, a large portion of who we are is directly linked to who raised us. The words we know are based on what others have decided on well before we were even born. It is tough to imagine our world any differently yet that is exactly what Lanthimos does. He questions what is worse? Being isolated from the outside world? Or living in a world where you feel the need to isolate your children? Similar to the film’s wonderful ending, this is a question that the viewer will have to answer themselves.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Unthinkable Would Be Calling This Thought Provoking

Unthinkable

There are times when you are watching a film and you cannot help but wonder what it was about the film that brought this particular cast together. In the case of Unthinkable I can only assume that it was the film’s premise. Other than that I cannot, I fathom how such a disjointed film managed to get such a strong cast.

Steven Arthur Young (Michael Sheen) is an American whose beliefs are more in line with the fanatical sect of Islam more than the true teachings of Islam. Steven uses his experience in the US military to aide him in creating three nuclear bombs which is as hidden in three different US cities. In order for FBI agent Helen Brody (Carrie Anne Moss) to find the locations of the bombs she must work alongside an interrogator known as H (Samuel L. Jackson). Listed as a “special consultant” for the CIA, H has his own methods of interrogation that are not officially condoned by the US government. As H tries to get Steven to reveal the location of the bombs, Helen struggles with the human rights and constitutional laws that are being violated.

Unthinkable ultimately ask the question are the rights of one more important than the safety of many? The film wants to be both a tense thriller and a thought provoking commentary on the US handling of terrorist prisoners. Unfortunately the film does not succeed at being either. The issues being raised are nothing new and neither is the way the film presents it. To be honest, the television show 24 has tackled this theme on several occasions and has executed it far better.


In one of his earlier films, Buffalo Soldier, director Gregor Jordan demonstrated that he could handle the grey areas that often come with military life. Unfortunately he does not have a strong script to work with this time around. Unthinkable’s script is very uneven throughout and, at points, the dialogue is atrocious. An example of this comes in a key scene where H says “what I have to do…is unthinkable.” The lines comes off unintentionally funny considering that everything H has done to that point would be consider extremely excessive. The cast tries their best to sell the material as it is written but there is only so much they can do.

The poor script leads to the biggest problem with Unthinkable, the lack of character development. All of the characters, with the exception of H and Steven, constantly flip flop on their positions regarding torture. There comes a point in the film where you wish that they would each take a stance (either for or against) and stick with it. Now some may argue that this is designed to show the moral conflict inside them but I simply do not buy it. To have Helen constantly struggle with this is one thing, but it is downright insulting to have the official who is the closest link to the president, and who hired H based on his past results, change his mind the way he does. Especially, considering the extreme measures he has allowed H to take to this point.

Is the film in favour or against the use of brutality when it comes to interrogation? Are the rights in the Constitution more important that the lives of a whole country? These are left for you to decide. Frankly, I would recommend that you just rent a few seasons of 24 instead.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Movie Marketing Monday


X-Men: First Class

X2 was the only film that I actually like in this franchise. The one thing that has my interest about this reboot is the casting of James McAvoy as Professor Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Magneto.




Jane Eyre

Fassbender pops up again in this star-studded film. While I enjoy the Jane Eyre story, I wonder if there will ever be a big screen remake of Wide Sargasso Sea?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sharing the Blogging Love


Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading Schedule for Today:

10 am: Episode 24 of the Movie Moxie podcast talks Genie Nominations, as well as reviews of both Sanctum and The Roomate.

11 am: Custard list the top 5 songs used in end credits.

12 pm: The Evening Class interviews the folks behind the film, A Horrible Way to Die.

1 pm: Top10Films rank the Top 10 werewolf films. Sadly, Teen Wolf Too did not make the cut.

2 pm: Tom reviews the Tarantino/Rodriguez double feature known as Grindhouse.

3 pm: Julian Stark is looking for submissions for his upcoming Valentines Day Blogathon.

4 pm: Jose gives Doug Liman’s Fair Game a positive review.

5 pm: Cinema Du Meep is highlighting one the Heroes of Blaxploitation: Rosalind Cash.

6 pm: Branden has selected the nominees for the 2011 OMIE Awards. All you need to do is vote on who the winners should be.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Enter the Void to Fill Your Visual Appetite

Enter the Void

If films like Inception, Mr. Nobody, and Enter the Void are any indication, 2010 might go down as the year where cinematic boundaries were pushed to a whole new level. Each film is a treat both visually and mentally and they will often leave you questioning “how did they do that?” Of these three films, Enter the Void is the one that really will test both the viewers expectations and their patience.

By far Gaspar Noé’s most daring film to date, Enter the Void is a tale that offers a unique take on death and the afterlife. Oscar (Nathanial Brown), a drug dealer, and his sister, Linda (Paz de la Huerta), are now living in Japan together after spending several years apart. One day Oscar’s friend, Alex (Cyril Roy), gives him “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” to read. The book outlines what happens to the soul after people die. According to the book, besides seeing your entire life flash before your eyes, there are four avenues that your soul takes before deciding on where it will ultimately end up. After being set up by a “friend”, Oscar is killed while trying to evade the cops. Although his body may be dead, Oscar’s spirit is about to go on a whole new journey as he watches over the lives of his sister and his friends.

Despite being a film about death, this is far from a bleak film. Enter the Void is a visual assault to the senses as the film is filled with various neon colour, slick special effects, and unique camera angles. The fantastic title sequence alone is a loud, seizure inducing, treat that sets the tone for the film perfectly. The first half of this movie is simply stunning. Not only are the visuals breathtaking, but the way Noé uses them to tell the story is brilliant. A large portion of the film is shot from a first person perspective. The viewer sees thing through Oscar’s eyes as he floats around as a ghost. Even when Nathanial Brown appears on screen, we often see the back of his head, or a side profile.


The best part of the film is when Oscar’s spirit goes back in time and we see his entire life up to the point of his death. Noé not only gives us a better understanding of the sibling’s relationship, but also highlights how the choices Oscar has had a ripple effect that will lead to his death. Where Enter the Void begins to falter is in the second half where some of themes Noé touches on become rather repetitive.

While the repetition in the film is suppose to signify the continual cycle that human beings and their spirits go through it does make for a bit of an endurance test. At a running time of two hours and forty minutes, Enter the Void could have easily been trimmed down in the second half. The four stages that the spirit must go through is a fascinating concept but each stage runs too long. After a while the fish bowl-style lens, that proceeds the camera diving into the light, is no longer an interesting film technique. Even when the film culminates at the Love Hotel the use of lighting in the sex scenes goes from outstanding to overkill in the span of fifteen minutes.

Enter the Void is a film that I am somewhat hesitant to recommend. The first half is brilliant but the second half will cause some to pull out their hair. Enter the Void is by no means as disturbing as Noé’s previous film, Irreversible, yet it does have content that may not appeal to a large section of viewers. Still, if you are willing to let yourself go on a wild ride, this is one film that you will not easily forget after you have entered the void.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Whatever Happened To...?

Neil LaBute


Normally in this column I would feature an actor/actress whose career could use a jolt in the right direction. Today I am going to highlight a talented director that could really use a good script to get him back on track.

Career Highlights: In the Company of Men (1997), Your Friends & Neighbors (1998), Nurse Betty (2000), The Shape of Things (2003).

Low Points: The Wicker Man (2006), Lakeview Terrace (2008), Possession (2001).

Last Film to Grace the Big Screen: Death at a Funeral (2010)

Coming Down the Pipe Next? LaBute is currently filming Seconds of Pleasure, which he also wrote.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Exit Through the Gift Shop And Get A Free Fridge Magnet

Exit Through the Gift Shop

How much of it was real? Should the film have even been nominated in the Best Documentary category if it was all false? Who is the film really laughing at? Is Banksy really the director of this film? These are just a few of the questions that have been bouncing around the internet since Exit Through the Gift Shop received its Academy Award nomination. To be honest, Exit Through the Gift Shop works best if you put aside all these questions. While others debate the film’s legitimacy, they seem to overlook one crucial fact…the film is immensely entertaining.

The film plays like a documentary within a documentary. Originally the film is set up to be about Thierry Guetta, a French shop keeper who is obsessed with videotaping every aspect of life and stumbles into the illegal world of street art. Through Guetta’s cousin, the artist known as Space Invader, Guetta and his camera are exposed to a side of the art world that few people ever see. Claiming that he plans to make a documentary of the art and artists, Guetta eventually gains access to many of the big names in the culture, including Shepard Fairery who would later become famous for his iconic Hope poster of Barack Obama. Yet in order for Guetta’s documentary to really take off he needs to get footage of the biggest name in the street art scene, the elusive Banksy. After finally tracking him down, Guetta and Banksy soon become good friends. Once it is revealed that Guetta never had any intention of making a documentary, Banksy turns the lens on Guetta to find out what is really going on in the mind of this eccentric fellow.

Regardless of whether or not the content in this film is real or staged, like Borat, this film was far funnier than I originally expected. Exit Through the Gift Shop’s strength is not only Guetta but how the other artists view him. At first they all have a fondness for his willingness to not only step into their world but also help them with the assembly of their pieces. This fondness eventually turns to bitterness and disbelief when Guetta assumes the alias Mr. Brainwash and becomes a successful artist himself. While the content is interesting in a comedic sort of way, I was really more interested in how Banksy creates his work. While the film gives us brief glimpses of Banksy’s repertoire, it would have been nice had the whole film just been about Banksy. Of course this would alter the film drastically.


Exit Through the Gift Shop at its heart is a film that looks at how absurd the world of art and film has become. The film itself is a commentary on the structure of modern documentaries. It also explores what people consider to be art? When Banksy states at the end of the film that he does not know who the joke is on anymore, it is very telling. Once considered cutting edge and daring, Banksy and his peers now hold star-studded gallery shows in Los Angeles. Their works are being sold in art actions around the world. Essentially they have all become part of the system they once rebelled against.

To emphasize how ludicrous it has gotten, Banksy uses the latter part of Exit Through the Gift Shop to chronical the, alleged, rise of Mr. Brainwash in the art scene. As Mr. Brainwash, Guetta is transformed from mere shop owner to the face of the new wave of Los Angeles artist. The funny thing is Mr. Brainwash’s success is more due to his smart sense of self-promotion rather than any artistic ability. Mr. Brainwash rarely creates his own art. Instead he takes pre-existing works of art and hires a team of artist to alter them for him. In one hilarious scene, Mr. Brainwash, after promising original prints to the first 200 people at his show, scrambles to spray paint some colour on 200 copies of the same image in order to call them “originals”. The fact that Mr. Brainwash becomes a huge success after one show, really forces everyone to question how much of art is actually valued on the art itself, and how much is it based on hype. In many ways the same thing can be said about Exit Through the Gift Shop and those who debate and write about films. Maybe the fact that those who do not create art, whether it is paintings or films, have so much to say on its value and importance is the biggest joke of all.


Monday, February 07, 2011

Movie Marketing Monday


Win Win

After The Station Agent and The Visitor, I will pretty much see any film that Tom McCarthy directs.




Beginners

This one received mixed reviews at last year’s TIFF. Regardless, I still want to see this film. Hopefully it will be stronger than Mike Mills' last dramatic feature, Thumbsucker.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Sharing the Blogging Love


Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading Schedule for Today:

10 am: The Cinecast celebrates their 200th Episode this week. Be sure to stop by and wish them 200 more.

11 am: Castor wants to know who you would pick to play Lois Lane in the Superman reboot?

12 pm: Fletch looks at five stars in need of a heel turn.

1 pm: RC reflects on father roles in 2010 films.

2 pm: Hatter gives Academy Award nominee Incendies top marks.

3 pm: Univarn has a brilliant post that chronicles the diary of a best picture winner .

4 pm: The Flick Chick is tackling all the previous Best Picture winners, in order, in preparation for the Oscars. At #28 on the list is the film Marty.

5 pm: Ric reviews a Neds, a Peter Mullan film that I still need to watch.

6 pm: Marshall wonders whether it is possible to see movies without expectations?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

This Movie Is Broken So Who’s Going to Fix It?

This Movie Is Broken

If you are a film lover who grew up in Canada then the name Bruce McDonald is as iconic as the names David Cronenberg, Guy Maddin, Allen King and Atom Egoyan. McDonald’s films, such as Hard Core Logo and Pontypool, have garnered worldwide attention and changed how others view Canadian cinema. If you happened to grow up in Toronto, like myself, and listened to a wide range of music then you would know of the band Broken Social Scene. As far as music goes, Broken Social Scene is to the Toronto music scene as the Maple Leafs are to the world of hockey…you cannot think of one without the other. So the idea of Bruce McDonald making a concert film around Broken Social Scene is music to my ears.

Set during the Toronto garbage strike of 2009, This Movie Is Broken is both a concert film and love story. Bruno (Greg Calderone) has had a crush on Caroline (Georgina Reilly) for 15 years. Caroline and Bruno only have two days to spend together before she returns to Paris. Bruno is hoping to turn their friendship into something more, while Caroline just wants to have fun. On her last night in Toronto, Caroline wants to see her favourite band, Broken Social Scene, who are performing a free outdoor concert. Bruno, with the help of his friend Blake (Kerr Hewitt), is determined to get Caroline backstage passes to the show. Bruno see this night as his last chance to win Caroline’s heart for good.

This Movie Is Broken follows a similar form to Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs, the major difference being the lack sexual intensity. McDonald continuously alternates between the couple’s moments together and footage of Broken Social Scene performing on stage. While 9 Songs is the most obvious comparison, there are also scenes that remind me of the film Chasing Amy as well. Greg Calderone not only sounds like Ben Affleck did in Amy, but the scene in which he finally professes his love for Caroline is very similar.


Regardless of the similarities, This Movie Is Broken still manages to find its own voice. Bruce McDonald finds a way to capture Toronto’s urban beauty even when a garbage strike is on and the city is at its worst. McDonald also does a good job of providing a sense of what a Broken Social Scene concert is like in Toronto, in fact, it brought back fond memories of when I saw the band perform at same venue a few years earlier. I also liked the song selection that McDonald used in the film, not only does he cover material from the band’s four albums, but he also includes the band performing some of its members solo works as well (i.e. Feist’s “I Feel It All” and Jason Collett’s “I Bring the Sun”). One of the fascinating things about Broken Social Scene is that they even find time to record albums or tour together. The collective group of musicians all have their own equally successful side projects.

It would have been nice if three main characters could have been fleshed out a little more. The script, written by actor/writer Don McKellar, provides just enough to make the premise believable. Still, as concert films go, This Movie Is Broken is a film that should appeal to a wide range of people. It serves as a nice introduction to Broke Social Scene for those who do not know the band. If you are like me and were already a big fan of the band, then This Movie Is Broken will serve as a pleasant reminder of all the things you love about the group.


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A Grand Don’t Come For Free: The Movie

The following is my submission for Anomalous Material’s latest Pitch Your Movie blogathon. The event involves all the participants of the second Hollywood Fantasy Draft.


A Grand Don’t Come For Free


Cast:
Chris Hemsworth – Mike
Emily Blunt – Simone
Andrew Garfield – Dan
Mehcad Brooks – Scott
Mila Kunis – Allison
Ben Mendelsohn - Sully
Lennie James - Mumbles
Melanie Laurent - Ramona
Robert Kayinsky – Man in shirt and tie.

Directed by Steve McQueen (Hunger), and loosely adapted from both the A Grand Don’t Come For Free concept album and the Everything is Borrowed album by the British artist known as The Streets, A Grand Don’t Come For Free is a look at the life of one twenty-something year-old living in Birmingham UK. Trying his best to navigate life, friends, and love, Mike soon learns that losing a grand is the best thing that could have ever happen to him.

Act 1 – “It Was Supposed to Be So Easy”

Mike is a wannabe petty gangster in his late twenties. With no steady job Mike makes most of his money through various cons schemes. When Mike is not out conning unsuspecting bar patrons, he is spending the money he gets on gambling, booze, drugs, and nights at the club. Mike lives in a small house that is cluttered with empty beer cans and a slew of envelopes with the words “past due” and “last notice” on them. At the beginning of the film we see Mike and his friends drinking at his place talking about an upcoming soccer match and his date with Simone that night. Mike’s closest friends consist of Dan, Mike’s childhood friend; Scott, a stoner who still lives at home with his folks; and Allison, a single mother who spends more time partying than she does taking care of her boy Nathan. The day starts to go downhill for Mike when he realizes that the thousand dollars he set aside to pay a local loan shark, Sully, has gone missing. After tearing his house apart, Mike decides to withdraw some more money while he is out returning a DVD at the local video store. After waiting forever behind a slow woman at the ATM, Mike sees that he does not have enough money in his account to pay his debt.


Strapped for cash, Mike pulls a quick con at a nearby grocery store to cover him for the rest of the day and his date with Simone. At her day job, working at the JD’s Sports store with Dan, Simone often looks like she is coping with a hangover from the night before. On this night though, Mike is taken aback by how pretty Simone is when she puts in a bit of effort. Mike and Simone hit it off instantly, they chat about everything from Simone’s relationship with her mother to Mike suspecting that one of his friends might have stolen the thousand dollars. They get lost in conversation for hours and close the restaurant. Things pick up between Mike and Simone rather quickly and they are practically inseparable for the next few weeks and he finds himself spending all his time at Simone’s place.


Blissfully in love, and forgetting all about Sully, Mike dips into the money he has been swindling out of people to buy Simone things, such as a new coat, and taking her out to clubs. It is only when Scott mentions that Sully’s boys have been looking for him that Mike remembers his outstanding debt. Mike and Dan head down to the bookie shop to see if they can buy Mike more time to get the cash. Fortunately for Mike, Sully is tending to other business (i.e. killing a former worker who has been leaking information to Interpol). Mike promises Sully’s second in command, Mumbles, that he will have the money in a week plus interest. Mumbles informs him that the debt is now two grand. Before leaving the shop Dan encourages Mike to place a bet on the soccer match on television. Mike is hesitant at first but ultimately changes his mind when considers that he could possibly win enough money to clear his debts with Sully once and for all. Plus the match looks like a sure thing as his team is up by two goals. Unfortunately, a last minute substitution changes the courses of the match and Mike’s team ends up losing by a penalty kick. His debt has now gone up an extra two hundred dollars.

Act 2 – “Blinded by the Lights”

Still unable to raise enough money to pay Sully, Mike is starting to get stressed as the deadline approaches. Mike and Simone also seem to be arguing a lot more these days. To take his mind off of things he decides a night out with his friends is in order. After slipping in a small baggie of drugs past the bouncer Mike does a few lines of cocaine to loosen up a bit. While waiting for Simone to show up after work, Mike decides to take a few shots at the bar with Allison and talk about things going on in their lives. An hour later, an extremely drunk Mike wonders why Simone has not returned his text. Believing he is hallucinating due to the drugs, Mike start seeing distorted images at the club. One of those images is a woman who looks like Simone kissing another man. Another image is of Scott and Dan getting into an argument. Scott appears to be trying to stop Dan from talking to Mike. Confused and in need of air, Mike and Allison step outside for a quick smoke. Mike wanders off while Allison is trying to get a light from the bouncer. Wandering aimlessly Mike accidently crashes a wedding and gets into a fight with some of the wedding guest. Luckily Allison finds him and takes him home before the cops show up.



The next day, hung over and bruised, Mike heads to McDonalds for a bite to eat. While at the restaurant he sees an attractive woman standing in line with a guy wearing a simple white shirt and black tie. Unable to take his eyes of the woman, Mike does not notice that Mumbles and Sully have entered the restaurant. Mumbles puts his hand on Mikes shoulder and grabs him tightly. Sully walks up to the woman and starts to kiss her. The man in the white shirt gets the hint and takes off. Sully introduces the woman as his girlfriend Ramona. Sully then tells Mike that he has been more than patient but it is now time for him to pay up. Not having the funds needed, Mike offers up his services as a con artist to Sully. Hardly impressed with this offer, Sully motions for Mumbles to take Mike out back and teach him a lesson. As they head out the door Ramona pipes up about having a solution to fix everything. Ramona request that Mike be her new errand boy as Sully killed her last one. Reluctant at first, Sully agrees and tells Mike that after working for Ramona, he will have wished that Sully killed him when he had the chance.

Sully informs Mike that his first assignment is to keep Ramona occupied at the park for a few moments while Sully and Mumbles conducts business nearby. Sully clearly instructs Mike that he is not to leave Ramona’s side at all cost. While walking to the park, Ramona informs Mike that she and the man in the white shirt are actually undercover Interpol agents building a case against Sully and his links in organized crime. Flashing her Interpol badge, Ramona informs Mike to go home and keep away from the bookie shop for the rest of the day as a major Interpol raid is going to happen later that night.


Act 3 –“Everything Is Borrowed”

Still in shock from what he had just learned, and unable to get a hold of Simone, Mike heads over to Scott’s house to tell him everything. At the apartment Mike notices, Simone’s coat over the arm rest of Scott’s chair. Mike questions Scott about the jacket but Scott pretends to be intensely watching something on television. Irritated Mike starts to piece together his hallucinations at the club and Simone’s distant behavior over the last few weeks. Mike accuses Scott of fooling around with his girlfriend, but is stunned to hear Scott say that it has been Dan. As luck would have it, Dan walks in a ten minutes later to pick up the coat. Not seeing Mike sitting at the table in disbelief, Dan mentions that he and Simone, who is waiting in the car, are going to the pub for a few pints. Before Dan can finish his sentence, Mike lunges at him and punches him in the face. As Dan falls to the ground, Mike starts wailing on him. If it wasn’t for Scott pulling him off of Dan, Mike would have killed him. As Mike leaves he gives a startled Simone a cold look as he walks by Dan’s car.

A few weeks later Mike, who has not left his house since the events at Scott’s house, lets Scott, Allison and her son Nathan into his place. Scott apologies for not telling Mike sooner but admits that he was in a tough spot since he was friends with both of them. Mike forgives him and they all sit around chatting for a bit. Mike tells them both that he has been doing a lot of thinking and plans to start making something of his life. The incident with Sully opened his eyes to how low his life had gotten. After a while, Scott leaves and Nathan falls asleep on the couch. Mike and Allison continue to talk until 2 am. The next morning Mike wakes up optimistic for the first time in a long time. Allison is asleep upstairs and Mike gets Nathan some cereal. Suddenly there is a knock on the door and Mike opens it to see the repo men on his doorstep. As the men take all of his stuff away, Mike spots an envelope behind the television set. There, in all its glory, is the grand that Mike had thought he lost several weeks ago. The film ends with Allison, Nathan and Mike on the street watching the repo men load their truck. Allison extends her hand to Mike indicating that he is welcome to come home with her. With only the clothes on his back and a grand in his hand, Mike smiles and confidently takes Allison’s hand and walks toward a new life.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Animal Kingdom Turns Lambs into Lions

Animal Kingdom

I originally saw Animal Kingdom a few months ago but it recently popped back into my mind at last week’s Toronto Film Bloggers pub night. I was in conversation with another blogger who was discussing how the ending of Incendies nearly ruined the film, which she had loved up to that point. While I still have to see Incendies, I could relate. I experienced a similar reaction with David Michôd’s debut film Animal Kingdom.

Focusing on the inner works of an Australian crime family, Animal Kingdom examines the bonds of family loyalty. After his mother dies of an overdose, Josh (James Frecheville) is sent to live with his grandmother Janine Cody (Jacki Weaver) and her three sons: Craig (Sullivan Stapleton), Darren (Luke Ford), and Andrew aka Pope (Ben Mendelsohn). All three sons are involved in criminal activities as Craig sells drugs and Darren is learning to be an armed robber like Pope. The Melbourne police’s armed robbery division, led by Leckie (Guy Pearce), has been after Pope and his buddy Barry Brown (Joel Edgerton) for quite some time with very little success. Leckie believes that Josh may be the one person they need to bring down Pope and the rest of the clan. As the battle between the Cody family and the police intensify, Josh finds himself stuck in the middle unsure of whom he can really trust.

Animal Kingdom is a film that immediately grabs you at the beginning and holds onto you tight for the first two thirds of the film. Michôd creates an unsettling world where the unspoken elements are just as dangerous as the ones that are openly acknowledged. Although a crime film at heart, Animal Kingdom never sheds too much light on how the robberies are committed. This film is all about the family interaction and how the survival of the fittest mentality applies to their complicated life.


While I was in love with this film for the most part, I could not help feeling a little disappointed at the end. Actually, the ending of this film really bothered me. I found that the last twenty minutes or so of this film undermines many of the great things found in the second half of the film. For example, Josh takes such a roundabout way of reaching his conclusion that when the ending finally does occur I could not help but question why did Michôd even bothered with some of the earlier elements at the film. It ultimately took away from the impact that the ending was trying to achieve.

The last twenty minutes aside, there is enough that I really loved about Animal Kingdom to recommend it to others. One of the films strengths is the ensemble work by the cast. Jacki Weaver received a much deserved Oscar nomination for her work as Janine. Weaver gives a creepy performance as the ruthless mother whose love for her boys may exceed the normal boundaries of a mother/child relationship. Yet for me the real highlight of the film is Ben Mendelsohn’s work as Pope. At first Pope appears to be nothing more than a shell of a man hiding from the law. As the film progresses Mendelsohn shows just how dangerous a man like Pope can really be.

Despite my qualms with the way the film ends, Animal Kingdom is still a strong debut from David Michôd. The film is a worthy addition to extensive list of memorable crime films in the canon of cinema.