Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Pirate Tapes Not All Adventure in the High Seas.

The Pirates Tapes

What lengths should a person go to in order to get their message across? And is personal sacrifice worth it if the end results are the same regardless? These are a couple of the questions that some may ultimately struggle with after seeing The Pirate Tapes.

Exposing piracy in Somalia from the inside out, The Pirates Tapes follows Mohamed Ashareh, a young Somali-Canadian, as he travels to Somalia in hopes of joining an active pirate cell. Armed only with a hidden camera, Mohamed works his way into a cell run by a ruthless warlord, Jama Donyal, and is assigned to his first hijacking mission. When things take an unexpected turn, Mohamed finds himself on the run from the law with the danger of execution looming.

In many ways The Pirate Tapes feels like two different documentaries mashed together. The first two thirds of the film is riveting as we not only see Mohamed trying to make contact with pirate cells, but with political figures such as President Faroole who governs Puntland as well. Of all the regions that make up Somalia, Puntland is the place where most of the Pirate cells originate from. The Pirate Tapes not only does a good job of displaying how the warlords and Faroole are linked, but the film also highlights the events that created the pirate epidemic in the first place.

Despite the wealth of information, the film begins to falter in the last act which, by all accounts, should have been the most gripping part. It is in this section the directors are forced to confront questions that they themselves had put off acknowledging up to this point. Only when Mohamed is on the run does The Pirate Tapes stop to question why someone would put their life at risk in the first place. Especially since the film states in the early few frames that the importance of Mohamed’s family name would grant him safe travel in Somalia. What is further frustrating about the documentary is how it leads the audience to believe that Mohamed is on a Michael Moore-style quest for the truth, yet the film is not really Mohamed’s to begin with. He is merely the star not one of the four directors listed in the credits. Sure he is the one with the hidden camera in the most dangerous moments; yet the interview footage with experts in the field (e.g. politicians, activists, etc), which offers the most insight, are clearly done by the directors. When Mohamed gets into serious trouble it becomes very apparent that The Pirate Tapes could have been made without his involvement at all. He is nothing more than an expendable figure in all of this.

This is not to say that the risk that Mohamed took should not be commended. In fact it was a ballsy move that very few of us would have attempted. Yet the fact that corruption leads to his downfall is not shocking in a film that has spent the first forty-five minutes detailing the levels of corruption in Somalia. Also, the film throws in additional facts and statistics in the closing that slightly takes away from the overall impact of the film (e.g. only 0.2 percent of ships are attacked when sailing through Somalian waters).

Although the last act really hinders the documentary, The Pirate Tapes is still an informative piece of filmmaking that offers a lot of food for thought. The film provides a rare look into what life in Somalia is really like and the toll that world greed has taken on a nation that merely seeks an existence where they can export their own goods, have a government that actually speaks for the people, and not have to suffer for others lack of environmental concern.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Wiebo’s War Wobbles But Won’t Fall Down

Wiebo’s War

In the fictional world of comics and novels praise is often heaped on the characters who take matters into their own hands and rise up against the system that has let them down. In the real world, these types of people are often vilified by theirs peer for disrupting the social norm. While a few individuals, such as Erin Brockovich, mange to overcome the odds, most will end up like Wiebo Ludwig continually fighting a war that few people even care to acknowledge exists.

Wiebo Ludwig is a devout Christian, who along with his family and a few like minded friends moved to the Trickle Creek Farm in rural Alberta. There, they formed their own community with little connection to the “secular world.” Unfortunately for Wiebo, the outside world comes crashing down on him when a big oil & gas company decides to set up shop right outside his property. As soon as the drilling begins, Wiebo and his family notice sickness and abortion occurring both within the family and their live stock. As sour gas wells continue to plague his community, Wiebo pleads with everyone from the police to local politicians for help. When no one comes to Wiebo’s aide he decides to wage war against the oil & gas industry himself. Soon reports of gas wells being bombed start appearing and Wiebo finds himself at the top of the police suspect list.

Wiebo Ludwig’s battle with the oil industry made major headlines in Canada as he was perceived as both a cult leader and an eco-terrorist by many. Even the documentary’s director, David York, seem skeptical of Wiebo’s way of life at first. The film opens with Ludwig and York, who is an atheist, discussing whether a man who has no faith can truly understand a person who does. Yet as the film progresses, it becomes apparent that Ludwig’s plight is not just a religious one but a human one. It is a battle between humanity verses big business. When the people who can effect change turn a blind eye to water from a kitchen faucet becoming flammable and children’s faces swelling from rain water, clearly their values are misplaced. There is something inherently wrong when the people who are suffering are told to just “tape their windows” as a means of preventing the gas from seeping in.

It is easy to say “why not just move?” Yet that does not solve the bigger issue at hand. This is about corporations and governments deeming the mighty dollar more important than human life. Imagine if this was your home. Picture someone setting up shop beside your land and conducting harmful practices which you have no say in. While Ludwig may own his patch of land, the government owns the oil that flows beneath it and can sell it to anyone they want. What is even more disturbing is how easily a company can control a whole community. Ludwig’s war against the oil industry is inadvertently a war against his neighbours. By setting up hundreds of oil & gas wells in the surrounding area, the oil industry creates more jobs in the area until the majority of town is working for them.

Although York may not necessarily agree with Ludwig’s beliefs or methods of action, Wiebo’s War offers a surprisingly human take on Ludwig and his clan. In one of the toughest scenes to watch, York not only includes homemade footage of the family grieving over the loss of a stillborn child, but also includes footage of the child to emphasize the devastation that the sour gas is causing. The sad part is that with all the documented evidence of the effects of sour gas, Ludwig is painted as the villain at every corner. When he tries to draw attention to the issue through the proper channels, he is ignored. When he takes matters into his own hands, he is labelled a terrorist.

Wiebo’s War does not justify or condone Ludwig’s actions but it does make an interesting statement about others lack of action. The film is arriving at a time when gas prices are skyrocketing based purely on speculation of “possible disruptions” to oil supplies overseas; completely ignoring the fact that Alberta is one of the largest suppliers of oil to North America. People are finding it hard to feed their families, let alone pay for gas, yet no one bothers to speak up against the shameless pillaging. Wiebo’s War is a film that reminds us that sometimes you need to stand up for what you believe in regardless of the consequences.

2011 Regent Park Film Festival Call For Submissions

Regent Park Film Festival (RPFF) is Toronto's ONLY free-of-charge film festival dedicated to bringing the finest multicultural works relevant to the communities living in Regent Park, the oldest and largest low income housing in Canada; an area populated predominantly by new immigrants and Aboriginal Peoples. We showcase independent films of all length and genres in their original languages and subtitled in English, with topics pertinent to the various Regent Park communities such as urbanization, community activism, immigrant experiences, inner city issues, cultural identity and multicultural relationships. In addition, each year we program films for Grade 1-8 addressing themes of difference, racial diversity, bullying, gender identity, poverty, health, and other issues relevant to youth. Regent Park residents are encouraged to create media works, through our free professional training workshops, and engage in debates through our panel discussions. Annually, films made by Regent Park residents are highlighted in our Family Program and in our Community Stories: Youth Media Art Program on Opening Night, supporting self-representation and engaging dialogue with guest youth filmmakers from other parts of the World. This year, we are putting particular emphasis on fictional feature and short length films from the Asian & African Diaspora. All our activities as well as childcare are free-of-charge and we pay artist fees.

Submit Your Film Online via the Entry Form.

Extended Deadline: Friday, May 20, 2011 (NO ENTRY FEE) Post-dated

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Special Screening of “RESTREPO” at Hot Docs

National Geographic Films, documentary festival Hot Docs and realscreen magazine are uniting to pay tribute to filmmaker Tim Hetherington with a special one-off charity screening of the late director’s Academy Award©-nominated Afghanistan war documentary RESTREPO.

The screening will be held at the TIFF Bell Lightbox theatre in Toronto at 3 p.m. EST on Saturday, May 7, during the Hot Docs documentary festival. All proceeds from the screening will be donated to a charitable organization to be determined by the Hetherington family to honor Tim's life, work and humanitarian initiatives around the world.

RESTREPO co-director Sebastian Junger will attend the screening, paying tribute to Tim, his friend and collaborator, and will host a Q&A session after the film.

Junger said: “Tim devoted his life to documenting the human cost of war, and he has now become part of that cost. As his colleague and close friend, I know that Tim’s paramount concern was civilian suffering during war, and he would want us to do everything in our power to alleviate that suffering. The world lost a very great man, but I know that Tim’s work will continue to bring us insight and understanding for decades to come. He will be deeply missed.”

Lisa Truitt, President of National Geographic Cinema Ventures, added: “We are shocked and deeply saddened. Tim was a very special and talented man, and we will always be inspired by his vision and passion. He was willing to take incredible risks to show us a true and unbiased picture of our world, and for that dedication he paid the ultimate price. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.”

The special screening comes after Hetherington, 40, was killed in Libya on April 20 while covering the conflict between Muammar Gaddafi and Libyan rebels. The conflict also claimed the life of his friend and fellow photojournalist Chris Hondros.

The news sent shockwaves and sadness throughout the documentary and journalism communities. Hetherington was highly praised as both a photographer and a filmmaker, having won the 2007 World Press Photo Award for his pictures of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, and sharing the 2010 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize for RESTREPO with his co-director, Junger.

For RESTREPO, Hetherington and Junger spent a year documenting one American platoon’s battles in Afghanistan’s danger-filled Korengal Valley. Unflinching, emotional and insightful, the film has won numerous awards — in addition to the 2010 Sundance Prize, it received the Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Documentary and the National Board of Review Award for Best Documentary, and it was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Academy Awards©.

Chris McDonald, Executive Director, Hot Docs, said: “Hot Docs is honored to host this special screening of RESTREPO. Tim’s untimely death is a tragic loss, and I’m sure our audience and documentary colleagues will join with us in paying tribute to his remarkable life and work.”

Barry Walsh, Editor, realscreen, added: “The tragic passing of Tim Hetherington has seen the documentary and journalism communities lose someone who obviously had so much to offer through his sense of commitment and his pursuit of the real story. The team at realscreen is honored to be uniting with National Geographic and Hot Docs to support this worthy cause and pay tribute to a filmmaker and photojournalist who will be sorely missed by all who knew and worked with him.”

Tickets for the screening, priced at CAD$20, are on sale now, available online at, by phone at (+1) 416-637-5150, or in person at the Hot Docs documentary box office at 131 Bloor Street West, Toronto. Additional charity donations can be made onsite at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Beauty Day Puts the Jack in Jackass

Beauty Day

Living in Toronto there were several cable access television shows that shaped my teenage years. I fondly recall watching the comedic likes of Tom Green, Ed the Sock, and the Daryn Jones and Morgan “Mista Mo” Smith sketch comedy show, Buzz, before they all achieved mainstream fame on bigger networks. It was these cable access memories of my youth that sparked my interest in Jay Cheel’s directorial debut Beauty Day.

Cheel’s film highlights the life of Ralph Zavadil, who was better known as Cap’n Video to his Southern Ontario fans. Considered a cable access legend in that region, Zavadil’s Cap’n Video show was attempting comedic stunts long before Tom Green and the boys from Jackass came on the scene. The show consisted of one planted camera and Zavadil doing zany stunts including snorting raw eggs up his nose, using alcohol and fire to shave his face, and tobogganing off his parent’s roof in winter with no clothes or toboggan. Although Zavadil garnered minor fame in his area for these comedic segments, it is one near fatal mishap that gets the world taking notice of Cap’n Video.

One of the things that immediately struck me about Ralph Zavadil is how intelligent he really is. It is easy to assume that his idiotic Cap’n Video persona is a close representation of Zavadil, but this could not be further from the truth. Zavadil is an extremely smart man who simply loves life and wanted to live it to the fullest. The fact that he can entertain people in the process is considered a bonus. Zavadil knows that he was doing his stuff prior the success of Jackass, yet he could care less about receiving credit or capitalizing on the fame of the show. As long as people were embracing their inner “nutbar” then he was happy.

Ralph Zavadil is one of those people who you would love to pal around with real life. Cheel does a great job of portraying Zavadil as a man, who above all else, is loyal to friends and family. Some of the most fascinating scenes are not the Cap’n Video footage but the times when Zavadil opens up about his best friend Robert, his family, and his relationship one of his girlfriends, Nancy. The section involving Nancy is especially strong considering how fast Cheel gets you to care so deeply about their relationship.

Despite being a debut film, Jay Cheel directs Beauty Day with the confidence of a veteran filmmaker. His use of vibrant colour throughout the film, especially in the latter half of the film, is a joy to witness. Cheel also never treats his subject, or the viewer, with anything less than respect. Beauty Day could have easily been a one-note joke about how silly Zavadil’s show was, yet he transforms both Zavadil and the Cap’n Video show into so much more. The story never loses the viewers attention and actually makes you want to embrace life by taking more risks. This does not mean you will want to slide off a roof anytime soon, but you will definitely want to strive to achieve greater things in the context of your own life. In Zavadil’s eyes sitting by and watching things happen for others, instead of making them happen for yourself, is the equivalent of death.

Beauty Day is not only one of the highlights of the Hot Docs festival, but it is also one of my favourite films so far this year. It is a film that will not only make you appreciate life, but it will also inspire you to let loose and embrace your inner “nutbar”, something we all need to do more often.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Life in Movies

Over at the Fandango Grooves Movie Blog, Andy is hosting A Life in Movies Blogathon on May 8th in which he is asking bloggers to list their favourite movies from each year starting with the year they were born. Without further ado here is my "Life in Movies":

1978: Halloween – A horror classic, that still holds up.

1979: Alien - I am sure Apocalypse Now is the choice of many, but Alien is the film I watch more often.

1980: Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back – No contest here.

1981: Raiders of the Lost ArkMad Max 2 would be the runner-up here.

1982: Blade Runner – Still my favourite Ridley Scott film.

1983: A Christmas Story – Yes, I chose this over Scarface and King of Comedy! Remember the list is about my personal favourites, not best film overall.

1984: Gremlins – 1984 was easily one of the best years of cinema. Ghostbusters, The Terminator, Romancing the Stone, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Police Academy, The Karate Kid, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Beverly Hills Cop were all released in this year.

1985: The Goonies – This was a tough call. Back to the Future could easily take this spot.

1986: Hannah and her Sisters – One of my favourite Woody Allen films.

1987: Predator – “Get to the Choppa!”

1988: Die HardComing to America, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and Akira are all up there for me though.

1989: Batman – I have fond memories of seeing this film in the theatre.

1990: Goodfellas – “You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it's me, I'm a little fucked up maybe, but I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?”

1991: Terminator 2: Judgment Day – Still better than any of the big budget 3D films being released today.

1992: Hard Boiled – One of John Woo’s best.

1993: Jurassic Park – Love this film.

1994: Pulp FictionShallow Grave would be a runner-up here.

1995: The Usual Suspects – Brilliant script, great performances, this film had it all.

1996: Trainspotting – Begbie still gets under my skin every time I watch the film.

1997: Chasing Amy – I never get tired of watching this film.

1998: Zero Effect – Sure there were bigger, and better, films that came out in this year but Zero Effect was the biggest surprise for me in 1998.

1999: Magnolia – 1999 was the best year for cinema of the entire 90’s. Fight Club, Three Kings, Being John Malkovich, Toy Story 2, The Sixth Sense, American Beauty, Boys Don't Cry, and The Matrix all came out in this year.

2000: Almost FamousCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Dancer in the Dark, Requiem for a Dream and Wonder Boys all could have been slotted in this spot as well.

2001: In the Bedroom – Saw this film during my first time at TIFF experience.

2002: Better Luck TomorrowDirty Pretty Things gets an honourable mention.

2003: Oldboy – It was a toss-up between this film and Dogville, this film won by a hair.

2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindThe Sea Inside just missed the cut.

2005: Brokeback Mountain – The fact that this film lost to Crash at the Oscars is unforgivable.

2006: Casino Royale – In my top 5 for favourite Bond films.

2007: There Will Be BloodNo Country for Old Men is a close second.

2008: The Dark Knight – “Why So Serious?”

2009: Hunger – Some may argue that this is a 2008 film, but it did not get released in Canada until 2009.

2010: Winter’s Bone – Great film that more people need to see.

2011 (so far): Beauty Day - A film that will be shown at Hot Docs this year. Rubber would be a close second.

The High Cost of Living Emotionally Taxing

The High Cost of Living

Back in September, during my last day of TIFF, I was at the point where I had seen my fill of good movies and was not expecting to be struck by any of my remaining films for that day. Especially since none of them had generated much buzz. Then came Deborah Chow’s The High Cost of Living, a film that completely caught me off guard and made me a believer in Zach Braff at the same time.

When a local drug dealer Henry (Zach Braff) strikes down a pregnant woman, Nathalie (Isabelle Blais), while driving drunk, he is riddled with guilt. Compelled to find out if the woman survived or not Henry does all he can to track her down. Unable to come to terms with the lost her unborn child as a result accident, Nathalie still carries the stillborn fetus inside her. When Henry and Nathalie’s path finally cross, Henry is unable to tell her that he was the driver that fateful night. To make matters worse for Henry, he and Nathalie strike up a genuine friendship that grows stronger and stronger.

The High Cost of Living not only ended up winning the Best Canadian First Feature award at TIFF but it also made TIFF’s 2010 Canada’s Top Ten year-end list. Although I am sure some will disagree, I think the film is worthy of the praise it has received. One of the reasons the film works so well is that it finds a way to make a conventional story feel new again. Relationships formed from guilt and grief are not new in cinema, but Deborah Chow manages to find a way to bring real emotional weight to the film.

Part of this is due to the great performances by Isabelle Blais and Zach Braff. Blais has the most of the heavy lifting to do in the film and she sells it wonderfully. Even as Chow piles on the melodrama, such as the moments with her husband, Blais finds a way to make Nathalie continually interesting. Zach Braff was a huge surprise as he proves he can truly lose himself in a role. I never really bought into Braff’s characters in his previous films (Garden State, The Last Kiss, etc.), but Braff finally convinced me he can handle leading man roles on the big screen with his subtle but effective work in this film. Braff and Blais have fantastic chemistry which helps to elevate the film from the “T.V. movie of the week” it could have easily become into a feature film. In many ways their relationship reminded me of the one in Ben Affleck’s The Town but done much better.

Deborah Chow should also be praised for sustaining the film’s overall emotion for as long as she does. She shows immense talent as a writer and is definitely a director to keep an eye on in the future. While the premise of The High Cost of Living may not be new, Chow and her talented lead actors help to make the film a rather pleasant surprise.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hot Docs Week: 20 Films to See at Hot Docs.

This Thursday marks the official start of the 2011 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. Running from April 28th to May 8th, Hot Docs is a festival that showcases the best in documentaries from around the world. Last year, two documentaries featured at Hot Docs, Gasland and Waste Land, went on to receive Oscar nominations at the 2011 Academy Awards. Which films will be honoured this year? Only time will tell, but what I do know is that this year’s list might be the best one yet!

Thanks to the kind folks at both Hot Docs and NFB I have already had the chance to see a few of the films being screened at this year’s festival. I will post my reviews for you starting Thursday. Until then, below is a list of 20 documentaries playing at this year’s festival that caught my eye:

Please note that tickets can be purchased for all these films, and many more documentaries, at the Hot Docs website.

1. Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest
2. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop
3. Beauty Day
4. El Sicario, Room 164
5. All for the Good of the World and Nosovice
6. Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
7. Wiebo’s War
8. How to Die In Oregon
9. The Pirate Tapes
10. Project Nim

11. Despicable Dick & Righteous Richard
12. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975
13. How Are You Doing Rudolf Ming
14. St-Henri, The 26th of August
15. The Bengali Detective
16. Recessionize! For Fun and Profit!
17. Boy Cheerleaders
18. The Redemption of General Butt Naked
19. Matchmaking Mayor
20. Little Voices

Monday, April 25, 2011

Movie Marketing Monday

Point Blank

I enjoy films where average people are pushed to the brink. This thriller looks like it will deliver both suspense and action. Needless to say I am eagerly anticipating this film!

The Change-Up

Jason Bateman could use a comedic hit, Ryan Reynolds has been comedic gold at the box office. Is it a match made in heaven? Or are audiences getting tired of seeing grown men acting immature?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading, and Listening, Schedule for Today:

10 am: The Mamo podcast hits its 200th episode! To celebrate the guys are inviting everyone to take part in their summer box office contest.

11 am: Simoncolumb thinks that Easy Rider holds up exceptionally well.

12 pm: Episode 47 of the French Toast Sunday podcast talks about the top heist movies.

1 pm: After enduring Water for Elephants, Jose continues the circus theme by reviewing Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus.

2 pm: Custard decide to give his girls an education in 80’s family cinema (i.e. Labyrinth and The NeverEnding Story) .

3 pm: Ruth unveils the second part of her 15 period drama heroes list.

4 pm: Jack names the Top 5 Vincent Cassel films.

5 pm: Fletch has a hilarious review of The Lincoln Lawyer.

6 pm: Mette reviews Ek Hasina Thi.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Which is Better?

Philip Seymour Hoffman
10 sample films:

Boogie Nights
Before the Devil Knows Your Dead
Almost Famous
Synecdoche, New York
Mission Impossible III
Owning Mahowny


Paul Giamatti
10 sample films:

American Splendor
Barney’s Version
Saving Private Ryan
The Illusionist
The Truman Show
Cinderella Man
Private Parts
Planet of the Apes

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

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Garden of Hope Screening at Hot Docs

The Garden of Hope

A boy suffering from multiple sclerosis. He spends his days between treatments, memories, imagination and his struggle to stand. A struggle fought with dignity, courage, faith and love for life.

A film on the will to live and on the private space of those suffering, on the innermost thoughts...

Antonello Faretta’s The Garden of Hope is the intimate space inside each of us, where we grow the flowers of Strength, of Love and Grace in order to hold out against Life’s hard trials.

Complete Hot Docs schedule for The Garden of Hope:

Wednesday, May 4 at 9:15 pm, The Royal Ontario Museum Theatre
Friday, May 6 at 7:00 pm, The Royal Cinema

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

5 Tips for Surviving Film Festivals / Movie Marathons

As Hot Docs is quickly approaching, I will share a few film festival survival tips that I have learned over the years from attending various festivals. Even if there are no film festivals in your area, these tips can easily be adapted for any at home DVD / Netflix movie marathon (see at home options below):

1) Diversify Your Film Choices – It is always tempting to select nothing but high profile films. The ones with the “big names” attached often come with their own built-in hype. Yet not every high profile film is a guaranteed winner. Sometimes it is the films that you had no preconceived expectations about that surprise you the most. That is why I always try, whenever possible, to select films from each festival category available (e.g. Special Presentations, World Showcase, Canadian Spectrum, etc).

At Home Marathon: Select one film from at least six different genres (e.g. Action, Foreign, Drama, Documentary, Horror, Sci-fi, etc.)

2) Make Sure You Have Room to Run! – In a perfect world it would be nice to leave the theatre and take a leisurely walk to the next film. Unfortunately, part of the festival experience consists of running from theatre to theatre with mere minutes to spare in between films. When possible, it is important to include travel time when planning your schedule. Delays and Q&A’s can often throw off the film's running time so it is always nice to have a little buffer to ensure you do not miss the beginning of your next film.

At Home Marathon: Be sure to take breaks in between each film. Also, mix up the viewing order based on length of film. Do not throw in two three hour films back to back. Slip in an 80 minute film to break things up a bit.

3) Do Not Abuse the Buddy System – I have no problem with people saving seats for friends. I have done it many times myself. Yet try not to save more than two or three seats tops for friends who are running a bit late. There is nothing more annoying than getting to the theatre and seeing someone try and save an ENTIRE ROW for people!

At Home Marathon: If the movie marathon is being held at your house you get first dibs on which seat you want, after that it is every person for themselves. If there is not enough seats, institute a policy where everyone switches seats after each film. That way the same person is not sitting on the floor for six to seven films straight.

4) Eat Often! – This is much easier than it sounds. One of the things that film festivals do is throw your usual eating habits out the window. Sometimes half a day goes by before you get anything of substance in your system. Eat whenever you can, even if you are not particularly hungry, this will give you the extra energy boost you need to sit through all those movies, and run from theatre to theatre.

At Home Marathon: Make sure there are plenty of munchies available. Have everyone chip in a few bucks for a couple of late night pizzas as well.

5) Know Your Limits – There is no shame in “tapping out” on a given day. While movie lovers want to see as many films as possible, sometimes the body has different plans. While “power naps” in the theatre can be helpful, there will be times when you just have to call it a day and start again tomorrow.

At Home Marathon: Ensure that you have ample room for people to stay over. Several will start falling asleep just before the 3 am viewing of the latest Stallone movie. This brings up another important point! Try to keep the action flick until later in the night. 3 in the morning is no time to start a slow moving Jane Austin period piece.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Movie Marketing Monday

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Although I was secretly hoping for something more along the lines of the The Simpsons’ Planet of the Apes musical, I must admit that I am really looking forward to this film.


This film feels like a cross between Hanna and Enemy of the State. Taylor Lautner will have an uphill battle convincing people that he is a viable action star. Still, the strong supporting cast leads me to believe that this film might actually defy the skepticism many will have going into the film.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading, and Listening, Schedule for Today:

10 am: In Episode 32 of The Matineecast podcast, Hatter and Bob discuss Source Code and list their favourite time travel films.

11 am: As part of their Shootout At High Noon Marathon, Bill offers a rebuttal to Edgar’s assessment of The Wild Bunch.

12 pm: Episode 41 of the Reel Insight podcast has Jess and Rachel looking at the career of Cate Blanchett.

1 pm: Tom reviews Rango, a film that I still need to see.

2 pm: Rodney gives Downfall the ten star treatment.

3 pm: Univarn asks the question: What do we know about ‘Mendacity’.

4 pm: Lesya lists the 100 things she loves about movies.

5 pm: Dan decides to take an Indecent Proposal.

6 pm: In Episode 38 of the A Fistful of Popcorn podcast the guys question whether geek culture expects too much from films nowadays? They also rate the upcoming summer movie season.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Which is Better?

Samuel L. Jackson
10 sample films:

Eve’s Bayou
Snakes on a Plane
A Time to Kill
Deep Blue Sea
Pulp Fiction
The Man
Jungle Fever


Nicolas Cage
10 sample films:

Ghost Rider
Leaving Las Vegas
Wild at Heart
The Rock
The Wicker Man
Red Rock West
The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans

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

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Black Dynamite Month

Recently The LAMB announced that they were bringing back their Movie of the Month feature. The LAMB is asking bloggers to watch this month's selected film, Black Dynamite, and write something related to the film. As a big fan of the film, I decided to post ten random things I love about Black Dynamite:

1. “Haha! I threw that s*** before I walked in the room!” – Hands down the best line of the movie!

2. Dynamite the ladies man – Black Dynamite not only beds three women at once, but the camera pans out to reveal that there are two more women passed out in the bed as well. Even James Bond has never been that successful with the ladies.

3. Gloria – I have been a fan of Salli Richardson-Whitfield ever since I saw her in Posse back in 1993. While she has several great moments in the film, I quite enjoy the way she inspects the girls to see if there is any relation to Dynamite.

4. Interrupting his Kung Fu – Many will quote the “how many times have I told you not to call here and interrupt my Kung Fu!” line which, in itself, is funny. Yet what makes this scene special for me is the guy on the ground who tries his hardest to escape Black Dynamite only to run into...Black Dynamite.

5. Cream Corn – I always enjoy Tommy Davidson’s work on In Living Color and I thought he did a great job as Cream Corn. From his "I'm Running Thangs" delivery to the foot chase that proceeds the line, Cream Corn is pure gold.

6. Shootout at Jimmy’s apartment – The music lets you know that there is going to be bad guys hidden inside. I also like how the car starts to roll away from the villain before he can fully get inside.

7. Jimmy’s death scene – Trying to be a gangster from the hood, yet speaking like a Shakespeare-trained thespian, Baron Vaughn is hilarious in his brief role as Black Dynamite’s brother Jimmy.

8. Anaconda Malt Liquor – What starts off as a spoof on the cheesy commercials of the era turns into one of the best sight gags in recent years.

9. Captain Kangaroo Pimp – Just the fact that they thought of having a Captain Kangaroo type character in the film is great.

10. Bullhorn’s Slap - It is a brief gag but man does it work well. I love that, instead of cutting the footage all together, the director just brings in another actor to finish the scene.

Be sure to stop by The LAMB this Saturday to see all the Black Dynamite related posts.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Adventures in Podcasting: LAMBcast #63

LAMBcast # 63

In case you missed it, I stopped by the LAMBcast to discuss Sucker Punch and The Hangover 2 trailer. Also, I get royally spanked in the Remember the Times game. Share your thoughts on the episode in the comments section below.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Movie Marketing Monday


Lars Von Trier + wonderful cast + Science Fiction = Me running to the theatre. Lars Von Trier is one of those directors whose films I will watch regardless. His work usually gets a strong reaction out of me.


Did Shakespeare really write all his works? I remember one of my university professors stating that he believed it was Christopher Marlowe who actually wrote the famous plays and poems. While I am not sure that Roland Emmerich, the man who brought us films such as Independence Day and 10,000 B.C., can get to the bottom of the debate, I am willing to see where this particular film takes us.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Wiebo's War Screening at Hot Docs

I am in the midst of writing a few reviews for documentaries that will be screened at the upcoming Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. I plan to have the reviews posted to coincide with the festival. In the meantime, here is some information about one of films that the National Film Board of Canada is producing at this year’s Hot Docs festival:

Wiebo's War

Wiebo’s War tells the story of a Christian community at war with the oil and gas industry.

Wiebo Ludwig is a suspect in a 2008 string of pipeline bombings that echoes a campaign of sabotage he was accused of waging against the oil and gas industry in the 90s, during which roads were barricaded and wells blown up. When a 16-year-old girl was fatally shot on his family’s farm in 1999, the unsolved tragedy thrust Ludwig’s fight with the industry further into the media spotlight.

The Ludwig family lives in northern Alberta, in the heart of Canada’s oil patch. They arrived there 25 years ago, wanting to live more closely in accordance with their Christian beliefs and the Scripture. They built their community in the wilderness with their own hands, not knowing that it lay on top of one of the largest undeveloped fields of natural gas on the continent. Others took whichever buyout was on offer, accommodating the oil and gas industry. After years of trying to deal with the industry, politicians and the media, Ludwig and his family went to war.

Their community is self-sufficient in food and electricity, but isolated. Apart from Ludwig and his wife Mamie, there are five married couples, seven unmarried adults and 38 grandchildren, many entering their teenaged years. They are security conscious, aware that they are being watched, open to the outside world, but guarded.

And they believe that those who don’t share their beliefs, like filmmaker David York, are living in terrible darkness.

Complete Hot Docs schedule for Wiebo's War:

April 30 7:00 p.m. Isabel Bader Theatre
May 3 7:15 p.m. TIFF Bell Lightbox 4
May 7 6:30 p.m. Regent Theatre

The controversial Ludwig, along with filmmaker David York, will be in attendance at the April 30th screening.

Wiebo’s War had its world premiere at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival (March 11 to 20, 2011) in Thessaloniki, Greece. The film was produced by David York for 52 Media and Bonnie Thompson for the NFB.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading, and Listening, Schedule for Today:

10 am: In Episode 207 of the Cinecast podcast, the guys discuss Source Code, Insidious, Red Riding Trilogy, and much more.

11 am: Edgar found Guillermo del Toro‘s The Devil’s Backbone rather disappointing.

12 pm: Episode 31 of the Movie Moxie podcast talks about Hobo With a Shotgun, the martial arts genre and more.

1 pm: The Source Code has Castor thinking about time travel. He wants to know, if you had your own time machine, where would you go?

2 pm: Episode 38 of the Frankly, My Dear podcast dissects Rubber and lists the Top 5 movies that deserve action figures.

3 pm: Matt takes a detailed look at The Scream Trilogy.

4 pm: Danny review The Lincoln Lawyers.

5 pm: Andrew examines a few key shots from Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures.

6 pm: In Episode 20 of the MILFcast, Kai and Heather list their Top 3 most anticipated films of the summer.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Which is Better?

Cate Blanchett
10 sample films:

Oscar and Lucinda
The Gift
I’m Not There
The Aviator
Notes on a Scandal
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Good German
The Talented Mr. Ripley


Kate Winslet
10 sample films:

Heavenly Creatures
Finding Neverland
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Revolutionary Road
The Reader
Little Children
The Life of David Gale

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

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Bronson Performs On Cue But Misses Mark


Can a film survive without good acting? Normally I would answer ‘yes’ as there are so many factors that make up a successful film. Direction, plot, cinematography and many other aspects will change the outcome of a film. In the case of Bronson though, once you take away Tom Hardy’s invigorated performance it becomes clear that the film does not have much else to offer.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn chronicles the life of Charles Bronson (Tom Hardy), not the celebrated American actor, but the man who became Britain’s most notorious prisoner. Born Michael Peterson, Bronson displayed a lust for violence at an early age. Bronson’s penchant for fighting, and aversion to obeying the law, eventually leads him to a prison sentence. While most would see prison as punishment, Bronson viewed it as a training ground to perfect his fighting skills. Shuffled from prison to prison, Bronson begins to make a name for himself while the financial cost to tax payers skyrockets. What compels Bronson to fight so much? What does he hope to achieve? These are questions that only Bronson himself seems to know the answers to.

As I mentioned earlier, Bronson is a film that succeeds solely on the performance of Tom Hardy. Bringing a raw energy to the role, Hardy manages to make Bronson both menacing and oddly fascinating. Hardy commits to the role in a way that few actors would dare attempt. His performance allows the first half of the film to really explore Bronson’s state of mind. Refn wisely sets a section of the film inside a theatre to illustrate the fact that Bronson, in his own mind, is an entertainer putting on a show for the world.

The problem with Refn’s film is that it becomes repetitive fairly quickly. This is demonstrated from the moment Bronson is released from prison for a short period of time. Despite throwing in a few colourful characters here and there, most notably Paul Daniel (Matt King) who steals the few scenes he is in, Refn does not have any other insight about Bronson other than the fact that Bronson sees himself as a celebrity. Sure there are a few scenes with Alison (Juliet Oldfield) to show that Bronson is capable of love, but most of the film consist of Bronson getting into fights and talking about his self-perceived celebrity status. As a result, the second half lags greatly and feels much longer than it should have been.

Even when the film tries to redeem itself by offering a glimpse into Bronson’s new found interest in art, it never gets past the surface level. While Refn finds some creative ways of displaying the artwork on screen, he quickly goes back to his safety blanket of showing Bronson as a mad man who thought he was famous. While it is very possible that the real-life Bronson was mad and had a weird obsession with celebrity, this does not necessarily translate into a great film. By the end of Bronson I felt like I had not really learned much about the man I had just spent an hour and a half with. Hardy’s performance couple with Refn’s visual style in the first half is worth a recommendation alone. Yet, the repetitive nature of the second half really shows how thin on substance Bronson really is.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Hobo With a Shotgun Gets Spare Change Quicker

Hobo With a Shotgun

If the classic television show, The Littlest Hobo, and Jason Eisener’s debut feature, Hobo With a Shotgun, are any indication, Canada is filled with helpful Hobos. Granted, Eisener’s film takes place in the fictional Scumtown, yet the look and feel of the film is distinctly Canadian circa 1970s.

Based on the fake trailer of the same name that appeared prior to the Canadian screening of the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse double feature, Hobo with a Shotgun tells the story of a Hobo (Rutger Hauer) who happens upon a town where corruption is running rampant. Ruled by the ruthless Drake(Brian Downey), who revels in the theatre of violence that he creates, and his two sons, Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman), Scumtown is a place where drug dealers, pedophiles, and petty thieves rule the streets. Similar to the decent folks in Scumtown, Hobo tries to ignore the deteriorating town to focus on his goal of saving up enough money to buy a lawnmower. Unfortunately, Hobo can only keep out of trouble for so long. With a shotgun in his hand and a local prostitute, Abby (Molly Dunsworth), as his only ally, Hobo tries to clean up Scumtown one bullet at a time.

Hobo With a Shotgun is a film that wears its love for the grindhouse genre on its sleeve. In many ways the film feels like a more authentic exploitation film than Machete. One of the flaws with Machete was that the last half of the film felt more Hollywood spoof than it did a true grindhouse film. Hobo with a Shotgun, on the other hand, remains consistent throughout. Eisener revels in the over-the-top violence just as much as his villains do. He not only sets the tone early by featuring a decapitation in the first ten minutes of the film, but also emphasizes the point by having a bikini clad woman rubbing the spouting blood over her body. Despite the excessive violence, Eisener ensure that it is all relevant to the film. The villains are so evil that, in a slightly twisted way, the audience fields gratified when Hobo starts delivering his own unrelenting brand of justice.

Eisener’s film not only embraces the gory violence of the genre, but the absurd humour as well. From the idea of a Hobo dreaming of starting his own lawnmower business, despite not having a home to store it or a car to transport it, to humans being used as piñatas, there are many wonderfully absurd gags in the film. One of the best gags involves the demonic bounty hunters, known as The Plague, who happen to have a giant octopus in their lair. The funny thing is that the other characters act as if this is just a regular day at The Plague household.

The acting in the film ranges from decent to intentionally bad, which is to be expected from this type of film. Rutger Hauer does a good job of conveying that Hobo is a man who may not be quite right in the head but has good heart nonetheless. He also really elevates the other cast members who share screen time with him. If you do not enjoy the grindhouse genre, than you probably will not find Hobo With a Shotgun entertaining at all. If you happen to be a fan of the genre, and can handle the over-the-top violence, than Hobo With a Shotgun is worth checking out. It is a good modern day example of what makes exploitation films so much fun.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Movie Marketing Monday

The Three Musketeers

Is it just me? Or is this film trying really hard to cash in on the success of Pirates of the Caribbean. There is something about the look of the film that feels more like Pirates and less like Musketeers.

13 Assassins

Although already on demand in certain markets, Takashi Miike’s latest film hits theatres at the end of April. I tried to get tickets for this at last year’s TIFF, but the film sold out quickly. Needless to say this is high on my list of films to see in 2011

Help Japan by Seeing a Movie

The Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow site is organizing a benefit screening of Yosuke Fujita's Fine, Totally Fine at The Revue Cinema (located at 400 Roncesvalles Avenue) tomorrow night. The cost is only $8 and all proceeds from the screening will be going directly to the Support Japan - GAMBARE relief fund which will be distributed by Japanese aid organization JustGiving to help the survivors of the tragedy.

Although the screening is taking place in Toronto, that does not mean that you cannot show your support for the event if you live outside of the city. If you have not done so already, please consider donating money to any of the organizations below:

JustGiving (Here are the English instructions for donating on the site)
Japan Society
Canadian Red Cross
American Red Cross
British Red Cross

Friday, April 01, 2011

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading Schedule for Today:

10 am: In Episode 44 of the French Toast Sunday podcast, the gang discuss movie locations they would love to live in.

11 am: M. Hufstader gets back on the James Bond train with this review of Goldfinger.

12 pm: Top 10 Films lists the Top 10 actors who can sing.

1 pm: Robert shares his thoughts on the Midnight in Paris trailer. Hopefully Woody Allen hits this one out of the park.

2 pm: S.M. Rana has been exploring the works of Coppola and discusses The Godfather Part III.

3 pm: TheVoid99 looks at Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story.

4 pm: Rachel disagrees with me on Sucker Punch. Her review eloquently shows why she found it to be a flawed but enjoyable film.

5 pm: Will reviews a film called Bad Channels.

6 pm: Rupert gives us his Cinematic Alphabet.