Monday, October 31, 2011

Small Bites: House of Games, On the Waterfront

House of Games

I had been itching to watch David Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner again but House of Games more than fulfilled my Mamet fix for a few months. Mamet is one of those filmmakers whose dialogue plays like music to my ears. House of Games is no different as each scene feels like an advanced lesson in screenwriting. Mamet takes his time to detail how each con is constructed all the while constructing a bigger con unbeknownst to the viewer. Lindsay Crouse gives a solid performance in the film. It is easy to see why her character, Dr. Margaret Ford, would be swayed by Joe Mantegna’s con artist Mike. If you enjoy films about con artist, or the confidence game in general, then House of Games should be up your alley.

House of Games is part of our "The Must See List" series. The film was recommended by Colin.

On the Waterfront

It is amazing how many times I have seen the “I could have been a contender” scene but never actually got around to seeing the entire film. There is not much to add to heaps of the praise that the film has already received. While Marlon Brando won the Academy Award for best Actor, the highlight of the film for me was Karl Malden’s Father Barry. Malden allows Barry to be the voice of reason in the film without becoming overly preachy. Although the film is exceptional from beginning to end, the last act in particular really resonated with me. It was great to see Terry finally become a man and stand up for what was right despite the consequences. On the Waterfront is a classic film that still feels relevant even in this age.

On the Waterfront is part of our "The Must See List" series.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: In Episode 93 of Film Yarn podcast, Fredo and Monique compare and contrast Warrior and Real Steel.

10 am: Episode 341 of the Film Junk podcast talks Paranormal Activity 3.

11 am: Alex, a blogger I had the pleasure of meeting in person this past week at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, shares her thoughts on The Divide.

12 pm: Paul was fortunate enough to see The Adventures of Tintin.

1 pm: Edgar reviews Hashoter.

2 pm: Steven takes a look at Cat People, a film I still need to see.

3 pm: Lindsay list the 5 best Kate Winslet roles.

4 pm: Adina list Dead Poets Society and Before Sunrise as films she wishes she was apart of.

5 pm: Matt reviews Get Low.

6 pm: Bonjour Tristesse has seen one of my most anticipated film of the year, A Separation.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Toronto After Dark 2011: Vs


As the marketplace becomes flooded with more and more superhero inspired films, the question arises whether or not there are any stories left to tell? It seems that everything from the emotionally damaged hero (Batman Begins, Spider-Man, Watchmen) to the average Joe trying to be a hero (Kick-Ass, Super, Defendor) has been captured on film. Avid comic book readers would tell you that there is a plethora of tales still left to tell and director Jason Trost would probably agree. In his latest feature, Vs, Trost attempts to take the superhero genre in a direction that is rarely seen on the big screen.

The film follows four superheroes who wake up in a seemingly abandoned town with no recollection of how they got there. Little do they know that they are about to participate in a sinister game orchestrated by their arch-nemesis, Rickshaw (James Remar), which consist of a series of rounds each deadlier than the next. Stripped of their powers and with innocent lives at stake, the heroes must not only figure out how to stop Rickshaw but also how much they are willing to sacrifice in order to do so.

Vs is a film that could have really made an impact on the genre given the right components. There are several great ideas in the film that are never fully realized. The film’s overall premise is solid and Trost does a good job of providing character backgrounds without resorting to making a full-blown origin story. The way Trost uses flashbacks in the story is effective, though it would have been better had those scenes arrived earlier in the film. Vs also benefits greatly from the hilariously over-the-top performance of James Remar. Providing much needed levity to the film, Remar is a treat to watch.

Sadly Remar’s hilarious performance as Rickshaw does little to hide the film’s two main flaws, the script and the character of Shadow (Sophie Merkley). The script for VS was written in one week and it shows. Aside from the characters of Charge (Trost) none of the other characters are fully realized. What is more infuriating is that there are numerous scenes where the heroes act like it is their first day on the job. Yes, they are trying to cope with not having their powers anymore, but that is no excuse for the levels of inept behaviour that occurs in the film.

Often characters stand around dumbfounded when obvious solutions are right in front of them. An example of this is the scene where Cutthroat (Lucas Till) is trying to defuse a bomb before it detonates and kills innocent people. Without his super speed Cutthroat is at a lost as to how to stop the fuse until Charge grabs the ax laying right beside Cutthroat. No character succumbs to moments like this more than Shadow. There comes a point, before her super powers are revealed, when the audience cannot help but wonder if stupidity is her special ability. If she is not pointing out the obvious with lines like “these coffins have our names on it”, Shadow is waiting for someone to tell her what to do. This is especially disappointing since she is the lone female character in the entire film.

Given more time to refine the script Jason Trost could have had an outstanding film on his hands. The film itself looked great despite its small budget, and Trost’s concept clearly shows he has a good understanding of superhero mythos. However the weak script and annoying characters keep Vs from being the superhero film it really wants to, and should, be.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Which is Better?

Jim Broadbent
6 sample films:

Moulin Rouge!
The Crying Game
Vera Drake
Hot Fuzz
Time Bandits
Gangs of New York
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Another Year


Tom Wilkinson
6 sample films:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Michael Clayton
Batman Begins
The Full Monty
Black Knight
The Green Hornet
In the Bedroom
Shakespeare in Love

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas Always Last to Bed

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Is it considered heartless to feel nothing for a film that focuses on children during the Holocaust? This is the question I struggled with after watching The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. The film does everything in its power to pull on the viewer’s heart-strings, but it ultimately left me feeling cold and annoyed.

Based on the best selling novel by John Boyne, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas explores the friendship between two eight year-old boys, Bruno (Asa Butterfield) and Shmuel (Jack Scanlon). Bruno is the son of an SS officer, Ralf (David Thewlis) and Shmuel is a prisoner in a concentration camp. Too young to truly understand the enormity of World War II, Bruno assumes Shmuel is merely living on a farm with other the pyjama wearing farmers. Separated by a fence, the two boys become good friends despite their individual circumstances. However, it is only a matter of time before the horrors of the world shatters their innocence.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a film that would have benefited from more time to flesh out the story. Running at a scant 93 minutes, the film feels like it was adapted from Cliff-Notes, instead of an actual novel due to lack of character depth. While the increasing strained relationship between Ralf and is wife, Elsa (Vera Farmiga), is interesting, director Mark Herman does not take the time to truly explore the dynamics of their relationship. Instead he spends most of his time focusing on the weakest character in the entire film, Bruno.

Herman is so concerned with beating the audience over the head with Bruno’s innocence that Herman neglects to make him an interesting character that the audience wants to follow. Bruno’s naïve characteristics get increasingly annoying, and somewhat insulting, as the film progresses. Although Herman wants the audience to believe the boys are simple unaware of how the grown up world works, Bruno is clearly aware that his life is more privileged than Shmuel. An example of this comes when Bruno lies to save himself despite knowing Shmuel will be punished as a result. This is especially apparent when the film reaches its climax. It is tough to believe that Bruno would make the choices he does for Shmuel. The final scenes are meant to be a stark awaking for both the characters and the audience, but it fails to connect on an emotional level.

Part of the problem is due to the lack of time Herman spends on Shmuel. A more balanced display of the vastly different lives the two boys are leading would have made for a far more compelling film. Shmuel is often nothing more than a convenient plot point to allow Herman to move from one point to the next. It is likely that the Shmuel, and the rest of the characters, were developed in greater detail in the novel. However from a cinematic standpoint, the film feels like its only purpose is to manipulate the audience into crying every twenty minutes. Unfortunately this is hard to accomplish when there is so little in the film for the audience to truly connect to with.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is part of our "The Must See List" series. The film was recommended by HKB

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Head-On Collision Reveals Deep Wounds

Head-On (Gegen Die Wand)

The idea of a marriage of convenience is nothing new in the world of cinema. In fact it seems to have been approached from every possible angle. This is why it is refreshing to see Faith Akin’s interpretation of the subject in his fascinating film Head-On. Winner of The Golden Bear Award for Best film at the 2004 Berlin International Film Festival, the film is a dark romance that highlights how love can develop in the most unexpected ways.

After intentionally driving his car into a wall, Cahit (Birol Unel) is sent to a psychiatric clinic where he meets Sibel (Sibel Kekilli). A fellow Turkish German like Cahit, Sibel is in the clinic for her attempted suicides. Out of nowhere Sibel proposes that the pair get married. Sibel knows that a traditional Turkish wedding is the only way she can escape her demanding family. Cahit ignores Sibel’s request at first but eventually agrees to the fake union. Although the pair live more like roommates than an actual married couple, Cahit cannot help but feel drawn to Sibel despite his better judgment.

Head-On is as much a tale of female independence as it is a story of two damaged souls finding love. Sibel would rather die than suffer another day of abuse at the hand of her family. The fake marriage provides her with freedom from both a mental and sexual standpoint. However Sibel’s story arc also hinders the film somewhat. There is a very dark section of the film where Sibel is on a self-destructive path. The scenes are tough to watch and break up the great flow that the film had previously established.

Fortunately Akin wisely steers the film back on track by focusing on Cahit and Sibel’s complex relationship. Both Unel and Kekilli give brilliant performances in their respective roles. Their interpretations of the characters allow the film to avoid many of the plot conventions that arise in similar films. The choices that each character makes by the end of Head-On feels natural instead of contrived. This is due to the fact that Akin takes his time to develop Cahit and Sibel’s unique relationship. He makes sure to factor in the cultural ramification along with the personal ones that they both face.

Stylistically speaking Akin makes some daring choices that pay off surprisingly well. Most notably the use of a chorus to introduce each act is rather effective. Besides sparingly utilizing freeze frames, Akin uses several tricks to help bring a lighter tone to parts of the film. Simple shots such as when the camera pans out as Sibel is walking down the street in her wedding dress gives the film moments of whimsy.

Although the needless detour in the third act into Sibel’s self-destructive side keeps the film from truly being great. Head-On is an extremely engaging film that turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Head-On (Gegen Die Wand) is part of our "The Must See List" series. The film was recommended by Anonymous.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Toronto After Dark 2011: Love


In many ways the making of Love exemplifies everything the film represents. The film deals with the importance of human connection and the fact that the film even exist is thanks in part to the numerous people who donated their time and talents, often for free, to help the project reach completion. Made over the course of four years, Love was original a series of music videos before director William Eubank and his producer Angel and Airwaves frontman, and Blink 182 member, Tom DeLonge realized that they had something much bigger on their hands.

Set in the future, 2039 to be exact, Love follows a astronaut, Lee Miller (Gunner Wright) on the International Space Station who finds himself stranded after an apocalyptic event cuts off his communication with Earth. With no knowledge of what has occurred Miller tries desperately to fight off the madness that his lengthy isolation has brought on. After coming across a mysterious journal, Miller soon discovers that the past may hold the answers to his future.

Love is a film that demands multiple viewings in order to unlock all of the symbolism flowing through the film. It is constantly hammering home the importance of human connections in relation to what it truly means to live and love. Without connections there can be no existence. Eubank explores this by incorporating strategically placed interviews with “average” people from different walks of life. He also slowly details how isolation, the ultimate villain in the film, can slowly cause a person to forget everything they hold dear.

Gunner Wright does an exceptional job portraying a man approaching his breaking point. Given the task of carrying the majority of the film by himself, Wright is more than up to the task. At first his performance will remind audiences of Sam Rockwell’s character in Moon, however as the film progresses Wright clearly provides his own take on the stranded in space concept. It also helps that William Eubank offers a lot of visual flair to the overall film, which allows the audience to take the occasional break from the lengthy isolation scenes.

Despite its modest budget, Love has the visual feel of a big budget motion picture. There are numerous scenes where the audience will be questioning “how did they do that?” What is even more impressive is that Eubank shot most of the film in the backyard of his parent’s ranch and build many of the sets himself. The visuals are especially stunning in the civil war scene at the beginning and the trippy space-like scenes in the latter acts.

Speaking of the latter acts, this is where the film is make or break for viewers. There is a point where the film, after focusing on Miller’s lengthy isolation, veers in a direction that is not expected. It will take several viewings before it will become clear whether or not Eubank’s decision to do this was a successful one. However as a piece of science fiction, Love offers much to think about. The ending left me a little confused but in a good way. Love is a film that I look forward to deciphering further upon multiple viewings.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: In Episode 64 of the Reel Insight podcast, Jess and Rachel examine Morgan Freeman’s career.

10 am: Episode 340 of The Film Junk podcast discusses The Thing prequel/remake.

11 am: Joanna has an interesting editorial on what to expect when you’re spectating at the theatre.

12 pm: Kevyn lists the 10 best P.T. Anderson characters

1 pm: Puck reviews Diabolique.

2 pm: Matt takes a look at the film Monster Brawl. The opening night film at this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival.

3 pm: Anna reviews Heavenly Creatures, one of my favourite films.

4 pm: Colin explores Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.

5 pm: Steve has an interesting piece Metropolis.

6 pm: Daniel give four stars to REC2. I finally got around to seeing the original REC this week. Enjoyed that film, and the American remake, quite a bit.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Due Date: Planes, Trains and The Hangover Guy

I finally got around to seeing Due Date, the road trip comedy starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. All the while I was watching the movie, I kept thinking of two other films – Planes, Trains and Automobiles and The Hangover. Like Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Due Date is about a cross-country trip involving an incompatible odd couple who are thrust together on account of some unfortunate circumstances and bad luck. And like The Hangover, the film stars Zach Galifianakis as Alan Garner, only this time, his name is Ethan Tremblay.

There was nothing really authentic about the film. I cannot discount its outrageous moments and funny scenarios that provide enough laughs to warrant watching it. However, for me, watching the film was more an exercise in trying not to compare it to the two other, better films it so closely resembles.

Where I think Due Date falls short is with its characters and their relationships. I'm a Robert Downey Jr. fan and I've laughed out loud watching Zach Galifianakis in other comedic roles. Together, I expected a stellar comedy mash-up, but instead I was disappointed by the pairing. As Ethan, Galifianakis simply channels Alan from The Hangover. Ethan is obnoxious, yearning to be liked, socially awkward and quirky just like Alan, but without the endearing childlike cluelessness that makes Alan likeable and worth rooting for. Ethan is gratingly irritating, and you get the sense all along that he knows exactly what he's up to. The similarities between the characters made it difficult for me to see Ethan as authentic and honest rather than as a mere lesser copy of a character that Galifianakis already portrayed but better.

Ethan's road trip companion, Peter (Robert Downey Jr.), is a hostile, mean-spirited ticking time bomb whom I sympathized with in part given his circumstances and what he had to deal with while traveling with Ethan. At other times, however, his brutality seemed misplaced - like when he punched a pre-pubescent kid in the stomach for his bratty behaviour. This and other transgressions by Peter didn't really translate into laughs even of the dark humour variety. It helps to feel a sense of affection for the characters in a comedy, but I found it hard to feel anything for these characters because so few redeeming qualities shone through.

In comparison, Steve Martin and John Candy infused their characters in Planes, Trains and Automobiles with naturalness and heart. Del (John Candy) won my heart when he sat hurt and saddened after Neal (Steve Martin) exploded, telling Del that his jokes stunk, and that he was a dull gasbag. Del’s face saddens and he simply says “Oh, I see,” and this moment shows such truth in Candy’s performance and Martin plays to it so effectively and believably. John Hughes who wrote, directed and produced the film did what he did best as a filmmaker – he produced a real story with clearly defined characters with an underlying theme of empathy and understanding at the heart of it. The character development works wonderfully in the film as it’s clear who Del and Neal are. Del is a gregarious man who simply wants to please and tries his hardest no matter what, and Neal is an aloof, judgmental man who simply wants to be left alone.

In the end, the film delivers a moment of real poignancy as Neal experiences a realization that transforms the way he thinks and feels. He realizes that, like Del, he's also rather lonely and that he shouldn't judge others by first appearances or by his own high standards. The film contains moments of real emotion amidst the hilarity and the combination makes for a truly great film. Due Date suffers because it tells the same kind of story, but without the same heart and without central characters with heart.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Which is Better?

John Carpenter
10 sample films:

Escape from New York
Ghost of Mars
The Thing
Big Trouble in Little China
They Live
In the Mouth of Madness
Village of the Dammed
The Ward


Wes Craven
10 sample films:

A Nightmare on Elm Street
The Last House on the Left
The Serpent and the Rainbow
Paris, je t’aime
The People Under the Stairs
Vampire in Brooklyn
Music of the Heart
Red Eye

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Paths of Glory Not So Glorious

Paths of Glory

There are directors who can only master one specific genre and then there are directors who are seemingly masters of every genre. Stanley Kubrick is one of those directors who most would agree falls into the latter category. However, I find that I enjoy Kubrick’s work the least when he is delving into the war genre. While I enjoyed parts of Full Metal Jacket, the film on a whole did not quite work for me. As shocking as it may sound, I disliked Paths of Glory even more.

Set during World War I, and based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb, Paths of Glory recounts the events that lead up to three French soldiers being executed as an example for others to carry on the fight. When tragedy strikes after an ill-advised scouting mission, General Mireau (George Macready) decides to deflect attention from his poor leadership by placing the blame on some of the soldiers in his platoon. Despite the protest from Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas), three innocent soldiers are picked to take the fall. The first is Corporal Paris (Ralph Meeker) who confronted his lieutenant, Roget (Wayne Morris), about lying in his report about the scouting mission. Private Arnaud (Joe Turkel), is picked at random despite his outstanding record, and Private Ferol (Timothy Carey) is picked because he is deemed unacceptable socially. Colonel Dax must use his legal knowledge to defend the men in a court martial where the odds are stack against him from the very beginning.

Paths of Glory is a heavy handed anti-war commentary that is more of a courtroom drama than a traditional war film. It is clear that Kubrick is making a clear a point on the senselessness of war. The men in positions to make the most important decisions are essentially cowards. The real heroes are the individuals on the front lines whose lives are basically toyed with by the generals with little regard.

Despite having nothing against the film’s overall message, Kubrick’s delivery is rather uninteresting. The story is straightforward and there are very few characters that are actually interesting. The only character that was truly intriguing was Private Ferol. Even though he is billed as the star, Kirk Douglas feels more like a secondary character than a true lead. Colonel Dax just does not have the depth that one would hope for in a film like this.

Considering how well Paths of Glory was received by critics upon its release, it is obvious that the film struck a cord with many. However, I ended up walking away from the film feeling rather disinterested about the whole thing. Paths of Glory just did not have the same impact for me as other Kubrick films.

Paths of Glory is part of our "The Must See List" series.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Taming of the Shrew Easier Said Than Done.

The Taming of the Shrew

The majority of William Shakespeare’s plays are considered timeless classics however Taming of the Shrew has not aged well. This is most apparent when watching Franco Zeffirelli’s adaptation. Hearing the famous speech about women being obedient just does not sit well with modern ears. In order to enjoy The Taming of the Shrew it is crucial to keep in mind the era in which the play was originally written.

In Zeffirelli’s adaptation Elizabeth Taylor stars as Katharina, the ill-tempered daughter of Baptista Minola (Michael Horden). Baptista’s youngest daughter, Bianca (Natasha Pyne), is being courted by several suitors, including Lucentio (Michael York), but Baptista refuses to let Bianca marry unless Katharina is married off first. Desperate for Bianca’s hand, Lucentio bribes the brute Petruchio (Richard Burton) into trying to tame the seemingly untamable heart of Katharina.

The gender politics in the film would have played far better had Zeffirelli not had such high profile stars in the film. The Taming of the Shrew feels more like a film designed for Burton and Taylor to run wild for a few hours. This is not to say that it is entirely a bad thing. Richard Burton really shines in the first two acts as Petruchio. A perfect example of this is when Petruchio shows up extremely drunk, and hours late, to his own wedding.

Although dominant in the beginning, Zeffirelli does not seem to know how to handle Petruchio’s change from buffoon to lovelorn gentlemen. This probably explains why Zeffirelli leaves Elizabeth Taylor to pick up the slack in the last two acts. As odd as it may sound, her best performances in the film are in the scenes where she is “being tamed” by Burton. Although the events that lead to Katharina’s ultimate change seems a little far fetch, Taylor brings enough charm to the role to overlook the shortcomings in the story.

Although The Taming of the Shrew was Zeffirelli’s debut feature film, it is nowhere near as strong as his adaptation of Romeo and Juliet which was released a year later in 1968. In fact, the film is not on par with any of the other Shrew inspired films such as Lina Wertmuller’s outstanding film Swept Away or even the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You. Having said that, there are enough enjoyable moments in The Taming of the Shrew to satisfy even the causal viewer for a few hours.

Taming of the Shrew is part of our "The Must See List" series. The film was recommended by Andrew

Monday, October 17, 2011

Remembering John Hughes and My 10 Favourite John Hughes Films

My last post about Sixteen Candles left me feeling nostalgic. I started thinking about John Hughes and the incredible collection of films he wrote and directed. Hughes became one of the most popular writer-directors of his generation and created a body of work defined by the age in which his films were made. The teen comedy genre of the 80’s began to carry his name and to simply be known as the John Hughes genre. He took simple concepts and settings – an afternoon in detention, a day skipping school, a first date, a family vacation – and filled them with relatable characters and honest, funny moments. He had a list of go-to actors as evidenced by the repeated presence of certain actors in several of his films. He made stars of Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall, and made John Candy a household name.

Despite some of the now dated stereotypes, Hughes' films remain smart and compassionate explorations of teenage life and family life. Nearly every teen-related movie that was made in the 80's was compared either favourably or unfavourably to a John Hughes movie, and his influence on film can still be seen today. In honour of the late filmmaker, here are my top ten John Hughes films.

10. The Great Outdoors

9. Uncle Buck

8. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

7. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

6. Breakfast Club

5. Sixteen Candles

4. Pretty in Pink

3. Some Kind of Wonderful

2. Weird Science

1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

What are you favourite John Hughes movies? Let us know in the comments section.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Reel Asian Holding Free Screening of NIGHT MARKET HERO Oct. 21st

In celebration of their 15th anniversary, the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival is presenting a FREE screening and Canadian Premiere of NIGHT MARKET HERO!

Tien-Lun Yeh’s debut feature, NIGHT MARKET HERO (FRIED CHICKEN HERO in Mandarin), is a heartwarming story about the battle of an outrageous group of food vendors against political and bureaucratic corruption.

Set in the bustling 888 Night Market in Taipei, the film follows the vendors as they compete to win over customers using taste-offs and beauty contests. A-hwa is their handsome union leader, equally devoted to the market and his grandmother. Under his leadership, little rivalries, unspoken romances, and trivial disputes are all part of the fun; at the end of the day, the biggest question is, “Which is better—chicken or steak?”

But the vendors face larger worries when they learn that a real estate company is planning to build a mall where the market is located. Their livelihoods are at stake, and they realize that they must work together or be pushed out. The 888 vendors work with the media to reveal their stories of hardship and family dreams, hoping to win the hearts of the public and thus save their way of life.
Known for their mouth-watering delicacies, cheap goods, and colourful atmosphere, night markets are a central part of Taiwanese culture. This nostalgic comedy was inspired by the director’s experiences as part of the Night Market Vendor Theatre Troupe and was co-written by his sister, Tan-Ching Yeh. In an effort to make the performances more authentic, the director had the actors learn the skills of traditional night market vendors, like how to deep-fry chicken steaks and how to perfect the art of Chinese facial threading.


The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival runs from November 8 - 19th

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: In Episode 34 of The Fantasy Movie Podcast, Ridley Scott’s Legend is the topic of conversation.

10 am: Episode 42 of The Matineecast finds Ryan, and guest Leora, chatting about 50/50.

11 am: Jandy catches up on some of the horror films on her must see list.

12 pm: Toby continues his noir-a-thon with The Phantom Lady

1 pm: Shannon reviews Beautiful Boy, one of my favourite films from TIFF 2010.

2 pm: Will takes a look at the film Jigoku

3 pm: Corey unveils films #16-20 on his list of 20 essential films.

4 pm: Scott ponders if is wrong to already be missing the summer blockbusters so early into fall?

5 pm: Ruth has a conversation with her favourite character, Gone with the Wind’s own Scarlett O’Hara.

6 pm: Jack wonders why Peter Greenaway, the director who made the marvellous film The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover, is not considered one of the top British directors?

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Endearing Endurance of Sixteen Candles

It’s always a treat when I happen upon a John Hughes movie on TV. Movies from the 1980s remind me of my adolescence; of the time when I developed an interest in movies, started watching lots of them, and developed a real love for film.

I still love watching 80's movies today and it's not merely for sentimental reasons. I think many 80's films have stood the test of time and still provide great entertainment even though they represent a different era and can seem a bit dated because of that. What doesn't get old is the way in which 80's films trace the hopes and disappointments of their characters with bittersweet sensibility and honesty.

It was a welcome surprise to find Sixteen Candles on TV last weekend. It’s one of the landmark teen comedies of the 80’s written and directed by John Hughes. The film is silly and full of clichés, with lapses of taste here and there, but it’s also heartwarming, hilarious and full of wacky and wonderful characters.

The film follows the highs and lows of a teenage girl's 16th birthday. Samantha wakes up on her birthday to much disappointment. She's dismayed by the complete lack of physical transformation (having hoped for some signs of physical progression from age 15 to 16.) Her family has forgotten her birthday because they're preoccupied with her sister's imminent wedding. She's got a crush on a handsome senior who she's sure doesn't know she's alive, and she's being stalked by a dork named Ted.

Just when Samantha thought that things couldn’t get any worse, she returns home from school to find that her grandparents have taken over her room, that she’s sleeping on the couch, and that they’ve brought their hapless Japanese exchange student along.

What follows is a high school dance, a heart-to-heart with Ted, a wild house party, a crush revealed, and some unlikely love connections. The combination is one of hilarity, touching honesty, fun surprise and a 16-year-old's perfect ending. In Sixteen Candles, Hughes captures the essence of what it's like to be a teenager in high school and what it's like to be the only teenager in a large family. He poses the question - Does it matter if nobody notices when a girl turns 16? - and offers an honest and touching representation of the angst that's felt at that pivotal age.

Adventures in Podcasting: LAMBcast #87

Episode 87 was one of the increasingly rare "one-off" episodes where host Nick talked to Alan, Fredo, and myself about films that we love that are pretty much unloved or unseen by the rest of the world. So you might call them guilty pleasures, but that moniker might not fit them all so well.

The films mentioned were:

* The Black Cauldron
* Zero Effect
* Hanna
* I'm a Cyborg But That's OK
* Hocus Pocus
* 5 x 2
* Millions
* Surf Ninjas
* American Pie
* Marked for Death
* Pirate Radio
* EuroTrip

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Which is Better?

John Turturro
10 sample films:

Barton Fink
Do the Right Thing
Mr. Deeds
Quiz Show
Box of Moon Light
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Romance & Cigarettes
Miller’s Crossing


Steve Buscemi
10 sample films:

Ghost World
Grown Ups
Reservoir Dogs
The Island
Living in Oblivion
The Big Lebowski
Trees Lounge
Con Air

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Reel Asian Announces Full List of Films

The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival will celebrate its 15th anniversary this year with a series of new initiatives including free screenings, larger venues to accommodate growing audiences, a multi-venue media art installation, special guest filmmakers from across Asia and the world, and a major expansion into Richmond Hill.

Reel Asian is Canada’s longest-running and largest showcase dedicated to contemporary cinema by East Asian and Southeast Asian moviemakers from around the world.

Today’s most talented and recognized Asian filmmakers made their Toronto debuts at Reel Asian – including Cannes Palme D’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Mysterious Objects at Noon in 2002), acclaimed Hong Kong directors Johnnie To, Stephen Chow and Tsui Hark (omnibus film 1:99 in 2003), Oscar-nominated Christine Choy (Ha Ha Shanghai in 2001), and Sundance Grand Prize nominee Lixin Fan (Last Train Home in 2010)

From November 8 to 19, 2011, the festival will present more than 55 films and videos from 12 countries, including Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, China, the U.S. and Vietnam. Reel Asian strives to develop programming that reflects the cultural diversity of Canada and increase public understanding and appreciation of the artistic, social and cultural contributions of those of Asian heritage through film. This year, the festival has expanded by two days to provide an even larger selection of screenings and events!

Highlights include:

OPENING NIGHT GALA: LOVER’S DISCOURSE (Hong Kong 2010, Canadian premiere, director Derek Tsang in attendance)
CENTREPIECE PRESENTATION: JUMP ASHIN! (Taiwan 2011, Canadian premiere, director Lin Yu-hsien in attendance)
CLOSING NIGHT GALA: BUDDHA MOUNTAIN (China 2010, Toronto premiere, guest in attendance)

INTERNATIONAL FEATURES: a selection of award-winning and noteworthy films including
• China – PIERCING 1 by Liu Jian, winner of Best Animated Feature Film, Asia Pacific Screen Awards (2010)
• South Korea – JOURNALS OF MUSAN by Park Jung-Bum, winner of the Tiger Award, Rotterdam Int’l Film Festival (2011)
• South Korea – BLEAK NIGHT by Yoon Sung-Hyun, winner of the FIPRESCI Award, Hong Kong Int’l Film Festival (2011)
• Taiwan ¬– WHEN LOVE COMES by Chang Tso-Chi, winner of 4 Golden Horse Awards including Best Film (2010)
• Thailand – ETERNITY by Sivaroj Kongsakul, winner of the Tiger Award, Rotterdam Int’l Film Festival (2011)

• World Premiere of Cuong Ngo’s PEARLS OF THE FAR EAST

Four installations commissioned by LIFT and Reel Asian, inspired by an archive of 35mm Hong Kong films from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. This collection, recovered by Colin Geddes from the basement of Toronto’s Royal Cinema, includes period dramas, comedies, martial arts movies, and pink films.

Reel Asian's 6th Annual Pitch Competition—So You Think You Can Pitch?—is back for 2011! A collaboration between Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival and Charles Street Video (CSV), this competition features prizes worth a combined value of more than $35,000. Teams of filmmakers will have six minutes each to pitch their projects to vie for $2,000 in cash; distribution through Ouat Media; $10,000 (emerging category) and $18,000 (professional category) worth of production, post services and artist's fees at CSV.

As part of our initiative to reach new audiences beyond the downtown core, Reel Asian expands to include the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts in its official festival programme. We will be opening at Richmond Hill with the premiere of highly anticipated Hong Kong action film OVERHEARD 2.

SCHEDULE AT A GLANCE (chronologically by date)

Opening Night Gala | Tue Nov 8, 7:00 pm | Isabel Bader Theatre | director in attendance
LOVER'S DISCOURSE | Dir. Derek Tsang Kwok Cheung, Jimmy Wan | Hong Kong 2010 | Canadian Premiere
Jumping genres from fantasy to thriller, four overlapping stories of individuals afflicted, troubled and obsessed with love in Hong Kong weave into one. Starring Eason Chan, Karena Lam Ka-Yan.

Youth Presentation | Wed Nov 9, 1:00 pm | NFB Cinema | directors in attendance
These shorts show youth at a crossroads, confronting generational differences, looking beyond their everyday lives, and ultimately discovering their own dreams.

Feature Presentation | Wed Nov 9, 6:45 pm | Innis Town Hall
SUMMER PASTURE | Dir. Lynn True, Nelson Walker | USA/Tibet 2010 | Canadian Premiere | directors in attendance
An intimate look at nomadic life on a remote Tibetan plain as a young family faces mounting pressure to leave behind their traditional way of life.

Shorts Presentation | Wed Nov 9, 8:45 pm | Innis Town Hall | directors in attendance
These delightful stories tell of seniors who have boldly and bravely carved out their own paths; who continue to celebrate their unique identities; who express their artistic desires; and who party like there’s no tomorrow!

Youth Presentation | Thu Nov 10, 1:00 pm | NFB Cinema | directors in attendance
Creepy, crawly, and cute: these animated creatures open doors to our imaginations.

Youth Presentation | Thu Nov 10, 3:00 pm | NFB Cinema
An eye-opening account of three Cambodian-American ex-cons forced to return to their native country.

Canadian Spotlight | Thu Nov 10, 6:30 pm | Innis Town Hall | director in attendance
Eng's original choreographed performances incorporate elegant and disciplined dance with raw intense movements inspired by martial arts.

Feature Presentation | Thu Nov 10, 8:45 pm | Innis Town Hall
FORTUNE TELLER | Dir. Xu Tong | China 2010 | Toronto Premiere
A revealing documentary about an eccentric but charming fortune teller who services a clientele of prostitutes and shadowy figures, who, like him, are living on the fringes of Chinese society.

Shorts Presentation | Fri Nov 11, 6:15 pm | The Royal | directors in attendance
This year’s best of Asian-Canadian shorts look at daily fears and anxieties and demand us to seize the moment and take hold of life.

Feature Presentation | Fri Nov 11, 8:45 pm | The Royal | director in attendance
SAIGON ELECTRIC | Dir. Stephane Gauger | USA/Vietnam 2011 | Canadian Premiere
Hip hop dancers from the tough streets of Saigon befriend a ribbon dancer from the countryside. Together, they must dance for their lives to save the only home they know.

Feature Presentation | Fri Nov 11, 11:30 pm | The Royal
FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST MOVIE: THE SACRED STAR OF MILOS | Dir. Murata Kasuya | Japan 2011 | Toronto Premiere
The infamous Elric brothers’ continuing quest for the Philosopher’s Stone embroils them in a rebellion in the underground city of Milos. Based on Japan’s #1 manga series.

Feature Presentation | Sat Nov 12, 12:00 pm | The Royal
JOURNALS OF MUSAN | Dir. Park Jung-Bum | South Korea 2010 | Canadian Premiere
Bullied at every turn, a lonely North Korean defector in Seoul struggles to survive and maintain his dignity within a society determined to ostracize him.

Feature Presentation | Sat Nov 12, 2:45 pm | The Royal
BLEAK NIGHT | Dir. Yoon Sung-Hyun | South Korea 2010 | Toronto Premiere
The sudden death of a high-school student reveals the complex and competitive power dynamics among teenage boys in this psychological drama from South Korea.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Small Bites: Horrible Bosses, Tokyo Gore Police and Limitless

Horrible Bosses

Horrible Bosses is really a tale of two films, one is extremely funny and the other is misguided. The first half of the film hits all the right comedic notes. Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell are outstanding as they take their characters to the extreme. The writing in this section is witty and fresh and really raises the film above expectations. Unfortunately the film does not sustain its comedic high throughout. The minute the murder scene occurs, the film begins to lose its way. The story never gets as dark as the film’s trailers hint at and, worst of all, Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) go from being smart individuals to bumbling idiots. The choices they make in the second half of the film are simply ridiculous. Not to mention the fact that Aniston’s character pretty much disappears until a few senseless scenes at the end that are only included to tie up some loose plot threads. Fortunately there is enough laughs at the beginning of the film to make the sloppiness of the last two acts bearable.

Tokyo Gore Police

If you are familiar with the Japanese gore genre then you should know what to expect. If have not encountered the genre before, and are not a horror fan, there will be very little in Tokyo Gore Police that you will find entertaining. The plot involves a cop, Ruka (Eihi Shiina) who is trying to track down a mad scientist, Key Man (Itsuji Itao), who is mutating humans into monstrous creatures known as “Engineers”. The plot is really just an excuse for director Yoshihiro Nishimura to find numerous ways to shock his audience. Tokyo Gore Police tries to take perversion to a whole new comedic, and outlandish, level. While Tokyo Gore Police is one of those cult films that critics and bloggers alike seem to enjoy, the most shocking thing about the film is how boring I found it. Besides the hilarious commercial asking to “stop hari-kari” there was nothing that evoked any reaction out of me. Frankly, I enjoyed RoboGeshia, which many consider a lesser film, far more than I did Tokyo Gore Police.

Tokyo Gore Police is part of our "The Must See List" series. The film was recommended by The Critical Critics


There are times when films can overcome its silly premise, but unfortunately this is not one of those times. I was willing to suspend my disbelief at the beginning, but Limitless’ plot got increasingly nonsensical as the film progressed. For example, Eddie (Bradley Cooper) buys a condo that features impenetrable security yet a local drug dealer and his goons break through the three levels of security like it is nothing. It is also hard to believe that of all the people to use the NZT “make you super smart drug”, only Eddie was smart enough to realize that he should mass produce a supply so he does not run out. I also wish the film had utilized both Robert De Niro and Abbie Cornish better. Both are not given anything really challenging or interesting to do. Limitless is a film that works best if you turn your brain off while watching. Unfortunately this was something I was unable to do.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Scene Stealer: Raiders of the Lost Ark

There are so many memorable scenes in the Indiana Jones series. Whittling the list down to just one is a tough enterprise and it will likely be different for everyone, but it was easy enough for me to pick my favourite moment and scene stealer from the Raiders of the Lost Ark because it was unexpected and funny.

When Indiana Jones is confronted by a confident, Egyptian swordsman, whipping his sword around in a flashy, arrogant display, Indy, with a wearied look of fatigue and disgust, simply pulls out his revolver and blows him away. The kill was unexpected and effective in its simplistic swiftness, and it differed from more customary movie scenes of hand-to-hand combat that tend to ensue when two foes face-off. Rarely does an action hero simply act swiftly by using his gun to take out the enemy. Rather, the hero often tosses his pistol away out of some silly sense of pride, choosing instead to duke it out rather than just shoot someone.

The scene has become rather iconic, gracing several "best of" lists like the most memorable movies scenes of all time and the best improvised/unscripted scenes in film. The scene was improvised by Harrison Ford after he grew tired of so many takes in the blazing 130-degree heat of Tunisia. Originally, the script called for a lengthy battle that would have taken about three days to shoot. Ford was experiencing upset stomach issues and suggested that they shoot with just a gunshot, and the change ultimately made the final cut. It has become one of the most famous scenes in the series and among the most memorable in film.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Vertigo A Head Spinner


When people ask me to name a classic film I have not seen, Vertigo is usually the film that immediately comes to mind. It was a film I simply procrastinated on seeing despite ample opportunities. About a month ago I finally decided to give Vertigo a spin. I was a little worried that the years of praise about the film might have raised my expectations higher than they should have been.

One of Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous films, Vertigo tells the story of a retired police detective, John “Scottie” Ferguson (James Stewart) who suffers from acrophobia. Scottie is hired to follow Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak), the wife of an old acquaintance, Gavin (Tom Helmore), who may be possessed. Despite his better judgment Scottie begins to fall for Madeleline. However, when Scottie’s vertigo prevents him from stopping Madeleine’s suicide his life is thrown into a tailspin. Soon Scottie is haunted by nightmares that may either hold the key to Madeliene’s death or drive him mad for good.

Often herald by many as being Hitchcock’s best film, I must admit that Vertigo did not immediately grab me the way I expected. The first hour felt a bit sluggish and I could not help but wonder if there was really any point to the film. My fears that my expectations would be greater than the film look to be coming true, fortunately this all began to change thanks to one iconic scene. The minute the bell tower scene occurred, the film really started to kick into gear.

It is clear that Hitchcock was meticulously setting the stage for what the film was truly about. He ensures that everything he touches on in the first half is revisited again in the latter part to show how the clues were there all along. The dream sequence in the film is fantastic. It perfectly shows the mental distress that Scottie is going through after Madeleine’s death. The scenes were Scottie is on the brink of descending into madness are exceptionally well done.

The performance by James Stewart is what keeps Vertigo fascinating even when it is simply setting up the pieces. Stewart and Novak sell the forbidden love angle perfectly. Although billed as a thriller, Vertigo is also a tragic love story. The love story is extremely effective when looking at how it impacts the film as a whole. While it still does not top Strangers on a Train as my favourite Hitchcock film, Vertigo definitely lived up to the hype and is easily one of Hitchcock’s best films.

Vertigo is part of our "The Must See List" series.