Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: Episode 23 of The Long and Late Movie Show discusses the films Brave, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, and Seeking Friends at the End of the World.

10 am: Episode 110 of TUMP reviews Jeff, Who Lives at Home.

11 am James has an excellent piece on The Problem of Complacency.

12 pm: Chip Lary debates the pros and cons of the shakycam technique in film

Friday, June 29, 2012

Blow Out the Candles: Kathleen Turner

Kathleen Turner turned 58 on June 19th, and seeing her today and considering the place she’s at in her career and the kind of work she’s doing, she is showing every bit of her age, and that’s a good thing.  She made her mark at the age of 25 with her sex appeal and her deep, sultry voice in what is still considered one of the sexiest movies of all time, Body Heat.  Today her trademark voice remains, but it’s huskier and more like a deep growl than a seductive purr.  Her face is etched with wrinkles – marks of wisdom, of perseverance and of experience. She’s lived, struggled and dealt with pain, and all of that is evident in her body and in her face. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Abe Lincoln is Back in the Theatre

While stuck in school on a beautiful day, Bart Simpson once started daydreaming about rafting down the Mississippi River with Huckleberry Finn. Turning his head, he suddenly noticed Abraham Lincoln on the raft with them. 

"Hey Huck, what's L-I-N-C-O-N doing here?" asked Bart, to which Finn naturally responded "I dunno, it's your fantasy." 

Indeed, Bart was free to remake Lincoln however he wanted, and he wasn't the first person to do so. Since his assassination in a Washington D.C. theatre in 1865, Lincoln has been alternately remade into a hero and a villain.  Many people either see him as the man who singlehandedly freed the slaves or the man who cruelly burned the Southern states back into the Stone Age.  

In Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Lincoln is remade once again - this time as a revenge-seeking, axe-wielding destroyer of the undead. Based on the novel of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith (Pride, Prejudice and Zombies), it's exactly as the title suggests (unlike Naked Lunch, as Bart Simpson finds out). 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blind Spot: Days of Heaven

Terrence Malick’s debut film Badlands was supposed to be this month’s Blind Spot pick, but for some reason it was the only Malick film that the local library did not have available. So I have opted to talk about another Malick film that was in my Blind Spot up until recently, Days of Heaven. I will be the first to admit that I am not the biggest Terrence Malick fan. It has become somewhat of a black stain to be a serious cinema lover and not love Malick, but I could really care less. Of the Malick films I have seen (i.e. Tree of Life, The New World, and The Thin Red Line), I did not take to them with the same euphoric love that most cinephiles did. It seemed the only words people ever associated with those films were "beauty" and "poetic". I was wondering if it was just one of those things that people said so that they would not be ostracized from the “cool kids”. However, Days of Heaven finally has me rethinking my views on Terrence Malick.

Monday, June 25, 2012

From 3rd Rock from the Sun and Beyond

 Joseph Gordon-Levitt is carving out quite a career for himself.  The former sitcom kid has become a hot property in Hollywood.  Watching re-runs of 3rd Rock from the Sun and seeing that nerdy boy alien with a bad 90s ‘do and watching Gordon-Levitt all grown up in films like The Lookout and (500) Days of Summer makes for an interesting evolution to behold.  He escaped the dreaded Hollywood pigeon-hole of the former child star that befell actors like Danny Bonaduce and Christopher Knight.  He made good choices, didn’t vie for the big flashy blockbusters or the mainstream right away, but instead segued from television into the teen film world with some success – 10 Things I Hate About You was smart and fun – and then he took an artful turn into indiedom.  He became an indie darling, starred in films like Mysterious Skin and Brick, which showed how incredibly he could act.  Now he seems on the brink of movie stardom.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love Has Canadian Premiere at ICFF

The inaugural Italian Contemporary Film Festival (ICFF) kicks off in Toronto on Tuesday June 26th to coincide with Italian Heritage Month. The festival runs from June 26th to July 1st and will feature Woody Allen’s much anticipated TO ROME WITH LOVE as the festival’s closing night film. The Italian Contemporary Film Festival will shine a spotlight on a wide array of Italian films ranging from comedies and dramas to documentaries and shorts. Here is a small sample of some of the films that will be screening at the festival:

TO ROME WITH LOVE (Canadian Premiere)
Director: Woody Allen
TO ROME WITH LOVE is a story about a number of people in Italy — some American, some Italian, some residents, some visitors — and the romances, adventures and predicaments they get into.

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: Episode 82 of the Reel Insight podcast finds Jess and Rachel celebrating their Two Year Podcasting Anniversary.

10 am: The latest episode of the Frankly, My Dear podcast reviews the wrestling documentary Memphis Heat.

11 am Corey thinks we should stop asking for a sequel to The Incredibles.

12 pm: Nick list the Top 10 Woody Allen Performances.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Prometheus’ Ambition A Godly Venture

God, evolution, and the reason for our existence has been analyzed and discussed for centuries although you would not know judging from the rampant internet chatter about the film Prometheus. To be fair, when you name your film after a titan from Greek mythology who was punished by the gods for stealing their fire and giving it to mankind, you are bound for some heated discussions. It is rather refreshing to see a summer blockbuster generate such widespread intellectual debate online. While a prequel to Alien, though the creators will tell you different, the film actually works best when looking at it as its own separate entity. The film is ambitious in scope and works best when it is not focusing on aligning itself with the lore of the previous Alien films.

(warning spoilers occur after this point)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Scene Stealer: Pump Up the Volume

Christian Slater brought something special to Pump Up the Volume and that’s an electrifying performance.  Say what you will about some of his abysmal movie choices in the 90s and his penchant for using a Jack Nicholson-type drawl, he’s got some acting chops and he put them on fine display as Mark Hunter aka Hard Harry in the 1990 statement film about teenage angst, conformity, rebellion and the shock value that music and commentary can have on disaffected, apathetic youth.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Interview: Chris MaGee co-programmer of the Shinsedai Cinema Festival (Part 2)

In part two of my interview with Shinsedai Cinema Festival co-programmer Chris MaGee, we continue our conversation about this year’s festival. MaGee provides insight into the film selection processes as well as some of the guests who will be attending the festival. For those of you who missed part one, that discussion can be found here:

Now in its 4th year, Shinsedai has made some bold changes in everything from moving the festival venue to The Revue Cinema downtown to having a more prominent online marketing presence. Would you say that this the most important year for Shinsedai?

Chris MaGee: I would say that you're very right in saying that this would be the most important year for the festival. The reason being that this year Shinsedai is probably the closest to our original conception of the event that we've ever had. We're not the Toronto International Film Festival, that's for sure. Nor do we want to be. They do what they do beautifully. What we we've always wanted to is reach the widest spectrum of film lovers in the city with the most compelling sampling of film from Japan; but at the same time keep the event small enough so that not only Toronto movie-goers but our visiting guests from Japan feel like this is the best night out at the movies that they've ever had. Yes, we specialize in Japanese films, but at the end of the day these are amazing films. Period. How often are audiences going to get to see a documentary like The Naked Summer, this exploration of the strange but utterly gorgeous world of butoh dance? When do Toronto audiences get a chance to see the kind of Japanese animation like the kind we'll be featuring in our Beyond Anime programme? And then there is our Pink Film Double Bill, the first time that these erotic independent films will be screened theatrically in the city. This doesn't happen very often.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Interview: Chris MaGee co-programmer of Shinsedai Cinema Festival (Part 1)

Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with Shinsedai Cinema Festival co-programmer, and noted Japanese cinema film blogger, Chris MaGee. As the Shinsedai Cinema Festival is less than a month away, MaGee is hard at work putting the final touches on this year’s festival. I was curious to know how he made the jump from film blogger to festival co-programmer, especially in a festival rich city like Toronto. Fortunately, Chris was gracious enough to openly share his thoughts on these things and much more. Our conversation covered everything from the current state of Japanese cinema to a festival guest with Quentin Tarantino connections. The following is part one of our two part interview:

First off, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to sit with us today. Before we talk about the Shinsedai Cinema Festival, I am curious to know what first sparked your love for Japanese cinema?

Chris MaGee: It was mix of factors actually. I had always had an interest in Japanese arts and culture, but I think the biggest event in terms of Japanese film came through my writing. Years ago I used to write fiction and poetry, but establishing yourself as a big "W" writer is tough. I thought that there may be other paths that I could take so I could reach my goal of writing for a living, so I ended up studying screenwriting. It wasn't what I thought it would be. What at the time seemed like a big mistake, though, ended up being just the opposite. You see, at first I was totally disillusioned by just how formulaic and cookie-cutter screenplays actually were. This has to happen on this page and such-and-such has to happen on that page, and this is all written in stone somewhere. It was a surprise. I was about to pack it in when one of my instructors said, "If you're interested in films that don't follow this structure you may want to look at Asian film." So, that's what I ended up doing, and combined with my existing interest in Japanese culture I soon found myself drawn to classic Japanese cinema like Kurosawa and Ozu, as well as contemporary filmmakers like Kitano and Koreeda. Now, there are Japanese films that are just as dull and formulaic as the ones we were being asked to churn out in screenwriting courses, but on the whole I felt like I was being introduced to a whole new world. I was. It was love at first sight.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Toronto After Dark Holding Summer Screenings

On Wednesday June 27th and Wednesday July 11th, the Toronto After Dark Film Festival will be hosting special summer screenings. Each night will feature two exciting new films, at 7 pm and 9.45 pm, followed by the festival’s signature social event, Pub After Dark, at a popular local drinking establishment, Pauper’s Pub.

Wednesday June 27, 2012 at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

7.00 PM: JUAN OF THE DEAD (Special Presentation, Cuba, Alejandro Brugués, 92 mins)
Cuba’s first-ever zombie movie has become a festival circuit hit with its outrageous storyline, fantastic kills, and uniquely stunning island location. With sell-out screenings from TIFF to Fantastic Fest, this crowd-pleasing undead sensation from the Caribbean is not to be missed!!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Who Did Bald Best?

Among the latest news to come out of Hollywood is that Charlize Theron has shorn her beautiful blonde locks for the upcoming film Mad Max: Fury Road.  Anne Hathaway made news recently too for losing her hair for Les Miserables.  They join a long list of actors who have sacrificed their hair for their art.  If the role demands it, stars seem willing to go under the razor.  Some have opted not to lose their locks, but rather to wear bald caps and make-up (like Cameron Diaz in My Sister’s Keeper.)  If going bald means enhancing the believability and quality of a performance, there appear to be few qualms about doing it in Hollywood.  Sometimes getting into character means a certain level of physical modification.  Whether playing a cancer patient, a badass villain or a badass chick, several actors have gone the distance and embraced baldness for film.  Here are a few notable baldies:

Natalie Portman – V for Vendetta

Portman lost her hair to play ally to a freedom fighter in a futuristic dystopian society.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sharing the Blogger Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: Lee and Dan dust off their podcasting microphones and record a new episode of theMidnight Movie Club podcast where they discuss Galaxy Quest.

10 am: The latest episode of The (Title Pending) Movie Podcast talks Prometheus and the Alien franchise.

11 am Sam has a great interview with Chicago Tribune’s film critic Michael Phillips.

12 pm: Andrew has an interesting piece looking at Lists vs. Opinions.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jury Duty At The Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival

Two weekends ago I was called for jury duty. I was invited to be part of the Online Film Critics Panel, which was a sub-jury for The Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival. The Online Film Critics Panel was responsible for selecting two awards, The Critic’s Choice Award and the Youth Emerging Artist Award, while the main jury was responsible for four of the major awards handed out at the Awards Gala. Selecting two awards should be an easy process right? At least that is what I thought going into the festival…I could not have been more wrong.

The four other members on the Online Film Critics Panel were James McNally (Toronto Screen Shots), Genevieve Walker (Scene Creek), Addison Wylie (Film Army) and Titania Plant (Classic Flick Chick), all of whom are exceptional and knowledgeable film writers. As you could imagine, having five different perspectives, and thirty-one short films to choose from, made selecting the top five finalists for the Critic’s Choice Award a bit of a challenge. We decided to each come up with our own top five shortlist and then see if we could come to a group consensus before ultimately picking a winner. While our plan of attack was sound, the fact that the majority of the shorts were simply outstanding did not make things easy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The 80s Movie Library: The Lost Boys

Before Twilight, there was The Lost Boys.  Before Bella, Edward and Jacob, there were brothers Michael and Sam, their mother Lucy, their eccentric grandfather, the Frog Brothers and a bunch of teenage vampires. This cool, hip and funny film has a wickedly good cast including a young Keifer Sutherland and the two Coreys – Corey Haim and Corey Feldman.  This horror film has no serious horror, but there are ample touches of tension and fright and a lot of humour.  I’ve always liked this film and it’s not because it tells a great imaginative story, but because the cast of characters is so good. 

Michael, Sam and Lucy move to Santa Carla, a small town in California with a vampire problem.  The leader of the vampire pack sets his sights on Michael. The pack seem like no more than a group of young vagabond punk rockers with long hair and leather-studded jackets who hang out at the boardwalk, but they’re more than just ordinary punk kids.  Michael is drawn to the group leader’s girlfriend, Star, and allows himself to be lured into their underground cavern where he unknowingly drinks blood from a bottle that he thinks is filled with wine.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Scene Stealer: Lethal Weapon 2

I bet the last thing you think about when you’re in the john is that a bomb might be strapped to the toilet.  What would you do if there were one?  We see what happens to one unsuspecting cop when this very thing happens and how, with the luck of his partner, he avoids getting blown to smithereens while taking a, well, you know.

If you’re fans of the Lethal Weapon series, then you’ll be well-acquainted with Riggs and Murtaugh, the mismatched pair of LAPD detectives who always seem to find themselves in a pickle.  When I think of the series, this particular pickle always comes to mind because it’s one of the most hilarious. The sequel is a good movie largely because of the inventive forms of danger it devises and the ways it further defines the relationship between Riggs and Murtaugh.  They’re still like oil and water, but they’re more than just colleagues; they’re friends and their relationship is still defined by two main things: exasperation and trust.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

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 the most recent episode of Scriptnotes John and Craig discuss the pros and cons of blogging and online writing in general.

10 am: The latest episode of Can't Stop the Podcast looks back at the comedy Freddy Got Fingered.

11 am Joseph interviews Robert Pattinson and David Cronenberg about their film Cosmopolis.

12 pm: Matthew Price has a great video looking back on the career of Ridley Scott.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

NXNE Review: Polaroid Song

Set in 1991, Polaroid Song focuses on 18 year-old Lise (Audrey Giacomini) as she reaches that important moment where adolescence ends and adulthood begins. Gifted with a talent for photography, Lise spends most of her time documenting the all girl rock band Periodlink as they prepare for their first live show. Lead singer Flory (Nolwenn Auguste), bass player Ivy (Hélène Sargue), and drummer Lauriane (Deila Vogur), all share a passion for music, but there is serious doubt that they will be able to pull themselves together in time for their performance.

Friday, June 08, 2012

NXNE Review - Fugitives: Wax Live

Prior to signing with Def Jam records in March of 2011, Wax (aka. Michael Jones) was wanted by the Canada at least. On August 20, 2010 Wax arrived in Toronto to play a series of shows. Unfortunately a DUI incident that occurred in the States led to Wax being rejected entry at the border. However, as the saying goes, the show must go on or at least that is the motto Wax and the concert organizers must have been thinking. Fugitives: Wax Live recounts the events that took place on the day that Wax was smuggled into Canada and performed a series of shows for his faithful fans in Toronto. The film not only follows Wax as he performs at various venues, but also highlights the legal repercussions that Wax and his accomplices faced as a result of their actions.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

NXNE Review: KMS – Jewish Negroes

It is hard not to feel a bit of anger and sadness when watching KMS – Jewish Negroes. This reaction is actually quite fitting considering that a lot of the music KMS produces expresses their anger towards the world they live in. Living in a large ghetto in central Israel, the members of group must endure daily persecution simply because their skin is darker than most. Despite being Israelis, the fact that they are descendants of Ethopian Jews makes them barely second-class citizens in the eyes of most.

Filmed primarily in the band’s hometown of Kiryat Moshe, Revohot, director Moran Ifergan’s film documents the struggles of Yisreal Maharat (WM), Meir Saalo (Diablo D), Danny Kabeda (Dumbo Danny), and Ra’anan Alama (JSR) as they dream of making KMS a success. Fueled by their anger, the men write conscious rap songs that convey the many injustices they face. Unlike most documentaries that deal with struggling musicians, the film is not concerned with whether or not the group will make it big. The group is viewed more as a representation of a larger social issue impacting Israel today. KMS - Jewish Negroes is a powerful commentary on the daily hardships Ethiopian Jews endure while trying to make a better life for themselves in Israel. As KMS states in one of their songs, Ethiopian Jews immigrated to the holy land of “milk and honey” but were met with “shit and racism.”

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

NXNE Review: Slaughter Nick for President

Like most actors, Rob Stewart wanted to have a lasting career that included works that really made a difference. Unfortunately when you are a Canadian actor whose biggest claim to fame is playing detective Nick Slaughter on the short lived show Tropical Heat (aka Sweating Bullets), the quality roles do not always come your way. Now in his late forties, and after 20 years experience in show business, Stewart finds himself back in the confines of his parents' basement wondering where his career went wrong. However, unbeknownst to Stewart, the fame and sense of importance he longed for was there all along…just on another continent.

For the last 15 years, Stewart’s Nick Slaughter has been a source of comfort and hope for Serbians who had to endure the Slobodan Milošević era. Slaughter Nick for Presidents documents Rob Stewart’s two week trip to Serbia with friend Marc Vespi, as he tries to get a better understanding of how this fascination with his Nick Slaughter character came about. From the minute he lands in Serbia, Stewart is taken on a whirlwind ride the likes of which is usually reserved for Hollywood stars such as Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. He experiences everything from making a commercial, for a possible black market product, to appearing on various television shows and even meeting legendary actor Rade Serbedzija. Like a fish out of water, all Stewart can do is embrace the insanity of “Slaughtermania” that his appearance evokes in the country.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Contest: Win Passes to Good for Nothing

Courtesy of the Shinsedai Cinema Festival, we have three double passes to giveaway for the July 15th screening of Good for Nothing, written and directed by Sho Miyake. Socrates Excelsa, a short film, will also be screened so you will get two films for the price of one! Here is a synopsis of what Good for Nothing is all about:

A trio of young men coming up to their high school graduation find themselves walking a fine line between juvenile delinquency and adult respectability in the wintery landscape of Sapporo, Hokkaido . They try to choose the latter by getting jobs with a company that installs security systems in private homes. The problem is that the son of their new boss is an ex-con more used to breaking into houses than safe-guarding them. Will this trio find their way or will bad decisions and their consequences derail their attempts at a bright future?

Monday, June 04, 2012

In Defence of “The Change-Up” (sort of)

Not much of what has been written about 2011's The Change-Up has been flattering. It seems like a movie that is destined to be quickly forgotten. Some people told me they found it so revolting that they couldn't get through it. Nevertheless, my view is that despite its obvious flaws it does have a good point to make.

Jason Bateman is a married lawyer on the verge of closing a huge deal and being invited to become a partner at his firm. Ryan Reynolds, a pot-smoking, womanizing, part-time actor is his long-time friend. During a night of drunken revelry, they make a wish to switch lives.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Hounsou’s road to success: modeling, music videos and movies

He hasn’t appeared in a film since 2011’s Special Forces and I never saw it, so the last time I saw Djimon Hounsou in a movie was in 2010’s The Tempest.  It’s been awhile and that’s a shame.  The first time I saw him was in a Janet Jackson music video and even in that, he made an impression.  He radiates presence onscreen and I think he’s a vastly underrated actor.  He was discovered while walking the streets of Paris and worked as a model before working in film.  The Benin-born man is one of the most popular actors to come out of Africa and his path to success wasn’t an easy one.  He grew up away from his parents and often scavenged through garbage for food and slept on the streets.  

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: Episode 59 of The Matineecast finds Ryan highlighting the blogs and podcasts he enjoys.

10 am: The latest episode of Cinecast podcast reviews Headhunters, a film quickly rising on my list of films to see.

11 am Stevee included the film Hard Candy in her Underrated Showcase.

12 pm: Will experiences the awesomeness of 13 Assassians, one of my favourite films of 2011.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Blow Out the Candles: Annette Bening

On May 29th, Annette Bening celebrated her 54th birthday.  She is known as the woman who domesticated one of Hollywood’s famous playboys, Warren Beatty, but she has also built a worthy film career that she can be proud of.  She hasn’t worked a lot and she’s made some poor and regrettable films, but which actor hasn’t?  She has also made some impressive movies with strong, committed performances, and it's her good films that stand out above the rest.  It’s easy with some actors to remember the bad much more easily than the good, but with Bening, I think of her good work before anything else.