Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blind Spot: Breathless

One cannot help but wonder what it would be like if Breathless had been made today? A well known tale associated with the film is that director Jean-Luc Godard wrote the script on the fly. Each day, before shooting, he gave his actors a few lines then let his actors improvise the rest. What was considered groundbreaking and experimental back then would be viewed as chaotic in today’s social media obsessed society. Twitter would be a buzz with people declaring the film a predestined failure simply because it was shooting without a solid script, and lacks conventional structure. If it is hard to imagine the film being made today, it is near impossible to imagine what it must have been like to watch Breathless for the first time in 1960. It is doubtful that anyone fully grasped just how influential the film would be.

Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) is a petty thief who envisions himself to have the same tough swagger as his hero Humphrey Bogart. When Michel commits a traffic violation in a stolen car, a police chase promptly ensue. Though he merely intends to give the cops the slip, things take a turn for the worse when Michel kills a police officer with a gun he finds in the car’s glove compartment. On the run and penniless, Michel decides to visit several of his female acquaintances in hopes of acquiring some cash until he can track down an old friend who owes him money. One of the females Michel happens across is his American friend Patricia (Jean Seberg), a student and aspiring journalist. Despite not seeing each other in a longtime, it is clear that their attraction still lingers, though neither is willing to admit just how strong these feelings are. As the police close in on Michel, he begins to contemplate spending the rest of his life with Patricia. Believing that she is carrying Michael’s child, Patricia also wrestles with what possible future there is with Michel, especially when she discovers the truth about his criminal ways.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Good, The Bland, and The Ugly: Steven Spielberg

The premise of this is simple: if someone, who knows little about the director/actor/etc. in question, asked you to select one film for each of the following three categories below what films would they be?:

1) The Good – A film they should seek out right away
2) The Bland – Not among the best, but still a film they should see.
3) The Ugly – If pressed for time, this is the one film that they should skip in order to squeeze in more hours for the top works.

Keeping this in mind, my three would be as follows:

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what film lovers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: Episode 266 of the Cinecast podcast discusses The Dark Knight Rises.

10 am: Episode 124 of The Lambcast podcast talks Die Hard with a Vengeance and more.

11 am Scott has a great piece on what makes the whole Kristen Stewart scandal truly disturbing.

12 pm: Edgar has been providing daily coverage of the Fantasia Film Festival, here is his review of The Sword Identity.

Friday, July 27, 2012

I expected so much more from Ted

My husband and I finally saw Ted.  As fans of Family Guy, we were excited to see what Seth McFarlane would do with his first feature length film.  We expected juvenile humour, stupidity, silliness and vulgarity and we were treated to all of that, but we left the theatre feeling like there should have been more.  Working with a walking, talking Teddy bear in a feature length movie with an R-rating, McFarlane could have and should have gone all out with this film.  Instead, he created a familiar main story, and padded it with an unnecessary and annoying sub-story involving Giovanni Ribisi and Aedin Mincks as a creepy father and son pair who are obsessed with the teddy bear.  McFarlane created some genuinely funny moments, but there were too few and far between, and he closed the film with an out of place, clichéd and emotional ending that didn’t suit the film.    

The film strives for obnoxious, crude and offensive hilarity and it manages to deliver some, but it’s a wasted effort for the most part due to the meager, unoriginal and often boring plot.  Ted, the CGI-rendered teddy bear is an impressive visual creation and the bear works well alongside Mark Wahlberg’s John Bennett, an underachieving car rental office employee who wished his beloved teddy to life as a kid.  Mila Kunis brings her effective feistiness and down-to-earth likeability to this comedic role, and though I like her here, she’s not given much to work with.  Her role is that of Lori, the clichéd girlfriend who, though frustrated by her boyfriend’s immaturity and lack of ambition, puts up with him and his devotion to his teddy bear until she slaps down that predictable ultimatum: it’s either her or Ted. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

TIFF To Open With Sci-Fi Thriller Looper


Yesterday TIFF announced the first wave of titles that will be screening at the festival this year. As you can expect, the list is mighty impressive. New works from directors like David O. Russell, Chen Kaige, Derek Cianfrance, The Wachowskis, Joe Wright, Thomas Vintenberg, and Francois Ozon immediately caught my attention. If this was just a taste, I am eager to see what other delicious titles the festival still has yet to unveil. Truth be told, I was seriously planning to skip TIFF this year as the festival just did not fit in my budget. However, my wife, broken leg and all, has convinced me to continue my yearly September vacation (aka my TIFFcation). So I will be attending this year’s festival but on a smaller scale. How does this impact the films I will be seeing? Well, other than possibly missing out on a few high profile titles that play during the first weekend, which ultimately get a wide release anyway, it should not hinder my viewing that much. Since I enjoy discovering great new directors at TIFF more than I do seeing heavily publicized titles, I can expect another exciting year at TIFF.

Here is the full list of titles that TIFF announced so far:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Scene Stealer: House Party

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned house party.  You know, the parties where you and your closest chums got together at a friend’s house and spent the night grooving to loud, bangin’ music that woke the neighbours, but you didn’t care because you were jamming with friends and having the time of your life.  Ah yes, the good ol’ days when house parties ruled the weekends and going to a party and dancing was considered the best of times.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The best lines from the best roles of Allison Janney

When Allison Janney won four Emmy awards for her role on The West Wing, I didn’t really know her well as an actress because I didn’t watch that show and I remember feeling somewhat disappointed when the actresses from the shows I did watch kept losing to her.  But when I saw Janney in some wonderful supporting film roles I understood why she’d been awarded as often as she had – she’s one heck of an actress.

There are certain films I recall specifically when I think about Janney’s filmography.  For some reason, several of them are roles in which she’s played a mother, but they’re all very different characters and their differences showcase how seamlessly and believably Janney takes on any role and makes it uniquely and memorably her own.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what film lovers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: Episode 38 of The Director’s Club podcast discusses two of Lars von Trier’s films.

10 am: Episode 124 of The Film Sack podcast talks about David Fincher’s The Game.

11 am Trista explains how viral marketing made her not care about The Dark Knight Rises.

12 pm: Ryan finally got around to seeing American Movie.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises Above Expectations

The words “outstanding” and “trilogy” are rarely said in the same sentence in regards to films. The quest for financial gain frequently blinds both studios and filmmakers to what ultimately makes certain trilogies successful in the first place...the story. Usually the first two films hold up reasonably well before the third film comes along and sours the memories of the previous two. Of course there are trilogies that are exceptions to the rule, the most recent being Pixar’s Toy Story trilogy, but these are still few and far between. It is safe to say that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy will be added to the pantheon of outstanding trilogies.

Picking up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, the story finds the once crime ridden streets of Gotham in more peaceful times. Thanks to a new law that was named after the late Harvey Dent, criminals have run out of loopholes and are finally being locked up for their crimes. As crime is down, Gotham no longer needs the vigilante Batman (Christian Bale), who is wanted by the police for Dent’s death, to be their savior. Hanging up his cape and cowl, Bruce Wayne lives like a recluse in his vast mansion mourning his lost loved ones. After an encounter in his mansion with a clever cat burglar, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), the detective side of Wayne slowly awakes from its slumber. When it becomes clear that Kyle may have links to a known mercenary, Bane (Tom Hardy), who has recently arrived in Gotham, Wayne must put on the Batman mask once more to protect the city that he loves. However, after being out of the game for eight years, stopping Bane and uncovering his true motives will be much harder than Batman could ever anticipate. Despite being use to doing things on his own, Batman will need to raise an army if he hopes to avoid the deadly fate Bane has planned for him.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – A Con for All Seasons

Re-watching Dirty Rotten Scoundels (1988) last month was an interesting experience for me. I had seen it once a couple of years after its theatrical release, and I was surprised how much of it I remembered the second time around. Apart from making me unjustifiably proud of my memory, it also reminded me that once upon a time comedies had interesting stories and characters, not just funny actors.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lockout Not Quite A Knockout

Lockout is the type of action film that makes you long for action film of the 80s. Before the evolution of the thinking man’s action hero which we have today, the hero of the 80s had an “I could careless” swagger and a smart wisecrack for every villain he faced. This is what made characters like Escape From New York’s Snake Plissken such a treat to watch. The influence of John Carpenter’s action classic can be spotted throughout Lockout and directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger are not ashamed to show their love for that film on their sleeves.

The most notable influence can be found in the lead character of Snow (Guy Pearce). Set in the future, Snow is convicted for a crime he claims he did not commit. In order to gain back his freedom, Snow agrees to go on a dangerous mission to rescue the President’s daughter Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace) after she is taken hostage while visiting a maximum security prison in outer space. As is expected with films of this nature, getting both himself and Emilie out alive proves far trickier than Snow anticipates. Snow must shoot, fight, and literarily blow away those who try to stand in his way.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chronicle Documents the Rise of Evil

A little over a week ago my wife fractured her fibula while playing softball. Aside from the fact that I have been left to handle all of the household responsibilities, the really annoying aspect of this situation for my wife is the fact that she is confined to limited movement on crutches. It means that simple tasks can no longer be done without assistance. Even to move just a few feet requires complex planning. In many ways Chronicle feels like a film that is limited by its own technical crutches.

As a film about average people gaining super human powers, Chronicle is one of the more interesting entries in the genre in quite some time. It is one of the few superhero films that is an origin tale told from the perspective of the villain. The villain in question is Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), a high school student who is bullied at both school and at home. To better deal with having a terminally ill mother and an abusive alcoholic father, Andrew resorts to documenting every aspect of his life on video. While at a party one night, Andrew’s cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and a fellow student, Steve (Michael B. Jordan), ask Andrew to film a hole they have found in a nearby field. After making a startling discovery underground the boys soon find themselves with telekinetic powers. Though their new found powers initially bring the three young men closer together, their friendship is threatened when Andrew’s emotional instability leads him down a much darker path.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fat Kid Rules the World in His Own Way

Matthew Lillard spent a good portion of his acting career in the 90s in memorable youth centred films such as Scream, SLC Punk!, and Hackers. While he has moved onto more mature film roles in recent years, such as The Descendants, it feels rather appropriate that his directorial feature film debut focuses on the complexity of youth. In a time where it seems many of the films geared towards teens are merely selling an image of what teen life should be; Fat Kid Rules the World offers a more realistic look at modern teenage life.

Adapted from the novel by K.L. Going, Fat Kid Rules the World tells the story of Troy Billings (Terri’s Jacob Wysocki), an overweight 17 year-old with suicidal tendencies. An outcast at school, and unable to truly connect with his ex-navy father (Billy Campbell) or his brother Dayle (Dylan Arnold) since his mother’s passing, Troy spends most of his time playing online games in his room. When Troy’s suicide attempt is foiled by Marcus (Frailty’s Matt O’Leary), a local guitarist and high school dropout, an unlikely friendship is formed. Despite never having played the drums before, Troy is invited to be a drummer in a new band Marcus is forming. As both young men attempt to get their band off the ground, they each learn some valuable lessons that will impact both of their lives forever.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Scene Stealer: Major League

Watching the MLB Home Run Derby the other night reminded me of one of my favourite baseball movies – Major League.  Even if you’re no fan of baseball movies, you’ll undoubtedly find something to enjoy about this film.  It’s a great comedy full of wacky and hilarious characters and it turns the familiar story of a group of incompetent misfits who can’t do anything right, but who eventually thrive to beat the odds and win it all into one of the best movies about baseball  ever made.  Watching the growing pains of the last place Cleveland Indians and how they overcome blatant sabotage by the team’s owner who wants to move them out of the city never gets old for me.  There is a certain charm about Major League that gives it that rare re-watchability factor.   

Saturday, July 14, 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: Can’t Stop the Podcast discusses Sergio Leone’s classic Once Upon a Time in the West.

10 am: The debut episode of the JustAtadcast podcast talks about The Amazing Spider-Man.

11 am Alex has a great article on Steven Soderbergh’s Ploy for Naturalism.

12 pm: Tyler list his 15 favourite closing shots in film.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Great Debate: Rebecca De Mornay vs. Jennifer Jason Leigh

Welcome to the Great Debate, a new feature that asks you to argue for or against one of two opposing film-related elements.  You will make your case for why you think one element is better than the other.  Let the inaugural debate begin!

Best crazy chick:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I Have Scene It Before

Last month 8 of the 11 films were identified. Peeping Tom, The Lady Vanishes, and Encounters at the End of the World were the ones to stump people. Here is this month’s selection of movie scenes. How many can you identify?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The 80s Movie Library: Fatal Attraction

I vividly recall my mom covering my eyes during the sex scenes when I first watched this movie at 13-years-old.  She didn’t want me to watch the film at all, but I insisted on watching what the grown-ups were seeing.  Other scenes in the film were far more adult and disturbing, like a suicide attempt, a pet bunny boiling in a pot and an obsessed, mentally disturbed woman breaking into her lover’s home and attempting to kill his wife.  Yep, my mom rued her decision to let me watch Fatal Attraction…big time.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Good, The Bland, and the Ugly: Lars von Trier

The premise of this is simple: if someone, who knows little about the director/actor/etc. in question, asked you to select one film for each of the following three categories below, what films would they be?:

1) The Good – A film they should seek out right away
2) The Bland – Not among the best, but still a film they should see.
3) The Ugly – If pressed for time, this is the one film that they should skip in order to squeeze in more hours for the top works.

Keeping this in mind, my three would be as follow :

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Scene Stealer: Naked Gun: 33 1/3: The Final Insult

My husband bowls over with laughter every time he watches a certain scene in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.  We’ve literally watched it repeatedly and his laughter never wanes.  In fact, he laughs harder the more times we watch it.  It’s a hilarious scene and it makes me laugh until my sides hurt too.  

The Naked Gun series is all about parodying other films, and in the third installment a big Oscar parody is the centerpiece of the film.  Lieutenant Frank Drebin is assigned to thwart a terrorist from detonating a bomb at the Academy Awards.  In order to get past security and into the auditorium, Frank poses as talk-show host Phil Donahue, which is in and of itself very funny and quite clever.  What results is a series of side-splittingly funny moments where Frank winds up on stage to present the award for best actress with co-presenter Racquel Welch.  In his usual bumbling, klutzy way, Frank winds up wrecking more havoc than the terrorist his is trying to stop.  He is knocked over by a moving stairway, rolls down the stairs and bashes into Welch causing her to deep-throat the microphone.   

Saturday, July 07, 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 260 of Mamo! discusses The Amazing Spider-Man.

10 am: Episode 375 of the Film Junk podcast reviews Magic Mike.

11 am Sebastian ranks the Top 5 ”Go America” Movies To Watch On Independence Day.

12 pm: Jess and Nick share their thoughts on Oliver Stone’s Savages.

Friday, July 06, 2012

The Women Love Magic Mike

I had to feel bad for the lone man in the theatre.  There he sat surrounded by women hooting, hollering, cheering and whistling as Channing Tatum et al took it all off on screen.  Watching Magic Mike at the theatre last weekend was a lot like going to an all male revue.  The female audience members were there to watch the cast strip down and they let their intentions be known.  They were raucous and loud, yelling “Damn!” and “Take it off” aloud each time the guys took the stage for their next number.  It was very funny, but not so much for the poor man sitting to my left who, during the one time I willed myself to look over at him, sat there with his shoulders slumped and his head resting on his hand looking bored stiff and none too pleased.  I sure hope he was getting an even trade for seeing the film.  Maybe his female companion had agreed to go and see Expendables 2 with him?

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Time flies when you’re film blogging

It was just over one year ago that I began blogging.  When my good friend Courtney Small invited me to be a writer for Big Thoughts from a Small Mind, I was thrilled, but I had no idea what to expect from the experience; I just knew that I loved movies and that I loved to write.  Now just over a year into it, I can say without a doubt that having a creative outlet and a recreational “job” to call my own apart from my 9 to 5 has been really great.  Looking back at the past year and a bit, I’ve been amazed at the sense of purpose it has imbued in me and how much I’ve enjoyed writing regularly again especially about something I enjoy so much.  The experience has not been without its challenges, surprises and rewards. Here are a few highlights from year one.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Headhunters Offers A Job With Plenty of Thrills

We all know someone who is like Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), a man who compensates for his lack for size by driving an extravagant car or being overly confident. Normally this type of Napoleon Complex can be annoying to deal with. However, if there is ever a film that actually makes you feel sorry for the little guy, in a roundabout way mind you, it is Headhunters.

Working as a successful headhunter, Roger Brown knows that image and reputation is everything. He lives in a big house, drives an expensive car, and is married to a beautiful art curator (Synnøve Macody Lund). Although he may appear to have it all on the surface, the fact that he is only 1.68m (5’6’) weighs heavily on Roger’s mind. As a result, Roger moonlights as an art thief to ensure he can afford to shower his wife with lavish gifts. At the opening of his wife’s new art gallery Roger meets Clas Greve (Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a former CEO and mercenary who happens to be in possession of a rare piece of art.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Scene Stealer: Beetlejuice

There was something so oddly appealing about the film Beetlejuice that made me want to watch it repeatedly as a youngster.  I remember taping it on VHS so that I had my own copy to view over and over again.  Thinking about it now, the film was probably a little too dark for a 10-year-old.  Its premise about a dead married couple trying to maintain ownership of their home from the living while learning to adjust to the afterlife amongst all of the other dead, creepy, gothic and gruesome ghosts was a wee bit of a dark and twisted tale.  Add to that a cantankerous, profane, crotch-scratching and appalling demon named Betelguese and it could have been the stuff of nightmares, but I remember appreciating it for its bizarre whimsy, creativity and fun.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Good, The Bland, and the Ugly: Steven Soderbergh

When Jenny (JBT) pitched the idea for a recurring feature called The Good, The Bland, and the Ugly, I was immediately on board. If there is one thing I have learned from blogging about films, and talking to those who love film, it is that everyone has different opinions on what makes up the best works of an actor, director, writer, etc. Some of the best discussions arise when people are adamantly defending a work that someone else hates.

The premise of this is simple: if someone, who knows little about the director/actor/etc. in question, asked you to select one film for each of the following three categories below what films would they be?:

1) The Good – A film they should seek out right away
2) The Bland – Not among the best, but still a film they should see.
3) The Ugly – If pressed for time, this is the one film that they should skip in order to squeeze in more hours for the top works.

Keeping this in mind, my three would be as follow: