Monday, December 31, 2012

Adventures in Podcasting: The Matineecast Ep. 75

Ryan McNeil, of The Matinee, and his lovely wife Lindsay graciously had my wife Dionne and me over for some holiday treats and film discussion. In the latest episode of The Matineecast, the four of us share our top five films of the 2012! Needless to say there were films we all agreed on and films, a popular musical in particular, that led to some interesting debates. Be sure to give the episode a listen and share your thoughts on our top five films. Also, be sure to check back here tomorrow when I unveil the top ten films I loved in 2012.

Saturday, December 29, 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: The Substream highlights the Worst Films of 2012 in a special Watch This Instead episode.

10 am: Episode 146 LAMBcast looks back at the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.

11 am Fresh off her vacation, Ruth gives 10 reasons why The Hobbit is a worthwhile journey.

12 pm: James has a review of Elena.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Les Misérables

It was an interesting car ride home after an early morning screening of Les Misérables. The film sparked an interesting debate between my wife and I regarding how one analyzes film musicals. The question was raised as to whether or not it is truly possible to separate the music from the actual film when every bit of dialogue is sung? For my wife, Les Misérables was an engrossing experience that moved her deeply. As a fan of the musical, she thought Tom Hooper’s adaptation was a rousing success. I on the other hand, was a virgin to all things Les Misérables and found the film to be enjoyable, but ultimately flawed.

Starting in 1815, and spanning seventeen years, the film tells the tragic tale of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a man who is forever cursed by past sins. After spending seven years in prison for stealing food for his sister’s ailing child, Valjean is finally released on parole. However, Valjean soon realizes that life on parole is just as hard. He is treated with the same lack of respect and dignity by others that he experienced when in prison at the hands of the ruthless guard, Javert (Russell Crowe). Fed up with his status in society, Valjean breaks his parole and spends the next eight years reinventing himself as a prominent businessman and mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cloud Atlas

Ever since the extended trailer of Cloud Atlas was released, there was an odd mix of curiosity and excitement around the film. The early reaction at TIFF was surprisingly good from the majority of those who I had spoken with during the festival. However, those who disliked the film were not shy about voicing their displeasure. My main reservation going into the film was not the subject matter, but the directors behind the film. While I have liked the films that I have seen from Tom Tykwer, such as Run Lola Run and Heaven for example, I was starting to lose faith in Lana and Andy Wachowski. The combination of The Matrix sequels and Speed Racer had left a bad taste in my mouth. However, I must admit that I was glad I got around to seeing this film on the big screen. Cloud Atlas restored my faith in The Wachowskis’ ability to make more meaningful films.

Adapted from David Mitchell’s novel, Cloud Atlas covers six different stories that span from the early 20th century all to the way to a post-dystopian future. Each story is styled in such a way that it suits the tone of the era without making the overall film seem disjointed. The first story starts in 1849 and follows a young lawyer Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) who becomes ill while visiting a plantation. As he journeys home across the south pacific he is tended to by Dr. Henry Goose (Tom Hanks), who seems determined to ensure that Ewing’s condition continues to deteriorate. The next tale takes place in 1936 and centres around a bisexual composer, Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw), who apprentices himself to a legendary composer Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbnt). Frobisher creates the beautiful Cloud Atlas Sextet only to find that Ayrs wants to claim ownership of the piece. The third story, and last of the ones set in the past, involves journalist Lisa Rey (Halle Berry) as she stumbles upon a conspiracy taking place at a power plant run by Lloyd Hooks (Hugh Grant).

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Blind Spot: Rashomon

In the pouring rain a Woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) and a Priest (Minoru Chiaki) sit in bewilderment underneath the shelter of Kyoto's Rashomon Gate. The Woodcutter repeats to himself “I just don’t understand”, but what puzzles him is not clear at first. It is only when a third man, a Commoner (Kichijirô Ueda) emerges in the shelter that it becomes known that a murder has taken place. On the surface the facts are simple, a husband lays dead, his wife has been defiled and a bandit stands accused of the crime. Of course, in life, rarely are things as we perceive them to be. What actually took place on the day of the murder? Well, that all depends on whose version of the events you wish to believe.

Keep in mind though, just because the person telling the tale believes it to be true, does not necessarily make it so. It is this examination of perception that makes Akira Kurosawa’s film Rashomon, such a wonderful cinematic experience. The film’s narrative is told through witness testimonies during a trial. Kurosawa frames the trial scenes in such a way that the audience becomes both interrogator and judge. The witnesses seem to be answering all the questions that the audience would ask of them if given the chance. The problem for the audience is that each of the four witnesses have vastly different accounts of what happened.

Monday, December 24, 2012

2013 Blind Spot Series


The Blind Spot series originated earlier this year from an idea James McNally of Toronto Screen Shots had for catching up on iconic films that he had missed. The 2012 series ended up being quite a treat as I got to experience some truly wonderful films. While circumstances beyond my control made me abruptly remove two films, Badlands and Nashville, from the list, I was fortunate enough to replace them with equally memorable films like Ran and Days of Heaven. Keeping with the philosophy that Ryan McNeil of The Matinee had for posting Blind Spot series reviews on the last Tuesday of every month, here are the films that will make up my 2013 Blind Spot list:

Saturday, December 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: The latest episode of Cinema in Noir ranks the best and worst films of 2012.

10 am: The Outside the Envelope podcast discusses The Life of Pi.

11 am Corey jumps into the 48 frames per second debate that The Hobbit has caused.

12 pm: Andrew interviewed Quentin Tarantino about Django Unchained.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The 80s Movie Library, Holiday Edition: Scrooged

I know a lot of people who prefer the classic holiday film A Christmas Carol over the 1988 modernization of the Charles Dickens’ story, but I have to say that I rather enjoy Scrooged.  Bill Murray is perfectly cast as a cynical, selfish TV executive named Frank Cross (aka Ebenezer Scrooge.) He’s cut himself off from everybody; he delights in making his co-workers feel humiliated and small and he’s a lonely man in a foul mood as the Christmas season approaches. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas movie characters around the dinner table

Christmastime brings with it food, family and festive fun.  Inevitably, you’ll eat at least half your weight in cake, cookies, turkey and stuffing.  You’ll trim the tree.  You’ll give and get gifts in return.  And you’ll spend time with all of those kooky members of your family (we’ve all got them!) that you might only see during the holidays.  Oh what fun it is to eat and drink with those family members you might only kind of, sort of like.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Master Wins Big At Toronto Film Critics Association Awards

The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson’s 70mm drama about a battle of wills between a ravaged war veteran and the cult leader who offers him a place at his right hand, dominated the 2012 awards of the Toronto Film Critics Association.

Anderson’s film took Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay, with co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman named the year’s Best Supporting Actor. Anderson has now won Best Picture twice (previous was Magnolia 1999) and Best Director three times (previous was Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love 2002). He also shared the Best Screenplay prize with Being John Malkovich author Charlie Kaufman (1999).

Here is the full list of Toronto Film Critics Association Awards winners and runners-up:

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Hobbit’s Journey An Expected Tale

Peter Jackson’s return to Middle-earth has been a long time coming for Tolkien fans. The Hobbit had been tied up in so much red tape, that many wondered if the project would ever see the light of day. Now that the film is finally here, the discussion has moved from legal woes to the technology used to make the film, specifically the high frame rate, and the fact that the story has been broken up into three films. While I cannot speak to the hotly debated pros and cons of the high frame rate, as I saw the film in regular 3D, it is the trilogy aspect that will make or break most people’s view of the film.

Based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, the film’s prologue explains how the dwarf kingdom on the Lonely Mountain was overthrown by a gold loving dragon named Smaug. In doing so Smaug unknowingly comes into possession of the Arkenstone, a jewel of unknown power. Many consider the Lonely Mountain to be impenetrable, but the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) has come across a map that indicates a secret door into the Mountain. Gandalf along with thirteen dwarves, lead by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Artimage) the heir of the dwarf kingdom, have come up with a plan to reclaim the dwarf’s land. In order for their plan to work, they will need one more in their troupe and this is where Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) comes in.

Saturday, December 15, 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 47 of The Long and Late Movie Show review Middle of Nowhere and talk film critic polls.

10 am: Episode 95 of the KL5-Film podcast gets in the holiday spirit by reviewing Christmas Evil.

11 am Margaret was not too fond of Beast of the Southern Wild.

12 pm: Over at Film Army, Jameson looks at the top film scores of 2012.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Up and a montage to remember

My husband and I watched Pixar’s Up last weekend.  I had no idea the kinds of feelings watching it would evoke and the teary mess the montage in the first half of the film would leave me in.  That’s what I love most about movies.  You sit down to watch a film without expectation and the experience of watching it is more overwhelming than you ever imagined it would be because it made you feel so deeply. Up was like for me.  Well, at least the first quarter of the movie was anyway.  The second half of the movie changed tone and direction and became a little silly, but I suppose the writers wanted to lighten the tone for the youngsters after a very tear-jerking opening section.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pay Versus Play: Is There A Difference?

Yesterday Ryan over at The Matinee had an interesting post asking is what we think about a film based on how we watch it? In his example he pondered whether his enjoyment of the film Hitchcock was partly due to the fact that he did not have to pay to see it. This got me thinking about my own film viewing habits. Was there really a difference between what I pay to see in theatres versus films I view on Netflix?

If you have visited this site before, you will know that while I have a loving obsession for film, I do not cover every single new release that comes out. This is mainly due to two reasons. The first, and most important, reason is that I have responsibilities as a husband and father that take greater precedent than chasing down every potential blockbuster or possible award hopeful. The second reason is much simpler, in these uncertain economic times I have to be smart about where I spend my dollars. This is not to say that I do not see films in the cinema, in fact I believe that film is a collaborative art form that should be experienced in a communal setting. However, based on the two reasons I just mentioned, I am a little more picky about what non-film festival films I see in theatres.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Argo Keeps You On The Edge

William Shakespeare once wrote in his play As You Like It that “all the world is a stage, and all the men and women a merely players”, although this line has been quoted to death, it feels quite fitting for the film Argo. The film is all about orchestrating an illusion, despite the fact that many doubted it would ever work. Though history has proven that sometimes it is the most outlandish ideas that make the biggest impact.

Set during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, the film documents the events that led to the extraction of six stranded Americans who found refugee in the home of a Canadian ambassador. Considering how volatile the relationship between Iran and America was at the time, there was no foreseeable way to get the six Americans out of Iran alive without jeopardizing Iran/United States relations that were already hanging by a thread. Furthermore, if it was discovered that Canada was secretly harbouring the Americans it would have huge ramifications for Canadian relations as well. Seeing as every extraction scenario that has been debated amongst the powers that be ended in likely the death of the American stowaways, expert CIA “extractor” Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) comes up with the concept of making a fake movie. Mendez’s plan would have the six Americans pose as an Canadian film crew scouting possible film shoot locations in Tehran.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Have Scene It Before

Last month all 11 films were identified. Here is this month’s selection of film scenes. How many can you identify?


Saturday, December 08, 2012

Sharing the Boggling Love

Wondering what film lovers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading and Listening Schedule for Today:

9 am: Episode 283 of the Cinecast podcast talks Killing Them Softly.

10 am: Episode 130 of TUMP reviews Ruby Sparks.

11 am Film Junk is asking readers to share their favourite films of 2012 via the site’s Reader’s Choice Awards.

12 pm: James wants to know what type of film buff are you?

Friday, December 07, 2012

Scene Stealer: A Few Good Men

The scene that still stands out for me after repeated viewings of Rob Reiner’s military courtroom drama features one of the most oft-quoted and even mocked lines in film, but it cannot be denied how powerfully it is delivered by one Mr. Jack Nicholson.  Nicholson doesn’t have a big role in the film; in fact his total onscreen time is approximately 30 minutes.  But mention the film to anyone who’s seen it and you’ll invariably hear an impression of Nicholson’s famous exclamation, “You can’t handle the truth!”

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Holiday Movie Traditions

Every year around the Christmas holidays, I have to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  For me, Christmastime just isn’t Christmastime without multiple viewings of the funny holiday classic.  I’ve seen it dozens of times and yet it still makes me laugh and always leaves me feeling festive.  There’s something about those dysfunctional yet lovable Griswold’s! 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Adventures in Podcasting: Reel Insight Ep. 94

You may have noticed we have not been posting at are usual pace of late. Frankly responsibilities outside of this blog have had to take precedent. Plus I have been commissioned to write two articles for a fledgling online magazine which has taken up the last bit of free time I had left. Fear not though, we shall be back in the regular swing of things shortly. Until then we have something for your listening pleasure. Rachel Thuro and Jess Rogers, the lovely ladies behind the Reel Insight blog, invited me onto their podcast recently to discuss the works of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the episode and/or Philip Seymour Hoffman in the comment section below. Also, be sure to visit Reel Insight this month as they are holding a 25 Days of Christmas marathon!