Tuesday, December 28, 2010

1487- Scream 3

It's been a long time since I've watched these films and I don't think I ever watched them back to back like this. The Scream series has always had a bit of a meta-vibe to it, it's part of it's charm - this time it goes whole hog with it. In the second film we're introduced to this idea of a film based on the events of the original film, called "Stab", and it's very clear that they're having fun with the idea of bad movies. The problem with this third outing is that there's a pretty fine line between the bad film-within-a-film and the film itself.
This film was almost destined to be a bit flawed - coming off the heels of two pretty damn good films and with the pressure to make it bigger, fresher, but at the same time keep it secret and have a big twist. Outside of the fact that I don't feel like the tone and characters were right, it's hard to blame Ehren Krugar (taking over for Kevin Williamson in this film as screenwriter). I'm more apt to blame Craven who should know better. The whole thing feels a bit... silly.
It's not hard to see why everyone was willing to return for a fourth (well thought out sequel) given the quality, or lack-thereof, of this installment. If you're a completest then you'll probably want to see this one as well, but do so only if that's the reason - otherwise it's a bit of a let down.

Monday, December 27, 2010

1486 - Scream 2

Scream double bill! I'll round off the trilogy with the third film tomorrow evening. But now for this one. I never rewatched this film the way that I did the first - however I have seen it a few times. As I get older I, naturally, re-watch films less and less, unless they are particularly inspiring to me - and the Scream franchise fits into that category.
First off, it was fun noticing some of the smaller parts who are now bigger stars - Portia De Rossi, Luke Wilson, etc... Timothy Olyphant has obviously grown into something quite interesting. Here he does the best with what he's given, although ***SPOILER ALERT*** I think he becomes a bit of a cliche in the end - which is too bad 'cause I really like him as an actor.
I think what this installment of the series does is do really wonderful things with the arcs of both Sidney and Gale (not to mention that both Cox and Campbell are looking particularly beautiful here). Gale having to overcome her own ego and legitimately care for others by the end, and Sidney having to deal with the fact that he life is not going to be normal.
This series is a lot of fun. I look forward to re-watching number three (probably tomorrow) and then the new installment in the spring.

1485 - Scream

Even though the newest Scream film is several months away I've decided to revisit this series in preparation for something I'm working on. It's hard to believe that we're zoning in on the 15th anniversary of this film. I remember when it first came out, how awesome it was the first time I'd seen it and how well it did (and still does) stand up over repeat viewings. In a lot of ways this is the Cadillac of teen-slasher-comedy films.
I question the logic of some of it now that I'm watching it with more critical eyes, but I can let some stuff slide for pure entertainment. The entire cast of this film is near perfect and I'm surprised that the majority of them haven't gone on to higher profile careers, funny how that sort of stuff works out - that isn't to say that they don't all have good careers. Okay. I'm going to stop talking now.
The entire third act of this film is pretty much pitch perfect, and the Drew Barrymore opening sequence sets the entire tone of the film up perfectly. Not easy to do. The simplicity of this film is something well-worth keeping in mind, just keep it fun, keep the tension going when needed.
If you've never seen this film and you're in any way, shape, or form a fan of great, fun horror films - get thee to a video store.

The Zombie Survival Guide

For all that I've written about zombies lately I should almost start labeling some of these blogs with that as a category. I'm still trying to figure out what my fascination with the subject is. I think it stems from the fact that these stories deal more with the human condition than they do gore or horror really. They deal with the idea of - what are people made of when put into the worst possible situations - at their core, what are people made up of?
The title of the book says it all - it's about how to survive in a world where zombies exist, large and small. The book itself is played completely straight. It's not intending to be goofy, it's more like Welle's War of the World telecast - in fact a conspiracy theorist could argue that perhaps this book is real - given how it's final section in the book deals with alleged outbreaks and their cover-ups.
Because of how seriously the book takes itself in the form of a survival guide there is no ongoing narrative, which is something that usually drives me in wanting to invest in something. Instead what we get is Brooks explaining to us a world, not far off from our own, and how we can use the world that we live in to fight off the undead masses.
I pick this and World War Z up at the same time, but I think I'm going to try and hold off from reading that right away. I've become bad about reading books in recent years and so I'm going to put a few others ahead of it. All in all this is a book that's a lot of fun if you're into the idea of zombies at all. It's the kind of book that you can pick up and read a bit at a time and then come back to later - so there is a bit of a coffee table vibe to it in that sense, which might help those who are only casually interested. And if you already love this book a quick internet search reveals that there are hordes of merchandise that you can purchase to go along with it including calendars, kits, etc...
The one really interesting thing about reading all of this zombie literature is that you can't help but think how well you yourself would fare in the zombie apocalypse. Too many variables to give an accurate and honest answer - but at the very least, having read what I've read - I'd like to think I'd at least have a fighting chance!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

1484 - Synecdoche, New York

I think that it would be really easy to call Charlie Kaufman, and this work in particular, pretentious. And to be clear, when I say "easy" I mean "lazy". Complicated doesn't equal pretension. The fact that something is multi-layed and complex doesn't mean that it doesn't make sense, nor that you're stupid if it isn't instantly clear of all it's meanings.
This is a hard film to write about because, as with all of Kaufman's works, it's a film of ideas. And those idea are as simple and universal as anything. On it's surface this is a film about a theatre director trying to make a work of importance, but really, it's about us trying to make our lives important. It's about our fears, and desires, and it's about us trying to get down and be honest about ourselves.
I can't pretend that I got even a fraction of what Kaufman has going on here, and I'm not praising him because I'm 'supposed' to think that he's a genius (and he is). There is a level of comedy in his work that makes it all the more enjoyable and all the more honest. He has no problem poking fun at himself and at his ideas - that's part of the whole point of it.
At this point there are about a half-dozen films that have been written by Kaufman and each and every single one of them make me extremely jealous in terms of the ideas that he is playing with inside of them. Kaufman inspires me greatly, as does the people that inspire him.
If you're a fan of ideas, you will enjoy this. It's not overtly pretentious, or tedious. It doesn't feel like homework to watch, if you have that fear. But fair warning - it is the kind of film that you're going to feel like you have to revisit and revisit and revisit. And I look forward to that.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

1483 - The Lookout

So I guess it's pretty safe to say that I've abandoned my Christmas-film-fest. Alas. this has been sitting on my desk for some time now, I picked it up based on the cast alone. Big fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Matthew Goode - not to mention Jeff Daniels (all are far more versatile than I think casting in films gives them credit for - although the latter two do get a better shake in that department), not to mention Isla Fisher is here and you can never go wrong with casting Isla Fisher.
I like the idea behind this film, but furthermore I liked that it wasn't predictable. There were so many ways that it could have gone. It just bordered some bizarre cliche things, the character Bone, etc... The robbers, who seemed pretty normal, didn't take much to become instant sociopaths - which was a shame story wise. I think they could have done something a little more honest and original with that.
Still a nice little film and well worth watching if you like any of the aforementioned actors or crime stories at all.

1482 - True Grit

I've been a little hit or miss on the Coens in the last few films. There have been a lot of stuff that I liked about them, but none of them completely won me over. And then comes True Grit, not a remake of The Duke's, but an adaptation of the same source.
This film is full of brilliant actors that are invisible, hidden inside of their characters. Bridges, Damon, Pepper, Brolin, and the extremely talented young Hailee Steinfeld make this possibly the best casted film this year - or at least he best acted. This is a film where every performance, big and small, is a work of art - even the smallest of characters.
The production design, costumes, make-ups, just the way that the men's mustaches are stained ever so slightly from tobacco, the attention to detail is startling. Deakens does some of his best work behind the camera here.
I was surprised just how accessible this film was made, how satisfying. I've always liked the Coens, but when I walked into this film I had no idea that I was about to watch their best film to date - and that's what this is. I can't imagine it won't get the attention that it deserves.
Do yourself a favor and see this film.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

1481 - Saved!

I've broken my Christmas-film streak already. In all fairness I really wanted to watch Love Actually tonight but it would appear as that my copy is M.I.A. and netflix doesn't have it. I had some other options, but ever since I saw this on netflix I've been meaning to watch it since it's been on my list of films to watch for many many years.

I grew up surrounded by religion and I find it an interesting topic. I don't really prescribe to a religion. I'm of the opinion that all you really need to be is a descent person - if it makes you feel better to lend yourself to a deity - all the better. What's really interesting about this film is that it's not about "is religion useful or useless?". It's about how people misinterpret religion and assign it to horrible rules and regulations. The key line comes when someone questions all the rules in the bible and questioned "Why would God make us all so different if he wanted us to be the same?" People could easily argue that that is actually the test, to restrain from being too different. If that's true, if that's what we're supposed to do in this life, then I'm happy to fail.

This film is full of great young performers (not to mention Mary-Louise Parker, whom will always hold a place in my heart). Jena Malone continues to delight me in everything I see her in. Patrick Fugit is still one of the more under-used actors of his generation - why he's not cast more often I have no idea. I'm just starting to become familiar with Eva Amurri, but I like what I see. Macaulay Culkin is also a treat here. And Mandy Moore, well, who doesn't love to play a villain as juicy at this one?

If you can dig on a thoughtful film about religion and moral ambiguity search no further. It's smart, fun, and fresh. Well worth an hour and a half of your time!

Monday, December 20, 2010

1480 - The Family Stone

The second film of my little Christmas marathon! I first saw this film when it was in theatres and it just knocked my socks off. I have to say that poking around the old inter-web I was amazed to see that there are some people that just absolutely hate this film. And while I know that there are millions of opinions about millions of subjects I guess I always just find it strange when I discover that something that hits me so strongly can be dismissed by people. That's ridiculously small minded of me, but there it is...

For those of you who don't know, I lost my mother around Christmas time when I was a teenager, and so Christmas sucked for a number of years. The day was always lovely, of course, but there was always this... absence that came along with it. But the years go on, as they do, and Christmas became Christmas again. And it seems that it was at that time when this film came out, and for those of you more intimate with the storyline, you know that there's a thread involving the mother. So this film hit me pretty hard, and in a weird way connected it all for me. I saw this film initially with my father and I think it was hard for him as well, but also a bit cathartic. I don't think we ever talked about it, but we both knew. So I might have some bias towards this film, but I'm okay with that.

I love films about dysfunctional families, and I like Christmas films to boot, so this one was easy to decide to revisit during my little festive watching. A man brings him his uptight girlfriend to meet his tight-knit family and they do not approve of it. Hilarity and heart ensue. This film is one of those that have an amazing, jealousy worthy, ensemble casts. From the always lovely Diane Keaton, to Craig T. Nelson, to Sarah Jessica Parker, Claire Danes, Luke Wilson (who I'm normally 'meh' on, but love here) to my personal highlight, the wonderful Rachel McAdams - this cast is just chalk full of people that I would love to work with.

So this isn't your traditional Christmas film (who knows if I'll actually get around to watching any of 'those') but this is the kind of film that I think if you haven't seen it, you just might dig it. The cast alone makes it worth checking out, but the story is what's going to make it work for you. Great characters, great writing, wonderful film.

Three 2 Five Questions: Dominic Desjardins & Rayne Zukerman

When I was at the Sudbury International Film Festival this fall I had the pleasure of meeting Rayne Zukerman the producer of a film that I absolutely fell in love with, Le divan du monde (Everybody's Couch). We kept in touch and she was certain that her partner, the writer/director of the film, Dominic and I would hit it off should we meet. So today ventured over to their place for brunch and a mini-play-date between our children - and she was right. It's nice to meet like-minded people in similar places in their careers (although it's worth noting that Dominic shot his second feature this fall, hence why he was not at Sudbury with Rayne). They have a lovely baby, Balzac, and of course we have our dashing Ephraim, and I think they enjoyed one another as well. In fact when you hear some toddler-babbling in the background, that's Ephraim - he even makes a little cameo here. I hope you guys are enjoying these interviews as much as I'm enjoying doing them - more to come in the new year! And do yourself a favour and check our Dominic and Rayne's film should you ever see it in your filmic travels - it's a gem!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

1479 - Mixed Nuts

This film is going to kick-off my week long (hell, I might even make it two week long) Christmas-Film-Fest. I saw this film when it first came out, and outside of a few moments I mostly forgot what it was about. Sixteen years can do that to you. Nora Ephron is one of those queen's of romantic-comedies, so it's pretty enjoyable to see her tackle this dark, farcical material, and with such an eccentric cast. Here we are delighted by some lovely old stand-bys including none other than Mr. Steve Martin, he brilliant Madeline Kahn, and the never-cast-enough Rita Wilson, along with many people who were new-comers at the time - including an embarrassing performance by Adam Sandler doing the schtick that was expected of him at the time. Liev Shrieber is more-or-less introduced here in a pretty memorable role, and of course Juliette Lewis is in fine form. For those with keen eyes you'll notice a one line role from a very very young Haley Joel Osmet, and if you pay particular attention you'll notice that the male and female rollerbladers that book-end the film are none other than Jon Stewart and Parker Posey.

This film isn't super-heavy on the Christmas stuff, but it is there and it does give it some extra oomph in the bits where it's more important than others. This is one of those films that could easily have been a play - and I wonder if it wouldn't be just a tad stronger in that medium. I like this film enough, but I do find that it gets a little draggy in the middle - the plethora of great performances more often than not makes up for it though. If you haven't seen this one before it's probably not the first Christmas-esque film that I'd throw at you in a "you must absolutely see this" fashion, but I wouldn't dissuade you from checking it out either should it pique your interest. Not to give away too much but it's essentially about a suicide helpline is being shut down and the operator of it must find some way to keep it open whilst surrounded by a quirky cast of characters, all with their own problems.

It still stands up over time and I did enjoy it - so there's your half-ass recommendation.

Friday, December 17, 2010

1478 - Real Genius

I don't know how it is that I had never heard of this film. I was working with two of the creative consultants on the show I'm working on and somehow this film came up, and surprisingly it just got added to netflix, so I saw it as a sign.

The hard thing about going back to much loved films, especially those made in the eighties, is that there's a real danger of them not holding up all that well. I can say that I didn't really laugh throughout this film - but the story was engaging and I really liked the characters - Val Kilmer appears in one of his first roles and it's no reason that he became a star - he's quite charming here. I think that there's some pretty clever writing going on here, it's just that the humor is from two decades past. Either way, I'm really glad I checked it out - I had a grin on my face the entire time.

If you've never seen this and you have a particular fondness for the eighties, it's a no-brainer - check it out.

Three 2 Five Questions: Katie Boland

I have to say that I quite enjoy doing these little segments. Here we have the lovely Katie Boland, a young Canadian actress whom I met in the summer through mutual interest. She recently participated in a reading we did for what, hopefully, will be my next film. You'll probably recognize her from Atom Egoyan's Adoration, or The Zack Files, or Terminal City, or the upcoming Daydream Nation which premiered at TIFF this year. In addition to all of this Katie is a pretty talented writer in her own right, which is featured in her blog is on my list to the side, but you can also there there by clicking this link.
I hope you dig the interview - again, the audio is as-is, I tend to do these things in coffee shops which are generally busy and a bit loud - hopefully it doesn't take away from it too much. Enjoy!

Every Film Released in 2010 in 6 Minutes

Okay. Even if they've missed some, which be sheer volume I'm sure they must have, this is pretty damn impressive. If anything, it just reminds you the sheer awesomeness of movies. Special thanks to Dana Brunetti for bringing this to my attention:

Monday, December 13, 2010

1477 - Young People Fucking

I decided to forgo my usual still photo to show then entire ensemble - it's so strong that it's really not fair to leave anyone else. I first saw this film back when we were casting The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard, and while no one from this cast ended up in our film it's absolutely no reflection on how good this cast is - in fact the main reason I initially watched it (outside of sheer interest) was to check out the casting director's work, Jenny Lewis and Sara Kay, whom we were lucky enough to have to put together our cast. I'm also now fortunate enough to know several of the cast from this film - in fact I'm currently working with two of them on a tv series that I'm editing - more on that in the upcoming months as it gets ready to air.

I love good ensembles, I think it's because I'm big on the idea of exploring different angles of a theme and ensembles really give you the latitude to do that. I like the structure that this has going for it as well and it makes me think I might want to do something in that vein as well with something that I'm currently developing.

This is now on netflix in Canada and so I encourage you all to check it out - it's a pretty simple film, five groups of people explore the idea of intimate relations over the course of a single sexual encounter. Some might consider this a talking-head film, but it's more dynamic than that - and even if it was, the heads are saying some pretty fantastic stuff. This is easily one of the stronger Canadian films I've seen in recent years - and it's the kind of film that I can see myself revisiting more and more. It's rare for me to watch the same film more than once these days, so there's that alone for the recommendation. If absolutely nothing else, check it out for the assortment of fantastic talent, a lot of which are still working in our home and native land.

1476 - Dexter: season five

Two things that you should know going into reading this review - first I am in fact a fan of the show - two, this is probably going to be pretty spoiler heavy, so proceed with caution!

Last season ended with a jaw-dropper. It was the first time that they didn't wrap things up with a pretty bow on Dexter, that he hadn't gotten just barely by, that they gave him extreme consequences to his actions. And the aftermath made the possibilities for season five absolutely delicious. And they picked up the moment they left off - a bold and awesome choice. But this season wasn't about trying to solve Rita's murder - it gets pretty quickly slushed off into the ongoing (never to be solved) Trinity investigation. Instead this season is about trying to atone.

There is a line in the season finale tonight from uber-villain Jordan Chase where, upon looking at Dexter's kill tools, he remarks, "When I look at this I see a greatness in you, but when I look at you, I just see a mess." There's a truth to that statement, not about Dexter as a character, but about the series itself. The beginning of this season was... well... it dragged in a weird way. I really really didn't care about the storyline of Batista and Laguerta. Also the two psycho brothers seemed to be just a random occurance and existed merely to get Deb put into the file room so that she could look further into the barrel girls case - seems a bit extreme. I realize that they also used that side story to mess with Deb and Laguerta's relationship as well - but it really truly felt like filler. Dexter does tension extremely well, it does build up in a strong fashion. What they don't do well is putting Dexter into REALLY difficult situations. They spent a great deal of time talking about how difficult it was to get to Jordan Chase, how he's always surrounded by guards - yet they just brush that away and not make the characters have to deal with it whatsoever. That was a bit of a cop-out for me. I was super annoyed about Deb just about finding out and then her letting them walk off. I do buy that Deb is at the place where she would do that, but it felt like a bit of a cock-tease and then a cheat. Having read some interviews the producers are well aware that they have to deal with that storyline at some point (might as well attack it next season, with Hall & Carpenter getting a divorce they'll probably welcome their characters being at odds when the cameras start rolling again next year).
The biggest annoyance is how easily Quinn got off just because of the blood work. What about all of the finger prints? The phone calls (those voicemails he deleted would still be on a server somewhere). That got REALLY quickly brushed under the matt.
This show is a lot of fun, it's quite delicious - I keep meaning to revisit past seasons but I fear for finding holes in it. Maybe it'll be better than that. Who knows. Michael C. Hall is brilliant, and his relationship with Julia Stiles' Lumen was just a thing to behold. Their parting was heartbreaking, but it made complete sense. I like what they did with it - and that it's open ended enough that she may very well find herself on his doorstep down the line. Jennifer Carpenter continues to be fantastic, especially considering how unlikable her character was earlier in the series.

I know that I complained a lot in this review, but I did like this season and I think that they did some interesting things. I'm curious as to how they're going to keep this show fresh now. What's next that's going to challenge and confound Dexter. Just do me a favour and make him actually have to deal with being a father next season and not give him the easy out. You have some talented people on that team, put your characters through hell!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fables #14: Witches

As an be seen above the artists that do the cover work on Fables are just fantastic. I'm sure by now there is a collection of the covers out there and I might pick it up one day if the series ever comes to an end and I can have the whole set. It would make an awesome coffee table book.

So here we are at book fourteen of Fables. For those who don't know about the series it takes the idea that all of the fairy tale characters from all of time are real (and more or less immortal, which has a lot to do with the way we remember and continue to tell stories about them) and they existed in a place called the Homelands. Someone called The Adversary (whose identity I won't reveal here) created an Empire and so many of the Fables fled and decided to take refuge here on Earth (or in The Mundy, as they call it - us humans being Mundane compared to them). Now, to bring you up to speed, the Fables slowly but surely struck back against the Empire and the Adversary, casualties on both sides occurred, and the Fables were successful in defeating the Empire. And so, wouldn't you think that it would be happily ever after following that? If that was the case, the series wouldn't even exist in the first place :) What followed that huge story arc was the decision to show, what happens when an Empire falls, and what does the fall out mean? Two volumes ago we were introduced to Mr. Dark, the pure embodiment of all evil, and he's decided to take down the Fables, and he's doing a pretty damn good job of it so far. The last volume of the series was a bit frustrating in that it put a big pause on this storyline just at a time when we wanted it to keep moving. And then comes along this new volume and, well, the frustration continues to some degree. I realize that there has to be a lead-up to a great battle, and I wasn't expecting the Mr. Dark storyline to be resolved in this volume, but it just felt like they didn't really get anywhere with it. Baby steps, really. It's all entertaining and great, don't get me wrong, but it's not Fables at it's best. There is a nice side-story at the end involving Flycatcher that's really quite lovely, he finally seems to be getting over the grief of his wife with another Fable whom I'm had a crush on since she was first introduced.

So not a bad book by any means, but I want more to be happening at this point. It's taking it's time, and perhaps for good reason. The next volume, I believe, is called Rose Red, so I look forward to getting her back in the main storyline... and I wonder if it being about her means that a certain boy in blue might finally make his return...

(*** as a post script, I started reviewing comics late in this blog, so at some point I'll circle back and write up my thoughts on the previous volumes of this series)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

1475 - Teeth

I love the above poster and so I decided to use the in lieu of the usual still image that I put on top of my movie reviews. I remember hearing about this film when it first came out and I thought that the premise was pretty fantastic. What is the premise you ask? Essentially it's that a young girl who is passionate about keeping pure and chaste realizes she was born with vagina dentata. Now what is that? Well... the film is called Teeth after all.
Essentially it's a metaphor for the wrongs that men do to women and how one fights back in a very unique way. The tone is playful and that makes a huge difference. Jess Weixler does something pretty special with the lead in this film - I can't imagine that it's an easy role to play but she does absolute wonders with it, I believe that this poor girl is learning about herself as she goes along.
This could have been some really campy bullshit, and while it properly borrors from that type of storytelling, it does so with intent and it's all the better for it. This film isn't for everyone - but I recommend it to those even remotely curious. It's more dark comedy than horror. That being said, probably not a great date movie... :)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

1474 - 30 Rock: season four

Emily and I took our time watching this season of the series - not because it's bad - mostly just because serialized tv shows take president over stand-alone series. We always love coming back to Liz Lemon though. I can't imagine that I'm the only one who has a mad crush on Tina Fey - I'm sure that there are legions of guys. She is funny as shit. The writing, of course, but her performance just slays me. She's brilliant. The show's prime comedy schtick is the "random humor" and I can't think of any other anything that does it as well as they do. The strength here is also the diversity of the cast, what they all bring to it, in addition to the extremely impressive cameos from people you would never expect to see on this show.

So if you like to laugh and you've never seen this series, get on it!

Monday, December 06, 2010

1473 - In Search of a Midnight Kiss

I remember seeing the trailer for this when it was first making the rounds and knowing that I'd want to check it out at some point - thank you again netflix for coming to my rescue! This film starts off with these really beautiful b/w shots of L.A. and it lures the viewer into thinking you're in for a visual masterpiece. You're not. I'm usually not overly superficial when it comes to the asthetics of a film, however when you set me up like that with some gorgeous cinematography, you're asking for it. The film, for the most part, looks fine. There are a few scenes that are so poorly shot that it kind of distracts you. That being said, it's a movie worth checking out...

The film centers around Wilson, a guy who hasn't had a date in six years and is looking to not be lonely on New-Years-Eve, and so he puts up a craigslist ad and finds Vivian, whom upon first meeting feels a bit like she might have forgotten to take her medication. The film asks a lot up front in terms of expecting you to follow around these mildly unlikable people - but I promise you, it's worth the weight. The acting in the film is a little unbalanced, in particular with the supporting cast, but when Scoot McNairy and Sara Simmonds are on, they are on. When you start wanting to spend time with them you REALLY want to spend time with them. You buy them as two people slowly becoming enamored by one another.

In the end it's a simple, lovely little film. It's not for everyone - if you like your run of the mill rom-coms then this might not be your thing, but for those of you who like their love stories with a tinge of reality you very may well want to check this out.

1472 - The Walking Dead: season one

Anyone who has read my blog in the past month knows that I'm pretty into this story, or at least the idea of the series, which is essentially a band of people just trying to survive in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. The comic series is phenomenal in every way - great characters, story, themes, and more important, great execution.
The pilot for this series nailed the tone just right - it mixed the disturbing with the mundane, but future episodes seemed to lose that a bit. And for a series that it meant to be about the survivors I didn't really feel like I got to know, or care, about them all that much - and that is the biggest downfall from this first season. And for someone like Darabont it really surprises me. This show has been greenlit for a second, longer, season and so perhaps that will help deal with some of those issues.
For fans of the comic that haven't jumped in yet keep in mind that they're not following the comic religiously by any means, so it's not just like a giant retread (if it were it might be a bit better..., but that's just my humble opinion).
It's worth giving this show a shot given that it's only six episodes in it's first run - but I implore you that if you like this show in anyway do yourself a favor and pick up the comic series of the same name, it will not disappoint!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

1471 - Paranormal Activity

Because I'm an idiot I decided to watch this film late at night. I can only imagine that it's going to give me nightmares, or at least a messed up sleep. We'll see. I think that the best horror films play into real fears and I'm sure most people have spent some time in a house that made weird noises, especially when you're by yourself - so this territory was ripe for a solid horror/suspense/whatever this is. I remember getting something on the internet that was a teaser asking I wanted this film to come to my city - which was a brilliant way to spread buzz for it.

The 'found-footage' film is getting pretty popular, mostly because it can be done on a budget, but so rarely is it done as well as it is here. For those that don't know this film is about a woman who has been plagued by a 'demon' her entire life and her live-in boyfriend has decided to document it to see what happen, all the while antagonizing the demon 'causing it's actions to escalate.

This is a scary film. It doesn't rely on violence or blood or anything. It's just pure tension and release. As the film progresses, every time we get to the 'bedroom shot' your whole body just wants to get whatever is coming over with - this is a good thing. It starts off creepy and never lets up. The only misstep it takes in terms of utter reality is that they're waiting for an out-of-town demonologist to get to them - as if he's the only one of his kind living in L.A. I'm curious the direction that they took with the sequel and I'm sure that I'll check it out before long.

If you're a fan of scary flicks this one delivers in spades - is it a bit melodramatic at time? Sure, but it's entertaining, especially considering that the film was made for next to nothing. If you're in need of a good scare, look no further.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Most Interesting Album of the Year (and it's FREE!)

So I shall state my bias up front. This album is from one of my dearest friends, Mr. Tom Kratz. He's the kind friend whom, despite the fact we only seen each other once in a blue moon, I correspond with frequently and whose exchanges I value and look forward to. For the last two years I've been fortunate enough to preview some of the music Tom has been working on, one of the tracks made it's way into my film The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard, several others have gained some cult status on the CBC, and from what he tells me a few of the pieces here are inspired by a project that I have in development.

Tom is also a writer of some note, he's be published throughout North America for his short fiction work and is currently working away on a novella and some other projects. I don't think that it's any exaggeration to say that Tom will be known as a kind of Leonard Cohen of his time. But enough about how much I love Tom, about the album.

The first thing you should know is that Tom had a offer for this album, but instead decided to self-distribute. It's a wise decision - he wants people to hear his music - he wants to get it out to as many people - and in an effort to do that, he's offering his album at a pay-what-you-can rate. Hell, should you choose you can even pay nothing, or download it, listen, and then decide how much you think it's worth. So it costs you absolutely nothing besides your time to give this album a shot - and I promise you, it's well worth your time.

The Betty White Sessions is an eclectic album, and while not all of it is for everyone, there is something on it for everybody. The variety of styles is something you won't see on most albums, and I promise you that you've never heard the phrase "All that's here is shit" sung so sweetly or uplifting.

This is the kind of album that can only exist in a situation where there is no limit on the creativity, no one telling the artist that they must exist within a certain context. It is the perfect forum for someone like Kratz who is eclectic, evocative, and a slew of other words that start with the letter 'e'. If there could be any criticism of this work at all it's that it doesn't play like a traditional album - it would be unfair to listen to one track and make your decision on whether you like it or not - you really need to give it a few tracks. So do yourself a favour and grab this fine album, like I said it's free or pay-what-you-can so there's no loss whatsoever outside of your own time. And if you like it, pass it along! And feel free to post your thoughts here or on Tom's page!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Three 2 Five Questions: The Twins

Finally I have another installment for my interview series. Apologies for the delay. I'm flattered by how much support I have for this series and how many people have told me how much they like the idea of it. Although I think that the majority of my interviews will feature people that work in the arts there really is no rhyme or reason to some of the people that I'll choose to interview, case in point, below I have my six year old nephews. I hope you dig it. Special thanks to Tom Kratz for additional inspiration on some of the questions. Enjoy!

Dear Cyclists - Another Rant

It's raining this morning. And that sucks for a lot of people, in particular people commuting. Despite the fact that our bodies are made up of about 70% of water people seem to have a real problem with having water on the outside of it. However this rant is not about the rain.

For those of you who don't live in Toronto, in addition to stop lights, we have cross walks in the city - intended for people walking - you push the button and a bunch of flashing lights dance above you, and the vehicles are meant to stop so that the people walking may have safe passage to the other side of the street. Just like with yellow lights as soon as these things start flashing motorists speed up to get through them. There are a lot of dangerous drivers in this city, I know that. This, however, isn't about them.

This morning while at a cross walk, the button was pushed. I looked both ways (because I know better than to blindly assume people are paying attention). And about half walk through my journey from street to street a cyclist tears in front of me and runs over my foot. That's how close the asshole gets. And then he has the nerve to tell me to watch where I'm walking. I know that this guy isn't in the majority of cyclists who are very good people, and mindful, but I still have to rant about the small percentage of them who don't think that the normal rules of the road apply to them. Much like having a child, there is no license or test that has to passed for someone to ride a bike as a transportation device in the city - and yet these people are expected to follow the traffic rules despite not having to prove that they can handle that privilege. And yes, I believe that driving any kind of vehicle, motorized or not, is a privilege and not a right. I had an argument on my blog here back a few months ago when I was complaining about people riding bikes on sidewalks, and he argued that it's not safe on the street with the 'crazy motorists'. I think that if you actually feel that way, that you're not safe, then you probably shouldn't ride your bike. The same way I wouldn't recommend someone skydiving if they didn't feel that it was beneficial to their health. Driving any kind of vehicle inside of a city is stressful to some degree and I think it's safe to say that not everyone can handle the stress. Luckily not everyone has to. There are a lot of other affordable systems in place to get you from point A to point B.

I know the picture I used above is a bad example of the average cyclist. I know that most of you are good intelligent people who take the responsibility of riding a bike seriously. This isn't for you. This is for the asshole that drove over my foot. I'm not a violent person, but next time I'm shoving your ass onto the street.

Have a lovely day.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Kill Shakespeare

I love lit-comics. Fables is one of my all time favorites and I pan it off on others as much as possible. In general I quite enjoy the idea of playing with established worlds and characters - we've seen it a lot these days, it's almost a genre unto itself. And here we have it being done to Shakespeare. It's a brilliant idea, the kind that most people are probably scratching their head and saying "Why didn't I think of that?"

As a rule I don't think it's fair to compare things when reviewing them, however in the case of this comic they've specifically written on the back:
What Fables does for fairy tales, Kill Shakespeare does with the greatest writer of all time.
This isn't a quote from a review, this is what the creators and/or publishers themselves are saying about the book - and therefore, in my opinion, it's completely fair game to compare. Fables succeeds in a large way because of it's scope. It encompasses ALL fairy tales in all cultures, and it does so under the guise that the stories that we've all grown up hearing are just versions of their stories - therefore Willingham (the creator of Fables) gives himself proper license to do, more or less, whatever he damn well pleases. He follows a set of rules and it makes sense. This is just the beginning of where this book fails. Seemingly we're in an alternate universe where all of Shakespeare's plays take place. Awesome! I can SO buy into that. The book starts off at the ending of Hamlet. Sweet - I'm in. Instead of Hamlet going back to Denmark he's sidetracked and grabbed by Richard III, okay... I'm with you. But then... we continue... and we start to be surrounded by other characters from other works... Juliet is among them... but she's not a teenager which means... what exactly? She's alive? WTF?! And now, I'm officialy confused, lost, and... out. What's the logic of the world? What are the rules? Where are we in these stories? This is just the beginnings of the problem with this book.

The writers claim to have done their research, what that consists of, I don't know. Shakespeare is known to be boring as a cliche, and they don't seem to do a lot to help that. I've seen and read enough Shakespeare to know that he's a funny guy, he's entertaining, and then man knows how to spin a story. I've seen productions of Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet that are downright hysterical, but this is played dry as bones. And the writing in this is pretty bland and obvious. Iago appears on the villains side, and then is later seen switching to the good guys side, and then the big twist on the final page is... he's double crossing the good guys! What a surprise given that he's Iago! Come on! Do something original, make it Othello that's playing the sides this time. Maybe the next volume will show that Iago isn't actually double crossing, but it doesn't matter 'cause I can't imagine I'll continue on with this series.

When Darwyn Cooke spends the majority of his introduction writing about how difficult it is to create comics, as opposed to how exciting and interesting the story we're about to read is, you know that you're in trouble. I'm sorry, but I just can't recommend this.

Friday, November 26, 2010

1470 - Weeds: season six

If absolutely nothing else you have to give this series some credit for having the balls to throw caution to the wind and do something else consistently. Ever since the Botwins fled Agrestic at the end of season three, things have continually gotten stranger and worse for the clan (which is saying something). Weeds does amazing season-ending-cliff hangers and last season's was no slouch. In fact it resulting in this ENTIRE season dealing with the fallout from it - and that will actually continue onto the next season, understandably so. If you aren't up to date on Weeds stop reading now - spoilers to follow:

Shane has been going off the deep end for some time now and last season ended with him snapping completely, and in a fantastic fashion. So this season saw the Botwins fleeing, scraping by trying to come up with a plan to flee the country in general. Just as that becomes a possibility Nancy has to put Plan C into motion - and what a plan it is - it's the kind of plan that will, once again, change this series in a major way. But not just as a plot - it was a huge character move for her - it was her (besides saving her own life) doing something completely selfliss (which is saying something considering that Nancy is a borderline sociopath).

Mary-Lousie Parker is brillint here. You couldn't stick with her character otherwise. The stand-out for me is always going to be Justin Kirk - damn it I love that guy. I thought that they did a pretty great job this season and I look forward to where our team takes us next, and hope that the gang isn't apart for too long.

1469 - Brewster's Millions

Lord knows how it happened, but I somehow got through my entire childhood without ever seeing this film. I know the premise, this is one of many adaptations of the original novel. If memory serves I think this film did quite well at the time, but from someone watching it fresh - this film does not hold up over time. Granted I've never been a Richard Pryor fan (although it should be noted that I have nothing against him either - I just don't think he's funny), but I do adore John Candy (whose role is the one-dimensional side-kick here).

For those that don't know, this film has one of those great high-concept angles - a man stands to inherit $300 million dollars from an unknown relative, BUT only if he can spend $30 million dollars in 30 days along with a laundry list of rules - especially one stating that he can't tell anyone about the conditions of his inheritance. Sounds ripe for comedy, doesn't it? I think this film is just rife with missed opportunities to the point where it's actually kind of sad. My mind just spins with the things you can do with this concept. I don't think I laughed once through-out, and because Pryor is such a one-note actor in this I had a hard time giving a shit about him at all.

So in terms of premise and idea, it's great - but they got that from the book, and honestly, they don't do enough with it. If you've never seen this film, I have a hard time recommending that you check it out now. Stay tuned for when I do my re-make "Brewster's Billions"!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Whacked! script reading

Tonight I was lucky to be surrounded by a group of extremely talented and intelligent actors to do a reading of a script of mine, Whacked!. It's an ensemble sex-comedy, and it's gotten to the point where I really just needed to hear it out loud and throw a bunch of other opinions at it. As a filmmaker I believe strongly in collaboration and bringing in ideas from the outside, and so I bring that to my work as a writer as well. I try my best not to be precious about anything unless I'm absolutely certain, without the shadow of a doubt, that it's working - and readings like this really help to shine a light on strengths and weaknesses. I've got pages of notes, some big picture, some nitpicky, but all working towards making the script as strong as possible. It's getting there, and this will help enormously. So anyone reading this that had a part - thank you from the bottom of my heart. There's a special place for people like you.

If all goes well this will be my next film that I make, and so in turn you'll be hearing a lot more about it. So say a little prayer for me that you're going to start hearing more about it! :)

1468 - Diary of the Dead

I've categorized this film below as being Canadian, money-wise I'm not sure if it's true, but I think that there are enough elements in it to deam it true.

As you can see looking over my last months worth of entries that I've been on a bit of a zombie-kick. It has a lot more to do with reading The Walking Dead more than anything, but I saw this was on netflix, and I've always enjoyed the old Romero flicks so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Use the format of fictional documentary is a fresh and realistic approach to making a zombie flick, and it's nice that it came from Romero himself, probably in a desire to get back to his low-budget roots. As always Romero uses his zombies to creates metaphors for aspects of our society. Here it's about truth and the media. It's about how the media and the gov't withholds information, filters it. That's the strengths of the film. It doesn't really have any scares, or jump out of your seat moments. You don't dislike the characters, but they are more caricatures than anything and so it's hard to really get attached to it. The self-referential nature is often amusing, but it gets pretentious in the moments where they go on and on about how important what they're doing is. As if it'll make a difference - the problem is that there's no way for the audience to know if it will or does. I believe that the filmmaker believes that the film he's making is important, but I don't believe for a second that it is important at all.

The film is okay, if you're a Romero zombie fan you'll probably dig it a lot - there are some fun jabs to the fast-moving-zombies idea. Over-all it's not a great film, but it's interesting. I'd recommend it to fans of the genre, but it's not going to convert anyone.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Walking Dead - Vol 13: Too Far Gone

I was pretty happy to realize that, while going through my Walking Dead marathon a few weeks ago, that there was a new volume coming out very soon. Of course now that I blazed through it I've got to wait again... :(

This volume picked up right were the last left off. Rick and his band of merry followers are still in the gated community and the question comes into play as to if the place is really all that safe from the people that live within the walls, and Rick starts to wonder if he and his friends should arm themselves just 'in case'. Rick is starting to lose it - he knows it - a lot of this volume is about that. The rest of the characters are just kind of there in this volume, nothing major happens with them. There is a shift in the dynamic of the characters here, but this volume feels more like a hallway to something different. An altercation with an outside faction (which felt a little anti-climatic) is going to surely lead to an army of the dead heading towards the gated community - so we'll see just how strong all of those walls are.

In a series known for it's trademark disturbing content the last two volumes have been surprisingly tame. I can't help but think that this is the calm before a major storm coming. Rick continues to be plagued by what he's had to do to survive. A fellow-editor I'm working with has just started reading the series and he's on volume four and he asked me today if someone gives Rick a good kick in the ass, that he's not sure he can keep reading them because he doesn't like Rick. Rick, to me, is like the biblical Job, he's there to be tortured and punished. I have no doubt that Rick will survive as long as the series goes on, and that is more punishment than if he'd die. I don't think that there's any spoiler in saying that - it's just my theory.

Looking forward to see where Kirkman is heading us with this story, world, and characters.

Monday, November 22, 2010

1467 - Parenthood

When you become a parent, it changes how you watch movie. It changes what you want, and when. And what you want to watch. You go from being the kind of film connoisseur who just wants to consume everything that there is, to someone who realizes that there are only so many hours in the day - and therefore only so many movies you can watch. This is a film worth watching over and over again.

It's been years since I've seen this, but I recall it from my youth, back when I used to watch the same films over and over and over again, not realizing that I was studying them, building a language I would use decades later. This is a film about how messy families and relationships are, and how you have to learn how to deal with that. A quick glance above lets you see just how impressive this ensemble cast is, including a young Joaquin Phoenix, recognizable only by his upper lip here.

This film could easily have slipped into melodrama but instead it balances between comedy and drama better than most do. Whether it's a couple over or under-parenting, a teenager couple ready for marriage, and the guys that have been in it (maybe?) too long. I'm in the midst of developing a film in the same ensemble nature as this and so I wanted to check out it to see how they work with the tone, the balance, the visuals, to get it all to blend together. It's a pretty admirable job from a pretty admirable filmmaker, Mr. Ron Howard.

This is one of those classic films where if you haven't seen it, you really need to get out there and find yourself a copy right away. I can't imagine that there isn't something in this film for everyone. If I could recommend it higher than I would.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

1466 - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: part one

It's a pretty impressive thing to have a series this big that's not only good, but that keeps getting bigger, richer, and more intense with each installment. And to be able to retain the entire cast (save some necessary recasting due to a lack of real Deathy Hallows) throughout the entire series. Not only that but to grab three nine-year-olds and be lucky enough that they all turn out to be damn fine actors in their own rights. I know not everyone believes this, and a lot more people are coming around to them, but I've always enjoyed and defended them, in particular Emma Watson whom people have said particularily nasty things about. I've always adored her and I do still here.

I wasn't surprised that they split the final book into two films - and maybe it was a bit of a way for Warner Bros to milk the series for a few more dollars, but I'm more surprised that they didn't split these stories up more. I always thought that they'd work better on the small screen, to give the chance to flesh out a lot of the little things that we just don't have time for in a compressed period of time. That being said I think that they did a really impressive job of making this part of the final story stand on it's own. It doesn't have a super strong climax but it ends at a really great moment. Shit is about to get REAL.

Without ruining anything, this film is full of moments that are chilling, as well as really quite lovely. Harry and Hermoine share a nice little affectionate moment right at a time that they both need it most, and it's the kind of scene that never would have existed had the film not been split into two. There's also a similar beat where we get to see all of Ron's inner-worst fears on display. It's really well done and affective.

Yates has really done an admirable job of making the last sections of this over-all story continue to ramp up and intensify. I love how the real world gets more and more integrated here. As much as there is going on here, it's still the calm before the storm. I expect the storm to be nothing short of magnificent given what's come before.

Leading up the final film I plan to revisit the series one film at a time, so be sure to look out for that if you're at all interested.

I don't need to tell you to go see this film, either you will or you won't. But if you haven't already been accustomed to this series, don't start here, they don't even bother to dumb it down for you and make it stand on it's own. You're right smack dab in the shit, and that's what makes it pretty damn awesome.

1465 - Big Fan

This film had been on my radar for quite some time through both friends who'd seen it and through hearing about it in connection with The Wrestler. The one thing I'd heard over and over is that I had to see the film, if for no other reason, than for Patton Oswalt - who I've been a fan of for some time. He does a variation on Travis Bickle here that's quite interesting to watch. It's a film about a man who lives and breathes sport, in particular the New York Giants. She spends his evenings listening to a call-in sports talk show, scribbling down thoughts, and then calling in and pretending to 'wing-it'. They go to the game's tailgate parties and sit outside the stadium watching the game on a television whose power is jerry-rigged to their car's battery. Then one evening he and his best friend are out and they happen across our Big Fan's favourite player. They follow him to a club to be able to say hello and end up on the receiving end of a rather large beating when the Athlete thinks he's being stalked. What follows next is the question of how far will someone go to protect something they love? The player is suspended for the incident and the Giants start a losing streak, which Oswalt's character feels responsible for.

The film is, intentionally, a bit sad and pathetic. All the more so because I'm pretty sure that I know people that would go to these extremes. I believe that Oswalt's character would go to the extremes that he does and I want to reach out and shake the guy, but it would be a fool's errand when he won't even listen to his own family. This film isn't for everyone, that's for sure, but it's well worth checking out if you're curious about it at all.

1464 - Greenberg

I struggle with Baumbach's films. He really enjoys exploring characters that are arrogant and self centred intellectuals. I really didn't like Squid and the Whale, but this film I actually kind of enjoyed it. I think it has a lot to do with the supporting cast that surrounds Greenberg - in particular Greta Gerwig as Florence. She's really just lovely, and flawed just enough to feel real and human and crazy enough to be around someone that's as big of an asshole as Roger Greenberg. It's a film about a man in his forties who has just gotten out of some kind of mental institution and is going to housesit for his, much more successful, younger brother, and build them a doghouse while he's there. That is, essentially, the plot going into it - and coming out of it, really as he navigates traces of his former life and realizes that no one really wants anything to do with him, save Florence - who probably doesn't know any better. Stiller is great here, and I believe that he changes because of the events in the film - which is a step up for Baumbach in terms of his lead characters. I like films where characters have at least a bit of an arc, it doesn't have to be major, but if they're the same person at the end as they are at the beginning I just don't understand the point of spending time with them. I was worried halfway through that Greenberg would remain an insufferable ass, but I was pleasantly surprised.

I'm curious to see how far Baumbach can go with his 'character'. He's changed it up enough over the last three films, but I'm curious what other stories he has in him with some variation. He's a talented story teller, I just want to see him stretch himself a bit more.

Friday, November 19, 2010

How Should A Person Be?

If you read this blog with any regularity you know how seldom it is that I actually pick up a book to read. I guess I always assume that it's going to take forever for me to read - and I look around and I see how much content there is, and I figure that in the time it takes me to read a book that I could easily read several graphic novels, or watch that many films, etc... But I'm trying to rectify that, especially when it comes to local authors that I dig, and Ms. Heti is in that camp.

Sheila first came to my attention with my, now, wife gave me The Middle Stories to read and I fell in love with it. I even e-mailed her to tell her so, at the time I thought about turning one of them into a bravoFACT, we were going to meet for coffee and chat about it, but then it just never happened. Probably my fault. Alas.

This is an interesting book because it's more of a memorial of a time in Sheila's life, unless it's a complete work of absolute non-fiction (and if so, then even more kudos). Reading this book one would imagine that Sheila has a pretty lovely bohemian-esque lifestyle, surrounded by artists and art and living for passion. The way she describes it, it makes you want to live it too. At it's heart the book is about her relationship with her friend Margaux Williamson, an artist. It's about how it's difficult to be friends with like-minded people, especially artistic types, because you're always going to be influenced by one another, but when does that become harmful? When do you start exposing something in them that's really only for them to expose?

Sheila writes with such a flair and an honesty that strips the reader down. She has a pretty emotionally and physically graphic relationship with a man, Israel, that is written in a way that should be sexual and attractive, but she handles it perfectly, making it a bit repulsive in a way that's really quite nice to experience. The form, if it has one, is one that evolves over the course of the book - and for reasons that make sense by it's end. It never bothered me one bit, and I actually quite enjoyed the variety of styles that she wrote in.

Clearly this book is a meditation on a period of Sheila's life, but it also serves as a meditation for all of us in the creative class. I'd be surprised if this didn't strike a chord with most, if not all, creative types.

It's books like this that make me realize I need to read more books.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love

I'm a big fan of Fables so the mere mention of this made me pretty excited. We've seen very little of the Cinderella character in the past so it was nice to see a complete mini-series devoted to her. She's very much the James Bond of the Fables community. This series appears to take place in the extremely short period of time between the end of the Great War and the destruction of Fabletown, but I can buy that no problem.

Like all great Fable arcs this include characters from other stories and it does it well, it also pits Cinderella against some people from her own past and cleverly integrates them in it. The artwork takes a little getting used to, and the writing doesn't feel that far off of Willingham's, so kudos to that.

Fables is a series that could have unlimited spin-offs so I respect how few they do, and how great they are so far. I've still got the Fables novel gathering dust on my shelf - I swear I'll get around to it ASAP.

If you're into Fables you'll dig this a lot - if you're new to the series... I'm not sure how well this stands alone...

Monday, November 15, 2010

1463 - Duplicity

I love a good con-artist film and when it's in the hands as someone as skilled as Tony Gilroy you really can't go wrong. This is a film that, at it's core, is really about trust and relationships and it examines that theme in depth amidst the backdrop of a big corporate con. And it does it with flare.

Clive Owen and Julia Roberts are ridiculously charming here. The deeper their relationship is revealed the better it gets. Their moments in the final scenes of the film are just fantastic.

I could talk a lot more about this film but it's filled with so many wonderful twists and turns that I don't want to ruin the surprises that await the lucky viewer. This is a film that's as fun as it is smart. It keeps you on your toes and does a good job of keeping you entertained whilst it keeps you guessing and asking yourself - who can you trust?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

1462 - Confessions of a Shopaholic

Romantic comedies get a pretty bad rap - mostly because they aren't generally all that funny. They're more like extremely light dramas that are amusing.
I happen to think that Isla Fisher is pretty damn fantastic and so it didn't take much for me to want to see this. She delivers the goods - she's gorgeous, funny, smart, and charming. She's got some pretty big flaws, but we care for her, we feel bad when things don't go well for her.
I quite enjoyed this film, it's pretty smart and inventive. Sure it's pretty by-the books, it's a bit over-the-top, but it all works to it's charm. The plotting is pretty tight, and when shit hits the fan it's pretty skillfully done orchestrating all the plots to come to a head in, more or less, the same scene.
Now to my earlier point - this isn't a ball busting laugh-fest by any stretch of the imagination - however I found myself smiling the whole way through - and Emily, who has no movie-attention these days was glued to it. So for me, it's earned it's genre title. I look forward from more to Ms. Fisher - she's a gem.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Death: The High Cost of Living

Inside of Gaiman's Sandman series are loads of fascinating characters, one of my favorites is his sister Death. She's got the sunniest disposition of them all. She loves Disney movies, she's a sweetheart really. And with witty little remarks like "It takes just as much effort to be nice as it does to be creepy" she's my kind of girl. So you can imagine how excited I was to learn that there was a spin-off in which she is focused upon.

This book plays with the oft-used idea that once every century Death takes a day to live as a mortal, to remind her what the people she takes life from go through. Today she's spending the day with Sexton, a teenager who has decided that life is just too 'meh' to bother living.

I have to be honest and say that I was kind of let down by this. I still love Death here, and if you're a fan of her it's worth reading for her alone - she's done justice here - but the story that she's in, I could really care less about. It could be that this book is now over a decade old and the teen-angst-woe-is-me thing has been really over-played, but I just found this story to be underwhelming. It was surprising to learn that Gaiman had planned to make a film version of this as well. One particularly interesting thing about this book is that, at the back of it, there is a comic-PSA where Death speaks directly to the reader about AIDs and HIV and it instantly took me back to being a teenager in the early nineties when it seemed like every celebrity was doing some kind of PDA to promote awareness of the desease. Pretty fascinating, definitly a product of it's time.

There is another Death spin-off, but I can't see myself rushing out to buy it. I'll pick it up eventually for my love of the character and Sandman in general - but I just, like Sexton, felt a bit 'meh' about the whole thing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

1461 - The Big Bang Theory: season three

I know that I'm well behind on this series. I got a half-dozen episodes from the end of this season as they were airing on television and... life got busy and I kind of forgot to catch up. Thank you DVD!

Before this show I would have bet for the argument that the three-camera-sitcom is a thing of the past - but it's clearly found new life here. Geeks are sexy. I love how much of a hit this show is. The writing is ridiculously sharp, the characters are diverse and interesting. Jim Parsons is a break-out star, although one wonders how much if a range he could play - he's absolutely pitch perfect as Sheldon so perhaps I'm just unfairly making assumptions. Kaley Cuoco continues to grow on me - she's quite charming and cute. And of course I love Johnny Galecki to piece.

This show continues to stay fresh and they really do deal with relationships, both of the friend and romantic variety, well. I don't want to spoil anything whatsoever - but I have to tell you, if you've never seen this series and find yourself even remotely curious, please do youself a favor and check out a few episodes. As Sheldon might say, "It's a real hoot and a holler!"

Asterios Polyp

I was given this graphic novel for my birthday almost a year ago by a good friend, Mr. Scott McLaren. In fact I can attribute his enthusiasm (and collection) to my renewed obsession with comics. It's safe to say that had I not met him, I probably wouldn't be reading them as much as I do. Now I can't imagine not reading them.

This has been hailed as the best comic of 2009 - it was hailed that before it was even released. It would be easy to say that this story's plot relies upon the same cliches that a lot of indie films about intellectuals do. An academic walks away from academia and surrounds himself with a simpler life and finds deeper meaning that he couldn't have found otherwise. So there is that, however David Mazzucchelli has us in store for a much larger treat - because it's what makes his work of art stand out among the others that sets it apart.

I don't have any kind of Masters in English, so I can't pretend to comprehend the vast intellectualisms of this piece, but there's a lot to digest here and I imagine that a few readings are required to even start to see all of the pieces that David Mazzucchelli is playing with. At it's heart it's about duality - the story itself is narrated by Asterios' twin brother, who died in the womb, and throughout duality is explored visually as well as emotionally and intellectually.

What struck me about this the most is how, out of almost nowhere, come this quite heart breaking moments of honesty and emotional realism, in particular involving the scenes with our hero and his one-who-got away.

The art work itself is quite inspired and impressive. Seemingly simplistic there's a lot of thought that's going into it, with the color scheme in particular. I imagine that this is something I'll return to from time to time as there is a great deal of inspiring stuff, despite the simplicity of it's plot.

Much recommended!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

1460 - Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (commentary)

If you've read my blog at all you know that I absolutely love the comic series this is based on, and you know that I had a luke-warm response to the film. I still haven't revisited it to make sure it wasn't just because I was too close to the series at the time. Regardless of that I still picked up the film today when it came out - and on BluRay no less! Look at me!

The reason? I love everyone involved in this project? I think Edgar Wright got his ass handed to him a bit when this film performed poorly at the box office, and because I think he's a gifted filmmaker I want to show my support for him by voting with my wallet. Hopefully others do the same. It wasn't hard to convince myself to pick this up given how loaded to the tits it was with special features. At this point with my netflix and zip it's really the only thing that's going to keep me buying new films and adding them to my collection.

So I listened to the filmmaker commentary with Wright, O'Malley, and Becall. I have to say that it was a little 'meh'. Not horrible by any means, but I didn't really learn to much about them or their process other than what I'd already read or heard in interviews. It was a bit lackluster. I have no idea what I was expecting, but it just felt a little basic.

So I will re-watch this film as a film at some point in the near future and see if my opinions have changed any. Who knows - I'm an inconsistant bastard.

The Walking Dead - Vol 12: Life Among Them

Spoilers, of course, are ahead.

This could be the most bizarre volume so far. Nothing crazy happens in this volume, which is an interesting choice for Kirkman to make. The gang comes across a group that offers them to come live in their community. And it all sounds a little too good to be true...

But it isn't. At least not so far. I kept waiting for something to happen, for the new people to show some crazy signs. Nothing. Which actually made everything all the more unsettling. This is the life they've all wished they could get back, but they can't handle it now that they have it. The volume ends with Rick enlisting Glenn to retrieve their weapons for the armory, which worries me. The worst thing that could happen is that Rick does insane with worry for no reason and ruins this perfect community - which is probably where this is going. Ironic if something is too good to be true and the gang destroys it because they just can't believe that it's possible. Watching Carl especially is heart-breaking. He should just be able to be a kid, but he can't. He's seen too much, he's done too much - the last book had his father telling him that he would never be safe again, and now he's telling him to not worry about anything. Poor messed up kid...

I'm so damn curious to find out where this is all going - luckily I only need to wait for two weeks to find out. I've read these so damn fast, it's going to be annoying to have to wait inbetween volumes now. Alas. Good thing I have a stack of other stuff to dive into!

The Walking Dead - Vol 11: Fear The Hunters

If you're been reading my reviews on this series you know damn well there will be SPOILERS.

Some of the reviews of this series, ever since about mid-way through when stuff started to get really fucked-up have accused Kirkman of trying to be shocking just for the sake of it. I have to admit that nothing else I've ever read or seen has shocked me, and made me as uncomfortable as this series. If anything this series has made me realize that I'm still somewhat grounded and I can still be offended. I haven't lost all hope!

Early on in this volume something extremely disturbing happens. It was set up just mildly in the last volume, but it rears it's ugly head here. And it throws down the gauntlet for something even more fucked-up to happen later... and boy does it ever. The group starts to be haunted and stalked by cannibals. Without revealing some extremely satisfying twists and turns, it's also grotesque in an emotional way. One of the Cannibals explains that a bear, in the wild, will eat it's own cub if it runs out of food - the rationale being that if the bears dies from starvation that the cub will die anyway, but if the bear survives, it can make another sub. Then the Cannibal explains that... there were children here at the beginning... and once you justify that to yourself, it's really not all that hard to do it to strangers.

Not surprising our rag-tag group deals with them efficiently, but with it, and the way they do it, are they ever-more showing signs of losing their own humanity? Are they any better or worse than the dead that hunt them?

I've mentioned before that Kirkman set out to write the zombie film that would never end. And he's doing it. Someone else has stated that every film you ever see would be a tragedy if you let the story continue. I guess my worry about this series is that it's going to get to a point where all the characters are just so past-the-point of no return that we stop identifying with them. I trust Kirkman enough to hope that he'll find someway to balance it.

Only one more left on my stack, and then another will come out at the end of the month. Very curious to see where this is heading and how the Washington D.C. story plays out...

Monday, November 08, 2010

1459 - Croupier

This is one of the films that I picked up under the recommendation of Mr. Scott McLaren while we were raiding the closing sale of the Blockbuster at Queen & Spadina. Finally got around to watching it.

This film has two things that, automatically, make it a film worth checking out - Clive Owen - and a pretty damn strong narration throughout. The film, other than that, works well enough. It's about a croupier, a black-jack dealer, who really wants to be a novelist so he takes the job as research and let's himself get as involved as possible while still trying to keep his hands clean. But then... he's made an offer for an even bigger paycheck.

I found my mind wandering off here and there as it wasn't the most engaging film, but it's enjoyable enough to watch, particularly if you're into gambling at all and how casinos work (to some degree). I don't have a strong recommendation feeling about this either way - if you love Clive, check it out - if not - your call.

The Walking Dead - Vol 10: What We Become

You can bet your sweet-ass that there are SPOILERS ahead...

Kirkman always does a good job of setting the tone for these volumes with his titles, but this one in particular is perfect for almost, if not, all the characters in the series who are still with us. After butting heads with Abraham, Rick has a heart-to-heart on the road with him where they realize that they aren't too far away from one another. They've both seen horrible things, and done horrible things because of it. They've had to become something that their former selves would not even recognize.
Each character has some kind of change in this book, which is fantastic because we're moving into a new story arc here. Maggie, grieving the death of her entire family, faces death and comes back wanting to live even more. The twins are starting to show signs of becoming sociopaths, Dale doesn't trust Rick at all, and the most heartbreaking of all for me, was when we met back up with Morgan, the man that Rick holed up with in the very first book, whom didn't want to come with Atlanta with Rick. Now we finally find out what happened to him and his son and... it's pretty heart-breaking.

On the road back we get to see the herd that Abraham warned about in the last book. While running away from it our heroes stop over in a house where we see what another family man had become once shit hit the fan and it could just be one of the more disturbing moment of the series. Although in this particular volume there is another bump in the road-trip where we get a whole other level of disturbing when we see what Rick will do to keep his son from being sodomized by a group of skinheads.

This series is not for the faint of heart - and while I absolutely love it - I think by the time I get through the next two volumes I'll be ready for a break from it for a bit. It's intense and takes a toll on the emotions. Think I'll watch something light tonight to cleanse the palette.