Friday, April 30, 2010

Astonishing X-Men #1: Gifted

The X-Men have never been terribly exciting to me. I enjoyed the first two films A LOT, and like the rest of the world just shook my head at the third - but outside of that I've had very little exposure to the X-Men world. And I was given another series to read of them (sorry, can't remember which) and I couldn't get through it. But this one I liked quite a bit, and I'll continue reading along with it. I don't know what the difference was. I suppose that this one felt like a slightly easier entry point for me. I mean there's still a lot of back-story that I've been looking up while reading this, but they do a pretty good job of handling the exposition.
So this is the storyline that inspired the movie mentioned above, and it's a shame that they didn't follow it a little closer 'cause it's damn fine. The issues brought up here are far more interesting than what they did in the film and I'm curious to read further into this series to see if the idea continues along, or if they just move on from it.
So I've been converted. I'm not officially an X-Men comic reader (for this series anyway...)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

1339 - Kick-Ass

I've been tracking this film for quite some time. I've got the comic, but I've yet to read it. I will now. It's hard to watch this as New York since Toronto just SCREAMS through the locations. But I'll get past that. What we have here is, outside of some outlandish set pieces, probably one of the more realistic superhero films in how it deals with the realities of the injuries, the desires, etc... There's a deeper level to this film than the slick and gloss that's on the cover of it.
The performances are fantastic, the set pieces inspired (although I do feel like I saw everything awesome they had of Hit Girl in the trailers - so few surprises from her here, which was a little disappointing).
This is a film that I'll definitely pick up when it comes out. It's smart. Fun. And has a great edge to it. Should make stars out of all these kids.

Stray Bullets #4

I'm really quite enjoying this series. It's got a lovely pulp quality to it. I want to believe that there is a film within this series... but I'm not entirely sure... This book saw a major shift for a few characters, some for the better, some for the worse. They did some bold things, that's for sure - and they're starting to introduce new storylines and characters as old ones shift into something new. More and more I feel like we're honing in on who this series is really about. I wonder if the whole thing isn't going to come full circle or not in a wonderfully creepy way. This was the last of my 'borrowed stack' of this series, so I'll have to look around and start collecting it for myself.
Again, if you're into dark and gritty things about not so good people doing not so good things - this is for you.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

1338 - Glee: season one, part one

Last spring the pilot got leaked (on purpose I imagine) and it got me really excited. And then life happened and I didn't watch the show again until just recently. I realize that they took a hell of a long break and then deemed what's coming on now as the second-half of the season, but I'm still writing in here, as with other shows that tend to do something similar.
For the most part the cast is completely enjoyable. The song entertaining. You can feel your top tapping from time to time. I wasn't sure about this series once I got back into episodes, but it has clearly gotten much much stronger to the point where it's a show that I actually look forward to. I'm getting a little tired of the biggest threat being people quitting the club, or being thrown out, etc... so hopefully they step it up. Very curious to see where they take this show after this season...
It's not the most-amazing-perfect-wonderful show ever - but it's not too shabby either. I'll keep at it for now.

Friday, April 23, 2010

1337 - Touching the Void

I avoided watching this film for quite some time - for no particular reason. In general I'm not a huge documentary watcher - ironic given the mediums and styles I often work in professionally. This isn't to say I don't like documentaries, quite the contrary. I have to say that I've never seen a documentary like this one. The story of a mountain climb gone horribly wrong and how the two men overcame the odds and survived it. That doesn't ruin anything since it's narrated by them.
The photography and the re-enactments are just plain amazing - the acting alone is the strongest I've ever seen in a re-enactment documentary. I just can't imagine the conditions under which this film was shot. Amazing, really. It's easy to recommend this film because it just grabs you and keeps you wondering "how the hell did they get out of this" and the answer is nothing short of extraordinary.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

TUWOPS - The Sound Mix is Complete!

Huzzah! The day has come! After stolen hard-drives (which resulted in editing the film all the way through - twice), a lovely test audience, the online, the mix, it's pretty exciting to know that the film is pretty much complete. We just need to line the sound mix up to the final picture over at the online house, make sure it's all synced up proper and we are done. And it could come at a better time. All of the entries for the Canadian film festivals are starting up, so it'll be exciting to start sending the film off to them. I'm really excited to start showing this film to people. I'm extremely proud of it and the work that everyone has done on it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

1336 - Everyone Says I Love You

I've been giving my assistant films to watch over the last few months (she's racked up an impressive list - I'll try to post it when we're finished working on the show together) and she's shown a particular liking to Woody Allen, and so I've been more than happy to oblige her.
I haven't seen this film in years, and despite having a stack of new stuff to watch, I really felt like revisiting it.
I know some of these old songs, but a lot I'd never heard until I saw this film for the first time. An interesting piece of trivia I recently learned is that Woody didn't tell any of the actors that they were going to be appearing in a musical until after they'd signed their contacts. And what a cast it is. From Goldie to Julia to Edward to Drew to Tim Roth, and even a young Natalie Portman. There are many more, and all do a pretty good job in their singing roles (although Drew is dubbed).
I love that Woody isn't beyond shaking it up with something like this. It's ambitious and yet lovely. Full of some really wonderful moments. No one can say that Woody doesn't put himself out there and take risks. Let's hope for many more films from him.

Stray Bullets #3

There isn't much more to add to this that I haven't already talked about in generalities, and I don't want to go into specifics as I'd rather you discover them yourself. What the series seems to be doing, however, is narrowing in on a few select characters and making it mostly about them. Which I'm okay with 'cause they're darn interesting characters. Looks like there are right books in total thus far. I've got one more on my pile and then I can only pray that my guy has more...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

1335 - Kwik Stop

This is a little sucker punch of a film. It comes out of nowhere and absolutely knocks you on your ass. The acting, by people more or less unknowns, is simply top fucking notch. This is a film filled with flawed characters. But we love them despite and for their flaws. So full of infinite sadness and each of them just wanting to love someone or some thing.
I can't believe that the director, Michael Gilio, hasn't directed another feature since this one. Perhaps he just didn't enjoy the process. It's sad to think that more people aren't aware of this film. It's the kind I'll rave about for days and tell everyone I know. It's a hard film to find, but I believe you can get it on iTunes now, and
I recommend this film very very highly. It's funny, it's sweet, it's beautiful. What more can I say than that?

Stray Bullets #2

The more I read this series the more that I like it. Especially this volume which, surprisingly had a lot of heart to it. I love how this is essentially a collection of short stories that interconnects here and there. I'm borrowing it right now, but I can see myself picking up this series if I can find it for the right price. As I continue to read it I keep asking myself "Is there a way to adapt this to another medium?" and I'm not sure what the answer is to that. I'm sure someone has the option rights locked up anyway.
So this is a dark series with a bit of a wink, and more and more a bit of a heart to it. I've got two or three more in my loaner stack so right now it's a recommend, but if it keeps going in the direction it is I imagine it'll become a strong recommend.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

1334 - Food Inc.

First off - kudos to the CBC for putting this up for free on their website for everyone to be able to watch. Now there's absolutely no excuse. Classy move. So if you click on this link, you'll be directed right to it. There's always a danger of just preaching to the choir with this sort of thing, so hopefully making it easily available will at least reach the people that are on the fence.
I'll state my bias up front. I've been a vegetarian going on three years now. When I first met Emily she was a vegetarian, and she never once pressured me into following her choice. I decided on my own to stop eating meat, and it wasn't about the animals (although I'm not a big fan of animal abuse either), but what really shook me to my core was learning a little about food production and the industry. It scared the fuck out of me.
I can't imagine that this is an easy film to try and present a balanced argument with. But what they do is they explain the history of the industry - how it all began (with McDonald's essentially), and how it went wrong. It at least helps you to understand the machine, why it works and how. And it makes sense. It's hard to blame them. Like one of the farmer's says - who wants a chicken that takes 74 days to grow, when you get one twice the size in half the time. It's simple economics. And just the bullying that goes on in the food industry is probably the saddest part of it.
Schlosser, at one point mentions that titans of industry have been taken down before - the tobacco industry has fallen far from it's former glory. He says this is a good template for how to take down the evils of the food industry. I'm not sure about his logic. Absolutely no one needs to smoke. It's actually one of the few, and perhaps the only, product that actually has no purpose whatsoever. But absolutely everyone needs to eat. And as the film points out, it's easier for poor people to eat fast food than it is for them to buy healthy groceries and make a decent meal. So how do you overcome that? The film does offer some legitimate solutions, and argues that lowly, as people become better educated, the tide will turn, and people will simply demand better. Let's hope so.
As the film ends it lists tips on what you can do, it felt good to know that we're already doing the majority of them most of the time, and the rest all the time. My son is a year old, and we're raising him with the same food values that we have. When he's older, and he wants to eat meat I won't stop him. But I'll make damn sure we know where it comes from, and that he's making an informed decision.
I don't think there is anyone who can't benefit from checking this film out, regardless of how ignorant or educated you are to the topic. Enjoy.

All-Star Superman Vol #2

The above image is actually from the first volume, when Superman gives Lois his powers for a day. Fun stuff. I really enjoyed the first volume and found this entry just a bit... meh. I didn't get as excited or involved in it - like the ideas for it weren't quite as sharp. I didn't get a sense of Superman really dealing with his impending doom. I like that Lex and the Man of Steel got to match braun in a showdown, but it was fairly underwhelming in terms of being a conclusion. It was just alright, to be quite honest, nothing about it really knocked my socks off.

Friday, April 16, 2010

1333 - Sex and Death 101

So I've been a horrible film-geek recently. I blame it on the fact that I've been using all my spare time to write - which is going, I believe, quite well. Although after a long day I thought I'd dig into my stack of films. This one has been on my "I'm curious" list for quite some time. It's got a really great premise in a guy who, a week before his wedding, finds a list of every woman he'll ever sleep with - and he's not even half-way through the list.
Simon Baker isn't the best choice for this lead role. He's got the look and has a few nice moments, but ultimately he lacks the chemistry needed. The emotional arc of the film is fairly stagnant. Which is a shame.
Although when Ryder and Baker finally share a scene together it fucking pops. It's amazing and makes you wonder why the rest of the film is merely okay. It's a really clever premise with a 'meh' execution. Shame, really.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stray Bullets #1

It's interesting that this was primarily to be a blog about my experience in making and watching films - and I've spent a lot of time on comics lately. Mostly it's because I read them on the subway to and from work. And they're pretty quick to go through. AND there is some great goddamn writing in them. And I've spent my time at night writing lately and so movie watching has been put on the back-burner.
So, to this. It's quite enjoyable. It's dark and often nihilistic. An anthology with loose connections between each chapter. Not unlike Criminal in that, although Criminal is a different beast altogether. This for me is just more interesting scenes and scenarios with some fun in finding connections. It's a Pulp Fiction type deal in that there's four seperate stories that all, somewhat intertwine. Pretty much all down endings, even if there is some kind of pleasant release. I could see myself spending more time with this series and these characters to see how the world builds.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gotham Central: Dead Robin

And so it ends. And like expected, not with a bang, but a whimper - but at least the whimper was from someone unexpected...
So before I get into more specific details, let me just talk about the series as a whole. If I was to pitch this I would say it's "The Wire with Batman". Now I know it's not fair to compare things, especially in different mediums, but I think it's a fair assessment. Not in in the way that it examines the different sides of a city or even simply the law, it just sticks to the police really, but just in it's grittiness. If Gotham existed with all the insanity of the 'freaks' in it - this is what it would be like to be a cop there. So for those of you who are missing 'The Wire' this is about as close as you're going to get from the cop angle.
So this final book is called 'Dead Robin' but that's not even the story that's the most interesting, it's the final, brutal story which, thankfully, is Batman free. How ironic that I feel that way. I always enjoy when he pops in in this series, but I ALWAYS want the cops to solve the case before he does. And that's a huge accomplishment.
I don't want to give away specific details except to say that this is writing that just demands to be read. You can't put it down for very long - and that's a good thing. Brubaker only pulls half duty here - but I'll definitely read anything he's got his pen on. Can't wait to dig into more of his 'Criminal' work.
So I recommend this series about as highly as I can. It's wonderful. Please please please read it. But start from the beginning.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Jar of Fools

Every now and then a palette cleanser is in order and this is that for sure. This is more in line with the indie comic vibe. For those unfamiliar with the comic world and just assume that it's full of mostly just superheroes and other branded series, even outside of some of the less familiar titles you've seen here in my blog, there is a whole world of comics that would be on par with 'independent film'. And I've got to be honest, I don't know a whole hell of a lot about that world - but in intrigues me quite a bit.
So now to this book. It's about a magician and a group of misfits, but more to the point it's about the hauntings of the past, moving on, etc… There are some nice little moments, some interesting thoughts rumbling about, but if I'm to be completely honest it was just… okay. It was a breezy read so I wouldn't dissuade anyone from reading it if it seems like your cup of tea, but nothing about it blew me away - and the ending was a bit half-ass. It felt disruptive in a way that it didn't need to. A down ending that wasn't honest. For the sake of it, perhaps. If you're just entering into indie comics I wouldn't recommend starting with this one. It's not the best of the best. It's just… okay.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Unwritten #1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity

I was given this to read by the provider of most of my comic trades because he knows of my Fables love (Willingham writes the foreword here) and it's written by the same guys that did Lucifer (a series I own quite a few trades of, but have yet to read). It's interesting, and I say that in the kindest possible way. It's a lit-geek's way of taking a bit of a piss on lit-fiction, but also on the world of lit-fiction including it's fans, cultists, etc…
And the execution is good - there's a lot to like in here, in particular there's a great scene in which a book club discusses the construction of a good horror story and someone says "We make our own monsters, then fear them for what they show us about ourselves." I starred at that sentence for quite a long while and marvelled in it's complex and yet simple nature. What's interesting about this series is that, I imagine, it will be a deconstruction of the craft of writing - the behind the scenes, and for that reason alone I think I'll stick around to continue to see what they do with that. The story and characters have yet to grab me and suck me in completely, but the world and ideas fascinate me enough to give it another trade. And being how fresh this series is, it might be awhile before that. Which is fine - I have no shortage of things to read.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

1332 - Oldboy

Yes. That's right, this is another of the great films that I hadn't seen. And it's also the kind of film that, as soon as it's over, you want to go back and rewatch it again from the start. What's really great about this film, and annoyed me a bit at first, is that you spend the majority of it as lost and confused as it's hero, and it's intentional. As the pieces start to come together you appreciate the confusion.
The film's "twist" ending feels a slight bit deus ex - but it could be because I missed some of the signs leading up. Regardless it went from being a pretty decent film, to a complete head fuck of a film. I don't want to say too much about the storyline, as it's a treat to watch it unfold, but I will say that this film is full of some wonderful sequences. And not crazy, unrealistic phyiscal violence, etc... it's all grounded in a wonderful and often mundane reality.
I look forward to getting my own copy of this film when I see it kicking around somewhere.
Very enjoyable and hopefully it stands up on revisits.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

1331 - Showgirls (commentary)

I'd never seen this film, but I was well aware of it's legacy of badness. I had been loaned the film under the strict instructions to not bother watching the film on it's own, but to only watch it with David Schmader - who is, apparently, a Showgirls aficionado. His theory is that at every single moment of the film, someone is making the wrong choice, whether it's the writer, director, actors, cameraman, grip, craft services, etc... I have to say I was reluctant not to watch the film on it's own first - but much like I can't imagine it being necessary to watch one of the Mystery Science 3000 films on it's own, there is absolutely no reason to watch this film sans-commentary.
At a point in time where I've got a stack of films that I'm dying to see, and another stack that I want to revisit, I still didn't find this a waste of time, but more like watching a horrible film with a wonderful smart ass of a friend.

Gotham Central: The Quick & the Dead

I've lost the numbering structure of this series as the hardcover and trade numbers don't line up. Also I believe that there was a cross-over book that happened between this and the last in which Batman did something to piss off the G.C.P.D. and so when we enter here, they're taking down the Bat-Signal. The Cops and The Cape are not on speaking terms, and not everyone shares the opinion.
It would seem that Allen and Montoya are the lead characters of this series, if it has lead characters. They're the most interesting and most written about anyway. The last arc in this book was the most interesting to me, in particular because I know nothing of Doctor Alchemy and was really excited to see where they would take the storyline. It's a bit anti-climatic, but in a wonderful way. Again, I really enjoy when the cops triumph instead of Batman.
Looking forward to the next, and apparently, final volume in this series where the G.C.P.D. is after The Bat himself...

Monday, April 05, 2010

Gotham Central #2: Jokers & Madmen

You kind of have to wonder if the Nolan's didn't take some pieces of this and make it their own for The Dark Knight. Or perhaps the ideas were just surfacing around the same time. Regardless. There's some really great writing in this series (and a little 'meh' writing), but the good outweighs the 'meh'. And the 'meh' isn't even that bad - it's just not as amazing as the best of, in this case.
We get to see some characters fleshed out a bit more, the mystery of Bullock (who I just learned was apparently a big character in the 80's Batman comics). What I love about reading this the most is how much I want the cops to get to the villains before Batman does, I'm rooting for the average Joe over the Bat. Which is a testament to the fine writing.
This is a really clever and great series and would make a fantastic television show at some point if they found a way to make it work. Like The Wire but with superheroes and villains. It could work!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

1330 - Singin' in the Rain

The people in this film are just so fucking good at what you're doing that it looks effortless. Gene Kelly makes me believe that I could dance like that.

What a charming film this is. A simple and fun plot that gives a bit of a history lesson all the while playing tribute to Hollywood's history. Watching them learn how to use sound is wonderfully entertaining. Jean Hagen is wonderfully over the top and a heck of a lot of fun as the silent film star that can't quiet transition to talkies.

And as charming as Gene is, Debbie Reynolds steals the show. She really does. The film is clearly centred around the musical numbers, but it's okay - that's what we're here to see anyway - and they integrate pretty amazingly into the story anyway.

I've got quite a few gaps in this era of filmmaking and I'm glad that I've now filled in one of the big ones. I'll have to pick this one up when I see it around.