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!