Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Transmetropolitan #1: Back on the Street

I had never heard of this series, and before reading Nextwave had never really thought to look into the work of Warren Ellis.  That's changed now.  Spin Magazine describes this series as follows:
...a comic book series that follows the smart-mouthed, heavily-armed, perpetually smoking journalist Spider Jerusalem, who lives in a future so grimy and chaotic it could be the present - except for the aliens.  Outfitted with water-waling Air Jesus sneakers and snacking on caribou eyes from the local Eskimo fast-food place, Spider tries to make sense of a city where a new religion starts every hour and "buy-bombs" upload advertisements into people's dreams.  Transmetropolitan is brilliant future-shock commentary.
In a world like the one that Ellis has created words are weapons - literally, as Spider is able to diffuse a riot and save lives by, essentially, live-blogging the truth about it to the population, forcing the police to retreat.  Smartly, this first book is essentially designed to merely be an introduction to Spider and the world of the book - it doesn't try to tackle a major storyline, but finds clever ways of introducing how this world works to us, and more importantly, why it needs someone as messed up as Spider.  My new comic-hook-up has saddled me with the entire run of this series so I imagine that I'll be burning through them rather quickly.  Although I may take a break in the middle to read a book I just picked up from the library (I FINALLY got a library card - how 1980 of me!). 
So for anyone who likes to question the establishment, religion, politics, television, or just pop culture and modern life in general, this book is probably for you. 
Transmetropolitan Vol. 01: Back on the Street

Sunday, May 29, 2011

1572 - Death Wish

First off, part of me is horrified that they managed to make four sequels out of this film.  I'm doing some research on the revenge genre and a quick google search had this film in every single top ten list that I found - and Netflix prevailed!  It's the story of a man whose wife and daughter are the victims of a (very) violent crime and how he slowly, but surely, becomes a vigilante. 
I was pretty surprised how graphic the inciting incident was, it's certainly the kind of thing that makes you understand exactly why this guy is doing what he is, and casting no judgement on him for it. 
That being said this film is little more than a b-movie with a bit of a hidden political agenda (which I'm sure is beaten out of the sequels).  If you like old films that are a bit cheesy, this might be your thing, but outside of it not shying away from the graphic nature of the subject matter, there's nothing all that interesting about it, IMO.  (check out a young Jeff Goldblum as one of the attackers)  And I would have liked to have seen some more indepth approach to his man finding his families attackers, rather than just wandering the city looking for trouble.  Alas.
Death Wish 

1571 - Macho

Alright.  I think I'm going to go on a film blitz for the next little bit - I've been spending most evenings writing and so now I'm going to take a short sabbatical.  I'd like to, once again, thank Netflix for introducing me to yet another little gem of a film that I might otherwise never have heard about.  This is a simple little long-distance-relationship film.  And as another review of this film has said, small films about relationships are a dime a dozen, but this one is certainly worth checking out.  The film is broken up in to tiny little moments about a relationship from two people, all from his point-of-view.  The tagline of the film is He loves her.  She likes him.  And I think what that gets down to is perspective.  The film works mostly because it it's two stars Rafael Palacio Illingworth (also writer and director), and Jolene Andersen.  Andersen, above, is beautiful and charming and bitchy and human.  Some could say that this is a vanity project for Illingworth, but there is no vanity here.  What's on display is nothing short of bare-bones and painfully honest - often for comic effect. 
For those who like their romantic comedies raw and real, this one will be right up your alley.  It's short and sweet and easy to recommend.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Liar's Kiss

Another selection from TCAF.  I'm quite proud of myself to actually be reading recent purchases.  And just as I'm making a really decent dent in my reading stack people keep throwing me loaners and recommendations.  What's a guy to do!  Luckily I take public transit to and from work and so I rack up an hour or so of reading time a day at the least.  It's not hard to tell what kind of book this is going to be by looking at the cover and title.  Eric Skillman, the author, is also an artist and responsible for a lot of the Criterion Collection's covers.  And, surprisingly, one of my biggest complaints about the book is that I'm not really that big on the art work.  And coming from me, that's something, since I usually don't really comment too much about the art (I'm a story guy - not to say I don't appreciate the art in comics).  I think what made it even worse was that whenever the book veered into flashbacks it took on a variation of the style that I REALLY liked and wished the whole book had been done like.
It's your typical noir and it's got all the usual suspects you'd expect to see.  I liked it.  It was entertaining.  It kept you guessing, although, to be fair, it's the kind of "twist ending" wherein there was absolutely no way you could figure it out because the author has given you no real clues or leads to go on.  So, that's what keeps this from getting top marks from me.  Otherwise I can give it a soft recommend - it's a pretty quick and breezy read.
Liar's Kiss

Thursday, May 26, 2011


I picked this up at TCAF on a whim.  It's hard to classify what this is exactly.  It's not a graphic novel.  It's not really a zine, although it is that, it's more like a a visual laundry list of three months of Kayla's life as she lives in the UK.
I really wanted to like this.  Part of why I read what I read is to be inspired, and to look for things to potentially turn into films or television projects.  This book frustrated me to some extent.  To be fair on the opening page Kayle describes this as a document of "little moments" from her time spent in the United Kingdom, and it's just that - and that is the problem.  During this time Kayla is going through a crisis in terms of figuring out herself and romance back home, along with meeting this new guy.  She tells us about conversations she has - but in ways like "we had a deep conversation".  Why not transcribe it?  Why not give us a glimpse into it.  It's like getting the Coles notes for something that sounds like it could have been really interesting - and that's what the majority of the book is - just her listing off the things she did and saw, and, well, it's kind of boring.  I imagine that her family and friends will find it very entertaining but for an outsider it just comes off as something that was meant to be for a small group of people.  I'm sure that people outside the group can and will enjoy it, but in terms of people connecting to the material... well there's not all that much to connect to.  At it's core Kayla is going through a crisis about what direction to take her life - but the book is barely about that, not enough to give it any real substance and that's the real shame of it.
The worst part is, is that Kayle strikes me as a very clever, thoughtful person, but that she's holding back here.  Coming off of reading Chester Brown, whose autobiographical work has no problem being extremely honest, this just feels pale in comparison.  And I get it, it's really hard to put your life up for the public to see - but if you can't do it then don't do autobiographical stuff - or hide it inside another character.  I would be willing to read another book by Kayla if she was willing to be more open and let us into her world and thoughts, but I have a hard time recommending this.  Sorry Kayla - it was lovely meeting you at TCAF! To quote a famous author, "Writing is easy, you just open up a vein."  Open up your veins to us, Kayla, open 'em up!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Richard Stark's Parker, Vol. 2: The Outfit

The previous installment The Hunter was one of those books that I just couldn't read fast enough, and this was no different.  Darwyn Cooke's artwork is stylish and distinct.  Fits with the story so well and is playful at the same time.  These graphic novels are based on the Parker books by Richard Stark - essentially about a hard-ass criminal.  To quote the slug-line, "If you're going to push Parker around, make sure it's into a grave."  That's just the kind of guy he is.  In the last installment he went after 'The Syndicate' for ripping him off and wanted what he was owed - not a penny more.  Of course he dropped a few bodies getting his money back, and now they've decided to come back at him and that doesn't make Parker very happy.
Reading these makes me want to pick up the novels that they're based on.  The nerd in me loves these old noir stories and I'm sure I'll get around to writing my own one of these days.  Given that there are twenty-four (I think) Parker novels who knows how many Cooke is planning to do of this series, but I'll keep reading them as long as he keeps writing them - and you should to!
Richard Stark's Parker, Vol. 2: The Outfit

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Never Liked You

So needless to say, I'm a pretty big fan of Chester Brown at this point.  My third book of his in almost a week, I now have to wait while an out-of-print version of his book The Playboy arrives in the mail... sigh...
So this book is another autobiographical one from our Chester, following his early teens, dealing with his first feelings of love and what it means.  It's technically a coming of age story (if you really feel the need to classify it) but it's also the kind of story that, for a guy like me coming from a small town, I really related to.  It brought up a lot of my own memories, thoughts, and feelings from childhood and that is no small feat.
I can't recommend Chester's writing highly enough, he is a man worth reading and worth supporting as a storyteller and artist all rolled into one.  I anxiously await whatever the hell he's got!
I Never Liked You

Sunday, May 22, 2011

1570 - Grown Ups

This is the kind of movie that you just know was made just so a group of friends had an excuse to hang out and get paid for it, and if that sounds cynical - it is.  Let me say this - I have absolutely no problem with people taking shots at race, religion, parenting, and life choices - have at it - nothing should be above making a joke about it.  But some of the stuff in here is about as obvious as it can get - to the point where it feels like the equivalent of painting-by-numbers. 
With a film is this title you're hoping for these guys to learn something, to grow, but it has nothing to do with that - with anything really.  In fact, the plot is about as loose as it can get and everything feels like it's there just to give them all an excuse to be there. 
Let's just be clear - this isn't a horrible film - I'm sure that there's an audience for it.  But given the mass of talent they've got in the men and women in this film, this thing should have been a side-splitting-gut-busting laugh fest, instead it's just kind of lame and sad due to the lack of it.
Grown Ups  Grown Ups [Blu-ray]

Louis Riel

So I'm officially a BIG Chester Brown fan now.  Full disclosure, even though I'm a bit of a history geek and I know a descent amount of this country's history I didn't know a damn thing about Louis Riel or the founding of Manitoba and Western Canada, but now I do - and this book makes me want to read more about it - which I'm sure is part of it's intention.  Brown makes this feel like I'm watching a great film - it's books like these that should become part of the Canadian history curriculum - not only would it actually make kids want to read, but I can only imagine the kind of conversations that it would stir up.  The way that Brown shows the visuals is both simple and elegant at the same time.  There are several moments where he hangs on a framing for dramatic effect, and my does it ever work.  This is the kind of book that I can see myself buying copies of to give away as gifts.  A really great read - and like his other book I read it has an in-depth "notes" section at the end that kind of makes you feel like you're listening to a commentary by the author. 
If you're a history nut then you absolutely, without question, NEED to read this book.
Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography

1569 - Moon

I went into this film knowing only two things - one that it was a sci-fi film and two that it was more-or-less a one-hander with Sam Rockwell as the one-hander.  And let me tell you, what a perfect way to go into this film - and it makes it so that I want others to go into it as well.  I'll set the scene, but only that - I don't want to disrupt any of the plotting going on - so it's the (near?) future and after a period of the world becoming over polluted a company has discovered how to turn particles from the moon into clean energy for the planet.  Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, a man who has been on the moon for the last three years, the sole citizen of a ship designed to monitor the machines that collect the moon particles.  The film starts when he's two weeks away from heading home.  This is all I'll say.
This film has been out for some time now, but I urge anyone who is late to it like me, to check it out.  Sam Rockwell is nothing short of brilliant here, but the real star of this film is it's exceptional writing and plotting.  Well done!  For a small indie film this had the same production value of most sfi-films from big budgets.  I realize I've been vague but that's because I don't want to spoil any of the goodness!  See it, see it, see it!
Moon  Moon [Blu-ray]

Friday, May 20, 2011

1568 - The Big Bang Theory: season four

First off, I'm so happy that this show has become the mega-hit that it is.  The casting is perfect, and the writing is damned inspired.  Let's be honest, it's not Shakespeare - it's not trying to be.  What it's aiming to be is a very funny and entertaining show and it continues to deliver episode after episode.  And what this season does particularly well is turn this show into the new Friends.  Seriously.  By bulking up the female side of the cast and giving them some weight Chuck Lorre has given this show even more legs than it had before.  It could go on a very long time and I don't think anyone is complaining about that idea.  The entire cast continues to expand in ways that are ever-so-delightful.  Although I think they've finally run out of gags based around Sheldon knocking on (mostly Penny's) door as there were some "normal" knocks near the end.  If you haven't caught onto this show yet - do it.  Is it about geniuses?  Sure, but I don't think I've spoken to a single person who doesn't like this show.  If you exist I would love to know why!!!  And now, for those who DO follow the series, some SPOILERS BELOW...
Expanding on my comment above about this being the new Friends that means that clearly Leonard and Penny are the new Ross and Rachel, which also means that we're going to see them do this will-they/won't-they dance for the forseeable future.  What this show did very smartly was turn the tables and have Penny be the one to start to want to get Leonard back.  There is no shortage of stories about nerds trying to get the hot girl, but I'll be damned if I'm not interested in watching a hot girl try to land a nerd who has moved on.  As much as I complained about my fear over the direction of where The Office is headed I have to say that the series finale bit excited and worried me.  I love the idea of changing up the roommate configuration and having to see Sheldon and Raj as roommates - I really hope this continues on for a little bit at least - it's delightful.  But I do have to say that while I saw it coming, I'm worried about the choice that the writers have made in having Penny and Raj hook up (even if it's a drunken regretful hook up on the heels of Penny admitting that she fucked up by letting Leonard go).  I realize that it puts a great barrier between Leonard and Penny just as it looked like he was going to be single again - but I just can't imagine how Raj & Leonard are going to get past this... I can only hope that Lorre has some wonderfully funny things in store for us surrounding it.  Oh, and Howard is totally going to work towards becoming a doctor next season. 
So that's all I'll say on that.  A delightful show that just continues to get better as it moves along.  Can't wait till September!
The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fourth Season  The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fourth Season [Blu-ray]

1567 - The Office: season seven

When you watch a season as it plays out (as opposed to catching on after-the-fact) it's hard to review it without the review being, more-or-less, a commentary in the finale.  I'll do my best...
This is going to sound harsh, but I say it with love, The Office fucked up.  I realize that it's tough for a show to go on as long as this one has and try to keep it fresh and interesting - but The Office has not been keeping up to the challenge.  Does it do interesting and surprising things lately?  Sure!  But it also announces that it's going to do them months ahead of doing them.  Everyone knew Carrell was leaving.  Everyone knew that Ferrell had a guest spot coming up - and everyone knew who the cameos in the finale was going to be.  It would appear that NBC is so worried about not having viewers that they can't keep anything to themselves and let the audience discover it through watching the show.  Don't get me wrong - there was some really really great stuff in this season, and if you're a fan of the show, or just catching up, it's worth watching still - absolutely.  But for those who haven't watched - I'm about to go into SPOILER TERRITORY, so beware...
There is no denying that this season has been the Michael Scott Farewell Tour, and to it's success, by the time he was gone I didn't miss him from the show - not to say that I don't like Carrell or the character - but he had out-served his usefulness.  Many can and will argue that the show itself has as well.  The big question has been "Who will replace Michael?"  And we thought that the finale was going to resolve that - it didn't - and not in an awesome cliff-hanger way - more in a way that made me feel like they were just bidding their time.  And the worst part is that they're probably going to announce it prior to the first episode anyway (if they don't I'll happily eat my words).  One of my larger issues is that there is some sad character inconsistencies.  Darryl has always been a bright level headed guy, but because they don't want to have him take over all of a sudden he starts acting weird and unqualified.  It felt like a stretch.  And as much as I enjoyed how horrible Dwight did when he was filling in as manager, part of me thinks that they pushed that forward a bit too much.  I don't want Dwight to be the boss, but I'm not sure that he would have made those mistakes.  The biggest flaw with the show right now is that it's just not acting logically.  Jim is refusing the job - why?  For no reason whatsoever - and why isn't Pam in consideration?  She was essentially Michael's second for a long time.  Will I tune in next season?  Of course I will, but this show has to find something for itself to anchor to.
The Office: Season Seven 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

1566 - Valentine's Day

When I first started seeing the posters for this I wasn't sure if I was all that interested - despite the fact that I'm a rom-com nerd, and despite the fact that this film is full an ass-load of actors that I love - it just felt like... a gimmick.  It's not, it's actually a legitimately decent flick. 
Well, it's hard to say that it's not a gimmick - cramming this many celebrities into a film is always a bit of a ploy, but the story moves along well and feels nice and balanced, we get to see the characters weaving in and out of one another's stories and that's fun.  I liked that it wasn't just about relationship love and there seemed to be some nice pleasant surprises.  I suppose my biggest grief with the whole thing is that pretty much everyone ends up happy (except maybe the one dude - I won't spoil anything here).  I think that I would have liked to of seen it balanced a little bit more with some realistic vibes that respected the idea that some people just can't get it to work on Valentine's Day. 
Despite that if you're looking for a fun and simple rom-com, then you could do a lot worse - and it's from the master Garry Marshall.  I'm actually considering watching this again with the commentary on - I think it'll be pretty insightful - or at the very least entertaining!
Valentine's Day  Valentine's Day [Blu-ray]

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Paying For It

I was recently at TCAF (Toronto Comic Arts Festival) and when I bumped into a friend they mentioned Chester Brown to me, and what this book was about - his autobiographical tale of being with prostitutes (or escorts, if that word is offensive to you).  I find sex, the nature of sex, how people deal with it emotionally and mentally, to be pretty fascinating stuff so it didn't take much for me to pick this up.  At the very surface of this book it's essentially an argument for decriminalizing prostitution (not legalizing it though - which is an interesting argument in which the book goes into great passionate detail).  There is a rather large appendices where the argument becomes much more one sided (albeit entertaining!), but the comic is that in which I can't imagine someone (anyone) reading this and it not 'causing them to think differently about something than before.  It's the kind of book that makes you question your own thoughts and beliefs on such a subject.  This book isn't trying to answer questiions, but to ask them.  You may not like what he's saying - you might hate it - but you can't deny that it's interesting - and for some people - the thoughts hold true.  The main character's journey begins when they decide that romantic love is bullshit and that all they really need to do is pay for sex when they want it and the rest of the time they can just be enjoying their friend ships.  Brown makes a solid argument when he says that more people are are made miserable by romantic relationships than they are happy.  As a happily married man I do agree that couples such as my wife and myself are in the minority.  Relationships are hard things to do - but also like is pointed out in the book - isn't how that how you know something is worth doing?  By it being hard?
I picked this book up at TCAF but I'm pretty sure it's available now.  I know that I for one will be attempting to pick up more of this man's stuff in the very near future.  If you're even remotely interesting seek it out and support Canadian literature!
Paying for It

Sunday, May 15, 2011

1565 - Defendor

A friend of mine is a reader for several of the different funding agencies here in Canada, and he mentioned having read and liked an early draft of this.  That combined with a bunch of actors, both famous and local, that I love - my only regret was I didn't get a chance to support this while it was still in the theatre. 
It's the story of a mentally challenged man (fetal-alcohol syndrome) who is convinced that a man named Captain Industry killed his prostitute mother when he was a child, and so he's become a vigilante known as the Defendor (NOT Defender!).  What surprised me most about this film was that it would have been so easy to just go with the dark comedy, but there's some goddamn heartbreaking moments here - some real harsh stuff.  It's stylized, but there feels like there's an honesty to how it all transpires throughout.  There's a lot going on but somehow the tone of this film works for it completely.  It's not cheesy, it's not shlocky.  It takes some superhero genre stuff and plays with it in an interesting way that fits emotionally and dramatically as well for a guy that's real.  Woody Harrelson is simply fantastic in this role, funny, endearing, heartbreaking.  It's a film worth seeing regardless, but if absolutely nothing else it's a film worth seeing for his performance.  For anyone who trashes Canadian cinema, give it a check out - if we made more films like this we would certainly be in a better situation with our film industry.  It's dark, yet accessible, dark and yet I think it would play well to a wide audience.  Go.  See.  It.
DefendorDefendor [Blu-ray]Defendor [Blu-ray]  Defendor [Blu-ray]

Friday, May 13, 2011

1564 - Couples Retreat

It wasn't a hard choice to watch this film given that it's full of so many people that I generally enjoy and it's rare that powerhouse casting equates to a film being a stinker - at the very least you're going to enjoy the performances.  So here we've got an ensemble of forty-year-old men married to thirty-year-old women (mostly) which is not addressed in any way- so be it - moving on :) - as they head to a couples resort with a hidden itinerary of couples therapy.
Part of you wonders when watching this if this wasn't just an excuse for the people involved to go hang out in Bora Bora and make a film.  Don't get me wrong - it's not a bad film - but it's not amazing either.  There is some good strong moments with the characters delving into their relationships, but I never honestly feel like these people are solving any real problems, more like they're putting a bandage on the cancer that is their relationships.  And it all gets wrapped up a little too perfectly.  I suppose I just went into this hoping for a little more emotional honesty and a little less broad comedy.  And they had a moment near the beginning which is beat-for-beat the same scene as something I've written... damnit.
So it sounds like I'm slagging the film.  It's an okay film.  If you like these actors then give it a whirl, it's entertaining, it's just not the kind of film I'd even see myself revisiting or highly recommending.
Couples Retreat  Couples Retreat [Blu-ray]  Couples Retreat (2-Disc Ultimate Vacation Edition)

Nextwave: Ultimate Collection

First off, the tagline to this book is "Healing America by beating people up."  This is the kind of book that takes pride in just being balls to the wall crazy.  It's not about character growth or arcs, it's about explosions and awesome.  Warren Ellis has taken a bunch obscure characters from the Marvel catalogue and teamed them up to fight against a terrorism unit that's actually masquerading as an anti-terrorist group. 
The writing in this book is just balls-out-funny.  The characters are a lot of fun and the action is glorious.  The worst thing about this book is that they only even did one twelve-issue run (which is all collected here).  So while it's a short story, it's pure awesome.  I really don't want to ruin any of the bits or give anything away so all I'm going to say is that if you're a comic nerd and you especially like stuff with the heroes I just can't imagine you loving this book.  It's a must read for anyone with a skewed sense of humour.  What are you doing reading this blog?!  Go!  Find yourself a copy!
Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. Ultimate Collection

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

1563 - Outing Riley

For those films geeks out there you'll recognize the man above, Pete Jones, as the winner of the first Project Greenlight, which was infinitely more entertaining than the film made from it Stolen Summer.  I heard about this film back when it was being made and was curious about it as a follow-up, especially considering that he'd decided to cast himself in the lead.  The film is about an Irish-Catholic in Chicago and his difficulty in coming out to his straight-with-a-vengeance family. 
A film like this has it's challenges from the get go to avoid being preachy or speecify, and this film does fall into those traps - it can't help but dip into melodrama from time to time.  That being said, it was a hell of a lot better than I thought it would be.  He actually got a decent cast together and when he wasn't trying to be too clever for his own good, he made a film that was more or less watchable.  This isn't exactly high praise.  This isn't a film I'd recommend but I wouldn't discourage you from watching it either.  It is what it is. 
Outing Riley

Top 10: book two

Just like the first book this one took me a little while to warm up to - the story took a little while to get going - but Moore's craft as a storyteller shined through and I was in good hands again - the way that he weaved it together with the previous storyline was pretty masterful in the way that it all continued to go a little deeper.  What's really interesting about this series is how these giant events just come out of nowhere and throw the characters for a loop - there is little to no build-up, but to be fair, that's life. 
This book became even more of an ensemble and I liked the little glimpses that we got into each of the characters lives, their insecurities.  The little arc for Caesar is kind of beautifully heartbreaking.
This book ended with a little caption that read "end of season one" however outside of a few spin-off series I don't think that this series ever went on - which is a shame. 
For those that like good, smart, fun comic writing - this is something that you'll dig.  The characters are all well drawn (both literally and spiritually), and there is a sense of fun amongst it all that is infectious.  Enjoy! 
Top 10 (Book Two of the Innovative New Series)

Saturday, May 07, 2011

1562 - Beauty Day

Full disclosure (again) - I know Jay Cheel, the director behind this film.  He was a year behind me in film school and he's a creative force to be reckoned with.  Beauty Day is a character study about the man who pioneered doing stupid shit on camera to get a laugh.  Before Jackass or Tom Green there was Cap'n Video - he was the guy that broke his neck trying to jump into a pool with a winter cover on it.  Ironically, in terms of getting known, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to him.  Cheel follows Ralph (the Cap'n) as he prepares for his 20th Anniversary all the while shedding a light on who this man is through old footage he'd shot throughout his life.
We get a lot of access to Ralph's life and learn some personal things about him - I wish there was more of that in the film, but understand why there isn't - the film isn't about that.  It's about finding something you really care about and just going for it.  It's an endlessly entertaining film - funny - touching.  And its coming to theatres sometime this June.  Do yourself a favour and check it out.  And if you think I'm just throwing out bias praise take a few seconds and google a review for the film - praises from ear to ear - just like there should be.

1561 - Fahrenheit 7-Eleven

Full disclosure - I don't know anything about Burtin Cummings or The Guess Who.  That being said, this was pretty damn entertaining.  It's a short about folk-lore surrounding an incident where hometown boy Burtin Cummings comes back to Winnipeg, is smashed by a beer bottle in a 7-Eleven and then trash talks his hometown.  What follows is a short about the complicated nature of hometown pride and the cult of fame as it sorts through various versions of the story and doing re-enactments of them.  Rumored to be part of a trilogy.  Not sure where you'll be able to check out out following the festivals, but worth taking a look.

Friday, May 06, 2011

1560 - Where the Wild Things Are

This has been sitting on my shelf for some time now and after reading it to my son tonight as part of his bed time I realized that it was damn time that I gave it a whirl. 
First off, it's hard not to fall for this film.  The choice made to go live-action with the creatures in costumes is an inspired one.  The combination of that with CGI faces is pretty flawless.  The expression matched with the voice work is pretty amazing stuff and I found myself loving every single character.
As a parent I can't wait to show this to my son.  First, I think that there are some good lessons here about what it's like to be part of a group and a family, what's expecting of you, etc... really strong message.  What I also loved that there was an actual sense of danger with all the zaniness that the wild things were up to - you bought into the idea that Max could get injured amongst his new friends.
If you haven't seen this yet and you remember the book, give it a whirl.  The book is pretty simple and this expands it really nicely and gives a really amazing arc that I think kids can identify with.
Solid work once again from the lovely and talented Spike Jonze!
Where the Wild Things Are 

Thursday, May 05, 2011

1559 - The Baby Formula

When my wife was pregnant with our son I read a book called "Bear With Me" about a lesbian couple having a child and I had the thought, well wouldn't it be interesting to have a story about two women in a relationship that got pregnant at the same time.  And then after a little poking around I discovered this film and thought... well... shit.  Someone's already come up with it... And now having seen it I think I'm safe to actually explore my version of it.
This film is about two women being involved in a scientific breakthrough - being able to create a baby without a man using stem cells.  The entire thing is fictitious but it's interesting enough, and accidentally both women end up pregnant at the same time.  Now, this film is listed as a comedy and for the first part it is, more or less, it's also meant to take place through the eyes of a documentary camera crew but stylistically they don't really follow that unless they feel like it.  There are definitely some shots that don't make sense coming from the camera crew, etc... so I'm not sure why they didn't just make it a straight up narrative or make a stronger choice to just go with the documentary style. 
The film chugs along at the beginning and has some pretty funny bits, but then it just turns into a melodramatic mess around the middle in a really long sequence where they decide to tell their families about what's really going on. 
This is a film that starts off with such promise and then derails into itself, mostly because it doesn't know what it wants to be.  It starts off as a comedy and then becomes pretty preachy and then gets extremely serious for a bit.  The tone is all over the place and so it's impossible to get attached to it and really care for the characters  I'm glad that I saw it for the sole reason that I know that there's still plenty to mine from the idea of two women pregnant at the same time that this film hasn't used.  Other than that, I'm just really not sure that I can recommend it, sadly.