Thursday, September 29, 2011

1629 - Nice Guy Johnny

It's hard to talk about this film without talking about the approach that Edward Burns took to making it.  However I'll separate them as best I can.  Hell, I'll even use titles to do so!

The Film
Okay.  So I really quite enjoyed this.  For a guy who just made his first feature on the cheap, I was pretty impressed by just how cheap this was made, and yet it didn't feel like they were skimping and saving.  Burns has truly utilized all he could to put this together without it feeling like a shoestring budget.  It's a genuinely sweet coming-of-age film, the characters are interesting, the actors well cast.  It's just a really solid little film - and it's brand spanking new and already on Netflix! 

The Process
So this film was made for $25K.  For those that don't know - this is not an easy thing to do.  It makes me jealous as shit.  It makes me just want to take one of my cheap scripts and grab some people and just make a damn film.  It's inspiring in that way - but that way also leads to danger.  A film like this can work because Edward Burns has a name for himself already.  He can make a film this cheap and insure that people will see it because he himself is a name, especially in the indie world.  It's easy for Burns to say that more people should be doing what he's doing, because for him it can't be that hard.  He doesn't need to make money on his own films because his acting roles pay the bills (I assume).
All that being said, good on him.  I'd like to think that down the road I'll get to a point where I can just make whatever film I want to and that'll be it - there's something freeing in that. 
However, my advice to young filmmakers, realize that this process works for Burns because is Edward Burns, people know him as an actor, he has made multi-million dollar films as a director as well.  He is able to make a film at this price and get it out into the world because he, himself, is a commodity.  If you want to take your own hard earned money and make a film out of it, please just do me a favor and treat it the same as gambling - only play with what you're willing to lose.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

1628 - Blast from the Past

I missed this film when it first came out, and then remembered it when a friend of mine raved about it last year, so in search of a nice simple comedy for this evening, I found myself watching it.  It's a comedy about a man who seals himself and his pregnant wife in a fall-out shelter after he thinks they've been hit by a nuclear weapon.  Thirty-five years later his son emerges to get more supplies and, hopefully, find a girl for himself. 
The first thing I thought about when watching this was - damn, Alicia Silverstone just disappeared off the face of the planet (she didn't actually - but she can be found by clicking on this awesome blog).  The comedy plays well to the concept.  The only thing that kind of threw me was their relationship.  I'm not sure exactly what drew him to her - why she'd suddenly become attracted to this guy.  That could have used a little more laughter and thought.
I don't want to say to much and run some of the better running gags.  For those in the mood for a nice light comedy, look no further!

1627 - Conan O'Brien Can't Stop

I can't say that I was ever a huge Conan fan, mostly out of lack of watching late night.  I'm not a late night guy.  Especially now that I have kids, but I never really liked late night shows, and so besides watching some select clips I just don't know a whole lot about that world.  But Conan was always one of the guys that I liked best. 
It's pretty common knowledge what happened to the guy.  He was slated to take over for Jay Leno on the tonight show - he did - and then seven months later Jay Leno was given the show back - the film explains all this in far better detail - but essentially Conan got screwed over.  They gave him a pretty sweet severance package, but part of the deal was that he wasn't allowed to appear on television (and perhaps radio as well) for six months.  And because he's a workaholic (attention whore?), he decided to do a live stage show.
It's hard to call this a documentary - based on the title you'd think it would be a more introspective look into this type of personality - what makes it so that Conan just can't take a break?  What are the pros and cons of that?  But outside of the title it doesn't get into it at all, and that's a shame.  Instead we get what's more like a behind the scenes featurette.  We see him lovingly abusing his adorable assistant, and generally egotistical about a lot of things.  But at least he's willing to show that on camera - a lot of others wouldn't.
This is really for die hard Conan fans, I'm not really sure that there's anything in here otherwise.  I enjoyed it enough, but don't feel like I really got anything out of it. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

1626 - Weeds: season seven

Weeds has never been shy about showing Mary-Louise Parker off as a sexual object - especially in it's press material as seen above.  And who are we kidding?  She's pretty damn sexy in this show - and not only that but other characters consistently call her on her bullshit, which keeps you from hating the hell out of the character.
One thing Weeds does that no other show does is re-invent itself.  It's first three seasons took place in the 'burbs, but then it boldly shifted, and continued and continued to shift, until last season ended with Nancy being taken off to jail.  And now, it's three years later, and she's out on parole.  If you don't want to know any more I suggest you stop reading here.  There will be SPOILERS AHEAD.

So.  It's a fairly common trend these days for shows that have been on for awhile to do a time jump.  Mad Men did it, as did Desperate Housewives and most recently, True Blood.  It's a nice way to reset the cast and give them new things to do.  I liked the idea of shifting the series to New York and giving as a completely different playground to play in.  I loved bringing Heyla James back into the fold, and I liked seeing the other characters in different places, and I ALWAYS love Justin Kirk - who is as adorable and funny as Parker is sexy and charismatic. 
Weeds is one of those shows that is good at putting their characters into a big pickle and then easily getting them out.  For a more dramatic version of this, see Breaking Bad.  And while the entire season was like this, it's finale took it to a whole other level - one that I might just not buy.  Having Shane commit murder - great season hanger.  Having Nancy dragged off to prison - phenomenal.  Having Nancy with a sniper rifle on her, and ending with an unknown BANG... well... that's just a bit shitty.  Either the show gets cancelled, and the series ends with Nancy finally getting her comeuppance, or the show continues and they need to bullshit there way around this - either way I don't think it's ideal.
Will I tune in next season?  Of course I will.  Nancy is a great character in a series rich with them, and when the writing isn't so-so, it's pretty damn great.  That and I really want to see Nancy and Andy hook up (even if I do think that he can do sooooo much better)...

1625 - Buried

The limited location thriller is almost a genre unto itself now - and if that's the case, consider this the most gutsy, and probably successful, of the bunch.  The first Saw film can probably hold claim to being one of the first really break-out successes, but others like Open Water, and Frozen are also in league but none are so cinematic given such limitations.  I found myself a bit frustrated at times, and I'll get to that, but the thing that was most impressive was simply the performance of Reynolds, how much he conveyed given such limitations - that and the sheer emotions of the storytelling.  Rodrigo Cortés directed the hell out of this film and all he had was a rectangle box and an actor - imagine what he can do with more...
Before I get too far ahead, Buried is a film about an American truck driver in Iraq, who is kidnapped for random and buried alive with little more than a cell phone and some illumination to help get him out.  The film is an intended exercise in frustration and also a comment on similar situations in the world, I'm sure.  If you like dynamic semi-political thrillers, this one might just blow you away a little.  So there's that, and now for my complaints, which will come by the way of SPOILERS BELOW...

My only real beef with this film is how it didn't given in totally to it's premise.  Sure we see the bars on the phone going down and down - but on it's last bar he's still somehow able to record two videos (one rather long one) and upload the other to another phone, not to mention make several calls.  Some battery on that phone!  And even in the end, there was never any real risk of the phone dying.  Given the harsh ending that the film has, I think that it could have very easily cut out (the phone) when he was having his final talk with his wife.  On a similar note the oxygen thing bothered me - he spent a lot of time freaking out, using the lighter, all of which would deplete the oxygen - sure he mentions it a few times, but he doesn't really suffer from it (unless you count the very ending - but I think that falls under something completely different).  I wish I could let that little shit go, but with a film like this the devil is in the details, and I think that kind of stuff could have been just a tad stronger.

Overall this was a well written, amazingly acted, and phenomenally directed film.  Highly recommend it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

1624 - Coupling: series one

I'm extremely late to this, but luckily the BBC does short seasons so it won't take much to get through the entire catalog.  Those that know me know that I'm a big fan of anything to do with relationships - and this series is a dozy in that way.  Kind of a riskier British version of Friends, really.  It's frank about the relationship between men and women, attacking both sexes with equal ferocity, creating much laughter and much "I know exactly what you mean..."
The cast is quite enjoyable, and despite the very broad tone I found it working for it as opposed to against it.  It's a simple service that allows itself to function well and run a slew of different topics for relationships and couples and explore them from six unique perspectives.  This series (UK version of seasons) covered a wonderful width of topic that was quite delightful.  It's got a tame feel to it, but underneath it's pretty open minded even if being a tad bit dirty.  It doesn't pull any punches when it comes to sex and relationships and it's all the better for it.
If you've got netflix and you like shows about people and the battle of the sexes, you could do a lot worse than this.  I highly recommend it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

1623 - The Secret of My Succe$s

This is one of the few eighties hits that I never saw - and if I did I don't recall it at all.  Fox stars as a kid from Kansas with dreams of making it big in New York.  He gets a job in the mail room in his uncle's company since no one will give him a chance in a business job - so he makes up an alias and works for the company in a higher capacity anyway.
There is a fair amount of mistaken identity fun going on here as Fox's character must share his duties as a mail room clerk along with being an executive - hopefully no one on either side becoming the wiser...
The film is pure eighties in terms of style, costumes, you name it.  So if you love that stuff you'll love this.  The thing that makes me saddest watching this is knowing that Fox's career is forever changed because of his Parkenson's, and who knows how many great performances we've been robbed because of it (although, this season's finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm wouldn't be possible without it, so theres that as well). 
If you like eighties film this one is just fine.  Give it a whirl.

Friday, September 23, 2011

1622 - Dinner For Schmucks

It very well may be safe to say that I'll watch anything with Paul Rudd and/or Steve Carell in it.  I loved the title sequence to this film.  I haven't seen the original version of the film, but it's no surprise why they thought that this title would translate over here.
So let's just start by saying that this is a pure fun movie, nothing more and nothing less.  And that's totally fine.  It's entertaining as hell.  The set-up is that a man is trying to get a promotion at his company, but to become part of the "boy's club" he must bring a dinner guest to their secret dinner, but it has to be someone that is just over-the-top weird. 
I didn't love the film, but I quite liked a lot of it - I thought they did a nice job of integrating the plot threads and giving a nice escalation.  The bank scene in particular was pretty damn well done.  The ending felt a little easy, but I'll let it fly.
Jemaine Clement also features here as, essentially the Russell Brand character (nothing against Clement by saying that, he's actually delightful here). 
If you want a fun film to watch this might be your cup of tea. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

1622 - Closer

I don't know why I'm just realizing this now, but this might be one of my all-time favorite films.  I know I've revisited it a lot more than other films in past years.  I'm currently doing notes on a new project idea and for someone reason I just knew that I had to rewatch this to get inspired. 
If you're not familiar, this is a film about four people who just can't stop getting in each others way romantically.  It's based on a play, and it's not hard to tell.  There are very few scenes (compared to most films), and they take their time, but I have to say I've never ever been bored watching this film.  The writing just crackles in conjunction with four tour-de-force performances.  This film was perfectly cast - each and everyone of them has a least a few showcase acting moments - although it never feels like that's what they were aiming for, or was the intention.  No matter how many times I see it I always get hypnotized by it. 
It's been out for years now, and it's up on netflix.  If you like any of these actors and you want to see them at the top of their game, this is it.  It's so good.  Finishing it and thinking about it makes me want to watch it all over again - and that's exactly what great story telling does. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

1621 - Louie: season one

I was late to this series, and I've got a whole other season to catch up on still.  But that's the best thing about discovering a new show that you love - that there's this treasure trove of goodness for you to just dive into - and that's exactly how I feel about this show.
It's hard to explain what this series is about.  For those that don't know Louis CK is a stand-up comic, and in my opinion, one of the most intelligent, hilarious, and heart-breaking that there is.  There is an emotion behind his comedy that just resonates with me - it's like listening to a kindred spirit.  A lot of his stuff is about family and things revolving around that - and his signature style is that he's a bit rough an inappropriate, but you know that it all comes from a place of love.
It's a difficult show in terms that there aren't really structured episodes - it became slightly more structured near the end of this season, but it's mostly watching Louie do some stand-up and then there are these scenes/skits/whatever-you-want-to-call them that help illustrate the point.  Those scenes are hilarious mostly because they come from a place of frightening honesty.  There is a level of comedy going on here that I think could make most comedy writers jealous.  It's pretty inspiring stuff, and you know that it all comes from a place in his life that's more often than not, painful. 
It's even more impressive to know how much work Louis puts into this show - he writes and directs each episode and edits a fair share of it as well.  I'm really excited to see the next season of this.  I'm even more excited knowing that it's network FX, is on it's way to Canada.  Here's hoping they're looking to make the same quality of show here.  If you're a fan of stand-up comedy, especially Louis CK's, then this is something that you don't want to miss.

1620 - Drive

I'm going to do a little something different for this review posting.  I didn't even know this film existed until I saw a friend's (Matt Williams) facebook posting going on and on about how amazing he thought it was - and so I found myself at a theatre last night at 10pm to see it (this is late for me).  And so what's below is our un-edited e-mail back-and-forth about the film.  Please proceed with extreme caution as we talk freely about the entire film so there are  

Jeremy:  So I went to see Drive.  I really enjoyed it.  I even dug the bad 80's soundtrack that they made work for it.  A few little things drove me nuts a bit, but the pros FAR outweighed the cons.  The only thing that really bothered me was just the focus on style over substance in some moments.  For example near the end, when he goes to kill Nino.  Absolutely no reason for him to bother with the mask besides the fact that it "looks cool" :)

Matt:  Nice, glad you liked it. I agree about the mask - upon rewatch today, I realized that it totally wasn't necessary. Nino never would have seen his face anyway, and if he had, like on the beach, it wouldn't have mattered. Also, in the elevator, when he sees the guy has a gun, he wouldn't take the time to kiss Irene before bashing the dude's head in - the guy could kill him first. But, those moments worked for me, because sometimes style is substance (rarely, and only if done with complete precision). Plus, I don't tend to get bogged down with small details like that. The kiss, for example, represents something very important, even if realistically speaking, a normal person wouldn't turn their back on a guy who's about to kill them to give a girl a kiss.
It just all worked for me. A perfect film, in my opinion. And, imo, there's probably been only 6 or 7 of those in the past 5 years. The film really takes on the personality of the Driver, in a masterful way.... few films accomplish that with great effect. Recently, The Departed did a decent job of doing that. But I don't know if any film has done it like Drive. And it's fucking suspenseful as hell. I haven't felt that much tension since The Hurt Locker, or Breaking Bad for TV.
I LOVED the soundtrack. Just loved it.
I really hope, depending on what else is released this year, that Refn wins Best Director. Seriously one of the most well-directed films I've ever seen.

Jeremy: A perfect film is, obviously, a subjective thing.  Having spent the evening and morning thinking about it I'm not sure I can agree with a lot of what you're saying.  To me Drive was a REALLY well executed genre film.  It's gorgeous to look at, but I think that style does not equal substance, and I think that a large part of why film has taken a downturn in recent years is that people think that it does.  I can agree that it's a very well directed film, but I think that it's a stretch to think that he'll win, let alone get nominated.  With the exception of Tarantino (and he is the exception, not the rule) the academy doesn't really respond to genre films.  And this one in particular is missing the key ingredient to that - substance.  Gosling is essentially playing a more aesthetically pleasing version of Travis Bickle, minus all the stuff that makes Bickle a truly unique character and one that still stands out today.  And Carey Mulligan (who is absolutely adorable - I love her) is simply the damsel in distress - given how paper thin her character is, she makes up for it in wonderful ways by how she looks at him - and we can see her desire for someone to take care of her.  But that's all there is to her character, sadly.  She's just a male fantasy who is drawn, for reasons unknown, to sociopaths - both her husband and The Driver.  And The Driver's only redeeming qualities is that he protects those who need protecting (also for reasons unknown).  Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston easily had the best characters in this film - the scene where Brooks kills Cranston could be the film's best.  It was so understated and simply, and yet mildly horrifying.  Loved it. 
As I mentioned with 'the mask' that was just an obvious example of how empty a lot of the decision making in this film was.  Things were often done because it 'looked cool'.  Christina Hendricks' (whom I also adore) character could have been completely cut out of the film and it wouldn't have made a difference at all - it would have been really easy to do.  But it looked cool to have a smoking hot woman help rob a store.  Her character made zero difference to the film.  The Driver had already met 'Cook' so it's not inconceivable that he could have found him on his own, or asked after him like he had to do anyway after Hendricks was killed.  The kiss, actually, was fine for me.  I saw it as The Driver using it to throw the gunman for a loop and confuse him, thereby giving The Driver the upper hand. 
The ending, in particular bothered me, in that it didn't fit.  Very often films like this go for a "down ending" because it's cooler than letting people be happy.  It made sense for The Driver to walk away with nothing, and for the other people who got involved, but Carey Mulligan's character should have at least walked away with the money.  She was an innocent and she was punished for no reason.  Had they have her get involved in a sexual relationship with The Driver then I could see her ending up with nothing, but as it is, she gets nothing and for no reason.  What's it to The Driver?  Why would he leave all that money with the body at the end?  Probably because it looked cool. 
Now, all this being said, it was very entertaining, and it was a visually great looking film.  But, for me, that's about all it was.  It's not something I imagine I'll ever need to revisit, nor something that I'll need to reference down the line.  Pretty much got everything I needed out of it the first time around.

Matt: I never said that I think he will win an Oscar, I said I hope he will, depending on what else comes out this year (it's a bit too premature to say for sure, especially since most of the best films come out in these next few months).
And I agree that style over substance is what destroys most modern films. That's why I walked out of The Tree of Life. That was almost entirely style over substance. But, sometimes style *can* be substance - Tarantino does it a lot (successfully making style also substance - he also fails a lot). And the Coens do it a lot. Or, in some situations, style isn't taking the front seat to substance; they're both side by side, which is the case with a lot of this film. The Driver is, as you say, essentially a Travis Bickle type character, but also more like Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name. More like him in that we know nothing about his past, and he doesn't seem to have much of a life - two things that Travis Bickle does have (though I guess he doesn't have much of a life either, but at least we see some of it). "Drive" is an existential study - it deals with those most important and basic of human emotions and needs, but does it better than any film in recent memory that I can think of. Mainly because of the acting. There is so much here in this film that couldn't have been on the page, unless the writer literally wrote "Driver thinks so and so." I knew every moment what the characters were thinking, despite them not saying anything. If that isn't the perfect storm of acting and directing, I don't know what is. Going off the existential idea - Nietzsche, as I'm sure you know, wrote of the Ubermensch - or "overman", sometimes "superman." What the Ubermensch really is is a person who has acquired total control of their life; someone with complete freedom. And the Driver is very much that - and when something threatens to unravel not only his freedom, but Irene's, he steps in and takes command. While I'd argue he has already, at the beginning of the film, achieved Ubermensch status, he doesn't fully realize it until the end of the film. And therein is why I'd also argue that this is much very a superhero origin story. So I think the Driver is very much a unique figure - he isn't stripped of character at all. He may not say much, but you know what he's feeling.
Existentialism also deals very much with guilt and regret - and when Standard is killed, Driver very much feels guilt and regret, which is not something an Ubermensch can feel. So his life is thrown out of whack by this. And to regain his ubermensch status - restore his life to normalcy - as well as ensure the protection of the kid and the girl, he does what he does. And why does he leave the money? Because Irene doesn't want it, and he doesn't want it - that isn't part of his goal. She doesn't get 'punished' - she outright rejects the money.
To me, it's a very philosophical film. Very existential, a lot like the recent The American or Le Samourai from the 60s. Many of the silent moments have great depth to them, and every shot is composed with care, precision, and meaning.
Yes, obviously perfection is a subjective thing. I don't deny that. Somebody could argue this is the worst movie in the past decade, and if they argued it with intelligence, I'd respect that opinion. I wouldn't agree - but I'd respect it. I respect your opinion of it, and other films, even if sometimes I do not agree. I once read a paper that argued Abraham Lincoln was the worst president ever. The writer didn't actually believe it, but they wanted to take that position and see if they could defend it. It was actually well-thought out and intelligent. Even if I (and most) don't agree.
For the record, to compare, the only other films in recent memory that I would call perfect, let's say the last five years, would be: The Wrestler, No Country for Old Men, The Hurt Locker, The Social Network, 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days, A Serious Man, United 93, Chop Shop, Up in the Air, and this film. But that's just my opinion.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I like slice-of-life character pieces, and from reading Box Office Poison I knew that I was in for a treat with Alex Robinson's other work.  I picked this up at this year's Toronto Comic Arts Festival (the cover itself is worth the purchase for design geeks). 

It takes just a little while to get used to the rhythm of the book, especially considering that we're following six main characters - but Robinson wisely makes each player and their story pretty unique, so it's not exactly difficult to tell them all apart.

It's hard to really commend something like this - I liked it.  It was a nice casual read, great characters who I loved and loathed (as they were designed to), but this isn't the kind of book that everyone is going to love - so proceed with that in mind.  If you like character based drama - go for it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

1619 - She's the One

What I'm about to say is going to sound horribly vain, but it takes a fifteen year old film to remind you just how smoking hot both Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz were when they burst out into the screen.  That's not to say that they aren't still attractive, but there was a noticeable difference.  Here they are sex on a stick, now they are really beautiful women.  If that makes any sense at all.
I haven't seen as many Ed Burns films as I should, his catalogue is pretty impressive in terms of the cast and tiny budget - and what he does now is even moreso.  Any young filmmakers out there, you'll find time well spent searching out articles with Burns talking about getting films made and out there in the world.  He's one of those "just fucking do it" guys that I greatly admire.
This film is about the nature of love as explored through various relationships intertwined with two brothers and some unlikely partners.  Can you know someone a short period of time and know that they are the perfect match for you?  Or do you painstakingly look for the perfect somebody knowing that it could very well end in heart break?  These are the kinds of question that the film isn't afraid to ask it's characters. 
With some great performances, writing, and directing all around I think it's pretty easy to recommend this film for those who like rom-coms in the guise of an indie film.  Check it out if you can find it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

1618 - The Pixar Story

It's safe to say that Pixar is a household name.  Not many production companies can boast the same.  I find them to be incredibly inspiring, and not only because of how good their films are - it's more than that.  It's the way they approach the process in a collaborative environment where everyone helps contribute to everyone else's story and make them all better.  It's the kind of thing that I'd like to have down the road - a big production office full of wonderfully creative people, all working on their own things, but all contributing to the whole as well.

This is a cute little doc about how this company came to be.  I knew a lot of this going into it, but for those unfamiliar with their story, it's a very interesting one and worth checking out for sure, especially if you have a love for the company's films.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

1617 - Curb Your Enthusiasm: season eight

The first thing you need to realize when you watch this show is that, in reality, Larry David is a billionaire (or close to it).  He absolutely does not need to do this show.  This is more like his hobby - and what a great one at that. 
This was the first season that didn't really attempt to have a strong ongoing arc - unless you count the relocation to New York, which did a lot for pumping fresh blood and ideas into the series.  Losing Cheryl Hines gave Larry the freedom he needed to really be himself (and what a treat that was).  With Leon as his sidekick there was no end to the delight.  There were some absolutely fantastic episodes this season and some that were just good.  I know that most people don't think like this, but what makes Curb Your Enthusiasm particularly great is it's comedic structure and how things come back to bite Larry.  In the lesser episodes you see them coming, but when the show is really popping you're along for the ride and not thinking about it, and then when it hits you it's ridiculously satisfying.  I think this series struggled a few seasons back but it's in fine form right now.  I'll keep watching so long as Larry David keeps making them.

Juliet, Naked

I've pretty much enjoyed everything I've read from Mr. Hornby.  As a fellow-writer who attempts to look at the human condition it's hard not to expound upon this man's mad skills in that area.  In High Fidelity he really taped into men, but as he's gone along, and especially here, he is equally skilled in the area of women - phenomenally so.
This book is about passion and art, and how both can be misdirected and confused, misunderstood or over and under-appreciated.  It's about Duncan, the world's largest fan of a, now recluse, rock star Tucker Crowe.  He's got every bootleg, every album, he's spent thousands of hours trying to breakdown the meaning of all his songs, the influences and whatnot - posting them all on his website along with the other "Crowologists".  And his long-suffering girlfriend sits idly by, someone interested herself, but mostly just not sure if there's anything to be done about their relationship.  The rock star's famous album is a break-up album called 'Juliet', and one day an album arrives at Duncan's door, "Juliet, Naked" a never-before-heard bare-bones version of the much-loved album.  Duncan LOVES it.  Annie, his girlfriend HATES it.  And when Duncan writes a glowing review of it online, Annie decides to counter it with her own take - and out of the blue, she's contacted by the reclusive rock star.  And if you want to know the rest, you best pick it up.
There are a lot of lovely and meaningful thoughts about the nature of relationships and how they work, how we think about them - why we sometimes settle, and why we sometimes can't.  I'm behind on this one so I'm sure that all big Hornby fans have already discovered it, but if you're new to Nick Hornby, or behind like me, there is a good chance that you'll find something in this to love as well.
Juliet, Naked: a novel

Monday, September 12, 2011

1616 - True Blood: season four

This is an interesting show in that it doesn't act like any other hour-long cable drama.  It actually feels a bit more like a soap-opera - and I say that in the best possible way.  What this show does better than most, if not all, is their cliff-hangers.  This season actually had a few episodes that left on lovely notes instead of the usual cliff-hangers, which is oddly just as unsettling. 
So this is going to be able the entire season, so expect SPOILERS AHEAD.  If you want a general recommendation then here goes: it's a really good show - and if you're into vampires, werewolves and numerous other types of mythic creatures then you're probably going to love it. 
Okay - now into the meat of it.

This was a really really strong season for True Blood.  It felt a tad meandering early on, but everything came together quite well.  Even characters like Tara (who, honestly, always felt like she could have disappeared and not made any real difference) seemed to serve some purpose this time around.  It appears that each season brings aboard a new creature to deal with, this time around it's the witches, and to some degree the Fae - although that plotline disappeared very quickly, and just barely stuck it's head out here and there.  I assume that it's going to be something sprinkled along for a bit and then will probably feature heavily in the future - perhaps even in the final season (whenever that will be).
Something that True Blood does quite often is leave storylines, Jason and the Panther-Clan seemed to be pretty interesting, but then as soon as the will-he-turn question was answered it was dropped.  Again, perhaps we'll see them all again later (although I much prefer Jason's relationship with Jessica steaming up - let's be honest, what was sexier than her Little Red Riding costume in the finale?).  One thing I was particularly tickled to see was Reverend Steve from the Fellowship of the Sun returning (and as a vampire, no less).  Although as much jeopardy as it seemed that Jason was in, the dude was outside his house and the only way to harm Jason would be if Jason decided to invite him in.  So Jason's pretty safe.  Like usual True Blood wrapped up the central conflict of this season rather early in the episode and spent the rest of the time setting up next season's arcs - like the one I just mentioned.  One of the really fun ones was seeing that Russell had freed himself from his concrete grave (when they didn't give him the 'True Death' it seemed pretty clear that he would be returning at some point).  Tara could be dead - could be alive - I could care less.  And everyone else is in a pretty pickle as well.  This was easily one of the better seasons of the show (who didn't love Eric's amnesia?  delightful! - and it was the first season the Bill became truly interesting), and I really look forward to season five. 

1615 - Entourage: season eight

And so it ends.  Entourage gets a lot of flack for being a comedy without jokes.  I always describe the show as being something akin to a doughnut, it's not something you ever need to watch.  It's not going to satisfy you in a way that a proper meal or dessert would - but every now and then you just kind of want it, and you don't need someone giving you shit for that.  That's like watching Entourage. 
This season has been... okay.  In an effort to wrap things up it just felt a little too clean for my liking.  There will be SPOILERS coming, so don't read on unless you've seen it.

They essentially decided to wrap everything up nice and tidy - everyone's relationships got repaired, Drama is on his way to becoming a star, Turtle is finally a successful business man in his own right, and Vince... in the biggest WTF of the finale, is getting married to the woman who, mere episodes ago, called him a vain ladies man, and somehow a twenty-four hour date with him (that we didn't get to see) made her want to marry him right away.  Alice Eve was a phenomenal character and this episode just turned her into another bimbo for Vince.  The show avoids SHOWING us how perfect for each other these two are and just TELLS us that they are, the same way that the show always let us assume that Vince was a talented actor (the show actually made a poor decision in every now and then showing Vince actually acting, and thus shattering the illusion). 
I always enjoyed watching Entourage, but I can't say I'll miss it.  I'll watch the movie when it comes out, and hopefully they'll really put the characters to task now that they, essentially grown-up. 
The best part of the series finale is after the credits when Ari, who recently gave everything up for his family, is given the job offer of a lifetime.  Now THAT was a perfect note to go out on.
So if you've been watching all along you've probably already seen this season - but if you're just new to the series, proceed knowing that it's just what it is - no more, no less.  And that's okay.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

1614 - Morning Glory

I'll see pretty much anything that Rachel McAdams is in, and when you throw Harrison Ford & Diane Keaton into the mix as well - you've guaranteed my viewership. 
McAdams stars as an up-and-coming morning show producer challenged to take a morning show on it's last legs and breathe some fresh air into it.  It's full of the usual work place trappings, like office romance, workaholic natures, etc... but it doesn't fall into the cliches of them, which was a nice touch.  What I love most about McAdams, and what's obvious here, is that she actually likes to play her characters honestly.  This is a big budget comedy, but she looks like a real person - her hair is messy sometimes, she looks slightly disheveled - because she's supposed to be given her job.  A lesser team would have kept her polished the entire time. 
It's easy to forget that Keaton and McAdams played mother/daughter a few years back in The Family Stone, they fit their roles so well, but the big surprise is Harrison Ford - much like his character - you don't expect him to show up at a film like this, and it works quite well.
This is a cute little film worth checking out, especially if you're a fan of any of the headlining talent.
Morning Glory  Morning Glory [Blu-ray]

1613 - At Home By Myself... With You

I was fortunate to sit with Kristin Booth sometime ago at a mutual friend's birthday party, and she was as charming and lovely in real life as she is in this film.  She stars as a woman who has several phobias, the most crippling being that she can't leave her apartment.  But when she meets a new man across the hall she makes a list of everything she's scared of, and goes at trying to get over them. 
It's a very cute film, and Booth and Aaron Abrams are really quite lovely together.  People that don't like quirky films would be best to avoid this - from it's fairytale narration, to animated sequences, and character's characteristics, it could be something that really grates at the wrong person.  Not me :) 
Clearly shot on a shoestring budget it never quite feels like that - more like everything is a choice.  It feels cinematic despite it's limitations that might take the story elsewhere.  This is a film that you could really pick to shreds if you wanted to be more nihilistic about it all, but it's not meant to be that, it's a cute little fairytale and it works really well as that.  It's pretty widely available and has just been added to netflix here in Canada, so no excuse not to check it out!
At Home By Myself ... With You

Sunday, September 04, 2011

1612 - Horrible Bosses

This is the kind of film where you've got the combination of great cast + great premise = I want to see it.  So what's it about, if you haven't heard - Three friends have three terrible human beings for bosses, and after finally having enough they realize that their lives would be much easier without them.  And so cue the Strangers on a Train/Throw Momma, etc... examples.
This is the kind of film where if you turn off the logic filter on your brain and you just sit back and relax - it's easy to do just that.  And you'll laugh - a lot.  It's by no means a perfect film, and it's one that I'll probably never fee the need to see again, but it was a solid and entertaining ride.  They play off the scenarios extremely well - sometimes missing a few comic opportunities, but cashing in on other that you might not consider.  If you want to see something just for the sake of laughing, this one is an easy recommend - but if you want a good solid comedy I'd have to say that play it by your personal interest. 

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Jack of Fables #9: The End

If I'm honest, this is a series that I've supported long past it's due.  As a spin-off of the main Fables comic it originally followed Jack of the Tales (Jack Horner) until his story was resolved in the Great Fables Cross-over and then it essentially handed the mantle over to his son, Jack Frost - and while those stories were fine - they were nowhere near as entertaining as watching Jack run around.  So now the series has come to it's conclusion, and despite it's "epic" finale, it's just kind of... meh.  It didn't feel like it really mattered, like it just had to happen.  I'm glad it's over to be honest.
So here's my advice to those just getting into Fables - pick up the beginning of this series and read alongside Fables, but once you get to the cross-over, you can probably just keep up with Fables.  No offense Jack, you just fell flat at the end.
Jack of Fables Vol. 9: The End

Friday, September 02, 2011

1611 - Crazy Stupid Love

This film has come highly recommended - and I wanted to see it based on the storyline and actors alone - big fan of all of these people.
So, coles notes, this film is about a man whose wife randomly tells him that she wants a divorce and how he and the rest of their family deals with that. 
The one thing I kept hearing was that, if there's a complaint, maybe that it's a tad too long.  Ironically the length was fine - but it was a bit... slow in spots.  But it didn't bother me for the most part, mostly because I was just really enjoying the whole thing.  What was most impressive in this was simply the writing.  Don't get me wrong - the actors are all fantastic - the film itself is stylish and looks great (a big step up from the director's last outing - I'm looking at you 'I Love You Phillip Morris'), but when you see this film, or you revisit it, just notice how well all the threads layer and integrate over one another, and how the film never loses site that it's a comedy - no matter how intense it is at times, heartwarming and emotionally honest, the comedy stays present - it never loses site of that.  I do have two issues with the film that I'll mention below so as not to spoil - but by and large this is a fantastic film.  I recommend it highly to all.

Okay.  So the two things that bothered me - the twist later on where we discover the greater connected between Gosling and Carrell just felt like a tad bit of a cheat.  The third connecting party was well named with a nickname that makes total sense - but their absence otherwise feels a bit forced.  Don't get me wrong, it was a wonderful reveal - but the more I thought about it the more it bothered me. 
The other thing the scene at the graduation - Carrell standing up in front of everyone was one of the very few times where I felt like the scene was being written a bit - it was a little too perfect how it went down, I found - I think that it didn't match the tone of the rest of the film perhaps and that's what bothered me.  Alas - small potatoes.  Can't wait to see it again!

Writing Movies For Fun And Profit

First off, I hated reading this book in transit - the cover (while funny in context) kind of makes you look like an asshole :)
So this is a book about.... um... I guess it's about how the movie industry worlds from two insiders who have written big hits.  It's extremely honest, hilarious, and kind of sad.  They spend a really really long time talking about how awesome it is to make money - although they spend equal amounts of time recognizing that they are not, by any means, exceptionally remarkable writers - they aim around the middle and hit the mark every time (that's not to slam them - they admit this stuff).
I think there is a lot of great take-away advice.  I don't really have massive aspirations of going to L.A. and make of go of it there - I like Canada thank you very much, and I think that, while it needs a mass amount of work, that there's a way to make the film industry in our country work. 
I think that anyone with a strong desire to write, and make a living at it, in the entertainment industry needs to give this book a read for the sole reason of making you realize the realities of the system, what's expected of you, when to shut up and mind your business.  This business is a lot about ego, and I think that the really successful people know when to suppress it. 
It was a fun read with some decent take-aways - even if I don't agree with all they've got to say - not from a logic point of view - more from personal choice.
Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You Can, Too!

We won a Gemini!

The show I work on as an editor Princess as well as it's sister show Till Debt Do Us Part both won Geminis the other evening, and my lovely producer let me hold it.  The one for Princess was actually for an episode from the first season that I edited - so I'll assume that I helped in some small way :)
New season airs... um... in October...?  I'll let you know the exact dates when I have them.  We're doing 32 episodes this season (for you non-TV people - that's a lot), but they will be broken up when aired - a chunk this fall and then the other chunk in the spring (I think).  If you're a fan of the show, or want to learn more, join the facebook group by clicking this link.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

1610 - My Flesh and Blood

Tonight was documentary night in our house.  Emily got to pick the films and so there's no surprise that one of them was about children - an absolute passion of hers.
This film follows a woman and the eleven (that is not a typo) special needs children that she has adopted.  Some are worse off than others - and they range from a child with cystic fibrosis (as well as some emotional and anger issues) to children with other life threatening illnesses, and to others that have just been dealt a poor hand - two sisters born without legs, and a little girl who was in a terrible fire when she was a baby (pictured above to the right).  There are others I'm missing - they are no less memorable.
The only help that the women who has adopted the children has is another adopted daughter who is college aged.  She appears to have no special needs outside of just being frustrated and not feeling like she has anyone to talk to (a scene that particularly frustrated me in how poorly, I thought, that the adoptive mother handled it).  A netflix reviewer called it 'heartwarming'.  I don't know if I agree - it wasn't a super depressing film, but I also just got the sense that these people would keep moving forward because, simply, there was no other option. 
It's sad that we live in a world where the Jon & Kates can get rich off of taking fertility drugs and having a massive family, where a woman like this, taking on children that no one else wants, struggles to get by.  Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't want these people exploited, but if there's a group of kids that should benefit from the curiosity of the viewing public it should be kids like these.
A pretty decent documentary that felt like an honest look into a unique family.
My Flesh and Blood

1609 - Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock?

When the opening interview of a documentary starts with:
Fairy tales begin with 'Once Upon a Time...'  But when a trucker tells you a story, it begins with 'You ain't gonna believe this shit!'
Then you know you're in for a treat.  We tried to see this at TIFF but the fates did not align - instead we saw a wonderful documentary called My Kid Could Paint That (really great - check it out!)

So this documentary is about a woman who believes she has found a Jackson Pollock painting that, if real, could be worth in the neighborhood of fifty million dollars.  And she's not willing to settle for anything less.  Because there is no traditional way to authenticate the painting, and because Pollock "experts" refuse to accept it, she relies on going to a world renowned forensic guy who specializes in art.  This man, after much searching, actually finds the kind of evidence where "If this were a murder trial, the subject would be guilty without question".  But for unexplained reasons (outside of tradition) the art world does not recognize forensic evidence.  Probably because it means that they could be right or wrong and something like that would just absolutely shatter a community that is based on opinion.  Fact is an ugly word when it comes to art.
This is a nice little flick (on netflix), and it's fun and informative about the art world - if you like this you should also check out Steve Martin's newest book An Object of Beauty which discusses similar themes. 
Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?