Monday, October 31, 2011

1635 - Return to Me

That's right, on Hallowe'en I choose to watch a rom-com - albeit one with a slight supernatural twist.  A film starring Duchovney and Driver (what's she doing these days??? she's lovely, I miss her!) is enough of a draw for me, but the premise is intriguing too.  When his wife dies in a terrible car accident her heart is donated to a woman in need, whom randomly meets up with the husband a year later and they start to fall for each other.  But what will happen when they discover their true connection?
Let me just say that this is a lovely and charming film - the actors are delightful, little moments with all the old men are wonderful.  So there's all that.  The premise is original, certainly.  But the the conflict and concern feels pretty fabricated.  I have a hard time buying that, quirky as she is, Driver's character wouldn't take so long to tell him about her operation.  She must have been with some really shallow dicks before if that's the case (and they should have shown up that rather than just hearing about them).
Despite the story issues it's a sweet and fun little film.  And kudos to Boonie Hunt (a decade late) for her first feature.  I guess shes' too busy with her talk show to make more. 
This is on netflix if you are so inclined...

I Found This Funny

Although Apatow's name is slathered all over the cover, I think it's mostly just clever marketing - I'm not sure how one "edits" a collection... outside of selection... regardless the proceeds for this book go to a good 'cause and not his wallet, so it's all well and good! 
I have a love and hate relationship with short fiction.  When it's good it's absolutely phenomenal, but I'm also a person who likes to be told a story, and there are many a short fiction writer who just likes to play around with tangential material in short fiction, and I find myself skimming that stuff.  This collection was a little from column A and a little from column B in that regard.  I won't go into details on them, but below are the ones that really stood out for me in the collection:

Judd Apatow - How I Got Kicked Out of High School: a Freaks and Geeks Diary

Raymond Carver - Elephant

Dave Eggers - Your Mother and I

Paul Feig - And Now a Word from the Booth

Jonathon Franzen - Two Ponies

Ian Frazier - Coyote v. Acme

Jack Handey - My First Day in Hell

Simon Rich - Six Selected Pieces

Rodney Rothman - Vivian

Paul Simms - For Immediate Release

Robert Smigel - & Conan O'Brien - Lockwell: a TV Pilot

Jon Stewart - Lenny Bruce: The Making of a Sitcom

The collection is a nice mix bag of different styles as well.  In addition to the above there are some pretty fantastic cartoons in there as well.

If you like to laugh, or read intelligent funny writing, I'm sure that there's something in here for you.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What Alice Forgot

In all the lead up to my film being released I completely forgot to write about this until I saw a note on my desk that was to serve as a reminder.  I saw this book randomly when were were in P.E.I. this summer and the premise intrigued me.  It's about a woman who gets a concussion and loses ten years of her life's memories.  The last thing she remembers is being pregnant with her first child and happily married to the man of her dreams, and then all of a sudden she's forty with three children, and moments away from finalizing the divorce from said man-of-her-dreams.  And the good goes about her filling in those blanks.  There's a lot of charm to it - it's being adapted into a film, and I think that's actually the better medium for this story.  I did enjoy the book, but it had these two other narrative bits which included her sister's letters to her shrink, and a great aunt's (I think) letters to an old lover.  Neither needed to be in the book.  The sister's helps out the narrative a bit in the beginning but very quickly just becomes filler.
The writing is good, even if it does feel like tangent after tangent in several sections of the book.  One review I read for it said that it was the perfect beach book, and perhaps that's the aim for this, in which case, I agree.  That being said, it's completely charming and it's no surprise that this book has become popular.  It's good, not great, but it's worth the read if you're even remotely curious.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Paul Shepard: REVIEW ROUND-UP!

Today is the day!  Anyone living in the greater Toronto area needs to get their butts to the Carlton this weekend to see my film The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard, screening at 4:25pm and 9:20pm daily.  For those who don't know, the opening weekend of any film, particularly small films, is crucial.  For a film like ours it's the difference between only running one week in one city, and get expanded.  If we do well this weekend the chances of the film moving on to another city is very good, as well as getting an extra week in Toronto.
So, to the reviews.  A lot of filmmakers will claim they don't read reviews, and I'm sure some don't.  I haven't been doing this long enough not to care what other people think.  For a small film like ours a review can be the deciding factor on whether or not someone wants to give it a shot.  So without further adieu, here they are... Click on the name of the paper (the heading) to get the actual review, otherwise I'll just talk about it briefly:

The National Post:  I'd be lying if I didn't say that getting this three star review meant a lot to me.  But what meant even more was that this reviewer really seemed to "get" the film.  And to boot they said some really lovely things.

The Toronto Sun: While I'm sure she doesn't remember it, Liz Braun reviewed a short film festival a few years back where she commented on my film and said that I had done in five minutes what others like it couldn't do at feature length.  It was a nice thing to say.  And she has more nice things here, in particular that this is a film that should make Canadians proud.

The Toronto Star: Not our biggest supporter, but still nothing to shake your fist at.  No film is for everyone and considering how routinely romantic comedies get slammed by critics, I think we did just fine here.  

The Grid:  The black sheep of our reviews.  I very well can't post all the positive and leave out the negative.  I'm trying to avoid reviewing the reviews, however I can't help but think that from reading this one that this reviewer just hates the mockumentary format to begin with - so it's no surprise that we didn't get much love.  You can't win them all!

These are all the reviews I've seen so far, if anyone spots any more please let me know - post in the comments.  Otherwise, get your butt to the theatre and tell everyone you know!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Three 2 Five Questions: Kris Holden-Ried

I was lucky enough to get a chance to sit down with the wonderful Mr. Kris Holden-Ried to do one of these interviews.  He's the star of my film The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard and he'll be attending our screening and Q&A tomorrow evening following the 9:20pm screening.  So be there if you want to meet Kris in addition to other members of our lovely cast including Zoie Palmer, Mary Krohnert, and Tricia Braun!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Three 2 Five Questions: Mary Krohnert

It's been a while since I've done one of these - I have another that will be up in the days to come - but for now, it's all about the lovely Mary Krohnert!  One of the stars of my film The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard which is having it's theatrical release starting this Friday at the Carlton in Toronto.  4:25pm and 9:20pm daily!  Mary will be at the Friday night screening for part of the Q&A.
So the audio, as usual, is what it is, I did this outside of the Film Canteen at the Bell Lightbox.  I hope you enjoy it!  Mary will also be appearing in an upcoming episode of Flashpoint, and Little Mosque on the Prarie.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard THEATRICAL RELEASE!

At long last my first feature is being released in to the theatres!  For those that live in the GTA (or that feel like traveling at all!)  It will be screening at the Carlton (Yonge/Carlton) from Friday, Oct 21st to Thursday, Oct 27th.  The showtimes are 4:25pm and 9:20pm (apologies that there are no early evening screenings - I have absolutely no control over that). 
We've been nominated for several awards along the way as well as having played as several of Canada's top film festivals, and others around the world.  The programmer at the Calgary International Film Festival had this to say about the film:
Part HIGH FIDELITY, part THE OFFICE with a dash of SPINAL TAP thrown in for good measure, THE UNTITLED WORK OF PAUL SHEPARD is a mockumentary with genuine heart to go with the genuine laughs.
So get your butt out and support a great Canadian film!  And on Friday and Saturday nights get a chance to meet some of the cast at the Q&As!  We are expecting reviews in all the major papers, so we'll post them here as well (unless they absolutely trash the film, and then I'll say that 'I don't read reviews...')
Looking forward to seeing you all out there.  Spread the word!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

1634 - Breaking Bad: season four

I saw the first three seasons of this show back to back because I was late to it, so this was the first time that I had to wait week by week, and if you're a fan of the show you know that that's torture.  I have to be honest in that I was getting pretty impatient with the beginning of this season.  The first episode was pretty solid - and I'm sure that if you watched it back to back with last's seasons finale, the pace was a nice relief.  The three episodes or so that followed felt a tad labored though.  I know that they probably needed it to set up what was to come, but I can't tell you how sick I was of Hank and his rock collection.  And when the show resort to watching Marie deal with her kleptomania, you know that you're not in the most exciting part of the season.  Given how much those characters fall to the way-side once shit hits the fan it should be a pretty significant sign to the creative team that these cast members aren't that important, and so spending ridiculous amount of screen time on them just makes us want to get back to the characters that are. 
The rest of this is going to be pretty SPOILER HEAVY, I can't imagine anyone would be reading this that hasn't seen the season - but there's your warning.  Take it or leave it.

First, for anyone interesting click here to get a link to an interview that the A.V. Club did with the showrunner Vince Gilligan - it breaks down every episode this season and it's a pretty awesome window into how they work on the show.
Gus has been an amazing villain, and a real opponent for Walt and Jesse.  The game of chess that they played this season was extraordinary.  And just as you were starting to really dislike Walt they had Gus come in and knock him down a few notches so that you could feel sorry for him.  Brilliantly played.  This show is easily one of the more visually styled show on television, and it almost always work in their favor.  With the exception of those early episodes this season, this has been a series that is always top notch.  The stakes are high, which helps, but the brilliance is that the show never takes itself uber seriously.  There is always a bit of a wink there.  Take Gus' death in the season finale - no way that man walks out of that room, but it's fine because if anyone, he deserved a kick-ass death. 
The dynamic between Walt and Jesse was superb this year and it really tested their relationship - and will continue to do so based on the path that Walt is now on.  I'm going to make a bit of a prediction.  Given that next season is their last, I really believe that the focus is going to shift ever so slightly.  Walt is finally going to fully transform into the shows villain (all hail Heisenberg) and it'll be about Hank and/or Jesse taking him down in the end (unless the cancer gets to him first, which would be the ultimate irony). 
This is a great show and it's been a (mostly) great season.  Can't wait to see where they go next.  Just hope that they don't take as big a break as they did between the last season and this one. 

Friday, October 07, 2011

1633 - My Girlfriend's Boyfriend

Every now and then you find a real gem on netflix.  This is said gem.  I don't want to ruin anything, but it's essentially the story of a girl who meets two really amazing guys on the same day and starts a relationship with both, unable to find a good excuse to break up with either.  There's more than that going on, but you'll have to watch it yourself to find out more.
What I like best about this is that neither of the guys are jerks or assholes.  They are both really good options for this woman.  The woman is Alyssa Milano, who I'm certain that I had a crush on back in the Who's The Boss days, but she is a real doll here.  She's beautiful, clearly, but she carries the witty banter with the air of a nerdy girl that makes her all the more attractive.  It's the kind of thing that makes me wonder why the hell we don't see more of her.  She's absolutely terrific in this.
The writing is pretty fun.  For what it's worth there isn't a lot of laugh out loud moments, rather it's just the kind of film where you have a consistent smile on your face the entire time that you're watching it and there's something to be said for that.  My other highlight is Christopher Gorham.  The who make a really sweet couple.
I really liked that the film tackled a core conflict (although not till the very end) that we don't see that often in the movies. 
So for those who like romantic-comedies this is a pretty decent one - and for those who like rom-coms and have netflix, you have absolutely no excuse not to check this out.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

1632 - Our Idiot Brother

Paul Rudd can pretty much do no harm in my eyes.  I think that the guy is just hands down pretty fantastic, and this is a great role for him.  He plays a slacker brother to three girls whom are all at a cross-roads in their lives, and when their idiot brother gets involved all their stuff starts going to hell, of course it's not his fault, but of course he's the one to blame.  It's one of those stories where it's those around our lovable idiot that need to learn the real lessons.
This film has a great packed cast and is full of a lot of fun and lovely little moments.  Slightly unbalanced and not perfect, it's a cute little film and those who love Rudd, like I, will greatly enjoy it!

Monday, October 03, 2011

1631 - The Time Traveler's Wife

This is a re-watch from after having read the book - feel free to search for my previous thoughts. 

All you need to do to understand the difference between good and bad acting is watch the first scene between Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana.  She is phenomenal.  You believe in an instant that she is head over heels in love with this man, that she is experiencing a miracle by seeing him here.  And he… is dead.  And it's not just about situation he's in and he's aloof - he's just… not good.  Not charming, not interesting, nothing.  It should be the moment where the lover's meet and you want them to be together, and the only reason you do is because you like her.  Let me get this straight - I don't dislike Eric Bana - but he's not well cast here - it's a shame, really.

Having now read the book, this is a crappy adaptation.  That sounds harsh.  There's a lot of stuff that's here in the movie just because it was there in the book.  The book has this thread where Clare is a terrible cook, and near the end Henry teaches her how to cook.  In the book there is a scene where we watch her seemingly learn how to cook.  And it's absolutely meaningless due to the fact that there is absolutely no context.  Most of the film is like this.  And he spends a lot of time talking about how he can't change the things that are meant to happen, yet he can't change anything, and yet he can somehow rig the lottery?  Again, the film is full of these inconsistencies. 

The worst part about this film is that it's not really about anything.  I'm not sure why we're supposed to care about this relationship.  It has a lot of ideas but doesn't lock down onto anything that you can grasp to.  It gives itself these big emotional moments, but nothing clings and it just feels like they're well photographed as opposed to well maenad.  It's a gorgeous looking film, but a crane shot doesn't do anything for me if I don't give a damn.

Both the book and the movie set up a premise that they just don't know what to do with and both, sadly fall short.  The only real reason to watch this, I think, is Rachel McAdams.  I praised her at the top and I'll do it again.  She's fantastic here, it's just a shame that she wasn't given a bit more to work with.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Time Traveler's Wife

I bought this book for my mother-in-law when it first came out.  The premise really grabbed me and I thought she'd dig it.  When she finished I borrowed it and it's say on my shelf ever since.  The film came out, which I've seen (which I'll probably revisit this week), and of course having Rachel McAdams in it assures that I'll watch it at some point. 
For those who don't know the story, this is about a man who time travels without control of when or to where, and so this is a love story about he and his wife at different points in their lives.  Sometimes they are both in the present.  Sometimes she's 6 and he's 43.  Sometimes he's 28 and she's 20.  It's a very charming premise.
Now, first off, I did enjoy this for the most part - there is a lot to like beyond just the clever concept.  But since this is my own personal soap box, I think I'm allowed to gripe.  The book is an international best seller - me poking holes in it is not going to hurt it :)  So, with that said, SPOILERS AHEAD.

At 500+ pages this book is at least a hundred pages heavy.  I'm a big fan of keeping things tight and moving, but in novels you don't always get that.  There are numerous sequences wherein you wonder what the point of this is.  Why does it matter.  Early on in the book Henry mentions that there is a cage in the library where he works, and if he gets stuck in there he'll never get out.  And, of course, many years later he does get stuck in it.  But he gets out.  'Causing him to get stuck makes him have to out himself to his co-workers - but there's no consequence to it.  It doesn't make a lick of difference.  The book has a lot of stuff like this.
I think that this book would do well for the religious crowd who believes that your life is mapped out and that there is something else controlling it all.  I'm a big believer in freewill, and so there was a lot of frustrating stuff here.  Henry continues to insist, as he moves through time, that he can't change anything - everything has already happened.  If I'm to a tad cruel, a more ambitious writer would try and challenge both sides of that argument - but not this writer - she just plods along and everything you've been told will happen, happens.  It's like watching a ball slowly deflate.  Not very exciting.  The book starts off extremely well - the first half is great, and then it just starts a slow and steady decline, and I started to get more annoyed and frustrated by these characters, caring for them less and less.  There is a sequence in which Henry wakes up early to watch the Twin Towers on September 11th, because he wants to remember what the world was like before it changed.  I don't know about you, but reading that I just thought that Henry was a complete asshole.  He knows that thousands of people are about to die, and he's done nothing to try and prevent it - it's hard to come back from something like that.
So for me the book was interesting - I give it a soft recommend - the writing is good - but I just think that the story is a bit weak.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

1630 - 50/50

The reviews warned me, but I didn't listen.  Sometimes I hate reading reviews because all they really do is fuck with my expectations.  In this case the reviews were pretty consistent in saying that it's a cliche for a film to make you say, "I laughed, I cried" but in this case you did.  And I did.  I sure did. 

This is a film about a young man who discovers that he has a rare spinal cancer, and what happens with his treatment.  Heavy stuff.  Could easily be movie of the week material - hell, it IS movie of the week material, but not the way that it's handled here.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is phenomenal here.  There is a moment near the end of the film in a car that just shook me.  He dazzles on screen (and that's not a word that I use lightly).  The entire cast sizzles.  Rogen is delightful and doesn't over do it.  Howard is lovely as usual, but Anna Kendrick is simply a sight to behold.  She's a very unique actress and I think that it's going to serve her well - what I absolutely love about her is the moments that she plays inbetween moments.  And I normally don't care much for Angelica Houston, but she really did grow on me here. 

I'm not going to give away any details because this is the kind of film that you just need to see for yourself.  There is some stuff that may appear inappropriate, however I think you'd have a heart of absolute stone not to be drawn into this film.  Easily one of the best of the year.  Go see it.