Friday, June 29, 2012

1749 - Goon

I've been wanting to see this film for a long time but just kept missing all the opportunities - but thanks to the beauty of Netflix here it is!  First off, I'm a big fan of a lot of people in this film - Baruchel, Schreiber, Pill, and the director Michael Dowse, so I was primed to enjoy this film.  Despite being a Canadian I'm not really into hockey or sports in general, although growing up in the house of a guy who loved the Leafs I picked up enough to be able to appreciate the game - and my family was close with Marty McSorely so I know a thing or two about hockey goons (no offense, Marty!). 
This is a big fun film and told a great hockey story in the way that I think Score: The Musical wishes it had.  Nothing personal against that other recent Canadian hockey flick, but it was a tad hokey for my personal sensibilities, and Goon gived more with my personal tastes. 
Sean William Scott is pretty damn great here as a lovable loser who just wants to do best by those that he cares about.  He's dumb as a puck, but he'll stick by you till the end.  It's impossible to not love this character.  I like that the film never becomes a typical sports film and really just focused on the aspect of Goonery as it's main focus.  There was some geniune winces that came out of me whilst watching.
If you're Canadian and a lover of all things hockey, this ones a no brainer - check it out and spread the word damnit.  It's the kind of film our country needs to make more of in term of it's wide appeal and pure enjoyment.  Good on ya, Baruchel.  Good on ya!

The Walking Dead - Vol 16: A Larger World

It's tough waiting for these to come out - even if Walking Dead is one of the series with the least turn-around time between issues and their trades, it's a tough wait, and what's worse is how damn quickly you can burn through the book and left demanding and desiring more.  It's not fair to compare this to the television show because this is so far removed, especially in where they are and in what's going on right now.  If you want a bit of a spoiler, essentially they're starting to get to the point where they wonder if they can't rebuild society, and what their place in it will be.
This particular issue is a bit of a hallway between what's come before and what's coming next.  They're starting to connect to the world larger than themselves and realize that they're just one group of many, and that for me is very exciting to consider.  I'm such a fan of the comic that I think that the series itself would do no harm in actually just following it's lead.  I wonder how it'll approach some of the harsher stuff that's to come, especially now that they're into the prison storyline. 
What I like particularly about where we're at in the comic world of this story is that we're in the same mindset as the survivors, we're not sure who to trust and who not to.  We're always on guard.  If nothing else Kirkman has succeeded it putting us right into his heroes shoes and I thank him for it.  Rumour is that he has up to 300 issues planned for this series - which means we're not even a third into it.  Sounds good to me - keep 'em coming!  If you're a fan of the series and you haven't read this - stop what you're doing right now and get on it!  You can probable bypass the Rise of the Governor novel, but if you're a completist you'll probably check it out at some point as well.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

1748 - Nurse Jackie: season four

This is a show that had one of the best pilots I'd ever seen, and then subsequently had an amazing first two seasons and then really really started to feel like it was repeating itself.  I recall not really enjoying the third season all that much mostly because I was just hating Jackie - she kept getting close calls and the universe kept giving her a get out of jail free card.  There were no consequences to her actions and it annoyed the shit out of me.  Enter Mike Cruz.  Adding Bobby Carnivale to the cast gave it a dynamic that it absolutely needed.  A show like this requires a character like him to make you want to root for Jackie again - someone whose head is so far up their ass that you can see what good she's doing again.  All of Jackie's past actions came back to bite her in this season and it made for a great (maybe best) season of the series.  If you haven't gotten around to this little gem just yet, do yourself a favour and get on it, just keep in mind that the third season, while not great, comes back around in the fourth.  Given how this season ends I have absolutely no idea what they'll do next - but I'll be there when it comes back!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

1747 - Girls: season one

I'd seen Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture a while back (still on netflix, I believe) - you can find my thoughts on it by clicking her tag below.  And I was pretty intrigued to see that she'd scored a show with HBO and Apatow working with her.  And then I totally forgot about it until twitter went all ablaze the day after it's debut.
No point in burying the lead - I loved it from the get-go.  The characters were all real and interesting, fucked up, yet loveable.  It's the world of people just trying to figure out who the hell they are and what they hell they're doing - and it's done with such a strong sense of self mockery that you can't help but be absolutely charmed by it.  The show has this bizarre backlash to it, that was almost condemning it for being the level of quality that it is, feeling the need to attack it in other ways like saying that the cast was "too white".  I know it's the hip thing to do, but any time I see a show where there's the token black friend I almost always roll my eyes.  I'm not against ethnic diversity in casting at all.  My rule is always - best person for the job.  But there's a lot of people in this industry that cast roles and enforce racial diversity where it doesn't perhaps fit.  And that's all I'll say on that.
It's hard to describe this series.  It's about a group of twenty-something women who are trying to find their place in the world - pretty low concept idea - but the execution is wonderful.  Dunham is a tour-de-force on screen, but then when you realize that she penned and directed a good bulk of the series as well, you realize just what a tremendous talent she is.  She's not interested in making herself or her cast mates look pretty or likeable.  She makes them interesting and that's more than enough.  This isn't Entourage where the characters go through hell and then some magic offer comes in that puts the characters back on top - this is the real world where the characters go through hell… and then they are stuck in hell for a little bit and have to fight their own way back out.
I'm trying to avoid spoilers so that you can discover this beautiful show on your own, but one thing I will say that was the absolute stand-out of the season for me was the relationship between Adam and Hannah - the way they shifted perspective and gave you insights into these people and then turned that around on us was absolutely masterful. 
The only thing that sucks now is having to wait till season two comes back around.  I want to do a spec of this show for my writing portfolio and so now it's just a matter of coming up with the perfect episode concept.  Other than that I can't wait to check in on these girls when they return.  It'll make my wife happy too (it's her new favourite show - and could be mine as well...).

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

1746 - Take This Waltz

First off, a rant.  I was really excited to see this, especially when I saw that they were releasing it through iTunes first - but of course when the date came I realized it was only in the United States that they were doing it that way.  Which makes complete sense that they'd release a Canadian film in another country first.  I'm no expert on distribution or why they couldn't have done it in both countries at the same time, but what I do know is that we live in an age where if someone wants to get something - they can.  Luckily I work in the film and television industry in Canada and so all it took was a phone call and I was able to get my hands on a screener of this film (Yes.  I will buy it as soon as they deem it possible for me to do so through iTunes).  But I also noticed that there were already several versions of it available through bittorrent.  So here's a note to distributors - if you release a film in one territory and delay it in another what you're asking people who are really desperate to see the film, is for them to steal it.  I firmly believe that if you give people a chance to do the right thing, to pay to see something, that the vast majority will.  However if you don't give them that option as soon as possible, they'll just do whatever it takes.  Okay.  Rant over.
I love Sarah Polley's first film, Away From Her, and if you haven't seen it do yourself a favour.  For some bizarre reason it's not on Netflix.  Shame on Netflix. 
Take This Waltz follows the recent Canadian trend of putting recognizable faces into a Canadian film - thankfully at least Seth Rogen is Canadian.  There's a lot to like about this film.  It's sweet, it takes its time in really letting you into these characters and their insecurities and portrays a really realistic couple.  Rogen and Williams LOVE each other.  But with love in a marriage comes minor annoyances.  You aren't always on the same page and so you end up getting pissy with each other for the littlest things and hurting each other for things you don't mean and in ways you can't imagine.  Polley nails that aspect of long term relationships.  Michelle Williams dazzles here as a woman who is trying to figure out what she wants from her life.  She's married to really lovely and fun guy (Rogen), but is infatuated with her new neighbour (Luke Kirby - whom I love in everything he's in, always - another Canadian gem!).  And so the question begins - what makes relationships exciting - something tried and tested, or something new and shiny? 
I struggled slightly with the first half of this film as I started to feel like Polley was making a comment on relationships that I didn't quite agree with, but as the film progressed you see that she's masterfully setting up a situation in which she's going to pull the emotional rug out from under you in a way that you didn't fully expect.  Anyone that questions Rogen's chops as an actor needs to watch him here.  He uses his natural charms to full effect, but we get a very tender side, one that is vulnerable and lovely.  He's fantastic here.  Sarah Silverman gives a fantastic performance as Rogen's sister dealing with her own demons.  And if you've ever wondered what Silverman looks like fully naked - wonder no more - there's a scene halfway through where there's a pretty revealing scene for several women, and it's use in the grand scheme is really quite artful.
Some reviewers have called this film pretentious - and I'm not sure that I agree.  Is it slightly quirky, sure.  But it's honest more than anything else.  And it's a gorgeous film to look at, and a beautiful use of the wonderful city of Toronto.  It's getting a theatrical release on June 29th, so get thee to a theatre!  I don't think this one is for everyone, but if you're a fan of emotional love stories, it's a great one.

1745 - Breaking Bad: season one

I rewatched this with my Dad while he was staying at our place, and it was so interesting to give it a second glance, knowing where it's headed.  There's a lot of lovely foreshadowing going on here, and it's really great to step back and remember where the characters came from.  One thing that really stood out was how much I liked Skylar (I think she's currently an annoying, raving bitch). 
I need not go on and on about it - those who have seen it know how great it is, and those who haven't, I dare not ruin any of the fun.  I look forward to revisiting these and watching my Dad discover it for the first time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

1744 - Mad Men: season five

No point in burying the lead.  As a show that has shown continued quality in storytelling, this is Mad Men's finest season.  It does what great television does - it gets better as it goes along, deeper into the characters the longer get to know them, to the point where someone like Peggy who started off as Don's secretary is now his equal.  A show that makes you hate Pete Campbell and then have a season where he literally gets punched in the face a lot and you feel, sort of, bad for him. 
I won't get into the specifics of the season, great as they were.  I will say that Jessica Pare is a very welcome edition to the main cast and there's no love lost to seeing January Jones step into a very minor part of the show (the seasons only weak spot was checking in on her, as if we cared at all about her getting fat - seriously writers, have Sally move in with Don and then drop Betty altogether). 
What I really liked about this season was how we saw deeper into Don's psyche than ever before.  This is a man whom it means a great deal to earn what you have, to work hard for it.  And this is where I'll probably get into SPOILERS… Take the characters of Lane and Megan.  Lane didn't really earn what he had, he didn't follow the proper way of things, and so his punishment was the ultimate one.  Megan, frustrated and tired of not being successful in her chosen field asks Don to pull a favour and get her the part that she wants.  And as punishment it would appear that Don's wandering eye has returned.  Joan helped the firm get a client that Don worked his ass off to earn, and so she's forever sullied their relationship.  The one person in his entire world that's worked hard and earned what they have is Peggy.  And because of that Don treasures her above everyone else, even if he does realize it too late.
I believe that the show is expecting to do two more seasons - and if it continues with this level of greatness then sign me up!  If you haven't been in on this from the get-go, I believe that the first four season are on Netflix - do yourself a favour and get caught up!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

1743 - Super 8

I missed this in the theatres.  In truth I was on my way to see it one night and then decided to see The Dark Night (again).  Now that I've seen this, I made the right choice.  This isn't a bad film at all, it's just not on par with TDK in any way.  What JJ Abrams does REALLY well here is capture the feeling of an 80's film, the look, music, shots, etc… he nailed it.  What's missing is the emotion and the genuine nostalgia.  There's an irony at play here in that the film starts off with a teenage filmmaker telling his best friend that he read an article that explains how you get people to care about your story by getting them emotionally involved - sadly, that never happened in the film itself. 
Now granted, I was packing boxes while watching this on Netflix, but the third act kind of confused the hell out of me and everything felt a tad convoluted. 
Didn't love it, didn't hate it.  A good rainy day popcorn flick, I think...

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

1742 - Chloe

I'm late to this, but finally caught it on Netflix.  It's nice to see Egoyan use so much of Toronto and even name specific locations.  I swear I've say exactly where they did both at Cafe Diplimatico and Rivoli.  Very funny.  It seems to be the big trend now to cast big American stars in Canadian films, and I suppose that sadly, that's the only way to really get a bigger audience to pay attention to our films.  Seyfield and Moore are really great here and have an eye for picking good projects.  More than I can say for Liam Neison who seems happy to be in anything offered to him that comes with a paycheck (I'm looking at you, Battleship). 
This is a nice little thriller about a woman who is convinced that her husband is cheating on her and so she solicits a call-girl that she's recently met to put him to the test.  There's a nice little change-up near the end that's fun if didn't happen to figure it out half-way through - I'd actually be curious to know how many people were genuinely surprised by the ending. 
All in all it's a really nice psychological thriller and I think Atom did a damn fine job of it.  Give it a go.

Friday, June 01, 2012

1741 - X-Men: First Class

I was pretty late to this one, so I'm not sure how much more I can add to the conversation.  I love the idea of an X-Men film that takes place in the 60's. Lots of fun - and throwing it right into the Cold War was a really strong and clever move.  I thought that the re-introduction of characters were really strong.  I loved the nods the films already existing in the series, and I thought some of the re-boot ideas were really well done - the strongest being the relationship between Xavier and Raven (Mystique), and also her and Hank (Beast). 
January Jones is a constant surprise to me.  She just feels like such an flat and un-unteresting choice for this role.  She manages to become suddenly unattractive in this role.  Kevin Bacon was impressive in the opening scene but then he just kind of fell into a cliche jerk role for the remainder. 
For an origin story this works well and I quite enjoyed it.  It'll be interesting to see how the franchise continues.