Sunday, December 29, 2013

1951 - Happy Endings: season one

I've come to this show a bit late (and just learned it was cancelled after season three).  It's a show about (or at least this first season is) a group of friends examining their lives and relationships as they get closer to thirty and try to figure out if they're still working.  It's a simple premise that gives the show a lot of room.  The show has that kind of rapid fire comedy that works really well for me.  It's got a distinct comedic rhythm, even if that rhythm potentially flies in the face of character logic/continuity from time to time.  It's a barrage of jokes that hit a lot more than they miss, and they miss very rarely for me - and if so it's intentional and commented upon.
The strength and magic of this show is it's cast.  With the exception of Zachary Knighton, who I find is "fine" in his part, but pales when pitted against the rest of the stand-out ensemble whose comedic timing is like watching an elegant dance.  I was already a fan of Elisha Cuthbert and Damon Wayans Jr, and they excel here, but the cast members I wasn't familiar with really blew me away.  Eliza Coupe, Casey Wilson, and Adam Pally are magnetic here. 
I don't think this is a perfect show, and I'm not super surprised it didn't last given that plot lines sometimes feel a bit repetitious.  But the thing that keeps you coming back is the terrific chemistry of the cast - and this one is strong than most.  It's on Netflix.  Give it a go!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Walking Dead - Vol 19: March to War

So we're in the 19th volume of an ongoing series - clearly I still read this because I love it.  If you're not caught up to here, or only watch the TV show know that HUGE SPOILERS lie ahead here.  You've been warned..


Negan.  Everyone went on and on about The Governor, but he's got nothing on Negan.  For my money he's the most interesting character the series has ever produced, and easily one of the best villains in history.  His blend of charisma and sadism is pure delightful, as well as watching his thought pattern.  He's always surprising in good ways and bad, and he ups the stakes in major ways.  And just when I think I can't be shocked, someone like Negan comes along and does just that.  It would look as though we're gearing up for war and so it's hard to say if he'll stick around much longer - but I like the idea of it not wrapping up so easily - he'll be hard to top as a villain, and because I really do think that the series has to get around to the idea of rebuilding society, it's hard to see them all out on the run again.  The Walkers have barely been an issue for a long time in this series, and I'm fine with that.  The only thing that would satisfy me would be to see a horde come into play right in the middle of the two groups going to war - making them realize that they're not really prioritizing the real problems in this world.

This series still sees us mourning for Glen (which is the biggest and saddest death the series has had - largely just because he's been around since the beginning), but also giving us more depth to characters like Ezekiel (which was nice since he was coming off as a looney).  At first I thought Rick absolutely should have done what he did - seized the day, but I'm glad it worked out the way it did - upping the ante.  I'm super excited for the next trade to come out in the summer.  I want this series to go on forever, but I want them to keep it fresh.  I question if they'll ever be so bold as to kill Rick off (not that I need/want him to go).  I just have a hard time seeing this world go on without Rick and/or Carl.  Kirkman has stated he's got up to issue 300 roughly sketched out - which means at least another twenty of these trades or so.  Can't wait to see where he takes us.

1950 - Homeland: season three

Late getting this up because I fell behind.  This season got a lot of flack from some critics early on, and from what I could tell was that most came around to it by the end.  There will be some SPOILERS going on here below, so if you're not caught up - here's your warning.

So the biggest complaint I've heard is about keeping Brody alive past his expiry point in the show.  I was one of those people who thought that the show pussied out by not having him blow everyone up inside of the bunker at the conclusion of season one.  The show has well made up for that with the Langely bombing as well as the mission that lead to (HUGE SPOILER) Brody's death - which redeemed him to all (the only thing that was missing was a final moment with Dana seeing how she reacted to discovering her father was a hero after-all.  Like any one else I love Mandy Patinkin's Saul, and seeing him in charge was a breath of fresh air - I pray they find a way to keep him in the story moving forward 'cause losing him would easily be the show's biggest loss.  I could watch a Homeland without Carrie if that came to pass - but one without Saul is just hard to imagine.  It's hard to imagine how the show will reinvent itself now that it's main storyline from the beginning is more-or-less resolved.  I feel confident that the freedom will allow for awesome things in the writer's room.  Although I thought the same about Dexter in the aftermath of season four, and later learned that we had just seen the show's peak.  Let's hope Showtime doesn't make the same mistake twice.  Keep it going, by all means, if you've got story to tell - but please don't milk it.  No one wants another lumberjack ending.

1949 - Frozen

I took my son to see this yesterday afternoon and it was his first 3D experience, which had him pretty excited with the prospect of having things flying at his face.  Ever since Pixar showed up on the block Disney's line-up of films have always felt like they were the not-so-talented cousin - this puts Disney's films back on track, in my opinion.  For me it was up there with the films they were making in my youth - Little Mermaid, Lion King, Aladdin, etc... But what's even better here is we've got an update and a modern message - which I won't ruin with a spoiler alert.  It has an ending that's perfect and inspiring.  It's funny without being silly or annoying - it respects it's audience which can't be said for the humour in most kinds films.  If you've got a little one I highly recommend this one.

Friday, December 20, 2013

1948 - A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas

Every year at Christmas I re-watch the same films, so I'm trying this year to watch ones I haven't seen before and this was on my list to check out anyway.  Kal Penn & John Cho could make these films forever and they'd work because of their awesome chemistry.  This one is similar to White Castle, the original, in it's wonderful simplicity.  If I'm honest I don't love the more cartoonish elements with the coked up kid and the waffle-bot - that stuff felt a little bit too much, and the characters are interesting enough to not need it.  Both just felt like easy gimmicks that ended up being plot resolving points.  Neil Patrick Harris' cameos continue to be an absolute delight in this series.  If you like your stoner human this could be the Christmas flick to check out this year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

1947 - The Fitzgerald Family Christmas

First holiday film of the season!  Kind of.  It's more of a family drama about a dying man who walked out on his wife and (7?) kids 20 years earlier, and has decided that he wants to spend his last xmas with them, and whether or not they'll take him back.  I like Ed Burns.  I like what he stands for, I like how he works.  This film, however, doesn't work all that well.  First, it's just a bit flat.  The actors are all fine, but it just lacks some kind of thematic cohesion, instead it feels like a bunch of loose stories smashed together.  To be honest I don't really have a strong opinion about this one way or the other.  The kind of film you might want to check out on a day when you're trapped in from a blizzard.

1946 - One Day

I really loved the book this film was based on.  It was a gimmick, the idea of revisiting two friends on the same day every year, but the book made it work - because even though we just saw the one day the medium allowed commentary on the 364 days we'd missed inbetween - something that the film can't allow without massive exposition - which it avoids.  It's a faithful adaptation in regards to the story and scenes, but not emotionally.  I adore Anne Hathaway - I can give or take Jim Sturges and perhaps that's part of the problem - I had a hard time buying into their love story because I didn't think he deserved her in this version.  I didn't get a sense of his tortured self the way it comes across in the book.  Here it just feels sterile, like we're bouncing from one year to another without much to keep us emotionally grounded.  That said, I'm not sure what you would have done with this adaptation to avoid such pratfalls.  If you liked the book it might be worth checking out just to see it come to life (it's on Netflix). For those that don't know the book, I don't know... your call!

Friday, December 13, 2013

1945 - Gabrielle

This is the kind of film that sounds like such a cliche for awards fodder, and maybe that's true to some degree, but that doesn't outweigh the fact that it's so goddamn good.  It centres around the uncomfortable topic of the sexuality of handicapped people - it's about so much more, of course, but that's the hot button controversial issue and it's such an interesting conversation to have.  Having done some significant work a long time ago with handicapped people it's something that I absolutely thought about and am glad to see a film tackling it.  Using an actor who has a disability as the lead character was an inspired choice, and she's magic on screen.  This is a beautifully told story that doesn't lead you in any one direction or condemn you for your opinions.  It's our entry this year in Canada for best foreign Oscar, and I'm damn proud of that.

1944 - The Animal Project

This has been on my list to see since TIFF, but the screening schedule didn't work out - and it turned out that seeing it at Whistler was the perfect place.  I was fortunate to hang out with Ingrid through-out the week as well as cast members Aaron Poole, and Jessica Grecco - so you'll note I have a bias of some kind for this film.  Ingrid does not make conventional films - however I don't find them to be the pretentious lot that we get out of this country in droves some times.  Ingrid's films are always interesting and ask important questions - and this one asks some of her biggest and best yet, and it's no wonder that it's my favorite of her four films.  Centered around an acting class where the teacher is running out of ways to motivate his class, he comes upon a social and acting experiment.  I won't say much more because this is a film that's all about the journey.
It's being released in Canada in March (I believe) - not some where else through-out the world.  But if you're a lover of supporting Canadian filmmakers you really need to make this a priority.  Oh, and if this isn't enough to sell you on Ingrid and her films - do yourself a favor and google "Ingrid Veninger and Melissa Leo" and see what else this force of a woman got up to during Whistler - it was pretty amazing :)

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

1943 - Don't Get Killed in Alaska

It is a relief for me to say that I honestly loved this film.  Full disclosure - I'm very good friends with the lead, Tommie-Amber Pirie, so I should be biased.  If I'd seen this film without having known her, I know I'd have become obsessed and wanted to track her down.  She carries this film in an effortless way.  It's her film to own as she is the centre piece, but she is commanding.  I went through every emotion that she did.  It's a beautiful performance, but an amazingly talented actor, and I'm so excited to work with her on anything upcoming.  It's a seriously amazing performance.
It's the story of a young girl trying to figure her shit out, which she believes will be helped by spending the winter on a fishing boat in Alaska, so she goes around visiting her family one-by-one looking for a hand-out to help get to Alaska.  It's beautifully shot and doesn't at all feel it's budget.  I don't think there's any current plans outside of the film festival circuit, and while this film isn't for everyone - it's for a pace that's slower than most people enjoy - but any of the film's shortcomings, of which are very very minor, are fixed by the talented performances from the entire cast.  Such a beautiful drama with amazing moments of honest comedy.  Please check it out as soon as you can!

1942 - Walking Dead: season four (part 1)

I like these mini seasons.  This one had a particularly strong theme with "Can we come back?  Are we too far gone?"  It's a great question to ask at this point in the series, given what they've been through.  What I also love is how it stays connected to the comic series, but giving us it fresh.  We still get the Governor charging the prison with his tank, and while the outcome is similar it's different and unique to it's own world.  I'm not as harsh a critic on this show as a lot are - I think it's a really fun show with decent enough characters.  I loved the little side-step to see what the Governor has been up to.  I thought it gave the proper weight to it, and we needed a break from the plague storyline (which I didn't absolutely love).  I thought the meeting between Rick and the Governor was smart - I believed that, perhaps, in this version of the story - maybe they do stretch it out and try to find a way to live together.  That said, what a great place for us to leave and have to come back from.  I can't wait to see where they go with the story in the second half of this season.  So many possibilities.  So exciting!  If you haven't heard of this show you're likely living under a rock - but if you haven't seen it - it's super easy to catch-up to on Netflix.  Enjoy!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

1941 - Devil

I've wanted to check this out mostly 'cause my pal Zoie is in it, and she's actually got a fun little part.  It's based on a story from M. Night, but don't let that dissuade it for you.  It's not a great film, it's not bad.  It's helped a lot by good actors like Chris Messina, but it doesn't deliver on it's awesome premise - which is essentially that the devil is among us, and when the opportunity arises he traps himself within a group of people and tortures them before bringing them to hell.  The film largely relies on cheap tricks rather than real scares.  Like I said, not amazing, not terrible. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

1940 - Raising Hope: season three

This season really advanced the storylines of all involved and slammed right through the Sabrina/Jimmy relationship story - which is refreshing. I think the days of trying to milk the will-they/won't-they are a bit played and done.  I've always personally felt that there are more interesting stories to be told about people in relationships than their are about people starting up a relationship.  More universal as well.
This show always surprises me by how much I like it.  It's a bit silly, but it's also got some of the best sitcom one-liners currently on television.  The comedy is so tight and smart, but it doesn't show off.  It hits you like a brick and then moves right along.
If you haven't checked this show out yet give it a shot.  Outside of Greg Garcia's inability to let My Name is Earl go and weave it into this series, it's really solid - and the first 3 seasons are on Netflix so you can catch up in no time.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

1939 - Thor: The Dark World

I have to be deadly honest here.  This is the first of the Marvel films that I've been 'meh' on.  And it was especially disappointing because the first Thor was so goddamn good, and I expected very little from it (maybe why I liked it so much).  In some ways I think that they just attempted to do too much, be too big.  We don't need every single Marvel film to be about saving the entire world - do the stakes really need to be THAT high every single time?  The more sci-fi the films get the less interesting they are.  And I'm not down on sci-fi films, I think the problem is that they found a way to really ground the early films in this series, but now that all the fantasy elements are in place it just muddles it a bit.  I liked that Iron Man had to deal with that to some extent though.  I don't know, I guess, for me, I just think they can do so much more with simplicity and don't give themselves enough credit for that.  It's the small moments in these kinds of films that really speak volumes - and this one had no small moments.  Shame, really.  It was nice to have Portman integrated into the plot in a much stronger way though.  I should end with saying that I didn't hate the film - I just didn't really enjoy it all that much, and it's one that I likely won't find myself revisiting.

1938 - Starbuck

I wanted to watch this for sometime, but jumped on it as it's somewhat similar ground to my current project BASTARDS.  And for those up on the current trailers the Vince Vaughn "Delivery Man"is an update on this story - or as it looks a direct beat for beat remake, with the same director and everything.
It follows the story of a lovable loser who on the verge of getting his longtime girlfriend pregnant discovers that he's the father of 533 children by way of sperm donation, and a hundred or so of them are trying to figure out who he is.
It's a pretty sweet coming of age story about an almost middle aged guy, and it's no surprise that it caught the attention of Hollywood.  I'm torn about seeing the remake since I don't imagine it'll be much different - but if you're a comedy lover and especially if you're a Canadian than you owe it to yourself to watch this version first - it's available on iTunes.  It's a feel good flick.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

1937 - Community: season four

So I finally caught up on the Dan Harmon-free season of Community and I know that a lot of the diehards shit on it a lot, but honestly, I don't think it was all that far out of the status quo.  The show is pretty much about fucking with the format, but keeping the characters true to who they are.  The beauty of having such a solid cast is that it makes it easy four seasons in.  And I thought the mucking about with the format was up to par, although maybe they tried a tad too hard in some areas.  Although I enjoyed the Muppets episode, I wonder what Harmon would have done with that idea...
So I'm looking forward to Harmon's return and what he does with the corner's he's been painted into with certain characters having graduated (one who isn't coming back - which I'm fine with - and another who absolutely should come back), and not to mention Donald Glover's much shortened season and how he wraps out...

1936 - Project Greenlight: season three

And so comes the final Project Greenlight season.  Which is a shame - this is porn for me.  I love it.  I love watching it especially during prep - it's like comfort food that's both inspiring and makes me feel good about myself.  This season produced that most successful film - and easily the best of the series as well.  It's a very different journey to watch, which is nice for the series that it doesn't feel like it retreads.  I wish they would release this on DVD as I had to watch it via snippets of episodes through YouTube and this fantastic playlist:
So if you haven't seen this edition give it a go, and if this is your first venture into Project Greenlight, there's no bad season to start with and you can absolutely watch the season in whatever order you choose.  Enjoy - I highly recommend!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

1935 - Project Greenlight: season two

I can't explain why - but whenever I'm in deep pre-production on a project I want to re-watch this series while doing paperwork or shotlists.  I think it helps prepare me, and also make me feel better that I seem to be better prepared and equipped than this folks.
For those who don't know, this was a reality series that HBO did with Chris Moore, Ben Affleck, and Matt Damon, where they held a contest to help find talent outside of the Hollywood system.  It's comfort food for me.  Any film nerd or person who likes behind the scenes stuff, you can't do much better than this - it's completely fascinating and frustrating at the same time.  And I think I might have just tracked down a way to watch the third season (finally!)
Watch it, learn from it - don't repeat their fuck-ups :)

1934 - The Switch

Part of the switch for me with this film was based on the trailer I think I remember assuming that it was just all about her pregnancy and whether he would tell her the truth about him having swapped her sperm samples - but in truth the bulk of the film takes place years later when the kid is grown up somewhat.  The film has a pretty predictable romantic storyline as you can well imagine it might, but what's really surprising and enjoyable is the relationship that Jason Bateman has with the kid in the film - and that's what I really was drawn to and responded with.  It's a really strong relationship in the film, and the real highlight for me.  That's the relationship you want to work out in the end.  Sure you like Aniston and you want them to hook up, but for me it's all about the father/son relationship - and likely because I'm a tad biased in that regard.
It's a decent little flick and worth checking it out if you like Bateman, Aniston, or rom-coms in general.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

1933 - Walk Hard: The Dewey Coxe Story

I saw this film in theatres and haven't revisited it - one thing that surprised me was the amount of cameos in the film, or at least they'd be considered that now - the little bit parts with Ed Helms and Craig Robinson, the inspired casting for both the Beatles and Elvis - even that alone make it worth watching.
When I first saw this I hadn't see the American version of The Office yet, so the thing that leaped out at me here was Jenna Fischer.  I fell in love with her the first time I watched this.  I thought that she was easily one of the most beautiful women on the planet - first because she's ridiculously attractive, especially in this film - but also because her comedy timing and chops are sensational.  It's been a delight to watch her since then - I'd love the chance to work with her.
This film still holds up - the comedy is over the top - but it sure does take a piss on bio pics - which I recall there was a plethora of around that time, so good on them.  The music is sharp, the attention to the time periods as well.  It's a really enjoyable flick that's funny and smart at the same time.  If you've never seen it and you're a music lover, or just a lover of comedy that's a bit over the top, look no further!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

1932 - The Blair Witch Project

This is the film that really started the big swing of docu-style horror films, and I think it was a stroke of genius.  Nothing spells fear more than something that feels personal - something that feels like it could happen to you.
I saw this film originally in the theaters, and because I was a big nerd I knew the backstory or how they made the film, but I was in a theatre packed with a lot of people who actually believed some of the rogue marketing and thought that they were watching a real found-footage film - and oh how delightful that was for me - and I think that's a lot of why I still adore this film: it did what the best films do and created a sense of magic around itself.  The marketing campaign was simply brilliant, and would be hard to do again now.  Bless them for taking a golden opportunity.  Shame the filmmakers haven't really lived up to what they showed talent for here. 
The story is simple: a young filmmaker wants to make a documentary about a witch in a small community - and while traveling through the woods to the locations she was said to haunt the threesome of filmmakers get lost, and never return.  And this is the footage they recorded whilst in there.  Very interesting stuff.  If you've never seen it give it a go.  Again, you kind of need the pop culture reference for this one - and at this point it's film history.  Bizarre.
p.s. the image at the top from the film was etched into my brain for DAYS after I saw this the first time....

Friday, November 01, 2013

1931 - Ghostbusters

This is a bit late, but I watched this as part of my Hallowe'en marathon.  I think the world has a shortage of solid horror comedies.  Not that I think this really falls into the horror category - but maybe more of the sci-fi?  I wish I would have fit Shawn of the Dead into this year's binge-Hallowe'en watching, but alas.
So.  This.  So-fucking-good.  If you've never seen this film then you really do need to - just for the cultural references.  First you get a classic film - but you get Bill Murray at the height of his awesomeness.  Murray has had an amazing career - that's a film retrospective that I would attend.  He was part of some of the best comedies of the eighties, and the best indies of the last decade or so.  Terrific. 
Although he's the rockstar of the group, the rest of the ensemble shines so strongly.  Signorney Weaver is a lot of fun, especially when she gets all possessed near the end - and it's doubly so for Rick Moranis. 
The effects might be dated at this point - but the comedy and tone are still spot on and work like gangbusters still.  Part of me still wants to see a part 3 to this series just to see what they could do by updating the effects.  Either way, nothing can taint this classic.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

1930 - Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

I picked this up on DVD in a bulk sale when Blockbuster was going out of business based on the strong recommendation of a friend of mine and I still really dig it.  If you’ve never seen it it’s one of the great lesser known gems.  It starts off as a pseudo documentary about a woman following someone who is about to become a serial killer in the vein of Freddy, Jason, etc… it’s extremely meta in a really delightful way.  It surprises me that Angela Goethals has’t done more - she’s very lovely and you fall in love with her a bit here.  Nathan Baesel is equally enjoyable, and if imdv is to be trusted he now works mostly in post-production.
I don’t want to give away any of the delightful surprises here.  Walking Dead fans will enjoy seeing Scott Wilson, and Robert Englund also has a pretty decent cameo.

If you’re a horror fan I can’t imagine you wouldn’t enjoy the inventiveness of this… give her a shot!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

1929 - Paranormal Activity 4

I read a lot of smack about this instalment in the series, but it really didn’t bother me at all.  I found that Kathryn Newton was really interesting and natural and I was curious about how it was all tied in.  There was a mystery element to this one that worked quite well.  I can’t say I understand what’s going with the idea of the Katie character at this point - is she permanently screwed up now?  I like the twist about Hunter, that worked well, and I think this continues to build the series in the right way.  This one didn’t have as many scares, but it continued to find inventive ways to work the premise.  

1928 - Paranormal Activity 3

It’s Hallowe’en week and because I’m a bit of a cliche I’m watching some horror films and catching up on some I hadn’t seen.  I was pretty impressed by the first 2 of this series - they aren’t the most amazing movies by any means but they’re pretty cleverly made and inventive.  This one felt the most forced in terms of the set-up to get all the cameras in - that and I wasn’t quite sure how the events of this film weren’t felt more in the other two that come later.

THAT said, I liked it.  It made me jolt a bit in places as it should.  The panning camera on the ground floor was one of my favourite devices of the series, and it was also this film that decided to introduce the demon as a character ‘Toby’, which is just a clever way to really extend the franchise.  A worthy addition to the series.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

1927 - What's Your Number?

Here's the pitch - it's about a woman whose been around the block and reads an article that essentially tells her if she sleeps with one more guy she'll end up alone - so she enlists the help of her equally slutty and handsome roommate to help track down her exes to see if what of them is it.  And is what follows predictable?  Absolutely.  Is it entertaining?  It is, actually - largely in part to Anna Faris and Chris Evans being delightful as per-usual.  There's also a really lovely marriage vow sequence between Faris' sister's character that really makes the film something meaningful and leaves it off with a really lovely little theme.
This film isn't the best thing since sliced bread, but it's a fun little comedy that doesn't waste your time and actually packs in a few laughs - not something I can say about most rom-coms.

1926 - Indie Game

This was the must-see at Hot Docs last year and I, sadly, couldn't get a ticket.  It follows a group of indie game makers as they get closer to releasing their new products and what it means to them to be an indie gamer.  It's a love letter to creators of all artistic mediums, and it makes me want to play more games.  It's a really beautiful documentary, and a no brainer for those into nerd culture - and what's even better - it's now on Netflix.  Give it a whirl - there's even one story that follows a Canadian!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

1925 - The Hangover Part III

This film got shit on a whole lot when it came out.  I didn't mind it at all.  I didn't laugh a whole lot, but I was also curious what would happen with these characters and I liked the premise quite a bit and appreciated that they didn't go back to the well with trying to have the characters be drugged again.  It feels like a nice period to the story as well as it brings the story nicely full circle with events from the first film and a lot of really strong callbacks.  I have to admit, I was always disappointed that Stu never hooked up with Heather Graham following the first film.  Big shame.
It's around VOD now if you missed it in the theatres as I did.  I don't think it beats the original by any means, but it's worth checking out if you made the effort to see the second one, for sure.

1924 - Solo

I got to check this film out to a packed audience at Toronto After Dark Film Festival earlier this week.  Full disclosure - one of the producers of this film is someone I'm working with on some upcoming projects, however I would never write an ass-kissy review just because of it.
The premise of this film is that a young woman goes to camp to be a new counsellor - and part of her initiation is spending 2 nights on a nearby island.  And nerve wracking shit ensues.
What I liked about this as a thriller is it felt largely credible.  There's one moment where I has to suspend disbelief a bit, but even that I might just be being nit-picky.  Annie Clark is delightful as the lead - she's doesn't play it stupid or naive - she plays it like a smart young woman caught up in a really shitty situation.
It's the kind of film that keeps you guessing, keeps you on edge, and entertains at the same time.  That and it's just so goddamn pretty to look at - they really took great care in the visual.  It's being released in Canada in the near future - so pretty please check it out - especially if you like film that keep you on your toes!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

1923 - Hitchcock

I'm a film nerd, and part of my collection is a whole shitload of Hitchcock - some of which I'm embarrassed to admit I've still never seen.  The trick is I need to develop a Hitchcock type project to give me the excuse to watch all those films.  I still think North by Northwest is my favorite, but there's a special place in my heart for Psycho as well.
I don't know if there's a whole lot of new discovery in this film - for anyone that's even a moderate fan of Hitch it feels like you could have gotten all of the little tidbits of info by just scouring the internet a bit.  The film seems to focus on the relationship between Hitchcock and his wife, resulting in him appearing to have a change of heart with his view on his women in his films by the end, and putting his focus onto his wife. Ironic that the next film he makes is The Birds where the famous story of his obsession with Tippi Hedren comes from - which just makes the ending of his "bio-pic" feel a bit like bullshit.
That said, Hopkins disappearing inside of Alfred Hitchcock and gives a fantastic performance, as does Johanson - both worth watching it for that alone.  I was hoping it would be a bit more exciting, or at the very least offer new substance and behind the scene stuff that the average Hitchcock nerd is already aware of.  Alas.  It's on Netflix if you want to give it a shot - although I think the making of documentary on the DVD of the film likely provides much stronger material.  So there's that :)

Friday, October 11, 2013

1922 - The Office: Christmas Special

I haven't seen this in years and since I'm re-studying the mockumentary style there's few finer examples.  This series has inspired me to no end, and I believe it's the awkward humour and the way it tickles the heart that's absolutely seeped into my own style.  There's something so admirable about the way that the British do their series, short and sweet, and never any waste.  It's surprising to think that this is over a decade old now, or around that.  I love the honest and simple closure that this gave the world and the characters we'd grown to love.  David Brent doesn't ride off into the sunset, but we see he's grown a backbone and making choices he never would have made at the beginning of the series.  It's simple and so effective.  If you haven't watch this, the original version of The Office, I don't want to ruin anything for you.  There's much debate over Jim and Pam Vs. Tim and Dawn - and while I love them both, it's hard to beat the original.
Please, if you've never see it, get on it.  There's only 14 episode of the entire series - it's a crime not to give it that 7hrs of your life, even this many years later.  Pretty please, with sugar on top, watch this!

Monday, October 07, 2013

1921 - This is Spinal Tap

I decided to go back to the beginning - and I don't know if it's Rob Reiner directing here that makes the difference, but this is a phenomenal film for a few reasons.  First off - it's ridiculous in the way that all Guest mockumentaries are - but what's different about this one is that it feels authentic.  The world is grounded by some things that make me buy into the concept.  There's tremendous heart and sadness as we watch these poor bastards turn into nobodies.  It's beautiful.  It's also filled with the iconic and hilarious bits that we all recall, but what really strikes me here is the arc of the relationships and I think that's what makes this one truly special.  There's a connection there.  This all means something to them, and so it really does mean something to us.  I'm in pre-production on something in a similar vein so it's nice to rewatch a master work like this for reference. 
If you've never seen this film and you're either a music or comedy lover, do yourself a massive favor and watch this straight away.  There's a good chance I might even revisit it again in the upcoming weeks.

1920 - A Mighty Wind

Re-watched this film for research on a project I'm getting ready for.  I have to be honest in that this isn't my favourite Guest film.  I love the musical aspect of it, but I just feel like it's missing a point to the whole thing.  I'm not quite sure why we're following these people or what Guest is trying to get at with the idea of following these folk stars around - the themes and whatnot.  I love a lot of the performances here, but mostly Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara, who are fantastic and somewhat heartbreaking.  Everyone else just feels like they're coming out to do something fun - which it is.  There's some characters here that I just downright don't enjoy at all - but it's no fun obsessing over that :)
It's a very welcome additional to Guest's work, but no where close to my favorite.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

1919 - Bindlestiffs

I heard about this through one of Kevin Smith's podcasts so I thought I'd throw it on in the background as I did some work - and as background material, it's absolutely adequate.  It's about three high-school friends who go on a bender living vicariously through Catcher in the Rye.
I can see how Smith probably felt a kinship to this team of filmmakers given his own beginnings.  As a feature made by a bunch of highs school students - it's rather impressive - as a film in general.... well - it feels like it was made by a bunch of high school students.  The performances are pretty bad, albeit amusing - the stand out is the young actress that plays Caramel - she is easily the most enjoyable thing about the film.
It'll be interesting to see if anything comes out of this team's brush with fame, or if they're never heard from again.  Neither would surprise me.  Truth is, we all made embarrassing films when we were practising and learning our craft - the difference being that we didn't realize ours into the general public.  So kudos to them for at least being naked in front of us.  That said -  it's hard to give a reason to check this out outside of pure curiosity.

1918 - The Guilt Trip

This film came and went pretty quickly from the populus, and the fact that it's on Netflix this soon says something, sadly... Seth Rogen plays Barbara Streisand's son, they go on a road trip together.  Great title and set-up for a movie that's, well... just okay.
Rule #1 of comedy - if you're going to do a scene that's been done before, do it bigger and better.  Here we have a bit where someone has to eat a giant steak dinner to get it for free.  The Great Outdoors has the best version of this that I've seen - and yes, making Barbara Streisand do it is a very funny idea - but that's about the end of that joke, and it doesn't go anywhere from there.  The whole movie is kind of like that when it comes to the comedy.  Great potential, but not followed up on and grown further.  It's the kind of film that lays very obvious bread crumbs early on and then things go pretty much as you'd expect them.  There's a nice little twist at the very end, but other than that there's not a lot of surprises going on here and for a comedy, that's a problem.
I didn't love it, I didn't hate it.  I think the Streisand audience will enjoy it a lot more than the Rogen one.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

1917 - Breaking Bad: season five - part 2

What can I say here that hasn't already been said?  This show is universally loved, by myself as well.  There isn't a bad performance, a bad scene, hell I'd argue there isn't a bad episode in the entire run.  Perfect is a strong word, but Breaking Bad might be just that.  There was an interesting theory that the final episode was a dream of Walt's, and that he simply died alone, not accomplishing anything he wanted to - part of me likes that as much as I like the idea of the ending going down exactly as it happened.  Did it tie things up too cleanly?  Maybe.  It went down pretty much as I'd expected and thought - so I didn't have a lot of surprises in the final hour, but I had a lot of fun watching it. What I loved about the last run of episodes was that it really felt like Vince Gilligan was giving us a sample of every possible outcome.  We got to see what it looked like when Jesse turned the tables on Walt, what it looked like when Hank won, Walt running away with his tail between his legs, Walt dying alone, and then Walt making amends and doing what he set out to do: take care of his family.  I'd argue that if you didn't like the ending of the actual finale - then at least you were given something in that group that helped it.  

I'm really looking forward to picking up that big-ass boxset and delving into the materials and behind the scenes.  Shit yes.  It's a beautiful show that never stayed past it's welcome and went out absolutely on top.  It's inspiring.  Good on ya, Gilligan and company.  Thank you for giving us an amazing story to obsess over for several seasons.  You'll be missed.

1916 - RoboCop

I haven't seen this in years and was compelled to give it another view (totally forgetting that the reboot is on it's way to us).  I was kind of surprise to find that Peter Weller is… well… he's not a great actor.  He's fine when he's playing a robot, but that's largely because that's what his acting range in this film seems to fit (that said, he was great in his stint on Dexter, so hard to give him too much shit).  I think this is a film that's so easy for people to slush off as a bizarre 80's flick, but it's so rife with social commentary and imagery that it makes it kind of amazing.  It's an allegory wrapped around a b-movie.  I don't think I've ever seen the follow-ups, and I'm not sure I'd be interested in it.  The re-make trailer seems to miss the central point of the original which is, really about how you can't remove the soul from a living creature, no matter how much technology you throw at it.  Morality survives.  It's on netflix if you feel the need to revisit - I'm glad I did!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

1915 - Now You See Me

I am a sucker for a big flashy con-film - and throw together a cast like this and I'm all-in.  It's the story of four-magicians brought together - why?  They aren't entirely sure - but they're about to become Robin Hood-esque Magicians on a heist that even they don't understand.
To talk about this film properly requires me to go into SPOILER MODE.  But before that I'll say - I liked it - I will absolutely see a follow-up if they make it (although it felt like this whole con had been someone's life's work) - but I did find that the characters were a little one note - and it was almost entirely plot based - nothing wrong with that - I just think the film could have been a lot richer otherwise.

Okay.  Now SPOILERS...

You know that the film is going to end with the twist of us realizing that one of the characters is going be the mastermind - it's not going to be a new character - films don't do that.  They kept pointing at the French lady (also this film seemed to have a bizarre racist slant agains the French...), so it's too obvious to make it her - she's the assistant - and Morgan Freeman's character is too obvious as well.  Ruffalo seemed like the biggest twist, and so to me it only made sense to make it be him.  That said, I just don't know about this twist - I'd have to re-watch the film to make sure it fit and wasn't just parlour tricks.

All that said, it was good popcorn entertainment and I will, indeed, take second helpings should they come my way.

1914 - The Heat

I really wanted to see this film when it was in theatres as Bridesmaids was easily one of my favorite films of that year.  It was a no brainer for Paul Feig to reunite with McCarthy and vice versa following the success of their previous joint-outing - and this time they go after the buddy cop genre.  It feels at times very much like those kinds of films that I grew up on.  I like Bullock and McCarthy quite a bit here and the pairing is amazing casting.  That said.... I don't know... I kind of started to feel like the film laboured on a bit - there were some entire scenes that were there just for the funny and didn't move the story along at all, and felt like that.  The film, sadly, is hit or miss - but when it's hitting - it's hitting hard.  There's some belly laughs here with the chemistry of the two leads, but the story beats and everything else feels a bit on the safe and predictable side of things.  Although it could very well be that I just walked into this with unfair and unrealistic expectations.  Please don't let me persuade you from checking it out, as I said - I liked it, but I was just hopping I'd LOVE it.

1913 - Skyfall

I can't say that I'm a big Bond nerd - although I dated a girl whose father was, and so managed to get through his entire collected during that relationship - and I think... I've seen them all... I loved the first Craig outing, was 'meh' on the second, and really really enjoyed this one.  I mean, I like the nerdy stuff like the idea of introducing Moneypenny - especially in such an awesome way - this is the first Bond film that really played into those older versions of it with that, the male M being instated, and the introduction of Q.  Very fun.  
One thing I was never big on when this new version started up was the carrying over of Judi Dench.  I like Dench, it's not about that, but more what it said about the world... and the fact that she exists in the Bronson ones as well.  Is the idea that James Bond is just a code name?  There have been several Bonds?  This film seems to suggest, with the visiting of his childhood home, that there is only one Bond.  But enough about that.
This film was what a Bond film should be, first and foremost, fun.  It had girls, gadgets, and a great villain.  Sign me up for more if this is what we're going to be expecting.  I love that Bond was a true underdog here and didn't really come off like a perfect killing machine.  The story was engaging, the cast was enjoyable.  If you haven't gotten around to seeing it and had any interest whatsoever give it a shot.  I'm up there with the best of the Bonds.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

1912 - The Beaver

I first heard about this project when the script was on The Blacklist, and at the same time knew it was going into production so I decided to avoid reading it.  I recall the production having it's ups and downs, and that there was some controversy over Gibson's personal life around the time of it's release - so it didn't move out as wide as it was initially intended to.
It's an interesting film, that's for sure.  My only real solid complaint is that we're never really given a picture of who Walter is before the story really kicks in - we're meeting him at absolute rock bottom, and I get that, but I think there were some beats missing that could have eased us into it somewhat.  He's depressed... about what?  I'm not sure we ever really get a sense of that, or who Walter really is outside of a stereotype.  That said, Gibson is in fine form here.  He's charming at The Beaver, and troubled as Walter - and he melds the two together pretty damn beautifully.
The world felt a bit over-the-top.  I have a hard time buying that their company would be getting as much exposure as they do, etc... but I'll let it go for the sake of story.
With the premise being that a toy company exec, on the verge of a mid-life crisis, enlists the aid of a puppet Beaver to speak on his behalf and help him get through his day-to-day.
Jodie Foster, and the script, decides not to make fun of this man - which would be easy to do with a simple casting change.  That's not to say it isn't funny, or amusing, it's all of those things - but I think that the tone of this film is tricky, and Jodie managed it pitch perfectly.  It's kind of a mid-life-coming-of-age-crisis kind of film, been there - done that - but never without it being it's own thing.  It's on Netflix if you're interested - if you're just not quite sure about this one - give it a 10 minute try... better yet 20...

Monday, September 23, 2013

1911 - Dexter: season eight

Somewhere in the second season of this series I remember being so amazed at where they were going with it that I had to keep asking "Where are they going to go with this show?  How are they going to keep up how solid this is?"  And now we have the answer.  They didn't.  Or maybe they just couldn't.  The third season of this show was it's first valley after a series of peaks.  The fourth season (Trinity) was a return to form with what ended up being Dexter's best adversary that culminated in the series strongest moment.  After that it was a lot of waiting around to see if it would get back to greatness, and it never really did.  The 6th season was terrible, and the beginning of the 7th showed a lot of promise - in general I liked the 7th season, but this last season… geez.

Now - if you haven't finished watching this series - stop now.  Spoiler heavy shit coming below.

First off, let's start at the end.  What a terrible ending for this show.  Although, to be fair, there was no good ending for this show.  It was almost an impossible task.  But watching the finale was like watching a bad fan-boy script.  Having the final thought of the show being that all the work Dexter had done to become a rounded human was pointless?  That he couldn't changed, despite evidence that he was changing?  It all felt a little random.  It made me feel like I'd wasted my time watching this show all together.  And the fact that the show never put Dexter's feet to the coals in the end and exposed him to his world… what a missed opportunity.  We got to see Miami Metro be bumbling idiots for years, it would have been amazing to watch them go toe to toe with Dexter and Debra caught in the middle… but alas… instead we get Oliver Saxon - as boring as they come.
The writing on this season was terrible.  Just little things like the idea that Hannah has come back, and is a wanted woman.  You'd think the first thing they'd do is cut and dye her hair.  Something, ANYTHING to change her goddamn appearance.  But no.  Whatever cleverness was in the writing early in the series has long since evaporated.  The stuff with Masuka and his daughter was such a last ditch effort to give that character some depth - and the fact that it resulted in… nothing.. what a waste.  
And Debrah… fuck it… at that point it just felt like the whole thing was being written by a fan who didn't really understand the show.  I like that it was Dexter that took her out and was protecting her, that he put her in the water, and that he "died" there as well.  

I could go on and on, but I'm not entirely sure the point.  This last season was such a wasted opportunity given how strong this series started.  But… well at least it's over… 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

1910 - Fading Gigolo

When I was first looking into this year's TIFF line-up this quickly became a must-see for me.  The premise alone had me sold: Woody Allen decides to become a pimp for John Turturro to help them out of a financial drought.  I'm in!
I wasn't expecting it to be a mad comical romp, by any means, but I have to say that the tone of the film was a lot more sentimental and slow than I would have imagined.  In the end, while I still enjoyed this film, I didn't love it as I was really hoping to.  There was a lot going on that didn't quite make sense to me, including a sub-plot with the always-fantastic Liev Schreiber that had Woody Allen going off to Jewish Court for reasons that were not all together clear.
The ending left a lot to be desired as I'm not quite sure what the film was getting at with it, what the point of it was, really.  Maybe I'm just spoiled by the current state of high-stakes story-telling, but the film lacked a sense of urgency and purpose that I think would have made all the difference.
By all means it's still worth checking out, it's very sweet, I think I was just hoping for something different with it.

1909 - Bad Words

I have a big place in my heart for inappropriate and dark comedy, and this filled it right up.  Jason Bateman's directorial debut has him playing a 40-year old man who has found a loophole to allow him to compete in a national high school spelling bee competition - the reason for which I won't spoil here.
The jokes are fast and funny and anyone studying the writing of comedy would do well to study this film for that alone.  The timing, callbacks and plot reversals are super strong and keep the film flowing without a dull moment through-out.
I can only imagine we'll be seeing this in a wide-release, so I don't want to give away any of it's shining moments.  If I had to make a critique the film could have, maybe, had a tinge more substance and message - although I think on a second viewing I might find I was enjoying myself too much to really notice that it was already there.
This film is a real crowd pleaser, and if you like your comedy dark, this is the place to be.

1908 - The Husband

The Husband tells a story of the saddest guy ever.  His wife, a teacher, has slept with one of her teenage students, and while off to jail has left him alone with their newborn child (when exactly did this affair take place, given how young the baby is?... was it before?...).  On top of that he's being further emasculated at work by younger employee.  It's just a shitty situation for this guy.  So we're programmed to have nothing but empathy for him... except I didn't... and that's what I bumped up against in this film.  I'm not against the choice of having the main character seem pissed off the whole time 'cause of the shitty situation he's been dealt - I get that - but the film has made the choice to make him... well, unlikeable.  I should have had nothing but empathy for this guy - but I didn't and I'm trying to figure out why.  Mostly it's probably because the choices the guy made - he just kind of ... acted, without and kind of a plan - and when we seem him trying to break out on his own career-wise, well, he just doesn't seem all that good at his job.
I really wanted to like this film, and there's some good elements going on with it, but I really had a hard time finding an in with the main character.  From the reviews I read, I think there's an audience for this type of film, and likely it just wasn't the right fit for me at the time I viewed it.  Please, though, if it seems interesting to you at all, please give it a shot and judge for yourself!

1907 - Child of God

There's no way to describe this film outside of delightfully fucked-up.  I have no way of explaining why I liked this film, but I really really did.  It follows a backwoods man as he delves into moral depravity and it's so goddamn fascinating.  You don't give the character a pass, but you also don't want to look away - he's so watchable and interesting.  Franco has such a confident eye in this film and knows exactly what he's trying to accomplish.  I can't imagine how on earth you would market this film outside of an art-house crowd, but it's a really solid, interesting film.  Scott Haze is absolutely amazing as the backwoodsman, and commands your attention.
I love that Franco is just all over the map with his projects and doesn't really have anything in particular that defines him.  Good on him, and I can't wait to see what he brings out next.

1906 - Joe

David Gordon Green has made some interesting career moves and tonal shifts in his body of films, and this feels much closer to his early days.  Joe is the story of Nicholas Cage who runs a group of guys that work in the forrest, and takes on a protoge in a young teenager with a shitty family in tow.  First, I love how dirty everyone looks and feels in this film - it's a beautiful thing.  The whole thing feels a bit like a poem, or a dream.  Green guides us along like a master story teller, taking his time, but always making us legitimately interested in what's happening, and what's coming.  Cage is in top form and deserves some nods for his performance here.  This will probably not be for everyone, but those into character dramas, this one will make you happen.

1905 - Don Jon

Only Joseph Gordon-Levitt would cast himself in a role like this and thank the sweet lord that he did.  Holy shit did I love this film.  I loved how fun it was, how much the cast gelled, and how inspired the casting was (especially Tony Danza).  I loved the style of the images, it's repetition.  Such a wonderfully endearing and fucked up lead character that you really love and want to see get what they want and need.  Again, this is a film where I don't want to give away a single damn thing, but know that I smiled from ear to ear from start to finish.  Not only is this a great film, but for a first time filmmaker, it's the promise of a great career as a filmmaker and I'm so excited to see what he does next in his regard.  See this the instant you're able.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

1904 - Almost Human

I believe this is the only midnight madness film that I saw, and I went into it on a lark because it's screening time lined up with a window I had.  The premise is that a guy got abducted by aliens years prior and has returned and something's up with him.  Essentially he's an alien/human hybrid who reaks havoc on the community trying to further his new "species".  It's a fun premise, but the main issue with the film is that it feels kind of paper-thin and there's very little logic to how it all works, really.  From the acting to the writing everything kind of screams b-movie, but perhaps that's the point.

1903 - Gravity

We've seen Cast Away, Open Water, Frozen, Gerry, lots of great Dude With a Problem films that throw someone against the elements and demand that they survive and often laugh in their face for even trying to do so.  But, correct me if I'm wrong here, never has it happened in space - and if it has - I can't imagine it's been done so epically and so beautifully.
I'm not a 3D nerd, but this is the first film in the last dirge of them that I've seen where I absolutely understand why the medium exists.  It truly did add a layer to the film (pun only marginally intended).  Sandra Bullock doesn't give the performance of a lifetime or anything, but she easily carries the bulk of the film on her shoulders along with some amazing technical wizards.  I heard some people had story issues but I was just along for the ride and happy to be there.  This will be sweeping the multiplexes soon enough and I give it my solid approval.  And it's absolutely a film that needs to be seen in as beautiful a theatre as you can muster.