Wednesday, April 24, 2013

1834 - The Queen of Versailles

Wanted to see this last year at Hot Docs, but it was madness trying to get a ticket.  If you don't know, this is about rich people having to deal with the fact that they're probably not going to be rich anymore. A timeshare company gets screwed over when the american banking system collapses and suddenly the plans for his $100M home fall apart.  Poor man.  And yet his wife continues to live as though they're making fistfulls of cash.  They have to lay off half of their serving staff.  When she goes to rent a car she asks what the name of her driver will be.  It's very entertaining in that regard, but sad as shit when you realize how disconnected this people and their family is.  They don't really even seem to like each other.  The mother claims she had seven kids because it was fun to have kids, but if she ever thought she'd have to raise them without nannies she probably would have stopped at two.
This is a tough documentary because it's not really about the economy in any meaningful way so much as it is watching the train wreck of this white trash family, who just happened to get rich, and now they're not quite as rich.  It's hard to really connect and care about them at all.
I liked it enough and glad I checked it out, but it's hard to give it a solid recommendation.  Casual documentary lovers will probably enjoy, but those looking for something hard hitting and emotion - keep looking.

Monday, April 22, 2013

1833 - Molly Maxwell

I will preface this by saying that this is my second time seeing this film and that I'm a friend of the film's director.  So take that for what you will.
I like this film a lot.  Coming-of-age stories done well will always be in demand.  Coupled with this you've got the relationship between a teacher and their student, and what's so refreshing in Sara's film is that it never feels like she's passing judgement on either character.  Is what they're doing right or wrong - well that's up for you to decide.  This is a film that truly 'gets' teenagers and feels more authentic in that regard than most things you'll find in a multiplex.  If you have a chance it's playing at the Carleton cinema right now - see it while it's still there!  The film is beautiful to look at and so well crafted.  Sara St. Onge has made a little gem of a film and I can't wait to see what she does next.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

1832 - What Just Happened?

It's funny, when I was younger I was really obsessed with films about the inside of the industry, especially dark comedies like this that shed it's light upon the underbelly - there was some joy in the mystery of this world - but now I can't imagine myself writing something that's so inside baseball.  I have no complaints about those that do - but it just makes the whole business seem so ridiculously petty - and maybe that's the point.  There's a lot of truth in the insanity that's shown in here, and the actors who play themselves do a pretty great job of leaving their egos at the door.
DeNiro plays a producer who is having the week from hell, dealing with a director who wants to keep his uber-bleak ending for a film about to go to Cannes, and Bruce Willis refusing to shave his beard for an upcoming film.  This sound terribly first world problem-esque - and they are, but I don't think the film is ignorant of that, in fact I think it takes great joy in playing up those of us who just take this shit a little too seriously.
The cast is great and seems to enjoy lampooning us a tinge.  It's not essential viewing by any means, but it's entertaining enough.

Friday, April 19, 2013

1831 - Ruby Sparks

I was so happy to see that this was on netflix, especially since revisiting the directors first feature (Little Miss Sunshine) just the other day.  First off, I love magic-realism, and when you pair it with a love story then you've got me hook-line-and-sinker.  This is the story of a child prodigy, who wrote an amazing book in his teens and has been coasting for the last decade.  He has a dream about a fantasy girl, writes about her in great detail and then wakes one more to discover that he's manifested her.  She's exactly as he described her... and... when things in their relationship move past the honeymoon phase and start to get real - he can change her into whatever he wants her to be.
I won't give away a tidbit more because it's truly the kind of story you just want to experience all for yourself.  I was impressed to learn that the title character of Ruby, played by Zoie Kazan, was also the film's writer.  It's a beautiful, smart, tender ride.  It's for everyone whose ever been frustrated in a relationship and wished they could just push a magic button and fix the problems without having to dig deep into them - however life is messier than that - as our hero soon will learn.
This is a little gem of a film, and like I mentioned, it's on netflix, so no excuse.  Dano and Kazan are pretty magical together.  Chris Messina has a great part as the brother - and Antonio Bandaras and Annette Benning steal the show as Dano and Messina's mother and (step-father?).  If you loved films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Stranger Than Fiction, than this is right up your alley.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


This morning my son saw the playbill from last night's show and asked me what it was about, and after a moment I told him "It's about a man who hurts someone, and the other people have to decide what to do about it."  What Race is really about is a rich white man who is accused of sexually assaulting a black woman, and the three attorneys (two black, one white) who have to decide whether or not they'll represent him.
It's Mamet so it's intentionally provocative.  What I found really compelling was the idea of having a court room drama take place inside of the law office prior to a trial.  And because it's a hotbed subject and what's really on trial is our feelings on race, it ends up being that each of our characters takes a turn being the victim, the accused, the prosecutor, defendant, and judge.  I don't want to give away any details - I went into the play blind and I'm really glad that I did.  It's on in Toronto until May 5 and features a dynamite cast including Jason Priestley.  I can't say that I'm an expert on Mamet, but if this doesn't rank amongst his best, then I need to get myself out to the theatre far more often.

Friday, April 12, 2013

1830 - Little Miss Sunshine

Revisited this film as a reference for something in the works.  It's hard to think of a film since this one that has hit such a chord an an indie film.  This is a lightning in the bottle kind of film that everyone involved probably had no idea how much of a fire it would start.
Michael Arndt wrote a perfect script with wonderful stories and arcs for each character.  It's got a fantastic visual to it and I love how simple and real the production design is as well.  Films like this are like comfort food and an absolute pleasure to revisit.  If you've never seen this film you need to correct that wrong ASAP.  It's the kind of film where, if someone tells me that they don't like it I just can't imagine how we could possibly be friends...

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

1829 - Your Sister's Sister

This film was a lovely little surprise.  I'm a fan of Lynn Shelton, so I was happy to see that this was on Netflix.  I'm a fan of Mark Duplass as well as Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt.  It's a pretty simple premise - two best friends of the opposite sex are mourning the loss of his brother/her ex, and when he ends up sleeping with her sister they have to deal with their true feelings for one another.  There's a lot more than that going on, but that's the gist.  It's a simple little love story, but with some fantastic acting and really wonderfully honest moments.  I love that Shelton has created this career where she goes and works on series as a director and then comes back and does these wonderfully intimate little pieces.  Well done, her!
See this film - it's a beautiful little character piece and well worth your time!

1828 - Lola Versus

I kind of adore Greta Gerwig, so I'll largely watch whatever she's in :)  I'd seen the filmmaker's previous film 'Breaking Upwards' (also on netflix) and I dug it.  At the beginning the film felt off - like it was the kind of plot that belonged in a typical studio rom-com, but as it went along it felt a lot more fresh as it delved into the complications of Lola and her relationships.  It's a cute film and enjoyable for sure - but it didn't knock my socks off by any means.  If you like rom-coms, and you have a liking for Gerwig then check it out for sure.

Monday, April 08, 2013

1827 - The Walking Dead: season three part 2

Holy shit. I just realized that I never wrote about this.  Huh.  So I'm a bit late to this commentary party but here goes… I think this season was largely the strongest season of the series.  I think it had a momentum that was exactly where it needs to be and go.  I love what the first half of this season did for setting up the second.  I love how they're honouring the comic series without feeling the need to subscribe to it.  The changes they did with Woodbury and The Governor in particular were smart - and I'm not sure how I feel about how they left it - I'll have a better opinion once I see where they go with it come season four.  I want to say a whole lot here, but I'm holding back for those who haven't seen the show yet.  And along those lines, I really do urge you to pick up the comic books - especially if you LOVE the show - it's a nice way to fill the gap between seasons!

1826 - Californication: season six

This show is one of my guilty pleasures.  I love the tone of it and how it balances the wacky and the poignant, and Hank Moody is one of the more delicious television anti-heroes ever created.  This series has had some rockiness to it as it balances how to move Hank forward without losing who he is.  I think this season was one of, if not, the most successful in that regard.  It's gone a long way into delving into the fuckedness of Hank.  Maggie Grace was a much welcome addition to the cast - so much so that I actually have a hard time buying the outcome of Hank's decision at the end.  If you haven't been watching this series yet you've got a lot of road to catch up on, but it's bi-and-large worth it for the moments of heart.  Looking forward to more when it returns, of course, although I'm just not sure what tricks this show could still have up it's sleeve - unless the final season is about Hank trying to be in an honest, celibate relationship.  That could be interesting… after six seasons of watching these characters behave like children, can they become responsible adults?

1825 - The Great and Powerful Oz

I'm an Oz nerd.  Return to Oz was one of my favourite films as a kid - probably my favourite since I went down to the video store every week to rent it to the point where they finally just gave me the well-worn VHS.  The first of a, now large, film collection. 
So here we have a prequel of sorts - I'm pretty big on what Gregory Maguire did with the Oz story, so I'm going into this accepting something that's more align to Baum's canon.  It's the story of how the Wizard got to Oz.  First off, I was entertained the whole way through - I figured out where some stuff was going to go pretty quickly, but I also enjoyed the ride.  That being said, it felt a little like they were trying to be just a tinge too clever.  First, the world looks glorious, but I don't need a dozen spanning shots of CGI - I get it - Oz is magical.  Also it just felt like a few too many winks to the audience in terms of how many connections they made to the 1939 film, etc… it didn't feel like a film that could stand on it's own and become it's own classic.  It felt like it was trying to pay homage a little too much and came off as a bit of a a fan-film because of it.  I'd be interested to see if they continue with this as a series of films, but if I'm completely honest - I'm still looking forward to a film adaptation of Wicked.  If you like Oz stuff, it's a must see - especially in the theatres - there's some scary stuff for kids, so be wary of that.

1824 - 50/50

Rewatched this mostly as a visual inspiration or something I'm working on.  I still love the hell out of this film.  The cast is pitch perfect.  Anna Kendrik is beautiful awkward, Rogen is oafish and loveable, and JGL is wounded and honest.  If you want a more in-depth look into my thoughts they're around here somewhere - I'm not sure I'll say anything new since I still just loved the hell out of every inch of this film.  When it was finished I wanted to watch it again right away.  If you haven't seen this film you absolutely must.  It's not a heavy-handed piece by any means.  It's light, but with some poignancy and heart to it.  Please, please, see this film.

1823 - Watchmen (Director's Visual Commentary)

I got the bluray of this for xmas this year and on it is a pretty insane, in-depth visual commentary thing.  Some people panned this film - I loved it.  I thought that Zack Snyder did a pretty kick-ass job of adapting something that's so personal and epic to so many people.  I think he got the heart of it right and that's the main thing.  I prefer his ending to the ending in the comic as it's far more integrated into the actual story itself.  Sorry for you purists - but the squid was kind of stupid - let's be honest.
If you want the kind of experience that really rips a movie into pieces and shows you behind the curtain, this is exactly the kind of thing you'll love.  Although it made me want to revisit the film on it's own - which I'll try to do sooner rather than later.