Saturday, August 31, 2013

1889 - iSteve

I watched this film in the background while getting some work done and, sadly, that's about all the attention that it deserves, really.  I'm not sure who the audience is for this film outside of hardcore apple geeks, and then it's just going to offend them to some degree.  What a bizarre little film - it's almost intended to be a piss-up or a roast to Apple.  Maybe the whole point was to just take a piss on the whole thing, and that's kind of what it feels like.  I don't mean to talk shit about this film - Justin Long (as always) was a lot of fun, and had fun within the world - I'm just not sure what the point of the film was for the filmmakers, especially since they were playing pretty hard and fast with the actual facts behind the story.
It's on Netflix, so check it out - I'd be curious to know what other Apple nerds thought of it...

1888 - Arrested Development: season four

I wasn't one of those who felt like the world would have been robbed without more Arrested Development.  I was a big fan of the initial run of the series and I thought that, for better or worse, the show walked away at it's peak - a feat many others can't claim.  And then this came along.  I have to say, the AV Club's season long review sums up a lot of my own feelings:
It’s an occasionally hilarious, sometimes boring, always bloated boondoggle of a project, and it’s the sort of thing that’s at once staggering in its ambition and hard to approach with anything like real affection. It is, in places, masterful. It is also, in other places, at once weirdly pleased with itself and too ready to hold the audience’s hand where that hand needn’t be held. 
I watched the first half until I felt like I was watching it more out of obligation than real interest, and then I took a break.  I found when I came back the second half really started to gel.  Part of the problem with this season is the sheer design of it - because they couldn't get all of the cast back together at the same time, they decided to go with a different kind of situation, but as it gets closer to the end you start to see all the pieces of the puzzle coming together and it's quite rewarding.

There's a number of pretty amazing sight gags - the Jeremy Piven one being one of the most clever.  A huge missed opportunity was in not referencing how the cast had changed so drastically physically (mostly Lindsay and Maeby) and yet it goes without comment - especially in the scenes meant to take place directly following season three.  Alas.

I don't need to recommend this to hard-core fans, you're already in.  Newcomers... this is going to feel like it's a crack experiment - so if you really just want to start the show here, tread lightly.  Also, you're missing out on some amazing things if that's your call.  At one point I really want to revisit the initial run.  One of these days!

Friday, August 23, 2013

1887 - The Kids Are All Right

My wife and I have been wanting to see this film since it was first announced.  Big fans of all the lead actors, and the story was pretty interesting and compelling.  Two lesbian's Mom's children (both from the same sperm donor) want to figure out who their father is - but when he enters back into their lives the family connects with him in ways that make it very uncomfortable for them to continue along like they have.
It's a film that never gets too heavy, but also delves into how difficult long term relationships are.  The dynamics of family, and how addictive that lifestyle is even though on the surface it doesn't really seem all that appealing.
This is a great film for a night you just want to veg, but also watch something with substance.  Give it a shot if you haven't already.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

1886 - True Blood: season six

This show is another of my guilty pleasures - although I have to say that this was one of the show's strongest seasons over-all.  Typically True Blood has a lot of stray plot threads and don't come together till mid-season but the unifying theme of Humans Vs. Vampires was super strong and effective in really bringing everything together.  All of the characters were interesting and important, and we got rid of some who have over stayed their welcome a bit (although SPOILER ALERT... I loved Terry and the actor who plays him).
I liked the Warlow storyline a lot and how it shifted and you didn't really know where it was going to go good or bad.  What I love about this show at this point is that every single character rides the line between hero of villain depending what their current motivation is and it works really well for the most part.  I have to say that, like a lot of fans of the show, the ending of the series left something to be desired and it'll be interesting what they do with next season given what they've set up - the idea of humans and vampires needing to pair up.  Could be very interesting to see how those pairings go.
It was sad to lose Alan Ball after last season, but I think the shake-up has been a good thing for the show - which doesn't seem to have an end date at this point.  As long as this season wasn't the last we've seen of Erik I'll be happy.  I have no problem with killing off major characters, but if that was the way they took him out it would be pretty disappointing.
So there it is - another season down - if you haven't started yet I'm not sure where a good entry point is, outside of the start... to get the full experience you kind of have to go all the way back... enjoy!

1885 - Whodunnit

So I don't really watch "reality" shows.  I work in reality a lot, but I don't find myself watching a whole lot of it.  I don't know how the hell this happened but this show became my guilty pleasure.  It's sooooo cheesy - but that's also part of it's charm.  It plays out like a massive version of Clue where a dozen or so people are brought into a house and one of them is the killer and the others have to figure out who.  But as they go along one-by-one they're all "killed" (which is this show's version of them being voted off the island) and then the others have to solve the murder - whoever has the worst theory on the murder is the next one to die - so on and so forth.
So if you like murder mysteries, this one is a lot of fun if you can get past the schtick.  I believe you can stream it online.

Friday, August 16, 2013

1884 - The Sessions

I've been wanting to watch this for awhile, so bless you Netflix for providing it for me!  I'm a fan of anything that tackles sexual behaviour - I find it fascinating.  For those who don't know, this film is about a man who suffered polio and it largely confined to an iron lung.  Now 38 he seeks out the help of a sexual surrogate to help him get over his fears and insecurities.
Hunt and Hawkes are quite lovely together, and you buy their growing relationship.  Macy just a lovely bit as the priest who says that God would give him a "pass" on this pre-marital relations sex.
The humor is subtle and organic to the characters and situations.  Hawkes is charming pure and simple, and gives a full bodied performance using mostly just his face.  Delightful.
If I have a single complaint it's that the last stretch of the film was a bit rushed and anti-climatic.  All of a sudden the film just decided to wrap itself up a little bit too quickly.  I suppose they're following the true-life story - but there's a way to do that which doesn't hurt anyone, and entertains (even on a base level).
If you like stories about relationships and have a Netflix subscription - this one is a no brainer.

The Merchant of Venice

I was fortunate to get to go see this on it's opening night in Stratford.  I read this play in high school but had never seen it performed.  I remembered the general storyline, but what I hadn't recalled was just how anti-Semitic it is.  I am not a person who is easily offended, but man oh man… First I want to say the the performances were fantastic - the play, in parts, is hysterical.  A solid cast all around.  So now that that's out of the way I have to say - I am not a fan of this play - and that's not a criticism on the production.  For the life of me, I cannot understand why this play is still performed.  I understand the mentality of "we remember so that we never forget the terrible things".  I don't know how much I buy that idea.  This production was set in the 1930's with the war looming, which makes sense since the Jewish popular was not in favour then.  Here we have a story with a bunch of lovers trying to hook up - these are supposed to be our heroes - but they torture a poor money lender, Shylock The Jew, mostly just because he charges interest on his loans.  God forbid he makes money at his job.  He's spat upon, name called, beaten, his daughter is taken from him, his money is taken, his land - and also his religion, all because he's just doing this job.  He's the villain.  What the fuck.  And this production ends with (SPOILER ALERT)….

… A holocaust siren.  That's right, because our "heroes" have taken everything Shylock holds dear, including being a Jew, he's now spared from the holocaust.  WTF.  

If you're a fan of this play please explain to me why - but if you are, then this production is likely worth your time and money.  If you're new to Shakespeare maybe give one of the comedies a go :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

1883 - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Part II

I don't know why I felt compelled to watch this - mostly 'cause I wanted something fun on in the background while I got some work done.  It's a tough film, this one, really just being the second half of something else.  Voldemort is kind of a weak villain here.  You don't really get a sense of his "plan" - what's he going to do if he wins?  What does that mean?  Is he going to take over the world?  You don't really get a strong sense of it.  Is he just going to be pure evil and try to make everyone else likewise?  That's my bigger issue with this series, mostly the films, is that we don't get a strong sense of the stakes outside of the typical good Vs. evil and life Vs. death.  

That being said the film is a lot of fun, the performances are solid, and it's a grand send-off for the series.  I'm really looking forward to exploring this world with my kids when they're old enough.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

1882 - It's a Disaster

I have to admit that when I saw the trailer for this I wasn't at all excited - it was pretty uninteresting, despite the topic.  However, having seen some really solid reviews I gave this a shot when I saw it on Netflix and I'm happy to say that the trailer didn't do this justice at all.
This is essentially a low budget version of "This is The End" but at a couple's brunch instead - and it's a bit more of a high-brow dark comedy in deal with people's relationships with one another in what seems likely to be their final hours together on earth.
Maybe it's because my expectations were so low, but I found myself really interested in this through-out.  There was some lovely awkwardness, some lovely cattiness that happened between the characters that really gave you a sense of history.  So well done.
If you're looking for a strong character based comedy than look no further.  I really enjoyed it.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

1881 - Reservoir Dogs (commentary)

Like all teenagers of the 90's I was in love with Quentin Tarantino, and while I've grown away from that unforgiving kind of love with him, there will always be a special place in my heart for this film.  I rewatched it as reference for something, but also just to hear the commentary again.  It's interesting - instead of a group of people sitting around talking they interviewed a lot of people involved in the production and edited it together over the film - an interesting technique - and probably a lot more informative than just a random round-table discussion would have been.  There's an art form to a good commentary, and this is one worth checking out for film lovers in general, especially if you found this film inspiring at all - which most do.
I'll likely revisit the film on it's own in the near future - but for those who are interested in it's commentary - totally worth your hour and a half!

Friday, August 09, 2013

1880 - The Dictator

This might very well be my favorite of the Cohen/Charles collaborations.  That's not to say I didn't laugh my ass off or enjoy previous outings - but because this one felt much more tight and scripted it worked for me.  It's a pretty solid send-up of North American culture and our policies and Cohen really is fantastic in it.  Anna Farris is lovely as the hippie love interest, but Ben Kingsley feels a tad underused. 
It's on Netflix in Canada, and I assume elsewhere.  If you like any of Cohen's previous work you'll probably dig this.  If you're on the fence about him, this might help sway you.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

1879 - 30 Minutes or Less

I just wanted to watch something mostly mindless, and remembered this was on Netflix.  I have to be honest, I find Danny McBride to be a pretty one-note actor - I can't say I've ever seen a lot of variety from his performances, and Aziz Ansari is about the same - that said you get what you get from them and here it works well enough.  It's not the kind of film that's asking them to stretch their range to begin with.
Jesse Eisenberg plays a... well, he's not a loser or a burn-out, I guess he's just a guy who hasn't put any effort into his life and slums through as a pizza delivery guy.  He's likable because he's played by Eisenberg, but really, he's got no goals, no aspirations. It's actually kind of difficult to get behind him as a character too much.  He gets kidnapped, has a bomb strapped to him and is forced to rob a bank so that some people can use the money to pay someone to kill their father for the inheritance.  It's a bit over-the-top, but again - it works for this kind of film.
I liked the film enough, it has some funny moments, but it exists within that slew of comedic films that comes out, gets seen and just kind of falls away.  I'm not saying it's disposable, but there's very little that's substantial about it.  It's just a fun little film.  I don't mean to be ripping on it as much as I am, I'm just apparently in an overly critical state of mind right now...

The Walking Dead: Vol 18 - What Comes Next

It goes without saying, we're eight-teen trades into this series, so I'm going to spoil some stuff in this little mini-review - and if it's this far in you don't need my recommend to buy it :)
So hear we are in the post-Glen world, and our heroes are devastated.  I need to go back and remind myself what happened to Maggie 'cause I swear she's not here, but I also don't remember something happening to her last time...
We're deep into the Negan storyline, and Kirkman has done a good job so far of showing why he's different from the Governor - first of all - he's pretty damn charismatic.  He's the kind of villain that's really enjoyable to spend time with because he seems to have a code, fucked up as it is, and seems to be, as he states, "a reasonable fucking guy".  He's also created a trade network - or more like a stealing network - which is what you'd have to do in a situation like this.  I'd like to think this will go down differently than it did with our last big bad of the series.  It almost has to.  This book was a bit of a calm before the storm - and through Carl we got a good glimpse into the world of Negan and how that all works.  And we got to meet King Ezekial - which is all kinds of bizarre and awesome.  And now it's a long-ass wait until the next trade comes out, and the series is back.  Alas...

1878 - Blue Jasmine

It's so exciting to see a Woody Allen film on opening night, especially in a city like Toronto.  The first screening I tried to attend was sold out - which actually made me happy :)
This film is the story of watching a woman unfold.  Her husband is a Madoff type.  Blanchette does an amazing job of unravelling the layers of this character whom could so easily be absolutely unlikable.  Cate's been getting the lion's share of the glory from this but Sally Hawkins and Bobby Carnivale are so great here as well.  
I think it's in pretty limited release, but if you're a Woody fan at all you should absolutely seek it out whilst still in theatres.