Sunday, September 29, 2013
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
This film didn't do a whole lot for me, sadly. It was full of double crosses and "who's screwing who" and it flipped flopped till I couldn't quite keep it straight. Charming in pieces, and I liked the performers.
Now. THIS is an example of making an accessible, commercial film inside of Canada. But Michael Dowse is no stranger to that with Good. Dowse is easily one of my favorite working directors in Canada. I've been tracking this film for a while because two of my friends have small parts in it, but I'd be tracking it anyway because of Dowse alone.
It's easy to label this film as an update on When Harry Met Sally, but it's more than just that. It throws you right into a head-on witty banter and doesn't let you go from that. Of course you're in for a will they/won't they type film, but the situations they're put into aren't just for laughs or annoying suspense. You feel their angst and confusion. There's a pitch-perfect scene that takes place inside of a change room which anyone writing an effective rom-com should study. It's a fantastic moment and the film is full of them. Radcliffe is quite charming once you get used to the idea of him as a romantic interest (which does take a moment to adjust to) and Zoe Kazan is downright adorable - Adam Driver rounds out the cast nicely.
This film made a big splash at TIFF, and rightly so, so I think it won't be long before you can see it yourself. Make sure you do.
Nicole Holofcener is one of my favorite filmmakers - she's labelled as a female Woody Allen, and while I love Woody, Nicole stands strongly on her own two feet. She's making some of the best romantic comedies of our generation, and this is no exception. I need to see it again before I firmly make this statement - but this might be my favorite of her films.
It's about two middle aged people who are watching their only children moving out of the house, and in the course they strike up a relationship and see if they can get over the baggage left by their previous marriages. It's a beautiful little comedy with honest, insightful and hilarious conversations. It's about learning who you are as you grow, and what you will and won't put up with. It's a great film and a must-see.
All I knew about this film going in was that someone I knew liked it, and who was in the cast. That's another beauty of just seeing a bunch of films in a festival - often you get to go in fresh to the story and world - and it's so rare these days that you get to experience a world that way.
It's the story of a sheltered young woman played by Kristen Wiig, who is fucking wonderful here. Her subtle smile that creeps through the whole thing is so beautiful and you just want to wrap your arms around her. What I loved most about this was that I legitimately had no idea where the story was headed, and in a very good way I was just along for the ride. It's a film about a caregiver and a bunch of other people who have to learn to take care of themselves. I don't want to ruin any details of this lovely little film - but if you like strong, heartfelt character pieces - this is a must-see.
Friday, September 13, 2013
When you've got an all access pass to TIFF, it's difficult to not just use it to see all the big films that are being released for Oscar season, and while I don't avoid them entirely, I try to see a good mix-bag to keep me honest. This is, clearly, not one of those - this is oscar bait through and through.
It's a powerful ensemble that comes to give powerhouse performances - there's a, roughly 25 minute living room scene, which that allows every single performer to have a moment all of their own including several reversals. It's delightful.
For years I've been dancing around a dysfunctional family film of my own - but now I'm not sure I've got anything to say that this film hasn't. So good on them for that. It's not an easy film to make - none of the characters are super likable, but that isn't the point - the point is that they're interesting. We want to know what makes them tick - we want to see what they'll do, how they'll end up. Making a character do unlikeable things isn't enough to make them someone interesting and this filmmaking team nows that.
Expect to hear a lot about this film in the upcoming months. For those who love character dramas - it's a muse-see.
Over-all I really enjoyed the flow of the programme, which must be an art in and of itself to do for those in charge. The program is at one time beautiful, challenging, heartfelt, and hilarious. I look forward to staying in touch with these filmmakers and see how they grow. Below, a snapshot on my thoughts on the films in this program:
A Grand Canal - Directed by Johnny Ma
The visual style was quite striking and made it feel like it took place in the 70's. It's the story of a young man recounting his father's final days. Based on how the narrative ends you're lead to believe that the filmmaker is telling the story of his own father - but this is just a dramatic device, and sadly I felt like it was a little bit of a cheat when I found that out. It shouldn't make the film's ending any less satisfying, but for me - somehow it did...
Beasts in the Real World - Directed by Sol Friedman
A delightfully experimental film. It starts off by putting a camera on the conveyer belt of a sushi restaurant and I was worried that was all the film was going to be - but Sol is good hands to be in as he pushes you around and makes you delight in glee at some morbid stuff, all done with a lovely wink.
Seasick - Directed by Eva Cvijanovic
My joke through-out the festival was that any of the animated filmmakers were infinitely talented than any of the live-action ones - and while that's not true necessarily, I've always been a bit jealous of the skill set. The animation here is beautiful - the story is all the way secondary, and not really the point. But lovely all around.
Daybreak - Directed by Ian Lagarde
This film was disturbing in a deliberate and challenging way. The story of a bunch of asshole kids on the cusp of being adults and figuring out what that means, where you stand, and who your real friends are. A dark, sad, yet beautiful film.
Noah - Directed by Walter Woodmen & Patrik Cederberg
This might be my favorite of our program. First off, the idea of having it take place entirely online is timely and satisfying. I dare say the filmmakers should consider a feature version of this. I found myself engaged, laughing out loud, rooting for this young stupid kid. You'll likely be able to see this one on-line - do it!!!
Out - Directed by Jeremy LaLonde
This one is mine. It's a comedy and people laughed. Mission accomplished!
Young Galaxy - Directed by James Wilkes
What's it like to live inside of the mild of a child. The answer is this. Imagination abounds here, although I have to say that I didn't get a sense of a lesson learned. It's one thing to put us inside the mind of a child so effortlessly, but the film doesn't answer - why his imagination - why this day, why, why why? Too many questions and not enough answers, sadly. Why are we inside of his head on THIS day.
I am officially in love with Taylor Schilling. And I also found myself adoring Aidan Quinn, who I can normally not really get all that excited about - as far as I know it's the first time he's really played his age in recent years.
The film is about a young woman who is dating a man old enough to be her father, living in Ireland. They have a nice simple life until she discovers she's pregnant, and knowing that he doesn't want children, the two take some alone time to figure out their shit, which includes her leaving their place in Ireland for her to return him to Canada to figure some stuff out (her father, played by Michael Ironside, was a delightful surprise).
The film starts off as a simple story of a couple, but then it ends up being an ensemble by the end, and the shift is confusing at first. It muddles the central story a bit and left me wondering what the over-all themes of the piece there were. Solid performances make the film an easy recommend, though, and make up for any of the film's minor flaws.
I often complain that Canada doesn't bother making commercial films very often, which is part of the problem with our film system. So first off, I want to give kudos to this filmmaking team for even making the attempt. That being said, this isn't exactly the kind of film I hope for when I make such comments. It's got some charm to it, absolutely, but the premise is... I don't know... A man, who has become the subject of his ex-wife's book "Why You Suck" falls in love with a woman on her wedding day based solely on the fact that she kicks the hell out of a football whilst in a wedding dress. Granted, the film mocks him for this, it doesn't change the fact that this is a rom-com because Ryan Kwanten is cast in the lead. Put Paul Giamati in this role and the women aren't exactly getting behind his goal of making this woman fall for him.
I could actually forgive the film all of that if it didn't commit the biggest sin - being a rom-com with no 'com'. It's just not funny, really. The film has a solid message behind it, but the characters aren't grounded in any kind of reality to help support that message, instead relying on cliches like cute kids who are way too smart for their own good and instead of stealing scenes mostly just elicit eyeball rolls.
The highlights of this film is how beautiful Canada looks in it and just how great Sara Canning is. She's easily the highlight of the film, and if there's a reason to check it out - it's her.
Got to see the World Premiere of this at TIFF, and since then I've heard such varying things about it. It's the story of three generations of women trying to sort their lives out and figure out how to deal with one another. I've heard people say that it's absolutely brilliant and others calling it an unfocused mess. I'm somewhere in the middle. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. I found the visuals to be distracting in that it felt like an artistic choice that was more interesting for the filmmakers than suiting of the story and world. In the Q&A Stebbings mentioned that the film was an experiment in him not using a storyboard or shot-list, and it feels like that. Also they mentioned not knowing where an expositional speech that everyone loved should go. Right now, they've placed it at the very end of the film, and it almost feels like it's explaining, on-the-nose, all the subtleties we've been going through for the last two hours. This was one of the larger complaints about the film I'd heard as well.
So I don't really recommend this film one way or the other. If you're a fan of heavy dramas this could be right up your alley.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Lauren Lee Smith is the reason I went to see this, and by all means, she's the best thing about the film.
This is a tough film, because at one point it comes off as the kind of film that's making fun of arty Bergman-esque films, and on the other hand - it absolutely is that kind of film too. So my fear is that with a film like this, it's going to isolate it's audience...
There was something bizarre in the visuals as well, beautiful close-ups that were matched with these flat, pixelated wide-shots - almost as if a different DP did them - or it was a different film. I normally don't comment on such things - but because they pulled me out of it I couldn't help it.
Overall, I enjoyed Lauren Lee Smith so much, but the film over-all just didn't grab me the way I was hoping it would - perhaps it'll be different for you when you give it a shot!
Finally getting around to writing up my TIFF viewing! I'm a good dozen or so behind, so bear with me :)
This is a re-make of a film I never saw. Two brothers, one a cop and the other a hardened criminal and the cat and mouse game that they play. The film takes it's time in setting up the family dynamics - and it really doesn't need to - we get it pretty quickly. Clive Own and Billy Krudup are top notch here, but sadly the women are given very little to do.
The film could do well with some trimmings - it has several solid sequences including a phenomenal third act that really builds up up to a super solid conclusion. I hope they cut it down a bit before it's final release. Great performances for the guys, a real shame the amazingly talented women were short changed here.
Monday, September 02, 2013
It's been about a year since I took my son to see a movie, which shames me to no end, but here we went again. We watched the first together and it gave him some genuine belly laughs, as it did me, so I was happy to check this out with him. The minions, obviously, steal the film - and what I like about here that was smart was that they used them as a major plot point in the film as opposed to just filling the film with more random scenes of them as a lesser movie would have done. In fact, the minion stuff is so strong that it eclipses the rest of the film, and that's not always a great thing.
I had some story logic quibbles, which I won't bring up here in great detail. Mostly, it just bothered me that they didn't go as far as they should have with some of the character stuff, with Gru in particular. There were some missed opportunities. All in all though, I quite enjoyed it, and I think I even liked it better than the original - which is nice since the second film should be better if there's a point in making it at all.
I see that there's a Minions film coming out, so I'm sure my little guy and I will find our ways over there when it's released. If you want to see a kid's film that's pretty enjoyable for the parents as well, this is a good one!
I've been looking for a reason to revisit these, and having children is a pretty good one. We watched this because I wanted to take a crack at reading the first book to my four year old, and while he's pretty good about books with a lot of pictures, because there's a lot of fantasy elements to this he had a hard time visualizing what was there, so I decided to give him a look-see at the film world.
They're sooooo little here. It's kind of adorable - and what a different tone this film is by the time to we get to the end-game. One day I would love to do a marathon of all eight films - I think that's something that will have to happen when the kids are teenagers for sure.
This film still stands up, and its fantastic how much foreshadowing is going on, even here, despite how little the filmmakers knew about where the story was going. There's even subtle moments between Ron and Hermoine. Charming to say the least.
If you've never dived into these, and you like fantasy even a little, give it a go. If nothing else than for the pop cultural value.