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!