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!