Friday, May 30, 2014

2022 - Smashed

A cinematographer I know showed me part of this film as a visual reference for something and I'd wanted to see it ever since and was happy to see it on Netflix.  It tells the story of an alcoholic couple and what happens when one of them tries to get better and the other just couldn't give a shit.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a charmed performance and manages to keep her character human and likeable amidst all of the shit she puts herself through battling her addition.  Paul is fantastic as the passive aggressive husband who, in theory, wants his wife to get better, but really doesn't want her to realize that she can get more out of this life.  It's a really lovely and heartbreaking story.  Check it out if you can!

2021 - Spinning Plates

This was the film that beat out Sex After Kids for the audience award the year we played in Santa Barbara, so I was eager to check it out to see what the hype was about.  It's a charming documentary about the love food and the way it creates a community around itself, or at the very least a family.  From a restaurant with a two month waiting list, to another that can barely keep the doors open, it paints an interesting behind the scenes look.  I have to be honest in that it didn't blow me away or anything, it was entertaining, but as far as documentaries do it's pretty light weight.  If you're a foodie it's worth checking out how that it's on Netflix!

2020 - This Is The End

I don't know why I ended up throwing this in while I was trying to get some writing done.  Did I?  Of course not.  This is an entertaining tour-de-force and about as meta as it gets.  If you're unaware of this film it's a film about celebrities (playing themselves) during the apocalypse.  It's raunchy, funny, and surprisingly heartfelt.  Rogen and Goldberg handle a pretty effects heavy film pretty well for their first time out and the comedy feels tight when it could have just been one big inside joke.  If you like dark comedies and any of the people in this cast - this is pretty much a must see.

2019 - Hannibal: season two

I'm all caught up!  Which sucks, 'cause my reward is having to wait and watch s-l-o-w-l-y upon the shows return.  I have to say, I liked the first season better than this one.  To explain why I'll have to get into some SPOILERS... so beware of the below...

I guess my concern is with the idea of having Will Graham ride the line - from a long-game perspective I suppose I get it - we want to know if he'll head over to the dark side or not and we want to draw that out as long as possible.  I guess, for me, I'm excited to see this play into the established stories of Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs and, I suppose, Hannibal itself (although feel free to re-imagine that one all you want!).  The introduction of Michael Pitt and Katherine Isabel as the Vergers was pretty damn delightful, and I hope that storyline comes back down the line as it's meant to.

This season ended on a pretty great cliffhanger that allows the show to reboot when it returns next year, which I think is what will help keep it interesting and alive.  It's a new chapter and so changes need to happen.  I'll be there for sure.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

2018 - Hannibal: season one

Dear Producers of Dexter, this is how you make a show about serial killers.  Okay, that’s a bit unfair given that clearly they’re different tones.  So I’m late to the game on this show, part of the beauty of that is I’ve been able to binge watch it and really just enjoy immersing myself in this first season.  It’s so damn impressive to see a network doing this kind of material and really going full tork with it.  It’s a visual feast and the gruesomeness is pretty high for a show that airs on a main network.  Kudos to everyone involved for having the balls to do this.
The 2nd part of this that makes me really gitty watching is seeing some Toronto actors that I know in supporting and guest starring parts (it’s shot in Toronto).  I like that this is a re-invention of the Hannibal Lector story to some extent, and we aren’t just seeing someone trying to do an Anthony Hopkins impression.  It’s a wise move and it works so well.  I’m excited that I can dive into the second season right away.  I really hope this show can keep up the quality.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens we it moves into the years of the story in which movies already exist for them… 

If you haven’t seen this yet and you like horror, suspense, or really just strong television than this one deserves your attention.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Petty Theft

I really quite enjoyed this book.  It debuted at TCAF this year (Toronto Comic Arts Festival), so I snagged a copy from Pascal himself.  It's a cute story about a comic artist who spots a beautiful woman stealing a copy of his book and shoplifts it.  Fun set-up.  It's a bit of a love-letter to the love of books.  I dug it.

2016 - X-Men: Days of Future Past

What I think is really unique about the X-Men series is how they've opened up the world, and technically done a reboot, but all the while still being able to use it with what they've done before.  This film is the ultimate bridging of everything we've seen in X-Men up to this point and it starts to put other pieces together.  Having Striker be part of the mix was great fun, as was seeing pretty much everyone from this world together in one film.  The story was strong - it was a little heavy on over-the-top action towards the end - but it also featured one of the best sequences of the entire series with Quicksilver set to Jim Croce's Time in a Bottle.  I won't ruin it for you - it's fantastic.  The film is full of fun references, including one to JFK being a mutant himself - which got a laugh (in a bad way) from the packed audience I was in.
What I most love about this instalment is that it used a classic X-Men story to find a clever way of fixing the sins made by X3 and anything else they want to tidy up.  They're now able to move forward pretty much however they want - which is really quite refreshing.  Could be the best film of the series, actually.  I dug it a lot.

Friday, May 23, 2014


I was given this to see if I thought it could be turned into something in the vein of television or film, and I have to say that it really grew on me by the end.  It's quite charming and doesn't treat the teenage characters like stereotypes, and it's actually a pretty honest and modern look at teenagers that's quite refreshing.  It revolves around the production of a highschool musical and all the inherent drama on and off stage.  If you've got a teenager that's into the arts, I highly recommend it for them, and probably even you.


This was one of the books I picked up at TCAF on the recommendation of others - I also grabbed Pascal's newest book Petty Theft and will be reading that sometime shortly.  This is self autobiographical about Pascal getting the nerve up to attend his highschool reunion.
I've passed the 10 year mark for high-school (holy shit...) and so far as I know there was no reunion - I almost feel like the age of facebook has made the whole thing moot anyway - if you want to know what people are up to it's not all that difficult these days. And if you fall out of touch with people given how easy it is to stay in touch, chances are you were never really that close to begin with.
There's a nice little character arc here, although I must admit that the character becomes quite grating towards the end - but I think that's largely intentional.  This is my first entry into the world of Pascal Girard, so I look forward to more of his work - it's quite funny in a delightfully awkward way.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2015 - Like Crazy

I'd been highly recommended this film so I thought I'd give it a whirl once I noticed that it was on Netflix.  It's the story of two young lovers desperate to be together, but torn apart by a Visa violation that keeps her from being about to move to be with him in L.A. and he can't be with her because... well, the plot is a bit weak in that area, but I'll let it go for the pure pleasure of watching Felicity Jones smile when they come together.  She and Anton Yelchin have created a really lovely, flawed, and honest look at long distance relationships.  Made on a low budget with a lot of improvisation, the film feels natural and lovely.  I love the way the filmmaker spans time with the jump cuts that can be months or more at a time, simple framing around those moments and a perfect use of score.
I don't want to give much away about this one - the plot is pretty simple, but the beauty is in the actors chemistry and how we connect to them.  It's a beautiful piece!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

2014 - Louie: season one (commentary)

I love this show with all I've got.  I broke down and bought the sets because I just can't imagine not having them (where's season 3 though?  Come on people!).  I'd heard a lot of great things about the commentary tracks for the episode, so I decided to burn through the entire thing - and he does a lot for this season - it's a bit of a blur, I'm not entirely sure he did every episode, but there's A LOT - and he goes into really great detail about how he works comedy, actors, and right down to tech stuff like his use of lenses, etc... if you're a film nerd or just a big fan of Louis CK in general then this is a must listen to! :)

Monday, May 19, 2014

2013 - Godzilla

I have to admit that I'm not super familiar with the history of Godzilla in cinema outside of the pop culture stuff that most people know.  I have to say that I found this to be pretty darn entertaining.  What I think was really amazing about the direction of this film was how well the POV of various people was used super effectively during our set piece to ground us in something and show us what this really means to be people outside of it rather than just being destruction for the sake of it.  Having Godzilla pitted against other monsters and being more of a heroic role was a much more solid choice than having him be our villain.  As you can imagine this film has it's fair share of hokiness, as some of Cranton's over the top pleading can attest - but on the whole it's entertaining, and while teasing a fair share of them, doesn't fall into the cliche these films often live in.  I loved the subtle way Godzilla was shown, especially through fighting - keeping us in other characters POV was really important for those sequences as well. Over-all - really well done and entertaining!

Friday, May 16, 2014

2012 - Neighbors

On the way home from the theatre I starting trying to figure out something bad that Seth Rogen has been apart of recently, or ever, and the answer is.... not much.  One could say he's got a horseshoe up his ass, but I think it's more realistic to just realize that the guy has good taste and knows what the hell he's doing.
So here's the story of young parents - Rogen and the fucking fantastic Rose Byrne who is equally as beautiful as she is funny, and even more so because of the latter.  They buy a new house and end up living next door to a frat ran by Zac Efron and Dave Franco, who are an equally fantastic pair.  I love how the film starts off with both sides honestly trying to make it work - I love the idea of pitting two people who miss their youths against people that never want to get old - there's so much room to play within that and play they do.  It's a film that's more about the laughs than the heart, which I'm down for as long as the laughs are fast and furious - and they absolutely are here.  I'm not to give away anything besides letting you know that if you wan to so see a funny film in the theatres - look no further, this one - it's super solid.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

2011 - Jim Henson's Creature Shop: season one

I actually stumbled upon this and was so happy that I did.  I love pretty much everything and anything Henson, so the chance to go inside of their world and see behind the curtain was so much fun for me as a viewer.  So the gist is 10 creature designers compete for a chance to win a job at Jim Henson's Creature Shop - each week they either work alone or in a team and create something new based on a challenge.  What's really special and unique about this series is there isn't a lot of back-stabbing, these people are more-or-less pretty awesome and lovely people and they are encouraging of each other.  It's a breath of fresh air for the reality genre in general and goes to prove that a show can work well without that fabricated element.  If you're in any way a Henson nerd then give this show a gander - it just wrapped up it's first season and I'm sure you can find it online - try legitimate means first if you can :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

2010 - I Declare War

I’ve wanted an excuse to check out this film for a while, and it’s in the wheelhouse of something I’m noodling with so I gave it a look see.  Let me start by getting the worst out of the way - the entire cast is made up of children and so there’s a range of performances here from really quite good to pretty one-note.  That said, given the type of film it is there’s a lot of forgiveness.  What starts off as a friendly game of capture the flag turns into something much more grown up in this really clever blend of coming-of-age story mashed up with a war film.  Right down to the sticks transforming into guns in the children’s minds there’s a lot of cleverness going on here.  It’s a surreal look at childhood imagination, and it goes the route of treating children as children and not making anything overly cute, but being honest about what kids are really like warts and all.  For me the only real flaws are a few iffy performances from the kids, the material might get a bit heavy handed at times - but it’s fitting for the kind of film it is, and while I’m sure it’ll bother others I was fine with it.  This film is available on iTunes and hopefully Netflix soon - it deserves some more eyeballs!

Monday, May 12, 2014

2009 - Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

I love this film, and welcome any chance to revisit it.  It's funny, a conversation about this film has come up a few times over the last week or so so I really wanted to check it out.  Also, anything Kaufman related is worth spending time in.  I love any kind of film that has an element of mystery to it with an unreliable narrator, and this is one of the tops.  For those who don't know it's a bio pic about Chuck Barris who was a television game show producer who wrote an autobiography about having been an assassin for the CIA - in reality no one knows if it's true or not, and this film is an adaptation of that book.  It's so fucking good.  Sam Rockwell is one of my favorite actors, and he's surrounded by pure talent in this film.  If you haven't ever seen this it's a shame and should be rectified.  I love it so hard.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Richard Stark's Parker - Vol 4: Slayground

I have to say that this is two in a row in terms of Cooke's adaptations of Parker that failed to impress me.  It's a bit saddening given that it was because of Cooke that I really took notice of the character and world.  In this edition especially the book is far superior to the graphic novel.  The novel was taught with fantastic suspense, where this one just feels like we're waiting around to see how well he get out of this scrape.  It's underwhelming, sadly.  If anyone out there reads this and loves it - please do me a favor and suss out the source material - likely available at a public library near you!

Richard Stark's Parker: Vol 3 - The Score

This might be the first time where I found the graphic novel version didn’t quite live up to my memory of the original novel - though it’s been awhile since I read it.  That said, it’s still a ton of fun.  This just felt like more of a coles note of a larger story.  It could be that I knew what was going to happen, but I found this lacked any real tension.  As always the artwork is goddamn beautiful and the writing is on par with the source material, but if you want the full breadth of this really fun story then you’re going to have to go back to the source.  I also just picked up the next graphic novel Slayground, and it’s…. thin… which worries me a bit since that’s such a great story.

I don’t meant to slag this book, I think if you’re just reading Parker in this medium then it’s just fine - but I’m a bit of a Parker nerd, so I found it just mildly disappointing.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

2008 - The Lego Movie

This has quickly become one of my son's favorite films, and he has been dying to re-visit it since we watched it way back when.  He's counting down the days till it becomes available on DVD.  The best part about watching it this time was how he got excited as certain things approached.  Watching films with nerdy excitable kids is one of my new favorite things.
I don't love the first act of this film, though in retrospect it's a perfect set-up for everything that follows.  Once we're moving along though this film is a rocket - and it's got one of the best third acts I've seen in recent years, and potentially ever in a family film.
Feel free to check out my previous review of this.  This film has it all - a fun story, great characters, lots of laughs - but most of all it's a conversation piece, and has been between my son and I.  Is it also a blatant commercial for toys?  Maybe a tinge - but it's a great goddamn toy!

2007 - Short Term 12

I like Brie Larson.  A lot.  From her work on United States of Tara it was clear that she was a force to be reckoned with both in comedy and drama - and then here comes this - out of left field and perfectly executed.  It's the story of a foster care facility and the supervisors who work there - one in particular.  It's an honest and nerve-inducing look at this world and it's done so with compassion and gritty honesty.  The entire cast is top notch and the film is well worth the reputation that it's gathered.  I think I'll give it another watch with my wife - this kind of film is right up her alley.
It just became available on Netflix, so don't be shy - give it a go!

Friday, May 09, 2014

2006 - Juno

This film is now seven or so years old.  Damn.  I'm sure I've reviewed this film a few times on here, but it never hurts to remind people it's worth checking out a damn fine film :)  I'll admit that some of the dialogue borders along the overly quirky for me, but by and large I love this film.  I love its heart, its characters, its characters.  We make less and less films like this inside of the hollywood system that it falls upon us indie peeps to pick up the mantle.  If you haven't seen or heard about this film you're likely living under a bit of a rock - but for those who missed it, come on now - make it so.  Watch this film, let it sink into your life :)

2005 - The Royal Tenenbaums

It’s been awhile since I’ve watched this.  I think it’s still my favourite Wes Anderson film.  I still need to see Moonrise Kingdom before I outwardly make that claim, but I think it’s the film that best balances his unique style and an honest human element.  I feel that largely following this film he went into a bizarre direction that was almost too stylized and became quirk over content.  That’s not to say his films still aren’t enjoyable, but I haven’t seen one that’s hit me like this one does.  Every single time Ben Stiller says “It’s been a rough year, Dad.” I lose it.  It’s such a simple and powerful beat.

This is one of the most interesting ensemble casts of any film, and such a dynamic and interesting mix.  Gwyneth Paltrow is hilarious and lovely, Ben Stiller is heartbreaking, and Gene Hackman is on the top of his game.  This film also features one of the best soundtracks of the last decade or more.  If you’ve never seen this film and you like character drama/comedy, for my money - it’s one of the best.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

2004 - From Dusk Till Dawn

I wanted to re-watch this since I’ve been watching the TV series (which isn’t great but somewhat addictive).  This film is such a ride.  It’s one of the best genre-mash-ups - I doubt you could get away with a film nowadays that takes such a hard left turn half-way through, that in and of itself is quite the feat.  This film features one of my favourite George Clooney performances, and Tarantino in an acting role that works quite well.  This film is edging in on 20 years, which is crazy to me - especially seeing Juliette Lewis so young.  It’s a vampire flick that’s fun and unpredictable.  If you’ve never seen it then do yourself the pleasure, it’s on Netflix.  And if you’re curious what they’d do with a vastly expanded version of this film than check out the tv series, also on netflix.  Very different from this.  I’ve also never checked out the sequels, which I might try to get my hands on.  Anyway, check it out, it’s a blast!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

2003 - New Girl: season three

I can think of few shows that have ever made me laugh out loud as much as New Girl.  It's a show that has such a natural and spontaneous energy that's lacking in the majority of television and comedy in general.  It's big, broad, and silly at times by my oh my does it work.  And it's not without it's heart - the beauty of this show is just how fucked up and flawed each of it's characters are.  Every single one of them is damaged and looking for something to make them whole, and that's the secret of great television.
This season dealt largely with Nick and Jess trying to have a relationship and (SPOILER ALERT) ultimately failing at it.  I was a bit surprised that they short-changed that storyline, but at the same time any fan of the show knows that that's a door that isn't closed by any means, and this is the way extending it and keeping it fresh.  I dig it, and I have absolute faith in the talent of the creative team.  Sign me up, coach.  AND SPEAKING OF COACH!  Damon Wayans Jr makes a much welcomed return as Coach, who we haven't seen since the pilot.  I was so happy to see them extend his stay past his initial four episode arc, and even to the point of making him a regular for next season: yes please!
If you've never seen this show and you're a fan of smart comedy, you deserve it to yourself to give it a shot.  It's one of my favorites - and probably the best network comedy series going at the moment.

2002 - Bad Milo

We were catching up on episodes of Jim Henson's Creature Workshop, and so I felt like watching something puppet oriented and remembered that I had this in my netflix que.  It's the story of a man who has a creature living in his ass, and when people/life stresses him out, the little guy crawls out and attacks those who are causing him the stress.  It's a perfect and beautiful metaphor for human interactions (seriously).  This also calls back to some of the fun shlocky horror films of the 80's and early 90's that I watched in my youth.  Lots of great little creature moments.  Gillian Jacobs is the love interest here and I adore the hell out of her as per usual.  The creature is adorable and fantastically creepy all at the same design to kudos to whoever did the work here.
Story wise it's a pretty fun ride, there's a nice little twist at the end, more of an additional element that made me grin a lot.  This is a film full of great ideas and smart execution.  If you want to watch a really fun horror-comedy with just enough of social commentary then this is a must watch.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

2001 - The Amazing Spider Man 2

You can likely tell from my photo selections the aspect of the film that I'm most into.  In my defence though, the chemistry between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield is solid and unique.  I'm a big fan of Emma Stone and she brought a LOT to this series.  In fact, that's the story line that absolutely worked pitch-perfect through-out this and the previous film.  Without going into spoiler details, it's a beautifully worked out love story.
I liked how this instalment dug deeper into storylines and the past.  Electro is a pretty lame villain, and Rhino (I assume this is the third film) looks to be equally lame.  Given how strong the Gwen Stacey and Peter Parker stuff is, it almost feels as if someone else is writing the scenes involved any of the villains talking - their dialogue is so on-the-nose and cliched and.... often terrible.  It doesn't ruin the film, but it pulls you out in key moments and I did have the odd eye roll.  I like the surprise of Green Goblin at the end, but he's such a big thing that it felt short changed - those we haven't seen the last of him at all, so there's that.
I think I liked this better than the first for a few reasons, and as such it's absolutely worth trying to catch while it's still in the cinema.  Enjoy!

Saturday, May 03, 2014

2000 - The Amazing Spiderman

Late to the game with this one, and hoping to check out the new one tomorrow evening.  I was pretty damn impressed here.  I like the redo on the origin story.  I never truly loved Tobey Maguire in the part, and I love what they do with Andrew Garfield here - he's charismatic and nerdy in an honest way.  His chemistry with Emma Stone is pretty goddamn great as well - their first kiss scene is the kind that could go down in the history of cinema as part of the great first kisses.  The Lizard isn't a great villain, but I like the idea of using a small villain to help build set up the world for us to play in, and set the stage for things to come.  Over-all a smart fun action flick - looking forward to seeing how the world builds into the second one.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

1999 - An Honest Liar

I'm a fan of magic, but I have to admit that I hadn't heard of the Amazing Randi - but let me tell you, he's one of the fascinating and enjoyable people on this planet.  I saw this at HotDocs and we were fortunate to have the man in attendance for spirited Q&A and he's delightful through and through.
This film is about the lies that get told and how they can be harmful - the difference between a harmful lie and an honest one meant to entertain.  A fine line indeed - and the difference between a conman and a magician is simply the fact that magicians will admit that they're trying to trick and fool you.
I really enjoyed this film for the most part - it's split into chapters that largely involve Randi debunking things that are harmful to people in general.  He goes out of his way to mention that everyone can be deceived, and there's no more powerful proof than him being caught up in his own hoax through a series of natural events.  And while dramatic and organic to the story, the ending still feels like it doesn't quite fit.  It feels tagged on after the fact and not initially part of a larger master plan.  I'd be curious to know what was originally planned before life got in the way.
This is a fun piece, and hopefully it's available for all to see sooner rather than later.