• Blu-Ray Review: Ace in the Hole

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    Director: Billy Wilder
    Screenplay: Billy Wilder, Lesser Samuels, Walter Newman
    Based on a Story by: Victor Desny (uncredited)
    Starring: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur, Porter Hall, Richard Benedict, Ray Teal
    Producer: Billy Wilder
    Country: USA
    Running Time: 111 min
    Year: 1951
    BBFC Certificate: PG

    (4.5/5)


    I‘ve been ploughing through a lot of films from my ‘hall of shame’ over the last few weeks. By that I mean classic films that I haven’t seen for whatever reason and feel I should have. Finally getting around to watching Seven Samurai (which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago) was the pinnacle of this and I’ve been chain watching dozens of films recently as my family are away for a fortnight, giving me full control over the TV (and office cinema set-up). Most of the films watched have been DVD’s gathering dust on my shelves for far too long (I buy more films than I have time to watch), but Ace in the Hole is something all together more exciting for me.

    When I was a teenager and first properly getting into films I also had a desire to be a journalist. So, after falling in love with a couple of Billy Wilder’s most popular comedies (Some Like it Hot and The Apartment) and discovering he’d made Ace in the Hole, a film about journalism, I knew I had to see it. Unfortunately, the film has never had a DVD release in the UK that I’m aware of and the popularity of VHS waned as my love of cinema grew. So this film that I was so desperate to see as a teenager became a sort of holy grail. Over the last few years I gave up giving it much thought to be honest, but when Masters of Cinema announced Ace in the Hole would be joining its illustrious collection, I practically jumped for joy.

    The film sees Kirk Douglas play Chuck Tatum, a newspaper reporter who has been sacked from every respectable big city periodical so ends up in the back end of nowhere in Albuquerque, New Mexico, writing for a local rag about such joys as the annual rattlesnake hunt. After a year there he’s desperate for a big story to break him back into the big leagues. This comes in the form of Leo Minosa (Richard Benedict), a man trapped in a mine thought to be haunted by Native American spirits. In itself the story is of mild interest to the local populace, but under Tatum’s watch it becomes a behemoth which reaches across the nation. A good story needs to be sustained for just the right amount of time and hit all the right notes though, so Tatum manipulates everyone from Leo’s wife, to the local sheriff, to the men in charge of getting him out of the mine. This last manipulation uncovers the truly dark side to Tatum’s intrusion as he talks the workers into drilling Leo out from above, a much slower process than the quicker and cheaper method of going in through the main shaft, propping up the walls along the way. This gets Tatum the circulation he’s after, but comes at a great cost.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Review: The Other Woman

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    Director: Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook, My Sister’s Keeper, John Q)
    Screenplay: Melissa Stack
    Producers: Julie Yorn
    Starring: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Don Johnson, Taylor Kinney, Nicki Minaj
    MPAA Rating: PG-13
    Running time: 109 min.


    The DNA of The Other Woman is familiar: three women team up to wreak revenge on cheating men. It’s a little First Wives Club and that’s not really a bad thing considering most movies about cheating have the women fighting each other over some lying sack of shit. That wasn’t the case in Wives Club e and it’s definitely not the case here.

    Leslie Mann stars as Kate King, a happily married woman who gave up her career to support that of her husband Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). In the opening scenes, she comes across as the typical type of character Mann so often plays: sweet, charming and gullible. She’s blissfully clueless that her husband is cheating on her until she gets a visit from Mark’s girlfriend Carly (Cameron Diaz), a smart, straight shooting power attorney who decides to surprise the apparent man of her dreams by showing up at his home unannounced only to find herself face to face with a woman claiming to be her prince charming’s wife.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Hot Docs 2014: I Am Big Bird, The Condemned, and Watchers of the Sky.

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    Hot Docs 2014

    I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

    Hot Docs 2014: I Am Big Bird - The Caroll Spinney Story

    Director: Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina

    Program: Special Presentations

    Run Time: 85 minutes

    From Bozo the Clown to Oscar the Grouch, Caroll Spinney has been enriching the lives of adults and children alike for nearly 45 years. At 80 years old, he is the last remaining member of the original Sesame Street puppeteers. With very little known about his private life, we’re given a rare and heartwarming look into the man behind the feathers. Through interviews, a host of home videos, and archival clips, we see both the man and his characters exposed. We are shown the various events that have shaped Spinney’s life – tragedy, a wonderful love story, and a near venture into space aboard the ill-fated Challenger. What’s left is a wonderful man, an artist and entertainer, and a legacy that has carried generations.

    An absolutely beautiful and captivating film, Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina have managed to allow us a glimpse at the very private life of one of the most beloved figures in children’s entertainment of the past century. We’re shown his complexity as a human being, and his natural embodiment of the dichotomy between Oscar and Big Bird. Touching interviews with family members affirm his dedication as a father, husband, and professional. Unwavering in his commitment to anything he undertook, he’s spent his life being all things to all people, and doing so with humour and humility.

    While the film is a treasure to watch, there’s a profound sadness that punctuates its joy. The legacy is ending, and he is the last of a different breed of human. While Big Bird will live on through the ages, the times have changed, and so too has the nature of entertainment. There’s an unshakable sensation that you’re watching a heartbreaking resignation, and anyone who grew up with Sesame Street or any of Jim Henson’s creations will surely feel nostalgic pangs that teeter on the edge of heartbreak. You will laugh, and you will cry, but most importantly you will remember a time when a big fuzzy bird taught you togetherness and unquestionable love. Would you like to know more…?

  • Cinecast Episode 350 – Nanobot Jesus

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    Do you want to have a long, loving conversation about the state of the art in comic strips? A lengthy tangent in this weeks show does that at more: Schulz, Watterson, and even Keane come into the mix along with Penny Arcade, The Oatmeal and XKCD as two recent documentaries on the subject are available VOD. But before that, Kurt and Andrew find very little to say about Dom Hemmingway that Jude Law hasn’t already shouted at you for 100 minutes. Matt Gamble joins midway through a lengthy recount of the recent episode of Game of Thrones (S04E03) in which Kurt continues to marvel at both the density of information in any given episode, as well as the lengths for which HBO is willing to go for gratuitous nudity (the former is astounding, the latter is getting tedious).

    We go back to 1984 with the story of racism, the military and the awesome voice of Adolph Caeser in the Roshomon-esque A Soldier’s Story. In the Watchlist, Andrew gives us the lowdown on TV’s Fargo before continuing to working his way through the Minneapolis/St. Paul Film Festival. His favourite film of the year thus far, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood should be put on your radar. Andrew also pours some sugary-love on the rare Thomas Hayden Church starring film, Whitewash. Kurt does his own gushing with William Friedkin’s restored and glorious remake of Wages of Fear, the 1977 hidden gem, Sorcerer as well as his bafflement with 2013 Best/Worst type cinematic oddity, Fateful Findings. Matt digs deep into the first few episodes of Mike Judge’s Silicone Valley and then sweet, sweet comic strip love.

    As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

     


     

    Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!


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    Full show notes are under the seats…
    Would you like to know more…?

  • Review: Transcendence

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    Director: Wally Pfister
    Writer: Jack Paglen
    Producers: Kate Cohen, Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Annie Marter, Marisa Polvino, Aaron Ryder, David Valdes
    Starring: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy, Kate Mara, Cole Hauser, Morgan Freeman, Clifton Collins Jr., Lukas Haas
    MPAA Rating: PG-13
    Running time: 119 min.

     

    (2/5)

     

    It’s an irony lost on Transcendence, regular Christopher Nolan cinematographer Wally Pfister’s directorial debut, that in the middle of its concept/concern regarding technology becoming a wasted youth’s evolutionary turning point is a man who once played Darwin in a movie time forgot, and an actor synonymous with the voice of God. For all its ludicrous interpretation of humanity’s failure to disconnect, Pfister’s film is never less than admirable in its romantic ambitions. But it’s a thriller on shakily conventional ground, too lead-footed for its contrarian subtext to register as a purposeful tale of caution yet too uneventful and convoluted to echo its cyber proceedings and act as a frivolous form of escape.

    Johnny Depp returns to the screen in his first credibly somber, non-Tim Burton affiliated role since 2011′s The Rum Diary as Dr. Will Caster, a researcher in artificial intelligence esteemed for creating a sentient machine which runs on collective hyperspace data. Extremists joined with the R.I.F.T. Unit against technology (headed by a bleached-blonde Kate Mara, used to no avail) in an attempt to assassinate Dr. Caster rather only wound him, though giving him a month left to live after discovering the bullet was laced with radiation. Will along with wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and friend Max (Paul Bettany) decide to upload Will’s withering consciousness into his grand, ominous computer system, only to see him grow sicker with obsession to conjoin all forms of life with his megalomaniac grid.

    I don’t know if I’d phrase Transcendence as a blockbuster clunker as I would a sizeable disappointment in the vein of George Clooney’s recent “The Monuments Men”: a tedious faux pas, but a noble effort. Pfister keeps the movie going with enough visual impressiveness to cover up whatever overly broad strokes there are in first-timer Jack Paglen’s script, and he did good in bearing a deal of the account’s emotional weight on the pretty, expressive shoulders of the always excellent Hall. As for the rest of the cast, Depp mumbles; Morgan Freeman, as a kind, bewildered colleague, phones it in; and Bettany, like Anthony Hopkins, remains cinematic poison.

    Pfister’s enterprise is a jumbled swing at marrying a modern-day dystopian epic with the intimacies of a love story — but instead of dream-like, it stagnates. Melodrama in movies is hard to do; impassioned transcendence is even tougher. Because if it doesn’t catch fire, you’re screwed. “Transcendence” is never miserable, and its flaws are worth applauding for the film’s sheer thematic appetite alone; I just wish its forward-thinking existential meditations didn’t so blankly follow the threadbare sci-fi beaten path.

  • Hot Docs 2014: Doc of the Dead, The Nose, Divide in Concord, and More…

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    Hot Docs 2014

    Doc of the Dead

    Hot Docs 2014: Doc of the Dead Director: Alexandre Philippe Program: Nightvision Run Time: 82 minutes Campy, fun, and tongue in cheek, Alexandre Philippe’s Doc of the Dead surely entertains. Tracing the history of the zombie on and off the silver screen, he takes the audience through a rudimentary education of the genre. Through a series of talking head interviews with the likes of George A Romero, Simon Pegg, Bruce Campbell, Robert Kirkman, Max Brooks, and Sherman Howard, we’re shown how zombies came to be in popular culture, and the lengths to which people have become obsessed. Zombie walks, zombie obstacle courses, zombie weddings (officiated by none other than Campbell himself), shelters, weapons, clothing, toys, shows, comic books, and festivals, the world is screaming for “brains!” Zombies are so engrained in popular culture at this point, that there seems to be very little we don’t know. For those familiar with the genre, aficionados and horror gurus alike, they’ll find nothing new here. The layman, however, will take great interest in what Doc of the Dead has to offer. Even still, it teaches us very little in the way of new or groundbreaking information. What the film does provide is an unfortunately perfunctory look at the world’s obsession with zombie culture. While that portion of Doc is intriguing, and a little shocking, it’s at best the end third of the film, and we’re left with very little to sink our teeth into. The anecdotes and interviews are entertaining, nonetheless, but many will groan. They’ve been here before, and they recognize that tree. Ultimately, Doc of the Dead does little to whet the appetites of zombie lovers. Screenings: Saturday, April 26th at 11:59pm at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema Sunday, April 27th at 9:30pm at Hart House Theatre Saturday, May 3rd at 9:45pm at the Royal Cinema Would you like to know more…?

  • 2014 TCM Film Festival: Touch of Evil

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    I knew this TCM Film Festival was going to be a brief one for me, as having a one-year-old daughter lessens ones flexibility considerably, even with a very considerate husband. My major goal was to find one thing that he and I could go to together since he was going to spend a lot of the rest of the time alone with our daughter while I galavanted off to watch movies. As soon as I looked at the schedule, it was clear which film that would be. We both name Touch of Evil as likely our favorite Orson Welles film (yes, over Citizen Kane), and have done so long before we even knew each other. The chance to see it at the TCL Chinese (no, I’m still not used to calling it that) in the version cut according to Orson Welles’ notes – it was just meant to be.

    Going to a movie at the TCM Film Festival when one of you has a pass and the other is depending on the standby line is something of a stressful situation, but thankfully we got there early and he got in fine. It was the first time I had been in the Chinese theatre since TCL bought and remodeled it, and I’m a bit ambivalent on the new look. The decor is as resplendent as ever, but it’s all stadium seating now, which results in some 230 fewer seats (though 900 seats is still a lot) and generally makes it feel much less communal than it did before. It’s still a great way to see a movie, but it didn’t feel as much like a classic movie palace experience. But I’m being nostalgic for a time I never knew.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Hot Docs 2014: Opening Night and The First Day

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    Hot Docs 2014

    The 2014 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is upon us. North America’s largest Documentary festival is about to take over Toronto, showcasing some of the best documentaries from around the globe at ten venues across our fair city. With over 200 wonderful feature length and short documentaries to choose from, you certainly won’t be disappointed.

    This year’s festival plays host to a series of diverse films, highlighting themes of love and relationships, addiction, crime, fashion, gender and sexuality, just to name a few. This year’s Made In program will turn its gaze towards Denmark, showcasing six films that exemplify the region’s outstanding contribution to non-fiction cinema. The Next program returns to the festival with an eye for the arts, creativity and pop culture, while new program Love, Factually celebrates love, passion, and matters of the heart.

    Hot Docs’ 21st year starts this Thursday, April 24th, with The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, and continues until May 4th with a wide array of exceptional documentary film that simply must be seen. Don’t miss out, and be sure to grab your tickets fast. For a thorough breakdown of what’s coming this year, be sure to take a look at Bob Turnbull’s preview article on the festival. Would you like to know more…?

  • Mamo #349: Batman vs. Superman vs. Disney vs. Warner Brothers vs. You, The Viewer

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    Bonus Mamo! Price has finally seen Captain America and reviewed the relevant documentation, and has determined that there’s nothing wrong with DC/Warner Brothers’ franchise development strategy after all. Brown, as you can imagine, is firmly Team Marvel/Disney. Conversation ensues. Join us!

    To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo349.mp3

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: Boyhood

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    Director: Richard Linklater
    Writer: Richard Linklater
    Producers: Richard Linklater, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, Cathleen Sutherland
    Starring: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
    MPAA Rating: R
    Running time: 163 min.
    Country of Origin: USA

     
     

    (5/5)

     
     

     

    Coming-of-age films seems to be a dime a dozen these days. Some films receive the title and aren’t really coming-of-age films at all. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is the first “true” coming-of-age film I’ve ever seen. Had I known what I was walking into before the screening, I would have been much more excited settling into my seat.

    Shot over the course of eleven years, Boyhood is sort of the equivalent of taking all of Linklater’s “Before” movies and combining them into one film. Throughout the picture, we watch as young Mason (Ellar Coltrane) matures from roughly age six, to his first day at college and everything that happens to him and his family during that time. In a brilliant and patient concept, Linklater uses all of the same actors over the course of this time period. So actually, if there’s one complaint I have about the film, it’s that the title slights the movie a tad; in that while this is very much Mason’s journey through adolescence, it also plunges us into a significant chunk of the parents’ lives too. Lives showcased by, as Mason’s mother (Patricia Arquette) notes, “nothing more than ‘a series of events’.”

    In the beginning, the chemistry feels a little off and we don’t yet have much investment with the child actors who get most of the screen time. Even Arquette seems a little unpolished. We’re thankfully saved by Ethan Hawke’s character who really injects heart and humor into the film just as we’re wondering if this is going to be a slog. Suddenly we flash forward in time and everyone is slightly older and there are some new players on the table. By now, (a couple of years in real time and in movie time), actors seem more comfortable and understanding of Linklater’s vision. The chemistry is much more on and the kids have taken a real leap in the performance department. This chemistry and vision only gets stronger as the movie progresses.
    Would you like to know more…?

  • Friday One Sheet: King of Minimal

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    There is no shortage of marketing for Gareth Edward’s reboot of Godzilla, the trailers have been great, the posters have been great. But the one above is superb, a rendition of the Japanese flag with the King of Monsters in the middle and a vertical crawl of text at the bottom. It all looks like it was hand rolled on with a mask and red paint at street level. Iconography has never looked so good.

  • Mamo #348: Not Captain America

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    Mamo returns! We talk Canadian Film Day, The Dew Over, and conduct a general roundtable about everything that isn’t Captain America 2.

    To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo348.mp3

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