Author Archive

  • Trailer: Gone Girl

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    David Fincher is back after a hiatus with TV (the first few episodes on House of Cards Season 1) with Gone Girl, the movie adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. The film stars Ben Affleck as a man who becomes the prime suspect in a murder when his wife vanishes. The signature urine-yellow lighting, dwarfing the characters in architecture and media spaces are all present, but I am not alone in finding the musical choice here to undermine instead of underscore the mood. Your mileage may vary. You know my bum is in a cinema seat the moment this comes out, when the director finds himself in that Zodiac kind of mood.

    Further question, is the final shot of the trailer a spoiler, or a red herring? I’ve not read the book, but it seems a daring thing to do and an easy thing to play coy with the non-book readers. Please consider the question rhetorical and withhold spoilers.

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: Manakamana

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    Directors: Stephanie Spray, Pacho Velez
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 118 min.
    Country of Origin: Nepal

     
     
     

    Screens tomorrow, April 14th at 4:15pm.
    [tickets]

     

    Two elderly women sit in a gondola while it travels down a verdant Nepalese mountain. Having visited the Manakamana temple earlier in the day, they have purchased ice cream on a stick for the ride down and it is melting in the hot interior of the cable car. They laugh and carry on, unguardedly about the futility of neatly consuming the frozen dessert. The simple joy might be the single best scene seen in film all year. It’s certainly the warmest. How else would this image be possible without Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez’s super-16mm camera (presumably travelling without an operator) sitting on the opposite bench in the car? They allow us to stare without being impolite or influencing the experience in the Heisenbergian sense. This kind of commitment; the mundane as profound, intimate yet knowing little, makes the experience rich beyond explaining the nuts and bolts of what the film is. While watching I got that special kind of tingle when something truly transportive is happening on the screen in front of me.

    manakamana

    Extraordinarily simple in execution, the film Manakamana consists of 11 of these 11-minute-long cable car rides; 5 up the mountain and 6 down. Splices are provided by the darkness of the cable-stations at either end of the trip. We only see one couple make both journeys. Another ride is an open car filled with goats, shipped up for sacrifice, possibly. The etymology of the temple name comes from “heart” and “wish” and indeed wishes are said to be granted by the Goddess Bhagwati to all those who make the lengthy pilgrimage up the mountain, although it is now facilitated with a state of the art tram which cost about $5 for a two way trek.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Review: Under The Skin

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    A long shot of a man waiting for a bus on a cool foggy morning. The road winds through a valley where the stop and bench are at the bottom, and snakes up the other side. A woman walks into the frame, one whom we will be following as curious, but baffled onlookers for the duration of the film. The shot lingers, gives us time, for our eyes to wander around the frame as the camera is not focused on any one thing. We know the bus is coming and are drawn, but not forced, to keep looking in the top-right corner of the screen. The two people keep their distance. The bus arrives. We are told nothing, merely shown. The scene evokes Haneke and Antonioni, but feels original in how it drops relatively anonymous people into the landscape. This is one of many sequences of visual ambition and tone in Under The Skin, the most excitingly odd film to arrive this year. It’s about sex and death and all the strangeness of life on earth in between the moment of conception and final expiry.

    Opening in a vaguely Kubrickian overture, from a single pinprick of light to what appears to be the assembly of a human eye, it is a lengthy indication that the film is about observation. Not for the faint of cinematic heart, Jonathan Glazer’s wildly experimental, and uncompromisingly strange new film marks the return to directing after a nine year absence. A decade is too long to wait after the magnificence of 2004’s Birth, but the result confirms the wait was indeed worth it. Adapting Michael Faber’s quite unconventional novel in a decidedly unconventional way, Glazer and his co-writer Walter Campbell jettison more than half of source material – the half that contains explanation as to what is actually going on – to focus on female predator at the centre of the story and her discovery of morality? purpose? the good and the bad of humanity? Almost ritualistically, she picks up stray, unattached men in the city, talks to them to establish they have no family or friends, then lures them into a dark cottage where clothes are peeled off item by item, dropping like leaves from a tree, onto the glassy darkness of the floor. The men are pulled into the room by the purity of sexual instinct, trancelike, and then…disposed of.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Friday One Sheet: We Are The Best

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    While two films do not make a trend, the Scandinavian duo of ‘kids-punk’ Sons of Norway, and Sweden’s We Are The Best make for good times at the movies. The latter gets a classic graffiti poster with slight emphasis on the pink, after all this is an all girls affair.

    Directed by Lukas Moodysson who returns to his late 1990s coming of age story period (which produced the classic Fucking Amal). We’ve also got a trailer to go with that poster.

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: Gangs of Wasseypur (parts 1 & 2)

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    Director: Anurag Kashyap
    Writers: Akhilesh Jaiswal, Anurag Kashyap, Sachin K. Ladia, Zeishan Quadri
    Producers: Anurag Kashyap, Guneet Monga, Sunil Bohra
    Starring: Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Tigmanshu Dhulia,
    MPAA Rating: R
    Running time: 320 min.
    Country of Origin: India

     

    Pulling back, deliberately and slowly, from a soap-opera on the TV which is all song and dance and character introductions, the 315 minute long Gangs of Wasseypur kicks off with a single shot Johnnie To style unbroken assault on the stronghold of Faizal Khan with automatic weapons, grenades and narrow alleyways. It’s the bright herald of a major film career just leaping onto the international stage. Let us get this out of the way first: Anurag Kashyap’s generation spanning story set in the coal capital of India and spanning almost 70 years comfortably, nay confidently, belongs alongside the great crime sagas of the cinema: The Godfather Trilogy, City of God, Bertolucci’s 1900, Heimat and Election. The perfect nexus of history, craft, thematic heft, and balls-to-the-wall entertainment, it why cinema was invented in the first place. It is HBOs “Deadwood” rogues gallery of character actors as much as it is the legacy scheming driven plot mechanics as “I, Claudius.” Rare is the opportunity of novel-style story telling and mighty cinematic craft to come together in such a marvellous package. It’s a gift to film lovers. Shown into two parts, each one well past the 2.5 hour mark, but conceived as a single film it, in the director’s words, shows “frogs in a well,” 200,000 people spread across three streets. The rough and impoverished criminals are unwilling to leave or even look beyond the small neighbourhood and spray as much blood as possible for ownership of its organized crime opportunities which are equally transient.

    Wasseypur may change hands geographically (India to Bengal), ethnically, even religious borders are mobile, but the Khans and the Singh’s have been at each others throats since the dawn of the coal era where two patriarch’s fought over the rights to hijack coal trains. When Ramadhir Singh kills Shiva Khan in this conflict, the Kahn’s young child Sadar shaves his head and vows to destroy Singh, not by murder, but my unravelling his empire piece by piece. As Singh enters politics to cement his empire, Sadar collects a growing number of wives, fathers several sons and kills a lot of folks with a machete. The law stays out of Wasseypur for fear of escalating slaughter, and a fair bit of carrot-stick mechanics from Singh. Part one of the diptych has an almost documentary feel, it even weaves a hefty of documentary footage to establish the context of the era spanning the 1940s up until the 1980s. Popular music from the cinema and TV act as a greek chorus to the proceedings, but begin to establish a theme that will pay off in the second part. Namely that the second generation of gangsters are so influenced by what is thrown up on screen, it leads an elder Singh to offer, “Everyone has his own movie playing inside his head, it it were not for the damn movie’s there would be no fools in this country.” This as the film slowly moves out of history lesson mode and into Scorsese mode. One advisor Nasir (think Robert Duvall or Derek Jacobi) narrates the film Goodfellas style as the crime moves from the coal industry to owning the fisheries, to unabashed extortion, to eventually the burgeoning Iron business. If it is hard to keep track of the characters in the first 90 minutes of the film, they’ve all been immortalized after that point with impeccable attention in narrative craft establishing relationships and motivations and territory.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Mickey Rooney 1920-2014

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    Another passing of a Hollywood Legend, perhaps one of the longest careers in the history of cinema, Mickey Rooney started as a child actor at age 2 and was working still at 93 on multiple film projects the supporting roles he was accustomed for the latter half of his career. Rooney was in the process of appearing in B. Luciano Barsuglia’s adaptation of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, when he died at home, surrounded by his family at 93 years old.

    A willing and able actor in the studio system (He did a number of films with young Judy Garland) and beyond, the man has an incredible 300+ film and TV acting credits, and this doesn’t count all of his time spent on stage. Personally, I remember him in his most racist caricature in Breakfast at Tiffany‘s where he plays the upstairs Japanese neighbor and yells a lot, which is perhaps a more unfortunate legacy. His broad comic humour, short stature, and boundless enthusiasm won him many fans, particularly in Hollywood’s golden age, just as his wild-child alienated others as the studio system was crumbling.

    Married 8 times (the last of which lasted 37 years) he has a staggering amount of children, grand children and great grandchildren. Cue the biopic going into pre-production in 5…4…3…

    The Guardian has more, here.

  • Friday One Sheets: So Many Expendables

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    The ever expanding roster of soldiers of fortune in Sylvester Stallone’s Expendables franchise gets a handsome black and white photo shoot, and a trailer just in case you are not photo gallery’d to death. If there is ever a case of character-posters getting out of hand, I present it below, tucked under the seat. But I will give it this, the black and white, minimalist style here with the lighting equipment visible in the frame does impart the overkill-basics ethos of the series.

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  • Review: Dom Hemingway

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    Petty gangster, safecracker, loud mouth, loose cannon, thief, deadbeat dad, pint guzzling, word-smithing, cat killing, boorish thug Dom Hemingway is the type of guy you would have no tolerance for in real life, but generally gravitate towards on screen. Twelve years is a long time, but Dom did his time in silence to protect his betters, and after being set free of Her Majesty’s Pleasure (I’m assuming not for good behavior) attempts to pick up the pieces of his life. While on the inside, his wife died of cancer, his daughter grew up and had kids, his boss go very, very rich, and his only friend in the world, Dickie – a snappily attired Richard E. Grant with his hangdog face, shooting glasses and shrugged shoulders – remaining loyal. He is not out of the joint for 24 hours before he’s had group sex with high class hookers, violated the non-smoking law in the local pub, and filled his nostrils with coke on top of the smoke and beat the living hell out of the man who married (and buried) his wife while he was on the inside. All of this pent up rage and sexual bluster is of course Dom’s way of not processing the guilt of missing out on his daughter’s (and grandson’s) life.

    Like Eric Bana in Chopper, or Tom Hardy in Bronson, Jude Law gets to look really ugly with facial scars and yellowed, gold-capped teeth. He gets to act really crazy, and burn up the screen with monologues about the majesty his his mighty cock, even thought writer director Richard Shepard’s film is more of an amuse-bouche than anything else however. It aspires to dig into the psychology of a larger than life character, while indulging in all those larger than life aspects while Dom attempts to get his life of crime back on track. It breaks things up into ironically titled chapters to facilitate this. I confess, I am a sucker for films in which characters who manage a micro-moment of communication by a silent but loaded, wave of the hand, and this movie has that at one point. But there are also shenanigans. Pithy, violent, frankly, ridiculous shenanigans that put Dom Hemingway strictly in movie fantasy territory. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just that the movie never quite manages to have its cake and eat it too.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Review: The Unknown Known

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    A snow globe shaking back and forth, little white flecks – snowflakes – swirl and obfuscate whatever is in the globe. Oh my what a loaded image. It is one of the chief ones Errol Morris employs in his lengthy interview with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Another is an endless ocean of waves: a blank canvas or adrift in the endless wilderness? True to form, after 96 minutes of Rumsfeld speaking, I felt as if I learned nothing at all from what he was saying. A marvelous bit of form echoing content, although for the sake of learning from history, it can be a bit infuriating.

    Rumsfeld, very recognizable for doing so many podium PR sessions on TV for the better part of a decade, was (is?) a career politician from a young age and when these interviews were shot, he was hawking his memoir, Unknown & Known. He’s served as U.S. Secretary of Defense (twice), Congressman, White House Chief of Staff (and Dick Cheney’s boss), at one point was close to getting the Republican nomination to run for the Presidency. His second stint as Defense Secretary was during 21st Century America’s greatest foreign policy challenges, 9/11 and the War On Terror. He issued tens if not hundreds of thousands of memos, which he indeed calls snowflakes, and was an architect a lot of policy. He dictates many of those memos verbatim for the camera – a camera which almost desperately tries to keep up scanning the documents like a typewriter.

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    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Trailer: Lucy

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    What if you combined La Femme Nikita, Crank and Limitless, with a dash of Her and made it a big shoot-em-up action fest? Well, it is just another day, in high-concept Luc Besson land. Lucy has pretty high pedigree though, considering there is American Superstar Scarlett Johansson in the eponymous lead role, Korean superstar Choi Min-sik as the principle villain, the ubiquitous Morgan Freeman on support and the Danish superstar Pilou Asbæk (A Hijacking, Spies & Glistrup) is tucked in there, somewhere, too.

    When a woman is used against her will as a drug mule, and the package implanted inside her starts leaking, she goes from sexy blonde tourist to deadly Black Widow, to all powerful Neo in about 90 minutes. Have we seen it all before? You Betcha. A girl has got to pay the bills, I guess – but take a look below.

    post-script: Remember that of the other two Scarlett movies opening this weekend, you should be checking out Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin over Marvel Hero-Unit #17.

  • Trailer: Palo Alto

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    Gorgeously rendered, and sweetly out of control, could Gia Coppola’s Palo Alto be the ‘teen tableaux’ movie for the 2010s that American Graffiti was for the 70s, Fast Times At Ridgemont High was for the 80s, Dazed & Confused was for the 90s and SuperBad was for the Aughts?

    Is sure looks that way. Have a gander below, and try not to think too hard that this was one of James Franco’s darn near fifty vanity projects of the past three years.

  • Trailer: Stress Position

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    This ultra-high-concept film is the feature debut of A.J. Bond, who creative soul who directed the cleverly weird time-travel short film Hirsute which we instantly loved after catching it at 2009 edition of The Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Stress Position nestles on the line between film experiment, documentary, torture-porn and pure anti-septic whiteness. The film involves a game between the director and his star David Amito, which has only three rules: 1. No severe pain 2. No permanent physical damage & 3. Nothing illegal.

    Inspired by a flippant remark about the torturous enhanced interrogation techniques used by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay’s personalized torture regimes aimed at breaking each other’s will, but without causing any severe physical pain. Set entirely in and around an avant garde torture chamber custom built in an isolated warehouse, the film captures the surprising trajectory of the experiment from both sides of the cell as the two friends play both victim and oppressor, not to mention actor and director.

    The acting here may not be any great thespian work, but the idea is at the heart of the matter. Furthermore, in full Gaspar Noe fashion (with a slight dash of Hitoshi Matsumoto’s criminally under-seen Symbol, the trailer is not for those who have any audio-visual sensitivities. You have been warned.

    Stress Position opens in Toronto on April 18th at Carlton Cinema in Toronto.

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