Penny and Pedro Arrive in Berlin

Pedro Almodóvar’s new film, Los Abrazos Rotos (Broken Embraces), starring Penélope Cruz premiered in Berlin yesterday. That’s all. I’ll see the film next month in Toronto and will do my best not to dry hump her leg at the Q&A.

Oh, and on a semi-related note, shooting for Nine has wrapped up and the Spanish beauty, who plays a burlesque dancer in this musical adaptation of a Federico Fellini film, said she was new to the singing and dancing required for the role.

Asked what her hardest audition was, Penélope said: “Probably the one for Nine, for the musical, because I had to do many and because we had to sing and dance and things that I had not done before… I am always happy to do [the auditions] when they are necessary,” adding with a smile, “And I am also happy when I don’t have to do them any more.”

Nine’s all-star cast also includes Dame Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Eyes Wide Shut @10

ews10thStanley Kubrick’s last (often disputed) masterpiece starring two of the biggest stars of the late 1990s who just happened to be a married couple was released this week in 1999. Kubrick died shortly before this (at 70). The tales and perfectionist stories on the set, casting a veteran and up-and-coming directors in key roles (that would be Sydney Pollack and Todd Field, there is some insight here and here), and a big whopper of an Orgy sequence in the middle which started a censorship kerfuffle involving ‘digital silhouettes’ in the US.

Many found the film tedious and laboured, but it has been winding its way into full-blown cult status over the past decade with strange articles like this one. I revisit the film often enough and come away alternating between love it and leave it with almost each viewing, although recently things have been sliding to the former. Kudos to Kubrick for turning Tom Cruise into an ineffectual doofus though, and several years before Oprah’s Couch cemented it (You are burning in hell Michael Mann and P.T. Anderson for recharging the diminutive actors manliness.)

Back to the film, the gorgeous lighting, the interesting marriage insecurities and the hallucinatory euro-NY. And Leelee Sobieski and Alan Cumming in warm and charming bit parts. The masterfilmmaker went out with a bang, ending his professional career with the simplest and most complicated of words: “Fuck.”

Rowthree’s Finite Focus on the Orgy Sequence.

Have Martial Arts films achieved Porn Status?

ragingphoenixSince the Thai’s have taken over the martial arts mantle from large art-house Chinese pictures (despite Donnie Yen/Wilson Yip‘s attempt to bring a more free-form wrestling approach into the genre in Hong Kong) I have had some concern. Tony Jaa brought the house down during the North American premiere of Ong Bak, the main western introduction to Mui Thai as the main thrust of a martial arts film. The story was flimsy enough to string some truly jaw-dropping fight sequences together and the picture was successfully marketed and sold in France, Canada, The United States and elsewhere in the world. But Jaa seems to lack the charisma of Bruce Lee, or the playful spirit of Jackie Chan, or heck, the gravitas of Jet Li. And the screenwriters in Thai populist cinema leave a lot to be desired. Case in point were two of the big followups to Ong Bak pushed internationally, Born To Fight and Tom Yum Goong. With increasingly silly and nonsensical plots there is the temptation to just fast forward to ‘the good parts’ and skip all the extraneous plotting and story. Particularly in the incomprehensible Tom Yum Goong case, or its shorter even less coherent American cut titled The Protector. Albeit there were 3 or 4 stunning set-pieces contained there-in, notably a lengthy single take staircase brawl which is a technical marvel, you take it in from all angles and drool over the scene, but after it is done, the urge to fast forward returns as soon as anyone starts speaking. Um, you, know, like in the pornos.

A couple years on and we were introduced to a slender and talented young girl named Jija Yanin burst on the scene with Ong Bak director Prachya Pinkaew setting up the ‘story’ of a young girl with Asberger’s Syndrome who becomes an autistic super-fighter. The story pushes ludicrousness to a place where there ought to be a new word. Sure the action sequences are fab and many stuntmen look to be damaged in the making of the film (apparently the Thai seal of approval is the abuse taken by the ‘extras’ who are the fighting-fodder for the heroine to really kick around). That film was for no apparent reason titled (in its English language release, Chocolate and while sure, I had a good time watching it on a huge screen with over 1000 enthusiastic fans, the storytelling probably hit a new low for bad plotting and reliance on high-concept (Yes, even more than Jet Li’s The One).

All this is a ridiculously lengthy pre-amble to the latest Thai Action entry starring Jija Yanin called RAGING PHOENIX. Here, and I kid you not, all the fighting and action sequences are done to hip-hop dance styles. Is there a reason for this? I don’t know, because the trailer is not subtitled. I’m guessing it is no more compelling or thoughtful than the Asbergers idea in Chocolate. Will I be getting the urge to tap the fast-forward button to get to the next dance style? Probably.

Trailer **Updated with English Subs, yea, like you need them** is tucked under the seat.

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Another Damn Motion Poster

It’s kind of an awesome poster as it is, so I thought I should pin it up here. But the motion gimmick is getting old. Really, what is the point of this? Roll your mouse over to see the amazing movement that adds an unbelievable amount of dimension and tone to the image. Plus the movie is from the creators of Saw IV, V and VI? Count me IN!

I suppose the point is that bloggers will post the motion shot and talk about it, wonder what the point is, but when the movie hits theater lobbies everyone will say, “oh yeah, I saw that poster online. Let’s see that movie.”


Quick Thoughts: Sunshine Cleaning

First of all, more Emily Blunt please. Now. I realized that she’s in quite a few movies that I’ve seen but she’s somehow completely unmemorable since The Devil Wears Prada. Until now. I already knew Amy Adams, Clifton Collins jr and Alan Arkin are all awesome. I had no idea how great Emily Blunt is. She needs her own film to carry on her shoulders. A good one. Soon.

You’ve probably seen the trailer. If not, I stuck it under the seats; but it is completely misleading. The marketing department hoped to push this movie as a care-free, uplifting comedy that is just edgy enough for the seventy-something crowd to come away from it thinking it was dark humorous fun. This is what I had planned on. And I suppose to some extent, it’s true. But it’s so much more… for the better.

Amy Adams and Emily Blunt in Sunshine Cleaning

The film really has very little to do with crime scene cleanup. The story is actually a little bit fragmented and tries to deal with many different characters all going through their own unique, personal struggles. Whether it be single parenting, extra-marital affairs, loss of a loved one (mothers, sisters, wives), business struggles, school problems, chemical abuse, insecurities with peers and even physical disabilities. Some of these things are delved into deeper than others, but all of them are tackled in one form or another. And for a film to get into all of this, and do it coherently and structurally sound, is quite a task in and of itself.

What’s in the trailer isn’t lies. There are some fun moments and cute, chuckle worthy moments, but in actuality the film is a lot more serious than the marketing lets on. And yes, some of it might feel a little heavy handed and manipulative, but that’s okay. I like to be man handled if it’s done correctly and with grace. There is an ongoing “bit” about how the two sisters are searching for a way to reconnect with a deceased loved one. It could’ve been over the top corniness, but it is constructed slowly and the payoff works like gangbusters. Yes, there maybe was a lump in the throat. Like I said, I’m sucker for that sort of thing – true friendship and/or love in the face of extreme hardship in a movie gets me everytime (if it’s done well).

Sunshine Cleaning really surprised me and I encourage all to give it a chance. It won’t make any year end top ten lists or any Oscars, but it’s another example of a potentially great female director in the works. This is the film I could’ve seen Adrienne Shelly putting together if she were still with us. Heavy but not heavy handed, though admittedly not the greatest bits of humor ever to grace the screen, but quite an enjoyable film that despite the outrageous scenario, somehow really rings true and hits many many notes on cue and in key.
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I’ve Stopped Watching Trailers

Well, not entirely. But I’m cutting back significantly. Let me explain.

Our story begins here. It’s a little off topic, but this is the scenario that bleeds into my main thesis. Starting about three years ago I started to notice how much of my time in the theater was spent watching trailers. There are some chains around here that will show over twenty minutes of trailers before the start of the movie. Twenty minutes! Add to that some commercials, an ditty about buying concessions, a thank you message about keeping silent during the movie, another message from Kung-Fu Panda about not texting during the movie, a message about how great digital projection is, a show off of the soundsystem in the theater that we’re listening to DTS surround sound and another telling us the theater is TXH certified (which of course most people don’t even know what that means – they think it’s a sound system). So let’s see: I showed up to a 5:00pm screening of Spider-Man 2 at 4:40 (to ensure I’ve got a good seat and have time to pee and all that) and now just spent 30-35 minutes watching what is essentially advertising and the movie hasn’t even begun yet. So I’ve been in my theater chair for almost an hour before the opening credits roll. So now a two and half hour movie just became a three and half hour movie (a shitty one too I might add). Whew, that was exhausting! And just to throw salt on the would, I’ve already seen all these trailers (some more than three or four times) on the internet or in other movie screenings. Insert frustrated scream here.
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Transformers 2 Challenge

I do not plan on supporting this gawdawful franchise, so I will not have my brain pounded to mush for a second round by Herr Bay. But just for kicks, I went into the archive and grabbed Cinecast Episode #54 where Andrew and myself talked about Transformers in 2007. I condensed things a bit and cropped the discussion out of the full podcast episode to a separate file below.

I challenge anyone who goes to the Transformers sequel to let me know if every criticism and comment on the first film does not apply to the sequel. The consensus out there is that everyone has finally woken up and smelled the coffee and have laid the critical boots to The Revenge of the Fallen.


Boobs or Bullets

The Stewardesses 3dI was asked a couple of times at work what my plans were for this weekend and I told everyone that I was seeing Up tonight and Drag me to Hell tomorrow. What I did not mention was that I plan on continuing my Unseen Movie Marathon with a 3d screening (in honor of Up which I’ll be seeing in 3d also) of The Stewardesses. Its not that I’m embarrassed by the fact that I’m going to watch an old 3d X-Rated movie but I was worried that I might offend someone at work or that it might lower their opinion of me and since I have to work with them I don’t want to deal with that.

The thing is though I would not have a problem with telling them I was going to go watch some ultra violent gorefest but as soon as sex and nudity come into the equation I feel that I need to be careful what I say. I really hate it. I’d love to recommend movies like The Isle, Silip, In the Realm of the Senses, Intimacy, and The Dreamers just to name a few.

There is really something messed up in our society when violence is just accepted, ignored and almost welcomed. How many movies would be considered boring if it weren’t for the huge explosions and people getting killed. I know this is nothing new to consider but my own “covering up” of watching an X-rated movie is bothering me somewhat. I’m curious, would you talk about “sex” movies with people who are not close friends.

Cameron Frye’s House for Sale

That’s right, for a measley $2,300,000, 370 Beech St can be yours. Otherwise known as the Ben Rose Home, it is more infamously known as the home that housed Cameron Frye’s father’s 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California. Still not ringing a ring a bell with you? Then you’re not a child of the 80’s. And you’re culturally illiterate. Maybe this will ring a bell…

Bueller Ferrari

At any rate, before purchasing this gorgeous house for me, you should definitely check out more images of the house from the realtor via Gizmodo.