The Life and Times of Ben Affleck

There was a time when Ben Affleck was the joke of Hollywood. From his tabloid-heavy relationship with Jennifer Lopez (we all remember Bennifer, right?), to a long string of laughably bad movies and hokey performances while his buddy Matt Damon’s career took a more successful route, it seemed like the guy couldn’t catch a break and to many, the blame was all his own.

Just today, I watched State of Play, a movie that despite its star-powered cast and good reviews has garnered very little attention this year. I was reflecting on it while the credits rolled and began to think about Affleck and his career. I have a strange sense of sympathy for Affleck. He’s certainly remained low-key and out of the spotlight as he has tried to revive his career into something that is not a punchline to a late night television joke. Not an easy task, considering his filmography includes the likes of the universally despised Pearl Harbor, as well as Gigli, Jersey Girl, Surviving Christmas, Daredevil, Bounce, Phantoms, and Reindeer Games.

Still, he’s done a pretty good job lately. My [perhaps irrational] hate for Affleck began to sway after watching Hollywoodland back in 2006, where he gave a great turn as TV Superman George Reeves, a role that managed to snag him a Golden Globe nomination. The following year, he surprised me again, although this time it was not in front of the camera, but with his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, which starred his much more talented little brother. The film blew me away on first viewing and it still ranks among my favorite of that year. I remember coming out of the theater and commenting how big brother Affleck needed to stay behind the camera more often.

Watching State of Play today though and after seeing his scene-stealing role in Extract this year, I’m not so sure that having him in front of the camera is a bad thing like I had once said. I’m not convinced that he can carry a movie on his shoulders like little brother Affleck – we’ll see if he changes my mind with the upcoming The Company Men and The Town – but in the right role, he can be more than competent. You can see it in his interviews and when he speaks: he has a lot of regrets about his career and he’s aware that he was considered a joke for a long while. I do think if Ben continues to pick his roles wisely and keeps his face out of the tabloids, the days of trashing him may come to an end. Because to many people, he’s still a punchline (some people may never be able to get over Pearl Harbor) – but I think he’s better than that.

Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

[Yes, Rowthree programming as usual will be continuing shortly into the new year, in the mean time, if you happen to be in a major film market, do yourselves a favour and check out Terry Gilliam's latest, reprinted below is our pre-TIFF review of the film.]

TIFF-Review_Parnassus

A question: “Where are we – geographically, socially, narratively?”
A snappy reply: “The northern hemisphere, on the margins, further to go.”

There are three great surprises of The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. The first is that Terry Gilliam is back in top form, weaving the contemporary and the fantastical into a whimsical and dark package. Despite the death of Heath Ledger occurring in the middle of production, that which forced the subsequent hiring of Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell to complete the part, works charmingly well in the film. This second surprise is so deeply woven into the plot that it looks like this was the intent all along. The third one, perhaps the most surprising of the bunch, is that Terry Gilliam has commandeered the digital effects so effectively that the film retains its nostalgia simultaneously to looking modern. The films deceptively simple plot forms serves to evoke the best of former Python’s directorial work and at the same time (or so I am told) close up a loose trilogy of the imagination starting with fragile innocence of Time Bandits, carrying forward to the full blown exuberance contained in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and reflecting on mortality, wisdom (with more than a hint of melancholy) with Dr. Parnassus.

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David Cronenberg Project, The Talking Cure, Moves Forward

A little tidbit from /Film on what is likely David Cronenberg next project to go before the cameras. It has it the casting stage at least, and that in itself is intriguing (not the least of which because there are two Basterds alumni in there. The story? It involves doctors, madness, ambition, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. This tease hits the sweet spot.


‘The Talking Cure’ directed by David Cronenberg, starring Keira Knightly, Michael Fassbender, Christoph Waltz. A beautiful young woman, driven mad by her past. An ambitious doctor on a mission to succeed. An esteemed mentor with a revolutionary cure.

A Weekend of Trash

(plus a couple of ‘proper’ films)

Below is an article I wrote for my blog a couple of weeks ago.  I was meaning to cross-post it as my first article for Row Three, but never got round to it.  Plus I was worried the trashy nature might have created the wrong impression.  It’s all good fun though, so enjoy!


TrashVHS

I got together with some friends this weekend for one of our regular filmathons, which generally consist of the trashiest films we can find on VHS mixed with a few classier genre titles.  This session was no different, squeezing 11 films into one weekend.  I’ll admit a few of the films weren’t watched too closely and most of the dialogue in the trashiest efforts was overshadowed by us taking the piss throughout, so I’ve not always given a rating and I’m going to keep the reviews very brief.  I’ve also added some trailers and clips for your amusement, so enjoy!

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A Feast for the Eyes

BigNight1

We’ve mentioned Matt Zoller Seitz’s video essays here before, so there’s no reason not to mention them here again. His latest is entitled Feast and it’s devoted to the preparation of food on film. It can be found in both annotated and non-annotated versions at Moving Image Source.

Though we’re late to the table with this for U.S. Thanksgiving, it’s well-timed for the fast approaching end of year Holiday season. It’s a great tease of the taste buds with scenes from Big Night, Eat Drink Man Woman and Goodfellas that will not only make you hungry, but will make you want to revist each of those films immediately. About the amazing central dish of timpano created by the brothers in the aforementioned Big Night, Seitz has this to say:

 

We all wanted to be in that movie, in that restaurant, sitting at the brothers’ table as honored guests, knife and fork at the ready. Dear Lord, that food looked good.

Images of food—and the preparation of food—invariably have that effect on people. They unite viewers who might otherwise have nothing in common; they plug directly into the primal craving for transitory pleasure, the desire not just to admire and then consume inventively prepared food, but also to serve (and be served by) people who love us.

“Feast” is a tribute to such images.

 

Tucked under the seat is the non-annotated version for all your salivation needs…

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Out of the Loop – I Need Your Help

mrnobody232009 has not been the best year for me and and movies. I’ve been pretty busy with everything but movies. As we are all starting to consider our best of 2009 I came to the conclusion that my list would be pretty sparse. Therefore I need your help. Give me suggestions and on my week off after Christmas I will try to watch as many of the suggestions as possible. While, I don’t mind a whole bunch of recommendations for comedies I will probably only fit one in to that week and that will either be Observe and Report, Funny People or The Hangover. I’m not a huge fan of the current Hollywood comedy style.

Does Twilight Undermine Vampire Lore?

does-edward-sparkle

I have cut and pasted an interesting conversation with friends over on facebook.

It comes down to the attachment people feel to a genre (pragmatic or fanboy) and how when something warps it outside your perceived safe-zone (Jumping the shark if you will) As in sparkling vampires with teen angst. Does it undermines the original material and what that whole genre represents? I for one do not have a problem with this. Do you?

The conversation is tucked under the seat.

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DVD Rental Shop Bites the Dust… Does Anyone Care?

moviegalleryI do not rent a lot of movies anymore. In most cases I just outright buy my DVDs when they come down on price. Unfortunately, the best place often for purchasing DVDs is often the local rental place which puts its previously view on sale fairly often. It is with mixed feelings that I talk about the fact that 2 more of the Movie Gallery shops are closing up in Saskatoon. Pretty soon all we will have left are Rogers and Blockbuster. The Movie Gallery down the street from me has had pretty good deals and it was a great source for running out and grabbing a kid’s movie when I wanted one for my kid so I’m somewhat sad but I’ll admit I can’t wait for their DVDs to all go on sale coming up first thing in December. The last time a shop closed up in Saskatoon I picked up twenty some DVDs for sixty dollars. I imagine that I’ll be able to score a bunch of back catalogue DVDs for cheap once again.

I can understand people purchasing more and more DVDs but I just don’t believe that the majority are now doing one of the Netflix type DVD rental options. In Canada we do have a few different companies offering this type of service but none have streaming media yet so it seems to me that we are probably losing stores because of the Netflix and streaming that is happening in the United States. I’m guessing that eventually I will be doing all my DVD shopping and renting online and you know what I’m a bit depressed about it.

I love wandering around through the stacks and looking at DVD covers. I love flipping through and trying to find something new that I haven’t heard about. While I guess I can do this on Amazon or one of the online rental stores it just does not feel the same. I’m going to miss my walks down to the Movie Gallery. I for one care and wish there was something I could do about it but I think its a sad truth that soon even the big rental companies will be gone.

Bloomberg has an fairly interesting article about Movie Gallery and other rental shops closing up. Its worth a read.