Off to TIFF

TIFF Coverage

In 3 hours I will be getting on the plane for my flight to TIFF. During the next 2 weeks I will be mostly posting over in the TIFF section but you can also expect close to daily updates here on the main site. We’ll be linking to all the reviews and posts from our coverage.

The screen shot quiz is put on hold until I return to Saskatoon and Dave and I will be resuming our look at Cronenberg then also.

Oh and a question for everyone. Is there something wrong with a person who goes to Toronto for a film festival a couple of days early and then spends those days hanging out going to movies before the festival? Some day I really need to go to Toronto and do some actual site seeing instead of just seeing movies.

Chop Shop: A New American Indie Classic

Chop Shop Movie StillIt’s no surprise that Ramin Bahrani’s upcoming TIFF selection Goodbye Solo (not to be confused with the Korean TV show) is getting a lot of buzz.

A few years ago, Bahrani’s Man Push Cart made a big splash around film circuits. The story of a former Pakistani rock star who sells coffee from his push cart on the streets of Manhattan, the film was praised as some sort of second coming of American Indie Cinema though it seems those actual words were saved for Bahrani’s third feature Chop Shop.

Ebert referred to it as “an independent film that is miraculous” and Ioncinema has called Bahrani “hands down one of the more interesting voices in American Independent cinema” and for apparent good reason. I recently had the opportunity to see Chop Shop and was blown away.

Would you like to know more…?

Six Novels I Would Love to See Adapted into Films

6 Novels I Would Love to See Adapted into FilmsRecently, there has been news of Robert Jordan‘s endlessly verbose series of fantasy novels, The Wheel of Time, getting a film adaptation. This is likely a bid for another lengthy franchise along the lines of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. Personally, I think the Wheel of Time is a pretty lesser novel to bother adapting into a film, producers are going for the popularity and the fact that they could probably get 15 films out of the thing if it caught on. Nevertheless, it prompted thoughts of six novels that I would love to see adapted into films.

Not long after the launch of Row Three, Jonathan put up a post detailing five novels that he would like to see adapted into movies. Time for myself to weigh in. Because I have a bit of a speculative fiction bent (with a penchant for post-apocalyptic flavours), the majority of these titles reflect that. None of them require extensive franchises (which are often a breeding ground for repetition and diminishing returns) although in a couple cases splitting up the novel into into more than one film (as is the trend these days) might help ease the burden of adapting the dense plotting.

But first, a few notes on what is not included on the list, but might have been some years ago. Certainly Cormac McCarthy‘s The Road would have been on this list if it was not already in post-production and in very able hands (a source of much happiness). William Gibson‘s Neuromancer is also in production, but my biggest fear is that the final product will end up looking like a Matrix clone, despite it being one of the chief source materials to the Wachowski‘s successful franchise. Then there is Orson Scott Card‘s Ender’s Game; a film which has gone through a series of (rumoured) starts as a film adaptation. Although there are many that would love an adaptation of this modern classic, at this point, especially after the slew of twisty films from and mind-bending films from 1999, part of me suspects that many of the surprises in that novel may feel old-hat. Still it is a great piece of science fiction and there are some fabulous characters in there that translate well to the empathic/emotive element of cinema so lets call it an honorary mention and hope that Vincenzo Natali considers it after his completion of Splice and High Rise.

Enough rambling. Onward. I hope that filmmakers, producers and screenwriters are paying attention (now is the time where I shamelessly beg for a Digg or two).

Miss Wyoming Miss Wyoming
by Douglas Coupland
As a staring point, a film version of this novel could play like a cross between Preston SturgesSullivan’s Travels and Peter Weir‘s Fearless. A former beauty queen hits bottom during a tenure as a soap opera actress as she gets involved in a airplane crash where she is the only survivor. She disappears from the crash site only to begin some of her own reinvention. Meanwhile a Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer type action film producer throws away all of his earthly belonging and tries to live life like a wandering bum. That these two will eventually bump into each other and fall in love amongst the humour and musings on modern line (and death) of Douglas Coupland‘s prose makes for a fresh look a familiar Hollywood type romance. Coupland has not fared well on the big screen, his original screenplay, Everything’s Gone Green, felt comprised (and slightly compromised) from various bits and pieces of his novels. It was a fun but disposable entertainment. Miss Wyoming has enough interesting tangents, characters and story arcs to make for a very compelling and empathic bit of story telling. Maria Bello or Uma Thurman would make a fine Susan Colgate (former white trash turned Miss Wyoming) and if we are going to aim current, why not Robert Downey Jr. or Tony Shaloub as John Johnson. The key would be to tone down the quirk and absurdity and play up the existential and emotional. In spite of the previous sentence, I could picture David O. Russell pulling it off.

The Long WalkThe Long Walk
by Richard Bachman
So, you may say that the gist of this story has already been covered across two films. First with the mighty, existential nightmare of Gus Van Sant‘s Gerry. Yea, well, Gerry was not a near-future totalitarian game show, and that distinction, as humble as it is (Jeopardy anecdotes aside). But Kinji Fukasaku‘s Battle Royale certainly had that element going for it, albeit that film has never been properly released in these parts, despite having solid cult status. This culminates to a request for Frank Darabont to get out of his state of Indiana Jones ire, keep with the grim-fun displayed in The Mist and get down to business on this, one of Steven King‘s best books. He has the rights after all, and has indicated a small existential approach to the subject, which is probably the correct way to go about it. Keep in mind however, that the other Bachman-to-big-budget-feature was The Running Man, and as amped up and cheesy as it was, it was a pretty darn solid film. It was even a tad ahead of its time (even if it was trapped in the 80’s action aesthetic) anticipating reality television and ‘extreme sports’ with a WWE flair for the ridiculous and a rich/poor privatized post 9/11 police state divide of the country. It is noteworthy that The Running Man film was far superior to its source material. If Darabont (or someone else) could top the quality of this self-contained, highly focused story, well, that would be just dandy. And if someone would do the intro/prologue to the film as a lo-fi montage of famous game-show hosts, boxing matches, and even reality TV moments, well, we might even top the opener of Zack Snyder‘s Dawn of the Dead remake.

Riddley WalkerRiddley Walker
by Russell Hoban
I am not sure if the stunted one-syllable dialogue was what killed Idiocracy as a mainstream entertainment. There were a plethora of issues going on with the production that film. The dialogue, which appropriate to the story, probably didn’t help though. Riddley Walker, a story told first person in phonetic English dialect, which makes A Clockwork Orange seem like See Spot Run, has that against anyone trying to make a screenplay out of it. The dour post-apocalyptic story really gets under the skin as you strain to understand the perspective of a world ruined by nuclear war and left to rot for many, many generations. Where any technical and social science has turned to myth and religion. As Riddley Walker sets out on the road to (accidentally) become a prophet, inklings of a history lesson in a culture that is post-history are thrust at the reader to make of them what they will. All that being said, there is a rich verdant countryside on display in the novel, full of barking dogs, traveling puppet shows and scavenging. It could become of a more upscale version of A Boy and His Dog (a film that was itself derived from a Harlan Ellison novel). Maybe it is the 2002 re-print cover of the novel, similar in tone to the early stills from the Where the Wild Things Are adaptation that bring Spike Jonze to mind for directing this apocalyptic spiritual journey – for that matter, the puppetry sequences in Being John Malkovich also spring to mind. Perhaps Paul Dano, or even more interest, Michael Cera against type, could take on the title role. If Jonze was busy, I’d love to see Vincent Ward or Christian Petzold give it a try.

by Guy Gavriel Kay
With all the fantasy novel and adaptations out there, the majority tend to skew young. Eragon, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Stardust, The Chronicles of Narnia. It would be refreshing to see a mature minded fantasy novel which eschews black and white and relishes the many shades of grey. Tigana is that novel. Canadian author Guy Gavriel Kay tells the story of a war which sees a major battle on ‘the peninsula,’ a sort of alternate-history medieval Italy. The Wizard-King and invader Brandon and his army win the battle but turn the war into a delicate balance of power. In the process he loses his son. He takes his wrath out on the province by banishing its name forever from the hearts and minds of men. This sets the stage for the few who manage to remember (and love) the lost kingdom. They begin a rebel movement during the tense power stale-mate to break the spell. The story is told from the point of view of a troupe of traveling musicians, and involves a variety of aspects of art, music, romance, sex, patriotism and loyalty. The beauty of the novel is that it plays with the notions of good and evil. The invader is portrayed in a very sympathetic way, despite his sense of wrath and harsh justice. The leader of the defending army (the supposed good guys) is a power-hungry tyrant. All the characters have moments of questionable morality at times, thus making it far from black and white who to root for and how things are going to end up. The closing moments of the book offer a sublime sense of poetic justice. Despite the clean and precise storytelling and attention to period detail, nobody has latched onto Kay as an author to adapt into film. There was some movement on The Lions of Al Rassan as a film, but that has been stalled for years, and the options likely expired. Tigana features a large cast of characters, and cross-cutting dual story structure, and would be perfect to split across two (or three) feature films. The fantasy elements are there, but the emphasis is on character, emotion and social texture. It is also an interesting meditation on revenge. I don’t know who would be best suited to doing this sort of thing. I’d love to see Guillermo del Toro take a crack at it instead of spending his time on The Hobbit. But a director of complex and adult drama would be the best way to go. Perhaps Neil Jordan or Michael Winterbottom could pull this off.

Never Let Me GoNever Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro
I would have no idea how to go about filming this novel, which is laser focused to the perspective of someone entirely ignorant of what is happening. But three films (Remains of the Day, The White Countess, The Saddest Music in the World) have already been based off Kazuo Ishiguro‘s work. And then Dark City and Memento turned out just swell. So yes, I am all for a big screen tale of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, the cloistered mansion of Hailsham and the scary and unknown world that exists outside. The novel is structured in a strange manner in that the reader knows far more than the characters do, yet the information is not actually provided by the author; rather it is gleaned from veiled and elliptical hints and the readers own life-experience. Kazuo Ishiguro‘s strange brand of narrative storytelling. A gauzy soft-focused style would suit the subject matter. I’d be itching for Michel Gondry or Wong Kar Wai to give this one a shot with the capable cinematographic eye of Dion Beebe or Christopher Doyle. The trick would be how to reveal the non-twist without making this paradoxically emotionally stunted and emotionally textured story feel like maudlin or overblown like an M. Night Shyamalan cheap-O. Actually, maybe a woman’s touch may be called for on this one. What is Jane Campion doing these days?

Chasm CityChasm City
by Alastair Reynolds
Fast paced, pulpy and epic in scale, admittedly the Universe around Chasm City would make for a great HBO series or something to fill the void after Battlestar Galactica is wrapped up. But really, I yearn for the big-budget Imax treatment of this novel of assassins, post-mortals, and nanotech gone terrifyingly awry. The story follows weapons specialists and security-enforcer Tanner Mirabel on the tail of an aristocrat who murdered his gangster boss (and his bosses wife with whom he was having a chaste affair). The chase goes up a planet/space umbilicus and across a few solar systems into the destroyed landscape of Yellowstone and Chasm City. Once the jewel of the universe through the pinnacle of scientific achievement, it has been ravaged by a plague which made all of the ubiquitous and necessary nanotechnology go haywire, killing most of the population, plunging things back few centuries, and creating ‘The Canopy’ which is a twisted merging and melding of all the architecture (nanotech enhanced self-healing skyscrapers) into intermingled chaos. Inter-cut with the cat and mouse chase is the story of one of the founding colonial missions from Earth (hundreds of years ago) and the trials and follies of a multi-generational colonization mission around their soon-to-be-leader and religious pariah, Sky Haussman. These two stories merge in an unusual way. As Neuromancer was to Cyberpunk, Chasm City is (for me, although proponents of this movement/subgenre would most likely disagree) to The New Weird. The novel is a hybrid of hard science fiction, noir, shoot-em-up pyrotechnics and social (and bio-) engineering. It is loaded with religion, sex, violence, larger than life characters and yet it all glues together into magnificent entertainment. This would call for a big visionary eye that can juggle a convoluted narrative structure big set-pieces and stylized dialogue. The easy choices would be Alex Proyas or David Fincher. The more exotic choices would be Peter Weir or Paul Verhoeven.

More Tidbits on Sherlock Holmes

Guy Ritchie had a little chat with USA Today about his upcoming Sherlock Holmes adaptation. People seem to be pretty unsure about where he is taking this, the tone of the film, and how far it will stray from the source material. Myself, I’m very eager to find out and having very little connection to the original source material, I won’t be particularly offended or annoyed if they do stray.

“It will be a very big production, visceral and intellectual,” Ritchie says. “His brilliance will percolate into the action. His intellect was as much of a curse as it was a blessing. He was a deeply layered character.”

They’re aiming for a 2010 release and it will indeed be set “in the olden days.” As stated before, the movie will focus on both Holmes’s brilliant deduction, as well as his skills as a fighter. Doing some research, it was referred to quite a bit in the stories that he could have been a great prize-figther, that he knew martial arts, and that he had no qualms with punching people out if need be.

The villain hasn’t been announced yet, but there will be a character based on sort-of love interest Irene Adler – the most notable female figure from the Holmes stories.

RDJ – who is hotter now than he has ever been – became involved because his wife Susan was a producer on Ritchie’s upcoming RocknRolla. RDJ wanted to work with Ritchie and Ritchie – citing RDJ’s accent as “flawless” – wanted to work with RDJ. It seemed like a match made in heaven.

Would you like to know more…?

Superman Gets the Reboot

In what isn’t very shocking news, it has been confirmed by Warner Bros. Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov in the Wall Street Journal that Superman is indeed going the way of the reboot.

Warner Bros. also put on hold plans for another movie starring multiple superheroes — known as “Batman vs. Superman” — after the $215 million “Superman Returns,” which had disappointing box-office returns, didn’t please executives. “‘Superman’ didn’t quite work as a film in the way that we wanted it to,” says Mr. Robinov. “It didn’t position the character the way he needed to be positioned.” “Had ‘Superman’ worked in 2006, we would have had a movie for Christmas of this year or 2009,” he adds. “But now the plan is just to reintroduce Superman without regard to a Batman and Superman movie at all.” … Like the recent Batman sequel — which has become the highest-grossing film of the year thus far — Mr. Robinov wants his next pack of superhero movies to be bathed in the same brooding tone as “The Dark Knight.” Creatively, he sees exploring the evil side to characters as the key to unlocking some of Warner Bros.’ DC properties. “We’re going to try to go dark to the extent that the characters allow it,” he says. That goes for the company’s Superman franchise as well.

Mixed feelings here. While I enjoyed Superman Returns more than most (I found it mediocre, but not flat-out bad), I feel it should have been a reboot in the first place and not relied so heavily on staying faithful to Richard Donner’s earlier films. That was the great mistake. I’m always a fan of the dark and morbid, but this whole darker tone idea just seems to be jumping on a trend with hopes of creating another Batman-like phenomenon – but really I feel like Superman needs to be something distinctly different from WB’s Batman franchise (especially because Superman is the anti-Batman), more in the vain of Marvel’s Spider-Man movies – lighter, not taking itself quite as serious, lots of pretty colors. It does not have to be campy to achieve this.

Although if they do plan on doing the Superman versus Batman crossover eventually (something that could potentially turn out pretty cool, although it’d be tough to pull off – it’s a ridiculously great storyline), it would definitely not work to have such a distinct difference between the two worlds (try to picture Nolan’s Batman universe and Singer’s Superman universe coming together – I don’t think it could possibly work).

So, is it safe to say that Bryan Singer and Brandon Routh will no longer be involved? If so, who should direct and star? Do you think the reboot as a darker, more The Dark Knight-ish movie is a bad or a good idea?

Switching to Blu-Ray for Criterion Collection Collectors

If there was ever a fire in my house, there are two things I would try to save first (before my body). One would be an awesome quilt my grandmother made for me when I was like 4 years old and never go a day without touching. The second would be my DVD collection. It’s the only thing in the house (other than the quilt) that I really care about and the only thing with any real value.

Like many readers and contributors here at R3, this DVD collection is something that I’m quite proud of and just like to look at sometimes. Among the list of titles are several from the Criterion Collection, a series of important classic and contemporary films (save for Armageddon) on DVD with extra care taken for the utmost in quality and features.

As many of you know, this series takes a bit bigger toll on the pocketbook than most other, mainstream DVDs. Even used, a Criterion Collection version of a title can go for anywhere from $19 up to $100; more if it’s an out of print title. But it’s usually worth the extra price for what you get; particularly for collectors.

But now that Blu-Ray has won the battle of the format wars, what do us collectors do? Do we start to slowly replace all of our DVDs with the better format version? Maybe just some of the more important titles? Or maybe we won’t replace anything and just live with the “inferior” versions, but from here on out only purchase the Blu-Ray versions. Replacement of titles could potentially cost many thousands of dollars, not to mention hard work and time.

These aren’t new questions to be asking. It’s been going on for decades: records to cassette, VHS to DVD, etc. And people have been talking it up for a couple years now concerning Blu-Ray. But today, besides deciding if and when to switch over to Blu-Ray, we have a bit of a bigger problem to worry about on top of this. What about our beloved Criterion Collection titles? That will cost us double, likely even triple, the amount of money to replace. Well, not so fast.

A while back, we mentioned that Criterion released their first set of Blu-Ray titles. This opened up a whole slew of questions from fans and consumers. Like why should I buy a Criterion right now, not knowing if in a couple of months a blu-ray version will appear (which is a question already asked by fans regarding special editions and director’s cuts of films that come out a couple months after a title so that studios can double-dip)? What will be the cost of these new versions? And will the spine numbers be the same?

You can check out all this information at The Criterion website, but to answer the first question, Criterion states very clearly that most of the titles they offer will be a long way down the road before the Blu-Ray market is sufficient enough to warrant a replacement release. As for new releases, if Criterion believes it has a shot of “making it” in the Blu-ray market, both the Blu-ray and the standard version will be released simultaneously so that consumers can make up their own mind on which version is right for them.

But what is the best news in this latest Criterion newsletter release is that they will be offering a DVD/Blu ray exchange program. Basically, Criterion is allowing customers to mail in their standard DVD version along with $25 and Criterion will send them a brand new Blu-ray version of the title. So instead of spending $40 and being stuck with both version (or going through the hassle of selling the old one) you can easily upgrade for twenty-five bucks. Still more than a drop in the bucket for some of us, but at least Criterion is trying to make it easier on us.

There is a small catch however. You don’t get the new packaging. You only send your disc (not the plastic case) to them and in return you get JUST the disc of the Blu-ray version. So even though you’re stuck with the old packaging, you at least have the newest and cleanest version. A small price to pay that hardly seems to matter anyway as Criterion does a lovely job with it’s packaging.

So there’s the long way of saying Criterion continues it’s customer service excellence by attempting to at least help out those of us that want as high quality film as possible but without sacrificing our checking accounts – especially in these trying economic days.

100 Essential DVD’s

The folks at Empire are at it again. This time around, they’ve compiled their list of “100 Essential DVD’s You Must Own.” Rather surprisingly, I don’t have too many complaints about their list.

Here it is, without having to scroll through pages of graphics (though if you’re into that, you can do so here), complete with witty commentary where appropriate.

1. The Adventures of Robin Hood
2. Alfred Hitchcock Collection
3. Alien Quadrilogy
4. Almost Famous
5. Anchorman / Wake Up, Ron Burgundy
6. Apocalypse Now (Complete Dossier)
7. Back To The Future (Collector’s Edition)
8. Batman Anthology
9. Batman Begins – Not quite sure why this one needs to be on the list. Rewatch value is not that high
10. Ben-Hur (4-disc Special Edition) – Even my parents, who are both big fans of the film, won’t sit through the extras

11. Blade Runner (Final Cut: Ultimate Collector’s Edition) – One of my prized possessions
12. Brazil Criterion Collection – Sinse we’re specifying, is this the single disc or 3 disc SE?
13. Bringing Up Baby (Special Edition)
14. Buffy The Vampire Slayer (The Chosen Collection) – I’d rather pick-up the Star Trek: Fan Collective – Borg
15. Casablanca (Special Edition)
16. Citizen Kane (Special Edition)
17. Clerks (10th Anniversary Edition)
18. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition)
19. Die Hard (Special Edition)
20. Dr. Strangelove (Collector’s Edition)

21. Eraserhead / Short Films Of David Lynch
22. E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial (Ultimate Gift Box)
23. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Special Edition)
24. Evil Dead (Book of the Dead)
25. The Exorcist (Director’s Cut)
26. Fargo (Special Edition)
27. 50 Years of Janus Films – I don’t want to even imagine the cost of this set
28. Fight Club (Definitive Edition)
29. Ghostbusters
30. Gladiator (Extended Special Edition)

31. The Godfather Trilogy (Remastered)
32. Goldfinger (Ultimate Edition)
33. Gone With The Wind (Collector’s Edition)
34. Goodfellas (Special Edition) – This is awesome but I prefer Casino
35. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Special Edition)
36. Grease (Special Edition)
37. The Great Escape (Definitive Edition)
38. Halloween (25 Years of Terror)
39. Heat (Special Edition)
40. The Incredibles

41. The Indiana Jones Collection
42. Jaws (30th Anniversary Special Edition)
43. Jerry Maguire (Collector’s Edition)
44. King Kong
45. The Laurel and Hardy Collection
46. Lawrence of Arabia
47. Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 1
48. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (Extended Version)
49. M Criterion Collection
50. Magnolia

Rest of the list is under the seat!

Would you like to know more…?

Rank ‘Em: Robert Downey Jr. Films

A little older. A little wiser.

Since this is officially The Summer of RDJ, let’s get a little discussion going on the man and his movies. Everybody knows about his run-ins with the law, the times he spent in prison, his career being all but over after being given so many chances. Some of these younger folk that are now beginning to idolize him this summer don’t realize that Robert Downey Jr. has been prevalent in the business since the mid-80s (did you know he even spent a season on Saturday Night Live in 1985?). Decades from now, we’re going to see a biopic made of this man and all of his struggles, because really, he is one-of-a-kind.

So, without further ado, here’s my top ten.

Would you like to know more…?

Fantastic Vanity Fair Paul Newman Article

With rumors running rampant that Paul Newman is battling cancer and may only have weeks to live, there have been plenty of television, magazine, and internet tributes being made for the greatest American actor the past few weeks. I stumbled across this one article on Vanity Fair, from renowned journalist and biographer Patricia Bosworth, that goes in-depth and chronicles Newman’s life from his roots all the way until the present. While I knew a lot of what she already wrote, it’s still a fantastically written article with a touch of personal encounters that really portrays Newman as the man that he really is.

You can check out the article right here.