After the Credits Episode 202: Littlest Hobo Media Spew

Oh yeah. It’s weird.

A bit of time off during the holiday break means the crew managed to catch up on a lot of TV and movies.

Join us this week as Colleen, Dale (Letterboxd) and I (Letterboxd) chat about some of the entertainment which keps us occupied over the holiday season, from prestige award hopefuls to some of the best (and strangest) shows currently on TV.

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Blu-Ray Review: His Girl Friday & The Front Page: Criterion Collection

The Criterion Collection add the Hollywood comedy classic His Girl Friday to their UK catalogue. Not content with merely upgrading this old favourite for Blu-Ray, they’ve included the first film version of the play on which it was based, The Front Page, which was produced by Howard Hughes. I’ve included reviews of both films below.

I’m going to review the films in reverse chronological order as this is the order in which I watched them and, let’s be honest, His Girl Friday is the film most people will be buying the Blu-Ray for. The Front Page is even classed as a special feature on the box, which is quite surprising – it could have easily been marketed as a box-set as the older film deserves your full attention.

His Girl Friday

Director: Howard Hawks
Screenplay: Charles Lederer
Based on a Play by: Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur
Starring: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy
Country: USA
Running Time: 92 min
Year: 1940
BBFC Certificate: U (although the disc is rated 12)

We like to moan about remakes these days amidst nostalgia-tinted exclamations that “they don’t make them like they used to”, but the Hollywood system was even more rigid and dominating back in the ‘good old days’ than it is now. There were plenty of remakes, sequels, knock-offs and cash-ins in the golden age (roughly 1930-59). It’s just that we only remember the good (or at least most popular) films several decades on. That’s not to say none of the remakes or sequels were any good though. A number of films now regarded as classics were remakes. Ben Hur had already been made in the 20’s before the hugely successful 1959 version came out for instance. Alfred Hitchock even remade one of his own films when he chose to update The Man Who Knew Too Much in Hollywood in 1956, using his British 1934 film of the same name as a template (which is the better version is up for debate on this though). One classic I didn’t realise was a remake until recently is His Girl Friday. Long considered one of the greatest Hollywood comedies of the era, it was based on a popular Broadway play that had already been produced by Howard Hughes almost 10 years previously as The Front Page (which was also the title of the play). The original story and most of the dialogue was kept in tact, but the most notable difference was that Howard Hawks’ 1940 version swapped the gender of the film’s protagonist.

So the male lead Hildebrand ‘Hildy’ Johnson from The Front Page became the female Hildegaard ‘Hildy’ Johnson (Rosalind Russell) in His Girl Friday. The film sees her come back to the newspaper office where she used to work as a reporter to tell her boss and former husband Walter Burns (Cary Grant) that’s she’s leaving town to get married to her fiancée Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy – the gender of this role was reversed too of course – the early 30’s weren’t ready for same-sex marriage stories yet) and won’t be returning. Burns wants her back professionally and personally though, so schemes to give her a taste of a hot story breaking in town. Initially refusing, Hildy can’t resist after a while and gets drawn deeper into the political mess surrounding the proposed hanging of a supposed ‘commie’ who shot a police officer. She desperately tries to get the story tied up before her train is due to take her, her fiancée and mother-in-law to a new life, but juicy nuggets keep dropping in her lap and Burns tries every trick in the book to keep her hooked.

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Friday One Sheet: Split

No promises that the movie will be any good (the trailers that have been running for months have, in fact, been terrible) but we talk about posters in this column, not the films themselves. And on that note, the ‘escape’ theme, combined with the multiple personalities, and the association with the title are all supremely well executed here. If movies were as good as their posters…

Trailer: Raw

After a very lauded run on the festival circuit (From Cannes to Sitges, both of which it won major awards), Julia Ducournau’s flesh-eating slash coming-of-age slash trial-by-fire Raw gets a red band trailer. I caught this at TIFF in September, and can assure you that seeing this on a big screen, with big sound is the way to go. Particularly as the film doubles as a French University Party Culture primer. Not to belabour a Toronto micro-controversy, but there was a tempest in a teapot about whether or not several patrons in the Ryerson Cinema during Midnight Madness passed out from the film. Either way, at least one person went to the hospital directly from the screening. The film makes no bones about being icky, particularly with human hair and flesh.

Everyone in Justine’s family is a vet. And a vegetarian. At sixteen she’s a brilliant student starting out at veterinary school where she experiences a decadent, merciless and dangerously seductive world. Desperate to fit in, she strays from her family principles and eats raw meat for the first time. Justine will soon face the terrible and unexpected consequences as her true self begins to emerge…

Check out the very accurate trailer below. Focus is releasing the film March 10th, 2017 through their World Pictures arm.

As an aside, the pull quote from Variety, “A deliciously fevered stew of nightmare fuel,’ pleases me to no end.

Trailer: XX

The Horror Anthology film is nothing new, but with XX, offering the platform to fresh and established female voices, it makes this one worth a look. And, the line, “You’re son tore my daughter’s finger nails off.” Yie! HER ONLY LIVING SON, directed by Girlfight and The Invitation‘s Karyn Kusama is just one of four shorts featured here, with an animation wrap-around by Sofia Carrillo. The other three are Annie Clark’s THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, Roxanne Benjamin’s DON’T FALL, and Jovanka Vuckovic’s THE BOX.

Check out the trailer below.

Blu-Ray Review: Call of Heroes

Director: Benny Chan
Starring: Sean Lau, Louis Koo, Eddie Peng, Yu Yan, Jiang Shu Ying, Wu Jing
Country: Hong Kong
Running Time: 120 min
Year: 2016
BBFC Certificate: 15

My love of martial arts movies has been suffering these last few years. When I first properly developed a love of the genre, I was spoilt by the wealth of classic and new titles being released by Hong Kong Legends, a DVD label that started in 1999 which specialised in Hong Kong action movies. They distributed Drunken Master, which was the first kung-fu film I saw after Enter the Dragon and kick-started my swift trawl through most of the kung-fu movies available to the British public. The label seemed to flourish in the early 2000’s, with Hollywood action movies like The Matrix being famously influenced by their Hong Kong counterparts. However, this trend slowed down as the decade drew on and Hong Kong Legends was discontinued in 2007. Luckily, the mantel of Hong Kong action providers in the UK was passed on to Cine Asia. They continued to release new martial arts movies over here and began to re-release some of the Hong Kong Legends back catalogue. However, Cine Asia’s output slowed down over the next couple of years too and in 2012 they disappeared, much to the disappointment of martial arts fans like me, who relied on them to bring the best of Hong Kong action to the UK.

Just when I thought all hope was lost though, I got an email from one of my trusted PR contacts announcing that Cine Asia was back! Five years after their last new release, they’re re-entering the scene by releasing Benny Chan’s action blockbuster Call of Heroes. I snapped up the chance of reviewing a screener of course, and as you might imagine my excitement and expectations were high. Could it possibly live up to them?

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Blu-Ray Review: The Guyver

Director: Screaming Mad George, Steve Wang
Screenplay: Jon Purdy
Based on Characters by: Yoshiki Takaya
Starring: Jack Armstrong, Vivian Wu, Mark Hamill, David Gale, Michael Berryman
Country: USA, Japan
Running Time: 88 min
Year: 1991
BBFC Certificate: 15

With the live action remake of Ghost in the Shell just around the corner, I thought it might be appropriate to look at an earlier Hollywood adaptation of a popular manga and anime, The Guyver. Back in 1991, cult horror producer Brian Yuzna (Re-Animator, From Beyond and director of Society) gave two special effects/make-up masters, Screaming Mad George (Society) and Steve Wang (Predator), a chance to direct their first film together. Supposedly each took on different scenes themselves rather than working together on set. The result is this action sci-fi oddity, which Arrow Video have re-released on dual-format Blu-Ray and DVD.

The Guyver opens with the scientist Dr. Segawa (Greg Joung Paik) on the run. He’s taken a secret biomechanical device known as the Guyver from the lab to keep it out of the hands of his evil boss Fulton Balcus (David Gale), who has been experimenting on humans to develop military secrets. Segawa is killed by Balcus’ henchmen, but not before he hides the Guyver with the intention of giving it to detective Max Reed (Mark Hamill). A young loser called Sean Barker (Jack Armstrong) finds it first though, and, after a run in with some thugs, it fuses with his body, turning him into The Guyver. So from then on, Balcus and his goons (who are mutants that can turn into powerful monsters at will), along with Reed and Dr. Segawa’s daughter Mizky (Vivian Wu) all want their hands on Barker to unlock the device’s secrets.

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Hunt for the Womenpeople: 2016 Films by Female Directors

Lots of 2016 top movie lists have been flying around the internet in the last couple of weeks. Me, I want to talk about the best movies that came out this year directed by women. Not a lot of women get hired to direct Hollywood movies – only about 9% of movies released are directed by women. And despite the work of those who do break through, few female directors are considered “auteurs” by the mostly male film critics who appear to decide such things.

Believe me, it’s not because women don’t make great movies. I made a conscious decision to watch more films by women this year. And I did, but honestly, it was annoying how hard it was to do so. I saw a lot of movies this year – 37 during the two weeks of the Vancouver International Film Festival alone! – and only 13 of the 2016 films I watched were directed by women. These are (for the most part) small movies with limited distribution. If you don’t live in a big city with a festival or an art house theatre, access is tougher and you might never have even heard of them.
The films listed below are not “women’s movies” or “chick flicks.” They may have been made by women, but they were made for wide audiences and represent a multitude of genres, perspectives and messages. These films are worth watching. Pay to see them if you can – they need the numbers more than the latest blockbuster.

1. Cameraperson – Kirsten Johnson
Compiled of unused footage from 15 years-worth of documentary cinematography and home movies, Johnson has essentially created a whole new documentary form – the visual memoir. For all its pieces and time jumps, it has a beautiful and coherent flow. This movie is brilliant. I laughed, I cried, I even forgot to breathe in one scene! Amazing, amazing, amazing. I can’t stop thinking about this film.

2. The Fits – Anna Rose Holmer
Coming of age film that captures that pre-adolescent combination of longing and fear related to growing up. A young tomboy joins a girls’ dance troop and one by one the girls succumb to a mysterious illness. The tension and mystery are the perfect metaphor for the cusp of adolescence and Royalty Hightower, the young lead, is extraordinary.

3. 13th – Ava Duvernay
Documentary examining the over-incarceration of African American men in the US. Traces this phenomenon from the 13th Amendment (the abolition of slavery included an exemption – forced labour was still allowed for anyone convicted of a crime), through Jim Crow, the beginning in the 1970s of political campaign scare tactics on crime and public safety that facilitated the targeting of poor, black neighbourhoods, and finally the explosion of the private prison industry in the US. I’m still blown away that she managed to tie all of these threads together in such a clear, coherent way. Must see. And on Netflix so it’s easy to find.

4. American Honey – Andrea Arnold
It’s no accident that she uses Rhianna’s “We Found Love in a Hopeless Place” more than once in this soundtrack – this film finds beauty in some very ugly places. It’s kind of like Harmony Korine’s Kids on a roadtrip but less depressing. A little less depressing. You’re still watching a group of kids getting ripped off by their employer while they make questionable choices. There are some definite uncomfortable bits. But unlike Kids, there is joy and heart and empowerment too. Sasha Lane is amazing.

5. Toni Erdmann – Maren Ade
A father visits his workaholic adult daughter unannounced to check up on her. When he is worried she is unhappy, he stays on with a wig and false teeth and pretends to be a life coach to try to inject some humour and fun into her life. At first she is horrified, then begins to buy into the joke. Full of absurd comedy, but ultimately about an alienated and estranged father and daughter who find their way back to each other and to themselves.

6. Prevenge – Alice Lowe
Dark black comedy/horror about a pregnant woman whose unborn baby encourages her to kill people. She plays with so many tropes about pregnancy and womanhood and subverts all of them. Not for the squeamish but if you like very black comedy, you will dig this.

7. The Love Witch – Anna Biller
Talk about your female auteurs! Biller did almost everything on this film – writing, production and costume design, directing, editing… This is absolutely her own vision. Visually stunning, super campy, subversive film about love and relationships.

8. Things to Come – Mia Hansen-Love
This is a quiet film about change, loss, and resilience. Isabelle Huppert is genius and she gives us a beautifully rounded character who is strong and intellectual as well as compassionate and emotional. Nathalie is a philosophy teacher whose life is turned upside down by a number of major life changes that happen all around the same time.

9. Koneline – Nettie Wild
Some beautiful footage of parts of Northern BC most of us will never see in person. Wild wanted to take a more poetic, fluid look at the contested places and actors in a region where industry and the health of residents and the environment are often at odds, leaving viewers to draw their own conclusions about where they stand.

10. All This Panic – Jenny Gage
Dreamy camera work and frank discussions in this doc capture that period of discovery and uncertainty as three girls try to figure out who they are and what they want while under pressure to decide their whole futures by the end of high school. They escape into college or drugs or relationships and vacillate wildly between egotism and insecurity. Challenges our nostalgia and our ideas about the younger generation.

11. Sonita – Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami
A documentary about a young Afghani girl whose family’s desire to sell her into marriage threatens her dream of becoming a rapper. We need more films like this to introduce us to the experiences of women and girls in other parts of the world. This film also shows us an interesting conundrum for filmmakers: if the subject of your documentary needs your help, financial or otherwise, do you help or maintain an observational distance?

12. The Invitation – Karen Kusama
A man and his girlfriend are invited to his ex-wife’s dinner party. Is something not quite right? Or is it all in his head? This is a very slow burn until the last 20 minutes but i think that contributes to how effective it is.

13. The Intervention – Clea Duvall
Fluffy Big Chill-inspired comedy/drama with a loveable cast. Scored points from me for reuniting But I’m a Cheerleader’s Clea Duvall and Natasha Lyonne – my favourite movie lesbian couple of all time.

Other 2016 movies directed by women that I haven’t seen yet but desperately want to:
Certain Women – Kelly Reichardt
We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice – Alanis Obomsawin
Window Horses – Ann Marie Fleming
The Bad Batch – Ana Lily Amirpour
Maggie’s Plan – Rebecca Miller
Queen of Katwe – Mira Nair
Weiner – Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kriegman
Paint it Black – Amber Tamblyn

Row Three Favorite Films of 2016

Here are all of RowThree’s contributors top lists for 2016. You are welcome.

Each contributor is listed below – just start scrolling – or you can jump directly to any individual member of the group with a click of their name provided below.

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by the site, listened to any of the great podcasts hosted here and/or took the time to leave some comments in a post somewhere and some time throughout the year. We really appreciate each and every one of you. See you all in 2017!

Andrew James
Kurt Halfyard
Marina Antunes
Corey Pierce
Matthew Brown
Bob Turnbull
David Brook
Matt Gamble
Bryan Dressel
Matt Price


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