• MSPIFF 2014 Review: The Unknown Known

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    unknown-poster

    Director: Errol Morris, Robert Fernandez, Errol Morris
    Producer: Amanda Branson Gill
    Starring: Donald Rumsfeld, Errol Morris (interview voice)
    MPAA Rating: PG-13
    Running time: 103 min.
    Country of Origin: USA

     

    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.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Trailer #2: The Rover

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    Back in January, we posted the first trailer for David Michôd’s post-apocalyptic revenge film The Rover, starring my longtime man-crush Guy Pearce as well as Robert Pattinson, who has been doing a hell of a job distancing himself from his Twilight roots these past couple of years. That first trailer for The Rover was slick, gritty, and moody.

    This second trailer is even more appealing – perhaps even elevating it to my much coveted “most anticipated” position for this summer’s films.

    Director Michôd is best known for directing 2010′s stellar crime drama Animal Kingdom. While he wrote the screenplay for The Rover with actor Joel Edgerton (Warrior, Zero Dark Thirty), his other writing credits include the pretty solid Joseph Gordon-Levitt starring Hesher and the very enjoyable horror short I Love Sarah Jane.

    According to Twitch, it was recently announced as an Official Selection for the Cannes Film Festival before opening up in North American theaters on June 20, 2014.

    Leave your thoughts on the trailer (and Michôd’s other films) below!

  • Review: Bears

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    Disney Nature's BearsNature is a beautiful thing. Vast and expansive, it is home to thousands of different species. As a child growing up, I was raised with a keen understanding and respect for nature. In spite of vague memories of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s The Bear, most of that education came from my parents. I spent many summers hiking in Algonquin Provincial Park from the age of two, and was taught that animals are not there for our entertainment. The elements and all those that inhabit the forest were beyond my control, and as such needed to be treated with the utmost respect.

    Disney Nature is attempting to bring this kind of education to children through their films. Thus far, they’ve brought us Earth, The Crimson Wing, Oceans, African Cats, Chimpanzee, and Wings of Life. Meryl Streep, Tim Allen, Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Stewart, Pierce Brosnan, James Earl Jones, and Ken Watanabe have narrated this wide array of nature documentaries for children. They’ve attracted a great deal of attention. What better way to educate kids about different species that pepper our planet? If their latest endeavor, Bears, narrated by John C. Reilly, is any indication, they should choose to stick to one side of the spectrum. Blurring the lines between documentary and fiction, Bears creates a problematic discourse around the very nature of nature itself, successfully creating a hyper-anthropomorphized depiction of a wild animal and dubbing it factual representation.

    Bears follows the first year in the life of two young Alaskan Brown Bears. Their mother attempts to protect them against the elements, starvation, and predators as they make their way to the salmon ponds in order to fatten up for their long winter hibernation. This would make for an interesting documentary on its own accord. With the ability and necessity for camera crews to acclimatize themselves to their subjects over the course of several weeks to months before filming, a great deal of outstanding footage is at their fingertips. However, the footage doesn’t speak for itself, and instead we’re given a fabricated narrative. Would you like to know more…?

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: Whitewash

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    Director: Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais
    Writers: Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais, Marc Tulin
    Producers: Luc Déry, Kim McCraw
    Starring: Thomas Haden Church, Anie Pascale
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 90 min.
    Country of Origin: Canada

     
     

    (4/5)

     

    Over the last few years, Thomas Haden Church has emerged as an excellent supporting player in a wide variety of projects, from indie productions to big Hollywood movies, but he rarely breaks out into leading performances. Leave it to a small Canadian production to put the actor front and centre in a movie that is, for most of its running time, simply Haden Church being excellent.

    Whitewash opens with death. At first you think it might be accidental but when Bruce (Haden Church) loads the body onto his snowplow and proceeds to dispose of it, it’s pretty clear that this wasn’t an accident. Or well planned. Disoriented, angry and drunk, Bruce drives his plow off the road and into the vast woods, driving recklessly for miles before crashing and blacking out. He wakes the next morning and assesses the situation: his vehicle is broken beyond repair, he has limited supplies and he has no idea where he is.

    What begins as a tale of survival quickly devolves into the story of a man spiralling into madness. After a few days in the bush, Bruce makes a dash for civilization only to be drawn back into the wilderness in the dead of winter. He drags his necessities, fuel, food and alcohol, into the woods and the safety of his snowplow which has quickly become his safety net. In flashbacks, we learn that Bruce is a lonely widower who has pretty much given up on life. He can’t work, he has little money and he spends his days at home drinking his sorrows into slumber. We also discover that the dead man is Paul (Quebec superstar Marc Labrèche), a man with his own set of troubles that takes full advantage of Bruce when he realizes that the widower is easy prey. There’s a sense from early on that Bruce has been on the verge of losing his mind for some time but the events that unfold when Paul arrives in his life push him over the edge.

    Whitewash is impressive. Labrèche is fantastic as Paul, a weasel of a man who goes from reeking of desperation to despicable con-man in the span of a few days but this is the Haden Church show and the actor shines in his performance as a man who is slowly pushed into madness. He doesn’t begin as crazy but there’s a hint that Bruce is a little unhinged all along and Haden Church handles the minute changes in the character really well. He also possesses great screen presence which is imperative considering he’s alone for a large part of the movie’s running time.

    Whitewash takes place mostly in winter and director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais and cinematographer André Turpin (who previously worked with Denis Villeneuve on Incendies and Maelström) use the snowy landscape effectively, its harshness providing a nice visual queue of Bruce’s mental collapse.

    Survival stories are nothing new and they vary greatly in quality but Hoss-Desmarais’ Whitewash is one of the better ones, a mix of survival story and thriller that also has a surprisingly dark sense of humour reminiscent of the Cohen Brothers’ work. Thoroughly enjoyable, Whitewash is a great debut for Hoss-Desmarais and a fantastic showcase for Haden Church.

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: Witching & Bitching

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    Director: Álex de la Iglesia
    Writers: Jorge Guerricaechevarría, Álex de la Iglesia
    Producer: Enrique Cerezo
    Starring: Hugo Silva, Mario Casas, Carolina Bang, Carmen Maura, Javier Botet
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 110 min.
    Country of Origin: Spain

     

    They are in every city along the main tourist drags, those living statues of celebrities, comic book characters and horror icons just standing there, silently hoping for your loose change. In Álex De La Iglesia’s latest bit of mayhem, they’re not standing still for long; nothing here is ever silent for long. In broad daylight on the crowded streets of Madrid, Jesus Christ, a Toy Soldier, Spongebob Squarepants, the Invisible man and possibly Mickey & Minnie Mouse knock off a “We Buy Your Gold” shop. In a haze of sweat and bullets, they make off with the booty of a couple thousand golden wedding rings in a hijacked Taxi.

    Painted head to to in silver body spray, Jesus, with a shotgun to match his chrome skin and thorny crown, is actually Jose, a single Dad who perhaps unwisely, choses to not only bring his 10 year kid, Sergio, along for the heist, but gives him a fairly active role in the job. While at gunpoint, one of the hostage gives Jose grief for involving a child in the crime for which violence will be inevitable. Jose defends himself stating that he only gets custody a couple days a week. The hostage sympathizes with the unfair court system that favours the mother. At one point during the escape, Sergio is firing two pistols, Chow Yun Fat style, at the police, over the shoulders of his dad who carries him. Do not look for cinéma vérité or neo-realism, or any kind of common sense here, as this is pure ‘id’ filmmaking from a director who particularly excels at this sort of middle-finger to propriety and society. Witching & Bitching may be less operatic than de la Iglesia’s The Last Circus, but more is as gonzo as anything he has done (and considering the man’s lengthy C.V. of genre genius, that is indeed saying something. In his sights here is the impotent machismo of men, and the vindictive revenge of women. And children being shat out the other side. Literally.

    Witching And Bitching

    The women-bashing continues in the car as the both the cabbie and an unwilling passenger (a hostage taken when the cab was hijacked) also have significant lady problems that they are more than happy to moan about. The cabbie goes so far as to throw is own wedding ring on to the heap of golden bands acquired during the heist and offer to join up. Jose’s phone sounds off with a red klaxon ringtone, where the caller ID indicates his ex as “Armageddon.” She calls to check in on the incompetence of her ex husband and chew him out for the sheer practice of the act. Played by the diminutive but feisty Macarena Gomez an actress who is no stranger to black comedy spectacle – her performances in horror comedy Sexykiller and the over-the-top misogynous gangster picture Neon Flesh could be described as broad, but here that is just a very bad pun. After taking out her frustrations on her patients (she’s a nurse) when she finds out about the heist, she is soon hot on the trail of her ex-husband and child with two police inspectors tailing her to them.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Get Some Vodka and Plan Revenge

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    What do you do when your husband is cheating on you? Do you start a huge scandal, fighting and screaming and all of that…or just get drunk with the mistress and start to plan a badass revenge?

    According to The Other Woman trailer, when finding out your husband/ boyfriend is a cheater, the best idea for action, is teaming up with the other women while having some really good times; organizing a revenge scheme for the traitor.

    The Other Woman is a new romantic comedy that will premiere in theaters this April. It tells an incredible story of the wife and the two girlfriends of the same man. When the women find out that their man is an incredible liar, they start to plan revenge. Now, it is all about the adventure these women are about to enter. It is an adventure that will get them a new friendship and knowledge about themselves and the others.

    The movie is produced by LBI Productions in collaboration with 20th Century Fox, the gorgeous cast includes Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Taylor Kinney, Nicki Minaj, Don Johnson, Nicolaj Coster-Waldau and many others. I know you’re now thinking about how much fun these ladies had on set and you’re so right. These hot stars play the roles of the main heroines. Nicolaj Coster Waldau is that bad guy who played with the hearts of so many women and now is about to receive an unimaginable revenge.

    This April The Other Woman is going to hit the cinemas. Do not miss the chance to witness the incredible adventure of these three hot women. You will see them fighting, drinking and having so much fun, while planning a monstrous vengeance. Also, you will absolutely adore the main idea of the movie that is to celebrate women. It celebrates every single female, showing that there is enough room in this world for everyone.

    Now you know what you have to do if your husband/ boyfriend is cheating on you. Don’t panic; get some vodka and plan revenge.

  • Blu-Ray Review: Violent Saturday

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    Director: Richard Fleischer
    Screenplay: Sydney Boehm
    Based on a Novel by: William L. Heath
    Starring: Victor Mature, Richard Egan, Stephen McNally, Virginia Leith, Tommy Noonan, Lee Marvin
    Producer: Buddy Adler
    Country: USA
    Running Time: 90 min
    Year: 1955
    BBFC Certificate: PG

    (3.5/5)


    The booklet included with this new Masters of Cinema release of Richard Fleischer’s Violent Saturday comes up with an interesting set of modern counterparts for the director in Ron Howard and Ridley Scott. Like they have over the last couple of decades, Fleischer directed a wildly varied number of Hollywood films to equally varied success. He moved from film noirs like Narrow Margin to family adventure movies (Fantastic Voyage) to war epics (Tora! Tora! Tora!) and sci-fi thrillers (Soylent Green). He even made a couple of Schwarzenegger’s 80′s sword and sandal flicks, Conan the Destroyer and Red Sonja. Some might call him a director for hire with such a collection under his belt, but like Scott and Howard he hit a couple out of the park far enough to prove he had talent and help his name remain relevant.

    Violent Saturday is one of his less famous films (even Fleischer barely mentioned it in his autobiography according to the booklet), but over time it has become known as a hidden gem in his oeuvre. It certainly must have caught someone’s attention as it has received the royal Masters of Cinema treatment and director William Friedkin is a big enough fan to have provided a 20 minute interview on it, included in this set.

    The film is set in the quiet mining town of Bradenville in Arizona, where three criminals (including a relatively young Lee Marvin) arrive to carefully plot and carry out a quick and supposedly easy bank robbery. Whilst the plan is being refined, we watch the lives of some of the residents of the town and learn that these soon to be victims aren’t all that squeaky clean either. From the peeping Tom bank manager (Tommy Noonan) to the wealthy Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild’s (Richard Egan and Margaret Hayes) philandering, the locals have plenty of dark secrets. The film’s only ‘hero’ is Shelley Martin (Victor Mature) and he’s considered a coward by the local children due to staying at home to work rather than fighting at Iwo Jima. The bank job sets things straight for all of them though, one way or another.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Cinecast Episode 349 – Smell the Glove

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    You’d think this were an episode of “Coast to Coast.” Aliens, Elvis, Stonehenge, Witches, talking birds, dragons, world war III and amps that go to eleven. Matt Gamble is a special guest this week to talk about the “exhausting marathon” that is The Raid 2. We dive into the psyche of Nigel and David and lament the loss of all the past drummers. This is Spinal Tap in all its glory folks (now kick our assess, we insist!) Kurt saw Rio 2 for some reason and Andrew continues MSPIFF with Witching & Bitching and accidentally watches the “wrong movie” when he confuses Kevin MacDonald for Bruce MacDonald. Everything feels loose and foggy in this episode for some reason. Which is just the way Jonathan Glazer (Under the Skin) likes it.

    As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

     


     

    Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!


    DOWNLOAD mp3 | 98 MB
    if player is not working, try alternate player at bottom of this post

     
     
    Full show notes are under the seats…
    Would you like to know more…?

  • 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.

  • Blu-Ray Review: Seven Samurai

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    Director: Akira Kurosawa
    Screenplay: Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni
    Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Tsushima
    Producer: Sôjirô Motoki
    Country: Japan
    Running Time: 207 min
    Year: 1954
    BBFC Certificate: PG

    (5/5)


    My name is David. I’m a 31 year old film fan and before today I’d never seen Seven Samurai.

    I’ve lived with that shame for so long. It may seem over the top to call it shameful but it’s not just the fact that it’s considered one of the greatest films of all time and is one of the films long set in the prescribed viewing ‘canon’. I’ve been a lover of Asian cinema since I was a teenager, especially samurai films (although admittedly I haven’t seen that many) and a fan of action films for as long as I can remember. I’ve seen a number of Akira Kurosawa films too and hugely enjoyed every one of them. So the fact that his most famous, well respected title, which also happened to be his most action-oriented, managed to pass me by all this time is baffling. I taped it off TV when I was younger but never got around to watching it, I even bought it as part of a Kurosawa Samurai Film DVD set, but still it gathers dust on my shelf. My sole poor excuse has always been the length of the film. Anything over 3 hours long seems a daunting prospect to me. I don’t know why, as a number of my favourite films are particularly lengthy and this was clearly the sort of film I would enjoy. I just have the habit of checking running times whenever I’m picking out films to watch, as though my life is in a constant hurry.

    Well thank God for the BFI. When I got emailed a press release for their newly remastered Blu-Ray edition of Seven Samurai, asking if I fancied a screener, I literally yelled out loud for joy. Not only would I finally have no excuse not to watch this film which had passed me by for so long, but I would be viewing it in the best possible home video format, as close to catching a print screening as is easily possible these days.

    So please excuse this review for being largely about my personal background of not watching the film, but lets be honest, hundreds if not thousands of people have written about and expressed their love for this film in the past, so I’m not going to add much new to the pot. I’d just like to say that even with around 20 years of hype (the length of time I was probably aware of the film), Seven Samurai fully lived up to expectations and I’m going to point out a few of the reasons why I loved it. I’ll try not to ramble on as I imagine many of you will have already seen it and if you haven’t, please don’t wait as long as I did.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • 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.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • 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.

    Would you like to know more…?

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