• 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…?

  • Friday One Sheet: We Are The Best

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    While two films do not make a trend, the Scandinavian duo of ‘kids-punk’ Sons of Norway, and Sweden’s We Are The Best make for good times at the movies. The latter gets a classic graffiti poster with slight emphasis on the pink, after all this is an all girls affair.

    Directed by Lukas Moodysson who returns to his late 1990s coming of age story period (which produced the classic Fucking Amal). We’ve also got a trailer to go with that poster.

  • After the Credits Episode 149: Interview with That Burning Feeling Director Jason James

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    A mid month podcast? What’s going on?!

    During last year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, I had the opportunity to see Jason James’ romantic comedy – about STDs – That Burning Feeling (review). I also had the chance to catch up with director Jason James shortly after he introduced the movie. We made our way to the lobby where we chatted for 20 minutes, complete with a walk through part by a very chatty group of ladies, about everything from the cast and writing strong characters to the Vancouver dating and real estate scene.

    That Burning Feeling opens in Vancouver and various other Canadian cities on Friday, April 11th. Stay up to date with the movie’s release via their Facebook page.

    Direct Download

    Subscribe:
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    We can also be contacted via email – marina@rowthree.com!

    Show Notes:

    Would you like to know more…?

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: Intruders

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    Director: Young-Seok Noh
    Writer: Young-Seok Noh
    Producer: Sun-hee Choi
    Starring: Suk-ho Jun, Tae-kyung Oh
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 99 min.
    Country of Origin: South Korea

    Intruders screens tonight, April 10th at 9:50pm
    [tickets]

     
     

     

    If you can generalize about a single country’s cinema, I think the safest statement you might be able to make is “Korean films blend genres better than anyone else”. Whether it’s comedic dark crime thrillers, melodramatic heist films or goofy family drama monster movies, Korea’s filmmakers seem to have a natural desire (perhaps even a need) to morph genres, combine them or simply blow them apart – sometimes within a single scene. Of course, like any other generalization it doesn’t always hold, but it does draw me to their films on a regular basis. Hence my immediate curiosity to see Intruders. Once I realized it was directed by Noh Young-seok (whose previous film Daytime Drinking was one of the best hidden gems from TIFF several years ago), it became a must see.

    TIFF2013Intruders

    Like Daytime Drinking, Intruders begins with a young man from Seoul trekking up North by bus to spend some time in the cold and snowy mountainous region of South Korea. While he just wants to get to his friend’s currently unused resort to focus on finishing some writing work, he’s a bit out of place there and this doesn’t go unnoticed by the locals. He manages to grab the attention of a recently released convict who insists on giving directions, providing uncalled for assistance and doing his best to get a good solid drinking session going. The humour is deadpan and is based on the city’s guy’s baffled reactions to the rural guy’s odd yet still friendly behaviour. Unlike the previous film, our city dweller this time manages to avoid too much heavy drinking at the outset, but it’s not like he’s any better focused. He’s a champion procrastinator and keeps finding other ways to waste time and avoid his writing, including traipsing through the woods out back, discovering trapdoors in the woods and running into a bunch of other people – all of whom seem to be just a wee bit off…
    Would you like to know more…?

  • Review: Jesus People

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    JesusPeopleMovieStill1

    Director: Jason Naumann
    Screenplay: Dan Ewald, Rajeev Sigamoney, Dan Steadman
    Producer: Dan Ewald, Jason Naumann, Rajeev Sigamoney
    Starring: Tim Bagley, Mindy Sterling, Joel McCrary, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Robert Bagnell, Damon Pfaff, Richard Pierre-Louis
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 90 min.


    This is what I know about Christian music: it exists, there’s a station on the local radio dial that is dedicated to said music and Stryper has a couple of pretty good songs. After watching Jesus People, I can’t say I know anything new about Christian music but I do have a new level of disdain for it and I’m not even sure why.

    Directed by Jason Naumann and adapted from a web series of the same name, Jesus People is a Christopher Guest style mockumentary about a dying pastor who decides to form a pop group as a way of making good Christian music his son, who listens to rap music and is clearly going to hell, will like.

    After a failed attempt to round up real stars of the Christian music scene, Pastor Jerry turns into a low rent Simon Cowell and holds a “Heaven’s Idol” at his church in hopes of finding the next big star from among his congregation. What he ends up with is an overly sensitive teenage boy, a self-obsessed beauty queen who can barely sing, an African American counsellor (token black guy and “rapist”) who also turns out to be the most reasonable of all the characters, and a disgraced Christian pop star who was once the talk of the town but has been downgraded into obscurity after her personal life took a nose dive.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Wish I Was Here [teaser]

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    Haters be damned. Seriously. Garden State was one of the best films of 2004 (especially for a first time writer/director!) and continues to delight and entertain me every time I pop it in the DVD player about every 12-18 months. But I’ve been lamenting the fact that Zach Braff hadn’t bothered to do anything else since. Then along comes Kickstarter.

    It raised quite the controversy when Braff announced he’d make his next movie if we could help pay for it. No controversy for me; I was glad to help out. So I backed it and I’m hoping for the best while following production diaries over the past few months.

    And here comes the teaser today. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it, but it looks damn good visually and it’s got The Postal Service aurally. And what’s this? Could Kate Hudson finally, finally(!), be putting on a performance that comes close to her Oscar nominated Penny Lane?

    Take a look at the trailer below and see what you think. The film also stars Braff, Ashley Greene, Joey king, Jim Parsons and Mandy Patinkin.

  • Cinecast Episode 348 – Immediately to Eleven

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    So Game of Thrones is finally back on the air with a brand new season. Does it live up to the wait we had to endure or was it a bit of a let down? Matt and Kurt also deliver a back and forth on the two wide to semi-wide theatrical releases this week in Captain America: Winter Soldier as well as Jodorowsky’s Dune. We dive into a very Red Dawn in which fantasy and reality’s lines are blurred which Kurt takes quite an issue with. The Minneapolis Film Festival is in full swing and Google and Bollywood make their appearances known. Danny Boyle is in the mix along and apparently the 90s b-squad is going for a comeback in Jerome Sable’s Stage Fright. Seriously, Minnie Driver is still around?

    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 | 124 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…?

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: Google and the World Brain

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    Director: Ben Lewis
    Producers: Viva Van Loock, Bettina Walter
    Starring: Various speakers, experts and current and former Google Employees
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 90 min.
    Country of Origin: UK

    Google and the World Brain screens this Saturday, April 12th at 6:00pm
    [tickets]

     
     

    (4/5)

     

    Love ‘em or hate ‘em, or no opinion either way, Google is here to stay. Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve used Google at some point. Very likely in the last ten minutes. If this site’s stats are accurate, you’re even very likely to be using a Google product this very moment. It’s safe to say Google is as much a part of our lives as television ever was. They’re always innovating, always coming up with ways to make life “better.” And they’re growing. Fast. So in the early part of this century, when Google decided they wanted to scan every book ever made into a colossal digital library, some eyebrows were raised – some out of curiosity, some out of fascination, some out of skepticism and many others, out of fear and anger.

    The World Brain is a concept by H.G. Wells which talks of a world encyclopedia that is accessible by all human beings in order to make their lives better and hopefully contribute to world peace. Google has taken this concept and run with it. The plan is to digitize every single book ever printed (that is still in existence) and make them available to everyone. At first glance, this sounds like a great idea: free information for everyone, anytime, all the time. But there are concerns. Copyright of course being a glaring issue. Monetizing “orphaned” pieces of publication. Or possibly even an Orwellian monopoly of information.
    Would you like to know more…?

  • MSPIFF 2014 Review: Gangs of Wasseypur (parts 1 & 2)

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    Director: Anurag Kashyap
    Writers: Akhilesh Jaiswal, Anurag Kashyap, Sachin K. Ladia, Zeishan Quadri
    Producers: Anurag Kashyap, Guneet Monga, Sunil Bohra
    Starring: Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Tigmanshu Dhulia,
    MPAA Rating: R
    Running time: 320 min.
    Country of Origin: India

     

    Pulling back, deliberately and slowly, from a soap-opera on the TV which is all song and dance and character introductions, the 315 minute long Gangs of Wasseypur kicks off with a single shot Johnnie To style unbroken assault on the stronghold of Faizal Khan with automatic weapons, grenades and narrow alleyways. It’s the bright herald of a major film career just leaping onto the international stage. Let us get this out of the way first: Anurag Kashyap’s generation spanning story set in the coal capital of India and spanning almost 70 years comfortably, nay confidently, belongs alongside the great crime sagas of the cinema: The Godfather Trilogy, City of God, Bertolucci’s 1900, Heimat and Election. The perfect nexus of history, craft, thematic heft, and balls-to-the-wall entertainment, it why cinema was invented in the first place. It is HBOs “Deadwood” rogues gallery of character actors as much as it is the legacy scheming driven plot mechanics as “I, Claudius.” Rare is the opportunity of novel-style story telling and mighty cinematic craft to come together in such a marvellous package. It’s a gift to film lovers. Shown into two parts, each one well past the 2.5 hour mark, but conceived as a single film it, in the director’s words, shows “frogs in a well,” 200,000 people spread across three streets. The rough and impoverished criminals are unwilling to leave or even look beyond the small neighbourhood and spray as much blood as possible for ownership of its organized crime opportunities which are equally transient.

    Wasseypur may change hands geographically (India to Bengal), ethnically, even religious borders are mobile, but the Khans and the Singh’s have been at each others throats since the dawn of the coal era where two patriarch’s fought over the rights to hijack coal trains. When Ramadhir Singh kills Shiva Khan in this conflict, the Kahn’s young child Sadar shaves his head and vows to destroy Singh, not by murder, but my unravelling his empire piece by piece. As Singh enters politics to cement his empire, Sadar collects a growing number of wives, fathers several sons and kills a lot of folks with a machete. The law stays out of Wasseypur for fear of escalating slaughter, and a fair bit of carrot-stick mechanics from Singh. Part one of the diptych has an almost documentary feel, it even weaves a hefty of documentary footage to establish the context of the era spanning the 1940s up until the 1980s. Popular music from the cinema and TV act as a greek chorus to the proceedings, but begin to establish a theme that will pay off in the second part. Namely that the second generation of gangsters are so influenced by what is thrown up on screen, it leads an elder Singh to offer, “Everyone has his own movie playing inside his head, it it were not for the damn movie’s there would be no fools in this country.” This as the film slowly moves out of history lesson mode and into Scorsese mode. One advisor Nasir (think Robert Duvall or Derek Jacobi) narrates the film Goodfellas style as the crime moves from the coal industry to owning the fisheries, to unabashed extortion, to eventually the burgeoning Iron business. If it is hard to keep track of the characters in the first 90 minutes of the film, they’ve all been immortalized after that point with impeccable attention in narrative craft establishing relationships and motivations and territory.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Mickey Rooney 1920-2014

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    Another passing of a Hollywood Legend, perhaps one of the longest careers in the history of cinema, Mickey Rooney started as a child actor at age 2 and was working still at 93 on multiple film projects the supporting roles he was accustomed for the latter half of his career. Rooney was in the process of appearing in B. Luciano Barsuglia’s adaptation of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, when he died at home, surrounded by his family at 93 years old.

    A willing and able actor in the studio system (He did a number of films with young Judy Garland) and beyond, the man has an incredible 300+ film and TV acting credits, and this doesn’t count all of his time spent on stage. Personally, I remember him in his most racist caricature in Breakfast at Tiffany‘s where he plays the upstairs Japanese neighbor and yells a lot, which is perhaps a more unfortunate legacy. His broad comic humour, short stature, and boundless enthusiasm won him many fans, particularly in Hollywood’s golden age, just as his wild-child alienated others as the studio system was crumbling.

    Married 8 times (the last of which lasted 37 years) he has a staggering amount of children, grand children and great grandchildren. Cue the biopic going into pre-production in 5…4…3…

    The Guardian has more, here.

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