Soundtrack Of Your Life #4: Pump Up The Volume

Talk hard… Hard! ‘Bout life’s… rocky road.

Each episode, Corey Pierce welcomes a guest onto the show who has chosen a compilation or soundtrack that speaks to a memorable era of their life. The soundtrack will play underneath and serves as a springboard to discussion about the music itself, how it works within the film, and what was going on with their life at the time of its release.

We dedicate this unusual episode to an unusual person who makes us feel kind of… unusual. Jim Laczkowski of The Director’s Club Podcast has selected 1990’s Pump Up The Volume, a film whose message got him through those very tough pre-teen years. Join us as we kick out the late 80s jams, and rediscover that feeling screwed up in a screwed up place in a screwed up time does not mean you are screwed up.

Follow Corey Pierce on Twitter at – @coreypierceart
Follow Jim Laczkowski on Twitter at @instantjim
Follow Soundtrack of Your Life on Twitter at @thisisyourOST

Let’s Go “Interstellar” with McConaughey and Nolan

Smart sci-fi with a big budget mentality and humanism at its core. This is what we want. Especially from talented guys like Christopher Nolan. I for one am happy the whole Batman thing is over because now we’ll get more Mementos and Inceptions and Prestiges and now we get Interstellar. From the trailer, I’m reminded of Contact, Sunshine, Solaris and even some 2010: The Year We Make Contact.

I’m all about space travel and possibly time travel and saving the human race from the minds of the relatively deep Nolan brothers. They understand that a movie can be more than just zooming through the galaxy with laser blasters and encountering mind-altering, killer aliens. Ultimately it’s about being human. And more than that, it’s about being a person. Throw in the killer effects and big name stars and you’ve got the potential for perfection.

Maybe the trailer below showcases that potential, maybe it doesn’t. Have a look and make up your own mind.

Full BIRDMAN International Trailer

Alejandro González Iñárritu has mostly been in the drama-thriller department throughout his career and it’s seen a few ups a few downs and a few divisive moments along the way. But one thing is clear, he’s a filmmaker with a clear vision and a creative artistry to his craft few directors possess. Which is why we’re pretty excited to see him teaming up with Michael Keaton for a black comedy involving an aging super hero character trying to make his way onto Broadway. I’m not sure entirely what to expect here, but it’s clearly going t be amusing, exciting and certainly odd.

The movie will also star Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts and will be releasing in North America in late October after playing the closing gala at this TIFF 2014.

Have a look at the newest trailer. Then come back and tell us what the hell you think.

Review: The Four Minute Mile


Director: Charles-Olivier Michaud (Exil, Sur le rythme)
Writers: Josh Campbell, Jeff Van Wie
Producers: Howard Burd, Mark DiSalle, Deborah Moore, Jennifer Reibman, Micah Sparks
Starring: Kelly Blatz, Richard Jenkins, Cam Gigandet, Analeigh Tipton, Kim Basinger
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 96 min.

I’ll admit it: I’m a total sucker for come from behind dramas. I love seeing people overcome their troubles to be better versions of themselves. It gives me hope and a feeling (if somewhat inflated) that with the right attitude, you really can achieve anything. There are thousands of movies that fit into this category, many of them sports movies, and The Four Minute Mile is another to add to the pile, it’s far better than the average.

The story is a familiar one: teen boy from a troubled family loves to run and is really good at it but he has authority issues. He quits the track team and reluctantly becomes involved in his brother’s drug running business. A former track coach tries to convince the young man to start running again and eventually he does and all ends well. Sort of.

Former “Aaron Stone” star Kelly Blatz stars as Drew, a talented runner who is convinced to return to running by the always great Richard Jenkins, here playing a former coach with demons that are consuming him (he smokes like a chimney and drinks himself to sleep nightly). Coach and athlete butt heads a few times before Drew comes to realize that he’s being pushed for his own benefit and when he finally gives in, he becomes a better athlete.

Would you like to know more…?

Review: Rich Hill


Director: Andrew Droz Palermo, Tracy Droz Tragos
Producers: Andrew Droz Palermo, Tracy Droz Tragos
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 91 min.

If movies were all we had to go by, it would be easy to assume that Missouri is a prime example of the erosion of Small Town American living. Places where the rich buy $3,000 dollar pies for charity while children down the street live on the brink or below the poverty line. These disparate realities are present in more than just Missouri but it seems that the state’s natural beauty is an attractive counter point to scenes of poverty.

Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos’ Sundance award winning Rich Hill turns the camera on the small town of the title, population less than 2,000, and specifically three boys on the brink of being lost. There’s Harley, a young man with anger issues who lives with his grandmother, Appachey, a thirteen year old who acts out at school and Andrew, a quiet and optimistic teen whose story seems tailor made for a future “Based on a True Story” movie. The three come from broken homes but they’re not without a support system.

Harley’s grandmother does what she can but there is a real sense that at 16, he is beyond help. Appachey seems a handful for his single mother who has a house full of kids and no one to help her manage. Appachey seems lonely, mostly ignored by a houseful of sisters and whenever we see him, he’s playing on his own. And then there’s Andrew, a bright eyed, optimistic 14 year old who is clearly frustrated by his family’s constant need to move but realizes that life would be worse if he was on his own. Andrew provides the majority of the voice over material for Rich Hill and that’s mostly because he seems far wiser than his young years. Andrew doesn’t come across as resentful or angry at his situation, only keenly aware that this is the reality of his life. He’s determined to do better for himself than what has been provided for him and there is little doubt he will succeed.

Would you like to know more…?

Fantasia Review: The One I Love

I doubt I will laugh out loud more at a film this year. Charlie McDowell’s couples therapy session par excellence featuring a very game cast of two, Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss, made me smile so hard at times my face actually hurt. I burned fucking calories with the enjoyment of this movie. The One I Love, contains enough insight and humour (not to mention, utter engagement) in its neo-Twilight Zone execution, that you may never have to visit the self-help section of the bookstore, ever. This is the mandatory date movie of the year.

Sophie and Ethan are several years into their marriage, still without kids, and are more content to follow the usual rhythms and patterns established over the years. This is to the point where they attempt to recharge their batteries by re-creation of positive prior romantic experiences in their more whimsical youth. They are desperately looking to find the original spark in their relationship, and it comes, oddly enough, in the form of a recommendation from their therapist. “I’ve sent a lot of couples there, and they come back…renewed,” a country retreat doesn’t sound the least bit ominous coming from the lips of a snowy haired Ted Danson, but Charlie Kauffman rules are in play here. Serious mayhem goes down.

The guest house at this retreat has some rather unique properties that I will not spoil — the joy is in the discovery of exactly what is happening in the comforting and blandly mundane space. Unfortunate that such a memorable film gets the unmemorable moniker of The One I Love. A better title would be the pun-ish double meaning of “The Guesthouse,” which I can only surmise was already taken by another, more inferior movie. I digress.

The myriad ways Sophie and Ethan approach their strange set of options prove a deep silver-mine of opportunities to explore the foibles of men and women, Mars and Venus, logic and emotion, fantasy and reality. Role-playing gets externalized and folded to the point where I’m not sure what the better half of a double bill for this film would be, Linklater’s Before Midnight, or Polanski’s Carnage, maybe even Cronenberg’s The Brood.

Duplass and Moss have exceptional movie-chemistry, and the subtlety of body language, costume details and other ‘clever audience cues’ are richly fulfilling to observant viewers. Even if you get ahead of the film, and you probably will, it is the journey, not the destination. Parsing the details remains secondary to all the different ideas of how people are both alone and together in any relationship; whether in a phase that is rewarding, or anxious, or petty and broken; what we see in someone else, what we want to see, what we even accept what we are seeing. And that we will be different people as time moves on is inevitable, hilariously so. The rules of what exactly entails ‘cheating’ on your spouse have never been more difficult to navigate.

In either case, the truism here is that either member of the couple cannot help but fuck with it; it being the nature of the beast, for better or worse, richer or poorer, and all that. Watching Ethan and Sophie fail time and again to ‘accept the mystery’ of their relationship and circumstance is, for the viewer with a certain disposition, a joy. The One I Love somehow manages to riff on Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with only a single couple, but still get at the ‘burned out version’ and ‘naive fresh version’ from Nicols’ film, that only McDowell’s special premise (the guest house) could make possible.

The film is a trust exercise that goes off the rails with intelligence and care, every detail just so, every revelation hilariously true. One minor nitpick involving a bit of unnecessary exposition via computer screen is easily forgivable when everything else is this fun. Suffice it to say, it’s going to be an interesting car ride home, whether you are just dating or married for decades. I wish I could say more. I feel this movie should be studied by genre fans and psychiatrists in equal measure. I wish all relationship movies, from rom-coms to art house dramas, were this smart.

After the Credits Episode 153: August Preview

Due to some minor technical difficulties (namely my printer being a piece of crap that spews out pages in no particular order), the order of the movie titles in the show are a bit out of whack this month but Colleen, Dale (Letterboxd) and I (Letterboxd) manage to get through the entire month. And it was a long one.

We almost gave up in the middle but pushed ahead after chocolate cookies. Said cookies may have impaired my judgment as I chatter crap about a Sin City movie that hasn’t come out yet. Oops.

Other things of note this episode:
– Open Culture’s Five Rules of Film Noir
WTF Podcast – Marc Maron talks with Gabriel Iglesias
– Alexandre Aja on Bret Easton Ellis podcast
– Eli Roth on Nerdist podcast

Would you like to know more…?

Fantasia Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy

Confirming two axioms of popular cinema simultaneously, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (hereafter Guardians) demonstrates that there is nothing new under the sun, but also that execution can easily trump story to make a pretty swanky piece of pop bubblegum. Director James Gunn and his capable writers are only a few fourth wall breaks away from Mel Brooks’s Spaceballs in that Guardians is a loving parody of the space adventure genre while also delivering memorable characters and banter and sight gags. Every place name is ludicrously silly, all the stakes are kept thankfully low due to the attitude of the characters and the movie. It puts the fun back into the multiplex popcorn film that this summer has been lacking outside of Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Guardians feels like the entire film is set in the key of that dense, fun, and most importantly, cocky scene.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Gunn’s voice is not silenced by the Marvel machine, I am curious to see if this movie changes the way people look at Jackson Pollack, or for that matter, parents have to explain that one-off joke to their kids (it will likely sail right over their tiny little heads like the blow job gag in Ghostbusters). Much like Sam Raimi’s initial foray into studio filmmaking, Army of Darkness, Gunn gets to bring in all of his favourite peeps to the party: Nathan Fillion, Gregg Henry (the filthy mayor from Slither), Lloyd Kaufman (Troma), even his brother Sean get cameos to pop in on the periphery to the main action. Even Kevin Bacon, who worked with Gunn as fried-eggs-loviing villain in Super, is here in spirit, mildly begging the question of whether or not he gets paid for his presence. Michael Rooker, in blue face paint right over top of his beard, enjoys a pretty significant opportunity to that thing he does. That is to look distinctly uncomfortable for our amusement, like he is having an unexpected orgasm in his pants while trying to make polite conversation at a party. This is the spirit of Guardians, in a way. Rooker is indeed excellent and off kilter as Starlord’s passive-agressive father-figure, and lover of troll dolls and kitchy knick-knacks.

Christ Pratt, as Peter Quill, aka Starlord, sports the tone, all-america surfer body of Caspar Van Dien in Starship Troopers, but is anything but vacant. He is self-away, sharp, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker all-in-one. Pratt nails timing of the screenplay and the sight gags. The tone of his salvage-man loner, happily adrift in the junkyard of space oddities feels not one bit realistic in someone surviving as the last man in space, but nevertheless very right. When he gathers all of these oddballs in the opening act of the film, 100% at odds with one another (one character even phones the villains their location to come and fight) he charmingly negotiates their foibles with wit and grace, but mainly invites everyone (audience included) to dance this little dance with him and enjoy the beauty and the fury of this wide universe.

The movie effortlessly cribs from Star Wars, The Heavy Metal Movie (particularly the John Candy driven Loknar segment), Roger Corman’s Battle Beyond The Stars and even the pilot for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Forgive my need to catalogue this kind of minutiae. All of this Mega-franchise connectedness of the Marvel-verse seems to invite this sort of thing, even when it isn’t important or necessary.

More than all of this, Guardians feels like an Edgar Wright movie (note the Peter Ser. All the best jokes in Guardians involve either character driven humour or visual gags involving framing and film grammar; the way stuff happens in the background, or looking away from a dense action set-piece to a nonchalant bit of calm negotiation happening just off to the side of all furious noise. The wicked soundtrack of precisely calibrated and implanted pop songs is perfection, even if many of the cassette tape moments were omnipresent in the marketing. Seeing how well Guardians works outside of the usual tone of the studio makes Wrights firing from Marvel’s Ant Man utterly baffling.

Like many a Marvel movie, the villains, look great in leather costumes and fantastic body tattoos. Apparently, everyone in this film goes to the same tattoo and accessory shop. Ronan, Korath and Nebula (more consonant-vowel-consonant, generic-ridiculous naming, in a movie with oh so plenty to spare) are completely uninteresting and self-serious-silly. Shades of Colm Feore, Karl Urban and Thandie Newton in similar, if not as good The Chronicles of Riddick, which, now that I think about it, also echoes a Heavy Metal Comic-vibe. The reavers, er whatever they are, baddies exist to merely to endanger the universe for no real compelling reasons other than to give the heroes fodder to mock in the middle of familiar CGI space battles and fist fights.

I was very happy to see, in the current ADHD blockbuster landscape, for Guardians to often slow down and spend time hanging out with Quill, Rocket, Gamora, Drax and Chewbacca…er…Groot for long stretches such that one could easily be convinced that this is a re-imaginging of Firefly/Serenity under the watch of Joss Whedon. I was surprised by how effective they get the CGI right. Rocket’s racoon bed heat, Groot’s charming presence and facial tics, the beautifully bright planet (where we encounter Glenn Close as the cheery governor and John C. Reilly as the guard-slash family man) has open vistas and bright clouds highly reminiscent of Farpoint (The Star Trek Next Generation pilot, as does a certain safety-barrier). The planet offers something to save, but also suitably serves up a complex introduce the characters chase with winning choreography, worthy of Buster Keaton. Furthermore, there are moments when the film stops to smell the CGI-roses in slow motion, engaging camera work that does what Brad Bird suggest these types of movies should always do: offer audience a little joy and wonder.

If I never bothered with story details in this review, please forgive me, but you’ve seen Star Wars and its plethora of derivates over the past 35 years, so don’t sweat the generic ‘subway-stop’ plotting (a Marvel-Disney speciality, but in all fairness, Spielberg and all those beloved ’80s fantasy films do it as well) and logistics and enjoy how much Guardians get to take the piss out of it all, with just more than a pinch of sweetness, and an Awesome Mix Tape #1 to make care just enough to not nitpick.

“Even dragons have their endings….” HOBBIT 3 trailer

I t’s been extremely quiet from the lords of the ring since The Desolation of Smaug came out… a title change for the third Hobbit movie, but no posters, production diaries, or trailers – till now.

Master Jackson kicked the door open on the very last Middle-Earth movie he’ll ever make (probably) this past weekend at Comic Con, and the trailer for the we-mean-it-it’s-really-called-this The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies plays heavy with the end-of-the-world pageantry that made The Return of the King work so well a decade ago. Branding the movie “the defining chapter,” though, seems a bit much – and I’m an avowed fan of this stuff.