Sunday Video Essay: Blade Runner’s Noir Influence Is The Essence Of It’s Science Fiction

The Lessons From A Screenplay YouTube Channel spends a satisfying 10 minutes examining the noir roots and tropes behind Ridley Scotts 1982 masterpiece, and soon to be latter day sequel-ized, Blade Runner. This is not just your run-of-the-mill lesson in aesthetics, but rather the core aspects of noir, normalization of crime, police corruption and death. Enjoy it as we are only a few days away from Denis Villeneuve’s spin on the world, and it will be interesting if he and his screenwriters can capture that tone.

Rowthree Staff Summary of TIFF 2017

Our traditional round-up of impressions and reactions to the massive slate of the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival has arrived in its tenth (!) edition, here in the third row. Happy Decade to us! As always, several of the Row Three staff and contributors, along with a few a regular reader or two, provide a tiny capsule – a postcard if you will – of all the films that they saw at the festival. These are accompanied by an identifier-tag: [BEST], [LOVED], [LIKED], [DISLIKED], [DISAPPOINTED], [FELL ASLEEP], [WALKED OUT], [HATED] and [WORST].

Collectively we – Kurt Halfyard, Bob Turnbull, Courtney Small, Mike Rot, and Sean Kelly – saw a sizable chunk of the films shown at the massive public festival. Hopefully this post can act as a ‘rough guide’ for films that will be finding distribution on some platform, whether on the big screen, small screen, or streaming service, in the next 18 months.
 
 

THE SHORT VERSION:

Personal BEST: FACES PLACES [Bob], mother! [Kurt], CALL ME BY YOUR NAME [Courtney], LADY BIRD [Mike], and I, TONYA [Sean].

Personal WORST: The personal low-lights were THE RITUAL [Kurt], THE CONFORMIST [Bob], VERONICA, [MIKE], and FIRST REFORMED [Sean].
 
 
Other Consensus Picks: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, THE CRESCENT, THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, THE DISASTER ARTIST, LOVELESS, THE SHAPE OF WATER and THE FLORIDA PROJECT.
 
 
The ‘MASSIVE’ version is below. All our thoughts and impressions from offerings of the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.

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Friday One Sheet: Ronin

Arrow Video recently gave a deluxe Bluray release of John Frankenheimer’s final feature, and late 1990s adult-action classic, Ronin. While they went with a rather boring de-saturated ‘stack of actors sporting guns’ design for the cover, designer ChungKong released this minimalist, warm toned poster that highlights the French locations while emphasizing the over-sized Macguffin, a large silver case used for transporting ice-skates, at the heart of the ‘late unpleasantness.’

Trailer: Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs

So, well within the vein of Fantastic Mr. Fox, comes Wes Anderson’s Japan-set new stop-motion animated feature. Isle of Dogs was not penned by Roald Dahl, but Anderson and his team certainly made Fantastic Mr. Fox their own when they adapted it for the big screen, and this feels almost like a sequel. Many of the Anderson regulars, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Fisher Stevens are here, with some new voices added including Scarlett Johansson (who does a LOT of voice work these days), Greta Gerwig, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston and Liev Schreiber. It looks familiar and great, and really, Fantastic Mr. Fox was one of the best things to happen to feature length animation some time, even if Anderson directed it over the phone from Paris to London.

The film gets a wide release date, March 23, 2018.

Blu-Ray Review: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

Director: Nicolas Gessner
Screenplay: Laird Koenig
Based on a novel by: Laird Koenig
Starring: Jodie Foster, Scott Jacoby, Martin Sheen, Alexis Smith, Mort Shuman
Country: France, Canada
Running Time: 92 min
Year: 1976
BBFC Certificate: 15


Jodie Foster had quite a year in 1976. Only thirteen when the year came around, she’d already enjoyed a successful career with dozens of TV credits and a couple of films under her belt. 1976 marked the beginning of her transition from child actor in family shows and Disney movies to a truly accomplished actress though. Within one year she starred in the cult classic (at least in more recent years) Bugsy Malone, family favourite Freaky Friday and, most notably, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, in which she played a pre-adolescent prostitute. With these films she cemented her place in cinema history in one fell swoop. There was another film released that year though that is less talked about, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (plus Echoes of a Summer, but I know little about that). It won awards for best horror film and best actress for Foster at the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, so within genre circles it was well regarded, but it certainly doesn’t share the reputation of the three other 1976 titles I mentioned earlier. Signal One Entertainment felt the need to address the balance a little though and gave the film a decent Blu-Ray release in the UK a couple of years ago. I recently got my hands on a copy and here are my thoughts on it

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane sees Foster play Rynn, a thirteen year old girl living on her own in a small town, but hiding the fact to her rather nosey neighbours. She tells them her father is a poet that is always working upstairs and doesn’t want to be disturbed. One neighbour, Frank Hallet (Martin Sheen), is a sleazy man, known by the townsfolk for having a taste for young girls and he sees Rynn’s isolation as an opportunity. Frank’s mother (Alexis Smith), who owns the property Rynn rents, is also suspicious of the situation and continues to snoop around, until she is accidentally killed after discovering a dark secret in the house. Rynn hides her body, but local teenager Mario (Scott Jacoby) bumps into her and can see something isn’t right. As the two develop a strong bond, Rynn decides to let him in on her secret and the two do their best to keep on top of things.

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Blu-Ray Review: Panic in the Streets

Director: Elia Kazan
Screenplay: Richard Murphy, Daniel Fuchs, John Lee Mahin (uncredited), Philip Yordan (uncredited)
Based on a story by: Edna Anhalt, Edward Anhalt
Starring: Richard Widmark, Paul Douglas, Barbara Bel Geddes, Jack Palance, Zero Mostel
Country: USA
Running Time: 96 min
Year: 1950
BBFC Certificate: PG


I‘ve long been a bit of a hypochondriac/germophobe. If anyone’s ill in my circle of family or friends I’m always terrified of catching something and try everything in my power to avoid contact or obsessively clean my hands any time I get close to them. As such, I’ve always found films about disease particularly disturbing. So a film like Elia Kazan’s Panic in the Streets plays into my fear as the best thrillers do.

The film opens with a group of unsavoury characters playing cards in a New Orleans bar. One of them looks rather unwell and wants to leave, but the others, including tough guy Blackie (Jack Palance) and his nervous accomplice Raymond Fitch (Zero Mostel), think he’s putting it on to avoid paying what he owes. They chase him down when he does leave and end up killing the man and dumping him in the docks.

The authorities find the body the next morning and perform an autopsy. It seems pretty clear the man died of a gunshot wound, but the doctor discovers he actually had pneumonic plague. This is a highly infectious and fatal disease, so Lt. Commander Clint Reed (Richard Widmark), a doctor with the U.S. Public Health Service, is called in to handle the situation. He believes that the murderer is key to containing the situation as he was obviously in contact with the dead man and must have got his blood on him as he carried the body to the docks. So Reed figures he and the police have got 48 hours to figure out who the killer is before the plague spreads out of their control. Reed also believes the outbreak should be kept from public knowledge as they don’t want the murder to leave New Orleans in a panic. This controversial decision has some repercussions down the line though as Reed and the lead police officer on the case, Capt. Tom Warren (Paul Douglas) begin to crack the case.

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Cinecast Episode 497 – On Skis

Scheduling lately has been rough as summer winds down and school is starting and film festivals and then of course hurricanes. But we managed to pull something together with the help of our friend Darren Aronofsky and his mother! The aforementioned hurricanes actually help to facilitate a trip through TIFF that otherwise wasn’t going to happen; so there’re lots of titles there to get through from Bruckner to Zahler. Andrew has been playing catch-up on some bullshit titles of the last year or so as well as going back to earlier Fincher as refresher. Lastly, Twin Peaks Season 3 The Return has wrapped up and Kurt has a number of things to discuss about that little slice of mayhem. Lots to dig into this week folks, and we’re starting with the book of Genesis. So stick this in your ear and settle in.

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

We’re now available on Google Play!

 

 
 

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Friday One Sheet: Wonder Wheel

Woody Allen’s latest takes place in New York’s Coney Island amusement park in the 1950s. And this key art delivers a nostalgic glow on the eponymous ferris wheel in the title. It also foregrounds a stern but relaxed (?) and nearly unrecognizable Kate Winslet writing in a journal on the worlds smallest day-bed. The warm glow of her hair is at odds with the severity of her expression. Thus lending the tension, will this film be swimming in rosy nostalgia, or be a darker, deeper consideration of New York’s most frivolous, and often dangerous districts.

Blu-Ray Review: Certain Women – Criterion Collection

Director: Kelly Reichardt
Screenplay: Kelly Reichardt
Based on short stories by: Maile Meloy
Starring: Lily Gladstone, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, Jared Harris, James Le Gros
Country: USA
Running Time: 107 min
Year: 2016
BBFC Certificate: 12


Kelly Reichardt enjoys much acclaim for her films among mainstream critics, but she can be an acquired taste among bloggers and general audiences. You only have to compare the quotes and ratings from critics reviewing her work to her IMDb or Amazon star ratings to see there’s a bit of a gulf between intellectual appreciation and public opinion. Being what I’d consider part of the ‘slow cinema’ movement (which isn’t clearly defined, but includes similar films that are low on plot and action), her work isn’t particularly exciting or as attention-grabbing as more digestible auteurs making films in the 21st Century. Knowing this, I don’t rush to watch Reichardt’s films as I worry I’ll be in for a tedious slog, not helped by some less than enthusiastic opinions of her films I’ve heard expressed by a couple of friends. I did see Meek’s Cutoff a couple of years ago though and was very impressed, so my apprehension has dampened somewhat since then and strong reviews lead me to accept an offer of reviewing her latest film, Certain Women. Whilst I’m happy to watch the film now though, I’m still rather apprehensive about critiquing it. I consider myself quite a ‘nuts and bolts’ reviewer, who likes to list clear elements of the film that work or don’t work rather than waffle on about what a filmmaker is trying to ‘say’. So I find slow, quiet, thoughtful films like this difficult to analyse in my usual fashion. I’ll give it my best shot though.

Certain Women takes several short stories by Maile Meloy and uses them to create three only very loosely connected narratives, which are presented one by one through the bulk of the film, before revisiting them all briefly in the finale. The first story features Laura Dern as Laura, a lawyer troubled by a client (Jared Harris) that won’t accept the fact he doesn’t have a case. He seems to have a fondness for Laura too and won’t leave her alone, asking for her help when he cracks and takes someone hostage at gunpoint.

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Blu-Ray Review: The Wonderful Worlds Of Ray Harryhausen, Volume One: 1955-1960

Indicator continue their Blu-Ray re-releases of the great Ray Harryhausen’s work with this volume containing three of the films he made between 1955 and 1960. It includes glorious HD prints of It Came From Beneath the Sea, 20 Million Miles to Earth and The 3 Worlds of Gulliver, curiously skipping Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (which has previously been made available on DVD in a set with the first two titles). In my earlier review of the Sinbad Trilogy, I professed my love for Harryhausen’s stop motion creations and how they played a key part in my cinematic upbringing, so I was thrilled to be offered another set of his films to review, particularly since I’d only seen one of them previously (It Came From Beneath the Sea). My thoughts on the three films are below:

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Review: Mother!

Director: Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream, Pi, The Fountain, Noah, Black Swan)
Writer: Darren Aronofsky
Producers: Scott Franklin, Ari Handel
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 121 min.

 

 

My original posting of this review can be found on LetterBoxd

 


If you love your very on-the-nose religious allegories aggressively shoved down your throat for an excruciating two hours, then Mother! is the movie for you! Darren Aronofsky’s latest is a big ol’ parable that’s pretty impossible to miss since instead of wrapping its deeper ideas inside of anything resembling a plot of its own he instead throws it right there on the surface with giant sign posts indicating every little thing that anyone needs for even the most basic viewer to “get it”. Of course it’s also just the kind of obnoxiously “ambitious”, “auteur-driven”, “provocative” feature that will ignite a heavily divisive response with its lovers insisting that the detractors somehow “didn’t get it” even though there’s literally nothing else to it. That’s a big part of the problem. Aronofsky just drowns this beast in his giant allegory (which, yes, could also be an interpretation of the creative process, but isn’t that essentially the same thing? And really there’s too much religion here for it not to be that more than anything), leaving no room for anything else.

Certainly not for even the slightest modicum of character development or dimension, as a talented cast led by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem is criminally underserved by a script that treats their characters as props rather than actual people with inner lives who the audience are supposed to care for. And yet as the deliriously, infuriatingly chaotic final act rages on there’s this odd pull that the movie suddenly wants us to have an investment in these people, but it did absolutely zero groundwork to get us to that point. Ultimately it did zero work to establish practically anything. It’s well and good to work an allegory like this into something, but you have to actually have something there in the first place to work it into and Aronofsky missed the boat on that one. Even more than that he missed the concept of having it all actually mean anything on a grander scheme. Sure, it’s all about religion, but for what purpose? Why does this movie exist? Beats me.

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