Blu-Ray Review: Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams – Criterion Collection

Director: Akira Kurosawa, Ishirô Honda (uncredited)
Screenplay: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Akira Terao, Mitsuko Baishô, Toshie Negishi, Martin Scorsese
Country: USA, Japan
Running Time: 119 min
Year: 1990
BBFC Certificate: PG


I‘m not a huge fan of anthology films. This is partly down to the fact that they can be a mixed bag, with some great short films mixed with some not-so-great ones. It’s also because I’ve never been all that interested in short films in general. Animated films are the exception to this – I love a good animated short, which might explain why Memories (1995) is probably my favourite anthology. For whatever reason though, I rarely get excited about short live action films so I’m equally unenthused when presented with a few of them in the package of a feature film.

However, when I came across Dreams, an anthology film directed by Akira Kurosawa (although IMDB claims Godzilla’s director Ishirô Honda lended a hand) I was instantly interested. I’ve mentioned in previous reviews how Kurosawa is the director I’ve found most consistent in terms of quality. I’d seen 8 of his films prior to Dreams and loved them all, so if I see Kurosawa has directed any genre of film or subject matter, no matter how unappealing it may be to me, I’m always going to be more than willing to give it a shot.

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Review: Nocturnal Animals

For the engaged cinephile, right from the opening credit sequence of Nocturnal Animals, you will know you are in good hands. Hyper-glossy and daringly un-commercial in the same breath, it puts some fine Lynchian bonafides on the table early. Then the camera pulls back from this tone-setting overture to reveal that these seemingly context free images (which will remain unspoilt by me, but might prevent the film from playing in a multiplex near you) are very much present, and in fact are part of the gala launch of a Los Angeles art gallery.

The curator and architect of the exhibit (but, tellingly, not the artist) is Susan, played by Amy Adams in heavy make-up, and chunky jewelry. The deep lighting makes her red hair stand out like smoldering coals in the dark. Forget for the moment director Tom Ford’s penchant for enhancing surfaces, Adams delivers an understated inner-performance entirely with her eyes and posture. Mere seconds on screen and you can immediately deduce she is unhappy with the not only the exhibit but with her many if not most of her life choices.

Later that evening, Susan is abandoned to stew in her own juices by her husband (Armie Hammer) who is the kind of high-stakes businessman that is required for a cross-continental flight upon a moments notice. Nocturnal Animals is a film about we process our thoughts when alone, versus reacting in the company of others.

It is also a master-class in ‘show-don’t-tell’ filmmaking. A brief domestic conversation, prior to her husbands exit from the film, is practical and efficient. We learn that their glass and concrete mansion and designer lifestyle is on the verge of bankruptcy, but again, the body language and framing suggest that money, in and of itself, is the least of their problems, matrimonially.

The very same evening, Susan receives a package in the mail from her previous husband, whom she has not spoken to in nearly two decades. The manuscript of his soon-to-be published novel is included with a personal note thanking her for the inspiration (and life experience) provided finally write something significant. The book shares the name of the film, but the film is adapted from Austin Wright’s 1993 novel, “Tony and Susan.”

Tony is the name of the character in the book that Susan reads, a man whose family is threatened and jeopardized on a lonely West Texas highway by a gang of good ol’ boys led by an extraordinary effective, and completely unrecognizable Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who has come a distance from Kick-Ass and wins the Tom Hardy award for chameleon-like disappearance into a part.

It is exceptional that Ford has made a film about a woman that spends the bulk of the runtime sitting on her couch (or bed, or in the bath) reading a book, into one of the most compellingly ‘lean-in’ films of the year. Half of the film is devoted to the novel, which is anchored by a Zodiac or Nightcrawler calibre performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, and a scene-stealing Michael Shannon as a cancer stricken Texas Sheriff who is endearingly funny, and yet, simultaneously scared the absolute shit out of me. The remainder is split equally between Susan’s languorous present, and flashbacks to her optimistic courtship with her first husband and youthful writer, Edward; also played by Gyllenhaal.

The cross-cutting and transitional matching shots (note a certain red couch, for instance) provide an invigorating road-map to what the movie is actually about. The editing in this film, the fimmaking in general, is among the best films of the year. And, it is in a genre, the psychological thriller, that is so radically absent, presently, that make this is a breath – a gale? perhaps a tempest – of gloomy air.

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Friday One Sheet: Rogue One (Japanese Character Posters)

A handsome set of blue-white character posters for Star Wars: Rogue One has been put out for the Japanese market. And while the design is somewhat ‘floaty heads’ (or at least floaty torso and up), one cannot help be consider just how damn good Ben Mendelsohn looks as an Imperial Director. Also, the Star Wars marketing team has gone ‘all in’ on the tropical beach imagery for this advertising campaign, both in Japan and in the USA.

You can find the rest of the posters over at ImpAwards.

Blu-Ray Review: Kes

Director: Ken Loach
Screenplay: Barry Hines, Ken Loach, Tony Garnett
Based on a Novel by: Barry Hines
Starring: David Bradley, Brian Glover, Freddie Fletcher
Country: UK
Running Time: 106 min
Year: 1969
BBFC Certificate: PG


Ken Loach is one of the most respected British directors of all time. He just won his second Palme d’Or for I, Daniel Blake and has enjoyed critical success throughout his career, beginning in 1966 with his groundbreaking TV film Cathy to Come Home. However, I’ve never been his biggest fan. I haven’t seen a huge number of his films, but I haven’t had a great track record with them so I tend to give them a miss. I found his first Palme d’Or winner The Wind Who Shakes the Barley quite forgettable and overrated, and a couple of others, Looking For Eric and Route Irish, were downright poor. I find the political messages can take over his films, making them feel terribly heavy handed. Plus there was a time when Britain made far too many Ken Loach style ‘grim up north’ political kitchen sink dramas for my liking, and I think I blamed him for their popularity when I was a budding film fan, longing for British films to break out of stereotypes.

However, my introduction to Loach was Kes, which I first watched as a teenager and loved. I haven’t seen it for a good decade or two though, so when I was offered a copy of Eureka’s Masters of Cinema re-release of the film to review I was worried my shaky recent run-ins with Loach were a sign that I just don’t have a taste for his films.

I needn’t have worried.

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Trailer: Skull Island

It appears that Kings of Summer director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, has crafted a good old-fashioned monster mash with the ongoing effort to establish a US-Kaiju franchise. The film is listed oddly enough as a sequel to Gareth Edwards’ 2014 remake of Godzilla, Not Peter Jackson’s wonderful 2005 version of King Kong. However you wish to parse studio franchise building, here we have Helicopters, dinosaurs, white-painted aborigines, explosions, and the big ape himself, King Kong – although judging from the one-liners, it is John C. Reilly that is going be the most fun. He joins Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Shea Whigham, and John Ortiz in a pretty solid character-actor kind of cast.

It looks fun and rather inconsequential, what a good summer blockbuster should be.

After the Hype #165 – Ghostbusters 2016

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HOLY MCKINNON! We’ve got a great show for you. We’re joined this week by Michelle Dunn from Drunk History to talk about the controversial Paul Feig remake of GHOSTBUSTERS. We ain’t afraid of no ghosts, nor are we afraid to call this movie out on some of its weaker parts. Don’t cover your eyes, give this episode a try!

MICHELLE DUNN | DRUNK HISTORY | TWITTER

 

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Contest: Win Passes to See ALLIED in Vancouver!

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Allied opens in theatres on November 23, 2016 but we have a chance for you to be among the first in Vancouver to see it at an Advance Screening on November 21, 7:00pm at International Village.

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In 1942 North Africa, intelligence officer, Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) encounters French resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Reunited in London, their relationship is threatened by the extreme pressures of the war.

The movie stars Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan, Matthew Goode and is directed by Robert Zemeckis.

We have 6 Double Passes to give away for a chance to see an Advanced Screening of Allied.

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Cinecast Episode 462 – A Miracle to Come

Yes, 2016 has been shitty from just about any angle you can look at it from. Yet here at the Cinecast we try to remain hopeful and optimistic for the future. In movie world, the last two months of the year are looking to shape up quite nicely and it seems an understatement to say that the arrival of Arrival was fortuitous in its timing. The themes are probably exactly what the world needs right now. We discuss at length (SPOILERS!). In the Watch List, it’s not surprisingly just comfort food for the boys; i.e. movies we’ve discussed many times in the past, but felt the need to revisit over the past week.

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

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Trailer: Beauty & The Beast

Disney is hard at work grinding out live action version of all their animated features. Emma Watson, Luke Evans and Dan Stevens do exactly what you expect them to do with lots of CGI and flowery movie sets, in this very familiar looking 2017 Beauty & The Beast directed by Bill “Kinsey” Condon. While I have certainly enjoyed Branagh’s Cinderella and Burton’s Alice In Wonderland (I missed Favreau’s Jungle Book, but by all accounts it is serviceable), fair warning that Dumbo, Aladdin, and The Little Mermaid are all on the assembly line for handsome-but-forgettable consumption.