Trailer: The Cobbler

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The upcoming movie The Cobbler sounds like your typical high-concept, low-brow Adam Sandler comedy (think Click or Jack & Jill) until you realize that it’s directed by Thomas McCarthy, best known for the indie darling The Station Agent and the equally captivating The Visitor, which snagged Richard Jenkins an Oscar nomination. McCarthy has a knack for low-key dramas that don’t shy away from the darkly humorous aspects of our life.

So, the run down here: A non-screaming Sandler plays a cobbler who stumbles upon a magical machine that, when used on shoes, let’s Sandler’s character become the owner of the shoe whenever he tries the shoe on.

Yeah, I don’t know either. It’s something like that.

Anyway, the trailer plays up a few cheap laughs, but definitely has the somber (but not cynical) tone we’ve come to know from McCarthy when he’s behind the camera. Will this be more Punch Drunk Love or more Click? More The Station Agent or more Grown Ups? A supporting cast that includes Dustin Hoffman, Steve Buscemi, Dan Stevens, Ellen Barkin, and Method Man inspires a bit of confidence, but the premise? Eh, not so much.

Super Ticket Episode 4 – The Tourette Syndrome Convention

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Dust. Wind. Dude. Nolan likes to present his deep thought, high concept material in the simplest way possible. Why? Is he talking down to us or is there some other reason for it? And is that ok? Forget quantum mechanics, string theory, global disaster and baseball in space, we want to know two things: why does Nolan treat us like children at times and will Coop ever get a chance to copulate with his daughter? Also, Maaaatt Dammun.

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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Some Thoughts on the Worldview of Interstellar

 

Before reading below, it should be noted: THERE BE *SPOILERS* HERE, TOP TO BOTTOM.

One of my favourite quotations from recent science fiction cinema comes from Steven Soderbergh’s shockingly underrated 2002 remake of Solaris. When discussing how mentally equipped mankind is for stellar discovery, the mission-leader, Dr. Gibarian opines, “We don’t want other worlds, we want mirrors.” To be specific however, it was the ghost of Gibarian, or perhaps even a construct from an Alien intelligence projected from the mind of psychologist Kris Kelvin. Maybe it was just a dream. It’s complicated, but you get the idea. We go out into space to learn more about ourselves, finding new life and civilizations is just something that might happen along the way.

In the case of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, we not only want mirrors, we also want old-time agriculture, book-shelves of dead-tree textbooks, battered and well loved pick-up trucks, baseball, and presumably, 35mm analogue film. In other words, apple-pie Americana with minimal materialism or digital devices. The only thing missing in the film’s love of all things twentieth century are the churches; in a way they too show up incorporated heavily into Hans Zimmer’s score. Co-incidentally enough, if the bombastic score were absent the epic organ-chime moments, it would very much resemble the subtle, driven work in Cliff Martinez’s score for, of all things, Solaris. Mirrors, indeed.

There is a bit of classic political head-butting in dusty small town America when former NASA pilot turned farmer, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) goes into his kids’ school for parent-teacher interviews. In what is perhaps the films best scene, the principle and school teacher inform Cooper that the administration has ranked every 15-year old student’s future career path by a computer algorithm, a nanny state decision which must be abided. To add insult to injury, these governmental stewards charged with educating the youth are also moon-landing deniers and take umbrage to Coop’s daughter bringing ‘outdated textbooks’ into the classroom. Cooper, being the more come-what-may kind of cowboy (“alright, alright, alright kids, flat tire be damned, lets harvest and repurpose that old Indian solar wardrone!”) who likes manual-transmission, Morse code, and flying by the seat of his pants. The shackling of the future, and of history for that matter, to the lowest level of ambition, merely surviving, or as he puts it, staring down at the dirt, instead of looking up at the stars, gets his dander up. He’s a believer in technology, optimism, and problem-solving around a fast-ticking clock, in a world which has no interest in engineers or ideas. He funnels this frustration into his relationship with his bright and willful daughter. When the school administrators are looking to him to discipline his daughter, he tells them he is taking her to a ball game, and giving her popcorn and soda-pop. (She gets a suspension from formal schooling his insolence and goes on to eventually save the world. Take that liberals!)

In the mean time, the United States is experiencing a second Great Depression and Dust-Bowl scenario. We don’t know what is happening anywhere else in this inward-looking film (heck, we don’t even know what year it is!) Presumably, either America’s climate change denial, or its preemptive strike foreign policies, possibly even over-subsidizing corn-production to the point of mono-culture, has brought the whole ecosystem to the brink and the human population is merely a fraction of the 7 Billion souls at the beginning of the 21st century. Environmental blight ecological collapse is diminishing remaining oxygen supply to the point where there is only enough time and food for a few more generations. That is the scenario and it is grim, possibly man-made, and quite likely, irreversible.

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The Highs and Lows of Toronto After Dark 2014

Sixteen days ago, the Toronto After Dark Film Festival drew to a close with a resounding gasp. The Babadook ended the genre-themed film festival with outstanding strength, uniting many in the belief that this was one of the festivals strongest years to date. While that may be true, it simply isn’t quite good enough. This year, the festival had some truly standout films that blew audiences away. At the same time, the festival lows were shocking to say the least.

Toronto After Dark Film Festival - HouseboundOpening the festival with a laugh and a shriek was the New Zealand flick Housebound. This was, without a doubt, one of the most well-balanced horror comedies in years. Beautifully written, this Kiwi production takes dry wit and simple scares to new highs. Unpredictable, Housebound zigs when you think it’ll zag, taking you to places just adjacent to where you expected to go. The tension is palpable, yet beautifully broken with a well-timed and flawlessly crafted laugh. This is the redeemer of horror comedies, in line with the perfect balance of films like Shaun of the Dead. It’s a simple recipe expertly crafted, and was the perfect film to open the 9th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Would you like to know more…?

Blu-Ray Review: Spirited Away

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki (Japanese version) or Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette (English version)
Producer: Toshio Suzuki
Country: Japan
Running Time: 126 min
Year: 2001
BBFC Certificate: PG


I remember being incredibly excited when Spirited Away was released in the UK. I’d discovered the wonders of Hayao Miyazaki’s work a year or two before it was released. I was getting into anime at the time and picked up a copy of Princess Mononoke on DVD and instantly fell in love. I needed to see more, but only that and The Castle of Cagliostro were available. So I’m ashamed to say I bought most of the director’s early work on pirated Chinese DVD’s (don’t judge me – I didn’t have a choice). I loved every title, as well as the other couple of Studio Ghibli films packaged with them (they came as 2 on 1 sets) and Miyazaki became my favourite director. There are plenty of directors I love, but Miyazaki is one of the few, if not the only one that has a perfect scoresheet for me. So, with Spirited Away getting enough mainstream critical praise and awards to grant it a nationwide release, I was incredibly happy to hear I’d be able to watch Miyazaki’s latest on the big screen instead of a ropily subtitled DVD imported from Asia.

When I did go and see it I thought it was great of course. However, after all the hype I’d created for myself, not to mention the insanely positive reviews it was getting, I never ranked it quite as highly as Miyazaki’s three ‘epic adventure’ titles, Princess Mononoke, Laputa: Castle in the Sky and my all time favourite, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Maybe it was because I was still relatively young (21) and yearned for more action and a grander scale or maybe it was just the fact that his previous films, which in my mind were equally as good if not occasionally better, weren’t gaining the attention that Spirited Away was getting. For whatever reason, even though I thought the film was brilliant, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was a little overrated.

And a couple of weeks ago, 11 years on (the film was released in 2003 in the UK), I was offered the chance to review the blu-ray release of the film. God knows why it’s taken so long to bring Spirited Away to high definition in this country, but I was delighted to be one of the first people to get my hands on the disc. It also gave me the chance to re-evaluate the film after not having seen it for around 7 or 8 years.

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Mondays Suck Less in the Third Row

Check out these links:
Internet Arcade (Amazing if you’re a kid of the 1980s!)
A Cinematic History of People Crying in Space
One letter removed from movie titles (illustrated!)
Christopher Nolan’s top ten Criterion Films
Helen Keller vs. Nightwolves (we’re simply intrigued that this might actually get made with a release)
Pitch Black miniatures
Create your own Star Wars opening title


Surrealist 80’s sitcom fantasia: “Too Many Cooks”



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Friday One Sheet: Gaspar Noe’s LOVE

Back in 2009, when Enter The Void quickly rose to the top of my ‘best of the year’ list (and likely in the running for ‘best of the decade’ list), I made the blithe comment that the man should just retire himself, because HOW TO DO YOU TOP THAT? Well, 5 years later, I am more than happy to see another film come out, and in fine Noe fashion, it features an eye catching, provocative poster. Body fluids and indulgence and taboo breaking are clearly on the menu here. The teaser poster for Love is not a tableau style bit of marketing, like the recent character and group posters for Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, this is right in close and personal to a threesome. Right in the mouth, in fact. And is that title image saliva or semen? Things could go either way.

Review: Big Hero 6

Directors: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Screenplay: Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson, Jordan Roberts
Comic: Duncan Rouleau, Steven T. Seagle
Starring [voices]: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 108 min

 

This review is brought to Row Three courtesy of Joseph Belanger of Black Sheep Reviews

 

In Big Hero 6, a group of unexpected and unlikely characters come together to combine their powers and fight for justice in the world. Wait. Haven’t I seen this movie already in some variation or another already this year? (Guardians of the Galaxy?) I’m sure I’ve at least seen something similar to this in recent history. (The Avengers? Any X-Men movie?) Sure every one of these types of misfit superhero films adds its own distinct spin to the lore, and BIG HERO 6 does as well, but after a while, you can plot out the simple journey of reluctance to acceptance in these films without even trying. At times, it felt to me like Big Hero 6, the first Disney film pulled from the archives of the Marvel universe it has direct access to anytime it wants, wasn’t really trying.

You know the specific journey I’m talking about, don’t you? The one where a group of individuals all have to come to separate realizations about how they are great on their own but even greater as a group? Big Hero 6 doesn’t quite follow the same path to get to that same place but not because of anything groundbreaking. Rather, the reason here is that there are only two members of the Big Hero 6 worth paying any attention to. The rest of the gang are a distinctly diverse bunch, two girls, two boys, mixed races; all but one are scientists and each of them is reasonably awkward, socially speaking. Go figure; there are super smart people who can’t really hack it with other people who aren’t as smart. It’s practically “The Big Bang Theory” for kids. It’s not that I wanted an origin story for each of them, but they aren’t the least bit interesting, which makes a great deal of Big Hero 6 feel like filler.
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Review: Before I Go to Sleep


Director: Rowan Joffe
Novel: S.J. Watson
Screenplay: Rowan Joffe
Producers: Mark Gill, Avi Lerner, Liza Marshall, Matthew O’Toole
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 92 min.

 

 

My original posting of this review can be found HERE

 


Anterograde amnesia is one of those occurrences that pops up so often in films that you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s not as rare as it actually is in real life. From instances as varied as Guy Pearce in Memento, Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in The Lookout, we’ve had several looks into the lives of those suffering from this ailment which causes the loss of ability to create new memories. It’s not hard to understand the appeal in centering your film around a character whose lives are upended with this particular disability. After all, what better way to immediately get the audience in the perspective of your leading character than by having them experiencing things for the very first time simultaneously? It’s an instant hook that can pull the viewer in and excite them in trying to unravel the mystery of the character’s life right alongside those on the screen.

In Before I Go To Sleep, Christine Lucas (played by Nicole Kidman) awakens every morning as a 40-year-old woman with no recollection of anything in her life from her early twenties onward. There’s an unfamiliar man (Colin Firth) beside her who explains that he’s her husband Ben and she is suffering this as a result of a car accident ten years ago. Ben seems like a sweet man; someone who has been beside her this whole time and does his best to ease her into the strange, frightening experience of waking up in a life and body she has no awareness of. The first of Before I Go To Sleep‘s many twists comes almost instantly, as once Ben leaves for work Christine receives a phone call from a man named Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong), a neurologist who informs her that he’s been treating her without Ben’s knowledge and calls her every morning to remind her to find a camera hidden inside her wardrobe. They’ve been using it as a way to keep track of the memories she obtains each day and she discovers that Ben isn’t being as forthright as he seems.
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