Review: Bitter Harvest

In between the two World Wars, the then nascent Soviet Union, in a barbarous act of mismanaged nation building, starved north of seven million Ukrainians to death, all the while violently appropriating the land and the crops from the ‘bread basket of Europe.’

Unquestionably, The Holocaust has received the lion’s share of cinema treatments when it comes to mid-20th century genocide, but to the best of my knowledge, Bitter Harvest is the first English language take on Holodomar. For such a monumentally horrific moment in history, the story of that brutal period of famine deserves a better telling than this clumsy, cluttered affair.

Hollywood (and the many Canadian film efforts that are often caught in its gravitational orbit) is very good at taking national crises and lathering on a mushy romance for the sake of butts in seats. From Pearl Harbor to Passchendaele, handsome, misguided attempts at turning history lessons into callow entertainment abound. (The weird irony is that with few large exceptions – Titanic – those butts rarely find those seats.)

Bitter Harvest is the latest casualty of this kind of folly. it’s a Canadian production with a predominantly British cast about a significant (and unimaginably horrific) moment in Ukrainian history. Director George Mendeluk, a 30-year veteran of directing for television, from episodes of Miami Vice to The Highlander: The Series), has spent the last decade almost exclusively making tele-movies. Here, it seems he cannot shake the more blunt – make sure the slowest customer ‘gets it’ – storytelling of the Lifetime genre.

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Cinecast Episode 474 – Logan, Get Out!

Two big movies getting rave(!) reviews from critics. Andrew and Kurt are less than enthused for at least one of them. I believe the phrase “masterpiece” is being thrown around alot these days for films that will mostly be forgotten in six months. Get Out manages to shake up the mold a little bit and there is some discussion to be had there. But the adoration for Logan is pure bafflement on both sides of the table. Kurt decides the American Western tie-in is a good opportunity to revisit the classic Shane. Andrew takes the race card to a different level with American History X. Also The HBO series keep on coming as well as a Zemeckis throwback from the turn of the millennium. This is a dusty car ride of a Cinecast that, unlike Logan, has a destination and a purpose.

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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After the Credits Episode 205: March Preview

It’s Belle. It’s really BELLE!

Summer is officially here. Seriously? It’s still snowing in Vancouver!

Who cares about the weather. What’s really important is the fact that as far as Hollywood is concerned, summer movie season is here.

Join us this week as Dale (Letterboxd) and I (Letterboxd) delve into the huge list of releases this month. And we mean huge. From big titles like Logan (see it!) to smaller titles like Suntan, March is looking mighty fine.

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Friday One Sheet: Like Me

SXSW is coming, and since it is a slow and uninteresting week in posters this week, I thought I would highlight this eye-catching design for Glass Eye Pix’s colourful indie drama, Like Me. Imbued with a bunch of jarring elements, palm trees with Christmas lights, a vintage car on a beach, a white mouse on the shoulder of (presumably) the protagonist (who is subtly sporting a gun as well). I know very little about the film, but the poster posits that I should check it out. I look forward from the reports from the festival next week.

Review: Logan

Director: James Mangold (Cop Land, Girl Interrupted, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma, The Wolverine)
Screenplay: Michael Green, Scott Frank, James Mangold
Producers: Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker, Lauren Shuler Donner
Starring: Doris Morgado, Hugh Jackman, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Patrick Stewart, Stephen Merchant, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Richard E. Grant
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 135 min.

 

 

My original posting of this review can be found at Quiet Earth

 


At this point, the superhero genre has devolved into a yearly battle for delivering ever-more bombastic movies. Sometimes they have interesting stories but mostly it’s about big action sequences smashed between some quirky dialog and maybe an inkling of story. Some of these movies are more fun to watch than others but of the comic book adaptations of the last few years, the most interesting work is being done on the small screen – until now.

The marketing suggested that Logan, director James Mangold’s second Wolverine movie, might be in a different class than the rest and this time, the marketing didn’t lie.

This superhero/action/western hybrid unfolds in 2029. In this future, Logan is aging, healing slower than before and caring for Charles Xavier. Their not-so-peaceful living arrangement is up-ended even further when Logan is approached by a woman who wants him to take a little girl named Laura to South Dakota. That meeting sets rolling a whole load of trouble in the form of Donald Pierce, Dr. Rice and an army of mercenaries determined to get their hands on the girl at any cost.
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Trailer: Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2

A new Guardians of the Galaxy movie, means a new 1970s pop-rock collection of song, and that is led off here with Fleetwood Mac. All of showcased here, including a lot more of the effortlessly effective humour from James Gunn’s direction. Oh, and Kurt Russell. This particular corner of the Marvel universe is the only one I bother with, because it more than the rest of the studio’s franchise building efforts feel beholden to corporate sameness. Guardians of the Galaxy still feels like it has its own personality, and some directorial auteurism, propelling it along.

Trailer: Alien Covenant

Let the franchise pandering continue with the latest trailer for Prometheus Sequel, or just another Alien movie, Alien: Covenant. Clearly the trailer is highlighting a lot of classic tropes of the ever increasing franchise of xenomorph films, but the trailer does highlight an interesting dynamic across all these varied films, that of the community on the ship. The first Alien movie was blue-collar workers in space, and the second film was gung-ho marines, the third movie was uneasy inmates and the fourth one was, ahem, Firefly. Prometheus was an uneasy collection of corporate mercenaries, kind of 2nd and 3rd string of competence (hence all the dumb mistakes they make, which people relentless write off as ‘plot holes’ or ‘bad writing’.)

Covenant has the crew organized as romantic couples, settlers for a new world. Since sex and violence and inter-species rape has always been churning in this franchise, I’m actually quite curious to see how this plays out. But at the moment, yes, all the ‘give them what we think they want’ aspects of the Covenant marketing campaign have been putting up a lot of red flags.

Also, the Australian and New Zealand locations sure look sweet here.

Teaser: Bong Joon-Ho’s Okja

It is the Korean auteur’s second collaboration with Tilda Swinton (after Snowpiercer) and his second creature feature (following 2005s The Host.) Netflix has ponied up some large cash for, Okja, a science-fiction animal-cloning story that, judging by this Netflix-Korea teaser, is a mixture of English and Korean language. Other than that, it gives you the tone of the piece, as a good teaser-trailer should.

Ahn Seo-Hyun, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson, Giancarlo Esposito, and Lily Collins also have major roles. The film pops up on Netflix in June.

89th Annual Academy Award Winners [updated live]

It’s presentation night for the 89th Annual Oscar Awards. Of course the slightly better than mediocre La La Land (14 nominations) is probably just going to win everything so there’s really no reason to even watch. Although, I suppose it’s possible that the nearly unprecedented number of wins by one film may actually cause the entire audience to spontaneously get up and start singing and dancing. So okay, you should watch.

If you’re a cord-cutter (or just a hater of Jimmy Kimmel) and unable to attend the broadcast on ABC, have no fear. Row Three will be updating the winners as they’re announced. You can see all the nominations below and as the winners casually walk up to the stage then hopefully trip on their gown or an overly aggressive trombone player, you’ll see them show up in fashionable bold red font; separating the winners from the complete losers who are going nowhere in Hollywood without that little gold statue.

Also, be sure to throw your two cents into the comment section below. Some of us will be in and out of there throughout the night. Should be fun. Stay tuned!

 

TOTAL NOMINATIONS COUNT:
La La Land 14
Arrival 8
Moonlight 8
Hacksaw Ridge 6
Lion 6
Manchester by the Sea 6
Fences 4
Hell or High Water 4


 

BEST MOTION PICTURE:
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

 

DIRECTOR:
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

 

ACTOR:
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

 

ACTRESS:
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

 

SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

 

SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

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