Mia Wasikowska is back with the further adventures of little (sometimes tall), sweet Alice in Through the Looking Glass. Tim Burton is on board as executive producer this time round and director James Tobin is in the director’s chair. The name is familiar to me but it seems his only real experience in feature films so far are the recent Muppet movies – which arguably could make him very qualified for something like this.
I know Burton’s take on “Alice in Wonderland” was fairly polarizing but this author was on the side of positivity. However, this trailer for the next chapter in Alice’s fantasy doesn’t do much for me. Feels like another bland, fantasy picture for kids under 12 ala Golden Compass, Narnia, et. al. Plus the Depp schtick is over for me. I do really like the otherwise stacked cast (Spall, Rickman, Sheen, Fry, Hathaway, etc. etc.), but not sure if this will be particularly digestible. I hope to be proven wrong.
Good news for fans of cult science fiction director Shane Carruth (Primer, Upstream Color)! He’s got financing and a big-name cast for his next picture, which is being produced by FilmNation (not on the indie-micro budget that financed his previous two pictures). The film stars Anne Hathaway, Keanu Reeves, Daniel Radcliffe, Chloë Grace Moretz, Tom Holland, Asa Butterfield, and Jeff Goldblum. And it’s going to need this star power, considering the plot revolves around…Shipping Routes for Huge Cargo Freighters. Fasten your seat belts folks, Carruth is the Captain now. Also, be prepared to wait a while, as Shane Carruth is a perfectionist used to doing everything himself.
After the crowd funded, micro-budgeted remake of Ganja & Hess, Spike Lee has harnessed some big-money from Amazon for his latest provaction, Chi-Raq. It features Samuel L. Jackson breaking the fourth wall to tell us about the gun problems in the black community in Chicago, and a group of ladies that withhold sex until their boyfriends or husbands put down their fire-arms. The trailer indicates the film is done in a mix of styles, which evokes, to these eyes, something akin to Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, and has welcome return to form for Wesley Snipes, who cut is cinematic teeth in early Spike Lee pictures. It also features Angela Bassett giving a superlative Pam Grier style performance, as well as a number of other things.
Chi-Raq opens, amidst a pretty packed calander of films, in early December.
Last week we talked about all of the films coming in the next week that we’d have a tough time reviewing them all. As a consequence, we review none of them. Instead, we just glide from this to that, as Moses Znaimer would say, it is flow, not show. We look at our Top 5 Danny Boyle films, and as we are wont to do, talk at length about Sunshine. A medley of Mamet, Soderbergh, Bullock, Sorkin, Halloween horror and various other bon bons are extracted from the candy box. We call these: “shoot the shit” shows and we hope you find something worthwhile in the grab-bag. Note that the show is almost 100% spoiler free this week!
As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!
Director: Carol Reed Screenplay: Graham Greene, Lesley Storm, William Templeton Based on a Short Story by: Graham Greene Starring: Bobby/Robert Henrey, Ralph Richardson, Michèle Morgan, Sonia Dresdel Country: UK Running Time: 92 min Year: 1948 BBFC Certificate: PG
In my review of Odd Man Out back in 2012, I talked about how Carol Reed’s The Third Man had long been one of my all time favourite films, yet I hadn’t ventured further into the director’s back catalogue until then. Well it’s taken me three years to build on my addition of Odd Man Out to the checklist, but Studiocanal helped me out by offering up a screener of their new re-release of Reed’s The Fallen Idol from 1948. So, was it worth the wait and does it match up to The Third Man?
Well it’s probably unfair to compare it too closely to The Third Man as I did (too frequently) in my Odd Man Out review. Although also written by Graham Greene (and based on his short story), The Fallen Idol is quite a different film. It can still be classed as a mystery thriller, with a death being central to the plot and a murder investigation surrounding this. However, the audience always knows this was an accident and the film concerns itself chiefly with the lies being told and whether or not anyone will come clean about them.
Let me backtrack a bit though to explain the plot. The Fallen Idol is set in the French embassy in London, where the ambassador’s son Phillipe (Bobby, now Robert Henrey) lives. With his father very busy and his mother having been away for a long time (I missed why), Phillipe is looked after by the butler, Baines (Ralph Richardson), and his wife (Sonia Dresdel). He idolises Mr. Baines, who is always very kind to the boy and regales him with made-up stories of his heroic adventures in Africa.
. Wrapping up the month with: The Serpent And The Rainbow, The Majorettes, The Flesh Eaters and The Ghoul.
The Serpent And The Rainbow (1988 – Wes Craven)
Thanks in part to Matt Price and his podcast “Let’s Scare Matthew Price To Death”, I’ve finally closed a huge gap in my horror knowledge by seeing – on screen no less – Craven’s enormously entertaining film. This past week Matt helped present Craven’s The Serpent And The Rainbow at The Royal cinema here in Toronto and then did a live on stage podcast directly after the film (inviting several other local podcasters to join him). I had started watching the film years ago, got 10 minutes in, tuned out and promised I’d get back to it one day – and thank goodness I did. I must’ve been in some weird zombi-fied state lo-those-many-years-ago not to have jumped head first into this movie. Granted, Bill Pullman is Bill Pullman in it and occasionally distracts from the more serious moments, but fortunately the film allows itself to play in that surreal middle ground between reality and dream and have a ball with it (that coffin scene is one for the ages). There’s also a wider view of how Haiti itself woke from their own political slumber (which is done surprisingly subtly) and a couple of proper jump scares – build-up, payoff and well-deserved audience reaction. That voodoo is gonna get ya!
Easily one of the cinematic highlights of the year, Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson’s animated drama Anomalisa was one of the big sales at this years Toronto International Film Festival, and for good reason. The first trailer for the film arrives, and the focus is on ‘big question’ profundity, with a hint of intimacy. The humour of the film is not showcased here, but this is likely due to how little nuance and context you can pack into a short trailer. If you, like me, are deeply affected by the dulcet vocal tones of David Thewlis, then this is a small slice of heaven, as is the film.
Director: King Hu Screenplay: King Hu Starring: Lingfeng Shangguan, Chun Shih, Ying Bai Country: Taiwan Running Time: 111 min Year: 1967 BBFC Certificate: 12
Releases like this are like manna from heaven to me. I’m an ardent follower of the Masters of Cinema series as my reviews will attest, as well as classic cinema in general. However, I’m also a huge martial arts movie fan, so when a film crosses the usually distinct boundaries between esteemed classic and action movie, I jump for joy. Needless to say, I snapped up the opportunity to review King Hu’s wuxia classic Dragon Inn (a.k.a. Dragon Gate Inn) as soon as it was offered.
King Hu was responsible for a handful of the most influential and revered martial arts films of all time. After the hugely popular Come Drink With Me, made for the famous Shaw Brothers studios, he helped set up a new studio in Taiwan called Union Film Company. His first film under this banner was Dragon Inn and this was followed up a couple of years later with A Touch of Zen. These three titles helped define martial arts movies in the East for decades to come. Hu’s influence can still clearly be seen in modern examples of the genre, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero and House of Flying Daggers, so it was no surprise to me to discover that 1967’s Dragon Inn still holds up very well today.
Dragon Inn opens with some narration explaining that the tyrannical first eunuch of the Emperor of China has framed and condemned the Minister of Defence (an opponent to his rule) to death and sent his family into exile. Fearing a vengeful attack, the eunuch sends his secret police to assassinate the banished family members on their way out of the country. The ambush is to take place at the titular Dragon Inn, which lies close to the border. However, as they wait, a couple more parties join them at the inn and the waters get ever more murky, leading to much treachery and numerous fight scenes.