• Mamo #328: The Character Assassination of the Coward Rob Ford

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    Toronto had a rollicking week in the news, but is this the resurgence of print journalism, or its last gasp? We talk new media vs. old, complex thought vs. simple, and whether a well-informed electorate is beyond the purview of a man like Rob Ford.

    Plus – listen for details on how YOU can win tickets to the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival, and post your entries in the comments below!

    To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo328.mp3

  • Extended Thoughts: Ender’s Game

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    If there is one thing to get a passionate response from yours truly regarding Gavin Hood’s cinematic adaptation of Ender’s Game, it is not the social viewpoints and activism of the original novel’s author, Orson Scott Card. Yes, the man’s personal politics are vulgar and disturbing to say the least, but we’re nearly 30 years out from the original penning of the novel, so I am inclined to take the book on its own merits, namely the printed page, as with the film, for what is up on screen. No, if I am to get passionate, it is the litany of missed opportunities that pile every upwards as the film progresses: Rushed plotting; Bad dialogue and shoddy characterization which likely resulted in the poor performances from actors who are normally better (particularly the ladies Viola Davis, Abigail Breslin and Hailee Steinfeld); Failure to commit fully to its themes; Alluding to both Full Metal Jacket and Starship Troopers, yet having not an ounce of self-awareness or wit to warrant such allusions. I supposed like similarly handsome yet toothless 2013 science fiction with an about face, Oblivion, we should just forget about it and move on, but I find missed opportunities more risible than simply commercially crass filmmaking, and thus my dander is a bit up.

    So, let us go through things. But first a few words on the source material.

    When I read the book in 1985, the final twist was so astonishing that the any denouement failed to convince younger me of the moral ugliness of divorcing command decisions from the folks in the field. Or for that matter the atrocity in equal measure of taking children so young and sacrificing their psyche and childhood on the alter of ‘pre-emptive strike’ military tactics. It was just a cool story of a bullied by smart kid who comes into his own self confidence via his applied intelligence in zero-G war games and the resulting trials of leadership and friendship only to be used ‘a little early’ by a disingenuous senior command. It was a neat story, compelling characters and maybe a bit of wish fulfilment to a budding science fiction nerd. When reading things as a parent in 2013, post American Pre-Emptive Strike (aka Gulf War II) geopolitical landscape, coupled with ubiquitous and complex video games accessible to increasingly younger kids and a particular enhanced sensitivity to bullying, the story struck me as something vastly darker, more sinister and flat out disturbing. It was more along the lines of Paul Verhoeven’s slyly satirical take on Starship Troopers than Robert Heinlein’s more earnest read on military service and moral obligation. Years ago, I felt that 1999 was the right year for an adaptation of the book, perhaps with The Sixth Sense‘s emotive Haley Joel Osment in the lead, after all, that was the year peak of ‘reality vs. fantasy’ and ‘big twist’ movie making. But clearly the ground is more fertile after 9/11 and Microsoft’s Halo and the “It Gets Better Project” in 2013 which makes Gavin Hood’s adaptation, as humourless as it is, flirts with all the opportunities to actually say something with the material, but fails to be anything but a lumpy mass of mushy confusion about anything. It is a frustrating experience.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Blu-Ray Review: Red River

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    Directors: Howard Hawks
    Screenplay: Borden Chase, Charles Schnee
    Based on a Story by: Borden Chase
    Starring: John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Joanne Dru, Walter Brennan
    Producer: Howard Hawks
    Country: USA
    Running Time: 133 min
    Year: 1948
    BBFC Certificate: U

    (4.5/5)


    I have a similar relationship with the western as I do with film noir. I profess to loving both genres (my all time favourite film is a western – Once Upon a Time in the West), but I haven’t seen nearly enough of them to truly justify my ‘fandom’. In my formative years as a film lover (around 15-20 years ago) I worked my way through the big name westerns like The Searchers, Stagecoach and The Wild Bunch (another film very high in my list of personal favourites), but I never explored the genre properly. In my naïve youth I guess I stuck a little too closely to the official canon of ‘greats’ so felt I’d already hit the top of the list and didn’t need to dig any deeper. I also developed a great love of the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns, and dismissed many of the early Hollywood entries as less thrilling or stylish.

    So there have always been huge gaps in my western knowledge. Recently I’ve been trying to rectify this though, largely due to me finally getting around to one of James Stewart’s collaborations with Anthony Mann, Winchester ’73. I adored the film and I’m trying to work my way through the others they did together as well as go back to the numerous great Hollywood westerns of the era. Eureka’s superlative DVD/Blu-Ray label Masters of Cinema has helped with my quest by releasing a handsome new Blu-Ray of Howard Hawks’ Red River, one of the many classic Westerns I hadn’t yet seen.

    Red River sees John Wayne play Thomas Dunson, a man who settles on a piece of land in Texas with a bull and a cow. With the help of an old friend (Walter Brennan) and Matt (Montgomery Clift once he grows up), a boy he takes under his wing, Dunson turns this meagre start to a mass of cattle several thousand strong. Unfortunately all of this livestock isn’t actually earning him any money, so he decides to drive the herd on a long and treacherous journey to Missouri, where he can sell the beasts for a handsome profit. The journey and Dunson’s troubled past get the better of him though and as he becomes more ruthless and cruel, his ranch hands and Matt turn against him, taking the herd elsewhere. Dunson swears revenge and along the way Tess Millay (Joanne Dru), a feisty young woman, gets involved with matters and attempts to put an end to the feud.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • If You Are Born to Crawl, You Can Still Fly

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    turbo-posterThe story, which is superficially represented in the Turbo trailer is the life story of a tiny, yet amazing snail; which looked pretty ordinary at the first glance, but kept an immense dream in his heart. His name is Theo, and “Turbo” is his nickname. A sonorous alias which was based on his reckless dream to become fast. It must sound ridiculous. And even more than this, a speedy snail (a trick of nature) which has no place wherever it goes.

    It seems like Dreamworks Pictures has come to a decision to add to their creation a little desperation, a little aspiration, and a little bit of magic. They told us and our children a tale about a dream, which seems so unattainable and unfeasible, but comes to life because the one who dreamt this dream refused to give up. So here is the new creation by DreamWorks, a brilliant and beautiful cartoon Turbo.

    Since the earliest years we have a stereotype that snails are ones of the slowest creatures on Earth. This is exactly the kind of cognitive conflict needed to amaze, so DreamWorks made such a brave choice. Theo could not care less about the prejudices he was surrounded by, because he dreamed of racing, he dreamed of becoming a winner and indeed, he managed to make his dream come true. Of course, a miracle took place, and even as the Turbo trailer demonstrates, Turbo nearly died under the wheels of a racing car to acquire some supernatural powers of unimaginable speed. Despite the difficulties, he overcame his fears and doubts, defeated every trouble with a little help from his loyal friends, made it to the race and absolutely owned it.

    Already from the Turbo trailer it can be seen that this is a cartoon not about races, snails, or something concrete. Turbo’s dream of being fast and the character of Theo in general is a metaphor for every single dreamer out there, who is as determined and as desperate to fight for his dream on whatever costs, as Theo was. Turbo is a story of unthinkable accomplishment, absolute friendship, unadulterated loyalty, barely credible keenness and, of course, the power of character. No mattter how many times you fail, how many times the people laugh at you, how many times it seems that hope is lost, as long as you have faith in your own possibilities, one or two truthful friends who are there for you unconditionally and a dream which keeps you alive, the odds are ever in you favor. Little Theo was not afraid to put his life at risk. He was carrying inside of his snaily soul a dream so huge it overcame the nature and the universe itself to make the impossible possible. And the story of his incredible life should demonstrate to us that whatever heights you might reach, you will be determined enough to fly even higher, putting the fear of falling aside.

  • Review: Aftermath

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    AftermathStill1

    Director: Wladyslaw Pasikowski
    Screenplay: Wladyslaw Pasikowski
    Producers: Dariusz Jablonski, Violetta Kaminska
    Starring: Maciej Stuhr, Ireneusz Czop, Andrzej Mastalerz, Zbigniew Zamachowski
    MPAA Rating: NR
    Running time: 107 min.


    War is never really over. The fighting might stop, soldiers leave, bodies buried and homes rebuilt but the effects of war have a way of reaching through time. Sixty years after WWII, new war stories are still emerging, small facts about people and places that were lost to history and memory. Wladyslaw Pasikowski’s Aftermath is a slightly more complicated in that the fictionalized events have erupted a national discussion about Poland’s complicated history.

    Ten years in the making, Pasikowski’s film is inspired by historian Jan Gross’ “Neighbors,” a carefully researched history that uncovers the reality of the murder of the Jewish population of an entire town. Covering similar ground, Aftermath stars Ireneusz Czop as Francis, eldest Kalina son who escaped to the United States in the 80s leaving his brother Jozef (Maciej Stuhr) and his parents behind to care for the family farm. Francis has reluctantly returned to the unchanging village of his youth to visit his brother Jozef whose wife and children have abandoned him and moved in with Francis in the US.

    Jozef has been making enemies of most of his neighbours by buying up, and occasionally stealing, old Jewish headstones which he has set into a makeshift cemetery in one of his fields. He’s taught himself enough Hebrew to read the inscriptions and feels a pull to the work he’s doing, as if he’s setting straight an old wrong. It’s not until Francis goes digging through the archives that he discovers that there’s far more at stake than a few misused headstones and that the town is harbouring a very nasty secret.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Review: Dallas Buyers Club

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    Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
    Screenplay:  Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
    Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Denis O’Hare, and Steve Zahn.
    MPAA Rating: R
    Running time: 117 min.

    Dallas Buyers Club

    A clear Oscar contender, Dallas Buyers Club continues Matthew McConaughey’s recent streak of monumental roles. A moving film that focuses on the AIDS epidemic during the late 1980’s, it manages to captivate if only moderately. While it delivers some of the best performances in years from McConaughey and costar Jared Leto, it lacks a clear focus, and struggles with pacing. Though it is compelling, it doesn’t manage to carry its own weight.

    Though not a biopic, the story centers on antihero Ron Woodroof. A blue collar Texan electrician, misogynist, cowboy, homophobe, and drug addict, Woodroof finds out he’s become HIV positive. Likely due to one of his many conquests, he is thrust into a world he’d never imagined he’d become a part of. Given the looming prognosis of 30 days to live, he refuses to admit defeat. “Sorry, lady,” he shouts to his physician, Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), “but I prefer to die with my boots on.” Venturing across the border for healthier alternative medication to then toxic AZT, he proceeded to bring them back to Texas in order to help others like him: the sick and dying without a shot in hell.

    It’s an excellent film, but Dallas Buyers Club doesn’t seem to have a clear point. Ron Woodroof’s story is a compelling one, but this isn’t a biopic. It touches on the toxicity of AZT, the first U.S. Government approved HIV treatment, but only as a plot device. Similarly, it introduces the drug abuse and latent homophobia that ran rampant when AIDS became an epidemic, but never forms a dialogue on the matter. All of these factors come together to form a touching, and entertaining film that winds up blindly trying to hit a strong point, and ultimately missing. Would you like to know more…?

  • Friday One Sheet: Blue is the Warmest Color

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    A very chic poster for this years Palm D’Or winner, the lengthy drama that is being talked about more for its lesbian sex scene than anything else going on in the movie. A colleague of mine photoshopped a certain feature of this poster 90 degrees, a slight tweak that the marketing department may have missed to capitalize on the online chatter about the film.

  • After the Credits Episode 139: November Preview

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    Though we’re full board into Oscar season, November looks more like early summer with the release of two highly anticipated sci-fi blockbusters. Dale (Letterboxd), Colleen and I (Letterboxd), preview the month and look forward with excitement at our last film festival of the year, Whistler!

    Direct Download

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    We can also be contacted via email – marina@rowthree.com!

    Show Notes:

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Toronto After Dark 2013: Cheap Thrills Review

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    TADFFCheapThrills

    A near perfect title (targeting viewers as well as certain characters within the film) for a near perfect exercise in escalation, Cheap Thrills follows two desperate souls as they dive deeper into a game of cruel one-upmanship (for cash and prizes!). There can only be one possible direction for the game to finally take and the film steps you there in believable (and, fortunately, entertaining) fashion. As our contestants Craig and Vince out-do and under-bid each other at each step, the comedy turns darker and an uncomfortable reality sets in to the viewer – are we just as guilty as the two hosts of this private party?

    The party in question is for Violet’s birthday (played by Sara Paxton and looking far different than her tom-boyish character in The Innkeepers) and it’s being hosted by her husband Colin (David Koechner). The party-hardy Colin chats up Vince at a bar (where he and Craig were catching up on old times) and manages to rope the two of them into celebrating the beautiful Violet’s special day (even if she seems totally uninterested in just about everything but her phone). Craig hasn’t exactly had the best day – he just got fired from a crappy job on the same day he received a final eviction notice on the apartment he shares with his wife and infant child – and he was just considering bailing on home when Colin and Vince convince him to stay for an additional drink or two. He really has no reason to stay (he had only accidentally ran into his old “friend” Vince at the bar anyway), but Colin’s ease with flashing money and willingness to make little side bets (e.g. “I’ll give you $20 if that girl slaps your face…”) has him intrigued. He’s in dire straits and currently has no immediate options for making any money. Since his going-nowhere writing career won’t provide for his family any time soon, he decides to stay…

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Jeremy Gardner and Adam Cronheim discuss THE BATTERY

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    The Battery

    Far and away one of the best films at Toronto After Dark this year, The Battery has been taking not only Toronto, but the international festival circuit by storm. Winner of three audience award prizes, and official selection of over 20 international film festivals, it’s living up to expectations as one of the best zombie films in years.

    I had the opportunity to sit down with writer, director, producer and star Jeremy Gardner, and costar and producer Adam Cronheim to discuss the zombie-less zombie film. Though it is an originally executed film, in many ways, it’s still the same concept. “It’s still zombies,” says Gardner, “and all the rules apply. Even some of the tropes are there. But the seed of it was trying to focus on the way an apocalypse would affect the psychology and the psyche of the human rather than the macro scale that a lot of zombie movies try to do.”

    Reportedly made for a meager $6,000, much of the concept of a two-man film was based on budgetary restraints. “Even as a fan of the genre, it forces you to refocus,” Gardner added on the impact of their budget. “It’s hard to splatter a head on screen when you have no money. So it forces you to be creative in what you show and what you don’t show. But I always like things like that, where it’s a little off screen. It’s like Texas Chainsaw Massacre where they always say that it’s one of the most violent movies ever, but you really don’t see anything. It’s all about mood, and tone, and terror.” Would you like to know more…?

  • Jason Reitman’s “Labor Day” Trailer

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    Jason Reitman is back and Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin are along for the ride. Premiering at TIFF last month, Labor Day received middling to positive reviews for its dramatic storytelling approach. Up until now, Reitman’s stuff has been fairly light hearted; even whimsy at times. He always tackles semi-serious issues, but they’re always delivered with a heaping tablespoon of sugar. From this trailer, I think we’re in for a little more melodrama… which is fine by me.

    Depressed single mom Adele and her son Henry offer a wounded, fearsome man a ride. As police search town for the escaped convict, the mother and son gradually learn his true story as their options become increasingly limited.

    Besides Winslet and Brolin, the film costars Clark Gregg, James Van Der Beek and Tobey Maguire. Expect a limited theatrical run of Labor Day around Christmas and then a wider release after the new year.

    What say you? Reitman going down the “soap opera” rabbit hole a good idea or bad one?

    (IMDb)

  • Review – Ender’s Game

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    enders-poster

    Director: Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, X-Men Origins: Wolverine)
    Novel: Orson Scott Card
    Screenplay: Gavin Hood
    Producers: Alex Kurtzman, Lynn Hendee, Orson Scott Card, Robert Chartoff, Ed Ulbrich, Linda McDonough, Roberto Orci, Gigi Pritzker
    Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis
    MPAA Rating: PG-13
    Running time: 114 min.

     

    (3/5)

     

    Review courtesy of Geir Friestad

     

    Set some time in the future, Earth is at war with an insectile alien species, colloquially referred to as the “buggers”. Humankind narrowly managed to push back the first and second invasion wave, and is at the time we enter Ender’s Game gearing up for the third one. Acting on the idea that children are quicker and more attuned to the shifting challenges of the increasingly video game-like war scenarios than adults, Earth’s younger generations are sifted through to find and train the best military commanders of tomorrow. Enter Ender Wiggins, a lonely and unhappy boy – and possibly the best candidate Earth has ever seen…

    Having read and liked Orson Scott Card’s source novel some twenty years ago, my initial take on Gavin Hood’s big screen adaptation was that it appeared to be sticking pretty close to the original story. Yet, something was missing, and it was hard to put a finger on what it was. To put things in perspective, I went back and reread the novel, and the missing puzzle pieces fell into place. A movie has to stand on its own, of course, and comparing a movie adaptation to the source novel is more often than not bound to be a disappointing process. It’s the crutch that’s the most convenient to reach for here, though, as it makes it more simple to explain why Ender’s Game misses the mark somewhat.

    Would you like to know more…?




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