Friday One Sheet: Keanu

C capitalizing on the internet fascination with strange cat poses, sketch-comedy maestros Key & Peele launch their first feature film that seems to be a curious riff on Keanu Reeves’ John Wick. Taking major jabs at African-American machismo, language, and culture, and staging John Woo style action around a kitten running in the foreground, which they definitely underscore with this, ahem, Key-art, featuring a gangsta-cat, a subtly goofy tagline, and mocking of the ‘from the visionary’ style marketing hyperbole that often gets splashed on prestige pictures. Expect more cat pics until the film gets released at the end of April.

Also: The Red-Band trailer is tucked under the seat.

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After the Hype #124 – Furious 7

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Spoiler alert! Paul Walker leaps from a falling bus and grabs onto Michelle Rodriguez’s spoilers, and that’s not even the craziest moment in this automobile romp! Seriously, you owe it to yourself to give this flick another chance. Buckle up and let Bryan, Jon, Ryan, Jeff, and Trey convince you that Furious 7 is more fun than crashing an ambulance into a drone and then double-tapping it…with a gun.

 

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Cinecast Episode 425 – Most Anticipated Films of 2016 or: The Naomi Theme Park Ride of Thrills

We always sort of like this episode because it’s all positive. It’s like preparing for your first day of college and having the whole world in front of you. Everything has possibility. Sure Andrew doesn’t love Enemy and Kurt’s not always on board with Pixar, but basically all of the cynicism and shit of the world is still an unknown… for now. So with that, we’re giddy with all of the possibilities 2016 has to offer us in the cinemas (and at home on the small screen). From blockbusters to indie art-house fare, to animated films to foreign docs, there’s a lot to look forward to. We also read off some listeners’ most anticipated films of the year as well. Is it the year of Keanu and Naomi or do they just tangentially fall into the conversation by pure coincidence? Either way, like I said it’s all positive.

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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Blu-Ray Review: The Ninja Trilogy

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Cannon Films documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films in the middle of last year and despite the fact that the film doesn’t treat the production company’s output with much respect, there were a few titles that caught my interest. First and foremost was their Ninja Trilogy, a tenuously linked collection of bonkers action movies featuring ninjas. I may spend much of my time reviewing world cinema classics and the like, but I’ll always have a place in my heart for a good ninja flick, so I was over the moon when I heard the wonderful people over at Eureka were releasing the entire set on Blu-Ray. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined this would happen, so there was nothing that could stop me jumping at the chance to review a set of screeners for it.

The films included in the trilogy are Enter The Ninja, Revenge Of The Ninja & Ninja III: The Domination. Below are my thoughts on the individual films.

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Blu-Ray Review: Hiroshima Mon Amour

Director: Alain Resnais
Screenplay: Marguerite Duras
Starring: Emmanuelle Riva, Eiji Okada, Stella Dassas
Country: France, Japan
Running Time: 90 min
Year: 1959
BBFC Certificate: 12


My hit and miss relationship with French cinema (particularly the New Wave) has left a lot of gaps in my knowledge of the country’s filmic output. One of the major titles that had passed me by, which is often cited as one of the greatest films of all time (it just missed out of the top 10 in Sight and Sound’s greatest films lists in ’62 and ’72), is Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour. Given its reputation I didn’t hesitate to request a screener when one was offered, but my occasional dislike of the French style made me approach the film with caution.

Hiroshima Mon Amour is quite sparse in terms of up front narrative. An unnamed (although IMDB calls her Elle) French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) is having an affair with a Japanese architect (Lui on IMDB, played by Eiji Okada) whilst shooting an anti-war film in Hiroshima. Her time there is limited, but Lui is desperate for her to stay and the two spend the day or so they have together discussing the war and delving into Riva’s tragic past of lost love and the ensuing mental suffering. We visit these memories through brief flashbacks throughout the film.

I was a bit torn in my feelings about this. The first 15 minutes are made up of a montage of footage of Hiroshima around the time of the bombing and the present day (late ’50’s) whilst the two leads muse about the war. Elle describes things she’s seen and Lui keeps saying that she’s “seen nothing”. This is the sort of poetically philosophical dialogue that has turned me off many French films in the past, so the film didn’t set off on the right foot for me. However, I found Resnais’ shots of Hiroshima (some of the footage in this sequence is stock from the war) particularly striking which kept me on board and the subject matter interested me (I’ve always found the idea of nuclear weapons terrifying and don’t feel the bombing of Hiroshima is discussed enough in the West).

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Trailer: Paul Verhoeven’s Elle

It’s a trick. Get an axe.

Isabelle Huppert does exactly that in the french language trailer for Paul Verhoeven’s latest film, Elle. While the lack of subtitles makes one without very good french do some of the work, the essential story is a very libertarian woman decides to take things into her own hands after a masked man starts terrorizing him. Because this is a Verhoeven film, she very likely has sex with her interloper.

It’s good to see the crazy Dutch satirist back in full Hollywood style form, like many classic directors who were run out of Tinseltown for myriad reasons, he has located himself in France (albeit after a decade dalliance back in his homeland that produced at least one good film).

This just shot up to one of my most anticipated films of 2016. The film should be opening around the time of the Toronto International Film Festival in September.


When Michelle, the CEO of a gaming software company, is attacked in her home by an unknown assailant, she refuses to let it alter her precisely ordered life. She manages crises involving her 75-year-old sex kitten mother, her imprisoned mass murderer father, her spoiled and immature son, her ex-husband and her lover, all with the same icy equanimity. This is the approach she brings to the situation when it appears that her assailant is not finished with her. As the mysterious stalker hovers in the shadows of her life, taunting her, Michelle cooly stalks him back. What emerges between Michelle and her stalker is a kind of game, a game that soon spirals out of control.

After the Hype #123 – Terminator Genysis

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We’re back from the future and it kinda sucks. This movie doesn’t, however. It’s surprisingly alright and we offer some points you might find interesting. Except Jonathan. He’s a doody-brain and is a bit of a killjoy. Chewie, Ryan, and Tom weigh in.

 

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Review: Concussion

concussion-posterDirector: Peter Landesman (Parkland)
Writer: Peter Landesman
Producers: Elizabeth Cantillon, Giannina Facio-Scott, Ridley Scott, Larry Shuman, David Wolthoff
Starring: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Morse, Arliss Howard, Mike O’Malley, Eddie Marsan
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 123 min.

 

 

My original posting of this review can be found HERE

 


A lot of hubbub was made leading up to the release of Peter Landesman’s Concussion over accusations that the film toned down its treatment of the NFL in the depiction of this true story detailing the way that the league hid knowledge of the catastrophic brain damage their athletes suffered on the field. If this is the toned down version, I can’t even begin to imagine what the other version was like. Landesman’s script demonizes the league from start to finish, lionizing Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) as the righteous crusader, with the NFL practically holding a pitchfork as they go out of their way to destroy his life while decimating the psychological well-being of their athletes and endangering the lives of those men’s families after they’ve succumbed to the ailments that playing the game caused to their brains. Is it an interesting story? Perhaps. Is it an important one that deserves to be put up on the screen to grant wider recognition? Probably. Is it in any way, shape, or form, subtle or handled with the tiniest bit of delicacy? Not by a long shot.

Landesman, in what is only his second film after the milquetoast JFK assassination ensemble piece Parkland, has a journalistic approach to his writing that charges adrenaline into potent scenes of Omalu fighting against this corrupt system, but he lets his rightful anger get in the way of presenting the story in an objective fashion. There’s no grey areas here, no rounding of these characters into believable human beings. Instead we get a black and white, David vs. Goliath tale that has trouble maintaining its momentum when it reaches the final act and realizes that resolution for this story was still many years away. It’s tragic what happened to these men, there’s no question about that, and Landesman is just in wanting to paint the NFL in this light for their actions, but it doesn’t make for a very level-headed product and that imbalance can get in the way of his storytelling at times. This is especially true in any scene where Omalu comes up against the people representing the league, where they’re depicted like the arrogant, shady corporate devils of a piece of John Grisham, or the goofy moments showing the players battling their disease, which pitch the melodrama to its highest level and clash wildly with the rest of the film.

Concussion is at its strongest when focusing on Omalu as an individual, thanks in no small part to a sturdy performance from Will Smith. After years away from the limelight of the big screen, Smith started out 2015 by reminding us just how well he can harness his movie star wattage in the underrated Focus, and he ends it here by showing us what a gifted dramatic actor he is when he’s willing to buckle down and get into the heart and soul of his characters. There’s no flash to Bennet Omalu, leaving Smith without his trademark smirk and knack for a great one-liner. Instead, he’s got to find the inner life of this man and his portrayal is one of great passion, while also possessing the humanism that Landesman’s writing and directing sorely lacked. Concussion ultimately isn’t a film that will leave you with much more than a shrug (and likely a yawn as its meandering final act makes it feel every minute of its bloated 123-minute runtime), but if nothing else it holds the promise that Smith still has the capacity to be the best of both worlds the way that he’s always been. Hopefully this year is a sign that he’s truly back.

 
 

Friday One Sheet: Green Room

I was not as over-the-moon as the genre circuit seemed to be at its Toronto International Film Festival Midnight Madness debut back in September. Outside of a fantastic opening shot, and a dollop of subverted expectations here and there, I felt Green Room was a satisfying single watch, nothing more. But enough about my reaction to the film, let’s talk about this poster. Green is not a common color for shading movie marketing, outside, perhaps, the Alien franchise, perhaps because it makes people a bit queasy when applied to skin tones. Sure, green, is in the title of the film, but the colour does add to the sinister nature of Patrick Stewart’s white supremacist boss-man in the film, and what really makes the marketing excellent here is him peaking in the doorway (a theme in the film) while the text on the other side of the image, direct quotes from the character, is quite threatening. The poster here caputures the tone of the film and I admire the honesty in its marketing effort.

**UPDATED** With the Teaser trailer, tucked under the seat.

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