SPARK ANIMATION 2010 reveals first wave of titles and conference speakers

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I warned that festival season in Vancouver was about to go through the roof. Up next on the agenda is Spark Animation which is hosted by Vancouver’s ACM Siggraph.

This is always a festival I look forward to as it features a great selection of both new and classic animated films and this year’s line-up is looking good, even with only a few of the films announced. On the docket so far are Don Hahn’s Waking Sleeping Beauty which takes a look at the Disney machine (this should be interesting), Chicken Run, How to Train Your Dragon (review) as well as The Best of SIGGRAPH 2010 which is bound to feature some amazing, cutting edge shorts.

This year’s festival kicks off on September 8th while the concurrent conference begins on September 10th with a speaker session on the visual style of How to Train Your Dragon.

More good announcements to come as there are still a number of film slots to fill but for now, check out the website for times and ticket information and, of course, follow them on twitter for the latest updates!

First look at VIFF 2010

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The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF to site newcomers), is nearly here!

Actually, it’s still a few weeks away as this year’s instalment of Vancouver’s largest film festival runs September 30th to October 15th, but with five weeks to go, festival organizers are already busy dishing out some of what we can expect to see in this year’s extensive line-up and my must see list already has a few titles.

On the docket already is the Cannes Palme d’Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Certified Copy which stars the fantastic (and best actress winner at Cannes) Juliette Binoche, Xavier Beauvois’ Cannes Grand Prix winner Of God and Men, Xavier Dolan’s follow up Heartbeats, Stephen Frears’ Tamara Drew and Olivier Assayas’ Carlos.

Also back is the Arts & Letters series which is made up of films that convey the power of the arts on film. So far, the stand outs here include Patrick McGrady’s Wagner & Me which explores Stephen Fry’s love for Wagner while reconciling this love with Wagner’s Nazi associations, Tamra Davis’ Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child and the b-boy documentary Turn It Loose.

A new series this year is Africa Today which features a great assortment of films made and set in sub-Saharan Africa. Interesting titles in this lineup include Cy Kuckenbaker Bush League, Andreas Apostolides A Place Without People and Nathan Collett’s Togetherness Supreme.

All of the titles already announced, most with trailers, are tucked under the seats with more updates in the coming weeks. For now, mark your calendars with these important VIFF dates:

September 4
Sneak Preview Guide Available at locations around town.

September 12
VIFF Box Office opens to VISA cardholders.

September 19
Cash sales begin.

September 23
2010 VIFF Program Catalogue available.

September 28
Vancouver Film & Television Forum

September 30
Festival kicks off with Opening Gala film.

More details, including box office locations, hours, parking, transit and theatre information available at the VIFF website. We’ll be posting updates as they become available!

And if you’re looking for up to the minute VIFF updates, follow me and the festival on twitter!

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Toronto After Dark: Black Death Review

Black Death

Director: Christopher Smith (Creep, Severance, Triangle)
Writers: Dario Poloni
Producers: Douglas Rae, Robert Bernstein, Jens Meurer, Phil Robertson,
Starring: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne
Carice van Houten
Running time: 97 min.


Toronto After Dark

As a big fan of Severance I was quite happy to be able to check out his newest movie Black Death at Toronto After Dark this year. As luck would have it I was not able to attend the actual screening but I was fortunately presented with the chance to watch a screener of the film. As this was a fullscreen screener I am not going to talk about the cinematography which I believe will look quite good on the big screen as the film has a dark gritty look to it. What I will focus on more the story and the characters.

Black Death tells the story of a young monk, Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) who has fallen in love with a woman and when the plague is ravaging the town tells her to leave. As he wants to leave but is unwilling to do so due to his believes he asks God for a sign as to if he should leave. The sign comes in the form of Ulric (Sean Bean), an envoy for the Bishop who is requesting help in finding a village that needs to be questioned as to how they are avoiding the plague. Osmund sees Ulric’s arrival as the sign and leaves after a warning from the other monks. Osmond quickly discovers that Ulric and his men have been sent to capture what they believe is a necromancer and that they are to bring him back to the Bishop. A particularly evil looking contraption is will torture the suspected necromancer. Osmond has little choice but to go along with the men as he hopes to find his love and leave with her. When the men eventually find the village they are greeted with friendly faces and open arms but there is definitely and underlying tension between the two groups and Ulric is still determined to find the necromancer.

Black Death is a very dark and grim movie. Very little happiness is to be found during the time of the plague when everyone was suspected by the church of being in league with the devil. The violence when it comes is brutal and th lives of everyone involved is quite nasty. The grim realism of the movie is one of the films strongest points. It draws you in and you begin to feel as if you are within the world as it existed at that time. Black Death also has a very strong ensemble cast. Each of the soldiers has their own quirks and character but they all fit together as a whole yet their is a certain level of tension also between them. These men of God are killers and they know it. Some of them are doing it for money and others for their belief.

The film does take a few twists and turn that I found annoying while watching the film but as the movie progresses it all ends up coming together nicely. My biggest complaint about Black Death is the need to dumb things down a bit by providing a voice over to explain what you are seeing on screen. Yes some time has past and you might not recognize everyone involved upon an initial glance but it quickly obvious even without the voice over just who is who and what is happening.

Overall, Black Death is a very strong dark gritty tale of mans need to be in control and not accepting the beliefs of others. It does not feel as if it is preaching about the subject but instead is just providing us a glimpse of what the times were like and how the suffering of the plague could bring the worst out in people. If Black Death ends up in a theatre near me I am going to revisit it as I wish to see the full movie in widescreen aspect as I also believe that it may very well be very beautiful with its washed out colours and gritty look.

Screenshots of Lust II: Lust Harder

The highly popular Screenshots of Lust, Part 1, can be viewed here. This latest batch continues the effort to capture moments of lust in cinema without resorting to the outright pornographic. It is admittedly Romy Schneider heavy – what can I say, she was perfectly cast as the object of desire and obsession in Clouzot’s L’Enfer. As always I would like a full report of the images that I missed. Enjoy.

Romy Schneider in Choses de la Vie
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“Jumper” Sequel a Maybe

While everyone talks about the terrible trailer for Doug Liman’s new political “thriller,” Fair Game, it reminded me that I needed to check up on Jumper 2 news/rumors. And lo and behold, Hayden Christian mentioned in a quick interview with the magicians over at MTV that there are some rumblings about a script being developed for the next film.

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

“We’re talking about it right now actually…Hopefully [the story will go] somewhere a little darker. I think there’s a lot, lot, LOT you can do with it. But, ya know it was sort of set up in a way that it’s gonna be mother hunting son and possibly even maybe, ya know, sister hunting brother. We’re talking about it, trying to figure it out.”

So yeah, I admit it; I’m a fan of the original Jumper movie (in fact, I like most of Liman’s previous work) for a lot of reasons. Hayden Christiansen doesn’t happen to be one of those reasons, but I definitely look forward to more of the story. I liked the way this character used his super powers believably (before Hancock did) and I dig the rest of the cast (particularly Jaimie Bell was awesome in this). The jumping effect was used… effectively and I thought the action sequences were wicked as hell.

I know I’m in a very small minority here but the movie took in well over $200 million so the demand for a sequel is likely there. And despite what people say – because they don’t want to admit to liking a Christiansen movie – they’re gonna go back for a second round because they secretly liked the first one. Even if it was just for Rachel Bilson.

If you’re real interested, the video quote is embedded under the seats…
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Review: The Switch

The Switch Onesheet

Directors: Josh Gordon & Will Speck (Blades of Glory)
Screenplay: Allan Loeb, Jeffrey Eugenides (short story)
Producers: Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa
Starring: Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Jeff Goldblum, Juliette Lewis, Patrick Wilson, Thomas Robinson
MPAA Rating: PG13
Running time: 100 min.

The problem with The Switch isn’t the movie itself (though it too has its misses) but the marketing. Yes, it’s difficult to sell a dramedy to the male population at large but to sell it as a romantic comedy is disappointing, especially when it features a great performance from the male lead. Perhaps it will work to the film’s benefit and women will see it with their girlfriends, like it and drag the men or heck, date night might be lady’s choice but however you cut it, this film is unlikely to reach the audience who will appreciate it most: new dads.

The Switch Movie StillDirected by the duo who brought us the travesty that is Blades of Glory, The Switch is a completely different ballgame, one that feels like the duo traded themselves in for someone who actually knows what they’re doing.

Based on a short story by Jeffrey Eugenides, it’s the drama of a woman (Jennifer Aniston) who wants a child so badly, she decides to find herself a donor. Her best friend Wally (Jason Bateman), a one time romantic interest who is too much of a realist to be Kassie’s boyfriend but who makes for perfect friend material, is against the idea but shows up to the “I’m getting pregnant” party to support the woman he secretly loves. A series of lightly amusing events later, we learn that Kassie’s pregnant, moving away to raise her son outside of New York and just like that, seven years go by. With a new job lined up, Kassie moves back to the Big Apple, reunites with Wally and the seed donor and then things get complicated.

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The Circle is Now Complete… and Available for All to See.

Star Wars Uncut is finally finished. There is a clip below but you can head right over to the vimeo profile and see the whole thing in all its “Sweded” glory. Sure it’s horrible (horribly delicious!), but realizing that a bunch of people made this movie while on their lunch breaks in the office or tinkering in their basment on their commodore 64 is pretty awesomely fanatical and a boatload of fun. Check this out for the next two hours…

UPDATE: It seems a bit confusing at first as the full movie clip seems to be only 1:39 in length. But if you keep watching it automatically loads the next fifteen second segment so it appears as a completely edited together project.

Review: Animal Kingdom

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Evoking classic crime family stories but on a claustrophobic scale, Animal Kingdom peers into the backyards and flats of Melbourne’s underworld with an intensity and strength of narrative and character that belies writer/director David Michôd’s first-timer status. This could easily have been another run of the mill crime drama, and it flirts with cliché a fair number of times, but it never loses its drive nor its focus on the characters.

We come into this family of criminals (a gang of armed robbers, apparently a huge problem at one point in Melbourne history) through 17-year-old J. His mother dies in the deliciously morbid yet darkly funny teaser sequence and J has no other option than to go live with his grandmother and four uncles – a family his mother left years ago in an attempt to protect J from them. Now thrown in with them by necessity, he soon gets pulled into the family business. Unfortunately, the first major matter of business is revenge on the cops, which takes a predictably nasty turn and soon J has to choose between informing on his family to the cops (led by Guy Pearce) or irrevocably siding with his uncles despite his ever-more-serious issues with them and their way of life.

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