Don’t Interrupt his Kung Fu in any Media Format! Black Dynamite to Kick Comic Book Ass and TV Too.

 

A note from Scott Sanders, director of Michael Jai White’s wonderful blaxploitation homage/parody, Black Dynamite (Kurt’s Review) that we fell in love with last year sees the eponymous hero taking it to the Man in Comics and Animation on the TeeVee. If you haven’t caught up with this film, which is very much in the vein of Edgar Wright’s brand of loving-tribute-yet-still-very-much-its-own-film, then check it out on DVD or BLU-RAY before the blue leisure suit and the nunchucks make it to the hand-drawn world. The film was criminally unreleased by Sony, who only put it out in 6 cities (none of them in Canada, outside of the festival circuit.)

In 2011, our hero will bring his badass brand of kung-fu to two new mediums: the comic book and television.

Released by indie publisher Ape Entertainment with a story by Michael Jai White, Byron Minns, and myself, the one-shot Black Dynamite: Slave Island follows our hero as he seeks to put an end to a mysterious island… where an insidious 19th century legacy of The Man still exists.

As well, we are hard at work on Black Dynamite: The Animated Series for [adult swim]. The show is Executive Produced by Carl Jones (The Boondocks) and will take BLACK DYNAMITE to a new level.

TIFF Review: Machete Maidens Unleashed

 

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Blood is not the only thing they suck!”
“They caged their bodies, but not their desires!”
“She’s a one Mama massacre squad!”
“They’re over-exposed but not under developed!”
“Their guns are hot and their bodies are hard!”
“Filmed in Slimerama!”

Blood. Breasts. Beasts. Interested yet? If that and the above tag lines don’t tickle your fancy than perhaps the documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed is not for you. However, if you can see the humour in these attention-grabbers, you’ll likely have a great deal of fun with Mark Hartley’s (director of ozploitation documentary Not Quite Hollywood) look at an era of low budget exploitation films made in the Philippines. Like his previous film, it’s a mostly fast-paced overview of the silliness of these old B-movies (made mostly for consumption at Drive-Ins from the late 60s to the early 80s) and the stories behind the making of them. It also manages to inject some fascinating information about the era, the nation of the Philippines and the nature of the film industry at the time. How’s that for added value?

The movie titles alone should be enough to get across the type of films were dealing with here: Mad Doctor Of Blood Island, Savage Sisters, Student Nurses, Cover Girl Models, T.N.T. Jackson and Humanoids From The Deep were all made at rock bottom prices in the south seas. The primary reason for choosing this filming location, of course, was the incredibly cheap price of production and labour, but side benefits included stunt men who would literally do anything, the absence of requirements for safety guidelines and the occasional assist (via equipment and troops) from the military. Apocalypse Now wasn’t the only film that benefited from the government’s willingness to court the money of film production teams. Roger Corman even admits that after he saw the bottom line “my scruples went away and I said let’s do another”. Corman wasn’t the only eye looking towards the Philippines, though, as plenty of producers saw the benefits. These B-movies were staples of the American movie going experience at a time that drive-ins pulled in sizable audiences. Of course, Filipino producers and directors were cranking out product for this hungry audience as well. One of their biggest successes (and an embarrassment to the government when it became one of the only films picked up for distribution at that year’s Manila Film Festival) was For Y’ur Height Only starring pint-sized Weng-Weng as a James Bond style secret agent.
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Film on TV: September 20-26

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La Pointe Courte, playing on IFC on Thursday.

Quite a few new ones to highlight this week, as well as a bunch that we have featured before but don’t play very often. Be sure to check out first films from John Cassavetes (Shadows late Monday/early Tuesday) and Agnès Varda (La Pointe Courte on Thursday), plus the full edit of Erich von Stroheim’s plauged Greed on Wednesday, classic mockumentary This is Spinal Tap late Wednesday/early Thursday, Bruce Lee’s magnum opus Enter the Dragon later on Thursday, and more!

Monday, September 20

6:00am – IFC – Broadway Danny Rose
It’s lesser Woody Allen, but it’s still Woody Allen. Danny Rose (Woody) is a theatrical agent whose clients always leave him when they start becoming successful. His current client, a has-been tenor trying to make a comeback, gives him further grief by having an affair with a young woman (Mia Farrow) with gangster connections. Not very substantial, but enjoyable.
1984 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte.
(repeats at 10:50am and 3:30pm)

11:30am – TCM – My Darling Clementine
John Ford’s version of the famous confrontation at the OK Corral actually focuses more on Wyatt Earp’s fictional romance with the fictional Clementine than on the real-life Earp/Clanton feud, but history aside, this is one of the greatest and most poetic westerns on film, proving yet again Ford’s mastery of the genre and of cinema.
1946 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: Henry Fonda, Victor Mature, Linda Darnell, Cathy Downs, Walter Brennan, Tim Holt.
Must See

1:30pm – TCM – Topper
Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are hard-living young couple who crash their fancy car after a night of drinking and end up as ghosts. They choose to spend their afterlife haunting Grant’s uptight boss Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) and teaching him to enjoy life again. Something of a screwball comedy without the battle of the sexes part; slight but a lot of fun.
1937 USA. Director: Norman Z. McLeod. Starring: Roland Young, Cary Grant, Constance Bennett.

7:35pm – IFC – Annie Hall
Often considered Woody Allen’s transition film from “funny Woody” to “serious Woody,” Annie Hall is both funny, thoughtful, and fantastic. One of the best scripts ever written, a lot of warmth as well as paranoid cynicism, and a career-making role for Diane Keaton (not to mention fashion-making).
1977 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane.
Must See
(repeats at 3:00am on the 21st)

10:00pm – TCM – The Red Shoes
Almost all of the films Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger made together are incredibly good, but The Red Shoes might just be the best. In the film, a mix of the tale of Svengali and of Hans Christian Anderson’s story about a ballerina who couldn’t remove the red shoes and was doomed to dance to her death, actual ballerina Moira Shearer is the dancer made successful by a jealous ballet impresario, though she loves a poor composer. The centerpiece of the film is a Technicolor extravaganza performance of the titular ballet, still one of the greatest ballet sequences on film.
1948 UK. Directors: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger. Starring: Moira Shearer, Marius Goring, Anton Walbrook.
Must See

12:30am (21st) – TCM – Shadows
John Cassavetes’ first film is a super-low-budget proto-indie about a trio of siblings moving through New York City’s music scene – one brother working to be a jazz musician, the sister dating a white man until he meets her darker-skinned brothers. The highly improvisational style mixed with the subtle racial commentary gives this a lot more layers than its meandering narrative at first seems to hold.
1959 USA. Director: John Cassavetes. Starring: Ben Carruthers, Hugh Hurd, Lelia Goldoni, Anthony Ray.
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TIFF Review: You Are Here

 

 

 
Here is an experiment. Take the name of six colours, write them in random order several times using a coloured pen that does not match the name of the colour. Time yourself reading this list of colours. Write the same list of colours using only black ink and time yourself reading the list. The mind works is strange ways, and has trouble if preconceived associations to familiar things or objects get too close to one another. Daniel Cockburn, a Toronto video artist has just made a wild and crazy jump into features with a film-slash-brain-experiment that wants to perform a witty and colourful brain massage. He wants to play with your cerebellum in the same way that the perception of film works: ‘Persistence of Vision’ as shutters push single frames to form the illusion of movement. We will ignore the contradiction that he mainly shoots on video. Contradictions are what the film is about.

Cockburn wants to expand your consciousness or provide the illusion of expanding your consciousness or expand your consciousness while providing the illusion that he has not. You Are Here. The statement is both a location as well as a confirmation of existence. Different things, really. The red dot that defines your location on the map can be just as much of a misleader as a guide. The meaning of the film goes beyond the dual-nature of the title into something that is both profound and a profoundly funny. It is science. It is art. It is absurd and hilarious sleight-of-hand. It is an ultra lo-fi version of Inception in which the filmmakers might as well be Leonardo Di Caprio and company (in shabbier clothing mind-you) and the audience are simultaneously the beneficiary of planted ideas and the mark of a baffling grift. The TIFF catalogue labels the film as Dr. Seuss meets Samuel Beckett, and I cannot really argue with that. It is an apt a description as you are going to get without telling you much. When it ended after an all too brief 75 minutes, I was upset. I wanted to see how many more times the filmmakers could fold their narrative in upon itself while keeping me in its spell. Riding the wave, before it collapsed. Like any good performer, Cockburn knows to keep the audience wanting more. Or they ran out of money, drugs or the ability to keep a hold of the reigns. I am sure the director will never tell.
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TIFF Review: Lapland Odyssey

 

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Director Dome Karukoski sure knows how to set a tone. In order to get you into the spirit of his occasionally blackly comic single night road trip film Lapland Odyssey, he introduces you to a tree – a long-dead pine tree that has served as the hanging spot for 5 generations of suicidal Finnish men. From the early settlers of the area who were enticed via promises of cheap land to modern day young men who have no jobs, see no future and can’t even catch a break when Finland makes it to the final of the Hockey World Championship (how cruel is it to be up 5-1 against rival Sweden and then still lose?) there have been a long line of swinging bodies. Around Christmas time – a period of typically very high unemployment, massive amounts of snow and very little sunlight – that dead tree is looking pretty good.

Our narrator informs us he even did an elementary school report on it as part of a project on local tourist attractions – apparently the highlight of his academic and professional careers. You get the feeling he’s considered visiting that tree up close and personal. This isn’t his story though – it’s the tale of his best friend Janne’s journey to find a digital TV recorder before 9 AM the next morning. If he doesn’t, his live-in girlfriend will leave him. Before you think, “Well, that’s harsh”, understand that she’s been asking him for 3 years, has actually given him the money to pay for it and specifically asked for him to do it that day so that they can watch Titanic together later that night. Since he failed at even getting that simple task done before the stores closed – wasting time sleeping and hanging with his similarly lethargic friends – she’s laid down a final ultimatum.

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TIFF Review: Womb

 

 

 
Young Rebecca finds the love of her life at a very tender age of twelve with Tommy. They spend an endlessly cloudy and rainy summer on a spartan beach where they share their souls and first kiss. They watch a snail crawl over a porcelain surface, the merging of sterile and virgin and organic and slimey. Being bound to move away to Tokyo after the summer, thousands of miles and 12 years of time do not stop Rebecca (now played by Eva Green at her most beautiful and detached) and Tommy (Matt Smith) from picking up right where they left off. An almost feral bond of love, these two are in another world completely when they are together, one where words are barely necessary such is their mutual connection. She has made a career programming sonar equipment, a job that can be done over the internet at the remote beach, and he is a biologist who has never moved away and has been breeding cockroaches for an activist stunt. All seems set for a life of bliss at the end of the world until Tommy is accidentally killed on the road to the protest – a cloning research and technology center built in the area. Instead of grieving his loss or railing against the cloning facility for causing the protest, she takes the more pragmatic approach. After all, she waited for 12 year in Tokyo, why not another 20 to have her Tommy return, in a manner of sorts. She gets very uneasy permission from Tommy parents (Leslie Manville and Peter Wight who could not get along in Mike Leigh’s Another Year, but have an implied intimate and healthy relationship here) to take a sample of Tommy’s DNA and use herself as the womb to birth the child – a copy of her former lover and soulmate. In a way, Womb is sort of a time-travel movie, the passage of time is rarely explicitly given, you can infer by the change actors for long stretches, but such is the relationship of Rebecca and Tommy that time does not have a lot of meaning when they are together. When Rebeca makes her return, Tommy is in bed with another woman, an apparent one night stand, she has the decency to make an attempt at introductions (“Like normal people”) while they immediately know who each other are, despite the passage of years. They only stare into each others eyes. People this into each other are kind of scary.

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TIFF Review: Beautiful Boy

 

 

 
There are enough school shooting films out there at the moment that they are threatening to become a sub-genre unto themselves. Elephant, Bowling For Columbine, Polytechnique have all won major awards and Uwe Boll has made one as well. So enter freshman filmmaker Shawn Ku who gives us a film, Beautiful Boy, which is torn on two fronts. On one hand it struggles to transcend clichés as a hand-held realistic and grounded drama, and on the other it wants to throw plates, obsessively scrub gravestones and have its principle characters do enough body-shaking crying so as to rival a belly-dancers funeral. There is a good film struggling to get out past a few bad writing choices, screenplay feels just a tad overwritten. Bolstered significantly by top shelf performances from its leads, Maria Bello and Michael Sheen (doing an American accent quite well), the two play the grieving parents, Bill and Kate, of freshmen college student Sam. Sam is killed in a columbine style school shooting and Kate immediately knows her son is the victim when the cops come knocking at the door. But both parents are flabbergasted when they discover that it was their son who shot all of his classmates before turning the gun on himself.

Bill and Kate are middle-aged, middle class parents, and they have their problems. Bill is considering moving out of the household on a trial separation due to a lack of communication or passion in the household, but their issues are not outside of the bounds of any family at the hump of the middle class distribution curve. They may not have been the best parents in the world, but they are hardy the worst. Thus the shock of sort out why their son did this violent crime and even left an angry manifesto-styled video for the news media. There is little time to consider this in the quiet of their own home which soon becomes the campsite for hundreds of media vans desperate for grist for the mill of the 24/7 news cycle. Taking refuge at the home of Kate’s brother (Alan Tudyk) for a time until the dust settles. Kate’s Brother’s wife Trish and her 8 year old son immediately complicate things however. The young boy sees things on the news and at school and starts asking question nobody is prepared to answer. Every gesture and action of Kate towards the child or even sharing of the household chores becomes a moment loaded with unconscious judgment and guilt on both sides. The awkwardness of this new relationship, on top of everything else is palpable for all parties, despite the desire to ‘be helpful.’ Kate’s brother actually keeps a quite level head about things, he can almost make an inappropriate-but-not-malicious joke to himself as if to acknowledge that the situation “just is” and that we all deal with as best we can. Kate and Bill eventually move into a hotel room to pick up the pieces of their present situation and difficult future ahead.
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