• Trailer: Plastic

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    Plastic

    Sam and Fordy run a credit card fraud scheme to support their risky, expensive and fast lifestyle. When they steal from the wrong man, however, they find themselves threatened by heavier criminals (one of whom is familiar character actor Thomas Kretschmann) who are not playing around in white collar crime just for shits and giggles and beach vacations. With their life hanging in the balance, they double down to pull off a daring diamond heist to clear their debts.

    While the basic story idea seems familiar, that of overly-clever twenty-somethings getting into trouble way over their head with white collar crime, this one is directed by Julian Gilbey, who made the marvelously tense and very, very pretty A Lonely Place To Die. It opens in the UK in early May, not sure about any sort of release dates in North America, but it has Paramount distributing it, so that remains a strong possibility if the film sees any success in Britain.

  • Trailer: The Signal

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    The Signal

    Well, this one slipped my by last week, which is a shame because I am a huge fan and am a big booster of William Eubank’s gorgeous indie sci-fi flick Love (Review) which features a man trapped on the dying International Space Station while an unnamed apocalypse has devastated earth, and is scored entirely with Angels & Airwaves songs.

    His next film is called The Signal was very well received at The Sundance Film Festival in January. This gorgeous trailer which came out last week; better late than never here in the third row. Larry Fishburne is the big name in the project, but like Love, the real star is the drop-dead-gorgeous cinematography, and the heady science fiction conceits. When a character says “We’re not 100% certain with what we are dealing with here,” well that says it all. It’s beautiful and intriguing in the same way that Upstream Color was. Here’s hoping Eubank can hit that high watermark.


    Nick and Jonah are MIT freshmen with a passion for hacking. While driving cross-country through Nevada with Nick’s girlfriend, Hailey, they follow rival hacker Nomad’s clues to a location 180 miles away. After a terrifying confrontation with Nomad in the middle of the desert, the trio regain consciousness in captivity. Struggling to comprehend the true nature of their confinement, they discover they are part of a plot much larger than themselves.

  • James Rebhorn 1948-2014

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    James Rebhorn

    Another loss of a fine and prolific character actor. James Rebhorn, who was 65 and recently seen on TV’s Homeland and Enlightened spans a lengthy career playing doctors, lawyers, politicians and judges in film and TV. Mostly doctors though. Maybe it was that ‘professional white guy’ look he had. A professional “HEY IT’S THAT GUY” who did his work well on huge blockbusters, and small TV movies with aplomb and well, professionalism.

    More here.

  • Review: The Immortal Augustus Gladstone

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    August Gladstone

    Augustus Gladstone is a sweet southern gentlemen who favours sweaters, neckties and tennis shoes and squats in an abandoned hotel somewhere in Portland Oregon amongst a treasure-trove of commemorative plates, book shelves of old tomes and documents and other assorted bric-a-brac. Pasty and hairless in complexion, with painted on eyebrows and an obvious blonde mop for a wig, to call him eccentric is to understate things considerably. His private existence has taken a toll the point of desperate loneliness drowning in denial. His only companion, Tommy, seems to be a strung out junkie also illegally occupying the building, although Tommy’s quarters are decidedly less cozy.

    He claims to be born in the year 1856, which might explain why a documentary crew comes to start making videos on Augustus. Maybe they were curious about the series of YouTube videos from a few years ago after one of Augustus’s few friends gave him a laptop and instructions on how to use a webcam. The newfound attention at first seems to invigorate Augustus, whose odd diction and mannerisms carry enough unique charisma to hold the camera’s attention. But when the documentary filmmakers start really start poking into things, they start to become the story as much as documenting it.

    What starts off as perhaps the sweetest Vampire movie ever made quickly turns to a savage indictment of unintended consequences of journalism or simply the promise of “15 minutes” of fame. What the director, Robin Miller, calls the “unforgiving mayhem” of making a documentary. Miller is also the star of the show with copious amounts of make-up and accessories to transform himself into the contradiction of foppishness and dignity that is August Gladstone. The sense of humour in his little film is so dry and wistful that those with a lesser pallet may find jokes as cunningly hidden as the clues in the early 1990s video game “Myst,” of which Miller served as a co-creator. The humour is very much of the 21st century understated variety often found in culty corners of the internet. Thus, it comes as no great shock that the film has geek-humour website BoingBoing as chief producer. Consider the title of the film, The Immortal Augustus Gladstone, then note the first shot is an elaborate tracking shot towards the cemetery headstone, carved with a recent enough date, of the titular character.

    If the usual Christopher Guest faux-doc comedy is a frothy Pepsi-Cola of giggles, The Immortal Augustus Gladstone is a Pino Gris, delicate and subtle, ignored and collecting dust on the back shelf of a large retail shop of wine and spirits. That is not to say the film is a revelation or game changer, it is hardly that. It is a quiet break from an ever increasing docket of bombast and hubris. It is also not to say that the film doesn’t have teeth, for all it brings up then skirts the actual vampire issue, it seems allude to Gladstone possibly being HIV positive or having some sort of neural disorder. Whatever equilibrium that Augustus has found for himself is viscously shattered by the incoming documentary crew which crowd the little nest he has made, all but bully Tommy out of the place, and tend to do more harm than good. Not since Man Bites Dog has a film capitalized on the ever-increasing tendency of the documentary crew to insinuate itself into its own subject matter. Documentaries like Winnebago Man and William and the Windmill are other examples of the non-faux variety which accidentally brush on this matter.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Hot Docs 2014 Preview

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    HotDocs2014-TheInternetsOwnBoy

    So how do you go about choosing what you want to see at a film festival like Hot Docs (running from April 24th to May 4th in Toronto)? With a roster of 197 films from 43 different countries and a reputation for superb programming, you could probably randomly select 20 films and be exceedingly happy with the results. Or you could just let the staff do it for you – for example, as I listened to Director of Programming Charlotte Cook talk about a small portion of the lineup at this week’s press conference for the 21st annual festival (the largest documentary film festival in North America), I felt that I should simply just see the movies she mentioned. I expect those picks alone would make for a hell of a schedule.

    One of those movies unveiled by Cook was the festival opener The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swarz. Before he took his life at the age of 26, Swarz was known for co-founding reddit (and several other companies), fighting SOPA and leading many internet activism causes before the U.S. government came after him with a variety of charges. The film will also screen as part of the festival’s “Big Ideas” series and will have on hand Cory Doctorow, Gabrielle Coleman and Lawrence Lessig for a post-viewing panel discussion.

    “Big Ideas” was quite successful last year, so they’ve upped the count to 5 separate films that will be covered in much greater depth via after film discussions with relevant guests. Along with the Swarz doc, there will also be Mission Blue (about environmentalist and oceanographer Sylvia Earle – also in attendance), The Case Against 8 (featuring the two couples who, along with a pair of lawyers, fought and won to strike down Proposition 8 in California that denied same sex marriages) and To Be Takei (about – you guessed it – George Takei and his eclectic life).

    The fifth one of the “Big Ideas” is the one that hits me close to home – I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story. I vividly remember, back in the day, watching the very first season of Sesame Street before toddling off to afternoon kindergarten. The show was a joy for me then and can still – without much effort – cuddle me in its warm embrace. Big Bird was a big part of that, so I’ll be bouncing in my seat before, during and after the film. Especially as Spinney – Big Bird AND Oscar The Grouch’s puppeteer – will be on stage to talk about the movie and his life.

    And if that wasn’t enough, here’s a few others mentioned at the kickoff event:

     

    Super Duper Alice Cooper – The world’s first Doc Opera. No interviews or voice over, just graphics, animation and footage of Alice from his life and career. The event will be simulcast across Canada to 40+ theatres and the man himself will be on hand as well. A big ticket for sure.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Review: Cheap Thrills

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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…?

  • Review: Nymphomaniac Volumes I and II

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    Nymphomaniac Volume I & II
    At first glance, much of Lars von Trier’s work seems disrespectful, antagonistic, self-aggrandizing, and unapologetically brutish. His latest piece,
    Nymphomaniac, the nearly 5-hour-long story of a self-professed nymphomaniac, certainly felt this way prior to its release. Proclaiming the film to be hardcore pornography, calling out the public and media alike for their prudish reception of his concept, and generally baiting the entire cinematic community, it’s been a long road to Nymphomaniac’s two lengthy volumes. Going into the film, you anticipate relentless sex and little else. You almost resign yourself to no plot or point other than to force the public to get over its preconceived notions of sex. What we’re left with, however, is far more compelling.

    What lies beneath the surface of Nymphomaniac is an accessible and seemingly honest portrayal of the type of person often perceived as little more than a deviant in society’s eyes. Here we find Trier’s two voices – his learned, rational self debating the nature of humanity and humility with his angry, impassioned, animalistic side – facing off in a kind of battle to save the soul of the so-called afflicted Joe. We’re shown the portrait of a woman who played carelessly with lust as a young adult, blossomed into a woman, and found herself taking ownership of her compulsion. In spite of the overall positive intention of Volume I, and the eye-opening, soul-crushing Volume II, the final message fits into Trier’s canon as antagonistic … with a point.

    The story begins with Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) being found, beaten and filthy in a dark alley, by a man named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård). Urging the wounded woman to call the police, he’s left with no choice but to nurse her himself when she refuses. Carrying her back to his lonely apartment, he changes her clothes, and lays her in bed. Once awake and alert, Joe rambles on about being a horrible person, attempting to convince the kindly Seligman that he should have left her there. Eventually, Joe finds herself defending her self-proclaimed villainy, and begins to tell her life’s story in an attempt to convince her saviour. Would you like to know more…?

  • Friday One Sheet: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind @ 10

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    The intelligent, romantic, weird and astonishingly emotional film from Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was released 10 years ago this week. We shall celebrate with many inspired posters for the film below, but first, a brief love letter to the film:

    The experience of following Lacuna Inc. a loose small-business that specializes in erasing memories, and two patients, former lovers, who submit themselves to treatment spans is delightfully unclassifiable by any sort of movie genre yardstick. A fascinating take on the first blush of falling in love (twice) is surely one of the best films of the Aughts. It is a bitter romance nevertheless full of hopeful possibility. It is a piece of science fiction par excellence. You can be swept up in the pure entertainment of the movie, or you can dive down the moral rabbit hole. How much right to do have to exert over your own body? Is it illegal to chop off your own arm? Commit Suicide? Erase significant portions of your memory? Should an easy way of absolving oneself of guilt and conscience exist as a business venture (some would argue that most commercial ventures do this to one extent or another!)? Emotion to trump morality, perhaps the ultimate statement on both the cinema, and the human condition. Well done sirs.

    Tucked under the seat are many inspired posters for the film.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Blind Spots: The Goonies

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    bs-The-Goonies

    When I posted on Facebook and Twitter that I was currently watching The Goonies for the first time, the incredulity was palpable. I’m not particularly well-versed in the ’80s films that my generation considers essential, but for some reason, this one has been coming up more and more often lately, so I bit the bullet even though I didn’t expect to get a lot out of it. For some reason ’80s movies often rub me the wrong way, or at least I have trouble buying into their particular brand of goofiness. The fact that several friends who didn’t watch the film until they were adults reported not really caring for it didn’t help.

    Well, I don’t know if it was those low expectations, or my overall positive frame of mind this year, or if I just have a huge soft spot for adventure films, but I pretty much loved this. The set-up of the kids’ families about to be kicked out of their homes had me a little confused at first (who’s moving? why? how will money help?), but once I realized that it’s basically a McGuffin, I was fine. The rest of the plot, following a group of kids following an old treasure map to try to find pirate treasure is right up my alley, and the backstory was just enough to give the story stakes – if they don’t find the treasure, they lose their homes; it’s more than just fun and games, though of course it is that as well. It’s like Indiana Jones meets Home Alone, what with the bumbling criminals always one step behind the kids.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Review: Jodorowski’s Dune

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    Dune

    One of, if not the, most famous films never made was Dune. Sure, we got the mid-eighties David Lynch version – admittedly that is a significant guilty pleasure of mine – and some terrible TV miniseries in the early 2000s, but every science fiction cinephile worth their salt has drooled over the folklore behind Chilean writer-director-mime-surrealist Alejandro Jodorowsky’s version which would have starred Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, Udo Kier and Salvador Dali and scored by Pink Floyd. The implosion of the project in the mid 1970s and the scattering of the creative and technical team resulted in Ridley Scott’s Alien, but also, according to the storyboard matches inside the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, inspired imagery from Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Flash Gordon, Contact and a host of other classic blockbuster science fiction epics. It was something like all the musicians that were at that one Sex Pistols show went on to create almost the entire Punk movement.

    This documentary may be a talking heads and animated cut-away straightforward but when you have the burning energy of Jodorowsky as the main subject, even at 84 years young, there is more energy and passion (and more than a bit of crazy) to burn. His vision of the coming of a cinema version of Frank Herbert’s cultish science fiction novel was as the coming of a cinematic God. It was to be something sacred, with more than a touch of madness. That he had never actually read the book, well that wasn’t going to stop him. He assembled his creative team, his ‘spiritual warriors’ in Paris from all over the world, young special effects and writer Dan O’Bannon (Dark Star, Alien), graphic artists Moebius, H.R. Giger and Chris Foss and preached to them, almost like a cult priest or guru, for months in designing the storyboards and production design element. None of the creative team had read the Frank Herbert novel either, trusting to Jodorowsky’s unrelenting passion for his own ideas and vision. To say there was hubris and grandiosity going into the project is an understatement, but this is the writer director of El Topo and The Holy Mountain, the former film birthed the idea of a “Midnight Movie,” a practice which still continues (to a degree) today, and the latter, perhaps the strangest movie ever made. Trying to raise money from Disney, Paramount and the Other studios proved fruitless, as nearly everyone speculates, it was too visionary (and its runtime likely too epic) for the Hollywood Studio system, and too expensive to make anywhere else.

    Thus, the project lives on as a dream. The perfect dream that exists in the minds of a few, because it was never realized, has become idealized. Something that was to be made by spiritual warriors to mutate young minds has, after 40 years, passed into kind of a legend, almost myth, and it is now collected here as kind of a bible insofar as the storyboards and concept art collection that resulted and how it is further (and handsomely) eulogized by way of this documentary.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Blu-Ray Review: Mouchette

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    Director: Robert Bresson
    Writers: Robert Bresson
    Based on a novel by: Georges Bernanos
    Starring: Nadine Nortier, Jean-Claude Guilbert, Paul Hebert, Maria Cardinal
    Country: France
    Running Time: 82 min
    Year: 1967
    BBFC Certificate: 15

    (4.5/5)


    Robert Bresson is a director whose work I’ve only slightly dabbled in (along with a lot of French directors to be honest). Prior to watching Mouchette, I’d only seen one of his films, Pickpocket, of which I can remember being impressed by the construction of some of its scenes, but can’t remember much more about it. I’d watched it late at night on a laptop so the situation wasn’t ideal, so I was very much looking forward to viewing Mouchette on a big(ish) screen in its newly remastered Blu-Ray format from Artifical Eye.

    The film follows the titular character, a young girl played by Nadine Nortier (an untrained actress with no prior experience). Mouchette is living in poverty with her bed-ridden mother, abusive alcoholic father and baby brother. She works hard to look after her family, but gets little love in return. Everyone from her teacher, her fellow pupils, to the boys from the village all make life difficult for Mouchette. To be fair she isn’t particularly nice to them either, being a feisty young thing who purposefully muddies the floor at church and throws dirt at the other girls at school. She spends most of her time alone, wandering the local woods. It’s here where she gets into more serious trouble. She finds shelter from a storm and runs into Arsène (Jean-Claude Guilbert), a man caught up in a sort of love triangle with a local barmaid and her wannabe suitor Mathieu (Jean Vimenet). He believes he has killed the man and uses Mouchette to build an alibi to shocking results.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Mamo #345: Veronica Mamo

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    10 years after Serenity, what do we make of the latest fanbase-cum-motion-picture boondoggle, Veronica Mars, and its digital-download boondoggle, UltraViolet? Plus conversation about The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ghostbusters III, Star Wars VII, and more vidja game movies. Also, be careful: we speak out about Apple, which apparently carries vast cosmic karmic consequences.

    To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo345.mp3

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