AFI Fest 2009: In the Attic




Director: Jiří Barta
Screenplay: Jiří Barta, Edgar Dutka
Producer: Milos Smídmajer
Starring: Jirí Lábus, Lucie Pernetová, Boris Hybner, Ivan Trojan, Vladimír Javorský
Year: 2009
Country: Czech Republic/Slovakia/Japan
Running time: 75 min.


The Czech Republic has a long, distinguished history with stop-motion animation going back to the ’60s and before. Today, artists like Jiří Barta are continuing the tradition, choosing to keep working with physical toys, clay, and other objects, rather than succumbing to the siren call of technological developments in computer animation and 3D. And I really hope stop-motion animation remains alive and vital; there’s a purity and a beauty to it – a love of the art that comes through every frame – that you don’t always get with more modern techniques. Barta isn’t afraid to mix his methods, and In the Attic also has a bit of hand drawn animation, live action, and yes, even CGI. But it’s the incredibly inventive stop-motion that you’ll remember.

intheattic01.jpgOur four main characters live in a suitcase-house – a doll, a stuffed bear, a knight, and a personified glob of clay. Right away it’s obvious that this film is going to take ordinary children’s playthings and other cast-off items in the attic to create its story, and that’s exactly what it does, with a great deal of imagination. In this world, a bottlecap becomes a hat for the clay Schubert, a pencil becomes a sword for Sir Handsome, a train is made from ticket stubs and has toothbrushes for brakes, the ocean is plastic garbage bag material, the mountains are a series of large pieces of furniture, pillows are clouds, and a plastic alligator bath toy is a dangerous monster.

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Peter Berg’s Battleship Just Got Cool

PeterBergI’m a fan Peter Berg’s work but I must admit I didn’t know exactly what to make of the announcement that Berg was working on a film based on the once popular board game “Battleship.” Though I considered that he may have completely lost his marbles but whatever, everyone is entitled to a few shitty films. But then, just as I’d almost written the entire thing out of my mind and tucked it away as “things to forget until the release date” (which, BTW, has already been set for August 5th, 2011), comes news that not only gets my attention, but excites me.

Yes. That’s right. I’m actually excited for Battleship. What caused this sudden change of heart? Want to know how to make a girl (or at least this girl) excited to see your stupid film based on a board game? You introduce aliens into the equation.

According to Latino Review tipsters (and these guys are usually bang on with their insider information), the major selling point behind Berg’s film is that the battleships are targeting freakin’ aliens.

Yes, in my books, almost everything is made better by aliens. Now we just have to sit tight and wait for a first glimpse at these aliens. Will we even see them or just their ships? Oh I’d dying to find out!

Fincher Takes on Reincarnation

DavidFicherRemakes. Remakes. Remakes. Here’s another one to add to the ever growing list of remakes though lucky for us, this one may be better than the average.

According to the good folks at THR, what makes this particular project stand out above the rest is the fact that it’s being produced by the crew that brought us Seven. The Reincarnation of Peter Proud was originally a novel from Max Ehrlich before seeing life on the big screen at the hands of J. Lee Thompson (best known for directing the original Cape Fear). It’s the story of Peter Proud, a college professor who has a series of frightening nightmares which, with some help, he discovers to be images from a past life; a life which ended with his murder.

It sounds like an interesting enough story but do we really need a remake? The story doesn’t exactly sound like something that needs to be adapted again, especially by Fincher and writer Andrew Kevin Walker but regardless of how bland it sounds, I can’t help but get a little excited at seeing Fincher take this on. If all goes well, it’ll be dark, gruesome and very morbid (and considering the story has a side plot of incest, we could be in for some eyebrow-raising drama). Apparently the new production will be adapted directly from the novel and updated for today’s audience.

Now that we know it’s coming, the big question is when. Fincher has a slate of films in development that nearly rivals Guillermo del Toro’s; I’m going to guess this thing is a few years away.

Unextraodinary Poster for Extraordinary Measures


There is no excitement around these parts for Harrison Ford’s latest, Extraordinary Measures. I want there to be, I want to have blind faith like I forced myself to have with the awful Crossing Over, but I look at this slapdash poster that I found over at Cinematical and I read the plot synopsis and I feel something between indifference and the sadness one must feel when their friend goes to rehab, gets out, and is arrested on drug charges within a week. The dumping ground release date of January 22, 2010 doesn’t inspire much confidence either.

It is an interesting enough true story that is probably a better fit for daytime Oprah than a feature film. It follows a successful businessman father (played by Fraser) who quits his job to work alongside an unconventional scientist (Ford) when his children are diagnosed with a fatal disease. They’re an unlucky duo and all of that stuff and have to fight the system, yadda yadda yadda.


Bookmarks for November 9th

What we’ve been reading over the past week or so.

  • Paranormal Activity Will Not Save American Horror
    Paranormal Activity isn’t the beginning of a horror revolution, it’s the first financially positive after-effect from the ‘revolution’ 10 years ago. That’s a long time for a good idea to pay off just once. So studios will continue to play it safe, file this away as a fluke (which it is), make the sequel, and continue on with their lives.
  • Best & Worst: Movie Star Websites
    These days, all the chatter online seems to be about social networking – your Twitters, your Facebooks and such. But cinema stars are still maintaining websites hoping to entice fans to follow their work/buy crap with their name or face on it and pimp their latest musings. We decided to trawl the depths of the magical intarwebs to take a look at some of the cream of the crop – and some that are just rotten.
  • Why The Hell Was “Christmas Carol” Released Now?!?!
    Doesn’t it make more sense for Disney’s “A Christmas Carol” to be released closer to the more appropriate holiday?
  • Mainstream Media attention to new doc COLLAPSE is attention-worthy itself
    What’s incontrovertible is that we’re right now living through the giddiest age of apocalyptic cultural ferment that any of us have ever experienced. I think it’s safe to say that it tops the ones that accompanied the turn of the 20th century, and the advent of World Wars I and II, and the Depression era, and the social and cultural upheavals and meltdowns of the sixties and seventies, and the turn of the 21st century.
  • Artistic Childrens Films Are Getting Darker these days
    …where the regressive infantilism of grown-up comedies and action pictures is answered by a grave precocity. A movie like “Where the Wild Things Are” or “Fantastic Mr. Fox” play a kind of reverse dress-up, disguising adult anxieties in the costumes of innocent make-believe and fanciful spectacle. [...] The impulse to protect children from these kinds of stories is understandable. Like adults, they experience plenty of hard feelings in their daily lives and they may want, as we do, to use movies and books as a form of escape. Bright colors, easy lessons and thrilling rides that end safely and predictably on terra firma have their place. But so, surely, do representations of the grimmer, thornier thickets of experience. That’s what art is, and surely our children deserve some of that too. Which includes movies that elicit displeasure and argument along with rapture.
  • Michael Haneke Uncut
    Talking shop, theory, and practice with the director of The White Ribbon, Cache, Time of The Wolf, Code Unknown, Funny Games and Benny’s Video.
  • Fight Club @ 10
    The secret to the enduring allure of “Fight Club” may be that it is, as Mr. Norton put it, quoting Mr. Fincher, “a serious film made by deeply unserious people.” In other words, a film as willing to take on profound questions as it is to laugh at and contradict itself: what is “Fight Club” if not the most fashionable commercial imaginable for anti-materialism? A movie of big ideas and abundant ambiguities, it can be read and reread in many ways.
  • Zhang says ‘Blood Simple’ has shades of [Stephen] Chow
    Zhang said his new film has shades of Chow’s signature nonsensical humor, but doesn’t go as far as the Hong Kong comedian known for “Shaolin Soccer” and “Kung Fu Hustle.” “There are some parts where we go crazy like Stephen Chow, but we don’t go as crazy,” he said..
  • Top 10 Cameron Crowe Moments
    Personally I’d put the “Tiny Dancer” scene from “Almost Famous” in my top ten scenes of all time, period. But here is CNN’s picks for best Cameron Crowe scenes.

Review: Mad Max

Doomsday Movie Marathon
Mad Max

[Chris Edwards, who writes extensively about silent films on his blog, Silent Volume, has written the following review of Mad Max, and will review the next two in the trilogy in the near future. To see the full programme click on the Doomsday header image above.]

“A few years from now…’

These words are powerful, so use them wisely, all you would-be directors of dystopian film. Put them onscreen right at the start, and buy yourself an hour of the audience’s good will. They’ll set aside their scepticism and give you a chance to make your future real. It is the future, after all—they’ve no more expertise about it than you.

If you’ve got a GDP-sized budget, maybe your future looks like Minority Report (2002). That’s cool. And if you have no money, and a cast full of nobodies, like that Gibson fella who showed up for his audition hung over, well, then you can make the future look like a decaying wreck. It doesn’t hurt if you’re filming in rural Australia, which can be a real wasteland when you want it to. Put some bitching cars in there, too; they might boost your sales. You might even set a profit-to-cost record that’ll stand for 21 years. Would you like to know more…?

Film on TV: November 9-15

Ride the High Country, playing on TCM Friday, November 13.


A few interesting new ones this week. I haven’t seen Nicholas Ray’s Bitter Victory, playing on Wednesday, but it comes highly recommended by Jean-Luc Godard. So there. Then there’s Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder on Thursday, which I can’t believe we haven’t seen in this feature before, and Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country on Friday – a film which sits, like many of Peckinpah’s films, right on the cusp between traditional and revisionist westerns – and Jean Cocteau’s poetic Orpheus late on Sunday. Finally, Sundance has both parts of Steven Soderbergh’s Che on Saturday, probably the first time it’s played on TV outside of PPV or premium cable. Beyond that, still a bunch of good repeats.

Monday, November 9

5:30am – Sundance – A Woman Under the Influence
Gena Rowlands gives a tour-de-force performance as Mabel, a woman whose teetering madness threatens her marriage to Nick (Peter Falk). Their relationship edges back and forth between love, frustration, and anger with amazing quickness, yet it’s not clear whether Mabel’s instability is causing the problems, or the other way around. John Cassavetes directs with an unwavering camera, refusing to look away.
1974 USA. Director: John Cassavetes. Starring: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Fred Draper, Lady Rowlands.

5:35pm – IFC – A Fish Called Wanda
It’s not a Monty Python picture, but with John Cleese and Michael Palin on board as participants in a zany crime story, along with ambiguous-relationshiped Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, it has some of the same absurd charm.
1988 USA/UK. Director: Charles Crichton. Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Maria Aitken, Tom Georgeson.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 3:30am on the 10th)

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Remembering a Decade…2007

(prologue) As we can begin to hear the death rattle of the oughts, we in the third row decided to start on this continuing series throughout 2009 that will look back at our favorite films of each of the past ten years (2000-2009). This will ultimately culminate in a “ten best/favorites of the oughts” piece sometime in early 2010.

This has got to be the finest year for cinema goers over the past ten years. I can remember narrowing down my personal list to about 30 favorites and then having a real tough time weeding it down to 10. Hence coming up with a consensus for a “top” five among seven or eight people proved to be downright impossible (leaving off all of the great “off the wall” cinema was particularly difficult – e.g. Grindhouse, Bug and Black Snake Moan specifically). So we each listed five movies that really captured our hearts that year and I tried to make the best executive decision I could that really showcases some of the best 2007 had to offer while maintaining a general sense of the tastes here at RowThree. Here are five films (and of course some honorable mentions) that represent some of the greatness that 2007 delivered.

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Review: The Box

Director: Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko, Southland Tales)
Story: Richard Matheson
Screenplay: Richard Kelly
Producers: Richard Kelly, Dan Lin, Kelly McKittrick, Sean McKittrick
Starring: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella,
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 115 min.

What would you do? A classic philosophical question being asked to students and colleagues alike for decades ever since the short story, “Button, Button” was penned in 1970; published by Playboy Magazine. If you push a button, two things will happen. One, you’ll receive a very large sum of cash. Two, someone whom you don’t know, somewhere in the world will die. Do you push the button? How would you rationalize it to yourself and what might the ultimate consequences be? It’s a conundrum of a conversation that could go on for hours. Or in director Richard Kelly’s case, two hours.

This above scenario is exactly what is presented to Mr. and Mrs. Lewis. A financially struggling couple living beyond their means when a disfigured Frank Langella shows up at their door out of the blue offering them this very deal. Well of course it’s not much of a spoiler to disclose that eventually the button does get pushed (wouldn’t be much of a story otherwise would there?). When the payoff is delivered, Mrs. Lewis asks of her mysterious “business associate”, “What happens now?” He resonds with the answer that the box will be reprogrammed and the offer given to someone else “whom I can assure you, you don’t know.” So sets off a story of paranoia and mystery as to the nature of the box, who is this mysterious deal offerer and what are the consequences to the pressing of the button?
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