Movie Club Podcast #15: A.I. and Prince of Darkness

It’s the Film Junk podcast crew (Sean and Jay) teaming up with Andrew and Kurt from the RowThree Cinecast in a nice roundtable discussion on two very different films: one mostly forgotten, the other very divisive among film lovers. The former being John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness and the other is Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence.

The movie club is as much for the listeners as it is the contributors. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section over at the movie club page and we’re happy to banter on with a little back and forth. Both of these films (particularly A.I.) were fairly strong in the disagreement department so the more opinions and opposing viewpoints presented the better! Enjoy the show!

Comments are turned off on this post, so head on over to THE MOVIE CLUB PODCAST site and listen or comment there.

Continuing with another episode (#16) in the near future will feature discussion on Walter Hill’s The Warriors and Martin Scorsese’s After Hours. Get watching those for next time, and vote in the poll on the sidebar for possible films in Episode #17!

Bookmarks for November 20th

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

  • For Your Consideration: 25 Things The Academy Got Right In The 2000s
    As hard as it is for those prone to bitching about the Academy to admit, they don’t always get it wrong. In fact, it was surprisingly easy to find twenty-five examples of where they most certainly got it right (though mind you, it was even easier finding fifty things they got wrong). So for what it’s worth, here are my picks in descending order for your anticipatory pleasure. Unlike the 50 snubs, I opened to up to all categories, since, again, there wasn’t quite the plethora of options.
  • REEL TRUTH: Why Women Should Stay Away from Twilight
    Twilight was never supposed to get this big. It looked like it was simply meant to be a high brow straight to DVD film. Instead it turned the media world into complete chaos and because of that, females of many different ages fell into the beautiful lies Twilight created to make us believe about Bella and Edward’s intense karmic connection. Funny how so many women avoid or are completely unaware of the many flaws and bullsh*t they eat up from the series, but today is the day I am going to attempt to open their eyes to see how using Twilight as a guide book/film to dating will only bring disappointment to your love life.
  • David Lynch on Going to India to Shoot His Next Movie
    During his downtime, Lynch is working to bring meditation into schools worldwide. Vulture caught up with Lynch at the Russian Tea Room on Sunday, before his scheduled speaking engagement with the Hudson Union Society, to discuss his favorite directors, the importance of final cut, and how his next film project will take him to India.
  • Film features: The Story Behind Fight Club
    Reese Witherspoon, Sean Penn and Courtney Love might’ve starred in Fight Club? I think we’re all glad that it ended up the way it did. Here is how David Fincher brought this iconic film to realization.
  • Fantastic Planet (La planète sauvage, 1973)/De Profundis (2007) (Ferdy on Films, etc.)
    Marilyn Ferdinand looks at two unusually artistic (in the sense of looking like paintings) animated films, arguing for the continuation of this art form and its peculiar emotional pull in the face of modern computer animation.
  • Sundance Film Festival Unveils 2010 New Frontier Lineup
    In the first of its announcements for its upcoming 2010 program, Sundance Institute revealed Wednesday the selection of 13 artists from six countries whose works will be presented as part of the New Frontier sidebar at Sundance Film Festival. A collection of digital art, film screenings, multimedia performances, site-specific installations and video presentations will take part in what organizers promise to be “a fully immersive media lounge” for festival goers to experience throughout the event.
  • Up and Up!
    Last week, Disney/Pixar released to the home-viewing market Up, their CGI-animated colorfest that just happens to share a name with a 1976 fuckfest by Russ Meyer (the latter adds an exclamation mark just to convey how excited it is to exist). It would seem that an animated film about a man who saves his life from the shadows of the twilight years by attaching thousands of balloons to his house, sailing to a far-off land and saving a rare bird species from exploitation has little in common with a who-killed-Hitler murder mystery that’s a thinly veiled excuse to showcase people having (softcore but graphic) simulated sex while Kitten Natividad narrates it all as the one-woman Greek chorus. However, there are more similarities than you might think.
  • Only Eight of This Decade’s Best Picture Nominees Are Original
    You would think that there would be a huge divide between the most profitable and the most critically acclaimed films of this decade, right? You would think that while mainstream America flocks to established properties, the Academy of Motion Pictures would lean more towards rewarding originality. Not So… /Film commenter Keith points out that only 8 of the 45 Academy Award Best Picture nominees of this decade (so far) are originals.
  • ‘Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans’ Producers Want It To Spawn A Franchise
    Producers Alan and Gabe Polsky hope to continue the “Bad Lieutenant” name as an ongoing franchise. Given the successful collaboration of Herzog and Cage, and before them Ferrara and Keitel, the Polskys admit they’d like to go further with other “interesting combos” for more stand-alone “Bad Lieutenant” installments. They specifically propose the director/actor team-ups of Darren Aronofsky and Brad Pitt and Michel Gondry and Bill Murray, which both sound like great ideas.
  • Top 10 Bad Messages From Good Movies
    Sometimes it can be hard to see the messages a movie teaches, especially if they’re unintentional. The best way to see a movie’s messages, and bad ones in particular, is to be a parent watching the movie with your kids. Suddenly you find yourself talking to your kids after you leave the theater or after the video finishes playing at home, just to see if they picked up on the bad messages. Then, if they did, you can try to do some damage control.
  • Bad Boys Grow Up
    Tarantino and Almodóvar finally make films equal to the ones they’ve always claimed as inspirations. Tarantino came to be regarded as a hyped-up pop culture junkie spritzing bloodshed and movie references in equal measure. And Almodóvar was thought of as something like the post-Franco John Waters, mixing ’50s Hollywood-style melodrama with cheerful hedonism awash in sex and drugs. At this year’s New York Film Festival, it was Almodóvar’s latest, “Broken Embraces,” that was chosen for the closing night slot. And about a month before the festival, Tarantino’s latest film, “Inglourious Basterds,” became the unlikeliest hit of the year. What links both of these films is that, for each filmmaker, they represent a point at which they demonstrate a mastery of craft equal to the Hollywood films that inspired them.

2010 Animated Films

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It has been a spectacular year for animated films in 2009. Three challenging and varied animated films, Coraline, Up, and Fantastic Mr. Fox and Disney’s return to its 2D traditional roots with The Princess and The Frog finishing out the year (I’m pretending the awful looking Planet 51 does not exist), it is time to look forward to 2010 to see what interesting films are coming along.

 
 

Yume_Ani
One of Japan’s finest animation directors, Satoshi Kon has brought decidedly complex and adult tales and genres to the screen with Millenium Actress, Paprika, Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers, with his upcoming feature, The Dreaming Machine, described as a ‘future folklore story’ and skewing a bit younger, there was no dumbing down of the production design, which will be instantly familiar to anyone who follows Kon’s work. Twitch offered up a variety of stills recently to whet the appetite.

 
 
 
 

WildBunch_Ani
Out of an Israeli studio comes the latest riff on movie homage and global warming (see also Wall-E). Will Sam Peckinpah roll in his grave (or at least the designer of the iconic one-sheet of that film), or will The Wild Bunch deliver smart, subtle entertainment. The plot follows has group of (evil) genetically engineered cornstalks choose to invade an idyllic meadow. The common wildflowers rally to defend their home. This doesn’t sound like much elements of the original western are going to be borrowed, but time will tell. The voice cast includes Abigail Breslin, Willem Dafoe and Willie Nelson.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Illusionist_ani
Coming out of nowhere, three years ago, to open the eyes of the arthouse world (and get them tapping their toes) was Sylvain Chomet’s Belleville Rendezvous (The Triplets of Belleville). Other than contributing a cute short to the Paris Je T’aime anthology, Chomet has been hard at work on the follow-up, titled The Illusionist. Several stills popped up online via one of the production designers portfolio/blog and they are certainly reminiscent of Belleville. The story is even more curious because it is sprung from an unfinished project from the legendary Jacques Tati. Set in a small village in Scotland in the 1950s, a down-on-his-luck illusionist meets a young lady who is convinced that he is a real magician.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sultan_ani
While the teaser trailer does not offer a great deal of plot or even build confidence that this will be high end CGI animation, it is curious to see Bollywood attempt an animated feature film. Sultan: The Warrior may be more Prince of Persia than the Hollywood live action version. Featuring India megastar Rajinikanth (not only on voice duty, but also the lead character is crafted in his image) and a soundtrack by Oscar winner A. R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire). This is no small upstart project. It gets its world debut in January 2010 on a record number of screens for any Indian release, ever.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

mydogtulip_ani
I caught My Dog Tulip at this years Toronto International Film Festival and can attest to its high level of quality and entertainment (Row Three Review). Based on J.R. Ackerley’s novel/diary about his trails and tribulations with his female German Sheppard. Voiced handsomely by Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave and Isabella Rossillini, you will not find another animated film with a more lauded and awarded cast voice actors no matter how hard you try. Decidedly adult and featuring loads of doggie sex and scatology, yet tender and intimate. If mainstream audiences can get past the NFB/Bill Plympton-esque animation style, it will put dog lovers through the full gamut of emotion more than the cheap pablum like Marley & Me. Even more curious is that the entire film was animated by only two people (husband and wife pair Paul Fierlinger and Sandra Fierlinger) on digital drawing pads. There is a trailer for My Dog Tulip, here.

 

As is the norm in the early 21st century, with cheaper and more accessible tools for crafting animated features, there is a lot more beyond the highlighted five above (many of the big studio entries are presented in distracting 3D): Around the World in 50 Years, Alpha and Omega, How To Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3, Shrek 4ever After, Despicable Me, Rapunzel, Oobermind, Holy Night! and Metropia and A Town Called Panic (both currently on the festival circuit may get some sort of North American bow in 2010) the latter squeaked into the 2009 Oscar race.

Review: The Twilight Saga: New Moon

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Director: Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass, About a Boy, American Pie)
Screenplay: Melissa Rosenberg, Stephenie Meyer (novel)
Producer: Wyck Godfrey
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Edi Gathegi, Rachelle Lafevre, Billy Burke, Charlie Bewley, Jamie Campbell Bower, Daniel Cudmore, Christopher Heyerdahl, Dakota Fanning, Cameron Bright, Noot Seer, Michael Sheen, Graham Greene, Tinsel Korey
MPAA Rating: PG13
Running time: 130 min.

For months the anticipation has been building. After the success of Twilight (our review), it’s not too much of a surprise. The first film in the saga captured fans and non-fans alike and in a whirlwind year, everyone seems to have caught “Twilight Fever” in one way or another. Fans love to share their love and haters their hate but nothing will take down the building monsoon. From the beginning, The Twilight Saga: New Moon was fighting an uphill battle. The change of directors caused a wave of panic and anger amongst fans. There’s also the little fact that Edward, one of (if not the) franchise’s biggest draw, is missing from most of the source material. It couldn’t have been an easy decision for director Chris Weitz to come on board with so many obstacles laid out before him but the burning question is: did he succeed? Does the film live up to expectation? In a single word no, but not for lack of trying.

NewMoonMovieStillNew Moon picks up where Twilight left off. Bella and Edward are together and happy but it doesn’t last long. The story starts, in essence, on Bella’s birthday and while at the Cullen’s celebrating the event (an event Bella is not at all happy about), she cuts her finger, causing Jasper, one of Edward’s brothers, to come flying across the room in a blood frenzy. Edward, upset that he can’t keep Bella safe even from his family, leaves Forks throwing the young woman into a catatonic state from which she eventually breaks only out of pity for what it’s doing to her father. She finds solace in her friendship with Jacob and the two form a bond that borders on romance but never quite crosses the line. But all is not well as well as it seems on the surface for Victoria, one of the rogue vampires from the first film, is on the hunt for Bella. The closeness of threat has stirred a long dormant gene in some of the boys in Jacob’s tribe, including himself, turning them into wolves in order to protect their people. A number of events snowball into a final climax which has Bella traveling to Italy to save Edward from death at the hands of the Volturi, a coven which guards the laws that keep vampires secret from humans.

Would you like to know more…?

AFI Fest 2009: I Killed My Mother

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Director: Xavier Dolan
Screenplay: Xavier Dolan
Producers: Xavier Dolan
Starring: Xavier Dolan, Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clement, François Arnaud
Year: 2009
Country: Canada
Running time: 100min.

 

I‘ve put off writing about my favorite film of the festival because honestly, I don’t know how to put a film that is so personal, introspective, and yet explosive into words. But I also don’t want to just let it fade away without talking about it. The fact that it’s a first feature written, directed by, and starring a 19-year-old (a fact I did not realize until after I saw it and was blown away) only makes it more amazing without in any way qualifying the praise the film deserves.

i_killed_my_mother_001.jpgIn the highly autobiographical story, Xavier Dolan plays his alter-ego Hubert, a 16-year-old French Canadian boy whose relationship with his mother is strained, to say the least – to the point that when a school assignment requires him to talk about his mother’s occupation, he tries to get around it by telling his teacher that his mother is dead. This could be the start of just another teenage rebellion story, and superficially, it sort of is. In black and white intercuts, Hubert explains to his camcorder that he can’t manage to really love his mother the way he knows he should, even though he cares about her the way he’d care about any other human being. Other times he acknowledges that most everyone goes through some stage of hatred for their mother, but that his is different. So far, so emo. But there’s a quality of thoughtfulness and depth in the way these intercut scenes interact with the actual scenes between Hubert and his mother Chantale that transcends surface description.

Would you like to know more…?

Movie Speeches: Sound off Like You Got a Pair!

It’s been a while since we posted what was supposed to be a regular feature around here. Truth be told, I’ve just been saving my wad for what is probably the second best military speech in the history of cinema. Mr. Lee Emery in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. Despite Kubrick being my favorite director of all time, I never much cared for the second half of this film. But I can watch the boot camp bits over and over and over. No small part of that appreciation is due to Gunnery Sergeant Hartman and his spot on performance of the meanest sum’ bitch this side of the Mississippi. Also part of the reason I never joined the Marine Corp.

“You had better… start shitting me Tiffany cuff links!”

 

There is a reason to watch SNL this weekend.

I cannot remember the last time I sat through an episode of Saturday Night Live, but it has definitely been at least since I was in high school. I remember being a kid and Saturday night were an event with my brothers, my friends, and I, awaiting the latest episode of SNL and literally ROFLing late into the night. Maybe my sense of humor has just changed over the years, or maybe there really was a time that SNL was funny. Needless to say, sometime during my early high school years, it stopped being funny. It actually became painful to watch.

Now, there is a reason to tune in again (or, more likely, watch it after the fact on the internet): Joseph Gordon-Levitt is going to be hosting. Here’s to hoping it is a success for him, but if nothing else, maybe it will pique the interest of the kiddies enough that they check out some of his movies, if they already haven’t. I also checked out the current SNL cast list on Wikipedia. I had no idea that Bill Hader was on the show. He’s funny sometimes.

Here is the promo for Saturday’s show below.