Review: Silence

Time and again throughout history, humanity has been lost due to hubris. There is a spiritual arrogance that we are often guilty of that has a way of taking a delicate situation and making a quick mess of it. This pride comes from a deep place in our guts and hearts – a place that believe it knows. It has listened to teachings, studied the supposed Truth, and parlayed that word into action.

People believe, people testify, and people suffer in the faith that they are doing the right thing. But how do they know for sure? Silence is a seventeenth century quest for Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson).

As the story begins, his brother missionaries back in Portugal are learning of his committing apostasy in Japan after his followers are tortured by the ruling class. His status and whereabouts are now unknown. The case prompts two young priests named Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garrpe (Adam Driver) to strike out to Japan in search of their missing brother missionary.

The quest is a dangerous one. The Buddhists in charge of Japan do not want Christianity to take root in their society, and have been making a point to persecute anyone declaring themselves a Christian. Followers are routinely rounded-up and persecuted, but the prize target is a man of the cloth. Followers are merely victims; leaders are something to make an example of.

When the missionaries arrive in Japan, they soon split off in the hopes of greater safety and better results. It is Rodrigues we follow for most of the rest of the trip. The priest goes from village to village, seeing firsthand evidence of Christian persecution. Some is even in the hopes of smoking out Rodrigues himself, since the governing bodies have heard rumour of his arrival. All the while, Christian followers are turning to him, looking for guidance. He, in turn, speaks to God…who responds only with silence.

Eventually, Rodrigues faces his oppressor (Issei Ogata). Like Christ in the desert, Rodrigues is offered bargain after bargain if he will just renounce. Lives will be spared, whole communities left in peace…all he needs to do is disavow his God. Like Christ in Gethsemane, Rodrigues pleads with The Almighty to take the task away from him, and instead allow him to worship and serve in peace.

The only response is silence.

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Trailer: Martin Scorsese’s Silence

For this Thanksgiving, we are thankful that Martin Scorsese can still make these kind of pictures. The director has been working at getting Shūsaku Endō’s novel, Silence turned into a film for decades, and now it is here. Set in the seventeenth century, the story involves two young Portuguese Jesuit priests who face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and spread Christianity. Things do not go well, as Japan was in an era of deep isolation, and Christianity was illegal to practice in this time period. The Japanese had however been working on ‘Water Crucifixion’ (Mizuharitsuke) for a while, and certainly strung up a few worshipers – images that appearance in this trailer.

Adam Driver, Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Shinya Tsuakmoto(!), and Ciarán Hinds star in the film which is getting released on December 23, 2016.

Review: Never Let Me Go

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Science fiction in the vein of Never Let Me Go is a rare thing – not showy or obvious, no aliens or space travel, no visible scientific apparatus, nothing really even explicitly stated. Yet the characters’ lives are utterly defined and guided by science fiction elements (of the sort that could soon be science reality), and the kind of ethical questions implicitly explored are those of classic science fiction going back to Asimov and Wells, here told with a poignant humanism and thoughtfulness rarely found on the screen today. The way understanding of the characters’ situation gradually dawns as the story unfolds is part of the pleasure of it, so I’m going to try not to spoil it as much as possible. (Even though it’s been long enough now since release that if you’ve remained unspoiled, you’re kind of amazing and you should definitely go into this film knowing as little as possible – not because it depends on not knowing what’s going on, but because it just gives it that much more oomph and poignancy if you learn gradually along with the film.)

Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy grow up together at what seems to be an upscale boarding school in rural England, going through the joys and squabbles that any children do, but there are signs that things may not all be as they seem. We learn more about who these children are and what the school is as the story unfolds, but we remain firmly focused on their relationship with each other, especially as Ruth and Tommy begin dating, leaving Kathy a patient but longing third wheel. This is a story primarily concerned with relationships, but relationships that are predicated on and intensified by these individuals’ particular status in society. Sure, there’s stuff in the book that was great and is left out here, but the choices made are solid and make for a strong and coherent film.

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Review: The Social Network

The Social Network Movie Poster

Director: David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac)
Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, Ben Mezrich (book)
Producers: Dana Brunetti, Ceán Chaffin, Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Max Minghella, Josh Pence, Justin Timberlake, Joseph Mazzello, Rooney Mara
MPAA Rating: PG13
Running time: 121 min.

David Fincher’s The Social Network is an age old tale of what happens daily in the business world. The difference here is that involves one of the biggest brands in the world (valued at somewhere in the $25 billion ballpark), best friends (one of which is portrayed as socially inept) and the fact that this all happened before anyone involved turned 25.

The Social Network Movie StillThe one thing that we need to keep in mind while watching the film is that this is a work of fiction. The people involved know what happened but that’s about it. Regardless of how well researched Ben Mezrich’s book is (from which the talented Aaron Sorkin adapted the script), we can’t take it as the bible of what happened but we know the basics and they are that in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg and his partner Eduardo Saverin launched thefacebook.com (they later dropped “the” from the name). Shortly after launching at Harvard, the site launched at other campuses before eventually going public and everyone and their grandmother having a facebook account. Along the way, Zuckerberg burned a few bridges, causing a few lawsuits (the film’s tag line accurately reads: “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies”) and facebook is still the biggest thing in the world. Ah, brand power overshadows much.

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Cinecast Episode 184 – Death Lottery

 
The 4 hour barrier is broken as The Documentary Blog’s Jay Cheel joins Kurt and Andrew on the longest Cinecast ever – you know it is even longer than the previous epic length TIFF show. What do we talk about? For starters, Kurt & Jay examine the Let The Right One In remake, Let Me In (*SPOILERS*), in painstaking detail, and how not to process American remakes of foreign language films. Next we move along for a solid hour on Never Let Me Go (*SPOILERS*) which keeps going on the vibe of comparing source material to eventual film adaptation and why you probably should not do that. More Carey Mulligan talk as Andrew skims and sums up Wall Street 2 with out spoilers. Then, a spoiler-free discussion on Catfish follows, although only Jay caught it, so it is more of a discussion on fake/faux-Documentaries, and ‘narrative-ethics’ which leads to more more talk on I’m Still Here, with a little Last Exorcism and The Blair Witch Project to round things out. Next we move along to the avant garde and barely-narrative Cannes Palme D’Or winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and a lot of other films we watched: An overview of the “Middletown” documentary series, a bit of Daybreakers-Redux, a bit of Season 6 of “LOST” (you guessed it, with *SPOILERS*), and more avant garde cinema with Last Year At Marienbad. We also debate the finer points of Steve Buscemi and the cast and crew of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” Finally (finally!) at around the 4 hour mark, our DVD picks round out a show that carried us well into the wee hours of the night recording. We hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed chatting. It may be long, but it is a solid and whip-smart show this time around, although we are biased on that front.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 
 

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NEVER LET ME GO Trailer is Understated and Ominous

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It has been far too long since Mark Romanek’s directorial debut, One Hour Photo. It has been eight years, in fact. After bailing on a lot of pre-production work in The Wolfman (which eventually flopped under jobber Joe Johnston) Romanek picked a whopper of a challenge for a follow up; a difficult to adapt Kazuo Ishiguro novel, Never Let Me Go. The book is one of the best books I have read in the past few years or so (along side Cormac McCarthy’s The Road). And Fox Searchlight and Co. have cast the film wonderfully: Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins and Keira Knightley. The sumptuous (sunset and foliage) visuals can be seen instantly from the trailer that came online today at Apple.com. The tricky part, is how Romanek will manage the high amount naivete and drama and mystery; where the characters (in the novel, anyway) are ignorant of what is going on moreso than the audience. I recommend avoiding spoilers or any sort of plot synopsis for this film. Even the trailer is close to spoiling – VERY close (consider this is your fair warning.)

Nevertheless, along with Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, this is one of my three most anticipated films of the year for me.

Trailer is tucked under the seat or at Apple in all shapes and sizes.
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Cinecast Episode 163 – The Jesus Camp of Comic Book Movies

 
By audience request, a special welcome to FilmJunk’s Jay Cheel (also of The Documentary Blog) as he drops by the virtual studio for this cinecast episode to help level the playing field on our SPOILER quite divided impressions of Kick-Ass. Of course Matt Gamble is here to help with that discussion as well representing the comic-nerd side of the equation. We are also in the midst of the Minneapolis Film Festival, so there is be some talk on that cinematic smörgåsbord as well as a critical mention of the 6 hour road-show edition of British TV mini Red Riding Trilogy. The usual DVD picks and other bits of movie related banter, including must-see Aussie noir, The Square, a break down on the Howard Stern saga known as Private Parts and Earth Day visual extravaganza Oceans. Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to listen the show; we are glad to have you along and welcome feedback and other forms of kick-assery in the comments section..


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Cinecast Episode 151 – Feeding Time

Episode 151:

SPOILERS ALERT!
Despite the announcement at the beginning of the show about a top ten list, alas it was abandoned at the last minute. Instead you get a “spirited” talk about why vampires go crazy for blood and some nice DVD choices this week. Thanks to Matt for dropping in again.
Enjoy!

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Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

[Yes, Rowthree programming as usual will be continuing shortly into the new year, in the mean time, if you happen to be in a major film market, do yourselves a favour and check out Terry Gilliam’s latest, reprinted below is our pre-TIFF review of the film.]

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A question: “Where are we – geographically, socially, narratively?”
A snappy reply: “The northern hemisphere, on the margins, further to go.”

There are three great surprises of The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. The first is that Terry Gilliam is back in top form, weaving the contemporary and the fantastical into a whimsical and dark package. Despite the death of Heath Ledger occurring in the middle of production, that which forced the subsequent hiring of Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell to complete the part, works charmingly well in the film. This second surprise is so deeply woven into the plot that it looks like this was the intent all along. The third one, perhaps the most surprising of the bunch, is that Terry Gilliam has commandeered the digital effects so effectively that the film retains its nostalgia simultaneously to looking modern. The films deceptively simple plot forms serves to evoke the best of former Python’s directorial work and at the same time (or so I am told) close up a loose trilogy of the imagination starting with fragile innocence of Time Bandits, carrying forward to the full blown exuberance contained in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and reflecting on mortality, wisdom (with more than a hint of melancholy) with Dr. Parnassus.

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Fincher’s Social Network Adds Friends

AndrewGarfieldI‘ve been really underwhelmed by all of the activity around David Fincher’s next film. Yes, I love Fincher as much as the next film addicted fan but a movie about Facebook, a platform I loath, had nothing going for it beyond the Fincher name. Granted, I’d see it when it was finished but I had little interest in tracking the details of the production.

The film, now titled The Social Network, is being sold as a drama about the birth of Facebook and the drama that surrounded its founders in the early days. Created by three college students at Harvard in 2004, the network became popular with the college crowd before eventually making itself available to the world and changing the way we communicate online (be it for the betterment or degradation of society). Over the years, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has really become “the face” of Facebook and I’m sure techies everywhere are dying to see the truth behind the myth. How much truth we’ll get here is still up in the air but the story is likely to have some appeal with the anyone who has ever wanted to be a successful entrepreneur.

But that’s all filler and not enough to get me interested. Oh no. To get my attention you need more than the fabulous Fincher. You have to give me Fincher and the amazing Andrew Garfield. If you don’t know this name, take note of it because this young talent is fantastic and he’s coming up the ranks quickly. He left a huge impression with his turn in the criminally under seen Boy A, he has a role in the upcoming The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and his turn as an investigative reporter in the BBC’s brilliant “Red Riding” is nothing short of spectacular. News now is that Garfield will star in Fincher’s film as Eduardo Saverin, the Facebook co-founder who had a falling out with Zuckerberg over money. The film has also cast, in a less exciting manner, Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg and Justin Timberlake.

Eisenberg has had his share of good roles in Adventureland (our review) and The Education of Charlie Banks but I think Garfield is the bigger talent here and though it’s exciting to see him in a high-profile production, I can’t help but think that he would have been a better choice for the lead.

So there we are. With one announcement I’ve changed my tune about The Social Network from indifference to excitement.