Review: Everybody Wants Some!!

 

Frontiers are where you find them.

I haven’t written much about movies for awhile now. Mostly due to work, family and other outside interests, but I haven’t really felt the immediate need to scribble down my pearls of wisdom regarding my film viewing. It’s not that I haven’t seen anything good or that I haven’t thought of anything to write about, but there’s been a definite lack of “passion” towards expressing my thoughts down in pixels.

But then a film like Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! comes along and specifically speaks to passion – and not just in an overly simplified generic “follow your bliss and do what you love” kind of way. Through its casual, “let’s all hangout” vibe, it suggests an open, accepting, come-what-may approach to life that embraces the uncertainty ahead and suggests that there’s no rush to find out exactly who you are. Just make sure you enjoy the process. That sounds a bit dangerously close to the cliche that “it’s the journey not the destination”, but the film is never that reductive (even if it does occasionally feel a bit overly written in some of its philosophical meanderings).

The story centres around a university freshman named Jake who is about to start his baseball scholarship and takes place completely within the 4 days before the start of classes in the Fall of 1980. Jake meets his housemates/teammates, parties with them and engages with life. That’s pretty much the extent of the plot. Actually, usage of the word “plot” here may be an overstatement. The movie is about interacting with your environment, the people in it, what they bring to it and what you can give back. There’s no major 2nd act conflict, no life changing moment and very little tension as our characters converse, drink, compete, drink, annoy each other, drink and philosophize – usually with a beverage in their hand. And it is so incredibly refreshing to just simply spend time with them.

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“How Can You Not Be Romantic About Baseball?”

With the World Series starting today, lets consider Baseball, the sport that has time and time again translated the best up on the big screen. It is still very much America’s sport, and the sport that seems to bring out the best in the country. And editor Lindsay Ragone has put this delightful narrative together that examines the flavour and the atmosphere, the goofy and the sentimental, the best and the worst (but mostly the best) the sport offered to the cinema.

As a canadian, non-sports fan, it still gets me all warm inside seeing John Candy do his thing on screen.

Play B-A-A-A-A-ALL!

Mondays Suck Less in The Third Row

Check out these links:
Not LAURA Palmer: The Catfishing game of LEAH Palmer
Precious Bodily Fluids and Ownership in Fury Road
RussellMania! (Toronto)
How To Fix Canadian Cinema
Why Does Nobody Talk About Avatar?


Some of the best David Letterman Bits

The Best David Letterman Guest Moments Compilation by worldwideinterweb


The wonderful world of Estonian sweets


John C. Reilly closes out Cannes like a Boss

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Fantasia Review: The Harvest


After a very lengthy hiatus into directing for TV, ranging from single episodes for John From Cincinnati to Masters of Horror, John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer) is back with his first feature film since the turn of the century. Most people will recall the hysterically trashy noir from the late 1990s, Wild Things, the one that featured then popular starlets Neve Campbell and Denise Richards have a lengthy spot of erotic mingling; I believe they also showed the world Kevin’s Bacon.

He chooses a painterly, often cloying, small town Americana vibe in The Harvest, such that it first appears that the director has taken up the mantle of restrained, simple drama — to the point of somnambulism, but gradually, and with care, the film builds into full blow horror hysteria. Good things come to those who wait.

In the small town of Russet, USA, a doctor – nurse married couple are caring for their wheelchair bound young son Andy (Charlie Tahan) at their home. They have built for him the perfect bedroom, full of pristine looking toys and vibrant wallpaper and state of the moment electronics. The caveat is that he is not allowed to leave his room, for fear of ‘pathogens.’ He’s imprisoned from life, in a kind of kept-stasis by the very parents that should be allowing him to live.

An array of expensive looking medical equipment remains just out of sight, while Andy’s large picture window looks out at living damp, forested landscape where you can feel the fall chill in the air. A row of ripe corn slightly blocks his view, and it appears to be attracting crows. If not for this classic gothic image, kind of W.P Kinsella meets Edgar Allan Poe moment, you’d never know you were in the kind of People Under The Stairs remake that McNaughton and his first time screenwriter Stephen Lancellotti have arrayed out for the unsuspecting viewer.

Michael Shannon plays the Andy’s dad, Richard, who is seen early on driving far afield to get illegal and experimental drug treatments from one of his former co-workers. This is a kinder, gentler Shannon performance than is typical, here playing a nurse of all occupations, although he only has one patient: his son. Samantha Morton, in a bid to take the ‘world worst movie mom’ laurel form Tilda Swinton (We Need To Talk About Kevin) – indeed along with Morton (Movern Callar) both have graduated from the Lynn Ramsay school of complex and aloof females. Morton gives puts herself out there to the lynchmob audience that is going to arrive with pitchforks and torches to seize her Dr. Frankenstein mom-megalomania.

In The Harvest, most viewers will want to see mom get some serious comeuppance for being the ‘doctor playing god’ with the quality-of-life of her boy. Constantly shrewish and berating of her her meek husband for not being helicopter parent enough for her; when Andy asks her why she stopped having children after he was born, is a blindside-ingly powerful moment that almost singlehandedly elevates the sleepy setup. That is a damn serious question for a son to drop on his mom, and the movie earns some dramatic weight, which it with then gleefully repurpose to abject nuttiness. God bless this kind of genre filmmaking.

If hubby won’t stand up to his overbearing wife, enter Mary-Ann, the little girl who moves in next door and quickly befriends Andy through his window to the point where she thinks nothing of just climbing right in. If they weren’t so young, the scene would be down right sexy.

The sparks fly between mom and would-be girlfriend, and offer some much needed energy leading into act two, which continually ramps towards several legit surprises (to this jaded reviewer) which will not be spoiled here.

Suffice it to say, I am a sucker for ‘parenting films.’ And much of the meat on the bones of The Harvest is the consideration of bubble-wrap parenting of the 21st century. There is an opening prologue about the perceived dangers of pitching in a little league baseball game that is true, but please, first world suburban society let the damn kids play their baseball.

The transformation of Morton’s calmly superior, pro-active medical professional and mom, into a furiously punishing tyrant, drilling shut window sills, Lady Macbeth style scrubbing the wall paper with holy, germ-proof white acrylic is such that it has to be seen to be believed. It’s fucking magnificent. Her jealous emotional basket case of nerves and focus is one of the films chief delights – that she takes it out on a very willing and kindly Michael Shannon is icing on the cake. Watching these two perform against type, but really kind of spot-on-type, is worth the price of admission.

Poor Andy, who willingly and almost desparately befriends the fierce and independent young Mary-Ann (Natasha Calis, looking every bit the part of a spunky young Anna Paquin) much to his parents anxiety and chagrin, is stuck in his room, while she is free scheme to get him outside, and live a little in the fecund and misty air. In any other movie, this would be about sneaking the first sexual experience, but marvellously true to american puritanism, it is merely to play, ahem, catch…with a baseball. And it is not entirely familial or platonic with the children, sexual tension and a kind of frustration hover way off in the periphery for those who care to see it.

If you think of a wheelchair bound boy playing catch with a pretty young girl is too cloyingly sweet, well, this movie will beat those notions out of you quick enough when Mom and Dad return with some pretty ambitious plans to keep Andy and Mary-Ann apart.

Peter Fonda and Leslie Lyles play Mary-Ann’s ex-hippie grandparents, who are better parents to her than Andy’s are to him, but, in a baffling concession interested in making the screenplay work, they are obligated against all common sense and character to fail to listen to Mary-Ann when bad shit comes to light.

It is the movies cardinal error, almost breaks it in fact, that they don’t even slightly take her seriously, despite acknowledging her fierce independence, when she starts making heavy accusations of the neighbours. The notion that Mary-Ann recently lost her parents, and is struggling to adjust and make new friends in a new environment is almost valid enough, but seriously, someone for Christ’s sake make a phone call to the police already. It doesn’t have to be a full swat team, just an officer taking a peak around what the neighbour are doing with all that medical gear in the house. And while I’m nitpicking, as much as I really like late-career Peter Fonda, the dude has to stop saying “Far Out, Man” from this point onward. He’s great, but the line is painful.

Much of the reason for the current crop of nostalgia-films wanting to mimic the tone of Amblin Entertainment (from The Goonies to Poltergeist for instance) is that parents are so damn overprotective and paranoid of any hurts coming to their children. They are now stifling their children one ‘protected’ experience (or lack of experience) at a time. The Harvest, amps this idea, the fear of it as far as it can, while echoing the look of well-lit 1980s movies while telling something new. The chill fall air, warm apple pie, and sprawling ball diamonds remind me of the classic Disney chiller, Something Wicked This Way Comes as much as the Andy’s household hints towards the mad underbelly of America in Blue Velvet.

While The Harvest is a bit TV movie-ish at times and not quite in the league of those films, it comes dangerously close at times. Welcome back, John, we missed your particular sensibility, and yes, good things come to those who wait.

Toronto After Dark 2013: The Battery Review

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“Gone Fishing. Don’t Die.”

Companionship and camaraderie are at the heart of Jeremy Gardner’s micro-indie Zom-Dram, The Battery. What you say? Another filmmaker making a buddy zombie movie with no money and the usual tropes and jokes? Not so, with this one, that spends its time quietly, far more in the silent spaces. A character gets drunk and sings a song in an empty house as a coping mechanism for the silence. It’s not the zombies, but the lack of a purpose that might be the real killer. While there is certainly a structured narrative here, it is the character beats and ‘hanging out aspects’ of the film that drive it.

The film offers its pleasures in the lead characters of Ben and Mickey, two scavenger-survivors wandering around the leafy New England countryside, bickering like an old married couple. Their pre-apocalypse relationship was non-existent outside of playing on the same baseball team together as pitcher and catcher -I mean this un-metaphorically, it’s assuredly not that kind of film. Anyhoo, when not throwing change-ups to Ben, Mickey retreats into his headphones with old CDs found at his girlfriends house. Ben, is far more aggressive not only scolding Mickey for tuning out with music (and the film boasts a wonderful soundtrack) but also for living in the past. He insists they move forward like sharks, eating and killing if necessary, but not over-thinking the larger issues. They sing the “Show Me The Way to Go Home” song in an echo of Spielberg’s scene of semi-contented mail companionship from Spielberg’s Jaws. A big old Volvo station wagon is acquired to carry their gear and the offer of a bed in the back where they can bed down for the night. They use the pillows and sheets from the same ex-girlfriend. Later this will become a hellish domestic prison for the films third act.

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Review: Trouble with the Curve

Trouble with the Curve Still

Director: Robert Lorenz
Screenplay: Randy Brown
Producers: Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Michele Weisler
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, Matthew Lillard, John Goodman
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 111 min.


Early into Trouble with the Curve we meet “Peanut Boy” (Jay Galloway) a Latino youth that throws a bag of peanuts at Bo Gentry, a cocky hitter at the top of the draft list and who all the scouts are there to check out, including Clint Eastwood’s Gus. Problem is that Gus is losing his vision so he’s depending on his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), named after the baseball legend, to help him figure out if the Gentry kid is as good as the computers say he is.

It’s important to note this scene because from the moment it plays out, I expected the story to meander in his direction. It eventually goes the way you’d expect it to though that bit of plot doesn’t take centre stage until much later in the movie and the farther the plot meanders from that scene, the clearer it becomes that Trouble with the Curve isn’t really a movie about baseball. Sure, there’s a lot of baseball in it and it takes place in the heat of a baseball road trip (complete with tailgaters) but at its core this is a family drama and a romantic comedy brought together by baseball.

Gus is a stubborn and independent guy, the best scout in the business. Bo Gentry is the up-and-comer everyone’s talking about so the Braves send Gentry out to make sure that the kid is solid. But Gus’ boss and good friend Pete (John Goodman) knows Gus isn’t doing so well so he calls up Gus’ daughter Mickey and essentially convinces her to help out dad by going with him on this scouting trip which could likely be his last. Reluctantly she agrees, a decision that will affect both her personal and professional life. While on the road she and her father finally come to terms with their broken relationship, Mickey falls for a former player turned scout (Justin Timberlake) and she eventually saves the day by discovering that Peanut Boy is an exceptionally gifted pitcher.

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Cinecast Episode 205 – See Thomas Howell

 
 
Welcome one, welcome all! The latest episode of The Cinecast sees the destruction of four things: Los Angeles (or a back-lot set) from invading aliens, in Battle: LA; Dartmouth Nova Scotia gets bloody and graffitied up, exploitation style, from gangs going to war with a Hobo With A Shotgun; Catherine Hardwicke’s career with the flirts-with-camp-total failure of Red Riding Hood (Gamble took one for the team on this); and finally the end of Robert Zemekis’s Mo-Cap technology with the Disney mega-bomb Mars Needs Moms. Furthermore, while it was more of a mild pummeling by release circumstances than the complete destruction of what is a very solid film, the unfair treatment of I Love You Phillip Morris is discussed. Then we dig deep into what we have been watching. On the menu are political British Gangster dramas, Nazi propaganda films, Art-Giallo hommages, silent comedies, a knuckle-biter suspense spectacular, the Bard with music ‘n guns, more 80s nostalgia and TVs Party Down. We are back to our usual tangents, in particular on a certain actor that has Matt losing it, in tears, mid-show, and an angry ranting-slash-bit-o’-tomfoolery regarding Robert Redford’s baseball movie to close things out. We cram a lot into this show. I hope you enjoy it in all of its shaggy glory.

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


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_11/episode_205.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Bookmarks for November 3rd

What we’ve been reading – October 30th:

  • The Auteurs Daily: Debating Haneke (and Brecht)
    Ekkehard holds up Lars von Trier as an example of a filmmaker whose works – as opposed to Haneke’s, of course – live and breathe because they all but celebrate their inner contradictions. Haneke’s machines may be smart, but as Oscar Wilde put it, “The wise contradict themselves.”
  • The 10 Criterion Duds
    Bay’s end-of-times explosion porno, Armageddon, is … digitally remastered for all of posterity. Now you can appreciate the full scope of Bay’s inanity while partially losing your hearing—and your will to live—in ear-shattering Dolby surround sound. What’s more, Criterion’s Armageddon comes equipped with all those bonuses that cinephiles and academics have come to expect including previously unreleased footage, “Michael Bay’s gag reel,” and the Aerosmith music video “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” Could there be more fitting a film than Armageddon to be bookended by Criterion’s #39 and #41, Tokyo Drifter and Henry V?
  • Hitchcock classics get a remake — in sticky tape.
    Philadelphia-based artist Mark Khaisman has proved you don’t need suitcases of cash for successful movie remakes — he simply raided the stationery cupboard. Using packing tape, he has recreated scenes from favorite Alfred Hitchcock thrillers “The 39 Steps,” and “Spellbound”, among others.
  • Who’s Going To Be The World Series MVP? Forget A-Rod or A. J. Burnett, Give Me Willie Mays Hayes!
    When I think about ballplayers these days, I tend to think about movies. Cinema has given us some of the best and silliest sluggers and hurlers imaginable, and it is these athletes I choose to honor in October, rather than anyone on the Yanks or the Phils.
  • Anderson Looks Up For New Movie
    Now that director Wes Anderson has explored the oceans in “The Life Aquatic” and the lands in “The Darjeeling Limited,” there is only one place left for him to go: Space.
  • Discuss: Which Actors Don’t Belong in Hollywood?
    While we like to try and remain positive around here, WorstPreviews asks the question, Which actor or actress (working today) do you think is so terrible that it makes you wonder how he/she ever made it in Hollywood? Join the discussion over there or leave your thoughts on the matter in our comments section below.
  • 21 Stars Who Should Host The 2010 Oscars
    With Hugh Jackman out this year, here are some great suggestion from readers about who should host the Academy Awards in 2010. Well, some of them are great suggestions. Others are simply suggestions.

Bookmarks for October 30th

What we’ve been reading – October 30th:

  • Doc Films and Social Impact: Outreach, Outreach, Outreach
    In a 2007 study titled Documentaries on a Mission, scholar Matt Nisbet suggests that the bulk of the documentary audiences are “the choir,” a group of people watching films that cater to their “pre-existing social views.” He offers that one way a film can get beyond the choir and on the public agenda is by providing a news hook: “Documentary films…have a strong influence as media agenda-setters. Films provide dramatic ‘news pegs’ for journalists seeking to either sustain or generate new coverage of an issue.”
  • How Mr Fox saved Wes Anderson
    Though we don’t like to admit it, Anderson has been on a bit of a slide lately. Something artful and still auteur from the director yet aimed more at the masses is exactly what he needed.
  • George Miller Has Found His Max
    Tom Hardy is currently in negotiations to play “Mad” Max Rockatansky in Fury Road, the fourth film in the post-apocalyptic franchise.
  • Evil Dead coming back to theaters!
    Sam Raimi’s classic horror film “The Evil Dead” will be making its way back to theaters. It’s being re-released for a special run by Grindhouse Releasing, though no official dates have been given.
  • Give Me The Best Fictional Baseball Teams In Movie History!
    Confronted with the choice to root for the Yankees or the Phillies in this year’s World Series – or even the option to watch the action – I plan to opt for nearly anything else. I’m going to pop in a DVD and take in some of the great fictional baseball teams in movie history to forget about this season. Here are my picks…
  • Jackman ditches Oscars
    According to Variety, sources close to Jackman confirmed he turned the gig down in order to keep his mind on his current Broadway run then get his head back into movies for a while. He might host it again, but isn’t keen on doing it 2 years in a row.
  • Adorable But Horrible: 26 Cute Critters You’ll Want to Avoid
    Horror isn’t always slimy and grotesque; some of the most frightening monsters come in the cutest packages. We list the fluffy, wide-eyed, and downright adorable critters that want to scare you, eat you, or enslave you for all time.

Trailer for Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s Sugar

Sugar Movie StillThe creative team of Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, who provided the excellent Half Nelson a few years ago, were enough of a draw for me to see their new offering Sugar (our review), a film about a Dominican baseball player trying to break into the MLB.

With the help of a great performance from new comer Algenis Perez Soto, Boden and Fleck managed to create a sports film that I could really fall in love with, mostly because it’s much more about the characters than the game. I did have a few complaints, particularly the too clean feel of the last third of the story when everything else to that point, even the small occurrences and actions, seemed so difficult to achieve. Still, Sugar is engaging and beautifully shot, carrying the audience along on the fairy tale ride.

Sugar was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics who will open the film in limited release on April 3rd and if their previous limited releases are any indication, it will be screened wide enough that most will have an opportunity to check it out. It’s well worth a drive.

Trailer is tucked under the seat!

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VIFF Review: Sugar

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It would be simple to write off Half Nelson, Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s feature directorial debut, as a “fluke” but when the duo follow it up with a film as wonderful as Sugar, that initial thought is quickly dismissed.

Sugar Movie StillMiguel ‘Sugar’ Santos is a young man whose life is baseball. Hailing form a small town in the Dominican Republic Sugar, as he is nicknamed, is called up for training camp in the US. Things go well for the talented pitcher who is then drafted into the minor leagues and shipped off to play baseball in small town Iowa, a place where everyone appears to live and breathe baseball. Sugar adjusts well to his new life and slowly, he begins to learn the language, the customs and he even becomes involved in some extra curricular activities but things start to fall apart. He suffers a minor injury, begins to lose focus on the field and eventually is relegated to relief pitcher.

Though the film focuses it’s attention mostly on Sugar’s rise and fall from grace, it also provides one of the best looks at the inner workings of baseball I’ve ever seen (or at least seen since I recently caught up with that long ago Kevin Costner film Bull Durham). We see the struggles faced by young players being drafted in far off places for a fraction of what their American counterparts are paid and outside of the common place knowledge that if you don’t work out, there’s a younger, better version coming up the ranks to replace you, there’s the added pressure of knowing that if you are replaced, you’ll be returning home. But while baseball is an integral part of the story, the true wonder is the character of Sugar.

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