Review: Good Kill

“Keep compartmentalizing” is a piece of advice from a commanding officer to his ace pilot. This is darkly humourous, intelligent screenwriting because these drone-piloting soldiers spend 12 hours a day literally inside a box, albeit an air-conditioned one filled to the brim with technology, with fresh coffee available if needs be.

A day of drone warfare fought, the service men and women leave the base and go home to BBQ with their family and drink beer in the nearby Las Vegas suburb, a pebble-lawned stretch of cookie cutter banality not far away from the dazzling gratuitousness of The Strip. Things go from grim but necessary to deeply disturbing slowly but inevitably, and often didactically, in Good Kill.

The film focuses on Major Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke), a former F-16 pilot and a veteran of many tours. He is now ‘grounded’ in the tiny box on wheels enacting a play-station war; one of low risk of physical harm (barring carpal tunnel syndrome) on which he compensates by making the damage 100% psychological. Egan’s icy disposition and years of experience make him one of the current top performers in piloting drones.

Hawke’s performance is miles apart from his life-long work with Richard Linklater, not to mention as different as possible from the testosterone meathead cinema-depictions of fighter pilots in thrill oriented blockbusters like Top Gun and its numerous copy cats. Egan ignores the gung-ho nature of the two tech support co-workers, the young guys that keep the communications to the remotely piloted aircraft humming along. Egan is quietly respectful of the competence of his equally young female co-pilot (Zoë Kravitz) while carrying out any order from his commanding officer (Bruce Greenwood, who gets all the good lines and let’s face it, is a national goddamn treasure).

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VIFF 2014 Review: Elephant Song



If there is one person winning at VIFF this year, it’s got to be Canadian bad boy Xavier Dolan. Not only has he impressed the crowd with his stunning directorial effort Mommy but he’s appeared in no less than two other films screening at the festival. The first, a middling drama from Daniel Grou (the only memorable part of that film are the performances, particularly that of Dolan) and now Elephant Song, a period drama based on a play of the same name.

Directed by Charles Binamé, Elephant Song stars Dolan as Michael Aleen, a troubled young man committed to an asylum and his afternoon chat with Dr. Toby Green (Bruce Greenwood). Dr. Green isn’t Michael’s regular shrink but he’s been asked to speak to the boy to try and find out where his regular doctor has disappeared to. In the two hours that follow, Dolan and Greenwood banter back and forth, mostly in circles, and Michael slowly shares personal details about his past. Apparently Greenwood can’t just read the file because he left his glasses at home…yeah.
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Cinecast Episode 304 – Beware Movies That Are Named After Songs

A ‘Biggie Size’ episode of the Cinecast has Matt Gamble return to heap copious praise upon Mad Men and Game of Thrones. Never one to disappoint, he gets into fisticuffs with Kurt over the Evil Dead remake and ancient tomes made out of human skin. Andrew moderates like a champ and tries his utmost to keep the other two from fondling each others buttons in a delightful display of homoerotic movie-nerd posturing. Ahem. Before that business, there is a pleasant conversation on Derek Cianfrance’s A Place Beyond The Pines, as well as some home-theatre (and Blu Ray) discussion. It appears that Kurt will finally be joining movie fandom in the 21st century by going BLU. The Watchlist has a little Dwayne Johnson, a little Matt Damon, as well as the Activist Dude and “Food Insecurity” in America. We also talk a bit about the trailers for the Carrie remake as well as Elysium.

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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Cinecast Episode 279 – Tapper’s Bar

Drunken pilots and glitchy princesses are on the agenda today as Gamble saunters in after the intro segment. Should Flight have been an angrier Anatomy of a Murder style morality tale, should Wreck-it-Ralph have swapped it’s Disney Logo to Brave while bearing the Pixar Logo? Should Matt Gamble start using Google+? All of these things and more are contained in this episode; reordered far too late at night for the hosts collective health.

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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Trailer: Robert Zemeckis’ Flight

It has been so long since Robert Zemeckis has made a live action movie, that something such as Flight, with its unapologetically populist bent, seems like just the trick at getting this director back on his feet after the hard knocks of his last three forgettable mondo-budgeted Mo-Cap efforts. If this flies somewhere in the middle between Castaway (meh) and Contact (yay!), well, I’ll be happy. I’m not expecting something as rich and moody as Fearless (from the trailer, an obvious point of comparison) but Zemeckis often has a way to slip a fair bit of depth between his polished surfaces. And hell, Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood and Melissa Leo. That’s some fine casting, folks.

An airline pilot saves a flight from crashing, but an investigation into the malfunctions reveals something troubling.

Cinecast Episode 212 – Jeremy Davies 2.0

Thor. Is not mentioned once in this show. (To get your Marvel Norse Demigod fix, head on over to the experts at Mamo!) Instead we delve into two road-films of a very different nature. First up, the Oregon Trail meets Gerry in Kelly Reichardt’s wonderfully realized Meek’s Cutoff. We discuss the versatility of young Paul Dano, while praising Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, and the miracle of ambiguous endings. Next up is the vampire-western-post-apocalypse realized in Stakeland. Much love is bestowed on this type of very smart, very sharp genre fare. And Kelly McGillis is in the film, which Andrew is still working his head around. After some batty technical issues, we move along to a few more HotDocs titles, and Kurt’s overall impression of the festival this year. A wee bit more Beauty Day talk, our DVD picks (it is a good week for a change) and finally some Netflix Instant picks in Canada and the US. Old-fashioned tangents (guns, guns, guns!) and other oddball asides litter the good old fashioned style Cinecast you have sitting before you.

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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Meek’s Cutoff Trailer

The team that brought you Wendy & Lucy are back to entrance you with another, albeit historical, take on the dire Oregon experience. Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Shirley Henderson and Paul Dano saddle up with writer/director Kelly Reichardt for the art film western, Meek’s Cutoff. I had the opportunity to catch the film at last years Toronto International Film Festival and it handily made my end of the year top ten list.

The year is 1845 and Stephen Meek is a for-hire guide leading a handful of immigrant families across the Oregon Trail in search of the American dream. As hours turn into days since their last discovery of fresh water, mutinous thoughts and paranoid rumors abound among the families over the ability and motivations of their delegated leader. Part suspense story, part historical drama, part meditation on the frailty of life, Meek’s Cutoff is a mesmerizing feat that, while deliberately paced, is continually engrossing to watch. My TIFF review can be read here.

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Review: Thirteen Days

Doomsday Movie Marathon
Thirteen Days

No Doomsday marathon would be complete without a clenched-jaw nuclear showdown with the entire world hanging in the balance. And no nuclear showdown is quite as nerve-wracking as the Cuban Missile Crisis, if only because it actually happened. While too young to have lived through it, I still find a fascination with the deeply paranoid Cold War mindset if only because I recognize a glimmer of myself in it. Whether history repeats itself quite the way it happened in sixties America, the curse about living in interesting times feels shared between our two epochs.

Adapted from Robert Kennedy’s memoir of the same name, Roger Donaldson’s Thirteen Days places us in the inner sanctum of the Kennedy Administration as a potential nuclear conflict builds between the Soviets and the U.S. The tagline for the film is ‘you’ll never believe how close we came’, and this is its chief draw, for while the audience already knows how the story ends, potentially robbing the storytellers of any suspense, it is what many do not know about the daily occurrences leading up to the standoff that makes for the resulting tension. One miscommunication or rash decision after another set the dominoes in motion, and it ends up being more luck and happenstance than strategy that ultimately helps ward off catastrophe.
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Cinecast Episode 122 – More Money Than Brains

cinecast_promo.jpg Matt Gamble

Episode 122:
Easily the most spirited Cinecast of all time. Gamble seeks revenge, Andrew weeps and Kurt peels back the layers.

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R3view: Star Trek (2009)

Stak Trek poster

Director: J.J. Abrams (Mission Impossible III, “LOST”, “ALIAS”)
Writers: Roberto Orci , Alex Kurtzman (The Island, MI:III, Transformers)
Producers: J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 126 min

The first time every single one of the RowThree staff managed to get out and see the same movie and have the time to write about it? That alone might say something about the press and anticipation this film has been getting from fans, bloggers and critics alike. Yes, these things come in threes and this is the apprehensive third piece of a trifecta of beloved franchise returns. Does it mostly fail like the others (Star Wars, Indy); or does it breathe new life into a franchise that has been dying a slow death in audience interest for years.

JJ Abrams directs this “reboot” of the classic Star Trek series in which audiences are treated to the discovery of how the crew of the USS Enterprise first meet and the circumstances to the lead up of how they eventually become crew mates. While Earth is threatened by evil Romulans, the story focuses mainly on the blossoming friendship of Kirk and Spock and how their extreme cultural differences are put aside to form a tag team that is unmatched in the galaxy.

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