Cinecast Episode 395 – Have an Exit Strategy

The multiplex continues to bore Kurt and Andrew, who have no interest in costumed heroes or a uniformed Reese Witherspoon. So it is off to Argentina for the Oscar nominated anthology film, Wild Tales. Game of Thrones hits the half-way mark and Kurt may have finally convinced Andrew of a) just how tedious things in Meereen have gotten, b) how much Stannis Baratheon has come into his own this season, and c) the power of a good long shot.

The watch-list creates a divide in taste on music and documentary form with Brett Morgan’s Montage of Heck. The strengths and weakness of Wes Craven’s The New Nightmare are discussed, along with a tangent on lost concept over-spill resulting from sold out movies. Don’t Look Now, but there is more Nic Roeg discussion on the Cinecast. As is the case of Kevin Costner, Shawn Levy and the race to the middle(brow). Finally, Alex Gibney’s Scientology doc, Going Clear is compared and contrasted with PTA’s The Master, for dos and don’ts in filmmaking.

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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A Month of Horror 2014 – Chapter 2

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I‘m behind in my viewing, so I’m feeling a bit under the gun…After this batch it’ll be time to pick up the pace again. In this post: Dr. Terror’s House of Horror, Trouble Every Day, Night Of The Eagle and I Married A Witch.

 

Dr. Terror’s House Of Horror (Freddie Francis – 1965)
I’m a big fan of the old Amicus horror anthology films – titles like The House That Dripped Blood, Tales From The Crypt, Torture Garden and Asylum would give you 4-5 short horror stories with a variety of actors (as well as a bonus wrap-around framing device) and bring forth a great 90 minutes of entertainment. The tales weren’t really overly gory or jump-out-of-your-seat scary, but they excelled in bringing horrific ideas into 15-20 minute long stories with dashes of black comedy. Dr. Terror’s grab bag was the only remaining one of the Amicus omnibus films that had eluded me, so I finally caught up with it and it didn’t disappoint. With Peter Cushing dolling out the fates to 5 men he meets on a train (via tarot card readings) and Christopher Lee and Donald Sutherland amongst the leads of the individual scenarios, the film breezes by at a fast pace and introduces you to plants with their own brains, voodoo jazz, an artist’s disembodied hand, and a couple of different spins on vampires and werewolves. Great stuff.

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Review: The Calling

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Director: Jason Stone
Writers: Scott Abramovitch
Producers: Scott Abramovitch, Lonny Dubrofsky, Randy Manis, Nicholas Tabarrok
Starring: Susan Sarandon, Topher Grace, Gil Bellows, Ellen Burstyn, Donald Sutherland, Christopher Heyerdahl
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 108 min.


Thrillers and police procedurals are not my usual cup of tea when it comes to books so it wasn’t much of a surprise that I’d never heard of Inger Ash Wolfe (the penname of author Michael Redhill) but the trailer for the adaptation of the first book in a series of thrillers certainly caught my attention. Thanks Susan Sarandon.

The Calling stars Sarandon as a small town detective on the brink of retirement who finds herself in the midst of the biggest case of her career. There are bodies appearing all over the area and whoever is responsible seems to be on a very specific mission and it’s up to her and her understaffed police force to solve the mystery before anyone else dies.

What initially appealed to me about The Calling, based on the trailer, is that Sarandon seemed to be filling a role usually reserved for her male counterparts. To my surprise, the change wasn’t made by some savvy screenwriter but rather, it was written that way by Wolfe who has written three novels to date about Detective Hazel Micallef and her adventures solving crimes in rural anywhere. What I really appreciate about Micallef and which was well translated to the screen by both screenwriter Scott Abramovitch and Sarandon is that the character isn’t simply a female version of a typical male character. Though some of Micallef’s tendencies do come across that way (she drinks and pops pills as a way to deal with a medical condition, she doesn’t take orders and she’s often brash) the character is more complex than that and encompasses not only Micallef’s relationship with her co-workers but also the complicated relationships with her ex-husband and her mother.

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Trailer: The Hunger Games

I am quite amazed that after seeing Kinji Fukasaku’s wonderfully violent satire Battle Royale more or less banned/undistributed in Canada and the US, we are getting a huge glossy franchise that involves teens killing teens for sport. With Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin and the host of other interesting school shooting films, I guess the good ship Columbine has sailed and these stories are OK to do however one pleases.

Either way, Lion’s Gate has posted the trailer for the first of three (possibly more) films, The Hunger Games, which stars Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson and up-and-comer Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone, X-Men: First Class). Expect the Twi-hards to get a boner for these films (as I imagine the books are appealing to the same demographic) and along those lines, I imagine that Gary Ross and company are going to do this subject in as vanilla a fashion as possible.

Oh, and full disclosure, I have not read these books, so I have no idea about fan-minutiae on how close the film adaptation is going to be. But feel free to educate me in the comment sections.

And while we are at it, if they can make this type of film, wither a big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s The Long Walk?

The trailer is tucked under the seat.

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Teaser Trailer for “Hunger Games”

 
So I just finished reading Suzanne Collins tween novel, “Hunger Games”, not but four days ago. I knew there was a movie coming but I had no idea it was this close to release (March 2012). Well, close enough for there to already be a teaser trailer anyway.

If you’re not in the know, “Hunger Games” is essentially a mish-mash of Battle Royale, Stephen King’s “The Long Walk” and Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game.” But of course not quite written at the same intelligence level. Katniss Everdeen is thrust into a deadly government sponsored game to the death in a large arena with 23 other contestants. The rules are simple: be the last alive. There’s obviously a lot more to it than that in this fascist, dystopian future, but you get the gist.

We don’t get much from this trailer, just a good glimpse of Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) as the 16 year-old star and her character’s bow-wielding experience. But there’s enough in here to get a general feel of the picture. Personally, I was generally disappointed in the final few chapters of the novel, but with Pleasantville director, Gary Ross, at the helm and helped out by none other than the great Steven Soderbergh as second unit director, I can’t help but sort of be excited for his release of the theatrical version of “Hunger Games.” Not to mention a great supporting cast including Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Toby Jones, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz and Wes Bentley. But time will tell if Lawrence can live up to the starring role.

Take a look at the trailer under the seats. How does it compare to your expectations?

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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: Short Takes Vol. 1

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Clearly I’m getting behind on the New Hollywood marathon; I’ve actually been watching a good bit, but not finding the right things to say to write about them. So I’m just going to lump together some short thoughts on the films that didn’t inspire me to write a whole post about, or films that others reviewed or are planning to review.

The Graduate

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This is one of the few films on this marathon’s master list that I’ve seen before, but I wanted to rewatch it because I was pretty sure I had missed something the first time around. That first time, I was just barely eighteen and was sure that college would sort out any remaining lack of certainty I had about my future career and life. Four years later, it hadn’t, and I found myself, like Benjamin Braddock, unsure what to do after graduation and drifting a bit, trying to find something to latch onto. I think when I first saw it, I had difficulty understanding Benjamin’s indecision and willingness to just float along after graduating, basically falling into an affair with Mrs. Robinson (the wife of his father’s business partner) because he didn’t have much else better to do. This time, it all worked and fit together much better for me.

The inclusion of Simon and Garfunkel songs was perfect, and made me think about how influential The Graduate, with its detached main character, soundtrack, and mood, has been on films since – especially Indiewood quirky coming-of-age stories. Half of R3 will strangle me for saying this, but there seems a strong connection to Garden State (though even I would agree that The Graduate is a stronger film). My only beef is that the Berkeley sequence, when Benjamin goes to try to win Elaine, loses some interest and waffles a bit too much. On the other hand, the very last shot that’s often berated (by some) is exactly right.

M*A*S*H and McCabe and Mrs. Miller after the jump.

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Finite Focus: Beyond The Fragile Geometry of Space (Don’t Look Now)

Dont Look Now One-SheetNicholas Roeg‘s delightfully heavy-handed horror-thriller is one of those films that does not get as much love as it deserves. Much like John Frankenheimer‘s Seconds, it is too difficult, earnest and unwieldy to drop into any specific genre and flirts around the edgier side of cinema. The fact that this film is likely as strong today as it was in 1973 is a testament to the quality film-making and overall lush aesthetics on display.

The blood, the water, glass and the foggy morning are all underscored by a large amount of cross-cutting, which sets up a lot of the visual motifs that the film will keep spinning around when the story moves to Venice. This Finite Focus is the opening scene of the film, and damn, it’ll make you want to find and watch the film right away if baroque horror-thrillers (Dario Argento, Guillermo del Toro, Lucky McKee) are your thing. Don’t Look Now is a very influential film, certainly from a film-school point of view, this is a great modern example of Sergei Eisenstein‘s theory of cross-cutting and indoctrinating emotion via cutting and shifting imagery (see also the three films from Darren Aronofsky who I am guessing is a big fan of Eisenstein.) Steven Soderbergh has cited the films very graphic and experimental sex scene (which uses great intercutting like the below scene) as his inspiration for a previous Finite Focus scene from Out of Sight. Lastly, and this is just a guess mind you, but the little girl running around in Schindler’s List has to be a nod to Don’t Look Now. As you can see from the scene below, Roeg‘s choice of muted browns and subdued greens make the bright red rain-coat (and any blood) jump out of the composition. I love the boy fixing his bike in this scene with the little girl far, far in the background, like a blot of blood. And the hint of premonition via the actions shown on screen, but in particular Donald Sutherland‘s facial expression and action are to be explored for the rest of the film.

The scene below truly is one of those iconic opening scenes that are to be celebrated in challenging and rewarding cinema.