Cinecast Episode 464 – These Violent Delights

Through snow, cold, rain, holidays or malware, The Cinecast finds a way. Yes, despite RowThree being down for cleaning over the past few days, the boys managed to do some catch-up on 2016 movie releases get it all down on virtual tape. This week, Kurt and Andrew get into Todd Solondz’ “awkward comedy” Wiener-Dog and Kurt hits the theater for Jessica Chastain in Miss Sloane… maybe wishes he hadn’t. HBO finished up its first season of “Westworld” and the boys dig through that mess of wires and mazes. As always beware of SPOILERS! For The Watch List, Andrew works on catching up on some other 2016 movies that slipped through the cracks including Tom Hanks, Michael Shannon, Seth Rogen and more. Kurt spent his time hitting the big screen versions of some older gems including Meet me in St. Louis and Tampopo. Also Michael Keaton continues to own the twilight years of his career; this time by owning a McDonald’s franchsie. Join us on this joy ride.

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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Some Thoughts on the Worldview of Interstellar

 

Before reading below, it should be noted: THERE BE *SPOILERS* HERE, TOP TO BOTTOM.

One of my favourite quotations from recent science fiction cinema comes from Steven Soderbergh’s shockingly underrated 2002 remake of Solaris. When discussing how mentally equipped mankind is for stellar discovery, the mission-leader, Dr. Gibarian opines, “We don’t want other worlds, we want mirrors.” To be specific however, it was the ghost of Gibarian, or perhaps even a construct from an Alien intelligence projected from the mind of psychologist Kris Kelvin. Maybe it was just a dream. It’s complicated, but you get the idea. We go out into space to learn more about ourselves, finding new life and civilizations is just something incidental along the way.

In the case of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, we not only want mirrors, we also want old-time agriculture, book-shelves of dead-tree textbooks, battered and well loved pick-up trucks, baseball, and presumably, 35mm analogue film. In other words, apple-pie Americana with minimal materialism or digital devices. The only thing missing in the film’s love of all things twentieth century are the churches; in a way they too show up incorporated heavily into Hans Zimmer’s score. Co-incidentally enough, if the bombastic score were absent the epic organ-chime moments, it would very much resemble the subtle, driven work in Cliff Martinez’s score for, of all things, Solaris. Mirrors, indeed.

There is a bit of classic political head-butting in dusty small town America when former NASA pilot turned farmer, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) goes into his kids’ school for parent-teacher interviews. In what is perhaps the films best scene, the principle and school teacher inform Cooper that the administration has ranked every 15-year old student’s future career path by a computer algorithm, a nanny state decision which must be abided. To add insult to injury, these governmental stewards charged with educating the youth are also moon-landing deniers and take umbrage to Coop’s daughter bringing ‘outdated textbooks’ into the classroom. Cooper, being the more come-what-may kind of cowboy (“alright, alright, alright kids, flat tire be damned, lets harvest and repurpose that old Indian solar wardrone!”) who likes manual-transmission, Morse code, and flying by the seat of his pants. The shackling of the future, and of history for that matter, to the lowest level of ambition, merely surviving, or as he puts it, staring down at the dirt, instead of looking up at the stars, gets his dander up. He’s a believer in technology, optimism, and problem-solving around a fast-ticking clock, in a world which has no interest in engineers or ideas. He funnels this frustration into his relationship with his bright and willful daughter. When the school administrators are looking to him to discipline his daughter, he tells them he is instead taking her to a ball game, and giving her popcorn and soda-pop besides. (Her suspension from formal schooling is the quick result of his insolence, but nevertheless yields the result of her eventually saving the human race. Take that big-government liberals!)

In the mean time, the United States is experiencing a second Great Depression and Dust-Bowl scenario. We are never specifically told what is happening anywhere else in the world over the run-time of this inward-looking film (heck, we don’t even know what year it is!) Presumably, either America’s climate change denial, or its preemptive strike foreign policies, possibly even over-subsidizing corn-production to the point of mono-culture, has brought the whole ecosystem to the brink and the human population has been reduced to a fraction of the 7 billion souls at the beginning of the 21st century. Environmental blight and ecological collapse is diminishing the remaining oxygen supply to the point where there is only enough for a few more generations. That is the scenario and it is grim, possibly man-made, and quite likely, irreversible.

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Occultober – Day 31 – The Exorcist

The Exorcist
What more can be said about the undisputed big-daddy of possession horror? The mega-hit that has endured decades, in fact it is still scary as hell; movie magic at its most fine. I won’t belabour the quality of the film, but if you haven’t seen it on the big screen with an audience, you should really get on that.

When young Regan McNeil (Linda Blair) starts behaving very, very oddly, her mother (Ellen Burstyn) enlists the help of a young priest (Jason Miller) and an old priest (Max Von Sydow) to do battle with the demon inside the child. Vomit is spewed, there is masturbation with a crucifix, rattling and levitating beds, near-subliminal devil-imagery, and anything else shocking that wunderkind filmmaker William Friedkin can throw out at the camera. For my money, the sequence where Regan gets a carotid angiography in the hospital, which is shot as realistic as possible, might be the most difficult to watch.

The legacy of The Exorcist is huge, not only the sequels, and lesser knock-offs, but also in terms of kickstarting (with help from Rosemary’s Baby) by way of the huge financial success, the entire occult subgenre in the 1970s, which more than likely planted the seeds in the cultural consciousness for the Satanic Panic hysterias of the 1980s and 1990s. Amongst other things, was an indirect cause behind the West Memphis 3 miscarriage of justice. It was the basis and the tipping point for this series which ran the entire month.

We hope you enjoyed.

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Review: The Calling

TheCallingMovieStill

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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Cinecast Episode 360 – It’s Like Mustard

 
Sone famous once said that a person’s character can be defined by what he chooses to complain about. What do you despise? Is it Max Brooks? Is it Steve Guttenberg? The video streaming entity such as Vudu? Or is it someone/something else? By all means sound off! So yes, we explore the depths of our personal hatreds on this week’s Cinecast, but equally so, we also share some fondness, nay love, for Charles Grodin, Jean-Marc Vallée, Brent Spiner, Chris Tucker, Louis C.K. and yes, even Mel Gibson.

Documentaries and Ozploitation occupy the bulk of this week’s conversation. Steve James’ documentary, Life Itself (aka you’re better off just reading the book) and Russell Mulcahy’s creature feature, Razorback. But, and this is important. don’t even bother downloading this show until you’ve purchased your 4-pack of Midnight Run sequels. Yeah, it’s that kind of show.

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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Now Playing at the Row Three Rep: Women in a League of Evil (to Destroy Men)

[Row Three programming if we owned a Rep Cinema]

Cult Women Conspiracies

The Wicker Man (2006)
Exodus (2007)
The Dark Secrets of Harvest Home (1978)

Believe it or not, it is quite difficult to find very many films with women en mass conspiring to emasculate men. Considering most films are written and directed by men, it is rather surprising that this theme does not pop up more often. Sure, there is the evil asian ghost with long hair, or the jilted psychotic ex-lover come back for revenge, but consider the number of movies about satanist cults and other underground Masonic-type boys clubs, and it is rather odd.

 

 

The original Wicker Man (1973), considered by many (myself included) to be one of the great films of all time. An epic mash of folklore, mystery, religious ideology, music, suspense and finally horror, mainly dealt with Christianity and Paganism and how the two clash when a Scottish cop locks ideology with the local lord. The film, like many great horror films lately, was destined for a remake. The bafflingly bad result did terrible at the theatre, being released at the career nadir of one Nicholas Cage (and a downward slide for its director, former playwright Neil LaBute who achieved notoriety and success with the one-two punch of In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors, films that took the battle of the genders to interesting places.) The remake drops the religion angle, and takes the paganism rather out out context to deliver a daffy Nic Cage vs. Women tale. There is a famous you-tube clip consisting of a collection of cold-cocks to the face and Sgt. Cage brandishing large handguns to the various female denizens of an island off the coast of Portland, who are practicing old century ways to keep their bees producing boutique grade honey. That Cage’s hangdog short-tempered investigator was dumped and abandoned by his fiancee (who retreated back to this island, and shows up here as a would-be ally) is only icing on the cake. While nearly everyone embarrasses themselves in an exercise of camp-in-slow motion including Leelee Sobieski, Frances Conroy and Molly Parker. The iconic Ellen Burstyn (no stranger to Horror iconography, having starred in the biggest horror picture of all time, The Exorcist) gives a solid but wasted turn in the Christopher Lee role. Sure, the pretty cinematography (just outside of Vancouver) make this a fun one-off viewing, even while it is takes a large crap on the power of the original. In the strained effort to set it in the United States instead of Scotland, much of the plot detail and other cultural motivation is rendered rather incomprehensible and certainly out of any historical context. Then there is the 21st century addition of lot of bad CGI bees which I suppose make the scene compliment Cage’s ‘mega-acting’ well enough. The remake ends with a giggle, not the soul chilling fires of people certain in their beliefs. It is the best parody of the 1973 classic that could ever be made, and it does it with a stony-straight faced earnestness. Camp Classic!

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Review: Lovely, Still

 

Ever see a film that is so sweet that it passes beyond your instrinsic gag reflex and makes you love it despite any misgivings from the brain? From sheer force of screen presence and chemistry Martin Landau and (positively radiant) Ellen Burstyn manage to hold the film on the rails and stabilize it amongst a young directors (first timer Nicholas Fackler) need to inject jittery gimmickry into the narrative. It is perhaps one of the first films about December-December romance that will possibly appeal to the younger se. That is if there were any way for a multiplex crowd to see it – its current release in Canada seems to be a single theatre, with no advertising support, and on top of it a Christmas movie released in mid October. Sheesh) With Lovely, Still it is as if Fackler decided to make his own Away From Her through the editing rhythms of Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream. Where Sarah Polly had the prose of Alice Munroe as a starting point and captured her story in a straightforward manner, Fackler aims for M. Night Shyamalan, which slightly hurts and cheapens the film in the final act. This film could have been an honest contender for the type of annual Christmas ritual-viewing along the lines of It’s A Wonderful Life (which not-surprisingly is watched at one point in the film) or A Christmas Story until the rushed final moments. Nevertheless, it is still quite lovely.

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Improbable Movie Trading Cards

When I was a kid I collected all sorts of cards. Baseball cards of course, but before (and after) that I collected loads of movie and TV show cards. I still have most of my Star Wars collection and I snatched up “Dukes of Hazzard” cards and even “M*A*S*H*” cards for some reason.

I’m sure they still make such cards today, but since I don’t seek them out, I rarely actually see any. Either way, I’m sure these mock movie collecting cards I found over at automaticlifestyledispenser.com would get a few parents upset. I for one would be all over the Coens set though! This is some seriously great work. Especially love the sticker inserts. Kudos sir!

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more under the seats!
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A Martin Scorsese Marathon

Basically, you make another movie, and another, and hopefully you feel good about every picture you make. And you say, ‘My name is on that. I did that. It’s OK’. But don’t get me wrong, I still get excited by it all. That, I hope, will never disappear.” – Martin Scorsese

For the better part of the last three decades, I have been a fan of Martin Scorsese. My admiration first took bloom in the summer of 1985, and happened to coincide with what I consider to be the discovery of my young adult life; set off the main drag of the town I grew up in, I found a small video store. Now, this in itself was no great revelation; in the years before Blockbuster came barreling into my area, forcing all the smaller video chains out of business, there were at least half a dozen such stores within a 3-mile radius. But the moment I walked into this particular video palace, I knew it was special. Where most were lining their shelves with numerous copies of the ‘hot new releases’, this one had titles like Midnight Cowboy, 2001: A Space Odyssey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Straw Dogs, A Clockwork Orange, films that the others simply didn’t offer. For me, this store was a treasure trove, and I returned there often, sometimes 3-4 times a week, uncovering classic after classic, films that, to this day, I consider some of the finest ever made.

And it was here that I first found Mean Streets.

Tough and unflinching, Mean Streets was like a punch to the head for a 15-year-old from the suburbs; a marriage of images and rock music, violence and pain the likes of which I had never seen before, offering a glimpse into a lifestyle that I found all too real, and a little bit frightening. I must have rented it at least six times that summer, and as a result, Mean Streets fast became my favorite movie. More than this, it was my jumping-off point into the career of Martin Scorsese. After Mean Streets, I moved on to Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, two more shots to the head. Through these three films, I realized just how deep, just how down-and-dirty, and just how moving the cinema could be. They marked a turning point in my development as a film fan. Movies were no longer limited to the land of make believe; they would also be a window overlooking the real world.

Now, almost 24 years after I first walked into that video store, I’ve decided to take my admiration to the next, perhaps the ultimate, level. Over the course of the last several weeks, I sat down with everything that home video has to offer of Martin Scorsese’s work behind the camera, 26 films in all, and what I uncovered on this love-fest of mine proved to be just as enlightening as that first viewing of Mean Streets all those years ago.

As I sat watching one Scorsese movie after the other, I found myself asking, “What exactly is it that constitutes a Martin Scorsese film”? It was a question I had to pose, because I quickly realized that most of my initial beliefs, the pre-conceptions I had built up about the man and his career, only told part of the story.

For one, there was my presumption that the recurring trait in every Scorsese film was a down-to-earth quality, where the genuine, the realistic, would be favored above all else. Well, this is certainly true in some of Scorsese’s finest films, especially those where actual events served as a foundation (Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, The Aviator). However, it was wrong of me to discount the role that fantasy played in Scorsese’s work. The opening scene of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore looks as if it was lifted right out of Gone With the Wind, and the musical numbers of New York, New York were obvious nods to the Hollywood big-budget spectaculars of the 40’s and 50’s. There is the dreamy romance of The Age of Innocence, and the hilarious bad luck of Paul Hackett in After Hours; in short, films that have little or no basis in reality whatsoever, proving that the fantastic plays just as important a role in the great director’s work as reality does.
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