Trailer: Big Game

This ridiculously fun a, Amblin-esque popcorn muncher from Finland was a big hit at last years Toronto International Film Festival with the midnight crowd. Much of the Finnish cast from Jalmari Helander’s previous exercise in dead-pan holiday fun, Rare Exports return and are mixed in with a slew of Hollywood character actors Samuel Jackson, Ted Levine, Jim Broadbent, Ray Stevenson, Felicity Huffman, and Victor Garber to achieve maximum results on a limited budget. And in English, too. It is a shame that Big Game doesn’t have set release dates on this side of the Atlantic yet, but UK folks get a chance to see it on May 8th.

When Air Force One is shot down by terrorists leaving the President of the United States stranded in the wilderness, there is only one person around who can save him – a 13-year old boy called Oskari. In the forest on a hunting mission to prove his maturity to his kinsfolk, Oskari had been planning to track down a deer, but instead discovers the most powerful man on the planet in an escape pod. With the terrorists closing in to capture their own “Big Game” prize, the unlikely duo must team up to escape their hunters. As anxious Pentagon officials observe the action via satellite feed, it is up to the President and his new side-kick to prove themselves and survive the most extraordinary 24 hours of their lives.

Note: I interviewed both Jalmari Helander and his young star, Onni Tomilla, at TIFF over at Twitchfilm.

Cinecast Episode 278 – Evolve or Die

After festival vacations took hold of both your respective hosts, we’re back for a whole lot of catch-up. We mix up the format a bit with a bit of Disney/Lucasfilm discussion before jumping into reviews of Cloud Atlas (SPOILERS!) and Lee Daniel’s even wackier The Paperboy (SPOILERS!), grading the homework assignments, recaps of said festivals and a further Watch List that jumps from goofy to subversive X-rated classics to gentle (yet badass) angels of doom. It all culminates lengthy show, you’ve been warned.

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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To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
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Extended Review: Cloud Atlas

CloudAtlas

Where to begin with Cloud Atlas? I admire the chutzpah of such an unusually expensive film experiment but how far can admiration of ambition go if the result is so tedious? The film is basically the Voltron of off-beat speculative fiction cinema insofar as it is over-large, rather gaudy and significantly lacking in any sort of grace. It is the kind of viewing experience where a disinterested malaise sets in at about the 45 minute mark, with two full hours still to go. The realization comes sharp and early that the Siblings Wachowski and Tom Tykwer have taken the five (or is it six?) archetypal stories out of David Mitchell’s novel and frappé’d them into interconnected, bite-sized storytelling morsels. The three directors wheezily labour to say something about the human condition, storytelling and re-incarnation that goes beyond the ‘droplet in the ocean’ platitudes,’ but the cumulatively result is merely a structural affectation; a meticulously crafted object successful in making all the pieces fit more or less together into a ideological puzzle. What seems elude the three directors in the effort to slosh gallons of latex on their actors, is the very reason why we like these tales (Soylent Green, One Flew over The Cuckoo’s Nest, All The President’s Men, Farinelli and Amistad to name a few) that are both larger than life and absolutely human. The ideological bent of the film agrees with me: Social boundaries will always be present, and people should strive to break them. To wit: Larry Wachowski crossing gender and handle to Lana and still being able to create mega-effects multiplex fodder for the masses, even if, ultimately, those struggles for dollars and freedoms granted yield something like Cloud Atlas. What we remain stuck with the pretty but lifeless shenanigans in The Matrix Reloaded around Zion (The dreadlocked rave, Link’s domestic situation, et cetera) and in adventure movie terms, this eager-beaver epic makes the handsome yet turgid pile of good intentions that was John Carter seem as fresh and rollicking as The Empire Strikes Back.

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TIFF 2012 Review: Cloud Atlas

Where to begin with Cloud Atlas? The interminably long film is basically the Voltron of off-beat science fiction movies. This is what happens when you take five (or six) familiar genre-stories and juxtapose them (ok, put them in the blender and hit frappe!) in an effort say something profound about the human condition. That the end results is merely a structural confection, its ambition successful in making all the pieces fit more or less together into a grand puzzle but sacrificing the very reason why we like these tales. The sacrifice on the altar of science fiction grandiosity is empathy, character development and me ever giving a damn. The films basic ideas and premise agree with me: That social boundaries are made to be broken (as per director Larry Wachowski crossing genders to Lana); that we process the human condition through narrative; that we’ve not grown as much as we like to think as a species over the past few thousand years, and maybe, that we never will. These are all great things to tackle in your science fiction blockbuster, yet each and every one of them is treated here in the most facile (and banal) fashion. Remember all the flat, unnecessary shenanigans in The Matrix Reloaded around the Zion (The dreadlocked rave, Link’s domestic situation, et cetera)? So much of Cloud Atlas felt that way to me: Lifeless and tedious. In blockbuster adventure movie terms, it makes the handsome, turgid pile of good intentions that was John Carter seem as fresh and rollicking as The Empire Strikes Back.

In all of its 2 hour 45 minute run time, the only real surprises, you know, those big ‘Ooooh!’ moments in any film (either pop art or art house) are during the closing credit sequence when you discover how the make-up department slapped on goop and facial prosthetics to disguise each member of its ensemble. This is a fundamental problem, one of Python-wannabe-ism and Cloud Atlas ends up an act of accidental and unfunny sketch comedy. Even if it has little in the way of intentions to be funny, outside of the thread where Jim Broadbent is imprisoned in an old age home by his brother, too much of the generic story telling in each of the individual stories comes across as half-sketched ideas where gimmicks and not actual humanity, are the glue that binds. One can only take so many cringe-worthy Tom Hanks accents in a film. The most egregious of these is his Tru-Tru speak as a middle aged man running around in rags with Halle Berry in a Ridley-Walker-lite post-apocalyptic world (which is not even Earth, but who cares at this point, right?) I’ve always wanted to see an attempt a film of that iconic yet ‘unfilmable novel,’ and it pains me here to see the form used just as a mere building block. The filmmakers reach very much exceeds their grasp and they are so swallowed by the breadth of their ambitions that they lose sight of the very humanity they are trying to encompass. The film decides that one trip with Jar-Jar-Hanks is not enough and so revisits the character as a goofy old codger. A storyteller that Hanks ‘matures’ into after ‘winning’ Cloud Atlas’s karmic video-game (Spoiler Alert – A typecast Hugo Weaving and a surprisingly versatile yet often unrecognizable Hugh Grant come out as the big karmic losers.) Hanks’ is the Ur-narrator, the everyman, even though his thread is end-story chronologically, it is also the most primitive. Get it? Get it? Any time in human history, we have the same problems and we strive onward and that the striving may seem futile but it is not. I like the idea, but this is kindergarten Buddhism in the telling.

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Cinecast Episode 202 – Obviously You’re Not a Golfer

 

It is a cornucopia, a smörgåsbord, a veritable potpourri of cinema, as the Cinecast regulars get together with nothing on the agenda other than to talk about what they have watched, in the cinema, on the DVD and streamed from the internet or (in an exciting technology development, from the Computer Hard Drive.) Andrew continues to dig into the Foreign Language Nominees with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Biutiful. Kurt comes at Oscar a different way with the new documentary on the man with the midas touch when it comes to little gold men, Harvey Weinstein. And Gamble talks best animated film of 2011 with a preview of the flat out awesome Gore Verbinski/Nickelodeon/Industrial-Light-And-Magic Johnny Depp western, Rango. From there, we go from the occult, to Penelope Cruz DTV failures, to two vastly different takes time travel from the 1980s to Chinese shopping malls. Then it is onto Romans wandering about Scotland, Aussie crime dynasties and suburban teenage prostitution rings! It is all a part of your complete breakfast.

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_202.mp3

ALTERNATIVE (no music track):
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Full show notes are under the seats…
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TIFF Review: Another Year

 

 

 
Another Year, Another Mike Leigh film, another masterpiece. Early word out of Cannes was strong and Mike Leigh has been a consistent favorite of mine, but even with these built-in expectations the sustained emotional punch of Another Year was unlike anything I was prepared to experience. Not since Naked has Leigh so perfectly devastated me with his interplay of pathos and comedy. The trademarks are all there: aging British blue collar existence fretting away the monumental baggage of unfulfilled lives, top-shelf character actors such as Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Lesley Manville (even a cameo by Vera Drake herself, Imelda Staunton) and a largely improvised script injecting a lived-in naturalness to the performances. The vision of Britain is dour, characters are drunk or depressed or insecure or all of the above in the case of Mary, the mile-a-minute talker and wine connoisseur who leaches onto a co-worker’s family in her aged loneliness.
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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!

 
 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_184.mp3

ALTERNATIVE (no music track):
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Full show notes are under the seats…
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Extended Thoughts: Another Year

 

 

Mike Leigh’s tenth Feature film, assembled in the usual fashion of character and screenwriting collaboration with his actors, is very much his typical take on the various work-a-day folk in Britain. But then again, glancing at his C.V. you will see that his films which consist of mainly people talking and talking and talking have won pretty much every major world cinema prize imaginable, BAFTA, Oscar, Palm D’Or, Golden Lion, you name it, so the run-of-the-mill Mike Leigh film is pretty fucking excellent. Of the nearly 50 features I caught at this years edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, Another Year comes out on top. I laughed, I cried, I begged for more drinking, smoking and gardening with these regular folks, some of whom have found out the secret of partaking of life’s joys, and others on the rock-bottom pit of despair. But mostly, the ritual of social behavior, how the tone and the attitude of the conversation is equally telling, perhaps moreso, than the content. People love to talk, but when they actually ‘communicate’ that is when the warm and fuzzy thing we call intimacy is achieved.

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DVD Review: Time Bandits

Time Bandits

Director: Terry Gilliam (Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Tideland, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus )
Writers: Michael Palin & Terry Gilliam
Producer: Terry Gilliam
Starring: Craig Warnock, John Cleese, Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall, Katherine Helmond, Michael Palin, Ian Holm, Jim Broadbent
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 116 min.

Though children’s films are still being produced (perhaps in higher numbers than before thanks in large part to the advent of VOD and Direct to DVD releases), the quality of kid friendly fare seems to be on the downward trend. Sure, occasionally something really good comes up (How to Train Your Dragon was a great surprise and Pixar continues to dominate the field – Toy Story 3 (review) being the latest of the studio’s wins) but the 80s has left a plethora of great child friendly entertainment from The Goonies to The Princess Bride. What makes these films that much more special is that they are, for the most part, extremely re-watchable and appealing to both children and adults.

Time Bandits Movie StillOne of the earliest of the bunch is Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits. Originally released in 1981, it continues to be the director’s most successful film to date but beyond that, it hints at many of the visuals and even a few ideas that later came to permeate through films like Brazil and Twelve Monkeys.

The story of a young boy who is drawn into the adventures of a band of dwarves as they use a magical map they have stolen from the supreme being to jump from time to time in search of treasure to steal, Time Bandits is a gem even if you’re seeing it for the first time (as I did) nearly 30 years after its original release.
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VIFF 09 Review: The Young Victoria

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The Young Victoria

Though it wasn’t his first film, Candian director Jean-Marc Vallée emerged as a sort of Canadian superstar with C.R.A.Z.Y., his depiction of coming of age in the 1970s. For his follow up, Vallée hasn’t strayed far from the tree and has chosen another coming of age tale, this one a tale of a young woman in 19th century Britain.

The fictionalized account of Queen Victoria’s early years, The Young Victoria quickly sets up the Princess’ childhood before settling into her teen years. The real life story of Victoria is an interesting one but the film, written by Oscar winner Julian Fellowes, is more interested in the Queen’s personal life than any of the political goings on. This is the story of a woman thrust into a seat of power and how she copes with the pressure of not simply growing up in public but also having everyone around her, including the country itself, pressuring her to make choices she was unwilling to make.

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TIFF 09 Review: Perrier’s Bounty

Director: Ian Fitzgibbon (Spin the Bottle)
Writer: Mark O’Rowe
Producers: Elizabeth Karlsen, Alan Moloney, Stephen Woolley
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleason, Jodie Whittaker
MPAA Rating: 14A
Running time: 88 min.


Google “Irish Snatch” and I doubt Perrier’s Bounty will be anywhere on your list of hits. Yet, that’s exactly what this little caper film strives to be. Unfortunately without the quality humor, twisted plot or clever script writing. That isn’t to say Perrier’s Bounty is a bad film. It isn’t. But it’s clearly shooting for Guy Ritchie territory and doesn’t quite make it.

The picture opens with Cillian Murphy’s character opening his eyes, after a rough night doing himself in, to a couple of thugs demanding their money for the local mob head (Brendan Gleason) – much like the opening to The Big Lebowski. In this case though, Cillian actually does owe the money; unfortunately for him however, he doesn’t have it. Visiting the local pool hall, he’s hooked up with a couple of rather unsavory characters who bring him in on a planned heist. Shortly before the heist is scheduled to take place, Cillian’s father shows up and informs him that he’s dying of cancer. Of course things go astray during the heist and along with the heartbroken girl from downstairs tagging along for the night as she refuses to be left alone, Cillian and father embark on an adventure of sorts in an effort to get the money, get the bad guy, avoid the cops and somehow manage to stay alive.
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