TIFF 2015 Review: Mia Madre (a.k.a. My Mother)

Nanni Moretti (The Son’s Room directs and co-writes this lightly comic drama about director Margherita (Margherita Buy) trying to shoot her latest film whilst her mother Ada (Giulia Lazzarini) is dying. She has to continuously jump between controlling the cast and crew on set and visiting Ada’s bedside. Not helping matters is the arrival of her film’s star, Barry Huggins (John Turturro). A brash American actor trying to flex his acting muscles in Italy on a politically conscious movie, Barry continuously causes problems, through forgetting or misreading lines or generally being a diva.

I didn’t get into this at all. The main problem is just how bland it is. It looks bland for one, shot like a TV programme with very flat lighting and uninspiring camerawork. I found the story and the characters dull too. The impending death of Ada is moving, but the writing is so blunt it had the feel of an afternoon TV weepy. I understand the plot comes from Moretti’s own experiences, which adds an extra dimension to it, but taken on its own merits, the film was very weak.

Turturro as Barry is the film’s saving grace. His scenes are enjoyable and he injects some life into proceedings. However, as fun as his performance is, we’ve seen this kind of broad big American star stereotype before and the character here doesn’t have enough depth or subtlety to stand out amongst what has come before.

So the film failed on most counts for me. It’s close to two hours long and I’d pretty much given up on it after the first half, so I was just clock watching for the last hour. It’s been picking up some good reviews elsewhere, so maybe I’m missing something, but I get the feeling critics are over praising the film due to its autobiographical context. That’s not enough to make a dull film worth recommending in my eyes though.

Cinecast Episode 364 – Fetishizing the Pen

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack. And you may find yourself in another part of the world. And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile. And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife. And you may find yourself in the seats of the third row. And you may ask yourself, well…How did I get here? We ask ourselves the same questions. With no main review this week, we’re stuck with our home viewings and The Talking Heads. Which is plenty when you consider the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Woody Allen, John Turturro, Fisher Stevens and James Cameron. With nothing to talk about, it’s a mouthful folks (two, actually).

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: Exodus: Gods & Kings


Who doesn’t love a well-made, over-the-top sword and sandal flick? Despite its flaws, I’m an unabashed apologist for Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, impossibly clean facial hair for Maximus Decimus Meridius and all. So let’s just say the little kid is me is stoked for his upcoming Biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings (although what an awful title, right?).

The movie stars Christian Bale as Moses, the man with the Old Testament god’s plan to lead the exodus of Israelite slaves from Egypt, an unrecognizable Joel Edgerton as the murderous Pharaoh Rhamses, Aaron Paul as Moses’s right hand man Joshua, with John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, Indira Varma, and Ben Kingsley rounding out the cast along with thousands of extras that, fortunately, will not be all CGI-generated.

The trailer is more or less what you’d expect from a modern prestige blockbuster: melodramatic and flashy with contemporary music and, frankly, not afraid of being somewhat ridiculous. Meaning it’s exactly what I was hoping for.

Exodus: Gods & Kings will be released stateside on December 12, 2014, suggesting Scott is hoping for some trophies come Oscar season. It’s been quite some time since we’ve have a good mythological epic with this much star power behind it, so we’ll have to see if it lives up to its potential.

Trailer: Fading Gigolo

Woody Allen as a Pimp and John Turturro as an aging male prostitute? Why does the whole thing feel so Bottle Shock*? Either way, This is John Turturro’s six directed effort, and he always has an eye and ear for a bit more sophisticated storytelling, so I should give him the benefit of the doubt. The film is playing at the Toronto International Film Festival in a couple weeks, and co-stars Vanessa Paradis, Sofia Vergara, Sharon Stone, Leiv Shreiber, Michael Badalucco and Bob Balaban. You’re parents will love it.

Fioravante decides to become a professional Don Juan as a way of making money to help his cash-strapped friend, Murray. With Murray acting as his “manager”, the duo quickly finds themselves caught up in the crosscurrents of love and money.

*See Cinecast episodes for the definition of a Bottle Shock movie.

Michael Bay loves Coen Brothers Supporting Players


At an entertaining and boisterous drink-up in a Toronto pub with an eclectic mix of film fans, filmmakers and writers last night, Mamo! Matt Price lamented that while there are Lebowski Fests all over the world, there are no Miller’s Crossing fests, and that started not only the germ of an idea. After all, it is a toss up behind Lebowski which is the more all-out quotable Coen Brothers movie – O Brother Where Art Thou?, Fargo or Miller’s Crossing – but I tend to side with the latter (and don’t you dare give me the high hat!) Nevertheless, there was a lament also that Jon Polito has not shown up in a Coen Brothers joint in some time, and that, kind moviegoers, is a damn shame.

Maybe Michael Bay will hire him to wear a G-String and be peed on or something for his next movie.

Huh? That’s a hell of a non sequitur there, isn’t it? Maybe not.

It is no secret, albeit I have heard no compelling explanation why, that Michael Bay tends to pilfer top notch character actors and then make them ham it up with bad dialogue (big air quotes around the d-word which is uttered with the utmost caution on a M-Bay set) and drops them into embarrassing situations to strip them of any dignity, joy or shame. Many folks have probably noticed that he is particularly fond of taking Coen Brothers regulars and dropping them into his film. For instance, Transformers 3 has no less than three actors: Frances McDormand, John Turturro and John Malkovich which ties Armageddon (Billy Bob Thorton, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare (the latter two who have a very good, but very distinctly Non-Fargo or Big Lebowski, scene together, but these two actors prolific as they may be – this might all be coincidence – but they also appear in several other Michael Bay features (Buscemi in The Island, Storemare in Bad Boys II). Also, William Forsythe (John Goodman’s highly amusing prison-pal from Raising Arizona) also shows up in The Rock.

All this to say that I’m not the first to notice this, and getting back to Jon Polito for a moment, this MovieLine article suggests that yea, if The Coen’s can’t find work for the man, then at least he should draw a big paycheck to stand in front of some Bayhem.

In the meantime, who wants to help get a Millers-Con off the ground? Hey, what’s the rumpus?

Review: “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon” (2D)

Transformers 3 really doesn’t warrant an extensively thorough delve into the minutiae of every bit of texture, nook and seam found within; because quite frankly, there really doesn’t exist. But you know what? Despite Mark Kermode’s head bashing of the film, I quite enjoyed it. That is not to say there are no problems. Surprise! It’s chock full of them. All of the typical Bay-isms that people are constantly bashing the guy for are here. And it is certainly possible that I had the wool pulled over my eyes like I did with the first film. It was 2:30 in the morning when the film ended so my delirium may have clouded my judgement a bit. Either way, for the most part, I had fun. A LOT more fun than the dreadful Transformers 2. So again, not really worth diving into exactly, but one can make a checklist of the goods, the bads and the uglies. So here they are in a Wednesday morning (much like the movie) stream of consciousness…

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Cinecast Episode 126 – See You at the Party Richter!

Episode 126:
Not the brightest week for film this summer with The Taking Pelham 1-2-3, The Land of the Lost, The Hangover, Away We Go and Departures.

A few tangents, a fair bit of negativity and surliness, some vague sifting through the sparse DVD releases which is heaven for BluRay and Criterion enthusiasts, but rather dire for everyone else.

The Show Notes have left the building in the short term. Bear with us.

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Review: The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)

Pelham 123 poster

Director: Tony Scott (Top Gun, True Romance, Domino, Deja Vu)
Novel: John Godey
Screenplay: Brian Helgeland
Producers: Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Tony Scott, Steve Tisch
Starring: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzmán, James Gandolfini
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 95 min.

When the decision to remake Sargent’s 1974 crime flick, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, was announced a lot of people were asking “why?” while a lot of others were asking “why not?”. As quite the Tony Scott fan (yes, even Domino), I was certainly in the latter category and just happy to see another Scott film on the big screen. I promised myself I would watch Pelham on its own terms, without comparing it too much with the original. Impossible.

The plot is pretty much identical to the 1974 version of the tale. A group of bad guys bossed by a guy calling himself Ryder (Travolta) hijack a NYC subway line and hold it and the people aboard for ransom ($10,000,000) within the darkened tunnel of the NY underground. Their main radio contact is control operator Garber (Denzel), who is essentially a nobody just drinking his coffee and running the train switch board. It’s obvious right away he’s a smart guy, just assigned to a dead-end job. When the train is hijacked, Garber happens to be the guy assigned to the radio at the time and is therefore by default the liaison between Ryder and the hostage negotiators. As the negotiation continues, Ryder develops somewhat of a fetish for Garber and won’t speak with anyone else – eventually working it out so that Garber is the one who must deliver the money when the time comes. Insert action scenes.
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