Toronto After Dark 2013: The Last Days on Mars Review

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“A lot of things need fixing around here…”

Winning the cinematic lottery by somehow getting into the Cannes film festival, and then being hoisted by its own petard by the festival press for merely being workmanlike and prosaic, The Last Days On Mars is the feature film debut of Irish jack-of-all-trades Ruairi Robinson; he was writer, director, visual effects artist, editor, and sometimes actor in an impressive body of short films produced in the past decade. I suppose if you are going to steal, take from the best. The Last Days on Mars is an unabashedly derivative cocktail of the the Alien franchise – particularly the Ridley Scott and James Cameron entries – as well as John Carpenter’s The Thing and the original Night of the Living Dead. The cardinal difference is that screenplay fails to be about anything substantial beyond the ‘panic attack’ nature of trying to run away in an area of such isolation and limited supply chain. At one point I was kind of pining that the whole film would be a space Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge with Liev Schreiber dying a slow asphyxiation in cryosleep gone awry on his way to Mars, if only to make everything add up to … something. Spoiler Alert: It doesn’t.

With a mere 19 hours remaining until extraction in a 6 month science expedition to Mars a small team of scientists suffer acute frustration from a lack of exciting findings, a dwindling amount supplies and electricity in their functional, but hardly fancy base-camp, and a bit of the old cabin fever. The stalwart and levelheaded tour-of-duty commander, Captain Brunel (Elias Koteas, playing a well-meaning Canadian leader here) has the job of herding international kittens as the diverse scientists squabble about ‘away time’ to get out in the field and maximize their research time, right down to the last minute of pick-up. When one of the researchers does actually discover a treasure trove of bacterial life below the surface in one of their digs, it is one of those ‘careful what you wish for’ situations and results in a some serious infection. Having never seen either of Ridley Scott’s Alien movies, apparently, basic quarantine is utterly bypassed. This is hardly surprising when one considers that these scientists cannot get along over even basic matters, such as whose name goes on a research paper or who makes a press announcement. When forced into a siege situation by what can only be described as space zombies, it’s the kind of panic driven failure to co-operate that George Romero did so well (and is often overlooked) with his own film debut.

But before we throw the film out the proverbial air-lock, the film has salvaged grace lurking in the on the macro and micro scale. These two things will either endear you to sit through to the end, or drive you bonkers that they were not applied to a better script. First There is the handsome production design, by the Game of Thrones people in Ireland and wide-vista locations in Jordan. The heat baked plains that evoke monument valley and the blinding martian sandstorms that slowly engulf everything and a change from spate of science fiction features shot in Iceland. This film is gorgeous at a mere fraction of the money lavished on Prometheus or Oblivion. If efficient spending and money clearly visible on-screen were the primary vector of pop-art (those metal yellow water bottles alone!), then this film would be a Warhol.

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Cinecast Episode 214 – I Hate that I Know That

We start things off simple. No Kurt. Just some Pirates and Priests. With unpleasantness out of the way, Kurt jumps in with both feet for a indie post-apocalyptic film out of Toronto, a re-evaluation of Inglorious Basterds and Tarantino’s career. Trains and Toni Collette keep the conversation chugging along and with Gamble here, “Game of Thrones” is sort of unavoidable. We all revel in the love for Rip Torn and South Korea before rounding everything out with a talk about sequels that are crazier than a rat in a tin shithouse (ala Caddyshack II and Gremilns II). Nobody dies.

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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Review: Taking Woodstock

Director: Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, Hulk, Lust Caution)
Story: Elliot Tiber, Tom Monte
Screenplay: James Schamus
Producers: Ang Lee, James Schamus
Starring: Henry Goodman, Imelda Staunton, Demetri Martin, Emille Hirsch, Jonathan Groff, Liev Schreiber
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 100 min.

Peculiar that a director as high profile as Ang Lee is getting such an “under the radar” release as Taking Woodstock. Perhaps the subject matter is a little old hat as in “been there, done that” or maybe the mainstream movie goers are still in the throes of summer blockbuster season and a little event biography just isn’t quite the excitement they’re looking for. Or it may simply be that the film isn’t being marketed… at all. Whatever it is, it’s really too bad, because Taking Woodstock is a fine film with heart, warmth, comedy and full of good vibes.

“Sorry everyone in town hates you now.”
“Are you kidding me? I’ve heard more please and thank you’s from these kids in the last three days than in the past twenty years from those schmucks.”

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Cinecast Episode 137 – Wall to Wall Pubic Hair

Episode 137:
Jumping in to give us the female perspective about the latest batch of horror films is short film maker and writer for Killer Film, Miss Serena Whitney. We also get a TIFF-preview with Lars Von Trier’s latest, Antichrist. Strange things are afoot at The Bloor Cinema in Toronto when Udo Kier comes to town. Plus a bitch session about 3D technology, short reviews of Paul Giamatti in Cold Souls and Emille Hirsch in Taking Woodstock.

Thanks for listening!

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Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock Trailer

Taking Woodstock StillAcademy Award winning director Ang Lee believes in keeping his options open, something which is evident by a filmography that ranges to include everything from period dramas to comic book films. It didn’t come as too much of a surprise when the director signed on to direct Taking Woodstock, a film based on Elliot Tiber’s book of the same name, but regardless, a few folks were surprised to see that the film sounded like it could have fair bit of comedy something which, from my incomplete viewing of his catalogue, he hasn’t done in the past.

The film tells Tiber’s story, the young man who essentially saved Woodstock by providing a venue for the troubled concert, and stars Demetri Martin in the lead role but it’s the supporting cast that excites me: Imelda Staunton, Liev Schreiber, Eugene Levy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Dan Fogler, Paul Dano and the great Emile Hirsch playing a Vietnam veteran.

The trailer is cute, particularly the introduction by Martin, but the rest of it is flat. Highlights include the music (if the music didn’t stand out I think we’d really have a problem) and Hirsch and sadly, it seems to me that he’s only a small part of the film. I’m hopeful that the film offers more than the trailer because as it stands now, this is only a minor blip on the radar. Still, it could be fun and it’s been a while since I visited the 60s.

Taking Woodstock opens on August 14th.

Thanks to Geek Tyrant, trailer is tucked under the seat!

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It’s Poster Day!

First, Daniel Craig’s new one, Defiance. Directed by competent, but hit or miss, director Edward Zwick, I’ll go into this film with hopes and an open mind; especially with Daniel Craig in the driver’s seat so to speak and riding shotgun is Liev Schreiber and Jaimie Bell. Plus, any movie that focusses on killing nazis is always fun. The trailer looks pretty killer and I stuck it below the cut.

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Daniel Craig in Defiance

Next is Disaster Movie. Alright let’s be honest: anyone who reads this site regularly will probably never see this next one, – or at least admit to seeing it on purpose. With the rash of these parody flicks that are churned out every 4 months, I wonder when studios will actually get confused and start parodying their own movies (Epic Movie, Scary Movie 6, Date Movie 14, etc, etc). Not to mention the marketing departments for these pictures are so full of unoriginality that I sometimes wonder if all they have in their building is a xerox machine and a few magic markers. Having said all that, I think this poster is pretty funny and gets the point across well. It sort of looks like a throwback to the early 80’s and reminds me of films like Airplane! or Naked Gun. Probably a horrible movie, but the poster makes me smile – and it’s a LOT better than the crap they tried to pull for the newest one.

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Disaster Movie

trailer for Defiance under the seats…!
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