VIFF 2014 Review: Foxcatcher

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The thing about director Bennett Miller is that he makes films that appear on the surface to be one thing and then turn out to be about something else completely. Moneyball is a perfect example and Miller’s much anticipated Foxcatcher falls into a very similar category.

Ostensibly, the movie is about wrestling and more specifically, about millionaire John du Pont and his relationship with Mark and David Schultz, two wrestlers who in the 90s, were considered to be not only among the top wrestlers in the US but the world. The subtext of Foxcatcher spans far beyond the sport to make fascinating observations on “the business” of amateur sports, sports psychology, the drive to win at any cost and issues of mental health.

It’s appropriate that control is a central theme of Foxcatcher because Miller’s direction parallels that theme, in my opinion, to a fault. The movie is an exercise in control: the scenes are exactingly staged, the camera moves with strategic purpose, the music is sparingly used and all of the actors seem to be brooding volcanoes of emotion ready to explode at any moment. Technically it all works and is awe inspiring but on an emitonal level, it feels vacant.

On a technical level Foxcatcher is a perfectly executed achievement and I loved the performances from the leads (If anyone had doubts of Steve Carell and Channing Tatum ability to pull off strictly dramatic roles, they need only watch the pair in action here not to mention Mark Ruffalo’s small turn which, as per usual, is excellent) but overall, I found the movie a bit too clinical and emotionally removed not too mention a tad on the long side particularly in the final act. Recommended one time viewing but not the kind of thing I feel any need to see again.

Foxcatcher opens November 14 and plays VIFF again on October 2nd and 10th. Check out the VIFF program for tickets and additional screening information.

Cinecast Episode 314 – Punchy, Punchy

 
Thanks to our buddy Anthony (@fullantho) for dropping by to be Superman’s bodyguard as Kurt and Andrew flop around with Zack Snyder’s very expensive wet noodle of a Superhero film. Since three’s a charm, we have three feature reviews in this episode before getting to The Watch List. We will not only be talking about Man of Steel, but also the quasi-indie thriller The East and the current who’s who of young stars facing the book of Revelations and more dick jokes than you can shake a stick at, in This is the End. Jerry Seinfeld makes somewhat of a return in our Watch List as a man with exotic cars and famous friends and a taste for java and pastries. Kurt talks wuxia films both past and present while focusing on the awesomeness of King Hu on the big screen. We wax positively on the careers of Tom Cruise and Mark Ruffalo as well as how to elevate a simple genre film into a classic using just great cinematography and good screenwriting. Have at it, folks.

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 You See Me [trailer]

Flashy, exotic, big-budget. These are Louis Leterrier’s movies in a nutshell. I wasn’t a fan of The Incredible Hulk, but I do think the Transporter movies are fun for what they are and Clash of the Titans was unfairly railed upon. All of it high art? No of course not. But now maybe Mr. Leterrier is attempting to turn over a new leaf with Now You See Me. Kinda. It still looks flashy and ridiculous but at least it’s something new:

A high caliber cast who robs a bank. With magic. On the other side of the world. In front of a live audience. I’m sold. Nothing else to say other than that making Jesse Eiesenberg look like somewhat of a badass is a magic feat all in teslef. Check out this flashy trailer starring the following. Ready?
Morgan Freeman, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Caine, Mélanie Laurent and Elias Koteas.

Trailer for much delayed Margaret reveals all

There are films that sit on the shelf before being rescued, and then there are films that are simply dumped to DVD after a certain point. But rare is the story of Margaret, a film that never even made it to the shelf because the director couldn’t find the film in the editing room. Want to know why a film starring Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo and Anna Paquin was delayed for more than five years before being released? Director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me) spent a ridiculously lengthy stint in the edit bay (who does he think he is, Terrence Malick?) before the financiers and production companies started filing law suits. This of course, only delayed the film even longer.

One has only to look at the trailer to know that this film is going to be a train wreck along the lines of Nothing Is Private (Kurt’s Review).

A 17-year-old New York City high-school student feels certain that she inadvertently played a role in a traffic accident that has claimed a woman’s life. In her attempts to set things right she meets with opposition at every step. Torn apart with frustration, she begins emotionally brutalizing her family, her friends, her teachers, and most of all, herself. She has been confronted quite unexpectedly with a basic truth: that her youthful ideals are on a collision course against the realities and compromises of the adult world.

The shockingly over-blown trailer is tucked under the seat.

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2011 Independent Spirit Award Nominees

Equally meaningless, but arguably a whole lot more fun to watch than the Oscars. Better films/celebs nominated, more relaxed, more accurate and a lot more alcohol. This year’s awards will be given out live on Saturday, February 26th on IFC channel at 10pm ET.

The nominees this year are as follows…

BEST FEATURE:
127 Hours
Black Swan
Greenberg
The Kids Are All Right
Winter’s Bone

BEST DIRECTOR :
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Danny Boyle, 127 Hours
Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right
Debra Granik, Winter’s Bone
John Cameron Mitchell, Rabbit Hole

BEST FEMALE LEAD:
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Greta Gerwig, Greenberg
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

BEST MALE LEAD:
Ronald Bronstein, Daddy Longlegs
Aaron Eckhart, Rabbit Hole
James Franco, 127 Hours
John C. Reilly, Cyrus
Ben Stiller, Greenberg

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE:
Ashley Bell, The Last Exorcism
Dale Dickey, Winter’s Bone
Allison Janney, Life During Wartime
Daphne Rubin-Vega, Jack Goes Boating
Naomi Watts, Mother and Child

BEST SUPPORTING MALE:
John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Samuel L. Jackson, Mother and Child
Bill Murray, Get Low
John Ortiz, Jack Goes Boating
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right

more categories/nominations under the seats…
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Cinecast Episode 176 – Planes, Trains and Lobotimobiles

 
A casual show today. We have a new guest, Laura-Jane, for regular listeners of the show that would be Kurt’s wife who digs on all things popcorn and blow-em-up action cinema, who comes in to talk a little Salt and a little Knight and Day (Note that there are SPOILERS! for both). Andrew tries to pin down the near-universal love for The Kids Are All Right. We talk some off-the-beaten path Japanese cinema, with the soon-to-be-Criterioned Hausu as well as stop-motion-animator Kihachiro Kawamoto and his wonderfully dark fairy tales. There is quite a bit of a Tom Hardy love-in, as Andrew finally caught up with Nicholas Winding Refn’s Bronson and, complete with an ignorant viewpoint on Reaganomics, there is some Louie Malle documentary talk, albeit we cannot agree how to pronounce his name. And another round of Dirty Harry sequels. Sit back and relax, this one is tres informelle.

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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Cinecast Episode 156 – Metaphorical Make-Up Sex

 

SPOILERS ALERT!
 
Shutter Island has been a big topic of discussion around here and the whole of the movie-based internet sites over the past week and we’re obliged to continue that discussion as Matt Gamble joins in for a full on spoiler discussion of the movie – including hashing out the continuity errors once and for all! We also saw plenty of other great cinema since last week including a revisiting of Mulholland Drive and escaping back to the original versions of both The Collector and The Crazies. Kurt managed to catch up with the new version of the latter film while Andrew made time for the Oscar nominated (acting) The Last Station as well as the German mountaineering picture, North Face. So lots to get into here as well as some new DVD releases and other tic bits of awesome. It was a great show and we hope you enjoy the listen.

As always, feel free to leave 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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Review: Shutter Island

 

A character, late into the game of Martin Scorsese’s wonderful Shutter Island, comments on insanity, “It was like an insect in my brain, pulling my strings” And there, ladies in gentlemen is how a well seasoned and versatile master-filmmaker can take a simple genre movie and elevate it to one of the premiere film events of 2010. The trailer suggests all kinds of horror (and mental asylum) cliches and pretty much gives away the twist ending right there. But no matter, the pleasure here is in the journey, not the destination, and the director (and his long-time collaborating editor) have no problem stepping off the path of the main story to give loads of detail on the denizens, workings and locations of the titular island-asylum-prison. Those who complain that 138 minutes is way too long for such a basic plot have completely missed the point (and the myriad pleasures) that Shutter Island has on offer.
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Shutter Island Trailer

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A straight up genre picture from Martin Scorsese populated with a strong line-up of capital “A” actors? Count me in sirs. Have a gander at the first trailer for Shutter Island, and feast on what 1408 should have been. This film looks like it has some real teeth. I’m duly impressed that Scorsese is aiming to play in this sandbox, and look forward to jumping right in.

Best to watch the HD Quicktime version over at Apple for full immersion.

Review: The Brothers Bloom

The Brothers Bloom captioned [After debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September, this film has been bumped a couple times, more likely than not because nobody know how to sell these type of character and dialogue driven world hopping romps anymore. But finally it arrives as a bit of summer blockbuster counter-programming from the same studio that put out Twilight. I offer a slightly updated version of my original TIFF review below.]

Following the cult success of Rian Johnson‘s debut feature, the stylish high-school noir, Brick, A-list stars and a much bigger budget were sure to follow. The Brothers Bloom was filmed in a variety European and North American locations and things look fabulously bright and breezy on the big screen. Unfortunately, a mild case of the sophomore slump is in place, as the new con artist caper film never quite lives up to the promise of its opening moments and gets mired down a bit by cleverness for cleverness sake. It would be unfair to tag the film with the hubris of Guy Richie’s Revolver because it seems clear that Johnson was aiming for a whimsical light-hearted touch, but the film unfortunately does share glossy posturing and pseudo intellectual chest thumping whilst simultaneously lacking any desired emotional (or intellectual) payoff. Things are fun enough while the film unspools, but there is not quite sense of click accomplished with Brick and the whole affair (forgive the pun) collapses like a house of cards before the end credits start rolling.

The film opens very like gangbusters however. A delightful voice-over narration from magician extraordinaire Ricky Jay, whose interesting speech rhythms (on display in most David Mamet films, but also in the opening set-up for P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia) set the stage for the bubbly confidence caper film to follow. An image of an amputee kitten pushing itself in a roller skate along the candy-coloured main street in small town America makes things clear that the tonal territory is more Terry Gilliam than David Gordon Green. The opening moments have youngling versions of the brothers in full grifter regalia, rumpled black and white suits with hats to match, overcoming their orphan (ostracized outsider) status by swindling the other (”bourgeois!”) children of their dollars and cents. The ‘prestige’ of the opening sting may just be the biggest zing moment of the film. Genius like that (I won’t spoil!) is why the genre exists! But it is a somewhat bumpy downhill ride after that. And there is a big treat for those anticipating Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, young Max Records (who will be playing Max in WtWTA) plays young Steven Bloom with gusto and charm aplenty.

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