Cinecast Episode 405 – SPECTRE-tacular

Kurt is back from Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival, and he might have a thing or two to say about the movies, the town and the folks at that festival. At nearly two hours we can only say brace yourself for genre-overload. But first, Matt Gamble joins Kurt & Andrew midway through the conversation on Christopher McQuarrie’s installment of the Mission Impossible franchise. Kurt loved it. Andrew liked it. Matt, well, Matt watched it. Practical stunts, exceptional set-pieces and the ass-kicking talents of Rebecca Ferguson and a cleaned up and ready for prime time Sean Harris are all on the conversational docket. While there is no full “True Detective” segment this episode (we’ll cap the remaining three off, next time) there is a full Watch List for your listening pleasure, and Matt does briefly chime in on this season of “True Detective,” along with the doc on Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau remake disaster, and Adam Sandler’s Pixels. Andrew covers off the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer and its direct-to-Nexflix sequel. Finally we settle the Mara Rooney / Kate Mara confusion (sort of).

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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TIFF 2014 Review: Hector and the Search for Happiness


The patron saint of smashing entitlement into smithereens, Louis C.K., has a great bit about being caucasian. The gist of it is that he can hop in a time machine and go back in history, and there will be a waiter attentively greeting him, “Your table is right over here, sir.”  With all the think pieces being written about white privilege in the wake of Ferguson, Missouri, the timing is exquisitely poor for Peter Chelsom’s Hector and the Search for Happiness (hereafter Hector) the story of a wealthy white working professional who gets to travel the world, often seated first class, to find out why he should stay with his girlfriend and procreate — if this smarter, more satirical flick, the words Consume and Obey would accompany the latter.

Hector manages to squeeze almost every platitude on happiness onto the screen, directly from his tourist-diary for the audience to absorb as if it were some kind of nouveaux Celestine Prophecy. The filmmaking follows the editing rhythms of a second-rate Edgar Wright, indeed, it’s leading man is Simon Pegg, playing a rather inattentive psychiatrist who has a lot more love for Tin Tin than he does for Freud or Jung. Like Pegg’s wardrobe and sock collection contained herein, this film is too neat and too pat for its own good.  

Blowing off his gorgeous and funny girlfriend (Rosamund Pike) to travel from downtown London to Shanghai where Hector goes happily whoring with a rich businessman (Stellan Skarsgard) he met on a plane.  He falls in love with a pretty Chinese call-girl before discovering what is obvious to anyone who has ever seen a film before. And then he chalks the experience up to “Ignorance is Bliss.” Ah, white privilege. He travels to possibly the same Tibetan monastery from 1984s The Razor’s Edge (a movie now looking a whole lot better by comparison) and installs a satellite dish, a la those IBM commercials made a decade ago so he can Skype back to England.

Then it is off to Africa and I mean Africa as a country, not a continent, where every evening is picturesque Acacia Trees against the savannah sunset with free-range lions and foreign aid workers and violent men with Kalashnikovs. His foolish white ass is saved, of all things, by a golden pen, and of course, drug dealer with a heart of gold, Jean Reno.

Wrapping up in Los Angeles, Hector tracks down his old romantic flame (Toni Colette) for advice. She is now quite domestic and grounded but also professionally involved in the psychiatry-research community. They visit Christopher Plummer’s high tech happiness laboratory as a site to deliver the most hackneyed and obligatory of climaxes; complete with CGI colour coding and Plummer fist-pumping the results. 

Hector is earnest to a fault, espousing the most painfully conservative values under a liberal and saccharine “listening is loving” and cultural tourism attitude. All of this, admittedly covers up solid enough craft, careful setting up plot points and pay-offs, and a loving attention to Hergé kind of detail. It would make a fine double bill with J.A. Bayona’s The Impossible

It is guilty of squandering solid performances and an concept ripe for comedy if only carried off with a little more irreverence and guts; that is to say, not so damn eager to increase the happiness quotient of the universe at the expense of everything else for the sake of pleasing it’s all too obvious middle class white demo. It makes me pine for a classic Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels, a fine example from the 1940s (a decade of white privilege if there ever was one) that manages to have its cake and eat it too.

Never content to ask a question with a question, Hector and The Search For Happiness is the type of film that spells out, literally on screen in text-overlays, exactly what you want to hear. I would say that it exists somewhere in the recent cinematic landscape between Eat, Pray Love and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, that is if I had gotten past their Hallmark greeting card trailers. We all have our biases. This film will confirm yours and you are, as Louis C.K. says, entitled to it with the requisite consequences down the road.

Trailer: Hector And The Search For Happiness

Fresh off its announcement to bow at The Toronto International Film Festival, Peter Chelsom’s FHector And The Search For Happiness gets a big glossy trailer. Schmaltzy? yes. Funny? A tad (the airplane transition, as well as the gong sound cue). It still looks like a far better version of The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty if you smashed it together with Eat, Pray, Love and stole liberally from the style of Edgar Wright.

Hector (Simon Pegg) is a psychiatrist who has become increasingly tired of his humdrum life. As he tells his girlfriend, Clara (Rosamund Pike), he feels like a fraud: he hasn’t really tasted life, and yet he’s offering advice to patients who are just not getting any happier. So Hector decides to break out of his deluded and routine driven life. Armed with buckets of courage and child-like curiosity, he embarks on a global quest in hopes of uncovering the elusive secret formula for true happiness. And so begins a larger than life adventure with riotously funny results. Based on the world-wide best-selling novel of the same name, Hector and the Search for Happiness also stars Toni Collette, Stellan Skarsgard, Jean Reno and Christopher Plummer.

Teaser: The Box Trolls

Animation house Laika Inc. continue to evolve their sense of animated gothic-horror storytelling trending towards towards cuteness.. The company started out with perhaps the scariest children’s film made in the past 10 years with Coraline and then continued handsomely with the quite underrated, if far safer, ParaNorman. Now comes a film that feels more like Monster’s Inc. than Pixar’s own recent prequel, that is if the trailer has anything to say about it. The ‘alternate’ parenting lifestyles gleefully shown in the trailer here, proves that Laika is quite serious about putting some brains and allegory into its animated fables.

Based on Alan Snow’s “Here Be Monsters!” illustrated childrens book, the film is teaming with excellent voice talent: Simon Pegg, Elle Fanning, Toni Collette, Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Richard Ayoade and Tracy Morgan. And like fellow stop-motion animation studio Aardman, seems to delight in talking about cheese.

Since we are looking at an early teaser of the film don’t hold your breath for its release, until the time comes in September 2014.

Trailer #2 for The World’s End

The World's End

Faring far fairer than the editing and tone of previous international teaser, comes the US trailer for Edgar Wright’s The World’s End. Where Shaun of the Dead went poked friendly towards George Romero’s Zombie cinema, and Hot Fuzz wickedly skewered Michael Bay’s big city cops by mashing it with awe-shucks rural Britain-isms (and a few classic horror pictures, naturally) it appears that the Philip Kaufman 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is the genre film of choice for this, the trilogy capping film starring Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. Some of the jokes still fall flat, but the presentation and premise are better articulated here..

Trailer: The World’s End

The World's End

Edgar Wright’s ‘Epic Pub Crawl’ film that now quite explicitly appears to also exist as a spoof the 1970s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and more than a little bit of a Shaun of the Dead retread. Perhaps it is the case of bad marketing, as I’ve no doubt that Wright/Pegg/Frost will have plenty of good dialogue and amusing riffs on the genre, but unfortunately from this initial bit of mass-marketing it looks like they are spinning their wheels. When more the even more explicit and more Yankee This is The End looks to be have more funny in its alien apocalypse, well, there are some problems, eh?

Cinecast Episode 247 – That’s Just The Kind of Pretentious Twaddle I like!

Here we are a week before Oscars and there is so little to talk about on that front other than that there is so little to talk about. Gamble gives a run-down on the Best Animated Shorts which are always worth a look. Kurt gives a sparkling review of the latest Studio Ghibli animated feature; a Japanese spin on the classic British children’s novel The Borrowers. Re-titled The Secret World of Arrietty, the film is surprisingly adult in tone and theme and worth looking at on the big screen. We spend a tangent-driven span of time grading the homework assignments (criminal clowns) before diving into The Watch List: Wil Wheaton, Elliot Gould, Alain Delon, Brian DePalma, Michelangelo Antonioni, Billy Bob Thorton and Anna Faris! Andrew goes to town on smashing Tiny Furniture. Matt goes to town on pummeling the seven-year-delayed Margaret (and in the pejorative sense thinks Kurt and Rot will love it).

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: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Although far from seminal, there are a few Hollywood franchises I enjoy more than the Mission Impossible series. Laden with spectacular stunts and driven by a Lalo Schifrin’s sensational main theme, each film bears the unique stylistic stamp of the director at the helm – Brian De Palma (Scarface) for the original, John Woo (Face/Off) and J.J. Abrams (Star Trek) for the sequels – while at the same time succeeding as fun, fast paced action movies guaranteed to excite and entertain. Most recently, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol sees another new filmmaker take the reins: The Incredibles director Brad Bird, in his very first live-action film. And while the plot may be slapdash and characterizations frequently feeble, this new mission once again delivers what audiences really want: ambitious, gripping, fantastically conceived action.

Ghost Protocol kicks off with IMF agents Jane Carter (Paula Patton; Precious) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg; Paul) breaking team leader Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) out a Russian prison so that the three of them might infiltrate the Kremlin and recover files that will help them identify a criminal known only as Cobalt (Michael Nyqvist; Abduction) who is bent on instigating a nuclear war. But the mission is soon revealed to be a set-up, and after a bomb destroys a large part of the Russian presidential complex, Hunt and his team, as well as the mysterious Agent Brandt (Jeremy Renner; The Hurt Locker) find themselves labelled as terrorists, disavowed by their agency, and with no choice but to clear their names by whatever means they can.
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Trailer: MI-4 (Brad Bird Edition)


I suppose if it were not for Brad Bird at the helm of the fourth installment of the wildly variable Mission Impossible franchise, I probably wouldn’t even post this. Although Bird has stuck to animated films with his directorial career thus far, he is batting 1.000 with The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, three of the best animated features to come out of the united states in the past 25 years. Couple that with the Tom Cruise franchise which has changed directors with each installment giving each chapter their own auteur-ish feel. Don’t get me wrong, we are not talking the Alien movies in quality or vision, but you can certainly tell between DePalma’s style, John Woo’s style and J.J. Abram’s style immediately when watching these films which are more or less big action set-piece machines, that ain’t half bad. This trailer leaves me a little cold (although that huge sky-scraping needle in Dubai is impressive on screen), but I remain optimistic that Bird is going to bring some really breeziness and surprise to the franchise that has gone on at least 2 chapter too long at this point.

(Oh, and it is nice to see Simon Pegg in earnest Hot Fuzz mode again, but wither Ving Rhames this time around?)

The MI:4 trailer is tucked under the seat.
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Cinecast Episode 122 – More Money Than Brains

cinecast_promo.jpg Matt Gamble

Episode 122:
Easily the most spirited Cinecast of all time. Gamble seeks revenge, Andrew weeps and Kurt peels back the layers.

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R3view: Star Trek (2009)

Stak Trek poster

Director: J.J. Abrams (Mission Impossible III, “LOST”, “ALIAS”)
Writers: Roberto Orci , Alex Kurtzman (The Island, MI:III, Transformers)
Producers: J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 126 min

The first time every single one of the RowThree staff managed to get out and see the same movie and have the time to write about it? That alone might say something about the press and anticipation this film has been getting from fans, bloggers and critics alike. Yes, these things come in threes and this is the apprehensive third piece of a trifecta of beloved franchise returns. Does it mostly fail like the others (Star Wars, Indy); or does it breathe new life into a franchise that has been dying a slow death in audience interest for years.

JJ Abrams directs this “reboot” of the classic Star Trek series in which audiences are treated to the discovery of how the crew of the USS Enterprise first meet and the circumstances to the lead up of how they eventually become crew mates. While Earth is threatened by evil Romulans, the story focuses mainly on the blossoming friendship of Kirk and Spock and how their extreme cultural differences are put aside to form a tag team that is unmatched in the galaxy.

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