Cinecast Episode 420 – Nightmare Fuel

It ain’t quite April 20th, but it’s four-twenty in the Cinecast house. Christmas Terror and misogynous Teddy bears bookend this episode with some stoner comedy and Shakespeare and Stop Motion in between. If your hosts seem to ramble and get lost in the weeds once in a while, that is apropos the episode number! Also, Rest In Peace Robert Loggia. Onwards!

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: The Boxtrolls

Compared to the two delightful teasers for Laika entertainments latest stop-motion family friendly flick, The Boxtrolls, this trailer is rather conventional in its story and plotting. But that doesn’t stop it from having a very kinetic, stylish look and feel which, at this point, is the drawing point. Coming off the excellence of Coraline and ParaNorman, Laika is currently the animation house to pay attention to.

A community of quirky, mischievous creatures have lovingly raised an orphaned human boy named Eggs in the cavernous home they’ve built beneath the streets of Cheesebridge. When the town’s villain, comes up with a plot to get rid of the Boxtrolls, Eggs decides to venture above ground, “into the light,” where he meets and teams up with fabulously feisty Winnifred and together they devise a daring plan to save Eggs’ family.

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.

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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Mary & Max – Why has this Been Overlooked?

Mary and MaxI stopped off at my favourite theatre in town and discovered the poster for Mary & Max up on the wall. I hadn’t heard anything about it. I chatted with the manager a bit and discovered that the distributors didn’t even have posters ready for the movie and they weren’t really pushing it. The trailer looks amazing, it stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Collette and it is receiving terrific reviews. My guess is that it is being under-sold and overlooked simply because it is an animated film. All, I have to say is damn, I hate the general theatre going audience who only want their animation to be for kids. I for one am going to check this out. If its as good as it looks then I may end up having to change my best of the year list.

Review: Towelhead

TowelheadTowelhead is a movie that wants to make you feel bad, learn little, empathize less and feel smugly superior in the manner of a Jerry Springer episode. Albeit in the suburban landscape in the film, the ‘guests’ wear Tommy Hilfiger and have great teeth. It is an easy (too easy) film to process (literally and figuratively) but a difficult one in terms of elucidating intentions. The tone never really finds any sort of sure footing. The execution of the material aims for satire or drama or maybe a new hybrid of the two (points for trying and failing, I guess). The over-the-top performances suggest farce, yet the shooting style suggests earnestness. An optimist may take the unevenness as part of the point – some sort of thematic playfulness or more strenuous workout for a discriminating audience. I have my doubts. There is little playfulness in terms of the effect on the viewer while watching things however, as things are simply loud, Loud, LOUD in the all-directions-at-once bombast.

If nothing else, Alan Ball’s directorial debut (formerly called Nothing is Private, but it has since reverted back the the title of the novel it was based on) has shed some light on how people recoil with hostility from Lars Von Trier’s ‘America Trilogy’ films (Manderlay and Dogville). In its smug button-pushing and clumsy provocation it quickly becomes apparent that this is a film that makes a car running over of a virgin white kitten or a pregnant lady falling on her own stomach funny in its own sort of way. Funny not for well realized satire or pitch-black farce, but rather the lengths resorted to jolt a reaction from the same audience that skips along from one Oscar-bait feel-bad movie to the next. Better that the film (in all of its digitally shot cinematic flatness) is completely ignored by folks rather than coming into any type of cultural conversation, although I have my doubts, as the shrillness (often pointed to in Paul Haggis‘ Crash) cannot help but create some sort of emotional response first go around.

There may be some smaller revelations scene to scene and a more dispassionate second viewing may help to separate this from the initial reaction. After being bullied around by the picture, the initial reaction is that in and of itself there is nothing on offer here in the way of enlightenment on either the human condition or prejudice or family dynamics or sexual awakening/confusion. Towelhead crams in as much social commentary, political allegory, body fluids and misguided schadenfreude (this thing is supposed to be entertaining right?) to make for three (or more) films. American Beauty (written by Ball) at least had a glossy middle-brow sheen and a few cinematic flourishes to entertain while it waltzed along (some of these are even attempted here, but the result is diminishing returns) . The film comes across to this reviewer as the excited little puppy excitedly dancing around the bigger dog in those old Merry Melodies. As far as ‘learn by bad behavior’ satire goes, maestros Todd Solondz or Alexander Payne are the confident larger dog that swats this little yipper casually aside.

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