Trailer: Kenneth Branagh’s Murder On The Orient Express

Here is a classic murder-mystery property, made many, many times in one form or another, from Agatha Christie’s classic novel of the same name. Kenneth Branagh, who has been making special effects heavy Disney pictures for some time now (Thor, Cinderella), merges this talent with his tastes for classical British properties, to offer a glossy blockbuster version of the The Murder On The Orient Express with a cast that seems far more eccentric than obvious. There is the given casting of Judy Dench, and Branagh himself, sporting spectacular facial hair, as super-detective Hercule Poirot. There is also new Disney favourites Daisy Ridley and Josh Gad, certainly not a Disney favorite, Johnny Depp (who release bomb after bomb lately), as well as the magnificent Derek Jacobi (always welcome in affairs such as these) as well as a sweet celebrity grab-bag of Michelle Pfieffer, Willem Dafoe, and Penelope Cruz.

This all looks like good ‘murder party’ fun, stilted-grandiose line deliveries and all, and will be getting an ultra-wide release November 10th from 20th Century Fox.

Review: The Fault in Our Stars


Director: Josh Boone (Stuck In Love)
Screenplay: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Webe, John Green (book)
Producer: Brendan Prost
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 125 min.

Cancer sucks and generally speaking, movies about cancer suck. They’re saccharin and overtly manipulative of emotions and show you beautiful people dying and those around them suffering and in the end there’s a moment of happiness when you remember the dead soul who so deeply touched the life/lives of the central characters in the short time they knew the sickly person. The Fault in Our Stars is exactly that movie. The only difference here is that this features such charismatic performances that it doesn’t feel like emotional manipulation but more like some sort of catharsis.

Emerging writing superstars Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber are starting to corner the market on touching teen dramas starring Shailene Woodley. Last year they were behind the script for the much loved The Spectacular Now and here they are again adapting from John Green’s best selling novel about cancer kinds falling in love. Hazel (Woodley) is really sick and Gus (Ansel Elgort) is in remission. The pair meet at support group and immediately strike up a friendship that later develops into romance before tragedy strikes. After all, you can’t have a movie about cancer without some sort of tragedy (because having cancer isn’t tragedy enough).

The thing is that in the case of The Fault in Our Stars, the tragedy and emotion that goes with it works. Part of it is the fact that Green’s novel has a streak of bluntness running through it. It’s not all good moments and bad moments but a mix of the two, comedy hand-in-hand with tragedy, and Hazel and Gus tackle life with a sarcasm and sense of mortality that is refreshing. They talk about death, about what comes after (if anything) about the limitless living one can do in our limited time on earth and rather than feel sorry for the sick kids, I couldn’t help but think about what I’m doing with my life. Nothing like seeing young people suffer and possibly die to make you consider if you’ve done enough with your 30 years on earth.

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Cinecast Episode 347 – Two Princes

Part II is here. We talked Vol I of Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac last week, we finish that conversation this week in all its glorious whippiness and lack of Udo Kier. Then 1984 is continued with Prince and The Revolution, not Lake Minnetonka, Clarence Williams III, First Avenue and laughing in the Purple Rain. But we’re still on a weekend hangover from the Frabramble wedding party so we keep it short with no Watch List. But next week will get crazy with Game of Thrones starting up and also Andrew hitting M-SPIFF.

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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Full show notes are under the seats…
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Cinecast Episode 345 – One Persian Cat. Deceased.

We boys mourn the loss of True Detective, and anticipate the upcoming Game of Thrones, but in this small gap between prestige TV projects from HBO, it was a pretty damn good weekend at the multiplex. A spirited if brief discussion on the pros and cons of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, including Ralph Fiennes’s gift for comedy, Jeff Goldblum’s facial hair, Harvey Keitel’s pectorals, F. Murray Abraham being frozen in time, and underwritten supporting roles for Tilda Swinton and Saorise Ronan. We then discus sexual assault by cunnilingus with Matt Gamble’s wife, Angela, along with other assorted Me-Decade insensitivites in the ongoing 1984 Project feature: Revenge of the Nerds.

Kurt weighs in on the strange Canadian psycho-thriller Enemy which features Toronto as a sickly concrete hellscape and two Jakes (Gyllenhaal’s that is.) He thinks it is the best thing released theatrically in 2014 so far. Our Watch List as diverse as old-timey Miramax product, Chocolat, Teller’s documentary on art and craft and forgery, Tim’s Vermeer and an early 1990s bit of hipster TV, Fishing with John. Have at 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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Full show notes are under the seats…
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Extended Thoughts: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest HotelThe highly stylized and ever whimsical Wes Anderson has struck again with his latest gem, The Grand Budapest Hotel. A delectably decadent treat, the film unfolds as a kind of matryoshka nesting doll: a story within a story within a story. Peppered with his usual array of players, the troupe is joined by newcomers Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, and Saoirse Ronan to stupendous results. The film hums with zealous energy, rife with vulgarity-laced elegance. It hovers, its feet inches above the ground, the ethereal existence of a Wes Anderson creation done to perfection.

The scene opens on a young girl in present-day, a book firmly clutched in her arms, as she visits the gravesite of who we will come to know only as Author. Hotel room keys adorn a bronze bust of the man, reminiscent of the romanticism of attaching locks to bridges. Lifting another layer, we are in the office of Author (Tom Wilkinson) in 1985, as he recounts his visit to the titular hotel in 1968. You can see where this is going.

In 1968, we encounter a younger Author (now played by Jude Law) at the Grand Budapest Hotel. Shockingly reminiscent of the Overlook, it’s hard to imagine the place as a residence of glamour and class. The wallpaper peels, the orange carpets look as if they haven’t been cleaned in well over a decade, and the tiles crackle and fall from the walls. It’s a sad, desolate place, where the sparse tenants keep firmly to themselves. That is, of course, until our young Author encounters the mysterious Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the current overseer of the Overlook Grand Budapest. With nary a cajole, Mr. Moustafa agrees to tell Author his life’s story over dinner. Would you like to know more…?

Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

An enormous hotel perched at the top of a mountain, a grand old European country on the cusp of war, headlines sprawled across the local broadsheet, the one with the charming moniker of the Trans-Alpine Yodel: Wes Anderson’s latest is a truffle of pageantry which barters the pathos intrinsic to his previous work (Moonrise Kingdom, The Royal Tenenbaums, even Fantastic Mr. Fox which is this films closest analogue in the auteur’s growing oeuvre) for the overstuffed frippery and copious quirk that his critics tend to use as a bludgeon when fail to see the trees for the forest. Like Mendl’s chocolates so often on display in The Grand Budapest Hotel, everything is elaborately packaged and constructed out of tastefully ostentatious pastel, and contains far more empty calories than actual nourishment, but no matter, they are ‘the finest.’

The film is more ephemeral than anything the director has ever done; it is that murder-mystery party you and your pals dress up for in a suburban living room as a convoluted excuse to hang out without the bother of attempting any kind of meaningful conversation. All that being said, the The Grand Budapest Hotel is also effervescent, pitch perfect in its pacing, celebratory in its bursts of vulgarity, and hilarious with its mannered turns of phrase. It would be dishonest, and a tad uncharitable of me to deny that I had an absolute buzz on during its fleet 100 minutes and laughed out loud far more time than any comedy made in the past 15 years.

Gustav H. is said to be the most perfumed man in Europe and is gainfully employed as the fussy head concierge at the eponymous Grand Budapest – a hotel situated near the painted backdrop of Carpathian peaks in Hungary, accessible by funicular. Ralph Fiennes becomes thoroughly immersed in the comedy and pomp of this mythic character, and plays the type of control freak that director Wes Anderson has self-deprecated himself in a series of Visa advertisements from a few years ago. Gustav H. glides, perhaps even plows, through the high ceilinged lobby of the GBH making quippy criticism and snappy correction of the aesthetic choices of the staff, elaborating on proper posture and behaviour, and in confident command on how the entire hotel-machine is run; this without so much as getting winded. He is a man on a beer budget with champagne taste who has a habit of discreetly wooing the elderly rich and royal guests, perhaps as a way to ‘inherit’ his way out of his class-situation. One of these matrons, Madame D., is played by Tilda Swinton, sporting impeccable old-age make-up to bring her up to an octogenarian state, who promptly kicks the bucket and leaves a large fortune and an even larger number of heirs (and estate staff) looking for what is theirs. Madam D.’s last will and testament consist of a heaping pile of scraps of paper that is cumbersomely carted in by her lawyer (Jeff Goldblum with notable spectacles, wondrous facial hair sitting at a desk made entirely from antlers), that will take ages to disentangle, but her top priority, the last thing she wrote was to gift a priceless painting (“Boy with Apple”) to Gustav H. much to the chagrin of Madame’s eldest son, Adrien Brody; here repurposing his Salvador Dali caricature to great effect as a blustering, rather ineffectual villain.

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Toronto After Dark 2013: Odd Thomas Review

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Based on the acclaimed Dean Koontz novels of the same name, Odd Thomas, written and directed by Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, The Mummy Returns) is unfortunately flawed. While I haven’t read the books, and can’t attest to its strength as an adaptation, it fails as often as it succeeds as a film. With an incredibly strong lead cast in Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin, and Willem Dafoe, it delivers outstanding performances, stellar chemistry, and piles of entertainment. Where it fails is in the overuse of CGI, a flailing supporting cast, and poorly executed plot twists. Nonetheless, in typical Sommers style, it moves a mile a minute and is a pile of fun.

Odd Thomas is an odd 20-something young man. Yes, that really is his name. Odd. A clairvoyant with the ability to commune with the dead and sense looming danger, he attempts to keep a low profile by living in the small town of Pico Mundo, where little ever happens. That is, of course, until now. Something tells Odd that all hell is about to break loose on his little town, and it’s a race against the clock to figure it out and prevent the promised carnage.

Odd Thomas is unfortunately one of those films plagued by stellar performances, and little else. Yelchin, Dafoe and Timlin all offer stellar chemistry, and manage to make the often stilted and forced dialogue appear as charming as was likely intended. Would you like to know more…?

Kids Talk Film: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Episode #12 finds Willem (8) and Miranda (7) hitting up the heavenly combo of Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson. This episode may have a more kid friendly film than normal, but really, it is an adult film (and a Wes Anderson film) in fox’s clothing.

The entire series, designed to be a not-too-varnished look at how young kids process movies both in storytelling, plot and meaning, can be found on the Vimeo Kids Talk Film Channel.

Willem DaFoe Makes Choices [But Ultimately Chooses Alcohol]

My appreciation for Mr DaFoe has grown quite substantially in just over the past two years or so. Not only is he a darn good actor but he also chooses interesting and challenging roles. He’s gracious to his fans and always has something interesting to say (copyright the Q&A I saw him do at TIFF ’09). Thanks to my buddy TheJoe over at SwitchBladeComb, I can add one more block to that ever growing shelf of respect for Willem in this really handsome looking ad for Jim Beam (which happens to be my whiskey of choice) in which basically the moral is if you make the choice to drink this brand of bourbon, you could become a Sumo Wrestler.

Drink responsibly.



Trailer for Julian Schnabel’s MIRAL

There are more than a few fans in these parts of Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, (and a couple of us like Basquiat and Before Night Falls). Simply put, the man can make stylish and smart films that distinguish themselves from other similar fare. His next film, Miral, is a large scale humanist film which chronicles of Hind Husseini‘s effort to establish an orphanage in Jerusalem after the 1948 partition of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. The challenge here is that this type of material typically plays in Oscar-bait territory, and that it is headlining Freida Pinto is a big unknown. Pinto was so easy on the eyes in Slumdog Millionaire, but did not do much actual ‘acting’ in that film – more standing and looking off into the horizon as Dev Patel did the heavier lifting – she was even completely out-acted by the girl who played the younger version of her character.

Either way, Miral looks like a handsome film, a solid supporting cast (Willem Dafoe, Vanessa Redgrave, Alexander Siddig and Hiam Abbass) and I have faith in the director here.

The Trailer is tucked under the seat.

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