Saturday, December 25, 2010

Top Twenty of 2010

Every year it's the same; as January washes over me in a grey mid-winter gloom, I look ahead at the year on film and wonder, what will be the one? What magical film will give me that spark of awe. A crinkle of a smile. A knowing nod. A film where I'll see myself or even a glimmer of something otherworldly. The kind of experience that makes up for sitting through the latest Nicolas Cage trash-sterpiece.

Now here we are, another year has gone by and below are 20 plus films. Each great, many in different ways. The film industry continues to simultaneously shrink and bloat. Producers worry, studios shift, and somewhere someone is making the next Great Thing. A writer or director has convinced a Hollywood mogul to throw millions behind her demented fever dream. Here's 20 of those fever dreams committed to celluloid for our mutual pleasure.


Directed and starring Ben Affleck The Town was an action film that was far better than expected. In some ways a return to the no-nonsense action films of the 70s. I figure if The Departed hadn't happened, The Town would have been an Oscar contender. Nevertheless it's a great gritty heist flick, with muscular performances, a strong cast and fine work all around by Benny boy.

19. Tangled
Simply an enchanting movie that allowed Disney to do what it does best. A fairy tale that doesn't try to smother us in pop culture references. It lives in its own world and is populated with smart self-aware characters (including a Princess you won't mind your daughter emulating). Mandy Moore and Zach Levi both delivered great performances. Donna Murphy was divine as the witch, Mother Gothel, and fits in nicely with Disney's long line of classic villains. "Mother Knows Best" should have been a contender for song of the year at the Oscars. Why it hasn't made the list is beyond me.

18. Tales From The Golden Age
From the writer and director of Four Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days comes this absurd tale of life in Communist Romania. A series of short films spun from urban myths of the life during the 1980s. The stories are populated by grifters and romantics, bureaucrats and average Joes. Life in a country governed by committee where having a healthy sense of humour is essential.

17. The Wild Hunt
Done for pennies, The Wild Hunt, similar to Fubar II, is an example of ballsy filmmakers putting to rest the stereotype of boring Canadian films. Set in the world of medieval reenactments or LARP, The Wild Hunt starts a little slow but once it gets going it gallops at a furious pace. Gritty, funny and an original take on a tired genre.

16. True Grit
Take a Western. Peel off the excess emotion, the bigger-than-life characters. Leave in the dirt, the scruffiness. Add in a generous measure of language. Eloquence and Oratory the way only the Coen's can. Stir with a grizzly Jeff Bridges, a cocky Matt Damon and a shooting star of a performance by Hailee Steinfeld. "Go Little Blackie Go!"

15. Easy A
If only all Hollywood comedies were as smart and subversive as this high-school fable about rumours and promiscuity. Yes Emma Stone is a great wit, spilling off lines like a modern Elizabeth Bennet. Credit is also due to the parents, great supporting work by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci.

14. Megamind / Despicable Me
A tie here for the two great animated films that mock super heroes and villains. Both as smart as the super-villains they focus on. Excellent work by Steve Carell as Gru and Will Ferrell as Megamind. Bonus points for the lovable sidekicks, the minions (both David Cross and the funny yellow-pill shaped dudes.)

13. Stone
Stone is here for two main reasons. One, as a reminder Robert DeNiro can be a cinematic force when he isn't playing poor parodies of himself. Two, for how director John Curran used the prison drama to say something bigger about post-911 America's hollowed out post-industrial wastelands. Empty factories, farm fields and prisons are the primary colours of this film.

12. Get Him To The Greek
I guess after his performances in Get Him to the Greek and I'm Still Here we all have to take P.Diddy/Puff Daddy/Sean Combs a little more seriously. In fact, this movie made me reassess my opinions of Russell Brand, Jonah Hill and Puff. Seriously funny, wacky, dozens-of-jokes a minute kinda stuff.

11. 127 Hours
The "guy-who-had-to-cut-his-arm-off" movie found director Danny Boyle returning to the adrenalized energy of Trainspotting. Remember the terror of the toilet scene? Boyle still has that ability to put us THERE, in the moment. Digging deep into his filmmaker's toolbox. Macro and micro shots. Time lapse, split screen and more. Whatever it takes to put us in the canyon with Aron the giddy hippie making peace with himself as he faces his final days. Franco is unforgettable and almost too charming in a movie about life, not death.

10. Blue Valentine / Cyrus
A tie for two films about performance. About small moments. About giving actors space. Blue Valentine is a bittersweet love letter to a failing marriage, cutting the sour with the sweet as we watch the couple falling in and out of love. Sweet without pretension. Cyrus, a small comedy of manners and strangeness. John C. Riley gets lucky for once, Marisa Tomei sparkles and Jonah Hill gets to stretch (a little.)

9. Mid-August Lunch
If Mid-August Lunch was a story it would be a novella. As size goes, it's just right. A man, his mother and some unintentional house guests. A leisurely ride on a scooter through Rome. And many many glasses of wine. Nothing more or less than it has to be. Salut! to Gianni the director and actor in this charming follow up to Gomorrah.

8. The King's Speech
After all the hype, I was a slightly disappointed with The King's Speech. Only because I'd expected something akin to the second-coming of Christ on screen. Still, once I'd adjusted my expectations it was easy to savour this beautifully told buddy movie. The awkward friendship of King George and Lionel Logue. Colin Firth is getting a lot of attention for this role but it was the idiosyncratic performance of Geoffrey Rush that won me over. Plus, once again Tom Hooper brings a keen eye to Britain's most upper-class family. Hooper is half Australian and it's his skeptical gaze that elevates The King's Speech above a typical period piece.

7. The Kids Are All Right
The Kids captures a lot of beautiful moments of how kids and parents, gay or straight relate to one another in 2010. This is very modern smart stuff filled with earthy characters. Mark Ruffalo as the organic restaurateur/sex god. Julianne Moore as the confused free-spirit and conceptual gardener. It's a movie about love, about family and the danger of making assumptions. Great subtle stuff by Mia Wasikowska. Ruffalo is at his most magnetic. The script is super sharp and yes, a damn fine turn by Annette Bening.

6. Exit Through the Gift Shop
Is it a hoax? A brilliant meta-prank? A wry comment on the modern art scene, the hyperspeed hype factory ready to leap on the Next Big Thing? A guerrilla style doc on the graffiti scene? Yes. Yes. Yes. Whether you believe it or not, Exit Through the Gift Shop was a brilliant remix of the traditional doc. Hijacking the form to continue Banksy's practice of manipulating the media for the message. If you're looking for more, check out these behind the scene notes from Producer Jaimie D'Cruz that only deepen the mystery.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
A personal pleasure but a complete one. Maybe you don't like Michael Cera. Maybe you could give a damn about comic books and 8-bit video games. But if you do, and you're like me then you were in heaven from frame one for this witty pixel-powered romance/21st century battle royale. Triple Score Awesomeness.

Denis Villeneuve crafts an origami-like story that folds back on itself as a brother and daughter delve into the secret life of their mother. The final scene is a silent, earth shattering thud. Heart breaking and never failing in courage, Villeneuve is one of Canada's treasures.

3. I Am Love
Like Il Divo, it was the marriage of music, motion and emotion that won me over completely. A movie of manners, high society and Italian Style but different, due to the rawness of the actress so good she's almost alien, Tilda Swinton.

Far too appropriate in the year when we lost Benoit Mandelbrot, the father of fractals, Inception arrived. In the middle of the summer, in between happy-meal ready movies like Marmaduke and Prince of Persia, Christopher Nolan gave us a movie that wasn't quite sci-fi but far too strange to call a typical action flick. A heist film to end all heist films. Movies are often the realm of dreams and so Nolan crafted a caper set in the dreamscape. Dreams within dreams. The closer you look, the deeper you fall. Inception isn't perfect. The vocabulary of the action set pieces, (the downtown car chase, the Swiss Alps fortress) is dissapointingly conventional compared to those early moments of architectural chaos. But Inception was a film that made the audience work and rewarded us for our efforts. In the middle of a season of loud sounds and empty moments, Inception was a statement. Yes we like action and car chases and things that go boom but we want it to mean something. We want a uniting idea. We want to be teased and provoked. We want beauty, fine acting, quick quips and an amazing experience. We want it all. (And Joseph Gordon Levitt's wardrobe. Could we have that too? )

1. The Social Network

Honourable mentions:
A-Team, Barney's Version, Fubar II, Defendor,
Black Swan, Get Low, Morning Glory (except for the last 20 minutes),
Splice (except for the swamp battle), The American, Winter's Bone,
Shrek Forever After

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Meta Montage (Year in Film 2010)

Best parts are at the beginning and end and I wonder how he/she gets all those clips, but a great overview of 2010.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Big Box Filmmaking

Buried, the new movie starring Ryan Reynolds was one of those legendary scripts that floundered on the "black list." The list of amazing screenplays that are considered un-filmable. Until one day, director Rodrigo Cortes got in touch with Reynolds and showed him how it could be done.

Given the story, you can see how the script would be intimidating. The entire film takes place inside a coffin. The cast, one man - Paul. A truck driver who is working in Iraq for a private contractor and wakes up in a wooden crate. (There's also a couple voices on the cellphone with excellent reception.) Soon his captor is calling with their demands. 5 million dollars or they leave him there. Oh, and there's a snake.

The biggest surprise is how cinematic Buried becomes. Sure it's claustrophobic at times. In fact, be prepared to listen quite carefully since occasionally there's nothing but black and panicked breathing. Kudos to Cortes and his cinematographer for constantly finding ways to vary the setting. Changing light sources and using everything from macro to crane shots.

Of course none of this would be worth it, if the story and Reynold's performance didn't work. Luckily the script is rather tight, with the exception of one silly flashback episode. When your entire film takes place in real time...don't go for the flashback montage.

As Paul, Reynolds has no trouble holding our attention. I've always liked Reynolds, who has a sly funny streak that seems to pop up in most of his roles. Buried isn't exactly Van Wilder (not that I wanted it to be) but if not humorous, there's a sincerity which helps pull us even deeper into his predicament.

(somewhat minor spoiler)

Finally, after a number of wishy-washy films about Iraq, this is one film that takes a stand with a finale that won't soon be forgotten. Buried is a film that almost feels like a short story in the way that it had the potency of a simple, well told tale. Enjoy.

Finally, after a number of wishy-washy films about Iraq, this is one film that takes a stand with a finale that won't soon be forgotten. Buried is a film that almost feels like a short story in the way that it had the potency of a simple, well told tale. Enjoy.

(Minor Update: saw the trailer for Reynold's upcoming Green Lantern superhero spectacle and it's as I feared. Looks like a galaxy of bad CGI with Reynolds' typical charm wedged into an outfit built to show off his best assets. Alas)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Recommended Listening for Never Let Me Go

Among some of the many new movies you should try to catch (Fubar II, Easy A, The American, I'm Still Here and Machete) you should also check out Never Let Me Go.

Never Let Me Go takes a well worn sci-fi trope and holds it up as a mirror on the human condition. Or perhaps mirror isn't the correct word, because the situation faced by the characters simply magnifies something we all share. I wont spoil the details, although they're getting increasingly impossible to avoid.
(I saw a trailer for Never Let Me Go that just about revealed every single important moment, not to mention critical lines of dialogue....but that's another rant for another day.)

This is beautiful meditative movie that take places over the span of 3 decades. Three friends Ruth, Kathy and Tommy grow up together and confront their uniquely limited destiny.

At the very least it is a heartbreakingly beautiful film, shot with a palette of soft mustard yellows and earthy greens. The setting, a seemingly arrested version of 1950's Britain.

And the cast, well this is mainly Carey Mulligan's film. Watching her piercing gaze made me realize just how much intelligence was missing from her Blogger Barbie role in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Also, Keira Knightley does a fine angry scared girl and Andrew Garfield made me sit up and think, "Who is that guy?" (Answer: The Guy who is the next Peter Parker and now I understand why.)

Anyway, all of this was all just an excuse to suggest if you enjoyed the film, or the book it was based on, there's a terrific discussion with the screenwriter Alex Garland and the original novelist Kazuo Ishiguro at the creative screening magazine podcast. Enjoy!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Post TIFF Recap

Howdy! TIFF is done and I'm here to share what has been an extremely busy season of cinema.

So here are some of the highlights from my time at the Toronto International Film Festival. Don't miss 'em when they return.

The Trip
It's the British Odd Couple on a road trip, except that it feels like a documentary and we're in the hands of the subversive director Michael Winterbottom. A relaxed, droll and silly ride, this is highly recommend for fans of Steve Coogan or James Bond. (That will make sense after you see it.)

13 Assassins
From the director of Ichi the Killer comes a classic samurai tale. A Japanese spin on the "one last job" genre. 13 Assassins finds a group of samurais on an impossible mission, to kill the sadistic emperor who is ruining the country. 13 men versus an army. Makes 300 look like the cartoon it was based on.

One of the strongest films I watched and a film that totally caught me off guard. NED is short for Non Educated Delinquent. Set in Glasgow in the 1970s, the movie follows the tale of John. A bright kid with a brother in a bad spot of trouble. Soon he's on the same path, running with the wrong boys and getting shunted into the slow class at school. Think Gommorah meets Lord of the Flies. Very strong stuff, look for it.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Werner Herzog serves up the best 3D experience since Avatar. A lyrical, whimsical trip into the Chauvet Caves of Frances. This made my fest.

You'll be hearing more about this later this fall. But let me just say, this prison drama starring Edward Norton and Robert De Niro is a better movie than the trailer suggests. Will surprise you.


Tough to watch yes, but worth it, not just for Javier Bardem's performance as a struggling father in Barcelona, but also for the unvarnished look at life below the social safety net. A world of street vendors and sweatshops, but it's also populated by real people as director Alejandro González Iñárritu reminds us. A more tightly drawn web than Babel with some haunting set pieces.

Easy Money

From Sweden another look at the criminal underground. Drug runners, the upper and lower class all meet in the middle of this wild ride. A snappy little flick which will no doubt be remade into a movie starring Paul Walker any day now.

Gorbaciòf - The Cashier who Liked Gambling

Il Divo's Toni Servillo knocks it out of the park again playing this sweet and sour little tale of Gorbaciof, a nearly mute prison cashier who falls for the waitress at the local Chinese restaurant. Servillo is a strange cross between a gangster and a clown, but such sadness in those eyes.

Rare Exports

Your new favourite Xmas movie.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Projector on CBC

I'm happy to announce Projector, my movie show on CBC Radio debuts today. The two part program airs today at 4 PM. If you miss it there's also a fantastic website where you can hear the entire show for yourself, not to mention some great bonus content (trailers, longer interviews etc).

You can find it all at

Projector is a true labour of love. It began as a radio pilot and grew into this summer special. The first part explores heroes and in the second part we look at fear on film. It's not a film review show per say, but more about how we see ourselves on film and how films see us.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Taking Inception For Another Spin

Inception isn't a masterpiece.

But it is a great, great film and a reminder of the difference between the films we watch passively and films that ask something more.

Having rewatched it recently I can say it's much more enjoyable the second time.

There are themes, motifs and clues spread throughout the film I missed (the first time) because frankly, I was struggling to keep up.

Inception is certainly an elegantly constructed movie. Director Christopher Nolan has carefully thought out the rules for this universe of dreams. The exposition littered throughout the film does a decent enough job of explaining it. But if you, like me, still have some lingering questions, here are some great links to explore.

The Ultimate Inception Guide. Over at Salon, Sam Adams begins with a very detailed recap of the film and goes on the explore the various levels and the rules.

Interview with Dileep Rao. On the always entertaining Vulture blog Dileep Rao answers some of the questions surrounding the rules of the Inception world. Dileep would know because he plays Yusuf, the chemist on the team. Read the interview and you'll see he doesn't look too kindly on the "it's all a dream" interpretation.

A Chart! If you're still confused the pretty colours provided by the fine folks at Cinemablend might help.

Interview With Chris Nolan On the always excellent The Treatment show, host Elvis Mitchell puts Christopher Nolan under the microscope in an extended interview.

Multi-layered Muisc. Hans Zimmer talks about how the Édith Piaf song was altered to suit the
fractal nature of the film. Sooooooo cool.


(Spoiler Spoiler, Good God Man for the love of Mary go see it first, SPOILER)

So, is Cobb dreaming in the final scene?

On my first viewing of Inception I was convinced the entire final scene, Cobb returning home, seeing his children, was an extended dream. The evidence: the top/totem was still spinning, the kids looked identical to the previous flashbacks, even the way the scene was lit seemed to suggest a dream-like state.

Now, having watched it again, I have to say I was wrong. But in my defence Nolan has put a lot of red herrings into Inception, ammunition for the "it's all a dream" team. (For example the dream-like chase sequence with the closing walls in Mombasa.) Why did I change my mind? Well, in the end it's all about the wobble.

Cobb returns home. He looks around. He's agitated. He takes out his totem and begins to spin it. Just then he sees his children. Their clothes are similar but slightly different. (Confirmed here.) They turn, we see their faces and he's finally reunited.
Then we cut back to the top, still spinning, spinning. Then just seconds before we fade to black, the top begins to wobble.

It's not much of a wobble. But it's certainly the beginnings of a top that is going to give in to gravity. Ergo, top falls = real life.

However, as Sam Adams and others have suggested in a way it doesn't matter. The ambiguity is part of the larger theme Nolan is playing with as he explores the reliability of perception and the power of memory. Listen to the interview from The Treatment and you'll hear these are themes that have followed Nolan throughout his career.

In the end that's what makes Inception so satisfying. It takes a universal theme (is this real?) or perhaps the oldest of film cliches (it was all a dream?) and builds an entire movie on that quandary. And his way of exploring these concepts? Using the cinematic language of action films. In fact my single biggest critique with Inception is how it abandons the surreal landscape of the dream and instead serves up something like an extended G.I. Joe action sequence featuring an army of Snow Jobs.

That said, what makes Inception so engaging is the way Nolan embraces the basic language of film, and reminds us the difference editing, music and motion can make. Time stretches and compresses. We flash back and forth between levels. The van falls and falls. It's a beautiful ballet of space and time, a dance of booms and buildings falling and in the centre, a haunted man trying to escape his past, but refusing to let go.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Summer Film That's Good For You (Cyrus)

Stuck in the middle of this summer of junk food cinema Cyrus is fresh garden mix of funny. It's simple movie filled will subtle moments. Little micro bursts of emotion we so often miss in larger louder films.

The plot is rather simple. A sad schlub of a man finds his second wind when he hits it off with Molly. But Molly's 21 year old son Cyrus is threatened by the new man in his mother's life.

In other hands this would have become a run-of-the-mill Hollywood comedy starring Gerard Bulter and Jennifer Aniston. But it's more than off-kilter casting that makes Cyrus different.

It's about watching John C. Reily arch his eyebrows ever so slightly. It's the way Marisa Tomei's eye crinkle when she smiles. It's the quivering lower lip of Jonah Hill. It's a movie filled with generous close ups and awkward pauses. It's a movie that breathes.

If you have any interest in writing or directing I implore you to go listen to latest Creative Screenwriting podcast. It features a long interview with Jay and Mark Duplass, the writing directing duo behind Cyrus.

Like their movie, the Duplass brothers are endearingly honest. As they say on the podcast it took them years, years of making crap to find their voice. Here's a few of the gems from their interview.

$3.00 - That's what it cost to make their first successful short This is John (watch it here). Just their parent's video camera and the cost of a tape. But it was that short film (shot unrehearsed) that got them into Sundance, and led to the films The Puffy Chair, Baghead and Cyrus.

Story and Characters - That's all that matters for the Duplass brothers. Technical stuff, the set, the lighting and all the rest come a distant second.

The Vomit Draft - When they sit down to write their first script they have a unique method. You could call it the Vomit Draft. The brothers first agree on the basic structure of the film. They have a series of cue cards. Then Mark sits down with a dictaphone and talks his way through the first draft of the script. That's correct, he "writes" the movie orally. This has a couple advantages. One, you can't go back and fixate over anything, so the process keeps you moving forward. Two, your body naturally tells you when to move on.

Don't Fixate Over Dialogue - Since the Duplass brothers use a lot of improv in their films, they never get too hung up about the words, since the script is just a starting point.

Long Walks - When they hit an impasse during shooting, they leave. The two brothers walk off the set and talk, until they solve the problem.

Don't Move On Until You Feel Comfortable - As one of the brothers says, "If you don't know if you got it, you didn't get it." He's talking about the pressure to keep moving to the next scene during shooting. But he says, you know if you've got something and you can't let the pressure to keep on schedule to affect your movie. (Of course when you operate with lower budgets it's easier to stay in control. More money = more pressure.)

"Fuck all the noise and ask yourself what do you want to see next?" That's Duplass philosophy on filmmaking.

Don't Direct the First Take - No direction or blocking for the first take. The surprises that occur are about 25% of the film.

Shoot Chronologically - More expensive but works better for the actors who are improvising.

No Marks - No blocking for the actors, the action is shot documentary style.

"Are you Gung-Ho and brave enough, to come and say 'we don't know' with us and try and figure it out together?" - What they ask of the actors.

Skinny Movies - The Duplass brothers like skinny movies. 5 characters. 86 minutes.

The Script Isn't a Piece of Art - The Duplass brother spoke about how when they were working with Fox Searchlight, their screenplay began to change from a subtle comedy to something more overt. Part of the process was how the studio execs were influencing them to write scenes that read well on the page. But the Duplass style of comedy doesn't read well. The really subtle moments that ring true don't work on paper. So it's worth remembering, the script is not a piece of art. It's just a blueprint to get you to the point where you're making the movie.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pity the Fool (A-Team and MacGruber)

I've been thinking a lot, far too much about the new A-Team film. Now let's be clear. This is a film based on a show that was about as realistic as the GI JOE cartoons of the same time. And the new A-Team continues the legacy of lunacy.

There is a memorable scene (SPOILER) where the guys attempt to slow a plummeting tank by firing at the rapidly approaching ground. Now I'm no Mr.Wizard, but I don't think that's the way the law of physics work. And then again, who cares? Because instead you get Jessica Beil muttering "They're trying to fly that tank." And it's funny. But ridiculous. Which is the essence of my A-Team conundrum.

There is a lot of fun stuff in the A-Team. Bradley Cooper as "Face" has the kind of charisma that could grow into Clooney-esque proportions. The same cock-sure attitude, the man who smirks in the face of fireballs. Another high point is Sharlto Copley. This is his first big role after playing Wickus in District 9. No Afrikaner accent here. Sharlto is playing "Murdock," the court jester of the bunch. His energy is manic and like Bradley it's infectious.

These guys make the A-Team fun. The team clicks, the back and forth, the cross talk make being in the middle of the crew a fun place to be. But the action is insane. The set pieces feel like they were hatched by the bastard love child of Michael Bay and the demented geniuses behind the Crank series.

Which is what frustrates me. The A-Team looks like an action pic. They're using the same vocabulary (car chases, fireballs, firefights) but there's no tension. It's a Noel Coward play drenched in Redbull and topped with gunpowder.

But then last night, I figured it out. The A-Team is a remake, but what they've created isn't an action's a sitcom. An incredible expensive (& loud) sitcom. Call it Four's Company.
Once I made that mental adjustment, all my issues; the lightness of tone, the unbelievable finale...they all melted away.

Really in a way the A-Team is the kind of movie MacGruber wished it could have been. Look at the similarities. The both start in the desert. Both feature heroes who excel at making elaborate devices out of
scraps. Both use familiar action cliches to amuse the audience. It's just that the A-Team is actually funny.

Friday, May 28, 2010

How I learned to Love Liza (Sex and the City 2)

So I've been on CBC TV and Radio for the past couple days cataloguing all the things that are wrong with Sex and the City 2. The never-ending tide of brand-name goods. The guileless zeal the fab four display for their divalicious lifestyle. The colour-blind avalanche of designer disasters.

But....there are a couple things I liked about the sequel.
So in the name of positivity here is (semi spoiler warning...)


It's funny. Occasionally. I will say the writer/director Michael Patrick King has a knack for staging the outrageous. Two scenes stick in my mind. First, Carrie and Mr. Big in bed listening to a screaming baby in one room, and Samantha's wild animal sex in the other. Watch the trailer if you want to see the punchline.

Speaking of Samantha, my other favourite moment comes as Sam has just finished proselytizing about the power of vitamins for fighting menopause. Then she sees Charlotte's new nanny, (played by Alice Eve) a voluptuous vision, bounding bra-less towards them. Samantha's mouth hanging wide open crammed with vitamins is classic.

Carrie. I hate to say it but Carrie is still the best character Sarah Jessica Parker has played. When SATC works it's like the best of Woody Allen crossed with Nora Ephron. But I think part of the problem with the sequel is that Carrie's got it all. In the TV series she was still a scrapper. Sure she had the shoes, but only one apartment and hadn't hit it big as a writer. (At least not at the beginning.) Now Carrie has her man, the swanky NYC digs, she's a best selling author with presumably an unlimited credit card. Hard to feel her pain when it's whether to wear Dior or Dolce to dinner.

Liza. Yup, Liza Minnelli. The queen of Carbaret shows up at the ultimate and I mean ultimate gay wedding to officiate. (There are swans!)
Now when she first appeared and spoke, well to be honest, I felt a little sorry for her. But then Liza performed a cover of Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies." Now I'm not a fan, or at least I wasn't. But I gotta say Liza owned that song. She rocked it. Great performance from a real woman that almost, almost made Sex and the City 2 worth seeing.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Summer Alternatives

Long time no update, blah blah blah, is there anything worse than a blogger apologizing?

Right then, as I look back on the list of movies I've watched recently I see there's a number of little gems that might go unnoticed next to the season's swath of blockbusters. So here is a short list of some of the smaller and dare I say smarter alternatives out there.

If it sounds familiar it's because The Secret won the best foreign feature at the Oscars. At the time I couldn't see how anyone would fail to pick The White Ribbon, but having seen Secret I understand the decision. (I don't agree, but I think I can see why.) The Secret In Their Eyes has a lot of things voters look for in an Oscar-Caliber movie. An epic love story. Dark themes. Restrained but effective acting. This is a movie about the dangers of desire. About being consumed by it or haunted. It has touches of film noir. It's also a very subtle look at the many lives of Argentina. And, as a murder mystery The Secret makes most Hollywood films feel like an episode of Law & Order.

This is an extremely frustrating movie only because I greatly enjoyed it, but I'm afraid if I explain what makes it so satisfying I'll spoil it. So, I will only say this is much more than a movie about the street artist Banksy. This is movie about what happens when you invite the anarchists into the art gallery. It's quite consistent with Banksy's raison d'etre and one of the most provocative docs I've seen in years.

This is a high school comedy that posits the question "Boredom or Apathy?" Which is why I love it. (Well they already had me at the Battleship Potempkin parody.) But for the rest of you let me say Jay Baruchel is all the reason you need to watch this film. Like Che Guevera crossed with Buster Keaton, Jay's conviction brings Leon Bronstein (aka Trotsky) to life. The Trotsky is as close as Canada has gotten to making a movie like Rushmore but director Jacob Tierney did it, by creating his own unique spin on the high-school hero genre.

From the co-writer of the searing Gomorra comes a zesty,
light-as-air comedy of mild-manners: Mid-August Lunch. During a holiday in Italy a good-natured mama's boy Gianni gets stuck watching his mother and a couple other ladies.
Watching the suave, calm and collected Gianni deal with these clucking, complaining women is a master class in coping, not to mention an excellent advert for powers of white wine. A gentle, affectionate comedy that brings to mind Big Night at moments, Mid-August Lunch doesn't oversell its story and knows sometimes a little is enough. (Written, directed and starring Gianni Di Gregorio who based it on his own real-life experiences with his Mama. Awwwwwww.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Wild Things, With Fangs

LARP (Live Action Role Play)


Lord of the Rings



See it, it's good. Worth your time. Bloody good fun, a nice twist on the dungeons and dragons genre. Great example of the new wave of Canadian cinema, like Pontypool, Fido and Ginger Snaps. Smart slick takes on genres, fun films that don't depend on stars to succeed.

More here:

Thursday, April 1, 2010


I got a little glimpse of the future last night.
And it involved a lot of people wearing funny glasses.

I happened to see two different 3-D experiences. First, Samsung’s new 3D TV, and then the 3-D film Clash of the Titans.

Care to guess which was the better experience?

It was the TV.
The screen was crisp and the graphics hovered out in front of the set like something out of Minority Report. The content wasn't much, a loop of sporting events, but 30 seconds of a soccer game was all I needed to understand the potential.

Of course, for the full 3-D experience you'll need a new TV, a new Blu-Ray player, and don't forget the special 3-D glasses. A steal at $249 a pair.

Well now, perhaps the movie is looking a little more affordable eh? An extra 3 dollars a ticket doesn't seem so bad if you get a 3-D experience in return… Except this isn't real 3-D. This is a 2-D film, converted into 3-D.

Seems the producers of Clash of the Titan decided they'd spend an extra 5 million to convert the flat 2-D film into 3-D. Or almost 3-D. Call it 2 and half.

Now, I’m not a fan of 3-D but I’m know when it’s done right. Avatar. Coraline. Up.
Of the new breed of 3-D films Clash of the Titans is the worst viewing experience I have seen in years. Some scenes have no depth at all. Take off your glasses and you'll see little or no difference. Often one or two characters appear to hover in front of the background. The effect is basically that of a children’s pop-up book.

Many film blogs have relished sharing the details that the producers actually outsourced the 3-D conversion to a shop in India. Meanwhile SFX wizards are pointing out that most theatres aren't equiped to properly project 3-D films. The polarized sunglasses you wear darken the image and hurt picture quality. One can imagine the animators who worked on the new and improved Kracken crying when they see the muddy results.

Now, let’s be clear. Without or without 3-D, Clash of the Titans is no future classic. It’s the Showgirls of action films. A quick and silly sword and sandals adventure, (regarding Medusa, our hero says “Don’t look the bitch in the eyes”) with a plot that belongs in the Mighty Hercules cartoon.

But who cares right? We just want to watch Sam Worthington slash stuff!

Meanwhile movie theatres are converting to 3-D capable systems as fast as they can. Far from being a novelty, 3-D films are beginning to clutter up the multiplex forcing theatre owners to make tough decisions. The charming How to Train You Dragon barely got a foothold before Clash of the Titans came along.

But the worst effect of the return of 3-D is how it brings out Hollywood’s shallow side.
Now more than ever it's not about how good a picture is, it's about the spectacle.

The industry considers movie like State of Play or Duplicity failures. All that money for big movie stars and nothing to show for it? So why waste time writing something smart and hard to sell? If you have a movie with a great visual component just slap a 3-D on that title and you’re set!

So get ready for Tron 3-D, Smurfs 3-D, Piranha 3-D, Harry Potter 3-D, and Erector Set…3-D.
(Really. )

A now in honour of the next ten years of squinting through sunglasses, a classic from Timbuk3.

The Big Picture has an interesting take on why Movie Stars should fear 3-D the most.