Tony Scott’s death hit me harder than I might have expected - suicides always do. It pulls me down with it in even a moment’s contemplation. But the man himself, who had a career so wildly variant that it could contain what I would call one of the worst films I’ve ever seen (Domino) and yet bear all the hallmarks of a capable director, left behind fiery signature works. Under the circumstances, I set to work clearing my backlog pile.Read more
Ted had the same effect on me as the Simpsons movie – above all other things, it made me affectionate for the characters of Family Guy and the people who create them, most of whom (did Seth Greene piss someone off?) were in Ted. Knowing full well that he’s had a Jaguar in the garage for ten years in the person of Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane finally played his megababe card, and if the results are a movie where you can’t quite believe that anyone as together (and brilliantly attractive) as Kunis’ character would have anything to do with Marky Mark’s character, John, I cannot likewise deny that Kunis and Wahlberg have great chemistry together, and that all such chemistry is sorta secondary anyway to the magnificent chemistry between Wahlberg and his ratty old teddy bear, Ted. I was unduly charmed by the bald patches on (adult) Ted’s torso and arms; that is one well-designed CGI bear. If the movie did not fulfill my fondest wish – when a coked-up Ted squares off against an enraged duck at a party gone wrong, I would very much have liked to see bear and bird detour into a five-minute riff on Peter vs. the Giant Chicken – it later satisfactorily provided the greatest human vs. teddy bear fistfight that has ever, and shall ever, exist.Read more
It’s rare that I see a shorts program that I enjoy all the way through, which is what made the third installment of James McNally’s Shorts That Are Not Pants so surprising – this was a really well-manicured night at the movies. He showed nine films in all, and of them, none fell flat. There were the usual ups and downs of achievement and ambition, of course, but I came away profoundly energized – by the madcap animated bliss of A Morning Stroll and (Notes On) Biology (“Ro-bot-ele-phant!”); or the furiously dark awesomeness of Tumult; but most of all by the yes-South-Korea-continues-to-kick-ass luminance of Guest. If French and Japanese cinema were my foreign languages of choice while I was an “up-and-comer,” Old Man Matt Brown is deeply into Scandinavia and South Korea. I spent some time during the Shorts/Not/Pants program seriously considering whether one can engage in some kind of cultural immersion/enrichment program to really come to know a foreign cinema – absconding to one of the regions in question for a year or two and just crawling my way through their movie theatres. But of course, that’s a needless gesture; I live in Toronto, for chrissakes. The world of cinema comes here.Read more
If you ever need proof that the French are completely insane, look no further than Black Moon, which I bought from the Criterion Collection a year or so ago for reasons unremembered, and finally got round to watching. I have a sentimental fondness for the kind of foreign/arthouse movies that are so that kind of movie that they have been surreptitiously scaring “the norms” away from everything other than mainstream cinema since time immemorial; Black Moon, being a kind of gloss on Alice in Wonderland, is required to make even less concessions to its audience’s sense of sense than usual. There must be something so freeing about taking on Alice, provided you don’t mind your freedom coming with a healthy dose of it-just-don’t-fuckin’-matter. Carroll-logic permanently removes any attributes of narrative satisfaction from the equation, and if Black Moon is drenched in powerful symbolism, it also doesn’t have to succeed as anything other than a series of whackshit whatsits happening in a long, contiguous row. To watch Black Moon, Jan Svankmajer’s Alice, and Burton’s Alice in Wonderland all together would be better than half the drugs in common circulation. Add an A/V poetry reading of Alan Moore’s Lost Girls to the equation, and it’s really a party.Read more
It’s hot - damned hot - and if the film selections in the past couple of weeks have tended towards the… sweatier? then let’s assume I’ve come by them honestly. I even spent two days in the classroom last week, and if that doesn’t bring violently to mind those blistering June afternoons in high school when the only thing keeping you from jumping out the window was the pretty girl sitting in front of you, nothing will.
Infra Man is a low-level hoot, but a hoot nonetheless; I’ve long since lost track of what such things are duplicates of or responses to, but suffice to say that while the nation is under attack by monsters, China creates Infra Man, who is sort of a cross between super-soldier Captain America and future-soldier Captain Power. My kind of Captain. The monsters, lead by a vamp called Princess Dragon Mom, look like refugees from the bounty hunter scene from The Empire Strikes Back, and in fact I’d argue that at least Zuckuss and IG-88 owe their design lifecycles to, respectively, the bright red lobster-ankylosaurus lookin’ creature, and the twin gun-armed robots, who, when knocked about, demonstrate… pogo powers. They go boing boing boing, even at one point on their heads, finally springing back into the action.Read more
The second season of Game of Thrones ended a couple of weeks ago, but Alien-related business kept me out of thinking much about it till now. Which, as usual, works well. I remain fairly confident that the second season improved upon the first, even if it also opened up a whole host of new concerns and delaying tactics as the franchise gains momentum and begins to stake out a much more precise map of how it will tackle the books.
A few reactions to Season Two:Read more
Snow White and the Huntsman is terrific – the year of Girl Cinema continues apace. I was really surprised, and impressed. That this is Rupert Sanders’ first feature film marks it as one of the most technically accomplished debuts I can think of! It’s such a complete motion picture, and so very, very committed to its ideas, milieu, and characters. It is so much a better rethink of fantasy than Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland that it almost doesn’t bear comparison, although with both slender heroines donning silver armour to save the universe in the final reel, the comparisons will come nevertheless. It’s the best Kristen Stewart film since Panic Room by a country mile – not that that’s saying much, but there have still been a few bright spots in the career till now (Zathura, Runaways, and of course Adventureland). But who knew that with a competent script and strong direction, Stewart could be such a credible screen lead? Maybe with the Twilight Saga finally out of her system at the end of this year, Stewart will step up and take a swat at Jennifer Lawrence’s current crown in the twentysomething female playing field.
Mike’s already done a review on the Substream, and Amanda did a Teens n’ Tweens piece about the film as well, so there’s little point in me delving into Snow White in any great depth, but a few points can’t help but pop up regardless:Read more
Yes, I get it - I get all of it. I get why critics and fans howled with derision upon the release of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland; and I get why it made a billion dollars. It may be the most mediocre, the most automatically-handwritten, movie in the history of movies. There’s something to it, certainly; but every time it threatens to tip over into really having something to it, the film pulls back. It reminds me of that episode of Star Trek where Data prolonged a chess game indefinitely by taking the least risky move at every turn. At a hundred hours long, Alice in Wonderland would still be exactly this tweedle-humdrum.Read more
TV is back in my life.** It’s been gone a while, but when I’m writing a Watched post about nothing other than what TV shows I’ve been catching up on, the winds have changed. I guess - thinking back on it - I just had to sit out the transition between broadcast television and after-the-fact television, which is the era we’re in now. Television became novelistic, and I like to read whole books. Next I’ll be giving up floppies in favour of trades. Sigh.
**I should point out that every time I write anything on my blog that even vaguely references television, people come forward and tell me what they think I should be watching. I must state, as kindly as possible, that I don’t need this service. I know what shows everyone considers awesome. I’m not not watching your favourite show because I’m unaware of it - I’m just catching up slowly. Mad Men is next. Don’t try to jump the line.Read more
Been getting my Bress-on, c/o the Lightbox, and if you told me six weeks ago that the Bresson series would be regularly selling out, I’d have called you a liar; or at least, put my flag in the ground right then and there and called the Lightbox experiment a success. I don’t think I ever attended a single sold-out Cinematheque Ontario screening in the last ten years, but I’ve been to three of ‘em at the Lightbox in the past month.
Of Bresson’s films, I’d only seen Mouchette, years ago, and quite liked it, so I figured it was time to improve my score. I finally caught up to Au Hasard Balthazar, which I’ve wanted to see for ever. The film, as advertised, is Mouchette for donkeys… though here the Mouchette role might also have been taken on by sweet, skinned-knee-fresh Anne Wiazemsky as Marie, who (of course) spends the film falling further and further from grace and into disillusionment. She gets oppressed, and raped, and beaten, and beaten and raped and stripped and ultimately (?) killed or exiled or killed and then exiled. And through all this, poor Balthazar, who knows nothing, sees everything, and lies down in a field to die among sheep. I can relate.Read more