Thursday, September 25, 2008

I've Been Waiting for This!

Here's a good news that made my day. According to this web site, the first season of The Border will be available on DVD on November 18, 2008! Though I am myself addicted to 24 (can't wait to see the seventh season), I gotta say that I prefer The Border better. Although 24 is extremely entertaining, The Border has something that the former doesn't have: a realistic script that is inspired from real life political and social issues.


Moreover, while 24 always seek to throw in our face plot twists (this is particularly true about its sloppy sixth season), The Border is always thought-provoking. With this, be sure that characters are always facing dilemmas and that makes the show quite unpredictable without displaying the ostentatious intention to be unpredictable like 24.

By the way, the second season's premiere begins on Monday, September 29, 2008 at 9 pm on CBC for those who live in Canada. As for Europeans, well, be happy to have the first season broadcasted and wait for the second season to arrive in your country ;-)

Any Canadians who wish to pre-order it can click on this link leading you to Amazon.ca.

Let's encourage our own cultural industry! I've never felt so proud to be a Canadian.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Stone Angel

Overlooking the movie's hidden complexity and details is not a way to appreciate it.

Director Kari Skogland managed to adapt for the big screen a Canadian literary classic written by Margaret Laurence (1926-1987), which is set in the fictional Manitoban town of Manawaka. Hopefully, while leaving out superfluous details from the novel, Skogland gave us a multi-generational drama that may look a little bit too condensed.

When she learns that her son Marvin (Dylan Baker) and her daughter-in-law Doris (Sheila McCarthy) wants to send her to a nursing home, the nonagenarian Hagar goes away. On her journey, she reminisces key moments of her past. This includes her marriage with Bram Shipley, a hard-drinking farmer, which causes a sudden rupture with her dad who disavowed her. As she meets a stranger on the road, Hagar feels compelled to face her role in her youngest son's death.

However, she'll find it hard to face the truth. Although she's always proudly lived her life without regrets, will she find the courage to admit her wrong-doings for once? As she comes back, in her mind, to the present day, Hagar admits that with ageing comes the moment to get things right even though we may not like it.

Obviously, this film is from the same niche genre as Away from Her. While The Stone Angel also deals with the issue of ageing it takes a different direction: family relations.

With a slow pace that reminds us of many Asian masterpieces, Skogland manages to set the movie’s humorous and, above all, incisive tone right at the first scene. While Hagar may look unsympathetic, heartless and cold for many viewers, for her own world has no shades of grey, the director of White Lies makes up for it by driving the plot through the main characters.

We see how the noble attempt to pass on pride, in a family (that is condemned to poverty), from one generation to the other can have destructive effect. Of course, that destructive effect can be seen in a clash of generation and also through Hagar’s favouritism towards John (Kevin Zegers), her lively youngest son who wants to marry a naïve girl magnificently played by Ellen Page (The Tracey Fragments). In the end, through her journey, Hagar will tear down the estrangement between her and Marvin to get closer in present day.

Although the characters’ development is well-rendered, one may falsely feel that the movie doesn’t reveal everything. Of course, the dialogues are certainly smart, but they just look incomplete because of what the characters don’t explicitly say. Besides, they're developed in a very distant way so that you don't know everything about them at the first look. Whether we like it or not, this is the kind of movie that requires you to closely pay attention to it.

Hopefully, looking at the performance of Ellen Burstyn and Christine Horne is a treat, because they both manage to make Hagar fully come alive on the big screen. Burstyn plays a Hagar who looks back in her past, while Horne plays one who literally let her feelings control her. While Horne is a young actress, she and Burstyn both have no difficulty to bear the movie on their shoulders.

Rating: 4/5

***


The Stone Angel
Canada/UK (2008)
Length: 115 minutes
Genre: Drama
Screenplay by: Kari Skogland
Director: Kari Skogland
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Christine Horne, Cole Hauser, Kevin Zegers and Ellen Page

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Forbidden Kingdom

A bad acting makes The Forbidden Kingdom looks horrible. Aside from that, the movie is good at making you laugh and amazing you.


It has long been foretold that two legendary martial artists - who both have a career that spans over two decades - shall be united for the pleasure of martial arts films aficionados. Unfortunately, from what we see, the wait to see Jackie Chan (Rush Hour) and Jet Li (Hero) on the same set wasn't worth it. This is mainly because the artistic quality leaves to be desired.

Loosely based on Journey to the West, one of China's Four Great Classical Novels, the movie follows Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano), a teenager who likes old kung-fu movies. While in a Chinese shop, Jason finds a golden staff that once belonged to the Monkey King. When he's magically thrown back into Ancient China, Jason learns that he must return the staff to the Monkey King to end the rule of the mean Jade Warlord (Collin Chou), the ruler of the heavens. In his quest, Jason is helped by a Silent Monk (Jet Li), the beggar Lu Yan (Jackie Chan) and an orphan named Golden Sparrow (Liu Yi-Fei).

With two of the greatest on-screen martial artists, this movie certainly means a lot for many people around the world. Obviously, if you're in for the fight scenes, Yuen Woo-Ping's (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) choreographies might amaze you. However, if these fights are relatively spectacular, one may feel betrayed, because Jackie Chan uses wires and CGI effects. Moreover, some fight scenes often seem too easy for the characters meaning that the villains' henchmen don't seem to put up much of a fight. Well, if they actually do, they seem to be saying: "Here I am, just hit me!" Aside from that, the fight opposing Jackie Chan and Jet Li is awesome.

On another note, no matter how entertaining The Forbidden Kingdom is, this film is simply too worthless in the end. Of course, the simple storyline surprisingly manages to display a premise to viewers and it follows a path that doesn't resort to mindless plot twists. Honestly, this film's plot is a masterpiece in comparison with Bruce Lee's movies! Nonetheless, despite being simple, the storyline is dull - while it tries to be exciting - and clearly as predictable as any Hollywood summer trash.

Add to that the cast's bad performance. Although some members (aside from Li, Chan and Chou) of the cast deployed an incredible effort for the fight scenes, the same thing can't be said about their thespian ability. Indeed, the actors are stuck with uninteresting characters and they don't show a lot of enthusiasm. Even worse: the actors look like robots. To that matter, we can think about the scene in which Golden Sparrow talks about her sad youth. Considering that, Chou and Li Bing-Bing, as the top villains, don't look threatening at all.

Finally, what the movie loses in substance due to the bad acting, it certainly makes up for it with the fight scenes. The latter, as the movie progresses, becomes more interesting. Aside from that, this is the kind of movie you should watch and then forget for it's a sheer mockery to Chinese literature. Hopefully, the movie is quite eye-candy with its babes who are Li Bing-Bing and Liu Yi-Fei.

Rating: 2.5/5

***


USA (2008)
Length: 113 minutes
Genre: Action/Fantasy
Screenplay: John Fusco
Director: Rob Minkoff
Starring: Michael Angarano, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Collin Chou, Liu Yi-Fei and Li Bing-Bing

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rotten Lies

Gilles Duceppe and Stéphane Dion utter a flat out lie when they say that Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn't respect the Fixed Date Election Bill (C-16).

If, as Quebecker, you read the newspaper La Presse, you certainly remember the advertisement from the Bloc Québécois (BQ) misquoting Stephen Harper on the purpose of Bill C-16. Add to that the fact that both Dion and Duceppe, who are respectively the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) and the leader of the BQ, didn't want to go through an election with their pathetic excuse. According to these two clowns, by not respecting the date for the next federal election, which is the 19th of October 2009, Stephen Harper mocks us, Canadians, and show disrespect to the premises of Bill C-16.

This is certainly surprising to see Dion and Duceppe lower themselves to an incredible level of demagoguery. After all, reading Bill C-16 wouldn't hurt anybody!

As a matter of fact, Dion and Duceppe have been implying that having an election at a fixed date will change our political traditions inherited from the British. However, unlike what they might believe, by calling an election, Stephen Harper, regardless of his intention, doesn't disregard Bill C-16.

Although we'll have election at a fixed date in the future, Dion and Duceppe should know that the bill mentioned that "if the government were to be defeated [in a vote of confidence], a general election would be held according to normal practice".

Therefore, by manufacturing lies about Harper's disrespect of Bill C-16, Dion and Duceppe plainly show us that they're irresponsible opposition leaders. After all, if they've spent time saying that Harper's cuts in culture and many other things are preposterous, why would they maintain the existence of our previous government?

My point is that, as an opposition leader, if one seriously believes that there's something wrong in our Prime Minister's decision, then that person might want to 1) call out any bad move from Harper and 2) topple the government by a non-confidence vote? Now, dear readers, that's what we call standing up for claimed values. However, Dion and Duceppe just give us the feeling that going through an election frightens them. Moreover, let me also tell you that Stéphane Dion once said to a journalist (after coming out of last week's meeting with Harper) that all Harper "had to do was not to present at the House of Commons the bills [that could have triggered an election]".

Obviously, that tells us how much Stéphane Dion's survival as the LPC's leader hangs by a thread... As for Duceppe, let's see how he'll lose his ability to conceal his feelings as time goes by.

***

For your information, I still havent't made my mind about who I will vote for. That's all for today, folks.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Englishman's Boy

You're not dreaming: Canada has produced a historical film that has nothing to envy from a production of HBO! However, while being deep and smart, The Englishman's Boy's script could have been restructured.

In the 1920s, Harry Vincent, a scriptwriter, interviews Shorty McAdoo, an old cow boy, to write the movie script about the American West. We learn that in the 1870s, a group of wolf hunters from Montana (including him) rode to the Cypress Hills in Canada to look for their stolen horses. However, these men believe that it's the Assiniboine Indians who stole their horses, which leads us to one of the most tragic events in Canadian history: the Cypress Hills Massacre (1873).

Obviously, The Englishman's Boy has the ingredients of a masterpiece: a high calibre cast, a beautiful storyline (in terms of content) and a strong direction by Gemini-winner John N. Smith (The Boys of St-Vincent), for instance. Also add to that the fact the movie wastes less time than novel on introducing us to the characters. Therefore, what we can like about it is that it gets to the point more quickly than the novel.

Unfortunately, just like in the novel, what slightly mares the movie is the storyline's questionable structure. Since the movie takes place in both the 1870s and the 1920s, changing scene often means changing eras. While not being too confusing, in the end, the story takes a little bit of time to link the two eras. Therefore, we only know halfway through the film that the nameless young boy from the 1870s is Shorty. As a result of that, some viewers might wrongly believe seeing two unlinked parallel stories.

Hopefully, in the long run, the movie's division in two eras has the merit of showing how Shorty, the titular character, is haunted by days as a cow boy. When Shorty faces (as a young boy) or recalls (as an old man) situations on which he doesn't seem to have any control, we can see Michael Eisner and Nicholas Campbell (who respectively play the young and the old Shorty) delivering a terrific and intense performance. Moreover, while some supporting characters can look one-dimensional, their presence is a great support to the movie's point.

Of course, through the cast's performance, the movie actually offer a reflection on racism and the way people see History. The movie's maturity actually lies in the capacity of Smith ability to tell the story without making any judgement on the way white people (in both eras) judge Aboriginals. Hence this shocking question: are all pioneers/cowboys proud of their past? While Shorty see the Conquest of the West as an event that put blood on his hands, Harry's producer (who is played brilliantly by Bob Hoskins) sees this moment as a glorious day in North American history. What is also even more amazing is the movie's capacity to show us people, during the Conquest of the West, who had to forget the rules of civilization to survive in a way that they didn't expect.

Finally, with its $20 million budget, The Englishman's Boy definitely forget how Nouvelle-France was pathetic. Unlike the latter, Guy Vanderhaeghe's adaptation of his own novel doesn't hesitate to stay faithful history as much as it can. Despite a minor flaw in the script, The Englishman's Boy is worth watching for the cast's performance. Besides, I'm sure that this movie will be remembered fifty years later from now on as a classic in Canadian cinema.



Rating: 3.5/5

***

Canada (2008)
Length: 180 minutes (DVD format)
Genre: Historical drama/Western
Directed by: John N. Smith
Written by: Guy Vanderhaeghe
Starring: Nicholas Campbell, Bob Hoskins, R.H. Thompson and Michael Eisner


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