Friday, July 31, 2009

Portfolio For Artists: PutItOn.com

Are you an artist? Are you tired of killing so many trees in your attempt to create your portfolio? Well, now you don't have to ask yourselves these questions, anymore. In fact, a reader talked to me about a web site that artists - be they interested in art, film making, fashion and music - can use to create their portfolios.


What's the advantage?

I don't know those from YouTube, Vimeo or Daily Motion. However, with PutItOn.com, this is what you get, according to the web site:

  • 1 gigabyte of space for your portfolio.
  • No transaction charge when selling your work.
  • Ability to stream audio/video works in their entirety (unlike YouTube).
  • Live personal broadcasts to your followers.
  • Translation of your words into 10 global languages.
  • And many more robust portfolio management features.

Besides, since there are many examples of artistic works you can find, I'd like to leave you with a picture made by an user named Sandstorm.


Finally, this is another shout out: will all artists in this room stand up please? Good, now tell me - after you registered with PutItOn.com - what you think about your experience, please.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Into the Wild

The least we can say is that Sean Penn's first directorial work rocks. In fact, the reason why Into the Wild blows you away is because of its the use of many layers of subtlety in the elaboration of the script and the strong performance by the well-chosen cast. In short, to put in plainly, this character-driven film will sure please to those who don't want to watch disposable entertainment materials proposed by Hollywood's big machine.


After having majored in history and anthropology from Emory University in 1990, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) cuts his credit card, destroys all of his identification documents, gives away his $24,000 savings to Oxfam and stops communicating with his family. Afterwards, Christopher decides to travel across the USA while having in mind his ultimate objective: to live in solitary in the nature of Alaska. Of course, what motivates him to travel on his own is his contempt for the materialism inherent in the American way of life.

Whether Sean Penn wanted to promote his political opinions or not, there's a better reason to embrace this brilliant film.

It's one of the many films I've seen that cares about taking the time to build its characters. Of course, many might think that the characters revolving around Christopher are only mere plot devices and that Christopher is only developed on the surface. However, writer/director Sean Penn turns upside down the convention of scriptwriting. In fact, while we see Christopher on the road, we get to see what actually pushed him to put in motion his project through the narration of his sister who tries to understand him.

Evidently, as the title Into the Wild suggests, the fact that Christopher wants to travel because of his taste for adventure is not a matter of dispute. This means that he goes "into the wild" to protest against what he sees as the emptiness of the American of life, a mind frame, according to him, that 1) identifies people as consumers within a society and 2) discourages people from living life the way they want. However, unlike what some might think, the film tries to suggest more than that by plunging into the problems that affected Christopher's family.

Finally, since many of us, North Americans, see movies as disposable entertainment materials, I guess that the film will resonate in many of us. Although I won't watch the film over and over again, I will always recommend Into the Wild for people who are looking for an outstanding road movie. In fact, the film is worth watching, because writer/director Sean Penn skilfully walks the thin line between 1) a film that gives us the feeling that the leading character is merely developed on the surface and 2) one that displays its layers of subtlety through the smart use of a narration (provided by Christopher's sister, who is played by Jena Malone) along with flashbacks.

Rating: 4.5/5


Origin:USA (2007)
Length:148 minutes
Genre:Road drama
Screenplay:Sean Penn
Director:Sean Penn
Starring:Emile Hirsch, William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden and Jena Malone


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fantasia 2009: My Dear Enemy

This is the fourth film I saw this year at the Fantasia Film Festival. I went into this film without knowing anything about the script and learning that director Lee Yoon-ki is likened to American director Woody Allen. Of course, the film certainly has its fair share of humour given that it smartly uses the economic crisis in the background. However, in the final result, there were times when we feel that My Dear Enemy lacks energy.


Byeong-woon (Ha Jung-woo) is now a homeless man who goes here and there with his backpack. On one day, Hee-su (Jeon Do-yeon), an unemployed single woman and Byeong-woon's former love, finds him on a race track. While she's wondering out loud if he's about to place a bet, Hee-su tells him that she absolutely wants him to pay her back the $3,500 he borrowed from her one year ago. Of course, since they haven't seen each other for one year, Byeong-woon is surprised to see how Hee-su looks mad at him. However, he soon decides to pay Hee-su back in a single day.


If you're looking for a comedy that can make you laugh without being vulgar, then this movie is for you. Moreover, the comparison between Woody Allen and Lee Yoon-ki is not dumb. Like Allen, Lee knows - in an unpredictable way - how to get the most out of a relation between a man and a woman. Therefore, before you see this film, have in mind that Lee has an incredible ability to create sharp dialogues when it comes to having characters bitching each other or just conversing.

However, despite being smartly funny, director Lee Yoon-ki doesn't have Woody Allen's ability to correctly pace a film. As a matter of fact, there are times in the film when you might get bored. In fact, instead of making the film progresses, some of these scenes give you the feeling that they're here to fill up a void. For instance, just think about the short conversation that Hee-su and Byeong-woon have while they're in a subway train.


Finally, My Dear Enemy might not be the best comedy you're likely to see even though the humour always hits you right in the face. Of course, the cast delivers an ensemble performance full of natural and enthusiasm. Moreover, although they play characters who live in a relation that has more depth then one might think, their on-screen chemistry is so genuine. Nonetheless, it's just too bad that pacing is a problem for this film.

Rating: 3.5/5



Origin:South Korea (2008)
Length:123 minutes
Genre:Comedy
Screenplay:Park Eun-yeong
Director:Lee Yoon-ki
Starring:Jeon Do-yeon and Ha Jung-woo


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tout est parfait (Everything is Fine)

Yves Christian Fournier’s first feature film is a teenager film among others that shifts away from the normal tendency (read: entertainment at all cost). Most teenagers might not like it, because the film can seem depressing and slow. All in all, despite its few flaws, Tout est parfait is, without a doubt, a powerhouse when it comes to acting thanks to its well chosen cast and Fournier's great mastery of speaking parts as well as silent ones.



Josh (Maxime Dumontier), a teenager from a suburb of Montreal, learns that his four best friends all died because of a pact of suicide. Seeing that he clearly was excluded from this pact, the young man doesn’t know how to respond to this tragic event. Moreover, when his school offers him the help from a psychologist, Josh feels that he has nothing to say about the death of his four best friends. However, he decides to find solace and love in the arms of Mia (Chloé Bourgeois), the former girlfriend of one of his deceased friends.


Although it deals with a very tough topic without openly admitting it, which is suicide among teenagers, the film doesn't make any judgement about the characters' choice. Moreover, Tout est parfait is not your usual film that attempts to explain why Josh's four best friends committed suicide. Hence, Guillaume Vigneault's, the scriptwriter, brilliant ability to justify such a choice because of the film's ironic title. In fact, as the script beautifully - and yet tragically - suggests, Josh doesn't see any reason why his friend committed suicide. As flashbacks are brought to us, we see that there were no worrisome signs in his friends' mood.


Therefore, like Flower and Garnet, this film presents in a short period of time at the beginning a tragic event. Afterwards, like Flower and Garnet, Tout est parfait focuses on showing how Josh copes with the tragic event in his daily life. Although much is said in the silent parts, Tout est parfait is far to be boring. Through the astonishing performance by Maxime Dumontier, who literally bears the film on his shoulders, the film manages to translate the fact that the tragic event is felt like an unexpected earthquake by Josh.

Therefore comes this question: as Josh tries to lead a normal life, will he ever get over his friends' death?

Finally, Tout est parfait is definitely one of the best Canadian films of last year if not of all time. The film is not always easy to watch, but if you like well-acted films, consider watching this one,for it's definitely animated by characters that are very easy to care about. Besides, with other films that I haven't seen (but have heard of), Tout est parfait gives a much needed credibility to the genre of teenager films.

Rating: 4/5



Origin:Canada (2008)
Length:118 minutes
Genre:Psychological drama
Screenplay:Yves Christian Fournier and Guillaume Vigneault
Director:Yves Christian Fournier
Starring:Maxime Dumontier, Chloé Bourgeois, Normand D'Amour and Claude Legault


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fantasia 2009 - Tactical Unit: Comrades in Arms

All of the three films I've seen so far at the Fantasia Film Festival, Tactical Unit: Comrades in Arms is the least good. Obviously, many fans of the Canadian TV series Flashpoint will naturally feel attracted by this film. However, while the film's idea looked good on paper, it's badly translated to the big screen. In fact, the movie starts well, clumsily continues in the middle and ends in a very passable - if not cheesy - way.


Sam (Simon Yam) and May (Maggie Siu) are two squad leaders working at the same police precinct. Moreover, both squad really hate each other meaning that they always compete to see which squad will do things right or proceed to an arrest, for instance. Besides, Sam hates May even more when she got promoted to Station Sergeant. However, as their squads must work together in an operation, which consists in arresting a group of robbers before they make it to mainland China, Sam and May must learn how to put their difference aside.

When the film starts rolling, it's easy to have high hopes for it given that the post-Oscar season doesn't fully satisfy many cinephile's appetite. In fact, by clearly displaying through two scenes the division between two squads from the same police station, the film clearly sets the tone. Furthermore, one wonders how the two sqads will get over the chasm that separate them given that they must work together in one last operation.

However, as Tactical Unit: Comrades in Arms progresses, its pace becomes its worst enemy. No, we're not talking about the screenplay's slow and realistic deconstruction about the police operation in the mountains. By having two sub-plots related to the operation (some squad members running after an insane man and a crazy stabber), Tactical Unit: Comrades in Arms unfortunately deviates - albeit for a few time - from its goal. Sure, the director wanted to show how camaraderie between antagonizing policemen gets developed under tough circumstances. This goes without saying that the search for the robbers could have been used for this purpose.

Finally, for what it's worth, Tactical Unit: Comrades in Arms could certainly have been a better film had it not been fooling around with its script. Besides, even though we can feel their effort, the actors - who all do a good job - don't manage to save the films. It's just to bad, because the potential was there.

Rating: 2.5/5


Origin:Hong Kong (2009)
Length:91 minutes
Genre:Crime drama
Screenplay:Yau Nai-Hoi and Au Kin-Yee
Director:Law Chin-Yeong
Starring:Simon Yam, Maggie Siu, Lam Suet and Wong Chi-Yin


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fantasia 2009: The Chaser

This is the second film I saw at Montreal's Fantasia Film Festival. If you go see this film without knowing that much, be prepared for the surprise of your life. In fact, whether you like this director's brutal style or not, Na Hong-jin is a name to keep in mind in the repertoire for extreme cinema. Of course, The Chaser is certainly not the best film from that repertoire, but it sure has the ability to maintain our interest for the film.


Joong-ho (Kim Yun-seok) is a former policeman who got fired for accepting a bribe once. In order to earn his bread, he works as a pimp. However, he notices that many of his girls disappeared one after another. By looking into his books, Joong-ho notices that all of his prostitutes who vanished were called by a customer whose cell phone number ends by 4885. Therefore, he concludes that this customer sold his prostitutes to some competitors.


Obviously, since he's short on prostitutes, Jung-ho decides to send Mi-jin (Seo Yeong-hie) - even though she's sick - after the "4885" customer called. In order to protect Mi-jin, Jung-ho devises a plan. According to this plan, once she's at the customer's house, she must pretend to go take a shower and text him the customer's address. Thus, the question is: will Jung-ho manages to protect Mi-jin now that he knows that the "4885" customer is a serial killer at large?


Did you think that films made by Park Chan-wook and John Woo, just to name a few, are the most violent Asian films you've ever seen? Well, believe me, this one goes further than what you've seen so far. However, at some point, the film's violence becomes extremely unbearable. Seriously, did we really have to see how a character (that I will not name) gets the hell beaten of [insert the pronoun of your choice]? After all, the mere suggestion of violence could have gotten the job done.

Obviously, if we leave aside this detail, The Chaser is a fairly good - and unusual - thriller that will sure keep you on your seat. First of all, the film builds its momentum through the strange combination of tension (Jung-ho's attempt to find Mi-jin and get her out of the serial killer's clutches) and black humour (i.e. Seoul's police department standing in Jung-ho's way). This goes without saying that even though the pace is broken by a sub-plot involving Seoul's mayor being badly protected by police officers against some protesters, The Chaser remains an effective thriller. Its key to its success is its ability to entertain you and keep you frustrated every time the serial killer gets ahead of Jung-ho and the police. All in all, is there some hope that Jung-ho will get the serial killer? Well, watch and see it for yourselves.

Finally, The Chaser is far to be a thriller for everyone because of the violence. However, if you don't mind about: 1) the nonexistence of the line between good guys and villains; 2) the fact that the "hero" is depicted as a scumbag at the beginning (although he evolves as a hero who does his best to protect people he needs). Besides, the film is well served by the cast's convincing performance.

Rating: 3.5/5


Origin:South Korea (2008)
Length:125 minutes
Genre:Crime thriller
Screenplay:Hong Won-chan, Lee Shinho and Na Hong-jin
Director:Na Hong-jin
Starring:Kim Yun-seok, Ha Jung-woo and Seo Yeong-hie


Friday, July 17, 2009

Fantasia 2009: Ip Man

I saw Ip Man during the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal and the film is not Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Hero. First of all, it may not please people who watches martial art films the same way others watch porn films. Nevertheless, it remains a film that can be taken seriously. In fact, unlike many Thai martial art flicks, Ip Man is a sign that Hong Kong and China strive to make character-driven martial art films.


In the 1930s, the city of Foshan in China is known for harbouring many martial arts experts and Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is one of them. Unlike many, he has never felt like opening a kung fu school despite being an accomplished expert in wing chun kung fu. However, by 1937, Japan invades China and Ip Man works as a coolie in a coal mine since his family got the house taken by the Japanese - who are using it as their HQ - and its wealth lost.

Obviously, General Miura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi), who is in charge of the Japanese army in Foshan, is a martial arts enthusiast. This is why he organizes a fighting tournament that pits Chinese fighters against his Karate military trainees. Although he was reluctant to get in the tournament Ip Man decides to take part in it. In fact, he sees it as an opportunity to defend Chinese pride in the face of the Japanese occupation.

Honestly, Ip Man may look like one of those biographical films you've seen. However, in the Chinese context, Ip Man can be seen as a rather good film. Although the film does show how Chinese people were mistreated by the Japanese army in a way that seems too familiar, it avoids canvassing vulgar caricatures. By doing so, the film focuses - despite having its pace broken at times - on the Chinese people's resistance through their display of skills in martial arts in order to unite in their resistance against the Japanese, which is another topic that leaves a "been there, done that" feeling in your mouth.

However, one evidence leaps to our eyes: it's the best film from Donnie Yen mostly because of the well-chosen cast's performance. From Simon Yam, as Ip Man's best friend (Zhou Qing Qan), to Lam Ka-Tung, as a nationalist policeman (Li Zhao) who has no choice to become a translator in order to earn his bread, the cast shows quite well the respect that Ip Man inspired in Foshan. Of course, when the film doesn't deal with Ip Man's resistance against the Japanese, it also deals with his negligence towards his son, which dismayed his wife.

Finally, the film is certainly a recommended ride for you if you're a fan of Donnie Yen. On another note, Ip Man also shows that these days, the world will need martial art actors who like to showcase their fighting skills as much as their desire to make ambitious movies. Needless to say that Donnie Yen is one of these actors and that Hollywood should consider making martial art films that has substance.

Rating: 4/5



Origin:Hong Kong (2008)
Length:106 minutes
Genre:Historic drama
Screenplay:Edward Wong
Director:Wilson Yip
Starring:
Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Lam Ka-Tung and Hiroyuki Ikeuchi


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Spider

Are you looking for a different film experience? Why not watch a film by director David Cronenberg. Unlike Naked Lunch, a very incomprehensible film from Cronenberg, Spider has a surprisingly accessible and simple story. The latter is efficiently written despite a few flaws in the execution and some loopholes. By the way, if you found A History of Violence very entertaining (because it's openly a mainstream film), don't expect this one to literally blow your seat.


Dennis "Spider" Cleg (Ralph Fiennes) is a mentally disturbed man who has to live in a halfway house in London which happens to be located in the neighbourhood where he spent his childhood. Besides, he has never really recovered from his mental illness because of something his father (Gabriel Byrne) did during his childhood. As Dennis visits the neighbourhood, he pieces together many fragments of his childhood memories that make us understand how he gradually became a schizophrenic.

Obviously, Spider is not your usual film that plunges you right away in the action. In fact, as the film begins, it's suggested that something is wrong with the mental condition of Ralph Fiennes' character. This is why Patrick McGrath, the scriptwriter and also the writer of the novel of the same name, expected viewers to be interested in the events that led to the leading character's descent into insanity during his childhood. All in all, this certainly looks like a good idea on a paper: a film that reveals slowly but surely its raison d'être just like a Russian doll if you know what I mean.

However, while some may like this approach (like me), others will cringe because at 98 minutes, the film might look long. On another note, the performance in this film shows us that this is the best film directed by David Cronenberg. As Dennis Cleg/Spider, a mentally disturbed character of few words, Ralph Fiennes delivers a memorable performance. He's well supported by Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson and Lynn Redgrave.

Finally, if you like a psychological thriller like A Tale of Two Sisters, you're definitely going to like this gem by Canadian director David Cronenberg. Of course, the film is a little bit predictable, but who cares? It's one of those films that unfold its story before your eyes without mindless plot twist thanks to a leading character elaborated with many layers of complexity.

Rating: 4.5/5


Origin:Canada/UK (2002)
Length:98 minutes
Genre:Psychological thriller
Screenplay:Patrick McGrath
Director:David Cronenberg
Starring:
Ralph Fiennes, Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson, Bradley Hall and Lynn Redgrave


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Preview: The Foundation

The Montreal Just for Laughs Festival is also an opportunity to see what Canada will offer in the future. In other words, there will be a screening of the five-parts comedy TV series The Foundation. Of course, since it's only a festival screening, only two episodes of the series (each one lasting for 22 minutes) will be shown at the National Film Board's (NFB) Cinérobothèque on July 23 at 7 PM.


Secondly, the show will eventually be broadcasted on Showcase, a cable network. What's the story? Here's what it is according to the web site of the Montreal Just for Laughs Film Festival:

The Foundation is a five-part television comedy series taking on the elite world of philanthropy and charity. Set in the world where sincerity, sentimentality and immense altruism are intertwined with legacy building and greed, the series tells the story of Michael Valmont-Selkirk (Mike Wilmot), an irresponsible, corrupt man holding the reins of a powerful non-profit organization. It is the study of an impressive hypocrite doing much wrong in the face of great righteousness.

Of course, after the presentation of the two episodes, "Mike Wilmot, producer-creator Michael Dowse (Young Americans, It’s All Gone Pete Tong) and other members of the cast will host a special question and answer session with the audience" according to the festival's web site.

The cast of the show: Mike Wilmot, Martin Sims, Rebecca Northan, Yvan Ponton, Paul J. Spence, Pat Kiely, Matt Silver.


Tickets for the screening can be bought online here. If you dislike online purchasing, then go to Just for Laughs box office at the 2111, St-Laurent Boulevard, Montreal. Thirdly, if the telephone is your method of choice, then here's the phone number: (514) 845-2322.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Le violon rouge (The Red Violin)

Beware, Le violon rouge is far to be your conventional film because of its plot's structure. However, when you remove your prejudices from your mind, you'd certainly like it even if you're not used to see five different scripts united by a McGuffin (the violin, for that matter).


During the 17th century, in Cremona (Italy), Nicolo Bussoti (Carlo Cecci) awaits the birth of his son and thus, spends his time making a violin which he wants to be perfect. However, when his wife dies while giving birth to his son, Bussoti puts even more effort in making the perfect violin, which will now be a tribute to his wife. This is how the story of the red violin begins. This instrument will travel through time and change owners. Besides, this violin can inspire passion and obsession in the protagonists' life.

Of course, some might feel that the movie is a little bit slow in its execution. However, that's not necessarily something that kills the film. Of course, although the different plots are not logically linked per se, they sure have one common power. In fact, the latter consists in showing us that through the test of time, the red violin crafted by Nicolo Bussoti is at the centre if its different owner's passion that goes beyond music.

For instance, in the case of Nicolo, his passion for the violin can be seen through his motivation to build his best violin ever despite his wife's death. Secondly, in the case of Xiang Pei, even though she goes through the Cultural Revolution, her position within the Communist Party makes it impossible for her to keep the violin. Hence, her decision to hand the violin to Chou Yuan, a violin teacher, in order to avoid its destruction at the hands of people who closely follow Mao's dogma.

Finally, Le violon rouge is definitely the work of a master for it's well acted and well shot. Of course, some (like me) might be a little bit bored by the film, but watching it helps you to develop your patience, so to speak.

Rating: 4/5


François Girard

Origin:Canada/Italy/UK (1998)
Length:131 minutes
Genre:Historic drama
Screenplay:François Girard and Don McKellar
Director:
Starring:Samuel L. Jackson, Sylvia Chang, Jean-Luc Bideault, Carlo Cecci and Greta Scacci


Friday, July 10, 2009

News: Just For Laughs Film Festival

In case you were wondering, the Just For Laugh Festival in Montreal is not just about presenting stand-up comedies. It's also about presenting to the public feature films, shorts and screenings of upcoming TV series. In fact, from July 16 to 26, the Just For Laugh Film Festival will be rolling. What's in the festival's line-up?


Now, I'll talk about the line-up of the festival. Of course, I'll just talk about a few things that interest me.

OSS 117: Rio ne répond plus: This film will open the festival. It's a French film (a comedy to be more precise) about a French spy from the 1950s. I saw the trailer once when I was at a screening of Xavier Dolan's J'ai tué ma mère. I just hope that the film will be as funny as the first one.

Humpday:A comedy about two straight men who try to be in a porn films, which is considered as an "art project". For those who didn't know, the film was presented at the Sundance Film Festival. Let's just hope that the film will not be vulgar.

World's Greatest Dad:This is the latest film from Robin Williams and it was also presented at the latest Sundance Film Festival. What? You're saying that you never heard of it? So have I. Nevertheless, I read a few descriptions of the film and it looks smart. All in all, I'm sure a friend of mine should be pleased since he always complain that critics always demolish comedies.

Anyway, these are a few movies that will be shown at the Festival. For the rest of the line-up, you can also check on the link that I left in this post. Besides, notice that Adam Sandler's latest film Funny People will also be presented. As for Canadian stuffs, be sure to check Les doigts croches, the screening of two episodes of the upcoming TV series The Foundation.

Finally, don't forget to check the schedule!


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Flower and Garnet


No, dramas revolving around a family don't have to be overacted or extremely spiced up to be interesting. This is what Keith Behrman's moving Flower and Garnet manages to prove. Obviously, many might be appalled by the slow pace. However, your patience will reward you if you fully watch this film that looks like a sad reality show about a family that is not going well.


During his birth, Garnet, a boy, lost his mother. Besides, Ed, the father, is saddened by his wife's death. By the time Garnet (Colin Roberts) is eight years old, we see that Ed has never known how to deal with Garnet and he has never really tried to take care of his son. This is why Flower (Jane McGregor), Garnet's sixteen years old sister, looks after her brother. Furthermore, he feels attached to her as if she was his mother.


Despite the love for her brother, there are times when Flower wishes that Garnet leaves her alone for the sake of her social/private life. Besides, when Flower becomes pregnant, she leaves the house in order to live on her own (i.e. her boyfriend dumped her because he doesn't want to be a father). Needless to say that Garnet will feel extremely solitary despite his father's attempt to bond with him after so many years of negligence.

First of all, Flower and Garnet is not your family drama built according to the traditional story writing structure. This means that the film unashamedly has a slow pace and displays itself as a study of three characters (over a specific period) who have had difficulty to cope with life since one tragic event: the death of the mother in the family. Thus, here comes the question: is the slow pace justified in Flower and Garnet? Halfway through the film, the film might not have a great impact on you. However, on a second thought, Behrman's smart vision and goal might justify it, because it manages to centre on the three characters.

Secondly, many people might cringe because of the cast's performance. Of course, the performance in Behrman's first feature film shouldn't be seen as being stiff and dull. In fact, Callum Keith Rennie, Jane McGregor and Colin Roberts all manages to depict the characters' despondency, sadness and anger. When these feelings are not expressed through words, they're brilliantly expressed through their facial expressions and body language.

Finally, I went into this film by only thinking about a review from Stephanie over at The Flick Chick. Obviously, the film hard to appreciate in its first half because of the slow pace. Nevertheless, after you've gone through it that you notice how it leaves a good lasting impression on you. All in all, Flower and Garnet is a great tour de force by a visionary director.

Rating: 4/5

Trailer available here


Origin:Canada (2002)
Length:103 minutes
Genre:Drama
Screenplay:Keith Behrman
Director:Keith Behrman
Starring:Callum Keith Rennie, Jane McGregor and Colin Roberts


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Apollo 13

The famous quote "Houston, we have a problem" sums up Ron Howard's career so far. In fact, while he has done incredible films, one really wonders why he directed two films that were doomed to be bad (i.e. The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons). Well, hopefully, Howard manages to "come back in the game" (as we say it in hockey) with a good film. Now, if we get to the point, if you enjoyed watching Frost/Nixon, this one is a must-see film, especially if you like history.


During the Cold War, the USA and the USSR are in a race for the conquest of the space. After they've gone through a training process, Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) and Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise) are slated to fly Apollo 13, another mission to the moon. A few days before the launch in 1970, it's reported that Mattingly had been exposed to measles, which will cause him to be replaced by the backup Command Module pilot Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon).

Afterwards, as the space mission takes off, the USA is hoping that Lovell, Haise and Swigert will manage to land on the moon. However, during the flight of Apollo 13, Swigert is asked to stir the cryogenic oxygen tanks leading to an explosion in the service module. Besides, when it becomes obvious that Apollo 13 can't land on the moon, the three pilots must strive to go back on earth. Obviously, they'll do it with the help of the Houston's Mission Control Center, which is under the leadership of Eugene F. Kranz (Ed Harris).

Obviously, the first thing that impresses you in this film is definitely the cast's performance. Saying that the actors don't vie for our attention is a hell of an understatement. In fact, to use the metaphor of a hockey team, we have the feeling that all members of the cast (from the most important to the supporting members) perfectly know what they have to do in order to make this film the hit that it is. All in all, this goes without saying that the film is not just a homage to the three pilots of Apollo 13, but also to their families and the people who were working at the Houston's Mission Control Center (during the mission).

As for the script, needless to say that Ron Howard stayed true to his reputation, which means focusing on the event and shifting from one perspective to another. This is why the film has no difficulty to make a transition between the hope that Americans have toward Apollo 13 and, eventually, everyone's desire to see the three astronauts come back on earth alive. All in all, although the film's subject matter didn't really interest me, I'd like to tell you that this is one of the best historical dramas I've seen.

Rating: 4.5/5



Origin:USA (1995)
Length:140 minutes
Genre:Historical drama
Screenplay:William Broyle, Jr. and Al Reinart
Director:Ron Howard
Starring:Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris and Kathleen Quinlan


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mighty Aphrodite

Dear readers, my self-education, in terms of films, must be going quite well. Indeed, this is my second film by Woody Allen, a movie director that I gladly discovered a few months ago. While I doubt that this is the best film by Allen, it still remains a sophisticated, funny (without being excessively vulgar) and entertaining as a comedy. All in all, Mighty Aphrodite proves that comedies do have their place at the Oscars provided that they're well done.



Lenny (Woody Allen) and Amanda (Helena Boham Carter), a couple of New York, adopt a boy named Max. When he finds that Max is brilliant, Lenny tries to find out his son's birth mother. As he advances in his research, Lenny finds out that her name is Linda Ash and she lives in New York. Moreover, to his disgust, he also learns that Linda is a prostitute and that she works in porn movies under the pseudonym of Judy Cum.

Therefore, in a world that seems twisted, Lenny will struggle t talk Linda out of being a sex worker, so to speak. As Lenny tries to change Linda's life, he has conflicting thoughts. While Allen uses a chorus reminiscent of a Greek tragedy, one never feels that his/her time is wasted. In fact, the Greek chorus is well used to develop the plot (in a very serious way) and even to expose us to the film's sweet humour. Besides, needless to say that the well-chosen cast really owns the film, especially Mira Sorvino.

Nevertheless, while the film is absolutely entertaining (duh, it's a film by Woody Allen!), many of you may have a few reservations to express about the script. In fact, the script is clumsy in that while it focuses on Allen's character to help Linda to get out of the skin trade industry, no parts of the film put on display Lenny's hesitation to reveal to Linda that he has her son. Of course, some who liked the film a lot would probably tell you that as a whole, Allen's character is looking for Linda's wellbeing and that many things are suggested in the very superficial exploration of that aspect of the story.

Finally, even though I doubt that Mighty Aphrodite is the best film from Allen, I wasn't dismayed by the final result. Besides, for anyone who's looking for a feel-good comedy that can be taken seriously, I'd gladly recommend this one for you.

Rating: 4/5


Origin:USA (1995)
Length:95 minutes
Genre:Comedy
Screenplay:Woody Allen
Director:Woody Allen
Starring:Woody Allen, Helena Bonham Carter and Mira Sorvino


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Public Enemies

Here comes the review of Hollywood's latest summer blockbuster and this is also my first experience with a film by Michael Mann. From what we can see, putting together two leading actors who've played the most memorable blockbuster characters in the last few years is a recipe for success. Obviously, Public Enemies can seem boring in a few parts of the story and gives you a feeling of "been there, seen that". However, anybody should be elated to see a film that talks about history (without boring you) and gives you a fair share of action scenes.


In 1933, John Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup), the director of the United States Bureau of Investigation (BOI), wants to take down John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), a bank robber labelled as "public enemy no. 1", and his friends. In order to do it, Hoover assembles a task force led by agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). Moreover, this task force will operate in the city of Chicago.

John Edgar Hoover in the late 1920s.

John Dillinger

Obviously, since this is the first time I watch a film directed by Michael Mann, I'm not going to compare Public Enemies with his previous works. However, there's one thing I can tell you. Even if the film deals a little bit with a relation between a cop (Bale) and a crook (Depp), don't expect to see the two leading characters explain to each other how it feels to be on each side of the law (like in John Woo's The Killer). All in all, Public Enemies is your nice gangster film about the entertaining fight between the law and criminality. Besides, add to that the confrontation of two different work ethics. Nothing less. Nothing more.

Obviously, despite that previously mentioned fact, Public Enemies is not one of those action films (or gangster films, for that matter) that takes people for idiots. While its chief mission is to entertain you, the film shamelessly displays its care for historical accuracy through many details such as the locations, costumes and accessories. For instance, the prison in which Dillinger was incarcerated is the real one from history. Therefore, while creativity gives life to a great part of the film, Mann's talent can be discerned through his disdain for clichés for our great pleasure.

With that said, I don't need to tell you that the performance by the cast is rather good, especially from Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. However, one might have a few reservations about Depp's performance. While he's at the centre of the film, his performance can brilliantly conceal through his eyes Dillinger's disregard for the law, coldness and meticulousness. However, you might feel that there's nothing flamboyant that makes his character more memorable than Jack Sparrow. This means that the film's real problem lies in its lack of concern for exploring with depth who Dillinger was and the place he had in the American public opinion. In fact, it's a little bit regrettable that Public Enemies mainly focuses on the bank robberies and the cat-and-mouse game between Dillinger and the BOI.

Finally, Public Enemies is not going to be a great prize contender at the next Oscars given that the good performance from Depp and Bale doesn't surprise you that much. Nonetheless, the film can entertain us without being pathetic to death like certain Hollywood summer blockbusters. Besides, the film is certainly worth seeing more than other films that come out after the Oscars.

Rating: 3.5/5



Origin:USA (2009)
Length:140 minutes
Genre:Crime drama
Screenplay:Ronan Bennett, Michael Mann and Ann Biderman
Director:Michael Mann
Starring:Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard and Billy Crudup


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day!


This day happens to be the 142nd anniversary of Canada. While we've always been able to export our music and literature, we're entering an era where more and more movies and TV series are produced in this country. Let's wish the best for you, Canada! Finally, I leave you with my top five Canadian films and a 10-questions quiz to see how well you know this country (foreign readers, you're invited to take it).


***
Top 5 Canadian films
Lost and Delirious
I may be repeating myself, but although I've seen few teen films, this one is possibly the best I've seen from this genre. While some teen films tries to make you laugh as much as possible, this one doesn't give a business if it's depressing. All in all, this is a film about teenagers trying to mentally get older (i.e. the film deals with homosexuality in an all-girl boarding school) or not trying.


Maurice Richard (The Rocket)
This is a biopic about a French Canadian hockey player struggling to play professional hockey (which he'll manage). It's a film that talks about the time when many English Canadians (who form the majority of the population) were racist towards French Canadians (and vice versa). Although the film comes from Quebec, a province where most people speak French as their mother tongue, the film skilfully avoids demagoguery.

Where the Truth Lies
Some will say that this erotic thriller is not the best film from director Atom Egoyan (I haven't seen The Sweet Hereafter, yet). Nonetheless, given the international reputation he has, Egoyan manages to display an effort to make a provocative film (the way he likes it) and, at the same time, a mainstream film for the masses. All in all, although the script is far to be perfect, watch it for the intense performance from the trio made of Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth and Alison Lohman.

My Life Without Me
Watch this if you want to see Sarah Polley showcasing her talent. Besides being less boring than Michael McGowan's One Week, this film manages to convey the idea that life is beautiful and that one must always enjoy it despite having few weeks to live.

Pontypool
Not as visually flashy as 28 Weeks Later, another independent horror flick, but Pontypool is sure as good (if not better) as its British competitor. Besides having an original script (people become zombies by using specific words in the English language), the film also shows us that suggestions can be frightening.
***
Quiz
1. Besides being the name of a city that was founded in 1883, the word "Saskatoon" also refers to what?
a) A tactic in hockeyb) A berry
c) A treed) A rifle

2. Which Canadian city is known as the only city in Canada where we can't turn right on a red light?
a) Montrealb) Toronto
c) Quebec Cityd) Vancouver

3. Established in 1973 in Dawson City, Yukon, this drink is considered as the most disgusting Canadian drink. Which one is it?
a) Bloody Caesarb) Molson Canadian
c) Sleemand) Sourtoe Cocktail

4. Who created For Better or For Worse, a very famous comic strip?
a) Lynn Johnstonb) Roch Carrier
c) Antonine Mailletd) Louis Riel

5. In which TV series are we following a 32-years old woman sent into the past by a therapist in order to fix her greatest regrets in life?
a) Durham Countyb) Terminal City
c) Life With Derekd) Being Erica

6. When did the Canadian war of independence against the British occur (which are known as the Lower-Canada Rebellion and the Upper-Canada Rebellion)?
a) 1837-1838b) 1791
c) 1867d) 1931

7. Although Canadians use the British spelling system, which one of these, in the Canadian spelling system, is one of the few words written the same way it is in the American spelling system?
a) Centerb) Program
c) Jewelerd) None of them

8. What is the name of the rifle used by the Canadian army?
a) M16b) M4 Carbine
c) C7d) M16A2

9. In September 1972, the Summit Series, a competition of hockey between Canada and the USSR, was held. How did Canada win the series?
a) Four wins, three defeats and one tieb) Four wins
c) Four wins and two defeatsd) Four wins and one defeat

10. Which entertainmnet company was founded in 1984?
a) Cavaliab) Cirque du Soleil
c) Zero Gravity Circusd) Carnivàle Lune Bleue


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