Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Parry Tender (Jordan Gavaris), a fifteen years old teenager, lives in a small town from the Canadian Prairies. Besides, life in a small town makes him sick and "Luke" (Justine Banszky), a girl who looks and acts like boy, wants to be his girlfriend. Of course, Parry wants to be just a friend with "Luke", since he's got his eyes on Debbie Baxter (MacKenzie Porter), the "new girl" at his school. Besides, Parry sees an opportunity to get out of his small town. In fact, by listening to his radio, Parry hears a contest organized by a radio station of New York City. Besides, the goal of this contest is to name 30 rock and roll songs (by sending a mail before the deadline) that are all compressed into a soundtrack of 30 seconds and the winner gets a trip to New York City.
Obviously, David Schultz certainly has a bright future ahead of him even though his writing or directing doesn't seem to have a personal style. However, one thing is definitely noticeable in 45 R.P.M.: Schultz has the ability to breathe some puff of depth in his script. This means that his script reveals his ability to simultaneously elaborate the meaning of the relation between the characters and the film's point. In short, we've got a character seeking to get out of his small town who is either understood (by his friends) or misunderstood (by the police constable played by Kim Coates).
However, despite its potential, 45 R.P.M. deflates because of some plot holes. Indeed, while the film makes it clear that Parry is aware of how the contest works since the beginning, it spends few time exploring Parry's efforts to win the contest. In other words, Schultz, despite his talent, is more preoccupied with the other aspects of Parry's life that we often feel the contest took a backseat from the film's first to third quarter. For instance, Parry's fascination for music could have been elaborated a little bit more when it comes to his relation with Debbie.
Obviously, despite the few plot holes, 45 R.P.M. gives us the best of the worlds of experimental and professional film making in terms of acting. While the experienced actors (Michael Madsen, Kim Coates, August Schellenberg and Amanda Plummer) smartly portrays figures of authority, laxity or fairness, the younger actors (Jordan Gavaris, MacKenzie Porter and Justine Banszky) surprise us. This goes without saying that having young and unknown actors is not a bad idea because their own character seem to react to adults in a stunningly natural way.
Finally, 45 R.P.M. is a film that certainly comes with its flaws. However, it's certainly one that you'd like for it's quite touching. Besides, no matter how the story ends, the script manages to efficiently make us care about Parry, the leading character.
Jordan Gavaris, Michael Madsen, Kim Coates, August Schellenberg, MacKenzie Porter, Justine Banszky and Amanda Plummer
Friday, August 28, 2009
During the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921), Damien O'Sullivan (Cillian Murphy), a doctor, leaves his reluctance aside and decides to join the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Like his brother, Teddy (Padraic Delaney), who's in charge of the IRA's local flying column in County Cork, Damien dreams of an Ireland free of British rule. At the end of the war, Ireland becomes an independent republic under the Anglo-Irish Treaty.
However, to Teddy's surprise, Damien and other people are against the treaty. In fact, since they want full independence from Great Britain, Damien and his followers are angry that Ireland is considered as a British dominion that has the Queen as its head of state. As Ireland enters into the Irish Civil War (1922-1923), those who are against the Agnlo-Irish treaty won't hesitate to attack the Irish army. Besides, the bond between Damien and Teddy is tested by the events.
Like I said, I went quite close to loathing this film. As a matter of fact, at the beginning, the film presents a "black-and-white" vision of the war of independence. This means that the film absurdly vilifies the British army while it seems to condone the IRA's response to "savagery" by "savagery". After all, are historical films not supposed to aim for objectivity? Well, while we think about it, The Wind That Shakes the Barley is one of the few historical films that has the right to turn to one-sidedness.
In fact, the one-sided presentation of the Irish War of Independence brilliantly paves the way to the film's second half, which is the Irish Civil War. This means that while Teddy and Damien were united by a dream of freedom at the beginning, they won't, after the ratification of the treaty by Ireland, concur with each other on the way that very dream should be lived. Through the division of the Irish public opinion, Teddy accepts the treaty. As a nationalist, he certainly doesn't like the treaty's content, but he sees it as one step before total independence. As for Damien, he represents the Irishman who doesn't give up on his dream even if it means fighting his own fellow countrymen.
Finally, one must admit that the film's first half constitutes a bold approach by director Ken Loach to make a historical film. With that said, it's really in the second half that the film gets truly interesting. In short, the film is quite well written, well acted and offers a different experience for those who like historical films.
|Starring:||Cillian Murphy, Padraic Delaney, Liam Cunningham and Orla Fitzgerald|
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
For his latest film, director Quentin Tarantino gleefully flouted the rules of period films if not film making in general. Therefore, don't expect a historically accurate film about World War II like Saving Private Ryan because the film takes place in an alternate reality. Besides, Inglourious Basterds succeeds at providing you a good time at the movie theatre.
1941: In France, Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), a Jewish, had witnessed the brutal murder of her family at the hands of Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and his men. In fact, it was found that Shosanna and her family were hidden by a non-Jewish French family living on a dairy farm. While he was about to kill her, Col. Landa lets her escape and Shosanna hides in plain sight in Paris. Elsewhere, an all-Jewish commando - mostly made of Americans - under the command of Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) is assembled. Besides, its goal is to kill Nazis once it's dropped behind enemy lines in France.
By 1944, the "Basterds" work with Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), a British film critic turned soldier, and Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), a German film star who works as a double agent for Great Britain. Their plan consists in killing Nazi officials at a film premiere in a movie theatre of Paris. However, the movie theatre turns out to be owned by Shosanna (she inherited it) and she has a plan of her own to kill the Nazis who are attending to the premiere.
Some people were ticked off just because Inglourious Basterds's historical content is inaccurate. Obviously, such a judgement is not deserved. In fact, although this film doesn't deal with vigilantes like Watchmen, another film taking place in an alternate historical reality, you don't have to be a genius to notice that this film takes place in an alternate historical reality. Moreover, despite the use of a dark humour, Tarantino obviously had in mind that the Holocaust happened. Given that the art of cinema is not short on films about the Nazis' unspeakable cruelty towards Jews, this film takes fun at showing Jews who take revenge for their fallen coreligionists. After all, wasn't Tarantino aiming for an entertaining film about remorseless (and rationalized) cruelty? All in all, if you're expecting a film about the Second World War as you know it, then skip this film.
On another note, those who cherish Pulp Fiction would probably lose their mastery of language after seeing the performance from the well chosen cast. Indeed, what would a film by Tarantino be without its gallery of memorable characters? While every actors admirably do their job, it's Christopher Waltz and Mélanie Laurent steal the show. As Shosanna, a character who hides from the Nazis in plain sight, Mélanie Laurent shows the right balance between the display of fear and courage. As for Christopher Waltz, let's applause him for his ability to hide villainy under a deceptive veil of tenderness. Of course, on a global view, if the actors do their job with a discernible enthusiasm, this is because the film blurs quite well the line between good and evil not necessarily in the character's identity. After all, we know who the heroes in this film are. In fact, it's rather in the well-rendered behaviours that we see the line being blurred for our pleasure.
Finally, Inglourious Basterds may not be the best work from Quentin Tarantino since some may find the film too long. Indeed, you don't know what lengthy dialogues look like until you see a film from Quentin Tarantino. However, Inglourious Basterds's plot is simple like a spaghetti Western, full of subtleties in its own way and entertaining without pretending to talk about History like other period films coming out in summer.
|Starring:||Brad Pitt, Eli Roth, Mélanie Laurent and Christopher Waltz|
Monday, August 24, 2009
Who went into this film with high expectations? Honestly, if you haven't seen this film, your expectations are just not enough. In fact, for a science-fiction film, District 9 will simply exceed your expectations. This means that Neill Bloomkamp's gem - which was shot with a budget of $30 million - gives credibility to the genre of science-fiction the same way 28 Days Later does it to zombie films.
In the 1980s, a spaceship arrives above Johannesburg, South Africa. The South African authorities soon discover that the ship was transporting malnourished and sick aliens who are called as "prawns" (a reference to the sea creature they look like). Because of that the situation, the government segregates the aliens by putting them into a slum known as District 9. Two decades later, people are fed up with the coexistence between humans and aliens. Therefore, they demand actions from the South African government.
This is when Multi-National United (MNU), a private corporation, sends a task force led by Wikkus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) to move the aliens in a district located 240 km away from Johannesburg. However, things go awry because Wikkus had accidentally soaked himself with an alien substance found in a flask during a raid on a prawn's house. Aside from that, the relocation of the aliens into another district turns out to be harder than the people of MNU had planned.
The least we can say is that District 9 is an entertaining film provided that you have enough patience to endure the beginning. For your information, the film is shot like a documentary accompanied with interviews almost in the same style of Frost/Nixon (and add to that video and news footages). Therefore, right from the beginning, Bloomkamp manages to immerse us into the film's reality with a style close to cinéma vérité even though the film is not a historical drama. However, once the film gets past the introduction act, its pace becomes excruciatingly slow when we witness the eviction operation led by the MNU against the aliens. After all, it's easy to think that nothing interesting will happen afterwards because the eviction operation is longer than it had to be in the execution of the story.
However, when the film reaches its climax, things start to become interesting. Besides, the slow pace following the beginning turns out to be a minor annoyance. In fact, with its succession of explosions, District 9's second half can appeal to both people who are in for entertainment and those who are looking for a smart film. In fact, the CGI and the action scenes are so bad ass. Other than that, for a summer blockbuster, District 9 raises deep moral questions because of the parallel with the apartheid, which lasted from 1946 to 1994. As someone who plays a man with prejudice against aliens, Sharlto Copley delivers a brilliant performance. However, I'll stick to that, because I don't want to give away too many details about the plot.
Finally, District 9 might leave a bitter taste in your mouth because of the story's slow execution. Nonetheless, if we leave that detail aside, it's hard to hide our desire to see the next film directed by Neill Bloomkamp. Of course, I didn't go see this film because of the viral marketing (that's what happens when you don't read the movie section in the newspapers).
|Origin:||South Africa/New Zealand (2009)|
|Screenplay:||Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell|
|Starring:||Sharlto Copley, Vanessa Haywood and Mandla Gaduka|
Friday, August 21, 2009
Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was a superstar of wrestling in the 1980s. Twenty years later, Randy has difficulty to make ends meet, is still wrestling in small-scale events for a small pay and is in a worrisome physical condition (because of his devotion to wrestling). Obviously, Randy sees a glimmer of hope when a promoter wants to organize an important rematch between Randy and his old rival, The Ayatollah. However, since his health problems force him to contemplate retiring, Randy tries to endure his day work in a grocery store, build bridges with his estranged daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), and be more than just friends with Pam (Marisa Tomei), an ageing stripper known as "Cassidy".
First of all, there was a scene in the film where I could barely take the violence. After all, who - among movie viewers - would remain indifferent when two wrestlers are using a stapler, glass and barbed wire among other things in their confrontation? Even though this violence takes you out of your comfort zone, director Darren Aronofsky knows how to justify its presence. In a nutshell, the wrestling scenes are an unpleasant commentary about "martial" entertainment: the more blood/intensity the public sees, the more it feels in seventh heaven.
Moreover, Aronofsky, as an artist, skillfully uses this commentary to build a memorable character that we can care about. As enthusiasts of wrestling give their attention to Randy, they don't, as the film suggests, see the both the psychological and physical pains felt by him. Of course, such a thing is well depicted by Mickey Rourke. In public, Randy tries to look as tough as possible despite what he goes through. Nonetheless, behind the curtains, we see a character who wants to quit wrestling and, at the same time, stay in it because he fears losing his identity within society (and hence be an average Joe leaving his glory behind).
With that in mind, the film shifts with ease from a sport drama to a romance drama and also a drama. In the first case, the film (especially in its final scene) shows well the difficulty Randy has to bring his relation with Pam to the next level. In addition to that, the film makes us wonder if Randy is ever going to successfuly build the bridge between his daughter - who is finely played by Evan Rachel Wood - and him. By using these two unpleasant things from Randy's life, we wonder if Randy will 1) fix these problems by staying in wrestling or 2) quitting it.
Finally, I've heard that The Wrestler is Darren Aronofsky's most acclaimed film. Obviously, even though this is the first film I see from him, I honestly believe that it deserved all the praises it got. For that matter, I raise my two thumbs up in honour to the scriptwriter's ability to insert layers of subtlety that allow the characters to be fascinating even though their social background doesn't have a great appeal to many of us.
If you're looking for the parody of The Wrestler's trailer click here.
|Screenplay:||Robert D. Seigel|
|Starring:||Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood|
Thursday, August 20, 2009
On his way to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Alex (Alan Rickman) lets Vivienne (Emily Hampshire), a hitchhiker who wants to go to Wawa, Ontario, hop in his car. However, a drunk truck driver (Callum Keith Rennie) hits Alex's car and as a result of that, he's the only survivor of the car accident. Since Vivienne is dead, Alex feels duty-bound to offer his apologies to Linda (Sigourney Weaver), Vivienne's autistic mother, and keep her company for a few days before heading to Winnipeg. At the same time, Alex will also develop a love relation with Maggie (Carrie-Anne Moss), Linda's neighbour.
As I suggested it, Snow Cake is not a film that I'd watch a second time because I found the pace a little bit slow while I was watching the film. However, when the ending credits rolled, one might believe that the slow pace was somehow justified. In fact, it's the slow pace that gives to the characters their flesh. All in all, Snow Cake is the kind of film that introduces you to the leading character's personal problem and lets him fix it slowly but surely.
Obviously, besides being a film about the beauty of friendship, Snow Cake is also an effective film about redemption through the character of Alex who is brilliantly played by Alan Rickman. As Alex has difficulty to connect with people, he tries to open himself in his relation with Linda and Maggie. Besides, with the knowledge that the drunk truck driver is around, will Alex unleash his violent behaviour or contain it? Of course, in Snow Cake, nothing is expressed explicitly. In fact, it's a film in which the depth can be seen even though the dialogues might seem thin.
In the performance department, the only reservation I have about is the one by Sigourney Weaver. I've never been around an autistic person in my life. However, I found her performance unrealistic. After all, given that the character of Linda seem obsessed by routine, how is it possible that the death of Vivienne (who took care of her) not seem to cause any sadness? Other than that, Sigourney Weaver does a good job in her role.
Despite the fact that Snow Cake might seem inaccessible for those who don't personally know an autistic person, it remains a good film.
|Starring:||Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver and Carrie-Anne Moss|
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
While he was smoking a rare drug named "pineapple express" in his car, Dale Denton (Seth Rogen), a stoner, saw an Asian criminal getting killed by both Ted Jones (Gary Cole), a drug trafficker, and a corrupted female police officer (Rosie Perez) who works hand in hand with Jones. Afterwards, Dale gets as quickly as possible to the appartment of Saul Silver (James Franco), his dealer and the only person in town who sells "pineapple express".
However, since Dale remembered that he dropped a roach of "pineapple express" in his lousy getaway, Saul and Dale have no other choice but to run for their life. Besides, Dale also has to protect his girlfriend Angie (Amber Heard), who is too mature for him, before he decides to take on Ted Jones and his gang with the help of Saul and Red (Danny McBride), Saul's friend.
Obviously, Pineapple Express is a mixture of genres, which are comedy and crime films à la Quentin Tarantino. This can be seen through the heavy presence of drugs, the violence or even the criminals (i.e. the characters). However, let's not give too much honour to Appatow and his gang by comparing this film to Pulp Fiction or other films from Tarantino.
After all, given the scriptwriters' preoccupation with piling up one vulgar joke after another and the action, don't expect the characters to be solidly built as much as those you see in comedies that are much better than this one. In other words, Pineapple Express is not a film that can juggle quite well with the characters' personal problems and the humour like Le dîner des cons. In other words, this is the structure of the script: the leading characters are pursued by the bad guys and then, they do everything they can to teach a lesson to the bad guys even if it means making an idiot of themselves.
Finally, if we can to forgive this film for being a little bit immature (but funny if you positively respond to that kind of humour) on the edges, it's because of the amazing performance from the duo made of Seth Rogen and James Franco who manage to play the perfect losers. Besides, the other reason why we can forgive this film, it's also because it's less formulaic and predictable than Growing Op, another drug comedy.
|Screenplay:||Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg|
|Director:||David Gordon Green|
Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, Gary Cole, Rosie Perez and Amber Heard
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Today, I'd like to talk about two TV series that I've taken the time to discover during this summer. First of all, since two fellow bloggers (Ivy and Blake) have talked about Six Feet Under, I naturally said to myself: why not give it a chance? Secondly, as for Intelligence, I was attracted to it, because I'm a fan of crime/espionage dramas.
Nathaniel Fisher (Richard Jenkins), the director of the funeral home Fisher and Sons, lost his life in a car accident. Thus, it's now up to his antagonizing sons, David (Michael C. Hall) and Nate (Peter Krause), to take over the family's business. Besides, as time goes by, the Fishers have to deal with their personal issues. Will Nate, who has worked in Seattle since a long time, ever be interested in becoming a funeral director? How will David deal with his homosexuality? Now that her husband is dead, how is Ruth (Frances Conroy), the widow, going to deal with her relation with men? As for Claire (Lauren Ambrose), Nate's and David's younger sister, how will she cope with school and the family? Finally, as for professional issues, the Fishers strive to keep their funeral home from being taken over by an aggressive corporate group.
One word to describe this TV series: wow! It's amazing to see that the scriptwriters manage to wedge so many issues affecting the characters in the script. Besides, this contributes to make Six Feet Under as addicting as 24 minus the amazing (or lame if you're talking about 24's sixth season) plot twists. In a nutshell, the script is so well written that you always want to know how the Fishers try 1) to come to terms with the old man's death and 2) to deal with other problems. This goes without saying that missing an episode is one of the biggest cultural crimes. By the way, did I mention that the TV series is also a power house when it comes to the cast's performance?
In Vancouver, a briefcase containing important files is stolen from the Organized Crime Unit (OCU) by a man working for Jimmy Reardon (Ian Tracey), a drug trafficker/father. Mary Spalding (Klea Scott), the OCU's ambitious head, wants those files back, but Reardon names his price: he'll give them back if he gets from Mary an immunity from prosecution and the right to work as Mary's informant. As Mary and Jimmy form an uneasy alliance, they both have to deal with their own personal problems. Mary fears the Canadian intelligence community (some members want her head) because she knows her deal is impeding the arrest of Jimmy. As for him, he has to deal with biker gangs who don't tolerate any competition when it comes to drug smuggling or installing illegal ABMs used for money laundering.
Obviously, Intelligence is a TV series that is hard to appreciate because of its slow pace. This is not due to the clumsiness of Chris Haddock, the show's creator. In fact, Intelligence is not your usual fast-paced crime/espionage drama filled with action in every single episode. This means that the pace is deliberately slow in order to document (in a fictitious way, naturally) through the dialogues 1) the complex world of intelligence gathering in Canada; and 2) the rivalry between criminal gangs. Besides, even if the cast's performance might look cold (most of the time) on the surface, we sometimes feel - thanks to the brilliant acting - that the characters fear losing control over the situation they're in. Finally, while the show also deals with American interference in Canadian judicial affairs, the Canadian authorities are not depicted in a glorious way, just to let you know.
How do I finish this post? By talking about TV again, naturally! For those who loyally follow the TV series Being Erica (trailer), the first season will be released on DVD on September 22, 2009 according to Diane over at TV, eh?. Although the show didn't score big in terms of ratings, I'm glad that CBC ordered a second season, which will debut this upcoming fall. In the meantime, if you live in Canada, you can watch the first season's full episodes on the show's official web site.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Peter (Paul Rudd), a Realtor from Southern California, is about to marry Zoe (Rashida Jones). However, to Zoe's surprise, Peter still hasn't thought about designating a best man. This is due to the fact that Peter, throughout his life, has always been able to befriend girls. Besides, this goes without saying that he lacks the skills to connect with guys. In order to correct this issue, Peter, with a little help from his gay brother Robbie (Andy Samberg), does everything he can to find new "guy friends". However, when a friendship between Sydney (Jason Segel) and him grows, Zoe feels a little bit neglected by Peter.
Honestly, from the beginning, I felt that I Love You, Man was going to be better than what I'm normally used to see. Unlike many comedies made in North America, it actually tries to use its premise to provide us with fun. This fun can be seen when Peter tries to feel easy with men (as friends): his attempt to understand them or (and none the least) his attempt to hold his liquor. Besides, as Peter gets tighter with Sydney, the script manages to leave some room for some complications that Peter faces in his interpersonal relations.
However, any praise for the film should stop there. In fact, as the film approaches its end, it becomes too predictable. Obviously, the film does want to leave some place for a few tensions. However, whether these moments last for a long or a short time, they just don't bring any uncertainty in us. What will happen to the characters at the end? Don't even bother to ask yourself that question; you already know the answer while you're watching the film.
Finally, I Love You, Man is an enjoyable comedy that hopefully doesn't have a script that leaves to be desired. In other words, it can be seen as an effort by Hollywood to be as serious as the French when it comes to making comedies. By the way, did I mention that Paul Rudd and Jason Segel smoothly deliver their lines in a way that many actors can't?
|Screenplay:||John Hamburg and Larry Levin|
|Starring:||Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, Jaime Pressly and Sarah Burns|
Saturday, August 15, 2009
In 1123, Count Godefroy de Montmirail (Jean Reno) is about to marry Frénégonde de Pouille (Valérie Lemercier) after he had fought under the command of king Louis VI. Unfortunately, Godefroy did a terrible mistake that will make Frénégonde run away from him. In order to make sure that he'll have descendants, Godefroy asks Eusebius, a wizard, to send him (by serving him a potion) along with Jacquouille (Christian Clavier), his servant, back at the moment when the mistake was done.
However, given that Eusebius forgot to put an essential ingredient in the potion, Godefroy and Jacqouille are sent in 1993. In this period, Godefroy and Jacquouille will meet Beatrice (Valérie Lemercier), Godefroy's descendant who looks exactly like Frénégonde. Needless to say that a shock of generation will shake Godefroy and Jacquouille up. In fact, in 1993, they discover the republican democracy, hygiene, modern sex and above all, the removal of social classes (ex: the people versus the aristocrats).
Now, let's get to the bottom of things. The film uses its historical accuracy to illustrate in a very humorous way 1) the astonishment of the two leading characters when they see how much France has changed in 720 years and 2) these characters' attempt to adapt themselves to the 20th century. In the case of Godefroy, we just can't help ourselves when we see the scene in which Beatrice gives a crash course on French history when she finally understands that Godefroy and Jacquouille are genuinely men from the Middle Ages. Therefore, just imagine his surprise when he learns that at a certain time, people rebelled themselves to have a republic in which every men are considered equal before the law.
While Godefroy's point of view is rather well explored, Jacquouille's is explored in a superficial way even though we know that he'll gradually embrace some ideas of French republicanism (i.e. freedom over serfdom). Nonetheless, as a comedy, Les visiteurs remains a good observation of the French society on the eve of the celebration of the 205th celebration of the Storming of the Bastille. In fact, to Godefroy's surprise, everything suggests that the modern society doesn't really consider people of the Middle Ages as France's national heroes because they're reminiscent of the detested monarchy. This goes without saying that many modern French, as they're seen by Godefroy, are more enamoured with the revolutionary period(s).
Finally, despite its flaws, Les visiteurs is far to be a waste of time. In fact, each minute - after Godefroy and Jacquouille are brought in 1993 - is used in order to illustrate the chasm that exists between the modern society and the Middle Ages. Is the film funny? Well, if you're in for a good laugh, then watch this film.
|Screenplay:||Christian Clavier and Jean-Marie Poiré|
Christian Clavier, Jean Reno, Valérie Lemercier, Marie-Anne Chazel and Christian Bujeau
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Taylor Brandon Burns (Mark Rendall), an American childstar, is sent to Canada to shoot a Hollywood blockbuster called The First Son, a film in which the president is saved from terrorists by his son (played by Taylor, of course). Besides, once there, Taylor learns that the production crew had designated Rick (Don McKellar), an indie film director, as his chauffeur. Although Rick detests Taylor's behaviour, which is comparable to that of a prima donna, he enjoys one aspect of his job: banging Taylor's single mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) when he's not working.
However, when Taylor is unaccounted for after a night in a bar of Toronto, The First Son's production crew along with the studio executives freak out. When he learns about that, Rick and Taylor's mother strive to find Taylor so that the production of The First Son can wrap up.
After Stardom, here comes another film that laugh about Hollywood or the mainstream movie industry to be more precise. As a humorous film, Childstar certainly hits the nail right on the head by pointing out some elements of many North Americans' (the public as well as Hollywood executives) sordid appreciation of childstars (and many of the mediocre films and TV series they star in). Moreover, the film might make some say "touché" after seeing how the portrayal of the mainstream movie industry is willingly exaggerated by scriptwriters Don McKellar and Michael Goldbach.
However, while Childstar brings a good element of debate to see how dumb the Hollywood machine can be, the movie is fuelled by caricatures of people working in the industry. For that matter, we can think about movie executives who don't care about how lame most of their films are or a childstar (i.e. Taylor) who just can't mentally grow up. Furthermore, as if that wasn't enough, the list goes on. However, although the characters are evidently caricatures, the cast did a good job with an enthusiasm that can easily be discerned.
Finally, Childstar is not the best comedy out there, but it sure is funny. Of course, even though I thought that the film could have been better, this doesn't mean that I won't explore other films directed by Don McKellar.
|Screenplay:||Don McKellar and Michael Goldbach|
|Starring:||Mark Rendall, Don McKellar, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kristin Adams, Gil Bellows, Brendan Fehr, Dave Foley, Noam Jenkins and Peter Paige|
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Each Wednesday, Pierre Brochant (Thierry Lhermite) and his friends organize a dinner. In this dinner, each organizer have to bring a "cunt" they had met. Afterwards, they let the "cunts" talk and laugh at them all night long by making sure that they don't notice it. Of course, before attending to the dinner, Pierre had planned to have in his appartment a little chit-chat with François Pignon (Jacques Villeret), a "first-class cunt" who likes to build miniature versions of great monuments with matchsticks, in order to know him. However, since Pierre got a backache in the day, he can't attend to the dinner. Therefore, Pierre will end up spending a terrible evening with François while Pierre wanted to laugh at François.
I don't if if it's only a feeling that I have, but to me, it looks like the French are a tad better than Canadians and Americans when it comes for making comedies. In fact, while Le dîner de cons might put on display scenes that might look vulgar given that Pierre wants to take advantage of François, it's one of the few comedies I've pleasantly gone through because it combines an intelligent writing and comic situations.
Obviously, this goes without saying that Thierry Lhermite's and Jacques Villeret's performance full of subtleties makes the whole film screamingly funny. In fact, this comedy is good for your health in the way it deals with its premise. While Pierre wants to have fun enjoying François's stupidity, the public gets to laugh about Pierre's own blunders. After all, as the film smartly asks us, who's the dumb? François, because of his obvious lack of judgement? Or Pierre, who got the idea to keep François in his apartment while he had many occasions to send him out? Besides, what makes the film so enjoyable is the fact that it doesn't make any judgement about the two characters who are amazingly imperfect in their own way (despite Pierre's belief that he's immune to any criticism).
Finally, since it's adapted from a stage play, Le dîner de cons might seem a little bit formulaic. In fact, as the film advances, it becomes obvious that its goal consists in piling up one goofy situation over another. However, as a comedy, Francis Veber's film goes further in that it uses theses situations quite well to illustrate the characters' own imperfection. All in all, this is what makes this film a must for comedy lovers.
|Starring:||Thierry Lhermite, Jacques Villeret and Alexandra Vandernoot|
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
By 1937, Adolf Hitler, the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP), has been ruling Germany as a dictator since 1933. Obviously, his political party openly and aggressively promoted hatred towards Jewish people. Hence, the growing fear within the German Jewish community at that time. Because he sees something worse coming for the Jews, Walter Redlich (Merab Ninidze), a former lawyer, writes a letter from Kenya to his wife, Jettel (Juliane Köhler), and their daughter Regina (Lea Kurka as the young/Karoline Eckertz as the older) who are both still living in Breslau, Germany. Besides, in his letter, Walter convinces them that the only way to feel safe is to flee to Kenya, which was a British colony at that time.
As the German custom policies get tougher (especially against Jews) and the borders are gradually being closed, Jettel and Regina will leave Germany in order to be with Walter, who is employed on a farm by an Englishman. While Walter thinks about the day when he can come back to Germany (the country he loves out of patriotism), Jettel has a lot of difficulty to adapt herself to her new home since she acts like a spoiled wife. As for Regina, she'll feel right at home in Kenya, befriend with Owuor (Sidede Onyulo), the family's cook, and even embrace the local culture while keeping her German heritage.
Obviously, this autobiographical film based on a novel of Stefanie Zweig is such a gem and I can't believed I've only recently heard of it. Anyway, if you want to compare it to another film, do it with Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful. While the latter deals with Jewish characters who closely witness the Holocaust, Caroline Link's film wonderfully uses the historical background through characters who live the Holocaust from afar. Of course, while the script leaves you speechless, it's mostly the actors' performance that gives to the film its value.
First of all, through the performance of Julianne Köhler and Merab Ninidze, we - whether we're Canadians or some other Westerners - fully grasp the difficulty that immigrants have to adapt themselves to their new home. Obviously, while the characters of the parents understand that they have to work to earn their bread, the question is this: will they ever consider their newly found home as their one and only one (without even knowing when they'll ever return to Germany)?
To such a question, we can certainly answer "yes" when we think about the character of Regina. In the first phase of her evolution, Regina embodies the beauty childhood at a time when racism was okay. In fact, with such a spontaneity, Lea Kurka puts on display a child who embraces the Kenyan culture little by little because she hasn't been corrupted by any racist prejudices. As for Karoline Eckertz, she delivers a wonderful performance while portraying an older Regina who barely remembers Germany because she considers Kenya as her home although she's born in Germany.
As a historical film, Nowhere In Africa might put on display the values that we, Westerners, hold near our heart. However, as a whole, the film is a visually stunning ode to respect. To be more precise, we're talking of the respect that we fundamentally owe to each other regardless of our skin's colour, our religion and our ethnicity.
|Original title:||Nirgendwo in Afrika|
Juliane Köhler, Merab Ninidze, Lea Kurka, Karoline Eckertz, Sidede Onyulo and Matthias Habich
Sunday, August 9, 2009
After many weeks of preparation of this post and some postponing, I'm now launching this discussion started by Fletch on Canada Day. The biggest problem that the industry faces is not whether or not Canada can produce smart films. In fact, over the years, this country has witnessed the production of great works of art like Lost and Delirious, Tout est parfait, Flower and Garnet and Spider just to name a few. Do you really want to know what's the biggest problem this country's movie industry faces?
The first problem is that too many Canadians don't watch our films when they're in theatres according to the latest report from the Canadian Film and Television Production Association (PDF). In fact, just have a look at these two graphics that can respectively be found at p. 73 and 74 of the report:
As you can see in both graphics, the Canadian box office has unfortunately always been dominated by American films. This is not really a surprise since the USA produce more films than Canada each year. Besides, most American films shown in our movie theatres are made by Hollywood although you might find a few independent films (provided that you live in a major Canadian city).
Secondly, why is the box-office share of Canadian films higher in the French-language market - which is mostly concentrated in the province of Quebec - than in the English-language market? Some people might point out the linguistic barrier that exists between Quebeckers and the rest of North America. Therefore, what actually helps these films in French (which are mostly produced in Quebec) is the fact that they almost benefit from a general release in Quebec (except for independent films).* Moreover, if you know Canadian cinema really well, you'll know that most "mainstream" (i.e. Hollywood wannabes) films are produced in Quebec so...
Thirdly, as for the English-language market, there's a reason why the box-office share has always maintained itself around 1% no matter how much English Canadian filmmakers have gotten a little bit better at marketing thanks to a higher budget and smarter people working in the distribution. This is because most English Canadian films are always victim of a limited release. By "limited release", I mean that they only come out in some cities (the following are some possible scenarios), whereas American films come out wherever there's a movie theatre in Canada (even in a small town):
- Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City. All in all, it's a miracle if a film gets a roll out in other Canadian cities starting the next week following its release.
- Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Kanata, Oakville, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and Dieppe. Well, this is the kind of release the film Fifty Dead Men Walking is having.
- Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
Obviously, the other problem here is that most movie theatres belong to American interests who don't want to have Canadian films being screened (except for AMC). As for Canadian owners, most of them don't want to screen Canadian films. In fact, they believe that nobody watches Canadian films, since most of them don't make their money back (hence the budget doesn't increase that much). Besides, to make things worse, many Canadians hold this belief (even in Quebec) that Canadian films are inferior to American films. Here's a question to Canadian readers: do you prefer to be proud (and waste your money on it) of an "entertaining" film (that tries to copy Hollywood) or a smart one (even though it has a low budget)?
Seriously, wake up, Canada! Obviously, I know that this issue is not going to be old history any time soon. However, if it can be, only - and only - Canadian viewers can prove that there's a huge demand for our own films. Therefore, we can hope that Canadian films can benefit from a real general release on our own soil. Besides going to the movie theatre, you, as a Canadian, can watch the Genie Awards (the nationwide equivalent of the Oscars), the Jutra Awards (the Oscars of Quebec), go in local film festivals that screen Canadian films, borrow Canadian films at your local library and - above all - use your wallet to encourage a local video store that has Canadian films on its shelves. In short, we have to show an interest for what's going on in this country's cinematic scene, otherwise, our movie theatres will always be at the mercy of the American cinema.
*Small note: Although I live in Montreal, which is Canada's third largest city, I always have to go to downtown (which is at least 30 to 40 minutes from where I live) if I want to see a Canadian film (regardless of the language of production) most of the time. This goes without saying that there's a movie theatre within walking distance from my house.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Shot with a budget of $11 million, The Hurt Locker is not your usual war film and it's going to be considered as a classic in the upcoming years. In terms of action, it's not Saving Private Ryan (not that the action scenes in this film suck). As for the script, don't expect to see something like Flags of Our Fathers or L'ennemi intime (not that the script is lame). In short, be aware that The Hurt Locker definitely turns the war genre upside down.
The story is centred on three soldiers of an U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit working in the streets of Iraq. Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) not only has to deal with the bombs, but also with the psychological effect the war has on his mates Sgt. JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty). Besides, as time goes by, the insurgency gets stronger.
As it was said, The Hurt Locker turns the war genre upside down in that it doesn't have a story per se. However, we can see that such a risky approach by scriptwriter Mark Boal is rather bold. In fact, this independent film focuses on showing the daily lives of soldiers in a midst of a war through 1) their routine (disarming bombs) and 2) the "relaxation" time. All in all, The Hurt Locker, in a nutshell, is a brilliant study of characters.
As a matter of fact, the film may seem disorganized (some scenes may seem insignificant for many), but its focus is on the characters' experience of war on a daily basis since we can sense that some are waiting for the rotation day (i.e. another company takes over). Therefore, the most valuable asset The Hurt Locker can rely on is the impeccable performance from the cast given that the actors play fascinating characters that Hollywood-made war films don't necessarily give us. For that matter, congratulation to Jeremy Renner who does a terrific job in portraying a man who lives by war the same way others live by mountain climbing without gears.
In fact, Staff Sgt. James doesn't give much of a business whether he dies or lives, because he likes his job. At some point, he's trying to realize how much war is the synonym of danger for his brothers in arms. Besides, the fear of death is well rendered by Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty who obviously deserve recognition for their supporting job since their characters have the responsibility to make Staff Sgt. James evolve throughout the story.
Finally, The Hurt Locker is, without a doubt, one of the best films I've seen this summer. Despite drifting away from the traditional scriptwriting convention, The Hurt Locker is going to have some recognition at the next Oscars mostly because of the cast's performance. All in all, we can go as far as to say that this film is almost perfect.
|Starring:||Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty|
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Keith (Joel Thomas Hynes), a young man from a small town of Newfoundland and Labrador, is jobless and wastes his time. When he meets Natasha (Mylène Savoie) his life changes. In fact, they both decide to move to move to St-John's, Newfoundland's biggest city. However, since Keith doesn't look like someone who can get a job and smarten up, Natasha decides to leave him and to take a flight to Halifax, Nova Scotia. From this moment, Keith will do everything to win her love back.
Before you watch this film, bear in mind that the accent of Newfoundland might sound a little bit like the Irish accent. However, since they're North Americans themselves, Newfoundlanders (or Newfies) are much easier to understand than you think.
Besides, at the beginning, one might think that Down to the Dirt has everything to be a good coming-of-age comedy. However, the movie turns out to be a farce. The first reason is due to the fact that the film can't turn the voice-over narration from Keith as an asset. Of course, we all know that Keith feels bad when Natasha leaves him, but we never get to hear Keith's thoughts on becoming a more mature man either from the voice-over or the dialogues.
All in all, talk about a film that has a lot of potential, but has difficulty to develop its characters and to insert any signs of real tension. Had the film been different, I'm sure that the characters of the film would have been way more interesting to follow. Besides, don't be misled by the backcover even though it tells you that Hugh Dillon is in the movie; he just appears for a few minutes only. Did I spoil something? I guess not.
Anyway, I'm not going to waste any more of my time reviewing this film. However, all I can tell you is that the cast delivers a decent performance.
|Screenplay:||Joel Thomas Hynes|
Joel Thomas Hynes, Mylène Savoie, Robert Joy and Hugh Dillon
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
In 2039, Earth is gradually becoming hostile for human life because of pollution. For that matter, the ozone layer had been completely destroyed. This is why the world has turned itself to Canada since 2034 because it has a highly developed space program and it's the first world super power. As always, the crew on the Romano Fafard led by Capt. Charles Patenaude (Guy Jodoin) tries to find a planet where humanity can move once and for all.
Instead of solely sticking to their mission, the crew wants to deport Brad Spitfire (Stéphane Crête), the most hated member of the crew, on the planet Exotica before they go on the planet that can welcome humanity. However, as things get complicated on Exotica, the crew must race against the clock if they want to go the planet fit to welcome humanity.
Whether you're a child or an adult, be sure that this film sticks to the TV series's reputation, which is to make jokes that can enthral people of all ages. These jokes are mostly cultural jokes that Quebeckers (and people from other Canadian provinces to another extent) can understand very easily that hopefully avoid being vulgar. Besides, who cares if the plot twists don't make any sense to you; the most important thing here is to appreciate the jokes. Besides, one may feel even more the reasons to do it since the cast's absurd (but smart) enthusiasm is here to cheer us up.
Finally, some might cringe because of the fact that the film looks a little bit like a level B sci-fi film with a low-budget. However, we shouldn't see things like this, since it's amazing to see how the filmmakers managed to deliver a lot of things with a limited budget.
|Screenplay:||Claude Legault and Pierre-Yves Bernard|
|Starring:||Guy Jodoin, Claude Legault, Didier Lucien, Sylvie Moreau, Mélanie Maynard and Réal Bossé|
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Set in 1988, the film takes place during the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland. While the Protestant Unionists wanted Northern Ireland (which is heavily occupied by the British army) to remain in the UK, most Catholics, on the other hand, wanted to have it integrated in the Republic of Ireland. As a Catholic, Martin McGartland (Jim Sturgess) joins the Irish Republican Army (IRA). However, since he's disgusted by the IRA's savage killings of political opponents and moles, Martin doesn't fully get involved in the IRA as much as his friend Sean (Kevin Zegers). This is why the British secret service sees the arranged arrest of Martin under a bright day.
In fact, Martin accepts to cross the line and works under the supervision of a British handler codenamed Fergus (Sir Ben Kingsley). Martin's job is to infiltrate the IRA (which is already done according to Fergus), inform Fergus about its activities and, in the process, save lives threatened by the IRA. Besides, since he fears for his family's and friends' security, Martin leads a double life. This means that even his girlfriend (Natalie Press) doesn't know a thing about what Martin does in life. Unfortunately, in 1991, Martin's cover gets blown because he leaked vital informations.
Obviously, Fifty Dead Men Walking is a strong film for it aims to be as authentic as possible despite admitting at the beginning that some events were altered. From the use of old news footages (to immerse us in the environment of the time), the gritty depiction of violence as it was practised by both sides (the British and the IRA), the casting of former members of the IRA and the use of Belfast as the shooting location, Kari Skogland shocks us and demonstrates, at the same time, her attention to details. However, some may find Fifty Dead Men Walking's script a little bit oversimplified because it doesn't expose Martin's inner conflict between his patriotism toward Ireland and his service in the British secret service.
As for the acting, Jim Sturgess is simply convincing when it comes to portray Martin's fears or feelings from daily life. As for Sir Ben Kingsley, although his performance might look bland on the surface, most of the things he says are rooted in the different layers of complexity in Fergus's thoughts since Kingsley's role is unfortunately underwritten. This is why the growing friendship between Martin and Fergus (hence, his desire to protect Martin) looks so convincing.
Finally, as Alan from Daily Film Dose puts it, "the Irish accents are laid on thick". Therefore, I only understood half of the dialogues. In other words, I felt like a Frenchman watching a French Canadian (be they from Quebec, New Brunswick or Manitoba) film without subtitles. Nevertheless, even if you're not a buff on Irish History, the film's plot is hopefully easy to follow.
Jim Sturgess, Ben Kingsley, Kevin Zegers, Natalie Press and Rose McGowan