Godard 21's Cinephile journal

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Venice film festival- first day and reactions

I will be covering the Venice film festival sporadically in the following days, so watch out for updates and new posts. Will post news soon.

Ah, the Venice film festival. Last year's festival winner Brokeback Mountain grew into one of the most important and best films of last year among many other films. Now, a year has passed and here we are again. David Lynch is premiering his new film Inland Empire and Aranofsky's The Fountain will be in competition. Oddly, a controversy has emerged regarding the competing Rome film festival which is opening around the same time as the Venice film festival and will premiere Fur, a biopic about the famous photographer Diane Arbus. I find it quite silly that representatives and supporters of the Venice film festival are threatened by the new Rome festival, considering their festival is one of the oldest film festivals in the history of film (if not the oldest). Oh well...on to the films.

After wading through a sea of Venice film festival news stories primarily focused on how sexy Scarlett Johanson is (I...Don't...care), I was able to find a few reactions to Brian Depalma's Black Dahlia, the film which opened the festival yesterday and which features Scarlett Johanson (as well as Aaron Eckhart, Josh Harnett, and Hilary Swank). Suffice it to say, the initial reviews are mixed, but they still acknowledge that the film does possess positive elements. The film was mainly criticized for slight overacting from some actors, some minor comments on the film's writing and structure, but mainly the film has been seen as overplaying some of its film noir content such as the film's love triange involving Josh Harnett. In addition, one critic seemed to think DePalma overdid and exagerrated some of the film's elements. Overall, however, the film appears to be viewed as an interesting, but also a disappointing and flawed film.

However, I stress that I have only been able to find a few critical responses on the film, so if the film receives more praise, I will comment on it and reinterpret the film's critical reception. Sadly, news reporters seem to be more interested in dedicating entire stories to Scarlett Johanson. The festival runs from August 30 to September 9th, so it may be a few days till more critical responses are released.

On a side note, Allen Coulter's Hollywoodland, another noir inspired film, which stars Adrian Brody is getting a response similar to Black Dahlia. Good and passable, but could could have been great. The film revolves around the attempt to solve the mystery of actor George Reeves' murder/death. Reeves played the television version of Superman.

As for Infamous, the odd project which revolves around the same plot as Capote, the creation of his non-fiction novel In Cold Blood. The project had begun around the same time as Capote, but was too far into production to stop upon hearing of a parallel project using the same story. So, now, we have two films with the same plot following each other by a year. Early word on the film is that Toby Jones plays a good Truman Capote and the film itself is good, but does no reach the level of Capote. The strangest happening resulting from the film's showing are the news stories reporting how Daniel Craig lost his "masculine" bond image by engaging in a homosexual kiss with actor Toby Jones. I find these odd news stories floating online to be absolutely ridiculous. Since when does engaging in a gay kiss make you less "masculine" whatever that even means anymore (I personally hate the term). It's rather sad that news reporters are reinforcing these stereotypes for the sake of a minor story. Obsessions with Scarlett Johanson and now this. I am beginnning to despise these online news writers.

On a side note, surprisingly, Daniel Craig plays Perry Smith in the film, so Infamous is definitely going with a different characterization of Smith than Capote.

Finally, the documentary The Us vs John Lennon (which I want to see) has been overall very well received by Venice, despite a few minor critics who did not like it. One reporter even claimed that it could be nominated in the Academy award's documentary category. I can't wait to see this film now.

In order to please my fancy and hopefully yours, here are a few new trailers on the side in order to ease the wait.

Fur (biopic of photographer Diane Arbus)

Pan's Labyrinth (new teaser trailer. Can't wait to see this fantasy film)

Little Children

The Queen

Curse of the Golden Flower- Zhang Yimou's new film after Riding Alone for a Thousand Miles (his new drama). It is a return to the martial arts epic of Hero and House of a Thousand Daggers. I don't know what to think of a new Yimou martial arts film, so here is the trailer. Judge for yourselves.

December picks for my fall preview.

Because I am rushing to cover the Venice film festival, I will merely list my picks and will later update the posts concerning the november and december releases.

Well, here are my picks.

December 1st.

Bug, directed by William Friedkin (The Exorcist, the French Connection). I can barely defend this choice, but, out of most horror films coming out, at least, this one has an interesting premise and this horror/ thriller is directed by William Friedkin who has yet to make a comeback, but is due. For a synopsis and a trailer, merely look back to one of my past posts. In the end, I may give it a shot.

December 8th

The Good German, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney and the always great Cate Blanchett. Anything with Cate Blanchett should be seen, out of principle. In addition, it's been awhile seen Soderbergh has moved past the Ocean Eleven phase (he is making a third last one though) and Bubble boy, despite its unique conception and distribution, did not interest me. This film, however, does. In the film, an American journalist goes to post-war Berlin to find his former mistress only to become immersed into a murder mystery involving a missing husband and a soldier's dead body.

Breaking and Entering, directed by Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain) and starring Jude Law. I don't necessarily like this director, although I am one of the few individuals who defends The English Patient to a certain extent. I still don't think it deserved Best Picture or that it is such a great film, but it is still a "good" and competent film regardless of what others say. This film revolves around a landscape architect who begins to reevaluate his life after an encounter with a young thief. There has been some positive hype for this film and it could be another Oscar hopeful, so the film could turn out to be a competent film. Although, I have doubts with most films starring Jude Law, even though I do not dislike him as an actor in everything.

December 15

The Blood Diamond, directed by Edward Zwick (Glory, The Last Samurai) and starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Djimon Hounsou, and Jennifer Connelly. Although I didn't like Zwick's last project The Last Samurai, he has an interesting cast tied to this one. When I say "interestin cast," I am not referring to Dicaprio, but more Connelly(A Beautiful Mind, Requiem for A Dream) and Hounsou (In America). Within the film, the paths of a mercenary (Dicaprio0, a fisherman (Hounsou), and an American journalist (Connely) connect as they hunt a priceless diamond in the Sierra Leone of the 1990s. It could be an interesting film to watch.

December 22nd.

The Painted Veil, directed by John Curran and starring Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, and Liev Schreiber.

Notes on a Scandal, directed by Richard Eyre and starring Cate Blanchett( a busy and interesting year for Blanchett, it seems) and Judi Dench. This is possibly another Oscar contender depending on the performances. Based on a screenplay by Playwright Patrick Marber (Closer).

December 29th

Pan's Labyrinth, directed by Guillermo del Toro. Can't wait to see this fantasy film. Find the Trailer and watch it.

Perfume, directed by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run). Kubrick once said the novel which this film is based on was impossible to adapt. I guess we'll have to see.

Children of Men- directed by Alfonso Cuaron(Y tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and starring Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Michael Caine, and Chiwetel Ejiofor (love this actor). I have doubts about this science fiction film, mainly because it is based on a PD James novel, but the interesting cast and the director, whom I like, may lure me to the theatres.

Although they do not officially have a release date yet, here are some more films to look out for when they are released either on DVD or in theatres (or through more illegal means).

Half Nelson-Ryan Fleck. (just released awhile ago, but may expand due to positive box office numbers)

The Wind that Shakes the Barley, by Ken Loach and starring Cillian Murphy.

The Host- a strange Korean monster movie.

Time and The Bow by director Kim ki-duk. The Bow will eventually be released on DVD and Time will premiere at one of the recent festivals.

David Lynch's Inland Empire.

Paprika by Japanese animation director Satoshi Kon.

Idiocracy-Mike Judge.

Goya's ghosts-Milos Forman (whenever it comes out)

Letters from Iwo Jima (previously known as Red Sun, Black Sand) - Clint Eastwood

Sweeney Todd- Tim Burton- a Burton musical!!! I'm sold. It isn't even in production yet, but I am already impatient.

If I think of others and I know I will, I will add them.

Monday, August 28, 2006

November releases to watch out for.

Since I am in a hurry, I will merely post my picks and update later with comments as in the October post. Well, here they are.

November 3rd

Volver, directed by Pedro Almodovar. Winner of two awards at Cannes. best screenplay and best actress which was paradoxically awarded to the entire female cast (one of which is Almodovar's past muse, Penelope Cruz). The film is about the return of a dead mother to her home town as a ghost to resolve the problems she could not solve while alive. After her arrival, her invisible presence becomes a comfort to her remaining daughters in the community. I really don't have much to say about this film because the name Almodovar (one of the greatest directors living) should be enough to entice you into seeing it.

Borat-Larry Charles. Having never seen Da Ali G show or any of Sacha Baron Cohen, I don't know what to expect. However, if this mockumentary actually manages to satirize the stereotypical and naive American perception of individuals from the Middle East, in this case, Kazakhstan, then the film may be worth watching. However, if the film's comedy reinforces these already present stereotypes and does not mock them, then I may be inclined to avoid it. I might as well be watching an American action or war film with stereotypical Middle Eastern characters.

Flushed Away-I chose this film mainly since it is a product of the Aardman Animation (Wallace and Gromit among other stop motion short films) and they have yet to let me down. However, I should probably stress that this film is in CG, but a CG which mirrors their past stop motion work (strange, but true).

November 10

An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus -directed by Steven Shainberg and starring Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr. (for some unknown reason, I like this actor). This film is premiering at the Rome festival which will begin shortly and is competing for attention with the Venice film festival. The biopic of the famous photographer Diane Arbus has recently been renamed "Fur" (what a drastic name change, if I ever saw one). Since it wil be released soon at the festival, we will have to wait to gauge its quality, although I am hopeful.

November 17

-The Aura, directed by Fabián Bielinsky (Nine Queens). This is an obscure film with an odd premise. The film revolves around a lonely taxidermist (a rare profession in film) who, through some fateful accident, is allowed to fulfill his dream: to commit the perfect crime. The positive responses to this film are already enough to lure me into seeing it.

November 24

The Fountain - directed by Darren Aranofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Pi) and starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz (loved her in The Constant Gardener). I almost see no need to write a synopsis for this film, considering that I have been harping about it for quite awhile and the hype behind it will eventually reach your deaf ears. In short, this may be one of the most interesting science fiction films to be released this year outside Danny Boyle's Sunshine. Positive test screenings already promise, at the very least, a competent film, although there is still the possibility that the film will turn out to be an ambitious failure. Because I am lazy, here is an incredibly vague synopsis from imdb.com : "As a 16th-century conquistador, Tom (Jackman) discovers the Tree of Life. He spends the next 1,000 years searching for a way to save his love, Izzi (Weisz), as he begins to develop an understanding of the mysteries that have plagued him for centuries." The film itself is divided into three time periods in which Jackman's character will travel.

For Your Consideration - directed by Christopher Guest. It is another Christopher Guest mockumentary. What more could you ask for? The film is oddly about the creation of a film named "Home for Purim" and the three actors who perform within it as the film is already garnering some awards season hype. Guest's film captures the rising hype and excitement caused by the fictional film's production.

Bobby - Emilio Estevez (it's exactly who you are thinking of). This is a historical/fictional film about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Although I have my extreme doubts about Emilio Estevez taking a shot at directing, I'll admit that he has obtained an interesting and oddly ecletic cast which includes Anthony Hopkins (one of my favourite actors), Laurence Fishburne, Demi Moore (?), Martin Sheen, and William H. Macy. On a negative note, the cast also features Lindsey Lohan, Ashton Kutcher, (in a drama!!! A sign of the apocalypse) and a few other odd casting choices. However, the good actors and actresses may compensate for the bad and thus create a competent film. At least, I hope that's what happens.

The History Boys - directed by Nicholas Hytner. A film adaptation of a famous broadway play about reckless and "unruly" students (as a synopsis reads) being taught history at a grammar school in the 1980s by diverse teachers with unique teaching styles. I mention this film because the play on which it is based is very popular (apparently) and they might just be able to pull off whatever attracted individuals to the play in this adaptation. Well, maybe, although adaptations of famous broadway plays are often cursed.

May have a brief 250 word film review of Little Miss Sunshine posted soon.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

October film release dates

First, I'd like to state how happy I am that Kelly Macdonald won best supporting actress in a television movie for "Girl in the Cafe" and that the film itself won the best television movie award at the Emmys (The film features songs by the band Sigur ros which I now love). Sadly, I am probably the only one who cares about this Emmy win or any Emmy win for that matter.

Anyway, on to more of my film picks for the fall. I will eventually update the last post with more a brief one- sentence synopsis for each film and add their respective trailers, if any.

October 6

-The Departed, directed by Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull). Although I have doubts about this American remake of the Hong Kong crime drama "Infernal Affairs," the film could be a potential surprise. The cast features Leonardo Dicaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, among others. The film revolves around two moles within the Boston State Police department and the Irish mafia, respectively, who are both assigned to discover the identity of the mole which has infiltrated their side.

-The Queen, directed by Stephen Frears (Dirty Pretty Things)- The film stars Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II and, if played well, her role may garner her an academy nomination. Coincidently, Helen Mirren has also played Queen Elizabeth I in the television miniseries Elizabeth I. Hopefully, she will avoid the dismal fate of being typecast as royalty for the rest of her life. This specific film depicts Queen Elizabeth's reaction to the death of Princess Diana as well as the following conflict with Prime Minister Tony Blair over the impact of the tragedy in the public and private sphere.

October 13

-Sunshine, directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting). A science fiction film starring Cillian Murphy about a crew of astronauts sent to regenerate a part of a dying sun years after the mysterious disappearance of the last expedition. Why I am interested in this film? It's Danny Boyle and Cillian Murphy is an interesting new actor.

-Shortbus- directed by John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch). From this point on, this film will probably be reductively known as the "kinky sex" movie which is quite sad since it is mean to be genuinely good. In fact, it was supposedly one of the few bright spots at the disappointing Cannes film festival. I can't wait to see it, but I doubt it will evern come to any theatre near here.

-Little Children, directed by Todd Field (In the Bedroom). This film is possibly another contender (which is never always a good thing) for next year's Oscars which stars both Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly. The film's plot revolves around the intersecting lives of two newlywed couples within a community and the trouble which arises from this unstable relationship. The film is an adaptation of a Tom Perrotta novel.

October 20th

Flags of our Fathers, directed by Clint Eastwood(Unforgiven, Mystic River). Having already covered this film, I see no need for a new synopsis. Suffice it to say, this is the first film of Eastwood's twin project involving the battle of Iwo Jima from the American perspective. The other film is Red Sun, Black Sand which depicts the Japanese perspective of the war with an entire Japanese cast who speak Japanese (Rob Marshall could learn some lessons from this project).

Marie Antoinette, directed by Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation). I'll need to explain this choice. Despite the tepid reception at the Cannes film festival, my dislike of Kirsten Dunst, and the historical innacuracies which are bound to plague the film, this film may not be as bad as claimed. First, at Cannes, there was also enough critics who actually enjoyed the film and it was reported that the initial boos after its showing were rather small in number and grossly exagerrated. Although the film has been criticized as superficial by some, the cinematography as well as set and costume design (the costumes will probably garner it an Academy award nomination) seen in the trailer could redeem the film of a few flaws. In other words, the film looks beautiful and could satisfy me on a purely superficial level ("wow, look at all the pretty colours" superficial). I still doubt the film will be good and I am not a personal fan of Sofia Coppola's last works, but, given my low expectations, it could surprise me.

The Prestige, directed by Christopher Nolan (Following, Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins).
Christopher Nolan's next film starring the always interesting Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman (who is considerably less interesting). The film revolves around the intense rivalry between two magicians. A rivalry which will have grave consequences for both involved.

Running with Scissors - directed by Ryan Murphy. This is another of those comedy/drama films with a quirky and disfunctional family somewhat akin to Little Miss Sunshine. In the film, Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross) is handed over by his emotionally distraught mother and alcoholic father to his mother's therapist, Dr. Finch, played by Brian Cox. One of the main draws for this film is its cast. The film features Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Brian Cox, Annette Bening, Evan Rachel Wood, Joseph Cross, and Alec Baldwin. What made me choose this film as one of my fall picks was its interesting trailer. If you look at my past and earliest posts, you can find a link to the trailer.

October 27

Babel- directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Amorres Perros, 21 Grams). For this film, Inarritu won the best director award at the Cannes film festival. Although some reactions were mixed, the majority was very positive. This is actually one of the films I am most anticipating this fall. The film's cast is composed of Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Kôji Yakusho. I love both the past work of the director and writer Guillermo Arriaga who have collaborated to produce Amores Perros and 21 Grams. Arriaga recently wrote the screenplay for the film "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" which is also a good film (although not great).

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Films to watch out for in the fall

Ah, Fall, the season when good films emerge from the tattered remains of the cinematic cesspool known as the summer. It is also during the fall when all those oscar hopefuls come out. Some of them are good while others become mediocre dissapointments.

Now, I will list what I think are the most interesting films coming out to theatres this fall along with their release date. If you wish to know more about these films, then head over to imdb.com. If it pleases my fancy, I will later attempt to provide a synopsis for each or trailers which often explain the film's premise. I will also add and update the list withh more films as I go on. Anyway, here are my picks.

September 1st

-This Film is Not Yet Rated-a documentary by Kirby Dick attacking the often arbitrary methods of the MPAA ratings system.

-Riding Alone for a Thousand Miles- film directed by Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, Ju-Dou, Hero) about a father who travels to China to videotape a famous opera player's performance to compensate for his past actions towards his estranged son.

September 8th

Hollywoodland - Allen Coulter. Hearing some interesting things about this film, but I still have vague reservations, given that it features Ben Affleck (who dies in the film, which is a plus).

September 15th

Black Dahlia - a film directed by Brian DePalma. I know, I know, the film features Josh Harnett whom I hate and DePalma hasn't made a good film in quite awhile (I would say since the Untouchables), but this film could actually be good. Possibly. I don'k know anymore.

The Us vs John Lennon - a documentary about the repressive actions taken by the US government to silence John Lennon's antiwar activism.

September 22nd

The Science of Sleep- a film directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind) starring Gael Garcia Bernal. Although, the film has received mixed to negative reviews, many agree that the film is visually beautiful, but lacks proper narrative structure (which Kaufman may have provided) and competent performances. Still, it could be interesting...on a purely superficial level.

All The King's Men - Steve Zaillan. Although this may be a clear Oscar pony and it possesses the stigma of being known as a remake, the cast is too good to ignore. It features Sean Penn who seems to be overacting in every scene, but the rest of the cast such as Patricia Clarkson and Anthony Hopkins will probably compensate.

September 29

The Last King of Scotland - directed by Kevin Macdonald. Although the trailer is underwhelming and Forrest Whitaker seems to overact to an insane degree in it, there is very little else coming out this weekend of interest except the following film.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints- directed by Dito Mondiel. A Sundance hit and winner of two awards (best director and best ensemble) in the vein of Scorsese's Mean Streets, only set in the 198os. There has been a lot of praise for this film and Robert Downey Jr.'s perfomance as well as that of Shia LaBeouf. So, I'm quasi-interested (I should stop using the prefix "quasi").

Will continue fall preview soon.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Shortbus trailer

In preparation for university, I will be updating less on this website from now on, although I will still be covering the Venice film festival (next week, I believe).

For now, watch this extended trailer of John Cameron Mitchell's next film shortbus. Mitchell was the director of Hedwig and the Angry Inch (and he played Hedwig). The film is about a group of new yorkers who discover an underground salon (named Shortbus) which features art, politics, drugs, and kinky sex, well, mostly the latter. The film premiered at Cannes and was one of the very few films to survive unscathed from the disappointing festival (Southland Tales, on the other hand, did not). It is mean to be a very open exploration of sexuality and human relationships. I am one of the very few who really wants to see this film despite its overt sexually graphic nature. Mainly, because I loved Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and can't wait to see what director John Cameron Mitchell has created now. Well, here is a link where you can glance at the full trailer with an introduction by John Cameron Mitchell.



Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Uwe Boll boxing match and new William Friedkin movie trailer

Remember when Uwe Boll (Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead, Bloodrayne), one of the world's worst directors, challenged the critics, who gave his films bad reviews, to a boxing match, of all things. We all had a good collective laugh over that absurd challenge. I thought dueling over dissenting opinions was over quite a few centuries ago. Well, apparently, it is actually happening and some critics have accepted to enter the ring. The boxing event will take place in Vancouver of British Columbia (Canada!!! I wish I could go see Boll getting pummeled!).

Think of it, Canada may now be known as the country in which Boll was finally punished for his cinematic sins. What an honour. I could not be more sarcastic.

In addition, there is always the chance that Boll is a boxing genius and will trounce all his opponents. Although, I sincerely doubt it and hope not. The man must be held accountable for his artistic crimes against humanity.


On a side note, the teaser trailer for new film "Bug" (stupid title) by director William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) has just been released. The film appears to be a horror film or thriller about a paranoid war veteran who sees bugs everywhere (or are they real?) and secludes himself in a hotel room with "lonely woman" as a synopsis reads. For some reason, the trailer reminded me of an X-files episode in which bugs entered the characters flesh and drove them insane. There are hints of that in the trailer, although the entire bug infestation may just be a collective hallucination. Who knows? It looks quasi-interesting and rather unique coming from Friedkin. However, it contains the actor Michael Shannon whom I hated in the film World Trade Center (which I also hated). The film also features Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr.. Well, here's the teaser.


Lastly, here is a trailer for the documentary about the arbitrary and repressive nature of the MPAA ratings committee entitled This Film is Not Yet Rated. I can't wait to see this film, although its weak trailer does nothing to further my interest. The interesting response to the film, however, does.

Here is the trailer:

In addition, for a quick rundown of the MPAA rating system, watch this funny clip promo for the film (well, quasi-funny). http://www.ifilm.com/ifilmdetail/2759205

Saturday, August 19, 2006

New hilarious trailer of Macbeth reinterpretation among other things

I just found a trailer for a September bound modern remake of Shakespeare's Macbeth and it is absolutely hilarious. In order for others to benefit from the healing powers of laughter, I share it with you.


In addition, here is a new trailer for "The Host," the bizarre Korean monster movie involving a killer tadpole which apparently has been receiving overwhelmingly positive reactions. I am somehow intrigued.


In terms of news, Charlie Kaufman (writer of Being John Malkovitch, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind) will be directing his first film "Synecdoche" (a literary term) with Philip Seymour Hoffman (love this guy) and Michelle Williams who have just been announced in the cast.

The release of an anti-war documentary in Japan called The Ants by Kaoru Ikaya which revolves around a group of Japanese imperial soldiers who were ordered to continue fighting in China even after WWII's end. In addition, the Japanese Prime Minister visit to a war memorial site which honors former war criminals has angered the Chinese government and prompted them to announce the production of a Chinese documentary on the Rape of Nanking. Odd developments this week.

Well, that's all for now. I may update this post later with more news. Near the end of august, I will be covering the Venice film festival. Before then, I may give you some information about the New York Film festival (although, a lot of its films are the same as those in the Venice and Toronto festivals).

Friday, August 18, 2006

Finally, the trailer to "Guide to Recognizing your Saints" has returned.

Here is a link to a trailer of a sundance hit which won two awards and some claimed to be the best film of the festival. Hell, some claimed it saved the festival from mediocrity. Robert Downey Jr.'s performance has been praised considerably along with the rest of the cast who won an ensemble award at the festival. Dito Mondiel, the director, even won the best director award for a dramatic feature. A few weeks ago the trailer went up on myspace, but only for a day. Now, it's back for your viewing pleasure. Here it is.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Tim Burton News, dancing Christopher Walken, and other random news

Apparently, recently, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have finally secured the rights to the broadway musical thriller "Sweeney Todd" (which is set in the Victorian period) which combines comedy with gothic elements (pure Burton) and production will commence shortly for a film adaptation. Because my fingers are tired, here is the news story from rottentomatoes along with a synopsis. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/news/comments/?entryid=354615

A film which combines the best of Burton and a musical (a supposedly great musical at that). Hell, I'm sold. It's just sad that we'll have to wait till 2007 to see it.

Speaking of musicals, also announced this week is the casting of Christopher Walken in a remake of John Waters' 1988 comedy musical Hair Spray. If Chrisopher Walken dances and sings, I'm in. Although to see Walken dance, I could just as well watch the Spike Jonze music video Weapon of Choice. Meh, I'd rather watch Walken go crazy on a dance floor in the context of a film and if he sings, it will be an added bonus (I doubt it though). Here is a link to the story.

Lastly and most bizarrely is the news of two twin projects revolving around the same source material. The material is "Journey into the West," a very well known and popular Chinese fantasy tale (which I have been trying to find, but alas I could not). On one side, Jet Li and Jackie Chan will pair up for the first time to create a film in which a modern martial artist travels back in time to confront the Monkey King (of the Chinese fantasy tale). The odd part of this story is the rumour that Peter Jackson is interested in directing this film (who knew?). Although, it is only a rumour. Frankly, this project does not interest me so much because it just sounds silly, but the second rumoured project does.

The other rumoured twin project based on this fantasy tale is just as strange in terms of the paired collaborators. Apparently, Steven Spielberg wants to direct an adaptation of the fantasy tale along with Zhang Yimou (whom I love). An odd pairing, for sure, but this project will probably be a closer adaptation of the tale than one involving a time traveling martial artist. I am excited just because Zhang Yimou is interested and I have always loved the beautiful cinematography of his films. Although, this one could be a complete fabrication. Yet, I can always dream.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

New Clint Eastwood movie Trailers and random news

A new trailer has just been released for Clint Eastwood's new film projects, Flags of our Fathers and Red Sun,Black Sand. Both films deal with the battle for Iwo Jima between the United States and the Imperial Japanese army during WWII. When I first heard about Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers, I thought "oh no, not another patriotic American war movie which completely demonizes another nation". Recently, I learned that Eastwood was making two films on the battle of Iwo Jima simultaneously (I believe), both scheduled for release in either 2006 or 2007. One film "Flags of our Fathers" tells the story of the battle from the American perspective while "Red Sun, Black Sand" tells the story entirely from the Japanese perspective. More interestingly, "Red Sun, Black Sand" has an entire Japanese cast (including Ken Watanabe!!!)who will actually speak Japanese in the film as opposed to Memoirs of a Geisha which forced its actors to speak English for American consumers and ignorantly casted Chinese actresses in Japanese roles (because, to the ignorant Rob Marshall, what's the difference). Thank you Eastwood.

Never have I ever heard of a similar project (or twin projects). While "Flags of our fathers" may still be the patriotic movie I envisioned(although, maybe not), Red Sun, Black Sand will compensate for this by demystifying the so called enemy (or the Japanese"Other") by showing their human relationships behind the battlefield. Eastwood has managed to circumvent the errors of former directors who have depicted an American war with an extremely one-sided bias by depicting both sides and dedicating two films to exploring them in full depth. Now, I am quite excited to see both films and will be there on opening day for both.

Anyway, here is a link to the trailer which incorporates footage from both films and surprisingly both films look quite good (I can only hope they will be also). It is a Japanese trailer, but you should still watch it.


On a side note, I found the news of Canadian director Atom Egoyan (Exotica, The Sweet hereafter) becoming a professor at the university of Toronto rather interesting, considering I trying to decide where to go for graduate school. It would be awesome to be taught by Egoyan. Although, he only teaches undergraduate courses and I would not base my decision for graduate studies on the presence of one single person. I am still mainly contemplating York university and Concordia.

Lastly, last weekend, Kevin Smith starred as a guest reviewer for the recuperating Ebert on the Ebert and Roeper show and here is a link to the audio of the show.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Film Review of Brick and DVDs to watch out for tuesday

Next tuesday (or this tuesday), there will be some interesting new DVD releases and here are some of them. By the way, I tend to avoid mentioning the comercial releases which will flood the local blockbuster and rental stores. Simply, because it does please my fancy to recommend what is most often garbage (ahem..Scary Movie 4). Although, if there is an interesting comercial film being released, I will comment on it.

For horror fans, Silent Hill is coming out this tuesday, although I always have misgivings over videogame adaptations (I have recurring nightmares over Super Mario Bros and Street Fighter) and it seems that they making adaptations of anything. Dead or Alive is being turned into a film. For god's sake, awhile back, there was an videogame adaptation of pacman announced. How the hell is that even possible?

L'Enfant, the winner of the 2005 Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film festival. Definitely rent. I will. Actually, don't, so my chances of renting it will increase tenfold. Arguably, the most interesting release of this week.

Two disc collector's edition of Apocalypse Now. Finally, a DVD of the film which isn't Redux (which I hate).

A new Criterion collection release, Six Moral Tales by Eric Rohmer, which you most likely won't be able to afford because, as every one knows, the producers of the criterion collection are blood sucking leeches. Blood sucking leeches which manage to make me fork over excessive amounts of money on a regular basis. Damn them and their high quality products.

Henri Langlois: The Phantom of the Cinematheque. Documentary about the founder of la cinemateque française.

Eternity and a Day. Oddly, another Palme D'or winner, this time for 1998. The film stars Bruno Ganz who was fantastic in the German film Downfall as Hitler. Another film, like L'Enfant, which I hope to rent, but its chances of arriving are very slim.

Review of Brick.

Last tuesday, I finally rented and saw this film. I had been waiting for it for an entire year after seeing its trailer. The film's odd premise and my liking of the film noir is what lured me to watch it. Rian Johnson's Brick is a film noir detective story set in a high school environment in which our anti-hero Brendan, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (yes, that actor from Third Rock from the Sun, of all people), seeks to find out the cause of his ex-girlfriend Emily's problems within the town's drug market which is run by a teenager named the Pin. He is helped by a high school student known as the Brain in this quest. Oddly, the film is not a parody of the film noir genre, but more a modern tribute to its style and content. Anyone who has watched enough film noir films either those of Bogart or Wilder (Double Indemnity) will be able to spot all the subtle (and not so subtle) asides and parallels to the genre. Even some of the film's camera shots parallel those seen in past film noir films. The films contains familiar elements such as the femme fatale. Oddly enough, the school's principal (V.P) substitutes for the police and holds Brendan on a leash. The quick and often intentionally exagerrated dialogue of film noir is preserved in the film and may annoy some, but I loved it. It may be cheesy at times, but it is damn entertaining and often hilarious, especially when the film takes itself seriously.

Now, as for the acting, although it may initially appear as if Gordon-Levitt lacks the ability to emote in certain of the film's scenes, he is clearly trying to mimic the dead-pan and cold personaliy of former film noir anti-heroes like those played by Humphrey Bogart. Thus, his acting style is in complete conformance with the film's goal. Everyone else in the cast plays their role solidly.

If there was one quasi-problem I had with the film, it was that, for a revisionist film noir which played with the genre's conventions, I wished it had subverted them more. Although, this minor criticism can not lower my estimation of the film which I have seen because any critic should never judge a film based on one's expectations. Too many critics review the film they wanted to see rather than the film they have just watched which is why you should most likely ignore my critical aside.

Although, back to my aside, I did wish for the film to subvert more the often misogynist undertones of 1940 and 1950s film noir hidden beneath the characterization of the femme fatale who was demonized for her active nature. While it is difficult to argue when this initially misogynist characterization became transformed into a convention devoid of its former attributes, I still desired the film to do more because it often plays right into the femme fatale convention. However, this is a film noir convention and it can not necessarily be avoided if one wishes to construct a tribute to film noirs. The film, however, appears to dissipate the overt misogynist tradition of some past film noirs (not all of them). In addition, the film has a subtle critique of masculine responsibility (and obliviousness) which counters most of the potential negative influences which could emerge from the strict adherence to the femme fatale convention. In the end, I really liked this film, but I don't know how if a viewer, unconnected to the genre's past, will appreciate it as much. Although, I could see some of the uninitiated really liking this odd and unique film.

Lastly, I will admit that the film is pure pulp entertainment, but that was some pretty good "pulp".

Go rent it and try it out. Then post your comments on the film.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Random film news and two reviews

I have just realized that my last post was the equivalent of a 45 minute seminar (which I once had the displeasure of doing) in blog form. So, never again will I post such a lenghty entry. Mainly, because it is tiring on the hands. Soon, I will have a picture of myself posted on the blog, thus destroying any shred of visual anonymity I have left.

First, here is a link to an indiewire article spotlighting various interesting foreign films which will be premiering in upcoming film festivals (including Venice and Toronto). I found it to be a good article, so I find no need to paraphrase it (which I would never do) and here it is.


New Toronto Film festival announcements include the premiere of the new film by Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man), Rescue Dawn, with Christian Bale, which is about the escape of a US POW prisoner from a Vietnamese prison camp.
Here is a trailer: http://www.moviesonline.ca/movienews_6744.html
I can't really judge the film, but the trailer is horrible. Apparently, if I am to understand the trailer, Vietnam is a land of "darkness" from which Bale's character must escape in order to enter the "Light" (ugh...why?).

Christopher Guest (a writer of This is Spinal Tap, director of Best in Show) is premiering his new film "For your Consideration" at the Toronto Film festival.

This weekend, Sundance hit Half-Nelson is getting insanely positive reviews, but it will never come here. Ever. So, I will probably be in a depressive funk for an entire week. For the curious, the film's entire score is done by the Toronto band Broken Social Scene. Although, due to its positive reception, there may be hope for a wider release like "Little Miss Sunshine" which is being expanded on August 18 (crossing my fingers that it comes here).

World Trade Center is getting overall positive reviews, although it does not interest me in the slightest and is bound to once again reinforce the us/them mentality between the US and everybody else. With the new foiled terrorist plot bound to reinforce this same dichotomy though overexposure in the media, the film will only add fuel to the fire.
A Brazilian film called "House of Sand" is doing fairly well critically at this point and so is another film in limited release named "Concersations with Other Women" with Helena Bonham Carter.

Now for the two brief film DVD reviews (and I stress brief).

First, The Libertine with Johnny Depp. Spoilers.

After watching this film, I first thought the critics are being way too harsh on this film and it is not that bad a film. Although, it is a very good film neither. It is actually not much of anything, really which is surprising considering that the film is based on the life of the well known sexual debauchee and libertine poet and dramatist, John Wilmott, the Earl of Rochester. How anyone can make the life of the Earl of Rochester uninteresting is beyond me, but this film achieves it. First, the actors. While Johnny Depp is usually competent in any film, here, he moves from being "good" to passable and then to just "bad". In some scenes, Depp overacts considerably while in others he appears to be given the audience a performance similar to that seen in his other films and unfitting to his character. Although, it is not all bad and often Depp does rather well with the role. His prologue to the film is a great opening. Aside from Depp, Samantha Morton is fine in her role as Lizzie Barrie, but not as good as she could have been. As for the other actors, things do not fare so well. Rosamund Pike, who plays Wilmott's wife, is simply horrible and embarasses Depp in every scene she shares. In one particular scene near the end, her acting is beyond bad and somehow manages to ruin Depp's performance in the scene. John Malkovitch, who I rarely like, manages to play King Charles well enough (which was surprising to me).

Although, in the actors' defense, often the film's writing could be held to blame for poor scenes. However, overall, the writing is fine and actually quite funny at times. In no other film, will you hear music about the adventures of a King named "Senor Dildo"?

Yet, my main problem with the film was with the horrible pacing, editing and the seeming lack of a point for it all. Many of the film's scenes are not linked properly and feel disjointed when placed next to one another. Often, the film leaps in time too quickly and does not develop its events with as much care as earlier in the film. Near the end of the film, this problem is more visible and the rest of the film feels rushed. In addition, the film develops Wilmott so poorly and characterizes with so negatively near the end that he can not even play the role of the anti-hero against a Puritan society which the film tries to make him conform to. When the film attempts to turn him into a converted martyr, I am puzzled as to how does the film's previous depiction of the character justify this abrupt change in image. Nor do I believe it, despite his one action of redemption. And, I have yet to find an answer. In good hands, the film could have pulled it off. All the elements are there to do so, but the performances fail to convince. If you wish to see how a film can take a character like John Wilmott and turn him into an anti-hero against oppressive forces, simply watch "Quills" again to see Geoffrey Rush's insance and fantastic performance as the Marquis de Sade. In the end, I am in perfect agreement with Wilmott's statement in the prologue "You will not like me," only I would apply it to the film itself and not the character whom I could have liked if the film had done him justice.

I will update my post with a review of "Brick" by Rian Johnson which just came out this tuesday and which film noir fans should see.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Stray thoughts on Dogma 95, film news, and trailers

Here are new recently released trailers.

Here is a trailer for Catch a Fire, the new film of Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger, The Quiet American, Rabbit-Proof Fence).


Here is a trailer for a film called "The Last King of Scotland" by director Kevin Macdonald, who previously directed the excellent documentary Touching the Void.


Random film news.

Paul Giamati is set to play Philip K. Dick in an upcoming biopic. Odd coincidence, since the last film I reviewed, Scanner Darkly, was based on one of his novels. I love Giamati, so I'm intrigued.

Director Rian Johnson's next film will be The Brothers Bloom. He directed last year's Brick which just came out today and I will watch shortly (and then write up a review later in the week).

Alan Ball (the writer of American Beauty and Six Feet Under) will be directing his first film, which is as of now untitled, but reportedly inspired by a novel named Towelhead by Alicia Erian. Here is a link to a description of the premise and the story. http://www.empireonline.com/news/story.asp?NID=19291

Lastly, Wes Anderson's next film is named The Darjeeling Limited and Adrian Brody and Jason Schwartzman have just joined the cast.

Idle thoughts on the Dogma 95 movement.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of finally being able to watch two dogma 95 films, The Idiots by Lars Von Trier and Festen by Thomas Vintenberg. Both directors wrote the cinematic manifesto for the dogma 95 movement which began in 1995 when Von Trier unveiled it to the world in Copenhagen. Now, at this point, I had read the manifesto from the dogma 95 website (oddly, they have their own website, here ) and understood the movement's basic (as well as excessively bizarre) tenets and goals. http://www.dogme95.dk/menu/menuset.htm

However, after reading it once, I came to the realization that some of the movement's strict guidelines were just a tad excessive (somewhat of an understatement) and thought: How can these insane guidelines not impair the natural flexibility which directors need to work and aren't they all a little silly? Then, I remembered the actual name of the said manifesto, The Vow of Chastity, and then thorougly benefited from the healing powers of laughter for a good two hours. The following question arose: What the fuck does "chastity" have to do with film or cinema? Possibly, the word "chastity" was meant to convey the stringent self-repression needed to actually make a dogma film, but this explanation did nothing to reduce the sheer stupidity of the manifesto's name.

Then came the introduction before the manifesto and its harangue against the 1960 French New Wave (not specifically, but implied) and the general cinematic innovation of the 1960s. According to the dogmatists, although once reacting in defiance to the "bourgeois" concept of art, the directors of this wave became "bourgeois" themselves and thus did not represent a genuine cinematic revoltuion. If you want to disparage an entire movement without any argument, then simply proclaim it as the creation of the bourgeoisie and you do not have to any further. Arguments and rational criticism, who needs those? Thus, the directors who once rebelled against bourgeois conventions were now seen as hypocrites and the fabricators of an internal revolt which became an obstacle to cinematic progress. If labelling them "bourgeois" does not work, then simply call them "decadent film-makers". Although, there is some truth to this claim in that most of the New Wave directors were middle class, this fact does not negate their entire work and render it worthless. In addition, the term "bourgeois" has such a wide definition that Lars von Trier, Thomas Vintenberg, and other dogmatists could just as well be accused of being "bourgeois" and thus contributing to bourgeois cinema (whatever that is). Are they also guilty of an internal revolt? Umm...possibly.

The preface to the manifesto then goes on to declare auteur cinema or cinema produced through individualism as "decadent" (another silly label which is thrown around quite frequenly). In contrast, dogmatists construct films through harsh discipline and work together to create a uniform film. Furthermore, dogmatists believe cinema must reflect reality rather than propagate illusions or cinematic cosmetics (if you do the latter, then you are obviously a "decadent"filmmaker which is frowned upon). Oddly, if the dogmatists acknowledge that the French New Wave or 1960s film movements were initially anti-bourgeois (and they do on their website), but eventually degenerated into triviality, then by taking a diametrically opposed position and aesthetics to this once "anti-bourgeois" movement with "anti-bourgeois" aesthetics, are the dogmatists not simply returning to a "bourgeois" conception of art. In fact, the modernists of the twentieth century reacted against realism and classicism in art because they deemed it a reflection of "bourgeois" triviality. Its emphasis on the material world, its truth, and its uniformity were all grounds for frustration among modernists who desired more subjective, individualistic, and ambiguous art. Is the dogma movement's realism then "bourgeois" by promoting an extreme form of realism? It is all rather absurd and funny when one thinks of it too much.

Although, not as funny as the actual manifesto, dubiously titled "The Vow of Chastity" (I get chills everytime I write it).

First rule.
All shooting must be done on location. No constructed sets in order to emphasize the complete reality of the environment. Sounds reasonable enough. Yet, there is an added qualification to this stipulation. The props needed for a scene must be found on the location and can not be brought in. If they are not on the location, the director must find a location with the needed prop in place. Now, this is the part which seems a bit much. Picture the perfect shooting location and you need a specific prop which the location lacks . Alas, you could not obtain the prop and shoot in this Edenic location according to a staunch dogmatist. If I had to follow such rules, I could go stark raving mad over the lack of a broom on a specific location.

Second rule.
Sound must never come from outside the film's events, so as to disrupt the sense of realism. So, no film scores by John Williams or any composer. A real pity.

Third rule.
The camera must be hand-held at all times to emphasize the realism of the scene because all humans see reality as if from a wobbly camera perspective (this could arguably be true, although it still is odd). This rule is feasible and perfectly understandable. This is one of the lesser stringent restrictions and Lars von Trier would use it frequently in his future films, although his other films do not all qualify as dogma films (in fact, only "The Idiots" does, which emphasizes the difficulty of actually following these rules).

Fourth rule.
The film must be shot in colour. No special lighting is permitted. So, the beautiful and atmospheric colour compositions in urban landscapes of cinematographer Christopher Doyle would be impossible. Hell, some have actually claimed that a shot from Festen defies the dogma movement (including the director himself). It was a shot through a window curtain or near a window curtain where the light could be interpreted as artificial light. Dear God, these people are finicky and obsess over the most trivial details (almost like a bourgeois gentleman obssessively seeking to keep up appearances).

Fifth rule
Optical work and filters are not allowed during shooting. Now, come on, really. Bah. As a result of this silly stipulation, credits can not be shown in the normal fashion since they are deemed to be an optical intrusion. Thus, in The Idiots, the credits are hand-written with a chalk on a wooden board (or was it on a pavement). Why...just...why would you do that? Who cares? Really, what is wrong with these people?

Sixth rule.
The film must not possess any superficial actions such as actions involving weapons or murders, etc... Honestly, this rule is so vague that I doubt any film would get made if it was sincerely followed. There is no such thing as a superficial action inside film and in real life. According to the manifesto, a murder is a superficial action. Right...sure. If this rule were applied to Hamlet, there would not be a play because Claudius' murder of Hamlet's father would be appropriately excised for its superficiality. Sometimes, what is named a superficial action can be an important motivating force which moves the story.

Seventh rule
Temporal and geographical dislocation is forbiden. The story must take place in a specific environment and time (no Pulp Fiction or Memento-like narratives here). This rule is actually understandable given the movement's aesthetic goals.

Eight Rule
Genre films are forbidden. Now, virtually, any film can be categorized into a genre if one tried hard enough and new genres are bound to be invented later in the future, so good luck with that.

9th Rule
The film format should be Academy 35 mm. This rule is just trivial and reflects a pointless constraint on the filmmaker.

10th rule
The director should never be credited in order to subvert auteur cinema and its reliance on individualism. In all due honesty, who are these directors kidding? Everybody knows who made the film, so what is the difference whether he is not directly credited in the film. The Idiots is still known as a Lars Von Trier film. Von Trier was even nominated for a few awards for this film and won one. And, I thought he didn't direct the film.

In the end, I don't hate dogma films and I actually liked both The Idiots and Festen, but its excessive restrictions and inability to accept artistic flexibility would drive any director mad. Even Von Trier has not yet made another dogma film, although he keeps manipulating some the movement's components (hand-held cameras). Yet, when I see the long list of small and often trivial aesthetic constraints which these directors impose upon themselves in the name of realism and opposition to cinematic illusion, I am reminded of that stereotypical image of the nineteenth century bourgeois gentlemen who with similar overt discipline desires to achieve society's idealized individual within a material world while often forgetting his true self, or, in this case, his true artistic temperament.

However, all in all, Von Trier and Vintenberg have managed to evade this problem and produced two good films (I am still puzzled as to how after glancing once more at their inflexible manifesto), so what matters if their method is insane and self-destructive, given the positive end result. Self-sacrifice can often produce good art as well as artistic selfishness.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

News, more trailers of films to watch out for

My grandfather just had an operation, so I will not be able to post the lengthy topics I had planned for now. In order to compensate, here is some news, an assessment of the weekend's films, and some more trailers of interest.

For those interested, the Hellboy sequel has finally been attached to a new studio, Universal and will be undergoing production soon. Honestly, I wasn't much of a fan of the Hellboy film and I am definitely not a fan of most sequels. Although, I am a fan of the graphic novel (which a friend once lent to me) and series with its occasional emphasis on Gothic elements, myth, and folklore.

Sadly, some studio executives have greenlit a sequel to National Treasure. I have officially lost faith in humanity.

Critical assessment of this weekend's openings.

The Descent

According to its incredibly positive critical reception, this may be one of the best horror films to come out in a while or, actually, the only good horror film to come out. Given that horror films seem to be cursed in the critical world, the positive reviews that this film has been showered with are very surprising, in fact, quite puzzling giving the genre's poor history with the critics.
So, there must be something unique about this British horror film to avoid the horror film curse which is why you should go see it.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Oddly, this Ferrell comedy is also getting positive reviews which is a surprising feat for anything containing Will Ferrell. Like Anchorman (who also directed this film), the film probably contains a similar comic style. so, if you liked Anchorman, you will most likely enjoy this film. As for me, I've already tired of Will Ferrell's antics, so I will skip it.

Both the Night Listener with Robin Williams and Barnyar are not faring very well critically. Actually, the films are supposedly the equivalent of cinematic garbage, so avoid at all costs.

The film Quinceañera (despite its spanish title, it is an English film) is doing quite well with critics, although viewer reactions are not as positive. However, due to its limited release, I doubt it will ever make here.

Now, for more trailers of films to anticipate and frustrate you because you will never see them till they come out on DVD in two years' time.

Here is a trailer of All the King's Men with Sean Penn in which Penn seems to be overacting in every scene. Although, I will reserve my judgment till I see it.

Here is a trailer for Ken Loach's "The Wind that Shakes the Barley," (which contains Cillian Murphy who has been praised for his performance in this film). This is the film that took the Palme D'or at this year's Cannes film festival. I can't wait to see this film.

http://www.allocine.co.uk/film/video_gen_cfilm=110201.html (click on the high definition trailer link)

This is the trailer to Terry Gilliam's newest film Tideland (it should be finished and this is an old trailer) which will hopefully allow him to redeem himself for the Brothers Grimm. I don't even know what to make of this strange trailer, but it still looks better than Grimm. I only wish Gilliam could actually finish "The Man who Killed Don Quixote" at one point in the future.

Although I have no trailer, I would also like spotlight the next film of Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 days later, millions), Sunshine, which is a science fiction film opening in October (I think) and starring Cillian Murphy. Here is the official website with some making of videos. It's the best I can do. http://www.sunshinedna.com/videos/8

Interesting films coming this tuesday: Brick (a film which I will rent post-haste), The Hidden Blade (I want to see this film NOW!!), Don't Come knocking, and The Inside Man (one of Spike Lee's better films), Manderlay (by Lars Von Trier), and Cavite.

Next post: I will give my opinions about my recent exposure to dogma 95 films.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

More upcoming Toronto festival films and a sundance trailer

Having ignored the festival for a few stray posts on different subjects, I am returning to the Toronto International film festival.

In terms of documentaries, the festival will premiere a Kurt Cobain documentary entitled "Kurt Cobain about a Son" by director AJ Schnack. Another music oriented documentary which will soon make its North American premiere at the festival, is The Us vs John Lennon" which will depict Lennon's rising anti-war stance and the American government's repressive reaction. Here is the trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/lions_gate/theusvsjohnlennon/large.html

For punk rock fans (which does not really include myself), the documentary "American Hardcore" will reveal the rising punk scene in the 1980s within both the United States and Canada.

Another interesting documentary is Tony Kaye's Lake of Fire. Tony Kaye was the director of American History X. The film is a look at the ongoing debate over abortion and its relation to the courtroom and society.

A documentary entitled Primo Levi's Journey by Davide Ferrario is one that I would like the see. It is about a Holocaust survivor and scholar who returns to Auschwitz to confront his past. In addition, another documentary which intrigues me with its original premise is "Blindsight," by Lucy Walker a film abou two blind Tibetan teens who decide to scale a part of Mount Everest with the help of a famous blind mountain climber named Erik Weihenmayer. Having loved Touching the Void, I feel the need to see another interesting mountain climbing documentary.

As for non-documentary films, there are too many too list and I will have to wait to hear their critical reception to gauge which ones to spotlight. However, I will mention a few more.

Glancing at the films which are coming, I was surprised to see that Sarah Polley (usually an actress, whom I happen to like in most things) will premiere her directorial debut "Away from Her" at the festival which is based on an Alice Munro story (Polley co-wrote the screenplay, it seems). Actors/actresses turned directors often fail miserably, but George Clooney, Clint Eastwood (some of his films), and now Tommy Lee Jones (Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada) have proven to be comperent directors. So, here's wishing Polley luck and can you really botch up a Munro story.

The Toronto festival will also premiere Robert Favreau's new film about the Rwandan genocide "Un Dimance a Kigali" which is based on a Gil Courtemanche book. A Canadian film by Carl Bessai entitled "Unnatural & Accidental" will also premiere and it is based on a stage play written by Metis writer Marie Clements about a murder mystery involving the deaths of ten aboriginal women.

If you want to know more of the Toronto line-up, simply go use the indiewire link on the left side because there are too many films that appear interesting and I can't list them. I admit defeat in the face of this overwhelming task. So, I will wait till the festival itself thins out the numbers of films through their reception, leaving out the few films of higher quality. Then, I will be able to comment on them. I may comment on more later, if I find some with positive reviews or responses behind it, but, alas, I may just have to wait till September.

In my next post, you will either find the following: Me whining about the state of cinematic regurgitation (remakes, sequels, adaptations, etc.) in which we find ourselves, me playfully ribbing the dogma 95 movement, more trailers, or my amateurish thoughts on how a film should be reviewed (not a guideline, I don't do restrictive guidelines) by film critics (by the way, I am not placing myself on an equal level with professional film critics, I suck too much for that).

On a side note, here are some obscure trailers to check out (they are old). Here is a trailer for a sundance film called Half Nelson which will be in limited release (very limited, NY only, I believe).


Here is a trailer of Christopher Nolan's next film, The Prestige.


Now, a trailer for Zhang Yimou's new film Riding Alone for a Thousand Miles. And, no, it is not a martial arts film like Hero or House of Flying Daggers, but a return to drama for Yimou. I have always preferred Yimou's dramatic films like Raise the Red Lantern and Ju-Dou over his more recent films, so sign me up Yimou.


Although I have already placed these following trailers on my myspace blog, I will put them here because they are the most recently interesting (well, some of them).

The Departed- Martin Scorsese

Babel-Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - Watch this trailer now!

The Fountain -Darren Aranofky - watch this trailer and post your comments.

Well, that is all for now.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Review of Scanner Darkly

Review of Scanner Darkly

Now, after a long day of collecting my thoughts about Richard Linklater's Scanner Darkly in the false hope of arriving to some a clear and unambiguous assessment of the film, I am still in the same state of mind as this morning. I also can neither give a thumbs up or down to this film or a numerical rating from which you, the reader, will gauge my true opinion of the film whether good or bad. In all honesty, I never cared for reviews which used such methods to judge a film. However, the main cause of my difficulty is the film, itself, which has left me with considerable mixed feelings and it is thus only appropriate for me to express them.

First, I will openly admit that I have a tendency to like Philip K. Dick adaptations (Blade Runner rules!!), although not all. So, when I finally saw the film, I was a little disappointed with the result, but not so much that I disliked the film. One of my main problems with the film is that the film seemed to lack coherency and proper pacing as if Linklater did not take enough time to edit the film thoroughly. Although, a logical counter-argument could be that the film's lack of structure is meant to reflect the disorienting drug-induced confusion plaguing Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves), an undercover agent who acts as a man addicted to a drug named Substance D in order to get closer to higher echelons of the Substance D market. Yet, I have always felt that , within other films revolving around drug use such as Requiem for a Dream or Trainspotting, there always seemed to be a sense of structure within the erratic pace and disorienting style of both films and this film simply does not seem to have it.

In terms of acting, Keanu Reeves is playing Keanu Reeves once more, but oddly his mediocre performance seems masked by the use of rotoscoping in the film. Like in Richard Linklater's previous film Waking Life, he uses the stylistically interesting technique known as rotoscoping, but now applies it to a more narrative-oriented film. The technique, itself, although now lacking in originality, is still amazing to see and its use in this film is a definite improvement over Waking Life. Now, back to my argument. In addition to Reeves, most of the actors from Robert Downey Jr. to Woody Harrelson all appear to overact in the film, but rotoscoping perfectly conforms with their acting style to such a degree that I forgot about this flaw. While in Waking Life, some have argued that the use of rotoscoping managed to hide and mask average performances. This may be true, but, possibly, I am surprised as to how rotoscoping can accomplish this. While others criticize the deception, I am amazed by the results, which are, in my opinion, inseparable from the product. Although, I would argue that the film's poor acting is not masked by the technique of rotoscoping, but that the often over-the-top acting of Downey and Harrelson simply fit the technique which depicts the world in an unrealistic light (perfect for a science fiction story) and thus their acting style is actually good as it achieves the desired result. If you have noticed that I did not refer to Keanu in this equation, it is merely because he is simply not very good (although not as bad as usual). However, like in The Matrix (only the first, not the sequels), the interesting material allows the viewers to rise above this flaw. As for Wyona Rider, she is passable and does not lower the film's quality.

As for the film's content, Linklater manages to blend comedic aspects with Downey and Rory Cochrane within the actual narrative fairly well. The film delves into topics such as the increasingly excessive nature of private surveillance (take note Americans) and the dangers of drug abuse use to one's consciousness as well as the often immoral and even hypocritical means which law enforcers use to suppress it. The film even appears to criticize an increasingly authoritarian state and its ability to misinterpret one's reality as easily as that of a disoriented drug addict. Both can experience a dislocation from reality like that which Arctor experiences and the government scanners will always see darkly. Yet, the film's story may be difficult to follow for some due to its seeming lack of adequate plot development and, as the film ends, the viewer may be left as disoriented as the drug addicts portrayed in the film (New Path? who are they?). However, aside from rotoscoping, I would consider this characteristic to be the film's second draw. After spending a while thinking about the film, some of the various pieces began to fall in place and I was able to understand the film's later developments, although I was still left with an artistic creation which did not feel as whole as it could have been given proper pacing, editing, coherency, and better acting from Keanu and Rider. Yet, I still loved to see a science fiction film which did not spoonfeed the viewers all the answers, even though the film is not that ambiguous or complicated. I was thus left with mixed feelings with the final result, but still enjoyed enough to give it another watch in the future.

Tomorrow, will post more on Toronto Film Festial (or the Venice film Festival) while also potentially taking some time to write about the strange and eccentric micro-movement of the mid-1990s known as dogma 95. Or possibly some more trailers or films to watch out for, whatever pleases my fancy.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

More trailers to check out

Here are two films (comedies) I am interested in seeing and, hopefully, one of them will come to our New Brunswick theatres at one point.

First, I will mention the film "Little Miss Sunshine," a black comedy about a dysfunctional family who travel to take their daughter to a beauty pageant. Ok, so a film about another dysfunctional family is probably not the most original plot to appear in theatres for a while, but this film is the most critically acclaimed film of last weekend openings. Due to its acclaim, it might eventually come down to NB at some time, although I am still skeptical.

Here is the trailer:

Now, coincidently, another film I want to see involves another dysfunctional family. The film is called "Running with Scissors" and stars Brian Cox, Annette Benning, Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Even Rachel Wood, and Joseph Cross (not a bad cast, in my opinion). The film is based on a memoir (possibly loosely based on reality) by Augusten Burroughs and its story depicts his gradual entry into the bizarre family of his mother's therapist, Dr. Finch, after having been handed off to him by his parents.

Here is the trailer.

In order to indulge myself, here are a few more quick trailer links of films I am interested in.

Pedro Almodovar's Volver, winner of two Cannes prizes.
http://www.themoviebox.net/movies/2006/STUVWXYZ/Volver/trailer.php (choose a trailer link and patiently wait)

Pan's Labyrinth- Guillermo Del Toro- Watch this trailer!!
Could be the equivalent of a twisted version of Alice in Wonderland if set in Spain, 1944, after Franco has established his fascist regime. Overall positive feedback doesn't hurt neither.
http://www.themoviebox.net/movies/2006/NOPQR/Pans-Labyrinth/trailer.php (click on quicktime promo trailer)

As for this next film, The Host, a Korean monster movie, it is a strange one. On imdb, the film is classified as an Action/Comedy/Drama/Fantasy/Horror/ Science Fiction/ Thriller. Reviewers of the film claim that the film defies and subverts the conventions of a traditional gigantic monster movie. The film has even been called "moving," "funny," "sad," and "frightening" while receiving intensely positive reactions. Even Manohla Dargis of the New York Times called the film one of the best at the Cannes Film festival. Now, what exactly is the film about? Well, it is mainly about a gigantic mutant Tadpole which attacks a Korean city. No, I did not make that up. Now, a question arises. How in the hell can a film involving a mutant tadpole get such extremely positive responses and how can it be "moving"? Guess I'll have to see it to find out. Anyway, here is the trailer.

I'll post a Scanner Darkly review tomorrow and later continue my exploration of the Toronto Film Festival.

New trailers

Here is the full trailer for the film "Infamous" starring Sandra Bullock, Toby Jones, Hope Davis, Jeff Daniels, and Gwyneth Paltrow. This film is oddly based on the exact same story as last year's Capote with Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Like Capote, this films tells the story of Truman Capote' s attempt to write the non-fiction crime novel "In Cold Blood" and his increasingly intimate relationship with murderer, Perry Smith, during its creation. Paradoxicaly, both films had begun production at around the same time and, so neither project could be cancelled. So, as a result, we have two Capote films about the same story. Will people want to see it after having seen Hoffman's excellent portrayal? Will this version of the story be better than Capote? If it is, it would be very sad since the Academy will never nominate the same story twice. Anway, here is a link to a page with the trailer. http://www.themoviebox.net/movies/2006/IJKLM/Infamous/trailer.php

Here is an Apple trailer of Sofia Coppola's new film Marie Antoinette, which received a mixed reaction at Cannes.Well, here it is. Judge it for youself.


Here is a trailer of "Sherrybaby," an independent film about a mother, once addicted to heroine, who is now attempting to renew her relationship with her daughter. The film stars Maggie Gyllenhal. Here is a link to a webpage holding the trailer.

Random film news

Lars Von Trier's next film has been announced. It is entitled "The Boss of it All" and will be a comedy. It will premiere at the "Festival du nouveau cinema" in Montreal (I wish I lived there).

Young Indie film actor Paul Dano (L.I.E) will act in Paul Thomas Anderson's new film "There will be Blood" alongside the always fantastic Daniel Day-Lewis, who will play a Texas oil tycoon. It will be Anderson's first new film since "Punch Drunk Love".

Well, that's all for now.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Various personal comments and News of the Toronto International Film Festival

Odd things have happened to my family since I last posted. My big brother, a medical student, who is volunteering in the Republican Dominican at a secluded hospital, has not eaten anything in three days because the food for the staff has stopped being shipped to their location which is 45 minutes away from the nearest town and surrounded by guards. Due to the stupidity of the organization which planned this venture, the volunteer staff have been without food for days. As a result, my brother and others are returning home on friday, although they may still go without food for two more days (totalling five days without food, for the mathematically impaired). I hope he gets some proper food soon or, at least, on the plane trip before he arrives to Montreal. Sigh...crazy week.

To take my mind off this horrible situation, I will post some more film related news.

Since I have recently been obsessed with film festivals, I have decided to leap ahead to September 7-16 and give you information about the Toronto International Film festival, a festival which is, at least, within reach for Canadians as opposed to the Venice Film Festival. It is the largest film festival in Canada. One day I will attend this festival (Hopefully, next year's festival, if I moved to Toronto, but I doubt it).

Although not all the films have been announced, I will mention a few which are of interest.

First, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Babel will have its North American premiere at the Toronto festival. I can't wait to see this film since I loved the Inarritu and Guillermo Arriaga team who have worked together on Amorres Perros and 21 Grams. This film will mark the end of Inarritu's Death Trilogy (the first two films were Amorres Perros and 21 Grams).

Ken Loach's film The Wind that Shakes the Barley (its name obtained from an Irish poem), which won the Palme D'or at a overall disappointing Cannes film festival early this year. The film features Cillian Murphy (Red Eye, 28 Days Later, Batman Begins) and revolves the Irish nationalist movement's attempt at independence in the 1920s. With a top festival award under its arm, it will most likely do fine at the festival, but it will not be in competition.

Other Cannes' prize winners at the festival are Bruno Dumont's Flandres (Grand Prize) and Andrea Arnold's The Red Road (Grand Jury).

Another film coming to the festival is John Cameron Mitchell's follow up to Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus, which was one of the few films at the Cannes film festival to get positive reactions. The film concerns a group of New Yorkers who meet at an underground salon which features art, music, and a lot of sexual experimentation, actually, mainly the last one. Here is a teaser trailer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lw5F7wEJLEE

Even the new remake of All the King's Men featuring Sean Penn will have its world premiere at the festival. This was meant to be last year's Oscar contender, but problems delayed it to 2006 and here it is again set for the fall, hoping to be another Oscar hopeful. If you watch the trailer, the film is clearly an attempt to get another Oscar for Penn. Often, films that try to overreach for the Oscar turn out either uninteresting due to its conventionality or downright annoying. Yet, despite these possibilities, the academy often still nominates them for reasons I will never grasp.

Another film of interest is Kim ki-duk's latest film "Time" (Loved 3-Iron and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter....and Spring). Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer, Audition, Gozu) is bound to shock and disturb everyone who views his new film "Bang Bang Love, juvenilia". At least, I have always been disturbed by his films (In fact, I will never watch Ichi the Killer again), but have been strangely led to them again and again.

I will add more films later on. Some of the more obscure, but potentially interesting films as well as the documentaries premiering at this year's festival.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Venice Film Festival and other random thoughts

Well, the Venice film festival is approaching and some potentially great films are going to be in competition. And, I won't be able to see them for like another year and a half because I am secluded in a New Brunswick city with film void. Then again, any city in NB exists within a vaccum in which no decent to good films ever appear.

Some films premiering at the festival which I can't wait to see.

Firstly, Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz which I am dying to see. It has the potential either to be an ambitious mess or one of the most interesting and intelligent science fiction films in awhile (and it's been quite awhile since we've had one of those). Positive test screenings have already created some hype for this film, so it better not disappoint. At the end of August, we will know how it fares at the festival and I will post the crowd reactions or general verdict (and I stress "general").

Secondly, David Lynch's Inland Empire. If Lynch can pull another Mulholland Drive, I will die a happy man. The film has an amazing cast including Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, and Jeremy Irons. However, rarely, has Lynch been more secretive about his films than this one. When asked what his film was about, Lynch blankly replied that it was "a mystery about a woman in trouble" which is arguably the vaguest premise description I have ever read. In contrast to other films, Lynch wrote the film as it was shot (cinematic improvisation) which could possibly result in a sloppy script, but my faith in Lynch is still high and hopefully he'll create another classic. Furthermore, this film is out of competition which is rather strange for a Lynch film, but what isn't.

Surprisingly, the festival will have a few Japanese animation films in and out of competition for the Golden Lion prize.

Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue, Millenium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, Paranoia Agent, all of which I love, although some more than others) is premiering his newest film "Paprika" at the festival in competition. The film is vaguely categorized as a psychological thriller/horror/ Science fiction fiction. Hell, during its teaser trailer, I even saw glimpses of fantasy elements. The film is based on a Japanese science fiction novel. I can't wait to see this film.

Hayao Miyazaki's son, Goro Miyazaki, will be premiering his directorial debut Ghibli film, the Tales of the Earth Sea, a fantasy tale based on a novel by Ursula K. Le Guin. At the end of the festival, based on the film's critical reception and crowd reactions, it will be known whether Goro actually has talent or is trying to leech off his father's fame. News about a dispute with his father over the making of this film and Hayao's opposition to this project is not very reassuring, but I have yet to see a bad Ghibli film, so there is still hope. Here is the trailer.


Even Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira, Steamboy) has a film premiering in competition entitled mushishi, but it is a live action film and not animated.

Aside from the presense of animated films in the festival, the festival also announces the return of several film veterans such as Alain Resnais (Hiroshima, Mon Amour) with his film "Private Fears in Public Places" and Brian De Palma (Scarface, The Untouchables) with "Black Dahlia". Although, to be honest, I've never been such a fan of De Palma outside The Untouchables.

Even Kenneth Branagh is premiering his new film (a musical) "The Magic Flute" which is based on Mozart's famous opera (which Bergman once directed). I have doubts as to whether he can pull it off without letting his oversized ego derail the entire film. Despite his ego, I still hold a love/hate relationship with Branagh. Love for his often good acting and sometimes competent Shakespeare adaptations, but hate for films like Frankenstein (Robert Deniro as the monster, enough said).

Hell, even more surprising is that Emilio Estevez (Yes, that Mighty Ducks guy) directed and wrote a film called "Bobby" about the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Even stranger is the casting which groups good to great actors such as Anthony Hopkins, William H. Macey, Helen Hunt, and Laurence Fishburne with Ashton Kutcher, Lindsey Lohan, and Heather Graham (WTF!!). Who knows how that will turn out? Whether the good actors win out over the bad ones to create a good film is anyone's guess.

Well, that's my Venice film festival coverage for now, but I will add more later.

On a side note, the last film I watched: Pirates of the Carribeans 2: Dead Man's Chest was not as overtly disappointing as the critics have made it out to be. Yes, Bloom is as wooden as ever and so is Keira Knightley, but to a much lesser extent. Some of the long action sequences often got tedious and the film could definitely have used some trimming in the editing department, so take note next time, Verbinski. However, Johnny Depp's performance saves and supports the film to such an extent, that I forgive its shortcomings, or more specifically, I forgot them. Bill Nighy (The Constant Gardener, Girl in the Cafe) as Davy Jones as well as Stellan Skarsgard as Bootstrap Bill also elevated the film away from the mediocrity to which Bloom and Knightley were pulling the film. Some of the action sequences although contrived and impossible were ingenious in their construction and development. In what other film will you see a three-way swordfight within a rolling waterwheel (I had to exhaust my suspension of disbelief here, but it was worth it). Suffice it to say, in the end, I did not feel as if I completely wasted my time and did get some of the summer film enjoyment which has been sorely lacking in this summer's film.

Interesting final aside, apparently, there is going to be a re-release of The Nightmare before Christmas into theatres in the fall, but only now it will be altered digitally to make it prettier. Here is a trailer to the new Digital 3-D version (I honestly don't see much difference, although there is some).