Captain America

   25 May 2012, terribly early in the morning

I liked Captain America much more than I thought I would. I never found the superhero particularly interesting or exciting as a character, but the film really makes his story quite captivating. I suspect a big part of that success is due to Chris Evans doing a great job playing the role. He seems pitch perfect for the part. The film starts with (an incredibly scrawny) Chris Evans trying to get I to the army. He’s so sickly that’s not going to happen. We get to see he has some heart, but not much else. From there the film follows his transformation into Captain America. I thought they did a great job showcasing his super strength, agility, etc. Mr Smith plays the Red Skull and is awesome, of course. This films definitely worth checking out. Who doesn’t like to watch people fight the Nazi’s?

The official Captain America website.


X-Men: First Class

   25 May 2012, terribly early in the morning

My recent stint of watching comic book movies began with X-Men: First Class, which just popped up on Netflix. I should start by saying the film is so much better than the last two X-Men films, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men III. (Bryan Singer was invovled in this film, being credited in part with the story, which might explain why it wasn’t horrible.) The cast is pretty awesome, with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender playing Professor X and Magneto respectively. They both do an amazing job with their roles. There are also few pretty enjoyable cameos. The film is an origin story for the X-Men, taking place during the early days of the cold war. The super villain was a pleasent surprise. As with all X-Men films there are lots of cool super powers and people doing interesting things with them. You should watch this.

The official X-Men: Frist Class website.

Comment [1]  


    4 April 2012, terribly early in the morning

Netflix continues to step up its game. I watched Thor over the weekend. The film is a sort of origin story for the character, explaining how he ends up on Earth fighting bad guys. The story jumps between Earth and Asgard, his mythic Norse homeland. The film has a several excellent actors, presumably slumming it in a superhero film. (Anthony Hopkins plays Odin, Renne Russo is his wife; Idris Elba—what?!—plays Hiemdall; Stellan Skarsgård plays some random Norwegian scientist; Natalie Portman is the sexy physicist love-interest.) The film was directed by Kenneth Branaugh, and he does a good job with all the fantasy and Shakespearean-style pomp. He seems like an odd choice to direct an action film, and at the end of the day Thor really was your typical action film. (It’s no Iron Man or X-Men 2.) I think it’s still worth watching, but don’t expect too much.

The official Thor website.

Comment [1]  

The Men Who Stare at Goats

   12 March 2012, early morning

I watched The Men Who Stare at Goats last weekend. My cousin who was with us had seen it before, and felt it was a bit, “meh”. I read the list of stars and couldn’t imagine the film being anything less than awesome: Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, Ewen McGreggor and Kevin Mother-Fucking Spacey all hanging out in the same movie? How could this possibly be meh? The movie is about a journalist, played by McGreggor who meets a self-proclaimed US army trained psychic warrior, played by Clooney. They have an adventure together, and along the way you learn all about how Clooney’s character ended up as a psychic. I loved the film. It’s so weird and funny. It feels very much like a Coen brothers film, but it’s not. The movie is enjoyable, short, and on Netflix: that’s a winning combination.

The official The Men Who Stare At Goats website.


The Descent

    6 February 2012, evening time

The Decent is one of those movies it’s best to watch knowing as little about the film as possible. So, i’ll just say that the film is about a group of thrill seaking women who go spellunking in a cave. It’s filmed so well. I don’t think i’ve ever felt so claustraphobic in a movie. The shots of the women crawling through the tight crevises of the cave will creep you out. I quite liked the film. Most scenes are quite dark, being illuminated solely by the gear the women are carrying. (Well, at least it looks that way.) The lighting is another thing I found quite creative about the movie. I quite liked this movie. It’s on Netflix, so you can watch it right now!

I’d link to the official The Descent website, but I think it gives away too much of the story.


True Grit

    3 February 2012, early morning

True Grit was great. The very excellent and funny Hailee Steinfeld plays a young lady trying to catch the man who killed her father. She hires a marshal, played by Jeff Bridges, to help her in her quest. She also meets a Texax Ranger, played by Matt Damon, who is also looking for the same man. That could all be pretty heavy, but the film is actually quite funny. Between the humour things are more sombre and dark. The contrast between the comedy and drama probably makes the comedy more comedic and the drama more dramatic. Like most Coen brothers films the writing is great. The acting is really solid. I hadn’t seem a movie of note in quite some time, so this was a good movie to start the year off with. This is definitely worth watching. I’m now curious to see what the original version of this film is like.

The official True Grit website.

Comment [1]  

In Between Days

   16 May 2011, terribly early in the morning

In Between Days is the first film by Korean/American director So Yong Kim. Shima and I saw her second film Treeless Mountain at the Toronto Film Festival in 2008. Treeless Mountain was slow going and bleak. Watching her first film, I can see that her follow up was par for the course. In Between Days looks at the life of a teenage Korean immigrant. She writes lonely letters to her father, who is presumably still in Korea. She occasionally talks to her mostly absent mother. Her only friend seems to be a boy she clearly has a crush on. It’s also clear he reciprocates her feelings, but being teenagers both of them seem incapable of letting the other one know what’s up. The film is full of passive-aggressive attempts at communicating ones feelings. It’s a good look at loneliness. It leaves you feeling a little bit cold.

The official In Between Days website.


127 Hours

    6 April 2011, early evening

Shima and I watched 127 Hours while up in Barrie over the weekend. It’s directed by the consistently awesome Danny Boyle. The film is based on the book by the same name, which is based on the real life story of Aron Ralston. For those who don’t recall his story, he was mountain climbing when he fell down a chasm and had his arm pinned to a cavern wall by a boulder, which he couldn’t move. He was trapped like this for 5 days, after which time he broke the bones in his trapped hand and cut it off with a dull knife. Seriously. Most of the film is spent in the cavern, watching him try to deal with the situation he is in. It’s surprisingly engaging and exciting. This is probably due to the great job James Franco does playing Ralston. The scene where he cuts off his arm isn’t glossed over at all. It’s very graphic. You know it’s coming from the start of the film, but when it finally happens it’s something else. 127 Hours is a good film, well worth watching.

The official 127 Hours website.


Fantastic Mr. Fox

   17 January 2011, mid-afternoon

Fantastic Mr. Fox was fantastic. (The film is available on Netflix, which I now officially love.) I’m a big fan of Wes Anderson and this film was very much a Wes Anderson film. It’s amazing how well all the things that make his films so unique translate to stop-motion: the wardrobe, the sets, the shots, the music, etc. The film’s writing is great and the voice actors are all excellent. You’ll probably recognize every other voice in the film. I’d love to watch the film with some children to see if it’s as enjoyable for them as it is for someone my age. This film is definitely a must watch.

The official Fantastic Mr. Fox website.

Comment [2]  


    2 January 2011, early evening

Shima and I watched Hunger over the Christmas holidays. (It’s not really a “Christmas” film.) Hunger is about the final days of Bobby Sands. The movie starts with near the tail end of the ‘no-wash’ protests and moves on to the Bobby Sands hunger strike. The movie is very terse. The whole film is about an hour and fifteen minutes long. There is barely any dialogue. The film jumps between being beautiful and haunting and ugly and brutal. There is a conversation between Sands and his priest in the middle of the film that takes the entire film to a whole other level of amazing. Hunger was excellent. You should watch it. The film will probably make you want to celebrate the death of Tatcher with champagne — if you weren’t planning on doing so already.

The official Hunger website.

Comment [3]  


    9 November 2010, terribly early in the morning

Yesterday was a long and exhausting day. What better way to cap such a day off than by watching Primer, one of the craziest movies I have ever seen. It’s a time-travel film, but calling it simply a time-travel film does it a great injustice. I think it’s one of the best science fiction films i’ve seen in quite some time. It’s very creative. It’s also fairly confusing. At 77 minutes in length, I was tempted to watch the film again right after Shima and I finished watching it. At the start of the film it’s not quite clear what’s going on. Then there comes a moment of clarity when you realize, “hey, they finally figured out they built a time machine.” They explain how the machine works, and then the film quickly becomes confusing again. The film was made by a real life engineer, who wrote and stars in the film. (Nice.) They apparently made the movie for $7000, which is amazing: the film doesn’t look low budget at all. I really enjoyed the movie. I’ll definitely watch it again. (Yet another Netflix FTW!)

The official Primer website.

Comment [2]  

Butcher, The Chef, And The Swordsman

    6 November 2010, early morning

I decided to watch Butcher, The Chef, And The Swordsman without reading its description. I saw the photo on the web site, read the title, and assumed it’d be a kick ass movie. Now, the film was good, but it was also not at all what I was expecting. The Butcher, The Chef, And The Swordsman is a slapstick comedy, somewhat akin to Kung Fu Hustle. I was expecting an action movie. The film is split into three stories: one about a butcher, one about a chef, one about a swordsman. (Hence the name.) I liked the Chef’s story the best. The love interest in the Butcher story is incredibly hot. (It’s nuts.) As a film it is very crazy. There are some really bizarre sequences. I think it’s one of the more creative films I’ve seen come out of Asia in recent years.

The Butcher, The Chef, And The Swordsman on the TIFF website.


Red Nights

    5 November 2010, terribly early in the morning

The second film I saw at TIFF was Red Nights. This was the first of two midnight madness screenings I attended. As in previous years, Midnight Madness is by the far the best movie going experience at TIFF. The lines are long, but the crowd is full of serious-ass cinema fans. Red Nights was a very well done erotic thriller. It marks the return of Carrie Ng to the big screen. Ng plays a murderer. There is an ancient Chinese artifact a few people are trying to get. There is a French lady who scams her. It’s a strange film. I liked it, but I was hoping for ‘more’. I had very high expectations. (Perhaps too high.) The soundtrack was kick ass. It’s definitely worth watching if you have the chance.

The Red Nights page at the TIFF website.



    4 November 2010, terribly early in the morning

Shima and I watched Capote over the weekend. (Netflix for the win!) I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it sooner. The movie is a look at Truman Capote during the period of time he was writing the book In Cold Blood. I wasn’t familiar with the book prior to hearing about the movie, but after watching the film I very much want to read it. Capote wrote about the murder of an entire family in a small town in Kansas at the hands of two robbers. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Capote, and does an excellent job with the part. All the other actors in the film support him wonderfully. Clifton Craig Collins, Jr who plays the murderer Perry Smith manages to be sympathetic while also always having a creepy undercurrent to everything he does and says. The film suggests there was a real conflict between Capote’s genuine interest in the lives of the murderers and his compulsion and self-interest in finishing his book. There are all sorts of scenes where he goes from having a sincere and serious discussion with Perry to joking around in New York. The contrast in the scenes is stark. The film makers manage to balance the two sides of the man really well. Capote is an excellent film.

The official Capote web site.


Angel A

    4 November 2010, terribly early in the morning

I finally signed up for Netflix this past weekend. Everyone had been complaining about the selection, but they seem to have enough movies to keep you busy for quite a while. I noticed they had a film I had been dying to see for ages, Luc Besson’s Angel A. (The trailer is excellent.) The film stars Jamel Debbouze as a down on your luck do-nothing and Rie Rasmussen as a mysterious woman who helps him turn his life around. Rie Rasmussen is smoking hot. The movie basically takes place over the course of a couple days, and more or less opens with an “It’s a Wonderful Life i’m going to jump off a bridge because no one loves me” moment. From there we get to watch Debbouze and Rasmussen interact, and that’s really where the charm of the film comes from. The entire movie is shot in black and white, and looks gorgeous. The cinematography is great. The film also features a pretty awesome sound track. I really enjoyed the movie.

The official Angel A website.

Comment [2]  

Norwegian Wood

   13 September 2010, early evening

My first film at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was Norwegian Wood, based on the book by Huraki Murakami. I had very high hopes going in. I loved the book. I couldn’t imagine how they would translate it into a film. I’ve been thinking about the movie all day today. A part of me really enjoyed it, while a part of me was fairly ‘meh’ about the whole thing.

The story takes place in the late 60s. It’s all about coping with loss, and love, and suicide, and a whole host of things. The film is shot really well. Some of the locations outside of Tokyo are gorgeous to boot. The costumes and set design are amazing. (The character Midori is always looking super cute.) The film score is damn good. Most important, the acting is also pretty stellar. Writing all this out, i’m not sure what I didn’t like about the film. A part of me feels like it was missing something, but i’m not quite sure what. I think it might have been a bit too abstract. I’ve read the book so it’s hard for me to gauge how unintelligible the film would be for someone who knew nothing about the story. I definitely want to watch it again. I do think it’s well worth seeing. It was a good way to start to TIFF.

Read more about Norwegian Wood on the TIFF 2010 website.

Comment [1]  

Up in the Air

   19 August 2010, early morning

I watched Up in the Air this past weekend. The film stars George Clooney as a man who constantly travels the US as a consultant hired by companies to do mass layoffs. At the start of the film he loves the the lonely life he leads. As the film moves on he starts to reflect on the life he leads and the choices he has made. The movie is really well done. The actors all do really great jobs with their parts. The film seems particularly bleak, but ends on a sort of high note. I really liked it.

Comment [2]  

Hot Fuzz

   10 August 2010, terribly early in the morning

Grant and I had a date on Friday. We watched Hot Fuzz. It was playing as part of a film festival curated by director Edgar Wright. I had never seen the film before. It’s a funny send up of buddy-cop films and horror movies — a strange pairing. Simon Pegg plays a super-cop who is sent to a small town in London to work because he’s making his fellow police officers look bad. As this is a film, things in this quaint small town aren’t quite as clean-cut as they appear. It’s a very funny movie. I was reminded very much of Spaced, the TV show Simon Pegg starred in before doing films. There is this creepiness that underlies the whole film, much like the TV show. It’s often a source of the humour. Timothy Dalton plays one of the town locals, and he is hilarious in the film. Hot Fuzz is well worth seeing.

The official Hot Fuzz website.

Comment [2]  


    4 August 2010, terribly early in the morning

I watched Larry Clark’s Kids again with Shima earlier this week. I guess she wanted to watch it after reading the article I linked to about the film. The movie begins and ends with children raping children. In between there is a lot of amoral behaviour. It’s about as horrific as I remembered it. I have no idea why I own Kids. It’s definitely a movie you only need to see once. It does feature a kick-ass soundtrack, so that should count for something.

More information about Kids on Larry Clark’s website.

Comment [2]  

Arusi Persian Wedding

   27 July 2010, terribly early in the morning

I finally watched a documentary I had mentioned on this site some time back, Arusi Persian Wedding. The film is about a recently married American couple — Alex, a Persian boy, and Heather, a girl originally from the Mid West — who decide to travel to Iran to have a Persian wedding with the boy’s Father’s family. The film opens with the couple preparing for their trip. The girl converts to Islam and they have an Islamic wedding in California so she can get a Persian passport. The couple’s parents meet for the first time. (I feel like there is a back story there that probably could have been explored more.) There is some brief exposition on the recent history of Iran: the 1953 Coup, the rise of the Shah, the Islamic Revolution, and the hostage crisis. The remainder of the film is a sort of travelogue: they travel from town to town, meet locals, and take in the sites. The film ends with their wedding. All in all I quite liked the movie, though it felt a bit light. The movie perhaps tries to talk about too many things in such a short period of time. There are so many interesting things that could have been fleshed out more: Heather’s family’s thoughts on her marriage and her “conversion” to Islam; Alex being a foreigner in both America and Iran; the couple’s culture shock; etc. I think because of when the film was made, back when it wasn’t clear whether America would attack Iran as well, the film perhaps spends too much time talking to Iranians about how they love America. Regardless, I think it’s an interesting film to watch, if only to see what a Persian wedding looks like.

Comment [6]  


   19 July 2010, terribly early in the morning

I watched Inception last night at the Paramount downtown. The show we wanted to watch at 7:30 was sold out. As was the following show at 8:00. I didn’t think things would be so busy on a Sunday. We ended up watching the very packed 9:00 show. Inception is amazing. My God, it’s so damn good. The film is about a group of people who invade people’s dreams to try and steal information, a process they call extraction. The group is hired by a Japanese business man to do the opposite: plant an idea in someone’s head, a (possibly impossible) process they call inception. The film features a pretty stellar cast, some insane special effects, and a really well thought out and intricate story. Christopher Nolan is an amazing director, and this film is a really good example of what a big budget film can be. All the elements of the film come together perfectly. The moral of the film seems to be: “Kill yourself! Your life is probably a dream!” (Well, no; not really.) Watch Inception. Nothing else you plan to do could possibly be as important as watching this film.

The official Inception web site.

Comment [3]  

Throne of Blood

   18 June 2010, early morning

I’ve seen Throne of Blood twice now. Once back when I was in high school and most recently at Cinematheque Ontario, as part of their Kurusawa retrospective. Throne of Blood is Kurusawa’s remake of Macbeth as a samurai film set in feudal Japan. My memory of the film from high school was that it was way too much horse back riding. This accurately sums up the first half of the film. The second half is a lot more interesting, and the pace of the film is more reasonable. Kurusawa must have had some serious ass fog machines at work, because the film is all mist, all the time. The cinematography is at times quite beautiful. Throne of Blood is a good film, but I think it’s very weak when compared to Ran, Kurusawa’s remake of King Lear.

Cinematheque Ontario’s Throne of Blood review.


Iron Man II

    2 June 2010, terribly early in the morning

I watched Iron Man II with my friends over the weekend. I haven’t been to a cinema in far too long. I think my summer resolution should be to watch a movie a week. It’s not even that hard a challenge. I used to watch so many. Anyway, Iron Man II is enjoyable, but i’d say much weaker than the first film. Like any comic book movie it has a comic book plot: a Russian scientist (loosely) linked to the Stark family is out to get his revenge on Tony Stark; if that wasn’t bad enough, Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit is killing him. This probably would have been enough for a solid film, but apparently it wasn’t enough for the people producing the movie. The folly of many comic book films is that they try to include too many characters and side stories. (I think X-Men II is the only film that pulls this off. It’s also probably the best comic book film ever made.) In Iron Man II we get to see: the origin of War Machine; Black Widow doing spy stuff; Nick Fury trying to recruit Iron Man into the Avengers; etc. I think Scarlett Johansson is really hot, but she really doesn’t need to be in this film; give her a film where she gets to be hot for the whole 2 hours. All of this extra junk distracts from the main story arc of the movie. What saves the film is the acting. Everyone in Iron Man has been cast perfectly. There is some great chemistry between Robert Downy Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow; I loved all of their scenes together. Mickey Rourke plays a really great villain. It’s impressive when actors manage to pull of not looking ridiculous when delivering ridiculous lines while wearing crazy costumes. The fellow who plays the weapons dealer Hammer is great, and he delivers the best monologue in the film. If you enjoyed the first film, you’ll probably like the second. The Iron Man series has thus far been one of Marvel’s better transitions from comic books to movies.

The official Iron Man web site.

Comment [4]  

The Absence of Mr. or Mrs. B

   14 May 2010, early morning

The last film I watched at Hot Docs was The Absence of Mr. or Mrs. B. The film is a look at the lives of an infertile couple while they try to have a baby though IVF. Apparently in Iran infertility is the leading cause for divorce, after addiction. (Think about that for a second.) It was a strange movie. The couple were constantly joking about divorce, their disdain for one another, and the failure of their relationship. The husband would constantly talk about his womanizing. It was bleak and depressing, but not really presented in that way. There were a couple scenes that were pretty heart breaking, but they end up being mixed up with everything else in a way that makes them seem out of place. It also felt like the filmmakers were a bit too involved in the lives of the people the were filming. After you watch the film, you can sort of understand why. The movie could have been better; It was interesting nevertheless.

Comment |  

Iraq in Fragments

   11 May 2010, early morning

Iraq in Fragments was presented at Hot Docs as part of their ‘best of’ series. The film is split into three parts: the first is a look at a young boys life in Baghdad; the second is a look at an imam affiliated with Sadr and the Mahdi army; the third is a look at the lives of some Kurds up North. I have no idea how the film maker ended up shooting half the stuff that ended up in the film. The middle portion of the film is at times totally mental. The film was shot before the first set of elections in Iraq. For the most part it’s pretty bleak. I don’t think i’ve ever been so impressed with how a film is cut together. The editing is absolutely stunning. This is definitely something people should see.

Comment |  

← ← ← → → →