Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday's Top 5... Historical Figures In Need of Biopics

#5: Aphra Behn

Virginia Woolf once said "All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds." She was not only one of the first professional female writers in English, she was also a spy for the court of King Charles II and spent time in a debtor's prison.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Canadian Film Review: Naked Lunch (1991), Part Two

* * 1/2

Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm

Okay, let’s try this again. David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch is definitely easier to digest the second time around, though it is still an intensely bizarre film, even when you're prepared for what's coming. Naked Lunch is a very ambitious film and in many respects a technical marvel, though I'm not certain that it totally holds together. Still, it's an interesting film and definitely one that any Cronenberg fan should see.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review: Mother and Child (2010)

* * * 1/2

Director: Rodrigo Garcia Barcha
Starring: Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington

During the first half of its running time Rodrigo Garcia Barcha’s Mother and Child is an almost relentlessly brutal film, its characters defined by the pain they feel and the pain they inflict on others. By the second half, however, those hard edges are softened considerably, revealing a delicately wrought character study about people who are all too human and all too flawed. Mother and Child is a totally riveting character-driven drama carried by three terrific performances.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: Made In Dagenham (2010)

* * * 1/2

Director: Nigel Cole
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson

“Issue” movies are a staple of the cinematic landscape, but they can be difficult to pull off. There is, after all, a fine line between taking a subject seriously and presenting it in an overly earnest or reverent way. Nigel Cole’s Made In Dagenham finds the right tone, approaching the material sincerely but without drenching it in syrupy sentiment. The film pretty much came and went from theatres (at least on this side of the Atlantic), but it’s definitely worth a look and will hopefully find an audience now that it’s out on DVD.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Great Last Scenes: The Maltese Falcon

Year: 1941
Director: John Huston
Great Because...: It’s the stuff that dreams are made of. A great ending to one of the best detective movies ever made, one which is perfectly attuned to that dark humour that runs through film noir. It ties everything up nicely and gives star Humphrey Bogart some premium lines with which to send off femme fatale Mary Astor.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday's Top 5... Films From Sidney Lumet

A great American director, RIP

#5: The Verdict

A tight and intense drama about an alcoholic lawyer with a case he absolutely needs to win. The film was nominated for multiple Oscars (including Best Director) and features one of Paul Newman's very best performances.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Canadian Film Review: Naked Lunch (1991), Part One

Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Peter Weller, Judy Davis

... Um...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review: Hanna (2011)

* * *

Director: Joe Wright
Starring: Saorise Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana

“I just missed your heart.” Oh, no, Hanna. You got it. This time last month who would have guessed that of the two movies about teenage girls kicking ass and leaving a trail of bodies in their wake, audiences would embrace the vaguely art house one with the (comparatively) quiet ad campaign rather than the CGI extravaganza with the huge marketing campaign? Of course it helps to be as thoroughly awesome as Hanna is.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ebert's Greats #10: Red River (1948)

* * * *

Director: Howard Hawks
Starring: John Wayne, Montgomery Clift

John Wayne is probably most closely associated with John Ford, for whom he starred in such classics as The Searchers, Stagecoach, and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon amongst others, but it was Howard Hawks who brought out one of Wayne’s best performances (Ford’s reaction upon seeing Red River? “I didn’t know the big son of a bitch could act!”). Red River is one of the great classic westerns, a grand entertainment (the stampede scene alone makes the film worth seeing) and a finely wrought character film.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Review: Jane Eyre (2011)

* * * *

Director: Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench

The familiarity that audiences generally have with the story of Jane Eyre should make it a difficult novel to successfully adapt. There have been so many versions of it in both film and television – between the two mediums a new version comes out every five to ten years – that it ought to be difficult to bring any new perspective to it, to make it in any way fresh. And yet, here is director Cary Fukunaga’s take (working from a screenplay adapted by Moira Buffini), a glorious looking adaptation that feels like a breath of fresh air. Here is an adaptation that gets it absolutely right.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday's Top 5... Movie Assassins

#5: Leon

Leon is not just a skilled assassin, he's a one man killing machine, capable of taking on a veritable army all on his own. Seriously, you don't want to get on his bad side.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Canadian Film Review: Black Robe (1991)

* * * 1/2

Director: Bruce Beresford
Starring: Lothaire Bluteau, August Schellenberg, Sandrine Holt, Aden Young

The landscape in Bruce Bereford’s Black Robe always looks foreboding. It’s bleak and uninviting, as if the land itself is rejecting the French missionaries and their intention to bring Catholicism and “civilization” to what will eventually become Quebec. It’s a harsh and unblinking film and one that seems to hold the audience at arm’s length, but its images and themes resonate thanks to its finely rendered story and characterizations.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Review: Due Date (2010)

* * *

Director: Todd Phillips
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Zack Galiafanakis

For a lowbrow movie (and any movie that relies on not one but two masturbating dog jokes concedes any claim to being highbrow), Todd Phillips’ Due Date is a fairly enjoyable way to pass an hour and a half (give or take a minute). It isn’t a template buster or anything even remotely transcendent of the “odd couple on a road trip” genre, but it’s a funny movie and the fact that stars Robert Downey, Jr. and Zack Galifianakis commit so fully helps it work better than it probably should.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Book vs. Film: The Girl who Played with Fire vs. The Girl who Played with Fire

Plot: The follow-up to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo picks up more or less where that story left off: Lisbeth Salander has absconded into a new identity with the money she embezzled in the first instalment. Mikael Blomkvist, meanwhile, is still in Sweden and using his magazine Millennium to take on the corrupt forces of the world. When Lisbeth returns to Sweden and is implicated in three murders, Blomkvist works to prove her innocence while she eludes capture by the police and tries to track down Zalachenko, the man behind the murders and, as it happens, her father.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Review: Carlos (2010)

* * * 1/2

Director: Olivier Assayas
Starring: Edgar Ramirez

There is a terrific German film called The Legend of Rita (though in some markets it’s called The Silence After The Shot), which centers on a leftish activist/terrorist who lives long enough to see the ideological war she’s been fighting be rendered meaningless. Towards the end of the film she says something to the effect that the fortunate ones are those who abandon the cause before the cause can abandon them. I always think of that line whenever I watch movies about ideological warriors, though in the case of the eponymous character of Carlos, abandoning the cause would have been impossible since his greatest cause was himself and his own mythology.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday's Top 5... Movies Where Women Fight Back

Note: this post was originally intended for last week in anticipation of Sucker Punch. I haven't seen Sucker Punch but, from what I've heard, all the movies on this list are better than that one

#5: The Brave One

This Death Wish style revenge thriller about a woman who becomes a vigilante after she and her fiancée are involved in a violent attack contains one of Jodie Foster's most intriguing performances to date. Largely overlooked amongst the wealth of great films from 2007, it's a film worth reassessment.