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

Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday's Top 5... Scary Movie Houses

#5: The House of Usher (The Fall of the House of Usher)

Jean Epstein's silent classic The Fall of the House of Usher (adapted from the short story by Edgar Allan Poe) is all about the dreamy (well, nightmarish) atmosphere. Of course, a story that takes place in a house that has a tomb in the basement only needs a little atmosphere to be entirely creepy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: Three Kings (1999)

* * * *

Director: David O. Russell
Starring: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube

1999 was a great year in film. It was the year of Fight Club, The Matrix, Being John Malkovich, American Beauty and Boys Don't Cry, just to name a few. These movies were great in 1999 and they all hold up really well today, though none feel quite as prescient as David O. Russell's Three Kings. Set during the First Gulf War, the film tackles subject matter that is arguably more relevant now than ever, as if Russell (who wrote the screenplay in addition to directing) anticipated the issues that would dominate the last decade of political discourse.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday's Top 5... Brad Pitt Performances

#5: Burn After Reading

Brad Pitt is, hands down, my favourite thing about Burn After Reading. His portrayal of his dumb as rocks character is brilliant, both in terms of line readings and body language.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Canadian Film Review: Saint Ralph (2005)

* * 1/2

Director: Michael McGowan
Starring: Adam Butcher, Campbell Scott, Jennifer Tilly, Gordon Pinsent

There's no such thing as an original story; even Shakespeare got his inspiration from other sources. It's what you do with the idea that matters, it's in how you take the bare bones and create a living, breathing thing out of it. Great films transcend the well-worn elements of their plots. Saint Ralph is not a great film but even if it doesn't transcend its cliches, it at least has good taste in them.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book vs. Film: The Talented Mr. Ripley vs. Purple Noon and The Talented Mr. Ripley

Basic Plot: Tom Ripley is a small time conman who weasles his way into the life of his former acquaintance, Dickie Greenleaf, after Greenleaf's parents become frustrated with their son's extended vacation from his responsibilities. Dickie is amused by Tom at first, but quickly grows tired of him which eventually leads to Tom killing Dickie and assuming his identity. Thus begins a cat and mouse game as Tom tries to elude the authorities but still maintain his hold on Dickie's fortune.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review: The Debt (2011)

* * *

Director: John Madden
Starring: Helen Mirren, Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, Marton Csokas

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Similarly, if you say that you dispatched of a Nazi war criminal in one way and there's no one who can dispute your version of events, then what's to stop your version from becoming the official story? John Madden's long delayed thriller The Debt centers on a trio of Mossad agents who become famous for killing a Nazi war criminal and then, 30 years later, must contend with the potentially explosive collision of their story and the actual truth. It's a solid and very effective thriller and definitely worth a look.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: Drive (2011)

* * * *

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks

He's a driver. It's what he does and who he is, no more, no less. Taking its cue from its protagonist, Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, based on a novel of the same name by James Sallis, launches itself along a deliberate, no frills trajectory, working its way towards the only ending that a story like this could possibly have. That feeling of predetermination, however, does nothing to detract from how thrilling the film is and it comes to transcend the boundaries of its genre. Drive is the rare action movie in which you find yourself actually caring about the characters and what will happen to them.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Canadian Film Review: The Bang Bang Club (2011)

* * *

Director: Steven Silver
Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Taylor Kitsch, Malin Akerman

The line between being a witness and being a passive collaborator can be thin sometimes. War photographers are in a tricky moral position in that they are tasked with capturing the horrors of war and thereby be active in the creation of a narrative, but they also have to be passive observers and interfere as little as possible with what they're documenting. The Bang Bang Club, based on a book of the same name, tackles this quandry, creating a compelling and often thought provoking film, albeit one that doesn't quite reach the heights it aspires to.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review: 8 Women (2002)

* * *

Director: Francois Ozon
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Fanny Ardant, Emmanuelle Beart, Ludvine Sagnier, Virginie Ledoyen, Firmine Richard, Danielle Darrieux

If you've ever wondered what a film that doesn't take itself too seriously looks like, I highly recommend Francois Ozon's 8 Women. A musical locked room mystery featuring several of the most stunning and celebrated stars in the history of French cinema, this is an extremely fun, albeit slightly silly, romp.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review: The Help (2011)

* * *

Director: Tate Taylor
Starring: Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain

The North American trailer for The Help did it a great disservice. The impression you may have gotten from the trailer is that this is a feel-good, uplifting chick flick with just a dash of "white people learn important things" mixed in. While The Help is by no means the most searing indictment of racism ever made, it isn't totally lightweight either and it really isn't the typical "oppressed minority seen through the eyes of a noble white person" type story that it might at fist appear to be, either.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday's Top 5... My Most Anticipated Movies of the Fall

#5: The Rum Diary

From the looks of the trailer, it appears that Johnny Depp is back in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas mode (which makes sense since The Rum Diary is adapted from a novel by Hunter S. Thompson), and that is definitely a good thing.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Canadian Film Review: Trigger (2010)

* * * *

Director: Bruce McDonald
Starring: Tracy Wright, Molly Parker

Friendships can be complicated things and the longer they last, the more complicated they get. Bruce McDonald's film Trigger is about a decades long friendship picking up after a long period of estrangement. Its two protagonists fight and make up, open some wounds and heal others. Though the scope of the film is very small, it is such a well executed and engaging piece of work that it makes a big impact.