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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Day of Wrath (1943)

* * 1/2

Director: Carl Theodor Dryer
Starring: Lisbeth Movin, Preben Lerdorff Rye

I think that Carl Theodor Dryer's The Passion of Joan of Ark is one of the best silent films ever made (top 5, definitely) and probably one of the best films ever made period. Fifteen years - and only one film, 1932's Vampyr - later, Dryer made Day of Wrath, filming during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. The two films explore similar themes, so similar that it's almost impossible not to think of the first film while watching the second, which is somewhat unfortunate since the second film lacks the impact of the first.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review: Our Idiot Brother (2011)

* * 1/2

Director: Jesse Peretz
Starring: Paul Rudd, Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel

Before even getting started with Our Idiot Brother, I feel the need to talk briefly about one of the trailers attached to it, the one for the Adam Sandler film Jack and Jill, wherein Sandler plays the protagonist Jack as well as Jack's twin sister, Jill. I have a lot of questions about this film. Specifically, I would like to know Why? and How is this a movie? If you haven't had the pleasure, please watch the trailer.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Great Last Scenes: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Year: 2004
Director: Michel Gondry
Great Because...: Not only does it bring everything around full circle, but it perfectly encapsulates the old adage that it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Joel and Clementine know that they'll end in disaster but are willing to accept the pain that will come at the end in order to experience the happiness that comes at the beginning.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday's Top 5... My Favourite Paul Rudd Performances

#5: Wet Hot American Summer

Three reasons why this character and performance are great: 1) it's proof that there's no problem that can't be solved by simply packing a kid into a van and then pushing him out in the middle of nowhere; 2) the cafeteria tantrum; 3) "You taste like a burger; I don't like you anymore."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Canadian Film Review: Men with Brooms (2002)

* * 1/2

Director: Paul Gross
Starring: Paul Gross, Molly Parker, Leslie Nielsen

Not too long ago I caught a few minutes of the television version of Men with Brooms and thought, "Wow, this is really broad and simplistic," and it caught me off guard because I'd always heard generally favourable things about the movie version. Having now seen the film, I have to say that the TV series, while broader and more simple-minded, really isn't that far off, though it does lack the film's scrappy charm.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: Rango (2011)

* * * 1/2

Director: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Johnny Depp

Judging by the respective box office takes of Rango and Cowboys and Aliens, I'd say there was only room for one Western hybrid movie this year and apparently a cartoon chameleon > Indiana Jones and James Bond. Reteaming director Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp (who worked together on the first three Pirates movies), Rango is a smart, funny, and great looking film.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review: I Love You Phillip Morris (2010)

* * *

Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor

It's beyond cliche at this point to say that a story is so bizarre it must be true, but how else could you possibly describe the story of Steven Jay Russell, a man who escaped from prison multiple times, including once by faking his death from AIDS (and, bear in mind, he was able to trick the doctors, too)? Writer/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa tackle this unbelievably true story by treating it like farce, a strategy that works very well, since playing it straight probably would have led to a feeling of cognitive dissonance.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Review: Source Code (2011)

* * *

Director: Duncan Jones
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan

With just two feature films to his credit, director Duncan Jones is easily one of the most exciting young talents in the science fiction genre. He's a filmmaker who favours story and character over explosions (though, being about an exploding train, Source Code does have its share of explosions) and manages to make slick, good looking films without sacrificing the story's soul. Admittedly, I enjoyed his debut, Moon, a lot more than his follow-up, Source Code, but there's no doubt in my mind that as Jones continues to develop as an artist and expand his career, he'll continue to make smart, interesting movies - something which I think we can all agree we need a lot more of.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review: Paul (2011)

* * *

Director: Tom Motolla
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogan, Kristin Wiig

For those of us waiting for the third installment of the "Blood and Ice Cream" trilogy, a series of films from Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright which includes Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Paul is a bit of a tease. It just makes you want that final film all the more. It's a bit broader and not quite as sharp as the Blood and Ice Cream films, but it's funny and engaging and will get you primed for that elusive third film.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday's Top 5... Movies About Bank Robbers

#5: Inside Man

Pretty much the only non-documentary Spike Lee film of the last decade that I can call an unqualified success, Inside Man is a heist movie in which the stolen goods are untimately secondary. It's what the stolen goods represent that matters, in this case complicity with the Nazis. The film has great performances from Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Unsung Performances: Gordon Pinsent in Away From Her

It happens all the time. Two great performances exist side by side in a film, one of which is showy and comes courtesy of an iconic actor, while the other is more grounded and from an actor with a much lower profile. The former is nominated for plenty of awards, and even brings home a few, while the latter is largely overlooked. This was certainly true of Away From Her, which netted Julie Christie plenty of attention but saw Gordon Pinsent left in the cold. Christie is certainly great in this movie but it’s her co-star who does most of the heavy lifting.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review: The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

* * * 1/2

Director: George Nolfi
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt

Someone in Hollywood should probably build a statue in honor of Philip K. Dick because I'm hard pressed to think of any other writer who has provided filmmakers with as much material (except, possibly, Shakespeare). Like many adaptations of Dick's work, George Nolfi's The Adjustment Bureau is only loosely based on the original but it is still defined by that unmistakable sense of paranoia that pervades much of the author's work.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: Year One (2009)


Director: Harold Ramis
Starring: Jack Black, Michael Cera

Early in Year One one character lamely tries to get one over on another and the other responds, "This is just insulting." There's no better way to describe the film as a whole. It's insulting. It's the cinematic equivalent of a school project that you forget is due until about 20 minutes before class so you slap a bunch of stuff together quickly and declare, "Good enough."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday's Top 5... Body Switch Movies

#5: Peggy Sue Got Married

Nicolas Cage's performance in this movie will either amuse you or annoy you to no end (so, basically, it's pretty much in keeping with most of his other performances), but Kathleen Turner's performance as a woman who goes to her high school reunion and then wakes up in the body of her teenage self is fantastic.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ebert's Greats #13: Cries and Whispers (1972)

* * * *

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Liv Ullmann, Ingrid Thulin, Harriet Andersson, Kari Sylwan

In his opening of Anna Karenina, Tolstoy wrote that "all happy families are the same; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." It might be added that every member of an unhappy family is unhappy in his or her own way. Cries and Whispers, a celebrated film from noted humorist Ingmar Bergman, is about the unhappy members of an unhappy family forced to contend with mortality. Like many of his films it explores themes of faith and the female psyche and, let me tell you, it is a laugh riot.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Review: Beginners (2011)

* * * 1/2

Director: Mike Mills
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent

In Beginners a father and son discover that it's never too late to make a fresh start. Both have spent a long time denying themselves the opportunity for real happiness - the father because of societal pressure; the son because he fears that real happiness does not last - and find that while it's not so easy to make big changes, taking a chance isn't without its rewards.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

* * *

Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone

Not many movies combine sweetness and cynicism as well or as winningly as Crazy, Stupid, Love. This is a movie that knows the score when it comes to relationships and their complications, that doesn't count on romantic illusions, but still has the audacity to hope for them. With a strong screenplay by Dan Fogelman and a fantastic cast of actors, Crazy, Stupid, Love is one of the rare delights of the post-summer blockbuster, pre-autumn Oscar bait part of the movie season.