Archive for May, 2010

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Robin Hood, Letters to Juliet, and Oceans

May 15, 2010

Notes from the Back Row- May 11, 2010

Robin Hood would be better if this chick was in it.

The big movie opening at Whistler’s Village 8 this week is Oceans. It’s not another Clooney caper, it’s a documentary put out by Disney’s creatively titled new branch, DisneyNature, the same studio that released that fantastic Earth documentary and this one is even better. Pierce Brosnan narrates as we enter the watery depths to witness everything from swimming with sharks, to platoons of spider crabs going at it Braveheart style, to overhead shots of our filthy rivers pushing sludge and ooze out to sea.

Directed by the team behind 2001’s Winged Migration, the filmmakers use technology, patience and luck to get some of the best nature photography you’ve ever seen.  And while the environmental message is pretty low key it’s still important to take your kids to go see Oceans because people who know even 1/10 of all the awesome shit that goes on below the water’s surface are less likely to throw the cup in after they finish their Vodka-Grape-Slurpee on the ride out to Ryder’s dad’s cabin, or wherever.

The other big movie opening, the one trying to bump Iron Man 2 from atop the box office, is Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. The Legend of Robin of the Hood has been around almost a thousand years, making it one of the oldest tales in the English language. Scott, re-teaming with Russell Crowe for the 5th time, can be commended, I suppose, for attempting to put the classic tale into a socio-political context– his Robin gives a lot of speeches and the film climaxes with the signing of the Magna Carta– but all the talking and explaining makes for an uneven, sometimes preachy film.

Robin Hood works because, at heart, it is a guy sticking it to the man and helping those who can’t help themselves. He’s an impossibly good archer and witty and fun. Or at least he’s supposed to be. Scott and Crowe’s Robin Hood is more brooding, with father issues (Ridley Scott, at age 73, is still rehashing the old father-figure deathbed scene) and Robin comes across a bit too Braveheart-y.

The costumes and set design are fantastic though, the flick looks as good as any period piece we’ve seen, and once the action picks up in the second half we’re treated to some classic Ridley Scott sequences of close-ups on sweat and hack-slashing battle scenes. Cate Blanchett brings new life to Lady Marion, although the merry men are a bit underused (they sing a lot though, so I guess that is pretty merry.)

All in all, the flick is a decent time-killler –140 minutes and thankfully no Bryan Adams in the soundtrack– but the script seems to want to go a different direction than Scott’s impatient, fixated directing. It’s PG-13 so the gore is light (thank god for burning pitch though, to keep the explosions up) but kids should be into Robin Hood anyhow. Kids love sticking it to the man.

Otherwise, if your estrogen valves are leaking like an offshore oil well, the Village 8 is also opening Letters to Juliet about a young blond American girl who inspires an old woman to travel to Italy in search of a long lost love. Directed by Gary Winick (Bride Wars, Charlotte’s Web) this sappy crapfest is overly idealistic, with the standard love triangles and themes of reunification. The setting, Verona, is filmed inspiringly and both Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave perform solidly but the predictable writing bogs it down and a PG-13 rating prohibits Seyfried taking off any clothes like she did in Chloe. Quel dommage.

Next week,  get ready for MacGruber, a Saturday Night Live skit-based actioner that somehow, astonishingly, looks pretty good.

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Notes from the Back Row- Iron Man, Big River Man, and Scarlett Johansson is f*cking hot, man.

May 7, 2010

I would line up for The Nanny Diaries 2 if it starred Scarlett Johansson. This week she steals the show in Iron Man 2

And so it begins. Summer Blockbuster Season, the best time of the year to be either a highschool kid, an unemployed college kid, or a part-time government worker/full time pot dealer with her priorities figured out.

In any case, summer starts at midnight-o-one Friday morning when billionaire playboy Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr, hits the silver screen in Iron Man 2.

The world knows Stark is Iron Man and he’s running with it, shamelessly (but kinda awesomely) self-promoting himself as the man who’s “Successfully privatized world peace.” When you’re that big you’ve got enemies on general principle and this time around Tony’s got two– Ivan Vanko, a pissed-off, impoverished Russian Physicist with a grudge and Justin Hammer, a wanna-be tough-guy weapons dealer played wildly by Sam Rockwell. Of course they team up, but predictability is part of summer.

Downey Jr is better than ever, (drunk Iron Man!!) but otherwise Iron Man 2 is a bit overstuffed. It’s busy, lots of character-building Father issues, lots of tech-science montages, lots of gun closeups, hot girls, bad guys, Avengers commercials and even some nice sexual innuendo thanks to Scarlett Johansson, who also claims the best action scene of the film.

And therein lies the problem. Iron Man is light on action. Tony Stark is more interesting outside the Iron Man suit but the real guts of any “action blockbuster” is action. Certainly the final 30 minutes of the flick is all action but the best bits were in the teaser. It feels like the characters are online gaming together and Mickey Rourke goes down pretty easy for a dude with a live-wire whip in each hand. Weak.

Ultimately, other than the blatant awesomeness of Scarlett Johansson kicking as in black leather the true value of Iron Man 2 might not be realized until Iron Man 3 comes out, when filmmakers can hopefully build on the characterization delivered here and give us some shit we haven’t seen before.

Iron Man 2 is not all bad, it’s still entertaining enough and the racecar stuff is killer. And film geeks like me love Tony Stark’s clever nod to the unfathomably-shitty “omelette cooking” scene in Marvel’s very own disaster Spider-Man 3. I like to know the people pulling strings realize when they shit the bed on something ‘cause this time they just squeaked through with clean sheets. For starting up summer, it’ll do. Next week is Robin Hood by Ridley Scott (Alien, Thelma and Louise.)

There’s nothing else opening up here so the dvd of the week is Big River Man. My buddy “The Moral Compass” turned me on this one and out off all my buddies he’s the one who’s usually most right. This time he was bang on.

Big River Man is a raw, weird, but totally engaging documentary about Martin Strel, an overweight, liquor guzzling 52-year-old Slovenian who attempts to swim down the Amazon river, all 5,268 kilometres of it. Sounds like lunacy? Sure, but Strel has already swam the Mississippi, The Danube, and the Yangtze– 4003 km of some of the most polluted river on the planet (way to go China!) Strel got all kinds of nasty infections on that one and even had to swim past floating dead bodies.

This time around, Strel faces 66 days of piranha, crocodile, those parasite-fish that swim up your urine stream, and a little insanity for good measure. The nut-hugger-wearing Slovenian and his “team” take on the Amazon to “achieve the Impossible” while also protesting the destruction of Rainforest. This movie is as wacky as it sounds, but it’s awesome.

Even in a speedo the Big River Man can still pull in the ladies. 'Cause he's just that badass.

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Notes from the Back Row- Freddy Returns, so does Chloe.

May 1, 2010

Freddy Krueger would enjoy that outfit.

Notes from the back row- April 27, 2010

Summer blockbuster season starts next week and the Village 8 is getting a jump on things with a special midnight screening of Iron Man 2 on Thursday May 6. Iron Man 2 looks good, partly due to a leather-clad Scarlett Johansson and new villains Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell adding to the badassness. Get there early.

But that’s next week, this week the Village 8 is opening what looks to be one of the shittiest movies of all time, Furry Vengeance. Brendan Fraser (Encino Man) stars as a land developer who wants to bulldoze a forest to build a shopping mall. And then a bunch of animals begin attacking him, mostly with some kind of feces. Raccoons, birds, bears, squirrels – it’s a real man vs nature tale (obviously one aimed at kids) and while the environmental message should be commended, one look at the trailer for Furry Vengeance was enough for me. I can’t believe Brooke Shields is in this. A similarly titled porno flick about 70’s bush would be less embarrassing. Poor Brooke.

It’s been at least a week since we discussed a hot chick in this column and I’m pleased to announce that Atom Eygoyan’ sex-thriller Chloe is back in town (after screening last December at the Whistler Film Festival) and it’s chock full of hot-ass Amanda Seyfried naked scenes and that’s just getting started.

The story revolves around a wife (Julianne Moore) feeling distant from her husband (Liam Neeson )who may or may not be cheating on her, so she hires a creamy young hooker (Seyfried) to test him. All three actors turn in spectacular perfomances, especially Moore. Good thing too, because there are a few dubious plot twists and it all gets a bit bonkers in the end.

After Exoitca and The Sweet Hereafter Atom Egoyan is widely considered one of Canada’s greatest auteurs. He usually writes his own material and pumps out a film a year. On Chloe the writing credit goes to Erin Cressinda Wilson (Secretary) but Atom has still put his unique polish on things. People go into Egoyan films expecting this high art, intellectual stuff but if you’re willing to look at Chloe as just a really well-made trashy lesbo/lust thriller like Wild Things, or Femme Fatale then you’ll find it all a lot more enjoyable.

Not as enjoyable as watching someone get butchered by a guy with claws for fingers and a nifty red and green sweater though. Freddy Krueger is back the Friday, scratching at our subconscious and taking no prisoners in the Nightmare On Elm Street reboot.

Produced by Michael Bay, and directed by newcomer Samuel Bayer, this R-rated flick seems to stick pretty close to the plot of the 1984 Wes Craven original. Teens on Elm Street start having nightmares about a scary-ass dude with a burned face. After one of them dies, the kids realize that the only way to stay alive is to stay awake and as they start to drift off Freddy appears more and more frequently.

The original Nightmare movies (there have been 8 already) were known for their great special effects and art-film-like dream/death sequences. Somewhere around part 4, The Dream Master, Freddy became more concerned with goofy one-liners and less into nightmarish murder and by 2003’s Freddy vs Jason it was all over. While there were no pre-screenings available it looks like this new Freddy, played by Jackie Earl Hayley (Watchmen) is about take a whole new generation of kids into the nightmare. Another pointless Hollywood remake? Sure, but it’s Freddy Krueger so I’ll see you there. Happy Summer.