Archive for September, 2010

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Notes from the Back Row– Easy A, The Town, Devil

September 17, 2010

a rolling stone collects no moss and Emma is rollin these days.

Notes form the back row- sept 13

What I like most about high school movies is they are kinda like actually going to high school, but there’s no tests, no detention, and after 90 minutes or so you get a happy-ever-after ending (usually revolving around prom) that distracts from the shitty reality that life will never again be that simple.

Easy A stars my favourite up-and-comer Emma Stone as a less-than-popular high schooler who lies to her best friend about losing “her v-card” (virginity) and when the entire school finds out she rolls with it, fake-screwing all kinds of nerds, dorks and gays in order to boost their social status too– everyone knows it’s way better to be perceived a slut than a liar.

Riffing on that old book, The Scarlet Letter but then dismissing it just as quickly Easy A is more Clueless than Mean Girls but it does have some snappy humour and lots of great digs at the bible-thumping Jesus freaks (even though Stone’s character Olive is something of a savior who takes on the sins of others and redeems them.)

The second half of Easy A falters a bit, like most comedies these days, and although Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson nail it as the cool parents, the film ultimately belongs to Emma Stone, who has that perfect mix of hot-yet-approachable and a voice that could do Playboy Satellite Radio if her film career ever fizzles. Which it won’t, because she’s awesome.

Ben Affleck is not awesome, at least he wasn’t back when he kept making those crapfest romantic comedies. These days he is directing and even I have to admit Gone Baby Gone was really good. Old Bennifer is back at it again this week with, The Town, his second stab behind the camera–another gritty crime story set in Boston, and another success.

Affleck stars as the honourable thief looking for an exit and he doesn’t suck. Plus he’s surrounded himself with talent like Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) as the crazy best friend and Blake Lively (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 1&2) as the sometimes-girlfriend. Ben seems to be a director able to work with actors and get their best.

The Town is an action-hiest-love story-crime flick in the tradition of the old pulpy James Cagney films of the 30’s and 40’s. It’s classic storytelling, not as subdued and cerebral as Gone Baby Gone but certainly worth checking out.

Devil looks like it is worth checking out. It’s a claustrophobic horror film about a group of strangers trapped in an elevator and one of them is the devil. Sounds awesome right?  Except there were no pre-screenings available for anyone (bad sign) and while it is directed by the dudes who made Quarantine it’s produced by M. Knight Shamalayan (really bad sign.) So all I can really say about this one is go and expect to walk out disappointed. M Knight is garbage, at least he isn’t directing so this has a chance, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

The last film opening at the good old Village 8 this week is Alpha and Omega, an animated romantic adventure flick about wolves on the road. Dennis Hopper has voice work in this, one of his last roles, but otherwise it looks like pretty standard kiddie fair.

The DVD of the week is Wall Street with Michael Douglas. The “Greed is Good” attitude has never been more apparent than these last few years and Wall Street 2, directed by Oliver Stone, opens next week.

I don' t think emma stone is related to oliver stone.

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notes from the back row- Comfortable Zombie Apocalypse

September 11, 2010

Notes from the back row- sept 17

this girl can kill a million zombies and save the world.

“The trick is to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

I don’t know who said that, Katy Perry maybe, but it sounds like good life advice to me. ‘Cause the world can get uncomfortable, just ask John C Reilly in Cyrus, a three’s-not-company dark comedy opening this week at the Village 8.

Reilly plays John, a lonely, divorced social outcast who meets Molly (Marisa Tomei) at a party, falls for her, and can’t believe she actually likes him back. But here’s the rub, Molly lives with her “almost 22”-year-old son (Jonah Hill) and their relationship is so co-dependent it borders on incestuous. Much like the lighter-toned-but-still-awesome Mr Woodcock, man and son do battle over the mother but Cyrus takes things into that dark, creepy realm of weird that usually produces great results. For the first half of the film anyhow, then the directors, a couple of quirky brothers named Jay and Mark Duplass (Baghead), let up a bit and scramble to tie things up in the end, delving into some more traditional romantic comedy forced epiphanies and water down the weirdness in the last half.

Still, Cyrus is one of those small movies that comes out of nowhere and impresses. Reilly and Jonah Hill have great chemistry/animosity and you can never go wrong with Marisa Tomei, who is aging better than almost any actress out there.

Speaking of aging, that’s rarely comfortable and can you effin’ believe it’s been seventeen years since Dazed and Confused? Seventeen years and Milla Jovovich is still hot as a horseradish and back this week as Alice, the zombie-ass-kicker heroine of the underrated Resident Evil franchise.

Resident Evil: Afterlife, directed by Paul WS Anderson (Resident Evil, Death Race), is the fourth film in the franchise and the first in 3D (but not in Whistler.) Apparently they used the Avatar cameras and built the film with 3D in mind from step one– this is the real deal, not crappy post-production 3D like we have been seeing lately. Anderson used a steadier camera and a more classic shooting style, and focused on set-building and long-take action scenes rather than the fast-cuts and handheld shakiness that dominates most action these days. The results look impressive.

He keeps it simple with the plot though, Alice continues her mission to find survivors and lead them to safety. This is, after all, a video-game movie but it’s got Milla and Ali Larter in tight black suits fighting zombies all over the place and shooting guns in the rain/sprinkler spray. That’s good enough for me.

The Toronto International Film Fest starts this week and if you’ve got the cash it will be worth it to fly out there to watch films on three Canadian heroes.

Force of Nature is a documentary/biography based around David Suzuki’s Legacy lecture, which he explains as, “a distillation of my life and thoughts, my legacy, what I ant to say before I die,” the film weaves lecture talk with scenes from Suzuki’s life and long-running CBC show to craft what looks like an absolutely masterful film that ought to be essential viewing for every resident of the country. Saving the planet means sacrificing a bit of our cushy lifestlye but it has to be done.

TIFF is also premiering Fubar 2, in which Canadian classics Terry and Deaner go get jobs in Ft McMurray. Remember Terry and Deaner? They’re archetypes– At your high school maybe they were called losers or burnouts, metalheads or heshers but really they were just honest people comfortable with who they were, no matter how uncomfortable the world got. Who knows what the secret of life is but Plan B is to­ just keep on givn’r.

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Notes From the Back Row- Machete Madness, The American

September 2, 2010

Because of Machete, everyone expects a Jessica Alba shot but Christina Applegate is way cooler, She is in the shitty Going the Distance movie

Notes from the Back Row-  Aug 31

Autumn in the movie theatres means Hollywood starts thinking about character-based Oscar Bait films and Halloween Gore-fests. But first, dipping into the same B-Grade pool that made Piranha 3D one of the best films of the summer Machete slices and dices its way into the Village 8 this week.

Based on the faux-trailer from 2007’s Grindhouse and billed as a “Mexploitation” flick, Machete stars Danny Trejo as a head-chopping, ex-federale turned hitman out for some serious revenge when he’s double crossed by some slick Texans with an anti-immigration agenda and ties to south-of-the-border drug cartels. Think Rambo meets the Punisher with a hankering for tacos (and taco-selling revolutionaries.)

Although he shares directorial duty on this one with Ethan Maniquis (his longtime editor) the overall style remains classic Robert Rodriguez with shotgun-toting priests (Cheech Marin) Latino Heat (Jessica Alba) and killer stunts including using a dude’s intestines to swing out a window. Machete is funny and self-referential (Lindsay Lohan plays a slut) but never fully transcends the homage aspect and even limps through a few overly talky sections designed to drill home the flick’s political messages. Kudos for timing on the immigration issue but Rodriguez is a bit heavy handed with his delivery and not quite as slick as the exploitation films he’s tipping his hat too.

Coming right after the epic Piranha 3D doesn’t help Machete either. The violence is decent but not groundbreaking, nor is the sex, and realistic dialogue has never been Rodriguez’s ace in the hole. As the first Latin-superhero in Hollywood it is good to see a journeyman actor like Trejo (he’s done over 200 movies) finally get top billing alongside DeNiro, Don Johnson and Steven Segal– usually those guys are killing Trejo’s characters.

Rodriguez’s energy and Trejo’s badassery keep things going but overall, Machete could have used a bit of sharpening.

A Sharp looking George Clooney stars in The American, in role that’s very unlike the ones that catapulted him to superstardom. Based on Martin Booth’s novel “A Very Private Gentleman” The American is a sort of espionage-thriller about an assassin who screws up a job in Sweden and must hide out in the Italian countryside, laying low as he builds a super-high-end sniper rifle for a mysterious contact.

With only four or five other characters in the whole film (including a hot prostitute with a heart of gold) Clooney spends most of the time almost silent and in deep introspection so The American feels much like an old western– a killer trying to escape his past in a small town, meets a girl, etc.

Director Anton Corbijn places Clooney up against some fantastically shot backdrops– dramatic valleys, lakes and mountains– perfectly catching the mood of a lone-wolf on the run. The film falters at the end, however, when Corbijn attempts to tie things up neatly and humanize his character, and who didn’t see the twist coming?

The American is a not an American film, it watches slowly, more like the old Euro-character-thriller classics like Michael Antonioni’s Blow Up, but Clooney (who’s company produced the flick) is a huge American star and should be commended for stepping outside his oeuvre. Don’t worry though ladies, there is still a steamy, extended sex scene to make things worth the ticket price.

It’s a good thing Clooney brings the romance because it has been a shit-ass summer for romantic comedies and Going the Distance, the new Drew Barrymore long-distance-relationship romantic Comedy is unfunny, poorly shot, and even the foul-mouthedness of it seems a bit stupid. Even hot ass Christina Applegate, playing the clichéd crazy older sister, couldn’t save this one. So long summer lovin’, bring on the Halloween remakes and sequels.

More Christina Applegate, maybe, you can never tell with these internet photos. All i know is that the stuffed Hawk makes this shot awesome regardless of who it is.