Archive for January, 2011


More Mila, Black Swan

January 19, 2011

Kunis all the way.


Notes from the Back Row- Jan 11


The last time I remember watching a ballet movie was in grade 6, 1987. My mom rented White Nights with Gregory Hines and Baryshnikov and I actually kind of got into it. Not so much because of the ballet but because, raised on flicks like Red Dawn and Rocky , I thought Russians were inherently badass, even Russian dancers. I also remember being stoked about the idea of defecting.

In any case, Black Swan, opening this week at the Village 8, is the first ballet film I’ve seen since and while there is no defecting in this latest offer from Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler) he pretty much nails it otherwise– Mila Kunis? Check. Two female masturbation scene? Double check. Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman in a lesbian cunnilingus sequence? Here’s my money, give me the ticket.

That’s cheap marketing but hype aside Black Swan and is really just a psychological horror movie, a creepy, bloody horror movie full of fear, paranoia, danger and hate. And hot damn if Tchaikovsky’s music for the Swan Lake ballet doesn’t make for a pulse-hammering film conclusion too.

Here’s where the film school kids start talking about Doppelgangers and dark reflections of the self but rather than ruin things let’s just say that Winona Ryder homeruns a cameo as a batshit crazy chick, the swooshing steadi-cam shots feel almost too good to be true, the dialogue is snappy, and creepy factor high. It’s a slow-building psychological horror spin-kick to the eyeballs that’s somehow also incredibly visceral. Black Swan hints to some of the obsessive streaks in the world of ballet (eating food is out, finger down throat–in) but it’s more Fight Club than White Nights. Also, the actual dancing, of which there is quite a bit, is stunning.

It’s colour-and-animal week I guess because The Green Hornet also screens this week. No pre-screenings for this one (bad sign) and the fact that it’s a superhero coming flick coming out in mid-January also bodes poorly but there is a decent outside this is due to Hollywood just not understanding the flick. French director Michel Gondry (Be Kind Rewind, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is weird and has a childish sense of humour (sounds kind of perfect for a comic book movie) and The Green Hornet was written buy Seth Rogan and Evan Goldeberg (the Canadians who wrote Superbad and Pineapple Express.)

Rogan stars in the billionaire-partyboy-turned hero role, Cameron Diaz is the girl, and Christoph Waltz (The Jew hunter in Inglorious Basterds) plays the villain but my guess is that everything will be just a little bit different than expected. Gondry is responsible for some of the coolest and most innovative music videos of the past 15 years (White stripes, Chemical Bros, Bjork, etc) as well as some terribly underrated movies so it’s safe to assume he is not going to make a standard Hollywood superhero movie. Instead expect something funny and slick with cutting edge camerawork and effects in the action scenes. Some “Kato-vision” segments released on-line look pretty fresh and cool. This one is PG-13 but looks comic-booky enough to be worthwhile.

Also Pg-13, The Dilemma, starring Vince Vaughn and the (almost always shitty) Kevin James in a moral play about secrets and friendship and what to do when you’re pretty sure your buddy’s woman is fooling around on him. (Hint- the answer is not, “get up in her while you got the chance.”) This is directed by Ron Howard but looks stupid to me.

The Kings Speech, another awards season fave from 2010, is also playing this week and The Fighter stays for another week and is definitely worth checking out.


The Cinematic Doldrums

January 19, 2011

a movie about the doldrums


Notes from the back row- jan 04/2011


The Doldrums are a set of calm seas and unpredictable winds that exist around the equatorial areas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.  Sail your ship into the Doldrums and you might not be going anywhere for a while.

This week we enter the cinematic Doldrums– it’s awards season and until the Oscars get handed out in Feburary we can expect a string of crappy films as the studios dump their stinkers while simultaneously campaigning last years triumphs. Hopefully there will be one or two breaths of fresh air over the next two months, but not this week.

This week, the Village 8 opens Season of the Witch a B-grade medieval thriller starring Nic Cage and Ron Pearlman as two disenfranchised crusaders who quit the army and take a job leading a nice girl/accused witch to a far-off monastery in order to say some magic words and stave off the bubonic plague, aka The Black Death.

Director Dominic Sena has a dubious track record (Swordfish, Gone in 60 Seconds) but he manages a visually interesting film with lots of puss-leaking plague sores, overdone battles and flying zombie monks. The writing is nothing new and it watches like a parody at times but Nic Cage spouting lines like, “We’re gonna need more holy water,” makes anything tolerable. D&D fans will dig it.

The Village 8 is still screening the Coen Bros’ western-comedy True Grit as well as Mark Walberg and Christian Bale in The Fighter. Both films should make some noise during awards season.

Speaking of awards, Angelina Jolie is up for a Golden Globe for her mystery-woman-in-Venice role alongside Johnny Depp in the critically un-heralded, somewhat lackluster Euro-thriller The Tourist. Sure, the repartee is not quite as witty as I’d hoped but it is refreshing to watch an almost-realistic action movie with no explosions and ridiculously fake stunts. Plus, a fancy-dressed Angelina salvages anything. (She doesn’t take her clothes off as much as she used to though, blame it on motherhood.) In any case, as a working-holiday project The Tourist doesn’t rank as high as the Oceans 11 remake but in the flat seas of January it’s good enough.

Of course the best way to battle the Doldrums is on your couch with a bong and some DVDs. Start off with Dead Calm, the claustrophobic Nicole Kidman (circa 1998 when she was still smoking hot) thriller about a woman trapped on a dead-in-the-water sailboat with a killer. There’s no wind, no help, and nowhere to hide from Billy Zane’s excellent psychopath.

The download of the week is Heavy Metal in Baghdad, available for one buck on iTunes.  “Arrassicauda” is Iraq’s only heavy metal band and this documentary, directed by Eddie Moretti of VICE films, follows them from Saddam’s fall in 2003 through the wars and insurgency that tore the country apart. It’s a real rock and roll story about perseverance and hope but also a tragic look at what the conflicts in Iraq have meant for the young people (hint- it’s f4cking terrible over there.)

With ‘concert’ footage, candid interviews and on-the-ground journalism shots that major North American media outlets couldn’t get, Moretti crafts an honest and illuminating film that speaks to the universal awesomeness of Metal but also to horrors of war and the hopes of an entire generation watching their world crumble around them. Watch it.

We have it pretty good here in Whistle-town, the sound of bombs in the hills is a good thing. So be thankful, enjoy yourselves and enjoy your friends. The easiest way to survive the Doldrums is together.