Archive for March, 2011

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Hop, Source Code, Insidious

March 31, 2011

Michelle Monaghan stars in Source Code

Notes from the Back Row- March 24, 2011

Last week I recommended Hobo with a Shotgun, one of the goriest, most violent flicks of the new millennium. So to balance things out let’s dig up something for the ladies. The September Issue is a documentary that gives something of an insider’s look behind the scenes at Vogue magazine and its long-time editor, the most important woman in fashion, Anna Wintour.
For people who care about what colour is the new black, or how much fur is too much, Vogue is gospel and the September issue is the bible. Wintour, who was the inspiration for Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, is notoriously cold and she plays the part in this flick, while also looking a shitload like Cruella DeVille from 101 Dalmations.
In any case, The September Issue doesn’t dig as deep or deliver the inside scoop I had hoped for but there is lots of fashion and a tense dynamic between Wintour and her genius creative director Grace Coddington. Grace, the film implies, makes all the magic happen and crafts the dreams that Vogue sells to women everywhere while Wintour simply decides what she does and doesn’t like (even the doc cameraman catches heat for being too pudgy.) Anyone with functioning testes should steer far clear from this one but chicks and fashionistas can find it on iTunes for $1.99.
At the Village 8 this week, Source Code, directed by Duncan Jones (Moon), is a solid tech-action suspense flick starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Colter, a soldier plugged into a computer program that allows him to re-live the last 8 minutes of another man’s life, this time a poor sap who’s about to die in a train bomb. Although he is only reliving the dead man’s memory and not actually going back in time, if Colter can find out who the bomber is he can prevent an even larger attack later on– It’s like Groundhog Day meets United 93. Of course there is a hot chick in peril (Michelle Monaghan from Gone Baby Gone) that Colter is supposedly unable to save as he keeps getting sent back to relive, and re-die, those 8 crucial minutes while finding clues and figuring it out.
Despite two characters who seem to exist only to explain things, Source Code moves along nicely and doesn’t linger on scientific reasoning or dwell on moral statements like how little value the military places on its soldiers. And if you can shake a few in-world glitches regarding what can and can’t be done inside someone else’s memory, Source Code ends up being pretty good.
Also opening, Insidious the latest from James Wan (Saw). After experiencing a few freaky-ass happenings in their new house a husband and wife do something totally unique in the horror genre, they move out. Only to learn it isn’t the house that’s haunted, it’s their son. From there things quickly get of run of the mill– spooky poltergeists, lots of in-out camera movements, sudden LOUD noises, and creepy piano music. Wan delivers a few good scares nonetheless, and even though it’s kind of stupid and not that original, Insidious still makes a decent date movie.
Also opening, Hop is about the Easter Bunny’s miscreant son who shirks his familial duties and moves to Hollywood chasing fame. The live action and CGI mixes pretty well but the rest of it looks pretty stupid, but not stupid enough to be great (a rabbit shitting jellybeans and that a woman soon eats is about as good as it gets.) Hop is made by the guy who did Alvin and the Chipmunks and Garfield: a Tale of Two Kitties, which makes it about as much fun as a mumps outbreak– quarantine this one.

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Hobo with a Suckerpunch

March 25, 2011

Interesting that SuckerPunch takes place inside the fantasy world of a young woman but the costumes are decidedly male fantasy...


March 21
Notes from the back row is a weekly movie column in Whistler’s Pique Newsmagazine

Don’t blame the Village 8 for not bringing in Hobo with a Shotgun this week, it’s probably not their fault. Hobo is a small Canadian film with a limited number of prints and everyone wants one. So instead of the goriest flick of 2011, made right here in our own country, Whistler movie fans get a kick in the nuts (or labia) called Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2. Hurts doesn’t it?
But not as much as a shotgun blast to the face or getting beheaded by a manhole cover. Fans of gore, violence and bloodshed elevated to cartoonish levels and beyond should really drive down to Vancouver because Hobo with a Shotgun is the real deal, a way-over-the-top 80’s VHS homage starring Rutger Hauer vs some bad guys who aren’t afraid to burn a busload of schoolchildren for kicks. If violence isn’t your thing, approach with caution.
Directed by Jason Eisener (B-Grade Horrorfest Fans will remember Treevenge, his 2009 Christmas massacre short film) Hobo with a Shotgun is a crime-revenge gorefest exploitation homage with Western sensibilities. The stranger, a hobo, rolls into Hopetown (Dartmouth, NS) a shithole overrun with crime and every cop is in on the take. With dreams of running a simple lawn mowing business the hobo is drawn into fray while saving a gold-hearted hooker (Molly Dunsworth). A shotgun comes into play soon after and vengeance literally runs in the streets as and hope is restored to Hopetown.
Bad taste and continual violence is the entire point but Eisener manages to slip some commentary about terrorism and media fear mongering in too. Rutger Hauer plays the hobo with almost Shakespearean straightness, which only anchors the film and allows the rest of the cast/film/city to go shitballs crazy. Eisener recently described it as “He’s a grizzly bear in a circus, but he’s incredibly grounded so the circus can really run wild.”
Despite a few pacing problems, Hobo with a Shotgun is obnoxiously loud and dripping with garish colour. The violence is stupendously ridiculous and the plot so bonkers that when a giant octopus appears late in the film, it doesn’t jar at all. In other words, this is my favourite movie of the year. I’m a sucker for flicks with the plot in the title and, for a first feature, Eisener delivers.
Speaking of suckers, there is one good new flick opening at the Village 8 this week. SuckerPunch is the latest from Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) and stars Emily Browning (The Uninvited) as a sweet young thing locked up in an insane asylum or a really creepy prison or something (no pre-screenings for this one) who, along with a bunch of other hot chicks (including Abbie Cornish, who we discussed last week) escape into their own fantasy world to shoot guns and wear sexy outfits and fight robot ninjas and giants and serpents in their attempts to “get free.” It’s like Pan’s Labrynth meets Girl, Interupted with the visuals of Sin City on DMT. No prescreenings were available (caution!).
Zack Snyder is a style-over-substance master so the look of this flick should make up for any storytelling shortcomings. Plus Carla Gugino has a role and she is always golden (too bad SuckerPunch carries only a PG-13, Gugino does incredible nude scenes.)
For the segment of the population born before 1975, those without attention deficit disorder, The King’s Speech returns to the Village 8. Yes, it won best picture and is certainly a well-crafted piece of cinema, but it’s by no means perfect. There was one character missing… a hobo with a shotgun.

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Paul, Limitless, and The Lincoln Lawyer

March 20, 2011

Abbie Cornish is not as well known as perhaps she ought to be.

Notes from the back row march 15, 2011

Another alien hits the silver screen this week but at least this one, named Paul, has the decency to be rated R.
Directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) Paul is a funny little bug-eyed extra-terrestrial who escapes from 60 years of government lockdown and ends up hitching a ride in a motorhome with two English comic book geeks (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, of Sean of the Dead fame) and a fundamentalist Christian trailer park supervisor (Kristen Wiig, stealing the show.)
Trying to keep Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) on the down low while evading government baddies (Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Trugilo) the slacker-hero-geek squad end up in a series of mishaps followed by chase scenes that climax in the ultimate Sigourney Weaver cameo.
Paul is full of anal probe jokes, bromance tender moments and enough laughs to keep things chugging for 103 minutes but considering the talent involved its only good where it should have been great. The main problem is that Paul panders to its target market of film buffs and sci-fi geeks so much that witty references and in-jokes threaten to overwhelm things like story, dialogue and creative vision. Sure, it’s funny, a geek wish-fullfillment flick that melds ET and Road Trip, but Paul never quite makes it to the comedic outer limits.
The inner limits of human potential, however, get reached, breached and broken in Limitless, the latest suspense thriller from Neil Burger (The Illusionist.) Bradley Cooper stars as Eddie, a bum writer who takes a little tab of some new drug and gains access to that other 80 percent of his potential, the part we supposedly never use. It’s like Viagra for the brain and with it, Eddie finishes his book in four days then inexplicably turns $12 grand into $10 million via the stock market, and somehow gets mixed up with some (stock) shady characters including the Russian mob and Robert De Niro (taking an acting paycheck.)
Everything is fine as wine until the drugs run out – apparently the highest highs spawn the lowest lows and soon Eddie is living a paranoid nightmare existence while his girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) remains less than impressed.
Limitless is shot in true drug-tripping glory with dazzling colours and flashy camera work throughout yet problems lie in a few plot holes (he’s too smart to be acting that stupid) and Neil Burger’s refusal to slide some deeper thematic meaning into things–he misses ample opportunities to comment on addiction, narcissism and better living through chemistry. Still though, as a tense thrill ride with a really high guy, Limitless is pretty fun.
The Lincoln Lawyer also opens this week at the Village 8 and stars Matthew McConaughey as a street-savvy criminal defense lawyer who works from the back seat of his Lincoln. Except he gets tied up in some bad shit when he takes the case of a Beverly Hills playboy (Ryan Phillipe) accused of rape and attempted murder. It’s a street-meets-glamour story and of course nothing is as it seems but director Brad Furman (The Take) goes light on the grit and heavy on the overly simple moral drumbanging. The all-star cast includes Bryan Cranston, William H Macy, John Leguizamo and Marisa Tomei, playing a single mom who ain’t afraid to show a little skin. Good thing too because the plot fizzles the further into the movie you get. McConaughey is solid as usual.
Speaking of Fizzle, lets hope the cloud of radiation driftingover the Pacific dissipates before it reaches our quiet mountain town. But in case it doesn’t the download/dvd of the week is Blood of Heroes, proof that a post-nuclear society can be all fun and games.

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Super

March 15, 2011

Ever go for a job interview at some office or agency that thinks they’re all big-time because they downloaded a list of “professional” recruiting questions off the internet? You know, when there are three people on the other side of the table with clipboards and they’re asking things like, “Give one example of how you used your skills as a communicator to solve a crisis in the workplace?” or “If you could have a super power, what would it be and why?”
and you say, “I’d like the ability to time travel so i could go back to fifteen minutes ago and not bother coming in here.”

in any case, the everyman superhero flick is gaining momentum after Woody Harrelson’s Defendor the dynamic duo of Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim Vs the World an, coming soon, Super
I generally think Rainn Wilson is just a poor man’s Bill Hader but he looks to fit the role here and Ellen Page is always a knockout punch to the heart/groin. Plus this is directed adn written by the guy who did Slither.

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Alien Invasions and Red Riding Hood

March 11, 2011

This is what Amanda Seyfried wears under the hooded red cloak

Notes from the Back Row- March 7, 2011

The first Sci-fi film of note was George Mélies’ Le Voyage dans la Lune, way back in 1902. Noted for its technical ingenuity and special effects (which are not bad) A Trip to the Moon also marks our first cinematic conflict with aliens. The wacky explorers end up in a giant lunar mushroom cavern and discover some Selenites, weird lizardy moon people that explode when you whack them with your umbrella. Although eventually captured the moon explorers manage to battle their way out of the Selenite lair, back into their ship (which they launch with a rope) and return safely to earth. Find it free online.
Battling aliens has remained a movie staple ever since. From satirical epics like Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks to realistic creepfests like Fire in the Sky to true classics like Aliens or District 9 our obsession with hostile E.T.’s never seems to fade.
This week it’s Battle Los Angeles which opens Friday at the Village 8. Rated Pg-13 and just under two hours long, Battle L.A. is about a ragtag team of emotionally burdened marines sent to rescue some civilians from a city under attack. Aaron Eckhart stars as the first of many clichéd characters saddled with cheese-dick dialogue while expensive-looking shit blows up all around them. Even Michelle Rodriguez, playing butchy tough-girl role she’s done 7 times before, can’t make the script shine.
Visually the film looks pretty slick (decent action setpieces and a docu-style of shooting reminiscent of Black Hawk Down) but the aliens, kind of an integral part of an “aliens attack” movie, are nothing special. At least their ships are cool.
Outer Space keeps coming in Mars Needs Moms, also opening Friday. This one, a PG Disney offering, features that creepy-ass, wax-museum, Robert Zemekis motion-capture animation that we’ve seen before in The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol. The story is about Martians kidnapping moms and trying extract their disciplinary skills in order to run an army of robotic nannies and if that doesn’t convince you not to go see it the animation ought to. It’s supposed to look “realistic” but it just comes off as creepy and off-putting and saddled with a stupid story this flick has nothing on Rango or anything by Pixar, Dreamworks, or even old George Mélieis.
Mars Needs Moms also boasts the stupidest title of the year so far and features the worst abomination of Hip-hop music ever recorded in its trailer. This looks less entertaining than finding someone else’s turd floating in the public restroom stall. Save your money.
Salvaging the week, or trying to, is Red Riding Hood, a re-telling that turns the classic tale into a werewolf story starring Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman. Directed by Catherine Hardewick (Thriteen, Lords of Dogtown) this version puts Little Red in a bit of a love triangle except that one of her suitors just might be the wolf. It doesn’t look that bad but no pre-screenings makes me nervous, as does the PG-13 rating. And you can bet the wolf will be CGI and not a guy in make-up. Make-up and the transformation are what make werewolf movies cool.
The best, most twisted, Red Riding Hood remake is1996’s Freeway starring Reese Witherspoon and a spooky Keifer Sutherland. It’s not what you expect and it’s the Download of the Week.
So is They Live, a 1988 classic starring Rowdy Roddy Piper as a drifter that stumbles into a mind-control alien shitstorm. Director John Carpenter also made 1982’s The Thing another all-time alien flick starring Kurt Russell . Catch up on your alien defense techniques finding because those bastards could be coming for us (or our moms) at any time.

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Sneak Peak- Your Highness

March 7, 2011

 

Your Highness is directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) and is already  looking to be one of the most entertaining flicks of the upcoming year. It’s a Fantasy-comedy-adventure starring James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, and Danny McBride, who describes his character as a guy who, “just likes to butt-fuck girls and drink a lot. And he likes to smoke. That’s just part of his deal.”

check out the sweet Vice Magazine sneak-peak right here

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New Sheriff in Town- Rango

March 4, 2011

Isla Fisher voices a character in Rango. She's australian, was in Hot Rod, is married to Sasha Baron Cohen, and is smoking hot.

 

Notes from the back row- mar 1

The most interesting movie this week is Rango, in which a self-deluded animated gecko in an Acapulco shirt drifts into a town called Dirt, becomes sheriff, and saves the day. All the while channeling Hunter Thompson, cross-referencing Sergio Leone, and (kinda blatantly) ripping off Roman Polanski’s Chinatown.

Despite suffering an overstuffed plot and a lead character with a too-easy arc, Rango is voiced by Johnny Depp and the supporting cast includes Isla Fisher (Hot Rod) Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) Harry Dean Stanton (Red Dawn) and Timothy Olyphant (The Crazies.) The cast delivers but what makes things interesting is how it all looks– this is the most visually stunning animated feature since Avatar.

On Rango, director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean) teams up with special effects house Industrial Light & Magic (an offshoot of LucasFilm, ILM has done effects for everything from E.T. to Jurassic Park to Harry Potter to Star Wars.) Neither party has ever made an animated feature and, visually, they really knock this one out of the park. With ace cinematographer Roger Deakins lending a hand, Rango is an animated film with the sensibilities of a really surreal live-action. The lighting is gorgeous, the landscapes are stunning, the characters surreal and the action flies and zooms and twists like a cartoon yet remains grounded in reality just enough to work perfectly. Technically and visually Rango gives anything from Pixar a run for the money and for the most part the flick works for kids and adults alike.

Also interesting, Verbinski chose to make the film in traditional 2-D and yet the effect is as powerful as any digital 3-D release we’ve seen. He also took Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox approach and had all the actors performing their parts together on real desert sets. It’s a much more sensible approach than hiring stars to sit in a sound booth and bang off their lines.

Speaking of banging, Beastly, a sappy teen romance flick about discovering inner beauty opens this week at the Village 8 even though all the press says its not supposed to be out until summer. Perhaps they bumped it up a few months after I am Number Four, which also stars supposed-heartthrob Alex Pettyfer, flopped at the box office two weeks ago. Supposedly today’s kids need their own take on the classi Beauty and the Beast tale but the only reason I would even consider seeing this one is because Mary-Kate Olsen plays the witch. She was pretty killer in The Wackness which is a way better teen flick and is therefore the download of the week.

The last new movie to hit town on Friday is The Adjustment Bureau. Matt Damon stars as a reckless politician who meets a hot dame (Emily Blunt), falls for her, then bumps into some badasses in fedoras who apparently “adjust” people’s lives to fit the master plan of Fate or God or the Chairman of the Universe or whatever. These “hat” guys can travel through the time/space continuum without a Delorian and apparently must keep Damon and Blunt apart because both are destined for greatness. The idea that love smothers individual greatness is never fully explored though.

The Adjustment Bureau is a paycheck for Matt Damon, either that or he’s slipping (or he wanted to bounce around New York with Emily Blunt for three months and who cares if the movie sucks.) It’s a neat idea, adapted from a Philip K. Dick short story, but the execution is fat and lazy. Skip it and go see the Oscar winning The King’s Speech instead, the Village 8 is wisely keeping that one around for another week.