Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Red Band Trailer- Bad Teacher

June 13, 2011

Red band trailers are always so much better than the regular ones. This looks not that bad. With all the girl-power talk going on post-Bridesmaids this could be the one-two punch female driven comedy is looking for.

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Notes from the Back Row- Runaway Trains and shit.

November 11, 2010

My Favourite thing about Rosario Dawson is that she doesn't take the Michelle Rodriguez roles.

 

Notes from the back row- nov 9

 

Train accidents happen all the time, around here it’s usually derailings and, according to a guy I met once, it’s often due to cost-cutting decisions.

“Take a piece of string, lay it on a table and put a few curves in it,” this guy said to me. “Now pull on one end of the string, what happens?”

“The string wants to straighten out!” I excel at the scientific process.

“Exactly, and so does a train when you cheap out and don’t put the extra engines in the middle of it,” the guy explained. “When a train ‘straightens out’ it comes off the track.”

This was right after that last derailment when all those chemicals got dumped in the Cheakamus canyon and fish were apparently jumping onto the shores just to avoid the bubbling toxic spill. Now I don’t want to point fingers on that one but this guy had just quit his rail job in disgust.

Corporate buggery is also the villain in Unstoppable, a runaway train movie starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine (Star Trek) that opens this Friday at the Village 8.

Somewhat based on a true story, Unstoppable is a blue-collar action flick about a couple of working Joes who stop a speeding runaway train carrying 8 cars of toxic chemicals just before it derails and explodes in a quiet rural town. Of course the unmanned train smashes through all kinds of vehicles and debris along the way, all the while heading straight for another train, which happens to be full of school children. Oversights, coincidences and bad luck combine to create a deadly circumstance and while the true event wasn’t this bad, these kind of things happen all the time, just ask British Petroleum.

Both Washington and Pine act well in this flick, as does Rosario Dawson as the feminine voice of reason, and director Tony Scott (Domino, Days of Thunder) uses faux Fox news footage to tell much of his tale, which is a new twist to his usual jumpy, cutty style. Unstoppable is a bit predictable and takes a while to get up to speed but the last half is solid action entertainment and it beats the heck out of The Taking of Pelham 123, Scott’s last crap-heap, subway train movie starring big gay John Travolta.

Speaking of crap, it’s no secret Hollywood is hurting for ideas these days but at the same time independent film is flourishing. Skyline, also opening Friday, is an independently made alien-attack film– a real humdinger, end-of-the-world flick made outside the big studios by journeymen effects-supervisor brothers Colin and Greg Strauss

There were no preview screenings but from scouring the internet I can tell you that giant organic aliens so bad ass they make dinosaurs look like sea monkeys arrive and use sweet blue lights to lure 99% of the population out into the streets where they are vacuumed up and abducted.

Most of the action is based in and around this one apartment building in LA and there’s a voyeuristic angle to the story about a group of twenty-somethings watching the world end from a sunny rooftop. Using lesser known actors and a shitload of special effects the Strauss Bros don’t appear to have reinvented the aliens attack genre (like District 9 did last year) but they haven’t done it a disservice either and to make an event flick like this independently is a sign of things to come–a good sign.

The next Harry Potter: Wizards-in-Puberty movie starts next week but I’m pretty sick of that franchise. As Jimmy Cliff said in The Harder they Come (it’s the dvd of the week) “Stop that train, I wanna get off.”

Notes from the Back Row is a weekly movie column appearing in Whistler’s Pique Newsmagazine

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David Suzuki and the Jackasses, all geniuses.

October 17, 2010

Oct 11, Notes from the back row is a weekly column in Pique Newsmagazine in Whistler BC

 

brown paper packages tied up with strings.....

 

David Suzuki is many things– scientist, academic, TV personality, environmentalist, 74-year-old grandfather, and also quite the comedian who doesn’t mind getting old at all.

“Years ago I was driven by testosterone and the urge to get laid and pass on my DNA,” the second-generation Japanese-Canadian recently said. “Now, I can go for hours and hours without thinking about sex at all.”

Force of Nature–The David Suzuki Movie is getting a special Whistler screening this week thanks to the Reel Alternatives program. Based on Suzuki’s Legacy speech (a 5-hour manifesto on everything from climate change to human/maggot parallels to the role of love in the creation of the universe) Force of Nature is a fascinating look at the life and ideology of a true Canadian national treasure as well as his words of warning for our collective future.

BC-born director Sturla Gunnarsson edits key moments from the Legacy speech with newsreel and footage from Suzuki’s iconic CBC show The Nature of Things but the most telling segments feature Suzuki returning to key places from his past and discussing the events that molded his life as an outsider– a WWII Japanese internment camp in BC’s interior, the racist backwaters of small-town Ontario, American research facilities int eh deep south, all the way to the famous logging standoffs and nature-connect spirituality of Haida Gwaii.

Where Force of Nature succeeds is in the mixing of these interesting and emotional moments with Suzuki’s eloquent take on science, history, nature and the future. From a doomsday-clock example of bacteria in a test tube to American Astronomer Harlow Shapley’s hypothesis that every human throughout time – from Jesus to Joan of Arc to Humprey Bogart to Angelina Jolie to you and I – essentially breaths the same air, specifically the argon atoms that our bodies don’t use and re-exhale with every breath.

Force of Nature will get compared to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth but Suzuki is a more compelling figure and this film is as equal parts character, love and soul mixed with the parts about why we shouldn’t let a man-made concept like economy dictate what we do with a natural system that’s been around for billions of years. Force of Nature plays at the Village 8 on Wed, Oct 20 at 7pm. Check it out, David Suzuki is the coolest.

A few other Canadian legends finally make their way into the Village 8 this week as Fubar 2 (in which two loveable idiots, Terry and Deaner, deliver one of the year’s smartest comedies) starts Friday.

Also opening Friday, speaking of smart comedies, is Jackass 3. A lot of people think these guys are just a bunch of…ah, jackasses… but in truth they are comedic geniuses keeping alive a tradition almost as old as film itself. Knoxville, Bam, Steve-O and the boys are masters of physical comedy who come up with new material by holing up for days watching The Three Stooges, Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry and that is why their movie is gonna rule, especially in 3D (which Whistler doesn’t have.)

Red, an action comedy about retired CIA assassins starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and Marie Louise Parker also opens. It’s based on a comic book by Warren Ellis, and John Malkovich also stars as a guy who ate acid every day for 12 years. Looks decent actually.

And since nothing is anything without an online component these days, check out the bacteria/test tube example, taken from David Suzuki’s speech, about how right now is probably the end of the world as we know it.   http://interactive.nfb.ca/#/testtube

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The Social Network, Now you know

October 3, 2010

this girl pops up when you google "hottest chick on Facebook". I don't know who she is or where she's from but that's kind of the point of the interent isn't it. She is pretty hot though.

Notes from the back row is a movie column From Whistler, BC’s Pique Newsmagazine

Sept 26- Now you Know Facebook.

It’s ski and snowboard movie season, time to see the best hits, bails, tits and rails last winter offered up. Or maybe putting tits in your snowboard video is old-school and no longer fashionable, the sport must be maturing.

Regardless, what I like to see in any ski or snowboard flick, other than linked turns, is riders going really going huge into untracked landings. The ultimate video of all time wouldn’t have a single bomb-hole in it. Unlike still shots, virgin landings are hard to fake on video.

There’s a virgin landing at the two-minute mark of Sandbox’s now you know. Just a rider and a giant, empty, perfect white screen of untracked pow. And it’s shot from a helicopter. Touchdown!

The Sandbox crew and producer Kevin Sansalone always capture the joy of riding with your friends and the fun times to be had screwing around on a board. This year now you know continues the tradition of snow and shenanigans featuring all sorts of pillow lines, cliffs, gnarly rails, bails and progressive jumps with FIS-sounding names like “double-corked 12” (remember when tricks had names like “Chicken Salad”? Which generation is having more fun I wonder?)

My favourite segment in now you know goes to Yes rider Jake Koia– he goes big, greases his landings real nicely and even manages to get a few quick turns on film before a boosting a cliff. Now you Know premiers Saturday Oct 2nd at Millenium place, with both 7:30 and 9:30 shows. It’s slow season and this flick is designed to get you stoked for the upcoming winter so quick stalking chicks on Facebook, get out of the house and go see now you know.

Speaking of Facebook. Did you know it has more than 500 million active users– that’s 1 in every 14 people on earth. That populace spends 700 billion minutes a month facebooking. (How many billion minutes would it take to build a bunch of decent schools in the poor countries and dig a well or two?)

And according to The Social Network, also known as “the Facebook Movie”, the whole everything is built around one lonely dork and the desire to meet chicks.

Opening Friday at the Village 8, and with a lot of sneaky hype to back it, The Social Network is an admittedly semi-fictional account of the life of Faceboook co-creator Mark Zuckerberg, as played by Jesse-Zombieland-Eisenberg, and his journey from militantly anti-social college dork to a getting-better adult dork with a few billion bucks.

The score, by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, is money. The story is essentially a class struggle but written by Aaron Sorkin (Malice) and directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, Benjamin Button, Zodiac). The movie is a speedy, styled examination of human interaction these days as Zuckerman, a hero you hate to like, burns bridges and scratches at the old guard even though he really doesn’t belong at their Harvard parties anyhow. His creation, Facebook, is an outcast’s dream–everyone’s is the boss of their very own exclusive club. The film worth checking out.

Another good Internet flick is Catfish, some kind of documentary about meeting people over the internet with an ending everyone who’s seen it is pretty tight-lipped about. Sounds promising. Catfish is playing at Tinseltown in Vancouver.

Speaking of building schools in poor countries. The real Mark Zuckerburg, perhaps in an attempt to offset how The Social Network portrays him, perhaps because he’s secretly awesome, donated $100 million bucks to the Newark School System to build a new paradigm for education in America. You gotta “like” that.

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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- 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.

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Notes from the Back Row- Trailer Park Boys, Surrogates

September 24, 2009
Canadian Icons – Julien, Bubbles, Ricky

Canadian Icons – Julien, Bubbles, Ricky

Notes from the Back Row- Sept 22

By my account Bruce Willis has saved the world 8 times already (Armageddon, Fifth Element, 12 Monkeys, etc) and this week he’s back at it in Surrogates, a new PG-13 sci-fi about the near future when nobody leaves their homes, preferring rather to sit around in ‘stem-chairs’ controlling perfected robot versions of themselves that go out into the real world and lead the lives they’ve always wanted. Bruce plays a cop investigating the first homicide in 15 years– someone’s surrogate died and the real person died as well, which kind of defeats the purpose. In order to save the world this time Big Bruce needs to unplug and get low-tech like only he can. Yippee-Kie-A suckas.

Surrogates director Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3, Breakdown) has skills but has never really had that breakthrough extra little push. Chances are he won’t this time either–really good sci-fi usually requires a bit more grit than you’ll get out of a PG-13 Disney-distributed picture. As a flashy action pic though, it doesn’t look too bad. Although no advance screenings for critics is usually a bad sign.

Unless it’s the new Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day which opens Canada-wide (but not in the US) this Friday. No pre-screenings but we all know fans of the show be on board for this. Filmed in a more Mockumentary style than the last movie(the cameramen get into things, reminiscent of the early seasons) and what’s not to like about a high-speed vehicular pissing battle?

The film drags a bit but plot is standard trailer park excellence. Leahy (still the best drunk to ever grace the silver screen) needs to run a sewer line under Julian’s trailer in order to get his fancy new trailer park up and running. Meanwhile the boys plan a bank job and manage to survive various shitstorms, shiticanes and the odd shit typhoon.

These characters and this show have been around so long now that some fatique is inevitable but the truth remains that TPB was groundbreaking. Remember when Ellen Page (Juno) did five episodes in 2001-2002 as Treena Lahey, Barb and Jim’s daughter?

Ellen Page is fantastic, Canada’s darling.  She has a new flick out next week, a rollerderby movie called Whip It that’s directed by Drew Barrymore. Drew’s been acting and producing and underage drinking her way around Hollywood since she was knee-high to Danny Devito (she was in ET, the first movie I ever saw in a theatre) but this is her first time steering the ship, her directorial debut. Early word is that Ellen Page is the best part of the flick and otherwise there’re a lot of musical montages and a not-even-close-too-being-pulled-off food fight scene. But we’ll see how it goes.

It can’t be as piss poor as the last flick opening at the Village 8 this week– a remake of an 80’s musical–Fame­. Dancing is huge right now, singing too, and fame-whoring has always been in vogue but you’d have to put the business end of a Glock 9mm fully automatic pistol in my mouth, or in the mouth of a close family member, to get me to see this movie. This is simply not my cup of tea.  I’ll watch Honey, Save the Last Dance, even White Nights but not this (okay, you got me, not White Nights either.)

And to make things even less appealing, Fame also stars Kelsey Grammer. Shoot me now.

No seriously, try to shoot me, it’s okay. Bruce Willis will save the day. He always does.