Monday, July 28, 2014

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Wonderful William Joyce film based on the stories he told his kids which in turn inspired a series of books which resulted in this film (or something)

The premise of the film has Jack Frost meeting up and ultimately joining the Guardians of Childhood (Tooth Fairy,Sandman, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny) They are tasked with protecting children from the evil of Pitch who feeds on fear. Pitch wants to stop children from believing since if kids don't believe in the Guardians then they will lose their power and eventually disappear. If they disappear Pitch will rule over everything.

Great vocal performances by Jude Law as Pitch, Hugh Jackman as the Easter Bunny, Chris Pine as Jack and Alec Baldwin as Santa help to create a bunch of characters that anyone could really believe in. Why can't their be a dark lord? Why couldn't Santa be a warrior? Yes the characters look cool but at the same time the voices sell the characters beyond the look and beyond the script.

Also helping to sell things are all of the small little touches that are in the film. First and foremost are all of the little characters that help the Guardians, the elves, the yeti like creatures, the giant eggs, the fairies, the nightmares, the reindeer. The fact that great care was given over to all of these characters says a great deal about the rest of the film. Actually watch the design of the film watch the levels of detail with in each shot and sequence and you'll realize that the film is truly something special. I mean where most animated films simplify their design RISE increases it making each frame feel like a real place instead of a simple background (The Kung Fu Panda films anyone?)

I know the film didn't do well, or super well at the box office. I know when it came out it went head to head with another family film, but you know what, this maybe a better film, at least from a more adult perspective. I think the reason this film didn't do well is that while the good vs evil plot will work fine for kids, the other layers, the need to believe for example are things which are going to go over a kids head.  I mean are kids really going to understand how important one person believing in you is? I doubt it. I doubt they are going to catch all of the things for moms and dads.

I really like this film a great deal. No it's not a perfect film but it is pretty darn good, and it does have some really cool stuff in it so what more could you ask for?

See this film.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Nightcap 7/27/14 Sound and Vision is this week,and some other stuff...



Thursday at Lincoln Center they are beginning their second Sound + Vision series of music films. The series, scheduled to run until August 6, is a mix of concert films and music documentaries on artists from around the world. I’ve seen four of the newer films and we have looks at South African protest music, a Japanese didgeridoo played, rock duo from Mexico and a rocker from the wilds of Pennsylvania. I’ve also seen Stop Making Sense, which is being screened with David Byrne in attendance.

It’s a wonderful way to discover some new favorite music and highly recommended. Reviews will be running through the week so keep watching.

For tickets and a complete list of films go to the festival page here.
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You may have noticed that I’ve gone off plan and just run Fantasia reviews this weekend. I’m sorry for mucking you up, but stuff happens. Not to worry, I’ll be back on plan starting tomorrow as we run a week of animated film reviews that have been kicking around for the better part of a year- no really I had this suckers scheduled pretty much 7 other times in the past year (In one review I refered to my three year old niece- the trouble is she's now a year older so I had to update it). I’m not moving them again so expect the kid stuff to crash into more Fantasia reviews, Sound + Vision reviews and  a few new release reviews as well.

On the plus side I have managed to maintain my only seeing things I want to see stance by doing just that with the Fantasia titles and a couple of new releases that I genuinely want to see for themselves.
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Shhhhh-a trailer for a must see at Fantasia
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A couple of weeks back John, Bully and myself saw the Riff Trax SHARKNADO performance. It was one of the best shows that the boys ever did. They made a pretty awful, funny on its own wretched terms film even funnier. If they ever release it to home video see it.
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The Film Society is screening every film John Waters ever made and a few he wish he had. Waters will be there for several screenings so I highly recommend going. Details can be found here.
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And Now Randi's Links

Sherlock Holmes as a police sketch
all Marvel films look the same
A kind of Bladerunner anime
An uncensored WW1 poem
Boyhood's black album
BAM's Chris Marker series
The Unfinished Film Project Part 1 Part 2
Cinecitta World has opened in Italy
Hidden in movies


Man in the Orange Jacket (2014) Fantasia Fest 2014

This is exactly the sort of film I should hate.

The cold calculating story of a laid off worker who kills his boss and wife and then moves into their house kind of borders on being a slasher film, which I hate. Additionally there are some stylistic touches (say not seeing the young man's face for the first third of the film) that should work against it, but somehow it works and works really well

One has to credit director Aik Karapetian who manages to tease out the suspense for it's brief running time. Nothing seems wasted, every moment is perfect and is milked for maximum effect. If the pacing is a tad leisurely its only to make the explosions of violence more chilling.

Also a plus is the limited dialog. A largely wordless film, there are times when there is dialog, but most of it isn't really required. Its what happens in the silences and between the screams that is important.

This is a dark bloody film that borders on being an art film, however its a film that any lover of suspense tinged with horror will want to check out.

Man in the Orange Jacket Plays later today. For more information and tickets check the web page.

The Desert (2014) or love in the time of zombies Fantasia 2014

Axel, Ana and Jonathan live together in a small place locked away from the world. It seems that the world has gone to hell in a zombie apocalypse. They record video confessions. They lust unhealthy for each other...and then they bring home a zombie.

You know this isn't going to end well for anyone.

Give writer/director Christoph Behl for going off the board and doing something different. By not going the way of pretty much every other filmmaker working in the wildly over used zombie genre he's found a small little plot of land  to call his own. Actually he's found a plot that that is right next to the godfather of the genre, George A Romero.

What I like about the film, and why the film is right next to Romero's films is that the film isn't about the monsters, it isn't about the gore, it isn't about anything else other than the people involved, people who are forced into a tough situation and forced to deal with it. You could remove the zombies and have it work.

Actually what the film feels like is a riff on The World, The Flesh and The Devil about what happens after an atomic war. While decidedly not as weighty on world issues as that earlier film, the film is still a cousin with its examination of the triangle dynamic.

This is a really good film. How good I'm not sure simply because the novelty of a real live cliche absent zombie film has left me walking on air. Actually if I'm considering this as a film thats a direct heir to Romero's work the film must be really damn good since I could make the comparison if it wasn't on that sort of a level.

Worth a look for those who want intelligent horror, or off beat romances and hate what the zombie genre has become.

The film plays tonight and August 5th at Fantasia. For tickets and more information go to the film's festival page here.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A non review of THE ONE I LOVE (2014) Fantasia 2014 (revised)

Sorry to the handful of you who read this when it originally posted, it reads much better now. This piece has been something I've been battling with for a while now and I let it slip out with truly mangled language because I tried to play by a restriction that really makes no sense. You'll see what I'm talking about below.  I've revised the piece and changed it to a non-review because I really can't talk about the film the way it needs to be discussed. 

A couple in crisis go a way to a house in the country that their therapist recommended as the perfect getaway place. He says what they will find  what they are missing there. They do.

I can't tell you any more than that since the whole film hinges on something that the producers do not want to be revealed. The problem is that if I don't talk about what happens I can't really review the film. I don't see what the big deal is but they seem to think not knowing is really important. Personally I don't think it's anything special. Its nothing we haven't seen on any number of TV anthology shows.

What I can say is that as a whole film this film didn't float my boat. This look at a long term couple in crisis is okay, but I never connected to them or their plight. I never really cared. Blame my lack of a long term relationship or the film just not being that good as to why I didn't relate.

As to how you're going to react to the film I won't guess since when this played at Tribeca, the reaction of the people I talked to were split into the "this is really good" and "what's the big deal" camps. Put me in the latter.

The film plays later today at Fantasia.

House at the End of Time (2013)

In 1981 Dulce is imprisoned for killing her husband and being involved in the disappearance of her children. Thirty years later she gets out of prison and is placed under house arrest in the very house where all the bad things happened. However as she soon finds out the past and the present are not that far apart.

Intriguing  horror film is supposedly the first from Venezuela. Its also one of the highest grossing films in Latin America. This is an old school horror film that is also a dynamic drama. Using the dramatic interplay between the characters  the film generates a hell of a lot more suspense then if it had just gone for scares. Additionally the film is lifted out of the classification as to whether it's just another horror film.

Doing interesting things with framing, the use of shadow (for mood and to represent characters), and the reoccurring theme of duality this is the work of a director,Alejandro Hildalgo who is very much at the top of his game. Most times these days when you watch a horror film anything beyond the scares seems to be an after thought  but the design of every facet of the film seems to be designed to create a mood or prepare you psychologically for something later on in the film.

To be honest I'm not sure completely what I think of the film. I know it's very good, but somewhere early on I started to watch the craft of the film (the shots, the set design, how things were arranged) more than the film. Its not that the film was bad, more that I was being a film geek and I was watching how a master filmmaker was doing his tricks, sort of like how I'll watch a magician.

Most certainly the film worth seeing when it plays at Fantasia and elsewhere- especially if you are sick of typical modern horror films.

The film plays tonight and July 30. For tickets and more information go to the film's festival webpage here.

Once Upon a Time in Shanghi (2014) Fantasia 2014

Form over substance action film set in 1930's Shanghai. What I mean by that is this is not a film you'll remember for the plot- just the action.

Philip Ng plays a newly arrived guy with superhero like strength.  He ends up battling one of the heads of the gangs and holds his own and then some with in the allotted time. They then become friends. However this raises the ire of the remaining bosses (especially since a shipment of opium was destroyed in their battle). They plot revenge, leaving a ton of bodies. However they failed to kill Ng so when he finds they've taken the girl he's in love with he wades into their number to get revenge.

There's more to it then that, including Sammo Hung, so don't worry I haven't spoiled anything, besides as I said this is all about the action

The fights were all choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping  and Yuen Cheung-Yan who amp everything up with wires, CGI and slo motion. It all looks kick ass and ugly. Heads are broken. If the fighting isn't really realistic, it doesn't matter since its simply just a truly wonderful violent ballet

And as long as we have the spectacle of fighting or an occasional set piece (the musical number is quite good) the film is wonderful. The problem is the film has exposition sequences and dialog and it's not up to the fighting. Actually to be quite honest its dull. We've seen this sort of story dozens of time before. Its the sort of thing that will make you wish someone would start fighting to liven things up.

Okay it's not quite that bad, however the fighting is that good, and it so outshines the talking that when the final half hour comes and it becomes all fighting you'll be delirious.

I don't hate it, but I wish I had seen this in a theater with a bunch of action fans instead of in my living room on my import DVD.

If you love action give it a go, otherwise take a pass.

The film plays this afternoon and on August 4th at Fantasia. For tickets and more information go to the film's festival web page.

Devil's Mile (2014) Fantasia Fest 2014

You can draw a straight line but it doesn't mean it still has some mean curves

Three kidnappers are transporting their cargo when things begin to go wrong. First they end up on the wrong road. Stopping for directions the clerk behind the counter warns them that they are on the wrong road and should turn around, the road on the map may look like it will get them where they want to go, but it won't be so easy. Further complications arise, several having to do with their cargo and that's all before things get really off the wall.

A largely solid melding of film noir and supernatural horror starts at a gallop and then picks up speed. We're barely 20 minutes into the movie and you're left wondering where in the hell this is going to go. I mean so much has happened whats left?

Lots of stuff.

I don't want to go into it. I want you to sit down and watch this film for yourself and discover its poisoned confections for yourself. I say this  because the film is just premiering and it needs to find an audience before it's spoiled. I read the write up on the festival page and it gave a little bit too much away.

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

Though to be perfectly honest the real problem with the film isn't fully the fault of the write up, it's in director Joseph O'Brien's script which kind of runs out of steam in the second half after a great first one. If you've seen any number of horror films you'll probably guess where this is going. On some level it's clear early on, but O'Brien is so good at distracting you for a large chunk of the film that you think it's going to do something different because he's set it up to be different. Then it all folds down exactly as some might expect.

(END SPOILERS)

Ultimately this is a really good B movie that if taken on it's own terms will delight you. If you can give yourself over to it and not mind the bumps in the road give the film a shot.

Devil's Mile screens tonight. For tickets and more information check the film's festival webpage.

DANCING KARATE KID - BATTLE FOR THE BRIDE (RYUKYU BATTLE ROYAL) (2013) Fantasia 2014


Awful title, great film

Jen is a young man traveling the world in order to find his own unique dance style . Stopping at Okinowa he becomes a pupil for a Ryukyu dance master who is also a kick ass martial artist. Will Jen be able to blend his dance with martial arts to find his style and save the dojo, and the girl?

That's a rhetorical question, of course he will.

Way better than you think it will be film is a glorious dance/wu xia film mixed with a  Karate Kid like plot to form a film that will make you feel good and put a smile on your face. Yes I'm sure that there have been films like this before, but who the hell cares when this one is so much fun?

That the film works is thanks entirely to the characters and the small moments that fill the film. You like everyone, even, strangely, the bad guys.  You delight in the small moment, say pulling a squirt gun in a bath house. And the music and martial arts/dance  combine in scenes that are just wonderful and not run of the mill. Best of all their lack of perfection add to the charm and make them real.

God damn I loved this film.

I went from "Oh crap they gave me  a screener I have to review this" to emailing friends to say they have to track this down.

As I said it's not perfect but it is quite wonderful on it's own terms.

The film plays later on ttoday at Fantasia. For tickets and more information check the film's festival page here.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Terry Gilliam's Zero Theorem has one more screening at Fantasia so go see it


Terry Gilliam’s Zero Theorem has one more screening at Fantasia tomorrow at 1230 and if you have thoughts of seeing the film go.

I’m not going to do a full review now, I just don’t have the time to write this up as fully as is required (There is too much at Fantasia for that), but all you need to know is that this is a super film about a man trying to work out the Zero Theorem, which may or may not prove whether or not there is purpose to life. When the film is firing on all cylinders I think it’s probably Gilliam’s best film. And if there is a sputter or two the film over comes them to be a truly wonderful meditation on life.

As I said the film has one more screening tomorrow. For tickets and more information go to the film's festival web page.

The film hits theaters in September.