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Antiviral: Like Father Like Son

April 19th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Few sons have followed in their father’s footsteps so precisely in the filmmaking biz, specifically the writing and directing your own movie biz. You’ve got your Reitmans. Your Reiners. And now: Cronenbergs?

What does this movie have that I demand from a Cronenberg branded film? Some bizarre technology that doesn’t really make sense? Check. Bizarre human flesh/machine hybrids? Check. Well, the baton has been passed I assume, with Daddy Cronenberg focusing on character studies.

Yup, a weebit VIDEODROME, but that's forgiveable.

Yup, a weebit VIDEODROME, but that’s forgiveable.

What else is in this film? A translucent Caleb Landry Jones perfectly matched to the more than white background. Malcolm McDowell dropping in just to deliver a few lines in his more than perfect voice. A potential hottest new actress Sarah Gadon that is believably obsession worthy. A wonderful menagerie.

See it or may I rot where I stand.

—you know it, I own both Cronenberg releases on Criterion, dan

The End of Love: Not the New Terrence Malick

April 12th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

With a title as fatal sounding as a ponderous philosophical opus, this film carries such moments of spontaneous hope and beauty you forget that this is supposed to be a sad drama. Isaac Love, writer/director Marc Webber’s real life son, has to be in the running for one of the cutest goddamn kids on our blue sphere. He lights up and eats up the screen; moments caught on film have to be real as hell with this two-year-old, who doubtfully even the most seasoned of directors trained with children could direct to say those lines.

You do have to wonder if Isaac is actually getting confused in some of the scenes where a mother-figure is present. Pretty much all the scenes that seem scripted don’t have him present except the scenes with Shannyn Sossamon (who turns in one of her best performances), where the slip-ups occur. Is that a situation created so such naturalistic dialogue comes forth from the mouth of babes?


Isaac Love: Cute As Hell

I don’t want to dig too deep as this is a film that’s best discovered at its own pace, at first being drawn in to the daily rhythm of Marc and Isaac. Would it be too cliche to say this film tugs at your heartstrings?

This film is a really unique experiment in quasi-autobiographical filmmaking that should be seen by all. You’ve seen weepy indie drama before, but not like this.

And look, if you’re looking for more of what we had last week, we literally have it. WRONG and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR continue alongside THE END OF LOVE. If you missed ’em, see ’em!

—drowning in films, I love my job, dan

Double Dose of Mind****

April 5th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Probably the first and last time I’ll use a self-censored title to this blog. I stand behind it thematically, but I don’t want to make my momma cry if ever she sees it.

Type one of mind twist is the transcendent WRONG (I’m officially switching title style so I don’t get schizophrenic between writing engagements). This film has one of the best laugh out loud moments of the year so far. If you see it you’ll know it, I don’t want to give anything away. We get some great performances from the cast, especially Steve Little, criminally underused even after giving us one of the best sitcom characters in TV history as Danny McBride’s sidekick in EASTBOUND AND DOWN.

Do you want to see a picture of my dog? No.

Do you want to see a picture of my dog? No.

WRONG’s greatest success is performing the mission of surrealism perfectly: subverting your expectations. Though the film dips its toes into straight absurdism at moments, it keeps a perfect balance of just enough strange and just enough familiar. The result: you at times will forget momentarily that you are watching a surrealist comedy (and sometimes even that you are watching a comedy) so you are continually delighted with surprise surrealism throughout the film.

And of course, Dupieux’s masterful use of sound design and audio cues are back from RUBBER. Scenes are punctuated by unsettling music swells so short you almost think them accidental, but nothing about Dupieux’s films are accidental.

Also up for mental discombobulation is MY AMITYVILLE HORROR, and film that asks a lot of questions but offers no firm answer. The main voice is that of Daniel Lutz, choicely lit by the filmmakers to cast his face in ghoulish, death mask shadow. His story provides the framework for a revisiting of 70s paranormal sensation “The Amityville House,” exploited for its perfect haunted house narrative set against a dysfunctional family.

See what I mean? TALES FROM THE CRYPT much?

See what I mean? TALES FROM THE CRYPT much?

Lutz is justifiably maladjusted, though this film portrays him more as the receiver of domestic abuse, not supernatural. His hatred of his stepfather George Lutz colors the narrative of his remembrance of the events both surrounding life in the house and life before and after. His siblings declined to be interviewed, so we are left with one voice, manic and still vividly remembering and re-remembering events 35 years prior. An interesting portrait of hatred and remembrance. Was the evil supernatural, paternal, or completely imagined?

—watched way too many movies this week, time to read some comics, dan

Great, More to Feel Guilty About

March 27th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

I already have the wild/farm-raised salmon debate with the girlfriend every once in a while (I’m for either, farm-raised means sustainable), but now I got to feel guilty about tuna too?

“Sushi: The Global Catch,” the first world premiere I helped orchestrate for SIFF, starts off with a loving and glowing reverence for Tokyo’s fish market and its premier sushi grandmasters. Eventually we get around the world’s growing obsession with sushi, with China on the precipice of becoming the world’s next largest demander of fish. The film immediately segues into its activist heart: save the bluefin tuna!

Another ocean apex predator??? But I'm already pro-shark!

Another ocean apex predator??? But I’m already pro-shark!

Knowing that overfishing in general was happening, I did not know the specific plight of one of the oceans most important members of the food chain. I am myself a loud and vehement defender against killing the ocean’s sharks (I tried a shark fin dumpling once and still feel guilty about it), and now I have one more fish I have to lump into my plaintiffs. Actually, I kind of wish there was a straightforward oceanic court of law that I could argue against killing off the ocean’s largest creatures and we’d have done with it once and for all. I would of course be bringing a class action lawsuit against the world on behalf of giant octopus, whales, dolphins, et al.

Anyway, I love sushi but if bluefin tuna is the main thing I’ll have to cut I think I’ll survive. As long as tuna is doing ok in general that is, as I prefer ahi and yellowtail for my sushi and sashimi over regular tuna (which I assume is bluefin the way this documentary goes on).

And for the love of god, while we’re at it, please convince my girlfriend to leave tako alone!

—sushi, moshi moshi, dan

Bond V + VI

March 24th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

We’re on the precipice of the end. All good things must come to an end; if not, how would you ever know how good you had it? And I’ve got to say, it’s been pretty good.

Two more Bonds this week, both coming from the golden dawn of the blockbuster. Do you really think it a coincidence that new, fan-favorite villain Jaws arrives two years after the highest grossing summer film of 1975? And that two years later Bond goes to space in order to one-up the next highest grossing film of 1977? This is perfect film spectacle in a race to the top, and Bond is squared off against beautiful spies, a physically superior villain, and great set pieces. I liked the Connery Bond, but you can perfectly see in these two films how Bond was set up with nowhere else to go but an action hero scramble to the top. Brosnan’s dive for the plane at the beginning of “GoldenEye” is directly prophesied by Moore physically wrestling a parachute off a man in free fall out of a plane. Yeah, the bar was raised here.

At first I didn’t think I liked the Moore Bond, his quips started off a bit shaky in “The Spy Who Loved Me.” There were some good action scenes, but he seemed a little less suave and physically capable. In “Moonraker” nearly every one-liner had me laughing out loud and continued to surprise and delight me throughout, though you really do enjoy it more after seeing “The Spy Who Loved Me,” if only for the building of the character Jaws which has big payoffs in the next film.

Oh Drax, now you done it.

Oh Drax, now you done it.

You still have time to catch them both today! Albeit with “Moonraker” first, but hopefully you made prudent use of your Friday/Saturday and are set up for a fabulous matinee.

Was it good for you?

—Moore Bond, Roger that, dan

Bond IV

March 20th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Coming at you better late than never. OHMSS, almost scientific, that. If you don’t get that, don’t bother. It’s not that funny.

What a unique treat this film is. Lazenby is a delight of a Bond, and why he only got one film I don’t know. He brought more humanity and kinetic physicality to the role than Connery did, IMHO and others with whom I have conversed. However, perhaps a too emotional and sensitive Bond for some (my girlfriend). Yes, there is wedding bells, but its Diana Goddman Rigg, so can you blame Bond for that one? It’s nice to have a Bond girl who can really carry her own in this film, with action and wit.

Yes, this is a very long Bond film, and almost seems at times to go out of its way to lose its energy and momentum. But in contrast to such Bond films as the previous entry, “You Only Live Twice,” the action sequences are better choreographed and, as they are not as frequent, they stand alone as more brilliant set pieces. While a bit more serious and capery, the film is not without its winking comedy and one-liners. At the end of the cold open, Lazenby looks straight at the camera and says “this never happened to the other guy.”

Too bad they didn't get the Scot to wear this outfit.

Too bad they didn’t get the Scot to wear this outfit.

The opening credits then roll with a montage of events from the previous Bond films. This is a series that knows where it came from when it makes a departure. The villain, whom we’ve seen before, is also played by a new actor. The film both acknowledges its previous continuity yet completely eschews it (apart from recurring characters “M.” “Q” and Moneypenny). It’s a fascinating film in that regard in that in still works so well. The Bond series is not the first or only to change actors and keep going, but it is the longest running and most numerous. As this film is the first to do so (if you don’t count non-canon and seriously un-funny “Casino Royale,” which I don’t), Bond fans should not miss this undersung film and praise it for allowing the series to continue and not fall flat on its face. This is before the time of rebooting franchises left and right! Remember those days? Sequel or nothing!

Here’s looking forward to some Moore Bond. Ha.

—Australia, give us more hunky heroes, dan

Bond III

March 15th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Well I watched “Goldfinger,” but I didn’t have the chance to blog about it. It was a fun film, with a visible villain and higher stakes. Less Hitchcock and more superspy.

By “You Only Live Twice” Bond is in full-form and full-swing. Nifty gadgets are setup only to be used in the very next scene. Scenes get written into the movie purely for Bond to make spectacular escapes. This film has action sequences and undercover disguises in spades. Connery even turns into a barely passable Japanese man (really not passable at all, no faking that exquisitely lined face)!

Connery-san. Sure, I believe it.

Connery-san. Sure, I believe it.

And later here in the 60s we’re in full camp mode: Japan’s secret service is composed of ninjas and our mysterious, cat-stroking evil mastermind tosses those who earn his irk into a bubbling green pond (piranhas!). And the movie possesses moments of laugh-out-loud sexism! “In Japan, men always come first, women come second.” Bond’s reply? “I may just return to here.” Not even a smoothly worded sentence! Come on James…

I feel a lot of exclamation points are creeping into this blog, but this third Bond film in our series is a lot bigger and the film feels a lot more, well, exclamatory. I mean, Flash Gordon rocket ships and secret volcano bases! We’ll see how/if “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” tops this one. No Connery though, so we’ll see.

—Bond but not forgotten, dan

Bond I

March 9th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Coming at you biweekly for the next little bit, just like our friend Mr. Bond.

First up in our three-week-six-movie-Bondanza is a little old movie called “From Russia With Love,” Bond film #2 and directly in line before our next film, Bond film #3 “Goldfinger.”

“From Russia” is a pretty straight played spy film, with a slice of noiresque thriller a la “The Lady Vanishes.” That mostly because the last third of the movie or so takes place on a train and there are mysterious figures lurking about. If you haven’t dipped into the old school, classic Bond, don’t expect the highly polished, near supernatural action star abilities of the Brosnan Bond or the psychologically developed and emotionally viable Craig Bond, this is straight playboy Bond by the coolest Connery imaginable.

Mmm, first film.

Mmm, first film.

And speaking of playboy Bond, that’s one aspect that has never wavered. Daniela Bianchi is a smoking hot blonde, again making me think of Hitchcock with a Novak or Hedren or Leigh. I don’t much go in for Bond girls in the last couple of decades, so these oldies are just what I need.

Check back soon and I’ll recommend “Goldfinger,” you bet your bottom dollar.

Oh, and that Hitchcock stuff. “North by Northwest.” Yeah. This film owes a lot.

—Blonde for Bond, dan

The Gingerest Baker

March 1st, 2013 § Leave a Comment

My father knows who Ginger Baker is, he saw Cream perform back in the day.

“Hey dad, I’m watching a documentary about Ginger Baker we’re showing at the GI.”

“Ah, when he played the White Room he set up two bass drums and two pedals.”

This man rocks that suit!

This man rocks that suit!

So yeah, I guess he was pretty influential. Double kicking bass before metal existed. Jazz and world beat influenced. Ginger Baker plays a mean kit.

I dabbled with drums back in the day, had my own Pearl kit with Zildjian cymbals. Matching hardware. Man, I miss those guys, but I was never really that good. I could play The Strokes, The White Stripes, Arcade Fire (basically everything that was big in 2004 had fairly simple drum parts), but no way Jose could I have played any of that Creamy drum goodness (which was a shame, because my friend Peter could play guitar Clapton style).

You don’t want to hear about my brief flirtation with drums, sold off for space reasons post college (like my dignity, thanks financial collapse). This documentary is yet another music documentary at the Grand Illusion, but Ginger Baker is such a powerful personality and has had such a tumultuous career that the drama of his life is worth the price of admission alone. The superlative drumming pretty much comes second.

Comes second but not by much.

—I love me some gingers, though this Ginger is tough to love, dan

Mumia: Never Heard of Him: Not Suprising

February 22nd, 2013 § Leave a Comment

I think it’s very telling that as a college-educated and NPR-listening American citizen I had never heard of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The mainstream American media machine has effectively done its job, and the picture they (the filmmakers) paint of Mumia as silenced is not exaggerated in the slightest.

One of the most interesting things I felt this film sidesteps: there is never once a denial that he killed a cop. Whether or not that is debated among those crying for his release from prison is never addressed. I don’t think anyone who killed a cop (and thinking back recently to our own Seattle area cop killer Maurice Clemmons) got off easy: in fact, Mumia seems to have had it better than most. I know that’s not a response typical of a liberal Seattleite, but the amount of written and published work he managed to get put out as a former Black Panther on death row is ASTOUNDING. That’s the realist in me, not the idealist in me.

Brother with a beard: much respect.

Brother with a beard: much respect.

His writings and work for the rights of marginalized people of America and the world is incredible and staggering over the course of this two hour documentary. Normally I would say two hours is way too long for a documentary, and we’ve had documentaries at the GI clocking in at 90 minutes that were too long for their content. The reach of his influence and the scope of his insight into not his own struggle but the struggle of others makes me almost want to give that journalism thing a go again: bringing it back to that college education. This guy did it 30 years on death row, doing it for no money at all.

Well, at least I’m blogging, he doesn’t have that luxury.

—doin’ it, dan