Monday, December 28, 2009

Tyler's 2009 Year in Review

Best Films of 2009:
Antichrist (Director: Lars von Trier)
Inglourious Basterds (Director: Quentin Tarantino)
Polytechnique (Director: Denis Villeneuve)
Lymelife (Director: Derick Martini)
Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (Director: Mark Hartley)
The Brothers Bloom (Director: Rian Johnson)

Honorable Mentions:
Pontypool (Director: Bruce McDonald)
Thirst (Director: Chan-wook Park)
Bronson (Director: Nicolas Winding Refn)
Tetro (Director: Francis Ford Coppola)
The Damned United (Director: Tom Hooper)

Best Performances of 2009:
Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa in "Inglourious Basterds"
Charlotte Gainsbourg as She in "Antichrist"
Willem Dafoe as He in "Antichrist"
Tom Hardy as Charles Bronson (aka Michael Peterson) in "Bronson"
Michael Sheen as Brian Clough in "The Damned United"
Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell in "Moon"
Timothy Hutton as Charlie Bragg in "Lymelife"

Worst Films (If you can even call them films...) of 2009:
2012 (Director: Roland Emmerich)
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Director: Chris Weitz)
Observe and Report (Director: Jody Hill)
Brüno (Director: Larry Charles)
Halloween II (Director: Rob Zombie)

Films I'm still waiting for the chance to see from 2009:
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (Director: Werner Herzog)
The Road (Director: John Hillcoat)
Collapse (Director: Chris Smith)
[Rec] 2 (Directors: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza)
The Loved Ones (Director: Sean Byrne)

Here's hoping we get some great films in 2010 as well!

*Updated: Finally took in "Antichrist".

- Tyler

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Skot's year end breakdown

Best films of 2009:
Pontypool (Directed By Bruce McDonald)
Moon (Directed by Duncan Jones)
Bakjwi aka Thirst (Directed by Chan Wook-Park)
Cold Souls (Directed By Sophie Barthes)
Anvil: The Story of Anvil (Directed by Sacha Gervasi)

Honorable Mentions:
You Might as well Live (Directed by Simon Ennis)
The Damned United ( Directed by Tom Hooper)
Inglorious Basterds (Directed by Quintin Tarantino)
Surveillance (Directed by Jennifer Lynch)
Tetro (Directed By Francis Ford Coppola)

Favorite Performances of 2009:
Sam Rockwell in “Moon”
Stephen McHattie in “Pontypool”
Ok Bin-Kim in “Bakjwi”
Michael Sheen in “The Damned United”
Vincent Gallo in “Tetro”

Worst “Films” of 2009:
Observe and Report
The Haunted World of El Superbeasto
Friday the 13th

I'm still anxiously awaiting the chance to see:
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
The Road
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Scott's top films of 2009

My New Year's resolution for 2010 is to make a banner for my posts. Until then here are my top ten films of 2009:

1. Fantastic Mr. Fox
2. Moon
3. Thirst
4. Where the Wild Things Are
5. Ingourious Basterds
6. The Informant!
7. Pontypool
8. You Might As Well Live
9. Cold Souls
10. Watchmen

Films I wish I could've seen before I made this list:
1. The Road
2. Antichrist
3. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
4. Up In The Air
5. Bad Lieutenant

Amber's Jambers on films from 2009

Tops of 2009 (thought I had 5, but I only have 4)
1. Fantastic Mr. Fox
2. Inglorious Bastards
3. Where the Wild Things Are
4. Julie and Julia (yeah that's right, Julie and Julia)

1. Avatar
2. Away we go
3. Men Who Stare At Goats
4. Brothers
5. Time Traveler's Wife

Films that I can’t believe I still haven’t seen
1. Moon
2. Polytechnique
3. A Serious Man
4. Brothers Bloom
5. Thirst

Films I can’t believe I sat through
1. Confessions of a Shopaholic
2. He’s Just Not That Into You
3. Bruno
4. 17 Again
5. Paul Blart Mall Cop

2009 Films I’m peeing my pants in anticipation of their arrival in Saskatoon!
1. Antichrist
2. The Road
3. Satisfaction (or whatever title this Miranda July project ends up with)

The film that would be on my best of list if Tyler Baptist would be less militant about release dates
1. Let the Right One In

Friday, December 18, 2009

OBSERVE AND REPORT - Faster, Seth Rogen, Die, Die

 Written and Directed by : Jody Hill

Seth Rogen
Anna Feris
Ray Liotta
Michael Pena
Collette Wolfe

Though it may make my skin crawl, I need to begin this exploration in to the insipid state of popular comedy with a personal tale. Two or three years ago I was at some kind of family gathering, if not Christmas then thanksgiving, and had just finished dismissing Judd Appatow's highly overrated “Knocked up” to a few of my cousins, specifically sighting the ever smug-to-be-useless Seth Rogen. Who could be engaged by such bland, one-note performance? Is he really so surprised that he's employed in a Hollywood picture that he can't stop grinning like that for a single frame? Is he a cardboard cut-out with a “Press here for dick joke” button attached to him? Okay, before anyone complains, he also jokes about other sex organs and bodily functions, but that's about the size of his dynamic range. Before I really got around to detailing this though, one of my relatives noted “That surprises me, I was just saying how much he reminded me of you”.

Time stood still for a second as I thought to myself “I sure hope she just means that we're both overweight”. I mustered a chuckle, feigned good humor and tried to change the subject as the room began to spin and I descended in to grim and unflattering introspection. A lot of suicides in the holiday season, I thought.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Maybe there's a little wild animal in all of us?

The Fantastic Mr. Fox (Released November 25th, 2009)
Directed by Wes Anderson
Screenplay by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach
Adapted from the novel by Roald Dahl

"I'm a wild animal" and indeed no matter how much Mr. Fox desires to fulfill Mrs. Fox's expectations and by extension that of a middle class existence, he cannot. It is the tug of war between Mr. Fox's true nature and the constant pressure of society which underscores the Fantastic Mr. Fox. At the beginning of the film Mr. and Mrs. Fox (voiced splendidly by George Clooney and Meryl Streep) face an ever familiar crossroads when one is hurled reluctantly from the last tenants of adolescence into adulthood. In the case of Mr. and Mrs. Fox they find their particular crossroads in the form of fox trap at the exit of a squab coop. Felicity Fox chooses this moment of life and death to announce she's got a pup in the oven.

Fast forward some fox years later and we arrive at the familial home (or foxhole) complete with cub, and a reformed Mr. Fox, now a columnist for the local paper. But its hard to take the Vulpes vulpes out of the Vulpes vulpes.
Driven by a need to fill the void left by leaving his passions behind, like much of pre-recession USA, Mr. Fox indulges in the so-called American Dream. He moves the family on up - literally to a bigger, 'better' home (can we afford this? Mrs. Fox asks). Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, this new and shiny abode is surrounded on all sides by temptations that are irresistible to Fox of his nature (the bountiful farms of the greedy Bogus, Bunce and Beans). Mr. Fox's need to scratch his itch, puts not only his family but the rest of his furry friends in peril.

This nostalgia influenced stop animation world of cerebral minded foxes, badgers and possums clothed in Parisian style suits is the product of indie auteur Wes Anderson. An adaptation of a novel by another lanky, tall and well suited gentlemen, the late, ingenious British Children's author Roald Dahl. The Anderson - Dahl pairing is a truly 'fantastic' match. Roald Dahl's widow must also have approved, allowing Anderson not only to adapt the book but also to write the screenplay at Dahl's home, the Gypsy house. Its not too much of a stretch to guess Mr. Fox at least in appearance is the combination of the two men. In fact much of the settings are modeled on the author's home and surroundings.

Familial bonds (though strange and strained at times in Anderson's films) are themes that both the filmmaker and author often gravitate towards. Anderson twists the tale slightly with the insertion of Kristofferson (Eric Anderson, yup Wes' bro) the zen like, naturally athletic cousin sent to stay with the Fox's and seemingly disrupt the life of Ash their quirky- malcontent son (voiced by Jason Schwartzman). Ash and Kristofferson play out sibling rivalry of sorts we've seen from Bottle Rocket to Darjeeling Limited. In fact its not hard to (more like impossible not to) imagine the Fox's human counterparts. Mr. Fox is Steve Zissou/Royal Tenenbaum the distracted somewhat absentee father, Etheline Tenenbaum and Felicity Fox could swap places if not for the fur... you get the idea.

When published in 1970 the Fanatistic Mr. Fox was criticized for being anti capitalist, which now is in vogue rather than condemned. Though Anderson changed some of the ending (the book ends with the raid on the goods of the three farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean), it stays true to the Dahl's implied criticisms and contempt for social institutions. After many a quivering fox hair, fox tears and family tribulations, Mr. Fox leads his family et. al., to his biggest score and success. They gain entry into that of the Supermarket owned by the three previously mentioned fat cats. The greedy three, Boggis, Bunce and Bean are left to go mad, forever trying to out fox the fox. The moral of this fable, shouldn't be too sly to slide by the adult audience, while the quirky comedy,fantastic cast and marvelous animation will keep the nine to twelves mesmerized.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Arrr! Pirate Radio: a good time on known waters

Pirate Radio (Released November 13, 2009)

Written/Directed By Richard Curtis

Excuse the heavy handed clichés in this review, I found it an impossibility to avoid as Pirate Radio has a nasty case of the cliche -not that this is a criticism. The key to enjoying Pirate Radio is to take it for what it is and not to expect anything more. This is an all boys club rock n’ roll romp on the high seas (or the North Sea in this case) reminiscent of the boarding school genre (women are on the periphery, either they’re lesbians who cook and clean or they’re the weekend booty call). Great superficial good times (this cannot be stressed enough) don’t dive too deep and you’ll enjoy the ride.

Notably, Pirate Radio was released in the UK as The Boat that Rocked, but apparently North American audiences are too darn daft to understand boats and rocking – or maybe the Brits think that we (or at least our friends to the south) fancy ourselves bandits or something of the more unscrupulous nature.

The film is based ever so loosely on British stations that tread in the waters between illegal and legal in the 1960s broadcasting rock n’roll to the UK citizens, whilst the BBC maintained a stiff upper lip refusing to give air time to pop and rock and other such debaucherous sounds. Writer/director Richard Curtis (of the Four weddings and a Funeral/Love Actually) is responsible for bringing us this light fm version of British pop culture history. As always, Curtis delivers a neat and tidy package, stylistically slick and hits all the right notes on the saccharine scale.

Dare I say this is every nerdy music loving boy’s wet dream; the film could be cast from any number of campus community radio stations. The characters are your standard archetypes, but I think this is done with self awareness. How could it not be? Most notably we have Phillip Seymour Hoffman basically reprising Lester Bangs from Almost Famous, Rhys Darby aka Murray of Flight of Conchords,is playing well - Murrary, Bill Nighy as the owner/captain could have with a few minor wardrobe changes stepped off the set of Love Actually and lastly Kenneth Brannaugh plays the evil BBC dude channeling his best comical take on Adolf Hitler, tiny moustache and all.

Floating just below the surface (I can't help myself!) is the subplot of Young Carl (Thom Sturridge) who is sent to stay on his Godfather's boat (or is he really his father?) to try and stay out of trouble (ha!) by his aging socialite mother. As Carl comes of age, so does pirate radio. No longer able to muck around both are forced to face realities of growing up, or going legal. Not exactly subtle, but that's not Richard Curtis’ style. Rock n’ Roll will always emerge victorious; John Peel somehow managed to find an audience on the BBC post his pirate radio run.

As far as music influenced coming of age films Almost Famous this is not and certainly not Pump up the Volume. But if you’re in the mood for escape into the known, check out Pirate Radio.

Monday, October 26, 2009

THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO - For proper synopsis refer to graffiti on washroom stall wall....

Directed by
Rob Zombie
Written by
Tom Papa and Rob Zombie
 Staring (Voices): Tom Papa
                              Sheri Moon Zombie
                              Paul Giamatti
                              Rosario Dawson
                              Brian Posehn

I once watched an interview with Rob Zombie where he was describing at length a stage set up he had assembled for a series of summer dates that he was playing with his solo band. Like an excited child he spoke swiftly, and with active hand gestures, of mining the trashiness and inherent idiocy of a summertime metal festival and it's crowd for inspiration, dressing everything in an Evel Knievel “Pro-satanic America vibe”, and likening it all to a monster truck rally. In mid sentence his hands just dropped away and scowl seized his face as he mumbled “Everyone's going to be so drunk they're not even going to notice anyway...”. Since that interview I can't say that I've ever seen Mr. Zombie speak so honestly about his awareness of the divide in his fan group, and of how some of the satirical, ironic and dare I say cerebral elements of his work aren't grasped by his fans. Self awareness is an endearing quality in a trash-based artist, especially one who knows how to balance appreciation and ridicule, but with enough cynicism in the mix, this can quickly boil down to “these idiots will buy ANYTHING I slap together”.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are

Directed by Spike Jonze
Written by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers, based on the book by Maurice Sendak

Max Records
Catherine Keener
James Gandolfini
Paul Dano
Catherine O'Hara
Forest Whitaker
Chris Cooper

Where the Wild Things Are follows the story of an angry young boy named Max (Records). Frustrated and unable to deal with the difficulties his family is facing, Max lashes out against his mother and runs away into the night. After finding a boat tethered to the shore at the edge of some nearby woods, Max drifts out to sea and eventually finds the coast of the small island on which the film's Wild Things reside. By dealing with the actions of Carol (Gandolfini) and attempting to keep the group together, Max gains greater perspective on the effects of his own behaviour and begins to mature in the process.

More of a meditation on growing up than it is a children's movie, Where the Wild Things Are comes at a time when the first generation of children to grow up reading Maurice Sendak's book have (hopefully) begun to mature into adults themselves. Jonze's movie is aimed more at this group than anyone, using the framework provided by the book to tell a story about how the way we deal with others affects us and the feeling of loss that accompanies outgrowing parts of our childhood.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Reel to Reel Interview with Bill Plympton (Idiots & Angels)

The twisted world view of independent animation overlord Bill Plympton has been leaving audiences in awe for decades now. Championed by animation aficionados for his distinct visual style and his surreal narratives equally, one would be hard pressed to find a more prolific and identifiable contemporary animator. Despite being a two time Academy Award nominee (for “Your face” in 1987 and “Guard Dog” in 2005) and the visionary of choice for big shots like Kanye “I'maletyoufinish” West, Plympton remains a fiercely independent entity in order to bring his audience the genuine, unhinged article.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we here at Reel to Reel are proud to report that our first interview took place this week with none other than MR.BILL PLYMPTON.

Listen to the interview here and get it all from man himself as he discusses drawing under the influence of Tom Waits, being courted by Disney, his latest collaboration with Kanye West, and most importantly, the creative process behind the stellar “Idiots and Angels” which opens at the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon on Friday October 23rd.. Enjoy!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

INK - The wet dream that leaves a stain.....

Directed, Produced, Written and Edited by Jamin Winans

Chris Kelly
Quinn Hunchar
Jessica Duffy
Jeremy Make
Jennifer Batter

Usually, a low budget feature length's worst enemy is an overabundance of big ideas. Trying to exact an elaborate Sistine Chapel of a piece with pencil crayons is a rough gig. That's not to say that reconciliation between huge visual ambition and humble means cannot be realized in the world of independent cinema, but unfortunately a flattering result is rarely attained. Compromise usually arises to meet these restraints in the form of great visions being dumbed down, or in equally tragic cases these ideas are brought to life using substandard practice. At times like these, bad filmmakers drown their work in dreadfully cheap looking CG and settle for a tarnished vision, but the good filmmakers, an increasingly rare bird, get inventive. INK is nothing if not inventive visually speaking, and director Jamin Winans has done one hell of a job of bringing a very vast and surreal landscape to fruition.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

ZOMBIELAND - We're what's for dinner....

Directed by Ruben Fleischer
Produced by Gavin Polone
Written by Paul Wernick
Rhett Reese

Starring: Woody Harrelson
Jesse Eisenberg
Emma Stone
Abigail Breslin

As I sit down and reflect on Zombieland I find my mind racing in to some very unlikely territory. Kevin Spacey, believe it or not, in 1995. I'm thinking about “Seven” and “The Usual Suspects”. Two films who's grip on their audience was based on trajectory, of careening towards startling and iconic sequences that are synonymous with any post viewing dialog anyone would have. These two movies have what I like to refer to as “Brick wall” scenes that are intended to see an audience in a collective slack jawed “whoaa”.These moments are hinted at in every review, on the tip of every critic's tongue, and used by your worst kept company to ruin the picture for you less than a week following its release.

You almost forgot that I'm talking about a film concerning one mans hunt through zombie ravaged USA for a Twinkie, didn't you?