Category Archives: Movies

All the Pretty Pictures

No, it's your turn to pick the movieIt must be Oscar season or something — look at all the self-importance on display!

The Prestige“: Gorgeous to look at, entertainingly performed, elegantly assembled, but built on a concept so fundamentally illogical that the foundation collapses about five minutes before the credits roll … landing right on top of a second ridiculous idea. Really, I’d have been happier watching “Batman vs. Wolverine”.

Tideland“: Terry Gilliam makes a movie on his own, uncompromising terms, and it’s the worst thing he’s ever done. Terry, you know I love you, and I’m telling you this for your own good: Make “Watchmen”. Now.

Running with Scissors“: It doesn’t matter if Augusten Burroughs’ memoir is telling the truth about his turbulent adolescence; it only matters that Ryan Murphy’s film is so hideously affected that it’s impossible to perceive the characters as anything more than cartoons. By the third redemptive musical montage, I was hating this like poison. Still, Annette Bening has a shot at an Oscar, so that’s something.

Flags of Our Fathers“: Clint Eastwood’s look at the Marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima often feels like it was directed by remote control — or by a particularly competent second unit. When one considers how small Eastwood’s films have become over the last decade (even “Mystic River” is really only about the three guys at its center), one has to wonder why Steven Spielberg thought he’d be a good fit for this material.

Fortunately, there are a couple of good pictures opening amidst all the posturing: Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” isn’t a classic for the ages or anything, but Kirsten Dunst is terrific, and Coppola’s hermetic approach to the courts of Louis XV and XIV is never less than intriguing. Plus, it has Steve Coogan in it.

And though it’s dividing critics a little more fiercely than I’d expected, I found Todd Field’s “Little Children” to be an involving character piece quite in step with his last film, “In the Bedroom”. Same undercurrent of dissatisfaction, same gathering dread, but Tom Perotta’s novel also supplies a streak of mordant wit before everything goes to hell.

The only film left is “Flicka”, which I’ll be seeing this afternoon, because the work never ends.


Strike a PoseIt’s been a rough month. And today was particularly bad, for a variety of reasons. (Let’s just say grandparents on morphine aren’t nearly as entertaining as Hollywood would have you believe.)

But then I came home, wandered over to Callaghan‘s blog, and found this: Two teaser trailers for Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s upcoming “Hot Fuzz”.

Pegg and Wright — along with invaluable sidekick Nick Frost — previously collaborated on the Channel 4 series “Spaced” and the brilliant feature film “Shaun of the Dead”, which I continue to believe was the best movie of 2004.

I love them and want to have their babies, and I cannot wait to see their new picture.

Review Roundup

I See You And Your $22 Million GrossHaving spent the weekend playing catch-up with Friday’s theatrical releases and visiting my grandparents in the hospital (they’re both doing fine at the moment, thankfully), here’s another wave of reviews:

The Marine“: Like I said, you can’t exactly call it good or anything, but it has its moments. (And props to Jason for working a reference to “Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe”, perhaps the ultimate misuse-of-a-wrestler movie, into his Globe and Mail review.)

The Grudge 2“: Takashi Shimizu can still muster a creepy moment when he wants to, but the “Ju-On” franchise really just has the one trick, and it’s getting pretty used up. (And further props to Adam for quoting the Smiths in his Eye review, which made me wonder whether the next “Grudge” would be scarier if they got Morrissey to play one of the spooks.)

Kardia“: There was precisely one other person in attendance at the Saturday afternoon screening, so it seems almost excessive to point out how absolutely banal this movie is. And yet, you gots to fill the page.

More hospital visits today, plus “Marie Antoinette”. Now, there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

It Never Rains, But it Pours

My, I'm LargeI have two grandparents in the hospital — nothing too awful, at least not yet — and I’m still on the hook for reviews of “The Grudge 2” and “Kardia”. I probably won’t be checking in again until Monday.

On the upside, “The Marine” turned out to be rather, um, endurable. It feels like it could have been written for Arnold Schwarzenegger in that dark period between “Terminator” and “Predator”, and while WWE star John Cena cannot, you know, act — though he’s an ideal choice for the inevitable “Stretch Armstrong” movie — everybody else is having a really good time.

It’s too bad they don’t give out Oscars for Best Refusal To Just Roll Over And Accept That This Is Where Your Career Has Led You, because Robert Patrick would have that shit sewn up.

Anyway. Back to the real world.


A State of Perpetual WhateverA few movies are opening today. Fortunately, there are no dogs in any of them … not even “Infamous”, which is largely set in Kansas and should therefore have at least a couple of hounds in the background.


If you live in the Toronto area, you should really try to catch Andrew Bujalski’s “Mutual Appreciation” at the Bloor Cinema over the weekend. It’s slight and lovely, and the DVD will be a while yet, making this extremely limited run — just six screenings over four days, from tonight through Monday — an opportunity not to be missed. I even managed to convince Metro to run the review today, instead of holding it over the weekend … though it meant bumping “The Queen”, apparently. (Still, space is precious, and the people gots to have their extended “Survivor” coverage.)

Also opening today is Barry Levinson’s “Man of the Year“, which is probably the worst film of 2006: If there’s one that sucks harder, I think it might kill me.

Universal is bending over backwards to sell it as a comedy, which is understandable, but the marketing campaign is really one massive bamboozle: Only a sliver of the film deals with Robin Williams’ TV personality running for president. The rest of it is a screed against electronic voting machines, with Laura Linney as a computer programmer who stumbles onto a glitch that results in Williams’ character being fraudulently elected to the Presidency, and getting all parallax-viewed for her trouble, with dark-suited “X-Files” day players attacking her in her home and chasing her through various shopping malls and parking garages.

Linney plays her scenes straight (Why wouldn’t she? She thinks she’s in a thriller!), which gives them a sense of genuine threat and panic that’s utterly absent in the rest of the picture. It’s too bad, because Williams is a lot better in thrillers and dramas these days than he is in comedies — really, doesn’t it bother anyone else that his big laugh in the trailer is a Clinton joke that’s eight years old?

And folks, here’s a tip: If you’re going to drop Jon Stewart’s name in an effort to associate your one-dimensional character with a genuine political force, it’s pretty frickin’ dumb to cast Lewis Black, an actual “Daily Show” personality, as his fictional producer. My first thought was that Black would have been much more effective in Williams’ role; if nothing else, his material would have been a lot sharper.

Also opening today, with the whimper of redundancy, is “Infamous“, the other Truman Capote picture from director Douglas McGrath. Toby Jones is a fine Capote, and I thought Sandra Bullock was rather impressive as Harper Lee — like Williams, she’s much more interesting these days when she’s not playing comedy — but McGrath’s film suffers from a focal issue.

“Infamous” seems much more interested in Tru sharing stories with his New York friends (and then, just as easily, with plain Kansas folk like Alvin Dewey and his wife, whom he charms with tales of Hollywood royalty) than with his fascination for the Clutter case; and then, when Hickock and Smith enter the picture, McGrath tries to switch from a breezy tone to a darker one, and the change-up feels inappropriate: No disrespect to Daniel Craig, who does stellar work as Smith in this section of the film, but McGrath can’t do justice to his performance: I thought of “SCTV” funnyman Bobby Bittman squaring his shoulders and setting up his latest pompous declaration with “As a comic, in all seriousness …”


Also opening this week: “The Queen”, which is very good, and “The Grudge 2” and “The Marine”, which I’ll be catching over the weekend because neither film was screened in time for an opening-day review.

Two major-studio openings in one week that bypassed the press. That might be a first.

Again: Unfortunate. But hey, at least I’m keeping busy.


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” wasn’t screened in time for reviewers to make their Friday papers, and it was a long weekend, so Metro and I have to weigh in a few days late.

And as long as I’m at it, here’s everything else that opened last Friday …

Employee of the Month“: Dane Cook is the Scarlett Johansson of comedy, in that every time I see him there’s a little less substance. But even he looks like Laurence frickin’ Olivier next to Jessica Simpson.

The Last King of Scotland“: It stumbles at a crucial moment, but Forest Whitaker never does. I hate the whole Oscar handicapping thing, but he sure looks like a lock from here.

Shortbus“: John Cameron Mitchell is a talented and compassionate filmmaker, and the idea of a New York relationship dramedy with actual sex is intriguing … but since he doesn’t choreograph the sex in a manner that drives the story forward, he’s just, well, jerking off.

Trailer Park Boys“: Yeah, it’s a feature-length episode of the show. What, you were expecting something innovative and daring? You might as well ask for a musical number.

The Dear “Departed”

He makes the best f**king films!

He makes the best f**king films!

If I ever meet him, I’m gonna grab his f**king neck and just shake him and say:

“Thank you. Thank you for making such excellent f**king movies!”

– King Missile, “Martin Scorsese”

It’s been a long, long time since a Scorsese movie has made me feel like spinning up that song … but “The Departed” is a welcome return home.

Now, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Jim Emerson would probably take issue with that — actually, there’s no “probably” to it; he goes after the “Marty’s back where he belongs” sentiment in the very first graph of this post on his Scanners blog — but for me, the glory of “The Departed” wasn’t that Scorsese was back in gangland … it was that Scorsese has stopped trying to win an Oscar.

I mean, we must be honest. Most of his choices in the last decade have been a little … well, craven. “The Age of Innocence”, “Kundun”, “The Aviator” — they’re all respectable projects that feel like someone else directed them.

“Bringing Out the Dead” and “Gangs of New York” have a jangled energy and a sense of purpose that makes them more immediately identifiable as Scorsese pictures, but they fall short of actually working.

“Cape Fear” and “Casino” are decent genre exercises with a couple of bravura set pieces apiece, but they’re just exercises … and it probably doesn’t help that both films are remakes. (Apologies to Nick Pileggi, but “Casino” is just “GoodFellas Go to Vegas”, and everybody knows it.)

“The Departed” is a remake, too, but Scorsese doesn’t let it feel like one this time around; he tackles the material head-on, without a hint of artifice or posturing, and with none of the affected, this-is-art-here pretense you could feel underneath all those self-important tracking shots in his previous pictures.

From beginning to end, it’s its own thing, with William Monahan’s screenplay taking the bones of the exquisite Hong Kong thriller “Infernal Affairs” and rebuilding them into a shape that’s somehow burlier and meaner than the original, while staying just as light on its narrative feet.

And the director? He’s not worrying about which clip they’ll use at the Oscar ceremonies, or how the “For Your Consideration” ads will look. He’s actually excited about the movie he’s making. God bless him.

Just in case you’d lost your faith in the moviegoers of North America, the movie won the weekend, beating that pointless “Texas Chainsaw” prequel by almost eight million dollars — a feat that’s even more impressive when one considers that the “Chainsaw” prequel is over an hour shorter than “The Departed”, and can be shown more often in a day.

Also, there’s the small matter of it sucking. But we’ll get to that later in the week.