Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 year in review : Top 10 films

Hello readers,

Let's bring in 2012 with style by listing Between the Seats' favourite films of 2011. I'm sure every single blog out there has written up a nice little prologue to their lists, so I figured we should just skip the pleasantries and get on with it, no? Without further ado:

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Capsule reviews galore!

Hello readers,

Here is a sample of the films Between the Seats watched over the past few days. We hope you enjoy these brief reviews. Coming up over the course of the weekend and into next week is a series of end of the year lists, much like what was done at this time in 2010. Reviews and marathon will resume in regular fashion by late next week. Thanks again for visiting!

The Artist (2011, Michel Hazanavicious)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bloggin' Around: End of the year

Hello readers,

2011 will soon be over and, as a blogger, I have not really done my duty this year. The real purpose behind everyone writing and publishing material on their respective blogs, apart from satisfying our inner craving for everyone's attention because clearly each of our individual opinions is the opinion the internet should be reading (clearly), is to share thoughts on the art of film. You visit my blog, I visit your blog, you comment on my blog, I comment on yours, and so on and so forth. I didn't understand this movie, did you? Oh, I should read that post you wrote in the hopes that I will gain a better understanding of said movie. Well written, blogger X, well written. Roger who? I like your blog more.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009, Niels Arden Opley)

Here we are again, for the second time in a single week, discussing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This time it is the original Swedish version, which erupted onto the cinematic landscape only two years ago, in 2009. Its rise to fame was stratospheric, with film goers embracing its pulpy nature and the titular girl with the dragon tattoo, one of the more unique characters to inhabit a mainstream picture in some time. In fact, Montréal received the film a little bit before everybody else in North America (although why is a good question). If remember serves me correctly, it was an early summer release in '09 under the title Millenium, and the local press was quite adamant this was the movie event of the year. The strangest part is that the film came out again under the title The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. If one steps into an HMV store in Montréal, one can buy a Blu-ray of Millenium and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo even though they are one and the same film.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Exciting announcement! Between the Seats joins Sound on Sight

Hello readers,

I hope you are enjoying this holiday season with friends and family. Today, Between the Seats comes to you with an exciting announcement. Last weekend on the Sight on Sound website, the editor in chief, Ricky D, posted an invitation to any writers who expressed desire in joining their writing staff. We may have mentioned Sound on Sight a couple of times in the past, perhaps more for their podcasting talents than anything else, but they do in fact have a large, talented pool of writers who share thoughts and analysis on film, be it for new releases, festivals or cult classics. If there was only one tiny thing that made me hesitate before replying to the invite, some might recall that twice in the past Between the Seats had associated itself of other web sites and on both occasions the sites in question did not stay up for very long.

Friday, December 23, 2011

review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011, David Fincher)

There are some phenomena in the entertainment industry which strike a nerve among the populace with such ferocity that it creates a 'before and after' effect. Star Wars (1977), Jurassic Park and Avatar are such films. They catch on like wild fire and never loosen their grip. It is debatable whether or Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo book series fall in such an illustrious category, although attempting to minimize the magnitude of its popularity would be foolish. Since the first book's publication in 2005, readers have devoured the stories of anti-socialite, computer wizard Lisbeth Salander and grizzled veteran journalist Mikael Blomqvist. The cultural impact of Larsson's sprawling epics is not limited to the page, but expanded to the screen as well. In 2009, a Swedish adaptation was incredibly well received both in its native land and abroad (although its two television bound sequels were not). Now arrives the bizarre English language remake from David Fincher of Zodiac and Seven fame.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011, Tomas Alfredson)

One of the defining English language novels of the 20th century, Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy has earned a rightful place on a countless number lists which enumerate the most artistically important novels of the past 100 years or so. Anyone willing to venture into the spy genre in literature is immediately directed not only to the works of John Le Carré (pen name), but specifically that novel. As most people familiar with the film world are keenly aware, successful books typically lead to cinematic and television adaptations, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy has not been exempt from such a treatment. The 1970s saw the creation of a BBC miniseries starring the legendary Sir Alec Guiness and, interestingly enough, the series itself has garnered near equal praise to that received by the source material. Now, in 2011, over 30 years after that BBS show, arrives the film adaptation, highlighted by, firstly, a remarkable cast that would make even Steven Soderbergh blush, and secondly, by one of the most interesting new directors on the scene, Swede Tomas Alfredson, who wowed just about everyone three prior with the vampire tale Let the Right One In.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Capsule reviews: Ghost Protocol, Groundhog Day

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011, Brad Bird)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shaw Brothers Marathon: The 36th Chamber of the Shaolin

The 36th Chamber of the Shaolin (1978, Lau Kar-leung)

And now, after an epic and adventurous Shaw Brothers ride, our long journey ends here. A 13 movie marathon than began way, way back in June now concludes with the film many afficionados consider to be the granddady of all martial arts films, let alone Shaw Brothers films, The 36th Chamber of the Shaolin. The picture's influence on many kung fu films that followed in considerable, hence its deemed historical relevancy, but also been touted as simply a great action movie, period. This marathon has already taken a brief look at director Lau Kar-leung's work (also known as Liu-Chia-liang) earlier with our review of Heroes of the East, a film Between the Seats nearly praised to the high heavens. It also reunites him with that same film's star, the inimitable Gordon Liu. Clearly, there was no more fitting way to finish off this massive undertaking. Without further ado, let us climb the mountain leading the famous shaolin temple, where the world's great masters of kung fu practice and perfect their multidisciplinary art form in its cleverly devised chambers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

review: The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin (2011, Steven Spielberg)

The holiday movie season is now upon us, and first up to bat is the computer generated animated adaptation of a legendary comic book (or 'bande déssinée' as they are known in French) from a legendary director. How is that to raise some stakes? North Americans are not as familiar with the character of Tintin and his funny looking hairdo as they are with other mainstream stories. That is not terribly surprising, what with the gargantuan amount of home grown comic book stories from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Vertigo and so many other popular, successful publishers. It is true that Tintin, being a Belgian creation from the mind of one Hergé (pen name), reaches out to the sensibilities of European comic readers more so than North Americans. The dominant reason why this movie fan is familiar with the source material is his Québec, Canada upbringing, that being an officially francophone province and therefore a more interesting market for books such as Tintin than elsewhere on the continent. Now comes the big budget interpretation of the material from a director who speaks no French but, in preparing the film, professed his love for the stories and desire to bring something special to the big screen.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Shaw Brothers Marathon: Crippled Avengers

Crippled Avengers aka Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms (1978, Chang Cheh)

An updated version of this review is now exclusively available at Sound on Sight in the Shaw Bros. Saturday column.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: Quantum of Solace (2008)

(directed by Marc Forster)
In the aftermath of 007’s (Daniel Craig) mission to trap Le Chiffre, Her Majesty’s Secret Service received a rude awakening concerning the existence of a new terrorist organization: Quantum. How was it that this seemingly sophisticated, well funded and fully operational group could come to be without our knowing was baffling to say the least, but reality hit home when, upon interrogating one of its high ranking associates Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) in Siena Italy, an MI6 traitor attempted to assassinate M (Judi Dench). 007 chased down and liquidated the thug, but the event created new clues to the whereabouts and goals of the terrorists.

Haiti was Bond’s next destination where curious discoveries were made. First, almost all the leads on hand at the time led 007 to a certain Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a successful business, philanthropist and environmentalist who was shaking hands with the devil: exiled Bolivian general Medrano (Joaquin Cosio). The reason behind this alliance remained a mystery for a while, but things grew ever more interesting when a renegade Bolivian agent, the stunning and headstrong Camille (Olga Kurylenko) not only made her presence known but demonstrated her own vested interests in getting close to Greene. She was, at first glance, the entrepreneur’s current lover, but Bond’s association with her helped reveal some of the truth behind Greene and General Medrano. Camille in fact wanted Greene dead for some very personal reasons, and 007 needed to stop him before controlling one of the world’s most precious resources...

Friday, December 2, 2011

December preview

Hello readers!
A little preview for what is to come in December, this being the final month of the year and all.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Capsule reviews: Batman, Moneyball, Piel que habito

Holy captivating capsules, readers! It’s another series of capsule reviews!

Batman (1966, Leslie H. Martinson)

Recently I have stumbled upon a television station named Teletoon Retro, which runs a series of family oriented cartoons dating back to the 90s, 80s, 70s and even the 60s. For some weird reason they also show a few live action programmes, one of them being the 60s Adam West Batman series. Seeing a few episodes brought back happy memories, and when I saw the blu-ray movie for a few bucks, I picked it up as a blind buy, no hesitation.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Forgotten Film Noir: The Asphalt Jungle

The Asphalt Jungle (1950, John Huston)
*mild spoilers*

How many ways can a team of filmmakers create a heist film? More to the point, what can matter in such a movie, where can the stakes be created, and where might they bring the characters? The question appears deceptively simple, for what might be at the forefront of a film lover’s thoughts when someone mentions ‘heist film’ is the heist itself, both its preparation and execution, which is a reasonable reflex, if a decidedly easy one. So much more can enrich a story surrounding a heist. Who is committing the act, why are they doing it and, what further hurdles might the group of anti-heroes encounter after the completion of the mission, for, as one should have realized, the heist is not over until they have truly escaped the authorities. For a full experience, a heist need concern itself with the before, the act itself, and the aftermath. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: Casino Royale (2006)

(Directed by Martin Campbell)

007’s (Daniel Craig) first true mission began in Madagascar, when he and a contact were in pursuit of a bomb maker who presumably had considerable connections to a terrorist group. While this excursion did not conclude as planned, our newly promoted agent followed his nose (and the clues) to the Bahamas, where more seeds of a greater nefarious enterprise began to reveal themselves to Bond. Help from the wife (Caterina Murino) of one of the unnamed organization’s operators, Alex Dimitrios (Simon Abkarian) permitted 007 to prevent a significant attack on Miami International Airtport, an operation funded by another one of the terrorists associates, the mysterious Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), who then needed to earn back his losses. He chose so by travelling to the Casino Royale in Montenegro and do one of the things he did so well, play cards, more specifically, Poker. It turned 007 himself was quite the card player as well, and one way to further investigate this strange new terrorist cell was by defeating Le Chiffre at the table and forcing him to turn. In addition to René Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) from the Deuxième Bureau helping Bond on this delicate mission, there was a treasury representative, the beautiful but cold and strong minded Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). She was none too impressed with Bond at first, which certainly did not allow their partnership to start in very promising manner...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Forgotten Film Noir Marathon: The Set-Up

The Set-Up (1949, Robert Wise)
If there is ever one type of sports film people never seem to tire of, it is undoubtedly the boxing-themed picture. Hockey is not really part of the equation, basketball a bit more so, and baseball has had its heyday of great films but few of have emerged over the past while. American football is has also been the basis of a fair amount of solid movies, but it is boxing which, for many reasons, is ripe for cinematic drama. One need only look back approximately one year ago when The Fighter was released and recollect its gargantuan popularity. Good, dramatic cinema should about interesting characters, their story arcs and how they culminate with a memorable, gut wrenching climax. In the case of boxing, the gut wrench might even be literal. If one is to take those notions and thrust them into a sports related story, what better athletic profession than that of boxing? Man versus man, emotional and physical well being put to the test with each successive round, and of course the crowds who, with vested interests sometimes, gather around to witness two fine specimens whack the silly putty out of each other.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: Casino Royale (1954)

Casino Royale (1954, William H. Brown Junior)
Tonight, a Climax one of a kind thrilling adventure. ‘Card Sense Jimmy Bond’, played by Barry Nelson, battles the slimy Le Chiffre (Peter Lorre) in a card game in which the stakes are raised to the point where their very lives are on the line! MI6 contact Clarence Leitter (Michael Pate) assists Bond in this stupendous adventure, and no spy movie would be complete with a femme fatale, in this case the beautiful girlfriend to Le Chiffre, Valerie Mathis (Linda Christian). Get ready!
Whoa, whoa, whoa. What in heaven’s name is going on here? Peter Lorre was in a Bond film? There is yet another version of Casino Royale besides Daniel Craig’s outing and the 1960s spoof? To top it off, there is a version of James Bond where the character is American?!? The world is upside down!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Forgotten Film Noir Marathon: Gun Crazy


Gun Crazy (1950, Joseph H. Lewis)

This article may now be read at Sound on Sight in the Friday Film Noir column here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Forgotten Film Noir Marathom: Out of the Past

Out of the Past (1947, Jacques Tourneur)
There are a handful of actors and actresses whose names synonymous with the genre of film noir. One might think of the legendary Humphrey Bogart, Ida Lupino, or Sterling Hayden. Robert Ryan, whom this blog has heaped praise upon before, is another that fans of the genre should never omit. However, no discussion of this fascinating genre would be complete without mentioning the one and only Robert Mitchum. Star of a countless number of movies, Mitchum was, at one time, clearly one of the most popular actors working in Hollywood, with that fame being mostly the result of is work within the genre under inspection in this marathon. Out of the Past, directed by Jacques Tourneur, is considered a staple, with, of course, Mitchum playing a huge role in that film’s lasting appeal. There is an entire host of other factors which, coalescing together like cigarette smoke and shadow in a dimly lit room, lead Tourneur’s famous picture to resonate with people still till this very day.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Forgotten Film Noir Marathon: Murder, My Sweet

Murder, My Sweet (1944, Edward Dmytryk)
Cinematic translations of Raymond Chandler’s famous mystery novels featuring Philip Marlowe produce the most unlikely, oddball and satisfying results. In the first Forgotten Film Noir series, the Robert Montgomery directed Lady in the Lake was discussed. That film, which also starred the aforementioned director, opted to take the most literal way of bringing a book to the screen by having the viewer privy to Marlowe’s first person point of view, complete with very personal narration as the character thought to himself as the adventure evolved. What he thought, the viewer heard, where he went, the viewer went. No such avant-garde, first person point of view technique is utilised in the film under review today, Murder, My Sweet, yet the filmmakers still remain true to the spirit of bringing the story of a novel to the silver screen.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Forgotten Film Noir returns!

Hello readers.

Some of you may recall that very early in the year, Between the Seats blitzed through a film noir marathon. It was boat loads of fun to discover those fantastic, lesser known films. It is a genre much beloved among film buffs, functioning as a venue for sharp dialogue, deliciously ambiguous characters and some haunting cinematography. Needless to say that any opportunity to watch some more shall be heartily welcomed here at the blog. Over at Filmspotting, some of the message board members are in the midst of their own film noir marathon, aptly titled noir-vember.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: Die Another Day (2002)

 (directed by Lee Tamahori)
007 (Pierce Brosnan) had fallen into the clutches of enemies of the state before, yet being equipped with the quartermaster’s special tools and his own legendary quick wits provided for miraculous escapes. This time would be different however. M orders were for 007 to infiltrate North Korean Colonel Moon’s (Will Yun Lee) personal base situated along the DMZ zone have put an end to his diamonds for weapons business. Circumstances led Bond to engage Colonel Moon in a terrific hovercraft chase, which itself ended with Bond being captured by the North Korean military and the colonel supposedly dead. Our agent remained incarcerated for 14 months...until, to M’s great reluctance, Britain decided to make a trade with the North Koreans: James Bond 007 for Zao (Rick Yune), colonel’s Moon right hand man who had fallen into our hands.

Unsatisfied with his fate, Bond opted to go against official regulation and hunt down Zao to finish off the job he had been tasked with over a year ago. The renegade military man was now in Cuba for a very mysterious reason: plastic surgery. Just prior to coming face to face with his old nemesis Bond came to notice a CIA agent who was also hot on Zao’s trails, Jinx (Halle Berry).  Even together they failed liquidate Zao, but opportunity for them to form a partnership would come knocking again as both were sent to Iceland to attend a grand spectacle of technology hosted by one of Britain’s most tireless entrepreneur, Gustav Graves (Tobey Stevens). His crack team of scientists had created a super satellite which fed off the power of the sun, and he was about to make a glorious demonstration of its power. Something about Graves did not sit well with Bond however...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Shaw Brothers Marathon: The Avenging Eagle

The Avenging Eagle (1978, Chung Sun)

With the Shaw Brothers marathon winding down (only a few films left after today’s article), we have arrived at a point where, if you have been following along, the popular trends and storytelling techniques can be easily discerned, with the same going for sequence or directorial choices which surprisingly go against the grain. Those instances when a film from this studio provides a different flavour are not terribly frequent given how the people behind the films had to remain true to the Shaw Brothers image, but they are refreshing. The Chung Sun directed The Avenging Eagle does, in fact, indulge in some small surprises, most of which are readily welcomed, even though they may not pay off as handsomely as one would like.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Defintive Bond Marathon: The World is Not Enough (1999)

(Directed by Michael Apted)
007’s (Pierce Brosnan) latest crusade to protect the world was one of his most challenging yet, putting Her Majesty’s most accomplished secret agent to the test not only physically, but emotionally as well. The astounding series of events began in Bilbao, Spain, where 007 was dispatched to recover a large sum of money belonging to well known oil tycoon Sir Robert King. Unbeknownst to anyone at MI6, least of all Bond, the sum of cash had been tampered with in a highly sophisticated way so that when Sir King was reunited with his money, the package denoted, thus killing the respected business man.

The attack on Sir King convinced M (Judi Dench), an old friend of the late entrepreneur, to offer his daughter, Elektra (Sophie Marceau), protection from the suspected perpetrator of the murder of her father, the mysterious and vicious terrorist Renard (Robert Carlyle), a man still walking and breathing despite their being a bullet lodged comfortably in his head. A trip to Azeirbajan to safeguard the heiress to one of the world’s largest oil companies provided insightful clues with regards to the whereabouts of Renard and his team of operatives. It was by infiltrating a nuclear test site that 007’s path crisscrossed with that of a beautiful and rather opinionated physicist, Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), who would act as a strong ally for Bond as the race after Renard continued before the latter could obtain nuclear weapons and while the risk against Elektra’s life worsened. Things took a dramatic turn when a secret ally of Renard revealed their identity...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011, Sean Durkin)

One of the stranger occurrences resulting from a movie experiencing is the exhilaration from feeling angry. Written as such, that notion probably makes little sense. However, when one goes to see as many films as those who participate in the movie blog community, there comes a point when, sad as it may sound, one becomes somewhat numb to film. There are good movies, but how many good movies do we remember vividly a year down the road, or even 7-8 months down the road? Sometimes a furious jolt is required to liven up one’s film reviewer sense, to rekindle that one thing people want to feel every single time they watch a film: emotion. If the emotions elicited by said film are those of frustration and anger, so be it. It more than likely means the film is doing something correctly.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Capsule reviews: Drive, Contagion, Andromeda Strain

Apart from the recent Festival du nouveau cinema, Between the Seats has not been to the movies since September, believe it or not. Here is a small sample of what little we did go see in theatres, as well as what we caught on our favourite television channel, MPix.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

(directed by Roger Spotiswoode)
Few would dispute the usefulness of easy and accessible transmitted information from one region of the globe to another through various media. The only possible point contention is the person or entity exercising said transmission. He who controls the flood of information can control a whole lot more, and such was the central issue of 007’s (Pierce Brosnan) latest mission, which began when both Chinese MiGs and the HMS Devonshire were attacked at sea, with each country accusing the other of belligerency. The first media outlet to cover the story was the Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) owned newspaper, The Tomorrow. It seemed to many that the story leaked just a bit too fast, a bit too early. How did Carver get his information so quickly and what have he to do with this international incident? Time was of the essence as communication between Great Britain and China heated up, with the potentiality of war growing by the minute.

007 was commissioned with the investigation of Carver and his enterprise during the latter’s much hyped about launch of a 24 hour news television station to take place in Hamburg. It was there that our agent came in contact with a former flame, Paris (Terri Hatcher), now Carver’s wife, as well as the beautiful Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), an Chinese secret agent posing as a journalist seeking an exclusive interview with media mogul. Bond’s snooping, running and shooting shed more and more light on his target, thus making it abundantly clear that the British ex-pat did indeed have a hand in the international incident, aided by a techno wizard named Gupta (Ricky Jay). His goal? To increase television ratings as well as newspaper and magazine readership. Control the content by creating it. The euphoria felt by the fans as a result of Goldeneye was always going to be difficult to live up to. Having one Bond film in which the story deals with the post-Cold War world is one thing, but if the producers were going to make more films, and we all knew they would, new ideas for threats would have to created again and again. What could be considered a danger to the world? It needs to be plausible both in the world of James Bond and in our real world. The Roger Spotiswoode directed Tomorrow Never Dies does address a fascinating issue that many do indeed consider to a problem: the domination of news media by a select few. After all, when so much information is selectively delivered by so few, it is understandable for certain ethical to arise.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Festival du nouveau cinéma 2011: Final thoughts

The Festival du nouveau cinema came to an end last Sunday, the closing film being Monsieur Lazhar, the latest endeavour from director Philppe Falardeau. Between the Seats did not attend the screening, but no matter, the film came out this past Friday in Montréal cinemas. It’s been a while since we’ve posted a Films du fleur de lys column anyhow, so that would be a good excuse for an update, as would recent releases Café de flore and Marécages, both of which have received rave reviews and we have been too lazy to go see.

Festival du nouveau cinéma 2011: Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011, Takashi Miike)

The measurement of a director’s strength is a tricky thing. Some directors find a comfort zone, hone their skills and run wild with ideas and talent. Greats like Sergio Leone and John Carpenter are clearly known for working within specific genres and specific actors. Their body of work is excellent, despite them rarely having told stories that were not either westerns or horror. There are other directors who can flow in and out of genres and yet consistently be at the top of their game. Names like Steven Soderbergh and Martin Scorsese come to mind. Then there are those who spend the majority of their careers in a genre or sub-genre, only to suddenly take sharp turn for something different and, despite the stigma attached to them, defy the odds and impress us. Takashi Mike, following years and years of work telling stories that mish-mashed horror, gore-fests and drama, took cinephiles by storm with his remake of 13 Assassins and takes a stab at the samourai film once more with a remake of the Kobayashi 1962 classic, Harakiri.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Blogging Around

Hello readers,

Halloween fast approaches. Soon enough, the ghouls, goblins, Bobo Baggins', Mike Myers', Jason X's and Freddy Mercurys will be knocking at our doors, yelling 'trick or treat!' in unison in anticipation of our hands shelling countless amounts of chocolates, lolly pops and liquorish strings. Halloween specials of your favourite television shows are airing all week and horror films are receiving the spotlight as well. Bloggers are getting in the spirit of things too, listing and reviewing a series of their favourite scary movies. Your very own Between the Seats got in on the action by elaborating on just how horrifying Kotoko was at the FNC 2011. But this space isn't about us, it's about you, the other bloggers who do what we do too, and, as surprising and implausible as it might sound, sometimes do it even better than us. Check out these blogs to help you slip into your Frankenstein blue swayed shoes and get your monster mash groove on:

Festival du nouveau cinéma 2011: Kotoko

Kotoko (2011, Shinya Tsukamoto)

There is nothing more infuriating and disheartening than sitting in a movie theatre and realizing that, barely halfway through the running time, the film simply is not working for them. It is at that specific moment that a big decision must be made. Does one stick around until the very end in a gesture of respect towards to filmmakers’ efforts or maybe even in the hopes that the final lap will prove worthy, or bolt out of the room in order to avoid further ocular pains? Everybody will share his or her own answer and have their own idiosyncratic reasons for behaving as such. As for the editor in chief of Between the Seats, proper conduct, certainly when one anticipates to properly review a movie, is to stay until the oh so bitter end. Despite what one feels towards a film, any film for that matter, one should not forget that ever was put into it, so show a little respect. Still, even that can be a challenge sometimes.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Festival du nouveau cinéma 2011: Hashoter

Hashoter/Policeman (2011, Nadav Lapid)

As I purchased a 6 ticket package for the FNC a couple of weeks ago (for the price of 5! What a deal!), one film among the six chosen that aroused special curiosity was Nadav Lapid’s Hashoter, or Policeman as the English translation goes. It is an Israeli film from a debutant feature-length filmmaker about a group of anti-terrorist policemen who operate in modern day Jerusalem. A propensity to enjoy cop films triggered interest to begin with, but much more about the film’s potential drew me in. Israeli cinema, while earning some respect in recent years for quality filmmaking, does not top a lot of lists of countries who produce many must-see movies. France, Germany, Korea, Great Britain, Japan are all countries, if one discounts the United States, that stir up immediate interest before Israel, and that’s just to name a few. Plus, a film about an anti-terrorist unit working in a country that currently, and what has seemed like forever, is dealing with the threat of terrorism, suddenly made me bubble with excitement.

Definitive Bond Marathon: Goldeneye (1995)

(directed by Martin Campbell)
The Goldeneye mission was a rarity in that the origins of what propelled agent 007 (Pierce Brosnan) into action dated back as far as nine years prior. During the twilight years of the U.S.S.R., agents 007 and 006, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) infiltrated a Soviet energy compound with the objective destroying the production facility. General Ouromov (Gottfried John) and a platoon of soldiers intercepted our men in the field before they could complete the mission. The Russian general murdered 006 in cold clood, leaving 007 to set the explosives for a quicker pace than anticipated and rush to safety in a daring plane escape. As 007 flew away, the Soviet facility erupted into a ball of flames. Little did MI6 know that this was merely the beginning.

Some nine years later. A major terrorist attack occurred on a Russian (post-Soviet Union) computer programming facility in Severnaya with a satellite weapon long since only rumoured: the Goldeneye, a space bound weapon which can emit a supremely powerful electro-magnetic device, causing incalculable damage to whatever target its users order it to focus on. M (Judi Dench) sent 007 to Saint-Petersburg for it was suspected that the Janus group, which centralizes its operation in the historic Russian city, was behind the attack and now in possession of the satellite’s control device. It was there that Bond finally caught up with the lone survivor out of Severnaya, Natalia Simonova (Izabela Scorupco), who would aid 007 for the remainder of the mission. The stakes were raised further still when the true identity of the Janus group’s leader was revealed. On old ‘friend’ from the past had re-emerged in a shocking way...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Festival du nouveau cinéma 2011: Shame

Shame (2011, Steve McQueen)

A movie about sex. What comes to mind when presented with such a topic? Often, the gut responses are pornographic films. Those movies are definitely about sex, even though the physical act is treated as gratuitous and the purpose of which is strictly immediate self-satisfaction, or stimulation, for the viewer.  Sex, the act and everything about it from genitalia, foreplay, to positions is also the butt of jokes in comedies. The American Pie movies immediately spring to mind or the countless other so-called raunchy comedies. Horror films also depict sexual intercourse in gratuitous ways. There are probably not enough films that treat the topic in a serious, honest manner. They do indeed exist, but the mere fact that raunchy comedies, slasher and pornography flicks are a dime a dozen is indicative of how the issue of sex is treated in film today. Now, how about not only treating sex seriously, but more specifically as a problem, a totally uncontrollable one? Englishmen Steve McQueen returns two years after the unforgettable Hunger with Shame,

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Festival du nouveau cinéma 2011: The Turin Horse

The Turin Horse (2011, Béla Tarr)

Béla Tarr. The name stirs the passions of many a cinephile. He is an auteur, visual poet, a storyteller who embraces the real, the gritty as well as an element of the fantastical to fully bring his vision to the screen. His reputation precedes him and among his devoted fans, Tarr is of one the best filmmakers working today, especially outside the mainstream. His films can be powerful and beautifully realized despite the often harsh subject matter. Films the likes of Werckmeister Harmonies, one of this reviewer’s all time favourites, is as grim as they come, yet balances that out with some stunning positives qualities. After all this is the man who directed the 7 hour long Satantango. Yes, a 7 hour film about a dilapidated Hungarian village. His latest, The Turin Horse, thankfully nowhere near as long, played at the FNC last weekend.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: Licence to Kill (1989)

(Directed by John Glen)
In one of the darker chapters of 007’s (Timothy Dalton) career as a member of the British Secret Service, Bond went rogue to settle an intensely personal matter. The episode began when Bond travelled to Florida’s Key West region to attend the wedding of long time ally and friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter (David Hedison). In an amazing turn of events, it was learned that nefarious drug lord Sanchez (Robert Davi) was operating in the region, and thus, at long last, a prime target for arrest. Bond’s skills proved invaluable in the operation.

It quickly became obvious that Sanchez’s plentiful riches could buy off anybody, which led to his rapid escape from custody. In a shocking demonstration of rage and contempt, the villain hunted down agent Leiter and his wife, brutally murdering the latter and inhumanly injuring the former. News of this tragic event literally enraged 007, who, against orders from M (Robert Brown) himself, opted to travel south and engage Sanchez in a slippery game of wits and deception by infiltration his organization through a friendly façade. Things grew complicated by the presence of two beautiful women. The first was Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), a CIA informant working to crack down on Sanchez (for professional reasons, though). The second was Sanchez’s own beautiful girlfriend, Lupe (Talisa Soto).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Festival du nouveau cinéma 2011: Oslo, August 31st

Oslo, August 31st (2011, Joachim Trier)

To look back on a period of one’s life when things were looking grim, especially if source of the ills was oneself, is never an easy proposition. To come face to face with a past one is attempting to flee can be an even taller order. Think about a former drug addict for instance.  Even despite their greatest efforts, the dark period of their lives will forever haunt them due to the stigma attached to people who have experienced drug related issues. What happens when, upon trying to re-enter the real world, old temptations resurface and ensnare one in a familiar yet frightening comforting embrace? Joachim Trier’s Oslo, August 31st, which was submitted to both the Cannes and Toronto film festivals and played this week played in Montréal at the Festival du nouveau cinema, is a raw examination of such a whirling adventure.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Festival du nouveau cinéma 2011 begins!

Hello readers,

As promised some time ago, Between the Seats will provide coverage of the 2011 Festival du nouveau cinéma from Montréal. The festival began yesterday, Thursday October 13th and runs until Sunday October 23rd.

Shaw Brothers Marathon: update

Hello readers,

Just quick note, but an important one nonetheless. Back in June when the lineup for the Shaw Brothers marathon was released, two, Shaolin Mantis and My Young Auntie, appeared on the list. Well, due to time both accessibility and time related issues, both films have unfortunately been dropped from the marathon. In their place are Golden Swallow (reviewed today) and The Avenging Eagle, both of which the editor in chief of Between the Seats owns a copy of. Sorry for the Shaolin Mantis and Young Auntie fans!

Shaw Brothers Marathon: Golden Swallow

Golden Swallow (1968, Chang Cheh)

Here is a first in the ongoing Shaw Brothers marathon: a sequel. A few months back Between the Seats produced a review for King Hu’s masterful classic, Come Drink with Me, which starred Chang Pei Pei as a Golden Swallow, codename for a sort of local government agent who was sent on a mission to rescue her brother from a gang of malicious terrorists. The colourful characters, stunning action set pieces and even the musical score struck us as sheer brilliance. The steadfast and courageous agent played by the talented and pretty Chang Pei Pei was of particular interest to us. Truth be told, the interest was to such a degree that the fantasy of a sequel ruminated in this reviewer’s mind in the many months following the discovery of said movie. Unbeknownst to the blog was indeed the existence of such a film, simply titled Golden Swallow, just recently released on DVD (only. A shame) under the famous Dragon Dynasty banner, or Alliance in Canada, and here we are.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: The Living Daylights (1987)

(directed by John Glen)

A ‘lovely girl with the cello’ as all Bond needed to follow his nose during his latest assignment. With the Russian General Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) expressing desire to defect for the West, 007 (Timothy Dalton) was tasked with protecting the general from any possible snipers lurking around the opera house in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia  where Koskov was to occur, Bond identified the only shooter in the vicinity to be the same beautiful cellist performing in the show prior to the intermission period. Unconvinced that she was a true KGB sniper specialist, Bond elected to merely fire at her weapon rather than dispatch her.

The entire affair grew immensely more complicated when General Koskov was snatched back by the Russian right under British noses from a safe-house, but not before he could divulge controversial information regarding a certain high ranking KGB official, Pushkin (Jonathan Rhys-Davies), who was apparently responsible for the ‘Smert Spionem’ assassination programme (Death to Spies). Bond was assigned to arrive in Tangier in two days time, but felt it wise to return to Bratislava and make contact with the cellist, Kara Milvoy (Maryam D’Abo) whom it turns out was Koskov’s girlfriend of sorts. 007 posed as Koskov’s friend, promising to reunite the two while in actuality he was hoping to find out what Koskov’s true role in entire affair was. At this point, 007 was convinced Pushkin was not the threat but rather Koskov. Travelling from Bratislava to Vienna, to Tangier and finally to Afghanistan, Bond and Kara learned that Koskov was a close associate of Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker), an infamous arms dealer. Through wild circumstances, 007 and Kara eventually found themselves fighting with the Mujahidin against the Soviets in the Afghan desert...

Definitive Bond Marathon: A View to a Kill (1985)

(directed by John Glen)
The ever growing popularity and importance of computers and electronics in people’s daily lives, whether at home or at work, meant the lucrative potential for such an industry had increased exponentially in a very short period of time. Some entrepreneurs had ‘made it big’ as the saying goes, while others were desperate to reach similar status. Enter Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) of Zorin Industries, whose company ensign was printed on a perfect replicate of a British made microchip found by 007 (Roger Moore) while on a mission in Siberia. Evidently troubled by news of the Soviets meddling in British technology and convinced that Max Zorin was not as clean a business man as previously thought, 007 is sent to Chantilly France where Zorin is auctioning off some of his finest horses.

It was at the stunningly beautiful estate that Bond made the acquaintance of Stacy Sutton (Tanya Roberts) who at the time appeared to be a business partner of Zorin’s. 007 also got up close and personal with Zorin’s right hand woman, May Day (Grace Jones) a woman as exotic as she was powerful. The clues finally led Bond to San Francisco, California, where Zorin has concocted a plan to destroy the famous Silicon Valley, source of most of the world’s microchips. He was supremely intent on being the sole supplier of microchip for the entire world, and at any necessary costs.

Shaw Brothers Marathon: King Boxer

King Boxer (1972, Chang-Hwa Jeong)

And now for something different. Hmm, that might not be entirely accurate, for 1972’s King Boxer does fit the mould of what to expect from classic Shaw Brothers fair. There is kung fu, there is a martial arts tournament, and there is a story of personal redemption and one of vengeance for the death of a beloved teacher. And yet, despite the familiarity which sets the film within the parameters of what the studio typically produced in the 60s and 70s, there is an underlying feeling that this entry is shade darker, a shade more brash, a shade more violent and a shade more accomplished than most of the catalogue.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Slowing down the pace

Hello readers,

Definitive Bond Marathon: Octopussy (1983)

(Directed by John Glen)
The Octopussy mission was a perfect demonstration of how even the smallest, comparatively lightweight incidents may only be masking matters of extreme importance. It all began when 007 (Roger Moore) was tasked with accompanying one London’s art experts at an auction where a Fabergé egg was available for buyers. Bond brought along a fake, which had made its way to London after being found in the hands of the deceased 009 in Berlin. While at the auction, 007 successfully swapped the fake Fabergé for the real one, and hoped that the buyer (or seller) who be revealed, for there was fear that the Russians were involved in selling off fake treasures to raise funds. The buyer was non other than an exiled Afghan prince named Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdain), whom Bond then followed to Rajasthan India.

It was there that the grander scheme behind this art dealing was revealed. Khan was in fact a close associate of a power hungry Soviet general, General Orol (Steven Berkoff) who intended to set off a nuclear bomb in West Berlin. The ‘wild card’ as some would say, was a beautiful and astonishingly beautiful women who went by the name of Octopussy (Maud Adams). She was a successful businesswoman and among her many trades was the production of circus acts. It was through her circus troops that the real versions of the jewels were smuggled into the west while General Orlov assured that replicas would remain in Kremlin treasury.  But would Octopussy assist Bond in his desperate attempts to stop General Orlov and Kamal Khan, or was she a supporter of their plot as well?