Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fantasia 2011 Feedback: Victims

Victims (2011, David Bryant)

Sometimes the most exciting movies playing at festivals are not those movies buffs await with gleeful anticipation, but rather the ones that play in the smaller, half empty rooms because nobody really decided to pay attention to them. The budgets are smaller than on other projects and the premise far simpler, but because the director and his actors invested so much effort into crafting the best film they possibly could with what resources were available to them, the satisfaction extracted from the film far outweighs when seemed possible. Such was the case last week when myself and what literally seemed like a handful of people witnessed the world premiere of Englishmen David Bryant’s Victims.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fantasia 2011 Feedback: Love

Love (2011,William Eubank)

In our everyday lives we take much for granted. Yes, there are things we think about on and off, such as the lovely food we have the option of eating, the loves of our lives, our family, but it is all too frequent that our true appreciation of such elements that make us human comes only when, for long or short periods of time, we may no longer touch and feel them. Imagine yourself now in a room, hovering above the Earth, unable to return for an unknown amount of time. How long before you realize that you genuinely miss the really important things in life? More importantly, at what point are you separated from them for so long that they merely become ideas and memories rather than things you can actually practice?

Definitive Bond Marathon: On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

(1969, Peter Hunt)
After the failure of space shuttle project for which SPECTRE envisioned the mutual destruction of the United States and Soviet Union, Blofeld opted for more subtle means in order to spread his vile tentacles over the world.  Agent 007’s involvement in this new mission was the result of sheer happenstance.

While vacationing along the Mediterranean, 007 made the acquaintance of a beautiful but very reckless woman named Tracy Di Vicenzo as she attempted to commit suicide by drowning in the sea. Unlike most women other women, Miss Di Vicenzo did not warm up to 007 very quickly. Nonetheless, Bond’s intervention and mannerisms towards her caught the attention of the woman’s father, a crime lord named Marc Ange Draco, who summoned 007 with the proposition of giving MI6 information on Blofeld’s most recent whereabouts in exchange for marrying his daughter. 007 accepted the offer, if mostly for the purpose of finally putting an end to Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s string of terrorist plots. This time the nefarious villain was set up as a count high in the Swiss Alps, performing faux research in the study of allergies. Posing as a genealogist hired for researching Blofeld’s clearly fabricated claims of belonging to a long line of French Counts, 007 discovers that SPECTRE is to send back the allergy patients back to the four corners of the globe and have them release deadly bacterial agents to infect the world.

Fantasia 2011 Feedback: The Troll Hunter

The Troll Hunter (2010, André Ovredal)

It seems safe almost everybody has, at least once their lives, been forced to perform a task or job which displeases them. They may be the only ones capable of accomplishing said tasks or maybe other circumstances beyond their control unfortunately thrust them into labour that beat down on them physically and psychologically. The author himself can even attest to that. A common expression encapsulating our feelings upon glancing at what jobs or activities those around us are performing is ‘the grass is always greener on the other side.’ But is such always truly the case? Are there not instances when what looks cool is, in fact, a job nobody would ever want if they understood the actual nature of what was involved? If you were told it was possible to leave your desk job first thing in the morning and make a living doing something that seemed out of an action-fantasy adventure tale, would you honestly grab the opportunity? Oh, really? Is that so?...

Shootout at High Noon: The Silver Six's

We are here today, not to shoot the bloody hell out of each other, but to celebrate one another. Today, my fellow gunslingers, barmen, horse riders, sheriffs, bandits, damsels, whores, we gather to admire what it is we live through each and every day. Call it the ‘wild, wild west’, we call just call it the good old west.

Many filmmakers have taken their chances on depicting our lively lifestyles for the purposes of great entertainment. Over the past few months we’ve seen some of the very best attempts from Hollywood and elsewhere. Not every film hit the same notes as strongly, with some rising above the rest with regards certain particularities of how we rule the west. So, without further ado, let us highlight some of these movies in the categories that best represent us. Here are the Silver Six's (for seven categories)!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: You Only Live Twice (1967)

You Only Live Twice (1967, Lewis Gilbert)

With the Cold War tensions rising between global powers U.S.A. and the Soviet Union, SPECTRE decided the time was ripe to play both off one another in the hopes that such a strategy would lead to mutual annihilation, leaving the terrorist organization as the sole power capable of leading (and dominating) the world into the late stages of the 20th century. It was through a mesmerizing plan which involved hijacking both American and Soviet space shuttles one after another that SPECTRE envisioned leaders of both countries putting the blame on one another, thus falling pretty to escalating wartime ambitions.

Fantasia 2011 Feedback: The Wicker Tree

The Wicker Tree (2011, Robin Hardy)

Late last year, Between the Seats featured a review for the 1973 cult classic musical-horror film, The Wicker Man. That film proved a worthwhile and provocative exercise not only for its clever combination of two genres that do not frequently mesh (musicals and horrors), but also for bringing several other unorthodox and challenging elements to the table, such as the staunch opposition between two religions, Celtic folklore, and grander themes of acceptance of what one does not comprehend...or utter rejection which borders on hostility. It would not be entirely accurate to say the 1973 is ‘well known’ but it has its faithful supporters and, more than three and a half decades later, has inspired original writer-director Robin Hardy to revisit a similar universe with this remake, or re-imagining if one prefers, titled The Wicker Tree.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fantasia 2011 Feedback: Another Earth

Another Earth (2011, Mike Cahill)
Mike Cahill’s odd sci-fi drama made some headways during the Sundance film festival earlier in 2011, generating some very positive buzz from movies fans and the critics fortunate enough to catch it then. Its festival success was, in fact, large enough for Fox Searchlight to pick up the film for a distribution deal. The movie continued to make the rounds of the United States festival circuit, with the lone exception, it seems, being its screening this past weekend at Fantasia. One should be mindful when entering Cahill’s film however. The poster and title might evoke hopes of a mind-bending sci-fi epic the likes of which we have not witnessed in some time. In reality, Cahill’s project is a far more intimate, character based story than that, which is not a bad thing in of itself, provided the writer-director can juggle two ingredients: the awesome sci-fi aspects and the small scale human story.

Fantasia 2011 Feedback: Ip Man: The Legend is Born

Ip Man: The Legend is Born (2010, Herman Yau)
After the massive success of the first two Ip Man films, Ip Man (2008, Wilson Yip) and Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grand Master (2010, Wilson Yip), the natural inclination of the Hong Kong studio system was to give the audience some more. However, with the most crucial aspects of Ip Man’s life having been told already through the first two instalments, albeit with at times exaggerated, self-indulgent kung fu glee, there was little left in terms of story to tell if the choice had been to march onward. So what does one do in such a predicament? Well, go into the past and make a prequel of course. Have you not been following the trends lately? The North American premier of Ip Man: The Legend is Born occurred this past weekend at Fantasia in MontrĂ©al to a crowd of martial arts hungry fans. Did it really matter that even the beloved Ip Man series had chosen to follow suite with virtually all other movies franchises, both American and not, by playing the old prequel card? Perhaps a little, at least for me, but just having another Ip Man film appeared to more than enough to wet the appetite of the packed house on Sunday, including yours truly (otherwise I would not have been there!).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fantasia Film Festival 2011: The Odyssey begins!

The 2011 Fantasia Film Festival has begun! Yes, I know, this announcement comes a solid 48 hours late, seeing as the event opened on Thursday night with a screening of Kevin Smith’s newest and arguably most intriguing film to date, Red State. However, as has been written more than once at Between the Seats, we are not professional critics, and hence do not earn a living by writing for the pleasure of our faithful readers. In other words, we have real jobs that prevent us from hopping down to the nearest theatre whenever we feel like it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shaw Brothers marathon: Vengeance is a Golden Blade

Vengeance is a Golden Blade (1969, Ho Meng-Hua)
Ah, the McGuffin, the prized object that each and every character in a film is influenced by, seeks and has any sort of relation with, but which in the end bears no relation on the heart of a story. The story is typically about something else entirely, yet the film will cheekily try to remind the audience that it is the ever elusive (or not) object of everyone’s desire that matters most. This is one of the oldest storytelling tricks in movie history, and one of the most recognized. The idea of the McGuffin is pretty interesting because it can assist a film in so many essential ways, such as actually helping a film in question focus more on character relations. The hunt for the object everyone desires will, if we follow the screenwriting logic, inadvertently cause rich character development.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Definitive Bond marathon: Thunderball (1965)

Following the hijacking of an ultra-modern NATO military aircraft and its nuclear arsenal by the international terrorist organization SPECTRE, the British government was informed that this group demanded a ransom within the next seven days, otherwise a major American or British city would meet annihilation. Working with whatever leads it had, MI6 sent agent 007 to the Bahamas, where the sister of the NATO pilot was residing.
The girl in question, Domino Derval, lived with a member of the local wealthy elite, a certain Emilio Largo. Through his encounters with Derval, 007 grew suspicious of Largo’s true nature. Following his investigative instincts, it became apparent that Largo was in fact a member of SPECTRE, and a high ranking officer at that. Getting to him, however, was not easy, for Largo also believed Bond to be an enemy as well, and was soon dispatching his minions, most notably a SPECTRE assassin, Fiona Volpe.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Freaks and Geeks: Fantasia 2011

Shootout at High Noon: Ravenous

Ravenous (1999, Antonia Bird)
*Caution: while the author does his best not to reveal everything in the film under review today, certain significant plot points are revealed for the sake of properly formulating thoughts and ideas for discussion. The reader has received a fair warning.
There is deconstruction and then there is doing something different with something familiar. In the realm of film, both ideas share a lot of common ground, but nonetheless remain separate entities and ways of sharing stories. A deconstruction of the western genre would involve explicit use of familiar tropes, signature ingredients which the majority of film lovers recognize as part of the genre...and tossing them upside down to create something new. Then there is what Antiona Bird attempts in her 1999 effort, Ravenous, in which she loosely uses the western genre to develop a tale of dark deeds and courage. The use of the term ‘loosely’ was intentional, for other than a few period decorations and mentions of a major event that helped shape the United States into what it is (the reference to significant, United States-building, historical events being a popular tool in westerns), there is not much here for the film to feel truly at home in the genre. But that is a matter of semantics. More importantly, how is the movie?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: Goldfinger (1964)

007, following an encounter of the most extraordinary kind in Miami, USA with multi-millionaire and entrepreneur Auric Goldfinger, was given the task of investigating the man’s suspected practice of smuggling gold bullion around the world for as of yet unknown purposes. Following a less than quaint match of golf with Goldfinger, 007 followed the shrewd business man to his largest factory in Switzerland via a homing device. It was there that our man learned that not all was what it seemed with Goldfinger. In league with the Chinese, Goldfinger had in fact been smuggling gold by clever means, but before 007 could do anything, he was kidnapped.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Shaw Brothers marathon: The Wandering Swordsman

The Wandering Swordsman (1969, Chang Cheh)
A hero need not be impervious to error. The most noble of heroes can in fact become boring because the characters are too clean, too neat and tidy. A character that can be lead astray and can commit mistakes often makes for much more compelling storytelling. A nuance should be elaborated on however. The protagonist does not have to be written as someone with a ‘bad side.’ He or she can genuinely try to be an upstanding person, but by the nature of whom they are or the uncooperative circumstances around them, they sometimes fail when one thinks they could have succeeded. Director Chang Cheh, who is at it again with Wandering Swordsman (that’s 3 out of 4 films we have discussed that were helmed by the same person), taking this notion of the imperfect hero to heart and builds a tale of mistakes which were difficult to avoid and lead to dire results.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: From Russia With Love (1963)

In one of his more peculiar missions, agent 007  was commissioned with the task of recuperating an important decoding machine, a Lektor, from a low ranking officer of the Russian embassy in Istanbul, a certain Tatiana Romanova What’s more, it appeared that the instigator of this mission was the Russian clerk herself, who hoped to defect to the West with asylum in Britain in exchange for the decoding machine. The only condition was that agent 007 specifically had to escort her. It appeared the girl had fallen in love with 007 from seeing a picture of him in a file at the embassy. Even our clearer heads agreed that the operation hinted at a trap, but the opportunity of owning a Lektor was too great to pass.

Parting Shot: Open Range

For a proper understanding of what follows, please read Bill's review of Open Range over at his Movie Emporium.
Such vocabulary, Bill! Never one to mince words, you went straight to the point as to why you fancied Kevin Costner’s 2003 Open Range. Each of your paragraphs began with a simple word describing your feelings towards the film, with the first pertaining to the language spoken by the characters themselves. Open Range does feature interesting wordage. It isn’t too fancy, but nonetheless provides a strong sense of what these people are what the time that they lived in was like. Without going for anything especially stylistic, the dialogue did set a precise and appropriate tone.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Capsule reviews: Super 8, Transformers: Dark of the Moon