STAR TREK (J.J. Abrams, 2009)

Posted December 12, 2009 by chrischaddatthemovies
Categories: 2009, Chadd, Mini Review

Chadd: To boldly go where no man has gone before, indeed. Chadd here, and today I’m going to briefly discuss my thoughts of J.J. Abrams’ new film, Star Trek. Being a bit of a Trekkie myself, I must admit that I went into this expecting a cheesy and quite frankly horrid film. I also went in with expectations that Abrams might ultimately ruin the Star Trek franchise for mild, moderate, and hard-core fans alike. The funny thing is, a lot of the film was cheesy. But don’t kid yourself; that added a lot to the film. Abrams surely didn’t “ruin” the franchise; in fact he might have done the exact opposite. Abrams took the traditional, heavy-handed series and created a fun, highly enjoyable summer blockbuster and it appeals to a much wider audience than the traditional series does. This film’s fast paced, often humorous script is carried quite well by the cast, ultimately leaving the viewer with an extremely entertaining action film. That’s it. Whether or not it will ruin the integrity of Star Trek is quite irrelevant. If you’re a skeptical fan of the original series, set aside your doubts; if you are able to do so, there is absolutely no reason not to derive enjoyment from it. Star Trek provides a little something for everyone: entertainment for the girls with the handsome, brave, and witty Captain James T. Kirk, played by Chris Pine; entertainment for the guys with the beautiful Zoey Saldana as Uhura; mesmerizing cinematography that would impress even the harshest of film enthusiasts; and themes and elements from the original series for the die-hard Roddenberry-ites. T’was a bold maneuver on Abrams part… and he pulled it off well. Big “SEE IT from me.



Posted December 9, 2009 by chrischaddatthemovies
Categories: 2009, Chris, Mini Review

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Chris: Mr. Herzog, Mr Herzog, what have ye done? I’m Christopher Misch of Next Projection and this is a mini review of Werner Herzog’s The Bad Lieutenant: Port Call – New Orleans.  Now back in the late nineties and even during the first couple years of this decade, Nicolas Cage put together incredibly entraining and at times even moving performances where his exuberant personality just flew off the screen.   However it has been several years – well five actually, since Adaptation – that his talents have produced anything worth remembering, as he has starred in a series of meaningless effects driven science fiction films, two of those dreaded National Treasure movies, one Ghost Rider with another one the way, and the hilariously terrible remake of The Wicker Man.  Sure the man has already won an Oscar so what does he have to prove? But, there’s a part of me that just wants him to return to those glory days when I actually anticipated the release date of his next project.

In The Bad Lieutenant: Port Call – New Orleans Cage teams up with energetic filmmaker Werner Herzog who’s passion for making movies extends back to the 70s when he burst onto the World Cinema scene with Aguirre, the Wrath of God.  Now this would seem to be just the perfect actor/director collaboration, as Herzog is the type of filmmaker who pushes his lead actors to the brink and when they get there, he pushes them a bit more. And truth be told, Cage is just brilliant here; giving his best performance in years as a New Orleans police lieutenant attempting to solve a brutal homicide while struggling with his addiction to painkillers and cocaine. I mean this lieutenant certainly lives up to his bad name as he is just an appalling individual: not only does he take sexual favours as brides, he pockets drugs from drug scenes and in one particular incident he pulls a gun on two elderly women while removing a nasal oxygen mask from one of them to extort information from the other concerning the whereabouts of a witness in the case. From the opening act, it’s clear Herzog just let Cage run wild with the character and the film is that much better as a result.  Unfortunately, Herzog squanders Cage’s electrifying performance by giving us nothing else to admire about the film.  The underlying premise is underdeveloped and much like Cage’s character feels half-baked. The supporting performances add nothing to the overall quality of the film. And the over-the-top tone that’s not supposed to be taken seriously, even went taken lightly grows tiresome as the final act approaches its conclusion. So, as fascinating as it is to watch Cage return to his old form and once again work his magic on screen, I still say “SKIP IT“, as there’s simply better films out there to watch especially during this time of the year. So, I say again Mr. Herzog, Mr Herzog, what have ye done?

SIN NOMBRE (Cary Fukunaga, 2009)

Posted December 8, 2009 by chrischaddatthemovies
Categories: 2009, Chadd, Chris, Film Review

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Chris: I’m Christopher Misch of Next Projection and he’s Chadd Roman of the University of Western Ontario, and today we are going to look at the rather unsettling Mexican film, Sin Nombre.  This is actually the debut feature from American born filmmaker, Cary Fukunaga who’s only other credits before this were a few well received student films.  From the onset, Sin Nombre adopts a duel storyline structure with one half of the film telling the story of a Mexican gangster named Willy, who is trying to escape from a violent past after his fellow gang members discover he has been neglecting his duties while secretly spending time away with his girlfriend, the beautiful Martha.  The other story the film follows is that of Sayra who along with her father and uncle are on a demanding journey across the Mexican countryside in search of America and a new life.  Willy’s and Sayra’s stories collide on the top of a train where one brutal act will change the course of both their futures forever.

Chris:  Now, while I admire the intent of the film, it’s certainly not without its share of problems. Willy’s character didn’t seem to be terribly intriguing in any sense especially given his dire circumstances or particularly well acted either.  There is also the issue of the romantic ark between Willy and Sayra feeling rushed and at times unconvincing, as the film struggles to find a workable balance between its romantic and gangster elements.  That being said newcomer, Fukunaga illustrates maturity and vision beyond his years in capturing both the beauty and brutality of the Mexican landscape.  And, as predictable as the ending is when it is comes down to it, it’s still pretty devastating, so Chadd I say “SEE IT” because as directorial debuts go there is no doubt this one is quite strong.

Chadd: A very strong directorial debut indeed, Chris; and, I agree with the “SEE IT” sentiment. I must admit right off the bat that I do not agree with a few of the points you’ve addressed. First off, I believe that the romance between Willy and Sayra needed to be “rushed.” I’ll admit it seemed to happen rather quickly; them meeting and Sayra developing a strong emotional bond to the guy that saved her innocence. But without it’s hasty development, I really think it would have taken away from the impact of the sort of fast paced situation that the Honduran family was in, as well as the dire situation that Willy himself was in. I can’t explain how annoying I find being bogged down in romantic sub-plots is. Sure, an additional 20 minutes might have done well to further develop it, but it certainly wouldn’t be a point that I would bother complaining about as I thought it was quite effective as Fukunaga left it.

However, you’re right on about the frankly, rather lackluster character of Willy. But I must admit that I found the actor to be completely serviceable in the role and wouldn’t necessarily bring up poor acting on his part. I certainly think it was a bold move on Fukunaga’s part to use Flores; relying on a rather no name actor to carry the film. Furthermore, I think it represents Fukunaga’s will to make his portrayal of the mexican gang scene authentic. Though, being Fukunaga’s debut, would he have access to bigger name actors? I’m sure he did as Bernal produced it. Regardless, I think Flores was quite effective in his role as El Casper.

Chris: To be completely honest, I would have loved to spend another twenty or so minutes with these two characters, and the film probably would have been better for it in my mind.  However moving on from one “serviceable” performance as so you put it, to one that for me just brought the overall picture together for me; that being the performance of a talented young actress, Paulina Gaitán.  In the film plays Sayra, and she is just splendid here; giving such a simple and graceful performance that it brings to mind Catalina Sandino Moreno’s award winning role in Joshua Marston’s Maria Full of Grace.  And in the same vain as that film the conclusion to Sin Nombre even amongst so much chaos and brutality still offers us a sense of hope, no matter how small it is.

Chadd: Gaitán was fantastic and the reason I think she was fantastic stems back to the fact that the romantic plot between Willy and her was so brief. She really needed to sell the fact that she was growing strong feelings for Willy in the short time that she had to work and she pulls it off quite masterfully. An additional 20 minutes wouldn’t really have provided much beyond what was already established; the romance between the two characters was rather one sided. Willy was completely heartbroken and while he was open to befriending and helping Sayra he couldn’t open up romantically to another person. Besides, as you so aptly said, the ending was rather predictable; Willy knew his fate and couldn’t drag someone else into it. Ultimately, this allows Willy one last chance to redeem his violent lifestyle.

Going back to the comment you made earlier of the ending being predictible, yet devastating, I think it’s fair to say that most of the emotional impact is the result of Gaitán’s ability to sell the emotional side of Sayra. It was really impressive given said predictability. There really are no secrets regarding what is going to happen to Casper, yet, the over all impact isn’t effected regardless of your expectations.

ACT OF GOD (Jennifer Baichwal, 2009)

Posted December 3, 2009 by chrischaddatthemovies
Categories: 2009, Chris, Mini Review

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Chris: While the chances of being struck by lighting are somewhere around 1 in 700, 000 per given year, the likelihood of you taking something tangible away from our next film is actually far greater, but is that enough for me to recommend it to you?  I’m Christopher Misch of Next Projection and this is a mini review of Jennifer Baichawl’s latest, Act of God. Baichawl is of course the Canadian mind behind the thought-provoking yet ultimately disappointing Manufactured Landscapes and in a sense Act of God suffers from comparable flaws, but it is most definitely a step in the right direction for this clearly talented filmmaker. The film takes us around the world investigating seven separate stories involving people who have been struck by lightening and explores the idea that this random phenomenon is not necessarily a simple random event at all, but rather an act preordained by God.  My greatest issue with Manufactured Landscapes was that it provided us with so many unsettling images, but it lacked the cohesive ideas and depth to bring everything together.  Here Baichawl continues to present an array of breathtaking images this time in the form of photographs and video clips of lighting storms, yet she almost repeats the same mistakes as at times it’s unclear what she is attempting to get at. The final scene in which best-selling novelist Paul Auster reads out-loud a haunting first hand account of several individuals lost in the woods during a lightening storm to end all lightening storms is so well put together that it almost allows us to forget the mostly mediocre segments that came before it. And therefore as good as this scene is, I can’t recommend you see the film in its entirety, so this is a “SKIP IT” for me.

LOVE EXPOSURE (Sion Sono, 2009)

Posted November 28, 2009 by chrischaddatthemovies
Categories: 2009, Chris, Mini Review

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Chris: One thing is definite and that is you’ve probably never seen anything quite like our next film.  Again I’m Christopher Misch of Next Projection and this is a mini review of Sion Sono’s four hour Japanese epic melodrama, Love Exposure. This rather complex story centers around Yu, a teenage son of a Catholic priest who is good natured at heart but begins to rebel against his father after forced into confession nearly everyday.  In the beginning, his confessions are lies as he makes sins up just to please his father. Soon these lies become truths, as Yu falls in with the wrong crowd.  Together this bands of deviants pick fights, steal, and eventually learn the art of the ‘upskirt panty shot’. Yes, that right, I said ‘panty shot’. One day after losing a bet with his friends, he agrees to dress up as a woman and kiss the first girl he sees.  It just so happens that the first girl he comes across is a stunningly attractive teenage girl named Yoko who he finds surrounded by a gang of thugs.  Seizing the opportunity to impress her he comes to her rescue, still clad in women’s clothing, and together they fight off the gang.  At first glace, Yu falls head over heels for Yoko and she with him; the only problem being that she believes she has fallen in love with woman and not a man. Underlying all this is a subplot that follows a member of a religious cult, who knows of Yu’s upskirt photographs and his feelings for Yoko and uses them as apart of her scheme to bring Yu and his family under the cult’s control.

This may sound like the most ridiculous idea for a movie ever, and by all accounts it is ridiculous, but it works. Even at four hours, it works.  And I’m sure that even at the film’s original running length of six hours, it would still work.  And the reason being Sion Sono’s exceptional script that fuses dramatic and comedic elements together so well while tackling issues of such as religion, perversion, love, and the contemporary Japanese family.  Beneath all its eccentricities Love Exposure is essentially a standard melodrama, but that being said it’s also one of the funniest movies I’ve seen all year.  It’s just hilarious how Yu and his friends approach this new ‘upskirt’ perversion of there’s as if it were a form of martial arts by taking training courses and including spins, summersaults, and flips into their techniques.  Nevertheless, as entertaining and clever as this film is everything would have been for not if the performances didn’t measure up to the quality set forth by the other aspects of the film, but luckily they do.  Both Takahiro Nishijima who plays Yu and Hikari Mitsushima who plays Yoko give brave performances; throwing everything they have into their respective roles and sure they are over-the-top at times but given the overall absurd nature of the film, the performances don’t stick out at all and in fact feel just right. Make no mistake about it, this is a special film. “SEE IT“.

FANTASTIC MR. FOX (Wes Anderson, 2009)

Posted November 27, 2009 by chrischaddatthemovies
Categories: 2009, Chris, Mini Review

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Chris: With already one very successful film adaptation of a popular children’s novel this year; that being Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are, the question is can American auteur Wes Anderson attempt the same feat and produce similar results? I’m Christopher Misch of Next Projection and this is a mini review of Fantastic Mr. Fox.  As those who know me can attest, I really seem to have of soft spot for the work of Wes Anderson and in fact there hasn’t been a single film of his that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed.  However it is to my serious displeasure that this sentiment is no more.  Based on the 1970 Ronald Dahl’s book, Fantastic Mr. Fox follows the exploits of Mr. Fox, voiced by George Clooney, who formulates a master plan to sneak into and the steal food from Boggis, Bunce and Bean, three of the richest and meanest farmers in the valley.  These actions have serious consequences however, as the violent retaliation on behalf of these farmers place everyone in the valley at risk. Unlike all of Anderson’s previous film, which were all shot in live action, Fantastic Mr. Fox employs stop-motion animation and the result is a rather impressive and unique visual experience. The voice work is also quite strong here with Anderson’s regular cast of actors: Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson providing much of the supporting work while newcomers George Clooney and Meryl Streep take the lead.  Yet, with all this going for it somehow the film just doesn’t seem to work, as everything just doesn’t come together as it should.  What it lacks is a compelling story and intriguing characters to match the creative world where all the events unfold.  And what it is also missing the humour and wit that Anderson has come to be known for.  As good as this film looks and sounds, I really can’t see anyone child enjoying this or any adult either. “SKIP IT”.

UNBREAKABLE (M. Night Shyamalan, 2000)

Posted November 25, 2009 by chrischaddatthemovies
Categories: 2000, Chadd, Chris, Film Review

Chris: I’m Christopher Misch of Next Projection and he’s Chadd Roman of the University of Western Ontario. The very first film we are going to look at is M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable.  Now before Shyamalan came out with two atrocious films, he actually put together four really good ones. Yes, that’s right I’m including The Village in there as well, but that’s for another day and another film discussion.  Coming off the critical and commercial success of The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan’s Unbreakable is a modern day comic book fable starring Hollywood icon Bruce Willis as David Dunn, a security guard who miraculously survives a horrific train reck.

Chris: But, not only does he survive; he is in fact the only survivor.  This prompts a deranged comic book enthusiast and sufferer of an extremely rare bone disease, played by Samuel L. Jackson, to confront Dunn about the possibility that he may be a real life superhero. Chad, I know like me this wasn’t your first time viewing the film, so what did you think about it this time around?

Chadd: You know, Chris, when I watch the atrocities that are Lady in the Water and The Happening, I can’t help but ask myself: what on earth has happened to M. Night Shyamalan? Clearly this guy has talent and is capable of making a great film as he showed us on more than one occasion. Unbreakable is one of those films. Simply M. Night at his best. Great performances, great direction; and a wonderfully creative and original story to boot. This one is easy for me, Chris; it’s a definite “SEE IT”.

Chris: Yeah, I say “SEE IT” as well and even if you’ve already seen it, I say watch it again as it’s really a film that definitely holds up on a second and a third viewing. It’s funny to think of those who have only seen M. Night’s last two films and to hear us praising the man for his technique  as a filmmaker, but it’s true.  With what he did with The Sixth Sense, with Signs, to a lesser degree with The Village, and here with Unbreakable it is impressive.  I think what sets these four films apart from his previous two is this eerie uncomfortable mood that allows for his characteristic surprise endings to unfold; well that and a number of other things. And what separates Unbreakable from all his other work is its look. Chadd, I just love the look of this film.  From the underlying blue and grey colour pallet to the orange highlighting of the janitor’s jumpsuit, the overall visuals of this film just work.

Chadd: I’m glad that you brought up the effectiveness of the visuals in this; more specifically, the evil and twisted Janitor’s orange jump suit.  I think it’s the scene in which David Dunn confronts the evil Janitor that really shows us Shyamalan’s artistic prowess. You mentioned the use of an underlying greyish/blue color theme; the usage of these colors is really emphasized in this sequence. Ultimately what the viewer is left with is a  live-action comic. The lack of dialogue in the sequence almost leaves the audience to narrate it for themselves, which might parallel the impact of visuals in comic books.  M. Night really plays on that; in effect, he builds up the suspense of the eerie scene. When Dunn finally combats the “villain” the audience is exposed to classic comic book-esque visuals: A caped-crusader battling a giant orange monster (the orange jumpsuit really stands out here because of the underlying blues and greys); even the actions of the two actors are exaggerated to give it a more dramatic and expressive feel. This sequence is just one of the many examples of how Shyamalan uses visuals very effectively throughout Unbreakable and I think that this sequence alone is worth watching the film for. If you take nothing else from Unbreakable, at least try to understand what M. Night was trying to do with his choice of color and visuals: present the creative tale of a “real-life” superhero using colors and images inherent in graphic novels.

Chris: And in doing he has produced one of the more realistic comic book films out there because obviously if a super hero did somehow exist he or she most likely wouldn’t be wearing a spiderman or batman outfit; they would be ordinary individuals wearing, in this case, nothing more than a simple rain coat.  Chadd, and you’re so right about that scene between Dunn and the sadistic janitor.  It’s so intense yet remains artistically driven and everything is tightly brought together just perfectly by James Newton Howard’s moving musical score.  Now before this segment ends we have to talk about Bruce Willis. Often the man gets typecasted in these nothing police officer roles, but here he give his richest and most complex performance as man struggling to come to terms with the unbelievable. And it is this performance that elevates Unbreakable to one of the most complete and thoroughly rewarding comic book films of the decade.