Monthly Archives: June 2009

Giallo Review

Poster for Dario Argento's latest film, <em>Giallo</em>

Poster for Dario Argento's latest film, Giallo

Dario argento has been playing the horror game for several decades, known by fans for his penchant for gore and his cult classic Suspiria. Argento pictures come with expectations.


The basic expectation of any director with the degrees of power and prestige afforded by such an audience following is that subsequent films will not be crap. Argento’s latest, Giallo, doesn’t succeed at being a serial-killer thriller, but earns watchability points for its campiness. Continue reading

Darren Aronofsky: In Person

Darren Aronofsky (<em>left</em>) and the Unknown Interview Lady (<em>right</em>).

As was the same with the Sam Mendes talk: I was able to get a last minute ticket for the Darren Aronofsky event that had been sold out. I secured a front seat and the following video footage below. I did not have enough memory on my camera to cover the entire talk, so the rest is dictated word for word from my old school tape recorder (I really need to buy a digital one…).

Worth highlighting are his thoughts on 3D, music from his films cropping up in shitty trailers and sports events, and why some people hate The Fountain towards the end of Part 6. Please leave your thoughts at the bottom.

Continue reading

Makers of Moon

Here is the conversation that took place with the filmmakers after the premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival:

Part 1
Continue reading

Moon Review

With this intriguing trailer, a score by Clint Mansell (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain), and Sam Rockwell starring as technician Sam Bell, I will admit to having some expectations. I would also say that most people intrigued by this film are going to be sci-fi nerds familiar with notable scif-fi movies.

Therein lies the problem with Moon: if you’ve seen Blade Runner, you’re just getting a rehash. Yes, the set design and CGI are great, especially when find out they did with a 5 million dollar budget. Clint Mansell’s score adds depth, tension, and excitement. Sam Rockwell playing two different characters: wonderful, he does a great job.

However the story falls flat after the first twenty minutes as you then predict the entire plot of the film and it doesn’t help that they reveal a major plot point in the trailer.

SPOILER ALERT (scroll down till you hit SPOILER ALERT OVER to read the conclusion)

Because after I saw the trailer I immediately predicted the film’s twists based on my knowledge of Blade Runner: Rockwell plays a clone created by a mining corporation who have implanted false memories of a life he’s never lived. The film further rides the Blade Runner band wagon when Sam looks sickly and starts coughing up blood… Surprise, surprise, the clones have a shelf life of three years!

The only part of the film in which you benefit from seeing previous sci-fi films is the send up to 2001: A Space Odyssey. During the film you wonder if the Kevin Spacey robot, Gerty, is going to be another whacked out HAL 9000: is he trying to hide the truth from Sam? Will he kill him for knowing too much? The filmmakers play with this expectation and is an upside for the film’s story. Since it is not the focus though, it still can’t make up for the Blade Runner fleecing.

And on a final spoiler note, the ending felt weak: as Sam Bell (at least one of them) is re-entering Earth’s atmosphere we hear radio broadcasts of his story being told.

One, the audience doesn’t really need to know if he got to Earth safely to feel good about the film. The fact that he escaped the Moon base at all is the payoff: he got free and there’s hope. So to clarify the point, and to do so with such casual briefness felt like both a disservice to the audience and the character.


If you’re just getting into sci-fi movies, this is a great introduction. I will admit, even if you’re a veteran, it isn’t necessarily horrible either, as I mentioned the acting and technical achievements are evident. Just don’t expect any surprises.

I looked for a Moon poster and this was all I got.  :shudder:

I looked for a Moon poster and this was all I got. :shudder:

Re-Visiting “The Intruder”

Roger Corman is not well known amongst our generation, lost with our parent’s memories of low-budget genre films (the monster, gangster, horror, biker movies) that made the drive-in circuit. That’s one of the pitfalls coming into this world a century after filmmaking began: you’ve got a lot of fucking movies to watch.

Corman’s The Intruder is one of the older films we whipper-snappers should re-discover (along with the usual suspects: Casablanca, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Citizen Kane) considering its social commentary. Hell, if for nothing else you should watch it to see William Shatner play a bad guy. After seeing Shatner play Adam Cramer I was disappointed he didn’t choose to revisit the Dark Side – he may have been better at it than playing noble Captain Kirk. Continue reading

The Hurt Locker

In the trailer I posted for Katheryn Bigelow’s latest film The Hurt Locker we see bomb suits, slow motion explosions, witty dialogue, and other cool, manly things.

This guy isn't even in the movie, but his tattoo, spiky hair, and the explosion in the background make it cool and MANLY

This guy isn't even in the movie, but his tattoo, spiky hair, and the explosion in the background make it cool and MANLY

The film, on the other hand, is not a glorification of war, but another attempt to humanize the men behind the guns.

The film follows a U.S. Army Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit serving in Iraq. When Sergeant JT Sanborn and Specialist Owen Eldridge get new boss Staff Sergeant William James, they pray to God, Allah, or Cthulu (we don’t know their religious beliefs) that they won’t be shredded by shrapnel thanks to James’ risk taking tactics.

The story is engaging, with IEDs being found, de-activated, and random appearances from Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes. Secured by ticking bombs, we are allowed to focus on Staff Sergeant James, whose bravado and badassery are matched only by the amount of emotional damage he takes.

The film opens with a quote from Chris Hedges saying that “War is a drug.” James is indeed such an addict, putting himself and his men at risk as he pushes his luck or goes looking for trouble. Sanborn and Eldridge can’t wait to go home; James can’t wait to leave it.

Though it’s a good cinematic tool to keep up the tension, Bigelow’s obsession with close-ups during the entire movie is frustrating. In theatre there is a purposeful awareness to how physically close a performance should be to the audience: if you get too close during a character’s emotional breakdown, the audience gets uncomfortable and the suspension of disbelief is broken. The Hurt Locker falls prey to this faux pas, forcing the audience to be way too close to everyone’s face. By the end of the movie you have a strange hunger for wide shots of the Grand Canyon.

Seriously.  Just a few of these would help.

Seriously. Just a few of these would help.

Other than this stylistic hurdle (worth mentioning after complaints I heard about the way Cloverfield was shot) it’s a great war movie due to its lack of battles between “good” and “bad” guys and the analysis of how war conditions the mind. Maybe we can learn from the Little Albert experiment and help them kick the habit.

Sam Mendes: In Person

So when I tried to find tickets to three director conversations, I was only able to get one. However, two hours before Mendes’ talk, a ticket opened up and I found myself front seat for this talk with the director of American Beauty and Road to perdition. Continue reading

EIFF: Away We Go

When you first see the trailer for Sam Mendes’ Away We Go you wonder if its going to be another Juno: trying so hard to be cute and funny that all you want to do is start kicking it around like a retarded puppy.

Even the poster makes you think of Juno

Even the poster makes you think of Juno

This sentiment is misplaced. What Mendes has done is encapsulate an earnest relationship and its struggle to define itself with a baby on the way.

We’re introduced to Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) when they first find out they’ll be having a baby. Six months later, the couple begins a location scouting adventure for HOME after Burt’s parents (the couple’s sole connection to their humble abode) decide to move to Antwerp a month before the child is to be born.

Written by Dave Eggers and his wife Vendela Vida, the film is true to its name, whisking us along from locale to locale in chapter format. At each location Burt and Verona meet up with friends or acquaintances who, as representatives of their city, repel or attract the couple.

Less of a “travelogue” and more of a sampling of various parenting styles (from dismissive apathy to New Age s’mothering), Burt and Verona learn what they don’t want to do (be in the same bed with their child when they have sex) and the type of parents they’d like to be (let their kids be who they want to be).

The writing is superb, giving the cast room to bring on the funny. John Krasinski plays Burt well, spinning between demure and heroic without stealing the show, and who knew Maya Rudolph could bring so much with so little? As the oldest sister who carries both child and questions of identity (“Are we fuck ups?” she asks Burt), Rudolph keeps the film’s gravitas.

Away We Go, in comparison to Mendes’ previous work, trades in the visual pomp for natural compositions that work specifically for the type of intimacy Mendes’ is reaching for. After Revolutionary Road, in which a couple tear each other a part by looking inward, Away We Go presents another answer to the equation of coupledom, as Burt and Verona, together, face outward.

This “togetherness” dynamic keeps the film from being casually tossed into the “Romantic Comedy” bin. The usual rom-com format is boy and girl are together, break up, boy fights for girl, wins her over, end. Burt and Verona are never led down that path of conflict (though Mendes’ track record does give you worry for the couple). Throughout most of the film Burt and Verona are always within the same shot, rarely separated by closeups, enhancing their united front.

The film is simple, but poignant, and will hit you where it counts. As my friend Ben Creech once highlighted, what really makes a film is the audience’s connection to the piece. I personally found myself presented on celluloid when Burt idly speculates, “But what if I’m walking by a construction site and I get hit on my frontal lobe and then I’m a horrible person?” When speculating upon the future our decisions may deliver, everyone has the “what if’s?”. The film’s response, “We’ll take it as it comes, together,” rounds out a mature, nuanced comedy about relationships and what it’s really going to take to stick it out. Evidently, it will take a lot of syrup.

Edinburgh International Film Festival

Welcome everyone to my film diary. While I am waiting to start school here in Edinburgh, I’m working on my film knowledge and jotting down ideas. I will dedicate this journal to the discussion of cinema (and even some literature), but right now the big thing is the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

The fest is one of the largest in the U.K. and will be showcasing Sam Mendes’ Away We Go, the sci-fi film starring Sam Rockwell, Moon, and talks with directors Sam Mendes, Darren Aronofsky, and King of the B’s himself, Roger Corman. Unfortunately I was unable to get tickets in time for Mendes and Aronofsky. However, I feel my uncanny ability to meet bands like Everclear, Queens of the Stone Age, Papa Roach through cunning and persistence will be helpful in getting into the talks in some way.

Here is a list of the events I’ve bought tickets for (and in brackets the events I’ll try to get into):

June 17
Away We Go

June 18
[Sam Mendes: In Person]

June 19
The Hurt Locker (from the director of Point Break)

June 20
Roger Corman’s The Intruder, starring William Shatner. (This was the best trailer I could find for the film, but it’s still good for some background on the film and Corman)

Moon (sci-fi film with Kevin Spacey and Sam Rockwell)

June 22
[Darren Aronofsky: In Person]

June 23
For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism

June 24
Roger Corman: In Person

June 25
Dario Argento’s Giallo

June 26
Pontypool (radio dj gets reports of strange things going on outside)

The festival begins tonight with Away We Go and I’ll post my thoughts tomorrow. If there are any films you see on the site that you would recommend, please comment.