Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday's Top 5... Michael Fassbender Performances

#5: Hunger

A year before really breaking through with his role in Inglorious Basterds, Fassbender made the first of his (so far) three films with Steve McQueen, portraying IRA member Bobby Sands in Hunger. Fassbender underwent a dramatic weight loss to play the hunger striking prisoner, but it's the performance, not the look, that matters and nowhere is that better demonstrated than in the 17 minute, unbroken take where Fassbender and co-star Liam Cunningham share a long talk of the soul.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Canadian Film Review: Brand Upon the Brain! (2006)

* * * *

Director: Guy Maddin
Starring: Sullivan Brown, Gretchen Krich

There's something very invigorating about a Guy Maddin film. As a filmmaker, he does things so completely, defiantly his own way, unfettered by what's on trend, unconcerned with what's commercial, that his films are always their own distinct things that cannot be mistaken as coming from anyone else. Brand Upon the Brain! is one of his better known, and more widely seen, gems and it's also one of his best. A psychosexual drama about a man grappling with the unresolved passions of his adolescence, and the secrets of his family's strange dynamics, Brand Upon the Brain! is a surrealist adventure that you have to see to believe... and even then, you might not quite believe it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: Phoenix (2015)

* * * *

Director: Christian Petzold
Starring: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld

The doctor tries to put an optimistic spin on it, telling her that she can have a new face that will allow her to reinvent herself for the post-war world, get a fresh start, leave the horrors of the past behind. But she doesn't want a new face or a new identity or a new life. She wants to look like herself and resume the life she was living before. After an experience that has stripped her of everything - her freedom, her family, her dignity, her face and nearly her life - illusion will be the last thing to go. But as she moves through the physical and social ruins of post-war Berlin, her need to remember is at odds with a nation already in the process of trying to forget. The sixth collaboration between director Christian Petzold and actress Nina Hoss, Phoenix may be their greatest and most deeply felt film yet.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Review: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)

* * *

Director: Brad Bird
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton

In terms of malleability, the Mission: Impossible series may be second only to the Fast & Furious series (which has transitioned from being undercover cop movies, to heist movies, to movies about a bizarre, non-sanctioned special forces team, with what is essentially a stand alone movie about teenagers and street racing in the middle) in terms of its ability to hit the reset button with each new entry. Every film, none of which share a director or a writing team and where the only real constant is Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, strikes its own particular tone and presents its own particular take on the spy movie. It's the sort of series that you can watch entirely out of order without missing a step because there's not a lot of carryover from the previous films (in this respect, Ghost Protocol is an exception, albeit very, very slightly) and the series is defined by its action set pieces, rather than any overarching narrative. If you rank the films according to the skill and audacity of their set pieces, Ghost Protocol would arguably end up on top as, even though the dangling off a plane as it takes off sequence of Rogue Nation is nothing short of impressive, I'm not sure that anything will ever be more go for broke than the sequence where Cruise climbs up and then runs down the Burj Khalifa.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: Gemma Bovery (2014)

* * *

Director: Anne Fontaine
Starring: Gemma Arterton

If you look hard enough, I'm sure you could come up with a more unique, more specific cinematic niche than the one that Gemma Arterton seems to be developing as the star of modern day takes on literary classics via adaptations of graphic novels by Posy Simmonds, but I can't think of one. Granted, that currently only makes for two films (Tamara Drewe is the other one), but still. Gemma Bovery finds Arterton living out the broad strokes of the story of Emma Bovary, much to the consternation of her well-meaning neighbor who wants to stop her from making the same mistakes as her literary counterpart. As told by Anne Fontaine, it makes for a film that's a little bit drama and a little bit comedy, one that can skip from being sensual to being farcical without missing a beat.