(written by Jake Kasdan and Judd Apatow, directed by Kasdan). Despite it’s title, there’s a surprising lack of innuendo throughout the Dewey Cox story. Of course, almost all the songs, meticulously crafted for the film to sound like Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and others, are so double entendre-laden as to simultaneously hit the lowest common denominator while being praise-worthy for their emulation. “In my dreams, you’re blowin’ me/ some kisses”, starts Let’s Duet, which carries its refrain to sound more like “Let’s do it”.
The music, all sung by actor John C. Reilly, is surprising in both it’s technical mimicry (without being direct Weird Al-style parodies) and it’s lyrical savvy, and is the glue that holds the film together. The story is a parody of musical biographical movies, most specifically drawing inspiration from Walk The Line and Ray (giving nods to “La Bamba” and others), following Dewey’s life from traumatic childhood to his sudden rise to musical fame, to drugs, rehab, television variety hour, reconciling with his father and his own (many) children.
True to the Apatow way, there’s an absurdity streak running throughout the film that sometimes succeeds perfectly and other times falls limp. The film was promoted hard (no pun intended) and much of the first 20 minutes’ gags were used in the advertising, and that familiarity causes the first 20 minutes to limp along. Even if you weren’t inundated by the ads, it’s still pretty weak stuff, save a few of the truly absurd elements like the cast playing their characters as teenagers and constantly referring to their age.
Tim Meadows plays Dewey’s best friend and also his gateway into drugs and sex, an escalating running-gag warning Dewey away but invariably sucking him into a world he’s too naive to handle. Reilly brilliantly crafts Dewey into an innocent, sympathetic, likeable character whose ability to handle the world stems from how outside sources guide him through it. Reilly probably plays him with more conviction than necessary, but also hits the comedic points with exceptional energy. The man can mug for the camera with the best of them.
Guest stars galore traipse throughout the film, often in roles portraying real celebrities (Elvis, the Beatles), giving it a bigger scope and a nearly real heft. Despite whatever stumbles the comedy makes, the story actually does suck you in with it’s formulaic structure culminating in the grand celebration of the title character. Despite falling into the parody genre, the film makes an effort to build a story (and establish its own internal sense of humour) beyond a collection of weak, of-the-moment gags (like the horrendous trailer for “Meet The Spartans” beforehand). You’ve got to appreciate the effort, even if it does fall quite short of innovation. It’s a warmly welcome fit with the Zucker Brother’s style of comedy-parody ala Airplane or Naked Gun.
w. Mark Protosevich & Akiva Goldsman, d. Francis Lawrence. I Am Legend has been years in the making, which is kind of funny, considering the source material (a novella by Richard Matheson of the same name) provided inspiration for the Chuck Heston classic, The Omega Man and the equally classic Vincent Price vehicle, The Last Man On Earth (and also a Spanish interpretation). The story was supposed to film with a pre-Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger in the lead role, but that was almost a decade ago when that idea was swirling around, and I shudder a little bit at the though of spending an hour and a half with Ah-nuld talking to himself.
Amalgamating the Cheston film and Matheson’s novel as well as its own fresh little tweaks, the story of I Am Legend finds a solitary man in a desolate New York three years after a man-made contagion (originally intended as a cure for cancer) practically exterminated all of humanity, turning rare survivors into mutated zombies. Even rarer were those immune from the virus, and rarer still those who survive in spite of the creatures.
Only the most powerful, potent, original or refreshing of movies will stick with you after seeing them. The Kingdom is not one of those movies, as a mere two months later my memories are entirely hazy about the general progress of the story. Actually, for quite a while I kept forgetting that I’d actually seen this film (asking of my wife “what’s that film we saw before The Assassination of Jesse James…?). That’s not to say that it was a bad movie… when I search my brain superficially I recall enjoyment, a CSI in the UAE where the political climate impedes the CIA investigation into a terrorist bombing on an American base. But for all the great crime procedural elements, the “they’re not so different from us” bonding moments between Arabs and Americans, the film tosses clues and such things completely out the window as it degrades into an action/rescue endeavor (that’s still pretty damn intense but completely negates all that it’s built to). It ultimately breaks it’s commentary down into the circular (human) nature of violence (a potent message weakly made). The acting by Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman and others is solid throughout, the opening credits are fantastic (the film has gotten more blog notoriety for the credits than the actual movie) and director Peter Berg continues to prove that he’s the thinking person’s action filmmaker. Good, but forgettable. 3.5/5
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
There’s a moment early on in The Longest Film Title of the Year where I absolutely fell in love with this movie. We’ve been introduced to Jesse James (Brad Pitt), his brother, and the rest of their outlaw gang, including the wide-eyed keener Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), and they’re prepping for a train robbery. At dusk they load up the tracks with a pile of logs to halt the train, and they put on their masks and hide in the bushes as the dark consumes them. Jesse, holding a lantern, walks out onto the track, the dim glow lighting the closeup of his face. The camera pulls a tighter focus on the distance, the black void behind Jesse. We see nothing, and there’s at first silence, barely a rustle of the wind through trees, and then a distinctive chug getting louder, a glimmer in the distance, growing larger, showing the outline of the trees on either sides of the track, the light growing brighter as the chugs get louder, the train broaches a corner and comes around, visible getting closer as the camera pulls back to reveal Jesse standing atop the logs with his lantern. It’s such a visually awe-inspiring moment, it sucks you right into the movie. Ultimately what it’s about is Jesse’s descent into madness as he sees (perhaps rightly) conspiracies all around him (but also his status as a family man has focus), and Ford’s initial adoration and idolization of the man making way into envy and resentment. Ford becomes the original psychotic fan, the likes of which wound up killing John Lennon and attacking David Letterman and Stephen King. It’s a fascinatingly rich story, with a curious assortment of characters, and despite knowing the fates of the characters in advance, there’s a mystery and mystique that director/writer Andrew Dominick (based of Ron Hansen’s novel, this is only his second movie, the first being the Eric Bana launchpad Chopper) retains throughout, with it’s bleak and grey vistas inspiring and chilling. Phenomenal. -5/5-.
Blades of Glory
Will Ferrell is a funny guy when Will Ferrell does his Will Ferrell thing. Here Will Ferrell gets to do the Will Ferrell thing and it’s as entertaining as it is absurd. Jon Heder, on the other hand doesn’t have a thing, but instead has Napoleon Dynamite looming over his head, and it really means the guy can’t have a real career, ever. He’s not that great of an actor and he’s even less a comedian, definitely not able to keep up with the likes of Ferrell, Will Arnette, Amy Pohler, Rob Coddry, or, hell, even former pro Ice Skater Scott Hamilton. The bonus features, outtakes and other assorted sundries on the DVD serve to prove the point, and those bonus attributes are actually far more entertaining than this amusingly stupid and utterly disposable one-time-use comedy. -2/5-
The Right Stuff
This is one of those classic ’80’s movies that I’ve never watched before, but wow, it’s the logical predecessor to HBO’s From Earth To The Moon mini-series and Apollo 13, and I had no idea. It’s fascinating to have these cinematic records of the U.S. space program, how it progressed, the challenges it faced, and the central figures and faces that made it happen. This features (as if you didn’t know) the early flights where man breaks the sound barrier, the early tests jet planes and space capsules and the like, and the early voyages into the upper atmosphere (although I saw a documentary the other day on the man who went up into the upper atmosphere in a weather balloon to test the effects on humans and then parachuted down and there’s no mention of that brave soul here), all up until the start of the Apollo program (which From Earth To The Moon takes care of). Most surprisingly is how the film, unlike most from the ’80’s still holds up terrifically. We now just need a film that captures the early days of the Russian space program… 4.5/5
Ham & Cheese
Before he went on to become a third-tier celebrity on the Daily Show and as Molson Canadian’s current pitchman, Jason Jones was a nobody comedy troupe comedian in Toronto eking out a living with his wife, fellow Daily Show correspondent and comedienne Samatha Bee. I think integral to getting them out of the comedy gutter and into something that actually paid a decent wage was this mockumentary (ala Christopher Guest’s Best In Show or Waiting For Guffman). Jones and co-star Mike Beaver wrote the script (which gives the appearance of improvisation by it’s cast of Canadian comedy talent but is fully scripted) for the story which finds Jones’ insurance salesman Barry Goodson tossing away his life with reckless abandon to pursue an acting career he’s too oblivious to actually succeed in (the same kind of role Ben Stiller plays in half his movies). Beaver, meanwhile, is a small town migrant who come to Toronto to pursue his own acting career, but instead of being oblivious to criticism is actually too naive to understand any of it, and it’s through dogged relentlessness that he sallies forth. It’s not a great movie, but it’s amusing enough for those that like the mocumentary style of filmmaking. It has no polish and is often too awkward for its own good, but the performances are sold by the leads. 2.5/5
Much like Blades of Glory above, Dodgeball is about absurdity that mistakes itself for reality only to often be reminded cruelly how absurd it actually is. It’s your typical down-on-their-luck schlubs versus the popular crowd/corporate tyrants, with obvious results. Vince Vaughn plays the Vince Vaughn character that Vince Vaughn plays when he doesn’t really have to try: affable, somewhat charming, somewhat lewd, but ultimately a stand-up guy, who in this case owns a poorly managed gym. Ben Stiller plays the sub-intelligent, work-out obsessive, state-of-the-art gym owner across the street who wants to shut Vaughn down, evict his loser clientèle and build a parking lot. The two naturally compete over a woman, played by Stiller’s wife, who obviously picks the good guy. Anyway, for Vaughn to keep his merry band of losers in a place to hang out, they decide to enter an ESPN 8 (”the Ocho!”) sponsored Dodgeball tournament with a cash prize that would bail them out. It’s all very predictable, with the usual assortment of irreverent, absurd and juvenile moments one comes to expect from these endeavours. It’s funny at times, but it doesn’t hold true enough to its irreverent conceit to really push it over the top where it needs to be. Compare with other faux sports comedies like Baseketball and Blades…. It’s on that same amusing but, again, disposable level. -2/5-
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
I’ve never gotten into Westerns too much, especially the classic ones. I watched Leone’s Once Upon A Time In Mexico not too long ago, but honestly remember very little of it (perhaps it was good, but I remember it plodded along over 3 hours, I forgot to write about it here)… perhaps it was the movie or that I just don’t relate very well to westerns. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is one of those movies people tell you that you must see, and I did. It was, let’s say, a revelation… oh, not in that overwrought, hyperbolic way bad film reviewers mean to get their names in quotes on tv commercials, but rather “revelation” in the sense that I see where directors like Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie pulled some inspiration from (the sudden freeze frame and title card, or the focus on a wide shot which suddenly becomes a profile close-up). My first Eastwood western, and for the first 90 minutes, I saw the appeal, the draw of Blondie (The Man With No Name), Angel Eyes and Tuco but the hour where the focus seems to be more focussed on the Civil War and getting weirdly patriotic (with Tuco and Blondie entering the frey) than a cold-hearted outlaw western. The final showdown is a brilliant piece of filmmaking, much of the film is, but yeah, it’s an epic sized movie that’s not really epic enough to deserve the run time. -3.5/5-
w. Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman, d. Wes Anderson. The opening scenes of the movie proper of The Darjeeling Limited find Bill Murry, suited and dapper, in the back of a taxi cart whipping along the streets of an unnamed Indian town, dodging pedestrians, cyclists, rickshaws, other taxi carts, cows and other livestock in such a fury that would imply there are no street rules in India. The garb of the town’s residents are bright and shocking against a backdrop of browns, umbers, siennas and clay and there’s just enough differential to show more than just a sea of mud. I turned to my wife an queried if that would be her uncle, who surprisingly one day not too long ago decided to take a trip to India, a place, to even his own children’s knowledge, he’d never expressed an interest in going to.
The end result of the mad dash through town was so that Murray might catch his train, and running along with his boarding pass and his luggage in hand he chases the train down the long platform, it’s name painted on the back, The Darjeeling Limited, moving only slightly closer, the threat of running out of platform or the train picking up steam looming. Suddenly, sprinting past Murray is Adrien Brody’s Peter, well groomed, striding long and lean, and providing a little smile as he passes the older gentleman, one of Wes Anderson’s twee music choices playing over the scene, heading into a patented Anderson slow-motion swell as Peter boards the train, leaving Murray behind passing a meaningless (yet somehow noteworthy) glance at the man standing in front of the door, who passes an equally meaningless (yet somehow noteworthy) glance back.
The whole sequence is quintessentially Wes Anderson. The composure of the scenes, the timing of the edits, the close-ups of faces, the soundtrack, the sound effects, the angles (or lack thereof), the momentum, and the general goodwill all of this extends to the audience. It’s humorous but it’s not comedy, per se, but watching it, and being an admirer of Anderson’s work, it immediately put a smile on my face, and welcomed me into the film.
w,d: The Coen Bros.. I’m not what one would call “well-read” even though I read a lot. Most of what I read, however, has pictures with their words which much of the literature snobberati wouldn’t call quality reading. I might agree with them but then I realize that those are just prejudices, and that every medium can be looked at differently by purveyors of another. I like comic books, a lot, so sue me. My point being, anyway, that I know nothing of author Cormac McCarthy or his style of writing or storytelling. I’m a film lover, though, and the Coen Brothers I do know and appreciate highly, so the draw to No Coutry For Old Men was based on their name alone. As the Bros. Coen love to mess around in different genres - as late slapstick comedy with The Ladykillers, Intolerable Cruelty and even O Brother, Where Art Thou? - so I had no preconceptions about what I was entering into with their latest, again, having no experience with McCarthy or his “nouveaux Western” styling.
No Country is a cold and violent film, but not in the same manner as, say, David Cronenberg’s recent ventures. This McCarthy adaptation is very much melding of comic book action scenarios and Sergio Leone-esque Western character tropes with the Coen Brother’s oft-explored fascination with crimes, criminals, greed and getting away with it.
w. Tony Gilroy, d. Sydney Pollack and Tony Gilroy. The rumour had it last month that George Clooney was circling around the proposed G.I. Joe project, perhaps at the behest of his agent, the press lamenting the disappearance of Clooney’s “star power” since the man hasn’t had a solid blockbuster in years. But, it’s been his choice to select directors he wants to work with, to executive produce films he wants to see get made, to star in films that are interesting and not just vacuous cinema (although the appeal of working on cinematic fluff with pal Steven Soderbergh on the Oceans 11 series doesn’t escape him either) that make him admirable and have turned his old tabloid reputation of “E.R.” hunk who starred in cash grabs like The Peacemaker and Batman and Robin to the class act who invests his all into films like Good Night, And Good Luck and Syriana.
Michael Clayton has already proven via box office receipts that it’s not going to be a huge success and that Clooney’s name alone is not a strong enough draw for the everyman. But a movie like this would have 15 years ago starred Michael Douglas and made twice or three times as much money. Why? Because Douglas pigeonholed himself as “the corporate thriller” guy, so any picture he was in, you’d roughly know what to expect. Clooney, not so much. For many of the wanna-be Clooney fans (those soccer moms and middle-Americans), his choice of cinema over the past few years has been far too literate, esoteric or socially relevant. That’s not what most Americans want in this age where they’re racked with massive debt, conditioned to be in a falsified state of panic, their country’s in a war that’s superseding Viet Nam as an utter debacle, and their economy is falling to pieces around them as their dollar deflates. They want escapism.
(reprinted from Toronto After Dark Film Festival Day 5 coverage on Chud.com)
A few weeks ago I watched a program on TLC about the teens Abigail and Brittany Hensel, conjoined twins living in Minnesota. The documentary provided interesting insight into these now teenaged girls’ every day lives, their personalities and their obvious obstacles. The purpose of the program was to demystify them and it successfully showcased them as normal teenaged girls in very abnormal circumstances. Hearing them discuss how they deal with their situation (which, though bizarre to us is completely normal to them) and even noticing what they choose to not talk about is fascinating and compelling watching, turning them from the initially captivating anomaly to actually interesting human beings.
Alone is the new Thai horror film from Shutter directors Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom, about Pim, a woman who was once a conjoined twin, her sister having died in the separation process. Upon returning to Thailand with her husband, Wee, to care for her estranged mother, she begins to see horrific visions of her dead sister. That’s essentially the set-up, but not the story. Venturing further into it would be spoiler territory (but then again, it’s not like any astute observer would not figure this thing out half an hour into it).
(reprinted from Toronto After Dark Film Festival Day 5 coverage on Chud.com)
Russian cinema, from my few experiences with it, has undergone quite a transformation. Under old Communist rule and a nationalized film program, Russian film was proliferated by auteurs, their end results frequently long, plodding and introspective, since commenting on politics was truly not allowed. Since everything was paid for by the government, return on investment from the box office was never a concern, and this, compared to American cinema, freed them from having to create a lot of audience pandering pap and drivel. Tarkovsky is probably the best known of Russian directors, and while surely talented, I’ve always found his films a good remedy for insomnia (it took four efforts for me to make it all the way through Solaris).
In recent years, for obvious reasons, Russian directors have been more ambitious in terms of making commercially appealing movies, cinematic anti-depressants for a country still struggling to rediscover its place in a world that, not 30 years before, they were perhaps poised to lead. Most notable of these would be the ambitious Nightwatch trilogy, the first of modern Russian cinema to successfully achieve a big-budget American blockbuster aesthetic, and its first two films (Daywatch included) have reaped the rewards, both at home and internationally.
(reprinted from Toronto After Dark Film Festival Day 4 coverage on Chud.com)
(d. David Arquette) Fortunately, not a documentary about the Three’s Company character (if John Ritter were still alive, do you think he’d be a cult icon like Shatner or the Burt?). Instead this is David Arquette’s directorial debut, a madcap comedy/slasher movie that’s really reaching for a Cheech & Chong meet Friday The Thirteenth vibe. But the main focus is keeping things light and trippy, with the kills being just another fun punctuation point on the whole thing.
Enlisting friends and casting some recognizable faces, the story begins in the 1960’s, where tree hugging was born, and where a forester needs work to provide medicine for his wife and the hippies impede his way. When he’s arrested for aggressive assault, his son goes psychotic and kills one of the hippies with a chainsaw (oh, the catharsis).
Fast forward 30 years in the future, and a skeezy looking Paul Reubens is a concert promoter waxing the hand of a small-town mayor to let a drug-infested concert called the Free Love Festival occur without any unnecessary law enforcement interventions. That unnecessary intervention would be from Buzz Hall, a mustachioed Thomas Jane portraying a straight laced cop with a sharp sense of comedic timing.
(reprinted from Toronto After Dark Film Festival Day 4 coverage on Chud.com)
Touted as one of Vietnam’s most expensive productions, the Rebel, like the Once Upon A Time In China series, Fearless or Legend of the Drunken Master, tells an action-packed story set within the confines of an specific period in its creator’s cultural history. In this case the scene is the French occupation of Vietnam in the early 20th century. While bringing advancements to the civilization like railroads and other such infrastructure, they’re also reaping most of the land’s rewards and unfairly dominating its people.
Cuong (Johnny Nguyen) is secret service, for lack of a better term: not a police officer, not military, but a protector of the French ruling class. Along with his buddy Sy (Dustin Nguyen) they think they have it all figured out. But to others, the lower and working class, they’re educated-in-France traitors. A grassroots resistance force manages to kill a few important French socialites, and in the process of stopping them, Cuong and Sy capture their leader’s daughter, Thuy (Than Van Ngo). Sy is promised a promotion by his half-brother should he capture the resistance leader, and takes cruel pains to try and extract his location from Thuy. Cuong, meanwhile, having just killed a teenaged rebel, isn’t so certain anymore which side is the right side and he helps Thuy escape.
(reprinted from Toronto After Dark Film Festival Day 3 Coverage on CHUD.com)
(d & w. Steven C. Miller) As stated in the Day 1 report, I’m pretty zombied out at this point. Unless you have something really new to contribute (or at least something exceptionally well done) then there’s no point to bother. This low-budget film, we were told in an introduction, is receiving some accolades and that it’s a definitely different zombie movie.
Lies. The opening sequence features a nice framing shot and a gag that does inspire promise for at least a gruesome time, and the credit sequence is well done, but within seconds of the main story starting I realize this is another stupid dead teenager movie. We’re treated to the requisite outcasts versus jocks set-up, being introduced to the loudmouth geek, the tough, unflappable black kid, and the handsome rebel who’s dating a cheerleader, much to the popular kids’ chagrin.
(reprinted from Toronto After Dark Film Festival Day 3 Coverage on CHUD.com)
(d. Mike Jacobs) A bit of a zing in the religious britches today as TADFF, co-presented with Hot Docs International Film Festival, brought the Canadian premiere of this jaw-dropping documentary about a Pentecostal Minister who one day receives a message from God telling him he has to make a movie… not just any movie, mind you, but the biggest blockbuster mankind has ever seen, a biblical sci-fi epic described as “Star Wars meets the Ten Commandments”.
Frighteningly real and hilarious, Audience of One follows Pastor Richard Gazowsky as he strives to make his God-dictated orders happen, and it’s one horrendously painful turn of events after another as he and his ministerial followers continue to believe that every setback (and in his case, everything is a setback) is a trial put in their way by God that must be overcome, or else Satan interfering in their grand plan.
Early on, before we understand exactly how religiously fanatical and delusional Gazowsky, his family and his followers are, there’s almost a sense listening to him speak with such passion and belief that he might actually be onto something, that he might somehow, with his faith, make a movie. Oh, there’s no doubt it’d be horrendous were it made, but there’s a sense that something might actually get done. We’re introduced to his congregation who have become set designers, wardrobe creators, effects people, cameramen, sound men, and the like all for the sake of this production, each and every one of them investing not just their time but their money into seeing this happen based on Gazowsky’s word. It’s only when we come to understand how few of them there are and how much of an actual film crew they’re missing that we realize it’s disaster all the way.
(reprinted from Toronto After Dark Film Festival Day 1 coverage on CHUD.com)
(d. Alex Orr w. Hugh Braselton) If you’ve ever watched Channel 101 (which birthed the teams responsible for Hot Rod and The Sarah Silverman Program) and liked what you saw, then Blood Car is going to greatly entertain you. It’s one of those left-of-center comedic concepts that will either make you laugh or leave you bewildered as to why other people are.
Introduced by a suited, mustachioed man, holding a chip bag, it’s explained that it’s the near future, gas is obsolete (hmm, with Aachi and Ssipak, it seems to be a theme today) and that society has changed… although most of those changes are left unexamined in the film. Instead it centers on the comedic plot of vegan primary school teacher Archie Andrews (Mike Brune) and his efforts to make an engine that will run off wheatgrass. Every day he ventures on his bicycle to an abandoned parking lot where two opposing shacks both manned by attractive women: the organic shack is run by Lorraine (former child star Anna Chlumsky, now looking very Lisa Loeb-ishly cute) who has a huge crush on Archie, and across the way is the slutty Denise (Katie Rowlett).
(reprinted from Toronto After Dark Film Festival Day 1 coverage on CHUD.com)
(d. Jo Beom-jin, w. Beom-jin & Yeon-won Jeong) I honestly didn’t think I was going to like this film. Upon reading the write-up in the festival guide, I was in-fact certain of it. I mean, here’s a film set in the future where oil has completely disappeared, all fuels have, but it’s not a political film. Nope, it’s a film that has postulated another source of energy. Poop. Human feces. And in order to get it, the people in power have to give something back for the routine deposits made. In this case, juicybars. Every human in this future society has an electronic ring implanted in their anus upon birth so that their defecations can be monitored and the juicybars can be sent through the tubes to the appropriate lavatory.
Yeah, scatological humor is so easy, so base level, so… Wayans Brothers. I was almost certain this Korean anime was going to push for the offensive as much as possible, that it was going to be an animated Jackass, but dammit, it’s not. If you look at the synopsis, well, frankly, that’s just the starting point, that’s just setting the scene. The story only gets more bizarre from there, but there is an actual story, raucous though it is.
the final write up I’ll be doing for the Toronto After Dark film festival is now on-line at CHUD. It’s a nice piece of wrap-up writing, with a personal bent I’m happy with. I think it summarizes both the good and bad experiences I’ve had surrounding festival, and the 6-day collection of writings are pretty hype altogether. If this were my full time job, to watch/read and review things, I think I’d be a happy man. Alas, there aren’t many of those kinds of full-time gigs around.
There will be redundant content from the fest on the sidebar for the next few weeks, as I reprint all the feature reviews (the reviews of short films won’t be posted, except I might amass a TADFF greatest short hits (or “shits”) so I have an easy reminder of the awesome shorts witnessed at the festival. I’ve found a new appreciation for the short film and (as I talk about in the Day 6 wrap-up) think there should be a greater avenue of exposure for short films (like a dedicated TV channel, with a top 20 weekly countdown show ala MuchMusic)) for those of you that didn’t bother with venturing over to the sewer.
(reprinted from Toronto After Dark Film Festival Day 1 coverage on CHUD.com)
(d. Jim Mickle, w. Mickle & Nick Damici) Set in the heart of New York’s Little Italy, Mulberry Street is a zombie flick that’s looking to the source while also trying to establish its own path, with mixed results.
I have to be honest and say, at this point, I’m pretty zombied out, from zombie movies, zombie comics, zombie parodies, zombie video games… I think it’s time to put this genre to bed for a little while, let it wake up fresh faced another day. As this year’s TADFF does have a heavy zombie-quotient, this opinion of mine will have to be shelved, but it’s likely to taint my reviews no matter what.
That said, Mulberry Street is a decent entrant into the genre, despite the many obstacles it has to overcome, namely unknown actors, a been-there/done-that story, and a small budget. But channelling every ounce of George Romero he can, director Jim Mickle manages to pull off an entertaining movie in sincerest homage to Night of the Living Dead.
Flippin’ tired. So. Flippin’. Tired.
One more day. You can make it. One more day is all.
Day six. Day six is all that’s left.
One more day of work, followed by two shorts and two features, followed by two hours of reviewing and recapping and rambling on about the weather. Followed by sleep. Not enough sleep, but sleep still is worthy.
Though, yes, I’m enjoying this festival, even the not-so-good movies that I’ve seen, the vibe and atmosphere of it is pretty cool. Sitting in a packed theatre of Asian horror fans yesterday for Alone, a movie I found to be terribly predictable and a waste of it’s storytelling potential, I still enjoyed being there (even though I wanted to sleep) listening to the people that were actually getting freaked out by the film. Not all of us are studiers of storytelling, not all of us pay close attention to what we watch and what we enjoy, and that’s okay. There are few things I dislike so much that I get up on my high horse about other people (well not anymore… I’ve humbled myself about keeping my opinions in check), although I still wish people would pay attention to the really good stuff, but then not everyone wants to be challenged, not everyone can handle “different” or “new”.
I forgot what I was going on about. But anyway… it’ll soon be over and I can get back to insane amounts of comic book reviews over at the Raid (did you know we just brought on board three new and talented reviewers and they’re doing a kickass job? Did you? Well?).
Oh… and I kind of figured my reviews/coverage of Toronto After Dark would be speaking to a narrow audience at CHUD, since I’m not really that known a commodity there, nor do I play the same game as them in terms of humor (which, while funny borders on crass a lot of the time) and my experimentations in style (a few stabs at a prose narrative, which, frankly, have been going downhill since day 2 due to my fatigue)… but there’s some people reading them. More than here anyway. The forums are showing a few hundred views of the specific forum entry on each so that’s cool… if I had to guess I’d say a few hundred people overall are reading, but since most of these films aren’t in any sort of wide release or hit the appropriate festival circuit yet, not a lot of people have seen them or have much to say about them.
But there you go. And here I go..
One more thing, recap links:
Computers are acting up left right and center. The router seems to keep conking out, making the wifi pretty much useless after a few hours, and with compy 2001 out of commission it’s all just techno trouble at the NoYo.
Day Three of Toronto After Dark (which really, was more Toronto Mid-day) went a lot more smoothly than Day 2. Well, actually no. I was late to the Cutting Edge Fantasy short film showcase (missing the first half of the haunting The Drift) and I was again late to the Audience Of One screening (missing the first few minutes of the Monty Pythonesque Canadian short, Terror on the 3918), which is a shame because I missed bits of two awesome short films. But still it felt like a smoother day, as I managed to get some food in between films, and being late to two of my three screenings meant no line-ups.
Also encountering the Toronto Zombie Walk hordes outside the theatre after Audience Of One was fun, with a kewl setting sun shining brightly in the west and zombies chugging down free Red Bull and taking pictures of Lloyd Kaufmann… it was just a neat communal vibe. Meanwhile, the “SWAT” guys across the street nearly got ran over a couple of times as they dodged out into the street to pop some caps in a zombie’s head. Taking the cosplay a wee too far. Lightning bolt!
Tonight Vietnamese action and David Arquette directs his friend’s deaths at the hands and tools of a murderous Ronald Reagan.
Oh, and in case you missed them.. the links to my Day 1 and Day 2 wrap-ups from CHUD.com.
Day 3 has been uploaded for your reading (dis)pleasure.
(full day one report here.. nice to see some comments on the CHUD message board, as well, I recieved a note from last night’s short film director, Troy Nixey. Good to see people are paying attention at least and that I’m not just doing this for nothing.)
It’s strikes me unusual that an “After Dark” film festival is starting up today at 1:30, but it is so there we go.
The first showing of today is a selection of short horror films from around the world. I’m interested to see how big the crowd is for this (and tomorrow’s fantasy themed bundle) as short films don’t nearly get the credit they deserve. It’s a whole different brand of storytelling and filmmaking, and often by condensing a story so tightly they can produce a more refined work on a small budget than a feature length can.
An animated feature follows at 4:30 with the Canadian premiere of Uwe Boll’s Dungeon Siege (starring Jason Statham, Ray Liotta and a host other b-level Hollywood semi-celebrities). Expect awesome badness, and the Q&A afterwards should be a riot.
Welcome to Toronto, aka “The Big Smoke” or “Hogtown”. Not certain where those nicknames are derived from (The Big Smog sometimes would be more apt), but they’re certainly not as glamorous a moniker as “The City That Never Sleeps”, “The City Of Lights”, “The City of Angels” or even “The Windy City”. But Toronto could easily redefine itself these days with a completely different descriptor, “The FilmFest City”. With such well-known festivals as TIFF, Worldwide Short Film Fest, Hot Docs, and ReelWorld, and more cultural (Reel Asian, Jewish, Polish, Tibet) film festivals than you can shake a stick at, sometimes it seems like this city is one non-stop film fest.
Entering its second year, the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (”TADFF”) is one of the newest kids on the Toronto festival circuit, and the only local festival to shine the bright light on all-too-easy to overlook genre films. Having already made an impact in 2006 spotlighting such films as Shinobi and Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, the pressure is on this year to be bigger and even more relevant, showing fans of sci-fi and horror an international (and homegrown) selection of innovative and independent films that would be lucky to reach even a handful of video shelves. But just because they may not get the same exposure as Rob Zombie’s Halloween or the latest Saw dilution doesn’t mean they aren’t as (if not more) worthy of the attention.
This year’s TADFF has expanded from five to seven days, allied itself with the annual Zombie Walk, and is presenting 36 short genre films from international and Canadian filmmakers, not to mention presenting a few things unexpected, like the rematch between director Uwe Boll and critic Chris Alexander. With all this insanity and the premiere screening of a few films, for the next 7 days I will be bringing daily reports of the activities and reviews of the films to CHUD.com, starting with tonight’s premiere, Mulberry Street.