Jan 31, 2015

Review: En kongelig affære [A Royal Affair] (2012)

A Royal Affair is a historical period movie that's based on true events. Taking place inside the royal court of Denmark sometime in the 1700's, not everything that takes place in the film can be verified as factual since it's not like there was an omnipresent scribe taking notes during all this. The overall plot is true though and it's definitely a story worth telling.

Writers Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg were inspired by the novel The Visit of the Royal Physician by Per Olov Enquist. However, they ran into a problem. The rights for The Visit of the Royal Physician had already been sold to another company. So what did they do? They used another book, an erotic novel surprisingly enough by the name of Prinsesse af blodet by Bodil Steensen-Leth as their source. Enquist's novel was still the main inspiration for Arcel and Heisterberg though and they simply had to ensure that their film was different enough from the book to not get into any legal trouble.

Jan 30, 2015

Review: Casino Royale (1967)

For the longest time, I've never understood how Casino Royale got made. I mean, by 1967 the James Bond series was well-established with four films already having been produced. How was it that another studio could put out a Bond film and not get into legal trouble? Was it EON or one of their partners who put it out? Was this another situation like what happened with the rights to Thunderball which lead to a remake in 1983 with Sean Connery himself?

Well the answer's pretty simple. Ian Fleming sold the rights for Casino Royale in 1955 until they fell into the hands of producer Charles K. Feldman. He wasn't able to develop the book into a film quick enough though since Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman beat him to it with Dr. No in 1962. When you've spent $550,000 of your own money on a project, you don't typically want to give up on it and Feldman did not. After trying to co-produce a straight adaptation with EON which fell through, he settled on creating a spoof of the James Bond series.

Jan 29, 2015

Review: Father and Daughter (2000)

Awards season always get me in the mood for short films since it's one of the rare times of the year where they're actually talked about. It's a shame that they get so overshadowed by their feature length kin, because there are times when a three minute film easily packs much more depth than whatever ninety minute slop studios put out sometimes.

Father and Daughter is a Dutch animated short written and directed by Michaël Dudok de Wit. Winner of the Academy Award for Animated Short Film in 2000, it was famous for beating out Don Hertzfeldt's first independent animated short called Rejected. I've never seen it myself, but it apparently had a huge impact on popular culture at the time. Looks like another short that I should be seeing I guess.

Review: Please Give (2010)

Nicole Holofcener is well-known in the industry for her ability to treat female characters with the respect that they don't usually get in Hollywood movies. Her female characters aren't just the wife or girlfriend of a male character and they aren't just bags of neuroses either. They have their own motivations and their own personal stories. It's a refreshing take when we're all so used to one-dimensional female characters who don't usually impact the story all that much.

Please Give is the fourth film that Catherine Keener has starred in out of the five Holofcener has written and directed so far. That's quite the long partnership and a good one at that. Keener really strikes me as the kind of person you'd run into in real life, which makes her character in Please Give all the more believable. Enough Said was Holofcener's most recent film and I hope that doesn't mean the end of her partnership with Catherine Keener. After all, the two go together like chocolate and peanut butter.

Jan 28, 2015

Review: VeggieTales: Dave and the Giant Pickle (1996)

There's not much more I can say when it comes to VeggieTales. It's always the same story, every single time I start one of these family friendly vegetable extravaganzas. I encounter the same problems every time and there's no end in sight. There are so many more videos I have to get through and the only good VT has done for me is strengthen my mental fortitude. Without any doubt, I know now that I can sit through pretty much anything. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I'm not sure yet.

Jan 27, 2015

Review: Prisoners (2013)

Following his nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards in 2010, French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve has been pretty busy. Prisoners and Enemy were both released in 2013 and both of them had Jake Gyllenhaal interestingly enough. As a fellow countryman, I'm happy to see Villeneuve succeed and I hope his track record of success continues.

Prisoners assembles quite the cast and I can safely say that it features some incredible performances. That's why it's surprising to me that the film didn't get any acting nominations for the Academy Awards or the Oscars. It's nice that Prisoners did get a nomination for Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards, but that's no surprise when you got Roger Deakins as cinematographer. I would've just thought that at least one actor in Prisoners could've gotten something. 2013 was a crazy year for cinema though, which is why Prisoners was unfortunately pushed out. 

Jan 26, 2015

Review: Nearlyweds (2013)

I just watched a bad movie about weddings yesterday, so what exactly was stopping me from watching another? Good sense apparently. Good thing I don't have any or else I would've missed out on this wonderful Hallmark production which apparently is an adaptation of Beth Kendrick's novel of the same name.

This is the second Hallmark production I've watched that features the acting talents of country singer Naomi Judd in a supporting role, the first being Christmas movie Window Wonderland which came out in the same year. Featuring some surprisingly OK acting, that distinction doesn't really include Naomi Judd though. That's mostly because she doesn't do nearly as much heavy lifting as she does in Nearlyweds.

Jan 25, 2015

Review: The Big Wedding (2013)

I hate lazy ensemble cast movies with a passion, like everyone else I should think and I should hope. There's something so inherently wrong to me about gathering a bunch of big Hollywood names who have done good work in the past and getting them to work with a lame script. It's like a Ponzi scheme. Trick people with the promise that they'll be in for a good time because the movie has a bunch of great actors and then take their money. I mean, do Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton really need to add onto their terrible recent filmographies anyway? 

The Big Wedding is interestingly enough a remake of the French/Swiss film Mon frère se marie which was written and directed by Jean-Stéphane Bron. Less a comedy and more of a drama, I wonder what he must've thought when he was initially approached to have his film remade? There's a price for everything though, even corruption of one's work.

Jan 24, 2015

Review: Skyfall (2012)

2012 was the fiftieth anniversary of the James Bond series, an incredible achievement for one of my favourite cinema staples which started with Dr. No all the way back in 1962. There are very few films that can match Bond in the escapism department and even fewer that have such an established formula. Exotic locales, attractive ladies, beautiful cars, high-flying action and crazy gadgets are all important ingredients in what makes a Bond film special and I wouldn't want it any other way.

After fifty years though, there comes a time when change is inevitable and I honestly believe that is what director Sam Mendes was brought in to do. Even during MGM's financial problems, Mendes was always involved in some capacity and he even brought in frequent writing partner John Logan to collaborate with regulars Neal Purvis and Robert Wade on the script. Change was clearly afoot during production and after seeing Skyfall for the second time now, my conclusion is that it successfully performs a fine balancing act. It brings the necessary changes the Bond series needed, but it also keeps the usual traditions intact. It's a step forward as well as a love letter to the series that has charmed so many.

Jan 23, 2015

Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)

I don't think there are many people who can brag about how good their 2011 was like Ryan Gosling can. He starred in Drive, The Ides of March and of course Crazy, Stupid, Love while also becoming one of the most talked about people in the world. Seriously, check out the graph on Google Trends if you don't believe me and check out that growth in '11: Ryan Gosling Popularity.

Anyhow, I'm not really sure how I never got around to seeing Crazy, Stupid, Love. I did manage to catch Drive and The Ides of March Though though. It seems like it was only yesterday when CSL first came out, but actually it's been almost five years. How scary is that? At least I can finally say that I've seen it, but I sure took my sweet time getting there.

Jan 22, 2015

Review: House on Haunted Hill (1999)

The original 1959 House on Haunted Hill can't really be called a scary movie. Maybe it was back then, but William Castle's cult classic is delightful campy fun that features the usual great Vincent Prince performance. There's no way that a modern remake can capture that same kind of campiness, so it's going to have to be genuinely scary.

Terry Castle, the daughter of William Castle, is on as a co-producer which I suppose is a good sign. The list of producers also includes quite a few big names like Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver. House on Haunted Hill was actually the debut film for Dark Castle Entertainment, a production house that Zemeckis and Silver formed that pays homage to William Castle. So they must be pretty serious about all this right? I certainly hoped so before I started watching.

Jan 21, 2015

Review: Stuck in Love (2012)

Stuck in Love is Josh Boone's directorial debut before going on to direct mega teen romance hit The Fault in Our Stars. SiL was a much more muted affair, despite a loaded cast of relatively well-known  Hollywood actors. It had a limited release in the United States and never got much farther than that. Still, Boone was pretty lucky to be working with a group of actors like this for a first movie that he even wrote the script for.

One thing I noticed is that Josh Boone seems to be quite the literary guy. The family in SiL are all writers and there's of course lots of talk about books. Although it's an adaptation, The Fault in Our Stars included as one of its main plot points this invented for the screen novel that Shailene Woodley constantly read. When the opportunity to meet the writer of the book presents itself, she's of course ecstatic.Will Boone's next film Lisey's Story have literature as part of the story as well?

Jan 20, 2015

Review: Number Seventeen (1932)

Alfred Hitchcock had a long, fruitful career in film making and more than enough famous titles to his name that would make any director jealous. I wish I could say that I've seen all his best ones, but that wouldn't be true. I don't even want to admit to what I haven't seen yet. Out of what I've seen so far though, I'd say that North by Northwest with Cary Grant is my personal favourite due to its resemblance to James Bond films before a single James Bond film was even in production.

Number Seventeen is among Hitchcock's earlier efforts if you include his unfinished, uncredited or lost films and you want to call a nineteenth film an early effort. Crazy to think that it was at one time normal to direct multiple films in a year, but that's how it was. Shooting and editing has gotten a lot more complex since 1932, but it's still possible to appreciate the work that's gone into this little mystery film.

Jan 19, 2015

Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

Apocalyptic movies are usually big blockbuster-type affairs with loads of CGI which is what made Seeking a Friend for the End of the World so interesting to me. It's a simple romance/drama film that just happens to take place before the apocalypse. With Steve Carell who's easily proven that he can handle more dramatic roles and Keira Knightley on board, I honestly thought there would be a market for an apocalyptic date movie in the summer of 2012 with two fine actors.

Good thing I'm not a studio executive because SaFftEotW was a soft flop. It didn't cost a whole lot to make, but it didn't quite make back its budget either. I remember actually suggesting it to my girlfriend who was stuck trying to make a decision over what we would go see next in theatres, but she didn't bite for whatever reason. I wonder why? Like me, studio executives are probably wondering too.

Jan 18, 2015

Review: Quantum of Solace (2008)

With Martin Campbell's second departure from the Bond series after having been on for reboot/savior Casino Royale, in comes German-Swiss director Marc Forster. Not a bad choice either if you ask me. He didn't have much experience at the time in directing action sequences which is maybe a bit of a concern, but he's an international man which fits in with the 007 globetrotting lifestyle who's also got some pretty good movies to his name.

The production of Quantum of Solace unfortunately ran into some trouble with the Writer's Strike of 2007. Incredibly, this actually forced director Marc Forster and Daniel Craig to re-write the script that Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had put out. I can't even imagine being put in this kind of situation. Forster and Craig managed it to pull it off with some help from Joshua Zetumer who interestingly enough went on to become one of the writers for the RoboCop remake. QoS also holds the distinction of being the shortest film in the James Bond series, if that means anything.

Jan 17, 2015

Review: The Way Way Back (2013)

Summer is probably my favourite season for coming-of-age films to be set in. I guess there's just something special about being a kid left to one's own devices without having to go to school. All that free time is an easy way to work some self-discovery and growth in which are of course the main ingredients of any coming-of-age movie.

The Way Way Back joins the many films in that category like its 2013 stablemate The Kings of Summer as well as Stand By Me and Adventureland among others. It actually resembles Adventureland quite a bit in the sense that it takes place in a type of amusement park and it's set in the 80's. TWWB doesn't actually take place in the 80's, but it was supposed to. However it became too expensive to pull off which is why there are elements of the 80's sprinkled here and there still.

Jan 16, 2015

Review: Bridge to Terabithia (1985)

I think the likeliest reaction to the 1985 TV movie of Bridge to Terabithia is "This exists?" I kid you not, this is indeed an adaptation of Katherine Paterson's novel of the same name that came out twenty two years before Disney's 2007 version with Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb. The inspiration for the story and co-writer/producer of the Disney version, David L. Paterson said that the 1985 version was "like the crazy cousin that nobody talks about." Not the highest of praise now is it?

Once I heard of the existence of the 1985 BtT, I knew I was destined to see it. Shot in Edmonton, Alberta and initially broadcasted by PBS, every bone in my body told me that this was a movie not to be missed. After having seen it, I can tell you that it's not every day you can experience such ineptitude in film making.

Jan 15, 2015

Review: The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

Adapted from John Green's novel of the same name, The Fault in Our Stars is an absolute triumph when it comes to box office surprise stories. This is the movie that pushed Tom Cruise and Edge of Tomorrow to third place after Maleficent and a big part of that has to do with the film's marketing. With a successful trailer that connected with fans of the book, social media also played a big part in getting audiences (mostly young girls) to come see the film opening weekend. With only a $12 million budget, it was a massively profitable endeavor.

Shailene Woodley's career trajectory is just going to keep going up with successes like this and it's well-deserved if you ask me. She's a great talent who's successfully made the jump from TV to film. I didn't necessarily expect her career to explode as it has after I saw her alongside George Clooney in The Descendants, but the more I see her the more I can see why.

Jan 14, 2015

Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

When I was younger my mother used to read to my two sisters and I before we'd be sent to bed. That might sound boring but one of the books she read to us was J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. She then moved onto The Lord of the Rings, but was only able to get through the first book before I saw The Fellowship of the Ring in theatres in 2001. I was eleven years old and completely blown away. That night, I began reading The Two Towers on my own.

I've been a fan of all things Middle-Earth since then, even trying to get through The Silmarillion without too much success though I might add. Hearing that The Hobbit was going to be adapted was huge news to me and I was beyond excited. Although these past two Hobbit movies haven't been the best I've seen from Peter Jackson, I could still see the good in them which still goes for this latest movie. There are some things however that can't be forgiven this time and I'll get into that.

Review: A Nanny's Secret (2009)

TV movies sure do seem to be filmed in Canada a lot. Low production costs are obviously the big draw here, but it does leave me wishing that my country wasn't simply used as stomping grounds for the Lifetimes and Hallmarks of the world. There are worse things I guess.

So how did I know that A Nanny's Secret was filmed in Canada? Well, my snooping revealed what I believe to be a St-Hubert (rotisserie chicken restaurant chain) takeout box and there's also a scene where Haylie Duff's character drives her car through a Pizza Pizza (middling Pizza chain) parking lot. That's evidence enough for me. After taking a look at the IMDb page for ANS after seeing the movie showed that it was filmed in Ottawa, Canada's capital. Elementary and all that eh?

Jan 13, 2015

Review: The Spectacular Now (2013)

I still remember the storm that The Spectacular Now cooked up in the summer of 2013. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, it was very well received and got a lot of people talking. I was worried I'd never see it for a long time because of my movie selection system, but it's a good thing I have a girlfriend with such good taste who had the night's choice.

Besides Shailene Woodley's role in The Descendants, I haven't really seen her in anything else before. Miles Teller is a different story though and I'll probably never be able to forgive him for being in Project X and 21 & Over. What kind of agent suggests doing two party movies in two years anyway? Glad he's moved onto better stuff like 2014's Whiplash for example, but I'm kind starting to doubt that The Fantastic Four reboot is going to be all that good. The lack of marketing is a bit worrisome for a project like that. All I can say is that I hope Josh Trank and his team can prove me wrong.

Jan 12, 2015

Review: Surly Squirrel (2005)

The Nut Job featured an ensemble voice cast with the likes of Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl, Stephen Lang, Maya Rudolph and more. After grossing $113,307,962 worldwide and an incoming sequel in 2016, I suppose congratulations are in order for Canadian writer/director Peter Lepeniotis who started everything with nothing more than this simple short film, Surly Squirrel. 

It's a shame that TNJ is such a junk film though. It leans heavily on fart and burp jokes and I can now tell you from experience that nut puns aren't funny the first or the fifth time. It's clear that Lepeniotis signed a deal with the devil to get The Nut Job made. All he had to do was rework this short to certain standards and he'd be granted a star cast and more budget than he probably ever got to play with before in his career. It's probably a deal lots of people would agree to and it's paid off big time.

Review: VeggieTales: Rack, Shack & Benny (1995)

I pride myself on being able to soldier through any movie series, no matter how long or how bad it may be. At times these can be good experiences such as watching the whole James Bond series which is tons of fun which is why I'm about to finish my second watch-through pretty soon. Even a series like Friday the 13th can be fun. There's seriously no such joy in watching VeggieTales though. Pretty much every minute is an exercise in trying not to reach for the remote and stopping the movie.

I'm back to watching the beginnings of VeggieTales after fast forwarding a bit and watching some of Big Idea's later Christmas-themed entries. I have to admit that this was a rude awakening. It's hard going back to the archaic animation of early VT and there's no doubt that the writing in general has improved in later films. Not by leaps and bounds or anything, but enough to make everything easier to choke down.

Jan 11, 2015

Review: Enough Said (2013)

It's easy to be a fan of Julia Louis-Dreyfuss if you're a fan of the TV series Seinfeld. With a natural spark for comedy, dialogue or situation-based, she's wonderful to watch and holds her own alongside her three male co-stars without a problem. I've never seen any of her more recent TV works like Veep or The New Adventures of Old Christine, so it was nice for me to have the chance to finally see her in a more modern role.

The other notable thing about Enough Said is that it's one of James Gandolfini's final roles before his passing in June of 2013. He's of course known for his starring role in HBO's The Sopranos and if you haven't figured it out already, I'm not much of a TV guy. So unfortunately I've never seen a single episode of the show. The list of accolades he got for that role speaks volumes of how good he was and I'm familiar with quite a few of his film roles which I've enjoyed for the most part.

Jan 10, 2015

Review: The Nut Job (2014)

Normally I'd be happy to be watching a Canadian production, but that's not the case with The Nut Job. Overloaded with big names, it looks like a trap for parents trying to pass itself off as decent entertainment for children. I can't really judge a movie without watching it and I always try to avoid doing it, but that was my initial impression prior to seeing the film. This is also a co-production with South Korea which ends up being pretty significant and you'll see why.

The film is actually based on director/writer Peter Lepeniotis' short Surly Squirrel which I haven't had the chance to see yet. I'll fix that as soon as I can though because I definitely want to see the changes that were made, if any. I have a feeling that there were lots though because you don't go from animated short to animated feature just like that with studios breathing down your neck and who only want an easy cash generator.

Jan 9, 2015

Review: Titanic (1997)

Titanic was a big deal back in 1997 and it's easy to argue that its impact is still being felt today. What's funny is that it was seen as an inevitable flop as big as the Titanic was back before it was released. At the time, its $200 million budget was the biggest ever and not even its director, writer and producer James Cameron, the man who had previously made Terminator 2: Judgement Day and True Lies thought it be profitable.

Cameron fought to keep his vision intact though and you can't really help but respect the sheer size and scope that he packs into this 194 minute epic romance. Titanic was bold and the gamble somehow ended up paying off. $1,843,201,268 was made worldwide in its initial theatrical run, but what amazes me is how the subsequent 3D release was able to add on $343,571,034 for a total of $2,186,772,302. That's staying power if I ever saw it, but it helps that a significant investment was made for the 3D conversion and I've heard that Titanic in 3D is quite the experience.

Jan 8, 2015

Review: Casino Royale (2006)

After the disaster that was Die Another Day, everyone involved in the making of James Bond films knew that changes needed to be made. Despite making tons of money, there's no doubt that its list of detractors is far longer than its list of supporters. Everything about DAD felt wrong. It went completely overboard with gadgets and CGI was way overused.Among other problems, Die Another Day had become a parody of James Bond and for me personally, an exercise in pain and embarrassment.

Casino Royale can easily be called a reboot for the series. It's set at the beginning of James Bond's career, just before he's even gained double-0 status. The movie actually opens in black and white and  establishes the nature of Daniel Craig's James Bond. It's an impressive showing which I'll get more into.

Jan 7, 2015

Review: High Maintenance (2006)

High Maintenance is a short that's won a bunch of different awards including the AFI Filmmaker Award at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival as well as being the winner in Delta's Fly-In Movies Film Contest at Sundance, both in 2007. Since then, director Phillip Van made a little bit of headway by directing TV series/mini-series Bright Falls in 2010 which was a prequel to the video game Alan Awake. That's a pretty cool little tidbit and reminds me that I got to work on clearing my Steam backlog. 

Jan 6, 2015

Review: Allergy to Originality (2012)

Allergy to Originality was one of the short films shown in last year's Sundance Film Festival. This year's edition will go from January 22nd to February 1st, so for sure there will be a new crop of short films that I'll probably never get around to seeing even if I should.

As much as I'd like to see many more short films, I don't seem to be able to fit too many into my movie schedule. Every year I always get a craving for some short films around awards season though and this year is no different.

Jan 5, 2015

Review: Someone Like You... (2001)

Someone Like You... is based off of a novel called Animal Husbandry by Laura Zigman. Published in 1998, it was her first novel ever and since then she's built a slightly successful career writing female literature. AH is her only real claim to fame though but still, it's not like everyone gets a movie based on one of their books right?

With Ashley Judd, Hugh Jackman and Greg Kinnear, Someone Likes You... seems like it could at least be pleasant with names like that. I'm really not the biggest fan of Ashley Judd in movies, but I do respect her. She seems like a smart lady and even has a couple of degrees in her pocket. Hugh Jackman is the bigger deal here to me with having already appeared in the first X-Men movie in 2000.

Jan 4, 2015

Review: Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979)

OK, so I sort of cheated by watching this sequel to the original 1964 Rankin/Bass Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Not that I've skipped any movies in the series to get to here, but I'm supposed to be watching nothing but New Year's movies at the moment. By watching Rudolph's Shiny New Year, I really wanted to get through all the Rankin/Bass Rudolph movies though, so I just had to watch this one.

What's interesting is that Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July is a legitimate full-length feature which originally opened in theaters. Despite only opening in a very limited amount of locations, it flopped massively and just went to being shown on TV which probably should've been done in the first place. It's not like Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. didn't try though. Just like Marvel packed a bunch of heroes into The Avengers, Rankin/Bass did the same thing by putting their own characters like Rudolph, Frosty, Crystal, Santa, Big Ben and even Jack Frost all in the same movie. All that star power just wasn't enough though.

Jan 2, 2015

Review: When Harry Met Sally... (1989)

Does Nora Ephron like her holidays or what? She's the writer of the script for When Harry Met Sally... where we go through several years of Christmas and New Year's too. In Sleepless in Seattle which she was credited as a writer and the director, we go through Christmas, New Year's and even Valentine's Day. Nothing wrong with holidays, at least not how Ephron uses them anyway. Just interesting how Ephron seems to like Christmas so much if we also include You've Got Mail and Mixed Nuts.

Without a doubt, When Harry Met Sally... has definitely reached quintessential status. so it's definitely about time I see it. I've never even really seen Billy Crystal all that much which I really want to change. I only really know the Academy Awards Billy Crystal as well as the Mike Wazowski of Monsters Inc. Billy Crystal which is kind of sad.

Jan 1, 2015

Review: Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976)

Most people are probably only familiar with the 1964 Rankin/Bass Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and don't even know that there's a sequel. There are actually several. Rankin Jr. and Bass were smart businessmen though who had every reason to capitalize on the big deal that Rudolph became. To be honest though, I think that Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. were a bit too late with this one. Twelve years is way too long to expect to catch lightning in a bottle again.

I'm not sure when Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer became so ingrained in popular culture, but there probably wasn't any room left for another Rudolph TV movie, even if it was centered around New Year's. Still, I originally watched Rudolph's Shiny New Year last year around New Year's and I was really intrigued to see how it would be. It helps that Billie Mae Richards was back again as the voice of Rudolph, but unfortunately she's the only returning cast-member.