Brand Upon the Brain (2006, Guy Maddin)

Categories: 2006 and Movies.

I didn’t go see this in theatres, with its live orchestra, and that is now to my eternal regret. Because I feel like that experience might have made this the greatest of all Maddin experiences. On the small screen, it’s just not quite as immersive as I assume it would have been in a theatre somewhere, with a live orchestra, and someone like Crispin Glover narrating (not that I mind Isabella Rossellini). Read More

Clash of the Titans (2010, Louis Leterrier)

Categories: 2010 and Movies.

I have only ever seen pieces of the 80s Clash of the Titans, but my memory of it was that it was actually based on Greek myths. I emphasize this fact because this remake appears to not care about its sources in the slightest, pulling a creature from Norse mythology as its climactic bad guy, bringing in some Arabic mythology, and generally completely altering the stories of the Greek myths it is ostensibly putting on screen.  (I recognize that a fine film could be made out of the idea that all myths from all cultures are variations of the same Read More

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013, Harald Zwart

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is one of the innumerable young adult fantasy franchises that has seemingly popped up out of nowhere over the last decade and a half. I watched it for the same reasons that I watch all of these – I enjoy bad movies. This one is, at times, better than a lot of the other lower tier of these films, because it has a sense of humour and it has a sense of humour about the cliches of the genre. Yes, I know, this one was a flop. But it’s certainly more entertaining than a lot of these pandering “You Read More

Boccacio ’70 (1962, Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Mario Monicelli, Luchino Visconti)

Categories: 1962 and Movies.

This is a collection of four roughly 50 minute long films (just three in the US theatrical edition) poking fun at the sexual mores of 1960s Italy (which is why there’s “’70” in the title???) in tribute to Decameron by Boccacio, a 14th century set of tales considered one of the early Italian literary masterpieces. Perhaps a little like The Canterbury Tales for all I know. Knowing how I generally feel about much Italian cinema in general, and Fellini in particular, and “sex comedies,” and learning that I have never heard of Boccacio or read Decameron, one might well wonder Read More

BloodRayne: The Third Reich (2011, Uwe Boll)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This is a pretty awful film that seems intent on reviving the Naziploitation films of the 70s that everyone fondly remembers. (Oh, you don’t fondly remember them? You think they’re offensive? That’s weird.) I can’t say whether or not this is a fond tribute to those films, as I’ve only ever seen one of them, but it’s a shitty, shitty movie. Read More

Black Moon (1975, Louis Malle)

Categories: 1975 and Movies.

This is a bizarre, barely plotted, surrealistic fantasy/sci-fi French film that tests one’s patience with its attempts to say things as obtusely as possible and with its attempts to be shocking. It’s part of a grand tradition of obscure French science fiction/fantasy films about post-apocalyptic worlds (where the world-building the English-language world loves so much is barely a consideration) but takes a wild digression into adult Alice in Wonderland territory not long into the film. It’s one of those movies where there are memorable moments (as well as moments that are probably meant to be memorable but aren’t) but you’re Read More

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015, Francis Lawrence)

Categories: 2015 and Movies.

I think, on some level, this is a superior film to the previous entry. I mean, for one thing, all that did was set things up. This (sort of) knocks them down. I will say that, as far as these things go, this series is a little less politically naive (I stress “a little” as this is still an extremely naive view of the world) than even some works for adults (i.e. revolutions eat their children). But that doesn’t excuse the laziness of the writing. Perhaps the best example I can think of in terms of the lazy writing is Read More

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015, JJ Abrams)

Categories: 2015 and Movies.

I must say that, when I learned that the new trilogy would not follow the Grand Admiral Thrawn arc, a little part of my teenage self died. The only Star Wars books, I ever read, I enjoyed them at the time. But, upon, reflection, it’s probably for the best, as this guy was one of those villains who was too clever, so that…well, that would have been spoilers. Anyway, it’s probably for the best. Read More

Bird People (2014, Pascale Ferran)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

This film tells the stories of two people who accidentally meet. In that sense, it is much like numerous other films that tell individual stories and combine them with chance meetings. Only this one has a fantastical twist hinted at in the title. Why it has that twist I can guess at but I’m not sure one story having the twist and the other not adds anything to the film. Rather, why have both stories, when you can just have the one? This film is just over two hours but is deliberately paced and feels considerably longer and, when you Read More

Beowulf (2007, Robert Zemeckis)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

Of the two films I’ve seen about Beowulf, this is definitely the better one. I haven’t read the legend myself (beyond a version for children, many years ago) but this definitely feels like it is more true to the original story – the story is definitely less blatantly revisionist than the other version I saw. This one is reasonably compelling but it’s hardly the landmark film that a few made it out to be (given that Sin City had essentially already done this same thing a few years prior). I’m glad that people are using animation to tell these stories, Read More

Inkheart (2008, Iain Softley)

Categories: 2008 and Movies.

I can imagine the pitch meeting where someone thought this was a good idea. And though I later learned it came from a book (I have not read it, obviously), it doesn’t make me think that pitch meeting was any more reasonable. Ideas like this always sound good, but it takes a lot imagination to make them work on the page. And, aside from the obvious problems of having characters whose very acts of reading aloud create (what happens if they read philosophy? math? etc), the filmmakers failed to be imaginative enough. Everything feels like second rate fantasy, looks like Read More

Last Knights (2015, Kazuaki Kriya)

Categories: 2015 and Movies.

This is a horribly over-cast movie (who knew that was a thing) that uses a pretense from its script to explain away the rather annoying fact that practically everyone in the cast is from  a different country (i.e. has a glaringly different accent). I say it’s ‘over-cast’ because there are a whole host of famous people in it – not just Morgan Freeman and Clive Owen but lots of other recognizable faces, most of them far more famous in their home countries. Why are they in this movie? The script sounds like a teenage boy writing a fantasy story for Read More

Ballad of Narayama (1958, Keisuke Kinoshita)

Categories: 1958 and Movies.

This film – which tells the story of a Japanese legend of villages exposing their elders to die during famines – is perhaps the most Kabuki-driven Japanese film I’ve seen to date, taking that theatre style and making it central to the execution of the movie. Filmed nearly entirely on sound-stages, the film has a heightened level of theatricality or unreality, despite how many people apparently believed that these legends were true. The deliberate decision to use sound-stags – a practice that was not as common in Japanese cinema in the ’50s as it was in Hollywood – turns out Read More

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012, Benh Zeitlin)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

Sometimes even years after the hype has faded, there are still expectations for a movie. Even though I hadn’t read much about this movie, I wonder if the hype had still coloured my appreciation of this. (Or, alternatively, it’s just not as good and original as people have said.) Yes, Wallis is incredible. And the other actors are all believable. It’s a testament to this particular movie that the naturalistic acting is a success when often in these types of films some of it is great and some of it is awful. But we shouldn’t get too carried away just Read More

R.I.P.D. (2013, Robert Schwentke)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

The first few minutes of this film make it clear that it is a comic book adaptation. I already dislike a film like this, when stuff like that happens. And within maybe 10 minutes or so, it’s apparent that this is a massive Men in Black ripoff. (Whether or not the comic book is such a rip off, the movie sure is.) But despite that massive problem – and many others – I can’t help but say it is amusing a lot of the time. A number of things made me laugh, even though I recognized massive problems with the Read More

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014, Francis Lawrence)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

It’s now customary to get whatever you can get out of a franchise. I guess it’s to be expected. But, not knowing the source material, it sure seems like they are milking the final Hunger Games novel for all its worth. This is the weakest film in the series so far; it feels like table-setting for the climax to the series yet, somehow, that table-setting is 2 hours long. A lot of this movie just feels like Katniss doing propaganda for the rebels instead of for the capital (which she spent a lot of time doing the last time out). Read More

Georges Melies: First Wizard of Cinema 1896-1913 (2009)

Categories: 1896, 1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 2009, and Movies.

This collects many – but hardly a majority or all – of George Melies’ short films from when he got into cinema shortly after the invention of the medium until 1913, when his various personal problems consumed him and he stopped making films. (Note that many of Melies’ films have been lost forever due to various problems.) If you have never seen any of Melies’ films before – and I hadn’t – you are really missing out. Melies truly was the ‘first wizard of the cinema.’ He was an early pioneer of numerous film techniques that helped create unusual sights Read More

Angels in America (2003, Mike Nichols)

Categories: 2003 and TV.

There is a part of me that wants to say this is one of the great works of American literature of the late 20th century but I don’t know enough late 20th century literature to say that with any kind of authority and, specifically, I can’t tell you how few American plays I’ve seen written from then, so, really, I don’t know what I’m saying. It is, mostly, a magnificent work of art. And the staging of it for HBO is, mostly, magnificent (though the CGI has dated horribly). There are a few parts of the play that I think Read More

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004, Kerry Conran)

Categories: 2004 and Movies.

A manchurian slave camp?!?!? Seriously, who writes this stuff? There’s no fear of consequences for anyone because so many of the background characters are animated and it feels like most of the human characters will make it. Super worshipful of old comics, old movies and particularly Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (not one of my favourites). But beyond that film, did anyone really make movies like this? It actually feels more indebted to old comics that nobody alive would have read. (Well, most people.) I feel like this is supposed to be part of a serial as the Sky Captain doesn’t Read More

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010, Michael Apted)

Categories: 2010 and Movies.

Apted’s surer hand makes this possibly the best entry in the series – it’s obvious from the opening shot that a better director is involved. The movie is plagued by its usual problems with the source material – nobody is ever at risk – but things move so much more swiftly (this one is under 2 hours!!!) and some of the annoying things from the second movie (such as the bizarre accents) are missing. The problem for me, this time around, is the choice to go Pirate. As usual, I cannot know whether or not that was in the source Read More

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005, Andrew Adamson)

Categories: 2005 and Movies.

I “saw” this a number of years ago on TV. Like many movies I saw in parts on TV when I was younger, I rated it without watching the entire thing. So I guess I’m making up for that. This was the only fantasy book I “read” as a child. (It was read to me, as I was that young.) Perhaps this explains my dislike of most fantasy. I experienced so little as a child that, as a teen and an adult, I found so much of it ridiculous because I wasn’t raised on it. Anyway, to the movie itself Read More

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008, Andrew Adamson)

Categories: 2008 and Movies.

I don’t know whether it’s CS Lewis’ fault or the adapters, but despite an apparently bigger budget, this is somehow weaker than the first. The basic plotting is all wrong: people who should do things do the opposite: for example the man who didn’t know Narnians existed knows more than the Kings and Queens do about Narnia; time definitely shifts depending on where we are during the climactic scenes; there are apparently all these citizens of whatever the hell the human city is called, but they are shown twice, and the first time is 80 minutes into the movie; etc. Read More

Amelie (2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)

Categories: 2001 and Movies.

I don’t know why it took me so long to see this movie. I’m a pretty big Jeunet fan, but whatever interest I had in seeing it at the time soon waned. No idea why. For some reason I anticipated I wouldn’t like it, which seems odd to me. It’s way less out there than Delicatessen (still my favourite) or The City of Lost Children, and significantly more accessible, but what it lacks in utter uniqueness it makes up in charm. It reminds me of Leolo to a great extent, but a little zanier if that’s possible. This is how Read More

Solomon Kane (2009, Michael J. Bassett)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This has rather high production values for one of those bad fantasy films made in Eastern Europe. Like so many of these movies, there’s virtually no character development (beyond the obvious arc for the hero), the plot is rather telegraphed and I strongly doubt the film has much to do with its source material. But the acting is extremely good for a bad movie, and the production values are shockingly high. I’m not sure Marc Antony from Rome really works as a leading man, but whatever. So as these things go, it’s certainly less terrible than most of them. But Read More

A Game of Thrones (1996) by George RR Martin

Categories: 1996, Books, and Fiction.

I have never liked fantasy novels and usually only enjoy fantasy movies for their cheesiness and predictability (though there are exceptions). However, the TV show won me over due to its drastic differences from most fantasy I am familiar with. As a fan of the show, I really felt no need to read the books. But when my friend told me he was really enjoying the audio books, I thought I’d give it a listen. (Thanks Derek!) As someone who avoids fantasy, I cannot say whether or not what Martin does here is original, but it certainly strikes me as Read More

Noah (2014, Darren Aronofsky)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

I have long been a fan of Aronofsky’s, even of his misses (though I have yet to see The Fountain) because he has always made me think. His films provoke thought and discussion, and are also usually full of inventive direction and cinematography. I am not sure I can think of another example of a Great or near-Great director exceeding his grasp like Aronofsky does here. (Though, again, I have not seen The Fountain.) This is a film that is so overdone, so self-serious and so unsubtle in its allegory (while at the same time, confused) that whatever neat little Read More

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013, Jim Jarmusch)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This might be the only vampire film in existence with zero violence. (I doubt that’s much of an exaggeration.) Jarmusch takes a far different approach with this genre and, like his other genre movies, he renders it far more similar to his own films than to others in the genre. The idea makes perfect sense to me: vampires that are bored and infinitely knowledgeable, rather than vampires hell bent on conquering humans. The portrait is compelling and far more realistic (I use the term loosely) than the vast majority of vampire films. It also functions as a bit of allegory Read More