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I had my DVD and Blu-ray collection listed here, largely for my own reference. Inevitably it became too large for the limited space here. On the off chance anyone is interested, it is available here. http://www.imdb.com/list/ls076553758/
I've always loved to write, and aside from making a living off it, I am a prolific author of IMDb reviews and have a Top Reviewer badge as of this writing.
I tend to love dramatic films and comedy TV. Action-adventures usually bore me. I want something that makes me think.
By the start of 2008 I realized I had a pretty bad DVD collection, and I set out to improve it. I now consider this mission accomplished. In July 2011 I bought a Blu-ray player. Also in 2011, I became more serious about seeing more foreign language films.
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Nothing premature about a fifth season 15 years later!
Closing the first half of season 5 (which, like season 4, is taking AD in daring new directions compared to the safer and callback-heavy season 3) Premature Independence is a highlight. With hilarious sequences and some shocking moments, Premature Independence feels a bit like a season finale in opening up possibilities while closing old storylines (notably the aborted plot of having Lindsay run against her old rival Sally Sitwell).
The episode starts off with some high points. Maeby in the old folks home is definitely one of the best directions the series has taken the character in. Hearing her underage/overage bit is risque, and her goodbye to neighbour's painkillers and Fox and Friends is perfect. We also have some classicly ADish word play- "sun is nobody's friend"-"friendless son."
Some story developments: This appears to be the end of the line for Tony Wonder. That was the most shocking moment, as he wasn't exactly deserving of a cement bath, but the character's storyline had essentially been exhausted (I always found him a bit over-the-top anyway; and Ben Stiller wasn't interested in becoming a regular in the first place). Plus, GOB became a bit too pathetic in season 5. Whether gay or straight, it would be good to have the old confidently incompetent GOB back. The use of "Free at Last" effectively sucks much of the trauma out of the scene.
In a Keystone Kops sequence with some magical moments ("Merry mixup!"), it then appears Stan Sitwell and Debrie have also been killed off, though thankfully, the "On the next" shows both characters were merely injured (Maeby dumps Stan anyway. Whoever thought they would be a couple one day?).
The second half of season 5 could be something, indeed. I still expect Lucille 2 will resurface- but the series definitely seems to be going back to its prison-oriented roots.
Arrested Development: Señoritis (2013)
Maeby one of the best episodes of the season
A highlight of season 4, the Maeby-centred Señoritis does justice to AD's juvenile delinquent as she moves on from juvenility in age... but not maturity. Starting off with classically ADish fast word play (French for Spanish, "chemistry") keeping it up ("squatting", "Mexican in me") and new cherishable elements (the kissing model), Señoritis is a romp from start to finish. One of the most laugh-out-loud moments comes with Maeby's profane award acceptance speech, carrying on a tradition seen in each season of nearly completely bleeped monologues (Buster in season 1, GOB's sexual harassment speech in season 2, Nelly's ground rules in season 3). We'll see who delivers the same in season 5!
As with the other characters, Maeby's life has taken a nosedive in the Great Dark Period. This chronic misfortune is, of course, true to the original series. Capped with the hilarious twist of fate that Maeby is now a registered sex offender (accompanied by another identical Richter reveal and fitting use of "Gonna Get Together"), Maeby otherwise sees little character development compared to the other characters in season 4. She remains her old dim and rebellious self. Almost makes you wish we Maeby had a second episode following Michael's niece in season 4... but we will Surely see more of her in season 5.
From one Great Dark Period to another
GOB has always been a beloved character among AD fans, and the second GOB-centric episode of season 4 bursts forth with his shenanigans, intricately tied in with the various storylines following the other characters. Starting off with another shot at the derivative Modern Family ("I... HAVE not been seeing Julie Bowen") and touching on the competitive nature of the brothers, GOB becomes wrapped up in his ongoing rivalry with Tony Wonder. Some of it hits on the nose- they develop feelings for each other, but don't know it's just friendship because they've never experienced it before. They set out to expose each other, with the scorned Sally Sitwell and Ann pulling the strings.
With occasional off-the wall moments (Sally's never shaved a leg?), A New Attitude has a lot of laughs despite a slower beginning. The Mexican version of The Sound of Silence is a brilliant touch, as we're on the edge of our seats when Ann says she has a five-year-old son (AD has always been teasing us with hints of pregnancies- some of which we may be finding out about in season 5?) As well, we have more of the dark prophecy- GOB tries to get The Wall built with Mexican labour, just as we're told the real-world Wall will be built with Mexican money, but all real construction efforts have thus far been a farce. After another five years, AD will be emerging from another Great Dark Period- and we'll be seeing how our heroes will adjust to a world even grimer than the Bush era in which they premiered.
The poster for The Insult, nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, doesn't quite do the product justice. It makes the film look like a simple tragic drama; in fact The Insult builds on its intriguing premise of a simple insult escalating, and balances feelings of remorse, tensions and even comedy and absurdity in a brisk tone and style. A film where the prosecutor and defense are father and daughter, and the shock reveal, is a film that isn't totally taking itself seriously. But it reflects on very serious wounds in the past and the lack of reconciliation after, a followup to a tragic story previously depicted in an earlier Oscar nominee Incendies. But Incendies was Canadian and The Insult is actually Lebanese, the first Lebanese film to be nominated, and it speaks in a national voice.
With only some minor violence, The Insult's story largely escalates in the courtroom, and anyone interested in courtroom films will find this great material. I had to stop myself from saying "courtroom drama," because again, it's not only that. The absurdities provoke laughs, the drama provokes thought, and The Insult has something for everybody, even people who know little about Lebanon (The film itself explains much of the gaps in knowledge for the viewer).
Indian Horse (2017)
Some scores early on, penalties later
I actually had a chance to meet Richard Wagamese very shortly before he died; he was an inspirational figure. I knew he had written novels about the residential school experience. Soon we're going to get the great Canadian film about the tragedy, but so far there haven't been many attempts. Indian Horse seemed like a promising candidate, but falls short.
In ways a sports movie as much (or more) than a story about the residential schools, Indian Horse rarely rises above TV movie-level in its direction. There are some great shots- the first glimpse of the nun coldly looking down on the children, flashbacks when toys are being thrown onto the ice and how these toys blend into the memories- but these are few. The film starts off with a strong look at the cruelties of the school under Catholic control, but veers from that. (Incidentally, Canada's association of Catholic bishops recently released a letter denying involvement in residential schools. This is a blatant lie, or put in their words, bearing false witness under God). Part of the drift away from a strong film involves the less-than-stellar performance of Ajuawak Kapashesit. This is a decent film, but we should be looking for more.
Follow the loon call back to Igloolik
Zacharias Kunuk, after pioneering Inuit and Nunavut cinema in 2001 with his acclaimed Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, hasn't had much luck replicating that critical success. That's understandable. Atanarjuat was a hit, but even after, getting a film off the ground in tiny Nunavut remains an uphill battle; Maliglutit is only his third feature in 15 years.
It doesn't totally disappoint. The landscapes and scenery offer a goldmine for cinematographers, production designers and directors, and they successfully utilize those resources. The actors and actresses are mostly novices (vets Natar Ungalaaq and Lucy Tulugarjuk stayed largely behind the scenes on this one) but do well; in fact I think the performances here are better than Atanarjuat's. Alas, at only 90 minutes, Maliglutit still somehow manages to drag at times; too much sitting around, looking around, in silence. You almost want to yell at them, "Get on that ice and run, and search! What's the title of this movie?"
Even after that, the ending feels abrupt. Kill the bad guy, and after the elder's brief, banal non-advice ("Keep going in hard times"), credits roll. Pacing is the issue here, and contemplation should have been saved for the ending, not strewn throughout the film where it didn't belong.
The horror... the beauty...
A psychological horror, in the vein of Les Bons Debarras surrounding an isolated family in rural Quebec, I went into The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches expecting an intense experience. The trailer hinted at it. The film itself lived up to that expectations and then some. It's completely horrifying, keeping me on the edge of my seat when the father is simply giving his daughter a haircut. Horror doesn't need to be slasher, doesn't need to be zombies or cannibal serial killers. It can be a family in isolation, under an abusive parent, and it can be sexual repression. That said, there is some violence and blood on top. The girl in the shed- referred to as a monster by the brother- is nauseating to behold. Not just her horrific condition, but the prison in which she is kept. . The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches is, in large part, a mystery that unravels before our eyes, and the truth is as terrifying as we would expect.
That said,. The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches is a crowning achievement in cinematography, art direction and film direction. Shot in black and white, the picture comes across as nearly silver. It's not just chilling, it's beautiful to look at. This is my pick for the Canadian Screen Award for Best Motion Picture.
Inju alien (1996)
Go back to the darkness
It's funny, this movie, the kind that would normally be far off my radar, drew me into an interesting online debate over 10 years ago and I've never forgotten it. I finally saw it. Taking Alien (1979) and adding tentacle porn, Inju alien ("Alien from the Darkness") has some attractiveness to it. It's also very poorly animated. Actually, the spaceship exteriors aren't that bad; but you'd think that effort would go into the women, since they're a main draw.
The nudity and sex is meant to be gratuitous, and I can appreciate that. The lesbianism is erotic- the crew are all women and all appear to be lesbians, though our heroine is a little shyer. The tentacle porn itself, too strange for many tastes, is kept brief. Much of the sexiness is undermined by a bizarre character, the lemur- it makes mischief, including running down his owner's shirt and bra, and it's just too weird and annoying to be cute. Like the animation, the writing itself can be poor. They're shocked about one girl's death, but then they're working out, hitting on each other, and calling each other butch? The end result is unsatisfying.
Les affamés (2017)
Ravenous... for a better film
Zombies are way overrated, and I don't get the cultural obsession with them over the last 10 years , pushing aside the classic ghosts and vampires. So when a Canadian zombie movie went to TIFF, start salivating! The Toronto festival awarded it Best Canadian Film seemingly just for showing up. Billed as a fresh reinvention of the zombie genre with loads of political allegory, Ravenous gives us zombies who can run rather than slowly saunter, but really nothing else original.
The cheapness of the production shows through over and over again. Anyone can shoot people walking through a grass field on a shoestring budget, with zombies who are just people wearing the most minimal makeup. The odd gory special effect doesn't add much to the impression the film makes as a technical achievement. At best, some sequences are entertaining in their action. As an allegory, though, there's nothing here, and no message. Like the genre itself, Ravenous ends up overrated.
Lies My Father Told Me (1975)
Interesting concept; problems "lie" in the execution
It's easy to see why people say they hate Canadian movies when you see a film like Lies My Father Told Me. This goes back to the infancy of Canadian cinema, and there's been a huge improvement in Canadian film over the last two decades. It's actually not a bad film; the problem is, Lies My Father Told Me is not for every taste. No Indiana Jones, the family drama about Montreal Jews with turn away most of the audience. And, the audience that stays will notice the flaws and end up divided too.
Lies My Father Told Me starts off promisingly; it looks like an interesting coming-of-age story, though by the end when we realize the climactic battle is over moving a stable, the feeling of dullness sets in. Even before then, the performances are sorely lacking, particularly in the boy who can only shout out excitedly, the father who can't rage right, and the young prostitute ("Kiss my Royal Canadian ***!") The grandfather's song about the Messiah coming is excruciating and feels out of place (By this point of time, we weren't excepting a musical, and the end credit song is nails on a chalkboard as well). For the Montreal Jew story in 1970s cinema, it's no wonder critics preferred The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.
A terrible film on every single level, A*P*E (cleverly described by one critic as "not very O*R*I*G*I*N*A*L") was nevertheless a bright spot of my day. The scenes with the actors were often slow and painful, with the odd smack of unintentionally funny dialogue ("You're asking me to be gentle for a rape scene!"- paraphrasing). But every time I saw the man in the cheap monkey suit, I couldn't help but smile. It doesn't exactly lumber, doesn't exactly hop, doesn't exactly move in a monkey-like agile way either. He just moves along, and gets to play in miniature villages. It's hilarious!
The battle with the giant snake was also anti-climactic. He picks it up and simply throws it, like a baby learning to throw a toy. And when I finally saw that legendary "prehistoric creature gives the finger" scene, I was over the moon. How ridiculous this Gigantopithecus knows the gesture! Perhaps he picked it up from those archers who inexplicably began firing at him for no reason ("Monkey see, monkey do".) The special effects in the King Kong 1976 remake are nearly as bad as this, but that movie took itself a lot more seriously than this, which is at least one point you can give to A*P*E. Seeing our monkey man flapping his arms at the helicopters, as if mocking swimming moves in air, got long and repetitive fast. Still, for unintentional humour, particularly for King Kong fans, look no further.
Before the Fires (Incendies), there were the Waters....
Bring Denis Villeneuve back to Canada! Maelstrom is an early effort from the director who brought us Incendies (2010) and Arrival (2016), and a surprisingly strong one. This is from a director who's been hit and miss for me; Polytechnique and Sicario were overly dry, while Enemy was enormously derivative.
Maelstrom is obviously a film with a unique vision, told by a dying fish. We have an abortion, which will enrage some of the audience, but playing Good Morning Starshine next as she leaves sets a humourous, ironic tone.
Much of this tone prevails; while I was expecting something darker like Incendies, a colourful, unique tone runs throughout Maelstrom. After learning she accidentally kills a man with a vehicle, she confides in a stranger who tells her what's done is done; later, the son of the man falls in love with her, and in a quirk of fate, he confides in the same stranger who tells her what's done is done. Maelstrom is the kind of movie that's more than a movie; it's an experience like no other.
We meet the Sami, but I wish we could know Christina better
A sad look back at the effects of a race-obsessed culture in the form of a coming-of-age story, the Lux Prize-winning Sami Blood follows a 14-year-old girl ("Christina") belonging to a people who many outside Europe will be completely unfamiliar with: the Sami, an indigenous people in Sweden and the Nordic region. Ethnic Swedish characters, even when not taking a literal knife to Sami, treat them horribly. The Sami look white, but are regarded as less than human. They're not allowed to use Sami in private conversations at school (similar to Canada's residential schools), they're poked, prodded, and forcibly photographed naked by race scientists, despite clear discomfort, and they're told flat-out their brains are not quite developed. It becomes easy to imagine how National Socialism found a base in Sweden in the time period, as referenced in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, though it never really took off as a major movement.
That said, it can be hard to understand Christina herself. When her teacher so blatantly looks down on her, and will never defend her, what is it that draws Christina to her so? She wants to leave Lapland- I wouldn't be happy there either- but why does she want so badly go with people who hate her? Her love interest, Niklas, shows no signs of wanting anything for her or from her but sex, and it's kind of a mystery why she keeps going back to him too. Some scenes get long and repetitive- the gymnastics scene has no real reason for being that long. Much of this is interesting, though as a coming-of-age it doesn't stand out too far from so many others.
Ma vie de Courgette (2016)
There's meat in this zucchini
Odd as it may sound, films with vegetables in their titles often turn me off; I heard of My Life as a Courgette (more commonly called a zucchini where I live in Canada) and saw Netflix marked it for ages 8-10, but had some time to kill and it was only 67 minutes on, so gave it a shot. Well, Netflix was a bit off on the 8-10. Adults will find a lot to admire in this little zucchini.
Like this year's It by Andy Muschietti (yes, I will make the insane comparison), it is refreshing to see films are still being made where kids still talk like real kids; they're under 18 but they talk about sex (or draw a nude picture as we see here), whereas most modern Puritanical Hollywood movies will treat that as heresy. My Life as a Courgette also confronts the roughest subject matter fearlessly, and manages to pull at the heartstrings in the process. It may seem too easy to do that with a story about orphans, two getting adopted at the end, but it takes something special to make it feel unique- a great deal of maturity and thought went into crafting the emotions and getting them out in a genuine way. (Moonrise Kingdom also ended with adoption-by-cop following an orphan in love- its merits were also strong, though different). The animation goes with stop motion over the now-expected computer 3D, and also develops its own winning charm.
Enough to pass film school on
With a lot of technical competence, a provocative beginning, an atmospheric, chilling end-credit sequence and not much more, Homophobia is a short film looking at, well, homophobia in the Austrian Army. Homophobia in the '90s military is a familiar topic, but as a plus, few will be aware of how much it existed in Austria. Actually, homophobia in the form of homoeroticism- the bully fondles the closeted gay soldier- feels a bit unnatural. The short runs 20 minutes, but with so little in between, the question is why?
Dokument Fanny och Alexander (1984)
Interesting in parts but overall dry
While I can see the interest in seeing Ingmar Bergman and Sven Nyqvist behind the camera and at work, there has to be a little more to it than having a second cinematographer run a camera on the crew to make two films (the film and this doc) at once for the price of one. Dokument Fanny och Alexander provides bits and pieces of interesting, valuable material, but is lacking in many respects. It focuses on Bergman and Nyvqist behind the camera, but provides very little insight into the genesis of the story, its meanings, or any of the other crew: nothing on Asp's vision or Vos' work, nothing from the cast about how they approached their work. The doc A Bergman Tapestry, also included in Criterion's Blu-ray, is more valuable and well-rounded in that regard.
As for what we see, it doesn't take long for things to get repetitive. Did we really have to see that clown with the candle on his head *that* many times?
More lackluster than the poster and title will have you believe
I kind of went into this expecting the wrong thing; a more mature film, for adults but about kids; instead it was a mature film for kids about kids. I kind of got concerned about that when all of the trailers going into it were for other kids' movies; then when Wonder itself got going, I got the feel quickly that it wasn't for me. That was a bit of a disappointment. Wonder follows a boy with a facial deformity, played by the immensely talented and mature Jacob Tremblay, who excelled in Room and even competently stood out in Book of Henry, though that wasn't his show and the movie wasn't great. He's weaker here; Wonder looks at bullying and conformity in the school system but gets bogged down in children's politics, particularly looking at the other students. Some capable writing here and there, but it gets repetitive. The girl, Via, at one point says that her little brother is the sun and other family members, including herself, are orbiting planets. A few minutes later, she says her house is the Earth and the son is the sun. Seems like we heard this metaphor before. This young actress gives a good performance in a stage play a little later, but as with many films dependent on child actors, the performances are not a strong suit. Trying to compensate, they bring in Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as the parents, who are old enough to be Tremblay's grandparents, and look it.
Other things are generic and predictable. A dog dies, the kid gets an award at the end, though it seems at first like they're going down a slightly less predictable path with the kid's friend getting the award. If you're a parent with mature kids, absolutely take them to Wonder. It will be very special to them. If not, you can probably skip it.
It wasn't secret, but this is more light
I lived, for several years, in a city with a high population of Mormons. They were always walking around with smiles on their faces, which alone signalled something wasn't right there. My roommate, a devout Christian, found their missionary aggression annoying and told them they were closer to Hinduism than Christianity. The Secret World of Mormonism is in many respects a 40-minute attempt to address that question: Is Mormonism Christianity? Going into the documentary, I already knew the answer was no. I'm not religious, but I know the idea of polytheism is fundamentally opposed to the Abrahamic religions.
Still, this documentary can shed light on what Mormons really believe. Just go to YouTube and look up Mormon cartoon. That's a startling sequence, a pull-your-hair type tale reminiscent of reading about Xenu on Wikipedia. Gods, many, living on planets, having endless celestial sex, racist ideology and, hilariously, soldiers in Roman fashion warring against natives armed with bows and arrows. The comments in response to the video from Mormons is "this is inaccurate," though they won't say how, and "There is a great deal of evidence the Book of Mormon is genuine and of Hebrew origin." Ask yourself: does Jesus as the original Leif Ericson/Christopher Columbus, crossing the Mediterranean and then the Atlantic, on his rickety Palestinian boat, pass the smell test? Does the archaeological record prove this?
As a non-religious person, the off-putting parts of this documentary are the evangelical messages. The cult-like nature of Mormonism is emphasized, though you can say this stuff about any religion ("They drink the blood of their god, and say they eat the flesh of their god.") Despite claims archaeology affirms Christianity, you still can't place where the Garden of Eden was or where Noah's Ark ended up. The real cut against Mormonism, much like Scientology, is that without millennia of tradition and teachings, masses of people fell for what should have been obviously dismissed as cheap, second-rate fantasy/science fiction stories. Human gullibility knows no bounds, and people are suffering while a select few consolidate their power and line their pockets.
Fargo: Who Shaves the Barber? (2014)
An emotional wallop, not an anti-climax
I'm late to the party with the Fargo TV show, it just hit Canadian Netflix. The previous episode, Buridan's Ass, as many previous reviewers pointed out, hit many of the notes of a season finale- in that spectacular, snowy white-out mist the Coen brothers mastered in their great film, several characters died, the money from the film got returned to where it went 20 years before and Lester seemed to be sinking. Molly's fate seemed left up in the air, which would have made for a cliché cliff hanger if it really were the season finale. The next episode, Who Shaves the Barber?, obviously couldn't boast the same killfest as the previous one, or the season premiere, or the series would be over very quickly.
Instead, the episode hits a high point in emotional drama. Lester's framing of Chaz appears to have gone smoother than his competency level would seem to allow, though I've got to expect the dusting of fingerprints on those photos and hammer won't point to Chaz. The police chief is able to revert to his comforting place of assuming old, swell Lester is a friend and innocent. And Molly is left behind again- she's hot on this case but can't do anything about what she knows is true, what should have been obvious from the get-go, though the series has believably stretched out the investigation over several episodes thus far. Chaz screaming in agony and anger makes for the perfect segue into the FARGO title, though it's over 10 minutes from the "true story" subtitles. Hard to blame Lester, given the attitude he's gotten from Chaz, though. Blame him for his stupidity/incompetence, not his hard feelings for his brother. And Molly interviewing the Fargo hit-man hits some of the same notes as Marge's musings to Gaear Grimsrud at the end of the movie. Not the anti-climax it could have been
Les enfants terribles (1950)
Les enfants bon
Les enfants terribles is a 1950s psychological drama (thriller? horror?) depicting two siblings with dark secrets. When I finally sat down to watch it, I was curious as to how far it could/would go in depicting what's up with these two, who have an incestuous relationship. The 1950s were a time of censorship in Hollywood, but not so much across the Atlantic. As it turns out, the depiction here is largely implied, whispered; at first, it seems unfathomable, given how rotten they are to each other. As it goes on, you can kind of figure out what this film is going for, and it is intriguing- the two are siblings in a very real sense. Siblings squabble, they have sibling rivalry, but they can also love each other. This takes it to the umpteeth degree, and I hit that epiphany when they're in standing in the bathtub. Two people are standing outside the bathroom and hear the siblings screaming; one says they sound unhappy, the other says they're happy, and water comes pouring out from underneath the door crack. It goes a bit far in both directions (Come near me, come to my bedside, come off the top bunk and join me).
In other ways, Les enfants terribles picks up steam. The acting in the first scene may not be perfect; the narration feels slightly intrusive; but it picks up that dark feel, and we begin to feel, as the sister says, hypnotized.
Personal Shopper (2016)
Shopping- can you show me something else?
Personal Shopper (a rather banal and impersonal title) falls in that class of film I previously called "Palme d'Or bait" in that it fits that mold of a number of films that won Cannes in the past 12 years: a European film with a hyper-realist, clean style, long takes, no score, usually following ordinary individuals (L'enfant, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, The Class, Blue Is the Warmest Colour). To the best of my knowledge, it hasn't really been applied to the realm of the supernatural before; now we see why. This just doesn't work. You can't have a naturalist style with supernatural subplots, real or imagined. Our protagonist can walk into a room and see lights and mist, but she might as well be walking into another movie and quickly stepping out. To make the supernatural feel real, you have to make the film seem unreal- you need that atmosphere, the creepy score, choirs, whispering voices.
Without these things, the talk of the supernatural, the spiritualist connection via technology, just doesn't connect. We see our heroine texting with what she thinks might be a spirit, but it doesn't feel like a spirit. Our heroine also explores her sexuality, but the direction doesn't even really let us feel that.
I recently re-watched The Mothman Prophecies, which, wile plenty maligned, explored similar concepts, of connecting with the spiritual world via electronics (in that case, it was also phones, but texting wasn't really a thing at the time). That was more effective- it had that atmosphere- the photography, the creepy shots, sounds, and hints. Personal Shopper shuns all of that, and in trying to be more than one thing, succeeds in being very little.
Córki dancingu (2015)
Makes a splash
There's been a rather polarizing response to this film, and perhaps it's not hard too see why. The Lure, a horror-musical mermaid movie (yes, really), made the rounds through the Fantasia Film Festival, to international release, and then to The Criterion Collection. But some people aren't buying. It is strange- that's part of the interest- but horror-musicals aren't unprecedented. The Wicker Man got there first, all the way back in 1973.
The Lure boasts a lot of visual appeal, and not just in the frequently topless young woman. The colour scheme is sumptuous and poetic throughout. The music is actually engaging, though I don't usually go in for musicals. The mermaids themselves have a shocking beauty to them, a kind of animalistic viciousness scary and seductive all at once. The story, though somewhat simplistic, goes down well. Even if you're not interested in ponying up the dough for the Blu-ray, it's worth heading to Criterion's YouTube channel and investing $3.99. If you're in the mood, this will hit.
The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
Take my Manhattan, please, wakka wakka
Not as well remembered or watched as The Muppet Movie or Muppet Christmas Carol, The Muppets Take Manhattan starts off strong and funny with a lot of classic Muppet humour. There's the family- friendly, nice musical numbers, followed by touches of adult comedy. We have Animal chasing a woman at college, with Kermit capping it with a hilarious therapy punchline. The wonderful Rizzo the Rat, overlooked in The Muppet Movie and with a smaller role in The Muppet Caper, bursts forth in full force here- the rats in the restaurant is a perfect concept, and Rizzo passing on the Muppets' table when they mention being cash-strapped is quick, smart humour. ("What a rat"). Rizzo is the creation not of Jim Henderson but of Steve Whitmire, who was sadly shipped off from the Muppet Studio and Disney earlier this month. He will be missed.
Unfortunately, as with Caper, and unlike The Muppet Movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan also suffers from running out of steam in the second half. You know things are going to slow down when our heroes sing a sad song about parting ways; the rats have a marvellous, energetic scene in the kitchen, but the others have less success, with even Gonzo's latest chaotic stunt (this one involving a boat) being a bust. When Kermit loses his memory (an old cliché), we have some nice touches- the joke about him probably being a missing resident with an Italian name from a nudist colony is edgy ("I don't feel Italian," he says). The frogs he joins up are amusing in a weirdly anemic way, suiting the amnesiac Kermit's new demeanour. You know, from the cliché, that what will get Kermit's memory back is a good hit to the noggin, and you know, given Piggy's propensity for violence, that she will deliver it. But what's great is how insulting Kermit gets to provoke it. ("Will be bringing home the bacon! Sue-ee!") Hiiii-yaaah. RIP, the great Jim Henson- and so long, the talented Steve Whitmire.
Beautiful in a steely cold way
Iqaluit is a unique creature. Director Benoit Pilon has blended Quebec cinema and the fledgling Inuit film industry before in his 2008 The Necessities of Life, shortlisted for the Oscar for Foreign Film, but Iqaluit goes a step even further in adding a substantial amount of English to the French and Inuktitut dialogue. Unfortunately, that turns out to be a weakness- the English dialogue, only spoken between French Canadian and Inuit characters who don't know each other's first language, is often awkward and clumsy, and the performances also suffer in English. It's not just that it's broken English- even broken English doesn't have to sound unnatural if written right.
The good news is that the performances are otherwise good, particularly in the first half where Marie-Josée Croze plays the grieving widow. Anyway, the performances and dialogue aren't all there is to Iqaluit- stunning cinematography, cold but vast, with blues and greys being particularly important to the colour scheme. The score is lyrical, and most important, the overall plot structure carries an impact. The racial conflict is understated and brief, but underlies much of the drama.
Mr. Pickles: Pilot (2013)
Confused stab at comedy
Although I've heard criticisms of this show, it looked like it had an intriguing and creative concept that, if done right, could allow for something great. A Satanic monster in dog form that is still a "good doggy", who loves his human- his victims are all people who threaten the boy who loves him. This Mr. Pickles Pilot has a few chuckles, but falls apart shortly in its brief 11 minute-run.
The start is unfunny- it just revolves around a couple, who blurt out the word "abortion" just for shock value, and make reference to some beer-steroid joke, before Mr. Pickles kills them. The opening song is an uninspired, dull heavy metal bit. As I mentioned, I chuckled a couple times, but at others, I had to ask why? The dog is Satan, but it kills strippers? Why does Satan hate strippers? The stripper, nor the couple at the beginning, don't offend or threaten his owner in any way, either. The native American character is an over-the-top stereotype, and a heavy dose of racism is a lazy attempt to go for the cheap laugh as well. A waste of Brooke Shields' talents.