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Some Movies Must Not Be Made
22 October 2006
It is a real shame that this disaster will likely play a part in the downfall of potentially intelligent and interesting horror films coming out of the Hollywood wasteland.

The acting is nothing, the plot is not in the least intriguing (the original was suspenseful and a disorientating roller-coaster on first viewing), and there emerges simply no point or reason for this film to exist. I was angry sitting in the theatre, a Cage fan (though now nearly a former fan) wondering why in the world he did this? Obviously I had seen the original, and just this afternoon bought a DVD of the original and watched it. And you know what? These people were crazy to remake it! Some remakes make sense. Really, they do. But here? It's completely out of context this new one! The original is timeless.

The new WICKER MAN is poorly done -- the mystery doesn't exist, the director is a "smack you in the face with contemporary issues kind of guy" with no nuance, and he's completely wrong for this film. He did well with IN THE COMPANY OF MEN, but how in the world, by any bizarre stretch, can that be connected to THE WICKER MAN? It is ludicrous! Others have made that point in a variety of ways, please read their reviews for elaboration.

Cage should make a PUBLIC APOLOGY to any fans he has left at this point. You know, people who appreciate that he got behind cool movies like, say, SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE. He should hold it at that castle he bought, dressed in his best Elvis style leather jacket, and simply apologize for what stupid idea this was. He'd win back a lot of good will that way.

Are you reading this, Nicholas? Do the right thing and gain some respect back! Nobody cares about the crappy Bruckheimer movies, you took the money and that's cool, but this is something that requires a public apology.
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Incredibly Bad, Unoriginal, and Uninspired
21 July 2006
Those poor, poor animators and production designers on this show. They knocked themselves out on this really terrible effort from third-rate Tim Burton rip-off Brad Peyton.

Lucy the irritating monster in the toilet paper roll with the annoying voice -- completely unlikeable and enough to turn the channel before one episode is finished (never to return). Really lame sight-joke characters. Adult humour in an infantile format which misses the mark completely as to how South Park and the rest pull these things off so well. Insults to gay people, racism, insults to thinking people everywhere. How in the world did the CBC let this one slide on by? Read on.

Those poor animators...

Poorer still are the Canadian Tax-payers who flipped the bill for this one. Not unlike the endless disasters from the English Canadian film Illuminati (Egoyan and those other failures Canadians hate so much), the Canadian public who is paying for this garbage is avoiding it with a passion. I read today that the ratings are down to 118k average for the season so far. Which means, at some point, the ratings dropped to about 90 thousand people, across the whole of Canada, who paid for this. It doesn't get much worse than that. An astonishing .25% of Canadians are watching this show (ONE QUARTER OF ONE PERCENT). It cost us HOW MUCH? As a point of fact, the ratings have been dropping through the floor since the premier episode, falling off an incredible 40%! Some people gave it a chance, then fled after seeing how worthless it was. If this were in the US, it would be yanked immediately and never heard from again. Brad Peyton's career would be thankfully over and he'd be sent packing to flip burgers back in Gander, Newfoundland -- his natural calling. But this is Canada.

Terrible writing, irritating characters, bad jokes, no actual audience that can be identified, and the whole rip-off fake pseudo-Burton/Suess/Sesame Street thing is infuriatingly bad. So how did it happen? It all got a blind-eye instant greenlight because Fred Fuchs signed up his name knowing he'd make a quick buck because Peyton had a deal with Tom Hank's PLAYTONE and the big name recognition that brings (Hanks needed a Tim Burton rip-off for some project). Now the mythic Hanks project has fallen off the map, not listed on the website even, and we Canadians are left holding the bag on this.
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The Sadist (1963)
One Of The Towering Performances of the Early 1960's
9 April 2005
Right out of left field and completely out of proportion with the scale of this film and the actor's previous work.

I don't know what I can say beyond what others have said when they discovered this film. I just bought an old Rhino VHS copy of this film on a whim and watched it. Having been familiar with Arch Hall Jr's lame-o performances in cheese like WILD GUITAR and other films -- and enjoying them for what they are, B-movie junk -- I was blown away by his performance in this film and walked out of my place and wandered the streets for an hour or so in a daze. Really.

Probably any other actor would be chewing scenery here, and be over the top with this. But this guy is astonishing. I've seen people like this. I've met them and got the heck out of situations with them whenever possible. Arch Hall is REAL in this film. He is horrifying. He deserved an Oscar nomination for this. Really. I don't think there is false note in this performance. He is a powerhouse in this film that anybody who has ever seen it will never forget.

I guess what threw me for such a loop is pondering how somebody so weak in other performances could scale heights like this -- and we're talking near-Brando heights here -- in a tiny budget exploitation movie. Is it a magical synergy with the director (who is pretty inventive -- some terrific POV shots in here and strong feel for suspense)? Is it a casting miracle? Is it somebody managing to funnel all the hatred and horror of their soul into a role without filtering? It will likely be an eternal mystery. All I can say, as a low budget filmmaker, I dream of getting a performance like this on film. Any upcoming low budget filmmaker MUST see this film. Write down the basics of how this film was made, conception up, and watch the way the limited resources are handled. And try and find yourself an actor in a role like Arch Hall to help carry the thing through any shortfalls. GOOD LUCK!
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Show Me Yours (2004–2005)
Yet Another Bad Canadian Sex Show
13 March 2005
What is it with this Canadian channel SHOWCASE and their really lame "sexy" shows? Here we have another example of this strange animal which Canadians do so badly. The leads simply have no chemistry together and one can feel the clumsy forceful hand of Lazlo Barna all over this one.

For those who haven't seen it yet, to put it in a nutshell since I see no description of this on the listing, it's about two sex therapists (the female lead is okay, actually, the male lead is clumsy and awkward as an actor) who trade fantasies. That's really about it. That's the show. Sparks are supposed to fly, but it's so lamely done that there isn't even a rise of a single degree in temperature.

I watched it out of boredom a couple of times and wished I had my half-hour back each time. I was shocked to see it renewed another season. Okay, not really -- after all, that incredibly bad 11th Hour on CTV kept getting renewed in spite of being a ratings disaster and an incredible embarrassment. This is no worse, I suppose.
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Childstar (2004)
It takes non-Canadians to appreciate badness like this...
12 March 2005
I was amused reading the comments from the last poster on this film describing Don McKellar's performance a third-rate Peter Sellers -- because that's what it is. Unfortunately, unlike the late great Peter Sellers, all Don McKellar film performances are exactly the same. He will never be nominated for an Oscar for his acting, nor his writing or directing. Though there seems to be a tiny group of rich/powerful individuals in Toronto who seem to think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread. Except for about 10 people in the rest of Canada, nobody else in this country agrees, judging by box office "votes".

This film seems to come a decade late. Like most Canadian features, it's warped out of time. Maybe it's two or three decades late. Anyways, the "lessons" at the end are heavily laboured and the characters are tiresome and unlikeable. The points it makes with regards to the corporate Hollywood publicity machine have been made many times before, much more effectively elsewhere.

I will give it credit where credit is due: the scenes from the faux film "First Son" are pretty funny. I'll say that. It earns this attempt a couple of points. Hardly enough to redeem this disastrous second effort from Don McKellar the egomaniac "director/actor/writer" however, which falls really flat by any objective measure.
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Third-rate Tim Burton and Seuss rip-off and less...
29 June 2004
Sigh. I'm baffled when I see a short like this get attention and assignments and whatnot. I saw this film at a festival before the filmmaker got any attention and forgot about it immediately afterwards. It was mildly annoying to see it swiping the Grinch Who Stole Christmas heart gag along with the narration, the set design seen many times before, the whole weak Tim Burton-ish style, and the story that goes nowhere. And we got the "joke" about shooting the crows with the 45 the first time, alright?

But I guess what's really unacceptable is that it even swipes its basic concept from a comic book circa 1999 called LENORE, THE CUTE LITTLE DEAD GIRL by Roman Dirge! As any quick internet search will reveal. I mean, what is this? This is what they base a Hollywood contract on and opens doors in Canada for a filmmaker? "Give your head a shake" as Don Cherry might say.
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Guy Maddin Finally Achieves -- Mediocrity
12 June 2004
It's time to rally the troops, all you Canadian movie failures. Guy Maddin is in the house. And he has achieved $3.5 million dollars worth of mediocre "quirky" feature which, perhaps ten years from now playing midnight shows somewhere, might make back its investment sucked mostly from the Canadian taxpayer's wallets. But I doubt it.

Mildly amusing. That's what this is. And for the first time we have a feature from this director which you can actually sit through without walking out of the theatre or turning off the DVD and finding something better to do. What makes it possible to do that is that there is actually a story and actual characters and actual acting. Something Guy Maddin has never had before in one of his films. Is it possible he has finally learned you have to engage an audience with at least a little of these basics when it comes to a feature? It only took him four incoherent features. Me and the rest of us here in Canada had to flip the bill for them without even knowing they existed. And when you find out, and try and watch them, it's actually anger producing.

Highlights of the film do include the frenetic battles of the bands -- in particular, the Africa vs. Canada match-up is well edited. Also, though most all the jokes fall flat -- the tiny audience I saw it with chuckled exactly twice -- there are at least a couple of amusing sequences. The set for this never really existed version of Winnipeg is imaginative. And Rosselini really does enjoy her performance. You can tell she's having a good time.

But then there's still all those old problems Maddin and his co-screenwriter Tolles always have. Tolles loves his incest. Maddin loves his thick Vaseline on the lens. Both love to make up stories and plotlines that really go nowhere. Worst of all, Maddin shows again how much he loves to show you: "Hey look! it's a movie! Who cares about the story you're trying to watch -- look at these cool regurgitated 1920's and 1930's special effects! Look how I can rip-off all these things nobody is using anymore! Isn't this clever?" Though once again this duo over-indulge in such shallow artifices, they are strangely defeated thanks to a core story from a good writer and real actors on the set and a real cinematographer.

So maybe that's what this movie is really about. Guy Maddin is defeated by the talent that surrounds him. It's about how if you throw enough money and bring in some solid actors and a good cinematographer -- and make sure it's based on the work of writer with talent so there's an actual story there -- even somebody who has proven he can't make a good feature to save his life if left to his own devices, can end up with a mediocre quirky feature.

Having said all that, I actually can recommend Guy Maddin's shorts, believe it or not. Particularly Heart of the World. It's short, fast paced, and a form of film-making he's a lot more suited for than feature directing. After all these financial and artistic feature-length failures in a row, isn't it time for the Canadian film funding agencies to pull the plug and restrict him to something he can do?
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Terrible Example of Backyard Film-making
10 June 2004
Unfortunately, I sat through this when it was on Canada's Scream channel. It's a movie that fails in many ways, but its greatest sin is that it is yet another one of those movies trying to purposely be bad movies. Which would normally mean that the filmmakers are working beneath themselves on purpose. Why would somebody want to watch that?

What makes the bad movie classics of Ed Wood or Al Adamson, for example, or the greatest stuff that John Agar starred in, so funny and treasured, is that these were nearly talentless people sincere in trying to make a good film. There's charming sincerity there. And it goes a long way.

What we have here with this film is talentless people trying to make a bad film. What you end up with is a headache producing, badly photographed, poorly acted, incoherant mess. The charm wears off shortly after the opening beach scene and never recovers until you are compelled by the power of Christ to turn it off and go do some laundry or something.

Let's forget about the bad dubbing. Let's pretend it's not merely the laziness of the filmmakers and a way to save money. Let's pretend it's supposed to be funny. If it were, then there wouldn't be any attempt to match the dialogue with the picture, would there? So I guess that theory doesn't hold weight. Why worry about trying to dub in the same dialogue the actors are saying? If it were like a bad kung fu movie, it might play like Woody Allen's What's Up Tiger Lily that way, and it would actually be funny.

I don't know what produces the worst eye strain: the incredibly badly lit Ektachrome reversal, the jitter, or the incompetent ham-fisted way in which the cameraman locks down his camera in static wide shots, yet refuses to use a quick tripod set up for tight close-ups on actor's faces and documents -- instead of a hand-held zoomed in for a shake-fest.

This film looks nearly exactly like what any talentless 10 year old kid would make on super 8 in their backyard with his friends in the 1970's. Except it's made by 30 - 40 year olds a couple of years ago, shooting on 16mm. And they're still as talentless and unsophisticated as they were when they were 10.

Ask yourself this before watching this film, with its deceptive potential premise and title (lots of potential in even a semi-competent filmmakers hands for a great spoof): Would you be interested in seeing two solid hours of kids' backyard "kung fu" and "vampire" super 8 movies from the 70's? 'Cause that's what this is.
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A must see for Super 8 short filmmakers.
4 March 2004
A charming little short. A simple universal story well-told. Terrific performance from the young lead. Beautiful Super 8 cinematography, demonstrating a taste of what with this (superior to DV) format can do image-wise. And even a terrific "plot summary" on IMDB!

Aside from the solid direction and acting, this short demonstrates a key point that all filmmakers would do well to learn -- namely, be smart and choose a medium and subject matter combination that works for you instead of against you. The marriage of this subject matter with the beauty and time displacement of super 8 works for this film. Shooting it on DV would have been a mistake. Shooting it on 35mm wouldn't have worked, either.

If you have a chance, catch it to a film festival near you during 2004 or on television in Scandinavia where it has already made a big "splash".
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