INSECTS TRAPPED IN AMBER: A Guillermo del Toro Directorial Retrospective.

INSECTS TRAPPED IN AMBER: A Guillermo del Toro Directorial Retrospective.

October 31, 2015  |  2015, Bold Cinema, Directors, Feature  |  No Comments

Rummaging through Guillermo del Toro‘s filmography is like opening Christmas presents from your favorite uncle. The one whose affinity for the absurd and welcoming of the weird makes him the coolest uncle ever. Except it’s not Christmas with del Toro, is it? It’s most definitely Halloween, a time when the love of the spooky and the monstrous becomes a contagion, and – more religiously – the past is remembered through the dead and the hallowed. Gross, funny, action-packed, heartfelt and scary in varying spurts, del Toro’s directorial oeuvre (to say nothing of his 30-odd produced films) is consistent in one obvious way: visual depth. With little interest in layered profundities and intricate camera-work, del Toro’s stories pave the way for the production design, cinematography, and special effects to take centre stage (his background is, after all, in special effects). But through these visuals lies a bottomless love affair with outcasts of all types, Mother Nature’s little creatures, and big monsters with big purposes, making his storytelling relentlessly compelling through theme as much as image. The key word in that last sentence isn’t “monsters” or “creatures,” by the way; it’s “love.”

Blade II, New Line Cinema

“Blade II,” New Line Cinema

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Before “Inherent Vice:” 10 Perfect Paul Thomas Anderson Moments.

December 15, 2014  |  2014, Directors, Feature  |  No Comments

Anderson directing Day LewisPaul Thomas Anderson is the bee’s knees. If you were to have every working American director in a single room for an emergency meeting, PTA would be the spokesperson and everyone would shut the fuck up as soon as he took the mic. Same goes for David Fincher and Terrence Malick (though, the latter wouldn’t be getting up on any stage.) Anderson’s debuted in 1996 with “Hard Eight” (also known as “Sydney“), and it was already obvious how well he directs actors and how fantastically in tune he is with music and sound. While it also showed signs of things to come as far as the father-son motifs and smooth slicing of American values go, it wasn’t until “Boogie Nights,” the year after, that people started to realize this guy is good. This guy is really, really, fucking good.

Today, he’s one of the best, and he’s been the epicentre of a critical circle jerk for undeniably good reasons. His actors usually get some kind of award recognition (Julianne Moore, Tom Cruise, Bill Reynolds, Daniel Day-Lewis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, etc.) and even when his themes are too dark for cookie-cutter-loving voters, he might walk away with a nomination or two (as in the case of “There Will Be Blood“). He’s made 7 feature films by now, including his latest one “Inherent Vice,” which opened last Friday in limited fashion around NY and LA.

The dolly track used for Anderon's latest, "Inherent Vice"

The dolly track used for Anderon’s latest, “Inherent Vice”

As my own little personal way of celebrating this modern auteur, this bonafide cinematic brainiac who will one day have libraries of books written about him, I’ve decided to talk about 10 perfect moments from his films. All of these moments reveal a perfect symbiosis of performance, writing and direction, often juxtaposing black humour with dark undertones, or simply gripped in the shackles of what makes us human.

A couple of provisos: since I’ve limited myself to 10, there will be nothing from “Hard Eight,” as much as that film is dear to me. Also, back off PTA fanboys; I realize that there are more than just 10 perfect moments in his films, but there’s no way I’m going to sit here and talk about everything that makes his cinema so fascinating because that’s a book and ain’t nobody got time for that. Not yet, anyway.

Jump the cut to read.

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Philosophical Visuals: 12 Shots That Describe Terrence Malick’s Cinema.

November 30, 2014  |  2014, Directors, Feature  |  No Comments

Thin Red Line

Terrence Malick is America’s greatest philosophical director. After the tumultuous beginning of “Badlands,” in 1973, when he drove half the film crew mad with his insistence on capturing moments according to the external elements, he made the even more laboriously-produced “Days of Heaven” 5 years later. Then he disappeared, moving to Paris and falling in love (large chunks of his life in this period remain private and undocumented). He reemerged in 1998 with “The Thin Red Line,” a WWII film boasting a gigantic all-star cast.

Terrence Malick

“The Thin Red Line” added to his notorious reputation of being difficult to work with due to his in-the-moment decision making. Nevertheless, the film was a critical and financial success, nabbing some Oscar nominations on the way. In 2005,”The New World” was the new Terrence Malick film, and a drastic shift towards the more abstract was felt. Not as well received, the film started to gain in stature only years later. Then, in 2011, Malick’s “The Tree of Life” took a leap forward in the director’s evolutionary cycle, towards the more personal, spiritual, and cinematic. It won the Palme D’Or, founds its way close to Sight & Sound‘s 2012 Greatest Films Poll, and angered many.

It took only a year for a new Malick film to hit festivals. “To The Wonder” encroached even further into realms of a transcendental nature. Nary a narrative or apparent character development to be seen, “To The Wonder” made many turn away from Malick, while those true to the man’s philosophical visual style held on, defended, and praised.

Today is Terrence Malick’s 71st birthday. As he is one of my personal favorites, and in my opinion, the most important American filmmaker working today, I’ve decided to honor his birthday by selecting a few of my favorite images from his 6 finished feature length films, and associate them with a quote from some of Malick’s known points of reference. These include philosophers Martin Heidegger, Søren Kierkegaard, and Ludwig Wittgenstein (whom he studied before turning to journalism and film, Heidegger especially), Stanley Cavell (renowned film theorist, and Malick’s old professor) and the Book of Job (quoted in the beginning of “Tree of Life,” and surely a text Malick has studied as a devout Episcopalian Christian).

Click on. I hope you enjoy.

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Halloween Special: The 20 Most Disturbing Feature Horror Film Debuts Ever Directed.

October 31, 2014  |  2014, Directors, Feature  |  No Comments

The Wicker Man

Fans of horror and fans of film alike have lots to celebrate today. First of all, it’s Halloween! Friday night Halloweens don’t come very often, and they provide an even bigger impetus for party people to dress-up as their favorite heroes (if you still think this holiday is about trick-or-treating, you’re either way too young to be reading this, or a parent who has systematically grown to despise Halloween). But there’s a second, more relevant-for-the-purposes-of-this-piece, reason to celebrate October 31st, 2014. It’s the official release of Dan Gilroy‘s fantastic feature debut “Nightcrawler.”

I had the delicious pleasure of savoring this bad boy up at TIFF earlier in the fall, and reviewed it for Way Too Indie. 2014 is turning into quite a massive year, but without a pinch of hesitation, I can tell you right now, right here, “Nightcrawler” is ending up in my top ten somewhere, and could quite possibly be my favorite American film depending on how taken I end up with P.T. Anderson‘s pot-smoking-boiler “Inherent Vice.” “Nightcrawler” is so goddamn good on so many levels, the most impressive thing – even moreso than Jake Gyllenhaal‘s career-crowning performance – is that it’s a feature debut.

Nightcrawler

So, simple math leads us here. When a feature debut manages to disturb, horrify, and fill you with genuine fright, it’s all the more memorable and compelling. “Nightcrawler” may not be a horror film, but it shines a flashlight down a dark tunnel to expose an ugly side of humanity that can be just as chilling as any demon. To celebrate an astounding feature debut released on Halloween, I’ve compiled 20 of the most disturbing horror debuts ever directed in the history of all cinema everywhere. It wasn’t easy. Some carve at the core of conventional horror paradigms, others dig around the fringes, but none of these films fail to leave you unhinged, unnerved, and slightly petrified.

Make sure you see “Nightcrawler” in theaters, and read on for a brief rundown of the 20 most horrifying horror feature debuts ever directed, in alphabetical order.

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REVIEW: From riches to rags, the story of how THE COUNSELOR turned into one of the worst films of the year.

October 27, 2013  |  2013, Directors, Reviews  |  No Comments

film_review-the_counselor-0c4cf

Moments like this are pretty rare; shitting on a film filled with so much promise on paper that it’s almost embarrassing to think about. Embarrassing. Ridley Scott’s THE COUNSELOR is oozing with talent; some of the hottest “it” celebrities at the moment who can actually act when in the right hands, an author who flew into popularity like a comet after The Coen Brothers’ NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and a veteran director who has powerful films like ALIEN, BLACK HAWK DOWN & MATCHSTICK MEN to his name. And yet one of the most asked questions about this year in film will surely have to be “what in the name of fuck went wrong with The Counselor?” It’s almost like giving 25 million dollars to a mechanic – as sad as it is true, that’s the film’s actual budget according to Wikipedia – and telling him to direct a feature film with it. (He’d spend $24.9 million on the cast). It’s like a rich man’s gamble caused by boredom, a paraplegic preforming open-heart surgery or a tone deaf pianist’s cover version of a Mozart sonata but there’s one thing it’s definitely not like; a good film.

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REVIEW (1/2): MAN OF STEEL stands tall among the debris of crumbling expectations. ****

Oh Expectation, you seductive slut. Ever since Bryan Singer’s SUPERMAN RETURNS choked the hopes out of a worthy Superman movie for the modern ages, the opportunity was wide open for a fresh take at the most iconic superhero of all. After the trailblazing Dark Knight trilogy from Christopher Nolan elevated the game to the “shit just got real” status, DC and Warner Bros must have had a few sleepless nights, tossing and turning in their shared king-size bed, until one of them switched on the light and said “OK. We have to talk about Superman”. Well, maybe exhaustion is to blame for their decision to hire Zack Snyder, a man known for adapting other people’s stuff and adding very little of his own creativity into the mix (watch DAWN OF THE DEAD, 300 or WATCHMEN for proof), but hire him they did and the results really shouldn’t surprise anyone.

But they have surprised me.

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REVIEW: Soderbergh goes out with a bang by hiding nothing BEHIND THE CANDELABRA. ***1/2

behind the candelabra

Steven Soderbergh retired from feature filmmaking by directing a film for the small screen and went out not with a whimper, but a flamboyant and sparkly bang. If you’re like me, you’ve heard the name Liberace thrown around in relation to entertainment but you knew next to nothing about the man and his controversial personal life before the movie. This knowledge (or lack of) is crucial in how you perceive Soderbergh’s biographical look into that most intimate aspects of Liberace’s persona; his closeted homosexuality behind the public figure, symbolized by the signature candelabra he used when performing at shows in front of audience members who couldn’t dare to bear getting entertained by anyone but a healthy heterosexual. If you’re thinking “what the hell does one have to do with the other?” then you’re very much thinking in 21st century terms. If you’re thinking “that’s a reasonable fear. After all, you can’t be overtly gay AND be sensational entertainment at the same time” then you’re very much thinking in 21st century Hollywood movie business terms.

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10 Very Popular Upcoming Movies That Will Probably Suck.

10 THAT WILL SUCK

It wasn’t that long ago that my 25 musts (+ 20 honorables) got published. During my research for that, I was bumping shoulders with movies that were appearing in almost every list as highly anticipated but that, for this reason or another, I just couldn’t bring myself to give two tugs of a dog’s ball-sack about. (Thank you Mr. Warren Ellis for giving me an idiom I will cherish forever). Rather than bitterly think about these highly-anticipated-highly-likely-turds in my own head and curse under my breath every time I hear someone praising them or read something anticipating them, I decided to share my complete lack of enthusiasm on The Grapevine.

Do you agree with me? Do you fervently disagree? Wanna fight about it? Come at me in the comments here, or my Facebook page, or my Twitter and let’s discuss why I think these very popular movies will probably suck. Hit the jump for the 2 by 2 list that’s in no order.

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REVIEW: THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES is an odyssey that shifts 2013 into next gear. ****1/2

April 12, 2013  |  2013, Bold Cinema, Directors, Feature, Reviews  |  2 Comments

Place Beyond the Pines Gosling

After I had missed Derek Cianfrance’s follow up to the heart-bulldozing masterpiece Blue Valentine at last year’s TIFF, I made a conscious decision to avoid any trailers and TV spots for The Place Beyond the Pines. Initial buzz from Valentine fans was that he’d done it again; Cianfrance has shifted his career into the next gear and seamlessly went from TV documentarian to serious film feature talent. Had it not been because of THE MASTER that I missed Beyond the Pines, my regrets would have eaten me from the inside out. The film broke my own rules to ride itself to a place beyond my honorable mentions and into the 25 musts of the year and, even though I accidentally did catch the trailer before finally seeing the film this evening, I sit here with my mind aflutter over the unexpected turn of events, the unpredictability of the story and what you’re finally left with, after watching this fantastic film.

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5 good reasons against KID WITH A BIKE, directed by the Dardenne brothers.

5 good reasons against KID WITH A BIKE, directed by the Dardenne brothers.

April 10, 2013  |  2012, Directors, Festivals, Outcast Opinions  |  No Comments

This will eventually become a tab of itself entitled “5 FOR or AGAINST” where I give my 5 good reasons for or against a particular movie. I did something similar for Silver Linings Playbook a while ago where I listed 5 good reasons why it’s worth seeing, even though I wasn’t particularly enamoured with it. Now I turn to outrageously lauded French brother filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and their latest, 2012’s Kid with a Bike, to give you 5 good reasons why it failed to convert me into appreciating the handiwork of the Dardenne signature. Perhaps their ink is too dry for the likes of me! haHA!

5 good reasons await you after the jump.

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