Dredd aims low, gets the job done

Despite spending more than two decades of my life reading comic books, I don’t know much about Judge Dredd. I know he’s an icon, and many great British writers and artists have worked on his books, but they’ve had limited availability in North America. I read a Batmand-Dredd teamup book once, but that’s about it.

I’m not sure, after watching Dredd, if I know anything more. This is a film that seems largely removed from the source material: Outside of the concept of a paramilitary police force and a post-apocalyptic future, there’s not a lot here that say “Dredd!” beyond some occasional scenery and a few sci-fi props. This story could translate to present-day reality without losing much.

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Coming Soon: The Toronto International Film Festival

The Toronto International Film Festival  is kind of like Christmas if you love watching movies, standing in line, and not sleeping.  I’ve been seeing more and more films at the festival over the past decade; last year, I dove in and got a 50-film pass. It was insane. I almost died. Continue reading →

Midnight in Paris and the terrible power of nostalgia

midnight-paris[1]For most of my life, I’ve been the biggest Woody Allen fan I know. I’ll defend his body of work until the cows come home, and sing the praises of everything from Annie Hall and Love & Death to Sweet & Lowdown and Deconstructing Harry. I adore his scripts, themes, and general philosophies, as well as his ability to get the best out of any cast, no matter how naturally talented they may be.

So it comes as a bit of a shock that I find myself annoyed by the accolades bestowed upon his latest film, Midnight in Paris, up to and including three Oscar nominations. It’s a fine film, and easily one of the best he’s made in the past ten years, but seems grossly out of place when talking about the best films of 2011. Continue reading →

The Fake Oscars of 2012

Tomorrow morning, the Oscar nominations will be announced. It is possible I will respond by swearing at my computer, television, or the bird outside my window.

It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point that my tastes rarely line up with the Oscars. I wasn’t offended last year when The King’s Speech won everything, but I was still disappointed that Black Swan was more or less shut out.

So before disappointment can set in, here are my picks for the best films & performances of 2011. Nothing is listed in any particular order, beyond the fact that they were listed in the order I thought of them. These aren’t any sort of attempt at predictions, and any resemblance between my list and reality is purely coincidental, and possibly a cause for concern.

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Carnage: The joys of watching people being horrible

If you’re the sort of person who insists on likeable characters in entertainment, Carnage might be the most unpleasant film you’ve ever seen. The characters are dishonest, hypocritical, condescending, arrogant, snide, antagonistic, and insulting. They begin the film with a mask of pleasantries covering their inner ugliness, but by the time the credits roll everyone has been exposed as a tremendous asshole. Continue reading →

Meek’s Cutoff’s: The wild, stoic, wandering west

Meek's Cutoff posterMeek’s Cutoff will sneak up on you.

It’s a slow, occasionally meandering film that doesn’t offer a lot of definitive plot points for the first 45 minutes or so. A group of settlers travelling west in 1845 takes a shortcut that gets them lost. Soon, getting to their destination has taken a back seat to finding water.

Director Kelly Reichardt follows the group as they trudge solemnly through the desert, slowed by seemingly mundane tasks: replacing a broken wagon axel, camping for the night, feeding their oxen teams. They’ve been led astray by their guide, Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), who boasts of his many experiences but may have no idea where he is.

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The Debt: Heroes, lies, guilt, and Nazis

Poster for The Debt (2011)

The Debt begins by revealing one of its climactic scenes: A Nazi war criminal escapes from his Israeli captors, brutally assaulting one of them in the process. She recovers from the beating just in time to shoot him dead before he escapes into hiding forever.

The heroic scene is recounted 30 years after it happened by Rachel Singer (played by Helen Mirren in 1997, and Jessica Chastain in 1965), at the launch of a book detailing the Mossad mission to identify a suspected Nazi war criminal and return him to Israel to stand trial. But not all of the team is basking in heroic glory: One member commits suicide, suggesting that something happened on the mission that no one wants to talk about.

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Reasons to be excited for TIFF

Is it possible to die from watching too many movies?

I’ve been pondering that question since I made decision to go to see 50 movies during the Toronto International Film Festival. I originally intended to go to 30, but then the 30 ticket package sold out – because I put it off too long – and I had to make a decision: Can I physically see 50 movies in 11 days?

(Further complication: I have to go to a wedding on September 17th, which creates a giant block of 8 hours or so in which I can’t see any movies!)

(Incidentally, if you ever need to plan an intensive TIFF schedule, you need to use TIFFR. It is indispensible.)

After some elementary math, I decided that, yes, I can see 50 movies in 11 days. And now, with TIFF fast approach, I’m pretty excited. Wanna know why?

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Is Harry Potter the Most Useless Protagonist Ever?

Every good hero needs a little help from his friends sometimes. But there’s a fine line between “working well with others” and a pitiable amount of co-dependence, and Harry Potter often slides into the latter. He’s clearly meant to be the hero of the series –  his name is in the title of every book, after all – but it increasingly feels like he’s a figurehead, while his friends and allies are doing all the real work.

Note One: This post will have spoilers for Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part Two.
Note Two: I only read the first four books, so my opinions on Deathly Hallows are based solely on the films.

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