Monthly Archives: July 2012

WYSHW: Pontypool

Pontypool is one of those awesome Canadian films that honestly don’t get enough press (not unlike Suck).

It’s cryptic enough for me.

Even though this one isn’t necessarily as readily available, you can still catch this one on Netflix.  As mentioned in my last post, this is a movie that’s all tell and no show.  And for the majority of the movie that’s totally true – and it’s actually pretty cool, let me explain:

The movie opens up with Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHatty), a former shock jock turned radio DJ, on his way to work through a blizzard.  When he stops his car for a moment, an under-dressed woman approaches his car speaking gibberish and then quickly disappears.  Little does Grant know that this day will get progressively stranger and far more dangerous.

“Well… it means something’s going to happen. Something big. But then, something’s always about to happen.”

 

 

I think it’s safe to say that Pontypool is a horror film unlike any other.  To be honest, I wanted to say “zombie” film, but the issue is not-so-much about the undead as it is a virus.  How exactly do virus films rank?  I mean, because it’s like the new zombie, with movies such as 28 Days Later, The Crazies, and what have you.  But I digress.  The concept behind Pontypool is just too damn cool to ignore.  The movie never leaves Grant’s perspective so you always wonder what’s going to happen next.  And then the concept itself, as well as the delivery, is just so original that it’s really quite unforgettable.

Though at the time of viewing I wasn’t exactly impressed with the explanation for the virus itself, in retrospect it definitely made the situation for the protagonists far more intense and terrifying.  And for that I applaud this film, for leaving so much to the imagination.  A totally distinguishable work worth seeing.

Next time on What You Should Have Watched, more horror!  This time, an exquisite torture flick that asks for the sublime.  You may remember this one – it’s French.  In the meantime, I hope to hit up the cineplex sometime soon, so for the moment I’m going to start up a new feature, Superhero Sundays.  Just because.

WYSHW: Beginners

I’m honestly not a huge fan of love stories or chick flicks per say, mostly for the obvious reasons: they’re completely unbelievable and thus too easy to disassociate oneself from the characters.  Of course, there are some unique exceptions, and today I’m talking about the newest one I’ve seen.  That would be the 2010 Mike Mills dramady Beginners.

A well-deserved Oscar for Mr. Plummer.

Beginners paints a portrait of a graphic designer, Oliver (Ewan McGregor), who is dealing with the death of his father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), who had revealed himself to be gay shortly after the death of his wife.  While recanting the unloving relationship between his parents, he meets an extraordinary young woman (Mélanie Laurent).  In a subtle snowball effect, Oliver learns the importance of happiness and what it means to love someone.

This shirt. This shirt needs to happen.

 

 

Now, in my last What You Should Have Watched, I stated that this would be a love story that everyone needs to see – I really wasn’t kidding.  It doesn’t matter if you’re single, taken, heartbroken, gay, straight, or one of the many in-betweens, Beginners is a love story unlike any other and worth your time and attention.  It combines the best and worst realities of life in a beautiful, honest way, while still being charming and lighthearted. The result is a story and message of hope and resilience and the importance of relationships – romantic or otherwise.

Yes, he can talk.

So I implore you, dear readers, please give this movie a gander – if not for me, do it for Arthur, the Jack Russel who loves you.  You won’t regret it.

Next time on What You Should Have Watched, a Canadian horror film that’s no show and all tell.

The Dark Knight Rises

To sum things up quickly and painlessly, I’d say The Dark Knight Rises is what would happen if you combined Batman Begins with Occupy Wall Street.  Now, if you don’t want to read ahead through some spoilers, take that sentence and let it steep a little.

He may be a little hard to understand, but what can I say? I like him.

After the death of Harvey Dent, the streets of Gotham have since been cleansed of all criminal scum over the course of eight years – this has been eight years without any sign of Batman and Bruce Wayne has since become a recluse.  Now comes the rise of a new force, a brute army of mercenaries lead by a masked man who goes by Bane (played by the extraordinary Tom Hardy) who strives to return the streets of Gotham to its rightful owner, the “people.”  And of course, by “people,” he means the mentioned criminal scum – now it’s up to Batman to save the city that turned against him.

Christopher Nolan had said countless times before that he only wanted to make a trilogy, so as a final chapter, I’ll be honest: the only aspect that has some closure is Batman/Bruce Wayne as a character.  Granted, it’s really all been about Bruce Wayne, but some of the events in the film make some assumptions that are rather hard to ignore.

-Spoilers-

For instance, how did Bane know exactly where Fox’s arsenal was?  How did Blake find Commissioner Gordon after it was established that it would be “impossible” to find him through the pipes?  What did Gotham do to Bane to make him do this?  (Okay, I know he was hired by some corporate scumbag, but his motivations are never really known – even at the reveal there are still questions.)  What’s Selina’s story and why should we care?  Who’s running the water and electric companies during the lock-down? How did the trapped policemen get food and water without anyone noticing?  Why did the League of Shadows target Gotham to begin with – in fact, why was Gotham so goddamn special?  Also, after the government’s Special Forces failed they gave up and blockaded the city –  that’s a little hasty isn’t it?  The terrorism was happening literally for months and they gave up that quickly?  And what ever happened to Lucius Fox?  Because he would definitely be needed near the end.  One more thing: wasn’t Harvey Dent’s crackdown in effect before his transformation and death?  He was still a good person before the accident (who gave his all to stop crime-lords), so why is this scandal so particularly appalling?

Aye aye aye!  (Spoilers end.)

You would think all that loose hair would get snagged on something.

It’s a shame really, there was really so much potential here and the result is underwhelming.  I liked Bane as a villain – he was scary, intriguing, and a force to be reckoned with.  I just wish there was more drama with his initial confrontation (the big one), as well as in the Pit (a sequence that should had been much more agonizing to experience).  Selina Kyle, on the other hand, was lacking all sorts of good stuff.  Though I appreciated Anne Hathaway’s ferocity, I really felt she was underdeveloped, to the point where she was just a pretty little plot-helper.

Though I remain unsatisfied, I was glad to see that at least Bruce Wayne found some solace.  Now, to clean up the mess he left Gotham in.

Final Grade: B+

 

Okay, now that I’ve had some sleep and thought a little more, I understand Bane was just continuing the work of The League of Shadows by plaguing the streets with fear to spite the man who turned his back on the League.  Even still, I feel as if Bane’s revenge plot wasn’t nearly as profound as it should have been at this stage in the franchise.

The Amazing Spider-Man

I’m all for gritty reboots as much as the next person, just as long as they don’t suck.  By “suck,” I mean totally destroy the foundation of a beloved character so the new director can get his rocks off on film and call it a “reboot.”  But I digress: After the crash and burn of the Spider-Man trilogy, I personally welcomed the idea of a reboot with open arms – even more so when I learned that Peter Parker was to be played by Andrew Garfield.  Seriously, who would be more perfect?

Feels good, man.

Anyway, the casting in this film is actually pretty perfect.  The chemistry between Peter and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is not only incredible, but believable.  In fact, a lot of this film’s structure was fairly believable.  From the moment you see Peter go through the halls of the high school there’s this incredibly tangible wave of resentment and in a sense, frustration.  You can immediately feel for Peter and sympathize with him, which makes his transformation from zero to hero even more satisfying.

I also found myself enjoying the villain, Dr. Connors (Rhys Ifans), more than I had expected.  He once had a great cause which was then warped by a combination of greed, obsession and utter insanity, leaving him to become a tragic victim of circumstances.  Even the mentioned greed was brought on by corporate stress – it was OsCorp that threw the gears in motion by threatening the lives of dozens if Connors didn’t test his project himself.  Say, there’s an odd corporate subplot here, isn’t there?

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

Is that your webbing or are you just happy to see me?

Okay first off, these guys are supposed to be 17-18ish, right?  What is Gwen doing assisting one of the most highly regarded scientists of OsCorp?  Interning is one thing, but how does one achieve such a high rank and level of respect?  How would she have time with all of her high school stuff?  Part of me thinks this would make a much more interesting story.

Secondly, what kind of self-respecting geek uses Bing?

– Minor Spoilers –

Thirdly, near the end when the construction guy gets all the cranes to help Spidey out, that’s just ridiculous.  Seriously, there is a bio-weapon going off as well as an emergency evacuation and you want to call a few buddies to help a superhero make his way to the chaos-hub?  Sure he saved his kid and all but he just seriously endangered a ton of people.  How can you just get a bunch of cranes lined up like that without blocking more traffic?  This moment totally flushed any realism this movie had out of my head and made it nose-dive back into the world of comics.

Lastly, what I found more mind-boggling was that Peter originally contacted Dr. Connors to learn more about his parents’ disappearance,  but after getting sidetracked by an algorithm (these equations always seem to get Garfield into trouble), the whole plot focuses on Dr. Connors’ ambitions – what happened with Peter finding answers?  He never said he wanted to continue his fathers’ work, he just wanted the truth.  Unless he felt that by helping OsCorp he’d be closer to finding the answers, but that wasn’t ever discussed.  Regardless, nothing was answered and it seems the film has left us with more questions.

To sum it all up, The Amazing Spider-Man is a refreshing take on the franchise and worth checking out.  Yeah, I’ll see the sequel.

Final Grade: B+

WYSHW: The Fall

Tarsem Singh has received a lot of guff for his work – lest we forget Nostalgia Critic’s annihilation of The Cell (perhaps a tad too harsh, but that’s for another day) – granted, he hasn’t made many films, but I’ve noticed that they’ve either been notably shallow or tries too hard to be deep.  I feel that The Fall is an exception.  On the surface, the film does appear to be a pretentious work, but that’s merely on the surface.  The Fall tells us a story about…well, stories – both spoken and seen – and the power they have to reveal to us the truth of the human condition.  Because this story is so involved, I’m going to break this one down – and yes, there are spoilers.

The Introduction

I could see how people could find an introduction like this a little daunting.  No, the whole movie’s not like this – this just sets the scene, providing the origin of our main character’s demise while being a homage to the film industry, which appears more-so at the end.  This shouldn’t throw you off-guard too much, this intro is merely for you to sit back and take in.

Alexandria and Roy

After the intro we fade to “California, Once Upon A Time,” presumably the 1930s.  Here we meet our main character, Alexandria (amateur actress Catinca Untaru) who is hospitalized with a broken arm.  It isn’t before too long that she meets the hospital’s newest patient, Roy (Lee Pace of Pushing Daisies fame), a bed-ridden stuntman.  Roy isn’t really doing too hot – after paralyzing himself doing a stunt, he has learned that his girlfriend left him for the start of the picture he was working on.  After meeting Alexandria, he whips up a scheme to relieve his suffering, regardless of the consequences.

“Are you trying to save my soul?”

What I enjoyed most about these characters is the chemistry between them – most of which was based on misunderstanding, which in retrospect is quite charming.  For one, Catinca actually believed that Lee was a paraplegic, which allowed a much more sympathetic delivery on her part.  Secondly, much of their dialogue was improvised, so the smallest of comments became crucial to the details – such as Alexandria misreading the letter E for the number 3, or the idea of ones’ strength being in their teeth.

The Epic

The concept Roy spinning an “Epic” is similar to the tale of Scheherazade, only instead to keep his life, Roy intends to end his.  He starts a tale of a motley crew consisting of an Indian, an Italian demolitions expert, Charles Darwin, an ex-slave, a mystic, and a Masked Bandit.  All they have in common is a hatred for Governor Odious, a tyrant who does nasty things for the sake of being nasty.  I don’t mean to sound cheesy here, but there really is something magical about this story.  It seamlessly weaves together the lives of a pair of strangers, with Roy’s experience and Alexandria’s imagination, which makes the climax so much more profound, visually and emotionally.

I cry every time.

I’m just going to say it: The Fall is a truly beautiful film.  I know I didn’t go into the unfathomable beauty of the visuals, but seriously, words cannot describe.  Despite the surreality of this movie, no special effects were used – it was shot in 28 countries over the course of four years.  The story itself strives on the idea of stories as a powerful medium – they tell us how to live and why – not to mention, they bring strangers together despite the odds.

This tradition carries on through generations to come through the power of movie-making.  As mentioned, the intro is somewhat a homage to the film industry, and then the movie ends with a montage of some of the most impressive stunts from the silent era.  One could say this was a self-absorbed move on Tarsem’s part, but it gives one time to think about the sweat, blood and tears that went into films back then – and how much has never been seen.  It’s a thought anyway.

Next time on What You Should Have Watched, a love story everyone should see.  I’m serious.