Saturday, November 20, 2021

Polish Posters: War Films

 Tora! Tora! Tora!

Not a bad poster at all, in my opinion anyway. Nor clear what is going on except "explosion" but ti does convey a war is going on.

Apocalypse Now

Another successful poster! It captures the craziness of the film and the intensity of Brando in the role.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

My film at the "Another Hole in the Head" festival! December 1 - 15th online!


 My film "A Vine on a House" is selected for presentation at the "Another Hole in the Head" film festival.

My film will be streamed online as will much of the festival so anyone can watch. The festival runs from December 1-15th, 2021

Festival link

Link to my film

Please support my work and the festival, they are a great group of people! 

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Tesla (2020) directed by Michael Almereyda

 I fully prepared to fall asleep during this movie... not sure why I had that attitude because it flew by as I watched it. Not that it was action packed but because it's slow pace works so well with the performances and odd editing and anachronistic touches keep your attention flowing along with it. 

I thought this was going to be a dramatic telling of the life of the inventor Tesla and a period piece. It isn't exactly that. It is more like a documentary with enactments told by one of the historical figures in the story, Ann Morgan (Eve Hewson). Her character swings between a being present in the story of Tesla and modern day where she is using a computer to search for information on the other historical figures throughout the film. The editing is pretty brilliant... cutting between complete period recreations to actors superimposed in front of period images to standard documentary techniques like panning across photos. 

It works.. somehow. The actors are all super. Ethan Hawke as Tesla starts  was so unlikeable that I wondered if this was going to be one I had to abandon part way through but he really manages to grow on you and open the character up. Kyle MacLachlan plays Edison and I totally bought him in the role. 

A big plus for this movie is how it doesn't worship Tesla and overplay his achievements which was amazing and important but he also made some unsupported leaps of logic with devices that were less than successful. This may or may not give a reality  based portrayal of the great inventor but it does come off that way. 

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Dune (2021) directed by Denis Villeneuve

 I have read the source material for this film at least 3 times and the next two books that followed it at least twice each and then the 4th book once (which was enough of that). SO I am fairly familiar with the story and what to expect. I have seen the Lynch attempt at the story and the Sci_fi channel mini-series. Lynch's movie was a mess of good and some very bad and I don't get the trend to try and turn it into some sort of misunderstood classic. It's not. The Mini-series took the hard sci-fi approach with slower budget and while I thought it was fine, I forgot what I saw a couple afterwards, it didn't really capture the novel any more than Lynch did. 

Now Denis Villeneuve has had his try and I have to say I found it very compelling. Visually stunning and  doesn't deter to the lowest common denominator by turning into a Star Wars wannabe or superhero origin story. He keeps true to the book as much as I would expect a film adaption to do. Reading and watching are very different beasts and he knows that and takes the opportunity to show as much as possible and keeps the telling, or explain part to a minimum without, I don't think, making too absurd for anyone who hasn't read the book. here are a lot of characters and some of the main ones... quite few of the main ones die before this part one ends. Others are introduced but he takes the chance of waiting to do more with them in the second part. It won't placate the more rabid of Frank Herbert fans, but that is fool's errand anyway. 

The casting worked out better than I predicted. Timothée Chalamet looks young enough to be the main character and Oscar Issac get little to do in terms of character development but works well as Paul's father. Jason Momoa seemed a mistake, but his short role worked as well and didn't take me out of the movie. Josh Brolin stood out in his role for me. He seemed to get across a lot of character points with limited screen time. Another thing I liked was that the bad guys, while over the top in many ways didn’t fall into the trope of making them ”gay” to add to their perverseness as the 80s version did. 

Technically, the movie shines. Visually it was amazing on the big screen. I did think the music was a little over the top at times and too in your face but it does it's job. The design of the world is breath taking. The ornithopters look like mechanical dragonflies were easy to imagine in my mind while reading but they look much better and more real than in my imagination. In fact, most of the effects are shown in a very realistic light. Each shot is a work of art but everything is treated like a real place/object. Camera positions are mostly at human hight or seem to be positioned on walls or rocket nearby with none of the over the top video game/drone tracking shots that are FAR too common these days in big films. The overall tone of the performances is somewhat cold but I got that impression of the characters in the books as well. The handling of dreams and some of the magical-like elements were handled  superbly and when "the voice" was used in couple spot, some audience members jumped in shock. 

If you want a plot summary... read the book... it's way too complicated to pare down for this review. That makes this movie even more of success. It manages to move along and tell that complicated story at pace that allows the viewer to take it all in. Even the action scenes are paced slower and are easier to understand  than the typical action film. It doesn't throw the kitchen sink and all the other appliances at you at once but you end up with a fully functioning kitchen at the end with everything in it place for part two. 

That fact that this is part one is something to consider before going. it will e 2 years before it comes out and while this movie tells a great story it took a huge risk in not trying to give it a false ending in case there was no second film, it stops at a logical point but it's painfully obvious there is MUCH more coming up. I look forward to it. 

Saturday, October 30, 2021

The Lighthouse (2019) Directed by Robert Eggers


Robert Eggers' debut feature film, "The Witch", was an astonishing piece of work. Written in old time English and brought a slow burning story to a disturbing end with beautiful cinematography and great performances. "The Lighthouse" is a very different film but still brings us a version of English we might not be so familiar with, a different pace and even more great performances. 

Set on a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere, the new assistant and the old lighthouse keeper find themselves trapped as they fall deeper and deeper into madness because of isolation, booze and more than a small amount of supernatural insinuation as storms keep them from getting new supplies.  DeFoe and Pattinson give top drawer performances that may be beyond many other actors. They both seemed prepared to do anything in their roles and it shows. 

The editing and the cinematography is truly beyond almost any modern film I've ever seen. Shot on an almost square format in black and white by Jarin Blaschke who also worked on "The Witch", the film transports the viewer to a surreal, yet very believable world filled with dread and hidden horrors. It is notable to say that the lighthouse itself is a set in NovaScotia and while it reads as a real place, the surrounding terrain has a 1940s gothic horror quality about it that brings you even more into the film than if it was shot on location somewhere, I think. In the hands of a lesser crew, the transitions from shot to shot might seem pretentious and draw attention to themselves but as amazing as they are they only serve to draw you in

Not a traditional horror, but more of psychological thriller, this movie has elements taken from Lovecraft, Poe and while it often goes into violence it never seems exploitative or falls into standard tropes. The sound design is amazing and (especially very near the end) goes right into David Lynch territory. 

With a budget of only 4 million, the box office was over 18 million - a good haul - and I wish there were more projects like this that challenge the filmgoer and don't require a 300 million Industrial Light and Magic budget to pull it off. 

I look forward to anything Eggers does next as its obvious he is s serious force with a very strong personal vision in his film work that will likely build over time and leave us with a series of films that, while not to everyone's tastes (nothing is), will outlive any of the blockbusters that have come out in the same period. Pretty much every frame is a visual masterpiece.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Raven (2012) Directed by James McTeigue


I have to admit I was dreading watching this film as I am huge Poe fan (I have made several animations based on his works) and I heard it was terrible. Maybe my low expectations elevated this to be better than I imagined as I found myself liking more than anticipated. 

The Raven is one of those speculative history ideas, the kind that take a well known historical figure or event and then put that into a new story, usually modernized to a certain extent but try to keep it in line with the real event or the real details of that person's life. This is pretty much what we get, Poe's stories are being used against him as a mysterious person using them to commit horrible murders. The details of one Poe murder lead to the next and it is revealed that the killer is trying to get to Poe for unknown reasons. 

The film starts and ends on overly pretentious filmmaking tropes. A little over the top and on the nose for my tastes, but as the movie goes on, I did get drawn in and it didn't bore me. I know too much about the main character to believe any of it could be real and John Cusack in the role didn't sell it enough for me to see "Poe" but rather someone with his name. The problem mostly is the dialog is not very period at times and while Cusuack is OK and some of the other performers are pretty good, you just don't buy it as a period piece but more as an alternative reality piece.I rather liked Luke Evans as the detective. He was the best and to me the actual main character. He could easily go on to make more movies in this role and they almost set the end of this up for that - but next time it would be Jules Verne in place of Edgar Allen Poe. 

Costumes and sets are great, the filmmaking is a little artsy at the start and finish but very well thought out in the middle and calls less attention to itself and more to the story. The story kept my interest but it really doesn't hold up to scrutiny and just too preposterous to quote another critique to make you really feel anything for what is going or keep any real suspense. The resolution, if you can call it that , is  ahead scratcher in the worst sense... it just doesn't make any. 

Overall, I can't say it's as bad a movie as I was led to believe but that doesn't make it a good one. just Mildly entertaining and distracting with some potential that never gets realized. I guess turning Edgar Allen Poe into an action hero of sorts isn't such a great idea in the end. 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Dracula - Sovereign of the Damned (1980) animated Marvel Comics adaption


It is no secret I am a fan of the 1970s comic book "Tomb of Dracula" and particularly the artwork of Gene Colan. It was a great comic that ran 7 years and had a fairly steady storyline form start to finish. 

This is an animated TV show version taken directly from the comic. I had heard it existed and finally saw it online, as you can now too!  I wasn't expecting artwork anywhere close to the books and I didn't get it but they did make an effort to keep the characters similar to their original look. The backdrops have much to be desired and the animation itself is very low end. The dubbing in English is pretty awful.

They do keep to the storyline, the one where Dracula is worshipped by a Satanist cult and they did not shy away from the more shocking elements including a little nudity. What really did shake me was they included Dracula's newborn baby son getting shot in the face! I have NO idea who this project was aimed at. Certainly not Saturday morning kid show audiences and it's a little too kiddy looking for teenagers. 

All in all I would say if you are a "Tomb of Dracula" fan it is worth a look, otherwise it might confuse the hell out of you. 

Friday, October 1, 2021

Vampira and Me (2012) directed by Ray Greene

The character created by Miala Nurmi in the 1950s did not bring her riches in the end but it did give the world an iconic creature that was often copied or referenced by many others right up until present day. Though she borrowed her look from the comic version of Mortician Addams, she took that look and gave it a voice, including a blood curdling scream.

The documentary does a great job taking the character away and replacing it with the real person behind it. The fact that Greene was personal friends with her for years gave him the chance to get deeper than anyone else could have ever been and his interview with her is amazing and we get a rare look into the real life of what we have only known as a camp icon. She was an amazing woman and actress that should have had a long, varied career but ended in abject poverty instead. We learn of her friendship with James Dean and how she ended up in Ed Wood’s trash classics Plan 9 From Outer Space. If you never heard of her before, this film will still hold your interest and leave you with nothing but respect for her. 

There are a few quibbles that I have with the doc, but they are really minor. It starts or with some lower end graphics that I think take away from the rest but they are dipped quickly and Greene does am admirable job making the most of a subject with only minutes of damaged footage and some publicity shots surviving. 

While her life ended on a mostly happy note, the movies touched briefly on her attempt to sue the people behind the “Elvira mistress of the dark” character which she had some influence in creating but ultimately lost, even though, much as I love Cassandra Peterson, Nurmi had every right to profit from what was truly an updating of her ground break work in the 50s. 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Documentary: Parc de L'espoir (2021) Directed by Vincent-louis Apruzzese

I added new material to the end of my 2014 documentary abut the AIDS memorial park here in Montréal. The park has been completely renovated and it 4 times it's previous size as well as much cleaner looking and inviting. I also added English and french subtitles to make the doc more accessible. 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Mary and Max (2009) directed by Adam Elliot

 This stop motion animated film by Adam Elliot and based on his correspondence with a friend in New York for over 20 years. Voice talents include Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, Eric Bana and Bethany Whitmore. 

The basic story is the long distance friendship between a  lonely young girl who lives in Australia who randomly sends a letter to New York after finding max's name in a phone book and asks him where babies come from the United States. Max is has Aspergers syndrome and, after panicking about receiving the letter, responds and the two begin a back and forth that goes on for decades. 

The film follows the two and their relationships changes over the years was Mary grows up and Max has his own changes over the years. They lose contact for a time but they continue to inspire each other .

This film is without a doubt a black comedy... some of it is pretty bleak and depressing even with a layer of comedy painted over it. The characters are very endearing nevertheless less and the animation is stylized and original. Mary's world is sepia-tones while Max's new York is in black and white. Both have splashes of red here and there. There is a lot of child abuse in this movie, in Max's history and Mary's [present and it sort doesn't get better as time goes on but the bond between them helps them cope and survive. 

I want to avoid spoilers in case anyone decides to see this, but I will say it ends in a touching but heartbreaking way and it made me cry. Partly from sadness and partly from Mary realizing how important she was to Max.

Not exactly a fit for the whole family and it is a challenge to deal with the subject matter. It is well worth watching and VERY far out from most films I've seen and can be harrowing but well worth travelling the journey it takes you on.