Friday, 28 December 2012

Best Day Ever Review

Found footage films were never really my thing. It never made sense to me why someone would want to watch a shaky camera going around doing every day things. I know traditionally that's not all there is to it. I saw Blair Witch and I know about Cloverfield and things like that but that doesn't make it interesting. In fact, more often then not I intentionally avoid any film that looks even close to something like that. The last found footage type film that I remember being interested in seeing is Chronicle, and I still haven't actually watched it. But like most things, if a film is done right it's worth seeing no matter how it's done. The problem is that many people use the format as a gimmick because there's an audience for it instead of putting the work into actually using it for a purpose.

When I was watching Best Day Ever, I got that sinking feeling that it was being used as a gimmick rather than using it properly. I think the film differs from other found footage type films is that it presents itself like a film that really was shot by teenagers. That can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Mainly because at the very moment they should be doing something to grab my interest, the beginning, they don't really do anything. You end up watching as these kids sit around thinking of what to do instead of actually doing something. And that took me out of the film a bit, making the ensuing things they did less fun and the characters seem less interesting. Sticking with the film though, it earns some of that interest back as the day progresses and things actually start happening. Even then however what's key to really getting people interested is the dialogue, which while somewhat realistic for effect, again causes problems for my attention span.

I will say this though, by the end of the film I was invested in the characters enough that I actually cared what happened to them and how they dealt with the conclusion of what was set up. Kudos should go to the actors for giving enough to make the audience (or me anyway) care. That counts for a lot in my book. As I said, I am not one for found footage movies so maybe this is the standard and I just don't get it. If you're a fan of found footage films I imagine you would like this very much. If you are like me and you aren't really a fan, I will say that I did like it enough to watch it all the way through so you won't hate it by any stretch. I say see it.

You can find it on Google Play, Amazon, Youtube, and Vudu.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Anne Perry Interiors Review

Every writer has a story. Something that brought them to who they are and what they do. Sometimes they are really cool stories, and sometimes they are not. Other times they are stories that a writer has been so affected by that they just don't talk about it all that much. Never the less it is a story and it is the backbone of what makes them writers. It tends to inform the stories they tell and how they tell it. In some ways you have to have one in order to be a writer. My experience has been that if you don't, your stories don't tend to be that interesting. They come off flat and not really worth the time to read, which is not to say that you can't find a good story to tell if you work hard enough. Writing just tends to come easier if you have a story that you really need to tell. The story flows better and emotionally connects with people reading it. At least that's been my experience given my own history as a writer.

Anne Perry is a writer with a story to tell. Interestingly enough though, she seems to avoid talking about it with any great detail. You can find details if you are interested and they are put forward in the documentary about her, but it's a difficult topic to hear about. Once you do though, you can completely understand why it might be hard to say much about it. A writer internalizes most of their problems and emotions. That is why they tend to write such great stories, because what they won't say to a person, they will say in the words on the page. It can be buried under a lot of the things the stories they are telling need in order to make it interesting for the reader, but they are there if you look hard enough. For Anne Perry it seems that finding that involves reading into the opposite of what she writes about. She is searching for something deep and meaningful in her life, and many of her characters apparently reflect that reality but the reason for their search is the real prize of understand her.

Ultimately, writing is a long and difficult process for everyone. Even for someone who has written 40 books it takes time to make it feel and sound right for the people who might one day read it. This movie is a long and drawn out process but the pay off, for lack of a better way to describe it, is well worth the time and effort to get through it. Anne Perry - Interiors is a film worth watching for any writer who has ever felt frustrated sitting at a table staring at a blank page or computer screen. For anyone else, it's a deep inside look at where the urge to write tends to come from and will give you a deeper understanding of the life of a writer.

You can check it out on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, and I Love

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Family Man Review: Where does The Family Man fit?

Nicholas Cage gets a bad wrap as an actor. Ever since films like The Wicker Man and National Treasure, not to mention Ghost Rider, he has been seen as something of a joke as an actor by a lot of people. Most assume that he just can't hack it as a box office draw anymore and that becomes something of a self-fullfilling prophecy because they don't go and see his movies and the box office bombs. But he's had some great movies too, like Adaptation and Kick-Ass. One of my favorite movies of his to watch though is The Family Man. I make a point to watch it every Christmas. Of all the movies and TV that I watch and rewatch over the year, I save this one as part of a group I save for Christmas.

Why? Because it's a great Christmas movie. Much like Scrooged and A Muppet's Christmas Carol which are also in the special Christmas group, it follows in the tradition of the Charles Dickens' classic of a man who seems to have everything and is given a glimpse at what he doesn't. But what sets this film apart and why it's on my list of once a year Christmas movies is that there is an element of It's A Wonderful Life to the film as well, brought to you by the semi-angelic character of Cash played by Don Cheadle. A simple act of kindness from Wall Street mogul Jack Campbell gives him the chance at a glimpse into what life would have been like if he had made different choices.

And so he's thrust into a world he doesn't understand and a life he doesn't want, forced to figure out a life he doesn't really understand, he slowly starts to wonder if everything that's good in life can really be solved with money. Tea Leoni also stars as the one that got away turned wife and mother and proves why it's a shame that she isn't given the chance to really shine more often. Much like Meg Ryan she's been less visible in recent years. She makes being a wife and mother seem both realistic and sexy, something that's traditionally very hard to do in an industry that caters to the young and available.

Where does The Family Man fit? For a film released in the year 2000, I think it should make its way into the classics like the films it appears to be based on.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Scrooged Review: Would you like to be Scrooged? - Movies, Movie Reviews, Film, Film Reviews, Film Entertainment, Entertainment, TV, Television, TV Reviews, Television Reviews

You'll notice a certain trend to the films that I watch around the holidays. There have been a lot of Christmas movies over the years and they all have something to say about the holiday season. But when you look at the movies that I watch, you notice a very obvious trend. I tend to gravitate towards those that follow in the footsteps of the classic Dickens tale. I'm sure you know the one I am talking about, and if you don't then reading my blog will most definitely give you the inside track. And so we come to  the great film Scrooged. A classic in its own right, part of a great trend of films that came from the era of the 1980s, starring the illustrious Bill Murray.

Now Bill Murray is something of a gem when it comes to the films that he is in. I don't think anyone would argue with me if I said that in the era of mid-late 80s and early 90s Bill Murray could do no wrong. From Ghostbusters to What About Bob to Groundhog Day these films are hugely popular, thanks in no small part to the performance of Mr. Murray. Whether these films stand the test of time is another question entirely, but for anyone who wants to take a look back at the world they used to live in this is a great film. Scrooged on the other hand has something that his other films don't, it adapts a story which has stood the test of time already and gives it a modern twist, or at least what was modern for the day.

Not since West Side Story's adaptation of Romeo and Juliet have people so embraced a modern version of a story that's been repeated by so many before it and many more afterwards. In part because it's very clear in watching it that the people involved understood the adaptation they were making and the times they were living in. They were smart enough to change key elements, like the names of the characters involved but never lost sight of the idea that the original characters they represented were key to making the story work. And the one major change they did make was played to perfection for the modern telling by the great Bobcat Goldthwait.

Would you like to get Scrooged? I do, and so should you. Every year on Christmas Eve as the story itself goes, and every year I am trying to hold it together through the end as I tear up through the beautiful speech at the end.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Why would someone do this?

It's a question that often gets asked at a time like this. During a crisis or tragedy it's a natural thing to do when there are so few answers. People find it hard to understand violence of any scale, but particularly on the scale of recent memory. You would think that it would be easy to understand given that so much of it happens on a regular basis. We wish it didn't and we wish it was really simple to understand. So much so that we polarize issues of violence into simple terms. The problem is one thing or another. Unfortunately, as with most things related to violence it just isn't that easy.

A lot of talk has started to go around about how we prevent tragedy's such as this from happening in the future, and it is now that we should talk about it and implement things. Where I think a lot of the talk is failing is in the single solution syndrome that develops. Things like 'If only we had tougher gun laws this wouldn't have happened' or 'We need to do more for the mentally ill and that will fix the problem'. In reality, I think that both are necessary to really make any type of difference in the world and much of the arguments that happen after a tragedy such as this are over which should come first.

Perhaps that is why nothing ever really gets resolved when it comes to the issue of guns and violence and mental illness, because in our rush to help the victims we end up forgetting the victims in the process. We are so focused on what can be done to stop more victims from occuring that we have stopped worrying about the people who are already victims of this type of violence. We brush it off as if to say 'The police and rescue workers and psychiatrists and the government will step in and help the victims so we don't need to think about them anymore, they are going to be okay' and then jump into political mode and start pushing our cause over another.

The politics of the situation are the problem that keep us from moving forward on this. We are so quick to take a political position on the subject that we force people to disagree with us rather then actually deal with the problem at hand. This isn't an issue of gun control or mental illness or more religion versus less religion in schools, it's a question of how we deal with tragedy. By which I mean we don't deal with it. In the age of the 24 hour news cycle we have over intellectualized tragedy, even among those who claim not to be intellectuals. We're so quick to analyze and discuss a problem so that we can put it in the proper context that we forget the most important context of all, the fact that people have died.

To point to an example that's fresh in my mind, a conversation arose not long after the tragedy in Newton, CT about why we are not focused on the victims instead of calling for gun control or mental health reform and a number of people came out in favor of gun control as a way of helping the victims. One person even went so far as to say that the best way to honor the victims was to push the tragedy in the faces of people who advocate for guns to show them the error of their ways. It was compared to when a dog craps on the rug.

Does that sound to you like someone who is concerned about the victims and not the political agenda they adhere to? I understand that it was well intentioned. I understand that gun control will help the situation. What I don't understand is why that analogy is at the forefront of someone's mind after a tragedy such as this has occurred. That, to me, is a problem. More of a problem then gun control, more of a problem then mental health reform, more than the media's coverage or the lack of religion in school. The idea that these people are not victims of a tragedy they are examples to be used for whatever political ideal a person is trying to put forward.

Why would someone do this? That depends on who's asking the question and who is answering it. A better question might be why is 'Remember the Victims' being used as a slogan rather than a reminder of what the real focus of the moment should be?

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Bon Cop/Bad Cop: What makes a good Canadian movie?

Canada is a funny country, and when I say that I don't just mean that we have all the best comedians, because we do, but we're funny in a lot of different ways. We tend to keep a low profile on the world stage and then gripe that we don't get enough attention. We like when our citizens become successful in Hollywood or other places in the world but don't like it that they can't get famous here in Canada. Most of all we make tend to make region specific movies and then take issue with the fact that no one outside our region wants to watch them. It's an interesting contradiction we live with and if you really think about it, it's pretty funny.

We are getting better at it though, in recent years I have seen a number of Canadian films that are smarter, more relatable and better generally for a wider audience than just Canadians. In some cases we're a little ways off, in other ways we are way off. One of the films that tried to move us in the right direction is Bon Cop/Bad Cop. A film that's set and focused on Canadian culture, but with a distinctly more Hollywood feel. Buddy cop movies have been something of a lost art lately. There are all kinds of cop movies and TV shows out nowadays but buddy cops had their heyday in the 70s and 80s and haven't really recovered.

In some ways Bon Cop/Bad Cop is a throwback to those types of films but with more modern technology and special effects. Where I think that the film has issues is that it relies too heavily on Canadian stereotypes. The ones we have about ourselves like the French/English divide, with some truth to it but a lot of fiction. As well as more international stereotypes like an obsession with hockey and kindness. I have never been a big fan of playing to stereotypes, I prefer commentaries to out and out parody or exploting stereotypes, at least as a general rule. Things like Bob and Doug and Austin Powers are good in small doses but they can go too far if money gets involved.

Bon Cop/Bad Cop keeps things from going too far, but it also doesn't go far enough for a one shot movie like this. Austin Powers worked because it pushed the envelope in the comedy department but had enough held back for an extra couple of rounds. This movie doesn't go far enough for a single one much less several, not that they were planning on more but then not going far enough doesn't really make sense. It has a lot of good elements that make it fun to watch but it ultimately falls short of any serious message except that Canadian filmmakers don't have to act like Canadian filmmakers.

Bon Cop/Bad Cop: What makes a good Canadian movie? I haven't quite figured that out yet but I don't think this movie has it.