Welcome back! Its been awhile but the whole gang is back on episode 99.9 with our usual potpourri of pop culture news, movie reviews and other tidbits. Our main film review is for Muppets Most Wanted- the new film by James Bobin as well as some TV chat including HBO’s Looking and Broad City. Stay tuned for a lively debate between Corey and Ryan on the ever wavering career trajectory of pop star Lady Gaga. Our Show and Tell segment in the second half of the show covers a wide range of topics including technology journalist Clive Thompson’s 2013 book, “Smarter than you think: How technology is changing our minds for the better”, Nikki’s review of the Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, and Corey sounds off on the Comedy Central show Nathan For You as well as the experience of seeing SHOWGIRLS at the TIFF Bell Lightbox hosted by Globe and Mail critic Adam Nayman, author of the new book, Showgirls: It doesn’t suck.
In this episode we bring you reviews of some films currently playing in theatres that to put it lightly… are a mixed bag o’ booty!! Cindy and Ryan couldn’t join us but they will be back on our next episode to keep the summer movie review train going. Till then, this week we review Sasha Baron Cohen’s latest, “The Dictator”, the Norweigian crime comedy thriller, “Headhunters”, plus Tim Burton’s most recent foray into cinema gothic,“Dark Shadows”, as well as “Men in Black 3″. We wrap up with short reviews of “Battleship” (groan), “The Pirates! Band of Misfits”, and the indie doc on independent video game making, “Indie Game: The Movie”. Enjoy!
Well, the mood for a 1912 disaster melodrama finally overtook, well, one half of the CMC crew (Ryan already willingly succumbed ages ago and Cindy is still playing hard to get) and Corey and Greg, along with movie companion Nicole got together to discuss their screening of the digital 3-D re-release of James Cameron’s 1997 classic, “Titanic”. Also, check out this interesting article from the New York Times that discusses the challenges of post 3-D conversion for this mammoth classic.
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This week, we share our favorite moments at the cinema and discuss the evolving role of the movie theatre in our lives. Plus, we chat about movie “twofers” – think Armageddon & Deep Impact or Dante’s Peak & Volcano – and what we think Rebecca Black’s foray into music says about our culture.
Corey Pierce joins us this week to discuss the impact of social networking on our own lives, and we review two new releases that tackle the subject: David Fincher’s The Social Network and Ariel Schulman’s is-it-or-isn’t-it documentary Catfish. We also review Mark Romanek’s adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s critically acclaimed novel Never Let Me Go.
Welcome to Episode 17!! This week guest host Shawn Keown and myself are back to provide our CriticalMassCast listeners with another dose of Sci-Fi action movie lore with reviews of this summer’s Predators, the Tron movie franchise and just for the fun of it, we decided to throw in a talk on last year’s Zombieland for good measure…. we’re just playful like that, enjoy!!
In a continuation episode, Shawn and I continue our discussion of big budget blockbusters with reviews of Clash of the Titans (uuugh), Sherlock Holmes and Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. We then finish up with a talk on the Marvel and DC comic book film universes with a special emphasis on the upcoming Green Lantern adaptation coming in Summer 2011.
It is an interesting time being a consumer of big budget film entertainment these days. 3-D technology has both quickly and seamlessly become a force onto itself. It is feeling more and more natural to grab a pair of 3-D goggles along with your snacks and let the film you are watching take you along for the ride. Now my thoughts on 3-D technology in film are mixed but I am not going to stand on my soapbox and reprimand 3-D technology for completely sapping movies of their creative life while preaching false event-film status for the sake of grasping an extra two or three dollars out of your pocket- I have heard now that some New Yorkers have to cough up to $20(!) before taxes for a single adult IMAX 3-D ticket. Wow, looks like I managed to get a mini-rant in there anyway….
Despite all the economic implications for the consumer, 3-D can stand as a great tool to enhance the art of filmmaking. Most recently, the animated Dreamworks masterpiece, How to Train your Dragon- a film that is steadily reaping in the dough as it benefits greatly from outstanding word-of-mouth- was built from the ground up with many of its most thrilling sequences originally conceived in 3-D format. The extraordinary feeling of flight and naturalistic lighting effects (given a boost from consultant cinematographer Roger Deakins) would not be what they are without having the ability to feel some sense of three dimensional immersion. The film manages to pull off all of these amazing aesthetic touches- without casualties to its narrative and characterization- everything seems to work hand-in-hand. Other animated films like Henry Selick’s Coraline also used 3-D to great effect. Having the ability to really see up close all the dark macabre complexity of Coraline’s “other” world is definitely fascinating once it leaps off the screen as we tag along for the adventure alongside the title heroine. Now, 3-D technology employed in live-action entertainment is definitely more of a mixed bag. In animation you can pretty much have 100% control of the environment the viewer sees on screen but I think filmmakers are having a harder time making efficient use of this technology in “real-life” environments (take a look at the recent Clash of the Titans) . Sometimes it really works, though only in select scenes of big budget blockbusters- watching Brandon Routh catch a plummeting 747 in 2006′s otherwise lackluster Superman Returns or the climactic magical battle in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix between Dumbledore and Voldemort in the vaulted halls of the Ministry of Magic are truly spectacular sequences to behold for sure. No director as of yet has been able to pull off the great fully realized live-action 3-D experience yet- but there are signs that this may be changing with news that some masters of the traditional medium are taking chances on 3-D with their upcoming films. Recently, directors Martin Scorcese and Werner Herzog announced that they would be applying 3-D their artistry with their upcoming efforts. Scorcese will be adapting Brain Selznick’s astounding Caldecot-winning George Melies inspired picture book, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”, while Herzog will use 3-D to explore France’s Chauvet Pont d’Arc Cave, an archaeological site containing the world’s oldest known cave paintings in his latest documentary. Both feature interesting environments- The Invention of Hugo Cabret, for example is an engaging combination of prose and lovingly detailed charcoal drawings. Set in 1930s Paris, the plot centers on a 12-year-old orphan named Hugo, who lives in a train station and must finish what his late father started by solving the mystery of a broken robot. The matching of a great storyteller with a great story could help us witness some of the best uses of 3-D to date…
The reason I bring up the effect current 3-D technology is having on the current landscape of cinema is that the film I wish to take a quick look at is a film that made similar and significant technical leaps in its own time and still stands as a great piece of entertainment. Premiering in 1940, The Thief of Bagdad: An Arabian fantasy was the creation of master producing impresario Alexander Corda and starred John Justin, Conrad Veidt, June Duprez, Rex Ingram as the Genie and the incomparable Sabu as the title thief. I recently discovered this film in its Criterion Collection incarnation on DVD and was immediately drawn to the material as it reminded me of the old-school Sinbad the Sailor and monster Stop-and-Go animated epics I used to enjoy as a child on Sunday afternoons. The film is actually a remake of the 1924 Douglas Fairbanks swashbuckling epic of the same name and was revolutionary for bringing a number of new technical innovations to the big screen such as large scale (and beautiful) matte paintings and blue screen projection. The film is also a marvel of small and large scale modelling and is lush in its technicolour presentation. Technicolour was still a new technology at the time and the fantasy Arabian setting of the film is perfect for indulging an audacious colour palette- and it just fits this environment full of magic, rich storytelling and compelling characters. The film tells the tale of an Arabian prince, played by Justin who is tricked into abandoning his throne by his Svengali-type vizier, Jaffer, played by the formidable Conrad Veidt who previous to this film, came to stardom in the silent film The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari and here he plays the villain to delicious effect. His talents as a silent film star play really well on the big screen- and his interactions with Justin and Duprez are priceless. The thing I really like about this film is how unaplogetically it indulges itself in the realm of filmic fantasy. The Disney version of the Aladdin tale might have brought the animated version of this tale to us in the 1990s, but Korda and company managed the task of bringing all the magic of that story to film audiences fifty years prior, and with the film making tools of that period. Watching a flying carpet sail high in the skies above Bagdad, to seeing the title hero crawl across a giant spider’s web with his stolen treasure in a dark cavern are the scenes that classic adventures are made of. Match all that action with an endearing hero (young ones will love Sabu’s playfulness in the role), a budding romance between prince and princess (Duprez and Justin manage to fall in love in one scene, but hey) and Rex Ingram’s exuberance as the mischievious genie- and you have a recipe for great entertainment. To quote Roger Ebert in his 2009 review of the fiim : “This 1940 movie is one of the great entertainments. It lifts up the heart”.
The National FIlm Board of Canada (NFB) has created over 13,000 productions and won more than 5,000 awards at festivals, including 12 Oscars. With more Academy Award nominations than any production company or organization outside of Hollywood, the NFB continues to be a pioneer in Canadian cinema.
The NFB garnered its 70th Oscar-nominated film with Madame Tutli-Putli: a stop-motion journey into the fully imagined, tactile world of its titular character. Travelling on the night train, Madame Tutli-Putli finds herself caught in a metaphysical adventure that forces her to confront her demons.
Quite recently The National Film Board of Canada launched an HD Screening Room on their website complete with a number of award-winning animated shorts. You can check out most of their content online or take advantage of their amazing iphone/ipod touch application which you can download for free from the iTunes store which provides quick access to the NFB’s extensive library of documentary and animation pieces.
The critically lauded animation shorts that the NFB have produced over the years were a big part of my childhood and definitely contributed to my love and appreciation of animation over the years. Highlights for me include, 1977′s Oscar winning stop-and-go classic “The Sand Castle” and 1988′s Oscar-nominated animated short “The Cat Came Back” by Cordell Barker. My favourite of the bunch though is Janet Perlman’s “The Tender Tale of Cinderella Penguin” which was nominated for best animated short at the 1981 Academy Awards. The short takes a new look at a centuries-old tale:
The Oscar race is officially on! We sound off on this year’s nominations, and review the incredible performances at this year’s Grammy Awards. Plus, film reviews of The Lovely Bones, Nine, Defendor, The Last Station, and A Single Man. We also discuss Apple’s new iPad, the Cineplex Great Digital Film Festival, and upcoming titles at Toronto’s iconic Bloor Cinema.
Grammy Awards 2010
Oscar Nominations 2010
Film Reviews: The Lovely Bones, Nine, Defendor, The Last Station, A Single Man