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***½/**** Image A Sound A- Extras A starring Campbell Scott, Jesse Eisenberg, Mina Badie, Jennifer Beals written and directed by Dylan Kidd by Bill Chambers There's a clever moment in Roger Dodger destined to slip past viewers that underscores the precision with which the film was conceptualized. Roger (Campbell Scott), the lady-killer whose nickname (which he shares with the stooge in Sidney Lumet's Q&A) lends the picture its title, walks up to one of the glass walls of a meeting room inside his workplace to communicate with two colleagues on the other side--one of whom sticks the word "incubator" to his own forehead just as the scene cuts. Coming on the heels of a prologue in which Roger has demonstrated his persuasive albeit highly misogynistic grasp of sexual politics to his dazzled peers, this tableau is the movie in a nutshell: With a man of such confidence around, all others are hatchlings hanging on his tutelage. The film is subsequently about Roger passing a certain torch to his visiting 16-year-old nephew, Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), and Nick fighting his moral instinct to extinguish it, as when he practices Roger's art of seduction on a couple of bar-hopping older women played by... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Film Freak Central
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by Bill Chambers Heads-up, current and future Patreons: We recently launched SlipStreams, a weekly column in which Walter Chaw and I take turns recommending four titles currently streaming in either the U.S., Canada, or both. In the current "volume" (#3), which went up this afternoon, I pay tribute to the late, great Ray Liotta in choosing three semi-forgotten films that are among his late-career highlights. Meanwhile, the latest edition (#27) of Walter's regular feature Life During Wartime finds him screening Don't Look Now with his daughter; it might be my personal favourite of this long-running series. These pieces are available to any and all subscribers of our Patreon. We don't do "tiers," since the primary purpose of our Patreon is to support this, the mothersite, but we did feel we owed a few bonus goodies to those generous souls keeping FILM FREAK CENTRAL afloat. Please also note that the first five entries in "Life During Wartime" are still free to the public. (Links below.) Stay tuned for lots more good stuff, right here on the homepage. Life During Wartime: Introduction Life During Wartime #1: THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION Life During Wartime #2: THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER Life During Wartime #3:... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Film Freak Central
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***½/**** starring Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Luke Bracey, Olivia DeJonge screenplay by Baz Luhrmann & Sam Bromwell and Baz Luhrmann & Craig Pearce directed by Baz Luhrmann by Walter Chaw Baz Luhrmann's Elvis is part Perfume, part Immortal Beloved--which is to say, it's horny as fuck and formulates music as mass delusion and mind control. Safe to say, the sordid story of the King of Rock-and-Roll is the perfect match for a maximalist director I have found to be excessive to the point of obnoxious, even on those rare occasions where I've liked the movie anyway (see: Moulin Rouge!). Before Elvis, there wasn't an establishing shot Baz didn't torpedo with gratuitous angles and "whooshing" sound effects; before Elvis, his films were not just childish but relentlessly, punishingly childish. The first half of Elvis is more frenetic than the last, though neither sports any affectations that don't augment the story in positive ways. Dissolves, triple-split screens, restless camera movements--they all underscore the breathless headlong rush of Elvis's rise from broke Tupelo hillbilly living in the "Black" part of town to the biggest-selling solo recording artist in history. When it comes time for his inevitable fall, Luhrmann places it in a sociopolitical... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Film Freak Central
**/**** Image A- Sound B starring Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo screenplay by Frank Oz and Tom Patchett & Jay Tarses directed by Frank Oz by Bill Chambers The third and final Muppet feature to which the dearly departed Jim Henson contributed, The Muppets Take Manhattan is a hodgepodge of terminally '80s show tunes and ill-considered plotting that ransacks The Muppet Movie's basic premise--colourful nobodies seeking stardom--while gutting it of its thematic resonances, including the power of interracial harmony, i.e., "the Rainbow Connection." What we're left with is something that sparks but never ignites; The Muppets Take Manhattan is a Muppet film largely without Muppets save Kermit the Frog, and when you get right down to it, Kermit is only as interesting as his sparring partner. Like most leading men, he's handsome but a bit of a blank slate. Retooling the Muppet mythology once again, The Muppets Take Manhattan begins at a community college, where Kermit and co. are performing a self-scripted revue called "Manhattan Melodies." The audience response is encouraging (it is indeed above-average for community-college students), but the Broadway producers to whom they subsequently pitch the show are considerably less receptive. Feeling like a burden... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Film Freak Central
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***/**** Image A Sound A Extras A- starring Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper screenplay by Mario Puzo, David Newman and Leslie Newman directed by Richard Lester by Bill Chambers SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. A would-be victim of its own London After Midnight-esque mystique, the "Richard Donner Cut" of Superman II is marginally superior to Richard Lester's mutilation, but mitigating circumstances prevent it from being a totally viable alternative. Reconstructed from suppressed outtakes with due diligence (if a journeyman sensibility) according to pre-Lester drafts of the screenplay, the film follows the same basic storyline, though it's a little more efficiently plotted. (While a few Lester bits remain, there is almost certainly less Lester-generated footage here than there is Donner-generated footage in the theatrical version.) Gone is the Eiffel Tower set-piece, replaced by a charming sequence better allied--aesthetically speaking--with the previous Superman in which Lois tries to call Clark's bluff by jumping out a window of THE DAILY PLANET's headquarters; now the weapon of mass destruction responsible for freeing the three supervillains from the Phantom Zone is an errant missile from the climax of the original, which is clever but probably made more sense before they transposed the dopey... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2022 at Film Freak Central
*/**** Image A Sound A+ Extras B- starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo written and directed by Stephen Sommers by Bill Chambers The Mummy Returns reminds me of a little film called The Mummy. Actually, it made me think of Trail of the Pink Panther, which was assembled from outtakes of other Inspector Clouseau movies due to star Peter Sellers expiring before, it would seem, his contract did. The Mummy Returns is all but a patchwork quilt made up of, if not leftover scenes, then scrap ideas. In The Mummy, a looming face of swirling sand pursued our hero; in The Mummy Returns, it materializes from a waterfall. The kind of production for which the writing credit should probably read "cocktail napkin by," The Mummy Returns fails to distinguish itself from the undistinguished original. Why are they both superhits? Like the original, this second Mummy is full of unpersuasive special effects, pulse-less characters, connect-the-dots action, and sand, so much sand that when it's over you reach for the Visine. If these films were half as enchanting as their respective trailers, I'd get it, and I get that those previews put bodies in seats, yet word of mouth... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2022 at Film Freak Central
**½/**** Image A- Sound A- starring John Rubinstein, Pat Quinn, Don Johnson, Country Joe and the Fish screenplay by Joe Massot and Philip Austin and Peter Bergman, David Ossman, Philip Proctor (known as Firesign Theatre) directed by George Englund by Travis Mackenzie Hoover Think back with me, for a moment, to a bygone era when rock was strange: a hippie-descending, proto-glam period when the buzz was off the love generation but a bumbling mystic energy remained--when record producers were getting into bed with the likes of Alejandro Jodorowsky and Mick Jagger could be seen in the gender-bending gangster drama Performance. It was a self-aggrandizing, frequently ridiculous time, but it had a tolerance for eccentricity that's impossible to find in our Britneyfied MTV age and for which I can only be wistfully nostalgic. Lacking both the money and the conceptual force to fully realize its acid-western ambitions, Zachariah isn't even close to being the quintessential flashback to those days (it may in fact simply be cashing in on a trend), but its half-flubbed attempts at pop-surrealism seem a tonic now that the mainstream pop landscape is largely imagined by accountants. Zachariah (John Rubenstein), a decidedly unmanly young man, buys a revolver... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2022 at Film Freak Central
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Image A Sound A Extras B+ "Pilot," "The Will," "The Foot," "Familia," "An Open Book," "The Room," "Brotherhood," "Crossroads," "Life's Too Short," "The New Person," "The Trip," "A Private Life," "Knock, Knock" by Bill Chambers Like you, I was enthralled by American Beauty, but its resonance proved short-lived. The spell was broken for me when my friend innocently observed after a screening that men only masturbate in the shower in movies--the whole film mentally unravelled from there, that hanging thread, as I became cognizant of, and progressively bothered by, its oversimplifications. Is it just my imagination, or would Mr. Furley spin in his syndicated grave over the misinterpretation that informs the picture's climax? Though the culturally young are entitled to find American Beauty profound, since it's of that particular kind of Hollywood caginess that takes a trained eye (and is especially cheeky coming from an enfant terrible of the British stage), more people need(ed) to recognize that it's Blame It On Rio with proscenium arches. "...We found real beauty in this extraordinary script by Sam Mendes... (audience corrects him) by Alan Ball. It feels like he wrote it though, doesn't it?" That's from Kevin Spacey's pompous acceptance speech ("This is... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2022 at Film Freak Central
REVENGE OF THE NERDS (1984) ***½/**** Image A- Sound B+ starring Robert Carradine, Anthony Edwards, Ted McGinley, Bernie Casey screenplay by Steve Zacharias & Jeff Buhai directed by Jeff Kanew REVENGE OF THE NERDS II: NERDS IN PARADISE (1987) ½*/**** Image A- Sound B+ starring Robert Carradine, Curtis Armstrong, Bradley Whitford, Courtney Thorne-Smith screenplay by Dan Guntzelman & Steve Marshall directed by Joe Roth by Bill Chambers One's great, the other ain't, and that's the truth, Ruth. Revenge of the Nerds, too often lumped in with the T&A comedies that flanked its theatrical release (Up the Creek, Porky's Revenge, et al.), is a cinematic gem of exemplary construction--one of the best, most empathetic teen movies with which John Hughes was not affiliated. Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise, alas, sequelizes the trashy rep of its predecessor rather than the reality. Revenge of the Nerds opens with Gilbert Lowe (Anthony Edwards) and Lewis Skolnick (Robert Carradine) heading off to Adams College for the first time. Conversation on the drive down with Mr. Skolnick (James "Jamie" Cromwell, a decade before an Oscar nomination altered his career trajectory; every role in Revenge of the Nerds on down to Alice Hirson's sympathetic... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2022 at Film Freak Central
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Please note that all framegrabs are from the 1080p version Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry ****/**** Image A Sound A Extras B- starring Edmund Gwenn, John Forsythe, Mildred Natwick, Shirley MacLaine screenplay by John Michael Hayes, based on the novel by Jack Trevor Story directed by Alfred Hitchcock by Walter Chaw Once I realized the person I'm supposed to suture with in Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry is the title character, the middle of Hitchcock's three dead protagonists (sandwiched between Rebecca's Rebecca de Winter and Psycho's Mother), the rest of the movie began to make sense to me. Not a literal sense where the characters' behaviour is reasonable, thus making the narrative intelligible in a rational way, but an absurdist, Lewis Carroll nightmare sense, where language is revealed to be meaningless and unstable enough to destabilize perceptions of time and space as well. The Trouble with Harry casts Vermont in fall as Wonderland aswarm with madness and violence, lodged in a time-loop and peopled by a gallery of hatters and dormice (and even an Alice, completely over-the-rainbow insane) preserved in an autumnal, solipsistic amber of their own deconstructionist, semantic derangement. The closest analogues in movies are Michelangelo Antonioni's... Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2022 at Film Freak Central
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½*/**** starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum screenplay by Emily Carmichael & Colin Trevorrow directed by Colin Trevorrow by Walter Chaw About an hour into Jurassic World Dominion, a nondescript villain--really, the bad guys are all nondescript here, no matter their gender or race--with the admittedly ridiculous name Rainn Delacourt (Scott Haze) is pinned on his back by two dinosaurs eating his arms. Our Dollar Store action figure of a hero, Chad--er, Brad, er...Owen? Our Dollar Store action figure of a hero, Owen (Chris Pratt), screams at Rainn to give up vital information about the location of the emotionless British cyborg clone from the last film, Maisie (Isabella Sermon), who (that?) Owen and his girlfriend/wife/whatever, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), have since adopted. Rainn, before getting his head torn off tastefully offscreen, spills the beans. Here's my problem: why? Why the fuck would he bother to say anything at all? When this scenario plays out in other films, it's because the person being asked the question hopes they'll be freed once they do. But Owen doesn't control these dinosaurs with his magic dinosaur-controlling hand, and it's not framed as Rainn having a change of heart. It's... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2022 at Film Freak Central
**/**** Image B+ Sound A- starring Harrison Ford, Anne Heche, David Schwimmer, Jacqueline Obradors screenplay by Michael Browning directed by Ivan Reitman by Bill Chambers Still smarting from back-to-back high-profile failures (the Arnie-gets-pregnant comedy Junior and the Billy Crystal/Robin Williams team-up Father's Day), director Ivan Reitman needed a hit, badly. In casting Six Days Seven Nights, he took out the closest thing to a living insurance policy you will find in Hollywood: Harrison Ford. For Ford's co-star and the female lead, he chose Anne Heche, who's spent a few years in the trenches (best friend and wife roles) gaining traction as the next Meg Ryan. Then Ford seemed to go through a mid-life crisis, sporting an earring and a hip new look on the talk-show circuit that felt like a rejection of his stoic image and the fans thereof. And Heche came out as a lesbian in a public declaration of love for Ellen DeGeneres. It created a lot of static for both their performances and audiences to overcome, yielding Reitman's third flop in a row. Does this mean Six Days Seven Nights is some buried treasure you'd be lucky to discover at the video store? Not really, because the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2022 at Film Freak Central
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Please note that all framegrabs are from the 1080p version ****/**** Image A Sound A Extras B- starring Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, Macdonald Carey, Henry Travers screenplay by Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, Alma Reville, from an original story by Gordon McDonell directed by Alfred Hitchcock by Walter Chaw Just by the fact of her, Charlie (Teresa Wright) is dangerous for her Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten), a violent rebuke of the caustic nihilism of his worldview. She's too pure, too loving, too good; her existence is proof there's something wrong with him. Very wrong. She's so rare a thing, the only way to protect her and, by extension, what he believes about our debased, postlapsarian state is to corrupt her. Really, he's doing her a favour. I think that Uncle Charlie knows he's running out of time, that the dragnet around him is tightening at the neck. I think he wants to spend whatever freedom he has left turning his namesake to his way of thinking. Visiting for the first time in too long, he brings gifts for everyone in his sister Emmy's (Patricia Collinge, her character named after Hitch's mother) family: his brother-in-law Joe (Henry Travers), his little niece Ann... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2022 at Film Freak Central
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****/**** starring Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, Scott Speedman written and directed by David Cronenberg by Angelo Muredda "It's not a completely bad feeling, at least not uninteresting," muses performance artist Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) about his scratchy throat during a quiet moment in David Cronenberg's career-capping Crimes of the Future, a tender affair about listening to and affirming one's aging, sick, and mutable body--contrary to all the pre-hype about walkouts and the director's supposed return to his grimy horror roots. Saul lives with a radical disease called Accelerated Evolution Syndrome, which causes him to rapidly spawn superfluous organs. Surgical and life partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux) removes them on stage in underground live shows that fall somewhere between medical procedures you might gawk at on YouTube and ecstatic religious ceremonies. Saul is a full partner in these sensual spectacles, writhing in an open sarcophagus while Caprice mythologizes his new developments like a curator at a Francis Bacon show. Here, though, Saul is simply taking the opportunity to mind the sensations produced by his latest corporeal work of art, noting his symptoms with the observational humour and delicacy of previous Cronenberg protagonists who double as archivists of their changing forms.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2022 at Film Freak Central
**/**** Image A Sound A+ Extras B narrated by Laurence Fishburne directed by James D. Stern and Don Kempf by Bill Chambers "Up close some heroes get even bigger." If I ever get around to compiling the 2000 Billy Awards, look for the above to receive "Worst Tagline." Belonging to the IMAX release Michael Jordan to the Max, it's fascinating copy all the same, at once the technically true and false advertising--the latter in terms of both execution and the film's home-video destiny. Do take my criticisms below with a grain of salt: I don't know basketball from cantaloupes, and I've never subscribed to the theory that Jordan is so iconic that he transcends sports, race, gender, even team partisanship. His cushioned shoes, maybe. Michael Jordan to the Max is one of the odder pieces of propaganda out there. Bloated with affectations of hype, it doesn't actually have anything to sell. Its only aim seems to be to keep Jordan in the public consciousness now that he's hung up his jersey--the Simple Minds song "Don't You (Forget About Me)" would've made an appropriate theme. It's too soon to fret that we won't remember Jordan's myriad accomplishments: kids half my 26... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2022 at Film Freak Central
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Walter Chaw interviews VFX legend Phil Tippett, writer-director of MAD GOD by Walter Chaw The heir apparent to stop-motion pioneers Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen, Phil Tippett is one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century. It's his hands animating the AT-ATs in The Empire Strikes Back. He designed creatures for the Cantina and the moving pieces on the Dejarik table. He animated the Rancor, and the bugs in Starship Troopers, and RoboCop's ED-209. He was the "dinosaur supervisor" on Jurassic Park, overseeing the industry-changing transition from stop-motion, Tippett's metier, to CGI. It could've been the end of his career, but his working methods adapted to the digital realm. The product of his hands is, for my generation, the clay of our imagination. I grew up playing with toys based on his designs and watching movies full of his animating spirit, everything from Piranha to The Golden Child. With his place in the pantheon long assured, he moved to the director's chair for the thirty-years-in-the-making Mad God, and the end result is something that looks and feels very much like madness. It's glorious. I spoke with Mr. Tippett over Zoom and was betrayed once or twice by overwhelming... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2022 at Film Freak Central
***/**** Image A- Sound A Extras C starring Linda Manz, Max Perlich, Jacob Reynolds, Chloe Sevigny written and directed by Harmony Korine by Walter Chaw Xenia, Ohio, America's middle-of-nowhere, is imagined by Harmony Korine (Kids) as the quintessence of Grant Wood's slightly canted take on the gothic at the heart of the mundane. It's a town out of step, recovering from a tornado which, an opening narration tells us, left people dead, cats and dogs dead, and houses ripped apart. In Gummo, his directorial debut, one of the tasks Korine sets for himself is detailing the psychological damage wrought on Xenia by two different forces of nature: the lingering emotional fallout from the almost-forgotten tornado; and the tragedy of being born with no advantageous DNA in an ever-diminishing gene pool. The characters in Gummo constantly engage in nihilistic reenactments of tragedies past: murdering cats, fighting one another, huffing glue, coupling desperately, and, in one especially surreal sequence, wrestling a chair. It's a keen and discomfiting chronicle of the fugue of frustrated aggressions seeking to redress themselves through sadistic action. More disturbing than any physical violence or petty cruelty, however, are the instances in Gummo in which creatures clearly unable to... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2022 at Film Freak Central
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The Screenplay Closet by Bill Chambers It's hard for me to remember the BW (Before Walter) times now, but this site was already four years old when Walter Chaw joined it in 2001. In 1997, I was writing reviews for one of my hometown newspapers and living in the only dorm on the campus of York University that offered free broadband in every suite. So I taught myself basic HTML and established a GeoCities page in order to "syndicate" my print reviews. My time at the paper ended pretty much when I graduated from film school; I kept the site going because I needed something to take my mind off the crickets that had suddenly replaced my social life. I convinced myself that FILM FREAK CENTRAL--known, in those first few months, as FILM GEEK CENTRAL, to my everlasting shame--was only temporary and that screenplays, which I'd been writing in my spare time for a decade, were how I was really going to unlock the door to fortune and glory. Murch and Me, May 1, 2001 FFC, in its nascence, was mainly a one-man band, barring the odd review from Vincent Suarez, a friend I'd made on Usenet; CBC critic Christopher... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2022 at Film Freak Central
First Strike **½/**** Image B Sound A- starring Jackie Chan, Chen Chun Wu, Jackson Lou screenplay by Stanley Tong, Nick Tramontane, Greg Mellott, and Elliot Tong directed by Stanley Tong RUSH HOUR *½/**** Image A Sound A Extras A+ starring Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Tom Wilkinson, Elizabeth Peña screenplay by Jim Kouf and Ross LaManna directed by Brett Ratner by Bill Chambers Early on in Rush Hour, the smash-hit buddy-cop movie from last fall, there's a shot of Jackie Chan clinging tenaciously to a Hollywood street sign as he dangles several feet above the L.A. traffic. It's a powerful metaphor for Chan's career: Rush Hour represents his last-ditch effort to become a Stateside action star after finally finding a measure of Hollywood success with the popularity of HK imports like Rumble in the Bronx and Supercop. (Indeed, Chan includes said image in the colour stills portion of his autobiography I Am Jackie Chan, annotated by this caption: "On the set of Rush Hour--hanging on to another chance at Hollywood success.") This final gamble, after striking out in the early-'80s with Cannonball Run II and The Big Brawl, his English-language debut, paid off handsomely. But why? Maybe it was the teaming... Continue reading
Posted May 29, 2022 at Film Freak Central
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***½/**** starring Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Val Kilmer screenplay by Ehren Kruger and Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie directed by Joseph Kosinski by Walter Chaw Joseph Kosinski's Top Gun: Maverick (hereafter Maverick) does everything the Tony Scott original did well a little bit better and doesn't bother with the rest. What drives this legacy sequel is the sobriety with which it addresses the passage of time--the existential horror of being the oldest person at the bar, of all those pictures that look like what you think you still look like, of the toll of watching your children outgrow you while every anchor you have to this world withers and dies. It is, in other words, a spectacular action film and a mature character drama whose closest analogue might be Danny Boyle's T2 Trainspotting--a film that, likewise, took its cue from a showy and popular first film and forged from it a work of real substance and surprising pathos. What's most impressive is how balanced Maverick feels. Its action component is plotted out like an elaborate, aerial heist flick with the stakes obvious and the steps delineated cleanly and simply, so that when it finally comes time to... Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2022 at Film Freak Central
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Please note that all framegrabs are from the 1080p version */**** Image A Sound B Extras C starring Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings, Norman Lloyd, Otto Kruger screenplay by Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison, Dorothy Parker directed by Alfred Hitchcock by Walter Chaw When I think of Saboteur, which isn't often, it's as the first American project Hitchcock developed largely without his beloved assistant Joan Harrison, who left after co-writing the first draft (seeing in the opportunity to produce The Phantom Lady her chance to wriggle out from under Hitch's shadow), and, maybe more significantly, without his most essential collaborator, wife Alma Reville, then away in New York with their daughter Pat, who had just won the lead role in a play. They left creative absences Hitch tried to fill--disastrously, I think--with Algonquin Roundtable alumni Peter Viertel and Dorothy Parker. (If there's a case to be made about the importance of Alma to Hitchcock's career, it may be useful to examine those films where we know she was absent.) I also think of Saboteur, when I do, as an attempt at an "all-American" film of the kind Hitchcock, fearing he'd left Britain trailing with him too much of the old country, was... Continue reading
Posted May 22, 2022 at Film Freak Central
UNDER THE CHERRY MOON ***/**** Image B+ Sound B+ starring Prince, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jerome Benton, Steven Berkoff screenplay by Becky Johnston directed by Prince GRAFFITI BRIDGE */**** Image A- Sound B+ starring Prince, Morris Day, Jerome Benton & The Time, Jill Jones written and directed by Prince by Travis Mackenzie Hoover There's something cinematic about the artist known as Prince, and it's not just his effeminate charisma (though there's that) or his flair for theatre (though there's that, too): The whole sensual package that is his deliciously weird sensibility--a blend of satin-laced fetishism and self-loving exhibitionism--all but cries out to be photographed. The question is, was The Artist himself filmmaker enough to bring that to the screen? Making for a split decision are the two films that bear his directorial stamp, both of which have finally hit DVD. In one corner stands Under the Cherry Moon, a savagely-underrated romance that suggests that with someone else's script, he's got the right stuff; in the other corner sits Graffiti Bridge, a grotesque white elephant that suggests Prince left to his own devices turns from funk idol into sadly inebriated schoolgirl. First, the good news: Under the Cherry Moon manages to capture... Continue reading
Posted May 21, 2022 at Film Freak Central
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***½/**** Image A- Sound A Extras B starring Melissa Berrera, Mason Gooding, Jenna Ortega, Neve Campbell written by James Vanderbilt & Guy Busick directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett by Walter Chaw Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven's Scream cycle, in terms of its influence on modern film, constitutes the most important metatext of the last 25 years in that it's not only self-referential, it's curious about how self-reference can be an essential ontological tool as opposed to a mere existential exercise. They're better movies, in this respect, than The Matrix and its sequels, and, at least in terms of their popularity, they're more important than even Charlie Kaufman's extraordinary but limited-appeal body of work. The Scream saga, for lack of a better word, matters. Not for nothing does Scream 3, despite being the weakest installment of the original four and the only one of those that didn't involve Williamson in any significant way, take place mainly on a simulacrum of hero Sidney's childhood home and neighbourhood, recreated inside a soundstage like the to-scale streets of Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York. If the first film is a watershed, the second is perhaps the series' masterpiece: a phenomenal bit of pop philosophy... Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2022 at Film Freak Central
The Revival, Toronto|The more I listen to documentarians, the less I trust the documentary. The line that separates fact from fiction and reportage from drama is so fine that it frequently disappears altogether; even the best-intentioned filmmaker is under pressure to give shape to something that is essentially formless, and in so doing leaves out much essential information. The directors on today's panel, which deals with the vagaries of representing the past for the present, did their best to downplay the dangers of such a situation, but their words kept raising more questions than they answered, and I walked out of Revival even more leery of the form than I was going in. One problem, as Bill Weber pointed out, is that people's memories are often subjective--the interviewees of his film The Cockettes frequently contradicted each other as they remembered the drag troupe/commune of which they were members. The filmmaker is often in the position of sorting out what to believe, if anything--a process that requires great care. Furthermore, the filmmaker is often in the position of speaking for people who can't speak for themselves, such as the dead: Brenda Longfellow spoke of how she used diaries and actors to... Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2022 at Film Freak Central
The Revival, Toronto, April 8|The swellegant club/restaurant Revival, with its yellow-brick interiors and Japanese-paper chandeliers, was the appropriately modern setting for the unveiling of the 2002 Hot Docs festival line-up. As the press gallery filtered in (after a stop at the food table), the programmers gravitated towards the mic and announced program highlights culled from the 104 documentaries on offer in their expanded ten-day event, which runs from April 26th to May 5th. Of special interest amongst the programs is the retrospective of Inuit director Zacharias Kunuk. A wide body of short works that document, and hope to strengthen, the Inuit way of life represents Kunuk, who shot to fame after winning the Camera d'Or at last year's Cannes festival. Included is the acclaimed Quaggiq ("Gathering Place"), which centres on negotiations between two families on a marriage, and Nipi ("Voice"), which explores, on the eve of Nunavut's birth, the challenges faced in asserting Inuit control over the region. Also attending the festival is vérité master Frederick Wiseman. Wiseman achieved notoriety through his suppressed asylum documentary Titicut Follies and quickly established himself as a constant and controversial eye on various institutions and social systems in such films as Welfare, Juvenile Court,... Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2022 at Film Freak Central