Wednesday, October 31, 2012

OLDIE GOLDIES: Ikiru (1952)

This week I watched my first Akira Kurosawa film and it will be this week's Oldie Goldies pick - Ikiru. This tragic, thought-provoking film is grounded by a devastating performance by Takashi Shimura. I could barely even look at his face.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

TOP 10: Spotlight on Horror

In honor of October as the month of Halloween, I decided to venture into a genre that I don't normally gravitate towards - Horror. After enduring some frights, I've come up with another "Top 10" (check out my previous "Spotlight on Bollywood" post for your reading pleasure). A lot of fellow bloggers have been making similar lists and it made me realize I am still lacking in my knowledge of the genre. I admit, I still haven't seen classics like "Halloween" and "Carrie", but I enjoy my selected films enough to make this list.

Monday, October 29, 2012


"Looper" is a bold, daring piece of work by Rian Johnson. Prior to this film, he worked on films of a much smaller scale (namely Brick and The Brothers Bloom). This time however, he was shooting for the stars as he wrote and directed this mind-blowing action/sci-fi/thriller about time travel. If you thought "Inception" was complex, then wait till you see this! This film is so meta that it would fail miserably without the narration to guide you along. As Bruce Willis’ character rightly says in the film, "this time travel crap…just fries your brain like an egg". Creating a story around time travel and altering the course of history is always tricky, but it is handled pretty well here (assuming you’re able to follow the timeline of events). Johnson finds very smart ways of conveying the relationship between the past and the future. I particularly liked the ending, as it satisfyingly wraps up the prior events of the film. As with any futuristic film, "Looper" required much attention to detail with respect to the look and feel of our future world. This aspect was one of the strong points for me, as it is tastefully done. This version of the future features a believable cityscape, without outlandish technology and clothing. I loved several of the embellishments, such as the solar panels on the cars and homes. It's a job well done by the art director and visual effects team.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

BLOGATHON: 6° of Separation

Shala from Life Between Films recently came up with a fun idea for a blogathon. It's called "6° of Separation" and requires participants to connect a pair of actors through films. From the 3 options given, I chose to link Andrew Garfield and Claire Danes. Check out my entry below, with clips showing the connections between the actors:

Friday, October 26, 2012

#FF Rating Films, reviews and more...

There will always be an ongoing debate over how we judge the art of film. I even did a post earlier this week on the subject of the awful concept of the "0-star" rating. Check out Ryan's take on the idea of rating films, among other great reads from the past week:

Ryan recently sparked much debate about the merits of rating films.

Nikhat gushes over Ruby Sparks in her review.

Josh recently listed his Top 10 Favourite Horror Films. Look for my list next week!

Stevee recently did a unique musical review of Prometheus

Shawna remembers Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange as one of her "Unforgettable Performances". She's a new LAMB member, so follow her site and make her feel welcome!

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

OLDIE GOLDIES: Frankenstein (1931)

This week's choice is perfectly timed for the Halloween season, it's none other than 1931's "Frankenstein". This film checks all the boxes required to create a creepy film experience. It's got it all - great lighting, sinister voices, jolting sound effects, awkward body language and some striking shot compositions by the cinematographer and art director.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

DISCUSSION: The "0-Star" Rating

In the past couple of weeks I've twice come across instances where persons have felt inclined to give a film the "0 star" rating. Every time I see this, it immediately triggers something in my mind that this person is exaggerating their disdain. I fully admit I am perhaps too lenient with my ratings (I never hesitate to give a 4 1/2 or 5 star rating, while rarely ever giving a movie 1 star or less). I usually only watch movies that appeal to me, so perhaps I'm really missing a lot of dreck. At the same time though, I find myself always taking something positive from my worst movie-watching experiences. Sometimes it's a standout acting performance, or maybe it's just some brilliant costume design. Perhaps I take the term "0" too literally, but for me there's always something there to give it a rating of substance. Even if it's just a 1/2 star.
When discussing this with a fellow blogger, he brought up the benefits of letter grades over numbered ratings systems. While I do use the 5-star rating system myself, I often find it more meaningful to give a really bad movie an "F", rather than a "0". It implores me to wonder if maybe the letter grade system is better suited to movie criticism.

What's your stance on the "0 star" rating? Please feel free to discuss in the comments section. I'm very interested to hear your thoughts.

Monday, October 22, 2012


"Ruby Sparks" charmed my socks off. Among the plethora of indie comedies, this film stands out as it seems to poke fun at certain staples of the genre itself. On IMDb, someone called this film "Manic Pixie Dream Girl: The Movie" and I think it’s an astute observation. The plot tells the story of a writer struggling with declining fame, a breakup and writer’s block. While going through his misery, Calvin (Paul Dano) one day finds inspiration in the concept of writing about the beautiful girl that he dreams of at night. To his surprise and bewilderment, he somehow possesses the power to manifest his fantasy into reality. He wakes to find her in his home and like a true manic pixie dream girl, she changes him for the better. They fall in love and she re-introduces him to the joys of life. As the story progresses, the film finds some brilliant moments to comment on our unrealistic ideals of the magical female. Prior to the real-world appearance of this girl named Ruby Sparks (played by Zoe Kazan), Calvin gives an early draft of his novel to his brother. After reading it he says "quirky, messy women whose problems only make them endearing are not real". It’s a real harbinger for the type of character that Calvin envisions Ruby to be. She represents all those excessively quirky (but lovable) female characters we see in movies, that we know couldn't function in real society. As Harry goes on to say, "You haven’t written a person". As Calvin tries to let Ruby live without forcing her actions, he comes to realize the truth behind his brother’s statements. The film makes Calvin and the viewer realize the folly of the manic pixie dream girl character. It’s a situation of "you can’t have your cake and eat it too". Specifically, it’s unrealistic for a woman to be so infinitely carefree and yet so willing to become wholeheartedly smitten with a single person. As a woman, Zoe Kazan understands this issue first-hand and I love how she addresses it in her script. It ultimately makes for a more satisfying viewing experience than the typical indie romcom in this vein.
Aside from the interesting screenplay, the film really appealed to me due to the performances of Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan. They are so charming and have such great chemistry together. It’s no surprise that they are dating in real life. They really do sell the romance and the humour. Chris Messina also amuses with his flabbergasted reactions to this perplexing situation. Overall, the film may be too decidedly pleasant for some. For me, the subject matter is thought-provoking enough to make me accept the extra servings of sugar.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


After holding on to a positive grade in the early part of the movie, I eventually had to give up and slap this film with my "A Rotten Tomato" label. The first scene of this film promises a campy, fun-filled experience but it slowly turns into something that isn't very enjoyable. For a horror film, this movie isn't very scary at all. I guess that's a hard task when the killer is a doll. Chucky is sometimes funny, sometimes creepy but he never really makes you jump out of your seat with fright. I scare easily, so that's a good indication that this "horror" movie isn't doing its job. The film lacked atmosphere and there just weren't enough violent scenes. Most of the time there just isn't anything interesting happening on screen. Apart from the lack of thrills, the film also suffers from bad acting. I have no desire to watch the sequels.

Friday, October 19, 2012

#FF Argo, Skyfall and more...

This week was all about Argo, Ben Affleck's lastest directorial effort that is thrilling audiences worldwide. I'm certainly a fan and expect a fair share of Oscar attention for it. One of the best things about films like this is the excellent writing that it inspires from critics/bloggers. My fellow lammies are no exception. Check out some of their reviews among other interesting reads this week:

Joey praises Affleck's continuous improvement as a director in his review for Argo

Dan wasn't as enthused with Argo as the rest of us, but still gives a positive review worth reading.

Andrew writes a really excellent review of Argo that I highly recommend checking out.

Amir gives an Iranian's perspective in his review, addressing the political aspects (or lack thereof) of Argo.

There's more love for Argo over at Love & Squalor.

Tired of Argo reviews yet? Here's one more from Andrew at Go, See, Talk.

Simon sparked some interesting Oscar discussion recently, posing the question "Could the Sky Fall at the 2013 Academy Awards?"

For her latest "Scene Stealer" post, Jenny showcases one of my favourite scenes and accompanying music.

Tank and Fogs recently celebrated the one year anniversary of The (title pending) Movie Podcast!

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

OLDIE GOLDIES: Bicycle Thieves (1948)

This week on Oldie Goldies I give you a classic example of Italian neorealist cinema - 1948's "Bicycle Thieves". This story about a poor man trying to make it in post-war Italy is fairly straightforward, but there's much to like. The father-son relationship (played by non-actors) packs a real emotional gut-punch. The film was one of the first Foreign Language Oscar winners before it became an official category. In addition, the film managed to earn a nomination for Best Screenplay.

Monday, October 15, 2012


If you've been following the film festival circuit, you've probably heard a lot about the success of "Argo". As a result, the film came in to its wide release with ridiculously high expectations. I think this may be the film’s biggest hurdle going into the awards season. The marketing promises a riveting thriller, but that’s not entirely accurate. The film is divided into 2 distinct halves, made even more apparent to me due to my theater's traditional midpoint intermission.
The narrative of the film surrounds 6 persons who escape a raid of Iran's American embassy by local protesters. After this introduction though, the first half becomes your typical procedural drama. It got me thinking "this movie is good, but I don’t see what’s so special about it". Due to the high expectations and the marketing strategy, this section of the film feels very slow. It’s not exactly boring, but you keep waiting for something exciting to happen. It’s all exposition and set-up for the mission ahead. Luckily, we have Alan Arkin. This veteran actor brings a much needed spark to this part of the film. He’s delivers the humour with some great zingers that make him a memorable presence throughout, even though we don’t really see him in the 2nd half.
As the movie moves into this 2nd half, that’s when it really becomes the great film that everyone is raving about. The film is based on the true story of an exfiltration plan to free American hostages under the guise of a fake film production. It’s a crazy idea, but as they say in the film, "it’s the best bad idea they have". The Americans are hiding in the Canadian ambassador’s home in revolutionary Iran, while protesters demand the release of a former corrupt leader. When the group of hostages go on a location scout, it really hits home how risky and dangerous the plan is. You can practically feel the tension mounting. The actual escape features some of the most intense, nerve-wracking scenes you can imagine. I literally couldn't stop my right leg from shaking, and as I looked across the aisle I noticed another guy was experiencing the same too! Thankfully, we could all breathe easy at the end, as the film really delivers a satisfying conclusion.

Friday, October 12, 2012

#FF Perks of Being A Wallflower, Film Festivals and more...

Earlier this week I watched "The Perks of Being A Wallflower" and it really blew me away. I highly encourage people to go see this film, so I've included some great reviews of the film to hopefully further your interest. Check out those reviews among other great posts from this week:

Ryan remembers high school in his review of The Perks of Being A Wallflower.

Sam also gives a strong review of The Perks of Being A Wallflower over at Duke & The Movies.

Erik also gave a strong recommendation for The Perks of Being A Wallflower.

Tom of At The Back reviewed Oliver Stone's Platoon.

As a veteran film festival attendee, Shala compares the experiences of various major festivals.

For his "Halloween Horror Movie Month", Dan praises the realism of 28 Days Later in his review.

Finally, I am so pleased to welcome The Awards Circuit to the LAMB Community. They are one of the top Oscar blogs and their editor is BFCA member Clayton Davis, who votes for the important precursor show The Critics Choice Awards. So yeah, they know their stuff. Check out the latest episode of their Power Hour podcast.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, October 11, 2012

OLDIE GOLDIES: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

This week's selection for Oldie Goldies tells a classic tale - "The Adventures of Robin Hood". The style of this film is clearly old-fashioned, so it's one of those instances where you can't scrutinize it based on modern standards. With that in mind, its a perfectly enjoyable recreation of this popular story. The film picked up a trio of Oscars (Best Art Direction, Best Editing and Best Original Score) and was also nominated for Best Picture.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

"The Perks of Being A Wallflower" is a beautiful film. It's that rare coming of age film that really challenges the viewer to experience a full emotional journey. If you come into this with an open heart and without prejudice, I believe you will be very touched by this film. Personally, I was so deeply affected that I felt physically ill towards the end. About halfway through, my eyes got watery and they stayed that way for the remainder of the film. Even afterward I was left emotionally bare trying to internally process what I saw.
Much of the film's success rests on the shoulders of young Logan Lerman. It's a heavy burden to carry, but he was definitely up to the challenge. As the introverted freshman Charlie, his performance is appropriately delicate and measured. It's an expertly subtle performance that belies his years and experience. Playing his new-found senior friends, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson are similarly outstanding. Miller is the more memorable of the two though, as he delivers a fearless interpretation of Patrick, an outgoing gay teenager. He brings the humour and devastates you in his dramatic moments as well. Somewhere in the middle of these opposing personalities lies Emma Watson's character Sam. As Patrick's stepbrother and Charlie's love interest, she plays a unique "manic pixie girl" with her sense of calm authenticity. The 3 of them together create a wonderful dynamic that shows the power of true friendship. They love each other unconditionally and form a much-needed support group as a bunch of "wallflowers". Often in these high school flicks, the characters are either nerds or popular kids. Unfortunately this ignores the presence of a larger group of misfits who simply choose to be the "average" teenager. The film's casting is genius as these 3 main characters are fashionable, good-looking and for the most part, well-liked. This is where the beauty of the script comes into play. While the trio seems perfectly normal on the outside, they all carry serious baggage that prevents them from reaching their full potential. It's a tough reminder of the life-altering scars that result from physical and emotional abuse of young people.
As this story unfolds, we really begin to admire these characters and root for their success and happiness. They refuse to let their pain define them and choose to persevere and endure. It's a great message for kids today, especially with the prevalence of bullying in schools. Overall, Stephen Chbosky did a fine job in directing and adapting his own writing for the big screen.

Friday, October 5, 2012

#FF Re-watching movies, Hitchcock and more...

The recent release of the apparently obtuse film "The Master" has prompted some dicussion as to the value of films that require repeat viewings to appreciate. Personally, I'm in two minds on the matter as I rarely watch movies twice (there are just too many good ones I haven't seen), but I love it when a film reveals its brilliance upon re-visit. Read what Jessica and Ryan had to say, among other great posts this week:

Jessica explored the question "Should you have to watch a movie three times to get what it's about?"

Ryan also addressed the issue with a great post about the benefits of repeat viewings of films.

Dan recently listed his Top 5 Alfred Hitchcock Films.

Nick from The Cinematic Katzenjammer recently reviewed the delightful 1986 musical Little Shop of Horrors.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

OLDIE GOLDIES: Metropolis (1927)

This week on Oldie Goldies, I highlight a great film of the silent era - Metropolis. Released in 1927, this thematically rich film features impressive special effects and art direction, especially considering the technology available at the time. The film certainly influenced many of the sci-fi movies that followed.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Check out my tumblr!

The fall tv season has begun (yay!) and I thought I should start sharing my thoughts on my favourite shows. Hence, I decided to start a tumblr site to highlight all the series I watch. There won't be any actual reviews, just little nuggets of things that grab me on TV and stuff related to my favourite tv series.
I find television a more personal medium than film, as it takes time for you to really attach yourself to it. Especially with shows like Mad Men, the brilliance doesn't reveal itself until much later when you have become attached to the characters and their individual stories. Heck, I'm still going through mild withdrawal over Friday Night Lights!
So, if you care to know what I like on tv, check out my companion site:

Monday, October 1, 2012

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Tiny Furniture

After hearing a lot about Lena Dunham's series "Girls" lately (good and bad), I thought I should check out her early film "Tiny Furniture". It was available on Netflix, so I thought I'd give it a shot, expecting the worst. To my surprise however, I really liked this film. Even more shocking was the fact that I actually saw little bits of myself in Lena Dunham's character Aura. The film basically follows Aura as she tries to figure out her life in those unsure months right after graduation. Without doing much research into the film, I could immediately sense that this was semi-autobiographical, which it is. The story is taken basically directly from her life experiences and she cast her real-life family, one of her actual friends and she even uses her own family home. This realism really plays out in the screenplay. The dialogue isn't quirky like other indie films, neither is it sharp and witty like an Aaron Sorkin film. It's just...normal. This proves to be both a blessing and curse. It certainly brings a sense of authenticity to the proceedings, but it almost makes it "uncinematic" (that's a word right?). The script doesn't allow for any memorable scenes or insightful monologues. Indeed, some of the characters in this are downright deadpan, almost to the point of being wooden (notably Siri and Jed). As a result, the monotone nature of the film takes away some of the entertainment value that helps to make great cinema. That being said, I was still very impressed by this effort. From my own experience, it truthfully portrays the angst of recent college graduates (especially those from private liberal arts colleges) dealing with the aftermath of the recession.