Friday, March 23, 2018

Twin Peaks - the Return 2017 by David Lynch

It's hard to criticize the work of David Lynch under the best of circumstances. His mix of genres, notable film noir and surrealism is unique in the creative world. He takes chances and for that at least, the new season of Twin Peaks, 25 years after the last one, is something to watch, appreciate but not really to understand.

In many ways this is a followup to his film "Fire Come Walk with Me" over the TV show as he seems to be following the ideas presented in that film. He doesn't forget the TV show, not by a long shot and there is plenty (maybe too much) fan service in this Showtime special event series. He is David Lynch and could have avoided following up on our favourites from the past, but instead goes full in and because of that his affection for the material shows through and his desire to include the fates of actors who died in real life over the preceding ¼ century is truly touching.

The story of this new series explore the identities of doppelgäners, the most notable is that of agent Dale Cooper who is trying to return to the corporale world while his evil twin is loose and causing violence and havoc. There is a third version of Copper, Dougie Jones who we spend the most time with, who has the real Cooper trapped inside him. This show has entire episodes of just flat out bizarre imagery and odd story lines and goes in and out of colour and black and white, traversing dimensions and timelines. It does this without any exposition to explain any of it. You are truly on your own but Lynch has enough "real" plot to keep you going if you just get completely lost in the more out there segments.

Overall this is a worthy successor to Lynch's maybe best known work and Showtime should be commended  for (eventually) giving him free reign over it. It's not without its flaws though. I don't buy the relationship between Cooper and Diane who we finally meet in the flesh and some of the returning characters don't add much to the new story. Some of those nostalgic bits are the most heartwarming so it's difficult to argue they shouldn't be included. Dale Cooper is not the same person we saw in the original which makes sense, but he is a sombre much less fun version of himself. All those quirks about the Dali lama and his free form investigating techniques are gone which is a shame. This lacks much of the humour that helped us through the horror of the shows first 2 seasons.

The series ends in a way which I'm sure is exactly at Lynch intended, but as an audience member, it falls short of satisfying. Maybe after 25 years of suffering, I feel the residents of Twin Peaks merited something a little more upbeat. I was happy to see this on air and happier to see it was done without compromise but I doubt I'll got back to it like I do the first 2 seasons.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Wonder Woman 2017 directed by Patty Jenkins

I know this film has been out awhile and a lot has been said about it but I'll put in my 2 cents anyway.
(Spoilers will follow.)

In a nutshell, it's a pretty awesome super hero film and Patty Jenkins' direction has a lot to do with it, Gal Gaddot is so good you might almost forget Linda Carter in the role. Almost.  A woman superhero, a woman at the helm, two things Hollywood has been pretty stupid about over the years, stating no one will buy women in those roles. Screw you, Hollywood this film made a mint and Warner's more male oriented super heroes outings can't hold a candle to this film in any way.

I have seen it twice, second time in French and I liked it better for some reason in French. Go figure.  More likely I was able to see more of what was good in it. My first viewing, I really hated the ending... another giant battle between what amounts to gods on earth. Like every almost super hero film it before it. I still think it was the low point of a great movie but not bad.

Wonder Woman has some amazing scenes. The island scenes introducing us to the world work really well and the scene where Wonder Woman steps into no man's land, as only a woman can, takes the film from 5 to 100 in terms of emotional impact. Action packed, yes, but Gaddot takes us from uncertain fish out of water Diana Prince to saviour of an entire town and has us cheering for her. The problem I had with the ending is I wanted more of this sort of action... Wonder Woman in WW1, taking on the bad guys bringing them to justice. They could have have kept the poison gas plot, Steve Trevor's death, basically everything but the gods fighting part and had a movie that really showed the horrors of war and found a way to challenge our heroine without the typical evil also having to be a super being trope - it could have been her against a much more real version of evil. It's not bad, as I said but disappointing because this movie deserved better.  It could have been just as fantastic and action packed, but the stakes would have meant more.

You can't really understate how good Gaddot is in this role. Her presence is capable and seems very real. I'd see just about anything else she does after this.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Daimajin, Return of Daimajin, and Wrath of Daimajin 1966 by Daiei Film

The Daimajin Trilogy is an odd little side step in the world of giant monster movies. All three were released the same year and all three have pretty similar plots. Daimajin is a giant statue possessed by a spirit owlet's say... justice.  He is usually called into action by the members of the deposed family or a religious figure, though not always and once his wrath is set in motion, he will not stop until peace has returned to the region. 

In the first film he is called to rid the people an evil warlord who sends his men to destroy the statue, but when they hammer a giant spike into its forehead, it bleeds, comes to life and returns the spike to the terrible warlord by impaling him with it. Revenge was not enough it seems and the monster continues destroying everything in site until the hero, a woman named Kozasa, cries on it's feet - causing the spirit to leave the statues which crumbles into rubble.

The second film is much the same, but Daimajin nows live sin the middle of a lake. Another evil warlord, who takes no chances this time and blows the statue to bits, has taken over the peaceful land.  Despite this, the spirit is summoned and rids the kingdom of the warlords forces and the warlord himself.

In the third outing, the statue is now on top on a mountain instead of the side of one. This time the common people call on his aid and he once again destroys the evil warlord and anyone associated with him. He also becomes a sort of "friend of the children" AKA Gamera the giant turtle series which was also done by Daiei Film. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

In the Future with Nostro-dumbass! 2018 directed by Vincent-louis Apruzzese

This is a remake of sorts. In 2010, I made a couple shorts using this character and dialog recorded by Michael Z. Keamy with a very primitive 3D puppet using Cinema 4D. It did win a small prize in a festival but I wasn't super happy with it overall so I've decided to re-do it, redesign the character and set and re-edit the sound into a shorter snappier and I hope, funnier piece.

For more information about making it:
Behemoth blog page

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Dream Boat 2017 directed by Tristan Ferland Milewski

Dream Boat is a 92 minute documentary following, more or less, five guys from different countries on a yearly all male gay cruise. It is composed of little audio vignettes and conversions of the vacationers impressions and feelings as they navigate though the myriad of parties, activities and 1000s of other guests - waxing poetic about their lives outside the bubble of the cruise ship and what they hope to get from this experience.

The cinematography, editing, sound - all the technical stuff are very, very good. It's obvious the film has a budget, but not big enough one to include the actual music played on the ship (which is  financially prohibitive these days) but to be honest I prefer the music made for the film, it's less distracting and gives a mood over a greatest hits list.

I feel less kindly towards the content we are shown. Slow films that move a their own pace are something I really appreciate, and I like that the filmmaker avoided the quick cutting party, music video look that would have been a given in most documentaries about gay men on a party boat.  However... this film would still be lacking enough real content if it was ½ it's current length. So many butt and crotch shots, so many beautiful drone shots of the boat from above, so many people just milling about in slow motion and so little actual information transmitted to the viewer.

It's hard to know what story or stories this doc is trying to tell. To be fair to the people interviewed, I think pretty much all of them had interesting stories to tell but we never got to hear more than the most superficial read of who these people are. The meandering pace and constant b-roll filler of party goers completely obscures anything we might get to find out about the cast.  Seriously, a 45 minute cut of this movie would be a huge improvement but I suspect still unsatisfying.

The elements of interest are present. Guys from very gay hostile countries, guys who have been serious hard times in their relationship,  he handicapped older man with his partner finding ways to participate in the activities - any one of these stories could be worth hearing about. Instead we hear far too much complaining about "gay culture" from them when practically everyone we see in the background is having a great time. I want to believe there was a lot more said in the interviews than the banal, lazy "all gay men want is..." statements that show lack of self reflection more than tell anything profound or true.

In the end, what could have been eye opening, is just eye candy. Did we really need to see someone getting a blowjob in public? I was left thinking the subjects were looking less for love and acceptance as they claimed but for attention.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Friday, February 9, 2018

An Honest Liar 2014 directed and produced by Justin Weinstein

There will be spoilers!
Odd that a documentary has spoilers but the one does.

This documentary documents the life of James Randi, otherwise known as the Amazing Randi. It goes lightly into his early life and career as a magician and escape artist but concentrates more on his activities as de-bunker of supernatural and religious claims.

His magic years could have been covered more, but as he was born in 1928, there is a lot of road to all over to get to present day. I was little disappointed at the repetition of the older photos They are great photos but show up several times each. I suppose this might be because of photo right issues which can up the cost of a production in no time flat.

Randi exposed noted faith healers like Peter Popoff and notably exposed the trickery of spoon bender Uri Geller who, to his credit is interviewed in this film and while not happy with Randi's interference in his career, he is still rich and seems to hold little animosity against the escape artist. They also cover the guilt some the people who helped expose these scams felt. Yes, the scammers were thieves and users, preying on desperate people but a few serious scientists were also convinced what they were doing was real and found out the guys they thought were going to give you place in history as the guy who proved supernatural powers exist are only there to show how gullible you are. To be fair, they were given all sorts of clues and ways to expose the debunkers and never did.

Randi's young boyfriend, José Alvarez was a key part in bringing to light the scam of the channeling craze in the 80s. The introduction of José becomes the new thrust of the documentary as during the filming it is discovered he has been living under an assumed name the whole time after escaping to the USA from South America as a teenager. I appreciated how all this was handled in the film. Randi is interviewed talking about how he knew of the deceit and demands that the filmmaker not expose that in the final cut of the film. To Randi's great credit, he reverses this decision and lets it all come out. (Speaking of which, many did not know Randi was gay until this incident.) This is actually the doc's big reveal, not the gay relationship but the immigration situation which was refreshing and not a little heart wrenching. After over 25 years together, they must face the idea they will be separated.

It's a good watch and while lacking in details, it is a very good resume of one of the world's best magicians. skeptics and takes a surprising personal turn that humanizes a man who spent his whole life in the spotlight.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Pinocchio (1940) Walt Disney Productions

After the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Walt Disney went to the Carlo Collodi story The Adventures of Pinocchio (1881-1882). The film strays, like most films do, form the source material in many ways (the blue fairy for example plays a much more central role in the story) but the basics are still there. A lonely woodcarver, Geppetto carves a puppet out of a talking piece of wood and the puppet then spends the rest of the story trying to become a « real boy »  after learning this is possible through the intervention of the blue fairy and with the help of a friendly cricket. In Collodi’s version, Pinocchio kills the cricket almost immediately. This does not happen, of course in the Disney version and the puppet has a series of adventures that lead him back to his father and the realization of his dream to become human. 

This is one of, if not the most satisfying of all of Disney’s films. Made for about 2.3 million it has made about 84 million at the box office total but was a flop at the start pulling in less than ½ of it’s budget on first release. By 1994 the film was added to the National Film Registry in the USA and Time magazine has put it in the best 25 films of all time. 

The script moves from one adventure to the next with great skill and the animation is rightly considered some of the best ever done. The songs and background designs are top notch. Many breakthroughs in animations were brought about by this film. Disney had 3D models of the characters and set pieces made so the animators could have realistic perspectives to work from, early forms of rotoscoping and integration of stop motion were used to add realism. The opening shot where Jimmy Cricket jumps down the street to Geppetto’s shop window with everything moving in parallax is truly amazing. There is a story that having spent so much time getting this scene right, Disney was very disappointed it did not get the notice it deserved and was upset when a boat shot in Peter Pan,done with the simplest of techniques, got an ovation, prompting him to swear to never do anything as complicated as Pinocchio’s opening shot again. 

The movie pushed special effects animation past it’s limit. The fairy dust and especially the water effects are so impressive that I would take them over 3D simulations any day. The backgrounds are beyond amazing. I saw a few at an exhibition and they were not only just beautiful paintings but the ability to draw them in ways the camera could pan across them and give the impression of turning a corner or zooming in... all through use of perspective tricks on one canvas was mind boggling. 

Obviously it is on my top list of films ever made, I never get tired of seeing it and get choked up every time I see Pinocchio face down in the water after saving his father from Monstro the evil whale. I can’t explain why, but that simple shot is always a shock to me. The entire film is memorable from start to finish. 

In the last few years, Disney Studios has been making noises about a live action film, as it has done with and plans to do with many of it’s other animated classics. Please… don’t. Re-release the original in theatres instead and let new generations experience how magical it is. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Martian (2015) directed by Ridley Scott

The biggest surprise in this film is that Ridley Scott can actually still make a good movie. His last two Alien franchise films are visually stunning but in all other aspects, especially intellectually - terrible. His Film Exodus: Gods and Kings was just straight out offensive. All that makes The Martian seem like a miracle as it's not only visually amazing but has great performances, is intellectually gripping and throws away Scott's recent ridiculous religious themes in lieu of a film that - to quote Matt Damon's character - Sciences the shit out of making a movie.

Based very closely on Andy Weir's novel, the film doesn't shy away from the science of a mission to Mars. In fact, science is the star of this film, outshining even Damon who must be given kudos for giving us a realistic and honest feeling scientist/astronaut main character. The tech stuff is presented in ways that expose how complicated it all is but also explains it so anyone can understand what is going on. Like every film every made, there are some things that are simply not possible in it, but -especially in this script- those things are easily forgiven and overlooked because of the excellent way they are shown and the drama they bring more than makes up for any inaccuracies they might add to the project.

Released after the movies Gravity and Interstellar, this almost makes a nice trilogy of cinema based more or less on hard(er) science  and proving that the public does in fact like to see smart films. It did very well a the box office and we can only hope that the future brings us not only to colonize the planet mars, but movies that show how the real science of the exploration of space is dramatic enough to hold a film and an audience's attention.

Friday, December 22, 2017


A different sort of post this time out. A short film, very well made, very thoughtful and beautiful. It's a bittersweet look at one man's life from start to finish and everything in between.