Saturday, February 28, 2015

Talking to Julian Richings "That guy in that movie"

Julian Richings in SUPERNATURAL

By way of introduction:
Hailed as Canada’s Greatest Actor by people more prestigious then myself, Julian Richings may very well be exactly that. Actually if you look back on his huge body of work it could be argued that he is simply one of the greatest actors working today anywhere. On the other hand he will be the first to tell you he is probably best known as "that guy who was in that movie"

It is not hyperbole to call Richings great, it’s the truth. All you need do is watch several of his films or TV appearances in close order and you’ll realize how good he is since he disappears into his roles so completely you don’t realize that it’s the same guy. That’s what happened when I saw PATCH TOWN and EJECTA last year back to back at Fantasia. Two of the earth shaking roles of the festival were played by Richings and I didn’t realize it until I looked at IMDB.

With the release of EJECTA to American theaters and on VOD I was gifted with a chance with the actor via phone. The interview was supposed to run about 15 minutes and instead it ran just under three times that length. Actually It wasn’t so much an interview but a glorious talk where one of the most charming people I’ve ever spoken to talked about his life as an actor. I said very little, stumbling through a few questions, preferring just listen as the great man simply talked. I was bowled over by his intelligence and warmth.  It was the sort of thing that I didn’t want to end and as the supposed end time approached came I hoped that it wouldn’t stop, and it didn’t for another 25 minutes. When it ended, as I knew it would, I was both sad that the conversation ended and thrilled at having talked to an amazing individual.

If you're coming into this interview for a long discussion of  EJECTA you will be disappointed since we only spoke a little about the film However if you are a fan of Julian Richings work you should be delighted at a chance to peer behind the mask of a man who usually ends up playing in horror movies. This is not a typical interview where the actor talks about his roles in detail, rather its the hows and whys of what he does.

What follows is probably 95% of our conversation. I removed some of the stuff at the beginning and end that didn't relate to our talk, a line or two of repetition and about three comments/questions I made. There was nothing in the material removed that you'd want to read.

I want to thank Ted Geoghegan for setting this up, John DiBello for proof reading my transcription and of course Julian Richings for taking the time and then some to do this (and all photos other than the EJECTA still are courtesy of Mr Richings.)

The Interview

STEVE (S): How are you?

JULIAN (J): Fine. Thank you. How are you? (laughs) I hope you can hear me okay. I have a pair of headphones but I'm not going to put them in cause it will probably collapse or something will go wrong —but can you hear me okay?

S: I can hear you fine; can you hear me?

J: Yeah, yeah.

S: The reason I'm asking is the thing I have to record is not for this phone, so I have you on speaker.

J: That’s fine. I have you on speaker. Nobody can hear you, but you're on speaker too.

It's one of the ironies, I'm in a lot of sci-fi and stuff and I often play crazy scientists and I'm the worlds worst person for this kind of thing so I have to come get my daughter to help me from time to time. "Plug this in," "Can you do that?"

S: Yeah? “How does this work?” I know how that goes. I can't do anything myself.

J: Yeah.

S: I have to thank you for blowing my mind last year, between EJECTA and PATCH TOWN.

J:: Oh wow, great! You saw them both?

Julian Richings in PATCH TOWN

S: I had seen you in PATCH TOWN and I had fallen in love with the film. And then I saw EJECTA, and I was like, what else was he in? I went to IMDB and was like "Oh my god he was the Child Catcher in PATCH TOWN!” and then I'm going through all your stuff and I'm like "Oh my God."

J: Yeah. I get around. I do a lot. I mean, that's the thing. I'm an ongoing working actor, and I'm lucky enough to have done a lot of stuff and theater and diverse amount of things too. Because I'm weird looking, I get pigeonholed into specific genres, but I have fun doing it, and I try to push the envelope as much as I can.

S: I can't understand how you haven't been carried off somewhere because you're so good. When you look at your body of work its amazing.

J: Part of it is I do a lot of independent film. I'm also here in Canada; we have a much smaller demographic here. Now you're down in the States, so it's not as if its not available to folks down in the states. Our market reach is smaller here and it keeps us independent. Unless you're going to go the LA route...

Speaking personally, I work with a lot of interesting emerging independent filmmakers here, and there's theater, and a whole bunch of different stuff, so I'm pretty happy. I'm originally from the UK so I've already kind of moved and settled, and the prospect of settling again into a bigger film center is not so appealing at the moment.

S: You'd go for a role or something but you wouldn't necessarily...

J: Yeah, not go down on the off chance of something happening. You know I just follow the work around and I'm happy, honestly.

S: I'm just amazed at everything you've done. The first thing that comes up when you look at your IMDB is MAN OF STEEL, then you go through all the TV shows and the films and everything else. Its like “WOW.”

J: I've enjoyed working with a lot of directors and writers and actors. Some famous, some not so famous. My thing is that's what I do. I'm proud being an actor, a working actor. I take every project seriously. I mean shooting EJECTA on a budget that's a fraction of MAN OF STEEL — I still take it absolutely the same. I pour everything I can into it. And by the same token, I don't have an inverted snobbery to some bigger pictures X-MEN 3, or stuff like that.

You basically go in and embrace the beast. You try and figure out what it’s about, and that to me is the joy of being an actor — you can actually parachute into things and have a very different challenge. I take each one seriously, and whether it’s film or theater or TV or whatever, I don't have a kind of hierarchy of values if you like.

I'm an actor and that's what I am. I think a lot of people confuse the business of acting, the work of acting, with fame. And its an interesting thing. I think some of my best work isn't my most famous work or my most far reaching work. For something to be effective if you reach ten people in an audience, maybe that's as important as reaching millions who could just take it or leave it.

I always talk about The Velvet Underground, early Velvet Underground — nobody ever bought their first album, but there was probably a hundred people in the room that saw them but they influenced the future of rock and roll.

I sort of challenge the notion of fame and fortune.

S: You challenge it and manage to make a living as an actor...

On set shooting "The Rainbow Kid" with Dylan Harman (left) and director Kire Paputts. Feature film to be released in 2015..

J: I'm lucky I found a way of finding my niche.

One of the things as I've gotten older and more mature, I guess younger filmmakers are aware of my work and I've made a point of working with a lot of young filmmakers. These guys at Foresight Features and Craig Goodwill with PATCH TOWN are good examples of people who are incredibly ambitious and whose vision isn't compromised by budget. They have extraordinary reserves of faith and ideas, and that rubs off on me too. I don't ever want to be a jaded kind of guy who goes "Oh yes, another one of these."

Another example is I've done a couple of movies with a young director his name is Kire Paputts. I guess he's in his early 30s. I did a short feature  that was accepted at TIFF — The Toronto International Film Festival — and it got a bit of play. Because of that now he's done a feature and the main character is a young man with Down Syndrome. Its a fabulous, uncompromising movie that's totally from the perspective of our hero who has Down Syndrome. It doesn't patronize, it doesn't have a token "isn't he cute, isn't he noble" type of approach. Nor does it feature an able-bodied actor getting accolades for being a disable-bodied actor.

You know what I mean? This is a movie with specific disabilities, a whole spectrum of autism. That to me is thrilling: that kind of vision and courage to explore the medium of film. That's what we should be doing.

That just feeds me and that takes me into other stuff, and I can kind of do traditional entertainment and be quite happy about it, and try and figure out what is needed in that kind of formula. But also inject a little bit different: a little bit new that I've learned from guys like Kire.

S: I love the stuff that's not typical. The idea that someone with Down Syndrome, you don't see that...

J: Exactly. We tend to put them in this small compartment and make them noble or make them sad or make them victimized. This guy is a very real complex guy on a difficult journey. That's very exciting.

Now it's also got the courage — when you work on smaller productions they have courage and bravery, but they can also fail, and that’s what makes great work. You know if you start out knowing it might be a failure but it’s going to be a magnificent failure — then it’s great for the actor because the actor can do the same thing and really make brave choices and true choices, rather than think of "God, the producers here and they are watching the clock, and they've already invested thousands and thousands of dollars, so I better get this right."

So there is a freedom born of economy. I think all of the movies I've worked on could use a few more dollars, but there is a kind of liberation of thought

Coming back to EJECTA, that's something I experienced with that. I don't know how much you know about the making of that. We started one summer and we did all the found footage material. You know seeing the alien stuff, myself, the Adam Seybold character, talking on the porch and talking about things, running through the woods. All of that was done and achieved and we felt pretty good about ourselves. And we were pretty ingenious: we saved ourselves money by having the camera hand held. We avoided the need to have really slick special effects for the alien — we just embraced that and went with it.
With "Ejecta" writer Tony Burgess at a  screening in Montreal

And when all that was done, Tony Burgess, the writer – to his credit wasn't just left as some anonymous writer in the background, but was very active and participating in the process — looked at what we were doing and said it needed another dimension. And he went away and he created a whole second layer to the film, which is the interrogation side of the film.

And to me, what's great is that it's a film that's grown organically, and realized its need for a different take. And because of the budget we couldn't film until a year later, so it's a film that was shot in two different segments. But we used that to our advantage and each section had a very different feel. It was the realization of the storytelling and the kind of collaboration where you have a small nucleus of people who are on the same page.


S: Did you have a problem going back to the character a year later?

J: Not really, because it was pretty clear.I had been part of the evolution of my character to begin with, and I sat through a lot of sessions with Tony and Matt and Chad, and we kind of figured out who this guy was…and what was kind of cool about it in many ways a year later, he was the same guy in a different context, so it didn't matter. So there was a gulf and a separation between one set of experiences and another, and it goes to the heart of the film, too. It’s like a guy that is invaded by a hostile ideology, so it kind of — or hostile presence, I should say — so, no I really didn't find it difficult.

And I'm a theater actor too. I've done a lot of shows where I'll rehearse a show, put it on and then do a remount one year or two years later. As long as you've gone through the ABCs of the creation in the first place, you're okay.

S: Let's go back slightly: how much input do you have into your roles? With Cassidy you developed it with the writer...


J: It depends on the project. MAN OF STEEL, Superman, obviously I'm going to be a very specific character and it's mapped out for me. I'm gonna go and give it all I can, but there is not a lot of room for exploration. Although even there it's an actors job to bring as much to the table so that the director can say "Wow, I like the idea, let's go with that."

Obviously with shows like EJECTA, with PATCH TOWN, I have a lot more input and I feel comfortable making suggestions that I know the director is going to listen to. We've already evolved an understanding through rehearsal or discussion so it's going to be an appropriate suggestion. It’s not coming out of left field. That’s another reason I'm quite excited by doing a lot of independent work.

And I feel that young emerging directors can learn from an actor too. I'm not being egotistical about it — there are certain ways of executing a scene or shooting a particular angle I know are going to work. Or I know, using the dimensions of my face, what is going to look scarier in a particular way if you're going to shoot me with the light from a particular direction, or the camera placed in a particular angle. It’s all part of the vocabulary.

S: I know you do all the genre stuff, but do you watch it? Do you like....

J: No!

Actually I will watch it but it's not my first choice. I like good scary movies....but I'll give you an example — I think probably my all time favorite film…or its hard to say all time, but it's up there…is NIGHT OF THE HUNTER by Charles Laughton. [It] embodies what I like, there's a darkness and stylization and it's an actor’s movie with great performances… but it has this incredible film noir element to it, and it's difficult to classify as a particular genre because it’s terrifying and it’s psychological and it's visual. It’s almost like a fairy tale. That kind of movie to me is exciting.

So I guess I'm kind of eclectic in my tastes but if I had an option of going to see a whole bunch of films, I wouldn't necessarily go to a horror film first. But it’s part of the palate.

And now it's become interesting for me because I've become identified with particular characters as I've gotten older and more recognizable, I guess, or I have a higher profile — people do approach me with certain things...

...SUPERNATURAL was a pretty big turning point for me, because here you have a mainstream TV show which has got very well developed story line or narrative world, with a massive fan base which is now part of the show. The fan base and the conventions — the audience is as important as the product. That's a kind of fascinating development in our industry over the last five years.

S: Do you go to conventions?

J: I was horrified the first time I got invited to one in Toronto. I was kind of a late fill in, so I thought "Oh my God, I can't do this. What's this all about?" But I went to it.

It was an extraordinary opportunity to meet fans and not just fans of SUPERNATURAL per se. but genre fans. And it blew my mind at how knowledgeable they were, and how opinionated they were about the script on a really intelligent level.

So my appetite for this started — I did a bunch of movies with special effects. I did CUBE, I did WRONG TURN with Stan Winston — and these movies require that I was in makeup for four hours. So I'm there and I'm the actor in the special effects truck and guys are prodding and poking me for four hours, so I had an opportunity to see it from a practitioner’s level, from guys who are special effects animators who will see the same movie over and over again for one segment that has a really cool effect, and it kind of introduced me to a whole way of looking at film and realizing that it means different things to different people.

And SUPERNATURAL, going to these conventions made me realize that wow, here is an opportunity to actually talk to people about the show, about choices that were made from an intelligent place.

You know, I know, that there is all kinds of fangirl and fanboy stuff that goes on, but the basic relationship between audience and actor is really kind of democratic and it's really interesting.

S: One of the things I love when I cover a convention is that I get to talk to fans of various films and you get to see thing you never thought of.

J: Absolutely. Absolutely.

So with SUPERNATURAL, you get moms bringing daughters to a convention for a weekend. So you have a double generational reason for watching the show. There's a kind of safety — Mom's thinking it's kind of cool but a little bit edgy, a little bit sexualized but not too much — but they were both coming from very different positions.

There was one instance where a mom said "I really like you in HARD CORE LOGO."

"Really, you saw me in HARD CORE LOGO?" That’s where I play an aging rock and roll star, and that was made before her daughter was even born.

There's a kind of carrying on, a recognition of a television and film culture out there, and it’s become more democratized in a way. There is a way of accessing directly the people involved in the process with Twitter. I said at the beginning of our talk that I'm the world's least-connected guy, but I have figured out through meeting a lot of SUPERNATURAL followers that Twitter is one of the primary places where there is a huge interchange of opinion, or knowledge, critiquing, blogging. It’s remarkable.

S: Twitter is one of the reasons that people started reading Unseen Films. Everybody connected.

J: It's remarkable. I'm a guy with his head in the sand. I'm slowly coming around. I'm kind of understanding it, trying to embrace it and enjoy it. Right now, it allows me a particular persona and it's not a lie; it becomes an extension of who I am. There is a dialog between a creative person and this very massive audience out there. And that's very exciting. Exciting for guys like Foresight Features. They do not have big development budgets, publicity budgets. They are dependent on Twitter and social media.

S: I've been reviewing films for five or six years now and it’s amazing that when you use social media you can get word out about your film projects.

J: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

S: How much interaction besides Twitter and the occasional convention with the public?

J: Well, just because of the way I look, and because of the span of stuff I've done... I've done kids movies or kids TV shows, for instance ,and kids recognize me — that particular context — so I can't go out without a discussion of some show that I'm in or a role that I've done.

But I really like it. I mean, I'm not Brad Pitt, or I'm being followed by the paparazzi — it's just this very polite interchange with people that kind of goes "you're that gut on so and so," and some people know my name but a lot of people go "I really like that show," and you know if it's not cool to stand around, people pick that up pretty fast.

Folks out there are paying my bills. I have an obligation as a face to at least be courteous, and the years in the theater have taught me to be very grateful for your audience. I mean, I've slogged away in the theater for many years. I've done some good work there, but I know how hard it is to pull people into the light theater, and I'm so grateful that I can do something on a TV show and constantly get recognition for it. It means people are watching my work, which is what everyone wants at the end of the day.

S: It was a little strange: when I mentioned I was going to be speaking with you, people were like "I know him he's in...." and I'd get a laundry list of everything. I feel like I'm coming in late but also realize how much I've seen of your work.
With Kayla Lorette as drag king double in "She Stoops to Conquer". Short film To be released in 2015

J: (laughs) I've been told that by a lot of people.

But the industry is full of character actors. Sometimes they get their break and some times they don't. Harry Dean Stanton, for instance, was in I don't know how many recognizable small parts, and then he did PARIS, TEXAS and suddenly became a house hold name.

And Steve Buscemi...I'm using these actors because other people have compared me to them. I don't see it, necessarily, but I understand why they use them as examples. It just depends on whether what you do catches fire and you get recognized as someone in your own right, or someone like myself who's "Oh that's the guy that's in such and such and such and such."

I mean it’s necessary. I mean if you have a sports team, you need the grinders. It’s not all about the superstars and the massive contracts; you need the team players. I think...from the public's point of view, it's the guys farther down the ranks…that are very important. They give a kind of credibility or familiarity to a movie or a TV show and you go "its that guy". There is a recognition of the everyman.

S: If the secondary or supporting characters aren't good, the lead actors have nothing to act against. In some ways they are more important, because they create the world.

J: I totally agree with you.

It’s been interesting for me. I sit on a lot of juries evaluating performances and stuff for actors awards, and it’s been very interesting for me to watch TV series and watch performances. You realize the leads of a series are playing the brand. They have a journey; they have to take the audience on — its a narrative journey, and they can't go through too many revelations on that journey. The character arc has to remain constant, but each week they depend on people to come in and introduce a primary color and have a mini arc that people can grab hold of. So its true its those secondary and guest actors that give a particular show its color, whereas the labors, the hard work, is done by the characters who go in week in and week out. They have to play the same notes often.

S: I have to ask: when you do a play, what sort of play do you do?

J: Same as film and television, new work, contemporary work. I like mix media work. I'm a physical actor. I trained in Britain, but I trained in a very unusual way. I trained with [Jerzy] Grotowski in Poland, who is a physical actor who emphasizes imagery and the body over the brain over the way people talk. So when I do theater, I tend to get drawn to projects that may be mixed, visual projections and movement and voice. So not necessarily traditional narratives. I mean, I've done many. I've worked on a lot of new Canadian plays and new British plays. So yeah, recently I did a play about John Berger, the art critic who wrote Ways of Seeing. I played Berger, and I read letters he had written to another artist, and I was accompanied by a string quartet and back projections by a visual artist. It was preceded by two dancers. It was an amazing mix of material. To me it was great because it pushed the envelope.

S: I was curious because I saw something where you played a ranting Shakespeare.

J: I do Shakespeare and I think he's terrific. I think, unfortunately, society has a set idea how it should be done, and there is often a kind of preciousness about the production of Shakespeare. But I think some places get it bang-on. The Stratford festival here in Ontario, Canada is fine…they hit the ball out of the park quite often. Yeah, I like Shakespeare but I don't want to be restricted to doing classical work. I feel like I'd like to bring classic training and classic discipline to contemporary works and contemporary ideas.

We tend to forget that the greats now, the literary greats were once provocateurs and out there on a limb. What’s happened is, we've made them safe. We've made them objects of education, of literature, where in fact we've robbed them of the vitality. So when people come along and inject life into those texts, I find it very exciting.

It’s like when you see a movie that goes back in time. It’s more a reflection of the current period. Its like THE GREAT GATSBY, the one with Robert Redford, is more about the 1970s then it was about the time of the Great Gatsby, and the one that Baz Luhrman did is more about twenty whatever — it is 2010? — than it is about the past.

We forget when we look backwards, we should never try to reproduce things as they were because it won't be, it will be through a modern lens — it's how we've come to assume it should be done.

Julian Richings can be seen currently in EJECTA which is in US theaters and on VOD.

NYICFF Day 2 in brief

Eric Beckman explains the ballot cards Opening Night 2015
I will write more soon- I've got seven NYICFF films to review this weekend- but I just wanted to say I'm back from the low key second day of NYICFF.

I saw two movies today:

HOCUS POCUS ALFIE ATKINS is a sweet little film. Its about young Alfie who wants a dog but kind of has to prove to his dad he can handle it. Along the way he deals with friends who think they are pirates and friends of the family one of which is a magician. Its a light weight and thoroughly enjoyable film that's a perfect distraction.

MUNE in 3D Opens with a giant living temple pulling the sun across the sky and it is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.. Actually there are several things that blew me away visually....

...sadly the plot isn't anything we haven't seen before, the characters are stock and worst of all it all takes place in a world that makes no sense logically even on its own anemic terms. Yes there are wonderful sequences and moments but nothing hangs together but largely this is a film that left me wondering why I was watching it.

I won't get into the the 3D which is erratic at best. Its one of NYICFF rare misfires.

More details will be coming soon.

Under the Skin (2013)

Scarlet Johansson is an alien who uses her feminine wile to collect men for food. Driving around Scotland she goes about her appointed rounds until her curiosity about humanity begins to change her.

Loosely based on the novel by Michel Faber UNDER THE SKIN has won great critical acclaim around the world with it’s largely wordless look oat the human condition as viewed through alien eyes. Going into the film roughly since the film first started making the festival rounds in 2013 it had a great deal of baggage attached to it. Could it live up to the hype?

Yes and no.

There is no doubt that there is a great deal of good stuff here but at some point the film kind of runs out of steam and just rambles on to a conclusion.

The early portion of the film where the alien comes to earth is  wonderful. The trippy visuals mixed with the evocative score makes for a series of fantastic sequences that show Scarlet’s world and view of ours in a gripping fashion. We are sucked into the tale and carried along without a single word. The images are wall quality and you’ll want to add them to that large screen TV we all need that just cycles through playing beautiful movie images. And the sequences of Scarlet capturing her prey are truly unlike anything you’ve seen before.

The trouble is that the film’s lyric beauty begins to crack when we get the hidden camera sequences of Scarlet driving around and talking to men on the street. The sequences are jarring because of the raw way they are shot - single person shots instead of carefully composed wide shots, quick hard cuts between Scarlet and the men in reality TV style instead of fluid transitioning.

Additionally the film kind of begins to spin its wheels after a bit as Scarlet begins to become obsessed with a motorbike rider and takes a greater and greater interest in the human condition, letting one victim get away and trying human food. Its moody landscapes and longing looks and ultimately nothing we haven’t seen before. We have been here before any number of times-just think about any story where an observer gets into trouble by getting too close to the thing it is watching-or a society it is interacting with.

For me half of this film is truly great. The form over content stylings of the film carries things along for most of the first half hour and then off and on through the rest of the film. The trouble is once the spell is broken the film doesn’t do anything. It’s not boring, but it’s not as rapturous as it was at the start. While I freely admit that if you see the film in the dark on the big screen it’s going to play better than if you see it on TV in a lighted room, I still don’t see why so many critics have fallen all over themselves about it.

Its good, great in pieces, but its not the best of the year.

NYICFF Opening Night

NYICFF has started- do the happy dance

Its after 1am and I have only been home for about half an hour so no report (I was seeing French films in the morning and afternoon)

What you need to know:

SHAUN THE SHEEP is great- it will require multiple viewing just to catch the riffs.

WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE is a deeply moving film that improves once you get to the end and see where it was going.

Most important Eric Beckman of the festival and Ghibli's US distributor said Ghibli will return to film production after a short break.

More happy dancing.

More movies plus pictures and such tomorrow- I have to be out of the house in six hours

Friday, February 27, 2015

Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Notes on a Scandal is a really good, very over looked film starring Judy Dench and Cate Blanchett. Its a film that has powerhouse performances across the board but is the sort of unpleasant potboiler that you can admire but which you really don’t ever want to revisit.

The film is set at a public school. Judy Dench befriends new teacher Cate Blanchett. As the friendship between the women grows, Dench becomes aware that Blanchett is having an affair with one of her students, this of course will not do, not so much because of the taboo teacher student relationship, rather it’s because Dench wants Blanchett for herself. Knowing that she can’t have her friend she then sets about destroying her.

A beautifully made, perfectly acted film, but it’s so downbeat I don’t know anyone who has ever seen it twice. I know many people who have seen it and will wax poetic about it, but no one who wants to go to the headspace it creates a second time. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I mean Richard Eyre has essentially made a perfect film that no one wants to view.

I know there are films I don’t want to see again. I love and hate the doomed romance of Map of the Human Heart but I find it’s ending so heart breaking I never want to go there again. Frankly I turn it off before the ending. But that’s the ending. That’s not the whole film. I don’t ever want to see a frame of the film again…

And at this point you’re going Steve, why are you recommending the film- because it’s a great film. Its that simple, Notes on a Scandal is a great film-depressing as all hell, but great. Remember just because I point a film out to you doesn’t mean you should see it, it simply means it maybe a possibility . If you want to see great acting and a depressing potboiler see Notes on a Scandal- otherwise stay away.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tons of stuff opens this week-here's links to what we've seen

This is a killer week for film releases. Tons of stuff is hitting theaters and VOD and with a number of them we had a chance to see them earlier at festivals.Instead of reposting everything I’m going to say a little bit and then link to the posts.

The two must see films are:
DELI MAN- which premiered at the New York Jewish Film Festival. This is one of the best films of 2015 so far.  A wonderful look at the history of deli food through a portrait of one man. Not only should you see it but you should also have dinner plans for after it since you’ll want a knosh afterward

71- fantastic thriller about a British soldier in Northern Ireland. Its fantastic edge of your seat actioner  that kicks ass on the big screen go see it.

Films you can miss are
MAPS TO THE STARS- funny for all the wrong reasons David Cronenberg's look at Hollywood is a mess. Hubert took a look at the film when it played the NYFFand his review can be found here. I also saw it and my thoughts are here

BLUE BIRD-well acted film about a child left overnight in freezing temps on a school bus is earnest but requires too much suspension of disbelief to work and seemed to be missing something. This was on my worst of the year list in 2013

YOUNG BODIES HEAL QUICKLY- split Mondo and me. Mondo  liked it more than I did but had reservations about its oddness.(His review is here) My thought this might have worked had something been explained in the film instead of in the press notes. For me it was another crappy movie that makes little sense on its own terms (My review is here).

And if thats not enough I should remind you that EJECTA and MY WAY also are opening this week, and KUNG FU ELLIOT is going wider

NYICFF 2015 A whole bunch of shorts

I was given the chance to see a random selection of shorts from this years New York International Children's Film Festival. The films I was given were from all of the collections. I was also given five films that are screening as part of SHORTS ONE and SHORTS TWO but I have tickets for those collections as well so unless I fail to make those screenings I'm holding off until I can see them on the big screen.

I should also say that I have a ticket for the HEEBIE JEEBIE collection however it conflicts with another film I have a ticket for. Since I'm not sure I'm going to see the collection I decided to review the two I was given to screen early.

It starts with a Bird trying to eat the ants that are cutting leaves off the tree it lives in and goes from there.

A beautiful marriage of image and music. Forget that this is in the Tots section this is just a great film. The best thing I can say I want to see this with an audience.

The disturbing story of a boy with an over sized head and what happens when his father takes him to town one day.
A dark look at greed and consumerism is a messed up marriage of electronic music and image. It just feels wrong at the start and just kind of goes from there. I mean that as high praise.

FADED FINERY (Oripeaux) has a girl befriend a pack of coyotes until the towns folk put a stop to it...but a change is coming. Nice little fable. not really a film to fill you with Heebie Jeebies but decidedly dark and not for kids.

BEACH FLAGS is the story of some Iranian female life guards training to take part in an international competition.Things become complicated when a new girl is brought in to compete.
This is a very sweet little film about life in Iran and giving up a dream for someone else.

LAYLA'S MELODY is a documentary about Layla who lives in an orphanage in Kabul. She loves music and learning and is a shining light in the darkness.We watch as we see her explain her life and love and we see her meet her mother for the first time in five years.

This is a deeply moving film about a young girl, what she loves and the possibility of hope in the future. Pure magic.

MARINA'S OCEAN concerns a girl with Down's Syndrome who wants to go to the ocean, however he mother can't send her so she contrives to get her self there.

Utterly charming film about a young girl who is going to make her dream come true. I was going to say that this film would make a lovely feature until the dedication at the end broke my heart and now has me thinking best leave the film as is.

FIRST STEP is the story of Sasha a young skater being trained to be a champion. All he wants to do however is skate with the object of his heart the ice dancer Rebecca. This is a nice little film

OH MY DOG is about a dog talent show. Wickedly funny and tasteless look at any sort of contests especially where stage mothers are involved. I'm upset I won't see this with an audience of kids and their parents. The kids will love it and the parents may cringe but either way both will be laughing.

For tickets for any of the short collections go here.

Die (2010)

Six people near the end of their rope are kidnapped and taken to a weird under ground facility and forced to play a variation on Russian Roulette that involves a role of  a die with a weird chance at redemption.

Small  scale thriller that seems to be a variation on the Saw films if only in that the film involves people being forced to play a life and death game by a mad man. Assuming you can get past the been there and done that feel of the plot the film is a ctually a pretty good variation on a theme.

That the film works at all is do both the great cast which includes Elias Koteas and Stephen McHattie, as well as director Dominic James who infuses the film with a tension and a visual sense of dread that goes beyond what is in the script.

Is this is a great film? Probably not, but as one of those small scale films destined to fall through the cracks if they aren't pointed out to you this is one to keep an eye out for. Frankly it's perfect for an undemanding evening on the couch.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fires on the Plain (2014) Film Comment Selects 2015

Shin'ya Tsukamoto's FIRES ON THE PLAIN is a deeply disturbing film. I can not imagine how the film plays on the small screen, but on a big theater screen the film is a punch in the face.

Not so much a remake of the 1959 film that played a couple weeks back at the New York Jewish Film Festival (my review can be found here) the film is more a revisit of the source novel.

The plot of the film has director Shin'ya Tsukamoto playing a soldier in the last days of the Second World War in the Pacific. The cause is all but lost, there is almost no food, no ammunition and absolutely no hope. After a surreal series of trips to and from the hospital our hero is told that if he and his fellow soldiers can get to a certain place they can catch a boat home. Of course it's not that easy and things go from horribly wrong to horribly worse.

More realistic then the first film, this is a graphic depiction of war as hell. All of the allegory of the earlier film is gone taking with it the all of the black humor that served as a release in the earlier film, All that's left here is blackness, pain and suffering and misery. Heads explode, limbs are shot off and blood flows. This is war at its most realistic. Your stomach will turn.

At the same time the film is very surreal The whole situation is like being trapped in a Kafka war novel. Additionally we see things from Tsukamoto's point of view so we see things tinged by his mental state which is sketchy at best. The result is a dislocation and a feeling of not being quite right that puts you off balance. You won't want to be there, not because its bad, rather because its all just fucked up.

By the end of the film I just wanted to go home. I couldn't handle anything else- which was bad since I had another screening to go to at Film Comment Selects-.but I bailed and went home. (I saw this with Mondocurry and he too was of the same mind set you simply can't follow it except with a comedy to clear the palette- maybe)

I am deeply bothered by this film.

To be honest I can't compare this film to the earlier version because while they are basically the same film the takes are completely different. What you have is two artists looking at the same "sunset" and interpreting it in their own way. Both are valid.(Frankly all remakes should be like this)

At the start of the screening Gavin Smith from FIlm Comment said the film has no US distributor. Having seen the film I'm not surprised. Its cinematic bullet to the chest and not something most people are going to want to see. Where the original version has 55 or so years of distance this film has none. it's modern and bloody and echoes way too much of the world. This is not a film people will flock to despite being a great film.

If you can see this, especially on the big screen, do make the effort to do so.
Bodies pile up


Documentary on Terrance McNally's play Corpus Christi and a production of  the play in 2006 that ended up touring to acclaim internationally. The play is controversial because it imagines the life of Christ happening in Texas among a group of gay men.

Full disclosure I saw the play during it's original 1998 run. My attitude toward the play was that if there had been no controversy the play would have disappeared without making a much of a blip. I also thought that had they not removed the intermission most people would have walked out.

No I'm not a fan.

On the other hand I know the play speaks to some people.

The film is a good look at the play, the controversy and how it speaks to some people. Interviewing the cast and production staff behind the touring production as well as McNally, Larry Kramer, Norman Lear and other people who fought for the play to be put on originally the film is a nice look at the history of a play that still has the power to inspire and annoy.

While the film didn't change my mind about the play, I did like that the film explains why the play speaks to people and why its not as bad as some people make it out to be. (I love the story of the original Jesus tells about how the plays biggest opponent in New York regaled his followers about what was in the play even though he had slept through it.).

Is it a perfect film? No. Its probably 20 minutes too long and its a bit too loving in its view of everyone and everything, but for those with an interest in the subject its worth a look.(I'm not sure many people without an interest will get anything out of it.)

Legend of the Forest Part 2 Dark Side of the Sun

It was snowing Saturday when I went to the Japan Society for Tezuka shorts
Saturday I went to the Japan Society to catch the special screening of Osamu Tezuka's LEGEND OF THE FOREST  along with his son's Part 2. I figured this was going to be my best shot at not only seeing the film on the big screen but also getting to see the new addition.

Before the film they ran two other Tezuka shorts-

JUMPING which is the world seen from the POV of someone who can jump very high and does so as they leap around the world. Its a very funny film and it was great to hear the few kids in the audience roaring with laughter.

The second film was BROKEN DOWN FILM which is a western cartoon that suffers from scratches, misframed images and broken film. Its a wickedly funny film thats a reminder of the bad old days before digital projection. Its a great film and one that strangely even non- Tezuka fans seemsto know. I say this because I once was explaining who Tezuka was to someone and they stopped to ask if they did BROKEN DOWN FILM.

The main portion of the program was LEGEND OF THE FOREST. I previously wrote up the original film (here) calling it a work of art and a masterpiece and all of that sort of stuff so there is no point in going over it again (if you want to read it it's here).

I do want to talk briefly about the new part which was done my Tezuka's son Macoto Tezka-Simply put its quite lovely.

Done in a computer animation that is slightly more realistic, the film is essentially the romance between two fairies. It begins as the male faerie rescues the girl from a spider's web, which leads into more rescues...and what happens is the film.

At first the style and and the subject matter seem out of place with the earlier two parts but very quickly the film falls in line and you realize it fits perfectly. I would love to see it in the order where it belongs (second) instead of at the end of the piece. Actually what I really would love would be for the final piece to be animated so we could see what Tezuka was aiming at.

The screening was a lovely way to spend a snowy afternoon.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

MY WAY opens at the Quad in Manhattan Friday

MY WAY, a look at rocker Rebekah Staropens Friday at the Quad Cinema in Manhattan and is currently playing at the Arena Cinemas in Hollywood. I saw the film at Lincoln Center's Sound + Vision last summer and I really liked it.

Here's my review from last summer:

My Way is a very good film about a very good performer, Rebekah Starr , who stepped away from her life in Pennsylvania to travel to Los Angeles in the hope of making a video that will jump start her career into something more. It’s a move that further fractures her broken marriage but which is move that she feels she must make.

As good as the film is, there is a gulf between what the film is being marketed as what the film is in actuality. What I mean by this that the film is being marketed as the story of a woman who is from the wilds of Pennsylvania who chucks it all to go to LA to try and make it big. The reality is quite different since Starr had left PA several years earlier to go to New York. There she worked for a Wall Street firm while making music (to some success) around the city. She eventually returned home to rejoin the family business, and make music (she was good enough that she played as an opener for national acts). The Los Angeles trip was not a blind leap into the void

I mention this because I went into the film expecting this to be the story of a small town girl who decided to chuck it all and try and go and make it big. Seeing that she had a little bit of money (the hotel rooms they stay in are fancy) and a little bit of success before moving back to PA kind of took the edge off things. Yes, I know she had gone as far as she could in Kittanning, but the feeling this is being done as an act of absolute desperation (which several name rock stars talk about in the film), the sense of sink or swim, is nowhere to be found. You know they are good enough to succeed and you know they have famous friends, so where is the sense it’s all or nothing? It comes off as a lark … or what it really is a 90 minute promotional video.

I enjoyed myself but I was never was completely invested, the situations being presented a tad too slickly to have the heart strings tugged or leave one not feeling manipulated.

None of this should be inferred that the film is in anyway bad, it’s not. It’s simply that I wanted a chance to root for an underdog. On the other hand this was good time with a good performer and were I going to the screening this weekend I would line up to get my CDs signed (yea I broke down)

Escape Plan (2013)

Stallone and Schwarzenegger team for more than a couple of minutes in ESCAPE PLAN an action thriller from Mikael Håfström the director of 1408,The Rite and Shanghai.

The plot of the film has Stallone playing man who makes his money by checking out prisons to see if they really are escape proof. His firm is hired by the CIA to go under cover at a facility that is holding international bad guys. The trouble is once he get in things go wrong. The code word to keep him safe doesn’t works and warden who is supposed to be in charge is nowhere to be found. Worse his support team can’t find him so a rescue is out of the question. Forced to rely on his own wits he teams with Arnold to plan an escape.

A pure popcorn film, this is a movie that is way better than you’d ever expect it to be. I say this because a good number of the recent films by the stars have been less than thrilling. Either the plots have been blah or the action weak. Here the balance is great and the film just hums from start to finish. There is great action and a few wonderful twists of the sort you won’t see coming.

Is the film perfect, no, Vincent D’Onofrio kind of sleep walks through his role, but outside of that bump this is a damn good film that I ened up watching a couple of times in a row when it showed up on cable.

Recommended for any night on the couch.

Monday, February 23, 2015


This is going to be a two part review. The first part of the review is going to be a purely emotional reaction to the film and its subject matter. The second part of the review is a reaction to the film as a film. The split is a result of being split in my reaction to the film itself, the subject matter has (rightly) pissed me off while at the same time how the material is presented had me reacting differently.

Part One:

16 to 20 % of underclass women in college are raped each year

Think about that- one in five young women who are in college are raped.

That's bad enough but consider that all of the administrations don't make it easy to report them  so that 88% of the assaults never get reported. Why is that? Because its bad for the colleges to say anything happens there with the result that according to a 2014 Senate Survey 40% of colleges reported no sexual assaults. WTF?

Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering's damning portrait of how sexual assault  is being ignored by colleges across the country will piss you off. Its a film that will both horrify you that these horrific acts are being allowed to continue and make you completely understand how the fucked up reasoning of  the big institutions allow it to happen. Its all about the money- and they will do anything to protect the money of tuition and the money being brought in by donations and sports programs.

Whats truly frightening about the film is not that the assaults are happening, its that they are happening everywhere and that no one is doing anything about it. Its not isolated it epidemic. And no one with any real power is doing anything. Not school leaders anywhere are really trying to stop it. Its being left to the victims and their friends to try and do something.

Much like Dick and Ziering's earlier THE INVISIBLE WAR, THE HUNTING GROUND is a film that will get under your skin and make you wonder why any parent would let their kids go to any university. As one woman says would you let your kid go to a school where one in five students was going to be shot? You wouldn't, but since the problem is one at every school you can't flee it.

You have to admire the film because it names names of college presidents, of perpetrators (football player Jameis Winston), fraternities  and explains exactly whats wrong and how it has it change-and how the survivors are forcing the change. However even that is tempered when you consider women have been trying to stop this for decades with little effect

The film will leave you angry. I'm beyond pissed off.

Part Two:

At the same time the film does have a weaknesses that keep it from being on the level of the the earlier THE INVISIBLE WAR- it gives us way too much information. If you're wondering why I don't have more details and facts and figures in the review it's simply that the film gives us way too much information get in a single pass.

While all the people telling their stories and telling of their studies make it clear that the film knows of what it speaks  it becomes too much an avalanche of names and faces and facts and on some level we get over whelmed by something other than the subject. I kind of turned off because on some level I couldn't keep up. Frankly twenty minutes in I knew that one time through was not enough I simply couldn't really process everything being thrown at me. Don't get me wrong I was deeply moved emotionally but intellectually I kind of stepped away knowing I needed two more viewings to properly discuss this film.

That said, this is an important film and a must see-especially for anyone going to college or who has a friend or relative going to college.. The film hits theaters on Friday and you should make some effort to go.

I should also point out that the film was produced by CNN so at some point this film will hit the cable network so we can hope that its in your face revelations will rock the academic community and force changes to stop all of this violence against our children.

EJECTA opens 2/27 in theaters and on VOD


I loved EJECTA since I I saw it in connection with Fantasia in July. The film has been picked up by IFC Midnight and is being released Friday in theaters and on VOD. This is one kick ass scary alien invasion story and it's a must see.

I don't know what else to say other than here's my review from back in July (which is quoted on the UK DVD release of the film):

Directors Chad Archibald and Matt Wiele have made a real deal scary film of potential alien invasion. They have made a film that manages to put it's partial found footage to good use. They have also made a film that had me trying to figure out how to get word out about the film and still maintain the embargo placed on reviews.

The film has a twin structure both focused on Julian Richings as UFO theorist William Cassidy. In part of the film Cassidy is talking to a filmmaker about himself, the thing inside him and the way things really are and in another part Cassidy is being tortured by the black ops government agency who wants to know what happened 12 hours earlier.

A scary creepy and frequently disturbing film this is a one where all of the elements come together... or mostly come together. (The only flaw is some of the torture sequences seem a tad staged). This is a film that grabs you and drags you along toward a conclusion that manages to get a rise out of you even if you may have guessed what it was going to be.

That the film works as well as it does is simply due to Julian Richings as Cassidy. To say that this is one of the best performances of the year is a gross understatement. I'd put it as one of the best performances of many years and one of the best in a genre film I've ever seen. If Richings wasn't so good this film would never have worked. Forget the scares or any thing else Riching's performance alone is worth the price of admission and several repeated admissions.

I a loved this film a great deal and as of the time I saw it it's easily near the top of the best films at this year's Fantasia.

Go see this film. It hit theaters and VOD this Friday.

(An interview with the star Julian Richings will be coming sometime in the next few days)

...And Justice For All (1979)

On some level I don’t think Al Pacino ever was a good or as iconic as he was in the Godfather films. Somehow I think his whole career was based on his being in those movie. I’m not saying that he’s not been god since then, rather I think the godlike way that some people look at him comes from those films and nowhere else cinematically.

I think the point where I realized that Pacino wasn’t quite the godlike actor people have made him out to be was And Justice For All. Somewhere in the film I realized Pacino was just this regular guy and not something more.

Of course you shouldn’t infer that I don’t like the film, I do, I love the film, especially it’s ending which makes me yelp every time.

In And Justice Pacino plays a New York Lawyer trying to navigate his way through the court system. Things begin to spiral out of control for him when in rapid succession his partner goes nuts and he is strong armed to take the case of judge accused of beating up a woman. Pacino despises the judge for good reason but since Pacino has such a rep as straight arrow that it will help the judges case if Pacino takes the case. Besides the judge is completely innocent, right?

There is no getting around it the film is nonsense. So much goes on that would get an attorney or judge disbarred its not even funny. On top of that the plot is pure potboiler. It’s the sort of thing that feels more at home on TV then on a big screen. This was silly even 35 years ago.

Filled with great character actors (Jack Warden, John Forsythe, Jeffery Tambor , Lee Strasberg…) the film is kind of yearbook for acting greats. You buy the film’s nonsense simply because you buy the cast. The cast is so good that by the time the film ends odds are you’ll be like me and yelping with delight at the the conclusion.

Its not a great film. It’s a good film, but as these things go, hving a good film to watch, no matter how unrealistic and silly it is is good for the soul.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The New York International Children's Film Festival starts Friday

The New York International Children's Film Festival starts Friday.

I hope you've bought your tickets because all sorts of stuff has sold out.

If you haven't bought your tickets go here and see if you can scrounge some.

No really go get some tickets and go.

I know at this point I usually go on about how great the festival is and how it shows great films and how it's not for adults...and you know what this is the sixth go round for the Festival at Unseen and unless you haven't been paying attention you know this is one of the best film festivals on the planet and you should be going.

This is one of the most important film festivals for Unseen since its the one we've gone to the most. We've gone every year since it started. EVERY YEAR. Eric Beckman and the other people at have been kind enough to bring all these great films to New York so we've been kind enough to be in the audience.

I freaking love this festival and the people who run it.

This year we're going to be seeing pretty much everything. I don't think we're going to make the Tinker Bell movie, and some of the shorts are iffy, but largely we're hitting it all. I mean how could you not with this line up- SHAUN THE SHEEP? oh yes please. WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE-possibly the last Ghibli film? Of course we'll be there.

We've also see a bunch of stuff.-

The Aardman Shorts collection should be a blast. Every couple of years they bring in sampling of shorts of the Aardman studio and it's a blast. I can't comment on what the films are since I don't know the titles I assure you it will be great.

The Wallace and Gromit Shorts are equally a must see. These are the films that really put Aardman on the map. They are crackingly good. They are also the place where Shaun the Sheep comes from. If you've never seen the films or never seen them big you must go see them when they play.

I saw JELLYFISH EYES last year as part of  Fantasia. I was mixed on the films feeling it was geared a little too young. As much as I love director Takashi Murakami's art I loved the creatures, but the story was too juvenile for my tastes. Still if you love Murakami this is a must see. Here's my take from last year.

Back for another go round in the restored version THE KING AND THE MOCKINGBIRD is a must see. Trust me in this repaired version it's truly great. They ran it at the New York FIlm Festival last year and it blew me away.  If you've never seen it or never seen this restred version it should be at the top of your list. Here's my NYFF review.

I've also seen two others which I will review before they run at the festival- BALLET BOYS which follows three guys as they try to make their dreams of dancing ballet a reality (If you love ballet it s a must see) and SECRETS OF WAR about two friends during World War 2 (its a good introduction for kids to the cost of war).

The clock is ticking  so go buy some tickets.

And keep checking back here for lots of reports on the comings and going and films playing because Unseen Films is aiming to cover it all.

Unseen Film's Oscar Telecast Alternatives

As we did with last years Oscars we're going to present a few alternatives to the Oscar telecast-

Peter Grrenaway's deeply disturbing THE BABY OFMACON

Peter Greenaway talks Painting

This is a weird mix of stop motion dinosaurs and cartoon animated characters.

Fan dub of a swords and sandals film in glorious widescreen. You normally don't get these films looking this good.

A great film about the first post WW2 Olympics. I really love this film and was going to pay alot of money to buy a copy until it showed up on You Tube from the Olympic Committee.

Off beat Soviet fantasy about a brothers trying to find wives-one of which was an enchanted princess in the form of a frog. I'm not going to lie, the first half hour is really dull but then it gets good as the princess is kidnapped by a dragon and her lover goes to get her.

Bela Lugosi plays the hero in  the fantastic serial THE RETURN OF CHANDU. This is one of my favorite Lugosi roles and he kicks ass as an action hero. Lugosi had played the villian in an earlier Chandu feature which had Edmund Lowe as the Hero. This is better.
FYI- This was cut into two feature films- they are okay-the full in 12 chapter version is better

Peter Cushing talks his life and career

The great Eddie Constantine crime thriller HAIL MAFIA

Rachel Getting Married (2008)

I would have sworn that Anne Hathaway was going to hit cinematic gold with Rachel Getting Married but the film kind of rolled over and no one much paid attention. I’m guessing that’s because Hathaway was much too good at playing a truly unlikable person.

The rough plot of the film has Rachel getting married. Into the mix comes Anne Hathaway who is Rachel’s sister. She’s a handful under the best of times, but having her around at a high stress time like a wedding is just asking for trouble.

As a drama the film is a mixed bag. To be certain the film hits certain points about families and big events, but the way the film works best is simply as a portrait of a troubled soul looking to reconnect with the family. so long as the film remains focused on Hathaway the film is great. When it’s not it’s less so.

To be honest I’m not sure if Hathaway will ever be this raw again. Somewhere between her springing on the scene and her winning her Oscar she would take some challenging roles or things you wouldn’t expect. Havoc for example was a shock to many of the few who saw it since coming after the Princess Diaries it was a bit raw, it also had Hathaway nude, which is the reason many people remember it (or search for it). Here Hathaway plays a full on pain in the ass. Sure she can be nice but you see by the way everyone walks on eggshells around her (and by her behavior) she can be a trouble. It’s not a likable role and as good as it is when the film ends you don’t want to go back and revisit it. (I know I don’t despite the film haunting me)

If you want to see a truly great performance that has been completely been over looked look no further than Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Nightcap 2/21/15 random reviews, 50 shades and Randi's links

there's no time to look cool when you gotta blow up the bad guys-Hubert

An early Nightcap is due tomorrow being the Oscars so in addition to the regular review I'm running some You Tube alternatives to the telecast and a preview post for the New York International Children's Film Festival.
Everyone is getting all hot and bothered about the 50 Shades of Typing, er, Gray film. Is it good, is it bad. What does it mean for society.

Most people I know don't care...about the film.

What they do care about is the abuse in the books and the fact that they are worrying that the controlling nature of the relationship in the film and books hits the borders of abuse. I can not say if it does cross the line or not. I have not read enough of the original book to say that it is anything other than not particularly well written and I have not seen the film, not do I have any intention of seeing the film.

What I can say is that the way the commercials make the film look it is kind of abusive. In the commercials its not the "do what I say or I'll beat you" sort of thing but it;s a "if you want all of the cool stuff I'm showing you you'll do what I say"  sort of abuse. And yea that's abuse. quid pro quo behavior like that is definitely abuse especially since the girl is suppose to be so naive.

As for the physical stuff, if you are consenting adults and you enjoy that sort of thing go for it. The key is you have to have consent. I'm not sure what the deal is with the books but I've heard there is rape and all sorts of other unfun stuff there in what is suppose to be a grand romance.

I've been around the block a time or two I know at least one young lady who would have given Gray a run for his money- but they at least knew when to reign it in.  On the other hand I've also had friends who were abused to the point of near suicide because of the tactics Gray employs in the books. Controlling your partner for shits and giggles is abuse- even if it starts as consensual.

Am I for banning the film or anything like that?  No. That sort of stuff is out there and there is no point in hiding it. I am also not for banning what people do in the bedroom. What I am against is making the controlling nature of someone like Gray sexy so that women and girls who don't know any better think that's the way to go.Its not the way to go since guys who are going to control your life are going to shit all over you and potentially kill you.
I saw a couple of recent releases in the past week-

JUPITER ASCENDING is a mess. Give it points for trying to do something, but its a mess. I think I would have liked it more if I didn't want to smack the shit out of Eddie Redmayne. I'm definitely going to try it again on DVD.

IMITATION GAME is the story of Alan Turing who cracked the Enigma machine in World War 2. I have three things to say as a result of seeing it:
1. Its a good film lacking in a certain complexity it seems to think the advance math gives it.
2. Watching it I discovered why I don't like Benedict Cumberbach-he has one facial expression. yes he's vocally great, yes he can move his body- but he always seems to have the same expression on his face no matter what happens in any movie
3. I desperately want a film that focuses on Turings achievements during the war  that doesn't feel the need to add in his suicide as if that some how defines him or what he did better than the mere fact that what he did was miraculous whether or not he he was gay and met a sad end.

AMERICAN SNIPER is good. I don't know what more to say other than I don't know why we should care about this guy in particular. Frankly he's a bit of a dick so I don't know why we should care. I mean he's guy who kills people, and? Beats me.  I will say that I like that it doesn't feel like an Eastwood film. Its not bad but Oscar material? I think not.
And as always we close out with Randi's links

Matthew Monagle has started a new blog CinExpectations
You can't expect everything to remain on the internet
Someone built a robot from CASTLE IN THE SKY
Do films need to be accurate?
Cult Classic T-Shirts
A New Sherlock Holmes Story?
Kim Jong-il and the great Movie Star Kidnap plot (Thank you Bully)
This week expect some new stuff, some old stuff and some stuff tying into the Children's Film Festival plus reports from Film Comment Selects and todays Tezuka screening at The Japan Society

The International (2006)

Tom Twyker’s The International is a slam bang action thriller that for most of its running time is everything you could want in a thriller. It’s has great performances, jet setting intrigue and action set pieces that kick serious ass. The film however briefly missteps in its final third making what should have been one of the truly great top ten thrillers of the first decade of the 2000’s one of the better one.

The plot of the film has Interpol agent Clive Owen and Manhattan DA Naomi Watts investigating a link between big banking and the arms trade. The investigation takes them around the globe and back again as the bad guys stop at nothing to keep the money flowing to them and the arms flowing to their customers.

This is a great popcorn film. This is one of those films where you curl up on the couch with bowl of popcorn and soda and forget your worries. It’s a film that moves like the wind so you don’t think about what’s happening and it’s written smartly enough to let you know that the filmmakers actually have an idea about what they are talking about.

Or mostly.

The problem with the film comes late in the game with one of the final action set pieces, the shootout at the Guggenheim in New York. Things begin to go wrong when Owen hoofs it to the museum in record time, a physical impossibility (okay yes I know it’s only apparent if you know Manhattan) . Things then go off the rails once he gets there as a huge firefight breaks out. The problem with the sequence isn’t that its bad- its an amazing piece of action work, the problem is that compared to the rest of the film it’s so wildly over the top and out of place for a film that has been more or less realistic, that it breaks the spell. Yes I know part of you will be cheering at the excitement of it all but another part of you will be wondering where that came from.

Don’t get wrong it doesn’t kill the film, it just kind of disappoints for a few moments.

I really do love the film. I think it’s great. It’s sort of the intellectually perfect 1960’s spy thriller done today. Its an amazing film that I end up watching every time I stumble on it on cable.

If you’ve never seen it you should

And if you have seen it see it again