Monday, May 29, 2006


Here is a film that got very little love upon its initial release in 1994. It is a bit of a shame and something I am more than happy to correct, if only in a very small way. A little history. The Coen Brothers, known for thier love of neglected film genres (the gangster flick, the noir etc.) came onto the scene in the late 1980s with the modern noir, Blood Simple. They enjoyed continued moderate success with the screwball kidnapping comedy Raising Arizona. But they moved into arthouse territory with the one-two punch of stylized gangster drama, Miller's Crossing, and critically lauded, existential hollywood satire Barton Fink. Coming off two incredibly well received artfilms, the wildly stylish feel-good fable that is The Hudsucker Proxy, was met with question marks above many folks foreheads. Here is a movie that wears its heart on its sleeve and draws all of its characters in broad lines, using conventions and cliches from classic 1940's comedies. Style over substance? Perhaps. But there is so much to love about this film, it has gotten a bad shake.
The film has a plucky and naive fellow looking for work who gets caught up in a large corporation, Hudsucker Industries, reeling from the suicide of its founder. The board of directors have a scam to run the stock in the ground by elevating a patsy to president. When the stock is the lowest, the fat-cats would buy as much as they can, and the recover the company, blame the patsy, and get even richer. But our plucky protagonist has an idea, a diagram of a circle ("You know, for kids!") and by fluke, drives the company well into the black. Naivete begins to turn into soulless fat-cat. Enter a tough talking dame and intrepid reporter (Jennifer Jason Leigh at her absolute best) to expose the shennigans at Hudsucker and restore the sheen on our previously plucky hero. All this is overseen by the mystical black man/narrator who runs the massive clock in the gloriously art deco Hudsucker Industries skyscraper.
The Hudsucker Proxy is a joy to watch. It is the precursor of Coen Brothers visual spectacles of lunacy to come, namely The Big Lebowski and O Brother Where Art Thou? It is also a modern ode to the classic 1940's screwball comedys from Preson Sturges and Howard Hawks. wish a pinch of Frank Capra-style magical realism.

Come out Tuesday Night at for drinks and Lemon Meringue Pie at 8pm. Trailers and Showtime at 8:30pm.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


I have not really figured out what part of me takes such delight in the messy mulch that is Timur Bekmambetov's "Watch" trilogy. Perhaps it is the inherent 'Russian-ness' of the whole thing which gives it an aftertaste more palatable than the typical SFX-laden American blockbuster. (Yes kids, it's the dirty-Euro version of Underworld!) The first installment of the
trilogy, Nochnoy Dozor (aka The Night Watch) aimed for epic, introduced a lot of mythology and characters (many seemingly at random), and basically set up the stage to be paid off in the sequels.
Well, here at part two, a lot of charcters continue to be developed, but a lot more thrown into the mix to the point where you just go along with it, narrative be damned. For the first 80 or so minutes there is a lot of sound and fury, featuring the rogues gallery of warlocks, witches, shapeshifters and warlocks (some good, some bad and some in between) running around Moscow and Mongolia searching for, of all things, a piece of chalk (perhaps an even more innocuous item than a ring, further cementing the nickname of the trilogy as the 'Russian Lord of the Rings'). In the last half hour of the film, the narrative gets back on track with the first films prophecy/conflict and things begin to cohere. Of course, at this point, things are set up for the final chapter.

While there is bound to be confusion if you have not caught the first chapter, I would suggest that it really does not matter, you are either willing to go along with the unexplained character motivations and plot points or you are not. The Day Watch is a spectacular visual hodgepodge that may very well be the emperor's new clothes, but hey, the emperor is Russian, and thats good enough for me.

Come out and watch the music-video-esque CGI-enhanced mayhem Tuesday May 23. 8pm drinks. 8:30pm trailers and showtime.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


If there is one type of film that is dying a slow death, it is the Studio Funded Big Budget Art Film. Terrence Malick's The New World is a grand feast for the eyes. It is a difficult film to describe however, focusing on mood over dialogue, image over narrative. It was shot almost entirely on location in a miraculously unspoiled part of Virginia and also in several British Locales. European settlers are dwarfed (and at times, consumed) by nature, while the native people gingerly rise up out of the flowing grass. Captain John Smith and native princess Pocahontas form a tentative relationship while the settlers settle and the natives watch. Nature figures prominently. The relationship is surreal, innocent, playful and occasionally ominous. The tone of the film is not quite what one would expect for this type of story, and the narrative structure is occasionally fragmented, but the mood of the first half of the film is a feeling of simply 'not knowing.' The future of the continent, and two very different peoples is a blank slate and nature encompasses everything.

For the second half of the film, the story takes some unusal turns (well, if you are not familiar with the history), with Pocahontas marrying and ending up in the British Isles. Her and her native escorts as dwarfed (and at times, consumed) in civilization as the settlers were in the Americas. There is dignity in the films conclusion, and complexity in Q'Orianka Kilcher's peformance and a wealth of lingering images. Yes, the film is in keeping with its reclusive filmmaker who has only made three movies since 1978. But they are worth the wait; The New World is quite possibly the best film of 2005. The Studio Art Film is Dead. Long Live the Studio Art Film.

For those who didn't catch this in the multiplex (and there applies to just about everyone (I saw it by myself in a large empty theatre!). The New World arrived with a wide release and went out of those same theatres in the blink of an eye. It just never found an audience) come out at 8:00pm for drinks. Trailers and showtime at 8:30pm.

Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio is the Wide Release American Theatrical Cut which runs 2h15m, There was a limited release cut which ran 2h30m and a rumoured 4 hour version of the film which have yet to show up on DVD.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Let us get this out of the way first. The only difference between a 'Based on a True Story' film and a completely fictional film is the fact that the final disclaimer at the end of the credits ("The character and events in this motion picture bear no resemblance...") is not present in the former. With that out of the way, we come to Fearless, a highly fictionalized account of early 20th century martial artist Huo Yuanjia. The man was a key figure in restoring national pride in China by winning a series of competitions against fighters from other parts of the world. He did this at a time when China was being occupied/influenced to a large degree by three imperial western powers (Russia, France and Britain) and also by Japan.

History lesson aside, director Ronny Yu is very much interested in delivering a mightily fueled martial arts spectacle with some great (and vintage Chinese) melodramatic moments. Jet Li trumpeted this as his last Wushu film, in favour of doing other project in the future, and on evidence here is an improvement in acting which showed promise in (of all places) Danny the Dog (aka Unleashed). He turns in a fine performance of a man finding spirituality to match his particular skill (with several tragedies precipitating the self-awareness). Besides the fine central performance, on display within the film is some very handsome production design and several stellar martial arts set-pieces.

All in all, Fearless adds up to some seriously fine entertainment with no small amount of class. Despite some serious liberties taken with the truth, the message of restoring ones nation by achieving a state of self-respect is one worth listening to. (This is never more apparent than in Li's Chinese/HK films vs. his American ones.)

Come out tonite @ 8pm and sample the 'just-in-time-for-summer' beer selection. Trailers (some really nice new ones!) and Showtime @ 8:30pm.