Thursday, August 24, 2006


Peter Weir has always been on of those fascinating directors who seem to be able to make art films in the mainstream, usually cast with big stars. He has used Richard Chamberlain, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Robbin Williams, Jim Carrey and Russell Crowe to name a few. Even if you are not familiar with Weir's name, and do not typically bother with arthouse cinema, you have probably caught at least one of his films in the past 20 years: Master & Commander, The Truman Show, Fearless, Dead Poets Society, The Mosquito Coast or Witness. It is particularly challenging to make a broadly appealing film that often features an ambiguous ending and is full of philosophical and ethical musing. Weir walks this line better than any filmmaker currently alive. (on a side note: I am anxious to see what he does with William Gibson's information-thriller novel Pattern Recognition)

Before Weir moved to America, he made several films in his homeland of Australia. In the mid 1970s, in particular, his films featured the supernatural. Far from typical horror fare, these films would be better described as "uncanny" than horrific; a creeping sense of the unease of not knowing why things are happening is the driving force of these film, and the effects on the confused characters serve as the horror element.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is the best of these films (for the record, The Last Wave and The Cars That Ate Paris are the other two). Set at the turn of the 20th century, the theme is one common in Australian cinema: the 'civilized world' bumping up against the immense mysteries of the large unexplored wilderness Down Under. During a Valentine's Day picnic outing of an all girls school, several of the girls mysteriously disappear. The community and the remaining girls react differently to a mystery which does not seem offer a substantial solution. Some of the reactions are quite shocking. The quiet pacing at the beginning of the film have the effect to lull the viewer and leave them unprepared for some of the shocks in the second half. Indeed, while clothed in white petticoats, open sunshine, and gorgeous cinematography, Picnic at Hanging Rock still offers horrors of the kind that dig deep into the soul.

Come out and enjoy my favorite Peter Weir film on Thursday August 24th. 8pm for cocktails. 8:30 for trailers and showtime.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


This movie could have been titled "Dead Poet's Society in Dogville", but I'm oversimplifying. Combining the character driven directing of Thomas Vinterberg with the sledgehammer allegory of screenwriter Lars Von Trier, Dear Wendy is a heady cocktail of commentary on hot button American issues such as youth violence, gun control and racism. Both the director and screenwriter have said several times that the film is not to be read as a allegory. Yea. Right.

Dear Wendy is told with a dry after-the-fact voice-over narration, by the superb Jamie Bell (remember Billy Elliot? he followed up his debut with the acclaimed Undertow and a small role in King Kong). The story follows a down and out boy in a small US mining town. Rather than face the prospect of a dreary life working in the mines, he forms a club with a few kids the same age (late teens) around town. What does the club do? Why obsess over the tiniest detail of firearms, shoot at targets in abandoned parts of the mine and view footage of what a bullet can do to a human body. Nicknamed "The Dandies," They dress up in frilly 'wild-west crossed with 1960s swinging-British' fashion and listen to old Zombies tunes (the soundtrack on this film is divine, by the way). All is fine an nice and kept underwraps, until a new kid joins and escalates the MO of the club.

While the ending of the film may be seen coming quite early, it is the joy of getting there, combined with the black humour and over the top nature of the film which make it a winner for entertainment. After all, you often see a pacifist film abhor and condemn violence, Dear Wendy offers one that sort of relishes the thought of the storm coming. It is reasonable to say that this is Natural Born Killers done the right way. There are some top notch performances, including Bill Pullman (an under appreciated actor if there ever was one) as the local sheriff, and Alison Pill (an actress who usually does TV shows) are stellar, but Jamie Bell is just bloody fantastic.

If you like your allegorical dramedy black as pitch. Come out and enjoy this slice of Americana written by a fellow who has never set foot on US soil. Drinks at 8pm. Trailers and Showtime at 8:30.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

KBT Presents: BRICK

Noir. A genre of films which most folks my age (early 30s) are aware of, like say, the Western. I think that many of my generation know the tropes of the genre more than the individual titles, most of which were made between 1940 and 1958. While the bulk of the films involved urban crime and hard-boiled detectives (The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep and Double Indemnity) the genre was malleable enough to include things like The Treasure of Sierra Madre, a film which probes down into the dark side of humanity with of the corruption of a basically good man. During the 1960s the genre was adopted by several French directors who molded many of stylistic elements during the 1960s in films such as Le Samouraï, Breathless or Alphaville (the proto-sci-fi noir which is now a genre unto itself). Chinatown in the 1970s was a bold period throwback which did the genre proud and is one of noirs most iconic films despite missing the era by over 25 years. The 1980s brought Ridley Scott's Sci-fi noir Blade Runner which movied the genre into the blockbuster era, David Lynch's surreal Blue Velvet and The Coen Brothers (big lovers of noir which form the basis over nearly half of their films) Blood Simple. The 1990s stylized things even more with the complicated film structures of Reservoir Dogs, The Usual Suspects and Memento or unabashed love such as the Coen's Miller's Crossing and Fargo. The 21st century has taken the genre in two distinct directions. The graphic novel noirs of Road to Perdition, Sin City and A History of Violence and something completely new: The Teen Noir.

Perhaps this is too long an introduction for Rian Johnson's elaborate debut film Brick. Here is a film which maps the urban high and low social circles the loner anti-hero of typical noir cinema has to navigate onto high-school cliques. This was done quite well a year before with the TV show Veronica Mars, but Johnson takes the language, an aspect of the genre almost as important as the stark lighting, to a level that has only previously been explored by the Coen Brothers. It is a strange thing to hear modern California teenagers talk such sharp crisp antiquated modes of speech. The convoluted plot, the femme fatale, and all encompassing cynicism is all there too. It is a neat package which is a breath of fresh (smokey) air. It layers on complex emotional and moral problems on its young cast. While at first this may seem disingenuous, these are well off suburban white kids in their teens, how 'beaten-down-by-life' can they be. But what better way to reflect the youthful alienation and re-invetion of self image in a narcissistic culture than to make these teens the centre of their own universe? One which can only exist in the movies.

Come out for this unusual little sides-step of the genre, Thursday night 8pm for cocktails, 8:30pm for trailers and showtime.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Who is the most consistently funny nation on this chaotic planet? Despite humour being as subjective as it is, it is safe to say that the UK is near or at the top of the pile. And one of their best recent films is born out of some of countries top TV comedy talent combined with one of their most innovative and diverse filmmakers.

The Life and Opinion’s of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman an 18th century novel which was published in 9 volumes over a period of as many years (and at the end of the story, the lead character has yet to be born). It has not been read my many (myself included), but it here and there it is regarded as a minor literary classic, perhaps as much for its vaunted length as its meta-leanings (post-‘modern’ before there was a ‘modern’). Considering the difficulty the writers seem to have in adopting a relatively lean Harry Potter novel (#'s 1 and 2), one of the best jokes of the film is that anyone would even try to make a film out of this novel (what’s next Finnegans Wake?). Thus the movie becomes less about the film of Tristram Shandy and more of a study of making the film about Tristram Shandy, with all the personality, ego, frustration, attention to detail and just plain waiting involved in the creative process of making a film (which is also, maybe, an allegory for creating good comedy). The banter between the leads, played by two top-shelf comedians, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon is brilliant, as are the fine (and diverse) collection of supporting players, from Jeremy Northam and Gillian Anderson to Naomi Harris (currently seen in two current summer blockbusters Pirates of the Caribbean and Miami Vice ) and UK TV comedians: Dylan Moran , David Walliams and Ashley Jensen.

Fancifully titled A Cock and Bull story, Michael Winterbottom’s film thrives on letting the actors breathe, as the director switches effortlessly between the film-within-the-film and the story of making the film, with lots of little asides along the way. Not many comedies have as much brains and bravado as this one. Come for the Al Pacino impression stay for the British showmanship (cock and bull included).