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Friday, August 31, 2007

53 - TIFF minus six days and counting down

After three long and almost sleepless days and night everyone has probably gone through the same wringer of making your decisions - agonizing over the last few dozen picks as the reality set in that you have not read the book enough or that Les Chansons d'amour is not the same thing as L'Amour caché or even Les Amours d'Astrée et de Céladon. It gets that blurry at 3 in the morning. And it really did not help that the final schedule creator was not working very well if at all on - so much time wasted.

So by the time we hit College Park at 11 in the morning it was evident we were not alone. People everywhere still looking at the big book, the schedule, tiny pieces of paper and trying to fill in that last book. However, this was the earliest we had every got our selections in. Last year we were there at 30 seconds to 1 p.m. while running through the crowd.

When we got to the box, it was number 53. 53! Just 12 months ago there were 40 boxes - now 53 and counting ? Has the Festival gotten that popular ? Are there enough tickets out there ?

No time to ponder the TIFF anymore - we had to get down to Dundas Square to get our Heroes autographs! With wristband on arm we were among the first 100 at Best Buy the Tuesday just past and bought the Heroes DVD [ with the comic book exclusive ] so we were ahead of the queue that was the rest of the world waiting to meet Sylar, Ando, Micah and Maya.

Save the cheerleader
Save the world

Just found out:
Aug 31 - BOX 66! Box 66 was the lucky box drawn! There were 75 boxes in total this year.

This is not good news at all. So now there is nothing to do but wait for the email from TIFF and head down there again on Labour Day Monday.

music of your lifestyle: Fray How To Save A Life

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

/* if you trust in yourself you will always make the right choice */ - TIFF countdown - TIFF minus 9, 8, 7 days

It feels like old times

The scurry over to College Park at 9 in the morning and already the lineup was of day one of ticket sales to the public proportions but all went well and the Toronto International Festival 2007 Roots bag this year is a black shopping bag of the Green variety - filled with the usual useful stuff and advertising : Starbucks coffee card good for $5 and reloadable - this always is a good thing - the Fedex foldup pen - the green and yellow marker - the Volkswagen schedule book - the programme book - a bottle of Dole orange tangerine juice = no wonder the bag was so heavy - Lindt chocolate - always handy -

The t-shirts this year are pretty awful this year but break the convention of just having the TIFF logo on it [ which in itself is pretty bad this year ]
WILL ___________ for tickets
Sex Drugs and Cinema Verite

So by 9:30 ish that was done and over with - and it was scooting down to Dundas and Bay to Best Buy to see if you could get the wristband for the Heroes autograph session at Dundas Square on Friday. As luck would have it the rest of the world probably thought it was impossible too and we were number 66! Of course we bought the Heroes dvd set with the Heroes comic - Best Buy exclusive. So after getting all the details of what to do on Friday to line up [ then spending a while looking at flat widescreen monitors - the prices on those things are almost good in the $699 range - almost as much as what a VGA 14 inch monitor used to cost ]

Then it was scurrying back up to College Park to partake of the KFC toonie tuesday - except it's no more ! KFC Chicken Fries combo for 3.99 $ is pretty bad stuff - [ at least you still get one piece of original recipe chicken ] during which we went through the schedule book and just about finished our schedule of selection by about noon. [ thanks to TOFilmFest which we studied like crazy for the last few days - it felt like we almost got to know the films we wanted ] - of course right from the get go on Thursday night there are scheduling conflicts already. This is the fun part.

We were pretty surprised as we passed by the box office again that Box 1 for the lottery was already being filled.

The rest of the day was spent enjoying the sights of too skinny ladies wearing too tight tops that were too small on Queen Street West on a hot summer day in Toronto.

P.S. As we go crazy here creating the final list there are now 8 days to go now.
P.P.S. The online My TIFF list over at does not work very well. You will find your list of movies shorter than you think because the listmaker starts to truncate the number of movies being entered.

soundtrack for your life : Metric The Check is in the Mail

Monday, August 27, 2007

Today's the release day of the TIFF schedule: so the first rule of TIFF

This is the day we are all waiting for : the schedule of all the films. Pick up your passes, your programme book [ believe it or not you are going to need it when you find yourself back in the lineup again trying to buy or exchange more tickets ]

The first rule of TIFF is you never reveal your picks ahead of time.

The second rule of TIFF is pick from the heart and not from the brain - If you want to see a movie because you like the sound of it, the actors, the director, your best friend is in it, then do it - not because Piers Handling has written a glowing description of the movie in the programme book.

The third rule of TIFF is do not believe everything you read in the programme book.

The fourth rule of TIFF is avoid Piers Handling recommendations like the plague unless you really want to be La Vie Nouvelle'd again.

The fifth rule of TIFF is if the director in the Masters section is Jean Rivette you can trust it will be a glorious movie albeit slow. If it is Paul Cox, it will have old naked people in it. If it is Peter Greenaway do not ask any questions. If you get a chance to actually see Werner Herzog [ i.e. Rescue Dawn } and Christian Bale in the same roomm, go.

The sixth rule of TIFF is if you have a choice between seeing a movie at the festival or seeing it in commercial release, see it at the festival. So many times the crowd at TIFF has made the movie - witness the very first reaction to I Heart Huckabees on a Saturday at 9:30 in the morning. Right from Jason Schwartzman's very first use of the word F*** repeated many times the audience was laughing. During Kiss Kiss Bang Bang the audience was laughing so loud you could barely hear the dialogue, and the introduction by Joel Silver, and a bit routine from Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer was priceless. After rushing up to Ryerson after digesting Justin Timberlake's first movie Edision at the Elgin [ despite the presence of Morgan Freeman to whom we all gave a standing ovation for his Oscar ] Thank You For Smoking was a breath of fresh air and again the audience laughter was constant and loud. The Italian lady falling in love again with Amalfi during A Good Woman with Scarlett Johansson and Helen Hunt and the magic of France during A Good Year - or being transported by the splendid performances of Claire Danes and Billy Crudup during the Stage Beauty gala and the standing ovation for Penelope - and the original cut of Elizabethtown all of which was never duplicated when seeing it again with the masses.

The seventh rule of TIFF is if you are sure you will never see this film again even at the Carlton see it now.

The eighth rule of TIFF is if Orlando Bloom is going to be there, go. You do not get these chances everyday, or every year. Corollary: if you are against the fence and Orlando Bloom is about to walk in front of you while he's shaking everybody's hand, prepare to be squished.

The ninth rule of TIFF is believe the hype. You only get one Borat experience. With or without Michael Moore.

The tenth rule of TIFF is get plenty of rest and good food now. You are going to need it. Corollary: the Bloor Street Diner will be busy and expensive for what it is. For those of you coming from out of town, if you are looking for good and filling and affordable, then Roy's Garden [ which is in Roy's Square just beside the Harvey's at Bloor and Yonge is the place for great Chinese dishes. Try #23 on the menu. Get there before they have to move.

The eleventh rule of TIFF is TIFF can change your life. How else did we become Dixie Chicks fans except through the festival and Shut Up and Sing?

The thirteenth rule of TIFF is Brown Bunny, 23 Palms, Shortbus, YPF.

more picks - TIFF07 - o m g this will never end - the Canadians

music of the moment : Stars Window Bird
Stuck on the wall
The note that you left
I wait and stop for the moment
Your reckless heart you know you got it
Into the past, I try to sort it
Sort it
Out of the fog

STUCK Stuart Gordon English
Stuart Gordon is best known for Re-Animator and other H.P. Lovecraft adaptations made in collaboration with Brian Yuzna. However, his most recent projects – such as Edmond, which was based on a David Mamet play – have been a departure from that repertoire but still confront the fears and anxieties provoked by great horror. Stuck continues this trend. Technically, this isn’t a horror film, but its themes are scarier that anything featuring zombies or chainsaws. Brandi (Mena Suvari) is a compassionate young retirement-home caregiver in line for a promotion. Tom (Stephen Rea) is a victim of the downsized economy, out-of-work and newly homeless. Their worlds crash together when Brandi, driving home from a club after too many drinks and pills, accidentally hits Tom, the impact smashing his body head-first through her car’s windshield. - TIFF / Cast: Stephen Rea, Mena Suvari, Russell Hornsby, Rukiya Bernard, John Dunsworth [18+]

YOUNG PEOPLE FUCKING – Ypf / Y.P.F. Martin Gero English
YOUNG PEOPLE FUCKING is a smart and fast-paced comedy which intertwines the stories of five twenty-something prototypical couples over the course of one evening. As the night proceeds, they discover that casual sex is far more complicated than they imagine. The film showcases some of Canada's brightest young talent. Martin Gero and his friend and co-writer Aaron Abrams wrote the scripts in about 6 months, sending each other versions via email. The movie was shot in 5 bedrooms. - TIFF / Cast: Diora Baird, Carly Pope, Callum Blue, Sonja Bennett, Kristin Booth, Josh Cooke, Josh Dean, Peter Oldring [18+]

SILENT LIGHT – Stellet Licht / Luz Silenciosa (sub'd) Carlos Reygadas Spanish Plautdietsch
Winner of the Cannes Jury Prize for 2007, the film tells of Johan, a married North Mexican Mennonite who falls in love with another woman. - TIFF / Cast: Elisabeth Fehr, Cornelio Wall Fehr, Jacobo Klassen, Miriam Toews, Maria Pankratz, Peter Wall [18+]

HERE IS WHAT IS Adam Vollick Daniel Lanois Adam Samuels English
Filmmaker Adam Vollick follows music industry icon Daniel Lanois around the recording studio, unveiling some of the mysteries of the studio as a creative space. From a session in Morocco with U2 and Brian Eno, to Garth Hudson at the piano in Toronto, HERE IS WHAT IS reveals the psychological process behind the making of records. - TIFF / Cast: Daniel Lanois, U2, Brian Eno, Garth Hudson [18+]

– Paper Wedding (sub'd) Michel Brault French
Tells the deeply affecting story of Claire (Geneviève Bujold), a jaded literature professor who agrees to a sham wedding with Pablo, an illegal immigrant from Chile, so he can remain in Canada. Over time, Claire and Pablo come to know each other and develop genuine affection for one another. - TIFF / Cast: Manuel Aranguiz, Dorothée Berryman, Geneviève Bujold, Monique Lepage, Jean Mathieu [18+]

POOR BOY'S GAME Clement Virgo English
After nine years in prison for having brutally beaten a young man, Donnie Rose (Rossif Sutherland) is released from jail a changed man, only to find the violent, racist place he came from is no different. At the other end of the city, the black community is bent on revenge. Ossie Paris (Flex Alexander) has been chosen to see that justice is done, challenging Donnie to a showdown in the boxing ring. Particularly bent on revenge, George Carvey (Danny Glover), the father of Donnie's victim, begins to reconsider when he realizes that he and Donnie both want to leave the past behind. - TIFF / Cast: Danny Glover, Rossif Sutherland, Flex Alexander, Greg Bryk, Laura Regan, Tonya Lee Williams

ÂGE DES TÉNÈBRES – Days Of Darkness / Age Of Ignorance (sub'd) Denys Arcand French
Fantasy meets reality in L'ÂGE DES TÉNÈBRES (DAYS OF DARKNESS), the latest film by Denys Arcand, director of the Academy Award-winning LES INVASIONS BARBARES. Jean-Marc (Marc Labrèche) wrestles with the quiet frustrations of his mundane modern-day life. In his dreams, Jean-Marc is a successful author, a star of the stage and screen, a knight in shining armor who has women falling at his feet and into his bed. But in reality he is a nobody - a clock-punching civil servant, insignificant to his workaholic wife, a failed father and closet smoker. Stuck between his dreamland and reality, Jean-Marc's struggles to find the place where he truly belongs. - TIFF / Cast: Marc Labrèche, Diane Kruger, Sylvie Léonard, Caroline Néron, Rufus Wainwright, Macha Grenon, Emma De Caunes [18+] GALA-ROY VISA-ELGIN

– Drifting Upstream / Between The Sea And Soft Water (sub'd) Michel Brault French
Brault's first fiction feature film about the trials of a man (played by well-known musician Claude Gauthier) who leaves his small village to fulfill his dream of becoming a folk singer in Montreal. Geneviève Bujold stars as his girlfriend in the city. The film captures all the elements of popular culture that had emerged at the beginning of the Quiet Revolution in 1960 and a culture that played a key role in developing Quebecois' awareness of their unique identity. As a genuine collective creation, Entre la mer et l’eau douce crystallizes – better than any other film of the era – all the elements of popular culture in Quebec that had emerged since the beginning of the Quiet Revolution. Followed by La Lutte. - TIFF / Cast: Geneviève Bujold, Robert Charlebois, Claude Gauthier, Paul Gauthier, Pauline Julien B&W [18+]

ALL HAT Leonard Farlinger English
Fresh out of prison, ex-ballplayer Ray Dokes (Luke Kirby) returns home to outwit a corrupt and wealthy thoroughbred owner in his attempts to take over a slew of local farms and build a golf resort. Based on Brad Smith's country noir novel, Leonard Farlinger's second feature film boasts an all star cast featuring a musical score by legendary guitarist Bill Frisell. - TIFF / Cast: Luke Kirby, Rachael Leigh Cook, David Alplay, Lisa Ray, Keith Carradine, Noam Jenkins, Gary Farmer [18+]

NIGHTWATCHING Peter Greenaway English
The year 1642 marks the turning point in the life of the famous Dutch painter, Rembrandt, transforming him from a wealthy respected celebrity into a discredited pauper. At the insistence of his pregnant wife Saskia, Rembrandt (Martin Freeman, BREAKING AND ENTERING) has reluctantly agreed to paint the Amsterdam Musketeer Militia in a group portrait, a portrait that would become his most celebrated painting - The Nightwatch. Going about his work, Rembrandt discovers that there is conspiracy afoot after a man is shot dead during routine musket practice. Determined to bring these conspiracies to light, the artist builds his accusation meticulously in the form of the commissioned painting itself, simultaneously uncovering a seamy and hypocritical side to Dutch Society in the Golden Age. - TIFF / Cast: Martin Freeman, Emily Holmes, Michael Teigen [18+] VISA-ELGIN

CLOSING THE RING Richard Attenborough English
Richard Attenborough (GANDHI) helms a deeply moving love story, beautifully interwoven between present day and the Second World War. In CLOSING THE RING the wild and beautiful Ethel is courted by three friends, in Jack, Chuck and Teddy, all of whom, unsurprisingly, are smitten with her. But it is Teddy who becomes Ethel's husband. When the three friends must leave for the war in Europe, Ethel gives Teddy a gold ring as her promise of their eternal love. - TIFF / Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, Mischa Barton, Neve Campbell, Pete Postlethwaite, David Alpay [18+] GALA-ROY VISA-ELGIN

JUST BURIED – Pushing Up Daisies Chaz Thorne English
A dark comedy about greed, sex and death. Oliver (Jay Baruchel) inherits his estranged father's funeral parlour on the verge of bankruptcy. Soon, his uneventful life becomes increasingly complicated when he takes a drunken drive with mortician Roberta (Rose Byrne) and hits a hiker. - TIFF / Cast: Jay Baruchel, Rose Byrne, Graham Greene, Nigel Bennett [18+]

NORMAL Carl Bessai English
The latest feature from acclaimed Canadian writer/director Carl Bessai (UNNATURAL AND ACCIDENTAL, SEVERED, LOLA) follows the lives of three unrelated characters as they search for closure following the tragic death of a young man. Catherine (Carrie-Anne Moss), the boy's mother, continues to grieve for her son to the detriment of her relationship with the rest of her family. Walt (Callum Keith Rennie) tries to find redemption by caring for his autistic brother, while Jordie (Kevin Zegers), a sensitive teenager who made the wrong choice on the wrong night, can't seem to stop his life from nose-diving out of control. - TIFF / Cast: Carrie-Anne Moss, Callum Keith Rennie, Kevin Zegers [18+]

STONE ANGEL Kari Skogland English
Based on the legendary novel by Margaret Laurence, THE STONE ANGEL sees heroine Hagar Shipley (Ellen Burstyn) come to terms with the decisions she has made over 90 years of an unconventional life. As she nears the end of her days, Hagar reflects on the life she has led, the men she has loved and lost, and the sons she has estranged. - TIFF / Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Christine Horne, Dylan Baker, Cole Hauser, Ellen Page, Sheila McCarthy, Kevin Zegers [18+]

Cécile Cassel et Stéphanie de Crayencour

© Rezo Films
Galerie complète sur AlloCiné

Andy Gillet et Stéphanie de Crayencour

© Rezo Films
Galerie complète sur AlloCiné

We can be heroes

A quick note for you Toronto Heroes addicts:

Get an autograph from your favourite HEROES characters: Zachary Quinto “Sylar”, James Kyson Lee “Ando”, Noah Gray-Cabey “Micah”…and the newest cast member, Dania Ramirez “Maya”.

On August 31, hosted by ET Canada’s Rick Campanelli, the event will feature an upfront Q&A with the cast. There will also be interactive fan activities throughout the square including Cheerleading Demonstrations, Anime Artists, Digital Photo booth and exclusive video.

You can also start watching Heroes episodes on NBC again for some reason on Monday nights.

Heroes in Toronto

Sunday, August 26, 2007

La Vie En Rose - the life of Edith Piaf - no regrets

Non je ne regrette rien

The life of Edith Piaf [ the little swallow ] is filled with so much tragedy that to call La Vie En Rose overdramatic would be calling the kettle black.

La Vie En Rose is the melodrama that is the life of Edith Piaf from enfant to grande vedette - the presentation of her life flits back and forth from her birth to her last days in Grasse then back to the adolescent years marked by her desertion by her mother and with her acrobat father serving on the front of the first World War she finds a place she can be accepted in the care of the ladies of the night, especially one named Titine, in their bordello. However, from the very start she has always been a sickly child and suffers from a degenerative eye disease keratoconus whereupon she has to go through a period of enforced blindfoldedness.

Father reclaims her and and brings her along as he makes his living in a circus. After quitting the circus, the two quickly become an ensemble act on the streets, he with his stunts and her with a voice that would soon not be denied its place in the world.

As the film evidences, Piaf was the voice of Paris and France. Who can deny Edith Piaf? No one. She is discovered singing in the street by a club owner and introduces her for the first time before a crowd in his cabaret. She is also introduced to another impressario who later takes her under his wing and moulds her to becoming the perfect diction, dramatic singer who lives her songs - gesticulating with her arms and her eyes.

The fireball Marion Cotillard is a definitive Oscar contender as she plays Piaf through many of the phases of her tempetuous life - from a youthful teen singing literally for her supper on the streets of Paris with her best friend Simone "Momone" by her side collecting the tips from passersby - to the withered shell that Piaf has become during the last years of her life, yet she is still surrounded by loyal manager and impressario of the Paris Olympia: Bruno Coquatatrix and friends and determined to maintain her career. The fury and the yearning behind her eyes reflects a heart always longing for amour, love. As the pendulum of her life swings back and fro from her discovery in the streets of Pigalle by Louis Leplée [played with friendly assuredness by Gerard Depardieu] who takes her up and puts her onto the stage of his Les Champs Elysées cabaret Le Gerny and through his unfortunate murder at the hands of the underworld - an event which drags Piaf's name by association through the mud, yet she survives under the mentorship of Raymond Asso [ not entirely unlike the scenes in Citizen Kane ]. Newspaper headlines on screen mark her rapid ascent through her career, she no longer was "the little sparrow" La Môme Piaf but would become Edith Piaf - her record sales, concert tours - it finds a balance in the middle where she finds true love in the arms of a world champion boxer Marcel Cerdan - continuing with her attempting to break America through a string of shows in New York City and taking up with another American husband - the car crashes - and with one final swing she is at one of the last shining moments of her career - her 1955 concert at the Paris Olympia which debuts the story of her life in the song Non je ne regrette rien and fittingly concludes the film La Vie En Rose.

While the movie only touches lightly over her movie career and the names she mentors and loves destined to become famous due to her own name: the likes of Yves Montand, Gilbert Bécaud. La Vie En Rose ironically enough does not build up into Piaf's own penmanship of the song that became a trademark of her career. And the film definitely does not gloss over her affection for drinking, and her temper as she orders people about. She is after all an immense artist.

La Vie En Rose is an all-encompassing movie that reaches the highs of her triumphs of her songs and her loves and the lows of her life enduring heartbreak, and the addictions to alcohol and morphine which broke her body, but not her spirit. A remarkable performance by Marion Cotillard.

Waitress - lonely Chicago pie

All I want to do is make pie

Kerri Russell shows a surprising flare for the light and heavy comedic moments presented to her in Waitress as Jenna. Her character arc is so different from Felicity, because Jenna has to overcome the heavy burden of her bad marriage to an abusive domineering husband [played by Jeremy Sisto who has a penchant for this type of character a la Thirteen]. Jenna longs for escape and has been saving up as she works at Joe's diner famous for its 27 different kinds of breakfast lunch and dessert pies. If there is one thing Jenna can do is make pie, unusually named pies that spring to life on screen as she concocts them in her mind for the day's menus. Seeing her make pie is a sensuous experience, as she melts chocolate, mashes berries, folds in various chips and fillings into the crusts, Her dream is to make the pie that would win the local pie making competition Miss Pie USA and with its first prize of twenty-five thousand dollars buy her way to freedom.

The ornery Andy Griffith is Joe, a cranky customer who places very specific orders with the waitress; but then again he is owner of the place and he is forthright and loud. But throughout Waitress the two develop a bond over horoscopes, straight up advice and the colorful stories of his life.

Waitress is a modernized Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore - filled with the bond three waitresses the flirtatious Cheryl Hines [from Curb Your Enthusiasm] as Becky, Adrienne Shelly herself as Dawn and Kerri Russell as Jenna, share with each other and set against the cantankerous head cook Cal [Lew Temple] who runs the place. Adrienne Shelly who wrote and directed Waitress also plays Dawn, the meek one who blossoms after discovering her husband to be through a five minute date.

It does not help that Jenna finds herself trapped by an unwanted pregnancy after a night of getting drunk with her husband. And her dreams of freedom become quickly dashed.

Pregnant Miserable Self Pitying Loser Pie. Lumpy oatmeal with fruitcake mashed in. Flambé of course

But along the way she finds relief from her bad marriage drudgery in the form of Nate Fillion as Dr. Pomatter, filling in for her usual female obi gyn Dr. Lily Mueller. At first it starts awkwardly between them as she makes her first appointment to confirm her pregnancy with a marshmallow pie in hand, and finds herself disconcerted by his nervousness - but the sparks fly and the affair cements itself in pie as their romance and her pregnancy progresses - an affair complicated by the facts of their each being married.

What Babette's Feast did for gourmet dinner, Waitress does for pies. Delicious mouthwatering pies each a reflection of a dream moment or a mood by Russell.

Waitress is a wonderful wistful type of film that is overshadowed by the tragic passing of Adrienne Shelley who also helped write the lullabye Jenna sings to her baby at the end as she makes yet another pie.

When the world is gray and bleak
Baby don't you cry
I will give you every bit of love that's in my heart
I will bake it up into a simple little pie…

Baby don't you cry
Gonna make a pie
Gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle
Baby don't be blue
Gonna make for you
Gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle.
Gonna be a pie from heaven above
Gonna be filled with strawberry love
Baby don't you cry
Gonna make a pie
Hold you forever in the middle of my heart.

Baby's here's the sun
Baby here's the sky
Baby I'm the light and I'm your shelter
Baby you are mine
I could freeze the time
Keep you in my kitchen with me forever
Gonna be a pie from heaven above
Gonna be filled with strawberry love
Baby don't you cry
Gonna make a pie
Hold you forever in the middle of my heart.

Gonna be a pie from heaven above
Gonna be filled with butterscotch love
Gonna be a pie from heaven above
Gonna be filled with lemon cream love

Baby don't you cry
Gonna make a pie
Hold you forever in the middle of my heart.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

/* the happiest moment of your life */ - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix takes a dark turn

this is a fraction of a previous review that got lost in translation between computer and the world

No spoilers

The fifth year at Hogwarts beckons but in the summer recess between school years, there are no sunny days in Harry Potter's world. Growing up fast and sporting a new haircut he is still dwarfed by his tormentors the mammoth Dudley Weasley and his gang.

Of course he is forbidden from using magic outside Hogwarts in the Muggleworld.

The universe of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a mirror of the two factions in our own world between those who are in authority and impose rules while in the reactionary throes of fear and panic who refuse to accept that you know Who He Who Must Not Be Named has risen; and those who refuse to kowtow blindly to fear and the clampdown by those in power.

Even with Harry Potter's protestations that He Who Must Not Be Named is back, and being putting on trial for using a patronus while being attacked by dementors, the ever revolving door to the position of professor of Defence against the Dark Arts has been assumed by Dolores Umbridge, a person of position in the Ministry of Magic who turns the class into a theory only exercise presenting the new curriculum from the Ministry of Magic.

The film takes a very cruel turn upon the heroes of the tale, having to endure punishments and crushing rules meted out by the smirking Dolores Umbridge against which their seems no relief. Until an unwilling hero arises ... Harry Potter. The creation of Dumbledore's Army recruited from the students at Hogwarts has to go in secret training learning the ways of real magic from Harry Potter in the Room of Requirement while hiding in broad daylight from the watchfulness of the Ministry of Magic now in charge of the teachings at Hogwarts. And Harry Potter discovers love.

As helmed by David Yates [ who is working on the next installment of Harry Potter and The Half-Blooded Prince ] it is dark times indeed for Harry Potter. Vividly imagined and brought to the screen and a stirring conclusion which in IMAX is a must-see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix stands as a hard-fought triumph over the dark forces but fans already know what to look forward to next.

/* You fancy yourself a cut above the rest - secretly */- Becoming Jane - The History of Jane Austen

Anne Hathaway far from princess to pauper gives as good as she gets in this movie Becoming Jane is the life and times of Jane Austen depicted in the hallows fields of Hampshire the settings of her great triumphs that were her novels.

As in Austen's novels, the film is imbued with the signature Wit and Irony that are the characteristics of the books. Pride and Prejudice comes to life within the context of Jane Austen's tales, trails and travails. Father is an impecuniuous preacher trying to raise family, daughters, and small farm animals of the chicken and pig persuasion. Mother with a sharp tongue constantly frets about trying to marry her two daughters off.

Right from the start, Jane Austen is sitting uncommonly at her desk with paper and feathered pen struggling for the right words to put to page. She is a girl of youthfulness and independent thought, something that in those days was supposed to remain hidden. There is a bearing about her, a pride and prejudice in the making so to speak. She will not marry for money, she requires affection. Her attitude becomes a sore point with the mother, but father played with a downhome panache by James Cromwell is on her side. Moreso, Jane Austen will support herself, but how?

What is she doing?
She is writing
Isn't there anything you can do about it ?

Jane will not let herself be married off - even though she has caught the eye of the local boy who has means by way of his rich mother. Jane requires affection.

What is at the heart of this movie that will persuade the young females that will be drawn to this movie is the early romance between Jane and the young Tom Lefroy played with a certain flair by James McAvoy as an impoverished student of law in London who constantly gambles and fights for wagers [and in a clever device has a penchant for getting distracted by the sounds of strangers and at that moment be knocked out by his foe]. There is no suggestion that the hellion Lefroy is going to improve his way of life so the judge [played to the hilt of haughtiness by the late House of Cards Ian Richardson in his last role] has Tom sent off to a quiet life in the Hampshire countryside with the Austens family. From the start their mutual disdain for each other is apparent as he falls asleep during a family reading of her latest speech. Their duel is set against a comedy of manners. They fiercely banter back and forth in a battle of spirit and will, neither side giving in. While in a fictional world of an Austen novel it would appear that they are destined for each other, but life gets in their way. Jane's courter has not given up on obtaining her hand in marriage, even though she is looking for in her words: affection, which she has not for him.

Those who have seen the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice will relate to the scenery and down to earth depiction of that world seen in Becoming Jane and can begin to foresee what is to trespass in Jane's life when Lefroy capitulates before her. However, Jane Austen's life is not exactly parallel as Pride and Prejudice comes to fruition, but provides the strong inspiration for some of the greatest books in the English language.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

o my god - they announced TIFF07 today ! the b*st*rds !

[ all this is done while listening to the new album from Maps We Can Create ]

as you may know the TIFF makes its grand announcement today so we are going into overdrive already - looking at the list of movies and stars on their way. We have to reduce this down to our 50 first choices! The schedule itself is not out til next Tuesday the 28th. Now this is the part that really makes us wonder - why just 3 days to get all the choices submitted by August 31 at 1 p.m. [13h00]. But this of course is just part of the TIFF frenzy and fever that we face every year before we face the magic that is in front and on the screens.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

/* hail Caesar ! */ - The Last Legion dying to the last breath

we saw the preview of The Last Legion in theatre 8 at the Varsity

The Last Legion is a movie to be largely avoided - it is so PG and has all the feel of a Xena episode albeit with a great deal of Lord of the Rings nobility given to it by some worthy actors - when you think of seasoned hardened Roman soldiers exhausted after years of campaign in Africa naturally you think of Colin Firth and the stunning beauty of Aishwarya Rai emerging from the river showing off her form and her martial arts skills in her fighting sequences -
and legionaire Aurelius Colin Firth is back together with his son from Love Actually who plays Romulus Caesar this time around - who although a boy learns to accept his Caesar birthright and the power it wields.

With Rome fallen around him, Aurelius pledged to defend to this last blood descendant of Julius Caesar to his last breath saves Romulus from imprisonment on Capri and with his loyal soldiers and with help from the eastern empire they head to the only help they can hope on - from the Ninth Legion in Britannia.

Sir Ben Kingsley is the boy's teacher Ambrosinius who bears the mark of a secretive past has been guiding Romulus Caesar throughout his childhood, but is cast off from Romulus's side on the eve of his ascension to Emperor. Alas, the boy's reign is cut short by attack from the evil Goths.

This all comes together by the end on the field by Hadrian's wall - a setting not too unlike Arthur - and of course the rallying speech that was epic in 300 can only make Firth's Olivier moment pale in comparison yet what took two hours and two films in Lord of the Rings takes less than five minutes with the breach of the walls by the Goths - and a fight that is supposed to be epic a la Obiwan and Darth Vader is woefully short in victoriousness. Although The Last Legion does have its fun quotient it lacks that certain larger than life quotient that an epic tale should possess. The leading names do give the movie a certain weight but the script's scenes robs them of the grand majesty.

this is Britannia !

at least with this visit to the Varsity - it is good training for the Toronto International Film Festival 2007 just around the corner

/* pickles */ - Nicole runs the show in The Invasion

In this modernistic rethink of those trilogy of bodysnatcher films [ two of which may be deemed classic ] The Invasion provides a new world perspective and look into the evolution of the human condition.

Tying in the war in the Middle East and other foibles of mankind into this look at human survival in a pandemic crisis is an over-reach at times but it does not detract from the action packed psychological scare that is The Invasion.

Alongside Nicole Kidman playing the concerned psychiatrist and mother looking out for her only child to the hilt is Daniel Craig who shows just a veneer of the bond to come.

A pleasant surprise is a survivor of the alien invasion showing up here.

Just don't fall asleep.

... more

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Stardust - two star crossed lovers in a wonderful fairy tale

Are we human because we gaze at the stars? Do the stars gaze back? That is the quetion across the universe.

Neil Gaiman's short story Stardust is brought to life in a visual panoply of fairy tale images. A star, a beautiful and evil witch, a pirate of persuasion and suasion and a woebegone shopboy who is not just a shopboy. And did we mention ghosts? lots and lots of ghosts.

Stardust is not a story for children - behest full of gruesome deeds and motives. Yet it is wonderful to behold Claire Danes back on the screen this season [ just recently seen in Evening and last time at Toronto International Film Festival live at the gala for Stage Beauty ] - a fallen star [ literally ] whose entity is desired by many sides for the power she holds. For the coven, the star will bring eternal beauty to the witch Michelle Pfeiffer and her sisters, for the shopboy bringing back the star will bring him the beauty and hand in marriage of Sienna Miller, the apple of his eye Victoria. The clumsy mannered boy who has grown up without the love of a mother pledges to the Victoria [who has already the attraction of the most handsome lad in the village] that he will do anything, go to London, cross the ocean and one night together they see something fall from the sky, perhaps a falling star - yes, he will bring her back that star. To fetch the star, the boy must go outside the walls of Wall, an enclave village and bring back the star in a week.

The adventures are the stuff of fantasy and fairy tales and are at cross purposes with the vying of the nasty brothers for the throne to the kingdom - brothers of the ghostly and corporeal kind - the ghosts having met their demise in most foul ways. Even just moments after seeing their father on the deathbed, one of the brothers is already offed out the window and down the side of the castle and is resurrected as a corpse beside the forms of his late brothers. But it is all done in high humour - as is the rest of the Stardust.

The boy obtains his star with whom he exchanges witty banter - a style that is carried through the film. Just on the precipice of impending doom they find themselves swept up aboard a most peculiar flying boat with a cast of pirates led by Robert de Niro doing his finest Errol Flynn with a twist? Does it get any better than this?

Monday, August 06, 2007

/* this town */ - Ocean's 13 goes back to the drawing board

You shook the hand of Frank Sinatra

This is the heart of the matter of Ocean's 13 : the clash between the new Las Vegas and the traditional.

Ocean's 13 is of course the third of these enjoyable con and heist movies helmed by Steve Soderberg with the cast of millions / millionaires led by Danny Ocean and his cohort Rusty and the crew who may have grumbled at themselves being deemed part of "Ocean's 11".

Ocean's 12 may have just been a trifle too smart for its own good with Soderberg doing his traditional wavering from going commercial to indie a la Full Frontal with his weird editing tricks. But Ocean's 13 makes bank and hits its mark in more ways than one.

While Tess and Isabel [ Julia and Catherine Z natch ] are missing in action this time around although referenced, their presences on screen instead are gobbled up by the commanding presence of Willie Bank in the guise of Al Pacino [ just when you thought you were out ] along with Ellen Barkin! [ seen at TIFF in Palindromes ].

Willie Bank is building the newest and grandest hotel and casino and has double crossed his prospective partner Elliot Gould at the last moment into taking a financial bath - and as they say when you cross one Ocean you cross them all.

The gang reunite when they find out Gould is on a sickbed from which he may not recover and vow payback.

Trying to get even against Bank has humorous consequences with the entire gang reprising their roles so effortlessly. Matt Damon is still the less assured member who comes up with the idea of bringing in an old rival "I was born ready" to bankroll the proceedings when they hit the proverbial wall [or tunnel].

Ocean's 13 is a return to style without an over-reliance on a convoluted plot but a demand for an attention to character and details is required. All that glitters is not gold but diamonds are a girl's best friend which is where Ellen Barken comes in as Pacino's sidekick and an eye for the finer things in life.

The Stardust, The Sands - they built them smaller back then harkens an era long gone by where the original Rat Park and Ocean's 11 ruled, now supplanted by the Bellagio and its ilk. And it is only appropriate the Chairman's voice sings in the background.

This town is a lonely town
Not the only town like-a this town
This town is a make-you town
Or a break-you-town and bring-you-down town

Saturday, August 04, 2007

/* this is where it ends */ - Bourne Ultimatum rules supreme

This is where it started and this is where it ends for me.

Bourne Ultimatum
, the third chapter of the Jason Bourne saga is a thrilling cat and mouse chase.

The music is pounding - the movie's pace is relentless with few respites as Jason Bourne continuously dodges detection and evades lethal killers from the agency. But which agency? Who and the good guys and the bad guys?

Treadstone may have been laid to rest by the second installment of the Jason Bourne franchise but something else has arisen. And all the while a reporter for an English newspaper is writing published stories about the mystery that is Jason Bourne. A mystery that Jason Bourne himself is trying to solve for himself as he tries to unlock his past.

You really don't remember anything?

Right from the start the style of Bourne Ultimatum is different as Bourne is already on the run - somewhere in Moscow, evidently injured. The chase spans four continents as Bourne played doggedly by Matt Damon haunted by memories of Marie Kreutz from the first and second chapters tries to find the truth and the truth tries to dodge Bourne - and somewhere in the middle Joan Allen's Pam Landy is the focal point between what is right and what is deemed necessary. The ever brilliant David Strathairn [ from the TIFF of the past in Blue Car, The Notorious Bettie Page and the nomination for Good Night and Good Luck) discovers that Jason Bourne has arisen and immediately sees him as a deadly threat to the agency - and to his own career. If Bourne ever finds out the truth ...

Bourne Ultimatum raises the bar for personal action thrillers which culminates in a they did it right finish [ or is it ? ]
This is where it ends.