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October – a month of horror

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Its now October and thus begins the month of horror around my house. I’ve always loved horror movies, and recall watching every Friday The 13th back to back one halloween. This October seems to have the ball rolling with selections like Splinter, Shiver, and a film that received a third screening at VIFF because it was received so well – Let The Right One In. Of these Let The Right One In in is without question the best, I can say that confidently having only seen it and not the other two. The reason Let The Right One In is such a genre bending film that it will cross over to the mainstream and not just have the label of another horror film.

Speaking of horror films, Super U has just opened its The Horror! film contest that will run through the month of October. There already a number of great submissions so make sure to go check them out and vote on your favorite. Also if you’re a filmmaker and have a horror classic waiting in the wings then make sure to submit an entry as they will be accepted until October 26th!

VIFF: When Life Was Good – review

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Yesterday I mentioned I was going to attend When Life Was Good, a no budget Canadian feature film that has been getting a lot of buzz on the festival circuit this year. I’m proud to say that the screening more then lived up to expectations and the hype is justified. Although lacking big budget production values When Life Was Good manages to hook you in with an excellent story, laughter from natural dialog, and impressive performances from the two lead characters played by Kristine Cofsky & Casey Manderson.

That is not to say this movie is without its flaws. The supporting cast has both a mix of hilarious and well acted characters, as well as dismal group of people who seemed to be pulled off the street. Also the guided improv style of filmmaking has its pros and cons. On the plus side some of the funniest moments would have not developed if it were not for this direction. However at the same time it resulted in some sketchy editing techniques that reminded me a lot of a bad MTV special. Scenes were pieced together from multiple takes and then shuffled together like a deck of cards making for an arty, all be it annoying, flow.

For what its worth I consider When Life Was Good an excellent example of where the Canadian film industry is going. Its nice to see what someone can do when they ignore the rules of traditional filmmaking and delve into a project without a budget, big name actors, or high end equipment. There is still one more screening of When Life Was Good at VIFF this year, make sure to go get your tickets soon.

VIFF: When Life Was Good

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Tonight I am attending When Life Was Good at VIFF. I mentioned this movie a few times so far, even as recently as yesterday. Needless to say I am quite excited about it. My reasoning has a lot to do with the fact it appears as if someone managed to pull off a great Canadian film (not an easy thing to do) with no budget, no lights, no high end camera, no actors (even harder to do). I am in the process of doing the same thing with my passion project Play With Fire, and its fantastic seeing a film like this get into festivals such as TIFF and VIFF. If you’re in the Vancouver area I suggest you go on over to the VIFF website and get yourself tickets to When Life Was Good. If not for tonight’s showing at the Ridge Theater, then at least for the second screening later in the week.

Make sure to check out the Super U exclusive When Life Was Good VIFF video blog!

Check out the tailer for When Life Was Good 

VIFF: Canadian must watch list

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Previously I gave my international choices for films to see at the Vancouver International Film Festival in VIFF: the must watch list. As good as those films could end up being I’d be hard pressed to ignore the great home grown Canadian talent at this years festival. Thus I am proud to give you version 2.0 of the VIFF must watch list, Canadian films edition.

Control ALT Delete – It’s 1999 and loveable computer geek Lewis Henderson is dumped by his longtime girlfriend Sarah. So he does what any young urban slacker would: work less and beat off more to internet porn. But with the added pressures of his buggy Y2K software and repeated romantic rejection, Lewis discovers that the website images no longer turn him on… and thus begins his strangely satisfying sexual relationship with the machine itself.

But all honeymoons must end and Lewis’ eye starts to wander from his dependable home desktop. His desire for newer, sexier models grows until he finds himself copulating with co-workers’ CPUs. When his boss, Angela, vows to identify the “computer rapist”, Lewis tries to throw off suspicion by dating the company’s mousey receptionist, Jane. But there’s more to Jane than meets the eye — with the new millennium fast approaching and a massive motherboard calling, it seems he has to choose between his freaky fetish and the challenge of real love. Or does he?

Crime – Tom Scholte’s gripping and powerful directorial debut is the story of four people trying to make some sense of their lives. Rick (Evan Frayne) is a university hockey player and dorm advisor. He’s doing his best to be a good guy, but he has some pretty serious blind spots. He befriends Crystal (Andrea Whitburn), an emotionally fragile young art student who is coping with the suicide of her older brother. Not far away, Tula (Frida Betrani) works at a deli to support her boyfriend, while she struggles to keep sober. The boyfriend, Brent (Tom Scholte) spends his days holed up in their apartment, smoking pot and playing his electric guitar. The two stories eventually intersect, setting off a chain of events that affects everyone in unexpected ways.

Compliant with the Dogme 95 manifesto and shot locally with a hand-held camera, Crime is an intimate look at flawed people trying to do what they believe is the right thing. More often than not, their actions result in further damage to themselves and to their loved ones. This is a heartbreakingly honest film about failed attempts at connection and healing, but there is also a sense of tenderness and hope at the heart of the film: a yearning for something better. Crime is gritty and intense, and hopefully the first of many in Scholte’s directorial career.

When Life Was Good – A sly comedic drama about quasi-bohemians struggling (emotionally, romantically and professionally) to find their way in the world, When Life Was Good is driven by a clear-eyed affection for its characters that is rare for any filmmaker, never mind one as young as Terry Miles. The film has a hazy, slightly stoned look, and is edited elliptically, as if the director, though obviously charmed by his principals’ numerous foibles, is aware that his characters talk a lot of crap, and thought eavesdropping a more appropriate, kinder introduction. It feels like a Cassavetes movie minus the rancour.

The film centres on Brooklyn (Kristine Cofsky), a would-be actress who has returned from studying abroad to celebrate her boyfriend Ben’s birthday; her long-time friend Faith (Keri Horton), an aspiring dancer who has put her career on hold to save her relationship; and budding screenwriter Casey (Casey Manderson), Faith’s boyfriend. Right from the start there are signs that something is amiss. Casey and Faith are goofy in love. Theirs is the kind of claustrophobic, exclusive relationship that is usually doomed when the outside world impinges. But it is Brooklyn who is the most divided and confused of the group. She slips into Ben’s apartment in an attempt to surprise him but, for reasons unknown even to her, becomes unhappy with what she sees and quickly slinks out, covering her tracks. She moves in with Faith and Casey, just as Faith’s mother, a truly determined stage mom, re-enters the picture.

As the characters struggle with conflicting emotions, unexpected intimacy and the demands of the real world, what emerges feels like an updated J.D. Salinger text. Miles adores his characters because of their naïveté, their confusion and their refusal to put on a front merely to make their way in the world. And by the end, we feel the same way about them. Though the film is constantly, surprisingly funny, there is a forlorn, elegiac feel to the proceedings. When Life Was Good is a paean to inevitably lost innocence – and signals the arrival of a distinctive new voice in Canadian cinema.

For the sake of full disclosure Super U is a sponsoring When Life Was Good at the Vancouver International Film Festival

VIFF: First weekend down, JCVD delivers

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If you have read this blog for anytime now you’ll know that JCVD has been THE movie for me to see at the Vancouver International Film Festival this year. Last night I saw it thanks to my Super U sponsor passes and I must say, it was even better then I was expecting. Now given that statement says a lot, and trust me this film is not without its flaws, but all in all this has been the most fun I have had at the movies all year.

I will premiss this by saying I have always been a big fan of Jean Claude Van Dam so there is bias on my part. That said bias or not it turns out Jean Claude can act. I’ll be the first to tell you that is something I never knew. His acting is fantastic in this movie and his range impresses going from drama to comedy with little visible effort. The actual story itself starts off well but cops out a little at the end, however I won’t go into detail about that in order not to ruin the ending. Other then that all I have to say is that the the filmmaker Mabrouk El Mechri should be getting some calls very soon form major studios because this was one hell of a coming out party for him. Look no further then the jaw dropping opening tracking shot for proof of this. I’ll leave you all with the trailer one last time, now that I have seen the film odds are I’ll stop rambling on about it so much – but please trust me when i say if you get the chance you have to go see JCVD, you will not be disappointed…

VIFF: Blindness, and more…

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Its official, VIFF is underway. Last night the opening gala kicked off with a screening of Blindness and an all inclusive party at the Vancouver Aquarium. Those who know me well know I like to drink like a fish so drinking with fish is a great way to go about that, these VIFF people sure have the right idea. Anyway…

Blindness is from The Constant Gardener director Fernando Meirelles. He joins forces with Canadian writer/director/actor Don McKellar to bring Portuguese Nobel Prize winner José Saramago’s 1995 novel to the big screen in this large-scale philosophical thriller. An epidemic of blindness pushes society to the breaking point after sweeping through a modern metropolis and crossing borders into the outside world.

So far the film is not receiving favorable reviews, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it an average of 36%. That said one of our staff members attended the gala last night as had favorable things to say about the film. The Coles Notes version of her review is that the film holds up well, all be it mostly because Julianne Moore‘s performance. Parts of the film were hard to watch and she had trouble telling if it was due to empathy for the Julianne’s character or if the scenes just made her feel uncomfortable. Based on this information I think I’ll skip seeing Blindness until it comes out on DVD, in the mean time there are tons of other great films to check out at this years VIFF as I have covered in other blog posts.

Let The Right One In – english remake?

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As first reported by the film nuts over at Row Three:

Cloverfield director Matt Reevess is given the unenviable task of remaking Tomas Alfredson’s fabulous Swedish vampire instant-classic, Let The Right One In. While I quite dug Cloverfield, it had a lot more going on in the aesthetic and tone department than the gimmick that it could have bee, the usual remake rules apply: I doubt that Reeves remake can find the razor thin balance of emotion that Alfredson managed. The film is delicate and I am a bit skeptical that it will survive remake mauling. The reminted Hammer Studios own the rights for the remake and are behind the production. It is interesting that they are going back to their vampire roots, but taking things in a very modern direction (i.e. subtle drama, remake, etc.)

I caught the original at Fantasia earlier this year (where it won the Audience Award, not to mention that it picked up best narrative feature at Tribeca). While I have a few minor issues with where it went at the end, I still love the movie. A Lot. Marina is expected to see it very soon and her thoughts will show up with her VIFF coverage. Likewise Andrew & I are going to watch it in October as it is on the Toronto After Dark lineup. If you have not caught the original at a festival yet, when Magnet Releasing puts it out in the cinemas: Run, don’t walk…

As you can see from previous blog posts I am very excited about this film. That said I can not see it being redone in Hollywood fashion. Big budgets and remaining of horror films tend to turn out horribly, and dilute the quality of the original. If you don’t believe me go watch any J-Horror film with an american counter part. Watch the J-Horror film first and then the american remake. I think you’ll find yourself rather upset and hoping that this kid ends up taking his revenge on some Hollywood producers…

Written by superuwatchers

September 25, 2008 at 9:34 am