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VIFF: The must watch list

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Today at the Super U office we received our Vancouver International Film Festival sponsor package containing tickets, passed, and a little swag as well. The reason we received such a sweet package is because we are sponsoring the When Life Was Good screenings on October 2nd & 7th at the festival. When Life Was Good is a Canadian film that is generating a ton of buzz lately, so make sure to follow its VIFF experience through the exclusive vlog on Super U.

Obviously I consider When Life Was Good a must watch. It is extremely important to support Canadian films at every opporutiny and there is not a better candidate at this years festival than When Life Was Good. However VIFF is not just Canadian films, thus here are my top four foreign picks at VIFF:

JCVD (France): Jean-Claude Van Damme plays himself in this crime comedy that opens with the aging action star on the low end of his career, fighting a drug habit, his daughter’s custody case and now a major P.R. problem — for he’s soon to find himself in the middle of a bank heist, with the world looking on and the Muscles From Brussels as the number one suspect

Let The Right One In (Sweden): Twelve-year-old Oskar lives with his mom in a particularly bleak section of Stockholm. Geeky, awkward and just plain weird, Oskar is one of those kids that bullies seem to sniff out. One night, while practicing stabbing a tree (in lieu of his tormentors), Oskar meets the new girl who just moved in next door. Eli, preternaturally pale and self-possessed, might smell a little odd, but like Oskar she’s dying of loneliness–as well as the need for human blood.

RocknRolla (Britain): When a Russian mobster sets up a real estate scam that generates millions of pounds, various members of London’s criminal underworld pursue their share of the fortune. Various shady characters, including Mr One-Two, Stella the accountant, and Johnny Quid, a druggie rock-star, try to claim their slice…

Flame and Citron (Denmark): Copenhagen, 1944. Denmark is occupied by Nazi Germany. Flame and Citron are two legendary resistance fighters charged with liquidating Danish informers. By order of their commander, they now consent to kill Germans as well. But when Flame is asked to execute his girlfriend Ketty, an enigmatic Stockholm courier, he questions his orders wondering who Ketty really is. In the struggle for freedom all zones appear grey and it becomes increasingly unclear who is friend and who is foe. Based on true events.

The one I want to see no matter what is JCVD, although that should be obvious from my pervious blog posts. After that I’d say Flame and Citron and then Let The Right One In are #2 and #3 respectively. RocknRolla will have a wide release so I feel less of a need to see it now, but I still would like to catch it in a festival atmosphere.

I’d be interested to see your must watch lists, so please comment and let me know what you’re attending. Make sure to get your tickets ASAP – they are selling out fast!


TIFF Reviews: Wrestlers, Che, and Kevin Smith’s porno

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TIFF marches on and reviews keep flowing in. As mentioned in a previous blog post I am not in Toronto (sadly) and will not have the opportunity to view many of these films myself, at least not until the reach major distribution. Thus I bring you the best of the reviews from the web…

CHE (review by Twitch Films) – Steven Soderbergh’s two-part four-hour biopic Che doesn’t have a gorgeous Antonio Banderas complaining about all the howling hysterical sorrow over the death of Eva Peron. Nor will you see Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s band of disaffected youth rambling through Tokyo all wearing the same iconic Che t-shirt …more…

Zack and Miri Make a Porno (review by /film) – I have a theory that Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno is actually just a chronology of Smith’s career so far as a filmmaker. The film starts off much like Clerks, with Seth Rogen trying to wake up for his dreadful job. Minutes later he is walking through the local mall with his roommate and best friend Miri, played by Elizabeth Banks, in a scene that is reminiscent of Mallrats …more…

The Wrestler (review by /film) – Some might say that The Wrestler is a departure from director Darren Aronofsky, while many others may look at it as an evolution. One thing is for sure, it’s very different, and certainly more mature than the filmmaker’s previous work. I’d love to compare it to Paul Thomas Anderson’s transition from films like Boogie Nights and Magnolia to There Will Be Blood. The Wrestler, like TWBB, strips it down to the bones …more…

All three of these films I consider to be ‘must watches’. It has been some years since so many films I am excited about are coming out at one time. The Wrestler, JCVD, CHE, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Flame and Citron, RocknRolla, etc — needless to say this is going to be a busy fall for movie watching…

TIFF reviews: day one

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It never fails, once a year I become extremely jealous of those who live in Toronto. Normally I’m hard pressed to envy a city of that size, containing that many people, all with the go-go east coast attitude. Not to mention their hockey team is actually worse then ours… (seriously Leafs, trading Brian McCabe because he costs to much but singing Jeff Finger to a four-year deal worth $3.5 million a season??!!??)

However, west coast hipster jokes aside, I wish I was in Toronto right now. TIFF is in full swing and the closest I can get to it is reading reviews on various blogs around the net. As a result I figured I should give you all a one stop shop for TIFF reviews. Here is the round up of day one:

The Brothers Bloom (review by Cinematical): Long awaited in the wake of his 2005 debut Brick, Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom is a magic trick of a film; the second it’s over, you want to see it again so you can try to catch how you were tricked, but you also want to see it again so you can return to the joy and wonder of being wrapped up in the nimble, deck-shuffling hands of a born showman …more…

Rachel Getting Married (review by Cinematical): Rachel Getting Married is a terse, smart, funny and tough family drama about forgiveness and failure written by Jenny Lumet; it’s also a loose, smart, broad and bright film about family and love directed by Jonathan Demme. When these two things are in sync, the end result is something truly impressive …more…

Ghost Town (review by /film): In about 6 seconds, I will lose a lot of geek cred… 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… I’m not a fan of Ricky Gervais. There, I said it. Also, I have yet to get into either the British or American versions of The Office. ::gasp:: I know, a travesty. That said, I caught David Koepp’s Ghost Town at the Toronto Film Festival, and I didn’t hate it. I also didn’t love it either …more…

JCVD (review by Twitch Films): If the goal with the self reflective JCVD was to recreate the public image of aging action star Jean Claude Van Damme, then you may consider that mission a success. If the goal was to announce to the world that sophomore feature director Mabrouk El Mechri is a truly world class talent, then you may also consider that mission a success …more…

Cold Lunch (Lonsj) (review by Twitch Films): A note to aspiring film makers: films populated entirely with horrible people are not generally a good time to sit through, no matter how well made they may be. Sure, there are exceptions, films with characters so bad that you get the vicarious thrill of living through them or films that pack a serious emotional catharsis generally, but for the most part it’s a pretty tough road to walk …more…

RocknRolla (review by Twitch Films): Well, glory be, Guy Ritchie is back and back in a big way. His debut film, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, branded Ritchie the brash young wunderkind of Brit film; Snatch, for its part, confirmed his place as the patron of the punters and thugs. His films were bold, stylish, hyper-violent sned ups of UK crime culture, painting a vivid picture of a world where everyone was on the take, where everybody had an angle …more…

Vinyan (review by Twitch Films): Without any doubt at all Fabrice du Welz’s Vinyan has been one of the most anticipated films of the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival amongst genre film fans. Du Welz has a proven track record as a director with a compellingly unique viewpoint, a man not afraid to challenge and punish his audience, and with a cast as strong as he has here with a premise as compelling, it has been hard to imagine him going too far wrong …more…

Not Quite Hollywood (review by Twitch Films): My friends, we have forgotten our own history. The cult of Italian giallo film is alive and well. The eighties American grinders? We are well versed in those. From Euro-cult to Hong Kong Cat III fare it seems every bit of the cult film world is well represented with hosts of knowledgable fans but there is one glaring area of oversight …more…

Flame and Citron (review by Twitch Films): Historically speaking the World War II film has been all but over run by the holocaust. This is not necessarily a bad thing and certainly not a criticism, there are important stories to tell there and lots of them. It does mean, however, that a good number of other stories, all of them important in their own ways, have generally been pushed to the side …more…

I could continue on as there are endless films playing right now, so much so that it would be daunting to try and deliver you with all of the reviews. As a result I have put up a couple of films I have high interest in, as well as some films that are highly anticipated (Ghost Town, Rachel Getting Married, The Brothers Bloom, etc). Make sure to get your tickets to films you are interested in as soon as possible, these films sell out fast. I’ll be here attempting to contain my jealousy…

Got ‘Milk’?

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Over the last couple of weeks I have been hyping up JCVD pretty much every post. As a result I figured I’d give you all a break and talk about something else. However, I do have to mention it premiers tonight at the Toronto International Film Festival during the Midnight Madness program. I hope you have your tickets cause if not you’re going to be hard pressed to find some.

Anyway… It looks like Sean Penn is on his way to another Oscar nod with his latest film, Milk directed by Gus Van Sant, director of Good Will Hunting. Milk is the story of California’s first openly gay elected official, Harvey Milk, a San Francisco supervisor who was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone by San Francisco Supervisor Dan White.

As you can see from the trailer this film has a ton of potential. The story itself has already won an Oscar with the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, and I have no reason to suspect this film will fare any different. While you’re waiting for this film to be released you should check out the Out There contest on Super U for films by and about the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender community. We already have some great films entered and are still accepting submissions, so get out your camera and make your own Milk!

JCVD is coming to VIFF – Appaloosa please come too!

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As stated in my Toronto International Film Festival preview I have been praying that JCVD (Twitch Films Review, Variety Review) comes to the Vancouver International Film Festival. Well it seems someone was listening because looking at the VIFF Sneak Preview released yesterday, JCVD is on its way to Vancouver! Just scroll down a few pages past a list of what appears to be some amazing films and you’ll see ol’ Jean-Claude Van Damme’s haggard face staring back at you.

Now all I need is for Ed Harris’ film Appaloosa to be announced and my VIFF experience will be complete. If you have yet to hear about this film it is a story about two friends (Harris and Viggo Mortensen) hired to police a small town that is suffering under the rule of a rancher who find their job complicated by the arrival of a young widow. Check out the trailer:

True action films

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Yesterday I discussed JCVD, which will be appearing at the Toronto International Film Festival. Needless to say I am quite excited about this film and am praying it comes to the Vancouver International Film Festival. With that excitement I decided to take a trip down memory lane and watch the action film that started it all for me… Blood Sport.

I was a mere 5 years old when Blood Sport was released, but thanks to having an older brother I watched it shortly after it was released on VHS. Days later I joined a Karate class and was determined to fight in the Kumite. That determination soon faded but my love of action films remained.

Fast forward a couple of decades. This morning I was surfing movie blogs when I stumbled across Twitch’s article on Ong Bak 2. The original Ong Bak is a fantastic film and its pleasing to see the sequel is progressing along despite production delays as you can see here:

Speaking of action films, Super U is running an ‘Our Hero’ contest right now featuring what could be the next great action directors. Make sure to check it out the entries. Voting just started but only lasts for 10 days! – The winners will be announced soon.

One week till TIFF

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With one week to go the buzz around TIFF is as loud as a swarm of killer bees in Texas. With so many films to talk about like Guy Ritchies RocknRolla, the Coen brother’s Burn After Reading, and Ed Harris’ Appaloosa, I struggled with what exactly to write about. That is of course until I remembered JCVD. All it takes is one look at the synopsis and you know its going to be a classic:

Being Jean-Claude Van Damme is tough. Sure, he is an internationally recognized celebrity (and possibly the world’s most famous Belgian), but this star seems to have fallen from grace with a recent history of direct-to-video flicks. In a surprising yet crafty career move, Van Damme plays himself – with all his foibles in plain view – in JCVD, a rollicking action-comedy examination of the nature of fame.

Adding to Van Damme’s worries are a parasitic agent, financial troubles and an emotionally fraught custody battle for his daughter in which the prosecuting attorney rips apart the action star’s bone-cracking collected works to make a case for an unsuitable father figure. In order to clear his head, Van Damme returns to his family home in Belgium, where the myth of the indestructible hero hasn’t been completely shattered.

After bouncing a cheque to his lawyer, Van Damme goes to a post office to make a wire transfer, only to stumble into a heist and be taken hostage. When the police catch a glimpse of the superstar in the middle of the chaos, they jump to the conclusion that he has finally snapped and pulled the robbery himself. Under the barrel of a gun, Van Damme is revealed to be an ordinary guy, filled with fears, contradictions and hopes. How can he live up to the legend he has built?

Both a madcap tribute to the star’s martial arts moves and an examination of the true essence of a hero, JCVD makes sure that its subject is in on the joke, immersing him into a reality similar to that found in Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich. Aware of his limitations, Van Damme conveys a stoic deadpan that director Mabrouk El Mechri moulds into comedic gold. There is also a dramatic centre to the film, and Van Damme delivers a sincere and moving monologue that must be seen to be believed.

A hilariously entertaining, surprising film, JCVD tells the comeback story of a screen hero who has been on the receiving end of kicks that are getting harder and harder to take.

I am also pleased to see that JCVD is the film that kicks off the midnight madness program in the festival, a staple for hardcore film fans in Toronto. If you are interested in attending JCVD I suggest you get your tickets now as they wont last long. In the mean time feel free to wet your appetite with a teaser as well as the official trailer:

Teaser Trailer

Official Trailer