Two guys have a dead end but low stress job of hawking an energy drink to kids. When one of them hits the end of his rope they end up getting community service instead of jail time. Sentenced to mentor kids they go through the inevitable movie world learning process that tends to occur in such situations.
Not altogether painful to watch - though keep in mind I didn't pay for the film. I'll admit I laughed here and there - but If I'd blown $20 to go with someone I might have a different opinion altogether. My advice - wait for the video and give the new Kevin Smith movie a shot instead this weekend if you feel the need for R rated comedy. Haven't seen that but from where I'm sitting the odds look than with Role Models.
One interesting note - one of the kids is way into live action role playing (LARP'ing) sort of as described in Monster Camp - though judging by the documentary the version here isn't so realistic. Though it does look like it might be more fun than the real thing for most folks(short review here).
Of course, Bela Lugosi plays the title character - and the chance to see this performance on the big screen is what got me to make the trek into Seattle. The inspiration for countless interpretations of the vampire legend to follow - from Count Chocula to Sesame Street's The Count.
It was an interesting experience - and I'm glad I went. But truth be told - I'm unlikely to count this among my favorite films. It is very beautifully done at times and amazingly involved for something done in 1931. I guess it's my jaded modern sensibility but it didn't really draw me in - but I think that would have been very very different if this was the first time I'd seen this material on- screen. It is amazing how little change there is between this version filmed almost 80 years ago and many of the modern treatments. Though the fake bats have gotten considerably better.
Turns out you can buy Dracula on DVD including Dracula's Daughter (which SIFF had playing as a double feature but I missed), some other sequels as well as the Spanish version of Dracula (shot on the same set - but at night and considered by many the better version) for less than $20. So if you've got a big screen or a projector you can give it a try at home even though SIFF only screened the film on one day.
It's a fairly traditional setup - two men arrive in town at the start of the film as peacekeepers for hire. There's a band of unruly folks outside of town with a propensity to come into the city limits to cause trouble. The standard Western infractions against the populace have of course occurred - including intimidation, rape, murder and a reckless disregard towards paying their bills (and otherwise scaring away business development). The last one perhaps being the over the line behavior that gets the law for hire team the job.
Upon being hired they deal with some legal preliminaries - they carry with them a boilerplate set of local laws that must be passed for them to work legally (an interesting touch). One of their first acts is to make their presence known by enforcing (what I was hoping wasn't one of the new) laws against urinating inside the saloon. Even Giuliani might have taken their approach as a tad extreme - but it effectively puts the bad guys on notice.
It's more a character piece about the relationship between the two marshals than anything else. There's enough great dialog and chemistry between Harris and Mortenson to make this work for a folks not otherwise drawn to the genre. It's easy to believe the two have been working together for years. I wont say too much more because watching the story unfold is the main pleasure of the film. It also features Renée Zellweger in the role of the problematic love interest of the tale.
Overall one worth seeing IMHO.
In case you're not familiar with the "original" don't worry, you've probably seen something close enough. Just picture any one of those teen sex comedies that puts the protagonist and his friends through multiple cringe inducing scenarios on a tortured path to lose his virginity.
Overall there are a few bright spots that stand out. First and foremost is Seth Green who really is very entertaining in his role. Second, if for some reason you've always wanted to see topless Amish women on screen you'll now be able to check off that life experience box. Finally, the ending really is pretty well put together and is one of the fresher aspects of the film.
Beyond that it's rather routine - not always in a bad way though - I'd be lying if I wrote that I wasn't occasionally laughing very hard. The main character is a bit of a doofus - living with two overcharged brothers, works in a donut shop (featuring the rather sketchy sounding guacamole donut), and takes a lot of crap from those around him. As a "nice guy" he's almost preternaturally unable to achieve his libidinous goals. On this point the film is a little hard to believe - even within the confines of the teen comedy universe. At one early scene he actually walks out of a bedroom due to the flimsiest of distractions rather than actually follow through on his life goal of sleeping with someone. I suppose it's supposed to show his heart really isn't in it. But it's a bit of a stretch for an 18 year old male - especially one in a movie.
The main setup of the film is that he meets a woman online who lives a few states away. She'll sleep with him if he's willing to make the trip. So he sets off with his friends - the "just friends" girl he's obviously destined for and the slightly geeky buddy watched one too many episodes of The Pickup Artist. Of course the car they're in is "borrowed" from his violent raging homophobic brother. Let the hilarity ensue...
Generally you can guess most of the plot without paying for the film. But there's enough fresh here to recommend it as an eventual rental if you're generally a fan of the genre. Arguably enough to justify a theater viewing - though I'm really on the fence regarding that. If you don't generally enjoy this genre though - you probably don't want to rush out.
The general vibe of reviews I saw were that it wasn't great but that the two leads' chemistry made is pleasant enough. That's a pretty accurate synopsis. It stars the kid from Juno as the recently dumped guy pining for the girl who's clearly wrong for him. The female lead is the best part of the recent Charley Bartlett flick in this case playing the unappreciated friend who never gets the guy she deserves. As you might guess - all teen movie stereotypes are present and accounted for. Of course she's partially slotted as the "weird" girl with questionable taste in hats. Though in this take on things her quirky headgear is a pair of big headphones. Anyway - overall sort of fun and not a bad use of time - if not especially memorable.
It's nothing really outstanding but made for a pleasant enough night out. Sometimes that's good enough.
Theater note: I decided to try something different and headed over to the Redmond Big Picture theater. A nice theater to sit in, and if you'd like to buy a cocktail while you watch it's one of the only games in town. There are just two small problems. First off, folks drinking alcohol seem to not really understand the idea of watching quality. Second, and I hadn't noticed this before but the sound quality wasn't very good. Which made catching all the dialog difficult and was a bummer for a movie with a lot of music.
The setup is pretty similar to one you've seen before. The family is fractured at the start - largely we're led to guess by the childhood death of the eldest son from cancer. A cancer they'd hope to cure with the birth of a younger sibling. They spend the film working out the issues accumulated over a lifetime and brought to the forefront by a return home of everyone for Christmas. A Christmas made slightly less merry because the mother has cancer which can only be cured through a bone marrow match. In some ways this reminded me of other family dysfunction movies - better done than the horrible ones (for example The Family Stone) and taking itself more seriously than the better quirky ones such as The Royal Tenenbaums.
Overall, I guess I'd recommend it - but not really in a run out and see it sort of way.
This isn't a BIG film. A young man estranged from his family and living in the city is forced to come back to the countryside to help out the family business. He ends up driving a grocery truck that takes the store to the customers as opposed to the more traditional relationship. Of course he hates it at first but then time goes on...
There's nothing here that's not fairly predictable - but it's still pleasant to watch. While it probably isn't in my top 10 for the year there are far worse ways to spend an afternoon. The countryside, family's coming back together, romantic relationships and the occasional words of wisdom about how hard work doesn't get you anything special on your tombstone. What's not to like?
I liked the movie and admired it's acting and writing - but never really got fully into the characters. So overall it was a fair but not great experience. I couldn't say whether it's a gender issue, the hour, or something else. Either way it's pleasantly different. Throughout the preternaturally optimistic main character is contrasted with others she runs across, from the most memorably performances involving a driving and a then dance instructor to the kids she teaches. At first she almost seems a bit off - but as the film goes on it becomes clear that she works hard at being this happy. While things aren't perfect in her life she genuinely seems to derive as much pleasure as possible from her experiences. Perhaps most notably she manages to do this while still doing right by those around her.
It's a film I really wanted to love. I'd say I can guarantee you'll leave wishing a bit you could be more like Poppy. That said, hopefully you'll enjoy it more than I did - it's the kind of film that makes you want to be a better person in that sort of optimistic way. ;-)
Below - ripped straight from the newsletter are the details...
TurkFest: Step Into a Timeless Story
TurkFest Movie Night
October 12, 4:00pm-9:00pm at MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry)
Mutluluk (Bliss), 4:00pm
Based on the international bestseller by Zulfu Livaneli, recipient of the 2006 Barnes & Noble New Big Author Discovery Award in Fiction (2nd Place), Mutluluk (Bliss) is about the taboo subject of honor killings. When 17-year-old Meryem is found half-naked by a lake, her family concludes that she has given up her virginity and orders her to be killed as per tradition. The task is assigned to her close relative Cemal, who has just returned from the military where he served as a commando. Meanwhile, a well-known sociology professor Irfan sets sail, leaving the life he lived in Istanbul behind. Meryem and Cemal's path unexpectedly crosses with Irfan on the journey of death they take.
Yasamin Kiyisinda (The Edge of Heaven), 7:00pm
Having made its world premiere at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, where it also won the Best Screenplay Award, Yasamin Kiyisnda tells the story of Turkish and German characters who discover their own identities by travelling between the two countries.
Tickets are available online at www.brownpapertickets.com (search for "Turkfest") or at the door on the day of the event. General admission is $9. All movies have English subtitles.
Lots of things for most tastes coming over the next few months. Including details of an offer for 3 months free of TV5-Monde, the French language cable station I keep meaning to try.
I do wish they'd do a bit more first run stuff at SIFF Cinema - but I'm assuming they're picking materials that folks want to see and can't catch elsewhere locally. Just being greedy I guess and trying to avoid trekking over to the lesser Landmark theaters for stuff.
Was it worth the trip to Vancouver - yes, I think so. Even though I got tired of waiting in lines by the end there's something special about being able to gorge on foreign films while chatting with random strangers and volunteers off and on for a week. I'll likely take next year off from VIFF to perhaps diversify my vacations - but at some point in the future I'd like to come back.
The only negatives really came during my last night where I realized that my concerns about the ticket handout system for passholders weren't entirely idle ones. I really do think there's got to be a way that doesn't require folks who want to go for a full day to plan everything around getting out to stand on the line for the evening ticket handout. But usually I guess it works most of the time - so it's a minor complaint.
I've seen some nice wrap-ups from the festival - here's one - and not just because they were nice enough to link this blog. Though that does help. :-) Thanks to all the folks from Vancouver who took the time to read the blog during the festival. If you enjoyed the notes feel free to drop a comment here and there, email and say hi - and/or subscribe to the blog for postings all year long (link in the upper right of this page).
As I mentioned at the start of my VIFF coverage there were a lot of really amazing films playing that I'd seen before - mostly at Seattle's festival. Over the course of the week in Vancouver I did get to augment my collection of great film experiences in 2008. Some of the highlights of things I watched (in no particular order) were:
- Still Walking
- Fifty Dead Men Walking
- Son of a Lion
- Witch of the West is Dead
- All Inclusive
with two special prizes to be awarded. First for pure visual storytelling there's likely nothing I've seen this year like Waltz with Bashir. An award for most complete effort to throw everything imaginable into a film in a way that almost works belongs to God's Puzzle. Unfortunately, that award doesn't come with the services of a ruthless editor who could possibly turn it into something truly impressive.
Thankfully, I also got a lot of tips on interesting films to keep an eye out for over the next several months. Looking forward to seeing them at a more leisurely pace than I've been up to the last few weeks. Of course (eventually) all such screenings will be posted here.
The story is set in a pallet refurbishing plant that is staffed by what appear to be mostly Muslim immigrant workers. At least one is in the process of converting when we pickup the story. The next 90 minutes or so follows their relationships within the group and most notably their relationship with their boss. He's in the process of building them a Mosque to pray at - and the dynamics between that positive act contrasted with the workplace concerns they have forms the crux of the narrative.
Bill Maher's head might well explode while watching this film given the role religion is used to keep workers compliant and overlooking factual issues like their lack of overtime pay. I'm not sure how common that sort of workplace is in France, or if the whole thing is more of a metaphor for societies more broadly. Either way - I was pretty interested as it started up and stayed mostly attentive even though I was pretty tired. I did start to doze briefly towards the end - so I'm not 100% sure it was a completely satisfying conclusion. A good number of folks did walk out - likely due to the somewhat slow pacing and limited talking in parts. There's a fair amount of time just watching people painting pallets for example.
Festival theme note: Last year at SIFF there was a lot of talk about suicide being a common theme across films. There was a fair amount of it - including a cat in one flick. Can't say I'd seen a similar shared meme going through VIFF films. Until the last two of Sunday night which had the unusual but common element of men putting their penis at undue risk in search of a some personal betterment. If you read the previous post the risk faced in Control Alt Delete should be obvious. In Adhen one of the main characters, a newly converted Muslim, gets the bright idea to perform a circumcision on himself. Shockingly a pair of scissors isn't quite the right instrument for the job. It actually fits in well with the story - but the odd similarity between the movies struck me upon reflection.
In case you're wondering how literally you should take the computer with benefits relationship - the answer is VERY. Drilling holes into a PC, lining said holes with bubble wrap followed by enthusiastic intercourse shot from every conceivable angle - that sort of thing.
Maybe just my personal sense of humor. Sex with a pie - clearly funny. Sex with a computer - perhaps less funny but has potential. An entire movie around R-rated scenes of a dude getting biblical with a PC - turns out, not so funny. Judging from the audience laughter though it's possible that fucking a computer is inherently one of the funniest things on earth. And people make fun of the French's sense of humor...
I'll admit the story has potential - but I barely laughed at all after the first couple of scenes. The filmmaker undoubtedly had various commentaries on how sexualizing one's interaction with the PC changes people, the acceptance of people as they are, and perhaps various other deep thoughts. Technically it's well put together visually. But when you combine a bunch of folks I didn't really care about and a nonsensical story all I could think was - I've been way too hard on Growing Op.
Just a smattering of things that probably shouldn't matter that much but grated on me during the course of the film,
- Perhaps laws are different in Canada - but in the states the characters would have been working in the in a case study of "hostile work environment." But apparently in this office you'd be a millionaire if you got a dime for every time a coworker showed you porn or made reference to a sex act - and that seemed just fine.
- I just constantly got the feeling that this was a movie made about office work by a bunch of people who have never worked in an office - or possibly never talked to anyone who worked in one. Great office/computer movies work (for example Office Space) work because they're actually familiar to people who work in such offices.
- The technical stuff made practically zero sense - and the project management even less. Most folks working know what good and bad project management tend to look like in practice - and this wasn't even recognizable it was so incompetent. The fellow from The Office would have been aghast. I know that software part is hard to portray on-screen. But it's pretty obvious that the code that's constantly scrolling by has nothing whatsoever with Y2K. Unless windows UI layout has some date dependency that I cannot fathom.
- Everyone is pushed to finish in time so the company will have a future after Jan 1, 2000. OK - now this is a bit accurate as many Y2K conversion company's were in the markets selling a story about how there'd be some other work for them after the year 2000. Even then it seemed pretty ridiculous to build a business model that spelled out the end date in the problem description. Not surprisingly a lot of these companies didn't do so hot post the world not ending.
- Last but not least - It's probably not the safest thing to do to stick any part of you into a computer. Bad things will happen - beyond the scorn of your co-workers. How can we believe this guy is some sort of super nerd if he's not more seriously thinking of cost/benefit ratio inherent in what he's (literally) doing?
Once last word - I could be completely wrong and I may someday see this for the insightful genius piece of comedy it truly is. Just in case and to provide you a bit more insight I've included the trailer below. Just be aware that it's definitely NSFW. According to the trailer it won some note at the Toronto festival - just goes to show how much I know. ;-)
Screening Notes: A huge chunk of the cast was in attendance - which wasn't completely shocking as the film was shot locally. Of course this meant that much of the audience seemed to know the director. Nothing wrong with that - Q&A seemed like it had some potential, but I had to run off to another screening. Further compounding my mistakes for the evening. More on that later.
The story is based on the book by Martin McGartland the informant in question and was made by a Canadian director. I was really drawn into this story which was both interesting historically and exciting to watch. The director manages to produce a thriller that in almost every way is the equal (if not superior) of a big budget Hollywood production.
Can't speak to the truth of the story of course - but either way it made for a good story. There is explicit violence here - especially in the way of IRA torture of suspected informants - so be prepared. Interestingly enough it's clear their methods get pretty much everyone to confess - regardless of their actual actions.
Especially nice is that the filmmaker avoids truly taking obvious sides in the conflict. Both groups are willing to lie, manipulate and torture to achieve their goals. At the same time the main character is torn between duty to his true friends in the IRA and the relationship with his handler that develops over the course of the movie. Watching the two groups pulling Martin in different directions makes the work all the more interesting.
So overall I'm pretty positive on this film - and not just because the next two films I ended my trip to VIFF with were not so hot. :-)
The father is a gunsmith who fought the Soviets during the invasion of Afghanistan. The son doesn't love working with the guns and wants to go to school. The father is fairly opposed for a variety of the usual reasons. In some way the story is universal. On the other hand it's set in Pakistan and gives a window into Pashtun culture in what seems to be a rather authentic way. I'm unclear whether the film was made with actors or non-professional locals. That's intended as a compliment in this case as it gives the film a documentary feel that drew me into the world. The film neither focuses on nor avoids post 9/11 issues. At times that can produce some pretty surprisingly conversational turns such as when someone marketing a gun indicates it's "Osama's favorite" or the type of trim the father asks for at the barber shop. These comments feel authentic (I wouldn't be surprised if they weren't scripted) and add to the reality of the piece.
In short it was a compelling story that held my attention - even if it wasn't completely unfamiliar. I do recommend it.
Well shot and acted it had what could be a very interesting to discuss storyline. I wasn't quite bored - but I didn't find myself that interested either. For a festival experience that put it in the average (or slightly below category). If I'd seen it in a stand alone capacity (ie. just one movie that day) it might well have stood out more.
A lot of physical comedy and verbal confusion/misunderstanding type stuff form the bread and butter of the movie. I will admit - there are a good number of moments that had be doubled over laughing. So it's worth checking out.
The premise is straightforward. A supervisor for the post office is looking for a transfer, in large part to help his marriage. They want to go somewhere in the south of France - preferably on the Riviera. Through a series of poor (but hilarious) decisions he ends up in the north of the country. From what I gather this isn't a desireable location - concerns range from freezing to death, the poor language and social skills of the natives, and their housing choices (they're rumored to live in the coal mines). Of course there's social confusion and everything turns out to be much better than expected for all involved. Actually thinking back my appreciation is growing as time goes on for this goofy comedy. The guide claims that there's a remake planned with Will Smith - which I sincerely hope is a joke.
One of the potential problems for seeing this film and not speaking French is that a lot of the humor comes from the newcomer not understanding the local patois. Leading to some involved "who's on first" style conversations. Whoever subtitled the film did a first rate job getting that across with clever translation. Without their work it would be a far lesser film. That said in it's original language I suspect it's a whole other level of funny.
Screening note: VIFF volunteers on site at the Ridge were doing a great job handling some tough situations. They cleared and refilled two packed houses with a short break between them. And did a very professional job with some irate filmgoers. Seems they'd gotten some mixed messages as to where they could sit - to which I'm sympathetic. But they didn't really handle it too well and were quick to take it out on the staff - even when offered a very reasonable alternative. What could have really blown up was patiently diffused by the venue manager and one of the volunteers. This further solidified my impression that this is one well managed festival.
I enjoyed the film - but this one likely doesn't have the broad appeal of some of my other suggestions. I know at least once couple that I generally match tastes with that truly disliked this one. So your mileage with this recommendation will vary. If you can only see one Asian film I'd probably suggest choosing Still Walking instead - but if you've got time this makes a solid addition to your film festival sampling process.
The humor is pretty light - sometimes funny but rarely hilarious. One of the more memorable lines comes when the father is trying to point out how many failed people went to high school and had their head's messed up - ending the list with George Bush.
The problems with the film? Some quick thoughts
- Not as funny as I was hoping.
- Characters actually pretty likeable but never really pulled me in. And I'm a sucker for this genre of film. So if it wasn't going to be outright hilarious I wanted to really like the couple of the film.
- Not quite edgy enough for a film about a family growing pot. At some level if you're making a film that's likely to get an R rating once it gets to the states for content you may as well just say screw-it to making a PG-13 film. Overall it's pretty tame.
- Thankfully they manage to get through the film without anyone getting to know a pie in the biblical sense - but they can't resist the one obvious gross out joke you can see coming from early in the film.
The director was in attendance and was fairly funny in the beginning suggesting that given the subject matter folks in BC were mistakenly believing it to be a documentary. I stuck around for the Q&A afterwards - but not for it's entirety. It's possible that things picked up but I didn't really glean anything deep from the questions beyond boring stuff like the budget, shooting days etc. Sounds like they're trying to bring it to the states. From the questions it sounded as though that could be problematic - but I'm wondering how that would be. Hasn't anyone seen Harold and Kumar?
Set in a Bosnian Muslim village decimated by their Serbian neighbors a group of women live together trying to make a life (economically and emotionally) without their men. It seems the impending snow season is going to be a problem as the structural integrity of their dwellings is more than a bit shaky. In the meantime they try to make ends meet making jams, chutneys and other prepared foods using the bounty of the area. But things are rocky given the dearth of customers.
The extended family includes a mix of the young and old, orphaned and those with their parents. With a touch of what I think you'd call magical realism. As you'd expect from a group thrown together under the circumstances there's some tension from the clashing values and shared pain from not really knowing what's happened to their loved ones. Into the mix comes a potential savior in a who may help take their products to the outside world as well as a Serbian neighbor proposing a deal that divides the group. Decisions to be made and things to come to terms with.
At times somewhat predictable - but still a well done movie about the after effects of a horrible war. I do recommend this film - though it might not be one of my top picks for the festival.
An engineer for the railroad is retiring after 40 years of service. It's clear from the get-go that he's the quiet, keep to himself sort. It's not entirely clear that he's looking forward to retirement. Not surprisingly he's a bit lost and unsure of what to do. I don't think it's fair to say much more about the film's story. Other perhaps than to put it in the well acted, beautifully shot - humorous, life is strange but it's never to late to be happy category. It's got that and the final reel appearance of a cute dog. What's not to like?
But I especially want to recommend folks check out Sita Sings the Blues. Make it a double feature with Cherry Blossoms for a truly excellent day. This is really a perfect festival experience - creative story telling, great music, and many laugh out loud moments. Did I mention the flying monkeys?
You can even view this as a companion piece to Religulous given it's ever present skeptical Greek chorus that goes along for the ride. Like animation? - it's got that. Don't like animation? - you'll be laughing too hard to notice. Want a sad story of modern love gone wrong - check. The only thing this film hasn't got going for it is a guarantee that you'll be able to see it post-festival. I'm hoping she's worked it out but last I'd heard the film maker was having serious problems getting this released - even on DVD.
Three screenings left - 10/5, 10/8, and 10/9. There are no good excuses...
If you're taking my advice you might want to throw in Let the Right One In to close out the evening. A bit bloody, this coming of age and vampire mashup really worked for me - a seriously non-horror loving guy. Fuller review available by searching the blog.
So here's a comprehensive list of those folks VIFF is glad to welcome to the festival - collect them all...
- Seat Saving People
- Over analyzing the Film People
- Not really into foreign films people
- First question asking people
- Front row people
- Die hard people
Update Oct 2009 - If you're looking for the equally funny 2009 trailers they're here.