Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatium Rocks My World. Film at 11.

Here is one of the year's smartest, energetic films, a ball of fire into a year of action and adventure films that has given us promises without delivering the goods. In a year where The Transformers spins everything into a blender and gives us a smattering of computer graphics and when John McClane can't even utter an F-Bomb in a Die Hard sequel where he's supposed to Yippie Ki Yay, Motherfucker, it's simply wonderful to see a movie as synthetic, appropriately stylized and downright FUN as The Bourne Ultimatium. This is every bit as fresh and exciting as The Bourne Identity and then some.

What makes these films so exciting is that we identify with the character of Jason Bourne, a man who is trying to find himself. He's in an uphill struggle to find identity in his life. In the first film, he lost his memory and was amazed in how his primal instincts would kick in when even he didn't realize it. His slow realization of the Treadstone project with the Central Intelligence Agency led him to the people responsible for his brainwashing and eventual training as a "$30 million dollar killing machine."

In The Bourne Supremacy, he was still battling with his past and the Treadstone project, and several fleeting images of his training were coming back to haunt him. He became more aware of who he is and his surroundings, all the while battling the CIA, the Kremlin and even Eomer from "The Two Towers" chasing him down a freeway tunnel in Moscow.

In Ultimatium, Bourne is finally putting all the pieces together. Clues are starting to become known about how he became who he is now. In the end of the last film, he was given the name David Webb, and in the first chapter of the film he gets classified information from a reporter (Paddy Considine from My Summer of Love, who even in a small part is wonderful.) Clues lead him from Paris to England and even back to Nikki (Julia Stiles), who has had a small part in Bourne's life previously and is more of a main player in the story here.

Bourne is "on the run", but if you watch him carefully you'll see him more walking fast than lifting his feet up and down. He's always on the move, always breaking down the problem and solving it quickly. How he's able to move around surveillance, agents and various bad guys unharmed is part of his training. Credit must also be given to Matt Damon, who flawlessly makes us believe in this character and his physical ability. When Bourne gets in a car crash late in the film, some audience members at my screening scoffed that "Well of COURSE he's okay." I wanted to shout out "Well of course he's okay...he's Jason Bourne. He's built to survive that crash you silly beans!"

Ultimatium is what Roger Ebert would call a "Bruised Forearm" movie, where you're grabbing the arm of the person who is sitting next to you. The film's pace never lets up, giving us nearly two hours of a pure adrenaline rush. But in this particular case, it makes deep and resonating sense, and even though there is so much globe-hopping in the film that you wonder when these characters sleep, it is all told clearly and faithfully by director Paul Greengrass.

In what is quite possibly one of the best action sequences I have EVER seen, we follow Jason, Nikki and an assailant through the streets, alleyways, staircases and rooftops of Morocco. What's amazing about this sequence is how Greengrass and editor Christopher Rouse are able to carefully cut and blend these three elements in such a way that we're completely in control and keeping in touch with all the perspectives of the hunter, the hunted and the guy you better not mess with.

I was so energized and so "there" with the film that I kept bumping the arm of the gentlemen sitting next to me at a screening of the film, and he did just the same. I think the key is in Greengrass' and cinematographer Oliver Wood's terrific use of hand held photography; while many people have complained about the "shaky cam" and the unsteadiness of the image, I think it's absolutely essential to the story. When Bourne is running, so should we.

Is "The Bourne Ultimatum" the best of the Bourne series? Possibly. There are elements of this film that I admired the most, which is the same way I feel about "The Bourne Identity". I still recall seeing that film in 2002 and breathing a sigh of relief at the film's end credits, happy to discover that we're still getting well-made espionage thrillers in a sea of remakes and sequels. That a sequel in 2007 that can perform with just as much high octane energy and adrenaline is a delight to behold.


Oh, and I want to apologize to anyone out there who reads this blog on a regular basis. VERY sorry for the lack of updates lately. I've been a bit exhausted, not feeling well, working on other writing projects and also, I'll admit, procrastinating. If you've read this blog before, my thanks, and I'm hoping to return full time soon. -- JW

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Once is a freaking masterpiece. Film at 11.

So rarely these days when at the cinema do I find myself transported directly into the screen, unaware of my theatrical surroundings. This is a feeling that home video can rarely, if ever, duplicate and I'm forever thankful of the theatrical experience, so we can see films like Once every now and then.

Watching Once, I disappeared into the moment. This is a beautiful film about love that transpires through music and the musicians that communicate their feelings through it. A man (Glen Hansard) is singing some soulful music on the sreet when he meets a woman (Marketa Irglova). They talk and connect. She finds out he fixes vaccum cleaners on his day-to-day, she's married (but only 18 years old) and they both share a passion for music.

In quite possibly the most beautiful moment I have witnessed in a motion picture this year, we watch our two lead characters as they get to know each other in a music shop. One of the many right notes is how director John Carney gets both participants to sing the song "Falling Slowly". In a lesser movie, these two would just start singing in perfect harmony, but the man teaching her the song slowly brings her in, teaches her the notes and then try out the song.

The shots last forever, the framing is loose but simultaneously concentrated and the lyrics speak so deeply about the connection that is about to happen. I felt a small tear dash down my cheek as the two of them ever-so-lightly looked at one another, although Carney didn't linger on those moments. These are the kind of scenes you show people when asked why you love film so much.

These two are connected at this point in each of their lives where they are about to take a next step. For the man, he has deep musical talent and needs to go to London. For the woman, she has a past that she decides to live up to. What's great about the film is that it deals with these problems honestly and the film's finale is unexpected and deeply moving.

Once left Victoria recently but is rumored to be picked up at the Star Cinema and Cinecenta, and I'm hoping anyone out there reading this takes interest in this lovely and unique film.

Also, La Vie en Rose is a mess. A glorious and beautiful mess of a motion picture. This is a good thing, since the life story of Edith Piaf is one of illness, drugs, madness and triumph, and not all in that order. Since Piaf is so all over the map in her life, director Olivier Dahan has told the story in this manner, jumping to and from her childhood, young adult life and all the way until her ragged out death. The film is playing for one final week at the University Cinemas 4.


Friday, July 13, 2007

The Weekend In Movies: Pottermania Happens.

This weekend signals only two new releases in the city of Victoria, mostly because we're still in the thick of the summer movie season and everyone but Warner Brothers is scared to open up against that shrill, big wall of noise known as Transformers. There are also a handful of other great films to be seen in the city, and I'm hoping that you put your money towards that instead.

What's new:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Silvercity, Star, Capitol 6, University 4, Caprice) -- Thanks to Warner not screening this in advance last week, I have still not seen the latest chapter in the Potter franchise. Potter gets darker and more menacing this time around, and with every film it becomes less kid-oriented and instead focused on the darkest channels of our souls. Opening Wednesday to get a few more dollars before the final The Deathly Hallows book takes over every Potter fan, this film has already scored an insane amount of money and it WILL be busy this weekend, so plan your cinematic attack early.

Captivity - For the five of you out there who still think "Wow, Roland Jofee has a new film out? Awesome! Can't wait to see it!", you might want to remember that he did the godawful Goodbye, Lover a few years ago and hasn't done a good movie since The Mission in 1986. Now, here he is with a long-delayed movie that has been confirmed as two hours of "torture porn" by James Berardanelli. Not even the gorgeous Elisha Cuthbert will make me want to see this filth.

What else you should be seeing:

Ratatouille -- If you're a bit too spooked to see Harry Potter or are scared off at the huge lines, why not see what I am still considering one of the year's best films? Pixar films refuse to age, and this one is no exception. You can still see Remy cook, Linguini dance and let your heart dance to the sights of Paris.

Once -- I'm finally seeing this on the weekend and still recommend that you check out this Irish music film while it's still in town. And grab that soundtrack while you're at it!

La vie en Rose -- Also seeing this weekend is the big widescreen story of Edith Piaf brought to life. Still Oscar talk on Marion Collitard as Piaf.

Knocked Up -- Hey, were you one of those fools who saw License To Wed last weekend and want to rectify that mistake with a REAL comedy? Check out Judd Apatow's flick, still the funniest of '07 and STILL playing at the Odeon. That's an order.

Away From Her oddly double billed with Shrek The Third at Roxy -- If you still haven't seen director Sarah Polley's wickedly awesome directorial debut, feel free to skip the year's lousiest and most pointless sequel and check out the Oscar-worthy Julie Christie.

And if you are up for a funny movie on Monday night, The Matador plays at Movie Monday at the Eric Martin. Check out Pierce Brosnan in one of the funniest performances of his career as a tired-and-weary hitman.

Oh, and fuck the Transformers. I've fought all week with people who desperately want to see two and a half hours of shit blowing up. People, you're better than this garbage. It wouldn't bother me as much if the shots lasted more than two seconds, heavy filters weren't utilized so much by cinematographer Mitchell Amudsen and Michael Bay would keep the damn camera still. Spinning your big 'ol Panavision camera isn't cool anymore. (It wasn't even cool THEN.) Oh, and how about giving us something, ANYTHING to care about? And by that, I don't mean black people running through windows and uber-hot Australian code-crackers who probably own The DaVinci Code on DVD. The film made me woozy, tired and desperately wanting a Red Bull afterwards. It's one of those fanboy films that I think even the fanboys will hate when the mass hysteria over the flick dies down and they realize how lousy all of it is. A monumental waste of time, although Megan Fox is kinda cute in a porn star kind of way.

Will be back next Thursday when I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Hairspray are scheduled to open.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

DVD of the Week: Billy Bob says you're picking up The Astronaut Farmer on DVD this week.

A film that did not do very well on its theatrical release back in February, the sweet, good-natured and yet slightly off-kilter (but GOOD off-kilter, you see) The Astronaut Farmer was just released to DVD on Tuesday.

It tells the story of Charles Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton), Ex-Nasa, who wants nothing more than to build a rocket and shoot it into space. He has a few hurdles, however: he's building the rocket all by himself, on his own coin, with only his family's help (who will run mission control? Why, his own son of course). The government steps in when Farmer wants to purchase some industry-level rocket fuel.

There's an unexpected level of love by Farmer's family. His wife is certainly concerned about the goings-on of her husband but is overall supportive of Farmer's plight. It's the basic law of marriage. As well, his kids are nothing but excited and want to see his dad in space. And they better be, because this guy is damned determined.

Deep down, that's the core of the story, to love and support your family no matter how insane the quest is. Another telling aspect of the film is knowing what you want to do and how to attain it, rather than let someone else get you down. "What do you want to do when you grow up?" asks Farmer to a student. "I don't know," the kid responds. "Well, you better figure know what you're going to do before someone knows it for you."

The images, lensed by cinematographer M. David Mullen and directed by the brothers Mark and Michael Polish, are just whacked out and cool enough to fall in love with them. One of the film's opening images has Farmer riding across the countryside, on a horse, wearing his spacesuit. Later, there's a beautifully framed shot of Farmer amongst a group of local dignataries in court...but wait, there's no "court" in this small town, so they have to hold it in the school gymnasium. A kid then walks in to play basketball and is stunned at the meeting that is going on.

The Astronaut Farmer has just a slight weird edge in this improbable story, and the reason it works is because the characters are so firmly drawn and fleshed out, and the filmmakers have backed them up with a movie that makes us care about it. They believe it, and so do we.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Weekend In Movies: Once Is It.

The first weekend I'm out of town in nearly three months and there's one hell of a cinematic lineup upon us. I'll be playing catch-up next weekend when all of these are playing (as well as Pottermania along with Spider-Man 3 in IMAX) giving me one hell of a busy weekend.

Once (Odeon) -- FINALLY opening in Victoria -- after some confusion on whether the Vic or the Odeon was going to open it -- is this universally acclaimed Irish musical film about an unlikely friendship over the course of song in Dublin. The trailer is enough to make you fall in love with movies again, and here's hoping it will find an audience in the music-loving city of Victoria.

La vie En Rose (The Vic Theater) -- The life of Edith Piaf from beginning to end, in this much anticipated french import that is garnering Oscar talk for lead Marion Collitard (who you may have seen last year as Russell Crowe's ridiculously hot love interest in A Good Year) who disappears into the part.

The Transformers (Odeon, Silvercity, Caprice, University 4) -- Again, fuck Michael Bay. I should be either munching popcorn or suffering through this Bay picture sometime this week to get a glimpse of a whole lot of visual effects blowing up on the screen. There have been some good reviews (Ebert himself gives it 3/4) to go along with the bad ones, so who knows.

Licence To Wed (Silvercity, Odeon) - With a whopping 10% on the Tomatometer and some crushingly unfunny TV spots, this "comedy" with Robin Williams and Mandy Moore about pre-marital shenanigans will mostly appeal to the morons that forgot that Knocked Up was still in theaters. As much as I admire director Ken Kwapis (who has directed many episodes of the U.S. version of "The Office" along with "Freaks and Geeks"), this may just be another Beautician and the Beast for the guy.


The long-awaited release of David Lynch's nightmare epic Inland Empire is playing at UVIC Cinecenta on Friday and Saturday. If you miss this show, the DVD will be out in early August, but theatrical Lynch is just not the same.

Ken Loach's heartbreaking Irish film The Wind That Shakes The Barley is also at Cinecenta on Sunday, and you must check it out, but you might want to plan ahead if you're going to get there by car and don't like construction.

What else you should be seeing:

If any of the above don't interest you, how about seeing the little animated masterpiece known as Ratatouille this weekend? This great Pixar film did well last weekend and I'm hoping will continue to wow audiences as its theatrical release continues.

If you're still looking for a laugh, Knocked Up is STILL bringing in audiences and should be the first film you think about seeing if you even have an inkling to see Licence To Wed. Oh, and it is doing another week at the beloved Star Cinema in Sidney.

Also, Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix has been pushed (smartly) to Wednesday, to grab a few more dollars before every Pottermania. A midnight show is scheduled at the Capitol for Tuesday night, and perhaps Silvercity Tillicum will announce one soon as well.

UPDATE (9:18pm): There will also be a midnight show at the University Cinemas 4, but still no word on whether or not Silvercity will pony up. If they're smart and want to make a few grand, they will.


Monday, July 02, 2007

DVD Of The Week: Riggs and Murtaugh implore that you pick up their triple feature.

Since there are absolutely no DVD's to recommend this week (and I would have recommended Black Snake Moan last week, but I still haven't watched my copy yet), allow me to point you to a strangely cool el-cheapo DVD that Warner was smart enough to release earlier this year.

In a curious move for Warner's budget titles, many of their catalog films have resurfaced in triple feature disc sets, which are for the most part full-screen only transfers of films jammed and compressed into one dual-layer DVD9 or one DVD18.

Since Warner was lazy enough to do full-screen transfers of their Lethal Weapon films, instead they have imported the previously released Director's Cut DVD's and put them on two discs.

Side one of the DVD-18 presents the amazingly awesome first Lethal Weapon, which is still one of the best action films ever made. Despite a few odd haircuts and an old Pepsi logo, the film still hasn't aged and packs an incredible punch.

Watching it again, I was amazed in deeply realized and careful the characters of Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) are brought together. Both Vietnam veterans, Riggs is at the bottom part of his life after his wife was killed, and Murtaugh is a family man who is getting on in his age. That their characters are so fascinating to watch, it makes the bad-guy and action elements all the more tense to watch, especially when members of Murtaugh's family become targets.

I had never seen the director's cut before, so it was strange to see Riggs' brilliance introduced in a sniper sequence prior to the original one, where he busts a cocaine deal in a Christmas Tree lot sale. It's a bit repetitive to see Riggs save the day, twice, but I guess his lack of fear of losing his life is ongoing. A few other short scenes are added which give a bit more revelation to our two leads, and are welcome.

Lethal Weapon 2 is on the flip-side of the disc, and is just about as good as Donner's first film. Riggs is still kind of wacky and Murtaugh hasn't changed much, and the South African diplomat storyline is quite interesting. You also get to check out some very topless Patsy Kensit, as well as a full rush of adrenaline as Riggs goes absolute apeshit postal when she's knocked off in the last half hour.

On its own disc, Lethal Weapon 3 is the weakest of the trilogy, but still has enough fun action and big laughs to recommend. An ex-cop is selling armor-piercing bullets, the still-hot-as-hell Rene Russo is in her prime here, and there's a hilariously overdone motorcycle chase down the wrong way of a Los Angeles highway. I saw this film the most on laserdisc while growing up and going through my action phase, and it was amusing to see it again and realize how many of the lines I remembered.

Oh, and I thought Lethal Weapon 4 was pretty lousy, and would go against the whole "Triple Feature" concept, so it was not included. (If you're a completist, however, you should be able to find it in the $6.88 bin at Walmart.)

More info about this disc: Disc one is a DVD-18 (double sided, dual layered) which features the first three films in the same 2.40:1, anamorphic widescreen transfers with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 sound from the 2001 director's cut release. There are only the theatrical trailers for extras, the best being for the first film with outdated logos and horrible edits.

This trilogy can be found for about $10 in Future Shop, Walmart, HMV, et al, but be prepared to look around and ask for availability. Recommended if you can find it, however!


Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Weekend In Movies: You're seeing Ratatouille.

Happy Canada Day Weekend everyone! I hope you have something fun planned for this weekend and enjoy another great birthday for this awesome country we call home.

And to celebrate you wacky Victoria residents, you're going to get off your bums, go down to the Capitol 6, Star Cinema, Silvercity, Caprice or University 4, walk up to the box office and demand tickets for...

Ratatouille - **** One of the most joyous cinematic experiences this year (besides Grindhouse, of course), Ratatouille is the story of a lovable rat named Remy who wants nothing more than to cook at the prestigious eatery Gusteau's in Paris, and the relationship that he makes with a "garbage boy" who works at the eatery that is losing its star rating.

This film is for anyone who loves not just a great story but a great cinematic experience (and it's also the first animated film I've ever seen that has left me HUNGRY as the credits were rolling). Not only that, Remy is one of the most beautifully realized characters in a film this year and it will only take you five minutes to fall in love with him. The story and themes are universal, the animation is so good that you'll forget about computers and digital trickery and go along with the visual beauty, the voice casting is top notch and the film finalizes on a sequence so wonderful and just bizarre enough that you'll never want it to end.

I want you to see this film so much, in fact, that I'm posting the showtimes right here for your convenience:

Capitol 6 - Daily @ 12:40, 3:30, 7:00 & 9:40
Silvercity - Daily @ 12:45, 3:45, 7:00 & 10:00
Star Cinema - Daily @ 7:00pm. Additional Friday & Saturday @ 9:15; Matiness Sat-Thu @ 2pm
University 4 - Daily @ 1:00, 3:50, 7:00 & 9:30
Caprice - Fri, Tue & Wed @ 2:00, 7:00 & 9:25; Sat - Mon @ 1:00, 3:30, 7:00 & 9:25

Don't know how to get there? Google Maps will help you. So you have the showtimes and the maps. You now officially have no excuse.

Here's the film you are seeing this weekend. I don't want to hear about how busy you are, or how you're not interested in an animated film or how you would rather see Evan Almigthy. No, you're going to this lovable, wonderful movie. Trust me, I guarantee you will love it.

Full review on this friday.

Sicko (***1/2) -- Surprisingly, this excellent new documentary from Michael Moore is not getting as wide of a release as anticipated. Only scheduled on one screen at the downtown Odeon, you still have access to Moore's take on how dreadful and careless the health care system is down in the United States.

Live Free or Die Hard -- While it opened on Wednesday, here's another mention of the long-delayed Part Four to the Die Hard series. Not sure exactly how badly we need a fourth entry into this series, but nevertheless I'm curious to see how director Len Wiseman (Underworld) handles a PG-13 Die Hard. (Silvercity, Odeon, University 4)

Evening -- I want to tell you to go see this unapologetic weeper of a family story that spans a few generations. I want to tell you that I'm a fan of director Lajos Koltai (Fateless) and can shoot a beautiful picture from a mile away. I want to tell you that I have had a massive crush on Claire Danes and can't wait to see her in Cinemascope. And I'll see it, because it's my gig and I see everything except for Nancy Drew. But for you, the moviegoer that goes to one movie a week, if're going to Ratatouille, I'm sorry. (Capitol)

The Transformers -- Fuck Michael Bay. That is all. (Silvercity, Odeon, University 4)

Wild Safari: The IMAX Experience - FINALLY shuffling up the dull-as-nails IMAX schedule (and even moreso on 7/13 when Spidey 3 opens in the blown-out 'MAX format) is yet another doco that pretty much explains itself in the title. It's wild! It's safari! What, you thought this was about the Isreal-Palestine conflict?


With all the big movies opening this weekend and that Brad Bird movie I'm urging you to see, the fine Vancouver-based film Everything's Gone Green screens at UVIC Cinecenta on Sunday. This is Douglas Coupland's first foray into screenwriting and he does a great job.

Also, if you're up for an interesting experience on Monday, swing by the Eric Martin Pavillion and check out The Journals of Knud Rasmussen playing at Movie Monday. From the director of The Fast Runner, this is another look at the arctic life that you'll otherwise never get to see.

Bon appetit.