Friday, January 30, 2015

My Thoughts on A Most Violent Year

most_violent_yearOscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain star in this drama about the struggles of a man trying to project his business.  New York City, 1981 is considered to be one of the most dangerous years in the city’s history.  Abel Morales (Isaac) is businessman, who runs the “Standard Heating Oil” company with his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain).  Abel just put down a deposit for a new terminal, for which he has thirty days to pay in full.  However, a wrench in thrown into Abel’s plans for the company, as District Attorney Lawrence (David Oyelowo) starts an investigation about possible criminal activity, which scares off investors.  With him facing the additional problem of his fuel trucks being hijacked, Abel must make some difficult decisions to protect what he has built for himself.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

My Thoughts on Leviathan (2014)

LeviathanA man in a Russian coastal town fights to keep his home in the drama Leviathan.  Kolya (Alexei Serebriakov) lives on a peninsula by the Barents Sea with his teenage son Roma (Sergey Pokhodaev) and second wife Lilia (Elena Lyadova).  Kolya is in the process of fighting against the town’s corrupt mayor Vadim (Roman Madyanov), who is abusing the law to acquire Kolya’s land for himself.  To help with his case against the mayor, Kolya brings in his old army friend Dmitri (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), who is now a lawyer working in Moscow.  Dmitri comes prepared with dirt on the mayor and plans to blackmail him for a settlement.  However, a series of events unravel, which serve to further complicate this matter.

Doc Thoughts: Last Days in Vietnam

Last-Days-in-VietnamThe final weeks of the Vietnam War are recounted in the Oscar-nominated documentary Last Days in Vietnam.  After the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973, the U.S. military withdrew from Vietnam and it was hoped that North and South Vietnam would co-exist with each other.  However, things changed following the resignation of Richard Nixon and, in the spring of 1975, the North Vietnamese began of full-on invasion of South Vietnam.  With the North Vietnamese forces rapidly approaching Saigon, the remaining Americans in the country are ordered to evacuate.  During the evacuation efforts, a number of Americans risk treason by trying to save as many South Vietnamese that they can.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My Thoughts on The Theory of Everything

TheTheoryofEverythingThe life of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and his relationship with his wife Jane is at the centre of biopic The Theory of Everything.  Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is an astrophysics student, who meets Jane Wilde while studying at Cambridge University.  The two quickly hit it off and begin a romantic relationship, but things get complicated when Hawking is diagnosed with motor neuron disease and is given two years to live.  Not wanting to give up on him, Jane is determined to be with Hawking for as long as they possibly can and they get married.  As time goes by, Hawking finishes his thesis and becomes renowned for his theories about time.  However, as the paralyzing disease increasingly impairs Hawking’s ability to live normally, it causes some strain on his relationship with Jane.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Trailer: The Fantastic Four

fantasticfour

A teaser trailer has arrived for the new reboot of The Fantastic Four, which is directed by Josh Trank (Chronicle).  I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a hater of the, now decade-old, previous film adaptation of Fantastic Four, which I thought had a certain charm to it (and featured Chris Evans before he was Captain America).  However, this new take on the superhero team really looks to be quite impressive.  Perhaps this is just a case of good trailer editing, but this new Fantastic Four looks to have a much more darker and serious tone than the previous films, which includes a much better looking (and presumably CGI) version of The Thing.  I’m not sure yet what to think of the film’s younger cast, which includes Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell.  However, my interest in the film has definitely peaked and I’ll probably check out the film when it opens on August 7.

My Thoughts on Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

WhyDontYouPlayInHellFrom Japanese auteur Sion Sono (Suicide Club, Cold Fish) comes the bloody action-comedy Why Don’t You Play in Hell?  Yakuza boss Muto (Jun Kunimura) is at the beginnings of a war with rival Yazuka Ikegami (Shin'ichi Tsutsumi), which stemmed from an assault ten year’s prior, in which Muto’s wife was sent to prison for murdering would-be assassins.  However, Muto is more focused on making his daughter Mitsuko (Fumi Nikaidô) a movie star, fulfilling his wife’s dream before her release from prison.  Muto decides to kill two birds with one stone and film a raid on Ikegami’s compound.  To do this, a group of amateur filmmakers named the F-Bombers, lead by director Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa), are recruited to film the Yakuza battling to the death on 35mm.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

My Thoughts on The Imitation Game

imitation_gameBenedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley star in this biopic about mathematician Alan Turing.  During World War II, Turing (Cumberbatch) is hired by the British government to join a top team of code-breakers, fellow members of which include Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode) and Joan Clarke (Knightley), who are tasked by MI6 chief Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong) to crack Nazi Germany's Enigma code, which would help to turn the tide of the war.  Instead of manually trying to crack the code, Turing instead designs a machine that can decipher the code faster than the human mind can.  Despite being at odds with his teammates and his boss Commander Denniston (Charles Dance), Turing insists that this machine will work and is the only option for winning the war.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Doc Thoughts: The 50 Year Argument

50YearArgumentMartin Scorsese and David Tedeschi directs this look back at the 50 year history of the New York Review of Books.  In 1963, founders Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein, along with publisher A. Whitney Ellsworth and writer Elizabeth Hardwick, took advantage of the New York printers’ strike to establish the New York Review of Books.  In addition to book reviews, the New York Review of Books would also feature opinion pieces about current events and the publication became known for exposing stories less reported and making challenges to mainstream media.  Framed by a 2013 event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the journal, The 50 Year Argument features footage of icons such as Gore Vidal, Susan Sontag, and Norman Mailer, as well as interviews with current contributors, and examines how the publication became America’s leading journal for ideas.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Blindspot 2015: 40 Years of TIFF: Heart of Glass

Heart_of_GlassIt is time for me to kick off the 2015 edition of the Blindspot Series, where I will be doing a yearlong celebration of 40 years of the Toronto International Film Festival.  I begin with a selection from the very first Festival of Festivals from 1976.  There are many films I could have gone with from this inaugural year, such as the opening film Cousin Cousine or the closing film Queen of the Gypsies.  However, since this first year of TIFF had a focus on German directors, such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog, I decided to go with Herzog’s film Heart of Glass.

Heart of Glass takes place in an 18th century Bavarian town, which is known for its glassblowing factory, which produces the red tinted ruby glass.  The master blower of the glass factory dies, taking the secret of the ruby glass with him.  A seer from the hills named Hias (Josef Bierbichler) is tasked by the local baron to decipher the secret of the ruby glass.

Indie Spotlight: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

AGirlWalksHomeAloneatNight

A hijab-clad female vampire stalks people in an Iranian ghost town in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.  Bad City is an Iranian ghost town home to prostitutes, junkies, pimps, and other sordid souls.  Little do these foul residents know that they are stalked at night by a female vampire (Sheila Vand), who looks to most like an unassuming young girl wearing a hijab.  The Girl crosses paths with a James Dean type named Arash (Arash Marandi) and the two strike unlikely connection.  However, will The Girl’s vampire nature get in the way of this budding romance?