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K. Gordon
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After the Triumph of Your Birth [Import]
After the Triumph of Your Birth [Import]
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 57.66
2 used & new from CDN$ 38.44

5.0 out of 5 stars Caught me off guard in the best way, Aug. 29 2014
Very off-beat and odd, but also sincere, moving and thought provoking. The kind of film you see at a festival not knowing much about, and walk out feeling you saw something that had real value.

Tom Dunne, in a nuanced and effecting, subtle performance plays a man named Eli walking his way across the California desert to the Pacific ocean in Los Angeles. He's looking for meaning, and finds fragments of it in the various characters he meets along the way.

I liked the way the film created quirky characters while avoiding making fun of them, or turning them into stereotypes we've seen before.

The film manages to raise the big questions about life without seeming like a sophomore term paper. And it's beautifully shot (Akin was a photographer before he was a film-maker).

The two main characters Eli meets are women – terrific work by singer songwriter Maria McKee and Tessa Ferrer – both of whom are as lost as he is in their own way. The three intersect and touch each others lives. There's also a surreal dream character called "The Answer Man" who shows up occasionally in Eli's mind to torment him with the pointlessness of his quest for answers. This is far less pretentious than it sounds, handled as equally haunting and darkly funny.

A poetic film that I found myself loving, it's possible my lack of expectations lead to my strong positive reaction. But I don't think so. The film haunted me for days, and that's always a good sign.

Betty Boop: The Essential Collection Volume 2 [Blu-ray]
Betty Boop: The Essential Collection Volume 2 [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Mae Questel
Price: CDN$ 26.50
14 used & new from CDN$ 18.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun, well-preserved, and the earlier cartoons are wildly inventive and surreal, Aug. 29 2014
While not an expert on vintage cartoons I really enjoyed most of these films, and I'm glad companies like Olive are working to keep them alive (although twelve 6-7 minute cartoons on a pricey blu-ray is a less than great deal.)

For me the earlier cartoons in the set were by far my favorites. I don't know if it's specifically the Hayes Code coming in or just the changing times, but the earlier
cartoons don't worry much about plot, and are filmed to the brim with inventive visual puns, general anarchy and a terrific sense of surrealism. The later films
(specifically the last thee on the set, all from 1934) tend to get more plot and situation heavy, and/or the jokes and images less wild and absurd, less filled with
crazy imagination.

To my eye, for 80 year old cartoons, these look pretty great. There's some variability from print to print, and they're not all cleaned up, but for the most part they
are very crisp, with good density. Certainly as good as I'd hoped for with material this age, preserved on fragile nitrate.

The twelve titles on the disk are:
1. Dirty Dishes (1930)
2. Bimbo's Initiation (1931
3. Boo-oop-A-Doop (1932)
4. Betty Boop Limited (1932)
5. Betty Boop's Bizzy Bee (1932)
6. Betty Boop's Ups and Downs (1932)
7. Betty Boop's Museum (1932)
8. Betty Boop's Big Boss (1933)
9. Morning, Noon and Night (1933)
10. Betty Boop's Little Pal (1934)
11. Betty Boop's Prize Show (1934)
12. Keep in Style (1934)

Bethlehem
Bethlehem
DVD ~ Tsahi Halevi
Price: CDN$ 18.99
16 used & new from CDN$ 18.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and unsettling, Aug. 28 2014
This review is from: Bethlehem (DVD)
In a fascinating coincidence this excellent film,and Hany Abu-Assad's arguably even better 'Omar' appeared at nearly the same time. Both tell similar stories, one from the Israeli perspective and one from the Palestinian. Both tell of a young man recruited (or forced) into being an informer for the Israelis. We see these young men torn in multiple directions, risking their lives if they are uncovered, trying desperately to play one side against the other, finding themselves drawn ever deeper in a morass they are powerless to stop.

In Bethlehem the 'hero' is only a teenager, and an immature one at that. His older brother is an accomplished terrorist/freedom fighter, leaving his little brother Sanfur without much of an identity of his own, he seems overlooked by his family and unimportant to his community. Ironically in many ways Sanfur's closest relationship is to his middle-aged Israeli 'handler', who also clearly has fatherly feelings towards the youth, further complicating the relationship.

The acting is generally excellent, and there's a lot of thriller like tension to go along with the human drama. I actually saw this and 'Omar' within days of each other, and I would recommend the same approach to others. Seeing the two sides of the same coin gives a feeling of greater insight into the conundrum that is the middle-east. Also, both directors are careful not to paint black and white portraits of either side, both treat all involved as human, so the differences in perspective are both fascinating and subtle.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) (Bilingual)
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Tom Cruise
Price: CDN$ 9.98
22 used & new from CDN$ 6.97

4.0 out of 5 stars More fun than your average summer blockbuster, Aug. 28 2014
Quite fun, with some very impressive, if improbable action sequences. It's been a while since
I saw a climatic fight sequence go on so long and yet never get boring.

It's a popcorn movie to be sure. The few brief attempts at emotional depth and back-story are
probably the least successful element. The over-all plot feels like a leftover from a 1980's
James Bond film. And it's not a film I can imagine the need to go back to and re-see. I
don't think there are extra layers to be uncovered, and the very nifty stunt and CGI work can't
have the same rush of adrenaline the second time around.

But the action is deftly handled, the tension level high, the images are cool, and I got
caught up in spite of myself. At least in a moment to moment way. As long as I didn't
start up my bad habit of thinking about the 'big picture'.

And I'll be honest, I'm not a 'summer blockbuster action movie' kinda guy. I'm old compared
to the key audience this is aimed at. I'm more at home with the new Woody Allen movie or
some indie drama. So take this review with the appropriate grain of salt. But that said, I
can't deny I had a good time, and smiled lot.

Submarine
Submarine
Offered by DealsAreUs
Price: CDN$ 14.69
18 used & new from CDN$ 5.90

4.0 out of 5 stars An impressive, enjoyable, if flawed directorial debut, Aug. 27 2014
This review is from: Submarine (DVD)
This starts out SO great, with an opening title card that had me laughing out loud, that the modest decline during it's running time is more frustrating than it
really should be,

Two flaws grow as the movie goes on. The narrative gets more forced in it's eccentricity, straining a bit for effect, and robbing the dark comedy of some of the
emotional power it promises to deliver, along with all the quirks. (The ending especially feels a bit of a cop out). Beyond that, over time, the explicit stylistic
references to other films (the list is long but Wes Anderson in general and "Rushmore" in particular lead the way) started to make me question the seeming
originality of the film's voice.

This is yet another off-beat film about a moody, pseudo-intellectual self-involved mid-teen odd-ball outsider. But unlike "Rushmore", or "The Graduate"
that tale doesn't seem to have been made over in a whole fresh new way for it's time, and unlike "Harold and Maude" or even "The Joys of Being a
Wallflower" there isn't an emotional wallop to pay it all off.

So why did I still quite like it? For one thing, the performances are very good. Young actors are always tricky and Ayoade gets excellent and subtle work from his
self-serious lead Craig Roberts, and the anti-romantic and edgy object of his affections Yasmin Page. And any supporting cast with Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins
is always going to deliver. The first half really feels original and organic, in spite of the stylistic lifts. And for every time the film trips over a slightly
unbelievable or convenient twist, or a too obvious homage, there is another moment that feels fresh and honest -- giving us an amusing unreliable narrator who
clearly has his flaws, and ending up with a very good and inventive film about being an outsider teen. I just wish it's first sections hadn't set me up to want an even
more original and great one.

Cousin Jules [Blu-ray] [Import]
Cousin Jules [Blu-ray] [Import]
Price: CDN$ 32.53
9 used & new from CDN$ 22.73

4.0 out of 5 stars A unique film, Aug. 26 2014
A sort of ‘directed documentary’ this beautifully photographed, almost wordless film slowly shows the day to day life of a real aging couple (in their 70s for most of the 5 years the film took to shoot) living in rural France. He works as some kind of metal worker in his small barn, she runs their small farm and house. Their activities are never explained, we just watch.

Yet the fact that there is artifice is acknowledged as well, in clever and telling ways. A couple of times one or the other of Jules or his wife Felicie look right into camera for a moment, and there’s no attempt to hide the breaking of the 4th wall. One feels like the rare chit-chat there is between the two was awkwardly done for the cameras. There’s a sudden freeze frame at a moment we later understand to be of significance, which jarringly reminds us we’re watching a carefully composed and constructed film, not simply ‘real life’.

And film-maker Benichette’s beautiful wide screen compositions look far more like the stunning work of a great fiction cinematographer than a documentarian catching life on the fly. (And, indeed, a supplemental piece on the blu-ray about the restoration of the film makes it clear that the gorgeous lighting was far from the ‘natural’ light it seems to be).

So this odd, but often hypnotic film sat on the shelf for 40 years, overlooked by distributors, and in a wide screen/stereo format that was hard for art-houses of the day to deal with. And now it comes back to life, a one-of-a-kind meditation on age, time and an almost gone way of life. It didn’t quite have the deep emotional impact - at least on first viewing -- I wish it had. But it’s also one of those films I know will bounce around in my head, and that will lead me back to watching it again.

War Games (25th Anniversary Edition) (Sous-titres français) [Import]
War Games (25th Anniversary Edition) (Sous-titres français) [Import]
DVD ~ Matthew Broderick
Price: CDN$ 10.90
20 used & new from CDN$ 6.21

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but could have been a classic, Aug. 26 2014
Seeing this again, 30 years later, I’m of two minds. There’s still a lot to enjoy in this slightly Disney version of an end-of-the-world thriller. There’s a lot of clever twists in the plot, some lovely performances, some real tension.

But it also all feels a bit light and softened to make it more audience friendly. That was probably the right decision commercially, but maybe not artistically. If original director Martin Brest had been allowed to finish the film, with the somewhat darker original script I read back then, I wonder if this could have been a bit of a minor classic, in the family of great nuclear war films like Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe, instead of an entertaining, intelligent thrill ride. There are also, on reflection some big logic holes you could fly missiles through.

But at the end of the day, I still enjoyed re-seeing it, smiling a good deal of the time.

Wargames Blu-ray
Wargames Blu-ray
DVD ~ Matthew Broderick
Price: CDN$ 11.99
3 used & new from CDN$ 11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but might have been a classic..., Aug. 26 2014
This review is from: Wargames Blu-ray (Blu-ray)
Seeing this again, 30 years later, I’m of two minds. There’s still a lot to enjoy in this slightly Disney version of an end-of-the-world thriller. There’s a lot of clever twists in the plot, some lovely performances, some real tension.

But it also all feels a bit light and softened to make it more audience friendly. That was probably the right decision commercially, but maybe not artistically. If original director Martin Brest had been allowed to finish the film, with the somewhat darker original script I read back then, I wonder if this could have been a bit of a minor classic, in the family of great nuclear war films like Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe, instead of an entertaining, intelligent thrill ride. There are also, on reflection some big logic holes you could fly missiles through.

But at the end of the day, I still enjoyed re-seeing it, smiling a good deal of the time.

First Cousin Once Removed [Import]
First Cousin Once Removed [Import]
Price: CDN$ 21.92
13 used & new from CDN$ 15.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply moving and thought provoking documentary, Aug. 26 2014
Talented and off-beat film-maker Alan Berliner documents the mind of his much older first cousin, the poet and translator Edwin Homing, as he slowly loses the battle against Alzheimer's.

Of course, any film about that subject can’t help but be touching, but Berliner goes well beyond the obvious tragedy to raise questions of; what is memory, time, family? We see and hear both the good and bad about this man, hear (and sometimes see) his poetry, hear the anger he put on his children as they were growing up, to end of not with a portrait of a disease victim, but of a man and an artist. Berliner jumps around in time, so we see Edwin in bad and good moments. In the end, this isn’t a linear portrait of a man’s decline, but an thoughtful and even darkly entertaining exploration of what is communication, thought, love.

Omar [Blu-ray] [Import]
Omar [Blu-ray] [Import]
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 21.61
15 used & new from CDN$ 21.61

5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific smart, emotional and human thriller, set against a political back-drop, Aug. 16 2014
This review is from: Omar [Blu-ray] [Import] (Blu-ray)
Though it has it's occasional flaws (some overstatement) this is generally a terrific political thriller.

A young Palestinian radical is put through the emotional, moral and physical wringer after being blackmailed into becoming an informer (or at least professing to) for the Israelis, following an arrest that could put him in jail for life. While Abu-Assad's sympathies clearly lie with the Palestinians, his characters and situations are much more complex and human than good guys and bad guys. He sees the damage that being in a constant state of war and occupation does to both sides.

Beyond that, this is not a 'political' film first. It's complex web of betrayal, love, fear, bravery, and paranoia could be anywhere two sides are facing off in a morally and politically complex situation, especially where one side is a guerrilla uprising, the other an established government. It could be Ireland and the IRA, or South Africa in the more militant days of the ANC. The beauty and terror of Abu-Assad's film is that it's about people not ideology. And the reality that people on both sides are capable of great good and great evil, often for reasons personal as much as political. I happened to see this within days of the also critically acclaimed "Bethlehem" which tells a remarkably similar tale, but from an Israeli point of view. Seeing both heightened the power of each -- for where they overlapped and where they differed. I'd recommend seeing both to anyone interested in good, human thrillers and who is interested in examining the middle east conflict in more than simple 'right and wrong' terms.

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