Profile for K. Gordon > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by K. Gordon
Top Reviewer Ranking: 23
Helpful Votes: 386

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Amazon Communities.

Reviews Written by
K. Gordon
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
Anna Karenina / Anna Karénine (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
Anna Karenina / Anna Karénine (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Keira Knightley
Offered by Chitchats
Price: CDN$ 16.27
21 used & new from CDN$ 5.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Bold, odd, not always successful , but well worth seeing, Sept. 15 2014
A brave experiment that doesn’t always work, but succeeds in letting us see Tolstoy’s great, oft filmed novel in a new light.

Setting much of the film in an aging theater, director Joe Wright and screen writer Tom Stoppard accomplish two things. They make literal the reality that in the 19th century upper class life was a play, and your survival depended on playing your role just right. It sounds heavy handed, and at times it feels it, but it brought out a humor and a pathos for all involved that I found fresh and rewarding.

In the same vein, the film isn’t afraid to make Anna look self involved, and actually makes Jude Law, doing some of his best work as Anna’s boring, uptight and pious husband, arguably the most sympathetic character, The film refuses to give Anna and her lover a ‘get out of jail emotionally free’ card. Yes, we want them to be together, we see their passion, but we also see the real-world consequences of their obsessive love.

Contrasted with that is Levin, an idealist landowner who loves in a quieter, but also more honest and sustainable way than Anna's passion -- and we are left feeling confused about just what is right and wrong when dealing with love and society.

The film looks amazing. Wright uses his theatrical conceit beautifully, then breaks it at just the right time to make the point that not everyone, especially the proto-Marxist Levin are about living on that stage, but try to experience real life.

The results may be at odd with some of Tolstoy’s ideas, and certainly are different than we’ve seen before, but what’s an classic, done many times, for except to reexamine. At times the theatrical effects can be distracting, and the approach causes a certain emotional distance. Sometimes this feels more like the social satire of Chekhov, than the deeply felt prose of Tolstoy, and it can get slow and repetitive in spots. But most of the time I was grateful to be surprised at seeing the story in a new way.

Batman Returns [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
Batman Returns [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
Price: CDN$ 11.98
10 used & new from CDN$ 11.50

4.0 out of 5 stars More a Tim Burton film than a "Batman" film - but that's not a bad thing, Sept. 14 2014
Re-watching the two Burton "Batman"s I was shocked to find I liked "Batman Returns" more than the 1st. True, the film has nothing to compare with the wonderful over-the-top craziness of Jack Nicholson as the Joker, but in some ways Nicholson so overpowered the 1st film that it felt out of balance. At the same time, and – for me – even more problematic were the very un-Tim Burton like touches (the Prince songs? the endless, not very exciting climactic battle, the weak CGI) that seemed grafted on to make some studio executive happy.

"Batman Returns" seems much more a Tim Burton film; weirder, more perverse, funnier and more unpredictable than its predecessor. While the film lacks Nicholson's magic, it gains a great, funny, and twistedly sexy performance by Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, her dark, dual personality mirroring Batman/Bruce Wayne's schizophrenic existence, and drawing these two "enemies" together like moths to flame.

Also fun and often fascinating are Danny DeVito's so pathetic you could almost like him, but so dark he's unredeemable Penguin. And Christopher Walken is a blast comparatively underplaying evil capitalist billionaire Max Schrek.

The film looks gorgeous, arguably better than the first. And if the production design can't match the grandeur of Anton Furst's sets for "Batman". these have a lot more Tim Burton surrealist fun-house/nightmare aesthetic.

What's missing is much of a clear plot, story elements coming and going a bit randomly. And, like the first film, "Batman" himself is made less interesting than the bad guys. But Burton has always been at his best exploring outsider characters, and creating nightmare dreamscapes, and he gets to do a lot more of that here. As one critic put it; this is a somewhat weaker "Batman" film, but a much better Tim Burton film.

The Selfish Giant
The Selfish Giant
DVD ~ Conner Chapman
Price: CDN$ 24.98
27 used & new from CDN$ 15.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A dark, moody and ultimately deeply disturbing film, Sept. 8 2014
This review is from: The Selfish Giant (DVD)
While not audacious and brave in it's style as Barnard's smashing debut "The Arbor", it explores much of the same territory – poverty in northern England. But this time Barnard uses a more neo-realist bent that recalls the films of Ken Loach, among others. And after two viewings, while I missed the wild rule-breaking she did in her first film, I felt she had made a film of gritty honest and emotional force.

The story centers on two young teens (very well played by non-pros). Diminutive Arbor is hyperactive, angry, and so on the edge he can be frightening and simultaneously heartbreaking -- Arbor needs meds just to allow him to be calm enough to function. And there's Swifty, his best friend who is introvert to Arbor's extreme extrovert. Swifty is willing to go along with Arbor's schemes to a point, but he also wants to honor his mother's wish that he get an education, and try to move up and out of poverty.

The two begin collecting (and sometimes stealing) scrap metal to sell to a tough local junk metal dealer, Kitten. This is a man who is capable of being almost a father figure one moment, and stomping you into the ground the next. A sort of modern Fagan, using the boys to do his bidding (although, to be fair, the boys come to him).

A dark, moody and ultimately deeply disturbing film, that refuses to let us or society off lightly when it comes to kids growing up in the cycle of poverty.

Bridegroom [Import]
Bridegroom [Import]
Price: CDN$ 21.88
23 used & new from CDN$ 14.06

5.0 out of 5 stars The power of this film snuck up on me., Sept. 7 2014
This review is from: Bridegroom [Import] (DVD)
For a while, I felt interested but a bit removed. Certainly the story is tragic, but there are so many tragic tales in the world. Certainly any homophobia is horrific, but when there are still gay men being lynched, this story seemed not nearly as dramatic and shocking as others. And its style is basic – talking head interviews with friends and family, home videos, photographs.

I thought (in my smug liberal way) that its good for the country to see a film showing how normal, likable and in love two young men could be. But this wasn't news to me. It felt rudimentary, aimed at those who had never known a gay couple and realized 'hey, they're just people'.

But then something strange happened. In the film's last half hour it built into an emotional tidal wave. I didn't realize I was hit until I suddenly started to cry. These two men were so deeply, sweetly in love, and Shane Crone, rather than simply crawl into a shell after the untimely death of the love of his life, and after being barred from the funeral by the homophobic family, and dealt many other emotional (and legal) cuts and bruises only because he and his life partner were gay, managed to rally himself, and make a you tube video that has reached millions with an impossible to argue with plea for gay marriage. That he could take this devastating loss, add mistreatment, and instead of giving up on life do something important and life affirming was profoundly affecting. Suddenly the whole film seemed to have more weight. I wept through the very moving responses his video (the one that got me is a self proclaimed life-long redneck, vowing to never oppose gay lovers again). Even the end credits full of thousands of names of those who cared enough to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign for the film moved me with joy for the resilience of human beings, the fact that things are getting better, and that love is still the most powerful thing in the human experience, both in personal and political terms.

Menage (aka Evening Dress) / Tenue de soirée (Bilingual)
Menage (aka Evening Dress) / Tenue de soirée (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Gérard Depardieu
Price: CDN$ 14.99
19 used & new from CDN$ 9.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Blier's dark, misanthropic comedies continue to amuse, Sept. 6 2014
I continue to enjoy Blier's twisted imagination, and the way he makes blackly comic and surreal films that are not like anyone else's. He is often accused of being a misogynist, but to me, his men are no less screwed up (indeed they often seem more so) in these studies of sexuality, relationships, social norms and morality.

In this case we start with an unhappy. broke and bored couple Antoine (Michel Blanc) and Monique (Miou-Miou). Into their lives dances (literally) Bob (Gerard Depardieu) a sexy, swaggering, amoral, bi-sexual ex-con and thief. Before you can blink he has seduced the couple into joining him on his raids on the houses of the rich. Meanwhile the sexual politics between the three get ever more complex as it becomes clear Bob is far more turned on to the mousy, devoutly heterosexual Antoine than he is to the more obviously attractive Monique. Ultimately it becomes, in it's absurdist way a meditation on how power and sex work in relationships, as well as letting go of one's self-image.

All three actors are terrific, but Depardieu in particular seems to be having a blast – a macho tough guy one second, a tender gay romancer the next. All played with a kind of honesty and humanity that only makes the extremes that much funnier.

Much Ado About Nothing Bd-Ws Cb [Blu-ray]
Much Ado About Nothing Bd-Ws Cb [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Kenneth Branagh
Price: CDN$ 11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Uneven, but a lot of fun, Sept. 5 2014
Not my favorite Shakespeare play, lacking the rich, playful complexities of some of the Bard's other comedies, I've always felt on a pure plot level this feels more simplistic, ill-logical and forced than most of the works by the greatest writer in the English language.

That said, Branagh's adaptation has some sensational elements. The best of all is the relationship between Branagh and Emma Thompson (then married in real life) as Benedick and Beatrice. As they showed in their brief time together in Branagh's "Henry V" the two are both magnificent at making Shakespeare feel human, spontaneous, modern and above all fun. Both create terrific characters – two bull headed intellectual wits who obviously belong together, but who managing to use their words and wit to keep tripping themselves up, like some Shakespearian version of the best of Tracy and Hepburn.

The star studded cast all do good work, although the much lesser known Richard Biers is perhaps the most wonderful in his simple, warm human reality as Leonato. The film looks great, filmed on an estate in Tuscany with beautiful grounds and that Tuscan light forming a backdrop too our story.

But, in the end, the play's the thing, and much of the other character's stories. well acted as they are, feel too melodramatic and heavy handed for the fun, light feel of the film (Robert Sean Leonard and Kate Beckensale both do excellent work as Claudio and Hero, but their storyline's over-dramatic swings are hard to overcome). The score also feels over-the-top, especially in the more dramatic sections, which in turn adds to the feeling that there's something too uneven in the tone. The comedy (e.g. Michael Keaton's very weird but entertaining Dogberry), is so broad, that it's hard to put it in the same film with the over- sober tone of the story of the young lovers.

None-the-less there's a lot to like if one overlooks some unevenness in both story and presentation.

Much Ado About Nothing [Blu-ray] [Import]
Much Ado About Nothing [Blu-ray] [Import]
Price: CDN$ 11.99
18 used & new from CDN$ 9.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Uneven, but a lot of fun, Sept. 5 2014
Not my favorite Shakespeare play, lacking the rich, playful complexities of some of the Bard's other comedies, I've always felt on a pure plot level this feels more simplistic, ill-logical and forced than most of the works by the greatest writer in the English language.

That said, Branagh's adaptation has some sensational elements. The best of all is the relationship between Branagh and Emma Thompson (then married in real life) as Benedick and Beatrice. As they showed in their brief time together in Branagh's "Henry V" the two are both magnificent at making Shakespeare feel human, spontaneous, modern and above all fun. Both create terrific characters – two bull headed intellectual wits who obviously belong together, but who managing to use their words and wit to keep tripping themselves up, like some Shakespearian version of the best of Tracy and Hepburn.

The star studded cast all do good work, although the much lesser known Richard Biers is perhaps the most wonderful in his simple, warm human reality as Leonato. The film looks great, filmed on an estate in Tuscany with beautiful grounds and that Tuscan light forming a backdrop too our story.

But, in the end, the play's the thing, and much of the other character's stories. well acted as they are, feel too melodramatic and heavy handed for the fun, light feel of the film (Robert Sean Leonard and Kate Beckensale both do excellent work as Claudio and Hero, but their storyline's over-dramatic swings are hard to overcome). The score also feels over-the-top, especially in the more dramatic sections, which in turn adds to the feeling that there's something too uneven in the tone. The comedy (e.g. Michael Keaton's very weird but entertaining Dogberry), is so broad, that it's hard to put it in the same film with the over- sober tone of the story of the young lovers.

None-the-less there's a lot to like if one overlooks some unevenness in both story and presentation.

Renoir [Blu-ray]
Renoir [Blu-ray]
Offered by Prestivo3
Price: CDN$ 63.87
5 used & new from CDN$ 63.87

4.0 out of 5 stars Worth seeing, if sometimes frustrating, Sept. 2 2014
This review is from: Renoir [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Beautifully photographed, the images manage to catch the essence of Renoir's use of color and light. In a way cinematographer Mark Ping Bing Lee is the real star of this film, creating an atmosphere that tells us more about the characters, and the Renoir's art than all the dialogue combined.

I also loved the performance by Michel Bouquet - in his 80s as the film was shot -as the slowly dying Renoir, battling to continue his painting until the last. With simplicity and economy. his eyes and gestures let us feel some understanding of the man and his art.

Additionally I appreciated the choice to just focus on a brief period near the end of Renoir's life, and his (platonic) relationship with his last muse, rather than the usual sprawling bio-pic approach.

On the other hand, I wasn't enamored by the script (or at least the English translation on the subtitles) which kept reducing much of what is said by Renoir and those around him to easy and generic statements about art, pain, joy, creativity. If the images capture the richness of the man's work, the dialogue is often the Hallmark card opposite.

Also, perhaps the most interesting part of the story, the return of Renoir's son Jean - who would go on to be one of the great film-makers of all time, from WW I, and his slow falling into romance with his father's muse Andree is jammed into the end of the film, and stays very much on the surface. You know something is amiss when the most emotion you feel in a film is at the cards just before the end credits summing up all the events you didn't see.

It's too bad, because if the human stories (and ironically both generations of Renoir did work that was nothing if not about humanity) had matched the beauty of the images this seems like it could have been a great film -- instead of a beautiful but somewhat hollow and emotionally remote one. Still worth seeing, just frustrating.

The Double [Blu-ray]
The Double [Blu-ray]
Price: CDN$ 19.96
2 used & new from CDN$ 19.96

4.0 out of 5 stars Ayoade is a real talent, but also falls into some traps, Aug. 30 2014
This review is from: The Double [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I've now seen two films by the talented Ayodade – the other being his coming of age 'Submarine" - and had a very similar reaction though they are miles apart in style, story and theme.

First, this is a gifted film-maker, who doesn't want to play by the usual rules. Next, he knows how to get off to a great start, build a fascinating world, get you involved with his people, but third, he doesn't quite find ways to make his third acts pay off as interestingly (or powerfully or emotionally) as the first two-thirds of the film promise. In both films the focus drifts to less interesting elements or variations on the stories he's telling.

And last, he needs to lighten up on the too-obvious 'homage's to his cinematic touchstones. In "Submarine" it was (among others) Wes Anderson and "Rushmore". Here the overbearing influences (there are many) are led by Terry Gilliam's "Brazil". There were a large number of design and character choices – while effective - that came close enough that I couldn't help but sit there making comparisons ('Hey, there's Wallace Shawn doing Ian Holm'). And it starts to approach that fine line between inspiration and plagiarism.

That said, there's a lot to like here. The photography is often gorgeous. Jessie Eisenberg does a terrific job in a tough double role – a meek office worker who is suddenly faced with another employee who looks exactly like him. But the new guy has a brash, self-confident personality, everyone loves him, and no one else seems to notice the two are physically exactly alike, right down to their clothes.

This raises interesting questions about personality, perception and reality. Is "James Simon" (the cool one) merely a psychological projection of the nerd, "Simon James"? But if that's the case, why does everyone else interact with both, together and separately? Is it that Simon is the only one who thinks they look alike? i.e. is Simon projecting himself onto someone who – if we saw objectively – wouldn't even really look like him? Well, that would be an interesting idea, and a promising road for the film to explore, and it hints heavily at that possibility, only to simply drop and contradict it.

And that's part of why this is two-thirds of a great film, not a whole one. In the end things play out in a way that has been foreshadowed from early on, and suddenly the film feels less deep, less challenging, more an exercise in cinematic playfulness than an exploration of deeper themes both personal and societal. The head trip becomes too literal, the conclusions too simple for the complex surreal reality we've come to accept

On the plus side, the effects are terrific, and many of the best scenes in the film are Eisenberg talking to himself in one shot. (A hell of an acting challenge as well). And the film has a dark sense of humor that keeps the Kafkaesque world and 'big themes' from becoming ponderous, (Again, I just wish I had less often chuckled, but then thought 'hey, that just like the scene in 'Barton Fink…', or whatever).

In any case I look forward to whatever Ayoade does next, but I hope he will find a way to finish as strong as he starts, and to be brave enough to trust his own very good sense of style, and not borrow quite so much from others.

After the Triumph of Your Birth [Import]
After the Triumph of Your Birth [Import]
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 139.73
2 used & new from CDN$ 93.15

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.

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20