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Profile for K. Gordon > Reviews

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Content by K. Gordon
Top Reviewer Ranking: 36
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K. Gordon
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Reign Over Me [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
Reign Over Me [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Mike Binder
Price: CDN$ 9.99
10 used & new from CDN$ 8.20

4.0 out of 5 stars A good film that seems to have a great one frustratingly buried underneath, Nov. 4 2014
It's all relative. For a Hollywood film with a big star, this look at a man deeply, profoundly scarred and damaged by loss (Charlie; Adam Sandler) and the slow rebuilding of his friendship with his dental school roommate who wants to help (Alan; Don Cheadle) is often refreshingly honest about the complexities of mental illness, and the fact that there is no magic bullet for pain for any of us.

On the other hand, there are a number of contrivances, forced plot twists and supporting characters that remind us we are indeed in a Hollywood dramady, not real life.

Cheadle does some amazing low key work in the less showy of the two main roles, giving us a man in mid-life crisis, disconnected from his family and his own heart, who perks up when he gets involved with the damaged Charlie. It's partly because helping someone gives his life meaning, but also because part of him envies Sandler's adolescent-like freedom to act out, even if it comes from a wounded and destructive place. Sandler struggles more with the pathetic Charley, partly because the character's pain and PTSD has created a man almost hollow. That may be accurate, but it can make him hard to identify with. Also, the ways Charlie's illness suddenly manifests can seem a bit 'story convenient'. There's no question Sandler has the chops to be heartbreaking as a wounded soul (Punch-Dunk Love, Funny People), but here the thousand yard stare and the mumbled words sometimes feel more like an acting choice than a real expression of pain so deep it can't be handled.

Another problem area are the women characters, who seem a bit trapped in the old Madonna/whore bind. They are either cold and unsympathetic, or a very male fantasy -- either gorgeous sexual predators, or beautiful nurturers or both.

A good solid film, but I can't help wishing the great one that seemed to be lurking underneath had found its way to the surface.

One Day Pina Asked (Bilingual) [Import]
One Day Pina Asked (Bilingual) [Import]
Price: CDN$ 32.93
15 used & new from CDN$ 18.44

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent companion piece to Wim Wenders' terrific "Pina", Nov. 3 2014
An excellent companion piece to Wim Wenders' terrific "Pina". Both Wenders and Akerman, two of our best and most iconoclastic filmmakers take very different approaches to Pina Bausch's amazing choreography. Wenders film, made nearly 30 years later is longer and far more visually spectacular, using 3-D images to give us the full sense of space in Bausch's dances. But Akerman's is just as valuable.

In this frustratingly short (1 hour), intimate documentary, she films most of the 'dances' in medium and even close shots, which seems like a bizarre approach to dance, until you realize how much of Bausch's work is also theater, relying on her dancers to also be excellent actors (something discussed briefly in the film). By getting in close, Akerman emphasizes the theatrical and dramatic elements in the works, which are often both funny and deeply moving.

Very much worth seeing, and finally on DVD from Icarus Films.

Frank [Blu-ray]
Frank [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Michael Fassbender
Price: CDN$ 22.99
21 used & new from CDN$ 9.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Odd, funny, sad and wonderful. Has stuck with me for days., Nov. 2 2014
This review is from: Frank [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
An odd and wonderful mix of comedy and sadness, absurdity and reality, playfulness and originality. The acting is terrific throughout, the cast creating slightly larger than life comic characters that somehow still feel real enough to invest in emotionally. It's a tone few movies get right. "Harold and Maude" comes to mind.

Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) wants to be a pop star in the worst way (literally). He walks around writing amusingly bad pop tunes in his head. Life as a musician seems only a dream when as luck would have it a band, playing in his home town for just one night, needs a replacement when their keyboard player goes bonkers, and Jon is in the right place at the right moment. Thus begins Jon's journey with a band of misfits, who may be geniuses or just delusional... or both.

They are led by Frank (Michael Fassbender) an amiable if deeply odd fellow, who wears a giant plaster head that he never takes off, even to sleep. His counterweight is the angry, punky and edgy Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who is fiercely protective of the fragile Frank, and sees Jon's attempts to get the band to go mainstream as dangerous to both their artistic integrity, and Frank's well being. All this leads to adventures, changes, discoveries and insights that are often outrageous and darkly funny, but ultimately quite moving as well.

Also to be noted is just how great the music and songs created for the film are. They have to be "off" enough to be funny, but good enough for us to believe there really is something to Frank's talents. This is done very well, both in the writing and performing, the actors showing some musical chops, and the film creating tunes that, to my surprise have been caught in my head for days.

Indeed, the whole film has stuck with me far more deeply than I imagined while I was watching it. There's a haunting quality behind the humor that captures what special about "outsider" art, and it gives the film a resonance and gravity to go along with it's light-handed playfulness.

Watermark
Watermark
DVD ~ Edward Burtynsky
Price: CDN$ 34.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic tone poem of a film, Nov. 1 2014
This review is from: Watermark (DVD)
Stunningly beautiful and powerful images highlight this examination of how mankind re-shapes water and how it flows – for good and ill, more often ill - and in turn how the water re-shapes civilization and human behavior.

There's no real story, just a series of visits to locations around the world where water powerfully interacts with humanity, like the pilgrimage of 30 million people to bathe in the Ganges river.

Without narration and a specific focus the film could be accused of being too diffuse. But for me the raw power of the images – Burtynsky is one of our greatest still photographers who has spent much of his career creating huge images of humans and nature clashing and interacting - give the piece a poetic, if not literal, power and solidity. The film manages to be a wake-up call about our use and abuse of water while rarely giving in to traditional lecturing. It trusts us to look into its images and interpret for ourselves.

Also, if the film is not enough, there's an almost 40 minute gallery of Burtynsky's amazing still images, which look great blown up on a HD set, as he explains the photographs and how they were taken. That extra alone is reason enough to own the blu-ray. It's like the world's best photography book, with the images at least a little closer in size to Burtynsky's massive prints.

Watermark / Trajectoires (Bilingual)
Watermark / Trajectoires (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Various
2 used & new from CDN$ 17.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic tone poem of a film about water and human beings, Nov. 1 2014
Stunningly beautiful and powerful images highlight this examination of how mankind re-shapes water and how it flows – for good and ill, more often ill - and in turn how the water re-shapes civilization and human behavior.

There's no real story, just a series of visits to locations around the world where water powerfully interacts with humanity, like the pilgrimage of 30 million people to bathe in the Ganges river.

Without narration and a specific focus the film could be accused of being too diffuse. But for me the raw power of the images – Burtynsky is one of our greatest still photographers who has spent much of his career creating huge images of humans and nature clashing and interacting - give the piece a poetic, if not literal, power and solidity. The film manages to be a wake-up call about our use and abuse of water while rarely giving in to traditional lecturing. It trusts us to look into its images and interpret for ourselves.

Also, if the film is not enough, there's an almost 40 minute gallery of Burtynsky's amazing still images, which look great blown up on a HD set, as he explains the photographs and how they were taken. That extra alone is reason enough to own the blu-ray. It's like the world's best photography book, with the images at least a little closer in size to Burtynsky's massive prints.

Whitey: United States of America V. James J. Bulger [Blu-ray]
Whitey: United States of America V. James J. Bulger [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ James J. Bulger
Price: CDN$ 29.98
15 used & new from CDN$ 15.46

4.0 out of 5 stars Always engaging on an intellectual and moral level., Nov. 1 2014
Interestingly, this focuses more on the crimes (or potential crimes) of law-enforcement, especially the FBI, than on the admitted crimes of terrorizing mob boss 'Whitey' Bulger.

Bulger's trial is highly unusual, in that the defense is making no effort to say their client is innocent, and they know he'll spend his last days in prison (he's 83 at the time of the trial). The issue is really; instead of being an informant as claimed by the FBI and others, did Whitey really have them all on his payroll? Is the government more worried about cleaning their own dirty laundry without blame than in getting Whitey behind bars? And the larger moral question, even IF Bulger was an informant, was that really worth letting him run free, killing 19 people and raining fear on the residents of South Boston?

There's no conclusive smoking gun of a conspiracy, but there sure is a ton of circumstantial evidence, and Berlinger gives a good job of presenting it in a building, cinematic fashion – starting with the simple fact that everyone knew Whitey ran the neighborhood for years and years, yet he was never once charged with anything. And then somehow he knew to run just before the authorities rounded up all the leadership of his gang, surviving as a fugitive for 16 years.

Not as emotionally powerful as Berlinger's great "Brothers Keeper" and very strong "Paradise Lost", but always engaging on an intellectual and moral level.

The Lunchbox [Blu-ray + DVD] (Sous-titres français)
The Lunchbox [Blu-ray + DVD] (Sous-titres français)
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 30.87
10 used & new from CDN$ 19.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet, sad, funny, and very human "indie" film from India, Oct. 28 2014
Good hearted and well told, subtle 'dramaedy' about the on-paper relationship between a lonely, ignored housewife, and a grumpy older insurance case-worker who starts getting the lunchboxes meant for the woman's husband.

The two soon start writing letters back and forth, which are carried in the filled and emptied lunchbox, and an odd friendship develops. At the same time, the self-isolated insurance worker (Irrfan Kahn in a lovely, understated performance) starts to reluctantly form a friendship with an ambitious, poor young man who has been hired to replace him when he retires. There have been films using the gimmick of two leads having a non face to face relationship before (e.g. 'You've Got Mail'), but this is both quirkier and more low key. The focus is less on romance, and more on these two lonely souls simply getting to know each other, and to tell their stories to someone in a world where no one seems to care.

Nimrat Kaur does a terrific job as the lonesome housewife, as does Nawazuddin Siddlqui as the orphaned worker slowly taken under the wing of his older counterpart.

This isn't a film that will make you laugh out loud, or reduce you to tears. But under the excellent direction of first timer Ritesh Batra, this Indian "indie" film will touch your heart and make you smile as you slowly get to know these sad, sometimes foolish, often wise, and always very human characters.

The Fault in Our Stars (Extended Edition with Limited Edition Bracelet) (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
The Fault in Our Stars (Extended Edition with Limited Edition Bracelet) (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Shailene Woodley
Price: CDN$ 29.99
4 used & new from CDN$ 18.88

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deeply moving, but also very alive and often funny, Oct. 27 2014
If you choose, you could be snarky about this film. Characters about to die of cancer somehow look better than most of us on our best days, and the selection of (excellent) indie songs used as score gets a bit too constant and insistent on telling us what to feel.

But at it's core this is a good-hearted, wonderfully acted, funny, human and very, very sad film about being adolescent and trying to open your heart to love while facing a life span measured in months, not decades or even years.

Josh Boone does a very nice, subtle job as director, getting nuanced performances from all, and finding visual touches that enhance without being self-conscious. Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Nat Wolff and Willem Dafoe all provide terrific work in supporting roles. Ansel Elgot takes a role that is much trickier than it looks – as one critic put it he's an actor playing a kid who himself is playing a character - Gus is doing his best to play the brave, cocky optimist, but there's clearly a much more vulnerable young man underneath. Elgot walks that tightrope very well. And Shailene Woodley brings tremendous depth and complexity to Hazel. She takes a character it would be hard not to love, but makes her something much more; a multi faceted, very real human being.

While it has it's occasional Hollywood moments, it's deeply moving and life affirming without denying the suffering, loss and pain, which is all one can really ask of a film about death.

Belle (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
Belle (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Price: CDN$ 14.96
4 used & new from CDN$ 8.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, moving and well acted, Oct. 23 2014
I've read some valid criticisms of Amma Asante's "Belle"; you know how it will end by 20 minutes in, at times it can feel stuffy and Masterpiece Theater-ish, it isn't as edgy as its subject really needs, it talks about the horrific obscenity of slavery, but never makes us face it as more than a concept, it plays a bit fast and loose with history to make its points, its villains are little more than cartoons. Fine, I think all those have some truth.

But… in the end I found the film very moving, thought-provoking and uplifting in a way that felt earned. The film is the fact based story of a mixed race girl being brought up in upper- class England in the mid 18th century by a judge who would eventually make some key legal decisions about slavery.

There is more than a touch of Jane Asustin-equse social comedy in the drama, which observes that women of the time were also no more than property, if wildly better treated than slaves.

The acting writing and direction combine to create some memorable and complex characters. Their complexity becomes all the more apparent on 2nd viewing, when we can catch the flaws in those who are 'good', and the maddening strangeness of being a person alone in their own world in a way few people can imagine.

If the film takes a naive and then intellectual attitude towards slavery, it does so because that is also the experience of the heroine. On some level an outcast in her upper-class world, she begins as an innocent to the horrors around her. As she learns about them they inform who she is and who she becomes in ways that are moving and powerful.

The film may be imperfect, but it does a great job of combining a lush romanticism, with emotional weight, wit and righteous ideas.

I'm so excited!/ Les amants passagers (Bilingue) (DVD)
I'm so excited!/ Les amants passagers (Bilingue) (DVD)

4.0 out of 5 stars Uneven but a lot of fun, Oct. 22 2014
Uneven, but a lot of fun, with some serious thoughts about politics, class and the economy of modern Spain nicely hidden in the mix of sex and absurdity.

This (very intentionally) harkens back to Almodovar’s anarchic, rough edged early sex farces like Pepi, Luci Bom, but now he's re-approached that kind of story with the technical mastery of a lifetime making ever more sophisticated films.

That cuts both ways. On one hand the gorgeous color-popping polished visuals, and high-level performances make this even more of a joy to watch. On the other hand, it’s very smoothness takes some of the bite out of Almodovor’s early punky biting the hand that fed him, pushing the limits of film in post-Franco Spain.

But forgetting all that serious mumbo-jumbo, this is fun sexual and political farce, 90% of which takes places on an airplane that may be doomed. Led by three very funny, very gay flight attendants determined to keep the upper-class passengers distracted from what’s really going on, using everything from musical numbers to mescaline (the economy class passengers have simply been drugged and put to sleep; a heavy handed but effective comment) – the flight gets wilder and wilder as those ruling class passengers reveal their secrets – sexual, social and personal - and their libidos. As do the flight crew.

Certainly not Almodovar’s best work, but often filthy, funny and smart. And if a good number of the jokes don’t quite hit, those that do, will sometimes make you laugh, while others will make you smile ruefully.

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