Friday, May 28, 2010


Written by Mateo Gill and Alejandro Amenabar
Directed by Alejandro Amenabar
Starring Rachel Weisz, Max Minghella and Oscar Isaac

In 391 A.D., people still believed that the Earth was not only flat but that it was also the center of the universe and that the sun, along with the other wanderers, known to the Pagan Greeks of the time as the other planets, revolved around the Earth. How could one not have an ego with beliefs like that? It has been over 1600 years since then and it’s strange to see that AGORA director, Alejandro Amenabar, still has a bit of that same ego driving his filmmaking.

Generally considered to be the first female authority of mathematics and astronomy, Greek philosopher, Hypatia (played by a bold but overly confident Rachel Weisz), has always tried to teach her pupils that all humans are brothers; that between three people, if two of them are are of the same mind, then so is the third as this is what bonds them as brothers. Increasing shifts in religious beliefs shatter her faith as she must be subjected to watch the quickly growing Christianity crush her Paganism and move on past that to Judaism in Egypt, one of the last thriving places in the Roman Empire. The story is both huge in scope and vision but it is dragged down by focusing on the the petty problems of the people and the often poor acting performances afforded to these plotlines.

One automatically sees the correlation between religion being a serious driving force in keeping man divided, often violently, both then and now. Amenabar tells his story with such grandiose gusto though that it seems his ego is just too big to see that his point is monumental only to him and not only obvious to the rest of us but wearing thin as well.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Written and Directed by Michael Patrick King
Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon

Carrie Bradshaw: That’s the thing about tradition; when you’re not looking, it just sneaks in.

When I first discovered the “Sex and the City” television series, I saw it as a tiny, little gift from heaven.  This series about adult women looking for love and refusing to settle for anything less in the big, beautiful city of New York was as insightful as it was titillating.  Being a young, single person myself at the time, I drew a lot of inspiration from the character of Carrie Bradhsaw.  I know she’s fictitious and that her entire life is scripted but her pursuit of happiness, whether single or not, helped empower me to find strength as a single person as well.  It’s been six years roughly since the series closed and I’m sad to say, the show that once inspired so many lost single souls to find their way has officially lost its own.

SEX AND THE CITY 2 picks up the lives of Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha (Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis and Kim Cattrall, respectively) two years after Mr. Big (Chris Noth) left Carrie at the alter only to have her channel her inner masochist and marry him anyway.  At the time, the four leading ladies had said that they would not have even considered the first movie unless the story was one that warranted being told.  I guess a “big” wedding is a natural progression of the story but I cannot see what exactly drew them back this time other than continued success in the only characters that have worked for them.  Carrie’s marriage is getting stale; Miranda’s job is stressing her out; Charlotte is having a hard time with motherhood; and Samantha struggles to remain sexual during menopause.  It seems to me that it isn’t her marriage going stale that Carrie should be worried about.

Writer/Director, Michael Patrick King directed some of the best episodes of the series but he needs the restrictions of television structure to control himself.  The first film ran way too long and this one is no different.  At a two and a half hour run time, even King knows that his old married people troubles are incredibly dull so he picks up the foursome and drops them in Abu Dhabi. Here, despite making respectful comments previously about the American economy, the ladies are immersed in extravagance.  They each have their own car, their own butler and three separate costume changes for one simple lunch in the desert.  Carrie runs into former lover, Aidan (John Corbett), in a market randomly (that may be the most understated usage of the word, “randomly” ever), and it isn’t long before she resorts back to being a 12-year-old.  Story, or at least a remotely believable one, is no longer a priority for King, it would seem. 

SEX AND THE CITY 2 is like getting together with friends you haven’t seen in a long time to catch up over brunch.  Sure, you’re happy to see them and sure you laugh some but when you leave, you know that your lives have grown apart and there is a reason you don’t see each other that often anymore.  I am still single, unlike three of the four characters in this film.  When I read on the screen that Carrie’s latest book was dedicated to all the former single girls out there, I couldn’t help but wonder if the show that once played like an anthem for modern singles everywhere had turned on its own and was now shunning those who hadn’t been lucky enough to fall in love.  What once made me feel like being single meant a world of possibility was now reminding me that time was running out.  And unfortunately, I had just wasted two and half hours of that time on this movie.

PS. Ladies, do not bring your men to see this movie.  You might have gotten away with it last time; this time, they may break up with you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Best of Black Sheep: SEX AND THE CITY

Written and Directed by Michael Patrick King
Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristen Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Chris Noth

Carrie Bradshaw: You know that this is a fairy tale, right sweetheart? Things don’t always work out like this in real life.

It’s important to state right away that I am a devout fan of the “Sex and the City” television series. I have seen the episodes countless times and they still tickle me almost as often as they touch me. Clearly, what you’re going to get out of the SEX AND THE CITY movie depends on what you’re going in with. For anyone who cares as much as I did, and there are more than enough in my boat to sink it, these girls have been sorely missed. It has been four years since the boy who called love, Mr. Big (Chris Noth) found a crumbling Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) in Paris and told her finally that she was the one. Subsequently, it has been just as much time since Carrie foolishly believed him capable of feeling such things and forewent all her single sensibility for a crapshoot she called love. (It figures the one part of the series I would not like would be its conclusion). Who cares though? I still want more. When the lights went down and the sounds of that familiar theme began to rise (albeit just as a sample in some overwrought Fergie song), my romantic heart sped up just a little and an inevitable smile took over my face. But as the credits gave way to a recap of the characters’ arcs whittled down to their barest bones, I couldn’t help but wonder, who does director, Michael Patrick King think is seeing this movie that doesn’t already know all of this as well as the fit of their favorite shoes?

If you were not a fan of the series, this film will do nothing for you but remind you why. If you were a fan, you may feel some varying degree of disappointment but you’ll still likely see it and love it more than once. How could you not? I was mildly disappointed and I still cried at least three times. I missed these girls. They kept me company on so many restless nights. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) taught me how to let go of life long enough to let love in. Charlotte (Kristen Davis) taught me that you might not recognize love when it finally comes to you. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) taught me that old habits eventually need to be left behind if your life is ever to become what it could. And Carrie … oh, Carrie. Carrie taught me about the constant struggle to find happiness in yourself and your own life regardless of whether you’re fortunate enough to be sharing that with another person. So often did her poetic musings give me calm and resolve that the show became a necessary fix whenever I lost hope that love still knew where to find me.

Though the ladies may mean different things to different people, the need for the SEX AND THE CITY movie is palpable within its devoted fan base. The movie itself however creates none of its own urgency and does little to justify its own existence. Yes, I wanted the girls back but it would have been nice if they came back for a reason. Without divulging too much (as I believe the fate for spoiling this film is castration), the good times pick up again four years after we last left the streets of New York City. Miranda’s busy married life with Steve (David Eigenberg) has gotten stagnant; Charlotte lives in bliss with her husband Harry (Evan Handler) and their adopted girl, Lily; Samantha has made a life of monogamy and management with her young stud, Smith (Jason Lewis)in Los Angeles; and Carrie has somehow managed to domesticate Mr. Big, now known as John James Preston. It would even seem that they are headed toward wedded bliss. The big day comes though with expected big disasters and Carrie gets exactly what she should have seen coming all along.

As I was never happy that the quintessential single girl settled for a man who hurt her repeatedly and consistently, it was hard to feel satisfied watching her make the same mistakes on the big screen. On such a grand stage, I wanted to see Carrie blossom into the true state of confidence and individuality that her character was destined to, if only just to remind myself that I have that same capacity. Instead, her small screen magnificence only half fills the new digs and left me feeling rushed and unfinished instead of post-orgasm elation. And with the last round of cosmos now behind us, I got my much needed fix but I can’t tell whether SEX AND THE CITY (the movie) will keep the love flowing far into the future or finally put "Sex and the City" (the phenomenon) to rest.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Black Sheep @ Inside Out 2010

It is a beautiful day out there, Toronto!  If there is one thing you need to do today, it is to get outside.  And while you're out there, why don't you head on over to the lovely Isabel Bader Theatre to get yourself into the RUSH line for Inside Out's centrepiece gala presentation of Jvier Fuentes-Leon's CONTRACORRIENTE (UNDERTOW).  The film is completely sold out but fortunately I was able to catch this tender film at home thanks to a screener the festival organizers provided.  I sat down to watch it yesterday and had to share what a special film it is with you in hopes that you can score yourself tickets to the screening tonight at 9:30 PM.

Fresh from its win for the dramatic world cinema audience award at the 2010 Sundance film festival, UNDERTOW makes its Canadian premiere as part of the Inside Out LGBT film festival.  Strikingly shot, this is the story of Miguel and Santiago (Christian Mercado and Manolo Cardona), two lovers in a tiny Peruvian village.  Homosexuality is not discussed here unless through biting gossip and it is most certainly no practiced.  Miguel knows Santiago from his childhood and he is now married and expecting his first child shortly.  That doesn't stop Miguel from falling completely in love with Santiago.  While he most certainly falls, he is not capable of admitting it to himself or standing up for what he values.  Through tragedy though, life forces Miguel to take a long hard look at who he really is and what he is truly afraid of.

UNDERTOW is unexpected and sensual - although I must complain about the people who threw this screener together ... did you really need to have your watermark come up during both beach sex scenes?!  C'mon!  Give a boy a break here!  Anyway, it is well worth waiting in line to see and a great film for Inside Out to showcase as its centerpiece.

For more information on Inside Out 2010, just click here.

Black Sheep's Blu-Tuesday

This week's new releases are a delicious bunch, stuff you can really sink your teeth into.  And I do mean your teeth.  Specifically, I mean yours and not my teeth as I already sunk mine into the big release this week once before and I think I may have chipped a tooth.  It was definitely way too hard to swallow for me, but you all love it.  I don't see why you do but you do.  I am speaking of course of ...

I know you are probably expecting me to tell you what lies in store for Sookie and friends in the second season of the crazy cult hit, TRUE BLOOD but the truth of it is, I have no idea and I just don't care.  I watched Sookie go from a brave and interesting character at the beginning of the first season to a complete joke like everyone else on this show by the end of it and subsequently, I could care less what comes of her or of creepy, unattractive vamp boyfriend, Bill.  I want to see this season about as much as I want to drink the bottle of TruBlood I have in the fridge.  I got it at a promotional event and I can only imagine that it must be pure syrop sickness.  Still, it can't be any worse than the show itself.  I know you guys are fans though so enjoy!  I will be over here, watching another cult favorite instead ...

Originally conceived as an online project, DR. HORRIBLE'S SING-ALONG BLOG has become an underground musical sensation.  It has been available on DVD for some time now but today it makes its BD debut.  There isn't anything new on the BD but if you have never heard of this three act musical before, just pick it up.  Directed by the adored Joss Whedon, and starring Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible and Nathan Filion as Captain Hammer, this farce is far too savvy to miss.  The songs, written by Whedon and his brother, Jed, are complicated constructions but also hilarious and infectious.  Good vs. Evil has never sounded so great and also never been this gray for that matter.  BD extras include behind the scenes footage, commentary and a full length musical commentary, which features all new songs.  Give it a try!

This little seen film is a haunting tale of one man and his boy struggling to survive after the apocalypse.  Sure, we've seen a lot of post-apocalyptic films these days.  Everywhere you look, the sky is falling.  The sky has never looked so many shades of dust and grey though as it does in this John Hillcoat picture.  Viggo Mortensen is the man in this movie (that is actually his character's name - its a "this could happen to anyone" thing).  His performance is haunting, heavy and was sorely overlooked during awards season.  Whereas most end-of-the-world movies heighten the sense of urgency and danger by having characters in perilous nature situations, THE ROAD allows for basic human needs to demonstrate the depravity of mankind.  It is certainly not an easy film to enjoy but definitely easy to appreciate.

ALSO NEW THIS WEEK:The supposedly gorgeous, Channing Tatum, goes to war and gets by with letters from his girl at home, the supposedly popular, Amanda Seyfried, in DEAR JOHN.  If you're looking for something more substantial, you could rent pretty much anything but more specifically, look for classics, SPARTACUS and STAGECOACH, to make their way to BD for the first time.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Black Sheep @ The Box Office

When is $71.25 million not worth shaking a big, green stick at?  When the fourth Shrek installment makes more than $50 million less than the previous installment, that's when.  Studio expectations were already very conservative, expecting SHREK FOREVER AFTER to pull in approximately $100 million, $20 million less than the record SHREK THE THIRD holds for the highest animated opening weekend in history.  I'm certain that this last Shrek tale will earn back its budget globally but it seems that Dreamworks is getting out of the Shrek business just in time.  The green has been made.

Still, it could be worse ... much worse.  You could be MACGRUBER.  This "SNL" skit inspired film inspired very, very little interest at the box office this  week.  It's a shame really as it was pretty funny but people assume the worst when it comes to these kinds of films.  With a per screen average of $1.6K, MACGRUBER may go on to make back its relatively small $10 million budget.  At least things didn't go the route of IT'S PAT!  That "SNL" film pulled in $60K in its entire run.

Sneaking into the Top 10 at number 10 is the multilingual film, KITES, in which a mortally wounded man left for dead in the desert keeps himself alive by focusing on winning back the love of his life.  Filmmaker, Brett Rattner, threw his name behind the film to get more people to see it and they did, with a decent per screen average of just under $5K.

NEXT WEEK: There will be no box office review next week as I will be in Montreal for the weekend but there will still be movies coming out.  Opening to early previews on Wednesday and officially on Thursday is the hotly anticipated SEX AND THE CITY 2.  I am very curious to see if the girls can pull it off a second time on 3400 screens.  I am also very curious to see for how much of PRINCE OF PERSIA: SANDS OF TIME Jake Gyllenhaal is shirtless.  The video game inspired film opens on 3500 screens on Friday.  Art house films include MICMACS from the director of AMELIE, festival hit, AGORA, with Rachel Weisz and a re-issue of one of my favorite films, Jean-Luc Godard's A BOUT DE SOUFFLE (BREATHLESS).

Source: Box Office Mojo

Friday, May 21, 2010


Written by Will Forte, John Soloman and Jorma Taccone
Directed by Jorma Taccone
Starring Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Philippe and Val Kilmer

MacGruber: There's a big difference between winging it and seeing what happens.

On “Saturday Night Live”, MACGRUBER, a throwback to the 1980’s television series, “MacGyver”, is played up every now and then as a skit where a hapless dope (played happily by Will Forte) has to diffuse some bomb in some dire scenario at the last second.  Of course, he never succeeds and is constantly blowing himself up but he still comes back kicking even harder the next time around.  Now that MACGRUBER is hitting the silver screen, he goes very big and I see no reason why he should have to go home again to that tiny little set.

Under the direction of “Saturday Night Live” regular director, Jorma Taccone, “MacGruber” is a film that is serious in its conviction to the complete buffoonery of its title character but not at all serious about anything else.  There is nothing believable about a failed explosives expert who hasn’t progressed in the least since the 80’s  but by taking his joke of a life seriously, MACGRUBER becomes real.  More importantly, MACGRUBER is really funny.  Forte is unflinching as MacGruber and that can’t be easy to do when you have to strut like a chicken with a piece of celery sticking out of your butt.  Honestly, doesn’t that one sentence alone make you want to run out and see this movie already?  What if told you Val Kilmer plays MacGruber’s arch nemesis, Dieter Von Cunth? It’s completely asinine, yes, but that’s what makes it funny.  Still not good enough?  Kristen Wiig!!  C'mon!

How long has it been since we last saw a “Saturday Night Live” inspired film that was actually watchable, let alone funny?  Like most "SNL" films, you would think MACGRUBER would blow up in its own face.   Just like the character himself though, MACGRUBER the movie has shown up at the last possible second to save the “SNL” films from oblivion and this time, he manages to make it out before the bomb blows everything in sight.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Black Sheep previews Inside Out 2010

The first time I ever came to Toronto was to attend INSIDE OUT, Toronto's LGBT film and video festival.  It was about ten years ago so the festival was half as old as it is now.  And to be fair, INSIDE OUT was not my original reason for visiting Toronto for the first time.  No, that would have to be because I had tickets to see Mariah Carey's "One Night Only - Rainbow Tour" at the Air Canada Centre.  If this were ten years ago, this would make me about 23.  I was a Mariah fan for ten years before that and had never had the chance to see her in concert.  Unfortunately, diva ate some bad oysters a few days before the show and had to reschedule it for the one night all month that I could not go.  I would be lying if I said I did not cry at home that night like a teenage girl.  Anyhow, I couldn't get the deposit back on my bed and breakfast reservation so I switched the dates and decided to come in for INSIDE OUT instead.

As I eluded to earlier, INSIDE OUT turns 20 this year!  To celebrate, they are bringing back some past favorites as well as a slew of new pictures that will certainly honour this benchmark as it deserves.  The opening night gala is this evening actually.  By the time you read this, it will likely have already finished but don't worry; it was sold out anyway.  It isn't surprising considering the opening film is the first narrative work by Academy Award winning documentary filmmakers, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (THE CELLULOID CLOSET, PARAGRAPH 175, THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK).  Their first foray into fiction filmmaking is called, HOWL, and centers on poet, Allan Ginsberg and his poem, "Howl".  Ginsberg is played by James Franco and HOWL will be released later this year by the good people at Mongrel Media.  On a side note, THE CELLULOID CLOSET, a brilliant exploration of the history of gay cinema, is being screened on Saturday at Buddies at 3:00 for donations.  The directors will be present at both screenings.

First run features that I am most looking forward to include I AM LOVE, UNDERTOW and GOING SOUTH.  I AM LOVE is a critical darling that has played intensely to festival audiences the world over already.  The Italian film stars Tilda Swinton as a Milanese aristocrat and from the look of the trailer, it is going to be a gorgeous effort from budding filmmaker, Luca Guadagnino.  UNDERTOW is the festival's centrepiece gala presentation.  From director Javier Fuentes-Leon, this Spanish language film tells the story of a hidden affair between two men in a Peruvian village.  GOING UNDER doesn't sound that different than Sebastien Lifshitz's previous masterpiece, COME UNDONE, but if it is anywhere near as good as that French film, I will be a very happy man.  If it is anywhere near as hot, I will be even happier.

Other classic films being screened at the festival include the 1958 German groundbreaker, MADCHEN IN UNIFORM, the Quebec classic, LILLIES and a restored print of the 1986 film, PARTING GLANCES will screen on the eve of its 25th anniversary at the Bloor Cinema.

Other festival highlights include Hot Docs leftover, JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK, TIFF leftover, LE REFUGE, from French director, Francois Ozon,  another Hot Doc film. MARK, about s local activist and how he changed lives with his beautiful spirit and PRIMA DONNA: THE STORY OF RUFUS WAINWRIGHT'S DEBUT OPERA (pretty self explanatory).

INSIDE OUT runs from May 20 to May 30 at a variety of different screening venues in Toronto.  For more information and for tickets, please click the following link: INSIDE OUT

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Written by Jan Sardi
Directed by Bruce Beresford
Starring Chi Cao, Bruce Greenwood, Kyle MacLachlan and Amanda Schull

Li Cunxin: When I dance, I dance for them.
In 1972, in the Shandong province in the People’s Republic of China, a young boy of no more than eleven years old, was chosen. Exactly what he was chosen for was not made so clear at that point. There is no way that a young Li Cunxin could know at that point, when he was separated from his family to go to the Beijing Dance Academy simply because he was technically limber enough to become a potential ballet dancer, that he would go on to cause an international scandal that would in turn make him MAO’S LAST DANCER.

Director Bruce Beresford tells the true story of how Li (played in the film as an adult by the skilled Chi Cao, who incidentally also trained at the same academy in Beijing) came to spend a summer in Houston, Texas on an exchange program and how that experience subsequently made it impossible for him to return to Communist China afterward. While in America, Li has extreme culture clash at first, shocked when his guardian, Ben Stevenson (played by Bruce Greenwood, who could not be any lighter in his loafers if he tried) drops hundreds of dollars in a day of shopping when his parents had never seen that much money in their lifetime. The shock wears off though and Li comes to see that democracy might actually make him a freer dancer as well.

Beresford bounces back and forth between Li’s back story and his time in Houston in the late 1970’s. The contrasting experiences are drastic and it makes it a little too easy to side with the American idealism that supposedly promotes freedom of expression instead of the strict home Li came from. Still, the story is a true one and a difficult one at that, with plenty of emotional payoff in the end. What makes MAO’S LAST DANCER memorable though, aside from its truths and struggles, is all the beautiful dancing in between. We may not be watching Li himself dance on screen but we do get to see exactly what he was fighting for.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Black Sheep's Blu-Tuesday

A couple of weeks back, I focused on the new BD book release of DOCTOR ZHIVAGO.  I did not get my screener copy on time to review it but I received it shortly afterward.  I wasn't having the greatest of days and a three-hour plus film seemed like the perfect way to get lose for an extended period of time.  Watching the classic made me realize just how much I love grand, epic romances, especially if the love meets a tragic end.  Honestly though, when does the love survive in these scenarios anyway?  Julie Christie is just as gorgeous in this movie as the breathtaking scenery.  If you have not had the chance to see DOCTOR ZHIVAGO and are looking for a good, long trip down Film History Lane, pick this one up.

Moving on to the week at hand ...


It's a good thing this Garry Marshall crammed almost every likable star in Hollywood into this two hour tribute to a day that ordinarily annoys me.  I can't say the filmic ode annoyed me any less but there were a few moments that made it passable.  Highlights include Anne Hathaway as a girl in a fresh and potentially satisfying relationship that has to hide her moonlighting job as a phone sex operator; Jennifer Garner and Ashton Kutcher are actually pretty adorable together as friends who could be more; and this one scene between Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo caught me completely off guard and had me weeping.  Essentially, I learned that to love someone means loving them for the parts that are hard to love just as much as the parts that are easy.  Mind you, I'm not sure how much advice about love I should be taking from Hollywood.


If it weren't for the two unexpected Oscar nominations this Oren Moverman film earned this year, this quiet commentary about casualties of war may have fallen entirely into obscurity.  Instead, after picking up a Best Supporting Actor nod for Woody Harrelson and a screenplay nomination, it managed to pull in a little over $6 million at the box office.  It doesn't sound like much but given how limited it played and how bleak the subject matter is, it's not bad at all.  Harrelson's nod is well deserved and in any other year, Ben Foster would have joined him amongst the nominees.  Foster is usually a little over the top but his restraint here offers a perspective that is cutting and moving.  The entire case delivers actually with Samantha Morton rounding out the team with another incredible performance as the widow of a fallen soldier.  For the full length Black Sheep theatrical review, just click this link.


Two very talented actors, Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, give great performances in this Clint Eastwood picture but once again, Eastwood himself is his own film's worst enemy.  Honestly, this historical account of how the South African soccer team helped its country unify during a controversial period that found Nelson Mandela as its first black leader, opens with Mandela being driven down a road in a cavalcade with black soccer players on one side of the road and white ones on the other side.  Could this new leader divide the gap between these races?  Eastwood is a genius ... at being ridiculously obvious in his intentions, that is.  He is almost incapable of subtlety and he looms over all his projects with an air of enlightenment when all it really is ignorance for just how delicate these situations really are.  It isn't his worst picture but you can miss it and not be any worse for it.


Harrison Ford and Brandan Fraser try to collectively cure some incurable disease in what looks like an overglorified made for television movie called EXTREME MEASURES.  Criterion goes on WALKABOUT with the 1971 Nicolas Roeg film.  Michael Winterbottom makes what arguably could be classified as art house pornography with 9 SONGS.  And Al Pacino favorite, CARLITO'S WAY makes its way to BD for the first time.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Black Sheep @ The Box Office

As expected, IRON MAN 2 had no trouble hovering over its throne at the top of the box office, presiding with a a little more than $15 million than its closest competitor, ROBIN HOOD.  The sequel is outpacing the original by about $45 million but it should be noted that it's 58% drop is about 10% higher than the first installment.  It debuted higher so a steeper drop is to be expected but it also falls in line with the slight sense of disappointment with the sequel.

Meanwhile, ROBIN HOOD performed solidly if not spectacularly.  It would have truly been impressive if it had come from behind to take the weekend but that wasn't likely.  Reviews have been mixed in general while I enjoyed it more than I expected to.  The lack of resounding support though means older crowds might pass up on the crowds and wait for something supposedly stellar.

Proving that overcrowding does not necessarily mean that everyone has to go home disappointed, LETTERS TO JULIET and JUST WRIGHT, both female skewed pics, managed to similar per screen averages.  That said, neither of those averages were over $5K so while the results may have been split, they were still disappointing.

NEXT WEEK: What promises to be the final chapter in the Shrek saga, SHREK FOREVER AFTER will trounce onto 3800 screens.  As I have not seen a Shrek film since the first, I will be avoiding this one as well and checking out the "Saturday Night Live" skit comedy, MACGRUBER, instead, when it appears on 2400 screens.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Written and Directed by Jacob Tierney
Starring Jay Baruchel, Emily Hampshire, Ricky Mabe, Colm Feore and Saul Rubinek

Anne Bronstein: Leon! Supper!
Leon Bronstein: One minute!
Anne Bronstein: You can finish your little revolution after dinner.

If you met a teenager who genuinely believed that he was the reincarnation of the Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist theorist, Leon Trotsky, what do you think you would do with him? Do you think that you would applaud his obvious delusions and allow him to wander around through life sharing his beliefs with everyone he meets? Or would you simply sit him down and set him straight about how the world really works? And if that didn’t work, you could always have him committed, I suppose. If you’re Montreal writer/director, Jacob Tierney though, you would take this guy and throw him up on the big screen for everyone to learn from and you would call it THE TROTSKY.

Montreal actor, Jay Baruchel, plays young Leon Bronstein, the potentially disturbed character I was just referring to, and Tierney should forever be in his debt for this. Tierney’s script is certainly funny but the subject matter itself has such great potential to be entirely missed by most audiences. It may be a pseudo-intellectual teen comedy but I would wager that a fair amount of adults are not that well-versed in Russian politics, let alone the adolescent demographic THE TROTSKY is partly aimed at. Baruchel sells it hard though and with so much conviction and charisma that you can’t help but want to see just how far he will take his crusade to vanquish fascism at the public school he just started attending. His passion for the part and ability to balance the character’s brilliance and insecurity simultaneously bridges the gap between the audience and their potential lack of knowledge on the prevailing subject at hand.

While watching THE TROTSKY, I never really understood why anyone allowed this kid to get away with half of what he was trying to pull off. I also never grasped why no one made the connection between Leon’s antics and his obvious issues with his father (Saul Rubinek). Granted, if anyone did actually call Leon out on his issues, then we would not have been taken down Tierney’s often hilarious fantasy. And, perhaps more importantly, I would still know absolutely nothing about Leon Trotsky.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Written by Brian Helgeland
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, Max Von Sydow and William Hurt

Godfrey (on Nottingham): I’ll make this place famous.

I’ve seen a number of Robin Hood movies.  Who hasn’t?  I haven’t seen them all and I’m sure some people out there have, but even those people haven’t seen Robin Hood in Ridley Scott’s bluish hue before.  Originally titled, “Nottingham” (which I actually prefer), ROBIN HOOD tells us the tale of how this famous outlaw actually came to be that outlaw.  It’s Robin Hood, the prequel, which would explain why it often feels like you’re watching a film franchise being set up instead of the historical account Scott seems so determined to present.

With a reasonable amount of historical inaccuracies (aside from Robin Hood not having actually existed, that is), writer, Brian Helgeland (who has floored me once with the Oscar-winning, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL but who has mostly made me want to vomit with scripts like GREEN ZONE and MYSTIC RIVER) takes us back, way back, to when Robin Hood was still Robin Longstride.  Longstride used to fight alongside King Richard the Lionheart against Norman invaders at the turn of the 12th century.  That is, he did until the king was killed and he saw the opportunity to abandon the army for a life of freedom.  He took with him a few other men, all with appropriately varied degrees of merriness, and they set off to disappear.  They ended up becoming more visible than they ever desired when they came across a dying group of knights whose duty it was to return the fallen king’s crown to his queen.  This is where Longstride adopted the name most would know him as officially, Robert Loxley.

As transparent as Helgeland’s intentions to enlighten us about invented Robin Hood’s past are, Scott’s skillful direction is focused and fiercely barrels through the near two and half hour runtime.  He wants to plant Robin Hood’s roots firmly in the ground and proceed from there, taking an iconic figure and making him more human.  Albeit an odd choice to cast a 46-year-old actor to play a younger Robin Hood, Russell Crowe plays him with both restraint and confidence.  His Hood is one that fends for himself whenever possible but that respects the hardships of the greater population.  In that regard, he is often painted as somewhat saintly but that is in line with what we know of him anyway.  And with that classic Crowe ruggedness, this Hood is essentially a sexy bleeding heart.  It’s no wonder then that Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett) falls for him when they meet. 

Scott’s ROBIN HOOD is a lesson in history with a somewhat misplaced agenda to turn one of the most famous heroes of the people into Hollywood hero for the masses.  The talent caliber spread amongst the director and the actors easily boosts the film to a level of strength and stature fitting to the size of the subject.  The constant attempts to champion the origins of the lore undermine the pedigree little by little.  What we’re left with is a legend that feels more manufactured than legendary.