Wednesday, 30 November 2011

One Day (2011) DVD Review

DVD Review of the book to film adaptation One Day starring Anne Hathaway & Jim Sturgess, directed by Lone Scherfig, adapted for the screen by author David Nicholls

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Image: Courtesy of Alliance Films - Anne Hathaway (left) and Jim Sturgess (right) star in One Day, an Alliance Films release. Photo Credit Giles Keyte
Legal Line © 2011 Focus Features LLC and Random House, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively in Canada by Alliance Films. All Rights Reserved.

Dir: Lone Scherfig (An Education)
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Rafe Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Ken Stott, Romola Garai
USA, 2011

Reason to see: It's part of the 2011 Book to Film Club and on my list of Most Anticipated Films of 2011 (mid-year addition)

I was really excited to watch One Day. I loved the book, which we read in May for the Book to Film Club and book selection especially it's unusually narrative structure of touching base with out two protagonists Emma & Dexter on the same day year after year. I thought the casting for them was perfect with Anne Hathaway (Devil Wears Prada, Rachel Getting Married) as the bookish Emma and Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe, Heartless) as the flash hipster Dexter, and the both completely embody their characters which made it easy for me to love the film. And I really loved the film. I LOVED it. I love how it incorporated the unusually narrative structure and stayed very true to the book (I actually can't think of any deviation), which I can only imagine would be due to the writer David Nicholls also penning the screenplay.

I love how the film shows a lot of the everyday lives of Dex & Em, and how it can vary on good days to bad day because it's always on the same day of the year and you just don't know how it will turn out. How Emma can be down on herself and Dexter can be too high on himself and somehow they barrage each other to meet in the middle. It's a slice after slice after slice of their lives, each of them building, growing and toppling in different directions but still always being themselves, for better or for worse. It also manages to accomplish feeling of the depth you get from slow burn building of the stories, but it in fact the film goes by rather quickly. The result is a compromise of knowing rather than seeing the depth of the friendship between Dexter and Emma grow over time, which is my only criticisms of the film. And that's barely a criticism of the film because I didn't actually need it, but I did want it. I always believed the stage and strength or fragility between them, no matter when in time it was. I just wanted to see it more of them.

One personal treat of the film is the art director, costuming and hair. I might appreciate this more than other films as it's officially the first 'period piece' that I've lived through all the stages and I remember all the clothes, hair, glasses and heck even lighting trends of the time and they are all spot on. That gave the film something a little extra special because I could remember when I would have wore that dress or when everyone went for a certain style or when something was new, or when something had started to fade away. The film is very much about the long-term and how relationships can change and grow over time as well as how some things never change no matter how hard you try (or pretend to try).

But it's really about the characters of Em & Dex, and Anne Hathaway & Jim Sturgess are brilliant here, truly making the film. I think I'm slightly influenced as I heard the casting before reading it or just after I started and I could see them as the characters - especially Jim Sturgess as Dex. And I don't what they did to make him look different in the earlier years, but I didn't even really recognize him and somehow that was perfect too. Then all of a sudden it was like there! There he is! Really bizarre. The supporting I didn't know about going in and ended up being such a treat, Patricia Clarkson & Ken Stott as Dexter's parents gave a lovely depth to his character which can all to easily be brushed off as unlikable. But the biggest surprize was Rafe Spall as Ian, who is the funniest non-funny guy I've ever seen. Brilliant. So brilliant.

If you read and enjoyed the book I'd highly recommend seeing the film, and if you haven't I would recommend checking out the book first. For people that haven't read the book, it’s easy to misinterpret it as quirky cute or straight up romance but it's truly about life, love and real relationships. It's neither over the top whimsy nor gritty and dark, but fits solidly and perfectly as genuine and real. I loved it.

DVD Extras:
  • Feature Commentary with director Lone Scherfig chatting about everything from the emotional resonance of the story and film, how she read the script before the book (wow!), how some of the dialogue is straight from the book, changes of the script along the way, the connection between the film and the book including discussing changes, shots and themes and items that are repeated or follow the characters throughout the, her draw to the story and the character of Emma and her insecurity, Dexter's character and when it's a challenge for the audience to sympatize with him or when you feel on his side, the continual culture clash between their two worlds, her philosophy on casting, the choice not to go with overly well known music for the time periods, notations of when there were deleted scenes or different/longer shots than what ended up in the film right down to the type face and the score and how because of all the time periods it's like 23 little films put together.
  • Deleted Scenes (5 scenes, 5 minutes) combination of deleted scenes and extended scenes including more on 'the rules' on holiday, the seriousness of Dex's lifestyle, sympathy to Em's and great early scene of Dexter & Emma together.
  • Em and Dex, Through the Years (3 minutes) film clips and interviews with producer Nina Jacobson, director Lone Scherfig, book author/screenwriter David Nicholls, actors Anne Hathaway & Jim Sturgess on the concept and the characters of Dexter and Emma and their relationship and the emotional impact of the story and how invested you become in the characters and the casting of Dexter & Emma.
  • Anne Hathaway: Bringing Emma to Life (2 minutes) film clips and interviews with director Lone Scherfig, book author/screenwriter David Nicholls, producer Nina Jacobson, actors Anne Hathaway & Jim Sturgess on the character of Emma, including connecting to the character and Anne Hathaway portraying the roles (some crossover footage from Em and Dex, Through the Years)
  • The Look of One Day (5 minutes) 3 Featurettes including Making a 20 Year Love Story, Creating Emma with Anne and Dexter's Transformation. Includes film clips and interviews with director Lone Scherfig, actors Anne Hathaway & Jim Sturgess, make-up designer Ivana Primorac, costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux on on the challenge of spanning 20 years and the approach and it's equated to how how it's like making 15 short films and having a different look for every scene, the creation of the feeling of being on a journey with the characters and how it's a subtle transformation over the years plus funny things like challenge of making Anne Hathaway look un-fashionable and Jim Sturgess saying he can tell the time and emotional place of Dexter by his hair. Brief, but interesting feature.
One Day (2011) is available on DVD as of November 29, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I'll own it
I'd highly recommend it to fans of the book, relationship dramas and dramas

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011
Originally reviewed for Theatrical Release - August 23, 2011

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Anne Hathaway (left) and Jim Sturgess (right) star in One Day, an Alliance Films release. Photo Credit Giles Keyte

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Jim Sturgess (left) and Anne Hathaway (right) star in One Day, an Alliance Films release. Photo Credit Giles Keyte

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Jim Sturgess (left) and Anne Hathaway (right) star as Dexter and Emma in the romance ONE DAY, an Alliance Films' release directed by Lone Scherfig. Photo credit Giles Keyte

Conan the Barbarian (2011) DVD Review

DVD review of the 2011 film Conan the Barbarian starring Jasom Momoa
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Image Courtesy of Alliance Films
Legal Line Program Content and Package Artwork: © 2011 Conan Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Package Design and Summary: © MMXI Lions Gate Films Inc. All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively in Canada by Alliance Films. All Rights Reserved.

Dir: Marcus Nispel (Friday the 13th (2009), Pathfinder)
Cast: Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ron Perlman, Nonso Anozie, Leo Howard, Ivana Staneva
USA, 2011

Reason to see: Action epics are a yes for me

Ready to go into the brave the battlefield that births a warrior like no other? Then step into the world of Conan the Barbarian (2011)! I admit I was highly skeptical of a redux/reboot/rehash/renew of Conan, because Conan the Barbarian from the 80's starring Arnold Schwarzenegger is so iconic, much-loved by fans and I was surprized when I revisited it last year, it's actually overall a very good film. But I'm always up for an action flick, especially a sword & sorcery one with lots of fighting and awesome styling and therefore braved this new world with Jason Mamoa as Conan. They go with a very similar tone of character but a different enough origin story to make it interesting. I absolutely adored the set up story for the film and was hugely impressed by Leo Howard a Young Conan, keep an eye on this guy because he is a force to be reckoned with.

The film has interesting mythic elements that add to the sorcery storyline, mostly encapsulated by the fantastic Rose McGowan as Marique (who again had a great young counterpart with Ivana Staneva). I loved the character of Marique, and the styling of her character. Jason Mamoa was pretty intense as Conan and a great fighter, he didn't make me love the character though, who isn't a hero so much but more of a rambunctious vengeful perma-thorn-in-the side feel with an occasional Robin Hood moment, with expected paybacks from some of the more pretty people he saves. I do like that the film managed to balance the harshness with some fun moments, but the heart of it is the truly visualized and stylized world with epic battles throughout.

This year we've had quite a wave of action films with an pretty extreme level of violence, from the over-the-top antics of Hobo with a Shotgun to the sword & sandals epic of Immortals and makes Conan the Barbarian sit with them in good company. I feel like I shouldn't be surprized at the violence level in Conan the Barbarian (2011) looking at director Marcus Nispel past works of Friday the 13th (2009 and Pathfinder (which along with the original Conan was a part of my 2010 Sword & Sandal Marathon!), and although I didn't mind it here myself, it does make it impossible to widely recommend the film. There is lots of blood, torture, maiming and more which doesn't feel out of place in it of itself but there is a certain revelling in the enjoyment of the violence that put me off a little. It does add a bit of fun that balances the seriousness but overall the tone is pretty freaking dark. I'm sure there are fans of the character for which that is exactly what they are looking for and they don't have to look hard because it's in the film from the bitter beginning to the very end. Seeing it on DVD you could feel the moments that were in 3D which was a mild distratction, but not so much that it detracted from the overall enjoyment of the film.

I'm a little conflicted on the female characters though, as they were 2 great female characters but there was also a big dose gratuitous nudity. Not my thing, and I'm sure it balances out. I can't say I'm surprized, but I am a little disappointed even though it's completely true to the Conan world. Overall, I feel a bit conflicted about the film as I thought I wouldn't enjoy it but in fact I did. Is it possible to be disappointed *because* you enjoyed something, as opposed to not? I don't understand it, but I do know it's the truth. If you are looking for bloody mayhem, beautiful battles on real locations and a bucketload of sword work and some sorcery all styled beautifully in authentic costumes with a charismatic cast, then Conan the Barbarian is definitely for you. I had no idea that would mean it would also be for me!

DVD Extras:
  • Audio Commentary with director Marcus Nispel on working with the actors Leo Howard (Young Conan), Ron Perlman, Stephen Lang, Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, including how they got involved and their characters, filming in Bulgaria, on the importance of specific scenes & moments, the master/disciple relationship, movies that influenced him as a director, working on a remake and the challenges & choices made in terms what to include, the character of Conan and the choices made for his physical representation, different permutations of different scenes along the way, the realness of working the chase scenes with the horses and how many of the actors did their own stunts (including Rachel Nichols), the use of magic in the film and sword & sorcery in the film and the mythos, and interesting discussion about Pathfinder and what did and didn't work with that film and also how the character in that film is similar to Conan, working, filming & the process of 3D, the different expectations on tone & style and his vision of the story, character and bringing it all together as well as even talking about the impact of Twitter in relation to the film (wow!)
  • Audio Commentary with actors Jason Momoa & Rose McGowan discussing seeing the film for the first time at the premiere,the 3D, working with the other actors (or being in the same film with) including Ron Perlman, Leo Howard, Stephan Lang, Ivana Staneva, their favourite fight scenes, props & love for the crew including costume designer & make-up artists, creating their characters, working with the horses, challenges and favourite fight sequences and moments, the epic level of the battle scenes, going to Comic-Con, chatting about the order in which they shot, which shots are their stunt doubles, noting the numerous real locations, how fun and brutal things were and how cool it all looks, a previous/alternate ending, and of course a lot about the character of Conan (including pronunciation). They are very entertaining & enjoyable to listen to but it's odd as sometimes differences in noting who did what in terms of stunt, ideas, etc from the directors commentary and also shows the juxtaposition of how there are huge portions of the film that they aren't actually in but they still make it entertaining and they have enlightening commentary and shout outs throughout.
  • The Conan Legacy (18 minutes) film footage, behind the scenes, interviews with writer Sean Hood, writers Joshua Oppenheimer & Thomas Dean Donnelly, Paul Sammon (author of Conan the Phenomenon) Roy Thomas (former writer & editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics), producers Boaz Davidson & Fredrik Malmberg, executive producer Avi Lerner, actor Jason Mamoa (plus audition footage and test footage) & Rachel Nichols, director Marcus Nispel, Craig Morrison (game director and producer of Age of Conan), on their introduction into the Conan world, pulp novels, the character of Conan as originally created by Robert E. Howard and the world and age he created including the re-launching and resurgence of the character including through comics, the initial idea for the film and vision of the film and the many faces and roles of Conan, casting Conan in this film version the choice of going with low fantasy and a hard-R, the 1982 Conan the Barbarian with Arnold Schwarzenegger and other Conan properties throughout the years; plus stills of Robert E. Howard and the pulp novels, concept art & drawings of Conan & the world, comics and visuals from presentation by director Marcus Nispel which are gorgeous.
  • Robert E. Howard - The Man Who Would Be Conan (11 minutes) photos of Robert E. Howard plus interviews including with with Paul Sammon (author of Conan the Phenomenon), Rob Roehm (editor, The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard), Roy Thomas (former writer & editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics), writer Sean Hood discussing the biography and history of of Robert E. Howard from family history, personal life, being a writer, influences & interests, pulp magazines and specifically Weird Tales and the way to incorporate supernatural elements into his adventure stories and touches on character like Soloman Kane, the origins and genesis of the Conan character and the world he created, the attraction of the Conan character,
  • Battle Royale - Engineering the Action (10 minutes) behind the scenes footage, training, visual storyboards, film clips and interviews with director Marcus Nispel, stunt coordinator Noon Orsatti, production designer Chris August, executive producer Avi Lerner, second unit director David Leitch, writer Sean Hood, producers Boaz Davidson & Fredrik Malmberg, actors Jason Mamoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols & Rose McGowan on the real-feel and grittiness of the action, the sword style, the concept behind some of the creatures/fighters in the film, the use of real locations for so many of the settings, creation & execution of horse chase scene including the challenges of and the fact that most of the riding & stunts were done by the actors, the challenge of and the style and strength of Jason Mamoa.
  • Staging the Fights (5 minutes) 5 pre-visualizations created by the stunt team to choreograph the complicated fight scenes here shown, often side by side with the final film sequences and it's pretty freaking amazing to see it go from concept to the slick, final product.
  • Theatrical Trailer

Conan the Barbarian (2011) is available on DVD as of November 22, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it more than I expected
I'll watch it again
I'd recommend it for fans of gore-heavy action flicks & revenge films

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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Jason Momoa stars as Conan in CONAN THE BARBARIAN. Photo credit Simon Varsano

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Tamara (Rachel Nichols) and Conan (Jason Momoa) in CONAN THE BARBARIAN. Photo credit Simon Varsano

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Young Conan (Leo Howard, left) and Corin (Ron Perlman, right) in CONAN THE BARBARIAN. Photo credit Simon Varsano

Immortals

Review of the highly stylized action epic Immortals starring Henry Cavill, Luke Evans and Mickey Rourke

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Dir: Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall)
Cast: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff, Luke Evans, Freida Pinto, Isabel Lucas, Kellan Lutz, John Hurt, Joesph Morgan, Daniel Sharman
USA, 2011

Seen: November 15, 2011 at Scotiabank in 3D

Reason to see: It's on my list of Most Anticipated Films of 2011 (#14)

I was really looking forward to Tarsem's foray into the epic sword & sandal as I love the genre and I enjoyed his previous films The Cell and The Fall; both which had interesting stories and were set highly stylized & adeptly realized environments. Immortals continues the trend of highly stylized and visually stunning films, but I did not connect to the story or characters anywhere near as much as I had hoped. The film follows Theseus (Henry Cavill of 'The Tudors'), whom is an outsider in his home village but maintains strong relationships with both his mother and a wise old man (John Hurt), who trains him in the ways of a warrior. His fighting skills certainly are believable but aren’t appreciated or wanted when the tides turn and the fearsome King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) sets his sites on releases the Titans to create a war among the Gods. Who will stand up for the mortals? Who will they place their faith in? That is a really good question, because it really doesn’t seem to be….Theseus.

That brings us to one key piece missing from Immortals and one thing I often look forward to in a sword & sandals film: a hero. Theseus is many things including a great fighter, a dedicated son, a man who persisted through challenges, extremely fit & capable but he is NOT a hero. They even talk about what a hero is in the film - and he doesn't meet that on any level, especially when it comes to believing people would follow him. It’s a very much fend-for-yourself mentality of individuals which seems completely at odds with the principle of the story trying to rally folks together either through faith, on by fear. Another elements I would have loved to have seen but sadly weren’t used include that the film didn’t have a sense of adventure (travelling vast distances/solving puzzles/looking for treasure), there is no moral question, there are no grey areas; it's just brutality and oppression in contrast with action and beauty.

Now, looking at it from the perspective of action and beauty alone, it does provide both in abundance. Immortals fits snugly in the 18A high-gore, brutal-violence camp that has been growing all year and although the action wasn’t quite my cup of tea (slow-mo, amp’d up, 3D-centric, etc), it was well done and entertaining. There were some great fights and monsterous characters, which brings me to the art direction and styling which I have to commend on all levels. The costumes and characters are fully realized; they are deeply a part of each and every character and often push the envelope to new levels. The art direction and visual stylings they are formidable in both the gruesome and beauty beds, but in particular the costuming & armouring of King Hyperion's army is fantastically hideous. I also was impressed by the performances of Joesph Morgan as Lysander, Luke Evans as Zeus and it was also cool to spot Robert Maillet (Monster Brawl, Sherlock Holmes) as one of the baddies.

I did wish there was more alignment to the things we know the gods as to their fighting styles implemented into the action, but I can see the reasoning behind going with something different. I did love the visual depiction of the Titans, although didn’t love the energy that came with them. And I was really disappointed in Athena's character - for the goddess of war she ended up being a Daddy's girl and that just ain't right.

The easy quip would be to say its style over substance, but it isn’t. The truth is I liked style, but didn’t like the substance which is a strong revenge tale with hints at ideas on the gods, faith, disbelievers, diplomacy and power. Sadly, although it’s gorgeous to see the style of the film I didn’t enjoy spending that much time with characters who aren't interested in helping anyone but themselves.

Shannon's Overall View:
I wanted to enjoyed it
I'd watch it again for the gorgeous art direction
I'd recommend it to fans of action films that are heavy on brutality

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed, Most Anticipated Films of 2011, and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

In Time

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Writer/Dir: Andrew Niccol (Gattaca)
Cast: Justin Timberlake ,Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde, Matt Bomer, Alex Pettyfer, Johnny Galecki, incent Kartheiser
USA, 2011

Seen: November 12, 2011 at AMC

Reason to see: It's science fiction and and I loved Gattaca

In Time is set in a world/time where time acts as currency, and once you hit 25 your body stops physically aging and will keep running indefinitely as long as you have enough time on your biological clock. In this world we follow Will (Justin Timberlake), who does manual labour job, lives with his mother and literally clocks day by day and hopes one day to have more time on his arm (clock) than hours in the day.

It's a great way to understand the pressure of the need to earn to live, but what didn't quite jive is that it was very clear that you need more than the hours of the day on your arm if you are going to get anywhere or do anything, so right there I had a disconnect with not understanding how much time anyone would need to last a day and that was an early warning bell for more confusing and issues. It's so sad because the film has such a great premise, I was intrigued since the first trailer as it's an interesting analogy to wealth having it literally wired to life and a fascinating way to show the different in economical levels, how society works (or doesn't), priorities, pressures, subcultures and the like. Although the film does actually touch on most of those interesting ideas, it falls into so many sand traps along the way including ironically pacing. There are moments there are very specifically noted to take a lot of time in one instance, and then are show very quickly later and that just made me not believe in the film at all. You have to follow the rules you set up, especially if they are intrinsic to the basic (and unique) concept of the story, otherwise you are going to lose people.

I did like Justin Timberlake as Will, he was very charismatic & believable in the different hats he wears for the role from being a concerned son, to a bit of a bruiser or a charmer (or a bit of both). I've been wondering how he'd fair as a leading man since The Social Network and I think we will see a lot of him in the future, although I had lots of issues with the film I didn't have any issues with him. Justin Timberlake was great in the action sequences, had a good emotional range and was charismatic throughout. Which is impressive in a film that also stars Cillian Murphy who is outrageously charismatic & talented and was a highlight here as the timekeeper/law enforcer who had been around since things were different which was one of the other things I wish they had played with in the film; if people could literally be timeless, how would that effect trends or eras or the passage of time? Everything felt so 'now', which didn't seem to fully explore the concept at all. I also kept wondering why they didn't go into different directions or explore more ideas. It really focused on economy and wealth; aligning the poor to the dregs of the world and the rich to elites and never the two to meet; and there was certainly an uncomfortable idea of that having more time was 'dangerous' to all involved. Great for drama, but disturbing as a concept.

It would be easy to harp on things little and big like not everyone looked 25, the sad uncaring and selfish nature of most of the people in the world, the glaring oddity that the time exchanges aren't tracked but for me the big question was why would this every happen? What's the advantage and how was it implemented? Does no one try and undermine the system? How much time do you need to survive a day, month, year; or send your kids to school (if there is school?), or get training, buy a magazine or take a trip? No idea. It all felt either easy or too hard. There was no in between.

I really wanted to like In Time, but it was so sad to see it not fully explore a fascinating idea and to be honest the fact that it had pacing issue made me literally mad. That was a deal breaker. I did enjoy the performances of Justin Timberlake, Cillian Murphy & …. As the big rich bad, but I shook my head at the mangling of such an interesting idea to a mostly messy film.

Shannon's Overall View:
I didn't love it
I'd would watch it again
It's a challenge to recommend, I think sci-fi fans will be disappointed and they are the target audience

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (DVD Review)

DVD review of the bombastic & hilarious horror comedy Tucker & Dale vs. Evil starring Tyler Labine & Alan Tudyk
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Image: Courtesy of Alliance Films
Legal Line (C) 2010 T&D Productions Limited. All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively in Canada by Alliance Films. All Rights Reserved.

Dir: Eli Craig - feature film directorial debut
Cast: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss
USA/Canada, 2011

Reason to see: Huge positive buzz from my genre buddy friends

Every once in a while a film rides a wave of enthusiasm from genre fans and I have a conflicting set of emotions going in being both excited to finally get to see a film that has great buzz but also a moment hesitation of hoping it's as good as everyone says. That's exactly the energy I felt behind going into watching Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, and honestly I was hoping it would be as good as everyone says used to be just because not only did I wanted to see a good film but also I hate dealing with the backlash if I have a different point of view. Good thing that with Tucker & Dale vs. Evil I won't have to deal with that as it's a hilarious and wonderful film. This is exactly the kind of in-your-face with sugar on top nod to genre that I love, it plays with the slasher film genre of the often used story of bunch'o'college kids go to woods/cabin/swamp/outdoors-wherever and then craziness ensues (see Friday the 13th (2009), Hatchet II, Creature, and so many more). And wow, this has craziness ensuing but it's a whole new deck of cards. I was totally enraptured by this film, it won me over pretty freaking quickly as I would imagine it would for any genre fan. They know all the right beats and all the stereotypes and play with them in such an earnest and heartfelt way.

It's funny, because I often comment that I don't like comedy that much but I almost always love film that parody film genres, especially when there is an enjoyment and understanding of the genre at the heart of it and that certainly is the case with Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. I'm sure it must have looked ludicrous on paper (and from the feature commentary with director/co-writer Eli Craig and actors Tyler Labine & Alan Tudyk confirms this!), but they totally pull it off. Hilarious scenarios, brutal gore but at the heart of it is true & honest friendship and beautiful, lovable characters. I loved Alan Tudyk & Tyler Labine as Tucker & Dale, and was also Jesse Moss as Chad, one of the college kids, I'll be keeping my eye on what he gets up to in the future because he was fantastic here.

All & all it was a hilarious horror/comedy that shakes up and takes on the sub-genre of slasher films and has a lot of heart. And blood.Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is an absolute MUST SEE for genre film fans.

DVD Extras:
  • Feature Commentary with director/co-writer Eli Craig and actors Tyler Labine (Dale) & Alan Tudyk (Tucker) a very enthusiastic & entertaining commentary with a conversational style and a mile-a-minute pace chatting in of the moments in the film from cracking jokes and giving alternate lines for the characters and moments, all over the placer chatting about film influences/references, nods to genre films, the music, when during the film it wins over audiences & when they knew it would work as a film, the effects including noting CGI vs practical effects in the film, drinking game suggestions, hilarious continuity notations and decisions/discussion on what should/shouldn't be on the DVD (hilariously doesn't match up to what is on the extras...) and nepotism shout outs.
  • Featurette: Making of Tucker & Dave vs. Evil (12 minutes) film clips, behind the scenes and interviews with director/co-writer Eli Craig, co-writer Morgan Jurgenson, producer Rosanne Milliken, production designer John Blackie, actors Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden on what the film is about, how the idea & film came together, the hilarity of the premise, the amazing chemistry between actors Tyler Labine & Alan Tudyk, the character of Dale and Tucker, the importance of casting the Allison character, working together and especially working with first time director Eli Craig.
  • Featurette: Tucker & Dale ARE Evil - The College Kids POV (16 minutes) hilarious re-cutting of the film from just the college-kids perspective, full on with creepy sound effects and eerie transitions.
  • Outtakes (7 minutes) lots of great outtakes, mostly with Alan Tudyk & Tyler Labine as Tucker & Date but also some college kid action and ranges the gambit from missed lines, repeat takes, improvs, stunts, effects and more. Tons of fun to watch.
  • Storyboards a slideshow of 97 screens of storyboards for the film
  • HDNet: A Look at Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (4 minutes) film clips,interviews with director/co-writer Eli Craig, co-writer Morgan Jurgensonm actors Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk and Katrina Bowden on the premise of the film. Lots of clips from the film and added quotes from reviews, but all the interviews are from the Featurette: Making of Tucker & Dave vs. Evil.
  • Theatrical Trailer
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is available on DVD as of November 29, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I'll watch it again, repeatedly
I highly recommend it to genre fans

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Sylvian Experiments / Kyôfu (DVD Review)

DVD review of the Japanese supernatural/medical horror film The Sylvian Experiments / Kyôfu

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Image: Courtesy of Alliance Films
Legal Line © 2009 Kyofu Film Partners. All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively in Canada by Alliance Films. All Rights Reserved.

Dir: iroshi Takahashi (Sodom the Killer)
Cast: Mina Fujii, Yuri Nakamura, Nagisa Katahira
Japan, 2010

Reason to see: Japanese Horror is always an enthusiastic Yes!

I was really looking forward to The Sylvian Experiments / Kyôfu as it's been a while since I've dove into the world of Japanese Horror, we had quite a boom of it in the early 2000's although it kept going strong it wasn't that available outside festival and DVD releases so it was exciting to get all worked to get all freaked out!

In the film we follow two young women who are linked in a mystery of experience shrouded in sorrow, and there is an amazing tone of loss that comes through the film that resonates on a strong emotional level even when it doesn't get super specific. I liked the mystery elements and the great way that they tell you just enough to ricochet ideas in your mind, but not so much that you get too comfortable. It's a very finessed balance that I think is key to a good horror film and they certainly walk the line so perfectly you might even miss it (which is a good thing.

The Sylvian Experiments / Kyôfu is creepy on both a concept level and a visual level, blending supernatural & medical horror which is sure to cross over many comfort zones and have people squirming in their seats (and in their minds). I liked the fact that I didn't always know where it was going but was really freaked out over the coldness of the characters, adding yet another layer of horror to a virtual mille feuille of the mind.

DVD Extras:
No Extras

The Sylvian Experiments / Kyôfu is available on DVD as of November 29, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I'd easily recommend it horror fans, especially fans of dark supernatural horror

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

DVD Releases for Tuesday November 29, 2011

Time to take a look at a selection of DVD releases for Tuesday November 29, 2011 (and one for Dec 2)!

  • One Day (DVD Review) fabulous adaptation of the David Nicholls following two friends on the same day of their relationship over the years. 2011 Book to Film Club selection; film stars Anne Hathaway & Jim Sturgess, directed by Lone Scherfig.
  • Another Earth (BluRay/DVD/Digital combo) This is one of my favourite films of the year (I mis-wrote earth, har-har), a touching, emotional science fiction drama that follows the impact of the appearance of Another Earth in the sky. Absolutely fascinating look at human nature & emotional power and has some of my favourite moments in film from 2011.
  • The Rhythm In Me (Sur le Rythme) This Canadian dance film is #4 on my most anticipated films of 2011 list and I can't wait to see it!! It stars So You Think You Can Dance Canada Season 1 winner Nico Archambault and Mylène St-Sauveur. It has the feel of a great blend of dance film & coming into your own. love that. Directed by Charles-Olivier Michaud. (not currently available on Amazon.com)
  • Tucker & Dale vs Evil (DVD Review) Hilarious horror/comedy that is an absolute must-see for genre fans. I'm not kidding, just see the film. DVD has freaking awesome commentary to boot. Stars Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk & Katrina Bowden.
  • The Future really beautiful indie film with a quirky tone and pace and this one really resonated with me and I would strongly recommend it. Directed, writing & starring Miranda July.
  • Griff the Invisible Australian comedy starring Ryan Kwanten as regular guy by day, superhero by night. At least it appears so. It's actually a very sweet drama with a lovely romance and very caring look at people and relationships. Also stars Maeve Dermody.
  • The Sylvian Experiments / Kyôfu (DVD Review) totally creepy medical/supernatural Japanese horror film
  • The Presence horror starring Mira Sorvino, Justin Kirk, Tony Curran and Shane West
  • Chillerama (DVD Review) - Horror anthology including films Wadzilla, I Was a Teenage Werebear, The Diary of Anne Frankenstein, and Zom-B-Movie. Yep. Gotta see that one.
  • Alien Armageddon Wow, this is pretty much the exact same cover art as Cowboys vs Aliens and the notation is that 'The Battle for Los Angeles Continues". I like some B-Movies but I like original ideas too… (Amazon.com release date: Dec 6 2011)
  • Helldriver OTT Japanese gorefest from Yoshihiro Nishimura
  • The Art of Getting By sweet looking drama/romance starring Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts.
  • Sarahs' Key / Elle s'appelait Sarah a current day Paris-set drama as a journalist who becomes involved in the life of a girl from the 1942 Vel' d'Hiv Roundup starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Mélusine Mayance.
  • Smallville Season 10 It's amazing to see this epic Superman TV series finally come to a close, and I wish I had stuck with this one and it kind of freaks me out that it's been on 10 years and how many things have changed in that time (and that during some of that time I didn't have cable!)
  • Smallville The Complete Series In case you are like me and missed (or just want) the whole thing, now you can get it. I know I'd love to get my hands on this one as it is on my list to watch all 10 seasons. I'm still wading through Stargate though, so I might wait a bit until I take on a 2nd 10-season series.
  • Friends with Benefits non-relationship comedy with Justin Timberlake & Mila Kunis
  • 30 Minutes of Less comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari in a comedy that mixes up pizza delivery worker as a hostage to commit a bank robbery. Crazy premise alert! Although, it does look pretty funny.
  • Our Idiot Brother it's a week of comedies and this one stars Paul Rudd as the Idiot Brother to Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel & Emily Mortimer - and have to say, love that cast of ladies but all the emphasis is on him. Not sure if that's enough to get me to watch!
  • The Smurfs and sneaking in one Friday December 6, 2011 release we have The Smurfs aka Les Schtroumpfs who are take on the city in all their blue zaniness. They look a little more apples tall than I remember!
Titles on Amazon.ca(Canada):


Titles on Amazon.com (US):

Monday, 28 November 2011

The Three Musketeers (2011)

Review of the adventure film The Three Musketeers starring Logan Lerman, Milla Jovovich, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson and Luke Evans adapted from the book by Alexandre Dumas

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Dir: Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Death Race (2008), AVP: Alien vs Predator)
Cast: Logan Lerman, Milla Jovovich, Matthew Macfadyen, Mads Mikkelsen, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Christoph Watlz, Orlando Bloom, Freddie Fox, Juno Temple
USA/UK/France/Germany, 2011

Seen: November 17, 2011 at Scotiabank in 3D

Reason to see: It's on my list of Most Anticipated Films of 2011 (#21)

I wasn't quite sure what to make of The Three Musketeers (2011) before heading in, as it's a highly noted classic adventure story that has been adapted in to so many films over the years and then to have the man who brought us the Resident Evil films, Paul W.S. Anderson directing, I was even more dumbfounded. But the trailers looked fun and I adored the cast (Mads! Milla! Ray! Oh my...), so I picked it for the Book to Film Club and said I was going to give it a chance.

Now, I do have to admit that getting through the book The Three Musketeers was a HUGE challenge. It was the hardest read (but I didn't dislike it) and the biggest challenge of the 2011 Book to Film Club because it was so long and so dense. Thankfully, the film is a lovely adaptation trimming away oodles and oodles of things I didn't miss and keeping all the adventure, including main story and the spirit of all of the characters. Before reading the book I was mostly excited because of the casting. I'll see anything that Mads Mikkelsen (After the Wedding / Efter brylluppet, Valhalla Rising) & Ray Stevenson (King Arthur, Kill the Irishman) are in, especially together, and I continue to love Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief) , Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil Series) & Luke Evans (Tamara Drewe, Immortals). Plus, now I have to know where the heck Matthew Macfadyen has been hiding (period films?) because he in instantly going on my to-watch list as he is an excellent actor.

I know that is a lot of names, but that is because the film has so many delicious characters from our young protagonist D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) who is off to prove himself and quickly becomes entangled with the Three Musketeers of Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Lucas Evans) who although highly skilled are not really needed anymore and come to odds with the Cardinal's (Christoph Watlz) guards lead by Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen) and pretty much rule the place even though it's in the hands of a very king Louis (Freddie Fox). And then of course we have Milla Jovovich as the cunning Milady, whom is highly skilled in many ways.

How they flushed out all of the characters so well is a huge feat in it of itself, I'm a big fan of ensemble casts in action/adventure films and they are able to create and hone the characters including their own unique set of skills, they interpersonal relationships, histories and motivations all without feel like it's being telecasted to you. And I didn't go in super knowledgeable reading the book - I could barely tell the Musketeers apart! But here, it was easy and delightful to know who was who; and what trouble they are getting into. And there is a lot of trouble to get into, the film is full of plots and trickery and the mystery of solving your counterparts motivations and the meticulous planning to work on and through the deception. Honestly, the planning won me over more than I anticipated. But the art direction and styling was also gorgeous, although they certainly took some liberties with devices which gave it a fun vibe and you really just have to go with it.

I loved watching The Three Musketeers, it is literally one of the most fun out of all of the movies I have seen all year. It's outrageous, outlandish and over the top but it's backed by a solid plot, a fantastic set of characters and a brilliant cast. I really enjoyed the performances of each and every person in the film who breathed in the joy, romance, adventure and life into the film. Absolutely wonderful!

See also: The Three Musketeers (2011) DVD Review


Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it - I was grinning from ear to ear the entire time
I'll own it
I highly recommend it to fans of adventurous and fun-spirited films

Also see: Most Anticipated Films of 2011, 2011 Book to Film Club and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Brighton Rock (Book Review)

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Book: Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

Reason to read: November Selection for the Movie Moxie Book to Film Club

Stepping into Brighton Rock was a bit of a strange experience, my expectations were only knowing that it was a crime book and set in the 30's and that the reaction when sharing the title for the Book to Film Club was resistance, and maybe even recoiling. I'm not one for crime books myself, and even less so about power struggles and gangs which really is what the plot of the book hooks on, but for me this one was all about the characters. Wow. The characters. I had no idea what they would do, what their motivations were or what their histories were but I always believed what they did. Sometimes it was horrifying, sometimes it was heroic. Often it was a con, actually it might have always been a con, but there was always something intriguing going on. I felt that it had a very unique perspective on age and the associations and assumptions that come with it, and really explored this in relationship to power dynamics over individuals and groups of people. There was a lot of fear in the novel though, and the use of fear to bend and twist people's choices which honestly could be a deal breaker for me and others, but there was something about it that worked so well that I couldn't help but wonder and guess where it would go next (and I was never right). The writing is excellent, likely one of the best of the club this year although we've had many fine (and fun!) choices. Never to little nor too much it was always just enough of a reveal to keep you going and curious for more. I'd never want to be anyone in the book, or go through anything they went though, but I was completely wrapped in their world.

As a title for the Book to Film Club it had a rocky ride as I was confident from the get-go that it would happen as it had a Feb 2011 UK release date but all year I had hoped we'd see it theatrically here in Toronto. The closest it got was a New York & Los Angeles release in August and I had the possible opportunity to do some interviews but... I hadn't see the film! One day I will fly to New York just for a screening I tell you, I will do it! I am very much looking forward to the film version which shifts the film period from the 30's to the 60's and has a fantastic cast, thinking of Sam Riley as Pinkie is just extraordinary choice - he's a phenomenal actor (Control, Franklyn) and I can't wait to see what he does with it. I also love Helen Mirren as (Ida), although she's not what I envisioned from the book I can still totally see her in this role.

Although we won't be seeing Brighton Rock as a film theatrically here in Toronto, it will be released on January 10, 2012 on DVD.. And it's the last of our books for the Movie Moxie Book to Film Club for 2011! I'm actually a little sad and a bit off kilter as I don't know what to read now! I've had a great time reading all and watching most of the films together, and I'll be sharing my overall thoughst of the year later in December.

If you had fun too, I hope you'll join me in the 2012 edition because I know I'll be doing it again. You can sign up for updates here and never miss a selection.

Poll Results: What Awards Shows Are You Interested in?

Looks like the Oscars still are the biggest awards game and each and every voter included them as a selection for Which Awards Shows Are You Interested In? They are closely followed by The Golden Globes who rake in 85% of the vote, BAFTA's at 71% (I so which they were televised!) and then Genies & Spirit awards come in at 57% and it makes me very happy that the Canadian Awards got so many votes! Here are the all of the results:

100% - Academy Awards (Oscars)
85% - Golden Globes
71% - BAFTA's (British)
57% - Genies (Canadian) and Spirit Awards
42% - Canada's Top Ten and Toronto Film Critics Association
28% - BIFAs (British Independent) and Scream Awards
14% - Alliance of Women Film Journalists, MTV Movie Awards, People's Choice Awards and Saturn Awards

Thanks for voting!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Brighton Rock: November Book to Film Club Book

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November 2011 Book to Film Club Book Selection: Brighton Rock - by Graham Greene

The book is a crime thriller set in the 1930's, and the film adaptation shifts the setting to the 60's. Film stars Sam Riley (Control, Franklyn), Andrea Riseborough, Andy Serkis, John Hurt and Helen Mirren and is directed by Rowan Joffe. Although it was one of the books I was more hesitant about, I ended up really appreciated it not only for the great writing but also for the fascinating characters. Crime thrillers aren't a genre I usually go for, but this one really worked for me. I hope you enjoyed it!

Things to ponder on the book:
  • Did you enjoy reading it?
  • Was it what you were expecting?
  • What did you know about the book before reading it?
  • Did you enjoy the settings & time period?
  • How did you feel about the characters & their challenges?
  • What did you connect to with the book?
  • How did you feel about the length of the book?
  • What did you take away from reading the book?
  • Who would you recommend the book to?
About the upcoming film adaptations:
  • How do you feel about the casting of the film?
  • What do you hope to be the focus of the film?
  • What do you think is essential to keep from the book in the film?
  • What do you think they will add anything new to the film?
  • What do you think the challenges of the adaptation may be?
  • Do you have any hesitations on the adaptation?
  • If you've seen other adaptations, how do you think this one will be different with the period shift?
  • What are you most looking forward to about the film adaptation?
If this was a re-read:
  • How did reading it this time compare with your previous time reading it?
  • Did you notice anything different this time round?
  • Did your interest and focus stay on the same characters and moments, or shift?
If you choose to shelf this out one:
  • Was there a barrier (genre, focus, time period, density)?
  • Have you already read it?
  • Will you join us again in 2012? I certainly hope so!
Book reviews from Book to Film Clubbers:
Shannon

Film Release Date
The film has already released in a few locations like the UK in February 2011 and New York & LA in August 2011, and I was really hoping for a wider theatrical release here in North American but it looks like that isn't in the cards. The silver lining of that news is that *is* coming out on DVD in January 2012 so we will all be able to see it relatively soon. I'm quite looking forward to it.

Last Book for the 2011 Movie Moxie Book to Film Club!
Brighton Rock was the final book for the book club! Can you believe it? 11 months and 11 books since we started this awesome journey back in January 2011 with I Am Number Four. How many books did you make it though? I hope you enjoyed them!

If you are feeling reading withdrawal for December with no book to film club book I do have some suggestions for you. I would highly recommend reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins which I have a feeling is going to be one of the really big films in 2012. It's a young adult novel following a teenaged girl who lives in a down & out district of a post-apocalyptic world. I strongly considered it for the book club but I tried very hard not to include series, and this is a trilogy. I also had a strong negative reaction to the third book, which makes the series a hard recommend, but the first two books are phenomenal as well a being swift page-turners. The Hunger Games film comes out March 23, 2012 and stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. The second book Catching Fire is also set for a film adaptation to be released the following year: November 22, 2013.

Keep in touch!
Although Brighton Rock was the final book in the Book to Film Club, it won't be the last *of* the Movie Moxie Book to Film Club. I'm definitely going to be doing it again in 2012 and am madly researching titles and refining the format. Be sure to stay in touch by signing up for updates and I'll be sure to keep you up to date on more book to film delights.

Hugo: November Film Selection for the Book to Film Club

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Our November 2011 Film selection for the Book to Film Club is Hugo based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick and it was release just the past week on Wednesday November 23, 2011 (US Thanksgiving). I think it's a perfect holiday pick as it has a whimsical and fantastical feel to it, even though it's set in reality, and also has layers of nostalgia being set in the early 1930s. The book it's based on is a combination written & illustrated book and was inspired by "Georges Méliès, his surviving films, and his collection of mechanical, wind-up figures called automata (source)".

The film Hugo is directed Martin Scorcese (Shutter Island, The Departed, Gangs of New York, Goodfellas) and is the only book to film where they've changed the title on us, although it's a very recognizable transition. I hope the film keepsthat kind of feel! The film stars Asa Butterfield, Chloë Moretz, Michael Pitt, Jude Law, Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen

Here are some things to ponder when thinking, writing and/or journaling about the film:
  • Did you enjoy the film?
  • Did you see it in 3D? What was that like?
  • Was the film what you expected from reading the book?
  • How did you feel about the tone of the film?
  • Did you feel that the captured the time period well?
  • How did you feel about the casting? Were the characters what you expected?
  • Were there characters, moments or ideas you liked better in the book? If so, what were they?
  • What was your favourite thing about the book?
  • Were there characters, moments or ideas you liked better in the film? If so, what were they?
  • What was your favourite thing about the film?
  • Was there anything you understood more after seeing the film?
  • Was there anything you felt was missing from the film?
  • Did the film capture the spirit of the book?
  • Who would you recommend the book to?
  • Who would you recommend the film too?
  • Are you happy you read the book before seeing the film?
  • Would you recommend people read the book before seeing the film?
  • What was the impact of reading the book before seeing the film?
Hugo Film Reviews by Book to Film Clubbers:
Be the First

Hugo is the last film theatrical release for the 2011 Movie Moxie Book to Film Club, but some will still be seen on the big screen like The Woman in Black which comes out February 2012. I'll certainly be keeping everyone in the loop on when titles will be releases so make sure to sign up for updates here.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Film Fan Fridays for Friday November 25, 2011

Hello Film Fans and Fanatics!

Welcome to Film Fan Fridays for Friday November 25, 2011! Bit of an odd one this week with not too many new films but still very new to theatres are the US Thanksgiving releases. Let's have a look at the selection.

In limited release this week we have just two releases to choose from and I have my eye on Klitschko a documentary on boxing brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko that's playing at The Projection Booth. Our second limited release is Elite Squad: The Enemy Within / Tropa de Elite 2 - O Inimigo Agora É Outro, a follow up to the 2007 crime/drama Elite Squad.

In wide release this week it also feels very quiet with just two releases as well including Bollywood film Desi Boyz and Oscar-bait My Week with Marilyn with Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine, Meek's Cutoff) which is honestly one of the only films that I feel is revving us up for the Oscar season. Will be interesting to see if that changes with the remaining releases of the year.

Although that's all the films that are being released today, we had 3 mid-week releases on US Thanksgiving with The Muppets, Hugo and Arthur Christmas. Lots of fun family fare to enjoy and I know both The Muppets & Hugo are on my to see list (and Arthur Christmas got great reviews so...who know.. might have to fit it in too!

Have a great weekend!

Shannon

Festival Watch

Canadian Labour International Film Festival
Continues until November 27, 2011 at Innis Town Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

European Union Film Festival
Continues until November 30, 2011 at The Royal in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Amnesty International Reel Awareness
Human Rights Film Festival
November 24 - 27, 2011 at the NFB in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Friday November 25, 2011 Releases

Desi Boyz
Dir: Rohit Dhawan - feature film directorial debut
Cast: Akshay Kumar, John Abraham, Deepika Padukone, Chitrangada Singh
India
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within / Tropa de Elite 2 - O Inimigo Agora É Outro
Dir: José Padilha (Elite Squad, Secrets of the Tribe, Bus 174)
Cast: Wagner Moura, Irandhir Santos, André Ramiro
Brazil
Limited Release
Official Film Site & Trailer, IMDb Page

Klitschko
Dir: Sebastian Dehnhardt
Documentary on boxing brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko
Germany
Limited Release
No Official Film Site Found, IMDb Page, Trailer

My Week with Marilyn
Dir: Simon Curtis
Cast: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Julia Ormond, Emma Watson
USA/UK
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

**please note this list of releases reflects first run film released in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as of November 25, 2011**

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Being Human Season 1 (North American) DVD Review

DVD Review of the North American TV series Being Human following a vampire, werewolf & ghost roommates.

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Image courtesy of Alliance Films
Legal Line © 2010 B.H. Productions (Muse) Inc. All rights reserved.

Dirs: Paolo Barzman, Charles Binamé, Adam Kane, Erik Canuel, Jeremiah S. Chechik, Jerry Ciccoritti
Cast: Sam Witwer, Meaghan Rath, Sam Huntington, Mark Pellegrino, Sarah Allen Gianpaolo Venuta, Kristen Hager, Vincent Leclerc, Angela Galuppo
Canada/USA (source), 2011 (TV)

Reason to see: A vampire, werewolf & ghost as roommate = perfect show for me.

Being Human is a TV series that follows a set of new housemates and their struggles from personal to romantic, professional and cultural all of which are complicated by the fact that they are supernatural beings (a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost) but have chosen to do their best and remain and be human.

I was first in line to check out a show that features a vampire, werewolf and ghost as roommates as I'm a huge fan of paranormal TV and this show brings a nice blend of lore, long-term story arc as well as budding friendships between the trio of vampire Aidan (Sam Witwer), werewolf Josh (Sam Huntington) and ghost Sally (Meaghan Rath) who do their best to deal with their supernatural situations. One of the most interesting dynamics of the series is that each of the three main characters is an underdog or outsider within their own supernatural community, none of them chose their fate and each is effected differently. For example, Josh being a werewolf is only out of control on the full moon, but the weight of his actions at that time can stay with him for the entire lunar cycle. Then Aidan is a long-standing vampire who has chosen to abstain from vampire culture and society but it's a continual and challenging position to be in. Then we have Sally, the ghost who’s transparent to the non-supernatural world and mystified at her own mysterious transition. It's three very different perspectives on dealing with a situation that has been pushed upon you and changed each and every one of their natural, but each choose to be, or at least attempt, to maintain their humanity.

Based on the UK series of the same name, Being Human is in a unique situation of running almost con-currently with its across-the-pond counterpart which has three completed seasons in comparison to this North American version (also referred to as SyFy Being Human or Being Human US even though it's and American/Canadian co-production shot in Montreal). They two versions are very aware of each other and they North American version even has a nod to the UK version with vampire Aidan who is a namesake of the actor Aidan Turner who plays the vampire Mitchell in the original UK version of the show. I really enjoyed the UK version therefore was skepitcal but hopeful about this new version, and I admit I went into the series after already seeing the first two seasons of the UK version and it took me quite some time to decide on how I felt about it. The two versions follow many of the same plot lines and characters, but the North American version also adds new plotlines although it does keep to the heart of the original series. I wouldn't necessarily recommend watching the concurrently, but if you pace out the two from each other it's a highly enjoyable series that pulls at the heart strings, shows the power of friendship, the grand struggle to stand apart from the norms and to take a stand for a greater cause.

I really loved both the comedy and the kindness in the series, the struggles of the characters to maintain their humanity and the challenging choice of whether or not to use there supernatural powers for or against humanity. They wrestle with the question if it's possible to remain neutral, when it's time to take a stand and is it better or worse to succumb to your own nature. And somehow in all of that they manage to go through relationship and romantic entanglements as everyday stresses of workplace and tenant/landlord relationships and challenges.

I did find that the series takes a bit to find it's feet, but it's worth giving it a chance because of the great characters and some stand out performances including reoccurring guest star Mark Pellegrino ('Supernatural') as the vampire power player Bishop and series regular Sam Huntington (Fanboys, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night) as the awkward werewolf Josh. The emotional journeys of all of the characters and interesting and overall I say it's a must-see for any fan of paranormal TV fan. I love the friendships and moral questions it portrays and I truly felt for all of the characters.

It's a great time to hop on the Being Human train and if you've not seen it yet you can easily catch up for it's return in Season 2 which will being to air in January 2012. I'll be waiting with baited breath to see where they go next.

If you want to hear even more about Season 1 of Being Human?
You can listen to reactions from each and every episode over at Hexed: Sisterhood of the Supernatural, the paranormal TV podcast I co-host with my sister Suzie:
DVD Extras (4-Disc DVD Set):
  • The Making of Being Human (47 minutes) behind the scenes, series clips, interviews with co-execuative producer/director Adam Kane, executive producer/writer Jeremy Carver, actors Meaghan Rath, Sam Huntington, Sam Witwer & Mark Pellegrino, VFX supervisor Mario Rachiele, make-up artist Emilie Gauthier, SFX make-up artist Érik Gosselin, on reaction/connection the UK series, what drew them to the series, the interweaving of what's the urban setting and mid-20's journey, the genre elements & themes and the connection to real world scenarios, the unique friendship and connection between Sally, Aidan & Josh including the actors talking not only about their own characters but their perspective on the characters and their intermingled relationships; the monster rules for the show and how they've incorporating the traits from different cultures into the show plus discussing the expectations of genre fans regarding rules; discussing each of the types of supernatural creatures in the show with vampires, ghost and werewolves including the creature attributes, characters journey, challenges and connection to their supernatural world as well as the visual effects & make up application to create the visuals for characters including ghost make up and extensive footage on werewolf design creation & transformation.
  • "What Would You Choose" Featurette (3 minutes) show clips & stills from both the North American & UK versions of the shows with actors Meaghan Rath, Sam Huntington, Sam Witwer responding to which supernatural creature they would choose to be plus brief description of the visual effects creation of their characters into their supernatural, plus actor Mark Pelligrino on the deep humanity of the show and his character; as well as response to how much each of the actors watched of the UK version of the show and the connection between the two shows.
  • Interviews with Sam Witwer, Meaghan Rath & Sam Huntington (5 minutes) casual interviews with the cast at a premiere/carpet event chatting about season 1, their characters & journeys, speculation to season 2, reactions from fans. This feature has some really funny moments including casual chatting with some Sam Huntington & Sam Witwer chatting about who in their characters would win in a fight & their impressions of Meaghan Rath. Interviews are interspersed with clips from the show.
  • Being Human Panel at San Diego Comic-Con (39 minutes) panel with actors Sam Witwer, Meaghan Rath & Sam Huntington, executive producer/writer Jeremy Carver and co-executive producer/writer Anne Fricke responding to questions including on how they came to the show, working together, where they want their characters to in season 2, how the team came together, the characters arcs and lots of love for Season 2 scripts and hints/questions/reactions on Season 2. I was a little disappointed in this feature, it's from pretty far away, the audio is pretty low in comparison to the other features, people constantly walking in front of the camera, there are no titles to indicate who is speaking but I enjoyed the casual nature of the discussions and the enthusiastic camaraderie especially between the members of cast.
  • Trailer
Being Human Season 1 (North American) is available on DVD as of November 15, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it, and grew to love it as the season progressed
I'll watch it again
I'd strongly recommend it to any paranormal TV fan

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

Cross posted here at Hexed: Sisterhood of the Supernatural


© Shannon Ridler, 2011
All content on Movie Moxie is written by Shannon Ridler, © 2006 - 2012